Tornado No 8: The Comic with the Super-Powered Editor!

A black and white photo of Dave Gibbons in Big E get-up (along with head-shots of Tornado Team colleagues) does not inspire. There’s a tiny frame that looks like it’s from this week’s episode of The Angry Planet.

The Big Editorial “is very special issue” because Big E produces it all on his own – must be why he missed the word ‘a’ from ‘is a very special issue’.

Black Hawk uses his cloak to smother the flames engulfing the hawk and is rewarded by being shown that they should make like a mole and burrow into the ground to avoid being killed. Black Hawk is a centurion, so I guess that means he leads a century – this century defeats the Germanic tribe, partially through scaring them through (what I’m assuming is an allusion to) leprosy and partially letting the German leader leap onto the spiky standard of the lost legion that Black Hawk was sent to the Black Forest to find in the first place. Back in Rome what I’m going to call the lepers (they’re just referred to as being ‘diseased’) scare off the other Romans and Black Hawk’s century get a feast to themselves. While all this is going on, one of Black Hawk’s men, Barabba mutters about killing Black Hawk (or letting somebody else do the deed). There’s no cliffhanger this episode – just the prediction by the Nubian centurion that Crassus is sure to line up a dirtier mission in the near future.

The demand by Sir George or Sir Gordon – depending on whether you go by the narrative or the dialogue – to have Storm arrested gets short shrift from the police inspector – with possibly the best line in Tornado so far (Tornado just hasn’t been as quotable as 2000AD, Starlord or 2000AD and Starlord) – more in the grailquote section. Something strange about this episode – we have a new artist, an ‘S. Kennedy’. Except the art style looks like Cam Kennedy to me – if so, this is my first encounter with Cam’s artwork chronologically. A little research reveals that Cam is short for Campbell, that he contributed to Commando between 1967 and 1972 and then left comics until 1978 when he started work on Battle. Cam’s website (amusingly named Kenny Who?) says he then moved across to 2000AD with no mention of Tornado, though Barney and Heroes of 2000AD confirm it is Cam (though don’t say why he’s credited as ‘S. Kennedy’). Safe from the law, Storm is not so safe from the media and Kane helps him make a break for it, chased by newshounds. Incidentally, Kane’s name may as well be Shepherd as that’s how Storm refers to him, though he’s a bit negligent when it comes to his herd of sheep – the only time we saw them was when Storm had to rescue one!

The Angry Planet. We’re almost at the end of the Carlos Ezquerra centre-spread post series – as great as it is having an excuse for King Carlos to provide two posters each week, it’ll be nice to have Belardinelli’s work on the centre pages again. Please let his work be on the centre pages again. Don’t let something else fill that spot. The marshies escape to The Canyon of Lost Souls, which I’m pretty sure isn’t a real place on Mars, but may as well be that geological feature that’s bigger than the Grand Canyon and appears in one of the issues of Watchmen. Valles Marineris – up to 7km deep in places. And if you wanted to hide in part of that canyon, the place you’d pick would be Noctis Labyrinthus – Labyrinth of the Night (this could have just been included in the comic – why re-name any part of it?). Whatever it’s called, that’s where the Marshies are now hiding, though Markham knows what they have to do – Mars Inc is jamming transmissions back to Earth, sending their own propaganda instead – the mission is to neutralise the jamming, which means breaking in to the most heavily-guarded place on Mars.

The British Tommy and American G.I. take pride of place in the Gallery of Heroes. Assuming that, even in the 1970s World War Two-permeated era of British comics, the American G.I. still represents the past then it’s my guess that the last two pictures in the gallery will be an S.A.S. soldier representing the present and some sort of (what we’d now call a) Space Marine for the future.

There’s no Wagner’s Walk this week – instead we get an uncredited story called The Search (it’s clearly drawn by Belardinelli though). A soldier called Hale deserts his company during the Korean War in search of his brother. A few days later a small group of British soldiers (who have picked up a mysterious, silent and bandaged soldier) is about to be wiped out when Hale gives covering fire from an old house. By the end of the story the bandaged guy has died, still without saying a word (shell shock) and Hale has thrown away his life in a desperate attempt to continue his search for his brother. It’s four pages long and set in the past, but I’m sure you’ve guessed it will take the Future-Shock route that the bandaged soldier was the brother that Hale was searching for and out of the 31 panels this is only confirmed in the last two. It’s a reasonable enough Shock-style story, though the pacing is not good and it could have been told much better (as we know from over forty years of Future-Shocks told in less time, though admittedly the Shock-style stories in Starlord were often two or three times longer than the traditional 2 and a half / three page Shock).

Enough talking about Shocks, the next story matches my prediction. Victor Drago and the Flask of Doom harks back to a previous age. The text-heavy story of the previous week has now been replaced by that format change Big E mentioned and is now a two-page text story, to be serialised week-by-week. There’s no credits, but the three spot illustrations look like they’re by Mike Dorey (much prefer his work on MACH Zero and Ro-Jaws Memoirs – and of course, his definitive leering Bill Savage). ‘Chalky’ leaves a parcel in Left Luggage at a London rail station and posts the ticket to Victor Drago, before hurrying on to a departing train. He thinks he’s safe, but has been followed by three men, who apparently beat out of him the name of the person he posted the ticket to. The scene cuts to Drago’s Baker Street address where he sends Spencer off to collect the parcel. Once it has been retrieved he discovers a dead rat in it. Being a Sherlock Holmes knock-off, he takes it down to the laboratory, view the rat’s blood through a microscope, sees… something… and then turns to find a hard-faced man in the doorway, pointing a gun at him. The opening is strong, though as with the previous story (which just went on and on before fizzling out) it all depends on where it goes. I’m going to try to look past how this is a text story in a comic – and not even a summer special or annual – it’s the weekly!

Triple T / Tornado True Tales: The Warrior from B. Burrell and Richardson next. I like John Richardson’s later work – Terror of the Cats in Scream! and early Mean Arena, so let’s see how I like his work from the previous decade. Native Americans prefer to be named by their nation, rather than as a homogenous group. I’d love to be able to tell you which nation the hero of this story, Almighty Voice, belongs to, but the narrative only calls him a Red Indian (!) outside of the comic I’ve found out he was a Cree warrior. In the comic his nation is not allowed to hunt the buffalo they depend on and instead have to eat cow. The cow that Almighty Voice kills to feed his family is judged to belong to the government so the warrior is captured and, having only execution and the starvation of his family to look forward to, escapes. The guards (mounties? They’re in red coats and have the distinctive hats) give chase, loosing the dogs

The Mind of Wolfie Smith and Wolfie’s dream/premonition continues with a shadowy figure about to kill Cornelius. As he was sleeping with Benson the chauffeur’s coat to keep him warm, he surmises that he picked up latent signals from the coat. Spotting Chris Kemble (the estate manager that he fancies) in her mini (car, not skirt) he tries to stop her but – believing him to be a murderer – she’s not exactly receptive to anything he has to say. A police officer gives chase, loosing a dog (didn’t that just happen in Triple T?) Wolfie reckons that all animals have got a sort of E.S.P. (not just enhanced senses of smell and hearing then?) and that the dog is homing in on his phsychic (sic) aura…

The back page has a bespectacled person who changes in to costumed superhero to rescue a woman who has been kidnapped. Is it Captain Klep? Nope, it’s a Trebor Chews advert featuring Superman.

Grailpage: there’s some great artists in this issue (I’m specifically thinking Kennedy, Belardinelli, Ezquerra and Richarson) but there’s something about Tornado that just doesn’t seem to bring out their best work. I’m going to vote for the British Tommy page in the Gallery of Heroes, simply because it has a world war one tank (‘land ironclad’) – my favourite type of tank, and also good practice for the Sov tanks that Carlos will be drawing a lot of in the Apocalypse War, in about three years time.

Grailquote: Scott Goodall, police inspector: “For once in your life, you’re going to wind your neck in and isten to me, Sir Gordon!”

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