PROG: 148 & 149 – IT’S A KNOCKOUT
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: Witnessing a gang of children stoning another robot, the android Gree-C tells them they should stop because he knows of ‘someone’ who will punish them. Prompted into elaborating, he tells the group that he was once a ‘Ro-Waiter’ and that, while being bullied by a loutish human client called Walker, a mysterious stranger came to his aid. The Stranger makes a simple bet, that Cree-C can beat Walker in any four competitions they choose. Should Cree-C lose any of the four tasks then the Stranger will forfeit his own life. If Cree-C can manage to win all four then Walker be the one to die. Confident of success in the two tests of his own choosing, Walker accepts and they begin with the two tasks selected by the Stranger. Despite attempts at sabotage, the competitions to serve every table and mop the floor quickest are won by Gree-C. Walker chooses that the first of his selections is to be shooting a coin in the air. Gree-C is worried he’ll fail until the Stranger reminds him he as telescopic arms which he can use to stay close to the flipped coin. Walker complains that this is cheating but the adjudicator rules in favour of the android. Still confident, Walker nominates poker as the final competition and the last test begins. Triumphantly, Walker displays four Kings…
Shock: Gree-C has ‘only’ got four ‘ones’ (Aces). Infuriated Walker attempts to shoot Gree-C but the Stranger blasts the gun out of his hand. With Walker at his mercy the Stranger listens to the man plead for his life. When Walker blabs that the stranger wouldn’t ‘kill one of his own kind over this‘ the Stranger flips open a face-plate to reveal that he too is an android. Casually he shoots Walker.
Thoughts: An extended six page, spread over two Progs, tale that really amounts to very little but is adorned with some of the most sumptuous Casanovas’ art seen in 2000AD. As a story the tale is pretty much an unmitigated failure, a series of panels where a linear narrative occurs but one without any real internal logic nor convincing reasoning. Why would Walker agree to bet his own life for that of killing a stranger? Why would the final task be a game of chance? Are young readers meant to understand the rules of Poker? Why would a bunch of kids think anyone was going to kill them based on the story of the bar-room bet? None of it makes any sense and then to wrap it up in a format where Ro-Jaws introduces a tale where Gree-C then introduces a tale makes the whole thing far too complicated and necessitates too much exposition where a better plot could have been fleshed out. With the tale split over two Progs there is even a re-appearance of Ro-Jaws in the middle of the story but this time he returns the reader to the central tale without the re-appearance of the Gree-C ‘warning the children’ narrative. Worst of all is that the ‘twist’ is the reveal that the Stranger is a robot! That’s something new (bar FS 12, 31, 34, 35, RT 2). The writer, credited as Oleh, may have been Oleh Stepaniuk who was published in the 1981 Annuals and Specials but it is not clear from Barney if this is the case. Saving the tale for a modern reader is the art which packs every panel, especially the Salon bar, with rich inventive detail. Every bar customer, every ornament and furnishing, every detail of clothing is rendered in the minutest detail. Much like his debut Future Shock, Casanovas gives us an ‘alien’ world which looks familiar yet definitely different. On the ‘down’ side Gree-C is a ringer for C3PO and the robot being stoned at the start of the tale is clearly R2D2-on-telescopic legs. A result of this, in the year The Empire Strikes Back conquered the box-office, is that it impossible to read the tale without every panel screaming ‘isn’t this a rubbish tale with C3PO’. The whole problem is compounded with Gree-C having the same shambling apologetic demeanour as has celluloid kin. So blatant are the influences that the strip forces you to look at other background characters to see if they look like the inhabitants of the Mos Eisley Cantina. Indeed, some of the girls do look like Princess Leah in her skimpy dancing-girl outfit and the ‘Stranger’ looks like Dr Strange! Whats he doing in Star Wars? Maybe this was down to the script or just Casanovas having fun but in retrospect it does detract from the otherwise stunning art.
Thrill Power? The only way to enjoy this tale is to revel in the beautiful artwork, the story itself is ill thought out and terribly dated. A story so bad even the sound effects are deeply unconvincing (‘F-SHAM!‘ anyone?) With readers having had The Omen last Prog and Star Wars in this story they probably feared a robot-disguised-as-The Jazz Singer next week.