September 5, 2011
The continuation of a hard-hitting, realistic expose on the lives of truckers!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Well, unfortunately, it's another one of those days: I've scheduled to review something else, but it's not what we're looking at today.
(Cut to a shot of a comic called "Marvel Super Hero Island Adventures")
Linkara (v/o): The original comic I was going to review, "Marvel Super Hero Island Adventures", is based around Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida. It contains various attractions and islands based around properties they owned or had licenses to, one of which was Marvel, thus creating the Marvel Super Hero Island, with various rides and locales meant to evoke Marvel superheroes and a general comic book environment. And the comic itself is really not all that bad. It's got three stories, from the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and Spider-Man, and they're all short and enjoyable superhero romps. If it fails at anything, it's in promoting the theme park that it's named after. Also, there's a bit where Johnny Storm tries to straight-up murder Doctor Doom, but hey, nothing's perfect.
Linkara: The comic was a donation to me by Joe Convoy of the Electric Show Information podcast, which you can check out here...
(He gestures toward the web address that pops up: "http://www.theelectriciinformationshow.com.blogspot.com/")
Linkara: Instead, we're going to once again look at something related to an older review.
(Cut to shots of the comic from said review, "US-1 #1")
Linkara (v/o): My seventh episode, where I reviewed "US-1 #1", is quite possibly a perfect review. It's not too long, it's not too short, pretty much every joke works, and it has highly memorable material. The comic, based on a toy license for slot car racing, is the story of Ulysses Solomon Archer... Get it? U.S.A.! Subtlety is for losers. ...an intelligent young man who wants to become a trucker like his parents and his brother before him, but everyone says he's too smart and talented to become one.
Linkara: (giving a thumbs-up) Way to insult the American trucking industry, Marvel!
Linkara (v/o): Okay, I'm being a little facetious in that regard. They actually treat the job with a lot of reverence, but the comic takes a turn to downright goofiness. Ulysses' brother gets killed by a truck-driving supervillain known as the Highwayman, and the ensuing accident leaves him with a metal plate in his head that allows him to pick up CB radio transmissions.
(Linkara hears the sound of a CB in his own head)
CB voice (Lewis): Breaker, breaker, we've gotten Galactus, devourer of worlds, comin' up on the big road. Might want to hammer down past the double nickel. We'll shake the bushes and give the Fantastic Four a chance to have their knuckle buster with them. Come on back.
Linkara (v/o): In addition, he soups up his rig into a high-tech weapon, with oil slicks, tire-shredding shrapnel bombs, a smokescreen, an eject seat, and a radar and weather satellite. The best part of this thing has got to be the remote control hidden inside a silver dollar. I'm still not sure how the hell that one works and where the heck they got the money to pay for all this.
Linkara: Looking back on it, "US-1" is stupid, but it's an incredibly fun kind of stupid. This isn't something like "Cry For Justice" that's just badly written and that borders on offensive to me personally. "US-1" is dumb '80s fun.
(Cut to more recent content featuring U.S. 1 where he meets Deadpool)
Linkara (v/o): Surprisingly, U.S. 1 has actually made something of a comeback in recent years. They changed the name to U.S. Ace, for copyright reasons of course, but he appeared in an issue of "Deadpool Team-Up", as well as in a remake of the "Infinity Gauntlet" event comic, where his truck now has the ability to go into space!
Linkara: And you better friggin' believe that at some point, we're gonna find out how the hell that happened! In the meantime, though, let's check in on what happened directly after the last issue and dig into (holds up today's comic) "US-1 #2".
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has Fleetwood Mac's "Isn't It Midnight" playing in the background; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Now, this is a damn good cover! While the logo is still unnecessarily huge, it's pretty much pushed into the background so we can focus on this slightly psychedelic cover. We have the awesome symbolism of the U.S. 1 road sign crumpled; a new villain presented front and center, though admittedly with kind of a lame costume, and her holding a weapon, some kind of high-tech whip. The whip curls around to another panel and collides right where U.S. 1 is sitting, leading into repeated panels of his eyes going all trippy. This is just a great cover: symbolic, eye-catching and enjoyable.
Text: Enter: the malevolent MIDNIGHT!
Linkara: Yes, this Midnight is malevolent. Fortunately, though, it's midnight on the other side of the world.
Linkara (v/o): We open at the pit stop where U.S. 1 calls his home.
Narrator: On the* average night, a powerful semi pulling into the parking lot at Short Stop Truckers' Rest would be the most common of occurrences...
- NOTE: It's actually "an average night", not "the average...".
Linkara: (as narrator) However, tonight was Volkswagen Beetle Night, so it was kind of weird.
Linkara (v/o): Some guy walks in and just outright states...
Tough-looking trucker: I heard a lot of baaad truckers hung out here-- but I say I'm the baddest trucker of them all!
Linkara: (dramatically) Are you a bad enough trucker to save the President? (normal) Yeah, I know I've used that joke a lot lately, but the comics just keep giving me that opportunity.
Linkara (v/o): Lando Calrissian, though, is not amused.
Black trucker: (to a bald trucker) You hear that jive dude, Curly?
Linkara: Poor guy. Clearly, he's time-displaced from the 1970s. I'm surprised he didn't call the guy a turkey.
"Curly": --And I think someone oughtta show him just how wrong he is!
Linkara: So... is this a common thing, truckers argue it out in pit stops over who's more badass? Seems like that's an easy way to get your ass arrested, and we all know how truckers don't want any Smokies on their mudflaps.
Linkara (v/o): We get a two-page spread of a bar fight that erupts. I guess these guys really took it personally when this Bluto asshole came in, saying he was the baddest of them all. One concerned trucker has this amusing revelation...
Trucker 1: Why is it whenever a fight breaks out in a place like this, everyone fights everyone else instead of just the guy who started it?!
Trucker 2: C'mon! Where's your sense of high drama-- OOOFFFF!!
Linkara (v/o): The guy he was talking to gets punched in the stomach, causing... something to... fling out of his crotch, if the motion lines are to be believed. Apparently, this poor man was keeping Hot Pockets in his pants, and when he's punched in the stomach, he must thrust his hips in such a manner as to eject one of them. Elsewhere in the brawl, we see that U.S. 1's adoptive mother, Wide-Load Annie, is throwing plates at some of the fighters.
Wide-Load Annie: Play nice now, boys! And remember, the management of Short Stop will not be responsible for personal property!
Linkara: Except for your own, since you're smashing your own plates and will have to replace them.
Linkara (v/o): U.S. 1 himself returns to Short Stop and sees a guy get flung through the window.
U.S.: (thinking) Oh no, not again!
Linkara: (as U.S.) Oh, great, another argument over whether Sylvester Stallone in the movie Over the Top is named "Hawk" or "Hawks". It's like the third time this week!
Linkara (v/o): When he enters, the Bluto guy is triumphant over a roomful of unconscious truckers.
Wide-Load Annie: Watch out, U.S.! This bozo is tough! See?!
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand she smashes a wrench over his head, which he is completely unfazed by. I don't know what's more ridiculous, that this guy really is so damn tough that he can resist a wrench to the head or the fact that Annie's first idea on how to demonstrate his strength is by trying to give him a concussion. The Bluto guy says she told him that he'd be there, though of course, Ulysees doesn't know what he's talking about. Anyway, fight scene. He punches Bluto, but hurts his hand in the process. Yep, our superhero, ladies and gentlemen, and this is why his superpower is driving a truck. Despite that, he still keeps on trying to fight, no doubt breaking his hand in the process, but of course, the big guy just knocks him back anyway.
U.S.: (thinking) Since I obviously can't match him in the muscle department, I'll just have to beat him-- in the furniture department!
Linkara: (looking up) Hmm? Oh, oh, right, uh...
(He adjusts himself, then raises his finger in the air; the sound of a rimshot is heard)
Linkara (v/o): He throws some "so bad it's good" furniture puns at him, which even he admits were lame, and eventually, the guy tries to bonk him on the head. Of course, since U.S. 1 has a metal plate in his head, it instead hurts the guy's hand. We'll ignore that his spinal column is still made of everyday bone, so this should still hurt like hell for U.S. 1, but whatever. And so, we see U.S. 1's greatest fighting tactic...
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the scene where Kimar's wife gently touches the Earth children's foreheads with her own)
Joel and the Bots: Headbutt... Headbutt...
(Back to the comic again)
Linakra (v/o): Yeah, he just headbutts the guy twice and knocks him down.
U.S.: (thinking) Little does he know I've had most of my skull replaced with a metal alloy plate. A plate strong enough to let me do... this!
Linkara: You do realize that the surgeons designed it to protect your brain, right? Not to be used as a battering ram?
Linkara (v/o): The big guy staggers out while everyone else congratulates U.S. 1 on how thick-headed he is.
Narrator: As he stumbles past the row of parked trucks, the shadowy figure which keenly watched U.S.'s arrival lashes out with a bizarre whip-like weapon...
Linkara: (as narrator) And by "whip-like", I mean "a whip".
Narrator: ...a weapon which does not strike the flesh-- but sends a stinging energy jolt deep within the victim's brain. He snaps to attention, eyes glazed, and...
Linkara: (looking up, wide-eyed, monotone) Wow, Jersey Shore is a good show...
Linkara (v/o): The woman holding the whip... Not sure why they're bothering to keep it a mystery when we saw her full on the cover and whatnot. ...asks him what he learned about Ulysses Solomon Archer.
Woman: --the man known as U.S.?
Linkara (v/o): Okay, they kind of called him that in the first issue, too, but I find that kind of silly. It's right there on the cover that his name is U.S. 1, not U.S. If they really wanted to go with that, why not call him "U.S.A.", considering that's his full initials? Anyway, the big guy is of course no help whatsoever.
Bluto-like guy: He's a tough little guy. He beat me an' nobody ever done that before!
Linkara: (deadpan) Yeah, that's critical information. "He beat me up." I don't think this guy is gonna be great henchman you were hoping him to be, Midnight.
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of, we have the reveal of...
Woman: --MIDNIGHT-- and her hypno-whip!
Linkara: (as Midnight, posing like her) And for some reason, I feel like posing like this as I announce that!
Linkara (v/o): One wonders why she's a supervillain and why she calls herself "Midnight" and why she got a "hypno-whip" and why midnight equals purple, but those are questions that are never answered in this issue. Instead, she instructs the guy to leave and forget he ever saw her, and she starts changing. And considering how low-cut her jacket is, that means she's probably topless now while hanging around a rest stop for truckers. Back inside, everyone's helping clean up the brawl, and it's time for some story setup. In this case, it's throwing out two possibilities about who Midnight actually is. The first is a blond-haired waitress named Mary. Ulysses says he wondered where she had gone off to.
Mary: Why, U.S.! I'm flattered that you missed me. I got my hair mussed in that little brawl, and I stepped out back to fix it!
Linkara: (as U.S.) So you're not a supervillain? Oh, okay. I was just hoping we would have, like, the Catwoman and Batman thing going, but that's fine.
Linkara (v/o): Next red herring is Taryn O'Connell, a flirtatious redheaded Irish woman. Oh, and it turns out Mary is Irish, too, as Taryn's dialog indicates.
Taryn: Ah, Mary me girl! Still hauling dishes for a living, I see. Surely a fellow Irish woman could do something more productive?
Linkara: (as Mary) Well, I was going to work at this place called The Black Canary, but then this other blond Irish woman took the job. I hear she nearly killed everybody there with her secret Irish ninja powers.
Linkara (v/o): She then flat-out goes up to Ulysses and starts Frenching him!
U.S.: Taryn, you've got to stop doing that! People are liable to get the wrong idea about us!
Linkara: Dude, hot redhead in skimpy clothing who also happens to be a trucker, so she lives and loves the way of life you lead, and she wants to ride your big rig! Stop being an idiot!
Linkara (v/o): We get some character development for Taryn that she wants to prove that she can be as good as any male trucker and that she recently accomplished a difficult run.
Mary: Now it's your turn to lighten up, lassie! That's Lassie as in D-O-G!
Taryn: Why you--! You're jealous because when I'm around, U.S. ignores you!
(Cut briefly to a clip of a video of two cats fighting each other, then cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): And before anyone thinks that I'm losing my feminism street cred here, I will point out that we have two named female characters who are talking to each other, but they're only talking about a man. Yep, we'll be progressive with a female trucker, but she only exists to boost up Headband Head Injury here. Speaking of, Ulysses here says he needs to finish the run he was on and takes some gum for the road. Plot point is go! And to further the mystery of which of the two could be Midnight, both of the women decide they need to head off as well. Later, U.S. 1 drives his truck, but Midnight chases after him on a purple motorcycle. And as one is likely to do while driving for long stretches of time, U.S. 1's thoughts start to drift.
(Cut to the MST3K gang watching Riding With Death)
Buffalo Bill: (thinking) What kept Abby? She's some gal. (Mike and the Bots laugh) According to Driscoll...
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Actually, he thinks back to the accident from the first issue.
U.S.: (thinking) I'm still not sure if Jeff survived or not. There was no trace of his body.
Linkara: Probably because the truck smashed and exploded.
Linkara (v/o): Plus, the Highwayman employed a whole bunch of demons and whatnot, too, so maybe they dragged off the body.
U.S.: (thinking) It was a miracle I lived through it! The doctors had to replace most of my skull with an experimental* alloy.
- NOTE: Actually, he says, "experimental metal alloy", but Linkara forgot to say "metal".
Linkara: (as U.S.) And there were no side effects whatsoever! My brain cow is the winning diet.
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand then he gets possessed by a demon in this panel, judging by the artwork on his face here.
(Said artwork shows his eyes and mouth are wide open and his pupils are white)
U.S.: (thinking) Boy, would they be surprised that I can actually pick up citizen's band short wave transmissions on it! And what's even crazier is that I can tune in specific channels by touching different fillings with my tongue!
(Linkara runs his tongue across his teeth, making radio static sounds as he does so (at one point, the phrase "A piece of the world is missing" is heard), until he picks up C.W. McCall's "Convoy")
Singers: ...we got a little ol' convoy, / Rockin' through the night...
Linkara: I love this song!
Singers: Yeah, we got a little ol' convoy...
Linkara (v/o): Subsequently, he picks up something.
U.S.: (thinking) OOWW!! I'm picking up something now-- and it hurts!
Linkara: (as U.S.) Oh, God! Talk radio! Why won't it stop?!
Linkara (v/o): U.S. 1 looks out the window and sees the hypno-whip cracking at his side-view mirror.
U.S.: (thinking) Every time she cracks that whip, my CB skull feels like there's a jolt of lightning going through it!
Linkara (v/o): I love how some heroes just have villains specifically designed to screw with them. "US-1"'s first supervillain was a demonic trucker; this time, it's a woman with a weapon that messes with his metal skull. And thus, the chase begins, with Ulysses trying to speed away from her. We finally get to see some of the weapon systems of the truck, but I should point out that Midnight is on a motorcycle and he's in a massive truck, so it wouldn't be too hard to swerve to the side and just run her off the road. Anyway, first comes an oil slick, but even the motorcycle is designed to outmaneuver him, since it has jets that allow her to leap over the oil slicks. Next up, he releases sharp "biodegradable star-spikes!"
Linkara: Oh, goody, they're biodegradable! (beat) Which means they'll stop being a traffic hazard to vehicles in about... (hesitates) at least a decade, if you're lucky?
Linkara (v/o): She evades by literally riding on the rails, putting her bike on top of a narrow guardrail. He blasts some fog in her direction and that forces her off.
U.S.: (thinking) Why would she attack me? Unless she's an agent of the Highwayman! He must have heard I was trying to track him down, and sent her after me!
Linkara: Or, the Highwayman could have just laid low, since he was all mysterious and crap in the last issue, and it's not like U.S. 1's gonna find him just by doing freight runs.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Midnight activates her hypno-whip and manages to take control of his mind, forcing him to stop the truck. She explains who she is and that the Highwayman did indeed hire her and she's in it for the money. She then takes a moment to kiss him, because of course, all the ladies go for the manly, Aryan good looks of U.S. 1. He asks if he can have a stick of gum before he dies, and she allows it. She then gets him started on the road again and instructs him to drive into a rock wall.
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching Riding With Death)
Mike Nelson: Riding With Death will be right back. (beat) And we're back.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): But he swerves at the last second and runs her off. He tells the shocked villainess to go back and tell the Highwayman to come after him himself next time. She drives off, naturally U.S. 1 not trying to take her to the cops or anything. As she leaves, he thinks about how he was lucky that she let him have the gum, since what he did was keep the metal foil wrapper on it. I'm pretty sure it's not actual metal, but I'm sure people will correct me on that.
U.S.: (thinking) When the foil hit my fillings, it opened up all the receiving channels in my "C.B. skull", overloading my head with every broadcast frequency on the airwaves!
Linkara: (as U.S., clutching at his head) Ugh, I got a full blast of Howard Stern, light rock, hard rock, and NPR all at once.
Linkara (v/o): Thus, her whip's frequency was crowded out and he was freed. He remarks to himself that he should carry some gum with him at all times, just in case he ever runs into her again. And so, our comic ends with him thinking if he played his cards right, he could turn it into a "commercial endorsement".
U.S.: (thinking) "Foil your enemies with Wriggley's Gum!" Nah, they'd never buy it!
Linkara: What do you need an endorsement deal for? You've obviously already loaded, what with the millions you spent on the truck and the surgery. (closes comic and holds it up) This comic is incredibly dumb, but man, oh, man, is it enjoyable.
Linkara (v/o): I know it's weird hearing me say that nowadays, but you've got to understand: back when I did the first issue, I thought that this was the worst kind of thing I'd run into. Since then, I've seen...
Linkara (v/o): ...bimbo warriors in the future, the Surgeon General, China Cat, and Christabella.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Brute Force #2")
Linakra (v/o): "US-1" is more like "Brute Force": so bad it's good kind of fun.
Linkara: And don't worry, this is not the last we'll see of our dramatically-named trucker. We'll come back to him down the line as well. Next week, though... time to enter another dimension...
(The Twilight Zone theme plays as Linkara tosses the comic aside, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Stay tuned after the credits for the theme song to season 2 of the Six-Million Dollar Trucker!
Yeah, I know I used this ending song before, but damn it I love this song.
(Stinger: The theme for The Six-Million Dollar Man plays as U.S. 1's crash and subsequent operation happen)
Linkara (v/o): (as surgeons working on U.S.) Ulysses Solomon Archer: a man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first bionic trucker. Ulysses Solomon Archer will be that trucker. Better than he was before. Better, radio-ier, truck-ier.