2000AD Prog 354: “Easy meat! The wounded walk in for treatment – and we finish them off!”

Ezquerra provides the Strontium Dog cover which is basically the last panel of the last prog’s / first panel of this prog’s story with the window framing the cover.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre brings good news – work has finished on the 2000AD Annual 1985 – the reason it’s particularly good news is that astute readers will detect that 96 pages with 32 in full colour means it’s in the quality format of the Judge Dredd Annual instead of the frankly rubbish format that we’ve had so far. This will also be the first one I had when it came out, and I’m glad about that as the old-style annual would have really put me off. Interestingly Tharg says that work will now begin on the 1985 Sci-Fi Special (which comes out a month or two before the annuals, but as the annuals are usually christmas presents the summer special will likely be read half a year earlier). Tharg also drops another teaser at the Mega-Plan and mentions the Daily Star Dredds. There’s a lot going on! Earthlet letter wise there’s one from a couple of “Earthfems working in a large national museum” (their description). I don’t know how famous they are in the archaeology field, but they’re this person and this person (who also has a wikipedia page). The letter itself asks whether Tharg has taken ideas from a museum (to which Tharg takes offence – he can be so sensitive sometimes).

Sláine: Sky Chariots – 3 by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon. This was an amazing episode – the last one ended with a full page pic of Sláine fighting and this one begins in exactly the same way. For a moment on page two I thought ‘this would make a good grail-page’ but I forgot about the rest of the episode. Sláine’s knocked out then cooled down with cold water before regaining consciousness. With the threat that he and Ukko will suffer the death of the blood eagle while the village of Gavra will be burnt to the ground (versus being paid well and the villagers being given food enough for the Winter) Sláine accepts the position of Battle-Smiter to Slough Throt. They travel to the Great Dolmen from the first episode, board a cloud curragh. It actually looks more like a longship than a currach (note the ‘c’ – Curragh is a plain in Ireland known for horse racing while currach is a Irish type of boat) – it’s easy to pick holes in small errors like this in the internet age though. Anyway, they get in to the boat, earth energy is drained from the surrounding area, powers up the dolmen and the ship rises and starts heading North, airship-like. Ukko points out that if a drune lord is afraid enough to require a battle smiter then it’s time to be afraid.

Advert time! Battle Action Force, featuring Baron Ironblood (I had this toy) and a reservation coupon with a Cursed Earth era McMahon pic of Dredd, eagle pointing towards Dredd’s head, incidentally.

D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy! Part 3 by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. I think it’s pretty amazing that Chryoprasia has been turned in to Crazy Chryssie, merely by having her ears perk up, terrier-like, instead of drooping down, like a spaniel. I was probably young enough first time I read this not to recognise any of the bastardised William Shakespeare dialogue as delivered by D.R. in the play (spoiler – more in the grailquote section) so this very likely introduced me to a few soliquoys. Though just after that, Crazy Chryssie and Quinch burst through the window. Though by burst I more mean smash apart the entire side of the theatre and set in which the window was positioned. When the police turn up (something else which went over my head at the time – they look like anthropmorphic alien pigs) they put the question to D.R. – who is responsible for this carnage? D.R. puts his Quinch-bro before Chryssie… And then denies ever having loved her, blaming it all on a vegan takeaway meal from the month before (I probably wouldn’t ever have heard the word vegan before this – it wasn’t exactly a common word to encounter in 1983). Quinch has just the remedy for that – a thorium bomb…

Earthlet art. No theme this time, just random samplings. The ages of Rogue Trooper is copied from various stories – mainly Millicom Memories. Slough Feg the Watchful is a straight-up copy of a Belardinelli panel. Space walking the dog is actually original. Extract from teh physical fitness manual “Pumping scrotnig” is the best, in the format of a four-panel strip showing a normal (though pretty ugly) man bopping himself with a truncheon then slotting a helmet over his now flat face (as used by Dredd and Alpha).

Judge Dredd: Are You Tired of Being Mugged? by T.B. Grover and Emberton. Probably inspired by the real-life Guardian Angels (formed in 1979 to tackle crime in New York) this introduces Guard-O-Ped – superhero-attired specialists in unarmed combat who will use legally permitted levels of counter-violence to protect pedestrians as they travel through high-risk mugging areas of Mega-City One (for a small fee, unlike the Guardian Angels). I don’t think we’ve seen the anti-mugging suit before, but we’re told it’s already banned (it’s like a full-body sports protection costume, with added spikes). It works, for a while, hiring a G-Man becoming a Mega-City craze. But then Mega-City fights back as it becomes fashionable to bag a G-man – either out of resentment from those who cannot afford to employ their services or to prove themselves tougher. Soon the G-Man craze has morphed into a bag a G-Man craze and the judges are overwhelmed both by protecting G-Men and because real muggers have moved to previously lower-crime areas. McGruder decides enough is enough and lifts the ban on anti-mugging suits (and relaxes the interpretation of the relevant self-defence ordnance). Justice Dept now no longer accepts responsibility for injury or death sustained as a result of attacking the wearer of an anti-mugging suit. One story, three crazes as we end up with everybody wearing spiky suits! The former head of Guard-O-Ped falls on hard times and is one of the first casualties of an anti-mugging suit… For some reason Ian Gibson chose to be credited as Emberton for this one – I’m pretty sure Q Twerk is the pseudonym her reserved for work he wasn’t satisfied with and I assume the same with Emberton, though I like this one. I’ve tried to pay attention (like in Rumble in the Jungle) and I think this is the first appearance of a particular quirk. In one panel Dredd’s shoulder eagle appears to look in the same direction as the lawman while i a later panel it points outwards. I’ll comment further whenever I notice it being more animated.

Rogue Trooper: Colonel Kovert Part 5 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Kovert contacts Rogue in the midst of the firefight and arranges a pick up point (the Old Memorial, which is the only landmark we’ve seen on the moon) and Rogue kidnaps a training officer in the hope that none of the Nort G.I.s will attack – this is almost true, but the one who does try shooting doesn’t last long, so on with the escape. Picking Rogue up, the three stooges (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil) are not interested in a prisoner, or the heavy comm pack, for that matter. I had a feeling it was a bomb, and as the Colonel’s satellite accelerates out of orbit the moon explodes behind them!

Strontium Dog: The Killing – Part 5 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. As we’ve seen twice now (last prog, last panel and the cover) their are a pair of killers lying in wait in the medical post. Luckily, Johnny is in the habit of checking out buildings with alpha-vision and detects them, so his only problem is getting in to the post without damaging it. One electro-flare later and he takes Wulf’s happy stick to smash his way through while the killers are blinded. Unfortunately for Wulf, the poison chest is melted by one of the killers who started shooting wildly when he couldn’t see anything. Johnny sees nothing for it and contact the Despots of Zed directly by vidphone, demanding the antidote. The organiser of this year’s Killing, Titus, is about to refuse but one of the others accuses him of being a bore. Titus points out that the bounty hunters appear to be abusing their sacred ritual for bounty rewards (as opposed to the gladiatorial rewards that everybody else is fighting for). The other two despots out-vote him and Johnny gets the antidote, while the administrator points out an interesting aspect – the pair are genuine friends yet one will be required to kill the other (if they both survive to the end).

Advert time – yet another football magazine (or is it the same one as last time?), the next prog plus the Westminster Comic Mart.

The back page has a portrait of Sláine & Ukko in front of some megalithics and stone sculptures. Nothing wrong with it but not a patch on some of the Belardinelli pages I’ve picked for grailpages (and some of those I shall be picking, have no doubt).

Grailpage: speaking of Sláine, I was very tempted to pick two pages running by McMahon, but in the end I’m only going for the one with the cloud curragh (sic) being loaded with provisions prior to taking off. Even has some seagulls in the background. On which note, apparently ‘seagulls’ don’t exist and we should simply call them ‘gulls’. I remain to be convinced.

Grailquote: William Shakespeare (uncredited) and Alan Moore, Waldo, “D.R.” Dobbs (the D.R. stands for Diminished Responsibility): “Uh, “Ahem”, man… A horse! A horse! Somebody give me a horse, man, because I come to bury this dirtball, not to praise him. Whaddya think I am? Whether it’s nobler for the mind to make people suffer with all these totally outrageous arrows for a fortune, or what! But, like, soft, man… What’s all this light that through yonder window breaks?” Crazy Chryssie: SSSKKKRRESHH!!

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