Programme 53 (25-Feb-78)


Another story cover, this one picking up the whole ‘clone impersonates Dan’ storyline. Personally, I’m still hoping that it’s going to take a Phillip K. Dick kinda twist and it’ll turn out that we’ve been watching the clone, who genuinely thinks he’s Dan. Will this prove to be the case? Find out as the review continues! Although, based on the plot as we see it on this page, with Dan making a sudden course change, there’s no way that’s the real guy.

(also, is that closeup based on a real-life model? It seems weirdly detailed and unlike Dave Gibbons’ normal style.)

Thrill 1 – Dan Dare (Finley-Day/Gibbons/Gibbons)

Discovered in the broom closet he was using to hide, Dan makes a quick getaway on a cargo loader – some other men give chase on their own vehicles, ending with a crash that takes everyone into the bridge! That’s right, in the space fort, there’s a large cargo area directly bordering on the bridge. Seems like an odd design choice, but I’m not sure why…

Dan quickly grabs the pilot and holds him hostage, leading the alien to demand that they both be shot. When the crew won’t act quickly enough in response, the alien grabs for Bear’s gun, which Dan finds suspicious. Why, he asks, would the real Dan need Bear’s gun when he’s got a perfectly good one on his hip? Drawing the logical conclusion, Dan announces that the copy-coffin must be able to produce things that look perfect, but complex machines wouldn’t be functional!

So, to put it in universally understandable terms, it works just like the T-1000.

To prove his point, Dan grabs the pilot’s gun and uses it to blow a hole in the clone:

With that out of the way, there’s only one mystery left to solve… what’s the nature of the alien planet that they’ve just arrived at, having followed the clone’s co-ordinates!

Also, there’s the mystery of why both this episode of Dan Dare and that recent future shock both featured flawless clones that melted when killed.

Thrill 2 – MACH 1 (Roy Preston/Montero/Nutall)

Things aren’t going well for John Probe, the MACH Man – and not just because he took a few weeks off to make room for the disappointingly anti-climactic adventures of the Visible Man. No, after bearing witness to Sharpe’s treachery in the Mach Zero affair, Probe decided to spend a month and a half getting drunk in New York. Instead of, you know, making some positive efforts to take down Sharpe or something like that.

No, it takes Sharpe’s men showing up and trying to forcibly drag Probe back to England to activate the Mach Man, but after a bar-room brawl he’s so low energy that a simple nightstick to the head is able to put him down for the count.

After Probe is returned to Old Blighty, Sharpe reads him the riot act, reminding Probe that he’s the property of the UK government, and far too valuable to be wasting away in a bar somewhere. Knowing full well that without a recharge of hyperpower he doesn’t have much longer to live, Probe agrees to get back to work… but how good is his word?

So just what are the dolphin tapes, and will Probe be able to use them to destroy Probe? Hopefully we’ll get some inkling next time!

Thrill 3 – Colony Earth (Watson/Watson/Potter)

As this episode opens, Professor Vandenberg has discovered the location of the missing British submarine: it fell on a South American village, thousands of miles away from its last known location! If the death of the sub’s crew and an entire village wasn’t bad enough, Hunter and the Doc find a trail of heavy footprints leading away from the carnage – meaning that something must have survived the slaughter! But what could it be?

I mean, we know it’s the robot from last time, but they still don’t, so keep quiet.

Or maybe you don’t have t, since a quick helicopter recon allows them to spot it:

Doc and Hunter disembark to investigate the robot, just seconds before it uses its eyebeams to destroy both of the British helicopters! From there, bad turns to worse as reinforcements arrive… alien reinforcements!

Oddly, the text on this page really harps on the fact that the ship decelerated from ‘thousands of miles per hour’ to a dead stop instantaneously, as if the aliens possessing an inertialess drive was the most terrifying thing imaginable. Also causing storytelling problems? The fact that immediate deceleration is almost impossible to depict with a single panel.

Thrill 4 – Judge Dredd (Wagner/Bolland/Jacob)

You know, based on that splash page, it’s really not hard to tell why Judge Dredd became the standout strip of this comic, is it? Not just because Ian Gibson is a fantastic artist, either – take a look at that panel conceptually. It’s a car named Elvis driving through a crowd of people while eating one of them. What’s not to love?

And when you compare that to ‘space alien wants to go to a planet’, ‘poorly sketched submarine on village’ and ‘John Probe is unshaven and drunk’, it seems like, up to this point, only one of the stories in this issue had the slightest idea of how to start things off with a bang.

So, onto the story – it seems that Elvis is the property of one Dave Paton, who’s so car crazy that not only did he save up for years to buy a roadster, but he still does repairs on it himself, despite the fact that the AI-enabled auto is capable of self-maintenance. Tragically Dave proves to be more enthusiastic than skilled when it comes to car repairs, and a dropped spanner (British for ‘wrench’) damages Elvis’ ‘responsibility circuits’. That’s right – as we learned from the Call-Me-Kenneth epic, every robot in the future is just a slight malfunction away from going kill-crazy.

With his personality restrictions removed, Elvis is free to throttle, eject, and then chomp on Dave before tossing him to the side of the road, where he’s discovered by Dredd soon after-

With the pathos out of the way, it’s time to raise the stakes – Elvis crushes his way to a parking garage, where he’s cornered by the fuzz. Luckily for him, however, he remembers what kind of damage it was that allowed him to turn psychotic, so it’s a simple matter for Elvis to use his maintenance arms to turn the rest of the parked cars into kill-crazy deathrollers!

Judge Dredd Kill Count (43)+0=43


In preparation for Walter’s next adventure on the back page of this issue, here’s a schematic of how the adorable little fella works!

(click to bigify)

Care to guess what I found disturbing about this?

Thrill 5 – Future Shock (Robert Flynn/Ewins/Knight)

Hot young actor Robert McKinnon has one vice… fortune telling! He can’t get enough of horoscopes, psychics, and the like. So when he sees a newspaper article about a scientist building a future-seeing machine, it’s only natural that he be curious about what new predictions science can offer.

The reading proves somewhat disturbing, however, when Robert sees a vision of himself being run down by a speeding car on New York’s 5th Avenue! His solution? Leave America and never return. Now, you may think this is kind of a rash decision, what with Robert living in LA and all, but he’s thought it through:

Who can argue with that logic?

Robert moves to England, where he immediately finds work in the local film industry – while touring the set, which is an entire city street built indoors on a soundstage, Robert sees a light about to topple onto some workers. He rushes to warn them, but-


He’s hit by a car, just like in the vision! How is it possible? Well it seems that the fake street that was built for the movie was… New York’s 5th Avenue!

Hopefully we’ve all learned a valuable lesson from this week’s story – if you’re an actor who knows he’s going to be killed in a specific place, but not when, and you get hired to be in a movie, be sure to read the script before going to the set, so you can tell if the set is going to ironically be the very place of your doom.

Truly the kind of everyday advice we could all use some more of, yes?

Thrill 6 – Inferno (Tully/Belardinelli/Frame)

Now that Louis (the walking brain!) has hooked the robot cheerleader up to a memory-reading machine, he and Giant are able to determine just who constructed her… and for what purpose! It seems that one ‘Doctor Kalmann’ is the scientific genius responsible, but before they can get any more details from her memory, something completely unexpected happens!

Did I say unexpected? Because that’s not what I meant.

Armed with a single clue, it’s time to not follow it up, and instead head off to their next game! That’s right, it seems that the Harlem Hellcats are some kind of a sporting team, involved in the least plausible/interesting futuresport ever! I know, I was so distracted by the whole ‘burning casino’ thing that I’d forgotten about it too.

The team takes their roadliner (3-storey RV and training facility) out to Long Island for their next game, but on the way they have a blowout, and the vehicle goes careening off the side of the road!

Hold on… isn’t this how all of the Harlem Heroes were killed in the first place, like fifty-two issues ago? Is Giant going to have to put together yet another rag-tag group of misfits? Because I can’t imagine delving much lower down the social ladder for recruits. Hell, this week they gave a jetpack to a half man/half monkey hybrid creature. Seriously.

That’s him. There is no explanation offered in the comic for why monkeymen are real.

Thrill 7 – Walter the Wobot (Collins/Bolland/Jacob)

When we left Walter he’d gone on the lam, and we, the audience, were patiently awaiting the arrival of his evil twin, so that this story could then transform into a parody of the Return of Rico (pleasepleaseplease let that be where this is going). In today’s installment Walter is menaced by a mugger-

Who, unless I’m mistaken, Bolland has modeled on this famous Don Martin character from Mad magazine:

Anyhoo, the attempted mugging/bounty hunt is broken up when evil Walter’s silhouette looms over the alley, shadow-gun in shadow-hand. The day has finally come, just one more week and we’ll have the showdown? But have twenty years folding sheets slowed evil-Walter down that fraction of a second that Walter will need to take him out?

So, before the (hopeful) duel, let me take a moment to pose a question. Do you remember Call-Me-Kenneth?

Yeah, that’s him there, in his original body. When he went on the killing rampage, but before they gave him a new body because that was (somehow) cheaper than just building another carpentry robot. Now, everyone always referred to him as ‘Call-Me-Kenneth’ – I still use CMK as the short form when he comes up in these reviews.

Now let’s take a look at Walter-

Under the naming convention was established by CMK, shouldn’t we be referring to this adorable little fella as ‘I’m Walter, Try Me’ or ‘IWTM’?

Okay, maybe not. So from now on I’m just calling him Kenneth.

Which just might have been all that he wanted all along. Think about that, huh?

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – Obviously. Not only was this week’s entry viscerally exciting, we learned a valuable lesson from it: don’t give cars brains. Or, if you absolutely must, don’t also give them arms.

Worst Story: Mach 1 – As unimpressed as I may have been with the Visible Man, at least it was diverting enough to make me forget how dull Mach 1 has been lately. And this return, featuring Probe portrayed an almost completely passive drunken lout doesn’t bode well for the continuing storyline.

Hell, the letterer couldn’t even manage to get excited about the next issue, just look:

You know when you’re too bored to draw a single line to turn a period into an exclamation point that something has gone seriously wrong with the superspy comicbook storytelling.

No comments: