Star Lord No 9: Beware the war droid in Kill-Frenzy! You have the fire power of a cruiser, Hammer-Stein! – use it – destroy your comrade Ro-Jaws!

This issue has a pretty good painted rendition of Hammerstein in kill-frenzy (as trailed in the next prog box last week) – though the war-droid’s legs are a bit dodgy – there’s a word balloon that could have been placed over them to cover them up. Spoiler, the scene in question won’t appear until right at the end of this week’s episode – that ‘next prog’ caption from last week would have been just as appropriate this week.

Mind Wars sees the Jugla war fleet reach Earth and the first place they attack? Miami! I’m pretty sure Redondo drew a MACH One story that started off in Miami, though could be wrong. Eventually they get around to attacking the Federal Capital – the largest city in the galaxy, though there’s no clue where on Earth it’s located – hint – somewhere bordered by mountains on one side, and not London or Berlin. The fighting largely takes place off-panel as the only reason for the ‘invasion’ is to allow Ardeni and Arlen to sneek in on the Solar Saint.

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Prog 72: Introducing… the 180 lb Judge Burger!

Mick McMahon draws the kind of cover featuring Ronald McDonald about to eat a burger containing Judge Dredd that got copyright and trademark lawyers into a tizzy in 1978…

A reader writes in to query why Starlord has the same address as the Command Module – the rest of the Nerve Centre is largely an advert for Starlord. I did notice that ‘2000AD’ has been dropped from Nerve Centre.

MACH Zero has Zero doing the Samson column manoeuvre. The theatre comes down, Zero survives, but Cousin George escapes down a disused tube tunnel. Possibly to keep Zero a sympathetic character and not a cold-blooded murderer, George traps himself in a hiding place which is sealed shut by water pressure, the showman dying helpless as Zero wanders past, searching for him. The last panel of this episode is reminiscent of the story closer where John Probe wandered off into the Florida swamp, though this one has an added curious rabbit watching after Zero.

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Star Lord No 8: Nazi World 2478 A.D. Time Control 85 Million B.C. Torn between impossible worlds…

This cover has Blocker and Suzi Cho in (what looks like) a Nazi jet as it straddles two time periods while stuck (?) in a time portal. Cho looks safe enough in Time Control, though Blocker is half in, half out of the portal, so let’s hope it doesn’t close before he gets all the way through. I think our hopes are high here, as grizzly deaths by dismemberment of bodies seems much more an Inferno / Flesh thing than anything that’s appeared in Star Lord yet. Of main characters, at least. p.s. that cover line confirms I guessed the year right last week!

Last week’s Mind Wars had an ‘end of book one’ feel in the last panel. My imaginary ‘book two’ begins with Controller of the Federation Doctor Varn blaming the twins for destroying the world of Yu-Jubum (the one the Controller ordered destroyed) and a major warship lost (Jugla did that) and so sends a reserve space-fleet – no messing about with a warship or two now! Meanwhile the new character Zazda, who Ardeni likes, and is such a great friend of Kola goes down to the drive chamber and gets killed, but not before telling the twins to search for the green star (or should that be The Green Star?) Meanwhile meanwhile, the Cosmol Na-Rutha spends some quality time with his beloved Klee-Fang, though fears for his life companion for a moment when he thinks the shoulder-dragon is going to be ripped apart by piranhas. Klee-Fang wins. Na-Rutha finds out that an entire space fleet has left Earth so takes the opportunity to launch a full scale invasion and also increase the neural irradiations to control the twins and send them to Earth as as the other prong of a two-pronged attack.

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Prog 71: Are YOU Prepared for… Ant Wars!

A giant ant straddles the Earth on this Kev O’Neill cover, hopeless faces staring out of the cloud cover while a boy stands with a bloodied knife – it can only be Ant Wars!

Eating ants is very much a theme of this opening chapter, and the name Anteater will stick (pretty sure the boy on the cover never gets a name other than that). This story is as subtle, and entertaining as Flesh and Shako! We’re going to go on a tour of South America but to begin with we have scientist’s experiments, brutal soldiers and downtrodden natives. Oh, and giant ants, but that’s in the title, so it’s hardly a surprise.

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Star Lord No 7: Into forbidden worlds… beyond the limits of man’s imagination! Battle for survival on Planet of the Damned

This cover is basically a rehash of the end of last week’s episode of Planet of the Damned, with Flint about to do battle with a black knight on the back of a mammoth in front of a fortress. This very red painting could have graced any Conan-esque fantasy novel of the last fifty years. Flint also looks a little like He-Man, though I think this is a few years before whichever toy company it was came up with that idea.

Starlord doesn’t have enough space this issue for a full Star Fax so has a narrow strip at the top of this week’s Mind Wars to tell us about the Hell Planet boardgame (and how he hasn’t finished writing the rules yet). If the last episode was inspired by Star Wars (with our protagonists approaching Mos Eisley to organise transport off world in a cantina) then the similarities continue, after a brief case of misinterpreted greetings. Tip – if an alien race looks like an apex predator then their greetings will probably look like an assault. The Solar Saint (Millenium Falcon) leaves Yu-Jubum just before it gets destroyed (Alderaan, anyone?) and is immediately pursued by Federal strike ships (Star Destroyers). Even some of the dialogue has parallels (even if the meaning is opposite). Compare and contrast: “The old Solar Saint was built to outrun local planetary space police forces, not a Federal battle fleet!”; “I’ve outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.” Anyway, the battle fleet attacks and the Lakam twins use their powers to hold out for a while, but in the end they have to be rescued by a Jugla suicide attack, just before they head off into trans-light drive (hyperspace).

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Prog 70: Screee The Hell-bird is coming in for the kill! Time is running out for the survivors on the… Death Planet!

This prog’s cover could have come from the original run of Flesh! What do I mean, original run? There’s only been one book of Flesh! Must have had a premonition or something. The art looks like European art agency work and if the woman in futuristic spacey clothing was replaced by something more cowboy (or cowgirl) it could pass as a cover from the first 20 progs.

The Nerve Centre highlights that this comic was published in the 1970s and aimed squarely at boys. James Bejer from Southampton like how Death Planet portrays Lorna Varn as a ruthless woman, though ‘anonymous’ of County Cork says “I do not mind females READING your comic, but to actually have a female commander APPEARING in the pages of 2000 A.D. is going too far!” I wonder how these two readers would have reacted to the female antagonist who’s appeared in recent weeks (due to lead times at the time, almost certainly after they sent their letters)?

Inferno sees a wonderful opening with the Philadelphia destraught that Gruber had been smuggled in to their squad and used to attack the Hellcats (no mention made of the first casualty – the real Dimples Devine). The thing that makes this wonderful is Belardinelli’s depiction of the Freaks over-reacting – literal waterfalls of tears from one, windscreen wipers emerging from a brain hatch of another to wipe tears from the eyes of the caveman. From there the story goes downhill. One Hellcat wishes that Cindy Lamont and Hale Eegle could see the Hellcats cleared after police identify the now dead Torso and Chubb. So Cindy seems to have been killed off – she was in intensive care last time we saw or heard from her! Moody Bloo has lost his appetite (no explanation of why – it seems like it should have a pay-off, but no sign this episode) and Giant has constructed a replica of Gruber, to keep him on his guard. As Giant sleeps that night, the replica activates and goes to Giant’s room, in a creepy-stalker-y kind of way. Presumably this is part of Giant’s plan to keep on his guard – in the same way that Cato randomly attacks Inspector Clouseau

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Star Lord No 6: Interstellar Federation invasion begins! You have been warned!

The cover of this week’s issue has a giant crab in battle with humanoids. Not much to say about it – it’s competent enough, though could have appeared on any number of pulp sci-fi novels from the 1950s onwards.

Mind Wars has Tilman attempting to kill the twins, but he is interrupted when Ardeni awakes. When she refuses to kill him to protect herself, the Jugla take control of her, though Arlen is under control and manages to deflect the beam as he shoots. Klee-Fang the shoulder-dragon gets to punish the Jugla who failed to control both twins while back on Yu-Jubum, things take a Mos Eisley turn, with the host natives unwilling to approach the sinful city, which smells like a sewer, has a spaceport and where deals to arrange passage are made with hairy pilots in bars.

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Prog 69: O.K., come quietly – or else there’ll be trouble! Tweak!

Dredd and Tweak (not that we know who Tweak is yet) are surrounded, from our point of view 17 gun barrels pointing at them (more in the background). This is the way to do a Dredd cover, courtesy of McMahon.

The Nerve Centre has a few letters, one from a reader who noticed that the price for other planets was missing from the cover of Prog 61 and another from somebody who was shocked that Gruber had arrived in Inferno…

Speaking of Artie Gruber in Inferno – he cackles over the prone body of Clay, dowsed in highly flammable jet-pack fuel. As I thought, Louis’ ommission from the previous prog’s line up of helpless onlookers meant that he was the one to rescue Clay, using mindpower and that wrist aerial he had improvised earlier. Using the discipline circuit that Torso and Chubb had installed, Louis drives Gruber to take his revenge on the two, and as he finishes his work (which a gleeful Belardinelli portrait watches with relish) proto-Judges/the law/security arrive, though set fire to Gruber’s jet-pack, sending him to a firey death in the waterway outside. If you believe Gruber’s dead then you’ll be as shocked as that reader if he re-appears (the next prog says “The Return of Gruber..?” I suspect so).

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Star Lord No 5: This is gonna be a bad one, Hammer-Stein!

Kevin O’Neill depicts Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein surveying what looks like a spaceship crashing into a skyscraper (or starscraper, or whatever they’re called in Ro-Busters).

This week’s Mind Wars sees Na-Rutha control Arlen to force the ship to go to Earth. There’s a bit of confusion between artist and letterer at one stage, with the teddy-bear alien (Councillor Rashnik) seeming to say that he was given orders before leaving Earth to stop the twins from getting to the home planet, and that the ship would be destroyed before that happened – this was a conversation that Tilman had with Doctor Varn. Other than that, the ship under Arlen’s psychic control goes through an emergency ship division, which apparently all great human and Jugla warships are able to do, for some sort of safety and defensive measure. Despite all that safety and defence, the particular sub-division of the ship which Arlen, Ardeni, Tilman and Rashnik are on gets damaged during the division and they have to crash land. Fortunately the planet they touchdown on is on the planetary communications network. Unfortunately this means that Tilman can be given orders by Doctor Varn to kill the twins. I should probably have done this round-up in the fortunately-unfortunately game format…

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Prog 68: Ssssssssss Clay, now you’re gonna… DIE just like A…Artie!

Dave Gibbons provides this prog’s cover – the first time he has drawn Inferno (even though the story features characters he designed for Harlem Heroes).

The Nerve Centre prints the the top stories, as voted for by readers. In first place is Judge Dredd, 2nd is Dan Dare, 3rd Inferno, 4th MACH 1, 5th Future Shocks, 6th Walter the Wobot and 7th Colony Earth. I may dispute Dan Dare and Inferno, and the odd Future Shock is better than others, but I can’t dispute the rest of that list.

MACH Zero starts with The Three. Steve McManus taps into mythology with Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil to create the leaders of London’s tramps and vagrants. There’s a real Victorian feel to this episode – in fact, other than Cousin George’s stunt costume and a few low-cut dresses later on in the episode it could almost entirely be set in the 19th century. CG continues to deceive Zero while Gimpy looks to be in serious trouble outside a theatre.

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