2000AD Prog 399: A.B.C. K.O. B.E.M. S.N.A.F.U! (O.K?) “Mongrol SMUSH!”

Back for his second cover Bryan Talbot shows a dishevelled Mongrol making a return and Tom Frame (presumably) contrasts the yellow and red of Mongrol with greens and blues for Nemesis.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has Free Gift News! The next prog will feature a Dune album. Tharg also answers a reader’s query by revealing that there are five Stainless Steel Rat books available, from Sphere Books. Oh, and there’s a small ad for football programmes.

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra. The cliffhanger from the previous episode (Jim being stuck with an unfamiliar lock while Zapote’s guards close in) is easily resolved by the door being opened from within by a noble who takes little convincing to oppose the dictator. In fact he needs some convincing not to blow cover straight away! After sending and receiving messages by semaphore, Jim is helped out of the noble’s castle disguised as a tourist. As a complete aside, the depiction of the tourist referring to the Duke as ‘Dook’ was my introduction to the USA pronunciation of certain words and sounds. After stealing a car (the drivers were trying to kidnap Jim’s contact) one quick chopper hijack later they’re back at the Castle de Torres to meet up with the rest of the family. Angelina has been busy, finding a book “How to Rig Elections” by the curiously-named Sam Fox (as I’ve said I have the original Harry Harrison book but haven’t re-read it recently, so don’t know if this name is a British 1980s pop cultural reference or if it’s just coincidence that the nude model had been famous for about a year). Continuity – the capital city has acquired a name from a tourist sign “See the wonders of Puerto Azul”.

The A.B.C. Warriors Fact File: Mongrol. Everything I knew about the ABC Warriors I knew from these one-page features (until I got the back prog collecting bug, anyway). The page is mainly reprinted from Mongrol’s first appearance where Lara rebuilt him overnight before she was taken away by the Volg secret police. The electric motors don’t start, but being put on the elektro-rak at full voltage gives him a jump start – not unlike Torquemada last prog!

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Time for the warlock to collect the set (of ABC Warriors) starting with… well, we’ve just had the fact file so you know which one’s first. We travel to Mekka – a free robots planet secretly in thrall to Termight. That thing about Termight never comes up again, and after catching up with the ABC Warriors after they left Mars I don’t think we’ll ever return (unless there’s a 21st century story I’ve forgotten about, which isn’t impossible). First stop is the circus, where the Gawk pretends to escape for the entertainment of the human spectators, before being ‘tamed’ by a more heroic-looking robot, gladiator-style. The story has little touches which hark back to the first Mongrol appearance with the lines: “Stop them!” and response “They tried (but not very hard).” Elsewhere on Mekka in the wealthy Chromer-Zone Nemesis exposits to, um, Grobbendonk, I think? Or maybe to Mongrol – anyway, Nemesis explains how Blackblood has made a fortune selling addictive computer games to robots – and being robots they can spend centuries playing the games, trying to get to the next level. As with Mongrol, call-backs are made to the origin story for Blackblood as Nemesis reveals a secret identity which we are not privy to. We’re told that Hitaki and Mad Ronn have been rebuilt and reprogrammed (deprogrammed?) while Nem heads off to collect Joe Pineapples and Deadlock.

The A.B.C. Warriors Fact File: Blackblood reprints a page from the first story in which he appeared, and specifically the Bounganville Massacre.

A reservation coupon followed by an advert for the Eagle, showing an Ian Kennedy Dan Dare, Doomlord, Redondo’s The Monster (I think), Jose Ortiz’ 13th Floor, John Cooper’s Gaunt, Jim Baikie’s Bloodfang, Danny Pyke and Robo Machines, plus a text mention of the Amstor Computer.

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. This has shades of the Strontium Dog Journey to Hell story, specifically the desert of the Living Dead, as Anderson and Dredd encounter wraiths – the souls of the damned. Time for a change of pace as the duo get attacked by monsters. Dredd loses his lawmaster and has to ride pillion with Anderson. They’re trapped, but bike cannons tend to help in creating exits…

Ace Feek Evil Trucking Co.: Strike Twelve! by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Ace is back in the hotseat! Though the pilot’s seat of Old Peart the Third rather than Speedo Ghost. Though on his warm-up jaunt he almost crashes in to Speedo Ghost – Evil Blood seems to have made good time in rendezvousing with the other ship of the Ace Trucking line. Threatening to kill Freek and G-B-H, Ace has no choice but to spacewalk over (because despite all that’s happened, he still sticks by his friends). On the Ghost, Evil Blood ruminates on how he’s like to spend years killing Ace but in the heat of the moment just decapitates him instead. Though we only see Ace’s suit – I can’t help but feel this is important…

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. The helltrekkers rest up at the mutie way-station of Stinking Creek and take the opportunity to bathe. Crustacia scuttles along the bottom of a tub while the Scargille girls shower, Three Graces style. Until they catch Lucas’ son Bud watching them… In the saloon the drinks are free all night long, which is a bit suspicious. Quint is also suspicious of just how friendly the mutants are, and also doesn’t recognise any of them from previous trips. Showing Lucas some bodies he’s discovered, he reckons the muties in charge now are marauders from the Canuck Wastes. As happens at such times, the pair are discovered but fight them off easily – six days in the Cursed Earth have toughened Lucas up…

2000AD/Best Pals Competition (being about dogs it’s illustrated with a pic of Toby) and a next prog box with an extreme close-up of Ace’s eyes (though I think that was a panel from the last prog, not the next).

Things to Come ’85 takes the back page with a few items of “countdown data” (i.e. the prog in which they’re due). 403 will reveal the Mega Plan (which was originally trailed in last year’s Things to Come feature!) Rogue Trooper is back in 401, illustrated by a panel from Cam Kennedy while Strontium Dog (416) and Sláine (407) in promised “new-look, new-action thrills”. I can see that the warped warrior will have a new look (courtesy of Glenn Fabry and David Pugh) but the other two have their usual creative teams (or at least will until Rogue goes off to Horst, though I don’t think that’s what Tharg is talking about). 2000AD’s 8th Birthday is promised in 416, also including Judge Death and Judge Anderson’s own series (it’s not clear from the trail that the two events will be in the same story). More thrills: Halo Jones Book II; the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special and the 1986 Annuals.

Grailpage: a joint grail page week as Bryan Talbot’s page of Nemesis the Warlock showing the computer game addicted robots (with a low-key cameo by a legless Robot Archie) ties with Massimo Belardinelli’s page showing Ace getting to grips with Old Peart the Third’s steering and taking an unconventional route around some asteroids.

Grailquote: Harry Harrison and/or Kelvin Gosnell, Jim diGriz: “A toast, my friends! To the two men who will ensure we win the Paraiso-Aqui election! I give you Sam Fox…” James / Bolivar diGriz (I confess, I don’t know which is which): “Who’s the other one, dad?” Jim: “President Julio Zapilote!”

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