Badrock #1A

The series no one demanded! Well, except perhaps the American Dental Association…

I think at this point we can abandon the prospect of this coming out weekly during the summer. Maybe back in the fall again, but otherwise expect it more on a monthly basis. Hey, just like a good comic is supposed to come out!

I had considered running another Liefeld story at the one-year anniversary of the site, but what the hell, I wanted a non-DC or Marvel story for this one and I found a copy of this at my local comic store.

Badrock is the solo series of one of our zeroes from Youngblood and from what I hear the only decent character that came out of the lot. You wouldn’t think so from reading this book, though. Dark, poorly-drawn, and filled with confusing internal continuity throughout, it’s just another tale brought to us by our old pal Rob Liefeld.

Strangely enough, this story is marked with issue #1A. I saw #1B at the shop, too, with a different cover featuring our titular hero and a thinly-sculpted (though not in the chestular region) woman holding a huge gun along with him. I can only presume this to be a variant cover with them deciding that people would get confused with two covers on the same book, but it’s possible I’m wrong and they just made a comic that feels like it’s lasting forever stretch out into two issues marked #1.

You know, I’ve got to wonder who first came up with the idea of the ‘person(s) running at the reader with their mouths open’ cover, because honestly it is one of the most boring and static images I consistently seen in comics. Come on, give us something artsy or heroic, not something you expect to receive at a convention from an artist who’s drawn the same thing over and over to give away. In any case, as we can see, our hero Badrock, with Hulk-like proportions and a big strap over his shoulder with a button that just screams ‘I love Brian K. Vaughan!’ is running at the reader. What’s got my eyebrow raised, though, is the signature of both Liefeld and McFarlane [!] at the bottom, yet there’s nothing in the credits to indicate Todd McFarlane had anything to do with this comic or even the cover.

We open to a close-up shot of Badrock glaring out at the viewer. Get used to this shot folks – Rob really likes the close-ups in this one. There’s a web of red lines hanging out of his mouth and on his teeth that I’m sure was supposed to be blood, but just ends up looking like Badrock accidentally popped his gum and its hanging out of his mouth. “Y’know, there’s this scene in just about every action movie where the hero says to himself–” Boy, I need a new agent? ““How did I ever get myself into this mess?” As clichés go, it’s a pretty common one. But y’know what? If I was in one of those movies right now, this would be that scene…” And we’d all be asking for refunds. “And, even though I tend to pride myself on my originality–” Unlike Greg Land. “That would be my line.”

As we turn the page, get to see our old friend the double-page spread that you have to turn the book on its side to see properly. The establishing shot, tucked away in a corner, is of a tall building with a nice chunk missing out of the top of it with the moon behind it looking positively HUGE. The rest of the page features Badrock standing in rubble in a pose as if he just hit something while standing behind two people, a man and a woman, who both have their legs spread reeeeaaally wide. The woman has odd metallic wrappings around her arms and legs while she wears a cleavage-exposing bathing suit and a huge gun in her hand. The man has inexplicably muscular legs with brown pants that seem rather skin tight. Oh, and it looks like he’s checking his pulse. In front of the three are two huge muscular guys (one sporting a purple Doctor Doom-esque outfit) and a bunch of goons who, of course, all wear the same outfit (I wonder if there’s a contractor for these guys who supply the equipment and clothes?).

“I knew from the minute I set foot in Chicago this wasn’t gonna be easy.” Yeah, the Cubs’ failure tends to just infect everything else in that city. “I mean, it’s not like I came here lookin’ for trouble. All I wanted was to get my Pop home in one piece. Brought Gunner here along for the ride, figured it’d be a piece of cake.” So I’m assuming the woman with the big gun is Gunner, then. Mr. Liefeld’s talent for character names never ceases to amaze me. “Unfortunately, the Fates — and just about every last member of the Chicago underworld — were conspirin’ against me. Uglier situations, I had definitely yet to see in my young life.” Passive sentences, I’m thanking you for that, Rob. Yoda-like, it is.

“Y’see, my Dad’s too cool to be kidnapped by just your ordinary run-of-the-mill criminals. Nope, he had to get himself heisted by the most powerful criminal organization in Chicago, a bunch of sweethearts better known to the world at large as the Vicious Circle. The creep in the tin suit is their leader and he calls himself the Overlord. Not much of an ego there, huh?” I wouldn’t think so, what with the bolded names for both himself and his criminal organization. I wonder how they manage to speak in bold like that? I mean, it couldn’t be that Rob bolded them himself, since there’d be no need to emphasize the names by the way the narration is speaking…

“The loser to his left is a professional killer who goes by the name of Girth.” Girth is sporting a serious Joker smile. I mean, his cheeks are all clenched back and we can see every one of his teeth. “For, like, the hundredth time, though, he’s tellin’ us that he took this job for free. Can you believe it?” That you’re still getting work? Nope, I still can’t believe it. “Hey, if it’s good enough for Hollywood, it’s good enough for me.” Uhhh… Badrock, maybe you want to rethink that statement. ““How did I ever get myself into this mess?”” Well, I could point out that you just explained to the reader exactly how you got into the mess – you went to Chicago to bring your father home but for some unknown reason, possibly due to him being as you mentioned before, “too cool,” a criminal organization called the Vicious Circle are trying to take him.

As if our close-up of Badrock’s face wasn’t enough, we now have a close-up of Girth’s face and surprisingly, he too appears to have issues with candy since his mouth is covered with some sort of red webbing. To make matters more interesting, he didn’t have this ‘blood’ there in the previous page, nor was he smoking a cigar as he is now. “Betcher feelin’ pretty stupid right about now, huh, little buddy? Should o’ listened when I told you t’ keep your distance.” Wait a second; isn’t this supposed to be the first issue of this series? Was there an issue #0A and #0B where all this happened? “Yer impaired hearing notwithstanding, you’re due for some serious damage now!”

And now as if he was channeling the spirit of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, Badrock happily retorts, “What-ever!” And now I get this really funny picture in my head of a seven foot tall grey superhero with muscles that make the Hulk look like Elijah Wood in terms of buffness in a blonde wig cocking his hips to the side while rolling his eyes. “I’ve had it up to my neck with freaks like you tellin’ me how you’re gonna mop this place up with my sorry butt before wringin’ me out to dry. I didn’t come here to hassle you, Girth– But if it’s a hassle you want– FINE. Just keep in mind, when I’m shashin’ that pin head of yours into the ground, that you’re doin’ it for free–!” Okay, I’ll admit, that’s a good line. I will say, however, that with the way Rob draws, Badrock shouldn’t exactly be proud of his own cranium-to-body ratio.

Badrock somehow leaps into the air and slams down on Girth, a surprising feat, I must say, considering the sheer size and muscle mass shown on Badrock must make him like a thousand pounds. Of course, Rob Liefeld’s penchant for wormholes during a fight scene also takes effect (see Youngblood #1), since on one page we see Badrock falling down towards Girth, right at him, before we flip to the next page and see him suddenly charging from a side angle towards him. Even Liefeld acknowledges the odd physics of Badrock’s body: “Even though he’s way bigger’n me, I can tell just what he’s thinking as I bear down on him. “How can anything that big move that fast?!!””

Girth apparently has the superpower of shifting bodymass, since on the page where Badrock is falling down on him he appears to have a HUGE body but a cone-shaped, teensy head not unlike Dr. Robotnik, but then on the next page when Badrock hits him, his body’s still huge, but his head is round and a more reasonable size. “At that point, I’d be lyin if I toldja I wasn’t thinking the same thing about him. I mean, lookit him go! Have you ever seen anything that big move that fast?!! HA! I kill me.” Do it faster.

“If I’m gonna be killing anybody, I’d rather it be him than me and– YEEEOW!” Hey, Girth shut up his narration boxes by hitting him! Now I’ve got someone to root for! In an ironic twist of fate, Badrock is bleeding again in the same web pattern as shown earlier, only now it matches the bizarre veins in his neck! “If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was linin’ his gloves with solid rock. Not that it should matter all that much, I suppose– to a kid whose entire body is composed of solid rock!” Thanks for the exposition there, ki- wait a second, Badrock’s a kid?! Jeez, no wonder he’s such a momma’s boy. Girth yells out, “This isn’t over yet, you punk ass–!” “Yeah, I know it isn’t– I was kinda savin’ the grand finale up until about NOW!” And… what? It looks like Badrock grabs one of Girth’s huge pectorals (which are so round that I think they qualify as man-boobs) and… I really don’t know. I think he throws him, but I really can’t tell.

One of the real problems with this book is that every panel seems so damn dark. Seriously, I’m holding this up to a light and even the white areas look like they’ve been put through a filter. Maybe it’s the age of the comic itself showing, or it’s simply that they used a really cheep printing process. As such, it’s really hard to tell what the heck is going on. Maybe it’s just that the coloring has consisted completely of reds, oranges, yellows, blacks, and dark blues. By the by, while Badrock and Girth were having their little slug-fest, what exactly were the goons, Overlord, and Gunner all doing?

Anywho, Badrock grabs Gunner and his father and runs off the edge of the building. I’d make a joke about the comic ending early, but who am I kidding? Since he’s falling about eighty stories, Badrock takes the opportunity to bore the reader by talking about how awesome he is and then doing a comparative analysis of roller coasters to life, giving us this pearl of wisdom: “One unfortunate difference between roller coasters and “real life”, though, is that it’s a lot easier to stop one than it is the other.” Oh, I don’t know, one good crash tends to stop one as well as the other.

Anyway, as predicted with his body made of rock, Badrock slams into the ground below with Gunner and his dad in his arms and survives the fall. Now, as I’ve stated before, I’m not a scientist, but I think the two humans are probably still going to feel that one even if Badrock was holding them… probably in particular because he was holding them since, as he said, he’s made of ROCKS. “Hold on tight, folks! Jumpin’ outta buildings may be a little on the scarey(sic) side– but landing SUCKS!!” Seems like both really SUCK!!, but what do I know?

The three start running with Gunner leading them into an L Train station. All of a sudden though, Wolverine suddenly leaps onto Badrock’s back! Well, okay, I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be Wolverine, but frankly how can you mistake that hair for anyone else? Not-Wolverine comments, “Overlord’s got a blank check for the freak who bring’s your head in on a platter, rock boy– and you can bet your sweet patootie ol’ Lowblow is gonna be the one cashin’ it!” Okay, first of all – Badrock must be chewing gum or something because he’s got the weird lines in his mouth again like webs. Secondly – “bet your sweet patootie?!” Did this suddenly become an episode of Laugh-In?

Cut to the next page and… well, I’m sure what was supposed to happen was that Badrock was supposed to throw him, but really it looks more like he’s standing right behind Badrock and looking up at the sky. Then, in a really bizarre choice of art, we see Gunner holding her weapon while she pushes out her breasts and ass and her legs just kind of hang in front of her and curve back down with the feet pulled back, as if she was leaping through the air in a really bizarre pose. She apparently shoots him three times and tells the others they should get out of there.

They continue running and a train shows up. Badrock comments on the good timing of it. His father comments, “I, for one, would certainly prefer that our timing centered less around these violent exchanges than is currently the case. I don’t know how much more of this I can take..!” Your son is that huge and made of rock and you didn’t imagine there’d probably be some stuff going on with your life? Badrock tells him he’s doing fine, to which Gunner replies, “You’re a real piece of work, Badrock. One minute you’re frightened to death that your dad’s in danger– the next you’re acting like this is some kind of joy ride!” Ummm… Did I miss about three comics in between and around this one? The only emotions he’s been displaying so far have been anger, irritation, and smugness. Oh and then while our busty, rather thin-waisted lady is standing at a peculiar angle, a knife suddenly flies out from somewhere and lands right in her shoulder.

Further proving my point that Badrock has the emotional range of “pissed off” to “yelling angrily,” Badrock demands to know who’s attacking them this time. Both are less-than imaginative, the first calling himself “Cutthroat” (Yarr!) and sporting a huge ass razorblade on his arm that apparently has the same red silly-string that’s been getting onto everyone’s mouths. Of course, where the ‘blood’ came from I’m not really sure since all he did was throw a knife (he’s sporting knives all over his chest). His companion is “Hellrazor” (Damn you, Clive Barker!) and is holding a bo staff behind his leg for some reason while sporting Squirrel Girl-like eyes and a Shi’ar hairdo. Oh, he also has a rather visible cup. *Snickers*

I will admit that Badrock actually has a talent for banter as he tells them, “If you wanna make it off this train in one piece, grab a seat and enjoy the ride. Me, I’m curious if your boss has you jerks on a health plan that covers he kind of beatin’ I’m gonna dish out if you don’t.” Of course, his intimidation factor might be a little higher if he didn’t have what I’m sure was meant to be drool coming out of his mouth in the same web pattern we’ve seen with the ‘blood.’

Hellrazor leaps at Badrock (making me wonder what two guys whose shtick seems to be that they have really big, sharp knives are supposed to do against a guy made of stone), his bo staff mysteriously vanishing. Badrock just grabs him by the wrist and holds him away at arm’s length, making me chuckle and wonder what the plan of these two losers was supposed to be. ‘Here, let’s attack him under the cover of a brightly-lit, closed-quarter environment where we can’t maneuver and then jump at him! That’ll work!’

Badrock practically growls at Hellrazor: “I’ve got just about ZERO tolerance for creeps like you in the first place… But you and Superfly over there are fuelin’ me up with all sorts of reasons to go BALLISTIC like you wouldn’t even understand!” Ron O’Neal IS Cutthroat in Badrock 1A: This time he’s going ballistic like you wouldn’t even understand. “Or, to put it in terms even you can comprehend… I’m really pissed.” And this is of course accompanied by a shot of Badrock’s teeth, once again stained with red liquid in inexplicable patterns. Seriously, is he biting his tongue or something every few minutes?

And apparently Cutthroat has been standing off to the back just watching all of this, because suddenly he leaps into the fray while Badrock punches Hellrazor away. However, Gunner, apparently feeling all better from her shoulder wound, gives a high-kick to him. “Y’said the name was Cutthroat, right? Well, allow me to introduce myself–” I’m a man of wealth and taste. “I’m pretty. I’m bad. And, providing I love long enough to settle down and raise a family one day– I’m potentially a “mutha.”” With that waist? Frankly I’d be afraid of a pregnancy splitting you in two, Gunner and- OH DEAR GOD, YOUR SPINE!

Gunner stands triumphant over Cutthroat, her hips making a 90-degree angle from her upper body. I really don’t expect her to have any kids now. In any case, they decide to get off the train before any more of Overlord’s bladed idiots try to attack them. Gunner states, “I know exactly where to go if we get off here–!” A chiropractor? Badrock expositions about Gunner in his narration boxes, talking about how she grew up on the mean streets of Chicago after her parents abandoned her (probably wouldn’t let her grow up to be a contortionist). He then talks about how his parents are the most important thing in his life and we get a close-up on his eye, which I’m sure was supposed to lead into a flashback, but it’s not framed very well.

And so we flash back to Badrock living in his house and cooking dinner with his dad. They talk about some pictures in the paper where Badrock was apparently hanging out with some woman (as established in Youngblood, superheroes are akin to celebrities… and just as irritating). “From the pictures I saw, she looked like a very pretty girl. And your mother said she was an actress.” Oh, Maryl Streep. Badrock replies, “Uh, Dad, not that you’d know or anything, but I don’t really think what that chick does qualifies as acting. I mean, all she’s gotta do to get in character is take off her clothes and–” Oh, so Elizabeth Berkley, then.

Badrock goes out to a store to get some food. However, on the way back, he sees that his house has burned to the ground. Girth appears on the scene, explaining that the Overlord had some business with his father and that he’d better stay out of it if he wants him to stay in one piece. This does make me wonder why he even bothered to tell Badrock, since it would’ve just remained a mystery up until Girth revealed his presence. By the way, this comes up on ANOTHER two-page spread that needs to be turned on its side and was really unnecessary. We turn the page again and- wow. Badrock has apparently come down with a serious case of mouth spiders considering the webbing that’s hanging all over his teeth.

For some stupid reason, Girth tells Badrock that if he wants his father, he can come get him (of course, he never specifies where he’s supposed to go to). Why? This is why: “Figured we could settle the issue o’ how tough you really are, once and for all!” Ummm… One, you two hadn’t met before this point. Badrock admitted that when he first sees your fat ass. Two, why didn’t you just attack him to begin with instead of making him jump through hoops and huge buildings? Three, for God’s sakes, just get on the Slim-Fast Plan already!

Badrock tries to attack him, but it turns out it’s just a hologram. And thus the flashback ends, providing no real answers to anything and in fact making things more confusing. The three dash around a corner as Badrock narrates: “I’ve come too far to let some stupid city stand in my way of gettin’ Dad outta trouble!” Um… Look, I know for someone like you, turns on a sidewalk can be difficult, but don’t blame the city for that… Anyway, they round the corner and see someone. To their shock and amazement it’s…

ANOTHER double-page spread that you need to turn on its side! Oh, and what was so necessary for this final two-page spread of stupidity? Why, it’s Savage Dragon! Wait, that exists in the same universe as Youngblood? “I need you to slow down, back up– and tell me just what the hell is going on here– or you’re coming to blows with one SAVAGE DRAGON!” And thus our story ends-

Well, okay, it doesn’t so much as end as just stop completely in its tracks with us scratching our heads. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go brush my teeth.

Frank Miller once again proving that just because you CAN write doesn’t mean you SHOULD write.


(Just want to apologize again for the lack of updates lately. My other projects have been keeping me busy. Plus, in a way, it kind of parallels Frank Miller’s own delay on this title, wouldn’t you say?)

This’ll be the shortest lead time from a comic’s release to the time I review it, but considering the subject matter, it’s understandable. Yes, to the surprise of everyone on the planet, Frank Miller managed to churn out Issue 5 of All-Star Batman and Robin. I’m not going to link to the previous ones because honestly, if you’re reading THIS review, you must have some idea of what to expect from this title. Every single one of them has been cut from sheer, raw insanity as the classic idea of Batman has been pumped and purged, replaced with some foul creature we like to refer to as BINO (Batman in Name Only) around here.

Also, while I don’t want to provide so much material for my readers as to go insane, a poster at Girl-Wonder.org posted an essay they had wrote on their livejournal account about Frank Miller’s worldview. It’s available here, and it does provide a fascinating examination of the writer and provides us with a new way to look at ASBAR – in that we know it’s not a deliberate satire, but really the product of a really, really messed up brain.

While I have the Jim Lee version, which features a static, dull shot of batman looking insane with blood splattered everywhere (no doubt from the policeman he just beat to death), I decided to show the sexist Frank Miller-drawn cover, instead. Not only is it a pointless ass-shot of Wonder Woman, it’s an inaccurate pointless ass-shot of Wonder Woman. One, she does not wear a skirt, not in any previous incarnation (even her very first appearances were a kind of shorts whose name escapes me at the moment). Two, the girdle does not lace up. It is a solid piece. Three, the top is not a corset, and particularly not one that exposes her stomach. While Wonder Woman’s outfit may be rather flawed in the sense that it’s essentially a bathing suit, it’s still a one-piece outfit. Heck, that doesn’t even look like the top of the Wonder Woman outfit! The real kicker is the way it’s poorly drawn, though. Her rib cage is apparently a prism, because the angle at which this is shot shows quite a sharp turn. And, of course, it’s turned so we can see her breast, as well, because sexualizing her ass for our enjoyment wasn’t enough for the good Mr. Miller.

We open to “Five Hours Ago…” Five hours ago from what? From when I actually had joy in my life since I was done reading this comic? The shot is of Wonder Woman walking down a dark street holding a newspaper (don’t worry; this is NOT IMPORTANT AT ALL). The real surprise here with the art is two-fold: one, her tiara has been modified so it has a nose guard. I admit, I actually like this change since it makes her look more like a warrior and not so much a Princess to be coddled. The second surprise is the fact that she’s wearing a trench coat. The only reason I can think of for wearing the trench coat would be to conceal her outfit, but if that’s the reason then she does a pretty crappy job of it, since wide areas of her costume are perfectly viewable if you just look at her (plus the tiara is a dead giveaway).

Anyway, Wonder Woman is walking down a street and a drunken guy asks her to marry him, but instead of rightfully shoving the guy out of the way, instead she speaks to the terrified-looking businessman holding a briefcase on her other side. And as such, never in the annuls of history has one book produced so many internet memes – Goddamn Batman, Dick Grayson, Age Twelve; and now we behold Frank Miller’s masterful new phrase to us: “Out of my way, sperm bank.” I think I’m going to start yelling that to people who are annoying me; it sounds like fun.

And of course, it wouldn’t be an issue of ASBAR without the frantic narration that only Frank Miller can produce with a straight face. “Metropolis. The city of dreams. Men’s dreams.” And, you know, the few hundred-thousand women who probably live in it, too. “It stinks of men. Of doorways abandoned, obsolete phone booths used as urinals.” Oh, Frank, you really know how to paint a picture. “It leaves a bad taste, this world of men. Men.” I’m sorry, are you talking about women? “They can’t do anything right.” So, what are you doing in Man’s World, then, if you hate it so much?

Wonder Woman slams through a chained door and proclaims in her narration, “Men always make a mess out of everything.” Hey, lady, you’re the one who’s smashing up property when there was a perfectly good side entrance. Inexplicably, Wonder Woman takes off her coat like she’s strutting down a hallway in a lingerie commercial and continues rambling to herself about how men suck and Bat-Man is the worst of them. While I certainly agree that BINO needs to be dealt with somehow, what exactly is it that’s upsetting you? You’re not exactly helping your case for wanting to bring in the murderous Bat-Man (by the by, why does everyone else call him by the hyphenated name?) when you talk about killing him, yourself.

Further making this reader roll his eyes is the fact that Wonder Woman is sporting like the biggest freaking heels on the planet. They make little tank tank noises as she walks and I imagine they can’t be comfortable, especially for someone who’s supposed to be a warrior (albeit it makes a slightly better amount of sense considering she’s got super strength and all, but still…). She walks into a room where Superman, Green Lantern, and Plastic Man are all located and arguing about BINO.

“I told you, Diana. I told you all. From the first moment I heard of that maniac, I knew his methods would make us all look like monsters.” Superman went to a program to learn how to emphasize his words. “And now he’s kidnapped a little boy. He’ll be the excuse they’ve been looking for — to destroy us.” Yes, because when the little boy has been kidnapped by the psychotic murderer, it’s your reputation as a superhero that you should be worrying about, you dick. Shouldn’t you be saying “Damn!” or something?

Green Lantern tries to act rationally since they don’t know for certain that BINO kidnapped anybody while Plastic Man states: “I vote we bring him on board. I think the B-Man is cool. He’d make us look edgier.” He even starts flirting with Wonder Woman and actually, I’ve got to say, Miller seems to get Plastic Man’s zany personality down, even if he is using it in such a bloody stupid fashion. Wonder Woman, since she seems to be some sort of bizarre parody of a Feminist, promptly says, “Shut up. You call yourselves men?” So, wait, you were the one who was going on and on about how men suck and are weak and blah blah blah, yet you have an expectation of men to be strong and correct or something?

Wonder Woman continues to berate the others for wanting to be so ‘nice’ about it, obviously Millar’s way of trying to pave the way for his future Dark Knight Strikes Again story by putting herself and the others on the level of Gods. Wonder Woman makes Green Lantern her bitch by ordering him to make himself useful and take her coat, which he of course does right away. Superman keeps playing it cool, trying to make it seem like she needs to calm down when it’s obvious he wants to play ‘Burn the front page of the newspaper’ with her. Wonder Woman responds:

“You want cooler, farm boy? I’ll give you cooler. I’ll give you cold. Cold and simple. We hunt down this Bat-Man (Again with the hyphens!) like a rabid dog. We kill him. We chop off his head and plant it on a stake and present it to your “authorities” — as their first gift from the Justice League.” Yeah, that’ll make ‘em trust you.

All of a sudden the entire prose style changes as Miller tries to wax philosophical and compare these guys with the Greek Gods. Superman gets all pissy and punches a metal column as the narration box reads: “It starts with a bellow worthy of Zeus. Then a wind that Boreas might envy.” I’m sorry, what was that about boring me? “She’s a fragile twig — a blade of grass — tossed aside in the wake of an angry God.” And she doesn’t even know how to order coffee or use a credit card!

Damn you, Diana! Damn you and your Amazon arrogance!” Damn it all to hell, you damn dirty apes! You blew it up! “This is my world. These are my people. These are my rules. If you commit murder on my land — you’ll pay for it with your own precious Amazon blood!” So, wait, if she kills someone on his land (from California to the New York Island), he’ll kill her back? Way to really take the moral high ground there, Supes.

Plastic Man, obviously mistaking himself to be in Grant Morrison’s JLA, suddenly shouts out for no reason, “Eat floor, Queen Bee.” Wonder Woman shouts back, “You bastard! You bastard. I hate your guts. your guts. You make me sick. You make me sick.” Aaaah, there’s that Torgo-like repetition that I’ve been missing! Now we’re in full Miller mode, folks! Abandon all sanity, ye who enters here!

Oh, and then Superman and Wonder Woman kiss. Yeah. “Then Zeus stabs the world of man with thunderbolts (Curse you, Eric Masterson!) and somewhere Poseidon roars with laughter. The thunderbolts. They stab them both.” Zee thunderbolts, zey do notheeng! After that completely nonsensical sequence, Wonder Woman leaves and says that if they fail, she’ll handle it herself. Green Lantern just stares at Superman in a ‘Dude, what the hell was THAT’ look as Superman replies, “She’s really a very nice girl.” Oh, Frank Miller, you kill me. Seriously. Ow.

But enough of that totally unnecessary stuff! Now it’s back to the Goddamn Batman! How do we know it’s him? Well, he’s laughing in satanic glee and his narration caption is, “I love being the goddamn BATMAN.” Folks, we have some good old-fashioned nightmare fuel here. BINO’s running across a rooftop in a completely wasted two-page spread as Frank Miller gets to spout off his insane, disjointed writing. I’ll spare you most of it except for the opening lines, which continue to make us wonder if any of DC’s editorial staff is keeping track of how much time this series is supposed to be going through:

“I should be EXHAUSTED. I haven’t slept in DAYS. But I CAN’T GET TIRED. No matter how hard I TRY. Not on a night like THIS. Not with my PULSE pounding my EARS and dear GOTHAM calling to me like a sultry SIREN.” Okay – one, you haven’t slept in DAYS?! You went out to the circus as Bruce Wayne without ever having slept?! Two – it doesn’t matter how much natural adrenaline he’s got pumping into him. We now know why BINO’s so flippin’ nuts: without sleep, anyone’ll be bonkers. Three – a sultry siren?! For the love of Pete, you were the one who compared her to Edgar Allen Poe’s Lenore!

“A woman screams. What the HELL.” Flag on the moon. How did it get there? “I give with the LAUGH. That ALWAYS works.” Oh, well that explains it – Frank doesn’t realize he’s writing Batman, he think he’s writing the Creeper! Creeper’s the one who laughs insanely to scare criminals while being totally friggin’ nuts. Batman’s the one who uses darkness to terrify criminals. BINO leaps down towards a group of thugs assaulting a woman with HUGE knives in their hands. I’m talking Crocodile Dundee “THIS is a knife!”-sized knives. BINO beats the snot out of the would-be rapists, even giving a compound fracture to one guy.

Now, one would assume I’d be chalking this up to more psychotic behavior on BINO’s part, but considering he murdered a bunch of police officers in previous issues, this is pretty tame by his standards. Also, it doesn’t help that I really don’t feel extensive damage like that to criminals is that bad as long as they’re still alive. Of course, then BINO starts pounding away on one guy who keeps asking “What?” in confusion as the woman who was going to be a victim watches and then gets as manic a grin as BINO has in the previous issues. ““What”? You’re asking me “What”?” “What?” “What? This.” No, no, no – what’s on second, you idiot! THIRD BASE!

This woman, also wearing high heels (albeit more sensible ones than the superhero), walks over to one of her injured rapists, who asks for help. The woman just kicks him in the groin and says, “I’ve got Batman watching after me.” No, you’ve got some very pale imitation of Batman watching over you. Oh, look! There’s an ad on the left for a Darwyn Cooke Batman series! That must be what she means, since it’s above her and watching down in her general direction.

BINO tells her to, “Go home, now. Catch a cab on Novick. It’s well lit. Call your shrink, if you’ve got one. But don’t call any cops about all this. They’re useless. They’re worse than useless.” And of course, since this is a woman in a Frank Miller story, she suddenly gets all submissive and obedient, saying, “Y-Yes, sir.” And why would she need a shrink, exactly? She seemed to get herself together pretty quickly and developed a real taste for blood there. Or maybe she needs a shrink because she survived an encounter with you. BINO swings away and the woman says, “Thank you. I love you.” To which our intrepid hero thinks in his narration boxes, “Nobody loves anybody, my darling. We just survive.” DEEP.

BINO continues to swing away as his narration boxes once again make us all collectively tilt our heads. “The WIND goes BERSERK. ELECTRICITY tingles my SKIN and rattles my WHISKERS.” …The hell? “Another STORM. Cool.” BATMAN DOES NOT SAY COOL, FRANK! “A perfect night. A hunter’s night.” Well, since I’ve seen the words used no less than half a dozen times in this comic already, I think they bear repeating here: Shut up!

Swing back to Wayne Manor and our old pal Alfred Pennyworth and- Oh my lord. He’s punching a punching bag and looking all muscular! Okay, I can sort of believe that he’d want to stay in good shape, but give me a break here – the guy’s in his sixties at least and I think he’d be doing other exercises besides a punching bag. And furthermore, isn’t he a butler? Doesn’t he have things to clean or, say, a frightened twelve year-old in the basement of his psychotic employer to take care of? Oh, boy, the narration boxes don’t make this scene any better, folks. It’s all the creepier:

“How many a day — how many hundreds, THOUSANDS a time — day or night, did my black-eyed angel come home from his frolics in the WOOD — BLOOD streaming his smiling, fearless face?” His “black-eyed angel?!” You know, I know I joked about him being a pervert in the last issue, but seriously… “He was always an ADVENTURER, Bruce was. Always JUMPING and RUNNING and giving himself a proper BANGING.” Oh, sweet merciful GOD! This comic has provided like six different explanations why BINO is so insane, but really it’s probably ALL of them!

“And now my DEMON — my black-eyed, brilliant, willful ANGEL — has grown to MANHOOD.” Don’t you ever say manhood again, you maniac. “I pray this child will SURVIVE this.” I think I’m going to go throw up all over myself now.

Meanwhile, we can check in on Dick Grayson, Age Twelve. “BATMAN works out of a REALLY BIG CAVE. It’s full of STUFF.” BINO really knows how to pick the sharp ones to be his sidekicks, doesn’t he? “It’s like a MUSEUM would be IF a MUSEUM could BREATHE.” Quick, someone call Ben Stiller! “It’s full of STUFF.” So, wait, is it full of stuff? “And all the STUFF is CLEAN and SHARPENED and POLISHED and ready to USE.” So, what does Dick immediately do? He reaches for the sharp, bladed edge of an axe. And thus the issue that we waited a whole year for ends on Dick Grayson, Age Twelve picking up a huge freakin’ battle axe and saying “Cool.” Folks, I can’t make this stuff up if I wanted to.

And there you have it. Was it worth the wait, both on my end and from Frankie-boy? I don’t know, I just know I’m a little more stupid from having to read this.

Blood Pack #1

Thrill as they sit around and bicker with confusing dialogue!

Just want to apologize first about not posting in three weeks – I admit I don’t have a set schedule on these, but when I first tried to write it, I really wasn’t feeling the funny with it. I needed time both for my personal life and just to get motivated to make fun of this.

What is it about the word “blood” that suddenly makes it seem “EXTREEEEEME!”?

Back in 1993, an intracompany crossover for DC called “Bloodlines” occurred. The idea was that a group of shapeshifting alien parasites came to Earth to feast off the spinal fluids of humans. However, in some humans it awakened the Metahuman gene, turning them into superheroes. The event was used as an excuse to start off a few new titles as well as give some “new blood” to the DC universe, hence why the new heroes were called New Bloods. The event ran through all of the Annuals at the time before culminating in a two-part finale.

I admit, I’ve never actually read any of the Annuals or parts of the crossover, but even for comic book science that excuse to give a bunch of people superpowers seems sketchy at best. Still, I suppose it fulfilled its purpose, but for DC, sadly, the only lasting effect the crossover had was the ongoing series Hitman, which lasted for about sixty issues. The other New Bloods haven’t appeared in very many titles, with some appearing in a recent JSA Classified and most of them being killed off in the Infinite Crisis event. I admit, I’m not shedding any tears for them, but as a proponent of the idea of every character being someone’s favorite, I always find it sad to see heroes getting discarded as nothing but cheap cannon fodder.

Still, they are quite worthy of ridicule, as we’ll see here.

The cover is just claustrophobic. The “blood pack” title is not capitalized and its color scheme matches most of the rest of the cover, so it’s barely noticeable. Furthermore, instead of having the standard team shot that would’ve been just fine, the normal shot is cramped down to the middle of the cover and showing monitors all around it featuring guys with Liefeld-like proportions and bizarre orange armor. The bottom screen features an odd image of the character Jade and two others whom I can only presume to be Charles Xavier and Quicksilver. Man, they’d shill out a Marvel/DC crossover for anything, wouldn’t they?

We start off with a scene of one of the titular New Bloods getting his organs sliced up by a purple alien with a cow skull head and orange butterfly wings. Well, that was a long issue! Let’s get- oh, wait – it’s not done yet. Figures. “They were a new breed of heroes– empowered by band of feasting alien parasites. These New Bloods sent the aliens packing. But not this time.” This time it’ll be DC’s normal stable of heroes that does it. On the next page, the purple alien stands over the dead body of who we later learn is appropriately named Mongrel and talks to himself: “The revenge is sssweet… Yesss… And complete…” Apparently they hired the Beast Wars Megatron to play the part of the alien (well, they do have a similar color scheme)…

A caption box in purple informs us that “–here comes Loria. Get the whole steel morphing bit.” And, of course, the woman named Loria does come down and her skin transforms into steel. Colossus- erm, I mean Loria, charges at the alien as the caption box says nonchalantly, “Cool. We can’t buy effects like that.” Well, actually in 1995 you could buy effects like that and given the fact that metahumans actors wouldn’t be uncommon with so many- oh, wait, this is a badly written comic book. My mistake. Anyway, Loria gets her arms around the alien’s huge neck and somehow manages to snap it. How do we know it’s snapped? It makes a “sknch” sound while the neck and head remain perfectly straight-forward. Also, the thing seems to have chocolate milk for blood, since all the blood that comes from this thing is brown.

“Bra-vo(sic)” comes a voice from off-panel. We suddenly switch to a non-descript room where we see the two members of Blood Pack along with a third, the confusingly-attired Ballistic all wearing weird-looking visors and wires attached to various parts of their bodies. So it seems that entire thing was a virtual reality simulation. Yeah, you can’t buy effects like that! Before I return to the crappy dialogue, let’s just comment on Ballistic here. Ballistic is apparently a Korean-American according to Wikipedia who is an “armed and dangerous vigilante.” So, what, did the alien bite grant him the power to buy guns and choose ridiculous costumes? It’s an all-red ensemble with a head mask that opens up for his hair and face (which is also red, by the way). On his torso he has various grenades, pouches, and pointy multi-layered shoulder pads (on only one shoulder. EXTREME!). Honestly, I might as well just start calling him Shaft (Shut your mouth!).

Not-Shaft berates Loria: “You killed it but it killed us — thanks to your showboating.” What showboating? She just leapt down from somewhere and hugged the damn thing! Seriously, is this a prerequisite for any team book – one member must be yelled at by the leader, be it for legitimate reasons or not? Loria tries to defend her attempt at hugging the creature who killed her loser teammates: “My objective was to…” But Ballistic interrupts her: “…Cover your teammates, Loria!!” And yet she was the one who managed to subdue the big monster. So the one who actually managed to beat it in ten seconds flat gets reduced to “covering duty” while you and Alice Cooper over there get your entrails spilled across the floor. Good job, Patton.

Something else of notice is the fact that there are round, golden cameras floating around recording everything. Yes, it seems that this is a superhero reality show, in a similar vein as volume III of New Warriors. Would anyone be surprised if these guys accidentally started a superhero civil war? Anyway, Loria says she’ll take his orders under advisement and walks off. Ballistic laughs it off and says he’s got her “eating out of my hand. Only took six weeks.” Mongrel, the erstwhile long-haired guy is not impressed by his attempts at being macho and suggests that Ballistic is only interested in Loria for a relationship. “Like your freakself[!!] got a chance with her.” “Freakself?!” Not since the 1960s Teen Titans series has a group of superheroes failed so miserably to try to talk ‘like those young people today.’

Ballistic continues to talk ‘the street’: “Same chance as you, homeboy — none. You down for some pool?” He puts his arm around Mongrel and even pinches his cheek [!!] after Mongrel tells him not to touch him. Mongrel, in a completely legitimate move after Ballistic’s manhandling, shoots an energy burst at Ballistic and knocks him away.

Cut to a different camera feed, where apparently three more members of the Blood Pack are emerging from a dimensional portal that is so clearly NOT a Boom Tube. The first two come out include a guy in a mask resembling that of Grifter from the Wildstorm universe named Geist and a guy with a Pop-o-matic on his chest named Nightblade. They talk about how excited they are about the show and Nightblade pops in with this philosophical gem: “Y’Know, Geist, after you help guys like Superman save the world — how can you go back to a normal life?” Oh come on, this is the DC Universe – the end of the world isn’t even an excuse to get off of work anymore there.

Geist’s thought bubble shows off his own deep thoughts about life as a New Blood: “Not many options for a guy who turns invisible in bright light.” So, be a superhero by day or by night, big deal! If you want to be a hero during the day, you can take night classes or something. If you want to be a hero by night, you’ve got darkness on your side and bright light’s just going to make you invisible anyway, so you’re covered there! Nightblade interjects with some character development: “I’m doing this for my dad, I guess. A damn good NASCAR driver… died makin’ his comeback.” It’s a pity that Captain America knows nothing about him, then.

It seems that the third person who emerged from the not a-Boom Tube was actually the director, since he yells “Cut!!” He tells them that it was “Bor-Ring!” but Nightblade is upset by this turn of events: “Rot you, man! My father meant a lot to me!” Okay, first of all “Rot you?!” You know, at least when Battlestar Galatica made up the work ‘Frak,’ it at least sounded like the word they wanted to get past the censors. “Rot” isn’t exactly the kind of curse word I expect grown adults to be throwing at each other. The director, obviously showing his experience in such matters, tells the two: “Television is a visual medium! But hey – I’m “only” the director! You and the Invisible Man try the entrance again!” A visual medium? No, it can’t be! And here I thought it was a smelling medium! Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Director-pants!

So Nightblade cuts off his own hand and- wait, HUH?! But it’s okay, since apparently his arm regenerates right after that. Steven Spielberg here loves it, but says it’ll never make it past the censors (obviously he’s never seen HBO’s Elizabeth). Geist asks, “Uh… Mr. Zapruder[!!]… Adrian…? Uh… Redoing the entrance… isn’t that dishonest?” It’s good to know that the guy you trust to do your superhero reality TV show is the guy who had the most complete filming of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Apparently the producers of this little escapade didn’t invest much money in this, did they?

Cut to women in their underwear. Ladies and gentlemen – the reason this comic was made, as even the camera’s narration caption tells us: “Check this out. Cool cheesecake shot in Razorsharp and Sparx’s bedroom.” Yes, because when you want a character to be EXTREME!, you’ve got to put an ‘x’ in their name. Razorsharp complains about the outfit that they want her to wear, which is clearly a bathing suit in the same vein as Sultry Teenage Super-Foxes. Sparx is laying on her side on the bed, obviously in a pose designed to imitate a swimsuit model as she giggles, “I can’t wear this one. My costume’s built-in. But what’d you expect, Razor? This is a show about superheroes.” Tee-hee, it’s funny when we’re objectified!

Razorsharp’s own superpower is demonstrated as her arm forms into a blade and she rips apart her costume- hey, wait a second! The costume she’s holding changes between the panels! Subsequently, upon looking back at the credits page, I notice no credit for an editor. That explains a lot. The women exchange confusing banter next:

“A documentary, Sparx. You know… Reality?”
“Granny used to say, “super-heroes are part actors…””
““…part boxers.” Good ol’ Granny. Can’t hear enough about her.” Hey, I love to hear about Mr. T!
“Hey! Just because we’ve got identities to protect doesn’t mean we can’t get to know each other!” What secret identity? You’re pale with long, electrical blue hair and you glow.

Razorsharp grabs Sparx and leads her into the closet to get away from the cameras. Razorsharp talks about how she doesn’t want to broadcast her background, which Sparx instantly translates as meaning she’s on the run from the law, but Razorsharp puts that theory down. She says that, “the only reason I’m here is my friends thought it’d be cool.” Well, at least we didn’t have a tag-line across the top of the comic that said, “The Next Generation of Heroes.” The camera somehow moves the closet door to the side, despite lacking any kind of arm or enough mass to move a folding closet door and Razorsharp naturally gets upset about it.

Switch back over to Ballistic and Mongrel and they’re still fighting! And then over to a room with lots of computer screens tinted green, along with some bald guy in a business suit. He talks to a woman and some guy in a keffiyeh, indicating he’s an Arab. The bald guy states that “Early feedback is great. The Blood Pack’s in all the trades.” Hmm… I don’t see the Blood Pack in any of my trade paper-backs… The woman responds, “No great feat, Baxter, considering our resources — which you’ve taken for granted! All we’ve got so far is a TV show!” Seems to me a TV show is actually a good way to replenish those resources, but then again I’m not an eeeeevil Capitalist. Baxter tells them to trust him since it was his idea to take advantage of the goodwill they generated during the New Blood crossover. Ah, so we’re looking at the DC offices!

“Now you’ve got New Blood bodies for your little science fair project — plus a kickin’ team that oozes Q-ratings!” Okay, bald men in their forties shouldn’t be using the word “kickin’.” The Arab man complains about Geist’s powers being minimal and about how no one knows anything about Razorsharp or Sparx (nor will anyone know anything about them once this miniseries is over, but…). He’s even angrier about Mongrel: “This boy went on a well-publicized rampage through Chicago! He’s a criminal!” To which Baxter waves his hand and responds, “A known fact — teenage girls love rebels.” It’s a well-known fact, eh? No wonder I never got a date in high school.

The woman just wants Baxter’s assurance that the Blood Pack will be under control when “the time comes.” Meanwhile, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever goes on the prowl for Mongrel: “I’m on your tail, boy – with my new dual-chambered tridium tazer…” …Explain to me why he’s the leader, again? Ballistic wanders into a room with catwalks and technology all over it. All of a sudden, Ballistic sees a group of heavily-armored goons attacking Mongrel. One of the men confusingly shouts, “We’re losing stasis!” So there’s a stasis… leak, then? Bahahahahaha! Oh, I love Red Dwarf jokes…

Ballistic orders them to let him go. “I didn’t hear a “please” — but you can have him.” The compliant guards – sure, we’ll take orders from you! The armored man, identified as Devlin, releases Mongrel and says, “You were told this area’s off limits, Ballistic.” So what exactly is the plot of this show, anyway? A bunch of superpowered losers hang around a facility in a limited amount of space and don’t actually do anything but train? Yeah, I can see Neilson Boxes lighting up with this winner… or they’re just waiting for Sweeps for them to actually act like superheroes.

Ballistic and Mongrel walk off with Mongrel once again uttering, “Just don’t touch me.” Yeah, three guesses as to what his origin probably entails? Flip to the next page and here we see Ballistic being chewed out by Jennie-Lynn Haden, AKA Jade, daughter of the very first Green Lantern. She reminds him that it’s in his contract that he’s not allowed beyond the training and living areas. I can just imagine the promotional posters for this show – Thrill as the Blood Pack spends a rainy day watching TV! Gasp as they don’t fight any supervillains and just yell at the cameras! Watch their bone-chillingly predictable lives; completely censored for your protection!

Ballistic, horrifyingly enough, has discarded his ‘costume,’ and is now wearing a tank top and shorts, yet he’s still as red as a Washington football team. Jade tells him that the reactor that powers the building might’ve been damaged in their brawl while in the next room the rest of the Blood Pack are all confusingly in the same room together. Geist is just leaning against a table and staring at a wall while Mongrel hits on Loria, who is meditating even though Sparx and Razorsharp are flipping through TV channels. Razorsharp reflects our own feelings about the comic: “Boring, boring, boring.” Oh, wait, she’s talking about the TV.

Jade offers them help as both an actress and a superhero: “So I can guide you through this… if you let me.” Mongrel responds for no apparent reason, “Like a freakin’ prison!” Jade lets him know he can leave at any time and that there are other New Bloods who’d be interested in the show. But here comes the really laughable part, since Jade suggests this wonderful purpose for the show: “With this show, the Blood Pack can influence a whole new generation of metahumans.” I mean, yeah, who would want to be influenced by dorks like Superman or Wonder Woman who can juggle planets with their pinkies when we’ve got Ballistic and his dual-chambered tridium tazer, right? Eh? Eh? Am I right, folks?

Ballistic and Nightblade are just as unimpressed by this talk of inspiration as Ballistic proclaims, “God bless America” and Nightblade starts singing, “We are the World[!].” Mongrel tries to hit on Sparx, who just zaps him lightly. Geist asks, “Uh… Jade… exactly what am I supposed to be doing?” Oh, jeez, nobody read the script, did they? Jade walks off, telling him to meet with her later since she has to “talk Adrian out of quitting[?].” Razorsharp complains for a brief moment about her predicament before she proclaims, “Holy spit! We’re on TV!!” Holy lame swearing censorship, Batman! Furthermore, isn’t the entire purpose of being there to be on TV?

The team crowds around the television set, which starts its advert: “What happens when you thrust together seven young masks from different walks of life?” Find out on Camp Loser: The Blood Pack show!This ongoing documentary about a real-life super team is the latest project from wunderkind Jeremy Baxter.” Yeah, when I think wunderkind, I think of short, bald guys who come up with an idea that Stan Lee thought up first. Either that or Alanis Morisette, but I digress. Baxter himself appears on screen, proclaiming, “It’s time for something new. We wanted only New Bloods — kids with no preconceived notions about being a hero.” Yeah, that fills me with confidence about their likeability.

Next we have some reactions from people, including Superman. Superman here is depicted in his mullet stage, but I still have to laugh since the way his hair is drawn – with every separate strand like it’s been freshly washed; it just makes me think he’s going to shake his head and shout, ‘Pantene Pro-V!’ “What’s my opinion on exploiting powers for personal gain? What do you think?” Gee, you’re right, Superman! By the way, how’s that cushy job at the Daily Planet working for you? You know, the one where you write up articles at the speed of light about Superman that you’re only able to write BECAUSE you’re Superman? What a dick.

The next reaction is from two members of the super team The Conglomerate! “Get your own shtick, Blood Pack! The Conglomerate was here first!” Yeah, and you were forgotten first, too. Seriously, I had never heard of them until this comic and their Wikipedia page is smaller than Blood Pack’s, surprisingly. Next is some random General, who’s worried about the connection between the New Bloods and the space parasites. “Yes, they saved the planet months ago – but what have they done for us lately?” Wow, with such positive reviews before Blood Pack’s pilot episode has even aired, this show will be just as successful as the CW’s Aquaman pilot!

The camera caption brings us over to Germany, where a group of yellow-armored individuals called the Demolition Team attack a nuclear power plant. They talk for a bit about why they’re attacking the place: “You forget seein’ Coast City wiped out? Seein’ your family — your past — obliterated?” For those unaware, during the end of the Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen arcs, Green Lantern’s home town of Coast City was destroyed by the alien despot Mongul. “Makin’ you want to wipe out all the other things that destroy the earth…”

Okay, let’s count just how many things wrong there are with that statement, shall we? Just for starters – nuclear power plants on their own are actually just fine in the environment, with the biggest risks only occurring with spent fuel rods that need to be stored for several hundred years before they’re considered safe (albeit newer technologies, including the recent developments in fusion power, have started to make this seem like less of a problem). Otherwise, the plants themselves do nothing – it’s only when there’s an accident like the one you’re attempting to perpetrate that something bad happens! Furthermore, it’s been shown that nuclear power in France not only provides the CLEANEST air of any industrialized nation with the lowest amount of carbon dioxide produced. So, please tell me, what exactly do they intend to accomplish here?

“You wanna(sic) protect the earth–?” calls a voice from off-panel. “Recycle!” Sparx finishes as the Blood Pack arrives on the scene (wow, they’re actually DOING something!). Ballistic echoes my own sentiments about recycling: “Why recycle? Just waste ‘em!” Why my own sentiments? Because with the exception of recycling metals, recycling does not actually help improve the environment. In fact, it causes a detriment to the environment when one considers especially the problem to recycling paper. You see, recycling is a manufacturing process and- huh? Oh, right, the comic. Sorry, I find my ranting about nuclear power and recycling more entertaining than this tripe.

Pop-O-Nightblade yells, “The Demolition Team?!? Figures these losers survived Coast City’s destruction!” Well, you’d know losers, wouldn’t you, Nightblade? And here we actually see what Nightblade’s other superpower is (besides for having a neat way of rolling dice) – he can toss multiple throwing knives in a single arc. That’s it. He throws a bunch of knives at a group of armored terrorists. Yeah, metahumans across the world are just so inspired right now.

Loria jumps into combat while Mongrel comments on his dating prospects with her: “Too psycho for me! Lights on and nobody’s home!” Yeah, I’m sure that’s why she was the one who won the holodeck simulation while you got your intestines ripped out. “Me? I like you saucy farmgirls.” He says to Sparx. Okay, I hate him about as much as I possibly can right now. Sparx replies, “You’re just saying that ‘cause she blew you off.” Never mind, I hate him even more now.

The cameras switch over to Razorsharp and Geist, who are inside of the power plant. However, everything seems to have been transformed into a green biological system, with vein-like coverings everywhere. The hallway they’re in starts to rumble as Razorsharp worries about whether or not it’s being staged for the camera. Outside, the ground begins to rumble and one of the Demolion team shouts, “Huh? Earthquake?!” Shut up already, damn! The Blood Pack fall into a cavern that’s opened up and Loria grabs hold of Sparx’s leg, asking for help. Spark says she’ll try, but before she can, a rock hits her right in the coconut and she starts falling. Loria manages to grab hold of a rock and Nightblade for some stupid reason thinks, “Loria left her to die!” No, she saved herself as quickly as she could since there was no way she could’ve helped the falling woman who had a concussion. “This is getting too real.” Then Nightblade starts falling, and again his thoughts reveal his utter stupidity as he thinks for no particular reason: “Real–!

Razorsharp tries to contact the others as the tremors stop and she looks at some unseen computer, stating, “This computer… no binary code I’ve ever seen — almost alien!” Geist says, “And the reactor— near as we can tell — is a big mother!” MY MOTHER WAS A SAINT! Erm- sorry about that. It’s unclear who’s talking after that, but one of them says, “Ballistic… I’m picking up some readings that are hard to miss…” Readings from what, exactly? It’s not like they’re carrying tricorders or anything. “The reactor’s opening… You get the feeling this wasn’t staged?” Oh great, so it turns out that the only reason the Blood Pack actually did something other than sit on their asses at their base was because it was a staged battle? Yeah, this’ll really sell well to the metahuman demographic. And thus our story ends on a shot of the alien… thingie, I don’t know what exactly, opening up with members of Blood Pack unconscious before it and the camera feed dying out.

Suddenly I long for the proactive “heroics” of Youngblood.

And Apple Computers lawsuit in 5…4…3…


While I could give a long and detailed history of Isaac Asimov, there’s really no need to do so. Most people are probably aware of the science-fiction writer’s extensive list of material (be it fiction novels or not).

Tekno Comix was an independent comic publisher in the Mid-90s who specialized in having big-name creators write up a two-page outline for a comic series and then hand it off to their own stable of writers and artists to work from it. Some of the names included Leonard Nimoy, Mickey Spillane, Neil Gaiman, and even an idea by Gene Roddenberry. The company folded in 1997 after only two years of publishing, but during their lifetime they loved to splash the names of their initial creator across the top of their books in order to get some attention from the comic readers.

But things are a bit murky with today’s subject. While some of the other creators listed I can find proof positive of their involvement with the projects they did, I can find no evidence that Isaac Asimov had any ideas of what we’re seeing here, be they for a comic book or not. It’s not even mentioned on his Wikipedia page (whereas both Neil Gaiman and Gene Roddenberry’s contributions have been listed on their pages). As such, I’m afraid it makes me fearful that while the creators of the comic may have had the best of intentions of honoring the memory of the late Isaac Asimov, it just comes off either as plagiarism (if he really had ideas about this) or just plain exploitive of the dead.

Admittedly, the comic itself isn’t as bad as others that we’ve seen on this site. It’s even penciled by George Pérez (yes, Crisis on Infinite Earths George Pérez). It’s sure as hell no All-Star Batman and Robin, but it just seems goofy in its embrace of THE FUTURE! and there are plenty of small dumb things abounding. Like most #1 issues of comics, it tends to fail in its aspects of really wanting to draw the reader back, since we learn very little about the world of the book or about the characters besides for a vague inkling of their personalities.

As with all team books, this one’s cover is a group shot, albeit in this one they’re actually posing for the camera. As if in another dimension, the paparazzi that are photographing the Ibots are all colored purple… just like the mechanical junk they’re standing in! My God, they’re alive! Run, Ibots! Run as fast as you can! Okay, admittedly the cover isn’t really that bad. This is due solely to George Perez’s fantastic pencils but I’m afraid the designs themselves could still use some work. If you’re going to be starting a new superhero team, you’ve got to give us some sense of iconography – these are supposed to be superheroes after all. Even with changes in artists and even giving Superman a mullet, the thing that most people tend to draw their eyes to is that big shiny red ‘S’ on his chest.

Instead, the heroes here all have pretty generic outfits, with the best one being Radiant (the woman with white hair), but like I said, it’s pretty standard fare… besides for the fact that her eyes are covered by her mask. And what’s the deal with Killaine’s (the woman in green) costume?! Apparently Sheena got a new agent after Sultry Teenage Super-Foxes bombed.

We open on the middle some sort of political debate viewed through a high-tech lens. We know it’s high-tech because it’s got little text lines around it like “Mode: Seek” and “Vertical Align” over the screen. The person on the left states emphatically, “–absolutely vital that we fully support new technology development, with tax dollars if necessary.” Damn it, Senator Hutchison, we get that you like NASA! His opponent, throwing out all rules of a televised debate, responds with, “So high tech can be controlled by the government instead of those independent researchers who develop it? No, thanks.” So essentially he wants new technology in the hands of either scientists who have no personal use for it or in the hands of mad scientists who would use new technology to conquer the planet. Also, forgive my squirrelly ignorance, but isn’t the majority of scientific research funded by the government in some capacity, anyway?

Oh and by the way, there are robots on the platform with them. A heavily-armored terrorist shoots something at one of the robots, causing it to explode along with the other robot guard. One of the politicians informs us that it’s an “EMP slug” and that without the robots, they’re unprotected. The terrorists, wearing green and yellow (and subsequently resembling members of the Marvel terrorist group HYDRA) swing down on ropes while brandishing futuristic-looking guns. The lead terrorist orders the group to shut up, so of course, like an idiot, Senator ‘raise your taxes in the name of science’ demands to know, “Who are you? EMP Slugs are restricted to cops and milit —” And he’s subsequently shot. This has been a public service announcement paid for by the Tax-Payers League of the Future.

The terrorist jokes, “Think of this as a favor, Senator –” Yeah, because making him bleed half to death from a bullet to the shoulder is really such a nice thing to do. “– You don’t want the mouth there taking your cushy job away come November, do you?” Yeah, the mouth can be such a pain, sometimes. I much prefer the finger. The terrorist warns the next shot goes through the heart and that he has “smartbullets,” which apparently are designed to lock onto a heartbeat and “nothing stop them! They always go for your heart! That means if we shoot, you’re dead! Got it?” Well, considering you gave us essentially the same idea three times, I’d hope so.

“When we leave, someone call whoever’s in charge of Silver’s money and tell him we’ll be in touch, okay?” Wait, how are you going to be in touch with someone if you don’t know who they are? The leader opens up the studio door with his gun [!!], pushing the barrel into the button. A silhouetted figure appears on the other end of the opening door with, confusingly, a Photoshop lens flare effect superimposed over the head of the person. She reaches in and grabs the guns of the nearest two, crushing them in their hands, channeling Johnny Five from Short Circuit. I half expected her to say the “play-doh” line from that movie, but instead we get this bit of superhero negotiating: “Make that “When” and “If,” and you’ve got a deal.” I don’t think that contract’s going to hold up in court.

Cut to the next page where we see Killaine herself (by the by, what the hell kind of a superhero name is Killaine?!) in all her impractical outfit glory as she grabs the two guys whose guns she smashed and promptly bonks their heads together. In a bit of grammatical error, one of the terrorists proclaims in shock, “What’s(sic) she?!” Well she seems to be a person with super-strength who is a woman; that’s what. Another terrorist, unconcerned, opens fire while proclaiming, “Big and strong, Brainfry — some kind of augment. EMP her jumpers, then hamburger[!!] her.” “Hamburger” her? What, are they going to add lettuce and tomatoes with a side of fries?

The other guy, still panicking, shouts out, “How’d she know we were here? No one’s supposed to know.” Even though they’ve got those “smartbullets” that are supposed to track her heart, Killaine dodges out of the way and nimbly tosses the two terrorists she had in her hands at the others, somehow causing them all to roll around at confusing angles instead of just knocking them over.

There’s a small blast and we see Psy-4 (the guy in red and orange on the cover) and Stonewall (the guy in the back on the cover with curly bowl cut hair) crawling out of a hole under the stage [!!!]. What, were they hiding out in there during the debate or something?! Psy-4 shouts out orders: “Killaine! Protocol One! Make sure the people are safe first! Stonewall?” It’s your line, Stonewall! “We know what to do, Psy-4. You don’t have to keep reminding us.”

The terrorists, in a complete panic and spazzing all over the place, open fire and start shouting, “You’re all dead! Everyone’s dead!” “We told you!” Come on, I call you’re dead, you meanies! Most of the bullets slam into Stonewall’s body with no damage (so much for the “nothing stops them” theory), but a few zip around him and Stonewall shouts, “Smart bullets, Psy-4! I can’t stop them all!” Psy-4 shouts back, “Work on your maneuverability and response speed!” Oh, wait, too late – the people are dead. Maybe you two shouldn’t have been yacking back and forth while the bullets were flying at people! Well, that’s what should’ve happened, anyway. Actually, smartbullets move at only 2 miles an hour, since Psy-4 then demonstrates his own power:

“Fortunately, I can handle it. Those slugs are chip-driven–” Lays or Pringles? “–And reprogramming chips is no trick — for me.” All the bullets explode in mid-air and the terrorists are shocked that their plan of slow-moving bullets didn’t work. They decide to make a run for it, but Killaine’s still in the way. Killaine taunts them: “Exit’s this way, boys. If you can make it, welcome to[??].” Once again acting like a jaded eight year-old, a terrorist responds, “Stop it! We’re not playing here!”

And in the next panel, we have our third Shocking Superhero Tactic! The first was, of course, Diehard’s Crotch attack. The second was the Batmobile driving through a car and completely slicing it in half. And here? Killaine grabs a terrorist’s neck and it knocks him unconscious. That’s right, even confirmed by the dialogue, “A swerve, a nerve, no damage and you’re down”, Killaine has just performed the Vulcan neck pinch from Star Trek!

Radiant, appearing for the first time in the comic, apologizes for Killaine: “You have to excuse Killaine, she lets enthusiasm run away with her. You can call me Radiant!” Using her powers, two of the terrorists proclaim that they’re blind. Radiant explains that she’s actually “canceling out light so it can’t hit your eyes.” I’ve got to admit, that’s actually a pretty creative use of light-based powers for a superhero, but why the heck didn’t she just do that from the start instead of having Killaine pull the neck pinch?

The final terrorist grabs Senator Silver and continues the terrorist temper tantrum: “You don’t decide that! You don’t decide that! I decide that! I walk out of here and you do nothing — or his brains go for a walk! Got it?” Well, considering you’re actually holding your gun against the side of his chin it’s more likely his lower jaw will be going for the walk, but I get you. The final member of the Ibots leaps down onto the terrorist, quipping, “Politicians need brains? That’s a new one on me!” Ah, not since Much Ado About Nothing has their been such witty repartee!

The person (dressed in the worst Wolverine rip-off costume since Cougar from Youngblood) takes off the terrorist’s helmet and states, “Maybe we should have a look at your brains!” Psy-4 grabs the guy and tells him to knock it off: “Easy, Itazura! Remember the protocols!” Okay, forget Killaine – what sort of a lame-ass superhero name is “Itazura?!” Senator Silver proclaims how amazing the heroes are, but the blonde Senator, still clutching his bleeding arm, walks over and yells at their saviors: “You’re not human! You can’t be! What are you?! How did you know what was going on here?!” Well, they were actually just hanging around the TV studio, from what we can tell. Probably rejects from the set of Justice League Unlimited.

Radiant’s eyes suddenly glow and upon a close-up we see the head of a fat bearded guy in them [!!!]. A ghostly voice answers Senator Tax-For-Science, “I told them, Kevin. They’re with me.” A spectral image of said fat guy suddenly appears with a glowing aura around him, so I suppose it’s a hologram. Senator Tax-And-Spend-Democrat, AKA “Kevin,” identities the man as “Zac Robillard?! But you died You’re dead!” Actually he’s about a 250, give or take. Bah-dum-ching!

Zac Robillard (who must’ve had really cruel parents to name him that) states that, “These things don’t mean quite what they used to.” The two confusingly argue for a bit about people we don’t know about and implying that Senator Kevin may have played a part in his death. An explosion suddenly happens from a roof entrance, making Radiant terminate the hologram. Policemen (OF THE FUTURE!) run down and order everyone to freeze. Senator Silver leaps in front of the Ibots and explains that “These fine specimins(sic) saved my life — and I’m offering them my hospitality and thanks.” The police, skeptical of why they should trust a team of losers that include a guy with hair that KISS would be ashamed to see, a tall guy with a bowl cut hairdo and a Star Wars padawan ponytail, and a scantily-dressed redhead with huge yellow earrings and random straps around her arms and legs, demand to get names and addresses.

Senator Silver replies, “Contact them through me — tell terrorists and criminals there’s a new law in town — its voice will soon be Gregson Silver — and the new long arm of the law is — THE AMAZINGS!” You see, in the future, good superhero team names have all been taken. Still, could be worse – they could call themselves Secret Defenders or Youngblood or something idiotic like that.

A news reporter brings his own thoughts in on the situation: “And so a moment of horror apparently becomes a promise of hope — while America wonders if this was all a clever political machination — or whether, as with computers and the atom bomb, we have been thrust, unawares — into a strange and unknown future.” So, in the future, reporters will still speak blandly and over-dramatically about situations instead of reporting the news?

The woman watching the news report is Annabelle, mentioned briefly during the scene earlier with Zac Robillard and now I must laugh my ass off. Behold the fashions… OF THE FUTURE! as we see Annabelle wearing a cleavage-exposing brown top with a huge collar. Furthermore, the sleeves of the outfit are colored green and not actually connected to the top – instead they just somehow cling to her upper arms and have a huge shoulder area with a pointed tip at the top. Just as Annabelle is about to make a call, Senator Tax-My-Ride comes barging in wearing an arm sling as robots try to stop him. The two get into an argument as the Senator warns Annabelle that if she had something to do with the assault earlier, there’ll be hell to pay. Eventually it devolves into an exposition fest where we learn that the two are cousins and that Annabelle had originally wanted to get into politics and the Senator the business world, but their grandfather elected for her father to be President of the company and, well, it’s really all pretty dull since we don’t know anything about Annabelle except for the last panel of the scene where she contacts one Major Blicero – who is no doubt EEEEEVIL because of the weird-ass moustache he’s sporting.

Switch over to the terrorists from before being carted off in a prison van… OF THE FUTURE! They’re rolling through a forest and one of the cops expresses confusion about why this would be the pickup point and asks if he’s sure it’s the right place. His partner is less concerned: “Of course I’m sure. It’s on the printout.” It’s on a printed piece of paper?! That’d be IMPOSSIBLE to fake! I don’t suppose anyone thought of radioing into headquarters and confirming the location? The cops shuffle the terrorists out and they’re all wearing manacles… OF THE FUTURE! No, I won’t stop doing that. Said manacles are painted gold just like parts of the terrorists’ armor (why are they still in those, again?) and according to the officers are called “Shockcuffs,” designed to paralyze them if there are any sudden moves on the part of the prisoners. How it distinguishes between sudden moves and slow moves isn’t exactly described, but…

The concerned cop points out that it just doesn’t add up: “Why are we in the middle of nowhere? Where’s the pickup crew? This stinks!” It certainly does. Apparently convinced by this logic, the other cop orders the terrorists to get back into the van. Our ever-panicky terrorists, however, point out that, “It’s too late! Don’t you hear it?!” Callin’ me the way it used to? Sorry to say I can’t. Anywho, the police robots blow up thanks to helicopters above, completely vaporizing the entire group as the terrorists scream for the choppers not to shoot them. The chopper pilot reports in to Annabelle, identifying himself as Blicero even though he looks nothing like the Blicero of a few pages ago.

To make matters more confusing, they’re apparently part of the military, yet they’re wearing similar outfits to those of the terrorists earlier. They are apparently leading a group of differently-designed robots along too, who were apparently responsible for the carnage of the previous page. We never learn exactly why the terrorists needed to be so harshly eradicated along with their two police escorts but damn if those robots don’t look spiffy.

Cut to the home of Senator Silver, where he proposes to use his own home for their crimefighting activities. Damn, I know we’re using comic book logic when we have a rich politician offering his own house as a base of operations for a superhero team. Radiant responds that they don’t fight crime, they help people. And then we get some speculation on what exactly the difference is between the two:

“But isn’t fighting crime the best way to help the largest number quickest?”
Arguably. But widescale crime involves property, which is hardly our concern[?!]. Bring it down to the individual, and crime is only one of many ills that must be dealt with.”

Okay, how exactly does Radiant plan to use her superpowers in other uses besides crimefighting? ‘Hey, kids! It’s time to play We’re All Blind again!’ Furthermore, isn’t combating other kinds of problems Senator Silver’s job, not yours? Silver asks for Psy-4’s opinion on the matter since he’s the leader, but Psy-4 responds that he’s not the leader, “I’m only first among equals.” Psy-4 then asks them to drop the conversation since he’s “busy wave-surfing. I’d rather not discuss this now.” Silver looks to Radiant because Psy-4 looks completely insane for making such a statement (rightfully), but Radiant just puts her finger to her lips in a ‘hush!’ gesture.

As they continue their walk, Radiant informs Silver that Psy-4 wants to add that they won’t be calling themselves the Amazings. Silver expresses shock not that he rejected his lame team name, but for that the fact that he didn’t hear him say that. Radiant just looks back- er, well, she doesn’t really look because she has no eyes, but her face is turned in his direction and responds, “No. You didn’t. You couldn’t.” And with that bit of foreshadowing, it’s time to switch back to the EEEEVIL helicopters.

The helicopter pilot notes that they’ve found the Ibots and Silver’s mansion and Annabelle yells at them: “And you found them how? Eighty million dollars worth of satellite tracking They announced it on SATCAST, Blicero! Silver’s called a press conference for tomorrow. I want them gone today.” You know, as a boss, she should be building up her employees, not making them feel worse. I don’t see how she could be such a successful businesswoman and not understand that.

Switch to a television news studio that’s reporting on a deal between the Japanese and the French on “International Cybernetic Control Standards” (since it’s the future and all). Suddenly, the graphic next to the reporter’s face fizzes out, replaced by an image of Rick Olney! Oh my God, Rick Olney is Big Brother! Well, okay, it’s actually the head of Zac Robillard, who says, “If it’s a war you want[??], I know where there’s going to be one… right now…” Any minute now… Yep… War… Yeah…

But we switch over not to a war, but back to the estate of Senator Silver, where the military are attacking. Apparently the Ibots are expecting them as bullets fly and hit Stonewall, who proclaims, “This is it! Go!” Radiant tells the Senator to stay with Stonewall and they start fighting the helicopters. Psy-4 suddenly flies up to Stonewall and shouts, “What are you standing around for? Do I have to do it for you?” Well, gee, Psy, could it be he’s protecting the non-superpowered person from harm? Psy-4 suddenly has an Heroic Spaz Attack as he shouts, “Timing’s everything now! EVERYTHING!” So it’s EVERYTHING, then? Still a yelling jumble, he shouts at Itazura for no particular reason.

Itazura tells him, “You’ve got to learn to relax. We’re not robots, you know.” Yeah, with a comic called Ibots, does anyone buy that even for a second? I didn’t think so. Itazura continues to act super-confident, laughing about how easy it is to destroy the robots. Psy-4 once again berates him and I have to wonder what with him being all pissy about this that he was actually looking at porn when he was “wave-surfing.”

The military realize something’s wrong when Itazura of all people is managing to kick their asses. “That security breach! If the control code’s been compromisedIt’s a set-up! We’ve been set-up!” Jeez, everyone want to take a chill pill for five seconds? Even Itazura starts panicking when a robot manages to get through him and heads right for Stonewall (who is still standing in front of Senator Silver). Itazura yells for someone to stop it, but the robot just slams right into Stonewall and explodes, leaving him unfazed. Stonewall: the hero who bravely stands there!

The battle is over and Johnny Turbo (AKA Zac Robillard) speaks to them, talking about how things are going to change now that their existence is so public. Meanwhile, back in the helicopter, Blicero looks like he’s on the verge of tears as he shouts: “I’ll kill them! I’ll destroy them!” Isn’t destroying them presupposed by the killing? “I’ll have this place sanitized! Flies won’t be able to live on it!” Holy Hannah – he plans to put bug zappers and cleaning agents on the estate! His underling informs him that news helicopters are arriving and he panics even more:

“The Press? Please, not the Press! The Press ask questions.” They do? I thought they just gave biased accounts of their interpretation of what they consider ‘newsworthy,’ but if they ask questions, then they must be a serious threat to the military! Whole government quake in fear of — The Press! The EEEVIL plans have been foiled by — The Press! No, Tom Brokaw, please don’t hurt us! And seriously, the helicopter flies in retreat while a speech bubble proclaims, word for word here, “Get out get out get out get out get out get out.

The reporters land and start flashing pictures of the team and Psy-4 proudly announces, “We’re stars now, stuck in the public eye…” Then someone should get some Clear Eyes – call Ben Stein! “…right where our enemies don’t dare come for us…” Yeah, because no celebrities have been assassinated by their enemies before.

We cut back over to Annabelle, who’s having a migraine while she speculates on whether the Ibots are working on their own: “They weren’t built for it.” Her video monitor flashes on and three figures appear, one an old man, one a silhouetted figure, and one guy with a poorly-tied tie and a goatee. They tell her that “There are new players on the board!” “And they don’t belong to us.” They order her to find out what they are and get rid of them, but the issue ends with Annabelle lighting a cigarette and saying, “They’re Ibots. They belong to me. Let me explain…”

Foundation, eat your heart out – there’s a new greatest Isaac Asimov work! And he didn’t even write it!

Secret Defenders #9

Who says there aren’t any overweight superheroes?


Ah, the Defenders.

What a terrible concept, you know? I’m sorry, I know there are fans out there, but I just don’t get the point of the team. You get concepts like the Justice League or the Avengers – the best of the planet’s heroes uniting together to defend the world from threats beyond the normal capacity of superheroes. You get concepts like the Teen Titans – a group of teenaged superheroes and sidekicks banding together to help each other grow up and work together as friends and family. You get concepts like the X-Men – oppressed individuals with unusual abilities working together to show that the prejudices against them are unjustified.

But what is the need of the Defenders? Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Namor have nothing that unites them; they just exist. Still, The Defenders lasted an impressive 152-issue run from 1972 to 1986 before there was a new concept thrown out there in the 1990s – The Secret Defenders.

The idea was akin to the one used in Justice League Task Force – Doctor Strange would call upon a group of heroes to temporarily work together to deal with a specific threat. In theory, this actually isn’t a bad idea for a comic, kind of a Showcase Presents type of thing to highlight heroes, but if the rest of the series was anything like the subject today, I’ll have to say it failed miserably.

The writer, Ron Marz, has a love-hate relationship with comics fandom. While it may have been editorially dictated, he was the one who wrote the infamous Green Lantern story where Hal Jordan goes insane, murders several of his friends and colleagues, before turning into a full-on supervillain by absorbing all the Green Lantern energy and taking the name Parallax. He’s also responsible for inspiring the Women in Refrigerators criticism of comics and their tendency to depower, murder, rape, or otherwise just screw over female superheroines or characters. On the other hand, he also wrote Ion: Guardian of the Universe, so I won’t fault him for every bad thing he’s done.

As for the penciler Tom Grindberg… well, hell, I don’t know what to say. The artwork in this book is atrocious as we’re about to see, possibly a result of the Dark Age-style that may have been editorially handed to him, but from the other art I’ve seen of him, it baffles the mind why exactly we’re getting what we’re getting here.

Let’s start off with the hideous cover, as always. What does it say about the art when the small “icons” of the characters in the top left corner look better than the ones on the cover itself? The dizzying cover for Secret Defenders #9 features the three who will be working for Doctor Strange in this little adventure – Silver Surfer, War Machine, and our good old pal Thunderstrike. While it’s bad enough that the background colors are a nauseating collage of various shapes and wavy lines, the artwork on the three we see here is just as nerve-racking. I know Dark Age artwork took muscular structures and emphasized them considerably, but this is just sad – it’s like all three of them were balloons that got filled with enough air that any minute now they’re going to float away. Their necks are only about an inch long and they look like they can’t run, only waddle.

We open up on a ballooned, menacing Roger Delgado- erm, I mean Doctor Strange. Either of his hands are roughly the size of his head and he has a third eye on him for some reason. Oh and there are eyeballs floating around in yellow sulphuric mists that seem to be emanating from… well, I don’t really know what to call them. They look like stone, orange bones, and a single candle flame that doesn’t seem to be an actual light source. The good Doctor asks in the direction of the reader, “Why have you come to the house of DOCTOR STRANGE?” And his name is in red and made huge, as if he routinely walks around talking about himself in the most dramatic manner possible. I can just see him walking up to a Starbucks and proclaiming, DOCTOR STRANGE demands his grande double mocha!’

Cut to a two-page spread of Doctor Strange floating above the weird crap we saw on the first page as well as seeing what a cluttered mess his home, the Sanctum Sanctorum, really is. Oh, and his third eye is now gone. Silver Surfer is standing nearby and- oh, dear lord has he put on weight! Seriously, the guy’s stomach is clearly shown from the backside and his ass is at least twice as big as his head! I guess Galactus wasn’t the only guy chowing down on planets when the herald went a surfin’! The tragically-obese Silver Surfer says, “Wong let me in. He thought you would not mind. I can go if I’m intruding.” Doctor Strange replies, “Of course not, Surfer. I wouldn’t hear of it. Your arrival is simply unexpected — as are all your appearances lately. But you know you are welcome in my home at any time.” Then why were you yelling at him a minute ago for entering your house? Furthermore, what’s with the weird emphasis on certain words? Try to say that last bit of dialogue for yourself and try not to giggle when you start talking like a stereotypical hairdresser and saying ‘dahling!’

On the next page we see that the Surfer finally put his power cosmic to good use and seems to be flattening out his stomach a bit, albeit his arms and chest are still pretty weirdly drawn. Doctor Strange inquires as to why he’s here and the Surfer explains he needs some assistance. And now it’s time for the ol’ flashback to kick in detailing stuff that no one really cares about. Here’s the gist of it – apparently, a self-styled pirate named Nebula tried to steal the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and was imprisoned on Saturn’s moon Titan. She was later broken out of her prison and ran into the Silver Surfer after she had killed some of her former crew and I swear to God here that this page contains no less than four footnotes listing off where those actions took place, one of them even listing off a seven-issue[!] stint for the main Silver Surfer comic.

The Surfer further exposits that she’s mustering forces on the Martian moon Phobos (since when did Phobos have its own recruitment center for evil henchmen?). “Her target seems obvious — Titan.” Well, obviously. “She’ll want revenge for her imprisonment.” Wouldn’t she want revenge against the people who initially imprisoned her and not some jail (a jail of which we know nothing about… are there aliens on Titan who imprisoned her? I love how Marvel always proclaims it strives for a “real world” feel for their comics and ye we seem to get the impression that most of the moons in the solar system are inhabited!)? Doctor Strange offers assistance, but the Surfer declines. We zoom in on his face as he explains why his help would be useless, showing his face get chubbier and chubbier as if the more he speaks, the more his body fills out.

Apparently Nebula is a “Master Strategist” and that when she came into contact with many of Earth’s heroes before, she gained knowledge on all of them and subsequently what their weaknesses could be. The Surfer explains that though he failed to stop her the last time, he’ll take his chances now (yeah, go up against the woman who already knows you and your weaknesses! Who’s the master strategist now, eh?) As such, he requests Doctor Strange give him some allies who would be unfamiliar to Nebula.

Some time later, Doctor Strange has the Surfer come back to him and he shows who he has obtained. They’re veiled in silhouettes at first, making him confusedly think that Doctor Strange has obtained Thor and Iron Man. Strange replies, “No. Not quite.” Not even by a long shot, pal. And thus we are introduced to Thunderstrike and War Machine! And I just have to laugh here about how horrifying the artwork is on this page. War Machine looks like someone smushed him down so he was really wide and his legs were compressed to make up about half his body. Thunderstrike got off a little better, but his head is the size of his fist while the rest of his body is just muscled to the extreme. I’d like to say he’s on steroids but I didn’t know steroids made someone that friggin’ tall.

Just an artistic aside here – the average human body from the top of the head to the toes is usually about the height of one’s head times seven. Shoulder length is usually the width of two heads. Thunderstrike in this picture measures eleven head heights tall and five head-widths for the shoulders, just going to show once more that one needn’t to really have any anatomical knowledge in order to draw a comic.

The (unintentional) humor continues with the dialogue. Doctor Strange comments on how “Almost nobody recognizes them… least of all Nebula.” No, least of all the comic-reading public. What I really love is how Doctor Strange says right in front of them that these two are losers that aren’t well-known in the public. Still, I’ve got to say Ron Marz in this book does capture Thunderstrike’s unique and complex grasp of the English language as we saw in his own book:

Honored to meet you… Though we’ve met before, sort of. But that’d be a long story (Oh, why stop now?) and… well… uh…Like I said… I’m honored. Really.” Somewhere out there Shakespeare’s swooning, folks.

Silver Surfer must be kicking himself now as he asks, “You’re sure they’re up to it?” Doctor Strange affirms his confidence in the two and the Surfer asks the two if they’ve been explained what they’ll be up against. War Machine replies, “All right with me. Sounds like a good scrap.” If you mean your armor, then yes, your armor will make good scrap. “I need a chance to work out the kinks in this suit, anyway.” Oh, well that should put the Silver Surfer’s fears to rest – your armor’s apparently not even perfected and yet you want to go up against the Master Strategist. Doctor Strange apparently didn’t spend much time looking for these two, did he?

Thunderstrike expresses his own confidence in the mission: “I mean, with the three of us, this nebula doesn’t stand a chance, right?” This coming from the guy whose original arch-nemesis was a Rastafarian Doctor Doom called “Carjack.” On top of that is War Machine, who I’m sure has quite an arsenal that would make him a threat on Earth, but the amount of alien technology at Nebula’s disposal must easily trump War Machine’s weapons. And as the Surfer explained, even he is pretty much useless in this fight because Nebula’s already encountered him and therefore can out-strategize him. Here’s a thought – instead of bringing in two losers that even Doctor Strange admitted “nobody recognizes,” how about you organize the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and every other hero at your disposal and go on a huge assault on her? Sure, she’s a master strategist, but the number of superpowered individuals at their disposal must create too many variables for her to have to factor in.

The Silver Surfer warns them not to get overconfident, especially since even by his own admission: “We are only three, and it’s certain Nebula has gathered a sizable force by now. Her troops will be well-armed and well-trained.” This is going to be like the superhero Bay of Pigs, isn’t it? Doctor Strange teleports them away amidst more nauseating magical effects and we can see once again that apparently between panels the heroes have gained significant weight (especially in their legs. Wow!), making me think this is actually going to be a superhero Bay of Pigs orchestrated by Fat Bastard, an elderly Marlon Brando, and Chris Farley.

Cut to a two-page spread of the battle on Phobos! It’s the kind of battle one would see in Infinite Crisis or Civil War except it’s ridiculously lame compared to the group shots in those books because only THREE heroes are here and the rest are just an assortment of unrecognizable aliens who are either standing around or just getting blasted through by Silver Surfer, War Machine, and Thunderstr- BY DIEHARD’S CROTCH! What the hell happened to Thunderstrike’s spine?! He’s curving his body more than a female character by Michael Turner! Come to think of it, none of these people have any kind of space suits on. How the hell are they breathing?

The Silver Surfer says he’ll go on ahead to hunt for Nebula while the other two take on the horde of alien soldiers. War Machine responds with a non-chalant, “Fine. Everything’s under control here.” I guess he’s grown as bored with this stuff as we have. Thunderstrike has this to say: “Sure, you track her down, but, uh… leave some for us, okay?” I just gasp whenever Thunderstrike speaks – his words are spoken softly — through gritted teeth — but they strike with the force of a thunderbolt! *Sigh*

*Ahem* Anyway, Silver Surfer flies up, blasting an alien in half (come to think of it, all three of them aren’t exactly pulling their punches to prevent slicing and dicing the alien soldiers here) as he reasons where Nebula could be: “Resistance is heaviest near Nebula’s flagship. I suspect that’s where I’ll find her… waiting for me. I won’t disappoint her.” So his plan is to fly into Nebula’s Flagship guns ablazing right where she wants to and… what, exactly? I guess Surfer’s plan is:

1. Fly right into Nebula’s hands.
2. ???
3. Profit!

Brilliant strategy, Napoleon. Weren’t you the one lecturing the other two a minute ago about being overconfident? A weird energy burst comes from a gun in some green guy’s hands that knocks out the Silver Surfer in one blast. We see Nebula herself now and apparently she’s Locutus of Borg with child-bearing hips and actually quite an impressive package for a woman. She explains that the weapon was a “Synaptic Disruptor,” for those who were wondering how some energy weapon could take down someone with the power cosmic. Oh, and she’s also wearing a leather jacket for no particular reason with the Flash’s lightning bolt on the lapel. Make ‘Buried Alien’ jokes at your leisure.

Cutting back to Thunder Strike and War Machine, the two are actually having a decent conversation about how it shouldn’t matter if they’re viewed as imitations of more well-known heroes. “If you’re in this to do some good, doesn’t matter who you look like. Long as you get the job done. Remember that, Thunderstrike, and everything falls into place.” Of course, the touching little commentary on heroism and resemblance is undercut by the fact that the two look like two overweight bikers trying to storm their way over to a sack of White Castles, but it’s a nice sentiment for the two.

And of course the “well-armed, well-trained” soldiers are easily smacked around by a guy in a suit of technologically-inferior armor and a guy who looks like Crocodile Dundee if he let his hair and beard grow out. Suddenly, some red, demonic-looking alien grabs Thunderstrike and threatens him with a curvy blade, which is somehow supposed to create dramatic tension, except for the fact that we know the guy has enhanced strength, which means a little blade isn’t going to do crap on him. War Machine frags the alien and I’ve got to shake my head at the thought that just a second ago they were talking about being heroes.

The two fly off in search of the Silver Surfer and we finally get an explanation for how they can breathe: an “artificial atmosphere envelope.” Hmmm… Nope, not buying it. Sorry. They arrive at the edge of the “artificial atmosphere envelope” and find the Silver Surfer strapped to some big hunk of metal. Nebula starts ‘mu-ha-ha-ing’ about how she was ready for the Surfer while she stands in an awkward pose that once again points out what a tiny waist she has but that she’s got a big butt, too. Oh and this page has the only bright spot in this whole issue – it’s the reflection of light on the bottom of the thing Silver Surfer’s strapped to.

Nebula gets in a nice zing on the two has-beens: “And you two jokes — whatever you’re supposed to be — can’t do a thing to stop me.” Damn, those two just got owned by a cyborg Sinead O’Connor. Thunderstrike’s ready to open a can of whoopass over the insult, but War Machine tells him to take it easy (in quite possibly the best-drawn panel of the entire comic if only because we can’t see their bodies, just their faces and part of their shoulders). Nebula exposits that the Silver Surfer is strapped to a fusion-reaction bomb that “he’s going to ride it all the way down to Titan.” Doctor Strangelove, eat your heart out.

This does raise even more questions, though – how exactly does she plan on getting the bomb to Titan? She supposedly has a “Flagship,” yet every time we see her here she’s standing on a bunch of rocks. And again I must ask – what’s the point of taking out Titan, exactly? It seems to me that the Silver Surfer probably has more to answer for in terms of doing crap to you than some prison and you even have the surfer captured and you can kill him with the bomb already. And perhaps most damning of all, are we really supposed to take Nebula here as a “Master Strategist?” So far the ‘heroes’ are the ones who have bumbled around just leaping in without a second thought. And not to mention it doesn’t exactly take much to take down either of these two. Bear in mind, a good EMP could probably leave War Machine defenseless. And Thunderstrike here was taken down by Bloodaxe of all people.

Thunderstrike asks, “And you expect us to stand by and let you do it?” Nebula, channeling her inner James Bond villain, responds, “No. Of course not. I expect you to stand here and be killed.” The book ends as two more overweight aliens suddenly come floating down (or is it supposed to be leaping? I can’t imagine having that much fat on a body and being able to leap like that) and Nebula explains that they are her Lieutenants Kurg and Kruk and that they’re “particularly good soldiers because I’ve had all their nerve endings cauterized. They feel no pain. But you will.

Dun dun duuuuuuuun! Will Silver Surfer become the Silver Smudge?! Will Thunderstrike and War Machine get on the Slim Fast Plan before they run afoul of a heart attack?! Does Nebula realize that Persis Khambatta isn’t a good role model for one’s hairstyle?! Who knows, who cares. I have to go order a new crate of donuts for the Silver Surfer.

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