February 10, 2014
The continuing adventures of people with really stupid, contrived nicknames!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Can you believe "US-1" had twelve issues?
Linkara (v/o): And I don't mean that as an insult. There have been a crap-ton of horrible comics that, while lasting far longer than they ever should have, never managed to make it as long as "US-1", although, let's be fair, "US-1" is not exactly the stuff of Eisner Awards. The fact that a comic that was supposed to promote slot cars lasted this long and was so damn fun is pretty incredible. And it is crap, but still, it's entertaining crap, and isn't that all that matters?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons)
Leonard Nimoy: The answer is... no.
(Cut back to the "US-1" comics)
Linkara (v/o): And I do apologize that it's taken me this long to get back to the series. A lot of episodes are scheduled months in advance, and there's other stuff that I end up wanting to talk about. Plus, because I try to alternate what I'm reviewing every week between Marvel, independence and DC, it spreads the material out a bit. There's stuff that I wanted to get to this year that I probably won't end up doing. Hell, I've been doing the show for over five years, and I still haven't reviewed a comic featuring Greg Land's art.
(A shot of a Greg Land comic is shown)
Linkara (v/o): And yet we've still had so much crap that's probably worse than his tracing.
(Cut back to "US-1")
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, in the last two "US-1" reviews, we met Ulysses Solomon Archer, because the writer couldn't think of any other names that started with a U to make his pointless USA acronym. He's a truck driver with a metal plate in his head that lets him pick CB radio transmissions, and he has a James Bond-esque trailer truck with weapons and advanced technology. He's even fought at least two supervillains now, despite the fact that he is a trucker.
Linkara: Then again, I review comic books on the Internet, and yet I have fought multiple supervillains, and I regularly go up into space, so who the hell am I to complain? Let's just dig into (holds up today's comic) "US-1 #3".
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Highway To Hell" by AC/DC playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is... Wow... I'm not entirely sure what the hell we're looking at, though it might actually be Hell from the looks of things. This cover is pretty cool, actually. Obviously, we have U.S. 1 traveling on the edge of some cliff, but a gigantic figure is standing on the trailer of the truck and trying to make himself look big. Yeah, sometimes, images like this are menacing, but when you actually stop and think about it, it's kind of silly.
Linkara: (imitating the figure) WOOGA-BOOGA-BOOGA-BOOGA-BOOGA-BOOGAAAAA!
Linkara (v/o): There's even what looks like a demonic Slip-n-Slide there. Check it out, those demons know how to have fun.
Text: RHYME OF THE ANCIENT HIGHWAYMAN!
Linkara: Considering the Highwayman in Issue 1 was an evil, demonic truck driver, did the Ancient Highwayman have a semi, too?
Linkara (v/o): Also, better be careful there, Highwayman. Half your audience won't like your rhyming.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open on a splash page that... well, I'd better just let the narration explain it.
Narrator: A colorful semi speeds across a hellish, alien highway as demonic spirits sear the air.
Linkara: Ah, so he's driving through Wisconsin. (the audience boos him) What? What?
Narrator: Close behind, a dark truck roars in hot pursuit, the maniacal laughter from its cab cuts a cold swath through the torrid air.
Linkara: (as demon, reaching out fist, pretending to drive) Ha! I love these David Sedaris books-on-tape! Hilarious!
Linkara (v/o): It seems the creative team at this point realized how utterly absurd the entire premise was and just decided to roll with it. Check out the credits: "Written with tongue in cheek", "Penciled with fine technique", "Inked with hardly a leak"...
Linkara: Concept made up in only a week...
Linkara (v/o): ..."Lettered with nary a peak", "Colored with a brush antique", "Edited by a man with a very large beak"...
Linkara: ...instead watched the Twilight Zone episode "Night of the Meek".
Narrator: Behind the wheel of the first truck is U.S. Archer. He drives like a man whose very life is at stake. In fact, it is!
Linkara: So... he's driving appropriately, then.
Linkara (v/o): And up ahead is our villainess from last issue, Midnight, who cracks her whip at U.S. 1. The hypno-whip is somehow able to get him to slow down and "flay the very flesh from his skull" ... Ew! ...to reveal all the cyborg bits in his head that basically made it into a CB radio. And of course, it was all just a dream, as he wakes up screaming.
Linkara: Hellish nightmares about demons, death, flesh getting flayed, and dominatrix supervillains. Just remember, this is a comic promoting slot cars!
Linkara (v/o): The screams get the attention of everyone else in the place, including his adoptive parents, Poppa Wheelie and Wide Load. Yes, seriously, those are their nicknames if you haven't seen the other "US-1" episodes. It also gets the attention of Mary, whose nickname is probably Stink Radish or something, knowing how this comic likes its bizarre nicknames. Later, U.S. is talking to Wheelie about the dreams concerning the Highwayman. Mary wonders who the hell that is, and U.S. recaps the events of the first issue and how his brother was killed in the Highwayman attack. An old man overhears... who kinda looks like Doc Scotty from "Neutro"... like some other characters I've seen as well. What is it about balding old guy with bushy white mustache that makes it such a repeated character concept? Erm, anyway, he says he's heard of the Highwayman, and he apparently has heard his origin story– erm, I mean, the legend of how he came to be.
Old man: He started out back in the early days of trucking. A strong young buck...
Linkara: (as old man) It's not often you see a trucker who was also a deer, but he was special like that.
Linkara (v/o): At the time, he was apparently the "best trucker evar," but then time went on, he got older, and better technology for trucking rigs came, and people began to overtake him.
Old man: (narrating) That's the way of things, of course, but he just wouldn't...couldn't accept it!
Linkara: (as old man) Yeah, he was also kind of an idiot.
Old man: (narrating) He went looking for supernatural ways to fight off the ravages of time.
Linkara: (as old man) Considering that the majority of his work involved driving a truck while sitting, the idea of just investing in a better truck apparently didn't cross his mind.
Ancient One: I am sorry, my son, but the Ancient One cannot help you! Be content with your lot.
Linkara (v/o): Okay, this is hilarious to me! You know why? The Ancient One is the mystical figure who was Doctor Strange's mentor. The dude is the one who made Doctor Strange the sorcerer supreme! And the Highwayman came to him in order for him to save his reputation as the best trucker in existence! And just to firmly cement that "US-1" is in canon with the Marvel Universe, the guy then seeks out a more obscure Marvel sorcerer called Aged Genghis.
Highwayman: O Aged Genghis, grant me the secret of eternal youth.
Linkara: Apparently, the Highwayman wasn't paying attention to the fact that this dude's first name is "Aged".
Linkara (v/o): Hell, even Genghis is telling jokes about this.
Genghis: What's that? 'Youth' you say? Do I look like one who knows the secret of eternal youth?
Linkara: (as Genghis) Now ask me about my grandchildren or (points behind himself with thumb) get the hell out!
Linkara (v/o): The Highwayman traveled traveled until coming across this figure hidden in shadow. I'm guessing this is supposed to be the actual devil as opposed to Mephisto, but I'm gonna say it's Mephisto so I can make this joke...
Linkara: Because the Highwayman wasn't married, Mephisto couldn't ask for that in return. Instead, he asked for the far less valuable commodity of his soul.
Linkara (v/o): Apparently, the thing he wanted wasn't actually to still be the best trucker in existence, but rather, as Mephsito puts it...
Mephisto: Youth and power.
Linkara (v/o): And yet somehow that still makes him a trucker. Weird. Anyway, the old man says that if you survive even one encounter with him, consider yourself lucky and don't tempt fate by seeking him out. And then he walks out of the diner, having fulfilled his purpose in the plot.
Linkara: Well, he has a busy schedule ahead of him. He has to go shave his mustache and then go to a Denny's to tell people that pancakes taste like America.
Linkara (v/o): What's more, U.S. runs after him to try to learn more, but he has mysteriously vanished! (a dramatic sting plays)
Linkara: What we don't see is that he actually (points behind himself with thumb) ran to the side of the building to whiz in the bushes because he was too embarrassed to use a public restroom.
Linkara (v/o): Wheelie says the whole thing sounds like nonsense, but Wide Load thinks there may be something to it. Also, why is her hair in Princess Leia buns? U.S. wants to find out more about the Highwayman, and someone who's just entering the diner suggests a private detective. And it seems the people who entered would include this weenie and Taryn from last issue, the redheaded Irish woman who may or may not be Midnight, same as Mary. Someone told me last time who it was and I can't remember, nor do I really care all that much, since we'll discover it ourselves as we read more issues. The guy she brought with her is named Retread. Seriously.
Linkara: These are starting to sound less like names and more like the writer had a word-of-the-day calendar.
(Cut to Linkara putting on a blue coat; he looks to the camera with a startled look)
Linkara: Oh... You caught me in between costumes here... Uh, we'll be right back.
(He walks off as the AT4W logo appears, and we go to commercial; upon return, we see Linkara again taking off his blue coat and replacing it with a silver one)
Linkara: Uh... Qapla' or something. We're back. (the AT4W logo appears in the corner) I'm running out of costumes!
(We then cut back to the comic again as the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): Taryn picked up Retread after his truck broke down a mile down the road. Everyone is introduced to each other, including reestablishing that Wheelie used to be a drag race champ. I just continue to be baffled by that fact. Did he drag race in a truck? They're not really the same kind of driving. Anyway, Retread says that he used to work for a private investigation firm; hence why he recommended a private detective.
Linkara: This comic established its own TV spinoff character before the fourth issue hit. He says he'd be happy to try to help U.S. find the Highwayman, even mentioning that the old man who disappeared hadn't really disappeared, that he and Taryn saw him driving away quietly on their way in. He and U.S. rush out of the diner and into the truck... which, now that I look at it in this panel, is even more insanely huge than I thought. I mean, the thing was already ridiculous with the tech they installed into it, and I suppose it makes sense that you would need a larger vehicle for all the panels and controls that are hidden under the main dashboard, but geez, does that thing even fit inside the traffic lines? Given the direction he was headed, they feel they'll be able to catch up to him without him turning off somewhere. And now we get some insight into Retread, which surprised me because I figured we were setting him up so that he would be a villain or something and U.S. would just be an idiot. But nope, we get to see the inner working of the man named Retread.
Retread: (thinking) Whew! This guy doesn't waste any time! Wonder what drives him so? He seems like a nice guy. In fact I kinda like him already.
Linkara: (thinking as Retread) Boy, I'd sure love to retread him. What the hell does that even mean? Brain, your ability to think up innuendo is starting to fade.
Retread: (thinking) He has a sense of purpose, a direction in his life, something I never had.
Linkara: Perhaps you'd have an easier time finding direction if your name wasn't so stupid.
Retread: (thinking) Somehow I can't help but think this is gonna be the beginning of a long-lasting friendship.
Linkara: (holding up index finger) Okay, I'm taking bets on how long before he dies tragically and U.S. holds the dead body in the La Pieta pose. Come on, this is superhero comics. It's gonna happen.
Linkara (v/o): They spot a convoy of trucks moving in on the old guy's truck.
U.S.: They must be agents of the Highwayman, sent to capture the old guy because he knew too much!
Linkara (v/o): Too much?! It's a legend! The Highwayman is already considered a boogeyman figure that many don't believe exists, so why the hell would he need to take out guys who knew he made a deal with Satan? And what the hell does he care if they do know he made a deal with Satan? What does that change? Not to mention, the dude is already a being with supernatural powers who drives around in an equally supernatural truck! What the hell does he need trucker minions for? And really, can you imagine some demonic trucker giving instructions to his minions?
Linkara: (as the Highwayman) Breaker, breaker, I've got a bogey getting in on my front door that I want you to make a signal seven out of. Come on back!
Linkara (v/o): However, the trucks somehow pull a 180 and face U.S. 1. Now it looks like they're all still moving in the direction of our hero and yet they never seem to get any closer. It's weird. And I think they're shooting lasers at U.S. 1, too. Man, the trucking industry really goes for the most cutting-edge weapons technology. However, they do spot on the ramp below them... somehow that the old guy is getting away, so they've saved his life. The minion trucks try to ram U.S. 1, but fortunately, the truck has a special fuel, courtesy of Wheelie, that lets it speed between the two trucks, causing them to hit each other instead. There are still three more trucks, and U.S. takes out one of them by... uh... I have no idea. It looks like they just kind of tap into each other and that somehow sends the other truck flying into the air and upside-down!
Linkara: Anyone else suddenly have the urge to play the game Big Rigs? (looks around) No? Well, good, nobody ever should.
Linkara (v/o): U.S. flips up the hidden weapons console and unleashes a new payload on one of the other trucks: FRAG GRENADES! WHERE THE HELL DID U.S. GET GRENADES?! I mean, oil slicks, enhanced speed and strength, even caltrops, I understand. But grenades?! This thing isn't a truck, it's a friggin' battle wagon! However, it seems our hero is not the only one packing dangerous weapons, since bombs start getting dropped on him from the sky. Using the truck's radar, he detects a blimp up above.
Retread: My gosh! This Highwayman has his own air force!
Linkara: Demonic truck driver who even has a battle zeppelin. (shakes head, then throws up hand) I am throwing up my hands as hard as I can!
Linkara (v/o): And okay, I know I used this clip last week, but for crying out loud, the Highwayman has air support!
(Cut to said clip, which is of Patton)
General Patton (George C. Scott): (to Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham) We were discussing, uh, air supremacy, Sir Arthur?
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): The two realize they're outgunned even with the advanced tech they have in the truck.
Linkara: What, you're telling me they didn't install a surface-to-air missile launcher in this thing? Or has that part just not come in yet?
Linkara (v/o): They decide to try to fool the blimp by taking some evasive action, then wait for a bomb to hit close and then turn on the truck's smokescreen. That way, it'll look like the truck has been hit and taken out of the fight. Aaand it works, causing the blimp to pull back. All the goons of the destroyed trucks get into the remaining ones and hightail it out of there. They decide to wait a little bit and then track them with radar, but they spot the old man's truck in a nearby canyon, along with the other trucks. Figuring that they somehow must have caught up to him again, U.S. decides to head down and try to help him. He gives Retread a flare gun so that he can cause a distraction while he sneaks down with the truck to try to get the old man away... but Retread apparently doesn't have good "treads" on his feet, since he slips and starts randomly firing the flare gun everywhere.
Narrator: And the rockets' red glare, the flares bursting in air, gave proof in the night-- that was Retread was still there!
Linkara: Is that the rhyme of the Ancient Highwayman? Gotta say it's far less original I thought it would be.
Linkara (v/o): Retread starts sliding down the edge of the cliff, which sets off more flares. And sets him on fire.
Retread: People always said I was a flamer, but this is ridiculous!
Linkara: Okay, I was trying to tone down the innuendo about him making googly eyes at U.S., but what the hell else is (makes "finger quotes") "flamer" supposed to mean?
Linkara (v/o): But indeed, it provides a distraction, and U.S. gets in closer to the old man. However, the goons counterattack.
Narrator: Even as U.S. employs his metal-hard skull to fight off his attackers-- Retread manages to more than hold his own, sparked not only by the desire to aid his new friend, but by the fact his pants are on fire!
(Linkara stares briefly and then shrugs)
Linkara: There's nothing I can really add to that.
Linkara (v/o): U.S. charges through the goons as best as he can with the old man in tow, but eventually, they hog-pile him. Fortunately, he still has the absolutely ludicrous silver dollar remote control system for his truck. In fact, this thing is still so ridiculous that there's an editor's note reminding the audience that they didn't just pull this out of their asses right here, that it was indeed established in the first issue. The truck scares off most of the goons, but the remaining ones have a tug of war with the old man and U.S. After a punch to U.S.'s face, though, he accidentally grabs the old man's face, ripping it off. Well, to be accurate, ripping off the mask he was wearing.
U.S.: It was a disguise!
Voice: Yes, fool-- a disguise!
(Cut to a clip of Wayne's World)
Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers): Why, it's Old Man Withers, the guy who runs the haunted amusement park!
Old Man Withers (Carmen Filpi): And I would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you snooping kids!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): No, it was the Highwayman, who cackles and then just... leaves with all the goons. U.S. just stands there holding the mask. Oooookaaaay... You know, U.S., you could totally headbutt him right now. Maybe go into the truck and shoot some more grenades. Just saying. And so, our comic ends with Retread putting out the fire on his pants and talking with U.S., who wonders if the story about the Highwayman selling his soul and becoming immortal was ever true at all.
Linkara: And I'm just left wondering what the hell the Highwayman's intention was with the deception. (closes comic and holds it up) Anyway, this comic sucks, but dear Lord, is it gloriously so bad, it's good.
Linkara (v/o): And fortunately, by this issue, the creative team really seemed to understand that it was so bad, it's good, because there's just a great atmosphere of fun in it. Unlike the poor comedy of, say, "Marville", this one just becomes funny out of how ludicrous it all is while not leaving its pseudo-superhero trappings of action scenes and a supervillain.
Linkara: And believe you me, it's not gonna take me another two years to talk about "US-1" again. Stay tuned in the coming months for more. (puts down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I do like how the old man's eyes are never seen in the comic and kept in shadow. It really helps the illusion that it's really a mask.
Next issue I'm sure we'll meet another trucker who gets involved in the plot who goes by the name "Handycam" and his son "Plastic Bin."
(Stinger: The Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang is watching Riding With Death)
Sam: Alrighty, I'm coming up on your mudflaps at 67.
Crow: "Coming up on your mudflaps." People have such cute names for sex.
Mike: Ma' well-oiled chassis is comin' up on your backside now.
Servo: My rigid grill structure is bearin' down on your unprotected cargo door.