McMahon’s cover introduces us to Las Vegas Judge Fingers and Dredd in front of a huge fruit machine (albeit one with death’s head symbols instead of fruit)!
The 2000AD Nerve Centre tells us that Dare is going to face the Doomsday Machine in this prog (recognise the name but the story eludes me for the time being). Tharg reveals that Tweak will be accompanying Dredd for the rest of the journey across the Cursed Earth (are you supposed to reveal that supporting characters will survive to the end of a story?) and that Walter will be back soon, presumably in a series of one-page strips.
Slade is being carried through the experimentation complex – and is fully drawn by Ian Gibson now. Slade and Kidd are stripped and examined by medical robots, who it has to be said look rather similar to the drones from 1972 film Silent Running. Ardeni Lakam may get naked at the drop of a hat over in Star Lord, but Sam Slade provides the (enforced) male nudity over in 2000AD. The word ‘Drokk’ get used by Slade… After a bit of pseudo-science the captive Robo-Hunter adjusts his blaster to cope with the hard metal which Verdus robots are made from and escapes – next prog promises a riot!
After last prog’s mutiny was quelled in Dan Dare, this episode begins with a planet exploding. From there the writer Henry Miller jumps in with this week’s plot – which would have been better if they’d been some build-up or foreshadowing in previous stories – the ship’s computer has undergone a personality change following Pilot’s death. Which ship’s computer? What personality? We’ve not seen anything of it before! The new navigator is ‘Lowder’ – an in-joke on fellow Dare writer Chris Lowder. Other than the planet exploding, the Space Fort follows a high energy trail by slipping into hyper space – during which Bear goes space-crazy, killing four other crewmen, losing consciousness and stopping breathing. Just as Dare gets Bear breathing again the Space Fort catches up to a huge space ship. Goring and Leach are providing the art, though apart from the very last panel (which looks a little like the ‘spider ship’ in the opening pages of Marvelman) all the art looks very Trev Goring to me. I could be completely wrong here – and thinking about it, some aspects of the ship remind me of the Futurefocus postergraphs from earlier progs. I’m remembering some things about this story now – mainly the ‘spot the pop culture’ references in a later episode.
Dredd shares the centre pages with Part 5 of the Cursed Earth Game. Starting in media res, Dredd and Spikes are are fighting a platoon of tanks sent out from Las Vegas. The city was taken over by a Mafia Syndicate after the Great War, as we are told in a stereotypical Italian-American accent (similar to Dredd’s landlady, Maria). Sickened by the gambling takeover of the city, including the judge system, Dredd quickly gets in to trouble and finds himself on Losers’ Leap. Unfortunately I can’t find the details now, but either the end of this episode was censored and appears differently in collected editions. Three panels showing somebody else taking the leap were cut (presumably because they showed a suicide). The excess space, post censorship, have been replaced by a Walter three-panel strip about skateboarding.
In Ant Wars the tables turn – the Brazilian Navy have turned up and shell the building that the ant queen has nested in. All the ants are killed, though despite being on the roof of a totally destroyed building, Villa and Anteater somehow manage to survive (admittedly Villa is unconscious in hospital for days). All the ants are destroyed. Every single one. Except for some nurse ants who have carried ant eggs into the jungle…
Nerve Centre Extra sees the return of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein.
Grailpage: Mike McMahon, the page where Dredd discovers the Vegas Hall of Justice is a casino.
Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Cutie: “These robots think he’s an ordinary baby, they’d never suspect him of intelligent behaviour.” Sam Slade (internal monologue): “I knew about Kidd and I still didn’t suspect him of intelligent behaviour, but anything was worth a try…” Sam Slade (aloud): “All clear… if you get spotted just go “Goo goo” or whatever babies do.” Kidd: “Yeah… like wet myself!”