If I’m not mistaken, Mike Dorey draws the Lawless Touch cover this week. If I am mistaken then it’s probably Mike White. If I’m really mistaken then it’s somebody else entirely. At least the weekly prog in 2019 (where I’m writing this, if you’re reading this in the future) credits the artists. Though you must be reading this in the future, because as I’m writing this I haven’t posted it on the blog or scheduled it to be published or anything.
The Big Editorial – quite a few letters, nothing especially notable and news that Sam has a half-page later in the issue (probably going to be a Smile with Sam! feature).
On with the comics – The Lawless Touch continues in the scene pictured on the cover – Johnny in the water being attacked by Dobermans. Johnny is turning into a bit of a James Bond-like super-spy. He escapes the dogs by flipping a switch on the listening device which I probably forgot to mention last issue (but was in the story). Last week it was used to listening through a window to what was being said inside the boat, this week it emits a low-frequency sound which drives the dogs away. Having used this bit of tech, Johnny sinks below the waves, feigning death, and dons an underwater helmet with in-built oxygen supply. Sounds like Q has been working overtime equipping Lawless, Johnny Lawless. He just about manages to get back to his hotel room before passing out. The way it was handled I thought he’d been poisoned, but nope, just fatigue and conventional wounds. He wakes up to find his controller, Mother, and a doctor looming over him. Ordered to take bed rest he instead jumps on his bike and zooms off to the Prix award-giving to warn of the impending assassination attempt. What could go wrong? Forgot to mention – brought to us by Ian Rogan and Mike White.
Storm comes from Goodall and Kennedy. The snobs’ first tactic agains Storm is to criticise his appearance, forcing him to swap his mountain wear for conventional race clothes and to put on shoes. The second tactic is during the race, running in Storm’s slipstream until just before a jump, then putting in a burst of energy to sandwich him and dunk him in the water. Storm is about to lose his temper (it doesn’t actually say ‘next week’ at this point, but the episode ends here).
Victor Drago’s Black Museum of Villains: Kim Philby. This tale of British double-agent Philby really lays on the patriotism thick. It starts with a dictionary definition of the word ‘traitor’, talks about ‘betraying’, ‘betrayal’ and ‘traitor’ – so a very balanced history lesson. It finishes by saying that he was “a traitor – the worst kind of villain”. Remember that last week the subject was Jack the Ripper and the week before was Hitler. Neither of those were as bad as a double-agent spy, apparently.
The Angry Planet from Hebden and Belardinelli must be nearing the end as this is the penultimate episode. A plan is put together to ship pre-fabricated missiles from Earth to Mars, fit ancient Martian ion drive technology to them, then launch them at the booster silos on Earth, thus saving both planets. There was also a sub-text of the Marshies and the Samurai not wanting to work together, but as each of their planets depends on co-operation, they don’t have much choice. Got that? It’s almost certain that the Samurai is going to betray Markham – my bet is on at least one of the missiles being reprogrammed to take out the Marshies.
Tornado True Tales: The Man Behind the Gun. The biography of Marshall Williams continues, and as this episode starts I’m still not sure what’s particularly notable about him. Burrell and Wright tell us that while Williams is in solitary confinement in The Hole he thinks back to his time hunting and decides that the hunting rifle he used was too long, resolving to design and build a more compact rifle. He’s discovered by a couple of fellow cons who use him (and his prototype rifle) to get a real working gun and the keys to a police car from a guard. Looks like he’s going to be famous for inventing a rifle, though unless it’s called the Winchester then it may be one I’ve not heard of. The Winchester was manufactured by the Winchester family, so I’m going to guess it’s something else.
Blackhawk has the centurion in the aftermath of the assassination attempt. Day and Azpiri tell us that there is a Sicilian whose skin has turned yellow from working in sulphur mines and a Cretan (well known for being feckless and lazy) who have been fighting and have to be broken up. Meanwhile, the two Nubians are shaping up well. Oh, and two Nubians is written in bold. The Sicilian with the Sulphur yellow skin (he might not actually be from Sicily, but that’s where the mines were located) and the Cretan get into another fight, destroying an entire week’s worth of fruit and veg rations. Blackhawk takes Sulphur and Cretan to Rome to get fresh supplies, along with the two Nubians (in bold again). So, Sulphur and Cretan have gotten into trouble. The two Nubians are strong fighters and Blackhawk reckons they’re loyal because he’s from Nubia too. And there’s been a murder attempt on Blackhawk. Got all that? Does anybody reading this think that Sulphur and Cretan are the actual assassins and it isn’t really the two Nubians. If so, then you’ll be really surprised when Sulphur and Cretan save Blackhawk from being killed by the two Nubians. Blackhawk doesn’t know who the paymaster for the two Nubians was – everybody else should know it’s Tribune Crassus – the only ongoing character who has had prior history with the Nubian. Sorry, Nubian (every other time it’s been mentioned this episode it’s been in bold).
The half-page feature is indeed Smile with Sam! Three jokes provided by readers, two of which are cartoonified before publication.
Victor Drago and Scarlip the Gangster part 2 from uncredited author and Mike Dorey drawing two spot illustrations in a text story. I really should read a bit about the background of Victor Drago. Apparently he was intended to be in Tornado as Sexton Blake, a thinly-concealed ‘homage’ to Sherlock Holmes. This twice-removed rip-off is still basically Sherlock, though Dr Watson is called Spencer, and the pair of them have a dog, Brutus. Not only is Victor/Sexton/Sherlock well-trained in all the kinds of things that a detective would need to be skilled at, but so’s his dog. So this dog that’s been fed drugged meat must have been fed drugs which couldn’t be detected. This provides a lead, and Victor goes straight to the most skilled of chemists to the underworld. Catching him by surprise, the chemist lets slip who hired him to produce the knock-out drug and so puts Spencer on the trail of a small-time gopher. Finding him in a billiard hall, Spencer calls Victor but before the detective can arrive the gopher is kidnapped. Bundled into a car the chase leads to Hackney Marshes (I’m guessing the billiard hall was around Bethnal Green). This is a low-key chase as there’s no sign that the chasees knew they were being chased, stopping at a pit in wasteground and preparing to off the gopher.
The Mind of Wolfie Smith by Tully and Vañó. What’s the chances of Carla surviving her high-wire acrobatic act to tell Wolfie all about the Curse of the circus? Slim to none, I’d say. With Wolfie (and his psychic powers) on the case, slim is enough, shoving the strongman out to catch her as a bat-suited individual scares her off the wire. The circus folk clam up, covering for whomever tried to kill Carla, though the fortune teller (we only see their eyes) beckons Wolfie in to tell the truth. The last panel has Whip preparing to ‘deal’ with her, and presumably Wolfie too.
Percy’s Problem Pages – editorial seem to have a problem with the back of the issue. On the assumption that the budget won’t stretch to actual comic pages they have to be filled with text or another feature. Other than Smile with Sam! we’ve had Billy going off to spend time with emergency services (no sign of the police or lifeguard yet – and there’s only one week of Tornado after this one), that trivia section (my favourite of the features) and a few Big E photo-strips – presumably cheaper to produce than artist-drawn strips. This week has a word search, a couple of matching-things-in-one-list-to-things-in-another-list quizes and a word snake (a bit like a crossword but the last letter of one answer is the first to the next). p.s. looks like Tornado got Klep-ed out last week.
Grailpage: Belardinelli’s landscape of Mars Inc using it’s excavation equipment to remove topsoil from the surface of Mars (though the last page of The Angry Planet, half of which is taken up with the ion missiles leaving Mars is also worthy of a mention).
Grailquote: Day, Blackhawk: “You… You are my assassins! Two of my own race! What foul mind is behind this?” This isn’t awarded for being great literature, in this case it just stands out more than anything else this week.