Judge Dredd Deviations #1 – Howl of the Wolf
Writer/Artist: John McCrea
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Simon Bowland
A review by David Hildebrand
Superheroes and antiheroes alike have at least one good story that becomes a staple in their lore. The story can be memorable for a handful reasons. Maybe a main character dies, perhaps a new character is introduced and goes on to be someone great, or maybe the hero turns into a bloody werewolf. I remember the first time seeing Judge Dredd and thinking, “That guy is a bad ass!” and I was instantly a fan. I love most of Dredd’s adventures, but one of the greatest stories in Dredd’s history is when he was turned into a werewolf in the classic story Cry of the Werewolf.
Cry of the Werewolf to this day is a very popular Judge Dredd story. It was first published back in 1983, written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, with the artwork done by the late, great Steve Dillion. SPOILERS AHEAD! The story begins with a werewolf that mysteriously appears and begins to attack unsuspecting victims, biting them and turning them into werewolves. Dredd begins to investigate where the werewolves are coming from after he encounters and eliminates one. He discovers they are coming up through a crack in the foundation of Norman Pitlick cityblock. A hellhole named Undercity, underneath Mega City that is sealed off from the normal population of Mega City, or so everyone thought. The werewolves are making their way above ground so Dredd treks underground to find a way to stop the werewolf threat as the Judges attempt to seal up the hole to Undercity.
Dredd, while in Undercity crosses paths with a white werewolf, who he concludes is the leader of the pack. They come face to face and during the battle, the white wolf bites Dredd, turning him into a werewolf. Judge Prager is on the long walk (Judge’s retirement) and living out his remaining days dishing out the law in Undercity. He comes to the aid of Dredd, helps him out of the city, where Dredd is ultimately cured by Judge Cassidy and turned back into a human. It is an interesting twist seeing Dredd put into a B-horror type story but the scripting is spot on and Dillion’s art is so dynamic. It is a MUST READ if you are a fan of Judge Dredd or new to the hero’s material.
Now I am not a huge fan of remakes, reboots, or whatever you want to call them these days. I am a firm believer that once a story is told, be it good or bad, leave it alone and let it stand on it’s own. Each story will have lovers and haters. Don’t readjust to make a quick buck or to attempt to change the mind of the ones that weren’t a fan in the beginning. I was hesitant when I came across the solicit for Judge Dredd Deviations- Howl of the Wolf. The story is basically Cry of the Werewolf but with a twist: there is no cure and Judge Dredd remains a werewolf. This is one story that you don’t screw with and if you are going to touch this story, you better make damn sure you do it the justice it deserves!
John McCrea ( Dogwelder) pulls double duty writing and doing the artwork for Judge Dredd Deviations- Howl of the Wolf. And I am very pleased to say that he surprised me! McCrea begins the story with Dredd being attacked by the white wolf, still changing him into the werewolf. The difference in the art is noticeable right away. McCrea is up close and personal showing Dredd agonizing through the painful transformation from human to werewolf. Judge Prager, on the long walk for the past four years in Undercity captures Dredd and returns him to Mega City. In one of the story’s twists, Judge Cassidy is killed by a werewolf right on brink of him developing the cure and his research goes up in smoke. Dredd is freed after a warlock causes an earthquake during his “Weather Symphony” at the local theater. Dredd is somehow able to control the beast within him, keeping the Judges off his back and proving to be beneficial in helping the citizens after the quake. Dredd has his own agenda and the conclusion of the story is just as exciting as the beginning.
McCrea had his hands full taking on this legendary story and he killed it! It’s one thing to take on the story but to do try and pick up the art where Steve Dillion left off is something impressive that McCrea pulled off without a hitch. The action is in your face and the detail to Werewolf Dredd is fantastic. The colors are vivid and add substance to the artwork. It is visually pleasing. I like McCrea’s vision and the direction he took Werewolf Dredd. It doesn’t feel tacked on, it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. It feels like a solid Judge Dredd story. I can see McCrea continuing with this story to create an entire arc and I would even welcome it. He made me become a fan to a re-imagining of a story that I would normally turn my nose up to.
Buy it! If you are a Judge Dredd fan then most likely you are familiar with the original story. I think that most fans will be pleasantly surprised to see what McCrea has done and embrace it like I did. If you aren’t familiar with “Cry of the Werewolf“, hold off on reading this because you aren’t going to understand the story or the differences between the two stories. Judge Dredd Deviations- Howl of the Wolf was a fun read and I am glad that I was proven wrong over the retelling of the classic Cry of the Werewolf.