2000AD Prog 438: Warning: Nem at Work! “Death in the fast lane!”

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2000AD Prog 438 cover, art by Bryan Talbot

The semi-automatically generated podcast here.

Bryan Talbot’s first cover for the current series of Nemesis (having said that, I’m not sure there’s going to be any more?) sees the warlock facing off against the traffic police in a busy tube tunnel. Why is this not a film? Bonus points for the road-sign warning of a hazard (the warlock head in a red triangle).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre has news of an imposter claiming to be the editor of 2000AD (in the introduction to the collection of newspaper strips – The Judge Dredd Collection). This Steve MacManus may be making false claims but at least they know the population of Mega-City One (800 million before the Apocalypse War, half that immediately afterwards). Meanwhile, it’s all about the comic shops as Odyssey 7 in Manchester places an ad and a reader writes in about The Black Box in Plymouth. Not heard of that one (and I’d be surprised if it’s still there). Pop culture rears its head in the form of Tharg the Spitting Image (based on the satire cartoons in puppet form which has recently made a comeback in the 21st century).

Nemesis the Warlock Book V: The Vengeance of Thoth by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. I doubt it’ll make the grailpage section, but there’s a great panel of Grand Dragon Mazarin in darkness, seen through the tube map with live updates of the blitzspear and Purity’s bike. I realise that this is the first time I’ve actually mentioned that Purity isn’t in the blitzspear – she has a flying bike which has a bubble when she’s in space. Which is a good job, as she isn’t wearing a spacesuit, instead opting for post-apocalyptic goth-punk clothing. Mazarin orders the laser cage activated, trapping Nem and Purity. Nemesis uses a school-bus full of children to try to force the Terminators to open the cage. When Mazarin discovers Torque’s own children are among those on board he orders the voltage increased. That puts paid to any concerns about Torque’s return causing Termight to fall in to chaos – it’s all a power-grab for the Grand Dragon! Anyway, between them, the Grand Dragon and the dragon-like alien kill two hundred children but at least the laser cage is temporarily disrupted and Nem and Purity drive through the gap. In Necropolis, Nem tends to Seth and the pair head off to visit Thoth (disguised by a hallucinatory projection as they stroll along the tubes). As they prepare to enter Thoth’s apartment, we get our first proper look at Nemesis’ new suit – kind of a boiler suit with kneepads (we’re talking 2000AD here), cloven boots, a bootknife, pockets, utility pouches and the odd khaotic badge thrown in for good measure. The badge showing something akin to Michael Moorcock’s radiating arrows sign, by the way. Thoth isn’t happy to see Nemesis, but Satanus is, as the young warlock has given the tyrannosaur the ability to spit fire. As the flames die down Thoth has disappeared somewhere in time. Meanwhile they look out of the window and see a Torquemada impersonator being burnt at the stake – but we know it’s the real one, and it doesn’t take Nem long to cotton on either. Lots of time travel in this page, so time for the future shock as Nemesis declares that he’s going to rescue Torquemada! Discussed on the Mega-City Book Club.

What adverts do we have today? Everyday Electronics and computer Projects offers something or other to do with the BBC Micro and the Sinclair Spectrum or Spectrum-Plus (we had BBCs at school, though I don’t remember the last of those – I still have a Spectrum somewhere, not that I have a TV to use with it). Oh, and the bottom half of the advert page is given to the more future-proof Proteus magazine. I didn’t get this, but I believe it’s similar to Warlock, the Fighting Fantasy Magazine in that they had complete solo adventures in each issue. Funny how the printed magazine is more useable in the 21st century than the outmoded software and hardware…

Robo-Hunter: “Farewell, my Billions” by Grant / Grover and Ian Gibson. Slade interrupts Grits’ bath-time (full body nudity, with only his hands to cover his modesty) for a quick interrogation. Flashback time as Grits recounts Hoagy and Stogie hitting the casino and recounting the tale of how they lost 50,000 creds in ten minutes, then let slip that they had 27 billion to fall back on. Grits was interested and sent a jet to aid them in picking up the rest of their cash in Tahiti. The pair of robots gave Grits’ heavy the slip, Grits ordered the heavy to go back to their hotel (actually Slade’s apartment) and that’s where Slade picked up the story. Grits doesn’t seem to concerned in punishing Slade for interrupting his bath (not to mention destroying two of his robo-hoods) and even gives Slade a tip – Hoagy and Stogie have the gambling bug – Slade’d better find them soon!

More adverts, more reprints – same as last week’s Eagle and IPC Magazines line-up.

Judge Dredd: The Man Who Knew Too Much Part One by T.B. Grover and Carlos Ezquerra. I remember this story being different to Dredd tales I’d read up to this point – I think anybody who thinks Dredd is a hero would have to reappraise their viewpoint after this two-parter! A freelance journalist is trying to sell a story to a Mega-City news corporation. They live opposite a factory – Riochem which is only served by unmarked tankers at night. As a journalist Fisher Wilman of course investigates. It all seems innocuous, the investigations saying it exports liquid fertiliser to Cent-Am states but it’s still a strange delivery schedule. Two nights previous to the sales pitch a tanker came down (it’s Mega-City One so the tankers are all hover-tankers). The resultant gas cloud kills hundreds, maybe thousands of mega-citizens. The freehacker tries to find out more at the scene, but that just puts him on a judge watchlist. We find out the incident has a “J” Notice put on it – first (and last?) time we’ve had the Mega-City One equivalent of a ‘D’ Notice mentioned. D or Defence notices were renamed to DA (Defence Advisory) notices in 1993 and then reorganised into various levels of DSMA (Defence and Security Media Advisory) notices in 2017. I suspect 22nd century Mega-City One is less advisory than the 21st century UK version. Total aside, but the chemical accident happened on Craven Boulevard. Back to the story, the mystery is in place, and the freehacker reveals they have found out what the secret is. Next prog! Seeing as this story’s protagonist is a freelance journalist, I wonder if this is named for John Craven of Newsround fame (for those who weren’t children in 1980s Britain, John Craven’s Newsround was a weekday news programme aimed at children).

Bad Jack, Henry Moon, Amok and Steelgrip all appeared on that teaser star scan, last week’s front cover and in the splash page of this series. This week’s Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli opens with a portrait gallery which also includes Bilk, Mungo and Hammer, but I’m not fooled – I don’t think these players are going to survive to the end of this story. Though it looks a bit touch-and-go with Moon as the senser (psychic)’s body is shattered. That thing about Bad Jack Keller not exactly being heroic? As game rules say the brain can be transplanted but that it has to be in to a registered team member, he suggests killing Dave Bronski and using his body. Richmann Von is more than happy with this. Bronski not so much. Luckily for Dave they’re on a planet with strict anti-vivisection laws and the team’s doctor has a conscience. Steelgrip the robot has another idea – the panther mascot is a registered team member and not covered by the laws. One quick brain transplant and a vocal synthesiser fitting later and we’ve got a psychic panther that can speak. Henry Moon’s not incredibly happy about this when he comes around a week later…

Pete Milligan gets to work with all the fledgling art droids on these Tharg’s Future-Shocks and this week it’s the turn of Geoff Senior (apologies if I got the wrong amount of ‘f’s in the name there, the credit only says ‘G Senior’) for The Revenge of Yallop Cringe! Right away, my finely-honed Future Shock sensors are tuned to the fact that this story starts with three panels showing extreme close-ups of faces, no bodies visible. The protagonist is an agent who appears to be recounting a tale to a psychologist. But maybe that’s what we’re meant to think… Time for a flashback where we see the narrator in full-body form as they head off to a planet to stamp out mutie-making (which appears to be some sort of body grafting process – adding body parts to the recipient and nothing to do with mutations). Next page and we find out that Yallop Cringe is a big shot mutie maker and the protagonist doesn’t know what they look like – so it could be anybody… Before I turn the page I’m going to predict that the either the agent or the psychologist has had their head grafted on to the other. Yep – the psychologist’s head is on the left bicep of the agent.

That was a three and a half page shock (with the shock in the final half-page panel, as is tradition) leaving half a page for the second week of the Raleigh Vektar electronic bike competition and an ad for Forbidden Planet / Titan reprint albums – this week for Judge Dredd 5 (Brian Bolland cover) and Rogue Trooper Book One (classic Dave Gibbons image, also used later on the Rogue Trooper boardgame).

Speaking of competitions, the three winners of Valiant Robo-Turtles (which also included Commodore 64 computers) take up the top half of the inside back cover, the rest given to a next prog box, once again a Massimo Mean Team panel – this one showing Bad Jack and Henry ‘panther’ Moon fighting.

Starscan time and Ian Gibson provides Hoagie and Stogie gambling away Slade’s fortune, surrounded by trademark Gibson sexy women.

Grailpage: I think I’ll go for the cover this week – Bryan Talbot shows off Nem’s new outfit, we get a travel tube, tube police, an explosion, flames – what more could you want from your daily commute?

Grailquote: Grant/Grover, Sam Slade, spoken: “But 27 billion? They couldn’t… not even airbrains like Hoagy and the Stogie could squander that much that fast!” narration: “But in my heart of hearts, I knew that if anyone could do it – they could!”

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