2000AD Prog 401: Free Panini Dune album (not available to overseas readers) The return of Rogue Trooper “Here are my boys… make them into MEN!”

A Cam Kennedy cover heralds the return of Rogue (after only a few weeks away) and the long-awaited regening of the chips.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre trails the new prog by telling us that part 2 of the ’85 Calendar will appear – and then announces that part 1 is appearing in this, like, prog. No mention of who is appearing on it… An earthlet points out that the cover says it’s in orbit every Monday, the cover dates is the Saturday following and it usually appears in shops on a Thursday (it was the same where I lived at the time). In the corner is an ad for the Eagle reprints of Judge Dredd (Brian Bolland Umpty cover) and Nemesis the Warlock (Thoth’s gooey egg from the birth in the previous year’s progs).

Rogue Trooper: Regened 1: Return of a Hero? by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Some people though once Rogue Trooper’s enemy had been killed that there was no point in running further stories. I disagree – I like what is now known as the Regened story, even though it’s lacking one of the major elements of Rogue Trooper. In the same way that Mega-City One is a character in its own right and that if Judge Dredd stories spend too long from the city then it starts to wear thin, I think that the thing that really makes the Rogue Trooper series is Nu Earth. This isn’t a long story so I think can get away with being on Millicom for its duration. I’ll probably have more to say at the end of this story and at the end of the Horst story, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode starts with Rogue being greeted by two genies, the scientists who created the G.I.s. The chips get whisked away on Mekon hover-seats (still in their equipment) while Rogue submits his tape of the Traitor General’s confession. Despite being a deserter awaiting the decision of high command, he gets given quarters (rather than a cell, as you may expect). A female G.I. (mercifully not called a doll this time) called Azure invites herself in to his quarters and leads him to a vid-link with ‘top deck’ (high command). He’s cleared and now he just has to debrief and find things to do with himself while he waits for the chips to be re-gened. Being on Milli-com the Norts are constantly trying to pinpoint its location – we’ve shown what happens during a Silent Running (S.R.) drill as a deep space probe passes nearby. Everybody has to freeze for an hour until the all clear is broadcast. Remember that… Later Rogue decides the quarters are two comfortable, and having spent the last however-many years combat ready steals some equipment from a supply room. This does not go unnoticed and the millifuzz are on his case when he sits down to breakfast the next morning – twenty military police to one G.I. Until the regened chips turn up (curiously wearing or carrying the pieces of equipment which they’ve been inhabiting for since the Quartz Zone Massacre). The genies see the fight but decide that Helm, Gunnar and Bagman need to flex their new muscles (also the milli-fuzz have had it coming for a long time). One thing – a narration box says “three long years he’d spent on the war planet Nu-Earth”. I still maintain that he’s spent at least ten years on the planet, for reasons I’ve gone in to before. I did think of another thing to support my theory – from his very first appearance in the pages of ten years (roughly three years ago) he was already spoken of as a semi-mythical figure. I don’t buy that this would have happened immediately after the massacre.

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire part by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill Bryan Talbot. I mentioned this episode six prog-years ago when I was covering the 2000AD Annual 1980 (published in 1979) as the Ro-Busters story in that annual featured Mek-Quake parachuting down to Britannia to delivery Big Jobs”. But first there’s a pun I’ve never noticed before as the Goth version of the Cutty Sark (in our world a tea clipper named after a witch from a Robert Burns poem – cutty sark being Scots for a short shift or dress). The Britannian version is a spaceship with a massive blade at the front – cutty, geddit? I didn’t, not for thirty-five years! There’s also a reference to the phrase “the sun never sets on the British empire” as the Rings of Britannia are damaged, the Brick Moon crashing down to the planet. Pat didn’t appear to be in the mood to depict the ABC Warriors fighting the Terminators and skips ahead a few days to Purity returning from delivering a message to the Cabal of Alien Planets requesting assistance. Mongrol makes sure she makes it (it’s not said here, but I get the impression that Mongrol looks at every female as being like Lara). It’s bad news – the cabal regards Goths as pseudo-human imperialists. It’s even worse news – the wife and son of Nemesis, Chira and Thoth, are dead, murdered by the Terminators (we know different, Thoth is alive and well in Termight). Nemesis isn’t happy.

Reservation coupon time – and a re-run of the ad telling us that the Eagle reprint of Judge Dredd is now available in Britain (from No 15) – 60p compared to 2000AD’s 22p at the time.

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned by T.B. Grover and Ian Gibson. Classic centrefold time as the Joe Dredd stumbles blind through the Mutant’s version of hell until having to crawl on hands and knees through an inferno in a thematic re-run of the last chapter of The Cursed Earth. When all seems lost, the flames die away and Dredd is left on a cold slab before the Mutant – in person. Psi-shields prevent Dredd from shooting the powerful psychic as, via the medium of flashback, the Mutant reveals their original story – they are a clone of Owen Krysler created by the Grunwalder. Dredd has an idea, but we’re going to have to wait to find out what it is…

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra. How do you stop an assassin’s bullet? You have a protective force-shield on your votemobile to make bullets lose velocity before they can impact. I did wonder why Slippery Jim didn’t seem in the slightest bit concerned. Meanwhile Angelina deals with the would-be assassin by chucking him out of the window (happening to also get slowed by the same force-shield, and not dying by crashing in to the ground). All this caught on film it gets played at an election rally in the middle of the tourist district. There’s just one problem – through judicious use of a subsonic system which affects emotions they manage to win over the crowd in attendance, but the media is owned by Zapilote. Angelina as a nurse detects members of the crew of a service shuttle who are suffering from perrotonitis (perro is dog in esperanto – Harry Harrison was a great promoter of the language) though in actuality infects them with a throat swab. One hi-jack later (they spare the captain) and they’re on their way to insert a new operating system into each of ten comsats in orbit. This does not go entirely unnoticed and a nuclear warhead is detonated in close quarters and it looks like the diGriz family will go splat. Though you never really get much sense of peril from cliffhangers in the Stainless Steel Rat – you know they’re going to get out of it, the only question is how – the fun is in the journey, not the destination.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. The trekkers in the radwagons fend of the mutant attack with a few blips, but nothing serious (except one couple who had already lost their entire family of four to the scab and didn’t offer any resistance to the mutants). Other than Pop Nebb (no great loss) there are no further casualties in the saloon though Quint’s injuries are a major cause for concern. Back to the wagon and Rudd vows to make sure the mutant marauders never murder another helltrekker.

Who’s starring in the calendar this year? Did you, like, spot that clue I planted earlier? It’s DR and Quinch by Alan Davis. January to June, DR from the shoulders up Quinch from the waist up are presented this prog. Bank holidays on the calendar are in red, ‘In Orbit’ Mondays in green. From past experience I know there’s going to be a list of notable dates next week but they don’t appear to be highlighted on the calendar (I’m expecting 2000AD’s birthday, prog 450 maybe and the release date for the annuals – possible the sci-fi special too).

Grailpage: as ever I’m tempted by one or two of Bryan Talbot’s Nemesis page, but I have to instead pick Ian Gibson’s opener to Judge Dredd showing the judge illuminated from below by the burning ground as he crawls forward.

Grailquote: rather than type out most of a full page of Pat Mills dialogue I’m just going to pick a few lines. Gothic signaller: “Sir, I’m picking up a signal from the invaders!” Ion Duke: “Well, what is it?” Signaller: “Er…” Ion Duke: “Come on! Out with it, man!” Signaller: “It sounds like… ‘big jobs’.” Ion Duke: “Big jobs?” Signaller: “BIG JOBS!”

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