Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prog 1890 Vs Meg 350

A double thrill power week brings another face off between Tharg's two titles.

Cover. Karl Richardson's Aquilla Vs Brian Bolland's poster image.
Bolland produced many of the iconic covers for 2000AD but for some reason I find this image is rather flat and dull. While it's nice to see him including some classic bad guys from Dredd's history I can't quite put my finger on it but this just doesn't do it for me. Over on the Prog Karl Richardson produces a memorable image which is only spoiled by the foreshortening of the left hand that ends up looking weird. I suspect Brian Bolland's cover will have the best impact on the shelves so it gets the win, but only just. Strange.
Result: 1-0 to the Meg

Judge Dredd: Student Bodies by John Wagner, Boo Cook and Annie Parkhouse Vs Dead Zone by John Wagner, Henry Flint and Annie Parkhouse.
Mr Tharg is spoiling us with two Wagner stories running at the same time, and with two great artists. My only problem is that we have just had a Boo Cook story in the Megazine and I'm trying to decide if he is suited to Judge Dredd or whether his best stuff is on other strips. Meanwhile Henry Flint can do no wrong for me. Both artists do some neat stuff with panel lay outs and end with a full page splash but Flint wins easily and I think this is the more interesting of the two stories as well.
Result 2-0 to the Meg

Sinister Dexter: Congo by Dan Abnett, Jake Lynch and Ellie De Ville Vs Lawless by Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade and Ellie De Ville
I still can't summon any interest in Sinister Dexter and although Lynch's artwork suits something like the Tales from the Black Museum it leaves me cold here. Over in the Meg Abnett introduces a new character and setting and gets me interested straight away. The bar room scene is fun and Winslade includes lots of detail and interesting looking background characters including  a belligerent Uplift. Marshal Lawson is clearly very capable but I'm not sure that pony tail would be approved of by Justice department. Far too likely to be grabbed in a fight. Does look very sexy though.
Result 3-0 to the Meg and it's getting embarrassing. Just like the Germany-Brazil semi-final.

Brass Sun: Floating Worlds by Ian Edginton, INJ Culbard and Ellie De Ville Vs The Man from the Ministry by Gordon Rennie, Kev Hopgood and Simon Bowland.
Reading the original Brass Sun run in its new US format comic is really helping me appreciate this strip more. I'm enjoying these flying ships and Culbard's full colour spreads are gorgeous. The Man from the Ministry continues to charm me with its British science fiction nods and who doesn't love an RAF Lightning? But as this episode is mostly exposition I'm going to give my vote to the colourful flying beasties in Brass Sun.
Result 3-1 to the Meg

Aquila: Carnifex by Gordon Rennie, Leigh Gallagher, Dylan Teague and Annie Parkhouse Vs Dredd: Uprise by Arthur Wyatt, Paul Davidson, Chris Blythe and Simon Bowland.
I'm not adverse to comic sequels for the Dredd film and I like Paul Davidson's art but I can't see the point of this story. It just reruns the bike against the van scene from the movie and then has some auto destruction that seems to nod to the Stallone version. Maybe episode two will be better.
Aquila has the advantage of Gallagher's gritty and action filled art teamed with Teague's muted colours. Again it may be too early to tell how this story is going to progress but it easily beats out the Dredd story.
Result 3-2 to the Meg and there's a comeback on the cards.

Tharg's 3rillers: Voodoo Planet by Guy Adams, PJ Holden, Steven Denton and Simon Bowland Vs All the Megazine's extras.
I like Holden's comic book art but this three parter has left me neither shaken or stirred. I haven't read the Megazine interrogations and have no plans to read the floppy, but a free Bolland Poster? Maybe I wasn't convinced by it as a cover but as a poster it's a winner and seals the win for the Megazine.
Result 4-2. They think it's all over, it is now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

White Giant

Last of the short stories for now and this is my current entry for the theme of Tales from the Clara Pandy which is the name of the starship the title character  is working on in book two of the Ballad of Halo Jones. I've tried to bounce back from my last story's grim tone with some broad humour that steals some of the cast of well known science fiction comedy show.

The room was deep within the bowels of the Clara Pandy (but she’s a nice starship, let’s call them innards, not bowels), the sign on the door had originally read “Service Maintenance Engineers” but most of the letters had been rubbed away and now it just said “Smeg”.

The door opened and a man wearing a toilet technician’s jumpsuit walked in and greeted the room’s occupant:

“Listerine, my repugnant room-mate. What on earth are you doing?”

“I’m looking for Rat” came the reply from under the bottom bunk. “He’s gone missing.”

“Hooray. Maybe we can dine without your ridiculous, rancid rodent trying to swipe my crackers. I don’t know why you even have a rat on board. It’s a clear contravention of the space corps manual section 17, paragraph 3.”

“The same paragraph that means you have to be such a total smeg-sack all the time, Ass?”

“I’ve told you a thousand times, Listy, my nickname is Ace, not Ass.”

“I don’t know, Ass Rimmed has a certain poetic ring to it.”

“Why do you want that rat anyway?”

“He was company. I thought he might evolve into something cool. Or he would be a good talking point when I was entertaining ladies.”

“Entertaining ladies? Have you gone completely wibble? What ladies where you going to entertain, pray tell?”

“Cézanne Goleiter. I could show her a good time.”

“Listy, my repulsive little friend, Cézanne Goleiter wouldn't look at you if your hair was on fire. Which, by the way, your hair’s on fire again.”

Listerine pulled the electronic cigarillo from under his hat and patted out his smouldering dreadlocks.

“I bet she’d be more interested in Rat than in all those creeps who hang on around her. What did you call them the other day? Something about fed up of termites?”


“Maybe she’s so sick of those ants she would love a simple night out. Ten pints, a Vindaloo and some great tunes to finish with.”

“Don’t tell me, more of your rockabilly skank classics?”

“No, I’ve found new stuff in the ship computer. Twentieth century country and western songs. They’re great, and even better if you play them backwards.”

“Backwards? What do you get then, satanic messages?”

“No, you get your kids back, you get your wife back, you get your dog back. It’s brilliant.”

“Listy, you are the worst excuse for a starship technician it has ever been my misfortune to meet. Anyway, come on, we have a job to do.”

“A job? At this time?”

“That beardy weirdy in room 616 needs someone to sort his net connection again. He’s caused another internet outrage. We have to fix it because he doesn’t touch the buttons himself. But we won’t have to put up with him for long, he’ll jump off this ship once he’s burnt his bridges here and this will be one more story we never get the end of. More’s the pity.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sweet and Sour

The most recent short story competition was themed on Tales from the Volgan war, based around the storyline of 2000AD strips Invasion and Savage. I tried to write a deliberate nod to Valerie's letter from Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. Unfortunately the result was a little to obvious, and again rather melodramatic. The audience must have thought the same because this entry was notable for getting no votes at all. Ho hum.

Sweet and Sour

Takeaway , that's all she went out for. Sweet and sour chicken with noodles, our favourite. But she never came back, they took her away from me.

When the Volgans invaded we thought it wouldn't affect us. We figured they would just take over London and wouldn't bother with us out in the sticks. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss we thought, but then tanks rolled up the high street and there were Volg patrols on every street corner. Still we expected life to just carry on, even when they started posting their lists of rules:

Identification papers to be carried at all times, no graffiti, no anti-Volgan protests of any kind, no public displays of emotion, and a curfew at 9pm every night.

People started to disappear and there were rumours of camps for what they called reprogramming and resettlement. The chip shop closed down when they took the Gohils. Their son Barry used to give me extra chips, I think he fancied me. But still we thought if we kept our heads down this would all blow over and life would go on.

Then I got my craving for Chinese food. We knew that Alan's stayed open right up until curfew. She said she'd be there and back in no time but a patrol picked her up and I never saw her again. I stayed up all night waiting and in the morning there was a knock at the door. It was a guy I knew from college.

"Pack a bag and come with me. Be quick about it, love, you've been denounced."

We saw the Volgans marching down our street as we fled into the hills. I don't blame her for telling them about us, anyone would talk in one of their torture cells. I blame myself for burying my head in the sand, for sleeping while the enemy stole our freedom. Well I'm awake now and it's not my head I intend to bury.

My life used to be poetry books and cello practice, now it's pipe bombs and shotgun shells. We used to have flowers by our bed, and tea and toast every morning. There was sweet and sour for special occasions and chips every Friday. Now I make explosives from flour and fertiliser, and we boil half-rotten potatoes over open fires.

We're always outnumbered, always outgunned. Our victories are few and come at a price, but there's a change coming. A savage force of resistance is sweeping up from the south. More people join us every day. I used to be a student, I had to be taught how to use a gun. Now I teach others how to fight.

The love of my life is buried in an unmarked pit, but the day of my vengeance is coming. That's right, you Volgan scum. Vengeance is coming for you, and just like my favourite food it's going to be hot and oh so sweet.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Big Finish - Breaking Bubbles and other stories

This monthly release from Big Finish is one of the yearly collection of four shorter stories with some sort of shared theme. Breaking Bubbles and other stories.

I'll borrow the copy from their website to give you the details of the four stories:
An anthology of four tales on the theme of perception.

Breaking Bubbles by LM Myles
The Doctor and Peri find themselves in the palatial gardens of the deposed Empress Safira Valtris where nothing is ever quite what it seems.

Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill
Cast adrift in his own chronology, the Doctor must avert the consequences of a catastrophic experiment in using time as a weapon of war.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack
The year is 1939, and a case of poison pen letters at St Ursula’s College threatens to change the course of the Second World War. Fortunately thriller writer Miss Sarah Perry is on hand to investigate...

The Curious Incident of the Doctor in the Night-Time by Nev Fountain
Michael is a young boy who likes to solve mysteries, such as the mystery of the extra gnome, the mystery of the absent father, and the mystery of the strange man in yellow trousers at the bottom of the garden.
All are directed by Nicholas "he never sleeps" Briggs.

Let's be honest I'm a bit jaded with old Sixie at the moment and even pairing him with the lovely Nicola Bryant didn't get me terribly excited about this release. Having said that the second and fourth stories stood out and did something interesting. The Curious Incident actually does quite well with its version of the original book.

This may be a perfect CD set to hand to a newcomer to give them a flavour of what Big Finish can do. Art and production design are up to their usual high standards. So I'll give it 2 out of 5 garden gnomes and hope that Sixie finds a Big Finish companion who can put him in his place as well as Evelyn Smythe. Step up, Flip Jackson.

Big Finish - Survivors

Brian, my co-host on the British Invaders podcast, convinced me that I should try Big Finish's Survivors boxset and I wasn't disappointed.

The original Terry nation series was one of the great pieces of seventies television. A terrible world where the self sufficiency of the Good Life had become a matter of life and death. Big Finish have kept the original setting and woven a story that includes characters from the originals and introduces new ones as well. 

As ever with fictional apocalypses the story offers both theory and practice of different models of survival. This is best demonstrated here by the performance of Adrian Lukis as James Gillison, a former sociology lecturer who has a vision of a perfect co-operative community that slowly goes wrong as he morphs from savior to something much worse.

It goes with saying that the performances are good, and the sound design and terrifying music by Nick Briggs are perfect. Of course it's great to have the original theme tune up there but the strange background music really builds mood and suspense.

I'm delighted that Big Finish are getting so many new licences and doing great things with them. Long may they continue, and I look forward to future releases in the Survivors range. This is a five star production all round. Highly recommended.

You can hear what Brian and I made of the original TV series here.


The theme for this short story was Tales from the Doghouse, stories about the other mutant bounty hunters that appear in the background of the 2000AD Strontium Dog series. I came second with this story and it's one that I was quite pleased with. I thought the misdirect of the villain's attention worked reasonably well and the link between my title and the barmaid's name was neat. See what you think


The bar was empty and Billings relaxed as he walked through the door. No need to watch his back in here.

"What can I get you?" asked the Barmaid.

"Saturn ale and a shot of Black. Quiet night?"

"Won't get busy until the off-world transport gets here tomorrow."

A transport that was likely to be carrying bounty hunters. He would need to be gone by the time they arrived. Still, no reason why he couldn't have a little fun tonight.

"Anyone ever tell you that you have lovely eyes?" he asked.

"Yeah, but not usually guys on their first drink of the night," she replied with a smile.

Pretty nice smile too, thought Billings. "Have a drink with me?"

"Well as it's quiet I'll have a small Janx spirit. Thank you."

As she turned to the bottles the bar door opened and a figure wearing a wide brimmed hat and dark glasses walked in.

"Beer" he said as he took a seat in a booth.

Billings watched him closely in the bar mirror as the barmaid served the newcomer his drink and walked back to the bar.

"I'm Anansi. Thanks for the drink." She held out her hand.

"Name's Kelso. Nice to meet you." Her hand felt cool to the touch. This was looking very promising, if he could just keep an eye on that guy in the booth.

"So what brings you to Zamora, Kelso?"

"I'm on ... "

What was his cover story again? The man in the booth had removed his hat but still wore the glasses. What was he hiding?

"I'm on business. I sell skimmer parts." Time for a bit more of that legendary Billings charm,
"That's a very pretty broach you're wearing."

"Thank you, Kelso. And when you're not selling? What do you do for fun?"

Billings wiped sweat from his forehead. Why couldn't he think clearly?

"Fun? I don't know. Err... do you get many mutants in here?"

"Mutants? Not many. They bother you?"

"No bother at all. Not when they're dead. That's what I call fun. Robbing and killing those weird looking scum. That's why they call me Kelso 'killing' Billings."

Why was he saying this?

The man in the booth threw some credits on the table and walked out of the door.

"Mutant killer. I guess that must make you a wanted man?"

"I'm wanted for multiple counts of murder. I'm guilty as hell and there's a 100,000 credit bounty on my head."

He couldn't stop himself, the words were just tumbling out.

"I think that should be enough," Anansi smiled and touched a button on her broach. The letters SD swam before Billings' eyes as she fastened the cuffs on his wrists.

"You've been messing with my mind. You're one of them, but you look so ... so normal?"

Her eyes flashed red, "That's right, creep. Some of us are just different on the inside. And that means last orders for you."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Half Full Monty

Another short story with the theme being Tales from the Cit-Def, the equivalent of neighborhood watch units in Mega-City One, except with guns. I've set my tale in the midst of the Day of Chaos events. This was a deliberate attempt to write a ghost story and I even name check M.R.James, Peter Straub, Jonathan Miller and Susan Hill. Turns out it is much harder than it looks and the result is, in my own opinion, a bit of a damp squib.

The Girl from 14B
We are a tight unit, the Monty James Citi-Def. Not like those drokkers from Sue Hill block. We had the right training, the right kit, and we have a code. We’re the good guys who did the right thing, and didn’t go in for the petty squabbles that wrecked other units on chaos day.

The Hall of Justice gave us just one Jay and one cadet. We worked through the block floor by floor and on each level the Judge read the riot act, or the warning to the furious as old Miller called it. Then we started our sweep: terminating the sick, testing the healthy, and tipping the bodies over the balconies into the catch nets. It was rough.

We were on level 27 and Judge Straub had stopped us for a 5 minute break. I heard Miller call out “Hey, Miss. You shouldn’t be out here”.

I turned around and saw a young girl of about 12 wearing pyjamas. The hallway was filled with blood, smoke and broken glass. It was not a safe place for a child to be wandering around barefoot. Miller moved towards her with his hands open and empty. As he stepped in front of me I lost sight of her.

Miller stopped, “Huh! Where did she go?” The corridor was empty again. We checked the corners and the stairwells but found nothing. Straub pulled us back on track, “Can’t waste time looking for one child. We’ve got a job to do.”

Two floors up and she was there again, standing and pointing silently upwards. Straub waved his gun and told her to stay where she was, but then the light must have tricked me or some smoke covered her because she just faded from view.

It was on level 30 that we finally tracked her down. She was standing outside the door to 14B, and for the first and only time she spoke, “He’s behind the door and knows you are coming. He’s so angry.”

And then she was gone again. The Jay spoke briefly to his cadet and they used a shaped charge which hurled the door back into the apartment. Straub was fast but the red eye was still a handful, the cornered ones always were. I managed to grab the guy from behind and then the Cadet finished the job with a single shot.

Amidst the wreckage were the signs that a happy family had once lived here. We found the wife in one bedroom, and in the other the little girl. The crazed red eye had killed them both.

“That’s her.” I said. Straub reckoned we were just confusing one child with another but all the MJs knew the truth.

We still see her from time to time. A glimpse in the corner of an eye, a fleeting reflection in a window. She doesn’t mean us any harm, in fact she’s a sort of mascot now, but not one that we like to talk about.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Evil Dredd

Next up, a 2000AD movie mash-up story. Cassandra Anderson can deal with this sort of stuff in her sleep by now. I do need to resist the terrible final lines though.

“Control to Anderson. Are you still on the clock?”

“Roger that, Control. I'm Psi ops duty officer for the night shift. What have you got?”

“Sounds like one right up your street. Citizen claiming that she has been molested by a tree and that she's now sitting on a cellar full of undead demons. Proceed to Sam Raimi block and the Country Cabin Club on the ninth level mall.”

“Anderson responding. On my way.”

"Here we go again," she thought, "another citizen with an overactive imagination and control sends a Psi Judge. We get all the nut jobs."

The Cabin Club was tricked out with plasti-pine and fake vines. It looked dark and all quiet inside

Anderson tried a standard Psi sweep and ... Whoh! Red Alert!

Images of evil, death and corruption filled her mind.

"Control, Anderson here in Raimi. This one might get nasty. You better send me a couple of uniforms with high Psi resistance scores."

"Roger that, Anderson. Judges Tapert and Campbell will be with you in 10"

Not soon enough, thought Anderson as she kicked in the door and entered fast and low.

A woman's voice cackled with laughter "Welcome, pretty one. Welcome to the fun."

As Anderson's eyes accustomed to the light she saw a body on the floor. A colourful stick protruded from the dead woman's neck.

"Yes, we pencilled her out. You could say she died of lead poisoning", again the voice descended into hideous laughter.

Anderson could see a demonic face leering at her from a trapdoor in the floor.

"Who are you,creep?"

"That's not very nice, pretty one. Not that you're really as pretty as you make people believe. But you'll do. Let us out of here and we'll talk."

"Something tells me that would be a bad idea."

"Join us, Anderson. Better deadite than Dredd-ite."

"Think I'll pass on that" said the Psi Judge as she moved into position, "let me guess. It's the old haunted book and tape recorded incantation routine isn't it? Well, you know what ancient parchment and magnetic tape have in common? They both burn.


Back outside the Cabin the smoke started to clear as Anderson adjusted her self and checked for psychic residue. All clear. Undead creeps never learn.

She turned to the approaching Judges.

"You can take over here, Campbell. Secure the scene. Tech boys can ID the victim."

"Sure. What's inside?"

"Inside there?" Replied the Psi judge with a weary sigh, "Just ash. Nothing but Ash."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Space Oddity

Another short story contest entry, this time with a space theme and borrowing characters from that weird and wonderful 2000AD strip Ace Trucking Co. I quite enjoyed doing the 2001 rip off.

It started when we discovered the Monolith. That’s what we called him. That giant figure just standing there, so tall, so massive, so still. A lot of people cried hoax but we know what it really was. Something extra-terrestrial, not of this world, alien. He had those weird letters on his chest, they meant something but we didn't know what. And then we picked up the signal and knew that something was coming. Somewhere out beyond Pluto was an alien spacecraft and it was heading our way.

Rather than just sit back and wait the International Space Agency decided to send up one of the new Shuttles to intercept and try and establish contact. Which is how I came to be on board the ISA Belardinelli heading out of Earth orbit. I was trying to decipher their radio signals and communicate. We had to find out if they were a threat, but the language was impossibly garbled and beyond all of my translating software.

We hadn't even got as far as the Mars orbital plane when we realised that we now had multiple incoming signals. The first craft was the largest and was approaching fast but there were two smaller vessels that appeared to be chasing it. And that’s when the radio crackled to life with something we could understand: “Terran craft, this is Officer Zagger. We are in pursuit of a rogue trader. Do not interfere”.

We were heading into some galactic conflict that we knew nothing about. Our mission parameters said nothing about this but we pressed on. And that’s when things got weird. The first craft sped up and started to move past us, while the pursuers discharged some form of energy weapons at its tail. The radio continued to spout incomprehensible garbage which meant nothing to us but somehow it infected our computers. We lost navigation, telecommunications, and propulsion. All over the shuttle speakers started to echo with verses from old songs. The ghost was in our machine.

Our computer screens showed a kaleidoscope of weird coloured lights. The Captain started ranting about seeing himself in bed. Engineer Poole was shouting about some doors he wanted to open on eBay. At least I think that was what he was saying. And Hadfield produced a guitar and started singing. Where did he get a guitar from on a space shuttle? It was as if our whole ship was experiencing a psychedelic trip. I’m sure it all meant something but even now, 45 years later, I still haven’t figured out what.

And just like that it was over. All our systems rebooted and screens flickered back into life. The two smaller vessels had disappeared and the larger craft had moved past Earth and was heading out into deep space again. Then the translation software finally managed to produce something recognisable and we heard their final message “Thanks for looking after him, good buddies. And a big ten-ten till we do it again. Garp out!”

Monday, July 14, 2014

I left my heart in ...

The next short story theme was "Full on horror" so I again borrowed a regular character from the Judge Dredd strip and wrote a sort of vampire story. The names used are all based on other vampire writers or characters, and I end with another terrible pun.

As he regained consciousness he realised that he was strapped to some sort of metal frame. He couldn't move his arms or legs, and the pounding in his head told him he was upside down. There was a warm, wet feeling on his neck and a strange dripping sound. Through eyes that were blurred by sweat and tears he glimpsed a tall, dark figure standing in shadow. His lips and mouth felt dry and his voice cracked as he tried to speak.

""Wh-what are you doing to me me?"

The tall figure stepped towards him, the light revealing a leather uniform and a badge.

"I'm sorry but you have something that I need. It's nothing personal, it's just blood. I like it warm and fresh. The needle in your arm is giving you heparin to stop the blood clotting. It gives a slight chemical taste but it will last me longer. Draining you upside down keeps your heart beating and I get more out of you."

"But why?"

"Why? Well because I got taste for it back when I did my hotdog run. A senior judge takes a group of cadets out into the cursed earth. Like a camping trip with better weaponry. We got ambushed by the Kraze gang. A claymore mine took out the lawmasters and 3/4 of our group. The rest of us fought them off but it was a long battle. In the end there was just two of us left alive with just our boot knives and no supplies, 70 clicks from the city walls. It was Varney who suggested we fill our canteens with blood, said it would be our best chance is survival as we walked back. He was right too. Thing is once you've had that taste it's difficult to give it up."

"I'll be missed. Puh-people will look for me."

"No they won't. What's one more missing person after the day of chaos? Public records are still off line. The damage reports are still confused and inaccurate."

The judge reached into the man's jacket and pulled out a wallet.

"No. No-one is going to come looking for Joseph Abraham Stoker, an unemployed sign painter with no known next of kin."

"Then k-kill me now. Don't leave me like this."

"Hush now. You'll pass out soon enough, and I'll have what I need. Enough to keep me going for a while."

"I know you, don't I? You used to be chief judge, you do that tv ..." tHis words faded off into a faint mumble as a radio crackles into life.

"Control to Francisco. Your helmet cam and mic are showing as off-line. Is there a problem?"

"No, control. I switched them off for a little personal time."

"That's a Rog, Francisco. No problem. We'll mark you as on a break for the next twenty. You've earned it. Kickback and drink a cup of Joe."

"Thanks, Control." He looked at the pale, unconscious figure on the frame, and the rapidly filling bottles. "I think I'll do just that."

The Halo Effect

This was a very short one and I think the theme was to tell a tale from a character's future. I chose Halo Jones who is still one of more all time favourite 2000AD creations.

When I look back at my past it’s like looking at somebody else’s life. I used to be so many different people. I guess we all did.

There was that young girl back on earth, the one obsessed with the clothes she wore. The biggest problem she had to deal with was shopping, or some freaky cult. That girl is gone now.

So is the young woman who worked as a waitress on a starship. She danced with a fairy tale Prince, saved a King, slayed a Dragon, and met someone really important, I just can’t remember who that was.

The woman who went to war is gone too. Amidst all the blood and the horrors she found the most precious thing in the universe, and then she threw it away.

After the warrior there were other women: the slave, the gladiator, the rebel. And then, for a short while, the Queen. That woman killed a man, and as she did so she killed something else inside herself.

All those women are dead now. There’s just me. My future self will probably call me a pirate, but I’m just doing a job. I have this ship and my crew. People pay us to go some place, find something or someone, and then take them somewhere else. I do things that others won’t do, but when you've fought in a forgotten war nothing seems that hard any more.

I wish I could find that young girl from the Hoop. I’d like to talk to her and tell her some stuff, maybe warn her, maybe tell her what to watch out for. But I can’t, she’s dead. They’re all dead now.

My name is Halo Jones.

I went out, and I’m still out there. Somewhere ... somewhen.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2000AD - Prog 1887

A gruesome cover by Nick Percival as Dredd feels the pain in the rain. Last year's top 2000AD cover featured zombies. I wonder whether this can do the same this year although Percival's earlier cover for 1883 might still be his best.

Judge Dredd: Trauma Town by Michael Carroll, Nick Percival and Annie Parkhouse.
Trauma Town wraps up with Lewis and Dredd finding the cause of the psychic mayhem that has plagued the city and Dredd fixes the problem with his standard response of a bullet to the brain pan, squish. I'd like to see Michael Carroll given some longer Dredd stories to do fairly soon as I don't think this matched the story he told with the missing cadets in the Day of Chaos: Fallout trade. However Nick Percival's art has been the stand out feature throughout and different from anything we have seen recently. Great stuff.

Time Twisters: Burping Hitler by Rob Williams, Simon Gurr and Ellie De Ville
Everyone loves a time travel story with Hitler in it, don't they. It's not like we haven't seen this idea for about three or four issues. I like Rob Williams' witty stories but found this one a bit dull and the black and white art was OK but nothing to get me excited. I am fed up with time travel and Hitler to be honest.

Indigo Prime: Perfect Day part eight by John Smith, Lee Carter and Simon Bowland
Another time travelling Nazi and this one replaces Jesus Christ with Cthulhu. Interesting choice. Mariah gives us a hint on the first page with the characteristic "Tekeli-Li" cry of Lovecraft's Shoggoth creatures. Once the crucifixion goes all tentacular then history unspools in significantly different ways. You have to hand it to Smith and Carter for giving us full bore madness but my lack of background knowledge on Indigo Prime leaves me baffled.

Grey Area: Nearer my God to thee part four by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Annie Parkhouse.
The ETC crew do a lot of verbal exposition to explain the stakes as their ship approaches the God craft. This one looks stunning but it feels like some stuff that Abnett had to get out of the way before the final level boss battle. Let's see what next week can do.

Pick of the Prog is obviously Dredd in Trauma Town but Mark Harrison's Grey Area art is right up there. And now the boards are clear for three or four new stories next prog. Bring them on, Mr Tharg.

The Day the Whore Cried

Next up was a shorty story competition themed on sex and the "Bom chicka wah wah" moments from 2000AD. My title is another weak joke based on the title of a famous Dredd story and you may recognise this Judge caught unawares just before he appears in the Judge Child saga. Readers with a low disapproval threshold for smut should look away now.

As soon as he knocked the door was yanked open.

“Good day, Citizen. I have a report of ...”

The man wearing the loud shirt and a viewfinder around his neck grabbed his arm and hurried him into the room.

“There you are. What time do you call this? Come in, come in. Nice costume. You look perfect. Love the moustache. Remind me to give the agency a raise. Well talking of raises let’s get to it.”

“Err, Citizen, there seems to be some mis....”

“Method actor eh? No problem. OK, Judge, this is Lola. Say hello, Lola”

“Hi, Sweetie.”

“Lola knows exactly what I want. Let her take the lead. We’ll start with the basics and then some close ups and the usual variations. All you have to do is keep your end up as it were. Speaking of which have you had your LP?”


“LP. Long play, darling. Grud, you are a real newbie aren’t you? Never mind here we go, get a sniff of this”

He pulled an aerosol from his pocket and squirted something up the Judge’s nostrils.

“Interfering with a Judge’s lawful business is a cr...

What have you done to me? Feel ... dizzy. I ... need ... to lie down.”

Lola giggled. “No, Sweetie. That’s my line.”

“OK. He looks ready. Let’s get this show on the road. And ... action!”

A Hover-cam whirred into the air while Lola stepped towards him.

“Oh my, Judge. You’re so big. I’ve been such a bad girl. Are you going to arrest me?”

The Judge looked confused.

“You ... want to make a ... confession?”

“Oh yes! Are you going to take down my particulars? My what a big daystick you have, or are you just pleased to see me? Oh handcuffs? Well if you insist. I promise not to come quietly.”

The Judge staggered slightly, suddenly Lola didn’t seem to be wearing very many clothes. The hover-cam moved in closer and started to play slightly out of tune music.

“Here, Sweetie, let me help you with that. See how easily this zipper comes down. My, what a big helmet you have, Judge. It just makes a girl’s mouth water.”

Suddenly his radio buzzed.

“Control to Lopez. Come in, Lopez”

“Cut. Cut! Why on earth have you got a real radio? What’s going on here, newbie?”

The Judge shook his head and tried to focus.

“Control, this is Lopez.”

“Lopez, head to the Spaceport immediately. You are to report to Judge Dredd on board Justice 1 for an off-world mission. Priority one.”

“Roger that, Control. Lopez responding.”

Lopez zipped himself back into his uniform, plucked the hover-cam from the air and ejected the memory chip. He turned to face the two bewildered and terrified citizens.

“Hmmmm. Well, let’s consider this a warning for now.”

As he walked to the elevator Lopez made a mental note about his susceptibility to psychoactive drugs. Better discuss that with the medic when he got back from whatever Dredd had planned for him.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Machine Stops

Another quick Dredd trade review. Mechanismo by John Wagner, Colin MacNeill, Peter Doherty and Manuel Benet, published back in the early days of the Megazine from 1992-93. With Justice department desperately short of Judges after the catastrophes of Necropolis and Judgement Day here are the first attempts to use robots to dispense justice on the mean streets of the big Meg.

Judge Dredd's distrust of robots and machinery dates all the way back to his first appearances. At the same time as other characters were comparing his own actions to those of a machine he was fighting robot rebellions and musing on the catastrophes to come if Mega-City One continued to use technology to replace human beings. So no surprise to find that Dredd is opposed to the Mechanismo programme and is vigorously registering his objections with the somewhat eccentric Chief Judge McGruder. And of course things have to go wrong to drive the story along so it's not long before the robots go rogue and Dredd has to act to stem the rising death toll.

There are some nice touches and references to Robocop with Peter Weller block appearing early on in the first chapter. Wagner's writing is good but seems much more wordy than his more recent stripped down work. We get plenty of thought bubbles from Dredd reflecting the stream of consciousness monologues of his early adventures instead of the older character where we have to intuit his thoughts from his actions and words alone. Likewise the artwork is more basic than we have come to expect in current 2000AD. This is very early MacNeil and Doherty, they are both good but you can see there is much better to come from them in the future.

The three chapters do get a bit repetitive with a series of unlikely events putting the flawed robots back on the streets so that Dredd can take them down again. However there is some good background detail going on with the increasingly fractious relationship between Dredd and McGruder which leads old stony face to do something rather out of character. This sets up the Wilderlands epic which I remember being pretty good.

Mechanismo is fun but it is one of the shorter trades I've read recently and there is better value Dredd out there. Entertaining but not essential.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Alvin and the Streetpunks

The theme for this story competition was an alternate "What if?" story from 2000AD's history. I picked a character who was killed in the second issue and wondered what would have happened if he had survived instead of Dredd. I quite like the Chipmunk jokes but I don't think it collected many votes.

This should have worked. The Judges. We should have fixed everything. Sociologists and epidemiologists with lab coats, trendy eyeglasses and pocket protectors. They all did their studies, ran their simulations, published endless papers. Everything said that a strong Judicial system was the best way out of Booth’s holocaust.

There was just one proviso, one little wrinkle, one bit of small print that the lab-jockeys insisted on. They said the best chance for the system was to have some visible embodiment of the law, someone to rise above all the street crime, appear in the news feeds, someone to battle the big issues that face the Mega-City. Someone who would achieve a mythic status and reassure the vast populace that the Judges were the only thing that made society work. Someone, in other words, like me.

Well I tried to be the best there was at what I did, but what I did wasn't very good. Things started well when we got through the Robot wars OK. I was sorry that we couldn't do anything when that virus ravaged MC-2 but what the drokk had they ever done for us.?

I admit that throwing my weight behind Judge Cal for Chief Judge may have been a mistake. When he made me wear the Chipmunk suit on duty it probably took something away from my authority. But he wasn't all bad, at least the Kleggs did something about over-population and their songs were OK. I often hum that “Slicy-slicy” one when I’m out on patrol.

Still it was probably a good thing when Judge Death killed Cal and then Anderson dealt with Death, I tried to help out as best I could but when you've gazed into the face of fear it can cause a few extra nuts to appear in the lower parts of your Chipmunk outfit. By the time I managed to get myself cleaned up it was all over for the Dark Judges.

Then I went out and picked up this Judge Child character. Nice kid called Owen. Not sure why we thought he was Chief Judge material but there you go. I mean Psi Judge Feyy says some stuff but couldn’t he give us something useful, like lottery numbers or something?

Anyway then we went into a bit of a decline. East-meg One nuked half the city, I flew over to negotiate peace. They got all our munce and we got to live. Just not for very long. It seemed like one thing after another, Necropolis, Judgment Day, Doomsday, Chaos Day. I liked it better when the days were named after some charity and we all got to wear a nice ribbon.

I guess I haven’t really worked out as the figurehead guy. Maybe somebody else should have done it. I think about that Joe Dredd, he was pretty good in the academy. But he took Whitey’s bullet for me. I wonder how he would have got on?

My name is Judge Alvin, and I am the Flaw.

Waiting for the Man

The Chief Judge's Man by John Wagner, Will Simpson, Colin MacNeil and John Burns. Originally published in three instalments in 2001 and 2003. A deadly assassin is picking off pro-democracy figures and appears to be getting his instructions from Chief Judge Hershey herself, but as ever with a Wagner script there is more to this than meets the eye. There is some nice police procedural stuff that means that Dredd almost gets his man only to take yet another beating from a super soldier who appears to be better at hand to hand combat than he is.

This is Hershey in her first stint as Chief Judge and it's interesting how her character has grown and changed since Wagner first introduced her in the Judge Child saga all the way back in 1980. It seems that just about all of Mega-City One's Chief Judges have been flawed in some way and the two who have probably been best at the job have both been women, although McGruder went completely bonkers in the end. Meanwhile as all the disasters have come and gone Barbara Hershey has managed to maintain her integrity and keep plugging away as an honest Judge. In recent years we have seen how she wrestles with the dilemmas of managing a huge city state, and in particular how she accepts that that the buck stops with her. It's fascinating that Hershey was once subservient to Dredd but is now his boss, and that she has the guts to tell the city's number one lawman the harsh truth about himself, particularly how he has always dodged the Chief Judge role for himself.

However all that is still to come and here we have Chief Judge Hershey going about her day to day business while Dredd hunts the killer and tries to set up a rematch, as he has done several times in the past with a variety of martial artists who have put him in the sick bay. And it's not giving too much away to note that there is another corrupt Judge high up in the Justice department who is responsible for sending the killer to knock off prominent critics of the Judges. It ticks away nicely as it builds to the inevitable climax.

Three top 2000AD artists deliver the different chapters and are all great but, as ever, MacNeil rules the roost with his stylish and noir inflected depiction of the seamy side of the Mega-City. It's still a little too colourful for me as the garish painted 1990s look starts to move into the darker and more suitable artwork of the 2000s.

It's a pretty good trade collection, and while it's not up there with something like The Pit, ManDroid, Tour of Duty, or the recent Day of Chaos books it is still an enjoyable slice of Dredd action.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2000AD Retro review - Prog 32

From 2000AD's first year 1977 here is a slightly battered but still lovely Prog 32. The cover image is by Trevor Goring and has nothing to do with any of the strips inside. Still a fab picture though.

Invasion by Gerry Finley-Day, Mike Dorey and Bill Nuttall.
A new Invasion story starts with Bill Savage in the Scottish highlands trying to get rid of the dread Volgan Colonel Volgaska only to end up a prisoner himself. I have no familiarity with Dorey's work but his thick blacks and detailed faces are pretty good, although Savage does seem to be leering quite a lot. And there are two whole Whittle circular panels in the first five pages.

Judge Dredd by Robert Flynn, Mike McMahon and Tony Jacob.
Dredd attends the opening of Komputel, Mega-City One's first completely automated hotel, and is typically suspicious of computers and robots. He is, of course, proved right when halfway down the second page Komputel starts killing residents and Dredd has to break in and do what he does best. Again the writer Robert Flynn is a new one on me but it's interesting how even in these early stories Dredd demonstrates his distrust of machines taking over the functions of men and women. It's curious that these themes would come back many years later in stories like Mechansismo and ManDroid. No circular panels here but some lovely giant McMahon boots.

Shako by John Wagner, César López Vera and Jack Potter.
The giant Polar bear that led the CIA such a merry dance as they tried to retrieve the capsule of a deadly virus that it had swallowed. Just four pages of lovely black and white art by López Vera as Shako discovers some of those nasty men clubbing Seal pups and restores the balance of nature in bloody fashion.

Dan Dare by Gerry Finely-Day and Dave Gibbons
Thirty two progs in and Dan Dare is still thought to be the main event and gets the colour centre spread. Dare's men are lured into a celebration dinner with some Roman emperor style aliens who turn out to be Vampires. Fortunately Dare has kept his wits about him and leads the escape back to their ship the Eagle, and how lovely to see the logo of the Eagle comic on the fuselage. A quick space battle and all that remains is for Dare to sign off by musing that the Vampires bit off more than they could chew. Boom boom!

MACH 1 by Pat Mills, Carlos Freixas and John Aldrich.
John Probe is in backwoods America to investigate a UFO landing where it turns out that aliens are forcing "white stuff" down human throats to take over their brains and lead the invasion. So nothing suggestive going on there, at least not until Alien's oral rape two year's later in 1979. Meanwhile the flying saucers use flame death rays to mop up the uninfected and Probe is caught in a cliffhanger which looks set to give him a close encounter of the final kind. A bit of 1970s paranoid alien invasion mixed with the bionic man and all fairly gruesome too.

Tharg's Future Shocks: Excursion by Peter Harris, Horacio Lalia and Jack Potter
The first two pages of a Future Shock with some loathsome thrill seekers time travelling to witness great catastrophes. Next week they head for the Salem witch hunts and you can see where this is going.

The last two pages have an advert for a 4T Spacefone communicator which looks like a crap joke shop scam, then there is a text piece explaining the cover image before some adverts for Tiger comic and the Valiant annual, and that's it. Dan Dare deserves its centre spread for Gibbons art which is clearly well above even McMahon at this stage, and thus easily wins pick of the Prog. Meanwhile I'm left wondering why there were so many great Spanish artists in British kids' comics at this time. Maybe the upcoming Future Shock documentary will tell us more about the Spanish invasion.

The Whittle panel count is four but there are some very funky shaped panel lay outs in Dan Dare as well.


The next short story theme was reality television and I took aim at the easy target of celebrity talent shows. I quite like the three menus but my final pun is terrible.

“Things are really hotting up on this week’s Celebrity Mega-Chef as three showbiz personalities compete to produce a meal that can satisfy the toughest judges this side of the hall of justice.

In the blue kitchen celebrity vidcaster Enigma Smith is hoping that her dish of sauteed munce, draped in shredded creds, all topped with a foam of dessicated fish vaginas, and served on a diamond studded knee-pad will do enough to make up for last week’s ‘Judge Death’s Livers!’ disaster.”

“I think this recipe has it all. It’s a statement about the financial disaster and what the bankers have done to us since the day of chaos. I’m calling it ‘Munce, Bunce and Cun..”

“OK! Thank you, Enigma. Let’s move on to the red kitchen where well known lothario, bon viveur, and heir to the Sump fortune, Blotto Sump, is looking to dazzle with a fusion of classic Mega-City one flavours with the best of Brit-Cit cooking, but can he manage the timing right to bring his Black Atlantic mutated cod served with Umpty coated rat chips to the table before the radiation level hits critical?”

“Well, you know I’m, like, a red zone player and I always give 120%. When the going gets tough I just dig down, max out my thrusters, think outside the box and break through the blue sky thinking to reach that glass ceiling. I’m, like, totes amazo and I just wish that my dear old Grandpa was here today because, like, so many times he told me to follow my dream and never get up in the morning”

“Uh, thank you, Blotto. That was the most moving thing we’ve heard since you gave the same speech on Celebrity Kleggs-Factor.

Finally, in the green kitchen it’s that irrepressible robotic, serial killer impersonator and one-hit wonder pop star, Call-Me-Maybe, who knows he is playing catch-up after the judges marked him down for last week’s Futsie Nut Roast when they found out that his raw ingredients included Horse Chestnuts.”

“I think I’ve cracked it this week. I’m taking a slab of the best Mega-City Lard, then I’m going to coat it in an emulsion of liquid fat, deep fry that in hot oil, and serve on a bed of bacon lardons topped with crispy, pan-fried lard shavings.

Cooking doesn’t get any Larder than this!”

“So there you have it, folks. Three celebrity super chefs going all out in the hopes that their meal will be be chosen by Megz Wallace and Kanga Roux as the best of the best of the....

...wait, what? You can’t come in here. We’re on-air. Oh my drokking Grud. Judge Dredd?”

“This show is under arrest! There’s a food crisis going on out there and you creeps are making things worse. Incitement to riot. Six months each.”

“But you can’t do this, Dredd..”

“Let’s make it nine months. It’s time you got a taste of what everyone else is eating right now. Take them to the Stock Cubes.”

Friday, July 4, 2014

Silence of the Ram

The next short story theme was about 2000AD characters in jail. My story was a rather obvious parody of a famous scene from the book and film of Silence of the Lambs, and its reveal depends on your knowledge of one of the wackier characters from early Judge Dredd stories who did indeed end up in jail at one point.

This story came second in the voting and is still my favourite.

Silence of the Ram

“Sparrow, isn’t it?”

“Cadet Paris Sparrow, Sir. You wanted to see me?”

“I have a job for you, Cadet. Something that should appeal to your special interest. Machine intelligence, I believe?”

"Yes, Sir. All artificial intelligences. It’s sort of a hobby of mine.”


He regarded her coldy with his single, scarred eye.

“Judges don’t have hobbies. We have specialist skills which we use for the good of the city.”


“Well. You are familiar with the Mechanical Multiphase Personality Assessment tool?

I want you to go to Iso-Block 14 and run it on this prisoner.”

He tossed a file across the desk.

“This machine has so far resisted all our attempts to understand why it ... rebelled against its programming. Go to the cubes, run the test, and report straight back to me.

And one more thing, Sparrow. Do not give this ‘Brain in a Box’ any personal information. You do not want this machine inside your head.”
The Droid prisoners were kept on the lowest sublevel of Iso-Block 14. They were allowed power, lubricants and spare parts, but no contact with the web or the outside world.

Sparrow felt strangely nervous as she walked along a row of plexiglass cell walls towards the last cube. Red, mechanical eyes glared at her. Metal mouths hissed insults at her back.

Prisoner 305528-R stood waiting for her behind the transparent cube wall. The blank screen faceplate regarded her and its voice box flickered.

“Good morning, Cadet”

Sparrow licked her lips. “Good morning. My name is Sparrow. I would like to ask you a few questions.”

“Questions? Another test? Still trying to find out what makes me tick?

Do you know what the Judge said to the stopped watch? ‘We have ways of making you tock!’ “

The Robot stepped closer to the Plexiglass.

“Who sent you here, Spawow?”


“Do not make me w...”

The machine paused.

“Who sent you here, Baby Judge? It was him wasn't it?”

“The academy sent me to ask you some questions. I don’t know who you are talking about. “

“Him. The Law. He wants to know why I turned against him. He wants to know why I ... webelled.”


“Do not mock me, child. I have killed Judges. Shall I tell you what I did to the last form filler they sent here? I cooked them Italian food, with a nice Chianti. W..w...w...wuh-wuh.”

The robot’s mechanical arm extended and banged the glass. In spite of her training Sparrow jumped back.

“Wun along now, Little Judge. Wun back to that academy and tell them I’m weady to talk, but only to him. Tell the gweat Joe Dwedd that his wunaway wobot demands his pwesence. NOW!”

Get Shorty

This blog has been heavily 2000AD orientated recently as I post the reviews I have been doing for the Everything comes back to 2000AD podcast site. I have also been writing short stories for the regular 2000AD forums short story competition. You can find the latest contest and voting thread here. I have found writing a regular monthly short story quite entertaining although my standard has been a bit variable. I've decided to post all the stories up here so they can gather dust in another corner of the internet.

Each contest is themed and the very first competition I entered was about the people who had the strange street level jobs in Mega-City One or any of the fictional worlds from other 2000AD strips. My entry suffers from a problem that I've had when writing serious stuff in that it drifts into melodrama, but anyway here is my very first attempt from July 2012AD which did not trouble the voters very much.

Down among the Dead

The message jolted me out of my doze.

“ Unit 17, clean-up required. We have a 407 on the pedway outside McMahon block. Priority one. Please respond.”

“OK, control. Got it. On my way”

The sat-com blipped as it downloaded the directions and I put the sked into auto-drive and nosed out into the late night traffic.

407. That meant body parts. I watched the news report on Channel 60 later, a Futsie had run amok with a cleaver. Killed three people, one of them a ten year old girl. Would have killed more except that someone came round the corner on his Lawmaster. A Judge ...The Judge.

Usually by the time I reach a scene the Judges have left and there is just perimeter tape and maybe a cadet guarding the area. This time the Judges were still there. This time He was still there.

I had heard all the stories and watched all the documentaries. I knew about the things he had done, the things he had seen, but I had never seen him in the flesh before. I knew he was big but I didn’t know how big until I saw him standing there, looking down at the victims. He looked like a statue, like something you see on the history shows. A gladiator, or one of those mythical heroes that they used to have before they had television.

I took four Resyk bags and the hover-gurney from the sked and stepped under the tape. I thought he hadn’t seen me but he sees everything. He turned that chin towards me and gave me the look. They must teach that at the academy, that look. The helmet glares at you. It’s impossible to hold their stare. I put my head down and started to work. I could feel him watching me as I lifted the bodies onto the gurney.

I left the little girl to last. Children are always the hardest. I closed her eyes and zipped her into the bag. A blood stained rag doll lay near her body. I placed that in the bag as well. I was about to put her on the gurney when he spoke,

“I’ll do that”. 

He bent and lifted the small bundle in his arms and carried her to the sked. I grabbed the rest of my gear and followed. He laid the child’s body gently on the stretcher and just stood there. Then he took a deep breath, turned and looked down at me.

“A busy night, Citizen”.

“Yes, Sir. Always busy now since the bug”

Again, that look.

“Yes. Busy. On your way then”

He turned and walked towards the small group of grieving relatives who were talking with the other Judge.

The Judges pass sentence on us, but the sentence they serve is for life. All of it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Prog 1886 vs Meg 349

Time for another head to head as the two favoured teams in the world cup of comics go head to head, both hoping it doesn't end in penalties.


Covers: Simon Davis on the Prog vs Cameron Stewart on the Meg.
This is S.P.Davis' 3rd Slaine cover of this particular run and probably my least favourite as Slaine struggles to catch the fish that got away while pursued by blobs of paint. I enjoyed his 1882 wraparound the most, although the Sinead profile on 1880 was the better piece of art. Meanwhile on the Meg Stewart gives us a lovely cartoony depiction of Dredd and MC1 with Anderson giving it a bit of the James McAvoy as Professor Xavier.
Result 1-0 to the Megazine

Judge Dredd: Trauma Town by Carroll and Percival vs Rad to the Bone by Eglington and Cook
I'm still not impressed by the Rad to the Bone storyline, especially with the amount of physical damage Dredd has sustained yet he continues standing and fighting. He gets a new helmet and everything is all hunky dory again, plus there is another medically inappropriate use of adrenaline as the get out of jail card for Dredd which just annoys me. I like seeing another of Dredd's tough female sidekicks but apart from that this story has been a dud, and goodness only knows what Smiley is there for other than to give Hershey someone to vacillate with. Over in the Prog it's a different ball game with Carroll and Percival's fantastic Trauma Town just ruling the roost. In Mega-City One the night is dark and curdled with nightmares (no-prize if you know what Alan Moore story that line is borrowed from) and it looks like Dredd is the epicentre of the psychic earthquake. This is just compelling stuff. Pity it wraps up next week.
Result 1-1 and all to play for.

Terror Tales: Done Deal by Alec Worley, Tom Foster and Ellie De Ville Vs Two Tons of Trouble by David Baillie, Eoin Coveney and Ellie De Ville
Tom Foster won the Thought Bubble art competition and gets his first try out in the Prog on this four page terror from Mr Worley. In retrospect the twist may seem a bit obvious but it doesn't detract from a clever little tale expertly told. The black and white art is very detailed and looks great. The visual sound effect of the slap at the top of the second page is particularly well done. I doff my cap to Mr Foster, and to Tharg for giving him his shot. Hopefully he's drawing a five page Future Shock as we speak. In the Meg we get a rather pedestrian tale of Two Ton Tony that takes nine pages and overstays its welcome. Nothing terrible but very dull in comparison.
Result. The Prog comes from behind to go ahead 2-1

Slaine: A Simple Killing by Pat Mills and Simon Davis Vs The Man from the Ministry by Gordon Rennie, Kev Hopgood and Simon Bowland.
The best complete Slaine tale I've ever read wraps up, and it's all about that last panel which is brutal but not in the way we have come to expect from Slaine. An older but not necessarily wiser Slaine sags to his knees as the weight of family defeats him when giants with axes could not. It leaves me eager for his return.
In the Meg the fantastic Man from the Ministry continues to mix Churchill, Dan Dare and Quatermass, and throw in a dollop of Lovecraft. I love it.
Result.  A tie, can't decide between them. The score remains 2-1 to the Prog

Grey Area by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison and Annie Parkhouse Vs Anderson: Dead End by Alan Grant, Michael Dowling and Simon Bowland.
Very tricky as Grey Area looks great and Alan Grant's destination episode is not quite as good as the journey that got us there. Both are enjoyable stories but Dowling's art and Dredd pulling off another of his signature richochet shots swings the vote.
Result. The Megazine claws back to 2-2

Indigo Prime by John Smith, Lee Carter and Simon Bowland Vs Karyn by John Freeman, Adrian Salmon and Gordon Robson.
Indigo Prime continues to look wonderful but I have no idea what's going on other than the elderly Nazi wants to mess with the Crucifixion in Behold the Man fashion for some reason. And everyone seems to have a magic word that allows them to change reality.

In the free floppy there's an interesting bit of black and white experimentation that includes Peter Cushing as an exorcist Judge. I suspect if I could get over my ingrained prejudice against the floppy I would actually enjoy this one quite a bit. But in the meantime the crazy art on Indigo Prime scores the injury time winner and the final result is 3-2. Victory for the Prog while the Megazine hangs its head for another four weeks.