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

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So remember, kids - science is necessarily divorced from morality, and so Doctors can never be trusted!


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.


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.


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!


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

Oh, Chop-Chop, you can always be trusted to shock us with the casualness of historical racism.


Scavenger! It's awful!

I want to talk about Scavenger, and why I consider it one of the worst novels I've ever read.  A 2000 novel by Tom Savage, Scavenger tells the story of one Mark Stevenson, who is offered the chance to play a madman's game in the hopes of discovering the truth behind the murder of his entire family a decade earlier. Perfectly fine premise, but it gets into trouble by being a Tom Savage novel. What do I mean by this?

Well, to be blunt, Tom has a bad habit of cheating. He doesn't outright lie to the reader creating plot holes, he practices something far more insidious - his most effective trick is to have an unexpected character turn out to a sociopathic killer right at the end of the story with no lead-up to hint at the reveal. He banks on his audience being so shocked by the pulled rug that they don't go back and think too hard about the suddenly-evil character's actions and thoughts in the rest of the book. A great writer will fill their books with tiny hints leading up to the reveal, and bits of dialogue or cast-off thoughts and actions that only make sense in retrospect. Tom Savage is not a great writer, and his manipulative practices ensure that his books can only be read once - when you go back, knowing full well which character is the villain, their actions and motivations invariably make no sense whatsoever.

A perfect example of this is his novel Valentine - it involves a woman being stalked by a psychotic man from her past. It features chapters told from the point of view of a stalker, stalking her. Then, for the shocking reveal, we discover that the stalker stalking her was a completely benign figure just looking to get revenge on the killer, who'd also murdered his sister some time previously. While this doesn't seem like cheating on its face, and makes for an effective twist, going back and reading the book will reveal that the stalker's behaviour and thoughts make absolutely no sense if he's not the story's villain. If he didn't have any ill intentions towards the main character, there's absolutely no way for him to behave and think the way he does.

Which brings me to Scavenger, the most egregious example of Tom's cheating. I struggled to figure out the best way to review this book - it's difficult to explain exactly how bad it is without going through the entire plot, and if I'm doing that, I might as well just encourage people to go ahead and read the darned thing. Seeing as that's the last thing I want, I'm instead going to lay out the sequence of events as cleanly as possible - hopefully proving that when looked at dispassionately (at first, there will be commentary as well), the events of the book will be self-evidently idiotic. It's not going to be the cleanest of reviews, though, as I'll have to jump back and forth in timelines to put things in the most helpful order, and of course I'll have to spoil every surprise the book has to offer right away, so if anyone is interested in reading it, they should go and do that now, before returning to the review proper.

All aboard, then.


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

If you can think of a better April Fool's Day prank than walling someone up alive, I'd like to hear it!