2000AD Prog 241: Avenge our murder most foul!

Iconic covers by Brian Bolland and Kevin O’Neill, this time it’s Dave Gibbons’ turn with the ‘dead biochips’ cover – Rogue haunted by the helmetted skulls of his war buddies, who are always with him. Wasn’t an early version of Rogue Trooper literally going to be Rogue haunted by Helm, Gunnar and Bagman, either spiritually or psychologically (rather than the bio-technological method)?

In the Nerve Centre it turns out that the News or the World reckons that “Judge Dread is a 221st Century police officer.” Between them, a terran and Tharg point out that Dredd is a “22nd Century lawman”.

Ace Trucking Co.: Hell’s Pocket part 3 by Grant Grover and Ian Gibson. I’ll just get this out of the way first, they might be aliens on a planet through a black hole space warp, but the depiction of the locals who have kidnapped the crew of the Speedo Ghost is very influenced by the type of natives who appear in King Kong (on Kong Island) or in most Tarzan films, if you get my meaning… It soon becomes clear that there’s no reasoning with the natives and the only thing they have to look forward to is execution at midnight. After a brief escape attempt it also becomes clear that all but G-B-H aren’t best cut out for this escaping lark. Back at the Speedo Ghost, Ghost (just to keep things legible, Speedo Ghost is the ship, Ghost is the ship’s computer – and if I’m wrong about that then I think I’ll stick to it just to differentiate the two). Where was I? Oh, yes – Ghost has come up with a plan. I’ve completely forgotten how this ends, so I’m looking forward to finding out what the plan is in the next prog.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. As I mentioned last prog, I’ve also forgotten what Tallon’s plan is involving the cosmetic surgery-altered face of the evil doctor. the first page of this week’s installment is cut short by a Johnny and Heller advert (if you remember, Johnny was the kid who was always looking toward the next kit he’d buy who wont that model-making contest). In the actual story we’re given some stats for the two ‘lead men’ in Slater’s Slayers and the Edinburgh Executioners – Matt Tallon vs Slick Mordred. I’m guessing we’re supposed to think Mordred is tough, but his list of injuries includes five replacement teeth and a complete lower jaw just this season – that tells me two things: a) he’s got a glass jaw (or at least did, until it got replaced – it’s probably tungsten-titanium now) and b) he’s a bit accident-prone. The crowd awaiting the beginning of this match (which takes place in a disused area of railway sidings) chat about how there’s likely to be a second attempt on Tallon’s life, which is hardly surprising as the Street Football player has publicly declared he’s hunting for the killers of his brother – did you get all that? Just in case you missed an episode. This all prompts Tallon to launch a tirade against the crowd, but they can’t hear what he’s saying and just want the action to start. Once the game starts, Tallon fumbles a simple pass – Slater thinks this wasn’t a mistake, and that Matt is trying “to make himself a target for the whole Edinburgh team” – so that pretty much answers any question as to what the plan is – the doctor has surely been surgically altered to look like Matt and left on the playing arena (in a bus shelter) – Matt is goading the team so that they go after the doctor once the bandages are removed, revealing Matt Tallon’s face. I’m really surprised I don’t remember any part of this storyline – guess when I’ve read these progs previously I’ve been more interested in some of the other stories…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Masks of Arazzor by Steve Moore and Casanovas. A survey ship has landed on a desert planet which is also a deserted planet. Deserted of living creatures, anyway – there’s a few cities and loads of skeletal remains, all wearing masks. Is it a good idea to try one of these masks on? Richter thinks so, then runs off into the nearby city, which is like a warren and so his crewmates will have no hope of finding him. The desolation appears to have happened about thirty years ago (it isn’t explained how they would know that bleached skeletons are thirty years old). The captain gets called away in a scout-plane (which looks very much like a Colonial 2-person Mk1 Viper from Battlestar Galactica) to the wreckage of a crashed spacecraft a couple of hundred miles away. Again without explanation it is guessed that it crashed about, oh, thirty years ago? I’m sure you can guess where things go from here (you’ve seen bodysnatcher films, right?). The captain is still alive (and not masked) but the Viper-looking scout-plane is not armed and the only way he can stop the survey ship, now fully loaded with masks, from returning to Earth and eradicating life on his home planet is by ramming the ship, sacrificing his own life. A perfect plan, perfectly executed, except for one thing – the masked ensign on the survey ship managed to get a distress call out just before it was rammed, and another ship in the same sector answers the call… I’m sure I’ll steal those masks for a roleplaying campaign!

Judge Dredd: Block Mania Part 6 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Dredd is on the line to an informant in Frank Zappa Block (the call was easily traced), but citizen Speck, the informant, manages to convey only that Block Mania is being spread by a person before getting killed, assassinated you might say, by an assailant wearing rather natty rhinestone gloves. The rest of this episode is Dredd trying to get through the city to Frank Zappa Block after his H-Wagon is shot down. He gets to the apartment too late to save citizen Speck (he was already dead by the end of the original call) but does discover something useful. Speck had been hoarding supplies – the entire apartment is packed with bottles of water. I won’t comment on this other than to say there are plenty of people in the real world at the moment who have similarly stocked up on water and other items…

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Colin Wilson. He might have provided the cover but Gibbons is off of Rogue Trooper again – guess he must take too long on the illuminated borders! I’d completely forgotten about this episode until it began, but apparently Nu-Earth’s blue moon (looks like there’s at least two moons in the Nu-Earth sky) played host to experimental research by Southern colonisers before the war. One of the results of this were Nu-Mooners (also called Moonies, not relation to that Moon-worship cult from Mega-City One), blue-skinned results of genetic engineering. It’s not gone in to in detail, but I think they can survive without chem-suits though still need air bottles to breathe. Either way, they’re now reduced to virtual slaves as entertainers for the Norts, until Rogue kills the local Norts, incidentally allowing them a chance to escape to the Southern Sector. Next prog: The Big Freeze-Up! (doesn’t ring any bells, is Rogue going polar?)

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Joe Black’s TALL Tale! by K. Gosnell and John Higgins. The second Future-Shock this prog, and the second survey ship. It’s a two-and-a-half page strip and about as involved as you’d expect that to be. I’d be lying if I said it was in any way original. Joe Black makes contact with a planet unknown to PEST (Planetary Exploration and Survey Trust) and all seems perfect. It’s pre-atomic, has a beautiful, all-powerful and peaceful ruler called Princess Elvira. Despite being pre-atomic the city which Joe flies over looks more like Mega-City One than an early 20th century Earth city. John Higgins hasn’t drawn a Dredd yet, but you can tell from this pic of the un-named planet that he’ll take to it – without checking, that’ll happen in about four years time. Joe manages to wangle himself into a potential marriage with the beautiful princess, but while daydreaming about becoming king of the planet he meets up with the well-worn twist – they’re giants in comparison to him. Funny how it’s always the arriving ship in a Future-Shock which is small in comparison to the natives (just up to this point it’s been alien invaders landing on Earth). The last page of this Shock was squashed in to half a page, but in this instance that worked really well as it highlighted the height of the Princess Elvira and her people.

But what took up the other half of the page I don’t hear you ask, because you probably assumed it was an advert? And it is an advert – one provided by Robin Smith showing Tharg as the defender against waves of space invader-style thril-suckers.

The 2000AD Star Pin-Up on the back cover shows the Speedo Ghost approaching B-Hive-K. It’s all been bodged from the fifth page of Ace Trucking Co.’s first story in Prog 232 and then coloured in.

Grailpage: normally I go for flashy pages featuring cityscapes, natural formations or creative creatures, but this time I’m going for the character-based centre pages from Ron Smith – a murder in four panels while Judges watch, helpless on the other end of the vid-link.

Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day, Nu-Mooner: “…we can entertain you before we go. We’ve got a few jokes – ” Rogue: “No, thanks – got my own set of comedians waiting for me. Good luck.” Helm: “Heard you brought the house down, Rogue.” Gunnar: “I expected the audience to die on you.” Bagman: “Yeah, the trouble with that show was it had no atmosphere.”

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