The title of this post comes from a great Bolland Supercover, a welcome change after a few lacklustre weeks. The anatomical close-up of a frog and an astronaut’s face shows the kind of detail that Bolland will become famous for by the end of the next decade, especially on his covers for US comics.
Invasion! finally sees us enter Scotland. Even though we’d been as far as Hadrian’s Wall a few weeks earlier there were odd diversions following that, to the North-East of England and then to the Lake District. I’m presuming there was a scheduling conflict, with artwork for either this story or the other excursions being delayed, leading to the episodes being run out of order. Anyway, Mike Dorey puts in some great grimy artwork on the Gorballs Ghetto, well suited to the subject matter. While it’s good to see a bit more of occupied Britain, the story itself involved Savage and Silk ambushing a civilian Volg convoy. Savage keeps Silk in the dark about the papers that the civilian was carrying for absolutely no discernible reason, despite repeated requests by Silk and about half a day’s worth of time in which Savage could tell his comrade.
Harlem Heroes sees Ulysses Cord finally confess to what we’d known for ages – that he was the one trying to wipe out the Heroes in order to improve the broadcast ratings. There’s a nice touch on his arrest, with a proto-Eagle of Justice on the uniforms of the Stadium Police, though whether this was intentional or not I don’t know. Other than that, this is a lacklustre episode, with quick and meaningless deaths for Conrad King and Hairy and an unseen ‘most powerful sporting spectacle ever seen’. They win the trophy, but though this has been the goal of the series for the last half-year, there’s no drama in it. Apparently this is as a result of managerial interference, calling for a speedy end to the series due to violence (even though it’s going to be replaced by Inferno – the same characters in an even more violent series). Not to mention the next story along having more than its fair share of blood.
Shako! comes on to the scene with the polar bear going on the rampage through the Ice Station Delta hospital. First victims are a rude receptionist and her Fonzesque orderly boyfriend (who neglects his orderly duties to visit Ellie-Mae the receptionist). We don’t actually see it, but Nurse Hatchett finally gets killed by Shako after almost defeating him with some electro-shock paddles (but she pulls them too far away from the wall and the plug comes back, leaving her defenceless).
The page after that bloodbath we get the saga story that accompanies Bolland’s striking image. Short story – the frog is a voracious carnivore. Long story – there is no long story. At least the image is great though.
Tharg’s Future Shocks! I can’t remember what it was for, but over Christmas (while cat-sitting for the neighbours) there was an advert which featured the exact same first contact / size disparity mistake which forms the imaginatively-titled First Contact. The same twist appears in the Hithchikers Guide to the Galaxy (where the invading force gets swallowed by a dog).
M.A.C.H.1 starts The Planet Killers, with a film poster-style splash page from Jesus Redondo. A great deal of fuss is made with a single page splash (can’t think of any other stories which have had a similar start at this point) but I suspect it’s only a two-parter. We start with an operation and a murder – not unlike Artie Gruber’s disguise from a few months earlier – before we get in to the story proper, with Probe being lent to NASA where he meets the Gruber-alike, Tex. Probe is attacked in the night by a mystery attacker who appears to have compu-puncture like powers, before being shot off into space with Tex. What the point of keeping the attacker a mystery to us is, is beyond me. We’ve already seen Tex kill the real Tex, we’ve seen him giving Probe a superhuman strength hand-shake and they end the episode being the only two people on the shuttle as it blasts in to space.
Judge Dredd – in the same prog that John ‘Giant’ Clay won the Aeroball trophy, his son attempts to gain the full eagle and become Judge Giant (not Judge Clay, for some reason). Well-timed! We’re introduced to the Academy of Law as well as Giant. The honour roll for the class of ’79 consists of Cadets Dredd, Hunt, Wagner and Gibson. We’re going to see one of those others in a future story… Gibson’s art (Ian, not Cadet) depicts a great story which draws the scene of how bad the harshest school on Earth actually is. We’re about a hundred progs from the first named citiblock, but Nixon Plaza foreshadows the mania that Mega-City planners have for bunging historic names on cartographic features. Rookie Giant isn’t doing too well and by the end of the episode he’s about to be flunked, except a call comes through of a kidnap. Dredd listens to Giant’s plea to allow him a last chance, and the ‘next prog’ box reveals that the two are going to head off to the Aeroball Stadium. Of all the places that the kidnappers could take their victim on the day that Giant Clay’s son is undergoing his final test – coincidence eh?
The last internal page of the prog has a full-page ad for the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me (the one that turns in to a submarine and shoots missiles). I had that toy car, so it’s a nice way to round off the prog for me. Well, almost round off – there’s one more page, with the not-exactly well-drawn Postergraph: Futurefocus 2: Space Hotel