Thursday, August 26, 2010

Green Arrow #3 - The Good, The Bad and the Huh?


1. The knight wandering around the Star City woods, Galahad, is formally introduced and he is easily the best part of the issue. The idea of a modern day knight wandering around the DCU is hardly an original concept but the suggestion that he is the Galahad of legend showing up at a time when such heroes are needed is a mighty one.

2. For that matter, the concept of the forest itself healing Oliver is played very well here. What might have been a deus ex machina - with the presence of Galahad - suddenly becomes a bit more plausable, with the idea of myth itself being explored and the suggestion that the White Energy of Life might be connected to The Holy Grail, The Magic of Sherwood, The Lady of The Lake and Avalon.


1. The background of Queen Industries new owner Isabel Rochev is cartoonishly bad for a character that is meant to be the main villain in a comic that prides itself on realism. While there is something to be said for the idea of making a villain who is the polar opposite of Oliver Queen in terms of background (i.e. an ex-slave who grew up amongst the worst excesses of Soviet-style socialism and came to rise to power while romanticizing unfettered American capitalism), the execution here makes her seem like a Captain Planet villain, especially given some of the actions we see depicted elsewhere in the book.

I'm also not that crazy (but neither am I surprised) about the revelation that she had a sexual relationship with Oliver's father ("He was challenging me to prove I was more than anyone's pet. Robert was daring me to break free from my prison - to take what I wanted from this world. And so I dod. Beginning with Robert, I took him body and soul.") or that she was apparently one of his many conquests.

And the less said about the fact that Oliver's dad uses "pretty bird" as a term of endearment (or that the young Isabel Rochev looks like Dinah Lance), the better.

2. Ollie's "do you deserve to live?" flashback while he is recovering in the healing pool.

Granting that you could fill several pages with all of the mistakes Ollie has made and that Krul probably didn't want to bog the book down with a lot of continuity... you'd expect...

a) Ollie to remember that he abandoned more than one son, if you count his kicking Roy Harper out of the house in Snow Birds Don't Fly

b) Ollie to number Lian and Roy as being a bit more than "those I put in harms way".

c) For that matter, Ollie's role in putting the two of them directly in harm's way recently is, at the least, highly debatable. Sure, Ollie set Roy on the path to being a hero which eventually led to Roy losing his arm and if he and Roy had remained estranged, Lian wouldn't have been in Star City when the bombs went off... but while Ollie would likely blame himself for all of that, it can't really be said to be his fault.


1. Some of the dialogue just doesn't flow well. At ALL. Witness how smoothly Galhad brings up the similarities between himself and Oliver just after Oliver has a non-sequiter about exploring the forest.

2. Star City's Police Department proves to be as incompetent as they are corrupt, as yet another mysterious disguised killer (this time a woman with red hair, apparently) manages to kill a prominent corrupt city official - this time in front of a crowd in broad daylight.

This entire sequence is crammed into one page and feels terribly rushed compared to the chase scene in Issue #1 involving the man (?) who killed the Police Commissioner.

What is worse, we see the reporter from Issue #1 but they don't bother to remind us of his name. The social worker from issue #1 also puts in an appearance, but we don't get a name for her this time around either.

The Final Verdict: There's some rather good stuff here involving the mystery behind the forest, the appearance of a young man who claims to be Sir Galahad of myth and the Brightest Day event. Shame most of the issue is devoted toward establishing Ollie's father as a corrupt businessman with loose morals in the boardroom and bedroom, more scenes with unnamed supporting cast we're supposed to care about and Oliver having hallucinations as he fights for his life and maybe, literally, fights the darkness within.

I'm still trying to make up my mind about this book. Apart from a few questionable things in one flashback, Ollie hasn't been this well characterized or well-explored as a character in years. It's only when we try and focus on things apart from Ollie or the Forest that the cracks in the paint start to show.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Green Lantern Corps #51

BAD THING: The cover is a dead-giveaway (no pun intended) as to Boodikka's not faring so well at issue's end as well as to the comic's surprise guest star.

GOOD THING: Ignoring that, there is a lot to like here. But perhaps the best thing is seeing John Stewart being written as a capable strategist and leader: something that hasn't been seen much since his Darkstar days.

The Final Verdict: Despite the cover requiring a Spoiler Alert tag, this is a solid issue that does a lot to restore the reputation of the long-neglected John Stewart. Great read!

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Doctor Who #14

BAD THING: Ye gods, the bad artwork on the covers has infected the rest of the book! Why does The Doctor have horns in some panels? Did they forget to color the spikes in his hair or are those meant to be wrinkles? And what is with the random use of shadowing?

GOOD THING: At least the writing is still cracker-jack, with all the on-going threads of the book's run coming together and a surprise revelation that is actually a surprise.

The Final Verdict: Good story. Bad art. If you can overlook the later for the former, you'll be okay.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Brightest Day #8

GOOD THING: One hell of a revelation for us Martian Manhunter fans. Not really a surprise at this point, but it is nice to see something in this series being clarified for a change.

BAD THING: On that note, as nice as it is to see the so-called "Hawkworld" explained, it is a bit jarring to find out that it has nothing to do with the original mini-series. What is more, this explanation only seems to muddy the already dirty waters regarding the continuity of Hawkman by suggesting that Thanagarians evolved from dimensionally displaced Earthlings.

The Final Verdict: Slowly but surely, explanations are starting to come forth. They really could have gotten to the point a lot sooner, though.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Birds of Prey #4

I'm going to cheat a bit and list several good things, in the interest of calming the fears of some fans I know who were worried about certain aspects of this story.


1. With just one panel and three sentences, Gail Simone and Ed Benes have undone all the damage done to Dinah's character by the Andrew Kreisberg run of Green Arrow/Black Canary. Dinah officially knew about her mother's secret life and was raised by her uncles as the proud daughter of a superheroine. Officially. :)

2. It turns out that Savant wasn't really planning to go bad - all promises made to Penguin to the contrary. The truth is that he planned to commit suicide and wanted Oracle to have a front row seat to it after he told her about how much he had suffered as her agent.

3. This moment, in which Dinah, who has been hampered from using her powers and by her desire to avoid crossing the line and ending the fight quickly - finally is given a chance to shine as she faces down The White Canary... even as she apologizes to the spirit of her sensei for using what he taught her lethally.

BAD THING: In all of this, the scene with Huntress and Dove having to deal with The Penguin and a wounded Hawk and Lady Blackhawk seems like an after-thought.

The Final Verdict: A solid issue which shows why Simone and Benes are the best in the business.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1

GOOD THING: This series has a great set-up. Tomasi continues his fine work on Green Lantern Corps with the novel premise of Guy Gardner becoming a deep space explorer. This would be a great idea for a series even without the additional hook of some kind of secret deal being brokered between Guy Gardner, the former Guardian Ganthet and the Red Lantern Corps leader Atrocitus.

BAD THING: We still don't have any insight as to just what this deal entails or just why Guy Gardner feels this is going to forever make Hal Jordan his enemy. A hint would have been nice.

The Final Verdict: A solid start for a series that promises to be something special.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Secret Six #24

GOOD THING: This issue marks an interesting change, as our favorite amoral mercenary team is transplanted into the Old West.

BAD THING: As interesting as this story is, it's rather inaccessible to anybody who hasn't been reading the series up to this point. Even devout fans may be confused as to whether or not this story is an Elseworlds, a parallel Earth, an Imaginary Story or a suggestion that all of these characters have been reincarnated at least once.

The Final Verdict: A solid issue. Just don't ask any questions about where or when it takes place and just enjoy the ride.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Brightest Day #7

BAD THING: We finally get a full glimpse of what the resurrected heroes and villains have been brought back to accomplish... and we still don't have any idea what they are supposed to be trying to accomplish, save that it ties into finding a new Entity. Ten To One it's Dove.

GOOD THING: At least we know Miss Martian is still alive and well. It would really suck for her to be dead just in time for the new Young Justice cartoon.

The Final Verdict: I think I may stop reviewing this book if things don't pick up. I'll still read it but - as far as the plot line goes, so far it's been much ado about nothing.

Five Things About Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Nobody Is Saying

Or, at least, 5 Things About Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World I Haven't Seen Anyone Say Yet

There's a lot of reasons why I think Scott Pilgrim didn't have a huge blockbuster opening. It opened against two of the most anticipated movies of the summer. Its' target audience is the rich in heart but poor in cents twenty-somethings who can't afford $9.50 for a movie ticket at a fancy first-run theater. And perhaps most damning of all,is an Indie comedy about relationships disguised as a with a blockbuster action flick.

Now, I liked Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But even I, a fan who read all of the books beforehand, will admit that the movie had some flaws. That being said, I wasn't expecting some of the complaints that I've seen coming from the professional press. How it panders to nerds at the expense of the mainstream. How nobody under the age of 30 has any point of entry into the movie. And my personal favorite, how it isn't really a nerd movie, despite being based on a comic book, because it's about guys who are in bands and stuff, not geeks sitting around in their parents' basements playing World of Warcraft.

*sighs* Ignoring how utterly ignorant that last statement is regarding myself and the many other geeks out there who - oh my gosh - actually leave the house and get away from the computer once in a while... I would like to vent my spleen regarding a few things about the movie - and the criticism - that did bother me, which I haven't seen anyone else address yet.

1. Michael Cera Actually Acts In This Movie!

I know it's generally acceptable to hate on Michael Cera because he plays basically the same stock schlemiel character in everything he is in. Believe me - I was worried when I heard he was playing Scott Pilgrim. But honestly? He does a good job.

Granted, there is a fine line between being a clueless dork (i.e. Cera's usual character) and a clueless jerk (i.e. Scott in the comics) but Cera does manage to make the distinction in the early parts of the film, where he genuinely has no idea that most of his behavior is utterly inappropriate. And yet, Cera's still manages - in my mind at least - to show enough of Scott's inner humanity to make us want to root for him, even as he is dodging the drama of dumping his current girlfriend while actively pursuing the girl of his dreams.

2. Wallace Is Turned Into A Negative Gay Stereotype

Wallace, Scott's roomate, is possibly the most popular member of the supporting cast from the original comic. Indeed, rumor has it that Bryan Lee O'Malley may be planning a spin-off sequel comic series centering upon Wallace. It is a credit to O'Malley that so many of his characters are openly homosexual but it isn't treated as a big deal and that he avoids the cliches that so often go along with gay characters in comic books.

And yet in the movie, the fact that Wallace is a flirt and a drunk is played up to the degree that he is depicted as cheating on his boyfriend (something that never happened in the comic) and sharing his bed with two guys - not including Scott. In the comics, Wallace being a flirty drunk was never equated as being part of his being gay. And even though Wallace is a minor character who freely admits to his own hypocrisy when called on it by Scott in the movie, it still bugs me that such a cool character has been reverted to being a promiscuous gay stereotype.

3. Ramona Is A Damsel In Distress.

The books are just as much about Ramona coming to terms with her own callous behavior regarding how she used and abused her exes as it is Scott realizing what a jackass he's been and making the decision to grow up. In short, the journey of discovery is not one-sided and both male and female readers can find a protagonist to relate to. And in the end, Ramona joins Scott in the final battle against her manipulative ex-boyfriend Gideon.

Not so in the movie, where Ramona is - for the most part - passive to the very end regarding the idea that she is a prize to be won. And in the final battle, Scott is assisted by his much-abused ex-girlfriend Knives, who is - for no reason readily presented in the movie - content to let Scott move on to a life with Ramona despite having been a crazed stalker for most of the movie.

4. Scott Pilgrim Is Not About Hipsters!

One thing that really disturbs me is how many people have been quick to dismiss this film - not as a stupid video-game/comic flick - but as being yet another comedy about whinny hipsters who need a serious boot up their ass.

Strictly speaking, most of the characters in this movie aren't hipsters. Hipsters, by definition, rebel against the popular mainstream culture by choice. Usually this rebellion manifests in the use of styles or fashions that are opposed to what is fashionable. Odd facial hair or hair cuts, clunky glasses, old, distressed clothing and the collecting of records despite not owning a record player - these are the things that mark the Hipster.

But Scott - and most of his friends - are not hipsters. They don't shop at Goodwill because they're trying to look retro. They shops at Goodwill because they are POOR. Their T-shirts are not the $30 distressed tees sold at American Apparel stores everywhere - they are distressed because they have been washed and rewashed over and over since high school.

5. It's A Coming Of Age Story!

Seriously. Out of all of the reviews I've read of this movie, only a scant few mentioned the heart of the plot - that it is a coming of age story about man-child becoming a man. I wish it had been about a girl becoming a woman, too. But that's neither here nor there.

What's truly disturbing is the sheer number of people - some supposedly professional critics - who watched this movie and somehow came away with the opposite message. Perhaps the most inflammatory of these was the critic for The Philadelphia Weekly, who felt that the movie taught young nerdy boys the lesson that "it’s OK to treat their women like shit if something “better” comes around."

Yes, Scott is a heel who treats his girlfriend Knives badly. He's also not a bum who leaches off of his roommate, treats the friends he formed a band with badly and generally acts like the kind of jackass most people wouldn't piss on if he was on fire. But he changes. The movie is all about Scott realizing this and trying to become a better person - at first in the name of love but finally because he figures he owes it to himself to be better for the sake of being better.

REVIEW: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

The short, spoiler-free version? It captures the spirit of the books perfectly but doesn't get bogged down in trying to replicate every little detail. While some of the changes do annoy me somewhat, they don't distract from the story at large. It's good. Not great. But I still recommend it.

I'd suggest reading the books first but you don't have to have read the books to enjoy the movie. You do, however, need to accept that not everything is going to be explained and be a geek-of-all-trades who is well versed in the tropes of 8-Bit Gaming and Anime.

My friend Keith asked me how I could easily sum up Scott Pilgrim in 30 seconds. And then, when I hesitated, he said I could have a minute.

I managed it, but it was still a trick. This isn't like the other two big movies that opened this week - The Expendables (A Bunch of Action Stars, old and new, team up in a Bayian orgy of violence and explosions) or Eat, Pray, Love (Julia Roberts travels around the world and explores her feelings.) There's no really clear-cut way to explain the whole Scott Pilgrim series simply - it's six whole books, for crying out loud!

And that, at its' heart, is the biggest problem with the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. There's just too much to cram into two hours, without cutting out a lot of the heart. The soul is still there but a LOT of the story - particularly regarding the supporting cast - has been jettisoned in favor of making a more traditional romantic comedy. Thankfully, the soul of the story is one that does lend itself well toward the romantic comedy genre.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie yet or read the books (FYI: You should! They are awesome!), let me sum the whole thing up, as simply as possible, in one sentence. "Scott Pilgrim, a slacker man-child, grows up after meeting the girl of his dreams and helps her to overcome her own troubled past."

Yes, the whole thing is set in an alternate version of Toronto, where the laws and physics of video games apply. Yes, there are a lot of in-jokes to various 8-Bit Video Games, the tropes of Anime and geek culture in general. And the whole thing is a wish-fulfillment fantasy about how utterly awesome it would be if, in real life, True Love gave you a magic sword and it was actually possible to beat up the bastard/bitch who made your ex miserable.

That's just window dressing, though. At it's heart, the movie - like the books - is all about that potentially awkward time of adjustment a lot of young adults go through. Where you're technically an adult but still feel like a kid and you're still struggling to find your feet and figure out life. When you're just out of the house for the first time and you are reveling in the freedom even as it just hit you how much your parents did for you and how much responsibility you have now.

Those of us who go through this phase cope with it in different ways. In Scott's case, he deals by making his life as simple and uncomplicated as possible. He has his band. He has his low-maintenance girlfriend, Knives. No fuss. No muss. No worries.

That all changes when Scott meets Ramona and not just because of Ramona's Seven Evil Exes (aka The Quirky Miniboss Squad) trying to kill him. In a lot of ways, Ramona is wiser than Scott and she makes him more aware of just how much better he can be than the no-account slacker everyone sees him as. By the same token, Scott manages to help Ramona free herself from the baggage brought on by her past actions ("I've dabbled i being a bitch", she says at one point regarding her exes) and inspires her to quit letting other people define her as a prize to be won.

The movie changes up some of the fine details - including the final battle - from the books, but ultimately the same core message is there: it's okay to not know what you're doing, so long as you're true to yourself and try to do the right thing.

Not bad for a movie where Vegans are Super Saiyans, Battle of the Bands contests are literal battles using The Power of Rock and The Power of Love can cause a magic flaming sword to grow out of your heart.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A New Geek Drink - The Green Arrow!

I got inspired to try mixing a few things yesterday evening after being introduced to The Drunken Moogle. And somewhere along the line, I made this.

I elected to name this The Green Arrow.

Why? Three reasons.

1. It is a dark, forest green color once mixed properly.
2. It is sharp shot. *rimshot*
3. Because Oliver Queen deserves to have a drink named after him too!

Seriously. I did some research on-line and discovered that there are five drinks called a Green Lantern, one drink called a Poison Ivy and at least two drinks called a Swamp Thing while discussing what to call it with a friend on Facebook. Give the archer his due!


1 oz. Orange Juice
1 oz. Jack Daniels
1 oz. Peach Schnapps
1 oz. Blue Curacao

Pour into shot glass in equal amounts. Stir. Severed straight.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Doctor Who, Series 5 - Episodes 12 & 13 - The Pandorica Opens and TheBig Bang



Through a complicated chain of events, a message for The Doctor is sent across time through a string of colleagues; from the visionary Vincent Van Gogh through a painting delivered to Winston Churchill to a phone-call rerouted to River Song to an ancient message carved into a mountainside at the beginning of time, The Doctor and Amy are sent to a Roman-Empire era Britain. It is there, under Stonehenge, that River has discovered The Pandorica - a legendary artifact spoken of in the legends of all sentient races that is said to contain the greatest threat to life in the universe.

Things get complicated when The Doctor discovers that The Pandorica is broadcasting a signal across time and throughout the universe and that a grab bag of his greatest enemies are en route to seize The Pandorica. Throw in the fact that Rory - thought dead and erased from time - is now living among the Roman soldiers stationed nearby and that River and the TARDIS become lost in time and space following a trip to 21st Century Britian and things go beyond complicated. And when an alliance unseen leaves The Doctor trapped, Amy dead and the entire universe minutes away from never having existed in the first place, things go so far beyond complicated that we need an entirely different word to describe just how complicated things have become!


* The true nature of The Pandorica. While I guessed fairly early on that it contained The Doctor ("...Goblin. Or a trickster, or a warrior. A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies.") I was not expecting it to be empty at the moment or that it was the result of every single Doctor Who villain teaming up to contain The Doctor after it becomes apparent that he is - somehow - responsible for the increasing destabilization of the universe. It's a concept that has been explored before - that The Doctor causes more trouble than he fixes - but it's never been presented in quite so staggering a manner.

* Matt Smith gets a lengthy speech worthy of The Doctor which manages to be all his own even as it gives literal shout-outs to battles fought by the the Ninth (I - AM - TALKING!) and Tenth (IT - IS - PROTECTED!) Doctors.

Come on! Look at me! No plan, no back-up, no weapons worth a damn! Oh, and something else I don't have: anything to lose! So! If you're sitting up there in your silly little spaceships with all your silly little guns and you've got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who's standing in your way! Remember every black day I ever stopped you and then, and then... do the smart thing: Let somebody else try first.

* Rory really comes into his own as a character in these episodes, proving to be all too human even as a robot. (Trust me - that makes perfect sense if you've seen this episode.) The Boy Who Waited Indeed.


* The only real problem with this story is that - by all rights - it would have been the perfect final Doctor Who adventure. The bittersweet near ending, in which The Doctor comforts the young, sleeping Amelia Pond as part of one last good deed before seemingly heading off to save the universe one last time by sacrificing himself to seal the hole in reality, leaving behind a more mundane world free of the threats of Dalkes and Cybermen... that would be a great way to end the series if it ever must end.

* The whole twisted logic chain in The Big Bang in which Steven Moffat indulges in the sort of time-travel trickery more often associated with Bill and Ted than Doctor Who. And unlike the last time Steven Moffat did this in Curse of the Fatal Death, it's not all that funny. That being said, I did like The Doctor running around in a fez.

The Final Verdict: A rare season finale that would be a serviceable series finale as well. It has very few problems, save that this story would be a perfect ending but it isn't an ending and that the comedic use of Time Travel really doesn't seem appropriate given the dire circumstances at the time. Still, these two episodes made the whole season worthwhile. Even Victory of the Daleks.