First up is The Hunting Party by John Wagner with art by Flint, Sean Philips, Trevor Hairsine, Jason Brashill, David Bircham and Callum Alexander Watt. It originally ran in 2000AD progs 1014-1049 back in 1996. The story seems like an interesting midway point between some of the early epics from the 1980s and the more gritty story lines we have come to expect from later Dredd. After an attack on the Mega-City wall by ferocious Dune Sharks the Chief Judge details Dredd and DeMarco to take a group of cadets out on a Hotdog run to hunt down and destroy the sharks in their cursed earth lair. Along the way they will have the usual run-ins with mutants, madmen and crazed militia.
Henry Flint draws the opening episodes and then returns to do the finale. This was his first work on Dredd and he's already head and shoulders above the other artists in this book. The only piece of original 2000AD art I own is a colour page from the first part of this story which Flint signed for me at Thought Bubble, and it hangs framed on my wall as I write this. The next artist in the book is Sean Philips who was also fairly early on in his career at this point and his art is some way from the brilliant noir stuff he produced in Ed Brubaker's Criminal.
A cadet hotdog run is always good fun although this is not vintage Wagner. It feels much nearer to those weird and wonderful stories from the early days of the comic. Dredd's assessments of the cadets is interesting and surprisingly lenient, something that the 2012 movie got right, Dredd will make exceptions if he thinks cadets show potential. Apart from that the best thing here is the Henry Flint art.
Next is Judge Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus by John Wagner, Andy Diggle and Mr Flint again, with colours by Chris Blythe and letters by Tom Frame. This one ran in progs 1322-1335 in 2003. The story is a version of the second Aliens movie set in the bowels of Mega-City One. All the usual tropes turn up, face-huggers and chest bursters, acidic blood, a Queen alien, and eggs, lots of eggs. There is even a Ripley and Newt like connection between Dredd and a rookie Judge although I don't believe he would descend down into the Queen's lair to try and rescue her. I think Dredd would be far more likely to seal the hole and then nuke the whole site, just to be sure.
Minor quibbles aside this is fun stuff, who doesn't want to see Dredd face off against a fully grown Alien, or fighting off waves of face-huggers all intent on getting him to take off that helmet. The supporting characters of the rookie Judge Sanchez, and a group of vermin exterminators who want revenge for their fallen colleagues are well done and add a nice human element to the battle between the Justice department and the alien invaders. Once again Dredd makes allowances for Sanchez because he sees her potential. There's an introduction written by Simon Pegg who discusses Dredd as a substitute father figure and there is something interesting about the mentoring role he takes on in these two books.
Henry Flint's art is, as ever, sublime, he is right up there with the top Dredd artists of all time. Along with the Simon Pegg intro this book also has a short piece by Andy Diggle about the origins of the story, and there are a couple of pages of sketches by Flint. An introduction and some extras in a Rebellion trade, what a great idea. More please.
Overall the Aliens book is probably the pick of the bunch but there's plenty of entertainment and great art in both of them.