Tough if you don’t like Mike McMahon’s art style, as following last week’s ‘CRIME’ cover, he’s back for a wraparound cover showing an otherwise unreported-upon civil war which Dredd took part in. So, without any explanation, what’s on the cover? Dredd takes centrestage on the front half, leading a team of uniformed non-Judges (could be citidef, could be some form of Mega-City army). There are two flags, one with a red star on a white eagle on a red background (the colours don’t matter too much, as the people in that section of the picture are in yellows and oranges). The other flag has a white saltire on a light blue background, red eagles in the corners and yellow (assuming they represent gold stars due to printing process) in the segments. If we suppose the city that Dredd is fighting against is Texas City (why else would the emblems feature a lone star with the eagle?) then both flags would seem to represent them. Oh, and also there are hills in the shape of those cores of dormant volcanoes that you always get in Westerns in the background (just looked it up – apparently they’re called plugs – the most famous of which is probably Devil’s Tower, as seen in films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The ground force opposing Dredd’s team are wearing the exact same uniform (if any headgear is shown then it’s a helmet, not the cowboy hats we’ve seen) though the basic bodysuit is grey instead of Dredd’s blue (representing black in pre-1990s comic printing). Like Dredd’s team, the ones who aren’t judges could be regular army or citi-def style militia. This is the second time I saw this image used – the first will be in a few years time in a Judge Dredd annual (remember, I started in the 300s and started working my way back in collecting the progs). I didn’t notice it on the previous wraparound, but this one also features ‘activation instructions’ on the back, which will remain on future wraparounds right up to my own time of reading 2000ad.
Prog 178 is being touted as a jumping on prog (though the prog number isn’t mentioned in this Tharg’s Nerve Centre). One reader submits a private list of their favourite characters (it’s not private if you’re sharing it – though it might be personal). Another reader realises that Dredd never takes his helmet off – Tharg offers a prize to the Earthlet who comes up with the most convincing reason for this.
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. Slippery Jim follows the time energy detector though it appears that He is prepared (Jim supposes He has a time energy detector detector). …when he comes around, Jim is subjected to He monologuing about his plan to destroy the entire North American continent with a two billion megaton thermo-nuclear weapon. Jim is strapped down and has extensive torture to look forward to – fortunately for him he has a ‘berserker tooth’, packed full of strength-, speed- and rage-inducing drugs. During He’s turn to lay around unconscious, Jim deactivates the bomb and plans to kill He in cold blood (despite being a rat, this isn’t the kind of thing Jim does). He is ‘something more than human’, and interrupts Jim’s cogitations, skipping to the time helix and escaping (Jim shoots him as he leaves and assumes that He may have escaped but will turn up at his destination dead – but obviously we know better). Jim has saved the world, but has no way back home (well, he does, as he has the machine that contains Coypu’s knowledge and can build a new time helix, so we know what’s going to go on next prog). The evil megalomaniac’s headquarters in New York was in a building emblazoned with the name “IPC (America)” by the way.
The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Redondo features the opening of the door to the yellow mist. Wolfie discovers a new ability – using a psychic aura to repel the nerve gas style effects. This gives him a ring-side seat to watch what it does to the other people in the room – namely, turn them into a bunch of “screaming, suicidal nutters”. Watching them tear into each other, and the survivors apparently collapse, doomed to die in a heap as Wolfie shuts and bolts the door. He’s not out of the woods yet though, as the alarm has been raised.
The advert page has one for Speed, including a voucher to get in to Tucktonia (I’d never heard of it – an early British theme park, from before Alton Towers had opened). There’s that Humbrol model paints advert again, the ever-reliable stamp advert and a reservation coupon.
Mike McMahon is taking over the prog – a 2000AD Star Pair-Up shows Butch Dredd & the Betelgeusian Kid (Tharg in a judge uniform).
Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 14 by John Howard and Ron Smith. This episode may as well be called ‘War Wheels’, as they take centre stage on the centrespread. This is almost entirely an action-based episode, with a little bit of commentary on sports commentators (presumably in some way parodies of actual 1970s / 1980s TV presenters). The two judges succeed in getting the flag to the enemy mound. Such is the bloodlust of planet Agros that players may not plant the battle standard until all enemy players have been killed (Dredd points out that he was declared a ‘natural hazard’, not a player). The day’s game finished, Dredd gets the information he needs to locate the Oracle Spice – it can be found on the planet Necros (not at all a foreboding name there).
The V.C.s by Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy starts with a view of Smith and Loon’s lifepods – looking not unlike the GI’s drop pods from next year (or the year after?)’s Rogue Trooper. There’s a little bit of fighting on a moon orbiting the geek world until Loon gets hit by a geek fighter (though technically we don’t see Loon die, so it could just be teh smoking foot of his geek disguise we see). The death of one of the VCs isn’t the main narrative drama from this episode though – it’s that the geeks have taken a leaf out of the startroopers book and dressed up a few geeks as humans – Hen-Sho, Loon and Smith, to be exact (no, there’s no explanation on how they could get such good likenesses of people that they only encountered in long-range fighting). The VCs will take a week off and be back in prog 171.
Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter Day of the Droids! TB Grover and Ian Gibson continue the fight between the Hollywood Greats and the robo-mobsters. The mayor and Molotov come to terms (exactly what the agreed-upon terms are remain hidden for the time being) and Brother Roadworks gives the signal, which blares out across the city. Robots everywhere shirk their duties (leaving some humans to die in burning buildings) to assemble at Roboland. A full page splash of the AAU (Amalgamated Android Union if I remember correctly from ten or fifteen progs earlier) between the Roboland parthenon, a Dracula castle and beneath the gaze of two Roboland sphinxes later, the battlelines have been drawn and the AAU go to war against the mob.
Grailpage: it’s the wraparound cover. If a centrespread has a natural advantage in gaining the grailpage accolade then wraparound covers have an advantage over them.
Grailquote: John Howard, referee: “According to the rules, no player may plant the battle standard before all the enemy have been killed!” Judge Dredd: “More slaughter for the folks at home, eh? Well, read your rule book again, creep – it said “no player”. I’m not a player – I’m a natural hazard!“