2000AD Prog 374: Hot lead – cold justice! “This is the law!”

I wouldn’t want to disparage Robin Smith’s artwork, but getting the art editor to provide a cover featuring a Judge Dredd pose we’ve seen a few times before makes it look like he had to rustle something up at the last minute…

Tharg’s Nerve Centre – one earthlet boasts of reading 2000AD “at 30,000 feet in a plane on holiday”. Tharg’s response? “why did you spend your holiday in a plane?” Oh, and that G*1 boardgame gets another teeny advert.

Strontium Dog: Outlaw Part 12 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Surrounded on all sides by incoming Stronts, how will (half of) the Alpha Gang escape? With a deus ex machina courtesy of Spud Murphy and Big Eddie. Laying down some gas grenades the pair get Alpha, McNulty and Sternhammer to the starliner (which didn’t end up engulfing anybody in fire as I’d expected). They eject the crew and radio spaceport control, requesting emergency take-off due to all that commotion outside – the starliner belongs to some big-shot so it’s granted. Before heading spacewards they go to pick up the other three. Who are having adventures of their own as mutant bounty hunters Egghead, Mantis and Stretch Watson are putting down the river on a boat, burning out every muskrox burrow large enough to hide the outlaw stronts. It’s not exactly subtle and luckily for Frinton Fuzz, Evans and the Torso also leaves them exposed in the middle of the river. One explosion later and they’re in the river, a little later and the muskrox are giving them some payback. One bite on the fuel tanks for the flamepack and things get even more explosive…

Tharg’s Time Twisters by Jack Adrian and Belardinelli. As there’s not title for this story in this prog, I’ll go with the largest, boldest words on the first page “If you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time”. Reading not unlike Mr Macabre from the previous year Harris, a businessman, signs a contract without reading the small print. Unlike the previous story this has a more realistic ten years to become the richest man in the world by way of a magic watch which has six turns an allows limited time travel. He also doesn’t get his own copy of the contract, so can’t get people with electron microscopes to read the small print (though he does get told that the owner of the watch will reclaim their property after ten years). Like the other tale, the bit he didn’t read means that his soul is forfeit. Luckily for Harris he still has one more use of the watch left. Not so luckily, travelling through time won’t break the contract of the owner of said watch. The last four panels are copies of the first four panels, showing Harris missing his train and being approached by the devilish bargain-maker, the only time we’ve seen Belardinelli using the photocopy approach to comic-making.

A Future-Shock by any other name The Ghost Outside the Machine comes from Pete Milligan and Casanovas. Going from supernatural bargains leading to temporary riches to a story about an attempt at riches foiled by (apparent) supernatural events… One prospector, overcome by greed, kills his fellow prospector as they head to exchange their haul of the most precious mineral ever discovered. The shooting takes place as the victim has suited up, life-support umbilical coiled around his shoulder to check out some meteor damage on the exterior of the ship. Closing the airlock he carries on his journey and feels a glimmer of remorse, though this is interrupted by a tapping at the window as he sees his friend’s face outside. It disappears as he accelerates, but not for long. By the time a police cruiser approaches he’s ready to confess all. What’s the twist? The police have seen ‘frinium madness’ previously, but this is the first time they’ve seen somebody drag the body halfway across the galaxy (remember the life support umbilical?)

Judge Dredd: The Wreckers – Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. We’re introduced to Sector 27, and the wreckers. ‘Ordinary’ citizens, they suit up in balaclavas and attack vehicles travelling through the war-ravaged sector before melting in to the ruins and returning to their homes. After an example of this, Chief Judge McGruder calls in Dredd to lead an operation to clean up the sector. The episode ends in a way that begs for you to read it out in a gruff voice. McGruder says: “Clean out the wreckers!”, Dredd responds: “Consider ’em cleaned!”

This readergraph spread has a long title – deep breath – The End (well, not really the end; more like a temporary postponement) of the Golden Age! Yet again, Tharg alludes to the Command Module running out of money – tellingly UK unemployment had hit it’s highest ever rate of 3.3 million this summer.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: You Win Some, You Lose Some… by Alan Hebden and Ian Gibson. Earth has been at war against an alien race and isn’t doing well. They’ve got some new weapons, but they haven’t been tested and if they fail then the alien race will conquer Earth. There’s just one hope – a spatial re-locator. With this the Earth Council hides the Earth across the other side of the universe, the location memorised by just one person, General Bull. General Bull doesn’t look to healthy, by the way… From the title – what gets won? The war! What gets lost? The Earth, when General Bull has a heart attack while trying to type in the co-ordinates… Nice idea, Earth Council, but perhaps you shouldn’t have entrusted the Earth’s location to just the one person – this story may as well have been called Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket.

Rogue Trooper: Message from Milli-Com – 6: Rank and Vile! by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Things come to a head. Captain Coogan is to attack the ‘Nort’ summit from one flank on land while Rogue will swim on the other. Before they part ways, Coogan requests his dead comrades dog-tags, which slip through Rogue’s fingers from the camo-mud. Bagman manages to catch them before they drop in to the swamp. I’m sure that won’t be mentioned again in a future episode. Seeing a patrol checking out some birds which fried themselves against a force field, the reveal happens – the summit is of Southers, not Norts! It’s not an assassination run on Nort generals but a coup by the captains against Milli-Com. Coogan has also warned the summit that Rogue’s out there…

A second advert for the Sci-Fi Special (which I covered yesterday), a preview of the next prog featuring art by Alan Davis and an advert featuring a bumper selection of badges (most of which I have, somewhere).

Ian Gibosn provides a poster, our best view yet of Halo Jones, not to mention Rodice, and Brinna.

Grailpage: I couldn’t decide between them, so I’m picking both Steve Dillon’s introduction to the wreckers as a driver passes the Justice Department warning signs, sees other drivers peeling off to take the safer detour and fears the worst (which happens in the last panel). The other page is Cam Kennedy’s big reveal of the Souther patrol, watched on by a camouflaged Rogue in a circular panel.

Grailquote: I’m not sure they’re good quotes, but they’re notable – it’s a trio from this week’s Strontium Dog episode, showing a bit of each of the constituent nations of the UK. Alan Grant (and John Wagner) take a similar attitude to the other nations as they do to their native Scotland with Middenface McNulty: “Jings! My auld pal – Spud Murphy!” Spud Murphy: “Sure now, that’s a long story, Johnny boy.” Barrington Boots’ crew member: “I say! You can’t come on here!” Evans the Fist: “Relax, boyo. It’s only Torso!”

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