Tornado No 6: “The boy’s a wild animal! Hunt him down like a mad dog!”

This cover has Storm fleeing from a helicopter, and you know what that means? If a cover has a flying machine on it then send for Ian Kennedy! As with all other covers, this isn’t credited (and I can’t spot a signature anywhere) but it looks like Kennedy’s style to me.

The Big Editorial has Big E interviewing himself (he was supposed to have been taught by Tharg – he certainly gets a Big Ego from green bonce). Tornado is based in Room 2605 – I’m going to speculate that this means room 5 on the 26th floor of King’s Reach Tower – that’s how interesting I’m finding the editorials…

Blackhawk’s condemned criminals turn on him as he leads them into misty valleys beyond Rome. We weren’t told last issue, but there’s fifty of them, so assuming he gets out of this without killing any of them then he’s half-way to his century. Blackhawk has a moment of doubt in his hawk, Scythe-Wing (assuming it is actually the warrior-spirit of his tribe). All is not as it seems though, as mysterious figures emerge from caves in the valley. They are the Untouchables – ill and diseased exiles from Rome (I can’t work out if this means they have leprosy or not – they’d certainly instil fear in the enemy if they do). Azpiri’s portrait of Crassus after Blackhawk has spent three month’s training his century reminds me that he’s responsible for much of Ant Wars (I hadn’t made the connection before). Crassus has to admit that Blackhawk has earned the title Centurion as a timely message arrives. Two legions have disappeared in the Rhine regions. Knowing that Blackhawk is a desert fighter, and his men both untrained and potentially likely to desert their leader, Crassus sends Blackhawk to the forests. I’m familiar with the character of Blackhawk from 2000AD, which (spoiler) starts with the centurion being teleported from the streets of Rome to become a gladiator in an alien arena. I’m not even sure that required a spoiler – it’s an entirely different tone of strip which made no attempt to follow from what has appeared in Tornado so far. Either way, I’m liking this strip (not as much as the 2000AD strip, but that has Belardinelli on art – no offence, Azpiri).

The Angry Planet: speaking of the Roman artist, he’s depicting water convoys being kept from making their deliveries to Mars, while the Marshies try to drill for subterranean reserves of water. With two days worth of water left on the planet, the pilot who ferried Markham to Earth and back has returned, along with some friends of his: Trashcan and Pintsize. This is actually quite weird, as the pilot still hadn’t been given a name even though he’s appeared in almost every episode so far – while his friends get named in their very first panel, while the pilot picks up the name Vince. Anyway, Markham comes up with a plan to hijack a shipment of ice, and to try to pass it off as an accident. It works, but the Samurai knows what’s going on and is going to Mars to take personal control of the situation.

Victor Drago and the Terror of Troll Island! Part 6. If you know what I’m going to drone on about then please tell me in the comments. There’s a TV programme or film in which one of the characters gets upset about a film serial they saw when they were younger. The serial has a cliffhanger when Flash Gordon / Buck Rogers / whomever literally goes over a cliff and you see them going over the cliff (probably in a car). A week later they return to the cinema and the next episode starts with the protagonist jumping out of the car before it goes over the cliff – so it re-writes what we already saw. This episode of Victor Drago gets out of the previous cliffhanger by re-writing it so that that cliffhanger didn’t actually happen – Drago isn’t reading about how he’s going to be shot in three seconds time, instead Spencer comes into the room, shouts a warning and Drago’s reflexes allow him to escape taking a crossbow bolt (from the previous episode, if his reactions are all that great then three seconds is definitely going to be enough time for him to duck, after reading about it on the typewriter). There’s some convoluted storytelling resulting in Hollis incapacitated but having revealed the island has an airstrip and plane (which can’t be used due to the storm). Drago tells the survivors in the library that Drago and Spencer are going to use the plane to get to the mainland. Before they can get there, somebody else beats them to it and as it taxis around the airfield the occupant shoots at them. New cliffhanger. I believe the next episode is the last (though I’m pretty sure the next story will start the week after).

Carlos Ezquerra’s Gallery of Heroes features the Musketeer (the English Civil War type, not the French ‘all for one’ type) and the Giant Grenadier. Not heard of the latter? Me neither – they were recruited to the Prussian army by King Frederick William from all over Europe, their main feature being that they were eight feet tall! I’ve looked into this (using the terminology ‘The Big Prussian Blues’ didn’t help in the slightest) and the Potsdammer Riesengarde were generally between 6 ft 2 in and 7 ft or so in height.

Wagner’s Walk has Gruber act as an unwitting lure to allow Wagner and Karl to hijack the tank which they use to travel for the rest of the day until they get to a small village. It isn’t so small that there isn’t a local doctor though, and Doctor Petrov takes them in (at gunpoint). He’s later interrupted by other emergency patients, but keeps them in a separate room – but Oh no! Someone catches sight of Wagner holding a gun, puts two and two together and decides to report them to the local military command for a reward. Next week – doublecross!

The Mind of Wolfie Smith. Dennis Stratfield could have just shot Wolfie before the teen psychic even knew he was there, but instead he reveals himself and forces Wolfie to the edge of the roof where the ground beckons three storeys below. Dennis even gives Wolfie ten seconds, more than enough time for Wolfie to force the would-be murderer to turn the gun towards himself. As he’s marched to confront Cornelius Stratfield with the truth mysterious hands push Dennis to his death. This being cliffhanger time, everyone thinks that Wolfie did it.

Storm. It’s corny but enjoyable. Sir Gordon releases Storm because he’s threatened with a cat. You did read that right… The police turn up as Storm runs off and Kane takes to the air (in a helicopter) to track down Storm to rescue that trapped climber. Rather than shouting to Storm out of the helicopter, Kane gets lowered on a winch cable and tackles him before telling him about the climber. Storm agrees, but the rescue plan will involve jumping across a twenty five feet fissure in the dark the blizzard approaches.

The next week copy editor was working overtime to shoe-horn three stories into one theme (about different characters saying things). This shares the inside back cover with not one, not two but three stamp adverts!

Today I was reading about influences on Watchmen (I was inspired to read up as I met up with the Southern Contingent for the Day of Dredd and we had a pint with John Higgins, who did the colouring on Watchmen). One of those influences was a MAD strip parodying Superman – firstly in the 1950s, but also a few more times, starting in 1978 for the first Superman film. I’d assumed that Captain Klep was a straight parody of Superman, but Kevin O’Neill’s rendering of Klep looks like it owes more to Superduperman than to Superman. This week’s story is something about Klep fighting alleged monsters and taking a scientist to the police cells, but because the monster was jettisoned into space there’s no evidence to convict the scientist. I’ve enjoyed over episodes of Captain Klep more than this one.

Grailpage: I’m not enjoying the story so much, but it isn’t because of the art from Mike Dorey – the last page of this week’s Victor Drago has an atmospheric close-up of Drago’s face as he and Spencer head through the mist towards the airstrip.

Grailquote: G. F. Day, Blackhawk: “Advance you scum – gallons of your blood shall flow before you take my life!”

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