October 14, 2009

The Wacky Month of Zen Part IV

The Wacky Month of Zen Part IV
A Fire Upon the Earth TPB Review

Welcome back to the fourth installment of The Wacky Month of Zen event here at! Throughout the month the Wacky Comic Wednesday column has been invaded by Zen Intergalactic Ninja, and this week we take a look at the trade paperback, A Fire Upon the Earth, published by Entity Comics in 1994. The trade collects Entity’s run of issues #0-#3 of Zen Intergalactic Ninja, and is written by Steve Stern and penciled by Tatsuya Ishida (Sinfest, G.I. Joe, Godzilla). This particular story is closely related to the Zen three issue mini-series published by Archie Comics in 1992, which was covered in Part I of our event!

FIRE_UPONThe opening chapter of A Fire Upon the Earth is a prologue story that provides the necessary exposition on who Zen is and his relation to the rest of the cast. The coolest part was a brief glimpse into Zen’s origin, as we are introduced to the scientists who made him from a test tube. They look exactly like Zen except for one distinguishing feature- they have mouths! Apparently Zen was a failed experiment as a baby, and when a compassionate female doctor was ordered to destroy him, she instead blasted him into space a la Moses’ mother from that other great work of fiction, the Book of Exodus. We’re also treated to shots of the planet OM and it’s sagacious inhabitants, whose garb reminds me a lot of the character Spoiler from Batman, with their purple cloaks and masks. It’s these monks who trained Zen and gave him his name as well as his ship, boots, and photon stick.

Other than this introduction, the plot of A Fire Upon the Earth is essentially the same as that of the Archie series; the evil Lord Contaminous along with his toxic henchmen (and woman), Garbageman, Oil Slick, Sulfura, Smogger, and new recruit Dump-It, have made it their mission to toxify the Earth. Here though, they begin by attacking a U.S. oil field in the Kuwaiti Desert where they kill all the guards and workers, then set fire to the entire area. Zen and his comrades Pulp, Lawnranger, Can-It, Lights-Out, Bottle Bandit (whom are all made out of recycled parts), and human ally Jeremy, arrive on the scene to put a stop to Lord Contaminous’ evil plans. A roller-coaster ride of a battle ensues, and eventually, Zen reigns triumphant after some help from an unexpected source…

There was also a side story that felt detached from everything else as it didn’t really have much to do with the main plot. An international space team is launched into Earth’s orbit inside the shuttle The Odyssey; their mission is to complete construction of the joint U.S., Russian, and Japanese space station called Earthlab One. The reason for this station being built is left unexplained, but I’m sure the story is further developed in subsequent issues. However, in this particular collection it felt out of place. Although, the fact that one of the Americans on board is named Major Glen Stoner was absolutely highlarious.

The characters look much more hardcore in this series when compared to the Archie run, as they actually resemble super heroes instead of goof balls. Jeremy is a little older, probably somewhere in his mid teens, but the character who is affected the most visually is Lawnranger- and it’s for the better. I mentioned in Part I of The Wacky Month of Zen how he’s made out to be a major poof, but here he actually looks menacing- like a swamp creature who’s going to devour somebody. It works nicely except for the fact that the only thing he does in the brawl against Contaminous is make friends with a camel and toss some acorns into Garbageman’s mouth. The villain bites down on them and he immediately vomits up this nasty green goop. I mean, sure, it worked, but it seems like a rather useless weapon; what if Lawnranger’s aim was off or if Garbageman just spit out the acorns?

The scales balance out though because Smogger is equally as useless in Lord Contaminous’ army. During the battle he does absolutely nothing except get KO’ed after Oil Slick is tossed into him. Sulfura is way hotter in this version, but her snake-like speech impediment isn’t. Karl Lorenz, the American General who is hell-bent on destroying Zen, makes an appearance in this story as well. His role is actually very important to the plot, and he’s even a key factor in the resolution to the battle in Kuwait…

An interesting tidbit that’s worth mentioning: on the back cover of the book there is an ad for a Zen movie. Apparently, it was going to be a live-action film produced by the company, Sceneries. The director was slated to be horror auteur, Brian Yuzna (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Faust: Love of the Damned, Everdark) but the project never got off the ground. Another fun side note about this book is that Don Chin, creator of the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, serves as the editor. I only bring it up because you’ll be seeing a lot more from Don soon in future Wacky Comic Wednesday’s!

Let’s check out some quotes:

“You took your best shot, Saddam- and failed utterly! Now watch a true sovereign ignite the flames of world destruction!” – Lord Contaminous

“My butt *ouch* p-prides a little hurt… ouch ouch ouch.” – Jeremy the Starchilde

“You… dare… invoice… me?!? Perhaps you don’t understand. A King isn’t billed! A Lord does not pay!” – Lord Contaminous

“This really sucks, your Lordship!” – Sulfura

Now for my personal favorite:

“And while you’re at it, Major Stoner- please try not to embarrass our country, okay?” – Dr. Winston

Whereas the Archie series that A Fire Upon the Earth is based on was more kid oriented, this new take on the story amps up the action and the characters, making it more applicable to young adults. However, the slapstick vibe it gives off (for example there are numerous awkward E.T. jokes not to mention a scene where Bottle Bandit lights Garbageman’s butt on fire with a giant magnifying glass) accompanied by fight scenes where you know everything will turn out ok for the heroes, leaves me wanting a more dark and mature Zen tale. Alien Hero crossed into that threshold, but with Fire, it feels like a step in the opposite direction, which is most likely intentional. All in all A Fire Upon the Earth is a fun read, it just may not be for all adult readers.

Until next time Earthlings.

Andy Liegl



  1. billy

    Dude, where do you find this stuff? Lol

  2. lol

    In places you wouldn’t believe!

    Actually, most of the stories being featured during The Wacky Month of Zen event were compliments of the man, Steve Stern, himself!

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