First, the introduction of ‘lost’ Angel sibling ‘Fink’ – a hideously deformed poisons expert and psychopath bent on revenge for the death of his family. Second, the resurrection of the Mean Machine, the most popular Angel. Both of these events are reprinted here, in The Fink and Destiny’s Angels. The former sees Fink Angel and his furry sidekick Ratty enter Mega-City One, bent on the death of Dredd and every other Judge involved in the Judge Child Quest. The latter tale teams Fink with a resurrected Mean Machine, hitting Dredd in his quaint old home life (hello Maria and Walter the Wobot!). Both are classic Dredd adventures from a period where the comic was just beginning to hit its stride, featuring typically wry and funny writing from John Wagner and Alan Grant. The Fink functions as an effective noir-ish horror tale, a game of cat and mouse (plus rat) between Dredd and The Fink, with Mike McMahon’s art appropriately dark and moody – making the most of Fink’s radiation-hallowed features. Destiny’s Angels is lighter in tone and more action-orientated, mining the deep stupidity of Mean Machine for laughs. Illustrated by definitive Dredd artist Carlos Ezquerra, it’s perhaps the best Mean Machine story, the comic and character still in early enough days that such a trope – wronged criminal comes looking for revenge – work thoroughly well.
But John Wagner’s dedication to a fluid, real-time universe means that, as Dredd ages, so do his enemies. And the lawman’s lack of a no-kill rule doesn’t exactly lend itself to the rogues gallery of, say, Batman or Spider-Man (hence his most prolific enemies being the indestructible Dark Judges). With the Fink dead and Mean Machine retired/also dead (?) it was time for Wagner to start raiding hitherto unseen branches of the Angel family tree. Ratfink is almost a pure horror story, The Hills Have Eyes via The Cursed Earth. Here we meet the offspring of Fink Angel – the weasly titular Ratfink. Appropriately, the art is provided by Peter Doherty (not the Libertine), the Dredd artist responsible for some of the comics’ most outright disturbing stories (most notably Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend). Atmospheric, nasty and brooding, it’s the most ‘serious’ Angel story ever told, establishing Ratfink as the most debased of the lot. Making Ratfink a rapist makes the story more troubling than most Dredd adventures, and the story is ultimately too reminiscent of the terrible Hills Have Eyes II (the second terrible one, not the terrible one with the dog flashbacks), but the art is among the best Doherty has ever done, and it’s an intriguing look at what Judge Dredd: Exploitation Hillbilly Horror might look like.
Finally, Ratfink’s Revenge, in which Dredd hunts the Son of Fink in Mega City’s undercity. Written by Alan Grant and illustrated by Tiernen Travallion, it’s a gory, nasty actioner which provides some of the crazier beats that Ratfink might have been missing. Travallion’s art is a little cartoonish in places (particularly his Ratfink) but such wild variety between stories is why most readers turn to 2000 AD in the first place.
A fantastic collection of classics and newer thrills alike, Fink Angel: Legacy should please fans who might have exhausted the more Mean-centric stories such as The Judge Child Quest, The Three Amigos or Judgement in Gotham. It’s also a cracking reminder of how diverse and exciting Judge Dredd books can be, varying wildly in tone and artistic temperament, yet always remaining cohesive and always true to the characters. Quite the legacy indeed.
FINK ANGEL: LEGACY / AUTHOR: JOHN WAGNER, ALAN GRANT / ARTIST: MIKE MCMAHON, CARLOS EZQUERRA, PETER DOHERTY, TIERNEN TREVALLION / PUBLISHER: 2000 AD / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 1ST