Prog 56: Approaching planetary surface — now! Yaaaargh!

Another Dan Dare story, another planet, another type of life-form. Dave Gibbons practices his giant-tentacle-alien skills (that he will use to such effect on Watchmen). Through judicious use of anti-grav and servo-thrusters gives the giant alien burnt fingers. Tentacles. But that isn’t this week’s real threat – that comes from a tidal wave that knocks out the Eagle scout crafts motors and sends it into a twenty mile deep sea trench. The thing about Dare at the moment is that each episode has to have either a cliffhanger on the front page and a cliffhanger on the last page or the cliffhanger on the front page and a resolution on the last page, which means the threats have to come fast and furious and sometimes seem rushed.

This week’s Tharg’s Future-Shock comes a lot earlier than we’re used to. Alan Hebden provides the story, Magullans (who?) draws the piccies. The story is the standard ‘experimental time trip to the prehistoric past, kill a monkey, come back to the present to find that everybody is a hairy ape intead of homo sapiens’ i.e. the Butterfly Effect – a term taken from a science fiction story. The only twist is the very last panel where one of the time travellers stands in front of a mirror, preparing to remove his own helmet and see what’s underneath (we never find out if he’s the modern day human he went out as or if he’s been retrospectively evolved as a hairy ape).

Colony Earth! is getting interesting – after using the advanced tactic of punching an alien over, the pair discover the eye-shooting-robots are remote controlled, and steal one of the remotes before heading back to the base ship. This is where it gets interesting – they have to travel twenty miles further to find the ship, and indeed the coast, as the water has receded and the polar ice caps have increased. The ten-thousand year time span is now relevant, as the aliens previously visited during an ice age (and may have caused said ice age).

Walter makes his first appearance this prog in another re-skinned Nerve Centre. Nothing particularly interesting, so on to…

Walter, making another appearance in Judge Dredd – for a single panel – while Elvis manages to knock Dredd unconscious and taking him hostage within his cockpit. The car acts how a five-year old with sudden power might be expected to act, demanding more toys, a parade and a TV show, Dredd uses a judge code (not seen before or since?) to send a message to the other judges outside. Quite nice references to anti-heroes of children’s literature, the gingerbread man and Peter Pan.

Considering it’s an occasional series, Encounters has been appearing every week since it began three progs ago. With each encounter I’m increasingly convinced that the art comes first, then a writer has to chuck out three hundred words to explain it all, and not always convincingly.

Probe and the dolphin arrive at the secret research area before the Mafia make it. Despite being a secret agent, Probe manages not to find the secret entrance to the laboratory on purpose (accidentally discovering it by knocking over a vase) and then leaves the hatchway wide open for the Mafia to wander down (if he’d closed it behind him, perhaps they wouldn’t have been able to find it either?) We finally find out what happened to the previous British secret agent who was sent to steal allied secrets, Robert Peel (nothing has been made of his name, but I’m guessing it wasn’t coincidental that he shares the name of the creator of the modern police force). Peel is a man-fish, as Jack Potter tells us in wavy lettering.

Contrasting against the watery fish tank is the fire of the Inferno game – the biker in the literal inferno was Teejay Cash (so neither of my guesses). Turns out it was Hale Eegle who got spooked last prog, not Teejay – and we find out their were rumours that Eegle had lost his nerve, explaining why a world-famous stunt biker would join a starting team. Something else that’s made clear is the scoring system of Inferno – after how many months? One point for getting the ball in the cave and three (maximum cave-in) for a flier touching down in the score-semi and then scoring. The Hellcats have managed to score a five points to the Sharks’ nil, but at the cost of an overheating jetpack that (the announcer tells us) wipes out half of the team.

Walter once more (third appearance this prog)! This concluding episode is actually better than the preceding four that got us here. Gus is about to destroy Walter in the Reject Robot Deactivator – though if robots built on the same assembly line can be considered ‘brothers’ would’t it follow that the assembly line itself is the ‘parent’? And so mother punishes Gus for being a naughty boy and criminal robot by re-programming him as a transistor radio and giving him to pass to Judge Dredd.

Grailpage: Ian Gibson again, for the Justice Building including over-ornate Marshal’s throne.

Grailquote: I know it was used before, but it’s a nice repetition and the next word balloons allude to a different children’s story – Elvis and Deputy Judge Tex: “You can’t stop me… …I’m the… …gingerbread car!” “Just a pile of dust on a studio floor. All that’s left of the car who never grew up”.

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