After a check of Wikipedia, I found out the series's background, something that begs to be spelled out. The show takes place in the future where Overlord up there created the Spiral Zone, dead areas across the globe where the people stuck inside develop the red splotches and yellow eyes and also lose free will. They're rendered braindead zombies called "Zoners" which only Overlord can control. He releases a few henchmen from the will-sapping effects and names them the Black Widows. Unfortunately, he couldn't reverse the skin lesions on his men or himself, who seem to have it even worse then the rest of the Zoners. Why he picked these four, I'm not sure since none of them have any real skills or personalities.
The Zone Riders - led by the laughably named Dirk Courage - have the only suits that provide them immunity to the effects of the Zone and work with the military to destroy the generators that power the Zone. While I have to make jokes about Dirk's name, the rest of the Zone Riders have more depth than any of the Black Widows. The requisite German member (so they can give him a bad accent), Tank, gets the most characterization, where in the third episode he reveals he lost his wife and children in the Zone. They're not dead, of course, just stuck in there. And as easily as the Zone Riders get in and out of the Zone, I'm not sure why they can't get them.
But who cares about depth, when you have a bad guy like Overlord? Besides his control over the Zoners, he doesn't really have a lot going for him. Unless you count that incredible unibrow and red mustache. Jokes aside, Overlord is a decent villain, having taken over most of the United States and frequently outwitting the Zone Riders, figuring out their plans long before they're able to implement them. In the third episode, he sows that he can prioritize, by focusing on catching a girl immune to the Zone instead of taking out one of the Zone Riders. He's a scientist first, and a strategist second, and excels at both of them.
Let's rate this guy!
Coolness - 2. First off, I've got to talk about his voice. He's voiced by the fantastic Neil Ross, who after lending his voice to heroes like Springer from Transformers, Herc Armstrong from Inhumanoids, and Ace McCloud from Centurions, finally got his chance to play a villain. Unfortunately for us, he just speaks like he's got laryngitis. It's so disappointing! Second, he's got a cool looking vehicle called the Bullwhip Cannon (again, only found that on Wikipedia). Too bad I never saw him do anything with it - it blew up more often than I saw it shoot anything. In fact, I'm not sure I ever saw it fire a single shot.
Effectiveness - 6. Overlord may not be able to drive and he might need a lozenge, but he is a great villain. He has taken over half the country and has an army of brain-washed people which makes the Zone Riders reluctant to fight back. He constantly thwarts the good guys' plans, already knowing their attacks and setting traps against them. I always like the cartoons where the good guys are at a disadvantage and the Spiral Zone definitely fits that bill. After a visit to Wikipedia, of course.
Check back next week when we watch Blackstar and look at the other Overlord,