Publicised as Paul Jenkins’ “first shot at Judge Dredd” by “IDW Publishing”, this twenty-page periodical’s plot probably didn’t provide its audience with quite the spine-chilling shenanigans John Gallagher’s marvellously grotesque variant cover illustration foreshadowed. In fact, the “celebrated” British writer’s narrative for Issue One of “Judge Dredd: Toxic”, which disconcertingly heavily bogs the reader down with a politically-fuelled piece about anti-immigration and the aggressive prejudice of Mega-City One’s citizens, doesn’t even feature any sort of gigantic ghoulish-looking mutation whatsoever, and instead seemingly relies upon the shock inclusion of a Donald Trump lookalike leading an Anti-Alien League protest as its main adversary.
Admittedly, that isn’t to say that this twenty-page periodical lacks a genuine ‘monster’, as its titular character’s investigation into Clifton Chud’s surprisingly well-developed corpse soon reveals the presence of an extra-terrestrial life-form hidden away amongst the disagreeable-looking scrubbers of the urban sprawl’s Spillover. However, this tiny, “intelligent… species” with “an advanced intellect and a possible psychic connection with the host” actually appears to radically benefit the humans with whom they form a mutually agreeable symbiotic relationship, and certainly don’t appear to want anything more than to be peacefully left alone in the sewer works.
So amiable an alien arguably means that the Prism Award-winner must instead turn his attention towards making someone else the supposed ‘villain of the piece’ and dishearteningly it soon becomes clear that “Old Stoney Face” has been cast in that role, as the future lawman is penned acting like a ‘real jerk’ around Judge Anderson during the telepath’s interrogation of the “off-world entities”; “You don’t like anything, Dredd. How about you let me do the talking, and you just go grimace in the corner, okay?” Indeed, this entire comic portrays Fargo’s clone at his robotic worse, impatiently discussing an autopsy with Coroner Levine, recklessly threatening to have the Spillover “pop like a blister” simply because he hasn’t thought through his demand of wanting “every scrubber in this sector assembled on the lower ops deck in ten minutes”, and childishly whining to Chief Judge Hershey that despite all their potential advantages the “undocumented illegals” shouldn’t be granted immunity because “they broke the law.”
Debatably this book’s biggest disappointment though, is Marco Castiello’s scratchy artwork, which seems particularly unsuitable when applied to Mega-City One’s lawmen. Dredd’s famous chin is especially inconsistently drawn unless pencilled in profile, whilst Scammon’s bedraggled red beard looks as if he’s spent the past year or more literally walking across the Cursed Earth and certainly reveals just the “sign of vanity” which saw Judge Lopez ‘unwillingly’ consume the fatal Oracle Spice during “The Judge Child Quest”.