Prog 45: Dan Dare greets the galactic New Year

2000AD’s first New Year’s Eve brings a Brian Bolland cover of Dare holding the future-British flag, ready to greet the ‘galactic new year’. At least it was mostly drawn by Bolland – the original had Dare looking off to the side but a managerial / editorial decision was made to have him look straight on. There’s something very Robin Smith about the eyes on Dare’s head, though I don’t think there’s been any other sign of Smith being involved with 2000AD yet. Earthlets wouldn’t have had long to snap up this prog – thanks to bank holidays it would only have been on the shelves from Wednesday to Saturday!

Judge Dredd, 22nd Century Futsie. I was going to start off writing about the second appearance of a Futsie, or how JD doesn’t appear until midway down the third page, but then I noticed something strange about the credit card. The lettering and names of the script and art droids are in one hand and the name of the lettering droid is in another. Flicking through the comic, the same happens with Invasion! Weird, especially as there was a missing credit in a previous prog, by the person who physically would put the credits on the page. Anyway, on with the story – if we didn’t get the idea that Mr Moonie needed to be investigated before (and Judge Dredd seems not to have taken the hint yet), this time we meet an employee of the oligarch, who we see where’s a KKK/Neon Knights-style head covering. One of the other employees predicts that the employee, Arthur, will end up in an alleyway full of blaster holes. He actually succeeds in working through a month’s worth of backlog in one day, finishing just before day and year’s end at midnight, though one of this stupid colleagues (possibly the same one who predicted Arthur’s forthcoming death) knocks all of his paperwork on the floor and the destraught Arthur goes futsie. Arthur’s son (also called Arthur) recruits Dredd who knocks the deranged Arthur out so that he can received medical treatment (rather than just shooting him dead, which is presumably what would have happened if one of the other Luna judges had gotten to him first). The prediction of a premature death almost comes true, but Dredd against two thugs isn’t much of a contest, though it is an excuse to see the hover bike in action (it loses its ventral gun when Gibson draws it – be interesting to see if it reappears when McMahon or Bolland draw it again). We get the promise of meeting Mr Moonie next prog, along with Dredd being in colour. Over the page is an advert for next week’s prog, including the cover which – in an Eagle-style turn of events – will be the first story page of Dan Dare. Though the advert is before this week’s Dare episode, so we already have an idea of how this week’s episode will end before we’ve gotten to it – good planning, droids!

Facing off against the Dan Dare spoiler is Bonjo who, like me, has grown tired of (this representation of) China and heads for Tibet, presumably just so that a Yeti joke can be inserted into the story.

After three pages of Nerve Centre, Bonjo and adverts we return to full story pages with Invasion! The reward for information regarding the quartet has reached ten million volgsmarks, which Savage wants to collect. How the four work together (well, three, John doesn’t contribute much other than bloodline) takes up most of this episode, with Nessie once again in disguise. The big news this episode though is the return of Rosa, who has been imprisoned after her previous failure and convinces the Major to let her regain her position (Rosa also gets to kill her tormentor into the bargain).

Dan Dare has a straight-forward episode with no surprises – the crew of the Space Fort are hypnotised by the Shining Star, the fort lands and starts attacking the Grawls, Dare uses a blind spot and secret entrance to gain access to the bridge but is overwhelmed by his comrades. The space fort is headed off to Starslay where we’re teased with sights they will see in orbit. Or at least it would be a teaser if we hadn’t already seen the cover of next week’s prog, which shows it all.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks tells us about a computerised self-driving car. There are a few issues with the execution of this story, which could easily have been fixed. The first is that it took just two months to build the car (make it years and it would have been more believable), the second is that the car designer uses his own car on this experiment (who does that, other than independent inventors working from their garden shed?) and the third is that the first test drive takes place on open roads (no test tracks in sight for this experiment)! There’s another issue, which can’t be fixed so easily. The computerised car – that is, a car that has had two months of work tieing up specially installed mini-cameras and sensors to the computer – can speak to non-computerised cars – as in, cars without mini-cameras, sensors or onboard computers. If we’d had a few panels about how the computerised cars proved popular and were quickly taken up across the world the ‘shock’ where the car ends up killing the humans would actual involve some sort of plausible threat. J Clough (the one who reminded me of Mike Dorey on Invasion) provides the art – strangely the car company involved is called Dorey-Mitchell – does that mean something?

M.A.C.H.1 – Zero staggers through the swamp, looking like a few USA comic characters related to swamps… Doing five minutes research it appears that both DC Comics Swamp Thing and Marvel Comics Man-Thing are inspired by a 1942 character called The Heap. There’s one particular panel of Zero in the swamp which could almost have come from any of those predecessors. Zero’s family have been removed from his old home by Sharpe and after a brief tussle Sharpe allows Probe 15 minutes to convine Zero to come quietly (he ends up betraying Probe and cutting the leaway to ten minutes). With orders to shoot to kill, we have to wait until next year to find out how this story concludes (did I mention this was the prog released between christmas and New Year).

Inferno – Belardinelli presents us with a splash page of The Crystal Maze (not that one). This Crystal Maze is an entertainments complex, with a large gambling presence. A photographer uses groats (pretty sure we’ve seen credits used elsewhere in Harlem Heroes / Invasion) and we see his hologram gallery, featuring a cameo appearance from Massimo. After an incident with Moody Bloo and an Inferno bat, the Hellcats make a quick entrance, via a three-d hologram meteor shows. As with all hologram rooms in sci-fi, this one has a button which replaces harmless holograms with fatal equivalents.

I’m torn in my choice for Grailpage this prog – there’s no truly exceptional splash images so I pondered going for the page where Marshal Dredd is supervising a laze-works display but instead I’m going to pick the Swamp-Thing style MACH Zero stumbling through the swamp (one panel of which was used in the ‘Thrills of the Future’ in an earlier prog).

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