2000AD Prog 182: “These blocks are under arrest!”

One of Brian Bolland’s most famous Judge Dredd covers, and that’s no mean feat! the judge stands between two warring blocks, using nothing other than harsh words to quell the disturbance.

After the last Strontium Dog story came to a slightly disatisfying conclusion, Alan Grant and Ezquerra are back with a bang on an as-yet-untitled story (if you read my last blog post you’ll know which story it is, but it’s being kept secret in prog until the last panel – and even then it’s only going to be a visual clue, though that’s all that will be needed). I don’t remember having seen Harvey until this point, so it could well be his first appearance. So, Harvey (directory of the S/D Agency) doesn’t have any good bounties to offer, much to the chagrin of the S/D agents. Except for one, and it’s a good one – a one million creds to apprehend and return the un-named-in-this-episode target. With such a large bounty, half of the muties on the Doghouse put their badges into a box for Harvey to draw when he returns from lunch. And then half of those who put their badges into the box put plans into operation to cheat in order to get the bounty. This includes Alpha, who uses Alpha vision to implant a strong hypnotic suggestion for Harvey to pick him. By the time of the draw, Wulf drops a hammer on Stix’s foot (definitely his first appearance) to prevent Stix intimmidation techniques from over-riding Alpha’s suggestion after having been handed Armstrong’s badge through a hole in the floor through a box full of Flathead’s badges. Sound like a farce? It is, but done well! Oh, and in the last panel? That mystery bounty? Even more than Charlie Chaplin, the bounty could only be described as having a Hitler moustache.

Dash Decent Chapter 4: One in the Eyes for Pong! by Angus and Kevin O’Neill. The ratio of visual jokes per panel goes down heavily in this episode, in fat there’s hardly any. One bit I liked is when Dash bashes a hypnotic eye creature into a wall with a “Splat!”, prompting a complaint from a prisoner on Death Row who corrects Tharg for using the wrong sound effect. From that point on, eyeballs make a satisfying “Squish!” when being trod upon, as per the prisoner’s suggestion. Dash saves Pong’s life and is given his daughter Awfulia’s hand in marriage (she’s no Ornella Muti).

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and John Richardson. Tallon’s hallucation continues before abating and allowing the Street Football player to do future sports for a few pages. The Slayers are still way behind but at least there’s hope now. Until one of the opposing players claims the right to destroy Tallon on account of being a droid (though wasn’t this rule III the other week?) – that’s the cliffhanger, by the way – Tallon looks set to be destroyed by a droid gun.

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Massimo Belardinelli. King Seth has a vision of Stone’s current wearabouts (not to mention his companions). Being a cat yujee, Lianna senses that they are being observed though Tiger Commander interrupts Seth’s activities when the snake attempts to hypnotise Leeshar (quite successfully but for Tiger Commander). While T-Bone chews the cud and Stone and Gruff go hunting for food, Lianna strips off and goes skinny dipping to have a wash (because cats like to be clean) and to catch fish (because cat). While skinny dipping, she gets interrupted by beavers who work under an elephant called Percy. I say work, they seem to get distracted pretty easily. While Stone ponders how the yujees could be organised in to rising up against the human overlords, Seth has another go at bending Leeshar to his will, forgetting that there’s a back entrance to his prison cell which allows Tiger Commander to stalk up to him and grab the King Cobra by the neck. Having forced Stone’s current location out of Seth, gunships are dispatched and fire missiles at the dam. Next prog: “Conflict” (and not a water-based pun, as I’d have expected).

Judge Dredd: Untitled Story though it appears to have gained the name ‘Block War’ – I’d have titled it Back on the Streets (unless that’s the name of the story when Dredd returned from Luna-1?) It’s by John Howard and Brian Bolland. Judge Giant makes an appearance on the centrepages – this could well be the first time he’s appeared in colour (and thankfully the person doing colouring – probably Tom Frame – has made him darker than Blackhawk, who often looked as pale as canonically caucasian characters). Something else to be thankful for – Giant plays down the jive talk this time around. We get introduced to the Council of Five (I think we saw a previous Council of Five when Dredd was on trial at the beginning of The Day the Law Died, but if so then the personnel has changed since then). You’re left in no doubt which Judge belongs to which division, Quimby, Chief Accountant, constantly talks about accounts and costings, Ecks, Head of Psi-Division, discusses accuracy of predictions and stands by pre-cogs, Deputy Chief Judge Pepper, previously of the Academy of Law believes that a few years at the Academy would have ironed out any faults with Krysler, McGruder – already sporting her trademark skull earrings – points out that Dredd’s judgement is in question (being Head of the SJS) and lords it over the street judge. Everybody apart from the accountant wants a new mission to fetch the Judge Child so that any decision over the boy’s future can be made by the Council in Mega-City One. Not that it matters as Chief Judge Griffin, remembering how the stubborn, unwavering nature of Dredd got the city through Judge Cal’s reign. I wonder how far ahead John Wagner had planned at this point? Calling back to the death of a Chief Judge in which Dredd was instrumental (can’t say Dredd actually killed Cal as that accolade belongs to Fergee). Whatever the judgement of the Council, Dredd isn’t too interested as he’s busy stopping block wars and carrying on with his patrol.

I was beginning to think we weren’t going to get a Nerve Centre, which isn’t even pretending to be a two-pager now. Tharg promises the return of Nemesis and Torquemada very soon. This would be in forty weeks time – not my definition of very soon! Then again, what was being drawn (the first two episodes of The Gothic Empire) won’t end up getting published for another four years, so in comparison Book I is very soon. I was just mentioning the lack of Future-Shocks (in favour of Robo-Tales, branded or not) and here comes a letter asking about them. Tharg promises a new series of Shocks as part of the Thrill Power Unleashed Masterplan (“in the very near future”). Coming four weeks after Prog 178 I don’t imagine this is any more than hyperbole.

Tharg Saves the Day! By Ezquerra, this one caught me by surprise. John Howard’s work has lately been lacking in quality (this isn’t my opinion – it’s what Tharg says in the story). We see the script cubicles, though amusingly enough three out of the four script droids named aren’t real people – Grover, Gaunt and Howard are all pseudonyms while Mills is ‘on phone’ – an in-joke? To give Howard one last chance a sports-style exhibition is arranged for the following night at Wembley Stadium. Along to help out in the production of a script is art robot Bolland – a little-seen droid, this is probably the most we’ll ever see of him. The reason it caught me by surprise is because it features the writing of the annual story Alien Zoo. That’d be the annual from next year. Remember that I covered this year’s annual only last week! John Howard ends up losing inspiration and the story as published is saved only by Tharg’s intervention. The droid itself is sent to work in reception – does this mean the Howard pseudonym is going to be retired?

Tharg Rock (it’s like Comic Rock, but with ‘comic’ crossed out and replaced by the word ‘Tharg’). Following on from the response to a reader’s letter about Tharg the Rude Boy, the mighty one mentioned there were a good number of reader-submitted Tharg the Punks. To prove the point that many people have had similar ideas, we get a parade of Tharg the Punk (times two), Tharg the Teddy Boy, Tharg the Heavy Rocker and Tharg the Heavy Metalist. Surrounding this half-page feature are a page and a half of adverts and trailers, for Battle Action, PG Tips cards – more specifically a wallchart to stick them on or album to stick them in. Which serves to remind me that as well as being given a bunch of cards by my great-grandparents in the very early eighties, I also got given an album though can’t remember what it was about. It’s no doubt buried deep in a box somewhere and if I ever come across it I’ll be sure to add something in comments.

On the back cover advert, Matchbox Badges of Courage continues with the brief run-down of a German fighter pilot – I’d assumed these were all the same advert printed each week – I should probably go back to the previous progs before I put ’em back in the box to check if they’re the same.

Grailpage: Massimo does two great pages this week, one of the dam bursting but the other has the definitive picture of Tiger Commander threatening King Seth.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Wulf: “To vin der lottery, ve must cheat – lie – threaten – und generally play dirty!” Johnny: “Exactly!”

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