Prog 62: Can Commander Lorna Varn survive on… Death Planet!

The cover introduces us to Lorna Varn and Death Planet. But before that, the Nerve Centre reveals that Walter is so upset that Dredd is taking off to the Cursed Earth that he needs to take a few weeks rest from his adventure with Doc Frankenheim. Presumably in the real world Bolland was too busy drawing episodes of full-length stories… For the second time, Walter signs a message with a splodge and the words “Walter, his oil mark”. I’m just now realising why there is the one-page Walter strip – Star Wars had just hit, and the fact that the first quarter of an hour focus on the droids must have had an impression on the Tharg/s* of the day. I’ve also just taken a look at the results of the 1977 Eagle Awards – Favourite British Comics character had Judge Dredd at number one with 25% of the votes, Dare in third place (11%) and Walter in fourth (6%).

And replacing Colony Earth! on to Death Planet. I’ve looked at other artwork by Lopez (full name Francisco Solano Lopez, so claim a few obituaries of said artist. Or is it? The 2000AD ABC video says it’s Cesar Lopez Vera) and characters there have full ranges of expression. For some reason characters in this story do not – every character has one fixed expession which they keep throughout this episode, no matter what emotional turmoil is being expressed in the word balloons. I don’t know how prevalent it would have been in other comics at the time, but the uniform of the security-guard type on the colony ship is rather judge-like. Future-Shock style, the commander of the ship is hidden in the first panel with a character shown, only making the big reveal that the captain of the ‘Eternity’ is Commander Lorna Varn. The text doesn’t make a big deal that she’s a woman, but all those Future-Shocks have let us know that if a character gets referred to but is hidden by shadows or objects in the panel, then when we finally do get to see them there’s going to be a twist in store.

Belardinelli puts in some fantastic work on Inferno, obviously enjoying bringing the re-animated and more skeletal than ever Gruber to the page. Tom Tully’s script is pretty good too, offering a recap of Gruber’s origin. Luckily for the Syndicate, not only do the Hellcats get drawn against the Philadelphia Freaks in the quarter final (alright, maybe this could have been fixed) but even more fortuitiously, one of the flyers looks disconcertingly like Gruber.

The Cursed Earth Chapter Two: Into the Darkness gives us the run-down on the K2001 Land Rider (or Land Raider, or maybe the Land Rider is only the bit that isn’t the Killdozer, and together the Land Rider and Killdozer form the Land Raider). Anyway, it’s formidable and a great toy tie-in. Dredd, being a contrarian, refuses the suggestion of a bike man for the second Quasar bike and picks a high-risk perp instead. Famously, Spike Harvey Rotten has had a bit of an image change – instead of a hairy Hell’s Angel biker, he’s now gone punk. Feigning reform the makes a break for it at Mega-School Three, but obviously is caught and tortured by Dredd until he agrees to go on the Cursed Earth mission. Second to Rotten’s image change are the domes that enclose Mega-Cities One and Two – not seen before or since. I might try to justify the change in policing systems and the disappearance of the Death Belt after this epic, but I’m stumped on how there can be giant domes (which didn’t stop a mayor’s son being kidnapped in Brotherhood of Darkness) that are nowhere to be seen by the time Cal builds his wall. All that, and I forgot to mention that this is the first time that radioactive wasteland outside Mega-City One has been named the Cursed Earth!

Dan Dare is on the Nightmare Planet. As with the first episode, I’m generally not a fan of ‘dream episodes’ of series, and so far there’s nothing special enough to make me like this (there’s a few good pics, but it’d be nice if they were accompanying a better story).

I’m going to pretend I don’t already know that both Probe and Sharpe will be dead by the end of this story and try to read MACH1’s Final Encounter page by page. After being attacked by an unmanned tank last episode, Probe is fired upon by a machine gun – the secret agent noting that his enemy can control weapons from a distance. What better place to retreat to than an armoury? Not like there’s plenty of weapons in there that can be operated from a distance, right? Eventually Probe catches Frxxxszklds (nicknamed Fred from now on) but things are not well. As with certain other aliens on Earth, this one is dying from the common cold (that’s the Future-Shock ending).

Grailpage: Belardinelli’ opening page of Inferno, showing Gruber through the shower of shards of glass is astounding

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Spikes Harvey Rotten: “Wipe dat smile off yer face, kid! Being a lawbreaker ain’t nothin’ to smile about! It’s dumb! D’you hear? Just like wearin’ dese handcuffs is dumb…” Warder (thought balloon): “Boy… Spikes is really telling it from the heart… He’s even got me choked up!” Spikes: “Just like dis warder is dumb!” Warder: “Uuughh Choke Gakk”

* due to the impending launch of Star Lord, the official editor was Kelvin Gosnell, though in reality Nick Landau was doing much of the work.

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