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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ Dredd vs Aliens

2000AD Review extra 21st February 03
Judge Dredd vs Aliens
Cover by Henry Flint
Judge Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus
John Wagner, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe

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What to expect:
Judge Dredd takes on a Mega City 1 Alien infestation in this cross-over with the film franchise

Originally appeared in: 2000AD "Prog 2004" to Prog 1335

Review by Gavin Hanly

Review: When first announced, the idea of Dredd vs Aliens seemed like a perfect match. There have been many Aliens crossovers before including the Predator one (soon to be a probably dire motion picture) and even some putting the fanged beast up against Batman and Superman. It was the latter two which ultimately were fairly unsuccessful attempts mainly because of the heroes' code against killing. This may well be worthy when all other superheroes are one step away from being vicious murderers, but frankly it didn't do them much good when being matched with these merciless killing machines.

However, Dredd has no compunction about dealing out instant justice, and it was this aspect that made the idea such a good one. Pitting the judges against the Aliens was a no brainer - all that had to happen was for the final product to be as good as the idea itself.
Judge Dredd vs Aliens
Dredd's first Alien encounter

This is (to my knowledge) the first time in a long while - if ever - that John Wagner has partnered up with another writer. I have been less than impressed with the only other work of Andy Diggle's that I have seen, although his success with The Losers marks that as one to pick up before I can truly judge him as a writer on his own merits. As for here - he meshes so well with Wagner that it's very hard indeed to see the join. Indeed, were it not for Gordon Rennie's admission of his inability to work as a co-writer, I would suggest that he try this with Wagner, as what we have here is one of the most action-packed Dredd tales in many a year. The first half of the story seems to be a perfect example of how to create a "rollercoaster ride" of a comic strip. It speeds past at a breathless pace that works even better here than it did in the weekly comic - so much so that you're glad when there's a short respite in the action once the Alien makes a large hole in the Mega City tarmac. It's this first half that also makes for one of the best Alien comics I've ever read, perfectly channeling the spirit of the second movie into comic book form.

However, once things slow down, the pace has trouble picking up again. The invasion of the Halls of Justice doesn't quite have the pace of the initial chase scenes, and as alien after alien gets mowed down, it even starts to get a tad tedious. The supporting judge characters are also less than fleshed out, with Sanchez being a particularly irritating sidekick for Dredd. Much of this can be blamed for the lack of character building in the first half - and given how enjoyable that was, the loss of this character wouldn't have been particularly missed. In addition to this, the dispatch of the Alien Queen and the final victory are both highly disappointing and lacking the "big finish" that the book needed.
Judge Dredd vs Aliens
Dredd gets the upper hand
But despite these complaints, this still ranks as one of the most entertaining Dredd tales in years, and all the more so for the one factor I haven't mentioned yet - Henry Flint.

Flint has been coming up though the 2000AD ranks for a few years now, and had previously produced some startlingly original work for Shakara. He's done Dredd too, as part of the Helter Skelter epic by Garth Ennis, but this was his first major stab at the lawman. And by god it's a success...

Flint creates some of the best multi-part Dredd art seen for some time before, and certainly since. The very fact that he's kept on for the whole series makes for a pleasant change to the epics which stop and start with different creative teams, and creates a much more cohesive whole. He seems particularly comfortable in Dredd's world mixing in an early McMahon style with his own unique take and makes the city itself look better than it has in years. He's also able to create some wonderful action scenes and must take a great deal of credit for keeping the first half of the book so intensive.

In addition, much like the writing, this is the best comic Aliens art I've ever seen. Flint says he was advised to go back to the source for his inspiration, and it shows. While much other Alien art spends plenty of time on the intricate designs, Flint spends as much on the layout, pacing and, more than anything else, the visceral horror of the Aliens. There's plenty of blood and guts on show here, which really harkens back to the films, and in particular some inventive use of the alien acid blood. We're never allowed to forget how dangerous these creatures are with lawmen and Verminators at hand for a number of gruesome deaths. Flint's only real failure comes with the Alien Queen - apart from an impressive introductory shot, there isn't enough of her to really show off.
Judge Dredd vs Aliens
Dredd meets his match?

I should also give much of the art credit to Chris Blythe (who's give an almost unforgivably tiny side-credit in the book) who produces some of the best computer colour artwork in the industry today. His work does the job of massively enhancing Flint's work and it's clear to see why he's such an asset to 2000AD.

Final word must also go to the book's presentation. The American version may be a bit cheaper, but this looks 10 times better, with an extremely high quality hardback that puts you in mind of the old style 2000AD annuals, and for £13.99 is pretty good value.

So In many respects Dredd vs Aliens is a success. The concept of the Aliens fits into Dredd's world with ease, and they even seem less strange than some of Dredd's more outlandish enemies. The first half may well be much better than the second, but as a whole it still makes for a highly entertaining read, and a great introduction for someone who is perhaps not so familiar with Dredd's world. Highly recommended.

Now, how about a sequel...?

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).