This is another mystery air-brush style cover – almost certainly by the same artist as the Issue 11 Mind Wars cover. It shows a besuited man pointing a revolve, helicopters and a formation of traditional flying saucer UFOs. The new series is called Holocaust and the concept looks pretty straight-forward.
First story – Mind Wars. Was the Vegan Belle destroyed last episode, in the heart of the sun? Of course note – instead, Ardeni nullified the gravitational pull of the star, allowing momentum to fling the starship 20,000 light years away into the Chaotic Zone. We take two brief interludes – one of what looks like a balcony high above (the capital) city on Earth where the controller is professing his beliefe that the Vegan Belle somehow escaped and that Ardeni must be located for the future of the Stellar Federation. Over on the Jugla homeworld, the Supreme Cosmol is overseeing the reconstruction of his palace, and keeping tabs on where Ardeni is. Meanwhile, Ardeni is taking a shower. I haven’t mentioned before, but just about every second or third scene we see of Ardeni she’s swimming (skinny dipping), having a bath, lying in bed (au naturel) – must be a Vulcrugon thing. This time is justified for the story though – narratively it lets us know that the shower isn’t working properly, which is due to nothing working on the ship since the sun jaunt. Luckily there’s a planet nearby where they can look to get repairs done (and at that moment a friendly face appears on the vid-screen welcoming them to the planet). Unluckily it’s a creepy planet without any other spaceships at all in the spaceport. They’re offered villas to rest in while their ship is repaired, gratis. That’s one luxurious villa each. Nothing suspicious going on there. Also the autarch of the planet, Yilik, is always surrounded by a flock of birds. Unlike Ardeni, Tillman can’t sleep, and makes use of his restlessness to explore the planet, pretty quickly stumbling over a spaceship graveyard, atop which is the Vegan Belle. This prompts an attack by a bird that has been spying on him, though it’s a short-lived attack as the bird is killed with an energiser (looks like a blaster pistol). His gratitude towards his rescuer is rewarded by being shot by the mysterious energiser holder. Meanwhile Ardeni wakes up and goes to have a bath! While in the bath a bird comes along and starts to hypnotise her – she might be the most powerful being in the galaxy, but she spends an awful lot of time under mind control…
Back to the Farnborough Droid Show and it turns out the back-up navigator unit is from a strato-bomber and incorrectly programmed, explaining why it’s putting a passenger aircraft through aerobatic stunts. Did I mention last issue that the art is by Ian Kennedy? Always the go-to guy if you want aircraft drawn (as we’ll find out in about six years time in Judge Dredd). It’s a simple story lifted by the interplay between Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein – which could describe quite a few Ro-Busters stories, to be honest – their characters are usually what lifts the repetitive disaster/rescue plots.
Wulf carries Johnny through the desert and stumbles upon a travelling circus, which luckily has an expert healer. In no time The Gronk (for that is who the healer was, in diguise) has Johnny back on his feet and before long he’s itching to learn some las-whip skills from the circus ringmaster (well, I guess that’s what he is – the circus is named after him, anyway). I’ll make a brief mention of the Smiling Chukwalla – available at all the best gladiatorial circuses… By the time Johnny has mastered the las-whip, Billy Joe has heard of him and seeks him out for a las-whip duel to the death.
Two pages of Starfax – sorry Stargrams this week. I was going to slag off a crossword as obviously being thrown together by a sub-editor to fill some space, then noticed it was submitted by a reader – oops. (sample clue: In which Queen’s reign were the Droon defeated in 1977? and two clues later: Enemies of Time-control (the answer to the later is Droon – not exactly difficult as you’d have just read the answer).
Holocaust, the new story. From the cover, I’d assumed the protagonist was going to be a secret agent – Men in Black or X-Files style. It turns out Carl Hunter is a half-Navajo private eye in San Francisco, and returns to his office to find a woman there, just like in loads of private eye stories (and Robo-Hunter over in 2000AD the week before). He also has the stereotypical ‘voiceover’ talking about wads of greenbacks and how he used to be in the CIA (so not too unlike my first impressions then). I don’t watch or read private eye stories, but the ones I stumble across (whether episodes of Star Trek set in the hologram suite or Roger Rabbit) all seem to start with straight-forward cases, usually involving somebody’s husband and then escalate from there. So, the woman in his office asks him to find out what’s happened to her husband, who’s gone missing. He follows the trail to the Californian countryside and things escalate, ending up with him surrounded by zombie-like creatures who dissolve if killed but saved by a strike force headed by his old CIA boss. The rest of the premise of the strip is explained in a few panels – aliens have been destroying Earth’s food production, humans are engaged in a war to stop this, the aliens are winning. Now the intro is out of the way, next prog we’ll find out if it’s much different to Colony Earth or the MACH One story set in a logging town.
Grailpage: I was tempted by Redondo’s view of Doctor Varn’s balcony overlooking the city on Earth at night (reminiscent of Olympus from Marvel/Miracleman) but I’m going to plump for the colour centrespread of Strontium Dog – a futuristic desert planet circus caravan and the first appearance of The Gronk (as opposed to A gronk). Though The Gronk is in disguise.
Grailquote: one page later ‘T. B. Grover’, The Gronk: “People f-finds us so d-digustings!” Wulf: “Vulf not find you disgusting. Vulf haf friend who vas gronk, see! Vulf wear his skin.” The Gronk: “That’s not just any gronk you’re wearings… It – it’s my brother – Gloppus!” Funny, though even funnier out of context (or if you’d forgotten why Wulf was wearing the gronk skin in the first place)!
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