2000AD Prog 239: Nemesis vs Torquemada…

I’m more familiar with this cover being glossier, as it appeared on The Best of 2000AD Monthly No 8, which I’ve owned a copy of for longer than the prog it was reprinted from – I prefer the original printing of Kevin O’Neill’s Nemesis cover though.

The Nerve Centre gives Tharg a chance to explain that the Belardinelli droid is undergoing vital renovations, so the previously advertised story Lugjack will be published in Prog 244, meanwhile Art Robot Gibson is along to bring us Hell’s Pocket. There’s also a picture of Torquemada in the bath (with no pun or explanation), but it does have a parallel…

…as Ace Garp takes a bath in the afore-mentioned Ace Trucking Co.: Hell’s Pocket by Grant Grover and BelardinelliArt Robot Gibson. I don’t want to take anything away from Massimo, but Ian Gibson does bring a few things we haven’t seen before – the underside of Speedo Ghost and the underside of Ace Garp too (we get to see the soles of his feet, which have curious pads on them) and there’s a nice touch as G-B-H’s punchbag has a pic of a jeepee on it. Garp picks up a signal from a distress buoy – stationary outposts anchored throughout space (kinda like covered bus stops) and used by shipwrecked voyagers, travelling salesmen and hitch-hikers. Turns out that this particular hitch-hiker is a reknowned scientist, who manages to trick Ace into believing he’s been through a particularly notorious black hole, and returned to tell the tale. Using the promise of the cargoes of all of the ships which have been lost in the black hole (including bullion, meso-topes and macmac). Ace’s crew attempt to dissuade him from this get-rich-quick scheme, but to no avail. It’s only when they’re withing the gravitational pull of said black hole that the scientist reveals he’s only been through it and back in theory… I’m not a fan of Gibson’s chess-board rendering of a black hole – I can only imagine what Belardinelli would have provided. Actually, I don’t need to imagine, black holes featured prominently enough in Blackhawk that I could just go back and have a look there.

Shuttle Photo-Special! This is a one-page feature with a couple of photos of said shuttle. Oh, waitaminute – not it isn’t – it’s a one page feature with a couple of artist’s impressions of the shuttle. Hmmm, how can I trust anything these features say now?

Nemesis the Warlock by Brother Mills and Brother O’Neill, or should that be Torquemada, Grand Master of Termight? For the opening pages of this episode have illuminated borders of Nem and Torque glaring at each other beneath their own logos. For a moment I thought that Nem would be triumphant on his page and that the tables would turn on Torque’s page (but then the end of Torque’s page has Nem punching the zombie Torque and then stabbing the animated corpse). I’ll tell you now – most of the rest of this book of Nemesis is (if you write it down on paper) just the two fighting their way through the episode, so assume that they’re stabbing each other, punching, kicking, lobbing fireballs at each other and the like. What marks this one out is that Zombie Torque gets killed, but his spirit inhabits another fallen Terminator which after a bit more fighting also gets killed. Torque rises in another body, this armed with a scythe (leading to Grim Reaper and Hell’s Harvest comments). Which all begs the question – why was he waiting for that Terminator to commit suicide so he could possess the body when he could have just picked one of the already dead?

Judge Dredd: Block Mania Part Four by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. The past three progs haven’t been good for Melda Dreepe – Dan Tanna blockers have been stumm-gassed, riot-foamed, bombed, blasted and arrested, but they’ve not give up, with their eyes on occupying Rikki Fulton Block. Meanwhile Ricardo Montalban Block has enlisted Charlton Heston Block to aid them in their plan to kill the whole of the Northern Sectors through a toxic gas. The alliance with Charlton Heston Block goes only as far as to get the acid to the chemical factory (though they don’t tell the Heston blockers this) as they’re among the first to fall victim to the poison cloud (when they see it coming they don’t even know what it is). The remnants of Dan Tanna are the other major casualties before Dredd’s sonic cannons manage to destroy the factory and a call to Weather Control has a vehicle looking very much like the USS Enterprise instigating an artificial cyclone to suck up the gas. Next week, Dredd looks to roll the sonic cannons out further, to cover an area housing 150 million citizens.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. The Edinburgh Executioners have blades atop their helmets, which are strong enough to slice through walls. The representative of the Street Football League Committee is satisfied that they’re purely for penetrating obstacles, and not anti-personnel devices (even when one of the team members says it will be used ‘against’ Matt Tallon). Tallon isn’t around though, as he’s about to break in to the cosmetic clinic where the surgeon who gave his brother the all-clear and led to his death now works (or owns it, maybe?) Inside he confronts the doctor and is soon joined by Chip (the not-at-all-suspicious young boy that Tallon hangs around with now). Chip brings more artificial people – well, robo-docs.

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons (who is back after a few weeks of Colin Wilson). If I’m taking the the largest or boldest words to give titles to untitled stories then the three candidates for this one are (largest and boldest first): “Nu Earth!” (a bit too generic), “To Kill Norts!” or “Strategic Value”. There’s been two types of Rogue Trooper story so far. The ones that are plot-driven, focusing on Rogue’s quest to uncover the traitor who’s a Souther general, sometimes incorporating flashbacks. The second type are purely world-building, in that they could be removed form a collection and not affect the final narrative at all. There’s a third type, and this is it – it’s a bit like the world-building episodes in some ways, but those are based around a pun or a gimmick. Here’s a landmark and this is what happens around it. The third type are based around “war is hell”, a tried and true trope of story… This follows part of a two-man lazooka team who does not cope well with war (his team-mate adapts much more readily, showing disdain for our temporary protagonist). Not being an efficient warrior can have its benefits though – like being outside the target range during an attack because you were dawdling and arguing about leaving safety. Not quote so beneficial is then failing to take cover afterwards, which is where our blue-skinned protagonist makes an appearance, firstly and secondly as a shadow, then as a looming figure telling the shell-shocked soldier to get down (you fool).

Grailpage: Kevin O’Neill’s opening spread (I’m cheating slightly here – it’s two separate pages but has the characters glaring at each other from one page to the other, as if it were a centrespread). One is an iconic Nem-head, the other has a logo for Torquemada (there’s a few Torquemada-centric stories coming up which either use the exact logo or something very close to it). When I say ‘coming up’ I mean before the end of the decade. Just.

Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day, Sarge: “Any questions?” Corporal Field: “Er, yes, Sarge… Why do we have to kill the Norts?”

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