01/12/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Titan Books. 128 page hardback graphic novel. Price: £16.99 (UK), $19.95 (US), $22.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84856-598-9.
check out website: www.titanbooks.com
At last, a second volume of Daily Express Science Fiction newspaper strip 'Jeff Hawke'. It follows the first volume, 'Overlord', so there is some continuity although it does make you wonder what happened to the first thirteen stories in the checklist, just in case you think you've missed a couple volumes.
Jeff Hawke is a scientist and adventurer in the early 1990s. Before you say that's not very scientific, I concede to writer Sydney Jordan's assertion in his introduction that when he wrote the series in the early 60s, thirty years ahead in time seemed a long way off.
In the first story, 'Pastmaster', Hawke is in a moonbase with a lunar team to greet its designer, Sir Denis Hayward, on his first visit. The ethereal appearance of Ap Tiryns, a time traveller explaining the complications of causality persuades Hayward to make a time travel device after he renders Hawke and the others unconscious. Hawke recovers and with the assistance of Ni Ffarla, a time traveller policewoman, tries to undo the damage. This is a superbly depicted story, aided by the Express affording artist Willie Patterson an opportunity to use real people a'la Dan Dare to get realistic likenesses.
'The Immortal Toys' is a pursuit of the origin of a dragonfly piece of jewellery that comes to life when charged with electricity by flicking a light switch near it. The discovery that its part of a selection called shiva-jewels held in the British Museum has Hawke and archaeologist Sir Theobald Rollo chasing down its source with deaf guide Peters to Burma and a hidden cavern. The story wouldn't be out of place in Indiana Jones territory with clearly depicted characterisation and plot twists.
'The Ambassadors' are actually two aliens that resemble terrestrial owls who are out to meet the most intelligent species on Earth. Unfortunately, the birdlife is dumb and they have to make do with humans instead. This is a brilliant skit of observation and lost opportunity and even more remarkable that it was written in 1962. The reactions of the police and media wouldn't have changed much if it had been written today.
'The Gamesman' has Hawke and his pal, Mac, hijacked with a bunch of humanoid aliens of mixed skills as playthings on a miniscule world for Ros-Lin by the alien Gameman. Before things get on their way, the Gamesman double-crosses Ros-Lin and traps him there as well. The bunch of them find they have to survive against the resident inhabitants and that most metal crumbles to their touch. I should point out that this story is less the most dangerous game and more like something like 'Fantasy Island' in that they all find something different here.
'A Test Case' has three not so intelligent, by their tutor's standards, alien students on a field course to raise the intelligence of an alien species to knowledge level and they choose Earth. Unfortunately, they only select one person, physicist Raymond Parker with dire consequences as he gets power-mad and they can't undo the problem. If anything, Jeff Hawke's presence is actually very much an observer to the main action which is very British.
Considering the age of these stories, 'Jeff Hawke' holds up remarkably well. The art is sharp and clean and they are cracking stories. A must read and savour. The book series is only just starting, so don't miss out.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA