We’re introduced to Prog 18 by an unusual cover, in that it’s (partially) illustrated by the late, great Don Lawrence, but has been bodged to replace the main figure with a pic of Dredd by Carlos Ezquerra. Artwork on buildings in the background on the pasted section suggest that Kevin O’Neill was the one who had been given this task.
For a long time it was thought that Lawrence had had trouble drawing Dredd, and that this was why it had been replaced with Ezquerra’s pic, but Rufus Dayglo revealed the truth when he purchased the original artwork and peeled away the bodged addition to reveal Don Lawrence’s original illustration of Ma Mahaffy.
Invasion! introduces us to a couple of new characters (who won’t be lasting long) and ends up with the Volgs going in force to the Mad Dogs hideout on the Isle of Dogs and pushing Savage out of London. This is going to lead to us exploring more of occupied Britain (other than one or two excursions he’s taken before).
In Flesh the Johnson, Mills, Shepherd and Tyrannosaur creature goes on a rampage through the twenty third century city before being put down by the police. Reagan gets dragged from a time shuttle to be thrown in prison (after facing the Judgement Machine, which we don’t see – presumably just a computer which sentences criminals). Funny, I don’t remember him surviving the first book of Flesh, and thought his more recent appearances were flashbacks to before this book. The last panel shows Old One Eye staggering away from the Trans-Time Base, feeling the effects of that heart attack earlier. Only three pages this prog, but it’s a good three pages, even if the future depicted is a distinctly old-fashioned view of the future.
Harlem Heroes has Gruber destroying a Gargoyle and killing Chico. Even though Giant recognised the voice of the disguised cyborg, he didn’t manage to place it (even though it hasn’t been that long since Artie’s latest attempt on his life). Implausible, but Gibbon’s artwork rescues it.
Dan Dare next, and the spacer has gambled that there’s an artificial force-field holding the planet together at the bottom of the pit. Quite some gamble, obviously helped by the law of narratology. The Mekon has a moment of triumph when he thinks Dare is dead, but the Two of Verath quickly appraise him of the real situation before leaping after Dare and Rok. After a brief struggle, the two heroes escape on the Mekon’s spaceship, while the green one starts to hypnotise the Two, who are apparently vital to his plans.
On to M.A.C.H.1 and terrorists attempt to kill or capture the president of a South American country, which doesn’t even get a made-up name like some of the other countries we’ve seen in the series. Probe is in town for a conference and witnesses the attack so gets involved (because the president is an ally of Britain). A ho-hum episode, nothing we haven’t seen before in other episodes.
Dredd rounds off the prog and we get a view of his domestic situation, Maria buying Brainblooms (which is illegal), Walter egging him on to arrest her and Dredd being lenient on his landlady (though I thought she was his cleaning lady a few stories ago?) Not the only plot hole in this story as questioning of others found in possession of Brainblooms reveal Mrs Mahaffy grew them. She rents the roof garden of ‘Tower House’ (luckily just in front of Dredd as he receives this news). Two problems with this, the first is that when Dredd confronts her and finds her voice print identified her as ‘Green Finger’s Ma Mahaffy – not exactly a cunning pseudonym for a well-known bio-criminal to rent a roof garden. The second is that in a city full of flying vehicles a garden growing illegal plants would not be open to the sky (just look at cannabis farms in cities in the real world). High points: the panels with Tower House, the first view of Mahaffy’s garden, the truck and the Riot Squad (and also the first appearance Riot Foam) – low points: most of the rest of it. Despite my reservations, it’s a good use of five pages, as it does introduce riot foam to Dredd’s world. There’s just something about this episode which makes me think it’s been rushed a little.
p.s. almost forgot – the back page contains an ad for 2000AD T-shirts – you can choose from everything from the first prog, except Invasion! Conspicuous by his absence, there is no Dredd T-shirt! That’s right, you can get The Mekon, Dan Dare, M.A.C.H.1, Old One Eye, Giant or Tharg, but not the Judge!