Tag Archives: Joan Boix

WiLDCAT #10: MAGNETiC MADNESS

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!

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, 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 our 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?

WiLDCAT #8: THE MORE THiNGS CHANGE…

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.

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 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 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.

WiLDCAT #3: MiND GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Diet is unnecessary! Death stops all eating!

The Invaders!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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