2000AD Prog 276: “Come on, ya tin creeps! I’ll murder ya!” “Ay yi yi! Thees keed he have the way with words!”

A great cover from Ian Gibson, showing every character who’s appeared in more than one Robo-Hunter story (apart from the Goldhawk landlord droid). And all in front of a circular border…

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has news of the upcoming annuals and a brush-off to somebody who would have liked to have bought some original pages of 2000AD artwork.

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: The Killing of Kidd Part 2 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. Kidd’s paranoia about attempts having been made on his lie is confirmed when Slade, Kidd, Robo-Stogie and Hoagy try to leave the Baker Street offices, only to run in to a robot hit squad. Once they’re dealt with, the group make their way to the BCTV studios where Slade sees Kidd’s general demeanor means there’s no shortage of suspects. I’m presuming the obvious – that his co-stars are behind it. Kidd wants Slade to stick to him constantly from now on, and on a TV show that means he’s to be written in to the show, leading to one of the best endings to a Robo-Hunter episode as Slade arrives through the airlock on the show as Kidd’s grandmother – a cheap slapstick / farce trick, but it works!

Rogue Trooper: All Hell on the Dix-I Front Part Eleven by Gerry Finley-Day and Colin Wilson. Sledge and Rogue want to stick together and the chips aren’t happy. The Norts are coming and they want to get out of there, and if that means Sister Sledge is left to their mercies, so be it – after all, she did choose to stay. Rogue sees a way out for both of them though but it will take time to repair a lifeboat from one of the solboats which was sunk. There follows a bizarre flashback to earlier in the same story – there hasn’t been a break and it was only ten weeks ago, so I’ve no idea why it’s here at this point. Oh, no – I get it, just turned the page (SPOILER) – this is the episode where it’s revealed that Sledge is a Nort where she immediately monologues about what was really going on during that flashback. She was a secret agent who had been equipped with a toxin collection from the scene of Rogue’s paralysis in the polar zone, just in case she ran in to him. Ever since, she’s been injecting him with different samples until one worked. She only reveals all this as one has worked and Rogue is now paralised. Handily, while he was fixing the lifeboat, she was keeping watch with Gunnar and unloaded his las-ammunition – so he fires lasers? Pretty atmospheric artwork from Colin Wilson here, ending the episode with Rogue paralysed and a Nort atmocraft on its way to pick them up. Though Bagman has his little servo-arms, so that’s one potential way out – we’ll find out next prog.

The Mean Arena by Alan Ridgeway and Mike White. Must have been mixed up by the events at the end of the last episode – it was the general Slayers who were involved in the exploding Vampire chest incident – Tallon and Brazen are still apart from the main game. The Slayer who hit a Vampire in the chest did get killed by the same blast though. Two other vampires also die in long-range hits that shouldn’t have been fatal, alerting Slater to the plan – the moment Tallon strikes the Vampires’ goal, they’ll both be killed in the explosion – but Tallon is on radio silence so as not to alert the longstop. Got that? So, this episode ends after Tallon draws out the longstop so that Brazen can take care of him. When he explodes, she’s now clued in, but can she get to Tallon in time to warn him? One suspects so…

Judge Dredd: Fungus Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra opens with Jim Grubb’s visions mixing his former life as mayor with his death as a living fungus. Speaking of his death – that triggers the fungus to pop, releasing spores. Med-Judge Kildare (I would have had no idea there had been a fictional character called Doctor Kildare first time I read this) decides to remove his isolation suit to enable him to study the effects of the spores as they infect and kill him. Certainly a hands-on approach to research. Justice Department manages to track down Grubb’s recent hang-out, destroying the mushrooms found there and working to neutralise the chemical sludge which caused a freak mutation in normal fungal spores. Just as they get ready to congratulate themselves for nipping it in the bud, a judge finds one of the tramps who had been present when the contents of Grubby’s bag popped. In flashback, Clarty recounts that some of the others were averse to turning themselves in for treatment (one’s on the run from the iso-cubes, another just doesn’t trust the medical profession). When Clarty said he was going to turn them all in, they attacked him. Kildare’s study has shown the eight missing tramps have about an hour before they start popping, spreading spores across the city. Next week we’ll find out how Dredd deals with a virulent disease that can be spread easily and results in death…

O-Z of the Space Truckers’ Dictionary next. This would be a little easier to use were it in full alphabetical order – an example: Three-Blip; Thunk; Two-Blip; Threes an’ Sevens.

Between the dictionary and this week’s Ace Trucking episode is an ad for a Weetabix T-shirt offer. Bixie is the female weetabix (she wears a bow in her skinhead and has eyelashes) while Crunch is the one with a hat.

Ace Trucking Co. Too Many Bams Part 4 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. On the first page is a term which isn’t in the dictionary (shuggy dainty, the equivalent of a penny sweet). If Robo-Hunter is a sci-fi farce then Ace Trucking is all-out slapstick as the reaction to Feek having been taken by that evil flying creature from last prog is comedy gushing of tears and wailing. G-B-H’s hair gets used as a veil as they hold a requiem. The bampots can’t see what the problem is – can’t they just make another Feek? And they demonstrate their reproduction whirling dance. The crew of the Speedo Ghost try the same circling, but obviously get nowhere. Ace petitions the bampots to prioritise freeing the ship so they can get out of there, but despite the deaths the bams have still produced more than the planet Gordon has killed. The geologist states that they have not encountered any hostile rocks, which seems like a throwaway line so that the geologist can get involved, but on the last page the very rocks warp, engulfing Ace and the bams in a quake.

Time for a Nerve Centre Extra and, not counting that Weetabix ad, the seventh page of Ace-focused content. It did occur to me that when the Bloo Maru took the nightlight flight the hundreds of pig-rats on board also perished (but for Chiefy). One earthlet conveys concern from the Rigelian Society for the Protection of Pig Rats, Tharg points out “is it not galactically accepted that pig rats are the first to desert a sinking ship?” Oh, and I missed this at the time, but Richard Edwards of Blackwood, Gwent sent in a pic of Ace Garp. That would be Richie Edwards, later of the Manic Street Preachers.

Grailpage: I keep mentioning classic covers and then forgetting they could be candidates for grailpage. I wouldn’t say this is among the best of the classic covers, but it is one of the better pages of this prog – all the lead characters, and a few funny lines of dialogue. Plus a circular border from Ian Gibson.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Robo-Stogie: “Ay yi yi! Eet’s Tarzan!” Zkkow! Skkrow! “Ay yi yi! Eet’s scrap metal!”

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