2000AD Prog 304: Secret of the Bermuda Triangle?

In his time between illustrating the misadventures of Ace Garp and starting work on Sláine Belardinelli seems to be working on a mixed bag of projects, and this one is a wraparound cover. Skimming ahead in the prog there’s a text feature on it so I won’t say any more now.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is filled with an outpouring of upset at the disappearance from the Galaxy’s Greatest pages of Ace Garp. Tharg tries to placate them with promises of upcoming thrills Skizz and Sláine.

Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter: Play it Again, Sam! Part 13 by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. New Sir Oswald Modroid goes all Chief Judge Cal on Brit-Cit as we join a family watching the new Prime Droid’s announcement on Tri-D or vid-TV or whatever the Brit-Cit version of television is. They support Modroid’s new policies of arresting suspected Human Leaguers, until they find their entire street arrests (strewth)! Being the secret leader of the Human League has its advantages, and Modroid hands a list of every Human League secret base in Brit-Cit to a robo-cop. As coincidence would have it, the holiday concentration camp which Kidd’s cell gets dumped in is the same one which Slade was taken too. All is lost, the human race is doomed to spend the rest of their lives trapped in the new camps. Until, in a reverse cliff-hanger, Hoagy reports for duty as the new camp guard… Brit-Cit National Song Year on YouTube and Spotify.

Cover Story tells the tale of, as the cover line has it, “Secret of the Bermuda Triangle?” As Tharg tells it, on the return from the Mighty One’s last christmas holiday on Quaxxan he encountered the construction on the cover and programmed Belardinelli to realise the image. Interestingly I think this means this cover is the first to be credited to an artist within the pages of the prog (other than the Dan Dare stories which had their first page on the cover). Tharg ties the ships that make up the construction to those that went missing in the Bermuda Triangle, but offers no explanation for what the construction actually is – possibly a work-in-progress of a model-maker or an exhibit for a college diploma show, though asking earthlets to write in with their own explanations. I don’t remember seeing any letters regarding this in my first few months as a squaxx, but I’ll find out soon enough if anybody answered the call… That’s all besides the point anyway – it’s something to do with a reconstruction of the Capitol building in the Devil’s Triangle, as encountered by John Probe. Or is it an Apocalypse Warp style defence system for the USA? Or that Energy flux in Planet of the Damned?

A Blast from the Past this prog features the half-size pages from the beginning of Flesh, the page of M.A.C.H.1 that has a naked Probe montage and an X-ray of his circuit-diagram skull and the first time Bill Savage kills “dirty Volgans”.

Harry Twenty on the High Rock by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Davis. Harry Twenty’s broadcast is a call to arms for the other numbers (but peacefully if possible). Switch to Warden Worldwise and peacefully will not be possible as the slugs suit up in padded riot gear and start using rap-guns (? guns with dum-dum bullets maybe). My theory that every number is actually a political prisoner rather than a criminal gains traction as Bones Seventy-Six (or is that Seventy-Six Bones – the order of the name and number isn’t consistent) complains that his sentence is for nothing other than belonging to an outlawed political party and he leads the workshop uprising. Apart from a small upset regarding a riot cannon which takes out the internal lift, Bones suggests suiting up and spacewalking up to an unmanned turret outside. As it happens the turret isn’t so unmanned as Twenty-One Toady has sided with the slugs and kills Bones – is Harry next? What do you think?

Action Video No 4: the mega-zarjaz video games guide! The main feature is a game called Demon Attack, plus there’s snippets about the second Star Wars game, Jedi Arena – which looks awful – waggling lightsabres around while stationary against blasts from the training remote. The first self-declared high scores appear in Circuit Smashers (well, they have to be signed by a parent or guardian, but there’s still no proof).

Judge Dredd in Prezzel Logic by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. It’s those top Mega-City criminals again, meeting for the monthly get-together where they plan ‘the perfect crime’. As at the end of last month’s meeting, their focus this time is to deal with Dredd himself – who has foiled every crime they’ve tried to commit in previous months. Danzo Prezzel’s plan is to get Dredd to arrest himself by tricking him in to riding the wrong way up a one-way street. The lure is a wanted murderer, but Dredd doesn’t need to chase him – he just shoots him dead. That very day the meeting reconvenes and Prezzel suggest an all out brute force attack – a thousand homing missiles are launched against Dredd while making a routine arrest. Luckily for Dredd, and the hapless jaywalker he was arresting at the time, it doesn’t take long for Dredd to ride to the nearest Isolation-Block where he sits it out. The next plan is to bury Dredd under paperwork by launching a barrage of (not so) spontaneous confessors against him. Being a senior judge, he passes the sponts on to other judges to deal with while he does some digging of his own. He breaks down the door of the monthly meeting (this time reconvened so they can celebrate their apparent success) and reveals he’s known about them all along, but hasn’t had evidence. He still doesn’t have evidence, but he did find that the building that they hold their meetings in was scheduled to be a no parking zone – plans he sped up. Six months for parking on the double-Y!

Tharg and the Mice by T.M.O. and Ezquerra. Presumably inspired by a rodent problem in the (real world) King’s Reach Tower, this story tells of a plague of mice in the Command Module. Burt tries to deal with the mouse problem alone, so the population explodes. Tharg then tries to forge and agreement with the mice to stay in their section of the office in return for a supply of cheese biscuits and straw for nests, but mice are “notoriously bad at keeping agreements” – reminds me of the bampots! Then Tharg summons an eldritch stairway and his flute and does the Pied Piper thing (other droids have to stop Burt from following) and takes the mice to the planet Greeyer (made of green cheese) in Dimension Theta 33.

Rogue Trooper: Fort Neuro Part 16 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Told in flashback we get the background on how the Norts got their fake Emperor Napoleon in to Frank Sector – through (pretty big) top secret Sap tunnels and Nort agents planted in each sector years previously. Fake Boney demands to inspect the Shield Wall and Rogue arrives in Frank Sector after sixteen hours forced march. Just having enough strength to take out the first two Norts he meets disguised as the Old Guard, he’s too tired to make it to the Shield Wall, but send the spiked-up robe-runners in his place to rip apart the Nort chem suits.

The inside back cover has adverts for Buster (which has a free metallic Buster badge – no doubt metallic coloured plastic like the Judge Dredd badge given away with Prog 300), a trailer for Trapper Hag next prog and a Titan Books advert which has added Charley’s War to the Judge Dredd and ABC Warriors reprints. When I started reading 2000AD Battle Action Force was one of the other comics I read, so I was familiar with Charley’s War around the same time.

Grailpage: Belardinelli’s warparound cover poster is amazing, featuring just about every form of ocean-going vessel you can think of from galleons to submarines by way of airplanes and battleships.

Grailquote: all about the comedy this week with TB Grover, narration: “Now, the group of top Mega-City criminals languish alone in their iso-cubes, dreaming of the day when they can once more get together to plan the perfect crime… Meanwhile, they’re working on the perfect escape!” and in joint first place: T.M.O. Mick McMahon: “All right! Own up! Who’s been chewing my artwork! Own up, Tom, it was you!” – just the speed with which McMahon leaps to the conclusion that Tom Frame has been chewing paper!

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