Last year we got a profile pic from Bolland as Dredd won the Eagle award, this time it’s a front-on portrait by McMahon (with trademark McMahon pepper pot blocks in the background, complete with rooftop gardens and seagulls). We don’t get so many seagulls in the prog these days… This prog would have gone on sale between christmas and new year, with a cover date of 8 January 1981.
Strontium Dog: The Doc Quince Case Part 4 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Carlos / L.J. Silver must have had enough of moonlighting as a lettering droid, for Tony Jacob takes the job this episode. The pacing on this one is a bit odd. If you split a story into three acts: act one is set-up; act two is confrontation; act three is the resolution. In this four-parter, parts one, two and most of three was act one, with act two taking up five pages of part four and act three being the final page. Enjoyable enough but it just gets rushed towards the end. Oh, and if you’re in a Square of Many (execution) Pots then hiding in one of those pots is not the best idea. Part of my dissatisfaction is that Johnny and Wulf have no problems at all in killing the kind, promoting Rubella to queen. The only turning point is that Johnny had to decide he was going to free Quince. Other than that there were interesting ideas though the lack of any response from Rubella at the death of her father is curious (no sorrow, happiness, relief, nothing).
Dash Decent Chapter 15: Pong Strikes Back! It’s been almost entirely a parody of Flash Gordon (specifically the 1980 version) so far, but will Angus and O’Neill turn their sights on Star Wars for this episode? Nope – it was just in the chapter title. Pong, Tucky and Zellamy watch on as Dale and Dash are about to arm wrestle while balancing on a tightrope (above a sky door drop to the planet below) – though Dale manages to take Zellamy’s gun while the newly-appointed science officer is distracted. Grabbing on to the tightrope, Dash races to rescue the brainwashed Zellamy. That’ll be the
cliff-tightrope hanger ending.
Tom Tully and John Richardson’s The Mean Arena improves as we meet the two newsagents who refuse to vacate the arena – and they have the law on their side, including the right to shoot any street football players who try to use their shop as a hide-out. A new concept is introduced now that Slater’s Slayers have the funds to get a full team of substitute players – death-mates – the substitutes only get to play if their assigned player dies from their wounds – which is all a set-up for the punchline “You’ll only get a game over our dead bodies!” Despite having left the USA version of the game due to just this kind of glorification of violence, Tallon appears to have no problem at all with this, even revelling in it.
After another plug for that battery-operated glowing flying disc and ads for (The New) Look and Learn With World of Knowledge and Battle Action (featuring a Charley Bourne Calendar) it’s time for the Nerve Centre. Though we’re going to be due for a 2000AD calendar pull-out sometime soon. Though soon may be a couple of years away, we’ll see. Tharg glories in the eight wins at the Eagle Awards and sneaks in a mention of the new cover price: 15p, one p up from last week. One reader insults my beloved Meltdown Man, so let’s skip that and go on the next letter which asks why Tharg doesn’t print a pull-out of rules and illustrations used in street football. Tharg side-steps the question but the simple answer is: “Because then Tom Tully wouldn’t be able to make up new rules as plot dictates”. Silly earthlet.
Woo-hoo! I turn the page to find a classic greeting me. T.B. Grover and Mike McMahon introduce Judge Dredd: The Fink. I’ll leave the title character’s name at that to see how long it takes for the reader of the time to find out just who Fink is. As an aside – other than a starscan in my early progs featuring Fink (and Ratty) this story would have been my introduction to the character, when it was reprinted in the 1980s Eagle Comics monthly. Before we get in to the story, a Ron Smith-style opening picture of Dredd frames the centrepages, against the titular antagonist. That picture of Dredd looks familiar – full-length, just standing there lawgiver in hand. In one of the annuals there’s a ‘how to draw Dredd’ feature – I think this is the basis… Anyway, on with the show – The Fink was once human but now is something less. Anyone with a gaming figure who wants to paint it – looks like the Fink is pale blue in a green loincloth with a brown bowler hat (along with the Ratty, also wearing a brown bowler). You know you’re in for a good story when the first pages have a rat in a hat! Fink uses a paralysing poison (or pizzen) to immobilise Judge Pilot Larter – last seen piloting the Justice One in the last episode of The Judge Child (first clue to who Fink is). The rat isn’t just for show as, down in the sewers, Fink’s friend Ratty calls the Mega-City rats to feast on the paralysed pilot. The second clue to Fink’s identity is dropped as Fink gloats over the rodent’s banquet and thinks to how ‘Pa’ would have wanted it. Time for the third clue – a calling card showing a winged figure with a halo, and the word ‘fink’, followed quicly by the fourth clue – a hit list containing Larter, Hershey’s and Dredd’s names. I’m sure everybody reading this knows who Fink is, but for readers of that first episode the only clues would be that it’s something to do with The Judge Child Quest. This is a great new character, and (spoiler) one that won’t get killed off in their first appearance.
Alan Hebden and Belardinelli next, presenting a story which isn’t just a rip-off of planet of the apes, whatever that nasty earthlet in the Nerve Centre said. Meltdown Man starts with humans demonstrating why it’s about time for a yujee uprising as they hunt a gazelle yujee with a bolas (from a black shiny hover vehicle). Mixed messages in this episode. The humans are bad because they hunt yujees for sport and leave them to suffer an excruciating death while they have a picnic. Stone would leave Liana (and the whole yujee cause) if she had executed the guilty humans. But it’s fine for Stone to have killed all the predators in previous episodes (even though they’d have been sent straight to the vats for disobeying orders – or even having a button missing from a uniform, as happened in the last episode). To be fair, this time he just uses the snip gun to stun the attendant predator. Liana gets the chance to kill the bad humans, doesn’t take it and (at least one of) the humans sees the light and vows never to hurt a yujee again. Morality tale over, it’s time for the duo to head into Plaguemire. As Liana says “We must cross it… if we can!” Did I miss the explanation of why they can’t just go around it? Fantastic pic of Plaguemire by the way, looking diseased and inhospitable and WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO GO THROUGH IT?
Malcolm Shaw and Redondo have the starbooters squabbling in Return to Armageddon – apparently the triad has two undamaged energy cells which can be used to accelerate the growth of the twins. The old woman triad doesn’t care if they get used or not, as the destruction of the universe by the Destroyer is inevitable. So, the main three pirates we’ve met are Havoc, Snake-bite and Shadow. There was a brief mention of another, Dog-face. As both twins are placed in the energy cells (the human as well as the demon baby so that Havoc can have a son to fight alongside him) the space pirates party. Four pirates wake up to find that the planet has been stripped bare – no longer a swamp planet, it could give Tattooine a run for its money now. In a nice touch the planet has a surfacequake (it’s not Earth so it can’t be an earthquake)! They run for the ‘safety’ of the mountain though Dog-face isn’t fast enough, and disintegrates before their eyes – almost as if he only survived to this point so that they could see this happen… Inside they see more disintegrating pirates plus a few naked ones (must have been some party). The old woman explains that the destroyer needed to drain the energy of the entire planet for the final stage of its development. Speak of the devil (I know, I know) who should appear but the Destroyer himself, or in his words: “Death has been reborn!”
Sharing space with a one-third-page stamp advert is the next prog trail box, including a Special Film Report for Flash Gordon (wonder if it’ll mention Dash Decent?) and a hint of Scrotnig News of a ‘great event’. Wonder if it’s another of those IPC comics conventions held at a Kensington hotel?
Grailpage: Some good contenders but Mick McMahon’s cover takes it – it’s the wildlife in the Mega-City that does it for me.
Grailquote: Angus, Zellamy: “This greasy elastic tightrope is where you must arm wrestle. The loser plummets to the planet below!” Dale Ardent: “Here we go again!”