2000AD Prog 179: Strontium Dog on the trail of Willy Blanko! / Zarjaz Judge Dredd mobile starts this prog

Johnny, Wulf and the Gronk peer out through a hole blasted through a very blue piece of riveted metal in this Carlos cover.

There doesn’t appear to be a Nerve Centre this prog (that’s my first thought anyway, until I remembered something…)

Strontium Dog by A. A. Grant and Ezquerra: Death’s-Head. As previously mentioned, this is the time of the Grant Wagner Combine, so despite what it says, things written by Grant, Howard, Grover or Wagner are more than likely written by both of them. This is how you write an episode of a story. It has a beginning, middle and end, with the end resolving something that happens on the first page. Speaking of the first page. The Gronk is angry (and bored). They’ve been left in the mutel while Johnny and Wulf go out getting in to fights and left them behind because it’s “too dangerous for Gronkses”. The Gronk is going to tell them how fed up they are, though drops dead when three armed men come through the door. Meanwhile, the bounty hunters have gone to the local law office to pick up their bounty, encounter the usual anti-mutie prejudice from the police but prove their right to the bounty using the vid-slug in the ‘nose’ of Johnny’s helmet (first time we’ve seen this?) The third page has more prejudice displayed, this time from the receptionist at the mutel. Johnny and Wulf help out a three-headed mutie who is being turfed on to the street for not having the requisite 50 creds a night to stay there. On the way up to their room, Johnny’s senses twitch (is he psychic or does he just have his strontium vision on a low-level setting all the time). I’d say forewarned is forearmed, but you might think I’m making a pun about Big Dunk from last prog (who wasn’t a mutie but had two extra arms transplanted from Willy Blanko). They make short work of two of the thugs and Johnny hits the third with a tracer beam so that they can follow him to Blanko… And now for that tie-in – the Gronk resolutely demands to come along with them as staying back at the mutel is obviously too dangerous. Oh, and there was no mention of the Gronk being prone to heart attacks, but the heart attacks not being as fatal as they would be for humans – so that’d confuse people who hadn’t read other Gronk stories.

Dash Decent Chapter 2: Day of the Demon Dum-Dums! by Angus and Kevin O’Neill. Not as packed with background details as the first episode, but still a fair number of visual puns (lightning conductor). Dash, Dr Zellamy and Dale Ardent (Dale named only in the introductory narration) are taken to the palace of the Emperor Pong (which is on top of a spring). “More perils on Pongo in Prog 181!” – I wonder what’s happening in Prog 180 that a one-pager has to take a break?

Ron Smith has a two-page colour spread on the Green X Man in ‘Stan Shows Some Sense’. No credits so it’s by an unknown writer but at it’s obviously Smith’s artwork. Now’s as good a time as any to tell a Darth Vader / Dave Prowse anecdote. As everybody knows, Dave Prowse played both Darth Vader in the holy trilogy and the Green Cross Code Man. Well, most people of my age who grew up in the UK. Y’know, thinking about it – maybe there’s a better time to tell my anecdote – it’ll wait about three years! Don’t hold your breath, and it’s really not that much of an anecdote, but it ties in to my first few weeks of reading 2000AD… Meanwhile, I think this is the last time Smith will be providing fully painted comic art in 2000AD for about a decade and a half.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and John Richardson opens with the body of Paul Simpson being carried out of the arena by his team-mates while the obvious villain of the piece sings an insulting song about the deceased. This is all while the game is going on. With a total of four players out of action and seven remaining, a rule of the game (remember all those rules we got told about in Harlem Heroes?) says that Slater’s Slayers may ask for a volunteer from the audience to take Simpson’s place. Cue Matt Tallon. The cliffhanger this time is that Matt appears to shoot somebody dead in cold blood – we’ve not been told much about the rules of the game yet but apparently that’s still murder, even in Street Football.

This is what I remembered earlier – the Nerve Centre has spread to two pages (there’s an advert for a fishing magazine, so actually one and a half).

Judge Dredd: The Judge Child Part 24: Grunwald’s Kingdom sees Ron Smith rejoining John Howard as the remaining Angels enter Grunwald – the robot free state. For the second time in as many weeks, Dredd is compared to a robot – I’m sure this will inspire letters! I thought Old Joe’s horse would die when Mean head-butted him, and so he does, it just took a while for it to take effect. A classic portrait of Owen Krysler taunts Junior about the deaths of his brothers last prog (not that Junior or Pa knew they’d been killed). The glint from Junior’s gun as he pistol-whips Owen is seen by Dredd 12 kilometres away (!) and Dredd breaks out the long gun, shooting Pa (yes, from 12 kilometres away).

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Massimo Belardinelli. That second gunship with a dead yujee swinging from it comes in to its own as it knocks Stone off his feet, allowing Leeshar to pick up his snip gun again. Taken by gunship, Leeshar shows Stone the delights of The City. The City (otherwise un-named) being a large conglomeration of shiny black buildings atop a rocky promontory surrounded by a shanty town and a range of rocky hills. The gunship lands away from the shiny black buildings, so Stone gets to see the shanty town on. On the way a distracting attack leaves Stone alone in a car-like transport. The attack was a ruse for Kineta to speak to Stone, psychically. Kineta is an old eagle and – fun fact – I remember drawing this picture multiple times soon after getting this prog. I must have been around eleven or twelve years old and did d rendition of this at school. After the message has been delivered (Kineta’s name), Gruff the wolfman gets dragged from a building and tied to the back of the jeep where he’s forced to run at 30mph. In the city the life of Gruff is spared and he is given to Stone as a personal slave and opportunity to exposite to his new master. Gruff tells Stone to sleep well, of his will watch over him. In the very next panel the catwoman from earlier creeps into the apartment and puts a blade to Stone’s throat.

Comic Rock presents part 2 of… Killer Watt by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. A paltry three pages finishes this two-parter. I say paltry, but that’s just in terms of pagecount – the artwork on the pages themselves has some fantastic moments. If I said totally different things about early O’Neill art in the Mega-City Book Club podcast then that’s only in comparison with the artwork that was running in the prog when I became a Squaxx dek Thargo (I’d check what I said, but it’s getting late and I want to go to bed once I finish writing this post). Nemesis erupts from the Sea of Lost Souls to entwine the Blitzspear around the Shockwave Express as they warp at high speed along the teleport system. Calling his Terminators kill-tracker teams are dispatched but bite into the teleport wires while Torque is still in the danger zone. Thousands are killed instantly as Nem and Torque have to outrace the electrical storm which has been unleashed. The grand master is killed in a particularly effective panel showing his body being pierced by rays of electricity. I’m not sure electicity works that way, but it looks good. Nemesis travels at speeds which would kill most men, but whatever is inside the blitzspear is not an ordinary man (this is pretty much exactly what was said at the end of Terror Tube). He dials out of the teleport system, and unlike Torquemada, his caller answers him, allowing the Blitzspear to emerge into a rather large apartment in Mausoleum. It’s not over for Torque though, as though his body is destroyed his id is whole. I had no idea what Pat Mills was going on about when I first read this – and I’d bet that most eight or nine year olds had no idea what an ‘id’ was either. He vows to fight a final battle with Nemesis. This isn’t the last time the concept of a final battle between the two is brought up. In fact, most books seem to end with one or other of them promising it! “Nemesis and Torquemada return in a full-length serial soon!” – that serial being The Gothic Empire, which O’Neill only ended up drawing two episodes of, before he and Pat decided to flesh out the worlds of Termight, the alien resistance and world of Nemesis a bit more. Oh, and Olric’s Great Quest pops up as well – I think before Nemesis Book I appears, but we’ll see when it gets advertised in about forty or forty-five weeks. Oh, and the resident of the apartment in Mausoleum who answered Nemesis’ call? She’s not named, but the distinctive black hair with a white streak looks rather like Purity Brown.

The inside back cover has a half-page advert for the next prog, featuring our first view of thrill-suckers by Carlos Ezquerra. The Greater Spotted Thrill-Sucker story ran in 2000AD when I first started reading 2000AD, so I’ve got a soft spot for them. The other half of the page is an advert for a sport-related sticker album given away in Tiger and Speed.

What’s on the outside back cover of the prog? The Judge Dredd Mobile, that’s what. Keep this page flat in a safe place, so that you can take scissors to it and attach it to card next week! The pictures included are the first view of Justice One by Bolland (featuring tiny Larter and Hershey in the cockpit), a Dredd by Bolland and the Angel Gang by (I think) Dave Gibbons in a McMahon style.

Grailpage: Massimo Belardinelli brings in one of the best pages of his career as Leeshar’s gunship brings Stone to The City.

Grailquote: John Howard, robot: “The way he speaks, Grunwalder! Almost like a robot himself!” Grunwalder: “There is steel beneath that flesh.” – guess who they’re talking about?

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