Carlos takes the cover again – it’s seeming like other art droids are barely getting a look-in lately! This one has Spiro and Gyro, henceforth to be known as the dogs of war (though I have a feeling they get another name later on).
Strontium Dog: The Schicklgruber Grab Part 3 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. There we go – they were Spiro and Giro last prog, the Dogs of War on the cover and Dervish-Dogs on the first page. There’s not a whole lot of conflict (despite taking place in besieged Berlin) – Cynthia and Slabhead momentarily get in Alpha’s way but one shot and they’re driving through. Main attraction this episode is Wulf putting one of his socks in Hitler’s mouth, to shut him up! Back in the 22nd century present, Stix has knocked out the controller of the Time Room, ready to shoot Johnny when he appears.
Tom Tully and John Richardson bring us Tallon’s backstory in The Mean Arena, starting with a game played in Florida. The version of Street Football played in the USA has a few differences to the British version – namely The Death-Card / The Black Ace – allowing a player to risk their life through the other team placing a sniper with one bullet and permission to kill the player – if they can. If they can’t, and that player scores, then the player gets a million dollar prize. Another change is the addition of two players on each team with jetpacks. Tallon’s team the St Louis Leopards are in a match against the Florida Fiends, led by Archie Sugrue (a lot of the same letters in that surname as Artie Gruber…) though unbeknownst to Tallon, Sugrue’s team has a plan to kill Tallon, the only player in the way of Sugrue becoming the nation’s number one player. I’m actually quite surprised that this origin story is so early in the series – though maybe it’s just the first instalment, covering his apparent death. That’ll still lead room to explore what he’s doing in Britain.
Dash Decent Chapter 7: Scourge of the Screaming Skull! by Angus and O’Neill. Contrary to my prediction, Dash Decent is still a skeleton. All hope is not lost – Dr Zellamy uses a sliver of flesh on Dash’s leg (I checked, it was there in the last panel of the previous episode) to clone a new skin-suit. But! While he’s cloning the skin a dog-man has stolen his leg and is escaping to Bone City, in the kingdom of Treetrunkia (imagine a more cartoony Yggdrasil from Nemesis Book III). Favourite panel is Dr Zellamy carrying Dash’s bag of bones up while climbing the treetrunk and complaining about how there must be an easier way. Two metres away from Zellamy is a lift…
Tharg has an important message in the Nerve Centre on how Earthlets can get their hands on the Judge Dredd Annual (looks like distribution wasn’t too hot).
Judge Dredd: Monkey Business at the Charles Darwin Block part 2 by TB Grover and Mike McMahon starts with a bang. It’s Judge Dredd (and 2000AD) so you know I mean that literally. Dredd does, of course, survive the explosion though it looks like he’ll be the victim of an ape raising a club behind him – Dredd punches the ape, and doesn’t even break his ongoing communication with Justice Department control. Given a lead to the Professor’s apartment, Dredd follows the progressively regressed mega-citizens of the block until he gets to the apartment, finding the Prof regressed to a giant amoeba. This story is another great addition to the ongoing theme of apes in Mega-City One, though with a different genesis to Appelino and co. Dredd orders the judges to let the block burn to the ground and the giant amoeba arrested.
Completely unheralded, not even mentioned in this week’s Nerve Centre, Return to Armageddon crashes in to the prog. With a distinctive jagged logo, M Shaw and J Redondo’s story drops us right in the middle of an impending mid-space collision between two starships. Now, I have read this, and I can remember how it ends and a few scenes between this episode and the last, but I’m a bit hazy on where it’s going to go along the way. So – the colliding starship turns out to be an illusion, as we’ve seen a few times in 2000AD and basically, if you see something pop out of nowhere in the middle of space just before you’re due to collide with it, you know it’s not really there. Immediately afterwards the stars go out and the crew encounters giant metallic snowflakes. That’s not all, there’s also a frozen planet beneath them. First time I read this I’m not entirely sure if I’d heard the phrase “when Hell freezes over” but almost every part of this story from “traces of atmosphere – mainly sulphur… whole planet’s covered in ice…” onwards is taking that phrase very literally, complete with charred corpses, frozen devils and there’s even a religious order as cargo on the starship (they’re called wailers in this story – presumably based on quakers, at least in name).
A similarly long-running single-story series next with Alan Hebden and Belardinelli’s Meltdown Man. Hot on the heels of the illusory ship in Return to Armageddon, the monster butcher turns out to be an illusion who can be defeated by doing nothing. Any action taken would rebound on the attacker (well, in the sense that attacking a stone wall at close quarters could rebound. Once the illusion is dispelled, Kineta makes their first appearance in person, along with Takka the mongoose yujee. Over in the capital city, Leeshar has collected King Seth (and hooded him to avoid potential hypnosis shenanigans) on his way to taking a few battalions of predators to attack the eyrie. The local humans aren’t happy about this, feeling that being surrounded by a yujee shanty town without predators to protect them is a bad idea, and so eject the resident domestic yujees (with that 2000AD litealism, ‘eject’ means ‘chuck over the balcony to their deaths’) – this seems like a bad idea to me – if you have poor defences then antagonising the forces that outnumber you can’t be a good idea. The predators arrive at the eyrie by gunship just as Stone foreshadows there being something “rather strange” about an atlas.
Grailpage: a low-key choice this week – I was tempted by Mike McMahon’s centrespread featuring Dredd’s lawmaster being catapulted into the air by the explosion in the sub-basement followed by a view from the outside with Block Mania-style judges around H-wagons. I was also tempted by the Kevin O’Neill pages looking like an early Yggrdasil, and also by Redondo’s view of the icy planet (featuring frozen tortured souls). But I’m going for Alpha, the Gronk, Wulf and Hitler materialising in the Doghouse – partially for the solarised effect Ezquerra gives the quartet and partly because of Stix being typically Stix-like.
Grailquote: Alan Grant, The Gronk: “Mr. Hitlers doesn’t half go on, Mr. Wulf!” Wulf: “Ja, Gronk – he shout der ears off der cucumber! Vell, Vulf has had enough! Put der sock in it, Schicklgruber!”