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Century 21 Volume 2: Invasion In The 21st Century

01/06/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Invasion In The 21st Century in the USA - or Buy Invasion In The 21st Century in the UK

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pub: Reynolds & Hearn. 160 page softcover. 9.96 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 978-1-905287-94-9.

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My original plan was to review the first volume of these TV21 story reprints and request the next for review but looking at how fast the second volume is selling out, wanted to get a first edition. I'm hoping publishers Reynolds & Hearn, are already planning second editions of both these volumes, not to mention further reprints.

Although it would be doubtful to get permission to reprint 'The Daleks' comicstrip without paying a lot of lucre to the Terry Nation Estate, there's certainly an argument to reprint the 'Agent 21' material which has been sorely over-looked from these comics over the years, seeing all this material again.

What we have in this volume is the next sequence in the 'Fireball XL-5' story, 'The Ant Invasion' where two villains from a covert space station enlarge animals on Earth in what has to be one of artist Mike Noble's most engaging painted stories and a demonstration of how good an animal painter he is. The ant invasion itself is on par with 'Them!' for being scary.

The second 'Fireball XL-5' story, Planet Of Fire, has the crew in the middle of an interplanetary conflict between the shell-headed inhabitants of Styrax and the lava-based inhabitants of Volkanos. As long as you don't question why metals don't melt on the latter's planet, this is another fantastic romp, again painted by Mike Noble. I'm emphasising him a lot because unlike the Embletons and Frank Bellamy, his star has remained under-stated and being the only one left alive really does deserve your respect.

The third 'Fireball XL-5' story, 'The Silent Colony', was painted by Don Lawrence. He's the chap who did 'The Trigon Empire' if the same sounds familiar. By this time in TV21, 'XL5' was down to one page on the back cover. Oddly, the crew were more plastic than the other figures he did. Sticking with the theme of this book, these aliens are slowly taking out human colonists mistakenly believing they had been enslaving their people.

There is only one 'Stingray' story but the 'Monster Weed Menace' painted by Ron Embleton is one of the classics when a growth product designed for use off planet crashes into the ocean. The WASPs aren't the only people who retrieve them but also Titan who plans to wipe out the terrestrials and the accursed Tempest.

There are three 'Thunderbirds' stories, two illustrated by Frank Bellamy and one from the annual by Ron Turner. If you ever wondered why the artwork in the annuals was rarely on par with comics it's largely because commissions were often at short notice with tight deadlines. With the cream of the talent too busy on the regular comicbook, the standards were not as one would expect. Of the three stories, Bellamy's art is the most eye-catching.

'Zero-X', the spin-off from 'Thunderbirds', is represented by one story, 'Prisoners Of The Eye-Leaves' where parasitic creatures on a new odd-looking planet take over its crew. If you thought 'Alien' was creeping, see what artist Mike Noble did with these babies in 1969.

The 'Lady Penelope' story 'The Androids Of London Affair' has her ladyship and Parker against her arch-nemesis Mr. Steelman. This time, he's not using his eerie robot counter-part but a new generation of female androids as he steals money to go towards raising his army. I hope the publishers get around to reprinting her early TV21 tales before she moved over to her own comic. Much of the girl's comics from the 1960s were, shall we say, rather twee. Penelope was the first serious British action comicstrip with a leading adult female and it's a testament to her popularity that she did as well as she did.

The 'Captain Scarlet' story starts off with the Mysterons defeated. A real cunning plan to remove Spectrum's purpose in existing any more and are disbanded. What happens next would be a real spoiler but is an interesting look at consequences. Inadvertently, it also points out an obvious flaw of putting all the other series around in the same time period, especially 'Agent 21' which is actually set on Mars, in that why can't they put a final stop to the Mysterons before they expanded out into the universe.

I hope the success of these two volumes will encourage publishers Reynolds & Hearn to release more of these books. TV21, as I've already pointed out, had a remarkable gallery of talent that needs to be shown not only again to those of us who read it in the 60s but to the modern generation who are into these series.

GF Willmetts

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