Sunday, January 02, 2022

Space Ace Special Edition (December 2021)

John Lawrence has done everyone a great service by reprinting dozens of stories featuring Ron Turner's long-lost Space Ace over the past few years, newly coloured by John Ridgway which brings them to remarkable life for a modern audience.

It has been a while since the last issue — which was, in fact, billed as the final issue — but Lawrence has managed to find a few more stories that are worth rescuing from obscurity. To do this he has employed the Frankenstein surgery successfully used in earlier issues to seamlessly bring together elements of three stories to make a new 21-page tale. This is the centrepiece of this new Special Edition of Space Ace, 'Space Ace and The Search', in which Ace and his sidekick, Bill Crag, crash into a dome that mysteriously appears in their path.

Abandoning their spaceship, Ace and Bill find an airlock and enter, to find the dome contains a pleasant eco-system of water and trees, and friendly natives who explain that they are fleeing from a would-be dictator, the power-made Zalkar. The Earthmen help return the dome to Gylon, but before Space Patrol can rescue them, the newly arrived dome is spotted by one of Zalkar's scouts.

After dispatching the scout ship, the arrival of the Peace Patrol allows Ace and Bill to search the neighbouring planets for Zalkar. On the first they find a race living on flying islands suffering from near starvation while Zalkar drills for minerals; on the second they join a rebel group and finally face Zalkar.

While the serialised tales of earlier issues were the most smartly plotted yarns of Space Ace's career, this new, long story thunders along and makes for a satisfying conclusion to the current volume. You'll barely see the joins.

Before that there are two shorter stories, 'The Plot', the title referring to a planned hostile takeover of Kantor and all the planets in its system, and 'Space Ace & the Kidnappers', about the kidnapping of the Premier of the United Planets Organisation as he heads for Mars City. One is an early tale, the other one of Turner's last featuring the character, but the artist had clearly not lost his enthusiasm for Space Ace.

John Lawrence has included two articles, on Turner's Practical Mechanics covers (1954-62) and his foray into cut-away drawings for Express Weekly (1956). Both feature illustrations many will not have seen before.

The long-promised collection of Ron Turner Tit-Bits comic strips is still promised, but John Lawrence has said that it is likely that another collection of vintage tales will appear first. I look forward to whatever he can rescue from Ron Turner's fantastic archives.

You can get hold of this latest volume of Space Ace for £9.95 UK, £13.50 Europe and £15.50 International, all prices including p&p, with payments through Paypal via spaceace.54 AT or by cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB.

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