Star Lord No 4: Inside! Part One of a mind-stretching sci-fi game! It stars Strontium Dog… it’s called Hell Planet… it’s not for cowards!

Published on the same day as 2000AD Prog 67, this issue of Star Lord drops the numbering on the cover altogether and features Johnny Alpha shooting an alien, the two of them on something that looks very much like a chessboard.

In Mind Wars the twins face greater danger from their home planet than from the Jugla, though they can defend themselves until a weaponship from Earth can arrive. Tilman stops Ardeni from killing those in the pursuing ships and his internal monologue reveals that he hopes their powers can be turned to Earth’s advantage (as otherwise they’ll have to die). I can’t help feel that, being sent by Dr Varn, he wouldn’t have any hesitation in killing those who might affect the success of his mission. It seems his pacificistic tendencies managed to slip through training and his rising through the ranks.

Ro-Busters – Pat Mills and Carlos Pino bring us the second part of what I shall call The Red Mist in the Florida Swamp story – just about the time that 2000AD is finally giving all the stories titles, Star Lord is not differentiating stories in any way. It could be argued that Pat Mills is saving all his titles for 2000AD – compared to Ro-Busters (series title), running in the same week in the prog is Judge Dredd – The Cursed Earth, Chapter Seven – Night of the Vampire (series title – story title, chapter number – chapter title) – which one makes it easier to write about individual episodes? The best part of Ro-Busters is always the interaction of Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and (sometimes) other characters – in this case it’s the children, Marvin and Mek-Quake who act as foils. Not for the first or last time, the robotic duo are on the verge of being destroyed by Mek-Quake before being rescued at the last moment by orders from above.

Strontium Dog is up next, though doesn’t get a colour spread in this prog (it’s interrupted by part one of a boardgame). The previous episode ended with Wulf and Johnny fighting the pirates, this one begins with them already captured – I guess ‘T.B. Grover’ and Carlos Ezquerra couldn’t come up with an interesting way to show the capture? They’re offered the choice of joining the pirates or being thrown out of an airlock. When they refuse they’re given an extra hour (other passengers who refused are dead by this point) and put in a detention cell in the astro-liner (note, not the pirate’s ship). The gronk finds their cell and eats them out of the cell – having a metal-digesting friend comes in handy! As the bounty hunters try to liberate their weapons from the check-in desk they’re discovered by pirates. Just in time, Alpha finds a time-trap, putting the three pirates into a two second loop until they starve to death. This is interesting, as I know there will be a future use of a time trap where the recipient is trapped for a number of years, seemingly without physical ill-effect. The next episode promises another use of the beam-polariser (the very first of Johnny Alpha’s box of tricks we saw) and a new Electronux.

And that boardgame? It’s Strontium Dog-themed, called Hell Planet, is a “wild Planetside Survival game” and appears to be written by Pat Mills and illustrated by ‘King’ – no idea who that is and I don’t recognise the art style. The only reason I think the mysterious King is the artist is that there’s an interesting “© Mills and King” notice. Not like IPC to allow creators to get copyright on their work! The artwork is so-so – literally in the middle of a Strontium Dog story I don’t envy King in their task to depict Alpha, though there does seem to be an electronux glow without any other sign of the weapon itself. Other than that the artwork is pretty generic – a bit like the Dan Dare cover of the 1978 2000AD annual.

Planet of the Damned – must try not to mix this up with Death Planet again! No wonder the two got collected in the same book… R. E. Wright and Azpiri start off this episode with one image split in to multiple panels – possibly called a multi-panel pan, though I really need to re-read/read Scott McCloud’s three books on comic techniques (and hope he outlines terminology for such things). Turns out he does – apparently Carrie Lincourt and Joe Linton have called them multi-panel pan sequences while Scott calls (something very much like them) them polyptychs and Fiffe calls them super panels. Nazis attack the column of plane wreck survivors in a pulpy episode. While Flint and one of his captors (“Charlie’s Angels”) fight it out, ab-humans sneak up and take care of Flint’s captor for him. Flint tricks the ab-human into using its acid attack to free him but he is too late to return to the other survivors, who have been taken to Charlie’s shelter – though they find out too late that the shelter is only safe for Charlie’s Angels – for the rest of them it is where they shall die, tortured to death.

This story got interrupted by Starlord’s Starfax – the latest name for Star Lord’s version of the Nerve Centre in that now unfortunately over-familiar half-page-across-the-bottom-of-a-spread format. The Starfax promotes that centre-spread boardgame and gives some alternate rules for (what seems like) the battleship give-away from the previous week.

Our eyes and minds fresh from reading a story featuring Nazis, Time Quake features… you guessed it… Nazis! Blocker is in London to pick up some effects. This is Hollywood London, so the place that Blocker goes to pick up some cigars is on Parliament Square – not somewhere you can just park a car for a few minutes while dropping in to a newsagents or off-licence. Blocker could have picked anywhere else in London, Golders Green for example. A policeman confronts him when a time alteration takes place and is replaced by a Nazi trooper. Instead of Winston Churchill, et al, a statue of Adolf Hitler looks over Parliament Square. Then the story flashbacks to show us a punch-up between Blocker and a 26th century research professor. What does the professor research, I hear you ask? Cities under siege, such as Berlin in 1945. Blocker seems to recognise the professor, beneath the beard – I wonder if this could be significant? Blocker time jumps a few minutes to avoid Nazi pursuit and heads to a safe house in Golders Green (he could have picked up those cigars with much less hastle if he’d gone there first), but the security forces turn up shortly after – there must be a corrupt time-trooper who tipped them off! I wonder who it could be? Considering they’re in a Nazi-occupied London where Germany won the second world war, and a time trooper who looks like somebody familiar but wearing a beard disguise has recently visited Berlin in 1945? It’s a mystery.

Grailpage: Redondo’s full view of the weaponship Ortega, the docking bay and swimming pool.

Grailquote: Despite re-use of an exchange between Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein from No 1 about Ro-Jaws just having his jaws while Hammerstein has more resources at his disposal – Pat Mills, child (as red mist zombie crashes through roof of bus): “Ro-Jaws!” second child: “Hey – Ro-Jaws!” Ro-Jaws: “No! We can’t stop the bus right now, kids! You’ll have to hold on!” Red mist zombie: “Die… die… die…!” Ro-Jaws: “Oh… I see what you mean! Thanks!” Hammerstein: “Didn’t anyone tell you, Ro-Jaws? – Eating people is wrong!” Ro-Jaws: “What else was I supposed to do? It’s okay for you, Hammer-Stein.. you got your laser guns and your hammer!”

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