2000AD Prog 263: “Uh-oh!” Robo-Hunter at bay!

Ian Gibson’s cover gives away last week’s cliffhanger a bit – not only do we know Slade will capture the beast, but it won’t be a permanent

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is filled with reader reactions to the Apocalypse War, plus news of the East Anglian Cartoonists Exhibition as part of the Ipswich Arts Festival. I know the town well and hadn’t heard of an Arts Festival there (perhaps it didn’t last until I lived there). Two earthlets predict the punchline to the entire story (not the ending, just the punchline).

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Beast of Blackheart Manor Part 4 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. No time is wasted as the episode opens with another blood-curdling scream coming from the manor – while Slade is in the process of dropping the cage on the Slime Beast (which then rips apart the cage, as per the cover). In case we hadn’t worked it out yet, the robots of the manor are revealed to be behind the disappearances, namely Talbot the butler (wearing a fake Slime Beast hand) and the chef. The robot chef who makes all the pies… Slade manages to stun the genuine Slime Beast, truss it up and is walking it back to the manor when the robo-hunter is waylaid by four robotic knights from the theme park. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them gets on to next week’s cover…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Alec Trench – Zombie! by T.M.O. and Ron Smith. It’s been a while since we saw Smith’s work in the prog – one of the Block Mania episode, I think. I don’t remember this one at all. A descendant of Baron Frankenstein utilises the cosmic rays of Haley’s Comic in 1986 (at this point four years into the future) to raise an army of the undread, starting with the skeleton of Alec Trench, failed Future-Shock writer. It’s (presumably) a two-part story and I have no idea how it’s going to end. The presence of Tharg suggests he might be involved, and the writing credit ‘T.M.O.’ also suggests it’s a Tharg story thinly disguised as a Future-Shock.

Finishing off the ‘birthday’ celebrations are two pages of Galactic Greetings! from earthlets and a planet (via an earthlet). Of interest (to me) is one contributions which uses Redondo’s versions of Nemesis and Torquemada and another who mimics the 1977 style of artwork, including Tharg, contrasting with the 1982 style and then predicting a 2027 version with geriatric versions of the same character from 1982. Dredd’s showing no signs of using a wheelchair yet!

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part 19 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. Day eight of the war and, not unlike the ‘Exodus to Mutieland‘ episode of The Day the Law Died, this week’s Dredd opens with twenty seven million mega-citizens fleeing the city to the Cursed Earth. Time for a flashback, which Carlos denotes through thinner lines and hatching dark areas instead of blocking in the areas. We know Dredd’s going to be repaired by a med-judge so the most important part of the flashback is Judge Izaaks’ demotion to Kadet Izaaks. Back in the present and after a freak hurricane which lifts up those who had fled the city and deposited them forcefully back on to the streets, Dredd gets told by the other North American Mega-Cities that they won’t help out MC1, preferring instead to spend the time trying to perfect their own defences against the Sovs. Dredd has a plan though, and assembles a squad (to which Anderson invites herself). As Anderson reveals to fellow judge Kwan, their mission is to destroy East-Meg One. p.s. Anderson knew what the plan was because she’s a telepath. It will later be established that Dredd is rather difficult for those with psychic powers to ‘read’ – my answer to that is that he may have shared the plan with somebody less guarded.

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.

Ace Trucking Co. Last Lug to Abbo Dabbo Part 4 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. After imbibing kiffee, boskits and playing a game of crucket the crewman points out a button unlocking the mysterious 40th cargo hold where they find cubed truckers. I’d supposed they were all in suspended animation, but the dialogue suggests they’re alive and moving. Either way, they’re all in transparent cubes and none of them look happy (including the one that looks like Massimo himself).

The Mean Arena by Alan Ridgway and Mike White. More graveyard fun, this time with robots rising from their graves, instead of zombies. After fighting for half the episode on his own, Tallon’s team-mates arrive on the scene to help him out against a host of androids. Not knowing that the conductor of the androids isn’t a Street Football player, one of them inadvertently kills the un-armoured figure. Brazen appears once the action is over, despite having been in the cemetery all along. After ‘undead’ robots, the death of one of the Hexa Gang (presumably) and a clue/red herring regarding Brazen, the cliffhanger of the Slayers’ goal being over-run by opposing players falls a little flat (even if the goal is an anthill).

Dave Gibbons’ Rogue Trooper Total War poster comes to an end as we find out that the letter writer is none other than Jed, lazooka-partner to Kransky (surname given as Fields in that story).

Grailpage: Carlos Ezquerra – the opening centre-spread of the brief exodus from the Mega-City.

Grailquote: T B Grover, Sov Judge: “They’re being issued with winter clothing now.” War Marshal Kazan: “Belay that order!” Sov-Judge: “You mean – you’re not sending them to Siberia?” War Marshal Kazan: “No, I mean they’re not getting any winter clothing!”

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