2000AD and Star Lord Prog 88: Hammer-stein and a Cast of Thousands in… Yesterday’s Hero He was a robot in a man’s war!!!

The cover by Kevin O’Neill (and trailed last prog) shows Hammerstein starring in a war film with ‘screenplay’ by Pat Mills, ‘produced’ by Steve McManus and Roy Preston and ‘directed’ by Kelvin O’Gosnell.

The Nerve Centre features a few reader’s models of space craft, and the Eagle scout craft made from cardboard is pretty impressive! The bottom of the page lets us know that Future Shocks are back this issue (note, it says ‘issue’ not ‘prog’).

Judge Dredd: Bring Me the Head of Judge Dredd! is the third part of the narrative now known collectively as The Day the Law Died or Judge Caligula, and has Brendan McCarthy and Brett Ewins as the third and forth art droids on the case. Off the top of my head we’re going to get two more, one of which will be the Dredd debut – if not 2000AD debut – of Ron Smith. Sometimes a constantly changing roster of artists can damage an ongoing story, but (maybe because this was my first Titan collected edition) I think it works on this story. On with the episode itself – starts with a flash-forward (which I hate) then on to the manhunt for Dredd – the biggest in Mega-City One’s history. Having mentioned Max Normal last prog (due ot the presence of an evil pencil-moustached character) here’s the real deal to give some info on skilled cyberneticists to Dredd. Too late, the person who built the robo-Dredd has been killed by his creation. With the aid of a magnet, Dredd defeats the imposter and takes it to the Chief Judge. Cal still looks like Pat Mills. I thinkhe gets a makeover next issue, following complaints from Uncle Pat.

Ro-Busters: Yesterday’s Hero! allows Hammerstein to take centre stage, and ties in the Great War that the robot fought in to the same Volgan conflict depicted in Invasion. Interestingly we find out that the Mark One War Droid shot at anything that moved, but don’t immeidately hear about the Mark Two. Hammerstein is not just any War Droid, he’s the prototype Mark Three and going on field trials with a platoon of human soldiers. He’s assigned to Sergeant Kowalski who has a hatred of robots due to a faulty shipment of Mark Two’s, who surrendered to the enemy. Hammerstein is separated from Kowalski’s Wagon but catches them up when they come under fire from Volgan Kill-Copters. The sarge is blinded and shell-shocked so doesn’t realise Hammerstein is the robot that he hates so much while the pair come under heavy attack. Further tie in to Invasion comes in a piece of graffiti on a ruined wall: ‘Bill Savage Lives’.

In Flesh Book II, Carver makes himself at home in his virtual prison for the next six months, and as is traditional when people such as Carver enter imprisonment, the first thing they do is form an enmity with the meanest inmate they can find, in this case, Svenson. Not for the first time, the native lifeforms of this time and called ‘monsters’, which I feel is a little unfair (though it has to be said that just about everything bigger than a human is trying to kill the humans, usually with a mouth full of teeth). Spoiler – Belardinelli knocks out some great art this prog, but he won’t be getting the grailpage award…

In Strontium Dog, The Galaxy Killers continues with basic training for the new recruits, Wolrog-style. Sergeant Kark welcomes the recruits, starting with pairing up every recruit and getting them to fight each other to the death. Of course, Wulf and Johnny are paired and Johnny goads Wulf into fighting him. The blood of vikings courses through Wulf’s veins and he becomes a berzerker. Much later we’ll find out he doesn’t just have the blood of vikings but actually is a viking, but for this episode the cliffhanger is Wulf about to kill Johnny. My bet would be on a sudden attack from the enemy meaning the ‘training’ has to be cut short. Carlos Ezquerra provides not just the art but also the lettering – must have been taking tips from Dave Gibbons (you get paid twice if you letter your own art).

Tharg’s Future-Shocks sees Belardinelli returning with Date With Destiny, written by Mike Cruden. A prospective time traveller sabotages his rival to get the opportunity to become the first to travel in time in a prototype time machine. As it kicks into life he has misgivings, thinking the journey will be “beyond the bounds of my lifespan” – from that moment on you know the ‘shock’ will be that he’ll die of old age.

The Laugh-In this week mops up a letter from Starlord days about Int-Stell-Fed troops and includes a preview of the Mike McMahon ‘Dredd dead’ cover.

Grailpage: Kevin O’Neill’s opening page to Yesterday’s Hero featuring Ro-Busters-era Hammerstein and his original head, firstly in electronic feedback flashback, then in the present.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Hammerstein: “…some of the things we did I guess I’m not proud of…” Mek-Quake: “Mek-Quake… He would like to hear about these things you were not proud of, Hammer-Stein… in detail!” Ro-Jaws: “Nah! Don’t start him off on his borin’ war memoirs!”

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