2000AD Prog 355: Slough Throt summons… the birds!

2000AD Prog 355 cover, art by Cam Kennedy
2000AD Prog 355 cover, art by Cam Kennedy

As a youngling I think I assumed this Sláine cover was drawn by Mike McMahon, but it is in fact by Cam Kennedy.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre. Cam Kennedy isn’t just muscling in on Mike McMahon’s characters as an earthlet points out that Skizz appeared in the corner of a Rogue Trooper panel in Prog 346. Elsewhere other earthlets report on places they’ve read progs (the Matterhorn and a peak in Colorado).

Sláine: Sky Chariots – 4 by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon gets off to a great start as far as I’m concerned as the opening page has the cloud curragh flying through the air, conifers, fungus, flowers, berries and squirrels in the foreground (and seagulls in the air, as ever). Which add more verisimilitude to this image than many pictures without flying boats have. The sky chariot is sailing over Lyonesse, North-East of Gavra. Lyonesse being the legendary sunken land from the Arthurian cycle, off the coast of Cornwall. Throt sends Sláine to check out the holds and fulfill his duties as battle-smiter (bodyguard). Down there he encounters half-dead, due to be sold as battle-fodder to warring tribes in the North. As ever, Sláine recognises a few faces (remember the broch twice – or the wicker man?) This time it’s friends he made while fighting alongside as a mercenary. The question is raised again as to whom Slough Throt is afraid of. As an adult I think I could probably have guessed – mainly because there aren’t many likely suspects and by the end of this episode it’s confirmed, Throat is defying the Lord Weird Slough Feg in travelling North, and a furious storm threatens to destroy the ship unless Sláine can tame a bull for the sacrificial stone (and also the bulls are stampeding around the small ship so they also pose a threat).

File Under Inactive! Another page of reader art and this would have served as an introduction to every character shown when I first read this prog. Those shown are Matt Tallon (in a Steve Dillon style), AALN-1, Return to Armageddon (not looking unlike Redondo’s style), Meltdown Man and Star Lord.

D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 1 by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. The title says it all. Y’know that war that D.R. started a few progs ago? Well, now he has to fight in it. Amusingly enough, the draft papers are sent to their address at Gotterdammerung Crescent and we might even discover the name of the planet on which they live – Gurzelpott (unless that’s just the name of a Minister for War). It might be interesting to compare Dobbs and Quinch’s induction and training to the army with that depicted in Halo Jones Book III, but I won’t be doing that today. There’s the usual tropes, with a humorous spin (such as Dobbs attacking an ‘enemy soldier’ before realising it’s actually a dummy).

Eagle has reached its 100th issue, and gets a half-page advert (the other half of the page is a repeat of the reservation coupon). Apparently Eagle would cost you 22p (compared to the far superior 2000AD which is a mere 20p).

Judge Dredd: Bob’s Law by T.B. Grover and Emberton. This one is a continuity-geeks dream. Previous to this we’ve had only vague references to the various sectors. I don’t think we ever went to Sector 1 (not named, anyway) though Sector 2 was one of the early sectors to be affected in the Robot Wars while Sector 555 was the location of Meka-City. There have, of course, been a whole load of named sectors in between, sometimes with only the merest hint as to where they’re located – South Sector 555 or North Sector 225, for example. In the new sector reclassification plan as presented by Judge Barrett (a reference to house builders Barratt Homes) the landlocked Central Area will be numbered 1 to 20. As most of the South of Mega-City One was destroyed, the East and West boundaries are moved North, East is numbered 21 to 108 and so on, until ending up with Sectors 301 to 305 in the North-West Hab Zone (surrounded by radioactive wasteland). If you’re not so hot on continuity then this is still a great episode (as long as you enjoy satirical social commentary). In the same way that some people will bitterly object to trivial postcode changes, there is uproar across the city against mega-citizens who fail to understand that they’re not actually moving sectors, just that the sectors they’re in are being renamed to allow for all those sectors to the North and South of the city which were destroyed two years earlier. The Bob’s Law of the title refers to a pop philosopher’s aphorism regarding crazes. To deal with the uproar another aphorism is quoted – if they won’t accept it, bribe the mega-citizenry. This is accepted without fuss courtesy of the photogenic Judge Tapp (though with a little help from Weather Control). I feel that we’re told a few times that rain is unknown in Mega-City one, but it always seems to be the first resort to quell civil disturbance. This will cost quite a bit though – about 42 billion credits (meaning the population of Mega-City one is now 420,000,000). The simple solution – now that the people have been bribed, tax ’em (though disguise it as something else – don’t worry, they’ll be fooled). Justice Department even makes a small profit (though used as administration). Reading this as a nine-year old probably meant I never got fooled by pre-election bribes from the government, and equally meant I could never understand why others were so easily tricked in to voting for short-term tax cuts.

Rogue Trooper: Colonel Kovert – Part 6 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. This has speech balloons more square in shape than I’m sued to, and true enough when I look at the credit card I see a ‘C. Magee’ is the lettering droid. Despite killing Norts at the drop of a helmet in normal circumstances, Rogue gets angry at Kovert for destroying the moon (not helped by the Colonel making an unconvincing denial). He decides the promised information isn’t worth it and escapes (outwitting Kovert by sending out a decoy capsule while actually leaving in a suit and sol-glider). Rogue lands back on Nu Earth under cover of the thick chem-clouds which the Norts had planned to use while Kovert threatens that they will meet again (can’t remember seeing him again, to be honest and there’s not that many more classic Nu Earth stories left).

Strontium Dog: The Killing Part 6 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf recovers, the 95 original participants have now been whittled down to 21. The pair are now millionaires (as long as they survive to collect the bounties). We take a little diversion to see what’s happening with the rest of the participants before returning to Johnny and Wulf, who are hunting Steelkreeg, the biggest remaining bounty and a smart droid who’s likely to sit it out in a safe area with a good view – like the top of a temple. Though as they head down Hangman’s Walk they pass another bounty who appears to have been offed already. Obviously I only said appears because he’s still alive, and ready to shoot them now their backs are turned on him…

The inside back again has a half-page ad for a football publication while the lower half has the following squashed in – the obligatory next prog ad featuring a Ron Smith image from the Dredd, a Stamp Quiz, a spot previewing the next page (!) and an Eagle Judge Dredd ad (No 8: The Cursed Earth – a tiny preview of the Bolland ‘judges have taken over’ cover).

The back page star pin-up of Tharg the Mighty I assume is by Eric Bradbury, though it’s uncredited.

Grailpage: after raving about the first page of Sláine I found it difficult not to pick it, but then the next page was just as good (opening with a slightly top-down pic of the cloud curragh, complete with an almost isometric layout of the ship). Plus seagulls. So I’m going to pick two pages running, courtesy of Mike McMahon. Don’t think I’ve done that before (the two pages running bit – I’ve picked pages by McMahon before).

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Waldo D.R. Dobbs: “Hey man, what kind of expensive foreign restaurants do they have in this place?” Sgt Rorchmutt: “There are no expensive restaurants on Ghoyogia!” Dobbs: “AAWAUUGHH!” narration: “It was, like, my first exposure to the total insanity that is war. And there was worse to come, man…” Also, I can’t not pick TB Grover, Bob Wezzel: Bob’s Law – “All it takes is one stupid person to do something stupid and all the rest are sure to join in.” Bob’s Second Law – “When all else fails, bribe ’em!” and Bob’s Third Law – “What Justice Dept giveth, Justice Dept can just as easily taketh away”. I’ve had triple grailpage progs before (twice, I think) but I don’t recall having picked three grail quotes so far. That changes today with Alan Grant, Wulf Sternhammer: “74 dead? Is enough to make you veep, Johnny!” Johnny Alpha: “Don’t cry for them, Wulf. Most of ’em had done enough to deserve death a dozen times over!” Wulf: “Ach! I don’t give two creds for them. Vulf veep for all der revards ve cannot now collect!”

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