Friday, April 27, 2012

Green Arrow #7-8

My hopes of Green Arrow having finally found a stable, quality creative team sank shortly after I read the first preview..  I wanted to like the new Green Arrow book.  I really did.   But while Ann Nocenti has written some wonderful works in the past, this is an excruciatingly painful read in many respects.

The above-linked preview sets the stage for Issue #7 well enough.  Green Arrow gets ambushed by three identical women using trick arrows.  They introduce themselves as Skylark and explain that they are inventors and major Green Arrow fans.  Naturally, this being a superhero story, they decided the best way to impress their crush and show off the special gear they designed for him ("...six-shooter arrows, pheromone arrows, flak arrows...") was to attack him.  GA is impressed enough to accept an invitation to their geneticist father's secret lab but he refuses their offer of a bus ticket in favor of a "borrowed jet".  Remember this point for later, kids.  It will be important.

After coming up with an excuse to get Oliver Queen out of the office for a week, Green Arrow flies north with Skylark in tow.  Sexy shenanigans ensue as part of the inflight entertainment and Ollie arrives in a most impressive underground lab, hidden away in the Yukon wilderness.  It is here that Skylark reveals their real intentions - adopting him as a pet.  They also reveal how they used one of their aforementioned pheromone arrows to make Green Arrow more agreeable to traveling with them.

A quick aside.  How quickly would this comic have been decried by the comics-reading public at large if the genders were reversed and it were a superheroine being drugged and taken advantage of by three male triplets?  I bring this up because the word rape is not used once in either of these issues and it really should be.  I find myself disturbed at how Green Arrow's being abducted and drugged by three crazed fangirls, attractive as they may be, is portrayed as a desirable thing.  Indeed, Ollie's response to the news that he was drugged before agreeing to a foursome is to decry it as overkill, pointing out that just one of the Skylarks should be able to convince your average heterosexual male of anything with their natural charm and good looks. 

The issue ends with the Skylarks blowing up Ollie's "borrowed jet" while describing the game they play with their father and how his favorite daughter among the three will inherit everything he owns.  If this rings some bells, I congratulate you on your knowledge of classic English Literature and apologize for the headache you will surely get later as the reference is repeatedly hammered into your head.

While all this is going on, there's a subplot which takes up four pages across two issues.  With the borrowed jet crashed, Emerson - the CFO of Queen Enterprises - starts wheeling and dealing to get Oliver Queen declared legally dead so that he can take over the company.  Meanwhile, Green Arrow's support team try to counter Emerson as best they can, all while conducting their own search for Ollie.

Issue #8 opens up in the middle of the action, with Ollie having somehow escaped from the base off-panel.  He is weaponless, coatless and being pursued through the Arctic wasteland by some breed of wolf with glowing red eyes.. Despite this, he refuses to use lethal force on the wolves, having too much respect for wild life... even hideous mutant wild life.  This decision earns Green Arrow the respect of Skylark's father, who watches the fight from afar on a monitor while disciplining the daughter who helped Ollie escape. 

Sensing a kindred spirit in the young hero, he sends the rebel Skylark out to retrieve Green Arrow.  On the ride back, she tells Ollie of her concern that her father might be going mad and that he has been doing strange experiments on the local wildlife.  Given that this is coming from a triplet who shares a hive mind with her sisters and was raised in an underground compound, one can only imagine what her standard for "strange" is..  Ollie agrees to do what he can to help shortly before being introduced to Daddy Dearest, who introduces himself as Leer.  (Gedit?  Gedit?)  

Leer says he'll show Green Arrow his lab in the morning but - getting the sense that he may shortly become an experiment - Ollie decides to break in with the rebel Skylark in the middle of the night.  Sure enough, Leer is cross-breeding genetic abominations better able to survive in the "Nozones" - areas of high pollution that are apparently springing up all around the Arctic.  He's also collecting the DNA of various historical figures, including Napoleon and Rasputin.  But the most damning evidence of all that Dear Old Dad has lost his marbles?  Leer has merged his own altered DNA (well, I assume he's altered - I'd hate to think he looks like an albino Dee Snyder naturally!) with that of a polar bear so that a part of him will live on after his death.. It's at this point that Daddy Dearest show up, a fight ensues and Ollie and the rebel Skylark escape in one of the most confusing sequences I've ever seen in any comic book.

Nocenti has a lot of great ideas here but most of them are rushed and poorly executed.  Perhaps the most maddening aspect of this story is that Nocenti doesn't even try to hide her sources and makes reference to King Lear on four separate occasions.  Whether she is convinced the average comic fan won't get the reference or whether she wants to make sure we know how clever she is, I'm not sure.  Regardless, basing a villain upon King Lear isn't a bad idea but with his environmentalist ways and loyal daughter Leer comes off as a poor man's Ra's Al Ghul. 

Her take on Ollie Queen as a character is much better, possessing far more personality than he did under J.T. Krul and Dan Jurgens.  True, that personality seems to belong to a third-year Theater Arts major but that's not a bad choice.  You have to have some sense of drama to go into battle dressed like Robin Hood, after all.  But while Ollie's always had a flair for the dramatic and is usually shown to be a fairly well-read fellow, his frequent soliloquizing out-loud when alone just seems off.  It also doesn't help most of Ollie's dialogue alternates between James Bond and a parody of Denny O'Neil's beatnik Green Arrow from 40 years ago. ("It's been the most wonderful kidnapping, angel.  But I still don't trust you.") 

The story itself is another point of aggravation. Because when you get right down to it, this is a tale of smart people who are forced to act like idiots because the plot says they have to.  Ollie disappears in a company jet (Secret Identity?  Bah!) instead of taking a bus, because they need the plane crash to get the subplot moving   It's fortunate that Ollie does decide to take the plane, because it turns out that Leer's home is a 12-hour walk from civilization... begging the question of why Skylark offered him a bus ticket to get there!  Ollie doesn't tell his support team where he is going because he needs them to hack into his personal journal and translate a King Lear reference ("flying north with the crows" ) so they can show up to rescue him.  Emerson, who up until now has been portrayed as more of a disappointed father figure to Ollie than the greedy Gordon Gecko type, goes full-blown Daffy Duck once he's offered a chance at taking over Queen Enterprises.  (Gold! Gold! Gold!  Mine! Mine! Mine!  BWAHAHA!)   And Ollie's support team forget that they have a tracking device installed on Ollie's costume because... uh, I've got nothing..


I've said nothing about what I think about the art team so far.  Perhaps that is because nothing is what I think of them.  And nothing will come of nothing.  (See!  I can quote Shakespeare too!)  In fact, I can't really call them an art team because that implies some level of working together.  Artist Harvey Tolibao seems to be at war with colorists Richard and Tanya Horie and he is losing badly.

Tolibao's pencil work is clear enough and finely detailed but it needs heavier inking and definition on most of its' pages.  The colorists do Tolibao a disservice by using colors that are too similar in close proximity, turning pages like the above splash page of Green Arrow into a muddy mess.  They also use the same intensity of palette on figures that are meant to be faded to suggest motion, making it appear that we have three Green Arrows of equal intensity on a single page or - as in the first image of this review - two pairs of goggles flying through the air!  This does not excuse Tolibao completely, for the man is one of the worst visual storytellers I've ever seen as I believe the above page depicting Ollie's fight with the Leer bear illustrates. 

It pains me to say this but I cannot recommend this new Green Arrow title to you all.  Perhaps we'll get lucky and the creative team will change again in three issues and we'll be offered something decent.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Action Comics #7-8

I usually start my reviews by talking about the writing.  This time, I'd like to start with the artwork.  Consider if you would this silent page.

I've been a Rags Morales fan since his days on JSA and Hawkman and while it may be hyperbolic for me to say that this is the best work of his career, I'll stand behind the statement.  Morales is a highly underrated storyteller and it's amazing how much action and character he can put into a single page.  Here we see Clark Kent, pushing himself past limits he's never dared consider, attempting to leap off of the Earth itself in pursuit of the alien menace that just stole an entire part of the city of Metrpolis.  Does he stop to marvel at the sheer wonder of what he's just done?  Does he pause to gaze at the astonishing beauty around him?

No.  His focus remains upon his target and finding the foothold he needs to get  there.  Without a single word of dialogue to assist him, Rags Morales has conveyed the essence of Superman as a character and showcased his greatest power in one page.  It isn't flight or super strength or heat vision - it's his selflessness.

This core idea - that Superman's greatest power is his truly selfless nature - was at the core of another great Superman series, All-Star Superman.  Not surprisingly, both that mini-series and this book are written by Grant Morrison, who has a fair bit of experience writing Superman and being an amazing writer in general.  What is surprising, however, is that despite his time and experience writing Superman, Morrison still finds new things to say with the character and new ways of looking at the classic mythos.

As I noted in my earlier review of the Action Comics series, Morrison has managed the amazing trick of retelling the Superman origin story while still making it seem entirely new and exciting, despite working with the exact same props and characters.  For instance, it was not much of a surprise that the electronic alien menace that stole part of Metropolis was the classic Superman baddie Braniac.  What was a surprise (and a very amusing one, in my opinion) was Morrison's depiction of this robotic A.I. as less of a super-intelligent genius and more of an obsessive collector - a personality I'm sure most comic readers are familiar with.


That is but one surprise of many that has been sprung upon we readers within the past two issues.  I shan't tell you of exactly how Brainiac came to Earth, the origins of Superman's new costume or the identity of Clark Kent's mysterious informant.  Why?  Because I want you to have the treat of discovering these mysteries and more for yourself.  The collected edition isn't due out until August, so if you can't wait for a nicely bound edition, I'd suggest checking the on-line stores for a digital copy..  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Batman: Night of The Owls (Batman #7-8 & Nightwing #8)

As I've noted before, Batman isn't just the best of the current run of Batman titles - it is the best Batman book we've had in years. 

In a relatively short span of time, writer Scott Snyder has established The Court of Owls into a credible and unique threat.  This uniqueness is the important thing, given how thick the Batman universe already is with organizations like The League Of Assassins, The Brotherhood of the Monkey Fist and The Order of St. Dumas among others. It would have been all too easy for Snyder to make The Court of Owls into a generic secret society.  Thankfully, Snyder isn't that lazy and the first six issues of his Batman run have done much to weave The Court into the history and lore of Gotham City. 

Issue #7 is something of a prelude to the Night of the Owls storyline that will be running through several books through late April and into May.  In it, we get some answers to some of the mysteries raised in the early part of Snyder's Batman run, such as how The Court of Owls is seemingly bringing the dead back to life to serve as their "Talon" assassins.  We also get our first glimpse as to just how badly his time in the Owl's nest has affected Batman, as both Nightwing and Alfred note his unbalanced state. This issue is a bit of a breather, summing up what we know so far before the new storyline begins but Snyder keeps things moving despite the relatively sedate tone.  Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion continue to spoil us with their unique mix of precise penciling and atmospheric inking.   

Issue #8 officially kicks off the Night of Owls as The Court of Owls send an entire legion of Talons into the streets of Gotham to go after a number of important civic figures, including Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne.  As Bruce Wayne fends off the Talons swarming stately Wayne Manor, Alfred barricades himself in the Batcave and sends out an SOS to the rest of the Bat-Family, asking them to protect Gotham City.  The later half of this issue, which focuses upon Alfred as he delivers his message, is illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, whose style is jarringly different from that of Greg Cappullo and Jonathan Glapion, but not bad. 

The story picks up in Nightwing #8, as Dick Grayson moves to protect Gotham City's mayor from the Talons.  Kyle Higgins tells a good tale here, mixing the action of present with a flashback detailing the life of a particular Talon soldier.  The art by Eddy Barrows, Ruy Jose and Eber Ferreira was a good follow-up heading out of Batman #8, resembling the work of Cappullo and Glapion only brighter and less stylized.  This seems fitting, given how Nightwing is generally a brighter character than Batman. 

Having not been reading the Nightwing title, I can't say whether or not the crossover is disrupting the current storyline - a promise that was made when the Night of the Owls was original announced.  However, I am delighted to confirm that the story here is self-contained and that Nightwing fans who don't read Batman on a regular basis need not feel obligated to pick up Batman #8 to enjoy this issue.  Conversely, Batman readers can pick this issue up without being confused. 

Given that, I would suggest giving all the parts of this crossover a shot, if you can afford to do so.  It appears that the quality of Batman is rubbing off on the rest of the line.

Up Next: More Comic Reviews And A Question For You, The Readers

It may not have escaped your attention that I've not been writing as much as usual this past month.  For that, I apologize.  It's been a busy month and with the approach of summer (busiest time of the year for a public librarian) my free time has dwindled down to nearly nothing, with all the special projects I'm working on.

You may also have noticed that I've curtailed my writing about comics of late.  This is partly due to the aforementioned lack of spare time but also due to...

a) my comic shop of choice being 30 miles away from my apartment.
b) my place of employment being 20 miles the opposite direction from my apartment.
c) my commitment to supporting my local comic shop being greater than my commitment to downloading new issues from an on-line store.
d) my desire to do more reviews of graphic novels and complete story lines rather than single comics.

Over the next few days, I'll be doing quick reviews of all the books I've picked up in the last month.  While I'm doing that, I'd like to hear from you all regarding the following questions.

1. Would you prefer for me to stick to monthly comic reviews or graphic novels/trade paperbacks?

2. If you prefer monthly comic reviews, do you mind if I don't have the reviews of that week's comics posted until the next weekend?

3. Would you be able to tolerate less frequent reviews if I were able to go into greater depth in what reviews I did write?

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Devil's Carnival Road Tour- A Review

It is said that a great creative work should inspire creativity in those who see it.  If that is so then The Devil's Carnival is a great work, for it inspired me to began writing about it almost immediately after having seen it.  And yet, it has taken me several days to write this column as I struggled to find the right words to describe it properly.  There are many ways I could go about it, for The Devils Carnival is a tricky beast to define.

Perhaps I'll stick to my roots as a comic book historian and focus on the film's thematic roots as a spiritual successor to the classic EC Comics Tales From The Crypt books?  I could approach it as a scholar of theater, talking about the influence of the Commedia dell'arte and medieval passion plays on both the film The Devil's Carnival and the road tour promoting the film.  I might take on the role of a film buff and speak on the show as a modern revival of the classic horror films of Lon Chaney and Tod Browning and compare The Devil's Carnival Road Tour to the road tours MGM founder Irving Thalberg organized where actors were sent around the country to stage their films as plays, allowing the actors a chance to try different things in front of an audience before filming. 

I could do all these things.  But I think it best that I put on my traveling reporter's hat and tell you simply and truly about everything that I saw as I joined The Devil's Carnival.

I journeyed to The Lakewood Theater of Dallas, arriving about an hour before they were to begin seating the VIP ticket-holders.  I was clad in suitable raiment for the affair - basic black, as is my habit.  Not having the time, money or talent to dress as one of the characters from the show, I opted to dress as a gothic ringmaster.  Black Renn Fest garb with a black jacket over it, black shoes underneath and a riding crop in my hand.  I was dressed for trouble and knew where to find it.


Waiting in line, I got spotted by some of my fellow malcontents from the Amber Does Dallas shadowcast.  Most of them were working crowd control, camera crew and all the other various duties you need on a theater's house team.  Me?  I employed myself as a marker of the start of the VIP line and a dispenser of helpful advice.  My main piece of advice?  "Ask someone else!  I don't work here!"  Such is the curse of wearing all black and carrying an instrument of torture.  Everyone just assumes you are in charge and know what you are doing.

While I was waiting, I did flag down a merch girl and lay down hard cash for a copy of The Devil's Carnival Soundtrack.  Being one of those old-fashioned types who likes to buy an album rather than download it, I probably would have done this even before learning that the physical discs the tour is selling are part of a limited autographed collector's edition run.  I'd hold out for one of these babies if you can.  And if you can't, well that's what the Amazon link up above is for.


After being let into the theater and some slight confusion over where the VIPs were meant to sit that I did nothing to alleviate (Ask someone else!  I don't work here!), we were herded up into the balcony like so many gothic cattle.  I joined up with several of my cast mates and we were joined shortly thereafter by Director Darren Lynn Bousman, Author/Actor Terrance Zdunich  and Actress/YouTube Japanese Instructor Miss Hannah Minx.  Their objective?  Provide the VIPs with a shorter, specialer Q&A session than the one that would be open to the masses later on.

Rather than recall all the questions that were asked, I will attempt to answer some of the questions that I've heard at every single Q&A involving anyone involved in Repo! The Genetic Opera I have ever attended. 

Yes, Paris Hilton is a nice person.  No, she was not a diva.  No, she did not have an entourage.  Yes, they would like to give Anthony Stewart Head more work but plane tickets from England are expensive.  Yes, they have heard about that Jude Law movie and anything they had to say about it has already been said on their blogs. No, Terrance will not shout "GRAAAAAVES!" for you.

The most interesting and inspiring thing to come out of the Q&A was Bousman's answering a young man's question regarding why they chose to promote The Devil's Carnival with a traveling concert show rather than the more traditional methods used to take a film to the masses.  Bousman spoke movingly on how TDC was a labor of love, forged in opposition to the usual Hollywood studio style.  They did not go through agents or casting directors to bring in the actors they wanted - they asked them directly, bringing in old friends and new talent alike.  Bousman's enthusiasm was clear and infectious and the message he hoped to give the audience - that nothing should stop you from attempting to create art on your own terms - was received loud and clear.

It was at this time that the VIPs were escorted downstairs into the main part of the theater and allowed to choose their seats before the teeming masses were allowed in.  After milling around the front where there were reserved seats for the VIPs, I took a seat in the middle-right side of the house.  This allowed me a clear view of the stage and a relatively clear shot at the emergency exit if needed.  It is my firm belief after two decades on stage that theaters are like airplanes - you should always know where the exits are in case of a water landing.


Pre-show entertainment was provided by The Braggart Family Side Circus and Circus Freaks.  The former is a Houston-based troupe of circus performers.  The latter is a Dallas-based group that is pretty self-explanatory, given the name of their organization.  In deference to more sensitive readers, I will not go into extensive detail of their acts.  Footage is freely available on YouTube for those with the drive to look for it.  Suffice it to say I was amused by their antics and it does my dark heart good to know that it is still possible in this day and age for a man to make an honest living by dancing on hot coals while playing The Star Spangled Banner on a kazoo while smacking himself in the balls with a rubber mallet.

After that, the crowd was given a rather vigorous warm-up by the leggy redhead MC, whose name I'm afraid I never caught.  And then came the magic moment - when Darren and Terrance emerged to speak to the crowd, dodge the moist undergarments and keys being thrown their way and introduce a brief film of behind-the-scenes footage from the shooting of Repo! The Genetic Opera.  The film displayed a mix of footage - alternative filming angles, test shots taken during rehearsal and the occasional footage of people being recorded singing their songs in the booth.  Damn entertaining stuff if you're a Repo! fan.  But the moment that really got the crowd worked up and bothered came when several of my fellow ADD members began to dance down the aisle as the song We Started This Opera Sh*t (aka Testify!) began to play. 


After that there was a costume contest, which was won by some manner of fantastic fairy-bat creature.

Immediately after that came the announcement of the winners of a singing YouTube contest where fans covered the TDC song In All My Dreams, I Drown.  And then  we finally came to the main event!  The Devil's Carnival itself!

The Devil's Carnival begins as three people find themselves standing before the titular traveling show.  Ms. Merrywood (Briana Evigan) is a magpie, always looking for more and more shiny baubles to decorate herself.  Tamara (Jessica Lowndes) is a young lady whose taste for dangerous men always gets her into trouble.  And John (Sean Patrick Flannery) is a frantic father, desperately seeking the son that he has lost. 

Organized by the rules-minded Ticket-Keeper (Dayton Callie) and overseen by the big man downstairs himself (Terrance Zdunich, under a most impressive make-up design), the denizens of the carnival promise their guests much for the price of a ticket.  But what will these three lost souls find among the carnival's attractions?  A chance for redemption... or their just deserts?

I regret to report that Repo! fans expecting more of the same may be sorely disappointed. While many of the usual suspects like Alexa Vega, Bill Moseley and Ogre are in attendance, The Devil's Carnival is more of an ensemble piece than Repo! The Genetic Opera, so there are far more full-cast numbers than there are solos and duets. Thankfully, these ensemble numbers shine and TDC boasts a greatly varied soundtrack.

From the divine doo-wop ditty Heaven's All Around (performed by
Paul Sorvino, who plays the part of God) to the cheerfully childish Off To Hell We Go, no two songs in this film sound at all alike stylistically.  In All My Dreams I Drown sounds like a lost track from a collection of classic sailor shanties.  Prick! Goes The Scorpion's Tale owes much to the suggestive innuendo-filled folk songs of yore.  And A Penny For A Tale as sung by The Hobo Clown (Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch, who for my money steals the show) is a classic comedic vaudeville song.

While this may seem jarring to some after the smooth unity of all the songs in The Genetic Opera, I found the variety fitting given the anthology style of the stories told here.  We are not told one story by the all-seeing Graverobber.  Here we bear witness to three different tales within a series.  Yes, you read that right – series!  This show is intended to be the first volume in a series of frightening fables for overgrown children and arrested adolescents of all ages.  This tidbit of information came out during the final event of the evening – a full-audience Q&A session for Darren, Terrance and Hannah.  

Once that was done, the masses were assembled once again in a great line that stretched all the way around the side of the Lakewood Theater.  Those who had not yet bought merchandise were given a chance to do so and those who braved the long lines were granted a brief audience with the guests of honor, as swag was signed and photos were snapped.  And that is how your humble author wound up with this picture, flanked by Miss Nako Sweet of Amber Does Dallas on one side and Miss Hannah Minx on the other, looking far more awesome than he has any right to ever appear.

To my astonishment, Mr. Zdunich remembered me from a meeting of the minds some eight months previous.  What is more, Mr. Zdunich had read my review of The Molting and had been pleased by it.  Talk about an ego boost!

I had a wonderful time at The Devil's Carnival and believe you will have much the same yourself.  If you can, catch a future show.  If you cannot, get the soundtrack and await another chance in the future.  I assure you it will be worth the wait.  



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Earth Scientists Create Working Sonic Screwdriver

SOURCE: Sonic Screwdriver Tightens up Fundamental Physics

To be fair, this sonic screwdriver can't unlock doors or hack computers with one click of a button. Yet. But it can use ultrasonic beams to lock onto and rotate small objects. And that's still fantastic!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

THIS JUST IN: Marvel And Disney Possibly Run By Total Maroons!

SOURCE: Marvel cancelling Avengers Earth Mightiest Heroes in favor a new show inline with Ultimate Spider-man

So here's the basic situation. 

1. Disney has a cartoon, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, which airs on their Disney XD channel.  I've only seen a few episodes myself but I agree with the accessment of my friend Rob Bricken that it is the best cartoon based on a Marvel Comic in recent memory, if not ever.  It has lots of action for the kids but at the same time is smart enough that adults can enjoy it too.

2. Jeph Loeb, whom you might remember as the man who had a hand in making the show HEROES utterly unwatchable after its' second season, has been placed in charge of Marvel's TV properties.  He's elected - due to Disney not being thrilled about the relatively low ratings of A: EMH and a desire to make an Avengers cartoon more in line with their new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon - to cancel the series.

3. This move is coming just weeks before a big Avengers movie is due out, at which point demand for kid-friendly properties involving The Avengers is probably going to soar.

4. Nobody has apparently thought to try moving the new episodes of A: EMH to a more adventageous time-slot (the new episodes currently air on Sunday mornings at a time most Americans are in church or sleeping in) or moving the show onto the main Disney Channel,which is available in more households, in order to improve the ratings.

So... yeah.  Can anyone give me any compelling evidence that Disney or Marvel wouldn't be better off being run by a pack of feral chimps at this point?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Starman Meets Gaiman!

I wasn't expecting anything exciting to happen today when I woke up this morning.  I didn't expect that I'd read that Neil Gaiman was in Dallas today on Twitter.  I didn't expect him to Retweet my remarks on trying to find which coffee shop he was in, comparing it to hunting for a leprechaun's gold.  I didn't expect to hear that he'd be with Amanda Palmer at a local music shop and that his fans were free to come bother him.  And I didn't expect to be hauling myself across the DFW metroplex after work, desperately trying to get to Lower Greenville before 9 PM. 

Amazing the things a day can bring you.  Especially when the day brings you an autographed copy of the Shoggoth's Old Peculiar, with a personalized sketch of Cthulhu drawn by Neil Gaiman himself.


Fourth Doctor in Star Trek/Doctor Who Crossover?

I'm not a Trekkie.  Or a Trekker.  Or whatever the Star Trek fans are calling themselves at the moment.  So I wasn't as excited as some about the upcoming IDW Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover mini-series... until I saw this!

Yes, that's Captain Kirk.  Wrestling with a Cyberman.  With the Fourth Doctor looking concerned and Spock looking remarkably sedate, even for a Vulcan.

Suddenly, I want to read this.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Twenty-Eight: Diplomatic Insanity


So let me see if I have the gist of this plan straight.  You have secured an invitation to some swanky wine and cheese party at that Thalmor embassy.
Delphine: Yes.
Me: You want me to use that to infiltrate said embassy.
Delphine: Yes.
Me: But before that, you want me to journey to Solitude to meet with another one of your agents, Malborn, who is currently working as a servant in said embassy.
Delphine: Yes.
Me: When I meet with him, I'm to give him any equipment I think I might need and he'll smuggle it inside the embassy.
Delphine: Yes.
Me: Once that is done, I'm to meet with you, where you will give me my invitation, a fancy outfit for the aforementioned swanky party and deliver me, by carriage, to the aforementioned embassy.
Delphine: Yes.
Me: Once there, having gotten into the party, I am to create some sort of distraction, sneak off in the confusion, retrieve the equipment I had smuggled in and search the embassy for evidence that the Thalmor are behind the dragons being awakened and set upon Skyrim.
Delphine: Yes.
Me: This is somehow, for reasons that have not been explained to me, preferable to my using the vast array of illusion magic available, to say nothing of my own not inconsiderable talents for stealth and getting into dangerous, heavily guarded-places where I'm not supposed to be, to simply break into said embassy like a -pardon the expression - common thief.
Delphine: Yes.  You have it perfectly.
Me: Okay.  I do have one question.
Delphine: Yes?
Me: If you already have a man on the inside who is free to travel all the way from the Thalmor embassy to Solitude, who is also capable of smuggling all 300 pounds of my arms, armor, potions and various other bits of adventuring equipment into the embassy, why not just have him look for the evidence and smuggle it out?
Delphine: Err... he is too valuable a resource for us to risk being discovered!
Me: More valuable than your Chosen One?  Kin of Dragons?  Eater of Souls?  Beater of Ass?
Delphine:  But we only have the one fancy outfit and it is in your size.
Me: ... can I keep the fancy outfit after I'm done with this?
Delphine: I suppose so.


Elenwen: Welcome.  I don't believe we've met.  I am Elenwen, the Thalmoe Ambassador to Skyrim.
Me: I am King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda.
Elenwen: Really?  The only Breton I have on our guest list is a fellow named Matthias the Bastard...
Me: Ah.  Yes, that is me.  I was just joking just now.
Elenwen: Indeed.  That's a very unusual surname.  "the Bastard".
Me: Yes, it's an original.  I had it changed.
Elenwen: You had your family name changed TO "the Bastard"?
Me: Well, it used to be de Faquwad.
Elenwen: My, how amusing.  Well, if you'll excuse me I must find someone else to talk to.  Perhaps those guards over there.  Do enjoy yourself... for however long you have left.

Me: Oh crap...
Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone: I did not expect to see you here, young Thane..
Me: Ah... yes... uh... uh.
Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone: Jarl Ravencrone?  You saved my city from vampires?
Me: Oh yes!  I remember now.
Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone: Oh, I suppose I cannot fault your forgetting.  You do help so many, after all.  But bold as you are, Dragonborn, I cannot help but think you foolish for attempting to sneak into the Thalmor embassy using a false name so close to your true one.  Even in the far north, the Thalmor have heard tales of "The Bather Of Riverwood".
Me: That's not my fault!  One of the Blades got me an invitation so I could look for evidence of the Thalmor corruption.  She might have told me that there was a guest list that had... an obvious alias on it.
Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone: Yes. If this is the Blades idea of subterfuge, this explains why their order is dying.
Me: Tell me about it.  I don't suppose you could aid me, your Jarlness?  Create some sort of distraction?
Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone: For you, oh Thane of Thanes?  Of course.  Just let me get to the center of the room and then you do what needs doing.

Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone: Quail, people of Skyrim!.
Elenwen: No, I think that's turkey and beef on the kabobs.
Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone: Repent!  Repent!  Rue!  Rue!  The hour of the awakening is upon us!  Beware the serpent in your midst!  Beware, oh people of Skyrim!Elenwen: By the Eight, what now?!
Malborn: Psst!  Matthias!  Back here behind the bar!
Me: And... out.


Me: Ugh.  I've checked every single office and library in this godsforsaken building, and nearly used up all my invisibility potions trying to stay undetected.  The only place left is in the basement.  But what are the chances they'd keep sensitive intelligence down there?
Rulindil: And you are sure this Esbern is hiding in the sewers of Riften?
Etienne Ramis: I know A Esbern is hiding in the sewers of Riften.  He could be the Esbern you are looking for.  He's old and seemed kinda crazy.  That's all I know.

Rulindil: Indeed?  Then I have no further reason to keep you alive.  Torturer, finish him.

Me: *muttered* Oh, HELL no!



Me: Right you.  Let's get you on your feet and out of here.
Etienne Rarnis: Eh?  Who are you?
Me: The guy who just saved your ass.  I'm also, potentially, the guy who is going to kill your ass depending on what you say next.
Etienne Rarnis: Bah! You wouldn't save me from the Thalmor only to kill me yourself.
Me: Do you REALLY want to test me on that?
Etienne Rarnis: ... what do you want?
Me: Information.  Who is this Esbern and why do the Thalmor want him so bad?

Etienne Rarnis:
No idea.. but the Esbern I know is this man who lives in the Ratway in Riften.  They wrote down everything I told them in that book there.
Me: Hmm... interesting.  Better grab that and these other volumes.  Let's see... blah blah blah... loremaster of the Blades... blah blah blah... believed to be hiding in Skyrim.... blah blah blah... great knowledge of dragon lore.  May know why dragons are being brought back to life now.  Huh.  Guess the Thalmor are innocent after all.
Thalmor Agent: Listen up, spy!
Me: Uh-oh.

Thalmor Agent:
 We know you are down there and we have your accomplice!  Surrender immediately or you both die.
Me: Just keep talking, elfie... it will give me time to draw a bead.



Me: Malborn, are you alright?
Malborn: No, I'm not.
Me: You look healthy enough to me.
Malborn: For now.  But the Thalmor will be hunting me for the rest of my life. I sure hope this was worth it.
Me: You know, I DID just save your life...
Malborn: And what kind of life is that?  To be on the run forever, living in fear?
Me: Oh, I can solve that problem for you easily enough.

Malborn: Oh really?  How?!

Me: Right. You.  Get up.  Any idea how to get out of this place?
Etienne Rarnis: Come on, this way.  I've seen the guards use it to get rid of bodies.  It must lead somewhere.
Me: Somewhere besides a dank, smelly cave full of rotting corpses, you mean?
Etienne Rarnis: Well, I heard the roars of some great beasty coming from it.
Me: That's hardly comforting.
Etienne Rarnis: Ah, but it is so big it couldn't possibly have fit in through that trap door, which means it must have gone in there from somewhere outside.
Me: Right.  Tell you what -as you've not smelt fresh air in longer, I'm going to let you go on to freedom first. 
Etienne Rarnis: That's awfully generous of you.
Me: Well, that's why I'm a hero.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Shock To Your System - Static Fan Film

SOURCE: Static Shock: Blackout


A trailer for this student-made fan movie hit the Internet a few months ago.  For a budget of $5000, it looks pretty solid and is a lot truer to the spirit of the original Dwayne McDuffie comics that the recent Static Shock comic wound up being post-Rozum.  Give it a look-see here, then check out their page. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Twenty Seven - While You Were Out...

From The Saga of Matthias The Bather, Written By Sven

What with one thing and another, two months passed.  And so it was that Matthias, having completed his Dragonborn training, did wander the land seeking out more of the foul beasts.  Yet the cause behind the beasts remained unknown, yet so great was Matthias' concern for the people of Skyrim that he put their safety and the task of slaying the beasts first.  It was not until one night, and a chance encounter at the tavern in Riverwood, that the quest for knowledge would begin anew.


Delphine: Where in Talos name have you been?!  I haven't seen you for two months.
Me: I might ask you the same question.  I came here looking for you but you were never here.  So I waited, drank and  talked with Sven about my latest brave deeds - he's writing a book about me now, you know?
Delphine: Yes, I did.  Tell me - didn't you check my secret lair?
Me: ... slipped my mind.
Delphine: So you've been doing nothing but sitting here getting drunk for the last two months?
Me: Of course not!  I've only been doing that for the past two days.  That is, when I wasn't out fighting a dragon in the street.
Delphine: What?  A dragon?  Here in the streets of Riverwood?!
Me: Yeah.  So again, I ask - where were you, Ms. "Last Surviving Member Of An Ancient Fraternity of Dragon Slayers?"  Hmmmmmm?  Didn't hear the colossal roaring or feel the earth quaking in your secret underground lair?
Delphine: ... no.  Was anyone hurt?
Me: Yes, and that's why I'm drunk.  I had to raise a glass to the fallen.  And then have another glass to keep the first one company.  And after that... well....


Me: That will teach you to go setting innocent livestock on fire!
Peasant #1: That... you devoured his soul!
Me: Yes.  I did that thing.
Peasant #2: I... I... can't believe it.
Me: Yes, well I am pretty amazing.  But your town is safe and everyone is alive and now I'm free to take its' bones and forge myself another... say, speaking of forges, it's awfully quiet over there by the...

Peasant #1: The smith?  He is...
Me: Dead?  Yes.  But I didn't even see him in the fight!
Peasant #2: He was on the other side of the dragon, Thane.  He was trying to get in a blow with his hammer while you were stabbing it in the back.
Me: Oh no... the poor fool!  Now who shall teach his daughter how to forge a dagger?  Who shall protect his beloved wife?  Oh, brave Smith... your death shall not have been in vain, I swear it!  Go now and tell his wife that her husband died a hero's death in defense of his friends and that he proved himself a true Nord.
Peasant #1: Yes, Dragonborn.  We shall leave you to mourn as a hero does - alone and in peace.  Such sights are not meant for the simple folk you protect.
Me: Indeed.  Indeed.  I thank you, my friends...  Go.  Go!  Howl!  Howl!
Are they gone yet?

Me: Sorry, old man... but you won't need pants or the key to your armory in the afterlife.  But your loss is the fish's gain.  Now, to ease my grief as I forge your ebony collection into a new soul-drinking sword.


Delphine: I see now why you are three sheets to the wind.
Me: Yes, but I'm over it now.  I won't be able to look at another drink for weeks.
Delphine: Too bad.  Because we finally found a way to get you into the Thalmor Embassy.... just in time for their annual wine festival.
Me: Elvish wine?  Bleccccch.