2000AD Prog 188: “AAAAAAAAHHH!” The tide of terror that swept the Galaxy continues in… Return to Armageddon

Ian Gibson contributes a cover (not seen his work for a while – well, Robo-Hunter). Not for the first time he’s working on a Redondo creation with Return to Armageddon – that makes Mind Wars, Project Overkill and now this that they’ve either collaborated on or otherwise had a connection. A crewman on Prairie Drifter looks to be spontaneously combusting.

Strontium Dog: The Schicklgruber Grab part 7 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. For the first time we get an idea of what Stix’s mutation/s may be (other than ‘looking a bit funny’) as he digs into the outside wall of the hotel with his bare hands, all while carrying Hitler on a strap over his shoulder. Johnny takes a dive (literally, out of the window of the penthouse) but activates an anti-grave chute at the last moment. Stix escapes after Hitler is shot and joins the apocalyptic dancing (not by choice) and after a shoot-out is hit by a falling satellite meteor. Back in the late 22nd century, Harvey takes custody of Hitler, getting him to strip off (he wears polka dot boxer shorts) before having him hauled off to the Committee for Ultimate Retribution. Hitler is finding it difficult to adjust to the 22nd century. This is a classic tale told in seven parts – I know some people really rate the Journey to Hell storyline (which certainly had the advantage with the centrespread and superior printing showing of Carlos’ lavish art), but this is my favourite since Strontium Dog came to 2000AD (so far).

Speaking of Ian Gibson (and I didn’t know he’d be back so soon), A Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale is illustrated by him, with G.P. Rice providing the script for Miracle in Slum Alley. There’s a pattern here – Slum Alley lies in the shadow of the towers of Future City – one of the previous stories was set in ‘Future City’ note – not ‘a future city’. This one’s a bit shocking for a boy’s comic – W.C. (er, why did they pick those initials?) is a family robot. One of his owners is Tommy, a boy dying from a space disease. W.C. collects a serum that will save Tommy’s life but is accosted by droidnappers on the way back from the spaceport (the serum came from the asteroid belt). Along with other droids, he’s driven far away from Future City, where he can be reprogrammed and his registration changed. With Tommy’s life on the line, he escapes though is pulled over by a copy for breaking the speed limit – it has to be said, the copy looks a lot like a Judge on a Zipper Bike, though more like the proto-judges we’re seeing a bit of in current publications, forty years after this was published. The cop doesn’t want to listen to the life-and-death situation that Tommy is in, so W.C. is left with no choice but to run, becoming a robo-felon. Just outside Tommy’s house, the cop-judges catch up with him, shooting and smashing the serum bottle. Enraged, W.C. is then killed by the cop-judges, his dying cry penetrating Tommy’s pseudo-coma, saving his life. So the boy lives but the robot dies, not knowing that Tommy’s life was saved. Not your usual fare for a children’s comic (well, maybe one of the girl’s comics of the time – they always seem to be filled with misery and hopeless situations).

Tharg hints in the Nerve Centre that Boing (sic) isn’t quite as secure as it may have appeared. Tharg says to keep reading the progs to find out more, though doesn’t say when the answer will appear (it’s in about thirty weeks time).

Dash Decent Chapter 10: Going for a Pong! by Angus and O’Neill. Zellamy’s spinning top engages with the Imperial fleet – though neither side do particularly well while the sun watches on. Literally, the sun has a face and watches what’s going on from behind the mountains on the horizon. It’s that kind of humour strip. Let me try to keep track of where everybody is – Pong has fallen from the Imperial flagship as it was split in half. Dash is on the handle of the spinning top which has been separated from the main top. Zellamy and the dog-Prince is inside the spinning top as it runs out of spin. Everybody is falling towards Pongopolis, apart from Pong, who is falling outside the city. Next prog: the BIG DROP!

Judge Dredd: Otto Sump’s Ugly Clinic part 3 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Two panels dominate the centrepages, both action packed and both featuring Dredd, the malfunctioning robodoc and the Mantis Brothers. I doubt it was intentional (different creative teams and all that) but the robodoc crawling after Bim Mantis after the robot has been separated from its lower half is very reminiscent of the robot from SHOK! After taking care of all three Mantis Brothers Dredd turns his attentions to Sump. For unclear reasons Dredd wants to finish Otto Sump’s business. Based on the story so far it’s because Sump’s business being successful meant that organised crime wanted to get protection money from him. Except if that’s the reason then surely the same could be said of any Mega-City business that’s been the victim of crime? After a short but sustained hate campaign led by Dredd against Sump, Justice Department slaps a 1000 cred ugly tax to all of Sump’s products, leading Sump to become Otto le Sump and limited to one remaining clinic for ‘the feelthy rich’. I suspect it’s the same impetus which drove Dredd to kill Lopez for having a moustache. And everybody thought the Democracy storyline introduced the sinister side of Dredd… Before we get on to the next story – there’s some nice dirty tricks along the way – hardline enforcement of advertising and description laws (use of the word ‘perfect’ in adverts – nothing is perfect, Sump’s Verucca Paste actually only produce swollen skin) and multiple crime blitz’s on ugly clinics.

Return to Armageddon from Malcolm Shaw and Redondo focuses on the bat-winged demon baby (don’t remember seeing the wings last prog). No sooner have the wings sprouted than demon baby attacks a crewman, draining him of life (you’ve seen films where this happens – the crewman’s corpse drops, lifeless and dessicated). The Captain orders everybody to shoot the baby (with lasers on stun) but the demon baby just absorbs the energy and while the Captain magically works out that the Doctor cloned the baby from the alien devil, producing one ‘normal’ twin and one ‘evil’, the baby sheds its wings and furry legs becoming a second ‘normal’ baby. Remember kids, if you don’t have blond hair then you’re evil! On the remote off-chance that the blond kid is also a bad ‘un, the Captain orders him placed in the lab before sealing it and attempting to fill the lab with sleeping gas. The crewman attempting to do this is the one on the cover – spontaneously combusting and dying.

Next up – adverts. There’s one for a table football (half the page), one for Monsieur Otto – High Class Uglification (two third of what’s left). Last up, taking up one third of the top half of the page is a 2000AD first – an advert for records! Though curiously enough the ad mentions the name of the record label and the name of five singles, but not the artists who performed on them. After a bit of digging (there’s three record labels called Silent Records – the third of which is a reincarnated version of the second one, which produces ambient and dark music including Die Form, who I saw live in Germany about a decade ago – this bit is all besides the point and nothing to do with this particular Silent Records). Where was I? Oh yes – after a bit of digging I found out that the artists on these records are Janet Armstrong, Tex Rubinowitz, Bubba Lou and the Highballs, Motor Boys Motor and Lonesome Tone. This advert also appears to contain every record that the label in question ever released, so it doesn’t look like the 2000AD advert did well for them? They’re generally rockabilly, two-tone and/or punk (the last song was also released on Stiff Records). I did manage to find every one of the songs on a popular video sharing platform – you know the one…

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Belardinelli has Stone buried. Or at least placed in a shallow grave and have some earth put on top of him. At which point he splutters and wakes up. Over at the city, Leeshar’s remaining gunships are releasing the ‘special gas’ on the rebelling yujees, who start to fight each other. Stone and gang come across a farm, speaks to the owner and is lent a jeep (humans must stick together, after all). Unfortunately it comes with two minks, but Stone pushes one out of the jeep (he was fortunate) and kills the other by snip gun (less fortunate). Back in the city Leeshar takes care of the humans who sparked the rebellion using hypnosis by King Seth. Stone turns up, sees the carnage that the special gas has caused and (subverting a trope) says that this time it isn’t personal, it’s WAR! Prophetically vowing to turn this crazy world upside down…

Grailpage: The top panels of the first two pages of Belardinelli’s Meltdown Man are both great this week – the first has Stone in a very shallow grave surrounded by his three yujee companions in a sylvan grove. The one I’m going to pick is another scene of yujee causing havoc in the foreground while the dark, foreboding, organic shapes of the human city loom over them.

Grailquote: Alan Hebden, Nick Stone: “I shan’t rest until I’ve turned this crazy world upside down.” Because… well, we’ve not got to that bit yet but if I’d realised how prophetic this was then I’d have asked him if it was intentional when I was sat next to him in the pub at the end of last year!

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