Prog 31: Alert! Alert! Emergency touchdown – Pad 5, get the clean-up crew, fast!

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Apparently Lopez provided the artwork for Prog 31 / Supercover 13, which shows a pretty interesting giant insect attacking a less interesting spaceship.  As I dismissed last week’s text for the supercover I’m going to treat this as a bit of standalone artwork.  I particularly like the translucent wings, which partially obscure the body of the insect, the word balloon, logo and price info (the box that shows how much your prog costs if you buy it in outlandish places such as the Asteroid Belt, Mercury, Venus or New Zealand).

Invasion! sees the pair of Resistance fighters heading for a very Alpine-looking lodge above the snowline of the Scottish Highlands.  The introductory narrative box reminds us that Savage led a street uprising in Glasgow – remember, the one where everybody died except for our heroes…  Savage and Silk are traipsing through knee-deep snow without seeming to suffer the effects of cold.  They’re chased by ski-troops who have trained in the highest mountain ranges of the Republic of Volga.  Savage seems very interested in an information sign regarding animal spoor for the local highland animals, while a Volg Snowcat vehicle shows up outside.  In a Future-Shock like twist the Volgs in the Snowcat are dealt with by Highland wildcats leaving the pair to scavenge the bodies of clothing to keep them warm.  The wildcats don’t attack Savage and Silk, presumably because they’re British, and not dirty Volgs, or something.  I did like this episode of the Highland escapades, not least because the last word bubble describe Savage as a ‘wild man’ (and both ‘savage’ and ‘wild man’ are meanings ascribed to my own name, Sheridan).  Also, any episodes featuring cats have to win, right?

Ian Gibson shows us the return of Whitey with a picture of Dredd leaving the Devil’s Island observation post in front of a blazing sun, so you know that Weather Control is going to show up somewhere.  True to form, by the last panel of the page a scientist has built a mini weather computer in the prison workshop.  It’s pretty implausable that Whitey’s cellmate could build a device capable of disrupting Weather Control’s computers and creating a blizzard, but the story is elevated by Gibson’s art and the return of the first perp we saw, and the location that ended our first glimpse of the Mega-City.  Prison workshops always seem to be well-equipped with gadgets that can be turned into high-powered weapons, so I’m not going to downgrade the whole story just on this point!  Some nice touches – Dredd turns broken prisoner’s chains in to tyre chains to ride through the icy streets.  The story should have ended with Dredd tricking Whitey into shooting at the lawman but instead merely shooting a reflection of the lawman in a block of ice.  Instead it then drags on with Whitey disarming Dredd and injuring his hand, but Dredd then using the same hand to throw ice in Whitey’s face, somehow ending up in Dredd taking him prisoner once again.  The episode is alright, but could have been much better.

Shako next, and the polar bear is going to the mess hall for a bite to eat.  This episode doesn’t live up to the promise of the prevous episodes teaser though perhaps editorial hands were tied with the potential for censorship?  The cold war heats up with US invasions of Russian territory (the whaling ship) to recover a US bear.  It closes with quite a good scene with a Russian catcher using an explosive harpoon to shoot down a helicopter, though for me the best bit is the last panel purporting to show concern for the helicopter and capule heading for the bottom of the ocean, but really showing more concern for the polar bear that has killed numerous people (but who is the most sympathetic character and the one we’re actually rooting for).

Dare opens with corny heart-shaped spaceships, motifs and a continent which even Dave Gibbons can’t pull off.  The story itself is the typical idyllic paradise planet where weapons are banned.  Obviously this means that great danger lurks, in this case in the form of vampire-fanged aliens who are preparing to feast themselves on Dare’s men.  Decent episode rescued from the corny opening though I do have one issue with the first few panels.  Dare says that their prime task is to make friendly contact with any intelligent life – the exact mission wasn’t specified at the beginning of the series, but it seemed to be more about making the Lost Worlds safer for colonists than making friends…

The Nerve Centre gives us the bad news that we won’t get the data on those Futurefocus Postergraphs this prog, but have to wait until next week.  Isn’t that what we were told last week, or did I misread it?  The Supercover Saga tells us that the insect on the front cover is the Horno-Fly of Roxglo Minor.  This one’s better than last week’s, with a scientific survey of previously unknown lifeforms leading to an attack by the giant insect on a survey craft.  The giant alien insect is killed, but the shock ending is that it was laying eggs in the spaceship, which are now being taken back to Earth.

On to Tharg’s Future-Shocks.  This one is  a bit different to the other Future-Shocks to date, as I first encountered it in a reprint.  I think it was in the first 2000AD Annual I ever owned, though might have been in my first Sci-Fi Special – I could probably consult Barney, though I’ll get to the reprint one day – the important point is that it was one of the earliest Future-Shocks I read, among all the Alan Moore shocks that were being published at the time I started to read 2000AD.  Like the other shocks that I’ve been reading in this slog the story-telling isn’t exactly subtle, and a mature reader would have a good chance of guessing what the twist ending is, but unlike those other tales, for this one I was a child of eight or nine when I first read it, and as an adult I have the nostalgia factor when I re-read it.  All of which means that even though it isn’t any more advanced than the primitive Invasion!, Shako!, Judge Dredd and Tharg’s Future-Shocks first printed at the time, it seems to resonate with me a little more.  Having said all that – this story is about a promised Paradise Planet which it seems decent people are unable to acquire tickets for, those tickets instead being snatched by thugs and dishonest people who cajole, threaten and bribe to get their tickets.  Poetic justice is, of course, served as the planet we see is actually a frozen hell which will need to be tamed by the thugs.  If they don’t manage to tame it, no loss, at least Earth is rid of them.  As an adult I can foresee that this could lead to a follow-up story where the survivors thrive and take revenage on the planet that rejected them, as with the mutants who threw asteroids at Mega-City One in one of the Supercover Saga stories.

The Futurefocus Postergraph is even more derivative than those that preceded it, looking like nothing so much as reader-submitted art stealing wholesale from early promo pics of stormtroopers, with a few spikes added on to the armour to clumsily hide the source material.

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