Category Archives: Wildcat

WiLDCAT #7: A COMiC WITH TEETH!

Just. Look. At. That. Cover. I mean, just look at it. David Pugh brings Loner to the cover of Wildcat for the first time in a suitably over-the-top way. The huge Beast he’s currently battling in his strip was a major highlight of the comic’s entire run; its terrifyingly giant mouth and dead eyes have proven unforgettable. It’s also just as exciting to have one of my most fondly remembered characters from any comic finally make the front page.

Inside, just as he did with #6 of Ring Raiders and #6 of Super Naturals, Wildcat’s creator and editor Barrie Tomlinson has decided it’s time to shake the running order up a bit, with the all-female crew and their leader Kitten Magee now the first all-action strip we encounter. Still following Hobos, who is pretending to be their ally while leading them into all sorts of danger in an attempt to kill them, they finally make their way out of the jungle to an apparently safe swamp area. But when have you ever known a swamp to be a safe haven?

This horror goes by the name of a Zicker Beast and with Hobos floating high in the air out of harm’s way is Kitten starting to see through their apparent friend? To be fair, she’s been the only one in the team to distrust him so far. In an attempt to save her teammates, Kitten blasts at the monster and as it swipes at her with its giant claw she puts herself in front of its smaller head, only jumping out of the way at the very last moment. I love artist José Ortiz‘s depiction of the beast’s shock and pain at this point.

The resolution to this episode is even more creative. The smaller head is still alive and attempts to eat Doc as she’s trying to recover blood and tissue samples. Kitten kicks the head out of the way and it begins to bounce down the slope towards the swamp, where it appears to have summoned its body back (which had slipped away in defeat). Grabbing Casandra‘s trademark bazooka she blasts the ground underneath the bouncing head, flinging it into the air and straight into the open mouth of its body, which swallows it whole! Predictable this strip is not, and it’s followed up by the next mini-poster, which is of Kitten’s pet robot Crud, making up for his conspicuous absence in the story.

Still is his usual place is Joe Alien, his colour pages split as always into 3-page and 2-page chunks. He rescues his team member from a watery death by using his extendible arms but soon finds they’re all going to face trial by a court of trees! The crazy old human man who has assumed the role of God of the continent’s vegetation presides over the telepathic trial. Even’s Joe’s men can sense them talking and arguing but are unable to hear them or take part. The vote ends up split and the old man’s casting vote is to let them all leave in peace. It would seem the tale is at an end, until a tragic accident changes everything.

Fascinated by Joe’s external brain pack the man grabs it, snapping it off Joe’s head and turning him into the gibbering buffoon we last saw back in #3. He’s quickly saved by one of his troopers who snatches it back and replaces it onto Joe’s noggin. But in doing so he’s shoved the old man out of the way, who slips and falls down a hill, banging his head on a rock at the bottom. This is where the story stops while we catch up with Loner, but for the sake of the review we’ll jump ahead to the conclusion on the centre pages, which open up to reveal this spread.

I know I bang on about Ron Smith‘s art every fortnight, but can you blame me? Joe’s pages were always surround by a bright pink panel to make them stand out as the only colour ones in the comic, but Ron has added his own border here too. This, combined with the dynamic panels and the strip reading across the spread rather than as individual pages, makes this a stunning work of art in its own right worthy of some blu-tack and a place on the wall!

The story rockets into top gear here. From Joe realising the trees are going to kill them all and using his extending legs to track down their only hope of escape, to that cliffhanger with a superbly drawn, truly painful expression on his face. I mentioned last time how I was interested in the story with the old man and I was looking forward to seeing where it would lead. I’m disappointed he’s died and the story appears to have refocussed again on the basic action plot we had previous to his introduction. But I’ve learned never to second guess this comic. Plus, even if it has reverted to a more action-based story again, Ron’s art makes it a thrill to read.

Over the last few issues the tension has been ramped up to such a degree that this is a genuinely exciting moment

I made reference to Loner‘s placing in the comic. He’s been moved up the running order to Kitten’s previous position in the middle of the comic and it’s time for the climactic battle with the Beast. There are some lovely atmospheric panels here from artist David Pugh which may be small on the page but pack a big punch. Using his telepathic weaponry on it seems to make it retreat at first, slinking into the shadows. But when it spits acid out of one of its tentacles (previewed on the cover) it’s clear that wasn’t the case at all.

When he’s fried upon again the acid takes out his shoulder armour, leaving him vulnerable. One more blast and he’s dead. Over the last few issues the tension has been ramped up to such a degree that this is a genuinely exciting moment. We’ve had glimpses of the creature, we’ve seen the devastation left in its wake, the bodies in its lair and the minions sent out in advance. Now it’s all or nothing for Loner as he takes aim at its chest, small as it is, seeing it as the only potential weak spot when it’s basically all mouth!

He soon realises this could take hours if he was going to try to beat it down bit by bit and the telepathic nature of the weaponry just won’t allow for that. He’s already exhausted, his mental energy completely drained, his brain fried from the exertion of such a powerful weapon even though it’s only making small dents in his enemy. But he notices it’s slowly sliding itself backwards with every blast. The vast cavernous lair has already been established as having cliffs, jagged rocks and huge spikes sticking out of the ground, so it’s time for some lateral thinking from our former mercenary.

As excellent as this ending is, I do have a bit of a problem with it. In my head this beast was a ginormous snake-like being. I was sure a later pin-up showed this but maybe I was wrong? I checked back over previous issues (because I don’t want to skip ahead) and found a panel from #4 I didn’t share at the time. When the Bellari lizard who sent Loner on this quest was describing what must be done we were shown an image of the Beast and I was right, it had been depicted as a snake (below is a photo of a panel from #4), but for some reason in our current issue it’s more of a massive head.

Maybe it was curled up? Perhaps its natural state is as shown in our current issue but it can extend its body out to form a snake-like shape for reasons we haven’t been privy too. Unfortunately it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out. After these scenes Loner is de-evolved back to his original form and given a headband to block telepathic signals from the lizard, who he dispatches in a couple of panels, thus ending the first chapter in his quest on the new planet.

I was a little disappointed the Bellari was dispatched so easily and surprised the story was wrapped already. The furballs wish him well, telling him the headband has attached itself to his brain and can’t be removed, but will translate all alien languages for him. It’s a very handy piece of equipment for the Wildcat crew to have at their disposal, so off he does to explore more and hopefully make his way back to the ship. I’d thought this story lasted for at least the original 12 issues so I’m excited to see what completely new Loner tale will take its place. I have absolutely no recollection so I eagerly await the next issue in a fortnight’s time.

Turbo Jones is the last of our expedition team leaders we catch up with this issue and things are going from bad to worse, which is par for the course on this planet, let’s face it. The story takes an unexpected turn this time, ending with everything turned around and heading off in a different direction. The Arglons send in a team to place a receiver underneath the collar of Turbo’s giant Terrosauron so they can control it remotely. Normally Robo would detect such signals (as has happened previously) but he decides he’s had enough and stays behind as Turbo leads some of the army out to capture the remaining enemy soldiers trapped within the city.

But as they approach the signal is sent out and he loses control of his dinosaur which begins viciously attacking all of the other creatures. The Burroids‘ leader The Brain (that still hasn’t been explained) assumes Turbo has turned on them, that he’s been biding his time until they were at their weakest. Meanwhile, The Ark has commanded Turbo is not to be killed and so the signal is sent for the Terrosauron to stop its attack. Instead, as Turbo climbs back on, it begins to lead him elsewhere through the night.

What I particularly like here is how, even after almost being killed, it’s clear Turbo has some kind of connection with his creature. While he’s not aware of the receiver or The Ark’s plans he somehow just knows that he’s safe again, that this was out of character for the animal and it’s now over. His affectionate “big fella” in the panel above says it all. He clings on, waiting to see where he’s being taken across the great plains. It’s not explained how they get out of the city after the defensive fences were raised last issue (which does appear to be something of an oversight) but they end up in enemy territory.

This creepy image by Vanyo is the last panel and shows The Ark in all of their skeletal glory, complete with a nice close-up of those mechanics inside the jaw we’ve only seen in smaller images before. While the cliffhanger itself is a good one in its own right, this image raises those questions again of whether The Ark and their council are truly alive or if they’re being controlled by someone or something behind the scenes, Wizard of Oz-style. With Turbo now their captive I’m hoping for some answers soon.

It’s a sudden change in direction for the story and I think it works a treat. There’s only so much we can get as an audience from a constant battle but I also like the fact it hasn’t been wrapped up. It’s still ongoing but with an ill-equipped army now on the defensive. An army that now sees Turbo as a deserter. A story that could’ve easily become repetitive and just an excuse for big battles has cleverly twisted itself and has piqued my interest again.

Jesús Redondo returns again to illustrate The Wildcat Complete: A Perfect Crime?, the latest in our anthology thrillers featuring the Wildcat itself. A crew has been assigned to clean the outer hull of moulds and growths before they become a problem to the ship’s integrity. One member of the team, Stefano, has career ambitions that require rather unorthodox means of promotion; kill off his teammates and by default he’ll be the boss. Seeing off his captain on the first page he’s passed over for his colleague Roderick Serling, which is a particularly brilliant name here!

In previous reviews I’ve mentioned how these stories have often felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone and I can only assume that was Barrie’s intention all along, now that they’ve used a very similar name to that of the show’s creator, Rodman (Rod) Serling. Furious that he’s still not captain, Stefano relishes another opportunity when a deserted alien craft drifts into their area of space and both he and Serling are sent to investigate. Upon arrival they discover an oxygen-rich atmosphere but decayed alien bodies. Concluding it’s a relic from a distant alien war, Stefano sees his chance and kills Serling, reporting back to base that a disease killed the crew, not a battle, and that Serling is sick.


“When your body gases start expandin’ you’re bound to… explode!”

Stefano to the body of Serling

Contacting Wildcat every few hours and falsely reporting how Serling is getting worse until he apparently succumbs to the disease, he dumps the body out of the airlock, telling Wildcat Serling didn’t want his wife and children to see his mutated body. He knows exactly what will happen when the body’s gases start expanding in the vacuum of space, as you’ll see below in the first panel of the last page. But this is when everything backfires in Stefano’s so-called perfect crime in a somewhat timely ending when read today.

An eternal quarantine. Forced isolation for the rest of his life. It makes ten days seem somewhat trivial, doesn’t it? Trapped knowing he either has to serve his time out where he is, surrounded by alien corpses, or admit to what he’s done and possibly face execution, we’re left not knowing which option he’ll choose. I think it’s a very worthy strip for Rod’s name.

We finish the issue with a quick look at the next one featuring a dark, foreboding image from what looks like the Kitten Magee story and a bright and cheerful back page strip from one of those lovely retro Weetabix advertisements from the late 80s.

If there’s one word to sum up this issue it would be “surprising”. I mean this in the best possible way, of course. The shifting about of the contents freshened things up, the strips contained twists and turns and new beginnings and Loner’s in particular has me puzzled as to what’s next. I’ll wait, even though a fortnight can feel like a long time when the next issue is sitting on the shelf in front of me all that time. Needless to say, please join me back here in 14 days as I continue rediscovering this childhood favourite.

Issue eight of Wildcat will be reviewed on Friday 28th January 2022.

WiLDCAT #6: ROARING GOOD FUN

On the final day of 1988 there was just enough time to squeeze in one final issue of Barrie Tomlinson‘s Wildcat before the new year. Kicking off with Ian Kennedy‘s interpretation of José Ortiz‘s Kitten Magee strip, the cover includes the tagline ‘The Ultimate Adventure’. I remember associating this with the comic as a kid, so it’s strange to see it appear for the first time only now. Perhaps it’ll pop up again. For now though, let’s see if the inside matches the hype.

The Arglons have dispatched two of their own Terrosaurons to kill Turbo Jones atop his own dino in the opening strip. Controlled by computerised radio waves, these are detected by Robo before they even get close. Very quickly he’s jamming the signal and any hope of control over the creatures is lost. The Ark doesn’t take too kindly to their great plan being thwarted and soon the general in charge is on the chopping block. It appears these skeletal figures have zero tolerance for failures.

Having already attacked Turbo’s Terrosauron and getting a taste for blood, when the commands are interrupted the others attack the nearest target, which is each other. Limbs are torn off, gaping wounds in full view and we young readers loved it. It felt so gory to us.

Now easily able to pick off the enemy Turbo finishes the fight and returns to the main base of operations where he finds out about an underground defence system, a huge electronic fence which is activated and surrounds the city. That’s it as far as plot goes but this episode was all about the fight, the big battle between the three giant Terrosaurons. While I can’t remember reading it at the time, I’m sure I loved it as it would’ve been right up my street!

As an adult I do miss the plot developments, the intrigue around The Ark and Turbo’s growth as a character. But sometimes it’s just fun to have a completely ludicrous, over-sized battle! In the final panel Turbo says the enemy is trapped inside the city behind the fence, so they can pick them off more easily. Has he forgotten they got in via a tunnel? We’ll find out next time I’m sure. It’s throwaway stuff but fun, and I’m only a little disappointed because the comic has set such high standards for itself.

It’s clear power has gone to this man’s head. Does he truly believe he is a god?

More interesting for this old man is another much older man in the Joe Alien story, as the human who seems to be the leader of the killer plant life tells his story. He was the sole astronaut on the first manned rocket heading for Mars. While this is now predicted to take place in 2024, at the time of Wildcat’s publication we never thought it’d happen quite so soon, so his tale takes place in 2079. Travelling through an asteroid belt one of the huge rocks begins to open up, drawing his craft inside like a scene from You Only Live Twice.

He makes reference to it looking like “jaws” and with that word choice I can’t help but make the comparison to the big fish from my favourite movie of all time. The asteroid itself, as drawn by Ron Smith, bares a striking resemblance to Steven Spielberg’s classic movie monster, right down to the oversized jowls (needed on the mechanical shark in Jaws for its mouth to open and close without folding or breaking the rubber skin). I’m really rather thrilled to see this as a fan of the movie and this comic, I love seeing inspiration from one turning up in the other.

Upon arriving on the continent where our adventure is taking place a great war was being fought between the trees and the other vegetation. There’s always a great war behind these stories isn’t there? As you can see in this gloriously illustrated page below he negotiated a peace between the two sides. But how, when the participants in the war couldn’t speak? This question is asked by one of Joe’s men later in the issue. An explanation is given about how the plants can absorb sound as vibrations in the ground through their roots, and how they had spent hundred of years studying our radio waves to learn our language.

As the years passed the man aged very slowly compared to back on Earth, so generations of plant life passed before his eyes and eventually they began seeing him as a kind of god. His word is now law and when one of Joe’s team makes a joke about the plants the old man punches him with the force of ten, sending him flying into the water where he’s attacked by vicious teeth-baring vegetation. It’s clear power has gone to this man’s head. Does he truly believe he is a god? It feels like a story from the Stargate SG-1 TV series, albeit several years before it.

The standout here is Ron’s art. His style perfectly compliments the story and setting, his characters really embody what they’re saying, Joe is the best he’s ever looked and the flashbacks are extraordinary and fascinating. Incredible artwork. Simply gorgeous. While Loner may still be my favourite, Joe’s strip is running a very close second which I didn’t expect when I started this read through. Saying that, all the strips are so good this changes on a regular basis.

Kitten Magee takes a break from relentless fighting to advance her story a little. She saved herself from the bomb last time by grabbing her teammate and leaping into one of the holes bored by the tribal robots. So the fat alien Hobos decides it’s time to try a different tactic. Pretending to save her life from a threat of his own creation (a destabilising beam making Kitten lose balance just before this page below), he befriends the women and tells them he’ll lead them through the dangerous jungle to his village.

There’s one disappointing aspect of the story here, and that’s how easily the other four members of the team trust Hobos. Only Kitten herself is unsure, thinking he’s too friendly, too nice and appeared at too convenient a time for this all to be coincidence. The other members of the team have all been so capable and interesting in the previous issues that it’s a shame to see them played for fools so easily.

We do get a little bit of action as a torg-lion attacks the group, the one we saw on the cover. Hobos’ plan seems to be to lead them through the most dangers part of the continent, using a scent of raw meat to attract the biggest, most vicious predators out into the open. Of course Kitten wins this battle, pricking the animal with the pointed edge of her poison-filled ring. Just when I thought I’d seen all of her cool jewellery-based weaponry too.

There are still many questions needing answered here, not least of which is why Hobos was determined to kill the women in the first place. Is it a male thing? Are women a threat? Even alien women? I know we’ll get our answers eventually, so don’t for one moment think this is any kind of complaint because it isn’t. The story does feel like it’s heading towards at least some of the answers over the next few issues, which is exciting. Kitten remains an interesting character and the one most shrouded in mystery in the whole comic.

That cover by Ian Kennedy is a fantastic piece of art, as are all of his covers across the range of Barrie’s comics I’m reviewing (Ring Raiders and Super Naturals being the others). He gets a bit of further recognition on the letters page this issue and yes, that monster is one of his designs from the premiere issue.

Loner is up next and if you thought the scale of what he was up against was massive in that final image last issue, then you haven’t seen anything yet, to use a cliché. I can remember this snake-like monster but I had no idea of just how big it was. In fact, it’s so big that in the first panel of this chapter we only get to see a few teeth next to our hero and his now rather pathetic looking new gun.

My overall opinion of this instalment of my favourite Wildcat strip is, just when I thought David Pugh‘s art couldn’t possibly get any more spectacular he blows me away again, and a lot more successfully than Loner’s attempt to do so with the beast above. But just look at that first panel, those teeth and that tusk look so solid, so terrifying that I’m sure I was in awe of it back in 1988. This was playing to everything kids would want from a new sci-fi adventure. However, as always I review these comics as I read them now, without the rose-tinted glasses, as a man in his mid-40s.

And I bloody loved it!

We even get to see the thing asleep at one stage, it’s head full of thick veins, it’s eyes popping open suddenly as the tiny Loner nears. It’s all incredibly atmospheric. I can’t show you it all obviously, that’s what the amazing graphic novel collecting this entire story is for, but I can show you some of the other highlights of this issue’s chapter. Complete with ridiculously large brain hooked up to the equally ridiculous helmet, Loner discovers the ground of the beast’s layer is covered with thousands upon thousands of tiny little skulls.

I actually felt sorry for the little furballs with him, seeing generations of their kind dead all around them. It’s at this point the burgeoning relationship between Loner and these little critters, as unlikely as it seemed a few issues ago, solidifies. Anger fills his very being at seeing the skulls. Whether he likes it or not his cool, hard, cold persona is warming to these little beings and he begins to track down the monster again, which has moved deeper into the caves. Bent on revenge, we’re left with no doubt that the odds against him aren’t relevant anymore.

This friendship and how it developed slowly over the course of the comic’s life is something I still remember all these years later, although I can’t remember any of the details so it’s a delight to be reading it again in real time. Instead of bingeing, I’m getting the developing friendship in fortnightly stages as intended and it doesn’t feel rushed or forced in any way, and that’s pretty incredible when you think about the scenario here and who these characters are! It’s so far-fetched and yet feels so natural, a testament to the writers behind it, namely Barrie and his son James Nicholas.

Just when the odds against Loner’s survival (never mind his success) seem stacked enough against him, the beast releases its minions and these aren’t the small, yellow, goggle-wearing kind. These minions of death wouldn’t look out of place in an adult comic today but here they were in the pages of our Wildcat, terrifying the youth. Of course Loner is the cool hero when he wants to be and heskillfully dispatches them with his telepathic weaponry before the beast itself moves in for the kill, and the cliffhanger.

The little pieces of character development and banter between him and the furballs are nice touches and advance things a little in the overall story, but this is really all about the hunt and finally coming up against this monstrosity. But it doesn’t feel like the plot has been left to the side for the action, it’s all nicely balanced. David’s artwork is so incredible I’m completely absorbed in it every issue, and while it’s an exaggeration to say my breath is taken away each time, I have to say that to get across just how much I’m enjoying this.

The Wildcat Complete is called Moon of Terror and concerns pilot Kurby being sent to one of the moons orbiting the planet after a previous crew went missing upon landing. Unable to spare more crew members they have to send Kurby alone. Barrie and his writing team really are stacking up the death count.

Artist Jesús Redondo returns (he supplied the art for #2‘s Wildcat Complete) and his shuttle craft bares a striking resemblance to a certain television show’s fighter craft. I mentioned before about the similarities between the Wildcat story and that of Battlestar Galactica even though that was more coincidence than anything else. Jesús’ shuttle could easily have been influenced by that show’s Vipers. Or it could simply be another coincidence and they were based upon real world jet aircraft. Either way, I like the design.

The cloud cover is so dense all of his computer equipment can’t track the ground and when he comes out of the blackness he’s already too close. After impact his shuttle explodes and so he goes to find the missing crew, hoping the Wildcat will send another rescue ship. At least it’s looking hopeful; they may have just crashed and lost contact for the same reason he has. But as he explores he’s attacked by some form of mutant creature that tries to kill him.


“Don’t want me eating your fruit, eh? One thing I can’t stand is a selfish mutant.”

Kurby

He’s able to break free and shoots it just before being set upon by another. At this stage I’d worked out what was going on. I’m not sure if I would have when I was just eleven-years-old, not having been exposed to many sci-fi stories at that point in my life. A third mutant appears just as Kurby is about to get stuck into some of the local fruit for sustenance. Thinking it’s just another attack and the creature is swatting away the fruit to get to him and kill him, he kills it first. Exhausted, he sits down and eats.

You can see the mutant creatures are humanoid in nature and have a distinct face so I’m sure you can also see where this is going. Unknowingly, Kurby has just picked off the three Wildcat crew members he was sent to save, who had been transformed by eating the same fruit. I do like Jesús’ action man panels of Kurby firing directly towards the reader as he’s attacked. Kurby comes across as quite arrogant in the story but that’s the point I think. We humans are out amongst the stars but still we think we know everything about the world around us, that we are lords of all that we survey.

As you can see the story ends with him slowly turning into one of the mutants himself, the horrible truth about what he’s done becoming apparent. The last mutant swiping the fruit away was doing so as a warning, not an attack. As he transforms he knows the Wildcat will send another team, that he’ll try to warn them, that they’ll kill him and the cycle will repeat. Human arrogance will see the small population dwindle by how many more before it stops?

For now, the death toll six issues in stands at 18 if we include Kurby himself. Maybe this is why the comic stopped at #12, there was no one else to write about!

The Next Issue page is printed sideways and taken over by this picture of Turbo and a Terrosaurus. Is this his dinosaur? I wonder. But given the excitement of the Loner strip I’m surprised this isn’t the story to feature here. Finally on the back cover is this issue’s pin up and it appears these two are continuing their double act for now anyway.

So that’s us officially at the halfway point of the comic’s regular run already. The next issue, the first of the new year will be here on Friday 14th January 2022. This has been a blast and at six issues in it’s already far better than its already impressive start. The next six are going to be phenomenal. I hope.

WiLDCAT #5: CHRISTMAS ‘CAT

It’s probably the most unique cover you’re ever likely to see on this blog, that’s for sure! I originally thought it was by Ian Kennedy but he’s informed me it wasn’t, so at the moment I’m at a loss to who drew the giant pud. Even more unbelievably the cover represents an actual story inside this latest issue of Barrie Tomlinson‘s Wildcat, and that story is one of the best so far. You’ll have to wait until further down the review before I show you that particular Christmas miracle. After this cover image the next thing that grabs the attention is the paper.

Specifically, the paper quality. Half of the comic is made up of the kind of paper Rebellion‘s modern day 2000AD is printed on. This issue goes back and forth between this and the regular, thinner gloss paper but basically any sheet that has colour somewhere over its four pages will be of this thicker, heavier, higher grade. It feels wonderful in the hand and gives the comic a sense of high production values.

Moving on to the content and our four main strips obviously aren’t festive tales, what with being ongoing serials. Turbo Jones has a wonderful monster movie feel to it, like the Japanese kind I’d have watched late at night on TV back when I was a child. It’s not just dinosaurs anymore, there are giant mantises and other insects, as well as original creations such as Turbo’s Terrosauron. The imagination on show is wonderful.

The Arglons are attacking the Burroids’ city from underground and by the time Turbo and his army make it back a lot of it has already been destroyed. The Ark and his cronies are in charge of the enemy army and here we can again see the mechanics within their skeletal mouths. The frequently used alien terms add a nice touch too. Normally a strip might contain one or two such made up words but Barrie hasn’t held back when writing this script and I love that. Where does he get all this terminology from? It adds to the absurdity of the situation, the alienness of this planet and the originality of the story.

There’s a nice little touch there with Turbo tying up his flying beast like a pet, but it’s not long before he’s taking to the skies for more thrilling battles. This particular episode really does have it all. The action is truly thrilling, Vanyo‘s artwork sizzles in the action scenes, conveying real scale in the destruction of the city, real creepiness in the council and lots of little background details to pour over again and again. While the action builds so do the questions for this reader, with details about The Ark and the history of this war being drip fed to us. Wonderful stuff indeed.

Joe Alien has had enough. After falling for a trap set by trees(!) he draws the logical conclusion this continent they’ve landed upon is not hospitable for human life. It’s simply too dangerous; the killer vegetation can’t be communicated or reasoned with, despite finding out they can understand our language. Resistance is futile, so he orders a hasty retreat for his team but the plant life won’t let them leave. However, they’re not trying to kill them anymore either.

This is where a surprising turn of events takes place. We knew the trees were intelligent, able to uproot themselves and walk, they could communicate with each other and they appeared to be attempting to do so with us. Their murderous instincts were always front and centre but as Joe points out, while he has lost some team members, if the plants wanted them all dead they would be. They’re vastly outnumbered and on alien terrain after all.

A vehicle made of rock glides in over a body of water and from within it steps out a man. A human man from Earth! Our heroes have been corralled, now trapped on an outcrop surrounded by this body of water full of man-eating plants ready to chomp the legs off anyone who attempts to escape. But for this man they spread out their lily pad-like leaves and let him cross to within talking distance of Joe and his men.

I didn’t expect this! I have no recollection of this twist at all. A nice touch is the fact his speech is broken and slow because it’s been so many years since he last needed to do so. The plants treat him reverently, he’s quite clearly in charge and yet is very frail, at least upon first glance. It ends with him promising to tell a surprising story. I bet! I have so many questions. But that’s the whole point of the story. It’s layering mystery upon mystery, and just when you think you’ve got one or two bits sussed out it pulls the rug from under you.

Yes, that last sentence was a bit clichéd but there’s nothing unoriginal about this story. Ron Smith‘s artwork really comes into its own too, like he’s had a couple of issues to settle in and is now confidently in charge of the world originally created by Massimo Belardinelli. The rock vehicle feels suitably solid, the old man is an intriguing character even just to look at and the uprooted killers remind me of the tree that came in through the window in Poltergeist. Genuinely threatening. Two for two, the strips this issue have depth, character and intrigue. Shall it continue?

Just before the Kitten Magee strip here’s artist José Ortiz‘s pin up of one of her teammates Casandra Cardeti. While I do really enjoy José’s work and it’s nice to see some colour work from him, I always had an issue with how female characters would be dressed in our sci-fi comics. While Turbo, Joe and Loner are properly equipped for whatever is thrown at them, women always seemed to go up against the same dangers with a lot less clothing. It’s a sign of the times of course but it was always a niggle I had, not just with Wildcat so I’m not singling it (or José) out.

Unfortunately, out of all the strips in this issue Kitten Magee has the least development plot-wise. Basically a fight to the death between them and the robotic tribe, there’s plenty of action and a few close shaves until right at the end one of the robot heads pops off and explodes, leaving a crater where Kitten and Aurora were standing. But even within a basic plot this time around there are some really nice little nuggets to sink our teeth into. Have a look at these two panels by way of example.

The robots have suddenly become rather interesting. Their techniques for dispatching foes get more and more creative, my particular favourite being this ground drilling monster that pops up just when the battle seems over. Then there’s a gaffe Kitten herself makes. In saving Casandra from a dropped explosive by expertly kicking it into the hole from the previous panel, she mentions how keenly she played football as a kid. The thing is, the sport was deemed too violent and banned more than one hundred years ago. Add this to how old she looked in #3 and we’re beginning to get a glimpse into just how much of a lie she’s living. An interesting plot point which I’ve a feeling will become the main thread in issues to come. I certainly hope so anyway.

Just before Loner there’s another double-page spread of letters although none from the readers. Instead, every contribution has been signed off by an alien being from some distant world. The letters page had been hacked! I asked Barrie if this was due to a lack of letters but he assured me it was probably just for a bit of fun for the Christmas issue. He says he’s a big kid at this time of year (just like myself) so I can believe it!


“The creature is preserving their bodies… so it can eat them when it pleases.”

One of the little furballs

Loner gets a bit of a new look but whether I’d call it an upgrade is something else. The furry little pets of the extinct alien race told him the weapons he’d found could only be controlled by his mind and thus he was made to sit in a chair to prepare himself for using them. The end result makes for a rather startling image and he’s not best pleased with the finished result.

It’s a bit of an anti-climax when one of the furballs casually says they can change him back afterwards, what with the transformation being part of the cliffhanger last time. But it does mean he’s all set to take to the caverns and hunt down the creature the lizard demanded he kill. There are also some nice humorous touches in the dialogue and you get a sense of the beginnings of a friendship between the former mercenary and these cute little beings.

This episode is all about stalking through the underworld and it contains some wonderful imagery from David Pugh, especially within the lair of the beast.

The detail here is stunning. I love the webs, the rock formations and the skeletal remains of the critters, which is a bit of a sad image, with rotting corpses and imprisoned furries strung up everywhere. It’s quite the panel!

As he tracks down the beast we’re treated to a suspenseful atmosphere. Take your time reading this, taking in all the fine details of the art and the fact the lettering of the homing beep gets slightly bigger and smaller as Loner attempts to find it, and it gives off a tense Aliens vibe. As for the beast itself, well I remembered it being a hideous snake-like creature with huge black eyes and long, pointed teeth. An image in a previous issue confirmed my grey cells hadn’t let me down, but I’d assumed it was about the size of a large Earth anaconda. How wrong was I.

In #2 I was under the impression the crazed lizard was a giant beast in itself, only to find out in the next issue he was about twice the size of our hero. With the predator Loner has been sent to dispatch, I’m very glad to say I was wrong in a completely different way. Just look at that final page! What an image to leave in the minds of young readers. This is the best cliffhanger in all of Wildcat’s run so far.

How on Earth (or wherever they are) can Loner hope to take on this thing, even with the advanced weaponry? We know it has no brain patterns to speak of, that it operates purely on survival instinct (this is why the telepathic lizard can’t kill it). Is that information in itself a clue? I can’t see how. But isn’t that the best kind of cliffhanger? One where you can’t think of any possible way beyond it, but you know the answer has probably already been hinted at, that it’ll be an organic and ultimately satisfying resolution. Wildcat has proven itself in this respect many times over already. A tense chapter with a stunning final scene.

Our last strip takes us back to that giant Christmas pudding on the cover. It’s the festive season for the last human beings in existence and there’s some nice scene setting, including mention of the fact there’s been no communication with the landing parties, a running theme throughout all the stories and a nice reminder each one is part of a larger whole. We also get to see the bridge and the captain in charge of Turbo’s ship when he’s not around, while they track the huge dessert making its way towards them through the darkness outside.

For such a ludicrous thing to see they take it very seriously. Some crew members joke but they’re soon put in their place. It could’ve been so easy to reduce the whole story to a farce but I’m glad to say the characters treat it very seriously. Various attempts are made to communicate, they see it as an imminent threat, sounding the alarms and even opening fire, but their laser beams go straight through it. As does the Wildcat when the pudding surrounds them. “It’s like being wrapped in cotton wool”, one engineer scanning the impact (or lack thereof) states. Stranger and stranger.

It’s what the Wildcat crew don’t see that elevates the story into being the best Wildcat Complete yet.

The lights go out and a mysterious glow signals someone or something beaming aboard. It’s Santa and an elf! With presents for everyone they explain they disguised their ship as something they thought couldn’t possibly be seen as threat and they apologise. The image of the Wildcat within the actual ship itself is a striking one too. The captain takes some convincing and they don’t immediately win everyone over. Even after they’ve gone no one is sure it wasn’t some form of mass hallucination.

It’s a fun little story but then the final page makes everything click into place. The large Death Star-esque vehicle morphs into a sleigh and reindeer, another illusion. But it’s what the Wildcat crew don’t see that elevates the story into being the best Wildcat Complete yet. I’m left with just one question. Were they impersonating someone we humans associate with gift giving (apparently what they love to do as a species) or is this Santa’s true form?

It’s left without an answer of course, like all good Twilight Zone twists, leaving the readers much to discuss with their friends. I know I’ve mentioned that show before in reviewing these anthology stories, but to me that’s just the vibe I’m getting. I’m all for it, and even though the stories can be so different from the rest of the comic they fit perfectly. While it can’t be officially confirmed at this time, we believe the artist is Manuel Carmona Ruiz (2000AD, James Bond). The way they so effortlessly blend the hard sci fi with a very traditional way of illustrating Santa Claus in his close up, in a completely different artistic style, is extraordinary.

A wonderful Christmas feast of a story to end another fantastic issue. The way the dates fell in December 1988 there was another issue in the festive period, in fact it’s dated New Year’s Eve. It was probably released early like most comics scheduled around that time but I’ll be reviewing it on the last day of the year. If it’s anything like this issue it’ll give 2021 one hell of a send off. Join me then.