Tag Archives: Javier Saltares

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.

HAVOC #5: DAMAGED PSYCHES

With this, only the fifth edition of the superb Havoc weekly we’re already halfway through its run. Not that we knew this as readers of course. So let’s concentrate on the issue at hand and Ghost Rider makes his second appearance on the cover after #2, leaving the Star Slammers as the only characters not to grace the front page. That’s because these covers are reprints of Marvel US ones and the ‘Slammers never had their own title, appearing in an anthology series instead.

So Danny Ketch and the flaming skull are the main draw for new readers and as you can see the title logo not only changes colour each issue but the headline strip does as well. This issue Danny’s hellfire alter ego also has a special one-page feature, replacing Eye Level for one week. But let’s kick things off with the first story and it’s Alex Murphy inside the RoboCop armour in the first part of his second story, which takes pole position just as Conan did when he began a new tale in #3.

Murphy’s Law (nice) begins with Robo battling a group of new Nixcops. Programmed as his replacements they believe our hero is now impersonating an officer and must be destroyed, and his prisoner taken into custody. In reality his prisoner, Dek Kyng, could expose the corruption at Nixco and so the bosses are using their new cops to put an end to Robo’s investigation. His internal thoughts alongside the readouts of his systems are very similar to Deathlok’s but this isn’t a complaint. Alex is much more in control of his systems, they are him, so it’s different to the other cyborg strip.

It’s nice to see his Prime Directives come into play here when he ends up putting himself in even more danger to protect innocent passersby. But the Nixcops have no such qualms and one of the citizens is killed. As Alex makes a run for it his head is filled with doubt. He keeps playing the word ”failed” over and over, his computerised half seeking cover while his human half thinks there’s no point anymore, he should just give up, he’s failed his third directive and broken his own laws. This shows how, despite his human side, how binary his thoughts can still be thanks to his programming.

In the original film and TV show his outward speech wasn’t as free-flowing and natural as it reads here, which of course was very deliberate. It made his internal thoughts, memories and the times he’d act with surprising humanity all the more important to the character because they were so jarring with the machine cop he was presented as. It’s what made him unique. I’m glad to say, while the strip has him speaking more as a regular human, these moments filled with doubt are superb and somehow still maintain that jarring feel.

The weight of breaking one of his Prime Directives is almost too much for him. These are core to his central programming, his very existence and because of this it’s almost too much to bear for his human brain. Most action heroes would shrug it off until later when they’d manage to get revenge for the killing, but RoboCop struggles straight away. He’s just about able to commandeer a flying garbage droid and make his escape but I’m really interested in seeing where this goes next week.

The whole Spirit of Vengeance thing was brand new at the time

Next up is that Ghost Rider feature. It’s rather strangely designed with a huge title and just a teeny tiny picture of the character almost cropped off the bottom of the page, but it reads very well. I’d always assumed the original version of the character had the same modus operandi as this 90s reboot but it appears I was wrong, the whole Spirit of Vengeance thing was brand new at the time. My knowledge of the character is very limited, but with the movie sequel having this title while being based on the original character I had just assumed.

I’m sure reading this feature excited me as a teenager, with how it hypes the strip as a new Ghost Rider for the 90s. It certainly reads like the kind of page that would’ve pumped me up even further for the character and the future of the comic. I was so sure this was just the beginning of a long and happy journey with Danny Ketch and his spirit.

On to the story itself and reading this now I’m reminded of just how much I preferred reading the American strips on these larger Marvel UK pages (or indeed, how much I preferred reading DC’s Batman in larger UK editions) and I have to say I’m loving it.

We begin by catching up with Marvel villain Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin as he trains, his large size certainly not slowing him down. The mysterious briefcase apparently contains something which poses a great danger to his organisation but we’re not told what it is, not even when we see the gang of kids open it in their cemetery hideaway, just that it contains little canisters. The main thing to happen here is Danny finally arriving at the hospital to check in on his sister, Barb. Greeted by his mum, a friend and her dad, Captain Dolan, the events of the night finally prove too much.

The story picks up later and after Danny tells the police captain he can’t remember much of the monstrous man who the police think was responsible (we can see how they’re being positioned for future conflict with each other) we get a tender scene of Danny watching over his unconscious sister, the bleeping of the machines the only response he gets as he opens up about what had really happened.

Previously having discarded the bike and fearing for his life, on the last page Danny actually makes his way back to where he left it, where it sits in its regular motorbike form. He needs answers, so following advice from his far more adventurous sister (we saw this dynamic back in #1) he sets off in the desperate hope that he’ll be able to help her recover, thinking the bike has some magical powers to it. Little does he know!

Ghost Rider gets the star treatment this issue with the most pages of any of our stories and even though none of the eight pages actually feature the Spirit of Vengeance themselves it certainly isn’t any less compelling. In fact, quite a lot of ground is covered here between Kingpin, the gang, the briefcase and the introduction of important new characters. Most of all though it’s about Danny. He’s not an infallible hero, he’s just a regular guy caught up in something beyond his understanding. This is the kind of hero I enjoy.

Passing out, lying to police, crying by his sister’s bedside and then finally using some of her strength to go back to the bike in some belief that, despite how terrifying the experience was for him, somehow it might help Barb. The Spirit of Vengeance residing within the bike is silent for now but I wonder what they make of Danny at this point. I’m finding the story really interesting and that’s been the biggest surprise for me. I just hope we can get far enough along in the set up of everything before Havoc comes to its early close.

In Star Slammers our main characters leave hyperspace to find themselves immediately surrounded by enemy craft and captured. They’re soon knocked out and Ethon is taken off to be questioned, seemingly an easy target as he’s the youngest. The mind link they share shocks Sphere and Jalaia as it suddenly hits them that Ethon is being tortured. But not by humans like the senator from previous issues, instead by an alien creature we haven’t seen before, although the people working for him are humans.

This alien could be an inquisitor for hire, or the true leader of Orion, we just don’t know and this is a bit frustrating if I’m honest. Because the strip was created as a lengthy one-off it continues to stutter and jerk about from week-to-week. Last time we got a nice, decent chunk of background and the story was beginning to gel, but now we’re back where we were, with what feels like hastily written dialogue and bad pacing. For example the guards say out loud they’re meant to be watching the prisoners but want to watch the torture instead, and in the next panel Sphere mentions the guards have gone and that he and Jalaia should “Shift to extreme combat regime”, whatever that means. It’s not exactly subtle.

It leads on to this final page and it seems Sphere and Jalaia have easily escaped off-page. It just seems too handy, that the plot is being forced along rather than any attention being paid to how these things happen or any thought given to the characters. At least we get a bit of context at last, adding a bit more information to last week’s info dump, but overall it comes across as rather amateur, like a fan strip, which is shocking when you remember this was written by Walt Simonson! Last week’s chunk still gives me hope for future instalments, let’s hope it reads better as a whole when it’s all over.

Last week’s Conan the Barbarian ended with the caption, ‘Next Week: Conan is made ready for the cauldron!” Well, it’s only in the final panels here that the sinister Marielle tells her servants to prepare Conan for said cauldron, so the editor seems to have gotten ahead of themselves. The story begins after the entranced Conan and Marielle return home and as he attempts to fawn over her she snaps and scolds him, suddenly deciding she’s had enough.

Conan begins to weep and after Nateesa is ordered to bring them food and wine we huffs and begins to rebel. He may still be under her influence but he’s not meant to talk back. Suspecting he needs further drugging, Mariella orders Nateesa to give him more wine filled with the toxin but quickly realises Nateesa has been giving him regular wine, trying to help bring him out of this state naturally.

Marielle orders another servant, a vile man by the name of Zogran to take Nateesa away and punish her. Conan doesn’t flinch at her pleading as she’s dragged away and soon Marielle is feeding him more of the laced drink. We see Nateesa trying to convince Zogran not to harm her and it appears he’s well aware Marielle is evil, but even in getting this across he’s still a creep in the way he describes her body and soon he’s whipping her, the screams echoing throughout the mansion.

Things end for now as Conan is led towards a giant cauldron. Marielle has finished with him; her male servants tending to the pot are shocked he lasted almost a week! With the spoiler in the summary box last week it’s clear whatever is in this cauldron turns men into stone for Marielle’s collection of lifelike statues. (So in a way I guess she did create them after all.) I think we’re set for the conclusion next time, but it’s been a fun ride with some surprising dialogue so far. I hope it keeps the surprises coming and doesn’t just end with a clichéd fight.

Our final strip for this issue has been my most eagerly anticipated, what with Michael Collins just beginning to wake inside the Deathlok cyborg. Tearing its way through the settlement from last time, killing any and all forms of resistance, Michael can do nothing but look on in horror at what his brain is helping achieve (it’s confirmed here in a scene in Ryker’s control room that the live human brain is used for storage). He tries to mentally battle with the computer and it appears to be working when the termination program (see #1) fails.

Michael’s brain proves to be a formidable foe for the computer, and later we find out its new operating system won’t allow the computer to destroy the brain after what happened to Colonel Kelly. Deathlok asks headquarters if it should proceed and Ryker obviously instructs it to do so. Michael screams at Ryker but no one can him except the computer. Then Deathlok comes across a young girl who picks up a large gun in desperation, with no idea of how to use it. The Deathlok computer selects ‘Full Assault’ but Michael’s reaction actually stops it. This is where things get really interesting!

Michael now knows he can interact with the program running the machine and Ryker’s response to it letting the child live is truly shocking. Clearly there’s nothing this man won’t instruct Deathlok to do for his client’s money. Days later the techs are going over Deathlok with a fine-toothed comb and Ryker has his suspicions about Collins being “in there”. With the cyborg in its recharge cradle, unable to move, Michael asks the computer to open up the operating system and thus begins what I loved the most about this strip.

Michael’s countermanding order was enough for the computer to accept him as its new programmer and finally we get to see the two of them interact. These interactions between Michael’s Everyman language and the computer’s monotone voice would lead to some great moments from what I remember, including some well placed humour, very much reminding me of the earliest episodes of Knight Rider when K.I.T.T. hadn’t yet loosened up from interacting with that show’s own Michael.

I’d completely forgotten about this visual representation of Collins as he hacks into the computer systems Ryker’s team were about to use in order to wipe his brain clean, to effectively kill him all over again. That last panel with Deathlok confirming they’re now able to physically move has me super excited for #6. Hoo boy, I can not wait! Between Ghost Rider and Deathlok it’s impossible for me to pick the strip I’m most looking forward to over the coming weeks, I keep switching back and forth between them. That’s not a bad problem to have in writing these reviews!

As always, ignore the date on the Next Issue page above, the next review will be here from Wednesday 10th August 2022. There may only be four issues left before the comic was unceremoniously pulled by Marvel UK, but I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a great month! See you in seven.

HAVOC #4: DEVELOPiNG NiCELY

Another week, another issue of Marvel UK’s fantastic anthology comic, Havoc. With it having started just as we finished school here for the two summer months, there was nothing to get in the way between Saturdays and each instalment of my new favourite strips. It was the perfect set of circumstances, making Havoc even more special for this young reader in 1991. There may be no more free posters but that didn’t make this issue any less special, in fact this is probably my favourite so far.

It feels like the strips are all settling in and finding their rhythm. This in understandable when you think about how these were American imports chopped up into smaller chunks. RoboCop finishes the first chapter in his story, Ghost Rider is in full swing and in Deathlok we’re seeing the start of what will make the character so unique and fun. The Star Slammers, being one long graphic novel length story is finally giving us some depth and Conan’s second adventure is proving to be a vast improvement over his first, with some unexpected comedy! So let’s get started.

We’ll skip by the ill-advised “Fear the holocaust of Havoc!” on the contents page (really!) and straight into Deathlok. The Federative Republic of Estrella is a natural beauty, vast swathes of country untouched by human hand. So naturally the Americans want to tear it down and take its natural resources. They fire what appears to be a dud missile into the country and out crashes Deathlok to battle with local soldiers protecting the land.

Ryker is hateful here, which is great because that’s what he’s meant to be. A construction company representative has paid a lot of money for Cybertek to eliminate the local resistance to the building of a new dam, which would destroy the lush forests in return for making the Americans wealthy. Clearly the resistance is no match for the Deathlok machine as it tears through their small village killing all who oppose it. It’s a brutally violent sequence, which is the point, then on the last page the brain powering the computer begins to wake.

Only on this final page do we get a hint of what’s to come. Michael Collins, our likeable father and dedicated Cybertek programmer who was duped into developing software for the Deathlok project and shot last issue, was actually shot with a tranquilliser and only now, his brain removed from his body and implanted into the cyborg, is he beginning to come to! It’s quite a horrific scenario when you really think about it, similar to when Alex Murphy’s consciousness awoke inside RoboCop, but this feels more brutal.

It’s certainly an exciting place to leave things for the next seven days. I can remember loving the character once everything was in place, it even had some elements of humour. But right now we must go through the terrifying transition and writers Dwayne McDuffie and Gregory Wright are building the tension nicely, Gregory and Jackson Guise’s artwork captures the action perfectly, with Richard Starkings’ lettering giving hints of how we’ll differentiate between the two elements inside the cyborg from now on. Exciting stuff.

This was a delight to see! I remember seeing The Rocketeer on video back in the 90s and really enjoying it. Earlier this year I decided to watch it for the first time since on Disney+ and I was pleasantly surprised at just how brilliant it was, becoming a fan all over again. I’m even reading the new comic from IDW. The original film was released the same summer as Havoc and has been mentioned in #1 and #2’s Eye Levels and now it gets a well deserved page all to itself.

Although, I can’t find information confirming Eye Level’s statement The Rocketeer was Disney’s most expensive film at the time. Either way, it failed to live up to expectations at the box office, but its success in the home market since resulted in a cartoon a couple of years ago and rumours of a new live-action sequel. I didn’t know this was Bill Campbell’s first film role (though he was a TV series/movie actor) which makes his performance all the more remarkable. The mention of Timothy Dalton as “the current James Bond” brought a feeling of sadness because ultimately my favourite 007 wouldn’t return to the role, although this wasn’t known at the time.

From being a strip I wasn’t too bothered about, to being probably the most fascinating of the issue

The Star Slammers, who have been somewhat short-changed in the page count department in previous issues get a whopping eight all to themselves this time, which is needed to tell a quite brutal part of their background. Young Ethon is remembering being on their home planet when Orion hunters came down to kill him and his entire family. Things kick off with a new opening panel to name our three main characters and give us a quick recap.

It appears “undesirables” were captured by the Orions and exiled on a planet with no resources to live off, placed there for the rich to hunt in a sick sport. I think we can take this to mean anyone but the privileged were captured and dumped there. Ethon saw his parents slaughtered, although his father did put up a fight using a handmade catapult (which we saw Ethon use as an adult in a previous issue) to kill one of his pursuers. This led to hunter party member Senator Krellik using this to further his fascist agenda.

Labelling the entire planet’s population as “savages” because one dared to stand up and fight back, he preys on his public’s fears, manipulating them into voting for extermination. It’s really not that far-fetched a tale given our real world in recent years and suddenly I find myself enthralled with this strip. If it had been written today it would be rather on the nose, so maybe writer Walter Simonson saw what was coming. His art and in particular Louise Simonson and Deborah Pedler’s colours during the flashback scenes are gorgeous (and we always love John Workman’s lettering and panel use, no matter what). This continues with the washed out feel to the senate scenes which Ethon can remember through shared memories with The Grandfather, Galarius.

As well as explaining the origins of Galarius, the supposedly traitorous Orion senator, we see how the government have lied to keep control of the population, even with a lack of food and resources (sound familiar?) the hunts and the resulting footage keep people in step and applauding their overlords. The previously mentioned Silvermind is also explained here. Their race can share thoughts and memories, and Galarius believes that in taking this to the ultimate end game of uniting them all psychically they can seek victory and justice for the oppressed.

If written today the Silvermind could be seen as social media, or at least the internet as a whole; a way of uniting people together in a common goal to overcome the oppressors and stand up for what’s right. But just like the internet, is this something evil can use too? From a strip I wasn’t too bothered about to being probably the most fascinating of the issue is quite a shift in my opinion of Star Slammers. A breather is needed before our next character, so here’s a quick Marvel UK advertisement.

At £1.75 this was quite the bargain, the equivalent of four comics in one. Today I collect DC’s Batman via Panini Comics’ monthly UK title Batman Guardian of the Knight. It may be almost two years behind but with two full comics’ worth of strips for £2.99, it’s even cheaper than just one of those American comics, and I much prefer it. I’m guessing The Complete Spider-Man would’ve appealed for the same reason although the strips were about a year old instead. It ran for 24 issues before being replaced with The Exploits of Spider-Man.

Ghost Rider is up next and again we get a new opening panel to bring us up to speed. The first couple of pages see him battle the police in his pursuit of justice for the innocent. As a new reader to the world of Ghost Rider I’m loving this supernatural level of determination to seek vengeance for the wronged. I say he battles the police, but he makes sure not to injure them and in pure A-Team fashion we see the cops all safe and sound after he tears through their roadblock.

In the end he gets away by driving vertically up a building’s outer wall before disappearing across the rooftops. There’s definitely plenty of action, that’s for sure and after the perfectly paced opening issues the action has some weight to it, some heft thanks to us getting to know the character trapped inside this entity first. The story then flips back to Danny Ketch when Ghost Rider stops in a secluded alleyway and, while reciting his duty over and over, we see his hands slowly transform back into human form.

Clearly terrified (and who could blame him) by what’s just happened, he runs off to find his sister Barb who was so seriously injured a couple of issues ago, while the motorbike morphs back into a regular, normal shape. Meanwhile, somewhere on Wall Street the boss of a large financial company is revealed to be Deathwatch and upon hearing news of the disappearance of the suitcase (that his and Kingpin’s men were fighting over in #1) and the unbelievable tale of the flaming skull motorbike rider, he grabs one of his men’s head and psychically sees the truth.

Even though it’s revealed as the truth he still blames his man for the failure, who reaches for a gun but he’s no match for Deathwatch. This darkly comic scene perfectly sets him up as a force to be reckoned with as he sends his remaining forces off to recover the briefcase from the gang of kids who stole it before “that fat, petty thug has a chance to recover it”. The ‘Next Week’ caption states, “The Suitcase Is Opened!” so I’m interested to see what this is all about, what Danny and Barb have accidentally stumbled into.

So far in Ghost Rider we’ve had some enjoyable main characters introduced, a well-paced set up, a strip which is an origin story while also having an interesting plot in its own right, a brief action-packed introduction to the main character and a brand new Marvel villain. Ghost Rider has consistently been one of my favourites every week and it’s clear to see why; this strip has everything Havoc promised us and as a teenager it had everything I wanted from a new comic reading experience. I may be turning into quite the fan again at this rate.

If there’s one Marvel UK title that doesn’t need any introduction surely it’s Doctor Who Magazine, which continues to this day, albeit now published by the aforementioned Panini. As of the time of writing this review DWM is currently on #580(!) and shows no signs of slowing down. This advert heralded the arrival of the first yearbook, a tradition that continues to this day.

A strip that may not have been as consistent as Ghost Rider, but which is certainly improving week-on-week, is Conan the Barbarian. What a shame then that the opening dialogue box, used to catch us up on what had previously transpired, ruins some of the story yet to come, just like RoboCop’s did in earlier issues. Could they not have checked where we were in the story more closely? We’re told here in the supposed recap that Mariella has only tricked Conan into thinking the statues from last time were carved by her. As I read these pages of the story it becomes clear this is a huge spoiler!

The cool and calm woman that tried to seduce Conan last time is clearly not all she appears to be. To be fair, Conan did see through her charade but took her home anyway, however even he is surprised by her lashing out at one of her servants. Trying her best at pretending to be truly sorry, she dismisses Nateesa and the wine she brought, replacing it with what she says is a much more expensive blend. But as Natessa leaves the look of worry on her face is clear. Does she know what’s about to happen?

As Conan takes a long drink, devouring everything in the glass, he slips into a trance, completely unable to move.

Claiming he is now her mindless plaything, her slave, it’s obvious to me now that all of those incredibly lifelike statues she was meant to have meticulously carved by her own fair hands are most likely real men, all drugged into motionless, mindless beings until called upon. Of course, I don’t think we were meant to have put this together yet if it weren’t for that opening dialogue box.

But I won’t dwell on that spoiler because the last page here (the strip is down to only four pages this week) is just so funny I don’t care anymore. Funny? A Conan strip? Indeed. Given the clear vicious nature of this femme fatale and this apparent lifelong fate for our hero as her mindless slave/statue, having the strip turn out a bit of comedy might be the last thing you’d expect. It certainly was for me. But it’s delivered perfectly and I found myself roaring. Given who Conan is, his build, his fearsome battles and the epic quests he’s endured, what he’s put through here is written completely for laughs, the idea for which was dreamed up by John Buscema and brought to life with Michael Fleischer’s dialogue and John’s art, with Janice Chiang on letters.

Taking a character and placing them into a situation where they act completely against type isn’t a new idea of course, but it’s written brilliantly here, right down to his worry about there being no guardsmen around to protect them both from ruffians, that I couldn’t help but laugh. The only downside is that it ends far too quickly, such is the nature of Havoc when each strip needs as suitable a cutoff point as possible within the page limit, so individual lengths vary from issue to issue. Oh well, it just means there’s more to look forward to next time.

We’re already on to our final strip and we get to the end of Kombat Zone, the first full chapter for RoboCop, whose monthly US stories were chopped up into the usual four parts à la all those back up strips in Transformers. (I can only assume Ghost Rider – as the only other US monthly here that has continued the same story since #1 – had a bumper first chapter.) Robo is inside the venue of the Kombat final looking for Dek Kyng, all the while dealing with crimes with every step he takes it would appear.

I love this, it really feels like the RoboCop I enjoyed as a teenager in the TV series. Finding Dek beside the ring, one look at the police officer that’s investigating him is enough to make him run for it. He attempts to do so through the ring, thinking the contestants can take care of the interference. Warning them that obstruction is against the law they obviously don’t listen and Murphy simply tosses them out of the ring as if they were cardboard cut outs.

He’s chasing down Dek to question him about malfunctioning suits of armour in these games and who he thinks could’ve killed Powky, who was one of Dek’s men. RoboCop doesn’t actually know Dek is involved at this stage, nor that he secretly filmed Robo’s suit with an x-ray camera for Nixco, a rival to OCP who are building their own law enforcement robots. Ironically, if Dek had just answered the questions he’d have been fine, but his guilt makes him run and “fine” is not how he and the remaining contestants end up.

It’s all quite light action for RoboCop but this is only the ending of the first story. In fact, it’s just the ending of the first chapter in his first story because it does so with a cliffhanger. It’s also an especially bittersweet read, with writer Alan Grant having passed away just this past week. A huge talent who’ll be greatly missed, I’ll admit I haven’t read much of his work but his influence is well known. I’m certainly enjoying his take on a favourite character of mine. (The credits are completed with Lee Sullivan’s pencils, Kim DeMulder’s inks, Steve White’s colours and Richard Starkings’ letters.)

With Kyng arrested, Nixco executives are getting nervous about their illegal behaviour in raising the funds for (and how) they developed the Nixco police robots. The tests are still incomplete but they’re sent out into the field anyway to intercept Alex and his prisoner. The thing is, these robots have already been programmed to think they’re the law enforcement replacements for Robo, so when they catch up with him they block him off and surround him.

There’s a missed opportunity here, surely RoboCop’s famous phrase should’ve been used instead of a stern wagging finger. Instead of “Surrender — while you still can”, I was hoping for, “Surrender, or there will be… trouble!” Maybe next time. Speaking of next time, the strip ends with the original comic’s ‘Next Issue’ banner, meaning we’ve reached the conclusion of the character’s first issue from the States. I’ve enjoyed the emphasis on detective work within the futuristic sci-fi setting, which is what the character was all about for me. Well, that and his painful past of course.

A good start anyway. For now we just need to wrap things up with the promo for the next issue. As per usual the actual on-sale date is different than the one here, so the next Havoc review will be available to read from Wednesday 3rd August 2022. What this page below means by “Conan boiled?” is anyone’s guess, but I am intrigued by “Ghost Rider weeps” and can’t wait to see the next chunk of Deathlok now Michael is awake! I’ll find out next week. As shall you.