PROG: 81 – What Happened in Tunguska?
Script: Chris Lowder
Art: Pierre Frisano
Letters: P. Bensberg
Plot: It is the year 2000 and scientists at Global Dynamics have perfected a time machine and are briefing their two test pilots as to the first mission – to return to Tunguska 1908 on the eve of the famous impact that destroyed the region. The mission chief explains that he believes it was a ball of anti-matter but that the authorities believe it was First Contact gone wrong and, more importantly, the alien craft was probably warning mankind of a ‘disaster sweeping the galaxy‘. The time machine emerges in the skies over Tunguska minutes before the mysterious impact
Shock: As the craft emerges the test pilots sense something is wrong, the craft is shaking violently and the warp has begun to change them, turning them inside out. They realise they have been turned into anti-matter versions of themselves and seconds later their time-machine crashes into Tunguska, causing the famed explosion.
Thoughts: Not only one of the oddest titled Future Shocks but one of the strangest executed. Over three pages we get the initial page taking all it’s five panels to show the 1908 explosion, a second page where the Mission Chief repeats the exact same historical facts about Tunguska to the test pilots and then one page where the time machine malfunctions and the crash happens. Certainly there is one page too many and the repetition of the various theories about Tunguska strongly suggests that Tharg guessed not only did the young readers not know what actually happened in Tunguska but that they’d never heard of the mysterious explosion in the first place. The script is incredibly dull, a surprise for Lowder who had always focused on humour, and Pierre Frisano isn’t really given much to draw: a mysterious explosion (which has to be devoid of elements that give the shock away) a page of talking heads and then one page where the pilots get ‘reversed’ and crash. With his 50’s Sci-Fi style it is all very retro and a tad staid but does what is asked of it well enough and this saves the Future Shock from being a real stinker. Indeed the shock itself isn’t bad – making the investigation into what happened the cause of what happened, and the combination of the two alternative theories into the shock is well thought out. However getting there has been so dull and exposition heavy that it is a shame it couldn’t have been wrapped up in a more dynamic tale. This was to be Frisano’s last work for 2000AD and Lowder’s last Future Shock, although he was to pen a great many Time Twisters in the future.
Shock’d?: The shock itself is nicely executed, combining the competing theories of what caused the Tunguska explosion is cleverly done and the until the craft malfunctions there certainly could have been anything awaiting the test pilots on the final page. A strange combination of the shock element working while the preceding script itself didn’t.