2000D Prog 426: Midnight Express – Southbound Surfer! “Intruder on track! Impact unavoidable!”

Cam Kennedy provides a second cover for Midnight Surfer, this one giving away a little about this week’s episode (if you remember he had just realised he was being followed by Justice Department last prog).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre features calls for a Crustacia Glemp series (to the best of my knowledge the only appearance to date is in a licenced card game).

Strontium Dog: Slavers of Drule – Part Two by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Now we get to it – the tale of Johnny and Wulf’s retirement as they buy a plot of land in the forests of Moondog Mountain and build a cabin. Well, Johnny builds a cabin, anyway. Though as Wulf says “for a while, all der shooting und killing far behind us” it looks like it was only ever intended as semi-retirement. Without much convincing, Johnny takes on Mrs Keebel’s case to find her family. Wulf takes a little more convincing – though this goes as far as “You stay and finish the cabin, Wulf”. Back with the law office in the town of Serendipity we find that the slavers leader is Black Gumbs (continuing the drool, slather, saliva theme) and Johnny comes up with a shortlist of slavery-tolerant worlds. Speaking of which, on one of those worlds the youngest child of the abducted family gets bought by the king. The father tries to stop her being taken away but the slaver points out that a life in the palace is a lot better than the rest of the slaves will be getting (and unsold slaves get taken to the flesh farms).

2000 AD Special Offer! For three different types of computer game. The three types are “mini-arcades” (Super Kong and Galaxy Invader), “game & watch multi-screen” – appears to be hand-held with two screens (Oil Panic, Greenhouse, Rain Shower, Lifeboat) and “game & watch wide screen” – looks like hand-held with a single screen (Fire, Manhole). You don’t get to play all the games on each computer by the way – it’s one game per computer.

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Grainger in Paradise! by Pete Milligan and Kev Hopgood. Probably art droid Kev’s first work for Tharg, this one-pager has a pilot crash-landing on a planet while a computer narrative overlays the visuals. The pilot has a next to zero chance of being rescued, but this is fine as the planet is a veritable Garden of Eden (though there are multiple Eves to the pilot’s Adam). Final panel twist is that the computer is administering reality-altering drugs to the pilot as the planet is a barren wasteland and would drive him mad if he saw what was really surrounding him.

Sláine: Time Killer by Pat Mills and Glenn Fabry David Pugh. Sláine tries to slip past the cythrons guards to help Tlachtga rescue her father from captivity, though a cythron immediately sees through the disguise (Ukko hypothesised that Sláine’s aura was showing – the dwarf could be correct). Meanwhile we get more exposition with the Guledig and Myrddin as they witness a couple of cythron commanders arguing over the best way to farm humanity. Sláine covers Murdach while he flies off with Tlachtga and Ukko but gets hit on the head in the process, coming too in the presence of the Guledig who decides that Sláine will act as a good test subject for the next version of Orgot (organic robot) in the gladiatorial arena. Yep – Sláine’s a gladiator now. As is Mogrooth, who starts off fighting Sláine for a percieved sleight but changes tune when Sláine reveals his daughter is still alive. As fascinating as all the world-building and exposition has been, I’ll be glad when the story gets going again…

2000AD has the Judge – Eagle and Tiger has Doomlord (you can guess what this is an advert for, correctly identifying that Doomlord is more of a draw than Dan Dare is). This advert is joined by the lower class Jokes for Pranksters, and the better quality ads for the Manchester comic, Sci-fi and Fantasy Film Fair, Judge Dredd and 2000 AD Miniature Figures (the Titan ones) and 2000AD Back Issues from Fantasy World in Hanley (my first regular local comic shop where I bought the majority of my back progs).

Judge Dredd: The Midnight Surfer Part Three by T.B. Grover and Cam Kennedy. Marlon Shakespeare knows that the judges are on to him and briefly weighs up whether he should pull out to protect the other surfers, or try to escape and join the Supersurf anyway. We’ve seen the cover, showing Chopper escaping down a subway, so the result of that decision is already known. Most of the episode is given to the escape attempt, and most of the escape attempt takes place underground, first in the pedestrian areas of Mega-Central Station and then down a zoom tube where we get a repeat of the Manfred Fox Tunnel trick from the first episode, this time in the foot or two above a zoom. Eventually Chopper succeeds and everything is set for the Supersurf race itself – a great episode to set it up!

Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. Quick version: Moho gloats over having Rogue cold at, uh, rhino-horn tip, but while distracted Bamgan dispenses a laz-scalpel to give Rogue a weapon. Rogue takes Moho hostage and gets some basic data about the antigen – it’s contained in eggs in a nearby zone, Zone 5. Lucky he got that information, as the Doctor is killed while they try to escape. The G.I.s still don’t know exactly where to find the antigen, but the Norts have surmised why Rogue is on Horst, and are preparing to flood the area around the Neva antigen with troops. I’ve said before that I only remember one more scene from the Horst storyline, and that’s right at the end, though the next prog tag “Riders of the Red Desert” is making me half-remember something a bit like stammel riders.

Anderson Psi Division: Revenge by Alan Grant, John Wagner and Robin Smith. I do like Robin Smith’s artwork, though we know from his time as art editor that if his work suddenly appears on a cover or the latter stages of a multi-part story then it’s probably due to some scheduling mishaps (particularly as Robin is the third art droid on this Anderson tale). I’m looking forward to the period where he’s fully the intended art droid and am expecting to pick his work as grailpages at some point in the next couple of prog-years. Anyway, in this episode the three remaining Dark Judges are continuing their killing spree in the Doug Church Health Club (named after a different art editor of 2000AD), starting with a towel-wrapped user of a sauna which I’m sure echoes a scene in the first Four Dark Judges story (namely DJs killing people while they’re in the shower / sauna). As the judges turn up they teleport to their next location – which Justice Department got a psi-flash of and have laid an ambush…

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book Three isn’t here yet, but Tharg chucks a pin up by Ian Gibson (with the caption 4949 AD, which is the year she boarded the Clara Pandy). We get a full-length picture montaged with a close-up portrait.

Grailpage: It has to be one of Cam Kennedy’s Midnight Surfer pages, but which one? There are so many pages of clear storytelling showing naturalistic body poses that make you believe that flying powerboards are real that I’m just going to go for the easy option which juxtaposes this with some great Cam shots of the Mega-City terrain.

Grailquote: Pat Mills, Mogrooth: “I’ve been happy drunk… I’ve been shinging drunk… and now I’m… fighting drunk!”

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