Prog 55: Bear… times six! Only one of you is real — the rest are clones that must be destroyed! But which ones do I kill?

is res

The cliffhanger for Dan Dare resolves in the same way I predicted (but hoped it would not). Dare tells Bear to go for his gun and the five fakes try to wrestle the real Bear for his real gun. As Bear is best known for his great strength and bear hug I’d hoped it would be some way other than the method used to unmask DoppelDare from earlier. Nice use by Jack Adrian of the planet bombs mentioned in the Space Fort cutaway from a few months earlier – again it makes me wonder if the ideas were introduced for the cutaway or pre-written into the weekly story and part of the brief for the postergraph.

MACH One goes pretty much how I’d expected, with Probe being chucked in a pool and insta-frozen. We find out that while his reaction were slowed, Probe’s hyper-acu-reflexes allowed him to prevent the wound from the thrown knife being a fatal one. The mafia have stolen a dolphin to lead them to a secret research area, while Probe (having de-iced himself by raising his body temperature to dangerous levels) follows a different dolphin to the same area.

Colony Earth! Like the daleks of the time, the alien robots have difficulty on steps, so Hunter and Vandenberg deal with the deadly laser eye robot by pre-emptively toppling it down the stairs. The pair manage to hijack a flying vehicle and Hunter assures the Professor on the basis of no evidence whatsoever that the alien spaceship won’t shoot as they have a hostage. Hunter knows nothing about the alien culture, nor whether those in the spacecraft can even see that their is a hostage in the hover vehicle. This episode ends similarly to the previous, with a shooty-eye-robot approaching, though its on rough ground – so isn’t that similar to the steps at the beginning of this episode? Despite all my carping about the first three episodes of this prog, I’d still rather be reading them than not reading them – if I wasn’t picking holes in them this prog slog blog would be boring, right?

The 2000AD Nerve Centre has a letter from a reader predicting advanced space travel by 2010. Still waiting for my vacation to Venus (though what would I do once I got there? Corrode in the acidic atmosphere or boil to death?) Tharg is going to devote an entire Nerve Centre to himself at some point in the near future. Another reader asks if Flesh is going to return, to which Tharg solicits further opinions from readers. Flesh will return, within the year, so all’s well that ends well. Another reader asks what John Probe was up to while the Volgans were invading Europe, to which Tharg says we will find out in the next few weeks. Pretty sure this is a reference to a forthcoming alien story (as an aside – so far I’ve read everything prevously in this slog, just most of it is a long time ago, so many things are almost as if I’m reading them for the first time).

Elvis takes a break from the rampage while being hunted by Judge Dredd by hiding out in an apartment block. Drawing up a blank on the search, Dredd appeals to the five-year old personality of the car to draw him into the open. This appears to work, unfortunately the programmed personality is combined with a sophisticated computer and so Elvis still manages to outsmart the judge.

Wernham and Ferrer provide this week’s Future-Shock, Space Bug (the name taken from the previous week’s next prog tagline rather than appearing anywhere in this story). The Future-Shocks are coming weekly – later on in the prog’s history they get used more as a filler between longer-running series, but this is a regular series of three-or-so pagers. This three-page Shock has ten panels altogether and the conclusion is pretty obvious from panel six (some may have gotten it on panel four). A prospector has struck oil on a distant planet. In panel four he gets bitten by an insect. One more mention of insects and then panel six shows the insectoid crew of a spaceship and tells us that “other creatures were also exploring the planet for its riches”. No prizes if you guessed the insectoids were really small and that the insect that bit the prospector was their spaceship.

Encounter number two from Trev Goring. I’m not sure about this one – Roy Preston, the writer, seems to be mixing a few concepts and I don’t think they work too well together. Goring and lettering robot Tony Jacob provide some Mesoamerican imagery of a first encounter between a humanoid alien and a primitive caveman. What I find difficult to reconcile (and this came up in Colony Earth! as well) is that Mesoamerican civilisation isn’t actually as old as might be assumed. The human residents of South America came via the Bering land bridge during a recent ice age, through North America and down to South America – humans would have gone through the “primitive cavemen” part of our cultural evolution long before arriving there.

Inferno has a mention on the first page of a chest control-pack operating the mechanical jaws on the Long Island Sharks suits. It doesn’t come up in this episode, but I hope it will in the next. The Hellcats account well for themselves and score the first cave-in, but then something spooks one of the bikers (not sure which one – Slim? Junk? It doesn’t look like things are going to go well for him, whoever it is).

Walter – the humour strip continues. I know it’s only one page, but Bolland could have been used to much greater effect on other strips.

Grailpage: the opening page of Dredd by Gibson has a splash image of riot squad with corodo guns stopping a self-driving car, upset that it will be late for its master while an everyday couple chat about how fun it would have been to see thirty judges get murdered by killer cars.

Grailquote: John Probe: “Jack Frost never packed a punch like this!”

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