Black Web #1
March 26, 2012
I personally think the taste of revenge is actually a little salty.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. You know, I almost decided not to review today's comic, and I'll tell you why: old shame.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of today's comic: "Black Web #1")
Linkara (v/o): Not that I was involved with this one, but reading through something like this got me thinking about stuff that I have released to the general public over my life. For example...
(Cut to a montage of shots of Lewis' own web comic, "Lightbringer")
Linkara (v/o): ...my web comic, "Lightbringer". I am not proud of the first several storylines of "Lightbringer". I wrote and drew it myself and at the time thought it was the greatest thing ever because I was stupid and full of myself and didn't know any better. As time went on, and people much smarter than me critiqued it and read me the Riot Act about me and my attitude, I realized that I had created a preachy, badly-drawn, badly-written and badly-produced comic. I still produced "Lightbringer", but I'm not the artist anymore, and I'd like to think that I'm a better writer these days, though that's for anybody else to judge.
Linkara: And there's other stuff I've done that's out there: (points to his fingers as he lists them off) fan fiction, self-published novels that I wrote before I even hit 18, that message board-based Pokemon RPG that I hosed on Angelfire of all places (looks up in thought) that I think got overrun by porn. The point is that I've done a lot of things that I'm not proud of. So, how does this tie in with the comic?
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Black Web #1")
Linkara (v/o): "Black Web #1" feels like it's someone's first try to produce a comic. The art is amateurish, the writing is bad, but in more polished hands, it might have actually been something decent.
Linkara: And I almost decided not to review it, because I wouldn't want anyone to review anything that I created nineteen years ago. It's really not all that fair. It'd be like trying to review... say, a short story Neil Gaiman wrote for his third-grade class. (beat; holds up index finger) However...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Bimbos in Time")
Linkara (v/o): I also remembered that when you put out a product for purchase, be it a movie, a book, an electronic device, or, of course, a comic book, you are asking consumers to judge for themselves...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Adventures of the Kool-Aid Man #1")
Linkara (v/o): ...whether it's worth their time and money. In the end, it all comes down to opinion, and, as a critic, I am here to tell you what I think of something.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "The Backstreet Project #1")
Linkara (v/o): Mind you, I'm also telling you about products that are no longer produced, but recall that I am not only a critic, but an entertainer as well.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Kamandi at Earth's End #2")
Linkara (v/o): And sometimes, looking at a comic from 1993 is a lot funnier than something in 2012.
Linkara: And with that lengthy disclaimer out of the way, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Black Web #1".
(Opening titles play; title card has "The Alternative Polka" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover (again))
Linkara (v/o): Behold, the first of only two comic books ever produced by Inks Comics! Subsequently, behold the first of only two issues of "Black Web". I wouldn't mind that so much, considering, hey, independents rise and fall all the time...
(Cut to a closeup of the back of the comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...except for the fact that the back of the comic promises that another story called "Torn" will have a sneak preview in "Black Web #3", a comic that, from what I can tell, never materialized. My sincere condolences to the creative team behind that one.
(Cut back to the front cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover itself is... okay. I like that the pose is more dynamic than just standing there. I like that the background, while bizarre, to say the least, does at least look unique. I like the logo design, and I actually like the fact that it's a holofoil. As I've said before, holofoils are probably the only cover gimmick that was used in the '90s that I actually thought was pretty cool. Maybe it's just because it's shiny, but hey, at least a reflective foil is easier on the eyes than 3D. While we're talking about stuff I like, I actually like the character design for "Black Web". It has a good color balance, and frankly, I've always been a fan of punching daggers or wrist blades.
Linkara: Overall, a good first impression with some decent artwork. (nods, then holds up index finger) Let's ruin that on the first page, shall we? (smiles)
(The first page is shown)
Linkara (v/o): I'm gonna leave this page still for a moment, just so you can take this all in. Truly the stuff of comic legends, my friends: the blank, purple, gradient background; the woman [Angela] who appears to be talking to the space directly above the other guy's head; a man front and center who appears to have massive eyes that are also slightly cross-eyed. And then there's the title of the issue! Oh, the cheese! The cheese is thick in this title, to the point where you'd swear it was a joke. But no, this comic plays it straight. (reads title dramatically) "The Evil Taste of REVENGE"!
(Cut to a clip of Camelot)
King Arthur (Richard Harris): Revenge: the most worthless of causes.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, we open with the guy in the green shirt applying for a job at... Science Co.
Angela: Congratulations, Mr. Krane. Your extensive experience with arachnids qualifies you for the job.
Linkara: (as Mr. Krane) Really? My doctorate doesn't help with that, nor my fifteen years of field experience? (as Angela) Nope, just the experience with arachnids. That's all you need.
Linkara (v/o): However, as we'll see, this job interview was in fact just a cover for the interviewee.
Dr. Derrick Baylor: Angela, check the venom dose levels. Be careful of the twelve red syringes, they're lethal.
Linkara: (as Angela) Thanks for the tip, Doctor. I'll try not to poke myself with random syringes today.
Narrator: While their attention is on the spiders, the newly-hired lab assistant makes off with vital data.
Linkara: So, what was this guy's plan if the two didn't look towards the spiders?
Linkara (v/o): And so, the villainous guy – with a rather bulky torso, I must say – slips the "vital data" into the back of his pants. Ah, the perfect hiding spot for that book.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Doctor Who)
Cyberman: Blevon. Blevon.
Linkara: (as Krane) Pay no attention to the man with the book in his ass.
Linkara (v/o): All of a sudden, there's an explosion!
Dr. Baylor: (thinking) Someone's going to pay for that faulty timer.
Linkara (v/o): While you're at it, dude, you may want to invest in a better explosive. Just look at that! It barely knocked over a table. The guy who's gonna become Black Web? It's not the explosion that hurt, (tries not to laugh) it's because of the fifty friggin' syringes sticking out of him! I mean, just... Oh, my Lord, look at this! How many fricikn' needles did he have sitting on the table? Were they even on the table? They all got blown out in just the right way so they'd all stab this guy all over his body! Dude, you ever think about, I don't know, injecting the contents into a test tube and then safely disposing of the needle? It'd probably be a lot safer than keep those things just sitting around, waiting for someone to trip on 'em! Crap, the safety record of this place has got to be hell! OSHA's gonna have a fit over this! And hey, wait a second, did the explosion burn off his shirt? Well, no, we see the shirt later, but it's opened up. The explosion unbuttoned his shirt!
Linkara: And yeah, that's our title character who just got turned into a pin cushion. (holds up index finger) What I especially love so far about this comic is the character development. In only two pages, we already know so much about him. For example, he's a scientist. Also, he's... (stops as he tries to come up with something else, but remains silent for a long time) So, anyway...
Linkara (v/o): It takes several pages for us to learn that this guy's name is Derrick. Otherwise, he's addressed as Dr. Baylor for most of it. Dr. Derrick stumbles out of the lab, looking for help for the woman, Angela, and not feeling too good after the whole explosion and poisons and whatnot.
Dr. Baylor: (thinking) My skin's crawling - head...pounding! My vision is blurring...
Linkara: (as Dr. Baylor, imitating his not feeling good) Must... narrate... symptoms... to myself!
Linkara (v/o): His body transforms quickly, and he apparently decided to take off his pants at some point during this with the rest of his clothes. That seems normal.
Narrator: Transformed by the experimental venom, Baylor seeks refuge on the rooftops.
Linkara: (as Dr. Baylor, imitating his climbing pose) I automatically know I can do this because... spider venom.
Dr. Baylor: With this body, revenge is going to be sweet!
(Cut to a clip of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Khan: (voiced by Linkara) Ah, Kirk. My old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served sweet? It's very sweet... in space...
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The police, firemen and ambulance are surprisingly quick to respond, considering there doesn't even seem to be a fire outside of the lab or anything, but the caption says that Dr. Angela is transported to the hospital.
Dr. Baylor: (thinking as he sprawls out his arms and legs awkwardly) Hold on, Angela!
Linkara: (imitating Dr. Baylor's pose) Oh, crap, spiders can't fly! (falls over)
Linkara (v/o): The arsonist, Krane, meets with a guy who hired him for the job. And since it's a guy in silhouette, it's probably the Fekazar from Johnny Turbo. Clearly, their research into spiders would eventually lead those scientists to create a CD-based add-on for their game system!
Krane: None. Was the blast supposed to take me out, too?
Boss: A carless [sic] craftsmen, he'll be dealt with.
Linkara: (as this boss) Being carless, we'll punish him by giving him a car... and then taking it away!
Linkara (v/o): Meanwhile, at the hospital, Derrick is on the roof, thinking about what happened to him.
Dr. Baylor: That spider's venom should have killed me.
Linkara: What, did all of those syringes full of venom come from a single spider? That thing was an efficient little bastard, wasn't it?
Dr. Baylor: I'm caught in some sort of dark... BLACK WEB.
Linkara (v/o): Well, first of all, as a general rule, I'd say black is already dark, so perhaps your superhero name should be Captain Redundant. Secondly, how do you define this as a "black web", exactly? It's black, certainly. Well, gray, but you get what I mean. But where's the "web" part? That red, vaguely spider-shaped thing is a web now? He also receives stingers that shoot out of the back of his wrists that the letter section explains are hardened cartilage. Man, this super awesome spider was truly a miracle! I mean, it had stingers, too? Wow!
(Cut to a shot of the cover for a Spider-Man comic called "The Other: Evolve or Die")
Linkara (v/o): Actually, here's the really funny thing: there's a Spider-Man storyline called "The Other", where Spidey evidently dies and is reborn with some new powers. It's often confused with another stupid storyline that will eventually end up the show.
(Cut to a panel of the story showing off one of those new powers)
Linkara (v/o): One of those new powers was stingers that shot out of his wrists. I'm sure J. Michael Straczynski had plans to eventually reveal what the hell was up with those, but he had other stories that he needed to work on. Like "One More Day"! Goody, goody gumdrops! The implied explanation, from what I can gather, and what I vaguely recall reading at the time, was that while spiders didn't possess stingers now, somewhere along the line, it was likely that they would evolve to possess them. That, however, is a rather stupid explanation, making it seem like they were just trying to justify turning Peter Parker into Wolverine. Worse than that, it implies that evolution has some sort of predetermined course.
(Cut back to the "Black Web" comic)
Dr. Baylor: (thinking) This will make revenge even sweeter!
Linkara (v/o): So, here's yet another question on top of everything else: how does he know this was intentional? Maybe a gas line behind the wall blew up. You ever think of that? Maybe the guy running away was just trying to find help, or he was just in a panic. Just sayin'.
Narrator: As the sunlight hits the Black Web's spidacious flesh, he is transformed back to his human form.
(Cut to 90s Kid)
90s Kid: Duuuuude! This comic is totally (makes devil horn signs) spidacious!
Linkara: (looking at 90s Kid in confusion) Really? You're really embracing "spidacious"? I mean, I know poor literacy is cool, but... "spidacious"?
90s Kid: This is why you're never gonna be with it, Linkara. Everything these days has to be "-acious" to some point. (points to his baseball cap) This hat? Orangacious! (points to comic) That comic? Spidacious! (points to Linkara) You? Unradicalacious. (shakes head)
(Cut back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): When Black Web returns to normal, he is met by... Wait, Spoony Bum? Huh, so he is alive. And in 1993. And black. Wait a second, if the Black Web is naked when he transforms, why can't we see his junk in that form? Did the spider venom grant him modesty powers, too?
Bum: Whoa buddy, looks like your night was worse than mine.
Linkara: (as bum) And all that happened to me was that a black lantern ripped out my heart, and I got sent back in time, and I turned into a black person! (beat, then normal) Yeah, I'm sticking with this bit; his clothes honestly do remind me of the Spoony Bum.
Linkara (v/o): Otherwise, all I can do is replace every bit of his dialogue with, "Oh, my God, this is the greatest comic I ever read in my life!" And that would just be silly. He offers Derrick some booze, but he declines.
Dr. Baylor: I've had enough for one night, but thanks for the coat.
(Cut to a clip of Dogma, showing Jay and Silent Bob)
Jay: Dude, his piece is gonna be rubbing inside of your armor!
(Back to the comic again)
Narrator: The next morning...
Linkara (v/o): Wait, the next morning we were already seeing, or is it an entire day since he met the bum? And if it is an entire day since then, why is he still running around in just the trenchcoat? Baylor has returned to the lab, where a police detective has apparently just been sitting there for hours and... OH, SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THAT CIGARETTE?! (said cigarette is lit in a way as to have a huge flame on the end) Dude, at that point, it'd stopped being something you smoke and instead becomes something you carry while hunting Frankenstein!
(Cut to Dr. Linksano)
Dr. Linksano: Hello, Dr. Linksano again! Just here to respond to the inevitable people who will post that "Frankenstein is the doctor and not the Monster". (holds up index finger) One, Frankenstein is a much cooler name for the Monster than just "The Monster" or "Adam" or whatever. (holds up two fingers) Two, technically, the Monster is the offspring or the creation of the doctor, so he inherits the surname; thus, "Frankenstein". (holds up three fingers) Three, Frankenstein is not real – yet. Thus, we can name him whatever the hell we want.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): So why the hell isn't the police detective asking about the trenchcoat or anything? Derrick asks if Angela is okay and the detective responds that "something weird is going on" and that the doctors are "stumped".
Detective: Curious. Don't look like the explosive touched you.
Linkara: Technically, it didn't touch Angela, either, but whatever.
Linkara (v/o): He says that they've definitely confirmed that the explosion was arson, but Derek can't believe it since the research was pretty inconsequential. We cut to several hours later at the hospital, where we see that the explosion apparently caused a head injury to Angela. Okay, I'll buy it. Derrick tells her that he remembers seeing Krane leaving with their research book and that he'll try to track him down using the resume he had supplied to them, Angel warning him to be careful. We cut to him checking the recep– (bursts out laughing at the tiny computer Dr. Baylor is looking at) Oh, man! We'll ignore the bad artwork on Derrick himself, but take a look at that computer! You know, maybe this is what the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids meant whenever they referred to "little computers". Derrick checks Krane's address from the resume.
Dr. Baylor: (thinking) Why did Krane take the notes? Only a scientist could take advantage of its secrets.
Linkara: (as Peter Parker, holding up fist) Only a science major could have used spider venom research like this!
Linkara (v/o): He then checks out the reference given, but most of them either tell him to leave or that they've never heard of him, in particular, a Mr. Feller. That night, he suddenly feels his body changing, and he ducks into an alley, once again becoming Black Web. Yeah, according to the letters page, it's a nocturnal transformation completely against his will. Also, if this artwork is to be believed, it sets him on fire, too. Over to Spinus Lab Industries, we finally get a look at our villain, and it's just some doughy guy. Why was he hidden before exactly? Anyway, he berates Krane for not getting the two scientists killed and tells him to kill so that the job gets finished. You know, standard villain stuff. Back over to Black Web, he decides to check one of those references on Krane's resume once more [Dr. Stone, as the comic explains] by sneaking into their apartment.
Black Web: Ready to play Jeopardy?
(Cut to a clip of a Jeopardy sketch on SNL)
Sean Connery: Oh, I'll play your game, you rogue.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): At stinger point, the guy admits that he never met Krane before, but that Feller guy from before paid him a grand for the reference.
Dr. Stone: Later he bragged... that he made a bomb that destroyed a research lab.
Linkara: He bragged about that?! (sarcastically) Oh, yeah, that's the kind of thing you just wanna SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS to show how awesome you are!
(Cut to the same clip from before of the episode of Doctor Who)
Cyberman: Blevon. Blevon.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The guy's wife walks in and screams.
Narrator: Instinctively, the black web grabs a web from his chest.
Linkara (v/o): Uh, wait, is his skin made out of web? What the hell does that mean? And yeah, he tosses the goo at her and... and what, I don't know, other than I guess she's infected with the black oil virus or something. He leaps out the window and warns them not to tell Krane or he'll be back. Wait a second, he's coming out of the third story window...
(Editor's note: "My mistake, that's actually the fourth story, not third.")
Linkara (v/o): ...but the caption when this scene started said the guy's apartment was on the fifth floor.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching The She-Creature)
Mike Nelson: Space is warped and time is bendable!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Aaand then E.T. walks in and shoots them! Yeah, that just happened.
Assassin: The only thing the Seeker needs is no witnesses.
Linkara (v/o): You know, you'd think, being some kind of weird-ass mutant thing with star eyes and... I think three arms? I can't exactly tell with the artwork. ...would be enough, but no, he actually uses a gun. Why even bother having the character look like this if he just uses a regular gun? Also, another artistic note: hair apparently just falls off of you if you're shot in the head. No bloody chunks of flesh and bone, just hair. Back to Black Web, he leaps from building to building, going to the offices of another of the references and starts digging through their stuff. He sees that this one has a connection to Spinus Industires, including a mention about "transients and the Mutant Project". When he hears a security guard approach, he decides to knock the guard out in the most logical manner possible: wrap his legs around his head and... do something. I'm sure the implication is that he choked him unconscious, but there's clearly plenty of room between his legs.
Linkara: Maybe his wang is a third stinger. (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): The Seeker then covers his tracks again by following behind, shooting the unconscious guard in the head and blowing up the office building. The next morning, Derrick learns from the rather oddly-designed newspaper about the three deaths. Wow, this is quick turnaround. They've already all been identified; had autopsies that showed they were connected, especially the one that was blown the hell up; and a full story was written for the newspaper on it. Angela's doctor calls him up to let him know that while her injuries are healing up, her weakened condition hasn't changed, suggesting that she's dying. As you can see, Derrick's blank expression on his face shows just how sad he is over the prospect of her dying. Also, he cries acid now. That evening, in a rage, he goes to talk to Feller and doesn't give a crap about the whole secret identity thing, not that he'd be very good at it anyway, what with the only difference being the skin change.
Black Web: Your bomb destroyed my lab– almost killed me and my girlfriend...
Linkara: Wait, those two were an item? Thanks for establishing that, comic! All we knew up until now was that they worked together!
Feller: But how can you be Dr. Baylor? Your [sic] not human!
Linkara (v/o): His not human what? Oh, you meant "You are not human!" Nice spelling error there. By the by, the editor that's listed? It's also the writer of the dialogue [Rebecca A. Strong]. (sarcastically) Good job!
Feller: (attacking Black Web) Let's see if you bleed like a man!
Black Web: I am a man...
Linkara: (holding up his fist) I AM A MAN!
(As he is wont to do, he punches off-screen. But this time, his fist gets stuck on wherever he punched and he can't get unstuck, much to his shock and confusion. He finally pulls free slowly, with confusion on his face)
Linkara (v/o): Feller must have some sort of compulsion to tell people what he's done, since he reveals to Black Web that he was hired by someone else to do it. After getting scratched on the face, Feller decides to reveal that he's got superpowers, too... somehow. It makes him grow two feet taller, lose all his hair, get a half-face-mask like Grimm from "Doom's IV", and suddenly wear a green leotard. Yeah, that came out of nowhere. And just as quickly, Black Web manages to stab him in the nipples and kill him. He recognizes the symbol on Feller's chest as the same one from the documents he was reading at another office. Over at Evil Co. Industries, they detect that Feller has died.
Boss: Get me Krane on the line, now! And send out a replacement.
Linkara (v/o): Um, why is he in silhouette again? We saw the guy already! There's no reason to hide him! Then we just get two panels of... nothing. I guess the implication is that they're activating another mutant person-thing, but we aren't given a clue. The next day, Derrick goes to the hospital, where Detective What's-His-Name is waiting.
Detective: Baylor, hold it. My superiors have cleared you, but I still think you're dirty. And I'm not going to stop till I tie all the loose ends together.
Linkara: Okay, aside from the lack of injuries, why do you think he was behind this? What does he gain by destroying his own laboratory and research?!
Detective: (awkwardly reaching his arm out as if to put it across Derrick's shoulder) That's right. For now. You're free. But don't get too comfortable. I'll always be at your back.
Linkara: (as detective, imitating his arm pose) Ready to use karate chop action on you!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Derek going to Angela's hospital room, only to discover her in a corner, encased in webs!
Derrick: It can't be... Not you, too!
Linkara: Wait a second, a web cocoon? Dear Lord, this thing did predict "Spider-Man: The Other". And you know what else? (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks.
Linkara (v/o): I've got to admit, though, it does kind of have its charms. It's the amateur quality of the creative team that really hurts this thing. The artwork lacks detailed backgrounds and puts too much detail into the human body, creating this Fletcher Hanks-esque body proportions at times. However, it does feel like there's some hope for their superhero artwork, since the design itself is pretty solid, and actually the Black Web scenes are the best drawn parts of the book, especially in splash pages. The actual last page of the story shows what is probably the image of what Angela will turn into, and it's not a bad design either, though the functioning of the whip when one already gets all the superpowers eludes me.
(Cut to the final page of the comic, showing an important notice, which Linkara describes)
Linkara (v/o): And before we close out, I couldn't help but check out this "important notice" on the very last page of the book. (reads text) "The three issue of "Black Web" will NOT be reprinted, not ever! When they're sold out, they're comic book HISTORY!"
(Cut to a shot of the Black Web series on the Mile High Comics site)
Linkara (v/o): And yet, according to Mile High Comics, there do appear to be several different cover versions of this first issue, mostly changing the holofoil on the logo, meaning that either they printed several alternate covers or they did in fact reprint it several times.
Linkara: In the end, it shows that everybody's got to start somewhere, even if the stuff you started with is total garbage. (throws comic down, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
So what exactly was so evil about the taste of this revenge? Did it have peppers on it or something?
Remind me again – what was the point of stealing the information about spider venom to begin with?
(Stinger: The panel showing Black Web stretching out his arms while saying, "WILL BE YOUR OWN!" is displayed)
Linkara (v/o): So, why is Black Web doing the Y pose of the "YMCA" song?