Character deaths are nothing new in comics, but they're usually revealed as a surprise. 2000 AD publisher Rebellion, however, has taken the unusual course of announcing that long-running Judge Dredd character Hershey will likely be killed off in the upcoming 2000 AD Prog 2349.
"The story of former Chief Judge Barbara Hershey is rattling towards its conclusion," begins an ominous press release from the publisher. "Having faked her death Hershey is seriously ill from an incurable virus as she attempts to deal with an alien outbreak that could destroy her beloved city. But all debts come due. And time is running out."
It's all part of the final volume of Dredd spinoff series Hershey, by writer Rob Williams, artist Simon Fraser, and letterer Simon Bowland. Currently running in the pages of 2000 AD, the series follows the final days of Barbara Hershey after she has left Mega-City One in disgrace.
Hershey was first introduced to the comic in 2000 AD Prog #162, in 1980's classic Judge Child storyline. Initially a young Judge she offered a more reasoned, less hardline approach to the law than the famously merciless Dredd. Despite this, the two became firm allies, perhaps even friends.
Hershey rose through the ranks of Mega-City One's Justice Department eventually becoming the city's Chief Judge, a role that she held twice (she was deposed by Dan Francisco, but regained the position in the wake of the Chaos Day disaster).
Her career ended badly, however, when she was implicated in the crimes of the Black Ops agent Smiley. She resigned and set out on the Long Walk (effectively both retirement and banishment from Mega-City One). The current storyline, The Cold in the Bones Book Two, has seen her return to the city and to Dredd to try and atone for her past mistakes.
Of course, nowhere in the email does it explicitly say that Hershey will definitely die, meaning that there's still the possibility of a last minute reprieve for the character. Still, character resurrections are rare in the harsh world of Judge Dredd and, we've gotta say, it's not looking promising for poor ol' Barbara...
2000 AD Prog 2349 is published by Rebellion on September 13.
Looking for a place to start with 2000 AD's future lawman? These are the best Judge Dredd comics of all time.