2000AD Prog 250: “Our Apocalypse War has been a total success… Mega-City One is ripe for invasion!” 250th zarjaz issue!

The Diktatoriat gloat over their successes on this Carlos Ezquerra cover (though as we’ll find out later in the prog, they don’t actually know how things are going at the moment).

This prog was touted in the Things to Come 1982 page at the end of last year as a major event – though with mainy continuing stories, is it really? Any more than a normal weekly prog, that is? The Nerve Centre is replaced by This is the Zarjaz World of 2000AD featuring a data file on Tharg and the standard Betelgeusian Phrases that we’ve had many, many times before (despite that Prog 1er who somehow didn’t know what Splundig Vur Thrigg meant).

Ace Trucking Co. Lugjack! Part 7 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. In the opposite of a jump-on prog (which you might expect with a big banner on the front saying 250th issue) this story ends this prog. The iceberg gets dropped on the pirate base, though the pirate leader escapes before it hits. Ace ignores advice to leave it all to the jeepees (Galactic Police) and manages to drop a rocky arch on top of the pirate ship pursuing Speedo Ghost. Landing next to the ship, G-B-H retrieves the unconscious pirates, all set to be taken back to justice and a Big Bym reward, covering the cost of the iceberg. This is a great and satisfying conclusion to the story, plus we’ve been introduced to Fatty Arkl, who’ll be back (next prog: The Great Mush Rush is Go! I think Fatty returns in that very story).

The Mean Arena by Tom Tully and Mike White. The match is about to begin, and we find out a few more things about how a match actually unfolds (after this story having run for a year so far). The field mikes are switched off for the five minutes before blast-off, so that only the players on the ground can hear what each other are saying. Also, a match lasts four hours – strange how that’s never come up before – unless it was mentioned in that annual where it had pages on each of the three future sports we’d seen. Also, there’s seven referees (we were told last week) and twelve mobile TV cameras. I feel like I should get a map of Reading and read this while referring to it (and hope that the city hasn’t changed too much since this story was written). There’s much more reference to street names than we’ve ever had before, so I can only presume that Tully lived or visited the city regularly (or was working from a map). Once the game begins the Invaders end up with the ball, but are almost stopped by Tallon. The reason they get through is because a radio message warns Tallon of something behind him, distracting him. That message must have been planted by the consortium of shadowy figures who want him dead…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Now You See It… by Alan Hebden and Eric Bradbury. Somebody is driving along an American desert highway when his car is struck by a beam from a flying saucer (which he can’t see as it’s directly above him). The white line in the middle of the road appears to grow wider until he stops the car to have a look. Two large lights high above him get bigger until he and his car are flattened because *Shock* it’s a normal-sized truck and he and the car are now tiny. Two and a half pages, with a reservation coupon filling the bottom half of the last page.

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part Six by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. The missiles gets warped to another dimension where they utterly destroy an Earth which has known peace for a thousand years. But it looked pretty as it was happening. As I alluded to earlier, the Diktatorat are not aware of how the War is going as they are now out-of-contact with external forces while the Warp is in operation. Instead, War Marshal Kazan is now running proceedings. He is “Totally reliable!” and we get a close-up of Bulgarin’s eyes, so we know he isn’t actually totally reliable – but it’ll be some time before we find out in which way. Speaking of Kazan – he makes his first appearance on the next page and we’re told how bad he is by how he treats his underlings (he doesn’t actually do the bad guy trope of killing his own men, but he does brush one off and arrests another one for saying how difficult it is to locate underwater kill-pods). The one who was brushed off was Izaaks, by the way – and it’s only because I know how this story ends that I mention that… Twenty-five TADS were launched by Mega-City One, leaving about fifty that weren’t launched. By the end of this episode only 2% of the underwater SKUNK stations remain – and they won’t last another hour (they have to all be destroyed by the East-Meggers before the power for the Apocalypse Warp runs out and the shield comes down). In Kazan’s words: “Let the invasion begin!”

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

“You’re spending too long on the illuminated borders…”

I really should have mentioned this earlier, but Nemesis the Warlock Book II by Pat Mills and Jesus Redondo has its own logo, drawn by Redondo – aliens climbing around a banner containing the series title and credits. The alien spiders crawl out of their spider ships, they are the jailers of Arachnos. On lettering duties is Steve Potter, and he does an exceptional job as he depicts the spider speech patterns of the jailers. By that I don’t mean the handwriting is spidery, as it would if you applied it to a human’s handwriting, but that the word balloons are surrounded by spider webs, attaching the words to the frames of the panels. Zelotes, the giant alien spider, chief jailer and Caretaker of Arachnos is so nice. Even though she’s human the spider has great sympathy for Purity, who is upset at the thought of her fellow humans spending the rest of their lives in prison (even if they do deserve it) and offers to take Purity and Nemesis to Arachnos to see how they’re really going to be treated. It turns out that, for their crimes against the galaxy, they are returned to a more natural state and the removal of their material possessions, including clothing. I promise I won’t mention it again, but the one thing that detracts from Redondo’s art is that some of it is too derivative of designs from the first book of Nemesis – in the crowd are Terminators looking a little too much like Brothers Behell and Gogol. But everything else about the visuals are fantastic – it was a crime against comic art for Titan to leave this book out of the reprints range in the early eighties (at least it got reinstated in the 7-issue necro-series from Eagle). Having mentioned the spider web speech bubbles of Zelotes, I suddenly realise that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Torquemada’s speech bubbles. Since he became a phantom and appeared to Brother Behell in the second episode of Book I his speech has been characterised by double alternating wavy lines, with some of the peaks of the waves having gaps. It’s difficult to describe so I’ve included a panel from a forthcoming book of Nemesis…

Did I say the Nerve Centre had been replaced? I was wrong – it was merely displaced to later in the prog.

Rogue Trooper: Menace of the Dreamweavers Part 2 by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. Can Rogue see through the Dreamweavers‘ illusions? Bill Nuttall gets in on the special speech balloon act, as the dream women’s words are in dreamy, hypnotic balloons. Turns out all Rogue really had to do was concentrate hard to see where the tanks were – though they’re so well shielded that even a lazooka doesn’t beat them, until he consults a battle computer and finds their weak spot (which is to the left of the turret). Destroying one tank, the commander blows it up to keep the secrets of Nort technology and the others retreat. Now it’s time for the ‘kid’ character – a rookie Souther soldier to finally get a look at Rogue. Shocked by what he sees and possibly still affected by the gas, he prepares to shoot Rogue until Gunnar intervenes – the biochips can’t lose their ride!

I’m pretty sure I’d gotten a copy of this prog by the time Candida (wife of the grandmaster) and Nostradamus (‘grandfather’ of the grandmaster) started to appear as regular characters in the prog. We never did find out what happened to Murcalla though she will appear in one story in an annual, as well as this Star Pin-Up “The Family of Tomas de Torquemada”. I’ve got a feeling that his first name hasn’t been mentioned in the stories up until now…

Grailpage: I was almost tempted by the last page where Kazan orders the invasion to begin, but it can’t beat an entire planet being blown to smithereens by nuclear explosions (and both pages are by Carlos Ezquerra).

Grailquote: this line has stayed with me – and when I first read this story it would have been right in the middle of the Cold War when there was a very real fear we’d get a four-minute warning. That may be beside the point and not at all the reason why the line stuck in my head as the narration says: “The mega-city is forced to use its ultimate deterrent – TADs, Total Annihilation Devices, each one capable of wiping out the Sov city twice over… Mega-City One has launched twenty-five of them.” This isn’t the first time that my grailquote has appeared on my grailpage.

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