It seems like ages since Belardinelli made it on to the cover and this time it’s to re-introduce (or introduce in my case) Ace Garp to squaxx.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre has one reader point out that Worm’s Head Island is surrounded by strong tidal waters, which wasn’t shown in Sláine: Dragon Heist. Rather than point out that the story takes place before the flood, Tharg just blames the droids. There’s a token for the free comics from Skips, plus an early advert for this year’s annuals from Forbidden Planet (to be despatched by 25th August).
Strontium Dog: Outlaw Part 16 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Middenface comes around, saved from death by the padding of his money belt. The Och-11 community plays along, wiring a death certificate to the Doghouse, just in time for the Stix Brothers to arrive with the still unconscious Alpha. Getting their pay-off, ‘Norman King’ puts Johnny in a lead-lined room, attaches electrodes and starts torturing him. When he comes around, King reveals his true identity… I only remember two more scenes from this story and can’t remember how the story ties one to the other – looking forward to it!
New Trans Formers. I don’t know if you’ve heard of these? They’re a bit like Robo Machines (as were featured on the cover of 2000AD about a year earlier). These ones are rather more expensive.
The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson is on its third episode and Rodice is sat on a holographic map of the Hoop while Brinna makes a shopping list. Meanwhile Halo is bemoaning her situation. To be fair, this would be like planning to pop down the shops while a riot was taking place in the local town centre. It’s really subtle – in fact I think the only reason I’m aware of it is because I read about it in a feature in an external fanzine from the eighties – but the shopping list is entirely vegan and features chickpeas, brown rice, soy and algae based foodstuffs, though mixed in with suitably spacey and futuristic consumer brands. Possibly the most notable thing about the first book of Halo Jones is the world-building (including all the slang and futurespeak). This is the most world-heavy episode to date – not only Brinna’s shopping list but also a quick intro to the Hoop’s concourse and a few little nuggets like a minute containing a hundred seconds – I wonder how many minutes there are in an hour? Or hours in a day? 04:90 is given as a time, so presumably time has been decimalised. Language-wise the Hoop has a strong Germanic influence – if not German itself then from Danish or Dutch, having signs on the wall saying “Ingāng strovag melle-” and a corrupted saying “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglae” (Rodice doesn’t know what ‘mice’ is – but they’re familiar with rats – which can talk, apparently). After this, they’re interrupted when Swifty Frisko (digital newscaster) cries “Wuxtry!” – which is an early 20th century term equivalent to “Extra!” The Clara Pandy has been saved from the scrapyard by Lux Roth Chop. I’m not convinced that the general Hoop citizenry are actually that concerned about this – but like Mega-citizens, any excuse for a riot (or hoop riot, as Toby puts it). Oh, and Toby didn’t want to go along on the shopping trip anyway, preferring to stay with Brinna…
Another page, another advert, and another repeat of an advert at that – this being the one for the Lone Wolf gamebooks – there was a Spectrum 48k computer game or two on their way as well. I’ve seen screenshots and it looks pretty good for the era.
Ace Trucking Co. by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. My introduction to the character. I’d have had no idea what was going on, but I would surely have recognised Belardinelli’s artwork. It starts on the planet Eieio (say it out loud, one letter at a time – then follow it up with the system the planet is in – Heera-Kwaq) as Garp is facing trial for causing an affray in the slop queue. Rather than sit through the trial, Ace breaks free and then breaks the window – and as the scene from the cover is recreated…
…we switch to Judge Dredd: Dredd Angel Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Bit odd to split up the return of a long-absent character by an entirely different continuing story, but then it’s easy to criticise when you’ve never tried to schedule the pages of different series in a weekly comic (but I shall continue to do so). Starting from the wreckage of the crashed hover freighter, Dredd and Mean head off to the nearest settlement to ask around. The town gets the typical mean guys (small ‘m’) arriving in town treatment but before long the ‘head boys’ (because they butt heads but are also run things) call Mean out of the saloon. The head boys being Jesse, Frank and Cole, collectively the Goat brothers and named after prominent members of the James-Younger Gang (most famous member Jesse James). The end of the episode is a four-way butt between (as the narrative puts it) “four of the New West’s most feared buttists”.
…and back to the escape attempt as Ace lands on a fruit seller’s cart, followed be Feek and a new character, Evil Blood. And then they clear the area for G-B-H to crash through the wall and obliterate what’s left of the cart. As they commandeer a garbage skiff we get another interruption, this time for…
Play Sherbert Trek – a competition involving Barratt Sherbet Fountain, Dib-Dabs, Orangeade and Lemonade Dipper, Big Dipper (don’t remember this one) and Danger Mouse Lick ‘n’ Dip (which I really don’t remember).
Back to the escape (again) and Ace drives the truck to the police vehicle pound. Time for a Belardinelli cameo and possibly the strangest one yet as his head appears on a dead fish from the garbage truck! As they all argue about how Garp got them all sent down (instead of, say, finding Speedo Ghost) the Jeepies catch up with them…
Rogue Trooper: Just Routine by Gerry Finley-Day and Trevor Goring. A complete change of pace next – not just from what else is in this prog but also from any Rogue Trooper stories we’ve had before. Messing with time isn’t unique to the Ballad of Halo Jones as we find out (for the first time?) that a Nu Earth day is fifty hours long – we’re not given any clue whether that’s normal Earth length hours though. Assuming the day depicted in this episode is normal, preceded and proceeded by other days exactly the same, Rogue sleeps for five out of those fifty hours. Nu Earth never gets properly mapped, but we do know that after the Neverglades Rogue headed for the East hemisphere of the planet. Trev’s artwork is good but not great – he depicts the quiet moments between Rogue and the chips well but not so much those that demand sci-fi vehicles and equipment.
Grailpage: I was tempted by the last page of this week’s Halo Jones (Swifty at the top of the page, the Hoop concourse and an impending Hoop Riot taking out the other four-fifths) but instead I’m going for the first page of Halo Jones by Ian Gibson – also having Swifty Frisko at the top in front of a sketchy pic of the outside of Brinna’s hab unit and three of the four human inhabitants sat around the glowing holo map of the Hoop.
Grailquote: TB Grover, barkeep: “Rotgut, M-m-mr Angel! On the house!” Mean Machine Angel: “Izzat so? Nobody gives me rotgut on the house less’n I asks ’em ta gimme rotgut on the house!” CRAKKK! “Two rotguts – on the house!”