It’s arguably quite clear, considering the feel and pacing of his script for Issue Two of “Judge Dredd: Toxic”, that writer Paul Jenkins “bought the very first issue” of “2000 A.D.” and subsequently “tore most of my skin off by applying biotronic stickers” from the science fiction anthology comic’s second edition, for whilst the lifetime fan’s storyline focuses upon an all-too real modern-day dilemma involving “the benefits of immigration and the chaos caused by anti-immigrant sentiment”, there is a definite palpable Seventies feel as to how this book’s pulse-pounding proceedings pan out. Indeed, with the exception of a wordy-heavy conversational piece between the titular character and an enraged Citizen Smed, as well as a somewhat sedentary interrogation of “Ol’ Harkie”, the Wizard Fan Award-winner almost relentlessly throws his audience into the thick of the action without seemingly worrying about whether it has any rhyme or reason.
Admittedly, such frantic plot pacing really does make for a roller-coaster of a read when a violent protest at the Spillover, “Mega-City One’s highly toxic sewer system”, suddenly somehow threatens to dissolve large portions of the futuristic metropolis in ultra-carborane acid. But the chemical ‘chain-reaction’ behind this underground-based mass disaster is debatably never properly explained within the narrative, especially as to just how the emergency will cause the conurbation’s population to start permanently breathing toxic air. Luckily however, it does undeniably make for an engrossing experience courtesy of artist Marco Castiello pencilling some terrific, volcanic-looking geysers of flesh-melting gloop erupting throughout the twenty-page periodical and the recruitment of “some of the old Alpha and Delta series janitorial droids to assist in the Spillover while the situation comes under control.”
Judge Joseph Dredd too seems to much more closely resemble the “tough cop” originally envisaged by co-creator Pat Mills than the more ‘heroic’ lawman disconcertingly depicted in contemporary comics. Whether the veteran Street Judge is busy cold-heartedly executing an already “good as dead” perpetrator “observed in the commission of multiple crimes”, chastising his colleague Scammon for recklessly “saving my life” by risking his own and taking a bullet in the arm for his trouble, or firing his lawgiver so as to intimidate citizens who “are violating multiple ordinances, including unruly assembly”, this particular incarnation of “Old Stoney Face” really is as mean as the situation is dire; “A Judge’s duty doesn’t diminish based on circumstance, Anderson. You know that.”