2000AD and Tornado Prog 166: New this prog! The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World! / Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back – 15 electronic battle command games and 20 action figures to be won!

Brian Bolland draws an Empire Strikes Back tie-in competition featuring R2-D2, C-3PO, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca. They’re looking slightly more like Palitoy toys than film characters…

Tharg’s Nerve Centre. It looks like Bonjo and Klep have truly been consigned to the scrap heap as Tharg announces Flush Gordon, coming to 2000AD. It asks a few questions, some of which will be answered right now, by me: “Did Art Droid Kevin O’Neill draw the pictures?” (Yes) “Will Flush’s name stay the same?” (No). Much, much bigger news for me comes from a reader’s letter where a group called Squaxx dek Bongo (friends of the drum) has been formed. That’s not the big news – Tharg’s reply says that next prog will see the first venture into ‘Comic Rock’.

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra takes over the first spot in the prog. Special Corps agents start to disappear – not going missing but literally disappearing. Slipper Jim is taken to a science laboratory which is temporarily shielded against the cause – actions taken in the past against the corp as a first strike in a time war in the future. When Jim finds out it will be a one way trip he turns down the opportunity, until he realises that his wife is also at risk – and she does indeed disappear while on a vidphone call to him. He suits up and takes the box protecting the scientist in charge so that he’ll be able to construct a time helix once he sorts things out in the past. So the journey begins to 1980…

The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy by Kevin O’Neill continues with No 5: Petrax. Leaving the classical influences behind, this one is a cargo-ship filled with oil which ruptured off the coast of California before igniting, forming a fireball which burns for years. Not the best ‘wonder’ so far.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Redondo. Starting with a recap of the bomb-collar from last prog, we meet the last member of the criminal team (a corrupt scientist) and find out what the evil plan is, because criminal teams like this have to have an evil plan. This is more like a James Bond villainous scheme than anything else we’ve seen in Wolfie Smith so far. The team are going to gain entrances to an underground government station which controls three missile satellites and ransom the British government for an unambitious five million pounds or the cities of Glasgow, Manchester and London will be destroyed. Wolfie lets lose a blast of psychic energy smashing up a few computers but ends up going along with the criminal gang anyway, with the other of £100,000 reward from the Bogeyman (2% of the ransom). These figures seem unlikely to me – even accounting for forty years of inflation, shouldn’t they be asking for hundreds of millions? And offering Wolfie at least a million (not that I’d believe they won’t betray him anyway)?

Not content with just the cover, Brian Bolland provides a Judge Hershey star pin-up. Even if you haven’t read this prog, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this poster before – it has a full-length image of Hershey and a back drop of two portraits of the judge.

The next page is the competition for an uninspiring console game (the single-game kind of consoles) which looks (from the cover image) to be a bit like Battleships, though that’s purely a guess. Runner-up prizes are large action figures. I don’t know how large but there’s certainly not the Palitoy-style figures. This is a multi-part competition and the line at the bottom “Order next week’s issue now!” suggests it’s not specific to 2000AD (because it’d say ‘prog’ if it was).

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 11 by John Howard and Mike McMahon. The judges enter the Hadean System and immediately come across a planet not on any chart – it’s The Hungry Planet! You know the score – encounter a living planet, get swallowed by a living planet. They’re stuck in a giant stomach which has walls virtually impervious to blasters. Stomach acid gives them a twenty minute deadline and Dredd wastes no time in firing an armour piercing nuke towards an acid duct (revealed by X-ray scan). The stomach wall heals behind it so that when it explodes on a one-minute fuse the judges are protected. The front and wing sections of Justice One slide in, forming a more compact vessel. Travelling along an acid duct the deadline now drops to four minutes, but they manage to cut through the thinner vessel wall to a blood vein. Justice One drops nuclear depth charges behind it as it travels towards the surface of the planet / creature, breaking the heart of the creature. All done in one episode, this is a nice introduction to the Hadean System, showing that things will be different here. Or at least it would if the next mini-story wasn’t more mundane – I feel that perhaps the war planet episodes should have been run earlier, before they entered the Hadean System.

A Ro-Jaws Robo-Tale: Ye First Robote by G Rice and B McCarthy. More like a Future-Shock (though taking place in the past) a scientist loses his family to the plague and creates a mechanical son, called Robert. His friend Herr Wilhelm (the Germanic name is relevant) mistakes the name for ‘robot’ but the local superstitious villagers react badly and destroy the robot Robert. This is all a lead-up to the punchline, for the destruction of Robert is being observed by none other than Baron Frankenstein, who ponders whether it would be possible to create life in flesh and blood.

Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! by TB Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade gets into the Roboland Administration block, having little problem taking out the computer-controlled apes. Things are going swimmingly. He even manages to knock out an ape which was about to alert the God-Droid, so he has privacy to find the captured bigwigs, which he does. One level down are hundreds of suspended animation chambers, raised above corridor level. That’s about the time things start going wrong, as Slade trips an alarm. Underneath the chambers are little doors which open to release little robots. I say little robots, I mean Teeny Meks! Back upstairs? That knocked-out ape wasn’t so knocked out, and alerts the God-Droid. The Day of the Droids starts now, before Slade can disrupt things any further!

The V.C.s has taken a break this prog and next, and the inside back cover is given to a trail for Comic Rock: Terror Tube (as Tharg says, “inspired by The Jam’s zarjaz best-selling record… Going Underground!”).

Grailpage: Mike McMahon’s hungry planet – it’d be easy for a planet opening up like an orange before tendrils emerge to grasp at a passing spaceship to be executed poorly, but thankfully Mike carries out this one with aplomb.

Grailquote: John Howard, Judge Larter: “Yehaa! Gusher!” Judge Dredd: “Restrain yourself, Larter! We’ve still got work to do!”

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