Tag Archives: Jackson (Butch) Guice

HAVOC #9: LAST RiTES

This just isn’t fair. That’s how I felt during September 1991 when #10 of Havoc failed to appear, the comic unceremoniously cancelled without so much as a note to the readers. Indeed, this issue continues on as normal, with cliffhangers and ‘Next Issue’ promos, as well as hints of what was yet to come. Clearly pulled after it went to print, Havoc was the latest in what felt like a long line of comics I’d committed to which ended up cancelled. Now having enjoyed the series 31 years later in real time, I’m left with that same feeling of unfairness as I finish off #9.

If you look at the cover date you’ll see the next issue was due 7th September 1991. With #1 arriving as soon as the school summer holidays had begun, #10 would’ve been the first after the next school year began, Havoc’s brief run perfectly wrapped up in the holidays. When I returned to school I found out several of my friends had also been excitedly collecting it and we ended up sharing our disappointment in its disappearance.

Goodbye Havoc, it’s been a blast and you deserved better.

None of the included strips saw a conclusion and two new stories actually begin here, such as the first for Deathlok after Michael Collins’ origin story. Even though it’s the beginning of a new tale we still got a catch up banner to bring new readers up to speed, something no other ‘Part One’ received so I’m guessing it was done in error. Jesus Saves adds new talent with Scott Williams joining as inker (Gregory Wright now writing only) and Paul Mounts as colourist, though uncredited here.

Nice use of the Daily Bugle there, as ever doing what any tabloid does and using exaggerations and shock journalism to strike fears into its readers, with the almost mythical rumours of Deathlok reported as fact on the front page, something Spider-Man fans will be all too familiar with. I’d never read a Spider-Man comic at this point in my life so was completely unaware of the Bugle being a part of the Marvel universe. Through this the strip also establishes our setting as Coney Island.

The Jesus the title refers to is Jesus Badalmente, a homeless man who would end up becoming a roommate and companion to Michael as he battled against Cybertek and tried to find a way back to his body, which was being kept alive! These are points I only found out in researching who this person was because the way he’s presented here I had a hunch he was being introduced as a regular. Jesus makes robots and is a bit of a cybernetics whiz, which I’m sure will come in handy at some point.

These first five pages of the story basically see Deathlok rescue Jesus from a mugging and in return he’s taken somewhere safe as the police arrive. Jesus’ first reaction is one of fear and revulsion, as will probably become the default as Michael encounters people, but just as he thinks Deathlok has only seen off the muggers so he can kill Jesus himself, he’s saved by the cyborg from one of the muggers trying to run them down in a car. That’s enough for him to take a chance on this strange individual.

I’ve really enjoyed Deathlok. He was my favourite as a teen and it’s been brilliant to catch up with him again. The origin story was full of character and Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright strike me as writers who’d make sure character development was key to the strip’s success. The action has been great, the interactions between Michael and the computer genuinely funny and I find myself really caring about what happens to them! One to track down for sure.

Before Murphy’s strip are two RoboCop features, with a third later in the comic. The first one concentrates on the franchise itself, in particular the in-progress RoboCop 3. The second movie had been released the year before and while it had proved to be a moderate financial success it was generally panned for not living up to the original. I remember being disappointed by it because Robo himself felt flat and boring.

What’s strange here is that Dave Hughes‘s feature describes the franchise as a “fatigued product” in a comic printing strips based on that product! How did that make it past the editor? He also criticises Robocop 2 but praises the fact that its head writer, Frank Miller would be returning for the third film. Yes, I’m aware Miller’s screenplay went through various rewrites by other writers but it’s still a strange thing to be thankful for after not enjoying his first RoboCop sequel.

This second feature is meant to be all about the comic strip, a major selling point of Havoc’s anthology. Unfortunately, Mike Conroy really does take his sweet time getting to the stage of discussing them. It’s not really until the third column that he gets into the meat of it all and then it’s over. There really wasn’t a need to reiterate so much of the lore and background to RoboCop for people who would already have been up to speed on all of that.

Let’s move on to the strip itself, part two of Vigilante by Alan Grant and it kicks off with muggers on hover bikes, showing how the comic would go all-in on the future setting, taking the strip more into the sci-fi fantastical than the original movie, which was more grounded. But this is a different medium and it all works well to get across the setting and how dangerous Old Detroit really is. After this, the father of the victim complains about how the police are locking up people like General Power from last issue when the city needs them more than ever.

These masked vigilantes’ reputation is a lot better than the reality of the people behind the costumes. Take General Power for example. After frazzling the man he was trying to save last issue he’s brought to the desk of Metro West by Murphy and told to give his name. After declaring himself as ‘General Power’, he’s ordered to give his real name which he hilariously admits is Jim-Bob Smith!

With a precinct full of wannabe superheroes, one of them has had enough and what comes next is a bit of a shock when read today.

RoboCop was set in the not-too-distant future and the first movie and the TV show were, in hindsight, really rather prescient, so much so its shocking at times watching the series to see how well they predicted our world thirty years in the then-future, and it can provide a scary insight into where we could be going. Bear this in mind when you see this next panel of that wannabe you saw in the final panel above, going by the name ‘Doc Chainsaw’.

He says it’s not against the law to “put on a suit an’ prowl the night” (which itself sounds more creepy than I think he intended) right in front of RoboCop. As if his red hat wasn’t enough, his general attire and his choice of words when confronted by Alex would be a bit on the nose if written today! 

Soon the sarge barks an order; all the vigilantes are to be charged with misdemeanours and set free. This happens much to the chagrin of the officers but has come down from the “very top” and thus the main mystery of the new story begins. Robo leaves to see if there’s something he can do (but we’re not given any more hints as to what this could be) and then we see former mugging victim Dink and his dad settling down to watch the city’s latest reality show, ‘The Detroit Vigilante‘ and that’s where it ends.

Deathlok and RoboCop have similar set ups but they’re handled in such unique ways you wouldn’t think they were similar unless you stopped to break down what’s at the core of their main protagonists. I was never a fan of the movie sequels to RoboCop so initially had some trepidation about these strips since they were also direct sequels, released before the TV show. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find a nice halfway point between the original film and the show, with Alan Grant grasping the character much better than the movie studio did around the same time.


“Pain is inflicted quickly and harshly upon those who would harm innocent children.”

Ghost Rider, Howard Mackie

It’s hard to judge a comic strip series based on only the first couple of stories, but I’ve been impressed with this version of Murphy so far. The first story brought the action, the second concentrated more on the characters and this one feels like it’s settled in more to the episodic nature of the storytelling, this first part setting things up nicely. Normally I’d be eager to see the next chunk but it’s just not forthcoming right now. Sadly, it’s goodbye to another favourite for the time being.

To soften the blow (although this wasn’t the original intention) we get a third feature for our part man, part machine, all cop hero, billed on the contents page as an interview with Marvel UK artist Lee Sullivan who did superb work on RoboCop for the American arm of the publisher. Calling it an interview is a bit of a stretch though. It reads as if two quotes by Lee were pulled from a general career interview, with one answer about RoboCop and the other about Doctor Who, filled out with information about the artist.


“…and because we know where everything is, we methodically begin to eliminate anything that ought not to be there!”

Star Slammers

Don’t get me wrong, it’s interesting information and a good article but I was looking forward to an actual interview about Lee’s work on this particular strip. That’s two of the three features about this character that feel like they included an awful lot of padding to make up the page count. Such a shame because I do enjoy Havoc’s extras but I’d have preferred those two to have been combined into one and another Eye Level included instead.

There’s mention here of Marvel no longer having the RoboCop licence which again is a strange thing to include when you’re trying to entice readers back for more. About a year before this Marvel UK’s Transformers announced the forthcoming release of a new RoboCop fortnightly comic. It was never released, with Robo appearing the next summer in Havoc instead.

Danny Ketch and his Spirit of Vengeance get the bulk of pages this issue with part one of Do Be Afraid of the Dark which begins with the gang of kids from previous issues, now referred to as the Cypress Pool Jokers, hunted down by who we assume are Deathwatch’s minions. Demanding to know where the canisters are they’re threatening the lives of the kids at gunpoint when a bright light and roar of a motorbike from a nearby hedge halt proceedings.

Out zooms the Ghost Rider, glowing against the night sky, only to be met by a hail of bullets. What’s interesting is that everyone knows his name already, his presence in the city plastered all over the newspapers and of course the criminal underworld would be well aware of him after he took some of them out. Falling off the bike and back into the hedge, the night goes dark again, the Ghost Rider’s flame apparently extinguished. Until the next page that is.

Scenes involving the Ghost Rider when apparently surrounded and outnumbered are always great fun but I can only imagine how awesome these would’ve seemed to a teenage me. (I’m sure they were but my memory has let me down.) I can confidentially say this was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Brutal but thrilling in equal measure, this first part of the new story really hits the ground running. Essentially a direct follow up to the origin story, it’s unfortunately not clear in these first seven pages whether any other main plot would be introduced.

On the next page it’s stated how Ghost Rider would normally take his time, ensuring to inflict the most pain possible on these men, equal to the pain of each individual’s past offences. But this night he needs answers and so he lashes his magical chain around one of them and drags them away off the back of his bike, the criminal’s body bouncing up and down on the road over the ghostly flames.

Hung over the side of a very tall building Eldon finally admits he’s not part of either criminal enterprise. Instead, he’d heard about Kingpin looking for the mysterious canisters and so he thought he’d take his gang out to find them, present them to the criminal mastermind and get in his good books. Ghost Rider gets no answers but that image of him, followed by the fate of Eldon have me gagging for more.

The kids see him drive off, recognising him now as one of the good guys. “Man, he’s hot!”, exclaims one as he disappears from their sight and from mine. This appears to be the most serialised of Havoc’s strips rather than individual stories, at least for the time being and I’m gutted this is my cut off point again. As my introduction to Ghost Rider he’s been a brilliant character in a very well written strip illustrated in a scratchy, mature fashion that perfectly suits him. Defintley my favourite part of Havoc and the one I’ll miss the most.

Part two of Conan’s Barbarian Death Song sees our female guest character finally named (Tasmara) and she explains the cloud from last time was actually some random god who bestowed the jewel around her neck upon her because he was so enraptured by her beauty. She’s now being chased down by Baron Gerdeg and his Falcon Brotherhood because it gives her the ability to see the future, something she realised through tragedy as you can see above.

This gives this fantastical element a sense of foreboding right from the start; it’s a curse rather than the gift it was intended as. As they chat she sees something else shocking, Conan’s death! Her vision includes his funeral procession, accompanied on either side of his coffin by allies he’s previously fought alongside, taken direct from the poem this story uses as inspiration. For more on that check out last week’s review which explains Conan’s last ever story.

Conan and Tasmara head into the local town to eat and drink before making their way elsewhere, hoping to beat death by getting far away from danger. But the Brotherhood, who have history of being defeated by Conan on top of their mission to get the jewel, have bribed a dancer in the tavern to dance for Conan using birds they supply her with. As we see above, their talons are tipped with a deadly poison.

Conan collapses and his last view before he blacks out is of Tasmara being taken. We then see his consciousness slip into another realm, a realm of death and decay by the looks of it. You can see the Next Issue caption at the bottom of this next page. Yes, this is how Conan ends! 

It would have been a great cliffhanger normally, but this was where we were left hanging as we desperately waited for #10 to appear. Now knowing it never would makes this was all the more frustrating! Conan’s first story may have been somewhat outdated and out of place in Havoc, but the second story made up for that somewhat with its humour if not its underwhelming ending. This story seemed to have more going for it and, knowing the poem it was based on, I’m eager to see how it turns out. Alas, for now I can’t.

I’ll admit this issue’s Star Slammers is eye catching, I’ll give it that. Each of its five pages are split up into these smaller panels, carrying on the theme of the Silvermind from last time. In fact, this penultimate part of the story kicks off with Jalaia finally reaching that near death point and activating the hive mind of the Slammers. Suddenly every single one of them can see, sense and hear everyone else, turning the tide of the battle against the Orions. So naturally Admiral Krellik cuts the feed to his homeworld in an attempt to control the narrative.

The way this is depicted, how they’re able to instantly react to the enemy from anywhere in the battle, how it turns on a dime from a slaughter to potential victory much to the shock of the enemy, is really very good. Alien Legion was due to replace Star Slammers in #11, so one week before its conclusion this strip finally became something of interest. It’s a cool few pages but with the lack of characterisation or storytelling in many previous parts it’s just too late to save it.

Our last Cry Havoc finishes things off and once more it’s got that exciting fan club feel to it which of course just makes it all the more heart wrenching that this is the end. But before we go there’s just time for a few more letters and typical Marvel UK-style replies, which I loved so much as a kid. Highlights include some dismay at Gary Oldman’s casting in Dracula (oh, how he’d prove the naysayers wrong!) and word of an upcoming Ghost Rider movie which wouldn’t actually become a reality for another 16 years.

There are some cheeky answers here too (“How about you being grateful for what you’ve got so far?”) which is very Marvel UK indeed, instructions to invest in the future of Havoc for new Deathlok (oh deary me, you’ll start me off again) and a funny final answer which refers to the fact RoboCop was coincidentally coloured by Havoc’s editor. Then just to rub salt in the wound is the Next Issue box and a reservation coupon. This is not the end this comic deserved.

It took a couple of weeks to realise Havoc wasn’t just running late. With this I became so fed up of fantastic comics with a potentially very bright future being cancelled early that I swore off trying new ones after Havoc, solely collecting Transformers which I’d begun buying years before. I’ll admit this changed when Thunderbirds The Comic appeared in October 1991 but I stuck with it for only about a year before Commodore Format enticed me to the way of magazines. Even Transformers was cancelled just five months after Havoc!

It feels like no time since I took this photo for Havoc’s introductory post and given the potential here it really was no time at all. Havoc deserved to run and run. My school friends who had collected 2000AD for a few years already loved it even more than Tharg’s mighty organ. From the first issue I loved three of the strips and over the course of these nine short weeks I’ve come to enjoy a fourth. The final one was to be replaced soon so I could have been a fan of everything included here in the end.

As it stands, it’s still a remarkable little collection of top quality characters. I think that sums it up best for me. It’s not just a random selection of strips, the stories I’ve enjoyed have all been about remarkable characters. Characters I want to read more of. Look out for a special blog post soon when I chat with freelance designer Paul Chamberlain who worked on several Marvel UK comics and created Havoc’s logo. Until then, it’s goodbye Havoc, it’s been a blast and you deserved better.

HAVOC #8: ENDiNGS & LATE BEGiNNiNGS

Conan the Barbarian was back in style. After taking a one issue break not only did a new story begin for the Cimmerian inside Havoc #8, he also got this glorious piece of cover art to announce his return. Although, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ could be the tagline for any of the Conan stories featured so far to be honest. But what a lovely cover it is nonetheless and it may only have been a week but I’ve missed having all five strips included.

Beginning again with Deathlok we finally get to the end of his origin story after seven hugely entertaining weeks with Brains of the Outfit, written by his resurrectors Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright. It’s all wrapped up brilliantly well. After last issue I wouldn’t have been able to guess how they’d conclude Michael Collins’ first outing after that action packed strip. Now that I’ve read these final seven pages there was simply no other way they could’ve done it. It’s great.

That panel above is the beginning of an incredibly dark moment as Michael/Deathlok takes to a roof above the city and contemplates ending his life, even placing his high powered gun into his mouth. But he knows the Deathlok machine would just be found, he’d be stripped out and some other poor soul would be forced inside instead. Nothing would be stopped, nothing solved. He hooks himself up to electrical wires on the building to overload and explode, but decides he needs to call his son first to say goodbye and uses the phone lines instead.

The Deathlok computer detects a ‘HeroQuest’ program running at the number given to it (how topical for 1991) and it creates an avatar for itself to interact with the player, young Nick, who knows his dad has died. This is the game we saw him play previously, when Michael tried to explain to him how bigger and better weapons don’t make the hero, it’s about being brave against the odds and, telling him that he’s a friend of his dad’s he reminds him of this in a touching scene.

In fact this scene takes up the main bulk of this final part and I think it’s just lovely. Nick tells the character on the screen that his dad isn’t there anymore and in response he’s told this doesn’t matter, it doesn’t make it any less true, “You want to win at this game, you’ve gotta learn how to be a hero.” With a few tears running down is face, Nick promises he will and turns the computer off, unaware of who he made that promise to.

Disconnected from the call, the Deathlok computer asks if it should continue with the self-destruct and as you’ll see below Michael looks to the sky as a new day dawns and thinks about the advice he’s just given his son. This feels like the perfect ending to such a character driven story, one that I’ve been really invested in for the whole summer. I love this final page, especially that last panel with the hint of a smile on our true hero’s face.

What a brilliant origin and I’m already a huge fan of the character, not just Deathlok but of Michael himself. I could see his family being involved in future stories very much in the same way Alex Murphy’s were in some episodes of the RoboCop TV series, although the difference here is that Michael has already tried to tell his wife who Deathlok really is. That could lead to some great moments. To say I’m eager to read more is an understatement so, although the next issue is the last I’ll look forward to its small chunk of storyline to get an idea of what the future could’ve held.

Next up we take a break from the strips for Eye Level, the news page compiled by Dave Hughes this issue. It may be back to one page after the larger spread it had a week ago for the cinema releases of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, but a quick glance down the article at all those movies and TV shows in bold and it was quite the busy release schedule wasn’t it?

There are a few I’d never heard of (Miami Blues, Only the Lonely and Trust), a couple of childhood favourites (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and The Witches) and a cartoon series that completely passed me by because I never saw the film it was based on until much later in life. Even the references to the films recently released remind me of why I loved the 80s so much! Speaking of 80s movies, the official RoboCop continuation strip is up next and venturing into the world of superheroes.

Well, wannabe superheroes anyway. As you can see from this opening splash page it certainly looks like Old Detroit has a new warrior in the fight against a seemingly insurmountable level of crime and violence in the forgotten city. I like how the story starts off with that famous RoboCop quote about a crime happening somewhere and how we’re led to believe it’s in reference to the mugging happening on the ground. A clever piece of misdirection by writer Alan Grant.

The next page plays out like an old-fashioned, clichéd superhero comic with ‘General Power’ using his ‘Electro Gauntlets’ to incapacitate the muggers, complete with corny one-liners such as, “General Power: The shock that crime needs!” It’s an exaggerated, almost spoof-like homage and it’s all going swimmingly for the masked crime fighter until he tries to help the victim to his feet but forgets to turn off his gauntlets, frying the person he was trying to save!

Cue sirens and a police car pulls up. Our panicked wannabe begins to scale the wall in a bid to fade back into the night like any good vigilante but he hadn’t bet on two things, his own incompetence and the officer being Alex Murphy aka RoboCop, who makes his entrance into the story in this glorious drawing by penciller Lee Sullivan and inker Kim DeMulder. An awesome page, this!

A quick shot through the wire General Power was using sees him fall to the ground but the victim, all charred from the accidental electrocution, pleads with Alex to let the man go. They try to convince him that he’s on the same side as the police but Robo stands firm, no one can take the law into their own hands and when Power tries to use his gauntlets on the metal cop it backfires big time. The story ends with Murphy radioing into HQ that he’s picked up “another vigilante”.

This third RoboCop story shows the creative team have well and truly settled into the character

“Another”? Intriguing. Has there been a rash of such people trying to fight crime recently? I’m going to guess it can’t be a coincidence, that there must be some nefarious reason behind it all, so I’m interested to see how much of the mystery is revealed in our final issue next week. There’s definitely a confidence in this third RoboCop story that shows the creative team have well and truly settled into the character, especially in the art department! Lots of potential here for future stories. I’m going to miss them.

Alongside Deathlok, Ghost Rider’s origin story also ends this issue, with part eight of Life’s Blood which acts as a kind of epilogue. In his demonic form Danny Ketch bursts into the local hospital to deliver the young gang member who initially scared him back in #1, who was injured in the battle between Kingpin’s and Deathwatch’s cronies over the mysterious suitcase and its canisters. After this first page he reverts back to human form for the rest of the story.

But as I’ve said before the strip has always been about more than just the Ghost Rider himself, I’ve enjoyed the character of Danny and the building blocks being put in place for future stories. For example, we get the obligatory conflict character, someone in Danny’s life who thinks his alter ego is a menace to society and this comes in the shape of Captain Dolan, the father of a friend of his and his sister Barb. The Ghost Rider is all over the press and Dolan has made his mind up.

Danny tries to reason with him but we know already this won’t help, this is a character who’ll go up against the Spirit of Vengeance in future issues without knowing who it really is. It’s a bit of a cliché but Danny is such a sympathetic character, and the Ghost Rider such a fascinating idea that I’d love to see where this relationship goes. For now though, Danny concentrates on his sister who remains in her comatose state as the story ends. 

Actually, after this scene we get two large panels showing Kingpin shouting at his men that his entire operation is in jeopardy if those canisters aren’t found, and one in which new villain Deathwatch has killed one his men for losing the suitcase and he declares all witnesses are to be eliminated. But it’s this scene in the hospital which is the more dramatic ending for me, with Danny struggling to understand what’s happened to him, scared for his sister’s life.

It leaves me thinking is there something his Ghost Rider form can do for Barb? Having this scary, demonic, vengeance-fuelled being caring for his host’s sister could make for interesting storylines in the future. This may be the first series I want to try to collect in graphic novel form after Havoc finishes in just seven days. Watch this space. On the next page we’ve got two pages of space given over to a special feature about the Star Slammers, or at least that’s how it was described on the contents page.

As you read it you’ll realise it’s actually an article about the creator of the Star Slammers, Walter Simonson and his illustrious career. I’ll admit as I read it I was a bit miffed it didn’t mention Walt’s adaptation of Jurassic Park, which featured in the first five issues of the UK’s comic based on that original movie and which was covered on the blog. Then I had a bit of a moment when I realised Havoc was published two years before the movie was even released. Whoops.

I certainly didn’t think I’d see Death’s Head in Havoc though, there’s always that.

Before we move on to Walt’s strip we have the return of Conan the Barbarian after his one-week hiatus and his next story is entitled Barbarian Death Song. The credits box has been accidentally left blank. Michael Fleisher, who provided the dialogue to the previous story has written this one, with pencils by John Buscema, inks by Armando Gil (Jurassic Park, What If…?, Ka-Zar the Savage), colours by George Roussos (G.I. Joe, Fantastic Four, The Avengers) and letters by Janice Chiang.

In 1972 writer Lin Carter wrote a poem called Death-Song of Conan the Barbarian which is the last story for the character, chronologically speaking. Written for a Robert E. Howard (Conan’s original creator) fanzine and later reprinted in Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan, in it Conan reflects on his life, those he’s met, those he’s fought and the people he’s killed. Themes include the inevitability of death and living a fulfilling life and crossing over to the other side, which he does travelling alongside those he knew in life.

Is this going to be reflected in this comic strip with a similar name? So far the answer is no but remember this would’ve been cut into at least four smaller parts for Havoc. Originally published by Marvel US in 1985 the story begins with Conan turning down the offer of the Nemedian King to take up a ranking position in his army. He then stumbles upon an assassins league called The Falcon Brotherhood (who he has dealt with before) and rescues a damsel in distress who I initially thought was Nateesa from the previous story.

Nope, this is meant to be a completely different character even though she is identical to the damsel from last time, giving me the impression female characters are somewhat interchangeable in these stories, which isn’t a nice impression to have. Her name isn’t given yet and she has just about enough time to start telling us her story before she’s unceremoniously cut off for seven days. The jewel around her neck is what the Brotherhood sought and she tells Conan that while tending to her father’s goats a few days previous a cloud which was not a cloud appeared before her.

The best bit is the opening page with its fierce looking battle but it’s immediately forgotten

That’s it, we’ll have to wait until next week to see what that’s all about. A strange place to stop the tale but sometimes it’s inevitable that sometimes the forced cliffhangers won’t quite hit. However, as a result there’s not much to say about these first five pages. The best bit is the opening page with its fierce looking battle but even it is immediately forgotten as the story jumps forward to a few days later. Hopefully the story begun here will be elaborated upon lots more next week.

Between Conan and the final strip is an advert for a Marvel UK comic I never bought as a kid. This is actually the first time I’ve even seen a colour advertisement for it as it seemed to be in almost every issue of Transformers every week in black and white. I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Knights of Pendragon, so it could be something for me to look into at a later date when I’ve covered all the comics I did buy back then.

So, we finish our penultimate issue with the Star Slammers and if I thought Conan’s strip didn’t have much going on then this one has absolutely nothing. At first glance it all looks very exciting, with a unique layout to the battle scenes and it entices the reader in, only to find not much there upon closer inspection.

We begin seeing their homeworld, which the Orions use as their hunting grounds being devastated from above, the cowardly hunters staying out of harm’s way, at least for now.  The pages have that aforementioned uniqueness about them. They’re made up of lots of small squares in apparently random fashion, meant to represent the Silvermind, the ability of their race to share all their thoughts as one. Knowing everything that everyone else is doing all at once could turn the tide of the battle.

But Jalaia realises Ethon was only able to heighten his own telepathic powers to the SIlvermind when he knew he was about to die.

In that moment Ethon let all his defences down, even the ones he didn’t know his mind had put up. Jalaia decides to put herself in harm’s way so she can be the trigger for it this time. I do like how, over a few pages the many squares holding faces of Slammers start to go blank one by one, as more lose their psychic connection with their comrades. But it’s not enough. Even with Jalaia making what could be the ultimate sacrifice, I still found myself struggling to care for any of the characters.

There really hasn’t been the character development necessary for something trying to be so epic. I should be on the edge of my seat with this story but I just haven’t been able to connect with anyone involved, despite the earlier issues having some interesting world building. That’s it in a nutshell really; the story has concerned itself with the big scale events at the expense of the small scale moments and character. As it stands, I find myself rushing though it to get to the letters page!

I always liked how Marvel’s comics wouldn’t hold back on printing criticism received, with the first letter really not holding back on their opinion of my least favourite strip. That being said, these letters were sent in by readers after #2, so opinions expressed are still limited to those first two issues. I laughed when Deathlok was described as “a RoboCop for the present”! Robo was still about for a good few years after this! The same letter even praises the Slammers. There’s just no accounting for taste I suppose.

Interestingly the reply states Conan is the strip receiving the most negative feedback. Given how these letters were written only after his first adventure I can understand that though. It also appears back in 1991 the UK didn’t have the same appetite for spandex as it does now. How times have changed. The next time we read another Cry Havoc will be the last so none of the proposed changes would get the chance to take effect. But I’m still looking forward to it; each issue was growing in confidence and with the origin stories out of the way the future looked brighter than ever.

The suddenly cancelled Havoc’s swansong review will be right here from Wednesday 31st August 2022.

HAVOC #6: CRYiNG HAVOC AT LAST!

This is a wonderful original Marvel UK cover by Liam Sharp (a first for the title) showing Deathlok breaking free just as he finally does in his strip inside, with Michael Collins’ mind now fully aware and communicating with the military computer inside the cyborg. It really kicks off this issue. That headline about the Star Slammers is obviously meant to shock, but given my love-hate relationship with that particular story and its characters, I’m really not feeling bothered either way. But that doesn’t detract from how excited I am to read another issue of Havoc!

I can’t believe I’m already at the sixth issue and I really, honestly do look forward to this day every week, but of course the more we fly through this on a weekly basis the closer we get to its premature end. Still, it’s clear from this issue the intention was originally to have this as a long running title, what with the inclusion of the first letters page and some of the answers given. We’ll get to that in due course, first up is the cover star and as you can see the strip now has a traditional Marvel UK border to the first page to bring us up to date. In fact, every strip has one now and I’ll show you each one.

You’ll see on these first pages that every one has the credits star inside something unique to that strip. For example, you’ll see it inside Robocop’s gun barrel, a monitor on the Star Slammers’ ship or an animal skin drum for Conan. Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright’s (re)creation of Deathlok really does show off this time what the whole remit is about with an all-action entry in his origin story.

This issue’s chunk of story really highlights how Collins and the computer will interact and work together. Now recognised as its new programmer, he’s able to give the cyborg new instructions on the fly. The first thing is to tell it that killing enemies is off the table. After trying and failing to stop it previously in the jungle (apart from just about stopping it from killing a small child) here, recognised as the authorised input, a simple command changes all of that. The computer must now be smarter and work around this new parameter, which it does with aplomb as the story continues.

Ryker watches on and tries to stop them with every security measure possible and the straight-laced, logical computer and the flying-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Michael make a great team. Even though the computer is just a machine, it almost comes across as banter between the two thanks to Michael’s very human reactions to its very logical statements, and vice versa! Ryker is having too much fun though in trying to kill his former friend and colleague.

Remember that huge tank thing a couple of issues ago? I knew it wasn’t for nothing and as Deathlok crashes through another wall to get around the force shield they come across the tank and suddenly it whirrs into life. They scan it and find another former workmate at the wheel. Questioning how he could possibly have gotten there so quickly when no one would’ve known which route they were taking, the computer informs Michael of the trackers in the helmet. There’s only one option, to remove it and take on the tank with Deathlok vulnerable for the first time.

This is the penultimate panel of the strip and is a great summary of the action we’ve been treated to in these wonderful five pages. It really is breath taking at times and this is only our main character trying to escape the compound of Cybertek, never mind the adventures that could come next. This lone cyborg going up against impossible odds, the computer’s monotone (in my head anyway) voice and Collins’ interactions make for great fun. What’s interesting is how Collins isn’t in control of the cyborg’s body. Instead, it’s moving autonomously with instruction from Michael. An interesting dynamic I’m looking forward to exploring more of.

Our second strip this time is part two of RoboCop’s Murphy’s Law. At the end of last week’s episode, in the midst of his own mental breakdown, RoboCop let go of the hovering garbage droid to land on top of a car being stolen by a gang of thieves. Causing the car to crash, with Murphy between it and a lamppost, it’s almost too much for his systems which were already under stress from the Nixcops attack and then watching a member of the public die because he couldn’t protect them, breaking one of his Prime Directives.

At Nixco, Dek Kyng is now in their hands so they immediately set to work making sure he won’t be causing any more problems, setting an automated surgical system on him to hack into his brain, turning him into another one of their robots. Meanwhile, Alex lays dormant on a table in his police district. A tough job lies ahead for the engineers but they see this as an opportunity to install some amendments and they’re given the go ahead to proceed, much to the chagrin of a new character called Laszlo.

Laszlo’s plan involves having a police officer kidnapped, who the ED-209s will rescue

You see, Laszlo was in charge of the ED-209 programme which RoboCop fans will know looked cool but were pretty awful at law enforcement. Believing the problems to have been fixed (yet the EDs are still the big, lumbering robots of the movie) Laszlo sets about making sure OCP have no choice but to terminate RoboCop and choose his path instead. His plan involves contacting a street gang and arranging to have a police officer kidnapped, who the ED-209s will rescue.

First up though it’s time for a commercial and some news updates from Media Break. I loved these in the first film and in particular in every episode of the TV series. I’d completely forgotten Delta City didn’t actually exist yet in the first film. I’m so used to seeing it complete (or at least in a more advanced state) in the series, complete with its self aware central intelligence, that reading this feels like a prequel to the RoboCop I grew up with.

Eventually his engineers realise its the human part of RoboCop that’s not operating correctly (for want of a better phrase) but they can only speculate on what’s going on inside his mind. They put out a call for his partner Lewis to return to HQ and help and in the meantime we get one of those trademark RoboCop memory scenes. While all of this is going on the various strands of the story come together before we leave things for another week.

Lewis is radioed to return so she can help with RoboCop’s recovery, but she’s currently in the middle of an arrest which in reality is a set up by Scarface’s men, the gang Laszlo contacted to kidnap a random officer. When news of her disappearance reaches Media Break, the bosses at Nixco see an opportunity to send in their own Nixcops to rescue her and prove their cyborgs are the future of law enforcement. What a mess this could be! Great stuff! Writer Alan Grant feels much more comfortable with this second story and is really getting stuck into the lore and the action, one never at the expense of the other. Perfect.

So, with Star Slammer Ethon being tortured in last week’s strip it’s no surprise to find out he’s the one who bites the dust. There’s a quick bit of mourning from Jailaia and Sphere before they decide to use the body of their fallen comrade to help them escape. Wow, that’s pretty cold. They don their gear and before boarding their own ship moored outside they tie Ethon into the pilot’s chair of the prison ship and set the controls.

I have to say this next part is really rather good. The main ship of the fleet is watching on and receives a distress call from the prison ship after someone on board discovers what’s happened. The huge vessel getting silently and ominously closer and closer is a truly terrifying sight for those watching and I think writer and artist Walt Simonson has done a superb job with this particular sequence, which culminates on the next page.

Of course, this escape is immediately covered up (as an unwarranted attack) by Krellik, who is no longer a senator but an all-powerful Admiral. Declaring the hunt on and how much the television networks will love it, he alerts the entire fleet to set out after the escaped Slammers. It feels like we’re finally getting somewhere, so adding this to the fascinating (and very relevant today) background politics from #4 we could be in for a treat in coming issues.

One film that stood out above all others in the summer of 1991 was Terminator 2: Judgement Day

I’m still not sure if it’s really working being split up into chunks though. Maybe the coming weeks will prove me wrong, but at the moment it may have worked better in its original graphic novel form.  Two out of the these first six chapters held real promise, so if the remaining parts of the story build on those, and we get a nice mix of story and action in the limited space afforded here, it may prove to have been worth the wait to get to this point.

This issue’s Eye Level is a particularly interesting one. During the summer of 1991 cinema goers were treated to a vast array of blockbusters with everything from City Slickers and The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, to The Rocketeer and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. But one film that stood out above all others, definitely for teenage me anyway, was Terminator 2: Judgement Day and it’s the impending release of this movie which takes up the whole page, with 20 facts about the film and its star.

While I can’t find any evidence that the so-called ‘Jung and Freud’ film was ever made, there are other tidbits here which I never knew about, such as the fact Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally intended to be Kyle Reese in the first film, and before Robert Patrick was cast as the new T-1000 Billy Idol was hired for the role! I’m a fan of the series, the first four films anyway, so it’s interesting to see the contemporary coverage the best one received at the time, and it’s a clear indication this was a Marvel UK comic aimed at the older teen audience (and above).

Conan the Barbarian’s Cauldron of Doom comes to its conclusion this issue and as feared it basically boils down to Conan coming out of his hypnotised state and punching a few people. How this happens is rather good though, with slave girl Nateesa coming to his rescue. Terrified of her mistress Marielle, Nateesa can’t get close to Conan so she resorts to desperate measures and throws a stolen knife at him. She’s a very good shot from so far away!

Once returned to his senses he easily disposes of the two men guarding the cauldron filled with whatever liquid would’ve killed him and seized his body into a solid statue for Marielle’s collection. (The opening dialogue box refers to her as a witch for the first time.) As for the villainess herself, she chases after Nateesa who punches her out cold and… that’s it. It’s all neatly tied up in a big bow as Conan and Nateesa ride off into the sunset together. After the intriguing build up, the interesting Marielle in the first chapters and the very funny moments in previous weeks, it’s such a shame it has such a clichéd end.

At the end a caption states Conan won’t return until #8. No idea why he won’t be in #7 yet. Is one of the other strips due to get extra room for some reason? Are special features planned? Who knows, we’ll find out in seven days.

As if to soften the blow of the longer than normal wait for the next Conan story we get a two-page feature about the history of the character and his comics, written by comics historian Mike Conroy. Coming from a position of knowing nothing about Conan this was all brand new information to me. Most surprising was how young Robert E. Howard was when he died, and only four years after creating the character so he never got to see his meteoric rise. That’s such a shame. 

Other surprises here for me are that the original Red Sonja was much different than the one in the movies, that she wasn’t part of Conan’s stories and the Conan movie was written by Roy Thomas (who adapted Havoc’s first story from Howard’s books) and Gerry Conway who blog readers may remember was the head writer on Marvel’s fantastic Visionaries comic. The feature does raise a couple of questions though, namely if the US comic was still in print why was Havoc using such early stories rather than the latest ones, which surely would’ve been a better fit? Also, what on Earth is Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo?!

The final strip this week is Ghost Rider and it’s all about that mysterious suitcase and the young gang of kids who stole it. Kingpin’s men have tracked them down and sent in that well worn stereotype, the bad guy who is so overly polite you just know he means the exact opposite of what’s coming out of his mouth. We must remember these stories are nearly 30 years old. His hints soon turn to actual threats until one of the kids is stabbed by a flying knife.

New Marvel bad guy, Deathwatch, has sent his ninja-like minions for the same purpose, to retrieve the briefcase that kicked all of of this off way back in #1 and all hell breaks out in the streets of the city. It’s clear this version of Ghost Rider is going to make for a very violent strip, much like the rest of Havoc really, and despite the central character being of supernatural origin it all comes across gritty and serious, and I like this juxtaposition.

Our reluctant hero Danny Ketch is driving about on his apparently completely normal motorbike and beginning to wonder if he imagined the whole thing from the night before. He’s trying to determine whether he wants to coax out whatever it was he turned into, thinking it might have some knowledge to help his hospitalised sister Barb. However, he’s terrified of doing so, but once he hears the gunfire and commotion the petrol cap on the bike starts to glow. He doesn’t want to touch it, but feels compelled to. He instantly regrets it.

I love this transformation scene, Danny’s skin engulfed in fumes and then them turning to fire, you can feel the heat radiating off the page in that close up of his face, followed by the exciting panel of him and the bike becoming one. Depending on how each individual story in Havoc is chopped up into various lengths, each issue we could get a lot of plot, or a more character-focussed bit of the tale, sometimes we just get a quick shot of excitement which keeps us hanging on for more the following week.

This week’s Ghost Rider definitely falls into the latter category and I’m not complaining one bit, especially when the next page ends this week’s strip with this image.

The gang war over the briefcase has escalated to murderous levels, endangering innocent lives and the Spirit of Vengeance is having none of it. There’s a lot of mystery still around the main flaming character and Danny is only slowly beginning to realise this could be his life now. It’s building momentum, it’s pace is quickening but it’s also taken time to establish its characters. As a result this feels like the most bedded in strip in Havoc. Plus, that’s just a really cool image to end the issue on.

We come to the end of another brilliant edition but instead of the usual full-page Next Issue promo we’ve got our first letters page in the shape of Cry Havoc. At last! I’d forgotten all about the fact we even had one. I don’t recall ever writing in, but given the short life of the comic I probably never got around to it. The letters here are all very positive and that’s the feeling I come away with; if this was the summer of ’91 I’d be thinking this appears to be a very successful new comic, such is the reception on display here.

There are definitely a couple of recurring themes here, for example a few mentions of The Punisher (and more received according to an answer) and his cancelled comic, which leads on to the other theme of hoping Havoc isn’t another short-lived Marvel weekly. Sadly at the time it did seem like every decent new comic didn’t last long. Unbeknownst to us Havoc was to be yet another casualty. But I’m enjoying it while it’s here.

One final note, Jim Black’s letter mentions the five-pointed star motif and I asked Paul Chamberlain (who designed it) if this was related to the fact there were five strips. It was actually just a happy coincidence. Watch out for a chat with Paul here on the blog soon! There are more Havoc comics to review first though, so join me again in one week. The review of #7 will be here on the OiNK Blog from Wednesday 17th August 2022.