2000AD Prog 233: "Blast 'em!" "Old Stony Face" leads the Hotdog Run!

A Ron Smith cover introduces the name “Old Stony Face” – that’s a name that will stick (I don’t think it’s been used before, anyway). Either Lawmasters have really flexible headsets, as the front (that the handlebars and canon are attached to) is going in a completely different direction and angle from the rest of the bike. I must have a reader who works for Rebellion, for 2000AD has just made the digital edition of the Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol.5 free for download, to help Squaxx get through self-imposed isolation as a result of Covid-19. This edition covers the very stories I’m reading in this blog. So either Tharg reads the blog, or it’s just coincidence…

Tharg lets us know in the Nerve Centre that IPC’s youth division (at least the bit aimed at boys) is hosting a Challenge Week. Roy of the Rovers has “Roy Race’s Super Soccer Game”, Tiger has “Formula One Motor Racing Game”, Battle has “Dogfight Duel” and the prog has “Destroy the Invaders”. Tharg also states that Mega-City One Judges have to gain “The Instinct” – this is like “The Knowledge” that taxi drivers have to acquire, letting them know the names of all the streets and tower blocks in Mega-City One.

Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. The introductory story continues as the space trucker heads off to confront the dastardly ago Kain. He manages to start a bar-room brawl (sorry, plasma party) and get out before the local police/thicks turn up. Unfortunately Speedo Ghost still has cargo that Ace can’t shift, and just one small cold hold. As Ghost points out, Ace is on the verge of bankruptcy until a crooked agent comes along with a smuggling job to a war zone. What could go wrong? Ace gets tied into the ‘Belardinelli-verse’ by the presence of the much-loved-by-Ursa Macmac. If that cargo is what I think it is then it might end up being tied into a different -verse as well… The playing with language shows that Grant and Grover are having fun writing this, and the amount of little details in the backgrounds on every page show that this is well-suited to Massimo – it just comes across as everyone enjoying themselves.

Strontium Dog: The Kid Knee Caper Part 6 by Alan Grant and Ezquerra. Just before the bomb explodes, the stronts (and the Gronk) chase the Mutator through the teleporter to find themselves in an ice cavern, along with the stolen wealth of the planet they’ve just left. Handily for narrative drama, Johnny’s alpha vision doesn’t work in this ice crystalline cavern and so Johnny and Wulf split away from the Gronk and Kid Knee. By the time they reunite, ‘Kid Knee’ tells Johnny he’s handled the Mutator, confidently handing the gun – here’s the point where I hope I mentioned that Kid Knee can’t hold a gun straight any more, as was revealed in the pages of the first episode. Johnny’s a little better at deduction than Wulf and shoots the person who looks like Kid Knee, who changes shape back to the Mutator after death. As ever, the Gronk has had a heart attack (or fainted) but is still alive, but Kid Knee is dead. I’m sure I’ve read other stories featuring Kid Knee, so this caught me by surprise – guess they’re flashbacks.

Destroy the Invaders! A 2000 AD Board Game! It’s an abstract strategy enclosure game with a few piccies of spaceships by Belardinelli. I’ve not played this game so I can’t say much about it, though the centre-spread does have adverts on the other sides, so you can detach it from the comic, fix it to stiff card and not lose any story pages.

Judge Dredd: The Hotdog Run part 1 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Dredd and Giant are taking a group of 12th year cadets out to the Cursed Earth. Hmm, the cover had Dredd as Old Stony Face, in this story he’s Old Stoney Face… This is probably the most centre stage that Giant has taken since The Day the Law Died, though it would be a mistake to say he hasn’t regularly appeared in the page of Judge Dredd in the intervening years (in the Earth-bound stories, anyway). Some people forget that when another regular street judge features in a story, near as often as not, that judge will be Giant. Just mentioning it, no particularly reason… Anyway, cadets do things which they can be assessed on. A few are careless and make rookie mistakes – sorry, cadet mistakes – if they’re lucky they’ll get to be rookies! We also get to see raw munce for the first time, in a Cursed Earth aquaponic farm. It looks like quince. The only reason I know what quince is is because somebody mentioned that it looks like munce – so any pun or allusion in this story went completely over my head for a good thirty-five years. That farm is being marauded by muties, by the way, but the judges and judge cadets are on the trail.

Right – this episode of Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill seems a lot more familiar to me than some of the others preceding it and I think that must be because it was reprinted in an issue of The Best of 2000AD Monthly which I had, so I’d have read this bit of Book I more often than what went before it. I wasn’t a regular buyer of The Best of 2000AD Monthly and I have a feeling I remember the place I bought it – a local comic mart I went to a couple of times. One of those times Bryan Talbot was the special guest (I think it was billed as a convention rather than mart, but can only remember each one I went to having one guest) and the other time I went it was Alan Moore. For the next ten years these were the only two comic creators I’d met (or at least creators who worked on 2000AD). As for this actual episode – the yologs (alien goblins which Grobbendonk freed last episode) start making mayhem and N’kognito regains their sword (which they call a ‘gris’ – a ‘gris-gris’ is a type of talisman, but I don’t know if this is related in any way). Nemesis meets with them, informs them that the sacrificial flames lead to a dimensional portal and escape, and orders the yologs to take control of the pandemonium while he does battle with the Terminators. Then we switch to what Torquemada’s up to while this all goes on – the phantasmal spectre looms over Brother Babel, committing suicide so that Torque can take over his body. The artwork is still great on this episode, but there are a few panels where the detail is lacking – not many and if I did’t know that O’Neill’s time taken on this story led to a few breaks in publication I probably wouldn’t have noticed. This would lead to a line about illuminated panel borders – more about that in a couple of years (three or four months in blog time).

The second part of the Space Trucker’s Dictionary actually has some words and definitions. I have a vague theory that Grant and Grover’s later disinterest in this story will be reflected in less creative use of language and slang. I may be wrong – it may be more that when it was first appearing I’d been reading it for a few years and was used to it all, and so the language faded into the background for me. Time to brush up on SB (Space Band?) ’til I can voke it with the best.

Grailpage: the last page of this week’s Nemesis has four panels – in reverse order, one shows Torquemada telling a Terminator to die quicker so that the Grand Master can possess his body, the penultimate panel has Nemesis leaping in to battle, N’kognito by his side, the second panel on the page shows the gangway towards the sacrificial fire and my favourite panel has Nemesis complimenting Grobbendonk on a job well done – and the familiar’s chest is puffed out with pride! So a happy little familiar wins it for me.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Kremlin: “Forward! And remember, old loves – be polite! Good manners cost nothing! Pardon our pike! Terribly sorry! With respect, we’re going to cut your gizzards out!”

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