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Starlord 11

Cover by Bob Wakelin

Mind Wars was a comic strip by writer Alan Hebden and artist Jesús Redondo, with contributions from Ian Gibson and Mike White. It ran in the short-lived science fiction weekly Starlord from issue two to issue twenty-two (the final issue), and was something of an under-appreciated classic. It told the harrowing story of twins Ardeni Lakam and her twin brother Arlen, two youths from the human colony world Vulcugron in the year 3000 AD who develop awesome and slightly sinister psychic powers and become pawns in a deadly chess game between the human-led Stellar Federation and the alien Jugla. It sounds like just another cliched SF tale, but Mind Wars was surprisingly complex and adult in its approach (and by adult, I don't just mean the fact that Ardeni for some reason best known to herself spends most of the story either half naked or wearing an open vest and semi-transparent harem pants).

In most stories there are good guys and bad guys, but in Mind Wars the humans are pretty much as despicable as the Jugla, with the exception of Yosay Tilman, a Federation special agent who turns on his superiors in order to help the kids. Even Ardeni is frequently more frighteningly vengeful than heroic, especially after Starlord #11, in which (in a move which shocked readers) she is forced to kill her brother Arlen, who is now under the control of the Jugla, in order to stop him detonating Earth's sun with a fusion bomb (until then, Arlen had effectively been an equal co-star in the strip; it was like Batman murdering Robin!).

Redondo's art is as strong as Hebden's uncompromising scripts, the sexy but scary Ardeni both beautiful and frightening when she uses her powers. There is a surreal quality to some of it which puts even much of the rest of the content of the consistantly high quality Starlord to shame, particularly the scenes involving the mysterious Green Star which helps Ardeni master her abilities. And in the end, Ardeni's solution to the conflict is a simple and appropriate one. Having led the ruthless Doctor Varn and the Federation forces to the Jugla homeworld, she uses her mind powers to render all the weapons on both sides useless before heading off into space with her friend Tilman and boyfriend Tarsh (disturbingly, a youth surgically altered to look like her dead twin) leaving Varn and his Jugla counterpart Na-Rutha to either talk to each other or fight it out face to face! If only more superheroes had the common sense of Ardeni Lakam...

Ardeni and Tilman later returned in a one-off Mind Wars strip in the 1981 Starlord Annual.

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