Mike McMahon’s getting good at drawing judges-on-lawmasters (with a back-up of some hover tanks) on the latest cover. Continuity-wise the lawmaster has two sets of headlights – the lower set in (infra-?) red.
The great Earthlet vs Terran debate rages on in the Nerve Centre, but Tharg as grown tired of it so has added an extra option to the voting coupon. It now has the following (I don’t think I’ve mentioned the voting coupon in this blog yet, so here goes): “List your three favourite stories IN THIS PROG on the coupon and enclose it with your entry. I dislike… My age is… I wish to be known as TERRAN EARTHLET Tick ONE only” Anybody who has read a letter’s page in the galaxy’s greatest comic in the last thirty-one years knows which option is going to win, but let’s keep the suspense up for a few progs more…
Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. One of my pet hates – an untitled story! Another element of the series is introduced – in the introductory story we found out the GI was Rogue but the Southers encountered were friendly. This time around the Southers are military police and only too eager to take them to the local colonel. Once a few of the southers in the colonel’s sealed tent take off their helmets it’s a little more obvious that Rogue’s skin is different to that of a standard human. Rogue is happy to be there, even though he’s technically a prisoner, as he wants information. We don’t find out exactly what he’s after, but it involves getting ‘leads’. He doesn’t get very far though, as a Nort sniper bursts the seal, killing almost all of those inside but for one, who managed to hood-up in time. It’s Nu Paree and so has a Mitterand Tower (the profile looks a bit like the Eiffel Tower, not much, but enough to get the idea across). I like Rogue Trooper, but it’s not exactly going to be subtle – Rogue goes to somewhere based on an Earth location, usually with one dominant feature. That feature will be intrinsic to the story – in this case, the Eiffel Tower-a-like is where the Nort sniper is holed up, until Rogue takes a shot, knocking him into the mechanism of the lift he’s in – shooting up and over the top of the tower. Next prog: “Crystal nightmare!” Time for a visit to a glass zone? If so, we’ll find out more on the Quartz Massacre.
Another episode of Nemesis the Warlock, another vignette by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. In four pages we meet Nemesis’ Great Uncle Baal, Grobbendonk, witness a minor sorcerous dispute, a poisoning and a theft. This episode has to be one of the most detailed that has appeared in 2000AD to date (with the possible exception of the visual jokes and puns in the backgrounds of Dash Decent pages). Tentacles creeping out of a drain, Baal’s latest victim on a rack, a pain chart, Warlock head decorations on a table and a hilt, flies around a bucket of… something, Henry the undead skeleton chair, Baal, a skull called Alas, sundry books, potion bottles, a spider, Baal’s familiar, Grobbendonk, condensers and flasks. That’s all in the first panel of the first page. And in case you’re wondering, there’s another skul called Yorick. There is one thing I wonder – Baal’s residence has a sign outside saying: “Pht – ALK – 80” – I have no idea what this means – presumably something along the lines of “Apartment – Street”. On a technical note – the panel layout of the second page was potentially confusing, though the horns of Baal and the Dutch angling of the panel showing his residence lead the eye from a small panel on the left to the splash panel on the right before heading back to the left. Not perfect, but just about pulls it off. Baal’s nephew pays a visit, and I believe this would have been drawn shortly after a later book of Nemesis as Nem’s combo coat/cloak is the same that he wears as he arrives in the Gothic Empire in the second episode of Book IV (Book III in the 1980s Titan editions as they left out Redondo’s Book II). The lesson of this episode, above all, is that you shouldn’t mistreat your familiar, as Grobbendonk warns Nemesis not to drink a poisoned goblet of hemlock. Nemesis switches the drinks (though, in a typically sorcerous way, not the goblets themselves) and sends the aged warlock to sleep when he drinks the draft. Baal is old enough to have fallen horns – I wonder what age a male warlock’s droop at? We’ll find out in stories to come that Nemesis himself is thousands of years old at this point. Nemesis rescues Grobbendonk so that the familiar doesn’t have to face the music from Baal. Strontium Dog has the Gronk. Sam Slade has Robo-Stogie (and Hoagy, yup). Judge Dredd has Walter. Nemesis has Grobbendonk. All is right with the world. Well, maybe leave Walter. Next prog: Night of the Warlock – the vignettes and side-stories are finished and it’ll be a single plot until the end of Book I.
The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury. Three pages are set-up for the rest of the game – this time the stakes are higher after Tallon called the Black Ace – meaning the Riggers are sending out a sniper with a single bullet to kill Tallon while the star player stands to win half a million pounds. The team-mates don’t initially realise that this prize money is to be shared out between them, until Matt spells it out for them. Once the game restarts the team is cohesive, trying to find the sniper (or longstop in the terminology of the game) while Tallon can concentrate on doing this thing. Bradubry’s artwork still suits this grimy arena, though it’s pretty low on detail. In one of the blogs or books written by previous Tharg’s I’m sure I read that any interruption or change in artists is due to behind-the-scene emergencies. The patchy presentation of Mean Arena continues as it will return in Prog 234 (so says the text – though one of the previous breaks was completely unannounced). What will replace it? My bet’s on a host of Future-Shocks.
Judge Dredd: Diary of a Mad Citizen: Pt 1 by T.B. Grover and Colin Wilson. Dobey Kweeg takes the Falling Down route (I wonder if Space Spinner 2000 will draw that comparison? I’ll find out once I’ve finished covering Prog 231 – I’ll reward myself with listening to episode 68 once I’ve scheduled my own take on that prog). Kweeg has gone futsie, though unlike previous instances we’ve seen, this one has some measure of control, and avoids too much attention (or at least provides distractions to allow escape). Kweeg has begun their new life – this involves killing anybody who gets on his nerves. This is all going fine (for Kweeg – not so well for everybody else) until Dredd gets on his nerves. So ends Kweeg’s first day of his new life – tomorrow he will kill Dredd, first thing. As previously, I’m really liking Wilson’s understated depictions of the Mega-City – it’s not as distinctive or eye-catching as McMahon’s or Ron Smith’s, but there’s a weight to the buildings, crossways and pedways that makes you believe the judges and citizens are operating in a living city.
Towards 2000. Newly constructed Science Robot Dr. Chips McCaffrey writes a text feature dominated by an artist’s impression of the space shuttle – unlike in early annuals, actually operating in space by now). As well as Space Transportation System No 102 (Columbia), mention is also made of forthcoming shuttles Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and an as-yet un-named shuttle (which will be Endeavour). It also predicted that many more will undoubtedly be built after the five. There weren’t any more built and of those that were, two were destroyed with the loss of their full crews of seven – the Challenger on take-off in 1986 and Columbia on re-entry in 2003. Despite these disasters, the space shuttle programme still ran for fifteen years than intended before retiring, due to delays to the construction of the International Space Station – which could only be achieved by use of the ‘space truck’ capabilities of the shuttle. Other predictions concern hand-held communicators (for some reason sci-fi always wants to put them on wrists), Direct Satellite Broadcasting (my neighbour beams down programmes from Romania, so that one came true), solar energy harvesting beamed down from space by microwaves (still waiting for that one), the Galileo mission and a mile-wide 10,000 population space colony.
Strontium Dog: The Kid Knee Caper Part 2 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. Has-been (or never-was) Kid Knee shows how past-it he is by completely failing to recognise that the reason big-time shape-changing galactic criminal The Mutator is masquerading as a university washroom attendant is that it will give him an opportunity to get to the Emperor of the system, who will be attending a graduation ceremony at said university. A good episode, showing some of the detective work which will dominate later Dredd stories (give it a few decades though) and the usual Grant / Grover Combine humour with Emperor Odgood the Okay giving diplomas to Bachelors of Kindness.
Grailpage: I think I’ve mentioned this, once or twice, but I’m a big Nemesis fan, so it’s going to be a tough gig for any other story to get the grailpage slot. So it’s that first page by O’Neill, with the panel I detailed above.
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Grobbendonk: “Nork this! Nork that! Oh, fie, Grobbendonk! Fie! Trogging and trugging all light with no ming for a thinkle!” Narration: “Grobbendonk, Great Uncle Baal’s familiar, spoke gibberish – a Fringe World dialect…” Grobbendonk: “The old boogle can snork it up his baffle-bar!” This just happens to be from the last panel of that first page. As I say, I’m biased!