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Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 11 (November 1984)

Atari Force #11

There’s very little personality to this issue. About the most of it comes from Babe–the rock creature–who apologizes at one point. It shows something going on besides the main plots, which are three.

First, there’s the deception on the team. It’s all really predictable and Conway doesn’t spend any time trying to make it palatable because it’s not. It’s too obvious and Conway can’t focus on it without making the characters seem too dumb.

Second, there’s surfer dude in captivity and the people around him. Again, not very engaging stuff because it’s a bunch of supporting cast members talking about a main cast member and the main cast member not doing anything.

Finally, there’s the bad guy. The Atari in Atari Force really comes through a few times because a lot of his dialogue sounds like terrible video game boss dialogue.

The issue’s not awful, just excruciatingly rote.

C 

CREDITS

Betrayal; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

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Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 10 (October 1984)

Atari Force #10

Interesting tidbit in the letter pages this issue–maybe there have been more and I missed them, but the book is intended to be an ongoing with a twelve-part opening story arc. It gives Conway some more leeway with bringing in all this exposition–there isn’t much this issue, actually–because it’s at such an awkward part in a maxi-series. Doesn’t the problems with too much exposition, but it’s intentional anyway.

This issue has Dart’s lover coming back and he’s got a story for her about their escape. After a conjugal visit. Conway likes to shock with this one, apparently. Even more is when the guy–Blackjak–includes a nasty detail in his story. He takes advantage of one of García-López’s cute aliens. It’s a mean, harsh sequence.

The issue’s mostly Dart and her guy’s flashback and then surfer dude on the New Earth planet. Conway writes at a great pace; the cliffhanger’s pleasantly sudden.

B 

CREDITS

Home Is the Hero; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ed Barreto; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 9 (September 1984)

Atari Force #9

First observation–Conway and García-Lopez are aware they’re stocking the team with adorable, mischievous space aliens. It’s kind of weird. Must be a way to make the comic more likable at a glance.

This issue, nine issues into the second series, recaps events from the first series. Pertinent events. Surfer boy has gone back to New Earth to talk to people–hopefully he’ll bring the team back some fresh food and toilet paper–and besides a bonding session with his shrink, it’s all back story.

The art in the rest of the comic makes up for the rush job on the flashback. Conway checks in with some of the rest of the cast and treads a bit of water preparing for the surfer to get back. The likability helps the treading go smoothly.

It’s a slight issue and Conway overdoes the flashbacks but he’s got the series firmly footed.

B- 

CREDITS

Memory Lane; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 8 (August 1984)

Atari Force #8

Given Atari Force is Conway’s series, it’s too bad the best issue so far isn’t one he writes. He plotted for Andy Helfer and gave him a choice issue. It’s a done-in-one, the first of the series, and it manages to be both gritty and affable.

Babe, the sentient mountain baby–who’s basically just a huge egg with a lot of power and no anger–gets stranded on a planet. He’s got the Hukka (the adorable sort of pet who fills some of the R2-D2 cuteness) but he’s lost.

Helfer juxtaposes Babe’s trials against the team’s. They’re going through lots of drama; even those concerned for the missing Babe don’t realize he apparently can’t be hurt. Babe’s in the middle of a planetary invasion, it turns out.

The art’s lovely, the story’s gentle without ever being condescending. It’s an impressive issue, raising the bar for the series.

A 

CREDITS

Babe’s Story; writers, Gerry Conway and Andy Helfer; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ricardo Villagran; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 7 (July 1984)

Atari Force #7

The series is definitely back on track. Not only does Conway come up with a way to utilize all seven principal cast members in the issue, he also comes up with a very amusing turn of events.

Before getting to any of these plot developments, he opens with Tempest’s father going over to the bad guy’s spaceship in what he thinks will be an exchange. In this sequence, Conway makes it very clear the father, Martin, is the action hero of the series. Conway hadn’t utilized him well enough before. All of a sudden the character seems interesting on his own and not as an appendage of the surfer dude son.

There’s a lot of humor too. Dart and Pakrat are good comic relief, though the psychic gets the best jokes. Not many, but good ones.

It’s once again imaginative work from Conway, with some fantastically rendered pages from García-López.

B+ 

CREDITS

Counter Attack; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ricardo Villagran; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 6 (June 1984)

Atari Force #6

García-López returns to full duties and Force gets back on track. Mostly. Conway seems to be influenced by Star Wars–and I’m intentionally using the passive voice, because I doubt he really meant to rip-off going on to the Death Star with some plot accouterments.

Dart and Tempest have to go over to the bad guy’s ship–the bad guy also looks a little too much like a space knight (or Sith Lord); it’s a neat design but it’s way over the top. Unless DC was hoping to sell toy licenses. Anyway, they’re on his ship, the rest of the team is on the regular ship. There’s drama. It’s good.

Conway’s really utilizing the estranged father and son relationship, with Dart thrown in as an awkward sort of sibling. Given there’s a telepathic psychologist on the team, a little much exposition on that subject… but it’s good.

The comic flows quite well.

B 

CREDITS

A Meeting With Life and Death; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ricardo Villagran; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 5 (May 1985)

Atari Force #5

There seem to be some pages missing, like the scene where Martin talks his kid into stealing a space craft. His estranged kid.

Conway glosses over that problem, along with the one where Martin convinces his shrink to commit treason to join his mission. The mission, to save the world, isn’t revealed until over halfway through. Seems somewhat unlikely people who sign up without some idea. They do steal a huge spaceship after all.

Multi-dimensional ship, but you get the idea.

There’s not much time for the characters, though the huge baby alien character gets a couple nice moments and the action’s not bad. It reminds a little too much of Star Wars for a moment but not bad.

Conway seems to be setting up the series for high adventure. He doesn’t quite promise it, which might be good since this issue doesn’t deliver any.

The comic harmlessly underperforms.

C+ 

CREDITS

Dark Dawn; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Ross Andru; inker, José Luis García-López; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 4 (April 1984)

Atari Force #4

What an odd issue. Not because of Dart making out with her de facto brother–the whiny surfer dude–just after her man has died, but because Conway brings back surfer dude’s dad. Previously, the dad (a main character from the first Atari Force series) has been off to the side. He’s been present, but never the focus. Now Conway reveals he’s basically the protagonist.

Then there’s the art. Ross Andru handles the pencils, Garcia-Lopez only having time for the inks. Andru doesn’t do a bad job–he gets very stylized for some of the scenes and the inks are good, but it’s not the same. Force doesn’t pack the same visual wallop.

The issue has the same subplots too, but Conway isn’t really moving forward on them. There’s progress for surfer dude, but only because Dart’s there and his dad’s there.

It’s odd how the plotting problems coincide with the art change.

B 

CREDITS

Families; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Ross Andru; inker, José Luis García-López; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 3 (March 1984)

Atari Force #3

There are a few big surprises this issue. The non-spoiler one has to do with how adult Conway’s willing to take the comic. He’s not goofing around with it, not just with conjugal relations, but also with implying age differences and responsibilities of older partners. It’s all very subtle, all very clear.

That plot line, which gets the most emphasis–Dart always gets the beginning and end–makes up for the weaker ones. The thing with the giant rock alien and the overgrown rodent are mostly fine. Conway gets a lot of humor into those scenes and a nice amount of characterization. The problem’s with the surfer dude.

The whiny, blond surfer dude has another hissy fit this issue. Conway’s gone out of his way to make the character unlikable but I think he’s supposed to be sympathetic too. It isn’t coming off.

The fantastic García-López makes up for any problems, however.

B 

CREDITS

I Saw You Die; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ricardo Villagran; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 2 (February 1984)

Atari Force #2

The second issue follows the same general structure as the first. Open with Dart–she’s the white-haired, good guy mercenary lead–and her boyfriend in some kind of “no win” battle. They eventually beat the odds, because she’s the hero. There’s great García Lopez action art so it looks great too.

Then Conway moves into what’s going on with the rest of the cast, which is a lot of positioning this issue. The psychic guy goes to visit surfer dude’s dad–surfer dude is the human who can travel the multi-verse (not the regular DC one, I don’t think) without a vessel–and the broken father and son relationship, if Conway continues it, might be interesting.

But there are also the other characters, the reluctant smuggler, the stowaway thief; their scenes are just to get them in place for whatever union of story lines Conway utilizes.

The script’s imaginative, the art’s gorgeous. Force’s fine.

B 

CREDITS

Direct Encounter; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ricardo Villagran; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Review of an Atari Force comic book, a series published from January 1984 to August 1985 by DC Comics.

Atari Force 1 (January 1984)

Atari Force #1

Alien worlds, lots of different kinds of action… what else goes on in Atari Force. Alien species, lots of different alien species. It’s also got a nice setup story. Gerry Conway frames it around one set of characters’ action sequence, then cuts to other characters. Presumably they’ll come together soon enough as the titular Atari Force.

But Conway seems to be writing for his artist, José Luis García Lopez. Not in a bad way; Conway’s not doing quick action scenes and letting García Lopez drag them out. Instead, he’s throwing a bunch of disparate ideas at García Lopez to see how they hash out.

Even before the sci-fi spectacular stuff starts, there’s an amazing fight scene. So much movement.

The female protagonist is more likable, so far, than the male.

It’ll be interesting to see where the creators take the series, since the possibilities are seemingly endless and unconstrained.

B+ 

CREDITS

Fresh Blood; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Ricardo Villagran; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Star-Raiders

Star Raiders (1983)

DC Graphic Novel #1 - Star Raiders

If it weren't for the José Luis García-López art, I'm not exactly sure what Star Raiders would have going for it. But Raiders isn't "just a comic," it's the first in DC's line of graphic novels and the art is spectacular. García-López's alien worlds, space battles, everything else–it's all fantastic.

Unfortunately Elliot S! Maggin's script is awful. Raiders is a sequel to the Atari Force comic, only to a small part of it. It's a tie-in to the Atari video game and it does about as well as any video game adaptation does. Terribly. Only Maggin's structure is the big problem.

Let's see if I can break it down. Introduce character A, introduce characters B and C, follow all three, introduce characters D through H. Follow character E. Bring back character B, then immediately revert to character E. Repeat six times. Not really six; maybe twice. But the intermediary events are either lovely set pieces or boring expository things. Maggin's approach to science fiction is a heavy dose of Star Wars and then just some silly ideas–immortal old men, for example. Why immortal? How else can you have someone find out about something six hundred years before?

Then there's the very small scale finish for the biggest battle the galaxy has ever seen. Pretty much everything conceptual about the story is nonsense. There isn't a single good moment in the entire thing, if you forget about the art. With the art, every moment's good. They're just really, really, really dumb.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Elliot S! Maggin; artist, José Luis García-López; letterer, Orzecody; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

The-Legend-of-Wonder-Woman

The Legend of Wonder Woman 4 (August 1986)

The Legend of Wonder Woman #4

And here Busiek and Robbins run into a big problem. They’re doing a last pre-Crisis story and so there needs to be some transition. Well, needs is a strong word. They put in some transition, which the bookend system they’re using requires. And it’s a nice enough transition, it’s just not the right one for this series.

The resolution to the main story is phenomenal. There’s fighting, there’s personal growth, there’s romance. There are kangaroos used in battle. Busiek and Robbins balance the crazy story elements with the human conflict. And they do allow some relaxation for their cast….

Before they cut forward to the modern day and deal with the Crisis stuff. The series, while excellent, is a perfect example of why a superhero comic’s worst enemy can often be itself. Even though it’s sublime, the issue’s politics stop it from being as rewarding as it should be.

B+ 

CREDITS

Splitting the Atom; writers, Trina Robbins and Kurt Busiek; artist, Robbins; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, L. Lois Buhalis; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.

The-Legend-of-Wonder-Woman

The Legend of Wonder Woman 3 (July 1986)

The Legend of Wonder Woman #3

Someone–Busiek or Robbins or both of them–came up with the structure of this series and all of a sudden it becomes clear this issue and it’s fantastic.

Legend goes from being a nice homage series to something wholly original. Unless the old Wonder Woman comics are as well-plotted, in which case they don’t get enough credit.

Busiek works up the revolt angle, with Wonder Woman starting imprisoned then getting free and fighting alongside Steve Trevor. There’s some wacky fake, but very amusing, atomic science in here too, but then comes the big moment. Busiek and Robbins work towards what should be a rewarding, if all action finish and then go past it.

But if they’re padding for a fourth issue, it never feels like it. The characters, their decisions, all make sense. Busiek does a great job with Steve Trevor too.

Awesome work with the brat too.

A- 

CREDITS

Inside the Atom Galaxy; writers, Trina Robbins and Kurt Busiek; artist, Robbins; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, L. Lois Buhalis; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.