Rise of Aresnal #3-4
July 18th, 2011
Got any China Cat? How about some A-Train? How about a better comic?
(Open on a black screen)
Linkara (v/o): Previously on Atop the Fourth Wall...
(Fade in to reveal Linkara's past review)
Linkara: Let's dig into (holds up...) "Rise of Arsenal #1" and "#2".
(Cut to Oancitizen skimming through a book in frustration)
Oancitizen: Oh, no, no, no, NO! (slaps book with hand) This doesn't make any sense at all! Why would the Knights Templar attempt to harness Telluric energy in Washington DC? The only Foucault pendulum here was... (stops as a thought comes to him) removed... Oh! Rosicrucians must have beaten them to the punch, but that must mean...
(Cut to JesuOtaku, who takes off his glasses)
JesuOtaku: My God, it's the beginning of the end!
(He holds up a VHS copy of MST3K: Beginning of the End; cut to Diamanda Hagan, being addressed by somebody in shadow)
Shadow person: Mistress, I'm afraid it's true. You're pregnant with Obscurus Lupa's baby!
Diamanda: (clutching at her stomach) But how? She's a wolf, and I'm a robot!
Shadow person: You're not a robot, you're fictional!
(Diamanda stares into the camera with a look of wide-mouthed shock; cut back to Oancitizen, looking through his book)
Oancitizen: But the ritual I saw was clearly meant to open the animation tipirate. The topaz, Ra, Vishnu, Apollo, Baldur, Christ... (stops and looks up) But again, they used a petrine cross, an inverted cross... Therefore, the entire ritual was an inversion, Qliphirothic rather than sephirothic! (looks into book again) So that must mean...
Nash: My God... Stick Boy, according to these readings, it's mathematically impossible for me to give less of a crap.
(Stick Boy looks into the camera with a look of shock. Cut to Welshy sitting in his chair playing on his Nintendo DS, with his stuffed monkey, Rob, sitting nearby. Suddenly, the Nintendo DS rings like a phone; Welshy closes it and answers it)
(Cut back to Oancitizen)
Oancitizen: (still reading his book) But it says here that the great lunar bear is going to be a feminine inversion of the traditionally masculine solar deity drawing from the feminine lunar sphere and invoking rituals surrounding Artemis, particularly the ritual of the Arktos, or she-bears, of course. And the bears press the end of the pony epic signifies the end of the patriarchy embodied by the Clydesdale. However...
(Cut back to Welshy)
Welshy: (thinking) Our children's children will talk about this day as if it were a legend. A choice that could lead to peace on Earth or could rip the very fabric of the space-time continuum asunder... (holds up in his left hand a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream) Do I start with the Bailey's... (holds up in his right hand a bottle of Jack Daniels) or the Jacks?
(Cut to New Zealand, where there are two versions of Suede interacting with each other, one in formal and the other more casual)
Suede 1: People are starting to wonder about us, about who we are.
Suede 2: There shouldn't be anything to wonder about. You're just a different costume choice. Mine's more formal, yours is more casual.
Suede 1: Yet, here we are.
Suede 2: And yet, here we are.
(The two Suedes draw swords and come at each other. Cut back to Welshy again, as he looks inquisitively at a drawing of a sheep)
Welshy: This, this is my father. Or is it my mother? I can never tell.
(Cut to That SciFi Guy sitting in his chair)
TSFG: I am feeling a little egotistical and narcissistic today. Dr. Wiki, pull up the entry for "That SciFi Guy".
(Cut to Dr. Wiki who brings up a picture of Benzaie)
Dr. Wiki: According to recent reports, Benzaie has had sexual intercourse with That SciFi Guy's maternal grandmother.
TSFG: (shocked) NOOOO! Not Nana!
(Cut to Pip White, holding a mouse-like doll of some kind)
Pip: Enough games, Tiger! I can tell when you're hiding something from me.
(She opens up the doll and takes out a smaller doll, much to her shock)
Pip: All this time? But then... who is the father?
(Nash walks up onscreen; cut back to Oancitizen once again, looking through his book again)
Oancitizen: So before we even knew what had happened, the diaphisly opaque trilobites purge the Plantagenets using the yttrium-based (?), all in a gambit to evoke the Tetragrammaton as to ameliorate the effervescent tintabulations of Wheatley's partly pet hedgehog Fluffy! So that must mean...
(Suddenly, there is an explosion that shakes the ground and knocks Oancitizen down. Covering his eyes with his arm, he looks to see a bright light appear before him, while an Alleluia chorus plays. He stares, wide-eyed)
Voice (provided by Lewis): Greetings, prophet! The Great Work begins!
Oancitizen: (staring in awe) Fuckity shit!
(Cut to black)
Linkara (v/o): And now, the conclusion.
(AT4W title theme plays; title card has "Whip It" by Devo playing in the background)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. So, uh, where did we leave off last week, hmm?
(A montage of shots of "Rise of Arsenal #1" and "#2" are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Roy Harper lost his daughter, lost his arm, and lost his mind when he started seeing a ghostly drug dealer tempting him back into the magical land of drug use through painkillers. He also got a cyborg arm and was attacked by the mother of his child.
Linkara: So why do I have a smile on my face, considering we're about to read an awful, awful comic? Well, let's dig into (holds up today's comics) "Rise of Arsenal #3" and "#4" to find out.
(Cut to the first page of Issue 3)
Linkara (v/o): As always, reading from the trade, so no covers. We open where we left off in issue 2: Roy Harper and Cheshire fighting. And yes, I know the proper pronunciation is "Che-SHUR", but it's just I've been saying it for years as "Che-SHIRE", so... I'm kind of stuck with it.
Roy: (narrating) Her name is Cheshire, but I was one of the few who knew her as Jade. Not that I believe it's her real name. Nothing about Cheshire seems true. That's what you get with assassins.
Linkara (v/o): And naturally, being an assassin, Cheshire is wearing an outfit that will most likely fall off of her if she runs too fast.
Roy: (narrating) Still can't believe with slept with her. Scratch that. I totally believe that I slept with her. Next to Kendra, Jade was the best in bed.
Linkara: You know, two weeks ago, I talked about the proper way for characters to have sexuality. Talking about how the woman you have a complicated relationship with, due to your history together and her fathering a child with you was "great in bed", is not that way.
Linkara (v/o): And by the by, he's talking about how much of a great lay she was while she's clawing and kicking at him, no doubt poisoning him. Yeah, this narration is perfectly natural and fits just fine with both Arsenal's character as well as the emotions he's been going through lately. Roy berates Cheshire about what a crappy mother she was, that he was trying to build a life for Lian, and she never did a damn thing for her. He grabs an extension cord and uses it as a whip.
Roy: (narrating) I'm glad she's here. I needed an outlet--something to take out my frustration on.
Linkara: (laughs) Get it? Outlet? And he's holding an extension cord? (awkward pause) Maybe I'm the only one who finds that funny.
Roy: (narrating) Might as well be Jade. She likes it rough anyway.
Linkara: Why do we even have fan fiction writers when the characters are doing this stuff already?
(A snippet of Devo's "Whip It" plays briefly)
Devo: (singing) Crack that whip!
Linkara (v/o): The two lunge at each other, and Roy manages to wrap Christie's wrists up to stop her from clawing him. In the heat of the moment, Cheshire starts to cry, and the two kiss. Yep, they're starting to do it. Now, some people have criticized this, and... well, I don't think it's that unreasonable. The two are both feeling emotionally vulnerable and have had a complicated romantic relationship before. It's another one of those bits from my favorite run of the Titans that eventually had some resolution. Not all that great a resolution, but resolution nonetheless. So yeah, I see where people are coming from in critiquing this part, but I don't really have any serious problem with it.
Linkara: (smugly) But the same can't be said for what happens right afterwards. Let me just put it this way...
(He raises his finger in the air, and the "loser horn" sound from The Price Is Right plays)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, that's right!
Roy: (narrating) Seems I truly am a broken man--in every way imaginable.
Linkara: (sarcastically) Wow! Way to completely undercut the entire idea (puts comic down) of them needing that emotional connection, guys! (applauds) Bravo! Bravo on missing the point!
Linkara (v/o): And by the by, Roy, you really are a meathead if you think impotence makes you somehow less of a man. What, are you in high school now? Geez, I hope this is just a character thought, not the writers' idea. So I think the funniest part of this is actually Jade's facial expression and her dialogue. I can't tell if she's angry or bored.
Cheshire: It's okay, Roy. With everything swirling around in your head, it's no surprise you weren't able to... perform.
Linkara: Two minutes ago, you were tying to murder him!
Linkara (v/o): Arsenal reattaches his robot arm and decides to head out.
Roy: (narrating) I need some release.
Linkara: (smiling) I get it!
(Cut to a closeup of this comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and you know what else I get? The title: "Rise of Arsenal"! This isn't a story about his lowest point, it's about his impotence!
Linkara: Which from what I can tell is never cured, either, so yeah, from either perspective, the title is a lie.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Roy goes out to stab and kick people who are looting the area in the wake of Star City's destruction.
Roy: (narrating) They aren't human. They're animals. Vultures circling the desperate and the injured. For me, they serve their purpose.
Linkara (v/o): And their purpose is, boot to the head.
Roy: (narrating) Much better.
Linkara: (as Roy, flexing his muscles) Yeah, this costume is much better. Really shows off my abs.
Linkara (v/o): When the hell did Roy find time to make this new costume anyway? We then cut to Arsenal running over rooftops... which is really head-scratching since I don't know many criminals who would be looting via helicopters. Ghostly Drug Dealer to remind Roy of how he was when he was palling around with him.
Dealer: Hurts, don't it?
Linkara: (pointing to camera) I call foul! You're not allowed to say that unless you preface it with a "Want a Hertz Doughnut?"
Dealer: They warned ya about that can opener you got there.
Linkara: Just because it's mechanical does not make it a can opener! By that logic, I should say he's got a coffee maker on his arm.
Dealer: Ain't no easy fix this time around. --Except, of course, our kind of fix.
Linkara (v/o): While he says this, they look down and see three guys gathered together on a street corner. Wait, I thought they were into heroin, but if that's the case, then why is that guy holding a laptop? Is that where they got their fix? Laptops?
Linkara: (as the drug dealer, pointing to camera) It's all about the Pentiums, baby!
Linkara (v/o): Well, okay, it could be a suitcase full of drugs, but a suitcase seems like a really bad way to carry them. Even with the city in disarray, a big suitcase would be something someone could easily take from you. Arsenal sweats on the decision for a moment, but then figures, "Screw it, Lian's dead and nothing matters anymore." He chases away the other two and grabs the dealer.
Dealer: Okay, okay, okay! I'm done. Let me go and--and I'll never deal around here again.
Roy: No, man. You don't get it. I'm not here to shut you down. I'm looking to score.
(Cut to a clip of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America)
Butt-Head: This is it, Beavis. We're finally gonna score.
(Cut back to the comic)
Roy: Need the heavy stuff. Got any China cat?
Linkara: (as the dealer) Uh... (takes out his porcelain bunny) I've got a porcelain bunny; does that help?
Linkara (v/o): Even the dealer is confused about what the hell he's talking about.
Dealer: China what?
Roy: The real deal. Heroin.
Linkara: (as dealer) Ooh! (picks up a blue porcelain dog) Porcelain blue dog! How about that, Roy? Ya wanna smoke this?
Dealer: Yeah, yeah, man. This here is called the A-Train. It'll take you wherever you need to go* to. No lie.
- NOTE: The dealer "...you need to get to", not "...go to."
Linkara: Heh. Yeah, you'll get there eventually, but the schedule's all over the place, and you'll get there three hours late and with your luggage stolen.
Linkara (v/o): So Arsenal takes all the drugs the guy has and goes into an alleyway to do the heroin. His eyes roll into the back of his head, and he's suddenly hallucinating that Lian is with him. Oh, and out of curiosity, I decided to look it up myself – and by that, I mean I did a Google search – and guess what? Turns out heroin is not a hallucinogen. It's a depressant. Heroin gives the body a rush, and then brings the user into a state of euphoria. While hallucinations can occur, that's a result of the body relaxing so much that it releases dimenthyltryptamine. Buuut, from the brief research I did, the hallucinations are sure as hell not as vivid as this. Arsenal hugs his daughter and they talk about how everything's going to be okay. However, he then sees an entire legion of Prometheuses saying that they're going to get her. Somehow, despite the fact that he's tripping and all, Roy manages to fight off all of them. He sees a hallucination of the Electrocutioner, a villain under Prometheus' employ who set off the device in Star City. But it's really Batman. And we cut to the real world to see that Roy is in fact protecting a dead cat.
Linkara: Oh, that's the China cat he wanted! (takes out a porcelain squirrel) Sorry, porcelain squirrel. Your time will come someday.
Linkara (v/o): The people he beat up were just the other drug users in the alley, all of whom are unconscious.
Linkara: Oh, and by the by, this comic won an award for "the accurate depiction of substance abuse and mental illness". I'm not even kidding.
Linkara (v/o): Yep, heroin makes you think a dead cat is your still-living daughter and gives you the ability to stab and punch a bunch of other druggies. Roy is still trippin', so he attacks Batman. Once again, heroin increases your ability to fight people. Eventually, Batman just kicks him in the face and proclaims...
Batman: I'm your friend.
Linkara: Friends, don't let friends do heroin. Kick them in the face if you need to.
Linkara (v/o): Later, Roy awakens with Black Canary standing over him. He's been restrained so he can't hurt himself or anyone else. Roy whines some more about how "no one understands him", and it's at this point that it's now time for the tough love approach.
Linkara: Look, I love Arsenal as a character. Like I've said many times, he was part of my favorite run of the Titans. I understand the drugs and everything like that. However, I left my pity for his situation back in that alleyway.
Linkara (v/o): Don't get me wrong, people. Just because I find this miniseries to be hilarious, doesn't mean it doesn't find ways to piss me off. Roy won't shut up about how he's in (mockingly) "so much pain", and how "nobody understands him". Waa-waa-waa– (becomes quite annoyed) Oh, grow the hell up, asshole! He's made no effort to try to explain his problems, to help them understand the psychological pain he's going through, done nothing to resist the urge to go back to drugs, and he has slapped away every effort from people to show him some empathy. He was downright offensive to Black Canary and Donna Troy, and he even told Cheshire to shut up when when she tried to comfort him. Now, is this the kind of thing that happens in real life? Yes, but this is not real life! This is a story where I'm supposed to care about Roy Harper and want to see him get through this, but his constant whining and refusal to acknowledge his friends' help has made me stop caring.
Linkara: (as Roy, mockingly) You just don't understand! How can you get my pain? (normal again) Shut your pie-hole, you selfish dickhead! (points at camera) Your pain is not special! How many other people have lost their own limbs? Or lost their children? Hell, in-story, how many other people have lost family members in the disaster in Star City?
Linkara (v/o): There are supposed to be five stages of grief. Throughout the entire miniseries, he's been stuck in anger, and he never leaves it! He insults and denigrates the people around him who are only trying to help, and I'm still supposed to feel sorry for him?! Oh, but don't think I'm letting everybody else off the hook either, my friends. It turns out that Batman and Black Canary have put him in Virgil House, a center for treating convicted people with substance abuse problems. And are they going to stay there? Are they going to have anyone else come and stay with him? Try to watch over Roy and help him along with his detox and recovery? Of course not! They say only he can get through this and leave him there to do it on his own. Yeah, that's just great. You're such "good friends"! Why don't you kick him in the face again while you're at it?! As the issue winds down, Roy talks more with Ghostly Drug Dealer. However, we only see Roy's side of the conversation. He says that they're right and he can get through this like he did before. Buuut then any hope of this miniseries recovering comes out the window. Issue 3 ends with Lian showing up to talk to him! And just look at the state her body is in!
(Said state is that she has blank eyes, her clothes are tatters, and she has blood all over her, like a zombie)
Linkara: That's right! Lian Harper has become...
(Cut to a clip of the game Half-Life: Full Life Consequences)
John Freeman: Zombie goasts! [sic]
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Issue 4 begins with the guy making the rounds and looking at various patients. And by the by, the entire look of the place has now changed between issues. It looked more than a little run-down in issue 3, but here, it looks pretty pristine and new. On a two-page spread, Roy yells out in pain as he narrates that he tried to do everything in his power to protect Lian and provide her with a happy life. However, Zombie Ghost Lian Harper tells him that he's full of crap. I'm not exaggerating with that.
Ghost Zombie Lian: Please. You don't actually believe all that crap, do you? I was the most important thing in your life? Give me a break. You'd rather be a hero than a father. Save the day than me.
Linkara: Zombie Ghost Lian Harper's got a bit of a mouth on her, doesn't she? You'd think Roy would pick up on that.
Linkara (v/o): So, what the hell is causing this hallucination anyway? It's not even drug use or wanting to use drugs. I mean, yeah, maybe the residual drugs in his system are causing it, but... I don't know, it just doesn't feel right, especially since it's not even encouraging him to use drugs or anything like that. This is just there because it's the only, quote-unquote, "logical" way to get Roy to do anything after reaching his lowest point. After all, the ghost drug dealer isn't going to work anymore, since he just said that he's going to try to recover. But even then, really? A zombie ghost?! If Roy has gone nuts, yeah, I'd get that, but wouldn't the delusion make more sense if it was more like Lian actually was? Why not have her be happy? Why have her be injured and scarred? Why not have her talking like she did when she was alive? This doesn't make any sense! The zombie ghost tells him to find Electrocutioner and get his revenge, so Roy digs his stump into the buckle that's restraining him, reopening the wound. Oh, here's a thought about this institution: no bathroom and no medical monitoring equipment. When the orderlies rush in, they don't even sedate him while they remove the restraints. He just knocks them out, steals their keys and grabs one of them.
Roy: I only got one question for you. And you'd better be able to answer it. Where's my arm?
Linkara (v/o): Well, of course the institution wouldn't have an advanced piece of technology just lying around. The Justice League would have taken it and– Oh, wait, I forgot, I live in a world that makes more sense than this comic. Naturally, he gets back the arm and winds up at Star City Penitentiary. He narrates that he caught a glimpse of Electrocutioner when he visited Green Arrow in prison. Oh, and now the zombie ghost has a skeleton head.
Linkara: (creeped out) Okay, he's still seriously listening to the zombie ghost of his daughter with a skull head! Put him back on the drugs! The hallucinations weren't nearly this insane!
Linkara (v/o): Roy breaks in and beats up security guards as he makes his way to the Electrocutioner. He opens up the cell block he's in, stabbing and punching along the way both guards and criminals alike. Okay, the Electrocutioner is still wearing bits of his costume, too?! If you ever wondered how the hell the Joker and every other criminal could escape in superhero universes, the sheer idiocy at work here is all the explanation you require. He tackles the guy, and we cut to Green Arrow, also still in costume, despite several days having passed, and he's informed of what's going on. They allow him to go and talk to Roy, who's got a knife up at the Electrocutioner's throat.
Green Arrow: Roy... Think of Lian. She wouldn't want this. You know that.
Linkara: (as Roy) Sure she does! Her zombie ghost with a skeleton face told me so!
Roy: She's dead, Ollie. It doesn't matter anymore what she wants.
Linkara (v/o): WHAT?!? Then why the hell were you listening to the damn hallucination, you twit?! People, logic has completely left us. He says he's doing it for himself now, but that doesn't make any damn sense! My only guess is that this miniseries went through several rewrites as it was being developed because the editors had their own idea about where Roy's character would end up after this was over with. I mean, yes, the zombie ghost thing is hilariously silly, but hey, he's delusional and listening to her kind of makes sense. But now he doesn't even believe in it?! Ugh, whatever, let's just get this over with. Green Arrow charges in and punches Roy, and another fight scene ensues. As I've said before, it's hard to comment on fight scenes because it's just talking about an exchange of attacks. The end result is Roy gets knocked out because the drugs are still affecting him, but he manages to drag the Electrocutioner away, cut himself off from Green Arrow, and then stabs the guy when Zombie Ghost Lian – with her face restored, no less – tells him to gut him like a pig. So Roy walks away, and we cut to Roy's house – not that anyone would be waiting there for him. What with him having escaped and all, nobody would even dream of keeping an eye on him. And again, look at the damn house! IT'S COMPLETELY INTACT!! HOW DID LIAN DIE?! Hell, the entire neighborhood is completely intact!
Linkara: She must have been killed by a plot convenience fairy.
Linkara (v/o): Zombie Ghost Lian is no longer a zombie but still a ghost, and talks to Roy about all the good times they had around the house. She asks him where they're going next, but then Roy walks outside and shuts the door behind him.
(Roy is seen lighting a cigarette lighter and tossing it toward the house)
Roy: I'm sorry. Goodbye, Lian.
Linkara (v/o): He must have had the gas turned on or something since the house lights up instantly.
Linkara: And just to close out that Half-Life: Full-Life Consequences running joke I've been making...
(A clip of the game is shown: a house exploding)
John Freeman: So he blew up the house and killed the zombie goasts [sic], so they were at peace.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): (as Zombie Ghost Lian) Oh, no! If only I wasn't a ghostly figure that is not actually bound by the physical restrictions of the house, I could totally escape the burning building! (normal again) And so, our miniseries ends with Roy looking down from a rooftop on a pimp harassing some prostitutes.
Roy: (narrating) No matter what city I come to they all look the same-- dark corners, dark secrets.
Linkara: (as Roy) I'm dark, man! I'm hardcore, with my knives and my cyborg arm... (stops and rolls his eyes, normal again) Holy crap, they've turned into Arsenal into a generic '90s antihero.
Roy: (narrating) They're addicted to the power--the control. About time they learned the hard way-- that road is a dead end.
Linkara: Or rather, that road leads to ("finger quotes") "China cat" and zombie ghosts. (closes comic and holds it up) These comics suuuuuck.
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, this miniseries is dreadful. It had a promising start, and you really did feel for Roy, wanted to see him overcome these issues , but I think along the way, some moron decided he was more interesting as a generic, "life is pain" emo supervillain as opposed to a guy trying to juggle being a superhero and a single father. If they truly wanted to make him into a villain, that's fine, but there are a number of other ways they could have gone about it. Roy could have started taking drugs for some other reason. He could have felt that he wasn't being a good enough father to Lian, he was having money troubles, just any other thing that could have led him down a path where he had to fight superheroes. It did not need to happen with Lian's death. And if, in their minds, it really did have to happen, then they could have at least followed a logical path. Putting him back on drugs was not an illogical move, but instead of just actual inner torment, we have a ghost drug dealer, him becoming impotent, then him protecting a dead cat, and then finally a zombie ghost telling him to murder people! This isn't the stuff of a melodramatic character piece setting up Roy to become evil; this is the stuff of a great big satire!
Linkara: And that's why this comic is so damn funny. It's just so completely inept. In September, when DC does its big relaunch, we've seen that Roy does have his arm back. We can only hope that "Cry for Justice" and this unintentionally hilarious series gets chucked out the window and will never be spoken of again. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Yes, I've heard of the expression of describing something like that as a "can opener" before, but it still sounds incredibly stupid.
Just try and argue that the stuff that happened on the "Previously On" segment wouldn't have made for a more interesting story than this one.
(Stinger: Diamanda Hagan and the person in shadow are shown again)
Diamanda: Now I must be off to fight for the Venusians' freedom! (leaves)
Shadow person: Fuck the Venusians!
(Cut through black to That SciFi Guy, acting all upset)
TSFG: Oh, that's– I'm just gonna end it all! (holds up a gun-like device to his chin, then stops and pulls it away, confused) Wait. Dr. Wiki, who made these edits?
(Cut to Dr. Wiki, who brings up a picture of Linkara)
Dr. Wiki: Last edit composed by Linkara at 10:37AM today.
(Cut back to TSFG, who shakes his fists in rage)