2000AD Prog 204: King of the Streets!

Mike McMahon turns in a trademark gigantic Dredd sitting on a citiblock in this cover, originally published mid-March, 1981. Mike really seems to like giant Dredds looming over the city.

Strontium Dog: Portrait of a Mutant Part by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. The newly-named Johnny Alpha introduced to General Armz (guess what his mutation is?) and is allowed to stay despite his age when he shows his ability to see through solid objects. After a rest he gets the opportunity to show off his mind-reading powers by ‘interrogating’ a captured Kreeler and revealing the next food shipment. Fast forward to the next day and the Mutant Army are intercepting the food convoy, which is protected by a six turret tank. Results are mixed and General Armz puts his head above the parapet to attempt to land a sticky grenade on the tank – cliffhanger time: a Kreeler behind him has the General in his sights. Another great episode, with young Johnny taking his first pot shots (I’m going to guess he’s going to shoot the Kreeler at the beginning of the next episode) and I think we haven’t explicitly seen the Kreelers up ’til this episode – effectively a private army commanded by Kreelman.

A half-page advert for Battle Action appears on the next page – I think this is the first mention we’ve seen of the merged comic, though if so then Action has diminished in size pretty quickly (IPC merged comics usually made an initial attempt that it’s a true ‘merge’ and not just one comic being folded in to the other).

Dave Gibbons’ Tharg’s Futureworlds collectable poster appears on an internal page – so the back page must be an advert this week. Fittingly, immediately following Strontium Dog, this one is about Mutants (though also cyborgs and constructs). Satanus, various M.A.C.H.s, Owen Krysler, Artie Gruber, Rico Dredd, the Two of Verath, the visible man, Mutie the Pig, Wolfie Smith, Louis Meyer and giant ants all surround Johnny Apha, taking centre stage. No sign of any yujees though…

…speaking of which Alan Hebden and Belardinelli’s Meltdown Man opens with Leeshar searching the city of Anville for Stone’s machine pistols. Finding only resistance, Leeshar decides to show the yujees who is in charge and orders the predators to take one third of the entire population of the city to the vats for recycling. One of those taken is the son of Mugger (who we saw in a previous episode). Mugger almost reveals the location of the pistols, but is talked out of it (because revealing the location would doom all of them, not just one third). At the vats, Tiger Commander points out that the Vatmen are also citizens of Anville (no bolding of the word Vat this time). The senior Vatmen step forward and march in to the vats with dignity until Leeshar and the predators give up and leave. Once they have left, Stone heads down to the decimated city. Technically decimated means that one tenth have been killed, so I guess this is a trecimated city? There’s not even a trace of anger at Stone from the yujees as they lead him to the vats and the specially sealed crates hidden under the waters (or whatever the vat fluids are). Getting his mitts on the yujee’s handiwork, Stone holds aloft a perfect copy of an AK-47 Kalashnikov machine pistol and declares the war started.

Alien Watch has a couple of reader’s reports plus four pictures. Nothing special but they all look original, which is something.

Nerve Centre next. Now, I like Mean Arena but couldn’t quite place why, particularly as the episodes so far have been pretty formulaic. I think one reason I might like it is because I first read it before I’d read Harlem Heroes and Inferno (as I started reading 2000AD in the 300s, and was collected the cheaper, more recent progs and working my way to the earlier years). The other reason is something which Tharg puts out a call for this week – for reader’s to come up with their own local Street Football teams, and design the outfit for them – and these designs will either be published in the Nerve Centre or in the actual story itself. I hadn’t thought about it until this Tharg note, but this is what I remembered most about Mean Arena – when a new team appears there will be a little editorial box saying who designed it.

Curiously, Return to Armageddon by Malcolm Shaw and Redondo takes the colour centre pages this week. The pages aren’t designed to be on the centre pages – it opens with two one-page pages rather than a centrespread with impressive splash image. On with the story – Atlanta Watts is dead, though despite all the running around, I suspect less than 10 seconds has passed, as I’m predicting that the time belt will be used to bring him back to life. That bit was written before reading the episode, what follows is after reading it. Yep, the time belt brings Atlanta back to life. What’s more, Amtrak places the belt on Selous’ corpse and presses it multiple times in a row, taking him back more than 10 seconds and bringing the second-in-command back to life as well. Atlanta recaps the first few episodes of Return to Armageddon for Amtrak and is convinced to take Atlanta (and Seeker) to the space and time warp where it all began to look for the Stones of Eternity. Seeing as the only stone/crystalline structures we saw were the massive moon-sized snowflakes, is that what they are? Or is it something we didn’t see at the time? It’s pretty obvious that Atlanta will double-cross Amtrak, and Seeker warns of this – but it’d be nice to be proved wrong.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Trail and Erroɹ! – the title of this one is a bit tricky as the last ‘r’ in ‘error’ is upside down – if the device you’re reading this one doesn’t render unicode properly, maybe this will work: “Trail and Erroɹ”. This Shock is by Kelvin Gosnell and Mike Dorey and features the Planetary Exploration and Survey Trust (P.E.S.T.) for short. Long-term Squaxx know that this also means the first appearance of Joe Black, experienced P.E.S.T. operator. Landing on an unexplored planet, Joe Black is joined by a new automatic independent robot surveyor and the tale pits learnt on-the-job experience against the machine’s by-the-book programming. This involves the robot accidentally destroying a tree-dwelling race’s abodes and then acting all imperial when they suggest not retaliating, for a fee. The robot decides this constitutes bribery prompting an immediate attack. Joe and the robot are chased for a while, then the native tree-dwellers call off the pursuit. The big-headed robot reckons this is due to its superior navigation skills though Joe knows it’s really because there’s something bigger and nastier up ahead. After objections the robot uses an emergency laser blast to kill a giant threatening spider though this also slices the survey craft, including disabling the sub-space comm gear. By the time the next routine P.E.S.T. inspection arrives six months later, Joe has made a few modifications to the robot which got him in to this mess. It makes a good bucket holder and campfire spit… This is a pretty good one-off. There’s not really a ‘shock’ with the ending, but I like Joe Black’s later adventures so am glad to see see that both he and Abelard Snazz have made their debuts. To me they epitomise the 200s, even if Snazz first appeared slightly beforehand, I guess because other stories we’ll be seeing in the next two years can’t be tied so narrowly to that range of progs (Return to Armageddon, Meltdown Man, Nemesis the Warlock, Rogue Trooper et al).

Judge Dredd: The Alien Way! is from T.B. Grover and Emberton. As everybody else is concealing their identity, Tom Frame signs this work off as ‘Thomas’. Usually an artist uses another name when they’re not happy with the work they’ve put in on an episode, but it’s been some time since Ian Gibson’s work appeared as anything other than Emberton or Q. Twerk, so I don’t know what’s going on here. The story itself involves a writer from an alien race which has a trade deal coming up who is writing a piece on Law in the Mega-City. For narrative purposes, the Chief Judge decides that Dredd would be the ideal judge to take the alien, Qu, out on a routine patrol. The story is based on cultural differences – Qu is dismayed that Dredd doesn’t arrest some citizens for being barefoot in public, or for punishing the victims of a robbery for being victims, though is much more impressed when Dredd applies violence to perps. Once a Red Light Gang (perps who hijack vehicles when they’re stopped at red lights) has been dealt with, another cultural difference is highlighted as Qu takes out a gang and attempts to execute one of the captured perps. There’s an interesting bit of Mega-City lore here as even the Chief Judge can’t rescind a sentence which Dredd makes (sentencing Qu to five years in the alien pound for wounding with intent to kill). Griffin’s last thoughts are: “I guess it’s my fault for assigning it to Dredd…” – well, yes – I realise it’s just a joke line, but Griffin’s judgement is questionable for assigning a diplomatic task to Dredd – and in this case it could have been easily solved by having the alien Qu request to be assigned to Dredd (especially following the recent interstellar adventures from The Judge Child).

Four 1980 Readers Profiles show that Future Shocks, Robo-Tales and feature pages are popular while Disaster 1990, Captain Klep and feature pages (again) are not. The back cover is an advert, by the way – the Superman / Nick O’Teen one “Never say yes to a cigarette”.

Grailpage: McMahon’s cover has it all – big judge boots, sky-walkways, roof-top gardens on cityblocks, glass (or transparent glass-like material) domes.

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Chief Judge Griffin: “Treat Qu with kid-effect gloves… and for heaven’s sake, do try to be a bit more civil!” Quququ Quq Ququuu: “My full name is Quququ Quq Ququuu, Judge Dredd. It means: hatched in the Qutuq by the oily waters of the street of a thousand Quqs.” Judge Dredd: “I’ll just call you Shorty. C’mon, let’s hit the streets!”

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