Centipede #4 Cover by Francesco Francavilla

Centipede #4
Written by: Max Bemis
Art by: Eoin Marron
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Dean Zeller

This review contains spoilers of Centipede #4, by Dynamite Entertainment.

Several weeks ago, I reviewed Centipede #3.  I was hoping for a fun adventure that reminds me of one of my favorite video games from the 80’s.  I was given everything except what I wanted.  The main character was unsympathetic, boring, and not drawn well.  The story made little sense.  it seems writer Max Bemis was redefining the Centipede world, with dark tones and creepy themes.  I gave it a C, because the story was understandable, but it just wasn’t very good.  Why base a comic after a video game, when the resulting product is absolutely nothing like the game itself.

I had thought my days of reviewing Centipede were over, as I don’t feel like spending another two hours writing a negative review for a low print-run issue anyway.  By my editor and Internet-friend Ryan McLelland said he would be sad if i didn’t write a follow-up.  Since he gives me freedom to write what I like, I’ll do it for him.  Besides, he signs my paycheck, so I do what he says.

Before I get to the review, there was a negative comment made by “John” about my review.  I’m still new at the comic-reviewing world, so I don’t know how people will react to my writing.  John’s first issue with the review dealt with my lack of appreciation that the main character was a homosexual.  I had considered taking that section out, as it could be misconstrued or misinterpreted.   My editor said to leave it in, so fine, it’s his fault.  This review will make no mention of his sexual preference, as the issue also made no mention of it either.

John’s other issue was my comment on “the artwork looked like artwork, sketched and retouched.”  I guess a subtle point was lost in the text-based communication.  See, I like comic books in which the panels, characters, and background look real, or at least real enough.  Gary Frank, Terry Dodson, and Tom Mandrake are examples where their artwork looks like real people, with shadows, facial expressions, etc…  I don’t like artwork to look like retouched artwork, such as Lenil Yu or Howard Chaykin.  My comment was that the artwork simply looked like artwork a good-quality middle-schooler would draw.  Not great quality, and nothing exceptional; just normal artwork.  We’ll see how Marron does with this issue.

Image result for hulk 402  Related image  Image result for tom mandrake martian manhunter 9

I typically do a background on the creators, but that was covered in the review for Centipede #3.  Without further ado, on to the review.

At the end of the last issue, our hero had just eaten magic mushrooms and ended up in the Centipede’s world.  Okay, already it is a writing trope that is totally overused.  “Hey, if he does serious drugs, we can have an issue that totally doesn’t make sense, and we can blame it on the drugs!”  Yes, the Centipede video-game had mushrooms, so at least this wasn’t completely out of left-field.

 

Drug-fueled insanity

Throughout the course of the entire issue, Dale (the main character) was on a mushroom trip.  And boy, did it get weird.  Not trippy-weird, just… odd.  I will explain the plot in the best words I can.  The only thing I can reason is that Bemis was going for a really trippy story for the comic-reading hippies.  I kinda-sorta understand what the storyline was trying to convey, but I guess I just didn’t do enough hard drugs before reading the issue.

 

Not enough drugs

Dale first appeared naked, near a large centipede, and some centipede larva that just had Dale’s head.  The naked-Dale never made another appearance in the rest of the comic.

 

The main character, for this issue, at least

The centipede-larva-Dale-head-concoction was essentially the main character for the rest of the issue.  The large centipede is his mother, and he spends the next eleven weeks being raised as a centipede-larva-with-a-Dale-head.  He eats gross bugs, and even calls the centipede “Mommy.”

Let me repeat… he calls the centipede mommy.  I guess this sorta relates to the social issues he was discussing with his (real) mother in the last issue.  After eleven weeks of learning to be a centipede, his father shows up.  And then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder…

… it gets weirder.

His “father” spends six months brutalizing Dale-larva in various ways.  I guess this references the after-school-special on his abusive father from last issue.  After all of the abuse, Dale finally ends up “realizing” the purpose all the abuse:  to make him stronger.  Is this a parallel to his real abusive father?  Did he abuse Dale all his life… to make him stronger?!

 

Making him stronger

Boy, how’s THAT for a grand message for those who were abuse by a parent as a child.  “Oh, your parents weren’t being abusive, they were making you strong and building your character.”  I was lucky enough to have had good, caring parents that didn’t abuse me, and my strength is just fine.

Well, now that Dale-pede and Daddio are best of friends, the adventure goes on.  A huge spaceship shows up for some unknown reason and captures Dale-pede.  And Daddy, who he now has a good relationship, inexplicably lets him get captured.  Okay, not inexplicably; he traded his son for a dead fat cow, which was barely an appetizer.  He was satisfied, and left his son to get captured by the ship.  Dale-pede was put in a laboratory where other aliens had been previously captured.  These aliens are used in some kind of gladiator arena for fighting entertainment.  All of this is run by some “Midget Maveric” that resembles the actual Centipede main character.  Is the writer trying to connect the comic to the video-game characters?  Some spiders join in, and they’re able to defeat the Midget, allowing for a Frank-Milleresque killing of the gnome, and Dale-pede to copy Maximus’ famous line from Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?”  I can’t believe how many literary tropes were used in this story.

Dale then spends nine years as a centipede.  Sometimes he’s short, with only six or so legs, and other times he has many more.  His beard grows on his creepy human head on the centipede boy, and he gets bigger and bigger.  Now the arena battles are several fighter-planes against the enormous Dale-pede.  He crashes out of the arena, flies into space, and then finally wakes up from his “mushroom hallucination” right were the story started.  Only one night had passed, not nearly a decade.  It turns out that the dream game him the information on how to defeat the centipedes.  He gets in the gnome’s fighter-plane, and readies to take on the centipedes that invaded his world.

So here’s the thing.  I’m a big Dreadstar fan from the 80’s.  When Jim Starlin wasn’t writing plots that would eventually be used for the overall plotline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Infinity Gauntlet), Starlin wrote an awesome space-opera Dreadstar for Epic comics, and was eventually moved to First Comics, my favorite ever comic company.  The characters took a different turn when Peter David took over, but it was all very good.  There were serious social issues, awesome grand conflicts, and cool characters.    This issue of Centipede read much like Dreadstar.  Had Jim Starlin created a bug-themed universe, requiring Earth to defend itself, it would be a great story of intrigue and survival.  I think Bemis and Marron wanted to create something similar.  Adult, surreal, clever, and different.  But to put all that darkness and serious undertones into a video-game themed comic just doesn’t fit.

 

What Centipede could have been.

This issue used a lot of common literature tropes:

  • A drug-fueled dream that didn’t actually happen (or did it?).
  • Captured by a ship that previously captured other aliens, keeping them in cells.
  • Working out parental issues in weird ways.
  • A gladiator arena.

It was just simply trope after trope after trope, thrown together into a dream that maybe didn’t happen, allowing the dreaming character to figure out something important relevant to the plot.

I will say two good things about this issue.  First, it was understandable.  My main complaint about the Wonder Woman Bionic Woman team-up was that it didn’t make any sense.  The story for Centipede #4 flowed, and at no point was I confused.  It just wasn’t an entertaining story.  Second, it made me laugh, similar to how I laughed at the Sharknado movies.  Every time I saw the Dale-pede interacting with his centipede mother and father, my main reaction was “What the &%$#!”  Bad story or not, I had many of those moments where I laughed out loud at the utter nonsense of the plot development.    I was surprised at how the writer could try to pass this stuff off as “quality.”

 

Similar quality entertainment

So, if you want to read a story filled with generic literary tropes and having nothing to do with the original characters, pick this issue up immediately.  Otherwise, pick, up Mighty Mouse #5, The Librarians #1, Grumpy Cat/Garfield #3, or any of the other high-quality comics from Dynamite Entertainment, for a better use of your hard-earned cash.

RANK: C- / 2  stars out of 5 / Thumbs Down

 

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