Coming in 1997 – ten years after the first Predator movie hit screens and twenty years after Dredd’s comic book debut – Predator vs. Judge Dredd hardly came at the height of either character’s popularity. It had been seven years since the Predator’s not exactly well received second cinematic outing – and just two since Stallone’s mostly-helmetless Dredd disgraced the big screen.
Yet it’s a pairing that makes a lot of sense. There’s an awful lot of weird and wonderful creatures in Dredd’s universe; why not bring the Yautja – the actual species name of the intergalactic hunters we so often just call ‘Predators’ – into the vast expanse of crime-ridden Mega City One?
It also gets a great deal of mileage from setting the future’s most notorious lawman against the alien hunter; Dredd gets to face off against the Predator several times over the course of the three issue story.
The story, such as it is, sees a Predator arrive in Mega City One and immediately start taking out armed targets – of course, with the city being so violence-riddled, he finds no shortage of people to kill. He soon discovers that the Judges are the worthiest targets in the city – and, following a showdown with Dredd which doesn’t go well for the Judge – sets about taking as many Judges out as he can, removing their spines and often still helmeted heads as grim trophies, as is the creature’s trademark.
There’s a bit of a problem here though, which tends to rear its head quite a lot in Predator stories, whether or not they cross over with another famous character: we spend a lot of time setting up who the Predator is and what he does in order to get the characters up to speed, but it’s something that is incredibly familiar to anyone who’s seen a Predator movie or read a Predator comic. We get it; he’s a hunter who collects trophies in a gory fashion. That’s it – but we’re still forced to go through the motions for the benefit of Dredd and his colleagues.
Another issue that seemed to plague earlier Predator lore outside of the movies was the need to somehow bring characters in who had a connection to Dutch Schaefer, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from the very first movie. In the very first Predator spin-off comic, we follow Schaefer’s cop brother as he encounters a Predator in an urban environment (which, perhaps not coincidentally, was also the setting for the second Predator movie which came soon after the comic). In Predator vs. Judge Dredd, it’s a Psi-Judge named – yep – Schaefer who provides the link, being Dutch’s great-great-granddaughter.
It just feels unnecessary and forced – not enough is made of the connection to really justify her inclusion and we could have just had a more familiar face or two pop up instead (you can never have too much Anderson, right?).
Another issue is that the conclusion is somewhat foregone, given the fact that Predators are a species and Dredd is, well, Dredd. It does rob the story of much of any tension it may have otherwise had. The artwork, which starts off pretty strongly, does seem to peter off in quality towards the end of the story too. However, one thing that’s strong throughout are the three covers – the Brian Bolland cover to issue 1 being a particular highlight, as shown at the top of this very article.
So it’s an odd beast; it’s fun to see Dredd taking on a Predator, but there’s nothing much of interest in the story at all – it all feels too familiar and just too generic to be recommended. A bit of a missed opportunity.
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