Tailgunner Jo #1 (September, 1988)
“The curve of binding energy”
Writer – Peter B. Gillis
Penciller – Tom Artis
Inker – Ty Templeton
Letterer – John Workman
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Barbara Randall
Cover Price: $1.25
Here’s a weird one… Tailgunner Jo. This bugger has been staring at me from the cheap-o bin for so long… and yet, I never picked it up… because, I thought I already had it! I’m sure my fellow quarter-bin hunters have similar stories… books we see so much, it’s almost impossible to consider that we don’t already have (at least one copy of) it in our personal libraries.
I picked up Jo a little while back. I had it in my stack, and quite honestly… forgot to put it back. When I got home I figured, hell… I’ll just throw it in my dupe box… but, as luck would have it… this one was new to me!
Let’s check it out!
We open with the fella from the cover. He stands before a mural depicting some movers and shakers from the 20th Cent… um, 20th Rivera/Orozco Revival Period. He is communicating with his daughter… Jo. It would appear he is doing so via a radio link. He is infiltrating a compound of some sort, and is wiring it to blow.
He heads out, and runs right into a fleet of drone patrollers. He tells his daughter that it’s about to go down… and moments later a patroller is struck down by a beam from our man’s cybernetic-shoulder-arms. It would appear that Jo is able to control those arms.
Well, one patroller down… many more to go. Our man flees down the road using a pipeline as his cover. He fires off a blast, hoping to cause an explosion… unfortunately, the pipe was full of sludge and not flammable goodness. He asks Jo to generate and download a video of him fleeing, to trick the patrols while he doubles back.
Safe-ish and sound-ish, Dad dismisses Jo back to play with her friends. And so she does… but here’s the thing, she appears to be in some sort of fantasy world full of princesses and talking teddy bears.
Jo heads to a castle to have a tea party with her estranged friend, Princess Anara. While there, Anara tells her about everything she’d missed during her absence. It’s a bunch of silliness… perfectly fitting for a young girl’s fantasy world.
Jo and Anara walk the castle grounds. They talk about a potential romantic entanglement for the princess, however, before they get too far into it Jo is called back to “work”. It is here that we learn that Jo and her father share a body, as she is surprised she felt no distress to their shared form.
Dad is chowing down on some pink mush. He just called Jo to apoligize for getting her wrapped up in all this. Jo is understanding, and thankfully angst-free. She seems happy to be part of something… Dad still feels pretty rotten, however… even to the point that he cries. I think it’s time for an origin story!
Dad takes us back, but before he does, it’s made clear that Jo’s fantasy world is of his own design. He thinks back to a job he and his wife were doing for a man named Allardyce and the Telemachus Telecommunications-Machinery Corporation. The project was in cybernetics, which was of interest to dad (Lars) and Maire (mom) because their child (Jo) was born with severe birth defects. She looks sort of like a Thalidomide baby… which is a result of a project the parents did for S’atrap Ltd. which exposed them to teratogens.
The couple toiled away on this new project… however, it would seem they were beaten to the punch by rival S’atrap and their Improv-X mass production cyborg package. Allardyce demanded immediate results, and wanted to test what they had so far with human subjects. Lars and Maire refused.
And so, Lars and Jo were in a “mysterious” car accident.
And, Allardyce convinces Maire to conduct a human test. It isn’t until it’s too late that she realizes that she just operated on her husband and child. Upon realization, she is punched in the back of the head.
Lars lets out a scream which shakes even the fantasy world. Jo speaks to him… and reaffirms that she loves him. With his head cleared, Lars hears some bogies overhead… Jo is already tracking them. They’re going to take down those responsible… together.
I know it’s not wise, or arteesty to judge a book by its cover… but, I must admit that that’s exactly what I had done with Tailgunner Jo. This cover looks… well, it doesn’t look good. I know art is subjective… but I think this bugger is almost aggressively ugly. It has no polish… and comes across (at least to me) as extremely low-rent. It’s probably why I never actually pulled the trigger and bought the thing! Imagine my surprise when I crack this sucker open and find myself really enjoying the art inside!
The art inside is a real treat… and fits the tone of the story incredibly well. This is a New Format book… so the coloring is a bit flat, which happened from time to time. It’s bright and colorful, don’t get me wrong… just feels and looks like something of its vintage. It suits the art (and tone) and so, I’d say it works.
The story we get here is pretty interesting. I’ve long been a fan of Peter Gillis… ever since my first encounter with Strikeforce: Morituri. I remember revisiting that gem during the semi-recent recession, while “temping”, and made the comparison between members of Strikeforce: Morituri and people who work temp-jobs. It’s like you sign on… but any day might be your last! We’d watch as our co-temp-workers would be “exed out” as projects wound down… and we would all wonder when our ticket would be punched… because we knew it would be! Anyhoo, he is really good at these futuristic sci-fi stories where it feels like all hope is lost.
While the concept… at least on the surface, is pretty well-trodden, there is enough novel about this to make it worth checking out. I mean, usually when I’m given the rebel against the evil corporation/government… I groan. I feel the strange addition of Jo’s fantasy-world may be just the thing to keep me engaged. The dynamic between Jo and her father is also welcome. It feels like in most cases where a couple occupy the same space, their relationship is almost always contentious. I appreciate Jo and her father getting along. We’re still early on in this miniseries, so your guess is as good as mine if this remains true throughout. We’ll probably check back in with this book somewhere down the line.
Overall… I enjoyed this. This first chapter gave enough action, exposition, and questions to keep me interested… and make me want to actually continue on with the series. This one, to my knowledge, is not available digitally… nor has it been collected. If you’re interested, you’re stuck with the singles… which, are ubiquitous cheap-o bin citizens. I think it’s worth the dive.
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