Zero Patrol #1
September 7, 2009
The Zero Patrol – zero interest, zero characterization, zero sense.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Before the 1970s, comic books were sold through newsstands, subscriptions, or in grocery stores. However, during the 1970s, we saw the rise of what's called "the direct market".
(Cut to a shot of the website Diamond Comic Distributors)
Linkara (v/o): Essentially, it was the creation of comic book stores, shops that catered directly to comic book fans. With the direct market also came the opportunity for independent publishers to toss their hats into the ring with their own materials, particularly in the 1980s.
(Cut to a closeup of the cover for "Sultry Teenage Super-Foxes #1")
Linkara (v/o): One such company was Solson Publications, the jackasses who made "Sultry Teenage Super-Foxes".
(Cut to a closeup of another cover for another comic: "Zero Patrol")
Linkara (v/o): But another company was Continuity Comics.
Linkara: (looking offscreen in annoyance) Look, if you're gonna do that during the whole episode, I'm gonna shove a magnet right up your USB port!
(Cut to a shot of DC superheroes led by Superman)
Linkara (v/o): Formed by celebrated comic artist Neil Adams, Continuity Comics published mostly creator-owned comics and revived titles from other defunct publishers.
(Cut again to the closeup of the "Zero Patrol" comic)
Linkara (v/o): Today's subject was originally a Spanish-language comic called "Legionarios del Espacio", or "Legionaires OF SPAAAAACE!" Neil Adams took the book, redrew and rewrote it, and released what we have here.
Linkara: So, can Neil Adams even save this book? Well, let's dig into (holds up comic of review today) "Zero Patrol #1" and find out.
(Title sequence plays; title card has "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees playing over it; cut to a closeup of the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): For the most part, this is an okay cover. I admit, it's a bit crowded, with our main heroes bunched up in the center while shooting guns in every direction. There's also a mysterious bald head in the background, much like the cover of "Law and Order". What can you teach us, oh, bald one? And this cover even has dialogue.
Dr. Altar Lane: Take 'em! We're working for nothing now.
Linkara: So you don't want your MTV?
Dr. Lanie Dark: Not nothing-- we're working for ZERO!!!
Linkara: (as Dr. Dark) Zero calories, that is.
Dr. Dark: Zero, and all mankind!
Linkara: (as Dr. Dark) My cleavage-exposing jumpsuit is saving us all!
Linkara (v/o): We open to a splash page that introduces us to our heroes. The first is Altar Lane, a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. According to the caption, he's both an astronomer and a nuclear physicist. Why can't scientists in fiction pick a damn field of study and just stick with it? He's also "a man of careful thought".
Linkara: Oh, yeah? Then how do you explain that jacket?
Linkara (v/o): Next is Lanie Dark... "Dark"? Her last name is "Dark"? Oh, for crying out... a psychiatrist who kind of looks like Mary Tyler Moore. Then there's Heather Curtis, a blonde film star wearing a pink sleeveless shirt, white suspenders attached to a skirt, and pink legwarmers. "A woman who understands false emotions...and people..."
Linkara: And eyelashes.
Linkara (v/o): Next up is Orion Smith, a stunt man, "a man who understands his body." And judging by that haircut, I'm sure he "understands" it quite frequently. And finally, Bruce Lewis, "a bodyguard and a Rhodes scholar."
Linkara: And winner of the Blandest Man in the Universe Contest.
Linkara (v/o): And overseeing them all is the planet-sized head of Patrick Stewart.
Linkara: Huh, so Captain Picard is God. Who'd've thunk it?
Linkara (v/o): (as Picard) I'm watching you, Number One. (normal) The story proper begins in Australia, where Orion is taking Heather out to sea in a boat. On the dock, some guy, who I presume to be a film director, calls out to the two.
Director: Don't lose my star, Smith, or I'll dock you a day's wages.
Linkara (v/o): Some other guy next to him comments...
Guy next to director: Forget the star. Watch out for the boat. It was made in the Black Forest by ELVES!
Linkara: (confused) Did we just switch over to Lord of the Rings? What the hell does that mean?
Linkara (v/o): Right after that, Orion and Heather see something crash into the ocean. Orion dives into the water to see if it's a crashed plane and if there are any survivors.
Orion: This is about the spot. Wait in the boat. I'll be up in a minute.
Linkara (v/o): Heather doesn't take kindly to this attitude.
Heather: (thinking) Chauvinist! I'm not about to be left behind to mind the store.
Linkara: Hmm, gotta say, my feminist senses are not tingling with that.
Linkara (v/o): So she dives down along with him, where they see an alien spaceship.
Orion: (thinking) It's...It's a flying saucer...it's just suspended there.
Linkara (v/o): The narrator suddenly decides to pop in.
Narrator: Yes...suspended...waiting patiently...for what?
Linkara: Uh, is there gonna be a test later?
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Brazil, where a stereotypical African ceremony is taking pla– wait, wait, what the hell?!
Linkara: Hey, kids, it's time to play a game! It's called "What's WRONG With This Picture?"
(Cut to a shot of the map of Brazil)
Linkara (v/o): First of all, Brazil is in South America, not Africa, like this horribly stereotypical...
(Editor's note: "IT'S THE HUGE TRIBAL MASKS")
Linkara (v/o): ...ritual campfire suggests.
(Cut to an image of a piece of uranium, as another editor's note points out)
Linkara (v/o): Secondly, Brazil is a technologically modern country, containing not only its own uranium-enrichment facilities...
(Cut to a shot of the International Space Station in orbit)
Linkara (v/o): ...but also provides parts for the International Space Station.
(Cut to a shot of Rio de Janeiro)
Linkara (v/o): Thirdly, the majority religion in the country is Christianity...
(Editor's note: "JESUS WANTS TO HUG US!")
Linkara (v/o): ...in one form or another, not...
(Cut back to the African ritual in the comic)
Linkara (v/o): ..."gods of the stars" that this guy is chanting. Admittedly, there are indeed indigenous tribes that practice their own religions in Brazil, and maybe that's what they're trying to say this is, but even then...
(Editor's note: "DONGA-DON?", referring to whoever it is they are chanting to)
Linkara (v/o): ...this is just offensive on so many levels! Compounding this is the narrative caption, where the next member of our ensemble comes in.
Narrator: ...Lanie Dark pursues her studies into parapsychology...and...magic.
Linkara: So our psychiatrist, when she's not busy treating patients, apparently just likes to travel to Brazil and watch magic shows put on by indigenous tribes that worship Xenu.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, I'm serious here. The ceremony is about "the gods of the stars". And lo and behold, a spaceship appears, scaring off the locals. Yeah, she goes in, and now let's move on from that uncomfortable scene. We cut to France, where Blandy the bodyguard is driving along a road. Apparently, he's "the bodyguard of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces." Um, of France's armed forces or the U.S.A.'s? If it's the President, doesn't that mean he should be part of the CIA or the Secret Service, and not simply "a bodyguard"? And it's just an odd way of saying the President's title. Anyway, he's driving, and he sees the UFO land. And of course, he simply goes on board.
Linkara: Wow, even his introduction into the plot was bland.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Stockholm, where Not Reed Richards [Altar Lane] is giving an astrophysics lecture... or rather, lecture about how likely it is aliens exist in the universe.
Altar Lane: One day, perhaps, we will laugh at our own parochial attitudes... at some intergalactic bar like the one in "Star Wars".
Linkara: (reaching out his hand like Darth Vader) I find your lack of educational content disturbing.
Linkara (v/o): Not Reed Richards is told to tone it down by his superiors, and he complies.
Narrator: Yes, even today there are people in high places who would prefer that imagination be confined to dreams and sanitariums for the mentally troubled.
Linkara: Dammit! It's just such an injustice that we're not allowed to be lectured about imaginary space aliens in college!
Linkara (v/o): Unsurprisingly, the Nutty Professor finds the spaceship like the others and walks on board.
Altar: It's real all right. Complete with iris doors and ghost aliens.
Linkara (v/o): "Ghost aliens"? Dude, let's stick to one section of made-up science at a time, okay? So, our heroes meet up, just standing around, not doing anything. All of a sudden, a giant head appears, with half of it in red and the other half in blue. Did this comic suddenly go 3D?
Giant face: My name is Zero. Although I exist, I cannot explain my existence to you now.
Linkara: (as Zero) Well, I could explain it to you, but you try explaining to somebody that your existence is that you're 58 years old, you still live with your parents, and you still work at a high school gift shop.
Linkara (v/o): He says that they're all needed to save the world.
Orion: Us? Why us? I for one...
Zero: Ah, yes, why YOU of all people?
Linkara: (as Zero) Well, to be perfectly honest, you five were the only ones stupid enough to walk into the spaceship.
Linkara (v/o): He explains why each of them was selected: Not Reed Richards because of his "expanded intelligence", and that he's...
Zero: ...vanguard of human enlightened thought!
Linkara: Yes, only the enlightened humans would say college shouldn't prepare people for living in the real world, but instead work to create a census count of made-up space aliens.
Linkara (v/o): Lanie Dark was selected because she has...
Zero: ...extra-ordinary mental ability. Ability that, even you, perhaps are not fully aware of!
Linkara: (as Lanie) I like toast! (as Zero) Okay, maybe you're really not aware of it.
Linkara (v/o): Bland bodyguard has...
Zero: ...physical facilities far beyond a normal human's.
Linkara (v/o): "Physical facilities"? What, does he own some gyms? Orion Smith has...
Zero: ...incredible agility and reflexes that make you a necessary ingredient in this venture.
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, that amounts to him being able to jump, as we'll soon see. And finally, Heather. Turns out she wasn't supposed to come along, but Zero will let her stay on.
Linkara: (as Zero) You will provide moral support for the group by walking around in a bikini.
Linkara (v/o): The ship arrives at a space station where they meet Zero himself... who travels around in a giant, floating hamster ball. He explains that once upon a time, his civilization was so advanced that they eliminated disease and war.
Zero: (narrating) We had leisure time in abundance, which we devoted to the arts and to things temporal.
Linkara: (as Zero) Basically, we became space hippies.
Zero: (narrating) The work was done by robots of course.
Linkara: Ooh, I see where this is headed.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, robot holocaust! By the way, this comic is suffering from what I'm now going to refer to as "Ultimate Warriors Ailment", a new disease that we see in comics. In this case, we have the ellipses. Tons of them!
(As Zero speaks below, Linkara says "ellipses" to emphasize them)
Zero: (narrating) ...I... was HERE in my station when it happened! I... studied the problem. And the...possible solutions!
Linkara: Dude, it does not make you look more dramatic to do that! It makes you look like you forgot the lines of your script!
Linkara (v/o): He says that the robots are planning to invade Earth next. Why? But they can halt the robots if they destroy four power stations that provide them with energy. He explains how they can go undetected.
Zero: On their chests they wear an identification tag that emits microwaves. If you can... "find" and wear such a tag, the robots will accept you as one of their own.
Linkara (v/o): I'm not a scientist, but it seems like wearing a microwave emitters is not a healthy thing for robots to be doing. So the group splits up to take out each generator. Orion and Heather arrive outside one generator and spot a robot traveling along on a hovercycle.
Orion: We gonna hitch a ride, little girl, with a vengeance!
Linkara: Orion, stick to stunt work. Action hero one-liners are clearly not your forte.
Linkara (v/o): They manage to capture the robot and disable it. Orion leaves Heather behind since they only have one identification tag.
Heather: Orion, you male chauvinist jerk.
Linkara (v/o): Erm, no, he's being sensible since there's only one tag, and he's the guy who at least has stunt training. However, that's not good enough for Heather, who decides to wake the robot up so it can take her into the city. However, her laser gun isn't enough to stop the robot, who merely punches her out. Smooth, Heather! Anyway, Orion manages to move through the complex, though I really have to wonder why the robots were designed so they could only notice other robots via these Captain Planet logos on their chests. After sabotaging the power generator, Orion conveniently spots Heather being dragged in by the robot and quickly rescues her. Wow, that plot point of her getting captured is over after only one page. There's some well-crafted drama for you. Lanie Dark manages to infiltrate the underwater base where another power generator is stored. For some reason, the sea is full of pink bubbles. I'm guessing this is where Reign from "New Men" got his pink bubble beam. So Lanie manages to get inside the base and, without running into a single robot, goes to their main control panel. She actually manages to rewire the communications system of the base so the robots will obey her commands!
Linkara: Yes, because in between researching psychic powers and magic, as well as getting her doctorate in psychiatry, she evidently learned how to rewire ALIEN ELECTRONICS!!
Linkara (v/o): She orders them to destroy the base. It's a good enough plan, but why doesn't she just use her new army of robots against the other robots to help her teammates out? And if it's so damn easy to reprogram these things, why doesn't Zero do this from the start? Anyway, she escapes back into the water, but some kind of Loch Ness Monster is waiting for her. However, what little tension or action we could've had out of this scene is quickly discarded when she quickly zaps the thing with her ray gun.
Linkara: Which makes that scene...
Linkara (v/o): In the North, Blandy McBodyguard [Bruce Lewis] tries to figure a way into the base. Out of nowhere, a friggin' grizzly bear suddenly attacks! You know, for an alien planet, it's kind of odd that they have bears living there.
(Linkara leans in so close to the camera that his face covers the screen)
Linkara: The bears are everywhere, man! (sits back down and notices a teddy bear on the futon; he points to it) See?! BEAR!!
Linkara (v/o): By the way, the coloring on this book is just terrible. Everything's washed out or in really watercolors. I guess it would be fine if this was their way of showing the alien planet, but even the scenes on Earth have this look to them. Anyway, Bland-Storm-of-Boring manages to lead the bear to the base, using it as a distraction to set off the alarms and sneak in while the robots deal with the bear. He makes his way through the installation and sets explosives, but one of the robots catches him.
Bruce: Your ball joints are slow, chum.
Linkara (v/o): Now, there's an insult for ya.
Bruce: I'd like to introduce you to a bear I once knew!
Linkara: I miss the bear. He was the only interesting character.
Linkara (v/o): Bruce Blandy decides to get physical, actually deciding to PUNCH A ROBOT with his bare hands!
(Cut to a shot of a panel from "Superman At Earth's End")
Superman: Reality is: you are an android...
Linkara: (looking offscreen with his fists up) But I AM A MAN!
(He reaches out and punches something, then pulls back what it is: a Sega controller)
Sega announcer: SEGA!
Linkara: (looking around, confused) The hell??
Linkara (v/o): Not Reed Richards flies Zero's ship up to the orbiting power generator, but unlike every other installation, this one actually has a good number of robots protecting it. They detect him right away, but fortunately, he has a cunning plan.
Altar: (thinking) I'll switch on the image-multiplying device. It should throw them off the track a bit anyway.
Linkara (v/o): Said image-multiplying device actually creates a disco in space!
("Stayin' Alive" plays briefly)
Linkara (v/o): The narrative caption alerts us to what we can see with our own eyes.
Narrator: Fooled by Altar's device (supplied by Zero), the robots open fire!
Linkara (v/o): I especially love how they feel the need to point out Zero supplied the thing, lest we assume Not Reed Richards whipped up this image-multiplier himself. He abandons his ship and lets it fly around to distract the robots while he blows up the last power generator. For some reason, this has the effect of making the planet look like Apokolips. Weird. The group is picked up by Zero, and he congratulates them on saving the human race.
Zero: You may now all go home. I shall spend the rest of my days trying in some small way to keep peace among the peoples throughout space.
Linkara: (as Zero) Clearly, the robots were a bad call. Perhaps genetically-engineered super-hamsters can bring peace throughout the universe.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Zero inviting the five to stay with him and travel the galaxy.
Zero: We would spend the next five years together and by the end of that time you could take all of your accumulated knowledge back to Earth...
Linkara: So, in other words...
(A clip of the opening for Star Trek: The Next Generation plays)
Narrator: Space: the final frontier.
Linkara: I guess he really was Captain Picard.
Linkara (v/o): So, they accept, but we're actually not done yet. There's a backup story about "Megalith: The Ultimate Man"! Megalith is some kind of urban cowboy and is noticeably taller than everyone else in a bank. All of a sudden, a bunch of masked goons charge in. Why do I get the feeling these guys are gonna suddenly whip out alien plants to rob the bank? Anyway, Megalith tosses his cowboy attire aside and reveals himself. One of the robbers tries to shoot him, but he actually catches the bullet with his hands! Hey, this is actually not that bad! Okay, he chases the robbers out to their car and promptly keeps them from escaping. The people of the town want to thank him, but suddenly, he gets really grouchy.
Megalith: No need to thank me... I just came back to see if things have changed around here! They HAVEN'T! You're the same SMALL, mean, VICIOUS people you were.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, but why is this? Well, Megalith explains that the local economy in the town is in the toilet, thanks to the mayor and the bank president embezzling money. Megalith decided to save the bank by buying it out, but apparently, to save face, the two actually hired the robbers to get the rest of the money as a scapegoat. How the hell does he know that?
Megalith: I still intend to save the bank from ruin. But as for me, I'll never set foot in this town again!
Linkara (v/o): So, let me get this straight: you loudly condemn an entire town of people because two authority figures were asshole criminals?
Linkara: I guess he's actually "Megalith, the Ultimate Douchebag". (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks.
Linkara (v/o): Admittedly, it's not really that bad. It's certainly not as bad as others I've reviewed, but there's no characterization, the writing is subpar and boring, and while Neal Adams' pencils are fine, the coloring really ruins it.
Linkara: And let's face it, if you're gonna have robots in your story, you should have something really cool happening–
(Suddenly, he gets interrupted by the incessant blaring of the Continuity Alarm: "I KNOW WHO HE IS! I KNOW WHAT HE'S AFTER!" Then there's an explosion)
Linkara: (looking offscreen, alarmed) Hey! Who's been screwing around with the Continuity Alarm?!
(He reaches out and grabs the alarm, then leaves the room with it)
Linkara: Great, I don't know if I'm gonna be able to actually fix this!
(As Linkara walks off, Mechakara walks in)
Mechakara: Good. One less electronic entity for you to abuse. (goes into Linkara's room, closing the door behind him)
(Credits roll, to the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive")
More college courses should be teaching people to keep track of how many space aliens are out there.