2000AD Prog 243: "The game's over, Tallon! You're our target now!" The hunt is on in the Mean Arena!

Mike White (first time on the cover? Yep – and his next one in 36 weeks time will also be on Mean Arena).

Tharg tells us in the Nerve Centre that 2000AD (and associated droids) have swept the board at the Eagle Awards with 10 wins! Tharg also asks for more letters saying which character they like and why, as earthlets seem to keep this to themselves for some reason.

Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Ian Gibson. G-B-H holds the pursuing Yaagas at bay while the rest escape to Speedo Ghost – one positive thing you can say about Ace Garp is that he never leaves a crew member in trouble (the negative is that he’s likely to have gotten them in to trouble in the first place). After a few attempts to get out of Hell’s Pocket, Ace finally finds the ‘eye of the storm’ which allows them to get back through the black hole space warp. Once out, Ignatz is over-excited and wants to bring a fleet of ships back to gather the salvage through Hell’s Pocket. Ace brings him down to Earth, or more accurately, back to the beacon they picked him up from.

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. The name of the game this week is “Get Tallon!” Also “Find Himmmm!” Despite the numerous clues dropped in previous episodes, this episode reads like a Future-Shock. Tallon unwraps Jessup (wasn’t it Jessop earlier, or am I imagining it?) but we don’t see the doctor’s face before he gets sent out in to the arena. An executioner sees Jessop/Jessup and launches a screemer at him. Jessup manages to escape, despite being an untrained medic who hasn’t used his muscles in a few days while being chased by four highly-trained sportsmen because of “the shadows of the arena”. Anyway, he finally catches a sight of his own face in a broken window and we see his Tallon-face – it’s even on the last panel of the third page, just like a classic Future-Shock! After that Jessup hides under a train carriage, waiting for the Arena Monitors to rescue him (as the referee has lost control of the game and it’ll probably be abandoned). The Executioners fire their droid guns at the carriage, which set it alight, with the Tallon-a-like still underneath.

Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill is, I think, on it’s penultimate episode. A few great action sequences, O’Neill’s artwork bringing real dynamism to the conflicts. From a technical standpoint, the opening page has a framing panel on which the other three panels are overlaid and exists in two timeframes. The top has a large chunk of masonry beginning it’s fall, then the three panels describe the psychic battle and as it appears that Nem will finally defeat Torque, we return to the background panel to see the same chunk of masonry split the two combatants apart. As Nem goes to chase Torque’s fleeing spirit, Ragnar holds him back. Torque is found by Brother Mikron (first appearance) who tells Torque that while his spirit cannot die, it can fade-out and to please go to the exosyst where his vestal vampires await. With the threat of oblivion, Torque manages to find one more body, which was missed in the dance of death. A Yith has been left behind, and while Ragnar (not so much the arm mouth, which would rather escape, please), Ncognito and Kremlin argue over which of them should go back, Nemesis has gone to rescue it, which is where Torque catches up with him as he prepares to shoot the alien in the back.

Tharg’s Christmas Tale by Eric Bradbury (no writer as it all really happened so isn’t made up like the other stories). Uh-oh – just saw those fateful words ‘Part 1’. The Dictators of Zrag hijack Santa’s sleigh, leaving him freezing in the snow without his red and white garb. They dump all the presents and replace them wit their own Zragian version, which they deliver to all 2000AD-reading earthlet’s homes. In the morning hordes of space troopers, alien flesh-eating spiders, skeletons, giant robots and dragons attack Britain. Rudoplh has had enough and takes the sleigh on a joy-ride. The Dictators of Zrag cut him loose, allowing him to escape to enlist Tharg’s aid.

Judge Dredd: Block Mania Part 8 – the penultimate episode – by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. If we didn’t get it from the last panel of the last episode, Giant is definitely dead this prog as Dredd cradles his former rookie. Dredd ponders where Orlok will hit next, putting food production lines, sanitation lines and weather control on high alert – but it’s too late, for Orlok is already in Weather Control (which is high enough to cover Central and Eastern Sectors). The deluge begins as Dredd rides to intercept Orlok at the Buddy Ebsen Spiral… Next prog: The Apocalypse Factor!

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Mike Dorey. Rogue is prone and surrounded by Nort troops closing in (some on snowboards). What’s more they’re going to film the helpless GI for propaganda purposes. Without Rogue the biochips are just bits of silicon. Then Helm comes up with a plan – to use sound to start an avalanche. Shame that this episode depends on a myth for its resolution… The enemy buried in snow, Rogue quickly recovers from the poison to take out some follow-up troops in a sno-speeder. Rogue recovers the biochips (recognising Gunnar by his butt) and continues his sojourn. But, the vid of Rogue laying prone has been recovered and is being viewed in a North military science establishment – they know there’s something in the polar cap that can paralyse the G.I. (though also seem to think that defeating one man will break the deadlock and win the war outright).

Walter the Wobot is the 2000AD Star Pin-Up by Brian Bolland, though I have a feeling it’s just recycled from artwork that was lying around, which we might have seen before.

Grailpage: Steve Dillon’s pic of Weather Control (though if Tharg hadn’t taken the centre pages this would have been combined with the dead Judge Giant).

Grailquote: I’m going to go for a triple grailquote this prog! Grant/Grover, Ace Garp: “Voke me, Ignatzh – do you know how we make the flip flop outta Hellsh Pocket, come on?” Ignatz: “In theory, yesh, but only in theory!” Feek the Freek: “Hee hee hee!” Ignatz: “Ha ha ha!” Ace: “Ha ha ha!” Second – Pat Mills, Ragnar: “No, Nemesis – let me go back!” Ragnar’s arm-mouth “Now just a minute, pal!” Third – Gerry Finlay-Day, Rogue: “Synth somethin’ you guys!” Gunnar: “Whose butt do you think this is, Rogue?”

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