Issue #4 is the final issue of Judge Dredd: Toxic! and, while the rest of the series as a whole may have been somewhat underwhelming, it signs off with a solid final instalment that ties things up into a nicely satisfying conclusion: The bad guys get their comeuppance, the Judges save the day, Mega-City One returns to normal. Well, as normal a place as it ever is.
Beneath Mega-City One, the Judges have discovered that the symbiotes known as the Blenders have been here long enough that they have infiltrated the entire Spillover, that they are governed by one huge entity, the Queen, who has been working to help preserve Mega-City One with the help of her “children” and the human workers. Finally Joe Dredd bends, just a little, to allow the Queen to talk to him, to thank her for all that she’s done and confirm that she and her children have the protection of the Judges.
Not a moment too soon as the Anti-Alien League stages a suicide mission into the Spillover and the three Judges must stand against seemingly overwhelming numbers to protect these new allies that have been silently helping to clean up Mega-City One.
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The Anti-Alien League also goes Full Torquemada in this issue. You never go Full Torquemada. Gone is talk of harbouring illegal aliens, it goes off the rails and into full-on “Be pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!” territory as the faux Donald Trump pontificates about his right to protest and his right to preserve the human gene pool by any means necessary, whatever it takes to make him a martyr for his cause.
Dredd is finally allowed to bend a little in this issue; there are finally traces of the man who stands up for not only the letter of the Law, but the spirit of it as well, who understands that sometimes Justice isn’t a black and white thing. It’s just a shame it took four issues for him to pull the rod out of his ass.
The artwork continues to be quite stylised, although nowhere near the extent that it was in the previous issues. Gone are the tight shots of snarling mouths and chiselled chins, thankfully, replaced instead with a more vibrant and expressive style; even if large sections of the comic are varying shades of poo-brown and vomit-green – unavoidable given where the story takes place.
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Also, laser saws. Because you know what’s better than a chainsaw? A laser chainsaw. You know what’s better than a laser chainsaw? Two laser chainsaws! But that’s just into the realms of fantasy talk now. This comic only has one.
This has been a somewhat forgettable story in the grand scheme of Dredd canon and definitely a step down in quality from the far superior Under Siege that preceded it. The political commentary has been heavy handed and the Judges reduced to ciphers as nearly one-dimensional as the real life politicians that are being parodied. There is no humour, no subtlety and, while the story has taken steps to redeem itself with this final issue, we can only hope for some better writing when Dredd inevitably returns once again.