2000AD Prog 279: Duran Duran join the Squaxx dek Thargo The slayer is on the loose… in The Mean Arena

Mike White provides the second of his 2000AD covers (the first was also for Mean Arena, over half a year earlier). Matt Tallon jumps over a wall and towards a circular comic frame.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a letter from a reader who noticed a mistake in Ace Trucking Co (the difference between yoohoo and yoofoo) – the checking droid is to be sent on a ten-year tour of duty as a pig-rat catcher. Meanwhile there’s an ad for the latest books from Forbidden Planet (not yet using the Titan brand): The Chronicles of Judge Dredd Volume 4: Judge Caligula Book One and The Robo-Hunter Casebook Volume 1 (the first half of Verdus).

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Killing of Kidd Part 5 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. After negotiating a raise, Slade’s plan to save Kidd’s life is for the 39-year old in a baby’s body to remove his nappy, jump out of the hover-limo hurtling groundwards and use the nappy as a parachute. It slows his fall. Not much, but enough to soften the crash. Once in hospital, Kidd gets a cavalcade of visitors, all there to gloat at his misfortune. Slade settles down to await the next murder attempt, but falls asleep before a smoke bomb crashes through the window. Unfortunately Hoagy and Stogie are on duty, and (at the point this episode ends) have done nothing to wake Sam.

Rogue Trooper: The Assassination Run Part Two by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. The Nort high-command get into a sealed platform at the victory rally, un-suiting – pretty convenient for the Rogue-in-disguise. Gunnar is hidden under the banner and, while a laser display takes place, tries to burst the seal (with a sealburster). Unfortunately for the G.I.s the platform is protected by an anti-velocity shield (the tradition sci-fi-staple force shield which stops bullets and other high-velocity projectiles from getting through). Even more unfortunately, Bland and Brass have managed to keep track of him as he went in to the rally and have messaged the Norts, with the promise of more information if they pay for the privilege. The Norts aren’t the type to make deals with third parties so send in the military police instead. Pushed for time, Rogue uses the spear that comprises the banner pole, attaches a sealburster and throws it – finally some luck as it hits the seal at a slow enough speed to break through. Two of the staff chiefs get killed while the other two suit up in time. Bland and Brass are philosophical – they didn’t get a payday this time, but the successful assassination run will have made the price on Rogue’s head higher. There’s one or two portraits in this episode which look like a different artist to me, but there’s nothing in the credits. The four staff chiefs look very Nazi-esque – they could almost have walked out of a second world war comic (which were finally going out of fashion around the time this prog was published – Commando notwithstanding).

For the record, the full-page ad for IPC annuals contains: 2000AD (of course), Roy of the Rovers, Judge Dredd, Battle, Lion, Score, Valiant, Tiger, Action, Scorcher and new to the range, Big Daddy and Eagle.

Mega-Sounds has articles on Nina Hagen (still active and singing 38 years later, by the way), two on film soundtracks: Stairway to the Moon by Tim James (which doesn’t appear to have ever been made) and Dark Crystal by Trevor Jones. That’s all beside the point though, as the cover line this prog highlighted more famous Squaxx in the form of Andy Taylor and Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran reading Prog 248.

Judge Dredd: The Game Show Show Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Jose Casanovas Jnr. With four hundred game show hosts missing and the first batch being dragged out of a chem pit, Dredd orders that every hover-pod in the city be checked for rad-splashes, however many there are. Presumably they started in the local vicinity though, and before long they’ve narrowed their search down to Dreery House, home of Barimore Dreery. Dredd shoots his way in and chases Barimore into the death maze, catching up to his quarry towards the end of the maze. Dredd easily leaps out of the way of the penultimate peril – a charging robo-bull, knocking Barimore over the finish line. Having designed the maze so that nobody could survive, the final star prize is a ton of flesh-eating worms. The architect of the maze does not survive. Dredd will, because he has back-up to deactivate the maze before he tries to leave… I recognise that a few of the game show hosts are named after real game show hosts, though I’m a bit young to know whether all of them are. I recognised Jeremy Weevil, Larry Gruesome of the Degeneration Game and Bamber Gastank of The Brain Game.

The Mean Arena by Alan Ridgeway and Mike White. Mother Vlad, member of the Hexa Gang, is being hunted by her own vampires, though she gives as well as she gets – killing two of the four as they confront her for putting bombs in their chests….

…after an ad for Why we Built the Green Cross Droid – art by somebody other than Ron Smith – no credit and I’m not confident of who the artist is, but it looks a little like John Burns to me.

…and back to Mean Arena for Mother Vlad to fall to her death – though Matt has a few words with her and hears her final words. Which he claims to the cameras are the names of the two final members of the Hexa Gang (though we know they’re not as we heard her actual final words which are “Others remain to finish the work! To destroy you!” Oh, and before the Green Cross advert, that broadcast match commentator had a bit of an episode about the TV station showing particular interest in following the vampires’ final confrontation with Mother Vlad. So I’d be absolutely stunned if the final two members aren’t Kevin O’Connor and Rollo Hartey.

Ace Trucking Co. The Kloistar Run Part 1 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. After the experience with the Bampots, Ace wants an easy run, even if it means teaming up with old foe Jago Kain (I don’t quite understand what they’re doing, but the job called for two different truckers). Allocation of jobs at the Lugsters’ Union seems to operate in much the same way as the Doghouse over in Strontium Dog. There’s some secret job happening with Ghost and Feek – Chiefy seems to be a dab hand at helping Feek with the tangle of wires from Ghost’s console too. It being an easy run, G-B-H and Ace have a rest – using a Mac Mac intake to help send him to sleep. I’m going to put the next scene down to a mac mac hallucination until I find out different, but Jago and his biffo slice their way in to the crew quarters of the Speedo Ghost and the episode ends with Jago taking an axe to Ace’s pointy head. This is a comedy strip not a horror comic, so the point flies off. Not even any blood.

The back page has a 2000AD Star Pin-Up – Tharg’s Droids No 1 in an Occasional Series: D.J.1. I had no idea (well, had completely forgotten) that the first of these was one of the new media droids rather than an actual script or art droids. This series will still be running by the time we get to the first progs I ever owned, so this is another element of the nostalgia-fest slotting in to place for me. Robin Smith includes background gags including Swill It Down by Pug Ugly and the Bugglies.

Grailpage: Cam Kennedy’s opener for Rogue Trooper has a certain Superman II feel as the seal comes down on the staff chiefs. And we get the portraits of those chiefs, at least one of which looks like they’re fresh from a U-boat and another a high-ranking member of the SS.

Grailquote: Grant Grover, Ace Garp: “Them three’s gettin’ real lippy! Time I started lookin’ for some new lug-buddies!” G-B-H: “Be reasonable, Ace! Nobody else would be dumb enough to crew with you!” also, in the every next panel (but later that day) – Ace: “Hot work, big buddy!” G-B-H: “yes indeed! Lucky we’re not doing it!”

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