Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Badrock #1

Badrock #1, Cover Date March 1995
Plot and pencils by Rob Liefeld, Script by Eric Stephenson, Inks by Jonathan Sibal and Danny Miki

Badrock 1 Gunner Liefeld

Last week I reviewed Angela, the surprisingly good Spawn spin-off about an Angel that does not wear pants. It probably helped that Neil Gaiman was the writer. So in the interest of fairness, here is another Image comic from a few months later, a Badrock spin-off from Rob Liefeld's Extreme! Studios. Like all Liefeld creations, Badrock is a blatant theft of an existing character (Marvel Comics The Thing), but the twist is: he's only 16 years old when he's turned into a granite rock monster guy. Radical!

Badrock 1
A sampling of all the text filling the margins of these splash pages.

The issue begins with Badrock facing off against a handful of underworld mercenaries, their leader, Savage Dragon villain Overlord, and mercenary Girth. Badrock flips out and hits Girth, who is trailed by a string of humorous narration boxes from Badrock. Badrock hits Girth after being called a "punk-ass," then grabs Gunner and his dad and makes a break for it. Narrative captions make fun of Overlord as he shouts "stop them!" The trio make their way to a train platform when they're attacked by "Lowblow," a tiny, hairy man with a Wolverine haircut. Badrock tosses the tiny ersatz Wolverine up and Gunner blasts him while contorting her body in absurd ways.

Badrock 1 Gunner Lowblow
Wolverine is shot as skeet. Rob draws awful feet even when it would be easier to just cut the frame.

They got on the train, when Gunner is hit by a throwing knife, as somehow they didn't notice two costumed guys on the train, one of whom has an axe for an arm, calling themselves "Cutthroat" and "Hellrazor." While Badrock takes out one of them, a quickly recovered Gunner knocks out the other, then poses some more.

Badrock 1 Gunner
Her name is Gunner and I can't find anything about her because her name is "Gunner."

We inexplicably get a flashback (I think), where we get some odd comic relief: Badrock wears a chef's hat, and his dad is such a bad cook Badrock has to make a last minute grocery store run, dressed in normal human clothes (he is too 90's to wear a trenchcoat, I guess?). He comes back from the store to find his house exploded, as a holograph of Girth tells him the Overlord kidnapped his dad.

Badrock 1 Savage Dragon
My favorite part of this image might be the "Speed Racer" style reactions. All we need is a fourth box with a monkey.

Back in the present, Badrock rounds a corner and runs into Savage Dragon, who is flexing every muscle of his body. TO BE CONTINUED?!?


Well, that was completely incomprehensible! I assume Liefeld is working on something like the old "Marvel method," wherein Kirby and Ditko would basically draw whatever they thought looked cool to tell the basic story, and then Stan Lee came in to jazz everything up by writing all the text. That's the only way to explain this, a #1 issue that feels like it's part 3 of 4. There's a number of full-page action splash pages that are clearly what Rob wanted to draw, and Eric Stephenson is left trying to explain what on earth has already happened in the story, because we didn't see any of it. The flashback/dad kidnapping isn't explained as a flashback, so I had to read through the book multiple times to make sure his dad wasn't re-kidnapped or something (Girth also gives his name, which Badrock knows at the beginning of the issue). Gunner seems to appear and disappear in the story, too. He says she "tagged along," but when? She wasn't at the house when it got exploded was she? I have no idea. The book is really a disguised crossover opportunity for Badrock and Savage Dragon, which I would've known if I knew or cared anything about Savage Dragon, since "The Overlord" is Erik Larsen's "Dr. Doom" type villain for that book.

What is there to even say about Liefeld's art at this point? There's tons of splash pages, almost no backgrounds, and everyone is flexing and opening their mouths disturbingly wide at all times. Women in the Liefeld-verse are strange bird-like creatures. Also for a guy who is notoriously awful at drawing feet, he's really bad at hiding them.  Just frame the picture so that you only see them from the chest up, Rob, it ain't hard!

Anyway the issue does have one reasonably okay fight, but the rest of it is just impossible to understand.

90's Fashion: Badrock wears an over-one shoulder ammo belt with a big "Y" badge like he's a shirtless Cyclops, and has a row of pouches around each mid-thigh for... some reason. He also has huge formless metal boots. Gunner has metallic legs and one metallic arm (is she a cyborg?), an eyepatch, and a headband. She also carries an enormous gun that seems to disappear when she's not brandishing it. Cutthroat has skull shoulder pads and a big skull belt and a scythe for an arm- the scythe is inexplicably bloody, even though he hasn't scythed anyone when he's introduced. Hellrazor wears spiked shoulder pads and a helmet with spikes coming off the sides. Girth wears tiny sunglasses that are held in place by magic. He wears a vest without a shirt.

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