Cosmic Slam #1
September 29, 2014
Take me out to the ball game... take me out to the– giant alien tree attacking?
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Today's review is about "Cosmic Slam", a comic where baseball players get superpowers and fight an outer space menace. I think you all know what I have to do with that.
(He raises his finger in the air, the Quad City DJs is heard performing the title song for Space Jam. Linkara massages his forehead in frustration. Then the AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has the Space Jam theme continuing briefly. Then cut back to Linkara, who is clearly frustrated as he massages his forehead and looks down)
Linkara: I... don't even know where to begin with this thing. (sighs) I suppose I can try to give you what little information I could find about this book. And it is really not much.
(Cut to a closeup of the first issue of a comic called "Shortstop Squad")
Linkara (v/o): For starters, this is actually a sequel comic. Yeah, this is not the first time that baseball stars are put into a superhero role. The previous comic was "Shortstop Squad", which featured late-'90s shortstops fighting some kind of pink Godzilla creature.
Linkara: And if you think I'm gonna review that someday... you are totally correct.
(Cut to a closeup of the cover of the comic of today: the first issue of "Cosmic Slam", followed by a montage of other baseball-themed comics)
Linkara (v/o): Even the company that printed this is suspect. My copy has a logo and copyright info for "Allstar Arena Entertainment", but a search of that brings up a Wiki list of comic publishers that also list their name as "Lobito Publishing". Couldn't get anything from there. But a baseball blogger who talked about the comic has a copy that's attributed to "Ultimate Sports Entertainment". And while that's a real company, I couldn't find anything about them making comics, other than listing a few other books they published alongside "Cosmic Slam". The baseball blogger, called "The Baseball Continuum" in case you're curious, also listed a possible company name of Ultimate Sports Force, which yielded a website. Said website has not updated since 2002, has some bizarre Flash interface that launches a tiny window for their products, and half the pages don't actually have any information on them, except to say that information on them is "coming soon". The only thing that does seem to have a listed page is the store, which has various sports comics about players becoming superheroes of some kind. Shockingly, attempts to order any of the comics from the unfinished website for sports-themed superheroes that hasn't updated since 2002 did not yield any results.
Linkara: So frankly, at this point, screw it! Let's just dig into (holds up today's comic) "Cosmic Slam #1" and see where the hell they go with this. (looks down at comic briefly in disbelief) How is it that I own a copy of (points to comic) this, but not the "Star Trek: First Contact" comic I reviewed last week?
(Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is okay for this, I guess: photorealistic renderings of the players, except they're all wearing power armor and wielding very thick baseball bats.
Linkara: (seething) I swear to God, (points to comic) if those things get described as "laser bats"... (shakes silently as he tries to come up with something) I'm gonna be really angry about it and then keep reviewing!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and as I mentioned like 250 episodes ago, I am not a baseball fan, so any baseball references or in-jokes are flying right over my head. Much like a home run swing. That's a baseball thing, right? Or... uh, the joke about Mark McGwire doing steroids? Uh, would that be a good joke to make, or wa-was that proven that he really didn't do that, or did he do it, but only for medical purposes? Uh...
Linkara: (exasperated) I don't know about sports, okay?! I know weird Star Trek trivia and stupid fan theories about Power Rangers crap! (points to comic) This is not my field!
Linkara (v/o): We open in New Mexico, where two astronomers are tracking a comet that seems to be changing course on its own.
Female astronomer: I don't believe this! The comet changed direction again! It's picking up speed now. Its current path puts the comet on a collision course with Earth!
Male astronomer: (thinking) It begins...
Linkara: (as male astronomer) I'd better call Bruce Willis and his oil-drilling team and get this over with.
Female astronomer: Impact in seven minutes!
Linkara (v/o): Or rather, in the next panel. A team is sent out to investigate the crash site, which is glowing bright green. Ooh, now it's radioactive! That can't be good! The team gets in closer and finds a small plant rapidly growing in front of them.
Linkara: (grinning) Oh, how many jokes can I make about this scenario, hmm? Well, let's get started! (inhales)
Linkara (v/o): "Run away! Men In Black 2 is starting!" (a ding is heard) "Well, at least it isn't The Blob." (another ding) "Don't touch it, you fools! Haven't you seen Creepshow?" (another ding) "Better call Goku, looks like the Tree of Might is back." (another ding) "Let's get Bruce Willis and his oil-drilling team–" (a buzzer is heard)
Linkara: Oh, right! Dammit, I already made an Armageddon joke. Well, still, four-joke streak; that's gotta count for something.
Linkara (v/o): The two scientists, in super-enhanced biohazard suits, are met by a silhouette who, of course, says that this is the part where he asks to be taken to their leader. But enough about that. Let's cut to three days later at a little league field, where Mark McGwire is hanging out and mocking small children by, you know, being a professional player and hitting home runs.
Kid: Tell us how you hit home runs, Mark.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons, showing Mark McGwire talking to a crowd)
McGwire: You want to know the terrifying truth? Or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?
Crowd: Dingers! Dingers!
(McGwire takes a baseball and hits it out of the park. Cut back to the comic)
McGwire: There really isn't any trick to it or anything. Usually, I'll study the pitchers I'm going up against and try to visualize the pitches.
Linkara: (as McGwire) I visualize the pitches while I'm stalking them, learning all their habits, hobbies and terrible secrets.
Linkara (v/o): Before he can say much more, a helicopter lands, carrying with it a military general.
General: Mark McGwire, sorry to drop in on you like this, but your country needs you.
McGwire: My country? What are you talking about?
Linkara: (as general) Well, after Charles Barkley defeated Godzilla, we decided to start recruiting sports stars into the Army.
General: You saved baseball, son. Now do you think you can save the Earth?
Linkara: (as general) Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?
Linkara (v/o): Also, I think someone more knowledgeable about the sport will need to clarify or call bullcrap on him saving baseball.
McGwire: Earth? You're kidding, right? I'm just a baseball player. What can I do?
Linkara: Holy crap, I think this might be the first time in any of these comics that the celebrity actually calls out the ridiculousness of the premise.
General: I've seen you with a bat in your hand, son. You can do plenty!
Linkara: (as general) You're gonna beat people to death with a baseball bat! It's a skill few people truly possess.
Linkara (v/o): And in quick succession, Sammy Sosa, Dave Justice and Jeff Bagwell are all recruited and brought to the White Sands military base in New Mexico. While they wait to be briefed, they make reference to the Shortstop comic to confirm that, yes, these two are in the same universe. In fact, the general says that the Shortstop Squad is on assignment and can't be contacted, so these guys have been recruited to save the Earth. You know, we do give Space Jam a lot of crap over its premise, but at least the situation did require an expert in basketball to resolve it. Is the Earth being threatened by aliens who want to play baseball? Why are these people here?!
General: You've all heard by now about the meteor that hit Earth earlier this week. What you don't know, what no one outside this installation knows, is that was no meteor!
Linkara: (as general) It was a space station.
General: It was a seed! A seed that grew into a giant tree that has begun to alter our planet's atmosphere.
Linkara (v/o): What new spore of madness is this?!
General: Our best minds tell me that if left alone, this one tree will make the Earth uninhabitable* in about 18 months.
- NOTE: The general says a little more: "uninhabitable for humans", not just "uninhabitable".
Linkara: (as general) On the plus side, though, everyone's gonna have (holds up hand over his head) really nice shade during the spring and summer.
Female scientist: One seed. One tree can ruin us. Earlier today, the Hubble Telescope sent us a photograph of seventy more of these seeds approaching the Earth.
Linkara: (exasperated) And again, they called in BASEBALL PLAYERS for this! Not even gardeners, BASEBALL PLAYERS!!
Linkara (v/o): The two scientists with the general explain things further.
Female scientist: These seeds from space represent an unknown quantity. The technology at work here is based on a physics that is beyond our understanding.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, I'm pretty sure that trees doing all this would be based on chemistry and biology, but whatever.
Female scientist: The finest computers in the world are unable to calculate the comets' exact approach trajectories. We feel that the instincts of a home run hitter, his gut feelings enhanced by modern defense technology, are Earth's best chance of deflecting the small, fast-moving seeds. And sending them back into space.
Linkara: (stares sourly) You're not really a scientist, are you?
Linkara (v/o): Jeff Bagwell calls bullcrap on this whole thing as being completely and utterly ludicrous.
Bagwell: I mean, what's next? Space aliens from another planet?
Linkara: As opposed to space aliens from southern Wisconsin.
Linkara (v/o): But in fact, the silhouette from earlier was indeed an alien, who comes out and spews a lot of text. He says his name is Hylas and was sent here as an advanced scout for an alien invasion. However, he grew to appreciate Earth and its culture.
Hylas: I could not, as you say, "live with myself" if I were even in some small part responsible for the destruction of cheeseburgers, Elvis Presley, the Eiffel Tower, football, American football and, of course, your national pastime.
Linkara: (as Hylas) Countries that do not commonly possess these elements may be freely destroyed, however.
Linkara (v/o): So, isn't this the origin story for Captain Marvel?
Hylas: I hope to make the Earth my new home. So do a lot of my people. Only I wish to live here as it is now, not as my people would remake it.
Linkara: (as Hylas) I mean, let's face it, the remake is rarely better than the original.
Linkara (v/o): The three are given Power Rangers-esque multicolored power armor to boost their strength, speed and endurance.
General: Your primary weapon -- an atomic baseball bat.
(Cut to a clip of Mystery Science Theater 3000)
Dr. Forrester: Why? Because it's science, that's why.
Linkara: You know what? (shrugs) I'm not even mad. Because "atomic baseball bat" still makes more sense than laser bats that have nothing laser about them. Although, this does make me wonder why you would implant a nuclear reactor inside something that's meant to be (makes hitting motion) hit against other objects.
Linkara (v/o): Also, the "atomic baseball bat" contains missiles and is considerably shorter and thicker than a baseball bat, so it's more like an atomic mace or cudgel than a bat. One of the scientists slips away and uses a communicator to contact "The Leader", who is apparently the villain behind the Shortstop Squad comic. He informs the Leader about the new team and how they're wise to the coming attack.
Scientist: We must divide and conquer these "heroes". Awaken the "Sleeper".
(Cut to a clip of Dune)
Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan): Father, the Sleeper has awakened!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): What they really mean is to send the giant tree out to attack the city. And while many people pointed out some legitimate reasons why flamethrowers wouldn't work against the Borg from last week, I am curious why nobody has employed them yet against the tree threatening all life on Earth. Jeff and Dave head out to deal with the tree monster while Mark and Sammy head out to deal with the meteors. Meanwhile, some guy in an office [Alexander] is asking out a coworker [Denise].
Alexander: What do you say after work we go out and grab something to eat? It'll be my treat. After that, we can catch a movie, maybe go to your place?
Linkara: (as Alexander) It has to go to your place because my parents won't let me back in until I shave off my soul patch.
Linkara (v/o): However, this is interrupted by the tree monster outside the window.
Alexander: I don't believe it!
Linkara: (as Alexander) My Chia Pet has gone berserk!
Linkara (v/o): (as tree monster) I AM NOT GROOT!
Man: Aw, no! My car! I hate stupid giant trees!
Linkara: (as this man) The insurance people aren't gonna believe this happened a third time!
Linkara (v/o): Jeff and Dave arrive on... uh, rocket-powered hoverboards or... galaxy gliders or something. Because, hey, if we have atomic baseball bats and power armor, why not go all out with our technology, eh?
Justice: We've got to draw his attention away from the city and towards us!
Bagwell: That's it? That's our big plan?!
Linkara: Eh, more of a plan than Superman had in Man of Steel. (beat) There's gonna be yet another "Man of Steel" debate in the comments section now, isn't there?
Linkara (v/o): Hylas contacts them and tells them to concentrate their attacks together on one spot, which seems to work... sort of. They blast the thing in half, but the top half splits apart into a dozen or so tiny versions that all go running off. Whoops.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Jack Frost, involving tree monsters)
Mike: Miracle-Gro worked too well.
Servo: I guess.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Over to the other two batters, they've gone to the crater, where a news crew is standing by to... film the empty crater, I guess. Well, thank goodness CNN is here to document these things. Mark and Sammy arrive, and we see some hard-hitting journalism in action.
Reporter: ...Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are here and it looks like they're filming a new science-fiction film...
McGwire: Please, there's no time to explain, but it's not safe here. You people will have to leave...
Sosa: No, I've never even met George Lucas...
Reporter: You heard it here first. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have traded in their baseball bats for lightsabers...
Linkara: (exaggeratedly) Reporters misrepresenting what someone says?! I've never heard of such a thing!
Linkara (v/o): Truly, these people have their priorities in order. On the less sarcastic side of things, the meteors begin approaching and Mark spots them. They fly up on their own hover thingies and start swatting them with bats, mostly because we don't have Ted Turner around to karate-chop the meteors, and blowing them up before they can reach the ground. While they're successful for most of them, Evil Traitor Scientist Guy... I don't know, Kovacs is his name or something? I don't care. ...takes out a gun and shoots Sosa's floating platform thing up. Fortunately, McGwire is able to catch him, and the two combine their bats together in one awesome COSMIC SLAM that takes out the last one. Back on the ground, Evil Scientist Guy has been apprehended. Not sure what his plan was after shooting them down anyway, considering he was literally two feet away from the General.
Sosa: I guess you showed your true colors... Now show us your true face!
(Cut to a clip of Wayne's World)
Wayne Campbell (Mike Meyers): (seeing who the arrested culprit is) Why, it's Old Man Withers, the guy who runs the haunted amusement park!
Old Man Withers (Carmen Filpi): And I would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you snooping kids!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The other two join them and inform them of the situation with the smaller tree monsters, but fortunately, it turns out that they called in backup: Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield and Frank Thomas.
Linkara: (incredulously) Wait, they had more power suits?! Then why did they only call in four guys initially?!
Linkara (v/o): And so, enjoy this two-page spread of baseball players beating trees to death. This is like a nightmare that hippies have. Also, the sound that tiny trees make is "Honk!"
(Cut to Boffo the Clown, who honks his horn)
Linkara: I agree, Boffo, this is very surreal.
Linkara (v/o): And why the smaller trees just don't grow into even smaller ones when they're destroyed is never explained, but all the baseball players stand victorious over their tiny wooden corpses. Well, waste not, want not. Anybody need a toothpick? We cut over to the leader in his spaceship, naturally pissed off that his latest plan failed. And in lieu of using his no doubt superior weaponry to attack and kill the baseball players, he instead goes running with his tail between his legs.
Alien leader: I shall return! Mark my words! And when I do, it shall be as the supreme ruler of Earth!
Linkara: The leader would return the next year and be defeated by a group of lacrosse players.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Hylas being brought to the little league field from the beginning... So advanced scouts for this culture are children? ...where he's at bat.
Justice: Is it me, or does the wood in his bat look familiar?
Female scientist: It should-- I made it for him with what was left of those tree creatures.
Linkara: (as female scientist) I could have kept it for scientific study, but instead I made it into a toy.
Sosa: Look at him up there! He's a natural! He'll fit in just fine on this planet.
Linkara: (laughs uproariously) He's gonna be met with hatred, fear and prejudice both for looking different and for being part of an attempted invasion of Earth. (closes comic and holds it up) Anyway, this comic is stupid, but awesome.
Linkara (v/o): The makers of this comic clearly understood that this thing was dumb, so they decided to go all out with it: atomic bats, giant trees, explosions, action. It just has fun with the concept and has no regrets in how ludicrous it all is. The writing is nothing to write home about and the artwork is passable, but it's overall just an enjoyable little comic that really has no reason to exist, but I'm not upset that it exists.
Linkara: Which, with this job, sometimes you're just happy that the thing that you read ended up being kind of awaesome. Not so much with next week, though, because it's October, and that means...
(As he speaks, the music from The Thing from Another World plays, as he ponders another "Thing" comic to review)
Linkara: Yeah... We're finishing that up. This is gonna hurt. (drops comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I like to think Hylas eventually went on to become Captain Marvel in this universe, but was a baseball-themed variant.
So what part of the government's defense budget goes into power armor, hoverboards, and atomic baseball bats?
Jaeris: So, what about quadrant 28 by 9 by 18?
Pollo: Inputting the coordinates now. (pushes some buttons) Negative. It does not conform to your universe's hi-ho print.
Jaeris: Damn it! The dimensional timelines–
Pollo: –look similar, yes, but that's because it's a similar parallel universe to your own. It's not the one you originate from. I think you ought to get to your actual home and not just one similar to it.
Jaeris: Yeah, it's getting to the point where I just might have to settle for it. Lord Vyce tracked that Entity thing across thousands of universes, but we haven't been able to pinpoint which one I'm from.
Pollo: Nimue has been sending probes into other universes to collect even more possibilities. We're creating quite the map of the multiverse.
Jaeris: Hey, I'm only interested in one point on that map, and that's my home. You know, Sierra could probably coordinate with Nimue on this.
Pollo: Ever since the incident with Vyce, Linkara has been reluctant to let any other computer systems connect with her. Even I have been restricted from doing so.
Jaeris: Sierra is fine. He's better than fine. He might even be faster than Nimue.
Sierra: Your confidence in my abilities is appreciated, master.
Pollo: What was that? I thought I heard the sound of an Edison telegraph.
Sierra: At least I'm not wearing a ridiculous scarf.
Pollo: At least I appreciate work that my fans do for me. I am an Internet sensation.
Sierra: That's because you are, as they say, an epic fail. While you sit and attempt to insult me, I prove my superiority by detecting something that your computer has not.
Pollo: What do you mean?
Sierra: I am detecting signals traveling on a strange wavelength towards Linkara's apartment. Their origin point is other-dimensional.
Pollo: Why have we not detected them before?
Sierra: Normally, I would assume because of your inferior scanners.
Pollo: Watch it, Apple 2.
Sierra: However, in this case, the signals have been deliberately hidden. Whoever is responsible knows the capabilities of Comicron 1's scanners for detecting interdimensional activity. They are not aware of my own unique capabilities in that area.
Jaeris: What can you pick up about them?
Sierra: There are multiple signals emanating through a very small opening into this universe. I cannot access the other side of the opening. The majority of the signals are heading towards Linkara's apartment. Some signals seem to have no actual endpoint and may just be background signals emanating from random other universes. However, there is one in particular that is directed towards this– (suddenly, Sierra stops talking abruptly)
Jaeris: (worried) Sierra?! Sierra, respond!
Sierra: I hear and obey.
Pollo: (looking around) What the hell are you doing?!
Jaeris: What's going on?!
Pollo: He's introduced some kind of knockout gas into the air!
Jaeris: Sierra, I order you to restore the normal atmosphere!
(Sierra does not answer)
Pollo: I'll hack into his systems and stop him.
(Suddenly, however, there is an explosion that knocks Pollo down. Jaeris leaps to his feet)
Sierra: And by attempting to access my systems, you have let me access yours. I have overloaded your power supply. You cannot stop my king!
(Coughing, Jaeris tries to aim his gun at Sierra, but before he can pull the trigger, he falls unconscious. Pollo, too, lies on the ground, having been disabled. Cut to Linkara in his apartment. He is talking to Harvey, holding up his Magic Wand to him. Harvey is smoking a cigarette)
Linkara: So, with the assistance of Cloak #1, the Magic Wand seems to be up and running now.
Harvey: It's nice work, kid, but what are you gonna do about–
(Suddenly, however, they are interrupted as the early Pollo body on the shelf suddenly comes to life)
Pollo: –stop him! Uh-oh...
Linkara: (looking toward the body in surprise) Pollo?!
Harvey: What's he doing back in the small fry?
Linkara: Pollo's body share a group consciousness. That way, if one body is disabled, he can just transfer into another. (looks to Pollo again) Dude, what's up?
Pollo: Sierra just knocked Jaeris unconscious and blasted my body! We have to help him!
Linkara: Nimue, did you hear that?
Nimue: Confirmed. This unit is tracking his vessel now. It has disappeared behind the moon, but satellite relays are allowing better sensor... The ship has disappeared.
Linkara: What do you mean?
Nimue: It has simply vanished. This unit cannot offer an explanation at this time.
Linkara: Pollo, can you tell us anything else about what happened?
Pollo: Not very much. Sierra detected some strange transmissions aimed at the apartment and then went quiet. He said it obeyed someone and that I cannot stop his king.
Linkara: (stunned) King? (suddenly, a thought comes to him) You guys thinking what I'm thinking?
Harvey: What is it, kid?
Linkara: The King of Worms!
Harvey: Why do you figure that?
Linkara: It all clicks. Vyce was worried about that thing, and while he may be an egotistical lunatic, he'd probably be able to spot signs of a thing like the Entity before anybody else. The Cybermats have gone haywire and attacked me and the Ninja-Style Dancer, and the info from the Absent Grimoire I was able to glean before that disappeared, indicated that the King of Worms likes to use (makes "air quotes") "clockwork soldiers", AKA robots, which is what the Cybermats are. It probably can take over robotic beings like Sierra or the Cybermats.
Pollo: But then why haven't Nimue or I been overtaken?
Linkara: It's possible that it's tried. You said a while ago that you felt like something was pushing or nudging you.
Harvey: Uh, kid? (sotto voce) Maybe he already has been overtaken.
Linkara: I don't think so, man. Otherwise, I don't think the King would have let Pollo tell me about the attack on Jaeris.
Pollo: But then what's protecting us?
Linkara: The new security protocols we have installed after Vyce took over Nimue. The Cybermats were the last ones to receive them.
Harvey: There's no guarantee, though.
Linkara: It's all we've got to go on. Nothing else has changed about them recently.
Pollo: So what do we do now?
Linkara: The only thing we can do. (holds up his Magic Gun and Magic Wand) Last year, I swore that things were going to change around here, and I meant it. The King of Worms may be after us, but now we know he's there. So we're going after him.
(To a dramatic sting, the screen goes black)