Let’s Read – 2000 AD – Prog 0002

Well moving house is continuing to eat my time in a totally unexpected way. I suppose deciding to re-decorate hasnt really helped speed things up. Especially as my tiles are sassing we with their supposed adhesive qualities. I read Prog’s 2-10 some time ago, which means I had to refresh myself a little when it came to writing this. Something I’ve run into is that its hard to read an entire issue, not because I dislike any particular story. But because its hard not to stick with the one strip and read ahead as opposed to reading a few pages and moving on to another story. To be honest, not sticking with the one strip until the end, especially as they’re all “complete”, is basically in direct opposition to how I’ve “trained” myself to consume all forms of media over the last few years. First world problems, eh? The other thing I didn’t realise about “Let’s Read” is that it really slows things down when you just want to read the thing in question. So I think I might just “guarantee” a Let’s Read of 10 Progs a week but read on at my own pace in the inbetween.

Prog 0002

I think that no matter what else I say about this issue the fact is that without the covers promised full colour stickers I will never become a biotronic man. Could any mere comic really make up for that loss? Well the first appearance of Judge Dredd goes some way towards making it right.

Strips: INVASION!, FLESH, M.A.C.H.1, DAN DARE, Harlem Heroes, Judge Dredd

INVASION!

The first few pages show those naughty old Volgs up to no good, mowing down nuclear blast survivors, hanging MP’s from lamp-posts, crouching on the bar in pubs and shooting people’s pints! Of course interfering with such blue collar necessities arouses the ire of Bill Savage, who bursts into the pub in question and kill’s an improbably large amount of people with a double barreled shotgun. Before ordering a weirdly incongruous bottle of vodka from the barkeep. Which he then uses to blow up a tank. Thank fuck, we all knew he was an ale man. As he wanders of he’s spotted by a mysterious stranger who declares that he wants Savage. Though the focus on Savage’s posterior in the stranger’s sunglasses may mean that Savage needs to watch his back in more way’s than one.

This was ok, but as I mentioned previously, I really dislike Bill Savage and this did little to change my opinion. Still, unlikable protagonists aren’t that big of an impediment, particularly in a story like this.

FLESH

Ah the economics defying world of time traveling dinosaur hunting. The first page introduces us to the FLESHDOZER! Which appears to be a weird cross between a JCB and an automated meat factory. On the first page we see some poor cowhand (dinohand?) get crushed under a dinosaur dropped by the Fleshdozer’s butter fingers. Page 2 sees the Fleshdozer follow this up by accidentally grabbing another poor fucker and throwing him into the blades. You can’t help but question how lax the safety inspections are on Trans-Time Corp’s operations. On the next page Joe tries to hold in his vomit and questions if they are why the dinosaurs are extinct. Our old pal Earl Reagan tells him to man up and we get a look at the time beams which allow time travel in the world of FLESH. Later Reagan and his men leave base and following some spotter planes they come upon and start to round up some plant-eating Alamosaurs (which is shockingly a real dinosaur). Unfortunately they were ill-prepared for a PTERANODON ATTACK! Who apparently see the spotter planes as rivals. Joe once more displays his incompetence by missing with his blaster before he ends up wrestling with a Pteranodon.

Weirdly I actually thought this was decent enough in an over the top way. Which is odd as in general I really dislike FLESH.

M.A.C.H.1

We start off with John Probe surrounded by three weird monsters, who he’s warning to back off as he has to land his plane before London dies! The bottom of the page brings us back to an hour earlier, and the end of last weeks strip, where the terrorists have hijacked a Vulcan bomber full of nerve gas. The terrorist leader foolishly declares that theres nothing Probe can do. But did he know he was dealing with a MACH MAN?! Did he fuck apparently. Probe gets on to the RAF and hitches a ride on a RAF Nimrod. Catching up the Vulcan he sky dives onto it and tears through the hull. There he quickly takes down two terrorists, despite his back and forth with his internal computer. Unfortunately one of the terrorists bullets ruptures the nerve gas canisters and the plane is heading straight for the heart of London. Probe is busy fighting off nerve gas hallucinations and the planes shoddy controls when he’s done from behind by the third terrorist (in the Cockpit! with a Wrench!). The third terrorist is eliminated by a power punch to the face, Probe uses his manly willpower to fight off the hallucinations, blitzes a london office building and lands the plane safely outside London. After Probe reports in to his boss we find out that this mission was just a test but now MACH 1 is ready for THE REAL ACTION!

I really like MACH 1 and the stories are always generally enjoyable, this one being no exception. As I think I mentioned previously I think its interesting to see the back and forth between MACH 1 and his computer because we’ll see something similar in later progs with Rogue Trooper and his equipment and later still with Nikolai Dante and his weapons crest.

Dan Dare

Dan Dare, intrepid space stowaway, is almost instantly spotted by a security guard wielding a fucking ridiculous looking gun. Dan dives at the guard, simultaneously urging him to drop his gun and fight hand to hand, like a man. Dare beats up the guard with his amazing Twentieth Century weapon, “It’s called – FIST!”. Master of elocution is Mr Dare. Two other guards show up and promptly get disintegrated by the first guard as Dare’s savage beating causes him to convulsively pull the trigger of his gun. The focus switches to the bridge and the amazingly named Mr. Monday, a fifth generation Martian. Dare bursts into the bridge and warns that the entire ship is in danger (further danger presumably as Dare has just been largely responsible for the death of two crew and likely the crippling and psychological scarring of a third). Monday gives Dare two minutes to explain. Which Dare does. Monday doesn’t believe Dare and orders his security chief to summarily execute him. Just then the ship is rocked by a wave of pure energy and a strange creature materialises on the bridge. Causing Dare to question “What is that THING from the Hell planet?”

I don’t think I can properly convey how crap this new Dan Dare is. Even taken as its own thing, unique from its source, it’s still shit. It’s just so dull and poorly put together. It’s the comic equivalent of those shovelware computer game film tie ins.

Harlem Heroes

The first page starts out with a rough training session between the Harlem Heroes remaining players – Giant, Slim and Hairy. The ball hits the ground and is scooped up by some old guy, who Slim then proceeds to smart mouth before getting effortlessly pushed aside as the old guy scores an airstrike…from the ground! Giant high fives the guy, introducing him as Conrad King, an ex-hero who was sidelined due to injuries. But modern advances in medicine have given him new bones and he’s raring to go. He’s quickly accepted but the Heroes need seven players before their next league match against the Baltimore Bull’s. The Heroes head off to the same place they were discovered, the Sky-Slums of Harlem (gasp!), to recruit some new players. They come across a street game of aeroball, the players using low powered jetpacks, which is gatecrashed by a young guy using an illegal home-made jetpack (and who has the oldest face I’ve ever seen on a young guy).

After scoring a strike the kids jetpack explodes sending him spiraling towards death but Giant saves him. From both a lethal fall and getting his ass kicked by the players whose game he interrupted. Giant brings the kid, Zack Harper, back to the Heroes stadium. Where Zack tells Giant to stow his jive before displaying his natural aeroball talents. Giant decides to give the kid a chance and with a tele-code (ooh space age telegrams, artificial bones but no mobile phones, go 70’s sci-fi) saying that Chico and Sammy, two players who were on loan, are returning. The Harlem Heroes are up to full strength and ready to play. The last panel shows the heroes entering the stadium for their game against the Baltimore Bulls and Giant mentally worrying about whether Zack’s ready for a match.

This was certainly better than the last issue, it still doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to be. But there was a bit more characterisation and the story certainly moves forward at a decent pace. Still can’t decide if I like it but I certainly don’t dislike it.

JUDGE DREDD

The first appearance of one of the greatest comic characters ever. We open with a picture of Dredd on his Lawmaster under the tagline “Meet the toughest lawman of them all…JUDGE DREDD”. We’re then quickly introduced to the setting, New York 2099 A.D. , where buildings tower miles into the sky and old giants lie in ruins (the empire state building to be precise). In this bold new future the “Judges are special lawmen of the 21st century. Elected by the people to enforce the law!”. The first page also shows an unknown criminal warning someone named Whitey that the judges are coming. Whitey responds to this warning by using his laser cannon to blast the oncoming judge off his lawmaster, killing him in the process. The criminals climb out of the ruins of the empire state building, they discover they’ve just killed Judge Alvin before Whitey takes Alvin’s helmet and declares himself Judge Whitey. We cut to Justice HQ where the Grand Judge is congratulating Dredd on being awesome.

The grand judge gets an alert that Alvin has returned from patrol DEAD! Taking Dredd with him the Grand Judge goes to examine the body, which is handcuffed to Alvin’s lawmaster. The body has a note containing the rather inflammatory question “Who you gonna send against me now, punks? – Judge Whitey”. The Grand Judge declares he’s going to send in an entire air squad but Dredd says that its better if he goes in alone as no one will respect the law if they cant deal with one gang. Using a cunning ruse (he sent his bike in one way and walked through the back door) Dredd gets the drop on Whitey’s gang, killing two and capturing Whitey. Whitey declares no prison can hold him and Dredd informs Whitey he’s been sent to Devil’s Island. Devil’s Island turns out to be a traffic island in the middle of a vast inter city highway complex where continuous lines of traffic roar by at 200mph. Whitey seem’s less than pleased about this and in the last panels Dredd and the Grand Judge honour Alvin and discuss how its likely they’ll all die in service to the law, which Dredd seems pretty happy with.

Ah Judge Dredd, certainly one of favourite characters of all time, while there are some bum stretches Judge Dredd is impressively good across over thirty years of weekly publication. Its interesting seeing the “early days” as it were. Even over the course of the next few issues Dredd’s appearance, and the setting itself, will change multiple times. New York of 2099 will soon become Mega City 1, Dredd’s appearance and gear change a fair bit as well. But the first story still contains many of the key elements e.g. Dredd is the best and most feared/respected Judge, he’s a badass (gunning down folks left and right),the Judges are judge, jury and executioner, the future is weird and fucked up (e.g. Devil’s Island). If memory serves we will see Whitey at least twice more in the years and progs to come.

Vent your spleen

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