Belardinelli takes to the cover for the first time since Blackhawk I think? This one’s alright, though the colours do it no favours – Lianna is yellow with brown hair and blue lips and eye shadow while T-Bone is green. Gruff at least looks as grey as you’d expect a wolf to be.
Strontium Dog: The Schicklgruber Grab Part 2 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra (the first episode wasn’t named, to keep the reveal in the last panel a surprise). After being filled in on their quarry, Hitler, to be retrieved from a point after history loses track of him, Johnny and Wulf are to bring him back to the 23rd century to face punishment by the Committee for Ultimate Retribution. Before they leave they see that the other Stronts who had tried to cheat their way to the bounty have not given up yet… Along with the Gronk they enter the Time Slip to find themselves in Berlin under siege. The narrative says that Hitler’s bunker was impregnable, which isn’t far off the truth – it took the East Germany government two years to demolish the thing, and that hadn’t even been their first attempt. Of course, the East German government of the 20th century didn’t have a number 3 cartridge. Johnny Alpha does.
The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and John Richardson has Matt Tallon facing an enemy player with a droid gun, convinced that Tallon is a robot (or at least that’s what he says). For the third time we’re told that players of Street Football may use lethal force to deal with androids on the opposing team. For the third time we’re told which rule it is that allows this, and for the third time the rule in question is completely different to the others! There’s a few top-down shots by Richardson which really give the impression of tactics being used. Not quite at the level of a basis for skirmish gaming like we’ve seen in ABC Warriors and The Black Plague but enough to give me ideas… The match ends with Slater’s Slayers losing badly, though not as badly as before Tallon turned up.
Dash Decent Chapter 5: The Menace of the Mud-Monsters! by Angus and O’Neill. Dash escapes Pong’s palace to avoid Pong’s daughter, Awfulia and encounters compost-men – which has mildly amusing dialogue but serves only to fill up half a page.
The Nerve Centre is properly two pages for the first time, featuring letters and pictures on both pages. When they were both requested I had doubts that many reader’s would answer the call to write short (500 words-ish) stories, but I stand corrected. They’ve been a mainstay of the Nerve Centre for much of 1980. This one has some colonists being dropped on a verdant players. Officers Adam and Eve, don’t cha know.
Judge Dredd: Aggro Dome by Alvin Gaunt (because John Howard is now working on reception, remember?) and Mike McMahon. This is a great one-shot exploring fads and crazes in Mega-City One. Citizen Houston has launched the Aggro Dome, intended to allow mega-citizens to work off their aggression in a safe environment. Though that all goes to pieces when one customer runs out of money but is still full of rage, taking it out first on a robot, then Houston himself. Dredd stands around watching the powder keg about to blow before stepping in to take action. It being a dome, Dredd’s solution is to deflate the structure on top of the not-quite-yet-rioting citizens.
Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales: Tomorrow Brings Doom! by G.P. Rice and Dave Gibbons. This is a simple time paradox – a causal loop, in fact. A scientist has created a time machine to test his theory that time is a loop, though finds that organic matter disintegrates when it travels through time. As he can’t go himself, he constructs a self-sufficient robot to go in his stead. The robot finds a time barrier once the Earth is destroyed (something to do with subjective reference points) and so travels back to a point where Earth does exist. That point is a mere thousand years into our future. The robot finds a dome with a plastic book describing how the star shaped Metal Eater had destroyed the human race and the Earth. Returning to the present, the professor and HG (the robot) muse on where the parasite came from – if only they knew then they could prevent the desturction of the Earth. Here’s the causal loop bit – the star-shaped creature is attached to HG’s foot!
Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Belardinelli starts with the dam bursting. Luckily there’s a rope ladder at hand, not that it helps Percy the elephant. Liana and Gruff don’t seem to last long either (there’s not much suspense though, as they’re all back two pages later). Stone demonstrates that minkmen rule more through fear than ability and T-Bone takes Stone’s lead. Meanwhile, the three yujee’s who took a dip have crawled on to the river bank ready to be attacked by Leeshar’s gunship. Though Percy has nothing to lose now and hurls a tree trunk at the gunship, irreparably damaging it (though Tiger Commander fatally wounds Percy seconds later). Massimo’s artwork is amazing as the gunship crashes in the yujee shanty town and continues with Tiger Commander dealing with a spokegoat, inspired to rebel by Stone’s escape. King Seth predicts that Kineta may lead Stone towards the truth – about which more later. Much later – probably about twenty progs at my guess.
On the back cover / advert pages we get a trail for a Torquemada pin-up and The Butcher in Meltdown Man. Sharing the pages are reservation coupons, stamp ads, “Two great papers join[ing] forces” Tiger and Speed and on the back is that Hubba Bubba Gumfighter ad again.
Grailpage: Mike McMahon’s centrespread showing the multi-level interior of the Aggro Dome is superb. Other panels feature classic salt and pepper shaker citiblocks with tufts of greenery poking out of random balonies and domes.
Grailquote: Alan Grant, narration: “It was impregnable… In 1945, maybe. But not today – for today is the day of the Strontium Dog!”