2000AD Prog 248: Play ball! In the Mean Arena!

I keep thinking this Mean Arena cover is by Steve Dillon, but it’s actually from Brian Bolland with some very Dillonesque cast members.

Tharg reminds earthlets that the Krill Tro Thargo can be awarded for purposes other than introducing new readers to the galaxy’s greatest in the Nerve Centre. Ten publishes a letter about a reader who introduced new readers to the GG (no KTT given). Echoing my own mistake in leaving the credit for Rogue Trooper as Dave Gibbons last prog (it should have been Colin Wilson – now corrected) – the perils of using templates for regular content!

Ace Trucking Co. Lugjack! Part 5 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. On the planet Aaro, the Galactic Police has no truck with Ace’s crew, so Ace, G-B-H and Feek drown their sorrows, until two of the three get offered jobs by fellow lug-jock Fatty Arkl (is the name inspired by Fatty Arbuckle?) though G-B-H is loyal to Ace, and Feek is distrustful of working for Fatty – that’s a kind of loyalty to Ace, right? Then they’re clued in by something Fatty says when he mentions ughbugs in the powerhouse – if I didn’t mention at the time, in the first episode Feek had a colony of ughbugs in the powerhouse of the Speedo Ghost to provide a constant supply of fresh food. Sure enough, when they see Fatty’s ship it’s the Speedo Ghost repainted and renamed. As I’ve said earlier, despite being incompetent, Ace is loyal to fellow (honest) truckers, and heads to Honest Eeki’s Lugmart – a space station of similar design to the B-Hive depots – a globe with docking spokes radiating out, allowing trucks to attach themselves. The lug-manager gives in to G-B-H’s demand to refund Fatty his 400 big byms a little too easily so rather than cut their losses and run, Ace resolves to stick around for when the pirates return with another stolen ship…

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. In Reading, the Oxford Invaders are casing their forthcoming arena. In the background are shop fronts such as Woolworths and Midland Bank (unless something drastic happens with branding these will not be appearing on British high streets in the year 2025 – Woolworths being departed and Midland being rebranded HSBC). The shopping centre they’re in is called Butts Shopping Centre – this is real but has since been re-named Broad Street Shopping Centre. There’s a confusing bit of narrative intro telling us that it’s “B+39 HRS 50m”. I’d understand it if was “T-39 Hrs 50m” i.e. time minus 39 hours 50 minutes to go before kick-off. Maybe the B is blast-off? One kid gets an electro-tab signed by one of the Invaders – the electro-tab looking rather like a notepad computer – about three decades before such things existed in the real world! Speaking of the Invaders, yes, they follow the same template as Gorgon’s Gargoyles (Aeroball, Harlem Heroes) and the Philadelphia Freaks (Inferno, Inferno) by having plastic surgery to fit a scary theme. Both previous sports teams had a bit more of an effect on their respective plotlines than just being the team of the week – as this is the third week this team have been mentioned and the match hasn’t even started yet, I’m wondering if any of the characters will hang around longer. This match’s gimmicky goal is a disco ball, apparently a reference to a centrepiece on the Reading Festival stage (I had a quick web search and couldn’t find any pictures). Oh, and somebody tries to kill Matt Tallon, and nobody seems to find it that suspicious that a young boy saved him (or that a full-grown man is hanging around with said boy in the first place – in case you missed previous installments – ‘Chip’ is an android bodyguard).

Kelvin Gosnell and John Higgins are back, along with Joe Black in Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Horn of Plenty! While whinging about how bad the coffee on board his sip is, our erstwhile hero answers a distress call to save somebody stranded on a planet when their ship developed a malfunction. The person in question is keen to recover their difficult-to-reach ship, rather than return to civilisation and claim on the insurance. After a few trials or tribulations (this is only a four page strip so no time for trials and tribulations) Joe recovers the ship. Turns out the reason the stranded person had to have that ship was because it contained a replicator. As payment for risking his life to retrieve the ship, Joe demands the replicator – which he gets (the owner replicates the replicator first, so they both end up with one). It has its limits – it can’t reproduce precious metals, and flooding the market with duplicates of fine art would attract the attention of the police – but it can replicate a cup of damn fine coffee (© Twin Peaks). Short and sweet (the story, I don’t know how Joe Black takes his coffee).

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part Four by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. I didn’t think the Judge-Pilot would last long, and true enough he throws himself in front of a grenade aimed at the Chief Judge on the centrespread. An unconscious Chief Judge, Dredd has a broken arm and is in bad shape but after the initial confrontation, nobody messes with him. The panel saying as much gets posted around a bit (not as much as certain other panels from this story though). Suffice to say, Dredd gets the Chief Judge to the block parkway and acquires a skimmer, taking it to a deserted plaza on city bottom which doubles as a secret entrance to a Tactical Command Bunker deep below ground. Taking a call from Supreme Judge Bulgarin (after having his broken arm fixed up in minutes, using 22nd century electro-magnetic technology) the time has come for a demonstration of how helpless Mega-City One is (and also will serve to put into play the impetus for this entire story – John Wagner felt the city was too big and had to be cut down to a more reasonable size).

2000AD has made the digital edition of the Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol.5 free for download, to help Squaxx get through Covid-19 isolation.

Nemesis the Warlock Book II by Pat Mills and Jesus Redondo. We’ve met young Torquemada. We’ve been re-introduced to old, undead Torquemada. Now it’s the turn of Nemesis as he leads the Cabal of Alien Planets against the Terminators on multiple fronts. Other than ‘On the Run with Purity Brown’ we’ve only seen Purity as a background character – this changes with this episode as she starts to take centre-stage. The action focuses on an aerial battle between the Rukhans led by Nemesis (and aided by Purity) on the backs of hippogriffs and the Terminators riding firedrakes – I guess their hatred of aliens lasts only as long as they’re not useful in battle. The firedrakes look much cooler than the hippogriffs, by the way – though who wouldn’t want to ride either a hippogriff or or horse-sized dragon? A second army of Rukhans is on its way and the sinischal warns of what dreadful punishment would await them if they’re captured – more next prog in “The Prison Ships”!

I thought it would be some time until Sam Slade was scheduled to run in the prog, but the full page ad tells us it’s “coming in the near future!”

Facing that ad are the naked bio-electrostatic computer avatar forms of Helm and Bagman as they face off against Nort bioforms Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Colin Wilson. After a little bit of programming (-4 gets rid of their four pursuers) the duo manage to stop the computer, making it explode for some reason, getting rid of the risk of booby traps for future Souther patrols. Next prog: Menace of the Dreamweavers! (pop-cultural reference courtesy of Spacespinner 2000).

The back page has the second part of a Bill Le Fever drawn airbourne laser (on the military version of the 747). These had limited success in the real world, but there aren’t any practical airbourne laser weapons, to this day – the keyword there is ‘practical’.

Grailpage: I was tempted by some of the Belardinelli pages, particularly the first panel which had some interesting alien bystanders outside the Galactic Police station. There’s also an interesting bar / cantina scene on the next page. Instead I’ll go for the last page of Rogue Trooper – some kind of plasma ball around the computer core followed by some vistas of the ruined city of Nu Hamelin, and the road leading out of it. Not many more Colin Wilson pieces to go before he heads off to Europe for the next stage of his career!

Grailquote: TB Grover, Med-Judge: “You’re not making this any easier, Dredd!” Judge Dredd: “Nothing’s easy these days. There’s a war on, or hadn’t you heard?”

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