2000AD and Starlord Prog 122: More Mind-Blowing Than Ever! We’re No 1 Across the Universe!

Following standalone Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland covers, this week’s prog has a painted spaceship by Kevin O’Neill. Unfortunately there’s so much text on the cover that the image has been cut to half size.

The Nerve Centre contains instructions on assembling the robo-booklet, so this week’s back cover must be the last piece.

Judge Dredd: Father Earth is a multi-part story starting this week, though doesn’t have a ‘part one’ to clue us in. John Howard and Brian Bolland bring “Behold the Doomsday Dogs!” to us, starting at a trading post in the Cursed Earth. As well as Doomsday Dogs we’re introduced to Father Earth, a mutant on whom plants grow, who has a bone to pick with cities and technology. In conference with Chief Judge Griffin and Judge Dredd, Deputy Chief Pepper decides the 10,000 followers of Father Earth aren’t anything to worry about, and that they should all concentrate on the mayoral election taking place that day. Meanwhile, at the Power Tower, a robot reveals that the central bore hole tapping red-hot lava to generate electricity goes one hundred miles below the surface (it’s actually more like 1,800 miles – maybe the decimal place is in the wrong place). The Dogs, disguised as monks, have gained access to the geothermal power station and proceed to kill the robots within so that they can plant bombs. As the alarms are sounded it just happens that Dredd is passing by. He immediately guesses that it could be mutielanders causing the emergency, next prog: “Power Tower erupts!” This is a great episode, hitting the (Cursed) ground running and introducing concepts that will live with us for decades (even if they don’t get shown all that often). Howard/Wagner enjoys taking pot-shots at politics and politicians, including a call-back to Mayor Grubb’s appearance in The Day the Law Died (Grubb now gets the given name ‘Jim’. I’m not sure what the gimmick is with Grubb’s opponent – her name is Myra Schryll, her campaign slogan is “Put a doll in City Hall” and she looks a bit like the Statue of Liberty. I can’t tell whether she’s supposed to be a robot or a person in a mask.

After Dredd is a half-page feature on Neil Armstrong, on the 10th anniversary of his landing on the moon, which is strange considering that just four months ago (as of writing this blog post) we celebrated the 50th anniversary of said landing. This is where some readers start feeling old (but not me because I didn’t read this prog when it first came out).

Finley-Day is on Disaster 1990 and Pino is back. Despite talking about leaving the spear in last episode, his first panel here states that he has taken the spear out – maybe an editor pointed out just how impractical it was to go fighting with a massive spear sticking out of your side – or even how impractical it is walking through a doorway without having to perform manoeuvres familiar to anybody who has had to shift furniture around a corner in a hallway. It doesn’t lessen enjoyment of the strip but living in London I have to try to figure out where Savage is when he surveys the city, trying to locate his stolen DUK-W. He’s in a high-up observation platform and Post Office Tower / Telecom Tower / BT Tower is in the background when he finds it outside the Bank of England. While the tail of the thought bubble trails off-panel I’m assuming he is supposed to be in the tower, particularly as the stairs he races down are in a circular building. After a few hours Savage has scrambled across rooftops and reached the Bank where he finds Bamber with a blowtorch. Jumping to conclusions, two hoods get the jump on him and force him to join Bamber in cutting their way into a vault. Savage hears something from within the vault and realises their only chance it what lies within (because their life expectancy after opening the vault is not great with the two thugs pointing harpoons at them). Rats have made a giant nest of the banknotes within. Next prog: “The Battle of Harrods!”

We’re already at the centre pages – this goes past much quicker than issues of Tornado! The A.B.C. Warriors has the second part of Mongrol’s origin/recruitment story (a staple of ABC Warriors, including when they pop up in future thrill Nemesis in about five year’s time). Mike McMahon illustrates Pat Mills’ words, starting with a glorious full-body portrait of Hammerstein in lush purples and blue before descending into reds, oranges and yellows as he meets Mongrol. As well as having to go it alone for hitherto unexplained reasons (something to do with respect), Hammerstein also feels he has to go up against Mongrol without weapons. Or as the thought dialogue goes: “WITHOUT WEAPONS!” For some reason I’d assumed the Volgan War finished with the Retreat from Volgow, but not the case, for Hammerstein and Mongrol’s fight gets broken up by Volg Kommandos dropping from the sky, aided by Monkey bombs (which will make an appearance in a Future-Shock, if I recall). Hammerstein doesn’t convince Mongrol to join them, but does save Mongrol’s life, so Mongrol agrees to go along with them, for a while. A nice touch is how Mongrol has modified himself with stolen guns from a weapons dump, by incorporating them into his body. Next week is my favourite ABC Warrior…

Gosnell and Redondo continue Project Overkill, and we finally find out what the things is as Kenny Harris reads the file that his friend died for. Mostly covering a diagram akin to that cutaway of the British Resistance HQ back in the first Invasion story we find out that the American president approved the Overkill computer, designed to store every piece of knowledge known to humanity and built at a location so secret even the president didn’t know where it was. As it was switched on, the roof collapsed, trapping (and as far as the outside world is concerned, killing) all those who knew it’s location. One car chase later and Kenny has killed a few Overkill goons. Examining the body of one he sees wires implanted into his skull, allowing the Overkill computer both to control the goon and set him on fire if the evidence needs to be disposed of. Kenny reckons that the two days he was unconscious was more than enough time for him to have received an implant and unless the next episode starts with him checking for operation scars I guess we’ll have to go with that.

Dan Dare continues for at least a few progs more from Tom Tully and Dave Gibbons. Dare and Sondar, trapped in the court chamber lure down a couple of jetpack-wearing window cleaners. Sorry, grav-packs, as they’re named a few panels later. As the gravpacks are on the verge of overheating, the duo steal a prototype fighter and deep-space cruiser that’s was just sitting on a launch pad, fuelled and armed. Convenient, huh? It’s a nice design, less blocky than the Eagle craft from Space Fortress days.

Finishing the prog is the last part of the Book of Robots, with one mini-page on a bomb disposal robot. and the other completing the headline ‘Tin Stars!’ featuring drawings of a robot from Harry Harrison’s War With the Robots, Tobor the Great (never heard of that film), Lloyd Biggle Jr’s The Metallic Muse and Isaac Asimov, next to the 3 Laws of Robotics. Finally on the back page is a board game designed to sit in the centre spread of the assembled booklet. Robo-booklet. The game has an original pic of Greasy Gracie and the other four images are trawled from the pages of Starlord, 2000AD and any combination thereof. Around this pic is the type of Ludo/Snakes and Ladders-style game which any sub-editor could knock up in an hour or two. Entertaining enough for a 1970s children’s comic (though I’d dispute “Oil break. Double your last throw.” – surely if you’re having a break you should miss your next go? And “Chased by war droids. Move on 3 spaces.” should move you back three spaces?

Grailpage: Astute readers of this blog will have guessed that I’m going for Mike McMahon’s opening pages to this week’s episode of ABC Warriors, showing probably the best portrait we’ve had of Hammerstein so far (I always preferred his ‘war’ head).

Grailquote: John Howard, Mayor Jim Grubb: “When Mrs Schryll and the rest of her party were cowering from the tyrant Cal, I stood up to him! I showed him I wasn’t chicken!*” “*See prog 92 – Tharg.”

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