2000AD Prog 84: Ant Wars rages on! “For they shall inherit the Earth.” H.G. Wells

In a third Ant Wars cover by Kev O’Neill the artist goes for a much more straight-forward scene of a family defending themselves from a giant ant (as opposed to the introductory world-spanning ant and the newspaper headline covers).

Nerve Centre – teases big news, and any veteran reader of British comics in the 1970s and 1980s knows that can mean only one thing – two comics are going to merge! I was too young to read 2000AD at this time (possibly too young to read anything) but it’s something I experienced in the early eighties with Spike (from DC Thompson, merged with Champ in 1984), Scream! (merged with Eagle – also in 1984) and Tiger (merged with Eagle in 1985). For that matter, Revolver (which will be featured in this blog at some point in coming years) sort-of merged with Crisis.

Speaking of the forthcoming merger, this is the last episode of Robo-Hunter for a while as it takes a break to make space for the Starlord strips that are going to crossover (I don’t remember what happens in the next episode of Robo-Hunter, so I’m going to guess this made a more natural break than the next episode would – I can’t imagine that deadlines were getting on top of Ian Gibson, as he’d drawn a few episodes of Strontium Dog not long before). Slade approaches Smokin’ Joe, removing the disguise and letting SJ-1 recognise him as a human, not a sim. Things seem to be looking up but not long after Slade and Cutie get captured. Thanks to Boots they escape and the three head out to try to convince a planet full of robots of the truth…

Judge Dredd has a half-page strip next with The Last Meal. This was published so that IPC wouldn’t get into more trouble over featuring the Jolly Green Giant in the earlier episodes of The Cursed Earth. Brendan McCarthy provided the art.

Dan Dare is led further into the mysterious starship by the Kid who alternates between a trance-like state and condescending arrogance. The third page has a thin, page-height panel reminiscent of the page from Nightmare Planet in Prog 63, though there are no illusions here. What there is is a spiky alien skeleton which is revealed by the Kid in the final panel of the episode. It’s not clear at this point if it’s a) just a skeleton b) a skeleton with a ghost attached (which has been communicating psychically with the Kid) c) a reanimated skeleton that’s going to attack the crew of the Space Fort. I can’t remember what happens in the final episode of this story, so your guess is as good as mine.

The Cursed Earth Chapter 24 is titled Dredd’s Last Stand! and there’s definitely a sense of finality. The narration boxes tell us that Spikes, Dredd and Tweak have been holed up in the dilapidated fort for four days and nights (Tweak seems to have taken to wielding a gun well, for a pacificist – though the enemy are robots, so I guess that’s alright). This episode is written by T.B. Grover (John Wagner) even though it carries on directly from the previous week’s Mills episode. Spikes states that he’s aiming on staying alive. Two panels later he catches a fatal blast, but at least he dies a billionaire owning half a planet. As a storm rises Dredd formulates a plan – the land raider, packed with explosives, is sent out along with the body of Spikes dressed in a spare judge uniform, the aim to take out as many of the meks as possible (and to fool the meks into thinking that Dredd died in the explosion). It turns out that the fort just outside Mega-City Two is actually sixty miles away, across the Mojave Desert. What’s more the vaccine will only survive for three days outside the refridgerated units in the landraider. The penultimate episode of The Cursed Earth ends with Dredd losing Tweak in the sandstorm…

The summit of the collective South American military leaders continues in Ant Wars, with one general scoffing at the idea until a giant ant crashes proceedings. With Villa and Anteater around, the single giant ant doesn’t last long, but it motivates the rest of the military to launch a nuclear strike on the Andean region they believe the queens have nested in. Checking out the aftermath, the ‘Fall-Out Forces’ are ambushed by ants and the crew of the helicopter that transported them there are taken underground (or at least their bodies are – it remains to be seen whether they survived or not). This is an Anteater-light episode – not only does he not say anything, but he doesn’t even kill an ant! Like last week’s episode of Ro-Busters in Starlord, this ends on a cliffhanger where the viewpoint character can see something but we can’t.

More Nerve Centre including a super sci-fi crossword and a maze puzzle (created by readers). There’s also a letter praising the creative teams in the Sci-Fi Special with a curious answer from Tharg saying that Gary Leach and Trev Goring will be appearing the pages of 2000AD shortly. This is after the two have been drawing the Dare strip for the past five or six weeks! I know it’s unfair to pick out faults in a letter written by a child forty-one years ago, but one reader thinks that the Sun will go nova or super-nova in 60,000,000 years. It won’t – in about five billion years it will turn into a red giant as its hydrogen core is exhausted. As it lacks the mass to supernova after another billion years and a few pulses while different gases are burnt off it’ll end up as a white dwarf then fading into a black dwarf. Black dwarfs are currently hypothetic as it takes longer for one to form than the current age of the universe.

On the back page Brendan McCarthy returns for the third Dreddworld story of the prog. Walter the Wobot also returns (as does Maria), but it’s not too bad, as Mek-Quake joins them.

Grailpage: Mike McMahon, the death of Spikes Harvey Rotten. Nothing more to be said.

Grailquote: nothing more to be said, that is, except for one of Spikes’ last utterances – T.B. Grover, Spikes: “S’long… Dredd… get… vaccine through… somehow… or… I’ll come… back… haunt you… an’ ain’t nothin’ worse than… a punk ghost!”

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