Tag Archives: Joan Boix


With this review we tie up the Wildcat real time read through. Yes, there are two recent graphic novel collections and the merge with Eagle to round up, but for the original comic this marks the end and I can’t help but feel a bit sad about that. The Wildcat Winter Special has a lot to live up to then, it’s been a long time coming after all. The comic finished in March and we’ve had nothing since the Holiday Special in May. So did it satiate the cravings for fans?

Earlier in the year Eagle announced there would be a Wildcat Holiday Special and an annual. While the latter never materialised I think it’s clear the content for it ended up in the Winter Special instead. (Just like the OiNK Winter Special in that regard.) Things kick off inside with a reprint of the preview issue’s cover and strip, a black and white reprint of a formerly gorgeously coloured Joe Alien pin up by Ron Smith which results in his eyes looking hauntingly dead, and then two whole pages are taken up with a ‘Spot the Difference’, which boils down to a page from Eagle (I presume, I’ve never seen it before) reprinted twice.

In fact we don’t get anything new until page 16! Not a reassuring start for a special which cost a little less than the thicker, hardback annuals but it does come on lovely glossy paper throughout and a nice, thick (even glossier) cover, hence the price. I suppose we could call it a premium special of sorts (like the Super Naturals Adventure Book from the previous year) and various titles in Fleetway’s range would get one of these over the next few years. It’s strange reading the preview strip again, before the character of Turbo Jones softened and developed in the fortnightly. Here he comes across as a bit of a nonce.

The gorgeous new Ian Kennedy cover portrays the first original strip inside which stars all of our team leaders, the first time this has happened since the preview issue in fact. The Games, drawn by John Gillatt (Jet-Ace Logan, Billy’s Boots, Ring Raiders), is a six pager that is annoyingly split into two-page chunks throughout the first half of the issue. It quite clearly wasn’t written to be read this way, meaning it keeps stopping mid flow. Still, it’s nice to see the whole team together and the first couple of pages do get the blood pumping.

Unfortunately it never really develops beyond this initial excitement. The idea of aliens forcing the humans into a death match against their will isn’t original even for Wildcat. In the Holiday Special Loner was already put through something similar in a quite brilliant prose story and later in this special the same thing happens to him again, so the fact he’s caught up in a similar plot for the third time is damned bad luck on his part.

Pitted against some suitably retro-attired warriors, each member of the Wildcat crew takes it in turn to see off their individual opponents by using the weapons or skills we’ve seen in the regular comic. This and the reprint of the origin story seem to be introducing new readers to Wildcat, which is grand if this were indeed a big, fat annual for an ongoing comic. But by this stage only Loner’s story still continued in the pages of Eagle, so it feels like a lot of this special it so far isn’t really aimed at established fans.

At least fans do get to see more of Loner’s bullets at last. We knew his modified antique six-shooter Babe has a variety of different futuristic bullets so it’s fun to see the boomerang one here. Of course, we could’ve seen more of these in the pages of Eagle but I haven’t read those stories yet. I’ll explain more about that at the end of the review. In between the tiny chunks of this story are other complete tales.

First up is Turbo Jones who by this point feels like a completely different character to that in the preview’s reprint, such was his character development. Off on another mission illustrated by Vanyo, set some time after his first adventure, he and Robo are plucked from the air and dragged underwater by a mad alien who forces them to help him. One thing that immediately stands out here is the amount of story crammed into the six pages it takes up. It’s like the exact opposite of The Games.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say every couple of pages here could’ve been made into a full chapter in the original comic without feeling too padded out. It does feel a bit rushed as a result but that’s probably only because I was so used to the slow build and ever increasing drama of the fortnightly serials. That’s not an issue unique to Wildcat. I remember when I used to buy 2000AD how I’d sometimes feel a bit underwhelmed by some of the strips in the annuals or specials because I was so used to epic storytelling.

So Turbo and Robo have been captured to help this crazed alien with his insane plan to destroy the off-world mine where the materials to make the planet’s currency comes from. Initially I was confused. The comic told us way back in the second issue how a planet-wide lung condition stopped anyone from being able to live above ground level, so how could their currency be mined off world? Well, this is actually only one source of this material.

Anyway, the nefarious plot is right out of Goldfinger, which is not a complaint at all by the way. If the material, and thus the currency, is contaminated the economy tanks and the value of anyone’s own personal stash skyrockets. It’s an insane strip! It suits Wildcat perfectly and I’d have loved seeing this mystery play out over a serial. It’s fun and shows the potential of Wildcat to really tell any story it wanted to. This comic had no limits to its imagination.

In the Holiday Special there was something called a Robot File, a four-page feature of images from several different Wildcat stories all featuring the various futuristic companions humans are living alongside in their search for a new home, with small panels detailing each one. A fun recap for fans and a way for new readers to see some of the interesting storylines they’d missed out on so far. We get something similar here with the wide variety of friendly and not-so-friendly aliens the crew have met along the way.

It may be reusing panels from Wildcat and Eagle but it doesn’t feel like filler. In fact for me there’s some new material here from after the merge, like the end of the war and the fact The Brain had a body. This really would’ve been perfect in an annual too. I have to say that’s a fantastic selection of allies, friends, creatures and monsters, isn’t it? I’m going to miss this comic.

But let’s cheer up, we’ve got more goodies here and The Wildcat Complete (this time not given its own name) was always something to look forward to. This one even refers back to the stories in #6 and #8. In the second of those tales loveable Gliz sacrificed himself after piloting a shuttle to the far side of the first moon and getting hijacked by pirates. In the first we found out multiple crews had disappeared on the near side when they’d eaten poisonous fruit which mutated them, ensuring they were seen as threatening aliens and killed by rescue teams, who in turn would eat the fruit and continue the cycle.

Due to the horrendous weather pilot Tovey crashes on the surface just like Kurby did in #6. He notices he’s accidentally killed a lizard-type alien and then finds himself inextricably drawn to a distant hill. Everything seems very familiar but he can’t place his finger on it. Captured by aliens who plant a device on his head to speak, it’s soon clear they don’t exactly see him or the Wildcat as friends.

More horrifying is the side effect the translation device has on him! Breaking free, out of desperation Tovey discovers a dimensional portal generator the aliens happen to have nearby and throws himself through it. Flicking between different realities he finally seems to choose the right one. He’s back on the moon and sees a craft approaching. He’s saved! The Wildcat must’ve sent another rescue team. But as it approaches it’s clear it’s also been caught up in the weather conditions, and this isn’t the only bit of de ja vu for Tovey.

He sees it’s his shuttle craft, with him at the controls. As the caption points out time is the fourth dimension and it was on his fourth attempt that he ended up here. Again, the cycle will be never ending as he crash lands, kills himself and then ends up right back in his own path again. It’s similar in some ways to that earlier Complete, although it wasn’t time that repeated but rather the actions of the humans. It’s very, very similar to the final Scary Cat Challenge in Super Naturals #9 (also from editor Barrie Tomlinson) when a greedy boy wishing on a genie’s lamp ends up in a repeated cycle of time.

It’s a well worn story trope, I know, but to see it in two of my comics so close to each other, and when this was a sequel to a tale with a similar ending, it feels a bit underwhelming, the twist not really a twist anymore. Such a shame, because I’ve loved Joan Boix’s art on all of the Complete tales they’ve illustrated over Wildcat’s short life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad story, it just feels a bit recycled.

The same plot being used for two of Loner’s stories in a row (and also two strips in this issue) is a real disappointment

What’s much more exciting is seeing a brand new Loner strip written by editor Barrie Tomlinson and drawn again by David Pugh! Barrie’s prose story in the Holiday Special was excellent but I missed having new art from David (the illustrations were lifted from previous issues) and by this stage in Eagle he’d moved on to drawing Dan Dare, an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up but which meant Loner, who had been created with David in mind to draw, had to be passed on to another artist.

Ah yes, that does look lovely, doesn’t it? Welcome back Loner! Regular blog readers will know he was my favourite character in Wildcat and his first adventure was absolutely riveting. Unfortunately his second was less so, but here we’ve got a brand new one-off tale of him exploring the planet’s surface and once again he’s fallen into some trouble. I do like the way the sequence of him falling down that wheel mechanism is shown through clever use of a main panel and some smaller ones overlaid on top.

In the Holiday Special he’d found himself the prisoner of a group of aliens who captured creatures to force them into a kind of gladiatorial combat. (Just like The Games, above.) So what brand new adventure do we have here for our former mercenary? The hole he’s fallen into leads him to a group of aliens who sit on a kind of observation gallery, then behind him a trap door opens up and a huge, tentacled beast appears who they want Loner to fight in a kind of gladiatorial combat. Um…

Oh come on now, this is getting a bit ridiculous. While it’s wonderful to see David’s art again and there are some genuinely funny moments, such as Loner cursing the fact his first reaction to new alien beings often lands him in trouble and the quip above about arm to arm combat, the fact the same plot has been used for two of his stories in a row (and now two strips in this issue) is a real disappointment. It takes the edge off seeing him back in strip form. But that art is wonderful, especially when the big bad looks this good.

I just can’t quite wrap my head around the decision to basically rerun the same story twice over. As a kid I never had the two specials so I can’t say for certain if I’d have been as disappointment, or even have noticed, what with them being months apart. But as an adult fan the Winter Special isn’t measuring up to the incredibly high bar of the regular comic, not with reprint material and reused plot lines. Damn.

The second half of the issue has a full colour Joe Alien story split up into little two-page pieces just like The Games. While David Robinson‘s story isn’t technically a reused one, it does set itself neatly into the serial from the fortnightly, seeing as how Joe and his team were captured by the alien plant life on more than one occasion. Basically, they get captured again, Joe’s brain becomes disconnected again, then they escape again. But I find it strangely enjoyable.

I think because it’s more honest about the fact it’s not a new story, that it’s an additional chapter to Joe’s main strip. This approach is much preferred over the other strips so far. It also shows a lighter side to the character. He quips and shows proper affection towards the men he’s been fighting alongside. We also see how he eats through the vines when he’s lost his brain pack, making us wonder if there’s still some form of intelligence in there, only for us to realise he was just hungry in his crazed state!

Instead of regular Joe artist Ron Smith we have instead Keith Page and, while I do like his very alien main character, I miss Ron’s sharp lines and exaggerated action. José Ortiz returns for Kitten Magee though, his scratchy visuals once again the perfect fit for the jungle-based action written by James Tomlinson. This time our heroic female team are entering an area apparently guarded by the terrifying Ikarzeytak. But searching for a new home for the human race is more important than local legends, especially when it’s apparently already long dead.

In Kitten’s regular story she and her teammates would come up against a never ending array of imaginative alien creatures, each one displaying some kind of innovative ability that they’d have to outthink on the fly in order to survive. From monsters with heads for hands, to gigantic leviathans with multi-headed pet dogs or beasts with see-through stomachs. The Kitten Magee strip also had strong ongoing stories and mysterious character arcs, however a big part of the fun was seeing what kind of monster would be thought up next!

I never expected a one-off strip in the special to advance any of the ongoing arcs but the Kitten Magee story certainly doesn’t disappoint with its always enjoyable characters and the next in its long line of original beasties to fight. In this case that skeleton was indeed the Ikarzeytak, which can regenerate from nothing but rainwater much to the surprise, and then horror, of the team. It’s ludicrous. But it’s ludicrous fun! That’s what Wildcat was all about and so the Winter Special ends on a high.

Kitten’s friends Cassandra, Bonnie and Aurora also star in the four-page Weapons File which follows the same formula as the alien and robot ones and then that’s it, Wildcat’s real time read through comes to an end. As I’ve previously said I never followed the characters into the pages of Eagle and, with over 50 issues of it to collect before I can read the end of all the stories I wanted to complete the read through of the main comic first. It felt right.

The Winter Special feels very much like a publication of two halves. Perhaps I’d overhyped it for myself in the intervening months, but there’s a disappointing amount of reprint material or reused story ideas, however even in those the art is superb and the remaining stories are all as excellent as we’ve come to expect. It feels like a premium comic in my hands and I think giving Wildcat this glossy treatment for its final ever edition was a great idea; the original was a lot bigger and brighter than its contemporaries after all.

Next year I’ll finally be able to see what happened next for Turbo, Loner, Kitten, Joe and the Wildcat, beginning with the Turbo Jones and Loner graphic novel collections, before I focus on those Eagle issues with the remaining Kitten Magee, Joe Alien and Wildcat Complete tales. Plenty to come then, but it’s still a sad moment to close the final issue from the 80s that’s 100% Wildcat from cover to cover. A childhood favourite originally aimed at younger readers it holds up incredibly well and I’d highly recommend any adult comics or sci-fi fan to jump in and take the ride.


This review was due on 25th February, click here to find out about the delay. More catch-ups to come this week.

It is with a lump in my throat that I picked up this latest issue of editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s superlative Wildcat comic from 1989. My initial reaction was thinking it was great to have an Ian Kennedy cover again to kick off proceedings, only to be reminded how just very recently we lost the great man himself. A giant in the comics industry, his artwork always astounded me as a kid and no less so now. His work features on many covers on the blog in the Ring Raiders, Super Naturals and of course Wildcat series.

Barrie brought Ian on to design the Wildcat craft and the characters who would lead humanity down to the surface of the planet, and the Wildcat Holiday Special would show some of his original designs. Released on 27th May 1989 you can look out for that review (which will definitely include Ian’s designs) on that date this year, and check out his gorgeous full-colour, hand-painted introductory strip for the Ring Raiders Mini-Comic given away free with Eagle.

A talent who worked right up to the end, Ian was 89 when he passed and will be missed by a legion of fans across the world. You can read an obituary for Ian on Rebellion‘s Treasury of British Comics website here.

Ian drew the very first episode of Turbo Jones but ever since #2 he’s been in the more than capable hands of Vanyo, and after some darker episodes we’re back into the realm of far-out dinosaur and spacecraft action. But not before Barrie writes in one more shocking scene, in which the Burroids being sacrificed to the Arglons‘ god are given a chance to escape. But only six of them. Swooping down on Robo‘s new pal, Turbo obviously wants to save who he can, but we end up with desperate soldiers clambering for position, some falling back to their inevitable death.

It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in war films or even on the news

It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in war films or even on the news, so to see it in a children’s comic is all the more shocking, which makes for excellent reading and shows how Wildcat never talked down to us kids. It threw surprising scenes like this at us and we lapped them up. Advertised at the time as a comic for the younger siblings of 2000AD readers, it’s no wonder in the years since I’ve read of people discovering Wildcat and wishing the “younger” label hadn’t put them off at the time.

Commandeering a shuttle craft to take after the one allegedly on the way to hijack the Wildcat, Turbo and Robo find themselves back in space when they discover the real intentions of the Arglons. It’s actually a robotic crew sent on a suicide mission to blow up the entire spacecraft and end humanity! But with the robots confused over whether to defend themselves against Turbo or attack the Wildcat first, we’re left wondering who’ll make the first move.

With the stakes being raised so high it feels like we’re on our way towards a climax for this first adventure of Turbo’s, but I don’t remember it coming to a conclusion by the time of the comic’s cancellation. So maybe for any other comic this could be the beginning of a grand finale, but for Barrie it was just another episode!

David Robinson‘s Joe Alien is still stuck down the slimy hole leading to the home of the giant slug creatures that saved him and his men from the killer vegetation. (There’s a sentence!) Fortunately, Joe’s original assessment of these slugs being friendly appears to have been correct. These Dargonlites, so superbly designed and drawn by Ron Smith are vegetarian enemies of the plants and in a funny moment they tell Joe all the slime was produced to break their fall, and they thought the humans would find it pleasing!

Joe’s brain pack has been placed securely back on to his head but it appears some of the slime got in. This makes it malfunction and he starts to go crazy again, extended limbs flailing everywhere, even bopping the slugs on their heads as if he’s playing a giant, slimy piano. His legs spring him into the air and he ends up in one of their mouths, much to the surprise and disgust of the alien slug, producing this funny panel below on the left.

This doesn’t exactly build bonds and as you can see the cliffhanger is even more shocking than Turbo’s. Affronted at Joe’s indiscretions one of the slugs pushes a long, thorny sting out of its rear end and electrifies the slime, sending our team into twists of agonising pain. For the life of me I don’t know why I can’t remember more of this strip because it’s just so much fun.

These being the only colour pages helps of course, with Ron’s art and colour palette leaping off the page. His designs and a real kinetic energy make Joe’s pages (split over two different sections of the comic) hugely exciting and it seems every single chapter is introducing brand new elements and twists to what was already a highly original (and way out there) story. It’s absolutely perfect children’s sci-fi and I’m not ashamed to say at 44 years-of-age it’s making me feel like a kid all over again. I love it!

Kitten Magee and her team finally make it to Hoboan City in the latest part of James Tomlinson‘s take, despite Hobos‘ various attempts at offing them over the last few issues. Placed aboard floating transports they’re flown over the metropolis while he boasts about his people’s accomplishments. Only when they enter a great council chamber and he formally announces his entrance with, “I, Hobos the Murderous, return” to the other members does the penny finally drop all the way for the humans.

A magnet on the ceiling relieves them of their weapons and when their transports flip to toss them down a trap door below, Kitten’s robotic pet Crud ends up flying off in the opposite direction. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed the comical moments for Crud in recent issues. They’re never overdone and at all other times he’s been a real help to the team and a proper character in his own right, so these moments are genuinely funny when they happen.

All pretence is gone and as the team are flung out into the open air they’re captured in giant nets and shown the Hoboan version of fishing, where electrical shocks are used to torture the aquatic life in their city’s pools. The cliffhanger has the women being tossed towards the water and their ultimate fate. I have to say I’m glad to see the story leave the jungle after a few monster-of-the-week episodes, although I’ll admit last issue’s was a highlight of the whole story so far. Hopefully we can start finding out more about the history of Hobos’ people and this part of the planet, but if not it all makes for some daft fun anyway!

On the Wildcat Time-Warp Data Link pages (letters pages to you and me) the answer to this reader’s question stood out. When asked about possible character profiles in future issues the answer mentions the Holiday Special and an Annual. Unfortunately, the twelfth issue would be the last before the comic merged into Eagle but it’s interesting to know even at this stage the fate of the comic may not have been known. The Annual didn’t materialise of course, but a Winter Special did, the contents of which I always thought was intended to be in an Annual originally. Perhaps this was the case.

On to Barrie Tomlinson‘s shrunken Loner now and while David Pugh‘s art is always the highlight of an issue, again I feel the story doesn’t really know where it’s going. In this chapter Loner has been attacked by an alien creature that’s clinging to his face, but before he can shoot it with Babe another creature attacks his arm. He’s able to free himself using a rock, hitting the creatures with it and they just pop open, no blood or guts visible. This asks questions, obviously. Then a larger version appears, leaps on one of the smaller ones and begins to eat it, then another larger one appears and does the same to that one… like a vicious family of cannibalistic Russian dolls.

I’m intrigued by these creatures. Their designs are wonderful, they’re somehow hollow and this apparently never-ending cycle fascinates me, but just like the wonderful spider and ants they’re forgotten about when Loner makes his escape. He then spots the floating blob that shrunk him to this size in the first place, but before he can get to it a horse-like alien is taking a drink from the river and doesn’t spot the tiny man who ends up in its mouth, about to be swallowed. Maybe as a child I loved the endless stream of dangers he faced as he tried to return to normal, but now I’m craving more story.

As you can see with those creatures the action is imaginative and exciting but over the course of the first seven issues we had all this plus a proper plot for Loner to sink his teeth into. Now instead it’s like he’s just stumbling from one danger to another, which is all the more frustrating when some of those dangers have real potential to be a main story element. Maybe I’m being harsh, after all it was aimed for a much younger me who may have loved it just as much as the earlier stories, but I can’t help but feel the comic has spoiled me up to this point, and proven time and again it can produce dynamic, interesting and deep stories to match David’s incredible artwork, leaving the current story feeling somewhat lacking.

The complete tale this issue simply gets ‘The Wildcat Complete‘ as its banner but at the top of every page artist Joan Boix has written “Earth 2” so that’s the actual title. This correlates with the front cover, which would have us believe a planet called Earth 2 has killer robots on it. (Quick note: This was six years before the short-lived TV series of the same name.) But the planet the landing parties are exploring is called Targon-5 (not actually named in the strips, it was named as part of the free gift with #1 and mentioned in its Next Issue promo), so what’s this all about? Colour me intrigued.

It kicks off with more Space Madness infecting humans aboard the ship, something which has been a problem since #2. Aboard a cramped tin can in deep space, unable to leave and far from their home (which blew up!), some people’s minds just can’t cope and they go loopy. Here we have someone jettison themselves out an airlock where their body explodes in the vacuum, and the equivalent of space fire fighters called the ‘Emergency Squad’ start emergencies! But Doctor Jedd Gruber thinks he has a solution, a vast holographic simulation of life back on our long lost planet.

Soon, across the whole ship people are being given tokens to allow them two hours a week inside the simulation and at first it appears to be working. Reports come in that people’s madness is being properly managed, some have recovered completely and many sane people are visiting it as a preventative measure. But of course this is the Wildcat Complete story so we know it all has to go horribly wrong.

Two individuals hold up the doctor at gunpoint and destroy his robotic assistant, demanding to be let into ‘Earth 2’ (as it’s become known due to how realistic it is) and to have the doors locked after them. The doctor tries to explain none of it is real and asks what they’re going to eat, but consumed with Space Madness they’ve become addicted to Earth 2. They call the doctor stupid (“blitz-brain”); they’re going to eat the berries on the beautiful bushes and fruits from the trees! Fearing for his life the doc has no option but to close them in. Looking on from outside he summons the security droids.

I love those last words, how it was so realistic it ended up going the same way as the actual planet. It’s definitely one of the better anthology tales (they’ve all been very good) and Joan’s art is a superb fit, their depiction of the space madness is just perfect. This is one of the most interesting aspects of this series of stories. While they’re all individual, there are some themes that pop up now and again, with this sickness being the most prevalent and one which I’m sure would’ve played a huge part in the ongoing saga of the Wildcat if the comic had carried on.

Would the spiralling death toll have been referenced in later issues?

The ending reminded me I’ve been remiss with my Wildcat Death Toll of late. In the Christmas issue not one person died (suitably enough) and since then I haven’t picked the count back up again. So, with three dead in this story alone, and all six human characters killed off in last issue’s Complete, where do we stand? Going back and adding up all the deaths from all strips, in all issues, with only several hundred humans left alive in the universe editor Barrie and his team have seen off 32 already! (Plus the wonderful Gliz alien character.)

Would the spiralling death toll have been referenced in later issues? Who knows. But for now I close another superb issue and with only two regular ones to go I await with bated breath what’s in store for the remainder of humanity. Our penultimate fortnightly review will be on the blog from Friday 11th March 2020. Just before we finish here though, as I turned the final page (after the Next Issue promo below) I was transported right back to 1989 with this Weetabix advert. I remember collecting those very cars. Even though there was nothing particularly different about them from the other toys I had, the fact you had to collect tokens and send away for them made them feel exotic and rare! Did you remember these?


Ron Smith kicks off this issue of Wildcat with his fun Joe Alien cover and I have no idea what’s going on here. Joe’s story has centred around killer plants but it appears there’s more to the region he’s found himself in. I’ll get to that below. Inside, everyone has shifted back to their original places after editor Barrie Tomlinson shook things up a bit last time out, so first up is Turbo Jones and we pick up the story with the Arglon leaders having captured him and demanding he lead their army to victory against his friends.

I have to say this issue’s Turbo chapter is by far the best yet. That’s not to take anything away from the previous seven instalments, but this one takes a somewhat dark turn which I love. It contains some genuine shocks and a very surprising turn of events for one set of evil characters. Robo also really comes to the fore here. As the Arglons believe Turbo has defected they assume Robo is a traitor too and capture him. Their leader The Brain demands he tell them where Turbo is (Robo doesn’t know, he had a system shutdown during the whole debacle) and he’s taken away to be tortured.

For a comic marketed towards a younger demographic than Fleetway‘s other action titles this is really quite dark. Transformers got away with quite severe violence because the characters were robots, it simply wouldn’t have if the characters had been human. Along the same lines, here we see Robo being tortured in very specific ways relating to his robotic parts. Even so, it’s quite heart-wrenching because Robo has been such a loveable character so far. The final panel, when they callously suggest throwing his apparently dead body on the rubbish heap is the darkest the whole comic has got so far, which is a shock to read in the usually safe, action-orientated Turbo Jones story.

I love it!

In the end Robo’s back-up battery was overlooked and he’s able to use it to recharge himself and get back on his feet. He commandeers one of the flying dinosaurs and takes off to find Turbo after overhearing some Arglons saying he’d defected to the other side. He knows it isn’t true and heads off to find out what’s going on. As we check in on Turbo himself we find him tied up in a prison cell and we get something of a revelation about the grand council and The Great Ark!

Up to this point we’ve only seen the council behind their lofty pulpits, armour shoulder plating giving the impression they had full skeletal bodies. The mechanics inside their mouths hinted they were more than just decomposing bodies. I’d thought maybe they weren’t alive, that they were controlled by someone else behind the scenes but it appears I couldn’t have been more wrong. Suddenly we see one confronting Turbo and they’re just a skull and spine, yet appear to be alive! This is a much creepier revelation. They’re even the star of the pin-up. What a fantastic chapter in this story and a brilliant start to this issue.

Ron Smith‘s cover star Joe Alien is up next and his five pages are taken up with his team’s escape from their predicament last time and not much else. But that’s okay. Every issue of Wildcat is perfectly balanced. Each of the four serials can have chapters which are more character focussed, or which develop the plot or further mysteries in the overall story, or concentrate on some action instead. This means we’re guaranteed to get at least one example of these elements across each issue, bringing depth to the action every fortnight.

Written by David Robinson, as the trees tighten their grip on Joe and encircle his men, he uses his extendable limbs to reach through the thorns and grab one of the lasers, killing the plant that has him captive. We then get this amusing panel (below left) showing him helping his men to escape, before they spot commotion in the distance where a giant caterpillar is being attacked by the trees. They pick it up and throw it to the side as they chase down the landing party, but then Joe has an idea. Still a few miles from their shuttle craft they climb on board the giant insect and throughout this increasingly dangerous situation Joe can’t help but be enthralled by it all.

In the end the caterpillar starts to chew down on the attacking trees and the team take their leave, now much closer to their landing site. But when they get there the shuttle is missing. Of course it is! Escaping death from plant life, a crazy human god and from atop a giant caterpillar obviously wasn’t enough. The story continues next issue, but for now this was a fun diversion and the perfect accompaniment to the darker Turbo story.

Kitten Magee and her team are still being led by Hobos in writer James Tomlinson‘s latest chapter, but surely what happens this time will finally make them realise what’s really going on. Leading them to a cave where he claims they can take shelter from the dangerous animals in the swamp, they find the ground covered in bones, stripped bare by some savage beast. Hobos claims the creature was killed long ago and the team just accept that! However, Doc takes a closer look at a skull as the others gather wood and thinks to herself it couldn’t have been there for more than a few days. She doesn’t get to air her suspicions before things kick off.

The rest of the team follow, lasers ready and are attacked by a swarm of bats which are easily fended off before the creature reveals itself iil the final panel. Thing is, the cliffhanger image was already used as the Next Issue promo last time, so the big reveal isn’t new. This is a bit disappointing because the whole strip has been leading to something monstrous by artist José Ortiz but we’ve already seen it. However, what I did really enjoy was Crud, Kitten’s little robotic pet. After being absent in the previous chapter for some reason he’s really making up for it here as a true member of the team. As you can see above and below he even gets some genuinely funny comedy moments.

A whole new chapter in Barrie Tomlinson’s Loner‘s adventure on the surface of the planet begins and it takes a turn for the truly bizarre. Finally leaving the underground world he’s been trapped in since the first issue, he finds himself in the jungle, still unable to contact the Wildcat. Frustrated, he goes to kick what looks like a random round object on the ground but it squeals in pain, floats up into the air, expands and surrounds Loner, trapping him inside what looks like a giant jelly. Still able to breathe, he tries to reason with whatever this creature is and apologise. At this point something happens that I have no recollection of from reading this as a kid.

That shrinking panel is expertly drawn by David Pugh and while we don’t get to find anything out about the strange transforming blob as it floats off leaving our hero stranded, there’s a wonderful sense of scale to the final panel on this page. Indeed, in the hands of another artist this might have come across as a somewhat silly outcome for the strip which was, up to this point, the most serious. But instead of roaming into 60s Doctor Who or Land of the Giants territory, David’s art adds a real feeling of isolation and danger.

It does remind me of a certain film though, especially when Loner comes up against this two-headed ant below. But such is the forward-thinking nature of Wildcat, Honey I Shrunk the Kids wasn’t even released until later the same year. Of course, other previous small-people-in-giant-surroundings will have had similar battles before, but for the target audience this was most likely their first such experience.

As an adult it’s initially a bit of a shift for the Loner strip but nevertheless it’s a fun outing with some great imagery of the world around him. But it appears the fun will soon be taking a decidedly darker tone, back to more of what we had before. Suddenly surround by three giant ants who have just watched Loner kill their buddy, he tries to make a run for it and ends up caught in a huge spider’s web. But it’s the Next Issue page that really shows us where we’re headed.

Now that is a monster worthy of David Pugh’s art and a suitable foe for my favourite character! I feel like we’ve been misdirected into believing the strip was taking a lighter approach, only for us to be hit with this image. What a bluff! What an issue the next one is going to be too, what with the Turbo strip’s revelations and tone and this to look forward to as well now. But we’re not quite finished with issue eight yet. The Wildcat Complete tale has a strong message and, while it’s a coincidence, a question on the letters page sets it up for us.

Kathleen probably wrote in while reading those first few issues. As I said at the time, the comic started off with some brilliant misdirection (Wildcat was good at this). As the stories developed, what Kathleen had witnessed would be turned on its head, teaching us all not to judge a creature (or indeed anyone) by their looks alone. Aliens advertised as hideous monsters became allies, scary ones were shown to be simply defending themselves, and often humans were the worst culprits of the horrors to be found in deep space, especially in the complete stories. This issue is no exception.

Just when you think the human race can’t disappoint us any further

Gliz, drawn by Joan Boix, tells the tale of an alien worker on board the Wildcat. With a lizard-like face and two extra arms resembling tentacles he’s the butt of constant jokes from his small-minded work colleagues in the scientific research department, where he works as a cleaner. You’d think scientists would know better. Their constant bullying, just because he’s different, makes him uncontrollably nervous, which results in him being rather accident prone. Of course, when accidents happen the humans only see these as proof that they were right about him all along, even though it’s their fault.

He’s a sympathetic character and quite lovable straight away. His wish to make friends, to fit in with the humans and be the best he can be is endearing. Only one human by the name of Grenzel gives him the chance to be himself and open up about the treatment he receives. But Grenzel’s mother doesn’t take kindly to her son mingling with an alien and in a rather shocking scene punches her son to teach him a bigoted, racist lesson. No pun intended, but it’s quite the hard-hitting start to a story in a children’s comic and I like how it doesn’t hold back. His mum threatens him with a beating from his father and as a result Grenzel ignores Gliz the next day at work.

Depressed more than ever, Gliz jumps at the chance to show his abilities on a dangerous mission to one of the planet’s moons after the pilot becomes ill and Gliz is the only one left who knows how to fly the shuttle. Once there, the crew are set upon by space pirates and the humans immediately try to use Gliz as a bargaining tool. The pirates crash-landed and need to get off the moon, but upon finding out only Gliz can fly the humans’ cowardly plan backfires. Deemed unnecessary, they’re all killed.

On the final page Gliz realises the pirates are going to hijack the Wildcat and kill everyone on board. Setting the controls to self-destruct he consoles himself that at least he’ll die a hero and be redeemed in the eyes of the people he just wanted to be close to. But just when you think the human race couldn’t disappoint us any further the story finishes on this note below.

It’s a real downer to end the issue on and I salute Barrie and his team in doing so. Unfortunately it’s a tale that could be told today and still be just as relevant. Today, we’d probably have the ancient ancestors of those scientists attacking the comic on Twitter for it, but that would just prove its point. It’s a powerful end to what has been a surprising issue of this fantastic comic. But surely questions would have to be asked of Turbo’s selection process. Several hundred of our best and brightest and these xenophobes still get to partake in taking humans to the stars?

Darker stories, surprising twists, fun adventures and a message I can really get behind. I’d say this has been the best issue of Wildcat yet. How can it improve on this? All I know is I’m sure it’ll manage to. Somehow. We’ll find out when the next review hits the blog on Friday 11th February 2022.