Ghostbusters: Past, Present, and Future
September 30, 2013
This comic will be shaken, stirred, and shredded for how dumb it is.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Today, we once again look (sighs resignedly) at "SCI-Spy".
Linkara (v/o): "SCI-Spy" is an annoyingly dull series that tries to combine science fiction with James Bond-like action and intrigue without any success. The characters are bland and uninteresting, the artwork all over the place, and the story just boring.
Linkara: So why am I talking about this so soon after the last review of it I did? (scowls) Because I thought there were only four issues!
Linkara (v/o): The six-issue storyline has been a major bane upon comic book writing, if I may say so. In the end, the problem is always whether or not the writer is good enough to do it, but the six-issue storyline has become a standard, especially in superhero comics. You ever hear the expression, "written for the trade"? That is what a six-issue storyline is. Bucking writing trends, a storyline is stretched out to accommodate half a year's worth of material...
(Editor's note: "And in the case of Youngblood, almost a full year.")
Linkara (v/o): ...when usually there's barely enough for four issues, much less six!
(Cut back to the "SCI-Spy" montage)
Linkara (v/o): If you're a good writer, you take advantage of the extra space to have more breathing room, have some character-building or universe-building. And then you have "SCI-Spy", where extra time is used to draw naked alien women who aren't actually aliens.
Linkara: And when your comic is already as boring as "SCI-Spy" is, you don't want to outstay your welcome! It's only been three months since the last "SCI-Spy" review, and I've already forgotten what happened in that one!
Linkara (v/o): So, screw it, I'm not even gonna try recap it. I'm gonna make up my own story that will be infinitely better than this one.
(Cut briefly to black as Linkara clears his throat, then cut to a shot of Timothy Dalton)
Linkara (v/o): Timothy Dalton was cryogenically frozen and woke up in the future...
(Cut to a shot of James T. Kirk)
Linkara (v/o): ...with the help of Captain Kirk. While the two compared notes on picking up women...
(Cut to a shot of a group of Daleks)
Linkara (v/o): ...a Dalek invasion fleet began swarming through an alien sector, and the Enterprise was the only ship in range to combat it.
(Cut to a shot of the Enterprise bridge with a Dalek on the screen)
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, the Dalek weaponry was too much for the Enterprise, but Timothy Dalton had a plan. He enlisted the help...
(Cut to shots of a Pokemon trainer)
Linkara (v/o): ...of the last Pokemon trainer on Earth, and thanks to...
(Cut to shots of Mewtwo, Dialga and Palkia)
Linkara (v/o): ...the psychic powers of Mewtwo and the time- and space-warping powers of Dialga and Palkia, the Daleks were defeated.
(Cut to a shot of a glass of martini with three olives in it)
Linkara (v/o): And then Timothy Dalton complained that alcohol in the future was too watered down, even though he already drank a weak martini.
Linkara: There we go, a better story than "SCI-Spy"! Let's dig into (holds up today's comic) Issue 4 and see how much better it was!
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Normally, I wouldn't talk about the cover since I'm reading from a trade, but I've got to be honest with this one: this cover is actually really damn awesome. It's very movie poster-esque, very space opera, very exciting, and makes you want to pick it up for what is sure to be an awesome science fiction epic.
Linkara: The problem is that the title of your damn book (points to cover) is "SCI-Spy"! (rolls eyes) This is it. We have completely abandoned the idea that this has anything to do with espionage and intrigue and instead have just gone straight into Flash Gordon!
Linkara (v/o): We open in a weight room, where Starchild is talking to Motherbank.
Starchild: You rewrote history, Motherbank-- lied to everyone by insisting we're alone in the universe.
Linkara: Yeah, explain to me again why you did that? Wouldn't you want your people prepared in case the aliens found you when we're planning another invasion?
Starchild: There are aliens--I've seen one.
Linkara: (as Starchild) I can't believe the History Channel was right!
Linkara (v/o): I love how nobody cares with this comic. This is supposed to be a scene with them confronting Motherbank about propagating lies and disinformation for however long they've been like this... I have to assume centuries, with all the technology they have at their disposal. So, what is Starchild doing? LIFTING WEIGHTS! Even Starchild does not care enough to be standing up and confronting Motherbank about this. He's treating this like he was talking to a friend at the gym about the TV shows he watched last night.
Motherbank: All right, it's true--but by the time Old Earth's satellites detected the approaching armada, we had less than a month to react...
Linkara: (as Motherbank) We were never gonna be able to get a dinner party assembled for them before they arrived.
Motherbank: ...less than a month before the world changed overnight and forever...
Linkara: (as Motherbank) The aliens introduced pizza-on-a-stick to us. Nothing was ever the same again.
Motherbank: ...before Earth was literally stolen from us--to become the stage for humanity's extinction.
Linkara: (as Motherbank) We tried to file an intergalactic police report, but those guys are so racist!
Linkara (v/o): Motherbank explains that the alien force was just too large and too powerful to oppose. Their only option was running like hell with as many people as they could save. And hey, looks like Starchild is done with his workouts, so now we can look at his badly-drawn and inconsistent body proportions. Dude looks like a bodybuilder when he was supposed to be more athletic-looking than previous issues.
Starchild: How was it done, Motherbank? How did you devise your space-ark's manifest? Did Earth's population draw straws? Or did your "best and brightest" keep the crisis a secret from all the rest?
Linkara: (as Motherbank) Well, the population was divided up into who liked which Doctor Who actor the most, and all the Matt Smith fans left behind– (as Starchild) You monster! (as Motherbank) Yes, we realized we were a bit unfair after we gave those episodes another watch-through.
Motherbank: Only a few could escape--to propagate the displaced human race--and yes, they were a privileged elite, the best individuals Earth could offer.
Linkara: (as Motherbank) Adam Sandler, Daniel Tosh, Paula De– (stops and looks at a piece of paper he's holding in embarrassment) Oh, wait, uh... (laughs nervously) Silly me, I just realized I was looking at the wrong list this whole time. Those were the people we were supposed to leave behind. (laughs) My bad.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, take a look at this prize from the first issue. Clearly, this man is descended from the best Earth has to offer.
Starchild: Who made the evaluations, Motherbank? Who chose the fortunate "elite"?
Motherbank: As President of the United Americas, I did...
Linkara: (arms crossed) Thanks, Mother O-bank-ma!
Motherbank: ...and my conscience has been ravaged ever since... for a thousand immortal years.
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, considering how much of Earth's population you did have to save in order for the species to continue to be viable for a thousand years? Did nobody mention to their kids, "Oh, by the way, aliens invaded Earth, which is why we left"? There is no reason to keep this fact secret from people! Starchild yells at her for–
(He suddenly stops, however, as he bursts out laughing when he sees Starchild's angry face)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, my God, this artwork! Look at that face, my friends! That is the face of pure constipation!
Starchild: You played God, Motherbank, saving the few and turning your back on the many... leading a cowardly rout under the guise of a noble "exodus."
Linkara: (as Starchild) What you should have done was bravely leave everyone on Earth to die without anyone ever even seeing the faces of their killers! That's the noble thing to do!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, by the way, here's something that was really well done about the trade: we see flashbacks of the two guys who said that Motherbank is not what they thought she was, and the dialogue for their balloons is missing. Just... top notch. And yes, I know they're supposed to be there because the scans of the fourth issue do have the dialogue. And shockingly enough, I do not see a credit for an editor for the trade. Oh, and it seems their workout isn't over, since now we need to have [Isis] Nile in skintight workout clothes lifting weights, too, and Starchild sitting down, doing arm flexes. Well, thank God we have the scenes of them like this. I was really hoping this comic would turn into a Bowflex ad. Anyway, Motherbank says they traveled through the wormhole and ended up in the Arcturus sector.
Starchild: ...and your elite few have been fruitful and multiplying, terraforming and populating the Arcturan worlds --even as they rejected their native humanity and chose to become freaks.
Linkara: Okay, why would Starchild consider people who altered themselves (makes a "finger quote") "freaks"? To be a freak is to be different from what's considered normal, and genetic modification in this society is considered normal. He is the freak for choosing not to do so at all.
Linkara (v/o): Also, I still call bullcrap on this entire idea. First priority for the survivors of the apocalypse was altering their genetic code so they could have little tendrils on their heads like this guy? Look, I don't doubt people would do genetic modifications like this if they so desired, but I'm trying to figure out what the hell the point of a lot of these modifications is beyond cosmetic value. Or was this person here just thinking, "You know what I've always wanted all my life? A bird beak that does not allow me to chew my food. That'd be awesome!" Nile says that clearly, there were more than just the elite taken.
Starchild: What about it, Motherbank? Were the lower berths of your space-ark crammed with slave labor culled from Earth prisons?
Motherbank: Recruitment of the necessary workforce had to be kept secret--to prevent useless panic--and they weren't all convicts. They were engineers and--
Starchild: But the manual laborers were freed to become slaves.
Linkara: Okay, I can't defend Motherbank's actions here, but that just makes the genetic modification stuff even more bizarre, since I can't imagine that they did this to slave labor just for funsies when they were trying to rebuild their civilization!
Linkara (v/o): I'm not even sure how they managed to rebuild their civilization so quickly. A thousand years may seem like enough time, but just consider this: a lot of the stuff that human civilization has today has been built on the infrastructure that was around for a lot longer than a thousand years. Sure, most of it has been paved over, wrecked and replaced, but it still took time to clear areas for building things. Hell, just consider all the stuff that you need for one building, just a single, uh, two-, three-story building: construction equipment, people to manufacture construction equipment, the raw materials for all the buildings and infrastructure. They only had a month to get a ship ready with the "best and the brightest" of the human race, and I think basic survival supplies were more of a priority than cement mixers! They'd have done pretty damn well to have interstellar flight ready and able after a thousand years, considering they had to start FROM ABSOLUTE SCRATCH!
Linkara: And that's why genetic modification techniques were such a big, important priority to the point where everybody in humanity has them, and it's considered socially taboo to not have them. (scowls in frustration)
Linkara (v/o): This backstory is so poorly thought-out, you'd think this was "The Culling". Ergh! Anyway, the convict slaves ended up being banished to the outer planets to build their own civilizations after they had done all the hard work in the inner planets, thus creating the caste system that has barely, if at all, been touched upon in this dumbass comic. And Starchild's backstory? Well, he was apparently exiled from Earth a thousand years ago as well, in a cryogenic capsule that was floating for a thousand years until it was picked up by Motherbank. Wait, if everybody else is no longer appearing human, then you could say that nobody is really human anymore except for him... and he's the last survivor of his world...
Linkara: I always thought Dough Moench was basing this jackass on Batman, but he was actually supposed to be Superman??
Linkara (v/o): Also, thanks for this closeup of his sweaty face and for the earlier panel of his veiny arms, because this comic would just be totally incomplete without those. Starchild, now less pissed off and more eye-bugging, yet still sweaty, questions the fact that the wormhole's existence was kept a secret from anyone else who may have been able to escape, but she says that they needed to make sure the aliens didn't pursue them through the wormhole, so it was disguised as a black hole, and the wormhole was severed behind them... through science, I assume, since I have no idea how the hell they'd do that otherwise.
Starchild: But if Earth fell to the aliens, how was I...sent?
Motherbank: Obviously your parents--perhaps an entire enclave of humans, somehow survived long enough to deliver you from their fate.
Linkara: (waves dismissively) Nah, turns out that the aliens weren't actually hostile. They were basically used car salesmen trying to sell all their old spaceships. Starchild was sent off because his parents were assholes and didn't like his (points to his eyes) massive eyes.
(Cut to a man with an Australian accent, played by Lewis (almost like Mick Dundee from Crocodile Dundee) walking past the comic shelf, holding a bow and arrow)
Aussie Guy: PUSH THAT CART! (sees camera) Oh, we'll be right back. (walks off) THE CART'S MOVING THE WRONG WAY, YOU BLOODY WANKERS!
(The AT4W logo appears in the corner as we go to commercial; upon return, the sound of blood spurting is heard, and the Aussie guy returns)
Aussie: Ha! Not so smart with your brains outside your head! (sees camera) Uh, we're back now.
(He leaves, laughing, as the AT4W logo appears in the corner. Cut back to the comic again as the review resumes)
Motherbank: It must have been an act of blind faith and heartbreaking hope in the face of doom...but it succeeded, Sebastian. You came to us--and you alone are innocent of the Arcturus System's great "original sin."
Linkara: Um, what about all the other people born in the Arcturus System after it was settled?! You're not Klingons! The sins of the parents do not pass on to the kids! Or hell, what about the convicts? I get the impression they didn't go by choice either!
Linkara (v/o): Well, Motherbank has an answer for that, too, and it's stupid!
Motherbank: As for all the Arcturan generations down to the present--each less "Earth-Human" than the last--what else could we do?
Linkara: Well, you could... not modify your genetic code. Just throwing that out there.
Motherbank: Concealing the truth was the only way for my original generation to absolve our descendants of a sin that was not theirs--but which nonetheless* enabled them to come into being.
- NOTE: Motherbank says "nevertheless", not "nonetheless".
Linkara: Um... NO, IT WASN'T! THEY WERE STILL INNOCENT IN ALL OF THIS! ALL YOU DID WAS LEAVE THEM PAINFULLY UNPREPARED FOR A POTENTIAL INVASION!
Linkara (v/o): And what was the point of changing their appearances?! So the aliens wouldn't recognize them as humans?! You people have not encountered any aliens so far in this entire damn sector! For all you know, humanity and the aliens are the only two species out there! Hell, you all look different, but still identify yourselves as humans! Even if it was a stupid camouflage idea, nobody knows to not identify as human because an alien infiltrator could be trying to gather intelligence as the precursor to invasion! Speaking of, Motherbank states that the sugar cubes from way back are that precursor to invasion, that somehow the aliens have repaired the wormhole and are getting ready to come through, either to take their home from them as before – presumably because they're like the aliens from Independence Day: use up a planet's resources, then move on – or as a preemptive strike in case humanity now has a military capable of retaking Earth. I know I should be fearful of the force that sent out alien robo-bugs that could pick the flesh off of a person clean in a minute, but then they show this image of the things and look at them! They're so cute!
Linkara: (holding up a Cybermat) I mean, they look like little Cybermats, but with legs! They're adorable! I don't care if they want to kill me; they look so cute!
Linkara (v/o): And of course, Starchild points out the big reason why not telling everybody was so stupid: that all they've done is delay the inevitable, and humanity is screwed.
Motherbank: Unless, Sebastian... you fulfill your destiny.
Linkara: What destiny? He was sent out from Earth in the vain hope that he might survive the apocalypse. That's like saying that I was destined to find a penny in a railway station because I ducked in to get away from a rainstorm!
Motherbank: You came to us from the heavens just in time. "And lo, a child shall lead them"...
Linkara: A 27-year-old child.
Starchild: You think I'm--
Motherbank: Mankind's last best hope.
Linkara: (as Motherbank) You are Babylon 5.
Linkara (v/o): So let me get this straight, Motherbank: you're quoting the Book of Isaiah here, that Starchild came from the heavens and that he has a destiny? Oh, sweet merciful... Are you saying that Starchild is Space Jesus?!
Linkara: No! Bullcrap, no! I have an easier time believing Seann William Scott from (gestures offscreen with thumb) Southland Tales was Jesus more than friggin' Sebastian Starchild!
Linkara (v/o): For one thing, I would hope that Jesus would be a little smarter than this. Starchild alters the ship's trajectory and sends it straight for the wormhole. He has no plan, no preparation for fighting the aliens, probably limited weaponry on that ship he's on, no backup, no intelligence on what lies on the other side, and no way of knowing if he can even get back.
Linkara: I'm so used to seeing the villains have ridiculously moronic plans that I'm kind of taken aback that this time, it's the hero who's being so completely idio-stuporific.
Linkara (v/o): Motherbank tells him to turn back.
Starchild: I've just reached the event horizon--no turning back now, not even if I wanted to. The black hole's gravity vortex won't let me.
Linkara: Um, I'm not a scientist, but if the wormhole doesn't let you escape its event horizon, how the hell do you emerge from the other side free and clear?
(Cut to Dr. Linksano)
Dr. Linksano: Oh, that's very simple, actually. What they do is...
Linkara: (rolls eyes) I don't care.
Motherbank: But you can't undertake a mission of this magnitude without preparations and--
Starchild: I prepped this new ship and everything else, Motherbank...
Linkara: (as Starchild) We're packed with energy drinks and Doritos, and I got in thirty reps on the bench press.
Motherbank: But this is too big! You can't attempt it alone!
Starchild: Thanks to your command, I'm not alone-- not with Isis Nile glued to my ass.
Linkara: So, Starchild and Nile are the Human Spider?
Linkara (v/o): High five, Nile! They lose contact with Motherbank and start going through this Photoshop painting– I mean, the wormhole.
Starchild: The time-and-space-mangled trip of a lifetime.
Nile: Try ten lifetimes, Starchild.
Linkara: You know, with the way this thing is depicted, I fully expect them to pass Dave Bowman going (gestures behind himself with thumb) the other way.
Nile: And if I may be allowed one question, Starchild?
Starchild: Hit me, Nile.
Linkara: I'll hit you. Gladly. Repeatedly.
Nile: How the hell do we survive this trip?
Starchild: Either we pull off the same trick as those mystery cubes that came the other way...
Linkara: You open up and unleash a horde of flesh-eating Cybermats?
Starchild: ...or we don't survive it.
Linkara: Starchild... (sighs, then brightens up, giving a thumbs-up) this is the best plan ever!
(Cut to a clip of Patton)
Patton: (looking out through a pair of binoculars) You magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): They fly out at maximum force and velocity, which somehow lets them overcome the gravitational pull of the black hole. I really wish they'd stop interchanging those terms. Wormholes and black holes are not really the same thing. They arrive in the solar system and come upon Earth, which now has a brown haze around it. Orb says that the haze is from noxious, though nonlethal, gases.
Starchild: My true home, Nile... The place where I was born... ruined by the Xenos who stole it--and who murdered my parents.
Linkara: (frustrated) Are you Batman, or are you Superman, Starchild?! Make up your mind! Or... are you Space Jesus? That... really did not help this debate.
Nile: Never thought I'd hear a quaver in your voice, but this does explain a lot... why you're such a flesh-pure loner...
Linkara: (incredulously) Yeah, because being introverted and uninterested in genetic modification is based on what planet you're from! (shrugs)
Nile: Why you obsessively collect ancient homeworld artifacts.
Linkara: (singing as Linkara) Look at this stuff. Isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?
Nile: Compared to the rest of us, you're an alien-- a native of this wretched planet.
Linkara: I arrived at those conclusions two issues ago! Are these two seriously the best agents Motherbank has?
Nile: You skipped all the thousand years of Arcturan adaptation and heritage... making you act as if humanity's old Earth ways are embedded on a genetic level.
Starchild: Maybe they are, Nile...
(Linkara frowns heavily, then cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: Shut up, shut up, and... definitely shut up.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): GENETICS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!! I cannot believe this! This is a comic that is actually arguing nature versus nurture and saying that NATURE IS EVERYTHING, despite the fact that Starchild grew up in this environment HIS ENTIRE LIFE! He was found as a baby with no knowledge of any culture and morality except for the one in the Arcturus system! But nope! His DNA tells him that that's bad, and he only cares about this dried-up husk of a planet HE CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER!
Starchild: I'm the child of humans by nature, not technology...
Linkara: The hell is that supposed to mean?! Do robots give birth in this society?!
Linkara (v/o): If you mean genetically engineered, fine, but they're still using human DNA to a degree, I would presume, since all the other genetic modifications seem to be done by choice, if Nile's statements from earlier comics are to be believed! Ergh, whatever. As you can see, North America has seen better days, judging by those big-ass craters littering the continent.
Starchild: The Xenos destroyed much of the planet in the process of conquering it-- which means Motherbank's guess was right. Terraformed or virgin, all twenty-three worlds in the Arcturus system are now in serious--
Linkara: My guess is, he was going to say, "Serious bacon."
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, yeah, they're in danger. Shock of all shocks. I think we all guessed that, based on the already hostile aliens! Good thing you went on this trip, guys. Totally worth it. Something starts coming at them, which is this... insect... flying... Zerd thing.
Computer: Status correction: seven unknown objects detected, all locked and closing! Immediate upgrade to deep (beep!) alert!
Linkara: Ah. (holds up finger) Mauve alert.
Linkara (v/o): The two haul ass to the escape ship... because trying to evade or shoot at them would just be impossible... and they manage to eject into a smaller sliver, as it's called, the main ship getting annihilated. Yep, Starchild, this sure was a good decision you made coming here. Nine more ships fly and open fire on them... which they manage to evade. And then they open fire and destroy their attackers with guns ALL OVER THE DAMN ESCAPE SHIP!! How is the tiny little escape ship better equipped than the one they ejected from?! THE FUTURE IS COMPLETELY BASS-ACKWARDS! And are they in the atmosphere now? Why would they be? They had no idea where the hell they were going or even what they were doing!
Starchild: Not bad, Nile, but nailing three won't do it...
Linkara (v/o): Three?! I counted four explosions on that panel and several more blasts going off the panel! That's our hero, everybody! He can't count! And then they get shot and crash onto a beach.
Nile: Both ships destroyed. We're stranded... stuck in these ruins with no way back to the wormhole...
Starchild: Which the sliver couldn't withstand anyway--even if we repaired it.
Nile: No way back to Arcturus...
Linkara: Gee, it's almost like this was a really bad idea. (slaps himself on the head with a look of disgust)
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with a whole bunch of aliens descending upon them on these hover dealies.
Motherbank: Face it, kiddies; it feels like a good day to die...
Linkara: Yes, it is. It is a good day for you all to be dead. (closes comic and holds it up angrily) This comic sucks!
Linkara (v/o): Dear Lord, why is this not over yet?! The artwork is bad, the characters are idiots, the plot is stupid, and it advocates genetics being superior to environment!
Linkara: You know, a few people in the comments section for last week said that they thought "SCI-Spy" had run its course and there was no point in looking at more issues. Well, I hate to say it, but they were wrong, because (points to comic) this comic proved that they could find whole new ways to be stupid! (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
As I said, there are plenty of stories that work just fine as six parts, especially if they DO follow the three-act structure with two issues per, but SCI-Spy is not one of them.
Remember, kids: home is not where you feel it is – it's where your genetics tell you is your home and all your beliefs and morality stem from.
You are nothing but a random collection of chemicals.
(Stinger: The panel showing where Starchild and Nile crash-land is shown)
Linkara (v/o): So, apparently, in the future, someone commissioned a giant cherub statue to be constructed on a beach. Yep, the future really is dumb!