To my delight, it includes some of the Judge Dredd issues that weren't collected in Day of Chaos: Fallout! This was a 2000 AD crossover story arc between three series set in the same universe: Judge Dredd himself, The Simping Detective and Low Life. It came out shortly after Day of Chaos and the writers hadn't known what Wagner was planning, but they soon realised that the story arcs fitted serendipitously well.
Simon Spurrier says it happened because the writers "Got Drunk And Thought It Would Be Funny. The[n] we sobered up and realised how much hard work it'd be, and the funniness went away. So we got drunk again."
We'll need a glossary.
1. "Wally Squad" is the Justice Department undercover division and both of the spin-off series' heroes belong to it. Dirty Frank is a big hairy idiot who's lost his sanity, refers to himself in the third person and is liable to soil himself.
2. "Simp" in Mega-City One is short for "simpleton" and implies that you dress like an idiot. The Simping Detective (aka. Jack Point) wears a clown costume, as well as drinking booze and forming romantic attachments with women despite being a judge. These things are all frowned on. His days as a judge might be numbered.
JUDGE DREDD: BULLET TO KING FOUR (Al Ewing & Henry Flint, 6 colour pages, 2000 AD 1803)
Dredd's got to handle people cleverer than him.
One is the clone of War Marshal Kazan, who's a Russian genius-level strategist ostensibly working for Mega-City One but still wasn't worth a damn on Day of Chaos. Dredd says to his face that he's submitted a request for Kazan's execution.
Another is Chief Judge Hershey, who has a point about Dredd's irresponsibility. Dredd hates compromise, is almost always right and absolutely hates participating in the business of government. Which unfortunately requires compromises and decisions that aren't right.
THE SIMPING DETECTIVE: JOKERS TO THE RIGHT (Simon Spurrier & Simon Coleby, 42 mostly black-and-white pages, 2000 AD 1804-1811)
It's a shame it's in black-and-white. Its hero wears a clown costume! Colour would have been great. Also, though, colour would have helped visually in this collected volume. Mental adjustment is required when switching from one series to another. Coleby's art is very different from D'Israeli's, but even so both series have uneven page counts (either 5 or 6 pages per black-and-white episode) and weird Wally Squad protagonists at different ends of the same investigation.
This was my least favourite of the three series in this book. It's perfectly okay, but Point's Chandler-esque hard-boiled narration gets old and he's not even that interesting. I was, though, surprised to see him in a relationship with Galen DeMarco. Wow. There's a blast from the past.
There are also plenty of other things to enjoy, e.g. the Simp Church and its evil hymns. "All clowns dumb and dutiful, asses on which to fall. Guns both huge and killingful, the Godtown loves them all."
LOW LIFE: SAUDADE (Rob Williams & D'Israeli, 47 black-and-white pages, 2000 AD 1805-1811)
This, on the other hand, is great.
Dirty Frank is a joy, with his childishness and idiocy. "Dirty Frank has teddy." He also has Alan Moore hair and an Asterix moustache. He's like a fourth Fabulous Furry Freak Brother, both in appearance and in some of the "stupid protagonist" gags. The artists must love drawing this old, fat, hairy loon. D'Israeli does him gloriously, but then I was blown away by Crichlow's take on him too.
His world is funny too. I loved the comedy corporate sharks, of whom the most over-compensating has paid to be transformed, literally, into a bipedal great white shark. Williams is embracing the goofy satire side of Dredd and I loved it. I'm tempted to buy more Low Life graphic novels.
JUDGE DREDD: THE COLD DECK (Al Ewing & Henry Flint, 36 colour pages, 2000 AD 1806-1811)
...and yet, despite loving Dirty Frank, these were my favourite episodes in this collection. They're exciting, even though Dirty Frank is a million times funnier and more interesting as a protagonist. Dredd's in a bad place, thanks to Day of Chaos and his deteriorating relationship with Hershey.
There's a heavy-duty baddie in Bachmann. Incidentally, is it just me, or is she hot as hell? (In an "older lady with glasses" way, admittedly.) Remove the badge and shoulder pads from a Judge's outfit and you're left with a skintight body suit and a silhouette-enhancing belt. That's not a bad look.
TRIFECTA (Al Ewing, Simon Spurrier, Rob Williams & Carl Critchlow, 28 colour pages, 2000 AD 1812)
All the series combine and our three heroes defeat Bachmann. It's a pretty good finale, but after this you'll want to read The Small House (Williams/Flint). That's what this is setting up.
I'm not sure the crossover works best in this collected volume, since on first reading it's hard work to keep jumping between the interleaved episodes. I wouldn't notice the transitions on a reread, though, and they'd have worked fine in weekly 2000 AD issues. You don't even need to have read Day of Chaos, for what it's worth.
There's a lot to like here. The comedy's successful and Dirty Frank instantly became one of my favourite 2000 AD characters. The crossover could have been (much) more tightly plotted, but it's still fun to see it come together. It's quite exciting.