2000AD Prog 449: YOU Have 6 Hours to Save the Earth – The Count-down Begins!

2000AD logo
2000AD logo
Prog 449 cover, art by Robin Smith
Prog 449 cover, art by Robin Smith

This blog post also available as a semi-automatically generated podcast.

Robin Smith’s David Pugh’s cover introduces the element missing from the roleplay adventure within – the race against time! In the form of a shadowy figure shattering a decidedly un-Celtic looking timepiece. (Barney said that Robin Smith was responsible for the cover, and as art editor at the time would certainly have had a hand in it, but the actual lines were drawn by Pugh – thanks to Mac Mac Anorak for filling me in on that).

Tharg’s Nerve Centre is pretty busy this week as Tharg tells us that the next prog will be the christmas prog, containing a DR & Quinch wraparound cover (which I remember), a 14-page Dredd tale (which I also remember) and a selection of carols (um, don’t recall that – presumably they’ll be about 2000AD characters). In the responses to letters, Tharg promises hundreds of books of Nemesis and Halo Jones. What will actually happen is that Nemesis will grow to ten books while Halo will get three (starting the week after next). Unless Tharg is referring to hundreds of collected books – there’s been plenty of editions of reprints!

Story order is a bit hectic, with Nemesis being replaced by Strontium Dog, then Sláine being replaced by Rogue last week and back to Strontium Dog: The Ragnarok Job by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra taking prime position this time around. Wulf’s people seem to be along for the ride – for the adventure, if nothing else. Though the feast involves so much drinking that the following day is allotted to the hangover – they’ll actually leave the morning after that! Johnny Weird-Eyes (Wulf’s name for Alpha) takes the opportunity to do a quick alpha ray mind-scan to find out if he can trust Wulf – the answer is yes (you could probably have guessed that). As they actually leave the village witch-woman calls for a sign – time for a solar eclipse! (There were two solar eclipses visible from Earth in the year 793 – the first, in May, was visible from a point in the Pacific West of Peru while the second in November was viewable from somewhere in the Atlantic between Brazil and Sierra Leone. Looking through NASA’s list of solar eclipses of the 8th century, there just weren’t any around 58 North, 7 or 8 East in the decade surrounding Wulf’s year). Anyway, this solar eclipse must be down to the effects of the Bubba Gang in 793 or something and the vikings take this is an ill omen. Alpha talks the superstitious vikings around by convincing them that evil can be defeated when the sun appears again and they set off in the longboat. We’re given a spoiler as the narration tells us that “few will survive the perils that await them” so I’m going to guess that only Alpha and Sternhammer will make it through to the other side.

Displaced from the front of the prog, Sláine The Tomb of Terror by Pat Mills and David Pugh continues. Ukko suffers from having eaten the rat so looks like I avoided a bad choice in the game section of the prog. As for the story, Sláine and crew sneak past an orgot guard-room, though when one goes to get some more food (a human woman) the food notices Sláine and calls out. Myrddin is not keen on jeopardising their mission for “the life of one savage” and orders the door barred. The orgots use one of their own as a battering ram, and there’s an inversion of the Jack Nicholson scene from The Shining, where Sláine leers at the orgot’s head through the split in the door (not the last time Pat Mills will parody the scene). The girl seems rather smarter than the orgots and works out there’s another way out (despite this being where they live and work) and makes a run for it, closely followed by the orgots. Looks like they’re not clear of the organic robots yet…

Tomb of Terror Part 3, game by Pat Mills, art by Garry Leach and Nik Williams. I picked the right item from the menu and get to add 4 points to my warp rating for being nourished. I’m told I took the correct choice on which entrance to use as well, taking the side entrance as Sláine and the gang did in the story (you’d face a living gargoyle or come out in the orgot’s guard-room if I’d taken the temple doors or sewer). They wouldn’t be challenging though would waste time – and remember, we’ve only got six hours to save the Earth! Non-time wasters only take off 10 minutes (instead of 20) from their countdown clock. The macrocosmic balance makes a reappearance, but mainly to allow us to use magic, but at a cost (between 30 minutes and an hour for each spell – they’d better be powerful spells!) This week’s choice is whether to save the girl from the orgot’s. First choice is to leave her to the orgot’s mercies (and stomachs), second choice is to save her and ask Myrddin to use magic to destroy the orgots (doesn’t seem like a good idea to me) and third is to save the girl but use the leyser sword to bring the ceiling down on the orgots. I’m going to go with the last option, and hope there’s no unintended side effects from the ceiling coming down – or a reduction in warp rating due to using it on a blast.

Judge Dredd: The Lurker by T.B. Grover and Ron Smith opens with a very muted palate – dark blue, dark green, yellow and white for the entire centre-spread highlighting (or lowlighting) night in the mega-city. So what’s happening? Well, the titular character does a whole lot of lurking as – from the shadows – he sees a mega-citizen getting mugged and a case taken from them, the type that’s chained to their wrist. After the muggers leave they swoop in, like a vulture (I should point out, in a city containing bat gliders, they’re not literally swooping in – they’re on foot) to pick over the leftovers. With his dying breath, the victim begs the lurker to contact the judges, for the case contained “ten million” (but doesn’t say what it’s ten million of). The muggers are interrupted as they try to open the case and are scared off by Dredd, and it turns out the lurker is better equipped than they are (lurker has a lasknife) and opens it only to find it contains radioactive isotopes giving out ten million rads – though they die so quickly they probably didn’t have time to realise what was within. Next prog – the return of Mean (well, it says “a mean christmas!” and I remember the story).

The familiar advert for the 1986 Judge Dredd and 2000AD annuals takes the top while an advert for Odyssey science fiction specialists (three shops in Manchester and Leeds) illustrated with a Rodney Matthews picture of Elric takes the bottom of this page.

Rogue Trooper: Return to Millicom by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. Last episode, and probably the last appearance of Ortiz in the prog?) Rogue and the Kashans make planet fall on Nu Earth, in a Nu Araby battlefield. They convince the Souther and Nort generals present that peace has been declared by showing the actual signed peace treaty. Yes, that’s right, they took the original peace treaty to a battlefield. It gets destroyed when aliens beam in, also killing the generals. Rogue doesn’t seem too unhappy at this turn of events as battle starts up around him and the contingent from Millicom (a handful of Southers and the Kashans). The closing narration box promises “all-new, all-action Rogue Trooper” in the New Year. This might mean this is the last of Gerry Finley-Day as well as Jose Ortiz – I know Steve Dillon’s going to be on board pretty soon but I can’t remember exactly what happens between this story and the Hits.

Tomb of Terror Latecomers Section provides a recap of the rules to play the Sláine game, along with a smaller reprint of the countdown clock.

Inside back cover and more adverts – taking the left half (it’s normally divided in to top and bottom) is an ad and competition for The London Dungeon. The right half, flipped around, is our first sight of Book Three of Halo Jones and showing artwork by Gibson, probably the Halo’s eyes panel opening the episode where she suits down to a planet.

Mick McMahon brings us this week’s The History of Justice – Dredd’s Guerilla War: Prog 98 (the one where Dredd leads the resistance against Chief Judge Cal). My spellcheck wants to put two ‘r’s in Guerilla – I’m going with what the title of the starscan says for this blogpost.

Grailpage: Ron Smith’s opening to this week’s Dredd – though from what I understand, quite a bit of credit should go to Tom Frame (who apparently would have been responsible for the colours that I mentioned earlier).

Grailquote: Alan Grant, Wulf Sternhammer: “Ohhh! Not today, Johnny Weird-Eyes! Today is for the hangover. We leave in the morning!”

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