December 7, 2008
A realistic, hard-hitting exposé on the lives of truckers!
(We see Linka sitting on his futon)
Linkara: Marvel has a proud history of comics that are tie-ins to toys. Be they more well known like their Transformers comics, or obscure gems like Micronauts and ROM Spaceknight, in the 80's Marvel never shied away from a chance to make a comic about toys.
Linkara (VO): But not all such comics were quite as well thought of. Take for example Tyco's line of electronic trucks. That's pretty much all there is to say, a bunch of slot racer trucks.
Linkara: But then Tyco approached Marvel to do a tie-in comic for their trucks even though the trucks don't have a story. I mean the Transformers concept was simply and goofy but at least it made sense; two races of robots waging war and hiding on earth in disguise. At what point in the writing process did they go from slot car racers, to a truck driving super hero? Hopefully we'l find out, so lets dig in to US-1 #1.
Linkara (VO): The cover certainly fairs better than a lot of the schlock featured here. It has a very theatrical feel to it with the winds and rain storming around as well as our trucking protagonist striking a heroic pose. There's a sense of both mystery and tragedy behind the chrome-domed head here, and of course we'll see none of that in the actual hero. To finish it off there's a silhouetted villain on top of a cliff with his arms in the air as if he's responsible for the truck below him hurtling over the edge of the cliff. This cover does have two particular failures though. That logo is huge! it takes up almost a third of the cover, taking away room for anything else the artist could have included. Second, this tag-line; "High adventure trucking down the highway." I love how they give "trucking" its own huge font, trying to make the idea sitting in a truck and driving for days more exciting than it really is. "High adventure trucking down the highway and high adventure, plummeting to your doom." The book opens on an open stretch of freeway without any life featured.
Linkara: What a perfect metaphor for this book.
Linkara (VO): All of a sudden a cargo truck zooms past a sign that reads "US-1".
Linkara: So the book's actually about the freeway? (Gruff voice) Real stories of a deserted freeway. Hours of none-stop Nothing.
Linkara (VO): Racing past the sign the man the man driving the truck waves out of the window shouting the title of the issue. "US-1 Comin' at 'ya!"
Linkara: You know, I don't know much about trucker handles but it seems kind of stupid to name yourself after a freeway and to even paint your truck so it resembles the sign. As a super hero name it makes even less sense, did he get bitten by a radioactive freeway sign?
Linkara (VO): Turning the page we are introduced to our narrator, oh dear lord, please kill me now. The only thing more annoying than a pretentious, melodramatic narrator is an actual character who tells the story. Said Narrator, a beefy, cigar smoking, overalls and salmon colored T-shirt wearing trucker, introduced himself.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Hi there, I'm Ed Wheeler.
Linkara (VO): Huh, so that's what happened to Wheeler from Captain Planet.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Maybe you know me better as "Poppa Wheelie"
Linkara (VO): So what, did he make his 18-wheeler stand upright? No wonder he's doing narration for a job now.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) That's the name they hung on me when I was tearin' up the quarter mile - drag racin' at tracks all over the country some years back. I was sort of a hero to some people back then.
Linkara: Drag racing; the noblest of professions.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) But these days, a lot of people seem to think that the only heroes are folks who dress up in tights and wear a cape. Well that's not all there is to it.
Linkara: Yeah, these days heroes have to make a deal with the devil.
(Cover of Spiderman: One More Day. With the caption: No I'm not over this yet.)
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Take the young fella driving that truck, for instance.
Linkara: Why just last week he foiled two of Doctor Doom's plans before angsting about his girlfriend.
Linkara (VO): He talks about the guy in the truck, who is named Ulysses Solomon Archer, or US for short.
Linkara: Get it?
Linkara (VO): He goes on to say that he's pretty impressive just for going behind the wheel of that specific truck, but he says he'll explain that later.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) You see the thing is that, for US, the wheels of fate have always been just that; wheels.
Linkara (VO): The problem is they're made by Firestone. Wheeler explains that US was always motivated by his desire to drive trucks.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Even back when he and his older brother Jefferson Hercules, used to stand alongside the highway and watch the big rigs rumble on by. (as
Linkara (VO): Hang on. Jefferson Hercules? Ulysses Solomon? Who the hell is naming these kids, Plutarch? After a brief scene where we meet US's trucker parents, said parents get killed off panel. Well thanks for letting us acclimate to those characters before they're lost. Anyway after the loss of such legendary truckers as...um...whoever US's parents were supposed to be, their fellow truckers dress up their vehicles in black and drive the longest funeral convoy Wheeler had ever seen.
Linkara: Pardon me for being insensitive, but don't any of these truckers have any hauling jobs they're supposed to be doing?
Linkara (VO): Wheeler and his wife adopt the two mythicaly named children and he comments -
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) The wheels of fate spun by a few uneventful years.
Linkara (VO): By the way this is the third time this guy has brought up "The wheels of fate." Apparently he's not a hero around these parts for his rich knowledge of metaphors.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) And one of our boys grew into a man. The other one grew into a woman, we're still trying to figure that one out.
Linkara (VO): Jefferson Hercules grew into a truck driver himself. While US is irritated that he isn't allowed to do the same. Wheeler explains to him that with Jeff driving a rig, US can go to college as their parents had wanted. Now, get this, he graduates magna cum laude, he was the quarter back for the football team, and according to Wheeler had "Degrees in Computer program design, electronic engineering, all kindsa things."
Linkara: Let me get this straight. In addition to being the top position on a football team as well as meeting usually, very stringent, grade or project requirements necessary for magna cum laude, he has at least two computer science degrees? It's hard enough to try double majoring, but wheeler implies that he got MORE degrees. Either US is a friggin' cheater or this school has the most lax educational standards I've ever seen.
Linkara (VO): But apparently being the greatest human being alive isn't enough for US.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) He still had that love of the road. Couldn't wait to join up with his brother and be a gypsy trucker.
Linkara (VO): Who knew the Roma had so many truckers?
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) All that speed and power wrapped in tons of steel ridin' underneath ya.
Linkara (VO): Dear lord, it sounds like he's talking about an adult toy.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Just thinking about it gives me a chill.
Linkara (VO): Yeah, thinking of you and such an object certainly gives me chills.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) But nothing like the chill I get when I think to that night - the night of the accident.
Linkara (VO): Eww, truck accidents turn him on?
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) The headlights pushed at the wall of rain - but couldn't break through.
Linkara: Well in that case you should ju-
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) The wheels whined. Sounding more like the wheels of some dark fate than the wheels of any semi.
Linkara: Umm...Wheeler maybe you should stop with the wh-
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) The wipers beat a fast fiddle tempo in counter-point to the steady drumbeat of the rain.
Linkara: The narrator wouldn't shut his freaking mouth and get on with the story. Honestly, it would sound more natural if Brian Michael Bendis tried to recite Howel in his narrative captions.
Linkara (VO): Anyway, the two brothers are driving around in the melodramatic storm. The two are having yet another pointless argument about US wanting to drive trucks. This is, like, the third argument in a row, when did this guy find time to earn all those computer degrees if all he can think of is trucks? A black semi suddenly appears and starts running them off the road. Spotting the silhouette of its driver Jeff and exclaims "it's the Highwayman!"
Linkara: Damn you, R. A. Salvatore, what did truckers ever do to you?
Linkara (VO): Jeff, in his panic, has become a tower of sweat and the highwayman forces the truck off the road. To the shock and horror of us all, Wheeler starts talking about it some more!
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Their Semi lurched out into space, seeming to hang suspended for a small eternity, framed by lightning.
Linkara (VO): Speaking of eternity.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Then the huge vehicle plummeted to the bottom of the cliff.
Linkara (VO): Why do we have narration that describes exactly what's happening in the panel? Did they think the readers had no concept in their, simple little, comic book reading brains, what a truck falling to its doom looks like? US has got to be the luckiest protagonist of all time, since he's thrown clear of the wreckage. Speaking of which, the wreckage is now ablaze. I guess they shouldn't have been hauling that shipment of oily rags and gunpowder. US is too injured to climb into the wreck to find his brother -well he's holding his head but has no other visible injuries to speak of but is coherent enough to speak clearly about it. The sound of laughter fills the canyon and US looks up to see The Highwayman himself. The villainous truck driver has a red cape, black jumpsuit and hair that stick up so much it would make Vegeta of Dragonball Z jealous. While standing in front of his demon minions The Highwayman pumps his fist into the air triumphantly.
Linkara: What kind of an evil plan is it to just run trucks off the road? I mean, what do you gain? Oooh, he's randomly killing people, that's such a nefarious and unique take on a villain. I think I'll be buying tons of those slot cars right now.
Linkara (VO): The demonic henchmen crawl down to the remains but it just explodes as they arrive. US blacks out and, somehow, an ambulance must have been passing by since we cut to one speeding along. This inspires our stalwart narrator to once again, use the "Wheels of fate" line. Hey! Here's an idea, how about carburetor of destiny, or cup-holder of divinity? At the hospital, Wheeler and his wife are informed by the doctor that US's skull has been shattered and that it's a miracle he survived. Okay, my suspension of disbelief at this point has been stretched past the limit. He's a genius, he can survive major truck accidents, including explosions, and now he survived a shattered skull. The doctor says there's an experimental procedure that could save his life, but it's risky.
Linkara: Oh my god! Do you think he might make it? Do you think he might die?
(Dramatic music plays over black screen with the caption; To Be Continued. Credits begin to roll before cutting back to Linkara.)
Linkara: Oh of course he's going to live. The man is made up of four-leaf clovers, rabbits feet, and horse shoes.
Linkara (VO): A team of doctors operate on US and actually replace the top half of his skull with "A new, experimental, alloy." There's a cutaway of this new skull and it looks more like a machine blueprint than an actual skull.
Linkara (VO): (as US) Well Jeff always used to say I was hard-headed...but this is ridiculous.
Linkara: Haha, oh it's good that he can joke after the death of his brother, the attempted murder and the literal chrome dome.
Linkara (VO): Later the police talk with US and inform him they can't find any evidence to support his story. Nor can they find Jeff's body. US, due to the coloring, looks like he has butter running down his nose. He stands by his story but the inspector thinks the bump on his head made him imagine the whole thing. So, what? He imagined the truck wreckage and the missing brother? He imagined the railings on the cliff side breaking off? Worst police inspector since Clouseau. US vows to get to the truth. Later he's back with Wheeler adn his wife at their home.
Linkara (VO): (as Wide Load) Be sure to eat all your green vegetables. Nothing better for a cracked skull than green vegetables.
Linkara (VO): Yeah, I'm sure I saw that on a medical poster somewhere. Wheeler interjects-
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator/Wheeler) Leave the boy alone Wide Load.
Linkara: Yes, I can see why their marriage has endured for so long.
Linkara (VO): US points out that he's been hearing a buzzing in his head since he got his new skull. The book explains that he's picking up CB radio broadcasts but personally I just think one of the doctors just left their cellphone in his brain. Wheeler wants to have the doctors fix it but US thinks having a CB radio in his head will be useful in tracking down The Highwayman. Wheeler agrees to finance a new rig for the task and they quickly get to work on the new truck, assembling it faster than an A-Team car-building montage.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator/Wheeler) Over by you is a special weapons console. it swings around toward the driver's seat for easy access. It controls the oil-slick release, the tire-shredding shrapnel, bombs, the smoke screen and, of course, the ejector seat.
Linkara: How the hell is he paying for all this?
Linkara (VO): Seriously. Even if we accept that his computer training in college allowed for him to create something like all this, he doesn't have a job. Hell, the medical bills alone after The Highwayman incident should have bankrupted him. I suspect that Wheeler footed the bill, but he's supposed to be retired. None of these people do any work and yet somehow they're billionaires. I mean he's even got a radar, a homing device system and a weather satellite and all of this equipment flips into the dashboard to hide it. Is US actually batman or something? Are they shipping thousands of dollars of cocaine in their trucks? My brain is melting here! As if this budgetary madness wasn't already jaw dropping enough US unveils his latest masterpiece; Creating a remote control for the truck and storing it in a silver dollar.
Linkara: And next you'll be able to fit a gun into a - oh wait, I already made this joke.
Linkara (VO): Wheeler gives his support for US's activities, prompting, you guessed it, another "Wheels of fate" remark. On the main voyage of the rig, now dubbed US-1 a storm -
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) -as black as midnight just blew out of nowhere. A storm that must be an aweful lot like the one the boys drove through that night.
Linkara (VO): That's just a weird phrasing. It MUST be like that one, why? US nervously drives along the road. All of a sudden, a lightning bolt strikes the mountain, causing a rock slide toward him. US just barely manages to evade it, but not before his face melts AHHHHH.
(Shows image of US, poorly drawn and lit)
Linkara (VO): Well, actually that's just the artwork. US thinks that the rocks seemed to be aimed at him. So, waht, The Highwayman has control over lightning? Why the heck does he drive a truck then? On cue The Highwayman's laughter fills up the panels. Apparently among The Highwayman's powers is megaphone voice, otherwise how is he so loud he can be heard over the truck engines and rain? And so The Highwayman's black semi appears beside US-1 and thus begins our exciting trucker fight!
Linkara: More dueling, than Duel! More truck ramming action than Riding With Death.
(Shows clip of MST3K episode Riding With Death)
Linkara: Not since, Over The Top, has there been such trucking excitement.
(Clip of Over The Top)
Linkara (VO): So anyway, after a daring leap over a conveniently placed unfinished road, it looks like US is about to have the advantage. By the way, at no point during this fight does he use any of those fancy-pants weapons he installed. Talk about a waste of an investment. The two trucks approach a bridge but Wheeler is standing in front of it. How did he get there, was he Gandalf the grey in another life?
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator/Wheeler) You shall not pass unless you have the Wheels of Fate!
Linkara (VO): US forces the black rig up over an incline in the mountain and the momentum carries it over the edge of the cliff. Wheeler gives some lame excuse about walking up the road when the storm started up -Yeah, walk around in the dark and cold instead of in a car that makes perfect sense. The two look over the edge of the cliff but there is no sign of The Highwayman or the black rig. Since they didn't hear a crash they presume he survived. We end our comic with Wheeler's annoying narration.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) Like I said; some folks think you need to wear tights and a cape to be a hero.
Linkara (VO): These people would be morons.
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) And some folks think you need to wear a mask and fly.
Linkara (VO): Yeah, and some people think Scientology is a legitimate religion, what's your point?
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) But the truth of the matter is that sometimes to be a hero all you have to do is...drive a truck.
Linkara: Yes, because there's nothing more heroic than forcing another truck off the road to their doom in a bit of poetic justice. And furthermore, driving a truck is only qualifying factor for heroism. Although it certainly helps if you have a metal plate in your skull that picks up radio signals, a souped up semi, and and a genius level IQ. THIS COMIC SUCKS. Look, in the future, if you need a super hero whose theme involves trucks, just call Optimus Prime.
(Linkara drops comic and walks out of the screen. Credits play out to the tune of "Driving a truck with my high heels on" by Weird Al Yankovic. Credits are interrupted with more images from the comic and the Six Million Dollar Man theme.)
Linkara: Ulysses Archer; trucker. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. Luckier, blander, more generic.