Prog 75: Have you the nerve to play the Cursed Earth game?

The cover is Dredd looming over the boardgame that starts this prog and looks like it was provided by an art editor (and is sort of an amalgam of Bolland, Gibbons and McMahon’s styles).

The 2000AD Nerve Centre has no letters and is also cut down to half a page by an advert. At least we get a mention of upcoming thrill Robo-Hunter – this is probably the tipping point for me – before this point it’s a kids comic whose main interest for me has been that it builds into the ‘classic’ 2000AD (like James Bond and Doctor Who – this being the one that was in place when one starts reading).

Inferno is at the front of the prog for its last episode – knew this was coming when three characters died last prog, one of which was only mentioned in a narration box! It gets worse this prog – Slim Shafto – a character who has been with us since prog 1 has two androids closing in on him and a tharg’s head narration panel tells us that “another Hellcat bit the dust”. Zack Harper is also dispatched in the same non-visual panel. Louis succeeds in intercepting the signal controlling the androids and uses it to get the to destroy themselves, and each other. And then he and Moody Bloo are assassinated by the Syndicate. The story backtracks on Cindy being a casualty and she was back to merely being hospitalised. I’d like to think that John Clay and Cindy go on to parent Judge Giant and in lieu of any other evidence that’s who the judge’s parents are. There is a ‘whatever happened to Giant’ story but that’s well over twenty years away and I can’t remember anything about it.

The power-mad Harry tries to trick MACH Zero into going on a rampage of wanton destruction, but for a change Zero has more self-control and the two ‘friends’ argue. There quarrel is broken up by Doctor Moxan (associated with the acupuncture programme and previously seen in early story On the Roof of the World and The Final Encounter). Something I find doing this slog (and occasional updating of the 2000ADopedia wiki) is that there’s more consistency between some stories than I’d initially realised. So, an airstrike (is it still called an airstrike if the weapon is nerve gas?) by Moxan knocks out everybody apart from Harry, who attempts to release a radiation blast. The gas has affected the suit, however, which melts down – not in a nuclear meltdown sense, it just melts away, conveniently leaving Harry unharmed. Zero is locked up in his old cell.

Bad news – there’s another competition where an image has been hidden in stories throughout the prog – even worse, it continues next week. The image itself is a kid on a skateboard drawn by Mike McMahon.

Overleaf the colour pages of Dredd have been cut in half by the first part of that boardgame – the bit we do get has two dinosaurs in a pit fight. Dredd and Spikes escape with the help of one of Spikes earrings and Satanus escapes, with the help of a greedy tyrannosaur who swallows the grenade destined for Satanus. The other Tyrannosaurs go into a feeding frenzy, but like his mother, Satanus has an eye on other things and heads for Repentance. Just as he drags a chain gang of prisoners from the jailhouse, including Judge Jack on the end of the chain, Dredd passes judgement on the corrupt town, giving the residents five minutes notice before the settlement is raised to the ground.

Mutiny! on the Space Fort continues, with Gunnar saving Dare’s life (previously plummeting to his death) in order to kill him, it seems… Bear says he’s turning traitor to join the mutineers and I’m not sure who to believe at this stage, rules of narration would say he’s bluffing and by the end of the episode Hitman and Bear are facing off against each other.

Ant Wars. Villa at last starts to realise that Anteater might know what he’s doing – as some gamblers on a river boat play russian roulette with Anteater’s life, the child is looking out at thousands of giant ants using equally giant leaves as rafts to travel down the river after them. Big Bluffer (the head gambler) orders for them to be killed and their bodies thrown over, though Villa head-butts his captor and the two jump off the boat anyway. While the ants make mincemeat of those above water, Anteater leads the two underneath a giant leaf and they swim away. Further downstream a carnival is beginning, along with one of those McMahon skateboarders.

Grailpage: McMahon’s Tweak breaking out a barn in the Landraider, Satanus peering through the barred window of the jailhouse and then breaking down the wall wins it this week.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Tweak: “Oh, Nip – what havvve you done in the corner? Judge Dredd will certainly not be please… Twark?” gotta love that computer teaching program!

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