Welcome to any new readers who followed the link from Eamonn’s Mega City Book Club!
Another week, another supercover, another art style I don’t recognise. Not a fantastic picture, I’m afraid – can’t help feeling that Belardinelli would have made a better job of it (you can tell I like his artwork, can’t you?) I’m detecting two types of Supercover – those by Brian Bolland and Kevin O’Neill, which are an excuse to print fantastic artwork with a story tacked on, and fill-in weeks by other, less distinctive artists, where the mediocre stories are mere space-fillers.
Considering the Hadrian’s Wall story was two weeks ago, it’s surprising that Invasion! hasn’t taken the fight to the Volgs in Scotland as Bill and Silk head to the Lake District. They case out a Volg training ground (or water) for high speed military vessels, trying to work out how they can scupper the prototype when they encounter an aged British record-breaker who lives nearby. The duo may be doing a fairly good job at disrupting Volg plans, but they’re not that good at leaving a Resistance legacy behind them, ‘coz all their allies end up dead!
Four pages of the Harlem Heroes and as the Aeroball Championship match begins you’d think there’d be lots of opportunities for Belardinelli’s work to shine, but it’s pretty much all close-ups. The story gets propelled forward though, with Cord happily watching the Heroes being torn apart by their opponents, if not by their sabotaged jetpacks. The episode ends with what is pretty obviously a bluff by Giant pretending that his pack is about to explode while in close quarters with Cord. So, wasted opportunities art-wise, but at least the plot has actually progressed.
Shako next, and his assault on Ice Station Delta continues. While Falmouth is unconscious, we see Dobie for the first time in some time, taking over the hunt. For some reason we haven’t seen Buck for some time, but that’s alright as we get introduced to a different Eskimo character with this episode in the form of Unk, who uses Eskimo lore to befriend Shako and protect him from the white men. Unk manages to conceal him overnight but after Unk receives some public humiliation from both his schoolteacher and classmates the polar bear is discovered in the morning. Despite Unk then witnessing the polar bear kill his schoolteacher the boy continues to protect the polar bear.
The second Future Shock takes the centre pages. Irony is the name of the game so far in Tharg’s Future Shocks, with the first shock having been about tribes of humans acting like ants while giant ants acting like humans watch on. This second shock involves humans trawling for fish before being caught by aliens. The smallest human is thrown back while the others are consumed as brain food. The details and presentation are different, but it feels to me there could have been more variety in the first two shocks to be printed.
On to the filler, sorry Supercover Saga. Some sub-editor has about 750 words on the citizens of Mega-City One taking revenge on the mutants who they’d already exiled from the city the previous prog. I’m suddenly appreciating the Future Shock more, as this tale amounts to the citizens wanting revenge, the citizens hiring the Satan Horde, the Satan Horde carrying out their task (off-camera) and leaving. There’s no Pied Piper-style poetic justice or other pay-off for this tale. There’s a little bit at the end about how humanity felt guilty about unleashing a barbaric horde, but nothing about how barbaric it was to exile the mutants into an atomic wasteland in the first place. Glad this gets addressed following Origins (in about thirty-something years time). Something about the picture itself (and the word horde) on the cover makes me think of the Plutonium Horde from a few years down the line.
M.A.C.H.1 next. Colonel Krall, head of Secret Police in Irania makes a reappearance and we get our first glimpse of aliens in the secret agent’s adventures. We’ll see aliens again, though I think they’re going to be completely unrelated to these ones. Management (I presume) make sure that editorial place a warning to readers not to jump off of flying Aztec temples at 80,000ft into South American mud lakes. Other than the very first story I think this is the first M.A.C.H.1 story which has had any reference to another story. The computer shut itself down when it thought Probe was going to die, though I don’t see what difference it would make if it had stayed switched on.
Almost rounding out this prog is the Judge Dredd tale, which does not carry on to the back page like the last few stories. There’s another slice of future life, with the recently opened Dream Palace, where citizens can while away their leisure hours in pleasant dreams. There’s a line about how few citizens work more than two hours a day, though I think this will be modified to a simpler high unemployment rate in later stories (or maybe the 10-20% of citizens who have jobs only work for two hours a day?) This is the story of John Nobody, who uses the dream machines to plan out terrorist attacks. The story is fine as far as it goes and there’s some great art from McMahon, including a setpiece of the Justice Day Parade with cameos from Walter and Maria, but there are a few problems in general. The first is that John Nobody’s entire motivation for mass murder is that he’s unhappy with his name and that people laughed at him – changing it by deed poll would have been easier. Second up is that Dredd is assigned to investigate Nobody’s previous crimes and is hailed by the Rainbow Girl from the Dream Palace as he’s riding by. It would have been less far-fetched for him to have been called in, but nope, he’s just coincidentally the closest judge at the time. Last but by no means least is that once Dredd knows what Nobody is planning, instead of radioing it in to Control he makes his way across the city to the parade. He gets there too late and Nobody has started killing judges. At the least there are three judges who would have lived if Dredd had used his radio to warn them. Despite all this the story is enjoyable enough.
Taking the back page this prog (and for the next five) is the first of a new series of postergraphs – Futurefocus: Space Hospital. I’m recognising the art style as being whomever it is that redraws reader alien designs for publications. There’s an appearance by a couple of Eagle Transporters from Space 1999.