2000AD Prog 445: Johnny and Wulf Get Nailed! “Scratch two dogs!”

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2000AD logo
2000AD Prog 445 cover, art by Carlos Ezquerra
2000AD Prog 445 cover, art by Carlos Ezquerra

Also a semi-automatic podcast.

Three new characters are introduced in this cover, and one old character is dispatched. Carlos Ezquerra begins one of the most memorable chapters in 2000AD history with this cover.

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is truncated, just having space to plug the end of the current book of Nemesis and the beginning of that Strontium Dog story, which bookend this prog. Advert-wise Forbidden Planet/Eagle Comics are selling Judge Dredd No 27 (Brian Bolland depicting a haywire Lawmaster) and Strontium Dog 2 (Johnny Alpha getting busy with the electronux). A non-2000AD reprint advert is for Proteus No 3 – a gaming magazine I don’t know a whole lot about – though the best argument the advert can use is that it’s “Britain’s least expensive fantasy adventure game magazine”.

Nemesis the Warlock Book V: The Vengeance of Thoth by Pat Mills and Bryan Talbot. Coming in at eight pages instead of the usual five or six, the ultimate episode of this book shows the robot time scoop ship speeding through the travel tubes as Termight is gripped by an earthquake, first sign of the destabilisation process put in place by Thoth. For the first time we find out that Tomas became Grand Master in place of his missing older brother. In a totally unconnected scene we switch to Grand Dragon Mazarin the current Grand Master Krassan visit Tomas’ grandfather, Nostradamus in a prison cum asylum (there probably isn’t much difference between the two in Termight). It’s time to dig out the Torquemada family skeletons this episode as we find out that brothers Nostradamus and Tomas went in to the Time Wastes to discover Termight’s future but while there Tomas threw Nos overboard where the rightful Grand Master’s body and mind were irreparably damaged by the creatures from the future (Nos reckoned they crawled out of the Black Hole, but we’re going to find out what they really are in the next book). Back in Termight and the family pretended that Nos was the grandfather, not the brother, allowing Tomas to ascend to rule Termight. Got that? Meanwhile the non-robotic members of Nemesis’ crew are suiting up in armour / timeproof suits (or something) and smashing their way through Terminator barriers to the Time Wastes. Speaking of getting dressed, time for Mek-Quake to show off a new body – the third we’ve seen him in since his debut in Starlord. From here on the episode seems rushed, like Mills had lost interest in writing any action scenes, so the extra two pages don’t propel the story at all. I also can’t figure out what Ro-Jaws is doing in one panel – it looks like the sewer droid is holding something balanced on his shovel arm, but I can’t work out what. Anyway, in the words of Nemesis: “Right – that’s finished. Back to the ship!” and gives a pep talk, closing the book. In the grand tradition of Nemesis, a scroll tells us that “Nemesis & Co. return soon in The Time Wastes” surrounded by illuminated borders in the shape of the warlock’s spine. Though when Nemesis does return (in eight months – is that soon?) the book is going to be called Torquemurder. It’s a good finish to the current book, though as I said, I can’t figure out a) why it’s two pages longer and b) why the extra pages are superfluous to the story. Discussed on the Mega-City Book Club.

Rogue Trooper: Return to Millicom by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. Everything coming up roses as millicom is seized by celebrations at the end of the war while the genetically-engineered residents are looking forward to chips 1, 2 and 3 being re-gened. The signing of the peace treaty sees a few familiar faces, if not characters at least regiments, as the Kashan Legion (responsible for the Quartz Massacre) act as bodyguards to the Nort chief-of-staff and a contingent arrives from Fort Neuro. Rogue doesn’t trust the Norts and gate-crashes the arrival by using Bagman to scan the Kashans and finds a concealed weapon. Lucky, really, because it’d have caused a bit of a diplomatic incident otherwise! Nort General Doenz and Souther Star-Marshal Lamal greet one another and Rogue heads back to the genetic labs. Azure (Helm’s beau) has detected an apparent scan of the mainframe on millicom from an external source. Skipping to those mysterious watchers (the Tom Tully Special – Slade variant) we find out that there are three targets on the hit list – Millicom, Lamal and Doenz, to which have been added the Kazan leader and Oor Roguee!

How do you follow up that attempted suicide played for laughs in last week’s Dredd? By the mass suicide of hundreds of mega-citizens in Judge Dredd: The Lemming Syndrome by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. Let’s get one thing clear right from the start. Some breeds of lemming migrate across bodies of water. They’re not too good at judging how safe a particular body of water is to cross and sometimes die in large amounts. When Disney made a so-called documentary about the lemmings they purposefully killed hundreds of non-migratory lemmings in order to ‘get a good shot’, the truth of which was revealed in a 1982 documentary. This is where the lemming myth in the popular consciousness comes from and has been used a couple of times in 2000AD. This time around a mystery is created (which doesn’t get resolved and I don’t remember ever being referred to again). Hundreds of mega-citizens congregate near the top of their block and then silently climb the safety railings and drop to their deaths. Before the judges can halt the cascade of bodies, 747 people are dead and hundreds more would have died. As with block mania, the judges investigate all possible causes and come up with nothing until a tech or med (?) judge comes up with the hypothesis that the city has ground down the wills of the victims until death was seen as no big thing and instinct, mass psychosis or similar led to the multiple suicide. Oh, and that attempted suicide played for laughs in Love Story? While they’re actually falling the unaffected blockers are used to play this for laughs…

Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli hots up as security pods chase the Mean Team through the skies of the artificial planet. Bad Jack is bad and the Mean Team (humans, robot and alien) are mean as they’re prepared (and do) kill many innocent bystanders in their bid for freedom, treating the deaths as points in a game. Elements of the chase remind me of the Midnight Surfer’s debut, though a ship swooping through underpasses doesn’t have the grace as Chopper did on the power board. We leave what remains of the team in the process of hijacking a star-ship at the spaceport as the episode ends.

This story doesn’t have a name given in the prog, so I’m going for Strontium Dog: The Ragnarok Job Part One by Alan Grant (and John Wagner, uncredited) and Carlos Ezquerra (it sometimes gets called ‘Max Bubba’). Speaking of which, Max rolls in to town at the head of a gang of skimmer riders (skimmers being hover bikes), Max’s looking like nothing as much as Snaggletooth (also known as Warpig), mascot of Motörhead. They take up positions in the dead of night around Wulf and Johnny’s cabin on Smiley’s World and when they’re ready, Max Bubba blasts the cabin with a blazooga (which is as explosive as a blaster/bazooka sounds). Caught unawares, surrounded and out-gunned, it’s a short matter of time before the pair are staked out at Bubba’s feet. Incidentally, I never realised this at the time, and it seems a lot of others didn’t either, but Bubba is supposed to look like somebody who’s had a bubble gum bubble explode over their face – get it, Bubba, like Hubba Bubba as advertised in 2000AD a few times? After hints that this is all about revenge it’s time for some reminiscing to let us know what all this is about as The Ragnarok Job begins proper next prog.

I could be mistaken, but I can’t remember Mike McMahon having appeared in 2000AD since the end of his pages on Sláine – so this starscan of The History of Justice – Monkey Business: Prog 184 – 185 (Monkey Business at Charles Darwin Block) is an isolated instance of McMahon’s work in the prog. Next appearance I can recall is Tharg’s Head Revisited in Prog 500.

Grailpage: I was tempted by a couple of Belardinelli pages from the chase (one of the two walkover pages) but instead end up with the reveal of Nostradamus’ face, not to mention his genealogy. We also get the humans on board the time-scoop ship getting dressed in their space suits / time suits / armour and the ship itself about to smash through a Time Waste barrier. Oh, and Torque gets to try on a new, spikier helmet.

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Wulf Sternhammer: “No, vun of my race always… know ven death come. There will be no longboat in flames for Wulf Sternhammer!”

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