PROG: 80 – Breaking Out
Script: Jan Garczynski
Art: Carlos Pino
Letters: Steve Potter
Plot: Greg Isaacs is a newly arrived prisoner on the penal planet of Titan. Working alongside aliens on a chain gang he is frustrated when his work companion, a bug-eyed alien called Loren, says he is happy and has no intention on escaping. Faced with breaking out alone, Isaacs steals digging equipment and soon breaks through his cell floor into an underground cavern system. As he flees he is attacked by a huge subterranean monster but manages to kill it with his mining axe. Finally he emerges to the surface and heads for the spaceport where he steals an unattended craft and blasts off. As he does so he fleetingly thinks it was all too easy, like ‘a flight of fantasy‘…
Shock: It was a flight of fantasy, brought on by a drug administered by the prison’s doctor as the first step to rehabilitation. Like his drugged fellow-inmates Isaacs will soon be happy with his lot.
Thoughts: An almost ‘classic’ Shock that is somewhat hindered by the writer not focusing sufficiently on the key element of his ‘shock’. Had Isaac’s fellow inmates been human their 1000-yard stares would have signalled to the reader straight away that something was amiss. Thus the shock reveal, that the prisoners were all on heavy sedatives to control them, would have been nicely foreshadowed and consistent. However the only inmates we see are 2 panels of Loren, who is a bug-eyed alien, and one with two other alien inmates and indeed, on re-reading, with drugged looks, but partially obscured by letter boxes, standing in the background and far too ‘inherently alien’ to suggest something is afoot straight away. Trying to convey that Aliens are themselves in an alien state of mind to their usual manner is a very difficult trick to pull off unless there is direct exposition or more time spent developing the ‘strangeness’ of the whole situation. Without this necessary base the story reads mainly as an action-adventure with the key moment the battle with the underground beast. By the time of Isaac’s escape there hasn’t been enough to suggest anything other than that the rest of the inmates are gutless. Stalwart of Spanish and British comics, Carlos Pino (Johnny Red, Invasion, Star Trek, Jonah Hex, Commando, Daily Star’s Dredd) does a sterling job on Isaacs, and draws a fantastic looking alien in Loren although his monster does look like Jimmy Saville crossed with a squid. Re-reading shows Pino is doing his utmost to suggest the aliens are acting strangely but there simply isn’t enough in the script to work with. The whole tale is nicely dark and the first time a Future Shock has dealt with the idea of ‘the authorities’ getting up to something as murky as mind-control and mass drug prescription, it’s just a shame more time wasn’t given to establishing the set-up required rather than the highly traditional flight sequences.
Shock’d?: Given the flaw outlined above the doctor’s appearance is a tad left-field and seemingly only clumsily prefaced by the panel stating ‘it was like a flight of fancy‘. However had the fact that all the inmates were acting strangely from the start been better established then this reveal would have been a beautiful new dark direction for Future Shocks.