2000AD Prog 232: Chug the Big Empty with… Ace Trucking Co. Plus! A Space Truckers' Dictionary collect part 1 of this zippo booklet

Brush your teeth and comb your hair – the last of Tharg’s thrills gets its own cover with the kind of starfields we’ve only seen in early Dan Dare and late Blackhawk.

There was some bubble gum given away free with this prog and a similar junk food / comic advert for Tiger and Speed and KP Griddles squashes the Nerve Centre to half a page.

New thrill! Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. We’re dropped in at the deep end as a space convoy is launched at us with Space Trucker’s slang (don’t worry, Tharg’s got us covered – but more about that at the end of this prog’s blog). We’re introduced to the antagonist, Jago Kain, before we meet Ace Garp. Garp spots some Galactic Police (GPs – I’ll save you from the majority of the trucker jargon, otherwise it’ll just get confusing – also I’d need a bit of a refresher as I don’t think I’ve read this series since the 20th century) and acts as a decoy to allow the rest of the convoy to get to the next mid-space transport depot. Most of the other truckers are grateful for distracting the two GPs. Kain, not so much – in fact he dumps his cargo on the local market to ruin Garp, financially. Time for a plasma party next prog… I gather a few things from my scattershot reading – first that John Wagner’s father was a trucker, or at least a CB radio enthusiast – hence the space trucker from Strontium Dog Hellworld story a few years earlier as well as this. Second – the remit for this story was to give Belardinelli something to draw – and what can play to his strengths more than a story set in space featuring wall-to-wall aliens (apart from a single Earthman)?

Advert time and four comics next week will have challenges – in the form of some sort of game…

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. True to my prediction, this episodes starts with a Nort encounter but while Rogue waits for a Seed Ship to check the area below a floating minefield we get a flashback to the Quartz Zone Massacre, and this time it’s Bagman’s chance to shine (if by ‘shine’ you mean ‘die’). In the present the Seed Ship is a Space 1999-looking ship transporting hover mines (though called drones in the story). With the help of Gunnar and the drones (that sounds like a band name) Rogue takes out the entire ship. We’ve only had a few episodes and it’s already time for a one-prog break.

Judge Dredd: Assault on I-Block-4 Part 2 by T.B. Grover and John Cooper. A neat conclusion – Cooper starts us off with a cityscape by night, showing the iso-block in the midst of a network of megways, not unlike Devil’s Island from the earliest Dredd tale. The Gila-Munja are revealed to have chameleonic skin in addition to their ability to climb sheer walls and toxic claws. Do they get to the informant? Nope, not with Dredd on the case – not that that helps him, as he dies of fear – he wasn’t known as Shaky Pete Coco for nothing. As I said last week, Cooper can’t be matched on stories like Johnny Red and One-Eyed Jack, but his futuristic city work isn’t so good – I am liking the opening shot of Mega-City One and the Iso-Block though.

Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill takes us to the dungeons while Nemesis plays the pandemonium above. By the way, should have mentioned last prog – the Compu-93E Credit Card was replaced by a Credit Scroll, and script, art and lettering robots’ jobs were replaced by Manuscript, Artwork and Illumination by Brothers Mills, O’Neill and Potter. It’s the little touches… So, other than two panes of the musical Nem and one of Torque, dismayed at the demonic effect his music has on his Terminators, this is the Grobbendonk show. Twenty of the remaining twenty-one panels feature Nemesis’ familiar – even the ones where he’s not the focus have him somewhere (or just his tail). This episode is mainly an excuse for Kevin O’Neill to include loads of details as Grobbendonk steals the Torturer General’s keys (as he castigates a new apprentice). Things come to a head as Grobbendonk delivers the keys to Kremlin, an old alien with a white beard and wearing Y-fronts (!) – things take a turn for the uproarious.

Strontium Dog: The Kid Knee Caper Part 5 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. The Mutator carries out his plan, giving away Odgood’s vast wealth and putting it through a teleporter. The citizens of Therr follow his lead though they know not where their riches are ending up (to save their dignity, so says the Mutator). From the moment Johnny points out that the bars of their prison won’t bend, not even for Wulf, you just know that it’s been too long since the metal-eating Gronk has made an appearance. True enough, he then gets deposited by a guard and (despite protestations about the taste of the metal bars) manages to weaken the bars so that Wulf can do his thing. Now escaped, they reuinte with their weapons and manage to catch up with Odgood the Mutator just as he disappears through the teleporter – oh, and said teleporter has been booby-trapped with a bomb…

The back cover has pages 1, 2, 15 and 16 of a new collectable booklet, A Space Truckers’ Dictionary (A 2000AD Micro-Prog). It has an intro by Ace, a mini star pin-up of the Speedo Ghost (from the front cover image) and guides to the Ten Code (Ten-thirteen means Trouble and was featured on the first page of the first episode) and measurements.

Grailpage: there’s plenty of good images in this prog (not least various space scenes by Belardinelli) but, despite not liking his general futuristic work, I’m plumping for the Gila-Munja looking over the megways that surround the iso-block.

Grailquote: Grant Grover, G-B-H: “If I was actually alive, Ace, I’d strongly advise you to take up an occupation with a safer future!” Ace Garp: “Listen, good buddy – if you was actually dead you wouldn’t be saying anythin’ at all!” tieing with Pat Mills: Terminator guard: “*sigh* I get so lonely down here!” Alien prisoner: “I’ll be your friend, if you like.” Terminator: “Sorry. You’ll be dead tomorrow.” I’d have gone for the conversation between the Torturer General and his apprentice (with occassional contributions from the torturee) but the back-and-forth isn’t exactly concise enough for a grailquote (it lasts over one and a half pages and is worth reading).

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