2000AD Prog 361: Sláine …Enter the Dragon!

Ian Gibson introduces us to dragons in Sláine (and possibly a first for 2000AD as well, can’t remember any dragons appearing prior to this cover). We don’t know what we’re seeing yet, but the prey of the dragon is in ‘dragon-vision’. This was the first prog to be sold for 22p.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has an earthlet trying to get in to next year’s Killing (main weapon a rolled-up prog and permitted additional weapon a British Rail ham sandwich). Tharg bans the use of 2000AD in this way but is impressed by the secondary weapon.

Sláine: Dragon Heist – Part 1 by Pat Mills and Massimo Belardinelli starts as all good fantasy does – with a map! Not only that, but the map is on the wing of a dragon! Two things – first is that I’m still on holiday and was watching a history programme while having breakfast yesterday (I already mentioned this in yesterday’s blog post) and the prehistory of the Gower came up – something else that came up was Rebellion’s Jason Kingsley and two of his horses (pulling a Boadicea chariot). Second thing is that Mills and Belardinelli’s dragons are one of the earliest depictions of dragons I ever came across and I still rate them as highly as any other I’ve seen. There’s the odd piece of draconic artwork by a different artist that I like but none match the combination of words and pictures in this story for me. That declaration of bias out of the way, the story starts as Gwawl the Youngest runs from the silhouette of a dragon. The narrative is in third-person omniscient and lets us know a bit about Gwawl and his mother Kicva, then switches to the un-named dragon, who we’re told was alive in the old days of ice and how the current cold weather (remember those ice mountains from Slough Feg’s plan?) is making it feel young and alive again. If McMahon likes to put a bit of wildlife in the landscapes then it’s nothing to Belardinelli and we get a gallery of night creatures of the forest (an owl with mouse in beak, a stoaty-weaselly thing and a wild cat). The rest of this introduction to dragons covers the rest of the hunt and the death of Gwawl, and that dragons (basically) see in infra-red and screaming releases a cloud of heat which appears gold to the dragon, sending them in to a feeding frenzy. Meanwhile, the larger story continues as Sláine and Ukko hit Cambria, the Land of the Red Dragons, in a coach accompanied by a typically lavish Belardinelli landscape. This time the narration is much reduced and is from Ukko’s point of view, still puzzling over who had saved them from Crom Cruach’s worms. There’s a gag about how the pair are wearing winter woolies (Sláine is wearing a very slight vest). We meet Cador the Dodman, a druid engineer who we’ll see more of in a later story, Nest who has studied druidary at the college at Durrington, who we’ll see a lot of in this story and later stories and finally the afore-mentioned Kicva, a fish-wifie. The coach is halted on the way (cue another Belardinelli landscape, complete with foreground owl). It’s the sons of Kicva, stopping the coach to relay the news of Gwawl’s death. Kicva immediately blames Nest (did I mention that her father owned a dragon farm before his death?) but the other passengers in the coach aren’t interested – in that time (as Ukko tells us) the rule was an eye for an eye, and it was perfectly acceptable for three grown men to snatch a teenage girl and kill her if they thought her family were responsible for a death. Sláine has an idea though – if she owns a dragon then he could get back to his tribe much quicker – there’s an idea, maybe he will save her life after all.

Rogue Trooper: You Only Die Twice – Part 4 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Contrary to the previous week’s episode, the re-gened Gunnar speaks in normal speech balloons rather than the distinctive biochip synth balloons. Rogue is suspicious of the new Gunnar and Bagman runs a scan to confirm he isn’t a) a robot and b) a Nort. They have a flashback to that time that Gunnar was killed (two weeks earlier) but what is presented is not what we saw already. Gunnar explains that his nullified chip was later discovered by body looters who sold it to Milli-Com. The tense situation is interrupted by another Nort hopper and Gunnar demonstrates a further ability as he uses telekinesis to get hold of his rifle. Gunnar tells them they have to rendezvous with a shuttle though only Rogue remembers the Traitor General and that they’re all officially deserters.

It’s the 1980s so there’s an advert for a new BMX magazine.

Meanwhile Earthlet Programs for Success! (Mighty Micro Page Extra) has news of squaxx John Pickford having his first computer game published by Virgin Games. The game was Ghost Town for the Spectrum 48K.

Judge Dredd: The Haunting of Sector House 9 – Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Brett Ewins. The supernatural events continue and the Head of Psi-Division, Judge Omar, is brought in but has no more luck than Psi-Judge Geller. We get two Brett specials as a photocopied zoom-in of Omar converses with a close-up of Dredd’s badge. With no further leads to act on (though Omar reveals there’s a mix of living and dead aspects) Dredd tries to surreptitiously clear the Sector House. It works, for a while, and then the ploy is noticed and the disembodied mouth steps things up a level, tearing the building apart. Dredd, Omar and Patel escape on lawmasters from the mid-level bike pool and Dredd adapts his catchphrase with “Damned if I’ll let some jumped-up spook kick us out of our own sector house! We’re the law in this city!”

In a piece of fantastically well-placed advertising, Scream! No 1 follows up the ghostly Sector House 9. As I mentioned in a previous post, I hadn’t managed to get a copy of this issue at the time as they all sold out, though I managed to buy the others, until it merged with Eagle.

This got mentioned in the Nerve Centre and I was wondering if this page would actually be in my prog as I know I constructed one of these. The Rogue Trooper Action Figure! is a glue-to-a-piece-of-card-and-cut-out standee figure by Robin Smith with slot-on Bagman, Gunnar and Helm. Shame there’s no master-blaster to switch out the weapons to match the current storyline…

The free Emperor advert from Palitoy gets its third airing.

Tharg the Mighty in The Challenge by Eric Bradbury (writer not credited as it all really happened, right). We’ve often seen challenges to Tharg in the pages of the Nerve Centre and this tells what happens when Tharg meets one of the challenges. He doesn’t immediately go in to god-mode and even sustains some damage – but even that damage (to the rosette of Sirius) is used to channel the pain towards the telepathic opponent. Near the orbit of Pluto is a menagerie of former opponents, all defeated and (attempting to act as) a warning to others not to challenge the mighty one.

Finally we’re at the back page and The Weetabix and the Neetweetometer. The Weetabix gang use the device of the title to test breakfasts while blindfolded – the first is a titchy breakfast and crumples before it. The second is much more solid but as they remove their blindfolds they find they hit the wall instead of the cereal box…

Grailpage: I like the landscapes and natural flora and fauna of Belardinelli’s Sláine though the page I’m ending up picking is the one with the dragon-vision view of Gwawl as the dragon catches and kills him. If the Visible Man had been drawn by Belardinelli…

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Kicva: “It’s so cold!” Ukko: Me and Sláine… we’ve got our winter-woolies on!” (works best in context of Sláine still being dressed in scanty barbarian garb).

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