2000AD Prog 17: Oh, No! Johnson, Mills and Shepherd have got Mixed up with a Tyrannosaur in the Time Machine!

Yet another Brian Bolland cover, as at this point he was still working on Powerman for Nigerian comics, and unlike Dave Gibbons (and Kevin O’Neill?) he hadn’t managed to get out of that contract yet, so he was being given covers to draw. Eventually this would lead to Supercovers, coming in a few weeks (of progs) time.
This one relates to one of the stories inside though, as we get a preview of what will happen to Johnson, Mills, Shepherd and a dinosaur in this week’s episode of Flesh.  Mills is obviously named after Pat, and Shepherd is named after Jan Shepheard, no idea who Johnson is though.  As an aside, I read somewhere recently that Brian signed a few of these covers ‘Bollo’ to blend in with all the Spanish and South American artists whose names ended in ‘o’.

First story, as ever, is Invasion!  It’s a bit better than other recent offerings – for a start Savage doesn’t lord it over the military types, and the plan to free some British slaves in Petticoat Lane actually comes from someone other than Bill, for a change.  Also, I was at a gig directly opposite the modern day market last Saturday.  Not relevant to the story, but it’s not often I’ve been in that area so the synchronicity appeals to me.

Flesh next, and it turns out Reagan’s still got some life in him, enough to suck the venom.  Luring the spider in by playing dead, he manages to stab the beast and escape to the time beaming room.  A little humour is injected by Claw Carver’s seemingly caring attempt to help the wounded on board a time shuttle when it turns out he’s actually talking to the bullion reserves that he’s attempting to steal.  I’m not sure if the time shuttles are supposed to look like flying saucers or cowboy hats…  The ensuing fight between Reagan and Carver results in the controls of the shuttle being broken by the time the green flash of the time beams send Carver off to destination (and time period) unknown (at least until the merge issue with Starlord when Flesh Book Two begins – but Starlord hasn’t even started yet so I’m getting way ahead of myself).  Meanwhile the other shuttles are arriving in the 23rd century, bringing us to the image on the cover, of three time travellers heads merged with the body of the dinosaur that was about to eat them alive as the jumped through time.

On to Harlem Heroes and Gruber (disguised as Mugglie) does a Steel Claw impression with a flying hand (also looking like Dare’s techno-magic superhero hand from two years down the line).  We get the best look at the person who has orchestrated the Heroes’ problems (previously we’ve only seen a hand, this time we see the back of their head).  For those who had been paying attention, you could probably work out who it was at this point, if his wild, staring eyes hadn’t given the game away already.  As mentioned previously, I’m not a sports fan and as this episode is mostly recounting the match (albeit with sci-fi elements) I’m just waiting for Artie to make his next move.

Belardinelli manages to give us a close-up of a flesh-eating worm on the centre pages – no mean feat considering how small the worms are.  There’s also a thoughtful Rok stroking his chin in the background – nice touch.  While everybody’s watching the worms nibbling at Dare, Rok seizes his lazer sword and frees Dare.  During the ensuing struggle we find that the Mekon is so weak without his chair that he can barely move, and O’Grady gets killed by a falling statue of the Two of Verath.  A pretty good episode, made better by dispatching O’Grady.

M.A.C.H.1 sees Probe accompanying an S.A.S. squad into ‘Eastern’ territory (obviously a relic of the same reluctance to cause controversy that led to the Soviet invasion forces in another story being rebranded Volgans.  Some nice artwork from Jesus Redondo, a bit of internal dialogue from Probe about how disenchanted he’s become with technology, but no progression from what has gone before.

Judge Dredd finishes the prog, and Ian Gibson finishes the Robot Wars saga.  We’re introduced to the hunt for Call Me Kenneth by a Shaw Taylor parody (who died earlier this year – I missed it at the time, but found out when I just double-checked I got his name right).  Unusually it begins with two splash pages, with CMK dominating the first and a vista of the Meg-Oil depot and a Texas City tanker on the second.  Thinking about it I’m pretty sure this is the first mention of another Mega-City in Dredd’s world…  Re-reading it I’ve got to say that this is my favourite episode of Dredd so far – it has everything that epitomises early ‘heroic’ Dredd – splash pages, views of the City (including a bird’s eye view of the Statues of Judgement and Liberty on their island – and that’s just in the background of a single panel), the best rendition of the Lawmaster to date, a dynamic portrait of CMK’s last moments and some domestic interaction from the Judge.  He even manages to avoid slagging of his robotic allies for the entire episode – the only brusqueness aimed at Walter was to tell him to get off his knees.  As an aside, Walter (and his trio of companions) get awarded Pleasure Circuits – I wonder where Walter will install his? 😉

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