April 12, 2010
Something tells me this one won't be discussed in any mythology classes.
(Linkara is seen adjusting a wrist communicator; he looks up, startled, seeing he's on camera)
Linkara: Oh, hey, everybody! Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (hastily pulling his coat sleeve over his communicator) Uh, you caught me in the middle of a little side project, but let's not worry about that right now. (clears throat) You know, on occasion, I get a comment or email asking me why I spend so much time criticizing the depiction of women in comics.
(A montage of shots of women in comics are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Well, to be accurate, half the time, they're asking me if I'm gay, because, of course, the only explanation for criticizing a comic with superhero costumes containing boob holes must be that I'm a homosexual and thus hate the female form displayed in any titillating manner.
Linkara: I hate to disappoint my gay or bisexual male fans, but I am in fact straight. Also, I am not a prude, nor am I an overzealous religious extremist wishing to ban anything that resembles the naked body or someone who hates any expression of sexuality in comics!
(A montage of comics women in sexy outfits is shown)
Linkara (v/o): We live in the year 2010! This is not some extreme agenda designed to oppress the manly men; this is common sense about characters! I should not have to be talking about this!
(These are ALL from the last six years, by the way.)
Linkara (v/o): If male superheroes were just wearing Speedos that went up the cracks of their asses, and the artists made sure to lovingly outline every contour of the penis behind the Speedo, it would look just as ludicrous! When Wizard Magazine puts out a drawing guide that says, "Women should look sultry; men should look heroic and strong," there's something wrong here. When Frank Miller puts in his script that the only reason Vicki Vale is in her underwear is because he wants to get the guys who are reading the comic turned on, then maybe there's a problem. Or maybe when Stephanie Brown a few years ago was tortured with a power drill, and the artist showed off her ass, it's just fricking sick!
Linkara: Which is why today we're digging into (holds up comic of review) "Athena #1", a comic released last year that seems to think TNA are more important than good storytelling. That's why I'm criticizing it, people. (points to comic) IT'S STILL GOING ON.
(AT4W title sequence; cut to a shot of the cover of the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The cover for the comic displays our title character's ass to the reader. Get used to that, folks; there's a lot of that. Okay, okay, I may be highly opinionated, but I'm a fair reviewer. There's a couple of things I should point out. First and foremost, this comic has a lot of alternate covers, and this is just the one that my copy has.
(Cut to a shot of one such alternate cover)
Linkara (v/o): For example, there's another cover showing Athena holding a sword, a spear and a shield, though why she has the spear inside of the shield straps confuses me, but maybe that's actually better for combat, I don't know. And there's even blood on her clothes! She's not standing in the most comfortable of poses, but she does look pretty imposing and badass.
(Cut to a shot of another alternate cover)
Linkara (v/o): Yet another has her coming at the reader, blood dripping from her lip, and you get the clear impression that you try to screw with her, and expect to find your limbs scattered across the room! Yet another has her naked and sleeping in a field, the sword conveniently blocking the view of her naughty bits. And while it actually reflects the book, it doesn't endear itself to me when it's a blatant cheesecake shot.
(Cut back to the cover of the comic that Linkara has)
Linkara (v/o): However, this one, in my mind, deserves the most scrutiny as well. The good thing about it is that she looks fairly muscular and strong, the coloring is excellent, and I still get the impression that she can kick my ass. But she's also wearing a thong! I never knew that standard Greek combat attire was to wear something that rolled up your butt something awful! She's also wearing high heels, which are, of course, perfect for you when engaged in combat that requires rapid movement. And let's not forget the fact that while, yes, this is a well-structured cover, we don't even get to see what our title character looks like. We just get to see what her ass looks like.
Linkara: Though, again, we're gonna be spending a lot of time looking at it in this comic, so maybe that was the idea.
Linkara (v/o): The story begins with a sepia-toned flashback of ancient Greece, giving a very abridged history lesson that mainly talks about a statue of Athena and the Parthenon, then says that time passed and the statue disappeared, the end. No, seriously, there is no purpose to this first page. It tells us nothing important, features no characters, and does not advance the plot. It just looks nice, which is fine, I guess, but some story might be good! The next page: naked Athena lying in a field with "Athena, Book One", written in Xena: Warrior Princess font, and an owl overlooking her.
Linkara: Two pages in, and nothing has happened except naked woman. This is gonna hurt.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to a hospital a few days later... I guess, because there's no establishing caption; we just see a hospital with Greek letters on the side. They talk about a woman who won't wake up, and there's no sign of trauma or evidence of any assault. Is this the woman from the field? If it is, when the hell did they find her? And if there's not going to be any transition from naked in field to hospital, why even bother having naked in a field?! The police detective assigns an officer to watch over her in case she wakes up, commenting that there's something familiar about her. Oh, and Greek hospitals must suck, since there's no monitoring equipment or catheters or anything attached to her when she wakes up at night. Also, as she gets up out of bed, with apparently the police officer watching her on a coffee break or something, since we don't see him again, we see that she's wearing the smallest hospital gown possible without any kind of undergarments so that we can know she's naked under it, and we get a look at her ass!
Linkara: Thanks, because I had forgotten what it looked like from the cover.
Linkara (v/o): Subsequently, she's less muscular here so she can be more traditionally attractive as opposed to the stronger-looking appearance on the cover. Because why would we want our title character to have muscle? Nooo, we need her to be curvaceous; otherwise, how would we get our jollies off? She looks out the window, which conveniently faces the nearby ruins of the Parthenon. She thinks that the place seems familiar, and I guess climbs out the window, since she's suddenly outside and walking towards the ruins. When she reaches them, we get a few more glimpses of her rear as she realizes that the city is gone. So... no security at the priceless historical site? I don't know. Maybe it's like that in real life, but it seems like it'd be an easy target for anyone wanting to try to graffiti it or something. Next, we get a three-page sequence that's honestly really good, recounting the origin of Athena and the sepia tones from the beginning. What I don't get is why the hell they put this here instead of at the beginning?! That way, you get people up to speed on the origin, and you've got yourself a perfect transition to modern times from that. But no, let's randomly shove it in six pages into the story, when we don't know what the hell is going on!
Linkara: And we don't even get it from her perspective! It's just a random flashback!
Linkara (v/o): An owl at the ruins observes Athena conversing with text boxes that are probably from Zeus that she's starting to remember things. Oh, and it seems my warnings about the lack of security have proven to be accurate, since there's a thug who sees Athena and wants to rape her! My question is, what the hell was this guy doing here before she showed up? However, when he grabs her, Zeus sends down the lightning and fries the guy! The police having gotten back from their coffee break spot Athena and bring her back to the hospital. Zeus and the owl say they need to give her some memories and talents, or else she'll be defenseless against random rapists hanging around ancient ruins. And so, several days later, Athena is in actual clothes, though your mileage may vary, and is talking with a doctor and the detective. So, what's her secret identity? Athena Olympios! Huh.
Linkara: You know, why not just have Spider-Man's real name be Arachnid Webbs? Or how about instead of Clark Kent, his name is Superman Kryptos?
Linkara (v/o): You know what's even sadder? Olympios is in fact a real last name, and a Greek one, of course. I'm just saying it didn't have to be quite so on the nose. We cut to "several years later, in New York City", where Athena has gotten a job as a police detective. How? Why? These are questions that were apparently not important to the writer. And if you think I'm just asking why because it's far easier than trying to think about it or come up with something clever, consider what we know so far: Athena suddenly appears naked in the middle of a field and is taken to a hospital. Fine, we'll buy that somebody came along between pages, found her, and brought her to the hospital. But then she wakes up, is saved by Zeus and the owl, and it's pretty damn clear that this is supposed to be the goddess, Athena. We have no idea why she's human and why her memories are all gone. However, it's outright stated that Zeus can grant her memories, so fine, setting her up with a past for herself – except Zeus is not exactly one to alter reality itself. This "Athena Olympios" has no clothes of her own, no money, no forms of identification, no birth records, no passport, and we are told nothing about her as a character up until this point and what her personality actually is. We have no idea why she went to New York, how she got involved with the police, how she even got a job with the police and advanced in rank enough to be doing interrogations as a detective. Now, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say that Zeus made arrangements for all that, fine. Ignoring that from a story perspective, it's a lot to just assume happened off panel. Let's instead, from a narrative perspective, see that we know nothing of who she is! We have just cleared the halfway point of this issue, and only NOW are we learning anything about her! But of course, we fall into the classic example of bad writing: show, don't tell! Two other characters have to tell us about her. And what do we finally learn about this woman? Well, Richard Nixon here says...
Agent #1: It's incredible the way she gets them to open up.
Agent #2: Yeah, it's as if she can tell when they're lying.
Agent #1: And she's never wrong!
Linkara: (slapping himself on the head with the comic) Athena, by this comic's own definition...
(A text box from the comic appears, describing Athena as Linkara does)
Linkara: ...is the goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill. I checked Wikipedia, and besides for adding or dropping similarly-named ones, notice one that was missing from there? TRUTH!
Linkara (v/o): Athena is NOT the goddess of truth! One of Apollo's titles is "God of truth", but otherwise, the spirit that personified truth was called Aletheia. I guess if you really, really wanted to, you can stretch wisdom to include truth, but it's still a hard sell. What are we supposed to get from this, that because she's a goddess, you can't lie to her? People lie to the gods and goddesses all the time in Greek mythology! They lie to each other, they lie to their worshippers. Come on, this was 2009! A simple Google search reveals that Athena had nothing to do with truth. Anyway, back to the comic itself. Somebody – I guess the FBI, not that they say – wants to recruit Athena to go after... some people. I'm honestly not kidding here. We go from page 13, with Nixon saying it's time for blondie-boy to meet her, to Nixon saying...
Agent #1: ...and that's the story.
Linkara: Whatever the hell story it was, was probably better than this one.
Linkara (v/o): They tell her they want her to go undercover.
Athena: So you want me to participate in this...what is it, a beauty contest?
Agent #2: Kind of, it's more like American Idol...
Linkara (v/o): Who is she going undercover against? Never said! Seriously, at no point in this comic do we learn who she's trying to infiltrate. Is it drug dealers? Gunrunners? Makers of counterfeit Arby's sauce? What is it?! Anyway, they decide to get to work on her makeup immediately.
Makeup woman: Let's make you fabulous!
Linkara (v/o): And by "fabulous", they apparently meant "hooker", with heavy eye shadow, a tight strapless red dress, and thigh-high boots. And she's sent into a club by the docks as the owl and Zeus narrate. Yeah, a nightclub rave; that's so much like American Idol. She gets the attention of somebody and is brought in closer to two women. She says to her wrist communicator...
Athena: You were right... she's here.
Linkara (v/o): The rest of the squad, which apparently consists solely of Blond Mullet Man, says that the woman they're referring to is...
Agent #2: Helena Mims--in Paris' place. Can't be good.
Linkara: Well, the comic has lost me. It has lost me and it is twisting the night away without me.
Linkara (v/o): Wait a second! Suddenly, there's a contest of the three women dancing onstage, and the winner is about to be given a golden apple! There's a character named Helena, who's in Paris' place, and this is about Greek mythology. Oh, I get it! It's like the Apple of Discord from Greek mythology!
(Cut to an image of the painting "The Judgment of Paris")
Linkara (v/o): Long story short, golden apple with the inscription "To the fairest" was feuded over by three goddesses that claimed it for their own: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Zeus decided to settle the feud by having Paris, a mortal judge considered to be the most even-handed, determine which of the three was the fairest. Each goddess tried to bribe him with something different, but he settled on Aprhodite's, that she would give him the most beautiful woman in the world to him as his wife. That was Helen, who was taken to Troy, thus starting the Trojan War.
Linkara: Wow! So the modern-day Paris is having some kind of dancing contest, I guess, to determine who should get the golden apple award, and there's a woman named Helena here. That is just... (struggles for words) What? What is it?
Linkara (v/o): What is the point of this? Why all the Greek parallels? Oh, but then some angry guys come onstage with guns, saying that one of the women is his and that nobody will take her from him. Athena shoves Paris and one of the women over and calls for backup, giving us not only a butt shot from her, but also of the woman she knocked over.
Linkara: They should've just called this "Athena's Butt"! It gets more panel time than her!
Linkara (v/o): The lead angry guy aims his gun down at her and fires, but then she suddenly up and kicks the gun so that it misses. The rest of the gang just starts opening fire on the crowd for some reason. Oh, and now Athena is clutching her shoulder, despite the fact that the gunshot clearly missed her! Blond dude comes charging into the club with some SWAT officers, not even bothering to order the thugs to surrender before they open fire. The lead angry guy runs off, saying that he'll be back. Blond mullet man goes over to Athena.
Agent #2: Are you all right? How bad is it? Athena?!
Linkara (v/o): Dude, stop panicking. It's not like she's going to be bedridden at a hospital for– (the next scene, however, shows just that) WHAT?!?! SHE'S BEDRIDDEN AT THE HOSPITAL?!?!? FOR WHAT?!? Let's give the comic the benefit of the doubt again, and assume the bullet did actually hit her, even though, at best, it grazed her. It was just her upper arm! We have Nixon and Mullet Man saying it was all their fault that she was hurt. Why is she in the hospital?!? Bandage her arm, tell her to take it easy on her arm, and get her back to work. Oh, no, instead, they tell her that she's not well, and that she needs to stay there for a couple of days. For her arm wound! The one that we see the bandages for! And even then, they say they'll wait to I.D. the thugs until she's better. I'm neither a doctor nor a police officer, but what the hell prevents them from getting a statement and I.D. from her while she's in the bed?!
Linkara: You know, while doing research for this, I discovered that this comic actually got good reviews across the board. I'd really love to read whatever the hell it was those people read, because it wasn't this comic!
Linkara (v/o): Zeus and the owl talk about how it's getting far too dangerous for her, and Zeus says he'll have a word with Hephaestus. The next night, an assassin comes into Athena's room, ready to kill her for seeing too much. What did she see that the dozens of other people the guy fired at didn't? But the owl suddenly leaps in and glows, distracting the assassin. And so, our comic ends with Athena suddenly appearing in battle armor, or rather, a metal breastplate, a cape, some gauntlets, a helmet, a spear and shield, and some greaves, most of her body still completely undefended.
Linkara: Oh, but of course, we're not done yet. See, this book decided to have a back-up story, but not one that's right after the comic. Nooooo. Following in the footsteps of "Youngblood", it's a flip-book, meaning we have to turn the book upside-down (flips comic over, revealing a second story) in order to read it.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, but what is this backup story? It's Athena and President Obama! Yes, you heard me right. See, there was something really weird going on in 2009. Comic companies were obsessed with the President, putting him in random comics every which way.
(Cut to a shot of a Spider-Man comic with Obama on the cover)
Linkara (v/o): The most notable is his appearance in an issue of "Amazing Spider-Man", one that I encouraged on my blog for people not to buy, because at the time, Obama paraphernalia was hot on the market, and the whole thing came off like something out of the early '90s, where the thing entered like three or four printings because it was being bought by speculators who thought it'd be worth money someday. Of course, it's worth exactly the price of the comic and nothing more.
(Cut to a montage of other comics featuring Obama prominently on the cover)
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, "Army of Darkness", "Savage Dragon", "Youngblood"...
(Cut back to the Athena comic with Obama on the cover)
Linkara (v/o): ...and of course "Athena" all jumped on the bandwagon to have a comic featuring President Obama. The cover is just the two of them looking into the sky; probably examining a really spiffy-looking cloud. (the comic proper begins) The comic opens to the docks in a village in... somewhere, where the President is giving a speech. Oh, and there's also a note that says that this comic takes place after "Athena #4". Yes, the four-page back-up story doesn't take place for another three months after this thing's initial publishing. Huzzah. Some old guy with a horse and buggy is stopped by the Secret Service and told he has to turn around. He whines that he always down here in order to earn his living. What the hell that is is never explained, since... uh... something happens. It's not clear if the horse goes out of control or the guy tries to rush the crowd. Yeah, that'd be a smart business move, dude, rush into a crowd of people, past the ones who have guns. The Secret Service guy shoots the guy and his horse dead, and they plummet into the water. However, Athena and Mullet Man come running up (the panel shows the "Required Athena butt shot") just as Poseidon of all people rushes out of the sea.
Poseidon: Who dares attack the god of the seas?!
Linkara: (as Poseidon) An old man with a horse and buggy?! Clearly, this is an all-out attack!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, but now Athena's in her battle armor – not that we see any transformation – and tells him it was all an accident.
Athena: Father Zeus sent several of us here to live our days in peace.
Linkara (v/o): Yes, that is our explanation for why Athena is here. That's it, that's our explanation. Dear Lord, this is stupid! Poseidon says he's tired of squabbling and wars, and Zeus is now overhead and "gives Poseidon peace", whatever the hell that means. Looks like he just flash-fried the god of the sea. Zeus uses the Waters of Forgetfulness to wipe everyone's memory of that... If only I could forget this thing... and the backup story concludes with Athena meeting Obama, her making the dumb joke that she thinks she knew Antigone's father.
'Linkara: (angrily holding up comic) This comic is dreadful in every possible sense! The narrative makes no sense, we learn absolutely nothing about Athena as a character, the mythology is messed up, and the artist is obsessed with her ass! To comic artists out there, if you really want to draw asses, fine, that's your right, I don't care, BUT DON'T EXPECT US TO PAY $3.50 FOR YOUR MASTURBATION FANTASIES! (slams comic down, gets up and storms off)
(Stinger: the alternate Athena cover, showing her naked and lying in the field with her sword strategically placed, while an image of Zeus watches from on high)
Linkara (v/o): (as Zeus) Oh, yeah... That's it, baby... Position the phallic symbol right over your naughty bits. Zeus likes!