It’s been too long since we checked in with the Atari Force. For those of you who weren’t here for the first issue here you go, but here’s the short version. It’s the year 2005 but with less giant shape-changing robots and more planet-wide civil war. The Five-Day War led to Northern California going nameless as I think the governments of the world collapsed. This area is now the domain of the Atari company, who have better things to do than make the Jaguar and Lynx, which from what I hear of the former and little time I played on the latter we aren’t missing much. Food is scarce thanks to the “death bombs” (as opposed to the “life bombs” I guess) and nobody seems to have a happy backstory…which I can sadly assure you will continue in this issue.
Enter our heroes–Martin Champion, the all-American hero in a world without America, Lydia Perez, who used to be his friend and now doesn’t like him, and Doctor Lucas Orion, Martin’s still friend. Perez has called them back to Earth from their orbital space station duties as part of some mysterious new project called Project: Multiverse. But someone has slipped into the Atari Research Institute, a rather sleek woman who is so Irish that even her thoughts have a heavy accent. What is this mysterious project? Come on, guys, it’s 2017. You don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to guess what something with the world “multiverse” in it means.
Atari Force #2
DC Comics/Atari (1982)
PACKAGED WITH: Berzerk for the Atari 2600
Since the only reason I have the first issue was that my cousin had a 2600 and whatever game #1 was packaged with, this comes from the Atari Age website. Read along.
“Berserk” (I checked, there’s no game called Intruder Alert on the 2600, so that wasn’t a help)
CREATORS/WRITERS: Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas
VISUAL CONCEPTS/ART: Ross Andru, Dick Giordano, & Mike Decarlo
DESIGN: Neil Pozner
COLORIST: Adrienne Roy
LETTERER: John Costanza
EDITOR: Dick Giordano
The story starts at a briefing with Martin, Lydia, Lucas, and another new member of this group the director is calling “Atari Force” (since it’s the comic’s name and all), Mohandas Singh. Which apparently Firefox’s spell check has no problem with. Interesting. Singh is a computer specialist and one of the chips he designed is a big part of Project: Multiverse, which (shock of shocks) has to do with traveling to other universes. Bet you didn’t see that one coming a mile away with a large sign and sirens blaring. Meanwhile all of this is being picked up by our “mere slip of a girl” (she keeps calling herself that and it’s just odd dialog) who managed to sneak this far before security finally catches on those glitches aren’t glitches but them being idiots. Security sounds the alarm, with the red lights sending Singh into our first flashback of the issue. Who’s expecting a happy tale? You need to go back and read the first issue.
Mohandas was an orphan in New Delhi running around with his friend Raja. Also a name Firefox recognizes. They see a rich British man and hope to beg for some money. However, he finds his wallet missing and accuses them of pickpocketing and sends the police after the boys. And then finds his wallet on the ground like an idiot. The damage is done, as during the chase Raja slips on a wet stone, falling into the water after hitting his head on…okay, I’m not familiar with this. Is it some kind of retaining wall or something holding the water away from the town? I’m not sure, but the kid dies. The man blames himself…mostly because it’s his fault, and the only repentance he can come up with is taking Mohandas in and giving him the best schooling. Turns out the kid’s a genius. Now an adult that still haunts him to this day and why the alarms and red lights caused the flashback. Because only tragedy makes us better, not simply having a dream in life because you see something you’d enjoy doing.
(Yes, I was a bully victim but it had no bearing on me wanting to become a storyteller…years after leaving school although I enjoyed writing and making comics since middle school. So pipe down, guy in the back. Oh, you’re a girl? Clear your throat and grow your hair or something, you look like you’re in the military, which goes against that tie-die shirt you’re wearing and the love beads.)
Martin snaps him into the present, and Mohandas happens to look up, seeing Ms. Slip (don’t worry, we’ll get a name before this issue is out) up on the dome that was supposed to keep the noise out. She escapes security (and blames it on their being surprised she’s a girl–but only in her head because she hasn’t spoken once in this storyline) and heads into the room holding the Atari Force’s spaceship and the vehicle for Project: Multiverse, Scanner One. She and Martin fight but when she has the advantage she starts laughing. So is Lydia because she recognizes her even before her mask is removed. Apparently purple Phantom jumpsuits and Cyclops visors are a rare fashion? Martin manages to get her mask off despite the butt kicking he’s received and sees an Asian woman, who is finally talking in her Gaelic accent instead of just thinking. Asian woman with an Irish accent. So that’s what happened to Clancy from Nightwing!
Actually, she’s Li-San O’Rourke, executive director of Atari Security, here to test out the security of the Atari Institute’s NorthCal facility, and she finds it lacking. And in a surprise twist, she’s also the final member of the team even though the director didn’t seem to call her when he sent for the others. “Why yes, we totally wanted you to be part of our ultra-top-secret project we want nobody to know about and will now hurriedly send off with out a full debriefing that you just happened to interrupt. Won’t you join this trip into another dimension even though you somehow know less than the rest of your team?”
Everyone boards Scanner One and despite this being a mission to find another dimension to colonize Mohandas is worried about the guns because he’s a pacifist. So is Li-San thanks to her sad backstory where she lost a friend during an attempt to recover an oil base from the unnamed enemy but she still believes in a good defense. At least your depressing story is short to describe, Li-San. That puts you above everyone except Lydia and that’s only because we don’t get a backstory for her. (I’m thinking this in an alternate universe Lydia to describe why she’s being such a jerk to Martin despite the situation they were in for Martin’s flashback.) They’re also introduced to ship’s computer, the Atari 8000! I had the 800 as a kid (which I still own) and I don’t think it can travel the multiverse. I had enough trouble traveling 9 planets, including the one I could never figure out, while alien gods beamed lifeforce into my head. Journey To The Planets was an odd game for its time. Also, the director was a hologram so the 8000 could introduce itself. Why not?
No time to explain anything else though, because everyone runs to their stations without prep time or even fighting over who gets what bedroom and set up personal effects. (Clothing’s easy when you’re part of a corporate military but wouldn’t you want a picture of your kids or your cat or something?) Scanner One fades from reality and into the multiverse. What video game…I mean planet will they journey to first? Well, either pick up Star Raiders for the Atari 2600 or wait for our next trip into Atari Force!
This is another good comic, which isn’t surprising since there are big names attached to it. The art is good, the backstories interesting (for all the joking I make about how depressing everyone’s reasons for joining the Atari Institute are), and I’m curious to see how these characters get along and what worlds based on Atari-available video games they will visit. It’s worth looking into. Next time however it’s back to Etheria to see if She-Ra’s stories have improved. Spoiler: probably not.