The first thing to say about this prog is that the printing has improved drastically (as was noted in other prog slogs), more akin to Starlord than to 2000AD or Tornado. A forum thread details changes over the years. This particular prog has a Dave Gibbons cover of Dare and Sondar on the run.
The Nerve Centre does not mention the change in printing at all, though does have a reader write in to inform us all of the Strontium Bitches, a group of girls in South Shields who want more females in starring roles. Tharg’s reply alludes to Judge Death, which won’t be printed for nearly forty weeks – I’d heard Brian could be a slow worker…
Speaking of Brian Bolland, in Judge Dredd Punks Rule! this prog. In the wake of Cal’s reign, Gestapo Bob Harris has declared himself Chief Judge of Southside Sector 41. In the style of the first Judge Dredd story, one judge suggests getting together a squad of judges (50 or so) but Dredd declares that one judge will be enough, to give the street punks back their fear of Justice Department. Hmm, Gestapo Bob surrenders, is forced to say he’s a cheap punk after which Dredd uses water torture on him to force him to say it again – wouldn’t that be excessive violence? I’m sure other judges will be sent to Titan, and cadets expelled from the Academy, for less. Instead of being cubed, Dredd drives towards the South Mutieland Tunnel and expels them from the city for, revoking their citizenship for ten years. Something curious about that though – the word balloon obviously changes style for the second half with “As punishment for your crimes I remove your citizenship.” In one style of handwriting and “You will not be allowed to enter Mega-City One for ten years!” in another. As for Dredd’s hard line with the punks, going on about how citizenship is a privilege, not a right, and that the law must be obeyed – this is a bit rich considering some of the laws that have been in place for the previous 100+ days under Cal!
Robo-Hunter activates the Armstrong Oscillator, blowing out all robot circuitry on the planet, except for one – Smokin’ Joe uses ‘Olsavsky circuits’ from the last 20th century (21st, surely, seeing as Joe left Earth in 2080 and this takes place in the 22nd century). The circuits are affected, though not completely blown out – Slade starts to work, surgeon-like. There’s one thing – before the oscillator was activated, Smokin’ Joe had an idea about something else that would be affected, but didn’t get a chance to remember what it was. This is more of a cliffhanger than whether SJ1 will be saved. Reading through this – I probably haven’t made it quite clear enough that Sam Slade commits genocide here – or robo-genocide if you don’t subscribe to Gottlieb’s resistance movement (don’t worry if that makes no sense – it comes up in Ro-busters this prog).
Strontium Dog, Journey Into Hell Part 7. As you’d expect, Alpha drags himself, Dredd-like, from the flames of the River Inferno, then drags the others out on their chain, though (as Alpha comments) one other body is also dragged out, caught in the chains. That person is Don Dork, Space Trucker – and yes, he speaks pretty much how Ace Garp will be speaking, using Space-Truckers’ language. Oh, also, he’s been burning in the river for two years without dragging himself out or showing any signs of post-traumatic stress. I’ll just reiterate – not suffering the effects of burning, but has actually been on fire for the last two years. Also, continuity-wise, this story takes place in 2181. In the same way that Dredd stories take place 122 years into the future, Strontium Dog stories (at this stage) are taking place 202 years into the future. Rather than head towards the Black Citadel, the preacher opts to return to the City of Lost Souls, and asks Johnny and Wulf to help him by chucking him as far across the river as they can. Next up – the Desert of the Living Dead.
Dan Dare: Servant of Evil – the assault on Eternium continues, starting with Dare and Sondar taking out the force barrier. Thanks to Conrad, I’m looking at this story through the prism of computer games now – and in this episode Sondar gives Dare a boost to climb the city wall, where Dare bats a grenade (called a hand bomb here) to take out the force barrier. A group get inside but don’t have time to pick up any dropped weapons before a Thraxian Extermination Squad arrives. Then Exior gives Dare a side-quest to pick up a device that “awaits the hand of the chosen one” – literally, because (spoiler) it’s the cosmic claw. They skip the first level of this game and go straight to the second level where we’re supposed to get worried as they’re spotted by Thraxians. While the Mekon watches – we already know who he is, otherwise he’d be a mysterious pair of hands on the end of a CCTV screen.
The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammer-stein Part 8 has Gottlieb take centre stage as we see him at work, giving contradictory instructions to different groups of humes and extracting fines under arguable circumstances… During an oil break Gottlieb instructs the escapee Ro-busters to meet him at Greasy Gracies at midnight. Ro-jaws knows the place (as was mentioned in an earlier memoir). Gottlieb is a well-realised character, complete with catchphrase (“Da eyes of da movement are everywhere!”) Casey has a touching moment when he goes on the run from Doctor Feeley Good – afraid following the last operation the malfunctioning robot had performed on him. I’d almost forgotten that all this was being watched by another robot. On their way to Gracies they hear Little Mo’s origin story (he polished a floor leading unintentionally to his abusive owner slipping and falling – not unlike Mayor Amalfi falling to his death in that annual). The robot damaged by Ro-Jaws reports all this to the Robot Investigation Police who are going to call in a few prowl wagons for a bust on Greasy Gracies. Mike Dorey’s artwork perfectly suits both the (figurative) underworld and the more literal underground bar.
The back page is filler – printing a stock image of Starlord that’s been coloured in (and ties in to a letter in the Nerve Centre from loyalist Starlord readers).
Grailpage: this is getting difficult – there are so many great pages. Even after I’ve narrowed it down to Bolland’s Dredd, there’s still so many choices. Most pages of this story contain images which have been used as stock pictures in other media (cards in boardgames, pictures in editorials, etc). The second page has two of these – one of Gestapo Bob Harris about to pass judgement and another of Judge Dredd, which I would have first seen on an editorial page in Eagle Comics about four or five years after this was published.
Grailquote: John Howard (I had to look up which pseudonym John Wagner was using for this one), Judge Dredd: “The street gangs have lost their fear of us, it’s time we gave it back to them… Let’s show them one judge is worth a hundred punks – cosmic or otherwise!” allied with a later thought bubble: “Lawbreakers need a demonstration of our power – and perhaps so do the judges themselves. Morale has been low since Cal – otherwise trash like these punks would never get out of hand!”