2000AD and Starlord Prog 99: The Terra-Mek’s hurling us into its atomic grinders… We’ll be crushed to a pulp!

Dave Gibbons gives a spoiler to the contents by showing us Fantas-Tek about to munch away on a couple of humes in a flying car (hover car?) I wasn’t too sure which one it was as it’s blue on the cover and purple on the centre pages.

The Nerve Centre looks a bit more like my ‘classic’ Nerve Centre, with the black background at the top and the letters black on white. Still an advert for stamps though.

After Bolland last week, we’re back to McMahon on The Day the Law Died!. I would have first read this story in the Titan collected edition and compared Brian and Mick’s renderings of the roadliner, seeing how too different artists represented the same design in wholly different ways, while still recognisably being the same vehicle. All of which is a prelude to an announcement of Dredd’s death as it crashes into City Bottom (in fact, through City Bottom to the Undercity, in the locale of the former Ohio River, now called the Big Smelly – I said the name of the tunnel would be important). As well as the wreckage from the roadliner, we see bodies in judge uniforms and everything, so Dredd is definitely dead, not like the other two times he’s been announced as dead in the preceding 97 progs. In celebration of Dredd’s actual death, Cal declares crime legal for the next 24 hours. Of course, the citizens fail to take advantage of this offer, crime figures falling drastically, blinds drawn and flags at half-mast (flags haven’t generally been very prominent in Mega-City One up to this point, so I’d love to know which flags are at half-mast). Judge Cox tries to placate Cal but ends up being ordered to shoot himself to show his love for the Chief Judge. A bit too late, Slocum and another judge (badge a little unclear -atting?) realise that Cal must die for all their sakes, but that the one man strong enough to do the deed is dead, and they helped. I’m trying not to just type out exactly what Slocum said – so it must be a contender for grailquote!

Angel next with Chapter 5 – The Escape! He’s in space in a cockpit with a bomb. Luckily there’s a hatch it can be thrown through. Unluckily it still explodes close enough to damage the fighter. So he ejects and heads down to Earth in a spacesuit. The computer controls his muscles so that he manages to slow down his descent, landing not far from the airbase with his spacesuit burnt up in re-entry. There’s some marginally entertaining interplay between some (regular) police who find him jogging by the side of the motorway, hear his story and are going to take him to the cells, or a hospital or something. I don’t remember the squadron leader being given a name last episode, but this time he’s called Harding. Angel takes over the police car by plugging in a handfall of wires to his shoulder computer, catches up with Squadron Leader Harding and hands him over to the military police. Grailquote for this episode: “The end”. The deck is now clear for either Robo-Hunter or Dan Dare, both returning next prog!

Kevin O’Neill interviews Derek Meddings – the creator and director of model effects on the (Christopher Reeves) Superman film. If you like reading about how special effects are done in films (and if you’re reading a blog about a sci-fi comic that came out over forty years ago I reckon there’s a high likelihood of that) then this is a good use of two pages. Meddings reveals details of many of the shots he was responsible but keeps schtum on those done by others on set – so it sounds like there’s more to the ‘rotating into the ground’ scene than we might expect, and the scene where Superman flies off the balcony and reappears seconds later at the door as Clark Kent was all done in one take (Richard Donner has since revealed how this was done – it didn’t involve a quick costume change). Even if you’re not that interested, the by-line gives more information about Kevin O’Neill than we’ve ever had before – until recently he was art editor of 2000AD, he’s publisher of Just Imagine – an irregularly published magazine about TV and film special effects, and most interesting of all, he’s currently working on a new Ro-Busters story beginning in Prog 103 (The Fall & Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein, if memory serves – it’s set after the Terra-Meks scandal, so I’d have thought so).

Speaking of which – and taking the centrepages for their first and only time in the pages of 2000AD come the Terra-Meks! Part Two: Mek-Mania! Three are named immediately: Tyranno-Mek; Fantas-Tek and King Konka (because his two spiked wrecking balls are like conkers). Mek-Quake is in the foreground, proportionally as small to the Terra-Meks as Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein are to him. This is justifiably regarded as a classic, with superb dialogue between the Terra-Meks as they justify putting their orders above not killing humans to carry those orders out. The only niggles I have with the episode are that Mek-Quake doesn’t have his own ‘voice’ – either his dialogue as published was meant for another robot, or Pat Mills thought he should be more verbose for this story. Because Northpool has now become a disaster area there’s also the well-worn trope of having a teddy bear all that remains – I could have done without that. Anyway, Charlie has been mulling over the dillema, but like the Terra-Meks, he has to follow his programming. The thing that puts him over the edge is the sight of debris floating downriver (including a howling dog). Next prog: “…to the Death!”

Flesh Book II concludes this prog, with last prog’s G Miller and C Pino responsible. Letters are by Pete Knight, though at least one of the word balloons is obviously in a different hand. Also, the scene where (spoiler) Big Hungry eats Carver is a cut’n’paste job from a Belardinelli page. Peters activates the time controls but is killed by a scorpion (crushed by pincers rather than stung). As the base starts it’s journey up the timeline, J.M. Grose has abandoned his command in a rubber dinghy, left alone outside the time field in the middle of the Triassic ocean – though I don’t think he’ll have to worry about being stranded for long, with all those Nothosaurs and Pterosaurs around… The Atlantis station is thrown off-course as Big Hungry emerges onto deck and is dragged into the time lanes, leaving Atlantis to materialise over an unknown sea before sinking beneath the waves (of course) – I’d like to think some of the men survived and that their tales of Atlantis led to the naming of the base millenia later. Meanwhile we’re not told definitively that Big Hungry is the Loch Ness Monster, but he is (though curiously less bloodthirsty once in Scotland – maybe the loch just has enough fish for him to feed on).

The Laugh-In carries on as usual and facing it is a teaser for the next prog. The cover is top secret, though two our of three of the elements are published on the page (and the third has a very sinilar picture printed anyway).

On the back page is Part IV or Holiday to Mars – looks like we’re in for the long haul so I may as well try to enjoy it. For some reason it involves the Megamix Space Shuttle – which sounds more like a food processor than a space ship to me. This would probably be useful for somebody playing Traveller (RPG for those who don’t know it).

Grailpage: it was very tempting to go for the centrespread of the Terra-Meks, but instead I’ll keep with Dave Gibbons and plump for the page where Charlie sees the destruction, making him angry enough to disobey his programming and head up-river.

Grailquote: John Howard, SJS Judge Slocum: “There was only one man strong enough to stand against Cal! Only one man… and we helped to murder him!”

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