Programme 7 (09-April-77)

Cover: The dialogue is always welcome, but the cover is otherwise unremarkable, suggesting that this episode is going to feature a battle between the crew of Monday’s ship and the biogs. This will almost certainly happen, but I don’t anticipate it being particularly enthralling.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

Last time I observed that the whole Invasion story was a thinly-veiled fantasy story asking ‘what if the Nazis invaded England?’, and it seems that this week they decided to throw all pretense that it was anything else right out the window. The story opens with Volgans moving a bunch of English Citizens of a fancy passenger train – the invasion forces need to get to Cardiff, and everyone else can make do. Make do, with being stuffed into cattle cars.

Yeah. It’s awkward.

Although, in an example of technological futurism getting things completely wrong in two opposing ways in a single panel. Not even a whole panel, actually, but rather two posters at the bottom-right corner of a panel.

So, by the year 1999 British Rail will have switched over almost entirely to magnetic hover trains… but the Chunnel won’t open for another three years. Probably even longer now, what with the INVASION! and all. So they were 8 years too conservative about the chunnel, and an infinite amount too optimistic about mag-lev trains. (I’ll plug a number in there once people actually start using the things).

These trains aren’t just a fun scene-setting device, though. It seems that they’re an integral part of Bill Savage’s new plan! It seems that Field Marshal Zinski, head of the invasion force, is driving in a convoy that’s about to cross the very rail line that the troop train is traveling along!

It’s daring scheme – Savage plans to trap the general’s car in the middle of the crossing just as the train approaches.

A daring scheme, but not a particularly smart one. By all appearances (we see it shatter on the next page) the barrier is made of wood, so it’s not clear why the car can’t just drive through it when they notice the train coming. Also, this plan is dependent on the Volgan convoy getting to this specific rail crossing almost exactly as the train was going to arrive, which seems like incredibly specific timing for a convoy involving supply trucks and a tank. Don’t those things just get there when they get there? Most importantly, though, the goal of the plan is to get a train to crash into the car, which causes the train to derail.

But the train was only commandeered a single hour ago, and Savage and he people had to be lying in wait at the crossing some time earlier. While he could have been sure that the London/Cardiff 9:15 would be arriving at that crossing around 10:15, the same time it does every day, there’s no way he could have known that it was going to be full of Volgan troops, which makes this an incredibly reckless plan that just happened to work out, as opposed to a brilliant strategy.

Everything goes according to plan, the train kills the field marshal and derails, killing many of the troops inside. The Mad Dogs then spring out of the brush and execute the survivors. I’m not sure what happened to the tank that was in the convoy.

Just then reinforcements arrive on transport helicopters, ready to blast the Mad Dogs to pieces. Bill hasn’t used all the rounds from his recoilless rifle, giving him a chance to blast one of the helicopters out of the sky. In a lucky turn, one helicopter crashes into the other, wiping out all of the Volgan shock troopers. The Mad Dogs escape in their van, wondering just how the reinforcements got there so quickly.

This is the kind of question that could lead into a larger storyline involving the hunt for a traitor within their ranks – but that’s not how Invasion! does things:

Yeah, they just wrapped up that entire storyline in two panels. Pretty impressive, no? The bigger question, though, is exactly what kind of propaganda broadcasts are the Volgans running? First off, they’re publicly announcing a military failure to the very people they’re supposed to be oppressing. What possible motive could they have to do that? Also, why are they calling Savage’s group ‘the British resistance’? Wouldn’t that be like the American media calling the ‘insurgents’ in Iraq the ‘Iraqi resistance’? Worst of all, why are they publicly announcing that the Mad Dogs have a traitor in their group? Way to lose your only source of intelligence, guys.

If the Volgans are going to bungle their occupation this badly, they deserve to lose.

Thrill 2 - Flesh

Once again picking up just where we left off, this episode of Flesh finds the other dinosaur herders who didn’t go to Carver City are finally calling the base for help, after the dino attack has been going on long enough for the city to look like this:

Please note just how bizarrely off the scale of that city is. Dinosaurs are big, but they’re not that big. We also learn that the head of the trans-time corporation in the past is a man called ‘The Flesh Controller’. That is wonderful. Also, FC is kind of a dick, and orders the other herders not to rescue Reagan and the others, because doing so could risk the herd.

After that distraction, we return to Earl, who was about to be eaten by Old One-Eye. Luckily the horrible gash in his shoulder that Carver put there last issue has healed, and Earl is able to pick up a shattered timber and wedge it between One-Eye’s jaws before they can snap shut on him.

This action distracts One-Eye long enough for the smoke from the burning town and dome to start bothering her. Confused and alienated, she runs out of the dome and manages to kill yet another herder, as well as the Alamosaur he was trying to return to the pack.

Back in the city Earl is ready to kill Carver, but the Doc stands in the way, announcing that all of them will have to work together in order to get back to the trans-time base alive. The situation is made even worse because the herd has lit out, taking all the vehicles and guns with them. This convinces Earl that he’ll need an extra claw on his side, although that idea seems like a bit of a stretch – when has letting a known-to-be treacherous guy on the team ever worked out well for anyone, ever?

The invisible man teamed up with Martians, for god’s sake!

Thrill 3 - Harlem Heroes (?/Gibbons)

Facing off against the Siberian Wolves proves to be even more dangerous than the heroes originally thought! They’re so dedicated to scoring that they’ll even manually stuff a ball into the score post, electrocuting themselves. The Heroes could learn a thing or two from these guys.

The Heroes quickly even things back up by playing the ground game – they know that the Wolves fly so fast that they’ll wind up crashing into the ground and each other if they get into close quarters. The plan works, and the Heroes score after three more Wolves wind up injuring themselves.

This dialogue isn’t as strange as it seems. I remember the time, back in the 90s when I had strep throat, the doctor told me that I would have been in trouble a hundred years ago, but ‘thanks to the miracle of 20th century antibiotic technology’, I would be fine.

The game starts up again, but Giant runs into immediate trouble when his jetpack malfunctions and sends him racing for the roof! He has no option but to eject from the back before it crashes, and hope that someone will catch him before he hits the ground!

That would be a great point to end the story, but they elect to not leave well enough alone, and thrown in a flashback to Louis announcing that someone is sabotaging them. Yeah. We figured that out for ourselves, guys.

No dialogue from Chico or Sammy this time – there's one line from an unidentified player, but based on his position in the pack, I’m guessing it was Zack. The count remains at just one issue left, and one line of dialogue between them.

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

Remember the Living Axe from last issue? Apparently the writers do as well, since this issue opens with Dan being attacked by his own weapon, leaving him with just one option…

Having successfully… tamed the axe!… Dan and Monday follow the power lines to the mother Biog, from who all Biog energy is created. When they arrive they discover that one of the space troopers has already been devoured and converted into energy, with the rest soon to follow!

Dan and Monday attack the Shepherds, making short work of them. Really short work. There’s a one-panel fight and then all the defenses are gone. The mother Biog, who you’d think would be a little tougher, also goes down in a single panel. I’d have a bigger problem with that if the manner in which she’s killed wasn’t so perfect-

God bless you, Dan Dare. They gather the remaining soldiers together and head for their landing craft – it seems that without the energy from the Mother Biog feeding them the various Biog cities will self-destruct in just a few minutes. I’m not exactly sure how they know where the landing craft is, since they were carried a great distance from it in the belly of Biogs while unconscious, but let’s move on. On their way back to the ship, they’re confronted with still more Shepherds, and their own living axes!

They get into the landing craft and blast off, quickly zooming towards Monday’s spaceship, the Odyssey. It looks like the day has been saved! Except for one minor thing… the Biogs have their own living spaceship!

Yet another week goes by without Monday sacrificing himself heroically. If he doesn’t do that next week, my prediction will be completely shot.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

John Probe is sent to ‘Bolavia’, a country in South America in order to rescue a British Arms Manufacturer who has been held captive since the recent revolution in that country. With roving bands of soldiers combing the countryside, Probe has to rely on a local boy to guide him into the city. The boy asks if he can be of more help, but Probe tells him it’s too dangerous. This can’t go well.

Probe sneaks up to the Hotel where the industrialist is being held, then blows up the truck to create a diversion. Then he climbs into the penthouse, beats up a few guards, and lowers the industrialist down to ground level with a rope.

Just as they’re about to escape in a truck, Probe notices that the cops have arrested his guide, who tried to sneak into the city to help Probe with his mission. Proving that he’s a decent sort who has no interest in completing his mission, Probe rushes to rescue the young boy, putting the Industrialist’s life in danger.

He makes quick work of the guards, but the captain riding in the back of the police car puts a gun to the guide’s head, forcing Probe’s surrender. Now they’re in a real bind – all three have been captured, and because they know about Probe’s powers, they can’t be taken by surprise!

But Probe’s got a trick up his sleeve – he shuts his hyperpower off! The effects of his injuries immediately take effect, and Probe falls unconscious. He’s taken to a cell where he sleeps it off, and the next day he’s brought to a torture chamber where his arms are bound to columns.

Wait, I just realized where this is going. I’ll give them this, I was not expecting MACH 1 to retell the story of Samson. But here it is:

As the headquarters crumbles around them Probe manages to rescue the industrialist, guide, and capture the captain of the police force to use as a hostage! All in two panels! They commandeer a helicopter and fly away to safety. After tossing the captain out at two thousand feet, of course!

Thrill 6 – Judge Dredd

The story opens with the unveiling of the Statue of Justice, the city’s statue celebrating the judges that protect it – it’s so tall that it dwarfs the statue of Liberty, which it was built beside – necessitating an expansion of Liberty Island. The text actually announces that it was the people’s idea to erect a statue celebrating the Judges, which suggests a more congenial relationship between the parties than my later experiences with the character would suggest. It’s early, though, and they’re still developing things.

A few crooks decide that a huge public event like this one is the perfect time to start mugging random folks in the crowd. In a coincidence that ought to startle absolutely no one, there happens to be a judge nearby. At the celebration for a statue honoring judges. Unluckily for the muggers, it turns out to be Judge Dredd. Which they already knew?

He has a custom siren?

The muggers pull out guns and open fire at Dredd, who responds by gunning one of them down. One proves a smart sort and surrenders immediately, and the other, much stupider criminal “Ringo” runs for it.

While escaping on a hover-taxi Ringo states that he ‘hates the judges and everything they stand for!’ Does he hate justice? Social order? Uniforms?

Having absolutely none of this, Dredd grabs his rifle and takes the elevator to the top of the statue, all the while musing about law enforcement at the end of the 21st century. He wonders why they, with all their modern technology, haven’t managed to wipe out crime yet. A wag might suggest that in order to wipe out crime you need things like social equality and an end to poverty, not just fancier guns, but there are no wags about, so his preconceptions go unchallenged.

Instead of attempting to make a getaway Ringo turns back towards the statue of justice, which he somehow knows Judge Dredd is at the top of, and opens fire. Staying cool, Dredd fires back, damaging the hover taxi and knocking Ringo off of it. He tumbles through the air for a moment before winding up impaled on one of the spikes in the statue of Liberty’s crown. This gives Dredd the chance to wheel out this little gem:

Yeah, they can’t all be classics.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (17) + 1 = 18

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Dan Dare – The ongoing appearances of the living axe is all I need to announce the utter superiority of this story over all others.

Worst Story: Harlem Heroes – Yeah, I’m mildly interested in the stuff about a conspiracy to destroy the Heroes, but considerably less interested in the actual games. Maybe Aeroball would be interesting to watch in motion, but it just doesn’t make enough sense on the page to be compelling.

The final page of the issue promises that, starting next week, they’ll be publishing pages that can be cut into pieces and turned into a ‘Flesh’-themed card game. I literally cannot wait to see that.

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