So last time things were a little bit goofy around here. But Armada was so bad. And while I’ve read all of these Sliders comics before, I had very little recollection of them. So after reading Armada I was worried that they were all going to be the worst collective piece of shit I’d have to cover (YES, WORSE THAN SLITHER).
But out of the blue, “Rapture/Damnation” come along, and not only are they better— I’d go so far to say they’re pretty good. Don’t get me wrong- the same problems that plagued Armada are still here. The characterization is a little goofy and off at places, and the dialogue is still often stilted and joke-reliant. But the art manages to make the characters look a little more recognizable (and at this point I’m already willing to accept that Quinn will be more chiseled, and Wade is going to gain a cup size or two because THIS IS COMICS AND FEMINISM HASN’T BEEN INVENTED YET [this is why I don’t read superhero comics]).
But what’s striking is the fact that, as you read Rapture, you realize that there’s kind of a lot going on. Every panel is loaded with little background jokes- signs, posters, ephemera, that do an astounding job of world-building (kind of a better job than most episodes do, to be honest). These little touches kind of serve as an alternate B-plot of sorts.
The A-plot is thus: the sliders land on a world where religion is King, and people are being beamed up to the sky by “The Calling,” which turns out to be a different form of Sliding created by a Monk-Shaved Alt-Quinn. But putting all those ‘religion jokes’ in the background make for a little more complicated picture. Obviously, Sliders is going to be a little Godless (I don’t think there’s much room for Alternate Histories in the Bible), but this comic is actively positing itself as anti-religion in a way that they could never have gotten away with on the show. It’s actually a resoundingly successful example of the goal of the comics— to do what can’t be done on network TV.
“Rapture,” to it’s credit, plays out much as you’d expect it would were it on television. Beats such as Rembrandt’s search for religion, and the reveal of both Alt-Quinn and an excommunicated Alt-Turo are all the kind of beats we expect from the show.
The “antagonist” of the story is interesting— mainly because the threat isn’t really the people themselves (mainly because they’re half-sketched characters at best), it’s their actions. It’s sliding that’s the danger here. Instead of “rapturing” these people into multiple dimensions, they’re just being beamed to one.
It’s a frankly thrilling concept that the show hasn’t (and sort of won’t ever) yet dealt with: the physical, dimensional consequences of punching a hole in the fabric of space (“As Time Goes By” is different :P). It’s like that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Force of Nature,” where it’s revealed that warp travel actually has dire ramifications for subspace.
But, just as “Force of Nature” sets up a grand idea and then piffles it with a reset button, so does “Damnation” fail to build on the ideas promised in “Rapture.” Instead, wer’e left with a XXX-Alt-Wade, science-nonsense, an all-too-easy resolution, and Arturo is a loincloth and ball-gag.
So it turns out (and here’s the part where I get drunk and try to summarize this shit) that the world people get “raptured” to is an “inverse” world, where Satan is TOTALLY COOL. But actually people weren’t beings beamed there, they’re being converted into rift energy, which does… something. Alt-Turo plugs the hole (ostensibly with his girth) somehow, and Alt-Wade melts (for some reason). The sliders slide off of Devil World (which technically is AGAINST THE RULES but whatevz).
So it’s a bit of a mess (guys, how many times have I written that phrase at this point?) But there are parts that are interesting (you can tell that I’m straining because I’ve used the word interesting like FOUR HUNDRED TIMES). Devil World is easy and obvious, but it’s not entirely lazy, either— Wade does some Almanac-Searchin’ about Anton LaVey, and the “Howlin’ Mad Brown” joke is pretty funny.
So “Rapture/Damnation” is Worlds (ha ah ha) better than “Armada,” but it’s not perfect. Well, I have the sneaking suspicion “Rapture” is going to be hands down the best one, provided “Narcotica” is a lot worse than I remember it being. But, y’know, I have to give this one points for actually doing something the show would never have been able to get away with on television. Religion isn’t an easy target. Plus, one of the funny things that no one would ever have imagined about Sliders is that it would gain more resonance as the years go by. Which is a subject that I’m going to dedicate a lengthy tangent to further down the line (*cof*California Reich*cof*).
But for now, here are Alt-Wade’s breasts:
YEAH 90s COMIC BOOKS NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
Next Week: Wow, they actually followed through with a ‘Next Time on Sliders’ set-up! (Dimensional Shadows).