2000AD and Starlord Prog 92: I, Tharg, have journeyed from the depths of space… Do you dare to share my travels?

This prog has a Tharg cover by Colin Wyatt, apparently the only work he ever did for the Galaxy’s Greatest. It’s a pointillist pic, seemingly traced over a photo of an editorial droid wearing the Tharg rubber mask and boiler suit.

The Nerve Centre features a reader who has created a composite picture of a model spaceship on a cosmic background (and explains the process – to think, before the digital age people would have to cut out all those pictures). Letters call for the return of Robo-Hunter (yay!) and Dan Dare (erm…) and Tharg recounts some of the thrills from 2000AD and Starlord and whether they should return (Mind Wars – will return in an annual, Timequake – will return in a year or two, but not for long, Holocaust – nope, MACH-1 – nope, MACH-Zero – yep! Inferno – nope).

Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! introduces Mayor Jim Grubb. So, the Brotherhood of Darkness story featured an un-named Mayor’s son – that annual story had Mayor Amalfi (“wind resistance”) and this story has Mayor Grubb (first name isn’t actually mentioned in this episode). Either Mayor Amalfi had a son who wasn’t mentioned in his appearance or he had taken office recently. Similarly Mayor Grubb can only have been mayor for less than a year (based on what has been presented so far). Grubb’s robes of office are not unlike those of the chief judge, complete with cloak, chains, eagle and skin tight jumpsuit. I don’t remember seeing another other mayors wearing a uniform – though I could have just forgotten. Maybe… Brett Ewins shows us the first revolt against Chief Judge Cal and its suppression (and has to use an arrow to guide us around the panels, a pet hate which I’ve written about before). Dredd has recouperated enough to lead the squad of Academy tutors. It seems strange to see Dredd ordering Griffin around, as I mainly knew him as Chief Judge (hope that spoiler doesn’t ruin anything for you!) The squad are on their way to rouse a revolt in a full-page splash cliffhanger ending.

Johnny, Wulf and the Gronk are stealing a nuke-torp (the suicide spaceships with nuclear warheads in the nose – I’m trying not to use the kamikaze word) though have to escape the Walrog battleworld (which casually destroys the planet XX161-D when the trio hide behind it). The flaw in that plan is that once the planet was destroyed the debris provides perfect cover for the small nuke-torp to hide. Approaching an ongoing battle between the Sandorian and Wolrogs the three don vacuum suits and set the nuke-torp straight for the battleworld. Neatly the panels switch between the Sandorian command deck considering whether to destroy the missile ship before noticing it isn’t heading for them but instead – cut to next panel on the Wolrog bridge – the commander angrily questioning an underling why the nuke-torp is heading for them! Credits for this one are T.B. Grover (as ever), Carlos J. Ezquerra on art – not sure we’ve had the ‘J’ before – and simply Ezquerra on lettering. I doubt we’d see it, but I’d be interested to see how the Gronk fits inside that vacuum suit, which is the same size and shape as the ones that Wulf and Johnny are in. I’d imagine he puts two arms in each of the suit’s arms. Or maybe one arm in each and crosses the remaining arms?

Flesh Book II opens with the narration telling us all this is happening twenty-five million years ago – I think they mean two hundred adn fifty million years, at least! The centrespread contrasts those in the Triassic for business (harvesting food from the oceans) and those there for pleasure (killing animals for sport). For some reason it’s implied the only way they can do this is by illegally time travelling there. The exploits of Trans-Time in the cretaceous make this a little surprising – I’d have thought they’d take advantage of any opportunity to make a fast buck. Things hot up, with Carver using three unwary tourists to provide a distraction while he collects the stolen gold – except he only now discovers that Big Hungry has moved the gold from the hiding place Carver left it in. Blood from the hopeless hunters attracts something worse than Big Hungry – giant scorpions!

The last cut-away for the Preying Mantis presents the Plague Pod (I could swear it was the droid pod or robot pod when they were trailing it in earlier progs). This is more like it – less dry technical specifications (though they’re still there) and more little touches reflecting the source material – Hammerstein hiding from Ro-Jaws chatter, Ro-Jaws looking for Hammerstein, Mek-Quake going up the ramp to the pod. Not so sure about the configuration of rooms next to one another, but it’s more fun than the previous two, so I’ll skip to…

Ro-Busters: Only Robots Left Alive! and Mike White handles art duties, starting with a rainy day in the trenches. Pat shows his research for Charlie’s War by having one of Hammerstein’s compatriots sing a first world war trench song. Everything about this makes for a great final episode of Hammerstein’s war memoirs – from the start with the soldiers singings songs in the trenches, only to be castigated by a new officer, fresh from Westpoint to the middle section where Country Joe’s section is first over the top, with Babyface and Country Joe among the 80% casualties. The officer takes back the harsh words he said earlier, but Hammerstein and the others choose to bury their dead than take the medals he offers. The trial has been a success, and the US army mass produces war robots. An obvious reference is raising the flag on Hell Fire Hill (Iwo Jima pose) and there’s a nice touch where the green war droids fresh from the factory climb out of their packing crates and assemble themselves, one limb at a time. Bomber Harrison (the name a play on Bomber Harris) not only survives, but remains on the front – he wasn’t putting it on then… Back in the present, the duo are called to Miss Marilyn’s office to help move a desk (a job for Hammerstein) and empty a wastepaper basket (no comment). Hammerstein brags about how his story is of ‘history in the making’ (also an excuse for Pat / Tharg to slip in a teaser for more of Hammerstein’s adventures – which will become the A.B.C. Warriors) while Ro-Jaws claims his memoirs are more interesting. Miss Marilyn agrees, giving a kiss on his casing (braver than me – I get the feeling he’d always smell of sewers). Next prog: Ro-Jaw’s amazing memoirs! Hammerstein’s memoirs are probably better remembered because they had tie-ins to Dreddworld and act as a precursor to ABC Warriors, but I also like Ro-Jaws memoirs – spotting one of the upcoming covers I suspect there may be the basis of the Fall & Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein coming up. I’m getting ahead of myself…

As if the Preying Mantis cut-away and episode of Ro-Busters isn’t enough, the duo get a third outing with Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein’s Laugh In! As if we didn’t guess from the name, Tharg kindly pointed out that Earthlets can write in to the Nerve Centre about imortant stuff, while the Laugh-In is for less serious matters.

Grailpage: Mike White’s opening page of ‘the final part of Hammer-stein’s war memoirs’ wins it for me – a greyscale splash showing the dingy trenches with rain-sodden troops, the traditional signposts pointing to local landmarks and places the soldiers would rather be, followed by black and white linework showing the new officer’s arrival – plus a few songs because Pat likes his music.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, new officer: “What’s that war droid doing with a geetar?” Soldier: “Well, sir… his voice is a little tinny.”


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