2000AD and Starlord Prog 98: Onward, my beauties – sing while you slaughter! Slicey-slicey, oncey-twicey claw and fang’ll kill Dredd nicely!

Brian Bolland puts Kleggs on the cover, and they’re singing a song “Slicey-slicey, oncey-twicey Claw and fang’ll kill Dredd nicely!” (I didn’t need to type that out – just realised I’d already put it in the title of this blog post).

Tharg announces the hiring of AALN-1 in the Nerve Centre, produced by MACMIDROIDS. A reader submits a wordsearch (it took me 2 minutes 59 seconds to complete) and another reader complains about the (complete) lack of female judges, to which Tharg says ‘watch this space’ (not literally). (AALN-1 is Alan Grant, starting the long tradition of the assistant editor to Tharg being the actual human editor).

Brian Bolland takes the reigns of that Klegghound attacking Judge Dredd, or should that be lead? Dredd’s arm has been swallowed by the Klegghound, but it’s his gunhand – the Klegghound’s mistake! Judge Julio Fernandez is wounded bad and sacrifices himself to allow the others to escape. He looks and speaks like King Carlos – not the last time Wagner (sorry, Howard) will insert a parody of the long-term collaborator! Justice 1 makes its first appearance – as a hover-ship looking nothing like the starship we’ll later see (curiously drawn by the same artist). Bolland has some great moments depicting the madness of Chief Judge Cal as he blasts the roadway out of the Trans-Ohio tunnel (the location is important), leading Dredd’s roadliner to crash to City Bottom.

As if the story itself isn’t bad enough, it isn’t even consistent, as Angel is now the test-pilot for Britain’s space fighter progamme (this is the USA-backed one from the previous episode – hmmm, maybe it is British, just with American money behind it – I’m just looking for faults now). Angel survives due to an accompanying jet fighter pilot disobeying orders and giving him a piggy back home to base. He goes to the quartermaster who gives a clue incriminating Blucher. A month later, having completed training, Angel heads off, being given a good luck pocket watch by the Squadron Leader (which turns out to contain a bomb – as we guess immediatley but takes Angel until he’s in orbit).

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Four-Legged Man! – I’m glad these have proper titles now, really makes it easier to identify which is which. Mankind has been obliterated in the last war. Centuries later, alien students go on a field trip to try to ascertain what man looked like. They gather together remains and come up with… a TV set! Mike’s Cruden and Dorey provided the social commentary.

Over in the FleshFiles we get words about Pteranodon and Nothosaur, a Brian Bolland comic strip, pictures of Old One Eye and Big Hungry by Massimo. In addition there’s a quick Monster Timer breaking down which dinosaurs were around in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceious periods – which is more verisimilitude than the average dinosaur-based tale gets. I’m tempted to photocopy these pages (or more likely find scans someone else has done) and put together the full booklet.

Unfortunately it looks like all the pictures for the FleshFile has taken its toll on the Belardinelli droid, as he’s been replaced by Carlos Pino on Flesh Book II. He’s not a flashy artist, but he did a fantastic splash-page to the first Ro-Busters story back in Starlord No 1 (the North Sea Tunnel), so I have a lot of time for his work (even if he’s currently wasted over in Angel). I’d have preferred Massimo’s artwork (obviously) but Pino does bring a certain Book One feel to Flesh Book II – there’s a few things a little off – Gunner Ben doesn’t look right, and the scale of cybosaurs to Big Hungry are out, but he does good work for what was no doubt a last-minute job. Enough about the production – the actual story has pterosaurs attack as Peters is about to walk the plank. In the confusion Peters jumps down out of sight. Under the waves, Big Hungry damages the controls on one of the cybosaurs, which (somehow) feeds back, sending all the cybosaurs wild, attacking each other and humans. Gunner Ben volunteers to go out in a sub to mop up the cybosaurs, but in a Shakespearean twist it is a ruse to destroy Atlantis base as revenge for Peters’ death – even though Peters isn’t dead! The base is sinking, Gunner Ben probably got killed when part of the base collapsed on the sub, and Big Hungry’s revenge is almost complete.

Ro-busters: The Terra-Meks! Part One: The Eve of Destruction! – you know Pat Mills is on the case with such a grandiose title! Two pages introduce us to Charlie, two pages introduce Quartz and the leader of Northpool Council, who are going to destroy the seaport to make way for a spaceport, displacing the residents and killing Charlie for scrap metal. A leader of the protestors goes to Charlie to ask for his help to defend against the Terra-Meks, but can he disobey his progamming? As the Terra-Meks rumble onto the scene, he hasn’t turned up yet. Next to the ongoing Day the Law Died, this is the beginning of a classic, remembered and loved by 2000AD fans to this day, and rightly so (can you tell I like it?) It also marks a more continuous narrative in Ro-busters, as each story will lead to the next until the end (though one element introduced in Ro-Jaws’ Memoirs will reappear).

Not quite as good is Ro-Jaws and Hammer Stein’s Laugh In! though in light of how I just said The Terra-Meks is a classic, they’re bemoaning that they don’t appear in it, and that us readers will be clamouring for their return – oops! Walter Wemembers the waterworts from Starlord.

I believe Bill le Fevre may have been responsible for the superb Lawmaster diagram a while ago in prog 89, but I can’t summon the enthusiasm for this Holiday to Mars! series – this week is the shuttle, descended from the Rockwell Space Shuttle (I’ve learnt something at least – I didn’t know Space Shuttles came in types).

Grailpage: I thought it was going to be a Bolland page, but this week’s grailpage has to include Charlie, doesn’t it? Dave Gibbons puts in some superlative work and I’ll go for the second page featuring Charlie seen through a storm, followed by a clearer picture of him towing a ship and a shadowy view from afar.

Grailquote: It has to be the Klegg’s song, hasn’t it? “Slicey-slicey, oncey-twicey claw and fang’ll kill Dredd nicely! Meaty beaty chop ’em neatly Death or glory no retreatee! Klegg-haiiii! Klegg-haiii!

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