Tag Archives: James Tomlinson


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 creator/editor 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 (at the time of writing). 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 (although that didn’t stop Super Naturals, another of Barrie’s). 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, 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 in the next chapter of David Robinson‘s story. After falling for a trap set by the 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.

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 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’s 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 by writer James Tomlinson 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

Barrie Tomlinson‘s 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 sad 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.

They’re tracking the huge dessert making its way towards them through the darkness outside

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 a threat and they apologise. The image of the Wildcat within the actual ship itself is a striking one too and provides an “ahh” moment for the reader after that cover. 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 manage to 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.


I love this Ian Kennedy cover based on the Wildcat Complete tale inside. We’ve had deaths in pretty much every part of the anthology series so far, but this shows us there’s a ferocious animal-like killer on board, running rampant amongst the last several hundred humans in existence. The claustrophobic horror of being in that situation is perfectly captured here.

This issue we’ve got man vs dinosaur, alien vs murderous plants, woman vs robot men, man vs crazed newt and spacecraft vs Mr Hyde. So a busy issue of editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s creation then. We start off as always with Turbo Jones and the first page is no less thrilling than that cover. Turbo has decided he’s going to tame the untameable Terrosauron and over the course of the first couple of pages the huge beast underestimates the tiny opponent time and again. Using his small weapons in clever ways, Turbo manages to outsmart his opponent and soon he has his steed of choice.

The ‘Next Issue’ promo last time was just an image of The Great Ark, leader of the Arglons. It appears they were just one of a handful of animated corpses. A row of skeletal beings led by The Ark itself bark orders at their minions, killing one of their top military leaders for their apparent failure. Some close up angles of this council (like the one used for the promo a fortnight ago) show what look like mechanics behind their jaws. Could it be they’re all dead? Is this all going to lead to a Wizard of Oz moment later in the series? That’s my guess at the moment although I’ve no recollection of the story beyond this point.

From here the story cleverly flips back and forth between Turbo training the Burroid army and the Arglons using giant mantis-like creatures to dig a tunnel right underneath their enemy, straight to their capital city. There are no captions to explain the back and forth between the two scenes, which to be honest I’d have expected in any comic of mine from back then. But writer Barrie and artist Vanyo credit the kids reading with the intelligence to not need their hands held.

The cliffhanger sees giant cracks appear in the roads of the city and it feels like it’s all building up to an epic climax. It isn’t though. Each character’s story is one ongoing saga rather than being split up into smaller individual tales. So if they’d spent a year on this planet each character would’ve had a 26-part epic, which was an original way to go about things! The tension is building however and by the end of these five pages it’s palpable.

The tree is an alien being that plucked him off the ground and is now holding him hostage

Our pinup jumps from the back cover to page seven and this issue it’s my favourite character, Loner and his new found friends the little fuzzballs. Reading the black and white strip I (for some reason) made the assumption these little balls of fur were a sandy colour but here David Pugh has decided that’s not the case. More from Loner in a bit.

On to Joe Alien now, who we last saw stuck up a tree. Well, it’s a lot more dramatic than that. The tree is an alien being that plucked him off the ground and is now holding him hostage. Joe’s dislodged brain pack is in the hands of his teammates so he’s completely incapable of helping himself. But what about that rather horrific cliffhanger? It’s washed away with a quick douse in a nearby pool of water which luckily (as stated by one of the team) seems pretty normal for once. That is, until some form of seaweed starts to crawl out of the water and wrap itself around their limbs. It seems danger really is lurking everywhere.

Easily able to break free, they’re still at a loss over how to rescue Joe, precariously held high up in the air. To me, it looks like this tree could be planning on using Joe to communicate but maybe that’s the wrong assumption on my part, because his team obviously don’t agree. Their solution? Blow it up, of course.

As you can see it makes a piercing scream as it comes crashing down, so the silent killers from previous issues aren’t quite so silent after all. With his brain pack clicked back into place, Joe has had enough and orders them all to quickly retreat back to their shuttle and return to the Wildcat. This is no place for them to plant their feet (boom) and put down roots (boom, boom) but on their way back they hear another cry, this time a cry for help from deep within a hole in the ground.

What they see down the pit is a two-headed alien covered in bright blue feathers. Speaking our language (able to translate other tongues quickly explained as an ability of his race), Joe and his team set about freeing him from the roots that appear to have trapped him. I’ll admit alarm bells went off for me the second I saw this and it slowly dawns on the team all is not as it seems.

A line of huge trees marches up to surround them, seemingly to make a final stand but suddenly stop. Forming a wide circle around the landing party they just stand there, unmoving. The final panel shows our team looking out at the killer jungle, knowing something is wrong but they can’t quite put their fingers on it, while we the readers see the alien is but a suit and it’s being quietly ripped open. Inside, a few plants are playing the part! This is great fun.

This must mean they’re able to communicate properly (beyond painful screams) as they were able to impersonate this fictional alien creature and, maybe more importantly, decipher our language. Does this mean I was right when I guessed it looked like the tree earlier was attempting to use Joe to communicate? Out of all the strips so far this feels the most alien (suitably enough given its name) so kudos to writer David Robinson, although it’s in no small part thanks to the highly original artwork of Ron Smith.

I don’t quite know what to make of the Kitten Magee strip this issue. First up though, it begins with Kitten receiving the life dust from her robotic pet Crud via something beneath her collar. Whether it’s a device, an injection or an opening in her skin isn’t clear in the shadowy forest and I’m guessing it’s been left deliberately ambiguous by writer James Tomlinson and artist José Ortiz at this point, so hopefully a future issue will clarify.

So the tribes from previous episodes to whom Kitten proved herself by fighting their leader are now attacking her team, and to begin with we think it’s some form of mind control by the fat men hovering above. But when Kitten returns to rescue her teammates one of the aliens is blasted open and it’s revealed they’re actually robots. This is where I don’t know how to feel about it. At this point I had to remind myself this was the 80s, because having fully organic beings revealed as being robots on the inside is a cliché I’ve grown very tired of over the years. But this was written a few decades ago so I have to remember that context. But why would the fat men (one of whom gets the name ‘Hobos‘ this issue) go to all the bother of creating them?

When the innards are revealed all of the other machines stop, as if awaiting instructions. At this point Hobos is spotted and Bonnie tries to take out his hovercraft device with her sniper rifle. Fleeing, he flicks a switch and the tribesmen take to the air, their laser eyes firing upon the women while others take suicidal bombing runs. Where on Earth (well, not-Earth) did all of this come from?

At the time I can imagine I would’ve been thrilled with this sudden change to the situation, but now I found it a bit clunky. But that’s more the fault of the passing of time rather than the comic itself. So who is Hobos? Did his race create these robots? Or maybe they are sentient machines that have been hacked, which would be more original. Perhaps there’ll be some answers next time, although I’ve a feeling I’ll be left waiting for a while longer.

“I still have to go back upstairs and finish off that overgrown newt!”


There are a couple of interesting nuggets of story information in the Wildcat Time-Warp Data Link pages in response to readers’ letters. One asks how many people are on board since the terms “hundreds” and “over a thousand” have both been used by now and in reply we’re told that it was meant to be around 500 (in the preview it was over 700) but it became clear after leaving Earth an enormous amount of stowaways got on board. Was the number increased when they realised they’d want to kill off plenty of people in the stories (and had been doing so a lot already)? Interestingly, we’re told that, coupled with the animal and plant life, these stowaways have given Wildcat a total weight load far in excess of its original specifications. Will this be a plot point we’ll return to?

Begging for the hallucinations inside his mind to stop, Barrie Tomlinson‘s Loner agrees to the terms of the villainous lizard to track down the beast that poses a threat to him. Making his way into the depths of the caverns with the furry little ball creatures in tow, Loner wonders inwardly how he’s going to be successful when all he has is his six-shooter. A voice echoes in his mind, “We can help you” and he’s surprised to find that outside of the overgrown newt’s telepathic range these little critters can talk to him, and are intelligent.

Their backstory is that they were the pets of the people who once lived on the continent, content and happy with their existence and loved by their owners. But the people soon became obsessed with creating bigger and more destructive weaponry, their wars became deadlier and soon they had wiped themselves off the face of the planet, their pets hiding out in this underground world. What’s more, underneath the fur their flesh is poisonous, sending anybody stupid enough to eat them completely crazy, hence our giant lizard friend’s state of mind. (This is a much better development than humanoid robots.)

They lead Loner to a cave full of the weaponry they gathered and hid away from visitors after the last war. More than enough to see off the beast and free them all from the lizard toom but there’s a catch. The people of this continent had built weapons controlled by mental power alone, so in order to stand a chance Loner will have to undergo a transformation or the weapons will destroy his mind. As you can read above he isn’t keen but the furballs don’t give him any choice in the matter.

We’re left with this image of him screaming in agony as a warning rings out, “At the end, you will consider yourself quite monstrous!” I couldn’t remember anything about this but one look at the Next Issue promo at the back of this issue (further below) brought it all back. What I’ve particularly liked is seeing a slight softening of Loner as he begins to bond with the little creatures.

Boredom and the vast emptiness that surrounds them can, and will, have an effect on the human psyche

Every five-page chapter of this strip takes a big step forward in developing the story and when something this fun to read is all wrapped up in superlative David Pugh artwork it’s no wonder this was my favourite part of the comic. It’s hard to believe we’re only 20 pages in! I think of that thick trade paperback graphic novel collecting the entire Loner saga together and I can only imagine what will happen in all of those pages. I’ll be finding out the slow way.

I mentioned a fortnight ago how 11 people had already died in the pages of the comic and, although we now know there are more on board than originally thought, the Wildcat Complete on which the cover is based is called Death on Wildcat so I’m assuming the trend is going to continue. But first things first, has that picture of the Wildcat craft been pasted on top of the scene? It certainly looks that way. It could be because it looks like a special technique was used to draw the planet and its rings. It’s a lovely effect and then the spacecraft could have been drawn separately and placed on top. Works for me!

The artist hasn’t been confirmed but I believe it to be Enrique Alcatena‘s work, returning for the first time since the premiere issue’s ghosty story, this time with a Dr Jekyll and Mr Vampire Werewolf tale. The Duty Commander, John Anderson is getting a bit cocky with the fact no crime has been reported on board for weeks. (Obviously some time has passed since the last issue.) Now convinced Wildcat is a safe ship with a complete lack of lawlessness, his statement is predictably followed by an alarm.

The Chief of Security barely has a moment to explain how boredom and the vast emptiness that surrounds them can, and will, have an effect on the human psyche before they’re alerted to a murder on board. It’s a simple tale with obvious clues for the chief to follow and soon enough he’s tracked it down to Dr Timothy Lee who had been conducting experiments on animals back on Earth with the hope of creating an army of controllable killers. With Earth evacuated and all animals on board accounted for he had continued his experiments on himself.

The most interesting bits for me are the emphasis on just how fragile the peace is on the ship and the fact there are aliens already on board. They work alongside us, are part of the crew and are helping us navigate the galaxy in search of a new home. With the comic set in 2250 it’s not beyond the realm of believability that we’d have made contact with some races, although this is the first we’ve seen anything of them, when they’re the target of a crazed, bigoted killer.

Wildcat death toll: 14

That’s us for the first of three issues this festive season. The next is the Christmas one itself with a strange cover I clearly remember picking up from the shop. When you see it you’ll understand why it’s so memorable. How about a Christmas pudding wrapped around a spaceship? Think I’m joking? You’ll see.

Just to finish off this issue is the advertisement on the back page. Sharing these contemporary adverts is part of the fun of this site. This is the first time Wildcat has included one in its pages and it’s for a favourite childhood cereal (which I’ll admit is still bought from time to time today).

The special Christmas edition of Wildcat will be reviewed right here on Friday 17th December 2021.


Who else remembers the short-lived toy line and cartoon Dino-Riders? You may think it wasn’t a coincidence that they launched the same year as Wildcat, but since they never came to the UK until the following year I’m going to go with coincidence. The cover certainly ticked all the boxes for me at that age and inside the action picked up a gear in many of the strips, the death toll continued to climb and there’s some art in here so good it’s stayed in the recesses of my memory all these decades since.

No recap page this time, instead we’re straight into the Turbo Jones strip, drawn by cover artist Vanyo. The Brain rather callously believes his people, the Burroids, are all cowards as he fills in Turbo on their situation. I’d say they’re more peace lovers than cowards. There’s a big disconnect between them and their leader, never mind the fact their leader is a giant brain! Why is that? Is there more to this relationship? I seem to recall there’s more to their enemy the Arglons too, that nothing is as simple as good versus evil here. In fact, I think that goes for all the serials in Wildcat.

Turbo really becomes the action hero he’s promised to be since the preview issue, with everything from laser-edged gloves to laser binoculars at his disposal. His companion Robo is also quite the strategist when it counts and not the coward he makes himself out to be. He improvises and uses the alien tech that initially imprisoned them against his attackers. They make quite the team and their camaraderie and trust in each other is very naturally written, surprisingly. I’m glad to see their bickering in previous issues is just part of their relationship, a part of their banter.

One of the Arglons is captured, but when he doesn’t give up any information during questioning a Burroid casually vaporises him, explaining it’s just what happens to enemies. Wait, aren’t they inherently peace loving? Is this The Brian’s influence? Either way, Turbo instantly has him arrested and begins to take command of their armies as requested by the mysterious leader. Choosing two seconds-in-command they set out to tame local dinosaurs to match those of their enemy.

I do like the way the character is developing beyond the single-minded Dredd-type he was to begin with, and this is only the third issue. The story is genuinely interesting, it feels like there’s a lot more than meets the eye with everything in this strip and that I shouldn’t assume anything about anyone. Brilliant stuff. When I think back to Wildcat I remembered the other strips more, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how great Turbo’s has been this issue.

A quick commercial break before we move on and I wonder what 2000AD editor Tharg the Mighty would make of the tagline used by one of Wildcat creator/editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s other comics in the advert for its annual? Given how they were both published by Fleetway I’m guessing Tharg didn’t say very much.

Our only colour strip, Joe Alien now finds himself in the very capable hands of a new artist, namely Ron Smith who drew the pin up in the previous issue. Taking over from Massimo Belardinelli is no small feat and Ron’s style is completely different. At first I approached this with trepidation. I had loved Massimo’s work in the first two issues, particularly his furry man-eating plants. But I needn’t have had any concern.

Ron brings a fresh new style to David Robinson‘s scripts, reminding me very much of early Geoff Senior from Marvel UK‘s Transformers. The clean, sharp visuals are a perfect match for this most alien of alien characters and the nightmarish jungle he and his team are trapped in. In fact I’d even go so far as to say the plants look even more menacing and the action more dramatic. This isn’t to take away from Massimo’s work of course, but after reading this chapter I think Ron is an even more suitable artist for this story.

The resolution to last issue’s literal cliffhanger sees Joe using his telescopic legs to cushion his fall, the plant which caused it falling down on top of him, knocking him to the ground where the impact on his head causes his external brain pack to disconnect. As explained in the first issue this turns him into a gibbering loony, to put it politely. His race were so obsessed with obtaining more knowledge they had to manufacture artificial brains for themselves, regardless of the risks. I love both these panels above, the exciting landing and the funny craziness.

Joe disappears into the jungle and his team are left to fend for themselves while trying to track him down. As well as having a new artist the writing seems to make a bit of a shift here too. No longer are his men simply unnamed team members used as fodder for the alien plant life. Here, some are finally given names and they’re written as individual characters, complimented by more distinctive looks. Instead of lining up to die they actually rescue each other and function and coordinate as a proper military team.

The chapter ends with Joe captured by a gigantic tree and his men come under attack by what they initially think are harmless little spiky orbs. But these soon open up to reveal little pollen balls which float on the air and begin attaching themselves to the men. Ron’s art is superb here. We can sense the tiny little barbs piercing the skin of these men and the sense of pain is palpable. The Joe Alien strip has certainly stepped up a gear.

Moving on to James Tomlinson‘s Kitten Magee and after she uses laser bracelets (our future selves really love their weaponised jewellery) to escape from death by boulder and defeating the tribe’s leader, she is welcomed with open arms by the rest. Having proven herself, she and her team take to eating and celebrating with the locals while the two fat men on their hovering platforms look on. But what they view as a “scientific experiment” between Kitten and her pet robot Crud is much more foreboding.

Kitten’s life dust was first mentioned right back in the preview issue, but this is the first we’ve seen the harrowing effects it’s meant to prevent. I was quite surprised at just how old she looks here (even Crud describes it as “severe ageing”) and artist José Ortiz brings a lovely atmosphere to this nighttime scene in the middle of the jungle. While she’s sneaked away to get her drug, the fat men flick a switch on some kind of mind control device and the tribe begins to attack the rest of her team. Overwhelmed, and with Kitten nowhere near, it doesn’t look well as the chapter ends.

But for me the plot point I’m most eagerly wanting to see picked up next time is the whole life dust situation. While the questions of what happens if Kitten doesn’t take it regularly is answered here, I find myself asking even more. Does this mean Kitten is actually a lot older than she appears? Or is it the result of an illness, or a previous encounter with an enemy? Does the dust only keep her looking younger or does it work on her physiology? What long-term effects does it have on her, and what effects has it already had? Colour me highly intrigued.

The letters pages have town names for the first time, so it looks like Barrie has started to receive contributions from readers. As with all of his titles it’s not a simple case of letters, instead there are drawings, ideas, jokes, questions and designs. One such design is for a digging machine to take the exploration teams from one area to another on the planet while avoiding the dangers on the surface. What I love about this is the honesty in the review of what the young reader has sent in. Marked down for originality and weapons, but with good scores for design and suitability, I like the way Barrie (I would assume) explains clarification is needed on oxygen supply.

It shows how his comics never talked down to their audiences. We never felt patronised by the answers, never treated as little kids. The same could be said of comics such as Transformers and The Real Ghostbusters which would often give sarcastic replies to honest queries. It wasn’t just a simple wish to see our letters or drawings in print, we wanted to see what our comics would say to us. In this case, maybe if Wildcat had lasted a long time we’d have seen more complex designs being sent in as the kids read the feedback from previous issues.

Next up is Barrie Tomlinson‘s Loner and given how good the previous three strips have been this issue I was really looking forward to seeing how he would step things up this issue. A quick look at the artwork below will answer that! Our former mercenary meets the lizard who has been tracking his every thought and first of all I was surprised he’s only about twice the size of a human, but this is simply because of that incredible final page artist David Pugh treated us to last time. Things begin here with Loner seeing him for the first time and we get this dramatic reveal through his eyes.

Take a closer look at that first photo and you’ll see the beast isn’t sitting on a chair but on his tail. A nice touch. He doesn’t get named yet but we do find out about his race the Bellari and their history of travelling from world to world to control the minds of whole species. Just for the craic they’d turn populations of whole planets into slaves until they got bored and moved on, leaving behind a galaxy of worlds having to rebuild from the destruction wrought by their entertainment.

But this particular Bellari crash landed on the same planet the Wildcat found, falling through into the same underground labyrinth as Loner. With no way out he took control of the furballs, a task he found far too easy and which kept him entertained for about five minutes. I laughed at the panel above on the right, where he wonders at the miracle of him not going insane, with his wide eyes, drooling and his finger stuck up his nose. David is an incredible artist and this is a rare moment of humour in the Loner strip. The main highlight however, is another full page image which deserves to be studied.

Studied it was, both back in 1988 and today. Just look at that design. I was in awe of David’s work. At this point my comics reading had included the many styles within the pages of OiNK, the simplistic but sweet drawings in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and the fun, quirky art in The Real Ghostbusters. I’d never seen anything like this before.

All the serials have really upped their game this issue and it’s hard for me to pick a favourite anymore

The beast wants Loner to hunt down a ravenous snake-type monster that he can’t control because its brain is too simplistic. It functions on instinct and hunger alone, so it’s a big threat to this lizard. Loner knows he has no choice and agrees but makes the mistake of thinking otherwise. Since the Bellari is reading his mind he knows Loner plans to trick him and suddenly our hero finds himself in another place and time, three of his enemies firing upon him as the episode ends.

It’s clearly a trick of the mind but still, I remember that snake but can’t remember anything else about this story, and the developments this issue have been genuinely interesting. But then again, even if the story was plodding along David’s art would still have propelled it to another level. While Loner was always my favourite as a kid, the three other serials have really upped their game this issue and it would be hard for me to pick a favourite anymore.

After the wonderful art of Loner’s strip is a rather basic Next Issue promo page. Last issue there was a lot more information in half the space. While I’m sure the Great Ark in the Turbo Jones strip will be of great importance, with so much going on in all of the strips this feels too simplistic, almost like it was a last minute addition. It’s a bit of a wasted opportunity to really hype the next issue of what was still a new comic trying to build its regular readership. So yes, you should’ve said more, a lot more.

“Diet is unnecessary! Death stops all eating!

The Invaders

Our final strip is the next Wildcat Complete and it’s called The Invaders. It’s a particularly bleak one this time. An asteroid is making its way around the planet and the Wildcat is directly in its path. Strangely, instead of simply manoeuvring out of its way (we saw its pilots in control in #1) a team are sent to plant explosives on its surface, a whole decade before that became the plot of what seemed like an endless supply of disaster movies.

No reason is given as to why this was the solution, why the Wildcat couldn’t be moved, which is strange. Anyway, a group of scientists go with them to collect samples and upon their return some of the rocks appear to possess members of the team.

At the end of the story we find out this used to be a prison asteroid, with murderous alien beings trapped inside rocks on its surface. Now freed and with a powerful spaceship at their disposal they set about making plans to take control, casually killing off all who get in their way. Not that any of the people they kill are a threat. They even see off a garbage disposal man by unceremoniously dumping him out of the airlock. This does prompt a bit of morbid humour when someone on board sees it out of the corner of their eye, thinks the exploding body is a star and makes a wish!

The garbage disposal would be used to get rid of the bodies they’d accumulate, they kill a weapon designer to steal his prototypes, a chef by testing a mass poison out on him first and one of the other scientists who knows the truth behind the murders. All of this takes our death toll up to 11 in only three issues. I wonder what number we’ll get to by the time these stories are over?

Their mission is to ultimately make their way to the ship’s bridge and use it to get back home and take revenge on their planet. The Wildcat’s crew end up using robots to stun the human bodies instead of simply killing them, fully aware the possessed scientists are innocent in all of this. I liked this solution. It shows the comic won’t be taking the easy way out in its stories, even when it’s a one-off and needs to wrap everything up in only six pages.

Dark humour and plenty of shocking deaths are expertly combined into the script here. It reminds me a little of The Doll from Super Naturals, which is another of Barrie’s comics. The artist who brought all of this glorious death and destruction to our young eyes was Joan Boix (The Phantom, Warrior, Eagle), a name I’ll admit I wasn’t aware of until reading this and seeing his signature, something which was a very rare thing in action comics of the time. With this level of quality I’m glad he did.

The back page pin up rounds things off with some light relief as Robo takes centre stage. So another issue and another hugely enjoyable read. I don’t want to come across as fawning in these reviews, but there’s no other way to write these; this really is a wonderful, quality comic in every way. All of the stories are really opening up, our characters (both main and secondary) are developing nicely and if I didn’t know how long the comic would last I’d say things feel set for a long run.

Issue four will be here in just two weeks on Friday 3rd December 2021 and it really can’t come soon enough (and not just because that means my tree will be up).