2000AD Prog 390: £ivers and Tenners to be Won Every Week! “Biggest collection of oddballs I’ve ever seen… and they’re all JUDGES!” The Wally Squad!

Brett’s back, with a slightly more colourful cover than the last (I think it was the On Yer Bike cover for the Haunting of Sector House 9). We’ve had judges in disguise before, but I think this is the first time we’ve met those going deep undercover.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is all about the storage (once a warning about keeping safe around bonfire night is out of the way) as a Krill Tro Thargo goes to a pair of terrans for saving progs for their friend for two years, an earthlet is ordered to share their stash of progs with their sister (as long as they’re treated with care and respect), another is advised to contact said sister (who has the ability to pick locks to get to the earlier stash) and finally an earthlette (I thought we’d ditched the sexist designation?) prompts Tharg to ask for storage suggestions.

Rogue Trooper: To the Ends of Nu Earth Part 4 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Having the Traitor General (and the mobile Mainframe) commanding robots we effectively get a round-up of most of the types of robots we’ve encountered on Nu Earth so far (actually a pretty short list, generic and surgical droids plus robe-runners, but missing out those tall robots from Fort Neuro). He escapes a few waves of droids and escapes back to the Ghost Trenches. In case you were wondering if the mainframe that can control circuitry can also control the biochips. Yes, it can – and below the sound of explosions are the sound of synthesised voices giving away Rogue’s position to the TG.

2000AD Star Fry-Up: Princess Gadarina by Massimo Belardinelli. Strange choice for a pin-up, but well executed (as you’d expect from Massimo). Some great details including flora, a cameo of Ace (looking suitably dispirited) and a Belardinelli-caricatured creature (I’m not even sure what class or order of animal it is – in addition to the familiar bearded head it has a vaguely dinosaur body, long tail and feathery wings).

Star Shadow: The Ice Gem by Graeme Morris and Tim Sell. This Dungeons & Dragons advert gets to the “den of thieves and pirates” called Darkhaven (I’m expecting it to be like Mos Eisley). Matt messes about with their valuable treasure (almost like it was a ring that he was fiddling with) but while Morwyn creates a distraction as he retrieves it a hooded figure in a dark corner watches, not fooled by the distraction (there’s no clue the hood is a ranger from the North, in case you’re wondering). They leave and are followed…

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. This opens with a space battle scene which bears little relevance to the actual episode, but does offer an excuse for Pat to insert a parody of a Great War quote from Admiral David Beatty – “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today” becomes “What’s the matter with our blasted ships today?” – this is a reference I only got thirty-six years after I first read it when preparing for my appearance on Eamonn’s podcast earlier this year. The narrative sets the battle between Torquemada and Nemesis as Whitechapel in Alien-London, so I’ll call the capital of Britannia that from now on, to avoid confusion. Or maybe Goth-London if I forget what it’s called. Speaking of which – the spaceships are very Victorian Gothic versions of standard starships, which will surely be more than a little influential in the creation of Warhammer 40K a few years down the line. Torque is set alight by a Warlockian fireball and runs screaming in to the night while Starblower duels with Nem to prevent him from following. Not concerned by the swordfight, Nemesis takes the opportunity to psychically scan the surface thoughts of the Goth discovering the existence of the Hellfire Club – young Goths dedicated to reorganising their society based on late 20th century radio broadcasts from Earth instead of early 20th century broadcasts. Things I spotted from before the 1960s: Groucho Marx; film noir / Humphrey Bogart; Marilyn Monroe; Marlene Dietrich; teddy boy. 1960s: generic hippie, mop-top Beatle; black and white mod dress. 1970s: Ziggy Stardust; a punk or two. 1980s: The Tube. This appearance inspired me to start watching the programme when I was old enough to stay up that late – meaning I managed to catch an appearance by Alan Moore when he appeared on the youth culture series in 1988. Ah-hah – the Fringe Worlds Express poster from Kevin O’Neill featured (without explanation) an aerial whip connecting with an anti-gravity transmitter – we only had to wait a couple of years for a tiny narration box to explain what this was.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: The Castaway! by Pete Milligan and Geoff Senior is a one-pager showing a malfunctioning ship computer (that’s the last panel twist) who’s lamenting his position as only survivor, the humans dead for two years. Makes a change from a malfunctioning computer which doesn’t realise its charges are dead.

Adverts for Battle Action Force (possibly one I bought at the time – it looks a little familiar) and a 2000AD reservation coupon.

Judge Dredd: The Wally Squad Part 1 by T.B. Grover and Brett Ewins. We’re introduced to a couple of shady characters who it’s revealed are Mega-City judges. They’re setting up a major arms deal. In the Mega-City this means literal arms – because they’re body sharks. Nine-year-old me didn’t get that this was a pun on the weapons type of arms. Nice justice eagle narration box from Brett on this one. The incoming arms smugglers are from Peru – not sure we’ve ever seen or heard any more about Peru than in this story. All we find out is that there are purges involving the left and right (it’s not entirely clear if this is political or literal left and right arms). Or possibly all that but Brazil… Looks like the two undercover judges are making to go it alone, which is how Dredd gets involved, putting the pair under surveillance…

Ace Trucking Co.: Strike Four! by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. This story probably introduced me to the word Ouroboros (even if it doesn’t go in to any detail on the concept). It also has a planet called Tubifaxa – presumably named after tubifex – also known as the sludge worm or sewage worm – yum! Ace Trucking Co is actually making a profit for the first time, though Ace isn’t happy about it (largely because he’s the one member of the crew who isn’t getting paid). He formulates a plan using a secret stash of byms, paying somebody off to get drunk with the crew and spinning them a false tale about the worm planet and another planet where worms are prized as food.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Another episode, another map opening (accompanied by a page from Lucas’ logbook). The trek heads to Terra Haute Rift (apparently around Indiana and affected by acid rain from Canada – meaning Sauron Valley would be somewhere around present-day Indiana). Just in case there was ever any doubt, we’re told explicitly that a ‘kay’ is future-speak for ‘kilometre’. Rollo Peterson finds their mopad does not cope with acid rain very well and has to be dragged by one of the radwagons. This affords him a view of a radwagon which slides down a landslip, exploding and spewing forth one survivor, who promptly melts in the acid rain. As Lucas says, the second day out he finds out why they call them Helltreks.

More adverts, this time for the Tucker’s Luck annual and The Grange Hill annual taking the top of the page while Forbidden Planet advertises the Eagle reprint of the Judge Child Quest (Brian Bolland’s pic of Old Blind Joe and Kevin O’Neill’s Nemesis atop a pile of corpses) sharing the bottom with a next prog box and ‘Spaceline: The recorded information for skywatchers and space enthusiasts” from British Telecom (I’m guessing this is some kind of spin-off from The Sky at Night).

And the back page has an advert for road safety.

Grailpage: for the second week, Nemesis the Warlock and Bryan Talbot’s psychic scan of the Hellfire Club, plus Torque’s phantasmal form win the grailpage spot.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Starblower: “The devil take you, sir!” Nemesis: “That would be rather difficult…” love the inference that Nemesis is either a devil or the devil!

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