Tornado No 11: Meet Johnny Lawless Inside!

The cover shows Johnny Lawless in a new seires, The Lawless Touch, about which I know nothing (including who the artist is – drawing a montage of scenes which we may or may not see inside).

The Big Editorial brings in a Spotlight theme to future letters pages – the first is a Spotlight on Klep, where readers are encouraged to send letters, drawings, poems and jokes about Klep. That’s something to, er, look forward to.

The Lawless Touch begins with a ‘voiceover’ narration from Johnny himself, letting us know from the beginning that he’s a thief (or a villain or blagger). As with everything in Tornado, the credits are partial, just surnames, but Mitchell and K. Gosnell are responsible. It’s very similar to the more widely read Stainless Steel Rat, in that the thief gets hired by an off-the-books law enforcement agency very early on. This enforcement agency is some sort of European Interpol, though with agents recruited from the top echelons of the underworlds of each Common Market country. Johnny’s boss is a French femme fatale known only as ‘Mother’. She wants to seal the contract with a handshake, though because she’s an attractive woman, he goes in for a kiss on the cheek. Apparently it wasn’t mild sexual harassment, but a ruse to steal her ear-ring. I seriously doubt the writer had ever worn an ear-ring if they thought one could be stolen without the owner realising it had been taken out.

Wagner’s Walk continues where it left off – the three Germans on a mini train heading through a Russian camp, where a train is ready to give chase. Around a corner the trio stop just after some points in the track, which they change (with some effort, but not enough to last more than two panels). They then leave the train to run on the tracks whiel they jump off at a bridge, so that the Russians won’t know where they jumped ship (so to speak). Earlier the major had stopped Gruber from blowing up the chasing train, as they’re “not fighting a war any longer” though he didn’t seem to have a problem with potentially causing a train wreck. I like the general concept of this story but some parts seem rushed, not only is there no dramatic tension around whether they’ll manage to shift the rusted points, but before long they’re in a whole new biome, a desert not far from the Mongolian border. As luck wouldn’t have it, they’ve also pitched up within a few hundred metres of an atom bomb test. I liked the unconventional take that Wagner’s Walk has, concentrating on the losing side of the second world war, but getting caught near an atomic explosion and surviving would stretch credulity…

The Angry Planet: I keep trying to use The Samurai’s ‘real name’ Hachi Takamura but it’s hardly ever used in the comic and I’m not keeping notes as I go along. This is only the second time he’s mentioned by name. After two weeks featuring the same cliffhanger (the dogroids threat to the colonists) plus the next week tag before that, they finally meet the Marshies. I do like this story, but it is very much a cliffhanger-to-cliffhanger tale. The dogroids use scent to track the marshies, so Markham covers their scent with oil. The dogroids then use exceptional hearing to locate him by the sound of his breathing and then mark him. The marshies unhook a footbridge so that the dogroids can’t follow them. The dogroids then jump or fly across the chasm and mark the other colonists as they’re destoyed. This all leads to the revelation that the threat we’ve seen are merely tracker dogroids, paving the way for a fourth week of dogroid teasers as the killer dogroids are loosed.

Black Hawk is again on the centre pages, and as with any British serial set in the Roman Empire, at some point the protagonists have to head for Britannia. The opening images are a map of Black Hawk’s journey and a splash image of the Roman galley approaching the white cliffs of Dover with a two-panel flashback to his being given the mission to assist the garrison already stationed there to assault the druids. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of flash-forward splash openings, but this splash page with a brief flashback seems much more natural and inobtrusive to me. The governor carries on the racism that Black Hawk has experienced from other corners of the Roman Empire until the former slave saves the governor’s life (shades of the opening episode). With the aid of his hawk, Black Hawk follows the sole surviving would-be assassin to a secret druid shrine where we get our most overt example of supernatural shenanigans (other than the hawk itself) in the form of a plume of smoke in the shape of a demonic face.

Victor Drago and the Horror of the Mummy’s Curse (part 1). As with the last text story, there are no credits though the spot art looks like Mike Dorey again. Presumably this will be a three-parter like the previous story. It looks like it’s following Black Hawk’s lead and taking a turn for the supernatural, with a mummified Egyptian pharoah seeming to emerge from its sarcophagus at the end of the episode, but surely there’s going to be a more mundane explanation?

Storm doesn’t spend long at the hotel, due to a fight between his wildcat Skarr and the hotel dog. He jumps his way out of an enclosed space, leading the media to pick up the trail again. Once the reporters catch up with the duo, Kane announces that Storm will be at the local athletic championships in two weeks time, and that Storm will be able to beat any British athletics record.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith comes to a conclusion. Last week’s cliffhanger was that Wolfie was cornered and all out of mind energy from the exertion he’d already undergone. The solution to that – summoning more mind energy. Hmmm. After being involved in the death of a second person he collapses and wakes up locked in the wine cellar, the police on their way. For no particular reason, Chris (the female estate manager that Wolfie fancies) releases him and informs him that a few of the estate workers are going to keep an eye on Cornelius now that they know his family are out to kill him. There’s no clue how they would have realised this. He ends up on the run (again), the story of his life. Except this is his first story so there’s no ‘again’ about it. Apparently Wolfie Smith isn’t well regarded today, though I like it – but this story does have pacing problems. As with The Angry Planet there have been a few episodes with the same cliffhanger, meaning the events between cliffhangers didn’t propel the story along at all. In Wolfie Smith’s case, this was allied with a rushed finish.

Among the adverts on the back cover (both sides) is a half-page ad for the Sci-Fi Special, available now! So that’s going to be my next post.

Grailpage: Black Hawk centrespread by Azpiri – features a map, Black Hawk looking out on white cliffs and pointing out how Britain is the coldest colony of the Roman Empire.

Grailquote: R.E. Wright, Gruber: “Ach, to think that a child’s atlas you found in the Siberian forest is our only means of navigating!”

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