Tornado No 4: Loathed by his Men! Feared by his Masters! Blackhawk is the Savage Centurion!

Finally! Tornado gets a proper cover, with Blackhawk taking centre stage and not sharing the space with a free gift.

The Big Editorial continues the Daily Planet-inspired photo strips about the editorial team behind Tornado. Dave Gibbons’ involvement in this blatant rip-off didn’t do his career any harm though – DC would hire him to draw (amongst others) Superman and Watchmen within a decade.

As well as the cover, Blackhawk takes the prestigious first story slot (I can’t decide which is most valued – the first story or the story taking the colour centrespread). Gerry Finley-Day and Azpiri tell the tale in 50 BCE of a Nubian warrior who has been caught by the Romans, bemoaning his fate, that he should have died fighting before being captured. A desert hawk is the symbol of his people and looks like it will be food for the legion’s mascot – an eagle called Zeus. We already know this story is called Blackhawk, so it comes as no surprise when the hawk rises, then dives to kill the lumbering eagle. Not happy with the totem of the conquered tribe beating their totem, a roman legionairre called Crassus moves to slaughter the hawk, but our (as yet un-named) slave strikes Crassus to protect the bird, proclaiming that the bird has won it’s right to life. Before Crassus can execute the slave, a Roman governor stays his hand. I won’t summarise the entire episode, but the end result is that the slave to be known as Blackhawk ends up with the hawk, a scroll signed by the governor before he died granting him freedom and a position in the Roman army and finally a name, though it was used as an insult by a beggar, so lowly do the Romans think of nubians. It’s a good start, and atypical for a Roman Empire story.

Wagner’s Walk: how will the trio escape the island under the noses of the Russians? By waiting for the boat to be sent to collect them, it getting smashed by an ice floe, them saving the life of a few of the crew, getting them drunk overnight and then drifting away on the wreckage of the boat. Just a little implausible, but this story looks set to be similar to Bill Savage running around occupied Britain, though with less murdering of Volgs.

Shepherd manages to win Storm’s trust. Well, maybe not, but at least the pair don’t fight. Shepherd meets Storm’s feline companion, Skarr. Sir Gordon arrives in the valley below the cave and Shepherd suggests Storm flee north, while he tells the lord that the boy went east. With the cave to himself, Shepherd finds Storm’s diary and finds he was a tinker/gypsy/other out-dated racial term before heading back to the manor. Things take a turn for the worse when he nears the manor and finds that Sir Gordon took the long way back, encountering and capturing Storm, who now believes Shepherd to have betrayed him.

Not content with the centrespread in 2000AD, Carlos Ezquerra will be providing the coveted centre pages in Tornado for the next six weeks, starting with a Roman centurion (looks like Jim di Griz, though he hasn’t come to the pages of 2000AD yet) and a Viking raider (looks like Wulf if you sqint). The centurion ties in nicely with the first episode of Blackhawk, though I’m not sure how heroic this Hall of Heroes is – Roman legions are ruthlessly crushing all who oppose them and Viking raiders are spreading terror along the coasts.

Victor Drago and the Terror of Troll Island! Part 4. As everybody hangs around in a gothic mansion discussing the two deaths, lightning heralds the start of a storm. Drago and Spencer attempt to get to the mainland (because, naturally, the telephone lines have been cut) but are foiled by spiky wooden blocks in the road. An attempt is made on their lives as they return to the manor by mysterious hands from the edge of the panel. Those present rush up to the the window from which a vase was toppled, leading to a chase through secret (and recently built) passages. One more murder later and the detecting duo are falling through a trapdoor.

The Angry Planet: unsurprisingly, Markham is not, in fact, dead. Markham gets defrosted and puts the Marshies case to the United Nations, though Mars Inc gets to the representatives first and the vote is unanimous against an Independent Mars. Samurai’s real name is Takamura, and he appears at the spaceport to see Markham off for not entirely clear reasons. In full view of the public Takamura threatens genocide before Markham runs Takamura down in his motorised bathtub. This gets broken up by the pilot of the spaceship coming out with a racist epithet highlighting Takamura’s nationality. This has not aged well…

The Mind of Wolfie Smith has the teenage psychic use what Wolfie calls his ESP (telekinesis, surely?) to manipulate the spoon (Uri Geller style) and saves Cornelius Stratfield from drinking soup that his family has poisoned. Smith gets warned to leave and when he ignores the warning finds himself under attack from farm workers who have been told Wolfie has humiliated Cornelius. With two attacking him in broad daylight, the cliffhanger is how ESP will get him out of this one…

Captain Klep has the titular supehero wake up in a park where a police officer wakes him up and tells him to shift it. The rest of the one-pager concerns Clep finding a place to live, though he ends up sharing a room with Mr Jack Daw (who has vowed to kill anybody who discoves his villainous identity, The Beak).

Grailpage: my pick this week is for Azpiri’s opening page of Blackhawk, showing the nubian freshly-captured and trudging through the desert.

Grailquote: Gerry Finley-Day, Blackhawk: “Even the beggars of Rome would not follow us, Huntress! They just shout insults! But I’ll take up their challenge and their name. I shall be Blackhawk, leader of 100 fighting men. I have found my pride again, Huntress”

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