sábado, 19 de diciembre de 2015

Issue #5 - December 2, 2015


Last time we had an entire issue dedicated to the Almighty Tallest -which was as unexpected as it was overdue- and now we are basically staring at a cover which has Gaz on the limelight. Not gonna lie, I totally support the idea of seeing more of her, since only a couple of episodes on the cartoon had her on the starring role -and neither of them was all that memorable to begin with-. But before we jump right into the story, I feel like pointing out that that cover looks totally awesome, despite us having no clue about what happened in there -or how is she able to play video-games in a world with no roofs, nor floors, nor electricity... I guess that she's just hardcore enough to steal electricity from somewhere else to power-up her game. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case-.

Dib doesn't seem as relaxed, though.

Plot discussion:  

It all beings with Recap Kid making fun of the fact that neither of them should have survived the third issue, but quickly adding that he doesn't know anymore. You know? I really like it when that kind of comments are made by people actually on the comic, but what I TRULY like is NOT having him being shot down by an Irken ship, mid-sentence! For a second there, I thought that it was going to become some sort of nasty running joke (not exactly a big fan of rendering characters useless for the sake of comedy).

We then cut to Gaz's room, where she's playing an online video-game while wearing some sort of Virtual Reality equipment and chatting with her teammates. It all sounds very serious and she looks actually excited about the whole deal... that until Dib shows up running and yelling nonsense about a breakthrough that he's done somewhere; to which she replies in a very dry, furious way: "I'm busy and you know what I always say: break my immersion...", "and you break my face, I know" finishes an annoyed Dib... but he doesn't seem to have properly understood the seriousness behind the threat, since he then asks her to "pause her little game and come see what he's found". She's still surprisingly tolerant toward his annoyance, just telling him to shut up and even trying to explain the importance of the game to him, proudly saying that her clan is going to be the first to slay Queen Blotchulax -which sounds like one hell of an achievement-, but Dib just wouldn't listen and, in an act of sheer stupidity, just turns off her console, making her lose all progress (he even has the nerve to tell her that she's not busy anymore and to order her to follow him! I seriously doubt that the atmosphere on the Gargantis Array was breathable now).

Surprisingly, she DOES follow him... and what was all the fuss about? Zim arguing with a freaking squirrel! If Gaz was disturbed before, she's completely mind-broken now. The way she slowly backs out of the room with an absent glare -while Dib keeps on going about "his findings"- is quite hilarious in its misery, though. And it heavily underlines Gaz's mood. 

Quite amusingly, the next part takes place inside Dib's room, with a pixelated text floating over his bed and declaring it "The Humble Bundle of Horrors". What can I say? It NAILS the feeling and theme of the comic, as it takes the premise to an almost "Twilight Zone" level.

The next morning, Dib wakes up attracted by the delicious scent of his breakfast and happily goes down stairs to eat it. He doesn't, though, as his dad asks him to go see who's at the door -before there's any actual pounding on it, weirdly-. And when he actually goes to see who's there, the whole thing explodes on his face, revealing three robots standing right outside the demolished frame. One of them declares in an ominous voice that he's been declared an NPC by the Gamerlaw and that "life as he knows is over". Being captured and just about to leave the house, he cries for help and Professor Membrane shows up to solve the situation... maybe. What ACTUALLY happens is that he's wanting to get paid for having reported Dib to the authorities (quite a bit of money by the looks of things!). When the shocked kid asks for an explanation, he simply tells him that he had to because they threatened to take away his cooking robot if he didn't give him up. Far more shocked than before, Dib asks how could he have chosen the robot over him, to which Professor Membrane simply replies by asking if he has ever tasted the robot's poached eggs. Fair enough.

Dib gets taken away by the robots and is paraded around the city, where a mob of gamers scream at him and tell him to go "to the games". Curious and overwhelmed, Dib asks what happened to the world and why is everyone calling him an "En Pee See", to which one of the guards -the one who talked earlier- tells him that he's going on his way to The Console because he's obviously not a gamer. He then introduces himself as "Lord Voxelrot" and says that he rules this world now and then proceeds to explain the concept of an NPC to Dib, which he immediately gets.

Being informed that that's a world for gamers and that people who don't game are to be destroyed, Dib tries to argue that he's a gamer too, and that he plays video games sometimes. When Lord Voxelrot asks him if he means mobile games where you can pay real money to buy trinkets, Dib excitedly tells him that he's currently obsessed with one where you run a fruit stand, and eagerly adds that he just spent five bucks to ripen some bananas... but he doesn't continue, because a visibly annoyed Lord Voxelrot tells him that he makes him sick and that that's a world for REAL gamers. 

Voxelrot was definitely going to say a lot more, but all conversation is silenced at the sight of "The Console", a very impressive, advanced-looking structure that dominates the area. Not wasting any time, Voxelrot asks two of his minions to "prepare The Console for one more"; and then turns to face Dib again, stating that "his kind has plagued him since the start, judging him and not understanding the heart -or hearts, depending on the game- of a true gamer". He then adds that he's been saved for last, because he has been the worst offender of them all. The punishment that he's going to get for his crimes against "Game-Manity" (or "Gamanity", or "Hume-Gamity") is to play random games endlessly, being controlled by various gamers who might just suck at them, making him suffer the most horrifying deaths. Honestly, as far as ironic, over the top punishments go, this one is not all that bad, since it would only take a skilled gamer to remove all the pain from Dib's experience... but the chances of that ever happening are obviously very little.

Dib's then dragged all the way to The Console itself, where he's locked inside a tiny chamber (and this of him being locked inside claustrophobic spaces IS starting to become a common occurrence for whatever reason. Man, I do love that) while he tries to argue that he didn't do anything... to which Voxelrot simply replies that "that anything is gaming, which he didn't do". He then encourages Dib to think of The Console as a way to give NPCs as sense of purpose, besides filling up space... but that it is also a hideous prison.

Dib then wakes up in what's -literally- a Minecraft version of his own room. He tries to understand what's going on, but his pondering is interrupted by "blocky zombies" who attack the room in large numbers. He then unsheathes a gigantic diamond sword but asks why he's running TOWARDS the zombies when he's trying to get AWAY from them. No answer is given as he jumps out the window, landing on the street.
 
There he is ambushed by even more zombies and gets killed by the horde. He then wakes up in The Console where Voxelrot tells him that it wasn't all that bad after all, even though he says that it was the most horrible thing he's ever experienced (which doesn't have any kind of effect on Voxelrot... as he is immune to flattery). He then explains to Dib that he doesn't have any kind of control over his own actions because a gamer, chosen at random, is controlling him remotely, while his own feeling and consciousness remain intact ("I could feel the zombies eating my butt"). Also, there's a robotic boot kicking him in the rear the whole time.

When Dib asks why does he get the special treatment and why couldn't Voxelrot just leave him alone and game without caring about him, the latter just gets mad, explains that he would LOVE not to care about him, but that he takes every chance he has to make him, everyone care about his business -the personal accusation freaks him out- and re-starts The Console. Dib then gets sent directly into another gaming session (far worse than his previous one) and gets disconnected by Voxelrot again, because he wants to make sure that he's having fun. Tired, frightened and overall annoyed, Dib finally snaps and frankly asks Voxelrot how can he do that to him and to all those people.

"How? Happily" -he replies- And, when asked what happened to him to make him do something THAT horrible, he says that HE happened to him, he and his non-gamer kind. Voxelrot then refuses to answer the question about his true identity, saying that he will have Dib hooked to The Console forever, always wondering who he is... just to change his mind mid-sentence and reveal himself to be Gaz (dun-dun-dun!).

After the revelation, Gaz orders one of her minions to disconnect Dib, as he will be joining her for dinner (which he loves, since he haven't had breakfast and is starving). They then go heavy-escorted to "Bloaty's Pizza Hog", Gaz's favorite restaurant (it is nice to see it again after all these years). There they sit at a table, with Dib still tied up and unable to reach the pizza that's sitting right in front of him... and he tries to apologize for whatever he did (he truly has no clue), but Gaz doesn't listen to him, saying that he would say anything to escape right now.

She then gets up from the table, faces the animal band that's playing on the restaurant and says that the bassist is a potato there, while it's a giraffe in their own world's version of the restaurant, and adds that he wouldn't know that, since he doesn't pay attention to anyone's feelings ("but giraffe isn't a feeling!").

What follows is the "angriest flashback ever", where Gaz tells that the moment he unplugged her game, she knew what she had to do; that she knew that it wouldn't be easy but that real justice is never easy (while all of this is happening, Dib keeps trying to get her to throw a slice of pizza at his face, hoping to get something to eat. Man, he really is pushing his luck here). The flashback continues and we see Gaz asking Professor Membrane to build a machine that she could use to kidnap her brother and trap him in a nightmare of virtual horrors. He refuses at first, but decides to go ahead with it for science ("or something").

She then tells that she spent a lot of time looking for the perfect world for her plan, a world where gamers ruled and people who don't understand the glory of gaming were punished for being so lame. She then adds that she finally found the perfect world and that had to get rid of its former game master, saying that in another life, they would have been good friends, but that he was in the way and that there was no other choice. She also says that she had to get rid of their alternate-universe selves as well, because it would have ruined the immersion.

The next thing that happens is that Gaz flat out admits that she has destroyed a lot of realities in order to find the perfect world to use for her plan and that she has left a long trail of mistakes behind her, but that it was all worth it just to make him pay. When Dib tells her that she has gone completely crazy, she simply says that he doesn't know crazy yet, but that he will.

He gets connected to The Console again and is warned that this is going to be his longest session and that this time it won't be a random player controlling him, but their worst, most insane one: GIR (who they call "The Madman")!

Under GIR's command, Dib does all sort of ridiciolus, dangerous stuff (much for the robot's enjoyment): he steps in the middle of a crossfire and throws a grenade inside his own pants, endlessly dance in front of a demmon's destructive path, drives in circles in a go-kart -a la Mario Kart- track while a dangerous trap approaches him, enters and leaves the same portal for an hour, refuses to pay his debts to the animal mafia and tazzes himself for three hours in the middle of a battlefield. But you have to give him credit, since it's only after "ten million games and logic-defying deaths" that he pleads for forgiveness.

And just like that (although, probably because she got bored of this) Gaz accepts the apology and they go home, while Dib tells her that, once he's back from the hospital, they maybe can play some games (which she thinks it's a great idea). One healed butt later, however, Dib wins a round and Gaz throws him thru the wall, accusing him of cheating.      

Screenshots:


If there's something that I ABSOLUTELY like about these comics, that's the art direction. The drawings are sometimes too simple, but every single one stands out for the right reasons... I mean, look at this screenshot! The angle and backgrounds are fantastic and so is the lighting. I'd love to have that scene hanged on my wall.


That, right there, is the face of a psychopath ready to strike. If only Dib would shut up for a minute and look around...


Like I said, that scene just nails the feeling of the comic.


Running into zombies and throwing ourselves out of windows is how most of us play that game anyway. If Dib was a real gamer, he wouldn't be complaining so much about it... I'm glad that he didn't land on the gigantic sword, though.

Conclusion:

Despite how much I liked the idea and some of the jokes, I had a harder time reading this issue than with any of the other installments on the series. I guess that it had a lot to do with the fact that most of the dialogue happened in plain conversations without much substance: the formula "in and out The Console" worked fine the first coupe of times, but then it became an annoyance more than anything else and I found myself really disconnected to the story, only looking forward to see which games were going to be played next.

That said, I gotta admit that when GIR hit the scene, the entire story bounced back from that situation and destroyed the aura of "boredom" that was being cast over it. Too bad that we couldn't see more of him nor of those "ten million games and logic-defying deaths". It would have helped a lot to see at least a couple of them before we were done with the chaos-filled robot.

I will still recommend this issue to anyone wanting to read it, though. It still has enough good moments to be considered worth of bearing the name Invader Zim (despite the fact that Zim was barely in it) and the game scenes were very enjoyable as it is. Just don't set your expectations too high and you will be fine.

Did you know...?

That this is the first issue in which Zim is irrelevant to the plot?

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