2000AD Prog 21: Supercover 3 – Emergency! The Alien Machine is about to Destroy our World!

2000adlogo-originalApparently this cover was provided by Trevor Goring, who would later be responsible for some fantastic, atmospheric Future Shocks, and Kevin O’Neill, whose work on Nemesis the Warlock Book III was largely responsible for my continuing with 2000AD and reading comics past childhood.  It’s pretty disappointing that this work together is so uninspiring…

The first of the stories with exclamation marks, Invasion! is illustrated by Mike Dorey – not generally regarded as one of the classic 2000AD artists, but I think his style is perfectly suited to tales of Bill Savage’s resistance fight (and in later years, M.A.C.H. 0 and Ro-Jaws).  So far, Bill’s out of Britain appears to have gone from London to the Midlands the previous week, to Sandringham in North Norfolk and to the South-West next week.  It could be said that this isn’t the most efficient route around Britain, but then again, if you want to avoid detection by Volgan forces then you don’t want to be too predictable.  As the Mad Dogs masquerade as statues by taking off most of their clothes and applying mud I’m hoping it’s Summer at this point, otherwise they’d catch their death of cold.

Speaking of cold, up in the Arctic circle, the second of the exclamation marked stories sees Shako! wanting to have fun, firstly with a walrus (we’re told a group, but the others are on a different island) and later with a drunk sea captain.  We don’t get to find out much about Captain Jimbo Johnson, other than that he has turned to drink on the job after the deaths of four of his friends at the paws of Shako.  Drink and sea captaincy don’t mix and we get to see Shako both captured and escape while in the presence of Falmouth and Dollar.  The best bit of this episode was the brief fight with the walrus (which occurs in one panel and can barely be described as a fight).

On to the next story – no exclamation mark in the title but the climax of the Artie Gruber / Harlem Heroes conflict, with the Gorgons sacrificing themselves to revenge themselves on the murderer of their squad leader.  Except 21st century policing doesn’t seem to think its important to keep an eye on the corpse of a murderer or perform on autopsy on them, so his body is consigned to the furnace for cremation.  Except by the time this happens the consortium which created the cyborg manages to give him a cardiac boost, allowing him to smash his way out of the coffin and to an awaiting ambulance.  Meanwhile the strip may be light years ahead of other comics of the period in its treatment of black characters from Harlem, but isn’t so progressive with the Bushido Blades…

Over the page from the teaser panel for the Tokyo aeroball team, we get giant robots from Belardinelli.  Despite their fearsome appearance, they don’t last long against a dog-man with a laser sword.  The next threat to materialise doesn’t last long either, as the chairman of the Galactic Council turns up and lets them through.  The pacing and dialogue on this one are pretty awful – the only thing going for it is Belardinelli’s artwork.

The Nerve Centre next, and Tharg explains the bad news about the prog’s first price rise (partially due to Tharg having to make regular trips to the Arctic to record the exploits of Shako).  The uninspiring cover artwork of two great artists is matched only by the mediocrity of the accompanying ‘saga’ to go with the supercover.  It promises to continue – I doubt that the next installment (where the inhabitants of Edan get their revenge) will be able to rescue it.

A trio of labourious stories is completed with Probe’s latest mission, which doesn’t appear to be the standard spy thriller fare (but still isn’t very interesting).  Why the British secret service would get involved in a missing person’s case isn’t revealed. The most interesting thing is the now standard rumination from Probe about the nature of compu-puncture – and this is largely because I know some of the things it will lead to towards the end of the run of M.A.C.H.1…

After an ad for the Summer Supercomic and a recruitment drive for the Air Corps, Judge Dredd finishing the prog.  The story of the Solar Sniper isn’t the best Dredd tale to date, but it seems it after the week’s Dare, Supercover Saga and M.A.C.H.1.  Nice call-back to Weather Control, last seen in Robot Wars, and drawn by the same artist, Ron Turner.  This story may as well have been commissioned to illustrate the term ‘poetic justice’, as it features a perp called Gorilla using a solar-powered gun who ends up taking the place of a test chimp on (what we can presume is) a one-way trip to the sun.  As others have said, Ron is a good artist, but his style belongs to an earlier period of sci-fi comics.  That said, I do really like lawmaster dominating the bottom panel of the third page.  It actually looks more like a real motorcycle while still retaining that Justice Department look.

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