The terror of the tagline is a lobster-y, fish-y creature, looking out of the cover at we, the readers (while munching on a diver). A note in the corner of the cover tells us that Dan Dare has returned (or more accurately D.D. if you don’t know who Dan is from that then it’s unlikely to draw you in).
This post got interrupted in two ways. The first is that I noticed an advert for the first 2000AD Annual with the information that it was already available, so I interrupted writing this post to go through that annual. The second is that while going through said annual real life got in the way and I didn’t complete it until after having moved. That’s all done now, so hopefully there won’t be any further interruptions, apart from standard holiday breaks.
The Volgs attack the Gorbals Ghetto and after the resistance have broken out and blinded some Volgs by turning around the floodlights in a football stadium (why can floodlights designed to shine on the pitch be turned around to face the road?) we get a new character making an appearance. In just one word balloon we find out he used to be a top footballer, but also that he is now considered a has-been. By implication we’re told that this will be important later in the story. Over the page, on almost the same part of the physical paper, a Volgan globe grenade threatens to take out Savage, Silk and the Scots leader (who doesn’t appear to have been given a name). If only we had somebody available who was skilled at kicking globe-shaped things out of the way. After the footballer’s sacrifice we get the cliffhanger that the Volgs will unleash the Barlinnie Brigade on the resistance fighters. I am curious about some words in the background ‘Red McGreg’ – not sure if it’s meant to be a pub, some graffiti or a shop name.
Over the page were treated to the second episode of Judge Giant’s first story (oops, gave it away, I mean Rookie Giant). Inexplicably the second part is drawn by McMahon (Gibson gave us the first episode). Understandable for long-running stories, but this is two episodes, with this second part being four pages. I’ve read somewhere that things like this are rarely planned… Artist change notwithstanding, we’re treated to some great comics, with a stand-out frame of a bomb exploding in mid-air, with Giant feeling the pressure after his earlier mistake, but succeeding in rescuing ‘the Anderson kid’. The Harlem Heroes Aeroball Stadium is notable in still being decked-out for Aeroball (Inferno must have been short-lived and so it was converted back?) Dredd tricks Giant into risking his career to uphold the law (and gives a cheeky smile once Giant passes). We also get to see three frames of the aged John Clay.
Shako next, and the polar bear is tearing his way through the hospital until he gets cornered by pointy-stick wielding hospital staff. It seems to be the end for the bear, until Unk arrives on the scene to lead the bear to a window. Unk has a tense moment, but the bear leaves him be. By the morning the bear is back to hunting humans, piling snow under the Alaskan oil pipeline to reach oil workers from France (called Frenchie) and the USA (called Webster). The dialogue is dated, and so stereotypical there is absolutely no way you would miss which country the respective characters are from. The two oil workers split up, hoping that at least one of them will survive, but neither are as intelligent as a polar bear so Frenchie ends up being caught and Webster is trapped when he tries to hide in an oil pipe. The story comes to a natural break with the promise of more of the same the next week.
Dan Dare returns, with artwork by Dave Gibbons. Belardinelli and Gibbons have swapped places with Harlem Heroes / Inferno and Dan Dare. Gibbons artwork stands out, bringing largely one-dimensional characters to life. We see Dare accept a mission from S.A.S.A. (surprised he wants to work with them after his previous experiences with the organisation), ignore their crew suggestions and head to Topsoil to recruit his own (think Mos Eisley). He proceeds to get into fights and start grudges with the worst the spaceport has, offering to give them their chance at revenge the following morning. We are introduced to Great Bear, Hitman and ‘Pilot’ Polanski in this manner. Hitman had his gun fused to the bone and flesh of his hand after spending two minutes in absoluate zero. I suspect the writer of this piece thought that absolute zero sounded cool* but didn’t know what it actually was. I can’t see a way for a human being to retain their hand if it had been subjected to such an extreme of temperature. One person (Great Bear) listens to his offer of a near-suicidal mission which convinces the Russian and because of this everybody else also accepts. A risky strategy, but they always seem to pay off in fiction. We’re left with the promise of hell-like experiences in the Lost Worlds, though I usually find that such promises of adventure rarely live up to quite that expectation. We’ll see (I’ve read them before, but it’s been a long-time – I recall some are a bit hackneyed, some are good and many seem much like an encounter of the week in Star Trek).
M.A.C.H.1 and the Planet Killers! next (the exclamation mark is part of the story title). John Probe tricks Tex into revealing that he’s the attempted murderer by pretending to be killed by Tex when investigating a fake fault. Believing Probe dead, Tex and the rest of the space shuttle crew proceed to attack a Russian satellite in order to start World War Three. Tex is almost as strong as Probe, so is probably either a robot or is also compu-hyper-powered. The art is up to Redondo’s usual standard, though the story isn’t particularly interesting. Makes a change from all the one-and-dones though.
The 2000AD Nerve Centre has the supercover saga, which reads like the intro to a Future Shock, though one that hasn’t been copy-edited. In 1990 all marine life has been wiped out. In 1998 marine biologists have created Crusta-Supra 1 which roam the world’s sea-beds but then in 1991 one is seen breathing air. Presumably this should be 2001. In this story it appears that Miami is on the front line in the Pacific.
Almost last is Kevin O’Neill’s Future-Shock, Wings. A number of animal-based puns and idioms pave the way for the shock revelation that the the pilot fighting the cybos is a falcon (called Kes-Trel). It’s decent filler and an excuse for Kev to polish his art skills but it’s going to be some time before Tharg’s Future-Shocks get really good.
Actually last is another Futurefocus Postergraph, this time of the Planet Doctors. Unlike the Supercovers, there’s no explanation of what’s happening in these – either the hovering globular planet doctors are pouring chemicals on creatures to save their lives, or to get rid of parasites on the planet. The art isn’t great and I don’t think we see their work inside the prog (still no credit cards).
*pun not intended, but left in anyway.