Tuesday, 7 December 2010

‘Judge Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus’ – John Wagner, Andy Diggle & Henry Flint (Rebellion)

So I was all geared up to get all nostalgic until I found out that this story was serialised only seven years ago... Feels like a lot longer to be honest, although that could just be me feeling old today. Can you get nostalgic for things that only happened seven years ago? I don’t know.
2000AD have got good form in terms of pitting Judge Dredd up against some of the most iconic characters in comic books and film. In his career, pounding the mean streets of Mega City One, Dredd has faced off against the likes of Batman (plus associated villains) and the Predator to name but two. It was the Batman storyline that introduced me to this habit Dredd has of transcending publishers and I enjoyed it immensely. You might even see it featured here one day...
Right now though, it’s the turn of perhaps my favourite ‘Face Off’ to be featured here. According to the blurb on the back of the book... ‘In Mega City One, everyone can hear you scream!’

A shoot out, in heavy Mega City traffic, is an everyday occurrence; so are the Judges assigned to restore order at the scene. An alien life form bursting from a perp’s chest though? That’s definitely a new one... The Aliens have found a new home in Mega City One and Judges Dredd, Giant and Sanchez have to track this infestation to its source before the city itself is swarmed.
They may already be too late though as the Aliens in the warehouse and the hospital are only the merest indication of what is ready to erupt from below the Hall of Justice. Someone has a very specific plan for these Aliens and that makes them more dangerous than ever...

Before I get onto the story itself, it’s worth pointing out the great artwork on display in this collection. Carlos Ezquerra is pretty much where it’s at as far as Judge Dredd artwork is concerned with a distinctive style that just is Judge Dredd. It’s actually Henry Flint in charge of artwork duties here but I actually had to go back and check that it wasn’t Ezquerra holding the pencils, Flint is that good.
You could argue that Flint might be trying to copy Ezquerra’s work, and it is very similar here, but I for one don’t buy it. It feels like all Flint had to do here was take a small step and he would be aping Ezquerra’s work. There’s a sense of that step deliberately not being taken here and the end result is very much Flint’s work. You get a real feel for Mega City One and you also find yourself feeling the same way about the Aliens as you did in the films (although maybe not ‘Alien Resurrection’, that film was bad...) Flint has clearly got just what it takes to depict an alien attack and all its gory consequences...

The story itself is perhaps a little simplistic and linear, in plot structure, but you can’t really blame it. Not only are the Aliens the most simplistic of creatures (kill, breed and repeat...) but the Judges also have a very simplistic approach to law enforcement – solve the crime, administer justice and repeat. You can’t do an awful lot with factions like this, and the story can feel a little flat as a result, but what you can do is spice things up around the edges. This is the approach taken by Wagner and Diggle, an approach that really pays dividends.

The labyrinthine Mega City One is the ideal scene for a plot of ‘Hunt the Alien’ and the writers make full use of this. Whether it’s the confines of a hospital, the city at large or the tunnels underneath; Wagner and Diggle really bring a sense of claustrophobia to the fore that all good ‘Alien’ films have (especially the scenes with the Verminators in the hospital). When the teeth and claws come out, Wagner and Diggle have that covered as well with scenes that pit Dredd up against the ultimate killing machine. Suspend your disbelief a little and go with the flow, the action scenes are well worth it. That goes double for the scenes when the Aliens finally break into the Grand Hall of Justice; everything kicks up a gear in a fitting tribute to the film ‘Aliens’. I had trouble keeping up with the panels, everything was moving along so fast! The ending is never in doubt but, this time round, it’s all about the journey rather than its conclusion.

‘Incubus’ is never going to stretch its readers but there’s never any doubt that it will make up for this in terms of sheer entertainment. It’s one hell of a ride and perfect for fans of the ‘Alien’ franchise.

Nine out of Ten

No comments: