2000AD Prog 244: "Hit them jackers with the old BLAZOOGA, BIFF!" "Hrrum! They never told me space trucking was going to be like this!" It could only happen to… Ace Trucking Co.

Massimo’s back – on the cover and in the prog as the long-awaited (well, postponed for a month) Ace Trucking Co starts this prog.

In the Nerve Centre we find out that the North American Thril-Sucker exist in vast numbers as there is no 2000AD in the USA to combat them.

Judge Dredd: Block Mania Part 9 by T.B. Grover and Brian Bolland – the ultimate episode! I promise I’m not timing this to make any point about modern society. So – the rain now falling in Central and East Sectors contains a highly dangerous contaminant. The Chief Judge broadcasts an order to all citizens to stay in their homes to avoid contracting severe Block Mania. “Many citizens did not hear the Chief Judge’s warning, others chose to ignore it”. Mega-citizen: “Judge Dredd! He’ll get us out of this mess!” JD: “You should’ve listened to the Chief Judge, citizen! No-one can help you now!” The social commentary out of the way, Dredd tracks down and captures Orlok, but not without, infamously, getting fifty cee-cees of concentrated Block Mania and declaring his support for a certain block. Luckily for the other judges, one of them manages to knock him out. While he’s unconscious an antidote is manufactured from Orlok’s blood. Just in case they might believe they’ve won, Orlok has a bit more to reveal under interrogation – this is only the first stage of a Sov plot – Operation Apocalypse is about to begin.

Burt’s Xmas Quiz! 30 questions, no answers because it’s a competition – as I’m not sure if / when the answers are ever going to be published, I’ll just state that I’m confident about 22 of my answers but less confident about the others (one or two I’d have no hope on). As an example of my less confident answers, the very first question is: “Name the alien who came to Earth to write about law in Mega-City One.” The short answer would be Qu, though I suspect the actual answer is longer… If the answers ever do get published I’ll dig this prog out again.

Tharg’s Christmas Tale Part 2 by Eric Bradbury. This is pretty awful – a complete waste of Eric Bradbury’s talents. The solution to all the robots and supernatural creatures attacking Britain? Tharg uses ‘cosmic energy’ to create 2000AD heroes from nowhere. Didn’t this happen when the Hag of Zrag brought the 2000AD villains to life about a year ago? Oh, and the Dictators get sent to Hell (literally) while Santa is thawed out while Tharg delivers the proper presents at 98% the speed of light.

Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. This is a surprise – in the prog where we get the end of Block Mania, Ace takes to the prestigious centre pages (the pages as drawn are normal, they haven’t been created for the centrespread – the only difference is they’ve been coloured in). Other than a painfully long song (Ghost agrees with me that it’s an ordeal to get through) this story is rather more serious in tone than the others we’ve had so far from Ace. There’s a bit of light relief as Feek breeds ughbugs (they look a little like bees or wasps, but with more expressive faces) which he eats alive with a flick of his frog-like tongue. Things take a downward turn when lug-jackers (pirates) are spotted and board the ship. Out-gunned, our crew can only run – but where to?

Tharg’s Review of 1981! Does what it says on the tin – a run-down of highlights from the previous year.

Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill sees the end of the first book of Nemesis. Torquemada shoots Nemesis in the back, but that doesn’t stop the leader of Credo as he follows Torque’s advice to “Crawl, deviant!” In an act of superb timing, Nemesis falls, dragging Torque behind him but drops through the portal as it closes, leaving Torque’s latest zombie host to perish in the flames from the Earth’s core. The other end of the dimensional portal doesn’t – as you may expect – lead to another dimension, but to the Forbidden Level – a place on Termight which was used by the Ancient Ones. In our time this is known as Waterloo Underground Station, which, as it happened, was the station I used to meet up with Eamonn to record my most recent Mega-City Book Club podcast – which contained this very story. Once recovered, Nemesis gives a speech to the assembled aliens (and Purity) about how he hopes more planets will join the Cabal after the death of Torquemada and the mass escape, before leaving in the blitzspear. The Overland above Waterloo appears to have gained a mountain range since our time. We had to wait a long time for this book (well, I didn’t as we were on book III by the time I started reading 2000AD) and there were a few interruptions along the way, but it was worth waiting for! I’ve got this story in six different editions (including the original progs) and that’s despite not having the ‘current’ Rebellion editions! I did get the Hachette edition to give myself an excuse to do Eamonn’s book club though, plus the more recent luxurious French edition (French publisher, not French language).

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury. Jessup is dead, as a riot is about to break out the real Tallon makes himself known again and the game continues as if nothing had happened, Tallon taking the Slayers to a decisive victory. Mike Slater is concerned about events, but Tallon assures him that his man-hunting days are over. I don’t believe him, but it doesn’t matter as not one but two shadowy figures are talking about the remaining four members of the group responsible for Tallon’s brother Paul’s death.

Robin Smith’s Star Pin-Up is a seasonal Tharg the Festive! showing a red jumpsuited TMO along with droids McMahon and Bolland (I think) building a snowDredd while Tom Frame chucks a snowball at Burt.

Grailpage: There’s two – the first had to be one of the Bolland Dredd’s – the last time he’ll work on Dredd for a long time. His main involvement with 2000AD will be as a cover or poster artist from now on. But which page to pick? Every one has it’s moments, but in the end it has to be one of the more iconic images of Dredd – look to the grailquote section for the page in question. My second pick is the last page of Nemesis – the image of the blitzspear flying out of the tunnel to Overland has lived with me – I can picture it without looking at the page and have tried to draw similar scenes (with varied amounts of success).

Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge Dredd: “Been fighting it off, but now – now there’s just one thing I gotta know… I’m with Rowdy Yates Block! Who you fighting with?” First judge: “Gulp!” Second judge: “He’s got Block Mania real bad! Lucky you got him with that gas injector…” First judge: “Yeah! For a moment there, my whole career flashed before my eyes!”

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