Centipede #3
Written by: Max Bemis
Artby: Eoin Marron
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Dean Zeller

This review contains spoilers of Centipede #3, by Dynamite Entertainment (2017)

I typically don’t enjoy writing negative comic reviews. For the time it takes to write a proper review I would rather promote comics I like, rather than tear down somebody’s hard work and effort. No matter how bad something is, somebody out there likes it, and I like to remain positive about my reviews.

Not this time. When I picked up Centipede #3, there were some very specific things I was looking for. Unlike most of Dynamite’s characters, I actually have a huge affinity for Centipede, putting many-a-quarter in the 80’s video games. I would have loved a comic that brought back the love and appreciation I had for the video game. I had not read the first two issues in the series, but I trusted I would be able to follow the plot well enough. This wasn’t Shakespeare or Tom Clancy – it was a comic about a video game.  How difficult could the plot be to understand?

Before getting to the comic itself, let’s discuss the Centipede video game. You played a guy with a gun that moved around on the screen, firing at a centipede coming down at you through a field of mushrooms. The rules were as follows:

Your gun could fire only one missile at a time. If a missile was en route, you could not fire until it hit something. Sure, that does not simulate real-life missiles, but it is a video game. It had to have some kind of recognizable limitation in missile firing. It forced the player to make judgement calls about when to fire, as a miss could have great ramifications.

If a missile hits the centipede in the head, the head section dies, turns to a mushroom for some reason, and you get 100 points! Great, but then the next section of the centipede becomes the head, and it keeps going. If that isn’t scary enough, if a missile hits the centipede in the body, it kills that section, but then the next section also becomes a head, and you have two shorter centipedes coming after you. It was this rule that was the scariest, and most defining of the gameplay.  There are fleas, spiders, scorpions, and other various obstacles to add flavor to the game.

Given the video graphics capabilities of the time, the game designers did not have much to work with. The characters were pixelated, but still looked like sectional centipedes. The drawn graphics to promo the game had more detail, but still showed the sectional nature of the centipedes, necessary to understand and play the game.

The dynamics of the rules made very specific strategies to be successful at the game. The main strategy makes use of rules 1 and 2. The player gets underneath path of the centipede to shoot the head and each retrospective head created, thus killing the centipede in a most glorious fashion. For a most excellent example of the game, here’s a YouTube video showing somebody scoring 316,000. About 54 seconds in shows an example of the strategy discussed.

I was one of the 16% that actually liked the Adam Sandler movie, Pixels, featuring 80’s video games as villains in a CGI movie. The Centipede scene did a reasonable job to incorporate the rules mentioned above. At the start, Adam and his friend simply shot repeatedly into the air, not making use of the famed aforementioned strategy. It was not until later that Sandler was able to show the video game strategies and dynamics.

Naturally, this is a review of the comic, but it was important that you, the reader, knew where I was coming from in my expectations for this particular comic. So, without any further ado, here is the review for Centipede #3.

Writer Max Bemis got his start in independent comic companies, writing Crossed: Badlands, Polarity, Evil Empire, and Oh, Killstrike. For Marvel, he has written a dozen-or-so issues of X-Men and a five-issue miniseries on Foolkiller. Artist Eoin Marron previous work includes five issues of Sons of Anarchy for Boom Studios.

There was no “what has gone on before” introduction, so it just started with a guy in an army hummer driving through a bunch of enormous fleas from the game. He eventually used a rocket launcher to them up in clusters. He continued to open-fire on them with his rocket launcher for several pages, which must have been some feature of the game I was never able to reach.

It then spends a page talking about the main character’s angry and judgmental father, then three pages talking to his mother. I would have liked to have known the main character’s name at this point, but it hadn’t been mentioned yet.

Spoiler alert: During the talk with his mother, he reveals he is gay. I have no problems with gay characters, and enjoy reading stories about them. Terry Moore used gay characters in Strangers in Paradise since 1993, so it isn’t a completely new idea. Alan Heinberg did a wonderful job with Wiccan and Hulkling in Young Avengers. Margarie Liu crafted a great story on Northstar’s same-sex wedding in Astonishing X-Men, featuring the characters holding hands on the cover. Cristos Gage had a gay male (Striker) and a bisexual female (Lightspeed) in Avengers Academy. Brian Michael Bendis introduced the teen Iceman in All-New X-Men, later revealed as gay, even though his older counterpart was not. Even conservative DC has made several LGBT characters, including Batwoman, the original Green Lantern, and has publically stated that Harley Quin, Wonder Woman, and Poison Ivy are all interested in women. It has become en vogue to introduce a gay character in comics. If it is done well, I am all for it. Did it fit for Centipede #3? Not for me. It seemed to me that Bemis was just jumping on the proverbial gay bandwagon, and introduced the character as such. The comic should be about the video game, but instead it is getting into social commentary. I don’t mind that he is a gay character, but it completely took four pages away from what could have been a fun adventure defending the world against a huge centipede. It just didn’t fit, and it didn’t do anything for me to like or be sympathetic with the character.

Following the after-school special on the troubles of sexual choice, the still-as-yet-unnamed main character goes back to shooting fleas. Hey, I thought the title of the book was Centipede! Finally, a multi-section centipede makes an appearance! This one was monstrous! This one was easily 50’ wide, tearing apart buildings, and causing mass destruction. I guess the previous plot wasn’t the only thing that didn’t fit for me. There was no explanation given for the astronomically large centipede. I was hoping he would fire into the middle, creating two smaller centipedes, but it didn’t happen. Basically, everything he tries fails, and he get frustrated.

In the end, the main character (finally identified as Dale) gives up, says goodbye to the boyfriend, and leaves the city, to watch it be utterly destroyed. A spider attacks him to build the suspense. The big-ass centipede is just about to kill him dead and… it flies off for no reason. I don’t know why it didn’t kill him.

But don’t worry – the plot starts to make sense again. Dale eats some mushrooms that happen to be in the area, trips-balls, and somehow ends up dimension-traveling to the world where the centipedes come from. I guess it sets up issue #4 on a different direction.

So obviously, I didn’t like the writing. The artwork was equally bad. The comic title could have been called Aliens or Enormous Fleas and the story would have been the same. The centipedes did not look or act like the original, and did not give me any appreciation. The people were drawn blocky and awkward. Most of the artwork looked like artwork that was sketched and retouched. I did enjoy seeing Dale ride a motorcycle down the centipede’s back, but there was little else I liked.

To give credit, there was no point in the story in which I was lost. While reading many comics nowadays, I just don’t understand anything of what is going on, through incomplete history or characters lacking motivation. At least this issue did not suffer from that point, which is why I am still giving it a passing grade. It did the job of telling a coherent story about centipedes, just not one that I liked much.

I would love to see more efforts into bringing new life into 80’s video games. I may enjoy a Dig Dug or Asteroids story. Unfortunately, this particular video game story left me unsatisfied.

RANK: C- / 2 Stars Out Of 5 / Thumbs Down

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