2000AD Prog 415: Free inside! 6 ‘Masters of the Universe’ stickers! Bright eyes… burning like fire! Big prizes to be won in KP Alien Spacers competition!

Ron Smith provides a fiery cover to tie-in to this week’s Dredd episode.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre – next prog is the 8th birthday issue using the unusual 52 progs times 8 rather than celebrating the birthday eight years after the first prog came out. It’s not quite going to be a jumping-on prog, but two series are going to be coming to an end this prog to make way for it. In answer to a reader’s letter, Tharg clarifies that SD stands for Search/Destroy (Strontium Dog is an insult applied to mutant Search/Destroy agents) and that Wulf is the only non-mutant Strontium Dog. Another earthlet’s art teacher went to a college in Birmingham with Ian Gibson – Tharg confirms that it was the same Ian Gibson and passes on a message from the art droid to the art teacher (“Hello, Alan”). Finally, a third reader notes that they came across a photograph of a statue of Mictlāntēcutli which bears a striking resemblance to Feek the Freek – I’ve read elsewhere that there’s a statue of this god of the dead in the British Museum, though from what I can tell that statue doesn’t look so much like Feek as the ones at a museum in Xalapa, Mexico and a university in Jallapa (sic, I think it should be Jalappa).

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book Two 10: Ice Cold on Charlemagne by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. Halo and Toy head away from the Clara Pandy through the icy streets of Charlemagne. Toy points out a trolley which was wheeled out of the presidential cabin earlier (which Halo knows contains a rat king) towards the sector where ships bound for the Tarantula Nebula are docked (which we heard at a party was the location of a war – we know more than Toy and Halo about both aspects of this future plot point). As Halo walks alone to the Solid Air Club where she arranged to meet up with Rodice there are some nice touches in the background (technically the foreground) such as a heavy-duty bus which has broken down – the driver looking under the bonnet (hood if you’re from the USA). Halo arrives at the club to find a) it’s not as busy as it was a year earlier and b) she’s arrived before Rodice… As with the episode where Halo has drastic changes of emotions in a short space of time (when she was listening to Toby’s audio memory spools) Gibson conveys some great looks from Halo. What happens is Halo is sipping her drink when she hears her name mentioned by the barkeep, answering a warplink call, she’s please to see Rodice’s face but then realises that Rodice lied to her and has no intention of leaving the Hoop. Finally, Halo ends the episode (and series) dejectedly sipping her drink. Final nice touch about this episode (but also sad because of Ludy) is that the barkeep is playing a melodic version of Ice Ten’s hit from the first book. I think there’s another reference to the song in Book Three. The barkeep has a name, by the way. As mentioned previously, I mashed up the rat king and the dolphin when I had a pet gerbil. I guess if I’d ever had a reptile or amphibian I may have named it Yortlebluzzgubbly. There’s still time.

KP Alien Spacers Zarjaz Competition! 25 armatrons must be won! What’s an armatron, I hear you ask (I certainly had to look twice when I was writing up the previous prog). It’s some sort of robot arm. The Alien Spacers tie-in competition comes at a fortuitous time as 2000AD’s own Brett Ewins was providing packet artwork at the time. Or at least that’s how I remember it. All I can find online are pictures of the strip artwork that appeared in comics which definitely looks like Robin Smith work. Except for a beach trawl of washed-up plastic in Ireland a few years back which turned up thirty-year-old crisp packets – which does look like Brett’s work (the art on the packets, not that they were thrown in the sea). I did circle the differences I saw but didn’t cut it out or send it off. Which was probably the right choice because even if I’d won it I think a toy robot arm from 1985 would have broken down by now, whereas my comic (with the last page of Halo Jones Book II on the other side) is still perfectly readable.

An Ezquerra Tharg introduces a very rare internal colour page and it’s an advert for the jumping-on prog next week (rather than the less rare paid-for colour advert pages provided by external companies). Another competition (this one for a robo-turtle which I just about remember being a think in shops) and new stories the very first Anderson – Psi Division series (we had a one-off in an annual but that’s it so far) and Strontium Dog: Big Bust of ’49.

Sláine: Time Killer – by Pat Mills and David Pugh. Following the great character work by Alan Moore here comes some more from Pat Mills as Tlachtga bemoans her fresh facial disfigurement, Sláine tries to comfort her and Ukko does not help matters. The ever-living ones divert some Earth energy (intended for peace) to the leysers at the Eternal Fortress, warding off Crom and causing the great time worm to retreat, slithering away in to time. Meanwhile Sláine has defeated the local cythrons and Myrddin and Cador try to recruit him to kill a man. The man in question is one we’ve met before in a story in the most recent 2000AD Annual but we’re about to get the same story told in a different manner – not the only time that a story (or page) in an annual will be reframed in the weekly comic. In this version Elfric Serpent-Eye is a changeling who has been foisted on the King of Norway thousands of years in to the future of the Land of the Young but about a thousand years in to our past. Just in case we weren’t sure if the disguised El was a baddy, Elfric kills one of his own men and then orders the murder of all the children over the age of five.

Judge Dredd: Juve’s Eyes – Part Two by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. I think I took that title from either Barney or a Rebellion reprint. In situations like this I sometimes come up with my own title for an untitled story. I guess this one might be Pyrokine but I can’t think of anything better so we’ll go with Juve’s Eyes. Maybe Unspontaneous Combustion, to paraphrase a line from Dredd in the opening centrespread. Two juves have bullied recent immigrant Primo in to exploding a mothane tank, killing two hundred people, then on to murdering random mega-citizens to steal their stuff. Dredd orders a full sector check on all known psis, anyone with an arson record and all incomers to the sector. Unfortunately for Judge Sharba, he’s the one assigned to Primo’s apartment. Wanting to protect his parents, Primo kills the judge before heading off to deal with the two juves who pushed him in to all this trouble. Unspontaneously combusting them he heads out and is confronted by Dredd – but no shoot-out is necessary as Primo sadly turns the powers upon himself. Having seen similar events in other stories I do wonder what would have happened if he’d allowed the judges to take him in (I suspect either lobotomy or using his powers for Justice Department’s purposes).

Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. Rogue deals with the bat-aliens, firstly by disguising one of the ant-aliens as a bat chef – erm, not sure how they managed that in the seconds they had before the bats returned to roost – then by threatening to shoot a bat unless they fly him away from the bat cave – which then gets blown up by a mini-nuke. Returning to the adviser’s base they find him dead and a large amount of the insectoid (‘toid) force blitzed. He still never got a name, but now he’s dead so I doubt he’s going to get one now. He did leave a death note before passing away though, telling the boys that they can find out about the antigen in the next zone. Not a lot to go on… I guess the general format of the Horst storyline isn’t dissimilar to that on Nu Earth – one overriding quest but with lots of side-quests along the way. Perhaps because the side-quests previously had individual story titles it didn’t seem so aimless. I can’t identify any real difference so far in the stories on Horst and those on Nu Earth other than the format they’ve been told in.

The Hell Trekkers: Trek’s End! by F Martin Candor and Horacio Lalia. As Rudd buries his son he questions whether he should have taken the seemingly easy route west along with the other wagons. He soon finds his answer as the radwagons arrive out of the haze. They don’t stop though, they’re on auto-pilot. We’ll never find out what happened to the occupants but it appears they’ve been terrified to death. By the time they get to the New Territories in the Black Hills of Dakota four wagons have survived, carrying 16 out of 111 trekkers who left Mega-City One thirteen days earlier. Their welcome? “Four wagons! Good going!” Rudd might have lost a son, but Amber has good news for him – she’s pregnant (though she was carrying through a post-apocalyptic radioactive wasteland, so good luck on that birth). Skipping past the mild racism we’ll head off to probably the most famous page of the entire series – when young Crustacia Glemp swims off and we find that her father Bish wanders the streams and riverbanks, sticking his nose beneath the surface hoping for a bite.

The Barratt Sherbert Gang is an advert told in a cartoony comic strip.

Grailpage: when I opened the centre pages to see a pic of Ron Smith burning a mothane tank I thought that was going to be the grail page, but then I got to another Smith page six pages later showing Primo Vesta turning his pyrokinetic powers upon himself and having a sequence of four panels which have lived with me for the thirty-five years since first reading this comic make it a prime candidate for grail pageness.

Grailquote: Alan Moore, Halo Jones: “Do you have any ice?” Yortlebluzzgubbly: “Yes, miz. – on Charlemagne, we have plenty of ice…” Halo: “Yeah, I guess you do.” Also, Pat Mills, Tlachtga: “…I’m left an ageing hag, father! From now on, men will only kiss my sword.” Ukko: “You’ve still got a nice personality, dear. If you like that sort of thing…”

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