2000AD and Tornado Prog 150: “Nerve poison on his blade – one nick and I’m dead!” The Stainless Steel Rat Gets a Slice of the Action Inside!

A top-down Dutch angle cover from Ezquerra as Jim fights it out with the assassin outside Angelina’s bedroom. Surprisingly considering the number of vertigo-inducingly tall buildings in 2000AD (and Judge Dredd in particularly) it’s perhaps surprising we haven’t seen this kind of angle on a cover before…

Tharg’s Nerve Centre brings news of a four-part poster starting in Prog 152 (which I’d completely forgotten about so had to have a quick peak ahead to see what it was – this is why this blog sometimes gets a bit behind). For perhaps the first time an earthlet points out that the cover price rises of 2000AD haven’t been matched by price rises in extra-terrestrial territories (Earth has a relatively unstable economy in relation to other planets, and so inflation isn’t such a problem there).

Judge Dredd: Judge Death part 2. Brian Bolland ably shapes John Howard’s words. As if introducing Death wasn’t enough last prog, after the dark judge’s body is incinerated, Dredd calls in Psi-Division (our first time seeing psychic abilities in Dredd) and, of course, no beating about the bush, without further ado, Judge Anderson. Right from the start she appears fully-formed, with both serious and flippant sides, a much-needed bit of light relief from the grim demeanour of Dredd (without being Walter or Maria). Using Death’s charred skeleton as a conduit, she allows Dredd to speak to Death, and Death provides all the exposition regarding his life-long (death-long?) mission – as all crime is committed by the living, life itself was made illegal in Death’s dimension. Later that night, Death possesses Anderson, her receptive mind being the one thing he needs to resume the mission. The precise lines from Bolland show where the time given to the artist went. I’ve been reading Steve McManus’s book about this time period, and it looks like the moment it finished running, Bolland got put on the sequel – accounting for eight months away from the spotlight!

The V.C.s from Gerry Finlay-Day and Cam Kennedy shows the star-trooper base in orbit above Mars – Phobos Harbour, the largest star-trooper base in the system. p.s. just noticed the classic V.C.s logo has made an appearance – the one in perspective, with the troops sat around on the letters. Hen Sho mentions the dome city of New Peking, built inside Olympus Mons on the surface of Mars – I think that’s where the fight I’ve mentioned a few times now takes place – but for the time being we’re in orbit. The bulk of the fleet have been withdrawn from warzones leaving only a skeleton force on patrol in an attempt to broker peace with the species from uknown galaxy designated ‘G’ (the Geeks). I’ve also mentioned a few times how the sequence of comic panels should be easy to read – if you have to put an arrow to show which panel to go to next, then you should probably put the panels in a different configuration. I can’t figure out exactly how, but the panels on this page make no sense, and yet I had no problem reading them in the correct order (apart from a little apprehension that I’d do it wrong). I think Tom Frame’s lettering has something to do with this – a basic rule of comics (which gets broken all the time – but you have to know the rules before you can break them effectively) is to leave space at the top of a panel for text. With this page you read left to right at the top (in two panels which kind of merge into one), then down the right hand side for two landscape panels, follow the word balloons to the portrait-shaped panel on the left and then around back to the right for the bottom two side-by-side panels. I think without Frame’s input (whom McManus considererd an honourary member of editorial) this page may have been as confusing as some of those we’ve seen in older reprints in annuals.

Captain Klep goes for a dive, and being Klep breaks the time barrier, arriving in the year 8000 with no way to return to the 20th century.

The Design an Alien competition continues with five original pictures (though I have my doubts about one of them).

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Ezquerra. The centre pages are given over to the fight between Jim and the assassin on the two-mile high balcony (as featured on the cover), ended when Jim chucks the assassin over the edge. Angelina opens the door and at this point the comic utterly diverges from the book (spoilers!) In the novel, the assassin is not chucked over the balcony and his body is recognised as being one of the Count’s followers. Jim lets slip his real identity and as Angelina is going to kill him, Inskipp surprises her – a deus ex machina (or Inskipp in the wall). In this version, Angelina starts the revolution without the Count, making use of some of that hardware we’ve seen (which wasn’t in the book either). In this version, Angelina kick-starts the ‘revolution’ and threatenes to maim the Count, though Jim asks her to spare him (and letting slip he knows her Angelina identity instead of Lady Engela). The two go underground in a mole tank and Angelina shows that she knows that Jim knows who she is (or at least one of her previous names). Carlos’ depiction of Angelina is great, and I’m wondering if there’s a touch of Servilan about her visual appearance.

In TimeQuake, Jack Adrian and Jesus Redondo continues. That time spiral they were trapped in forever, which even their time straps couldn’t get them out of? It could be thwarted by, erm, walking forwards. Not the best resolution to a cliff-hanger. Mother Eternal warps out of her office when suddenly some time tourists warp in. They’d watned to watch Julius Caesar land in England but ended up being shot by English longbows at Agincourt. Suzi Cho manages to trace Mother Eternal and the duo follow her, but find she’s time warped (again) and is nowhere to be seen. What is to be seen is the charge of the Light Brigade (the narration has more than a little Alfred Lord Tennyson about it – ‘valley’, ‘thunder’, ‘the valley of death’.

Mek-Quake’s Puzzle Corner – the bulldozer robot isn’t the obvious choice to present a word puzzle… The most difficult question was “Blackhawk’s strange steed” – we only met it last prog, in one or two panels!

Speaking of Black Hawk, Alvin Gaunt and Belardinelli opens with a BB asking what the chances are of fighting the Great Beast, though it’s asking Zog, so doesn’t get a coherent answer. I wonder if either of the writers who comprise ‘Alvin Gaunt’ had read Elric, as the Bloodblade shares more than a passing resemblance to Stormbringer and Mournblade (or are soul-sucking swords common)? Zog and Ursa go to help the BBs (who are being massacred) while Blackhawk (riding on Kur) breaks into the Great Beast’s castle and discovers the trap – Bloodblade was forged by and is controlled by the Beast, and it starts to drain Blackhawk’s life…

2000AD Postergraph: Warriors of the Future – No 5: Mega-Star Huntsman. Another Bill LeFevre creation, this one is entirely earth-bound and is a ranger who relies on their drones, basically a drone tamer.

Grailpage: Bolland’s final page of this week’s episode of Judge Death – Death disturbs Anderon’s rest and despite her struggles, manages to possess her.

Grailquote: John Howard, Judge Anderson: “Can’t hide your guilty secrets from a telepath, you know!” Judge Dredd: “I have no guilty secrets.”

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