Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Retro-View: The Zero Patrol #3 (Continuity Comics)

The Zero Patrol #3 (Apr. 1988; Continuity Comics) begins on the planet, Beriree, where successive missions by the inhabitants to investigate their important magma lines (the source of the worlds life support); result in seventy-eight people being institutionalized in an induced state of blind panic. Madam President X’Adral appeals to the mysterious “Zero” for aid, and he dispatches two of his agents, Dr. Altar Lane and Dr. Lanie Dark to assist with this dilemma.

Lane and Dark are brought up to speed upon their arrival and they immediately set out for the caverns that house the all-important magma lines. However once they enter the affected region, they detect atmospheric anomalies and both experience feelings of dread. Suddenly the image of a malevolent giant appears and despite their attempt to fight against the regions potent environment and the likelihood that this beast is nothing but a weird manifestation, the pair tumble over an abyss.

Quickly activating his anti-gravity belt, Altar Lane arrests their fall and he is then placed under the mental thrall of the alluring Dr. Lanie Dark, in a test to see if this will allow them to overcome whatever is responsible for the “fear effect”. Lane succeeds in passing through the area, but he is separated from Dr. Dark, who is shown to have been captured by the villains responsible for this crisis. It seems that guild hijackers had intended to blackmail the planet by controlling the vital magma, and after Dr. Lane is later reunited with his comely female companion, they jointly hatch a scheme to trick the hijackers into allowing the Zero Patrol members to “assist” with a scientific problem that the dastardly villains haven’t quite been able to lick.

Damak, the primary boss, isn’t so gullible and he moves to kill Lane and Dark, but Altar Lane leaps at the last moment and activates the fear beam, turning it upon the hijackers, and effectively ending the planetary crisis.

There is also a five page “Shaman” backup feature, which is somewhat like a post-apocalyptic Conan-style adventure; all written and drawn by Neal Adams. Shaman was originally introduced in a 'New Heroes' portfolio issued by Adams, but he was never a major Continuity property. Still the issue does have twenty-nine pages of story and art for $2, and that was in 1988.

That's the breakdown of this issue, but it's not the end of the story. Regardless of Neal Adams important impact on the comics industry upon his arrival in the 1960's, his Continuity Comics were a cluster-fuck from the very beginning. This issue is typical of the line, with numerous misspellings throughout and adding insult-to-injury, the apparent touch-ups by Mr. Adams on the original artwork tend to muddy up whole portions of the book.

'Zero Patrol', was originally published in the European series, Delta 99 in the late 1960's; written and illustrated by Esteban Maroto as 'Cinco por Infinito', The Zero Patrol was a team of five people from Earth, collected to protect the universe by the mysterious being known as Zero. The Continuity Comics version had first run for only two issues in 1984 & 1985. Then those issues were reprinted and the series ran for a total of five issues in 1987-89, before Continuity Comics eventually closed down. This repackaged material had Neal Adams supplying some new story and artwork elements, but with the usual rushed efforts of Continuity Graphics, it is difficult to determine just how much the storytelling on this title was the result of poor translation from the original source material or just deadline-induced sloppiness. Maroto's older series may have made some kind of sense, but this effort falls barely within the tolerable reading range.

Like most of Continuity's books!

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