A Guide to the Blake’s 7 Comics!

b7-0

What’s that you say?  You wish the internet had a complete guide to the Blakes 7 comic strips published by Marvel in the early 1980s?

Me too.maxipower

Yonks ago we wrote Maximum Power! An Auton Guide to Blakes 7, covering all 64 episodes of the television series.  It went through two editions, the 2nd Edition and then the First Edition.  You can pick a copy up here on the Miwk Publishing site, and I would heartily recommend that you do so, not least because all of the authors’ profits go to charity.

We never quite covered the comic strips in there though, and no-one else has ever looked at the comics online, so…

Let’s go back 35 years and four thousand spacials to October 1981, and Blakes 7: A Marvel Monthly Issue 1, and find out what the crew of the Scorpio have been up to.

There maybe a mistake or two in this article…

– Andrew


Mission of Mercy

Issue 1
 
Opening words:
‘Returning to the planet Xenon, the freighter, Scorpio, developed a serious engine malfunction.  While sheltering from Federation scanners in the middle of an asteroid belt, Tarrant and Dayna effect emergency repairs.’

Story:
Scorpio is hiding in an asteroid belt when three Federation ships spot it.  A quick firefight later, and Scorpio defeats two of the ships; the commander of the other retreats.  Back at the Security Force’s Headquarters, Servalan punishes the commander for letting the Scorpio escape.  Spotting Professor Ensor’s name on a cargo transfer sheet, she hatches a plan to trap Avon and the crew.  Later, the Scorpio responds to a distress call, and is forced to bring a small ship on board to stop it being dragged down to a fatal crash with a planet.  Once the ship is onboard, its occupant emerges: a killer robotoid invented by Professor Ensor and programmed by Servalan to kill our heroes …

Incoming Data:

  • The first thing to note is that it’s Season D.
  • Avon gets to shout ‘Battle Stations!’ again, like he likes to.
  • This first issue opens exactly the same way the first episode of Firefly does, with a Federation ship spotting the lead ship and assuming it is smuggling contraband.  Proof that Joss Whedon owns a full run of this comic, and reads them regularly.
  • The artwork by the mysterious ‘Kennedy’ (it’s Ian, not Cam) is fine, with a nice painted feel to it.  Likenesses are mostly excellent, but there’s clearly some issues with trying to fit all of the Scorpio crew into the same frame…
  • The Scorpio flight deck looks barely like the one we’re familiar with.  It has a big main screen at the front.
  • There are several odd moments where dialogue is spoken by the wrong characters.  Servalan and a Mutoid get their dialogue swapped on page 3; on page 5 one of Orac’s lines of dialogue is coming from Tarrant and one of Tarrant comes from Dayna; further down this page a voice from Scorpio appears to come from the wrong spaceship; and again with Orac’s dialogue on page 9!  The letterer should be shot.  Hard.
  • Servalan’s Mutoids have bobbed hair.b7-1
  • The Scorpio shots look beautiful.  We’d go so far as to say the space scenes are better here than in the actual television series.
  • Servalan is referred to only as ‘Commissioner’ by her staff, though Orac refers to her by name later.
  • This is the only story where we see Scorpio’s cargo bay doors open, as it snatches a ship from space (we think the writer had the opening Star Destroyer / Blockade Runner sequence of Star Wars in mind, rather than that bit in Time Squad).
  • Characterisation is generally quite good – Slave is humble, Avon’s all cynical, Vila’s a coward.  But there are a few dodgy moments – see Notable Lines below.
  • Dayna and Soolin are fairly nondescript, however.
  • Interestingly, Slave is uniquely played as if he comprises the whole Scorpio ship – when another ship bumps him as it enters the cargo bay, Slave feels pain.
  • The robotoid was an earlier invention of Professor Ensor, Orac’s creator.

Notable Lines:
Avon: ‘By the stars that robotoid’s a fearsome creature!  Can nothing stop it?’

Closing words:
Slave: ‘Er, it would please me, Master to do your bidding… but after that horrible machine rampaging through me, Time Distort Three is all I can muster.  I am sorry… Don’t punish me!’
Avon: ‘You’ll have to do better, Slave, or you will get a kick from me!  Servalan knows where we are so we’re sitting targets in this sector!  Move… or else!’

Aftermath:
A good start to the run!  If nothing else, despite rampaging robots, terms like ‘the star fleet’ and big space battles, this feels like Blakes 7.  The story itself does seem a little rushed though, a series of set pieces rather than a plot.  Several lettering mistakes with dialogue being spoken by the wrong characters don’t help.  The whole thing could have done with the extra polish a few days’ more work would have given it.


Autona… Planet of Lies!

Issue 2
 
Opening words:
‘Damaged in an enounter with Federation ships, the Scorpio is established in a holding orbit round ‘Autona’, a remote perimeter planet…’

Story:
A damaged Scorpio lands on the planet Autona, where he crw are taken to a lush underground complex inhabited by Wogan, Master of Autona and his two female assistants.  Vila wants only to enjoy the company, but Avon is more suspicious.  As the crew leave following a much-needed rest, Avon asks why Vila doesn’t want a drink to celebrate and him in the face.  Vila has been replaced by an android by Wogan, Master of Autona, who seeks to escape the planet and sell his android creations to the Federation in exchange for a free pardon…

Incoming Data:

  • The master of Autona is called Wogan.  Really.  Wogan.  Presumably Terry.
  • Wogan, Master of Autona appears to be modelled on Vincent Price.b7-2
  • More nice Scorpio shots here.  The mysterious ‘Kennedy’ is clearly enjoying himself.
  • Avon realises that Vila is an android and shoots him in the head, purely because Vila doesn’t want a drink.  At least Avon has faith in Vila’s alcoholicism.
  • The Vila android does give himself away a little, as he’s the one handing out the drinks.  Why not just, y’know, not?
  • The plot involves Avon going to rescue Vila, which the creators obviously realise he probably wouldn’t, so a hasty bit of Avon dialogue is added: ‘For two pins I’d leave Vila where he is… but his skills might come in handy one day!  Besides… I don’t like being used by anyone!’  Whatever.
  • The sight of the Vila android without a face is actually quite shocking.
  • Dayna and Soolin get nothing to do.  At all.
  • The androids Wogan, Master of Autona keeps on his planet are all pretty girls.  This is definitely in keeping with ethos of the series.  Avon won’t leave Vila alone with them.
  • In a brilliant ending, Wogan, Master of Autona pours out his backstory, saying he was dumped on Autona by Federation guards, and only wanted to escape his endless misery alone on the planet.  Avon responds by shoving him out of the Scorpio and flying off.
  • Not related to the comic, but in this issue of the B7 magazine, Paul Darrow lists his favourite dramatic actor as Marlon Brando, his favourite comedy actor as Donald Duck, and his favourite television programme as The Magic Roundabout.  We think these three facts explain his performance.

Notable Lines:
Tarrant: ‘G… Good grief!  Wires and things!  Th… that’s not Vila.’
Vila: ‘Flippin’ androids!’

Closing words:
‘I’ll never drink with you again Vila!  Just keep away from me!  You’re double trouble!’

Aftermath:
A standard run-of-the-mill Blakes 7 story.  Again, very much in the style of the series, just in the style of those ropey episodes you always skip over when you watch your DVD boxsets.  We’ve skipped over some of them many times over.  The best thing is the ending, with Wogan, Master of Autona being honest and serious and Avon basically telling him to piss off.


Renegade

Issue 3

Opening words:
‘Tension mounted as the two ships closed…’

Story:
Servalan chases a renegade, Pangal, under sentence of death for the crime of knowing her history.  Pangal survives in an escape capsule as his ship is destroyed.  Falling down to Xenon, the capsule is spotted by Avon, who takes Pangal back to Xenon base when he reveals he is also an enemy of Servalan.  But Pangal has a plan to trade Avon and the crew in for his freedom…

Incoming Data:

  • Servalan is still Commissioner Sleer.  Pangal is sentenced to death for knowing her true identity.
  • The big battle at the start takes place above Xenon.  Servalan takes part personally, without realising how close she is to Avon’s base.
  • Tarrant comments on how paranoid Avon is becoming.  They’re really trying hard with the characterisations here.
  • A big Terry Nation-esque creature rears out of a lake (of mutations) on Xenon and tries to eat Pangal.
  • Vila whacks Pangal over the head with Orac.
  • This artist (the mysterious Kennedy…) loves drawing Scorpio.
  • Pangal’s plan of handing the Scorpio crew over to the Federation in exchange for a free pardon was done with Terry Wogan in the previous issue.
  • There’s a big circular control console in Xenon base.  It looks like a fat TARDIS interior.
  • Zen seems to be living in the Xenon base control room, judging by one of the panels behind Soolin.  It’s round with little squares on it, like Zen was.
  • Avon’s at his best again.  He kills the traitorous Pangal by teleporting him over to Servalan’s ship with a half-repaired teleport machine.  Pangal materialises in a glowing mess and dies.
  • Though Avon does have a chance to destroy Servalan’s ship with her onboard, and lets her go, even though she knows Scorpio is based on Xenon.
  • We’d love it if Soolin or Dayna got something to do.

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Notable Lines:
Vila: ‘You must be off your galactic trolley, Avon!’
Vila: ‘Uh?  What’s he playing at?  It’s not death or glory time again, is it?’

We love the caption, ‘As ever, Avon was right…’

Special Sound:
‘RAARRG’ – the roar an angry snake-like lake mutation makes when you shoot it.

Closing words:
‘He was prepared to exchange us for his life.  Even for a renegade… that price was too high.  He deserved what he got.  But Tarrant really killed him.  He failed to repair the teleporter in time.’

Aftermath:
Pangal is a bit of a non-entity, but it’s nice to see Servalan got a proper bit of action, shooting his ship down, planning to double-cross him, and then being let off when Avon has her at his mercy.  Avon and Vila still get all the best stuff though.


Battle Cruiser

Issue 4

Opening words:
‘Holding stationary orbit behind the moon of Cignus 3 Scorpio is rigged for silent operations.  On the flight deck is a tension which could be cut with a knife…’

Story:
Scorpio intercepts a battle fleet bound for a colonising mission on Xenon.  Forced to crash land on the planet Cignus 3 in the ensuing battle, Avon and Tarrant attempt to repair the ship while Vila and Soolin investigate some smoke on the horizon.  One of the Federation ships has crashed too, and Vila and Soolin are taken prisoner by Federation guards.  Breaking free of their cell as the ship takes off, they discover the mission was not one of colonisation, but a biological attack on five possibly terrorist planets, including Xenon.  Relaying the information back to the Scorpio, the pair are trapped on the cruiser as Avon orders it destroyed… and the Scorpio teleport isn’t working…

Incoming Data:

  • Vila mentions Roy Orbison’s song ‘You Got It’ at one point.b7-4
  • More space battles – the mysterious writer clearly knows what ‘Kennedy’ the artist likes doing.
  • Scorpio crashes on a planet, much like it does in TV’s Blake.
  • There are some oddly-shaped speech bubbles in this issue.  One of them’s shaped like a dog’s kidney.
  • The Federation’s secret operation dossier on the five planets charmingly has the words ‘FEDERATION SECRET OPERATION FIVE PLANETS’ on the cover.
  • Yeah!  Proper Terry Nation plot on display here.  The Federation are planning to kill all life on Xenon by spraying the planet with a ‘mixture of radiation and biological agents’.
  • Soolin gets a meaty bit of tale here, teaming up with Vila and getting immediately captured by the Feds.  They make a great team, as Vila’s cowardice and Soolin’s bravery is a nice reversal of what you might expect.
  • Dayna gets a line too.

 Notable Lines:
Avon: ‘ This is not a democracy, Tarrant!  We attack!
Vila: ‘Avon’s finally killed us!  I always knew he would…!’

Special Sound:
‘SHTAAANG!’ – the sound of a plasma bolt hitting a spaceship.
‘ZAANG!’ – the noise made when a battle cruiser rams a Wanderer-class planet-hopper head on.

Closing words:
Tarrant: ‘I misjudged you Avon.  You’re not as heartless as I thought.’
Avon: ‘Don’t you believe it, Tarrant set course for Xenon!’

Aftermath:
We’re really enjoying this comic, genuinely!  The artwork’s really quite good for a cheap telly spin-off and it all feels quite exciting.  The likenesses of Avon and Vila continue to be handled well.  This story’s another decent little action yarn of the Scorpio crew facing off against some faceless Federation ciphers.  A bit similar in feel to previous episodes though, and we hope something different happens soon.

They really should have flipped that shot of the Scorpio crashing from right-to-left though.


Interception

Issue 5

Opening words:
‘Somewhere in the second quadrant of Proxima Gallasta…’

Story:
Intercepting a transmission from a Federation prison ship, the Scorpio crew rushes to a dangerous quadrant of space to find the ship.  It has been taken over by the prisoners.  Fighting off more Federation ships, Avon convinces the prisoners he can help them, before teleporting over.  He’s seen something on the ship he wants…

Incoming Data:

  • The prison ship thugs are standard Blakes 7 primitives, who say things like ‘by the blood of my ancestors…!’  On telly, they’d be played by Dicken Ashworth and Bruce Purchase.
  • Despite the percussion bombs used on the Federation spaceship having been conceived and built by Dayna, it’s Vila who tells us all about them, presumably to avoid giving Dayna any lines to say.  It actually looks like the speech bubble is given to Vila by mistake, as it’s definitely Dayna who runs to get the bombs.
  • When Avon, Vila and Tarrant teleport over to the prison ship, despite overwhelming odds, they essentially pick up the mysterious box and beam back again.
  • This issue’s ropey characterisation: ORAC calls Avon ‘master’ at one point.
  • This story features another sequence in which one spaceship tries to ram another, like in last issue.
  • The device Avon steals is a Matracon, capable of sending the prison ship into another dimension.  Avon helpfully explains: ‘it’s reversed their matter’.
  • Matracon is the name of a construction company in Pakistan, presumably named after this issue of the Blakes 7 comic strip.  From the Matracon website: ‘M/S MATRACON started its operations as a sole proprietorship firm in 1985 and after completing 19 years of successful business, by the grace of Allah it was converted into a private limited company as MATRACON (Pvt.) LIMITED in August 2004’.  Now you know.

b7-5Notable Lines:
Avon: ‘If it’s madness to want to have the equipment to guarantee our survival… then I am mad.  I won’t tell you again… get Scorpio ready… now!’

Guldak, on Avon: ‘The man wears black!  He must belong to the Federation.  Open fire!’

Special Sound:
‘SHTANNNGG’ – the sound of a plasma bolt hitting a spaceship.  Very similar to ‘SHTAAANG!’ from the last issue.

‘KROOOMM’ – the noise a percussion charge in a barrel makes when a spaceship flies into one.

Closing words:
Vila: ‘Reversed matter?  Another dimension?  But which one, Avon?’
Avon: ‘I don’t know… nor do I care.  All that matters is we have a device to make Scorpio invincible.  Now set course for Xenon.  Tarrant has work to do with our weapon system.’

Aftermath:
A standard Blakes 7 ‘primitives versus Federation’ story.  The Scorpio crew’s part in events is basically to fly into space, shoot a Federation ship, teleport over to the prison ship, pick up a box, and teleport back again.  It remains to see if the Matracon reappears next time.


Sacrifice.  We think.

Issue 6

Opening words:
‘Deep underground in a subterranean fortress, the Federation’s intelligence gathering network probes deep into space, watching listening, trying to sense anything unusual…’

Story:
In a dodgy space bar, Avon meets Aanya, a young alien from another galaxy.  Back on her ship, they quickly realise their feelings for each other, and Aanya asks him to join her on her flight.  But Servalan wants Aanya’s advanced technology for herself.

Incoming Data:

  • It took us a good minute to work out the title of this story, due to a horrific custom typeface.  We think it’s ‘Sacrifice’, but it did look like ‘Scarface’ for a good few seconds.  Which would be better, in a way.
  • Talking of typefaces, by this point, they’ve really stopped bothering – all of the lettering for dialogue is done with a grotesque font.  Looks a bit like Helvetica.
  • Roger Delgado appears on the first page.
  • The Scorpio crew pop into a ‘Star Wars cantina’-type establishment.  Although the strip is in black and white, we feel sure they’re drinking GREEN.  So much so, we coloured it in with our felt tips.b7-6
  • Ropey guest character Aanya is an alien from ‘a far galaxy’.  Her entire race are migrating between galaxies in a vast starship, but have to stop off in a local bar to buy a route map.  That’s the plot.
  • The aliens are housed onboard their ship in Suspended Animation chambers, or as they’re called here, Sus-An Chambers.  We used to know someone called Susan Chambers.
  • The ship design is lovely once more, though – the enigmatic artist likes drawing spacey stuff.
  • There’s a bit of a romance between Avon and Aanya, which is unfortunate given that humans can’t touch her race’s skin.  This is played out until we get to the slight desperation of Aanya’s: ‘Our surgeons could alter you so that you could touch us without harm.  You could touch me Avon.  Oh please come with us, Avon.’  She’s gagging for it.
  • It all goes proper Blakes 7 at the end when Servalan turns up and starts winding Avon up about his new girlfriend (‘I must say I like your taste in women.  She’s not Anna Grant, but…’).  It’s great!  Servalan even calls Aanya ‘the alien bitch.’
  • We see one of the few times when Servalan kills someone here: she has a duel with Aanya, and stabs her.
  • There’s no reference to the Matracon from last issue.
  • Elsewhere in this issue, the letter page features a letter from Stuart Murdoch of Scotland.  We’d like to think it’s the lead singer of Belle and Sebastian, but it’s the wrong part of Scotland.  We checked.

Notable Lines:
Our favourite line in the whole of Blakes 7: ‘It’s a flamin’ alien, innit!  We got a live one…’
…followed shortly after by, ‘Up yours mate…’

Aanya: ‘All that hate is alien to you.  I sense that you are a loving man, you have known love…’
Avon: ‘True – but love dies quickly when it is betrayed.’

Special Sound:
‘AIEEE!’ – what people say when Avon shoots them with a Scorpio clip gun.

Closing words:
Dayna: ‘Oh shut up, Vila.  Leave him… Can’t you see he’s saying goodbye to some thing…’

Aftermath:
The best episode so far.  Aanya and Avon seem to genuinely fall for each other, and there’s some real emotion on display, in the way the best Blakes 7 can do.  When Servalan turns up, she and Avon trade a few lovely insults, and they both seem very well characterised.  Very nice.


The Flying Bomb

Issue 7

Opening words:
‘In the seemingly endless wastes of space there are certain planets where no man goes willingly.  Kantak was such a place…’

Story:
Something about a planet with a large magentic pull, where Scorpio lands for repairs.  Vila nicks some valuable chemicals, which later put the ship in danger.  There’s a black hole at the end.

Incoming Data:

  • One of the crashed ships in the spaceship graveyard on Kantak looks just like the Liberator.
  • Avon’s ‘rigged something in Scorpio to counteract the effect’ of the planet’s magnetic core. ‘Rigged something’?  Rigged what?  They’ve really stopped trying by this point.
  • Vila finds a horrid dead body. Mr mysterious artist like drawing these shocking moments.
  • There’s a big hairy monster which looks like a man dressed up in a monster suit. Its facial features never move.
  • Vila finds some Krytomite liquid on the planet (‘a tiny portion of that is worth over fifty-thousand credits!’), and stores it on Scropio. In a cupboard marked ‘K’.  You’ve got to have a system.
  • Avon, on Krytomite: ‘It’s also the most dangerous gas in the universe! The metal atoms in it are so volatile when exposed to air the slightest spark can create an instant black hole!’  It’s bad shit.
  • The spacesuits from Warlord make a reappearance.
  • Dayna’s familiar with the Bermuda Triangle.  Nice to know the Federation left the British Oversees Territories alone.
  • Three of the Scorpio crew are rendered unconscious, and two remain awake to continue the plot. See if you can guess which two stay active.  Go on, guess.  That’s right, Avon and Vila.b7-7
  • When the Scorpio is in danger and Dayna, Tarrant and Soolin are unconscious, Avon says, ‘It’s the ship that concerns me, Vila, a new crew we can get… but we need transport.’ Again, Avon is portrayed accurately to his screen persona.
  • Another couple of pursuit ships get destroyed. We seem to lose a couple every issue.
  • There’s an odd speech mistake when Vila’s line ‘Why? What have you in mind?’ is rendered as ‘Shy? Why what have you in mind?’
  • The story climaxes with Avon destroying a planet by creating a proper, full-size black hole in its place. A black hole!  Can’t wait to see how this turns out!  Where did all the mass come from?  What about the huge gravitational effects on the Scorpio?  Just how did the large magnetic field around the planet Kantak affect oh no the story’s finished.

Notable Lines:
None really, though we quite like Tarrant’s: ‘Uhhh?  Jeez..!’ when the big hairy monster hits him.

Special Sound:
Nothing in this issue makes a sound.  Even the big hairy monster doesn’t roar. 😦

Closing words:
‘Just one, tiny spark… that’s all it needed.  And that’s what could have happened to Scorpio!  Remember that the next time you think about turning us into a flying bomb!’

Aftermath:
More unexplained, unfulfilled plot ideas, glazed-over scientific exposition and not-trying-at-all lines which you can make up yourself just as pathetically.  ‘One blob of Zaguinox can destroy the entire universe if you cough in its generally vicinity.  It’s probably worth a gazillion credits.’  See?  As pretty as this looks on occasion, you can’t help hating a script that was tossed off in a lunchtime.


Crossed Wires

Issue 8

Opening words:
‘Scorpio was undergoing a major overhaul when…’
‘AHHHRRGH..!’

Story:
Tarrant gets severely injured when an explosion erupts on Scorpio, as it is docked at Xenon base.  Two Federation ships spot the explosion and attack, leaving Avon to fight them off… unarmed…

Incoming Data:

  • Ugh.  The title and jaunty typeface suggest this might be a comedy story.  Let’s see…

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  • Proper lettering is back again.
  • Does every story have to begin with Scorpio undergoing repairs / looking for spare parts?
  • We’re trying to work out if ‘medi-cough’ is supposed to read ‘medi-couch’.
  • We’ve noticed in the last few issues that people keep saying ‘for pity’s sake!’  Once you spot it it really sticks out.  Dayna and Soolin say it here.
  • The Federation ships have brilliant thermal imagers.  They manage to spot the small fire on Xenon base even though they don’t know what planet or system the Scorpio is based in.
  • The commander of the Federation ships appears to be George Lucas.  Probably some sort of subtle in-joke.  Or is it Kenny Rogers?
  • Avon destroys two Federation ships by flying between them, creating an unexpected vacuum as he passes which sucks the enemy ships together.  He creates a vacuum.  In space.
  • This issue’s only four pages long.  It still can’t pad out the story time.
  • We still can’t decide if this is a comedy story or not.  It’s certainly laughable.

Notable Lines:
Soolin: ‘Y… you mean they will blow themselves to atoms?  Oh no!’

Special Sound:
It’s possible all the space scenes are silent on purposes, because that’s how space works.  More likely they just never bothered to put any ‘swoosh’es in, though.

Closing words:
Avon: ‘Then let me make this clear.  I want no crossed wires on Scorpio ever again.  In future I shall do all the maintenance.  Do I make myself plain?  I never want to fight from an unarmed ship again!’

Aftermath:
Dire.  We’re reduced to four pages.  Scorpio’s undergoing repairs, again.  Avon faces off against two Federation ships, again.  At least Dayna and Soolin get a bit to do here, but they’re not remotely characterised – Soolin in particular seems oddly wet.


Liberation

Summer Special 1982

Opening words:
‘On the planet Auron, a mysterious revival is underway…’

Story:
Using the Auronar chemical Kantorite, Servalan has re-animated the corpse of Gan, kept in cryogenic suspension since the events of Pressure Point.  Meanwhile, desperate for repairs, Scorpio locates the shattered remains of the Liberator floating in space.  Inside, a barely-functional Zen provides parts for Slave.  As they ransack the drifting Liberator flight deck, Servalan and a mind-controlled Gan appear, and attack.  Only the memory of Blake, located deep in Zen’s thought banks, can save our heroes…

Incoming Data:

  • Gan!  Gan’s back.  Servalan has kept his body frozen since the attack on Control two years earlier (we see a brief flashback of the polystyrene door falling on him).  He didn’t die, but was kept close to death until Servalan acquired Kantorite from the Auronar and reanimated him.
  • Servalan is seen drinking GREEN.
  • The new Gan is a dull-witted, lumbering, grunting animal.  He hasn’t changed a bit!
  • Servalan has fitted a Travis-style ‘hand’ gun in place of Gan’s left arm.  Gan’s limiter is said to be the means behind which Servalan controls him.
  • The Liberator has been floating in space for six months, in pieces.  A central flight deck module survives, with breathable atmosphere.
  • The Scorpio crew link the Scorpio teleport to the Liberator teleport for ease of transfer.  It’s the only time anyone lands in the Liberator teleport bay with a Scorpio teleport bracelet.
  • Zen gets a few incoherent lines, recognising Avon and briefly threatening Soolin.
  • Vila says ‘It’s Blake!  I think we’ve found Blake!’ when he first sees Blake’s hologram on the flight deck, similar to his line in Blake, ‘It’s Blake, isn’t it?  You think you’ve found Blake.’
  • Gan attacks Soolin first.  Probably his old problem returning…
  • Jenna is mentioned.  Servalan tells Avon she died when six Federation gunships blew up her shuttle when she was smuggling peanuts to Zircaster.
  • Gan is stopped when Avon makes Zen’s lights flash in a pretty pattern, captivating him like a child.  Then Blake’s hologram somehow shoots him in the head.
  • Avon’s cry of ‘Byeee!!!’, with a mad glint in his eye, when Blake disappears is the most insane thing ever seen in a comic.
  • There’s a suggestion that this story is what catalyses Avon to look for Blake in Blake.
  • Soolin kisses Avon on the flight deck.
  • Dayna gets nothing to do.

Notable Lines:
Servalan: ‘Oh Avon, I have a little surprise for you.  An old friend of yours.’
(Gan appears)
Avon: ‘Well now, I think you may have misunderstood our relationship.’

Blake: ‘Avon, it’s me… Blake.  A memory in Zen’s thought banks…  Avon, I was waiting for you…’
Blake: ‘Goodbye, my friend.’
Avon: ‘Byeee!!!’

Special Sound:
‘BASHADWAD!’ – the sound Zen’s little green globe makes when it is destroyed by fat Gan.

‘QUIMM!’ – the sound Blake’s hologram makes when it materialises.

‘KAZASHROOM!’ – what the exploding Gan’s head sounds like.

‘TWINKLE DOODLE’ – Zen’s plinky-plonky noise during the flashing light sequence.

Closing words:
Vila: ‘Gan… he was my friend, you know.’
Avon: ‘He was a lumbering imbecile!  I never liked him.  Dirty get.’

Aftermath:
Brilliant!  The best Blakes 7 comic, by miles.  It’s nice to see a lot of old friends (and a few enemies).  The reversion of Gan into a rampaging child-like monster is shockingly well-handled, and Servalan and Avon trade their best insults in the series yet.  Blake’s appearance is a genuine surprise, and it’s lovely to see Zen get one or two moving, memorable last lines, before he is destroyed forever.  Whoever wrote this is some sort of genius.  Get yourself on eBay right now to seek this one out!


Treachery

Issue 9

Writer: Ken Armstrong
Artist: Steve Dillon
Art Assistant + Letterer: Jerry Paris

Opening words:
‘In the vast empty wastes of space, a new and pitiful landmark has been added.’

Story:
Avon attends a meeting of Federation rebels, but one of those present is a traitor, working for Servalan.  A fist fight and a space fight ensue.

Incoming Data:

  • A new artist – the legendary Steve Dillon.  He’s better at drawing people, and some of the framing is lovely.b7-9
  • This is the first time the creative team are credited.
  • Servalan shows her mercy in one sequence.  A fatally wounded spaceship navigator is dying a slow and painful death.  Servalan ejects him into space, as it’s a quicker death.
  • Avon attends a conference of rebels against the Federation, clearly intended as a pre-cursor to the later conference in the television series’ Warlord.
  • Valkac is a great creation, uttering lines like, ‘how dare you insult me, worm!’  Turns out he’s the villain.  Tch.  He’s essentially the same character as Zukan from Warlord.
  • There isn’t really time to play out the Valkac treachery story in full, so as soon as we meet him, Avon says he’s a traitor and they have a scrap.
  • This is Servalan’s story really – it’s worth it for her scenes.  She has a habit of posing for the ‘camera’ too.
  • Avon is oddly emotive when he reveals that Valkac has betrayed them, shaking his fists at him, before jumping on him for fight.
  • The end space fight is nicely dynamic, with lots of engine wakes showing the twisting, turning flights of the spaceships.

Notable Lines:
Servalan: ‘Your wounds are such that you would die a slow and painful death.  That I could not permit.  Never let I be said I am not merciful.’
Navigator: ‘Wh… where are you sending me…?’
Servalan: ‘To a swift and speedy death, my friend.  It’s the least I can do for you.’
Servalan: ‘Valkac is of no further use to us.  Order the attack.  Wipe them all from the galaxy!  I want no-one left alive down there… especially Avon.  Understand?’

Special Sound:
‘EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’ – what a man says when he is ejected into space.

‘AHHHHIEEEECH..!’ – what you’d say if your spaceship exploded.

Closing words:
Avon: ‘Servalan has destroyed all hopes of an alliance against her and her kind… at least for a while.  We’re on our own once more.’

Aftermath:
The new creative team (we’re not sure if the writer has changed, but it does feel like it) bring some new energy to the stories.  There’s a lot of Warlord in here, but it holds together nicely.  It’s a shame there isn’t enough time to fulfil the promise of the title – maybe a two-parter would have been better? – but some cool individual scenes hold this together.  The Servalan airlock sequence is the best scene in the comic so far.


Prey

Issue 10

Script & Art: Jerry Paris
Letterer: Jenny O’Connor
Editor: Bernie Jay

Opening words:
‘Looks as if there’s been a small war here!  Sensors indicate wreckage consists of three Federation battle cruisers and four, perhaps five other craft.’

Story:
While visiting the planet Telkos to find parts for the Scorpio, Avon and Vila discover that a recent salvage ship landing on the planet has brought an old friend back with it…

Incoming Data:

  • Valkac’s back!  Unexpectedly, this issue is a new story that follows on from the previous one.
  • There’s a ‘there’ / ‘their’ mistake on Page Two.  Tut-tut.
  • Once again the crew are repairing the ship, this time after a meteor storm.  We don’t see any of the crew apart from Avon and Vila.
  • Avon and Vila visit a very Blakes 7-style run-down space city to deal for parts with Pellorim Vac Vanner, a fat gangster boss surrounded with beautiful women.  It seems right.
  • Valkac attacks Vila and Avon with a sword, and when a group of Federation soldiers intervene, he slices them all to pieces.
  • We don’t believe for a second that Vila would have left Scorpio without his gun, but he does here, because he’s ‘always afraid I might shoot my foot off’.

Notable Lines:
Avon, when Valkac attacks him: ‘VILAR… YOUR LAZER!?’  We think he means Vila.

Avon: ‘Did anyone ever tell you, Vila, that you are as spineless as a Chakani worm.’
Vila: ‘I tell myself every morning… it keeps me out of trouble.’

Special Sound:
CHOONG! – the noise Valkac’s space gun makes when he shoots it at two rebels.

Closing words:
Valkac, across several frames, in increasing close-up:
‘There’s no-where for you to hide, Avon… You haven’t got away with it…
I’ll hunt you across the galaxy if I have to…
…And when I find you…
You’re a dead man…’

He’s like Travis this time.

b7-10

Aftermath:
Another nice set-up episode.  There’s no plot, but it creates the conceit that Valkac is after revenge on Avon.  The opening sequence showing a salvage ship investigating a strange planet and discovering Valkac in the shadows has a decent Alien feel about it.  Artwork’s nice again, this time by Jerry Paris. It feels like a proper Marvel strip.
We’ve got to the point where only Avon and Vila bother to appear in this one.  Everyone else is back on an unseen Scorpio.  It’s almost like they’re the only two popular characters…


Cranpax Core

Issue 11

Opening words:
Tarrant, whinging: ‘This is madness, Avon!  Trying to control Scorpio through these narrow valleys is murder.  Can’t I increase altitude even a hundred feet?’’

Story:
The Scorpio visits a hidden rebel base on the planet Savgard, which has recently been resettled by the Federation.  Passing over a secret Federation city on the way, Avon orders the ship to destroy the city.  Landing at the rebel base, the crew discover from the rebel’s leader, Incanta, that her father was a hostage in the city.  Meanwhile, Avon’s true purpose is to take away a copy of the information contained in the Cranpax Core, containing ‘the entire knowledge of the universe’…

Incoming Data:

  • Big, hard-man space-hero Del Tarrant says that flying the Scorpio so low that he risks a collision with the mountains is ‘frightening’.  He’s rubbish, isn’t he?b7-11
  • There’s a sequence thrown in with a pair of missiles chasing Scorpio, presumably to pad out the story with a bit more action.  This is quite an achievement, given the issue is only eight pages long.
  • Incanta seems to be an old flame of Avon.  They stand a bit close to each other.
  • …until Avon kills her dad.  By accident, though.
  • The Cranpax Core is a giant block of silicone which contains ‘the entire knowledge of the universe’.  It’s an absurdly over-exaggerated idea.  If such a thing existed, how come it’s only being mentioned now?  Image what someone could do with its power.  Can the Federation really not take it by force?
  • Incanta kills herself with a suicidal attack on the Federation base in a knackered old ship.  Avon lets her get on with it.
  • Orac transfers ‘the entire knowledge of the universe’ from the Cranpax Core to his own memory cells in a few seconds.  Must be plug and play.

Notable Lines:
Vila: ‘I don’t know why you let Tarrant fly Scorpio at all.  Might as well hand control over to Orac, since the scabby, electronic rat seems to know everything.’

‘Farewell, Kerr Avon.  I will never know if it was me you came to rescue… or the knowledge of the Cranpax Core… But I have my suspicions…’  Well, yeah.  It was the Core.

Special Sound:
‘NNNNGHHHHH…!’ The scream of a man caught in an explosion.

Closing words:
Avon: ‘They fought and died for the information now contained in Orac’s brain.  I’ll see it’s put to good use… against the Federation.’

Aftermath:
It’s nice to see a full-length issue again after a few five-pagers.  The Cranpax Core is an insanely over-cooked plot device, but we like Avon accidentally killing his girlfriend’s dad when he thought he was helping her out.  That said, the letterer seems to have decided that every fourth word needs to be in bold, which makes things a little melodramatic in places.


Rendezvous

Issue 12

Artist: Steve Dillon
Writer: Ken Armstrong
Letterer: John Aldrich

Opening words:
‘The atmosphere was tense aboard Servalan’s command ship.’

Story:
Servalan is planning a massive attack on Scorpio, using a huge fleet of Federation ships.  In the meantime, Scorpio is damaged again, from a recent encounter with the Sulans.  And Slave is acting very strangely indeed…

Incoming Data:

  • Another Servalan tale, after she’s been away for a few weeks.  She’s still called Commissioner Sleer.
  • The story opens with a fleet of Federation ships commanded by Servalan attacking the Scorpio, destroying its flight deck then blowing the ship to pieces.  Brilliantly, it’s revealed to be a test simulation.
  • Slave goes mad, burning Tarrant’s dinner, and pissing cold drinks in Soolin’s eyes.
  • Servalan appears to have amassed a huge battle fleet from somewhere, to chase the Scorpio.  You’d think she’d have tried this before.
  • The first panel of page 7, where Avon calls out ‘battle-stations’, appears to be a picture of Michael Melia.
  • Two panels later, the title of our book is mentioned.  Maximum Power!
  • Scorpio escapes because Slave was knackered and the Federation simulations had planned the attack as if he was working on full power.

Notable Lines:
Federation commander: ‘No other craft looks like that on the astro-scope!’ – who’s writing this, Terry Nation?

Vila: ‘The whole ship’s cracking up.  I’m even getting bad interference on my scanner.  Look at that.  You’d think there was a Federation main task force out there.’
Avon: ‘Show me!’
Vila: ‘It… is interference… isn’t it?’
Avon: ‘Wrong again, Vila!’

b7-12Special Sound:
‘SHTAANG!’ / ‘AHHHH!’ – a small explosion in Slave’s inspection hatch hits Avon in the face.

Closing words:
Avon, again: ‘Precisely, Vila.  And, ever since his circuits were damaged, Slave has been doing the reverse of what was ordered.  He’s getting more like you every day.  I can see I have some work to do on him when we return to Xenon!’

Aftermath:
A little space episode with a few funny character moments in the middle of the deadly action.  The comic is becoming increasingly good at interesting opening pages, and the one here with Scorpio being destroyed in what is revealed to be a computer simulation is another good one.  There’s a sense that the comic is at least aiming for the epic, which it should, because the series generally did, even if it often failed.  The likenesses don’t seem to be too great at places here, sadly.


Alliance

Issue 13

Opening words:
‘A meeting on a distant planet – an agreement reached between an independent warlord and the crew of Scorpio.  A desperate plan of action against a Federation convoy.  And into action flies the Alliance!’

Story:
The Scorpio is leading an Alliance of ships against the Federation.  Defeating a few Federation ships and acquiring the ATOMIC STAR CANNON they were carrying, Scorpio is damaged.  Gowan, the leader of the rest of the Alliance,refuses to help.  Now he has the ATOMIC STAR CANNON, he no longer needs Avon’s help.  But the teleport is still working, and Avon teleports over to Gowan’s ship, killing him and accidentally setting off the cannon… creating a black hole in the process…

Incoming Data:

  • A new style of artwork, with thick black lines and increased use of halftone dots.  We’re not sure…
  • There’s a shot on the first page of some ships in space, one of which is called ‘Pan-gal transport’ and the other which looks like a Klingon ship.  It feels like the artist has been watching Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Star Trek.
  • The ATOMIC STAR CANNON is another in the long line of plot maguffins that needs to be spelt in bold capital letters.
  • When the ATOMIC STAR CANNON is fired, it destroys an unnamed planet – we’ll call it Alderaan – and created a black hole in its place.  They did a black hole back in issue 7.
  • In this story, a ‘full Federation battle fleet’ consists of… six ships.
  • Vila and Tarrant hug.
  • The Scorpio teleport manages to pull Avon, Dayna and Soolin out of the gravitational pull of a black hole.  We’ll be charitable an assume they hadn’t yet passed the Schwarzschild radius, but it’s a little unclear…
  • There’s a magnificent, bizarre panel showing Avon, Dayna and Soolin halfway throught teleport process, transparent in space, with a black hole behind them.  It’s epic!

b7-13

Notable Lines:
Avon: ‘No-one cheats Avon…!’ Talking about himself in the third-person seems to suit him, somehow.

Special Sound:
‘KLAK!’ – Gowan, as he falls when he is shot.

Closing words:
Vila: ‘That’s one you owe me, Avon.  It was my brains that found a way to save you and turn disaster… into success!’

Avon: ‘Success?  How can it be a success when the only worthwhile thing, the atomic star cannon, is a mangled mess in the middle of a black hole?  Next time you’ll have to do better, Vila!’

Aftermath:
The Alliance has been created terribly quickly, and it reads like yet another attempt to destroy the Federation by firing on about six ships.  Gowan’s treachery is entirely unexpected, and the black hole is big and massive, if not original.  The new artwork takes some getting use to.  Some nice angles used.


Stranded

Issue 14

Script: Ken Armstrong
Art: Mick Austin
Letter: John Aldritch
Editor: Bernie Jaye

Opening words:
Avon: ‘What is it, Orac, and how did it come to be here?’

Story:
The Scorpio finds an old Federation space station, which Avon decide to ransack for salvage.  However, the station is not uninhabited.  Mansha and her father are watching the crew land, and believing them to be part of the Federation, they decide to kill them and steal the Scorpio to escape…

Incoming Data:

  • The opening panel shows the remains of a derelict Federation space station, which is based on the spinning-wheel-design of Servalan’s base in the series.
  • The Federation station was destroyed in the atomic wars, the first and only reference to these wars in the strip or on telly.  It does indicate that the Federation existed before the atomic wars, though, using the same hardware it uses now.  See, interesting!
  • The equipment on the ageing station is compatible with Scorpio.
  • Dayna says of the station, ‘There’s a peculiar smell in here,’ something that isn’t followed up but presumably means that Mansha and her dad STINK.
  • The artwork is unmistakenly the work of Mick Austin.  Some of it seems to have been drawn in pencil, and is almost entirely invisible.
  • Austin has clearly been watching the series, as there’s a large shot of Soolin’s bum at the top of page 4.
  • Mansha’s father thinks Avon is a Federation member because he wears black.
  • Two Federation ships happen to arrive to destroy ‘Space Debris Number 709’ just at the exact moment Avon and the Scorpio are there.  Bit of a coincidence, that.
  • Where’s Mansha’s mother?

b7-14Notable Lines:
Orac: ‘What you see is the remains of a Federation space station.  It was partially destroyed in the atomic wars.  Now classified as space debris.’

Special Sound:
‘AHHRRGH!’ / ‘SHTAANGG!’ – Soolin shoots a man.

‘NNNGHH!’ / ‘UURGGHH…!’ – Soolin and Avon find an explosion.

Closing words:
Avon: ‘You came within an inch of losing your lives… but this time you will be permitted to live.  We’ll land you on an open planet somewhere on our route…’

Aftermath:
A bit of a change for the strip.  The derelict station gives a little sense of history, but even so, there’s not much meat here.  Mansha and her father have too much, ‘I pray you still can, Father’-type of dialogue.  Artwork is as variable as you’d expect from Mick Austin – all the proportions are astray but there’s a lot of fiddly detail.


Mutoid

Winter Special 1982

Opening words:
‘I was born on a planet called ’Prime, a foul and loathsome place…’

Story:
A mutoid, Saria, tells her story.  Born on Gauda Prime, she was inducted into the Federation, living on blood supplements; trained as a killer.  She took part in many Federation missions, searching for Avalon alongside Space Commander Travis.  She survived the intergalactic war, fought against aliens, then sided with them.  The aliens restored her humanity, give her back her life, and after their defeat, left her on the planet Xenon.  There she met an ageless salvager, Dorian.  Dorian arrives back one day with the ex-crew of the Liberator.  Saria is Soolin…

Incoming Data:

  • The story serves to show that the mutoid in Project Avalon, here named Saria, was actually Soolin.  Both were played by Glynis Barber.
  • Soolin’s gunslinging abilities are partly a result of her dedicated Federation training.
  • Mutoisation, as it’s known, is reversible, but only with advanced tachnology.
  • The sequence where Soolin faces off at an airlock while the aliens arrive is fantastic, as she stands on guard, the door blasts in, and inside… it’s the Daleks!
  • Yes, the Daleks.  This is the only Blakes 7 story to follow the original plan that the Andromedan aliens were the Daleks, though we only see them in the flashback on page 4.
  • Saria sides with the Daleks on condition that they give her back her humanity.  She remembers her original name.
  • Saria’s mutoid costume is extremely tight.
  • Saria tells her story to Servalan, and is revealed to be Soolin dressing in her old mutoid clothing in order to capture Servalan.  The plan fails, when Servalan hits her with her plastic mutoid wig.
  • It’s implied that the mutoisation technology is directly the work of Servalan.

Notable Lines:
‘Exterminate the humans!’

Special Sound:
‘PasHraakkkk!’ – the airlock door explodes into pieces.

‘Kraaaaaaaakak!’ – Soolin, gunslinger, shoots at Servalan.

Closing words:
‘She made me like this… she deceived me… she’s Servalan… and I’m Soolin…’

Aftermath:
An entire story created pointlessly to show that Glynis Barber’s two roles were actually as the same character.  A dodgy load of fanwank, with the Daleks thoughtlessly thrown in too.  Whoever came up with this obvious load of terrible rubbish must be a pathetic, sad little twat sitting in his living room with a bottle of scotch and some toast; a bored writer who can’t think of anything more interesting, perhaps a man who was utterly tired of Blakes 7 comic strips by this point.  The artwork’s non-existent in this badly made-up story.


Overboard

Issue 15

Writer: Ken Armstrong
Artist: Mick Austin
Letter: John Aldritch
Editor: Bernie Jaye

Opening words:
‘Sector Fifteen – star system Cryno Callus – a shattering impact rocks Scorpio…’

Story:
Scorpio’s outer hull is penetrated by a meteorite.  Avon and Vila go outside the ship to fix it, but Vila is knocked into the gravity well of a planet…

Incoming Data:

  • The first panel shows something wrong with Scoprio, with the dialogue: ‘Alert – alert outer hall penetrated!’  We guess it’s meant to say ‘outer hull penetrated.
  • Rantogen-charged meteorites hit Scorpio.  As rantogen absorbs radar waves, Slave doesn’t spot the problem.
  • A metoerite knocks Avon and Vila from the hull of the ship, where they were fixing the hull penetration.  Dayna puts on a spacesuit and teleports into space to help them.
  • Avon has to throw a teleport bracelet to Vila, in space, for him to catch and wear.  Vila misses it.
  • Avon says he has no friends.  He’s trying to be cool, but: awww.
  • Vila gets dragged down into a planet’s gravity well, and Avon decides to save his life, apparently because he might be useful to the mission.  We reckon he really likes his crazy antics.

Notable Lines:
Avon: ‘No!  It’s bad enough losing one crewmember without the rest behaving like lemmings!’

Vila, being dragged down by a planet’s gravity: ‘Th-the heat…!  It… it’s starting.  Curse you, Avon!  You’ve finally killed me!’

b7-15Special Sound:
‘AAAAAH!’ – what you’d say if a meteorite hit you when you were fettling the exterior hull of your spaceship.

Closing words:
‘Avon risked his life for me.  I owe him a lot!’

‘You owe me the price of a bracelet.  Next time catch it!’

Aftermath:
A bit of fluff, but it’s nice to see Vila acting as the damsel in distress, and Avon pretending to be all macho by leaving him, then risking his life to save Vila anyway.


Debris

Issue 16

Art: Phil Gascoine
Script: Paul Neary
Letters: John Aldritch
Editor: Bernie Jaye

Opening words:
‘The starship Scorpio edge between the drifting debris of a shattered moon… a moon that it destroyed some months before…’

Story:
The Scorpio returns to the location of the Federation’s first attempt at creating a ‘computer-planet’, called Federac.  The ship destoryed the planet six months ago, leaving only an asteroid belt, but as Avon and Vila collect pieces of the computer for use aboard ship, it becomes clear that something of Federac has survived.

Incoming Data:

  • The story has no title in the strip itself, only on the magazine contents page.b7-16
  • The plot of the last issue is that Avon and Vila are outside of the ship when Vila gets knocked away and dragged down to the surface of the planet.  Dayna dons a spacesuit to go and rescue them both.  The plot of this issue is that Avon and Vila are outside of the ship when Vila gets knocked away and dragged down to the surface of the planet.  Dayna dons a spacesuit to go and rescue them both.
  • It’s the same story.
  • But then it diverges into some nonsense about Federac, the sentient computer world, who was confounded by the Scorpio crew six months earlier.
  • Turns out that the Scorpio crew destroyed the Federation’s first attempt at creating a computer world six months ago, but the surviving consciousness hypnotised them into returning.  It wants revenge, as it explains immediately before it is defeated.
  • ‘Flash of light’ is rendered as ‘flask of light’.
  • The story is apparently resolved in the last panel, but we’ve read it twice and still can’t be certain.  It seems Avon somehow got Slave to reverse hypnotise Federac, and tell the computer consciousness to fly to Alpha Centauri, or something.  It’s all a bit sudden.

Notable Lines:
Federac: ‘They gave me logic… reason, and even… personality… I awoke, there in space, bright shiny and new, my wisdom growing as they connected in my circuits… and then… you came…’

Special Sound:
Federac’s dialogue is punctuated with lots of ‘skpssf’ and ‘skrppss’ sounds, indicating he’s a computer.

Closing words:
‘There is rejoicing from all but one man… who chooses to ponder the passing of a once great intellect.’

Aftermath:
A load of repetitive nonsense.  Last issue’s story is repeated and extended with some duff about a thinking computer who wants revenge, and the danger is resolved almost immediately.  Too much of the story is told in narrative captions.  Poor.


Hunted

Issue 17

Art: Phil Gascoine
Script: Paul Neary
Letters: John Aldritch
Editor: Bernie Jaye

Opening words:
‘Maximum security was in force at Servalan’s outer sector security headquarters on Paalus Major.’

Story:
Servalan announces she will be alone without escort on the planet Orlan Four.  Both a group of dangerous rebels and the Scorpio crew are waiting for her.  But it is a trap…

Incoming Data:

  • Servalan’s off on holiday.
  • Servalan’s response to the security problems she’s experiences is to go away on her own without any guards, so no-one knows where she is.  This turns out to be a trap for the rebels, but why would they fall for it?
  • The rebels attack Scorpio because they think it’s Servalan’s ship.  Nobheads.
  • Scorpio can’t boost free from dragonite lines attached to its hull.
  • Fortunately, the attack by Servalan frees Scorpio, which escapes.

Notable Lines:
We like the rebel leader’s gung-ho optimistic ‘Blast her!  Kill Servalan before she can escape!’

b7-17Special Sound:
‘No… No..!  EEEECHH..!’ – The sound of a spaceship shooting into a crowd of rebels.

Closing words:
Servalan: ‘He’s turned the hunter into the hunted but one day… Avon… one day I’ll get you!  I promise!’

Aftermath:
A basic ‘Servalan sets a trap for some rebels’ story, in which a group of people we’ve never heard of before get killed and the Scorpio crew escape.  We wish Valkac would come back.


Hunger

Issue 18

Art: Phil Gascoine
Script: Peal Neary
Letterer: John Aldritch
Editor: Bernie Jaye

Opening words:
‘On one of the main space fleet convoy routes, Scorpio powered in on a carefully prepared attack plan…’

Story:
Desperate for supplies, Scorpio atacks a food transport ship.  The ship’s crew jettison in escape pods and blow up the ship.  Scorpio instead uses fake identification to land on the Federation’s main supply planet and steal a cargo, which proves to be Servalan’s…

Incoming Data:

  • Vila spends the whole issue complaining about food.b7-18
  • Desperate for food, Avon orders Orac to locate the closest ‘agri-planet’.
  • The food that the crew decide to steal happens to be Servalan’s personal supply, which we’re told she usually collects in person.
  • The dialogue has the supply master telling Tarrant to ‘put your thumbprint on the order form here’ but the image shows him signing his name.
  • Servalan recognises the Scorpio on her screen when she is told it is picking up her cargo, and orders the crew’s capture.
  • The last shot is pure Blakes 7 – the crew sitting around with raised glasses and smiles, eating Servalan’s rations heartily.

Notable Lines:
Avon, being hard: ‘This is the Scorpio.  It is pointless trying to escape.  We have the capability of destroying you immediately.’

Servalan, being hard: ‘Silence!  You’ve humiliated me and the price of that is death!  I hope the food chokes you, Avon!’

Special Sound:
‘SHTOOOOMMM’ – The self-destruct system of a Federation supply transport engages.

Closing words
Avon: ‘I give you a toast.  Servalan – may she always go hungry!’

Aftermath:
An interesting story in which the crew steal Servalan’s dinner.


Target Practice

Issue 19

Opening words:
Tarrant: ‘They’re taking no evasive action, Avon.  Do you reckon it’s worth attacking?’

Story:
Chasing a Federation ship, Scorpio is attacked by another ship testing a new weapon.  The Scorpio is downed, underwater, while Servalan’s crew look search the crash area…

Incoming Data:

  • This issue is another revolving around a dangerous new form of weaponry, the charged particle cannon.  It downs the Scorpio and destroys the ship it is chasing.
  • Deprived of power, Avon saves the Scorpio by diverting power held by Orac.  How much energy does Orac use?  Enough to power a spaceship?  Really?b7-19
  • Scorpio crashes and comes to rest undewater.  Tons of bubbles are shown coming from it, suggesting that it isn’t airtight.  Why would it need to be?  Oh yeah.  Space.
  • Servalan’s crew is testing out the particle cannon, and Servalan herself, once again, recognises the Scorpio and orders its crash site to be searched.
  • Servalan slaps the mission Commander when she learns he has tested the cannon without her permission, then tells him straight after he will be a rich man if it is the Scorpio he fired upon.  She’s a moody cow.
  • After Scorpio lands underwater, most of the interior shots are drawn at an odd angle or with tilted frames, showing it has crashed on an uneven surface.

Notable Lines:
Vila: ‘This is the end of the line, Avon!  We’re stuck in this submerged coffin with no power and no way out.  We’ve got to throw ourselves on Servalan’s mercy.’

Special Sound:
‘AAAHHRGH!’ – unspecified Scorpio crewmember as the ship crashes into water.

Closing words:
‘Servalan has no mercy, Vila, and she doesn’t want our surrender.  Servalan only wants one thing – and that’s to see us dead!’

Part 2 – Next month!

Aftermath:
Ooh, a two-part story!  That was unexpected.  This first half is good, with the Scorpio stranded underwater being a nice set-up for a bit of enclosed danger.   Let’s see where it goes…


Target Practice – Conclusion

Issue 20

Story: Ken Armstrong
Art: Phil Gascoine
Letterer: John Aldritch
Editor: Bernie Jaye

Opening words:
‘Having been shot down by a new, secret Federation weapon, Scorpio and its crew lie trapped underwater on the planet Signatum Major.  Preparing to complete their destruction, Servalan moves in for the kill…

Story:
The crew swim out from Scorpio to the surface, where they are captured.  Avon stays onboard the ship with Orac, and as the ship is lifted from the ocean floor, takes his chance to kill some Federation troops and disguise himself as one of them.  Then he goes to rescue the others from Servalan’s ship…

Incoming Data:

  • Are we not finished with these damn comics yet?
  • Servalan orders Scorpio to be raised from the ocean depths because she needs to see Avon’s body for herself.  Not to get Orac or anything.b7-20
  • The particle cannon can terminate all mechancial and electrical functions.
  • Avon stalks several of the Federation troops on the recovered Scorpio, picking them off one by one.
  • Once Orac is stolen, Avon disguises himself as a Federation guard to get on board Servalan’s ship.
  • The Scorpio crew (sans Avon) are lined up for execution by firing squad, until Avon fires the particle cannon at the guards’ guns.
  • At the end of the story, as Avon resuces the crew, Orac, and destroys the particle cannon, one of the crew (it’s not clear who) says, ‘That’s put Servalan’s take-over of the universe back a few years!’  Let’s hope they’re being consciously over-dramatic.

Notable Lines:
Servalan: ‘Pah!  Take them away.  They will be executed this afternoon.’  Do it now, stupid!

Special Sound:
Silent as the grave.  Your grave.

Closing words:
Avon: ‘She doesn’t need a cannon to create havoc.  No more than ever she’ll want us dead.  We’ve only a bought a little time.’

Aftermath:
There wasn’t really enough plot for a two-part story.  It would have been much better had they had the Federation troopers wandering around Scorpio as Avon picked them off as the full story, whacking the tension up.  Instead, it’s the usual run-around of disguises, melodramatic curses and an explosion at the end.  Never mind, not many issues left.


Picture Strip

Issue 21

Opening words:
Erm…

Story:
Slight.

Incoming Data:

  • Hang on, the cover of this issue says the comic features a ‘picture strip’.  But there isn’t one.
  • There’s not one in Issue 22 either.
  • Best move on to Issue 23 then.

Notable Lines:
None.

Special Sound:
None.

Closing words:
None.

Aftermath:
Disappointing.


The Omen 

Issue 23

Art: Phil Gascoine
Script: Ken Armstong
Letters: John Aldritch
Editor: Bernie Jaye

Opening words:
Federation Trooper: ‘Death… Death…!’

Story:
Avon wakes from a nightmare involving Federation troops and the voice of Blake.  Attacked by Federation ships, the Scorpio attempts to spin out of their range, somehow causing them to pass through time.  Avon gets more visions of a scarred and portentous Blake, warning him of some danger to come…

Incoming Data:

  • Despite the title of this strip, there are no demon children, and David Warner’s head doesn’t come off.b7-23
  • Blake!  It’s Blake.  His first appearance in the comic strip, and we’re not making this one up, either.
  • The story begins with Avon dreaming about death.  He sees Federation guards coming for him, then Blake appears and Avon wakes up screaming.  It’s gone all psychological.
  • Avon says he’s had dreams about Blake before.
  • When he hears Avon calling out in his sleep, Tarrant enters Avon’s bedroom and wakes him up.  We reckon he’s in there all the time.  Any excuse.
  • Hang on, where exactly is Avon sleeping on the Scorpio?  The bunks are all on the pressurised flight deck, aren’t they?  So why has Avon got a bedroom?
  • When attempting to drive Scoprio down into a spin, Orac claims ‘the time-related continuum would be destabilised’.  By flying in circles?  What is this, Superman: The Movie?
  • Phil Gascoine can’t draw the back end of Scorpio.  We’d have mentioned it earlier but we were hoping he’d get better.
  • When the ship is spinning through time, Avon gets another vision of Blake (the Season D version, with life jacket and scar) who tells Avon they will meet soon, and it doesn’t sound like the meeting will have a happy ending…

Notable Lines:
‘Suffer or Die, Tarrant!  That’s the choice!’  You can probably guess who said this.

Blake: ‘You’re coming Avon, I told you you would…  It had to be, Avon.  But if only you’d known.  If only…’

Special Sound:
‘SHTANNNG!’ – a Federation ship flies into a delay charge in space.

Closing words:
Avon: ‘Back…?  Xenon…?  Ah, yes.  That’s where we’re going.  At least for the time being…  Then we have another appointment to keep.  One from which there seems no escape…’

Aftermath:
Essentially the standard ‘flying around in space being chased by Federation ships’, this story is raised above others by the appearance of Blake in Avon’s mind, calling him to a meeting.  The story basically exists to set up the last episode of the television series, and does work nicely.  Presumably it fits late in Season D, sometime before Warlord.  As the last episode of the strip (at least for twelve years), it does round off the series well, with the inevitability of impending danger.  And at least the strip manages to get Servalan into the last episode, which is more than the series did.


Blockade

Winter Special 1995

Script: Gareth Roberts
Art: Martin Geraghty
Letters: Gary Gilbert
Editor: Gary Russell

Opening words:
Zen: ‘Information.  Spacecraft leaving atmosphere of planet Konestar.  On direct bearing, one thousand spacials.’

Story:
The Liberator discovers a Federation medical ship in space.  Offering to take them supplies, Blake, Cally and Jenna teleport onboard.  But is the ship hiding something…?

Incoming Data:

  • This strip was in the one-off Blakes 7 Winter Special 1995, with a brand new creative crew.  The strip is set on the Liberator, during Jenna’s time.  Gan doesn’t appear, but Orac does.  Late Season B then.
  • Twelve years on, and this feels like Blakes 7.  This is mainly because they’ve got all the terminology right, and use them like emblematic totems of the series.  On the first page we get references to Zen saying ‘Information’, spacials, neutron blasters, ‘put it on the main screen, Jenna’, and other general B7 atmosphere.
  • Easily the best artwork in a Blakes 7 strip, Martin Geraghty understands the series, and makes it truly epic and ambitious.
  • There’s a panel showing Federation guards killing rebels on page 4, which is horrific, with blood flying out of holes in a man’s chest as he is shot.
  • Avon and Vila bicker incessantly.
  • Geraghty seems to have lots of fun drawing Jenna and Cally’s breasts.
  • When Blake kills Harvik, the Federation agent on the ship, his gun shoots out a laser-beam ray effect, which is new.
  • The ending features the Liberator destroying a medical ship which is about to fire on them, killing its innocent crew and patients.  It seems a bit of an over-exaggeration, when they could have just flown away or something.
  • After some investigation of the ship, it turns out the ship was a trap and Avon was right all along.  Jings, this is Blakes 7.

Notable Lines:
Vila: ‘Come on, Avon.  Lighten up.  Blake can look after himself.’
Avon: ‘Of that I have no doubt.  But as we know, Vila, he is not very good at looking after other people.’

Vila: ‘Do as the man says, Orac.  Er… is there anything I can do, Avon?’
Avon: ‘Not that I’ve noticed.’
Avon: ‘Blake’s recklessness has got us in trouble before.’
Cally: ‘The word you’re searching for is ‘bravery’.’
Avon: ‘Well now, the word I was thinking of was ‘stupidity’.’

b7-1995

Special Sound:
‘KAAA-BOOOMM!’ – The medical ship explodes.

Closing words:
Blake: ‘And Avon – thank you for bringing me back.  You could have left me over there.  You surprised me.’
Avon: ‘I surprised myself.’

Aftermath:
After everything that has come before, this is smashing.  The dialogue is written for the characters, and their interactions are spot on.  The plot is slight, and for the first Blakes 7 strip in twelve years, they might have been inclined to do something more important, but it works, and it’s drawn gorgeously.  The best strip in this section, which seems, on reflection, like a good place to end.

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