King Carlos contributes a non-story related cover. Nope, spoke too soon – there’s some smaller text saying “Tharg foils assassination attempt! See NERVE CENTRE inside” – close.
The Nerve Centre contains a mercifully short piece of editorialising regarding the ‘cover story’. I’m not saying that every story related to a cover (other than, y’know, actualy comic pages within the prog) are bad, just most of the examples on display. p.s. I’m not a massive fan of text stories in comics, but I’m not automatically averse to them either. Joanne Waldron demands a heroine instead of a hero and Tharg repeats the promise he’d made before – Anderson is still a good three or four months away.
John Howard continues on Judge Dredd: Father Earth Part 3 while Ron Smith takes over from Brian Bolland on art duties. As I think I’ve said before, just about any time there’s a change of artist on a strip it means something has gone wrong somewhere (the same as the occassions when the regular Dredd is replaced with a five or six year old reprint, as we’ll see a few times). Bolland is much lauded but nobody would pretend he’s the fastest artist, so I’m guessing Smith (equally famed for being a fast artist) was called in to fill in the end of this strip. Enough behind-the-scenes speculation, the Power Tower has erupted and now an artifical volcano is spewing forth lava across the Mega-City. I’ve never noticed before, but Ron has put a few cameos into the scene where Father Earth and the Doomsday Dogs enter the city through a crack in the wall – the gang who were exiled from the city after declaring themselves the law following Cal’s reign – nice touch! As you’d expect with a volcano in the city, it’s the main focus. Dredd outruns (or is that outbikes) a lava flood, not the last time that Ron will depict the lawman escaping a torrent of flowing lava (or lava-like substance). Dredd calls in the Holocaust Squad to deal with the volcano – heavily armoured judges with a short life expectancy, they jump in to the inferno on a one-way mission to turn off the main valve. (They succeed), leaving Dredd to deal out some payback to Father Earth, next prog.
Disaster 1990 from Day and Pino may as well be called ‘The Battle of Harrods’. On one side five or six boats full of toughened escaped convicts with machine guns. On the other, Bill with ‘is trusty shotgut. Guess who wins? Wrong! Neither has won yet – there’s a standoff, and the episode ends with Bill piloting the DUKW away from Harrods with the other survivors (and some supplies courtesy of Harrods food hall).
Next up: Alien!.. Alien!.. Alien! a page of reader’s pictures. Five pictures – one is copied from a stock Tharg head (which actually appears on the same page!). Two are potentially copied from other sources. One looks entirely original. Another – I don’t recognise the picture, though I definitely recognise the style – someone has very closely copied an image by Russ Nicholson (probably most famous for illustrating the interior of the first Fighting Fantasy book: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain). The original can probably be found in a copy of White Dwarf, or an early British edition of Dungeons and Dragons (when it was published by Games Workshop).
The A.B.C. Warriors: The Tournament of the Damned. Pat Mills writes, Brett Ewings (sic) draws. The art’s good, but Ewins is playing in Kevin O’Neill’s playground with this episode. Following O’Neill’s designs faithfully (the Knights Martial, the hover-bikes) means his own style doesn’t shine through. It’s interesting watching his and Brendan McCarthy’s styles develop (also Jim McCarthy, though his art doesn’t appear so often). Khaos and Deadlock’s liking for nourishment come to the fore with this episode, setting in place aspects of his character that will stay for forty years. My suspicion about the Knights Martial being inspired by the Knights Templar is justified as Deadlock compares the two orders of knights. Mills gets to recreate a couple of tarot cards, with Hammer-stein becoming a pin-cushion to embody the Ten of Swords. Next prog: welcome to the jungle (alright, it says “Jungle warfare – robot style!”
Project Overkill has Gosnell and Redondo show us an Overkill goon we saw looming the previous episode come out into the open and attack Kenny and the Doc with a flamethrower. Through judicious use of water and electric, Kenny deals with him and the pair steal an old-fashioned aircraft, packed with electronic surveillance equipment. They go to the area that Kenny’s airbus went missing and promptly find a massive heat signature in a canyon (so presumably the Russians would also know it’s there as their spy satellites should have some form of infra-red capability?) No sooner do they discover it than four black anti-grav fighters appear. Next prog: “Terminal dive!”
Dan Dare and Sondar wander Topsoil, get ambushed by thugs and go to a bar (where Sondar smells the Krulgan shape-shifter). Sondar punches a woman who approaches Dare. Dare seems surprised and confused, which is strange as the whole reason they’re there is to hunt for the shape-changing alien that only Sondar (and other Treens) can smell.
The last non-advert feature is half a page of reader’s survey results (revealing names, locations, ages, favourite/least favourite strips and other comics purchased, if any).
Grailpage: Dave Gibbon’s take on the seedy cantina. I’m sure it’s not at all influenced by some sci-fi film that came out a few years earlier.
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Deadlock (while Hammerstein is swinging a sword through his neck): “Like the Knight Templars of old, we have been left alone to discover life’s secrets! We know of the dark path that has many names, but we call… Khaos!”