2000AD Prog 291: “Vigilante at work… that’s all this city needs!”

Another classic storyline begins, though strangely the cover is not by story artist Ezquerra but instead by Ian Gibson. Not that I’m complaining.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains a trailer for an “opportunity to own a scrotnig electronic game” – sounds like another partner offer…

Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis opens with a great establishing shot of the shadow cast in space from the High Rock. From there things get worse for Harry as he visits Warden Worldwise, who dwells in the midst of a rather cool looking array of terminals (though the curving computer desk would make it very difficult to put down a cup of coffee without it falling over). The Warden has a toy – a ‘micro of Earth’, the moon and the Rock. Turns out it’s a hypno-device. Harry only has one way out of spilling the beans on his escape plans – to violently assault Warden Worldwise. He gets knocked out by Chief Thrower, but at least he managed to keep his secrets. He comes around on the way to breakfast and then heads off to the library. Mid-way through copying the schematics of a 20th century style space capsule on to a smuggled napkins, Harry’s rudely interrupted by Big Red One, the napkin getting knocked out of his hand and in to the path of Toady.

Tharg’s Mighty Micro Page (Thrill-powered programs for microcomputers). Three programs, one has something ‘walk’ across the screen, but I couldn’t figure out from the code exactly what it was that moved (it was written for the VIC-20, whatever it was – and the only thing to be printed was “CLR”). The other two programs are for the ZX81. I still have mine somewhere, though I don’t have a TV screen to plug it in to. The second program has a character, ‘T’ appear on screen to chase one or more ‘D’ characters around. Lastly is what I think is a simple program to print out a simple message on screen but involves some laborious formatting – at one point you have to type 32 spaces, 35 full stops and then another 35 spaces! There’s also a snappy paragraph on the new ZX Spectrum. I have one of those too – it was given to me by a charity shop as they weren’t allowed to sell electronic equipment. It worked when I plugged it in to a somebody’s TV earlier this century (about 2003/2004).

Ace Trucking Co. Stoop Coop Soup Part 4 by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Faking Gator Magee’s death didn’t work so Ace has a new plan – disguise the Speedo Ghost as the Yellow Uff – a ship of Jago Kane’s Yellow Line. Magee has the worst of it, having to attack the Warden (what is it with attacking prison Warden’s this prog?) and getting sorely punished for it. Then carried upside-down to solitary confinement in the most conspicuous feature of the Bide-A-Wee penitentiary, which I really should have mentioned when we first saw it a few weeks ago. A tall spire with a bubble on the end, into which Magee is squished. Oh, and while he was upside down he lamented his only chance being Garp’s plan – but his thoughts were upside down, like he was! Well, I liked it, anyway. Lettering courtesy of Steve Potter. So what’s the plan? To smash the spire and catch Magee in the bubble before it hits the asteroid that the penitentiary is built in to. Then to escape. It doesn’t seem like a brilliant plan, but does involve the nearest planet, Elvito. I have a vague image of the ‘Yellow Uff’ having it’s paint burnt off by the heat of entering an atmosphere and emerging as the Speedo Ghost, so I guess that’s the plan?

2000AD Special Offer! It’s for a portable electronic game from Cresta (nope, never heard of them) and called Alien Games (original, huh?) – it also features a digital clock and an alarm. The clock has an hourly chime – I remember those! Do digital wrist-watches still have things like that?

Judge Dredd: The Executioner Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. An instant classic which will get a call-back in a few years, but that’s definitely getting ahead of myself! We’re introduced to Hebismond Swarf, a suspected crime kingpin. He’s naked and taking a shower and lasts all of two pages before being killed by a mysterious hooded figure who leaves a note – the mark of a vigilante. In a neat bit of storytelling these events are overlaid with a later vid report on the matter. Switch to the person who very obviously is going to be the culprit. She books a table at a typically Mega-City venue – a hovering restaurant. While “waiting for… my husband” (nice touch – never noticed it before, it’ll become apparent why there’s a pause in later episodes) she heads to the powder room to done the mask we’ve already seen and shimmies up the outside of the hovering structure. Cue another crime boss (seeing a pattern here?) who quickly gets kicked over a balcony with a “Justice is done” note in his pocket, to fall to his death. There’s been so many great artists on Dredd, and a fair number of script droids too, but few could argue you can get better than this classic line-up of Grant, Wagner and Ezquerra – and that’s no slight to the other creators.

Speaking of classics, this next story is the beginning of another of my all-time favourites as Rogue Trooper travels to Fort Neuro (part 1) by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. Having said that, it’s been a fair time since I read it – my comics were in storage for nearly two decades without easy access, so I’m hoping to rediscover just why I consider it a classic. As I start, my guess is something to do with regular maps providing a sense of place, the tribal nature of the sectors (we’ve got a few Y-gangs coming up in Dredd in the next half prog-year, which I’m looking forward to) and last but not least – the robots. A point of order first. My copy of this prog had crinkled pages while it was being printed, meaning there were a few white lines across the page once it had been flattened out and stapled together. A younger version of me thought it would be a good idea to use felt-tip pens to colour in all the gaps. Could be worse, I could have coloured in the pictures. All that and I haven’t even read any of it on this prog slog yet. So, we got a few panels at the end of the last episode showing Souther troopers literally running up the flagpoles and then showing how pleased they were that they hadn’t gotten war fatigue by being under siege for so long. We get our first mention of the Nordland Party, making the conflict more political than cultural. The true name of the location is Fortress Neuropa, henceforth to be referred to as Fort Neuro. We find that this naturally fortified settlement was actually where the first strikes of the war were made (though oddly the Norts were already wearing chem-suits, before Nu Earth had been spoiled) and they’ve been out of contact with the rest of the Southers ever since. Rogue tries to do his classic move, submerging himself so that only his helmet is showing – but one of the Norts without the walls stumbles across said helmet and the have to fight their way in (then find that they’ve been in a minefield all this time). Those little red bits on the top of Bagman? They’re mine-sensors. Once greeted as “le rogue tropair” (in a cod French accent) they’re welcomed in to Frank Sector – now known as the Napoleonic Complex. This reference would have gone completely over my head first time I read this story. Oh, and if they’ve been out of contact, how come they know who the Rogue Trooper is? Genetic Infantrymen were developed as a reaction to the chem-clouds that were brought about by the war, the same war through which they’ve been isolated…

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Bad Timing by Alan Moore and Mike White. This is the first of two Future-Shocks called Bad Timing – plus there’s a Strontium Dog novel of the same name. I like this story, but it can be summed up very simply and very quickly. What if Kal-El came to Earth in the middle of the Cold War and when his spaceship was spotted by more advanced detection technology it caused a nuclear war? It’s told with Moore’s characteristic comic timing though we’re ready for more involved stories from Moore.

A Robin Smith Tharg gives advance notice of something of interest for video gamers… in Prog 295.

2000AD Star Pin-Up, Tharg’s droids: No 5 in an occasional series… Lettering Robot Frame by Robin Smith. Looks like our Tom liked a game of pool (or snooker) as this star scan show the subject using plastic cups, sellotape, scrunched up paper and set squares to set up a match / round / whatever of the game.

Grailpage: Carlos Ezquerra – every page of this episode had a few good images, but I’m going for a relatively understated page where we see Dredd discussing the case over comms, the Highlight Rooms in the background, then switch to a close-up of said hover-restaurant and the as-yet-un-named woman visits the powder room where she dons the mask of the Executioner. Who has also remained without a sobriquet, but it’s the name of the story, so it wouldn’t take a genius to work out what name this vigilante is going to gain.

Grailquote: TB Grover, vid presenter: “When pressed for more details on the killer, a Justice Department spokesman said: “Get that camera out of here or you’ll do time, creep”.”

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