Mega-City One is the scene of bitter and brutal vengeance as Yevgeny Borisenko, survivor of East Meg One (destroyed years ago by Judge Dredd at the culmination of the Apocalypse War) unleashes his long festering wrath. The Chaos Bug has been released, the inhabitants of Big Meg are turning on each other, block wars and rioting are rife and the Justice Department is stretched to the limit as the looting and mayhem continues.
The second half of John Wagner’s mega-epic story is broken down into several chapters: ‘The Assassination List’, ‘Eve of Destruction’, ‘Tea for Two’, ‘Wot I did during the worst dissaster in Mega-City history’, ‘Chaos Day’ and ‘The Days After’.
The first story has Dredd and the Justice Department, along with precog cadet Hennessey, trying to track down the elusive Borisenko and Yurges, the scientist who was kidnapped along with his family. Hennessey has a precog sister, who is being bombarded by visions- to the point of shutting down into a catatonic state, being unresponsive to anyone but her sister.
The opening scenes waste no time in establishing just how inherently sociopathic Borisenko is, motivating Yurges to finish work on the deadly pathogen by threatening to have his family mutilated in front of him. The scattershot visions from Hennessey’s sister become the driving force of the narrative as more and more of them turn out to be true: one features an unknown traitor Judge handing over a hit list to an unknown individual. Dredd’s clipped response: ‘Guess I should feel honoured to be on top’.
‘Eve of Destruction’ makes up the majority of the story here, taken from no fewer than 19 issues or ‘progs’ of 2000AD.
One of the things that is apparent here is that, unlike the previous volume, the bizarre humorous aspect is largely absent. There’s a grim tone that permeates the story, as Borisenko utilises agents already in Mega-City One to put the next phase of his plan into motion, against the backdrop of the mayoral election.
As deadly gas attacks are unleashed on various blocks under the guise of the ‘Rage Against the Megs’ gang, Borisenko’s agents -infected with Yurges’ deadly pathogen- are at large in the streets. As anarchy quickly overtakes the streets, Dredd, Beeny and the Justice Department witness a bad situation get worse… and even worse still.
One of the grim but all too real problems that faces the Judges is what to do with those infected with the pathogen; with no known cure and being highly infectious, they are shepherded into detention centres for quarantine. The numbers keep mounting and there’s no sign of anything slowing it down.
Just when things seem like they can’t possibly get any worse, the Dark Judges are released from their prison.
After the anarchy and carnage, ‘Tea for Two’ is a welcome diversion- Dredd checks up on his niece Vienna, as Mega-City One still burns. This adds a human element to Dredd, and also shows how bad things are that Dredd surmises ‘What difference did one more man make, the way things were?’
‘Wot I did during the worst dissaster in Mega-City history’ features elusive mass murderer P.J Maybe, and is a more humorous tale as Maybe and his robotic butler Monty try to fend off the gangers and the infected, and also deal with the Dark Judges.
In ‘Chaos Day’ the Academy of Law comes under siege from three separate factions, united by the on-going chaos within the city walls. It’s this which features some of the most disturbing images in this story with a number of Judges impaled on what is dubbed a ‘Judge Tree’.
‘The Days After’ serves as an epilogue to events, as Dredd and the remnants of the Justice Department take stock of the carnage that Borisenko has unleashed.
Day of Chaos is without doubt one of the most important Dredd stories in years; not only is the story itself an engrossing narrative, but the aftermath leaves the landscape of Mega-City One changed and brings Dredd to his lowest point yet.
The art team of Leigh Gallagher, Henry Flint, Ben Willsher, Colin MacNeil and Edmund Bagwell deliver in an impressive manner: some of the detail packed into scenes throughout is stunning, and everything is brought to life by Chris Blythe’s well-handled colours.