Archive | August, 2011

FS 33: FLIGHT OF THE HUNTER

31 Aug

PROG:74 – DEAD HIT

Script: Robert Flynn

Art: Pierre Frisano

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: Red Packer is a successful but cynical Big-Game Hunter who returns home to find an alien envoy asking him to come protect them from wild animals on their planet. They explain that as their race is so advanced they have lost the courage for physical tasks of confrontation. Seeing he would be well rewarded in diamonds, Packer readily agrees and soon arrives on an alien planet ready to hunt

Shock: Suddenly the Aliens depart and Packer finds himself confronted by huge talking apes who are clearly intent on hunting him. He realises he has been brought for their sport not the other way around.

Thoughts: A beginning, of Pierre Frisano’s short five issue stint on Future Shocks, and an end, of Robert Flynn’s time writing for 2000AD, marked by a very ordinary story which rehashes the theme of ‘Man does X on earth, Aliens do X to man’. With FS 2, Trawling, it was eating / being eaten, in  with FS 26, Space Bug, it was mining a body to a husk and now it’s the not very original ‘Hunter becomes the Hunted‘, agonizingly with that very cliché included in the final dialogue box. Flynn’s previous Shocks had always avoided this more obvious of devices and, while often containing logical flaws, did have merit for trying to create dynamic stories. Here he produces the most trite of Shocks but manages to write a contained and flowing tale. It might not be original but it is polished. The real beauty of the strip is from the rare English-language appearance of French post-war artist Pierre Frisano, a name few would associate with 2000AD. Initially a cover illustrator, Frisano was constantly employed in one country, France, rather than being primarily associated with the UK, such as fellow Continentals Ezquerra and Belardinelli, or working throughout the continent, such as Caasanovas.  Responsible for popular Sci-fi series San Ku Kai, and Courtesans, as well as several Opera translations, his B&W ink-work is highly formalist but with beautiful detail, the tighter early style of Colin Wilson is an obvious reference in the main character illustrated above; while his colour work, with a populist tendency to buxom women, has clear parallels with modern master John Burns’ wash and ink work. The five Future Shocks over the next few Progs, alongside a prior episode of MACH 1, was to be his only work for 2000AD as his French career boomed over the 1980s. As with many artists of a slightly older generation his Sci-Fi stylings are very 1950s orientated whereas his strength was in historical  fantasy art, Dante would have been the perfect outing for his talents. Sadly no-longer with us it is a nice part of 2000AD‘s heritage that he contributed these fine pages.

Shock’d?: A bit of a damp squib after an effective build-up and marred by the terrible ‘Hunter becomes the Hunted’ line that should be barred from any genre fiction. Packer’s landing on the alien planet could have led to several different shock endings so that it is this very traditional reversal-of-fortunes ending is a disappointment.

FS 32: SIX-FISTED TALES

30 Aug

PROG: 70 – Many Hands

Script: Jan Garczynski

Art: Jose Casanovas

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: On an alien world, albeit one very similar to Earth, a doughy-faced looking labourer, Klang, arrives home to be met by a barrage of tasks from his pampered corpulent wife. As he begins the domestic chores her nagging doesn’t cease. Eventually Klang turns to her..

Shock: and berates her that he only has six sets of hands. Klang, and his species, have six arms each.

Thoughts: George and Mildred in Space in the hands of the wonderful Jose Casanovas makes for a classic ‘comedy’ Shock. Recycling the ‘hands out of panel’ trick of FS 6 but playing it for laughs is a nice enough move however the domestic grumbling of the gag would have been lost on a young readership were it not for the delight of Casanovas’ art. The writing itself is good and although there is nothing to the strip but the punchline, the dialogue is well done with great personality in Klang and his demanding wife. It’s quite entertaining to see 2000AD feature the line ‘Nag Nag Nag, that’s all she ever does‘ however the real star of the piece is the art. Every inch of the page is filled with loving detail and the exasperated Klang in the final panel would bring a smile to anyone’s face. Already a well-established artist across European comics this was his first work for 2000AD and Future Shocks was a series Casanovas flourished in. As with Belardinelli he has a  skill for drawing the familiar everyday objects  in a suitably twisted ‘alien’ form’ making every aspect of Klang’s day recognisable yet instantly unworldly. It remains a great shame that this Future Shock appears never to have been reprinted.

Shock’d?: There’s no real shock, just a great sight gag that appeals to the frustrated and put-upon of every age.

FS 31: ELECTRIC SHEEP HERDING

29 Aug

PROG: 66 – Fugitive

Script: Peter Greenaway

Art: Ron Tiner

Letters: Bill Nutall

Plot: The year is 2000AD and a panicked man runs through the back streets of London.  He knocks over a metal bin and realises his mystery pursurers will have located him, sure enough a caped humanoid gunman floats into view. The runner pleads for his life but to no avail, the robotic-looking humanoid shoots.

Shock: The fugitive is destroyed, its body a mess of metalwork. The gunman lifts up his robotic mask to reveal a human face, and reflects how realistic the factory robot looked.

Thoughts: Bladerunner in eight panels, this small Shock delivers its fun tight, fast and unfussy. Ron Tiner, a new name to the prog, delivers a very realistic looking year 2000 London; run down, crummy and not really advanced from 1978, and he pulls off the essential task of making the human look android,and the android human, with a style that reminds of Ron Turner or Ian Kennedy. The story is very compressed and effective, the reveal that it was human hunting a rogue robot is kept to the second page whereas the first has a nice balance between chase and depiction of the pursuer as callous and heartless. The Shock marks the return to an early theme of Future Shocks, that of ‘mankind’ being the bad guy. Like several of the early Future Shocks the anachronistic charm of the strip shines through, not least when our hapless fugitive clangs his way over a set of metal dustbins.

Shock’d?: Pretty effective; the switch of the pursuer being the human is effectively masked by the pleading for humanity from the fugitive. It’s a very slight strip and not the first time Future Shocks have had a human-robot reverse as the reveal but it is still charmingly executed and is careful never to refer to the fugitive as a ‘man’ or ‘human’ before the shock is revealed.

FS 30: FILLER COUNT

28 Aug

PROG:60 – Timeless Secret

Script: SJ Grimes

Art: Ramon Sola

Letters: John Aldrich

Plot: Professors Stein and Grahame enter a tomb that has been sealed for centuries. As they unsuccessfully try to open a ‘strange coffin shaped box‘ they quibble over whether its contents would prove that Earth had been visited by aliens or proof of a previously unknown tribe of humans. Turning their backs and continuing their academic squabble they fail to notice the sun has gone down and the coffin-shaped box opening..

Shock: A vampire emerges and moves in to devour them.

Thoughts: FS 30, marked another 2000AD regular artist’s departure from the series with an even poorer story than FS29. SJ Grimes’ script has no logic to it whatsoever and can only be indulged by considering that its young readers must be very easily satisfied. Ramon Sola’s art is great and he draws a lovely menacing Nosferatu style vampire with balding head, bat-wing ears and powerful clawed hands; but the story is threadbare and confused. First of all the tomb is clearly Egyptian; hieroglyphs and Egyptian symbolism are littered liberally in the depictions inside and outside of the tomb.  Given this, why two academics should be postulating that a coffin-like enclosure evidences either aliens, or more bizarrely ‘a tribe previously unknown to man‘ rather than, say, Egyptians is hard to grasp. Maybe this was Sola going off script and not knowing how to decorate a tomb but that seems unlikely. Having read the script he would hardly have decided to set it in Egypt when he knows a what would happen and a dank dirty cave would have sufficed. And this ties into the second key fault because, completely randomly, a vampire appears and the narration says ‘ but then the idea that the coffin was the home of a creature that could inhabit the surface of the earth only after the sun had set, was ridiculous‘. Yes, it is.  However if anyone could envisage such it was probably Professors Stein and Grahame because they’re already squabbling about aliens and unknown tribes when surrounded by Egyptian artefacts. However the reader is left admiring Sola’s slavering  ghoul and wondering where the hell it came from and what has it been doing in a tomb sealed off ‘for centuries‘. So poor is the story that’ SJ Grimes’, in his sole credit for 2000AD, may well stand for Alan Smithee.

Shock’d?: The difference between ‘shock’ and ‘random disconnected deus ex machina‘ couldn’t be better evidenced than in this tale and it stands as an exemplar of how not to write a Future Shock.

 

FS 29: SnEEDS MORE WORK.

27 Aug

PROG: 59 – Tin Can

Script: Mike Cruden

Art: Jose Luis Ferrer

Letters: Peter Knight

Plot: WW3 has ended with total nuclear devastation, food stocks have never replenished and now a morsel of food will start a bloody battle. A scavenger spots a half-buried tin can and makes across open ground, dodging bullets from a sniper who is also set on possessing the mystery contents. The sniper takes down the scavenger and she comes out of the shadows, only to be felled by a throwing knife from her ‘kill’ who had only been playing dead. The scavenger shows no remorse for having killed the beautiful woman and makes for the can.

Shock: He dusts down the bounty and finds it is not foodstuff but a useless can of motor oil, it prompts him to laugh ‘loudly and insanely‘.

Thoughts: A let-down of a Shock and a low-point to mark the departure of Jose Luis Ferrer and his beautiful art from Future Shocks. Ferrer was to go on to draw the first three instalments of Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter and then transfer to sister title Starlord but not return when the titles merged. His art on this outing has a fabulous bleak introduction panel depicting the residents of a shelter dwelling looking destitute, but thereafter is very sketchy and lacks the scratchy detail he usually displayed. Naturally he draws a great ‘beautiful’ female face on the fallen sniper although she does have rather manly arms before her gender is revealed. The story however really lets the Shock down, the third person narration and lack of personality in the scavenger are very distancing and there is little to engage the reader. As a consequence there is no investment in whether it is the scavenger or the sniper who survives their encounter.  The ‘shock’ of the tin being oil not food really doesn’t hold up either;  we’ve been told that the entire population is starving however there is no indication, and no reason, that oil isn’t just as vital to survival.There is electric lighting in the first panel so presumably there are generators and oil has value. In addition quite why the discovery should send the scavenger insane isn’t really justified, presumably it isn’t the first time he’s been frustrated in his pursuit of food. Cruden’s technique of not personalising the character worked really well in FS 21: The Guardian but in this strip it is at the heart of why the tale doesn’t work.

Shock’d? The fact the tin can contains oil not food is a ‘shock’ in the formal sense although it doesn’t really hold up as shocking and of consequence. Would have been better had it been a pop-up snake-in-a-can.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.