2000AD Prog 257: “Stay where you are, Nemesis or the girl dies!”

When I first started hunting down back progs of 2000AD it seemed an arduous task. I’d have been around ten years old and there were three hundred and twenty odd progs to collect. I initially aimed to collect the progs from 300 onwards (presumably if I had achieved this then I may have expanded my remit to cover earlier progs – but that was my first target). Things don’t always run smoothly though, and before I had all of those I had the odd pre-300 prog. This was one of those progs. Jesus Redondo provides the arachnid-dominated Nemesis the Warlock cover.

The Nerve Centre contains a very M-centric letter from a Jim Alexander of Ayrshire. I’m going to assume that’s future script droid Jim Alexander, as the closest verification I could find was an interview where he said he read 2000AD, then Warrior (launching this month, so he wouldn’t have read it by the time this letter was written), then Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which I believe (without checking) will start in a year or two. In the Thargnote, TMO says that the Mills and O’Neill droids have been locked away until they finish Nemesis the Warlock Book III (Book II finishing this prog) – though we’ll see Slaine before we see the first episode of Book III.

Ace Trucking Co. The Great Mush Rush Part 7 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Fatty Arkl has a tough time of it, but at least Ace posts his mush (envelope) for him. Just as insurance, Ace stows G-B-H on Jago Kain’s ship while the Earthman is distracted watching Fatty truck out. Jago punches one of the other truckers, causing them to drop their envelope, or in Tolly Keegan’s words: “My mush! It’s in the slush! I’m outta the rush!” Fatty doesn’t fare well against the Titan of Peem, though as Tolly is out of the race, he saves Fatty (and too weegies – crew robots – though isn’t weegie Scots for Glaswegian? One online source I saw reckons it’s ‘slightly derogatory’, but I’m sure I’ve heard Glaswegians themselves using it). Anyway, whatever happened to all those other truckers, it’s now a two-lug race between Jago Kain and Ace Garp.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Wages of Sin! by Alan Moore and Bryan Talbot. Back in 1987 I met Bryan Talbot at a signing to promote The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. Around the same time I also met Alan Moore at a small comics convention / comics mart, held in a YMCA hall. For around ten years these were the only 2000AD (or any comic) creators I’d ever met, and this was the one story I had that was produced by the both of them. And a good story it is as well. Thematically following on from the story involving species larger than suns acting as the galactic equivalent of road sweepers. I criticised that story for having a tonal shift to an advert on the last page – this starts with the career advice from the off, showing us how you become a villainous galactic tyrant, from stealing candy from a baby to cheating on the final exams, with stop-offs on picking the right fiendish name and appearance (it involves picking the right wardrobe and having an operation or two). One of the lessons is how to give a villainous goodbye (“You have not heard the last of Anthrax Ghoulshadow, B.A.*!” (*B.A. – Bachelor of Awfulness.”)). Talbot’s artwork is close to what he was doing with Luther Arkwright, though a little more cartoony, and even including an instance of Kirby Krackle.

Next up, the second half-page ad for Roar The Movie, comic adaptation by Dez Skinn and Steve Dillon. The other half of the page has a Robin Smith (I think) subscription ad.

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part 13 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. This is it – the battle of Dan Tanna Junction. Dredd (with a stub gun) and the four stub gun squads cut the roadways to Dan Tanna Junction one by one until Judge Wilson cuts through the central pillar, at the cost of the squad’s life when the stub gun overheats and explodes. It’s not quite enough though, as the remaining road slabs are enough to keep the junction holding up. Then, in one of the most memorable scenes of this entire mega-epic, Judge Souster jumps from his position at the Betty Crocker Hoverport, slicing through the last links as he falls to his death. This was probably the first episode I ever read of The Apocalypse War – what an introduction to the mega-epic!

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. The last episode opens with Nemesis about to seal Torquemada’s spirit in the Ambar Stone, until he’s interrupted by the arrival of Brother Baruda holding the unconscious Purity Brown hostage. His psychic powers easily turn Baruda’s sword on himself (technically Purity’s sword which Baruda seized), but the hold over Torque is lost. As Torque in spider-form binds Purity, she regains consciousness. Nemesis lets Torque escape, in return for Purity’s life, the Grand Master using the words “But next time…” as his spirit departs, in a more convincing villainous farewell than the students at the Villain’s school from earlier in the prog. This is the first time Redondo draws the O’Neill-style ‘organic’ spirit form – prior to this sole appearance on the last page they were more like Torque’s helmet on an archetypal bedsheet-ghost shape. And that’s it for Nemesis the Warlock Book II. Next time the Warlock appears in the prog, I’ll be a semi-regular reader, but more about that in a year’s time (in prog terms, more like two months in blog posts).

After a repeat ad for the new Eagle, Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. The Nort hover-shuttles arrive to pick up the genetically engineered simians but when they don’t response the Norts assume the apes’ animal instincts have been awakened by being in the forest. Anti-sim (presumably short for anti-simian) tranq gas is sprayed but Rogue manages to take out the hover-shuttles. Turns out that the old ape leader wasn’t dead, merely unconscious, as he tries to shoot Rogue with the G.I.s own gun. Gunnar has some autonomy though, and refuses to fire (until the ape looks down the barrel – then he fires). Rogue tells the apes to move to a different part of the forest, to evade capture and killing by the Norts. For good measure he makes sure he leaves the planet in a way that can be seen by the Nort spy satellites. Gunnar reckons it’s a lot of trouble to go to for apemen who have probably already forgotten about him. In a great final panel, we see the apes in their new home, the word ‘Rog’ scrawled repeatedly on a tree trunk. Thankfully this story featured a minimum of far future high tech, allowing Mike Dorey’s artwork to focus on the human aspects (well, only the Norts were humans – Rogue is a G.I. and the apemen were, well, half-ape, half-men).

In a departure to the usual format of this blog, I’m going to skip back a few prog-months to Burt’s Christmas Quiz as the sub-editor droid gives the answers in this prog. There’s 30 questions. I got 22 correct (somebody else read them out for me, so there was no possibility of my cheating).

The back cover of this prog has a very important premier. I grew up with this advertising campaign, so the bizarre juxtaposition of skinheads threatening children to eat healthy breakfast cereals wouldn’t have occurred to me at the time. I’m not going to go into a deep cultural history of skinheads, but I’ll just acknowledge that it grew from (black) Jamaican rude boy street culture in the 1960s and gained white supremacist connotations in the three to five years before this prog was published – so very strange timing to associate them with Weetabix!

Grailpage: there are so many good pages from this prog, but for impact (literally in one panel) and use of multi-pan / polyptych scene (basically, one picture split into four panels, each panel taking place in subsequent time frames) and the self-sacrifice of Judge Souster, it has to be Carlos Ezquerra’s last page of Dredd.

Grailquote: there are so many lines from The Wages of Sin!! which I could use, but then I came across this. T B Grove, Judge Souster: “For freedom! For justice! For Mega-City One!” Judge Dredd: “Gotta hand it to Souster, he sure knows how to go!”

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