Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three #23 - A Review

The battle between Trigon and Mister Mxyzptlk has grown ever larger, with wild magics now threatening both the House of Secrets and House of Mystery.  Thankfully, Dick Grayson - the (Dead)man with the plan - has an idea on how to save everyone.  But it will require Superman and Batman's teams to put aside their mutual distrust and work together. Can they do it after all that has occurred?  And what is the trickster mage John Constantine hiding even at this late hour?


Brian Buccellato's script for this issue is the definition of action-packed. Some may say that the script falters somewhat in dealing with some of the emotional relationships between the characters. Indeed, the matter of Damien Wayne being forced to confront the ghost of a man he killed is hastily brushed aside after a brief shot of a discomforted Robin looking at the ghostly Dick Grayson. Thankfully, the issue is not ignored completely and is brushed aside only because the characters - and by extension Buccellato - have bigger things to address.


As always, the artwork is well-done.  Mike S. Miller has created distinctive facial designs for each character, so there is no question who is who even in the close-ups where all we can see is part of a mask or an eye. J. Nanjan's inks do a superb job of enhancing the original pencils. And Wes Abbott offers a vibrant display of colors to bring the final artwork to life.

Arrow: Season 2.5 #14 - A Review

To save Felicity, Ollie has surrendered himself to The Church of Blood!  Roy has the means to track him but with Diggle helping The Suicide Squad overseas he's a little short on back-up. Thankfully, there is one ARGUS agent who is available to help but calling them an unlikely ally is the understatement of the year.


Meanwhile, in Nanda Parbat, student Mesi Natifah is brought before Ra's Al Ghul. The leader of the League of Assassins does not impress easily but the young woman's actions in troubled times have accomplished that deed. And now he's ready to make her a rare offer...



One would think it impossible for a comic set between the seasons of a TV series to truly surprise its readers - we already know what characters will survive to see Season 3!  Yet Arrow: Season 2.5 #14 managed to surprise me not once, but twice!  I won't say anything beyond that save this - if you're a fan of the Arrow TV series and you aren't reading this comic already, you should start. Now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 15 - Nanda Parbat

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



Plot


Malcolm Merlyn has been captured by the League of Assassins and Oliver is ready to storm the League of Assassin's headquarters at Nanda Parbat to rescue him, though Thea is content to leave her father to face their rough justice. And Ray Palmer readies his ATOM suit for battle, despite Felicity's objections.

Five years ago, Ollie and The Yamashiros are cleared by the US Army to leave Hong Kong. But Amanda Waller doesn't let her pawns go so easily...


Influences

The Fall of Green Arrow (Ollie loses the respect of his family and colleagues due to his lying) and the Batman comics of Dennis O'Neil (Ra's Al Ghul looking for a worthy heir to replace him).


Goofs

While it is high time that somebody took Ollie to task for his manipulative ways, Laurel is absolutely the last person who should be giving anyone lip about lying to someone for their own good. Instead of knocking Oliver down a peg, her confrontation with Oliver only serves to make Laurel look like a complete hypocrite considering her disgraceful behavior towards her father. Frankly, it seems like this scene was added because they needed to give Laurel something else to do in this episode besides fail to ambush Merlyn.  It's the one weak spot in an otherwise strong script.

Nanda Parbat is said to be in the Hindu-Kush mountains, which are located in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet previous episodes have said Nanda Parbat was in Tibet (Possibly the previous information was a ruse?)


Performances

David Ramsey steals every damn scene he's in.  From his subtly telling off Merlyn to his calling Ollie his brother and asking him to be his best man.

Katrina Law plays Nyssa Al'Ghul with just the right combination of menace and sympathy.

Colton Haynes doesn't get much to do as Roy Harper this time around, but his interplay with Willa Holland is wonderful and the scenes where he tries to comfort Thea by showing how he's coping with the blood on his hands are well-played.

Like last week, Willa Holland rocks her brief appearance, truly selling Thea's anguish regarding what she has done.

Finally, Matt Nable perfectly captures the grace and poise of Ra's Al Ghul.


Artistry

The action scenes of Oliver and Diggle fighting the League of Assassins, as well as the flashback sequences of Ollie and the Yamashiros fighting ARGUS are excellent even by the standards of this show's fight scenes.

The scene in which Ray Palmer first dons the ATOM armor and uses it to fly is well-shot and thematically everything comic books (and their adaptations) should be.


Trivia

Ray Palmer wears a red and blue plaid shirt when we first see him in this episode.  Red and Blue are the primary colors of The Atom's costume in the comics.

Roy refers to Mission Impossible when examining the ARGUS-designed security system Diggle installed in Verdant and the laser-grid on the club floor.

Diggle makes reference to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as he and Oliver face down The League of Assassins.  The movie ended with the titular heroes in a stand-off with no way out.


Technobabble

At the start of the episode, Ray is having trouble getting the gauntlet modulator to interface with the helmet system of the ATOM suit.

Ray uses a subsonic ionizer in building the ATOM suit.  Felicity notes that if you try to use it on quad-band circuitry (as Ray nearly does) it could result in a catalytic reaction that could destroy an entire building.


Dialogue Triumphs

Malcolm:
You've spent years preparing to bring a bow and arrow to a sword fight.

Malcolm: John.
Diggle: My friends call me Digg. (beat) You shouldn't even speak to me.

Roy: You know last year when I kinda went off the rails for a bit?
Thea: Yeah?
Roy: I was also under the influence of something. And just like you, I killed someone. A cop.
Thea: Roy...
Roy: They didn't tell me either... and when I found out-
Thea: -you wished that you didn't know?
Roy: Look, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that the feeling ever goes away. But I can tell you that it gets easier, Thea.
Thea: You don't see that cop's family nearly every single day. I can't imagine that it's going to get any easier. And I don't think it should.

Ollie: I told you not to tell anyone!
Thea: I guess I'm just not as good at keeping secrets as you are.

Laurel: No. Oliver...Merlyn murdered my sister and corrupted yours and now you want to save him?!
Ollie: I'm trying to save Thea's soul.
Laurel: You are out of your mind.
Ollie: And you don't need to be here.

Roy:
Look, I may not agree with it, but I understand what you're trying to say. You don't want Thea to live with the guilt of getting her own father killed. But how is getting her brother killed any better?
Ollie: I don't plan on dying.
Felicity: (angrily) That's what you said the last time you want to face Ra's and how did that turn out for you?!

Felicity: You have two options, Ray.  Option One: You can find a way to break through the encryption I used to lock up your server, which, by my calculations, will take you roughly 6.25 hours. Or you can use that time to eat a proper meal, take a shower and get no less than five hours of sleep at  the completion of which I will give you the password.
Ray: I see.
Felicity: It's your choice but I highly recommend Option Two.  Because... this whole situation has gone from endearingly eccentric to creepily not okay.
Ray: If I had the energy, I think I'd be getting angry right now. But instead... I'll just take Option Two.
Felicity: That's a wise choice. After your dinner and a shower, I am taking you straight to bed. (look of shock) Putting you. (whispering to herself) Why do I do that?

Ollie: I can't ask you to come with me, Diggle.
John: You didn't ask me, Oliver.  Besides, you don't own a jet anymore.

Ra's Al Ghul (To Malcolm) In 1854, I encountered an illusionist in Vienna. He was dazzling. Magnificent. Powerful.  And then, nearly half a century later, I stumbled upon this man again. He was withered. Broken. Dying. You see, a magician can cheat many things... except one.

Ra's Al Ghul: Al-Saher, face your death with honor. Or at least dignity.

Ollie: Surprise is our own advantage.
(Suddenly, several flaming arrows hit the ground at his and Diggle's feet)
John: I'd say they spotted us.

Ollie: You know, every time I close my eyes, all that I can see...all that I can hear, feel is... just The Fall. I couldn't live like that.  Couldn't live knowing that... there was someone out there that beat me.
John: Yeah.  That makes sense.
Ollie: No!  It's egotistical and insane!
John: So is putting on a mask and jumping off rooftops, Oliver.

Thea: (To Nyssa) There's something that I need to tell you. I can't live without you knowing. The guilt is far worse than anything you can do to me. I lied to you. And you believed it. When I told you that Malcolm killed Sara. He wanted her dead. To put certain things in motion. But I am the one that fired those arrows into her chest. And when I made the deal to give up Malcolm, I promised you your vengeance.
(Thea unlocks Nyssa's cell and holds out a sword)
Thea: So take it.

Ra's Al Ghul: You tasted death. And you wanted more. The truth is... everyone and everything must come to an end. Even for one such as me.
Ollie: Kill me. But spare John Diggle's life. Let him go. I will beg for it.
Ra's Al Ghul: You have shown tremendous strength. Fortitude. Power. No, Mr. Queen.  I don't want to kill you.  I want you to take my place.  I want you to become the next Ra's Al Ghul.


Dialogue Disasters

Laurel: How do you do that?
Ollie: Do what?
Laurel: Lie. Right to my face.


Continuity

Roy Harper refers to how he went "off the rails" for a little bit last year (A220) and tells Thea of how he came to kill a police officer.  He also reveals how he, Diggle and Felicity knew about Thea killing Sara.

Ray refers to Brick's men taking control of part of the city, as seen in A311.

Laurel finds out that Thea killed Sara.

Oliver refers to Laurel's attempts to kill both Malcolm Merlyn (A304) and Simon LaCrois (A302) when explaining why he hid the fact that Thea killed Sara from Laurel.

Ray Palmer has an extensive classic art collection which he cycles between his apartment and the Starling Museum.

Oliver refers to the events of A309 and his defeat by Ra's Al Ghul and how he has nightmares of falling off the mountain.

Roy Harper has been giving financial support to the widow and son of the cop he killed, giving them money and groceries anonymously and even buying the boy a Boba Fett toy at Christmas.


Location

Nanda Parbat, under the Hindu-Kush mountains.


The Fridge Factor

Laurel continues to prove incompetent and terrible in every respect.  Bad enough that she's back to being a total hypocrite regarding Ollie's manipulative behavior but her attempt to kill Merlyn is poorly-planned and idiotic.  The most groan-worthy aspect of this is Laurel's attempt to fight Merlyn hand-to-hand despite having a gun.

It's hard to believe Felicity would ever use "password" as a password, even as a joke.


The Bottom Line

A step down from last week but overall a strong episode. While slow to start, it becomes more thrilling as it progresses and the final ten minutes are some of the best the series has ever offered. And we're left with not one but two cliffhangers!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three #22 - A Review

The battle between The Regime and The Resistance continues, though the battle is beginning to take a toll on reality.  Between the magic being tossed around by Trigon and Dr. Fate. Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing's connection to The Green, the odd 5th Dimensional Magic used by Mister Mxyzptlk and the presence of two Sinestro Corps members, there is a lot of energy being tossed around.  And if action isn't taken quickly, everything is going to go to Hell.  Literally.


One thing you can say about Brian Buccellato is that he does not play for small stakes. The last few issues have been steadily building the action of this battle to an almost (pardon the pun) comic level, as heavy-hitter after heavy-hitter has been brought in.  Buccellato has balanced this manic display with the skill and energy of a plate-spinner on espresso and it has been a joy to read.


The art team does their usual stellar job, easily equaling Buccellato's script.  Mike S. Miller perfectly captures the action of the story, with even the static shots of characters talking having a wild energy about them.  J. Nanjan's inks enhance Miller's pencils without obscuring them.  And Wes Abbott's colors leave everything looking amazing.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Flash: Season Zero #13 - A Review

The Flash has King Shark!  Or does King Shark have The Flash? It's a bit hard to say but it may fall to Cisco Ramon to be a fast thinker before they have to test if Barry's quick-healing powers can let him grow back an arm!


This issue is exciting and yet something of a disappointment at the same time.  The action is well played out and some hints are dropped about Cisco's eventually taking up the role of a hero himself (You know which one!). But it's a bit of a downer that - unlike the comics - King Shark was once a human cancer patient undergoing radical treatment at the time of the Particle Accelerator Explosion rather than a shark who evolved into a semi-intelligent being. I guess the writing team would rather not explain why there aren't more of these meta-animals running around if the energy released affected non-humans.  But c'mon - it's not like evolved sharks are any more implausible than dark matter interacting with a drug made of Shark DNA to create a wereshark!


I've commented before that Phil Hester wouldn't be my first choice of artist for a Flash comic but his work here is quite effective, catering as it does to his talents for horror.  There's none of the forced poses or odd angles that marred previous issues.  Even Eric Gapstur's inks don't seem to be as randomly applied this time around.