2000AD Prog 406: The Ballad of Halo Jones Act II

Yes, that’s right – it says ‘Act II’ on the cover, not Book II. Ian Gibson provides a montage cover but I can’t say who appears on it as that would involve spoilers.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre trails the end of not one but two thrills this prog (City of the Damned and Nemesis Book IV) as well as the beginning of the second act/book of Halo (after last week’s prologue). A rifleman responds to requests from other units of the British Army to have Venus or Dekker as their pin-ups with an agreement that 11 Platoon should opt instead for Pulger. Tharg agrees to send a pin-up – I wonder if it’s the one with the flowery dress and soap rifle? After last week’s guess that the Mutant is Uncle Ump another earthlet has correctly guessed it is Owen Krysler. Another writes in with a Betelgeusian/Welsh glossary and Tharg picks up the mention of the Land of Glamour by plugging the return of Sláine in Prog 411. Finally another earthlet has spotted a copy of Prog 1 in a back prog shop for twelve pounds! I had a very quick look just now (using a well-known online auction site) and the same is on offer for anything between £40 and £299 – you might assume the high price is due to the space spinner. You’d be wrong – I didn’t see any with the free gift. Presumably that £40 one will sell for something closer to the average of £100-150.

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book Two 1: A Postcard from Pluto by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. She’s back! For real this week! After last week’s cunning use of a lecture at an educational establishment to explain what was actually going on in the first book, this first episode uses a letter from Halo to Rodice to give us the exposition on this one. Behind the scenes, Moore got told to cut back on the future-speak so that the readers would actually be able to understand what everybody was talking about, and the in-universe explanation for this is that as it’s an interplanetary cruise everyone on board would speak a more generic galactic English rather the jargon and slang-infused Hoopspeak. I also gather that Gibson wasn’t as invested in this book as the previous or next one, so the art is a little more rushed in places – though not as much as when he was spending most of his time concentrating on his music career and tossed off a few pages of Dredd when the deadline loomed. The pictures here are much better than, for instance, Knock on the Door by nom de denial Emberton. Anyway, thoughts. We meet Toy Molto, we find out how fast the Clara Pandy is travelling (it passes Pluto so fast that Halo doesn’t see it), we kind of meet the Glyph and we see Halo’s hostess outfit (it’s pretty demeaning – they’re essentially bunny girls without the ears – though Halo is most concerned about showing her feet). One of those people I’m not going to say anything about, who appeared on the cover, makes a very subtle appearance on page two, along with Cezanne Goleiter. There’s a funny line about Halo’s crush, Mix Ninegold: “he doesn’t say much, but he’s probably incredibly deep.” Spoiler, he isn’t – though it’s going to take Halo twelve months to work this out. Third page and another first appearance by a character – Kititirik Tikrikitit. Inspired by another character later on in this book I would get a pet gerbil before the decade was out (the pet shop didn’t have rats) and that gerbil would be named after Kit. And yes, I can still remember how to spell the full name without having to read it off the page. Gerbils don’t have the longest lifespan but I think he made it in to the nineties, despite the best efforts of the cat which we had at the beginning of his life – RIP Kipper and Kit. Back to Halo – so because she speaks cetacean she gets to spend some time keeping the steersman company – they’re a dolphin. I don’t think it’s explicitly said but the reason for this is that the alien aquatic mammal-a-like can navigate through space due to being used to swimming in three-dimensions. Halo’s letter turns to Toby, then in short order to Brinna. And then back to Toby as Halo tells Rodice that the robo-dog’s memory spools will need to be replaced soon. Foreshadowing or what? Other (double) foreshadowing is the mystery passenger in the presidential cabin – with a hint that it’s Lux Roth Chop himself. Mz Jones’ unrequited love for Mix gets brought crashing down to reality for the first time as he informs her that the bright star she tries to romanticise is actually the solid wastes disposal trailer. She’d better get used to disappointment… p.s. what I said about rushed art? No sign of it this episode, but I know there’s some episodes with less detail.

Sim-1’s Earthlet Art Groatbusters! Following the one-year anniversary of Sim-1’s construction (Simon Geller) the editorial droid has picked some earthlet art. They’re all judges mashed up with other characters: Inspector Clouseau; Sláine; Hate (? – fan-art of a dark judge?); Ace Garp and Nemesis.

Rogue Trooper: Regened 6. Decisions, Decisions by Gerry Finley-Day and Cam Kennedy. Safely away from Millicom, Rogue activates the synths on the biochips and explains how he’s gone AWOL again. They have a look at the data on the disc they transferred from Lamal’s computer – to find it’s been deleted by Azure in the hope that they’ll have to turn back and return her husband to her. As they arrive in orbit around the planet Rogue decides that he can’t put the chip’s lives at risk by going in blind, knowing nothing about the planet but is beaten to the punch by Bagman, who has engaged the landing sequence. The chips have been synthing among themselves – they’re going in, like the day they dropped on Nu Earth. The G.I. gang are back in 410. Some people say that Rogue shouldn’t have continued after the death of the Traitor General. I disagree, I enjoyed this story (which has later been titled Regened – it didn’t have that name when originally run). Horst, on the other hand… I remember it not being as good, but I’ll try to take it on its own merits.

Advert page: a panini football sticker album given away with Roy of the Rovers & Tiger, the latest Eagle Comics reprints (cover to Judge Dredd is Otto Sump by Brian Bolland, the first time I met the character and a montage cover also by Brian for 2000AD monthly). Two lots of stamp adverts appear just before the teaser panel from this week’s Dredd.

Judge Dredd: City of the Damned – last part! by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Opening with a repeat of the last page of the previous episode then Dredd and Anderson get taken to med-bay to prepare for a mission to Xanadu to take out the Mutant before he can grow up. The med scenes are played for laughs as Anderson finds out she isn’t the only flippant judge on the team. Dredd gets new eyes and the med-judge in charge has the following to say: “let’s make a good job of this, team. If we don’t, we’ll never heard the end of it.” A week later and the duo are ready to go and Dredd is more than happy with his new cyber-eyes – much better than the real thing. Now they know where they’re going it only takes 28 hours to get to Xanadu through warp space. The two arrive at the exact moment we saw depicted in the Mutant’s flashback when the Grunwalder’s assistant had attempted to kill the new-born clone. Dredd’s attack is also deflected by a psi-shield but having Anderson along comes in handy and the Mutant is killed. Dredd takes no chances, consigning the body to the same fires which claimed Pa and Junior Angel (shush). Then takes no chances again by informing the Grunwalder that the robot will also be destroyed. On board ship missiles take care of not just the robot but also Castle Grun. Psi-department precogs report that the future is clear of nightmare visions leaving just one question – if none of the 2020 that they’ve seen will now occur, why does Dredd have bionic eyes and why is there an (inanimate) zombie Dredd in the Black Museum?

After the end of the good Rogue stories and City of the Damned comes also the last episode of Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Torquemada, surrounded by murderous Terminators (as usual, though this time they want to murder him) plays one last gambit – to ask for a sword that he can kill himself. His last-minute deviation must remain a secret to keep the empire together. And thus dies the Grand Master, for the last time, trapped in a Gothic chameleon body. Really, he doesn’t come back from this death, he’s gone. Over on Britannia and without a space fleet, the Terminators are routed and the Ion Duke has been convinced that some progress is necessary to fight off any future assaults from Termight. We get an update on Thoth and Sir Hargan – the former is delighting in torturing the latter and brooding on the day when he shall have his revenge on Nemesis, for deserting him and his mother. Magna also broods, biding her time to move in on Nemesis (‘coz she still fancies him) and Candida conceals her own joy at being a widow again.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Titus Nebb shoots a ‘friendly’ mutie and the entire trek pays for it, though Esme Doing pays more than the others. They batten the hatches and roll out, but are cut off at a canyon where the muties are preparing to wipe out the whole train of radwagons. Rudd takes charge, Cursed Earth style, picking Titus out – the other trekkers making sure Ma and Judas Nebb can’t intervene and leads Titus out in to the mouth of the canyon. Rudd shouts out a message to the mutants and leaves Titus for the mutants to do with as they will – which they do, with a bunch of spears.

Grailpage: Bryan Talbot’s page showing the major players from the next book of Nemesis, Thoth, Magna, Nostradamus (giving Candida a sneaky look) and not-so-relevant Mircalla, Pandora and Barbarossa. Plus the final funeral of Tomas de Torquemada in the travel tubes of Termight.

Grailquote: TB Grover – there’s so much good dialogue this week from Anderson: “It’s happened!” Dredd: “Then I’ll UNhappen it!” through to everything involving Dredd’s new eyes from the operation to Dredd’s reponse to Anderson’s query about how he’s “gettin’ on with the new peepers”. Med-Judge Chegley: “Never seen gangrene spread so fast! I’m sorry, Anderson, we’re going to have to amputate.” Psi-Judge Anderson: “Oh grud!” Chegley: “Just joking! you’ll be right as rain in a couple of days!” Anderson: “You rat, Chegley!”

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