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The last graphic novel that I reviewed; Superman Vs The Terminator, was a major let down. However when I ordered it from Amazon I ordered a selection of 2 books. The second is this novel Predator Vs Judge Dredd another of those potentially cheesy stories, but this time one that fulfils the other potential of knowing which aspects of the different sources to use, and which ones would hinder the stories seriousness.
Predator Vs Judge Dredd is set in a combined universe with both the Predator films and Judge Dredd comics; but, instead of using some convoluted time travel, quasi dimensional rubbish it uses a simple but effective plot that combines both universes. In it a Predator has come to Earth in order to take on an ultimate hunt, and of course no hunt could be more ultimate than the Judges who patrol the streets of Mega City One. Only the third time that the Predators have been recorded on Earth, the Judge's are left with very sketchy records about its tactics and how it can be killed. However they bring on board a psychic named Schaefer who has been obsessed with the Predators ever since she heard her Grandfather's story; who happens to have been Major Dutch Schaefer, the lone survivor of mankind's first recorded encounter with the species. (OK, so there is some mild cheese but it's never overplayed, I swear.)
As the story progresses it does so as a natural evolution of the Predator series, pushing the story from the present day city used in Predator 2 and telling a very similar story only set in the broken down futuristic city of Mega City One. The difference is that Judge Dredd works as a much more determined opponent than either of the films heroes. Whereas Schaefer was fighting to survive, and Harrigan was a cop determined to protect a city full of people; with Dredd the Predator has an opponent that is just as determined as it is. An opponent out to hunt the Predator not because he has nowhere to run, but because he cannot stand the thought of losing.
Like I said other than the inclusion of Judge Dredd this is pretty much business as usual for the Predators. Needless to say this was a pleasant surprise considering that even the best of these crossover titles has had a hint of cheese, and considering the Predator's heritage I would have expected cheese in abundance. The overblown muscles with guns and crappy dialogue of the original film would seem perfect material for a graphic novel yet Predator Vs Judge Dredd features decent characters who don't talk like they are trying to get face time in the trailer for a big budget blockbuster. I mean, don't get me wrong their wording is far from perfect (could you seriously expect them to get Shakespearean monologues to fit into those little speech bubbles?) but it does feature the most believable writing that I've seen in a crossover title to date.
It helps that this is the case because Predator Vs Judge Dredd is a pretty dark story. There're plot branches where Dredd seems to expect Schaefer to have some sort of instant connection with the Predator; mainly because of the connection with her grandfather, but when she eventually discovers a way to build a connection (totally unrelated to her lineage) she makes some unexpected discoveries that delve into the psyche of this particular Predator.
In the artwork department this book is extremely dark and features amazingly detailed imagery that is both shocking and enthralling in equal measures. The Predator; that has often been reduced to a few quick squiggles in other graphic novels, has been brought to life in both of its occurrences. The first time you see it the artist renders the semi invisible Predator using a series of blurred shade lines, and when it reveals itself every little wart, tooth and other hideous feature has been added with immaculate attention to detail.
That about describes the entire look of a book that has a surprising lack of the vibrant colours I usually associate with graphic novels. Nearly every area of mega city one has been coloured with the same greyish shade of blue and characters costumes are usually some form of blue too. Even the Judge's uniforms; that feature a wealth of colours, have had the colours muted so that they never stand out against the dull, colourless city scape. It's effective though; helping to keep the story dark and serious while simultaneously avoiding all of the cheese usually associated with such stories.
If I have one problem with the story it would be obvious. The inclusion of Dutch Schaefer's Grand Daughter was a bit of an eye roller. However since this has been underplayed and used merely as a cause of character conflict then it's forgiveable. Predator Vs Judge Dredd is the best, most intense, and serious crossover that I've read to date and I recommend it gladly.
This book also includes a second brief Predator story titled Predator: Rite Of Passage. A dialogue free story about a young African hunter who meets up with a Predator. However I didn't much like it. It's artwork is too bright and too basic, which disrupts the effect totally since the visuals tell the story. Not very interesting, but I wont let it effect the book's score because in the end I figure; what the heck, it's free.