Not a classic Bolland cover this time – it’s Mike McMahon’s turn. Available on a T-shirt near you just about every decade since this prog came out (as far as I know – I don’t have access to a database of which Tshirts were available when).
Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains a teaser for the next mega-epic (described here as an “epic-style adventure like The Cursed Earth”) – Tharg promises it’ll be on the centre pages in about two months. The Judge Child is coming, but there’s another little-known story to get out of the way first… In an answer to a letter, Tharg reveals that script droid Gosnell will be starting on the adaptation of The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World – even as the first novel is still being adapted! Speaking of which, this is the prog in which Harry harrison writes in to point out the mis-printing which led to the half-page intro appearing after the first episode, instead of on the page preceding. He won £3 for his efforts. Not for the first time, reader’s art is very reminiscent of the xenomorph from Alien…
Judge Dredd: Alien Seeds from John Howard and Ron Smith. I barely remembered this one, maybe because it’s quite similar in some ways to earlier plant-based Dredd tales (and also it’s sandwiched between some classics). Alien seeds are the latest craze in Mega-City one – what’s that, the fourth one we’ve been shown? And the second plant craze! They grow quickly then transition from a plant to animal stage, becoming mobile and – of course – bitey. When multiple deaths are attributed to the packs of ravenous plants roaming the streets, Dredd goes to the spaceport and realises the only ships that aren’t checked are government ships. This is a very fast-paced tale, so before long Dredd is on a space farm, and not much later two of the trio responsible have been killed by the plants (getting careless due to Dredd’s presence), while the other one willingly gives themselves up into custody. Ron Smith puts in some great alien plant-animal designs, mainly revolving around teeth. Unfortunately the most notable thing about this story is the next prog tag, for it trails that little-known story I alluded to earlier: “Judge Death passes sentence on Mega-City One!”
The back cover has a Superman anti-smoking advert – the reason I mention this so close to the beginning of the prog blog is that the Warriors of the Future postergraph has been shuffled between the first and second stories – don’t worry though, it’s still managed to retain its colourfulness. This prog is No 4: The Battle Troopers – apparently a rival to the Starship Troopers. Can’t say I remember seeing them in The V.C.s, though I seem to recall there’s a fight between different factions of the armed forces when they go to Mars? Bill leFevre includes some nice touches such as an emergency suit repair kit which is absolutely useless but must be carried due to regulations.
Fittingly that postergraph faces directly on to this prog’s episode of The V.C.s from Ian Rogan and Gary Leach. This one starts with a cold open showing Smith and Jupe outside the ship and being swarmed by young Geeks. It’s a flash-forward and the second page goes in to how they got into that situation. The latest Geek tactic is to implant soldier eggs into asteroids (or hives disguised as asteroids) and send them to human space to mature. One such hive is destroyed during a weapons check, though not the contents… During the asteroid explosion some debris has damaged the V.C. ship and weapon systems, leading to that splash page with suited up V.C.s defending the ship from the outside while Ringer fixes the damage. Being swarmed isn’t all it’s cracked up to be so everybody retreats inside, followed a few Geeks…
An alien design page next with four piccies and a paragraph of text. Tharg really must have gotten a lot of responses to the call for entries, huh?
Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales: It’s a Knockout! from Oleh (no idea who that is) and Casanovas – who I don’t think has appeared since Starlord days? Gree-C, a vaguely C3PO-shaped robot saves a vaguely R2-D2-shaped robot from an attack by bullies, telling them a story into the bargain. Some humans are bullying Gree-C while the robot is carrying out his job in a restaurant when a strange comes to his rescue – looking like nobility, dressed in a cape and more extravagant clothes than the bully. The stranger, who’s obviously going to turn out to be a robot that looks like a human, offers a competition where the human bully and his robot victim carry out four contests, two picked by each side. If the human wins even one contest then he takes home 1,000 credits. If Gree-C wins all four contests then the bully dies. The bully and his friends do, of course, cheat. Gree-C manages to win the first contest but the bully puts a (literal) spanner in the works. This looks like it was created for Starlord and has been split into (I presume) two parts. Part of the reason I think this is because the two bits not by Casanovs are the intro pic of Ro-Jaws and the end pic of Ro-Jaws – the latter looks like a Dorey pic to me.
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. As in the novel (I know I said I wouldn’t constantly compare the adaptation to the novel, but it turns out I lied) Jim takes a concoction which replicates the same anti-social (psychotic) mental state which drives Angelina – which results in a bar tender and a few patrons being injured. Unlike in the novel, Jim isn’t shown sending an anonymous donation to the injured. Like the novel, Jim then proceeds to mingle with high Frieburian society, though in this comic does it by winning a tournament by jousting unconventionally. The end result is the same – once in the king’s presence the Graf Bent (his cover) alleges that the king stole land from the Graf’s family, ending up arrested.
Hammerstein may have had quite a run on ABC Warriors, but Ro-Jaws gets the supplementary appearances, with a Robo-Review of books. First up is the encyclopaediac Exploring the Universe, then The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, The Delikon by H.M. Hoover, Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of Alien (apparently I liked this one more than Ro-Jaws did) and Dawn Gerger’s Superman Search-a-Word Shapes.
TimeQuake makes its 2000AD (and Tornado) debut, courtesy of J. Adrian and Redondo. Where to start on this? The basics first – a group of time travellers land on a ship being attacked by pirates instead of in the audience at a Boomtown Rats Top of the Pops appearance in 1979. One of the group leaves a message carved on the cabin wall which is picked up by time operatives in the 29th century and beamed back to 85 million years in the past where Blocker and Vinda pick it up. Blocker goes through a warp with a blaster and rescues Suzi Cho and the rest of the group. It turns out she’d infiltrated the organisation running cut-rate time tours as it’s threatening the fabric of time. That’s the story, now the pros and cons. First is Redondo’s art – that’s great, as ever – much better than putting the artist on Project Overkill! One line in this story aged about as well as that character called Rolf Harris the other week – a reference to Suzi Cho calls her a “beautiful slant-eyed girl”. Problematic… As I say, it hasn’t aged well. Finally, rather than come up with a convoluted method of sending a message to Time Control to rescue her when she’s on a planned operation, couldn’t she have had a personalised time band, or at least a signal? The team end up using a time-tracer to latch on to her temporal coordinates anyway, so they could have just been prepared to do that without the message. This is reading not unlike a Trans-Time Future-Shock from a year or two earlier so far.
Black Hawk from Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli has BB (the bat-man) distract the slaves while Blackhawk approaches Zog and the others. Freed, Zog zogs, while Ursa Chop-Chops. BB convinces his fellow food to become the eaters, though as they don’t know how to fight, they take their lead from Zog. Literally – Zog hits slaves with his club while shouting “ZOG!” and the BB/bat-men hit slaves with whatever comes to hand while shouting “Zog!” Blackhawk is shown where the bloodblade may be found – at the top of the slave mound. Battak decides to fly off, forgetting his vow to kill the soulless Blackhawk. Ursa and Zog, of course, accompany Blackhawk towards the slave mound – remember this is all a ploy by the Great Beast…
Just have to mention the first glimpse that earthlets got of Judge Death on the inside back cover (flanked by a stamp advert, of coruse).
Grailpage: Belardinelli’s page of the BBs mimicking Zog’s zogging.
Grailquote: Alvin Gaunt, Ursa: “You get here just in time for sacrifice…” Blackhawk: “There will be no sacrifice now, bear!” Ursa: “Ho yes – Ursa sacrifice rotten slaves to great god of Chop-Chop!“