Monday, 5 March 2018


Before Judge Dredd caught on, the breakout star of 2000AD was John Probe, a super spy better known as M.A.C.H 1. The dots mean it's an acronym, and by gad it's a clunky one, as John Probe is a Man Activated by Compu Hyper-power.... 1! This means that because he's got a computer in his brain controlling his body he has the strength of 50 men and can run at 120mph among other things. So exciting was he that editor Tharg would regularly tell readers that 'Only an idiot would copy a superman like M.A.C.H 1', just in case kids tried to, I don't know, assassinate a foreign dictator or something.

Consisting of 200 pages of mainly self contained episodes, The John Probe Mission Files certainly represent good value, but after having my rose tinted specs pissed on by Ant Wars I was concerned that my memories or the strip might be blurred by 40 off years of trying (and failing) to grow up. Certainly, there's plenty of talent contained within, from writers Pat Mills (also co creator), John Wagner and Steve Macmanus to artists Enio (the other co craetor), Massimo Bellardinelli and John Cooper. Mostly the art is of a decent standard, only falling short a few times. Script wise it's all very entertaining, and John Probe jets around the world killing people left, right and centre and visiting such inetersting made up countries like Irania and Turkistan. It's pretty cheesy, sure, and pretty brutal stuff that I loved as a kid. Surprisingly, it's held up pretty well, and I still heard a little voice in my head go 'Yeah!' as John Probe cried 'Take that Laser tank!'.

As well as the stories from the weekly, there's a few strips from annuals and summer special that aren't too bad, and we also get some color pages of 2000AD covers featuring the strip, including some very nice early work from Brian Bolland. M.A.C.H 1 is definitely one of those 'of it's time' strips, but when taken as a simple, exciting adventure strip it still has the capacity to entertain, as long as you don't sit and think about the physical impossibilities that litter every story. In the end, M.A.C.H 1 may not be the best story the comic ever had, but you can see why it captivated a young audience back in the late 70s, and I'm sure it will have the same effect if shown to today's kids, though you might have to explain to them what strange things like a 'video cassette' are...

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