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.
Betrayal; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, José Luis García-López; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Families; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Ross Andru; inker, José Luis García-López; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Bob Lappan; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even with some great Gil Kane art, the last issue of Atari Force is a tad meager a finish for the series. Kane doesn’t have to suffer through a lot of video game-type space action, but there’s some and it’s too much.
Worse is the romance. Thomas and Conway promote it to a full-fledged subplot for the issue–worthy of a real flashback, then don’t give it one. Instead, the flashback is to these alien pacifists. That element of the story–intense non-violence–is kind of nest in a comic about blowing up Cthulhu-like space monsters, but it’s underdeveloped too.
The issue ends with a promise of another series, which might explain some the problem with Conway and Thomas’s script. They’re already looking ahead instead of concentrating on what’s going on here. Or maybe they just made things so big they’re unmanageable.
Still, gorgeous Kane art.
Galaxian; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Gil Kane; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
Andru’s back for exactly the type of comic I expected with the title Atari Force. It’s roughly eighteen pages–I’m not counting the double-page spreads–and most of those pages is like watching someone else play a video game. Only it’s an Atari game, so the designs are pretty childish. (Not to knock Atari game designers, but how many bits of graphics did they have? Two?).
The issue recounts the victories of a fighter pilot who singlehandedly shuts down an evil alien species mining planets with slave labor. The regular cast does make some appearances, but only once do Conway and Thomas bother giving them any depth in their scenes. And that one instance is never resolved. The rest of the issue makes that scene moot anyway.
It’s generally competent, licensed material dreck. Andru’s art isn’t interesting, but endless space battles with goofy ships isn’t going to be interesting.
Phoenix; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Ross Andru; inker and editor, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.
Even though the characters are still visually bland, Atari Force gets Gil Kane on the art and he knows what he’s doing. It’s a big read instead of a long one. Writers Conway and Thomas split the issue into three chapters, but it’s more like two–there’s even a cliffhanger mid-point.
For this issue, there are no more flashback introductions. Instead, there’s a somewhat weak flashback explaining the alien planet they find. It’s bumpy but passable.
Conway and Thomas to continue their rather serious look at what should be a goofy comic. One of the characters is a pacifist, burnt out by all the warring on Earth, and he doesn’t give up his convictions. There’s not a lot of fallout from it, but the writers do return to it a few times and the guy does turn out to be right.
With Kane, Force is all around competent now.
Enter — the Dark Destroyer!; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Gil Kane; inkers, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.