Sunday, March 31, 2013

Arrow: Sizzle Trailer For End of Season One

Lots of interesting things here.  The two most interesting, long term, are Ollie and Shado kissing (which brings up some interesting questions as to just how far the show plans to emulate the Mike Grell run given the time-span involved) and the bit with Roy declaring that he has to help The Hood.  So it looks like Roy may become Ollie's first official field sidekick after all.  Maybe.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Doctor Who, Series 7 - Episode 6 - The Bells Of Saint John


Amazing visuals and some stellar acting on the part of Matt Smith and Jenna Louise-Coleman can't quite hide the fact that we've seen this all before.  It's not bad but it's unoriginal and lifeless and the anti-technology menace seems at odds with the central themes of Doctor Who.


Having retired to a quiet place (a 13th century monastery) to consider the problem of The Girl Who Died Twice, The Doctor is surprised when she calls him on the TARDIS's exterior phone looking for technical support.  Tracking her across time to modern London, The Doctor arrives in the nick of time to save her from a "Spoonhead" - a self-camouflaging robot that is using public wi-fi signals to trap people's minds in the computers of a mysterious company working for an even more mysterious client.


* While I'm sure at least one Doctor Who novel has gone into the subject before, this is the first television story I think has gotten into the sub-genre of Ghost In The Machine/William Gibson-style cyberpunk science-fiction and it's interesting to see those tropes applied to the Doctor Who universe.

* Nice nod to the classic series with The Doctor being known as "The Mad Monk" to the monks he is guesting with in this episode.

* New Mystery - who is the woman in the shop who gave Clara the phone number for the TARDIS?  River Song is the obvious answer but I suspect it's TOO obvious.

* "...human souls, trapped like flies in the World Wide Web..." - great line, at least until the crack about Twitter users.  (Incidentally, expect a day or so of Whovians tweeting "I don't know where I am.  Help me." on their Twitter feeds.)

* The whole sequence where The Doctor flees into the TARDIS pulling Clara after him, coffee cup still in her hand, and then into the aisle of an airplane that's about to crash... all seemingly in one long take... is gloriously laid out.

* Another good line - "It's a time machine.  You never have to wait for it." 

* Blatant Lies from The Doctor - "I don't take the TARDIS into battle!  I don't want it falling into the wrong hands."  Except for all those times you did.  And apart from that one time with The Master, it hasn't.

* Matt Smith as The Doctor seems much more confident, more serious, less weirdly alien for the sake of being an alien.  And then he goes and licks something he finds pressed between the pages of a book.  Brilliant!

* Jenna-Louise Coleman is as wonderfully charming as in her first two appearances.  Still a bit early to judge but I do like her giving The Doctor a hard time as no one has since Donna Noble.  ("Down boy.") 


* Modern Setting aside, this story is basically the same story as The Idiot's Lantern - technology being used by an alien intelligence to steal "souls".  Come to think of it, that episode also featured The Doctor tooling around London on a motorbike and weird faceless people as the main "monster"

* While this may not be/probably isn't quite her first outing as a companion, Clara really isn't all that useful as a companion in this, her first outing in this particular incarnation.  True, she's able to use newly acquired hacking skills to track down the villains but since those skills don't really belong to the real "her", it seems sort of false to have that be her main contribution to the story apart from being a plot device of interest to The Doctor.

* Traditionally, Doctor Who has always been pro-science and futurist.  And yet the theme of this episode is primarily built upon the most anti-futurist message in science-fiction - i.e. technology will steal your soul.  I believe this is why the story of this episode and the menace of soul-drinking wi-fi just seemed more odd than frightening to me.

* On that note, I can't help but wonder how much of this episode and it's negative view toward social media was inspired by Steven Moffat's rather violent departure from social media in any form.

* Everybody just cowers before the Spoonheads.  Even if they know what's going to happen once the beam hits them.  Especially if they know what's going to happen!  Clara does it when she gets zapped the second time and even Miss Kislet, who really should know better, just kneels on the floor begging for mercy.

* Two odd things about UNIT at the end.  First, they appear to be back to being mostly a military group in spite of what we were told back in The Power of Three about them having progressed into becoming a more science-based organization.  Next, nobody seems to have heard of UNIT when they storm the building - even before all the workers under Miss Kislet have their memories erased.  I thought UNIT was acting openly in the modern day? 


I'm reminded of a line I heard attributed to Oscar Wilde - "There is much to admire here but on close examination I find that everything admirable has been imported from elsewhere."  This is hardly the worst episode ever made but it isn't original by any means.  The basic theme of the episode - that technology will steal our humanity - is hardly a new one to Doctor Who, even if Moffatt fills the script with stabs at Twitter users and references to smart phones and Wi-Fi.  Yet the fearful take on modern technology being turned upon us as depicted here seems to violate much of the spirit of Doctor Who which has always depicted our current advances in a positive light.  Still, there are some magical moments here that are quite enjoyable and the Third Doctor fan in me got a thrill at Matt Smith riding a suped-up motorbike.  Here's hoping we hear it called Bessie Too at some point.   It's worth watching but I doubt this will be anyone's favorite episode ever.

Bruce Timm To Start Work On New Justice League Cartoon!


When the news broke yesterday that Bruce Timm was stepping down from overseeing all of DC Comics animated movies, we were reassured that he wasn't leaving the company.  That proved true this morning when it was confirmed that Timm will be overseeing a new Justice League cartoon.

This is good news, but I can't help but wonder why - with Warner Bros. unable to get a team together to produce a decent script for the live-action Justice League movie - Timm hasn't been tapped for that role.  Granting that Timm's background is in cartooning and animation, he's proven time and again that he knows the characters and can get a team together.  He could produce a live-action Justice League movie even if someone else directed it.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: David Tennant and Billie Piper Confirmed!

SOURCE: Tennant & Piper are back for the 50th! 

Blogtor Who is reporting that next week's Doctor Who Magazine will confirm that Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) and David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor) have been confirmed as being part of the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special, which will be 90 minutes long and filmed in 3-D.  Actor John Hurt (perhaps most famous for his role in Alien) will also be appearing.

So... here's the big question. Will it be Rose and the 10.5 Human Doctor Clone from the parallel earth?  Or will it be Rose and The Tenth Doctor from some point during Series 2?  Or will they be appearing as completely new characters?

UPDATE: The news was confirmed by BBC Entertainment Reporter Lizo Mzimba on Twitter.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Several Doctor Who Trailers/Previews

I'm several days behind on these, I fear, but I still wanted to get these out for anyone who might have missed them.

First, a Doctor Who webisode starring Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.  This is set between when we saw them in A Good Man Goes To War and The Snowmen and answers several questions about how they came to team-up.

Next, a teaser trailer for the upcoming first episode of Series 7, Part 2 - The Bells of Saint John.

Finally, three scenes from The Bells of Saint John.  These are quite a bit SPOILER-EY, so you have been warned.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Arrow Reviews: Season 1, Episode 18 - Salvation

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



Starling City has a new vigilante - a master hacker called The Savior, who is kidnapping prominent criminals that prey on the people of The Glades and executing them on-line.  Normally Ollie wouldn't lose much sleep over the death of a slum lord but The Savior's antics deny the guilty any chance of redemption or restitution.  And then things become personal when Thea Queen's new boyfriend Roy Harper becomes The Savior's next target...

Quentin and Dinah Lance have reconciled, seemingly reunited by the search for proof of their younger daughter Sara's survival.  Laurel would be happy if she weren't convinced that her whole family was giving in to false hope.  And then Laurel's own investigation brings up evidence that Sara Lance might be alive... 

Tasked with tracking down the assassin who tried to kill Malcolm Merlyn, Moira Queen is between a rock and a hard place.  The good news is that Merlyn still has no idea that she was the one who hired the assassin.  The bad news is that a recently arrested Triad boss is ready to finger the people who hired Deadshot in exchange for a reduced sentence.  Just how far will Moira go to protect her family?

On the island, Slade and Ollie try to bargain with Eddie Fyers - a boat for the circuit boards for the missile launcher.  Fyers agrees to a meeting but immediately proposes a counter offer - the circuit boards for the life of Yao Fei's daughter.  In the fight that follows, Yao Fei is wounded but he orders everyone to go on without him, including his daughter Shado.  The team finds later that Fyers has recovered the microchips but Shado knows what Fyers is up to. 


Green Arrow: The Midas Touch (a villain who broadcasts his killings on-line), Green Arrow: Year One (the island sequences), Mike Grell's Green Arrow (the underground sequences are reminiscent of several of Ollie's adventures in the Seattle underground), the Batman: Arkham City game (again, the sequences in the subway and how Ollie goes about fighting The Savior), Macbeth (Moira Queen's reaction to the blood on her hands in the epilogue) and the general theme of salvation and rescues.


The employee profile Felicity pulls for Joseph Falk from the Starling City Department of Transpiration website seems to be written more as a prompt for the actor's lines than as a legitimate employee profile unless someone at the SCDOT is making note of which of their ex-employees are going "off the grid" after the murder of their wife.

Felicity says she's never seen somebody die before.  Assuming the comics are happening in chronological order relative to the TV series, she's completely forgotten the events of the comic Arrow #24, where she got a front-row seat to a man falling to his death. (Maybe that story does take place after this episode?)


Colton Hayes really comes into his own in this episode.  His interaction with Willa Holland comes off quite well and the two actors have real chemistry.  What really sells his performance, however, is the little touches that subtly reveal the real character of Roy Harper - like how even drugged and knocked down, he's still trying to protect Thea first.  For all the good it does him with an unloaded gun - the same gun he promised her he'd keep unloaded.  There's also some great non-verbal acting in the final confrontation between The Hood and The Savior - a moment of revelation for both The Savior and Roy Harper as the former realizes he's been killed by the man he thought would be his ally and the later realizes that The Hood chose to save him rather than the man who was emulating him.

The entire ensemble gels together and - as usual - it's the duet scenes that really sell this show.  Ollie and Diggle discussing Ollie's lack of a life over burgers.  Felicity unloading on Ollie about her own loneliness.  Thea and Laurel discussing their problems with going after bad boys.  Thea and Roy, of course.   


The cinematography and choreography in the final subway sequence are both brilliant. 


There's a bit of irony in Roy's comment that he uses a gun because he's no good with knives.  In the comics, Roy Harper was a master of  Moo Gi Gong - a martial art that emphasizes the ability to use multiple weapons and improvise ordinary objects into combat equipment.

One of the subway stops mentioned by Diggle is Locksley and Adams.  Locksley is one of the more common surnames for Robin Hood in the various legends of that famous outlaw.  Adams is a reference to artist Neal Adams, who redesigned Green Arrow's costume to more closely resemble Robin Hood in 1970.

At the end of the episode, Dinah Lance flies to Central City.  She says she should be home "in a flash."  In DC Comics, Central City is home to the super-speedster superhero The Flash.  

Dialogue Triumphs

(Regarding The Savior kidnapping their target for the night)
Felicity: You went over there to be all "Grrrr! Stop being bad or I'll arrow you!" and now you want to rescue him?
Ollie: I don't like the idea that somebody dangerous is out there.
*Felicity just looks at Ollie*
Ollie: Somebody else.  Cause typically, they don't show my level of restraint.

Ollie: Hungrier than I thought.
* Diggle just looks at Ollie*
Ollie: Are you waiting for me to finish before giving me the lecture?
Diggle: Oliver, you've been spending a lot of time under that hood the last couple of weeks.
Ollie: Keeps my ears warm.
Diggle: And you made this decision to ah... avoid entanglements-
Ollie: - for their protection.  The people who get close to me get hurt.  What's the problem?  You think I'm losing my grip?
Diggle: No.  Just the opposite, really.  You seem calm.  Scary calm.  I get that things didn't go well with Helena... with McKenna-
Ollie.  - With Laurel?! ... with Sara?  The list goes on.
Diggle: Yeah.  But what do you do?  You hood up.  You go home.  You repeat.  That's not much of a life.
Ollie: But the life that I'm living for myself right now doesn't leave much room... for an actual life.  And I don't need one.
Diggle: Wow.  That's a pretty bleak future you plan on spending with no one.
Ollie: I'm used to isolation.
Diggle: And that is exactly what worries me.  You've been home for eight months, Oliver, but I don't think you've left that island in your head yet.

Roy: I was waiting for this.
Thea: Waiting for what?
Roy: The whole 'you can change, I can see the real you' speech.  Look around, Thea!  This his Home Sweet Home for me.  You either starve or you do things that mean you're lucky enough to make it to 21.
Thea: I.. I can't accept that,
Roy: No.  You can't accept me.

The Hood: Let.  The Kid.  Go!  You kill this kid, he'll never get an opportunity to change!  You can give him a second chance!
The Savior: We're the only ones who can save this city!  We can't stop now!
The Hood: We're not the same!
The Savior:  You've killed people for this city.  So have I.  What's the difference between you and me?  Emma never got a second chance... you have no idea how lonely it is.
The Hood: Joseph!  Joseph?!  I understand being alone.  But it doesn't give you the right to kill people in cold blood.  

The whole scene between Ollie and Laurel that ends with Ollie saying "I don't want to be an island anymore."

Dialogue Disasters

Thea: Why do you have a gun?
Roy: Because I'm no good with knives.

(As Ollie goes off to track down The Savior)
Diggle: Aren't you going to hood up?
Ollie: It's the middle of the day!

Dinah Lance's breakdown near the end is pure Narm.


Ollie refers to his disastrous run of recent relationships with McKenna Hall and Helena Bertinelli (117).  At the episode's end, Roy has one of The Hood's arrowheads.  The Symbol in The Book With The List, first seen in 102, is revealed to be a map of the decommissioned subway line running underneath The Glades.

The Fridge Factor

Averted with Shado, who is the first to start fighting while Ollie is frozen-up during the fight sequence in the island flashback.

The Winick Factor

Ollie attempts to storm Savior's hideout in broad daylight without a costume or any attempt at disguising his identity.  Granting that he is wearing a motorcycle helmet on the ride over, that comes off once he's at Savior's base.  I'm pretty sure Ollie was riding his personal motorcycle too.  He then goes parkouring across several city blocks in broad daylight.  What's particularly vexing is that Diggle asks him if he'll "hood up" but Ollie dismisses him, saying that it's the middle of the day.  Well, yeah.  But that hood still covers most of your face, even if you do depend on the shadows to look even creepier.

The Bottom Line

This episode has many fine moments but ultimately collapses under the weight of the subplots.  There's just too much going on!  Between Ollie chasing The Savior, Thea and Roy's romance, everything with Laurel's family and the multiple conflicts there, everything with the noose tightening around Moira's neck and the multiple conflicts there, there's hardly any room for the island flashbacks, Felicity's crisis of faith, Oliver's increasing loneliness and the sudden revelation of just what The Symbol on The Book with The List means.  Everything seems to be rushed and fighting for storytime, which makes the final outcome of Laurel's arc with her mom seem somewhat pointless given that they never get any time together alone until it's time to say goodbye.  A waste of the great Alex Kingston on a shaggy-dog story.

Arrow #25 (Web Comic) - A Review

Titled The Pieces Missing, Arrow #25 brings the series' star players up to bat. Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim handles the scripting duties. The legendary Mike Grell (the greatest Green Arrow artist and writer ever, in this critic's humble opinion) brings his A-game to deliver some of the best artwork the Arrow web comic has seen yet.

The plot of the issue is fairly straightforward.  Diggle calls a colleague named Lyla and arranges for a clandestine meeting to ask for some information on Oliver's past.  It is unclear precisely who Lyla is and who she works for, but it's made clear that she's known Diggle since he was stationed in Kabul and has kept tabs on him ever since.  She's also aware of the internal workings of the FBI but says she rarely comes into the USA anymore, suggesting she works in a national or international intelligence capacity.  One wonders if Lyla might have something to do with a recent announcement by Marc Guggenheim?

The action in this issue is sparse, but Guggenheim keeps the proceedings from becoming a talking-heads story with some carefully inter-cut flashbacks.  Some of these scenes depict moments we've seen before in the show but most of them are "the pieces missing" and explain certain events that happened off-camera.  While we could have guessed at some of the information here - such as Diggle using the suggestion of the Queen family paying for silence to get Ollie checked into the hospital despite the obvious signs of a physical assault that should be reported to the police - it is still nice to see these moments played out.

My gushing fanboy praise aside, Mike Grell is one of the greats and this issue shows why.  The figures are clear.  The inks perfectly highlight and shade every panel.  Everything looks gorgeous!  I also grant high praise to colorist Randy Mayor, who infuses this book with a life that it's lacked in some issues.

If you're an Arrow-head who hasn't been reading the weekly web comics, this is a fine one to start with.  At 99 cents it's a bargain to download, as easy on the eyes as it is on the wallet.  Give it a try.  You won't be disappointed.

First Trailer For The Wolverine

I've never been the biggest Wolverine or X-Men fan but even I want to see this movie now. Check out the trailer for yourself below.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Justice League #18 - A Review

It is an odd thing that Justice League #18's greatest strength is also its' greatest weakness.  The early scenes where the core members of the Justice League are discussing recent events and their need to expand the team in the wake of some extensive disasters are well-paced character-building moments.  Yet the later scenes - where the potential recruits are brought in to mix and mingle with the team - seem rushed and forced in comparison.  There are too many players on the stage in this moment and it proves beyond even Geoff Johns' ability to balance a large ensemble to manage these moments. 

The back-up story involving the origin of Shazam continues to limp along.  I'm still not fond of this revamp of the classic Captain Marvel concept but there are some good moments here - chief among them the scene where Billy's foster brothers and sisters go searching for him to offer an encouraging word.  I wish Johns would decided on a tone for the series at large, as the opening scenes with the villainous rich man Mr. Bryer are far too melodramatic to be taken seriously in anything other than a classic Captain Marvel comic yet the general tone of the series has been darker and grittier. 

While I may grouse about the stories, I cannot complain about the artwork.  Everything here looks gorgeous.  Gary Frank makes Shazam appear far better than it has any right to.  And Jesus Saiz, who illustrates the Justice League section of the book, deserves to be assigned to one title rather than doing fill-in jobs on a variety of books.

UPDATED: ARGUS To Feature In Arrow


Arrow Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim tweeted the above image to his followers, with the comment "Coming Soon To Arrow".  Already speculation is rife about what this may mean.

A.R.G.U.S., for those of you not following the New 52 comics, is an organization funded as an off-shoot of the Department of Homeland Security.  Originally founded under the command of Col. Steve Trevor, the purpose of ARGUS was to allow the United States government to offer logistical and military support to The Justice League.  When the JL decided to go independent, Trevor was removed from power and replaced with Amanda Waller.  At present, the two are working together to build a new Justice League of America with Trevor acting as the team's field commander.

Why is this significant?  Because in the lead-up to Justice League of America, Oliver Queen was recruited by Steve Trevor to go undercover and investigate rumors of an organized body of super-villains - a Secret Society, if you will.  And in addition to acting as the government's go-to person with organized superhero groups, Amanda Waller is also in charge of The Sucide Squad - a government project that puts convicted super-criminals to work on covert operations in exchange for time taken off their sentence.  One of the most prominent members of the Suicide Squad is Deadshot.

See where I'm going with this?

The original acronym was Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans - obviously a different acronym than what we see above.  So why the change?  Clearly they don't want to go bringing super-powers into the reality of Arrow just yet.  But having a government agency put Ollie to work would be in keeping with the theme in the current Green Arrow and Justice League comics to say nothing of the Mike Grell comics that had a hand in inspiring the current show.

So... does this mean we're going to see The Suicide Squad with some non-powered villains and maybe some other no-powered heroes? 

Marc Guggenheim contacted me on Twitter personally to make the following corrections.

1. ARGUS will be showing up during Season 1.  NOT Season 2.

2. The upcoming SHIELD show has nothing to do with the decision to bring ARGUS into Arrow.  "Just saw a cool opportunity and took it."

Personally, I'm relieved.  Arrow is a great show as is and enough of a success on its' own terms that it doesn't need to go aping the formula of another show that hasn't even aired yet.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Action Comics #18 - A Review

There is little I can say about this issue - or indeed the entirety of Grant Morrison's Action Comics run - that I have not said before in part or in whole.  As before, Rags Morales, Brad Walker and their respective inkers do a fine job of capturing and displaying the action of Morrison's script, which is a fitting summation to the whole series with a callback to every major storyline.   While Morrison's conceit of a battle to destroy Superman fought across five dimensions is a complex bit of writing, it is the simplest images - like a Superboy and his dog victorious - that hit the reader the hardest. 

Simplicity is also the rule of Never-Ending Battle - the back-up story by Sholly Fisch. Told entirely without spoken dialogue (but not without words), this story set in the 23rd century shows how Superman's example continues to inspire heroism in the most unlikely of places years after his passing.  Fisch's subtlety is welcome here, given that social issue comics on subjects like bullying tend to be anything but.  The lack of dialogue only adds to the power of the images put forth by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story.   

This last story alone makes this comic a must-read, even if the larger part of the issue is largely inaccessible to those who haven't been reading Action Comics since the first issue.  Never-Ending Battle is Eisner-worthy for how well it captures spirit of heroism - not just in superhero stories, but in the human spirit itself.  I'd encourage any comic fan to buy this book.  Even if you're not a Superman fan.  Especially if you're not a Superman fan. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Conan The Barbarian #14 - A Review

Robert E. Howard has been written off by many fantasy fans as a sexist author.  I personally find this to be an unfair consideration but I understand it given how many of the original Conan stories featured women in peril and everyone's favorite burly barbarian slaying the monster, saving the girl and then 'saving her' again several times that night, if you know what I mean and I think you do.  (Thanks Joe Bob Briggs!)  While many of Howard's personal views are undeniably backward by modern standards, his views on the fairer sex and gender equality are less clear.

The original Conan stories do possess many sexist elements but that may have stemmed less from Howard's personal beliefs and more from his catering to the fetishes of his editor at Weird Tales.  Sex Sells and with The Great Depression in full-swing, Howard literally could not afford to stand on principle - hence all the slavegirls in bondage.  And yet, Howard's most memorable female characters - and the ones for whom he seemed to have the greatest personal affection - were the women warriors like the pirate Queen of the Black Coast, Belit, who refused to bow down to anyone or meekly accept society's expectations.   

Howard's personal letters also point to a different sort of man than the one suggested by some of his fictional writings.  Here we find a man who, while defying all but the broadest definitions of a feminist male, could be said to have a chivalric or romanticized view of women without a hint of misogyny.  He wrote that he dreamed of one-day being able to write and sell a "Conan yarn without sex interest." and indeed did so with the posthumously published Beyond The Black River. And in one personal letter Howard chided a friend for his own attitudes about women's influence on Western Civilization and named a number of great historical women (Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great and Sappho among them) in proving his point that there were many great female leaders, poets and philosophers.

I mention all this because the script for Conan the Barbarian #14 by Brian Wood is very much in line with Howard as he wrote Belit, yet she barely figures into the action of the story at all.  After a flashback where Conan remembers the active warrior Belit he chased into the Shemish desert. he confronts the strange new reality of a Belit who passively watches battle from the ramparts of a besieged city.  Forcibly conscripted into the opposing army, Conan quickly grows tired of waiting and hearing his fellow soldiers discuss the mysterious woman on the wall.  He plots to invade the city with a small group to break the siege.  Here we see the early signs of a Conan who will one day become a captain of mercenaries and eventually a general and king on the battlefield. 

The artwork of Mirko Colak continues to amaze.  There is a clarity to Colak's pencils that is as simple and powerful as Cimmeria's favorite son.  The palette chosen by colorist Dave Stewart also deserves praise, for perfectly capturing the muted shades of a city and military camp at night. 

All in all, this issue is worthy of Robert E. Howard's legacy.  The artwork perfectly depicts the excitement of combat and the mystery of a covert mission.  The script provides plentiful action and intrigue.  There's even a curious twist near the end that will leave the readers anxious for the next issue.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Justice League of America #2 - A Review

Justice League of America #2 sees our new team, sponsored by the US Government, being thrown into the field after they've barely had time to meet one another.  It seems the pressure is on to prove the new team's worth and they're being sent out to search for the rumored Secret Society of Super-Villains and stop them before the independent Justice League can get the job done.  Naturally, all of this is the doing of government liaison Amanda Waller, who pushes for the team to be sent out over the objections of the team's field commander, Steve Trevor.  

This issue doesn't advance its' plot very far but what this issue lacks in pacing it more than makes up for in character development.  There are many great scenes of two people talking to one another where we learn more about our characters and the dynamics between them.  Scenes like this are a specialty of writer Geoff Johns, who is always at his best when he's letting the characters be real people with super-powers rather than the generic superheroes that dominate so many team-centered books. 

I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite moment in this issue but if pushed I'd probably pick the scene where we see Martian Manhunter reading a comatose Green Arrow's mind, trying to learn what he found out about The Secret Society of Supervillains while working undercover.  In just a few panels, Johns captures the essence of Oliver Queen - a survivor who will continue to fight, no matter how bad the odds.  Can he stop Martian Manhunter from invading his mind?  Of course not.  Does that mean that his subconscious won't at least try and put up a token resistance and set a fire in the hopes that it will stop the pyrophobic Martian?  Damn right, it won't!    

David Finch illustrates the main story with all the detail one would expect given his past work.  There are few artists working today who can put this level of intricacy into a small series of panels.  One must admire the craft, even if they do not enjoy Finch's grittier style.  Personally, I love it.

This issue also features a wonderful back-up story by writer Matt Kindt, artist Scott Clark and inker David Beaty.  I shan't spoil the story, except to say that it involves one hero taking matters into his own hands to prove the need for an American superhero team in a rather direct manner involving the life of the U.S. President.  Kindt deserves praise for the pacing of the story as well as the thought that went into depicting the safeguards a security team would have to account for a world with superpowers (i.e. a floor that detects suddenly shifting weights in the people walking on it to protect against shape-shifters).  Clark and Beaty's artwork perfectly captures the story and proves comparable in terms of style and quality to David Finch's work earlier in the issue.

If you haven't given this series a shot yet, it's not too late.  The cast of characters is interesting, the writing is smart and the artwork is amazing.  I'll call it a must read for any fan of the genre.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Captain Marvel #11 - A Review

It is a rare thing for bad artwork to spoil my enjoyment of a well-written comic book.  Yet Filipe Andrade has managed that feat and as a result I'm dropping Captain Marvel from my subscription.  Andrade's artwork is so awful I can't even bear to feature any more of it on my blog than I have to - hence the scan of this issue's far superior cover below.   

To my mind, this image is above is how Captain Marvel should be presented.  Strong.  Capable.  Tough.  At the very least, she should appear to be a human female and not evoke thoughts of the super-skinny aliens from the movie A.I. as Andrade's characters do.  To describe the figures he depicts as freakishly skinny would deny me the opportunity to use a number of ten-dollar words such as emaciated, malnourished and anorexic.    

I wish I could stay for the excellent writing of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Christopher Sabela.  There's a good story underneath all this about Carol Danvers coping with a medical problem that leaves her unable to fly and dependent on a SHIELD-issue flying motorcycle.  However, I fear it's not worth the aggravation of trying to interpret what I'm looking at on every page. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Supergirl #18 - A Review

Supergirl #18 marks a drastic change for the worse in what I considered one of the hidden treasures of the New 52 Universe.  This issue is everything I hated about the Superman family of books over the past few years and Supergirl in particular..  Writer Frank Hanna (whom I can find nothing about on-line save one article assuring us that he is a real person and that he won some writing award I've never heard of) has completely abandoned the rich background created by Mike Johnson and Michael Green in favor of a new mythos made up of the discards of the other Super-Family titles.  This entire issue is insular in the extreme and requires you to have been reading at least three other comics besides Supergirl to identify all the players.

There is surprisingly little of Supergirl in this book and nothing whatsoever regarding her supporting cast.  The book opens with several pages of Lex Luthor plotting with a bunch of villains I've never seen before.  After that, we get a brief explanation of the end of H'El On Earth that actually explains very little past "Kara got Kryptonite poisoning and is dying slowly."  She's being looked after by a doctor we've never seen before.  Then she gets into a fight with some lava-powered girl we've never seen before, who was apparently a villain in Superboy over a year ago.  And apparently Kara's illness is having some kind of an effect on Karen Starr (a.k.a. Power Girl), who - you've guessed it has never been seen before in this book.  In fact, they don't even identify her as Power Girl!  So unless you've been reading World's Finest or are already familiar with how Power Girl and Supergirl are alternate-universe versions of the same person, you're going to be completely lost. 

Way to help those new readers The New 52 revamp was meant to attract, DC Comics!

I can say little about the art by Robson Rocha.  I only recall seeing Rocha's work once before and all I remember about it was relief that he would only be working on one issue of Demon Knights.  What I see here does not impress me, particularly how ever single female character is posed for maximum provocation.  Power Girl looks less like the powerful business professional she is meant to be and more like a businesswoman-themed stripper. 

Supergirl #18 is everything that I feared this series would be when the New 52 began.  Rather than standing on its' own merits, it assumes that you have been reading every other book involving all the other Superman characters and that your only interest in Supergirl lies in her connection to that legacy.  The rich supporting cast created by Mike Johnson over the last 17 issues?  Gone.  The excellent artwork of Mahmud Asrar which didn't sexualize every single female character?  Gone.  Your favorite comic book critic?  I'm gone too.  I'm dropping this series immediately and advise the rest of you who were following it to do the same.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Arrow Reviews: Season 1, Episode 17 - The Huntress Returns

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


Things are going great for Oliver Queen.  His relationship with cop McKenna Hall has become serious and his nightclub is just a few days from opening.  Yes, things are going great... until Helena Bertinelli shows up at his house and her father's lawyer turns up dead.  Seems Frank Bertinelli cut a deal to go into Witness Protection and The Huntress is out for blood.  Worse, she expects Oliver to help her take on a small army of FBI agents... or else.

Laurel attempts to get her father to listen to her mom regarding what she's spent the last few years researching - evidence that like Oliver Queen, Sarah Lance survived the sinking of The Queen's Gambit.  The only problem is that the evidence amounts to one photo of a woman who looks only vaguely like Sarah and a map of the area around the island where Ollie was found which shows hundreds of islands a person could live on.  Even ignoring the spotty evidence, Quentin Lance is in little mood to talk to his estranged wife about anything - much less the possibility that the daughter he's finally come to mourn might be alive.

Thea Queen continues to shadow purse-snatcher Roy Harper.  She offers to help him get a job working for her brother but the young crook is reluctant to take charity from anyone.  Still, there is a hint of something developing between the two youths.

On the island, Ollie and Slade plan on how to disable the Scylla weapon and stop Eddie Fyers from starting a war.  In the end, Ollie comes up with a better idea than simply blowing it up - stealing the circuit boards from the weapon's interior and using it as leverage. 


Green Arrow: Year One (The Island sequences), Huntress: Cry For Blood (Helena Bertinelli seeking revenge against her family, even as a more experienced vigilante tries to train her to be more balanced) and the generally repeating theme of leverage.


Considering all the trouble Ollie went through to make sure the police could never seriously accuse him of being The Hood after Damaged (105), he does seem awfully worried about Helena telling the cops his secret identity even though she's hardly the most credible witness.


Paul Blackthorne gets some great moments playing all over the emotional spectrum as Quentin Lance.  We've seen him Blackthorne play Lance as the tough guy for most of the show's run but this is the first time we see just how badly his daughter's death and his wife's departure shook the man behind the badge and Blackthorne plays Lance's confusion perfectly.

Colin Donnell plays Tommy Merlyn's internal conflict perfectly.  As far as he's concerned, The Hood is a murderer.  But he's also the one man Tommy trusts more than anyone else in the world.  Tommy hates what Oliver is to the point where he refuses to hear any of Ollie's excuses as to why he does what he does and yet Tommy can't bring himself to turn Oliver in or share Oliver's secret... even with the woman he loves!  And that's how Tommy feels even before Ollie's secret identity causes him to get his wrist and throat injured.


Helena's stripper costume seems to be based in part on Jim Lee's redesign of the Huntress costume, with a dominant white-crosses on purple theme.

Diggle is seen reading a newspaper which mentions the assassination of the President of Bialya.  Bialya is a fictional Middle-Eastern country in the DC Comics Universe, said to lie to the North of  Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Ollie's club is named Verdant - a word meaning green.  Specifically, the green of lush grass and thick vegetation.

DJ Steve Aoki plays himself, working as the DJ on Verdant's opening night.

Given Roy Harper in the comics is well-known for his past as a heroin addict, there's some small irony that Roy Harper in this universe should have a fear of needles.

Coast City, where McKenna is moving, is best known as the hometown of Hal Jordan (a.k.a. Green Lantern) in the DC Comics Universe.


Oliver's plan to disable Fryer's super-weapon involves stealing the circuit boards on the grounds that the weapons are completely useless without the inner workings.  

Dialogue Triumphs

Ollie:  She was in my house. She made a not so veiled threat.  I want extra security around my mother and sister.
Diggle: I'm way ahead of you, man.
Ollie: Thank you -
Diggle: Just doing my job.
Ollie:  - for not saying 'I told you so'.
Diggle: (beat) The night is young.

Ollie: I'm sorry.  But... I kept this a secret to protect the people that are closest to me-
Tommy: Do you think that's what I care about?  That my feelings are hurt?  You're a murderer.  A killer.  You were my best friend in life but now it's like I don't even know you.
Ollie: You're right.  I've changed.  Listen - buddy?  Now, I can explain to you.  Now I can explain how and why-
Tommy: What would be the point?  I wouldn't believe a word of it anyway.

(Regarding Huntress and her blackmailing Ollie into helping her find her father)
Ollie: What do you want me to do?!  Do you want me to kill her?
Diggle: I think you would have a long time ago if she looked like me instead of the T Mobile girl.

The whole scene in the police questioning room where Helena expertly plays McKenna Hall and Quentin Lance by taunting them about Oliver Queen, all the while knowing they have no idea she answered their question about who The Hood is honestly.

Tommy:  Hey.  I heard about McKenna.  You okay?
Ollie: ... not really.
Tommy: Look, I know that I've been a jerk lately.  I just couldn't understand how you could keep such a huge secret from me.  But I never considered the toll it must take on you.
Ollie: Lying to the people that are closest to me... is the hardest part.
Tommy: I get that.
Ollie: (sighs) I was wrong.  That I could have it both ways To think that I can do what I do and still have a normal life with anyone.
Tommy:  Except if you're alone... you're never going to be happy.
Ollie: Maybe not.  But me being happy isn't what's important right now.


Helena Bertinelli, last seen in 108, returns to Starling City.  Diggle is seen reading a newspaper which reports that the Biaylan President was assassinated and Deadshot (last seen in 116) is the prime suspect.  Helena refers to traveling the world, which occurred in Issue #11 of the on-line Arrow comic.  At some point during this time Helena has been trained to catch arrows. Felicity is a skilled enough hacker to break into the FBI's computers undetected.   After the fight with Huntress leaves McKenna injured with a shattered femur requiring at least one year in rehab, she plans to move to Coast City and stay with her sister.  Reportedly Coast City has the finest physical therapy facilities in the country. Ollie says he can be whatever McKenna needs after she basically dumps him.  Quentin finally agrees to hear Dinah's story. 

Untelevised Adventures

Helena refers to the events of Issue #11 of the on-line Arrow comic, which showed her traveling the world and training.  

The Fridge Factor

Dinah Lance only shows up in two scenes and everything she's doing is defined in terms of her husband's inability to cope with emotional trauma.  While it is a nice shifting of stereotypes to have the man in a relationship being the emotionally upset one, it still doesn't change how ill-defined Dinah is as a character so far. 

Laurel doesn't fair much better, with most of her scenes in this episode being devoted toward either dealing with her father's skepticism or chewing Tommy out for not being there to help her in dealing with her father's skepticism.  A scene of both mother and daughter together, going over the evidence on their own would have been nice after the last episode's cut-off.  Hell, ANY scene of both mother and daughter together would be nice given how long it's been since Dinah and Laurel have spoken, much less seen each other.  

Finally, McKenna - so quickly introduced as a love interest for Ollie - is just as quickly dismissed after receiving a career-ending injury that mostly serves to give Ollie angst over losing a girlfriend and being responsible for her getting hurt and ruining her life.

The Bottom Line

A good starting point after the brief break in the episode airings.  The performances in this episode are so good that one can forgive the Thea/Roy subplot being completely unrelated to the main action of the episode and the Laurel/Dinah/Quentin subplot not really going anywhere and Dinah being an incredibly flat character thus far. 

Constantine #1 - A Review

There was a great deal of nay-saying when it was announced that Vertigo Comics would bring Hellblazer to an end in favor of a new John Constantine title set in the main DC Comics universe.  Breasts were beaten and teeth were gnashed as comic fans took to the message boards to howl about how this was the end.  Surely DC Comics would make John give up the Silk Cut and Guinness in favor of nicotine gum and a glass of milk!  He'll be palling around with Superman instead of hanging around with the dregs of the magical world!  Why, he'll probably even be telling kids to do their homework and eat their vegetables instead of summoning demons and tinkering with things best left untouched!

Naturally this was a load of bollocks to any of us who had seen John's appearances in Justice League Dark, I Vampire and Sword of Sorcery.  Nothing so petty as an T + rating can contain the sheer awesome that is John Constantine.  Besides, if there's anyone who knows how to work around the rules to do the unexpected, it's ol' Con Job and any writer worthy of writing him should be of a similar mindset when it comes to pushing boundaries.

Writer Jeff Lemire is such a writer and this first issue of Constantine should do much to calm the frayed nerves of many a Hellblazer fan.  In fact, this first issue of Constantine - with excellent artwork by Renato Guedes - features John Constantine smoking... 

... John Constantine drinking...

... John Constantine being involved in some gloriously gory deaths...

... and John Constantine sacrificing his friends to save his own hide.

Take it from the man who read damn near every Constantine story there is and wrote the episode guide - this book is vintage Constantine.  You're a bloody fool to pass on it because it's a little toned down.  Trust me - this is the same Laughing Magician we all know and love even if he can't drop the F-Bomb or strut around naked.  The world of John Constantine is as horribly messed up as you remember and this book is a damned good sign of things to come.

Arrow #24 (Web Comic) - A Review

Sometimes the gods are kind to me and they send me a book that is easy to review.  Often times, this is because the book is a joy to read with an amazing script and wonderful artwork.  In those cases, the words to describe the book's glory flow from me like wine.  But there are other times when the comic is terrible yet still easy to review.  On those occasions, the flaws of the book are so apparent that it is simplicity itself to lay the problems bare for my readers.  Arrow #24 is a prime example of the later case.

The plot of this issue is the worst kind of cliched tripe.  A hot new guy in the IT department shows an interest in Felicity.  It turns out he's a terrorist trying to hack into the system through her.  Ollie shows up in the nick of time to save her.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  I've complained before that Felicity Smoak is not a character so much as she is a breathing plot device and this story is a prime example of my problems with the (lack of) character.

There is no depth to Felicity.  She's a cliche.  A stereotype.  A Hollywood idea of what computer geek girls are like.  At best, she's a tool for the writers to use to explain away dodgy science or speed up Oliver's investigations.  At worst - as is the case with this story - she's a damsel in distress for Oliver to rescue.

The artwork - provided by the same creative team responsible for the now infamous Arrow #20is equally disappointing.  For the most part, it doesn't look bad but there are several panels where Oliver is depicted without a quiver.  There's also some whopping-big continuity problems in the later part of the story, where Oliver is depicted using a crossbow with a grappling line that is far too large to fit into his quiver... at least based on the panels where we DO see his quiver.  Where did he get that wonderful toy?  That's as big a riddle as how he was able to shoot a grappling hook at Felicity and lasso her legs instead of impaling her.

I do love Arrow and I'm looking forward to tonight's new episode.  But please - for you own good - skip this week's web comic.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Green Lantern Corps #18 - A Review

Green Lantern Corps #18 mirrors the previous issue in many respects, for good and ill.  Like last month's issue, the plot focuses upon The First Lantern tormenting captive Lanterns by showing them visions of how their life could have changed if things had been a little different.  This time, the focus is upon Green Lantern John Stewart.  The good news is this issue gives John Stewart a definitive origin.  The bad news is this new background discards much of what made John Stewart such a memorable and unique character.

Before the Justice League animated series became popular, John Stewart had always been an architect by trade.  A retcon around the time of Infinite Crisis altered his background to be more in line with the  better-known version of the character from the cartoon who was an ex-Marine.  It was assumed that the military service came before John's eventual employment as an architect, particularly since John's architect training was said to have influenced how he made his constructs.

This retelling suggests that John has never been an architect and that he has always been a career soldier.  While this does better fit the personality John Stewart has developed in recent years, it still saddens me to see that aspect of the character - that he was the logical thinker and the builder among the Green Lanterns of Earth - be sacrificed for no apparent reason.  Worse, there's no mention of John's marriage to Katma Tui - the alien Green Lantern who had replaced Sinestro and one of the most prominent female Lanterns of all time! 

There's a similar problem with the portrayal of Yrra of Xanshi a.k.a. Fatality.  Her background is similarly troubled in the wake of The New 52.  Created back in the days when Kyle Rayner was the last Green Lantern, she was the sole survivor of a world which John Stewart failed to save due to his arrogance.  She swore revenge on all Green Lanterns and killed a number of them before setting her sights on Kyle and John. 

In the time afterward, she lost both her arms in battle, had them replaced with stronger cybernetic limbs, was given a Yellow power ring on two separate occasions and finally became a Star Sapphire.  She's had her own arms back for a while now but although we see her being tormented alongside John Stewart, the sum total of her contribution to this issue is appearing in an alternate timeline where she and John Stewart killed each other.  It seems a waste of one of the richest characters this series has.

The artwork by Chriscross seems conflicted in comparison to his work on Green Lantern Corps Annual #1.  There are many panels where the character's mouths are stuck open and their eyes bugging out in a manner that suggests that Marty Feldman acted as the artist's model for the scene.  Thankfully, this problem is limited to the close-ups on individual characters.  The action-scenes making up most of the issue are well illustrated and I have no complaints about those moments. 

Demon Knights #18 - A Review

It is a rare thing for an epic story to be easily accessible to new readers.  Yet Demon Knights #18 manages to be that as well as a ripping yarn.  The story thus far is quickly explained in the opening pages, as The Demon Etrigan - long sidelined from the action - is informed of the vampire army converging on the Amazon homeland and his need to aid his former comrades in thwarting them. 

There's many admirable moments in Robert Venditti's script but my favorite involves Jason Blood and his efforts to weaken Etrigan by forcing himself to endure the worst that Hell has to offer so he can shut The Demon off from the source of his power.  None can doubt Jason's courage and resolve after this issue.  His wisdom, however, remains questionable as he looks the Prince of Hell in the face and all but asks "What is the worst thing you can do to me?"  No doubt we'll get an answer to that question next issue.

Bernard Chang's artwork remains strong, his pencils clear and his inks sparring.  This art is further bolstered by a palette whose muted colors suggest an age long-gone by.  Everything looks gorgeous, working in concert to create a pretty picture overall.  If you have yet to give Demon Knights a chance, this issue is the perfect one to start with.

Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin #3 - A Review

Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin #3 is light on action but heavy on drama and comedy.  Your enjoyment of this issue may be entirely dependent upon how much tolerance you have for Harry Dresden snarking as the whole world is turning against him.  Of course if you didn't enjoy that sort of thing, the odds are you wouldn't be a fan of this series in the first place.

The plot thickens as wizard/detective Harry Dresden doubles his efforts to aid a family in ridding themselves of a supernatural curse. We see Harry work some serious magic this time, evoking spirits to gain information while risking pneumonia (Unlike most magic, communing with nature spirits DOES require the mage to be naked in the woods).  By issue's end, we see Harry confront another supernatural menace we've never seen before in The Case Files in a scene that promises the next issue will open up with the action that this issue lacked.

The artwork by Joseph Cooper continues to impress.  All the character designs are unique and distinctive, so there's no confusion about who is who - a problem that existed in previous Dresden File graphic novels.  The flow of the story is well-depicted, though this issue seems somewhat slow since most of the action involves Harry investigating and talking to people rather than making things blow up.  Get past that though, and this book's an enjoyable read.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Batgirl #18 - A Review

Two emotions filled me when I finished reading Batgirl #18 - disappointment and relief.  Disappointment in the issue as a whole and relief that we will have Gail Simone back in the saddle next month.  Ray Fawkes fumbled the ball after a promising start but I'm uncertain how much of that was due to editorial interference and how much may have been due to his own story becoming a shaggy dog tale at the end.

Everything about this issue seems off.  From the opening narration where James Gordon Jr. once again tells us everything his sister is doing and feeling (a problem I pointed out in the last issue) to the ending in which the promised confrontations fail to come about.  However, the most problematic point is the brief memorial scene for Damian Wayne, which comes off as stilted and out-of-character for all involved. 

Traditionally, Dick Grayson's always been the most empathic member of the Bat Family, so Barbara being the one to call him only to be shot down because he's busy seems to be a complete reversal in roles.  More, this moment comes is Barbara is in the middle of trying to track down two separate criminals, one of whom is targeting her and her family directly.  It flies in the face of her established character to suggest that she'd put everything on hold just to call her ex-boyfriend and talk about their feelings.  Even the action of the issue seems half-hearted, with Barbara confronting a Firefly rip-off called Firebug. 

The artwork is similarly uneven.  Daniel Sampere's pencils are as strong as ever though the finished artwork seems oddly conflicted.  I believe this is due to four different inkers being employed on this issue.  Whatever the case, the end result is somewhat better than the conflicted story.  At least all of the artwork looks good even if it does look somewhat different from page to page.

Batman #18 - A Review

There have been rumors buzzing about the Internet in the wake of Batman #18 - rumors that Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV would create a new female Robin to replace Damian Wayne.  Having read this issue, I can see why some people might have this idea as the plot once again focuses upon the character of Harper Row - the emancipated minor and electronics prodigy introduced back in Batman #12.

For my part, I don't believe it and hope it isn't the case for three reasons.  The cynic in me dreads the eventual fate of any teenage girl introduced into the Bat Family (Whither Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown?).  The historian in me fears that Damian Wayne's death might be cheapened if he is so quickly and easily replaced at a time when Death in Comics is already so cheap and the ease of replacing one Robin with another is already a punchline.  Finally, the fanboy in me thinks Harper Row is far too unique and interesting a character to saddle with the title of Robin.

Thankfully, Snyder and Tynion's script - while showing us how awesome Harper is as she seeks to help Batman - seems to hang a lampshade on the idea of Harper being adopted into the Bat Family in the wake of recent events.  And while Bruce's state of mind and many of the events here do mirror the circumstances in the early 90s which led to Tim Drake becoming Robin, Harper wants something different for herself than to become just another mask.  So, as before, she finds a way to help Batman that has little to do with throwing punches and instead gives him what he needs to continue his work. 

Greg Capullo takes a break from the artwork this month, replaced by two equally able artists.  Part One of this story is illustrated by the legendary Andy Kubert, with inks by Sandra Hope.  The second chapter is penciled and inked by long-time Daredevil artist Alex Maleev.  Both are good art teams but I must confess to having a preference to Maleev's style as it seems a better fit for the world of Gotham City.  Regardless of preference, this is still a beautiful, well-written comic and a fine one to read on the odd-chance you have yet to start reading Batman on a regular basis.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

All-Con 2013: Day Three

Sundays at All-Con are always Superhero themed.  Naturally, I was dressed appropriately as Green Arrow.  Not just for the sake of Superhero Sunday, mind you, but also because my final panel of the Con was a history class All About (Green) Arrow.  The costume was much the same as the last time I'd worn it, save for a redesigned beard and a new quiver that I could more easily draw out of.

My definition of a successful cosplay has become "one that leaves me posing for more pictures than I take".  I say this because the last few times I've dressed as Green Arrow, I wound up taking much fewer pictures than on the days I was wearing a different costume.  So forgive this con reporter being briefer than the rest.

Rick Gutierrez of  The United States of Geekdom dressed as Finn The Human from Adventure Time

The original Jay Garrick Flash.

A rather obscure one this - R'amey Holl, Green Lantern of Sector of 700.  She later went on to win Best Hero and Best in Show at the day's superhero cosplay contest.

Here is Reese of Reese's Pieces (the geek girl blog - not the candy) as Pixie from X-Men
You can read her report on All-Con here.

C. Viper and Rose from Street Fighter

Me and Kimmie Britt of IHO Geek as Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Doctor Who: Series 7, Part 2 Teaser Trailer

Earth 2 #10 - A Review

Despite continuing an increasingly involved storyline, Earth 2 #10 is a good jumping-on point for new readers.  I love James Robinson's work but he's better known for his sprawling epics and finely detailed scripts than his accessibility.  Yet this issue begins with a flashback illustrating events that were mentioned before but not shown in detail and a pompous new villain explaining the current state of affairs to half of our confused heroes and, by proxy, the reader. 

Robinson's main plot evokes the memory of H.P. Lovecraft, with ancient, powerful beings playing sport with humanity and magical artifacts best left untouched.  Like many of Robinson's revisions of the classic concepts behind the original Justice Society of America characters, this idea leaves the larger character concept intact while putting a twist on it that will make the character interesting to long-time readers while still respecting DC Comics' rich past.  Such is the case with the new Dr. Fate - a mild-mannered archeologist who has become the unwitting recipient of a magical helm that offers great power and great madness to the one who wears it.

We see something of this in the B-Plot as well.  More, we see Robinson's uncanny ability to develop a complex character in a short span of time.  The scene where Alan Scott makes peace with his boyfriend's father is short but no less touching for that brevity.  Too, the revelation that the violent attack which triggered Scott's transformation into The Green Lantern was aimed at his boyfriend promises to add to the drama of the upcoming issues. 

I've spoken before at length of my love for Nicola Scott's artwork.  This issue is now my Exhibit A in the case for why Scott is perhaps the most underrated artist working in the industry today.  There are few artists who could manage the level of detail and scale required to depict The Tower of Fate but Scott manages the task with style.  This image moves past being simply Escheresque or simply surreal, suggesting an actual depth and solidity that boggles the mind as we rebel against the impossibility of what we see. 

If you haven't picked up Earth 2 yet, now is a fine time to start.  The artwork is amazing in its' scope.  The writing is similarly detailed yet the stories remain simple enough to be accessible to new readers.  And the whole thing is basically a gigantic love-letter to the characters and stories that got DC Comics - and indeed, superhero comics as a genre - started.  It's awesome stuff and I can't recommend it enough.   

Friday, March 15, 2013

All-Con 2013: Day Two - Part Three

The early evening allowed me a chance to meet up with some more old friends before my final panel of the day - Start of Darkness: The Bronze Age of Comics.  I had a decent enough turnout considering I was competing with the costume contest.  After that, my evening was spent taking a few more pictures while I waited for the annual All-Con Burlesque Show before Amber Does Dallas presented the annual Repo The Genetic Opera performance.

This is my friend Yvonna - proprietor of the Charisma +2 modeling firm and editor of Charisma + 2 Magazine.  She's cosplaying Black Cat and was a good sport when my sleep-deprived brain committed the faux pas of addressing her as Catwoman.  

This is Perky - one of Charisma +2's newest models.  She's cosplaying the Vocaloid Hatsune Miku.

Here's another familiar face - CAJ Cosplay (who you might remember as both The Dark Phoenix and Madelyne Pryor from Dallas Sci-Fi Expo 2013) as The Scarlet Witch.

The Riddler & Stephanie Brown Batgirl.

Catman from Secret Six.

The Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Amy Pond from Doctor Who.

I think this couple was on the way to the All-Con formal prom.  
Well, I suppose Ms. Frost's outfit is formal by the standards of the Hellfire Club.  

The sleep deprivation was really taking it's toll at this point in the evening, as I was waiting in line for the Burlesque show.  I completely failed to recognize this fine lady - The Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar.  Or is that Fred?  No, it's definitely Romana.  Not Romana Flowers.  Or Ramona Quimby.  Just Romana.

This was my first time attending All-Con's Burlesque Show, organized this year by La Divina Burlesque.  In previous years it either sold out before I could get tickets or it was scheduled at the same time as another event I was involved in.  But this year, I made it a point to attend because a friend of was performing - the lovely Amber DeVille.  Sadly, it was at this point in the evening.  I discovered that the Night Photography mode on my camera was not reliable without a flash.  So I only have this one rather blurry picture of Amber's routine, dressed as Babydoll from Suckerpunch and nothing of her Catwoman routine. 

This is Bazuka Joe - the sole Boylesque performer of the evening.  You have to admire anyone who has the courage to perform in this kind of production but as a comedian I have to tip my hat to this guy for his obvious sense of comedy as a performer.  It takes a certain kind of humor to dress like Lion-O from Thundercats and strip down to the Stray Cat Strut.  To say nothing of his final routine of the night, where he performed as Speed Racer to Greased Lighting from the musical Grease.

Diamond Jim himself snapped this picture of me with performer Ruby Joule, who performed a spectacular routine as Jessica Rabbit.  She usually performs down in Austin with her troupe, The Jigglewatts.  Methinks I'll have to make a field trip to Austin one of these weekends to see them.