On the cover, Belardinelli reveals the Great Beast, only seen in silhouette last prog. As with Carlos Ezquerra’s spaceships last prog, I couldn’t say this is a great design for a creature, though it is a great picture – it’s all in the execution of the image. As with Carlos, if somebody else drew this character it just wouldn’t work, Belardinelli’s textures and lines are what really makes it. Before going on – this is another of those early progs I had in my back prog quest, so I’m more familiar with the contents of this prog than those surrounding it. Though I’m not sure if nostalgia has that much effect when I’ve now had all the others for three decades (actually, I think I bought my very last back prog in the early nineties – that would have been one of the pre-prog 50 ones).
In the Tharg’s Nerve Centre the Mighty One mentions an upcoming story What Tharg Did On Sunday.
Judge Dredd: The Black Plague! Part Three by John Howard opens with an archetypal Ron Smith portrait of Dredd with a spider on the end of his knife. This is just fantastic – Smith has really excelled in this story – from that portrait to Henry Ford carrying Dredd through a night-time Cursed Earth, to Henry Ford collapsing (twice), to the gun emplacements on the West Wall, to the resultant firestorm in the Cursed Earth (showing Smith can destroy sections of wasteland with aplomb as well as the city) and finishing with a cross-section of a spider which dug it’s way underground and the horde now hatching from the Cursed Earth one night later. Any page of this episode would look great on the wall (though don’t think that will guarantee it the grailpage spot – though maybe it will).
The third episode of V.C.s this week is from Gerry Finlay-Day and the third new art droid in a row, Cam Kennedy. I know it will settle down eventually, but this suggests there were some scheduling problems – to have three artists in the first three weeks. As last prog, Smith is trying to prove himself. Also as last prog, he messes up by ruining the chance of a clean kill when he commandeers Dwarf Star’s seat at the needle lasers. Dwarf Star pushes Smith out of the way when he gets there and disables the Geek ship, though there are survivors, who escape pod down to Pluto. Jupe and Hen Sho suit up and go down to the planet, because the V.C.s don’t leave Geeks to a certain death, the vacuum cleaners always clean up. In everybody’s bad books, when Smith is the only one who sees more escape pods drop down to the planet from the burning Geek ship nobody believes him. The duo on the planet will not be matched against two geeks now, it’ll be six against two, four of which will have the element of surprise. This leaves Smith to suit up and finally prove himself. Hopefully. The last time I read this was in the nineties, but I think this will get him in to Jupe’s good books, if nobody else (maybe Hen Sho, as Smith will be saving his life too). It hasn’t been so long since Cam Kennedy was illustrating Storm, but his work on this has so much more character (as well as having so many more characters.
Ro-Jaws’ Film Report on Walt Disney’s “The Black Hole”. A largely forgotten film these days, though those of us of a certain age hold the same place in our heart for the two robots, V.I.N.CENT and Old B.O.B. (the former called simply Vincent in the review) that we hold for Huey, Duey and Louey, from Silent Running.
Part Three of The Stainless Steel Rat by Kelvin Gosnell (adapted from Harry Harrison’s book) and Carlos Ezquerra opens with Jim talking about space war (and using the word “grud”). This is such a 2000AD-story I’m wondering how much of it is adaptation and how much is original (as well as the “grud” there’s also M-3 robots versus Mk 10 war droids – which sounds very Ro-Busters / Robo-Hunter to me). I haven’t got the full set of Stainless Steel Rat books but I have the first one so I’ll start reading that tomorrow (a few days ago by the time this gets published). While I’m thinking of it, I think I’ll make a note of what books there are in the entire series. In this one, Jim makes a flamboyant entrance on the planet, breaks into the presdiential planet and finds out that the president is corrupt but does not know about the true nature of the Warlord class battleship being built.
The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Vañó. This episode we find out wy the director wants to destroy one of the stones – it’s to make the other two look like a sacrificial shrine. Wolfie runs towards the scenes but has to project his psychic powers further than ever before, though a moment too late – one of the stones is destroyed. It looks like Rowse is the first to die as a sinister shadowy shape comes out of the Earth.
A sinister shadowy shape also makes an appearance in Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli’s Black Hawk. Though as mentioned already – we’ve seen the Great Beast on the cover! Blackhawk and Battak’s fall is interrupted by the D’Jinn using a mystic hand to transport them the billion miles to the Great Beast’s castle. The Beast threatens to kill Blackhawk and Battak but then reconsiders as it is bored and wants to have fun. This looks dangerously like it’s going to return to the ‘gladiatorial’ theme of earlier episodes, but at least Ursa and Zog are heading down into a tunnel and may face other dangers.
Star Lord’s Guide to the Galaxy has another four mini-pages (or two pages as printed). On the inner cover page, Enila is by an artist I don’t recognise, looks a bit like a xenomorph (from the alien film) and is a microscopic parasite. Biogs are illustrated by Belardinelli, as they should be – though without trawling through all of the early progs I don’t know if this is an original illustration or not. On the outer cover page we get the mutant Billy-Joe – looks like a reprint of a Starlord panel to me. Best of all is Gronks. The picture is an Ezquerra image showing the Gronks migrating (through space, not sure how that works but I think it will come up in a later story). The blurb mentions the home planet of Blas in the Gallego system. Now, a letter in the Nerve Centre will point out that this is an artist. I’d always assumed it was a classical artist (pre-internet days I had no way of checking up on it). I’ve recently found out this is a comic artist, and that they’re still alive to this day and continuing to work, forty years later. Here’s his website – though I wouldn’t view that at work if I was you – it comes from the Frazetta-style school of semi- and totally-naked fantasy characters… Back to the guide to the galaxy – where other creatures have danger ratings between one and five skulls, the Gronks have a danger rating of one smiley face!
Grailpage: I’m going to go for it – as great as Ron Smith and Belardinelli’s work is in this prog, my grailpage is Carlos Ezquerra’s Gronk picture!
Grailquote: John Howard, Henry Ford: “You’re outa your cotton-pickin’ mind, Moze! Wild humans wouldn’t drag me through them spiders again! An’ that’s final!” Dredd points a gun at Henry Ford’s head. Moze: “You got th’ idea, Judge Dredd!” Henry Ford: “Aw, shucks!”