As the cover line suggests, this is the last prog of 2000AD (because next week it’ll be 2000AD and Starlord) and Prog 85 also brings the last episode of The Cursed Earth, taking the cover (also the last episodes of everything else currently running in 2000AD and Starlord, but more about that in this post and the next, covering Starlord). Mick McMahon draws a very dilapidated Dredd.
The Nerve Centre is obviously centred on the forthcoming merge, and we find out that other life forms on the as-yet-unnamed Quaxxan (Tharg’s home planet) have superior brain power and it would be cruel to keep them as pets.
The last episode of The Doomsday Machine (which has regained it’s title – the past few episodes have just gone straight in to the story) has a change of pace and artist. I’ve not looked this up in Thrill-Power Overload or The Mighty One but I suspect Gary Leach and Trev Goring have been replaced in order to get the faster (?) Dave Gibbons to rustle up the truncated episode to make way for the merger. The huge skeleton which may or may not have a ghost attached is revealed to be Moebius, the last of the Golden Ones. I find it interesting that Landau, who went on to found Titan Comics and Forbidden Planet, filled this story with ships from pop cultural spaceships and named the antagonist after one of the greatest comic artists of the 20th century… We find out that it wasn’t The Kid being haughty earlier, it was Moebius possessing his body. The Golden Ones are the archetypal / stereotypical seekers after knowledge until they caught a disease. Moebius programmed the ship’s computer to retain his consciousness though over time the ship develops malfunctions, causing it to destroy planets and capture ships. Moebius has used a psychic connection with The Kid to bring the spacers down to the control room so that they can destroy the ship, ending the trail of destruction. Dare does this almost immediately – without any consideration to let the others escape. Consequently, in their race to get back to the Space Fort, Hitman is injured terminally. One page later he dies, quickly followed by The Kid and then everybody on the starship except for Dare himself, who clings to the remnants of an Eagle scout craft, floating through space to die (for all we know)… Nice one, Dan!
As you might expect from the prog before a merger, a certain amount of filler is to be expected and what better to fill three pages than a Future-Shock? It’s practically what they were designed for! The Fourth Wall is not about meta-theatrical conventions but a television that fills the entire wall. We’ve not quite got there yet, but it does look rather like the latest large flat-screen TVs. The spoilt brat who spends all his time watching TV wants the latest type, which is even more realistic. What’s more it’s Chris the brat’s birthday next week, so instead of getting a telling-off for being so bratty, Chris instead gets the latest Fourth Wall TV to watch Adam Gordon (obviously partially named after Flash Gordon). It’s a Future-Shock, so the lasers are real, and zap the stool that Chris was sitting on. By the time the parents check on the brat, he’s either been knocked unconscious or killed. The end.
A double-page spread trailing the next prog, with Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters from Starlord and Judge Dredd and the return of Flesh representing 2000AD.
Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Final Chapter: Death Crawl! (all of that was in the title, from ‘J’ to ‘!’). Dredd is starting to hallucinate, having staggered through the Mojave Desert without water (and having fought for four days beforehand anyway). We see the (illusory) returns of the Brotherhood of Darkness, the Devil’s Lapdogs, the Lawgiver, General Blood ‘n’ Nuts, Satanus, Snap, Crackle and Pop. Ronald McDonald also sneaked in again – I wonder if McDonald’s Corporation lawyers noticed? Not everything is illusory, however, as three mek troopers are still around to crawl after the judge. Days of crawling later (still slowly chased by the meks of dwindling power) he reaches Mega-City Two where he stands again to walk through the entrance to the city, to collapse. By my calculation it’s probably been six or seven days since Dredd last slept, but it only takes him eight hours (during which he underwent surgery) before he’s awake and bullying medics to update him on Tweak’s current whereabouts. A Judge Mills updates Dredd on the success of the vacine before two Mega-City Two judges play cruel tricks on Tweak while the alien is in captivity, provoking Dredd to punch the most sadistic on the chin – it may have been a slap, either way, Tweak and Dredd are left alone and Tweak tells the judge to keep the secret of his intelligence, and to send him home. Apart from the Return to Mega-City One and Firebug stories, it’s been some time since a ‘normal’ Dredd in Mega-City One run (what with Luna-1 and The Cursed Earth). The last words of this story and the first real, full-length mega-epic trail The Day the Law Died, and it’ll be some time before a non-epic story.
Ant Wars also concludes – the cliffhanger of what Villa saw is revealed as three ants having caught Anteater. It’s been a few weeks since Anteater did anything and both of our main characters tend to just watch while things happen around them. In this case what happens is tiny ants (you might call them normal-size ants) attack the big ants. Finally, Villa and Anteater do something, scooping up small ants and throwing them at the giant ants, until Anteater gets killed. Villa dies, thinking the giant ants have won, though immediately afterwards the last of the ant queens is overwhelmed by little ants. The ant wars are over! Or are they? In a Future-Shock moment, it turns out that despite the massive death toll across multiple countries in South America, the CGS gas that caused it all has been passed and is going to be retested soon. There’s no direct sequel – though in about thirty-something years there will be an indirect sequel. I can’t remember the details, so won’t speculate as to whether they’re descended from the second test, or new ants from the original stock of gas, or whatever – it’ll have to wait until I get to the relevant Judge Dredd Megazines…
Not content with the last episode of Mind Wars (which I’ll be covering in the next post), Redondo also brings us a Future-Shock written by Barry Clements. A poacher comes across a pair of aliens landing in a clearing, but can’t report it as it will incriminate him. He instead follows them around and is confused by their behaviour as they visit a pub, a fishing harbour and the zoo. He ends up going to the police anyway, taking a policeman to the landing location to pick up the aliens, but the aliens are hiding until the poacher and policeman leave, returning to their ship after their *shock* holiday on Earth, because they’re tourists! Two and a half pages, and you know they’re being used as filler when there’s two shocks in one prog. This story didn’t have a name, so let’s call it The Poacher (though as a Future-Shock if it actually did have that name then readers would expect the aliens to turn out to be poachers and not tourists).
Over the page is the second part of the Walter the Wobot story. Out of eight panels, five have Mek-Quake, so could be worse. I’m pretty sure one of the judges is called Ditko.
Grailpage: Mick McMahon’s last page of The Cursed Earth features Tweak (though the piccies of Tweak on the previous page are better) and Dredd heading to Mega-City One Departures at Los Angeles Space Port. It’s difficult, but having said all that I think I’ll go for that previous page – a wordless panel of Dredd striking the sadistic MC2 judge, who then leaves Dredd and Tweak alone to talk, ending with Tweak’s mournful longing to go home.
Grailquote: the cover has the iconic lines “This Cursed Earth will not break me I am the law I am Dredd… Judge Dredd!”