2000AD Prog 311: Tidal Terror on Torquan!

Massimo does it again – the perfect combination of natural forms (in this case waves) and bizarre shapes (here a future city) on this cover.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre – if you didn’t know what Boys from the Black Stuff was, then 2000AD was there for you, though not in so many words as a reader portrays TMO as Yozzer Tharg. Meanwhile there’s a cover story for Belardinelli’s work, but best to skip past that…

Invasion of the Thrill-Snatchers Part 4. The thrill-suckers, in Tharg’s brain, go on the attack. The first wave die instantly, frazzled by raw thrill-power. Eventually, with trunk-filters on maximum, they manage to get a grip though with a fifty per cent casualty rate. Luckily for them, the atmosphere allows them to multiply at an unprecedented rate and before long there are eighteen billion troops, and they haven’t finished yet! Once ready they launch their final assault on Tharg, and the galaxy’s greatest editor yawns and falls asleep! The second world war imagery flips from the Nazis to the allies as the sucks-fuhrer gives a ‘finest hour’ speech. From there it’s a trivial matter to swarm, the plague taking down first the Command Module, then the rest of the world, via the magic of montage (London represented by Number 10, Paris by the Eiffel Tower of course, Rome by the Lazio region office in Rome, Moscow by a view of Red Square and Washington by a car traffic jam). Above the silent streets of London, only Burt remains untouched, his thrill-free head off-limits to the thrill-suckers. He has an idea, perhaps the first ever good idea and distils the thrill-power from “back, um… progs” into a potent brew.

Rogue Trooper: Prologue… by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. It only says ‘Prologue’ but I know the story coming up is Major Magnam. Similar to the graveyard story between Dix-I and Fort Neuro, this one highlights how useless the biochips feel after sitting out most of the last story, until all four G.I.s are targetted by a Nort missile programmed with Rogue’s pulse-rate and the chips’ energy pulses. The Norts hate them all equally, isn’t that nice? To turn this in to the prologue, Bland and Brass arrive on the scene in their atmocraft to see if there’s anything decent to loot. Listening in, Rogue hears about other “G.I. ‘living loot'”.

I wonder if all of Tharg’s Time Twisters were written as Time Twisters, or did they just get rebranded from Future-Shocks? (Those links are to old collected editions which are probably pretty difficult to get hold of these days – and only cover the Alan Moore Twisters in to the bargain). This one is un-titled but may as well be called ‘Time Riders’ as it’s about time-travelling joy-riders. It’s by Alan Hebden and Jesus Redondo and features a hapless policemen (polman in future-speak) who gets played with by the joyriding kids. From the last panel I think we’re supposed to be surprised when the STP (Space-Time Police from what I can work out) reveal they’d a couple of kids having fun and not ‘real criminals’. Note that these not-real criminals did almost kill the policeman a couple of times, as well as using a tractor beam to drag him around through the sky with such force that his clothes were ripped off (a fate that befalls the two joyriders when they finally get nabbed by the STP). This is certainly a different take on casual time travel usage and its policing than the previous prog’s Chrono-Cops.

Judge Dredd: The Starborn Thing Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra re-runs the last few panels of the previous episode before the thing forces Dredd to head away from the spacecraft in Hossanjo Valley towards the North and a mutant settlement. The thing uses Dredd’s body to try to gain entry by blowing the gate of the barricaded settlement off of its hinges, though as Dredd still has the use of his mouth he can shout a warning to the mutants not to let him in – a request which they readily oblige. The thing makes Dredd crawl away from the onslaught of impromptu missiles to stand out of range until it gets dark. Once night falls, the creature tightens its grip its host’s neck, causing him to fall unconscious to the ground. Using a scorpion-like appendage to sting Dredd, it crawls towards the settlement – the line “Then the parasite turns away, and slowly, clumsily, slithers towards its quarry” always reminds me of W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”.

What a Load of Rubbish! by Keith Law and Eric Bradbury is a Time Twister by all but name. Eric Bradbury’s ‘dirty’ style perfectly suits this tale of waste disposal as Trafalgar Square in the year 1999 is unexpectedly covered by a torrent of rubbish from the year 2343. A Ministry of Health official is called in and just before he leaves notes that a corpse has arrived from the future. Obviously not having read up on time travel stories, he neglects to check who the corpse is of before heading off using an experimental time travel umbrella (this isn’t explained). Turns out that most of the rubbish being beamed to 1999 is actually arriving in 2343 from their future. Not that it matters as they dispose of him along with the next batch of rubbish. Should have checked who that corpse was…

Mid-way through that time travel story was a double-page advert for Return of the Jedi – specifically Palitoy figures.

Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie. Interpreter Zhcchz of the Tau Ceti Imperium continues to be distinctly unimpressed by the violence of Earth culture though at least this one seems to be different to those seen on the vu-screen (there’s wrestling on TV). She tries to tell Zhcchz her name, and fortunately (to paraphrase Zhcchz thoughts) indicating oneself and repeating a sound over and over is the most basic gesture of communication. Tony Jacob does a fantastic job of conveying alien sounds slowly morphing in to something recognisable as the interpreter manages to adjust to the name that Roxy repeats to Zhcchz. When it comes time to tell Roxy / Rahk-zee his name, the visitor to Earth decides it might help to remover his helmet so that she can see his lip movements. I can’t praise Jim Baikie enough in his depiction of Royx’s delight when Zhcchz amanges to get her name right and her reaction and apprehension when Zhcchz removes his helmet.

Grailpage: The first half of the 300s was definitely a good time for fans of Belardinelli wrap-around covers (I can think of two more towards the end of the year).

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Roxannme O’Rourke: “Coffee? Cof-fee? You-want-some-cof-fee? Ver-ee-good- cof-fee? Well, not bad coffee, anyway. I mean, it’s only instant, but…”

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