Programme 8 (16-April-77)


Not much to consider this week – the cover’s advertising the Flesh! game as opposed to any of the stories in the issue. So I’ll reserve judgment until we get to the rules.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

As the story begins Bill Savage is driving a double-decker bus moving the families of the out to Heathrow Airport so that they can be flown to safety in Canada. They’ll be flying on a… Concorde Mark 3!

Yes, adding to the list of things that Invasion was wrong about, in this Britain the Concorde project was not a depressing failure. I’d almost say that I preferred this future England, with hovertrains and science-jets, if it weren’t for all the Neo-Nazis marching around.

Rather amazingly, it turns out that the plane wasn’t waiting for them, nor did they have any particular plan about how to get aboard or fly away. Bill’s entire scheme revolves around driving up to the front gate, shooting the guards, and then driving on to the tarmac.

The achievements of heroes are less impressive when they are dependent on the incompetence of their enemies. For an even better example of this, continue on to the next paragraph.

As the Concorde takes to the sky Volgan jets zoom in for the kill, launching heat-seeking missiles! Silk accuses Savage of being a maniac – the refugees will be killed! But Savage knows something Silk doesn’t: the new Concorde uses cold-hydrogen engines, which causes the missiles to avoid the Concorde, spin around, and lock onto the Volgans’ own engines!

Silk wonders how Bill could have possibly known that – it turns out tha Kevin Savage, Bill’s son, was a really plane nut, and he used to bug him all the time with facts and figures about aerotechnology. Which is great, but isn’t that also the kind of thing that experienced Volgan pilots would know? Also, since they were within a hundred yards of the slow-moving plane which was still on the ground, wouldn’t they just use their machine guns to tear the Concorde apart?

Plot holes aside, the refugees make it to Canada safely, and the Mad Dogs drive away, victorious yet again!

Thrill 2 - Flesh

Abandoned by their trail gang, Earl Reagan and Joe are struggling to get back to Trans-Time headquarters in order to warn them about the coming Dinosaur War! Tagging along are Claw and Doc as well as two nameless citizens, the last survivors of Carver City, destroyed by the very dinosaurs that Earl is worried about.

The shortest route back to base is by the river, so the men begin building a raft – but Doc confuses a vine for the tail of a giant prehistoric snake, and winds up quickly crushed to death. Earl kills the snake, but it’s far too late for the Doc.

The raft completed, they rush into the river just as Old One-Eye comes crashing out of the jungle, hot on their scent. She crashes out into the river after them, leading to this puzzling image.

I wasn’t aware that all dinosaurs were good swimmers. Also, isn’t she wading? Maybe it was meant ironically.

Proving once again why you shouldn’t bring the evil guy along, Carver shoves one of the nameless citizens into the river, hoping to distracted One-Eye long enough for them to make their escape. The plan might have worked, were it not for that Phobosuchius (giant crocodile) from issue 2, who’s returned in hopes of getting his teeth on a little more FLESH!

Knocked off the raft by the croc, Joe, Claw, and Earl swim for shore as the last nameless character is bitten in half. Well, I say they swim, but that’s not really accurate – Claw doesn’t know how, so Joe pulls him to shore. Yeah, because saving the life of the evil guy isn’t going to come back and haunt you later.

One-Eye and the Croc get into a fight, because that’s what dinosaurs do. Meanwhile, on the shoew, Earl finds a pit full of giant cacti. Immediately a plan forms. They cover the pit with vines and palm fronds, they wait on the other side. Old One-Eye is clever, but the sight of Earl enrages her so much that she tumbles straight into the pit!

Are they finally done with their dinosaur nemesis? Tune in next time to find out!

Tharg’s Nerve Centre

After asking readers to send in drawings of aliens, the editors assembled six of them for a photo line-up of the ‘Convicts of the Cosmic Clink!’ It’s a nice thing to do for the fans, but otherwise uninteresting, with one exception:

He’s identified as a ‘Dictator of Zarg’, who isn’t important right now, but will become so in future issues.

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

When we left Giant, he was plummeting through the air, free of his sabotaged Jetpack. None of his team-mates are close enough to catch him, but the Wolves who were chasing him are, so Giant grabs one to one of them as he falls. Giant, being Giant, sees the fact that he’s dangling from an opponent as now obstacle to playing the game. He kicks the ball right out of another player’s hands, straight into the Wolves’ goal post, scoring yet another point!

After a quick time-out to get Giant another pack, the Wolves go on the offensive, charging with their entire team in a cluster towards the heroes’ goal. Obviously there are no such things as ‘off-sides’ in the sport of Aeroball.

Their plan has one key flaw, though – they’ve left no defense at their end of the field. So once Giant has stripped the ball from them in a surprisingly easy fashion, all he has to do is toss it downfield to Slim, who’s waiting by the posts to score an easy goal. Heroes win! They’re in the second round of the championships!

And nothing plot-related has happened in three of this story’s four pages!

Not to fear, though, with the fourth page things finallly get moving. Back in the reserve pits the Heroes discuss the recent attempts at sabotage. They’re convinced that someone is out to get them, but they have no idea who.

In a related matter, a group of surgeons working for the people who want all the heroes dead are currently rebuilding someone in their Mega-City 1 lab. That someone is an ‘Artie Gruber’, an Aeroball player who was horribly injured and left comatose by an aeroball accident in a game against the Heroes some three years earlier. Their plan is to spend an unprecedented Eight Million Dollars(!) to rebuild him into a super-powerful cyborg they can somehow use to kill the rest of the Heroes.

They remain maddeningly unclear about exactly who was responsible for this scheme, though, because the surgeons weren’t informed who they were working for.

I wonder if there are as many amoral master surgeons who don’t ask questions in real life as there are in sci-fi?

Another week of Chico and Sammy not getting any lines, which means I officially win my wager with myself! The stakes? Nothing!

Thrill 4 (?/Belardinelli)

With the Odyssey, Monday’s ship, being pulled into the Biogs’ spaceship, it’s time to return to Ziggy Rodan, action doctor! When we last saw her, she was trapped inside the ship’s control bubble with the Shepherd. Having noticed that the Shepherd connects the ship’s mind-reading control rods to his horns, she intuits that they’re somehow important, and gives them a good twist. With the Shepherd incapacitated, Ziggy is able to take over the ship and uses its airlocks to crush the incoming Biogs.

Dan and Monday follow the Odyssey into the Biogs’ ship, and begin their search. They don’t get bey far before the ship produces white blood cells that surround them and start dragging them into the heart of the ship, not unlike the rovers in The Prisoner. Or that part earlier in this same story when the Biogs enveloped them and carried them to the mother Biog.

You know you’re in trouble when even the living axe doesn’t work.

Once they arrive at the ship’s heart, it begins speaking directly into their minds, it projects pain into them, then outlines the bargain it has in mind. All they have to do is deliver the humans in the ship, and the Biog Ship will reward them with immortality.

Dan, his mind apparently addled by the mental invasion, immediately agrees.

Well, my second prediction, that Monday would sacrifice himself heroically by now has been shot, so I’m 50/50 for predictions so far in this comic.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

There’s been a kidnapping in Spain, and John Probe is on the case! He’s an old friend of the victim (Maria)’s family, and he’s taken a little time off to help out. After questioning Maria’s fiancee about the kidnapping, Probe’s computer judges the man to be a coward who didn’t intervene during the kidnapping out of fear for his own life. This seems like an oddly harsh statement, given that he’s one unarmed, non-hyperpowered man, and there were four heavily-armed kidnappers. Of course, it’s been well-established that the computer in Probe’s head is kind of a dick, so let’s not dwell.

The kidnappers want an unarmed man to deliver the ransom, so off Probe goes. The kidnapper turns up on a motorcycle and tries to pull a gun, but Probe is too fast. He hurls the kidnapper against a stone wall and knocks him nearly senseless. John grabs the ransom, puts on the motorcycle, and races towards the kidnapper’s hideout.

Disguised as the courier, Probe races past their outer defenses and zooms towards the villa as the kidnappers open fire with assault rifles. After crashing the motorcycle through the roof, Probe comes face to face with Pilar, who’s holding a knife to Maria’s throat.

Probe resolves the situation in the only sensible fashion, by picking up the motorcycle and crushing it into a cube. This show of strength terrifies Pilar enough to get her to surrender. On the ride home, Maria wistfully opines that she wishes her fiancee were more like the Mach Man. Which, once again, is kind of an unfair comparison. We can’t all be turned into bulletproof superhuman killing machines by the government, there, honey.

Thrill 6

It’s another glimpse into the world of futurecrime here in the pages of Dredd, where we’re faced with the realization that a hundred years into the future, collectors will be fascinated with the things we take for granted today! Or will they? The strip opens a with a car theft, because petrol-burning cars are valuable collector’s items in the future. But the car, a Moris Minor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Minor) was already a classic when the strip was written. For maximum future shock effect, shouldn’t the valuable car a hundred years from now be something that was commonplace in ’77, like a Morris Marina (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Marina)? The joke is used a little on the next page, when Dredd announces that one of the other recently stolen cars was among the last ten Ford Cortinas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Cortina) in existence, but that clearly doesn’t have the effect that displaying the flat, boxy Ford as an object of desire would have.

Anyhoo, the crooks steal the car, and Dredd is hot on their trail. He follows the car to a garage, taking nowhere near the precautions to avoid being followed that Frankenstein 2’s (who, if you’ll recall, made the original Frankenstein look like a Jelly Baby) gang did. Dredd busts into the work room, but before he can get a shot off the crooks spray plastic all over his visor, blinding him. Before executing the helpless judge (apparently his gun doesn’t have heat-seeking rounds yet) one of the thugs demands that he take off his helmet, since apparently Judge Dredd’s appearance is a closely-guarded secret.

I wonder how long it will take before we get to the story of his mutilated face? I don’t know it, so it either happened very early or very late in the run of the comic.

Rather stupidly the thugs forgot to ask Dredd to drop his gun while they were getting him to take his helmet off, and now that he can see perfectly well, it’s a simple matter to blast the three of them to pieces with his lawgiver.

Dredd rushes out the back of the garage and sees Krilz, the chief of the auto theft gang, escaping on a moving sidewalk that’s travelling five hundred feet per second! How would you get onto one of those? Krilz thinks he’s made an easy getaway, not really understanding that Dredd could just step onto the ‘walk-eeze’ as well, and be travelling just as fast as he is. That’s not Dredd’s style, though, so he makes a call to centrel, and Krilz is stunned to find that the sidewalk stops, and then starts moving back towards Dredd. The judge explains things while giving his final-panel quip.

Yeah, they’re not all going to be keepers.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (18)+3=21!

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Dan Dare – Again, there’s a living axe, so how can I put anything else above it? The living axe failed to get the job done this week, but I don’t care. It’s still a living axe.

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – Still the worst thing in this comic, but at least they’ve finally got a villain, so it’s just barely possible that something interesting might happen soon.

As promised, 2000AD started printing cards for the FLESH! card game this week, so I’ll hold onto those images and do a special post about the game’s rules with print-sized images so you can download them and play the game yourself at home!

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