Prog 51: You are fast, Dare — but it will take more than clever swordplay to beat the Killing Star! You are as good as dead!

As predicted, Dan Dare gets out his laser broadsword to deflect the Dark Lord’s Killing Star, which has an autopilot function. While Dare deals with that, the Dark Lord takes the opportunity to escape in an Eagle craft where he orders an Armageddon Missile to destroy the Space Fort and all ships surrounding it (including Starslayer ships). Unaccountably he doesn’t get out of the way of the missile first, and dies in a massive explosion. Over the page we wrap up the sixteen-episode story – the Starslayers surrender, the Starslayer’s Empire is renamed the Star Alliance, which will be directed by the insectoid Drones and policed by the Grawls. In all the excitement the credit card got missed off again – ironic considering that Dan Dare was initially the only story which did credit the artist.

I should have mentioned this earlier – but in contrast to the huge logo smothering most of the first page of the first episode of the Visible Man – subsequent episodes have had a large logo through which you can see the comic page (so a Visible Logo). Nice touch, I thought. Even cats are afraid of the Freaky Frank, or so the narrative claims – personally I feel it’s more to do with Frank jumping down into an alley from above and surprising the alleycat below. After a brief episode where Frank gatecrashes a wedding reception, he gives himself up to Doctor Burnard. Despite agreeing to come in, the Doc sends out around 25 police or security guards (they’re wearing USA-style police hats and at least one has a gun holster) to take him by force.

Trev Goring works on the Future-Shock tale of a space scrap dealer this week. As before, his very best work is on atmospheric close-ups of faces in half-shadow. The scrap dealer collects what useful space scrap he can find, firing the rest to a waste disposal centre. Meanwhile an alien race is sending a battlefleet to conquer Earth, trailing in the wake of a space probe. I’m pleased to say that I guessed what the waste disposal centre was at the point where the scrap dealer fired the probe onwards towards it (it was the sun – the probe and approaching invasion force were destroyed in seconds).

Something else I guessed correctly (though not so pleasingly – it was pretty obvious) is the nature of the Supernova game – it’s Top Trumps. I wonder if the game that provided inspiration was patented, if the patent holders noticed what 2000AD was doing and if there were any discussions behind closed doors following the printing of this game? Anyway – these six weeks of progs have had six cards on each back cover. As well as being in the style of the Futurefocus Postergraphs (probably drawn by the same art assistant) they’re pretty derivative of other sci-fi. What confuses me is that they could have depicted spacecraft that had already appeared in the progs in the last year. The very last card is Anastasia, from the previous generation’s Dan Dare. The very first card ‘two-seat fighter’ is already vaguely like the Eagle craft so why not just show the Eagle? The battle cruiser could have shown the Space Fort instead of the shapeless blob shown. Alien ‘living’ spacecraft (why the quotes around living?) could just have been named Biog living spacecraft. We’ve had a few missiles appear (the thing called hunterkiller missile doesn’t actually look much like a missile). Keep the ground attack craft though – it’s obvously a Jawa Sandcrawler, and I like Jawa Sandcrawlers. Keeping on the Star Wars theme, the planet destroyer is a pretty messy ‘design’ of a ship – it looks like somebody took the nose of an X-Wing Fighter model (painted red), jumbled it up with bits of four or five other model kits then glued the whole lot together. Finally, next to the Anastasia is the one-man assault suit. Didn’t Dare wear one of those to make planetfall a month or two ago? Why didn’t they use that design? I just don’t get the design decisions on this series. Also in the 2000AD Nerve Centre is a drawing sent in by David Stone of Sudbury, Suffolk. I wonder if that’s Dave Stone, best-known in Squaxx circles for Armitage? The writer Dave Stone would have been thirteen years old when reader’s artist David Stone sent in the picture.

Sov-Cities soldiers are taking to the streets of Luna-City main street – this is war! Though actually it isn’t war – it’s a death sport, but let’s leave that one, shall we? The sovs have better weaponry and armour than the Luna-City soldiers, including armour that deflect all bullets and beam guns that pass through objects, exploding at a set range. I think the next time we see this technology will be in Strontium Dog (either in the pages of Starlord or after it makes the jump to 2000AD), also written by John Wagner (sorry, John Howard).

The big news though, is that Invasion! comes to an end, after 51 episodes (and a few special and annual stories). Silk was just the beginning, as the body count rises – other than Georgi, who only appeared in this story, we say goodbye to Rosa and Nessie (the latter going out the same way she came in – disappearing beneath the waves). J. Clough / Mike Dorey catches a beaten-up, bleeding Savage, a manic grin on his face and unlike any other hero or anti-hero in the prog. The story closes with the (fake) royal hover-yacht Britannia leading the fleet of naval craft into St Lawrence Estuary, Canada, Savage and Prince John being led into an ambulance by King Charles the Third – the first named character we ever saw in the first prog.

This episode of Inferno drives home the point in the last few panels of the previous week, telling us that the Harlem Hellcats are angry and that makes them careless. They lose the game and an open call is put out for replacement players while Slim is recovering from injuries. Regal Eegle (inspired by Evel Knievel, including a V-shaped jump suit).

Walter is again drawn by Ian Gibson and again revolves around a pun (mixing up swimming pool with the game of pool). Not sure why but I think Ian Gibson is wasted on this though I’m looking forward to Brian Bolland taking over art duties next prog – both are great artists and Bolland’s will always be the definitive version for me (the first time I encountered Walter was probably Bolland’s version, in an annual in the mid-eighties).

Grailpage this week is possibly an unusual choice. We’ve got the final episode of the Starslayer story by Dave Gibbons, the final episode of Invasion! by Mike Dorey, Trev Goring’s Future-Shock, Brian Bolland’s Luna-1 War, Massimo Bellardinelli and Ian Gibson but I’m going to go for Montero’s page of Frank Hart standing in a telephone box while 25 police/security crowd around it. It’s not your typical pick, but there’s something about how unaware Frank is that a veritable army has come to capture him while he chatters away on the phone.

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