2000AD Prog 392: Target: Traitor General – revenge for Rogue Trooper! “There’s the murderer!” “I see him!” “FIRE!”

At a guess I’d have said this cover was by Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy, though Barney only credits Brett. Considering the main quest of Rogue and the biochips for the three years they’ve appeared has been to hunt down the Traitor General, it’s only fair that the TG gets on to the cover, along with the three biocihps. The tagline maintains the cliffhanger from last prog that Rogue is dead, his biochip recovered.

That cliffhanger is also maintained in the Nerve Centre as Tharg reveals there is a future story being programmed which will feature the biochips fighting against the Norts, but shall never again see Nu Earth (I have a feeling that they will, but it may be in a sort-of-different series – more about that in the nineties).

Rogue Trooper: To the Ends of Nu Earth – Final Episode! by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. The recovered biochip is placed in the mobile mainframe (seems like a mistake to me) and we still don’t see which number or letter appears on the chip. There’s a clue it isn’t Rogue though, even on the first page, as a non-biochipped speech balloon pops up from off-panel. Over the page Rogue, of course, reveals that he is merely buried a little under the surface of the frozen wastes. Turns out he batted away Bagman’s grenade with a shovel, etched out a fake biochip skull on to a chip just lying around then hid himself. Having revealed himself he destroys the mobile masterchip controller but makes Gunnar miss when they have the TG in their sights. Luckily for revenge purposes the Souther forces pick that time to arrive and take out the TG’s craft. Oh, and the TG was monolueing while he thought Rogue was dead, which got recorded on tape (no, I don’t know where the tape recorder came from either, presumably that pile of chips) and wants to go to Souther Command to clear his name. Though I thought that the main problem Millicom had was that he had deserted, not that the G.I.s had been massacred? Despite all my nit-picking, this is still enjoyable, just don’t think too hard about it all! “Many days later” Rogue’s deep-space liner arrives at Millicom – which looks absolutely nothing like the version we’ve previously seen (this one is more than a little like the Death Star). So, the story begun from Rogue Trooper’s debut is mostly complete. The Traitor General is dead and Rogue’s heading back to Millicom to clear his name and re-gene the biochips. I’ll reserve further comment until after the next story…

Advert time and it’s the road safety one about cycles which offers no provenance to who’s paying for it.

Speaking of cycles, the IPC Offers section has a BMX bicycle for £69.95. That sounds pretty expensive to me, considering it was 36 years ago and you can get similar bikes for £110 now. That only takes up half a page so we get the now very familiar Tharg fighting Thrill-Suckers reservation coupon filling in the rest.

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. The narration box that starts off this episode highlights the thing I like about robots in the Millverse – the possibility that those created in (or shortly after) our time are still going to be kicking around in thousands of years time. The familiar trope of immortals being affected by ennui is getting to Hammerstein (though not compatriots Mad Ronn and Hitaki). Pun-wise a carnivore (seeming religio-military police for robots) is a car. ‘Car’-nivore, geddit? Said carnivore is here to take in the trio to the Robot Inquisition for respectively Hammerstein speaking heresy about disobeying human orders and the other two failing to report it. This being the Termight Empire there are no second chances and it’s time for them to visit Mek-Quake for destruction. Off the top of my head this is at least the third time this has happened (though the first two were in the pages of Starlord). Back on Britannia Nemesis is thinking about disguise and pays a visit to a robot emporium to enable him to focus on a gothic robot to project a hallucinatory projection to disguise himself and Ro-Jaws. It’s a good disguise. So good, in fact, that Nem and Torque pass each other on a train without realising!

Judge Dredd: The Wally Squad – Part 3 by T.B. Grover and Brett Ewins and McCarthy. The undercover judge has had his partner die. He knows more than he let through in the debrief but Dredd has placed a tracer on the judge. Cue this episode where the judge takes a Lawmaster and is being tracked on a map (we all like maps, right?) – Dredd responds. The rest of the episode is fairly by the book, though well-executed as the rogue judge pays a visit on his fixer and is interrupted by Dredd, just in time to save the fixer but at the cost of the errant judge’s life. Dredd closes the case as the fixer is now much more compliant. The last page has Dredd aiming his lawgiver through a broken window – looking a lot like a Bryan Talbot image we’ll see later. I’m wondering if there were any precursors to this image. If we’d been paying attention at the end of A Case for Treatment (I wasn’t at the time) we’d know that after the arms case there would be Dredd’s sternest challenge since the Apocalypse War – though the text box merely says: “Next prog: Time Machine!”

Ace Trucking Co.: Strike! (but untitled in the episode – it missed the last prog though) by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Last episode Ace paid an actor (or whomever it was) to fool the crew of the Speedo Ghost to freely pick up a cargo of worms from one planet and take them to another where (they think) they’ll be able to sell the worms for a massive profit. We don’t find out what the catch is, but we get a clue that selling worms on the destination planet won’t be all it’s cracked up to be. There’s a few nice touches from Massimo as the Ghost emerges from Warp and another where some of the cargo of worms form Ace’s name…

Star Shadow (an advert for Dungeons & Dragons): The Journey Begins by Graeme Morris and Tim Sell. Morwyn and Matt head off with Klas Bara in search of the Gem of Night, starting by crossing the Sunset Ocean to the West to find a king’s mound on The Heath. On the voyage they get attacked by a lizard man who gets chucked back off the boat by Klas. Next up, a storm! As is common with all adverts in the form of a comic (Clash of the Titans, Roar et al) this is a very speedy run-through of a plot, though unlike those, this one is the complete story and not taking highlights from another medium (unless it’s a write-up of somebody’s campaign).

In the last day or two there has been an announcement (that’s in the last day or two while I’m writing this in 2020, not from when this prog was published in 1984). The 2000AD stories of The Stainless Steel Rat are going to be republished in a new edition within a year (just). In the meantime, the links for The Stainless Steel Rat for President will point to the most recent edition. Back in 1984, the next page advertises the first publication of this adaptation, starting next prog. Oh, and all that shares space with the Titan Books reprint of Rogue Trooper Book One, with a cover by Dave Gibbons which is also going to get used on the Games Workshop boardgame by the end of the eighties. And an ad for Spaceline from British Telecom (still no idea what that was all about).

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Was it mentioned previously that the trekkers are heading through 2000 kilometres of Cursed Earth? Well, it is now, before a map showing (from East to West) the Ash Desert, Brunner’s Warplands, Sauron Valley, Terre Haute and Stinking Creek. I’m not convinced that any part of this map is to scale. The storm passed, Lucas, Quint and Bish (Crustacia’s dad) head back to investigate Wagon Twelve on hover bikes (pod? Lucas says they’re “poddin’ back to check”). They find the radwagon, a dead tyrannosaur impaled on the roof spikes as well as a living baby. As well as dog vultures we find out that Cursed Earth tyrannosaurs are resistant to acid rain on account of their hides. Lucas orders the contents of the wagon to be emptied so that mutie scavengers can have it, while the radwagon itself is torched. For longer term readers this story was probably just another story set in the Cursed Earth, but to me the greatest time I’d spent in the desolate wasteland would have been Dredd Angel, so this would grow to be by far the most I’d see, until I got the back prog hunting bug and collected the progs the original Cursed Earth story appeared in.

Grailpage: when deciding I thought I’d be picking the page where Hammerstein and the others report to the Black Cardinal (of the Robot Inquisition) but then I turned the page where it transitions to Britannia. This page has Bryan Talbot’s depiction of Gothic London featuring an omnibus drawn by the Steam Man of the Prairies, a polyptych of Nemesis and Ro-Jaws, Grobbendonk, a Robot Emporium – speaking of which, a new improved automaton can be bought for £52/2/6d on Britannia.

Grailquote: as ever, the dialogue that goes with certain scenes which have stayed with me for over three decades weigh heavily in favour, so… Pat Mills, narration box: “But the gentleman is none other than Torquemada in his latest host-body! And the greatest enemies in the galaxy pass each other unawares!” In close second I’m going for TB Grover, Judge Benson: “You… killed a judge to… to save a judge-killer! It… ain’t right…” Judge Dredd: “Gotta be right. It’s the law.”

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