Two classic British comics from 1978 are reprinted for the first time in this volume from Rebellion – Planet of the Damned, originally serialised in the first ten issues of Starlord, and Death Planet, from 2000 AD.
Planet of the Damned, initially scripted by Pat Mills before Alan Hebden took over under the pseudonym R. E. Wright (geddit?), gives a sci-fi take on the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle – a passenger jet falls through a rift in space to end up on the same remote planet, where all the Triangle’s other victims are stranded. They face off with an American fighter crew and a beached Nazi submarine, as well as the native ‘Ab-humans’, who look either like turds or phalluses, depending on which of the strip’s several artists is drawing them.
The story resorts to a lot of clichés and the dialogue drops any subtlety in favour of everyone spouting exposition – immediately after landing, a passenger who happens to be a sci-fi writer comes to the conclusion that they’ve arrived on a “co-existent world in another dimension” without even blinking. The most groanworthy element is the fact that female characters only ever show up a couple of panels before they’re killed horrifically – though, to his credit, Hebden expresses regret at this in his introduction to the book.
Despite its flaws, there’s enjoyment to be found in Planet of the Damned’s bombastic adventure – the pace with which it throws its characters into an unbelievable amount of weird and wonderful situations, makes it an entertaining enough diversion.
Death Planet, entirely written by Hebden and illustrated by César López Vera, is very similar in style, albeit more consistent and with slightly stronger characters. It sees a spaceship full of human colonists crash on a planet full of dangerously extreme climates – and from the title, you can guess what happens.
The story revolves around the conflict between spaceship captain Lorna Varn and chief colonist Richard Cory, whose ruthless approach to survival contrasts with her idealism. Varn was 2000 AD’s first female lead character, which represents some kind of step up from Planet of the Damned, even if she does screw up and require rescue a few too many times – comedically falling off an alien kangaroo is the low point for this supposed ‘ace spacer’.
Nevertheless, Death Planet is another slice of classic sci-fi, with a wide and imaginative variety of creatures and obstacles placed in the path of the desperate heroes. This volume is perhaps not for those who’ve grown up with the more sophisticated comics of today but will provide a fun blast from the past for retro 2000 AD fans.
PLANET OF THE DAMNED & DEATH PLANET / AUTHOR: PAT MILLS, ALAN HEBDEN / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: REBELLION / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 10TH