I think there’s always been a little overlap between the fans of comic books and video games, especially arcade cabinet classics with enigmatic stories and a strong focus in visual branding. In fact, back in the days of the Atari 2600’s prime, DC Comics published a line of mini-series all linked to video games, including ‘Swordquest’, ‘Atari Force’, and more. Now, Dynamite has taken over releasing a brand new series of ‘Atari Classics’, including a new take on ‘Swordquest’, and the topic of our discussion today, ‘Centipede’!
The pleasant surprise of these books is their unconventional way of telling the story of the games themselves, but also stories of the people who fell in love with them. ‘Centipede’, for example, chronicles the adventures of Dale, a lone survivor of a planetary cataclysm, and his crusade to defeat the giant monster that ravages what’s left of his city.
What’s more intriguing about this latest issue is the exploration of human psychology withstanding complete isolation. Dale is almost literally alone with his memories of the people who were once in his life, the small joys and frustrations he’d experienced in a more trivial life. The only other living thing he’s left to interact with is a frankly mindless creature, the centipede. All Dale can do is continually outsmart and attempt vengeance on the monster while barely escaping with his life. But then, without the centipede, what else would he possibly do with his time?
While I’m not yet sure if this is incidental or with purpose, these new Dynamite/Atari titles have had a distinct goal in trying to offer LGBT representation to their lead characters. We’re taken on a journey through Dale’s memories just as much as a journey through the war-torn, deserted streets of his old home. The reader meets his friends, family, and lovers, and loses them with him, too. It’s an intensely emotional story to go through when all you’re expecting is a space adventure fighting alien monsters. Max Bemis’ previous works (‘Worst X-man’, ‘Foolkiller’) are no indicator of what he’s capable of, not until his full potential is seemingly released from the confines of Marvel’s limitations. Frankly, most of the big hitters could use some letting loose in terms of content and story. How else do you think we’ve received such gifts as Neil Gaiman? The artist of the series, Eoin Marron, brings visual believability to a creature and our hero just as he decorates simple, but rich landscapes of the mind and the outer universes with comedic charm. His style is so reminiscent of ‘Tank Girl’ that it makes the grit and antics of the story even more convincing, and yet he gives the world of ‘Centipede’ a Mad Max-ian quality for enthusiasts of barren, apocalyptic cyber-punk fables with heart.
I’m hard pressed to decide which of the new Atari series I enjoy more, but this latest issue of Centipede is yet another rung in the upwards ladder of quality content coming from Dynamite’s new take on classic video games. These series are the comics I look forward to the most in my subscription, not just epic tales of hunting monsters in space, but stories of the people in them, and the people who loved where they came from.