Review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
Here are two Dredd collections linked by the rather toothy nature of the
monsters he is up against, and by artist Henry Flint.
First up is The Hunting Party by John Wagner with art by Flint, Sean
Philips, Trevor Hairsine, Jason Brashill, David Bircham and Callum
Alexander Watt. It originally ran in 2000AD progs 1014-1049 back in
1996. The story seems like an interesting midway point between some of
the early epics from the 1980s and the more gritty story lines we have
come to expect from later Dredd. After an attack on the Mega-City wall
by ferocious Dune Sharks the Chief Judge details Dredd and DeMarco to
take a group of cadets out on a Hotdog run to hunt down and destroy the
sharks in their cursed earth lair. Along the way they will have the
usual run-ins with mutants, madmen and crazed militia.
Henry Flint draws the opening episodes and then returns to do the
finale. This was his first work on Dredd and he’s already head and
shoulders above the other artists in this book. The only piece of
original 2000AD art I own is a colour page from the first part of this
story which Flint signed for me at Thought Bubble, and it hangs framed
on my wall as I write this. The next artist in the book is Sean Philips
who was also fairly early on in his career at this point and his art is
some way from the brilliant noir stuff he produced in Ed Brubaker’s
A cadet hotdog run is always good fun although this is not vintage
Wagner. It feels much nearer to those weird and wonderful stories from
the early days of the comic. Dredd’s assessments of the cadets is
interesting and surprisingly lenient, something that the 2012 movie got
right, Dredd will make exceptions if he thinks cadets show potential.
Apart from that the best thing here is the Henry Flint art.
Next is Judge Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus by John Wagner, Andy Diggle and
Mr Flint again, with colours by Chris Blythe and letters by Tom Frame.
This one ran in progs 1322-1335 in 2003. The story is a version of the
second Aliens movie set in the bowels of Mega-City One. All the usual
tropes turn up, face-huggers and chest bursters, acidic blood, a Queen
alien, and eggs, lots of eggs. There is even a Ripley and Newt like
connection between Dredd and a rookie Judge although I don’t believe he
would descend down into the Queen’s lair to try and rescue her. I think
Dredd would be far more likely to seal the hole and then nuke the whole
site, just to be sure.
Minor quibbles aside this is fun stuff, who doesn’t want to see Dredd
face off against a fully grown Alien, or fighting off waves of
face-huggers all intent on getting him to take off that helmet. The
supporting characters of the rookie Judge Sanchez, and a group of vermin
exterminators who want revenge for their fallen colleagues are well done
and add a nice human element to the battle between the Justice
department and the alien invaders. Once again Dredd makes allowances for
Sanchez because he sees her potential. There’s an introduction written
by Simon Pegg who discusses Dredd as a substitute father figure and
there is something interesting about the mentoring role he takes on in
these two books.
Henry Flint’s art is, as ever, sublime, he is right up there with the
top Dredd artists of all time. Along with the Simon Pegg intro this book
also has a short piece by Andy Diggle about the origins of the story,
and there are a couple of pages of sketches by Flint. An introduction
and some extras in a Rebellion trade, what a great idea. More please.
Overall the Aliens book is probably the pick of the bunch but there’s
plenty of entertainment and great art in both of them.