It's not really part of Day of Chaos and it doesn't even have an arc, although it has some overlapping mini-arcs. It's just a selection of Judge Dredd's adventures during the year after Mega-City One lost seven-eighths of its population. It contains 36 instalments from over a year's worth of weekly issues, i.e. the less relevant adventures have been pruned.
Also, John Wagner didn't write most of it. Tch. But the other writers are pretty good too.
The situation is distinctive. Dredd's never been in this situation before. The Judges have lost control and are facing open rebellion from blocks that want to secede. They don't have enough resources to back up the Judges on the streets. Chief Judge Hershey issues a "no kill" order, because they can't handle the corpse piles they already have. Perps get sent to work gangs, not the cubes. (At first, anyway.) Surprisingly, also, family has become part of Dredd's life. It's impossible to imagine him with a wife and children, but the Justice Department has a habit of cloning him and the various Dredds sometimes stay in touch with each other. (They all have their own names, though, and in some cases have given themselves new faces.)
The collection also has a dark view of capitalism. This crops up in more than one story, enough to become a minor running theme.
DEBRIS (Michael Carroll & PJ Holden, 30 pages, 2000 AD 1792-1796)
Dredd goes to war with a city block that no longer sees itself as part of Mega-City One. It handled Chaos Day well. It had a successful lockdown, it stocked up on resources and it's willing to fight back when the Judges get greedy.
As for the Judges, they've called back home the Space Corps. Wow. That lot? I remember the story where Garth Ennis invented them. They're heavy-handed and don't play nice with civilians.
INNOCENT (Rob Williams & Laurence Campbell, 12 pages, 2000 AD 1798-1799)
Someone's invented a drug that makes it impossible for citizens to commit crime. Sinister? Yup. Dredd doesn't like it, but Hershey authorises its use. This is quite an interesting story. Its theme is repercussions and it seems likely that there will be knock-on effects of its events (although we don't see them in this volume).
PAYBACK (Michael Carroll & PJ Holden, 12 pages, 2000 AD 1801-1802)
It's effectively Debris part 2, from the same creators. The Space Corps haven't suddenly become diplomatic since we last saw them.
SEALED (Michael Carroll & John M. Burns, 6 pages, 2000 AD 1816)
It's the great John Burns! Good grief. Is he immortal or something? He was born in 1938, you know. This is a particularly strong episode, not just for Burns's art but for an storyline that manages to be both shocking and heartwarming.
THE PITS (Alan Grant & John Davis-Hunt, 10 pages, Judge Dredd Megazine 332)
Dredd and Anderson team up again! (Briefly.) I'm not the world's biggest fan of Alan Grant, to be honest, but there's nothing wrong with this story.
SAVE HIM (Rob Williams & James Harren, 7 pages, 2000 AD 1819)
Another good one-parter, reminding Dredd again about his original act of genocide in the Apocalypse War and the chaos it led to. Harren's art is mildly odd, although entertaining. He gives Dredd a comedy mouth and reminds me slightly of Philip Bond.
WOLVES (Michael Carroll & Andrew Currie, 18 pages, 2000 AD 1820-1822)
Another artist who's a bit of a cartoonist. I like his work a good deal too, although he doesn't hide that he's basing some of his characters on real people. The Jeremy Paxman makes sense since the character's a direct reference, but there's also Tony Sirico from The Sopranos. As for the plot, this one involves anti-Sov bigotry, internment camps, forced deportments and a strong political angle. This will be continued.
One problem for me, though, was that the Mega-City Two judges' uniforms at the end look confusingly similar to the Sov-bloc ones. So I jumped to the wrong conclusion, then had to rethink.
CYPHER (Michael Carroll & Inaki Miranda, 12 pages, 2000 AD 1824-1825)
More trouble with the Sovs. This time, the actual government of East-Meg Two.
THE FORSAKEN (Michael Carroll & PJ Holden, 36 pages, 2000 AD 1830-1835)
For Dredd, it's family business. It's also showing just how badly the Justice Department fell apart on Chaos Day and how far the pieces scattered. This isn't my favourite story in the collection, but it's an important part of the characterisation of Dredd's world at this point.
SKULLS (Rob Williams & Trevor Hairsine, 6 pages, 2000 AD 1836)
Hershey orders the SJS to fill in as replacement street judges. The plot's trivial, but the tone's memorably sombre. (Also, as it happens, Dredd will be having trouble with the SJS in a few years' time.)
POWER STRUGGLE (Rob Williams & Nick Dyer, 10 pages, Judge Dredd Megazine 336)
There's a reference to an attempted judicial coup from 2000 AD 1812, i.e. it was pruned from this collection. But no problem. This one's actually quite funny. Hershey hires a private contractor to provide city power generators without reading the small print on the contract she signed. Unfortunately, the guy they hire might be psychotic, autistic or both. "Thank you for your call. It was important to us." "Price comparison this!"
WASTELANDS (John Wagner & Dave Taylor, 36 pages, 2000 AD 1837-1841)
I read the first page and immediately said "Wagner". It's the way he does first-person narration from Dredd himself. It's as if, after all this time, Wagner and Dredd have merged a bit. This one reunites us with Judge Benny, more of Wagner's characteristic black humour and another take on free enterprise Mega-City style. It's great, obviously.
BENDER (John Wagner & Ben Willsher, 30 pages, 2000 AD 1845-1849)
Mega-City One has a Russell T. Davies block!
This one's uncomfortable. A thuggish judge routinely beats up and even murders anyone he gets his hands on, but he believes he's doing a good job of keeping control. He's probably right, too. I'm sure he's efficient and I certainly wouldn't commit any crimes when he was around. Unfortunately, he gets partnered with a by-the-book judge with mental issues. You'll spend all thirty pages waiting for something to snap. Don't expect a happy ending.
I enjoyed this collection too. It's not really part of Day of Chaos, but it's an important part of Dredd's world and it's introducing some interesting themes and politics. It's certainly more thoughtful than the previous volume, which was simply putting Dredd on a one-way journey to hell. Mind you, half of me wants to go looking for the stories that didn't get included here.