Prog 50: More Starslayer ships — but they’re opening fire on the battle fleet!

The anti-cliffhanger from last episode is replayed and still isn’t a cliffhangar as you turn the front page – the approaching ships that are attacking the Starslayer fleet are, of course, slaves who have risen up and come to Dare’s aid. Dare leads the charge against the Starslayers outside the Space Fort and completely forgets that they have the Dark Lord of the Starslayer Empire in the Reactor Room. Dark Lord takes advantage of Dare’s lapse in judgement and (apparently) goes on a killing spree. The last panel is a proper cliffhangar with the flying star heading straight for Dare’s eyes. In true pulp fiction style, instead of ducking out of the way, Dare completes a full sentence. Then the Dark Lord also completes a full sentence. Dare also has a laser broadsword. I’m guessing this will be relevant in the first few panels of the next episode.

The Visible Man wakes up in an alleyway. I’m not a fan of Pat Mills second-person narration to Frank, but the imagery of Frank in the syringe on the second page is the kind of artwork we wouldn’t normally get in British kid’s comics. Frank decides to go to visit his girlfriend (strange he didn’t mention her when he woke up in hospital). To say that Frank’s girlfriend’s neighbours are intolerant of those with disabilities is an understatement (he quickly gets shot). Because he can see the bullet in his arm he manages to take it out relatively easily. So easily, in fact, that minutes later he can wield a baseball bat…

The Nerve Centre, taken over by Wite to Walt, then the one-page Walter the Wobot, Fwiend of Dwedd strip. The whole page is a lead-up to a bad pun involving tap dancing, but it’s nice to see some Ian Gibson art.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks sees the child Lee and his Guardian robot. This is quite clever (though wouldn’t be surprised if it had been used in stories previously, either sci-fi pulp stories or something to do with three wishes) – the Guardian will not let Lee stray too far from it, so when they go on a tour of the ruined city the robot gets trapped, but still won’t let Lee out of its sight.

The First Lunar Olympics open the centrespread and we get our first encounters with judges and citizens of the Sov Cities and the Brit Territories (not referred to as East-Meg One or Brit-Cit at this stage). There’s mention of the low Luna gravity leading to Earth athletic records being broken, though this does highlight to me that the only effects the lunar setting have had on Dredd are the hover bikes and the lack of oxygen outside the domes. I can’t help wonder how the other stories could have been presented if the architecture and action reflected the actual lunar environment.

Over the page Tharg pays a visit to Dr Lu-Ney, annoyed at him for having removed Bonjo mid-story, and introducing Dan Dare’s living axe (I had been wondering where the axe had been while Dare went on his Lost Worlds mission). We’re told this is the last episode of Bonjo, though I’m sure there’s at least one more – though perhaps it appears in an annual than the prog – we’ll find out next week. So, this prog had two humour strips (Bonjo and Walter) and yet the funniest page that’s appeared so far in the first year was probably the opening of a Dredd story where Joe and Giant are trying to twist a child’s head off in front of his mother. Interesting (though I still appreciate that there should be one page or three-panel humour strips).

Bill mourns Silk and we find out what Rosa’s grand plan is. Other than killing a bunch of Volgs (which we’d usually expect to be Savage’s job), she’s also outfitted a British hovercraft to look like the royal hovercraft Britannia. Remember, if she hadn’t killed some of her own soldiers earlier then Savage would already have been killed and the Prince captured. This plan does not justify the wait we had for it, though once we disengage any critical faculties the presentation of the story is great – Rosa has an unveiling where she looks like the girl of a debutante ball, Prince John finally does something other than ‘being royal’.

Louis saves Giant, then chases Pearly out into the pitch, where she gets destroyed by a speeding ball. With the fans and the Syndicate against them, the Hellcats lose their composure and start being penalised by the referee and carelessness leading to further injuries. So exactly the same as previous episodes of Harlem Heroes and Inferno. Pearly should have had more of a role, and we badly need someone like Artie Gruber to make an appearance.

Quite an easy grailpage this week – the centrefold by Brian Bolland featuring a splash page of the Crater Stadium and athletes from Earth and Luna cities.

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