2000AD and Tornado Prog 132: In the name of Khaos… DIE! Ride the razor edge of FEAR with the A.B.C. Warriors!

Mike McMahon’s back on the cover and showing Deadlock presiding over the death of Hell Kickstart, apparently.

The Nerve Centre gets not one, but two make-overs this prog. First it gets called The Mighty Tharg’s Nerve Centre (instead of plain ‘Nerve Centre’) – but that’s only so that it can then be re-named Ro-Jaws’ Nerve Centre. With ABC Warriors taking over the centre pages, Ro-Jaws has been a little left out. In the same way that Tharg is often depicted by reader’s art, so is Ro-Jaws – though the reader just happens to be future art droid Kev Hopgood! Another reader points out that the cover of prog 125 featured a Volgan war robot, instead of Deadlock (as labelled). I’m pretty sure I owned this prog before prog 125, so I would have read the letter about it before actually seeing the cover myself – I’d like to think I’d have noticed anyway. As a total aside, my copy of this prog has had the reader’s poll filled in by the previous owner. For those interested, this is what an unknown earthlet wrote in answer to ‘This is what I like best in “2000 A.D. & Tornado”‘ – in reverse order: 6th Wolfie Smith; 5th Nerve Centre; 4th Diaster 1990; 3rd ABC Warriors; 2nd Judge Dredd; 1st Black Hawk.

Judge Dredd: Sob Story – the second half! I was surprised to find it was only a two-parter – there’s so much world- and character-building in it that I thought it was three episodes at least! Though maybe because I first read it in the pages of the early eighties Eagle comics reprint meant it had been chopped up to fit into more, but smaller pages (but not as many or as small at the later eighties Titan Comics paperback version). John Howard gives Ron Smith an excuse to introduce Squaxx to Otto Sump in a classic splash page, with fantastic dialogue to match. The hard luck case is brought in by Dredd to lure out the Sob Story killers. Ron puts some nice details throughout the episode, including the first view of the inside of Otto’s one-room mo-pad. There’s the necessary feature of the ‘Apex folding bed’ (in which Dredd is waiting), but also in the same panel a few other details – the expected envelopes full of creds, but also the flip side of reality TV – a poison bottle and a handgun with Otto’s name on. From the opening splash page introducing mo-pads to the closing panel of Johnny Teardrop begging for help, this is a perfect two-parter. On the character of Otto – he’s gullible and not exactly intelligent – encapsulated by the scene after Dredd has killed a fake face-change specialist who just tried to kill Otto, and Otto bemoans that he could at least have waited until after they’d changed his face before killing them…

I think we’ve seen this advert before, but I can’t let Brian Bolland drawing a Jawa Sandcrawler go buy un-commented-upon. This is an advert for Palitoy Star Wars toys – the figures may have become iconic, but I gather the company had a bit of a problem meeting demand, and the ‘landscape’ sets in this advert are a bit rubbish (no wonder they drafted in Brian Bolland to draw pictures based on the film, as photos of the toys may have belied the reality).

For a moment I thought a dinosaur was in the next story, though on closer examination this was just because Flesh (and Shako) artist Ramon Sola is filling in for Belardinelli on Black Hawk. In general I dislike gladiator and kidnapped-to-play-death-game storylines. I’m also not liking the beginnings of these episodes, with ‘Alvin Gaunt’ addressing Blackhawk in second person. I’m hoping Alan Grant gets bored of writing it around the time that Blackhawk leaves the arena and gets going with his own adventures. Those reservations aside, Blackhawk and Ursa meet the Kraakhan, the afore-mentioned dinosaur-like beast on the un-named planet. The interplay between Blackhawk and Ursa is great, particularly after Blackhawk finds out that Ursa can’t swim – half a mile out to see. We also get a rendition of Ursa’s battle song (and then his victory song, which is similar in most respects). Little touches like Ursa: “I think maybe it is working, eh, Blackhawk?” Blackhawk: “I think surely it is, Ursa!” give Blackhawk a sense of humour he was lacking previously. Sorry to say that while this episode is monster-centric, I prefer Sola’s work on Flesh and Shako – though I wouldn’t envy any artist filling in for Belardinelli.

Pat Mills and Mike McMahon introduce The A.B.C. Warriors to The Red Death. Hell Kickstart and the Boomtown Brats are terrorising Viking City, a pyramidic city designed to deflect the Martian weather. There always seems to be pyramids on Mars… After riding up and other it, Deadlock calls out Kickstart to ascend the most challenging of the pyramids – the Eiger Building. Kickstart ends up impaled on the peak of the building, but he died from a rapid fear-activated virus four seconds before being falling on the building. This isn’t the first time that Mills and McMahon have depicted a virus wreaking havoc, though unlike 2T-FRU-T, this one has a supernatural origin, as Deadlock reveals.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Vañó has Tara introduce Wolfie to the other extras, and a stuntman, Simon Trent. There’s some friction between Trent and Wolfie (over Tara) though I’m not sure how far this will go, as Trent looks set to fall to his death in the next episdoe, scared by a manifestation of ancient evil. Similar to how ABC Warriors ended…

Disaster 1990! Just realised I’ve been missing off the exclamation mark from Diaster 1990! G. Finlay-Day and Carlos Pino show Doctor Pyke controlling waterfowl with a bird call – every single picture we see of the Doctor has the bird call in his mouth, so it’s no surprise how he comes unstuck… There’s some questionable scenes where Bamber and Bill manage to lay a trail of gunpowder which Pyke finds himself in the centre of and the whole conceit of the scientist having precise control over the birds actions based on the bird call breaks suspension of disbelief for me. I’ve remembered the general storylines of what’s happened in this so fast this episode I’m a how the series ends, but past this episode I’m a bit vague – it promises to continue with an Invasion-like tour of Britain though. A promise which I have a feeling gets cut short – certainly much shorter than Invasion ran.

Grailpage: it could never be anything over than Ron Smith’s debut of Otto Sump!

Grailquote: John Howard, Otto Sump: “The… the only job I ever got was with the sewage department – as a rat-scarer! …it was a good job. All I had to do was walk along the sewers an’ sorta look at the rats… Then… then some buncha animal lovers complained an’… an’ I got the sack!”

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