2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, February 29, 2008

Prog 417

Rogue Trooper's strategy for finding the antigen that will cure his bio-chipped buddies seems to be the same as the one he used when searching for the Traitor General on Nu Earth. This is where he walks around a lot in the hope that something turns up. It worked for him in the past, why shouldn't it work again? The war continues as before only this time Horst inhabitants have been conscripted; the Norts have the bat people, and the Southers the insectoids.
Jose Ortiz is the new primary art robot on the thrill. His style seems to sit mid way between what I think of as the European look and the more American influenced work that the art robots based in the UK use. Ortiz draws this strip big and I've always liked that.

Definitive Rogue Trooper art robot, Cam Kennedy, has been moved over to Judge Dredd. Tharg has been talking so enthusiastically about his move for several Nerve Centres that I imagine other art robots feeling a little inferior as a consequence. Currently, Kennedy's big premier Dredd strip is running, Sunday Night Fever, in which Ruby Foulclough outburst in a bar leads to the death of 13, 000 citizens in a job riot. Tharg was right to get excited about Kennedy's art here; it is the best I've seen him produce for 2000 AD so far. Undoubtedly influenced by Mike McMahon, it's filled with rich panel design, bold city-cityscapes and excellent characterisation.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Prog 414

Halo Jones Book Two approaches its end after a very satisfying run. I find myself thinking that anything I write about this thrill is a bit like saying to someone who has had their long hair shaved off, "Oh, you've had a haircut." It is so obviously brilliant that anyone who says different is just showing off and doesn't actually think that.

For Book Two, Halo has been working aboard luxury space liner, The Clara Pandy, on board of which she has developed a friendship with the ship's navigator who is a dolphin, discovered that The President is five rats tied together at the tail, made friends, somehow, with Glyph, the girl/boy no one notices is there and learned that Toby, her mechanical dog, killed her friend from Book One, Brinna. I found this revelation, first time around, so amazing that I immediately re-read Book One which previously, as I've mentioned here before, I had misjudged.

It makes sense that Toby would be exposed as the bad guy of the thrill. For Book One of this female driven story, it could be argued that he served the role as the character nearest to male that us boys’ comic readers could relate to. As you should know, the default gender for robots is male, so he served as the failsafe character in case we all went loopy at the absence of men. By Book Two, it was clear to everyone that Halo, Toy and the rest are more than enough to drive the thrill and therefore why not dump the failsafe altogether. Sorry, Toby.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Prog 412

It's only been running for eight years and already 2000 AD is paying tribute to itself. For example, this prog's Judge Dredd story, Monsteroso, seems to be a tribute to the Pat Mills' scripted robot strips from around the comic's third year. In Monsteroso, a construction robot, a la Charlie from Ro-Busters, short circuits and goes on a block smashing rampage. The opening panels, which, as you might recall, occupy the centre pages at this time, are a double, colour spread, a la George the giant robot with five brains from ABC Warriors.

Helltrekkers, arguably a tribute to Mills' original Cursed Earth story, sees the nasty Nebb family finally dealt with this episode. The Nebbs have been causing trouble for the otherwise descent and sometimes eccentric folk of the trek since their journey began ten days before by doing things like taking pot-shots at passing mutants and making insulting comments about the Glemps' crab baby, Crustacia. Personally, I see the Nebbs as the helltrekker equivalent of The Osbournes, stamping their way around the media, mystifying the majority of the public with their constant appearances on our televisions, making random and unprovoked attacks on blameless individuals and using the word "family" to justify their behaviour. In Helltrekkers, Rudd leaves the Nebbs’ mother alive; if this were the Osbournes, she would be the first to go.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prog 410

Peter Milligan seems to have taken over from Alan Moore as official Future Shock script robot. This prog's, The Snicker Snack, tells the story of a chubby dude's hunt for a shape changing alien. At one point, amusingly, he blows up a pair of boots (I don't know why I find that funny). Later, he gives up on his search, leaving it to someone else, and settles down to a sandwich. You’ve guessed it; it turns out that the alien has assumed the shape of the sandwich! M Night Shyamalan, eat your heart out!

Alan Hebden is still getting his stories drawn up though. His Future Shock this prog, Long Division, sees the military use instant cloning/duplication technology to build an army from just ten individual soldiers. As we all know, the military are forever ignoring the warnings of those egg headed scientists and steam rolling ahead with untested new technologies in combat situations. The twist here is that each duplicate is a percentage of the size of the originals depending on how many are made so that, finally, the army ends up in a battle with bacteria. How do you like them onions, M Night Shyamalan?

It's interesting to me that these two script robots should have Future Shock stories in the same prog. One, Milligan, goes on to become a highly respected writer of American comics while it's difficult to find current work by the other, Hebden. Yet, I would say that Hebden's pips Milligan's to the post. Outside of this prog, I go on to be awestruck by much of Milligan's work, particularly Shade the Changing Man, The Enigma and X-Force, but his Future Shocks so far, although entertaining enough, seem self conscious and lack that sense of subversion which makes much of his other work so memorable.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Prog 408

I’ve talked briefly here before on my theory of how a smaller group of creators, particularly writers, helped to give 2000 AD during its first decade a consistency of voice. This prog, however, features five different script robots working on five different thrills. This reminds me that I haven’t really mentioned what else I feel made 2000 AD successful as an anthology.

24P isn’t much money in 2007 but it wasn’t much in 1985 either and yet every corner that isn’t filled with thrill or advertising still has some form of 2000 AD goodness in it. The Nerve Centre, for example, always contains a witty editorial from Tharg plus readers’ art and letters, often equally amusing. On the occasions that the back cover is free of advertising, there is usually a colour pin-up. On the back of this prog is a Rogue Trooper illustration by Cam Kennedy. On pages featuring classified ads, the gaps have been filled with samples from a thrill in that prog, usually over dubbed with some funny observation or other. Even the next prog bit not only manages to feed teasers of what is to come but also works as a piece in it’s own right.

Finally, there is the cover. On one hand there exists the illustration but on the other there is the banner and the tag line. For this prog, there is little that is exceptional about the combination, but often they are clever and witty. The cover nearly always succeeds in being at least a little intriguing to the browser but, at the same time, manages their expectations by only hinting at the effort and intelligence that’s gone into the contents within.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Prog 406

Although by my definition this is not a pre-re-launch issue, a lot of thrills finish today. Rogue Trooper Return to Milli-Com concludes before I even get a chance to comment on it in The Slog. In it, Gunner, Helm and Bagman are re-gened but last in their new bodies for only a couple of episodes before they start to disintegrate. Rogue, who didn't seem comfortable with hanging around Milli-Com anyway (one of the most worrying scenes in 2000 AD history has him sleeping on the floor by his comfy bed using a helmet he's stolen from stores as a pillow), has taken this opportunity to go rogue again and journey, this time, to the planet Horst in search of a cure for his buddies. I'm hoping that, if he succeeds, when they are re-gened, the GIs grow beards, moustaches etc so that it's easier for us to tell them apart.

The most satisfying Nemesis story so far, Book Four, finishes. That's really saying something when you consider that two episodes in, the always stunning Kevin O'Neill was replaced. New art robot, Bryan Talbot, the droid with the loveliest hair in King's Reach Tower, has made the thrill his own. In fact, when O'Neill returns for the ad-hoc pin-up and special occasion cover, I think to myself, hey, I remember this guy - he used to draw Nemesis. What made Book Four particularly successful to my mind is the return of the ABC Warriors, who disappeared from 2000 AD mid Mars mission several years ago. Ro-Jaws is in there too, bantering, albeit sparingly because there was so much going on, with his old pal, Hammer-stein.

The final episode of the multi-part disappointment, I mean epic, City of the Damned, sees all of the plot threads tied up in eight pages, just like that. Seeing such dynamic story telling take place after weeks of methodical pacing is slightly alarming. In it, Judge Dredd stops his zombie future self, has replacement eyes implanted, recovers from the operation, flies to Xanadu with Judge Anderson, kills the baby Mutant, destroys Grunwalder and still has time for a couple of jokes. One of my favourite Judge Dredd gags of all time occurs in this prog. Anderson is having the wound in her leg checked out. The doctor says, "Never seen gangrene spread so fast. I’m sorry, Anderson, we’re going to have to amputate". Understandably, Anderson is shocked and upset to which the doctor responds, "Just joking! You’ll be right as rain in a couple of days!". Sigh, fake diagnoses jokes; aren't they great?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Prog 403

At last, over a year after it was first mentioned, The Mega–Plan stands revealed. It isn't, as I had originally thought it might be, an all new Judge Dredd comic but a seven inch single called Mutants in Mega City One recorded by two guys from Madness, Suggs and Chas Smash. Actually, it was exciting news just the same. Madness had been enjoying constant chart success since the very late seventies and there was no reason why this association shouldn't boost 2000 AD from street hit into the hearts of the nation.

2000 AD was no stranger to pop music tributes during the eighties. Already, Judge Dredd had been the star of Human League song I am the Law from the album Dare. Later, Anthrax recorded a single about him; same name, different song. Shriekback released a single called Nemesis which may or may not have been about the alien warlock but the character did make a cameo appearance in the video at least. Boy band Halo James named themselves after Halo Jones but altered it slightly for some reason unknown to me. The comic was making cool indie rock associations too. It was frequently mentioned in the NME while The Fall are supposed to have advertised in it (although I've yet to see this ad during The Slog). Being interviewed live on BBC Breakfast television, Billy Bragg was asked what publications he read. Expecting to hear him to answer with some intellectual, socialist paper or other Bragg replied, (and I'm paraphrasing here) "I read a very informed and intelligent magazine called 2000 AD."

How I thought Mutants in Mega City One could have been a hit, I don’t know. It received very little air play, for starters. I used to listen to Radio One all the time (it’s all we had in 1985 where I lived) and I only remember hearing it on new release show, Round Table. (One of the guests thought that it would be “big in the clubs”). I did manage to get in played on Anne Nightingale’s Sunday evening request show once. (Younger Slog readers might be surprised to learn that Anne Nightingale is old enough to have been on Radio One as long ago as 1985. The reason her 2007 Radio One show is on at 5 AM on a Saturday morning isn’t because she’s been out clubbing all night but because she usually wakes up to let her dog out into the garden at 4 AM and can’t get beck to sleep after.) I remember Suggs and Chas appearing in character on the ITV Saturday morning kids show of the time but I was so appalled that I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

For me, the fundamental problem was the name that they chose for themselves; The Fink Brothers. There have never been any characters in Judge Dredd called “The Fink Brothers”. Clearly, Suggs and Chas were meant to be Mean Machine and Fink Angel and so, therefore, they should have been called “The Angel Bothers” if anything. Why they, big 2000 AD readers as they were, used “Fink” in this context is a mystery to me. Perhaps they thought it was “cooler”. Using a name that contradicts the fundamentals of the thing that you’re supposed to be paying homage to reveals to me a commercial desperation that your audience can see through, at least subconsciously. Anyway, Mutants in Mega City One was the least successful single Suggs and Chas had been involved in at that time peaking in the charts at number 50. Even Madness' cover of Scritti Politti’s Sweetest Girl did better.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Prog 400

Prog 400 passes by with absolutely no celebration or mention of the centaury at all, unless seeing Judge Dredd having his eyes poked out by one of The Mutant's jelly demons is your idea of a good time. The Stainless Steel Rat for President is the cover star apparently. I say "apparently" because it's Carlos Ezquerra drawn aircraft shooting at each other on display and not the character of Slippery Jim DiGriz himself. I enjoyed the previous two Stainless Steel Rat stories but this one is proving to be such a washout that even when it's the cover star it isn't, really.

The big news is the announcement by Tharg in the Nerve Centre that the Eagle Comics monthly repackaging of old Judge Dredd material is now available to readers of 2000 AD at their local thrill merchant. Previously, copies could only be purchased via specialist comic shops or mail order. Eagle Comics, an imprint of Titan Books, was my preferred method of catching up with classic 2000 AD stories that I had missed because of my seven years of indecision. Walking into Martins' the Newsagents in 1985 and seeing a pile of freshly cut American sized Judge Dredd comics was a bit thrilling to me, partly because I no longer had to pay expensive postage and import rates.

How the increased availability of the Eagle Comics' Judge Dredd came about I don't know. There's a greater co-operation between 2000 AD and Titan going on somehow as the promotion exceeds the normal ads paid for by Titan. I also wonder how much the recent survey about a potential Judge Dredd comic informed the decision. Was our response essentially, "yes, we would love a Judge Dredd comic, just as long as it's in colour, reprints old stories and costs 60p"?

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prog 399

The latest Judge Dredd multi-part epic, City of the Damned, reaches part seven in this prog… I think. Those of you who read previous epic, The Judge Child Quest, will remember how that story was triggered by the death bed premonition of Psi Judge Feyy. Feyy, whose accuracy rate was the highest in Psi-Division, foresaw that only The Judge Child could prevent the destruction of Mega City One in the year 2120. That saga ended with Dredd judging the Judge Child evil and abandoning him in the Hayden System. Now, in City of the Damned, Judges Dredd and Anderson have been sent to the year 2120, fifteen years into their future, to see what, if anything, happens. On their arrival, the city lies in ruins, judges have been turned into vampires and citizens roam the streets as wraths thanks, they learn, to the actions of a supernatural being known only as The Mutant.

City of the Damned has a reputation for being the Judge Dredd epic that doesn't work. In fact, Wagner and Grant were supposedly so disappointed by how the story was unfolding that they decided to wrap it up earlier than planned. My memory is that anticipation for this story was high. Readers weren't going to have to wait fifteen years to see the tying up of that dangling plot thread from the beginning of the Judge Child Quest. We were going to see further developments in Dredd's emotional state the seeds of which were planted during Error of Judgement. In fact, all I remember about City of the Damned is it finishing and thinking, oh, that was sudden. This time around, for The Slog, seven episodes in and I can see that Wagner and Grant are taking their time feeling around for a motion to grab onto. When the story doesn't advance much, I’m not particularly bothered, because there are enough moments of Wagner and Grant pacing magic to make it worthwhile. How I will feel by the end of it, I’ll let you know.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Prog 397

ACE Trucking Co's current run pre-dates 2000 AD's most recent re-launch which, already, is over ten weeks old. So far, we've seen the crew of The Speedo Ghost escape from prison, save a royal pig and make their greatest enemy so far, the space pirate Evil Blood. Currently, we're in the midst of a story where the crew have unionised turning the running of the ship into a workers’ co-operative. As a result, Ace has resigned, leaving GBH, Chiefy the Pig-Rat and Feek interviewing for a new pilot.

I've always felt that 2000 AD functions as effective political and social satire at around this time but, even though Britain is currently in the middle of the bitter miners strike, I wouldn't say that the current ACE story is an attempt to either comment on or mock it. I see this thrill as working like a seventies character driven British sitcom, except set in space and funnier, and industrial action in the workplace was one of the common story themes at the time. In fact, I keep thinking of The Rag Trade in which one of the characters would call for industrial action every time management made a decision by shouting, "everybody out". I expect in future stories we'll see Ace sharing a space ship with two young, single women and GBH opening a restaurant with a one armed washer-upper.

Strike has seen a change in the dynamic between the cast. Like the best abrasive sit-com characters, Ace is coming across as sympathetic now that he has been ostracised by his crew. Feek, who previously I liked, seems to have taken on the role of union leader and is now unlikable, particularly as he's telling the pilot interviewees that they will be waged employees and not entitled to a share of the co-operative's profits. As for Feek's side kick, Chiefy the Pig-Rat; I find myself thinking, who does he think he is saying what he does about Ace? Where did he come from? He didn't used to be a member of the crew. In fact, what the hell is his job, anyway?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Prog 395

Helltrekkers (one word) AKA Hell Trekkers (two words) AKA HellTrekkers (one word, capital H, capital T) AKA That strip a bit like Judge Dredd The Cursed Earth where pioneers journey from Mega City One to The New Territories through the dangerous irradiated wasteland in-between. It’s only day four of their journey and already twelve of the one hundred and ten travellers had been killed. In this episode alone, one dies from The Black Scab, three sink into the Quag and at least one is eaten by a dinosaur. Still, it’s a lot safer than life in Mega City One.

According to my flabby memory, Helltrekkers was originally created to appear in the Judge Dredd comic that readers were surveyed about a few months ago but didn’t happen on this occasion. Script robots John Wagner and Alan Grant, using the all new pseudonym of F Martin Candor, write a story where the mortality of the characters is laid bare whilst art robot Horacio Lalia draws in a more traditional, inkier style. Helltrekkers feels like a tribute to Westerns, Pat Mills’ The Cursed Earth saga and thrills from the first six months of 2000 AD.

I remember really enjoying Helltrekkers first time around. I remember wondering how many of the pioneers would actually survive the journey if any at all. I remember thinking that The New Territories would probably be a catastrophic disappointment to those that did survive. Thanks to this thrill rarely, if ever, being reprinted and my slough like recall, I can’t for the life of me remember who survives or how it ends.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Prog 392

After three years of directionless wanderings around Nu Earth, Rogue Trooper has at last brought the Traitor General to justice. I say "directionless" because Rogue never seemed to have much of a strategy in place in regards to locating him. His plan seemed to be to look under a few rocks or throw a stick up into the occasional tree just in case the general happened to be hiding there and come lose. Sometimes Rogue would kill a few dirty Norts or help out a unit of Souther soldiers and remember to ask, after, if anybody had seen him. "He's about this tall, scarred up face, shouts a lot." But who am I to criticise as his "plan" seems to have worked. In this prog, after a few weeks of wrestling with each other, the general's aircraft is shot down by Souther troops. After three years of being an almost constant presence in 2000 AD, it ends with Rogue Trooper and his bio-chip buddies being returned to Milli-Com to be replaced, next week, by the return of The Stainless Steel Rat.

Everyone seems to have been caught unawares by the resolution to this major plot line. Even Tharg who, at the start of this six part story, allocated only three pages per episode. The location of the Traitor General is a major plot resolution that many of us have invested a lot of time in. I was expecting a party. A cake and some balloon animals, at least.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Prog 390

Art robot Kevin O'Neill's parting from Nemesis the Warlock after only two episodes of Book Four came with an unprecedented third-page long explanation and farewell piece by Tharg, last prog. In it, he explains that O'Neill is going to take thrill power to America where it is scarce. Actually, it was becoming increasingly less scarce at this time with Brian Bolland towards the end of his triumphant twelve part run on DC's Camelot 3000, Dave Gibbons just starting work on Green Lantern and Alan Moore in the midst of his first year on Swamp Thing.

The presence of O'Neill's work in America wasn't entirely problem free. Early on, a Green Lantern Corps short he drew was rejected by the American Comics Code Authority. When asked by the publishers what they needed to do to get the strip approved they replied, nothing, it's the artist's general style that's the problem. It just goes to show what a backward and retarded organisation the Comics Code Authority must be to reject everything by the most original artist that mainstream American comics has seen for years. Fortunately for America and the rest of us, this cringe worthy display of ignorance didn't stop O'Neill bypassing the CCA altogether and producing Metalzoic for DC, Marshal Law for Epic and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for ABC.

Back in 2000 AD and, more specifically, Nemesis the Warlock, O'Neill is replaced by the robot with the loveliest hair in the Command Module, Bryan Talbot. Talbot has only dallied a little bit with 2000 AD before now but already has a big reputation in comics for his hyper layered, science fiction graphic novel, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. I remember trying to read it a year or two before, being totally baffled by it and abandoning the book half way through. What a shrivel minded little boy I must have been because, like Halo Jones Book One which I also had problems with, Luther Arkwright is a great book. Anyway, if you're going to replace Kevin O'Neill on a thrill set on an alien planet whose culture is based upon radio broadcasts it has received from early twentieth centaury Earth, then it might as well be Brian Talbot. How perfectly suited is he!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Prog 388

First time around, this Judge Dredd story, Error in Judgement, and last prog's, Question of Judgement, rocked my world. Before, I had always thought that the character of Dredd was unmoving, free from "development" and certainly never prone to displays of weakness and yet, here he his, expressing doubt over his reactions to a recent street robbery and using Justice Department funds to pay for psychological work on little Bonnie Crickle.

In Error in Judgement, Dredd is having to explain to Chief Judge McGruder why he recently punched Judge Winslow, head of Finance, in the face. Recently, he has become acquainted with a family whose daughter has had her brain transplanted into a robot body after falling into a rad pit. However, the result isn't just a little girl who looks very different but also behaves out or character. Moved by their plight, but hiding it well, Dredd pays for expensive psychological work on the girl. The good news is that it works, the bad news is that the block juves still see her as a freak and, upset by their taunts, little Bonnie Crickle runs out into the road and is destroyed by a passing truck. Art robot Ron Smith, draws Bonnie as a brain floating inside a glass bowl on top of mechano body. Her eyes are on metal stalks but she skips around in her clunky body like any little girl would and yet, despite the absurdity of this image and the events, Error in Judgement still manages to be moving.

When Dredd returns to Justice HQ, he is approached by an angry Winslow who we all remember having problems with him after an incident during the Judge Child Quest. When Winslow describes Bonnie Crickle as "Another leech feeding off the city", Dredd reacts by punching him square in the face, knocking out teeth and his glasses askew. Good on you, Dredd! Like all arsehols from Finance, he had that coming! Now all Dredd has to do is track down the Head of Justice Department Human Resources and kick him in the balls.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Prog 386

Next prog is a re-launch issue featuring the return of Nemesis the Warlock and the beginning of Helltrekkers. All established thrills, as is the case with re-launch issues, begin new stories. Judge Dredd might even be a self contained episode designed to remind occasional visitors or acquaint new readers with the character. Like I've said before, there's nothing quite like a 2000 AD re-launch.

This prog, then, is the one where all the running stories have to wrap up if they haven't already. There are rules to the pre-re-launch prog and they are as follows.

1. The best of the running thrills usually finish before the pre-re-launch prog. In this case, The Ballad of Halo Jones and Strontium Dog concluded last issue. This prog sees the finish of current ACE Trucking Co and Rogue Trooper tales, both thrills being scheduled to return in new adventures next week.

2. The final Judge Dredd story before a re-launch is usually inferior to that which readers have come to expect whether it be a multi-porter or single issue tale. In this case, it's a three parter called Gator drawn by inappropriate art robot, Kim Raymond.

3. Pre-re-launch progs are usually padded out with at least one Future Shock story (or equivalent). It's not uncommon for these to be by previously unknown creators.

4. It's common for pre-re-launch progs from this period to run a Tharg story. In this prog, the Dictators of Zrag are turned into rubbish judges by their ugly mum's magic.

5. Just in case the reader is feeling somewhat hollow by the end of this issue, pre-re-launch progs are brightened up at the end with an extra sized "next prog" page containing sample art of the exciting thrills to come.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Annuals 1985

The 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Annuals are now inline with each other. The formats are the same and the percentage of old material to new matches. The reprinted thrills are appropriate to the rest of the content and the originated strips are, on the whole, by creator robots readers would associate with the characters. Any features are about the content rather than jaded old pieces about whether man will ever colonise the moon or how a colonised space station might work. In fact, at last, they are both the special event that they were always supposed to be.

Before moving to Milton Keynes, my mother acted as the catalogue lady for where we lived. When we moved, she continued to receive it twice a year even though she didn't know anyone in MK. The copy which she received during the Summer was exciting for me because it functioned as the Christmas edition and featured two pages of annuals for next year. I particularly remember seeing the 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Annuals for 1985 and asking for them for my birthday. My birthday is in early August and Annuals were rarely available until the end of that month at the earliest. This meant that, technically, on the actual day of my seventeenth birthday I probably received very little and didn't actually receive my presents until several weeks after.

I don't know why I'm telling you this. I guess the idea of being able to order good comics from your mother's catalogue is at least a little bit interesting.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Prog 382

Judge Dredd Dredd Angel, currently up to part six of its seven parts, must have had one of the most thrilling opening episodes in 2000 AD history. In it we learn that Dredd and Mean Machine Angel are to team up on a mission in The Cursed Earth, that Mean thinks Dredd is his father, Pa Angel, because of an operation Justice Department did on his brain, that Mean believes he and his dad are looking for an aircraft carrying the Treasures of Liberace’s Tomb (including his jewel-encrusted death mask) that was brought down in territory familiar to him but that, actually, the real mission is to retrieve five cloned judge babies that were gestating inside robot midwives which were also onboard and, to top it all, that Mean's brain is slowly healing, placing an even greater sense of urgency on the mission. Wow. All this in just six pages.

If authentic American deep South dialect and head butting frenzies seem like too much fun for the reader then script robots Wagner and Grant and artist Ron Smith provide a downer that, this time around, made me wonder if appropriate for a boy's comic. Dredd and Mean locate a dead judge baby after a dust storm. It's a grim moment that, if the reader had any doubt before about the importance of this mission, then they shouldn't have now.

This is another of those Judge Dredd stories, like The Haunting of Sector House Nine, that I feel is under appreciated. Everything about it is perfect. I'm sure, after finishing the final part of Dredd Angel in 1984, I let out an audible sigh of satisfaction that made my parents, who were in the same room at the time, slightly uncomfortable. Weather it has the same affect on me this time, I don't know yet, but the signs are looking good.

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