2000AD Prog 238: Space wars! Final report this prog! Nemesis is back!

I’ve got a Nemesis badge I bought in the eighties somewhere – the image used is the Nemesis head in the centre of this cover. Going through the portal are a wide variety of aliens, and decades after purchasing this prog I still managed to notice a new detail (the mono-footed alien knife with a blade coming out of his head). Oh, and all this was brought by Kevin O’Neill.

Tharg reveals that Project X will be revealed in the Nerve Centre. That is, Tharg doesn’t reveal what Project X is in the Nerve Centre, but that what it is will be revealed later in the prog, but uses the Nerve Centre to tell readers about the forthcoming revelation. A reader asks for the results of one of the competitions, from half a year earlier…

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Colin Wilson. Seemingly unaware of the current situation, Rogue would rather carry on the conversation until a Souther General points out that they have to actually evacuate the Buzzard due to that Nort missile heading towards it. Everyone heads for the lifepods and they make sure we know how the traitorous general (it’s really tempting to just call him Traitor General but that ‘name’ hasn’t been used yet) just hasn’t considered that everyone will do that. As Rogue and the chips descend to Nu-Earth they comment once more how the traitor really should have thought about the lifepods. Oh, and the other lifepods are starting to burn up on re-entry, killing their passengers. Oh, and this includes Rogue’s lifepod. But it’s alright as the way they’ve been sabotaged is by removing a chip from the lifepod’s circuits, which just happens to be the exact size and shape as a bio-chip. I wonder if all Souther equipment is compatible? No doubt they’d also slot in to Nort equipment, as long as it suited the story. Entertaining, though contrived. Or contrived, though entertaining – whichever way you prefer.

Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. Nemesis encourages the aliens (and a few human prisoners, no doubt) to leap into the sacrificial flames, within which is hidden the dimension portal, in an image which is virtually the reverse of the cover (the aliens on the cover heading towards the view, these ones heading away). Brother Gogol turns down Nemesis’ offer to escape via said portal so, when Brother Babel finally dies, allowing Torquemada to take over his dead body, Torque comes across the cringing executioner. But Torque has arch deviants to deal with, so leaves Gogol until later.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury. That apparent ten-year-old boy coming to Tallon’s aid last episode? He’s apparently nine-years-old now… Whatever age the operator of the robo-surgeon thinks he is, the boy is actually a robot who destroys the robo-surgeon with ease. The boy robot has been who sent that robot is Rollo Hartie (the Ulysses Cord or Street Football – and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t turn out to be part of a shadowy consortium bent on killing Tallon). Apparently having a robot bodyguard pretending to be a young boy hanging around with an unrelated grown man will allay any suspicions… I realise this is probably in the tradition of having young sidekicks for readers to identify with in stories usually dominated by adults, but still… I’m liking Bradbury’s depiction of Hartie more than what we’ve previously seen, by the way. Tallon looks through the wreckage of the robot and finds a lead to follow (like how the Harlem Hellcats found their way to a robotsmith in Inferno). In Scotland, the Slayers’ next opponent is in practice, and it involves head-mounted blades. Didn’t the last team the Slayers faced have head-mounted blades? Cutting edges were certainly part of the Slicers’ shtick.

Project X is… what we now know as the Daily Dredd – i.e. the Dredd strip appearing in the Daily Star newspaper. The page long article reveals that Dredd has appearing in the DS since the 29th of August, every Saturday (it didn’t go daily until some time later, in the mid-eighties). I’ve known for some time that this was coming up, but I’ve still not decided exactly when and how to cover these strips – it’d be a little impractical to intersperse all the weekly progs with the 9-frame weekly strips, but I also don’t want to save them up until the end of the stories as presented in the most recent (and most complete) reprint. My current thinking is maybe I’ll wait until the end of the Apocalypse War, then cover the daily strips up to that episode – well over half a year’s worth of story condensed in to half a page worth of comic. Whatever I do, my first task would be to figure out where my copy is (I’ve not seen it since my last move, so it’s anybody’s guess which box it’s in)! Tharg also reveals that John Wagner is “a droid from the same mould as John Howard and T.B. Grover” (and is joined by Ron Smith).

Judge Dredd: Block Mania Part Three by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith, taking over from Mike McMahon. If Ron Smith is on the job, then it’s time to destroy the city! After the centrepages reiterate the situation we’ve been introduced to in the previous two episodes (the north sectors of Mega-City One have erupted with multiple and unprecedented block wars) it’s time for a new element to be introduced, as Dredd contacts a sector house which seems strangely quiet… The judges within were aware of what was happening in the city at large, but were trying to decide who to fight for. Now Dredd knows there’s something untoward going on – beyond normal-for-Mega-City-One. Interspersed with the usual vignettes of judges dealing with the emergency along comes a crisis in the form of Max Normal. Dredd’s top informer (interesting – do we ever meet any other informers for Dredd?) brings news that a scientist resident at Ricardo Montalban Block has made a discovery. Using widely-available substances, the block plans to produce a highly-toxic gas which will wipe out a thousand cityblocks. Normal gets carted away so forensic can establish why he hasn’t been affected while Dredd takes a team of three other judges to stop the gas being produced. I always think it was a shame that McMahon didn’t continue drawing Block Mania, but with art by Ron Smith, who can complain?

Space Wars III: Stalemate in Space! Bill le Fever is back! I had thought his house of the future was his last work for the prog, so was surprised to see the spot illos on this credited to him. I skipped past this last prog, other than mentioning it was there. So, in that prog the feature detailed (hypothetical) laser weapons and particle beam weapons while this prog has a narrative detailing how a space conflict could unfold, with a hopeful bit at the end about how there are no victims as – well, the title says it all. It also predicts that threats of nuclear devastation will be eliminated by space weapons systems (drawing parallels with British and Germans in North African deserts during the second world war) but ignoring the idea that participants other than the USA and USSR might have access to nuclear weapons.

The Double-Decker Dome Strikes Back: An Abelard Snazz Story, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Mike White. Snazz ties together the different strands (to paraphrase: “he sees crottle, he sees lots of crottle, he sees… worms?”) The crottle is the useless crop that grows on the planet, useless except as food for the worms that Snazz just saw. The Farbian Crottle-Worms are the most virtuous beings in known space, and Snazz can use this to solve the energy crisis using a Virtue Converter. What’s more, he invents a Worm-Powered Cosmic Darning Needle using the power from the humble worms (did you get that? They’re humble and virtuous). Once en route we’re told that they’re so modest regarding their contribution (hope you’ve paid attention to that – this ship that they’re on to seal the black hole and save the planet is based on how virtuous and humble and modest the worms are). On the verge of saving the system, one of the Farbians thanks Snazz and the worms (last chance to take notice of what’s powering this ship). Snazz is furious – he demands all the credit, not just most of it. Can you guess what’s going to happen next? I can’t believe I’m going to write this next sentence, and I promise I hadn’t planned it, and it isn’t mentioned in the story either. The worms turn. (sorry). Having been overlooked and taken advantage of, they finally lose their virtuosity – the same virtuosity which is powering the ship they’re on, right in front of a black hole. At least this time Snazz is in a ship while lost in space (we’re going to assume the black hole is a portal to another place rather than a singularity in which all is crushed – this is a humour strip, after all).

On the inside back cover, Tharg presents those competition results – did publishing them prompt the inclusion of that letter at the beginning, or did the letter prompt the publication of the list of winners? Next prog: Ace Garp is back in Hell’s Pocket. If memory serves, this is the sole Ace Trucking Co from the original run which wasn’t drawn by Belardinelli (Gibson filling in, in the same way he did on Strontium Dog in the pages of Starlord).

Grailpage: Kevin O’Neill brings a fantastic example of Art Deca in the last page of Nemesis’ return as Torquemada swings from a chandelier to attack the arch-deviant (Grobbendonk also appears).

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Torquemada: “There is one deviant who I must destroy personally! The arch deviant Nemesis! For it is written – though shalt not suffer a warlock to live!” Not having had a catholic education, I had no idea this was a parody of a line from the bible…

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