Brian Bolland puts in a very competent cover, though unrelated to any of the stories inside. Oh, wait a minute, I see a small narrative box with the words “see p.22” so it looks like there’s going to be a half-page story to plough through. I don’t mind covers which tell stories unrelated to the contents of the prog – in fact, I liked the recent wraparound cover about the robots retraining to look after babies – but the entire narrative of that was contained in a single box on the back cover – smaller than the instructions on how to stick a piece of paper on the wall. I should mention that next time one comes along – for about four or five years every cover poster had step-by-step instructions on putting up a poster. In terms of Flash Gordon / Dash Decent – the Fl/Dash character is about to get shot by Dale while Ming/Pong looks on. There’s also an alien pinning Fl/Dash back.
Strontium Dog: Portrait of a Mutant Part 11 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. Johnny (with a little help from the rest of the Mutant Army) manages to acquire one of the T-Guns – along with alpha eyes, this gets him to Kreelman’s office. Though by the time he gets there the rest of the squad are dead, meaning there are no witnesses when Kreelman recognises Johnny (which is probably for the best). There are also no witnesses when NBK uses one of the T-Devices on himself, disappearing before Johnny can shoot him (not so much for the best).
The progs have gotten into a bit of a rhythm with the return of Tharg’s Future-Shocks – the latest installment of Portrait of a Mutant, followed by the Shock, the Nerve Centre, Dredd and then on to Return to Armageddon and Meltdown Man. As it is this prog, with Steve Moore and Mike white bringing us Slashman, Kowalski and the Rat. I had a problem with this strip the first time I read it. The problem was that I’d already read the sequel, which were the further adventures of the viewpoint character, but who the viewpoint character was is the shock in this story. So to me it’s just a straight sci-fi heist story instead of a heist with a shock ending. Slashman is a typical mercenary / rogue-for-hire who we initially follow as he breaks into a citadel where a council of war is about to take place. Kowalski is, according to Slashman, just a decoy. In reality, Slashman is the decoy and Kowalski is an arms dealer who betrayed Slashman to make contact with the warmongering general at the council of war. Except… Kowalski reveals that he swallowed two kilos of liquid explosive before entering the citadel and that the associate outside (the Rat) is about to detonate. After the explosion there’s nothing more than for Agent Rat to deliver his report to the Galactic Security Council – galaxy-spanning war avoided. It’s good, but a shame I already knew who rat was (and that was the only character who returned) so I couldn’t ever read it as intended – which is that we’re meant to think the rat is merely a pet and not a secret agent.
Two half-page adverts comprise one for the Shoot! (some football thing) and another for a birthday Buster, featuring a miniature copy of the first ever issue of Buster Comic from 1960 – an idea which will be used in about two years in the Galaxy’s Greatest.
The Nerve Centre has a letter from a reader asking where the ‘House of the Future’ postergraph series has gotten to. I’m sure we got a letter like that already – and that the answer then as now is that it was published in the 1980 Sci-Fi Special.
Judge Dredd: The Mega-Rackets Crime File: 3 The Umpty Baggers (part 1) – this implausibly long-titled episode from T.B. Grover and Ron Smith starts with a deal in an alleyway, which naturally gets broken up by Dredd. Judge Cheyney is in charge of the Umpty Squad – though Dredd isn’t impressed with the squad’s results so keeps his prisoner in his custody until the investigation is through. While the umpty dealer’s cravings for Umpty return, we get to see a recap of what Umpty Candy is (see prog 145) though the story continues past the flashback as an informer tells mobster Boss Jong that Uncle Ump’s death was faked and that the confectioner is actually on a spaceship heading away from Earth. The Jong Family torture the recipe out of the old man before dumping him in space. By this time the dealer is craving candy and tells Dredd everything. As Dredd follows this lead and heads to the Jong factory, the same informer who told them that Ump was still alive warns the Jong’s that Dredd is on his way. Those lips have to be Judge Cheney, don’t they? I’m not going to mention that the Jong’s spaceship looked like a Space Fleet ship from Star Trek.
Cover Story takes its cue from the Supercover Saga series from 1977 – in that it’s filled with corny situations and ends in an unsatisfying way. We find out that Scott and the monstrous alien on the cover have actually had their minds switched, and the girl-with-a-gun, Jenny, is going to have to shoot the monster in Scott’s body or the galaxy will suffer. This is kind of an interesting situation, except there’s no intention on resolving it, as it’s al an episode of a cheesy sci-fi weekly serial (in other words, not far removed from ‘and it was all a dream’).
On the lower half of the same page is the results of Tharg’s call for convention organisers to plug their events. The Convention Guide features: World of Science Fiction (Manchester); Starcon (Leeds); Liverpool Comic Mart (I don’t have to say which city this took place in, do I?); Unicon 2 (Keele); London Comic Mart (held at Central Hall, Westminster – now called Methodist Central Hall).
Return to Armageddon from Malcolm Shaw and Redondo. Things really heat up – though they do it by cooling down… The Hell’s Angel takes Amtrak to Sanctuary – the base of Havoc, Snake-Bite and Shadow, which appears to be located in some Inca pyramids. There you have it – the area around the South American pyramids is still lush jungle – the rest of the planet is a hellscape. After a bit of threatening of each other, Amtrak ‘activates’ the special abilities of the sword, freezing Havoc. The Destroyer is finally spurred to manifest. It takes no time at al for the Destroyer to get up to speed on the situation, surmising that Amtrak has been programmed by the Triad, curious only what other tricks this will involve. It’ll come up again in Nemesis Book II (we haven’t even had Book I yet) but I do love the way Jesus Redondo draws ancient ruined buildings in the midst of jungles.
Belardinelli makes a cameo appearance at a monorail station in Meltdown Man, written by Alan Hebden – who I don’t spot anywhere. Being the heart of the yujee development programme, Snow City is not an easy place to get to. Travel on the monorail is restricted to those with special passes. Stone and Louis the Lionman (previously Leo) manage to get aboard a monorail train, but only through the theft of tickets which are soon discovered. During a pass (not ticket) inspection, the pair (with Seth in a bag) jump the train and start trekking over the frozen mountains. They’re doing this in the same clothes they had on in warmer climes. Things aren’t going well, but they get worse when a psychic beast starts attacking them with a metal (sic) projection. Stone reaches for King Seth to protect them psychically, but discovers too late that reptiles fare even worse in sub-zero temperatures than mammalian humans and lionmen.
Just in case Earthlets weren’t already excited for the forthcoming return of Judges Anderson and Death, Tharg has programmed a star pin-up by Brian Bolland to remind everybody of the two psychics. I don’t like the look of Anderson’s knee – hope she gets some antiseptic and a plaster on that once she’s awoken!
Grailpage: As often happens, the grailpage this week is more of a grail panel, albeit one which takes up half a page. Belardinelli crams in a frozen pinnacle of glinting ice, a traveller (wearing appropriate clothing, unlike Stone, Louis and Seth), two mountain villages, a monorail and a backdrop of ice-topped mountains. There’s a lot of snow. And it doesn’t look too crowded.
Grailquote: Steve Moore, Kowalski: “Before entering, I swallowed two kilos of liquid explosive..! Which my associate outside should be detonating any moment..!” Vanden Plaz: “Two kilos of..?” Kowalski: “Wait a minute… WHAT did I say?”