2000AD Prog 410: Rogue Trooper – back at the front! This means war!

As trailed in the previous prog, Brett Ewins provides the cover for the first full-length post-Traitor General / Millicom story. Unless I’m forgetting something Brett won’t be back on Rogue again (though he’ll be off on a brand new series instead, coming soon).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre highlights how Jose Ortiz is on Rogue Trooper and drops hints about Cam Kennedy moving to Judge Dredd. I’m not sure why, because we have seen Ortiz’s work before (the first episode of Helltrekkers, I think) and Cam Kennedy has drawn Dredd before. Two earthlets predict that Prog 2000 will be published around 21 July 2015. Tharg reckons it will in fact be 19 October 2015. For various reasons (not least that 2000AD takes a two or three week break at the end of the year, and some progs have been numbered differently over the years) it actually had a cover date of 20 September 2016. The same earthlets predict that the first prog to appear in the year 2000 will be Prog 1182 (Tharg counters Prog 1179 – it was actually 1174 (with a 5 January 2000 cover date) or 1175 (12 January 2000 cover date – which means it might have been on sale a week earlier, depending on how cover and publication dates related to each other at that time)). Another earthlet welcomes the return of Rogue Trooper (next page) but bemoans that there is no word of when Sláine will return (hint – there’s a trailer at the end of the prog). Yet another earthlet writes in to say that they were at the Central television studios at the time that Mean Machine Angel attempted to kidnap the presenter – I think the moment is in this video clip – though don’t see any of the children putting their hands around Mean’s neck, as described in the letter. We’ve had a long run of earthlets reading progs in various places. I don’t think there’s many more to go, in fact this might be the last but I do remember the postscript to it quite clearly as it highlights a detail I’d missed previously. This earthlet (no doubt a scientist) reads their copies at McMurdo Station, Antarctica – and the earthlet in question is awaiting the arrival of Johnny Alpha and Wulf Sternhammer in the future, when the region is a tropical rainforest (as seen in Outlaw Part 5). In answer to a query, Tharg predicts this will take place some time between a week next Tuesday, 1985 and November 2193 (it actually takes place in 2184).

Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. The story as run didn’t have a title, but it appears to have picked up Horst or Antigen of Horst since then. The majority of Jose’s 2000AD work is going to be on Rogue, though I associate him more with The Thirteenth Floor (which I’ve just found out was written by the Grant Wagner Combine). As I’ve picked out before, the story which began in Prog 228 (the massacre of the G.I.s, the hunt for the Traitor General, the regening of the biochips) has been achieved and according to fan wisdom everything after that is superfluous. I’m going to try to keep an open mind. Up to the Hits I really liked Rogue Trooper and would have re-read all of these stories – though it may say something that all I can remember about this one is how it begins and how it ends (I think there’s something that happens in a desert as well). I should point out I probably haven’t re-read this one since the late eighties / early nineties. Story-wise the chips continue their bitching at each other (Rogue’s word, not mine), Helm (in the mark II G.I. helmet) gets something to do other than deflect bullets and act as a pillow (he has a laser target finder which autolinks with the mark II G.I. rifle). The big twist is that their first encounter is a combat with a bipedal bat alien, wearing a Nort insignia – “We’re gonna be fighting aliens!”. Rogue and the biochips – henceforth to be referred to as ‘the boys’ still don’t know that the Southers have withdrawn from the planet.

The Snikker BURRP! Snack by Peter Milligan and Jeff Anderson. I keep wondering whether I should be writing Pete or Peter as so far Milligan has only had an initial in the credit box. A pair of space-smugglers are transporting a shapechanging alien to a zoo. We know food is going to have something to do with the twist as the word ‘snack’ is in the title, one of the smugglers is called Porky and said smuggler is constantly eating. Noisily. The fat smuggler isn’t content with the 10 million cred fee for smuggling (sorry, space-smuggling) the creature – which is contained in a laser-glass cube – and kills the other smuggler. The rapeedoblast somehow hits the laser-glass, freeing the shapechanger. You know how hunts for shapechanging aliens go… Though in this case (after the usual shooting at things which aren’t the alien) the twist is that Porky ate the alien – avoiding being killed but also missing out on the ten million cred payday.

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book Two 5: Cat and Mouse by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. Glyph gets a chance to shine as they have a conversation with the frustrated Halo as she’s trying to catch a rat to replace the dying brother of the Rat King. Glyph is pretty chatty, but if you get the chance for any kind of social interaction once every few months, and then only for a minute or two before the person you’re talking to gets distracted, well, you would be, wouldn’t you? Turns out that even rats don’t notice the Glyph. I’m tempted to pick Rat being picked up by Glyph whom he didn’t notice: “Eech?” as a grailquote, but I’m going for something else instead. Halo takes the rat to the Rat King, they unknot themselves from the sick or dead rat and reknot with the new brother. The new brother obediently stands with tail out to be knotted and become part of the rat collective. This suggests that the ability of the Rat King to control other rats is in effect, even if one of them is dying. I think I’ve detected a plot hole – why did they even need Halo when they could have just ordered all the rats on board the ship to converge on the Presidential Cabin? If it hadn’t been for the Glyph, the only rat Halo could have caught would have been the least attentive or slowest rat on ship – hardly a good replacement for a dying rat!

Judge Dredd: The Hunters Club – Part Four by T.B. Grover and Cliff Robinson. I did remember correctly – I thought this had Cliff providing art at some point! After the debut in the Sci-Fi Special Dredd story and a few Future-Shocks, I think this is Cliff’s debut on Dredd in the prog. He doesn’t do many (any?) Dredd stories these days, but he’s one of the definitive cover and starscan artists for the past three decades. Chip can’t go through with the killing, even when he’s standing at the open door to the apartment with the target in his sights. Bub executes him, according to “club rules”. Dredd arrives just after Bub flees and calls in maximum surveillance on all exits from the block. Bub plants the murder weapon in the pocket of another mega-citizen, a judge at the exit seeing the bulge and forcibly taking the patsy in to custody. After getting a non-positive ID from the Lavishanka family the judges are absolutely unrepentant to the suspect’s pleas of innocence and take him for interrogation anyway. Even as he’s giving the order for this to happen, Dredd reckons “he’s just a chump”. I remember a little of the next episode, but I don’t remember if the interrogation will feature at all. Following up his debut, Cliff gets to draw gushing water and a bedraggled wet suspect in this episode, not unlike in Booby Trap!

Adverts! Battle Action Force pushing Action Force versus Cobra, Final Warning! (another plug for the Fink Brothers single plus twenty more T-shirt winners) and two stamp adverts.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Long Division by Alan Hebden and Mones. I already remembered how this ended from the first page but I’d like to think I could probably guess the twist anyway. The standard long-running war resulting in limited resources opens the story as a military scientist offers up a potential solution – a bio-mass divider which can stretch manpower by creating two soldiers from one. The chief of staff wastes no time in putting a plan in to operation with the ten relay bracelets available. In the process brushing aside the scientist and not sticking around long enough to hear the warning. As they go into the battlefield, the general turns ten soldiers in to twenty, then 80, 160, etc – until there are ten million (either 655,360 or 1,310,720 if you’re interested). The twist is that after the first division the matter isn’t stretched and the soldiers have gotten smaller and smaller until the only thing they can fight is bacteria.

The Hell Trekkers by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. Korky and Rose Spillane have cleared the lava geyser due to the ejector seat but their parachute is coming down on another. Fortunately the hot air makes the parachute rise. Unfortunately not fast enough to avoid the parachute itself catching fire. The last we see of them is their skeletons as they burn alive in a lavaflow. Rudd puts in the trek log that they were married for less than 18 hours and would never reach the New Territories, build a home or raise kids – though doesn’t mention that they’d probably been engaged for less than 18 hours before that. They arrive at the head of Quint’s Pass without further mishap and manage to make radio contact with the other half of the helltrek. In flashback we’re told about using lifting gear to get the radwagons up on to high ridge in their way. There’s a cliffhanger (technically a radwagon-hanger) where a family are at risk from snapping cables from the radwagon – but any tension is somewhat diminished by our knowing from the beginning of the radio conversation that they’re going to die.

The inside back cover is given over to the next prog, split between the two new series artists for Sláine: Time Killer – the top of the page a pic from David Pugh and the bottom half of one of Glen (sic) Fabry’s pages as it will be printed.

Bryan Talbot provides a back cover starscan with The A.B.C. Warriors: Six of the best! For the record, this is the line-up comprising of Hammerstein, Mongrol, Blackblood, Hitaki, Mad Ronn and Joe Pineapples. It’s date ’85 so couldn’t have been sitting on a shelf for long before the March publication date.

Grailpage: I’ve mentioned before that the rats in this story inspired me to get a gerbil a few years later and this episode would have instigated that more than any other – Ian Gibson rats capture that rodent look so well, so I’m picking one of the three pages where they feature prominently – it took me a while to figure out which one to go for but I’m ending up picking the one where Glyph finally picks up a rat, who is completely surprised by the experience.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Halo Jones: “Come back here, you ugly, worthless… …filthy, scruggy, miserable… …dirty little… uh… little… what can you call something that’s worse than “rat“?” but I also have to put in TB Grover, Enid Lavishanka: “Oh, no. That’s not him. The killer didn’t have a broken nose and blood all over his face.” (neither did the suspect, before the judges arrested him).

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