When I was a fresh Squaxx, hunting out back progs in the local comic shop this was one of the oldest comics I had for some time. The cover is by Brendan McCarthy and Brett Ewins, who managed to sneak their names on to the cover. I like both artists, though they both have a way to go before they create great art. I actually had to look up which McCarthy it was, as (to me) the artwork here looks more like Jim and Brendan.
Invasion! sees the second half of Volgess. Savage has been sent mad by the Volgan Mountain Poison, or so it seems, calling out to Nessie to save him. Sensing a propaganda opportunity, Colonel Rosa calls for a camera crew to film Savage on the banks of Loch Ness, calling for the mythical monster. Little does Rosa know, but Savage has actually been calling for Big Nessie McNairn, a wrestler and lorry driver of Bill’s acquaintance. The scene is set for a wrestling match between Nessie and Rosa, though neither fights cleanly. Rosa tries to poison Nessie with the nerve agent hidden in her ring, but Savage shoots her finger off before she can use it. Shall have to remember to look out to see if her finger is still missing next time we see her (pretty sure we’ll see her again in about fifteen or twenty weeks).
The next page has a competition for some plasticy looking ‘communicators’ – looking like a pre-fabricated version of two tin cans joined with a string. Tharg tells us they’re a similar model to those supplied to Dan Dare and his crew on the space fort. I find this hard to believe though can’t verify in this prog as Dare seems to have an in-helmet communicator so doesn’t need to hold a device tied to the person he’s talking to by a yards-long bit of string (I say yards because it “will pick up a whisper from yards away!”) All of this leads to the competition which consists of pictures of Walter hidden in other stories throughout the prog.
To make things difficult, the Dredd story this prog is all about Walter, so (if you want to win the cheap plastic communicators) you have to count the pictures of him throughout this story as well. Walter is sneaking off at night. Dredd follows him, suspecting that the servo-droid has been buying him presents with the proceeds from crime. It turns out that Walter is moonlighting as a cab driver. A message comes over the radio leading the two to a warehouse where a criminal gang has beaten up a taxi driver and stolen his takings. Dredd takes care of the situation, making good use of the terrain in the warehouse, including a fork lift and a warehouse trolley. Gibson adds a nice touch to Dredd’s helmet, a small eagle’s head just below the respirator, only visible in a couple of close-ups. Oh, and Dredd was reading Crime and Punishment on the opening splash image – wonder if it was Dostoevsky or a non-fiction book?
Shako is doing a bit of fishing on his way south for the winter. A one-tusked walrus (who lost his other tusk in a previous fight with the polar bear, in shades of Old One Eye) goes in for the kill while the bear is underwater. Shako manages to get on to the ice and tries to drag the walrus out of the water. The art on these ‘nature documentary’ scenes is good, though we get an intrusive Walter making an appearance as the story goes back to the humans. Dobie shows a bit of ambition, which Foulmouth quickly nips in the bud, fatally for his sidekick. We find out that Shako was injured in his fight with One Tusk, the end is approaching.
Dan Dare. Looks like Brian Bolland is helping out Dave Gibbons again, but only on the centrespread. This is a rushed story about pirates (sorry, space pirates) attacking Phoenixan merchant freighters. Maybe they’re astro-freighters? More about that in the next paragraph… It could have gone all Seven Samurai, with Dare’s Legion of the Lost Worlds taking up residence on the planet of Phoenix before the inevitable attack. Instead we get a centrespread showing us space-pirates attacking an unarmed freighter, half a page of Dare landing on the planet, the pirates attacking what appears to be a freighter filling up the other half of the page, then on to the freighter revealing itself to be the Space Fortress and a quick fight in spacesuits for most of the next two pages. The best page is of the Fortress jettisoning the plates which disguise it as a freighter at the top and Bear in a wig (over his spacesuit) at the bottom. As a reward for saving the planet, Dare gets some space charts and information on other trading planets.
The Supercover Saga takes place in 2018 – I don’t remember there having been a Galactic Government last year, or an Android revolt, or Androids for that matter, but then my memory isn’t what it was…
In the rest of the Nerve Centre we find out that Betelgeuse has singing mountains (let’s pretend we didn’t notice that Betelgeuse is a star, not a planet – Quaxxan hasn’t been named yet).
M.A.C.H.1 is dominated by fighting and flooding as the UFOs try to destroy Pine City (to some success). During the debrief, Probe realises that the British and US governments knew about the aliens all along and is disgusted that the deaths of all those in Pine City is going to be covered up. An entire page is given to the debrief and falling out, which bodes well for deeper stories in the future.
The second part of the first ever multi-part Future-Shock next. Taking the adage that ‘sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ literally, Abner and Charlie the time-tourists goad Witch-hunters before a Trans-Time power cut delivers them into the hands of those they sought to torment. No real idea why this 4-page story was split between two progs, unless adverts and space limitations dictated it.
On the back page we get a much more creative use of the colour page than the Futurefocus posters, with two Galactic Groat designs (front and back) by Kevin O’Neill. A few alien heads and a four-armed alien with spaceship designs adorn the currency (not for use on Earth – you’ll have to travel to Sirius IV or Pluto to spend them).