2000AD Prog 400: Dogfight – the rat bites back! WHAAM!

King Carlos shows that a landscape image of an aircraft exploding after being hit by missiles looks better when drawn by a comic artist than when stolen (without credit) by a gallery artist. Always great to get a wraparound cover from Carlos.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has a reader complaining that none of the Strontium Dog games are for the Vic 20 – Tharg responds that the Vic 20 does not have enough memory to handle stories from 2000ad…

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra. After toasting his opponent last prog, diGriz explains that he intends to make use of the corrupt election system that Zapilote has put in place – but first to attend their first campaign rally. There’s a few difficulties along the way, as is evidenced from the scene on the cover, but they get through and hold the rally in the busy tourist spot. There’s a few problems, but Angelina deals with them (using campaign badges equipped with sleepgas). Everything’s going swimmingly until an assassination attempt – which Slippery Jim is aware of but seems unconcerned by. “The slugs ripped towards me at twice the speed of sound. They couldn’t miss.” Presumably they will, can’t see how though…

The A.B.C. Warriors Fact File: Joe Pineapples reprints the scene of Joe shooting Blackblood from Prog 126.

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. I should have mentioned Blackblood’s wife last prog – a former exotic dancer named Ruby Yum Yum Gluck. This prog has Joe Pineapple’s girlfriend, Ms Aphrodite Von Boo. If you’ve ever seen Futurama, they basically look like hookerbots. Her appearance in a seedy, run-down area of downtown Mekka blows Joe’s cover as an undercover cop. He’s there to uncover a disguised human who has been selling robots in to slavery for use in Termight’s wars. Joe’s main joy in life appears to be killing humans (or meatheads, as he calls them). Nemesis appears in police files, so Joe knows that if he wants to kill meatheads, then Nemesis is his alien… The final recruit, uh, recruited, Nemesis starts a speech until Hammerstein interjects to point out that Deadlock isn’t there yet. SPOILER! This is one of the big twists in 2000AD history, as it’s revealed that Nemesis is Deadlock. Of course, the effect of this was lost on me at the time as I wasn’t familiar with the Grand Wizard of the Knights Martial. The tale (flashback) of Deadlock returning to Earth after the battles on Mars to find the Watch Tower had landed and the knights fallen in to decadent ways. The mystical robot dedicated years in his cell studying ancient manuscripts until he joined with his master, Khaos, who also turned out to be Nemesis. Cue an updated version of the “I am the Nemesis” speech from Prog 228 with a couple of additional lines.

The A.B.C. Warriors Fact File: Deadlock reprints Deadlock’s first appearance by Kevin O’Neill (well, apart from the tarot card portrait) from Prog 123.

A familiar reservation coupon shares a page with an advert for next week’s prog (and Eagle) which will be carrying the Dune Album (plus 5 stickers). I remember the album but don’t remember any stickers – unlike with the Return of the Jedi sticker album, which I definitely remember (helped by still having the album, sitting on top of the pile of progs it came with).

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned by T.B. Grover and Ian Gibson. Not a twist as such, but just pages after the Deadlock reveal an iconic moment for Dredd as one of the Mutant’s monsters stabs at Joe’s eyes, blinding him. In case anybody reading this is unfamiliar with the scene – this isn’t a temporary blindness as afflicted Rogue – Dredd’s eyes are properly gone and they won’t be growing back. As if that isn’t bad enough, the ground beneath Anderson and Dredd melts and Dredd is stranded as Anderson is carried off by the maelstrom. Everything is stilled and the Mutant puts in an incorporeal appearance, not that Dredd can see him, of course. Largely to taunt him, and gloat over his second chance to make Dredd suffer (first time he did it took quick). The Mutant gives Dredd the instructions to find him – head towards the hellish fire. It’s not often Dredd shows human emotions, but this time the thirst for revenge is strong…

Ace Feek Evil Trucking Co.: Strike Out! by Grant Grover and Belardinelli. Obviously the space suit which Blood decapitated was empty, and Ace put the time bought to good use by arriving in the aft airlock. He comes across the semi-dead body of G-B-H and the unconscious form of Feek (knocked out last prog by Evil Blood) but is immediately caught by Blood. Ace tires to evade but falls prey to Blood’s sword, losing his tip (the point of his head). Twice. Well, second time it wasn’t the point of his head, just the bit underneath where the point had been. The only thing that can save Ace is a deus ex machine, or in this case a G-B-H in the Speedo Ghost – finally revived he bludgeoned Blood with one blow. Blood swears revenge as he’s carted off by the jeepies, Feek offers the pilot’s chair back and Feek demotes himself back to engineer. The Ace Trucking Workers’ Co-operative is wound down and everything is back to how it was before. But not for long…

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Quint and Rudd have uncovered the mutant raider’s deception and Rudd tries to surreptitiously organise a resistance among the radwagons while Quint heads to the saloon. Luckily at least two of the trekkers in the establishment not only are (fairly) sober but they’re also packing guns. Quint points out some targets for when the shooting starts and they don’t have to wait long. The Nebbs are, of course, involved in the escalation and it looks like Quint isn’t faring too well. Outside the other gang of raiders look to have a more one-sided battle on their hands as they’re spotted sneaking towards the radwagons.

The last page of the prog (as the back cover is the flipside of the wrapound cover) starts with some more details on the Egle Comics reprint of Judge Dredd, which came to Brit-Cit as of No 15 (Brian Bolland’s Umpty cover). If memory serves I started getting it the issue after – presumably I saw this feature and tried to find it. Most of the Dredd stories from The Fink onwards I first read in that form, though by the time it got to reprinting The Apocalypse War I was buying up back progs as well.

The bottom half of the same page trails the next prog, featuring a panel from Rogue Trooper by Cam Kennedy.

Grailpage: so difficult to choose, I’m going to pick two and it just happens that they’re sequential. The first from Bryan Talbot has the reveal of Nemesis as Deadlock (and a polyptych – a pet fave storytelling technique of mine) while it continues to show the hooded Deadlock summoning Nemesis and a more O’Neill style warlock as he gives the speech I’m going to mention in the next section.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Ms. Aphrodite Von Boo: “I can repair him! I can operate on his brain!” KLAK Joe Pineapples: “Me too.” I’ll also bung in Nemesis: “I am the Nemesis, I am Khaos, I am Deadlock, I am the warlock, The shape of things to come, The Lord of the Flies, Holder of the Sword Sinister, The death bringer, I am all these things and many more” (largely because I didn’t include it last time).

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