2000AD Prog 240: "So what's the cure?" "We don't know!" Block Mania

Another prog, another classic cover – eye-catching, memorable and by Brian Bolland (probably laid out by Robin Smith – as most covers appear to have been at this time (‘coz he was art editor)).

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg hosts letters from one terran who spotted the page of a Robo-Hunter story among those taken to the Mighty One while in The Nightmare – Tharg says that the next series is in preparation but being held – as memory serves, that terran will have to wait nearly a year for it (The Best of Blackheart Manor?) Meanwhile an earthlet writes in in Space Trucker jargon – the second person to do so. You may have noticed I’ve used both ‘terran’ and ‘earthlet’ there – this is because the result of the Great Debate has been announced and it has been declared… a draw! I suspect TMO is just being diplomatic, but it does mean earthlets/terrans can chose their own sobriquet.

Ace Trucking Co.: Hell’s Pocket Part 2 by Grant/Grover and Ian Gibson. The crew (and the scientist) get through the black hole and end up above a large planet. Thanks to Ace’s piloting skills (so he is useful for something) they survive and land (not even a crash land). Finding the wrecks of all the starships that have gone missing over the years, G-B-H retrieves a few armfulls of premium-grade macmac. Before they can make a start on it, they’re interrupted as the locals start chucking spears in their direction. This episode gets by but there’s nothing special about it – blackhole, starship graveyard, hostile natives.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. So, as I’ve said a few times over the course of this blog – when it comes to the weekly comic I’ve read everything – this is a re-read, albeit one of some progs I haven’t read in decades. I say this as I don’t remember this episode or where it’s going at all. In fact, much of the latter half of Mean Arena is a bit of a blur – I remember the bit about the ‘witch’ whose face mask cracks and the ‘cyber arena’ in the last couple of episodes but the rest will be almost-as-new to me. So, Simon Jessup reveals who he is under threat of torture, knocked out (by hypo dart) and operated upon. The reason I’m going on about all this is because all we know at the end is that Jessup’s still-unconscious body is left in the Edinburgh Executioners’ arena, fully bandaged. I’m assuming he’s going to have been operated on to look like Tallon, but how things will unfold I can’t remember. Oh, and Tallon goads Slick from the Executioners and one of Slick’s team-mates says “You’re in no… er… shape to take him now!” which makes me curious…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: A Cautionary Fable by Alan Moore and Paul Neary. Tharg is babysitting for his sister Marg. The babies in particular are three nephews – I wonder if any of them are Joko-Jargo, Tharg’s nephew who edits the all-ages specials these days? These nephews are gluttonous and a bit of a handful, even for Tharg, so he tells them a story of a gluttonous boy who ate everything in sight. This includes going to nearby woodlands and terrorising the animals there – the “timid forest creatures” includes a bear! This changes when he comes across some aliens outside their spaceship, exploring the wood. As with everything else organic, the glutton eats them, then has a sleep in the forest clearing. During his sleep he starts to grow, in the best tradition of 1950s B-movies. From there it’s a rampage through his home town, then onward to the city and the inevitable King Kong homage (biplanes, falling from a pointy building). The deviation from the predictable only comes when the city has difficulty figuring out what to do with the huge, bloated body. The closest to a ‘shock’ is that the body gets processed. The next image is of a dog waiting next to a tin of dog food – you get the picture. Neither Alan Moore’s best or worst work for 2000ad – this is enjoyable as long as you like rhyming couplets.

Judge Dredd: Block Mania Part Five by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith starts with a bang! Though it actually begins with sonic cannons on wide beam, so maybe it’s a low thrumming, just on the edge of what you can hear. Definitely some “AAAAH!”s and “AAAAHHHHH”s though. With this the Northern Sectors are (barely) pacified. Dredd pays a visit to Max in Forensic. Comparing the unaffected Max to captured/dead Block Mania blockers the med-judges discover distortions in the hypothalmus causing intensifying aggression and increased pack instinct. A red herring is thrown out when Dredd is also told that water, air, sanitation and psychic interference have all been ruled out. Any thoughts on what has caused it are pushed aside as the first war outside of the Northern Sectors is reported in South Sector 7 (looking at the map shown, this is around North Carolina). Dredd scoots off to the South and by the next day the wars have also crept to the West. Griffin pays a visit to the battlefield before Dredd tells him to get to safety – that’s the Chief Judge told! And then the call comes in – somebody knows who has caused block mania, and will tell Dredd in return for immunity. But – some hands are reaching from behind the caller (I also get the feeling that the hands would have been holding a wire to garrotte the caller, but that this panel has been censored and so the villainous hands are just in a weird pose.

Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. Just one week after I said the rest of this book would be Nemesis and Torquemada will be fighting each other we get an interruption by the Terminators fighting aliens for three pages in some very memorable images and the Deviatus, battle hymn of Termight. Brother Potter also puts in some creative lettering, particularly on the sound effect as the skeletal Terminator airplane smashes through a window of Terminus (assuming O’Neill wasn’t responsible for that one). About that airplane – looks to me like it takes the skull of a dead blitzspear as the front part… Nemesis turns the tables on Torque after dispatching the grim reaper zombie by performing a dance of death, preventing the Grand Master from occupying any more corpses. Leaving the sword sinister stabbed into the ground (or more likely a Terminator), Nemesis takes the battle to the psychic plane. But we’re going to have to take a few progs off as Nem returns in Prog 243.

Leaving Termight – old Earth – behind, we head to Nu-Earth for the second part of the latest untitled Rogue Trooper story by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. Untitled in the comic, that is, but has since gained the name “The Rookies” (thanks to Ian Anorak Hollingsworth for pointing that out to me). Kransky knows all about the Rogue Trooper, or thinks he does – including that he’s wanted for questioning regarding the recent loss of the spy satellite. Kransky wants to take Rogue in but Field (who just had his life saved by Rogue) isn’t so keen. Taking both their weapons, Kransky forces the pair to march ahead of him. One thing he doesn’t know is about the biochips, so when chem clouds descend and he orders Rogue and Field to sing Helm takes over the chorister duties. I’m thinking the Deviatus was more catchy than “When the South goes marching in”. Rogue attacks Kransky from the chem clouds, disarming him as Field encounters Nort scouts. Fields makes his first kills – two Norts, though when Kransky tries to shoot Rogue, Field shoots his ‘friend’. I’m loving Dave Gibbon’s artwork on this, particularly any panels with light and shadow effects. Next prog: Blue Moon. I have no idea what story this is going to be – Rogue will go to the moon, but that won’t be for another two years!

I’ll quickly mention the Superman poster ad on the back page as I remember seeing a Dave Gibbons one-page advert I saw at school in the eighties. This isn’t it, and isn’t Dave Gibbons, so I’m hoping we’ll see some Gibbons adverts in later progs (though I’m not very hopeful).

Grailpage: Kevin O’Neill’s page showing Kremlin and the Yolog on the Pandemonium (which you can just about see) taking out the Terminator blitzsplanes while other Terminators tilt lava bowls as they’re attacked by winged aliens.

Grailquote: I didn’t have the catholic education that Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill had, but I can still picture the hymn-like dirge that is the Deviatus (I’m picking the second out of the three verses printed): “With sword and axe and mace, we cleanse and purify..! …We never show any mercy! All aliens must..! DIE!”

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