PROG: 93 – PANDORA’S BOX
Script: Mike Cruden
Art: Mike White
Letters: Steve Potter
Plot: In 1984, the Prime Minister of the UK celebrates the unveiling of his own Statue with cementing in place a time capsule containing important artifacts of 20th Century culture. Centuries later mankind has passed through a series of wars to emerge in a new ‘Golden Age’ were war is a thing of the past and disease is eradicated. Two archaeologists find the 1984 Capsule and take the unopened box to the ‘Science Centre’ for further investigation. At the Centre this relic from ‘the Dark Ages‘ is immediately deemed to be dangerous and unsuitable for opening.
Shock: One of the Archaeologists rebels, she condemns the attitude of refusing to open the box as ‘being frightened of the unknown‘. In secret she opens the box and she and her colleagues marvel at the culture contained within, claiming that ‘There is nothing dangerous about these things‘. However within minutes the time-sealed bacteria has ravaged their bodies and killed them.
Thoughts: Mike Cruden repeats the ‘gruesome’ final panel trick of FS 43 hinting that the astounding rotting corpse by Belardinelli had been a big hit with the readers. Mike White, best known as the artist of Alan Moore’s Abelard Snazz, turns in a nicely horrific pair of decayed bodies in a final panel which is much the best element of the tale. His first work for 2000AD is marred only by poor layout on the first page that necessitates horrible direction arrows to guide the reader’s eye. Otherwise the strip is well drawn if in a slightly dated orthodox ‘boys comic’ style. Cruden’s strip falls into his series of ‘adults suffering horrific fates’ and while the War Of The World lesson may be clichéd to an adult it probably was pretty eye-opening to a young reader. The strip uses two and a half pages to cram in a lot of elements, from the counter-factual British Prime Minister to the final opening of the capsule and death. Chosing to introduce the main characters on page two is a brave move, leaving page one to be packed full of the alternate history detail but suffering perhaps from a lack of time to establish any character in the various protagonists. Indeed it is only in the fourth panel of the second page that we learn our main protagonist is not only an archaeologist but a very young very pretty Professor. Up until that point the two scientists doing field work resemble more a curious courting couple in a forest, not least because one is seen strumming a Lyre. Maybe it is some sort of high-tech future archaeological kit that just happens to look like a Lyre. Given this lack of characters to invest in, the strip simply turns on the success of the idea and in the context of 1978’s 2000AD it may not be original but it is effectively deployed by the image of the rotting corpses.
Shock’d?: The idea of bacteria from the past / another world destroying an entire species is, of course, a rather well trodden trope in Science Fiction; however for any young reader not yet exposed to it this is a fine little rehash. The Shock is one of the ‘final panel reveals’ that work so well in comics and Mike White’s drawing does the story proud.