Graphic Novel Reviews

Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens

(2014) John Wagner et al, Dark Horse Books and Rebellion Developments, £25, hrdbk, 208pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08253-9


This volume contains two separate Dredd stories, the first in which he encounters the 'Predator' alien creature that first appeared in the 1987 film directed by John McTiernan and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. An alien Predator comes to Earth in the 22nd century and lands just outside Mega City One (the vast urban conglomeration along much of the former US eastern seaboard) on the edge of the Cursed Earth. After dispatching a lone, elderly Mega City One scavenger of the Cursed Earth and his droid, the Predator enters the city using his near invisibility cloak. There he soon comes across what he is seeking, brave warriors – the Judges – taking down many armed perps (perpetrators of crimes). The game is afoot. The Predator is seeking to prove himself as worthy by pitting himself against the Judges. However, unlike the Schwarzenegger combat team of the 1987 film (or the CIA black ops team of the sequel) here the super-advanced Predator technology is up against the futuristic technology of 22nd century Mega City One. And replacing the jungle of the first film, and 20th century city of its sequel we have not only the futuristic city of Mega City One (somewhat Blade Runner-ish) as well as the old ruins of New York undercity.

Of all the Judges the Predator should not cross it is Judge Dredd. With the battle on it was no holds barred. But the judges take a while to get up to speed with what they are addressing; many records having been lost in the nuclear WWIII and the subsequent apocalypse war. But assistance is at hand from a young woman who happens to be related to someone from the Predator film…

The second Dredd story features the alien in the 1979 Ridley Scott film Alien. An assault in the middle of a traffic jam brings the judges running. Seeing off the assailants (well dispatching them) the judges take the injured victim to hospital. However it is not the wound that kills him but the juvenile alien bursting from his thorax. The alien juvenile escapes into the hospital's air ducts and so a Mega City One vermin eradication squad is called in: remember, Mega City One has a number of animal pests including mutant creatures entering from the Cursed Earth. And the game is on with a Mega City One rat catcher team and top law enforcer side-by-side out to get one of cinematic science fiction's most iconic alien monsters.

Both stories work well and are so enjoyable that it would not have hurt from them to be a little longer. The printing is on gloss art paper and the artwork in full colour. The hardback has stamped red, metallic lettering on a black vinyl, hardback cover that itself has over it a full colour, varnish washed, loose dust jacket. It is a neat production that aficionados of any of the franchises involved would welcome on their bookshelves.

John Wagner and Andy Diggle – both 2000AD stalwarts – have done an excellent job writing the stories. Henry Flint – another 2000AD regular – is equally on good form as the artist along with Alcatena. Of note for 2000AD aficionados, Tom Frame did the lettering for the Aliens story.

Down sides? Well just a couple, fortunately both are minor but nonetheless irritating for serious, collecting buffs.

First up, the title. This fails on two counts. What this is not is a single adventure bringing together the three franchises, which is exactly what the title and cover artwork suggests: it is Dredd combating two alien creatures, one each in of two respective stories. Secondly, the volume's full title is Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus and Other Stories. Well actually there are no 'other stories' in addition to the two featuring the Predator and Alien respectively! However when Predator versus Judge Dredd first came out as a graphic novel collection in 1998 there was an additional Predator story appended featuring the Predator attacking a primitive hunter on the plains of Africa. Was this one of the other stories the title of this current volume erroneously alludes? This brings me on to the second irritation for serious collectors…: the publication's contents' histories.

Now, those that are not serious aficionados may not appreciate why publications' publication histories are of interest; however, for die-hard collectors 'provenance' is important. Both the stories in Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens have been published before by Dark Horse Comics in America and 2000AD/Rebellion in Great Britain. The notion of a Judge Dredd Alien's crossover came to Andy Diggle towards the end of his term as editor of 2000AD and John Wagner (Judge Dredd co-creator) asked Andy to co-script the story with him. Judge Dredd Aliens: Incubus was serialised in the weekly 2000AD in 2002 (progs 1322-1335). These stories were first collected into a graphic novel in November 2003 in a neat hardback (ISBN 1-90426-510-3) with the colour cover illustration as part of the cover (as opposed to a loose, wrap-around dust jacket in this volume).  Predator versus Judge Dredd was first published in 1998 in a three part series by Dark Horse in America and the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine in Great Britain. An aforementioned paperback collection of the stories was published by Titan in November 1998 in Great Britain (ISBN 1-840-23021-5). The omission of this provenance in Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus and Other Stories is presumably down to Black Horse's Collection Editor Patrick Thorpe and Rebellion's Graphic Novels Editor Keith Richardson.

Other than the above provenance concern, Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens is a fine collection that fans of all three franchises will thoroughly enjoy and indeed consider – if they do not already have the graphic novels as single editions – as 'must get'. Sterling stuff.

Jonathan Cowie

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