When it was announced earlier this year that there will be a crossover between Alien, Predator, and Judge Dredd, nearly everyone had the same confused reaction. How will they do it? Why would they do it? This is most unorthodox, and so forth. Now that the first issue of John Layman’s Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens has arrived, I suspect that reaction will most likely change to “How hasn’t this happened sooner??”
The team behind this series had a lot of challenges. Firstly, how were they going to bring these worlds together? At this point the Alien and Predator worlds are essentially synonymous and shouldn’t be difficult to blend together, but throwing Judge Dredd and his world into the mix is on another level. Lucky for us, they made it work. It serves as a testament to Layman and his team’s ability and love for these titles that they have managed to blend these characters together so seamlessly that one can’t even imagine the Aliens or Predators not existing in the Dredd universe anymore.
The comic kicks off with the Predators. It is the classic hunter or hunted tale in the jungle and for a while it seems as if we will be spending the entire issue with just the Predators, but then the plot thickens and with a single page Layman introduces Dredd and Alien into the Predator’s world, ensuring that it makes narrative sense while also establishing the reason why these three classic figures will be crossing paths in the issues to come.
To my surprise, the Predator section only serves as a prologue that is followed by the title page, with each character’s name printed in its original logo with varying colors and set against a backdrop of the Judges racing on their bikes in the desert. Needless to say, after seeing that title page you should know what you are letting yourself in for. Layman doesn’t try to blend these universes together by changing the tone and style of each character and their worlds. Instead, he keeps everything exactly as it is supposed to be, logo and all. He embraces the individuality of each character and keeps them grounded in a world that easily accompanies all of them without the story having to come off as forced for the sake of crossing over.
Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens #1 is very much Dredd’s terrain. He and his fellow Judges, including fan favorite Judge Anderson, are on the hunt for some goons that will lead them to their primary target; a robotic false messiah. Layman and artist Chris Mooneyham along with colorist Michael Atiyeh are clearly having fun behind the scenes with this series. It is obvious that they are not trying to take themselves too seriously. The art is retro and heavy, effectively leading to a great dystopian-noir feeling and immediately reminds one of the earliest appearances of Judge Dredd. Mooneyham doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel by blending the styles of Alien, Predator, and Dredd together with something new and unique. Dredd looks like Dredd, Predator looks similar to what we’ve seen in the recent Life and Death series and Alien’s design is lifted straight out of the films. Having the most fun, of course, is Layman and his writing. You will soon find yourself feeling familiar with this Dredd, who is sincerely written with the deadpan delivery of one-liners and general bad-ass eery. There is no shortage of quotable lines in this issue, and it is made even more awesome by the fact that we know sooner or later Alien and Predator will also be bombarded with Dredd and the unavoidable “I am the law” speech.
Without wasting time, Dredd is sucked into a sci-fi world that includes splicing, anamorphic animals, Xenomorphs and a mad scientist. This is the type of science fiction world that all three players easily inhabit, which is why the story feels natural and exciting. Although Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens #1 was based primarily around Judge Dredd, the Aliens and Predators are never not in the back of one’s mind. The issue closes off with a cliffhanger that will make you giddy with anticipation for the next issue, primarily because the ending makes it clear that all three players will be getting the shared spotlight soon.
One last thing – I have to praise the humor in Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens #1. When I didn’t chuckle at the gravity of Dredd’s deadpan writing, I outright laughed at some of the deliberately funny panels, especially a particular panel devoted to the introduction of the main baddie.
John Layman is the real law in this series. Whatever he says, goes. And with good reason. This is a crossover done right.