I won’t say much about the cover as I have a pet hatred of covers bodged from pre-existing art – they can’t even begin to compete with covers made using commissioned artwork. This one uses panels of Strontium Dog by Carlos and a pic of Anderson by Brett Ewins.
Except for the continuing Rogue Trooper story (which has a new segment but isn’t split in to discrete stories like pre-Horst Rogue) this is pretty much a jumping-on prog and Tharg’s Nerve Centre is replaced by 8 Zarjaz Years of 2000AD and the obligatory data file on Tharg plus ‘some Betelgeusian phrases’.
Anderson Psi Division: Revenge Part One by Grant/Grover and Brett Ewins. The character first appeared in Prog 150. Other than Dark Judge stories she’s made a few cameos in the main Dredd strip and had a couple of one-off stories in annuals, but this is her first proper series. For me, this was probably the fourth time I’d met her – there was her cameo in one of the first progs I ever read – Prog 341 (Graveyard Shift) and her appearance in the Judge Dredd Annual 1985 and City of the Damned (which I’d have read in reverse order as the annual was released before Prog 393 but as the annual was a christmas present I’d have been half-way through City… before reading the annual). So, it’s taken about five years for Anderson to get her own strip. Could be worse – Hershey’s first appearance was only a few progs later yet it took her considerably longer to get her own strip – around twelve years if we count the Megazine or around forty years for a series in the prog itself! None of which is about this story. The biggest word on the first page is ‘Revenge’ so I’m going to call it that – I think it gets other titles in reprint collections, but it’s always been Revenge to me. The psychic Judge Anderson wakes up clutching her bedclothes to her (she’s not naked – who do you think she is, Ardeni Lakam?) – she’s dreaming of Judge Death but once awake has to get to work. Today that involves reading latents off of a dead kidnapper and finding the kid who was napped. That done she leaves the street judge holding the baby while she plunges in to the bowles of a ruined block until she encounters Death in the sub-sub-sub basement. Speaking of Death – this may have been my fourth time meeting Anderson but I this must have been my first exposure to the undead judge from an alternate dimension. Ewins has been accused of copying artwork on some stories (notably this one and Rogue Trooper) and the artwork is very derivative of Bolland’s Death and Anderson – though I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that in this case he was ordered to mimic Brian’s style in the same way McMahon was under orders to copy Ezquerra’s style for the very early Dredd stories. I can’t think of any other times before this episode that we saw the Psi Division building, so perhaps this is one that Ewins designed?
Enter this mega-zarjaz compu-tition! The ‘compu’ in question is a Commodore 64 – plus 3 Valiant Robo Turtles. I (just about) remember those robo turtles being for sale though didn’t know anybody who had one. I did have a friend who had a Big Trak though. The competition has a grid of letters and instructions on where the turtle should travel to. So far so good, though the competition runs for three more weeks and I doubt I’ll keep referring back to this prog when I get to the relevant pages in those progs. Looks like the letters the robo-turtle stops on are going to form a sentence – so far I’ve got (I’m filling in spaces and my guess at punctuation) “I’m gla”.
Sláine: Time Killer – by Pat Mills and David Pugh. Nest tells us that our thumb prints are in fact mystic spirals which contain our personal time codes, which will allow the Ever Living Ones to guide Sláine through a slime pool from the time worm’s eggs. Follow that? We find out that low temperatures kill young time worms, so there’s no problem with encountering little time worms in the slime pool. Scene change and a shadowy figure is passing a torch along a row of time eggs, hatching a bunch of time worms. While this is happening, Myrddin has to try to convince Sláine to become a time-killer as Sláine just wants to return to his tribe. This involves going to a room showing scenes from the psychosphere. Leaving the jargon aside the druids have a time room where they can see pictures from the future. Depicted are the (illegal) execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém, a rocket being launched and the obligatory Hitler. Back (forward?) in Contarf in the year 1014 (as depicted in the 2000AD Annual 1985) we meet Brian Boru and his son Murdach. Brotor (the druid who wears a big mask) is against the idea of using the barbarian and instead urges Myrddin to use Arthur or Finn. Presumably not the character which Pat will create in three years time for Third World War in Crisis, though it’d be an interesting crossover. At this stage Finn probably refers to either the Frisian king Finn (mentioned in Beowulf) or Fionn mac Cumhaill (anglicised as Finn MacCool). Cue the time worm attack as they grow at a fantastic rate (because they generate their own time power and can age a year in a second). Their attack is fought off but they drag Sláine in to the slime pool (sorry, time-lake). A memorable scene – while Sláine is lost in time we switch back to Elfric who puts a rider to The Test. A candle is brought before the accused. They have to extinguish it by spitting once on it – the idea being that if their mouth was dry with fear then they wouldn’t be able to perform the feat. Though in the case of one of Elfric’s underlings his mouth was dry from the ride…
Judge Dredd: Sunday Night Fever Part One by T.B. Grover and Cam Kennedy. We might have got the “Item!” element in earlier stories (The Graveyard Shift and City of the Damned?) but this is the most memorable use in my opinion. I’m pretty sure this story would heavily influence Games Workshop scenario writers when they started getting published in White Dwarf (coming in a prog year or two). Speaking of items, there are a number of developing stories which we’ll heard snippets of through radio messages from control. One of which centres around eight people on a high ledge of Arthur Koestler Block. Which previously appeared in The Graveyard Shift…. My mistake – this one is resolved almost as it begins – seven die, one lives (and is promptly arrested, of course). A mega-citizen is frustrated at continuing to fail to get a job (after at least 2,000 job applications) and decides to drown her sorrows. We don’t know how, but we’re told that she will re responsible for the death of 15,000 plus citizens.
Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. The second stage of the Horst story begins with a panel which looks as if it could have come from a page of Metal Hurlant. We’ve met the insectoid aliens. We’ve met the bat aliens (one of which is still shadowing the boys). Now we meet an aquatic form of alien. Which looks rather like the xenomorph from alien – something which entirely went over my head previously! I’d have been too young to watch the film the first time I read this, but I must have read the story since seeing the film? Though admittedly in the first tifilm you don’t get very clear views of the xenomorph.
Strontium Dog: Big Bust of 49 – Part One by Alan Grant (actually Grant and Wagner) and Carlos Ezquerra. The writers of Strontium Dog like their food-related planet names – this one’s called Burrito and on the 10th day of Morknmndy a law-and-order political party has called an end to the privileged status of a criminal haven. Cue the gangs of bounty hunters to capitalise on the opportunities. Most are aliens, including Darkus and the Howlers, but Alpha and Sternhammer of course also turn up. And the night before the Big Bust begins they encounter another familiar face – or should that be middenface? Are the Howlers related to Bubo and the Bad Boys? They’re certainly cut from the same cloth.
Inside back cover and advert time – first for next prog (using a Brett Ewins panel from Anderson Psi Division) and the next for Battle Action Force (using a John Cooper panel from the looks of it).
On the outside back cover we get… another advert – this time for Transformers (New Insecticons).
Grailpage: Cam Kennedy’s opening centrespread for Judge Dredd has a citiscape, slipways, judges on lawmasters and now I’m looking at it a reference I’ve never noticed before. The catchwagon designation is 22. Catch 22. No wonder Tharg plugged this story a few prog-months ago (with a starscan of Dredd by Cam and a hint about a project).
Grailquote: T B Grover, narration: “Watch this citizen. Her name is Ruby Foulclough. Before the night is out, she will be responsible for the death of 15,000 plus citizens.”