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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Space Ace volume 5

It's always a pleasure to receive the latest volume of Space Ace and John Lawrence must be heartily congratulated for keeping his collections of Ron Turner's 'Space Ace' going and for maintaining the quality of each full-colour issue. The quality is a reflection of John's undying enthusiasm for Ron's work and we're lucky to be able to be able to share that enthusiasm in magazine format!

The fifth volume (October 2015) contains another 6-part serial combined into one full-length, 24-page story. 'The Nine-Bomb Menace' is a follow-up to the previous volume's 'The Island Universe' storyline, and we will be discovering what happened to the Methanons, the aliens from the earlier tale whose home planet Space Ace had destroyed with their own planet-busting bomb.

As you might guess from the title, there is something of a thematic continuation in this latest story. The Discovery is making its way to Libra, a new planet that has been discovered on the outer limits of the solar system, with Space Ace commanding the escort vehicles also making the journey.

As the huge spaceship descends into the atmosphere, it is attacked. A space battle ensues with all but one of the enemy craft destroyed, which Ace takes care of by ramming it. Aboard the wreckage they find a robot pilot.

The Discovery is ordered back to earth but, as Ace nears the planet, the robot awakes and attacks; Ace needs to keep the robot intact if he's to find out anything about the natives of Libra, and in subduing the robot answers one of the mysteries of the age: do robot antennae have Edison screw or bayonet fittings?

Questioning the robot, the earthmen discover that Libra has been taken over by the Methanons and a nine-part bomb is to be used to destroy the inhabited planets, leaving the Sun to Libra. Earth puts together a plan of action: to land on the dark side of the invading planet and make an overland sortie to the bomb sight and disable the weapon.

You can see strong reflections of the (then recently fought) Second World War in the command structure and action in Space Ace that date the story. But reading Space Ace in 2015, sixty years after this story's first appearance in Lone Star, is about the fun to be found in its storyline and the simplicity of its conflict.

John Ridgway deserves a word of praise for his efforts in turning the original black & white art into seamless colour, recapturing the essence of Turner's old Vargo Statten covers. Oddly, this strip appeared at a time when Turner thought that science fiction was losing  traction with publishers; the SF paperback boom had come to an end, as the cheap paperback firms disappeared; his Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comic had faded away after only six issues and even his regular post on Rick Random was not safe. To counter this, Turner poured every effort into Space Ace in the hope that it would survive.

And survive he did, as proven by the second story this issue, 'Space Ace and the Magnetic Meteor', which appeared two years later. The issue also includes extracts from John's conversations with Turner, offering some interesting insights into the main story, and a lively letters column.

You can get hold of this latest volume for £8.95 (UK) or £14.00 (Overseas) including p&p — and that's pretty much at cost, I can assure you — with payments through Paypal via spaceace.54 AT virginmedia.com or by cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB.

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