Prog 34:The Day the Earth Burned!

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A Trev Goring cover showing a London where the Old Bailey is pretty close to the Houses of Parliament.  Interestingly the two main figures on the cover are black – we’ve had a team of black characters right from the beginning, though the only Harlem Heroes cover I can think of featured Artie Gruber in a more prominent position than Giant…

Invasion!  A nice, centrally-located Volgan skull draws us in to the tale of a collaborator, and a member of the landed gentry no less.  By the second page Savage has betrayed his team to accompany Sir James and join the Volgs (though if you really believe that, you haven’t been paying attention).  Two more pages and Savage has driven a Volg trooper carrier into the dining room of the manor and detonated half a hundredweight of grenades.  Returning to the other rebels (who know Savage less well than we do) they’re all headed off to Aberdeen to hock the stolen Rolls Royce.

Overleaf my Grail page of this prog – Walter, Maria and the Chief Judge (who still hasn’t acquired a name after two thirds of a year) sit at the front of a hovering hearse, containing the body of Joe Dredd as Dredd’s funeral procession glides high between the starscrapers of the Mega-City.  Just a week after we found out his brother had returned from Titan after twenty years (and had time to fall in to criminal ways since graduating) we also find out from Dredd’s tombestone that he was born in 2066 – 33 years before the present.  Soon after starting to read 2000AD and long before I read Dredd’s early adventures, this was dealt with in the ‘Judgement’ trilogy, but more about that when I get to the late 300s.  When I say I hadn’t read Dredd’s early adventures, that doesn’t actually include this one, as it was reprinted in the pages of the prog one week after I started buying 2000AD every week.  The actual plot of this is pretty nonsensical – Dredd is pretty certain that Gibson is Mutie the Pig but instead of arresting him and interrogating him, he pretends he’s dead, bringing the Chief Judge, 200 Justice Department vehicles, Weather Control and the Mega-City into the deception to catch Judge Gibson in the act.  That’s all forgiveable though, as the art is probably the best that McMahon has turned in so far – as well as the afore-mentioned Grail page there’s a nice shot of the Chief Judge and Gibson above the Statue of Judgement (surrounded by water, as Liberty Island is).  One interesting fact is that Weather Control sets the weather to winter for the first time in 80 years.  In 2099.  Which means it’s the first time since 2019.  Looks like the Eastern Seaboard of North America is going to see some major technological advances in the next six months!

Dredd isn’t the only one making his way through a blizzard though, as Shako is being hunted by Falmuth, Packer and Dollar.  Only Falmuth and Packer are obsessed enough to take to the Snow-cat and follow the polar bear in such adverse weather conditions though, Dollar puts his feet up in a trapper’s cabin (shades of recent Savage here – cabins and snow-cats).  The two get trapped in Shako’s cave, the only rifle under the bear’s paw.  Despite Falmuth pushing Packer to his death, the CIA agent soon meets his end, taking almost four pages from first contact to Falmuth’s death – this is a pretty epic amount of pages for Shako – it doesn’t normally take the bear that long to put an end to his adversaries!

Gibbons and Bolland centrespread next, followed by Gibbons-only black and white pages for Dare.  The Legion is taking advantage of the charts they were given by the Phoenixans and investigates the Green World (that’s not just a description, that’s the name of the planet).  Before they get there, a Legion member called Haley attacks a stowaway monkey, which is believed to be a particularly ill omen by superstitious spacers.  For the second half of this episode, night falls and we get some atmospheric Gibbons art, though the atmosphere is diminished by the lack of space the artist has to tell the story.  Too late, Dare and the crew discover that the thing that makes this planet deadly is that the trees themselves are ambulatory and vicious with it.  At this point we discover that the Space Fortress and Eagle scout craft are having difficulties with electromagnetic interference.  The episode was alright, though if things like the interference had been mentioned a little earlier instead of dropped in at the last moment it could have been great.

The Supercover Saga story The Day the Earth Burned!  Do we find out anything interesting about those (presumably rare) black characters on the front of a British kid’s comic in the 1970s?  Nope – the text is solely about a scientist and his invention which is causing an accelerated greenhouse effect.  The preliminary plan doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – melt all the ice at the South Pole to uncover the continent beneath and use it for farmland.  The displaced water is mentioned but handwaved as being released into the Pacific Ocean (nothing about the billions of people who would be flooded out if all the ice at the antarctic was suddenly melted).

A reader’s letter prompts Tharg to reveal what happend to the other* robotic heroes of the Robot Wars.  One drives a cab (cribbed from last week’s JD plot), another is trying to qualify as a Mega-City One Judge – spoiler alert – it’s going to take a fair few decades for a robot to become a judge and the last overdid it on using his pleasure circuits and is now a hulk – the candle that burns twice as brightly…

The plug for the next prog in the Nerve Centre trails Probe on the roof of the planet – just before this week’s episode of M.A.C.H.1.  John Cooper does a good splash page of Mount Everest taking us in to a disastrous expedition to the summit.  Probe investigates, though does this in normal hiking gear, instead of, say, all-weather climbing gear and snow goggles, which the head computer points out a few panels later when the Machman starts showing signs of frostbite.  Probe finds a solar energy station near the summit of Everest, but that frostbite must be having an adverse effect on Probe as he completely fails to notice an attacker sneak up on him, and then gets jabbed with some mind-numbing liquid.  Cooper sneaks a signature past the bodgers.

Next is another story I was familiar with through reprints (I think this one was in my first 2000AD annual.  Ezquerra (also sneaking a signature through, not that we need it to recognise his work) illustrates a tale of space vampires who are impervious to all the high technology that experienced space travellers can throw at them.  We get three fantastic pages of art, murder and unsuccessful attempts at vanquishing the vampire from King Carlos before the half-page three-panel Future Shock twist ending of the crew cook using his viewing habits of 20th century horror and cook’s ingredients to take out the vampire using garlic.

The starscan (not labelled as such, but then not called a postergraph either, so I’m going to use the phrase I’m most familiar with for back-page posters) is of the Law-giver.  This is a great starscan, and I’ve seen it reprinted in a few places since.  We get a schematic by Ian Gibson, a ‘viewfinder data readout’, a 27-part key to gun parts, a list of accessories, a breakdown of shell types, codes, target grades and little icons.  This is a good time to be a geek!

One thing I hadn’t mentioned earlier – the front cover colouring was fine – reds, blues and yellows combing to create heat and contrast, but the centre page and back page colours are awful – I don’t know how much was the colouring itself and how much was the printing process, but the colours really don’t add to either the centrespread or Gibson’s Lawgiver.

* not Walter

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