2000AD and Tornado Prog 149: Inside… Sword and Sorcery! See Blackhawk – warrior in search of a soul!

Before I start – this is another of those progs I bought quite early on, so the episodes within are more familiar to me than those preceding and following them. Belardinelli provides the cover, though the eyeless green unicorn that Blackhawk is sitting on will confuse readers, as it hasn’t appeared yet.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains a rather familiar picture of a space pirate provided by a reader. Familiar to anybody who had read a Star Wars comic that had been published around the same time, as detailed on the 2000AD forum Space Spinner 2000 thread. Personally I’d caught the original character Serji-X Arrogantus in the Return of the Jedi UK comic, which also reprinted previous Marvel Star Wars stories. I later got this back prog so knew immediately when I saw it that the £10 winner had cheated.

Having taken months to draw, and waiting for the entire three episodes to be completed and delivered before publishing, it’s a bit surprising that Judge Dredd: Judge Death by John Howard and Brian Bolland didn’t even get a mention on the cover. This is the classic story. I can’t imagine that anybody interested in reading this blog hasn’t already read it, or that there’s anything I could possibly say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. At the time this was published there was a usual lead time of about six weeks on publication, meaning that the art you saw was drawn only a month and a half earlier. For this story McManus wanted the whole thing in the bag before any part of it was published – no rush jobs on the last episode or drafting in a second artist to complete it, as we’ve seen on many other stories in the past three years. That’s why I thought it strange there were no covers – though I guess after waiting about six months (remember those teases in the Nerve Centre about a female judge making an appearance?) they didn’t want to wait any longer for Bolland to do a cover as well! For those used to reading this in collected edition (and for those who may not have read the story) the events of this episode are: Tiny the Tap is the first victim (in our dimension) of Judge Death; Justice Department Tech Division discover skin tissue which has been dead for centuries; Death goes clubbing (in the sense that he locks the doors to a nightclub and proceeds to kill everybody inside); the judges arrive on the scene and put enough bullets in Death to kill him. Then he gets up. Cultural reference-wise the DJ in the nightclub uses the word ‘scrotnig’ – oft used by Tharg but I think this is the only time it’s used in the Dredd strip. A reference which would probably have gone over the heads of the eight year olds reading this prog was ‘Who put the boop’ – a parody of 1961 hit Who Put the Bomp by Barry Mann.

The V.C.s by Ian Rogan and Gary Leach continues. Hen Sho is apparently the top las-lancer in the system (looks like a laser sword to me) – possibly inspired by Sulu’s fencing ability in Star Trek… Despite Hen Sho’s skills, the V.C.s are fighting a losing battle and they’re about to overrun the bridge before Ringer can fix the ship, when Smith remembers some static that filled their communication devices the episode before. Giving instructions to Brother, they confirm that the Geeklings use sonar to give them a sense of direction – with this jammed, they can be picked off easily, giving Ringer time to operate emergency procedures and get them out of danger’s way. For good measure, a nova is left behind to take care of the other ten thousand Geeklings outside the ship.

Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales from Oleh (still not sure if this is an otherwise unknown writer or a pseudonym) and Casanovas continues. Gree-C is leaking oil everywhere while Walker mops the floor. The stranger discovers the spanner that Walker dropped in the robot’s works and Gree-C regains the lead. The next to contests are Walker’s pick. His first choice is a shooting match, to hit a coin in mid-air, which Gree-C wins by extending his arms (I’d have thought being a robot in the first place would have given him the advantage, but whatever). The second choice is a game of poker – though playing a game of bluff and concentration against an opponent who can’t show emotion and has a calculator for a brain seems like a bad choice to me. Having lost all four contests, Walker tries to shoot his way out, though the stranger (who completely unsurprisingly is a robot) kills him first. The first conclusion has Gree-C warn the children bullying the R2-a-like that if they’re cruel to robots then the stranger may come for them, making this a robo-fairy-tale. The second conclusion has Ro-Jaws saying the same thing to the readers…

Over the page, The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. ‘Graf Bent’ gets sprung from jail, though not without a fight (Jim continues the act by pretending that Bent thinks his rescuers are actually assassins). Given half a chance to join with his rescuers but still maintaining character, Jim manages to ally with ‘fellow’ revolutionaries, though the ‘Lady Engela’ insists that Bent is fully evaluated first. That night, Jim shimmies down the outside of the castle to investigate and discovers that Engela / Angelina has assembled an army, and an air force and a subterranean force. Heading to a quiet garden to cogitate, he discovers a dead guard and finds a would-be assassin outside Angelina’s room, far below. Even though the whole point of his being there is to kill Angelina, he decides in the heat of the moment to jump down, risking a two-mile drop if he misses, to take out the other assassin.

It’s been a while since we got some Reader’s Profiles, and here’s four more. Three put Judge Dredd in the top spot, with the fourth putting the voting coupon and the next prog ads as their favourite features.

TimeQuake from Jack Adrian and Redondo. Suzi Cho explains why she didn’t take a time strap with her last episode – it could have blown her cover (though that doesn’t explain why Time Control couldn’t have just time traced her after she left). Cho and Blocker hop back to the 23rd century to track down Happi-Daze, the illegal time travel company and immediately get approached by a time tout. Not seeing anything at all suspicious about this they immediately walk into a trap set by the boss Mother Eternal, who turns out to have been one of the time tourists that Cho had been associating with. Because she did actually save her life, she doesn’t kill them immediately, but does send them into a null-time spiral, also known as a time-twister, a dimension from which there is no escape…

Captain Klep fights the alien rat invasion force for four days before realising they actually are rats, considered a delicacy on Klepton, eats them all and saves Earth. Klep is honoured by the world, but still has to clean up all the ticker tape.

Black Hawk, Ursa and Zog find a bewildering jumble of stairs inside the slave mound (think MC Escher) and yet Black Hawk can clearly see the path to the Bloodblade. Finally, once he stands next to it, he realises it has been to easy for him to find it. Unfortunately Zog does not have the same self-control that Blackhawk has, and triggers a trap by touching the blade. A demon warrior appears grasping the blade, though is dispatched within a page by Blackhawk wielding Ursa’s axe of Chop-Chop. Another hand, larger, starts to appear, though Blackhawk is wise to this now and through power of will dismisses it. Outside, a hero now to the BBs (bat-men), Kur the horse (from the front cover) is introduced, the episode ending with Blackhawk astride Kur, flanked by Ursa, Zog and the BBs (who also still shout “Zog!”) as they prepare to attack the Great Beast’s castle. Got all that? I’ve got a feeling that this is heading towards a conclusion, and I can’t remember any more Belardinelli artwork until Meltdown Man, over half a year away. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if something else crops up in between!

A Nerve Centre Extra has another picture and a few letters, sharing the page with a next prog box – revealing that the V.C.s are going to Phobos (moon of Mars).

2000AD Postergraph: Warriors of the Future – No 5 Silent Warden (warrior of The Deep). The warriors of the future go sub-aquatic. The first two postergraphs were focused on V.C.s’ Star Troopers, and the third could concievably be the ground-based equivalent (I said earlier that I thought there would be an alteraction between the Star Troopers and ground troops on Mars, but that next prog tag suggests it’s on Phobos). I’m not so sure that this one has any place in the V.C.s universe (though as I only had the first Titan collection for a long time, they could well appear in the second half of the story, which I’m nowhere near as familiar with). They’d be much more at home in a sci-fi wargame though (Warhammer 40K isn’t the only one out there, some are less grimdark).

Grailpage: will I opt for one of those legendary pages from Bolland as grailpage? Nope – it’s King Carlos’ centrespread showing Jim being flown to (what I’ll call) Castle Rdenrunot. Though neither film had been made at the time, it’s reminiscent of the Castle of the Crystal (from the Dark Crystal) and the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness (Time Bandits). For the first time, I’m going to have to tie this in first place with Belardinelli’s Escher-style gravitationally-challenged slave mound, containing staircases leading in all directions.

Grailquote: for humour I would pick John Howard, Judge Death: “Have you come to witness judgment?” Judge Ross: “We’ve come to slam your butt in pokey, mister!” but for the sheer pop cultural impact it has had it can only go to Judge Death: “You cannot kill what does not live!

One thought on “2000AD and Tornado Prog 149: Inside… Sword and Sorcery! See Blackhawk – warrior in search of a soul!

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