When I first saw the title of this book, I smiled. Of course, I thought, why not? Why not capitalize on the new Aliens/Predator/Prometheus lines coming out from Dark Horse this year. Why not something as absurd as throwing Judge Dredd into the mix. It’s been done with Batman!
But then I thought, more seriously, why not? It actually makes kind of weird sense. Throwing Judge Dredd into the mix doesn’t interfere with any of the other Aliens/Predator lines, and it’s actually a separate story line anyways, since the original comics were published in England, where Dredd comics run regularly.
So, I was on board, wanting to ‘read like a believer.’ I confess (do I have to confess?) to loving the original Predator and Alien(s) movies—I love a good sci-fi action romp. I’ve written before about my hesitations about Judge Dredd and the whole somewhat fascist premise of having roving ‘judges’ dispensing the law on criminals with no jury trials, but when you’re up against Predators and Aliens, no juries are necessary. “Exterminate the brutes!”
The book is divided into two stories, the first covers Judge Dredd and crew taking on a Predator in Mega-City One, in the apocalyptic future Earth. Meaning that the Judges have files on Predators, from way back in the 20th century, from their appearances in the movies Predator and Predator 2. Yes, and in the future humans have a sort of new secret weapon: “Psi-Division” Judges, who can read minds, including Predator minds.
One thing I liked in both stories was the inclusion of people of color as other Judges, including women. Judge Dredd works better when he has other characters to contrast him, in dialogue, actions, and ethics, though all Judges, and their fans and writers, seem to tend towards a neo-con mentality, seeing demonstrators against government/corporate mining (for example) as being uninformed annoyances to progress. But these pitiful ‘Earth Mothers’ will come crawling for help from The Law when aliens show up.
Also interesting is Wagner’s use of old-school thought balloons, which have been mostly dropped in American comics. I’m not sure how I feel about them—they offer only selective thoughts from Dredd, which don’t seem to add anything the artists don’t include in his facial expressions and body language. Still, the whole ‘look’ of this book, this Judge Dredd series, is very 70s, hand-drawn and with the colors a big over-the-top—not digital-slick.
Fans of both the Aliens and Predator movies, which I’m going to assume is everyone who reads comics and/or Comics Bulletin, will already know the basic drill on each of these stories, though setting them in the future changes things, a little. The interest is in how Judge Dredd approaches both types of aliens. Which, of course, is with a blaster and a frown. Still, the action flows well, due to both the pacing of the writing, and the artwork. And, visuals of Predators and xenomorphs is always kind of creepily interesting.
The one new idea, which I think the Aliens franchise should’ve gone to after the second Aliens movie, instead of the two not-so-great follow-ups, is to take the Aliens to Earth. That’s the inevitable fear/threat that lurks behind the Aliens storyline: what happens when these things get onto a whole planet, instead of a ship or a small colony? There’s got to be a movie script for this bumping around—will it ever get made? In the meantime, we get to see a possible way it might unfold, though the story splits into two different threads, with Judge Dredd in one, and a team of “Verminators”, looking and acting very much like the marines from Aliens.
Of the two, Wagner’s Aliens story, “Incubus”, is more compelling, because surprising, though both stories are well done—well written and well drawn. “Incubus” has more characters, and Judge Dredd just always seems to end up a better character when he’s got others around him.
I said I like a good sci-fi romp. This is it.
More Judge Dredd reviews:
My review of Hondo City Justice here.
My review of Judge Dredd: The XXX Files here.