2000AD Prog 231: After 1984 there could only be… 2000AD Fight the fear of future war with… Rogue Trooper!

Rogue is looking up the barrel of a gun in this Dave Gibbon’s cover – the gun itself is attached to a huge tank – so looks like my guess last prog about the tank battle was correct…

Tharg is lost for words, and has a very brief Thargnote at the beginning of the Nerve Centre.

Rogue Trooper: “Die, Southern Fools!” by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons (that title was in keeping with using the largest words on the opening page to give a title to the untitled, law to the lawless). Actually, scrap that – the largest words in the narration box are Doomsday Valley, which is a better title for an episode. Souther Carter-Class tanks battle against Nort Blackmares. I’m guessing the Carter tanks are named after (now former) US president Jimmy Carter, though Reagan is in office by now. This episode introduces a few nice ideas (though from a worldbuilding / story construction point of view, I can’t help but feel the former is invented purely so it can be tricked by the latter). The first idea is that the Norts have a voice pattern scanner, helping them locate Souther squads. The second idea is for Rogue to use the biochips to create the illusion of a squad for the Blackmare to attempt to target while he shimmies up the side of the mega-tank to throw a few grenades to break the vu-port (window) of the tank’s cabin. One of Rogue’s thoughts at the end reveals that the Norts have more meks and more men than the South – not sure if it will ever come up again, but one to remember. Where the previous episode featured Gunnar automatically cleaning his barrel and getting castigated for it by Rogue, this one has the three chips pulling together and congratulating themselves for being a team.

Following directly on from the previous episode, Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill has the warlock snuffing out the candle of Brother Hades, the pandemonium player (before snuffing out the terminator’s life). For the third time in as many episodes, the words “Gibberish, a Fringe World dialect” are used – I’m thinking at this point that every time Grobbendonk ever says something, that caption will also appear. I know it’ll still be around in Prog 335 – the first time I read Nemesis. As Grobbendonk gets sent off to the dungeons to free the prisoners, over the page the assembled ranks of Terminators line up to watch the prisoners get cast into a sacrificial fire while the pandemonium plays – I like the pandemonium – it’s a mobile organ used to whip Terminators up into a frenzy, particularly during battle. I’m sure this has its parallel in the real world, but I can’t find any reference to it right now (and I’m not thinking of bagpipes or drums). It’s only one panel, but there’s a pic of the Terminators screaming for Purity to be burnt which reminds me of the Knights Martial episode of ABC Warriors (by Mills and O’Neill). Speaking of Purity, Nemesis puts a voice into her head, telling her to leap in to the flames (obviously where he placed the portal spell he stole from Baal). Strange how it’s presented as a reveal when the episode started with Nem killing the pandemonium player, but Torque gets surprised when a) the prisoners don’t fear the flames as they jump to (what he would suppose were) their deaths, b) the Terminators are suffering from a malady caused by the music, c) Brother Hades has been found dead and d) Nemesis is playing the pandemonium. The sacred Tau is invoked – but I don’t think this is ever explained – I’ll assume the greek letter looking like a capital ‘T’ harks to Tomas, Torquemada, Termight and Terminators.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Red House by Steve Moore and Redondo. From the name and opening page, I don’t remember anything at all about this one, which will make a refreshing change from all these other stories I’ve read multiple times over the past three and a half decades (admittedly not so much in the last two of those decades, but that’s part of the reason for this blog). The Garaks colonised a planet a hundred years ago. It’s ravaged by acid rain, but that’s alright as the Garak have thick skin (literally). The Red House of the title is a scientific establishment where natives (who had been living in holes and don’t even appear to have any telepathic abilities, merely grunting and making vocalisations) are being experimented upon. Some sympathetic aliens break into the Red House to free the natives (in some pretty obvious animal liberation parodying). There’s a bit of juxtaposition of the natives (humans) enjoying themselves while the aliens look on, horrified by the sounds they make and the way the humans are crammed together. The liberators decide to set the humans free, herding them outside and blowing up the Red House. I’d guessed how this was going to end up by this point – remember that acid rain, and the thick skin the Garak have? The planet is Earth (shock!) and was ravaged by the Russian-American Nuclear-War a hundred years before the Garak arrived to colonise the planet. The humans were perfectly happy in the scientific lab, being given all the food and drink they could consume and imbibe. They’re rather less happy at being stranded outside in the acid rain without any shelter…

Judge Dredd: Assault on I-Block-4 by T.B. Grover and John Cooper. The Cursed Earth comes to the Big Meg – or at least the Gila Munja do. I have mixed feelings towards this story. I like the Gila Munja – a mutant tribe of assassins who look upon contract killings as a point of pride and a sacred duty. I like some of John Cooper’s artwork, though I dislike other aspects. Bits I like are are the human figurework, the genera city scenes, the I-Block of the title and the Cursed Earth. He’s best at present day work – meaning from the 1940s setting of Johnny Red to the whatever-year-it-takes-place-in of M.A.C.H.1 (at least one story takes place in 1988). Unfortunately this doesn’t include the mutant Gila Munja which is a shame as they’re pretty central to this story, to say the least! I’m also slightly antagonised by the last lines of the episode: “Watch out, Judge Dredd. Watch out for the Gila-Munja – they’re coming for YOU!” Actually they’re not – their contract is for an informer, Shaky Pete. Oh, and it’s not explained what an I-Block is. Is it I for Isolation, or maybe Interrogation?

Strontium Dog: Part 4 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. The three stronts make it most of the way to the Mutator-Odgood, but get knocked out by securi-gas at the last hurdle. The Mutator wants to execute them, but he still has to keep the guise of Odgood so sentences them to two years in a dungeon instead. The plan he needs to maintain the subterfuge for? Donating all of the imperial fortune to ‘aliens’, and then encouraging the citizens to do the same…

Towards 2000 this week commemorates the planned second launch of the Columbia – the first time a spacecraft had been launched a second time from Earth – concentrating on the surroundings of Cape Canaveral. Ominously, mention is made of the loose heat-resistant tiles, though the narrative quickly skips past this and on to engine capacity.

Almost time to wrap up the prog, but first another Alien Watch – reader-submitted pictures, coloured in because they’re on the back cover. One, possibly two look like they may have been copied from elsewhere, but merely being a suspicion I won’t say which two!

Grailpage: I’m going to resist picking one of two Nemesis pages I like and go for Dave Gibbons’ final page of Rogue Trooper, showing Rogue jumping off of a giant exploding tank as it crashes into another tank.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Purity Brown: “Why are you all so… evil? Don’t you think it’s wrong to hate aliens – just because they’re different to us?” assembled Terminators: “NO.”

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