John WagnerJudge Dredd2000 AD
Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos: Endgame
Medium: comic
Year: 2011
Writer: John Wagner
Artist: Ben Willsher, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint, Leigh Gallagher, Edmund Bagwell
Country: UK
Keywords: Judge Dredd, 2000 AD
Format: 192 pages, 2000 AD 1759-1789
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 28 July 2023
dredd day of chaos endgame
It's the wrong shape. We know how these mega-catastrophe stories go, especially with Dredd. Stage One is where everything goes to hell, then Stage Two is where our heroes fight back and win.
Well, this story is entirely Stage One. You'll be watching the page count, waiting for the heroic tipping point... but no. It won't be coming. John Wagner has a nastier story in mind... and by that I mean the end of Mega-City One. There are still a few remnants afterwards, but it'll be practically wiped off the map. This is a pandemic story (written a decade before COVID) with the bio-war equivalent of suicide bombers, while its Russian enemies can't be defeated. You can't nuke their city. Dredd already did that decades ago. You can't kill them. They're already killing themselves. Chaos Day doesn't even leave Dredd with an enemy to defeat or a target for vengeance. All he can do afterwards is clear the dead and start rebuilding.
This isn't the bloodiest Judge Dredd epic. Sabbat's zombies attacked worldwide, cost 3 billion lives and saw five mega-cities nuked, for instance. It does, though, feel like the worst thing that's ever happened to Mega-City One. The Apocalypse War killed slightly more people (400 million), but that was a smaller fraction of a larger population and it only trashed 65% of the city.
This is brutal in every way. No one is safe. Nice people get shot through the head and we see the splatter. Chaos Day itself has TV suicides, severed heads, lynchings and more imaginative mass killings. The Judges lose what little decency they ever possessed. "Any citizen found at large is subject to summary execution."
There are flashes of Wagner's humour. Staring is a professional sport and the story has low fun with voting campaign hijinks. Mega-City One is holding a mayoral election and the candidates are the loons you'd expect, including a Silvio Berlusconi parody. (He was still Prime Minister of Italy in 2011, after all.) There are also indications of previous storylines I now want to read. Dredd has a niece (!) who gets on well with him, while Rico appears to have become the ruler of mutants in the Cursed Earth.
In some ways, it's almost drab. Great attention is lavished on the Russians' slow, painstaking plans to destroy Mega-City One and the pandemic manoeuvrings of both sides. That's fine, though. It's a huge story in the mythos, possibly the biggest, and it's right to take all the time it needs. I also enjoyed the art. (Colin MacNeil when not doing full paintings reminds me of Anthony Williams, while I defy any old-time 2000 AD reader to look at Henry Flint's work without thinking "Carlos Ezquerra".) Besides, the story's not even finished yet. There's a third volume, called Day of Chaos: Fallout, and I'm looking forward to it with interest.