Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Prog 6 - Dan Dare

The Thing has total control of the Odyssey and Dan, Monday and whats left of the landing party have been taken to the Biogs base. They are released from their captors stomach and now they face a welcoming committee of aliens that are identical to the 'Thing' that has taken control of the ship.
The creatures tell Dare and company their backstory. That they are a race of aliens called 'The Shepherds' and they live to serve their masters The Biogs. The Biogs lived on a planet called Zircon and The Shepherds on their moon. The Biogs grow their houses and machines from living tissue and they use live fuel to do this. When The Biogs conquered their race they made some of them slaves and the rest the Mother Biog turned into fuel. But sadly The Shepherds home planet can't produce enough fuel for them so they set up a new home on Jupiter and plan to use it as a base to take over the Earth and use humans as their fuel source.

Dare doesn't fancy being turned into fuel and insults The Biogs by calling them 'slimy bugs'. The Shepherds are deeply offended by this and they attack Dan. They're going to kill him. Dan fights back.
A Shepherd then attacks Dan with a Living Axe...
A Biog turns red and the Shepherd holds off his attack on Dare. The Biog is angry that the Shepherd is wasting fuel and the human must be taken to the Mother Biog and be 'converted'.

Monday sees his chance and runs the alien through with one of its own spears. Dan grabs the Living Axe and they decide to fight their way to freedom.
This wasn't too bad. Not any of the usual craziness of the past few episodes. Although a Living Axe is pretty wacky. Now we know why the 'Thing' was aboard the ship. It's trying to steer to ship to the Mother Biog so the human crew can be 'converted' to fuel.

The problem though is, in the first episode, the ship was broken apart and the humans seemed to be sucked down to the planet. Why didn't the Biogs do this with the Odyssey instead of beaming a Shepherd on board? Makes no sense to me.

Also, we have the usual cliched 'I'm going to tell you our whole backstory before we kill you' speech. Which is fine because 2000ad was a publication catering totally to young kids back then. Probably wouldn't fly to spill the whole can of beans in a couple of pages today though. Storytelling has gotten a little bit more complicated since then.

A fun episode and a definite improvement on what went before.

Prog 6 - Harlem Heroes - Bonus!

I love cutaways!

It seems to be a a standard thing in British comic books. I really don't know where it started. I remember that the 50's Eagle had them and Look and Learn.

This one is by the awesomely talented Kevin O'Neill. I always have a laugh at the cheesy rhyming they added to the Heroes strip and this cutaway is no different. Although 'Curse' and 'Reverse' are tough to make into a smooth rhyme.

Prog 6 - Harlem Heroes

The Heroes make their way through the transatlantic tunnel. After beating the Bulls, their next opponents are the Soviet Unions 'Siberian Wolves'.

The idea of a tunnel connecting continents is not a new idea but with Gibbons art we get to see what something like that would look like. Probably the closest thing to the Transatlantic Tunnel in the strip is the Channel Tunnel that opened in 1994 connecting Britain to France and the rest of Europe. For more info click the link...Channel Tunnel

The Heroes road liner driver Artie puts Giants mind at ease just in case there's a disaster in the tunnel. Artie tells him that the liner converts into an air tight super sub for such an emergency.

Giant, satisfied, takes the team to the onboard gym and goes over tactics.
Giant tells them that they don't know much about their opponents because the Russians have only been part of the World Aeroball Association for the last five years.

Later after the team talk, Giant and Slim go pay Louis Mayer a visit in the liners medic room. Giant asks Louis again if he's sure that it's sabotage that caused the last road liner to crash. Louis says that he's never been more sure of anything and that they'd better watch their backs or they'll end up like him...a floating brain in a jar!

The liner speeds across Europe to Moscow. The Harlem Heroes are the first foreign team ever to enter the Soviet Union. The Heroes transfer from their road liner to a smaller satellite vehicle. The liner is so big that it could damage and knock down a lot of the Soviet monuments.

They arrive to a rousing Russian welcome at the Soviet 'Palace of Aeroball'.
They are greeted at the steps of the stadium by the Soviet Minister of Sport. Giant asks the Minister why none of the Soviet players took part in the parade. The Minister responds that the players are not encouraged to seek public applause but rather their desire should be to serve Mother Russia in the arena of Aeroball combat!

The game is about to begin. The Heroes walk out into the arena are are surprised to see the size of the russian 'pits'. The Russians must have a whole army of substitutes. The Wolves make their entrance...
and there are a lot of them. There must be fielding at least thirty men.
The amount of players confuses the American commentator...
The game begins and the Russians are really hell bent on winning, so much so, that one player is going so fast to hit Giant from the blast-off that Giant manages to roll him. The player can't stop and smashes into a rebound pad.
The injured player is removed from the field. Giant is concerned. The Russians are going all out and they don't care how many players they sacrifice as long as they beat the Heroes.
Interesting episode because of the time period. In this future, the Soviet Union didn't fall but carried on and the Cold War is alive and well. I suppose when the script was written in the 70's there was no way anyone could predict the fall of the USSR.

As a result, it's great that 2000ad now has an alternate timeline that stretches into Dredds world. In Dredds world the Soviet Union is still alive and kicking and the tie that binds both strips is 'Giant'.

One thing that's not made clear in the strip, maybe it will be made clear later, is that we don't know how many subsitutes are allowed on one team. My impression from reading this episode is that there is no limit. Which is unusual because all sports have a limit to the amount of subs a team can use.

I find the commentator to be hilarious. He can't figure out who's who so he calls the Russian players Boris 1, Boris 2 etc. Funny when I read it now, but he has to be the worst commentator ever! He'd never get a job on ESPN!

The scene with Louis telling Giant he's sure that the liner crash was sabotage is pure padding. It's totally unnecessary as it doesn't advance the story at all...then again, if your reading the strip from week to week...it does act as a recap.

And we end with the, now standard, Harlem Heroes next prog rhyme...
"2000ad - it's thrilling and new
Big- picture power - programmed for you.'

Monday, March 30, 2009

Prog 6 - Flesh

Carver faces off with a 'terrible claws' that has broken into the general store.
The poor critter doesn't stand a chance against Claw Carver!
After Reagan and Carver finish off the 'terrible claws' they grab the fuel cans and head back to the surgery room. The doc appears with Joe. Joe is on the mend...which is great news especially for the doc...Joe is the first patient he hasn't killed yet. Reagan tells the doc to leave with Joe. He and Carver are going to burn the town down to the ground to get rid of the dinosaurs.

Meanwhile, Old One Eye and the rest of the dinosaurs are rampaging through the town.

One unlucky guy thinks he's safe away from Old One Eye. He's on top of a building and she can't get at him. A pteranodon swoops down to grab the cowboy, misses him, but knocks him off balance. The poor fool falls straight into the jaws of Old One Eye!
As she is devouring the human she is attacked by...her own son! She dispatches him, after all 'In her long life...Old One Eye had given birth to many...the death of one meant nothing to her!'

Carver and Reagan are successful. The town is beginning to burn. The dinosaurs are being driven back. All except for one...Old One Eye has picked up Reagans scent and in her hatred of this human she is braving the flames to get to him. Carver has made this observation and decides to give the Old hag what she wants. His truce with Reagan is over.

Now, they can both burn!
Another good episode of Flesh. This one was written by Kelvin Gosnell, which is a nice surprise because his writing on Dan Dare is well below par. Ramon Sola's artwork is still top notch.

Prog 6 - Invasion

After seeing the live executions on TV, Silk asks Savage what should they do. Everytime they hit the Volgans, they take hostages and execute them in retaliation. Savage's answer is 'Simple - Hit 'em harder!'

Bill leaves his 'Mad Dog' crew and goes window shopping!

Later a Volgan patrol hear a looter breaking into store. A Volgan soldier quips that only Volgans can have the luxuries found in these stores. They arrive at the store front and see only shop window dummies...
After mowing down the patrol, Savage continues looting the store, grabbing clothes off the racks.

The next morning in the West End of London, the Volgans gather up civilians, they will make them pay for the 'outrage' of the previous night!
The Volgans don't even bother searching the civilians, in their arrogance they think that they're not dangerous.

The hostages are brought to Wembley (Victory) Stadium where they are to face a firing squad. The execution is being broadcast Live all over London on big viewing screens.

As the firing squad take aim...the old man, that they'd picked on earlier, falls over. They laugh at him and say he will die where he falls. But this isn't any 'old man'...it's Savage!
And the other 'hostages' are his men in disguise!

Now, that they have the element of surprise they take out the Volgans in the stadium!

What follows is kind of bizarre...they sing football (soccer) songs as they wipe out the Volgan firing squad.
Savage and his men clean out the stadium of other Volgan troops. The 'Volgan' television presenter decides to take out some of the resistance. But Savage is quick. He may be out of bullets but he's still got his knife! On live broadcast from the stadium Savage addresses the public in yet more soccer cliches. he talks about his killing of the Volgans inside Wembley as a qualifying match and that the BIG match is coming soon and then he leads them in a sing song!
Savage and his Mad Dogs leave before more troops arrive.

Gerry Finley Day wrote this one, so it kind of makes sense that it would be a bit bizarre. Finley Day was notorious for his all-over-the-place scripts. His scripts always had heavy rewrites.

Whats' truly strange is the resistance chanting football slogans/songs as they kill Volgans and then Savages address to the nation ending in a rendition of 'You'll never walk alone!'.

Really strange.

The artwork is by Ian Kennedy. It's pretty standard fare but probably too clean for a strip like Savage.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Prog 6 - Cover

Nice cover by Mike Dorey. Can't really go wrong with Undead Nazis and Nazi gold!

Prog 5 - Judge Dredd

Dredd is relaxing, reading a law book, in his apartment when he is rudely interrupted by a 'Sensor-Round' display. Maria, Dredd's cleaning lady enters the room with one Kevin O'Neill, the Senor-Round salesman. Dredd wants the 'ferret faced parasite' thrown out of his apartment. Maria nags Dredd, all he ever thinks of is the law and never has fun.

A group of citizens enter Dredds apartment. Dredd isn't too pleased until one of them tells Dredd why. There has been a murder on the 200th floor - the President of Sensor-Round is dead!

Dredd investigates. It seems the President has been killed by some 'monster!'.

Over the next few days other top Sensor-Round executives meet strange deaths.
Dredd is on patrol when he gets a call from HQ saying that they have identified a voice print from the scene of the last murder. The voice belongs to the curator of the Movie Special Effects Museum. Dredd decides to pay the curator a visit.

At the museum Dredd sees bloodspots on the robot 'monsters'. Everything makes sense to him now. The curator has been using these movie monsters to kill the Sensor-Round executives. The curator and killer turn out to be the Sensor-Round salesman - Kevin O'Neill!

O'Neill confesses to Dredd. He killed those executives because they ruined the movie monsters of old. Nobody wants to see those monsters anymore because Sensor-Round offer dream-worlds in their stead. O' Neill flees. Dredd follows in pursuit...but O'Neill has activated the greatest movie monster of them all - Krong!
The mechanical monster breaks out of the museum and smashes his way across the city to destroy the Sensor-Round building. Dredd follows in his lawmaster desperately trying to stop the giant robot ape.

Krong reaches the building and begins to climb it - ripping it apart at the same time.

The only way Dredd can stop it is by ramming his lawmaster down it's throat! It works and the creature falls landing on a hapless Kevin O'Neill.
Even though he left 2000ad, Carlos Ezquerrah came back to do this strip. This is his first published Dredd.

The 'Robot Ape' story was inspired by the 1976 remake of King Kong and the 'Kevin O'Neill' character in the strip was named after 2000ad's Kevin O'Neill. O'Neill was heavily into movie special effect back then and had even done a King Kong fanzine.

This story also contains the first appearance of Maria, Dredd's landlady. Although here she's referred to as a cleaning lady. Maria was introduced to give Dredd a mother figure and some sort of balance. Dredd was so robotic that Mills felt that Maria would humanise him more.

Prog 5 - MACH 1

Probe is on a well earned vacation and needs to burn off some energy. It ain't easy being a MACH man. Nice Popeye reference.

Later on the beach, Probe is approached by a stranger. The stranger had seen Probes display of hyperpower swimming. MACH 1's computer brain informs Probe that the stranger is Otto Brandt, an illegal weapons dealer and advises Probe to exercise caution because Brandt wants to find out the secret behind his hyperpower.

Brandt is planning a party and wants Probe to join him as his guest. Probe declines. Brandt 'persuades' him to change his mind... Probe agrees to go with Brandt. His computer brain disagrees with the decision and reminds him that with his hyperpower he could have taken out Brandts' goons. Probe responds that every second doing that would have cost more lives.

They board the boat plane. The 'party' starts. Brandt's goons lay into Probe. They beat him. Brandt asks Probe to be sensible...how much more punishment can he take? Probe says that he's not 'one of your old fashioned heroes - I'll tell you everything - If the money is right!'

The guards relax and Probe picks his moment for...
One guard gets blasted out of the plane...
He finishes the other two guards off by hyperpunching them. Hyperpunch equals instant death!

Brandt is now flying the plane. Probe is making his way toward him. Brandt calls Probe a fool, that they both could have been rich by cashing in on his Hyperpower. Brandt turns the plane so fast that Probe is shot out the side. MACH 1 takes it all in his stride and grabs onto the planes float.

Brandt shoots at probe. If he can't have Probes secrets alive...dead will do. Probe responds with a great line...'cos you got me angry in my skull!'
The plane heads inland and Brandt is going to do his best to make Probe roadkill. He flies the plane dangerously close to the ground trying scrap Probe off. But, a truck turns the corner and is heading straight for the plane. Brandt can't pull up in time and...
We leave Probe pondering that his hyperpower is more of a curse than a blessing.

Nice episode because we get to understand what a burden hyperpower can be. If Probe hadn't burned off some hyperpower by swimming as fast as he did, he wouldn't have attracted attention from Brandt, and the holiday makers that were gunned down would still be alive. It wouldn't be the first time that Probe would question the negative effects of having such power.

John Cooper's art is really suitable for this strip. His work has a totally 70's look to it. Cooper would draw a few Dredd stories too, but his work always seemed out of place for me on Dredd. He was way more suited for MACH 1. Cooper is probably best known for his work on Johnny Red for Battle...
and on John Wagners classic cop - One Eyed Jack for Valiant.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prog 5 - Dan Dare

Dare and crew are face to face with Jupiters resident aliens. You'd think if you wanted to open up some decent communication with alien life forms you'd stop referring to their appearance as 'vile'. Oh well, not that it matters as the aliens attack anyway.

One crew member gets sucked up alive! And another creature turns to attack Dare. With Mondays help Dare cracks off a huge hunk of titanium crystal and as the alien attacks he shoves it up the aliens vacuum hole! (I know,it sounds really weird right?) With it's air passage blocked, the alien...explodes!

Dan and Monday are knocked unconscious. When they come too, they realise that they've been sucked up inside one of the aliens. (So much for their plan of shoving crystal up their blowholes!) Officer French is there too...but alas, he's dead!
Monday comes to the conclusion that the aliens are using their stomachs to transfer them to their base. How he comes to this conclusion, I haven't a clue but he does remember an old earth story...
Could Monday be referring to Jonah? I think so, and he called him insane. Nice bit of religious subversion there.

Meanwhile back on the Odyssey...the thing from Jupiter is trying to take control of the ship.
The thing manages to take over the 'control' bubble...and now commands the Odyssey!
Pretty standard installment of Dan Dare and not too wacky when compared with the previous episodes.

It's still pretty ridiculous, though. Why would the thing need a spaceship? Maybe that question will be answered next prog.

Prog 5 - Harlem Heroes

The Heroes come out after the half-time interval and smoke the opposition. Louis Mayers' revelation that the road-liner crash was sabotage has got them riled up.

They trash the Baltimore Bulls 6-1.

After the game Giant tells them that they'll know more about the alleged sabotage from Louis later. Louis is planning on touring with the team as they try and win the World Championship.

As they leave the Aero-drome they are approached by the head of Trans-World Network - Ulysses Cord.
Cord wants to offer the Heroes sponsorship for their World Championship attempt. It would be great publicity for his company if the Heroes can bounce back from the brink of disaster to win the Title. He offers them a state of the art road-liner, a 'hotel on wheels', designed with all the latest tools they'll need to keep fit for their Championship challenge. The team are elated except for Giant. Giant is suspicious of Cord. But he buries it for now and the Heroes head off for their next match against the Siberian Wolves as soon as they pick up Louis. Check out the rhyme on that 'to be continued' panel. I guess the writer is trying to evoke a Harlem Globetrotters feel to the strip. I find it to be pretty funny. Some of the dialogue reads like a blaxsplotation movie. I suppose that's what you get when you have a white British writer trying to write 70's African Americans. Even Ulysses Cord suffers from an over-the-top American stereotype. It looks and reads dated...but it is a lot of fun.

Again, nice solid artwork by Gibbons, especially the two page opener. Gibbons packs in lots of action in those two pages. You definitely get the impression that the Heroes are pissed off and there's a sense of urgency to the page layout. Nice touch to have the crowd sing and watch as their larger than life heroes take center stage.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Prog 5 - Flesh

It's meal time for the Tyrannosaurs as they invade Carver City. The population is in a panic. A group of men grab the robot sheriff and demand their guns back to defend themselves but the sheriff is programmed not to allow guns in the city. As they are remonstrating a dinosaur attacks.
Meanwhile Reagan and Old One Eye continue their battle. Reagan needs a gland from the tyrannosaur. He attacks her from her blindside and gets what he wanted. As she writhes on the ground shaking off the pain, she crashes into the saloon. Reagan rescues the doctor before Old One Eye unleashes her rage. She chomps down on a drunk who thinks he's dreaming because there's not supposed to be dinosaurs in the city.
While the doctor is taking care of Joe, Reagan decides to head back outside to try and get rid of the tyrannosaurs.
Old One Eye and her pack have more than Earl Reagan to deal with...Pteranodons and 'terrible claws' have also entered the cracked dome and the dinosaurs begin to turn on each other.But they are no match for Old One Eye and her pack. Back at the doctors surgery room, Claw Carver burst in. Him and Reagan have some unfinished business. Claw tells Reagan that they're all going to die because of him. He makes a swipe at Reagan with his claw, but Reagan is quick and lands a hit of his own.

Reagan tell Claw to get a grip and they form an uneasy truce until they've freed the town from the dinosaurs.
Some nice scenes in this episode.

I love the dark humor of the robot sheriff, after it gets it's head taken off by a tryannosaur, telling the townspeople that he's not programmed to deal with the situation of rampaging dinosaurs. That was funny.

We get inside Old One Eyes head and we can almost feel the anger she has towards humans. The parts written from her point of view are fascinating.

As for Reagan, he's a bit of a puzzle this episode, he leaves the Doc to go sort out the tyrannosaurs and he doesn't do anything. He just goes back to the surgery room. Maybe he's thinking that the dinosaurs will pick one another off. Which is kind of stupid. Just like the time he left Old One Eye alive thinking she was just knocked unconcious. He seems to be making mistake after mistake. I'm sure his latest farce, the truce with Carver, will come back to haunt him.

I can't blame Claw Carver being pissed off about Reagan. I mean, this ranger (Who he never liked anyways!) brings a dying man with the plague into your town, which could in all possibility, spread to the population, and then, on top of that, a pack of Tyrannosaurs have followed the dumbasses scent to to the town and started a bloody massacre simply because the idiot ranger didn't kill the pack leader when he had the chance. I'd be mad as hell too!

Having said all that, Flesh is probably the best strip for me in these first five issues. It's just so raw and violent when compared to the other strips. Ramon Solas art is a joy in these pages.