2000AD Prog 391: Q: What does a dinosaur call a Helltrek? HRRRAAIII! A: Meals on Wheels!

Robin Smith provides the a Helltrekkers cover – I’m liking his rendition of the tyrannosaurs!

Tharg’s Nerve Centre opens with an unexpected tribute to Albert Robida – a French artist considered to be an early pioneer of sci-fi / steampunk style illustrations, from before either term had been invented. Tharg says he suggested a tribute to the illustrator though I suspect Bryan Talbot probably came up with that on his own, following his research into Victorian illustration for Luther Arkwright. Somebody from an RAF base requests a flight sergeant-proof prog (as it keeps going missing) and requests a sticker for the Zap Board. Like me, Tharg wants to know what a Zap Board is. Meanwhile another earthlet suggests that creative droids from 2000AD are heavy metal fans, largely based around album art and lyrics from Tank (Brett Ewins drew the cover to Filth Hounds of Hades).

Rogue Trooper: To the Ends of Nu Earth – Part 5 by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. The narration box claims that Rogue has been hunting the Traitor General for three long years – as discussed in Fort Neuro – very long years, by my count they must have taken at least a decade! Rogue finally overhears the biochips betraying him (for some reason they have to synthi-whisper out loud as well as transmitting Rogue’s position to the master chip). He ditches the equipment, Gunnar landing in exactly the right position to start shooting at him. He dodges and then it’s Bagman’s turn to cast grenades in his general direction. One explosion later and a droid is sent to retrieve Rogue’s chip. A droid retrieves a chip, but we don’t see whose it is…

Over the page is a Judge Dredd Action Figure! with art by Robin Smith – a paper cut-out to be mounted on card, often called a standee these days.

Star Shadow (an advert for Dungeons & Dragons) from Graeme Morris and Tim Sell. A Whisper in Dark Places has the hooded figure from the end of the previous episode attack – it’s a were-rat. This was trailed as a story featuring a competition at the end so I skipped ahead just to make sure there is a competition (I remembered the story but not that there was a competition). There is, so I’m going to continue trying to remember as I go along – this will be a difficult one as it features made-up names: Klas Bara was the hooded non-were-rat from last episode, son of Gahl Turs and Warrior of the Great Plains. After having dismissed the were-rat by saying “Belerion” he monologues about an expository history featuring an Arkenstone-like gem (the ice gem) and it’s twin (the gem of night) and asks whether Morwyn and Matt will allow him to lead them to the location of the gem of night (hint – the next episode is called “The Journey Begins”).

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. I suspect the bacteriological scene is based on Robida’s picture of Paris (the flying machine, at any rate). But first Nemesis uses a bit of levitation and fisticuffs to escape the Goths and is led by Ro-Jaws in to the sewers (he used to explore ’em on his days off). Concentrating his psychic powers on Torquemada’s conspirators he sees a vision of the death of Queen Victoria and realises their plan to unbalance the Empire allowing the Hellfire Club to take over. Tagging along with Nemesis, Ro-Jaws reminisces about an earlier time when life was all action, and wonders what happened to Hammerstein. Scene-change! So, Hammerstein re-enlisted when the Terminators reformed the old robot armies, getting his old head repaired (suggesting he’s continued for thousands of years with his face-head hanging from his waist while wearing the Ro-Busters head). Some ‘new’ robots are introduced: Mad Ronn; Hitaki and Skulmo. Don’t get too attached to them! Despite the pseudo-Victorian trappings, the aftermath of a manoeuvre shares more in common with US war crimes in Korea and Vietnam (such as the Mỹ Lai massacre) when Skullmo slaughters unarmed native Goths. Speaking of which, those native Goths are the one view we get of Goths before being contaminated by Terran radio signals and converting in to ‘humans’. As with Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein reminisces about the old days, but his head having been battered by ‘a hundred campaigns’ he can’t remember Ro-Jaws’ name. The thing I like most about this episode is the concept of ageing robots stripping the dead Skullmo for spares – this idea that robots pretty much from our time are still active millennia from now, surviving by replacing components and adapting to whatever societies rise and fall in the intermediate time. Shame they never got to realise their dream of Free-Dome on Saturn Six – or did they, perhaps there’s still a golden city on the moon, in the home system of the Termight Empire, somehow hidden from Terminator eyes?

Battle Action Force gets another advert, above an ad for the Judge Dredd Annual 1985 (probably leading to my nagging my parents to get it for me for christmas). Nestled in the corner are the covers to the Titan Books reprints of The Apocalypse War, both covers by King Carlos (not done any justice by being reprinted in tiny black and white thumbnails).

Judge Dredd: The Wally Squad! – Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Brett Ewins and McCarthy (presumably Brendan rather than Jim – I think I saw a bit of Brendan’s style last prog too). The arms dealers are definitely from Peru (guess the mention of Brazil last prog was some racist comment). They’re from the Andean Conglom. Before the undercover judges can bust the dealers (Benson being shown the merchandise while Darth keeps hold of the cash) the pair are separately ambushed by the Andean Conglomers. Fortunately for Benson he was only stabbed and manages to survive long enough for the judges to arrive. In the Undercover Div med bay Dredd confirms that the undercover judge went too deep undercover and no longer thinks like a judge, out for revenge. The best page is where one of the Peruvians takes a dive out of the window to avoid being interrogated – there’s a nice silhouette of the block followed by an aerial view of the vertiginous drop below.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: 60 Hours That Shook the World! by P Milligan and R Jones (Brendan McCarthy). Should rightly be a Time Twister, though that would give away the shock… A new weapon is tested on a model city but has an unintended side-effect, a hold (seemingly) through an interdimensional wall. Seeing the possibilities of another Earth in which to expand their overcrowded Earth, the General in charge sends through some strangle bombs to clear it and make space, the chemicals rotting the tissue of the residents. The shock is that it isn’t a parallel Earth but the same Earth a few days in to the future. There’s a few plot holes here – the first is, why would the scientist head back to get killed? The second is, why does the scientist see the bodies of the General and the scientist in the future, when their tissue should have been rotted? Appart from those niggles, the story is good enough for a Future-Shock with some memorable images and claustrophobic scenes as the scientist explores the post-strangle bomb world.

The Action Man Annual 1985 gets a half-page ad. It says it’s packed with excitement though reveals there’s only two stories – the rest being features, quiz and othe rfiller.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia carries on from last prog as a helltrekker melts in the acid rain. While the main trek rests up in a deserted township the action switches to a wagon which was left behind while repairs were carried out. Or from the view of the trailing tyrannosaurs, stragglers ready to be picked off. There’s a rare example of humour (uncharacteristically absent from most of the series, considering F Martin Candor is actually Wagner and Grant) as Crustacia takes her first steps (or rather scuttle)… backwards.

Rogue Trooper: Nu Earth Combat Zone File Closed – is the next prog tag for the end of the series of stories which began in Prog 228. There’s more stories coming after that, but I’ll give my take on them when we get to them (I could do with a refresher as well). Oh, and there’s another reservation coupon as well.

The back cover gets an eighties-tastic Transformers advert (Only the heroic Autobots can save Earth!) This one gets names: Sideswipe; Ratchet; Hound; Mirage; Bluestreak and Jazz.

Grailpage: There’s so many good pages from this prog, but I’m going for the one I’ve already mentioned – the Peruvian taking a dive and hitting the skedway far below, by Brett Ewins (and maybe some McCarthy in there as well).

Grailquote: F Martin Candor, Futura Glemp: “Oh, Bish! Isn’t she clever!” Bish Glemp: “Why’s she goin’ backwards?” Futura Glemp: “All babies go backwards at first. I think…”

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