Four episodes in and Ace Trucking Co already gets its second cover by Massimo Belardinelli – it took fifty episodes for Meltdown Man to get the same honour (Dave Gibbons kept getting drafted in for MM covers).
Tharg uses the Nerve Centre to push Block Mania (starting next prog) making it very clear that it’s “more, much more than you think” – can’t argue with that – not only is it going to be a respectable 10 episodes long, but it’ll also merely be a prologue for a longer story…
Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Did Ace have a plan? Whether he did or not, the Phisphate expands, bursting through the hold door and knocking out the two Jeepies (G.P.s = Galactic Police) out cold, leaving Ace free to attach a schoop tube to the cargo container pod containing trank flakes (did those get mentioned before? Can’t say I noticed) and attaching them to the cold hold sending the Kleggs and G-B-H into a deep sleep. Feek the Freek sorts out the heating, though Ace is still left with sleeping Jeepies and Kleggs to deal with (he might be skinny, but Ace has somehow managed to drag G-B-H out of the old to recover, away from the trank flakes).
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Once Upon an Atom… by Steve Moore and A. Langford (pretty sure that’s this Alan Langford, now a fine artist specialising in equestrian subjects). This story must have clicked with me at a young age, as I copied out all three pages when I was a child. I can’t remember any details, just that I copied it out – I can’t even remember if that meant I drew it out, wrote out the words or played around on a typewriter to type out the words, just that I copied it somehow. Anyway – this one is about an intelligent hydrogen atom who is separated from his love, a chlorine atom before the gravity of the still-forming Earth drags her away from him (they could have combined to form Hydrogen Chloride, fact fans). He is then pulled to the shoved together with an oxygen atom and another hydrogen atom to form a water molecule. With me so far? This isn’t your average Future-Shock! After millions of years bobbing about in the primeval sea, he becomes embittered by hatred towards this planet that robbed him of his Chlorine love and comes up with a plan. Convincing the first single-celled organisms to form more complex life, then guiding evolution through increasingly complex stages, inventing bones, lungs, legs, wings, dinosaurs (that wasn’t going anywhere, so let’s start again), civilisation, trigonometry, the theories of gravity and relativity and always whispering ideas into the thoughts of influential people our protagonist ends up giving the President of the United States an idea. One launch of the entire US atomic arsenal later and this planet that separated hydrogen from his chlorine atom is finally destroyed. Keeping a grudge for thirty years? Try five-billion-years! This is a weird story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that you have to take on its own internal consistency, and I love it! p.s. in the prog this got interrupted by that Ron Smith double-page Green Cross Code ad (without the Green Cross Code Man, but with a demon car).
The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury. Tallon’s team mates show great concern for the possibly-dead Tallon, but only because of the potential loss of prize money. At least Local Annie still cares about Tallon more than just for financial reasons. Apparently he has ‘mild concussion’. I’ve had mild concussion in the past, and nobody could have mistaken it for being dead. Back on the roadliner (wouldn’t be a 2000AD Future Sports strip without a roadliner – or would it?) Tallon cogitates about his next target – a corrupt doctor who would do anything to put a player back on the
fieldArena, no matter how badly injured – including Tallon’s brother. Meanwhile the doctor, under a new identity, is preparing to reprogram a robotic surgeon in a cosmetic clinic to operate on Matt Tallon (not in the form of a sinister hand – this guy is in silhouette, you can’t see his hands at all and now wears glasses).
Judge Dredd: The Hotdog Run part III by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. The Gila-Munja make a return as the marauders stray in to their territory while trying to escape Dredd and the baby-judges. You remember that time that Dredd sat back and let mobsters take care of other mobsters because he couldn’t get enough evidence on them? Apparently those tactics stink, but only if Shumaker suggests it. Oh, and there’s an open warrant on all Gila-Munja. But that’s only important as long as you don’t prioritise it, as then it could count as grounds for expulsion from the Academy of Law. It’s a trait of abusers in toxic relationships that they come up wit contradictory rules, with severe punishments for transgressions. Just saying… Anyway, one cadet dies, one got sent home early, another gets expelled at the end of the run and two more are suspended. Out of the seven, only Cruz and Russell passed – and they have a further three years in the Academy before (hopefully) graduating. That rings a bell actually – I’m sure there’s a Cadet or Rookie Judge Russell popping up in a few years time. Or was that the first name? I’ll have to try to remember to pay attention.
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Sign of the Times by Alan Hebden and Mike White. A product of the Cold War, this one predicts a time in the late eighties when space shuttle launches are going to be commonplace. There’s a lot of character building around how the two US astronauts are offended by whatever the Russians are up to in space, paying a visit to the Soviet orbiting space construction and offering a cheque raised by “every airline in America”. The (female) cosmonaut in charge turns down the two (male) astronaut’s offer – highlighting the poor track record the US has for gender equality in its space programmes. What’s the twist? It isn’t a super-weapon – no orbiting space lasers here – it’s a light up advert for Aeroflot which will be visible across the North American continent. And this story is how I first heard about Aeroflot, flag carrier airline of (at the time) the USSR.
Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. What can this one be titled? Scum Sea is as good a name as any, as Rogue goes maritime. There’s some dodgy reasoning behind chemical clouds being pushed away by the smell of the Orange Sea, apparently just an excuse for Gibbons to draw Norts without masks on for a change. This is Helm’s chance to present a flashback for the assembled Nort sailors, to jog their memories about that time they wiped out the last GI (except for Rogue). For the first time, it’s revealed to us exactly why Rogue has gone AWOL – in his dying moments before his chip was transferred from his head to Rogue’s helmet, Helm reveals his suspicion that a Souther traitor told the Kashan Legion and Nort navy about the GIs. One Kapten steps forward, shame at a cowardly attack prompting him to give the name of the Nort who was contacted by the Souther traitor. Honour also dictates that the Kapten tries to kill Rogue, but with the aid of the missile system on-deck, Rogue kills the Kapten (and absolutely everybody else on the boat).
A Space Truckers’ Dictionary concludes this prog – there were instructions in the Nerve Centre on how to put four pieces of paper together to form a booklet! I do wonder how far in advance some of the Ace Trucking Co stories were planned, as some of the words, names and phrases won’t come in to play in the story for some time, and would be strange inclusions if there wasn’t a plan for them…
Grailpage: I was tempted by Alan Langford’s opening page to Once Upon an Atom, but then I remembered Belardinelli’s primeval ocean from Flesh Book II, so I’m going for Dave Gibbon’s last page to Rogue Trooper, showing Rogue on-deck firing missiles at close quarters.
Grailquote: Steve Moore, Hydrogen Atom: “WOW! Look at that cute little CHLORINE ATOM! I’d sure like to MAKE A MOLECULE with HER!”