2000ad and Tornado Prog 159: “Dredd to bike… Free me!” A judge’s bike is his best friend. See Dredd clean up in Tomb of the Garbage God!

Ron Smith puts in a great cover with the Lawmaster the star of the show (though Dredd is centre stage).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has the usual mix of reader’s art and letters (plus a short story). The spaceship at the bottom of the page looks a lot like a Chris Foss spaceship – though I suspect the reader had been looking at a lot of Foss pictures and drawn something in the style of, rather than straight-up copying.

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! from T.B. Grover and Ian Gibson. Sam has sneaked (snuck?) into City Hall to search Councillor Armit’s office but comes up blank. As Sam and Hoagy leave, Sam sees lights in the council chamber. At first it appears to be a late night session but in fact is a rehearsal – which becomes apparent when one of the ‘councillors’ malfunctions and the Day of the Droids plan becomes apparent. The entire council has been replaced by robots, who will vote through robot partners for every (human) police officer and at a given signal on the Day of the Droids will kill their partner and form an all-robot police force (under control of people who are obviously mafia mobsters). The smoke from one of the gangster’s cigars sets off the automatic smoke detector in Robostogie and Slade has to take the fight to the floor of the council chamber. Having surmised that the judges had also been replaced by robots, Slade has a lapse of judgement in contacting the chief of police, Frank Murphy – who is, of course, a robot.

The next page is given over to that contest, featuring a ‘planisphere’ containing letters in various typefaces and in which the names of all the planets can be found – though only one in a single typeface. Got that? Good – if you did then send the answer, plus the birthday candles from this and the previous progs to the given address, to arrive no later than 14th April 1980. The first prizes were a plastic gun while the second prizes were the 2000AD Space Quiz Book.

The V.C.s from Finlay-Day and Cam Kennedy. Smith and Jupe make planetfall and find the green battle troopers in disarray – they may have been trained well, but this is their only combat experience, and they’re doing it without a commander. Jupe forms them into a defensive position and as the suns start to sink (which were preventing contact with the ships in orbit) they get a message from the general, on board the V.C.s own ship. Between them the setting of the two suns gives only one hour of night, during which the seventy survivors must get to a hill beyond the city for evac. Jupe orders the troopers to remove their helmets and tunics to set up their own decoy as the survivors start their crawl to the hill.

A couple of half-page ads for other IPC publications (Scorcher holiday special and Battle Action’s 5th birthday issue) and it’s time for Captain Klep and the last episode of the dead taxi driver storyline. I have a vague feeling he might be back for another story or two but I’ve checked the next prog and he’s not in it, so I’ll give a round-up of the strip now. I’m not sure what it is that hasn’t grabbed me about this strip. Maybe it’s because it’s a parody of superhero stories, which I’m not a massive fan of in the first place? I’d probably enjoy the jokes and self-referential humour more if it was sci-fi themed. Out of the three one-page-or-less humour strips we’ve had so far I’d rate Walter the Wobot at number one (due in large part to the art from Bolland and others), second place I’d put Klep and in third place the out-dated racial stereotypes of Bonjo.

I was going to mention the next page of competition winners in the lead-up to the Judge Dredd episode, but then I realised that it also contained the first mention in print of the name of Tharg’s home planet: Quaxxann – which, somehow, Earthlet Andrew Baseden managed to guess. There’s also another noteworthy (for me) name on the list – Stephen Green of Alvaston has won two paperbacks. This is the first time someone I know has appeared – Steve is also one of the people behind the Judge Minty and Search/Destroy fan films.

It’s on to Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 4, Tomb of the Garbage God! by John Howard and Ron Smith. A one panel splash page stretching across the whole centrefold shows dancing dervishes, ten mutant sacrifices, Judge Dredd in chains, mutants selected for their likeness to gods of ancient Egypt and finally the Judge Child and Filmore Faro in their caskets, ready to travel to the spirit world. While the funeral goes on, Brother Bunsen escapes in the knowledge that the slaves will revolt once the death of Faro is announced. He escapes with a prize better than the most expensive garbage… The slave revolt is kick-started when Dredd orders his bike to home in on his signal. Faro awaits death, which comes dressed in black (it’s Dredd) though Dredd can’t stop Bird Boy’s casket being shut, the lid incorporating a spike that pierces his heart. Dredd carries the dead boy out into the storm, where the slaves have now taken control. If you hadn’t guessed what Bunsen’s cargo was, the eagle on the child’s forehead runs away with the rain, for the erstwhile Brother has taken the real Bird Boy. Good to see that Brewster survived (Dredd’s fellow slave who did all the exposition throughout this story) – wonder if there’s any follow-up on what happened to him next? I severely doubt it.

Fiends of the Eastern Front Part 8 from Finlay-Day and Ezquerra starts in 1980 Berlin again, but only for one panel before going back to Hans’ diary entries. Hans and Karl have made it to a German field hospital, located in a chapel. As Karl recovers, two new doctors order their patient to be removed from the chapel – Hans knows as well as we do that the two new doctors are Constanta and Gorgo and it is all he can do to send a grenade to ensure that Karl doesn’t return as one of the undead. Hans digs his own grave and hides within it so that that night when Gorgo arrives above his grave Hans can decapitate the vampire. Hans joins a half-track full of German troopers heading towards Berlin to surrender to the allies rather than let the Russians take them (technically the Russians are allies as well, but we know what they mean). The narrative switches back to the present (well, 1980 Berlin) – interesting how we’ve had two panels from the present in this episode, eh?

Blackhawk from Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli has Kwark the Robot ponder the existence of a soul, and then dismiss it because it deals only in facts, not indefinite theories. Blackhawk rushes off through a blizzard of bozos. Apparently the only way to get past them is to do a few somersaults? I didn’t quite follow it myself. Blackhawk finds the Hell at World’s End without any problems whatsoever – literally he jumps past the bozos and the next panel he’s there. One panel later he’s hearing a white on black voice speaking within his head (should have mentioned the similar style of speaking from Judge Death about ten progs ago – if you read those entries and I do mention it then you know that future me went back to edit them). This lettering is from Peter Knight, and the words themselves tell Blackhawk to step through solid rock, where Blackhawk stands face-to-face with the Soulsucker. I say face to face, more like face-to-eight-drooling-mouths-on-the-end-of-earthworm-tentacle-things. The Soulsucker boasts about how he owns Blackhawk, but Blackhawk is having none of it, recounting how he was taken slave in Nubia (Thargnote: see Tornado Issue 4) and then stolen to become a slave in a gladiatorial arena (Thargnote: Prog 127 – lots of Thargnotes for continuity in this episode) and so Blackhawk rushes to his death, if it is as a free man!

A third of the inside back cover (sharing space with one advert for stamps and another for model kits) trails the next prog’s cover, featuring the Angel Gang.

The outside back cover has the 2000AD Top Ten Sci-Fi Movies No 8: 2001 – A Space Odyssey from 1968 – a ten-year jump from last prog’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. With two entries to go (one of which must surely be Star Wars) will No 9 be pre-1977 or post-1977?

Grailpage: I quite liked Belardinelli’s panel of Blackhawk at the Hell of World’s End, but it doesn’t compare to Ron Smith’s fantastic landscape view of Filmore Faro’s funeral parade – almost like a tapestry of a great event in a mediaeval hall.

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Hoagy: “Don’t mind me, Sam. You carry on and I’ll just take a few notes – see how an ace robohunter operates.” Sam Slade: “With you around, it’s a wonder I operate at all!” shows the wonderful interplay of Sam and Hoagy. Stogie is present, but John Wagner isn’t making much use of him yet.

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