Thriller #4

We (finally) continue to look at Thriller, the out-of-continuity experimental comic that DC Comics produced in the early-mid 1980’s.  Thriller #4 has a publishing date of February 1984.  I can’t remember if I bought it when it first came out or not, but I have owned it for a long time–for many years it was the latest one that I owned.  Thriller is one of the more dense and oblique mainstream comics I have read, so this series is really me journaling my own attempts to understand it.

Thriller 4 Cover

Read all about #3 here


Salvo and Scabbard face each other on top of a speeding train, with a helicopter approaching in the background.  It’s an image straight out of the sort of adventure fiction that Robert Loren Fleming wrote last issue that he was going for.  Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden are again above the title and the issue’s story title–“Happiness (bang bang shoot shoot)” is there as well.

Pages 1

A full page image of Salvo falling out of the sky toward Scabbard’s train, with the story title there again (see the Cover), and the credits, with the regular team of Fleming, Eeden, Tom Ziuko (Colorist), Phil Felix (Letterer) and Alan Gold (Editor) all acknowledged.  Angie Thriller’s face is hidden in the clouds, on this and the next page.

Thriller 4a

Pages 2-3

Salvo communes with Angie on the way down, who is helping him to survive this fall.  She also warns him where the bad guys are on the train are.  He shoots a hole in the ceiling of the train and falls in, shooting two terrorists in the process (but presumably not killing them).

“Downtime Part Four” is there in a credit box.

Page 4

In a page featuring no less then 16 panels, Salvo shoots terrorists who are guarding Dan Grove as he films a statement from Molly Lusk.  Molly tries to hypnotize him but he knocks her unconscious, after learning that Scabbard is on the roof of the train.

Thriller 4b

Salvo tells Dan to meet him up there in five minutes, which Dan tries to beg off of, but Salvo insists.

Page 5-6

Proxy (disguised as a conductor) finds Dan and prepares to take his place.  He can’t go on top of the train himself because the wind would rip his makeup off.  As it is, he’s reached his time limit and his disguise is melting off. Actually, having read the book, I can’t see any reason why it was necessary for Dan to be impersonated at all–it’s not like Molly and the others don’t know that something is happening.

Anyway, Dan climbs the train, and panics.

Thriller 4c

He flashes back to his dead brother (and his murder at the hands of Scabbard) when he sees Proxy disguised as himself, which gives him the courage to keep going.

Page 7

As Dan sneaks onto the train roof, Salvo and Scabbard are trading threats.

Thriller 4d

Scabbard has had the detonator to kill Salvo’s mother grafted onto his palm.  He prepares to shoot Salvo.  At that moment Janet and Beaker Parrish approach in a helicopter, with Beaker attempting to reason with Scabbard via a bullhorn.  Janet desperately attempts to contact Data, who appears to be late.

Page 8

But Data is on his way, along with Crackerjack.  Moving the car as fast as he does seems to be really taking it out of Data (actually, for a long time I interpreted it that Data’s car was stuck, but I think we’re just watching it struggle up a hill, otherwise it’s stuck in the most ridiculous way–half buried in the mud and facing straight up!)

Thriller 4e

Beaker continues to distract Scabbard (when he mentions Christianity, Scabbard replies, “Don’t speak to me about Christ, heretic!”)  Meanwhile, Dan approaches from behind and Data’s car approaches from the side.

Pages 9-10

A lot continues to happen in this decompressed sequence.  Crackerjack (standing up out of the sunroof in Data’s car) yells abuse at Scabbard, while Dan attempts to sucker punch him.  Dan’s efforts are fruitless, though, and he is handily knocked down with one blow from his enemy. Angeline, meanwhile, “bonds” with her brother, seeing through his eyes.  Scabbard raises his hand, prepared to set off the bomb.

Pages 11-12

Scabbard begins to close his hand, and we flash to Data, Crackerjack, Beaker Parrish and White Satin all anticipating the moment.  Angeline finally gives the go-ahead to Salvo, who fires his gun and shoots Scabbard’s arm right off, where it’s caught by Crackerjack.  Where was this guy in Infinity War?

Thriller 4g

Pages 13-14

Still reeling from his blow, Dan sees through a train window Quo, the guy who distracted him at the moment of Ken’s death.  Spurred on by thoughts of Ken, Dan charges into the back of Scabbard–about to shoot Salvo, who had run out of bullets–presumably Salvo), knocking him off the train and into the helicopter, where he is decapitated!  Dan begins to fall off the train but Beaker reaches down to save him.

Thriller 4h

Pages 15-16

Beaker saves Dan, while Tony kicks Scabbard’s head off the train where it shocks a recovering Molly Lusk.  She accidentally pulls the ripcord, causing the train to stop abruptly.

Pages 17-19

Tony’s mother has suffered a fractured skull as a result of this.  Beaker arrives and takes charge, telling Proxy to help evacuate the passengers, and commanding Tony, in no uncertain terms, to get off the train and leave his mother with him.

Thriller 4i

Beaker cries out to Thriller (Angeline) and helps her realizes that she can merge with him because he’s artificial.  In so doing she can melt part of his body in order to seal her mother’s skull fracture and save her life.

Pages 20-22

Molly recovers again and pulls out a dagger, with which she presumably intends mischief, but runs afoul of Quo instead.  She recognizes him just before he takes her eyes and sends them into Beaker, and thus Angeline.  Angeline cries out in pain because they are organic (as far as organic beings, she can only merge with Tony) and gets them out of her system by putting them into her mother!  Marietta’s eyes in turn go into Molly, rendering her blind.  For some reason, Molly laughs maniacally during part of this.

Thriller 4k

Also, confusingly, there’s some sort of crash at the end of the page.  The train itself had already stopped but now it appears to have buckled off the tracks.  Maybe another train hit it?  It’s confusing.  Similarly, I thought Beaker’s ministrations to Marietta were happening on the train, but later they seem to be off of it.  There’s a big “whoosh” panel in the middle of that sequence–maybe Thriller is pushing them off because it’s about to be rammed into?  Then Molly seems to be thrown out of the train at their feet.  I love this book but for sure it could be confusing.

Page 23

On the last page, we confirm that Marietta can see now.  She at first thinks that Tony is her husband Peter.  The action seems disconnected to anything like a train crash so I’m really not sure what’s happening there.

Thriller 4l

Page 24-25

The book’s first letter column, with mail about issue #1.  The column is called “Filler” though it’s implied that’s still temporary.  The writer of the column (Alan Gold, presumably) invites constructive criticism so the creative team can find their mark with unconventional storytelling.  It’s also implied that Scabbard might show up again soon, even though he’s beheaded in this issue.  As far as I know, the only place where Scabbard ever showed up again was in Ambush Bug, also (partly) by Robert Loren Fleming.

Read on to #5


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