2000AD and Tornado Prog 141: Patrick Moore writes for you this prog! Collect the second section of your micro data prog, Starlord’s Guide to the Galaxy, inside!

Still quite a bit of blurb on this cover, but enough space for Carlos Ezquerra’s Slippery Jim, the Corps from the last panel of last prog’s episode and a few spaceships (plus a character we haven’t met yet).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is full of letters of criticism (plus a tharg’s head and a ‘battler of the month’. One Earthlet asks about the Guide to Mega-City One – which I’d completely forgotten about. Tharg replies it may appear in next year’s Judge Dredd Annual – first mention of the replacement for the Dan Dare annual?

Judge Dredd: The Black Plague! Part Two from John Howard and Ron Smith. This is a fast-moving account of the spider attack on Atom Gulch and literally covers it from beginning to end. There’s a few incursions where the spiders gain entry, but (of course) these are rebuked by Dredd. Henry Ford comments that they won’t be able to last much longer, but then the spiders turn from this meal that fights back towards the lights of Mega-City One!

Patrick Moore: Is Time Trouble Possible? This is interesting, though it isn’t about time travel. It’s about how long it takes light to travel and how far away the planets, sun, stars and galaxies are. An example of the facts: light from the sun takes 8.5 minutes to reach Earth (you probably knew this fact, at last roughly); light from Neptune and Pluto take about five hours to reach Earth (this I did not know).

V.C.s this week is from Gerry Finlay-Day and Garry Leach. It’s jarring against McMahon’s style, but the art (of both art droids) is great. I should say here that I first read the V.C.s in the Titan edition – just the first of the two books, so I’m much more familiar with the story up to the point that (SPOILER) the Geeks attack Earth and kill Smith’s family. Ringer is from Saturn – the most famous of ringed planets. Smith makes a mistake through lack of knowledge of a species of Geek (surely this should have been covered in training?) and now has a lot to prove.

Captain Klep continues, with an executioner about to decapitate Klep for stealing the crown jewels. This is easier said than done when you only have Earth axes (and chainsaws) and a Kleptonian neck. Giving up, Margaret Thatcher decides to send him to the ‘worst place on Earth’ – the House of Lords. Erm. Well, it’s slightly better than it was when it was in Tornado, but that’s not saying much.

The Stainless Steel Rat is credited to Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra this week. After a short chase, diGriz is caught by the Special Corps and offered a job (well, ordered a job). There’s a great reaction panel of diGriz laughing his head off while being lead away – finding it so funny that the cuffs he’s wearing are actually unnecessary. On their way to the spaceport, his captor reveals he is actually a reformed master crook (or in the lingo of this story – King Rat). Speaking of kings, King Carlos puts in a great spaceship to take them to the secret base. I can’t think of any truly iconic ships from Carlos, but there’s something about the way he draws them – it’s like he could take a misshapen potato and once he’s finished with ‘texturing’ it it’ll look great. This one looks a bit like an Egyptian sarcophagus, viewed from the head end. In this case ‘a bit’ means ‘barely at all’. He goes through training (diGriz, not Carlos) which he enjoys, but after that comes some time in central records, learning about how the corps work – it’s boring, so Slippery Jim comes up with a sideline to make things more interesting. Breaking in to Inskip (former King Rat)’s room (he could have just phoned, but this was more fun) he reveals that somebody has been constructing an Empire Battleship – Warlord Class – something which has been outlawed since the Great Peace five millenia earlier, and which can only be intended to start Galactic War Number Six. This is great stuff – I’m really going to have to a) re-read the novel this is all based on, and b) buy all the Stainless Steel Rat books I don’t have.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Vañó. Things are picking up pace as this heads towards its climax (though if memory serves, we’re at least two episodes away from the end). Rowse sets the concrete to drown Wolfie, then in the best tradition of cackling villains everywhere, leaves so that Wolfie can work out a way to escape death without being observed. As you may expect, Wolfie uses psychic power to rise above the pouring concrete until he can get a handhold on the edge of the pit (apparently his first use of levitation). Meanwhile, Rowse is threatening workers and then drives an excavator towards the standing stones – not entirely sure why he wants to push the stones over in order to complete his film, but maybe he’s possessed rather than insane? Moley Fisher tries to stop him but is mown underfoot (or rather caterpillar tracks). Beneath the stones, the Wendigore awaits it’s time, come again.

Over in the world of Silversun, Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli bring forth the latest episode of Black Hawk. It was pointed out to me at the Southern Contingent christmas gathering yesterday that Alvin Gaunt may not solely be Alan Grant, but may be an amalgamated pseudonym of Grant and Gosnell (this is partly why I’m just using the names as written rather than trying to decipher each and every name, unless I feel inclined to mention it). Battak shows his death dive, which has only failed once (that time with Blackhawk), Zog gets zognapped by flying beasts and while Battak wants to head off to the castle by any shortcut necessary, Ursa and Blackhawk will not forsake their friend. As Battak has sworn revenge on Blackhawk this means the vengeance-fueld insect has no choice but to tag along. Ursa pokes his head into the zognappers cave (at the top of a cliff) and gets hit on the head for his troubles. Outside, Battak pushes Blackhawk off the cliff to his death (for dying without a soul would doom Blackhawk to hell forever, or something) but Blackhawk grabs hold of Battak in the hope that the bat-insect will save both their lives. Something is watching and gloating because that means they’re coming to it (whatever that means).

The last page of Blackhawk was half a page, for the other half was a new Brian Bolland pic of Luke’s X-Wing tailing Vader’s T.I.E. fighter (in a scene that isn’t in the film, but this is an ad for the Palitoy figures, so any scene is possible). I wonder if Bolland ever drew a Star Wars comic, or even just a cover?

Finishing the prog, four pages (once cut out and folded up) of Star Lord’s Guide to the Galaxy. This has the Schluppen and the Proto-Geek, in new piccies from Mike McMahon on the black and white side. I don’t remember the Proto-Geek, but I’ll guess it will make an appearance in The V.C.s at some point. Pretty sure this is the only appearance the Schluppen will get. The colour side has two pics by Dave Gibbons, both Dan Dare related. I don’t think the Toad-Men illustration has been culled from the comic, but wouldn’t be so sure about The Mekon.

Grailpage: y’know I mentioned a few progs ago that the map of Biol Corp’s HQ could make a good basis for a wargame scenario? That’s nothing to this prog’s image of the town of Atom Gulch, surrounded by Cursed Earth spiders. Ron Smith’s splash page of this prog’s episode is a superb aerial shot (and a spider sits on top of the credit card in a nice touch).

Grailquote: John Howard, Moze Bigleftear: “They cain’t get past the thin red line!” Henry Ford: “I’d feel better if it was a thick red line – an’ I wasn’t behind it!”

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