29 Apr

Review of JUDGE DREDD vs ALIENS: Incubus graphic novel
Originally published in 2000ad progs 1322-1335
Writers: John Wagner/Andy Diggle
Art: Henry Flint
Review by Stewart Loud
Judge Dredd proves once and for all that, no, he isn’t frightened of anything when he goes head to head with science fictions most fearsome face biter in one of the best, and most obvious comic book crossovers since Alien and Predator.

There have been quite a few comic book crossovers involving the Aliens creatures over the years. Predator, Batman even Superman. Some have worked well and some have just been plain awful so I was relieved to discover that the collision between Geiger’s iconic monster and 2000ad’s flagship character falls firmly into the category of Aliens crossovers that work.
The reason it works so well is that the Alien creature fits so seamlessly into Judge Dredd’s world. Set in the sprawling metropolis of Mega City one, in the far flung, post-apocalyptic nuclear future where interstellar travel is commonplace, it doesn’t seem odd at all that the Judges would have to deal with a threat like this. To be fair, a creature that gestates inside a human host and bleeds concentrated acid is probably one of the less outlandish things they’ve faced when you put this book into context next to over 30 years of stories where the Judges have done battle with things like zombies, mutants, giant floating sharks and the nightmarish Dark Judges who regard life itself as a crime.
The book sees The Judges uncovering a plot by an underground cult of mutants and outcasts to overthrow the Judges by unleashing a horde of the Aliens on Mega City One. One of the things that sets this apart from a lot of other Aliens stories before it is that, far from being an isolated group of badly equipped miners or a massively outnumbered team of marines cut off from rescue, Mega City One’s judges have massive manpower and resources and are fully used to fighting threats of this nature and magnitude. So you can expect some monumental stand up fights between the bugs and Mega City Ones awesome reserves of fire power.
Also fighting in Judge Dredds corner are the Mechanismo droids (a previous attempt at mechanised law enforcement) and the Verminators (Mega City One’s answer to pest control) so you can probably begin to guess how wild things get.
The art in this book is a spectacle to behold. Henry Flints gritty detailed illustration creates fantastic atmosphere in the dark, sinister tunnels and shafts the aliens hide in, as well as the outside scenes detailing the cities impressive structures and busy streets. As well as this, the colours and lighting effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen! You can almost feel the heat of the explosions and flames. This is a very nice looking book indeed. Something else Henry draws well is the horrific gore that results from the action scenes. The acid burns on both peoples flesh and the concrete and metal scenery look tremendous. Although strangely I did think the acid seemed about five times as potent as it was in any of the films. Killing an alien in this book often means dissolving an entire intersection of road and everything underneath it for about a hundred metres. But this small inconsistency doesn’t stop this from being a fantastic read from start to finish.
As seems to be the standard with graphic novels now, there’s also a quality cover gallery in the back.
Judge Dredd? Aliens? Science fiction/horror? action? If you like any of these things then you’ll enjoy this book. Judge Dredd continues to kick wholesale ass and people who read comics but haven’t ever read a Judge Dredd book, don’t know what they’re missing!

SCORE 8/10

Review of Punisher: In The Blood 5 issue mini series from Marvel Comics.

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Roland Boschi, Bertilorenzi and Dan Brown

Review by Stewart Loud

Rick Remenders outstanding Punisher run climaxes with this fantastic 5 part story picking up right where Franken-Castle left off with The Punisher returning to the streets of New York 100% human to once again take on the criminal underworld and in particular track down his old partner Microchip, who after being resurrected by The Hood during the Dark Reign had worked with The Hood against The Punisher and played a part in the attempted resurrection of Franks family.

Jigsaw also plays a big part in the story as he attempts to make contact with his estranged son Henry (Frank’s new sidekick) and hatches another elaborate plan with the help of Frank’s last partner in crime fighting, Stu, to take the Punisher down.
Remenders brilliant writing is backed up by some great artwork from Roland Boschi. The shadowy visuals often illustrated from interesting perspectives really make every scene look like something from a well directed movie and every page oozes atmosphere.
It’s dark, it’s gripping, it’s violent it’s exciting and it’s a lot better than most of the stories published in the MAX series since Garth Ennis left. Even I was surprised by how far over the edge Frank goes as Jigsaw and Stu’s plan to drive him mad goes into action.

For a long time I’ve lamented the absence of Garth Ennis’ almost unparalleled writing talent on The Punisher titles but I’ve got to tell you Rick. I’m gonna miss you just as much.

SCORE 9/10

Review of ELEPHANTMEN WAR TOYS Vol 1: No Surrender graphic novel.
Collects Elephantmen War Toys #1-3

Writer: Richard Starkings

Art: Moritat

Review by Stewart Loud

War Toys is a prequel to the on-going Elephantmen series set in the year 2239 during the war between China and Africa as they fight over what’s left of Europe after it was devastated by a disease that reduced its population to mere thousands. If there’s one thing I enjoy reading about, it’s post-apocalyptic future war and chances are you’ll enjoy this one too.

I always thought one of the most interesting parts of the Elephantmen series was the flashbacks about the war that the main characters fought in before they were rehabilitated by the UN and introduced into normal society, and this book won’t disappoint anybody else with that opinion.

You’ll see scenes from flashbacks printed within the main series, in the broader context, a book devoted entirely to the war in which the Central African Alliance employed the use of the Elephantmen to fight the Chinese for control of Europe.

The Elephantmen at this point really are remorseless killers with their mandate to mercilessly wipe out all remaining human life in Europe as well as the Chinese forces vying for control of the territory. Although you do see some of them, who some people will recognise as characters from the main series, begin to question the moral implications of the orders they’ve been given as well as some who seem to revel in the violence and enjoy the extermination of their enemies.

The story follows female French soldier, Yvette as she is gradually hardened by the horrors she witnesses and embarks on a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Elephantmen, leaving the mutilated bodies of her victims signed with her name in an attempt to at least strike fear into an enemy she knows the European and Chinese forces have no chance of defeating, becoming a symbol of defiance for the beleaguered European forces.
This is a well written and thought out book. The black and white artwork is a nice touch too and adds to the hopeless atmosphere of the story right up to the powerful ending. It would have been nice to see some more detailed scenes of the actual battles between the humans and Elephantmen but maybe that’ll come in War Toys vol 2.

Whether you’ve read any of the other Elephantmen comics or not, it doesn’t really matter, it’s a good book for anyone who enjoys a war story with a bit of emotion behind it but people looking for big action may be disappointed.
SCORE 7/10

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