2000AD Prog 343: Clash of the War Droids!

What do we want? Giant robots fighting each other while tiny humans run away in terror! Where do we want it? On the cover! Kevin O’Neill obliges with this prog’s Nemesis the Warlock cover. For no reason I can remember I didn’t buy any progs between 342 and 350, so I wouldn’t have read this until a few years later when I discovered the delights of comic shops to fill in all those gaps.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is in cut-down size once again due to the Dictators of Zrag (and nothing to do with paying advertisers – this week courtesy of Forbidden Planet again, pushing the Eagle Comics Judge Dredd reprint monthly and Grandstand pushing Astrowars and Scramble).

Judge Dredd: Rumble in the Jungle – 1 by T.B. Grover and Emberton. A new story and a new weapon in Mega-City One Justice Department’s arsenal (not to mention a new vehicle at the same time). The Manta Prowl Tank makes its debut, replacing the Mark 4 Pat Wagon. And what a night to make a debut. Once the new toy is out of the way it’s time to introduce the main elements of this story – flamboyantly-dressed (and themed) juve gangs in a maze-like plascrete region where they’re converging on an area of Sector 230 known as the Jungle (I don’t think it’s related to the Ape jungle though). This won’t a normal rumble though, as the Y-Bobs juve gang hijack a giant earth-clearing rad-tractor.

Sláine: The Creeping Death by Pat Mills and Massimo Belardinelli. Not officially part of The Bride of Crom, but it is really (along with the next week’s episode) this tells of Ukko tackling the disease Sláine picked up from the half-dead. Green scales are spreading over his body – if they cover him he shall become one of the half-dead (because all good zombie plagues spread). While this is happening Urien’s men are chasing them (well, once Medb uses magic to ‘encourage’ them to continue the chase). While all that is happening Belardinelli adorns the panels with wildlife as Sláine, Ukko and their friend Bran travel on a mammoth through scenes of trees, storks, stoats (or possibly weasels), rabbits and squirrels. Oh, and when they strip off Sláine to put him a healing pit, Massimo also gets the opportunity to draw leaves, flowers and berries. Urien’s soldiers get put put off the trail when they hide Sláine under the straw in Bran’s hut and Ukko uses soap and mouldy food to pull the ‘old plague trick’.

Nemesis the Warlock Book III by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. A very orange centrefold – matching the cover – shows Mek-Quake and Torquemada in combat against each other – Torque-Armada with sword and Mek-Quake with battle-sickle. Remember those terminators in the galleon-feet who tied themselves to the capstans so that they wouldn’t desert in the heat of battle? Well, when Torque-Armada catches fire they cut themselves free, stopping the massive flag robot from being able to move, perishing in the flames and allowing Mek-Quake to stand astride his remains – “Big Jobs!” The morale of the terminators is broken, though unfortunately the mystic wind which Nemesis summoned also smashed the remains of the symbol of the basilisks – the stone remains of Fangnar. Seeing as this week’s Sláine was called The Creeping Death it’s interesting that the next prog tag for Nemesis is: “The Grey Death”.

Strontium Dog: The Moses Incident – Part 9 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. The person who a mother blames for the death of her child and who later dug up the child’s grave and stole the body reacts as you’d expect when the same person brings the zombified corpse of said child back. So… the end of this episode sees Johnny and Wulf about to get hung by a lynch mob.

Rogue Trooper: The Gasbah Part One by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Map? Check! Nu Earth location names puns on old Earth locations? Check! It’s time for a new Rogue story and this time he soon finds himself on the run from the military fuzz in Kyro City in the Morokk Desert. And what’s the gasbah? The low-lying area of the city which collects the dirtiest concentrations of chem-clouds. Clouds so thick that the mili-fuzz don’t follow him there, where the descendants of aliens trapped on Nu Earth when the war began. There’s another pun I didn’t get for the first thirty-five years after I first read this (i.e. I only just got it today) – Rogue hides in Rix-Bah, not that I’ve ever seen Casablanca, but I know it revolves around Rick’s Bar. There’s one ever element that often crops up in Rogue stories – a female – this one a human dancer in a bubble. After a brief fight with some ali (alien) toughs, Rogue settles to wait for a caravan due to head out to another city (Timbuk-2) the following day but somebody is watching him, and they have a plan. Sorry, the plan. Bet they’re Norts. And the bubble girl will be a bad ‘un as well. And probably die too. Because all women in Rogue Trooper bad and die.

Grailpage: I was sorely tempted by one of Kevin O’Neill’s pages but instead I’m going for one of Ian Gibson’s and the one I’m picking starts with a Manta Prowl Tank, continues with the ‘Mega-City Boot’ (trapping people by covering their feet in riot foam), Judge Bunns inside, Dredd being grouchy (because he prefers to meet perps eye to eye) and then three juve gangs, looking rather like Hoop citizens (and I imagine Alan Moore and Ian Gibson may have been in the early stages of developing Halo Jones around the time this was published).

Grailquote: Pat Mills, narration: “The terminators see their flag robot – symbol of Termight’s glory – has fallen, and retreat in despair…” Terminators: “All is lost!” Muzurphus: “The stone remains of Fangnar – the sacred symbol of the basilisks – to fall to the ground!” Basilisks: “All is lost!” Nemesis: There’s a moral here somewhere, Grobbendonk…” Grobbendonk: “Snorka var”

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