Starlord’s ship appears to be a frog-shaped hovercraft with robotic spider arms. Or maybe it’s the jet plane above.
What can I say about the last episode of Mind Wars? Well, it starts well – we go two whole pages with everybody playing along that Ardeni has died in the heart of a nuclear explosion before she reveals herself and fake Arlen (real name Tarsh). She forces the means to contact the Green Star from the mind of a Lenarthian elder, very quickly learns how to control her powers, gets told the location of the Jugla homeworld, leads a huge Federal fleet there then attempts to kill Na-Rutha. As well as control of her powers the Green Star has taught her to use them ‘wisely’ i.e. not to use them to neutralise mass murderers and dictators. Instead she neutralises all of the weapons of both sides of the galactic conflict (which raises more questions – this might include everything from hand energisers to ship-bourne laser cannons (or whatever they’re called) but what about spears, swords, bows, arrows, knives…) The story as written says that the two sides have no choice now but to talk to each other – this happens in the last two panels of a 21-issue story – to say the merger has lead to a rushed ending is an understatement. It just about reads, though could only have been better if it had had a few more weeks. We’ll see what actually happens in a later annual (or was it the summer special?) As I write this, most of you will have had the opportunity to get the reprint of Mind Wars that appeared in the last two Judge Dredd Megazines, so you’ll have seen how jarring the sudden ending was.
Getting the first set of colour pages (which Mind Wars never got, appearing as it did on the opening pages every week), Ro-Busters. Some confusing panel layouts follow, with the flow of dialogue leading the eye around the panels in the wrong order (see an earlier post for a mini-rant about that – this one doesn’t even have arrows to help the reader). To pick more holes – some surgeons / cyberneticists / people in green gowns have implaneted a bomb in Howard Quartz’s body, telling Ebenezer Quartz “Your brother has exactly two hours to live!” – over the page… “You hear that Howard? Six hours, and then – kaput!” Shall we put that down to rushed deadlines due to the hurried merger next week? Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and Miss Marilyn don’t sit around waiting to be sent to Mek-Quake, so enlist Aerials to locate Mr Ten Per Cent. Again, I feel this has a slightly rushed ending, though being only a three-parter can handle the enforced wrap-up of the story better (and has the advantage that it can use humour where Mind Wars couldn’t).
The end of the Strontium Dog two-parter and this one probably hasn’tbeen brought to a hasty conclusion – it certainly reads more naturally than anything else this week. Alpha tries using Strontium vision to see what’s in the heart of the Ultimate Weapon but cannot (lead-shielding, as you’d expect). Then he tries again and succeeds (alright, that’s a little weak, storytelling-wise) and approaches the ‘weapon’. With no thought for their own safety, the criminals following The Brain’s plan detonate the device, which turns out to be fireworks (literally). The bounty hunters find their way to The Brain, with Johnny respecting, or at least liking the criminal mastermind. The Brain does not resist, and actually looks forward to the peace and quiet that incarceration will bring to train his waterworts to perform ‘Oklahmoa’ in costume. I really hope I remembered to mention them when I covered the previous Starlord issue, because they’re important to the plot! While he’s content to go to prison, his human aides are not so happy and try to kill the bounty hunters before they can be taken in. A shard of glass from The Brain’s tank kills one of the waterworts, provoking The Brain to use mind powers (or electro-magnetic something-or-other) to kill the human criminals, with Johnny holding the deceased tenor and promising to give him a good burial. And we thought 2000AD had the monopoly on killing major characters. RIP Cornelius.
The last of Starlords Stargrams is with us, and we’ve managed to make it through without another three-option quiz! Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the ones we’re going to see in the future, based around characters we’ve seen in the comics, but the Starlord quizes about robot commanders and skateboard strike forces are really not my thing. Starlord confirms that the spacecraft is the frog-thing on the cover, and not the jet-fighter-looking craft in the sky. A reader bemoans the death of ½ Tough (which I completely failed to mention – sorry). RIP ½ Tough and Cornelius, the unsung heroes of Starlord.
A double-page spread for the upcoming merger next, focusing mainly on Judge Dredd and Flesh, to introduce the stories to those few Starlord readers who weren’t already familiar with them.
What better way for Holocaust to use its two colour pages than a flamethrower? The rest of this final episode, however… I don’t know how many people reading this will have read Holocuast. The last time I read it would have been in the 1990s and I do not remember this bizarre ending. Hunter fights his way out from under a pile of zombies and uses a control panel in the wall to activate and control some new zombies, starting with making them dance a chorus line (!) then actually, y’know, saving his life and the lives of those soldiers who had come to rescue him. In the Minsky/Lupinski versus the High Ones battle, the hooded High Ones use mind eye beams to make those soldiers attacking them turn in to zombies (so a different method of zombification than Hunter used on the previous page). Hunter leaps at a hooded High One and causes the robes to collapse to the ground, revealing a little rat-like being inside, which scampers towards their UFO. The High-Rats attempt to destroy the shuttle vessels but outside of their robes are too short to reach the button. Humanity reverse-engineers the UFOs with some help from the High-Rats (who are bullied into joining the Manhattan-Project analogue by some alley cats). A month later a fleet of human-UFOs (IFOs, surely – they’re pretty Identified at this point) head to the mother ship, but can’t break through the defences. Instead they tow it towards the sun until those aboard give up. Unlike the others, I’m not convinced that this story would have wrapped up in a more satisfying way if it hadn’t rushed towards a conclusion to make way for the merger, so let’s leave that précis of the strange last episode to speak for itself without further comment.
And that’s it for Starlord – the rest of the comic (inside back cover and back cover) is taken up with adverts. There were a few good moments and a few bad moments, and the bad moments had a lot in common with some of the lower points in 2000AD at the time (on this reading I wasn’t a fan of Planet of the Damned and Death Planet – perhaps because they’re so similar and running at the same time). Holocaust and Colony Earth were also thematically similar though told in drastically differing ways. When the art was good it was fantastic and this was the first time we’ve seen Carlos Ezquerra’s fully painted artwork, albeit for two pages per episode. I’m pretty sure that applies not just to 2000AD and Starlord but also the other British comics that Carlos had contributed to previously – Battle, Action, et al. There’s something timeless about Carlos’ work, which provides a high point among the sometimes dated storytelling and art styles in other stories. Redondo, Brendan McCarthy, Casanovas, Ian Gibson and a few others also helped to provide some memorable moments. I don’t feel Ro-Busters had any truly great stories, but it made up for them in the characterisation of its main characters and the depiction of the situation that droids find themselves in, in the second half of the 21st century. I had the pleasure of meeting Jesus Redondo at the 2000AD 40th Anniversary celebrations and spoke to him (through his interpreter). He regards Mind Wars as his best and favourite work, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve long held the same opinion (speaking as a fan of his Nemesis work and the Future-Shocks / Time Twisters that were running when I first started reading the progs). I’m always happy to see new work by Redondo appear in the prog (the last one I recall were a Tharg’s Terror Tale and a Tharg’s 3riller a few years back) and I agree completely with everything that Heroes of 2000AD has to say about Mind Wars. Time Quake disappeared early on, though will make an unexpected come-back in 2000AD some time in the future. Could have had promise, but often the best thing about it was the artwork (usually when provided by Ian Kennedy). Maybe I should have done my ‘Starlord origin story’ at the beginning of the 22 issue run, but better late than never. I managed to snag a complete run of the comics (no free gifts) when I was a teenager while visiting my grandad 200 miles away. Coincidentally, I now live a few miles away from the shop I got them from – funny how things turn out. I would have read and re-read all of the stories back then, but would have only dug out the issues to read one or two of the stories since, so this slog is probably the first time I’ve read everything that was in Starlord since I’ve been an adult. The next time IPC publishes a spin-off will be Tornado – this is a run I only purchased recently and will be entirely new to me.
Grailpage: Jesus Redondo’s depiction of Ardeni Lakam returning to the stage with fake-brother Tarsh (at the top of the page) and relating in flashback how the nuclear explosion was just to hide a little one-on-one conversation between the two Jugla-enhanced psychics.
Grailquote: Jack Adrian, Hammerstein: “Chrome-skinned twerp!” seeming more like something Ro-Jaws would say!