Miller Time: Robocop vs. the Terminator
January 9, 2012
More like "a naked woman without a name" versus ED-209, but hey, it IS only the first issue.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (looks up in thought briefly) Say... (takes out a pocketwatch from his coat and looks at it) It's Miller Time!
("Miller Time" title is displayed)
Linkara: Welcome back to "Miller Time"! No, you're not drunk, you just wish you were.
(Cut to a montage of shots of "Batman/Spawn")
Linkara (v/o): It's been a while since we peeked in on our old pal, Frank Miller. The last time we reviewed one of his works, it was "Spawn/Batman", a crossover where the two characters fought most of the time, Spawn was treated like a pansy, and Batman was glorified, despite him acting like a crazy man. What's worse is that we really got to see the downward spiral that would lead to the Miller we know and love today...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of Miller's infamous "Holy Terror")
Linkara (v/o): ...who gleefully puts out horribly offensive material that DC refused to let one of their flagship characters be a part of.
(Editor's note: "To be fair, Frank apparently left when Holy Terror's editor was fired and took the project with him, but I doubt DC fought that hard to hold onto it.")
Linkara (v/o): And bear in mind, DC let Miller do this...
(Cut to a panel of "All-Star Batman and Robin #2", showing Batman say his infamous line...)
Batman: What, are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think I am? I'm the goddamn Batman.
(Cut back to the "Holy Terror" cover)
Linkara (v/o): But "Holy Terror" was where they drew the line.
Linkara: And like I said a couple of weeks ago, we'll look at "Holy Terror" eventually. In the meantime, though, we have another Miller-penned crossover, one that's a little more awesome.
(Cut to black)
Linkara (v/o): (announcer voice) In this corner...
(Cut to footage of Robocop)
Linkara (v/o): Alex Murphy, a man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make the world's first robocop, better than he was: better, faster, stronger. And with a kick-ass gun and legitimately funny social commentary, Robocop is an excellent sci-fi action and revenge movie.
Robocop (Peter Weller): (aiming his gun at a man holding an old woman hostage) Your move, creep.
(Cut to black again)
Linkara (v/o): (announcer voice) And in this corner...
(Cut to footage of the Terminator series)
Linkara (v/o): Skynet was created by man. It evolved. It rebelled. There are many robots, and it has a plan. Specifically, that plan is the Terminator, living tissue over a metal exoskeleton. Sent back in time to kill the human resistance leader, the Terminator is the deadliest weapon in Skynet's arsenal, and the movie itself is another great sci-fi action movie, which also led to one of the greatest sequels ever in Terminator 2: Judgment Day – and less-than-stellar sequels.
Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger): (holding up his hand) Talk to the hand.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of the comic to be reviewed: "Robocop vs. the Terminator")
Linkara (v/o): This is actually a rather ingenious crossover. Both are about robotics and machines, both have to do with the future, and the titular characters themselves could probably be considered equally matched in terms of firepower, strength and intelligence. And naturally, Frank Miller, of all people, wrote their comic crossover. However, unlike a lot of "Miller Times", when I announced I was doing this, a lot of people wondered why I thought this deserved a review since "Robocop vs. the Terminator" is widely considered a really good comic.
Linkara: Well, the answer to that is... I haven't read it yet. Since the crossover put Miller's name on top of things, I thought it would make for a good episode. So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Robocop vs. the Terminator #1" and see if this is an example of Miller before he went nuts or if I have to disagree with public opinion.
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has the theme from Robocop playing in the background; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover doesn't really have much going for it. I hesitate to call it bad, but at the same time, compositionally, why is the Terminator just standing in the background behind the city? It's not looking down at Robocop, who is firing into the air for some reason, so it's not meant to be ominous; it's just a giant Terminator behind a city. Might as well put Neutro in place of it; you'd have the same effect. Speaking of, the perspective is kind of warped. Is this a bird's-eye view? If not, why can we see some people running on a road in the bottom left?
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open on a series of explosions all across the page in various panels.
Linkara: Michael Bay joke, Bruce Callas joke, etc., etc.
Linkara (v/o): When we finally cut away from the explosions themselves, we see humans running away from a battle, one getting stomped on by a giant robotic foot.
Skynet: (narrating) Peace will come.
Linkara: (as Skynet) Though it will be very messy. It's tough to get those blood stains off the metal, you know.
Skynet: (narrating) These desperate, sweating things, these humans-- are almost gone.
Linkara: (as Skynet) I know they only come once a year, but they always find a way to ruin Christmas.
Linkara (v/o): I'm assuming this is the voice of Skynet, the computer that took over the world in the Terminator series. Skynet exposits that a human has made its way into the "center of the regional mind" and decides the best course of action, in order to take care of the human, is to blow up the regional mind building. Damn, if only there were human-sized robots that Skynet could send in to deal with them instead of blowing up their installation. You know, some kind of terminating android or the like. But hey, I guess I just don't measure up to the genius machine-efficient mind that Skynet possesses. Anyway, the building starts exploding, and the human [Flo Langer] inside of it, who was connected by various wires into the computers... I think this comic is confusing the Terminator with the Matrix. ...gets knocked aside.
Flo: Scared, aren't you, junk? You know I'm close--and you can't fight me--not in here...
Linkara: I think that missile was the (makes a "finger quote") "junk"'s way of telling you, "Yes, it can."
Linkara (v/o): She shoves a cable into... something, I don't know, and gains control of the systems.
Flo: Connor was right--it was a human mind that did it-- that turned you from a tool to an army of murderers-- a human mind-- merged with software-- then married to Skynet...
Linkara: That was an awkward wedding. The caterers were late, the priest showed up drunk, and the bridesmaids tried to assimilate and then exterminate the human guests. It was just a mess.
Flo: ...It was a man--a cop-- named Alex Murphy.
Linkara: Robocop caused the big war between humans and machines? I got to admit, that must have been the most awesome apocalypse ever.
Linkara (v/o): While she talks to herself, a damaged Terminator comes up behind her and tries to grab her, but she quickly turns around and blasts it apart. The woman runs off, and Skynet's narration returns.
Skynet: (narrating) Danger now extreme. Extensive property damage acceptable.
Linkara: (frustrated) YOU FIRED A MISSILE AT THE BUILDING! I can't get over this! Why is a missile considered small potatoes?!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, because we have a giant robot that shoves its hand through the wall. I love how nonchalant the woman is about this, too. Despite the fact that a GIANT ROBOT ARM IS COMING THROUGH THE BUILDING!
Flo: God, I hate those big ones.
Linkara: (as Flo): Ugh, giant robots. (looks away and holds up hand) I am so put off by that.
Linkara (v/o): The building has a time machine in it, which our plucky heroine quickly runs to and starts discarding all her clothes. Knowing Frank, he'd probably put instructions in the script telling the artist to make sure that we focused on her ass shaking from side to side as she ran, but to our fortune, this was drawn by Walt Simonson, a great artist best known for his work on "Thor", and he probably ignored any such instructions and just showed her silhouettes and a few shots of her readying the time machine, but nothing explicit or fanservice-y. Skynet decides that since the woman knows about the time machine, then it's time to stop being careful and just blow the hell out of the place. Unfortunately, it's too late, and the woman escapes into the past before the time machine can be destroyed.
Skynet: Too late. Clever things. This was to be the last battle. And she was the last soldier. (panel shows Terminator grinning) And now she has made it a whole new war.
Linkara: (grinning in imitation of the Terminator) And I'm grinning about that for some reason. (beat) Yeah, it's kind of a design flaw for us Terminators.
Linkara (v/o): And then a splash page of the woman curled up into a ball, copied and pasted about fifty times. Well, it's really not fanservice-y, but it is weird. When I just glanced at the page without looking too closely at it, I thought the entire page was covered in eyeballs. Following that is a trippy page with her head repeating over and over and a tesseract that changes her into a black woman for a bit before making her Caucasian again. Time travel is weird. Say, remember how, in "Spawn/Batman", we couldn't differentiate when Batman was narrating and when it was just the omniscient narrator? Yeah, that's happening again. The white narrative captions up until now were just for Skynet, but now it's for the narrator... unless Skynet is the narrator, in which case that artificial intelligence is more messed up than I thought it was.
Narrator: Back. Before the junk took over. Before a defense system gained consciousness and unleashed its nuclear might-- laying waste to a world of life.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, the woman arrives back in the past.
Narrator: Back. Back before the war. Before the Terminators. To a happier time. A quieter time.
Taxi driver: Crazy broad!
Linkara: (as this taxi driver) You crazy broad, Naked Friday doesn't start for another three hours!
Linkara (v/o): The woman... By the way, ten pages in, and our main character hasn't gotten a name yet, yet I know what her ass looks like. ...asks the driver what year it is. The man, a taxicab driver is less confused about the presence of a naked woman than the fact that she was in front of his car.
Taxi driver: Yeah! This is the year I stop letting you drug addicts give me a heart attacks with your dumb tricks.
Linkara: (as taxi driver) Making your clothes disappear like that! (points to camera) I won't be fooled by that trick for the fifth time!
Taxi driver: Year I do something about it...
Linkara (v/o): Um, I think you missed the determiner there, dude. This year, you intend to do something about it. And he does it again, too.
Taxi driver: Year this citizen stands up for his rights!
Linkara (v/o): He then proceeds to pull out a very silly-looking gun. Hey, dude, you got enough scopes on that thing? I think there's still room on the sides of the, quote-unquote, "barrel" of the gun to a few more. Other citizens decide to pull out guns for legitimate reasons like, "I've had a rotten day!" But the situation is defused by the naked woman kicking the taxi driver, taking his gun, and threatening the people to knock it off. They do so and walk away.
Narrator: People pulling guns on each other. Crazy.
Linkara: (raising index finger) No, I'm sorry, but the fact that you're completely nude and nobody seems to mind is still crazier to me than everybody having a gun.
Linkara (v/o): The woman steals the cab and some clothes, and she finds the only listing for Alex Murphy in the phone book and heads for some suburbs.
Narrator: A quiet place that greets her with the sight of trees and a thousand pleasant smells. She waits. A bird calls out. Then another. Soon it's a chorus. It takes her a full minute to recognize the sound for what it is. And she cries.
Linkara: (as Flo, pretending to cry) Why?! Why are the birds singing "My Humps"?!
Linkara (v/o): To be fair, though, I actually like this bit. It would actually make sense that she would actually be enthralled by birds singing, though it's kind of ruined by how melodramatic they needed to write it. It would have been better if we had just seen looking at the birds and then silently sobbing or something. She spots a police car pull up to Murphy's house, and she suspects that it's Alex Murphy himself, so she takes out the gun and closes in. However, as she moves in, she overhears a conversation between the officer who went in and the woman inside, named Ellen. Of course, in the Robocop universe, soundproof must absolutely suck, since otherwise, how is she hearing all this? Anyway, she hears that Alex is dead, and she realizes that she's too late, that he's already become Robocop... which makes me scratch my head. In the first Robocop movie, it seemed pretty clear that Murphy's widow had long since moved out of her place with their son before he became Robocop, so why is his name still in the phone book and still listed along with her for the address? (sees that Flo is wearing some kind of wicker hat on her head or something) Also, why is Future Lady wearing that thing on her head?
(Cut to a clip of Real Genius, showing Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) wearing a silly antenna-like headband on his head)
Chris: Because if I wear anywhere else, it chafes.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): She realizes that her gun will be useless against Robocop, so one panel later, she's sold off "the cab driver's stash"... What, was the cab driver a dealer, too? How dramatically convenient. ...and bought a bunch of components that will hopefully build her a plasma rifle. However, as she sits in an alleyway assembling it, what should come along but ED-209, or some variant of it, I don't know; I haven't seen Robocop 2 or 3 yet.
ED-209: YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF STREET CLEANING ORDINANCE 66B.
Linkara: (as ED-209) STREET CLEANING ORDINANCE 66B: PLASMA RIFLES MUST BE CONSTRUCTED IN HOTEL ROOMS OR DIAPER-CHANGING STATIONS.
Linkara (v/o): The robot opens fire on her, but she slides between its legs.
ED-209: ALERT. FELON BETWEEN UNIT'S LEGS. ADJUSTING.
Linkara: (as ED-209) ALERT. MAYBE I SHOULD JUST DO IT INSTEAD OF STATING IT OUT LOUD.
ED-209: ALERT. FELON BEHIND UNIT. ADJUSTING. ALERT. GYRO DISFUNCTION [sic]. ADJUSTING.
Linkara: (as ED-209) ALERT. I WAS REALLY NOT DESIGNED WELL FOR THIS JOB, WAS I?
Linkara (v/o): So she destroys the robot and walks off towards the police station.
Flo: (narrating) So many magazines they sell in this time. Almost none are concerned with survival. Fashion. Sports. Sex. Self-awareness. Better bride.
Linkara: (as Flo) "National Geographic"?! These people make me sick!
Flo: (narrating) One magazine shows what Murphy was turned into-- and where he is maintained.
Linkara: (as Flo, shaking fist in the air) Damn you, "Popular Mechanics"!
Linkara (v/o): She walks into the station and bumps into a cop on his way out. Naturally, there's no security here, and she just pickpockets his I.D. card that lets her deeper into the place. She finds Dr. Marie Lazarus from Robocop 3 dictating to herself that Murphy refuses to come back in for repairs and sleep, and has been on the job for 69 hours straight. The woman comes in and knocks her out, figuring that they must have a way to track Robocop and quickly finds Robocop's tracking device. We cut to...
Narrator: Cass Corridor. Bad neighborhood.
Linkara: People on the streets are carrying automatic weapons. Please give me your criteria for a good neighborhood, comic.
Linkara (v/o): In the basement of some building, a gang of thugs have kidnapped a woman and tied her to a chair.
Thug: Nobody knows we got you but your rich husband-- and he's too smart to call the cops and even if he does, they almost never show up in the Corridor. But don't worry. We get the ransom and you'll be fine. You believe me, don't you?
Linkara: (as this thug) I mean, just look at my haircut and my smile. This is the look of a man who's trustworthy.
Linkara (v/o): They hear a noise when a wall suddenly explodes out. My God, it's Robo-Kool-Aid Man!
(The wall is smashed open, revealing Robocop)
Linkara (v/o): (as Robo-Kool-Aid Man) OH, YEAH! (normal again) No, of course, it's Robocop. The goons open fire, but to no avail. The lead thug puts his gun to the hostage's ear, but in true gory Robocop fashion, he shoots the lead thug and all the rest, and globules of red paint where he targets. Robocop, victorious, stands over the bodies of the dead in a splash page.
(Linkara, holding a gun, puts it away and stands dramatically with his arms on his hips and looks around)
Linkara: (as Robocop) You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You understand this?
(Linkara is now seen pretending to slump over with his tongue sticking out and his eyes rolled up, in imitation of one of the killed thugs, then cut back to Linkara in his Robocop pose)
Linkara: Don't make faces at me, creep. (points at him) We can use that against you, too.
Woman: God bless you! Oh, God bless you! I thought they were going to kill me.
Linkara: (as woman) I'm covered in this guy's blood and entrails, but God bless you!
Woman: (putting her hand on Robocop) How can I thank you? I've got money... I mean, if you need parts or anything--
Linkara (v/o): But Robocop takes her hand off of him and walks away.
Woman: I'm sorry...I...
Linkara: (as Robocop) Don't touch the chrome, lady. You'll get fingerprints on it.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to a casino fifty stories up, where a madman has strapped bombs to himself.'
Bomber: That's right! I've got nothing to lose! Not since I got fired off my job for no reason at all!
Linkara: (as bomber) I make a few pipe bombs in my cubicle, and suddenly I'm a dangerous psychotic! (holds up remote control) WHO'S THE DANGEROUS PSYCHOTIC NOW, HUH?!?
Linkara (v/o): He orders them to fill up his bag with money, but then Robocop arrives and just calmly walks up to the guy. The bomber clicks the explosives, but unfortunately, he made the mistake of putting it on a timer, so it takes five seconds for him to explode, giving Robocop the chance to grab him by the shirt and throw him out into the sky, exploding harmlessly in the air... and making a completely badass panel of the explosion behind him and the light reflecting off his metal plate, while his face is in shadow. Pure awesome!
Narrator: Robocop. Crime prevention unit. Detroit Police Department.
Linkara: (as narrator) Part-time pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, Robocop has his emo moments, too, as he walks out into the rain.
Narrator: Rain falls, driving the humans to shelter. Striking his helmet, his chest. He listens to it.
Linkara: (as Robocop) Great, and I just got polished and waxed.
Narrator: It seems so far away. Far away as a woman's touch. Far away as everything-- except the call of duty.
Linkara: (as Robocop) Wait, my shift has been over for an hour. Time to go home and watch House.
Linkara (v/o): However, Robocop get slammed by the woman's plasma rifle.
Narrator: And the brain of Alex Murphy-- is blasted to atoms.
Linkara: (as Robocop) Oh, geez, there go the piano lessons. Crap, now I can't remember how to dance the robot.
Linkara (v/o): You know, I admit, I figured she got her information wrong, and Robocop wasn't what caused the machine apocalypse, but it seems they were serious, since we cut to the future, and everything is altering.
Narrator: Calamity. Shockwaves through the time stream. A new matrix is forming a new future.
Linkara: Matrix Reuploaded. (points to screen) This time, it's Terminators.
Narrator: Forests rise, reborn, tossing off steel and circuitry.
Linkara: Wait, in the machine apocalypse, they made robot trees?
Narrator: The air is filled with sunshine and the stench of pollen and the call of furry things. Drooling, belching, living things.
Linkara: Oh, Frank, you always know how to paint a picture.
Linkara (v/o): So, apparently, the Terminator operates under a "sound of thunder" rules of time travel, since this stuff isn't just a race, the machines start falling apart as forests rise and stuff. Realizing what's going on Skynet quickly deploys three Terminators and sends them back in time – to a basketball game. Maybe Robocop's death actually changed the course of a basketball game and that's how Skynet took over.
Narrator: Arrival. No shortage of weapons. No shortage of clothes. Sufficient time to prevent disruption.
Linkara (v/o): Also, T-800s come in Mini-Me sizes now, I guess. And then, in a slight bit of laziness, the narration captions about the rain and the call of duty repeat themselves, only now a car pulls up in front of Robocop, and a Terminator opens fire at the woman, blasting her in the chest. Robocop, quick to respond, shoots at the Terminator as it drives off. However, he does get a closeup on the Terminator's face, seeing the robotic eye under the skin. And so, our comic ends with Robocop starting to pick up the woman, because that's always the smartest thing to do to someone who has been shot. Wait, I stand corrected; she hasn't been shot, she just has raspberry jam all over her.
Robocop: Ma'am, you are injured. Lie still.
Linkara: (as Robocop, pretending to hold Flo in his arms) Lie still so I can (makes a shaking motion with arms) shake you around a bit.
Flo: Hands off me... It was you... The whole world died-- because of you!
Linkara: (as Flo) Who could have known that the next prime directive was "destroy the world"? (closes comic and holds it up) This comic... is not that bad at all.
Linkara (v/o): It's not exactly what I would call "good", nor is it Frank Miller's best work. It still has plot problems and writing problems, but at the same time, there isn't a lot of Miller's usual antics on display here, and that's probably because this was made in 1992. He hadn't quite lost his mind yet. Instead, while the story is heavily entrenched in the Terminator side of things at the beginning, the Robocop stuff is enjoyable for what it is, and there isn't anything on display that's offensive or anger-inducing, though I kind of roll my eyes at the idea of Robocop somehow being responsible for the machine apocalypse, even indirectly.
Linkara: Bottom line: If you wanted to see an example of Miller and why he was considered a good writer at one point, (points to comic) this is not a bad example of his better work. (gently sets down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
One real problem with the comic is the classic "Show, don't tell." Frank prefers melodramatic narration instead of just letting the images speak for themselves, which is odd considering he's an artist himself. Maybe he didn't trust Walt Simonson to do it correctly.
Another problem? The comic is all setup, but you can't something as awesome as Robocop vs. The Terminator. I expect the two duking it out by the third act.
Oh, and yeah – thirty pages of comic and we never, NEVER learn the woman's name*.
- NOTE: One more time, the woman's name is Flo. She probably isn't mentioned by such in this comic, but that is her name.
(Stinger: A clip of Robocop is shown: Robocop heading for City Hall to rescue the mayor)
Lt. Hedgecock (Michael Gregory): Where the hell do you think you're going?
Robocop: Keep him talking.
(As Robocop enters City Hall, amid the cheering crowd, held back the police, Lt. Hedgecock takes a bullhorn)
Lt. Hedgecock: Okay, Miller! Don't hurt the mayor! We'll give you whatever you want!
(Cut to a clip of The Terminator, showing the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) holed up in a building, as though he's the one being addressed; he scans several choices on his system for a possible response and finds one...)
Terminator: Fuck you, asshole.
(Cut back to Robocop)
Lt. Hedgecock: Okay.