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Monday, February 12, 2018

Jeff Hawke's Cosmos v10 no3 (January 2018)

What a long, strange trip it has been, reading through the complete set of Jeff Hawke stories. The early issues of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos jumped around a little, reprinting some of the earliest yarns from the 1950s alongside what many consider the classic era of Hawke's run in the 1960s. For the past couple of years, the magazine has been reprinting the later Jeff McLane tales in chronological order. And this month we have reached the penultimate issue, with only four more tales to go.

William Rudling deserves a huge round of applause for bringing one of the best of all British science fiction strips back into print. I was very proud to have been a contributor from the beginning in 2003, writing a series on old SF strips from the 1950s before I ran out of steam a couple of years later (that and a full-time job with Look & Learn!). William has been indefatigable, having now published thirty issues plus three specials.

This penultimate issue contains two long Lance McLane (or Jeff Hawke as they were in syndication) stories: "Even Death May Die" and "Virus". The first is a blend of science fiction and horror, beginning with the discovery of an old space shuttle in earth orbit, now a tomb for its crew. Scavengers board the derelict, accidentally opening up a way for the ancient gods to return. With his partner left on board the shuttle, one of the junkers makes it to the Spacewheel and a rescue ship is sent. Meanwhile, Jeff and Fortuna are aboard the Spacewheel and when Fortuna scans the mind of the injured, escaped space-scrap merchant, she witnesses a scene of Cthuluian terror.

In "Virus", Fortuna feels the urge to return to the asteroid where she was found by Hawke. At the same time, scouting parties are exploring the remains of London, checking the likes of hospitals for dangerous leaks of bio-hazards or radiation, the result of years under ice. On the asteroid that she is named after, the android Fortuna sees one of her creators, a Grand Magician of Aurigae, while on Earth, medical supplies are brought  to Moonbase by a pilot who has been accidentally exposed to... something.

As always, the quality of storytelling is superb and it's a sign of its quality that the strip was able to jump from Lovecraftian horror to medical drama and elsewhere—wherever the story demanded.

The stories are backed-up here with copious notes by Duncan Lunan, who also pens astronomical features, including the final episode of "Space Notes".

Next: Jeff Hawke's Cosmos: The Epilogue, which will contain the final four stories, along with Lunan's "Hawke Notes", extra articles and a colour section. It will be priced £14. The Jeff Hawke Club will continue to publish a newsletter and supply back-issues. More details next time.

Meanwhile, the last few issues are available on subscription: £26 for three issues here in the UK and £34/38/41 for overseas subscribers, payable in a variety of ways. You can find more details (and back issues) at the new Jeff Hawke Club web page or by contacting william AT williamrudling.co.uk. 

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