By John Layman, Chris Mooneyham and Michael Atiyeh, Glenn Fabry, Adam Brown
Whoa, whoa, whoa!
Here we go again with another epic crossover, this time with triple the strength. Dark Horse, IDW and 2000 AD join forces to reunite three of the most legendary characters, now in one book. Previously there was Predator vs Judge Dredd (1997) and then Judge Dredd vs Aliens (2003) which were collected into a nice little hardcover, but this is the first time they will appear in the same storyline, which is a brave move. No matter what you may think going into such a story, you have to admit the team making it has guts attempting what may be seen strictly as a gimmick. Nevertheless, and perhaps surprisingly, it’s a solid book that is as fun as it sounds, without tipping the scale toward silliness. At least that’s true of the first issue, which does a good job of establishing the characters, situation and conflict. And yeah, you guessed it, there’s an inevitable clash headed our way as the stage is set for Judges and Predators to find what may or may not be a common enemy. And, we can assume, all while Alien xenomorphs are on the loose rampaging in their typical unstoppable fashion. As courageous a move as it may be to assemble these three under a single title, it’s equally ambitious to try to handle them all properly.
Writer John Layman (Chew) is certainly capable of managing any of these franchises on their own, but here he proves he’s able to juggle them fairly evenly. We don’t know for sure, but there could be a strong editorial influence here, what with three publishers involved, although the story comes off as clean as it is gritty. That is to say there are no confusing plot points so far and if it ever seems too orderly then keep in mind, there’s a lot of potential for mayhem right around the corner. It makes sense that Layman would kick off the story with a degree of neatness, but he never sacrifices the characters’ core traits. Ultimately, it doesn’t feel like there are too many cooks in the kitchen and there’s already a great blend of legacy and originality.
Whether or not it’s a dream gig, it’s easy to imagine any artist having a good time on a book like this. However, Chris Mooneyham (Five Ghosts) might as well be hand-picked he’s so right for this. He’s the master at organizing multiple main characters, and has even worked with some of this material during Dark Horse’s Fire and Stone series. But in this first issue Mooneyham handles the iconic characters with what seems like years of practice. His depiction of Judge Dredd in particular is downright iconic, though he still manages to give the entire book his full attention and a fresh perspective. Mooneyham is firing on all cylinders, which is reason enough to grab this book. The art, as well as the iconic characters, are further enhanced by colorist Michael Atiyeh (Akaneiro). Atiyeh’s work is saturated and intense. From cover to cover it’s one beautiful palette after another. Just about every page of this book contains a scene-stealer or a piece of action that tops the previous page and Atiyeh keeps the reader on point. Tonal shifts in color are appropriately aligned with plot developments and walk the line between realistic and otherworldly. This is an imaginary world after all, no matter how familiar we may be with it, but the art works well to keep us on our toes and from getting too comfortable.
This review would be incomplete without mentioning Glenn Fabry and Adam Brown’s amazing cover art. Fabry (Preacher) and Brown (Black Shuck) are exactly what this book requires. Their collaborations at 2000 AD are legendary, and their realistic style makes for a sensational means of showcasing this comic book. Not only that but it’s a sincere dose of authenticity that makes this title that much more legit.
The stuff that binds these characters together, if anything, is their single-mindedness and reputations for violence. Dredd, Predators and Aliens each have their own obsession. They have their own styles of fighting and they are each some of the most ruthless, badass characters ever created. No matter the franchise, when things get ugly the entertainment value goes up a notch. So it’s safe to assume that the intention behind merging all three is to triple the potential for selling comics, although based on what people love best about these particular characters. The level of professionalism and dedication this comic contains makes it a safe bet. No matter what the reason is for doing the project, the outcome is a thing seemingly made up of love and appreciation for the chance to work with some of the greatest characters of all time.