May 25, 2014

U.S. 1, issue 5 "Amazed"

As the Baron and his Blimp limp away from the last issue in fuming defeat, U.S. and Retread complete their haul of Finger Lickin' Chicken to Colonel Chicken, who surprises both by revealing they've lost the race. Seems Taryn O'Connor worked her way into the race as a secret contender, which has U.S. crying foul as she and he start chewing away at one another. It's decided to add another leg to the race between the two trucks, this time delivering diced chicken parts to the company's distributor.

Things start off with a hitch as Taryn finds her distributor wire disconnected, and blaming the sabotage on U.S., she pulls ahead of him and tricks him down a faux detour. Things take an unexpected turn for U.S. and Retread, as they find rocks plummeting from the sky, glaciers sliding into their path, dust devils and flames and all sorts of nasty things they just barely scrape past by the skin of their teeth. Their CB's been jammed, so U.S. connects to a weather satellite where he discovers they're in a maze, with each sector containing its own natural disaster for them to face.

Finding the hum of a signal in his steel skull, U.S. comes across an alien standing in front of a spaceship. U.S. calmly steps out of his truck and greets the alien who, in trucker lingo, reveals his ship broke down while hauling cargo across the cosmos, and he set up the maze as a test to find a human smart enough to help him out. Scrounging through the chicken parts, the alien finds what he needs to repair his techno-organic ship and takes off. Retread had been knocked out through most of this, but believes U.S.'s crazy story when the alien ship swoops back and, apologizing for holding up U.S. in the race, hoists the entire semi into the air and drops it off at the destination.

Taryn is more than a little peeved when she finds they beat her to the destination, but they call it even when Retread confesses he was the one who sabotaged her engine and apologizes for it.


As Noel knows, I spent the bulk of last week trying to pass a kidney stone, so it's possible that I'm still a little loopy from the meds. Was this week's issue of U.S. 1 really about an alien who speaks in C.B. slang and creates a giant maze filled with chaotic weather in an effort to trap our heroes so that he can steal their chickens to use as fuel for his giant flying saucer? I didn't think s-- wait, huh? Really? Wow.

To this point, U.S. 1 has largely gotten by on the strength of its relative charms. After "Amazed", I'm afraid to say that it has all but exhausted its good will with me. This is, flat out, the dumbest thing that I've ever read - and that includes Vanilla Ice's autobiography. With each page I could feel my brain melting away like a stick of butter in a frying pan. The story is so mind-blowingly stupid that the fact that it lacks a villain, a plot, or even a hint of drama seem like nitpicks by comparison. This no longer reads like something aimed at ten-year-olds, it reads like something written by ten-year-olds.

After a brief and ultimately pointless callback to Baron Von Stereotype, we start off with Archer and Retread out on the open road. My heart leapt! Finally, they're out and about and not sitting around waiting for the action to come to them. It wasn't long before I realized that it was a false alarm, and this thing went from simply meandering down the highway to descending into epic pointlessness. How in the Hell does something like this even get published? Had Marvel already decided to pull the plug by this point? Noel and I have chalked up the bulk of the series' flaws to the inexperience of writer Al Milgrom, but something this monumentally awful can only come from a terminal case of apathy. Hell, even the artwork here is a step back.

What else can be said? "Amazed!" found the floor of U.S. 1 and took a jackhammer to it. Any hopes that the series might grow into something cohesive and interesting have long since vanished. All I can hope for now is that it manages to regain at least some of its former charm.


I have no clue where to start with this one. I just... wow, Al Milgrom. Just, wow. I can't even.

Okay, first of all, you know what the last issue didn't need? A sequel. I don't need to know where the Baron's gone, and I really didn't need Colonel Chicken to come back for the same Foghorn Leghorn joke. I do like that we get an issue focusing on Taryn, and I guess having a race between her and U.S. right after the last issue featured a race wins a little narrative cohesion by having it carry on from there, but I would rather she'd been a visible part of the race back then instead of finding a back door to loop her in now. No, it's not a fair race if the other two contestants were completely unaware she was also competing. Chicken talks a bit about publicity and the media, but how can you have publicity when nobody knows who's racing? Also, where'd all that media go during that race? Where'd all the media go during this race? It just dropped out of the picture when Milgrom no longer needed it, and Taryn was side-lined by a plot I'll get to in a second instead of having a really cool story of her own, and even when she returns, it becomes all about Retread having been a naughty boy.

Al, I gave props to your writing early on, but you really need to pick things up, because you've gone well off the road by this point, and I'm hoping the truck doesn't start diving into a barrel roll. I still like a lot of the colorful zingers and the personalities, but this is not good storytelling.

No, instead of focusing on that race, we get a maze of random nonsense that U.S. has to fight with whatever random nonsense he has at the push of a button, which is all then brushed aside as a test from an alien. Yes, an alien. I know, I know, this is the Marvel Universe, and U.S. probably has more than a few aliens swing by the Short Stop on a regular basis (though you wouldn't know it by his and Retread's gapes of wonder), but the story literally halts so we can have a bunch of stuff happen which it also then halts so an alien can talk trucker lingo, use raw chicken parts to fix his spaceship, and then unfairly wins the race for U.S. This is just... what happened?

I do like that the Highwayman is nowhere to be found. That's great. We need to step away from him, and I love how expressed suspicion of him being behind everything proved not to be the case... but that doesn't explain the alien trucker who wants to use chicken parts to fix his spaceship and win the race for U.S.

You know what? No. I can actually see that working on paper in a way. It does tie the chicken parts and the race together, you get a great hero moment as U.S. passes the test of actually stopping to talk to the alien instead of running or attacking, you have the bond between a trucker from beyond the stars and his brother in trade from here on Earth... I'll give it a pass in concept. But it still doesn't work, feels hollow and random, and doesn't have the spunk and energy to really sell it. Why? Frank Springer is still doing the art. I still think he's a great artist, but also that he's still entirely wrong for this book, as what should be exaggerated is subdued, what should be crazy is static, what should keep us rolling through the sheer wit of its randomness instead just quietly trots from tidy frame to tidy frame.

I can see Milgrom trying to push out of the box he's penned himself in a bit (though maybe way too far to the point of complete absurdity), but not only does he lack the skill and experience to make it work, he's saddled with an artist who keeps everything so tame and tasteful that it comes off as square as his steady ruler work.

This book just isn't working for me any more.


NoelCT said...

We really have lousy luck when it comes to stories involving chickens, don't we, Tony. :)

Tony Williams said...

>.< It's still too soon, man. Still too soon.