Thursday, July 4, 2013

Phoenix #01 - Dark Messiah

David Alexander. This guy wrote one of the most over-the-top gore drenched series to grace the aisles of "Men's Action Adventure". I recently got his crowning achievement with four of the five books of 'Phoenix', a post apocalyptic series he created in the 80s. Book one is horrifically titled "Dark Messiah", released in 1987 via Leisure Books. 

The series shows us a nuked out 1989 America courtesy of those dang Soviets...again. Our post-apocalyptic hero is Magnus Trench - what a name. Trench is a Vietnam veteran who knows how to manhandle any weapons or flashlights. He now lives the life of the wealthy as a corporate white collar family man. He happens to be in San Francisco when he sees the mushroom clouds. He somehow finds shelter in a cave and survives the inferno because caves are great fallout shelters. Three days later he comes out to examine the wreckage and deems himself a new hero named Phoenix. Let's forget about his wife and kids back home because apparently this guy did.

He journeys down into San Francisco and finds that a new regime has taken over led by an insane Christian. Apparently this guy has infiltrated the US government, had the president killed and sparked the nuclear war that destroyed America. His Jesus goon cult is called SCORF and in three days time has established authority in the big cities. In just a little under a week the entire country has been nuked, then sprayed with a chemical plague that transforms the survivors into mutant monsters called Contams. Of course, in the midst of this is a street gang called the Pagans that interact with SCORF and have a mutual interest in raping and pillaging humanity. I can see the bumper sticker now - Join Us Now For Raping!

The survivors of the plague are called Immunes because the chemical plague doesn't affect them. SCORF runs a few dozen military units that holds all sorts of Contams, Immunes and survivors. These are basically just deathcamps where it's fun to push citizens into pits containing drugged out horny Contams. Alexander doesn't hold anything back and can flip an innocent onto all fours faster than a rat finding a cheeto. In it's most trashy element the Contams ravage the survivors, thrusting huge radioactive organs into their pit prey. Forget nuclear winter and sickness...the biggest threat in the post apocalypse is being sodomized by a mutant ding-dong.

In one ridiculous early scene we see Phoenix drive a jeep through the wreckage of San Fran then stop to poke around a bit. He goes into a burned out factory and sees gang members - get this - dressed in leather chaps with their penises and butts exposed. So, in just a little under a week humanity has dwindled down to a bunch of horny Rob Halfords running around with cod pieces? I wouldn't even be out of milk in less than a week but humanity is a sex ravaged wreck. The gang have a couple of survivors pinned down and as Phoenix watches they annihilate one with a flamethrower (these are just laying around). After watching the scene, Phoenix rescues a girl and finds that her name is September Song. Right. It just so happens that she is part of a huge group of survivors out of a safe house. She leads Phoenix there and he sets up a command post to make "commando" runs on SCORF bases. These are just exercises of action fiction that go absolutely nowhere.

Here's the issue with Phoenix and David Alexander. The author can't decide his hero's name so throughout the book he deems him Trench or Phoenix...whichever fits the scene. Secondly, Alexander spends entire pages describing weapons. Not just the size or sounds of the gun but down to the most agonizing detail. For example, Badass Number One may be holding a MAC11 380 SMG shooting .45 ACPs hung low on his right hip in a speed rig. In every single firefight the battle slows to a crawl so Alexander can identify every single weapon in the room and what type of holster or sling it is in or out of. He then rambles on about the velocity of the bullets before cutting to "the .45 ACP blasted through the skull creating brain salad". Really? Why did it take a half page to tell me about the pistol just so I can get to "brain salad"? 

Alexander has very little knowledge of the English language aside from guns. Instead of describing goons he simply deems them "Badass One, Two, Three, etc.". Often, our hero drives around randomly in search of something to do and more times than not there is no clear reason why he does any of these things. If Phoenix is missing his wife and family back home, and carefully considering if they are alive or dead, why does he sleep with other women in this book? Beyond that the author makes Phoenix a combination of Incredible Hulk and Rambo, often able to crush skulls simply by squeezing heads. The author spends time explaining that our hero is using punches like Drunk Monkey, Black Fist Tiger and the Scorpion Sting Backfist while somersaulting all over the place.

At least the synoposis is actually fitting:

"Phoenix was a survivor, a man who had honed his bloody skills in the stinking junbles of Vietnam, an expert with every type of weapon, a master at hand-to-hand combat. Battling nature gone insane and men driven mad by total destruction, he forged his way across what was left of the US, driven by hatred and thirsting for revenge against the Dark Messiah".

I can't imagine four more books of this non-sense but I owe it to you to at least give them a try. These aren't as horrible as 'Roadblaster' but certainly not entertaining. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. If you want a decent run at post-apocalyptic sort of fiction try Simon Clark's 'Bloodcrazy' or David Moody's 'Dog Blood' albeit both are leaning more towards horror than action.