Tag Archives: Jesús Redondo

WiLDCAT HOLiDAY SPECiAL: ANOTHER BiTE

It hasn’t really been that long since the final issue of Wildcat, two months in fact, but it’s great to hold another edition in my hands, especially one I’ve never actually read before. I wasn’t aware of it as a child because I hadn’t followed the characters into Eagle when the comics merged. There’s a rather lengthier wait after this but I’ll get to that at the end of the review. So what we have here is the standard Fleetway Holiday Special format of 48 large, glossy pages full of strips with a prose story and extra features thrown in for good measure.

After a contents page and a recap of the set up from the preview issue Turbo Jones reclaims his position as the lead strip (now drawn by Keith Page) and like all of the stories here it’s a standalone tale and not linked to the ongoing serials that all ended with cliffhangers in the last issue. Of course, by now those stories could have concluded or moved on to goodness knows what in the pages of Eagle. (That’s something I’ll look into in future posts.) Some of these read a little strangely because of this.

For example, as far as I was concerned Turbo was still languishing on his quest through the Valley of Death, but here we’ve skipped forward to the next chapter in his adventure on the new planet. We find him and his robotic friend Robo accidentally stumbling across two aliens out for blood (or whatever runs through their veins… if they have veins). This isn’t a quick summing up of things either, in the end they realise the two creatures have no interest in our heroes, they have literally stumbled upon this fight. But of course if they don’t defend themselves they’ll go the same way as the loser.

Turbo is knocked unconscious by a falling branch and Robo saves the day by knocking coconut-like fruits off the trees onto the heads of the aliens. No, really. It ends with Turbo disbelieving this tale of heroism and Robo talking directly to the reader, asking them to write in and tell Turbo what happened. It’s a fun diversion of an opener but feels very slight in comparison to the fortnightly. However, I do love that alien design. Moving on now to something somewhat darker stalking the corridors of the Wildcat itself in The Wildcat Complete, brought to life by Jesús Redondo.

That’s right, we have an actual vampire onboard. There’s also plenty of well-judged humour here too so it’s unfortunate we don’t know who wrote the script. Here on the first page the casual thoughts of our victim raise a laugh as he catches himself on about the “misty evening” before meeting his end, and later on as another victim is running late in getting home he thinks to himself how he’ll “get it in the neck” from his wife! These are the only people we see die (taking the Wildcat Death Toll up to 40) but mention is made to them being only the latest in a series of disappearances.

During the day our vampire goes by the name Dr. Joseph Lugosi, obviously a play on the name of renowned actor Bela Legosi who is probably best remembered for playing the title character in the 1931 film Dracula. It’s not just his name the story pays homage to either, just take a look at the doctor in this close-up frame.

There’s a rather dark moment where we see him dispose of a body by taking it to the food recycling plant, which is basically a bunch of retro-futuristic robots munching down on anything thrown into their pit! We get a little internal monologue of how Lugosi applied to be on Wildcat because there’d be no sunlight in space to stop him feeding, and we see him queued up to get on board, everyone else in casual gear, him in his dark cloak, standing out a mile. Given his appearance and dress sense, when he thinks his plan is foolproof and no one would ever suspect him it seems ridiculous, but it’s actually all explained in the end.

When an attack is disturbed mid-feast he has to leave the body behind and as Wildcat Commander Griffin reviews the tapes he sees Lugosi disappear into thin air. He ends up tricking Lugosi into believing he’s replacing an ill doctor on an expedition to one of the planet’s moons, but before anyone else boards the shuttle craft it’s launched out of the Wildcat on autopilot. The last page of the strip is below and very neatly wraps up the story.

I really like how Griffin had to research what a vampire is (so far into the future are we, their legends appear to have been lost) and that he simply reacts logically to the problem. There’s no disbelief, just a problem to solve and the history tapes give him the answer. While I can only show you a little bit here he’s a cool-as-a-cucumber character and one I wished we’d gotten to know properly in the comic. Check out that final caption too, vampires are now extinct! Another great anthology story, one that’s made me realise just how much I’m missing them every two weeks.

Loner gets a good bit of space in the special but unfortunately there’s not a comic strip in sight. There’s a two-page spread of pictures taken from the early issues and his initial scraps with, and ultimately friendship with, The Fuzzballs. There are also two pin ups, both drawn by David Pugh. One is brand new and the other is a reprint of the cover to #7 which was so good it deserved another outing as a mini-poster without the title and issue details. To this day it’s probably my favourite piece of art from Wildcat. In fact it’s one of my favourite pieces of comic art ever.

On top of all this we do get a Loner story, however it’s told in prose with reprinted images by David taken from the regular comic. At five pages and full of text it’s a meatier read than I expected and actually a whole lot better than the strip we’d been reading for the last handful of issues. Falling into a chasm he’s apparently rescued by an alien slug creature who carries him to a large cave full of slugs where he also sees another, two-headed alien. They have to fight to the death for the entertainment of the slugs!

It’s a struggle. The two-headed creature is relentless but soon Loner is able to escape by causing chaos in the audience (he throws one of the slugs into the crowd as a distraction). Back outside the alien is on Loner’s tail and in what looks like the end of the fight Loner’s gun Babe ends up pressed against the creature’s throat. But Loner backs off, trying to communicate he doesn’t want to kill them, he has no beef with him.


Both heads broke into hideous grins, then it turned and walked away.

Loner prose story

Communicating is difficult however and relies on body language more than anything, which is interesting but I’m also disappointed he no longer has the headband from previous stories. It’s only given a passing explanation that he’d returned to Wildcat and had it removed before coming back down. This completely contradicts the story where he received it! Such a shame, but perhaps a necessary evil because the images they had to use didn’t include it, rather than it being a story choice.

Anyway, the two-headed creature continues to follow Loner at a distance. When our mercenary gets back to his shuttle it appears to attack, throwing Loner to the side and leaping into the craft. Are they going to steal it? Nope, there was a deadly snake-like predator inside. The alien had saved Loner’s life. But before Loner can try to communicate a thank you, he’s attacked by the alien! He wins the battle by unhappily having to end its life, or be killed himself.

In the end, the creature had been a warrior and it was always going to be a fight to the death, but Loner had saved him from the underground slug beings and he’d had to repay that debt first. This would’ve made for a great multipart strip in the regular comic, it’s full of character and paints a wonderful, exciting picture. Such a shame it’s only illustrated by images from different stories.

There’s one more special to come and I’m very excited by it.

Alongside the double-page spread about Loner’s furry friends there’s a four-page feature about some of the robots that reside aboard the Wildcat and which have featured in previously stories, most notably the Wildcat Complete series. Features like these act as a nice way for new readers to catch up and to get an idea of what Wildcat is all about, but unlike some of the Super Naturals features which felt like filler, these are nicely put together and are still enjoyable for regulars.

Alongside more reprinted pin ups there’s another new one which hadn’t made its way into the fortnightly and it’s of one of my favourite characters from the Kitten Magee story, Bonnie. As regular readers of the comic (or even these reviews) will attest, Kitten’s team were just starting to get fleshed out some more, even going on their own adventure without their leader in the final issue. I look forward to reading the ongoing tales in Eagle and Wildcat at a later date, mainly for them.

Their story is up next in fact, as always (and just like the pin ups) drawn by José Ortiz. Stalked by a three-headed giant cat-like predator it ends up capturing Kitten’s robotic pet, Crud. Tracking the beast down they find a ginormous cyclops, but as they try to save Crud the cat-like creature attacks and is shot and killed. The previously monstrous cyclops burst into tears and the team realise they’ve made a horrible mistake, they’ve killed the giant’s pet. Not only that, but upon discovering a giant spacecraft overgrown with weeds they piece together a fascinating backstory.

It’s important for me to note here that at the beginning of the strip the team had captured a docile kind-of-giraffe animal for study by Doc. You’ll see below how that comes back right at the end. This story contains hints at the world building Wildcat could have achieved if it had carried on for years to come. We’d had some in the twelve regular issues but of course everything was still in its early stages of development. We can only imagine the epic, overarching stories editor Barrie Tomlinson and his team could’ve concocted over time.

Four pages within this special are made up of a Tiger comic reprint called Jet-Ace Logan, a pilot who works for the futuristic interplanetary C.I.D. approximately 100 years in the future. Two stories are included here, two pages apiece and the one I wanted to show is called Haywire House. A modern home exhibition is about to be robbed and Logan stops the burglars in their tracks in a suitably ingenious way. I particularly like the art by Brian Lewis (Eagle, TV Action, Countdown), with so much of it crammed onto the page and jam-packed with details, all without losing any of its clarity.

In his book Comic Book Hero, Barrie explains how he was the editor of Tiger from 1969, after these strips appeared originally. He turned the comic into one with exclusively sports-related strips but he always had a fondness for Logan. Back to the special and perhaps the couple of reprinted pin ups and the Logan pages were marked for something else but after the cancellation of the comic plans changed. A very real possibility.

Before a very special ending to the issue there’s one more strip. Wildcat fans will know that must mean it’s time for Joe Alien, although not in his usual full-colour format which is a shame (in fact apart from the pin ups and a readers’ drawing spread the whole issue is black and white) but Ron Smith’s artwork still shines. The strip itself finally gives us some background information on the interesting character and how he ended up as the last of his race.

Tracking a massive meteoroid heading towards their planet, his people soon discovered it was being pushed from the other side by a fleet of Kargroz ships! Joe’s race had long before abandoned space travel, keeping only one small shuttle and so he was sent up to negotiate, but the Kargroz kill for fun and for honour and couldn’t be bargained with. Almost blasting Joe out of existence they hurled the meteoroid into his planet, destroying it and all who lived there.

Fuelled by revenge Joe hijacked one of the enemy ships and crashed it into the side of one of the others, all of which were in a straight line formation, side-by-side with each other. Where Joe had crashed, his ship now faced down the long line of enemy ships. Firing one huge laser blast it tore through them all, killing everyone and leaving him the only survivor of the battle and of his race. This next page of Ron’s reminded me he drew for Marvel UK‘s Transformers, it just has that feel about it. Looking into that however, I was surprised to see he only ever drew one strip (#82)! Such was the impact he must’ve made on me I thought he’d been a semi-regular artist on it!

Joe’s men console him and try to tell him they agree with his seeking revenge, but the strip ends with our hero rejecting this. “Revenge? How can any revenge balance the millions who were killed? I am only pleased that my external brain pack allows me to switch off such memories… forever!” That is about as heartbreaking an ending as you can get as he switches off all memory of his loved ones.

One final feature rounds off this edition of Wildcat and it’s a special Back to the Drawing Board spread of Ian Kennedy’s original design sketches for the Wildcat itself and some of its characters. At the time of writing this Ian has only recently passed, so seeing these drawings, as well as his superb cover (which is on the back as well) is tinged with sadness. I’ve always loved his Wildcat design, his originality not only with its shape but also its bright colours and I think we can all agree he did a superb job of realising Barrie’s wish for a truly diverse cast of exciting heroes, which was rare.

Thus ends our look at the Wildcat Holiday Special from 1989. As I’ve said before I do own the graphic novel collections for two of the characters so I’ll be covering them at a future date, and I’m going to be tracking down the others through the individual issues of Eagle and Wildcat. But in the meantime we haven’t quite finished with Wildcat in its own form just yet.

There’s one more special to come and I’m very excited by it. Once again it’s an issue I’ve never read before. It’s even bigger than the Holiday Special and comes with a simply gorgeous high gloss, high quality cover. The Wildcat Winter Special was released several months later so look out for its review on Thursday 17th November 2022. Now that’s going to take some will power on my behalf, it’s sitting on that shelf right over there looking at me! I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

To finish with for now here’s the promo for the Holiday Special as it appeared in the pages of Eagle and Wildcat. We’ll be back with Turbo, Loner, Kitten and Joe before your know it!

WiLDCAT #11: NET YOURSELF SOME ACTiON

Kitten Magee makes the cover of the penultimate issue of editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s superb creation, Wildcat. Kitten’s regular artist José Ortiz brings the style he used for #9‘s pin up to the front page, complete with very strategically placed controls on that front hover machine! I hadn’t realised some of Hobos’ people were naked floating about in the story until I saw this. Not something I expected to see on a cover of Wildcat, but that’s this comic to a T, it’s always surprising me! This issue is no different.

Kitten starts us off inside on page two and it’s a very exciting strip this issue. There’s a lot of action happening and it varies so much throughout its five pages it stays fresh. All-in-all it’s a great action sequence with Kitten finally going up against Hobos and his followers. It’s felt like the story has been building towards this for a long time now and I haven’t been left disappointed in the slightest.

There’s one particular aspect of this chapter which really took me by surprise, I’m sure you can guess what it was from the panels above! So when Kitten and her team were dumped into the city’s ponds, ready to be electrocuted to death by the floating fat men and their cattle prod-like devices, the fish they’d been torturing for sport rise up in support and start killing them. Not only that, but it appears they can talk, or at the very least scream” Kill!” as they do so.

This happens thanks to Kitten firing back with her wrist lasers, something overlooked when they were disarmed last time. This causes one of the men to fall off his hover pad and another to fly in low to attack Kitten, forgetting to stay at a certain height above the water. Kitten grabs his hovering platform and climbs aboard to fight back at long last, and soon a huge battle is raging over the skies of the Hoboan city. I love the fact there are dozens of these men, over-sure of themselves after countless years of lording it over everyone else, their privilege and lifestyle obvious on their bodies, and they’re all being taken out by one woman.

It feels like a very modern strip, and most likely one which certain dark, dank corners of the internet would criticise these days because one heroic woman is fighting off dozens of evil men. I think it’s great we were getting this kind of storytelling as kids, we were exactly the right age to take on the subtext without realising. OiNK definitely helped form my sense of humour as a child, it’s not unbelievable that comics such as Wildcat helped shape other parts of my character too.

In the end, Kitten goes up against Hobos himself but as leader he’s been afforded the luxury of a force shield. Now surrounded, with no escape, he instructs his men to fire their Sleep Rays, leading her to collapse on her hover pad for the cliffhanger. While I understand he can now use Kitten as a hostage to capture the rest of the team, it seems out of character for him to spare her. We’ve seen electric rods, death rays and even a Shatter Gun this issue (freezes and shatters upon impact), but he decides to send Kitten to sleep when he finally has her in his grasp? Our final Wildcat chapter should be interesting.

The trees have sent troops down on a suicide mission to poison the gigantic slugs

Joe Alien is up next and after the shocking conclusion last time (pun very much intended), time flashes forward a couple of hours and he and his team slowly start to come around. Forcing Joe to the ground, one of his men cleans his brain pack and reattaches it. Joe tries to explain to the slug creatures (the Dargonlites, as they psychically introduced themselves as last time) but they stop him and tell him they already know why it happened, they’re “not unintelligent beings”, correcting an assumption made just because of their looks and slow nature, again a good lesson for the kids reading (and for adults). Suddenly some tree roots begin to break in above their heads and the slugs attack. It seems like a stupid decision by the vegetation, until we get to our middle pages.

As I have (very happily) become accustomed to as of late, the second half of Joe’s strip in the middle pages (separate to the first three pages) is a beautiful double-page spread in which artist Ron Smith takes full advantage of the layout. The trees have sent troops down on a suicide mission to poison the gigantic slugs (there’s my pull quote right there!) and one by one they die off, leaving Joe and his team vulnerable to attack, which is certainly what happens in that last panel. It looks like all-out war is approaching fast. It’s another winning entry in the series and, mainly thanks to Ron’s art, another hugely exciting strip for this issue.

I felt genuinely sad to see the “slurp creatures” die. Even though they’ve only been in the strip for a couple of issues I loved their design and the playfulness with which they first appeared. We were just about to find out more about them when they were attacked too. Their leader was beginning to open a dialogue with Joe and find out why the humans were landing on the planet. I don’t think they’ll be back, but that’s the nature of Wildcat, you can’t get too attached to things. You just don’t know where these stories will go next. With one more chapter to go, and knowing there’d be a wait before Joe would appear in the pages of Eagle (which Wildcat merged into), I hope we’re in for a great climax next time, or at least a temporary one.

So on to Loner who easily escapes last issue’s cliffhanger by simply jumping out of the huge mouth he found himself in. Much more interesting is the strange creature he was riding on the back of in the previous ‘Next Issue’ promo. He’d even given it a name and so I thought we were about to head off an a big adventure with the mercenary atop Dobbin. But one page later a fire inexplicably breaks out in the forest (of course it does) and naturally a stampede of all the animals takes place, Loner and Dobbin likely to get trampled on, so his new friend pushes him off and buries his way underground to safely, never to be seen again.

I’ll admit, when the fire broke out I kind of rolled my eyes because it was just the latest in a long run of seemingly random dangerous events that by this stage were getting comical and rather ridiculous. Yes, I realise Loner has been shrunk to the size of an ant on an alien planet by a large blob, but I can live with that, it’s an alien planet after all. I was excited by the prospect originally, but by now it’s quite clear there’s no real aim for the character or plot since this happened. Quite possibly very exciting for twelve-year-old me but now it’s just not gripping me any more.

Things end with Loner climbing a tree and grabbing hold of a bird’s foot as it takes off, trying to fly away to safety. But it shakes Loner off and he’s plummeting back down again as the story ends for another fortnight.

Before I move on though, let’s just take a moment to once again admire the saving grace of this strip, the always gorgeous artwork of David Pugh‘s. Loner himself is still a great character too, his inner thoughts and outbursts are often funny and he hasn’t lost any of his edge from his first story. If the comic had continued perhaps this would’ve been a fun intermediate period for the kids between two proper stories, but as it stands this makes up half of Turbo’s run in Wildcat and just can’t reach the heights of those first issues.

But what gorgeous art this is!

It plays like a cross between Babylon 5 and a Marvin the Martian Looney Tunes cartoon

On the letters page Kitten’s pet robot Crud is asked by reader Hilary Thompson what planet he was made on. The response is brilliant and here it is in its entirety: “Deep in the 5th planetary system of the Outer Glorky galaxy, there’s a little planetoid called Nomond-X. On the island south of the main land mass in the Northern hemisphere of that planetoid, there’s a river. At the exact centre of that river, near a mighty waterfall, is a little workman’s hut. It was nowhere near there.” It begins by having the reader think there are some great background details to even the smallest of characters, then the “workman’s hut” had me laughing at the silliness of it, but then that final line floored me! Classic 80s UK comic letter answering.

In Turbo Jones‘ strip we get our first space battle in the Wildcat comic and it’s exciting for the kids while also including some great visual humour. The robotic crew sent to destroy the Wildcat turn to take on Turbo and Robo and somehow from within the infrastructure of their tiny shuttle out pops a gigantic claw and a net! It’s ridiculous of course and I love it. You can’t say it’s unoriginal, that’s for sure. Artist Vanyo brings this scene to life and when the Wildcat joins in it plays like a cross between Babylon 5 and a Marvin the Martian Looney Tunes cartoon. It’s hugely enjoyable.

The Wildcat may only have a brief cameo but it’s nice to see those weapons on the huge human lifeboat finally get some use. The crew on board are completely unaware of who is in the shuttles and initially don’t know what they should do. Only when Turbo destroys the claw, sending the shuttle it was attached to into an uncontrollable spiral towards Wildcat do they intervene to save themselves from a collision. The radiation around the planet is still interfering with radio communications, even in orbit, so Turbo has no choice but to return to the planet.

I could feel Turbo’s frustration here. He was so close to reestablishing contact with the Wildcat after so long away. He could’ve updated them on their findings so far, explained why comms were down and perhaps those on board could’ve found a way around it, he could even have taken more troops back down. Between having none of the correct fuel and, probably more importantly, the fear of being shot down by his own people he has no choice but to return to the planet. They decide to return to their allies the Burroids, but upon touching down we get a rerun of the events in #1. Captured by the same aliens who now believe he’d defected, they tell him he’ll be standing trial for his life.

Layer upon layer keeps being added to this story. From landing and being captured, then befriending those aliens, helping them fight an enemy, being captured by said enemy, having to take to space to save humanity, then back to being captured by the original friendly race of aliens and standing trial for being a traitor. Turbo doesn’t have the best luck in the world, but he’s definitely come a long way since that first issue when he was an abrupt individual and deliberately one-dimensional. He was in charge of the future of an entire species after all, so he was deadly serious and prone to assuming the worst as a defence mechanism, thinking the first aliens he met were a threat. But he’s softened, he’s learned and he’s grown on me too. He’s a great character and I found myself empathising with his plight this issue.

‘Great News For All Readers’

The Wildcat Complete this issue doesn’t have a story name and we kick things off in the Wildcat Robot Research and Technology Centre where some of the older robot helpers are told they’re being replaced by more up-to-date models and nano-tech. The robots summoned before the professor breaking the bad news are all lovingly designed retro-styles by Jesús Redondo with each baring a passing resemblance to certain sci-fi characters such as Darth Vader (called Mek), C3PO or even a Cyclon from Battlestar Galactica, but each altered so as not to be obvious. It’s a nice nod and perhaps also shows how Wildcat was pushing itself as a really futuristic story compared to these older franchises. It did raise a chuckle.

The small group of robots decide on an uprising and systematically go about taking their revenge out on those humans who have been treating them badly, or who use robots for their own entertainment or financial gain. A man who beats his robot gets beaten to death, a foreman known for slave-driving his robots is forced to try carrying the heavy loads he forces upon them himself and is squished flat, and two men who run illegal for-profit Robo-fights are pushed into the ring and made to fight to the death. It’s a grim tale at times and perfect for the Wildcat Complete.

It’s a clear analogy for the class system and it’s unfortunate (but refreshingly realistic in a children’s sci-fi comic) that this far into the future we still face the same problems we do today; it’s not some Star Trek-like utopia. I think this reads even better today as a result. There’s still room for humour amongst the gruesome moments, such as the ever-so-politely-programmed robots apologising to each other as they’re forced to fight, but even then the humour just highlights what’s wrong here. As such, it’s a strip that can produce conflicting responses from the reader and I think that’s the whole point. The robots have been treated so badly we root for them, but their actions are played like a horror story.

After murdering four people they head back to the professor and destroy his equipment for making the new robots, before they themselves are destroyed by security. Just before its shattered body stops for good, the Vader-esque robot uses its last little bit of power to say they succeeded, the Wildcat doesn’t have the equipment to replace the other robots still on the ship. The human leaders find themselves in a predicament that isn’t immediately solvable but they do unveil a statue of Mek in the robots’ rest area, to smooth over human-robot relations.

While it has some comical robots, funny nods to the era’s sci-fi and an overall feeling of fun, just like the best Wildcat Completes there’s a dark streak running through the strip. It’s probably more in-your-face here than normal, but perhaps that’s down to the fact I’m a lot older and it’s symbolism is clear to me now. Let’s also not forget that Wildcat Death Toll either. With four more people now added to it our total is 36 at the end of our penultimate issue. As for the fact that this is indeed the penultimate edition, there’s the usual ‘Great News For All Readers’ message on the Next Issue page.

I certainly didn’t find the news special when #12 landed on my lap back then! To round off the issue is an advertisement for the NatWest bank with a central message which is unfortunately just as relevant today as it was in 1989. Finally, the pin up returns to the back cover and it’s Turbo’s deputies Wok and Glune of the Burroids who sign off the comic for two weeks.

The final regular issue of Wildcat will be reviewed in a fortnight and you can read it from Friday 25th March 2022.

WiLDCAT #7: A COMiC WITH TEETH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stefano to the body of Serling

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

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

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

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

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