2000AD Prog 228: Zarjaz new future war story! He’s the most feared man on Nu-Earth… Rogue Trooper

Dave Gibbons is back on a proper series (and not one-off Future-Shocks and Robo-Tales) and this is heralded with a Rogue Trooper cover – it’s got all the elements, Rogue himself, all three biochips (if you look carefully), some Southers, some Norts and the black hole.

Tharg uses the Nerve Centre to announce the fourth wave of Mega-Thrill-Power – for the record, the first was the new-look Mean Arena, the second Nemesis, the third Rogue Trooper (starting on the next page) and the fourth is to be Ace Trucking Co.

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. I’ve got this story in at least three editions – the one I’m reading right now, the Titan edition and a reprint that came with the Games Workshop game (but that one was tiny when they reprinted it). Interesting – the first dialogue has a Souther captain leading his men out of the trenches and telling them to “keep your suit-patches handy”. I’ll stand to be corrected, but I don’t remember seeing suit-patches getting used – in fact, I’m sure the phrase “You’re torn, you’re dead” crops up somewhere, though that may be in a later iteration of Rogue – let’s concentrate on this one first! Most of the tale is told from the point-of-view of the captain to his sergeant – introducing us to the concept of Millicom messing up and leaving the Souther squad to die due to their foul-up. Some mystery is maintained when we first meet Rogue – there’s something strange about the word balloons for Rogue’s companions, but it isn’t until the weapons and equipment check that we see them emanating from the gun, helmet and backpack. A bit of clumsy exposition from the captain explains to his men (and us) that Rogue is a Genetic Infantryman biologically engineered to breathe the poison air of Nu-Earth (oh and the opening narrative told us that Nu-Earth has been poisoned by chemical weapons). Taking out a Hellstreak (really big gun emplacement) single-handedly – well, I was going to say quadruple-handedly, then realised the companions don’t have hands. A mystery kept for a bit longer than a page is why Rogue is risking a firing squad to desert. In the grand tradition started in Prog 1 by John Probe, we get a picture of a naked GI surrounded by scientists – I’m not sure if they’re extracting a bio-chip from the head of a dead body or implanting one into a new body. Speaking of bodies – the original intention was for GIs to have slightly scaly skin – there’s a hint of it, but you really have to be looking for it. So – other than a few bits of dialogue which were a bit clunky, a great introduction to the world of Nu-Earth. Next prog: Tower of Death! (I think that’s the Nu Paree story).

After having members of Credo get captured by the Grand Master himself last episode, Nemesis the Warlock wastes no time in putting together a plan to set them free. Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill introduce us to Brother Gogol. This opens with a page from Gogol’s own bestiary. Ten or eleven year old me copied out this bestiary page and did a pretty good job on it. I must have spent ages on the illuminated borders… Gogol has found out that he’s a mandrake – the term given to those who are half-human, half-alien. This is bad for a Termite, worse for a Terminator and absolutely catastrophic for somebody in Gogol’s position, for he is the Executioner of Terminus. Gogol’s day gets worse. Torquemada burst in to his office to give him the task of executing those Credo prisoners – luckily Torque can’t see Gogol sweating under his death mask. He leaves work early and no sooner is he through the door of his apartment than he’s face to face with Nemesis – the most wanted alien in the galaxy! Note to anybody attempting a Nemesis audio drama – the warlock’s voice is “very old and cruel”. Gogol puts up a pitiful resistance, but ends up capitulating to the warlock, the shape of things to come, lord of the flies and a few other titles (yes, this is the episode with that panel – which will be revisted twice – once by Nemesis, with a slight addition, and once by Tomas de Torquemada himself – but that’s a decade away). There’s some nice touches which aren’t commented upon – background details like Gogol’s apartment overlooking the Black Hole Bypass (or a tunnel looking very much like it), three torques on the wall, akin to flying duck wall ornaments.

Alien Watch Special Report. Apparently there was an art competition in the Daily Mirror. The result was published on 27th of June 1981 and is now being published in this prog (cover date 5 September 1981 – so would have been on the shelves at the tale end of August). The winner looks a bit like a cross between the Michelin Man and a forthcoming character. Curiously enough, that character gets their very first advert and appearance on the same page – the week after the last episode of Belardinelli’s magnum opus his artwork is seen with the caption “Ace is ace”.

Judge Dredd: Judge Death Lives! conclusion by T.B. Grover and Brian Bolland. The judge assault squads attack Billy Carter block, making short work of the Dark Judges (by which I mean the DJs are forced to retreat back to their own dimension). Luckily for Dredd – not quite so luckily for Anderson – Fear’s abandoned body still has its dimension jump globe on it. The Mega-City Two hop over to Deadworld which has buildings not dissimilar to the Petrified City from Killer Watt about a year ago – and a carpet of bones. Immediately Anderson feels the screaming of the souls of the dead. Dredd is put out of action by a flaming pitchfork (a pitchfork that’s on fire) so it’s all left up to Anderson. Anderson is out of ideas, instead clawing the ground in agony – the ground covered in the bones of the dead. Having acted as the vessel for Judge Death (albeit trapped in Boing®) for the last year the psi-judge now finds herself acting a conduit for the millions of souls which have been seeking release since they were massacred by the DJs. A marvellous return from Judge Death and a superb introduction to the other three (main) Dark Judges. The next time they appear will be after I became a Squaxx…

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury. Formulaic, but I’m still liking it. The lead character gets attacked by a cybernetic assailant who has been set on him by a sinister figure who watches via a mass broadcast (we only get to see their hand). Said lead character can’t defend themselves as their main weapon has been sabotaged. A team-mate gets in the way, bearing the brunt of the attack. It’s like InfernoHarlem Heroes all over again. One difference is that Tallon’s team mates are always angry at him, instead of occassionally, as Giant had. In an effort to improve relations, Tallon goes for bribery by playing the Black Ace (that’s the one we’ve seen before where the opposing team gets to place a sniper with a single bullet and permission to attempt to kill a human player, while the player gets the chance to make a half million pound shot.

Strontium Dog: The Kid Knee Caper Part 1 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. Kid Knee is on an orbiting city between the planets of Heer and Therr (can’t believe I never got that pun first time I read this story). He’s not doing well for himself, but before we go any further, I’ll just highlight the connections between Strontium Dog and Blackhawk. Back in Starlord days Alpha encountered the Smiling Chukwalla in a zoo. Blackhawk would later encounter a Chukwalla while a gladiator on Stadium. Ursa’s joint-best friend Ursa was rather partial to the drink known as Mac-Mac. And we return to the Strontium Dog narrative as Kid Knee has the Mac-Mac shakes. Which is a shame as he’s stumbled across the biggest bounty of his career but is in no fit state to handle it. Lucky for him, Johnny and Wulf pass by. Next prog they’ll be on the trail of a shapechanging alien.

On the back cover is Mek-Mania – reader submitted artwork. I’m a bit dubious about the originality of two or three of the pics (there’s four altogether).

Grailpage: once again, so many choices – though I’ll try not to pick a triple grailpage. Dave Gibbons and the first (non-silouetted) view we got of Rogue (there’s also a Hellstreak on the page).

Grailquote: T.B. Grover, Anderson: “It’s over, Dredd! They’ll never trouble us again!” Dredd: “They’re still troubling me! Give me a hand with this pitchfork, Anderson!” Anderson: “After this, I think I’ll put in for that sick leave!” Dredd: “After this, I may just join you, Anderson!” It’s practically two batches of grailquotes, but it all follows on in two panes on the page!

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