Monday, June 10, 2013
Atari Force Month: Issue #9 Review
There are two outright info dumps in this issue, first when Tempest catches Professor Venture up on everything that's happened so far, and then again when Mohandas tell Tempest about the original Atari Force encountering the Dark Destroyer. Gerry Conway stuffs them both full of information, presumably designed to catch new readers up on the series' history, but the scenes still manage not to be boring. In Tempest's speech, Conway finds a few opportunities to clarify things that I wasn't sure of before. Like Tempest's exact reasons for joining his father's mission, or the probe being nothing but bait with which to trap Atari Force. There are some definite problems, such as the never-asked question of how Tempest learned so many of the details of Dart's past with Blackjak. She's been avoiding the topic, so there's no in-story reason I can think of for Tempest to have all that info, particularly the fact that the Dark Destroyer was behind Blackjak's death. Does Dart even know that, and if so, how? I guess the Destroyer said something to Martin about trying and failing to capture Dart before, but still...seems a bit of a stretch that Tempest would be aware of every single thing that's happened to every character in every issue. I understand that the primary goal of his speech is to fill in the audience, and second to that is, you know, portraying the character accurately, but I think that's too bad. It's not impossible to imagine Tempest learning all of this, but it's highly unlikely he would have.
Mohandas' story is, I assume, pulled from the first volume of Atari Force and, therefore, also recap in its own way. If you'd read all of volumes 1 and 2 up to here, then this issue would have very few new developments to offer. It is an informational, educational script above all else. Mohandas describes for Tempest the old Atari Force's first few struggles against the Dark Destroyer, who back then was some kind of awe-inspiring space squid living between dimensions. He also establishes the idea that the Dark Destroyer has mind-control abilities, something not really shown before now. Though he kicked Morphea out of his mind and clearly has a massive intellect, the Destroyer's henchman have, to all appearances, worked for him willingly. Knowing he can also potentially command people through their own minds is a chilling and significant development. Mohandas' tale is not especially interesting beyond that, a standard sci-fi story of an away team dealing with unfriendlies on the ground. But it's only a couple of pages, and provides further insight into the scope of the Destroyer's evil.
And Conway actually addresses the ill-fitting ending of Atari Force #7, through Martin Champion, the team member who has the most prior experience with the Dark Destroyer. Martin is perturbed that Atari Force managed to escape so easily, and realizes that the Destroyer could have defeated them even in light of Dart's threat to destroy his ship. It makes Martin uneasy to know his enemy did something uncharacteristic, and in that feeling he and I are the same. I was very glad to have Conway at least nod to this, even for only a panel or two, and he also gives a glimpse of what the Destroyer is up to now. Suddenly, the end issue #7 feels not so much like a conclusion but a new plot thread disguised as the end of an old one. That's comforting, and handled intelligently.
I also appreciated how Tempest and Mohandas' stories were related, not just in content but in their connection to the larger narrative. Tempest recounts his recent past while Mohandas remembers times more distant, but for both of them, what matters is how these things effect their lives now. The facts of their histories are explored not for mere nostalgia or even just for new readers, but also because there will be ramifications to these stories down the line. Again, that's the best approach to take to this kind of issue, and Conway strikes a lovely balance between things already known and the new details that will work to enrich the book's future.