2000AD Prog 203: “Aeee! It’s the thing we saw on TV… the freak that can’t be killed!”

Jesus Redondo finally gets a cover! I’ve not been keeping track, but as well as ilustrating a cover to his story (Ian Gibson drawing the previous two Return to Armageddon covers), I think this might be the first cover I’ve seen by him in either Starlord or 2000AD. Also, as he’s normally just ‘Redondo’ in the credit cards this is the first time I think his first name has seen print as well! For those interested, Seeker looks to have a gold finish to their bodywork.

Strontium Dog: Portrait of a Mutant Part 4 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. Carrying on directly from last week’s episode, Johnny doesn’t have time to react to the news that he’s a mutant before Kreelman is hitting the twelve-year-old, fearful for the anti-mutie political career he’s built. Johnny gets to use his alpha eyes again, this time causing pain to his father. He gets a lackie, Jarrett, to cart him off to a barred room at the top of the mansion and bans his mother from seeing him, under pain of being beaten to within an inch of her life. Nice guy. Johnny uses the period of confinement to practice his X-ray (style) vision and once skilled manages to pick the lock and escape the room. Seeing his mother asleep he reads her mind to see her memories of his birth, kisses her goodbye for the last time and gets to say farewell to his sister, before leaving the city. Unless it’s an entirely new settlement, created in the century and a half between the present day and Johnny’s childhood, I’m going to guess the city is Salisbury, as Johnny has managed to walk to Stonehenge by the time morning dawn. As luck would have it, he encounters two mutants there, tells them he wants to join the Mutant Army (which they happen to be part of – though they’re armed, and no other mutants in New Britain would carry weapons). They want to know his name – sensing that ‘Kreelman’ wouldn’t go down too well, Johnny comes up with the name ‘Alpha’. A great episode and a good way to explain the ‘sci-fi’ surname that Johnny has.

Alien Watch is a one page feature of reader-submitted content (letters and pictures). Some are serious, some are purposely humourous, some are your typical reader art. I’d prefer if this was a page of comics, but it is what it is, and I do appreciate things like the frog in a spacesuit with a gun (not an anthropomorphic frog, a frog-shaped frog) and the danger rating given to a picture of a lizard, harking back to Starlord’s Guide to the Galaxy.

There’s a full-page advert for Hubba Bubba next – in the form of a comic strip, using the same gunfight / gumfight pun we’ve seen before. It’s pretty forgettable and I’m not even sure without checking whether it’s the same as the last one – and it doesn’t have the advantage of being drawn by Ron Smith, like the Green Cross Code ad did!

Return to Armageddon by Malcolm Shaw and (Jesus) Redondo. Havoc confronts Atlanta as Amtrak and Seeker encounter some of Havoc’s men in the landing bay on top of Atlanta’s apartment. Using Amtrak as an immortal human shield, Seeker kills off the three pirates (who kill Trapper and Magpie in the process). They get to Atlanta’s apartment seconds after Havoc has shot Atlanta dead. They take a pot-shot at Amtrak and then depart, leaving Amtrak to doomsday, as he now has no way of finding the Stones of Eternity. The ten-second time reverse belt hasn’t seen any use yet, so I’m going to guess it’ll be used next episode to bring Atlanta back to life…

Tharg uses the Nerve Centre to put in an early plug for the 1981 Sci-Fi Special, coming in a month’s time – seems early this year – I’m sure the 1980 one was around July, not that long before the annual came out. All the annuals. At the end of the two pages, Tharg prepares us for the return of…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks! Alan Moore and Q. Twerk (another pseudonym for Ian Gibson) bring us Grawks Bearing Gifts! Starting as an ‘alien invasion’ story, this quickly moves to comedy as the pair of aliens turn out to be tourists. What’s more, tourists with untold wealth, in the form of plastoons (solid gold ingots). The Grawks like Earth so much, they apply to become citizens – which gets rushed through by the government (the gold has some influence). Soon after, the Grawks invite their relatives and being reptiles they have a lot of relatives. Before humanity knows it all of Greater London and most of the rest of the world has been sold to the Grawks, and humanity’s economy has tanked due to the influx of Grawk gold. This shock doesn’t so much have a twist as an inevitable ending as the humans are put in reservations, to be exhibited like zoo animals… Oh, and Stonehnege made a cameo appearance, for the second time in this prog.

Judge Dredd: Who Killed Pug Ugly? by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. The Wagner/Grant Combine obviously enjoyed writing about Otto Sump though in this case Otto le Sump makes only a brief, background appearance. Pug Ugly is the singer of Pug Ugly and the Bugglies. They may or may not be one of Mega-City One’s biggest bands, but after the assassination of Pug at a concert, the media frenzy boosts their popularity. Even as Dredd is shooting the sniper, Pug’s bandmates concentrate only on getting the dead body to a transplant clinic so that his vocal chords can be removed. Once done, a citywide contest is launched to find a new recipient of Pug’s voice. Once the winner is chosen and after the operation, Otto makes his background appearance as the new carrier of the vokes also gets a face-change as only Otto can. That old staple of organ transplant horror fiction occurs during the new Pug’s sleep, and the vocal chords contact Dredd to tell him to attend the next night’s contest. Dredd attends, on the back of a lawmaster in the midst of the audience stands. Having alerted Dredd, the vokes take over again as the new Pug sings, accusing the paymasters of his murderers. Panicked by the revelations, the band-mates attack new Pug on stage, killing him. If you want to cover up a murder, don’t kill the person accusing you on stage in front of thousands of people, including the city’s premier lawkeeper.

Meltdown Man by Alan Hebden and Belardinelli begins how I predicted, with the wolfman in the midst of a desert, on his last legs. This is another favourite episode of mine, though I’m surprised how low-key some of the images are. Gruff heads towards a building on the horizon, but is expected as those who reside within have seen and recognised him. Those residing within happening to be predators. I remember the predator outpost taking up more of the page, and Gruff’s travels through the desert taking up more panels (they are barely any). The captain, smarter than most other minks and hyenas we’ve seen so far, orders the predator flag taken down and jeep hidden so as not to scare Gruff off. As well as a Belardinelli head on a poster, a soup given to the now captive Gruff contains living waterlife – similar to a soup in Flesh Book II. The minks go to collect Gruff’s horse, but the horse reacts badly to the smell of minks, galloping away. Before long it is found by two desert nomads and taken to their leader, Caleb the Camelman who recognises the scent of Gruff on a waistcoat that the wolfman left behind to shelter the horse’s head from the blazing sun. Figuring that Gruff will have been taken to the predator’s ‘stinking hovel on the flats’, the nomads arrive just in time to see Gruff bundled on to Billy the Pup’s gunship about to take off. Two leopards, Speedy and Gonzalez (of course) power towards the chopper at seventy miles an hour, using chains as bolas disable the gunship. Remembering the time that Billy the Pup saved his life, Gruff returns the favour and allows the tracker to live.

Dave Gibbons’ Tharg’s Futureworlds collectable poster. It’s robots this prog, including Charlie, Walter, Mek-Quake, Sam Slade, Call Me Kenneth, AALN-1, Burt, Ro-Jaws, Howard Quartz (a cyborg, not a robot) and even an PD/RIP trooper.

Grailpage: A difficult one this week – the whole second half of this week’s Meltdown Man contains great splash images, but I’ll pick the one which introduces Caleb at an oasis. Mountains, palm trees and animal human hybrids in desert garb.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Ruth Kreelman: “I understand. There’s no life for you here, with father the way he is. Don’t forget me.” I love the way this shows an understated family bond, even if they won’t see each other for many years afterwards.

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