Prog 30: Time-Travellers from Titan!

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Now we’re talking – I’ve read somewhere (and probably mentioned in one of the earlier blog posts) that the Supercover Saga’s were started to give work to Brian Bolland while waiting for him to be free to draw actual comic strips.  Two aliens, seemingly joy-riding and about to hit a (human) policeman and a woman.  Possibly a risky strategy at the time, as part of the reason Action was banned / severely censored was due to the perception that a policeman was being attacked on the cover.  We’ll have to wait to find out what’s going on though, as we launch into Invasion!

Up in the Highlands the Volgs have called out troops from garrisons in Edinburgh and Stirling to hunt Savage and the rest of the Scots Resistance, including scrambling a jumpjet.  For a change someone other than Savage (in this case Jock) comes up with the plan that wins the day, though it does take the sacrifice of a soldier to allow Savage and Silk to escape.  Considering they went up to Scotland to help out, and they’re the only two to survive, I’m not entirely convinced their mission was successful…

Anyway, time to put that all aside – over the page Judge Dredd faces the Return of Rico! (the exclamation mark is part of the title).  There’s loads of firsts on this one.  Other than the obvious – first appearance of Rico – we find out Joe Dredd’s first name, that he’s a clone and that corrupt judges are sent to Titan for twenty years.  The art is great, opening with a splash of Kennedy Space Port, but the stand-out is the unveiling of Rico’s face – as adapted to life on Titan – and the penultimate panel of Dredd carrying the body of his brother.  The only negative is that the page showing Rico and Dredd at the Academy has a bad reading flow, with pictures, dialogue boxes and rows of panels a bit confusing.  Back to the positives – I liked the way that Dredd dealt with lawbreakers before handing off to the more regular police present.

Shako!  All seems lost for the bear, when he is caught by the KGB and taken to a Russian whaling ship.  Fortunately for Shako, some of the Russian crewmen are as incompetent as the CIA when Sergei gets drunk and releases the polar bear to wrestle him.  This ends as expected, and as orders come from Moscow to kill the bear and retrieve the capsule, the bear enters the mess hall…  A bit of antagonism between Falmouth and his KGB counterpart Nicolai Bosnavich Danovich is entertaining enough, two deaths and the promise of many more to come make for an archetypal episode of Shako!

Dan Dare’s mission to the Lost Worlds encounters its first actual planet.  This is very influenced by the Star Trek planet-of-the-week formula – starting with a stardate-style mission date of 284/77.  Presumably this is either day 284 of the year 2177 or the 28th day of the 4th month of that year.  The third alternative would be day 284 of the mission, which is a bit high for only the second encounter.  Investigating a lost colony on a sand planet, Dare loses another couple of crewmen before using water to combat sand (by creating quicksand).  Apparently this is the first time the silicate-based lifeform/s on the planet has encountered water, though I suspect the original colonists would have had some water on them, unless they were hoping to farm non-existent moisture from the atmosphere.  The episode is fine enough, though this format would get old quick if it continues for too long.

On to the Nerve Centre, entirely taken up by the Supercover Saga and adverts (including for stamps, naturally).  The text written to accompany the Bolland cover really does not match up – the artwork shows a contemporary police uniform, clothing and two aliens driving a car while the writing talks about Earth Federations, Euro-Sector 6 and Euro-Woman Jane Baxter, plus three aliens in a bus.  Years later we will get cover art completely related to the contents of the comic (other than containing sci-fi and space themes) – this is a much better route to show off artwork than spending half a page of text that doesn’t amount to anything meaningful.  We do get the promise of data on the futurefocus postergraphs next week though in light of this Supercover Saga perhaps that isn’t a good idea – I’ll wait and see.

I prefer the first part of John Probe’s earth-bound multi-parter to his previous space adventure (Redondo art notwithstanding).  The art droid on this one managed to sneak his signature through, though unfortunately it’s indecipherable.  We’re told what the various type of close encounter are (first – spotting object in the sky, second – identifying as alien craft, third – contact with craft) and then launch into an aerial combat which results in the downing of said alien craft.  This is spotted from the ground by Simple Simon, bullied son of the local lumberjack boss.  For some reason Simon gets a better view of where it landed than the multiple fighter aircraft who shot it down, but let’s overlook that for the sake of the story.  Probe appears on the scene – apparently the police sheriff’s dogs aren’t put off by the cyborg and have taken to him.  He gets a job as a lumberjack, saves the boss’s son but also earns the enmity of the boss.  Simon leads Probe to the craft but the boss wants to destroy it.  A good opener with more of the computer trying to over-ride any sense of compassion that Probe has.  Unfortunately the computer considers Simon’s life irrelevant to the mission, even though Simon is the only witness to the UFO crashing (which the computer knows) – time to get its circuits looked over, methinks.

I strongly suspect the next art droid is Ron Turner, illustrating a Future-Shock based around a very Enterprise-esque starship.  In classic Future-Shock style we get two pages of set-up which hide one important fact (which we don’t notice is being hidden) and then the final panel over the page shows the shock revelation that the warlike race that nearly took over the galaxy came from… Earth!  And the seeming humans we’ve followed up to this point are actually aliens with large four-clawed hands (which have always been hidden up to the last panel).  Other than that it’s a variation on the same theme as almost every other Future-Shock we’ve seen, it’s competently done, and I do like Ron Turner’s old-school spaceship designs.

The penultimate Futurefocus Postergraph rounds off the prog, with different vessels around a small asteroid.  As previously mentioned, apparently we’re going to get some sort of explanation of all these drawings next week, so I’ll hold off any any further comment.

 

 

 

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