2000AD Prog 405: UNGH! Dredd vs. Dredd …and one must die!

It’s only been a few weeks since the last cover by ‘Bren McCarthy’ (missing the ‘dan’ in the signature) and this one is much the same as that one, with zombie Dredd facing time-travelling Dredd.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains a letter from an earthlet predicting (now out-of-date) that the Mutant from the City of the Damned is, in fact… Uncle Ump. The earthlet is wrong.

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book Two. Prologue: by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. That colon is in the title, though doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. We fast-forward from 4949 (where the last book left off) to the year 6427. As an aside, I’ve noticed that Moore is one of the few script droids who has headed far in to the future in his stories (though in the cases of D.R. & Quinch Have Fun on Earth or the Hyper Historic Head Bang it was only for a panel or two). As I think I’ve said before, I really liked the first book of Halo Jones when it came out but didn’t really understand half of what was going on, not setting-wise, anyway. After introducing us to the mundane life of Halo in the first book, this one hints that there’s more to her than meets the eye by showing a lecture one and a half thousand years after her death extolling how legendary she has become. Along the way it explains a few of those things that would have gone over my head in the first book (some of which was covered in the Hooplife starscan which I think may have been more useful if it had run close to the beginning of book one instead of just before the end of the series). In case we hadn’t picked up on how powerful he was in the first book, we’re told on the sign outside the educational establishment that it was founded by Lux Roth Chop. Other things I may not have picked up on – Marxmas suggests that Concordia is based on Marxist principles. We find out that Halo is going to meet famous historical figures such as Lux Roth Chop, Luiz Cannibal and Sally Quasa. We’re going to witness two of these meetings – maybe three if Sally is… but I’m getting ahead of the story. Allied Municipalities of America in Halo’s time sounds like the cities of North America (though there’s no reason it couldn’t include South American cities either). There’s another place (planet?) called Perelandra – probably Venus, as in the C.S. Lewis novel – the kind of thing Moore is known for these days in regards to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Manhattan has been renamed Serenopolis, there have been at least two regime changes and one calendar change in the intervening millennia. In case we hadn’t picked up previously, we’re explicitly told that the Hoop is a slum designed to dump poor people so that they’re out of the way of the wealthy. We get a hint of a future event in Halo’s world – the Red Wednesday Massacre of 4952. We get told that there were many alien immigrants on Earth from Proxima and Alpha Centauri (the Proximen are the ones we’ve met a few times, but the Alphans are still largely unknown to us). We get told exactly what the Exit Gardens are – and if I hadn’t seen it by this point then I’d have seen the cinematic equivalent of the euthanasia facility in Soylent Green. There’s some nice touches about how distance in time can warp the understanding of the facts (Rodice is mistaken to be a male love interest of Halo called Rodrice) though no explanation of how the lecturer gets everything correct. Having said that – he wasn’t entirely convinced that Halo had met those famous historical figures, or whether or not she was a war criminal who aided in the slaughter of millions. Ominous. We find out all we’re ever going to learn about Clara Pandy (the person whom Brinna once met) – she was a galactic frontierswoman. The Ballad of Halo Jones is revealed as the title of a book / program by Dr Brunhauer, and the subject of “The Halo Jones Myth in Modern Concordian Folklore” by Van Eyck. Despite this, the doctor still regards Halo as an obscure historical figure. Character-wise we experience this lecture from the viewpoint from Ms Kopek, who appears to be married, or at least romantically involved, with the boorish Mr Sotgore. There’s a hint that she would prefer to be with somebody like Dr Brunhauer (and probably the doctor himself). It’s not often you get realistic emotional attachments shown in children’s comics – but Halo is one of those stories where both this book and the next will show them. It has to be said that even in the 2020s, the sixth decade of 2000AD, I’m not sure those depictions have been bettered (not that romance is exactly the focus of a sci-fi comic originally aimed at adolescent boys).

Speaking of romance – the whirlwind relationship between Azure and Helm influences events in Rogue Trooper: Regened 5. On the Rogue Again! by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Rogue finds out the location of the antigen Neva, on the planet of Horst. The bio-chips haven’t always appreciated Rogue, despite his putting his life on the line every day for the past three years / decade. This time he pushes the boat out by assaulting an officer – a capital offence. The officer in question is Lamal, the Chief of Staff, showing that Rogue doesn’t do things by halves! It’d be like a recently pardoned deserter knocking out Field Marshal Haig or Winston Churchill. While the CoS is unconscious, Rogue gives orders for a milli-probe to be prepared (using Lamal’s computer). Picking up the chips (not that he got their agreement first) he bumps in to Azure, whom he flannels with a yarn about being despatched on a non-dangerous mission. Swallowing the lie, she issues Rogue with the Mark II G.I. rifle and backpack, plus an improved helmet. This raises a question on why the equipment has seen such advances – and why there were the stores in the armoury of G.I. equipment from the first episode, when there haven’t been any other G.I.s on active duty that we’ve seen? I’m wondering if the current / forthcoming (depending on whether you go PDF or hardcover) Rogue Trooper RPG has any ideas about this – seeing as your average RPG requires multiple character options, and having other G.I.s running around would certainly help this. Anyway, Rogue launches just as the lie comes out, annoying Azure no end. Particularly as we find out from Lamal that Horst was abandoned six weeks earlier.

Dungeons & Dragons Tharg’s competition winners! …and there are loads of them. I skimmed through them but didn’t recognise any names. There’s a Matt Smith, but I’ve heard Cybermatt speak and he didn’t appear to have a Bolton accent. There’s also somebody with a very distinctive surname living in a town I used to live in – I won’t highlight it but I’d be surprised if they weren’t a close relative of somebody I went to sixth form with a few years later. The prizes were the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (the red box / Mentzer / Elmore dragon set for those in the know, RiP Aleena), a 12 issue subscription for Imagine magazine (I own one copy of this magazine, featuring a Bryan Talbot cover and a Neil Gaiman story), and jigsaw puzzles. I’ve just looked it up – the Neil Gaiman story was his first published short story!

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned by T.B. Grover and Steve Dillon. Penultimate episode, I think. The Mutant now catches on to Dredd’s game, but instead of warping the entire city as we’ve seen in those data tapes merely shouts at the zombie to stop them. Anderson has set the co-ordinates and they get transported directly in to the time machine. Fortunately there’s an emergency button which returns them immediately to the past and while no force can stop the zombie, being taken away from the source of its power can. Back in 2107, a minute after they left, what were clean and healthy judges stagger out as a blinded and grizzled Joe and a similarly unkempt Cassandra (not that she has a given name yet). Now he reveals his plan, which was referred to in the last panel of one episode but not mentioned again – not even in the first panel of the following episode. If they can travel to Xanadu, to the time when the mutant clone was created and kill it then the future they’ve just returned to “would never happen” – Grant and Wagner had lost interest in this mega-epic but they can still deliver engaging twists!

Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. The armour might be flame proof, beam proof and psychic proof, but it’s not acid proof (I was wondering what had happened to the acid slime balls) so the Grand Master burns the acid off of himself with his own weapon. Nem frees himself and uses levitation (force push) to hurl himself at Torque, sending them both crashing through a porthole into space. Torque’s sword has jets on it and he uses it as a harpoon against Nemesis. Somewhere between alien slime, laser cannons, Goth chameleon-substance and Frankenstein’s artificial enzymes Tomas’ new body is starting to grow in new and interesting ways as Tomas returns to his flagship. Faced with the sight of his idol, Brother Mikron leads the attack on the deviant Grand Master, joined by other Terminators as they pour in to the room. Purity rescues Nemesis on her bubble space bike while Torquemada now resembles a gigantic termite, poetic justice doubling up as his slug-like body is being torn to pieces by kill-crazy Terminators. I may have had my reservations by old-style Kevin O’Neill art followed by unfamiliar art by Bryan Talbot but I was won over by this point.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. I said yesterday that the trek had passed the half-way marker, but they’re actually still there at the 1000 K Pole. I don’t think I mentioned how fast Korky Spillone forms romantic attachments – his wife Vicki died three days ago, he got engaged to April two days ago (who had lost her own husband but died the same day at Stinking Creek) and now he’s got engaged to somebody else on the block co-op, Rose (who lost her own husband on the trek). And I thought Helm worked fast! From there on they’re working on Quint’s final instructions – North and South are bad mutie country so they’ll have to go straight through a molten lava wasteland, skirting some ‘friendly’ mutant settlements. They are friendly but don’t get on their wrong side. Cue the Nebbs, cause of much of the trouble on the trek as they randomly kill a mutie.

Inside back cover and advert time: Football 85 (free with Roy of the Rovers and Tiger – a Panini album and some stickers); the Eagle Comics reprint of 2000AD Monthly with a Brian Bolland cover and a next prog box featuring Toby.

The Stainless Steel Rat is gone, but Carlos Ezquerra gives us a 2000AD star pin-up of The Four diGriz.

Grailpage: it seems a real shame not to pick a page by Bryan Talbot, Steve Dillon or Cam Kennedy this prog, but I have to pick Ian Gibson’s penultimate page from this week’s prologue to Book Two of The Ballad of Halo Jones, partially as it contains one of the least-sketchy pictures in this book and partially because that picture (of Ms Kopek) looks a lot like somebody I went to school with (about five years after the publication of this episode). p.s. I just looked up some of the names on this page – Vega is a star in the constellation of Lyra (remember those Lyran sorcerors?) but I’m drawing a blank on Kopek (a currency of Russia and Easter European countries), Moulquet, Lambard and Brunhauer. Concordia is the goddess of harmony and thus a good name for a utopian society. Van Eyck only returned Jan van Eyck – you may not think you know much about 15th century early Netherlandish painting, but you’d probably recognise the Arnolfini Portrait.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Dr Brunhauer: “I’ve spent 15 years researching this woman – and do you know what I’ve found out? It’s this… she wasn’t anyone special.” Also – “She went out past Vega, out past Moulquet and Lambard! She saw places that aren’t even there any more!” – a definite Roy Batty watching “C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate” vibe there. Meanwhile over in Nemesis the Warlock, Pat Mills, narration: “he is content that the most evil human of all time should finally die… at the hands of his own knights! Though perhaps even he feels some sneaking sympathy… some pity for the Termight ruler’s terrible fate. But probably not.”

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