2000AD Prog 254: “It’s Lawmaster versus Rad-Sweeper, creep, and I don’t aim to lose!” PZZOOO!

Dredd attacks a tank while riding a bike on the cover – in a radiation suit.

The Nerve Centre is give to earthlets (and earthlettes) who seem to have missed previous Nerve Centres as one complains about the absence of O’Neill on Nemesis (explained in a Thargnote previously), a question about whether females can read 2000AD (to which Tharg has previously said anybody can read 2000AD). Following the conclusion of the Earthlet vs Terran debate, the Self-Defined Ethnicities prevalent in this prog (other than Tharg’s Identity Coded ‘earthlet/earthlette’ – that’s a debate for another time) are: Terran and Trucker. I sometimes wonder whether my write-ups are a little too opaque, but then I wonder if I’d be over-explaining if I gave more background…

Ace Trucking Co. The Great Mush Rush Part 4 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. I’m very hazy on how this race is going to finish, but I’ve got a vague memory that Fatty Arkl somehow gets the contract but also becomes the second ship of Ace’s trucking line. Either way, I can’t see either Ace or Jago Kain winning after their shenanigans in this episode. The Speedo Ghost is on the verge of falling apart – even if it doesn’t (and he somehow wins) Ace plans on buying five new ships, and relegating ship’s computer Ghost to a back-up but before he can get to the second postbox he’s stopped by the Galactic Police, set on him by Jago Kain with a false allegation of contamination or pestilence. Jago obviously takes the lead while all this is going on, but Ace manages to subtly let slip that Jago is carrying contraband (it’s not really subtle, but Jeepees don’t seem to be very good at detecting falsehoods). When Jago gets to the stage two mailbox, the Jeepees are there (are they the same Geepees? How did they overtake Jago?) By the time Ace gets to the mailbow, Jago is naked and strapped to a table and the customs officers are preparing to pump his and his crew’s stomachs… All of which changes which of the two trucks is in the lead, but (being realistic for a moment) I can’t see why one of the joint third place ships wouldn’t have overtaken the both of them with all this going on. Meanwhile – one of my enduring images of Ace Trucking Co is Ace’s scarf, which has been disappointing inanimate up to this point. With this episode I’ve noticed that it has a lot more motion about it, though not quite the life of its own that I’m used to. For now the unsung character in the series is G-B-H’s hair!

The Mean Arena by the mysterious A Ridgway and Mike White. While the Invaders take to the new underground Reading station at Caversham Road (where was that tourist map of Reading I downloaded?), Tallon mistakes a real message from control for another of the fake messages provoking a confrontation between team captains Tallon and Zlykon. A flare-up of a different kind calls an end to the day-session, which I think has lasted four hours, or possibly the four hours is the entire playing time including the night-session. The source of the rogue calls is located but when the Slayers investigate the terraced house has the jamming and over-riding equipment though the operator has vacated the premises. In the arena a figure hides in the shadows – obviously the guy who lives in the area of the arena but stayed.

Nemesis the Warlock Book II by Pat Mills and Jesus Redondo. Nemesis returns to Novala – last seen in Olric’s Great Quest – to address the Cabal. The speech is all about the interruptions. Nemesis is interrupted by news that Torquemada is still alive. Nemesis is interrupted by Purity who pleads for sympathetic humans. Purity is interrupted by aliens who slap her down as only having observer status. Those aliens are interrupted by Nemesis to call forth Zelotes. One the next page Torque-disguised-as-the-giant-spider unpicks the work Zelotes had done rehabilitating humans by parading the savage Brother Baruda in chains and calling for total war.

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part 10 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. We know that Dredd is going to appear this week in a rad suit as it’s on the cover, but the story as written introduces the Mega-City judges when ‘sinister figures swoop out of the swirling snow’. I think this is an example where the pre-publicity surrounding a creative work takes something away from the work itself – as in Terminator 2 where it would be surprise that the T-1000 has a metallic shapechanging form (if we hadn’t already seen the Guns ‘n’ Roses music video) or The Phantom Menace where Darth Maul’s double-lightsabre is presented as a reveal (but we’d seen the clips, toys and lunchboxes already). Dredd’s guerilla war against the Sovs starts in a rad zone, where Mega-citizen refugees are stumbling, and in some cases crawling, away from rad-sweeper tanks – until the judges turn up rad-suited up and on lawmasters. They take out a few radsweepers, but can do nothing to help the mega-citizens, who have taken lethal dozes of radiation already. Dredd makes the tough decisions – K-rations only to fighting units (he’s a bit more sympathetic to the plights of the citizenry at other times, but utterly ruthless when the situation demands). The next situation is to cut off the Northern sectors. I don’t remember exactly what this entails – we haven’t seen the stub guns yet and it’s surely too soon for Dan Tanna Junction.

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.

The Multi-Storey Mind Mellows Out! An Abelard Snazz Misadventure by Alan Moore and Paul Neary. This story takes place six million years after the last, when Snazz was deposited in a barren wasteland with just an enormous puzzle cube for company. The puzzle cube from last time (which looks rather like a Rubik’s Cube) is called a Rubic Cube here. Anyway, at some point in those millennia, Snazz realised he was sitting on the cube, excavated by hand enough metal to construct a crane, then actually built the crane (tens of thousands of years elapsing in that time). Starship Earth is a peaceful technological paradise where there isn’t much left to invent. But Snazz is an inventor so if everything useful has been invented already it’s time to invent less-than-useful things, and so Snazz takes some bio-chips from 20th century tennis players and puts them in big robot players so everybody can spectate. But one of the biochips is from a highly strung (geddit?) player who goes on a King Kong style rampage. The new age hippies lose their cool, seize Snazz (sorry – involve Snazz in a physical confrontation scenario) and jog him on over to the city’s giant jacuzzi which they set to its hottest and fastest setting, creating a boiling whirlpool. Is this the end for Snazz? It’s certainly getting close… I was surprised to see a third mention of biochips in this story – most Squaxx are probably familiar with the fact that they appeared in the Judge Child Quest before Rogue Trooper, but I’d completely failed to remember they then made an appearance here. Looking at societies that Snazz have met, I liked the nihilistic vikings we saw previously, but for comedy value the laid-back Californians who won world war 26 and instigated a new era of growthfulness on the renamed Starship Earth win it for me. It’d have been easy to have their speech patterns be more stereotypically hippy-ish, with “y’know” and “like” interspersed freely, but this is much more creative, Moore having the same fun with language which Belardinelli has with outlandish aliens, not to mention G-B-H’s hair.

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Mike Dorey. As I think I’ve said a few times before – I love Dorey’s work when he’s depicting down-to-earth and grimy environments – if you say Bill Savage then I immediately think of Dorey’s leering depiction of the lorry driver (sorry, every other person who’s every drawn Bill). Not so keen on his drawings of far future and outer-spacey goings-on, so for me he’s got a bit of a task ahead of him on Rogue Trooper. Starting off on the Vultur satellite system (the Nort equivalent of the Buzzards) the top-level of the Nort military presence on Nu Earth prioritises locating Rogue Trooper – the amount of damage he’s done so far is bad enough, with 600 soldiers, 10 silo crews, 2 guerilla bands, Grand Admiral Hoffa (from last prog) and Glasshouse G prison camp – but that pales into insignificance next to the morale boost he has given to the Souther troops on the ground (and no doubt at sea and in the air too). And they find him in the petrified forest (I wonder if this is the same forest which appeared more recently in a Free Comic Book Day comic). This is all an introduction to unleash the Nort’s latest development – genetically modified apes which can, like Rogue, breathe the atmosphere of Nu Earth. At least one or two of them look a bit like MACH Zero…

Under a half-page ad for Battle are three more thrill-powered adverts (plus a stamp ad). One is for Prog 255. One is for the first Titan edition of The Cursed Earth. The most significant gives a little more information on that new comic which Tharg hinted at last prog – “The Mekon is coming in Eagle”.

For the third week running, Kevin O’Neill provides the back cover, and it’s another Nemesis-related image. This one is “A Terminator Warrior” though looks more like a Terminator which Torque has re-animated (it’s not any of those from Nemesis the Warlock Book I though).

Grailpage: Jesus Redondo’s opening page of Nemesis the Warlock for it’s establishing shots of the dense jungle over-running the ruins of the attempted human colonists’s settlements and then the steps up to the conference chamber.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Mega-citizens: “Skin’s starting to blister… in an hour we’ll be gone.” “Nothing’s worse than a slow death from rad-poison. Don’t… don’t leave us like this, Judge Dredd…” “Please… help us!” Judge Dredd: “Request granted.” Chilling. On a lighter note, I’m going to pick another quote this prog, this one from Alan Moore, Californian: “JOG FOR YOUR LIFE!”

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