Judge Dredd: The Hunting Party

Judge Dredd: The Hunting Party
Alternative editions:
Judge Dredd The Hunting Party review
Alternative editions:
  • UK publisher / ISBN: 2000AD - 1-90426-591-X
  • Release date: 2006
  • UPC: 9781904265917
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

The Hunting Party could be seen as John Wagner revisiting old triumphs with Judge Dredd, as he takes another tour around the Cursed Earth and its collection of oddbods and maniacs. However, firstly Wagner has earned the right considering the vast selection of originality he’s supplied in the feature over the years, and secondly that originality is still present. Who wouldn’t be thrilled by the opening story pitting air-breathing flying sharks against the Judges?

There’s no great plot, just the visceral thrill of rampaging creatures causing havoc, and it’s spectacular as drawn by Henry Flint (sample art) with Wagner including a few dark jokes along the way. The sharks aren’t native to Earth, and the opener ends with Dredd vowing to track them through the Cursed Earth. In the 2000AD continuity it took a fair few months before he got around to it, but the graphic novel picks up immediately with Sean Phillips drawing an opening chapter of Dredd leading a group of cadets out of the city. Readers may predict they might as well be wearing hi-res jackets labelled “cannon-fodder”, but Wagner isn’t as obvious as that.

He builds the characters of the cadets as he breaks down the entire story episodically in three or four chapter segments, meaning it doesn’t matter that the artist changes every few strips. Trevor Hairsine is greatly influenced by Mike McMahon channelling Americana, and Calum Alexander Watt heads more towards realism in a thrilling trip to the follies of the past, but David Bircham is still a work in progress, great with sharks, yet delivering some ugly Judges. Jason Brashill’s painted cartooning is well used on a sequence satirising survivalists – “Once they got your gun they can boss ya around any old how they like! That’s the way the guvvament works” – and Flint draws more pages than anyone else, supplies a great spider sequence hanging a perpetual spooky suspense, along with the shark-infested terrifying closing sequence.

It’s a sideshow, but Wagner consistently comes up with great names for people. Here we have Major Demento, Pug Neeple, Reevas Mombrey, Doctor Bolt and Fowler the Disemboweller among others. For the main event he’s unpredictable, inventive and resolutely switches moods. ‘The Hunting Party’ isn’t among the greatest Dredd stories, but memorable and fun.

The first story can also be found in Judge Dredd Complete Case Files 25, while ‘The Hunting Party’ is reprinted in 26. The hardcover Mega Collection partwork presentation also includes the bonus five chapters of ‘Ratfink’, introducing the son of Fink Angel terrorising innocents in the Cursed Earth. It’s the equivalent of a horror movie, drawn with moody dark grace by Peter Doherty, yet all somewhat by the numbers until the desperation of the final chapter.