Programme 5 (26-March-77)

What can I even say? Dredd’s about to battle robo-Kong. This is only the fourth appearance of Judge Dredd, and he’s already fighting fake King Kong. What the hell can you say to that? Apparently the writers felt it needed a little more, so they have some awkward text on the cover, announcing that in addition to the whole killer robot angle, the stakes are raised by the fact that they’re all three kilometers in the air!

There’s no way the story can be this good.

Thrill 1: Invasion! (writer/artist)

When we last left Bill Savage, he’d just brought justice to a traitor within the midst of the resistance. Wasting no time in getting the story moving, this episode opens with a splash page, and doesn’t look back.

Please note that not only are the Volgans speaking English, they also use the same descriptive term of Bill Savage that he himself employed last week. That’s when you know that you have total self-awareness – both your enemies and yourself describe you the exact same way.

Attacking the checkpoint allows Bill and the Mad Dogs to salvage some much-needed explosives, as well as employ some slang that’s delightfully unfamiliar:

Things take a turn for the nasty when the innocnet bystanders are punished for cheering Bill on by being run down by Volgan motorcycle cops as the biking bastards pursue Bill in his armored car. A jacket stuffed with explosive makes short work of the rollers, though, and the Mad Dogs make a quick getaway.

From here Bill employs a bold plan – get the public on his side! He does this by going to Volga Square (foremerly Trafalgar Square) and announcing to the crowds there that there is, in fact, a British resistance, which they may or may not have been aware of up until this point.

Quickly the tanks converge on the Mad Dogs, and it looks like all hope is lost… until Bill remembers that one of his team-mates was in demolitions before the invasion. That man’s name? Blaster.

Sometimes I love fiction.

Bill has a plan so daring I can’t believe I’m about to describe it in type. He has Blaster wrap the base of Nelson’s Column in dynamite, then detonates it! The column falls over, crushing the tanks (who were conveniently lined up in the path of the falling column) like a peanut underfoot!

Something about this series makes me want to write everything with an exclamation point!

After their triumph at Colga square, the resistance retires to the Isle of Dogs, which they’ve elected to use as their base. Rather than the huge, equipment-filled resistance base introduced last week. Hmm.

Thrill 2: Flesh

It’s trouble in Carver City, as the dinosaurs have breached the security wall, and are currently doing what dinosaurs do, namely creating all kinds of tsuris for the people of the town. The townspeople go looking for their guns, but are rebuffed by the robo-sherrif, who bears a striking resemblance to the apres-face version of Yul Brenner from the poster of Westworld.

Separated at birth?

Things become moot quickly as the robot is devoured by a tyrannosaur, taking the secret of the guns’ location with him to the… um… grave? Scrapyard?

Back in the world of characters who have names, Earl Reagan is back wrestling with Old One-Eye, the main villain dinosaur of the herd. You’d think he would get tired of fighting the old girl, but it turns out that the infection that Joe got from a dinosaur bite can only be cured by the fluid from the gland in a dinosaur’s neck! Proving once again that dinosaurs went extinct for a reason, the single plucky human manages to cut the gland out of the giant monster’s neck and escape with no injuries.

As chaos continues in Carver City Regan administers the antidote to Joe – now it’s just a matter of escaping from the horde of killer dinosaurs, including one of the early appearances of a certain familiar face that Jurassic Park would popularize more than a decade later:

Naturally, just like the end of the Jurassic Park film, the Tyrannosaur quickly establishes its dominance by killing a few of the raptors, although here it makes considerably more sense, since Old One-Eye was an established character in the scene, and didn’t have to teleport into a building silently to surprise them.

Yeah, it’s twenty years later and I’m still bitching about continuity errors in Jurassic Park.

Just as Reagan is planning his escape Carver hurries into the doctor’s ‘Surgery’ (what british people call any doctor’s office) spoiling for a fight. He blames Reagan for the destruction of his town, which, although it sounds harsh, is an entirely accurate summary of the previous and current week’s events. After subduing Carver, Reagan explains that all is not lost – since all animals fear fire, all they have to do is burn the town to the ground, and they’ll be able to escape in the confusion. Carver agrees to the plan, conditionally:

Thrill 3: Harlem Heroes

Still hopped up on adrenalin following the discovery that their team-mates were murdered, the Heroes fly back out onto the… um… field? Pitch? This motivation drives them to easily defeat the Baltimore Bulls six air-strikes to zero! After spending a whole issue on the ins-and-outs of a game of Aeorball, it’s odd to see the whole amazing second half wrapped up in a page and two panels, but if it moves the story forward, I’m all for it.

Back in the locker room, the heros puzzle over who might want them dead, but since thy don’t have any new information, it’s kind of circular. Outside we’re introduce to a new character, Ulysses Cord:

Couple of things to note here. First off, he’s clearly not looking at them as he speaks, which is a weird way to introduce yourself. Also, this is far enough in the future that all television is in 3-D! And now it’s called Tri-Vision, which is a little literal for my tastes, but it’s the future, so what do I know?

He announces that, as a proud American, he wants to become their new sponsor. So he’s bought them a new superliner to drive the team to all of their games in comfort and style. All he asks in return is that they bring the Aeroball world cup back to the States. Everyone else is happy with the arrangement, but Giant is suspicious. He realizes that the team needs some good news, though, so he elects to keep his mouth shut until he has some actual evidence. So it’s off to Moscow for a game against the Siberian Wolves (the Aeroball team. Not the wolves). How are they going to get there? The Trans-Atlantic Tunnel! I don’t know exactly what that means either, but I bet it’ll be a great visual!

The Aeroball Rulebook:

16: Only a Squad Leader can call time out, and only if two or more players are sidelined by injury.
28 – Don't touch the score posts.
? - Don't kick (or punch?) people in the back of the head.
? - No sandwich tackles (?)

No lines for Chico or Sammy this week, so with just three issues left, the count is still at 1 line of dialogue.

Thrill 4: Dan Dare: Space Hyper-Hero! (?/Belardinelli)

The episode picks up with Dan, Captain Monday, and crew being attacked by a group of flying bio-monsters!

In a random bit of sci-fi awesomeness, Dan isn’t too frightened by the approaching monsters to pause and wonder why they keep changing colour. Being a scientifically-minded sort, Monday has already figured out that the shifting colours are the way by which the aliens communicate with one another. Proving that he’s a real man, Dare isn’t interested in communicating, and immediately starts trying to kill the aliens. Sadly they prove to be bulletproof, which costs another disposable crewman his life as he’s unable to keep himself from being eaten alive.

Dan resorts to some quick improvisation – since the floaty monsters are constantly sucking in air and blasting it back out to stay aloft, he assumes they function just like a jet engine. And just like with a jet engine, jamming a big rock into the intake valve causes the monster to balloon up and explode. Monday and Dan wake up a few minutes later, already having been devoured by one of the monsters. They discover that its victims aren’t killed instantly, but rather transported somewhere else… to a more terrifying fate.

Back on the ship the solar creature has arrived on the bridge, still holding doctor Ziggy as a hostage. Seeing the good doctor in jeapordy causes the guards to hesitate long enough for the creature to get into the ‘control bubble’ from which the entire ship is run. Now there’s no chance to stop it from taking the whole ship down to Jupiter, and the home of its masters… The BIOGS!

Thrill 5: MACH 1

The episode begins with John Probe on vacation after murdering the leader of ‘Irania’ last week. Despite the fact that he’s supposed to be a secret agent, when we find him in the West Indies he’s showing off for a girl by swimming faster than her speedboat. Climbing out onto the beach he finds a mysterious man in a suit waiting for him, flanked by guards with assault rifles.

According to the computer in his brain the man is one ‘Otto Brandt’, an international arms dealer. There can only be one conclusion – Brandt wants to kidnap Probe in order to learn the secret of his Hyper-Power! Probe isn’t having any of it, though, so Otto plays his trump card:

Really? He couldn’t have warned Probe about the consequences of saying no before starting the slaughter? I think I’d have made a threat before starting the mass slaughter. Which may be among the key reasons why I’m not a famous international arms dealer. Probe’s guilty as well – maybe “Stop” could have been the first thing he said while surrendering? Also, while it’s possible that Brandt had come to the West Indies specifically to look for him, it’s more likely that Probe’s habit of flaunting his powers publicly drew the villain’s attention, making the murders at least partially his fault.

They climb into Brandt’s sea-plane and fly off. Despite the fact that Brandt knows full-well that Probe is a hyper-powered killer, he doesn’t secure the secret agent in any meaningful way, or bring along any hostages that might be killed if he resists. This allows Probe the chance to throw elbows into his two guards, which sends them flying out through the sides of the plane.

Marking himself as perhaps the most unflappable villain in history, Brandt immediately turns the plane to the side, sending Probe flying out the hole he just created in the plane. Probe is pretty quick as well, and he manages to grab onto one of the sea plane’s pontoons. Raising his unflappability to levels heretofore unimagined by the mentally stable, Brandt immediately pulls a gun and starts firing at Probe out the side window as the compu-powered man dangles from the pontoon. This is so intense that I almost wish I was reading a series about Brandt: Action Arms Dealer. Especially when John proves himself to be truly deficient in the ‘bad-ass quip’ department.

Putting his arm into the water creates just enough drag that the sea plane winds up skimming just above a cliffside road. Also sharing that road? A tractor-trailer rig. Probe jumps clear, and in an act of mercy that’s positively Hitchcockian, the writer allows the truck driver to jump clear as well. Brandt is not so lucky, and is killed as his plane slams into a truck, killing my chances for pitching a new strip to 2000AD: Otto Brandt – Action Death Merchant: For the Defense!

In my strip, he was also a lawyer.

Thrill 6: Judge Dredd

The episode opens with Dredd lounging in his apartment, surrounded by images of a south seas island paradise. He’s confused and angry until Maria, his ethnic cleaning lady, explains that this is an example of ‘sense-surround’, the new holo-desque technology sweeping Mega-City 1. Judge Dredd is having none of it, despite the fact that the man peddling the system is identified as one ‘Kevin O’Neill’. Just a slight step fown from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Dredd throws Kevin out, and considers just buying a robot cleaner to replace Maria.

A few hours later some of his neighbours show up at his door, terrified because the President of the Sense-Surround corporation has been torn to pieces in his apartment, which is coincidentally in Dredd’s building! Over the next two days other executives are murdered in their apartments. One is devoured in his garden by a triffid, while another is crushed next to his pool by a tentacle! As the third executive is being killed a voice from off-camera makes a terrible pun about his death.

This pun proves to be the killer’s downfall – Dredd gets a call on his bike the next day announcing that they’ve identified the voice as belonging to the curator of a special effects museum. This is the second time in four appearances that a voice print and a master database of citizen’s voices has solved a crime for Dredd. A question, though: how was that voice recorded at the crime scene? Do the judges have the entire city bugged?

When Dredd arrives at the museum, he discovers that a few of the movie monsters are covered in blood – they’re the murder weapons! And who is the curator whose name was artfully not mentioned in the previous scene? Why it’s Kevin O’Neill! Apparently he hates sense-surround for replacing monster movies, so he became a salesmen for the company so he could get close enough to the executives to murder them. Now, rather than being captured, he’s decided to unleash the greatest monster of them all:

Krong bashes through the walls and starts climbing the roadways of the nearest apartment complex. In a showdown that proves less enthralling than the cover promised (of course), Dredd decides that the only way to stop him will be to send his bike flying into the gorilla’s mouth, where it will explode, blowing the monster’s head off. Luckily, all of the important computer parts were located inside the head, even though that doesn’t make the most sense in robot design, and Krong is cripple. It falls off the tower, giving both O’Neill an ironic death, and Dredd a chance to show off his superiour quipping ability. It’s wonderful enough that it doesn’t even matter that Dredd didn’t actually kill anyone this week.

Judge Dredd Kill Count: 12

Final Thoughts

Best Story: MACH 1 – This week’s MACH 1 provided one long action sequence that’s conceptually more interesting than anything I’ve seen in a movie in years. It’s just too bad the writer didn’t turn soft in time to save those beachgoers.

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – I know the story was only four pages long, and they had to wrap up a game, but there’s just now excuse for this tiny an amount of forward plot movement.

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