Prog 69: O.K., come quietly – or else there’ll be trouble! Tweak!

Dredd and Tweak (not that we know who Tweak is yet) are surrounded, from our point of view 17 gun barrels pointing at them (more in the background). This is the way to do a Dredd cover, courtesy of McMahon.

The Nerve Centre has a few letters, one from a reader who noticed that the price for other planets was missing from the cover of Prog 61 and another from somebody who was shocked that Gruber had arrived in Inferno…

Speaking of Artie Gruber in Inferno – he cackles over the prone body of Clay, dowsed in highly flammable jet-pack fuel. As I thought, Louis’ ommission from the previous prog’s line up of helpless onlookers meant that he was the one to rescue Clay, using mindpower and that wrist aerial he had improvised earlier. Using the discipline circuit that Torso and Chubb had installed, Louis drives Gruber to take his revenge on the two, and as he finishes his work (which a gleeful Belardinelli portrait watches with relish) proto-Judges/the law/security arrive, though set fire to Gruber’s jet-pack, sending him to a firey death in the waterway outside. If you believe Gruber’s dead then you’ll be as shocked as that reader if he re-appears (the next prog says “The Return of Gruber..?” I suspect so).

MACH Zero can’t come to Gimpy’s rescue this time – but in a dingy alley outside a theatre in the pseudo-Dickensian / Victor Hugo-esque underworld of the city there are always vagrants and this alley is no exception. R(amon?) Sola puts in a good effort, but it’s not as well suited to this world as Mike Dorey’s work.

The Big Screen is a reader’s art section, showing the Visible Man (but titled The Mercury Man, for no discernable reason). Sharing the page is an advert for Twirly, a flying hover toy – not entirely unlike the Rotaplane from the previous week’s Star Lord.

After a few week’s off (since the Mount Rushmore story) it’s Brian Bolland’s turn to draw Judge Dredd in chapter 9 of The Cursed Earth – The Slay-Riders! Highlighting the hostile, post-apocalyptic landscape, the Mississippi is ablaze with petrol, pollutants and nuclear waste. Despite all the fire, the ferry carrying the land-raider looks like it’s made from wood. Maybe it’s special Cursed Earth wood. Dredd finds out the ferry-master is keeping alien slaves, and in the very next panel we meet Tweak for the first time. We’re not told directly at this point, but Tweak accosts Dredd to get a psychic insight on whether the lawman is good and honourable. Convinced that he is, that night he escapes but is chased by the Alien Catcher General and the Slay-Riders. The Alien Catcher General, incidentally, is either a norm wearing an extravagant headpiece, or a goat-headed mutant. Probably the latter, so a bit rich for him to persecute aliens…

Death Planet part eight: Slaves of the Crystal. We find out who the woman in black is, but it’s not that exciting – she’s a fellow starship commander who was chucked out of the hitherto unmentioned Guild of Starship Commanders. It also turns out that Walker, one of Lorna Varn’s crew, sabotaged the ship in the first place. If Walker appeared earlier, he was pretty forgetable. Also, I wonder if Lorna Varn is any relation to Doctor Varn, from Mind Wars in Star Lord? Not the most common of surnames, and despite appearing in two stories concurrently, I wouldn’t be surprised if it never appears again in the next four decades of comics from 2000AD and company.

On to Dan Dare in the Garden of Eden. Gunnar shambles on to the scene, moaning something about “flowers… pretty flowers” to himself, while the onlookers wonder how his mind could have gone completely. My guess is to beware of flowers (pretty or not). Hitman reckons the flowers have something to do with it, Dare doubts him. Eagle-eyed readers will note that there’s a flower in Dare’s bedroom that night. Less eagle-eyed readers will have the rest of the page taken up by Dare’s nightmare involving flowers, followed by Dare waking up in the midst of an attack by a tentacly flower. Luckily Dare seems to sleep with a gun in his hand and after making quick work of the mind-sucking flower races outside to witness similar attacks on his crew. At that moment, the Vrakk attack, though in the flames one of the puritan’s cottages look like an anthill. My theory is that the Vrakk aren’t all bad and there could be a possibility of an alliance between Dare and the Vrakk to vanquish the ant-flower-puritan people. Though Dare tends to go genocidal on alien species, and the Vrakk were acting very Star-Slayer-like when they first met, so it’s anybody’s guess where this story is going to end up next prog.

The trail on the next page tells us that Death Planet will end next prog. I won’t miss it! Particularly (as the Nerve Centre revealed in a News Flash) the prog after that will see the start of Ant Wars (some people don’t like it, I’m not one of those people).

Grailpage: tempted by Belardinelli’s ‘Gruber aflame crashing into the waterway next to an exotic ship’ but while the central image is stunning, the whole page is lacking something. If I didn’t know greater work would be coming from the Belardinelli droid then I might be more tempted. As it is, I’ll go for Bolland’s centrespread of the land raider crossing the flaming Mississippi (guess I must like fire, my pyromanic secret is out) along with aliens repeating their ironic “Welcome to Earth…” mantra.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Judge Dredd: “You forget, Spikes… when someone calls on the law for help… be he mutie… alien… cyborg… or human… The law cannot turn a blind eye! And I am the law!”

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