Zolastraya and the Bard #1
May 5, 2014
Time to go on an adventure! With cameos!
(Open on Linkara sitting on a hotel bed instead of on his futon)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (rubs his chin in thought) You know what we've never done on this show before? A fantasy comic!* (cover for "Marville #1" pops up) No, no, I mean a sword-and-sorcery comic, not someone's delusions. (cover for "Bimbos in Time" pops up) I hate you, editor. But anyway, yeah, because I'm at a convention right now, what better time is there for an adventure!
- NOTE: Actually, Linkara did review fantasy comics before (including a comic version of "World of Warcraft"), which he mentions as one of his screw-ups in a later "Top 15 Screw-Ups" video.
(Linkara runs off briefly, then returns wearing a fantasy-themed costume (with his show's logo on his chest))
Linkara: Huzzah! And to get us in the mood for this adventure, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Zolastraya and the Bard #1".
(Title sequence plays; title card is set to Green Day's "Basket Case")
Linkara: (gasping for breath and clutching his head) I've been holding my breath since the theme song started. So, uh, what's the backstory for this comic? (shrugs) Hell if I know. Welcome back to "Black-and-White Independent Comic of the '80s Theater"! (awkward pause) I need a pithier title than that.
(Cut to a closeup of the cover for a comic called "C.R.O.W.BAR 9")
Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, like I said, black-and-white independent comic of the '80s. We've touched on this before: how the rise of the direct market, AKA comic book stores...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of another comic: "Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent Kung-Fu Gophers")
Linkara (v/o): ...granted an opportunity for new creators independent of big companies like Marvel and DC to get their work out to people. Aaaand most of it was absolute garbage.
(Cut to a shot of the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1")
Linkara (v/o): For every "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", there are ten wannabe superheroes and twenty other comics of varying genres, usually sci-fi or parody stuff.
(Cut to shots of comics by Solson)
(Cut to a shot of a cover for a comic called "Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils")
Linkara (v/o): And because there are so damn many of these kinds of comics, it's hard to find anything of substance about the companies or people who produced them, unless they actually had a career after their books tanked.
(Cut back to the Zolastraya cover)
Linkara (v/o): So what do I have for "Zolastraya and the Bard"? Only that the title character is based on one of the creative team, also named Zolastraya, although I could be pronouncing it wrong, thanks to the diacriticals over the O and the A in the name [which are umlauts], and I don't really care to learn more. And the only thing I could learn about her is that back in the '80s, she briefly dated Dave "Feminine Void Absorbing My Male Light" Sim, creator of the critically-acclaimed "Cerebus" comic, and even that's based on second-hand information I found from a Cerebus Yahoo message group. I have no reason to doubt its authenticity. Basically, all it says is that they used to date, and Zolastraya herself thinks that this comic itself is crap. Also, that in 2008, she was working on a comic called "Helen of Troy", but no idea if it ever got published.
Linkara: So yeah, this comic is a complete mystery to me. And a mystery is like an adventure! (beat) And a really crappy comic is like a really disappointing adventure.
Linkara (v/o): The cover is completely uninteresting and bland, just a picture of Zolastraya holding a giant sword in front of a white background. The only color present is her skin, eyes and lipstick. Well, thank goodness they made sure the cover was in color. It was a great use of that to excite the imagination. (reading text on cover) "She's sexy. She's tough."
Linkara: She's what people think a (makes "finger quotes") "strong female character" is, instead of just being well-rounded and believable.
Linkara (v/o): (reading) "She's neurotic!"
Linkara: She is one of those melodramatic fools. Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it.
Linkara (v/o): (reading) "And she's NOT in a very good MOOD!!!"
Linkara: Neither am I, and I haven't even gotten to the actual content of the book yet.
(The door opens and KaiserNeko comes in)
Linkara: KaiserNeko of Team Four Star?!
KN: That is definitely my name and group I am affiliated with for expositional purposes.
Linkara: What can I do for you, sir?
KN: I've come to bring you on... (poses dramatically) an adventure!
Linkara: (excitedly) An adventure?! Can it wait until after I'm finished reviewing a comic book?
KN: (dramatically) Yes, it can! (leaves)
Linkara (v/o): We open with the comic book equivalent of a movie text crawl providing us the backstory.
Text: Twist of Fate: In the far off mists of time, the mighty & powerful Aesir, guardians of Asgard, were locked in mortal combat with the dark forces bent on the destruction of the Aesir's reign...
Linkara: Star Wars, Episode VII makes the bold of being yet another prequel.
Text: ...the final conflict that could end their world: Ragna-Rok.
Linkara: I don't know if that's the correct way to spell "Ragnarok", but I do love how that spelling makes it look more like a heavy metal concert than the apocalypse.
Text: The tales of the Aesir's valor in the great struggle were legend, but none could surpass those sung of the great warrior goddess: Zolastraya.
Linkara: Not that the songs were any better, just that they were sung much louder than the others.
Text: Here begins, my friends, the tales of her exploits... from the epic poem of Taliesin the Bard.
Linkara: (holding up comic) Order your copy of Taliesin the Bard's epic poem now and receive (holds up a t-shirt) this free t-shirt.
Linkara (v/o): We truly open with Zolastraya debating with herself whether to get out of bed.
Zolastraya: Why should I bother to get up? It never makes a difference... Every day is the same.
Linkara: Our hero, everybody: the Norse goddess equivalent of Ferris Bueller.
Linkara (v/o): Zolastraya is naturally talking to herself since, well, no one else seems to be around to talk to her. While she goes off to a pond to bathe, she explains to the trees, I guess, that she had refused to marry an asshole named Halfdan...
Linkara: She was more attracted to his brother, Three Quarters Dan.
Linkara (v/o): ...and as a result, she was sent away to this place... whatever it is. Also, it looks like she was keeping her body wash in wine bottles.
Zolastraya: I hate them all! Why have they done this to me? They are making me crazy!!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, come on, this place doesn't look so bad. At least you've got natural wood paneling everywhere. It gives it a nice woodsy feel. So she gets dressed and complains some more – gotta love how our first impression of our hero is her whining exposition to herself – and resolves to not give in.
Zolastraya: What do those royal buffoons expect of me anyway? To put my tail between my legs and cowl like a scared dog?!?
Linkara: I don't know many dogs who put on hoods.
(Suddenly, Linkara's hotel room door opens again, and Lanipator comes in)
Lanipator: Actually, Linkara, "cowl" can be used as a transitive verb as well.
Linkara: Lanipator, also of Team Four Star?!
Lanipator: That is indeed who I am.
Linkara: Yeah, I know it can be used in that variety, but why not just use "cower"?
Lanipator: You'll find out if you go on... an adventure!
Linkara: Still got a comic to review.
Lanipator: (shrugs) 'Kay. (leaves)
Zolastraya: The goddess Zolastraya will – not – be – intimidated!
Linkara: (as Zolastraya) The goddess Zolastraya will – speak – in – the – third – person – and – put – pauses – between – her – words!
Linkara (v/o): She worries for a bit if she's become weak after spending so much time here on her own, and there's a brief panel depicting what appears to be a gorilla in shadows talking to some kind of imp. All the gorilla asks is if they've captured Zolastraya yet. Aaaand back to Zolastraya talking to herself. Suddenly, two blackbirds land on her hand – no doubt named Phobos and Deimos – and her reaction upon them landing is for her to exclaim...
Zolastraya: WHAT? POACHERS? IN MY WOOD? I'LL DRAW* THEIR BLOOD!
- NOTE: She actually says "drain their blood", not "draw their blood".
(Cut to a clip of Into the Woods – the original version, not the 2014 Disney version)
Little Red Riding Hood: (to Cinderella) You can talk to birds?
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): In her anger, she storms off down a path, swearing she'll kill them with her bare hands and slice them to ribbons and rip out their hearts. So naturally, she's using a bow and arrow when she finally reaches the poachers.
Zolastraya: There they are– the bastards! I wonder how they would like an arrow... THROUGH THE HEART!
Linkara: (as one of the poachers) Uh, madam, we can hear you, you know. And to answer your question, no, we would not care for it.
Linkara (v/o): And just to continue our theme of thinking out loud, when this Genghis Khan-looking dude runs at her, she keeps urging him to come closer, to the point that when she's about to chop off his head, he's able to block it with his own sword, almost like he knew she was there. The great warrior goddess Zolastraya, everyone! Actually, I'm being unfair since she easily manages to fend off several attackers, kill a few of them, and then use precognition to know what a guy is going to say to her before he even says it.
Genghis Khan-like warrior: You'll have to do better than that, pretty wench...
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, obviously, they're supposed to be read the other way around, but that's what happens when you don't know how to place your word balloons properly. Also, she apparently hates being called "wench".
Zolastraya: I hate that!
Linkara: Yeah, don't worry, Barb Wire, we won't call you "babe".
Linkara (v/o): After killing a few more, she steps into a net trap that apparently these guys had time to set up and is hoisted into the air.
Zolastraya: What MAGIC is this that BINDS me?
Linkara: As always in fiction, nets are the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. (looks at the black material of his cape) Hmm...
(He pulls the cape over his head; then, with a scream, he falls over)
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, she's captured now... Apparently, the net bounds her hands, too, I guess. ...and they proceed to carry her across the land to a castle.
Warrior 1: Feisty little wench, ain't she?
Zolastraya: Do NOT call me WENCH!
Warrior 2: She hates that, ha, ha, ha...
Linkara: (as this warrior) You know, Larry, one of these days, you're gonna get a sexual harassment lawsuit, and I'm gonna be the one who suffers for it!
Linakra (v/o): The titular bard is also arriving at the castle and is greeting by this lisping fellow.
Guard: Oh, there you are, you thtupid bard! Ymir'th pithed! He'th nearly to dine. Hurry up and get inthide and entertain Ymir'th gueth!
Bard: And what manner of entertainment are you, little man?
Linkara: A very stereotypical one, I would imagine.
Zolastraya: Zolastraya hates being chained!
Linkara: Zolastraya needs to learn how to use personal pronouns.
Linkara (v/o): So now Zolastraya has even more reason to complain as she talks about how she got more than she wished for and her desire for excitement. Ymir himself approaches... not that we get a good look at him, since we need to fill some larger panels with dialog balloons instead. Also, he happily implies that he's going to rape her. Yippee-skippee. And then he forces her to wear some kind of slave girl costume and, despite some verbal protests that she won't, the guards tell her to do so or they'll put it on her for her. (groans) You know, I put myself in an irritating dilemma with this. On one hand, I don't want to come across as victim-blaming the woman who has been kidnapped and threatened with rape, but on the other hand, she keeps acquiescing to them despite her personality constantly being portrayed as the kind of person who would tear your throat out if you had an offensive haircut, and we've seen she's a more-than-competent fighter who doesn't take any crap. So this all feels really inconsistent. Hell, even when she's brought out to Ymir's party, she still keeps loudly proclaiming how this is bullcrap and she won't tolerate it.
Linkara: So yeah, I want to criticize this scene, but... (sighs) I don't want to victim-blame. (trying to think) If only there was some way I could avail myself of this dilemma in a convenient fashion.
(Suddenly, the door opens again; this time, it's Antfish)
Linkara: Antfish? Yet again of Team Four Star?
Antfish: It's time for the adventure, man! We have to go now! (leaves)
Linkara: Convenient! Onward to adventure!
(He runs out of the room, leaving the comic behind; the AT4W logo appears in the corner as we go to commercial break; upon return from the break, we see Linkara and Team Four Star at a table in the hotel lobby, all having lunch from McDonald's. Linkara looks disappointed)
Linkara: You know, when you guys said that we'd be going off on an adventure, I thought you meant, like, go find treasure or dragons or something.
KaiserNeko: No, we just haven't eaten yet.
Linkara: Okay, well, I'm gonna go off and find adventure, okay?
Lanipator: All right, man, sounds good. We'll just sit here and talk amongst ourselves, figure out more ways to keep episodes of Dragon Ball Z Abridged from our fans; make them suffer.
Antfish: Since we already have those done already.
Lanipator: I know, right?
Linkara: Why not? I do the same thing with the history of Power Rangers.
Lanipator: All right.
Linkara: (waving and getting up) See ya, guys. (leaves)
Lanipator: Who was that?
KN: I think that was... JonTron?
Antfish: I thought that was the Nostalgia Critic.
Lanipator: He reviews video games, right?
Antfish: I think so.
(Linkara returns to his room)
Linkara: So, uh, where were we?
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, the bard for Ymir's party admires her beauty and wonders how these ugly bastards got hold of someone so gorgeous. ...Which makes me wonder if he thinks beauty is some kind of weapon around here. And Ymir says that Zolastraya needs to start stripping off her clothes. ...Which makes me wonder why he even bothered having her be put in the outfit then. But Ymir's attention gets split because he notices that the bard isn't playing anymore. He demands the bard play, but the bard decides to help out Zolastraya, quickly grabbing a sword and attacking the guards. A fight ensues, with Zolastraya telling the bard to free her chains, but he's an idiot and keeps telling her to keep out of his way. Eventually, they're backed into a corner and he finally gets the keys to free her chains, letting her start whooping ass.
Linkara: So, okay, I get it now. Zolastraya is like Golden Age Wonder Woman: you bind her hands and she loses all her powers. (he then facepalms himself and sighs, then becomes frustrated) I thought I was done with the creepy sex stuff!
Linkara (v/o): Wow, Zolastraya is a warrior goddess! She can swing on some drapery for absolutely no reason! So after she finishes killing everyone, the bard decides to be snarky.
Bard: What took you so long– hot shot?
Linkara: Dude, don't taunt the woman holding a sword, who just killed a bunch of guys!
Linkara (v/o): She also warns him not to call her "wench" again, and he continues to be dismissive about the whole thing.
Bard: That's gratitude for you...
Linkara: (as bard) You and your girly parts. I could have killed them all faster. After all, I play a lute!
Linkara (v/o): Zolastraya says they need to go back and get her sword and armor, and if he doesn't want to help, she'll go without him.
Bard: AFTER ALL I WENT THROUGH TO SAVE YOU FROM THESE BARBARIANS– What the hel [sic], I'd better go after her...
Linkara: Wow, sudden mood change there. You agonized over that one for a whole second.
Linkara (v/o): The two begin sneaking around and eventually find the clothes, Zolastraya telling the bard to turn around while she changes. And he does so after her yelling some more, but it turns out the room is full of mirrors, so he still gets to watch. Also: "Snicker, snicker." Considering the way the word balloon is framed like every other word balloon, he didn't laugh, he just literally said, "Snicker, snicker."
Linkara: I guess the dude is just really hungry for some candy.
Linkara (v/o): Ymir suddenly shows up and proclaims that Zolastraya is not very bright for a goddess, surprising the bard.
Ymir: Yes, goddess– the first of the Aesir to die in Ragna-Rok!
Bard: Ragna-Rok!? Goddess!? What have you to do with Ragna-Rok!
Linkara: Well, she's on lead guitar, duh!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Zolastraya charging forward to attack Ymir, the bard exclaiming how they just had to come back for the equipment.
Linkara: Technically, you didn't have to do anything, dude. You're the one with the sudden mood swings. (closes comic and holds it up) Anyway, this comic sucks, but it's still a lot better than a lot of comics I've reviewed lately.
Linkara (v/o): It's amateurish in the art and writing, yes, but there's nothing too offensively awful here. Its main sin is in the title character spending most of the issue whining and complaining. I wonder if that's supposed to be the neurotic part of the title, but it doesn't make for a compelling story, especially since the bard isn't that likeable either. He's just kind of a douche who rightfully didn't want to see her get tossed around, and even then it's based solely on the fact that she's pretty.
Linkara: (sadly) And now, I'll just sit here and contemplate the lack of adventure that I'm having. (shakes head)
(Suddenly, Megami33 of Team Four Star runs up)
Megami33: Whee! Hey, Linkara!
Linkara: (surprised) Megami33 of Team Four Star?
Megami33: Why do you keep announcing who we are?
Linkara: I dunno, it's like a nervous tic or something.
Megami33: Huh. So, why are you sitting on the ground?
Linkara: Reading a crappy fantasy comic and lamenting that I haven't gone on an adventure.
Megami33: (putting her hand on his shoulder) Oh, well, don't feel sad. If you want to go on an adventure, you just need to go out there and find it. Go exploring. Find excitement where you can.
Linkara: (brightening up) You're right! I'm gonna go out into that convention and find myself some adventure!
Megami33: It's Thursday; the convention hasn't actually started yet.
Linkara: Then I'll wait until tomorrow and then go out into the convention and find myself some adventure!
(Cut to one day later: Linkara is running through the building toward the convention with his arms up)
(He flings open the doors of one room, where a panel is going on)
(He suddenly stops, however, as he sees... Linkara(?!) up there at the panel. He and everyone else stares at this new Linkara)
Second Linkara: (irritably) Do you mind? I'm doing a panel here!
Linkara: (sheepishly) Oh, uh, yeah, sorry. (leaves and runs through building) ADVENTURE!
(He then flings open the doors to another panel room)
(To his surprise, a third Linkara(?!?) is doing this panel)
Third Linkara: ...really is that thing.
(He looks toward this Linkara, as does the audience)
Third Linkara: (angrily) Didn't I just say that I'm trying to do a panel here?!
Linkara: (confused) But– But– But you were–
Third Linkara: (pointing toward door) LEAVE!
Linkara: (feeling embarrassed and waving) Okay... (exits, walking slowly)
Third Linkara: Ah, (beep) that guy.
(Linkara trudges into Team Four Star's room, where everyone is; everyone is playing on their Nintendo 3DS, except for Antfish, who is playing with a coat hanger)
Linkara: (sadly) Hey, Team Four Star
Team Four Star: Hi, Linkara.
Linkara: I don't think I'm gonna have an adventure today.
Antfish: That's all right, man. You can have an adventure here with us.
Megami33: We're playing Pokemon.
Linkara: Ooh, I can get into that. (pulls out a Nintendo 3DS of his own) You know, Lanipator? You look exactly like my government liaison.
KaiserNeko: His face looks like your government liaison.
Linkara: (confused) That doesn't even make any sense. What are you–
Lanipator: (annoyed) Shut up! We're playing Pokemon!
(Cut to black)
And so Linkara and Team Four Star played Pokemon well into the night. Linkara defeated Lanipator and KaiserNeko, but fell to Megami33.
He swears vengeance to this day.
Antfish, as it turns out, did not have a 3DS, but a coathanger.
He still bested Linkara three times with it, though.
(End credits roll)
Yeah, in all seriousness – no victim blaming. Screw evil troll gorilla pig things. What I CAN criticize is that we never learn exactly WHY Ymir wanted Zolastraya to begin with. What does having her at his castle accomplish?
I think it would have been cooler if the Bard actually used his music as a weapon. Screw standard issue sword and sorcery – let's see him defeat monsters with the power of rock.
That would have made him quite a spoony bard.
(Stinger: Linkara and Team Four Star are seen again)
Linkara: (sadly) I don't think I'm gonna have an adventure today.
Antfish: That's all right, man. You can have an adventure here with us.
Megami33: We're playing Pokemon.
Linkara: Really? Ooh, I can get into that. (feels around himself) If my 3DS wasn't actually over here.
(Linkara walks off and Team Four Star all laugh)