2000AD and Tornado Prog 165: “Wuuurgh!” A nightmare comes to life! See MACH Zero

MACH Zero takes to the cover in an image by Mike Dorey which has nothing to do with the episode of the story inside (despite what the blurb says).

Up to this point, Squaxx dek Thargo was a title which was seemingly awarded to art competition winners who hadn’t quite made the grade to be published. As of this prog, Tharg’s Nerve Centre declares that all those who read 2000AD are now Squaxx! Tharg shoehorns a plug for the return of the Stainless Steel Rat next prog, in an totally irrelevant answer to a reader’s letter.

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter gets chased into the dinosaur enclosure by the robot Slades, who enlist the robo-wardens to use the robo-dinosaurs against the robo-hunter. Human Slade makes short work of them and crucially comandeers a control box, creating the beginnings of his robo-dino army.

MACH Zero. The army throws soldiers at Zero – Zero throws them back. Similar happens with gas shells and tanks. The one thing the MACHMan can’t defend against is an airstrike from three Tornado jet fighters throw at him (still making use of that ‘Tornado’ name). Despite being surrounded by an army, Tommy still manages to break through to hold his father’s hand as Zero dies. For no particular reason, Zero can now speak ‘normally’ and I think we’re supposed to feel good about his dying fighting instead of from the long-term effects of compu-powered hyper-puncture (or is that hyper-powered compu-puncture?) In the double epilogue, un-named female prime minister with a distinctive hairdo orders the resignations of the two government officials responsible and Tommy leaves his foster home through the front door without complaint from the bullying foster family.

Ro-Jaws’ Film Report is a double-page article on The Empire Strikes Back. Ro-Jaws (assisted by Richard Burton) gives a bit of information, dropping new character names and locations such as Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, Hoth, Snowspeeders, Dagobath (sic), Bespin, that bit with the asteroid belt and Yoda. I’m wondering how much of this was garnered from the press pack issued by Lucasfilm / 20th Century Fox at the time, as the concluding paragraph makes it clear that nobody has any idea what the story is going to be – Ro-Jaws / Burton ruminate that Star Wars was a phenomenon when it was released three years earlier – there had never been anything else like it – but that Empire Strikes back may not be so successful. Funny to look back on such concerns forty years later! Oh, and Boba Fett was described as a new character – which is understandable, as not many would have seen the Star Wars Holiday Special, where he made his actual first appearance.

Over to Lesser Lingo for Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 10 and Dredd (plus an amputee native alien police constable) hit wild alien land where the winged aliens curiously live underground (not even in a cliff face). I’m not sure well wings and tunnels work together – they’re not huge tunnels relative to the size of the aliens, like bat caves. The wild aliens aren’t as dangerous as they were touted last prog – a few shots by Dredd and the tribal leader passively hands back the biochip of the president. Turns out that the aliens want the secret of the biochip for themselves as they want the ability to live forever (Dredd states that he isn’t interested in living forever). On return to civilisation the president orders an alien (with wings) so that he can rent the body, having been bitten by the flying bug when he was kidnapped. As he now inhabits an alien body (for ten hours a day – the legal limit on Lesser Lingo) he gives equal rights to ‘his race’ the native aliens. Justice One heads on towards the Hadean System – evoking images of Hades / Hell.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Redondo. After a bit of messing about in the pet shop releasing animals and using telekinesis to resist Nigel and Roger (the henchmen who are not as scary as we were promised last prog) Wolfie gets knocked on the head by a third henchman, Edward. Knocked unconscious, in fact. When he comes to he finds he has a metal collar with a miniature radio-bomb around his neck, so he doesn’t have much choice but to follow the Bogeyman’s orders now.

The V.C.s by Finlay-Day and Gary Leach. The team hyperjump into what appears to be a dead system with a black dwarf star at its centre. Smith takes this as an ill omen after the fates that have befallen Jupe and Ringer, and true enough after a space battle with geeks hiding in a moon Dwarf Star is killed by shots from a missile base on the black dwarf star itself. Smith decides enough is enough – the dishwasher’s orders will kill all of them, one by one – only one thing can be done, Smith must kill the dishwasher first.

The inside back cover has competition winners and a sneak cover story. That cover that didn’t tie in to the MACH Zero episode? This single paragraph story tells of how Zero lost control of his own strength after his twentieth compu-puncture treatment – tearing apart a London secret service building, killing two personnel and injuring a further fifty. This was what led to his being incarcerated in the underground dungeon we first met him in. This is also what led to future MACHMen being having computer circuits imprinted on their skulls.

The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy by Kevin O’Neill continues with No 4: The Hanging Prisons of Sin-Sin. Back on the theme of the real-world seven wonders of the classical world, these hanging structures could come from an episode of Nemesis the Warlock Book I, looking like a Terminator prison (though this one is staffed by an alien prison warder).

Grailpage: there’s a whole load of good art in this prog, though almost all is in service to the story rather than being eye-catching in its own right. When I read this prog the one page which I remembered clearly from when I’d read it many years earlier was the back page – that foretaster of the world of Termight shown in Kevin O’Neill’s prison.

Grailquote: John Howard, Sam Slade: “The God-Droid’s robocreeps are gonna get Slade and triple Slade!” Hoagy: “They’re gonna get Hoagied, too, Sam! Yup!”

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