2000AD Prog 337: Something slimy this way comes… Join Nemesis at the Hatching!

Kevin O’Neill provides the kind of cover we’ve never seen before – a homunculus-eye view of being born, from inside the egg! Pretty sure we’ve not seen that since either. Or in any other comic, for that matter.

In Tharg’s Nerve Centre TMO states that this prog is an attempt at the Galactic Thrill-Power record, featuring uninterrupted thrill-power. It’s a half-page Nerve Centre, the lower half taken by an advert for No 1 (a pop music weekly). True to Tharg’s word, every interior page will feature story pages (inside front and back cover not counted).

Judge Dredd: The Graveyard Shift Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Chief Judge McGruder keeps herself busy by sitting in a CCTV nest and getting involved as and when she feels like it. Mutants try to sneak in to Mega-City One, get caught and put in the mutie pens. We’re given a bunch of statistics – I won’t do it now, but I do wonder how those figures would stack up under analysis – 18 A.R.Vs, 97 serious assaults, 4 murders, 0.05 riots and 178 traffic offences every minute – so that’d be thirty riots per hour, though the exact time period isn’t given – does this last half the night, or just the one hour up to midnight? Added to those, one suicide every 45 seconds and three judges have been killed (so one per hour since 21:00, when the graveyard shift began). That’s all just in the first two pages, at midnight Dredd stops a runner who turns out to have filed teeth and bite marks – he’s a bite fighter. Requesting back-up unit, Dredd’s temporary squad arrests hundreds of spectators and one bite fighter (the other one was shot as Dredd’s opening gambit – not sure how legal that is, he wasn’t offering resistance). One of the back-up units is Hershey, and in a quiet moment the two of them… pull a few crime swoops (the 59C – the little sibling of 59D – crime blitzes). One block has been destroyed by fire and most of the residents are in the process of being rehoused. Though ‘most of’ when we’re talking about over 60,000 citizens still means 3350 have died. At least one more block will be destroyed this night though…

Sláine: The Bride of Crom – 1 by Pat Mills and Massimo Belardinelli. After those flashbacks and the quest being given in McMahon’s episodes it’s back to Belardinelli as Sláine and Ukko as they trek through a gnarled old forest. Today we get a flashback to a flashback as Ukko tells us what Medb’s father told them about how Medb was kidnapped as a child and taken to the Cave of Beasts. Unlike the other children who were kidnapped, she showed only curiosity rather than fear of death. Well, it’s sort of that cave in the Pyranees – when the Lord Weird Slough Feg makes their entrance they break through one of the most iconic cave paintings, destroying it. Unless there’s a drune who has to reassemble all the pieces and glue them back in to the cave wall. So, Medb impresses Slough Feg by her curiosity and compliments enough that he spares her life. He’s been in this cave for the best part of twenty thousand years though sends Medb off to Drunemeton to be trained as a druness. Back in the present there’s almost no security at the forest fortress and the duo scale the walls. Sláine has trouble keeping his thoughts faithful to Niamh when he sees the drunesses, to which Ukko reminds him… I hadn’t realised just how many flashbacks there were in the early days of this series – I like it, as it brings a feel of skalds, bards, the mead of poetry, the salmon of knowledge, Aneirin, Taliesin and the oral mythological tradition of the Celtic and Norse worlds.

Nemesis the Warlock Book III by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. Previously we’ve seen hatchings. We’ve seen giant monsters hatch from planets, ready to kill all the residents of the star system it turns out was their clutch of eggs. We’ve seen Satanus hatch. This time we’re going to see the son of Nemesis and Chira hatch (ironic, seeing as the child will team up with Satanus in years to come). Before I get in to it, I’ll just comment on the colouring of the first pages. I know that Tom Frame did the majority of the colours on the pre-full colour progs, but I don’t know if that only applies to when Judge Dredd took the centre pages (which would also have been lettered by Tom). So whoever it was, their green and orange pallette conveys the mysticism of the warlocks (because green is always good for mysterious and magical atmospheres – fairies, witchcraft, spirits, dragons – and warlocks are pretty draconic (when they’re not demonic)) and the volcanic nature of the planet Gandarva (because it’s all orange and I don’t need to explain that one). There’s three panels between Chira and Nemesis where he agrees to stay until after the hatching before returning to the fight against the humans. If I was only writing about Nemesis in the context of the entire span of the series I’d question why Nemesis seems to care so much about the galaxy being in danger from the humans, as this doesn’t really gel with his motivations as revealed in Purity’s Story. But I’m just concentrating on this prog today, so on with the show! Just over half the centrespread is taken up by a vista of the hatching party as we see the widest variety of warlocks that we’ll ever see. Not to mention familiars (Grobbendonk’s species is never named, so let’s just leave them at ‘familiar’). Turns out that not every ageing warlock has fallen horns – well, the oldest-looking one has antlers and they still seem to be upright… There’s at least one which looks like a snake-headed ancient Egyptian god – and there’s a good chance they are. Meanwhile, young me would have read one line literally on this page, but it has a second meaning (more in grailquotes). There’s an interesting line from one warlock to Chira, stating that warlock’s don’t interfere in other planets’ affairs anymore. Then it’s time for the hatching, which involves Chira and Nemesis spitting fire at it (or something, the panel doesn’t go in to detail, and nor should it). First time I read this I don’t think I’d seen that poster with Nemesis and his father, Thoth – so my first introduction to the name Thoth was the son. Nemesis has a blitzspear, but Great Uncle Baal’s undead blitzspear is a ‘star chariot’. I may have been imagining that Castle Mendes was influenced by a painting but the danse macabre full-page panel is clearly based on the 1493 woodcut The Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut, (without being a straight rip-off). p.s. the god Pan is literally a warlock present at this party – and yes, he does have pan pipes. I got the plasticine out again when I was a kid and made a model of the homunculus Thoth.

Strontium Dog: The Moses Incident Part 3 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. In the aftermath of Moses’ death, the inhabitants of the settlement on Nomi’s World Johnny gets the usual anti-mutant insults thrown at him, but this time it’s different. Usually Johnny has no particular problem ignoring the insults while Wulf wants to respond, physically. This time Wulf just wants to leave the planet while Johnny broods. He makes one bad decision because he feels he must (attending the funeral of Moses) but then makes another – and it starts by asking Wulf if he’s ever heard of the Island of the Living Dead.

Rogue Trooper: From Hell to Eternity – Part 3 by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. As you’ll remember, a ship had peeled off from a Nort convoy to head to Caliban Island. Apparently it’s a D-foil. We got mention of ‘foils’ before – hydrofoils – no idea what the ‘D’ stands for. There’s an outline map of the island (always got to point out when maps appear!) Later, Venus is going to be redeveloped as a warrior, but in this story (so far) she’s just acting as a damsel in distress, getting caught by standard Nort sailors without resistance. Rogue dons a Nort’s chem-suit (lucky they’re full-face masks, unlike the Southers full-face visors) and stages a rescue attempt. I say attempt – it’s a rescue success, until the ship auto-destructs. Oh, and upon return to Caliban Island the rest of the fleet starts throwing all the missiles they have at the pair.

Inner cover competition time as the scrambled message conveys the starship’s condition: SEMTYSS TAILCIRC (systems critical). These aren’t exactly difficult. There’s also an advert for the new look Eagle, featuring a space spinner (of a different design to the one we saw on the prog and has been given away in a different colour for other comics).

The back cover has another ad for the Chewbacca bandolier.

Grailpage: another double grailpage prog as the first page has a very swampy-looking gnarled old forest from Belardinelli, festooned with skeletons and carvings out of the living wood of trees. I remember experimenting with pen and ink with similar images not long after this – though it must have been shortly after reading articles and interviews with art droids about dip pens. Next up is Kevin O’Neill’s party opener. I try to pick pages rather than panels, but there’s so much happening in this panel it’s like a page of vignettes. The hovering scaly egg and birds (surprised it’s not bats) in preceding panels are a bonus.

Grailquote: TB Grover, Judge Dredd: “As senior judge, I’m detailing you two to handle the paperwork.” Judge Laval: “Aw, Dredd!” Judge Hershey: “As senior judge of this due, I’m detailing you to handle the paperwork, Laval.” Judge Laval: “Aw, Hershey!” because this exchange has stuck with me. A second exchange is one I would have only read on one level when I was eight years old, but got the secondary (and pretty obvious for an adult) reading only when I was re-reading last year for Eamonn’s podcast! Pat Mills, Ashtar: “This is your chance to meet a nice, rich young warlock, dear.” Magna: “Get off my back, father!” – as seems common with warlocks, the male is literally on the back of the female in this exchange, what I didn’t get was the present-day idiom. The following page there’s a snappy bit of dialogue with Magna: “It’s that awful castle of father’s – it’s so dusty. I nearly choked to death.” Chira: “What stopped you?” Mills is on fire with dialogue this episode as Chira says: “I can sense great evil and death…” Nemesis: “Oh, that’s just Great Uncle Baal. he always leaves that smell of decay and utter wickedness behind him.”

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