As the ultimate authority in his world, Judge Dredd stories make for great little post-apocalyptic Aesop Fable when he’s on top, but it’s only when he’s at his lowest ebb that he comes the focus of truly fantastic storytelling.
It’s for this reason that ‘best of’ lists are filled with the likes of the Apocalypse War, The Day The Law Died and, most recently, Day Of Chaos.
A patchwork prologue to the critically acclaimed latter, The Fourth Faction begins laying the groundwork with a series of seemingly unrelated shorts – the notorious serial killer PJ Maybe is on the run and interfering in the mayoral election, a rookie precog predicts chaos on election day and a shadowy cabal of East Meg survivors have kidnapped a germ warfare specialist.
There’s a case to be made for PJ Maybe being Dredd’s true nemesis – Dark Judges and redneck cyborgs be damned. He represents (literally) faceless anonymity, chaos and impulse, where Joe is a larger than life force of order and control. It’s fitting, then, that the Joker to his Batman kicks off this countdown to chaos.
Heavy with foreshadowing and apocalyptic implications, in isolation the stories collected in The Fourth Faction are of Wagner’s usual impressive standard in short, sharp (future) shocks, but knowing too well the carnage we’ll see in following volumes only makes each little nod all the more tantalising.
To really root for Judge Dredd and get behind the fascist, you’ve got to knock him down, leave him battered but not beaten, then follow him as he makes his way through impossible odds to bring fiery judgement raining down.
That was at the heart of last year’s Dredd, and here the ground beneath his feet is already beginning to creak and strain.