March 24, 2012

Inhumanoids, episode 2: "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 2"

Tendril continues ripping through the ruins of Earth Corps HQ, but runs off after Liquidator hits him with a beaker of acid.

At the Shore Foundation, Sandra enters her brother's office just as Blackthorne finishes a call to a Senator where he uses an upcoming election to threaten the man into cutting Earth Corps' funding. Sandra confronts Blackthorne on this, as well as pictures she sees of Tendril being freed by a Shore drilling platform, and as she leaves, a group of his goons jump her. She kicks their asses and drives off.

At Earth Corps HQ, the guys don their armor and scale down the hole left by Tendril. They come to an underground cavern and are swept away by a wall of water when Liquidator shoots a pipe for no reason. They come up in another chamber lit by glowing moss, and spot D'Compse's tracks. They quickly come upon D'Compose, who imprisons Herc in his massive ribcage, but a downed stalactite and a bright flare free the Earth Corps leader and chases D'Compose off.

Tendril then attacks, chasing Earth Corps into a corner. Bright tries to dig his way out, but the rocks take life. The Granites are here and they hold off Tendril long enough for Earth Corps to escape. They run, but are again corned on a cliff, with D'Compose scaling the wall below and tree roots above too far to reach. Furthermore, D'Compose tosses a boulder that drops a cave in on them, damaging their armor.

Suddenly, the roots above come alive, opening to blind D'Compose with sunlight and lowering to pull Earth Corps to the surface. There, the Redwoods confront Earth Corps, telling them that the technology of man is what freed the Inhumanoids, and only that technology can put them back.

Earth Corps goes to their military contact, only to be told their organization is being dismantled in the wave of budget cuts. They trace the cuts to Senator Masterson, who ignores Herc's calls and hands over the Earth Corps environmental suit designs to his chief contributor: Blackthorne Shore. With no money and no resources, the heroes, still vowing to do what they can against the monstrous threat, return to their shattered HQ. There they encounter Sandra Shore, who offers to fund their mission, but only if she gets to come along.

At a Shore Engineering facility, Earth Corps repair their suits and put together a pair of vehicles: Terrascout, a basic mobile platform for a powerful laser turret, and Trappeur, which has a powerful gripping claw and a grappling line that allows it to scale walls. Both vehicles also have small, detachable flying vehicles. Sandra is also given a suit of armor, albeit a much simpler model than the dudes.

Fully armed and equipped, Earth Corps drives into the caverns below the Earth. After much exploring, heroic music, and emptily showing off their vehicles' capabilities, they come across a massive, ancient, abandoned city. D'Compose attacks and the fight is on. They seem to have the monster at their mercy, but he gets away when he sets a flock of skeletal bats on them. D'Compose drops a massive piece of stone, blocking the chamber.

Earth Corps eventually digs through, finding a massive cavern full of diamonds. There's a brief encounter with an acid pool and they melt through a diamond barrier, headed for the sounds of a battle beyond. They don't notice a mysterious figure in a black environmental suit who's following them.

At the Granite compound where Metlar is being held, a ferocious battle is under way, with D'Compose and Tendril smashing their way up the walls and Granites hurling stones left and right. Earth Corps arrives, lasering off several of Tendril's tendrils, but the pieces merely grow into additional Tendrils, who continue the attack. At the heart of the compound, Crygen and Pyre, the magnetic halves of Magnokor, have been using their powers to hold Metlar all this time. After an argument, they decide to merge and free Metlar so they can survive to recapture him one day. They are, however, captured, and Metlar goes on a rampage, taking out Earth Corps' vehicles, then uses his blazing red eyes to hypnotize Herc, Bright, and Sandra long enough to scoop them up and toss them towards his open maw, where magma boils within.


I still have a lot of problems with show, but this is definitely an improvement over the last episode. Things are much more exciting and consistent, with action scenes that actually make sense and have a visual flow to them. The illustration style is also becoming very effective, with the thick lines and deep, black shadows that became a brief staple in 90s animation. Granted, the designs are still iffy, with the Earth Corps armor being ugly as sin, Metlar being just as ridiculous to look at as I expected, the vehicles rather bland and indistinct, and Sandra's armor looking like an afterthought. The Granites look great, though, especially the distinct one with the beard like facial ridges who drops on D'Compose's head for a pounding. I'm guessing by his stand-out design that we'll see him again.

While the Earth Corps members are still painfully underdeveloped, their interplay is good. You really get the sense of comradery and friendly competitiveness between them, and their history comes through in the way they bounce around ideas and solve their way through challenges. And a bit of Dille's trademark humor is finally visible when the corrupt Senator cuts their funding and Bright jokingly heads off to the unemployment office.

I especially really like the dynamic between Sandra and Blackthorne Shore (now they've been revealed as sibling, Tony :p), with her being the genuinely good and charismatic individual that he puts in the spotlight as the face of the company, and he being the ruthless figure who runs it from the shadows. It's interesting, though, that he has no problem sending goons to rough her up, but she still has free access to her accounts and Shore resources, like the engineering building where she lets Earth Corps build their vehicles. Wouldn't Blackthorne have taken steps to prevent this? Or at least be keeping an eye on it so as to find ways to turn it to his advantage.

And Sandra herself is a mixed bag. On the one hand, she's really awesome, taking no nonsense and totally handing three dude's asses to them. On the other, by the time we get to the main mission, she really does feel halfheartedly shoe-horned into things. Sure, she still holds her own as a pilot and with a rifle, but why does she get the reject armor, the skinny little thing without the strength, protection, or extra gadgets of the others? It's like the designers mothers told them they had to be fair and let the girl play with, and they made a big "Aw, do we have to?" fit before handing her the lousy toys they didn't really want to play with anyways.

I'm not kidding when I say Metlar is ridiculous. Him being a big bad from the core of the Earth is a great idea, but they aren't selling it with a fat, children's book troll in a plate mail unitard, and all he seems to do is roar and spit lava balls at things. And what's up with the hypnosis eye thing? That came completely out of the blue. What, can the big, nasty monster not scoop up three defenseless humans unless he hypnotizes them first? Sure, that makes him threatening. Also, D'Compose's ribcage prison is neat on paper, but doesn't work all that well in action, and Tendril's "grow more Tendrils" ability already feels inconsistent because there should probably be a dozen of him running around by now. So the villains are leaving me pretty bleh, though I am curious to see what Blackthorne adds to the mix, since I'm guessing that's him in the black environmental suit.

There's still a lot of sloppiness on display (Liquidator shooting a pipe for no reason, montage for the sake of a montage), but it feels like the show is starting to find its footing. The characters are starting to settle into place, the story is really kicking into gear, and Dille's clever and funny side is starting to peek through. Now if only it weren't still so damn ugly to look at.


I spent some time this past week reflecting on my review of the first episode of Inhumanoids and came to the conclusion that I was too easy on it. While I still feel I was right to judge it by certain amended standards - especially considering these first five episodes are actually cobbled together from shorter, serialized chapters - I wasn’t as clear about its shortcomings as I should’ve been. In short, it was as loud, unpleasant, and mind-numbing a 22 minutes as I’ve spent outside the company of my boss in a long time. In fact, I can’t think of one thing I liked about it. The theme song was obnoxious, the characters were flat, the look was uninspired, and the story was choppy. It was an unholy mess, and secretly I feared my buddy Noel and I had just committed ourselves to four months of animated torture. So it’s with a small (very small) sigh of relief that I tell you that this second episode begins to lumber slowly in the right direction.

As Noel mentioned, the interplay between our heroes is improved here. To be sure, they’re still too thinly developed, but for this at least I’ll revert back to my amended standards. There was also the welcome relief of some humor, and this series desperately needs more of it. It’s a sorbet against the unrelenting unpleasantness of the Inhumanoids themselves. And speaking of which, I absolutely loathe D’Compose. The grotesque imagery of the character is matched only by the grating and insufferable noise it emits. Imagine Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem on a loop. It’s that bad.

Story-wise, things begin to take a turn for the better as well. I like the machinations of Blackthorne Shore manipulating a sitting Senator. It’s certainly a more sophisticated plot device than we’re accustomed to from an 80s cartoon. I really hope we see more of this relationship as the series goes along. And the inter-play between Blackthorn and Sandra - yes, brother and sister; my bad, Noel :p - adds a bit of much needed zest to the tofu-like interpersonal relationships of the various characters. It ultimately makes the conflict personal and keeps Sandra, otherwise a classic token female character in a cartoon of this type aimed at boys, central to the drama. Compare her to the way the female characters in Visionaries were used... or, more accurately, not used. She’s smart, tough, gets her hands dirty right along side her male counterparts, and has the most interesting personal dynamic so far. Plus, I kinda like the design of her suit, though I agree - where are the gadgets? I’m betting they’re added over time.

It all culminates in a loud free-for-all before revealing Metlar. No, that’s not a German thrash metal band, it’s our chief Inhumanoid villain. If you’re looking for iconic, keep looking. His most frightening feature: massive man-boobs. His greatest power: a cheap parlor trick. Inhumanoids! Collect all three. Seriously, though, Blackthorne is going to be the straw that stirs the drink, so we really can’t judge this aspect until they all come together.

So far this series is nowhere near the vicinity of good. It merely made a turn off of awful blvd. and onto mediocre lane.

The Showcase is taking next week off while Noel attends the Emerald City Comic Con - say "hi" if you see him, he looks like this: 8D-/-< - but we'll be back the following Saturday with the next Inhumanoids adventure, "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 3".

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