2000AD Prog 403: Mega-plan revealed: judge gets criminal record! “I’ll make those creeps sing!” Inside! Fink Brothers beat the rap?

This Brian Bolland cover finally heralds thre reveal of the long-touted Mega-plan….

…though doesn’t reveal enough that Tharg can’t still tease it in the Nerve Centre as an answer to a letter from an earthlet about members of Madness being fans of 2000AD – have they forgotten Prog 272 already? It even made it on to the cover! Before getting in to the first story there’s the usual voting coupon (which I rarely mention but appear in all or most Nerve Centres) and an ad for the latest Titan Books – Rogue Trooper with a much-used Dave Gibbons cover and Robo-Hunter Book 3 (I think – the thumbnail isn’t exactly detailed).

Rogue Trooper: Regened 3: Bits and Pieces! by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Some people just go to pieces from the pressure of wedding nerves. That isn’t quite what’s happening to Helm though as his body is literally disintegrating – and he’s making quite a bit of noise about it, unsurprisingly. Which is doubly unfortunate as a Nort probe is heading past, on the look-out for Milli-Com. Battle-honed Rogue leaps in to action and gags Helm with his hand. By the time the probe has passed on by there’s nothing left of Helm but his bio-chip. The genies plug him in to an energy slot in the lab, but Helm doesn’t want Azure to see him like this. The genies are aware of the cause, confirming with Rogue that the four of them went to the Neverglades while on Nu Earth where they picked up an enzymes which resulted in an ‘Enzyme E’ dysfunction (causing a break-down). Bagman also disintegrates, his chip extracted by the genie standing by. Gunnar isn’t quite so amenable, though he seems to be lasting longer with no signs of breakdown. In fact, what actually happens is he holes up in the armoury and acts like a hold-out. While he won’t kill the Traitor General, responsible for the deaths of those other clones that he spent two decades training alongside and further attempts on the lives of those he knows and loves, he’s only too quick to shove Gunnar out of the airlock and kill him. Third time that Rogue’s been around as Gunnar has died. I’d watch my back if I was Gunnar. It’s not like the gun-toting G.I. was showing any signs of Enzyme E degradation either… So, the virus found in the Neverglades causes the dysfunction and the genies know of an antigen which can neutralise the virus, but the whereabouts of the antigen is above the genies pay-grade. Only the high command know – and Rogue isn’t going to let little things like military protocols stop him from bursting in on the top brass.

Paid advert time as Shoot! (football comic or magazine) gives away Panini football stickers while Eagle is running a 4 part Doomlord poster. I have no memory of this, so maybe I’d stopped getting Eagle by this point. Note to self – must binge on the Where Eagles Dare podcast and figure out where I started and stopped reading.

Over the page there’s no beating about the bush as the headline says it all: “Judge Dredd record now on sale!” – and then goes in to the cover of The Mega-Times newspaper for Saturday 2 February 2107 (morning edition, 16 creds) with another headline: “Dredd disc – Fink Brothers flee!” The article is written by Dan Sette (it’s a pop cultural reference from at least ten years before my time). I have a copy of this record, so more about it tomorrow. p.s. I don’t know which calendar they’re using, but in the Gregorian calendar used in our world, 2 February 2107 is going to be a Wednesday. What, me, a continuity geek?

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Torquemada gives a speech upon the death of his arch-nemesis (sorry, sorry) – maybe the first full-flow tirade we’ve seen out of him? Nemesis makes an appearance at the end, revealing that the dead Nem was actually an ectoplasmic duplicate to keep the Terminators occupied (Brother Mikron confirms that this would explain the low reading on the psi-counter). I’d hoped we’d left the ‘acceptable in the seventies’ puns behind, but there’s one from Ro-Jaws – not the first time the sewer robot has come out with an… unfortunate phrase… Anyway, it’s about Hitaki, who was programmed by a secret society dedicated to restoring the Japanese empire and thinks he’s fighting ancient wars. Mad Ronn also has a chance to shine as he takes control of the electronics of the Terminator flagship. There’s a nice panel of Blackblood turning the cannons on the surrounding silver ships, whose captains are ‘reluctant’ to fire on their Grand Master. Until it’s too late. Meanwhile Mongrol stops reinforcements at Purity’s request, because she reminds him of Lara (they really look nothing alike). Nemesis stops Joe from shooting Torque as he wants to save the death for himself…

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned by T.B. Grover and Kim Raymond. It’s a chase episode, but a slow-moving chase as time-travel Dredd and Anderson are being followed by zombie-Dredd. He’s not a lurching type of zombie, but he’s not exactly running, either. For some reason Dredd wants to head for a local Sector House. I may be half-remembering a future episode, but I have a feeling that Dredd spotted a teleporter station in the other Sector House on Hill Hell Street and wants to use it to get back to Proteus. I don’t remember seeing teleporters in any later 2120 Dredd tales though. Time travel, eh? First, they have a whole load of vampire judges to get through (as well as the ever-almost present zombie Dredd).

The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison, adapted by Kelvin Gosnell and Carlos Ezquerra. Jim diGriz is stripped and searched before a quick round of torture. The chief of secret police, Oliveira (I ‘m guessing that’s what his rank is – he’s got the Gestapo-style uniform) is about to shoot him before diGriz taunts him with a message to be delivered to Zapilote. The message is about a plot to kill the dictator, which can only be whispered. Meaning that Jim gets close enough to scratch him with that surprise painted on his fingernails. Almost instantly the dictator starts to come out in purple blotches. Jim bargains for his son’s freedom by offering to deliver the antidote. It’s all a bluff, of course, Jim is no murderer (apart from all the people he’s shot) and the disease would naturally pass in hours whatever he’d done. But Bolivar is free and the diGriz family reunite the the Castle de la Rosa. They get to play with their new toy – a compromised satellite communications system, interrupting a news broadcast with their own programming. Next up, the interstellar press corps turn up, to shine a journalistic light unfamiliar on the stitched-up planet. Though Zapilote can also pay dirty, and has brought forward the election to the next day, instead of a month down the line. Jim doesn’t have a plan – he’s going to have to think fast. I can’t remember any of those plans (though I do remember a post-election scene).

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Jose Ortiz Horacio Lalia. The hippy, sorry Guppy Commune have taken to paint their wagon to celebrate surviving so far. We get to meet a few other wagons, including the Koosh family – whose speech is somewhere between the liquid r phoneme in Japanese and elective broken language (because they don’t want to be bothered by Rudd until they get to the “new tellitolly”). Quint the guide looks to be dying and the trek hits a storm, with one radwagon (roughly the size of two decent-sized tanks) being swept by up a dust devil. They get to the 1000 Kay Pole – Mega-City One lies 1000K behind them and the New Territories 1000K ahead.

Rounding off the prog is a 2000AD Secret Agent Scan – an Official Pin-Up of The A.B.C. Warriors… Purity Brown. Taken as cannon, this means that Purity is the first non-mechanical member of the ABC Warriors (discounting Nemesis who is there because he. is. Deadlock. Purity is standing around in a swimsuit next to a Terminator trike, courtesy of Bryan Talbot.

Grailpage: I was sorely tempted by a few pages from Nemesis, but Bryan is going to have plenty of chances to get the grailpage in future books of Nemesis and the odd Judge Dredd story. I’ve got a feeling I’ve not picked Lalia yet, and what better page than the grimy, almost Mike Dorey or smudges of the dust devil carting off the Lovejoy radwagon, Rudd’s wagon’s headlights piercing through the dust bowl and the trek reaching the half-way point? I was also tempted by Brian Bolland’s cover, but it could technically be regarded as a reprint, of something I’m covering next post.

Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day, Helm: “Azure – g-get her out of here, Rogue! Can’t bear her to see me like – like this!” probably not an intentional reference but it reminds me of first world war troops returning home after being severely disfigured (that link has some graphic images of injuries)

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