2000AD Prog 264: “Die, knave!” Robo-Hunter vs. Robo-Knight!

I was somewhat spoiled by the fully painted Ian Gibson cover on the Sci-Fi Special. Last week’s Robo-Hunter cover followed by this week’s Robo-Hunter cover pale in comparison.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is filled with the news that a poem featured in the Prog 258 Nerve Centre was stolen from the lyrics of Rush – The Twilight Zone.

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Beast of Blackheart Manor Part 5 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. In case there’s any doubt that the speech patterns of one of the lead characters of Robo-Hunter are modelled after a particular artist from Spain (rather than being a Cuban accent, as you may expect for a Cuban cigar) then it should be dispelled with today’s grailquote… I suspect because the robo-knights are programmed to put on a show, rather than actually fight, as Slade easily avoids any harm from the four knights. Arriving at the manor, the Earl is not convinced by Slade’s revelation that the robots of the manor are the cause of the disappearances and is given an ultimatum by the Earl to come up with a convincing explanation. Talbot the butler has other plans…

This prog’s going to be heavy on reader-submitted content – as well as the Nerve Centre, we were promised last prog that there would be more birthday cards, and as we were told they were going to be in colour then that must mean they’ll be on the back cover. Meanwhile we get a Nerve Centre Extra containing three pieces of reader art above an ad for nuts. The art is all about G-B-H. Well two are, the other has all the regular characters from Ace Trucking Co. Plus there’s three meanings for the letters ‘G-B-H’. Giant Bushy Head is the best.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Alec Trench – Zombie! by T.M.O. and Ron Smith. I was wrong – Tharg takes no part in dispelling the zombie threat! In fact, nobody does. Water cannon allows the police to capture Baron Frankenstein, but the resurrector helmet falls out of a helicopter and lands on the head of the now out-of-control zombie Alec Trench. Who can now fire rays which disintegrate living people. While it was on the head of a living person it reanimated dead people, it has the opposite effect when on the head of a dead person. The only thing that can stop the zombie apocalypse is Haley’s Comet leaving the vicinity a week later. A novel approach to the zombie threat – just waiting it out and hoping there are some people left alive in London…

After an ad for the Sci-Fi Special it’s time for a text feature in Mega-City Three – On Record! (sharing some space with a photo of a competition winner). This is all about a band who released a record I actually own – so I’ll cover this article and the record itself tomorrow…

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War Part 20 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. So far Mega-City One has been on the defensive, guerilla tactics trying to cope with the East-Meg occupation. With this episode, Dredd takes things on the offensive as we get a real feeling of where that fifteen years at the Academy actually comes in. Dredd’s squad are given their tasks, which they carry out efficiently and without fuss (well, the medic expresses a very small amount of concern about killing a Sov judge while they were in the shower – hygiene first). But what is the plan? To capture a Strato-V and head to East-Meg One. Surely it will take more than a handful of judges in a stolen hover vehicle to take out the enemy city? Anderson’s use of mind scans gets to reveal the complement of the Strato-V (eight flight staff, five in the holds and nine in crew quarters – in addition to the four or more the Mega-City judges already killed) plus the flight codes of the Strato-V. Curious continuity blip in that Anderson can’t seem to read latent images – even though that’s what she did the very first time we met the Psi-Judge back in Judge Death.

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

Ace Trucking Co. Last Lug to Abbo Dabbo Part 5 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. As if the (pretty obvious) revelation that Talbot and the other Blackheart robots being behind the Beast disappearances wasn’t enough for one prog, over on the Bloo Maru it is revealed that the crewman was actually a trucker named Spawny Plack and was expelled from the Lugster’s Union for “bein’ a no-good, lowdown, niffy, untucker trucker that nobody likes.” In Plack’s flashback we find out that, alone in the isolation of space his mental health deteriorated until the day his truck was boarded by a pirate clipper – the Bloo Maru. Rather than kill him, the pirates made him their prisoner, keeping him around for entertainment. This continued until they captured a cargo of Heebles (if that means nothing to you, then don’t worry – nobody knows what heebles are). We do know what effect heebles had though – they sent the pirates mad and caused Plack to regain his sanity, and his thirst for revenge. While all this is going on, Ghost has sent across the Scutter-like Scrubbots to find out what’s been going on.

The Mean Arena by Ridgway and Mike White. The Ants take the goal, and get maximum points. With only ten minutes left of the game, the Slayers do their best to equalise, but their best isn’t good enough. Confusingly, a conversation between Tallon and Mike Slater turns in to an open broadcast to the nation mid-way, so Tallon can issue threats to the rest of the Hexa-Six on air. We’re told in no unclear terms that the sponsorship has been lost (though – spoiler – we’ll backtrack slightly on that next episode). It’s very much a soap opera style episode with changes of direction and ultimatums for purely dramatic reasons.

Galactic Greetings! It’s those promised birthday cards from readers, printed in colour (they’re all black and white but the colouring droid has been busy). They’re all montages of characters with quite a few of the heads so closely copied that you can work out who the original artist was, and sometimes the source panel for the artwork (the most glaring being a head shot of Dredd from one of Ron Smith’s characteristic portraits that open his episodes). One is by a Jonathan Haward of Lowestoft, who I presume is Jon Haward who will later go on to draw Judge Dredd, Sinister Dexter, Tales of Telguuth and non-2000AD work.

Grailpage: the artwork in this prog is good, but there’s no real stand-out scenes or pages though I quite like Ezquerra’s centrespread opening this week’s Dredd – the Strato-V being secured by Sov Judges (before they’re all killed by Dredd and his squad). All during a freak rainstorm.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Carlos Sanchez Robostogie: “Caramba! What a fighter! Pam pam! All die! Truly you are the greates’ robo-hunter in all the worl’! No – the universe! And I, Carlos Sanchez Robostogie, am proud to be your ceegar!” A knowing jest between friends that forty years later serves as a touching tribute to Carlos Sanchez Ezquerra, notable cigar-smoker and artist.

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