After No 1 and Issue 2 we’ve got No 3 – you know where you are with progs – none of these ‘numbers’ and ‘issues’. Kevin O’Neill paints a full-colour star battle in honour of whatever this week’s free gift was – looks like some kind of laminated cardboard battleships clone. I’m not the biggest fan of early O’Neill, though there are the odd flashes of his later creative genius, such as in this cover.
Inside the “Hail, Star-troopers!” seems to the title of the ‘nerve centre’ – doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily.
In Planet of the Damned the passengers are being attacked by ab-humans riding fell beasts. The only things that can stop them are Captain Roker’s pistol (wonder how many bullets he has?) and tycoon Lew Kerr’s whisky (definitely going to be a limited supply of that). This is broken up by Charlie Hagen (one of those Bermuda Triangle missing alluded to on the first page of the first episode). The fickle passengers forsake the British sailor from a previous century for the US airman (who no doubt was smuggling something when he went missing in 1942). Despite Flint having saved their lives a number of times, the passengers are perfectly happy to see him captured and tied up by the new arrivals.
Dave Gibbons takes to Ro-Busters next, starting with a colour spread. This is a great episode, mainly built around the interaction between Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and Marvin the robo-bus. The driver of the bus is dead and Marvin refuses to do anything to get out of the swamp (despite the kids at risk of being consumed by alligators and the bus itself sinking). Being a grade three robot, Marvin does not have feelings and is limited to following regulations (which don’t cover the drive being killed by alligators). As a mob of red mist-affected adults approach, the duo are still trying to convince Marvin to drive to safety.
The second survival scan next, this time aimed at tank commanders. As before, an a=5 points, b=2, c=0 style quiz and a chance to see O’Neill’s tank commander badge.
Ezquerra’s Strontium Dog spread greets us next, with a classic Carlos striped spaceship at the bottom of the page. The ship in question is a pirate ship, and it’s about to attack the astroliner that Johnny and Wulf are on, and theyre meeting a fellow passenger in the cargo hold – a gronk (note: not The Gronk – that one appears later). All the basic gronk traits are introduced in one page – weak heartses, eat metal (in stomach mouth) and the speech patternses. The first that the crew of the ship treat Johnny as anything more than sub-human is when the afore-mentioned pirate ship attacks.
I mentioned having re-read Mind Wars recently (as it was reprinted with the floppy given away with the Judge Dredd Megazine), but it’s still good to see it full-size, even if it is interrupted half-way through by one of those double-page spread with the bottom half taken up by a feature (about films and TV series out this year – Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter, Christopher Reeve’s Superman (the first one – called Chris Reeve here) and Damnation Alley – freely adapted from the book which inspired The Cursed Earth). Yosay Tilman is drafted in by Dr Varn (controller of the council of the Stellar Federation) and sent to Vulcrugon to investigate the Lakam twins. He manages to travel there, seemingly in a trivial amount of time. Tillman is in the crowd when the twins psychically disappear, instantaneously appearing next to their former home. Tillman appears suddenly behind them – how did he get there?
Time-Quake, some time travel stories concentrate on paradoxes and intricate plots that shift with changes to timelines. This one has James Blocker go back to meet himself, sink the ship he was on in the middle of the sea, get caught in a time psych-out when he gets too close to his past self then escape back to prehistory before the ship sinks. No explanation of what happened to past James Blocker (who surely drowned in the sinking ship, if he didn’t get disappeared in the time psych-out) or how he could have been on the tube train so that he could be kidnapped. So, looks like this series is going to be focused more on an initial event changing the timeline which needs to be changed back, with a few fights along the way. Next week: “the Nazis won the second world war!”
Grailpage: I was tempted by the opening page of Planet of the Damned – despite not actually liking the story all that much, I can still appreciate giant bat-winged steeds with aliens on their backs attacking a human encampment in a rocky valley. I was also tempted by one of the pages of Mind Wars, where Redondo uses a few lines and a few squiggly ink washes to denote gothic architecture on the Jugla home world. I’m going to go, however, for Kevin O’Neill’s colour space war cover.
Grailquote: T.B. Grover, a gronk: “I forgot humans find our eating habits u-unpleasant! Oh, if I’ve offenced you, sir… I’ll die!” Wulf: “Wulf is not offended! Stomach smart place to haf mouth-close to business end, ja? I like you, gronk! You und Wulf friends vill be!”