I’ve been waiting to read this epic storyline for sometime now, having jumped on board to 2000ad after the arc finished. When it was announced that we would get the first of what would be a trilogy of trades about the Day of Chaos storyline, i ordered my copy without delay and waited with bated breath for it to be released. And after receiving it (two days before the expected release date) and reading the book from cover to cover, i can proudly say that it was an absolute joy.
I will start with the cover; Greg Staples does a magnificent job in potraying Old-Stoney face. The artwork is beautiful to behold, with the details and use of colours. It looks like a painted masterpiece, something a Michaelangelo or DaVinci would produce if they were comissioned by 2000ad to draw Judge Dredd cover! High praise you might say- but praise rightly awarded in my view.
The presentation of the trade is superb; the paper quality is of the high standard which we have come to expect from Rebellion – they have done a stellar job in producing it. There’s a nice introduction by Keith Richardson and the actions of Dredd in the Apocalypse War and the implications it has on the future. I loved the corresponding panels from the Apocalypse War, just bringing back memories of what a joy it was to read and of course Carlos Ezquerra’s outstanding contribution to it.
And then we get started on the more meatier or “muncier” parts of the book (but trust me- there’s nothing artificial about the story as we shall see!).
The first thing that grabbed me was the artwork by Ben Willsher. I’ll be honest, it took me a while before i could get used to his style. It felt a little ‘unrefined’ for my tastes as opposed to maybe Colin MacNeil or Henry Flint’s work (which we will come to). But maybe 20 pages in i started to get accustomed to It. In fact upon finishing the first chapter (the bulk of the artwork in this trade is by Willsher) i really enjoyed it. There were some really funny homages to (what was then) the upcoming Dredd movie, with references to Karl Urban and Ma-Ma. Not to mention nods to other comic works like Watchmen (who watches the watchmen? Ma-Ma apparently!).
As for the story, the opener was ‘The Skinning Room’. It concerned a Resyk employee called Mr. Skinner who goes about skinning victims, and turns their skin into fashion accessories, shirts, jackets, ties and so on. The way he lures the poor souls is by advertising for a room vacancy in his appartment and then he goes about his ghastly business. At the same time Judge Dredd and the Coucil of Five are cracking down hard on crime in the Mega City. Criminals are getting shot by special sniper squads for even petty things like wallet snatching. Its clear that everything is out of control…chaos reigns supreme. We come back to Mr. Skinner (there’s a really nice artistic and storytelling touch when we see him go about his business from the view point of a soon to be victim). But amidst the city in turmoil, and block to block inspection, the murderer makes a key mistake when a nosy Judge comes-a-calling…
The second story in the collection was ‘Hot Night in 95’ which was originally serialised in The Megazine. Written again by Wagner and illustrated by Staz Johnson, it was a fun read. A number of things are happening; a food eating contest where two very fat gentlemen proceed to gorge themselves into oblivion, a vigilante group that goes on a shooting spree and a stoning epidemic. It all comes to a head on a ‘hot night’ and results in a well known Judge getting shot…
It was a nice read. We still haven’t got to the main Day of Chaos arc (which begins halfway through the trade). But i feel what these stories demonstrate, is the sheer explosion of the city into total widespread chaos and anarchy…even before the ‘real’ chaos has even begun.
Next up was ‘The Further Dasterdly Deeds of PJ Maybe’. On art duties was one of my favourite artists, Colin MacNeil. We see Maybe taken into custody after being caught for immitating the dead Mayor Ambrose. Dredd would rather see him dead, but his colleagues decide otherwise “don’t come crying to me when this blows up in your faces” cries Dredd. Of course we all know he is right and this decision would likely come back to bite them on their asses. But then we wouldn’t be so entertained by the ‘dasterdly deeds of P.J Maybe’ would we? I have to say i always enjoy the hilarious exploits of my favourite serial killer – and this story is up there with the best in my opinion. Nobody draws Maybe more brilliantly and with so much character than Colin MacNeil. This was a fun read, and the only downside was that it was over all too quickly.
The next story ‘Nadia’ is where the Day of Chaos officially begins. Nadia is a East Meg assassin who makes her way into Mega City 1, undercover as a cosmetics person for ‘Ugly-Con’. But pretty soon her intentions become clear, as does her sheer ruthlessness when she dispatches a member of her own East Meg sleeper cell with clinical and emotionless precision. Her goal? To kidnap a scientist who has engineered the Chaos Bug, and have him re-create it to so both she and her seniors from the Fourth Faction can unleash widespread chaos and devestation to MC1. And pretty soon she sets her target on Dredd…
This was a thrilling read full of twists and turns, and genuine gasp out loud moments. And Ben Willsher brings it all alive with his vibrant artwork.
The next story, ‘Fourth Faction’ is when we finally come upon the work of Henry Flint (who alongside Peter Doherty and David Roach – is my favourite arist working for 2000ad right now, or any comic for that matter). my word….the detail in each of his panels, the line work, small character nuances and of course the environments and vistas – is just breathtaking to behold.
It is in this story that we meet the Fourth Faction commander; Yevgeny Borisenko, who still bears the scars of The Apocalypse War and the nuking of East Meg 1. Now he is the man directly in charge of the Chaos War operation. Like the preceding story, this also made for a fascinating read albeit more on the planning side than action. But it was intriguing to see the man, and the thinking behind the man who will bring Mega City 1 to its knees…
Last but not least was ‘Elusive’, again drawn by Henry Flint. Here we catch up with the dasterdly P.J Maybe. The Judges are out in force looking for him, but what does Maybe do? He decides to get himself a job at a face change clinic, conning the gullible manager into thinking he is an undercover Judge! I mean,what is he like?! It was a very enjoyable read indeed. In fact when we see Maybe trying to slither his way into a wealthy elderly lady’s company (and the conniving plan he concuts in going about it) i just had to put the book down….so i could restrain myself from bursting out with laughter! (it didn’t work!) You can see why he is a firm fan favourite!
Reading this collection was an absolute joy. It was like a treasure trove of intriguing and exciting storytelling from Mr. Wagner and the superb artists in line showing off their talented wares. Even though the book came at a meaty 160 pages, upon finishing i wanted more – which is a sign of how strong Mr. Wagner’s storytelling is, and its not surprising really because Day of Chaos is just getting started. It’s like the calm before the storm so to speak. And i for one cannot wait for the next collected trade delving more deeper into one of the greatest epics in comic book history.