2000AD Prog 407: Lennard J. Stibble: come on down! Lenn’s 43, he’s a kneepad salesman, happily single… …and the next victim of The Hunters Club!

Brett Ewins brings us this cover, not that he’ll be on the story inside. For those too young, the ‘come on down’ line is a reference to TV gameshow The Price is Right.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre contains reader’s art containing Tharg in a rock star pose, wielding a thrill-sucker as if it were a guitar. Another reader asks why Future Shocks (which they really enjoy) are only run every now and then. Tharg lies by saying that the droids who create them spend a lot of time making sure they’re truly blah-blah-blah. Real answer – they’re filler for the gaps in the longer stories. p.s. I’m not disparaging yer actual Future Shocks, but it’s not like more work goes in to them than the stories they fill gaps between… Finally a reader was perturbed by a misleading headline in New Scientist. Give it three and a bit decades and Tharg will be running a story in the magazine.

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book Two 2: Exercising the Dog by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. As well as toning down the colourful language, Tharg also commanded that Book II should feature more action, and the first of this occurs this episode as Halo visits Kititirik Tikrikitit, the cetacean steersman. Who has been taken hostage by terrorists. Now they have two hostages they make the demand of the captain of the Clara Pandy (Slovik) that they be allowed to broadcast a message ship-wide. Toby starts off at a trot but as the threats get closer to fruition the robo-dog has picked up quite a pace and there’s a great example of Alan Moore timing of Toby going through the door of the Navigation Chamber as the speech reaches a bit about prospering “in perfect peace”. And when I say ‘through the door’ I mean in the way that only a Ripper model can. Toby tries to issue threats about dropping guns “NOW!” but then the vocals just degrade into growling and rending.The message goes in to more detail about that war in the Tarantula Nebula which it would be easy to miss from previous references. We know from the prologue that Halo will meet General Luiz Cannibal at some point, though Halo’s mind is on other things – namely the gun pointing at her mind. Most important is that Toby is one of those on-board the ship hearing the terrorist / revolutionary freedom fighter threaten to kill Halo if their demands aren’t met. The second demand lets us know why Kit is the main prize in their threat – the Guild of Cetacean Steersman. If it’s anything like the Space Guild from Dune then anything involving steersman is a threat not to be sniffed at. Other than Halo covering her eyes to drown out the screams of the Tarantullans the last page is comedy gold – every panel has a joke or a set-up as security get to the Chamber too late and Halo is completely ignored by Mix as he checks out the damage to the “QTP 405 and the solid state cortex”.

Mega City 1, Melchester Rovers 2! (it’s an advert for Roy of the Rovers).

Not branded as Tharg’s Future-Shocks but it basically is as Alan Hebden and Belardinelli bring us Bad Vibrations. A Galactic Survey starship has been sent to investigate the loss of contact with a colony. Arriving they find everybody dead (but not the cattle) and examination of the bodies reveal everybody has either been murdered or have killed themselves. I was getting déjà vu for a similar story which I think ran in an annual (can’t place it right now) where everybody kept putting on masks. In this one Captain White Cloud (the crew is very diverse and that diversity is in the background – it just is) decides to stay on the planet without suits to find out what happened, subject to daily medical checks. A wind starts blowing and he tries to kill Lieut Lee-Fong (who doesn’t seem to be affected). Getting back to the ship he finds that the doc has also been affected, despite wearing a suit. Turns out that the wind resonates at the same wavelength as the human brain, disrupting mental control centres. But he finds this out after having fatally injured the doc so decides to order the ship to leave without him. Further tests recommend the destruction of the planet due to the disruption to mental control centres. Though Lee-Fong appeared unaffected – destroying the planet seems a bit extreme to me. Volcanoes are dangerous but we don’t try to seal them…

Micro Magic …and Pencil Power! Two pages of reader art, the first generated on computers and the second by hand. My favourite is Dredd arresting the Mutant (from the ‘pencil’ pen page).

Judge Dredd: The Hunters Club Part One by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. This entire episode follows an ordinary mega-citizen. I say ordinary but he does have a job, so not that ordinary in Mega-City One. He’s woken up early by a vid-call, essentially a text message, informing him that he’s been chosen as the latest victim of the Hunters Club of Mega-City One. After a brief moment of panic he rights it off as a prank call. He carries on with his day going to work but it broods on his mind and a follow-up call (this one by voice) sends him out on the streets to escape his shop. Once false alarm later (when a mega-citizen pulls some food out of a bag to eat) and he once again dismisses it and prepare to return to the shop to carry on with his day. So it comes as a complete surprise when the Hunter draws a gun out of a bag and shoots him dead… I seem to remember Cliff Robinson drawing this one, so I’m expecting a change of art droid before the end of the story.

Battle Action Force – IPC is really pushing its other titles this week as this one gets its “Blockbusting 10th Birthday Issue next week!” I’d stopped getting it by this point, but a new story called The Baroness is about to start – looks like Baron Ironblood got hisself a girlfriend. Or maybe not – I’ve just spent five minutes looking around a few pages on Wikipedia and apparently she’s not directly related to the Baron but Baron Ironblood is somehow Cobra Commander and there’s something about Transformers in there as well. I’m going to step away now.

An actual branded Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Extra! Extra! by Peter Milligan and Jose Casanovas – maybe that’s why Bad Vibrations wasn’t branded? This one is set about a thousand years in the future and in a way is similar to the Hunters Club in that it follows a citizen trying to avoid a predicted death. The prediction in this case is made by The World – the newspaper printed by the most powerful computer on the planet, and is about the death of a computer genius. Being so powerful it reports what is going to happen today, not what did happen yesterday. Today’s prediction of the genius’ death is assumed by the genius to be because it perceives him as a threat to it. This is born out as an extra edition predicts the death of two bodyguards (who vacate the area) and the computer controlling his car takes him towards an inevitable crash. Cue the computer part of ‘computer genius’ as he does a quick bit of circuitry hacking. An unexpected earthquake (in future Britain) threatens to kill him (it’s the cinematic kind of earthquake where the crust pulls apart and then closes up, crushing everyone who’s just fallen in to it) but instead of trying and failing to pull himself up in time he instead drops in to a tunnel below him. He thinks he’s lucky that it’s a newsarm tunnel from the super-computer though I’d hazard that it’s more likely the presence of the tunnel enabled the earthquake – either way it allows the genius to reprogram the computer. Next day, he turns up to work having not died to the surprise of a work colleague. Not because he’s still alive but because today’s headline is that “The World will end today!” – meaning the paper is closing down, but everybody else will assume it means the actual world will end. I think this ending is a little flat as it opens up another question to me – if the computer can cause earthquakes does this mean it will literally bring about the end of the world to match its headline?

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia.No deaths this episode, just a funeral (dropping a body in to a molten lava stream). Rudd marries a couple, who complain that the ceremony was too quick (a bit rich considering she was widowed a few days earlier, as was her new husband – who had a different fianceé who also died in the couple of days since). The guppies (some sort of hippy commune) has split up, taking one of the now empty rad-wagons for the breakaway faction. The rest of the episode is set-up for events to come – the trek is trying to find a way through volcanic lavalands while the Nebbs are planning on killing Rudd. As ever.

Rogue Trooper is going to get a ‘spectrum-scan’ next prog, by Cam Kennedy and I know that because a black and white preview of part of the image appears in this prog. The bottom half of the page lends itself to Tharg and Burt urging readers to reserve their progs.

Cliff Robinson puts in the first of many starscans with “Trouble, Citizen? Don’t be afraid, justice is just around the corner” – we’re informed this is a “reassuring vid-scan” issued by Justice Dept and shows the victim of a mugging about to be rescued by Dredd’s arrival (though no doubt he’d subsequently be arrested for walking in a run-down area or something).

Grailpage: Ian Gibson’s page as detailed above, where we see Toby heading to the Navigation Chamber with a real feel for the increase in speed as the situation gets more desperate. If I was picking a single panel from the entire comic it’d probably be the one immediately following this page with an extremely angry Toby telling the terrorists/freedom fighters to drop their weapons. But I’m not, so it’s going to be the page where the art really conveys the movement and speed as Toby comes to the rescue.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Captain Slovik: “I’m putting you over the public communicator. Listen, don’t harm the navigator… …or the girl, of course.” Priorities.

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