Darker Image #1
March 15, 2010
It's only darker because you'll turn out the lights so that you don't have to read it.
(Open on Linkara sitting on his Futon)
Linkara: (listlessly) Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn, (holds up "Darker Image #1" comic) and I hate this thing before I even open it up.
(Cut to a shot of a closeup of the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): I swear to God that I didn't have a theme in mind for this set of episodes. It just so happened that in my alternating "Marvel-indie-DC-indie-etc." for this block, I scheduled out a whole bunch of crappy Image Comics all in a row for the indie titles.
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Youngblood: The Next Generation of Heroes")
Linkara (v/o): Maybe I was subconsciously trying to fill in the lack of Rob Liefeld from last year... Seriously, in 2009, I only reviewed one book that Liefeld actually wrote or drawn; the others he only inked or came up with the concept for. But the point is, we have yet another early Image comic.
Linkara: Well, la-tee-damn it all to hell! Maybe this time, we'll actually get a story out of the comic, instead of a ten-page nonsensical monologue. Let's dig into (holds up comic of review again) "Darker Image #1".
(AT4W title sequence plays, then cut to the title card for this episode, set to "Happy Happy Joy Joy", a song from Ren and Stimpy; cut to a closeup of the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): Let's get the history out of the way first, or what little I know of it. "Darker Image" – subtle title there, too – was meant to be a four-issue miniseries, previewing a few of the other comics coming soon from Images Line. While these books did indeed materialize, "Dark Image" was cancelled after only one issue. Why? I don't know, and I can't find any information about why, though I imagine it was because no one was interested in buying a comic that featured three characters that looked friggin' ridiculous. (takes a deep breath) First, we have a Rambo-style guy who's heavily in shadows, but even that can't obscure the fact that his musculature is so ludicrous that his chest and stomach bulge out a full foot from his body! Then we have this guy who looks like a mixture of Violator from "Spawn" and Lobo from DC. Probably more Lobo, though, but the thing that I find laughable is that Lobo is a parody of this kind of crap! Liefeld is doing a parody of a parody, and like all parodies of parodies, it is unbelievably stupid. And finally, there's the purple guy, also known as Maxx, with two Xs, and while I would say it's because "poor literacy is kewl", I honestly don't know. See, "Maxx" is not like the other early Image comics out there. I can't even begin to describe the premise, because even I have no idea just what in the hell the premise of "Maxx" IS! It's... weird. That's all I can say to describe it, it's just friggin' weird!
Linkara: And yet, for reasons that completely baffle me, "Maxx" is actually pretty damn popular, and stands out to many as something golden among the charred, black rocks that make up early Image comics. But I'm sorry, it's just friggin' weird to me.
(Cut to footage of an animated Maxx TV show)
Linkara (v/o): Hell, the thing even had an MTV cartoon based on the comics, and it was as equally as weird as the comics. I can't even say it was bad, it was just... weird. I don't know whether to define it as postmodern, modern, romantic. All I know is that it featured a big purple guy, and the Wikipedia for it is just as confusing.
(Cut back to the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and there's one character on the cover: a woman in a red dress with her ass cracked hanging out. Thanks for keeping it classy, Image! Anyway, the cover itself sucks. Surprised? You have all this space to work with, and you jam the three characters, who will be in your stupid anthology comic, down at the bottom, where they'll stand in front of a big black circle, while the rest is a bunch of Photoshop lines that I could probably duplicate myself if I didn't have better things to do, like dissect a pendant of curiosity for how it works. (the book opens to the first page) We open to the Maxx's story, and if I don't point it out, someone else will: this is the Maxx's first appearance ever. And he looks utterly ridiculous. Let's start with the face: what appears to be a wrestler's mask, with two slitty eyes drawn out, along with teeth that I hesitate to call buck teeth, since it's more like the entire lower half of his jaw is missing.
Linkara: Unsurprisingly, with such an oral cavity, we never see him speak a word in the comic; it's all narration captions.
Linkara (v/o): His hands look like he's dipped them in mud, and he has a single spiky claw thing at the end of them. Also, lots and lots of purple telephone wires hanging out of his legs. Ironically, the first words of the comic are...
Maxx: (narrating) Huh. The sounds inside my head have started again.
Linkara: A problem that many crappy comic writers seem to have.
Maxx: (narrating) It helps me think... focus. My claws still feel wet. Interesting.
Linkara: Yes, watching you while away your time by examining the dampening of your claws makes for gripping sequential art.
Maxx: (narrating) Someone coming... someone dangerous. I can smell the sweating leather and peppermint.
Linkara (v/o): How? You don't have a nose. By the way, we're never sure exactly where the "Chung! Chung! Chung!" sound keeps coming from. That's been the sole sound effect for the last two pages. It could either be in his head or the big caveman guy coming at him.
Maxx: (narrating) Out here everything's vile and filled with hatred like an infected boil.
Linkara (v/o): First of all, eww! Secondly, I was unaware that infected boils are filled with hatred. It goes to show what happens when I don't pay attention in biology classes. As he hides under a tree, he recognizes the beastly creature coming towards him.
Maxx: (narrating) I recognize him. His name's Ret'qark'n... One of the mountain people. God clan. Really mean.
Linkara: (as Maxx) Real salt-of-the-earth type, though. They tip real good, too.
Linkara (v/o): After some more pretentious narration, the big ugly with unbelievable teeth lifts up the tree and stares right down at Maxx.
Maxx: (narrating) Unfortunately, Ret'qark'n always has luck on his side, luck and clumsiness.
Linkara (v/o): Well, that, and being like four stories tall. As he runs away from the big troll thing, he talks about the hammer of the Ret'qark'n.
Maxx: (narrating) They say Ret'qark'n's club is made from the petrified heart of an air whale...
Linkara: Waste not, want not, I guess.
Maxx: (narrating) ...that if anyone is smashed to jelly by it, he wakes in paradise, awash in oil and sweet milk... being serviced by beautiful slaves, and fed prunes dipped in sugar-sand.
Linkara: Eh, you had me until the prunes. I don't usually associate paradise with constipation remedy.
Maxx: (narrating) Limitless pleasure is highly over-rated.
Linkara: No, it isn't.
Linkara (v/o): Maxx keeps on running towards a rock face, saying he needs to reach it. Eventually, he manages to crash through some wooden planks attached to the rock. Why this would protect him the big troll thing isn't explained. However, this little area is already occupied by a curvaceous woman in a leopard-skin bikini. She stabs him with what looks like a corn dog and knocks him out. Flip the page, and suddenly we're with the real woman behind the bikini... (the panel shows the woman's breasts drooping behind her bikini) Not like that you pervs! ...in an apartment wearing ratty clothes. She is with Maxx and says that he keeps coming back to the apartment, and she's got to keep cleaning him up and sedating him. She also says that in a few hours, he'll be up, setting off her fire alarm or leaping out the window, screaming about "God claws"* and "peppermint".
- NOTE: The text box actually reads "God clans", not "claws".
Linkara: So, our main character is a street crazy in a super-duper purple suit.
Linkara (v/o): She also briefly wonders if he's a member of Youngblood, making me groan yet again that we have a book trying to exist in the same universe as that. And so, the story ends with her saying she needs to do something soon or else she'll get evicted. Our next story comes courtesy of Rob Liefeld himself. Please shoot me now. This is the story of Bloodwulf, possibly the '90s-est characters in the history of existence.
(Cut to 90s Kid)
90s Kid: Dude! Bloodwulf is awesome, man! He's got the most hardcore Mohawk ever! The only way he could be more extreme is if he cut people's heads off with it! (imitates a sword swinging around)
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Bloodwulf narrates about how the solar system he's approaching had an empire where the king promised his ten children a planet each upon his death. Naturally, the kids, being the greedy little bastards that they are, started a war amongst each other that pretty much decimated the empire. He says he's traveling here because two of them insulted his grandmother.
Bloodwulf: (narrating) I mean you can insult me. I got a thick skin, I can take it. But if you insult Gran'ma Bloodwulf, you're takin' yer life in yer own hands.
Linkara: (pointing to camera) Defending the honor of your grandmother! EXTREEEEEEME!
(Once more, "EXTREME" and other random words flash on the screen, including "How's My Driving?", "My Throat Hurts!" and "Zagreus Sits Inside Your Head!")
Bloodwulf: So, I'm gonna pay prime administrative director Butts a personal visit.
Linkara: What's that, you ask? Oh, why, yes, that man's first name is Seymour in the comic!
(Linkara shakes his head, then puts his magic gun to his own head)
Linkara (v/o): He manages to get into the station where his first target resides by hijacking a courier bound for it. Our hero; mugs innocent courier ships for violent but petty revenge. My God! Just look at this guy! My question for Rob Liefeld is this: what is the point of this character? Were people clamoring for you to make a Lobo ripoff? Did you think this would sell? Why the eight belts around his ankle?! WHY?!? Naturally, Bloodwulf walks past Lobo, the guy he's ripping off. I don't get it, either, but I don't care anyway. What I do care about is the minor continuity gap, since, while the first panel shows the two passing, the second panel shows him starting to pass him up again, but a bit more of a distance apart. Is Bloodwulf walking backwards? So Bloodwulf goes into the guy's office, and Mr. Butts keeps clearing his throat for some reason. However, as soon as he's inside, he pulls his gun and... My GOD, that hair is something else! How much styling mousse does this guy go through every day? Oh, and I love the "OH CRAP!!" arrow coming in there. Why is this here? I don't know, I don't get it.
Linkara: That's what you can call this thing! It's not "Darker Image", it's "WHY? The Comic Book"!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and one shot from the "Oh CRAP!!" gun completely knocks off the guy's head! This, of course, makes absolutely no sense from the perspective of physics, biology or even good taste, but what bothers me further is why this director guy has pouches! WHY?!? He's not a superhero, he's a friggin' bureaucrat! Dear Lord, this sucks! So, even though Bloodwulf outright says that he leaves one of his pouches on the table, a helpful little green arrow points it out to us as if we were morons. As he walks out, the guard for the room has a question mark above his head for some reason. What is this, Metal Gear Solid all of a sudden?
Linkara: Actually, that can't be it; Metal Gear Solid makes far more sense than this.
(Cut to footage of Metal Gear Solid)
Col. Campbell: I need scissors! 61!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Wait a second, why in the holy hell is Cable here?! What is going on?! How do they know to suddenly go after him?! Oh, dear Lord, let's just summarize this ending: he uses his ship as a gun... Sure, why not? ...he kills a bunch of people, he blasts off, and the station blows up, thanks to the pouch he left behind. (sighs) Our final story brings us to the jungle, where everything's stylized in black and white. Huh, I guess we found our "Darker" part from the title. We get some narration about how hot the jungle is, and really, you could just watch Apocalypse Now if you needed this kind of poetic monologue. Mind you, it's not badly executed, but it does take a turn for the stupid when our main character here kills the guy who gave him a ride in his boat. Why does he kill him? He apparently talks too much, but considering our, quote-unquote, "hero", according to him, was wearing a disguise, I don't get what he's so worried about. Oh, and by the way, this guy's name is Deathblow. DEATH... BLOW.
(Cut to 90s Kid again)
90s Kid: Deathblow is awesome, man! He's got, like, death! And blow! And... Wait, that is kind of a stupid name, isn't it?
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Washington, D.C., at 5:30 PM, though it must be in the middle of winter, considering how dark it looks outside. We get a big ol' exposition-fest about our man Deathblow. Apparently, he was a Special Forces operative, who, in 1990, went in to destroy a drug cartel or something in Costa Mesa, which is a made-up country, since, according to some Google searches, the only Costa Mesa that really exists is a city in California. However, he and his partner were discovered, his friend captured, and because Deathblow... I'm still giggling at that. ...was recently diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, he's gone rogue to finish the job he started. Why is this a bad thing, considering he was sent in there to begin with? Well, government stuff involving controlling the regime, ties to drug cartels, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, they've brought in Steven Segal here because of his past with Deathblow... Okay, the guy's name is Michael Cray, but Deathblow is just such a better name, isn't it? ...to try to take him down.
Lieut. Conrad: Once you find Commander Cray, you are to terminate him.
Lieut. Conrad: With extreme prejudice.
Linkara: I've never understood that saying. If you're gonna kill someone, doesn't that mean you're already kind of prejudiced towards them?
Linkara (v/o): Steven Segal thinks how unlikely it is that Deathblow went rogue. What, you don't trust the trasnparently evil guy with huge shoulders, the general with an eyepatch, another evil-looking in all black? I can't imagine why. However, he says he's going to do the job and briefly describes his team that was sent with him, though, for the life of me, I can't make out anything about them, because of the heavy shadows. Okay, in the interest of fairness, I will say that Deathblow is once again a Jim Lee-drawn story, and he's great here. The darker colors are really moody, even if a bit confusing for following who's who, this is easily the best story of the three. Then again, it's not saying much, considering the competition. Anyway, after the team reaches Costa Mesa and starts hunting Deathblow, we cut back to the evil Washington guys who decide, for no particular reason, to reference "Savage Dragon", in that he's been taken in by the police. And not only that, but our old pal Pitt as well, with his thrashing of the biker gang.
Linkara: It's really cute how they keep trying to make us think their comics are in the same stupid universe.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, they say that the cover story used to convince Steven Segal was basically bullcrap, since they do want to take out the drug cartel guy, just that they needed plausible deniability. Seems to me it'd be easier to just kill Deathblow once he finished his assignment, but whatever. If it ends a comic, I'm all the more grateful for it.
Linkara: (angrily holding up comic) This comic sucks! We learn virtually nothing about anything with these three stories, the artwork ranges from good to just "what the hell", and I don't know exactly what was supposed to be (makes a "finger quote") "darker" about these and their other output from Image. But then again, I've never been much of a fan of "darker" stuff to begin with, so let's end this little trip with something... (smiles) happy. (throws comic down, gets up and leaves)
I promise there won't be any more Liefeld for a while.
I mean, really, Cable? Wow.
(Stinger: Linkara is seen holding up the comic again)
Linkara: Having a ship that looks like a gun! EXTREEEEEEME!
(Once more, "EXTREME" and other random words flash on the screen, including "To the moon, Alice!", "Fruity Pebbles!" and "I Didn't Misspell His Name.")