Criminal Minds 815: Broken

Thankfully the episode opens with a location title, saving me all the research I had to do last week! It seems there's a murderer in Austin, Texas! But who, and why? One thing's for sure - if I want to find out, I'll have to watch more than the first three seconds of the episode.

A bachelorette outing is having a great time! If by 'party' you mean a bride and just one friend. Also, the bride is annoyed that her friend is taking salacious pictures. What if her fiancee finds out that they were drinking before the wedding? Scandalous!

While the bride-to-be heads back into the bar to find the 'friends' who the producers didn't bother finding extras to play, a sinister man in a cowboy hat watches the drunk friend from across the street. She goes over to get a light, and moments later is making out with him in the back seat of his truck. But then he can't get an erection, and she starts getting bored, so he attacks her!

Then it's over to Virginia, where Jeanne is teaching a class on language adaptation! You know, I complete forgot that her specialty was language. I was going to make a point each episode of pointing out that they never bothered to use her specialty, but then the show didn't even pretend that language was useful in solving crimes, so there wasn't even anything to make fun of.

She's teaching her class about how the same language can mean different things in different places, and a good example is raised - French is completely different in Paris than it is in Montreal. Although the student also says that French is 'spoken all over the world', which it absolutely is not. It's basically just France and Quebec. Maybe Senegal. I'd have to look it up.

Then Jeanne gets a call from Penelope telling her that they've got a case! So why bother with this scene? Is this the episode where they finally work her language skills into solving the crime?

On the plane, we get the details of the case, and I'm not entirely clear on how these murders were linked. A guy wandered off from a frat party and had his head smashed in. A day or two later, a woman left a speed-dating event, and was found the next day, naked in an alley, stabbed to death.

Why would the police have connected these two crimes? Different parts of town, different victim genders, different weapons, different MOs... also, they call it a series of 'abductions', when we don't know that the victims didn't go willing with the killer until they were attacked. That's what happened to prologue lady, after all.

They try to get away with some truly absurd logic leaps, as in the Prentiss-award winning line of the night:

Um... how? Wouldn't being able to spirit someone away almost instantaneously suggest more than one person? A person to drug/drag the victim into the car and a second to drive off? How is it not easier for two people to put the bag on someone than one? If he'd said that sexually motivated murders are statistically likely to be lone killers, I'd have signed off on that leap immediately, but the idea that being able to quickly abduct someone means you're working alone is just crazy.

Meanwhile, the lady's body is lying naked in a ditch by the side of the road. Thanks for that, show.



Criminal Minds 814: All That Remains

The episode opens with home video footage, as a teen is getting ready to go out in the least flattering dress I've ever seen. It's a formless mess of layers and frills, all in a red that makes her skin look sickly white in comparison. Maybe the character is hiding a pregnancy? I can't imagine any other reason to wear such a terrible outfit.

This has been the fashion criticism portion of the review, which I will retire, right up until Derek shows up in a T-shirt.

It seems the a guy is coming to pick up the elder daughter for homecoming! A tradition I still don't quite understand. Who is coming home? From where? Why?

Okay, yes, I understand the why - to watch the football game. But I don't get the rest of it.

The video ends and it's two years later - suddenly things get stylistically weird, as text of a 911 call shows up on the screen as the characters read lines. It's weird - the lines actually disappear from the screen once the actors finish speaking, for reasons I don't quite understand. Aren't we watching a preservation of a record, or something like it?
Apparently something like it was right, since the action moves into the assignment room, where the full text of the call is up on a monitor. According to the call, the two daughters disappeared, and the father called the police. And the team are just now getting around to working on the case two years later. Or is the disappearance happening now? This opening is confusing me to no end.

Just want to pause and give the show a compliment here for understanding how to structure these things - in previous episodes we've seen titles like 'six months ago' opening an episode. This is, of course, nonsense, since the first scene sets a timeline and the rest of the episode has to relate back to that first scene. This time they got it right, and I'm happy to see that they're learning.

Okay, then things get even weirder, when the show reveals that the 911 call just came in an hour earlier, and the father was confused, not knowing what day of the week it was. Has he had one of those 'Memento' brain injuries, and he keeps reliving the day his daughters went missing over and over again? That would be depressing!

What I want to know right now, though, is why the team is working on the case. All we've heard so far is that two teen girls are missing, and their dad was confused on a 911 call one hour earlier. Why is this FBI business at this stage?

Ah, the big reveal comes moments later - the mother disappeared the year before, and the father also waited two days before calling the police about that one!

Um... why wouldn't you start with that? It's context that helps you understand the significance of the new call, and makes it clear why you're working this bizarre serial abduction case. You know that you're not trying to surprise the people you work with, don't you, Greg?

Also, who called you to let you know about it? It's been a single hour since the 911 call. Assume 10 minutes for a patrol car to get there, and another 15 for a uniformed officer to assess the situation and call in detectives. Charitably let's assume 15 more minutes for the detectives to arrive, and let's assume they already knew about the wife and immediately understood that this was a super-serious situation. That's still 50 minutes after the 911 call for the detectives to be on the scene, realizing that they need help.

When Greg says the 911 call happened an hour earlier, he's already got the whole team assembled in the briefing room, and Garcia has assembled an audio-visual presentation of the case evidence, including a transcript of the 911 call, and photographs of all the relevant parties.
And we're being asked to believe that all of this happened - a detective calls the FBI, the call goes through to Greg, Greg gets all the details and agrees to take the case, Greg tells Garcia to put a presentation together, Greg tells everyone to assemble in the meeting room, and Greg gets clearance from his superiors to travel to "Salisbury" - all within around ten minutes.

That's just ludicrous, even by Criminal Minds standards.

BTW - I put the town name in quotes, because I don't know where this episode is set - there was no location title over that first scene. I'm just going on what Greg said in the briefing. It's either Salisbury Maryland or North Carolina. When it comes time to make this episode's map listing, maybe I'll just flip a coin?

Anyhoo, I'm sure this will all be explained after the credits!


Criminal Minds 813: Magnum Opus

The episode begins with a recap of the Reid/Maeve saga, ending with her death. It makes me wonder what the funeral was like. Did her parents blame him for her death? Surprisingly the stalker had nothing to do with his work at the FBI, as I'd originally assumed, but his idiotic rescue plan got her killed, so...

It was probably awkward, is what I'm saying.

Now to the episode's plot, in which a woman leaves a dance club, and can't get back inside. She's menaced by a smoking man in a hoodie! Except he was just waiting for his girlfriend, and this is all a misdirect! Club lady just finds a corpse in the garbage!

Over in Virginia, JJ and Garcia swing by Reid's apartment, where people have been leaving gift baskets, but he's not bringing them in. And his neighbours have been weirdly respectful enough to leave them alone. At least now we know why we finally got a good look at Reid's apartment last week - so the significance of it being trashed this week will make sense to us!

 At work everyone is worried about Reid. Especially Jeanne, who really pushed them to meet. Derek says it would have eventually happened anyways, although it's not clear whether he's talking about the date or the murder. Although they're really the same thing, since Dawn followed Maeve from the date back to her apartment, which is how she was able to murder her.

You know what, Jeanne? You should feel bad about Maeve's death. Really bad. It's mostly on you.

Garcia has a new case! The dead guy wrapped in plastic and dumped in the garbage is just like a woman disposed of the same way! Although she doesn't mention how much time elapsed between the two murders, for no discernable reason.

It turns out that the killer drained them of all their blood, mostly while alive, so the heart would do the work for them. The team mentions how hard it is to get the last bits of blood out, but then they just talk about pushing needles into their femoral arteries, rather than going into a speech about working the legs like pump handles to get the last little bit out, lest they make their influences a little too obvious.

Then they head for the plane, because, as usual, they get the first part of the briefing in Quantico, then drive to an airport, then get in a plane, then sit silently for like an hour before starting the second half of the briefing.

In San Francisco the killer is already working on their next victim, leeching blood out into a Mason jar! Which... ick. The only question left is - will he drink it? He brings it to a fridge, so I'm going to say maybe...

Let's find out together, after the credits!


Criminal Minds 812: Zugzwang

The episode begins with a reminder about the whole 'person is stalking Reid's girl' subplot, although they don't mention that the abortive dinner was foiled not by said stalker, but rather Reid's own paranoia. More importantly, though, there's no opening recap about the person recreating the crimes of the people they've caught this year, which, again, should be their absolute top priority.

When the episode proper begins, we find ourselves in a chapel, at least a dream version thereof, wherein Reid is imagining his wedding day. The team is there to support him, Garcia is running the ceremony, but he's unable to imagine what his fiancee's face looks like, because they've only ever talked on the phone!

Then Reid wakes up, and we get what's likely our first-ever look at his apartment!

Which, for some reason, has five lamps that we can see, and four of them are on. If nothing else, you can say Reid's not a guy who worried about wasting power. He also seems to have fallen asleep on the couch in his clothes, which seems weird, because if he was going to do that, I'd expect there to be a book on his chest or the floor next to him, since he's absolutely the kind of guy to fall asleep reading all the time. That can't be the case, though, since, despite the armada of dim lamps, there's no light source anywhere near the couch, so I can't imagine he'd be able to read very well.

Maybe he simply drank himself into a stupor and passed out?

Probably not.

Then it's over to a payphone to talk to his ladylove once more! This might be the last year that this particular plot point would word. Also, why not call her on her cell phone? You had no trouble doing that the other night, did you?

But no, he uses an elaborate keycode to make it so you can call the cellphone back (nice touch!) and then she dials him back. Or does she?!?! There's a computer-altered voice on the line which says 'Zug Zwang' twice, and then hangs up on him. Has the stalker attacker her? Is it her doing a creepy voice because she's crazy? I can't wait to find out!

Reid rushes to Greg and explains the backstory about his relationship. They started corresponding in letters, and only used codenames because she was afraid of her stalker. Also, she's apparently a geneticist! Is the stalker an evil clone she built? Obviously not.

Apparently they share a Sherlock Holmes fascination, and now the stalker has decided to brand himself a cut-rate Moriarty! Also, Zug Zwang is apparently the point in chess where a loss becomes inevitable, and smart people surrender, so it's actually a pretty good thing to try to intimidate someone with.

Greg brings in the rest of the team, who are all dressed-down, because it's a Saturday, I guess, and the FBI building doesn't have a dress code on Saturdays? They all agree to help Reid out... after the credits!


Adventures in Fake Journalism: Criminal Minds 807

Fake Journalism - Criminal Minds 807

So we finally saw a bit of one of Joe's books on the show! And here it is!

-blow to the head. During the most recent round of killings, Mullens and his son would force the victim to read from a script in order to recreate the past killings as accurately as possible.

In 1994, Mullens - aware of the media attention surrounding his crimes - went dormant. He settled into his life as an electrician before retiring. Colby idolized his father and eventually became an electrician as well. But as the years drifted on, Mullens became more forgetful and agitated. He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's Syndrome. Afraid of losing his father as well, Colby began aiding the older Mullens in a new string of murders. This was a contained effort to help Mullens remember his past murders and the victims.

Chapter 5: The Piano Man Sings

Hamilton Bartholomew - The Piano Man - is an anger-excitation rapist who wants to traumatize his victims and make them suffer. After a brief period of-

Okay, that wasn't great. Especially because chapter four apparently ends just as the story of the copycat father/son serial killing team was just getting started. Is that all the book is? Brief outlines of the crimes written in super-dry prose? Or is that just a function of the prop having been written up in a rush before the insert was shot?

Still, I'm really happy they went to the trouble of doing this, rather than just inserting generic text, but this doesn't read like a true crime book. The first section, about the father/son serial killing team, is disjointed and feels like a bad recap of the episode. Kind of horning in on my territory there, guys. Also, what did you mean by the word contained? I feel like you were using the wrong word there.

In any event, I restate my belief that there would absolutely be a market for a book of Joe's reminiscences about the show's cases written in the style of one of John Douglas' books.


Criminal Minds 811: Perennials

The show opens in a forest, where a woman in a white robe is worshiping nature! Can a human sacrifice be far behind? She gathers some plants and brings them to the altar, which is now covered in maggots! So she's just crazy, I guess?

Then a man shows up, calls her 'Patty', makes her bite down on a stick and clubs her into unconsciousness. What?

Over at Quantico, Jeanne interviews Reid about his date with the mystery lady, and is disappointed to hear that it never actually happened. She tries for more details, but Reid is, as ever, super-private about his personal life.

Okay, turns out the maggots weren't the sign of craziness after all! The killer murdered Patty by hammering a chisel into the back of her neck, and spread maggots all around the crime scene. Just as he had with another victim two days earlier!

That's how Penelope presents the case, by the way. Starts with the pretty white woman who got killed in the opening seconds of the episode, then mentions the black guy who got killed two days earlier. Why would you organize a presentation like this? Shouldn't you start with the earliest crime and move forward? It's almost as if Penelope is framing this all for the benefit of the audience, rather than the people in the room with her!

The team talks about the oddness of making victims lie down before killing them, and suggests that he may know them, and not want to look at their faces during the murder. Which is one hell of a leap. The super-strange method of execution - chisel to the brain stem - it seems like the more relevant reason for them lying down is to make that death possible.

Hey, the team finally realizes that spree killers are a thing, with Jeanne suggesting that the killer is one! JJ shoots down the idea, since the killer is mostly likely targeting specific people and murdering them in an elaborate way, leaving no clear evidence behind. Other than, you know, the identical chisels that he had to have bought somewhere. I'm guessing he also purchased the maggots, since those can be hard to farm in the quantities he needed for his tableaus.

Still, it's nice to see them acknowledging the existence of spree killers, since basically everyone they chase fits that category.

Then it's off to Florida for a check-in with the killer! It seems I was wrong about buying the maggots - the guy travels with a box full of flies and a pot full of rotting meat so that he can have a consistent supply of maggots! I still think his facility is a little small for the absurd volume of maggots he was deploying, but it's nice to see the producers worried about logistics for once.



Criminal Minds 810: The Lesson

The episode kicks off 'Three Months Ago', which is a kind of a dumb thing to happen in literally the first second of the episode. This is the first scene - 'ago' is therefore a meaningless concept, since you haven't established a 'now' from which we are flashing back. Just put 'three months later' over the next scene, dummies.

Yes, you can make the argument that, as an episodic TV show, each individual episode is meant to be taking place on or around the day it airs (which is why they botched a perfectly good killer Santa episode back in season 3), but I would argue that particular fiction is one that no view cares about, or would complain if it were done away with.

Okay, back to the show. A creepy old man is abusing his nurse with insults until the nurse ups his morphine to knock him out (or perhaps kill him? Probably not.), but their drama is interrupted when the coma patient in the next bed suddenly wakes up and starts flailing around. Which he has the strength to do, despite having been in a coma. Maybe he was only there for a couple of days?

Anyhoo, we cut to the present (three months later), and discover that the coma man Brad MFing Dourif! Officially the best actor to have ever appeared on this show! Sorry Tony Todd, but it's true. They took eight years to replace you, though, so that's something.

Hey has Gregg Henry ever been on Criminal Minds? Okay, that's one tangent too far.

A little person runs into the backroom, worried that someone is going to hear the woman that he and Brad have kidnapped. Brad's not concerned, though, because he's super-crazy! Then there's a looped line where Brad asks 'Mr. Conrad' if he agrees, which was presumably dropped in there because they noticed that after the final cut the scene where the little person's name was introduced has been removed.

Okay, Brad Dourif, a little person, a weird flashback opening the episode... did Matthew Grey Gubler direct this one? If so, it's going to be awesome!

Speaking of Reid, he's back on a payphone talking to mystery woman! She announces that she's not being stalked any more! No calls or emails or anything like that, and now she thinks it's finally going to be safe for them to meet! More importantly, though, Reid mentions that stalkers generally stop stalking when they've moved onto another target. Which, to its credit, the episode kind of blows past, since they don't want to shine too bright a light on what's going on. Which is that her stalker is now the team's stalker. Or she's crazy and also the villain.

Now it's time for the briefing! A guy was hanged, had his hair dyed black, then stuffed into a tiny box and left on the side of the road. The box was so tiny that the killers had to break his legs and double him over! Then it happened again, only this time the killers kidnapped a couple, killing the man and keeping the woman, who, naturally, is in the backroom with Brad and Conrad.

Wait a minute, Conrad has black hair, and he would fit neatly into the boxes... are they trying to turn the men they're killing into versions of one of the killers? If so... why?

Also, every single one of the characters says the dead guys had been 'hung', because the writers of this show don't know how the English language works. Which is especially embarrassing considering that they've just added a character who is a DOCTOR OF LANGUAGE.

Back to Brad, who's tormenting his kidnappee by putting a bow in her hair and taking old-timey photos of her as she weeps! Yikes!

Time for the opening credits, meaning we'll get to find out who directed this one soon! Although it may not be Gubler, since there hasn't been any notable music yet, sadly.


Criminal Minds 809: Magnificent Light

We open on a flame flickering in a brazier, as a voice talks about the inevitability of death and how it can motivate people to do exceptional things. Like join a serial killing cult, presumably? I found the voice distractingly familiar, and wonder if it's Chuck's law partner from Better Call Saul. I can't wait to find out!

Turns out that the 'cult speech' was the opening of a motivational seminar, and it absolutely was Hamlin from Better Call Saul.

Hamlin goes into his patter about how everyone has something inside of them that they can share with the world in order to fully actualize themselves. So, is he a serial killer, or is he just to inspire a serial killer to go out and become his best self? By, you know, serial killing. I don't feel like there's any other options for this story.

After the show, Hamlin glad-hands a fan from the audience, then avoids autograph seekers in hopes of having some private time. We follow the fan home to her humble abode, where she's immediately murdered! That was quick. Was Hamlin the killer, since he left the building right after her, or did he simply inspire the killer to start living in the now?

I kind of hope it's the second, because then this would be essentially the exact same episode as the Vampire Rock episode, in which people think that a celebrity committed a crime but it was really just a deranged fan.

At Quantico, Derek gets an invitation to some sort of ceremony at the British Consulate, but he doesn't want to go - Penelope wants to find out why, so it's presumably snooping time! Penelope then announces the case - two people dead in Seattle, with the same message plastered on the wall: Hear Your Evil, See Your Evil.

Its obvious similarity to another famous saying gives Jeanne a chance to show off her complete useless linguistic profiling skills, suggesting that the 'mistake' could be the result of someone being a non-native speaker of English. Sadly, the form that the mistake took offers no clues as to what the person's first language might be. Jeanne essentially used two sentences to say that she has no information to offer. So... I guess that was a useful ten seconds for all involved?

The team tries to figure out what the message might mean - I wonder if anyone bothered Googling it... Then use some of the widely-discredited 'organized/disorganized' jargon to talk about how weird it is that the killer was able to break into the apartments so expertly, but then seemingly went nuts, stabbing his victims dozens of times. I don't see any real contradiction there - vicious overkill stabbing is what the guy is into, and he broke into the house carefully because he didn't want to get caught. It's not like you found evidence of random, mindless carnage - destroyed rooms, fingerprints everywhere, defiled bodies. There was a lot of stabbing, but then careful drawing on the wall in blood, and a general lack of evidence. What seems disorganized about this to them?

We then get a look at the killer's hidey-hole, where he's writing notes about his latest murder!

So apparently the victim said 'oh god, it's you!' which suggests that she recognized her killer. That might seem like it's pointing to Hamlin, she obviously extensively talked with someone else working at the show in a pre-interview, because Hamlin was able to single her out from the stage and talk about her most profound dreams. He's not pretending to be a psychic, so there's at least one person who's more likely to know where she lives than Hamlin is.

I'm weirdly invested in him not being the killer. Huh.

Also, in a possibly related note, when we see the flashback to her attack, she said 'oh my god, what are you-', as opposed to what's written on the note. Will that be significant? Let's find out after the Credits!


Criminal Minds 808: The Wheels on the Bus

The episode opens on a schoolbus, in which a bunch of teenagers are preoccupied with teenage things. Flirting, video games, plans for the upcoming winter formal, because in America I guess there's like two proms a year?

The school bus is waved down by a red-haired gent next to a range rover, and I immediately have to stop and question this whole setup.

That a limited-access, six lane divided highway. The fact that there's a schoolbus full of kids on it means that this is either 7:45AM or 3:45PM. How on earth could there be a road that huge anywhere in America at those times of day so empty that a guy can literally stop in the middle of the road (he's not pulled over to the shoulder or anything) and no one has stopped or called the authorities? Did he get there and pull out just five seconds earlier? Wouldn't that mean he had to blast passed the bus at something like twice the speed limit? And if he did, how could he know that another car wouldn't pass the bus and spot him?

What I'm saying is, whatever he's planning to do, this is the worst possible way to start it off.

Because everyone's awful at their job, the bus driver and teacher (maybe it's a middle-of-the-day field trip? In any case, there's still no excuse for the empty road.) decide not to call roadside assistance, or find it suspicious that a guy who possibly ran out of gas stopped in the middle of the road. The bus driver thinks it might be a flat tire, and says they shouldn't call the cops, but that's insane, because a car in the middle of the road is a huge safety hazard that has to be dealt with immediately. Also, you can tell if a car has a flat tire by looking at it.

Once the bus driver opens the door - are they not told that they should never do this? You can just have the guy come around to the window if you want to talk to him - a second guy runs out of the woods and shoots the driver in the leg, then threatens the passengers to not use their cell phones. Ominously, both men are now wearing gas masks! Although the shooter has long, unkempt hair that suggests that he's pretty young.

Of to Quantico, where Penelope runs into Xander, then avoids some kind of an awkward conversation with him by dragging him into the war room! They need all the help they can get to deal with this abduction!

The team is running down the facts for a couple of featured extras-

And before I get to the actual briefing, can we just comment on how weirdly lazy the costuming has gotten on the show? Why does that guy have a badge and gun on his hip? The badge type suggests that he's a DC cop, so it's odd that he's here for a briefing, and why on earth does he have his gun on him? They don't let you keep those in federal buildings. If he works there it would be locked away with his stuff, if he's a visitor it would be downstairs in the gun lockers. Were they that afraid we wouldn't know he was law enforcement just based on context?

So, the abduction happened in the DC area at 1PM, so yeah, the lack of traffic is completely insane/inexcusable. The bus has disappeared completely, with helicopters and patrol cars being completely unable to find it! Also, they've apparently called every phone on the bus and nobody answered... shouldn't they have found out that all of the phones had their batteries removed? Because unless the villains took that step, wouldn't they have been found already?

They also mention that the kids dropped off at the first two stops got home just fine, so I guess this was the regular bus home? At 1PM? I mean, I know I've been out of high school for a long time, but do teens normally go home at 1PM?



A new video project about Narcos!

Watching the first two seasons of Narcos, I was amazed by just how many ways you can translate the curse 'Hijo Di Puta'. This video is the logical outgrowth of that fascination!

Sorry about all the swearing, but this really did make me curious!


New Video - It's a Quiz this time!

That's right, Count Vardulon has created a Quiz to test how well you know Last Week Tonight - take it, if you dare!


2000AD Annual 1978 (?-?-78)


So that’s not a great cover, is it? I’m not sure exactly where I’m supposed to put this review – it’s the ‘1978 Annual’, but the publication date is in 1977. In addition to this a glance at the table of contents reveals that it contains a ‘Harlem Heroes’ story, as opposed to an ‘Inferno’ one. Still, I’m going to slot it here, at the beginning of 1978, and hope that next time we hit a ‘special’ or ‘annual’ there’s a more acurate date somewhere on the thing.


There's a new Theory Video! This one is about Blair Witch!

If you enjoyed the Blair Witch review on TheAvod, you may like this video, now fully realized as it was promised last October!



Programme 47 (14-January-78)

Look, it’s another story page put on the cover? You know, this kind of defeats the purpose of having a cover to draw people’s attention. “Look!” It screams, “You have no idea what’s going on here!” It’s nice that they try to explain what’s going on and get people up to speed, but it almost seems like it would have been a better move to just come up with a visually dynamic cover, and eat the missing page.
Especially since nothing of note happens here.
Thrill 1 – Dan Dare (Finley-Day/Gibbons)
The Dark Lord’s plan to space-crucify Dan’s crew is thrown for a loop by Dan’s clever ‘dress up like a Starslayer and hope no one notices’ plan. Dan fiddles with the airlock in the execution room, so that all the guards are killed by sudden decompression, while the crew is safe because they’ve got helmets on. Part of the space crucifixion, it seems, is to allow the victims to slowly suffocate while hanging on a metal cross in orbit of the planet StarSlay.
The Dark Lord doesn’t keep close contact with his execution squads, it seems, because minutes after Dan has freed most of his crew the DL is touring the captured space fortress. This provides Dan with a chance to do some capturing of his own, after gunning down the DL’s guards! Then, with the Dark Lord under his power, Dan is able to quickly retake the ship and turn its cannons on the StarSlayer pursuit craft.
Things are looking good for Dan, almost suspiciously good… which means it’s time for the twist, which, according to a thought bubble in the final panel, will involve a backup plan the Dark Lord is working on!
Thrill 2 – The Visible Man (Mills/Trigo/Potter)
What is a ‘visible man’, you ask? We’ll find out in four short pages, after seeing the setup involving Frank Hart, an ex-soldier involved in a high-speed chase with the police. Oddly, he doesn’t seem to be a criminal of any kind, just one of those guys who cranks his car up to a hundred and thirty miles an hour for the hell of it on Sunday afternoons. Sadly, on this particular Sunday someone else is out on the road:
Frank is carted away from the accident site by radioactive containment technicians, who lock him up in the power plant’s medical wing, while being suspiciously coy about why he can’t leave, and is being kept in a completely dark room.
So coy, in fact, that you’d almost think that they didn’t realize that the readers already knew that the strip shared a title with a perennially popular model kit-
So it’s not exactly a shocker when, on the last page of the story, they flip the lights on in Frank’s room, and-
Click to bigify. If you enjoy disgust.
So that’s it for the first installment of the visible man. Which is kind of a disappointment, I mean – doesn’t it seem like they could have gotten this reveal out of the way on page two, and get started on the plot right away? Because the promise of action next week just isn’t the same.
Thrill 3 – Future Shock
This week’s future shock starts off on an oddly ill-informed note. Check this out:
So I’ll give them ‘Whitehall’ – 10 Downing Street isn’t actually on Whitehall, hence the name, but it’s a popular term to use for the seat of British government. Likewise the Kremlin is perfectly accurate. I’m not sure where someone would get the idea that the President’s Oval Office is in the Pentagon, though, so it’s weird how that managed to get through writing, editing, and lettering without anyone noticing. Sure, it’s being written by British people, but haven’t they heard of the White House?
Anyhow, the plot of the story is that the UK government has caught a spy in the ‘Secret Sector’, but before he can be questioned his handler (a mysterious alien) presses a button which causes him to melt! The government dismisses this as one of those one-time flukes. You know, how people just melt sometimes. It’s a thing.
Rogue spy Mike Walsh isn’t letting it go, however, and flies to Australia so that he can look into the spy’s background. There he finds an army of identical clones, all working for an Alien who crashed in the Outback years ago – he claims that he’s used his superior technology to infiltrate human society, and he’s just months away from completely taking over!
Of course, all of his planning and future tech apparently can’t keep Mike from just lunging across the alien’s desk and pressing the ‘destroy entire plan’ button. Because it’s completely logical to have a button on your desk that melts all of your clones and causes all your technology to malfunction. That’s a thing it makes sense to build into your lair.
No it’s time for twist ending: get ready, because it’s a picture, so you’ll have to lock in your guesses now!

Yeah, I saw that one coming too.
Well, now that the Supercovers are over with I suppose there’s precious little reason to keep addressing this section of the comic – there’s a ‘Kevin O’Neill’s Bonjo’ comic about him eating ‘MACH Aardvark’, and a contest where you can win a copy of the Star Wars album if you spot the correct number of X-Wings that have been hidden throughout the issue. Not sure what a ‘Star Wars Album’ is, but if it’s anything like the Empire Strikes Back album I had where the story of the movie was told with sound clips and narration, then it would be an entirely worthwhile that any entrant would be proud to win.
Thrill 4 – Judge Dredd (Howard/Bolland/Jacob)
Ah, thank god. Brian Bolland’s back. Fans of ‘The Killing Joke’ will recognize him as the world’s greatest living comic book artist. In addition to covering his stories here, I’ll also be posting the original covers he drew for the Eagle comics collections of colourized Judge Dredd stories, because they tend to be even more detailed and beautiful versions of his already fantastic art. Eventually we’re even going to get to my all-time favorite cover, my copy of which I was lucky enough to have Bolland sign for me a few years back.
For now let’s just concentrate on the story at hand, which centres around a ‘land race’, where people race to reach plots of newly-developed land that they claim by placing their hands on a pole. You may remember this premise from the film ‘Far and Away’ – I’d never heard of it myself, but now that I’ve seen the idea in two separate pieces of fiction, I guess that counts as confirmation that it actually existed, right?
Amazingly the whole ‘land race’ is resolved in two pages and three panels, with the rest of the story concerning an old lady (The Widow Spock) who an evil corporation (called IPC which, not-coincidentally shares initials with the publisher of this comic…) wants to force into giving up her plot of land. Dredd discovers the scheme when Spock’s robot ‘Rowena’ comes to report the crime. He dismisses her out of hand, though, explaining that since robots don’t have legal standing as anything but property they can’t instigate judicial investigations either.
Walter comforts the robot, who, confirming my suspicion from the Robot Rebellion storyline, is not called ‘Call-Me-Rowena’ at all, while Dredd looks pointedly. No, Dredd isn’t the closed-minded bigot he pretends to be, and he just wanted the IPC goons to think there wasn’t an investigation on so that he could catch them in the act, then shoot them with a confusing cloud of hot energy.
Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on in that picture. Beautifully rendered though it may be. Anyhow, with all the crooks arrested all that’s left is to wrap up the robots’ section of the storyline. Rowena drops by Dredd’s tent bringing cookies that she claims the Widow Spock made to thank him. I’d expect Dredd to reject any form of remuneration for his services (and possibly arrest the cookie maker), but once again I find this early Dredd to be a much nicer character than the one I grew up with.
He’s immediately suspicious of Rowena’s story, however, when he tastes a cookie and realizes that it couldn’t have been made by anything but a robot. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I love the idea of robot-produced goods having a certain flavour.
Yup, the robots have fallen in love. And while I’m relatively sure that Rowena isn’t going to be a recurring presence in the strip, I absolutely love Dredd’s reaction to the prospect of robots dating. He, like all the other characters in the strip, totally acknowledge that the robots they’ve built are sentient, feeling creatures, but still have no hesitation about buy and selling them, treating them as things, and reacting to their feelings with barely-hidden contempt.
You know, maybe Call-Me-Kenneth had a point. If only he’d run for mayor instead of brutalizing the fleshy ones…
Judge Dredd Kill Count (42)+ 0 = 42
At this point I’m starting to suspect that someone told the writers that this was supposed to be a children’s comic, and asked them to tone the violence down in Dredd. Just a few weeks back CMK was bathing in the blood of the innocent, and now Dredd’s shooting people in the hands. Bizarre.
Thrill 5 – INVASION! (Finley-Day/Pino/Knight)
The continuing story here in Invasion seems to be coming to a head, as the Mad Dogs arrive in Liverpool looking for a Neutral ship that they can use to smuggle Prince John to Canada. This entire plan serves only to reinforce just how poorly-established the world of this entire Volgan invasion has been. There are Neutral ships bringing goods to Liverpool? Really? Why would the paranoid and security conscious Nazis allow this to happen? Are there any needs that can’t be met by Volgan-friendly nations, or goods that can’t be shipped there?
Of course we’re not here to talk about the relative realism of the invasion story, we’re here, as always, to take a violent tour of British landmarks. So what’s there to see in Liverpool? The Cavern club, naturally! And who happens to be running this historical landmark/resistance hideout?
Yup. It’s three of the Beatles. Sadly Ringo was executed for crimes against the Reich.
Also strange? The idea that the Volgs stole their ‘Royalties’ and not their ‘property’. That kind of gives the impression that the Volgs have continued marketing Beatles music around the world, and are now collecting cash every time one is used in an ad for cell phone providers or insurance brokers.
Naturally Volgan troops quickly show up to search the place, but Silk has a plan for dealing with them:
A gun that would be impossible to reload! Brilliant, right?
Joining them in their fight against the Volgs is a suspiciously helpful huge blond man in a buzz-cut.
Who might this portrait of Aryan superiority be, you ask? Why he’s Colonel Rosa’s secret weapon – a Volg spy pretending to be a sympathetic Southern sailor, who’ll no doubt lure Savage, Silk and the Prince onto a Volgan ship disguised as a neutral freighter!
How will the Mad Dogs get out of this one? I guess we’ll find out next week!
Other things we’ll hopefully find out next week? If anyone recognizes the Volg’s awful southern accent. Just check out the interchangable ‘Ah’ and ‘I’, the strange ‘You All’ instead of ‘Y’all’. Luckily for the Volg Savage has never met an actual American, so he’s able to get by with this dinner-theatre grade accent.
Thrill 6 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Nuttall)
The Hellcats have found a lead on the gambling syndicate that seems more interested in mass murder than fixing sporting events. But before they can talk to Nat Cullen, owner of the Crystal Maze amusement park, he releases his army of deathbots on them!
I’m still not entirely clear why someone would build Skateboard-Knight or Frankenstein Scissorhands, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and see out this all plays out.
Oh, they’re easily defeated, largely because one of the Hellcats brought his giant cave-man club to the casino. Lucky chance, that. They’re almost too successful, in fact – when giant uses electricity to short-circuit a pair of robot gunslingers it starts a fire that burns down the whole casino, cooking Cullen alive in his office!
With their one remaining lead dead, it seems the Hellcats have reached the end of their trail. Oh, except for one thing:
Okay, so the Hellcats have nowhere else to go – they have no clues, no leads, the investigation’s over. So the syndicate could just let it drop, and no one would ever expose their identity. Yet they decide to attack the Hellcats anyhow, even though that necessarily means exposing themselves further.
I’ve said it before, but heroes are really lucky to have such stupid villains to battle.
Final Thoughts
Best Story: Judge Dredd – Brian Bolland. ‘Nuff said.
Worst Story: The Visible Man – Yes, Invasion’s been bad lately, but the surprise Beatle Cameo kept it form occupying the bottom slot. I was just flat-out unimpressed by VM’s debut.


Programme 48 (21-January-78)

Another impossible-to-comment-on cover. Thanks, 2000AD. I appreciate the extra story page, but what I’d appreciate even more is a cover featuring Judge Dredd punching Dracula in the mouth while saying ‘Fangs off, creep!’
Although that will probably never happen.