‘In a world where Judge Dredd turned into a werewolf . . . and stayed that way! The legendary creator of Dogwelder, John McCrea, takes a sideways look at one of the more celebrated Dredd stories, “Cry of the Werewolf” by John Wagner & Alan Grant and the late, great Steve Dillon. Brace yourself for . . . “Howl of the Wolf!”’ from IDW
Written by: John McCrea
Art by: John McCrea and Mike Spicer
Published by: IDW
Released: 22 March 2017
I’m going to go ahead and assume that anyone who wants to know why I’m reviewing this comic hasn’t looked at the cover. It’s Judge Dredd as a gnarly wolfman, how can you look away? He’s either rockin’ some air guitar or howling in dramatic rage at the dark skies, and I’m cool with those options.
If you haven’t heard of it before, IDW’s Deviations series takes a popular series and does a ‘what if?’, creating a story where some specific previous event ended differently. In this instance, it’s the classic 1983 2000 AD arc Cry of the Werewolf (reprinted in 2012 as part of a collection, and released again as a standalone at the same time as this Deviations issue to commemorate original artist Steve Dillon’s recent death), which saw Dredd defeating werewolves out of Undercity, becoming bitten and turned in the process. It ended with Dredd being cured, but as you’ve probably guessed by now Howl of the Wolf imagines what might have happened if there was no cure. Wolfdredd is here to stay!
This is not the first Dredd series that McCrea’s been a part of, having done art for a couple of stories since the nineties, and is a professed big fan of both Dredd and the CotW source in particular, as well as having known Dillon for many years. In this issue he does the writing as well as inks (Spicer is the colourist); I’m not sure how much writing experience he has considering most of what I could find was about him as an artist, but he does real justice to the Dredd universe here. You certainly don’t have to have read the original source material to enjoy the story – it is designed to be an independent short – but even if you’re a die-hard fan I think you’ll find this complements the source material well, with familiar characters and settings, and even a reference to CotW’s sequel Out of the Undercity.
The visuals match the story too; dark and moody with rich colours. It’s very reminiscent of 1980’s/90’s comic art in a lot of places, including when they weren’t afraid of putting gritty heroes in clashing colours; that’s right, the Judges are in their customary blue, green, and yellow, with bright splashes of red. The dark shadows and intense colours make it work well, McCrea and Spicer both comfortable with this classic style, and considering McCrea’s modern work I suspect it is a deliberate homage to the story’s roots. After such a long history and so many artists there is no real consistent style to keep to for Dredd comics after all, as long as it’s not full of flowers and puppies (and even then there’s the Judge Dredd: Mega-City Zero, Vol. 2 cover). Outside of some blood splashed fight scenes there isn’t much of the ultraviolence Dredd comics first became known for, focusing instead on telling the story like many of the Dredd comics since it’s establishment as a franchise. That focus is needed though to keep it an examination of what particular characters would do in a situation rather than just ‘look, werewolves!’ so I don’t consider it a fault.
There’s a memorial dedication to Steve Dillon at the end, and some awesome extra art based on Cry of the Werewolf by various artists which is a treat. A preview of the original comic is included too, and believe me the cover for it is just as awesome in it’s own way. Other extra content includes a breakdown of how a comic page is created and a creator interview for another recent publication (not related to this one).
This is a cool one-shot, both an original story and a blast from the past. Like all Judge Dredd comics, it won’t be for everyone. But for fans of the Megacities, ripping apart robot gangs in post-apocalyptic underworlds in a lycanthropic rage, and old-fashioned weirdness, I say give it a look.