"I am the model of the physical physicist." — Quinn.
Review by Mike Truman
Sliders, the television series, often looks like it’s operating with its metaphorical hands tied behind its back. It’s restrained by budget, special effects technology, and a skittish network trying not to offend large sections of its potential viewing audience. So in theory, the “anything goes” world of comic books should be advantageous to the franchise. However, as “Armada” proves, sometimes limits aren’t such a terrible thing.
Free of his shackles, co-creator Tracy Tormé sends his four anti-heroes into their most daring and over-the-top adventure yet. Paced like a Michael Bay movie, “Armada” continuously raises the ante, putting its stars in ever increasing and improbable jeopardy, all the while blowing up as many things as possible. Should someone ever have a dream of putting Sliders to film, this would be an ideal candidate. Is it the best representation of the series? No, but it fits the Fourth of July blockbuster template to a “T.” It’s War of the Worlds versus Independence Day versus Ben-Hur, with a little bit of The Beginning of the End thrown in for campy spice. KA-BOOM!
The story starts in a location Sliders fans have learned to dread as a harbinger for disasters to come: a giant world. Today’s creature feature: ants! Fortunately, time’s up for this misadventure and one narrow, quipping escape later, the four find themselves in an ashen, burned out city that appears to have sustained a nuclear attack. Compounding problems, the timer is on the fritz and there’s a very good chance a nearby alien spaceship has something to do with it.
Fans of the show recognize the plot as that of Invasion, which no doubt was spawned from the same idea. The key difference is in the nature of the villains. Here, the Kromaggs are replaced by the Zercurvians, a race of two-dimensional beings who have learned how to manifest themselves in the third dimension. This tribute to “Flatland” poses quite a few dilemmas, not the least of which to the poor bastards who have to draw them. It’s not entirely clear how these 2D beings managed to find their way into 3D, but it’s strongly suggested that another Quinn Mallory inadvertently sucked them out of their dimension into his. Being the friendly guy he is, this Quinn taught his new friends all about sliding. Unfortunately, the Zercurvians are unable to retain their cool new forms without “three dimensional energy”. So they built an armada of ships and began “the raze” which sucks the life out of every living thing to feed the Zercurvians.
They want our Quinn to continue helping them perfect their technology, but as luck would have it the timer returns to life and the group slide away… right into another alien invasion. This time the invasion is a more traditional “green men from outer space” variety. The craven leaders of the world have sold the rest of humanity into slavery. Another fortuitous sliding window opens up, but the Zercurvians have followed our team. Understanding they’ll never stop the pursuit, Quinn stays behind to give the others a chance to escape… to the lost continent of Atlantis.
Just to keep score: 2-D parallel parasites, little green men in flying saucers, and now, Atlantis. It’s a good thing Arturo is too busy running for his life, or his head would explode.
So how did it all go down? Beats the heck out of me. I ended up completely lost somewhere between the SRZAAAAK! and NOOOOOOOO!. The second part of “Armada” is just one big mess of action driven by faux scientific explanations.
Quinn, showing more aptitude than ever before, tricks the Zercurvians into entering a never ending sliding loop which he managed to devise in about fifteen minutes. SPROOMS! and KRAKAKOOMS! abound as vortex upon vortex opens up, sending the Zercurvians flying. Then, for kicks, the bored Atlanteans lead a charge into Little Green Men dimension so the story ends with everyone getting their just desserts. That includes the Sliders, who land in an obese dimension where a third helping is not optional.
Whew! What a rush! I hope we didn’t forget anything. Well, maybe a few things, starting with two important pieces: humor and characterization, which tie together in an unfortunate way in this outing.
There is next to no alt-humor as the worlds visited have no reasons for mirth. Aside from a flyer for Kentucky Fried Human on Little Green Men World, the background artwork presents few additional jokes. The rest of the so-called humor is derived from the caricatures of the main characters.
Everyone is a little too much themselves. Arturo has devolved back to the character presented in the pilot with all of his worst traits magnified. The endless banter between him and Quinn over school credit has been done to death by now. Quinn and Wade are represented as still together, though that period lasted precious few episodes in the first season. Rembrandt, still finding his purpose, is pretty much useless. The out-of-character moments are pretty comical; at one point, Wade proclaims “Gadzooks!”
I’ve never heard anyone proclaim “Gadzooks!”
Our villains don’t show much depth either. The Atlanteans have somehow managed to conquer the whole world without a single technological advance since iron working. They’re presented as cartoonish folk heroes of Greek mythology with nothing better to do than seek glory. The green men don’t get much ink time, but they’re just a faceless horde with a taste for drive-thru human burgers.
The Zercurvians… where to begin with these hideous folks? Not content to play with parallel dimensions, Sliders now takes us into the mathematical world of the second dimension. If you’re not familiar with the second dimension, it has width and length, but no height. The second dimension can be represented by a drawing on a piece of paper. If a second dimensional creature runs into a line, the line effectively acts as a wall. There’s no means of leaping or climbing over it. You can see why the Zercurvians were eager to break out.
But once they’re out, how do you represent them? “Armada” gives them special powers where they can maintain a very thin three dimensional form, but also revert to their second dimensional form. In this form, they have the ability to cut through three dimensional forms and split atoms. Except that’s not reasonable. A 2-D creature cannot stand in a 3-D space. If a Zercurvian is weak in its 3D form, it’s absolutely pathetic in its 2D incarnation. So why include them in this way? Because we can, damn it! SCREEEEEEEEK!
On the plus side, you’re probably never going to encounter another Sliders story this action-packed, this stuffed with bizarre concepts, this extreme. If the goal was to present Sliders as a full throttle adventure for the comics, then mission accomplished. But in doing so, it loses much of what makes the show great and presages the ultimately regrettable third season to come.
In the final analysis, “Armada” is just too much.
It’s not my favorite of the books by any stretch. The color seems a little bled out, probably to try and represent the effects of “the raze.” The four are presented in their first season forms. Rembrandt appears to have been working out during the off season.
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