Our rotation brings us back again to Atari Force! For those new around here this minicomic miniseries was packed with games for the Atari 2600 in the 1980s. A later full comic series was released on store shelves by DC Comics, who were also behind the miniseries. The story thus far: Earth had a big war and what’s left of the nations aren’t the same. Rising from the ashes was Atari, who went from being a video game company to a premiere research group with their own astronauts and everything. In other words the complete opposite of what actually happened to Atari. I wonder we’ll get a “Facebook Force” or “Google Force” in the future?
Well, one of the projects Atari is working on in the post-apocalyptic fantasy world where Atari is anything besides a nostalgic brand name is traveling through the multiverse to seek a new Earth to live on. I’m not sure that’s how the multiverse works since one would assume an alternate Earth would still have an alternate population who wouldn’t want to see what happened to the bad Earth happen to theirs. Unless they’re just really big fans of Centipede and will welcome them with open arms. This is where I introduce the cast briefly but they don’t really matter to this story. The focus is on another guy, which is already odd given the purpose is to sell video games.
Atari Force #4
Atari/DC Comics (1982)
(also the name of the game it came with)
CREATORS/WRITERS: Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas
VISUAL CONCEPTS/ART: Ross Andru & Dick Giordano
COLORIST: Adrienne Roy
LETTERER: John Costanza
DESIGN: Neil Pozner
EDITOR: Dick Giordano
Our story begins as David Marcus is getting his head handed to him by the Malaglon, a race who has enslaved other races in a dimension our heroes were scouting. Why is Atari Force getting involved when they already faced their own alien threat during their search for a new planet? Humanitarian work I guess. It would shock them if they turn out to be masochists like the ones in the DBZ Abridged version of the first Broly movie. Who is Bob Marcus? Keep wondering because we’ll never know. And not just because the Malaglon forces blow his ship up. This really hurts Martin, our lead hero, because Bob was a friend of his. When Li-San tries to comfort him by saying Bob had the best training her team could give he snaps that it wasn’t good enough. Obviously he’s upset and we never do see him apologize. On the other hand, while Martin is still in the wrong “we trained him as best we could and he still exploded” is hardly comforting.
Martin, Li-San, and Lucas are back at Atari HQ in their home dimension for…reasons. Seriously, this sounds like a tale they should have saved for the ongoing series. Last we saw they were supposed to be on a top-secret project for Atari, but now everybody knows about the multiverse and is part of some peacekeeping force. When did we make this leap? Martin addresses the troops, having to immediately tell them of Bob’s sudden case of atomization to bring us readers up to some kind of speed. Bob was flying a new ship called the Phoenix, which from what I can tell is a giant one-manned space cruiser with a bunch of drone fighters in the shape of the Atari symbol. (Branding, you know.)
Since the ship only needs one pilot at a time, they draw lots to see who the next sucker is. Because apparently sending more than one ship despite having two of them and somehow enough fuel for 8 giant tanks between the two of them didn’t equal “send both at once and increase your chance of success”. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s David’s brother Bob Marcus who gets drawn. What are the odds? Bob assures Martin that he’s not out for revenge. Martin and Lydia will be monitoring his progress from Scanner-One. And then Bob takes off in the Phoenix without them while they’re calculating the trip through hyperspace so they can’t track him easily. That’s a good sign. If you’re an undertaker who needs the business.
Martin and Lydia are so far behind that even the transmission between the two ships are delayed. Considering Martin’s link with David in the failed mission had no delay that seems kind of odd, but all they can do is listen to Bob go through the enemy like he’s playing a video game, until they actually start doing some damage to the Phoenix (it’s a ship class, not a name as far as I can tell), and then he actually sobers up. Otherwise it’s just him blasting through enemy ships and blowing up motherships, that last one being the only thing the comic gets right about the video game world this is taking place in.
The smaller ships don’t even resemble the ones in the game, at least the 2600 version, and the giant birds whose wings grow back if you don’t kill them soon enough and can still fly without them don’t show up at all. Bob also goes through them rather easily. Two missiles and the mothership is down. There’s no going through planets and blowing up slave bases (and somehow not killing the slaves). It’s just blow up the ships, shoot down the birds, blast your way into the mothership, repeat. Since we do see Bob go through multiple based I guess they got two things right, only Bob’s mission has a definite ending.
Once Bob has rescued twenty-four planets all by himself (why do we need a whole Atari FORCE again? Just send Bob and his Phoenix with the baby ships.) he heads for the Malaglon homeworld itself, which apparently can be rotated to avoid their main base being hit. Not that the base itself moves, although we do see they have flying bases. No, they actually alter the rotation of the planet so Bob keeps missing. With his baby ships being blown up, the ship taking a pounding, and Scanner One still too far away to even livestream the attack, Bob finally realizes he can use both lasers, catch the base between them, and just let the planet rotate the base right into them. So what happened to the planet? Did it stop rotating when the base blew or is it flying off into space? Science is really taking it hard tonight, kids. At least we get translations of the alien language.
And so Bob stands on the planet victorious, and admitting he had a small revenge boner. Why did David have so much trouble with these guys? It wasn’t until the final base that they were any challenge for little brother Bob. Now David is dead AND he looks pathetic.
This one is a lot shorter than the usual Atari Force minicomics I’ve been going over. In addition to this version packaged in the Phoenix video game DC Comics made a version that appeared in some of their regular DC Comics, possibly to promote the ongoing series they were working on, or at least to say “if you have an Atari 2600 buy the games with our free comics, and if you already own the games, buy them again now that we have the comics” or something. This one wasn’t nearly as interesting. Instead of watching our heroes continue their search for a New Earth we watch some guy we don’t know or care about run through the enemy for half a minicomic and I’m just not all that impressed. We have one more of these, and I wonder if Bob will just save everybody or if this will be treated like a filler comic? I guess we’ll find out.
As for the next free comic to look inside, I’m not sure what’s coming next. According to the current roster, DC Comics did a promotional pack-in comic deal with the Kelloggs’ cereal Cinnamon Mini Buns, but if I can’t find those comics it will be an Iron Man comic I got from a VHS release of an episode from season 1 of the 90s cartoon. Find out which I end up with next time. (If someone knows where to find those Cinnamon Mini Buns comics let me know.)