The front and back covers on prog 8 are dedicated to Flesh (the back being for the Flesh card game, though you’ll need to lose the last page of this week’s Dredd to use them).
First story up is Invasion! and it was a story I was familiar with from a reprinting in a special or annual. IPC had a policy of not reprinting material for five years, and I think I got into 2000AD at the exact point that their reprint could be from early 2000ADs instead of IPC intellectual property from other titles. Anyway, we get the Concorde Mark III, London buses and a flashback pic of Kelvin Savage (Bill’s son). A good enough use of four pages.
The next story I was also familiar with from my first year as a Squaxx – Flesh, with prehistoric snakes, Old One Eye and the water-dwelling Phobosuchus. The episode ends with yet another final reckoning between Reagan and Old One Eye. The page facing Flesh features a reader-submitted design for (amongst others) a Dictator of Zarg (sic) who looks nothing like the more familiar Dictators of Zrag. Presumably they were redrawn by an un-named art droid.
With the Harlem Heroes, Giant’s death dive sans jetpack is temporarily halted by an unsuspecting Siberian Wolf. This respite gives Giant time to score an air-strike before Slim ferries him the rest of the way to the ground. The Heroes aren’t very good at calling for time-outs, but luckily the umpire prompts them. The last page of this episode features Artie Gruber’s first appearance, and an explicit reference to Mega-City One (previously featured on a sign in the background in the Transatlantic Tunnel). Artie’s op costs eight million dollars – I can’t remember if currency has been mentioned in the Harlem Heroes before – surely they’d have switched to creds by now?
This prog features two stories illustrated by Belardinelli – the first is Dan Dare with a gorgeous splash page of the Biogs’ Living Spaceship (mentioned in such a way twice in the same panel). There’s a nice circular panel picked out in red ink before Ziggy Rodann saves the day (well, hour) by taking down the Shepherd on the Odyssey. Some Prisoner-esque rover-style antibodies take Dare and his party into the Biog where they’re offered the option to betray their shipmates for everlasting life. Quite transparently Dare bluffs that he’s turned traitor, but you can tell it’ll be enough for the Biog.
On to the Nerve Centre where we find out Tharg is from Betelgeuse VI (which has three moons and a red sky). We’re also told to watch out for Star Wars, and the Mekon. The Nerve Centre is rounded out with a couple of adverts for stamps.
Over the page we meet a childhood friend of Probes. John Cooper guides us through five and a half pages of Probe going on a personal mission to rescue Maria Aragon from a gang which has kidnapped her in exchange for a ransom. Aragon’s fiancee is apparently short on guts for not going to rescue her himself, though to be fair to Felipe (the fiancee) the only thing that stopped Probe being killed the minute after he’d handed over the ransom money was that he was a M.A.C.H. man. The half-page after M.A.C.H.1 is taken up with a reader-designed tank, which is very obviously redrawn by Kev O’Neill.
Finally, apart from those afore-mentioned Flesh cards, we have Dredd. It could be argued that, in its way, this is one of the most influential of the early Dredds. Others may have introduced us to the Lawmaster, the Statue of Judgement, and the ruins beyond the walls, but this Belardinelli-illustrated story introduces the mystery of Dredd’s face. Apparently Tharg/Mills wasn’t happy with the face that had been drawn for Dredd, so slapped a ‘censored’ sign over it (possibly as there wasn’t time to get it redrawn). Thus one of the defining characteristics of the future lawman was born. Belardinelli is at his best at outlandish creatures and aliens, none of which appear in this episode, though the glimpses we see of MC1 in the background are typical of his organic Art Nouveau-ish buildings, which suit the city pretty well.