2000AD Prog 425: No escape for Smiley’s people! The Slavers of Drule “Who can help us now?”

The second wrapround cover in two weeks, this time courtesy of King Carlos and heralding the start of the next Strontium Dog story. It’s the exciting tale of when Johnny and Wulf retired. But more of that in the coverage of the first story.

But first it’s Tharg’s Nerve Centre and an explanation of the lack of prizes the previous week. Apparently there is a traitor droid suspected of pocketing the Galactic Groats for themselves (do droids have pockets?), and Tharg will actually send out prizes to the earthlets featured after all…

Strontium Dog: Johnny Alpha, Mutant Bounty-Hunter in The Slavers of Drule – Part One by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Lettering is by G.I.R. Mk 1, who I’m guessing is some version of Gordon ‘Kid’ Robson. And yes, the usual title has been expanded to include all that stuff about being a mutant bounty-hunter, which is ironic as Johnny and Wulf are in semi-retirement (I know I said this would be covered, but it actually won’t crop up until the next part – meanwhile…) Smiley’s World is a colony world on the far fringes of the galaxy. It’s a peaceful world where everybody is happy to pull together to help one another. And they’re totally unprepared for the slavers who turn up. First time I read this (and every time, until it was pointed out on the 2000AD forum) I didn’t realise the name of the Slavers of Drule was a pun (slaver = slather, drule = drool). In line with this, their leader is called Sliva (saliva) and another is called Goyter (goitre – a swelling of the thyroid gland, which moves when you swallow). Anyway, they take all the residents of a small township, leaving only one survivor (who they thought they killed). Local law enforcement can’t do anything – they don’t have the resources to trace some off-world slavers, and even if they knew where they’d taken the family of the survivor, there’s nothing the single law enforcer could do about it. But as the despondent survivor leaves he does remember one thing – a search/destroy agent has bought a tract of land on the planet. He might be able to help… There’s a few creative page layouts this prog as Carlos starts off with three inset panels and includes a polyptych as the Slavers leave Mrs Keeble for dead.

Transformers advert. For those interested, it pushes Red Alert, Jazz, Tracks, Grapple, Seaspray, Bumblebee, Warpath and others (the others are not named).

Sláine: Time Killer by Pat Mills and David Pugh. Mogrooth is carted off to the arena, Nest to Myraakothka’s laboratory while Tlachtga and Ukko are due to be executed. Myrddin manages to slip a ring with some mystic symbols on it to Nest before she’s taken away. After she’s taken away, Guledig has a word – turns out the Guledig had a Zeus moment and changed his form so that he could father Myrddin with a human mother. Luckily for Ukko and Tlachtga, Plook has advised Sláine and Murdach to don the suits they killed two cythrons for and instructed them in their use (which involves being turned in to light and flying to their destination before rematerialising). Speaking of which, Sláine rematerialises inside one of the executioners – fortunately for all involves this only kills the executioner (well, unfortunately for the cythrons, anyway).

More adverts, this time the reservation coupon and the Judge Dredd Collection (strips from the Daily Star, these days known as Daily Dredds).

Judge Dredd: Midnight Surfer Part 2 by T.B. Grover and Cam Kennedy. This episode opens with a line-up of suspects at a Justice Department crime briefing where we (and the street judges) are introduced to a number of world-class sky-surfers, believed to be in the Mega-City prior to the illegal Supersurf world championship. Dredd pays a visit to Marlon Shakespeare (though remember first time I read this I hadn’t a clue who that was) who has been enrolled on to a juve rehab programme since leaving the iso-cubes and now teaches other juves to skysurf. Ostensibly Dredd’s there to warn the juves that low level sky surfing is dangerous and against the law though really he’s there to check out Marlon, who denies any knowledge of the Midnight Surfer. Of course, Dredd is not fooled and puts Marlon under surveillance. The following evening the Shakespeare apartment receives a call – the location is in code, much to the chagrin of the watching judges. As Marlon leaves the spy-in-the-sky cameras are deployed and he almost leads them to the Supersurf rendezvous point – until he sees one reflected in the glasseen of a building… Cam gets in on the polyptych panel action in the page where Chopper got the call.

Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. Rogue hits the city of Zoncap 4 (zone capital four) in his search for clues to the antigen. We already know the scientist they’re looking for is a collaborator, but if we didn’t we’d suspect there was something up – those of us who had been trained by numerous Future-Shocks, anyway. Rogue gains entry to Doctor Moho’s quarters but all we see of Moho is the top of his head – the rest of his face is covered by bedsheets or obscured behind Bagman. What’s the reveal? That the doctor has had a rhino horn surgically implanted so that he can join the race that adopted him. And so Rogue’s presence is given away and the quarters rapidly fill with rhino alien guards. There’s a bizarre moment where Bagman comments on some plants being both coniferous and cruxiferous (the plants are being used as camouflage attached to Helm). I don’t think there’s any actual reason for that…

Anderson Psi Division: Revenge by Grant/Grover and Cliff Robinson. This episode with a message for megacites (another term for megacitizens) as news of the Dark Judge’s attack the previous night starts to break. But where are the Dark Judges? Well, Fear is in a limbo dimension while the others have convened in Doug Church Block Health Club (named after an art editor). Shaken by Fear’s defeat, a precognition of their next target gets through to Psi-Division and Anderson somehow manages to convince McGruder to give her a chance to lead operation to dispose of the other three DJs.

Grailpage: it was really tempting to go for another Midnight Surfer page, but I have a feeling I’m not going to be lacking in picks by Cam Kennedy in the next few prog-weeks. Instead I’m going for the establishing shot of Zoncap 4 from this week’s Rogue Trooper by Jose Ortiz with a bit of creeping around the city streets thrown in for good measure.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, The Guledig: “In answer to your unspoken questions… yes… I am just as evil as I look. Yes… I am going to kill you. Yes… it will be extremely painful.”

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