Short Box: Atari Force Vol. 2

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Atari Force, Vol. 2

Creators

WriterGerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Mike Baron
Cover ArtistJosé Luis García-López, Eduardo Barreto
PencillerJosé Luis García-López, Eduardo Barreto, Ross Andru, Keith Giffen, Mike Chen
InkerRicardo Villagran, Bob Smith
ColoristTom Ziuko
LettererBob Lappan
EditorAndrew Helfer

Back when it was on the air I recall someone saying that it was a shame that the most compelling and relevant drama on television was called Battlestar Galactica because that name was a barrier to entry for far too many people, a sign that it was just a silly little trifle that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

It brought to mind Atari Force, a comic book series that was just so much better than it had any right or reason to be, with gorgeous and dynamic art, interesting and diverse – some allowances for it being the 1980s may need to be applied – characters and complex interpersonal relationships, exciting action, and compelling storylines.

Being a comic book and being science fiction were already limited the target audience, but calling it Atari Force likely dissuaded some who might otherwise have given it a look as they assumed it was just some cheesy attempt at cashing in on the popularity of video games.

And, in fairness, cashing in on the popularity of video games was a driving factor, as wat the idea of corporate synergy, given that at the time Warner Communications was the parent company of both DC Comics and Atari.

The first volume of Atari Force comics were mini-comics that were bundled with select Atari games.

Sometime later, DC published a preview insert – a reprint of one of the stories from the mini-comics – and that was soon followed by the second volume.

The mini-comics focused on a team of humans working for A.T.A.R.I. (Advanced Technology and Research Institute) on a starship that allowed them to travel across dimensions in search of habitable planets.

The ongoing series was set 25 years later and focused primarily on the children of the original team as well as some companions they picked up along the way. The new Atari Force formed when original mission commander Martin Champion, convinced that his adversary the Dark Destroyer still lived, stole his old ship and dragged his son, Christopher, AKA Tempest, and the daughter of two of his former crewmembers, Erin Bia O’Rourke-Singh, AKA Dart, an insect-like doctor named Morphea and a giant alien toddler called Babe who’s in Morphea’s care, along for the ride.

When stealing the ship they also pick up a stowaway, a thief who calls himself Pakrat.

Thanks to radiation their parents were exposed to as part of the original Atari Force, Tempest and Dart both have superhuman abilities. Tempest can create portals that allow him to teleport and otherwise think with portals, and Dart, in addition to being a tremendously skilled fighter, has limited precognitive abilities.

Morphea, an empath, has psychic abilities, Babe, who will one day grow to become a mountain, is incredibly strong and durable, and Pakrat is a coward, but flies into a vicious bloodthirsty berserker rage when cornered.

Eventually, the team also expands to include Dart’s beau Blackjack, and a short, pugnacious alien they call Taz.

They’re also accompanied by Tempest’s childhood pet, Hukka, an alien creature picked up by the original team.

I could tell you more about it, but it’s impossible to do the book justice. I will, however, note that in addition to everything else, this book is sexy.

And horny.

(All in a Code-Approved way, of course.)

This is thanks primarily to Dart, but almost all of the characters – among the characters who are of age, of curse – do their part.

The art of José Luis García-López accounts for a significant amount of the book’s greatness and would be more than enough to justify the book’s existence on its own, but it’s also incredibly well-written with a nice mix of drama, action, humor, romance, and suspense.

And even when José Luis García-López isn’t handling the art chores there’s still beautiful work from Ross Andru, Ed Hannigan, and Eduardo Barreto. It’s a gorgeous book from start to (too-soon) finish.

It’s impossible for me to say for sure, but I can’t help but think that this series would have run a lot longer and would be on more people’s radars if it had a different title.

Rights issues prevent it from being reprinted or revived, but the full series is very easy to find and reasonably priced, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It will exceed your expectations for a comic called Atari Force and would do so even if it were a comic by any other name.

ADDENDUM:

I forgot to mention that while I do have the mini-comics now, I didn’t have them back then. I never owned an Atari system. I didn’t have any friends who owned an Atari system. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever even seen an Atari system of any type in real life. My love for this series has no ties whatsoever to any video games or video game system. It’s just that good.


Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.


2 thoughts on “Short Box: Atari Force Vol. 2

  1. OMG I had all of these! That was back when we had a real drugstore with two spinner racks full of comic books. I thought the alien character designs were amazing and the action scenes were really cool. All these mumblety years later, Hukka’s oblivious self-confidence still lives in my brain. (“Hukka bossman!” He is buried under a pile of avoidable consequences. “…Mukka mossman.”)

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