2000AD Prog 223: The Alien Pit!

You know Tharg is trying to push a series when it appears on a cover for two weeks running. This was sufficiently unusual for me to notice this when I was collecting the back progs in the mid-eighties. Kev O’Neill is back for a full body portrait of one of the captives of the Alien Pit. I’d like to say his name is Ragnar – and I think his most recent appearance is in the post-Nemesis the Warlock Deadlock series (the one with *spoiler* Purity Brown as President of Terra).

Looks like the Nerve Centre is back to one page at the front for the foreseeabe future (watch me get proved wrong). Bad news – the prog is going to go up in price – as of next week it’s going to be 16p! I’m sure there’ll be something to compensate for the additional one pence.

Tharg in The Nightmare! by T.M.O. and Q. Twerk (Ian Gibson’s pseudonym). Art droids Mike McMahon (with Judge Dredd annual artwork in hand), Brian Bolland (Judge Death Lives) and Ian Gibson (the next Robo-Hunter in Brit-Cit tale, and speaking in the style of Hoagy) arrive at the alien hospital to try to wake Tharg. In his Zrag-induced nightmare, Tharg is tied up, his powers useless and used as the clapper in a massive bell, even as the animal that foretells good fortune squawks three times (for a good year). Burt is reading stories to the prone Tharg and moves on to one concerning the Dictators of Zrag, which jogs his brain to recognise the disguised film crew. Charging towards them he trips, and it’s only the Zragians themselves, using the Nightmare Inducer as a club, which breaks the spell over Tharg (not to mention the Nightmare Inducer). Conscious again, Tharg doesn’t need any technology to consign the three dictators to a nightmare and then heads off to the post-ceremonial squawking banquet. The punchline of this two-part story? The bird that squawked is a sentient creature and always squawks three times. The definition of filler – come back thrill-suckers, all is forgiven!

Things take an up-turn with an advert for a new film coming out while this prog is on the shelves – “the new hero from the creators of Jaws and Star Wars” – Raiders of the Lost Ark illustrated by the black and white version of the Richard Amsel poster art.

Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill has the sentient plants be slaughtered by Brother Behell and his Terminators. Returning to Termight, for unknown reasons, Torquemada has appeared to a sozzled Brother Odo to pass on a warning to Behell not to claim the title of Grand Master of Termight. One wonders why Torquemada wouldn’t pick a more credible route – I suspect because Torquemada is a sadist and didn’t want the warning to be believed, so that he could kill Behell. It doesn’t pay to be ambitious in the Termight Empire. So, the night of the warning, Torque uses his psychic powers to push Behell into the alien pit where those aliens he has captured, brought back to Termight in his silver ships and tortured get their hands on him. Also their mouths and teeth.

Earthlets’ Judge Dredd Art has five pics, one very closely resembling Ian Gibson’s art style…

Judge Dredd: The Mega-Rackets Crime File: 8 Mob Wars part 2 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. The last part of the Mega-Rackets crime files has the war between the Mophioso and Mega-City Racketeers step up pace until the damage it’s doing to business prompts a sit-down. Two things should have been obvious to all concerned – the first that the racketeers would smuggle weapons in to the meeting and try to kill the mophioso (which they do) and secondly that the judges would be monitoring all of them and send in units after they all converged on the perp-runner’s niterie (which they do). The three human racketeers get sent to the iso-cubes while the last two aliens go off to the alien pen. Next prog: Judge Death lives!

Alan Hebden and Belardinelli’s Meltdown Man. Stone tells Gruff and T-Bone about Cruise missiles when they’re interrupted by news that the super-yujees are following them from the coast road. When they take to boats to chase Stone’s ship a mini-sea battle sees the loss of Louis, aka Leo the Lionman. The predators are convinced that they won’t have much place in Leeshar’s new super-predator world but by the time they get to Northway the super-predators have beaten them to it and put the town to the torch. At least Stone has the Cruise missile (and some of his machine rifles which the pirates acquired somewhere along the way).

Palitoy’s Star Wars figure adverts continue with a ‘Bounty Hunter’ branded collector’s case in the shape of a Darth Vader bust.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Steve Dillon. As predicted, the reporter (Sheena Lloyd) can provide enough audio-visual evidence to let Tallon off the hook for the deaths by self-defence of five out of the seven Jensen clan. She later sticks the boot in on her show after Tallon refuses to give an exclusive interview though. Back to training and we get a roll-call of the Slayer’s team – other than J.T. Venner and Rik Rogan, I think they’re all characters we haven’t met before: Sourpuss; Hangman; Screaming Sid; Dirty Nigel; Crazy Lil; Don Garret; Napoleon Jones and Del Harris. Most of them have a gimmick, presumably they’ll last a little longer than the more generic amongst them… Hangman looks set to purposely injure one of the younger players until Tallon steps in, though it won’t take long to resolve as the next prog tag trails the forthcoming game: Slayers Vs Penzance Riggers – I wonder if this will be a reader-submitted team?

Grailpage: I should let you know that most of my grailpages until the end of Meltdown Man will probably be split between O’Neill and Belardinelli – though the return of Ezquerra and Bolland next prog may challenge that prediction. In this case (and despite some positioning of word balloons opening the page which are a bit off) it’s Kevin O’Neil’s second page of Nemesis the Warlock, for the panel showing huge Termight statuary buildings and the travel tube as a backdrop. (Otherwise Belardinelli’s page showing Stone’s captured pirate ship as it approaches the burning port-town of Northway would have gotten it).

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Judge Dredd: “Funny thing about self-defence, Sparky – in this city, we’ve got a saying: once is a coincidence – twice is a booking offence!”

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