It seems that most of the covers in the early days had speech bubbles on. Much later I’m sure years passed between covers featuring speech bubbles. We’ve got quite a nice ratio nowadays of speech versus speechless covers. Pteranodons, tyrannosaurs and giant spiders feature on this particular cover (plus the Trans-Time rangers issuing the afore-mentioned speech bubbles).
I think I alluded to this episode of Invasion! in my write-up of Death Line when Savage gave Lil a warning. This time the Brigadier lets a former soldier go and before Savage can catch up has betrayed them to the Volgs.
After an advert for Tiger we launch into Flesh, where (all in one episode) Reagan gets locked up in a cell, more young bucks unsuccessfully challenge Old One Eye, Reagan escapes and the storm breaks, sparking the final attack by the various ranks of prehistoric creatures. The concept of cliffhangers are pretty much ignored in Flesh – it would have made more sense to put Reagan’s imprisonment at the end of an episode (though we do get Old One Eye leading the dinosaurs in the last panel, so there is at least some tension at the end).
Last story before the colour centre-spread is Harlem Heroes, and it takes Louis Meyer to tell the Heroes that they should be using improvisation and skill (instead of brute strength) to face the Flying Scotsmen. Though I thought the whole point of the Harlem Heroes was that they wore less body armour than other teams for this very reason, so strange that they should have forgotten this entirely in the first half of the match. Better stop now before I sound like a sports pundit.
Dan Dare sees the Titan I.C. (not a suspect name at all) on its last legs, leading to the death of a crewman. The colours on my copy cover the detail of the centre-spread, but once we get into the black and white part of the episode every page has a stand-out panel. The first B&W page has the dead crewman’s slumped skeleton, the next the Titan I.C. decelerating through a red giant’s surface and the last has Captain T’Quo being killed by the Mekon. In the episode itself we get Dare piloting the faulty ship to a planet orbiting with a sun, and the Mekon killing allies in order to keep the Two of Verath’s base secret. I wonder where that base could possibly be?
The Nerve Centre sees a glimpse of Tharg’s industrial relations with his editorial droids, while we find out TMO is at least two billion years old (and is only now experimenting with the idea of justice).
M.A.C.H.1 has a splash page revealing the villain of the episode, who is kept in the shadows as if we hadn’t just seen him in a full-page illustration already. Anyway, Probe goes undercover with the British table tennis team to find a formula for growing food which has been created by Shang Chin. Because it’s China we get table tennis (probably inspired by Ping Pong Diplomacy earlier in the decade), dragon sculptures (even on government buildings), chess, people dressed suspicious like (the popular conception of) ninjas, a warrior dressed as a samurai (y’know, like from, er, Japan), kung-fu and use of the mystical power of Ch’i. Looks like someone was ticking off squares on the Chinese/Japanese-stereotype bingo card as they were writing this episode. As for the actual conflict in the episode, Probe manages to defeat martial arts master Chin by sending him mad, in much the same way that computers in fiction used freeze, crash or blow up when presented with a paradox. This ends pretty abruptly with a half-page, the other half given to a readergraph, this one definitely not re-drawn by an art droid, though I suspect a little shading may have been added to create more depth. To be honest it’s pretty good for a piece of artwork submitted to a children’s comic in the 1970s – I’ve seen much worse submitted to 2000AD and other children’s comics from my youth.
Finishing the prog is Ian Gibson’s debut on Judge Dredd, and what a debut! The opening full-page splash features Dredd in a robot factory, the perfect subject for Gibson’s art to shine through. I can’t help thinking of Robo-Hunter as I read this episode – robotic bombs, factories and handcuffs are equally at home on Sam Slade’s Earth (not to mention Verdus). Dredd’s helmet has a small eagle head just above the nose guard, which I think will appear in a few more Gibson Dredd’s before being quietly dropped. Plot-wise CMK lets Dredd know that he’s a big fan of Adolf Hitler and then tells Dredd his plan to remove the judge’s brain from his body and implant it in a new robot body where it can be made to suffer forever. This plan will be carried out… tomorrow. There’s no reason given for this delay – robots don’t sleep, so it’s not as if they need to rest for the night. It could be theorised that CMK is busy running a Robot War but wants to be present at the operation, but this isn’t given as a reason in the text. With that delay, of course, Dredd escapes, aided by Walter, who has found that there is dissent in the ranks, which could lead to control of the robot factory. Now that’s a cliff-hanger.