I’d ask why Belardinelli doesn’t turn in more covers for his story Meltdown Man, but putting in the work on each episode, week in, week out, without a break explains that one. So that’s why Dave Gibbons produces another cover, this one featuring Pole-Axe and the brigands.
Strontium Dog: Portrait of a Mutant Part 6 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. As predicted, minutes after firing a gun for the first time, Johnny manages to save General Armz’s life by picking out the Kreeler who had the general in their sights. The Mutant Army liberates the food-trux and takes them to a shanty town outside of Salisbury to feed the starving mutants residing therein. Everything seems (relatively) rosy for Johnny and the Mutant Army, even if they do have a long way to go to form an effective resistance. Until the time for the cliffhanger as two Kreelers are caught near the Mutant Army camp, looking for Kreelman’s son. The cliffhanger is somewhat diminished by the next prog tag: “The awed couple!” which suggests that Johnny is going to protect his identity as said son by using alpha vision to affect the minds of the spying duo. A good episode but would be better if not for that potential spoiler.
Tharg’s Futureworlds Assembly Instruction does what the title suggests – though is most notable for printing in one place a thumbnail of the entire six-part poster.
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Easy Kill! by R.E. Wright and Gary Leach. I’ve probably mentioned this in a previous post, but R.E. Wright looks like a possible pseudonym to me. Set in the universe of The V.C.s though there’s nothing about alien enemies which requires them to be the geeks. The art is great from a painted greyscale opening splash image to the linework in the rest of the story. The story is alright, up to a point. The point being that the twist ending doesn’t make any sense. Two troopers blitz a greek temple and loot a cask of Irium crystals. Their pilot turns the ship’s cannons on them and steals the crystals for his sole use – though one of the dying troopers curses him in the name of ‘Easy’ – ‘Easy Angel’ being the name of the ship. This curse is the first thing that makes sense – though it being a Future-Shock you expect it to make sense by the end. Hit by geek ground fire as he leaves the planet, the pilot just about manages to make it to base, though is seriously injured in the process. Two weeks later he’s visited by a robo-doc with a broken input wire who does what malfunctioning robo-docs tend to do in this situation. The name of the doc is E-ZE. So two things that make no sense – why did the dying trooper curse the pilot in the name of ‘Easy’ and why would this be related to a malfunctioning robo-doc called ‘E-ZE’? If there was anything explaining the two and tieing them together then this could have been more than an excuse for great artwork from Leach…
Tharg’s Nerve Centre takes a few opportunities to plug the forthcoming Sci-Fi Special (coming in about two weeks time and including Judge Dredd, Nemesis and Superman II and Shuttle features) and the 1982 Judge Dredd Annual (particularly that we won’t be seeing much McMahon work in the prog as he’s working on full-colour artwork for the annual).
Judge Dredd: Alone in a Crowd! by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. Steve has been taking pointers from Ron Smith, and opens this story with a portrait of Dredd before getting in to the story. Other than a standard tale of Dredd dealing with a tap gang (muggers) in Mega-City One, this is a commentary on the unwillingness by typical citizens to get involved with perceived injustices – whether this is the tap gang attacking (and possibly killing) their victims or judges arresting one of the perps. Self-contained, this is an effective commentary on self-interest, supplemented by great art from Steve showing McMahon-esque citiblocks, complete with roof gardens.
Return to Armageddon from Malcolm Shaw and Redondo takes Amtrak, Seeker, Atlanta and Selous head off to find the Stones of Eternity as news comes in of a collective mental breakdown leading to the inhabitants of an entire planet killing themselves – evidence of The Destroyer at work. Retracing their steps back to where the series began, they go through the warp and Amtrak heads out to one of the huge space crystals. As he approaches a hatch opens, letting him in only to split him in two (like cloning). Outside, the ship that Atlanta took Amtrak to the crystals on starts to freeze over, in the same way the billions of people on the frozen world below were frozen. The story feels like it’s moving along after a few diversions earlier, though it all remains to be seen how it turns out.
2000AD Classified Ads (Ads for fictional items only accepted – no genuine items, please.) Sharing a pae with the reservation coupon, this is all reader-submitted content netting the writers (and artist) £1 for helping editorial fill a page. The content is mostly in-jokes based on 2000AD characters and situations.
Alan Hebden and Belardinelli’s Meltdown Man unsurprisingly (considering the cover of the prog) opens with Pole-Axe and the brigands tearing a rampage through the countryside to get to the metalsmith’s city of Anville. An episode in two parts, the first covers the yujee’s of Anville desperately trying to learn to use Stone’s machine pistols before the brigands arrive while the second concerns the resident humans of the city, who have been strangely absent from the story up to this point. It’s not explained how yujee’s can practice using machine guns without the sound attracting attention, but let’s leave that aside… A group of young humans (teenagers or twenty-somethings) spot Stone as he sits on the bank while Liana takes a dip (she’s wearing a bikini this time). Stone being Stone the trained and highly-experienced SAS agent spots the reflection from the telescope and (obvious to the reader) arranges to get the pair captured by walking through a deserted part of the city (completely disregarding Liana’s discomfort from the cold due to walking through a slum in a bikini). The pair get ‘captured’ by the humans who interestingly have no love for Leeshar. As the humans have only ever encountered low tech yujee weapons (spears and swords) or high tech human weapons in the form of snip guns, they don’t confiscate the machine gun from Stone. While being taken back to the human city, the predators leave to deal with the brigands, though Stone points out that the predator’s main weapon is fear and the brigands aren’t afraid. He reveals that he intended for the pair to be caught just as the human on the telescope discovers that the brigands have slaughtered all of the predators…
Dave Gibbons’ Tharg’s Futureworlds collectable poster comes to an end with ‘Cities and Cultures’ – a bit of a catch-all category for everything that couldn’t be shoved into one of the others. The blitzspear, Torquemada, Judge Death, Mr Moonie, Luna-One zip bikes, Harlem Heroes, Fergee, Max Normal, Spikes, Hershey, Cal, a bit of the Land Raider and Otto Sump all share space with Judge Dredd mounted on a lawmaster.
Grailpage: Gary Leach’s grey-scale painted opener to the Future-Shock (presumably the original was also in black and white).
Grailquote: Alan Hebden, Liana: “Brrr… I needed to wash off the day’s dust, but the water’s freezing!” Stone: “You should’ve gone in earlier.” That’s cold of Stone, which incidentally is what Liana is, as evidenced later on when he leaders her the long way home: “Why did we come this way? It’s a horrible deserted place, and I’m turning blue with cold.”