Channel Awesome
Crimson #1

At4w crimson 1 by mtc studios-d8mw0z0-1024x453.png

March 30, 2015
I'm seeing red! ...and black... and purple... and more red... basically, it's not very many colors.

Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. You know, regardless of how you feel about these Patreon-sponsored episodes, you've got to love how we're doing something different around here.

(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Youngblood #1")

Linkara (v/o): I mean, with almost 350 episodes, I get into some patterns and I look at similar material all the time, and it can feel like getting into a rut. Doing something different helps keep things fresh around here.

Linkara: It's nice to review something like a half-decent, unknown Golden Age homage instead of yet another early Image comic with terrible artwork and half-naked women. So, anyway, here's the Patreon-sponsored "Crimson #1", an early Image comic with terrible artwork and half-naked women.

(Cut to a shot of a comic called "Cliffhanger!")

Linkara (v/o): Well, I say "early Image," but it was 1998, so Image had been around for a bit by this point. "Crimson" was printed under their Cliffhanger imprint, which was for creator-owned books...

Linkara: ...which seems kind of odd to me, since I was under the impression that Image itself was for creator-owned books...

Linkara (v/o): ...and it's not anything to write home about. Even looking at the books it published, it says something that the best that I recognize from it are "Tokyo: Storm Warning" and friggin' "Danger Girl". The imprint was part of Wildstorm when it separated from Image and was bought by DC, but then was merged with another imprint called Homage Comics to become the Wildstorm Signature Series. That being said, "Crimson" was apparently the longest-running Cliffhanger book, at 24 issues. Was this one of the books that helped Image turn itself around? Or just one of the many pieces of crap they produced throughout the '90s?

Linkara: Well, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Crimson #1" and find out.

(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Dracula: Prince of Darkness Suite" by James Bernard playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)

Linkara (v/o): Aaand right out of the starting gate with our cover, where smack dab in the middle of said cover is a woman without a shirt or bra, but black electrical tape covering her nipples*. You know, recently, someone said they disliked me as a feminist because I was "sex negative". I have no idea where the hell they got this impression of me, although I could probably guess it's because of how critical I often am of superheroine costumes and artwork, and how sex is utilized in comics, like in "Red Hood and the Outlaws".

  • NOTE: This lady is referred to as Rose the Puppet.

(Cut to a shot of a panel of "Red Hood and the Outlaws #1")

Linkara (v/o): Because truly there is no better example of sexuality in comics than when the amnesiac alien wants to have sex with people she can no longer remember, but seems to derive no enjoyment from it.

(Cut to a shot of a panel of "Ultimates 3")

Linkara (v/o): Or perhaps the spine-breaking sex of Scarlet Witch's mother and Wolverine put into "Ultimates 3" for no reason.

(Cut to a shot of a panel of "Action Comics #593")

Linkara (v/o): Or maybe even the mind-control pornography produced by Superman and Big Barda in "Action Comics #593".

Linkara: Truly, the problem is with (gestures toward himself) me and not the comic books.

Linkara (v/o): No, no, nononono, clearly, putting this woman's otherwise bare breasts in the exact center of the cover is a sign of sex positivity... by the three men responsible for the story concepts, the guy who scripted it, and the three guys who colored it.

Linkara: Although, to be fair, it was a woman who was the inker, so it's very well possible it was her idea to create it this way. (beat) But I think the fact that I harp on this crap all the time indicates that it's not really an isolated incident, now, is it?

Linkara (v/o): And even if we were to ignore the breasts thing, there is also the issue of all the rest of the artwork! We have Humberto Ramos for this art, and the sad thing is that this cover is actually one of the better bits of penciling I've seen from him. Now, of course, all art is subjective, but I am not a fan of Ramos' stuff. You'll see examples of this later, but his style is often referred to as resembling manga – a misnomer, considering there's not just one person in Japan creating manga, but you get what I mean – but I think that's overly generous. I personally cannot stand his artwork. Character faces done by him are often stretched or are so exaggerated in their features that they pretty much are cartoons, while the people in general he draws are either so bulky that they'd fit right alongside a Rob Liefeld portfolio or so lanky that they might as well be stick figures. Like I said, this cover looks positively normal by comparison. And yet it still features this cowboy with massively muscly arms; No-Shirt Electrical-Taped-Boob Lady; Monster Lady with huge clawed hands; dude trying to frame a camera photo he wants to take, who also doesn't believing in having a complete shirt, just the shoulders and gloves; and finally, Overly-Excited Football Fan who painted his face and accidentally cheered too loudly while he was eating some cherry Starburst. He also doesn't believe in a complete shirt, it would seem.

Linkara: In fact, I think only the cowboy has an undamaged shirt in this cover. If you reposition them all in a line, it would be like you demonstrated a shirt gradually burning away until there was nothing left.

Linkara (v/o): We open with some kind of fiery cataclysm.

Narrator: In the beginning when God began to create Heaven and Earth...

Linkara: (as narrator) The project was at first delayed due to the construction contract He had made with the workers.

Narrator: ...the Earth was first unformed and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

Linkara: (as narrator) The complexion of the deep needed some exfoliating cream to help improve it.

Linkara (v/o): But yeah, it's basically a word-for-word adaptation of the Book of Genesis and the creation of the world, what with the seas being made, the land being created, the dragons flying around, the grass and animals coming to... Huh? Oh, yeah, the dragons.

Narrator: God created behemoths called the Chalkydri to be the guardians of the new born world. And these were dragons, and they lived through God's glory and kept watch over Earth.

Linkara: (as narrator) They would later star in two popular Dreamworks films.

Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, what the hell's the deal here? Well, I could've just shrugged this off as being something the writers made up for funsies, but as it happens, Chalkydri are apparently a thing. Not in the Bible itself, mind you, but in apocrypha, specifically the Second Book of Enoch. They're basically described as multicolored angels with the bodies of lions and the heads of crocodiles. Why are they brought up here of all places? Well, according to one book about various kinds of angels, Chalkydri are said, in some sources, to have command over the Garden of Eden. What's bizarre about this, though, is that in trying to figure out where this came from, I of course plugged in the comic's quote about them into Google. The results? One was a misspelling of it, but otherwise, word-for-word used again in an (?) fanfic, and the other used by someone on a message board to tell a story about the origins of vampires. So either there's something I'm missing here or else two different people ripped this off from the comic without bothering to check if this was actually a thing in the Book of Genesis. Oh, but we're not done cribbing from Enoch... sort of. See, according to this story, Adam and Eve were actually a do over. God's first try at making creatures like them was the Grigori, which is not what the Grigori are in 2 Enoch, but whatever. They also reference Lilith from Jewish folklore, called Lisseth here for some reason. If you're not familiar with her, according to the mythology, she was Adam's first wife, not made from his rib or anything, but made of the same material. Things went bad, Eve got made, Lilith was rejected, and a lot of vampire folklore associated her as a possible founder of vampire stories.

Linkara: Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn and pointless bits of mythological trivia are handed out like candy.

Narrator: And as with Lisseth, God seemingly forgot the Grigori, and they fell under the sway of the Evil One.

Linkara: (as narrator) This is why God keeps Post-it notes around to remember these things.

Linkara (v/o): It then goes into Lucifer being pissed off at God and wanted His throne and started that war in Heaven.

Narrator: God stopped the war and banished Lucifer and his minions from Heaven forever.

Linkara: (as narrator) Lucifer never recovered from this setback in his campaign, instead choosing to try stuff like (makes "air quotes") "Take Spider-Man's marriage".

Linkara (v/o): Actually, his next plan was to use the Grigori against the Chalkydri. As you can imagine, trying to pit a bunch of soulless, kinda humanoid beings against giant dragons did not end in a Grigori victory.

Linkara: The Devil: a great deceiver, but not so great when it comes to actual battle plans.

Linkara (v/o): No reference is made to the apple or Adam and Eve eating from that. Instead, God ended the war between the Grigori and the Chalkydri, sent Adam and Eve out to explore the world, turned Eden into a desert, but at the center was the Tree of Life, and the remaining forces were left there to maintain the tree.

Linkara: Yes, because I can't think of anyone better suited to gardening and landscaping than... a dragon.

Linkara (v/o): However, one Grigori by the name of Ekimus escaped this fate and eventually met up with Lisseth.

Narrator: The day would come when these two imperfect beings would come together to breed perfect terror.

Linkara: (as narrator) Its name was Mr. Computer.

Linkara (v/o): The creatures they did spawn would apparently hold dominion over the "nightmare worlds of the night", and we cut to...

Narrator: New York, Today. 2:00 AM.

Linkara: Joke's on you! (points to camera) It's past 10:00 right now!

Linkara (v/o): Some teens are driving through Central Park, with none of their names actually being important except for one: Alex. Alex is being quite brooding about things right now.

One teen, Dewie: (to another teen, Louis) He [Alex] just bummed from his fight with Lady Julie... but she'll be cool-- she knows all your black moods, Darth Alex.

Linkara: So you force-choked some people. Who hasn't?

Linkara (v/o): Alex has been feeling nervous and off lately, and even he admits he's been pissing people off with his attitude.

Louis: Lighten up, Alex--you got no reason to be this weird. World's ours, man, we got nothing

Linkara (v/o): Ah, even this kid realizes not everything is okay, what with spikes emerging from his cheeks and his eyes bulging out like they are. Actually, what's happening is that a bunch of people, including Electrical-Taped Boob Lady, are standing in the middle of the road in front of them.

Rose the Puppet: Looka'dis, m'bats--we got dinnah in de can!

Linkara: Ah, goody, dinner in a can, because canned food is known for just being so appetizing.

Linkara (v/o): The teams all jump out of the car and yell to scatter, because it's the worst thing they can do. Seriously, what the hell? Assuming the people in front of them were a known threat, why didn't they just try to run them over? Or turn the car around? Or do anything except GET OUT OF THE CAR WHERE THEY CAN NOW BE PICKED OFF?!? And yeah, they all get taken pretty quickly, save for Alex, since he's on the track team, but his athleticism will not save him from Electrical-Taped Boob Lady, who leaps onto his back and bares her fangs.

Rose: You fast, l'il one--but not near fast enough to get away f'um Rose de Puppet, honcho o' de Jelly Bats!

Linkara: (confused, making "air quotes") "The Jelly Bats"? Oh, man, I hope they never join up with the Peanut Butter Gang, then we'll all be dead meat!

Linkara (v/o): As you can probably guess, they're vampires, and they quickly begin devouring everyone. Alex is injured, but not dead, but the same can't be said for the rest of his friends, who start having limbs popped off. Before they can get to Alex, someone approaches.

Voice: What are doing, friend?

Linkara: (as vampire) Us not doing much. You is?

(It turns out to be Ekimus)

Linkara (v/o): The vampire he was talking to is taken hold of by the newcomer, who demands they get away from Alex. He even calls Rose a slut.

Linkara: Our hero, everybody.

Linkara (v/o): The vampires apparently recognize this guy and run off, leaving both Alex and their companion at the mercy of vampire hunter Dee here.

Ekimus: Hmm... That scent--someone new arrives.

Linkara: (as Ekimus) And they're wearing Axe body spray. Gross.

Linkara (v/o): It's left unclear if this new person is working with Black Trenchcoated Guy or if he just walks off with Alex, since the very next panel is just the vampire, Eightball, asking who the new person is in her high-heeled boots.

Woman in high-heeled boots: Someone you don't want to know, bloodsucker... Someone who's going to crush you--and your kind! Someone who's only just getting warmed up!

Linkara (v/o): Well, I'm glad you're getting warmed up, considering the majority of your outfit is just fishnets on skid. You must get really chilly. We cut to a flashback of what happened earlier in the evening, not that you could tell right away, since there's nothing on the page to indicate it's a flashback. Alex is fighting with his parents about his grades and his attitude as of late, especially since he's having mood swings.

Alex's mother:'re not taking drugs are you...?!

Alex: No! God, Ma...d'you think I'm stupid as well as a baby?!

Linkara: (holds up hand) Ah, so the real purpose of this comic is actually a cleverly-hidden anti-drug PSA.

Linkara (v/o): Naturally, since this is the '90s, the parents never count the possibility that Alex might be suffering from depression... or maybe that it's just that he's a friggin' teenager, so of course his mood is gonna be a bit erratic. But whatever, he just wants them to cut him a break.

Alex: All I want is to go to one freakin' party!

Alex's father: Alex Elder-- how dare you use that language in front of your mother and sister?!

Linkara: Holy crap, he said "freakin'"! Damn, kid! I mean, hell, you wouldn't catch me saying such an asshole word like "freakin'" on my show!

Linkara (v/o): Alex of course just decided to leave and meet up with his friends, including his girlfriend Julie. She offers to listen to him, but he says he doesn't want to talk about it. That'll be fine; he's going through a lot and doesn't want to discuss it. But then he never lets her get in a friggin' word at all. The only thing she says is...

Julie: Alex, I...

Linkara (v/o): ...and he immediately jumps down her throat and says he doesn't want to talk about it, even though, for all he knew, she was gonna say, "Alex, I was wondering if you had some Skittles," or "Alex, I just saw a movie that you recommended to me," or perhaps even "Alex, I think you're being kind of a dick to everybody!" But no, instead, she just has a blank expression with her massive eyes that apparently have sprung a leak. And such condition is contagious and has other symptoms, as we see that Alex's mouth is sealing up, his nose is retracting into his face, and indeed, his eyes are also dripping in an inhuman manner. Alex finally wakes up in the present, where he is naked and surrounded by dead pigeons.

Linkara: I've been there, man. "Marville" will do that to a person.

Linkara (v/o): He wonders what the hell is going on and Black Trenchcoated Guy emerges from the shadows.

Ekimus: All you recall did actually occur... as did much worse than unconsciousness spared you seeing.

Alex: Wh-Who are you...?

Ekimus: Your protector, Alex--such was my predestined duty. Now prepare yourself--for although you remain intact, you have changed greatly.

Linkara: (as Ekimus) You see... you slept through your puberty.

Linkara (v/o): And we see that this guy is Ekimus, the Grigori from back in the day. Alex thinks that Ekimus killed his friends and he runs off, but Ekimus just slowly follows after him.

Ekimus: The attack left you completely devastated, there was no way for you to survive all your injuries... You "live" now, yes, but not in any way you understand...

Linkara: (as Alex, worried) You mean, I'm from Wisconsin now?!

Ekimus: Alex, you are now and forever... a vampire! (a dramatic sting plays)

Linkara: (as Ekimus) I'd make some jokes about "The Masquerade" now, but that stupid comic reviewer pushed back his review of that game by a week.

Linkara (v/o): Alex doesn't believe he's a vampire, even when he opens his mouth wide and reveals the massive fangs he's now sporting.

Alex: I'm not a vampire! En-oh-tee--not! I won't believe any of this! I'm not dead. I'm not a vampire!

Linkara: So, Alex is like the reverse of Nicholas Cage in Vampire's Kiss.

Linkara (v/o): He runs towards the front doors of the place they're in.

Ekimus: The doors...? No, Alex do not go...

Linkara: (as Ekimus) Or at least put some pants on first!

Linkara (v/o): He opens the doors, but unfortunately, it's the middle of the day. And the sun is exploding, given the gradient that fills the outside. But yeah, it starts burning him until Ekimus shuts the doors. Ekimus spends the next several hours giving Alex the lowdown of vampire lore in this iteration. Most common beliefs are true, particularly sunlight and the need to drink blood. However, the vampirism isn't particularly picky about the type of blood, so pigeon blood works just fine. Alex refuses to cooperate and wants nothing to do with this life, getting so angry that he starts punching Ekimus halfheartedly. I also just noticed that Ekimus' sashes say "No" over and over again. I would say the artist didn't want to work on this, but the credits clearly indicate he did. Oh, and then Ekimus backhands the kid who can do nothing to him. I can see Ekimus is a fan of "All-Star Batman and Robin". Alex, pissed off over this incident, runs off into the night and back into Central Park. There, he encounters another vampire named Joe who wants to show him the ropes. Alex remains in denial.

Joe: Smart vampires got sumpin' they call the 'seven stages of undeath'--and you at stage three! 'Ventually you'll get to acceptance...

Linkara: (as Joe) Stage five is economics, where you'll learn how to work graveyard shifts at jobs and offer all-night pizza delivery.

Joe: You is what you is!

Linkara: Joe is the Popeye of the vampire universe.

Linkara (v/o): I do love how Alex keeps running into extremely helpful people. Joe explains that he has to feed. Otherwise, he'll go into a more animalistic, feral state. As such, Joe brings him to a drug dealer and attacks, saying nobody will care if they kill criminals or the like. Joe offers the blood to Alex, but this triggers him back to the attack on his friends and he runs off, disgusted. He runs for several hours, not getting tired, thanks to his vampiric nature, and eventually comes across a missing poster for himself.

Alex: (thinking) God...I've been feeling so sorry for myself--crying over what I lost--but what are they going through? How could I have forgotten them?!

Linkara: (as Alex) My entire life has been completely destroyed, and I've become a monster that has to drink blood to survive! But thinking about that is just selfish.

Linkara (v/o): I kid. I actually rather like that the comic has Alex realize that this must suck for his family, too. He's done nothing else but be angry and complain the entire book. Not that he doesn't have a reason to, but it doesn't make for gripping storytelling when it's just complaining the entire time. What's worse, the missing poster says he's been gone for a full month.

Linkara: Dude's been unconsciously feeding on pigeons for a month?! How does that even work? Was Ekimus just kinda (makes a shoving motion with his hand) shoving the pigeons into his mouth until he instinctively bit down on them?

Linkara (v/o): He runs back to his home and sees his little sister through a window and suddenly has a massive craving for blood, even wanting to attack her. He resists the urge and runs off, trying to protect her from himself. And so, our comic ends with him transforming into a slightly more monstrous state while also collapsing into a heap.

Linkara: Great, I bet he's gonna be out for another month, then he's gonna find whole new ways to complain about it when he wakes up. (closes comic and holds it up) Anyway, this comic kinda sucks.

Linkara (v/o): It starts getting a little better at the end when he starts thinking about other people, but it's just not very interesting. There are good ideas, to be certain, but we really didn't need five pages of religious exposition about the origins of the world. Couldn't that information be conveyed by Ekimus later on? And we know very little about Alex as a character, other than he's an angry teenager who doesn't like it when his girlfriend displays the slightest bit of compassion for him. And what the hell is with the cover featuring the vampire crew of the Jelly Bats instead of the main characters? And yeah, the artwork is pretty bad. It's already a pretty dreary book, but it's not helped by inconsistent human bodies that have a difficult time expressing emotions other than glumness, and even that's not done very well.

Linkara: And the worst part is that unlike last week, there was not a single bit where a Nazi vampire got punched, and that is simply criminal! (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)

(End credits roll)

Maybe Ekimus is just a big fan of David Bryan?

I'm guessing the "What are doing friend?" was just a typo since Ekimus never talks like that for the rest of the comic.

(Stinger: The panel showing Rose the Puppet is shown again)

Linkara (v/o): I think the only way they could've had a worse name for their gang than "Jelly Bats" was if they were named "Laser Bats".