2000AD and Tornado Prog 137: Black Hawk… once a Roman centurion – now gladiator in a savage alien arena!

A second Belardinelli cover in a row, though this time it’s for Blackhawk, not a generic alien. In the time in which I was amassing my collection of back progs, this was one of the earliest that I bought, and so I’m much more familiar with this cover than some of the others I’ve been looking at lately, not to mention the rest of the contents of this prog.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre reveals the exciting news trailed last prog. It’s not a merger, it’s the end of one thrill and the beginning of another. Disaster 1990! gets some flack, though I generally like it, despite its faults. Having said that, I won’t miss it when it finishes in two progs and is replaced the week after by… The V.C.s! Other news is that art robot Ezquerra is illustrating Tharg’s next tale, this time when he goes up against hte Dictators of Zrag.

Judge Dredd: Death of a Judge from John Howard and Ron Smith. For those keeping tally – as of this prog we’ve seen four female judges, of which one didn’t speak, one had a ‘caring’ role, and two are fatally wounded in their second panel, just holding out long enough to have some famous last words on their second page. Having said that, in the early days half of the street judges we’d seen had died in their first episode… Three months and Cassie will be on the scene. So – some joyriders kill a Judge Harkness and this story is about her partner, Judge Bryce. It’s not explicitly stated that they had an affair, but they certainly got a lot closer than judges are supposed to get. John and Ron put out a great chase, with Bryce going after the trio of killers and Dredd going after the whole lot of them. Bryce might be the second black judge depicted in the pages of 2000AD (after Giant, who we haven’t seen since the Day the Law Died) – can’t say I’ve been watching out, and it’s difficult to tell what the intention was in a black and white comic.

Draw for Tharg is a collection of reader’s art – the Johnny Alpha pic looks like it’s copied directly from an Ezquerra frame somewhere. The other pictures on this page aren’t so good, but they look like they’re original, and that counts for more than being able to trace.

Black Hawk has a first-class episode by Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli. Starting with some humour, Ursa preys to the god of Chop-Chop for a sign on whether to escape with Blackhawk. Blackhawk helps the divine signs along a bit and before long the two are creeping to the sky-boats. Well, Blackhawk is creeping, Ursa is singing loudly. Unfortunately for both of them, their escape attempt has been predicted days earlier by the Oracle computer and is being watchec by the Director. Doubly unfortunately neither Ursa nor Blackhawk have the first clue on how to operate a spacecraft (sorry, sky-boat). They have some fortune though, for just before they’re going to be shoved out of an airlock and tied to the outside of Stadium, they all get attacked by pirates – using the gambit used by the robot resistance earlier this year – an innocuous freighter which slides back a few panels to reveal a more sinister spaceship. I think the next time we see this used will be in about two years time, for Book I of Nemesis the Warlock.

The A.B.C. Warriors from Pat Mills and Mick McMahon – this sequence doesn’t have a name, but it features George. Or should that be Geeorrgeeee! In the tradition of Charlie from Ro-Busters, this gargantek had been designed to terra-form Mars in the early days of colonisation. As I said in the intro – this was an early prog for me when I was padding out the back prog collection, so perhaps a little of this is nostalgia, but this is my favourite Martian ABC Warriors story. Giant robots and pathos – what more do you want? p.s. as I write this, the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game has just been released, so the sight of the Biol Base map makes me think there should be an ‘ABC Warriors attacking a Mars corporation base’ scenario.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tom Tully and Vañó have Joe the stuntman (or actor) getting killed by a ghostly spirit and then his body changing into the clay-faced visage that Wolfie keeps seeing. While this goes on, Wolfie gets the low-down on the interesting bit – what it is that lies beneath the stones. Some time in prehistory, the Wendigore was a demonic creature which terrorised the ancient peoples, who lured it to an underground chamber where it was sealed there forever by the placement of three giant stones. The guardians look to be akin to gaollers, scaring off any who would disrupt the stones and set the Wendigore free. Back on set, not much has changed since the previous cliffhanger – Tara is on the verge of heading up the stairs to where a dead and/or possessed Joe awaits.

Finlay-Day continues Disaster 1990! with Mike White taking over art duties this prog. Bill and Bamber liberate some slaves and manage to infiltrate the fortified Buckingham Palace. Everything is going smoothly, though we have two more episodes so we know there has to be some twists. It comes in the form of the third man – the third leader of the Greater London Legion. Martin, Razor and… Dr Sinclair! Like Invasion, Savage’s side-kick, there from almost the beginning, gets offed in the final act (or does he – Sinclair says that Bamber has been shot dead, but do you believe what he says?)

The inside back cover has another four readers’ profiles. Tharg confirms that Rick Random is the least popular story that has run in 2000AD to date! The bottom half of the page is a trial for Prog 130, featuring the first (tiny) views of Slippery Jim Digriz and the VCs spaceship.

No Captain Klep on the back cover, instead a star pin-up of Ursa by Wyatt, along with musical notation of Ursa’s Song: “My axe he chop with crunch-ing thus soon he be drink-ing plent-y blood”. The whole thing is song in one note. Blackhawk does not like what he’s hearing (he’s in the background, covering his ears and with a pained expression on his face).

Grailpage: some first class art this prog, memorably moments from Ron Smith and Belardinelli, but the grailpage award goes to Mike McMahon’s centrespread of ‘Mad’ George.

Grailquote: John Howard, Joe Dredd: “When a judge is allowed to break the law, then there is no law… There can be only one love in a judge’s life… THE LAW.”

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