Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Day of Chaos The Fourth Faction review

Review by Steve Hargett.

Previously published in progs 1700-1704, 1740-1751, 1753-1758 & Judge Dredd Megazine 307, 308, 310.
I picked this up in Travelling Man in Leeds. I missed Staz Johnson signing on Saturday 9th February due to work but Travelling Man hooked me up with a signed copy on the following Sunday.
There are spoilers below but as it is a reprint I’m saying they are medium as I expect most readers know something of the story. In more recent reviews of Judge Dredd reprints I’ve tried to keep the spoilers very light, this is because the stories, The Cursed Earth Saga andThe Day The Law Died are much older and new readers are perhaps less likely to know much about them. Of course if you haven’t previously heard anything about this story the spoilers are heavy; in fact they get that way in my intro in the second paragraph following this, so beware.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. It’s an old saying, much quoted. This is a cold day for Mega City One, or rather this is the start of the build up to a cold day.
This story has its roots in 1981 when John Wagner and Alan Grant decided Mega City One was just a bit too big. Starting with Block Mania in Progs 236-244 where East-Meg assassin Orlok poisoned the water supply to several citi-blocks turning them in to warring factions. Then we entered the Apocalypse War in progs 245-270 when East-Meg One invaded following the chaos their agent had caused. Seeing his city devastated, Dredd led a hand picked band of Judges and in the end wiped the enemy city from the Earth with its own missiles.

30 years later…
Here we have a slow increase of threat to the city. There has recently been a change in Chief Judge, the outgoing Sinfield. sentenced to life on the Titan penal colony. The incoming Chief Judge Francisco, returned to the post after being poisoned by Sinfield. Dredd has been forced to be on the Council of Five, to all intents and purposes not only the leaders of the Judges but the Government of Mega City One, their Mayor being a symbolic leader only.
In an attempt to avoid what Dredd sees as tedium in the Council of Five meetings he initiates a policy of Zero Tolerance and starts with a crackdown in Sector 50. in The Skinning Room. This episode doesn’t have a great deal of plot linked to the main story of revenge. However it is essential for background of what state the city is in at the time. Every spare Judge is drafted in to Sector 50 and senior Cadets are also put on the streets. There is an interesting new element of Justice Department are seen, specialist snipers with unique uniforms and hover bike as a platform. This story centres on a Resyk employee with a murderous intent. Watch out for a cheeky cameo of the Justice Department’s Eagle symbol in one picture involving a female Judge strapped to an operating table.

Hot Night in 95 sees the tension on the streets increase as terrorist attacks take place throughout Sector 95, Where Dredd is temporary Sector Chief. This story re-introduces Judge Logan, who previously worked with Dredd in The Satanist, Total War, Origins and Tour of Duty. It also re-introduces Judge Hershey, a very longstanding character first introduced on The Judge Child and later rising in the ranks to become Chief Judge, replaced by Judge Francisco in his first term.
The Further Dasterdly Deeds of PJ Maybe sees the serial killer, a fan favourite, locked up in a high security iso-cube. He had been hiding in plain sight as Mayor Ambrose, oddly the best Mayor the city had probably ever had, now publicly assumed to be dead. He was considered such a threat that his very existence was supposed to be secret. If you know PJ you can guess what happens…
Nadia is the next episode, named after  mysterious woman who has recently arrived in the city. Nadia meets with a sleeper cell to arrange something big. Dredd meanwhile is now avoiding his duties on the Council of Five by teaching at the Academy of Law three times a month, when able. A PSI Cadet, Hennessy, brings him details of her precognition that some dorm of devastation was going to hit the city on the day of the upcoming Mayoral Election, to replace the ‘dead’ Mayor Ambrose. Hennesy leads Dredd slowly towards Nadia. Nadia’s sleeper cell successfully kidnap a scientist from the city.
The Fourth Faction, the eponymous episode of this graphic novel, reveals the enemy to be East-Meg One survivors  led by Colonel Borisenko. The kidnapped scientist is a bio-engineer that had developed a deadly virus that he had refused to turn over to Mega City One’s Special Weapons Division. Now Borisenko wants the same organism.
The final episode in this graphic novel is Elusive. PJ Maybe gets revenge on political rivals as well as finding a new safe place to hide from the law.
There are continuity flaws in Judge Dredd if you look at it closely but to a greater degree the continuity is rather good given the 36 years the strip has been going, not only weekly in 2000AD but monthly (more or less) in the Megazine. And past stories can easily come back to haunt Mega City One.
As ever John Wagner has pulled together an interesting cast of characters, old and new. The wealth and depth of material in Dredd cannot be underestimated.
The artists all do wonderful work, with some interesting tweaks to many of the uniforms Judges other than Street Division wear. Interestingly the fact that the same colourist has worked on all the stories it gives this collection a uniform feel while still allowing each artist to use their own style. I really have nothing to criticise in the layout or delivery. Colin MacNeil sneaks in a visual reference to the Judge Dredd fan chat-room – Colin is often found in there, so am I.

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