Monday, September 26, 2011

Just Sayin'--About That Whole Catwoman Thing . . .

While I'm sure that everyone's dying to hear me weigh in on the whole Catwoman/Starfire kerfuffle that happened last week, I'm afraid I'm gonna have to beg off on this one. Partly because Kate Beaton did it way better and funnier than I ever could, and also because at this point even I'm tired of edginess in the service of pointlessness and all I can manage about this kind of thing is to shrug my shoulders and sigh.

I can't decide whether it's a fault of approach or just incompatibility issues, but the more "adult" stuff you try to drag into the tights and flights superhero comics, the more juvenile they become. I really wish people would start getting that.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #37

Good day, eh. So, like, this is our weekly feature that's, ya know, going through every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and I am NOT Bob McKenzie or his brother Dug (how's it going, eh?) but it was as good a way to start the ball rolling as any. This week, I am pleased to announce that while we're not totally out of the sixth season doldrums (in point of fact, we've hardly begun them) but I have two of the most definitive DS9 episodes in the entire run to talk about, and everything else is at least somewhat interesting. So let's get it on like Donkey Kong, shall we?


"That is pretty funny in a horrible way."

So if you remember from review of "Waltz," I was not the biggest fan of the new ker-AZY Gul Dukat, who exists only as a recurring villain with one dimension and is a big step down from the pre-"Waltz" Dukat, who had many facets to him and wasn't just a villain (usually bad or operating his own agenda, but not twirling his mustache-level bad) Apparently, this was not what the creators of the show wanted any more, and from now on, when Dukat pops up, it will be to much lesser effect.

I bring this up because knowing all that, the episode begins with a rather effective bit: Dukat wakes Kira up and tells her: "I totally banged your mom." Yes, Dukat, who began the season at the head of a Cardassian/Domion alliance that was threatening to bring the Federation and the Klingons to their knees is now trolling people one by one. I don't think even Superboy Prime had a threat-level drop-off this bad.

This is just a means to get us into the story, and it's Kira's story, so we really don't have to grapple with the unpleasant arc of Dukat's character. Because you see, Dukat really did totally bang her Mom, and given who Kira is, that is something utterly impossible for her to live with (and really, who could blame you? "Yes, dear, your mother and I were married for 35 years, but there was that time Space Hitler was her backdoor man" is not the kind of thing anyone is prepared to hear, ever) So she goes to commune with the Orb of Time, which apparently does self-help consequence-free time travel now because the writers were willing to ask these questions in this episode, but they were going to hedge the shit out of them.

So Kira takes a time-trip back and meets her mom--Meru, her younger self, and her father, who are living in yet another godawful Bajoran refugee center, where there's always a fight about to break out over food (we call these places "Denny's" here) Kira helps her family keep their food rations and, even though it has been explicitly stated that nothing she could do will screw up the timeline, she decides that she will be known as Calvin Klein. Her friends call her Marty.

Before we can get much of a picture of her home life, Marty and Meru are spirited away by the Cardassians, because, and there's no easy way to say this, Cardassians on long tours of duty need to get laid, and since you're already raping and pillaging the planet at the macrocosm level, the Cardassians figured why not take it down to the microcosm as well.

I should also mention here that we're introduced to Basso Tromac, and oh my GOD, Basso Tromac. Basso is the Bajoran flack for the Cardassians, and oily, collaborating dickhead whose whole job apparently consist of holla'ing bitches for Gul Dukat. The level of slimeball this man is able to generate is astonishing.

He also looks like the guy from Corner Gas. I don't really think that has anything to do with anything, I just thought I would mention this.

Anyways, they get taken up to Terok Nor (this being the Occupation still and all) and get an extreme makeover. Marty works in this role about as well as you'd expect--being that the idea of a Cardassian pawing her is enough to make her pissed off enough to tear God in half, she vocally tells them how much she'd like to cut their throats as look at them.

Naturally they pair her off with a Cardassian masochist who gets off on hearing such things. What are the odds?

In any event, the point of the episode is thus: Dukat takes a shine to Meru and makes her his #1 girl Friday, giving her her own quarters, all the food and goodies she could possibly want, and well, to say Kira's appalled by this is an understatement: she fought the Cardassians, sacrificed everything (including, as we saw last season, he father) in the name of the fight and to see her mother not only not fighting, but actually happy as the kept woman of Space Hitler, well . . .she's ready to fuck some shit up.

Yes, this story turns on Kira being willing to kill her own mother for selling out like this.

Had the episode been just this, it would have been pretty compelling. It couldn't have gone too far, because we know nothing can muck up the timeline, but it would have made for an interesting philosophical moment, and given us a nice counterparts to "Ties of Blood and Water," when we found out how her father died alone. Kira has, in a real way, sacrificed everything fighting the Cardassians and exists as an island unto herself.

But the episode isn't through yet, as we see why Meru is doing this, and it really throws your assumptions about the episode into sharp relief, and is an example of DS9 at it's best, not willing to make things easy or clearly drawn into neat lines of good and evil.

That will be something a theme this week. This episode is, with reservations, well worth watching, touching on the horrors of the Occupation in a way that hasn't really been done in the series for some time, and also giving us one last look at a nuanced version of Dukat before . . .well, what happens happens. It also sets up the theme for this week: Good and evil are not so clearly drawn, as we'll see in . . .


"You make it sound so ominous"

Hello and welcome to one of the most controversial episodes ever among Trek die-hards. And there's no way to talk about it without spoiling all of it, so, ye be warned.

Bashir is getting ready to go to a medical conference, which, like all medical conferences in Star Trek land is apparently a paper-thin cover for them to hang out in the lap of luxury. But Bashir isn't going to make the conference, because Deputy Director Sloan shows up. He's part of Starfleet Internal Affairs, and he has a fuck-ton of questions for everyone and so, puts the station on lockdown. Everyone is confined to quarters and interviewed separately. However, it soon becomes clear that Sloan's main purpose in coming here is to look into Bashir's record.

And when you look at it a certain way, Bashir's record is pretty checkered. There was his nearly coming to blows with O'Brien about curing the Jem'Hadar of their ketracel white addiction in "Hippocratic Oath," Him being captured by the Dominion and thrown in a gulag, that the Dominion were nevertheless nice enough to leave a runabout with a working transporter in orbit so they could escape in "In Purgatory's Shadow/By Inferno's Light," lying about his genetically enhanced status in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume," and the stuff with the Jack Pack in "Statistical Probabilities" a couple weeks back that featured them suggesting the Federation surrender to the Dominion to prevent an appalling loss of life.

Sloan asserts that Bashir is a sleeper agent for the Dominion--so thoroughly programmed that he doesn't know that he's an agent of the enemy. Bashir scoffs at this and does everything he can to prove his innocence in the face of circumstantial evidence.

But things get worse. Bashir is formally charged and imprisoned, further isolating him from his friends on the station. Then Weyoun spirits him out, trying to convince him of the same lie. Something's up, but no one believes him. The circumstantial evidence seems to have proved out . . .

. . .but it's all a fake. Sloan is much more than an Internal Affairs officer: he's in charge of Section 31, an autonomous secret organisation that finds and neutralises threats to the Federation, quietly, and without a whole lot of scruples (going forward, we'll see how far they're willing to go) Moreover, 31 has existed since the founding of the Federation, quietly going about its business. To his credit, Odo isn't surprised--every other great power has a group like Section 31 (like the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order) but Bashir and the rest of the Starfleet guys are a bit gobsmacked, being that this flies in the face of all the feel-good ain't humanity great BS that Star Trek stands upon.

Sloan's goal wasn't to discredit or prosecute Bashir, he wants to recruit him into Section 31. Bashir is repusled that Sloan's believes utterly that the ends justify the means (in a good scene, he asks Bashir is the people he's saved as a Doctor give a damn that he lied to get into Starfleet) and is horrified that an organisation exists, and, that he's now become entangled with them.

Section 31 is really controversial, as Gene Roddenberry had a few rules: no space pirates, the good guys never use cloaking devices, and humanity had apparently evolved past the point of ugly covert operations bureaus like this. That it is not destroyed in this episode and goes on to be woven into the endgame of DS9, is a hard turn against that ideal. It's more realistic, and it may ask some questions that the concept cannot comfortably handle, but I give DS9 all the credit in the world for being willing to ask the question and play out that string.

Speaking of being willing to betray some of the core principles of the show thus far in the name of real drama . . .


"I CAN . . .live with it."

If introducing Section 31 in "Inquisition" was controversial because of the shadow it put over Star Trek, "In The Pale Moonlight" is like a bomb set off inside Star Trek. Because it steps over every line, challenges every assumption, and upends everything you knew about the series and the characters (even given DS9's loosey-goosey irreverent treatment of Trek mores) In this episode, DS9 becomes DS9 first and Star Trek a distant second, and while it will never go this far again, it is perhaps the most gutsy hour of SF television to this date.

It's also the ultimate Sisko episode, though it doesn't feature Sisko as The Sisko owning assholes and stuff. And I am about to spoil the hell out of this episode, because like "Inquisition," we can't really talk about it without spoiling it.

We open with Sisko dictating in his log and slamming back the hooch. Something has happened. Something bad.

Sisko goes back to when it all started--he'd been posting the latest casualty list in the wardroom and he and his crew had a heated debate about one Federation ship that was attacked in Romulan territory. The Romulans signed a nonaggression pact with the Dominion back in "Call To Arms," remember, and are perfectly happy to stand by and let the Dominion attack its enemy.

Sisko knows that's only a temporary thing (not unlike a girl in trouble) and that the Dominion will deal with the Romulans just like they're trying to deal with the Federations and the Klingons. But right now the Romulans consider themselves to be in the catbird seat--they're not in the war at all, the Dominion is beating the crap out of the Federation and the Klingons, and they don;t have to do a thing.

So Sisko decides he will get the Romulans into the war on their side. And so lays the first stone of good intentions on his road to hell.

Sisko goes to Garak, to see if he can find some evidence that the Dominion is planning to attack the Romulans. Garak sends out some feelers, and everyone he talks to is murdered the very next day. Well, so much for that, Sisko thinks, but Garak shrugs it off. With the stakes as high as they are, and no ability to get legitimate intel, why not . . .oh, I dunno . . .make it up?

Sisko sees the logic in it, but soon finds out that it's not as easy as all that. Garak gets him to spring a forger from a Klingon jail, who immediately gets into a brawl at Quark's and thrown in jail, forcing Sisko to bribe Quark to keep him from pressing charges. Sisko has to force Bashir to send a controlled substance to unknown parties, and oh yeah, there's the whole business that he basically trying to con an entire civilisation into a protracted bloody conflict with no end in sight.

But apart from these slight hiccups, things are going well--the forgery looks OK, the forger hasn't tried to kill anyone else, the Romulan senator most in favour of perpetuating the Domion treaty has agreed to drop by and see Sisko, and if you exclude the whole "Sisko is dying by inches because the moral compromises are starting to wear on him," it looks like everything's going well.

I should mention here that Senator Vreenak, the Romulan who negotiated the treaty with the Dominion, is an epic asshole, even compared with other Romulans we've seen. That said, he gets a great opening line when he meets up with Sisko:

"So you're the commander of Deep Space 9. And the Emissary to the Prophets. Decorated combat officer, widower, father, mentor... and oh yes, the man who started the war with the Dominion. Somehow I thought you'd be taller."

So, they banter back and forth a little bit. Vreenak is positively exuding smug: the Federation looks like its on its last legs: there's manpower shortages, their shipyards are wrecked, and they lack the resolve to utterly defeat the Dominion, having already sent out peace feelers. For Sisko's part, he hold true to his course, and presents the forged evidence to Vreenak.

So let me put you out of your misery now. That forgery that Sisko has risked everything and compromised so much for . . .how do you think that worked out. Let's check in with Vreenak, and the stuff Internet memes are made of:

Well, shit.

So things could have gone better, sure. Because now it looks like the Romulans will use this to enter the war, but on the Dominion's side. Sisko has well and truly fucked up, and all he can do now is wait for Vreenak to get back to Romulus and see how bad it's going to be.

Only Vreenak never gets back. His shuttle is destroyed on the way back to Romulus, and given that his last known destination (the meeting with Sisko being uber-secret stuff) was a Dominion conference, it looks . . .well, bad.

Sisko takes this news as you'd expect--he marches right down to Garak's tailor shop and smacks the ever-loving shit out of him.

Garak played him: He knew the forgery wouldn't hold up to Vreenak's scrutiny, but he's made sure that the forgery will be found among the ruins of the shuttle, and the damage from the explosion will cover the imperfections in it. The more the Dominion protests that they didn't kill Vreenak, the more the Romulans will believe they're guilty, because it's exactly what the Romulans would do if the positions were reversed.

Sisko has his wish: The Romulans have joined the battle, on their side. It may be the turning point in the war they've been waiting for. And all that it's cost him is everything that was important to him, personally. He has left nothing within him uncompromised, broken all his rules, and lost a significant amount of self-respect.

All because the stakes were so high, and his intentions were good. And for those high stakes, and those blighted intentions, he must now put it aside and keep going, and try to forget, even though this wound will never heal, and he will never entirely forget.

This episode is Exhibit A for people who claim DS9 "isn't really Star Trek" (whatever that really means) If that means it's not a utopian view of the future, well, that's as may be. It stopped being that the minute the war heated up, maybe even earlier if you want to get down to cases. And seen from 14 years after, where this sort of dark, morally compromised SF is the rule and not the exception, it probably doesn't feel as much of a sea-change as it did back then, but if you're grounded in a typical Star Trek story from this time period, it comes through with an amazing amount of force.

Captains in Star Trek break the rules all the time, but they're stupid rules put there to force out drama like the Prime Directive. But lying someone into a war is interfering with another culture on a grand scale. The episode's pretty up front with the stakes involved--the Federation is losing the war and taking appalling casualties. The Dominion will win if this becomes a war of attrition. A good officer isn't afraid of sacrifice, and a good person knows that doing the right thing is not always easy.

But very rarely does it get taken to this level. Because it's willing to carry it through to its logical conclusion and doesn't chump out on the ending--Sisko's got what he wanted, but the cost was dearer than he could have imagined--this, ladies and gentlemen, is DS9's Best Ever episode. The show will never reach a higher height than this.


"What does fun have to do with Major Kira?"
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that."

Case in point. Nothing says "buzzkill" like going from last episode to this one. You see, this is the advent of Vic Fontaine, and like the previous 2 episodes, few things divide DS9 viewers and Star Trek fans like the reign of terror that is a Vic Fontaine episode.

Vic is a hologram of a 1960's Vegas lounge singer (those DS9 guys were onto the whole Mad Men thing even before Mad Men. Pity this was so bad) Vic is a special kind of hologram, by which I mean he is basically Poochie, as he is brilliant, more perceptive, kinder, and everyone loves him (on the show, I mean) and . . .yeah, you see why I have a problem with this, as most of Vic's wonderfulness is an Informed Attribute as we're told how wonderful he is more than we are shown.

I can't say he's always irritating--there's one good Vic episode, but we're a ways off from that one. For now though, Vic is here in this episode to finally get Kira and Odo together, and what better way to shove two character's we've been following for six years awkwardly than with a 1960s lounge singer manipulating them and making the pair of them act more than a little thick in the name of plot?

Remember during "You Are Cordially Invited" when I blew my stack about the whole Kira and Odo plot from the opening arc being taken care of in an off-screen conversation in a closet. Yeah, the lack of that kind of resolution happening in front of the audience leads to problems here, because Kira and Odo are basically tricked into together in a way that doesn't feel all that organic, and makes both of them look like dolts. Why not draw on their shared history and the character development that has been going on for six years now, and make this feel more natural?

Because this was phase one of Operation Get Vic Fontaine Over. Sadly, there will be more of this to come.

This feels like a missed opportunity, and even moreso because we've just come down off the peak that "In The Pale Moonlight" was. Whatever came after that was bound to suffer in comparison, but something this . . .safe . . .and inoffensive feels too much like pulling back from where the show should be going, a tendency that will manifest itself more and more, I'm sad to say.

And it's not going to be long, either. Join us next week for one of the most lethally awful DS9 episodes of all time as the Prophets and Pah-Wraiths come to the station and do alarmingly stupid shit as another multi-dimensional character gets downgraded to stock eeeeevil in "The Reckoning"; Jake and Nog find out that letting the children lead is not always the best thing in "Valiant"; We have another Ferengi episode that manages to go so far below the bottom of the barrel it ends up in the molten core of the earth itself in the utterly execrable "Profit and Lace" and it's time to make O'Brien suffer some more in "Time's Orphan." Join us next week for spooky voices, Ferengi trannies, and so much withering displeasure. It will not be pretty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Why yes, I did have one more of these. Even more ironically, I seem to be more or less striding alongside the zeitgeist insofar as examining the influence of the Image guys as we stand on the precipice of twenty years after their advent.

Guess it had to happen sometime. No, not the 20 years--me actually being part of the zeitgeist.

Anyways, last time we looked and laughed and looked and laughed some more at WildC.A.T.s and--

Dammit, I hate when it does that. Anyways, we took a look at them and their somewhat headache-inducing four issue debut which featured about 8 zillion plots and twice as many characters rampaging through a story that made plenty of sense . . .provided you didn't try to y'know, read it.

Before that, we looked at Cyberforce, which was just goddamn zany and, like WildC.A.T.s, featured about 19 plots going on all at once, some rubbish poetry, and a lot of fighting and shooting of guns and guys with four arms and . . .yeah. Cyberforce's four issues were slightly less coherent than WildC.A.T.s, but Cyberforce also had the panties-moistening awesomeness that is WARBUK (women want to be with him, men want to copy his drink), and that goes a long way.

Nevertheless, these were books with plenty of things in common--for one thing they were both printed on paper--yeah, good start. Oh, and they were both printed on Earth, and the people who made the books were all carbon-based lifeforms, Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri, the creators of WildC.A.T.S. & Cyberforce, respectively, shared a studio, and oh yeah--they were both highly polished, high-energy, and incredibly muddled stabs at superhero comics from folks who ate, slept and breathed superhero comics with all the good and bad that entails.

Well as the initial flourish from Image's first wave rolled back and it came time to ramp up for the second, it was time to take stock of the first few mini-series and turn them into ongoing series. In theory, anyways--you see, Image pioneered the concept of a comic being so late that, like Schrodinger's Cat, it was actually available for sale and never at the comic store at the exact same time (And it's still going strong today--anyone see Battle Chasers #10 yet?) This was generally ignored as a bad thing at the time because whenever the books could be bothered to come out, they still sold like hotcakes, and if there's one thing the comics industry is very good at, it is fiddling while things are on fire.

Anyways, not only was it decided that Cyberforce and WildC.A.T.s would get ongoing series (Cyberforce starting with a new #1 and WildC.A.T.s started with #5, because shut up, that's why) but they would cross over in a story so awesome, so mind-boggling, so utterly gnarly, that they just had to call it . . .Killer Instinct:

Yeah, it has nothing to do with Fulgore, Jago, or Orchid, but why are you reading these, if not to enjoy me being all silly around the margins? Anyways, Killer Instinct would feature Cyberforce and the C.A.T.s teaming up because it turned out each had a member that shared a past--in this case Ripclaw from Cyberforce (who, you may remember, was the stereotypical Native America poet/Wolverine clone who had liquid metal hands or some shit and called himself a "bear." Doesn't that play entirely different now?) and Warblade (who was just a Wolverine clone with liquid metal claws and didn't really call himself much of anything) That people only thought of Riplcaw as "kinda kewl" and Warblade . . .well, not much at all, was set aside.

Anyways, let us cut right to heart of this thing. We begin with WildC.A.T.s #5, the beginning of Jim Lee's continuing love affair with big ass gatefold spreads. Zealot and Grifter are infiltrating the island of Gammorra (Image was and is many things. Subtle's not one of them) by the stealthy means of flying a giant-ass hang glider into their main building, smashing the fuck out of the window, and killing the hell out of everyone inside.

What, they were supposed to sneak in in a cardboard box?

Credit where it's due must go to Lee's use of the gatefolds here, because he draws the action so big and bold it almost feels like the pages can't contain them without expanding outward (which is why it's such a disappointment that every other time he's used this gimmick, it's always with very boring static shots of people standing around looking at stuff) and it really does make the book feel like it'd dialed up to 11.

I could have done without Grifter paraphrasing "Whoop! (there it is)" but in fairness, this is 1993, and there was no escaping that fucking song.

Anyways, Grifter runs into their target, Richtoffen, whose design I must say (especially in light of the "Jim Lee is an awful costume designer" meme that's going around as of late) is sublime, because his consummate evil is demonstrated because he wears an eyepatch and a monocole at the same time. Seriously guys, it is the equivalent of WARBUK, it is that awesome.

But Richthoffen has an ace up his sleeve--Misery, who has some ill-defined mind-control powers and frankly mind-boggling measurements. Like all gingers, she is consummately evil and demonstrates this by beating the shit out of Grifter. The rest of the WildC.A.T.s show up and demonstrate that after the first four issues of the book have merged into an effective team by splitting up, fighting Misery, letting Warblade go off and fight Misery, leaving him behind, and then blowing up the place they were supposed to infiltrate. Our Heroes, ladies and gentlemen!

Cut to Cyberforce #1, wherein we begin with Ripclaw having a nightmare about being gutted by Warblade and engaging in an interior monologue only vaguely more coherent than the Ultimate Warrior:

See, it wasn't the same clip I use for Liefeld articles this time. In this way I reward the longtime readers of this blog.

Ripclaw demonstrates how shaken up the dream has made him, by going off to scare the shit out of and kill Velocity, because he's mad that people like Velocity better than him, I guess. It is here that we encounter a page that has gained some minor Internet meme as Ripclaw somehow manages to blather out an entire essay while jumping from a tree. Oh Chris Claremont, even when you're not here, it's like you are.

The rest of Cyberforce is all like "what the hell, Bro?" and Ripclaw is all like "Don't sass me, y'all. I'm going off to write more poetry!"

Meanwhile, Stryker goes to talk some sense into Ballistic. Ballistic kicks him in the balls after trying to kill him by throwing drinking straws at him. This was time well spent.

Meanwhile, Ripclaw's hallucinating that Warblade and Misery are trying to kill him and tries to call on the spirit of the bear. But since this is not the Chuck Norris epic Forest Warrior, he gets his ass kicked, and sits bolt upright (man, he sleeps a lot) and decides they're alive even though they're both supposed to be dead.

Back to WildC.A.T.S, where so soon after making the place they were supposed to be quietly infiltrating go kaboom, they manage to get their ship kaboomed as well (they are not good at this superhero thing at all, are they?) run into Misery, who gains a couple more superpowers thanks to plot convenience, and kidnaps Warblade. The WildC.A.T.s sit back and let it happen because they, like us, don't give a shit about Warblade either.

Misery takes Warblade to the Island of the Dead, which is an island that is also a graveyard so she can stage a fight between Warblade and Riplclaw, because the three of them had some kinda hot love triangle that ended under peculiar circumstances which you'd think the story would try to explain to us, but (SPOILER) will not because it's not that kinda party.

Cyberforce tries to give us some of the backstory, but it's all a bit muddled and confusing--apparently Misery sold Warblade, Ripclaw, and Cyberdata out for reasons as yet unclear (and only made marginally more clear by stories end) and Ripclaw, who refuses to listen to Warblade that Misery's trying to get them all killed, gets stabbed by Ripclaw and thrown off a cliff, because if we didn't do that, we couldn't have a big fight, now could we?

Cut back to the present and the boys are at it again, and horror of horrors--apparently Misery is a poet as well. Must be where the name comes from.Cyberforce shows up to beat up Warblade some more (The WildC.A.T.s, ladies and gentlemen--the most successful least successful superheroes ever!) and we flip back to WildC.A.T.s for round 1 of the big Cyberforce/WildC.A.T.s fights, because even in neophyte comics companies, there is no more reliable cliche than "heroes getting into a fight because of a misunderstanding."

So they have a big fight that pitches this way and that and hey, Stormwatch shows up for one panel to . . .er, remind us that there is a book called Stormwatch and Jim Lee would like it very much if you bought a copy, I guess. The fight spills over to the final chapter in Cyberforce, Warblade and Riplcaw fight again, Cyberforce and WildC.A.T.s fight even more and it becomes painfully obvious that Misery is controlling Cyberforce, so Warblade stabs her in the gut, which as you might imagine, breaks her concentration a little.

If this was all it took, I don't know why he didn't do it earlier either. I guess he just forgot he could do it. Apparently being stabbed through the gut also solves Misery's nuttiness and is no handicap to her delivering REAMS of exposition (I always thought gut-shots were really incapacitating--I mean, even Mr. Orange shut up for awhile there) which makes frighteningly little sense. The gist of it is that Richthoffen was going to build an army of artificial people using Spartan's arm, which was torn off back in WildC.A.T.s #2 (I have to say, for an early Image book, that's some tight continuity--he said, damning it with the faintest of praise) and Richthoffen promised to make Misery effectively immortal, and if you can't believe an evil German with an eyepatch and a monocle, then who in this world can you trust, I ask you?

We close with Cyberforce and WildC.A.T.s being all chummy and pally, because that's how these crossovers tend to end. Sadly, this particular team-up is never done (or even referred to) again, which seems to be a missed opportunity, as you'd think a decent story could be made from this once the respective books had had time to get a handle on the characters.

I have such fond memories of this crossover, and of the feeling of excitement it generated, most especially among the little rag-tag group of artists that comprised my high school art class. Sure it was utterly daft and had about as much depth as a kiddie pool, but it was exciting and really seemed to us like boundary-pushing stuff. I remember we actually tried with our comics to mimic the big gatefold things Jim Lee did in that WildC.A.T.s issue and seeing if we could make it work (we could, but the more you read it, the more the paper tended to come apart on the fold lines) and pored over this stuff like it was the Zapruder film. True, we could have probably picked more worthwhile stuff to use as a guidepost, but when you're younger, you're the sum of influences more than most, and I would plead for a little clemency and indulgence--lord knows everyone has a period they go through where they don't know shit about shit and carry on anyways.

Looking back . . .well, it hasn't aged well, but it has a certain naive charm. Plus, there's a reassuring feeling of continuity that the Image guys were cranking out stuff that wore its influences on its sleeve, and we would read that and do comics where we wore our influences on our sleeves. It was kinda nice to be told it was OK to do that and it was a phase everyone goes through (and judging by Keith Giffen's ability to become a Jack Kirby cover band, is a recurring condition) and it was a part of growing up.

Still . . .I wish it had more WARBUK.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Egads, y'all. More 90's stuff. Those of you who have been following our somewhat affectionate but by no means uncritical look at the early 90's here recently are either gnashing your teeth in dread at this or gleefully waiting to see what kind of insane shit I say in the writing of this, especially halfway through when it's obvious I've given up making any kind of point and am just cuttin' up for its own sake.

Right, so, Wild C.A.T.S. It was--

As I was saying: It was Image's big thing, as at the time there was no one bigger than Jim Lee. Seriously, Jim Lee in the early 90's if fame could be converted to physical girth would have been our second moon. He was that big a deal. He'd just had huge success with X-Men, which had 8 million covers and sold hand over fist and made Jim Lee a household name, provided you lived in a comic store or a high school art class.

Marvel bent over backwards to keep Jim Lee on X-Men, outlasted the return of John Byrne on X-Men (only to ultimately fall to Scott Lobdell. Yes, Scott Lobdell is +1 Stamina against Jim Lee. I want you to think about that.) and was allowed to be late and grind out layouts and write and draw some . . .well, X-Men from #4-10 is a bit unfocused. As you would be, say, had you downed a gallon of LSD and had your eyes poked out.

On the plus side, Gambit hit Rogue in the face with a pie in one issue.

Anyways, the whole Image thing is happening and Jim Lee gets swept up in it and everyone is like "Oh shit y'all, what will Jim Lee do? Do you think his book will be as good as Youngblood?! [NOTE: Someone actually said this to me at the time, swear to god. Even when I was a teenager and didn't know shit about shit, I knew this was not something people should say out loud] and when it finally rolled out . . .well, Jim Lee had basically filed the serial numbers off the X-Men. Not that he didn't have company--fucking everyone at Image used the X-Men as a basis, and then later on went further back and nicked Superman and Wonder Woman.

Like Cyberforce, the initial concept of WildC.A.T.S wasn't without potential, of course: y'see Goldie Hawn has to take a ragtag football team and . . .oh, nevermind. The WildC.A.T.s (the acronym stands for Covert Action Teams) were corporate-funded squads that enforced the will of their bankroller, and would, it was suggested at the time, be pitted against other teams of a similar bent (I don't think this ever actually happened, of course)

The larger plot (WildC.A.T.s has many layers, not unlike an onion) is that the WildC.A.T.s are agents of the Lord Emp, who is a member of an alien race called the Kherubim. The bad guys are the Daemonites, because this is the level of symbolism we're working at. Generally they go about making vague cosmic pseudo-religious statements and are, by themselves, a little undercooked as far as plot motivators.

The Daemonites are tricky little shits, however, because they can possess people's bodies and take control of their minds, and for so many thousands of years, they have infiltrated many levels of power, and like threats that have penetrated into the upper echelons of power, don't really do all that much. The remit of the WildC.A.T.s is to stop the Daemonites and keep them from screwing things up and also make me grumble every time I have to slow down and put the dots in "CATS" while I'm typing.

So, hey Kazekage, I hear you say, who are these WildC.A.T.S? What is their deal? Is there perhaps some rhetorical device that would allow you to communicate an impression of their character and also score some easy points in quick hit jokes?

Man, I wish. If there were, we would call it a ROLL CALL and it would probably go something like this:

SPARTAN: Thanks to the movie Demolition Man, I keep reading his name as "JohnSpartan," a fact that was only aggravated when I found out his name was actually John. Spartan is the team leader, shoots energy blasts, and has no personality . . .

. . .however, in a rather amusing bit of intellectual aikido on the part of the creators, Spartan isn't supposed to have a personality, because he's just an android. Every time he gets killed, they just download his brain (what there is of it) into a new body and pretend nothing happened. Hence, the idea of him being Generic Uninteresting Leader Guy is entirely by design.

This would ultimately be made far to complex as the Wildstorm mythos went on, but I kind of like the "let's just get on with it"-ness the initial idea had.

WARBLADE: Warblade has liquid metal hands, because Terminator 2 was a fucking awesome movie. Warblade, thanks to his name, killing people with claws, and talking incessantly about killing people with claws, is about as close to the mindset of early 90's comics I can convey to you without us actually traveling back in time to 1992.

Warblade has no real personality either, and the effort to give him one forms the spine of WildC.A.T.S' first arc as a regular series. It's . . .well, you know what they say about good intentions and where a road paved with good intentions will take you?

MAUL: The team brick, Maul is strong and can grow to giant size and get even stronger, only he gets dumber the larger he gets. This doesn't exactly seem to be as much of a handicap as you might imagine, because everyone's pretty dumb in this book.

VOODOO: I think Voodoo is the most overdressed stripper I've ever seen. Voodoo is our point of view character (in that we are, lie her, new to all of this) because WildC.A.T.S is a book written exclusively for strippers who are also Never-Nudes. Voodoo has an astonishingly ill-defined power called "The Sight" (Not to be confused with "The Source," "The Force," or even the "Sight Beyond Sight" from the Sword of Omens) Voodoo was also an early pioneer in having regrettable tattoos, as hers is so regrettable that the damn thing changes from panel to panel.

ZEALOT: Zealot is a Coda Assassin, an ancient race of warrior women who, like all ancient races of warrior women, walk around with their boobs popping out of a unitard and their asscheeks falling out of a thong, because that is a thing that warrior women do. Zealot is the team bitch and . . .really, everything you need to know to understand WildC.A.T.S as she is the only one given any consistent characterisation (well, setting aside Chris Claremont's characterisation of her, which was Standard Chris Claremont Woman #46) Even Alan Moore could think of nothing else to do with her . . .apart from making her the team bitch.

GRIFTER: That's Brother Grifter to you. Grifter is a Coda Asssassin, or has been trained by one, which must have made gym class a bit awkward for the Coda. Zealot trained him, which is why all the Coda want to kill the both of them (I think) Grifter is supposed to be all gritty and realistic, which is why he runs around in public with a dishtowel covering his face,

VOID: Never was a character better named. Void is a corporeal version of an Orb, which is the means the Bajorans commune with the Prophets . . .oh, hang on, I forgot which day it was. Void took control of a Russian astronaut and has vaguely defined omnipotence and teleports people around. She also has powers of amazing exposition, none of which clears anything up.

EMP: Jacob Marlowe runs a coorporation called HALO, which you would think would allow him to upgrade his muscle to Master Chief. Marlowe is occasionally called Emp, and has even more vaguely defined omnipotence than Void does, as he is shooting people with energy blasts at people at one point in the book, then shooting a midget's arm off by the end of the book. Occasionally he pretends to be a homeless man for some vague reason which is supposed to be revealing of his character but doesn't make a lot of sense because nothing in this book makes a lot of sense under the merest scrutiny.

OK, that's our heroes let's get to the plot. OK, here it is: They looking for one of the Orbs, which is not a person, unlike Void, and the person who has that Orb is . . .former Vice President Dan Quayle. There are times when comics have striven to provide a mirror for current events--Civil War and Dark Reign pop immediately to mind as two examples. And it never really ends up working that well, because superhero comics really don't do nuanced, thoughtful, politics very well, as their remit is guys in tights beating the shit out of each other. If you want to do a nuanced, thoughtful allegory for the issues of today, to do it any justice you pretty much have to take out the superhero stuff or you end up with a shitty political tract with people in ridiculous outfits . . .or a shitty superhero story with a bunch of mealy-mouthed politics where the fights should be. Either that or you say: "Fuck it, the VP is an alien from space," and spend the next twenty years hoping no one ever brings it up again.

Anyways, Void has a premonition of being zapped by an orb which is held by a midget, which sets all this off. Naturally, Void's prophecy is just clear enough to give us an end goal, but just vague enough to cause a lot of trouble on the way there, because this book is three issues (ultimately 4--decompression was only at stage 1 back then) and you could do that in one. Anyways, this apparently requires a "Gifted One," who is Voodoo, so everyone goes off to the titty bar.

If this seems like a bit of a narrative hard left turn, it is.

Here we're introduced to Grifter, because Grifter likes to go to strip clubs because he enjoys seeing strippers who don't really understand the basic concept of "stripping" and he likes to see people fail. Naturally this leads to a fight, when a Coda assassin (none of the Coda assassins besides Zealot and Grifter) seem to have names. and two Daemonite guys, who are just there to get shot at. The rest of the WildC.A.T.S shows up in time for the titty bar to explode, because that is a thing which happens at the end of your first issue.

Issue 2 intros I/O, who is totally not S.H.I.E.L.D. (or a bad DOS error), and John Lynch, who is totally not Nick Fury. They stand around and yell at each other while the WildC.A.T.s fight the Black Razors, who are I/O's strikeforce. I am really not clear on why intelligence operatives where big goofy metal helmets and have big loud fights and break shit, but it's best not to dwell on it.

Issue 3 has a big fight with Youngblood, because what this book needed was more characters. What do I mean? Well, we have the 7 WildC.A.T.s, Helspont (he's the big bad guy that the WildC.A.T.S. fight. I didn't mention him in the recap because I could care less and so could the book) The Triad, who are like bad guys for the WildC.A.Ts, the Gnome (who is an evil midget who covets the Orb) and another goddamned Coda assassin, Vice President Alien, and they all have their own agendas, and they're all talking and so, of course--let's totally dump six more characters into this.

So a bunch of stuff happens. The Gnome gets an Orb, and then Emp shoots his arm off. Voodoo manages to get the alien out of Dan Quayle, Spartan dies actually accomplishing what they were trying to stop (The Daemonites are trying to open a stargate for their space fleet to come through and invade. I had to flip to the part when the plan actually gets thwarted to figure out what the plan was in the first place) and Spartan gets a new body and everything ends on a high note.

Much like Cyberforce, this book tries to cram so much in to 4 issues that it ends up collapsing under its own weight but is buoyed along by the energy that can only come from people spending every possible iota of energy doing everything they ever thought was awesome in four issues. The end result is not a good book by any means, but one with a tremendous energy to it, and energy and enthusiasm goes a long way, especially when pitched to the right audience of hyperactive 12 year olds.

Of course, we've since learned our lesson and now pitch comics to 30+ year olds and they are flaccid, lifeless, and boring as hell. I'm not saying WildC.A.T.S is the solution to that problem, I'm just saying these are two extremes, that end in dead ends . . .perhaps looking towards the middle is a better solution?

Couldn't hurt.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Whole Damn Thing--STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE #36

It's Saturday, and that means that we once again set aside our usual mischief and procrastination for the feel-good tomfoolery of our usual feel-good tomfoolery and check in once again for a quartet of episodes from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This week, as opposed to last week, where my lack of patience for a mediocre stretch of episodes probably oozed from every paragraph, this week we have one great episode, one okay episode, and two of the worst episodes in DS9's run. Half is better than all of them, I guess.

Let's get down to it!


"It's not about what's right. It's about what is."

"Wishing never changed a damn thing."

Two quotes this time. The episode is that damn good.

Sisko's feeling a bit down in the dumps thanks to the ever-growing casualty list the war adds to daily (not the ONLY time this will bother him this season--however, it would have a bit more punch had we not had 4 episodes of froth which generally barely mentioned the war or made it seem like not a big deal) and is so upset he's considering leaving Starfleet (which is a bit silly, but thankfully isn't much of a drag on this episode) and he's grappling with his high-level angst--

He wakes up in 1950s New York City, and his name is Benjamin Russel. Benjamin is a writer for a science fiction anthology and in his downtime hangs out with his few friends and, being this is a black man in the 1950s, suffers through a suffocating and spirit-crushing amount of racism, most blatantly embodied by two cops who continually hassle him and look oddly like Dukat and Weyoun.

In fact, nearly every member of the extended cast seems to have some analogue with Benny Russel's world. Perhaps that's what inspires him to write a story about a space station called "Deep Space Nine" and populate it with characters a lot like the people he knows (sorta) and have the main character be a black Captain named Sisko.

Inspired, he writes a story for the anthology. Everyone likes it, even the editor, who sadly has to tell Benny there's no way it'll ever be published: No one will every believe a black man can be captain of a spaceship. Just won't happen. Benny's a bit crushed by the news, but someone at the office suggests he make his story into the dream of a modern day black man pinned down by the hopelessness of the lot of people of colour at that time. Rather than see it all go to waste, Benny decides to rewrite the story.

His hopes are a bit bruised, but it looks like it might get published after all, and he's feeling up. But this is not that kind of episode, because the cops shoot and kill one of his friends in the middle of a robbery, and when Benny protests, they beat the shit out of him, too. To say this is an uncomfortable scene would be an understatement.

Things get far worse when he's finally able to return to work: The publisher has pulped the entire run. His story will never see print, and Benny's been fired. There's nothing Benny can do, nothing anyone can do (as an aside is "there's nothing you can do" the worst phrase you can ever hear?)

Understandably, Benny loses his shit and completely comes apart:

"You can pulp a story, but you cannot destroy an idea! Don't you understand, that's ancient knowledge. You cannot destroy an idea! That future, I created it, and it's real! Don't you understand? It is REAL! I created it and IT'S REAL!"

About the only thing I can say about the last 4 episodes is that if you're watching them sequentially, something like this coming along must be the most ferocious emotional gut-punch of all time. Especially because . . .well, the episode ends with Benny being carted off to an asylum and Sisko being brought out of some plot-convenient coma and questioning whether or not he's the dreamer or the dream?

I really love this episode. I love it's complete disregard for what constitutes a typical DS9 episode, I love it's ambition, I love the fact that it's not afraid to make you care for Benny Russel and turn what could be an exercise in stunt-casting (hey, here's the DS9 cast in the 50's and they're all sci-fi writers! So clever!) and turns it into one of the bleakest, saddest, episodes ever, never shies from the issue implied in its episode (no veiling your racism with different coloured people here--they even drop the N-word) and after making you care about Benny Russell . . .destroys his life right in front of you and leaves you with little mitigation or sugar-coating of his fate.

It helps also, and probably speaks to me more than most, that the thrust of the episode is not just "racism is bad." If it were just that much of a straight-up didact it wouldn't work any better than "Past Tense" did. You can also read it as a story of a writer believing in his idea even when everyone else seems kinda cold to it and life is crapping on him and this is really all he has left to believe in. And having that hope taken from him is just as spirit-crushing as the racism that insists he is worth less than other people just because he looks different, if for no other reason that it is trying to seal off his one means of escaping that racism.

It's a very good episode. One of DS9's best, and you should totally watch it, like, right now. Trust me, there's not much else this week you need to read this week.

"Chief... you're not going to like this."

Jupiter's fucking balls, this shit is the biggest god damned buzzkill. You remember how, even when you were a kid, you could always tell when I show was running low on ideas you'd see a lot of very hackneyed stock plots show up, like, evil duplicates show up, impersonate heroes badly and ruin their reputation because everyone else in the world is a fucking moron, and, and this was my most dreaded stock plot to encounter: Our Heroes Get Shrunk. If it's a Fantastic Voyage riff, it's even worse in my eyes.

Well, God must hate me, because here's the motherfucking Our Heroes Got Shrunk episode. In the name of some inane and brainless experiment I did not make note of, or care to look up, some of our heroes flies a Runabout into a Whatever Anomaly and are made wee. Then the Jem'Hadar take over the Defiant because this is a thing which happens when you waste time doing stupid shit like shrinking people.

I had a hard time investing much in the stakes of this episode, really, because if you're busy shrinking people, you kind of deserve to get your ass kicked by the Jem'Hadar. For one thing, Our Heroes have triumphed over the Jem'Hadar enough times, and for another thing, there's a fucking teeny runabout flying around everywhere and destroying any fucking tension. And of course, the creators tried to hang a lampshade on it and say gently "Look, we know this is silly, but just go with us on this."

You know what? No. Fuck you. I'm not going with you on this one because it's a stupid idea I've seen 8 million times already and it's always stupid, and guess what? The streak, like Bill Goldberg's up to Starrcade 1998, is still unbroken, because this episode sucked too!

There is one good idea in here. One. There is tension between the Jem'Hadar created in the Alpha Quadrant vs. the originals bred in the Gamma Quadrant. It is never followed up on again, which makes me hate this episode even more.

In short, I did not care for this episode. I would like to move on to the next one now.

"Back home, wherever that is, you got a family?
"Yeah." "
"Good. After all, that's the most important thing."

This is a marginally better episode than the one which preceded it, not least because nothing gets shrunk. O'Brien is recruited by Starfleet Intelligence (never was there a more contradictory) to infiltrate the Orion Syndicate (finally a little bit more than the throwaway reference mentioned a couple times previous) O'Brien gets to be friends with his contact, Bilby, (who is, surprisingly for a guy in organised crime, not an unrepentant monster) and gets more involved than he should.

In other words, like the shrinking episode, it's nothing you haven't seen dozens of times before. Thankfully, it's done well enough that you don't mind it (as opposed to the episode before this--there's really just no way you can do a shrinking episode well--it's just a stupid idea) but while it's a very solid episode, for the most part you enjoy it well enough, but will probably forget about it half an hour after you watch it.

There is an interesting wrinkle that sadly isn't the main point of the episode--that the Dominion is actually in collusion with the Syndicate to try and foment dissension between the Federation and the Klingons. Oh sure, that's what O'Brien was sent to find, but the point is for him to get on with Bilby, so that when Bilby sacrifices himself for O'Brien we feel appropriately sad when Bibly has to go, and . . .we kinda do, though this was one of those stories we really didn't need to have followed up on next season.

Sadly . . .


"Are you suffering enough?"

Yes, I'd rather post a Youtube video of an atrocious Cyndi Lauper song than review this episode. Because this is yet another in a seemingly interminable series we like to call Operation: Get Worf and Dax Over. Yes, the couple that you didn't care to see get together, the couple that did no favours for either character apart from give them something to do (a feat which the show had failed to do with each character individually) the couple that you didn't care when they were getting married, bickered, broke up, and get married after all and still manage to be the most arid, passionless couple ever seen in a public forum save for the day when a disgruntled worker at Peebles posed two bald naked mannequins to look like they were joylessly fucking doggy-style. The Memorial Day weekend sale had never been so sexless and barren.

This time,Worf and Dax are sent on a mission to rescue a Cardassian informant, one of the few that the Federation has. Spoiler: They utterly fail in this and the informant dies. They fail because Dax gets shot, and we have interminable scenes of "Worf, you have to leave me"/"I can't"/"You have to"/"OK, I will"/"Oh wait, I can't." You have seen this played out millions of times. I would wager that at least once it involved two people you actually cared about.

I'm not sure what the point of this episode is. Dax and Worf's love trumps duty? Well yeah, but given what I saw in this episode, it also trumps reason, logic, and intelligence. Dax and Worf are featured in an episode going off and doing stuff? Kinda fails there too--Dax gets shot and bleeds out, Worf fails, and these are our heroes, for God's sake.

The only silver lining to this is that there's some actually consequence to this brainless decision: Worf gets a serious reprimand (it's only the secrecy of the mission that saves his ass from court martial) and will also probably never get a command, because obviously putting your personal preferences ahead of mission objectives is a big no-no. Then again, this is the same twit who flew the Defiant out to fight the Borg shouting that "Today is a good day to die" so I have a notion that he had a couple strikes against him in the command department already.

And that's it for another week. Well, we had one good episode this week, which prevented my spirits from being utterly crushed by the two awful awful awful episodes this week. That said, I sure hope next week is better, or that if it's not, at least the 16 of you who read this at least find these moments when I lose my patience with the show entertaining.

Join us next week when Dukat returns and pulls an epic dick move (literally and retroactively, weirdly enough) in "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"; DS9 crosses the Rubicon and creates something heretofore undreamed of in the Utopian world of Star Trek in "Inquisition"; We look at the BEST DS9 EPISODE EVER in "In the Pale Moonlight"; and we end with the spirit sapping, testicle-shriveling advent of the terror that is Vic Fonatine in "His Way." Join us next week for Kira getting punked, a guy yelling "IT'S A FAAAAAAAAAAKE!" and pleasure!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


So, earlier this week, I tried to make the case that the Image guys weren't ultimately that bad for the business and kickstarted things just as the 80's were winding down and things were getting a little moribund. I'd talked about what happened before and during that time, but it occurred to me recently, as I was perusing my bookshelves, that I'd never really covered the "after" part of it to any great extent. What happened when the Image guys took off on their own, left Marvel, and formed Image? Surely this would complete their revolution and make a thousand flowers bloom and all of that, right?


Well, not exactly. As is customary for these long-winded blood and thunders from me, there's a bit of history that needs to drop before we actually get to the book proper. Around 1991 or so, the big artists at Marvel decided to strike off in search of artistic freedom, money, a bigger slice of the pie, money, ownership of what they created, and money. But mostly money. So they packed up their stuff and decamped to form Image, which at the time was a subset of Malibu comics.

Ordinarily no one would notice this, since Malibu (pre-Ultraverse) had about 9,000 different sub-imprints that multiplied like viral cultures and filled various niches. Whether this is a good thing I leave to you. But these were Top Guys, and they wanted to bugger off and go do superhero comics, and . . .well, this caused some consternation.

I remember reading an editorial from Peter David around that time that said words to the effect of "Jesus, if all you wanted to do is do superheroes, why not stay at Marvel? Not like you need to be indie for that." (This leaves aside that there were a hell of a lot of indie superhero books out during the various little boomlets in the 80's, leave alone that at the time, Valiant was right there) and there was that sense of elitism kinda going around, like "Geez, what are they doing?"

The Image guys tried to make like they were just having fun, that this was their chance to take a bunch of characters near and dear to them that they dreamt up in high school and finally give them a proper run, a run they would own and control completely.

In practise? Well . . .they kind of do read like people's high school comics in that they are really thin on characterisation, very derivative of the stuff that was formative influences on them as artists, and well . . .there's no real nice way to say it . . .they read an awful lot like X-Men pastiches, and ye gods were there a lot of them around--WILD C.A.T.S.: The X-Men, but corporate! Youngblood: The X-Men, but media darlings!--and finally, Cyberforce, who were the X-Men, except bionic.

The basic concept of the book is sound enough: There's a company called Cyberdata (it was the early 90's--everything was "Cyber" back then) takes mutants and weaponises them with cybernetic enhancements. For instance, if you're a super-speedster, they put in a computer that allowed you to make course-corrections at high speed, and toughened up your skin to reduce air friction and impact damage. That's kinda awesome.

Oh, they also stick in a chip that allows them to control you and turn you into one of their operatives, called S.H.O.C.s (man, I love pointless acronyms), which is a bit troubling. Cyberforce as the resistance to Cyberdata, having been freed from mind control. They fight, and fight, and fight, and fight and fight.

Being that I'm an hour into this thing, I think it's time for a ROLL CALL, don't you? Let's meet our heroes, Cyberforce!

HEATWAVE--Definitely not Cyclops, Heatwave flies around, shoots stuff, and distinguishes himself by not really doing much of anything that the rest of Cyberforce couldn't have twigged on their own. Eventually will sell his soul to Mephisto. No, really.

CYBLADE--Cyberforce may be long gone and forgotten, but Cyblade will never be, and the reason for this is 1) she's definitely not Psylocke and 2) artists like drawing women with polished metal buttocks.

IMPACT--Impact is a combination of Colossus and Brian Pillman, if his hairdo is any indication. Naturally, as you might imagine, combining a Russian pedophile who can turn himself into metal with the man who once wrestled a pencil to a standstill would be an incredibly lethal combination, you'd be right.

Impact is a surfer. I can't remember if he actually surfed in the book. I think 1/3rd of the way into this post I have probably put more thought into it than anyone did in the entire history of Cyberforce. I don't post these things looking to curry favour (well, obviously) but if anyone at Top Cow is listening, I will totally write Cyberforce for you.

VELOCITY--Here's the other reason anyone remembers Cyberforce, y'all. Velocity is a super-speedster, and really broke out form everyone by 1) having a personality and 2) being cute and very fun to draw. Velocity drives the story, generally by running through it, being confused, and not really understanding what's going on. I know how she feels.

BALLISTIC--Ballistic is Velocity' sister, and spends most of her time shooting at her, as all siblings do. Her superpower is perfect aim, which basically means unlike all the other people who carry guns in this book (and there are a lot) she actually gets to hit what she aims at when the plot so demands. Ballistic's actually one of the baddies in this arc, but she later goes on to join the team, kinda, and also stars in an amazing three-issue crossover miniseries with Wetworks which is brain-crushingly demented and gleefully makes no sense at all, featuring as it does vampires that turn into werewolves that turn into angels. I should write it up one day.

STRYKER--Oh my GOD, Stryker. Marc Silvestri's love of Stryker as a character and a concept confuses me then and confuses me now. Stryker (not to be confused with Robert Hays' character from the movie Airplane!) has four arms--three on one side, one on the other--and shoots things. He also has a ponytail, because, y'know, the 90's. Stryker gets hijacked midway through the book long after the plot has gotten muddled to infiltrate the bad guys and get the book back on track. More about them in a bit.

RIPLCAW--Ripclaw is exactly like Wolverine in that he has claws, squats around a lot, and is designated team badass. Ripclaw, who occasionally think of himself as a bear, is also Native American in a rather painfully stereotypical sort of way, always deeply spiritual in a vague sort of way that is just so patronising, but what really sets Ripclaw apart is that he is a poet.

Now when I say "poet" I mean it in the Vogon sense of the word. Here's a brief excerpt:

"She runs like the deer,
Swift and strong, but afraid and alone.
Hiding from the man-machines that serve the god of death"

It gets more twee from there.

So these are our heroes and I guess I should say something about the villains. Not much though, because I really have something else I want to get to, but our villains are Saburo Kimata (because it's the early 90's and Japan=evil. Unless they were ninjas, I guess) and our villainess is Mother May I, and believe me when I tell you her name is just the tiniest piece in the mosaic of what a problematic character she is.

Mother May I is awesome because trying to comprehend anything about her character will cause your brain to try to divide by zero and cause trash code to leak out of your skull. I think, and I've read this book far more times than is probably healthy, that she has some kind of mind control powers and she's Velocity and Ballistic's mom and she talks to the Statue of Liberity and he plan is to have some big mutant riot and excuse me while I reach of the headache medicine.

That's better. I should add that Mother May I's bodyguard is without question one of my favourite characters in comics period: Warbuk.

Warbuk is a guy with deer antlers on his head. He carries guns. That is fucking genius.

Warbuk does nothing, but dammit, I would totally love to see him come back. Certainly more than I would the 2,000th iteration of The Darkness. Seriously Top Cow--I don's ask you for much, but I think 2012 could be the Year of Warbuk. Easily. Make this happen, please.

So, I have a feeling by this point you wish I'd quit fucking around and get to the plot. Well, my chochachos, that's gonna be a problem, because this book either doesn't have a plot or has too many going on at once. To get an idea of what it is like to read something like this, open up 10 tabs, point them all to a random Youtube clip and play them simultaneously. What that sounds like is what it's like to read it.

So let's break it down issue by issue. Issue 1: Velocity runs from the S.H.O.C.s, runs into Riplcaw, Cyberforce shoots people, Velocity is introduced to the team and designated McGuffin T.I.M.M.I.E. the robotic boy. Velocity has a lot of freaky dreams about Ballistic and Mother May I and the S.H.O.C.s show up. Issue 2: S.H.O.C.s fight Cyberforce, some mutants steal some computer discs, Stryker gets recruited to hang out with WARBUK and also infiltrate Mother May I's organisation, T.I.M.M.I.E. nearly gets hit by a car, then steal another car and T.I.M.M.I.E. and then the S.H.O.C.s show up again, and everyone gets in a fight with Pitt (I'm not going to go into Pitt) and everyone fights with Pitt for awhile until they decide not to. Issue 4: Everything ends, WARBUK gets shot and Kimata shoots Mother May I for making no goddamn sense while a mutant riot is going on (mostly off-panel) and Cyberforce fights the S.H.O.C.s again. Ballistic looks on while Mother May I exposits some vaguely character relevant stuff on the last page of the book. Then Cyberforce gets together for one of those group moments that you used to get at the end of the Superfriends where they were all hanging around not all that bothered that they hadn't solved anything and (hilariously) tried and failed to summarise the plot of the miniseries. The end.

Well, except for the backmatter, which contains Stryker's origin from the epic boondoggle that was Image Comics #0 (because Silvestri got tired of waiting like everyone else did) and a trailer for Codename: Stryke Force which features a character named Bloodbow. But not WARBUK. Dammit.

Despite how hard I was on this book, believe it or not, there's some real value in it. It's pitched to over-caffeinated 12 year olds and in many passages seems like it was written by over-caffeinated 12 year olds determined to cram as much cool shit into every single panel that they can and if the final product doesn't make a lot of sense, so what? It's like Axe Cop, but without the excuses Axe Cop has to be Axe Cop. And really, as an entry-level comic for the next generation of comic readers (back when such a thing was still a possibility) you could do a lot worse, and Image frequently did at that time with an ease that would shame most right-thinking people.

But energy counts for a lot with me, especially when I read it, I was young enough to still be tapped into that kind of energy and appreciate it for what it was . . .and, for reasons better and worse, get inspired to do my own comics in high school (which came out as coherent as this, as you'd expect) and if all you were interested in was cheap, disposable entertainment, it would get you sufficiently pumped to read more.