2000AD Prog 444: Welcome Home, Rogue! “Any last requests?” “Yeah… MISS!”

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Prog 444 cover, art by Jose Ortiz

Semi-automatic podcast.

José Ortiz provides the cover for the return of Rogue, though it doesn’t look like the genetic infantryman will be back for long…

Tharg’s Nerve Centre finally gives credit to John Higgins for the uncredited Dredd story that finished the Judge Dredd annual. Now, who was responsible for the similarly uncredited text story? In the Thargnote at the top, the mighty one warned us of impending thrill circuit overload on the last page.

Nemesis the Warlock Book V: The Vengeance of Thoth by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Thoth lost his mother, he can’t lose his pet, and desperately tries to get Satanus to have some tasty human broth. While waiting for the broth to take effect, Thoth dissolves in to a flashback and we find out what the young warlock got up to in the ten years since Book IV (other than tracking down and torturing Sir Hargan). It fills in the gaps – Thoth wandered off, discovering the Time Wastes of Termight and finding his way to the control room. Experimenting with time warps and loops he also viewed different time periods and we get a catch-up on how Satanus fared after getting caught up in that burning church (he got caught by a travelling circus and exhibited under the name Gorgo. But as with the original Cretaceous Dinosaur Park, Satanus/Gorgo soon became immune to the sedatives and went on the rampage, before being time-scooped by Thoth. Now we’re all up to date, time to switch the narrative back to Nemesis and the ABC Warriors in time for the mystery regarding the new Warrior to be revealed. One week after nearly tearing Psmith apart, Mek-Quake is back! There’s a bit of disagreement between Hammerstein and Blackblood on whether the kill-dozer should be allowed to join the squad, but Nemesis is in charge, and anyway Mek-Quake kept the bodies of the robots he killed, including a robot spaceship which was used in collecting interstellar gas and dust to create the bypasses in the first place. Bryan puts in some good touches with graffiti on Mek-Quakes chassis, including “Bring back Kev“. The question is raised (by Purity) as to why Torquemada has to come along on the trip, to which Tomas agrees. Now, I remember that Nemesis is going to hint at why he’s along, but it doesn’t happen in this episode. Similarly, Grand Dragon Mazarin and Grand Master Krassan (first time Krassan has been named though we’ve seen him previously) are heading off to visit Torquemada’s grandfather, Nostradamus, in Stalag 17 where he has been held “after committing a certain crime” – all will become clear soon. Or maybe not so soon, I can’t remember if the reveal is even in this book, it might be the next one along! Discussed on the Mega-City Book Club.

I was wrong! There is another in the series of starscans by Brian Bolland, this one is The History of Justice – Bring Me the Head of Judge Dredd: Prog 88, showing Cal’s robot Dredd head, or the melted remains of it.

We had the ad for the 2000AD-related annuals last prog, now it’s time for the full IPC line-up once more: Tiger; 2000AD; Grange Hill; BMX; Angler’s Mail; Battle Action Force; Shoot!; Eagle; Judge Dredd and Roy of the Rovers.

Rogue Trooper by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. This story doesn’t have a name though Barney is calling it Return to Millicom. Rearranging the order this is told in, but the war is over, finished by Rogue’s actions on Horst. Rogue’s reward? He gets two – first is to be led to a mock execution (Rogue doesn’t know it isn’t genuine) and then gets punched by Star-Marshal Lamal. The Southers have to work on how they show gratitude, especially as they’re supposed to be the good guys! So, Rogue’s off the hook, the genies confirm that the antigen is perfect for regening the chips and Azure has forgiven Rogue for taking Helm from her. Everything looks rosy but what’s this? The Tom Tully special! An alien hand hovers over some kind of viewing device as the watcher exposits about how they’re going to destroy the Nort and Souther generals and take over the galaxy! I wonder if this same cliff-hanger will crop up repeatedly in this story?

Advert time and Shoot! Magazine tops the page, followed by Judge Dredd 7 from Forbidden Planet / Titan Books – with a cover from Brendan McCarthy, Jokes for Pranksters and a panel from the next page to tempt readers in to continuing to read because “All’s Fair in Love and Mega-City 1”.

What does all that mean? Find out now as we get Judge Dredd: Love Story by T.B. Grover and Ian Gibson. Love means never having to say You’re under arrest (if only!) A victim of a mugging is rescued by Judge Dredd. In the process she feels hopelessly in love – and if you’re in love with Judge Dredd, it’s really hopeless! That’s pretty much the entire story – a mega-citizen infatuated with Dredd and her path from there to the psycho cubes, via love letters and wasting of judge time. This is one of the funniest Dredd strips of the year as Old Stoney Face carries on as usual and the utterly deluded Bella Bagley reads things in to his words and actions that just aren’t there. She gets carted off to the psycho cubes after a suicide attempt, but I don’t think this is the last we’re going to see of her – seem to remember a later story in the full-painted period of 2000AD, so we’re going to have to wait a while for her return…

Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli. As with last episode, the first panel repeats the last scene of the previous episode and Bad Jack Keller smashes Richman Von upside the head, terminally. Keller polls the Mean Team on who wants to make a break for freedom. As I said on the first episode, the teaser starscan, front cover and splash page featured portraits of four members of the team. Keller, Moon and Amok are along for the ride and appeared in the early pics, though Mungo also agrees to go on the run (but wasn’t in the posters, so the outlook doesn’t look good for them). Hammer and Bilk turn down the offer though when Steelgrip also joins, despite being a robot. They reveal that Von’s will stipulates that the entire team will be buried with their owner. The two refusers change their minds even as the security pod glides down to the arena floor. They deal with the first security robots on the scene, Amok takes out another pod and Bilk bites the dust as the Mean Team take over the first security pod. The chase is on!

Tharg’s Future-Shocks: Mind How You Go! by O Stepaniuk and Geoff Senior (just the initial given and I can’t remember how many ‘f’s are in Geof/fs name). Edit – I looked it up on Barney, and also found out a little more about Oleh Stepaniuk, who had two spates of writing for Tharg – the first around the turn of the decade in annuals and the second starting now and lasting until Prog 479, exclusively on Future-Shocks. The set-up – how can you tell if a pre-cog is good or not? They’re wealthy. They become wealthy through knowing when and where to be to make money. Our protagonist is not a good pre-cog – they get glimpses of the future, but not enough to be useful – finding a lost purse, but it’s empty, or predicting the result of a roulette wheel, but they’re on the wrong table. My prediction on how this is going to end up? A prediction will result in tragedy for the main character, but I’m not sure how they’re going to get there. Yep – they got a glimpse of the future as they were about to get on a bus that it was going to crash. They stopped and got on a different bus instead – my prediction? The bus they got on is going to crash in to the first bus. Yep, got it!

That’s it for the original content – now we just get the trailers, subscription coupons and adverts and first up is that thrill-circuit busting trailer as we get a panel by Carlos Ezquerra and the ominous warning Dead Dog?

Transformers take the back cover and they’re stepping up the game with the (no doubt) much more expensive Optimus Prime and Megatron.

Grailpage: I don’t tend to pick reprints for the grail sections, but I’m not entirely sure where and when this may have been produced, and it was new to me at the time, so I’m plumping for Brian Bolland’s melted robot Dredd head on a stick from The History of Justice.

Grailquote: tempting to pick many of the lines from Love Story, but I’ll pick a Gerry Finley Day, millifuzz: “Blindfold?” Rogue Trooper: “I’ve stared death in the face before, pal.” Millifuzz: “Any last requests?” Rogue: “Yeah… miss!”

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