Art honours go to Dave Gibbons and is the one with Dare swooping towards us in a space suit above a planet.
In the Nerve Centre, Tharg plugs the new series of Flesh in an answer to a letter about the Loch Ness Monster (and gives away the ending – or at least gives a big hint to how it will end). Another letter demands the return of The Visible Man – just goes to show that if you ask for something you’ll get it – I wonder if the author of that letter was still reading 2000AD 35 or so years later?
We rejoin Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter, as he meets the robotic residents of the apartment and finds out what Sims are – simulated humans. According to the Verdus robot’s programming, humans are superior to robots in every respect, so the humans who have arrived on Verdus can’t be true humans, as they feel pain, are not as strong as robots and are not as intelligent as robots. Slade goes to sleep while the robots in the apartment argue over what to do with Slade and Kidd and has a problematic dream involving robotic late 19th / early 20th century caricatures of black slaves and the return of the borderline stereotypical depiction of Chan. Luckily, Slade wakes up to find that the apartment robots want to send him to SJ1 – Smoking Joe, the robot who was originally sent to Verdus to build other robots and settle the planet.
Villa and Anteater‘s encounter with the gauchos has been overtaken by a more dangerous encounter with ants, who kill the cowboys and rustle their herd. This episode is much better than the last in showing Conrad‘s theory that Ant Wars protagonist / sidekick dynamic is similar to that of Big Trouble in Little China (that while we assume Villa is the main character and Anteater the sidekick, the ‘savage native’ is the character with most agency. Anteater kills an ant (as does Villa, but Anteater gets there first). While Villa tries to contact the military, Anteater spots a scout ant on the hillside, and also points out it is better to hid from a stampede than to attempt to outrun it. The episode ends with the pair having survived the stampede but run in to some revolutionaries (looking more than a little like Che Guevara). All in all, this episode is ending in much the same way as the previous one, except the gauchos are instead guerillas.
The next page is the competition with a ‘simple code’ – it continues from the previous prog which had some clues based around 2000AD series. Without referring to the previous prog I’m guessing it’s a cipher, subsituting numbers for letters. If the last prog wasn’t in the other room I’d check…  I did check, and I’ll put my findings in comments.
Bolland is back on Dredd, as is Pat Mills for Chapter 21: Tweak’s Story. The centrespread shows us a view of Mega-City Two, with Medic Riot Commandos firing tranquilisers (seems like a pretty specialist type of para-medic – wonder how much action they saw before the plague hit the city)? A map of North America makes the two cities appear to take up two fifths of the land area of the former USA (not even including Texas City). No wonder John Wagner thought the city needed cutting down a bit and wrote the Apocalypse War… As you can guess from the title of the episode, this is where we finally get the backstory for Tweak. A few things we find out: Tweak is more intelligent than he’s been letting on; he has powers of precognition; he was willing to sacrifice his life and those of his family for the safety of his people. In the last panel, Dredd thinks on this, and wonders why Tweak would tell them these secrets unless they won’t get the chance to tell anybody else. There’s shades of the predictions in The Judge Child about this.
In Dan Dare, he and Pilot get caught by the cannibals and taken to three figures in ice (actually suspended animation) who are worshipped as gods by the savages. There are things that look like the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon and a Jawa Sandcrawler in the background before the duo are placed on a conveyor belt to meet theri doom (well, some sort of indistinct shape in the shadows).
What Hit Tunguska? is the question asked in Tharg’s Future-Shocks. Future scientists want to find out what the explosion that hit Tunguska in 1908 was. I think this is the first time we’ve had this in 2000AD, but it won’t be the last (those sent to observe turn to anti-matter and cause the explosion). Other versions of this we’ll see – what was the star that led the three magi to Jesus and who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?
On the back page is a 2000AD Star Pin-up of Dan Dare’s Space Fort approaching an inhabited asteroid by an uncredited artist.
Grailpage: Brian Bolland’s vista of Tweak’s homeworld (specifically the tunnels underneath the surface).
Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Sam Slade: “Things can’t possibly get worse… can they?”