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Glenn Fabry brings a full-face Sláine cover – we’ve not had many covers showing such an extreme close-up – the only other one that springs to mind is a Robin Smith Tharg cover which I’m not sure we’ve had yet. Had to go and check on Barney’s Cover Story, largest faces I could find in a quick perusal was Cal on the cover of prog 94, the Mekon on 101, The Devil on 118, Blackblood on 125, Tharg on 127, Zorgon on 133, Sam Slade on 154, Dredd on 161 (probably the largest scale), Otto Sump on 280, Mean Machine on 284, Ben 90 on 302, Torquemada on prog 349, Tharg on 365 (another extreme close-up and the cover I was thinking of), Halo on 406 and Rogue on 422. I carried on and see the next extreme close-up (defined here as – goes to the top of the logo) is going to be for the return of Torquemada in Prog 482.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre follows the cover theme with a lategamers guide to The Tomb of Terror: The Adventure Game. Or a latecomers guide to Sláine Adventure Gaming (Tharg doesn’t appear to quite decide on what to call it). Interestingly the warp rating for the group is the same as last week, but without gaining the warp XP from the diluvials – so if I were a lategamer then I’d be on 9 points instead of 19.
Spoiling the Sláine flow and Rogue Trooper: Return to Millicom by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz is back at the front of the prog. Lamal, possibly on his death bed, is only interested in vengeance while Rogue is only interested in finding the gene genies. I’ve read ahead to the end of the episode and yes, both Lamal and the Nort leader whose name I’ve forgotten and probably hasn’t been mentioned since the first time it was said are on the last legs, temporarily boosted by life support. There’s another teleporting in by the aliens, but that’s just to pick up the bodies of their fallen (the two who were jettisoned out of the airlock with Azure last prog). It gives the high command an opportunity to trace their trails to Nu Earth though, where they’re going to be trapped until a space storm clears allowing them access to the black hole (gateway to the galaxy). Upshot of all that is that Lamal and the Nort chief-of-staff gave Rogue control of all Souther and Kashan forces on the planet to find the aliens. Now the next thing I remember from Rogue Trooper is the Steve Dillon episodes, so I’m in the dark about what’s going to happen next. We get a pseudo Tom Tully Special in the last panel, showing a radar but no villainous hands. I’m still counting it as a TTS though.
Sláine The Tomb of Terror by Pat Mills and Glenn Fabry. Sláine gets to grips with that leyser sword, judging it a worthy successor to his old axe and naming it Blood-Prow. Rest in peace, Brain-Biter. Once Sláine charges it up with earth power it isn’t a million miles, functionally, from a light sabre. Mills reflects the Celtic psyche by showing Sláine composing a poem while slaying diluvials (the Celts liked their arts – the genesis of arts festivals like the Eisteddfod). Looks like I was right last prog in my Adventure Gaming choice as even Myrddin agrees that the talisman’s power has some time left before waning and, true to form we can trust Oeahoo as she leads them to her own room where they can eat and rest. For some reason “We keep this food for the human prisoners eat” – not sure why they’d use Oeahoo’s room as the storage area, but I’ve seen worse dungeon designs! Last the gang take to the streets of Gulag, led by Oeahoo until they get to Grimnismal’s tomb. Wonder what today’s choice in the game will be?
Tomb of Terror Part 2 is two pages long and I’m just going to go on a diversion here. Game is by Pat Mills but the art is by Garry Leach (well known for Marvelman, A1 work and the odd bit here and there for Tharg, not least The VCs) and ‘Williams’ – I knew the artist would later work on Diceman so had to look them up – the full name is Nik Williams though I don’t know if they’re the same as this Nik Williams, fine artist. Oh, and the other artist that Barney revealed was Una Fricker whose Magic: The Gathering work is almost entirely great pictures of real-world animals – looking forward to seeing what work they put in for Tharg in the last five episodes of this game. The two or three non-real world animals are great pictures of made-up animals, by the way. Back to this game, both 1985-me and 2021-me were right on the first option so go to the next page. If we’d been wrong then we’d be going through the other gates and finding either a Dogman (human which has been experimented upon and trained to attack) or a half-dressed Type 4 Battle Orgot. Interestingly if I’d taken one of these ‘wrong’ choices then I would have to fight them, and assuming I succeed (their warp ratings are 5 and 6 respectively, so not much match for my 19). On the ‘this week’ page I get to add 6 points to my warp rating for the rest, taking me to 25 before being presented with this week’s choice – between what we ate in Oeahoo’s room. Presented to us were (these dishes named by Ukko): Bogie Broth and Rat Pie; Sick Soup (it’s yellow with diced carrots) and side of Shoggey Beast; The Chef’s Special (pudding, oozing green slime, Orgot Ale). Difficult choice – I can think and double-think my way through this and have no idea which will refresh us and which will make us violently ill. Meanwhile the last panel of this week’s Sláine presented another choice, though I didn’t notice it during the story – we can go up the steps and through the giant temple doors, through a side entrance (which is where I assumed the gang would be going) and down a hole at the front (looks a bit like an uncovered well). On the grounds that I didn’t even consider the other two options, I have to go for the side entrance. Food-wise I’ll go for the middle option, as slime doesn’t look appetising and no clues were given as to what Bogie Broth were. Mills will probably trick me by having that be the bad option. Unlike in the first part, 1985-me didn’t get their pencil out so I’m only going to go on what 2021-me does from now on. Unless 1985-me scribbled in any of the future progs in which case I might mention it. Oh, and something else got introduced – the Countdown to Terror – a clock divided in to six hours, each hour in to six segments. From next week we only have six hours to save the Earth, so will have to keep track of how much time passes (so things like those ‘wrong’ doors above would eat in to the time available).
Judge Dredd: A Day at the Block Wars by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith. A slice of life for Academy of Law cadets. They’re in class 5b, Primary Disturbance Control so that means they’re either five years old or they’ve been at the Academy for five years and are ten-year-olds. They’re on a school trip to study a block war being dealt with and Dredd is the senior judge in charge. Mention is made of tranq gas (too late to use when a block war is actually in process) and riot foam – fine for limiting movement in tweenblock plazas, though in this case the four-way construct has many enclosed inter-block access so stumm grenades are the order of the day once the judges enter the blocks. Citidef units are the primary targets and the block war is put under control in a short amount of time. There are a few meaningful names among the cadets but I don’t know if the few I recognise mean the ones I don’t recognise are also cultural references of the mid-eighties. Having said all that, I may as well go through the names now – Cadet Botha answers a question about the causes of tension (presumably PW Botha was president of South Africa at the time, which has seen a fair amount of tension over the years), Jewson answers a question about the spark for the war, Arken fails to predict how Dredd will deal with the situation and Cadet Steel wonders whether making the citizens more happy would reduce their desire to fight and is accused of being “some kind of liberal” for this thought (David Steel was leader of the British Liberal Party at the time).
The third outing for the Marvel Super Heroes Heroic Role-Playing Game (showing Nightcrawler’s character sheet) is up next before…
Strontium Dog: The Ragnarok Job by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha, time-travelling mutant, meets savage Norseman Wulf Sternhammer for the first time. They’re fighting, and I’ll try to remember to call Wulf a Norseman instead of a Viking from now on. Unless the narrative also calls him a Viking. They fight each other for a bit, but Johnny is hesitant to use a gun as he’s going to need the locals to help him. It’s only when the other Norsemen from inside the feasting hall come out that he decides to demonstrate the power of the blaster, enough to kill Wulf ten times over. This is enough and Johnny tells a condensed version of the story (probably leaving out the bits about being a mutant bounty hunter from the far future) and shows them a picture of the Bubba Gang. The village’s skald back Johnny up, by relating tales from the North told of supernatural occurrences. Ragnarok is nigh!
Advert time as the role-playing and/or adventure gamebook series Dragon Warriors gets another plug, atop the standard 1986 Judge Dredd and 2000AD annuals. We’re getting close to christmas, so those can’t be running for too much longer.
Wow! I spoke too soon – over the page is the full range of IPC annuals, surely this is a last-ditch effort to use children’s pester power to force adults in to buying the last annuals in the shops? We’ll find out in the christmas prog next week! (the annuals shown are: Tiger; 2000AD; Grange Hill; BMX; Angler’s Mail; Battle Action Force; Shoot!; Eagle; Judge Dredd and Roy of the Rovers).
Inside back cover and the traditional abode of the next prog ad – this one shows a Ron Smith panel from the next Dredd: The Lurker, above the reservation coupon ad.
Some time ago I said I thought we’d come to the end of The History of Justice starscans, or at least I couldn’t remember there being many more. Boy, was I wrong? We haven’t only been getting loads more, but they’ve been classic images too. This one is Judge Fish: Prog 90 by Brian Bolland. The only thing missing is a “bloop” word balloon.
Grailpage: I’m split between Ron Smith’s intro to the week’s Dredd, showing a great cityscape showing the four Marx blocks (Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Karl, naturally) and Brian Bolland’s Judge Fish (which is probably a reprint, which I wouldn’t normally pick, but as I don’t have the reprint this may have been the cover to, I’m going to anyway). Oh, and also Fabry’s cover, which I think will be reprised or touched-up for the cover of a computer game in a few years. Not for first time indecision has led to a three grail-page week.
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Oeahoo the Cythron: “I like my prana processed. I could never suck an aura. It would be like a human eating a lump of raw meat… a really gross thing to do…” Mogrooth, Murdach and Tlachtga watch on as Sláine tears in to a raw leg of meat.