Original run: TV21 #150 – #154
Writer: Angus P. Allan
Artist: Ron Embleton
Captain Scarlet’s second TV21 adventure takes him across snow-laden mountains to barren deserts and wild jungles in an attempt to stop the Mysterons destroying the Observatory Network which monitors the Mars-based aliens’ every move. However, Captain Black (still clad in his Spectrum uniform?!?!) is hot on his trail, and deadly keen to stop Scarlet from ruining the Mysterons’ plans – which Black wouldn’t have to do anyway had the Mysterons not taken the time to tell Spectrum they were going to destroy the Observatory Network in the first place! Oh well…
“Observatory Network” has a great ‘race against time’ feel to it as Scarlet and Black continuously gain the upper hand against each other, flowing back and forth between one being in the lead and one behind, and vice-versa. At a mere five chapters long however, the ‘race against time’ aspect takes up a lot of the plot, so there isn’t much room for anything else to develop. Our last strip looking at Captain Scarlet, “Unity City”. has an epic nine-part span and gave readers one hell of an adventure. Here, there’s still just as much to enjoy, but far less time to enjoy it in.
However, there’s still a fine pace to this adventure – Allan’s script is full of action and has some enjoyable vigour in its execution. Visually, Ron Embleton’s artwork retains that smooth, streamlined appearance he put to good use in “Unity City”. The two of them fuse together effectively, and produce a snappy, entertaining comic strip that’s fairly faithful to the TV series.
The story’s five-part spread, with it’s wide reach of locations, means that “Observatory Network” has a somewhat annoyingly condensed sense of scale. The mountain-based observatories are often delegated to having to sit within the tiniest of panels, reducing the impact of the Mysertons’ threat somewhat.
But the story itself, perhaps borrowed somewhat from the TV series, as this wouldn’t be the first time Scarlet has tangled with the Mysterons when it comes to observatories (or did “Shadow of Fear” do the borrowing? This strip came out in December ’67, whilst “Shadow of Fear” would have to wait until February ’68), is fun in it’s own right. Seeing Scarlet having to take on lions and elephants is something we never saw on screen, and is itself a nice expansion of the TV series.
“Observatory Network” would make an enjoyably bog standard episode. Well, technically it did, with “Shadow of Fear”! That episode had a true sense of terror to it, leaving “Observatory Network” as perhaps a poor man’s answer to that particular episode. It’s still an enjoyable strip however, if somewhat pedestrian, and continued to cement Captain Scarlet’s adventures in TV21.
Have you read “Observatory Network”? Let us know in the comments section below!
You can read “Observatory Network” in Ravette’s ‘Captain Scarlet – Indestructible’ and Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 4′!