2000AD Prog 234: Keep on trucking with Ace Trucking Co. inside Rogue Trooper battles the Raiders of the Atomic Desert!

Has it been mentioned in the story that Rogue Trooper has blue skin? Lucky we’ve got colour on the cover to let us know. Also lucky for the stammels that they don’t seem to have any problems with those chem clouds in this Dave Gibbons cover.

Tharg reveals that Art Robot Bolland suffered a major systems breakdown after illustrating Judge Death Lives and is undergoing extensive restoration, in the Nerve Centre.

Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Last prog Macmac tied Ace Trucking Co to Blackhawk (which itself had already been tied to Strontium Dog via the Smiling Chukwallah), this prog Kleggs appear, tying the series to Judge Dredd. Why do Kleggs appear (every time you’re near)? Because Ace is smuggling frozen Kleggs into a warzone. Not that he knew it when he left on the run. Just after leaving B-Hive-K (mid-space docking station) the heating systems on the Speedo Ghost go critical, ship-wide. That phisphate that Ace is stuck with turns out to be highly volatile and has to be dumped before it bursts through the ship’s hull. Luckily for Officers Zagger and Kroxley, they see this their watch point behind a space lane marker. They catch up to Speedo Ghost at about the time the frozen Kleggs start defrosting. I cannot remember how this ends – G-B-H is fighting Klegg’s in the cold hold while the two officers are demanding access on the other side of the door – how is Ace going to get out of this fix? I’ll find out in virtual tomorrow (I’ll actually be reading it today – which is yesterday when you read this – but scheduling it for publication on the day after you read this, because it’s the weekend and that’s the time to catch up on your reading. And you thought I just read them and wrote about them in real time).

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Regrettable Ruse of Rocket Redglare! by Alan Moore and Mike White. I think this story got reprinted somewhere – possibly in the pages of the prog itself as a last-moment filler due to artwork not arriving in time because I definitely read it long before I owned this prog. Redglare is a Buck Rogers / Flash Gordon-style space hero. Or at least he was, thirty years ago, before getting middle-aged and middle-waisted (he has to put a corset on before making public appearances). He married his love-interest from back in the day (who also had the hots for Lumis Logar – more later) because it would be “good for publicity” but other than bringing a little domestic non-bliss into proceedings this isn’t too relevant. On the verge of bankruptcy, Redglare formulates a plan and makes a secret visit to his old adversary, Lumis Logar, the man with a jade heart (and some kind of emperor of the Sanguans – think Ming the Merciless and you’ll be fine). Redglare is a little wary to begin with, but Logar assures him by asking who could hold a grudge for thirty years? The plan is to fake a war against Earth, Redglare saves everybody and sends Logar spinning off in to space in a damaged flagship. There’s a few things Redglare doesn’t consider here though – firstly – what would Logar actually have to gain from mounting an attack on Earth destined to fail and also the answer to Logar’s question. True enough – Logar betrays Redglare and destroys the past-it-protagonist (though also that love-interest from three decades earlier – guess he went off her).

The top half of the next two-page non-centrespread spread is given over to an advert – the kind of long-strip ad we haven’t seen since Starlord – at least in the pages of the prog it isn’t interrupting story pages. There’s also an ad for Shoot! but more importantly there’s a spot illustration by…

…Kevin O’Neill presents A Message from Torquemada. Manuscriptor Brother Mills holds a spiked truncheon as Brother O’Neill labours away while Torque explains that O’Neill has been spending too long on the illuminated borders (for some reason I thought this phrase didn’t turn up until Book III). As ever, nice touches in the background – a sign pointing to “Illuminator – do not disturb” (that’ll be Brother Potter) and another motivational poster: “To err is NOT human, to deviate is to DIE”.

2000AD has 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.

Judge Dredd: The Hotdog Run Part II by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. The marauders attack the aquaponic farm and twenty kilometres away Dredd sees the signs of a firefight, waking all the cadets and setting off without further ado. By the time they arrive, the marauders are ransacking the farm, taking all the munce and loading it up. Considering I just came back from similar scenes at the local supermarket (which had been hit by Covid-19 panic) this morning I can sympathise with the farm workers. Paraphrasing Dredd (most) of the cads (short for cadets) handled themselves well (or ‘adequately’ as Old Ston(e)y Face says), except for one. Spode panicked – instead of selecting dum-dums he picked ricochet, injuring a fellow cadet judge. Because it’s the middle of the night the rest of the marauders are allowed to escape so that the squad of judges and cadets can wipe them out once they’ve regrouped. Meanwhile Cadet Spode is ordered to return to the city and report his failure. The last twelve years of his life at the Academy have been wasted. We won’t see Spode again. Or will we? You never know when a character might pop up again…

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury. A slow-moving episode for this time as the support team for each side searches – one side looks for where the long-stop assassin has hidden while the other looks for where Matt Tallon has hidden. Tallon is not impressed and eventually breaks cover. Seconds later he’s in the sights of the long-stop. Luckily for Tallon, Dirty Nigel likes to hang around in the filthiest areas of the arena and locates the long-stop. The team pulls together and takes him out, but not before he takes his shot at Tallon. Not after either – it happens at the exact same time, the shot going a little off-target, but enough to save Tallon’s life. Or is it? Tallon makes the shot and wins the half a million for the team, but then collapses (so does it mean the money wouldn’t get shared?) Somehow I don’t think Tallon has actually fallen down dead, so I don’t suppose that question will ever be answered.

Rogue Trooper: Raiders of the Atomic Desert (title taken from the cover blurb) by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. This one’s a diversion from any main plot – though does show that Gunnar is single-minded and self-centred while Rogue wants to do the right thing (at least where Souther civilians are concerned). Those stammels are Earth camels (or other creatures) which have been genetically engineered by the Norts. This episode is alright, does a little world-building but doesn’t progress the story a whole lot. Rogue studies a digi-map in the last panel and promises us a visit to the Scum Seas, where the Quartz Massacre ended. Seeing as we haven’t seen what happened to one of the bio-chips yet, we should be getting another flashback too…

A Space Truckers’ Dictionary continues in its third part. Highlights: Flamertamer a fire extinguisher.

Grailpage: Belardinelli’s opening splash page for Ace Trucking Co features an external shot of Speedo Ghost being loaded up with contraband cargo. It’s our most detailed pic of Speedo Ghost so far (though we only see the front half). Belardinelli follows the full globe transparent helmet school, and with characters like the pointy-headed Ace Garp and whatever shape Slivey Weech’s head is, the helmets follow suit.

Grailquote: is this the first time I’ve picked an Alan Moore line for grailquote? May have picked one from on Abelard Snazz story, if not here it is. Narration box: “…and the man with a jade heart chuckles to himself as he guides his armada down towards the stunned and defenceless Earth. Which only leaves one question… …who could bear a grudge for thirty years?” Logis Lomar: “I could.”

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