Horrible cover – an advert for a ‘flying saucer’ (frisbee by any other name) takes up a third of the cover, squashing Ron Smith’s Dredd into about half the page (between the logo and the offer advert). This prog would have been published on 1 Dec 1980 with a cover date of 6 December.
Strontium Dog: Mutie’s Luck credited to Alan Grant and Ezquerra. I’ve re-read this one more recently but can’t remember where – I suspect it was reprinted in one of the 40th anniversary publications? It’s available to read (free) on Barney. This story references both the previous story in the first panel and the next week’s story in the last panel so provides more continuity than we’re used to. It also introduces the Milton Keynes Mutants’ Association. With the million creds from the Schicklgruber job, Johnny and Wulf head to the orbiting gaming resort of Vega. After meeting the three mutants from Milton Keynes, who have sent their best gambler to win some money to alleviate conditions in the mutant slum they get on with a gambling, drinking and scrapping montage. They next bump into the three mutants as they Milton Keynsians are being robbed of their four hundred thousand winnings (and killed, in the case of two of them). Only Billy Glum survives to lament the homes and school that can no longer be built. Johnny gives his entire half a million creds to the mutant and sends him on his way before he can be attacked again. Finding out that they had won their four hundred thousand at Fat Jax’ Place – Fat Jax having a reputation for taking back anything that customers win on the tables – Alpha decides to pay a visit to the gangster. Using Wulf’s winnings as a stake… Alpha turns the half million stake into eight and a half million until it all depends on the turn of a single card. Jax doesn’t like the odds and tries to shoot Alpha, though reckons without Alpha’s reflexes. Alpha turns over the dead Jax’ card to find that Jax would have won after all, and tips the winnings onto the body (Wulf is not so happy about this). This only makes sense if you assume that Johnny wants to get back to work, and having seventeen million creds would have meant it would take a long time to get back to chasing bounties…
Final Solution: A Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale by Alan Moore and Steve Dillon. You might assume this will involve genocide but you’d be wrong. Instead it’s a comedy starring (and introducing) the man with the two-storey brain himself, Abelard Snazz! Twopp is a planet with a crime problem. The three most senior members of the government travel to the headquarters of Abelard Snazz (on the way to the building they’re manage to get mugged once, but once inside they’re subject to a robbery by the receptionist and another by the lift attendant). After a few moments cogitating, Snazz comes up with a solution – police robots (also called robo-police and robo-cops). The robots looks like they could have been designed by Ian Gibson, the general shape, poise and feet looking like something from Robo-Hunter than, say, Judge Dredd. The robots do well. Exceedingly well. Crime is eradicated. But once traditional police work has exhausted the robot police turn their attention to other laws – laws of gaming (we’re not talking gambling regulations here), labels on mattresses, etiquette and good taste. The Elders of Twopp are at a loss, and prepare to turn once more to Snazz. Next prog: “Another fine mess!”
Dash Decent Chapter 11: The Twit and the Pendulum by Angus and O’Neill, named for the Edgar Allen Poe story (famously adapted into a Roger Corman film). Slug sets in motion a ‘Corman Cutter’ to slice Dale Ardent in half. Unfortunately for Slug, the ship crashes through the roof of the palace and deposits Dash next to Slug. Dash punches Awfulia and snatches back his skin, has a shower and puts on a new uniform, completely ignoring Dale’s situation. He finally notices her, but too late – the pendulum blade cuts her in half (we see the blood). One panel later, a bashful Dash watches on as Zellamy superglues Dale back together, though with her top and bottom half facing in different directions. Pong is hanging by his underpants as the sun watches on, eyes peeking over the horizon, as ever. Next prog: “Home sweet home?” (and it’s the last episode, so presumably?)
This prog cost 14p when it was published. That cover offer of a glorified throwing disc (frisbee is a registered trade mark) with flashing lights costs £4.99 – but don’t worry, if you have to save up, the offer will be repeated in a few progs time (it says)! Then, after a full-page ad for the full range of Fleetway Annuals it’s time for the Nerve Centre. Actually, for interest, I may as well list the collection of annuals: 2000AD; The War Picture Library; Tornado; Action; Battle; Roy of the Rovers; Tiger; Valiant; Scorcher; Daily Mirror Book for Boys and Girls; Lion; Judge Dredd; Score; Speed; Star Lord. In the Nerve Centre one reader points out names of places which have a distinctly 2000AD-ish flavour (Tharg responds that our ancestors must have been impressed by long-lived members of his ancient race and named the geographical areas after them) while another reader (among many) highlights a pre-death of AALN-1 appearance by Burt, though Tharg points out that prog 177 was merely reporting events which happened much earlier, after Burt had started working for the galaxy’s greatest.
Judge Dredd: Mega-Way Madness! credited to Alvin Gaunt and Ron Smith. We’ve seen Elvis the killer-car, we’ve seen mo-pads, now it’s time for Big Mo – gigantic mobile service stations cruising the Mega-Way / Pan-City Highway four miles (!) above ground level. A demolition derby car is also on the highway, though its driver and programmer Tam has programmed it to be a little too eager to smash into things, including the crash barrier. Being pretty cowardly, Tam gets out in the ejector seat where he has a bird’s eye view of the destruction that his programming wreaks when it drops into the control section of the Big Mo beneath. As he’s still drifting down on a parachute I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in Roadrash II / Big Mo’s path before the end of the story (though as I said last post – this may be me remembering rather than predicting). Realising that he can’t just blast the Big Mo, due to the amount of high-explosive fuel on board, Dredd tricks Roadrash II into playing demolition derby with him, and leads it to a condemned section of the city. Not being the brightest of computers, the riled-up robot follows Dredd over the edge where he crashes down to Level 59 below. Where he greets Tam before the pair go up in a massive explosion. There’s a few uncommon features of the last page – the Big Mo dropping over the edge is in a vertical panel, with Dredd’s dialogue sideways to highlight the length of the panel, while the explosion caption (Whoomp!) is picked out in parts of Big Mo drawn by Ron Smith rather than written by Tom Frame. Next prog: Loonie’s Moon! (but see later).
Leeshar surveys the damage to the shanty town in the opening to Alan Hebden and Belardinelli’s Meltdown Man. Leeshar lays out his plan to Tiger Commander to create more predators, more vats and more yujees, all under his control. For once, Stone realises the importance of maintaining the secret that he has survived and his team head off to plan a campaign against Leeshar. The catgirl, wolfman and Stone get dinner, in the form of a gazelle. Later that night Stone continues to study the familiar map of the world which he wants to turn upside down (…) and Liana tells him a few things – like the city in the Western Hills full of gorilla metalworkers who could potentially build AK-47 assault rifles (relatively simple to make and unlike snip guns don’t require a human fingerprint for operation), T-Bone’s Vatman secret society (despite being so secret it sounds like everybody knows about them) and the brigands – from which Gruff comes. With no explanation or forewarning, the last panel has the predators turn up, in force (though without gunships). I hope there’s some sort of explanation for why they’ve turned up next episode – King Seth knows that Stone is still alive, but is keeping this secret from Leeshar.
Malcolm Shaw and Redondo’s Return to Armageddon shows the dead rising to start a zombie plague throughout the ship (though these zombies use blasters, and you don’t have to be bitten to rise as one of the undead). At a loss of what else to do, the captain seals off the sphere that the babies and their entourage are in (the ship is made up of three spheres and an propulsion section) and jettisons it. An attempt to then blast it to pieces fails as the phaser circuits have fused together. Selous thinks this doesn’t matter, as at least the sphere is headed off into deep space. The captain is less optimistic, fearing for the safety of whoever finds it – though giving no impression that he’s going to report this whole mess, or warn anybody…
Exciting news! Next prog, the Nightmare Gun – which, judging by the next prog box in Judge Dredd means it’ll be a two-Dredd story prog next week. That’s not the exciting bit though – we’re going to get “Bonus Thrill Zarjaz colour map of the World of Nick Stone, Meltdown Man. Secrets of the Yujee world!”
Grailpage: I was tempted by an innocuous Belardinelli panel showing off his superb renderings of nature, but then I remembered Ron Smith’s centrespread showing the Big Mo zooming along the Pan-City Highway – putting the ‘high’ into ‘highway’. There’s so much to look at on the mobile service station!
Grailquote: Alan Grant, Wulf Sternhammer: “Vith what you play these cards, Johnny?” Johnny Alpha: “Give.” Wulf: “Ach, Johnny – no! Not again!” later in the same episode: “All our money gone again! Sometimes Vulf think you do it on purpose, Johnny!”