Ian Gibson puts a very golden God-Droid on the cover, along with a few tiny scrub-bots.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre gives a prog number for the return of the Stainless Steel Rat – 166.
Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! from TB Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade lures out the mob droids until twenty cars full of the robots have left the God-Droid (relatively) undefended. A bit of shouting and shooting in ‘mirror smoke’ and Slade has rescued Legs Limpet. This is one of those intermediary episodes where not much actually progresses but we have a bit of fun getting there.
M.A.C.H. Zero from Ian Rogan and Mike Dorey. The story begins with a prologue set in Downing Street. The un-named female prime minister sets Sir Miles Rathbone and Doctor Moxan on the trail of Zero. Considering what happened to John Probe, the title of this story The Final Days is ominous indeed. Zero has found peace as a railway porter at a station somewhere between Paddington and Penzance. He is tormented by nightmares in his sleep but has managed to control his temper during his waking hours. He even manages to stay calm when he sees a face which reminds him of his long-lost son Tommy. Initially he pushes this recognition aside but is then spurred to go West in search of the boy he saw – just in the nick of time as dramatic timing picks that moment for the government to catch up with him as a team arrives to drug him and get him in an ambulance (I can’t imagine that plan would have worked if they’d caught him at home). I’m glad Zero is back, and I’m doubly glad that Dorey is illustrating his further (concluding?) adventures.
Spurred on by the copyists (particularly those who copy from non-2000AD sources which are more difficult for Tharg to trace), the next story is Tharg and the Cheat! (Was it You?) – no script droid given, but art by the now regular TMO artist Ezquerra. I’m very familiar with this one, as I would have owned a copy of the Return of the Jedi comic featuring the story that the image was copied from (in Prog 149). The only droid with personality is AALN-1 (who of course wears a tam o’shanter and plays the bagpipes). Tom Frame is mentioned, but the droid we’ll know from the Robin Smith starscan is nowhere to be seen.
Next up is a half-page given over to the confusingly matched Mek-Quake’s Puzzle Corner. My copy has had answers written in pen by a previous owner of this comic
John Howard is joined by Brian Bolland on Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 7: The Ghost of Echo Bravo 4. We’ve had lots of new characters lately, and this episode is no different – introducing readers of 2000AD to Judges Larter (the pilot), Lopez (engineer), Winslow (from accounts) and Hershey. Winslow departs after three panels while Lopez and Larter will be around for a little longer. Hershey, of course, will be around for considerably longer – 39 years, in fact. Despite sharing the centrespread with afore-mentioned panels, Bolland manages to take up about as much of the page as possible with the inaugural picture of Justice One. The story then slips a gear as it heads into Komputel territory, though this murderous computer at least has a reason for its killing spree (it was about to be replaced – it couldn’t have that – it had many useful years in it…) I’ve read that Hershey was intended to be a female counterpart to Dredd – which is why she has a helmet-shaped hairstyle. She gets off to a good start – Dredd is the commanding judge on the Justice One, but she is just as capable as Dredd is. Dredd’s opening ‘captain’s log’ entry mentions Lopez’s moustache, as does that closing the episode, Dredd’s obsessed! A nice touch this episode was the background appearance of a robot similar to those with which the Killdozer was equipped.
The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully, with Redondo taking over from Vañó on art duties. This intro has Wolfie at a flea-pit cinema watching the film of his previous story, the recovered film released as Night of the Carnivore. Losing his temper, he’s chucked out of the cinema, triggering a psychic flare-up where he can see through clothes and buildings, moves objects, levitates and accidentally causes a gold watch to smash through a window into his hand. It wouldn’t be so bad, but this happens in a busy high street and he’s soon on the run from a posse led by the police.
Judge Dredd Readers’ Art. The most derivative reminds me of the opening image of Mugger’s Moon two or three years earlier, though not enough for me to dig the prog out and check.
The V.C.s form Finlay-Day and Gary Leach. The dishwasher is about to carry out the death sentence on Smith and Ringer when he is interrupted by General Moore dressed as a geek. Their death sentence is commuted, as long as they join a new geek infiltration squad – almost certainly a suicide mission. Ringer shows he hasn’t changed, cutting Smith’s hand with a razor while pretending to let bygones by bygones while Jupe ‘watches’ on. As their mission begins the two are separated by freak weather conditions. By the time Smith finds Ringer, the latter has been caught by geeks. Will Smith risk all to rescue the person who tried to kill him only an episode or two earlier? Only time (and next prog) will tell.
The third new story or feature occupies the back page, and it’s Kevin O’Neill’s 7 Wonders of the Galaxy: The Colossus of Rodium. I remember that I’m going to like some of these, but I don’t know how many – it’s getting off to a good start though I wonder how derivative the others will be of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
Grailpage: Tempted by one or two of the Mike Dorey MACH Zero pages, but it’s got to be the centrespread again, hasn’t it? The first appearances of Justice One and Judge Hershey? Bolland does superbly, again.
Grailquote: John Howard, Echo Bravo 4: “They were going to swap me for a newer model, you see. I couldn’t have that. I still have many useful years left in me…” Menacing and more than a little reminiscent of HAL.