As an old-school fan, it can be exasperating to comprehend IDW’s approach to Judge Dredd. Not potent enough for the traditional fans, and too off-center to properly define to an audience unfamiliar with him. So, it’s good to report while the main title does its thing, the real gold for the old-school Dreddheads has been the excellent standalone spin-offs IDW has commissioned. (I’m sure it’s just coincidence they’re usually helmed by current 2000AD creative droids…)
Emerging from the shadows and snarling like a rabid Trump supporter, the latest entry to that impressive roster is John McCrea’s take on Cry Of The Werewolf, based on one of Dredd and 2000AD’s most iconic stories. In the original tale, Dredd tussles with a pack of mutated werewolves, briefly being transformed into one himself. McCrea’s tale is short, so I won’t go deep. Just think Marvel’s old “What If…?” title with Dredd stuck as violently lycanthropic as a Welshman** when he runs out of Babycham. As you can imagine, mayhem and carnage ensue. The original strip was written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and illustrated by the late Steve Dillon back in 1983, and it’s a much loved and respected story, with all three heavyweights at the absolute pinnacle of their creative powers.
No pressure for McCrea there, then.
With that said, he can rest easy. I pretty much loved it. It’s lean, it’s energetic, the story bounces along nicely. I laughed at a pretty unexpected and ingenious nod to a more obscure Dredd one-off (that I’d completely forgotten about) that really sets the story in motion. As always, McCrea’s art is joyous to behold. Bold, bombastic, crisp and exciting. He draws great destruction. Frankly, I love his art so much I’d probably frame and hang his used toilet paper. I don’t know why he’s not in the prog every week. (He is right now, thankfully.)
If there are any flaws, they can’t really be leveled at McCrea himself. He’s done what it says on the tin. It’s written well and the art’s stonking (Yeah, I’m bringing ‘stonking’ back. You heard it here first.) The story just feels a little short. It would have been nice to see it expanded a little, and while it’s great to see the process of bringing the comic from script to final art paired up with an absolute bevy of wonderful homages to the original story by the likes of Duncan Fegredo, Brendan McCarthy and Jock, it gives the feeling the issue has been padded a bit to give it a higher page count. But look, if my only criticism is I wish it had been longer, well, I hope that tells you what you needed to hear. It’s a great little one-off, a cracking homage to a great story and a perfect tribute to the almighty Steve Dillon. Still hard to believe he’s gone.
Go buy it. You won’t be disappointed.
(**Don’t get your knickers in a twist. Everyone knows Welsh people aren’t real.)