2000 AD - issue 31

I write a lot about old issues of 2000 AD, probably because reading those comic books was a very formative experience for me. I have a 2000 AD page where I link to all the issues I have talked about on this site, and scans of the issues can be downloaded from the excellent britishcomics site.

The cover of this issue is just a sketch of a sci-fi joke. It looks like a spaceship has gotten a bug squished on its window, but the twist is that it's a giant bug. It's actually not a bad gag, but this is not what the cover of an anthology comic book should be doing. They should be selecting either their most popular character, or the best story, and showing us the most exciting, cliffhanging scene from it, to make us salivate for the sci-fi thrills to be found within the covers. It is amazing to me that this cover is the thirteenth time in a row that 2000 AD hasn't done this one simple thing. It is just one of those weird things about the early days of the comic book, as they were still working out exactly what they were doing.

Okay, ignoring my issues with the wasted opportunity of the cover, let's take a look inside. Once again, Invasion is the first story. It's about a future rebellion led by Bill Savage, along with his sidekick Silk. Strangely, the forces at Savage's disposal ebb and build depending on the whim of the writers, and this week Bill and Silk are alone. That’s strange because last week they were leading a large band of fighters and had just captured three armored vehicles, but here they are alone again, with no explanation. I don't mind that so much, but on top of taking the wind out of the sails of Savage's rebellion, the episode is also a little uninspiring. It is snow themed, pitting Savage and Silk against an entire squad of enemy ski troops, but apart from some inventive and deadly uses for ski poles, there is not much here. The enemy soldiers are eventually done in by a pack of highland wildcats, which is just ludicrous. The story is set in 1999, which is only twenty years in the future from the publication date of the comic book. There is no way the humble wildcat could have evolved into a tiger-like killer in such a short time.

A Message from the Author

I write sci-fi novels that belong to a series called Dark Galaxy, which starts with Galaxy Dog:

What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy.

The entire series is available to buy from Amazon.

Next comes Dredd, now in second spot in the comic book's running order, in recognition of the publishers realizing how popular this character is. This strip is much more inventive than the pedestrian and gritty Invasion. It is set far in the future, in a walled American city after a nuclear war. Law and order is enforced within the city by a fascist paramilitary force with authorization to carry out extrajudicial killings. The conceit is that they themselves are the police, judges, and executioners, all rolled into one.

This week we get some more nice world building, as we see a prison built into a traffic island, surrounded by such huge and heavily used roads that escape is impossible. It's called Devil's Island. Even though the setting and this story are imaginative, the storytelling is almost as pedestrian as in Invasion. There does happen to be a female character in this one, unlike Invasion, but she is simply a hostage. This comic book only existed to cash in on the success of Star Wars, but I wish it could have learned something from the way that movie had a strong female character. Lucas wrote Leia to be capable and important specifically after negative feedback to the way he had used female characters in American Graffiti, and it would be nice if 2000 AD had carried on that important attempt at more interesting and inclusive storytelling, but no. The art is great though.

Shako comes next, and a great deal of effort has been put into getting our murderous polar bear onto a Russian ship full of mooks, and then have it released. Now we expect the killing to begin.
The story does not disappoint, and the killing spree is only ended when the Americans turn up, chain Shako to a helicopter and steal him back. Then the Russian's shoot the helicopter down with an exploding harpoon and Shako is on his way to the bottom of the ocean, chained to a wrecked helicopter. What a cliff hanger. Shako is a crazy premise for a sci-fi comic book strip, inspired more by Jaws than Star Wars, but it is a bloodthirsty and entertaining read.

Next comes Dan Dare, here to class things up a little with his old-school heroics and meticulously drawn art. After last week’s excellent installment I was expecting a great story, but this is an insulting waste of time. The crew of explorers find a planet with a single heart shaped continent, which is dumb. Then they land, disembark, give up their weapons, and find out that there are women on the planet. Obviously, eye roll, two Latin lovers from his testosterone-soaked crew start knife fighting to decide who gets to mate with the women. There is a twist, of course, and the people of the planet turn out to be vampires. The story is a hot mess, and a total waste of Dan Dare's premise. It does have two female characters actually say something, however, when they gloat about ripping the hearts out of their victims. It's not enough to pass the Bechdel test, but I guess it's something.

Mach 1 comes next, and our super-powered hero has found a UFO. He has to defend it from a pack of hillbillies who have decided it is the work of the devil and want to dynamite it.
The story gets interesting as soon as Mach 1 deals with the hill folk and gets into the UFO. It actually turns out that the aliens are just dust, and the UFO is flying automatically. Then a fleet of UFOs turn up to exact revenge. Another great cliff hanger from this issue which is turning out to be well above average, despite the terrible cover.

Next comes a one-off story in the Tharg's Future Shocks slot that is not worth the effort to read, and rounding out the comic book is a poster on the back that is a homage to the blockbuster movie that it was published to cash in on. It is so closely based on Star Wars that I don't think you cold get away with it these days. But this was back in 1977, when copyright wasn't such a big deal.

To end, just a reminder that the best way to support this blog is to buy one of my books. Simply go over to Amazon, or Kobo and get one.