Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hungry like the Wolf

Cry of the Werewolf collects the classic 2000AD tale of the same name, its sequel, and two other Werewolf related stories from the Megazine. 

The title story originally ran in the Prog way back in 1983. Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, with art by Steve Dillon, and lettered by the legendary Tom Frame. For a science fiction comic Dredd has encountered a fair number of supernatural creatures over the years. This lycanthropic lovely does give us a scientific explanation hidden in the bowels of the undercity below the streets of Mega-City One, but let's face it we just want to see the Law versus the Claw. And thanks to the remarkable line work of Steve Dillon we got to see it all. Those were the days when the Prog could only afford two pages in colour and thankfully editorial restraint or harsh economics mean we don't have to suffer the horrors of having then coloured now. A crime that IDW have not been able to avoid in their Judge Dredd classics title.

Instead we get the authentic feel of those classic progs, you can almost feel that cheap paper under your fingertips. The story is great and as much as I like the stripped down prose of recent Wagner and Grant it is lovely to travel back to those times when Dredd and his fellow judges had to narrate what was happening and even tell us that "Grud. He's biting me!". Cry of the Werewolf is the best story in this book.

Having said that it is nearly matched by Out of the Underworld, the sequel that appeared in 2002. Written by John Wagner with astounding artwork by Carl Critchlow and lettered again by Tom Frame. Prager the rogue judge who took the long walk into the undercity returns to tell Dredd that the Werewolf disease still exists and before long they are both down there fighting for their lives and delivering the law, each in their own way.

I'm a big fan of any comic book illustration that seems to be inspired by Frank Miller's work on Ronin and Critchlow is perfect at showing the grimy and grotesque mutations of the troglodytic denizens of the underworld. It's a shame we don't see more of him on Dredd these days.

After that we get a Megazine story called Dog Soldiers by Robbie Morrison, Leigh Gallagher, Abigail Ryder and Annie Parkhouse. The Werewolves this time are a Cursed Earth gang of mutants who get in between Dredd and his quarry with predictable results. It's a pretty good story and Leigh Gallagher provides an impressively grim faced Dredd and some gruesome werewolf killers, it just doesn't have the class of Wagner or the charm of those early progs.

Completing the lupine quartet is Asylum by Gordon Rennie, Frazer Irving and Tom Frame which reunites Dredd with another of sexy psychic sidekicks, Karyn. There's a supernatural killer on the loose but not one that takes the two judges all that long to deal with in this single issue one shot. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the story is how it sets up the possibility of the return of the Werewolf curse to the undercity, although I don't think that has been followed up on as yet.

All the covers are included at the back of the book but no introduction, just the usual creator bios. The title story is the best of the bunch with slightly diminishing returns after that, and you may already have it in the case files. However this trade collection has been out for several years so it's pretty cheap on Amazon either in hard copy or or on the Kindle. If you haven't read the Wagner, Grant, Dillon classic that it's well worth your fiver. Load some silver bullets into your Lawgiver, electroplate that boot knife, put the Steppenwolf 8-track in the Lawmaster's sound system and ride on back to the golden age of 2000AD.

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