9.1.19

Programme 38 (12-November-77)

Programme 38 (12-Nov-77)

Cover:

It’s a rock that’s also a dragon. In space. If you don’t understand why that’s great, then what the hell are you doing here? There aren’t any words you could have mistyped that would have brought you to ‘Vardulon.com’.

Thrill 1 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Nuttall)

With their first game won, the Washington Wolves, which now officially contains the remnants of the Harlem Heroes, are sharpening their skills in a practice game. The main thrust of the scene is that the Heroes’ love of showing off actually works as a viable tactic in Inferno as well. Far more importantly, though, we finally learn Slim’s last name. It’s Shafto. Slim Shafto.

How did I not know this already?

The manager compliments them on their new strategy, and mentions that they’re now the 20-1 favorites to win the next game! Which is just a crazy number on its face. No matter how well that one game went, this is still a low-ranked team with three key members that have only been playing for a week.

The crazy odds draw the attention of some mysterious figures, who threaten the manager’s life if they don’t cause the Heroes to lose their next game. Wait, the Wolves. I’ve got to get that into my head. The Washington Wolves.

Fearing for his life, the manager agrees to sabotage his own team. Well, at least this time around the motivation makes a little more sense. HH’s Ulysses Cord didn’t really work as a villain – wanted to make Aeroball more vicious? A cabal of evil gamblers looking to fix games, while entirely cliched, can at least be related to by the audience.

So how do they conspire to fix the game? By replacing the team’s medicinal gum with a hallucinogenic substitute!

Yeah, that’s some genuinely creepy stuff right there…

Anyhow, the Heroes aren’t affected, because they enjoy chewing old Heroes medicinal gum for luck. What a happy accident! But with one of their bikers already dead (yes, he was killed in an accident immediately, that’s what happens when you crash a gas vehicle onto a bed of hot coals), can they possibly win the game?

We’ll find out next week!

Thrill 2 – Judge Dredd (Wagner/Gibson/Jacob)

This week we get an interesting look into the mindset of the citizens of Mega-City 1, as a mother warns her child to be good, lest Judge Dredd burst into their home in the dead of night and drag him away. Which, naturally, is what happens a moment later. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though, as everyone learns when Dredd tears the child’s head from his body.

Yes, it seems that this is how industrial espionage works in the future. You kidnap a child and replace them with a robot which then overhears the domestic conversations of high-powered executives. Dredd’s got a plan though – he leaves the headless roboy on the floor of the bedroom, assuming that evil corporate henchmen will show up to repair their spy.

Luckily this is exactly what happens, giving Dredd someone who he can stick a gun in the face of and demand information from. It seems that he’s working for the eccentric trillionaire Hugh Howards! Yup, they’re going after Howard Hughes again. I never get tired of people taking shots at that guy.

Now we get a look inside of Howards’ facility, where, amazingly, the children haven’t been killed.

Although, really, isn’t being fed by a robot a fate worse than death?

Dredd and Giant, the blaxploitation Judge, show up a moment later and shoot the place up. Hugh runs off with Billy, but then trips and stumbles off the edge of a skyscraper, which, sadly, is not how the actual Howard Hughes died. Billy’s saved, though, and the story closes with another family watching the wrapup on the nightly news. And yes, because John Wagner has heard of bookending, the mother threatens the child with the wrath of Dredd is he misbehaves.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (41)+1=42 (Hugh’s death doesn’t count – while Dredd was chasing him, it’s not like he pushed the guy.)

Thrill 3 – Invasion (Finley-Day/Pino/Frame)

Picking right where the last story left off, Prince John is hiding in the mountains, lest the Volgs get a hold of him and score an amazing propaganda coup! Bill Savage is having none of that, though – his plan: smuggle John out of the country without letting anyone know he was ever there.

There’s a hitch, though – there’s yet another traitor in the midst of their resistance gang, and this time he’s an offensive racial charicature! Yup, ‘Gypsy Jake’ knows his way around jewelry, and is able to identify John’s royal ring, which Bill allowed him to continue wearing for some reason.

Naturally this leads to to Bill’s squad being attacked by Volg shock troopers as they flee. As usual there’s a low-tech solution to the problem, in this case axes! The resistance throws them at the shock troopers, miraculously cutting their ropes, sending them plummeting to their deaths.

You know, it might have been easier to just throw the axes at the soldiers themselves. Bigger target, and, last time I checked, axes are just as effective as cutting into flesh as they are slicing through ropes.

The axes, along with a few molotov cocktails, manage to bring down the helicopters, saving the day. Out of the burning wreck crawls Gypsy Jake, who was stupid enough to come on the attack with his Nazi partners. He’s still a little alive, and begs John for a pardon over the whole ‘treason’ thing, but Bill Savage shoots him in the back, mid-conversation. As usual Bill was right to execute the guy, though, since he had a concealed knife that he’d planned to use on Prince John when he got close enough.

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Gibbons)

Quite recently Dan Dare made the ill-considered decision to wage war on the Starslayer empire. This could cause a few problems because Dan just has the one ship, while the Starslayers have a dozen slave worlds devoted to producing their weapons.

There’s one thing the Starslayers don’t have, though – a pilot who’s a vetran of the ‘Solar Wars’, which I’m sure bore no legal similarities to a cetain series of movies.

Through a series of clever techniques Dan’s ship destroys his two pursuers, then sets down on the closest slave world they can find to do a little recon about the starslayers’ operation. How are they going to do this? By landing their huge space fortress out of sight of the mining facility and covering their stupidly gigantic ship with tarps. Then Dan, Bear, and Hitman strip off their shirts and decide to go undercover as slaves, hoping to pull a Spartacus and destroy the Starslayer Empire from the ground up.

That’s how the Spartacus story ended, right? With him destroying the Roman empire?

Also, didn’t it occur to them that a guy with a gun welded to his hand might not be able to blend seamlessly into a group of slaves?

Actually, rapping your suspiciously long and pointy hand in a rag will actually serve to draw more attention to it.

THARG’S NERVE CENTRE

I know I’ve already chided this comic time and again for its overly-optimistic guesses about the speed at which technology advances, but wow, is this one just ridiculous. Galactic tourism by the late 90s? Compared to that the concept of a giant living space rock monster is entirely believable.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1 (Hebden/Lozano&Canos/Potter)

So MACH Man and MACH Woman are on a train, faced with the worst choice of their lives – jump out of it to the city a hundred feet below, or get shot! Obviously they decide to jump, and it goes amazingly well.

They crash through the roof of a family’s house, destroying both their dinner and shelter. After ruining the family’s chances of surviving the winter, MACH 1 and 2 sprint through the woods towards their objective, the MACH research facility, pausing only to lament the fact that they’re no longer able to sleep. Did we already know this?

The MACHs pole-vault over the fence into the vacility, and it’s here that we finally learn the difference between the two kinds of MACH people:

Yup – they’re exactly as strong as one another, but one uses dashes, while the other employs astrices. Devious.

They beat a few people up and make their way into the surprisingly poorly-guarded facility, only to find that the inner sanctum is protected by a Hyper-hound. While a terrifying concept – a dog with all the power of a MACH Man, it proves to be something of an anti-climax, and is beaten to death with an iron pipe moments after its first appearance.

The defeat of the hound doesn’t phase Doctor Horowitz, who reveals himself as the mastermined of the MACH 2 project. And he’s just developed a new product in the line:

Yikes! Children of the Damned!

Thrill 6 – Future Shock

It’s time for part 2 of Robot Repairs, in which Zak and Daryl, the shirtless leathermen who repair robots for a living, endeavour to sabotage the production of a new line of self-fixing robots. When we last saw them they were being attacked by that selfsame robot. Can they escape this terrible fate?

So, is everybody ready for the big twist?
Yes, the gay mechanics are actually self-repairing robots themselves! And they were so determined to remain the only self-repairing robots in existence that they murdered their own inventor as well!

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – I’ve got to say, anything that grows the mythology of Dredd’s world is my cup of tea.

Worst Story: Future Shock – Um, what the hell was that? Let’s say the gay robots for some reason wanted to remain the only self-repairing robots in existence. Why did they also become robot repairmen? And why don’t they wear shirts?

To cleanse your palette, here’s a diagram of Dan Dare’s awesome landing craft!

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