Friday, April 29, 2016

All-New Wolverine #7 - A Review

Laura Kinney isn't sure what to do about her semi-sister Gabby - one of her clones that is several years younger and a whole lot sweeter than her. Laura isn't exactly sure how to be a parent or a sibling, having had what might be called an unusual upbringing if one were inclined to polite understatement. Unfortunately, figuring things out will have to wait for a while. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is in need of help.. But maybe it is Squirrel Girl who will wind up helping Laura...

Tom Taylor perfectly captures the anarchic spirit of Squirrel Girl in this issue. Doreen Green may be a silly character, especially in comparison to the dour Wolverine, but she isn't a stupid or unskilled hero. The two heroines play remarkably well off of each other and the ending of the issue proves to be as touching as it is hilarious.

Marcio Takara's artwork perfectly suits Taylor's story. Takra's style proves equally capable of depicting the lighter, more ludicrous moments of the action as well as the moments of high-action. And Jordan Boyd delivers an exemplary performance on the color art.

Secret Six #13 - A Review

Strix has been recruited by The League of Assassins and her friends in The Secret Six aren't taking it lying down. They're just having a barbecue as they work out what to do next. Meanwhile, Strix is pit against a team of killers modeled upon The Six, told that if she cannot kill them all in under a minute, the corresponding team-mate will die!


I love this book. I was saddened when I learned that it wasn't coming back post-Rebirth. Still, Gail Simone seems determined to make sure this book ends with a bang. And I don't just mean Catman being asked to father Scandal Savage's child. *rimshot*


Tom Derenick's artwork is as fine as ever. Derenick is a gifted fight choreographer with a great eye for detail. And Jason Wright's color art proves perfectly applied.

Starman Plays Fallout 4 - Parts Seventy-Five and Seventy-Six

In Part 75, we continue looting and hoarding our way through the subway station, discover the sinister (but hilarious) purpose of Vault 114 and rescue Nick Valentine - Clockwork Dick!

(Okay. He prefers the term 'synth detective'. But Clockwork Dick sounds more film noir.)


And then, in Part 76, Nick Valentine and I start to pound the pavement in the seedy side of Diamond City, searching for a lead on where to find my missing son and the mysterious Kellogg.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 13 - Leviathan

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.



Plot

Out of time and options, Rip Hunter plots a bold strike at the one place they know for certain Vandal Savage may be found - three days before the attack that killed Hunter's family and put Savage on the path to total world domination. Unfortunately, Savage is at the height of his power, but The Legends do have two advantages they might gain - an artifact from the night Kendra and Carter first died and the assistance of Vandal Savage's daughter!


Influences

Doctor Who
(the theme of predestination versus free will), The Justice League animated series (Kendra arming herself with an Nth metal mace), Gail Simone's Secret Six (the character of Cassandra Savage seems loosely based on Simone's Scandal Savage character), Jurassic Park (Stein and Ray watching the liquid shake in a container as Leviathan approaches), various Godzilla movies and other movies inspired by them, particularly Pacific Rim (the Atom/Leviathan fight) and various WWII films set during The London Blitz (general tone, the setting of London under siege by fascist forces, Savage's forces wearing storm-trooper outfits and offering a Nazi-style salute).


Goofs

In the 1941 flashbacks, Carter makes reference to needing to train Kendra to fight with his weapons in case he isn't there to protect her. This neatly ignores that she was originally a warrior priestess and (until her most recent incarnation) was supposed to maintain the knowledge and memories of her past-lives, including her fighting skills.

Just what was Snart's plan for convincing Cassandra to turn on her father before they wound up with a ship full of unarmed refugees?


Performances

Arthur Darvill and Brandon Routh get a nice scene at the start which sets the tone for the theme of the episode and both their respective battles - Rip's belief that you can't fight Fate and Ray's belief that life is defined by choices. The heck of it is they're both right based on their respective lives but are both proven wrong by the events of the episode, with Rip finding a way to stop Savage and Ray's romance with Kendra seemingly imperiled by Savage's latest gambit involving the brainwashed Carter Hall.

Wentworth Miller has an interesting role this week as Snart. He's put in the unusual role as a persuader instead of a heavy, trying to convince Cassandra Savage of her father's treachery. Story-wise it's an interesting parallel to have Snart being the one trying to persuade someone that they can change for the better given his own slow journey towards heroism. And Miller plays it with his usual perfect level of dry snark.


Artistry

The script for this episode has even wittier dialogue than usual and a lot of good lines for the whole cast.

The fight choreography is outstanding throughout, with Cassandra's battle with Sara and Kendra's fight with Savage being the high-lights.

There's a nice use of sepia tint on the Carter/Kendra flashbacks.

The entire sequence of Ray fighting Leviathan is also worth mentioning for how well it replicates the giant monster fights of the B-movies of yore, right down to the slow-motion action to indicate huge figures and the used of forced perspective photography to make Ray look bigger.

The final shot of the episode - Savage's reflection on the glass as he stares at Rip - is a chilling one.


Trivia Of Tomorrow

The title of the episode comes from the Old Testament of The Bible. Leviathan is the Hebrew word for twisted, presumably referring to a large sea serpent. It has come to mean any large monster, particularly an aquatic one.

The title of the episode refers to Savage's ultimate weapon - a 200 foot tall humanoid robot.

There are several Leviathans in DC Comics folklore, but none of them are a giant robot.

Leviathan was one of the code names used by Legion of Superheroes member Gim Allon, who had the power to change his size. He also used the code-names Colossal Boy and Micro Lad.

Leviathan was also the name of the League of Assassins splinter group founded by Talia Al Ghul when she turned upon her father, Ra's Al Ghul, in Grant Morrison's Batman comics.

The Levithan robot bares a slight resemblance to some versions of the Metal Men enemy Chemo.

In the comics, Chemo was the creation of scientist Ramsey Norton. Originally the plastic vessel into which Norton emptied his failed experiments, the vessel achieved a limited form of sentience, killed its creator and went on a rampage until it was stopped by The Metal Men. Since that time, Chemo was revived by various characters (including Lex Luthor and Brainiac) for use as a weapon against their enemies. Chemo possessed limited intelligence, super-strength, size-changing abilities and the power to emit toxic waste.

In the comics, Vandal Savage had a daughter named Scandal Savage. The product of an affair between Savage and an unnamed Brazilian woman, Scandal was raised by her mother for most of her youth before she was tracked down by her father and trained in the arts of combat and groomed to provide him with a male heir. Unfortunately for Savage's plan, Scandal was a lesbian and had no interest in being a brood mare for his legend. She rebelled and eventually fell in with the mercenary group known as The Secret Six.

Apart from rebelling against her father in the end and being an accomplished fighter, there seems little relation between Scandal Savage and Cassandra Savage - the daughter of Vandal Savage featured in this episode. Nothing is said in the episode about her sexual orientation and she does not appear to be of Brazilian ancestry.

While renown for his shrinking powers, it was not unheard of for Ray Palmer to use his technology to increase his size in the comics as he does in this episode. Immediately after the Zero Hour storyline, Ray Palmer gained the ability to change his size without utilizing his technology and proved able to grow as well as shrink using his new powers.

It's worth mentioning that the growing-and-shrinking shtick is more frequently associated with Ray Palmer's Marvel Comics counterpart, Dr. Hank Pym (a.k.a. the original Ant Man/Giant Man)

To create a weapon that can hurt Savage, Kendra covers Carter's mace with melted Nth metal. In the comics, a mace of Nth Metal was Hawkman's signature weapon. It was also the preferred weapon of Hawkgirl in the Justice League animated series.


Technobabble

The rebels have retinal scanner technology. They have no record of Rip existing but do have records for Jax, Stein and Ray from 150 years in their past.

Ray suggests analyzing soils samples to determine the nature of Savage's ultimate weapon. Stein does this and confirms that the weapon is not an explosion - the same conclusion Ray comes to after having Gideon hack a defunct spy satellite and looking at the destroyed rebel camp and realizing the impact craters look like very large footprints.

Ray's plan is based upon the theoretical possibility that siphoning power from the auxiliary time drive of The Waverider should provide Ray with enough power to reverse the polarity of the dwarf-star matrix of the ATOM suit, allowing him to grow to superhuman size instead of shrinking.

The energy blasts emitted by the ATOM suit are compressed light beams - not lasers.


Dialogue Triumphs

Rip: In order to capture him (Savage), I require the services of -
Rory:  - a killer, klepto and pyro?
Rip: Bingo!

Rip: What exactly do you think you were doing back there?
Snart: Distracting Savage's pals. Which worked, by the way.
Rip: Yes, well... I could have been killed!
Rory: Never said it worked perfectly.

Sara: How am I supposed to teach someone to fight with a piece of jewelry?
Rip: Good question.
Sara: It wasn't rhetorical!

Rip: I watched my family die countless time at the hands of Savage and his forces before I realized that...
Ray: ... Time wants to happen.
Rip: It's a funny feeling knowing the universe itself doesn't want you to save your family.

Rip: Do we have a plan for stealing this bracelet?
Rory: We're on it!
Sara: Please don't tell me the plan is to walk into Savage's citadel and steal it off her wrist?
Snart: All right. I won't tell you that.

(Kendra walks in on Carter practicing with his mace. She is dressed to the nines.)
Carter: Wow. What's, ah... the occasion?
Kendra: I'll give you one guess.
Carter: ...our anniversary?
(Kendra puts her hands on her hips and gives him The Look used by all wives to signal to their husbands that they have screwed up in the worst way possible.)
Carter: Look, I'm sorry, but in my defense there's quite a few of them to remember.
Kendra: We were only married in... eight lifetimes.
Carter: That's a lot! But I do remember your Victorian England incarnation being particularly tough to be pinned down.

Rip: (upon entering the cell-block where Snart and Rory have stashed Cassandra) And there I was thinking we could go a whole week without kidnapping anyone.

Cassandra: No one dared to stand up to Degaton except my father. He may not be a kind man but he is the only one capable of putting this world back together. So you can torture me if you like. My suffering is a small price to pay.
Snart: Who said anything about torture?

Rory: You sure you can do this? Bash Savage's skull with Carter's mace?
Kendra: You got a better plan?
Rory: It's not the weapon I'm worried about. Thousands of years of reincarnation and I'm guessing you've killed a grand total of nobody. Yet here you are entering into the Olympics of Murder.
Kendra:What's your point?
Rory: Are you sure you can look Savage in the eye and kill him?
Kendra: I'm sure.
Rory: Well you'd better be. Otherwise you're going to end up like the last guy to swing that thing.

(Rip finds Stein ushering refugees into the halls of The Waverider)
Rip: What the hell do you think you're doing?!
Stein: Saving a township by the looks of it.
Rip: Since when did my vessel become a life raft?!
Stein: Since I decided we can't leave these people here to be slaughtered! You recruited us to save the world. That includes everyone here!

Snart: I know what you're thinking "My dad may not be perfect, but deep down he's not a bad guy."
(Snart opens the door to Cassandra's cell)
Cassandra: What are you doing?
Snart: Showing you that when it comes to crap fathers, there is no "deep down".

(Snart shows Cassandra the unarmed civilians her father nearly killed trying to save her.)
Snart: Look. It took me a long time to accept my old man was a monster. I'm betting you're smarter than I am.
Cassandra: At last - something we agree on!

Ray: How are repairs coming? (pauses) Are repairs coming?
Rip: Not in thirty minutes, which is about as much time as we have. (chuckling darkly) We brought all those people on board and all we've bought them is a few extra minutes to live in fear.
Ray: Well, I guess the question is what do we do with those minutes?
Rip: (exasperated) The ship is... crippled! Everyone aboard is as dead as my...
Ray: ...family? Look, I know you think the universe wants them dead. But I don't. I don't believe in Fate. I believe in choices. And we can choose - we can choose to fight! Even if that fight may be futile! We can save your family, Rip! It's not impossible! All we have to do-
Rip: - is kill Vandal Savage. The chances of which appear to be fading.
(Kendra and Snart enter the room.)
Kendra: Not anymore. I figured out how to do it.
Snart: And my new Bestie and I can get us in.
Ray: And I think I've got a way to stop the giant robot that's coming to kill us.
(Rip rubs his face as if steeling himself and turns to face them.)
Rip: Now, you may not believe in Fate, Raymond, but I certainly do. But perhaps it was Fate that compelled me to bring you seven together, so we can change this future, once and for all!

Jax: You know, if this doesn't work - 
Ray: - I'll turn every cell in my body inside out?
Jax: ... I was going to say "die", but yeah.

Ray: (upon enlarging himself to 200 feet tall) It worked! I'm not dead!

(Cassandra says she has to help undo the damage her father caused.)
Rebel Leader: Why the change of heart?
Cassandra: (looking to Snart) Ask him.

(Rip shines a light in Martin Stein's eyes as he wakes up.)
Rip: Welcome back. Well, the team managed to capture Savage, battle his army and a giant robot and you managed to sleep through all of it.
Stein: The refugees?
Rip: They're safe. Every one of them is alive and well.
Stein: But for how long? Apparently Time Wants To Happen.
Rip: Well, I think you'll find that Time - for once - is on our side.

Rip: Well, you seem quite happy for a man behind bars.
Savage: And why shouldn't I be happy? It seems that once again you have failed to kill me.
Rip: A momentary set-back, I assure you.
Savage: Assure yourself. Providence has allowed me to place Chay-Ara in an impossible situation. A choice between her own soul-mate... Carter... and yours.
Rip: You know, a friend recently suggested to me that there is no such thing as Fate. Destiny is nothing more than the sum of our own choices.
Savage: I see. So you still think that there is hope then? For your family? Time will tell, Captain. Time will tell.


Continuity

As the episode opens, it is three days before Rip Hunter's wife and son died.

Cassandra Savage wears the bracelet that Chay-Ara wore when she died.

Rip's family lives in the Whitechapel district of London's East End.

Rip admits to Ray that he made repeated attempts to rescue his wife and son after failing to kill Savage in Ancient Egypt. It was the second place he went. They died every time he jumped back a day to try again. This is what caused Rip to conclude that Time Wants To Happen.

London is the last free city in the world at this point in 2166. Tokyo fell the week before.

Carter had a habit of giving Kendra weapons as an anniversary present. In all their incarnations, they only married eight times.

Rip jokes about thinking they could go a week without kidnapping someone. The team did kidnap someone in the last three episodes before this one - Per Degaton in 110, Jeb Stillwater in 111 and their past selves in 112.

Reference is made to the events following 110 and how Per Degaton laid waste to the world until Vandal Savage killed him - first when Cassandra recalls the history she was taught then later when Snart shows her the footage of her father ordering the release of The Armageddon Virus.

Kendra melts the bracelet (with Rory's help) and uses it to coat Carter's mace.

At some point, Carter was reborn in the future and Savage found him before he recovered his memories of who he was. Savage was somehow able to brainwash Carter into forgetting those memories and he claims only he can restore them.

The episode ends with Cassandra Savage joining the resistance and Vandal Savage captured and held on The Waverider.


Location

London - 2166
Iowa City - 1941


Untelevised Adventures

Rip makes reference to repeated attempts to rescue his family, only for them to die at the hands of Savage's forces every single time.


The Fridge Factor

Once again, the only conversation between the show's two female leads regards a romantic relationship - this time Carter and Kendra rather than Ray and Kendra.

Kendra continues to be solely defined by her relationships to Carter and Ray. No mention is made of her wanting revenge on Savage for killing her or her children over the years - it's all about saving Carter.


The Bottom Line

A vast improvement on last week's episode.  Kendra continues to be the most problematic aspect of the show by her very nature. Apart from that, everything is damn near flawless for what it is. The whole ensemble gel together and everybody gets at least one moment to shine. The twist ending, for once, was an honest surprise and I'm anxious to see how things go bad next week. Because we know - even ignoring that there's three episodes left this season - that there's no way they're taking Savage without a fight.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7 - A Review

Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? Do you like the Choose Your Own Adventure books? If the answer to either of these questions is 'yes', you're in luck! Because this month's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl gives you - yes YOU - the chance to be Squirrel Girl and decide the direction of the story.

It's interactive fiction without a computer!  Amazing, isn't it?

Oh, and Galactus narrates the whole thing!


Ryan North's script for this issue is as hilarious as usual. It also perfectly captures the feeling of an R.A. Montgomery book, with a number of branching and interchangeable scenes. And there's also a few arbitrary and utterly insane ways to die because it wouldn't be a Choose Your Own Adventure story if you didn't just randomly die because of a perfectly reasonable choice.


Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi offer up their usual excellent effort. Turning the pages and following the arrows twisting around the panels is a fun bit of mental exercise and everything looks bright and fun. I have to wonder, though - where does Galactus find a smoking jacket in his size?