Writer: John Wagner
Artists: Ben Willsher, Staz Johnson, Colin MacNeill, Henry Flint
Cover Artist: Greg Staples
Published by: 2000 AD
Last year was a big one for Judge Dredd, and not just because Mega City One made its first successful outing to the big screen (artistically, at least). In 2012, thirty years after the Apocalypse War, in which Mega City One suffered an attack and invasion by East-meg One, and retaliated with total annihilation of the enemy city, the Sovs finally struck back. For those not familiar with Dredd’s world, for the thirty-six years the comic has been running, it has maintained a single continuity, with no reboots, no ret-cons, and no re-imaginings. And most incredibly, it has maintained that continuity in real time. Dredd ages, the city ages, things change. In the thirty years since the war that did so much to define Dredd and his world, the Soviets have often sought revenge for the attack that wiped out their city. An attack led and executed by Dredd himself. Last year, the Sovs finally succeeded, and Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction is that story. Or at least, its beginnings.
Like the East-Meg’s revenge, The Fourth Faction is a slow burner. It starts fairly innocuously, at least by Dredd’s standards: block-wide crackdowns to restore order, the return of Judge Hershey, and the further misadventures of mass-murderer P.J Maybe. At first it’s difficult to see how these threads are related, let alone how they lead to Day of Chaos, and it isn’t until the second half of the collection that things really begin to come together and start to look like the beginnings of a mega-epic. In fact, Day of Chaos would turn out to be the biggest Dredd story ever told, and this is only the first of three volumes that will collect the arc.
Clocking in at over 150 pages, it collects stories from both 2000AD and its monthly counterpart: Judge Dredd Megazine. It is all written by Dredd creator John Wagner, who still oversees the direction of the character and the equally famous city he brings order to. Art is by Henry Flint, Staz Johnson, Colin Macneil & Ben Willsher, with continuity provided by colourist Chris Blythe and letterist Annie Parkhouse. All experienced Dredd artists, and all of whom do justice to the character and his world. The only hiccup is Ben Willsher’s tendency to be laissez-faire with his panel borders, too often breaking them, and sometimes just leaving them out altogether. I am not a purist when it comes to the question of breaking borders, but in this case it is often confusing, and only serves to upset the storytelling. That aside, it’s a collection of top-notch Dredd artists, all doing great work, and it’s topped off by a sublime Greg Staples cover that is a combination of detail, atmosphere and uncanny characterisation. Featuring Dredd rounding a corner, Lawgiver and daystick in hand, ready to dispense justice, and practically leaping from the page with determination and caged ferocity. In a long, long history of covers featuring Big Joe Dredd this is a standout; a true classic.
Every aspect of the book’s production screams an attention to detail and presentation that means the collection will sit as comfortably on a coffee table as it will a bookshelf. The page size has been slightly trimmed from the original size, but only by about an inch in width, and less that vertically. It is not enough to crowd the pages, and in fact has the opposite effect, making the art appear more detailed, even sharper than it did in its original format. The glossy finish, high quality paper stock, impressive chapter title pages, and the iconic cover make this one of the nicest trade paperbacks I own.
While it is not the best starting point for the character, it is perfect for lapsed or casual readers who want to get on board for Day of Chaos, and the huge effects it had on Mega City One.