Prog 23 is here, and sees Brian Bolland back with one of his best covers to date. Brian gets his full name on the cover – I wasn’t paying attention in previous weeks so this might be a first. Only a matter of time before all art droids get proper credit boxes!
Invasion! I still think that Mike Dorey is the best of the original artists on this story, though some of the artwork on Tyne Tunnel leaves a bit to be desired. Perspective and the flow of the storytelling are not as good as they could be, though the atmosphere of Savage travelling with ex-miners shines through. As for the story, it was pretty obvious that the miner’s leader was actually a Volg agent. Good to take a tour of the UK, though the stories are getting repetitive.
Harlem Heroes hots up (if you can ignore the Japanese caricatures, which are a cross between samurai and kamikaze pilots – literally in the latter case). The Heroes are not doing well against players prepared to kill themselves for the sake of the game, but then Louis makes an appearance. He’s acquired some form of rocket-powered / anti-gravity mobile brain jar, but also seems to have developed psychic powers – first appearance of the supernatural in this sci-fi comic, I think?
Shako! Dollar manages to rescue the polar bear from Falmuth and so the duo drag Shako to Ice Station Delta to get the capsule out in an operation. Once the surgeons have the giant bear strapped down they completely fail to make sure it doesn’t wake up, so Shako wakes up, goes on a rampage and tears Falmuth’s arm off (his gun arm, his killing arm). From now on it’s personal (“this is personal” is actually used).
The Dan Dare (Space Hyper-Hero) story comes to a close. We get to see some of the technical capabilities of the Mekon’s flying chair – shame we hadn’t seen a few of them a little earlier. Belardinelli’s artwork is used to better effect than the previous episode, with an opening splash of the Mekon trying to escape his pursuers in panic and a frame of the planet Verath being torn apart towards the end of the episode. Most notable is the thargnote at the end, which heralds the beginning of Future Shocks the following week.
For the meantime, the mini Nerve Centre only contains the story for Supercover Saga No. 5: The Plague from Pluto! Taking place in the same year as Judge Dredd, it’s a two paragraph tale of body horror, with a third paragraph at the end directly to the reader to try to creep them out (similar to the Mutant on the Metro! story, which also ended with a sentence suggesting that the mutated alien is still down there, lurking in the shadows). I wonder if the weird disease pictured by Brian inspired the Jigsaw Man episodes he’ll illustrate years down the line?
After half a page of text and Bolland, Belardinelli returns for M.A.C.H.1. The story involves Probe rescuing a secret agent carrying some microfilm (though his mission is only to retrieve the film, not the agent). By the time he finds the injured agent he has to fend off not only wild wolves and Russian soldiers, but also the agent himself, who is only too aware of the mission priorities that Probe was given. Good artwork from Belardinelli, though not nearly outlandish enough to cater to his strengths – the trees remind me of the forests that we’ll see in Sláine while the wolves remind me of Meltdown Man, also a few years down the line.
Without a gap, Belardinelli returns for a third time, this time in an ad for Spinball in the just-hanging in there Action.
Judge Dredd opens with the judge letting two would-be street smokers off with a warning at the same time that a gang of other smokers are holding up a bank. We get some future technology (detecting the unlit cigarettes), a pun about striking a match / striking an officer and a glimpse of the Mega-City Smokatorium. The latter is the only building in the city where smoking is allowed, though the smokers must wear helmets at all times as otherwise they suffer the effects, which in Dredd’s words work ‘better than tear gas’. In the Mega-City oddity category, this concept ranks with Devil’s Island, Morris Minors as antiques and the Statue of Judgement.