Tag Archives: José Ortiz


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 one of my comics, but that’s Wildcat, always surprising me.

Kitten starts us off inside on page two and it’s a very exciting strip this issue, as always written by James Tomlinson. 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. There we go with the surprises again.

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 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 suppressing 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 if it was written today 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

David Robinson‘s 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 introduced themselves 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 (and adults) reading. Suddenly some tree roots begin to break in above 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 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. 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 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’s be a wait before Joe appears 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 Barrie Tomlinson‘s 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 line 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. Quite possibly very exciting for twelve-year-old me but now it’s just not gripping.

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 that 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, and that’s before that final line. 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 friendlies 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. But he’s softened, he’s learned and he’s grown on me. 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 Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, but each altered so as not to infringe copyright. It’s a nice nod and perhaps showed how Wildcat was pushing itself as a really futuristic story compared to those older franchises. It did raise a chuckle.

The small group of robots decide on an uprising and systematically go about taking revenge 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 carry the heavy loads he forces upon them 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 out 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 all the robots now. 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 ‘bots, 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 its symbolism is clear to me now. Let’s also not forget that Wildcat Death Toll either. With four more people added to it our total is 36 so far.

As 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 its last two weeks.

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


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. Also make sure to 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. 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 that they thought the humans would find it pleasing.

Joe’s brain pack has been placed securely back onto 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 hugely exciting (split over two different sections of the comic) 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 tale, 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 for the humans.

A magnet on the ceiling relieves them of their weapons and when their transports flip to toss them out, 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. Hopefully we can now start finding out more about the history of Hobos’ people and this part of the planet.

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 were 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 from before 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 progression.

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 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. 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.) 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 our 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 over several issues 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, 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! Do you remember these?


While we’ve already seen Turbo Jones as a captive of The Great Ark, the latest Wildcat cover still gets the heart to pumping after last issue’s darker turn of events for the lead character. Now he’s going to be pulled in front of the living skulls and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next. He was ordered to take the Arglons’ army and use his battle tactics against his friends and I don’t think these creatures are going to take no for an answer. But it looks like I’m going to have to wait just a little longer to find out because first up is James Tomlinson‘s Kitten Magee.

From the very first panel I’m somewhat captivated because the huge beast they’re up against appears to have a transparent stomach! Inside we see the skeletal remains of animals broken down by the acidic digestive juices swirling about. With Doc and Cassandra in either hand Kitten and the remainder of her team try to shock it into dropping them by firing near it, but this just angers the beast and next thing we know Aurora appears to have met her fate! I’ll admit when this happened I was shocked, I thought they’d killed her off! Until I turned the page that is.

You can’t get much more original action than dangling by a wire inside a monster’s stomach. Outside, the team are at a loss as to what to do, but in the end a bat-like creature they’d captured for Doc to examine breaks free and it seems it and the beast are natural enemies. With its teeth crushed after trying to chow down on Crud it attacks the beast’s neck with its claws while Crud bites at its feet, much to Kitten’s chastising. But it works and it falls over, unconscious.

The final page of this chapter begins with a bit of comic relief as we get Aurora’s speech balloon coming from within the giant jaws, which are locked tight. Not wishing to harm the animal now that they can escape, they lament not having any choice but to place small explosives on its teeth to free their friend. What imagination there is on show here. Wildcat has proven several times already how original it can be and if any one strip could be held aloft to prove that, it’d be this chapter of Kitten’s story. Straight after, artist José Ortiz treats us to this issue’s pin up of the manipulative Hobos, and despite his horrid appearance it’s still beautifully rendered in a different style than José’s previous posters.

From vicious monsters with see-through bellies back we go to killer vegetation, only this time there’s a giant slug for Joe Alien to deal with too. (Really, where else would you get this kind of fun? Writer David Robinson is another whose imagination knows no bounds.) Ron Smith‘s art truly excels here, like when the approaching trees suddenly stop and Joe starts to pick up words within his head, a telepathic message telling him their execution squad are on the way. There’s little to no hope left. Surrounded on all sides Joe tells his men they have no option but to try and fight their way out.

Suddenly all the trees start disappearing into the ground; one after the other they’re violently pulled down and then it starts to open up. Just when you think things couldn’t get any more out there after the Kitten story, up pops a ginormous slug-type creature, no eyes but all teeth. It moves about in a large circle before disappearing back down the hole, only for its heads to pop back up for a few seconds and then disappear again. Believing it to be a signal that it wants them to follow it, Joe leads his men down the slime covered sides of the giant hole.

I love the look of the slug, with its big mouth full of teeth, seemingly grinning at them. Has it just saved them from certain death? Is it really leading them to salvation? Or have they just gotten themselves into bigger problems? It’s not long before they lose their footing and slide all the way to the bottom, landing in a huge puddle of mucus, Joe’s brain dislodging as they do so. Again.

Yep, this is the cliffhanger. Where they find themselves would’ve been enough in my opinion. Leave the brain falling off until next time. It’s exciting enough and in fact having this happen yet again takes away from the originality and excitement of this episode somewhat. The ‘Next Issue’ page highlights this strip and it looks like the looney version of Joe has gone and flung himself into the slug’s mouth. There’s still no indication he’ll be eaten though, or that the slug is an enemy, so we’ll wait and see. Cliffhanger aside, it’s been a rollicking ride.

Loner‘s shrinking may have seemed like a silly idea to begin with in Barrie Tomlinson‘s story but on the very first page here we can see it’s suddenly being taken a lot more seriously, when the owner of the giant web he got tangled in comes home to feed. The opening image was shown as the Next Issue picture previously, so go and check that out if you’d like a sense of how things kick off for our mercenary friend.

He’s surely done for but at the last moment unlikely saviours appear in the shape of the two-headed ants he escaped from. They attack the giant (well, normal sized really) spider, climbing all over its body and chewing on its legs, eyes and basically anything else they can get their mandibles into. The spider isn’t going to let them interrupt dinner though and as you can see its doing its own fair share of killing, taking out three of the ants in this one gruesome panel alone.

This issue it’s basically a big monster movie, or rather a small person monster movie. Loner escapes from the webbing as the spider loses its grip, then kills one of the ants with Babe (his specially modified gun) before it can eat him too. Clearly, they aren’t the saviours after all, the spider was just in the way. They were still out for revenge after he killed one of their kind in #8. Escaping outside, Loner rests up on top of a flower for the night, before being rudely awakened by a benign animal simply eating breakfast.

After this he walks about wondering what to do and spots an even smaller insect than he. He takes comfort in this for a few seconds before it jumps in the air, lets out a shriek and wraps itself around his neck. To Be Continued. Loner is still my favourite character in the comic but his story is beginning to feel a little disjointed, like it doesn’t really know where to go next. I’ll be disappointed if it’s just going to be a series of bugs attacking him. The spider/ants had real potential but already they’ve been left behind and another random insect provides the cliffhanger. I’ll wait and see, but with some trepidation.

Moving on to our lead character and cover star now, Turbo Jones. As Robo arrives a carnival is starting in the city of the warrior Arglons. During this their enemies are sacrificed to their god by tossing them into a flaming pit and Turbo is in line for such an end if he doesn’t lead their almost-defeated army back against his friends, the Burroids. Below, you can see two Arglons leave their post, thinking the border guards are just overreacting. It’s nice that the characters painted somewhat as cartoony soldiers/henchmen of the Great Ark are being given individual personalities now. Although they are tossed in the pit later in the chapter for this.

Turbo is taken to the council where they demand his answer, Robo hidden in the background watching the proceedings. Turbo spots but ignores him, not wishing to give away his friend’s position. It’s all setting itself up to have Turbo agree to their demands and for Robo to think he’s turned traitor in a clichéd misunderstanding. But it takes a surprising turn when Turbo is told they have the Wildcat itself locked in their sights, ready to launch their troops and arrest all on board. So he lets them lead him to the council.

But seeing Robo shows him he has a chance to escape, so instead Turbo makes a run for it, hoping Robo has a way out. His treachery is the last straw and the Great Ark orders that the people of the Wildcat are no longer to be made prisoners of war, they are to be destroyed. Now this is how you do an exciting, shocking cliffhanger that still feels like a natural evolution of the story.

It should really go without saying by now how Vanyo brings the goods with Turbo every single time, but with last issue and this one they’ve done such an amazing job in altering the tone of their drawing to suit the darker elements of the story. I love how the Ark is a bigger part of the tale now and they feel like a real threat. It’s also a story that’s very organically shifted from one scenario to another. While the Loner strip has made quite a jarring transition, Turbo’s is telling different stories within the same scenario.

His strip is definitely my favourite here. Something I’ve noticed in reading the comic in real time is how my favourite shifts from issue-to-issue. From memory I thought Loner would always be the top strip but they’ve all taken their fair share of the accolade. This isn’t to take away from Loner of course, it’s just that the others have really excelled far beyond expectations, and my expectations were high. It’s a comic which continues to surprise every fortnight.

Chirpers is our Wildcat Complete this issue. Drawn by Jesús Redondo and it begins with a man feverishly writing at a (retro style) computer about things tapping at the walls, trying to get in. We begin by thinking it’s someone on board the Wildcat who has gone space crazy. This follows the revelation on the letters page that the Wildcat is only a quarter-of-a-mile long. I had always assumed it was much bigger than that, especially with some of the interiors we’ve seen. I thought this was far too small for nearly 1000 people but then I remembered Babylon 5 had a quarter-of-a-million people on board and was five miles long. So really, Wildcat is a bit roomy.

They strip skin and flesh down to the bone in seconds and the Wildcat death toll continues to rise once more

Once again the fact the exploration teams have been out of contact since they landed is brought up, but now the crew are doing something about it. They launch a fifth expedition team who land in an exotic jungle and of course they immediately lose their communications (due to the radiation storm centuries before). But it’s a paradise so they don’t care. They change into skimpier clothing and make friends with little friendly birds they nickname Chirpers.

That is, all except for one of the team. Grucker is busy taking soil and plant samples and the others ridicule him for taking things too seriously. They believe the Wildcat will realise what’s happened and send a rescue team down to pick them up and in the meantime they should treat it like a holiday. But Grucker is adamant they’re on a scientific research mission. For the others the only things that aren’t completely idyllic are the predatory birds that appear every now and again to feed on their cute little friends.

The group leader finally decides to help their little buddies out, against all of Grucker’s protestations. He’s right of course, they don’t know anything about the balance of nature here but it all falls on deaf ears. The predators look big and scary, their little bird pals are small and cute, so the decision is made. The results are disastrous. Very quickly over the next two weeks the skies fill with more and more of the Chirpers until suddenly they start to swarm and attack. Like a more vicious version of Hitchcock‘s The Birds, they strip skin and flesh down to the bone in seconds and the Wildcat death toll continues to rise once more.

So in the end it wasn’t a crazy old man going space crazy in the cramped conditions of the Wildcat, threatening to go to the ship’s ammunitions store and cause goodness knows what havoc. It was Grucker, the only sensible person in the entire team, trapped in their shed-like compound writing a diary for anyone who would find his body, knowing he was about to die. In fact the last panel is just his skeleton, with a few Chirpers happily sitting on top. It’s a rather grim ending and I love it.

Another issue under our belt and it’s been a belter. While three of the four serials concentrated more on action and were plot-lite, their originality and fun more than made up for that. Turbo and The Chirpers then brought a great, story-driven climax to the comic, so I’m really glad the running order was changed about again, with a double dose of great writing after all the action. It’s such a strong comic and it has a confidence in itself that would make you think it was going to run and run. We may be nearing the end of that run but there’s a lot still to enjoy.

The review of the tenth issue of Wildcat will be here from Friday 25th February 2022.