22.7.15

Adventures in Fake Journalism: Terminator 3

While not journalism per se, or in any way, really, I wanted to feature some incredibly half-assed work on the part of some graphic artists working on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Midway through the film the Terminatrix finds that its main weapon, some kind of plasma blast cannon, has been damaged, and she has to select a replacement from a surprisingly large number of options.

Here's the first-


There's little picture of the weapon's arm configuration on the left side, then the name of the weapon in the middle, and some description about it below.

Let's zoom in on that part, shall we?

17.6.15

The Two-Hundred-Forty-Third Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

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Oh, superstitious natives, you're always so easy to bedevil!

And let's not forget the part that monocle power played in this!

10.6.15

The Two-Hundred-Forty-Second Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

On some level I'd like to call out the confusion between sumo and jiu-jitsu, but then I noticed the skin tone assigned to the 'Jap Wrestler', and decided that's what we should all be focused on.

3.6.15

The Two-Hundred-Forty-First Greatest Panel in the History of Comics


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You know what's extremely interesting, Dollman? The fact that the diary writer realized that there was a limit to the amount of text people snooping through his thoughts would be willing to read, so he increasingly moved to pictographical representations of his own life story.

27.5.15

The Two-Hundred-Fortieth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

This is - officially - the worst way of haunting someone.

20.5.15

The Two-Hundred-Thirty-Ninth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

What kind of clock is that? How did Midnight get in there? Did he bring it with him to the crime scene at that club? Is that something he does?

Have they changed him into a character who can travel between any grandfather clock?

13.5.15

The Two-Hundred-Thirty-Eighth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

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Oh, Archie, you nearly managed to strike a blow for equal rights!

For the record, the use of 'women' here is a bit of an exaggeration - while there had been a few female Representatives at this point, when this comic was written there had just been a single female Cabinet Secretary, and while there had been five female Senators, only one was elected, with the rest serving out their dead husbands' terms.

9.5.15

Scavenger Part 2 - The Evidence That Wasn't

Scavenger is terribly written. I think I've established that well enough. There's one part I didn't focus on in that last article, however, and it is, in its own way, the absolute worst part of awful novel Scavenger. The big twist.

Okay, quick refresher - Mark killed three families and made it look like the work of a deranged serial killer so that people wouldn't notice him killing his own family, who he hated. Then Scavenger picked up the torch and murdered his own family, and then a fifth family a few months later, hoping to draw law enforcement attention away from himself. Both attempts succeeded, and then Mark wrote a book about the murders. Scavenger read the book and became convinced - based on the text within, that Mark was the original 'Family Man', whose crimes he had copied.

Then, for reasons that aren't ever entirely clear, Scavenger decides he wants to expose Mark's crimes via an elaborate game that has him running to the various crime scenes and getting punched repeatedly by a giant in a duster.

Again, it is not a good book.

Scavenger goes to an FBI agent who was obsessed with the case with his theory about Mark, and enlists the man's help in his scheming. It seems that Mark accidentally revealed something while writing the book that identified him to Scavenger as the perpetrator - and that information is convincing enough to the FBI agent that he's willing to risk his career (as well as imprisonment - the scheme is hugely illegal) to go along with Scavenger's plan.

What is the information? Prepare yourselves, because when I actually read the book for the first time years ago, I re-read the passages explaining Scavenger's flash of insight a dozen times, hoping to make sense of it, but all I ever managed to do was give myself a headache. So here it is:

6.5.15

The Two-Hundred-Thirty-Seventh Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

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Even the menacing giant rabbit is annoyed at Phantom Lady's refusal to wear a mask of any kind.

3.5.15

Programme 17 (18-June-77)

Cover: Man, this had better happen in the issue.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

That’s right, slavery is back! Ex-army Brits are sold to collaborators and officers at an auction on Petticoat Lane! Also, apparently Collaborators have to wear an armband with a big C on it.

Bill Savage is having none of this, of course, but he doesn’t have a plan for how to take down the slavers. But with the special talents of one ‘Fingers Frampton’, a well-known pickpocket, perhaps there’s a chance!

The next day Bill and Fingers sneak into the slave auction by clinging to the underside of the slave wagon. How they got there is anyone’s guess. Next, Fingers bumps into the slave warden and steals something. He hands it off to Bill quickly, but since jostling is puncishable by death, Fingers is shot immediately.

During the improptu execution Bill is busy with the warden’s keys, unlocking the prisoners, who then leap to attack the guards! The warden immediately calls in the armored car from the street – it’s interrupted by Silk, who’s in a nearby wrecking crane, which he uses to crush the vehicle!

Bill, Silk and the slaves escape, and Bill explains that it’s not sad that Fingers died, because he had radiation poisoning – at least this way he got to go out doing something important! Although I can’t help but wonder if the whole attack was a little overthought. The entire guard contingent of the slave market was five guys and an APC. Seems like the Mad Dogs could have just shot the place up and saved the day a whole lot more easily. It’s not like they have to worry about hitting the crowd – it was clearly established that the only people there are collaborators and Nazi officers.

Thrill 2 - Flesh

Earl Reagan is lying in the spiderweb, freshly bitten by a giant spider. It seems the getting bitten by an incredibly large spider is as immeidately fatal as one would assume, and Earl is able to suck the poison out of his own arm quite easily. Then he plays dead to lure the spider into a false sense of security, then stabs it in the brain when it gets too close.

After extracting himself from the cobweb Earl stumbles into the Time Displacement room, where survivors are being loaded onto the timeships to make their getaway. He’s surprised to see Claw helping load the ships, so he goes to check it out. Naturally it turns out that Claw had an ulterior motive. He’s loading gold into the ship! Why they have processed gold bullion in the past is unclear, but unimportant. Claw and Earl get into yet another fight, this one ending with Earl thrown out of the ship and Claw slamming into the control console.

The time field activates and Earl is pulled into another ship just in time. Less lucky are Claw, whose ship malfunctions because of the damamged console, and the three guys from the cover, who are grabbed by the dinosaur just as they’re pulled into the future! As a result of all this mishegoss there’s one hell of a mess in the future when three ships arrive instead of four, and next to one of them stands, well, this:

I know this is the second image of him this issue, but that’s just how much I love this little monster. Also, note that the characters had names on the cover, but here they're just a twisted beast.

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

Before the game with the Gruber’s Gargoyles can even begin Artie (disguised as Gargs chief Joe Mugglie) hurls an aeroball at the Heroes, claiming that his robot arm ‘malfunctioned’. Of course, the only malfunction was that he missed!

As the game begins in earnest, watching from home is the villain, who they’ve stopped even pretending that they’re hiding his identity. Between the glasses last week and the hairline this time around, it’s like they want us to know it’s Ulysses Cord. I mean, it can’t be anyone else, but still, this is really obvious.

After one of the Gargs is injured by an intercepted ball and another sidelined for using his full robotic powers a time-out is called, Artie realizes it’s time to pull off the kid gloves… figuratively! As he and Giant rush for the same pass, Artie pops hidden claws on his right hand and prepares to slash!

THARG’S NERVE CENTRE

There are some more future predictions in the letters this week, with one kid suggesting that in the future robots will do all chores, and by paid by sliding money into slots in their chest, and another concieves of a dystopian future where everyone lives in houses without windows (so it’s harder to break in!) and looks outside with X-ray glasses. He doesn’t seem to think that it’s a bad idea, but the widespread availability in this future of X-Ray glasses it means that there’s no privacy for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare: Space Hyper-Hero (?/Belardinelli)

As Dan frantically struggles inside the glass sphere, trying to keep the flesh maggots from eating him, Rok notices his Laser Sword lying on the ground near feet. He grabs it and kills a guard, then breaks Dan out of the sphere! They take a moment for Rok to dine on a few of the maggots, then attack the aliens in force.

It goes surprisingly well, even going so far as to get the Mekon thrown off of his chair, which apparently he gets all of his power from. Before Dan can finish him off the Two of Verath rush in, guns blazing. Dan, Rok, and Cap try to escape, but once they come across a locked door Cap panics and tries to surrender. He’s killed when wild blaster fire hits a statue of the two, and it falls on him. The fate of his amoeba buddy remains unkown.

Backed into a corner, Dan and Rok have only one option left – to jump into a chasm opened by the impact of the statue… but what lies in the inky blackness below them?

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

The story opens with a plane crashing into a mountain. It’s no ordinary plane, though – it was carrying Kestrel nuclear missiles which somehow were not destroyed when this happened:

Probe and a team of SAS operatives are dispatched to retrieve the missiles, and somehow manage to arrive at the exact same time as a group of ‘Eastern’ soldiers. Probe makes quick work of them while his partners are still landing, and then they quickly lash the missiles onto a sled and start down the mountain.

Even though Probe delayed the other side by dropping the remains of the plane onto them, the enemy major is able to rally and gun down the rest of Probe’s escorts. Probe skis down the mountain alongside the sled, but when he comes under more fire it careens out of control, and heads straight for a narrow crevasse! It’s up to Probe to dive ahead of it and use his body as a human bridge for the 500 pound missile to slide across!

Doing so has put Probe in an awkward position, though, left sprawled over a cliff as the enemy Major skis up with an assault rifle. He makes the universal mistake of talking instead of shooting, though, giving Probe a chance to kick him over the edge of the cliff.

Then there’s a quick wrapup as the missile is loaded into a truck at the base of the mountain. Probe is tiring of being the only survivor in all of these missions, and he’s grown suspicious of the fact that people had to die because a computer (this time the navigation computer in the airplane) malfunctioned! So, deep down, are these computers really helping people, or just making things worse?

Hey, look! It’s a parallel moral to what’s going on in Judge Dredd at the moment! Neat!

One problem, though – Probe claims that he’s always the sole survivor. But he usually goes off on missions alone, and we’ve seen him resuce people a multitude of times. So where’s the melancholy coming from?

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd (?/Ian Gibson)

And speaking of technology gone awry, it’s time for Call-Me-Kenneth’s last stand! Badly wounded last issue, Ken has fled to the Meg-Oil fuel refinery to get the delicious oil he needs to heal himself!

Dredd arrives just as Ken steals a Texas City oil hovership. The workers are throw off and killed, but Dredd manages to climb aboard at the last moment. His bullets may bounce off Ken’s damaged from, but Dredd has one ace left up his sleeve – they’re on an oil tanker!

Bursting a main and coating Ken in oil, Dredd jumps off the ship and lights Ken on fire with an incendiary bullet! Ken gets one last moment to scream before the ship explodes:

I am really going to miss that guy. Even though his next line was ‘Top of the world!’ You know, because he died in an oil tank explosion? Yeah, pretty lame, I know.

Oh, and Dredd is saved from falling to his death by some firemen with a hovernet.

The story’s winding down, so it’s time for an awards ceremony! To reward them for bravery in the face of tyranny, Dredd’s three robot-factory buddies, Howard, Stewart, and J70/13 are awarded pleasure circuits! That’s right, robots are incapable of feeling pleasure. Naturally humans wired in the ability to feel pain, so they’ll scream when lashed with laser-whips or set on fire, but pleasure? Why would they need that?

Oh, and of course they still have to go back to work the next day. Sure, they can feel pleasure now, but they’re still the property of the robot factory.

Damn, that is some messed up reward system they’ve got there.

Things go notably better for Walter, who is awarded his freedom! And what does he elect to do with that freedom? Become Judge Dredd’s full-time robo-servant, of course! I can’t wait for the hilarity to ensue when the solicitous robot starts to butt heads with Dredd’s eye-talian cleaning lady! In fact, I don’t have to wait, because that very thing happens on the next page.

I’m right there with you, Joe.

Yeah, now that I’ve seen a second issue of it, I’m sure this is Ian Gibson’s art.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – It was a great wrapup to

Worst Story: You know what? Another good week. I won’t call any of these terrible. But Mach 1 and Invasion! were borderline.

Programme 16 (11-June-77)

Cover: Oh, MACH 1, your trips to America are proving quite eventful, aren’t they? First you save New York from a nuclear zeppelin, and now you’re somehow going to be involved in a situation where the Capitol building is teleported into the Atlantic? Oh, yes please.

And, just a note here, I don’t care how surprising a place it is for a building to turn up, if your plane hits the building, it’s not attacking you. That’s like saying those planes were ‘attacked by’ the World Trade Center.

A building is only ‘attacking you’ if someone physically picks it up and throws it at you.

Now I’m thinking about Ninja Blade. Beautiful, beautiful Ninja Blade.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

It seems that the Volgs, acknowledging that they’re just not up to catching a lorry driver who hides on an island that’s basically in the middle (http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=isle%20of%20dogs&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wl) of the city their occupation is based in, have resorted to offering a bounty on Bill Savage’s head. Along with two other resistance leaders we’ve never seen before. Apparently they work the midland.

It’s nice that they show the conversion rate (and that deuts- sorry, VOLGSmarks are worth more than three times the british pound!), but since this is the second time we’ve seen the suggestion of people being paid by the Volgans to kill or betray the resistance, it makes me wonder exactly what those traitors will be spending the money on. What’s the economy like under the Volgan invasion? Are businesses open again? Schools?

Those aren’t the types of things that concern Bill Savage, of course. No, he’s more interested in teaching those dirty Volgs a lesson by ambushing one of their supply convoys! The Volgans are furious, but they’ve got an advantage Bill doesn’t know about. They’ve broken the resistance radio codes! And what’s the best way to exploit that? By letting it slip that an incredibly valuable convoy (anti-air weapons, high-ranking POWS) will be going through an area at a certain time, then listening in as the resistance plans their attack, then set up a reverse amush to slaughter them all!

Yes, that would be a good plan. Which is why the Volgans, naturally, don’t think of it. No, they have a better plan… hire a private bounty hunter named Quarry to kill all three resistance leaders personally!

How did these people ever conquer England in the first place? I’m amazed they were able to find England. With their operational track record it seems more likely they’d have wound up invading Baffin Island. Now I’m picturing this exact comic strip, except the main characters are all seals. Time to call Hollywood!

Savage gets a radio call from the other resistance leaders. He’s to meet them alone at an inn out in the middle of nowhere. Natually, he goes. Arriving to find the other leaders already dead, Savage ducks out of the way just in time to dodge Quarry’s high-powered rifle round.

That’s Quarry. I can only assume that travel restrictions have kept him from going on safari for a few months, and he’s become a traitor just so he’ll have something to hunt.

Savage has a plan to get out of the cottage alive, though. He’ll set his shotgun on automatic (which, apparently, you can do) and have one of the corpses fire it out of the window by squeezing the trigger with his dead hand. I don’t know, doesn’t it seem like the recoil from the first shot would, at very least knock the corpse’s hand loose, if not throw him out of his chair entirely?

The plan works, and Bill, knowing that his car has been destroyed, runs out the back of the cabin. You know, this is the part of the Volgs’ plan that really doesn’t make sense to me. How could things have possibly gone worse if there were an entire regiment of troops surrounding the building, as opposed to one deranged big-game hunter in a zebra-striped Land Rover?

Quarry didn’t even think to bring a driver along, so he’s stuck firing a pistol with one hand while steering with the other. Not a great combination for accuracy, that. Seeing his salvation up ahead, Savage pulls his own wanted poster (which apparently he took from the cottage?) out of his pocket and throws it at the Land Rover. In what has to be the luckiest throw in the history of people throwing things, the single pieces of paper flattens out on the Land Rover’s windshield, exactly blocking Quarry’s line of sight. By the time he clears the poster away (with his hand – apaprently he’s too tough to just use the wipers) Quarry discovers that it’s too late – he’s been murdered… by irony!

“It wasn’t the fall that did it. It was irony killed the beast.”

Ah, Quarry. He forgot one key thing – the word Quarry has two completely different definitions, and that’s the kind thing that writers can’t resist exploiting! It’s just sad that he realized only too late that he was the villain in a poorly-written action strip.

Also starring in that strip are the Volgan high command, who receive a letter from Bill the next day, mocking them for their inability to kill him. Of course, they deserve to be mocked this time around. Would it have killed them to send along a little backup with Quarry? Or just put a bomb in there or something.

Do you even want to win the Invasion, guys?

Thrill 2 - Flesh

It’s the apocalypse at the Trans-Time base! Raptors are running everywhere, eating boxes of packaged meat, spiders are pouncing on anything that moves, and Old One-Eye is focused on tracking down that one human she’s pissed at. Not that this stops her from killing every other available human in her path, of course. Hell, even the poison spiders crawling all over her can’t stop the old hag!

She doesn’t have to wait long for the confrontation, as Earl leaps onto her head, attempting to stab her in the brain with the electric prod he’s used to put her eye out nearly two weeks previously. One-Eye’s too fast for him though, and with a shift of her head, Earl winds up falling into her mouth. Things look bad for our ‘hero’, but he’s saved by the writer’s woefull misunderstanding of the relative strength of a dinosaur’s jaw muscles as compared to a human’s legs.

Proving that there’s no situation so bad that it can’t get worse, the Flesh Controller picks just that moment to grab One-Eye with his fleshdozer, hoping to drop her and Reagan into the grinders at the same time! It doesn’t go quite as planned, though – Reagan falls through the hole in the floor into the spider pit, where he gets bitten! And One-Eye proves too heavy for the Dozer! One-Eye tears the cockpit open and devours the FC! It looks like… the dinosaurs have won!

And the comic’s copy editors weren’t doing there job!

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

It’s time for a third-round match for the Harlem Heroes, this time they’ll be playing Gorgon’s Gargoyles, a team of bizarre monsters! Seeing their horrific faces, Slim remarks that they can’t possibly be human – Giant reveals that they aren’t! Apparently since that summer special it’s become commonplace for fake people to play the sport. As a result, an entire team of ‘android robots’ assembled by ‘computronic surgeons’ has made it this far into the world championships!

Amazingly, this leads to us finally getting a new Aeroball Rule: “59 - Computronic players must reduce their energy output to human levels during the game.” Of course, ‘human levels’ is an incredibly vague term with no clear meaning. Do they have to be an average polayer, or can they all have the output of exceptional players? To use Heroes terms, could they each be as nimble as a Hero and as tough as a Flying Scotsman? And, power level reduction or not, isn’t the fact that the robots are made of metal and plastic going to make them supernaturally resistant to the kung-fu that human players use on them? Or is there a separate rule about how they have to fake being injured?

While the rest of the team practices for the game, Giant and King have a conversation where the old-timer mentions that the rest of the team seems to be playing like they haven’t got a care in the world. Giant explains that he’s trying to keep the whole ‘someone is trying to kill them’ thing on the Q.T. for the time being. Which seems like an incredibly dangerous thing to do – don’t the players have the right to know that, in addition to the dangers of Aeroball, some madman is out there trying to kill them? Also, didn’t they think something was up when that guy shot at them with a rifle and then crippled Sammy? I’d like to have been there for the bus ride home afterwards, when the other players tried to ask about the gun-toting killer cyborg and Giant explained that it wasn’t anything worth worrying about.

Speaking of that cyborg, in the next scene Artie is back in his doctor’s office, this time getting a new face! But whyever would he be doing that? Oh, they tell us right away, after Artie asks when he can take the bandages off.

Way to kill the mystery, there, Ulysses Cord. Whose glasses those clearly are. There’s only one character in this strip who wears glasses, and look, there they are. Then it’s on to a confusing introduction of the Gargoyles, at their own stadium.

Yeah, I’m not really sure what those fans mean. They ‘refused’ to wear nu-faces? Aren’t they robots? How much choice do they have in the matter? More to the point, it’s not like those monster faces just kind of happened. These guys were BUILT to look like that, weren’t they? So they could be a monster-themed aeroball team? If that’s not what the story is trying to get across, I’m going to be even more confused than I already am.

Missing from that group is ‘Joe Mugglie’, the Gargoyles’ captain, who’s still lounging in his apartment, which apparently robots are given, rather than just storing them in a box somewhere. There’s knock on his door, and he’s surprised by a bandage-wearing man, who reveals himself to be… Joe’s Evil Twin!

So that’s something they said back in the 70s? Weird. Or at least in the 70s idea of what the mid 21st century would look like. Oh, and this has to be the least impressive plastic surgery job I’ve ever seen. See what muggly looks like? Now take a look at what Artie used to look like:

Not exactly Witness Protection Program level alteration, is it? Artie quickly destroys Joe and then heads over to the stadium, where he finds his ‘team’ waiting to help him take on the Heroes. But little do they know that he’s going to make sure this is the last game the Heroes ever play!

The Aeroball Rulebook (making its triumphant return!)

The Aeroball Rulebook:

16 - Only a Squad Leader can call time out, and only if two or more players are sidelined by injury.
28 – Don't touch the score posts.
59 - Computronic players must reduce their energy output to human levels during the game.
? - Don't kick (or punch?) people in the back of the head.
? - No sandwich tackles (?)

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare: Space Hyper-Hero (?/Belardinelli)

Captured by the Mekon, Dan, Rok, and Cap are taken back to their secret base – which it turns out is inside the planet, which is actually hollow, and gets light and heat from a floating magnetic core in the middle! There’s a twist!

Dismissing Rok’s (it’s certainly not a) light saber as a bizarre, useless toy, Mekon introduces Dan to his interrogator, which leads to the second greatest panel to have ever appeared in this comic-

I assume I don’t have to explain why that’s the second best thing ever, right?

Dan refuses to be seated in the chair, going so far as to grab one of the gun-headed guys by the barrel and swinging him around like a club. It’s all for naught, though, as he’s captured by the Two of Verath and forced into the chair, where the blob slithers all over him.

Its power? To find out things from your mind and make them play on its skin like a movie screen! Which is actually a little scary. Watching the screen the Mekon discovers that Dan actually is his arch-Nemesis Dan Dare, after cryonic storage and reconstructive surgery. The Mekon immediately plans to kill Dan in the most horrible way he can devise – by sealing him in a glass ball with carnivorous worms that keep their victims alive for years while slowly devouring them!

THARG’S NERVE CENTER

The letters page, populated entirely by communication from nitpickers and fanboys, is always fascinating to me, both because I find the letters endlessly entertainging, and because, had I been born much earlier in England, I would likely have been one of the children wrting those letters. They’re generally not worth referencing specifically, but this week’s page has a wonderful piece of art I just had to reproduce:

This comes from a Steven Abrahart of New Malden. He was inspired by the fleshdozers of ‘FLESH’ to create the ‘fishdozer’, which works by walking through the oceans on extendo-legs, shocking fish to death with lasers, then scooping them up and proccessing them inside to be shipped out to ‘hyper-markets’. Which will seemingly all be TESCOs.

And what year is this amazing future supposed to take place?

2007.

Sigh.

Oh, and proving that the editors of 2000AD were still trying to figure out exactly what the nature of the comic was, when another writer suggested that instead of six 5-page stories there be three 10 page stories each week. ‘Tharg’ responds that if enough fans write letteesr in agreement, that’s something that could easily happen.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

Oh my god I was completely wrong. It seems that the cover was misleading – the Capitol Building actually was attacking John Probe’s blackbird fighter!

Except it’s not the Capitol at all… it’s a secret base with electromagnetic guns that scramble Probe’s computer and hover salvage-ships that rescue him from the water when the plane crashes. Who is responsible for all this?

That’s right. His name is Adolf, he said ‘and (they) called me crazy!’, and he built a submergable base that looks like the Capitol building to mock the Americans. All in a single panel. Wow.

When Probe wakes he finds himself tied to a table. Adolf is planning to dissect him to find out the secret of the Compupuncture Hyperpower! Probe decides he’s not going to sit around waiting for that, and breaks out of his restraints! Running down a hallway to where he assumes Adolf must be (despite having no idea where he is or what the building’s layout is), Probe finds himself chased by a heat-seeking mini-missile! Using his super-speed Probe tricks the missile into hitting a steel door. Wait, didn’t he do that exact thing in a plane a couple of weeks ago?

In another amazing coincidence, it turns out that random door was the one that led to Adolf’s office.

Adolf gives Probe the standard option – work for him or die! Probe comes up with a thrid option, grabbing a mirror and using it to reflect Adolf’s electron ray! With Adolf dead, all that’s left is for Probe to kill all of the henchmen, who he calls ‘Slant-Eyed Vipers’ by lowering the Capitol even further until the pressure crushes them, while he’s able to swim to safety!

It’s funny, I didn’t even realize the henchmen were supposed to be Asian.

Nope, still can’t see it.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

It’s showdown time here in Mega-City 1. With the robot factory shut down, all that’s left to deal with are Call-Me-Kenneth and the Heavy Metal Kids he’s brought with him to attack the hall of justice!

With no hope of winning in a frontal attack, Dredd and his loyal robot sidekicks Walter, J/70 and Howard the maintenance robot, take a jet up to weather control. Their plan? To create a deadly localized electrical storm that will short-circuit all the killer robots! One problem: Creating electrical storms over Mega-City 1 has been illegal since 2012!

Hmm. I’d think the bigger problem would be using the weather control system to create an electrical storm at all. When you’re building a whether control system, is that a setting you should really put in there? More importantly, how was there a time between the technology being invented and electrical storms being declared illegal? This seems like an incredibly egregious example of the law following technology.

After running the circuits through Walter to facilitate a short-circuit, Dredd starts the electrical storm, giving Mega-City 1 the first lighting it’s seen in 87 years! The lightning strikes the Heavy Metal Kids, driving them insane, then shutting them down… but not before they hammer Ken pretty badly!

By the time Dredd arrives at the Grand Hall of Justice the war is over. The last of the rebel robots are being rounded up. There’s only one piece of hanging thread left over. Ken’s body is nowhere to found!

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Dan Dare – It was a close one this week, with MACH 1 putting in an amazingly crazy showing, but that blob was just too wonderful to overlook.

Worst Story: Invasion – Stupid premise, lame execution. Even the jaw-dropping ‘ironic’ fate of the villain couldn’t save this with its absurdity.

29.4.15

The Two-Hundred-Thirty-Sixth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

(click to bigify)
So remember, kids - science is necessarily divorced from morality, and so Doctors can never be trusted!

28.4.15

Programme 15 (4-June-77)

Cover: Dear lord – Mach Man is being attacked by Yetis! This had better not turn out to be some kind of a trick or men in suits…

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

It seems that, despite Bill’s protestations, and all the bloody holes that buckshot tore in the uniforms, Silk and the Brigadier went through with the disguise plan anyhow. It goes wrong, though – despite the Brigadier’s knowledge of the Volgan language, one of the guards is suspicious. Personally, I’d be suspicious not of their posture or accents, but of the fact that one of them has a moustache and wears glasses:

Hasn’t he ever heard of a grooming code? The Volg soldier yells ‘Attention’ and, being ramrod-straight military men, Silk and the Brig immediately stand at attention, revealing themselves as Brits!

Bill and the Mad Dogs rush out of the bushes, shooting all of the guards along the fence. After jumping that fence, Savage hijacks an acid tanker (it says ACID right on the side, just in case we were confused) and backs it through the wall of the nuclear research building.

If I can find I picture of a cat on a windshield I’m so using this.

Luckily for Bill, the tanker wasn’t carrying acetic acid, and the scientists inside, along with a few guards, are melted to death. Also melted are the reactor cooling pipes, causing the plant to enter into mini-meltdown mode. Bill gets clear just in time by jumping into the sea.

There’s a few tense hours when the Mad Dogs wonder if Bill got out alive, before he shows up at their hideout under a pub. After blasting a cask of wine to wash ‘the stink of Volgan uniforms’ off of them. Lest we get the wrong mood by them ending on a joke, Bill points out that the stink of Volgans is still all over the country, and needs to be washed away as violently as possible.

Thrill 2 - Flesh

It’s the DAY OF THE DINOSAUR’S REVENGE! The story opens with three pages of uninterrupted carnage as dinosaurs sweep over the base. Old One-Eye and the raptors go after humans, the other big meat-eaters attack the captive plan-eaters, and the Pteranodons kind of swoop around outside, sadly unable to get inside the base.

Inside the Flesh Controller’s office, the FC finally calls the other members of the trans-time board and demands more help to defend their base. Interestingly, all of the other trans-time executives also have ridiculously large heads:

Just then a group of spiders burst through the doors into the office, and the other door smashes open, revealing tyrannosaurs! Convinced that the situation is hopeless, the other executives decline to help, deciding that it just doesn’t make economic sense to risk any more people. While the tyrannosaurs struggle to get through one door, Eaqrl, Claw, and Joe struggle to fight their way through another. It doesn’t go well.

Yeah, um, remember those nightmare I mentioned? They're back.

The narration actually points out that Joe was the only human who thought dinosaur genocide might have been a bad idea – which I suppose makes his death more tragic? Earl, Claw and the FC make it out of the room – Earl sends the other two off to help with the evacuation, while he goes off to settle some personal business: He’s going to kill One-Eye. How he thinks this is going to help, I’m not sure.

Thrill 3 – Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

It’s time for the one-on-one sudden death game to decide which team will win the game! How do they decide which player on each team will take part? Every player reaches into a bucket full of action figures – one of the action figures has a skull head, and if you pick it, you’re up. The rules are simple – the game is over when one goal is scored, or when one of the players ‘begs for mercy!’

After the ball launch Red MacArdle beats up Zack and heads for the score post, but is tackled from behind before he can score. The two men beat each other up for a few moments, and the struggle ends with Red pushing Zack close to the electrified score post. Just as Zack is about to be knocked unconscious, he gives up!

Then, when Red lets him go, assuming that the game is over, Zack headbutts him and keeps playing!

Wait- What? I know the rules of this game don’t make the most sense, but this is crazy. Two hard and fast rules were established about how sudden death ends: You score, or your opponent surrenders. We can all see that panel up there. Zack surrendered. You can’t ‘take back’ a surrender. Imagine a guy in UFC being held in some kind of a arm bar tapping out, then when his opponent lets go, saying ‘just kidding’ and attacking his opponent again. You can’t do that. The game’s over.

So anyway, the Heroes’ cheating is rewarded with a ‘win’, and the match ends with Red congratulating the Heroes on cheating him out of a win. It’s a little confusing.

As the Heroes leave in their super-liner the story’s mysterious villain (who can only be Ulysses Cord – seriously, could you please introduce at least one other character so there’s the slightest hat tipped in the direction of surprise?) watches from a helicopter. He’s disappointed that the match didn’t turn into the ‘bloodbath’ he’d hoped, but he’s got a plan to get the result he wants anyways. The villain looks over to his passenger… Artie Gruber(!) and tells him that he’s going to get another shot at the heroes!

So, just to be clear, the villain announced at the end of issue 11 that what he had planned next would make Artie look like ‘a boy scout’. Now it’s revealed that his next plan was to… send Artie to try and kill them again.

Oy. This is what happens when you don't plan your comics ahead of time, people.

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare: Space Hyper-Hero (?/Belardinelli)

When we left Dan, his spaceship, the… ugh… Titan I.C. was about to crash land on a planet inside a sun. It survives the crash just fine, and after Rok uses his (no really it’s not a) light saber to cut Dan and the captain free, they stumble outside into the super-heated planet wearing their environment suits. There’s no sign of the captain’s pet Amoeba, so until it shows up to save the day, I’m going to assume it was killed in the crash.

The crash which was, as predicted, on the Mekon’s secret planet. The Mekon’s sensors pick up the crashing ship, and he sends troops to investigate. After a brief skirmish Dan realizes that escape is impossible, and he has them surrender to the Mekon’s troops.

The Mekon has them brought in so he can discover if anyone else knows about the planet. He doesn’t recognize Dan, but then the idiotic captain goes and mentions Dan’s full name while blaming him for crashing on the planet. This leads to the following entertaining image, as the Mekon remembers Dan as looking like someone drawn in a completely different art style:

Confused by this surprising turn of events, the Mekon orders Dan, Rok, and the Captain to be tortured for information, and then killed after they tell all they know. Which leaves them without much of a motive to talk, I should think.

You know, this is all so unbelievably contrived that I want to take a moment to lay out the series of events that got us here.

1 – Dan fights the Biogs, who are from somewhere on ‘the galactic Rim’
2 – Dan figures that someone who knows the location of earth must have told the Biogs where to go.
3 – Dan hitches a ride on a ship going out to the galactic rim, which, seing as it counts all of the star systems along the outer edge of the galaxy, is a pretty damn big place.
4 – While on the way to the rim there’s an error with the jump drive that takes the ship into the heart of a random sun.
5 – Which just happens to be the secret base of the Mekon, the one person in the entire galaxy who knows Dan Dare personally, and is probably the guy who sent the Biogs to earth.

Wow, is that terrible writing – you know, if Harlem Heroes hadn’t insulted my intelligence even worse than this story did, Dan Dare easily would have been the worst thing about his comic.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

There’s a mystery afoot this week, as somewhere in Asia a group of holidayers were waylaid by an invisible beast during a blizzard! It’s up to Probe to get to the bottom of it! Their only clue? The president of Bepal (which is an entirely different place than Nepal, why do you ask?) personally asked the holidayers to smuggle ‘opium’ back to England, and when they refused, they were all killed!

Seriously, the ruler of the country asked them himself. You know, I consider myself pretty far from being a traitor, but had I been backpacking through Russia in the 80s and had Mikael Gorbachev personally ask me to bring some secret files to a sleeper agent somewhere in America, I probably would have done it. It’s just so flattering!

Of course, when Probe arrives in Bepal the Lama denies any involvement in smuggling. The armed guards keeping people from wandering around the palace at night raise Probe’s suspicions, though. Because that’s a totally unreasonable thing to go. If a foreign intelligence agent was asked to spend the night at Buckingham Palace, he would totally be allowed to just wander wherever he wanted to go, right?

Anyway, Probe sneaks into the garage area and discovers how they’re getting the opium out of the country – they’re building trucks whose fiberglass side panels are actually made of compressed opium! Brilliant! Of course, Probe is so distracted by the brilliance of the scheme that he forgets to not stand out in the open, staring at the trucks.

Making a quick getaway under a hail of fire, Probe leaps over a 7-meter wall, in a stunt that apparently warrants the inclusion of a ‘don’t try this at home’ disclaimer. On the other side of the wall Probe finds himself in the Yeti pen!

That’s right, it actually was yetis who killed the holidayers at the beginning! Yay! The lama tells his guards not to shoot – it will be more entertaining to watch Probe be killed by the abominable snowmen. Somehow seeing Probe easily leap 25 feet into the air didn’t tip off the Lama that there might be something wrong with that plan.

Probe quickly snaps the neck of one yeti, then breaks down the gate, allowing the other to rush out and tear the Lama to pieces. Having arranged a suitably ironic fate for his opponent, Probe takes his leave, confident that the whole drug problem has been taken care of.

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

Still trapped in Call-Me-Kenneth’s factory, Dredd is introduced to the other robots that Walter has brought in on his scheme. A security robot, a cleaning robot, and a maintenance robot. Dredd is skeptical, but then they reveal that they’ve got something precious – a copy of the old obedience laws on disk! All Dredd will have to do is make it to the robot control tower, and the original programming can be beamed into the heads of all new robot’s coming off the line! So he does that.

Speaking personally, I can’t really see either of those statements as being particularly comforting. With all the new robots coming off the line ready to obey Dredd, he and his followers are quickly able to regain control of the production facilities. His problems aren’t over yet, though – it seems that Ken is nowhere to be found!

Just then a call comes through for Dredd. Ken and the Heavy Metal Kids are attacking the Hall of Justice! Continuing the confusion over just what titles to use, when the robot announces that there’s a call for Dredd, he says it’s from the Grand Judge, but when Ken says he’s going to squeeze the juices out of that same man, he’s referred to as the Chief Judge. Arrgh.

In any event, it looks like it’s time for one last showdown between man and machine! Next week!

Final Thoughts

Best Story: MACH 1 – Much as I’m loving the robot uprising story in Dredd, the appearance of Yetis just made me too happy to give the title to anyone else.

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – By the rules set out in the world of the comic, they lost the game. So now I’m supposed to be rooting for cheaters to win. No thanks.

And now, because I couldn't resist:

(Photo credit goes to whoever it was that posted this picture of their cat on Flickr.

2000AD Summer Special (30-June-77)

In addition to the regular weekly issues, IPC magazines also published a few annuals and specials each year featuring the 2000AD characters. Because these British publishers are maddeningly vague about the publication dates they put on these things I’m not sure exactly where in the order of issues to drop them, so from here on out, unless I get specific information that suggests a better way of doing this, I’ll just be covering each annual at the beginning of the year it’s numbered as belonging to, and summer specials at the beginning of June. Hopefully the stories inside aren’t going to belong to the strict continuity of the series, and I won’t spoil anything early by covering it here, or miss out on part of a story in the main comic by not getting to it quickly enough.

Cover:

Some nice Kevin O’Neill art here – even if the action is maddeningly unclear (just what is happening to that spaceman on the right?), I love the lines of his robot designs so much that I’m happy to overlook any flaws.

Thrill 1 – Harlem Heroes

In this story the Heroes are headed to the Seattle Stadium to face off against that city’s ‘Sluggers’. In an odd note, the narrative text goes out of its way to refer to the Heroes as the famous team of ‘All-Black Superstars’! It seems like this is the sort of thing that the readers would see for themselves? Does it have to be pointed out to them? Or is it necessary to mention because this episode is going to be themed around racial intolerance?

The second strange thing is that the ‘Seattle Sluggers’ aren’t actually in the Aeroball league yet. So why, exactly, are the heroes playing against them? Aren’t they in the playoffs at the moment? It’s not like this is a flashback – Zack is already on the team. Do they really have the time to be wasting on exhibition games?

Giant and Zack head back to the locker room area to meet their competition, and they’re rebuffed by a bodyguard who won’t let anyone in to the changing areas.

Boy? Seriously? Wow, this might actually be a story about racial intolerance in the future!

Half an hour later the game begins, and the Heroes quickly find themselves outmatched by their mysterious, face-masked opposition. The Sluggers power through any block with ease, and punching them is like hitting a brick wall!

At halftime, Giant gathers the team together to outline his suspicions about the Sluggers. He suggests a new game plan that starts with Slim grabbing the ball and afterburning towards the pitch. The Sluggers aren’t great at turning, so when Slim pulls up at the last minute, the two men on his tail slam into the ground and explode. It seems they weren’t men at all, but robots!

The referee offers to call the game for the Heroes – while there’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t field a team of robots (really? There’s no ‘the players must be human’ rule? I thought after the whole football-playing donkey of the 20th century fiasco that would have been the first rule in every sport.) it simply wasn’t fair not to tell the Heroes. Giant declines – he wants to beat the Sluggers, despite their disadvantage.

And beat the robots they do, by simply using their agility against the raw strength of the machines. Come to think of it, that’s exactly how they beat the Scotsmen, isn’t it? At the end of the game it’s revealed that the Sluggers’ sponsors, ‘International Robots’, were using the team as a publicity stunt to market their wares, and now that it’s over, they’re pulling out of the sport. So this wasn’t a story about racism at all, and it’s cool to call a black guy ‘Boy’ in the mid-21st century. Good to know.

Also, I can’t stress how weird it is to see a Heroes story that isn’t drawn by Dave Gibbons. And by weird, I mean terrible. It looks terrible.

Thrill 2 – Judge Dredd

The story opens in medias res, with Dredd having been the victim of a terrorist bomb! His hand has been shattered, and the Chief Judge (not grand judge any more, I see) gets the bad news: Dredd’s trigger finger may only be 99% effective – which would make him useless as a judge! (What, really?) Upon getting the news, Dredd demands to be let back on the streets immediately. Take a look at Dredd here:

Is this whole story a flashback? Is this bombing how he got disfigured in the first place? Also note the arrogance. The city will fall apart without him on the streets? Who does he think he is, Horatio Caine? The chief judge agrees, but only if Dredd can pass the Judge Assessment test in ‘Washington Sector’. I guess since old Washington is now part of Mega-City 1, some people still call it by that name. Although I assume at some point it will be assigned a sector number, like the rest of the city.

It turns out that the testing centre is run by a mister Dimitrov, who has a bone to pick with Dredd. A few years back Dredd was involved in a shootout in a crowded public area, and one of his heat-seeking bullets accidentally blew Dimitrov’s arm off. Dimitrov claims there aren’t any hard feelings, then he heads back to the control center to control the carious traps and dangers manually so that he can ensure Dredd is killed.

Interestingly, he doesn’t have to add special traps to the range – it turns out the obstacle course is already using live ammunition. All Dimitrov does is turn up the difficulty level to 11.

It’s to no avail, though – Dredd blasts all the robots quickly, then pulls off some amazing bike stunts, and finally escapes a high-pressure chamber by making an impossible sniper shot.

Frustrated by his inability to kill Dredd, Dimitrov heads down to handle the job himself – there’s a gun in his fake right hand! Dredd is too observant to be tricked, though – he remembers that Dimitrov normally shakes with his left hand! Dredd snaps Dimitrov’s fake hand, bending the arm back so that when the gun goes off, it shoots Dimitrov in the head!

Another case closed, and the Judge Dredd Death count is raised to 20! Even though Dredd claims that Dimitrov did it to himself, he really could have pointed that gun arm anywhere.

THRILL 3 – Invasion!

All over England the Volgs are randomly rounding up whole neighbourhoods, hoping to come across resistance sympathizers or personnel. On one raid they come across a Brigadier (the same one responsible for the Canadian fiasco in issue 14 – I guess this takes place earlier?) and spirit him away to an old Roman fortress they’re using as a prisoner of war facility.

Disguising their truck as a food delivery vehicle, the Mad Dogs rush into the castle and start searching for the Brigadier, leading to the following confusing image:

Okay, what’s wrong with this image?

The volgs overreact to the assault, and decide to execute the Brigadier before the Mad Dogs can get to him. Savage is having none of it, though. He runs into the hollow roman wall and sticks a pistol through a hole in it to kill the firing squad. In an even more confusing series of images, the remaining volgs fire on the wall, hoping to hit Savage, and then when it’s weakened enough, he pushes it down, killing all of them.

Seriously, how can you cause a wall to collapse so that it hurts the guys on the other side, but not you? Also, where was the general during all this? Last we saw, he was right in front of the wall. And why did the Volgs get so close?

Anyhow, with all the Naz- um, Volgans dead, Bill runs the Brig back to their van and make a quick getaway. The Brigadier is happy to have been rescued, but Bill reminds him that two Mad Dogs were killed in the rescue, so he shouldn’t be too gleeful. Which, I think, makes this only the second time Mad Dogs have ever been killed.

Ah, he’s probably just crabby because he couldn’t find his shotgun this morning.

THRILL 4 – Dan Dare: Space Hyper-Hero!

Wow, first a non-Gibbons Heroes, and now a non-Belardinelli Dan Dare. What is the world coming to? Actually, those guys were probably busy on the weekly strip, so this isn’t much of a mystery at all. The story, which doesn’t fit anywhere into the continuity as we know it, involves Dan being put in charge of a ship sent out to collect dust particles from around Pluto to bring back to earth for study. While they’re out at the rim the ship stumbles across a bizarre spacial anomaly that sucks all of them into an alternate universe!

They close in on an anti-matter planet, and are pulled down to a landing by a tractor beam. Dan’s terrified that his ship (which is made of matter) will explode when it hits the anti-atmosphere, but the ring of energy protects them as it drags them to the surface. Who’s responsible for the energy?

I’ll be honest. I did not see that coming.

After peacefully escorting Dan back to their council chamber, the frogmen explain that their planet is actually a giant spaceship that wanders through the universe without the benefit of a sun. How do they manage it? By sending anti-matter particles through to our dimension, where it hits a planet, causing the planet to explode. They catch the resultant shockwave in their dimensional bridge, and use that force to propel their planet through space. And also warm it, I assume.

So what do they want from Dan? Why the location of Earth, of course! So they can blow it up and use the energy!

That’s kind of a dickish move, isn’t it? I mean, why does it have to be Dan’s homeworld? Couldn’t they have asked for the location of an uninhabited hunk of rock first? Or do they just love evil?

Dan’s not waiting around to find out. He punches out a few of the frogs and runs for the dock. Because of the energy field surrounding him, the frogs can’t stop the spaceman! In minutes Dan is back on his ship, plotting his next move.

He uses something called a ‘mole gun’ to break a hole in the ship’s energy shield, then fires a missile through the hole. The matter/anti-matter explosion detonates THE ENTIRE PLANET, while Dan’s ship is protected by the energy shield. Fortunately the explosion also knocks Dan’s ship back into his own dimension… for some reason… and we’ve got a happy ending. Having just murdered an entire planet’s worth of people, Dan is free to get back to his day job – collecting dust!

I really don’t know what to say about this one. If ever there was a situation you’d think a hero could have noodled a peaceful solution to, this is it. And Dan’s response was genocide. Yikes.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

The Probe story opens with action – specifically Probe using an M16 to shoot down a fighter jet, Golgo 13-style! It seems that he’s an a war-torn African republic that’s besieged by a group of Russian-backed rebels and their MIG-23s.

Probe’s got a plan to defeat the enemy air force, but first he stops by a hospital to rescue the men inside after it’s set afire by a rebel missile. Over at the national air strip the RAF’s last local pilot is taking off in their last remaining plane, a two-seat training model armed only with a cannon!

John sprints up the runway, smashes into the cockpit, and forces the pilot to eject – it’s going to be too dangerous a mission for a normal man to take part! Finding the enemy airstrip, Proble blocks it by destroying a MIG on the runway – but not before two other jets take off!

They fire heat-seeking missiles at him, but Probe’s too good! He stalls out to put some space between his jet and the rockets, then speeds down to ground level and buzzes the air traffic control tower, tricking the missiles into destroying it!

Then it’s simply a matter of luring the MIGs into the nearby city, where Probe’s reflexes will allow him to make turns that leave them smashing into buildings! The enemy air force destroyed, Probe heads home, radioing their ground troops to let them know they can start their attack!

Thrill 6 – The Phantom Patrol?

That’s right, the sixth Thrill in this comic, instead of being a Flesh story, is about a British infantry patrol in Greece during the second world war. Taking refuge from German shelling inside a cave, the troops find a bizarre machine full of futuristic technology. After grabbing what looks like a radio, the troop heads out of the cave and onto their landing craft, hoping to make a quick getaway. When a Stuka spots them the soldiers dive for cover, and Joe (the one who found the ‘radio’) accidentally presses a button on it – sending them all far back in time!

Well, they don’t know they’re back in time immediately, and don’t even catch on when they see two ancient ships fighting each other. Their theory? That Mussolini is making some kind of a propaganda film about ancient Italian history. It’s only when they sink the galleys and pick up one of the survivors that they learn the truth – the ‘radio’ is actually a time machine!

When more Galleys arrive, Joe has their Greek soldier translate a message – he explains that they’re soldiers from the future, and don’t want a fight. The captain of the Greek ship agrees to escort the troop to Egypt, but only if they assist in retaking the island of Lemnos from the Trojans along the way. They consider just spinning the dial on the time machine and seeing what happens, but Joe says they’d better play it safe and figure out how the thing works before risking it. How they plan on discovering that is unclear, what with it being technology from the future with no markings on it.

The next day they arrive at Lemnos, and the writers officially stop caring about the fact that the British characters should have no idea what anyone else is saying, and vice-versa. At first it looks like it’s going to be an easy win, with the tank they brought along scaring off most of the soldiers, but it turns out the Trojans are craftier than anticipated, and they manage to use a battering ram to knock the tank on its side. I’m not sure how the physics of that work, but let’s continue.

The Trojans take the tank crew hostage in hopes of learning how the tank works. If this seems reminiscent of any historical incident, it’s supposed to. In fact, the tank crew wants to make sure we get it by saying the exact same thing twice:

Yes Joe, but did you notice the situation’s similarity to the wooden horse?

You know, there really is a Simpsons quote for every situation, isn't there? There is a special prize for the first person to mention it in the comments! (disclaimer: No such prize exists)

The crew is tossed down a prison-hole for the night, but they quickly use their hidden commando grappling hooks to escape. Then it’s a simple matter of gunning down the soldiers guarding the tank, and driving it away to safety!

On their way out of the camp they break down the front gates of the fortress, allowing the Greeks to pour in and attack the Trojans head-on. The battle calls to mind Leonidas and the 300 Spartans to one of the troop, but another points out that that battle won’t happen for another five hundred years! Which seems like an amazingly specific thing to say, after all, do they have any idea what specific year they’re in? I can’t imagine the Greeks are using a system of dates that the soldiers would recognize, and unless they knew when the famous ‘occupation of Lemnos by the Trojans’ happened, you’d think they would still be completely in the dark as to their specific location in time.

With the battle won, the Troop bid their Greek friends ado and head off to Egypt, after explaining that yes, before we ask, they do have enough petrol to get them there. Although I assume that their landing craft has a diesel engine, so they won’t have too much trouble finding fuel for it, even in the distant past. That’s where the story winds up, with the troop planning to adventure through the ancient world, trying to find a way home. Well, a way home other than actually using the time machine they’ve got in their hands, of course.

Does this become a recurring story? Because this is the first time I’ve ever heard of it.

Thrill 7 – Flesh

In a first for the series, the story opens in the future where the board of Advanced Protein Incorporated is fuming about the low prices that Trans-Time charges for its dino steaks! They just can’t compete! Although I don’t know what they’re competing with. Do they also have time-traveling dinosaur herding operations, or do they just grow meat? In any event, they establish that the only way TT can charge such low prices is because Earl Reagan is such an exceptionally good trail boss. You know, they have a point – sure, Earl loses like fifty Rangers every time he goes out, but with anyone else they’d lose a hundred, shooting the profit margins all to hell! The API board dispatches an assassin back in time with one mission – kill Earl Reagan!

Back in the cretaceous we get a look at some standard dino-herding action. Things start out looking good, but then the heard is attacked by a giant python… look, if you’ve been reading Flesh along with me you know where this is going – there’s a stampede, 20 rangers are killed, let’s move along to the good stuff.

Back at base Earl demands more replacement rangers so that they can get the meat yields higher. I don’t actually know why this is an issue – they’re sending the meat through TIME, after all, can’t they decide when it arrives? However long it takes them to round up the meat, can’t all of it be sent to a single fixed point in the future? Too many time travel stories treat the past like it’s a different country, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Flesh is one of them.

Anyhow, the assassin Skerrett comes back with the other reinforcement rangers, and he tries to shoot Earl in the back! Earl is saved at the last moment when his sidekick… Jim(? – did no one know that the character’s name was Joe?)… lassos him from a hoverbike and pulls him into mid-air. How did he know to catch the killer? It seems Skerrett talked out loud to himself about his murdering scheme. While sneaking up on Earl. With his two-way radio switched on.

Then Skerrett is packed into a box and sent to the future, where he’s delivered to the president of API. The story then ends, never having explained precisely what was going on with the corporate intrigue.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – Unless an alternate story is offered later, I’m going to assume this is how Dredd got horribly disfigured, and the cool-factor of an origin story easily wins the title this week.

Worst Story: Flesh – It was tough to pick a winner (loser?) here. The Heroes’ robot nonsense, Dan Dare’s adventure in mass-murder – they’re all bad. But the way the Flesh story sets aside the entire environmental message of the strip and gives us dull corporate ‘intrigue’ instead is just inexcusable. Add to that the utterly reprehensible art:

And you’ve got a recipe for a terrible special edition comic. Seriously, this whole thing is a pretty big disaster, especially when you consider how competent-to-great the normal comic is. Hopefully these specials will pick up in the future.

22.4.15

The Two-Hundred-Thirty-Fifth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

I'm used to Hitler appearing in comics during the war, but seeing him lounging in a chair, chatting about relationships? That's fresh!