2000AD Prog 408: The weird guppy commune trek straight into hell! “What the gup is happenin’, man?” LAVALANCHE!

Horacio Lalia provides his only cover for the galaxy’s greatest – shame we didn’t get more. Though I have a feeling he’s still active – he was working with Enrique Alcatena at the beginning of this century (I know Alcatena’s work from Toxic! in the early nineties, though I’ve seen it more recently on a Dredd cross-over, which I’ll be covering probably around the year 2025).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre (and Stamp Quiz advert) gets a letter from the depths of the Cursed Earth, Milwaukee to be exact. The writer and their friends have been reading since 1977 – I wonder if they caught The Fear that Made Milwaukee Famous in the 1981 Judge Dredd Annual? Tharg awarded the writer of this letter $5.63 (how much £5.00 was worth at the time of going to press).

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book Two 3: I’ll Never Forget Whatzizname… by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. After three months of living in a room with Toy Molto and a stowaway, Halo finally notices the stowaway for long enough to have a conversation with them. Let’s call them Glyph for the rest of this blog. Glyph had a total body remould because they weren’t happy being a girl. Or a boy. They can’t remember, but it was one of those two. This would have been fine except six months later they changed their mind and subsequently changed their body back as well. That would also have been fine, if not for forty-seven more remoulds in the following five years. By that point Glyph’s body and mind had been changed. Glyph wasn’t male or female and their personality as well as primary and secondary sexual features had also been erased. Glyph’s personality is now so boring that people stop listening to what they’re saying and forget about them. Job interviewers, people working in restaurants and even Glyph’s landlady don’t notice them, to the extent that a new family moved in to Glyph’s apartment. The story ends as Glyph stowed aboard the Clara Pandy three years earlier – not even the ship’s robots noticing them. Though by this time Halo and Toy have forgotten that Glyph is speaking and are watching holo-soaps. There’s a definite Future-Shock feel to this episode as Toy says how interested she is in people (which is why she likes holo-soaps) while Glyph retreats back in to the shadows, unnoticed and ignored by the pair. As an aside, when Rackle and me talked about The Ballad of Halo Jones on the Mega-City Book Club, we completely forgot about Glyph until the last moment.

Mighty Micro Page: The 2000AD microcomputer feature! Seems like a while since the last of these. Anybody remember Automan? It got a Commodore 64 game, which is mentioned here. Other games covered (I wouldn’t really call them reviews, they just about cover what the games are about) include: Sentinel; Brian Bloodaxe; Pole Position and Alien – I suspect the scariest thing about it now would be the graphics.

Like last prog, a short story appearing in the first half of the prog which isn’t branded as Tharg’s Future-Shocks but may as well be. Psi-Testers by Alan Hebden and Mike Dorey. Good to see Dorey back, though it opens in a domed city on the moon (as I’ve said before, I think Dorey excels best in grimy contemporary or near-future settings). Hah! Just searching for a link to ‘as I’ve said before’ and I said almost exactly the same thing last time. I’ve mentioned ‘near-future’ before as well. I even talk about it when Eric Bradbury is the artist. Anyway, back to this one. A criminal gang have come to the moon to pull a bank heist. Forgetting about the low gravity, the boss gets caught off-balance but has an insurance policy. He invokes the right to be psi-tested. In the interrogation by Oscar the psi he reveals that a laser bomb has been planted and if he isn’t left to go free will explode, killing a million luna-citizens. The verdict of a psi is final but when Oscar follows the crime boss to the shuttle terminal the boss does not reveal the whereabouts of the bomb. Not only is the gang free to leave but a million people will die, next prog! I kind of remembered the beginning of this story but can’t remember how it ends (it doesn’t end this prog – I’m guessing it’s a two-parter).

IPC page starting with a reservation coupon and ending with an advert for Battle Action Force (the 10th birthday issue, as as advertised last prog). I missed that two stories were starting – The Baroness and Operation Snakebite.

Judge Dredd: The Hunters Club – Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Dredd looks to be doing forensics job for them as he opens up by analysing the trajectory of a the bullet that killed last prog’s cover star. Then we switch to the latest meeting of the titular organisation as they watch the video of the hunt which kill Lennard. Our focus narrows on Chip Chegley, the latest member of the Hunters Club, who prior to this hadn’t totally believed it was real. Rather transparently it’s fixed so that the next person to be nominated to hunt a randomly-selected human being is Chip (but he’s experiencing a bit of shock at being shown it’s all real, so can be forgiven for falling for it). It isn’t revealed that it’s a set-up this prog, by the way. Quick interlude as Dredd checks out Lennard’s apartment and finds that the murder was the latest Hunters Club killing. Dredd bemoans that there’s nothing they can do to stop them as they need to catch one in the act, or for one of them to crack. Time to see how Chip is doing – he’s cracking under the pressure of having to contemplate how he’s going to kill an innocent person.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Nerves of Steel! by Peter Milligan and Will Simpson. Will’s first appearance? Hate to say it but the art certainly suggests it’s a debut – but Will’s work will improve drastically over the next few years! I’ll comment as I read along so I can try to second-guess what the shock will be. The Robot War claims another victim in a ruined city. So far, so future-shock. The three survivors look like humans and talk about how they still have one gun and one grenade and that the robot war isn’t over yet. I can only assume they’re going to turn out to be robots, which we’ve seen before. The trio come up with a plan to blow up the spaceport by stealing a fuel tanker and crashing it into a ship. The tanker driver looks like a robot – it’s probably just going to be armour. By the time they get to the spaceport there are only two left who one-by-one start shaking and lose control, dooming their suicide mission (in a head-explodey way). Yep, they were robots with self-destruct programming in moments of high tension while the ‘robots’ were humans wearing armour. All the robots are dead, the robot war is over, next thrill!

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Strangely this episode begins with a lavalanche – you’d have thought the previous episode may have ended with that kind of event, but no (that episode ended with the Nebbs plotting to get revenge on Rudd). The breakaway hippie/religious fanatics were first to fall victim to the lava. Second were the rest of the extremists as the rock beneath their radwagon gave way – just as one of them was gloating at their survival. They try to reverse away but the wagon behind them powers forward, purposefully pushing them forwards and murdering them. Poetic justice-wise that wagon also plunges in to the lava. And so the trek is split up – Bish Glemp (father of Crustacea) is appointed lead for the cut-off wagons – which doesn’t go down well with Judas Nebb. Glemp and Rudd arrange to find their ways through the lava-fields and meet up at Quint’s Pass, unsure whether they’ll ever actually see each other again.

The inside back cover has an advert for Lone Wolf Book 4 The Chasm of Doom. For the uninitiated this is Joe Dever’s gamebook series (similar to Fighting Fantasy and the forthcoming Diceman, but with more continuity). The other half of the page plugs Prog 409 – using a Ron Smith pic of a judge returned from Titan from one of the Daily Dredds, I believe.

…and the back page has a star pin-up of Rogue Trooper by Cam Kennedy. Much was made last prog about how colourful it was going to be, but it seems fairly normal to me. There’s a sunset, but no blazing colourful sky or anything.

Grailpage: tricky – there’s a few pages from Ian Gibson in this week’s Halo, and one or two of those from Ron Smith’s Dredd but I’m pretty sure this is the last pic we get of Rogue Trooper by Cam Kennedy (other than in Prog 500) so I’m going for the starscan page.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Glyph: “I remember I started off as a girl. That much I’m certain of… …or maybe I started out as a boy. Never mind – it doesn’t really matter.”

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