2000AD Prog 359: A demonic attack – at the heart of justice! The Haunting of Sector House 9 AAAAAAAAAAAAAA

One of my early favourite Dredd tales as Brett Ewins does a try-out for Anderson (probably not, but it couldn’t have harmed his prospects) in this cover.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a stamp competition in the corner with unwittingly difficult questions (things like “Has non-royalty appeared on British stamps?” or “Has the Queen Mother appeared on British stamps?” or even “Does Britain have Christmas stamps?”) I know the answers to these questions now but I’ve no idea what the case would have been in 1983.

Sláine: Sky Chariots – 8 by Pat Mills and Mike McMahon. This isn’t my grailquote, but Slough Throt has a catchphrase – he uses it twice in this episode and has used it before – “Sláine – save me!” – the first time is when Sláine rights the tiller to try to even out the crash-landing ship as it struggles to stay airbourne following the eruption of the volcano and the second is when a boar charges for the renegade drune lord. Speaking of which, there are wonderful scenes where the sky-based strip heads groundwards, switching from seagulls to rabbits (possibly a hare). Though in this case the presence of animals isn’t just scene setting as Slough Feg has enlisted the aid of Carnun, the horned god, lord of the beasts and Throt draws a magical circle to prevent them from attacking the party. Should mention – at this point the party consists of a barbarian (Sláine), a thief (Ukko) a magic-user (Slough Throt) and an NPC (the merchant, obviously going to be canon-fodder).

Today’s Atari advert is for a game I’ve never heard of called Dig Dug.

D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 5 by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. Surrounded by hostile troops who ordinarily would be trying to kill each other but this time are focussed on “two average, likeable college students, a drama coach’s daughter turned mercenary and a distressed war veteran wearing a dress”, D.R. tries to bluff their way out of it by spinning some spiel about having a like, vision about a fantastically impressive baritone voice giving a message of peace, love and being totally friendly. There’s also an obviously made up threat about what would happen if they don’t do the peace thing. It doesn’t look like he’s convinced anybody, but then comes the deus ex machina as a large spaceship (actually an inter-cosmic mega-palace), a hatchway opens and an unbelievably disgusting and disturbing object emerges (which reminds D.R. of a time that Quinch chewed a blister-whelk and opened his mouth to show everybody). Rolling forward it squelches the two armies before stopping at our trepid foursome. The comparison to Quinch wasn’t superfluous and remember that letter D.R. sent to Ernest’s mum? So, rescued by Quinch’s mum, they head for the mega-palace and strangely this story ends with a similar shot to the last episode of Skizz. In that story, Baikie showed the Tau Ceti spaceship with the Milky Way in the background while this story has the mega-palace with a Milky Way like spiral galaxy as a backdrop. As for the ending – D.R. cogitates on why people fight each other, and the answer to the senseless violence (but didn’t write it down or anything, and totally forgot what it was by the morning). D.R. and Quinch are taking a few weeks off before going to Hollywood.

Burt went off to work for a computer magazine – I thought it’d take a prog-year for an advert for said magazine to appear. More like one week as this page has ads for Big K (in comic strip form, courtesy of Ian Gibson), false advertising – it claims that bugs are a thing of the past now that Big K is on the scene – if only!. Scream! also gets an ad (coming soon) and the Judge Dredd monthly (from Eagle Comics).

Judge Dredd: The Haunting of Sector House 9 – Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Brett Ewins. Sector Houses have appeared but not in any great detail. They’ve just been there, like I-Blocks. This time we find out they’re like the Grand Hall of Justice in microcosm. It even has futuristic walkways (dizzying drops and no handrails). Investigating the death of the Sector Chief Dredd and local Judge Patel discover the chief’s quarters are cold, cobwebbed and have bloodstains on the wall – the blood is not the chief’s. This is the story where Dredd claims he’s “double zero rated” for psychic sensitivity – make that double zero for any kind of sensitivity, Dredd! Geller, a psi-div telepath is called in to do a ghostwatch (where you sit in the middle of a haunted room for the night, with vid-monitors which cut out when anything interesting happens). There’s a nice touch which Brett has transferred from his time on Rogue Trooper – instead of having speaking bio-chips he accompanies panels with judge heads by their badges so you know who’s talking (a bunch of helmeted heads can look pretty similar).

Speaking of Rogue Trooper, Brett isn’t on the current story as Cam Kennedy has taken over in Rogue Trooper: You Only Die Twice – Part 2 by Gerry Finley-Day. Gunnar is destroyed, blown in to a million bits. But this is war and there’s no time to mourn as probes will be sniffing around the area soon enough. There’s also a question of a replacement weapon, and Rogue decides to hit a Nort ammo dump. Thus he acquires the master-blaster (a Nort close-quarter tungsten rigid-shot) and a bunch of ammo. The ammo doesn’t last forever though and he has to hit another ammo dump to replenish supplies. In The-Canyons-of-the-Mind (I’d have had no idea this was a song reference – RiP Neil Innes 1944 – 2019) the Norts catch up with Rogue and he discovers that the latest stash of ammo had a homer planted on it, as the Norts knew he’d be wanting more ammo. Rogue seems really upset that they tricked him and he’s going to “make ’em PAY for it”. Just a reminder here, he’s using a weapon and ammo stolen from the Norts to kill Norts and he’s going to kill more Norts to pay them back for tracing him. What are they supposed to do? Hand him more ammo with a smile?

Coming to an end is Strontium Dog: The Killing Outlaw Part 10 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. The Osmong shoot-out doesn’t last long – Johnny uses his one remaining Number 3 cartridge to take out one behind cover and the other two are simpler shots. Watching events are the three Despots of Zed (always tempting to type Dictators of Zrag) who are aggrieved when Wulf and Johnny don’t duel each other. Rather than just leave, they walk up to the Despots to lecture them about how, as bounty hunters, they only hunt men who are guilty and not for the sake of killing “Ve do not do this. Is sick.” Now they’ve made their point it’s time to use Johnny’s secondary weapon – the time bomb – to make their escape. In an epilogue there’s a call back to that anti-personnel mine that Steelkreeg (deceased) planted that almost did for Johnny and Wulf, as the Despots go to carry out a ceremony to atone for the failed Killing ritual. “And that was the end of them.”

Tharg’s Droids No 10 in an Occasional Series: Art Robot Mike McMahon by Robin Smith – with Mike dressed in a very Sláine-esque fashion. I’m not at home as I write this and the version of Ogham that Pat has been using isn’t the standard, but when I’m back on my own computer I’ll have a go at getting the unicode for what’s written (I tried “mike mcmahon” and it doesn’t quite match up).

Grailpage: Mike McMahon, Sláine – an eagle flying overhead, wild cats watching from the dark forest, a bear hiding behind a (very slender) tree trunk and the four survivors of the crashed ship seen through the gnarled branches of an unknown forest (in context, they’ve passed over Lyonesse and the next story takes place around the Gower). In joint first place and on a totally different conceptual note, the centrepage opening to Haunting of Sector 9 by Brett Ewins. I’m not a fan of his earlier work but this is the middle of his golden period for me.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Pulger: “Heck, I thought you were attempting a disinformation strategy back there!” Chrysoprasia: “…and I thought you were just making everything up!” Ernest Errol Quinch: “S’right.”

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