2000AD and Starlord Prog 114: We Don’t Stand a Chance! We’re Surrounded! But we’ll go down Fighting for Robot Freedom!

Prog 114’s cover has to be the most colourful that both Ro-Busters and Mike McMahon have been so far, with a bright blue sky, red, yellow and orange napalm fire, Ro-Jaws’ green and Hammerstein’s brown showing off the superior printing that 2000AD and Starlord has acquired this month.

The Nerve Centre is mainly taken up with a reader-submitted crossword (I was thinking how dodgy some of the questions and answers were – plenty of filler in there, but then I realised it was submitted by a reader and not in any sense professionally produced). There’s also a ‘computer print-out of The Mighty Tharg’. You may wonder how a child in the 1970s got hold of a computer and a printer. The answer is, they didn’t – it’s clearly hand-drawn on graph paper!

Judge Dredd The DNA Man Part 2 starts with a flash-forward with Walter trying to protect Dredd and Maria while DNA men attack. The next panel flashes back to continue the narrative. I won’t labour the point, but I’ve said before I don’t like this style of flash-forward unless it’s justified – in this case it isn’t justified. Dredd questions Frankenstein over his assistant Beaker and doesn’t believe his answers. Frankenstein continues his failed experiments, ending up with six mishapen clones of himself all of whom have some sort of psychic connection with him (they can follow his commands when they go out on the streets, even though he stays safely back at the lab). That flash-forward scene doesn’t even last half a panel, and Dredd ends up pinned by at least four of the clones. This is a weird one – it’s not Wagner’s best, though if you accept it as a cheesy 1970s horror film instead of a post-Luna 1/Cursed Earth/Day the Law Died Dredd story it works.

Rick Random: Riddle of the Astral Assassin continues to episode 2. Rick works out that the blast that started the story was from an remote control blaster clamped to the wall and then self-destructed, meaning the alibis of all those in the orb are invalid. Rick and Vanda visit Cardan the wizard – sorry, “Hyro Cardan, from Gamda – the Sorcery World!” Cardan is philosophical, with no desires and thus no disappointments and considering death to be “an irrelevant transformation” – though it does make you wonder why he’s bothered to come along to trade talks when he could have stayed at home and meditated instead. For no discernable reason, Rick Random arrests two of the humans, which satisfies Garan Aldo (the big, thuggish one) who storms off and is followed by a sinister shadow (so I guess the boot that kicked Kirzen into the disintegrator wasn’t his).

Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Round-Up contains four reader’s pics, two copied directly from pictures appearing in 2000AD, Starlord or some combination of the two, and two which look more original (one may be Flesh or Judge Dredd dinosaurs with cyber-decorations to become Robosaurs).

In Strontium Dog, Journey Into Hell Alpha uses a new toy – ‘life wire’ – what looks like a mono-filament wire that gets shot into the wall next to Wulf (and can only be handled using special handles so that you don’t slice your fingers off). Mr Sun and Mr Moon show their place in the way of things in the City of Hate – creating chaos, particularly for those who have managed to grab hold of a ticket. Speaking of which, thanks to the intervention of Mr Sun, one of these tickets finds its way into Alpha’s hands (via Fly’s-Eyes). The other citizens of Hate immediately try to get the ticket from him, though unlike the bounty hunters, they don’t have weapons. Or at least they didn’t, until Mr Sun intervenes to even things out a little. Rather than deal with people trying to take their tickets, they lay low until an hour before midnight (the deadline to use the tickets to escape Hellworld). Though – possible plot hole – wouldn’t Mr Sun and Mr Moon have done something about them staying in hiding?

Dan Dare: Servant of Evil isn’t very focused with his cosmic claw, until Myriad gets injured and the anger focuses his beam (and disintegrates a skirmish-boat). Hagnar and the Mekon chat about things and then head out in a futuristic hovering tank thing. While they’re doing that, and the Lystrians are attacking a drilling site, Dare heads into The Outer Grotto where some sort of creature protects the Crystal of Life. Dare isn’t alone though – he has his right hand. (with the cosmic claw on it).

The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammer-stein Part 12 has a lot going on, but not much that can be written about – the Heroes Dozen fight on the ground to give the freighter time to get away. They take over a few trucks in order to take over the anti-aircraft guns. This all gives the freighter enough time to get to the edge of space, where the disguise panels slide away, revealing The Black Butterfly (a spaceship) underneath. Our last view of Ginger and Little Mo shows them looking at Earth below, bidding farewell to Ro-Jaws and Hammer-Stein. The next page cuts back to the ground, a heroic splash image of said droids, plus Gottlieb, Dr Feeley Good and another survivor (so far) seemingly in their final moments. I’d imagine that a reader of the time, fresh from having seen John Probe, Villa, Anteater, most of the Harlem Heroes / Hellcats, Spikes Harvey Rotten, Fergee and others die would believe they really will die in the next episode. Myself, I read this having met Ro-Jaws thousands of years later in the first episode of Nemesis Book IV (and later in the same book, Hammer-Stein) knew that they would survive.

‘Wyatt’ supplies a Star Pin-Up of Tharg, with a script robot, letter opener (and reader) robot and art robot, though unfortunately they’re not the charicatures of real creators we’ll get in later progs.

Grailpage: I thought I was going to pick Carlos’s teal and orange centre spread with Alpha and Fly’s-Eyes about to go over a waterfall, but it’s got to be McMahon’s Black Butterfly emerging from it’s freighter disguise, like a real butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Hammerstein: “How did you manage it, Gottlieb?” Gottlieb: “Da feelers of da movement are everywhere, buddy!”

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