2000AD Prog 431: Norts Landing – Meltdown Minus 15! G.I. Stake Out!

Jose Ortiz makes a rare appearance on the cover for what I thought was the last episode of this Rogue story (but I flipped through the prog already and know there’s a ‘next prog’ tag at the end). The scene of Rogue tied to the ground while retros threaten to incinerate him make this a natural candidate for cyan and orange colouring. I suspect that the ropes already being on fire will allow Rogue to work themselves loose.

As a follow-up to Dredd answering earthlet’s letters in Prog 389 Tharg gives over this Nerve Centre to some more missives. The first letter is from an earthlet who thinks they’re spotted a continuity error from when Anderson was encased in Boing® in Prog 151 but was free to accompany Dredd to 2120. Dredd points out that the psi-judge was released in Prog 224. Though not as politely as I just did. Finally the minutae of Mega-City law are examined as, in the Daily Dredd story Pleasure Island no mega-citizen can refuse a lie detector test while in Prog 419’s Dredd tale Hizlop declares that the judges can’t oblige them to speak. Dredd explains that while no mega-citizen can refuse the lie detector test that doesn’t mean they actually need to say anything (truth or lie).

Strontium Dog: Slavers of Drule by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Home life with the royal family of Jerboos (the planet where the Keeble family were taken as slaves) and we get an introduction to the psychopathy of the rulers. Also the names of Jerbooans (?) have a very medical feel to them – Queen Hernia, Cysta, Princess Polyp and King Larry the Certificable. Polyp, incidentally, has that shading thing that Carlos also gave to Angelina di Griz. Perhaps not coincidentally the two are both sadists. On to this scene arrive Johnny and Wulf in a shuttle, to be greeted by the king’s guards. A time bomb quickly dispenses with them and Johnny gives an ultimatum for the King to bring Mij Keeble (the Keeble family’s daughter). Mij is with Polyp, who, in a fit of pique, is about to kill Mij – I don’t quite get from the art how Mij is going to be killed – it looks like she’s being dragged to a bath or pool? Hopefully things will be clearer next prog.

Bryan Talbot provides a starscan of Thoth: Son of Nemesis next, as the hype ramps up for The Vengeance of Thoth. This is a rare internal colour page – I don’t know how this got swung – presumably paid for by the advert on the back cover.

Speaking of adverts, it’s time for that Mega City 1, Melchester Rovers 2! ad. Is this the third time out for this Roy of the Rovers ad?

Speedo Ghost is taking loads of damage in Ace Trucking Co.: The Croakside Trip by Grant Grover and Belardinelli as the ship is heading through a meteor belt at warp speed. G-B-H suits up to do some patch-ups though disappointingly we only see him mid-suiting up and don’t get to see him fully suited up (with the distinctive transparent helmet which contains his impressive head of hair). Speedo Ghost gets to the pick-up planet, Poopoopeedoo to pick up a cargo of fertiliser and starts the return trip at warp speed (from the picture the acceleration seems even greater than the trip out), through the M-belt, more damage and encounters Jago Kain. By the time Garp has unloaded the first cargo at the B-Hive Jago is three hours out from the pick-up point. Not for the first time, Garp states that as this was their last haul they wanted to do it above board and honest. For the first time, Garp expresses regret at this decision. Luckily for the not-actually-dying-from-a-fatal-diseased trucker, Evil Blood the pirate had other ideas and had arranged for some acquaintances to intervene – and the pirates are attacking the Yellow Snork at that very moment…

Loads of adverts. Robin Smith’s thrill-sucker reservation coupon tops the page, underneath which are ‘Jokes for Pranksters’, tamps (why, of course), a teaser panel for the Judge Dredd story (looks like Robin Smith provided the close-up of Nosferatu’s claw to me) and finally ‘The Rat… in full colour!’ – Eagle Comics is getting in to The Stainless Steel Rat action with their latest reprint.

Judge Dredd: Nosferatu Part by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. This has a much better opener than the first episode as Nosferatu’s unsuspecting landlady busybodies herself in to his room (doesn’t knock or anything, just gets out her key and opens the door) only to find him sucking at the liquified innards of his latest victim. You might expect she has limited life expectancy based on what we already know. Time for another ‘power’ to be revealed as he injects a small amount of venom in to her allowing him to ‘melt her will’ (i.e. put the vampiric hypnotism thing on her). He takes the victim’s body out to some wasteland and prays to his god (Ragnos) but it starts raining – a bad omen. Particularly bad as this means that when the judges find the body they also found footprints. There’s some nice police procedural as the judges at Sector House 78 discuss the possibilities – a megacitizen keeping a Cursed Earth spider, but it’d have to be a big appartment and a rich creep keeping it. Dredd doesn’t buy that – a creep with a large enough apartment would also have a garbage grinder so he figures the perp came from outside the city. And so the computer throws up some details on an alien race that fits the bill – and the six monthly shuttle arrived just eight days ago… It’s not much of a lead (as the shapechanger could have taken numerous identities since arriving in the city) but it’s all they’ve got to go on and so judges are assigned to assist in the search. Which is how we come to Judge Mayall arriving at the lodging house… I’m not sure this story represents a shift to the police procedural style of Dredd tale which we got a lot more of from Wagner in the 21st century (when not in semi-retirement) but I’m going to guess this was more Wagner-driven than Grant in this story.

Sláine: Time Killer by Pat Mills, Glenn Fabry and ‘Talbot’ (Bryan Talbot). Sláine faces off against Elfric for the third time and Mills steers this episode towards macro-nonsense about macrobes being incapable of defeat three times. After a gap of a few weeks it’s pretty obvious that Fabry missed a deadline and Talbot came to the rescue by inking Fabry’s pencils – particularly obvious on the fourth page which has a close-up of Sláine’s eyes looking like a panel from the forthcoming Vengeance of Thoth. Anyway, despite not being able to defeat Elfric for a third time running, Sláine, er, defeats Elfric, so the El explodes in to little dev-el babies and starts attacking Sláine’s friends. Me neither. Macrocosmic law comes to the rescue as Pluke turns up with Murdach, Tlachtcha and Ukko (I’ve not looked up the spelling of the Atlantean so reserve the right to come back and edit that name at a later date).

Rogue Trooper: Antigen of Horst by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. I had thought the episode with the G.I. Stake-Out cover was also the last of the Horst storyline, but there’s at least one more to come. As predicted, Rogue’s G.I. skin allows him to resist the intense heat long enough for his wrist bond’s to get burnt away. The stolen biochips take note of Rogue’s escape and cause their own distractions. Well, Gunnar does, with autofire. Sorry, rapid autofire. A bit of action later and the chips are reunited (except for Helm, who still sits atop a rhino-alien) and their course of action clear – destroy the eggs before they can be used to immunise the Nort attack force. Unfortunately they don’t have enough explosive. Fortunately Bagman’s sensors detect chem-mines beneath the whole spaceport. Rogue surmises that Milli-com must be responsible for booby-trapping the spaceport, and seems a bit upset about it. Not sure why? Maybe we’ll find out next prog?

Lastly a Trans Formers advert pushing the new dinobots – Snarl, Slag (didn’t they think to rename this one for the UK market?), Grimlock and Sludge.

Grailpage: tempted by one of the Glenn Fabry / Bryan Talbot pages, but instead going for the purely Ron Smith centrespread of Nosferatu’s landlady climbing the stairs and the best pic of the alien yet (which reminds me of a forthcoming scene from the next book of Nemesis).

Grailquote: Alan Grant (plus an uncredited John Wagner), Mij Keeble: “Ow! Oh! Wh-why are you hitting me? I haven’t done anything!” Princess Polyp: “That’s just in case you do!” (which is a version of how Sláine treats Ukko that is less sympathetic to the abuser).

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