Bolland draws a classic Walter pic, giving away the contents of the comic somewhat by showing him wearing a judge badge. This is the Walter that will appear in later annual one-page stories.
The Nerve Centre introduces us to Big E (re-named from E-Man, as he had been a few weeks earlier), shaking hands with Tharg. This is not a spot illustration by an art droid – they got one of editorial to don the rubber Tharg mask and Dave Gibbons to get dressed up as a superhero! So, the next post after this one will be about issue one of Tornado.
Ewins and McCarthy show Walter cowering before Cal in The Day the Law Died! before carrying out Dredd’s plan – to betray him! Cal sends for the Badgemaker and, as shown on the cover, Judge Walter is appointed – Mega-City One’s first robot judge – take that, Mechanismo! Slocum questions Cal’s judgement in making Walter a judge and makes a big mistake – he calls the Chief Judge ‘crazy’. This is picked up on, and Slocum claims he was just worried. There follow the panels featured in last prog’s teaser page – featuring parodies of late 1970s TV personalities and talk shows – I’m a bit young to get them, but I thinkthey’re Frank Bough, Robin Day and Russell Harty. All too aware that calling Cal crazy was a huge mistake, Slocum has been keeping an eye on Walter, so is there to catch the robot red-handed when he attempts to steal a briefing tape. Too late though, Cal has him paralysed, molds his face into a smile and pickles him in vinegar before he can reveal Walter’s secret. Apparently this episode would have been half a page longer, but the image of Slocum pickled was censored in case children copied it. Copied getting a specimen jar large enough to put a human being in and enough vinegar to fill said jar. Censorship can be weird sometimes!
A full page advert for Tornado adds E.S.P. Smith, Wagner’s Walk and Captain Klep to the three we’d already seen the previous prog.
As Big Brain is stretchered away, Robot Generals 1 and 2 mobilise their forces – The Fighting First and the Second Army. Now surrounded by robots who recognise that they’re humans, Kidd abuses his position and gets punished by Slade for it (Kidd will not forget this). The Verdus Parliament summons them to appear before it, but being designed for entertainment rather than decision-making, matters do not improve (though some great puns on ‘party’ and an excuse for a dance later). It’s a good diversionary episode, though the end is pretty much the same as the beginning, with Verdus on the verge of war.
Walt Wemembers the Droon from the pages of Starlord – which looks much less effective when a full colour painted image is reprinted in black and white on toilet paper. This shares a page with another police quiz from the Home Office (did I mention the previous one? I think I probably did, due to a potentially out-dated question about bloodstains).
In the centre is Strontium Dog: Journey to Hell. I thought this was printed on better paper with proper full-colour printing, so I guess the format will change a couple of episodes in, right up to the 2000AD and Tornado progs. Johnny is not unconscious, as his thought bubble mentions how he’ll die if he doesn’t hang on tight. Unfortunately the road train topples. Fortunately Johnny is on top of a cargo of grain, which cushions his fall. Despite mutants being banned from Sharpsville, Fly’s-Eyes knows his home town well – and he doesn’t have an easy to hide mutation like Johnny – it’d have to be a big pair of glasses to cover his eyes! The local law follow Johnny as he stakes out Wagner’s father’s home and get in the way as Wagner is about to move in. Interestingly, Wagner uses a Dimension Warp bomb on the local law officers – these must really have reduced in size and power needs in the seventy five years since the Apocalypse War (which won’t be printed for another three years). So four disappeared police and things are hotting up.
Eternium opens Dan Dare: Servant of Evil – Part 6. A city on a floating island in the swamp, bathed in red light from the setting sun. The story continues – the crystal was discovered by Lystrian shepherds – one of who had been blind since birth but suddenly found they could see. Word of this spread and the crystal become a centre of pilgrimage for the sick and ailing from around the galaxy. This all seems plausible, even if it is The Mekon telling us all this – then the story goes on to the Thraxians invading so that they can gain control of the crystal – not sure how much of this will end up being ‘true’.
Ro-Busters: The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein Part Three: “Robots Don’t Live Here any More…” sees the last appearance of The Preying Mantis (what was the point of all those cut-aways when the very first time we see it in a story since then, it’s destroyed an episode later – though I did like two out of four of the cutaways) and Miss Marilyn (though we will see her again in a story in an annual, set before this story). Mek-Quake and a few maintenance robots stay on Devil’s Island, so the last time he saw Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein was two episodes ago while he was extorting money from Ginger – the next time they meet will be thousands of years into the future. Meanwhile, thanks to Ro-Jaws warning, the robots decide they have to get into the control cabin before the bomb goes off. Also thanks to Ro-Jaws, they lure an overseer out by playing an illegal robot game, Swopsey. Ro-Jaws head on a war robot’s body, and Hammer-Stein’s atop a sewer robot take over the pod and jettison it just in time (though it has to crash land from being caught by the flames). This episode really shows off how far McMahon’s art has come in the last two years since the early episodes of Dredd, with wildlife watching on as robots bail out of the crashing pod and some form of rodent standing by as it explodes. While discussing their options, one robot pushes for them surrendering as their only lot in life is to serve the humes until they rust. Ro-Jaws has a somewhat coarse reaction to this suggestion, just before the Robot Investigation Police arrive on the scene – in particular the P.D. troopers – the Punishment and Discipline division.
Grailpage: going with last prog’s Kevin O’Neill Miss Marilyn saying goodbye to the robots, I’ll go with Mick McMahon’s Miss Marilyn gazing after the Preying Mantis as it leaves Devil’s Island for the last time.
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Ro-Jaws: “Knickers!”