Programme 29 (10-September-77)


You know, this cover is wonderful enough that it would lead me to once again wish that there were an actual story inside the issue where this happened. I would, had this basic thing not already happened in both Judge Dredd and Dan Dare.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

With the first battle won, Savage and Silk lead their men out of Glasgow, hoping to make an escape before the Volgs can regroup. The volgs are moving faster than anyone expected, though, arming a group of mad criminals with flamethrowers and sending them to block the roads.

Savage has a daring, if somewhat confusing plan. He lines a row of firetrucks in the street and then extends their ladders, the idea being that as the flame troops approach the trucks the Mad Dogs will be able to jump down into the middle of their ranks, at hand-to-hand combat range. Of course, this plan requires not one of the flame troops to bother looking up during their approach. Incredibly, this happens, and the flame troops are quickly subdued.

The Mad Dogs quickly disguise themselves as the flame troops and head back to the Volg base – the disguise works just long enough for them to get into the Volgan motor pool. All the guards are burned alive, and the Mad Dogs make it out with a few armored cars, which will no doubt help them kill more Nazis!

Thrill 2 – Judge Dredd

It’s time for sci-fi to once again handle the thorny issue of prejudice! This week’s target? Robots! Those ‘neon knights’ are the KKK of hating robots, you see. Every night they drive around, killing any robots they happen across. What’s interesting about this story is that they set it up as being a follow-up to the robot rebellion storyline. The action of Call-Me-Kenneth have turned large sections against robots in general, and this has led to brutal violence against both robots and the humans who would protect them.

Now that’s what I call some social commentary.

Things get personal for Dredd when the next robot attacked is his butler, Walter! But it’s not a quick execution for the speech-impeded droid, no, when the Klan discovers that he’s a Free robot they realize that destroying him is tantamount to murder, so it’s something they’d better do more privately.

Of course, killing that guy in the last scene actually was murder, and they didn’t get squeamish about that, but whatever.

Dredd randomly happens across the Klan’s meeting place while he’s visiting a graveyard for Judges killed in the rebellion. He’s captured while investigating, but manages to convince the Klan that he’s on their side, what with him being the one who actually stopped the rebellion and all. Of course it’s just a ruse, designed to give Dredd enough space to get to his weapons.

Wow, that’s a nasty shot – am I crazy, or is that the back of that guy’s head being blown out through his hood there?

Even with Dredd’s accomplished murdering there’s just too many Klansmen to be killed. Dredd decides to fight smart and tackles their leader, quickly tearing off his face and revealing him to be a cyborg!

Dredd recognized the sound of a synthetic voicebox, and played his hunch. I’m glad the hunch was good, or that might have gotten very bloody indeed. Cowed by the fact that they were following a dirty cybo, the rest of the Klansmen surrender without incident.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (31)+6=37

Thrill 3 - Shako

It’s time to reinforce a few urban legends her at ‘Shako’, as the bear gorges at the edge of a cliff, standing with his mouth open as lemmings commit masss suicide over the edge. I don’t know why I was expecting realism from a comic strip glorifying the murderous exploits of a great white bear, but this is a little disappointing.

The feast doesn’t last long, though – Buck Dollar (Eskimo Naturalist), Jake (one-armed jerk), and Dobie (redshirt) are following his trail closely by dogsled. When they get close enough to see him Dobie cuts the dogs loose, which leads to a brutal battle between beast and beast.

Dobie wants to take a few rifle shots at the yogi during the fight, but Jake stops him – apparently the virus capsule is so virulent that if it’s hit by a bullet ‘Half of America’ will be killed! I’m not sure how that would work (just how airborne is this thing?), but it’s a decent threat to keep the story going.

The fight finally wears Shako to the point where he has to sit down to protect himself from the dogs, making him a still target. But before Jake can finish him off, the dogs are executed… by Russians! That’s right, the Russians know about the capsule too! Oh, this is going to be trouble next issue…

Shako killed no people this weed, which leaves the total number Shako’s victims to have died ‘real slow’ as 2 out of 24, or roughly 8%

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Gibbons)

Dan and company don’t have to wait long for the action to start in their intersteller mission to ‘the lost worlds’. Almost immediately they come across the ‘pioneer’, one of the missing ships, with its crew nowhere to be found! Audio logs (are you listening, System Shock 2?) tell the story of how the crew thought they spotted glinting treasure on the surface of an asteroid and went to investigate, then never returned!

The mystery of the disappearance is solved almost immediately, when Dan’s ship is swarmed by claw-handed winged insect-men who can breathe and fly in space!

Wait a minute… insect men who fly through the vacuum of space… I’m a little rusty on my Lovecraftianism, but aren’t those Bya’khee? Also, how do flapping wings work in space, where there’s nothing for them to push off of?

These primitive monsters are no match for Dan, though – while they were able to slaughter the crew of an exploration ship relatively easily, Dan’s got a combat cruiser on his side. They fire up the engines and make a speedy getaway, but that’s not enough of a resolution for Dan, so he spins around and fires a few nuclear torpedoes into the asteroid, blasting it to pieces, killing all the remaining Bya’khee.

Which seems like a bit of an extreme response. Wouldn’t a beacon with the message ‘monsters live here, stay away’ have been just as good, and not involved the extermination of an intelligent race?

I guess that’s just not how Dan Dare rolls.


Thrill 5 – MACH 1

When we left Probe he was in a bit of a pickle. He’s on a Russian space station, thousands of miles from the missiles that America is about to launch at strategic Russian sites!

There’s only one option – a kamikaze strike, ploughing the space shuttle smack into the missile launch site! Unfortunately Tex has something to say about that, since, even with a hole in his heart, he’s proved amazingly resistant to death. Just how is he so strong? Two hearts. Yup. He was in a plane crash, and when he was patched up they dropped a second heart in there. I’m not sure how that keeps all the blood from flooding out of the hole in one of the hearts, but it’s as good an explanation as any.

After a desperate fight Probe manages to stab Tex in the second heart as well, then he rushes back to the controls. The plan? Ram the missile as it approaches the edge of the atmosphere, causing it to fly directly back at its launch site.

No, really.

It works exactly as planned, even to the point that the warhead doesn’t detonate! Probe’s shuttle crashes into the ocean, giving him a chance to break free and swim to safety. With the military instillation destroyed Probe takes a moment to thank his lucky stars that the mad general only bothered to fire the one missile.

Thrill 6 – Future Shock

After four years in space, trying out a new ‘warp’ engine, two astronauts land on a planet that looks suspiciously like earth. Right down to the branded cattle and cowboys roasting food at a fire! But when the astronauts approach, they discover that the cowboys are terrifying lizard-men! Friendly lizard-men, though, albeit ones with odd feelings about the humans’ intellect.

They share a meal by the fire before parting ways, with the humans explaining that they’re eager to find their way back to Earth. The lizard-men don’t have the heart to tell the astronauts the twist. That their ‘warp’ drive didn’t take them through space… it took them through time!

Man, that is a creepy image. Maybe the creepiest we’ve seen so far in this comic. Ick.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – That was some fine social commentary there, Judge. Look for another appearance by Dredd in this spot next time, based on the ‘next time on’. Let’s just say the rest of the issue would have to be pretty fantastic to top that story…

Worst Story: Shako – Much as it pains me to finally put Shako in here, I just can’t abide that whole lemmings nonsense.

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