2000AD Prog 395: Take out your partners for the ballroom blitz! “Blimey – gatecrashers!” KLIK!

I’ve not been paying attention but I think this is Bryan Talbot’s first cover for the galaxy’s greatest comic. There shall be more. This may be the first time Ro-Jaws has made it to the cover since Prog 114.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has compliments for the Ballad of Halo Jones (Tharg doesn’t take the opportunity to plug the next book, which surely is being worked on at the time this was published).

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra. An old president who uses underhand means to enforce their will, believing themselves above the law – that’s Julio Zapilote. The family diGriz (all four of them, two grown-up sons – James and Bolivar – are now tagging along) arrive on Paraiso-Aqui, in secret this time (through jumping out of a space craft and diving down while wearing atmo-suits). They make contact and try to make a break through the Zapilote-contolled area of the planet to the estates of the old nobility. There’s a bit of a delay at the barrier between the two but the adapted vehicle that the diGriz family command makes short work of the guards. Unfortunately Jim is a thief, not a murderer, and departs the safety of the vehicle to pull a guard out of the way – at which point a shell lands nearby. “Everything went very dark”. Entertaining – I really need to figure out where I’ve put my copy of the original book.

Advert time – the 2000AD Annual 1985 gets another look-in, as does Buster, including a free Ghostbusters badge (which usually means that a comic’s sales are flagging and need a boost).

Star Shadow: The Betrayer Unmasked (an advert for Dungeons & Dragons) by Graeme Morris and Tim Sell. On the Isle of Gulls beyond the Sunset Ocean, beneath the heath in the king’s mound, the Watcher commands their slave, Klas, to reveal themselves. Klas is some kind of snake with a skull-like face who easily deflects a dagger thrown by the thief Matt and a spell from the elf Morwyn. Morwyn aims her next magic blast at the tunnel roof above Klas, trapping the impervious creature instead. One more episode I think, and then all this note-taking will (hopefully) allow me to answer whatever questions we’re going to be asked to win a copy of Dungeons & Dragons (if only I had access to a time portal to 1984).

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. A fantastic image of the Brick Moon and the Rings of Britannia opens this episode – I’ll be picking Talbot pages for grailpages every week if I’m not careful! There are cultural references galore – in addition to the planets named after British Empire bastions, Britannian travellers can use the Rings of Britannia to go around the world in eighty minutes, the personification of Britannia, Sir Edward Grey’s remark about lamps going out. Back in the story and the reprogrammed Hammerstein is leading the Terminator hit-squad towards a domed city on the Brick Moon – which Bryan manages to make look like a Victorian taxidermy dome (the type which usually has a variety of stuffed birds within). The banquet gets started and a panel in which Gothic Queen Victoria dances with Mr Smith (Nemesis in disguise) has a conductor in the background which reminds me of an early Luther Arkwright episode – just checking I find it had been stolen around 25 years ago (I don’t know if it’s been recovered). The two members of the Hellfire Club depart before the attack (in a scene which I always thought made it look like Hammerstein and Hitaki were about to attack them). Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein are finally seen together again, for the first time since the end of The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammer-stein – though this is only commemorated by the war droid bashing the sewer droid out of the way. Ro-Jaws knew Hammerstein had re-enlisted so presumably they last saw each other in the age of Termight, but it could be anywhere between years and centuries or millennia before that they last met. Bryan puts in some very Luther Arkwright combat scenes next with some aspect-to-aspect panel transitions. I expect Nemesis’ psychic projections are dropping around the time that he starts spitting fireballs at Hitaki and Mad Ronn (apparently he only has two fireballs in him) and resorts to firing bullets at the determined war droid (he got the gun from a fallen Goth). I’ve got a feeling I saw the last page of this in real life, when Bryan went on a Luther Arkwright tour a few years later.

More adverts – well, one – for a range of mini-arcade games (Frogger, Puck Monster, Amidar and Jungler from CGL (no idea who they are, they were based in Loughton and seem to resell Konami games.

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Dredd and Anderson approach the Hill Hell Street Sector House (after an altercation with a vampire judge from whom Anderson can only get psychic readings of “blood”) and we get a few scenes of everyday life in the Damned Sector House. Creeping through the building they finally get somewhere – the first answer (once they reactivate the Sector House Control computer) is that the last data intake was just four months earlier. Time for a cameo – vampire Judge Hershey discovers them, backed up by a team of four other blue judges. At this stage in the Dreddworld there aren’t that many extant recurring judges, but most of them will be making an appearance (in one way or another) in this story…

Ace Trucking Co.: Strike Seven! by Grant Grover and for a second week Studio Giollitti fills in on art duties. Ace’s ‘rescue’ (of the already freed crew) does not go well and Ace is very soon in the same situation that Feek, G-B-H and Chiefy had been in scant moments before. Reversing the deal they’d previously made and restoring the worker’s co-operative Feek reveals that Ace has actually already had a deportation order put in place after being convinced by Feek that Ace is more trouble on the planet than off. That’s not the worst of it for Ace though – as the first act of the restored co-operative is to demote Ace from Captain to pilot alone. Ace has had enough – and in a memorable cliffhanger quits his own Trucking Company.

An offer on Quicksilva Strontium Dog computer games next as the Killing (Spectrum 48K) is available for £4.95 while Death Gauntlet (Commodore 64) is on sale for £5.95. Loads of adverts are shoved at the bottom of this page, including for the next prog (the Dungeons and Dragons competition I’ve been waiting for), the Westminster Comic Mart and the Judge Dredd Annual 1985.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Eight hours and ten kilometres in to the rad-smog and marshland the radar-led radwagons continue to take casualties from black scab. There is no let-up in this episode as one after another, Amber spots the telltale marks of black scab on Lucas’ face, a radwagon gets stuck in a quag, a line snaps, the radwagon goes under, along with its resident, tyrannosaurs glowing with radiation attack and finally one gets set alight. I suspect that even if it dies it will do some damage on the way (because it’s the cliffhanger and the next prog tag says “Tyrannosaurus wrecks!”

I must have misread the next prog tag from last prog as this prog does not see the return of Rogue Trooper (I thought it was a bit quick after the last story) but merely a starscan by Cam Kennedy (Rogue in front of the globular Milli-Com – due in Prog 401).

Grailpage: I can’t keep picking Bryan Talbot pages, but for the third week running that’s what I’m doing (it’s the one I mentioned up-blog post). After I’d got over the culture shock of the expected O’Neill Book III style I really got in to the Talbot Book IV style.

Grailquote: Harry Harrison and/or Kelvin Gosnell (I do have the original book but I’m afraid I haven’t read it recently so don’t know which bits are adaptation from the source material and which are 2000AD additions), Bolivar diGriz: “YAAA-HOOO!” Jim di-Griz: “Behave, Bolivar. This is supposed to be dangerous.” To be honest I could probably pick a quote from every page of the Stainless Steel Rat for President…

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