Thinly-Veiled Allegory with Judge Dredd: Toxic #1

by Josh Davison

[*Mild Spoilers Ahead!]

A body lies in the Mega-City One coroner’s office, and it came from the Spillover, the sanitation district of Mega-City One. All sanitation workers–called “Scrubbers”–are genetically modified simply to survive in the Spillover. However, this Spillover resident had a sentient and symbiotic alien parasite living in his system. Judges Dredd and Scammon go to the Spillover to investigate. Things are more complex than they expect, and it gets out to various anti-alien groups that there is a new type of sentient life form given sanctuary in Mega-City One.

Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 cover by Mark Buckingham and Chris Blythe
Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 cover by Mark Buckingham and Chris Blythe

Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 is a thinly-veiled allegory for the fear-mongering about immigration, this time substituting terrestrial immigration for the, well, extraterrestrial.

This is obviously a very topical issue, and I agree with the sentiment that seems to be expressed by Judge Dredd: Toxic #1–i.e. that the “migrant crisis” is a largely manufactured phenomenon being perpetuated by xenophobic parties–the allegory of Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 is so thin as to be transparent.

It’s also not saying much. Being accepting of the alien immigrants in Mega-City One is obviously the “good guy” sentiment, but it doesn’t say much more than that. It’s the first issue, so the story will hopefully expand and deepen as the story progresses. As it is, it’s just a very on-the-nose allegory on xenophobic sentiments.

There is something questionable in putting Judge Dredd on the “good guy” side by circumstance–Dredd is a fascist. That’s always been the point of the character, so it feels a bit dishonest to not have him fretting more about immigrants.

Also, Donald Trump is in this comic. The head of the anti-immigrant group that shows up late in the comic is just straight-up our big wet president. I’m all for mocking Tangerine Dream, but the sickness that is xenophobia isn’t new to him. It’s a problem far larger than him, and setting him as the center figure in every narrative about racism can obfuscate the fact that he’s not the only racist politician relying on fear-mongering.

All of this is to say that such a thin allegory with little to back it up comes off as incurious and not especially clever. I agree ideologically with everything this comic seems to be saying, but it failed to especially entertain or intrigue.

Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 art by Marco Castiello, Vincenzo Acunzo, Jason Millet, and letterer Shawn Lee
Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 art by Marco Castiello, Vincenzo Acunzo, Jason Millet, and letterer Shawn Lee

The artwork of Marco Castiello, Vincenzo Acunzo, and Jason Millet is solid and adds an appealing visual identity to the world of Mega-City One. Dredd’s jaw and expression looks oddly elastic at times, but that’s the only thing there is to complain about in terms of the visuals.

Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 is a well-meaning allegory set in Mega-City One that nonetheless approaches its story a little too directly and, consequently, comes off as a little uncreative and incurious. It’s not bad, but it’s not quite good enough for a recommendation unless you’re a Judge Dredd completionist.

Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 comes to us from writer Paul Jenkins, artist Marco Castiello, inking assistant Vincenzo Acunzo, color artist Jason Millet, letterer Shawn Lee, cover artist Mark Buckingham with Chris Blythe, and variant cover artists John Gallagher, Mark Buckingham, and Marco Castiello with Jason Millet.

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