2000AD Prog 191: “Pop one rivet and you’re dead, creep!” “Hooway! Judge Dwedd!”

We actually got a warning that Walter would be returning last prog, and here he is on the cover by Ian Gibson (or is that Emberton?) Flipping forward to the Dredd tale’s credit card – yes, it’s Emberton this time.

Strontium Dog: The Doc Quince Case Part 2 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. The lynching doesn’t go ahead, Wulf and Johnny quite easily repelling the townsfolk, who get scared away when Johnny lays down how it’s going to be. The townsfolk don’t entirely give up though, instead going to the jail where the local sheriff doesn’t need to take much convincing to let Quince go – we find out why on the next page. The town was dying from Crater Fever until Quince came to town and saved everybody’s lives. Outside, we find out Johnny used a tracer on Quince, presumably the kind we saw in Death’s Head (funny, I thought that was a one-off – I’m reasonably certain we won’t see it in use again). Hiring a guggy (a hover buggy vehicle) they locate Quince quickly, with his wife and a posse protecting him. Quince sees that the posse aren’t going to last long against a strontium dog, so gives himself up. His wife goes with him. His wife’s name is rubella, another name for German Measles! The posse curse Johnny, leading a good man to his death, but we know Johnny’s a bit more fair-minded than that…

It’s been away for a while, but The Mean Arena is back, from Tom Tully and John Richardson. We’re introduced to Rollo Hartie, boss of sportswear company Kosi-Flex, who is demonstrating a prototype ram-suit, designed to allow the wearer to smash through brick walls without harm. It being a prototype, they’re perfected the ‘smashing through walls’ bit, though the ‘without harm’ needs a bit of work on it. Hartie wants a new volunteer to help perfect the suit, someone like Matt Tallon. Who reveals that he’s broken into the test facility and was watching all along. Making a deal that Cosi-Flex will sponsor Slater’s Slayers, Tallon agrees to a challenge-match with the Southampton Sharks and to become the new figurehead of the sportswear company. A few days later, Tallon deflates an inflatable figure of ‘Jaws’ Jensen, who just happens to be at the back of the room. No idea why it took four weeks for this to appear, but the script and art don’t reflect the additional time allowed. This has to be the worst artwork that Richardson has put in on Mean Arena, if not 2000AD as a whole.

The Nerve Centre is all about the double-page Carlos Ezquerra posters – this prog containing a Strontium Dog centrefold with the next prog having a wrap-around poster. Tharg doesn’t say it’ll be by Carlos, but I’ve seen it, and it is. Well, it’s not all about that – thee’s a bit about music as well – apparently there was a band called Strontium Dog (presumably based in Walsall, where the reader wrote from) and Tharg reveals / repeats his favourite band is Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. I’ve never heard of this 1980 band, but there is a duo out there now called Strontium Dogs. Another Earthlet complains about Alvin Gaunt’s work on The Aggro Dome, and how it wasn’t as good as John Howard’s (who should be brought back). Depending on where you read it, this version of Alvin Gaunt is Alan Grant and Kelvin Gosnell or it’s Alan Grant and John Wagner (who is John Howard anyway).

Dash Decent Chapter 13: Unlucky for Some! The story takes an interlude as the series is cancelled. As the special effects budget is withdrawn the rocket ship stops crashing Pongo-wards. After a bit of begging, Tharg gives the cast another chance and the series is back on – next prog. The logo is being chipped away by pickaxe and shovel-wielding workers – I’ll have to look back at previous progs to see if similar actions are taking place… Angus and O’Neill were responsible for this.

In the coveted centre pages is that poster, intended to lure readers into buying other comics they wouldn’t normally get. The Carlos picture of Strontium Dog looks a bit low resolution, as if it was a normal back page poster blown up to twice the size. The intention is that readers buy three other comics this week and join up all the centrespreads. I’ve had a look but not managed to find anything online about the other posters (in IPC comics Tiger, Roy of the Rovers and Battle).

Judge Dredd: Synthi-Caf by T.B. Grover and Emberton (Alan Grant, John Wagner and Ian Gibson). Walter’s back in this untitled story – some sources call it ‘Synthi Caff Vindalu’ though vindaloo (or any futuristic spelling of it) isn’t mentioned anywhere. Walter serves Dredd a synthetic Indian curry, which Dredd does not appreciate – remember, don’t invite Dredd along to curry night! Walter reveals that some of the other droids at the launderette have recently gone missing, giving Dredd an idea on how to track down a gang of robot thieves who have been operating locally (it’s to use him as a decoy). Walter does get snatched, but the truck he’s bundled in to is shielded, so any radios, phones (and tracer bugs) won’t work. As the other robots are processed (identifying marks removed and robot brains reprogrammed) Walter ingratiates himself with the droidnappers by making them synthi-caf. I think it’s quite obvious that Walter is going to slip both the bug and some grains of the curry in one of the droidnapper’s synthi-caf though I guessed this even before Walter left Dredd’s apartment, so that’s probably just me remembering how it ends up rather than working it out. Though I think when you read a load of stories in a row then it gets easier to predict what plot developments will occur in further stories – in accordance with the 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 19/20 or 36 plots (how many basic plots there are varies, though most analysts agree there are a number of basic plots).

Malcolm Shaw and Redondo bring us Return to Armageddon as starbooter (space pirate) Havoc is being dragged down by disembodied hands. One of the other starbooters tries to help Havoc – he’s called Snakebite and he has snakes in his hair. I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be a mutated human or an alien, or something else, though I can remember at least one thing that will happen to him in future episodes. As the table the twins are sat on gets knocked over, the hands let him through and Havoc manages to scoop up the twins. Meeting up with a few of the other starbooters (Gator and Shadow) the living dead don’t trouble them. Once clear of the sphere the space pirates blow up the sphere, zombies and all.

Meltdown Man from Alan Hebden and Belardinelli opens with T-Bone and Gruff in sight of the monorail on the edge of the Eastern Thorn Forest. Like Sutermunda (the recently-named capital city) the monorail station is in the shiny black organic metal shapes and surrounded by shanty-esque buildings. T-Bone takes to the monorails while Gruff sets off towards the brigands. The two trackers follow, but can’t match the wolfman’s steady 20mph pace. Going slower, they continue through the night (thanks to Gruff’s dirty feet smelling so much) so are pretty hungry by the time they catch up. Strongnose gives the two away when he lunges for a rabbit leg which Gruff carelessly throws over his shoulder while sat at a campfire. Some of Stone’s SAS training has rubbed off on Gruff as he improvises a weapon and runs for it. Gruff and Strongnose find out why the Badfish River is so-named when the badfish (piranha) attack Strongnose. No explanation is given for how Gruff could have escaped, so I guess the smelly feet must have put them off their dinner.

Grailpage: T-Bone and Gruff in the foreground, looking down on the monorail station and its attendant buildings, mountains in the background is a great piece of Belardinelli art.

Grailquote: Alan Hebden, Gruff: “What would Stone do? First, find a weapon… Second, use it!”

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