2000AD Prog 369: Reward – one million creds! The Alpha gang… WANTED!

In case you hadn’t been paying attention, the cover show’s the line-up of the Alpha Gang (but where is Evans the First?) – the actual reward amount is… to be revealed in the first page of the story.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre and Brian Bolland’s Judge Fish takes the cover of the latest Eagle Comics Judge Dredd monthly reprint. Meanwhile Mountain Video giveaway means the picture of Tharg Orwell and Big Burt wins a double prize of £10 and a video of Frankenstein. Mountain Video apparently based at 45 New Oxford Street – not far from the all three locations of Forbidden Planet (for those familiar with the area – it was Gultronics for over a decade and a William Hill betting shop for another decade, though has recently closed). Meanwhile one reader liked the Rogue Trooper figure and Tharg reveals Sláine will be making an appearance in a couple of weeks.

Strontium Dog: Outlaw Part 7 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. How much is the Alpha Gang worth? 1,400,000 Cr. Antarctic Citizens watch on as mutant bounty-hunters arrive, on the hunt for the Alpha Gang. The Citizens looking not unlike a crowd scene of Mega-Citizens. We meet a whole load of Stronts, including Smelly, Egghead, Mantis, ‘Stretch Vatson’ (presumably Watson but in Wulf-speak), Batman, Tankbutt and a few others (un-named). Johnny states he hasn’t “reached the point where I’m willing to waste fellow Stronts in cold blood” – he’s killing Stronts two pages later though it could be argued they weren’t in cold blood – he gave them ample warning to back down… It caused a fair amount of noise though, and the bounty hunters are converging on Johnny, Wulf and Middenface’s position.

D.R. & Quinch 2000AD Star Pin-Up by Alan Davis. An internal poster page in full colour. The background is littered with references to the stories we’ve seen – a dinosaur or two from their first appearance, a video camera, the skull which Waldo held aloft when soliloquying, piranha fish, plastic explosive in the shape of a bar of soap, oranges and the omnipresent beer cans.

The Amazing Maze Dumoir Part 2 by Alan Hebden and Ian Gibson. The escape pod lands in a pool and it takes Maze four panels to remove her towel and go skinny-dipping. A woman after Ardeni Lakan’s own heart indeed! While Claw and Dumoir get to know the locals, Dumoir reveals she has a miniature distress beacon built in to her front tooth – it’s clear she’s no ordinary witness! I’m obviously influenced by Ian Gibson’s artwork, but I’m finding that Claw has a Sam Slade-style sense of events happening and his trying to keep up with what’s going on, always one step behind everybody else in the story (well, Slade has Hoagy – nobody’s ever one step behind the kit-built frog robot). Anyway, turns out that Dumoir is actually a special stellar agent set up as a witness in the hope that it draws out Van Kline’s motives. True enough, as the rescue ship appears it gets destroyed by Van Kline’s business partners and the pair are tractor beamed aboard. Taken to the captain of the alien ship they’re asked what they know about the deal – to which the reply was “Nothing, until you opened your fat mouth…” – now the deal’s confirmed Maze uses another hidden device to incapacitate all life forms, except humans… Something I didn’t mention – the aliens are from a class seven hothouse world, so it’s pretty warm in the ship – I mention this now as it’s Maze’s turn to undress Claw, so he doesn’t die of heat-stroke…

Judge Dredd: The Switch by T.B. Grover and Jim Baikie. First time Jim has worked on Dredd, but not the last. I think I’d already been introduced to the concept of Titan in one of the Dailly Dredd reprints in a Sci-Fi Special, but this would have been the first time I saw the penal colony in the prog. This starts off with a simple bank robbery – though one of the perps is competent enough to kill the first judge on the scene, and puts up a good fight against Dredd. Dredd is suspicious – the person responsible for this has no record and seems like a standard mega-citizen – certainly nothing to suggest the level of ability to hold his own against two judges. Under interrogation the only thing Dredd confirms is that he isn’t who he claims to be. Cue a new division of Justice Department which we haven’t seen before (or since?) – the Dream Police. The bank robber gets put in a tranq cube. While unconscious, he’s hooked up to the dream machine and the interrogators see his dreams – and they’re of a judge who was sentenced to twenty years on a corruption charge four years earlier. A body scanner discovers that the disguised former Judge Dana does not have an appendix (apparently all judge cadets have their appendix chemically dissolved on entrance to the Academy of Law) while the mega-citizen does have an appendix. Now Dredd has a case, Dana cracks and is taken to Titan. Dredd also offers some small consolation to the wrongly-imprisoned citizen in that Dana’s sentence will be for life (though a few things have happened on Titan in the thirty-six years since this story was published, so what he’s actually up to these days is under question).

Alan Hebden is back as he writes Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Hey, Buddy, Can you Spare a Major Credit Card? drawn by Mones (seems to be a one-off art droid). This is a pretty prescient satire on user-friendly automated devices – specifically the type that run you through loads of irrelevant options before you find out they don’t have the one you actually want and that they’ve just wasted your time. In this case a trucker wants to make a quick all home and encounters a phone booth which presents seven panels of spiel about how friendly and advanced it is before revealing that it doesn’t actually take money. A classic case of technology designed to handle one obstacle (not always having coins to pay for a phone call) by only accepting major credit cards and bank codes but ignoring other obstacles like not having a credit card. It also hasn’t been designed to handle irate truckers with 15 ton trucks. Two and a half pages, the other half page taken up by…

…the Tharg fighting off Thrill-Suckers reservation coupon.

Competition Results Service! for the Activision caption competition from Prog 345 and the Crime-Fighting competition from Prog 357. The only name I recognise is Mark Harrison but this one is from Scarborough and as far as I can tell, White Dwarf artist and future art droid Mark Harrison is from the West Midlands.

Rogue Trooper: Message from Milli-Com – Part 1 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Very topical right now, but thirty-six years ago this story introduced me to the word furlough (though the Souther’s underground rest and recreation zone is called Furlow in this story). A krono-tower and Bagman’s dialogue suggest that the date is July five in a year beginning with the number ’20’ (the clock is, of course, damaged sufficiently that the last two digits can’t be clearly seen, but could be a 5, 6, 8 or 9 and an 8 or 9 giving a date range from 2058 to 2099 – one for the continuity buffs. Like me). Rogue rests Gunnar on a bit of ruined masonry, seemingly just so he can then use telekinesis to pick Gunnar up again when he spots a Nort cannon post. Something we find is that June five (yes, it was July five the previous page so it’s anybody’s guess what the actual date is) is State-of-the-South day – the anniversary of the beginning of the war. Bagman tunes in to the comsat special bulletins to find that their role in the Gasbah story has been excised from victory reports, but there’s a lot of static. Except it isn’t static, as we can probably guess as it got mentioned in the first place! It’s a secret message in a genetic code – a pattern sending a text message, basically. Whomever sent the message knows which buttons to press as it says “We are neither general nor genetic engineer” along with Milli-fuzz, everybody on the Souther side that the G.I.s wouldn’t trust. It asks for Rogue to meet with the mysterious senders at the afore-mentioned rest-and-recreation zone – the type of recreation on offer can be encapsulated by the following exchange: “Hey, baby! I just stepped off the shuttle with a week’s pass – and two years’ back-pay in my pocket!” “Well… hi, handsome!” That’s all flavour text though – Rogue keeps his rendezvous (R.V. in military slang) and enters a dark room in an Officers’ Club. The lights get switched on to find four captains with guns trained on him. Next prog: an officer and a geneticman! (nice pun)

The inside back cover sees adverts for Big K (leaving the Ian Gibson comic promo behind and going for the covers by an unfamiliar artist) and the next prog out on 26 – 5 – 84 – Hup! (mixing up dates and those codes that American Football coaches shout at their teams).

We should have known from the colour interior page for the D.R. & Quinch pin-up that the back cover would be given to an advert – this one for Brian Weetabix Writes a Message. More puns, this time mixing up ‘filling’ breakfasts and ‘falling’ breakfasts.

Grailpage: it’s been quite tricky lately – the art has been great from all or most artists in each individual prog, but there haven’t been any real stand-out pages. This time I’ll go for Carlos’ cover – I presume he also did the lettering on the word WANTED! as it has his trademark jagged edge around the letters. Shame Evans the Fist didn’t make it onto the cover.

Grailquote: Alan Hebden, Maze Dumoir: “They’ll be out for hours. Seal the bridge and then tie ’em up, Claw. I’ll set course for Earth.” Jebel Claw (thought bubble): “I’m beginning to feel a little out-classed..!”

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