Also a semi-automatic podcast!
Ian Kennedy provides the cover, from what I can remember one of only two, and both of them will be wraparound covers. Famous for illustrating (real world) aircraft, Kennedy doesn’t disappoint, by depicting a squadron of second world war fighter planes, above the Mega-City.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre Nemesis the Warlock dominates the letters, including a comparison between the warlock and Jacob Epstein’s Torso in Metal from the Rockdrill. Funnily enough I went past a different sculpture by Epstein a couple of times today (and I could probably get to the mentioned sculpture during my lunch).
Strontium Dog: Max Bubba The Ragnarok Job Part by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra opens with a youthful-looking Johnny Alpha – twenty years old – and a few cameos from the former Mutant Army turned Search Destroy agents who we met in Portrait of a Mutant. I spot The Torso from Newcastle, Spuds Murphy, the Stix Brothers and the Weerd Brothers. This young Alpha is considerably less charitable than the version we’ve got used to, and when S/D controller Harvey sets aside a time job for him, Johnny almost refuses (after a flashback within a flashback). The job is to destroy the Bubba gang, who have hidden in Earth’s history and are affecting the present, threatening to destroy reality as we know it. Angry young Alpha is sorely tempted to just let everything be replaced by Bubba’s reality, though is swayed at the last minute by the knowledge that the S/D Agency would only get somebody else to go on the job if her refuses, and it may as well be done right.
The Department of Transport are getting creative, and have no doubt also been influenced by certain ranges of toys which involve robots that turn in to cars as they run a two-page ad that has a sci-fi theme on one side until the reader folds the page and makes a secret message clear (“eleven time lords yet to crush the robot starship attacked the king first” turns in to “every time you cross the road stop at the kerb”).
Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli. Just to reiterate that Bad Jack is indeed Bad, the former death-bowl captain kills a star-ship captain who refuses to lift off. Artificon spaceport security robots attempt to capture the Mean Team, though they do it be approaching the ship immediately behind its thrusters, which seems like a rookie error. So once in space, Henry Moon points out there was no need to kill the star-ship captain, and just in case it wasn’t clear, Bad Jack states he hasn’t turned over a new leaf, just because he’s no longer in the death-bowl. The robot pursuit craft peel off when Jack threatens to kill the hostages (the star-ship passengers). Temporarily free of pursuit Bad Jack decides on their destination – the planet Earth (which is off-limits and has a reputation for having been taken over by satanic forces). Two days in hyper-space later and they arrive. Jack fixes on a place to land, picking an island to the north of the continental mass (it’s the British Isles) but the ship malfunctions and they crash, their landing only broken by the branches of trees. There’s a few things I have to say about the malfunctions, but I think I’ll keep it until next week…
Ghostbusters has been released on video, and to celebrate, Tharg has twenty-five copies to give away in a competition! There’s no mention of VHS or Betamax, so I’m guessing the great format wars had finished (I know Betamax tapes were still on shelves in video hire shops a couple of years later though). The competition consists of placing eight 2000AD characters in order of usefulness in a ghostbusting squad. No idea if we ever get to find out what the correct order was, but the choices are between Judge Dredd, Nemesis, Sam Slade, Judge Anderson, Johnny Alpha, Sláine, Henry Moon and Rogue Trooper. I’m not going to expend the time to try to figure it out but I reckon Nemesis must be at the top, closely followed by Anderson.
The age of role-playing games has well and truly hit the galaxy’s greatest comic, as the Marvel Super Heroes Heroic Role-Playing Game from TSR gets a full-page ad, showcasing the statblock for Nightcrawler. I’m only familiar with the character from the 2000s films, so was a bit surprised to see he’s in the X-men here. Also interested that the teleportation ability has a range of two miles in every direction but three miles North or South.
Judge Dredd: The Squadron That Time Forgot by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. This is a straightforward excuse for six Luftwaffe fighter planes from the second world war to shoot up a bit of Mega-City One before getting destroyed by the judges. Nothing more to it than that – though this presents an opportunity to highlight how bizarre the city can be – showing the 1940s pilots encountering not only the towering blocks of MC1 but also bat gliders, giant floating pie-shaped restaurants and sky surfers. Oh, and also lasers from Justice Department H-Wagons, but they don’t really get to react to those before being vapourised. As a foreshadowing of this week’s Rogue Trooper, Dredd states that the second world war has really ended now.
Tharg’s Future-Shocks: How to Murder Your Droid! by O Stepaniuk and G Anderson (it’s really J Anderson in Jeff’s second (?) outing in 2000AD). It got off to a good start, said robot being a butler who keeps interrupting romantic moments or letting slip what has been said about house guests when they weren’t there. It’s hinted that the owner is a high-ranking person when the police bring the robot back after the owner tries to ditch it (droidal vagrancy). The owner almost shoots the droid but a news report of a ten year sentence for a similar crime causes them to halt. The final idea is to take the droid to a seedy bar and let the loudmouth robot get themselves destroyed. Instead the criminal type takes out their pistol and shoots the owner – what happened? The droid told the obvious criminal type that their owner would probably like to meet them, and by the way the owner is (shock!) the Chief of Police. Which wasn’t really that much of a surprise from when the police brought the droid home after the vagrancy. Promising start but didn’t go anywhere.
Rogue Trooper: Return to Millicom by Gerry Finley-Day and José Ortiz. Breaking from 2000AD tradition, a reverse Tom Tully Special starts the episode with a villainous hand – the alien invasion it about to begin! The peace treaty to end the galaxy-spanning conflict is about to be signed, but then Star-Marshal Lamal puts it all on hold so that Rogue Trooper can be summoned to the top deck, because there’s nothing that would make things go more smoothly than bringing in the AWOL soldier who ended up sabotaging the Nort battle plan, destroying a good chunk of their fleet. Not that Rogue wants to go along either, but the order to attend is repeated and the genetic scientists tell him that the re-gening of the biochips isn’t ready yet anyway. Just as Lamal is about to sign the treaty the Star-Marshal goes up in flames. Obviously Rogue thinks it’s a Nort trick, but their chief also burns up. Then everybody notices armoured (and armed – this is a peace treaty signing, nobody has weapons) troops. Despite the Souther leader being the first target, the Norts accuse the Southers of being behind it, but more of the troops are arriving by the second. Rogue tells the Nort (didn’t mention earlier, but it’s the Kashan leader – the legion who ambushed the G.I.s, leading to the deaths of Rogue’s comrades) to pick up the ceremonial las-sword while Rogue gets his hands dirty. The alien invaders don’t play fair though, and keep disappearing when it looks like anybody’s going to kill ’em. Cliff-hanger time – Azure, the aged gene genies (scientists) and the chips are facing the ‘vator shaft while shapes appear behind them…
The much-touted Sláine: The Tomb of Terror appears as a Glenn Fabry full-page panel takes the inside back cover. The blurb, unusually, explains that a 15-part saga (where YOU are the hero) starts next prog – we don’t normally get told how long a series is going to be before it starts…
Grailpage: The Mean Team go through hyper-space (both their entry and exit from the warp appears on the same Belardinelli page) and a world war two squadron appears in Mega-City One (as illustrated by Ron Smith) yet I’m picking the wraparound cover by Ian Kennedy. Classic cover, and yet we’re going to have to wait over thirty years for the next Kennedy cover (which will also be a wraparound). It’s not like Ian wasn’t kept busy in between though – largely with Eagle and Commando.
Grailquote: Alan Grant (and John Wagner), Doctor Duran: “…you could almost pass for normal.” Johnny Alpha: “Thanks. I wouldn’t want to.”