Cam Kennedy gets the final cover, showing Storm racing into action (as the tagline says). There is special news for all readers inside – and any veteran of IPC comics knows what that means.
The Big Editorial confirms what we already know under the heading “Tornado joins 2000 A.D.” (no pretence that it’s 2000AD & Starlord here) – this is the last issue of Tornado. If anybody has any thoughts on stopping reading, there’s the promise of a free-to-enter competition in the first prog of the combined 2000AD & Tornado. We’re also promised the results of the It’s Your Turn cover competition. I don’t remember ever having read them, but we’ll see as the months pass.
Skipping to the front (taking Johnny Lawless’ usual spot), The Mind of Wolfie Smith by from Tully and Vañó is presumably being prepared for ‘A’ list status for its crossover to the merged title. As was the case over in 2000AD (and Starlord) the carefully crafted (or at least stretched out) build-ups are being hastily closed in the last episode, and so the ‘fortune teller’ prepares to tell Wolfie what’s going on. Wolfie being the real deal as far as psychic powers are concerned tells her the exposition. One of the acrobats used to have a sideline in theft and was thrown out of the circus. He cursed the circus as he left though was killed in a road crash in Europe. Shortly after a figure dressed in his stage costume started ‘haunting’ the circus. On his way through the circus, Wolfie comes across the bat-shape strangling Denton Gosnell but as he tries to help, Wolfie is ambushed by Whip. The bat-shape wastes no time revealing he’s actually the brother of the dead acrobat. For some reason Wolfie can’t use his psychic powers directly to save himself so instead uses them on Cleopatra the tiger, who smashes her way out of her cage and kills Whip. The acrobat’s brother is exposed to the circus folk as a non-supernatural entity and is driven off. In the last two panels the circus folk say how grateful they are to Wolfie, with Carla saying she’d hoped he would stay here (though the circus folk also say he has to go). Anything to maintain the status quo of having Wolfie wandering and never finding happiness. As I rememember it, these Tornado stories are pretty much the same as what will appear in 2000AD.
The Lawless Touch from Rogan and White continues with Johnny riding a motorbike through the streets of Monaco, during the race. He gets caught by the French police, he escapes, he steals some binoculars, he locates the would-be assassin, he runs across the race track, he faces the assassin, chucks him out of the window, gets told off by Mother, then gets a kiss from Mother. This series has been a bit like a cross between Invasion and MACH One – secret agent shenanigans like John Probe (though with a nicer boss) but with an attitude closer to Bill Savage.
The last episode of regular Blackhawk comes from Day and Azpiri (it’s going to be all change when it hits 2000AD and Tornado). The tribune Crassus decides to frame Blackhawk for the assassination of the Emperor Nero (lots of assassination in this issue) who has commanded Blackhawk bring his century of outcasts to his palace that night, for the novelty. Crassus’ men delay Blackhawk’s century from entering the palace while approaching the emperor crying out in Blackhawk’s name. Blackhawk, forewarned by a soothsayer of a destiny written in the stars, has already entered the palace hours earlier and protects the emperor. He quickly dispatches Crassus (no epic battles when you have to tie up all loose ends in the last episode) and the next bit surprises me. Y’see, I’m familiar with Blackhawk from his 2000AD appearances by Massimo Bellardineli. I’d assumed that the sci-fi elements were entirely introduced next week but Blackhawk is enveloped by a strange mist and fades from view (but slowly enough that he can appoint Batus the new leader of his century). I’m going to miss the black hawk that has accompanied him since the Nubian desert (and don’t see why it couldn’t have gone with him – though I guess it’ll be happier on Earth). I’ve liked Blackhawk’s earlier, terrestrial adventures (I know that’s a bit of a spoiler for the 2000AD stories, but I figure there’s not going to be many people reading this who have read the Tornado stories but not the 2000AD ones – the inverse is far more likely to be true).
Tornado True Tale: The Man Behind the Gun by Burrell and Wright. Williams has been dragged along on a prison escape bid, along with his prototype rifle. Even before they catch up with him (and Williams helps, by slowing the escape down) the authorities are getting the idea that he wasn’t on the break-out by choice. When they do ‘catch’ him, the prison governor offers to let him continue his work on the prototype, though now under armed guard, of course. Not being that interested in firearms, I don’t recognise the name of the M1 Carbine, which is what his innovations would eventually lead to, but apparently six million were produced for the armed forces.
The Angry Planet from Hebden and Belardinelli reaches its climax. As the ancient Martian fusion boosters ignite and are about to push Earth out of its orbit, the missiles find their targets. The Samurai, being as power-hungry and ruthless as he is, sends one of the spare missiles to destroy the Brazilian HQ of Mars Inc and gets ready to shoot Marsham into the bargain. Marsham has brought the invisiblity device though the Samurai shoots wildly. This is his own undoing as one of the bullets affects the air pressure inside the spaceship. As this merely makes the air pressure close to that on Mars, Marsham is unaffected. The Samurai tenously kills himself by mistake, Marsham returns to Mars and ruminates with his wife on how they’re now free of Earth control and have the ancient Martian technology into the bargain, so will be able to travel to and trade with millions of other planets. The end. There were a few good moments in The Angry Planet, but by and large it dragged on a bit. If it wasn’t for Belardinelli’s art I’m not sure I’d have been that interested in it – it’d have belonged in the same category as Death Planet and Planet of the Damned (there’s a pattern here – don’t put ‘Planet’ in the title of your story).
Victor Drago and Scarlip the Gangster by an unknown writer with spot illustrations by Mike Dorey. Drago saves the small-time gopher and Scarlip’s gangsters escape. The gopher reveals that Scarlip will be hijacking a consignment of opium from a London criminal, Big Joe. Chief Inspector Carter is called but arrives too late to have any impact on the shoot-out, with the Big Joe’s gang being scattered by Scarlip and Scarlip himself being killed by Drago. Despite all the text stories being three-parters, this one seems just as rushed as the stories that would have gone on for longer if the comic hadn’t been cancelled. Curious. This is the last appearance of Victor Drago and I don’t recall even seeing him appear in the forthcoming Tornado annual. I can’t say I’m going to miss him.
Storm from Goodall and Kennedy is on the warpath, though wins the race without any further altercation. The two snobs resolve to make sure that Storm never runs at the posh racing club again. They wouldn’t have anything to worry about as the guy in charge – club president Sir Neil – isn’t about to let Storm become a member anyway. Leaving the race track ground the two snobs attempt to run Storm down on a motorbike, though Storm pole vaults out of the way. Fortunately for Storm but not so fortunately for the snobs, the club president is on the scnee almost immediately, gets the police involved and enrols Storm as a member. Storm clumsily says that he is happy for the first time in his life and “Storm is at peace!”. Yet another story comes to a rushed conclusion. Despite some of the events only being there to carry on the forward or artificially create conflict, I’ve enjoyed Storm, partially for the early work by Cam Kennedy (he’s not made it into the prog yet, has he? Don’t think so).
Victor Drago’s Black Museum of Villains doesn’t appear this week. Instead we get Dave Gibbons putting on his Big E face to introduce Man Eater by Burrell and Richardson. The title character is a tiger, and my introduction to John Richardson’s work may well have been Terror of the Cats for Scream! about four years after this was published (or it may have been an Alan Moore Future Shock – I’ll try to keep an eye out for adverts for Scream! if they appear in the prog). It’s the tale of a large tiger that terrorised plantations in the forests of the Sandarbans in India in the 1930s and how a hunter called Jim Corbett was brought in to hunt down the main offender. That’s it, there’s a line at the end about what a waste it is to kill such a magnificent animal, but the rest is about the hunt itself.
Captain Klep. Angus and Ailey finish the issue, and the comic. As ever, Klep inadvertently foils the Beak’s plans though in an unusual turn of events (for this strip) Klep is actually lauded as a hero – not that either Klep or Clep realise it, with the reporter alter ego reporting on how an airshow passed without rain, rather than the real story of Klep stopping a jet fighter from being stolen.
So… what can I say about this comic? It’s certainly no Starlord, so what went wrong? As a long-time reader of 2000AD, I’m obviously a fan of sci-fi and unlike both 2000AD and Starlord, Tornado is not a sci-fi comic, with just the one strip The Angry Planet. Pat Mills has said that a story needs about six weeks development time to make the grade – I have a feeling that none of the stories in this comic had anywhere near that development time. To me they read very much as if the series get written on a week-by-week basis, with very little grand plan in place. Now it’s all over, I’ve had a look around the internet for a few details. Victor Drago is obviously Sexton Blake, who himself was based on Sherlock Holmes (though not originally – he was more generic when he first appeared in December 1893, but by the late 1890s writers had made him more Sherlockian). His change of name for Tornado was due to a contractual dispute. Holmes’ Watson is Blake’s Tinker and Drago’s Spencer. Brutus the dog was apparently Pedro in the pages of Sexton Blake. As for the rest of the comic – I don’t have a source for this other than the UK Comics Wiki, but it seems that the comic was created to use up material that was commissioned for Action, Starlord and other IPC titles. Kelvin Gosnell started the comic with future Tharg Richard Burton the actual editor. Pat Mills was indeed the writer of Wagner’s Walk, as I’d guessed.
Grailpage: As is all too frequent in this comic, there are a number of good artists who aren’t putting in their best work. For instance, I’m really looking forward to seeing Belardinelli’s work on Blackhawk from next week, but his work on Angry Planet has had good moments few and far between. The same can be said for Cam Kennedy and some of the other art droids (or art droids to be). Anyway, having rambled on about that, my favourite page this issue is the last page of Blackhawk, where he gets teleported away from Rome. I’d always assumed that this scene was original when it appeared in 2000AD so was surprised when it happened at the end of his Tornado run from Azpiri.
Grailquote: Tom Tully, Carla: “So you must go so quickly, Wolfie! I had hoped you would stay here. I always said you brought luck with you.” Wolfie (thinking): “Oh, I do luv! Bad luck! Wouldn’t have minded staying myself. Sometimes I think that I’m not just on the run from trouble…” “…I’m on the run from my own power!”