On the front cover, Brian Bolland introduces us to Orlock the Assassin.
The Nerve Centre has a letter from ‘Wakefied’ – I wonder if that’s Wakefield Carter, who was behind the 2000AD Meeples a few years back? A different Earthlet tells Squaxx about Orkney Ba’ – a game not dissimilar to Street Football played on the Orkney capital town of Kirkwall (probably less weaponry and robots though). Meanwhile, Tharg has revealed possibly a little too much about what’s going to happen in Judge Dredd before it happens – two weeks will see the climax to Block Mania, but it leads in to The Apocalypse War – kinda gives away elements of the ending of Block Mania there?
Ace Trucking Co.: Hell’s Pocket part 4 by Grant Grover and Ian Gibson. Ghost’s plan is put into practice as G-B-H sets fire to a thousand dadispads of Macmac (I think that’s the only time in the history of humanity that sentence has ever been used). The vapours from the macmac drift towards the city, just in time to start affecting the natives as they attempt to start the executions. Slightly more inured to the effects of macmac, Ace manages to guide Feek and the scientist to Speedo Ghost before becoming totally inebriated. I was beginning to wonder if Feek would ever say “Hee hee” (he says “No hee hee” a fair bit, but things are rarely positive enough for the crew of Ace Trucking Co to leave out the “No”). Did I say Ace managed to guide them to Speedo Ghost? Well, half-way, anyway. G-B-H finds Ace, Feek and the scientist sat on the ground with a local, singing drunkenly. Then the wind changes direction and the macmac vapours are blown away from the capital city. G-B-H now has to carry the rest of the crew while being pursued by (drunken) riders from the city.
Rogue Trooper: Recruitment Quiz – as reader-submitted 20-question quiz. I got 18 out of 20 questions right so I’m “You made it! You are now an official G.I.” – I stumbled on Doomsday Valley and Plastisteel.
The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. Tallon continues to antagonise the Executioners, scores a few points and nothing else changes – is this the third week running that the last panel has shown Dr Simon Jessup bandaged up in the bus shelter? Looks like my guess that his face has been changed to look like Tallon is correct though.
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Love Thy Neighbour! from Kelvin Gosnell and Jesus Redondo. Three pages about a sociopathic (possibly mentally ill) old person who hates other people so much that he keeps trying to invent things to harm those around him. His latest one is supposed to stop all electrical systems to cease working. It works but as he’s rejoicing in the disruption that he’s caused to his neighbours a jet fighter above his house also stops working and Shock! crashes directly into is house, killing him instantly (though not instantly enough that the inventor doesn’t see the plane coming). Good as filler though not a classic Shock.
Something that is a classic is the return of Steve Dillon to Judge Dredd on Block Mania Part 7 by T.B. Grover. Cover boy Orlock / Orlok dominates this episode from the point that he breaks into the Atlantic Purification Plant in East Sector 29 up to the point that he takes advantage of Satellat distracting Judge Giant to (spoiler) shoot in the back the judge we’ve known since his rookie days. Let’s go back a bit. The Satellat is a multi-role combat device (a flying robot with powerfu enough anti-grav motors that it can carry the assassin Orlok – spelled Orlock on the cover). Judges on patrol draw their water from their bikes’ supplies so were unaffected by any agents that have been introduced to the general water supply, while Max Normal only uses Shampagne and Clean-O-Spray, so is also insulated from the wider water supply. Dredd puts the capture of Orlok at top priority for all judges city-wide. Giant is the one who finds him… There’s two things I’ve heard said about Giant’s death, one of which I agree with, the other I don’t. It’s very low-key – to the extent that it isn’t even obvious that he has been killed (judges get shot and survive all the time), so the one very tiny criticism of the artwork is that it isn’t quite obvious enough – but that’s a moot point as it will be very obvious at the beginning of the next episode, also by Steve Dillon. The other thing said is that Giant has barely appeared since The Day the Law Died, only to reappear in the Hotdog Run and then for a page before being killed. This is less valid, and I wish I’d pointed out the times that he has appeared. He’s been one of those judges who has made frequent low-key appearances in the background. If Dredd has had to hand a task off to another judge, it’s often been Giant.
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Mister, Could you use a Squonge? from Alan Moore and Ron Tiner, making a reappearance after quite a long gap (the last one was also on a Future-Shock). I have a feeling this is one that’s been on the shelf for a while – Moore uses some very basic Shock-tactics – it opens with a limited view of the president of the USA – so seasoned Shock readers know there’s something going on which we’ll only see in the final panel when we’re likely to see the president’s head. The rest of the Shock is told in flashback, pretty clumsily handled and less advanced than the storytelling techniques Moore has used in other stories published before this one. As for that flashback? The first part tells of a starprobe to Alpha Centauri which brought back some seemingly dead though self-replicating alien jellyfish. Due to the cost of the mission and the storage of the tribble-like amounts of jellyfish (henceforth called squonges) it is decided to sell them to the public. One day a child places a squonge on his head and finds that it boosts his intelligence. The second phase of the story starts as everybody starts wearing them, using them as exo-brains in the same way that exo-skeletons boost physical strength. They seem to help humanity with all of its questions, though can’t answer why where a dozen of them left on a deserted planetoid? The final part of the story reveals the answer – the squonge exo-brains are a faulty batch, sending the wearers permanently insane. The Shock is, of course, that the president and the rest of the top officials were all wearing them and are now capable only of using their boosted intelligence to discuss jellybeans, martian radiation in lightbulbs and messages from the water cooler.
Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and an art droid new to Rogue, Mike Dorey. Along with Eric Bradbury, I think Mike’s work is best suited to present or near-future grimy tales. In this prog that would mean Mean Arena or the first Future-Shock, not so much Rogue Trooper, which is a shame. There’s three pictures of G.I.s at Millicom being subjected to various toxic agents, seemingly all naked but still wearing their boots (!) As predicted, Rogue has headed North towards the pole to avoid the Norts. After a brief encounter with a patrol vehicle the heat from the explosion melts some of the permafrost revealing a plant. As more Norts arrive, Rogue evades them but then collapses, presumably poisoned by the previously unknown species of plant. For some reason his backpack and helmet fell off when he collapsed, so their straps couldn’t have been up to much…
The back page has what looks like a Belardinelli pic of Star Lord – get back to work on Ace Trucking Co!
Grailpage: Steve Dillon’s opening page of Orlok has the East-Meg agent in the midst of the flouro unit (fluoro, surely?) pouring the block mania agent into the water supply as judges discover him – a fantastic opening image.
Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge Giant: “This is Giant on Booker T Parkway! Got your man, Dredd! I’m bringing him in!” famous (almost) last words – the actual last words were “Drokk – Satellat!”