Star Lord No 20: Washington – the hub of the United States and… The most frightened city on Earth!

A great cover by Ian Kennedy in light blue (dare I say, teal?) and vivid reds featuring a UFO smashing through the Washington monument while being pursued by Kennedy’s trademark fighter planes.

First up is Mind Wars, as ever. The big news is that Ardeni has a conversation with Kareela about Ardeni’s memory – and nothing else! This means that Mind Wars is the first 2000AD and/or Starlord story to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test. Good for equality though unfortunately for the future of humanity, Kareela has used a truth serum on Tilman to find out what’s important about Ardeni, given Ardeni an amnesia drug and is on her way to brainwashing the powerful psychic to aid Kareela’s own interests. A FISC warship finds the secret waterfall hideaway, Kareela convinces Ardeni to use her powers to destroy it and the psychic radiations attract the attention of the rulers of the planet Lenarth.

The Future-Shock by any other name this week is Skirmish from Alan Hebden and Pena, describing a Starship Troopers style war between humanity (or Imperial Earth) and Irlian star raiders. Like Starship Troopers (the film, at least – I’ve not read the book), a main focus of this war is the propoganda aspect, with the war correspondence back home showing the bravery of the troops. Unlike S T, this is not a deadly war. The Irlians and Earth realised early on that the war would result in the destruction of the galaxy and so came to an arrangement. New recruits fight with weapons that don’t cause any permanent damage and can be circumvented, declare their victory (if they win) then get brought in to the game. From that point on they can go on furlough until the next broadcast is required. A good idea, well executed, and not as *ahem* well-used as certain other ‘shocking’ stories we’ve been presented with (like the invaders-with-a-scale-issue used in the same week’s Future-Shock).

The next page has an advert for the Dan Dare annual, which was probably on sale the previous week, along with the 2000AD annual. This shares a page with an introduction to Starlord’s Stargrams which takes up the next two pages. Pride of place is given to ‘Sonic Dart’. I’m not saying that the reader who sent this in wasn’t entirely original, but it does look like a cross between the body of an X-Wing and a Viper from Battlestar Galactica (which, incidentally, hit the screens in the same year that this comic was published). There’s a few robots that I suspect would look familiar if I was better versed in sci-fi book covers of the 1960s and 1970s…

The sales figures have come in, costs have been analysed and by this point the high-ups at IPC had decided that one of either 2000AD or Starlord had to go in their hatch, match and dispatch policy. If I recall correctly, this is the start of the last Starlord Ro-Busters storyline and Howard Quartz gets a visit from the tax collectors. Jack Adrian provides a few connections with previous story as Quartz tries to weasel his way out of paying the full tax bill, to no avail. Not only does he not get out of it, but a few instances of incompetence lead the British government to consider nationalising Ro-Busters. Ferrer provides the images to bring the words to life, including the atom-cruncher exploding (the atom-cruncher being the on-island power station for Ro-Busters). I should probably have mentioned this in previous blog posts, but there’s one page which features a pet hate of mine regarding the reading order of panels. I’ve noticed this on a few other stories in Star Lord (and in 2000AD, but less so). Basically, if you need an arrow to show you which order to read the panels in then you should probably put the panels in a different order. This happens where Hammerstein shoots at a falling girder about to flatten Quartz – but the obvious order to read them (which I did because I didn’t spot the arrow) was the setup of the action, the aftermath of the action, then the action itself. The average comic page has tiers (rows) of panels, read left to right (in countries where words are read in that direction). You read one tier of panels, then go down one and read the next tier. If you mess about with this then you’d better have a good reason for it (to create a sense of depth for a well, or height for a sky). None of that is the case here. Back to the story. Quartz loses his temper with the war robot who saved his life and while gesticulating wildly gets kidnapped in an anti-grave tractor-beam which steals him away into a craft hovering above. The tax collectors take over Ro-Busters, Quarts is on the international police wanted list for tax evasion and Quarts opens a door on the craft to encounter an unseen but familiar (to Quartz) face.

A one page Starlord Survival Data / Starlord’s Starquiz – hopefully the last of the three-choice quizes in this comic, but we’ve still got another two weeks after this, so there could be more.

It’s not just Howard Quartz getting kidnapped, as Holocaust hots up with Hunter and J Edgar the alien being snatched mid-air by a UFO (which has a dog fight with fighter jets over Washington) before being taken to Siberia. The world governments seem to be uniting to fight the alien menace while Hunter awakes to see two aliens in the doorway of the largest UFO yet. I’d love to say they look menacing, but they remind me of Mr Moonie from Judge Dredd’s time on the moon – with the big hooded head!

Grailpage: I was tempted by page two of Mind Wars, featuring a splash (!) panel of Tilman and Kareela next to her villa behind a waterfall, but I’m going for the Ian Kennedy cover, showing the dog-fight over Washington in light blue and red. I have a feeling he’ll be on other IPC titles for some time after this, especially Dan Dare in (1980s) Eagle, so his next chance at a grail page may well be the Messerschmidts in the Mega-City. But I could be wrong.

Grailquote: Alan Hebden, gopher: “Bunch of green recruits from Earth have arrived at the spaceport! The general wants ’em broken in right away.” Joe: “I suppose it’s best. Can’t have them thinking they’ve come out here to fight a war.”

3 thoughts on “Star Lord No 20: Washington – the hub of the United States and… The most frightened city on Earth!

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