The cover pictures a mutant apparently hiding from an alien spaceship in Hammersmith tube station. No idea what this is about, but a quick flick shows I’ll have to wait to find out. The artwork isn’t up to much, but I like the way the London Underground roundel gets used in the ‘O’ of ‘metro’ (probably courtesy of Jan Shepheard or Kevin O’Neill).
Savage goes to Somerset. In three pages he fails to protect a herd of cows which has been keeping the local Resistance in food, though manages to mortally interrogate one of the Volgs who attacked and leads an ambush of a train to retrieve a high-tech protein synthesiser to replace the cows who were killed. Carlos Pino provides the artwork, and it’s nice to see Savage traipsing around the country, seeing the sights and killing the local invaders.
Shako! gets another encounter featuring the eponymous bear, Falmouth and Dollar, this time the highlight is Buck Dollar staring down the polar bear until our hero (Shako) loses interest and goes after one of the other humans. Just to show that he is the hero and not villain, the cliffhanger shows him unconscious from a tranquiliser dart and about to be shot in cold blood by Foulmouth.
The Harlem Heroes are landing in Tokyo’s fifth airport in the year 2,000AD (I think the writer or letterer has got a bit confused here – either that or the Heroes have plenty of time to win the 2050 World Aeroball Championship). Unlike every other team we’ve seen, their opponents, the Bushido Blades, use wooden kendo sticks to hit the ball. From the announcer’s commentary Slim doesn’t know this. Sounds a bit suspicious to me, that a professional player wouldn’t know the rules of the game he makes his living from. Dave Gibbons managed to slip a signature in early on in this episode.
My wait is over – the next page is the 2000AD Nerve Centre, and with it the tale of Supercover Saga No. 4 – Mutant on the Metro! (the exclamation mark is part of the title). It tells of a creature from the Outer Time (which I’m guessing is a bit like Outer Space, though no explanation is given for the difference). Turns out the mutant was actually disfigured by Earth’s atmosphere after being shoved out of a spaceship by his own people, who had some idea to become neighbours to Earth (?) Upshot is that they then fire on him once they see their experiment has failed so he takes refuge in the underground, where he may lurk to this day. Oh, except this was printed in July 1977 and the story is supposed to take place on 23rd July 1978, so he can’t lurk there until this day until the year after it was published. I’m guessing a sub-editor was given a tight deadline to come up with a story to match the picture that Evi provided (nobody seems to know who this mystery artist is).
I almost forgot – there’s a few letters in support of Walter the Robot, one professing that the author would rip up their copies of 2000AD if anything were to happen to Walt while the other says that if anything nasty happens to him that they would never read the comic again. Well, nearly forty years later and Walter has appeared in the last few weeks, so I hope both readers are still faithful (though admittedly quite a lot of nasty things have happened to him in those years).
Dan Dare next. Good art by Massimo, but not great. He hasn’t been provided with the kind of visual cues that play to his strengths. The picture of Rok on the opening spread makes me long for Meltdown Man, but that’s about three years down the line (no worries though – more Dare, Inferno and Blackhawk to come before we encounter the Yujees – and that’s just in the pages of 2000AD – there’s The Angry Planet in Tornado to come as well – a story I’ve not read yet). Looks like the tables have turned on the Mekon, with the Two of Verath, Rok and Dare on his case (plus a bunch of Skash gunheads).
The next story is probably the first ever episode of M.A.C.H.1 I read, albeit in reprint form in a Sci-Fi Special in my first year as a Squaxx. John Cooper sneaks a signature past the white-out and in the same panel there’s also a skimpily-dressed female (slave or other servant?) about to be tortured while showing a bit of rear cleavage. Having a little knowledge of the late seventies British comics scene, I can guess there were conversations about this in the week it was published!
Judge Dredd finishes the prog, with one of the less celebrated early stories by Gibson (though with Robot Wars a month before and Rico a month or two down the line you can see why episodes like this are overlooked). Gibson also got a signature through – can’t be long before editorial manage to convince management to allow them to put in credits. As for the story itself… a gang member helps Dredd find his boss, and gets one day knocked off of a 40 year sentence for his troubles, Dredd burns down a hotel to flush out a single mutant, we find out why mutants were banned from the city (because they’re full of hatred towards normal people because their bodies are warped – nothing about genetic purity here, which I’m sure is going to be the retconned reason), and we also find out that mutants adapt themselves to make up for their warped bodies (all very spurious – there’s plenty of muties with less useful mutations, and I don’t think we hear about intelligent mutation again). Another so-so Dredd story, art by Gibson is nice but he’s still developing so there’s nothing special. Roll on the next prog!