Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 4 - Crucible

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


When a new crime-boss who calls himself The Mayor starts stealing and reselling military-grade weaponry, Oliver Queen decides to tackle the problem in both his identities.  As The Arrow, he begins hunting The Mayor and his men.  As Oliver Queen, he privately sponsors a gun buy-back program in The Glades, over the objections of business partner Isabel Rochev and councilman Sebastian Blood - the former of whom doesn't want the company resources spent on what she sees as a waste of time and the later because he refuses to believe anything good can come from Oliver Queen's hands.

At the same time, Laurel turns towards the bottle and away from her family and friends as the grief of Tommy Merlyn's death and her guilt over her role in it fully hit her.  And Oliver unmasks the mysterious new black-clad, blonde-haired female vigilante only to realize she's someone from his past.... Sara Lance!

In the flashback, Oliver finds himself tested again on the prison ship Amazo, shot and left for dead as a test of his will to keep living. 


Numerous Green Arrow/Black Canary team-up comics and Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy (the hero unknowingly saves a criminal mastermind, the design of Brother Blood's mask is reminiscent of Scarecrow)


Canary's mask disappears in between when she says Ollie's name and when he pulls away her wig.

In the final fight with The Mayor, Ollie and Sara both drop their weapons of choice - a bow and a bo staff - and switch weapons.  Where does Sara get the arrow she uses to shoot one soldier before she and Ollie trade weapons again?


Caity Lotz justifies her re-casting in the role of Sara Lance throughout the episode.  We don't learn much about her character and what's happened in the past five years through the text but the subtext in Lotz' carriage of herself and her expressions speaks volumes.  As Stephen Amell plays Oliver Queen across multiple levels (The Arrow, the public facade of Oliver Queen, the damaged "real" Ollie and the spoiled rich boy he was in the flashbacks), so too do we get hints of a similar psyche split from Lotz.  Sara Lance seems to be her true self when she confronts Ollie at his club but her walls come down when she hears her father's voice.  Her manner when talking to Sin in private is different than the facade she wears when fighting The Mayor's men.  Even the brief glimpse we see of her in the flashback suggest something else going on.    


The direction in this episode is top-notch.  The action sequences are all incredibly well shot and choreographed, particularly the final fight with Arrow and Canary fighting The Mayor together.


As in the comics, Black Canary wears a long, platnium blonde wig as part of her costume.  Unlike the comics, her natural hair color is not black.  Sara's hair is dark blonde and cut to about shoulder length.

The weapons The Mayor stole were taken from Camp KirbyThis is likely a tribute to legendary comics creator Jack "The King" Kirby.  A prolific artist and writer, Jack Kirby is probably best known for his work at Marvel Comics, where he co-created Captain America and the Fantastic Four.  He is somewhat less well-remembered for the brief period he worked at DC Comics in the late 1950s, where he penciled Green Arrow.  Some comic historians believe Kirby may have had a hand in plotting several of the stories he drew, including the first retelling of Green Arrow's origins which saw Oliver Queen gaining his legendary skill with a bow after being shipwrecked.  Until that point, Oliver Queen has been an archeologist specializing in the study of Native American cultures. 

Sara knew Slade and asks Oliver about what happened to him. 

Sara and Oliver both saw each other die more than once.

Roy Harper having an extensive and varied gun-collection is a call-back to his time in the comics as the hero Arsenal.

Oliver is a good enough shot he can deflect a grenade in-flight.

Ollie is trained in the use of a bo staff.

Sara is a good enough archer to use Ollie's bow.

Sara really does not like the word "bitch".

Sara wears a black baseball cap with a stylized red-outline that resembles a rocket.  This may be a reference to the Star City Rockets - the official baseball team of Green Arrow's hometown in the comics.

The stylized skull mask that Sebastian Blood wears as Brother Blood does resemble the skull helm the character wears in the comics.


The guns being used by The Mayor's men are stolen M4A1 assault rifles. The Colt M4A1 carbine is the primary weapon used by Navy SEAL operators.

Ollie makes use of crossbows hooked to motion detectors to set a trap for The Canary.  The crossbows shoot out cables that wrap around the target, bola style.

Sara's sonic device also functions as a timed explosive.  She is able to escape after the one she tosses to the ground after being bound by Ollie explodes, knocking him off balance.

The tracking system used by The Army to monitor their weapons shipment was designed by Queen Consolidated.  It has a design flaw where if it is deactivate, it can be reactivated remotely by use of a "sub-form wave".

Roy Harper's sells a Colt 1911, a Jennings 32 and  K-Frame revolver at the gun buy-back.

The Mayor's final robbery targets a shipment of SCAR 16s.  Diggle notes these are military-grade assault rifles with grenade launchers.

Laurel is on a prescription for Benzodiazepine - a drug traditionally used to treat insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks.  They are generally discouraged for long-term use, however, as it can be easy for the user to develop a tolerance and/or dependence on the drug.

Dialogue Triumphs

(Ollie notices Laurel is drinking rather heavily at his party)
Ollie: Hey?
Laurel: Please do not ask me if I am okay because I am sick to death of everyone asking me that!
Ollie: I would never do that!
Laurel: Good!
Ollie: You okay?

Arrow: Why are you following Laurel Lance?
Canary: I could ask the same of you. I guess some things never change.  You and her.  Always and forever.
Arrow: Who are you?
Canary: Once you know, your life will never be the same.
Arrow: I can take it.
Canary:  Not this time ... Ollie.
(Ollie looks at Canary and reaches out, pulling away her wig)
Arrow: Sara?

Sara Lance: No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men.

Felicity: (smugly) I believe you ordered the crate of stolen military weapons, Mr Queen?

Russian Prisoner: Living is not for the weak.

Sebastian Blood: Sooner or later we all go through a crucible.  I'm guessing yours was that island?  Most believe there are two types of people who go into a crucible - the ones who grow stronger from the experience and survive it and the ones who die.  But there's a third type - the ones who learn to love the fire.  Who chose to stay in their crucible because it's easier to embrace the pain when that's all you know anymore.  That's why I'm on the clock to help this city.  Before it becomes used to living like this.
Ollie: Living is not for the weak. (beat) A friend of mine once told me that. 

(Canary has The Mayor in a choke-hold)
Arrow: Let him go!
Canary: You can't save this city with forgiveness!
Arrow: You don't have to forgive him!  But you do have to let him live.
(Canary loosens her hold)
The Mayor: Bitch!  Knew you didn't have it in you.
(Canary knocks him unconscious)
Canary: I really don't like that word.


Felicity is the one who realizes that The Woman In Black is following Laurel, not The Arrow, recalling the incidents where she showed up in 203.  There is a momentary flashback of the Queen's Gambit sinking, as seen in 101, though reshot with Caity Lotz in the Sara Lance role.  Oliver spent his first year on the island thinking Sara was dead, pulled under when the ship sank but he did see her again a year later but "not exactly" on the island.  By episode's end, we discover that Sara was working with the crew of the ship where Ollie was taken captive.  Diggle meets again with Lyla, his contact with ARGUS first seen in 119.  She is single and rather pointedly tells him this fact after he notes that he's single now when she jokes about his girlfriend getting jealous.  Sebastian Blood expresses skepticism about Ollie's willingness to finance a gun buy-back program without getting any credit, referring to Ollie's failure to appear at his own fundraiser in 202. The weapons The Mayor stole were taken from Camp Kirby.  One of Oliver's fellow prisoners is Russian and explains that their captors shoot all the new captives as a test of prochnost (Strength).  They force the captives to remove the bullets and dress their own wounds unaided to see how strong and willing to live they are.  He tells Ollie that living is not for the weak - a line which Ollie quotes later as once having been told to him by a friend.  The captain of The Amazon questions Ollie as to whether or not he found "the graves", "the bones" or "the shipment", noting his crew has been searching for two years.  Despite Ollie not answering his questions, he concludes they have the right island.  The Mayor's real name is Xavier Reed.  Again, the Channel 52  news (with anchor Bethany Snow) mentions the protests of STAR Labs particle accelerator.  Ollie and Blood make their peace, with Blood noting there is more than one way to save a city when Ollie asks him about the graffiti that reads "Blood For Mayor".  Sin recovers from her injuries and seems to befriend Thea.  Sin promises to keep Roy's life as "the vilgilante's errand boy" a secret.  Ollie pays for Sin's medical bills and encourages Sara to tell her family she is still alive.  Laurel only avoids formal DUI charges thanks to Quentin's intervention.  Quentin Lance attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and confesses to his group he is worried about his daughter having the same disease he does.  Laurel is drinking heavily and on prescription Benzodiazepine.  Brother Blood's followers include at least one police officer, who removes The Mayor from the police station in order that he may be recruited.  Brother Blood injects potential recruits with a green formula he terms "a miracle" that causes the injected to bleed from the eyes.

The Fridge Factor

Laurel's sudden turn to wine and pills comes out of left field.  Both Ollie and Quentin take actions to try and "save" her throughout the episode.

The Bottom Line

 Lots of major plot threads get a little bit of development here, to the point where the plot with The Mayor is almost a distraction from the far more interesting revelations regarding Sara Lance and what she's been doing for the past five years.  Still, the action scenes are all very well choreographed and the pace of the episode doesn't let up for a moment.

Arrow - Season 2, Episode 4 - Crucible - Live Tweet Commentary

Since I'm on vacation - and thus, home when Arrow is starting, for once - I thought we'd mark the occasion with a live commentary before I start work on the latest Arrow Episode Guide entry.

Word of warning - this DOES have SPOILERS!  So don't read this until you've seen the episode!

0:00 -  Ok. Piano music. Wasn't expecting that.

0:01 -  Ah. Classic Hero/Secret Identity inter-cut scene.

0:03 -  Hmm. Weak man until he got a gun. Are you getting this subtle social commentary?

0:04 -  Dammit, Felicity! I'm getting my mack on.

0:05 -  Ok. Canary has an interest in Laurel. Why?

0:07 -  Oh lord. Turns out Canary is... Damn it!.

0:08 -  Well... that complicates things.

0:11 -  Okay... Ollie saw Sara a year later. I smell a flashback coming.

0:12 -  "Five years where nothing good happened." Well, except for the sex with Shado..

0:13 -  Hey, it's The Haitian, from HEROES!

0:14 -  And now... more exposition!

0:16 -  Hey, it's... that lady... from ARGUS!

0:17 -  Camp Kirby. Nice reference.

0:19 -  And... the DA makes his move on Laurel.

0:21 -  I do love the smug way Felicity says "I believe you ordered... Mr. Queen"

0:25 -  Halfway through the episode and the bad guy hasn't really done anything. Anyone else notice that?

0:27 - When did this become an after-school special?

0:29 -  And now... well, probably an explanation. Maybe.

0:31 -  Amazing how far Quentin and Ollie have come as characters. This conversation never would have happened before.

0:33 -  That can't be sanitary.

0:38 -  I was wondering if we'd see Roy in this one.

0:42 - That was a damned effective action sequence.

0:48 - And here we go... team-up time!

0:50 -  Niiiiiiiice trade off!

0:53 -  Another reference to that particle accelerator. Wonder if that's a of things to come?

0:54 -  Never trust a smiling politician.

0:56 -  Okay. That's out of left field....

0:59 -  Oh hell... is that....?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Justice League Dark #24 - A Review

JM Dematteis can craft a psychodrama like no one else.  His Spider-Man story Kraven's Last Hunt still stands as one of the greatest comic book stories of all time and one of the best stories told from a villain's perspective in any medium.  His story of a reformed Joker - Going Sane - delved deeper into the mind of The Joker than any other story I've ever read and remains a personal favorite to this day.  He also did a fine job exploring the internal conflict of Hal Jordan in The Spectre, back in the days before Parallax was a giant yellow space bug.  It is fitting then that JM Dematteis should be the one to truly bring John Constantine into the new DC Universe. 

Let me clear - Jeff Lemire and Ray Hawkes have done a fine job of establishing Ol' Con-Job as the world's reluctant magical fix-it man.  Yet nothing in the Constantine title thus far has really spoken to the overriding theme of the late Hellblazer series - that as bad as various magicians, demons, angels and other horrors may be, nothing is quite so horrific as what one human being can do to another.  This issue largely concerns itself with John - pulled away from the conflict of Forever Evil by the House of Mystery - coping with his realization of this fact and the revelation that he may be all that's left to stop the evil posed by The Crime Syndicate of Earth Three. 

It's brilliant stuff and a must read for all fans of John Constantine.  Yet DeMatteis also takes care to make this all accessible to new readers, on the off chance there's someone picking this up who hasn't been reading Constantine, Forever Evil or Justice League Dark.  It's probably not necessary but it's a nice touch.

I've said before that Mikel Janin is one of the most underrated artists working today.  I'll stand by that statement even now, because his work on this issue is breathtaking.   The darkness of the world is apparent in every panel of this book but Janin makes that clear without resorting to heavy inks or an overly shadowy palette.

Bottom Line.  This is one of the best looking books on the market today and with DeMatteis's writing, it is well on the way to becoming one of the best.  I'll continue skipping Forever Evil in general but I won't be skipping Justice League Dark

Justice League #24 - A Review

Is it possible for a good fight scene to salvage an otherwise uninspired comic?  Perhaps, but Justice League #24 is not the book to make that case.  Geoff Johns has written many great books but this, I'm sad to say, is not one of them.

Most of the issue is devoted toward telling the detailed origins of the villainous Ultraman - Superman's evil counterpart from the parallel Earth Three.  Alert fans will note that this story is largely identical to the origins of Superman as depicted in Johns' own Superman: Secret Origin, with a little bit of Grant Morrison's Earth 2 thrown in for good measure.  We see Jor-Il (gedit?) fighting the equally evil masses of Krypton over the last escape pod off their world and The Kents as opportunistic drug addicts rather than as good and decent farmers. 

If this sounds bleakly depressing, it should.  Johns goes over the top in showcasing what a miserable a place Earth Three is and in establishing Ultraman as a conscienceless rapist and murderer.  The whole affair is technically well-written yet seems drab and dull in spite of that.  Most readers are already familiar with this story and discussing the details of how Superman and Ultraman's backgrounds differ, while undoubtedly a fun intellectual exercise for comic geeks, makes for a dull story.

Johns almost manages to salvage this affair with the eleventh-hour arrival of an unexpected hero.  Fans of Johns' excellent JSA run will appreciate this sequence and it is a good, old-fashioned superhero fight.  And yet, it is not enough to forgive the monotony of the early parts of the book. 

The artwork is similarly mixed.  Ivan Reis' pencils are excellent as always but this book proves that an inker can make or break your artwork.  Three different inkers worked on this book and the differences in their styles are obvious.  The Krypton sequences are under-inked.  The sequences where Ultraman terrorizes the staff of The Daily Planet are over-inked.  A few pages manage to be just-right but the credits page annoyingly offers no details as to which inkers are responsible for which pages.

All in all, this book is giving me little reason to continue reading Justice League and further reinforcing my opinion that skipping Forever Evil was a good idea.  With an uneven and overly familiar story backed by confoundedly inked artwork, there is little to recommend this book.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Trailer

As someone who hasn't seen an X-Men movie since X-Men 3, it's hard for me to work up much enthusiasm for this movie.  That being said, this trailer DOES look awesome.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Doctor Who Day 2013 At The British Emporium

Last year, I went to The British Emporium's annual Doctor Who Day event.  This year, despite being a bit tired after a long weekend of shadowcasting shenanigans, I went back again and was pleased to note a much larger crowd than last year - no doubt due to excitement over the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the world's longest-running science-fiction television series.

Derek The Red Dalek is a fixture among DFW conventions and was on hand to pose for pictures.

People cosplay for many reasons.  One of mine is the look of joy on children's faces when they see their hero (or a reasonable facsimile) in the flesh, like when these two little Whovians saw me and shyly asked for a picture.  Naturally, I asked them if they'd like a Jelly Baby... assuming their mother had no objection.

Pro Tip for Fourth Doctor cosplayers - always ask the parents first if they can have a Jelly Baby.  Alas, the days when a madman with a blue box could offer children candy without being looked on strangely are gone.

There were many women in excellent TARDIS dresses.  For my money, I think this was the most elegant.

A rare Seventh Doctor cosplayer, caught on film in the wilds of downtown Grapevine. 

One of the more interesting bits of merchandise on display: a vintage classic Doctor Who chess set. 
You get your choice of seven kings for the white side, of course.

K-9 also put in an appearance but did not sign autographs.
Not because he's a prima donna but because he had no way to hold the pen.

Another Fourth Doctor and his TARDIS.  I loaned him my sonic screwdriver for a photo-op after someone handed him a Tenth Doctor model so he could fight Derek The Dalek.  These things must be done right, after all!

There were several babies in costume in attendance, but this was my favorite.

The one Ramona in attendance.  With her is my friend Zander in his Fourth Doctor costume.

The Second Doctor.  Shockingly, he was largely unrecognized.  Hopefully that changed after the event's episode screening, which the recently recovered Second Doctor story Web Of Fear.

This TARDIS later won the costume contest for young ladies under 13.  Note the Tenth Doctor trainers. 

Mickey Smith, shortly after winning the costume contest for Best Companion.
Nice to see Mickey getting some love for once.  He truly deserved better than he got.

A pair of Docs and their Mini-Mes.

It was a fun day for all and much fun was had.  Other pictures of the event can be found on The British Emporium's flickr account, including a very zen picture of me taking the above picture of the other Fourth Doctor.  And if you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex you should definitely make a journey to downtown Grapevine to see the wonders that The British Emporium has to offer.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 3 - Broken Dolls

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


Rescued from Laurel's ambush by the aid of the mysterious woman in black and her sonic... "thing", Ollie is ready to make finding the city's newest vigilante his number two priority, right after coping with his mother's bail hearing.  Yet Ollie is forced to place everything on the back-burners and assign the task of tracking her down to Roy Harper after he receives an urgent request for help from an unlikely source - Officer Quentin Lance!

The Dollmaker - a serial killer Lance has a history with - escaped from Iron Heights along with a number of other criminals during The Quake and the police department is more concerned about keeping that fact a secret from the press and the public than in catching the killer.  Lance has been ordered to back-off the case, threatened with Obstruction charges if he even so much as shows up to a homicide scene to put up the police tape.  Someone has to do something and as much as Officer Lance hates to admit it, The Arrow - as he now calls the Starling City Vigilante - is the only option.

In the island flashbacks, Ollie and Slade leave Shado to examine the body of the WWII era Japanese soldiers they discovered in a hidden cave.  The island is bombarded shortly thereafter and the episode ends with Shado and Slade's fates uncertain and Ollie held prisoner on a boat.    


Green Arrow: Year One (The Island Sequences), Detective Comics: Faces of Death (inspiration for modern Dollmaker), The House of Wax movies (Dollmaker's method of killing his victims), Gail Simone's Birds of Prey (character of Sin and various details regarding The League of Assassins), numerous Dennis O'Neil stories involving The League of Assassins and various Mike Grell stories that features Green Arrow partnering up with a reluctant cop and/or hunting a serial killer.


One wonders at this point if the Starling City Police Department and District Attorney's office are hopelessly corrupt or totally incompetent.  Ignoring the DA's unprofessional behavior during Moira Queen's bail hearing (presumably the District Attorney is an elected post in Starling City and he's jockeying for votes), one has to wonder just how The Dollmaker was able to kidnap Laurel and Quentin from work.  You'd expect the DA's office to have decent security.  Ditto the police station parking garage.  And Lance's superiors must have REALLY wanted to bust him down a peg in order to allow a wounded serial killer to escape because it was more important to arrest Quentin Lance for obstruction.

Just how does Black Canary track down The Dollmaker at Metamorpho Chemical? (She hacked the police security cameras, same as Felicity?) 


Paul Blackthorne steals the show as Quentin Lance.  He sells every contrivance of the plot that might otherwise have seemed to have been a bit much.  The writing team gave him most of the good speeches in this episode and Blackthorne justifies their faith that he could pull such drama off.  There's even some good non-verbal acting that seems to suggest Quentin has figured out Oliver's secret identity. 


The opening action sequence with Black Canary rescuing The Hood from the police. 


Lots of references to DC Comics New 52 in this episode.   Quentin Lance's call-sign is DC-52.  The Dollmaker's hotel room number is 52.  And Ollie's preferred news source is Channel 52, which is also the name of a weekly back-up feature in DC Comics which discusses important news around the universe.

Black Canary's follower, Sin, is a reference to a character created by Gail Simone during her run on Birds of Prey.  Sin was a young girl who was being groomed by The League of Assassins to become their greatest warrior.  She was saved from this fate by Black Canary who adopted the girl and took her back to America.

There are many DC Comics villains who have used the name of The Dollmaker The first was a Plastic Man villain who used magical dolls in a manner akin to the Fantastic Four villain The Puppet Master.  The second was a Supergirl villain who was basically a second-class Toyman, who focused exclusively on weaponized dolls.  The third and final one was introduced in Detective Comics' first storyline after the New 52 Revamp and was a brilliant surgeon/serial killer who made dolls out of parts of his victims.   The Arrow version of The Dollmaker shares a name - Barton Mathis - with the New 52 Dollmaker but his M.O. involves physically transforming his victims into giant porcelain dolls.

The Dollmaker's lawyer's name is Tony Daniel.  Tony Daniel is also the name of the writer who created the modern version of The Dollmaker in the comics.

Black Canary uses Heritage Hall - a building with a large clock tower - as her base of operations.  In Birds of Prey, Oracle and Black Canary operated out of the Gotham Clock Tower.

The name Metamorpho Chemical - the failed company The Dollmaker uses as a hideout - is a reference to the Rex Mason a.k.a. Metamorpho, The Element Man - a superhero who had the power to change his body into any elemental compound.

The ninja Black Canary kills at the end of the episode drops the name of Ra's Al Ghul.  Probably best known for being the main villain of the movie Batman Begins, Ra's Al Ghul is also the head of The League of Assassins - a group Black Canary has had numerous dealings with - in the comics. 

The ship Ollie is trapped on in the end of the episode is called The Amazo.  Amazo is the name of a Justice League villain - a robot built to replicate the powers of any superhero.


Black Canary makes use of some sort of hand-held sonic device while rescuing The Hood from Laurel's ambush.  The device can apparently be aimed in one direction (Oliver shows no negative effects standing behind Black Canary as the device is used) and is capable of breaking glass within an enclosed space while physically disabling people within the blast radius.  In the Birds of Prey comics by Chuck Dixon, Black Canary made use of a similar device at a time when she didn't have her famous Canary Cry sonic scream superpower.

Apparently the police are learning from their mistakes, having put their CSI analysis on a closed server.  It seems they finally realized someone spent the better part of a year hacking their systems...

The Arrow makes use of a tranquilizer dart.  It lasts for precisely 36 minutes.   

Dialogue Triumphs

(After The Hood asks why Lance called him for help)
Quentin Lance: You said trying another way?  Maybe I am too.

Laurel Lance: Whatever guilt you're feeling, you're just using it to justify a vendetta.
Quentin Lance: (glancing at her bulletin board for The Arrow) Well, maybe I'm not the only one.

(The difference between Green Arrow and Deathstroke in a nutshell)
Oliver Queen:
You think that caring about people gets you killed.  I think it's what keeps people alive.
(As Felicity is set up as bait for The Dollmaker)

Quentin Lance: Just for the record, I'm not a huge fan of dangling helpless girls in front of psychopaths like meat. 
The Arrow: She volunteered.
Quentin Lance: Well she must really believe in you. 
The Arrow:  So did your daughter. 
Quentin Lance: (sighs) She suffered a loss.  Grief's got a way of shifting a person's beliefs.  But then you know all about that.  You've lost people too, right? 
The Arrow: (beat) Why would you say that?   
Quentin Lance: Why else would you be doing this?  

(Justifying his working with The Arrow to Laurel)
Quentin Lance: This city needs help.  I just became less particular about where it comes from. 


Shado was a pre-med student before her abduction.  Black Canary put five would-be rapists in the hospital and seems to be focusing her attacks exclusively on men committing acts of violence against women.  Ollie makes a reference to "The Merlyn Job" (122) when he must break into the police station to hack the computers manually.  Felicity makes reference to infiltrating a mob casino (121) and jumping out of a plane (201) when Ollie objects to her acting as bait for The Dollmaker.  Moria Queen makes reference to having more secrets as she speaks to her lawyer. 

The Fridge Factor

Laurel is kidnapped and put in peril purely to traumatize her father.  Was it really necessary for The Dollmaker's device to involve a long tube forcing liquid down young women's throats?  At least the incident makes Laurel realize the truth about her mad-on for The Arrow, so hopefully that tiresome bit of characterization will disappear soon.   

The Winick Factor

It seems questionable for Ollie to allow Diggle out into the field at the same time as Lance.  I know Quentin is your new best friend, Ollie, but the dude is still a detective even if he doesn't have the shield anymore.  He'll probably put 2 and 2 together if Ollie Queen's personal assistant AND personal driver are helping him out.  

The Bottom Line

A powerful episode with some intense action sequences that promises more of the same in the episodes to come.  Our first glimpse of Black Canary in action for an extended period makes this episode worth watching by itself.  Throw in a truly thrilling serial killer plot and some good character development scenes for Paul Blackthorne to play with and you have a truly amazing hour of television.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fangasm - Finale - Live Tweet Commentary

And now... the final Fangasm commentary.  Try and hold back the tears, kids.

11:01: In case you forgot, we're in LA!  Look at the scenery! 

11:02: Technically speaking, third world countries don't have soda of food left over the place. 

11:03: Actually, they don't have food at all in third world countries!

11:07:And - oh yeah - is involved in this. In case you forgot.

11:09: "World of Pure Imagination?" Wondering how many kids has had killed in the name of

11:10:  I love how none of these actors can keep a straight face at the cheese either.

11:15: Actually, the  /WillyWonka comparison is apt. They both depend on unpaid labor. to run their business.

11:19: Oh man... flyering random people on the street. This is giving me flashbacks of many nights with
First .  Now .  This is really real man.  For real.

11:28: Ixnay on the Ampira-vay!

11:32: Ah, .  The lowest of all geeks, save for  and Self-Insert Fanfic writers, of course.

11:33: That's a joke, folks!  I have nothing but respect for .  Self-Insert Fanfic Writers can piss off, though.

11:34: Hey now. I'm super active in a LARPing group here in Seattle.

11:35:  - I was kidding, Most of my RPG group . I was riffing on the standard perception most gamers seem to have.

11:40: Regarding Dani & Sal - The show would be much better if we had more of THIS. THIS is honest.

11:46:  dressed as ?  ALL IS FORGIVEN!

11:47: That's actually as Codex! 

11:49: - This is what I get for looking at what I'm typing & only listening for a second. :)

11:58: This would be a good ending.  Kinda sad there's one more episode. 

12:01: You know - it might had been better had they set up the competing for a job thing in the first episode.

12:03: Ah.  Of COURSE they just happen to get a flat tire. 

12:05: This time, at least, someone remembers the glory of the Internet.  

12:11: The best parts of this show are the parts that are just the actors talking. 

12:12: The minute the usual reality show stuff kicks back into play, it becomes 10 times worse. 

12:17: Wait... they get everyone to dress up nice THEN have them do all this heavy lifting? 

12:33: Amazed party went smoothly.  Thought Andrew was going to tell a dirty joke to the Queen of England or some such. 

12:37: Afraid I'll have to stop the commentary there, folks. Seems my Cable Company chose to run a software update NOW. 

12:48: And... back!  Just in time for Dani!

12:49: Alas, my DVR didn't get the last 10 minutes....

12:52: And remember, you were all great. Except for the ones who slacked off and bungled basic tasks like getting my coffee.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Agents of SHIELD, Episode 5 - (Almost) Live Commentary

Due to delays in my getting out of work, this commentary wasn't quite "live".  Thank Ganesha for DVR though, eh?  So here's the archive of all the sarcasm and commentary I made on Twitter as the show played... almost live.

0:01: Woman flirting with a street magician.  That should be setting all his alarms off.

0:02: Oh, for Doctor Strange to show up right now...

0:03: Mutant, cosmic rays or magician?  Taking all bets!

0:04: Those can't be SHIELD agents.  No logos on their suits.

0:06: "Go a few rounds..." Hey, they stole that from a JLU episode! 

0:14: Give this guy credit for being smart enough to realize nobody kidnaps you for a GOOD reason.   

Scorch?  Seriously?  Whoever is writing this has a mad-on for old New Warriors comics..

0:19: And... confirmation that Skye is playing both sides against the middle, at least.  Mayhe.  Probably.

0:24: Amd... yeah.  Busted! 

0:29: And... just like that he's swayed into using his powers for eeeeeeeeevil. 

0:30: He's a Minecraft player!  Evil Bastard! 

0:33: More Extremis.  Geez, couldn't it be something else, for once?  

0:38: Oh man - this is SO not what I had in mind when I asked to be strapped down with two women..

0:39: Trying to avoid the word "mutant" like crazy, aren't they? 

0:42: I cast Burning Hands! 

0:48: Oh, Scorch. NEVER say "Nothing Can Stop Me!" That's a sure death sentence.

Oh!  They're talking about Skye!  THAT was subtle.

0:53: Hey! Nick Fiury's bar is back!    

0:55: I'm going to call it now - Skye is Peter Parker's long lost sister.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hawkeye #13 - A Review

Hawkeye #13 brings decompressed storytelling to a new low.  Remember everything we saw over the last few issues that only related to Clint Barton in the most indirect ways possible, including a story told from the perspective of his dog, Lucky?  Now, after four issues and six months, we finally get to see the events of those issues from our main character's point of view. 

Thankfully, there's enough new material to make the repetitiveness tolerable.  Still, it is frustrating to see a writer of Matt Fraction's talent resorting to art for art's sake in order to pad out a storyline.  This series does not need such trickery.  It needs more straight-forward action and humor. 

At least David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth are back doing that voodoo that they do so well.  Aja's distinctive artwork gives this book an aesthetic all its' own.  Hollingsworth's palette completes the amazing effect.  Every page of this book is Eisner worthy. 

Justice League of America #8 - A Review

Justice League of America #8 starts promisingly enough, with Martian Manhunter and Stargirl awakening in a field and quickly becoming aware that they are trapped in some kind of prison.  This apparently is the fate of all the world's greatest superheroes in the wake of Trinity War. Placing these two heroes together is a brilliant conceit and one that plays wells to Kindt's experience writing Martian Manhunter.

The main problem is the story fails to build past this concept.  Most of the issue depicts Martian Manhunter as he explores the prison and discovers the ingenious ways that most of the other heroes are being held captive.  There's very little plot or action here, though the ways in which the various heroes are trapped are interesting academically for those fans who like to discuss these sorts of things.

Indeed, Kindt may well be offering some of the best metaphysical examination these characters have received in years.  Superman, for instance is bound both by his belief that he cannot take a life and his desire to make things right.  This has him trapped in a never-ending orbit around the Earth, desperately trying to fly fast enough to go back in time and prevent the mistakes he believes started his current problems.  Why?  Because he's Superman and he has to be perfect.  In just one page, Kindt has exposed the folly of the classicist Superman fans who would have Superman literally running around in circles to remain perfectly pure. 

Wonder Woman is in a similar bind, trapped fighting two armies - Amazons and the US Army - to save her two appointed love interests - Superman and Steve Trevor.  Diana decries how the whole situation has left her paralyzed by her feelings, "simpering (and) weak".  These are the last things Wonder Woman should ever be and the idea of her fighting her own people to save a love interest - much less two of them - is similarly anathema though similarly rooted in the classic stories of the Silver Age.  Thus we have the problem of the modern Diana, who is also forced into contrived and unnatural situations based on what people think her character should be.      

As before, the artwork is largely excellent.  Doug Mahnke continues to show the same skill and quality that he did during his time on Green Lantern.  The only problem is that the general look of his work throughout the book is inconsistent due to four different inkers being employed to handle the shading and detail work.  None of this looks bad as such but it does make the whole affair seem erratic. 

Conan The Barbarian #21 - A Review

Anticlimactic is the most succinct way to describe Conan The Barbarian #21  I can say little more than that without spoiling the whole book.  I can say that little is made of last issue's cliffhanger, which saw Belit possessed by some spirit/deity and declaring her love for the evil sorceress whose cult has been hounding Conan and Belit for the past two issues.  Brian Wood's script tries to inspire the unknown horror of a Lovecraftian mystery cult but fails to provide enough details to evoke the proper mood.

Another problem with this issue is its' treatment of Belit, reducing her to a damsel in distress role and only allowing her true personality to emerge in the final pages.  Even then she has no dialogue!  The only sequence that truly works depicts Conan escaping his pursers by showcasing the Cimmerian's hereunto seen ability to make friends with wolves.

The artwork of Paul Azaceta and Dave Stewart continues to be this book's weakest point.  The sequences in the wolf caves are quite effective and Azaceta's tendency to over-ink and Stewart's dark palette work well in this context.  The rest of the book, however, looks dark, dull, drab and lifeless. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 2 - Identity

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


Newly committed to being the hero Starling City needs, Oliver Queen still needs a place to start his war on crime anew.  He finds his direction thanks to Roy Harper, who tells him (in the process of being bailed out by Thea after his latest run in with the law while playing Hood Junior) about the local Triad robbing the FEMA trucks that are supposed to be delivering life-saving medicines to the overburdened hospital in The Glades

Ollie tries to stop the robberies as The Hood but finds the police are more interested in capturing him than the crooks robbing the hospitals and the martial-artist muscle in their employ.  His efforts to aid the hospital directly as Oliver Queen are met with suspicion, thanks to Alderman Sebastian Blood whipping up the people and the press against him.  Ollie tries to reason with Blood and assure him that the sins of his family are not his own.  But when Ollie's double life requires him to be in two places at once - a charity fundraiser or the latest robbery - how will he choose to save his city?

On the island, Ollie fears what he's becoming because of his time on the island.  Shado tries to calm his worries but there's no time for introspection with mysterious invaders closing in.


Green Arrow: Year One (the island sequences), Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunter (Ollie's reaction to Shado being tortured is similar to his response to Black Canary being tortured in this book) and various Elliot S! Maggin Green Arrow stories (theme of Ollie wondering what good he's doing in either of his lives).


I've always found Felicity much more tolerable as a character when she's not fawning over Ollie or playing the Manic Pixie Geek Girl who is ever so delightfully quirky.  This episode turned her into Pepper Potts on speed... and I liked it!

Manu Bennett does some great non-verbal acting as Slade in the bits where he is watching Shado and Ollie.  There's clearly something bothering him and I think it's something more than simple jealousy that the one woman on the island is showing affection to the only other man besides him.   


 The nice dissolve shot in the new intro text, where we shift from Ollie in his street clothes to Ollie in the hooded costume, all while staring at the same arrowhead.

By the same token, the shot taken through the clear water turning red as Ollie washes his hands following his defense of Shado during the island sequence is quite striking.

Finally, there's the sequence where Sebastian Blood gives his speech about how Oliver Queen doesn't care about the city, intercut with footage of Ollie changing into his costume, retrieving his gear and riding off to stop the medicine robberies once and for all.


China White addresses Ollie as "The Emerald Archer".  This is one of Green Arrow's more popular nicknames in the comics, similar to how Superman is called The Man of Steel or Man of Tomorrow.

The muscle brought in by China White is an assassin known as The Bronze Tiger.  Originally a heroic martial artist who trained alongside Richard Dragon (of Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter fame), Ben Turner was abducted and brainwashed by The League of Assassins into adopting the title and mask of The Bronze Tiger.  He eventually broke his programming and served as a "good" member of The Suicide Squad.  He is one of the few characters in the comics to have defeated Batman in a one-on-one martial arts fight.


Lots of new toys, this time around.  Ollie uses a smoke-screen to evade the police along with the Grappling Hook arrow we first saw last week.  He also makes use of a Taser Arrow against Bronze Tiger and saves Diggle from China White through what seems to be a bola-based Handcuff Arrow. 

Dialogue Triumphs

The new intro - "My name is Oliver Queen.  I spent five years on a hellish island.   I have come home with only one goal: to so save my city.  But to do so, I can't be the killer I once was.  To honor my friend's memory, I must be someone else.  I must be... something else."

Ollie's Elliot S! Magin response to Roy's disbelief that Ollie knows how he feels. - The world doesn't work anymore. It broke a long time ago but it was like you were the only one who noticed. That makes you angry. And you're afraid that anger is going to burn you up inside if you have to live in the world for one second longer knowing that you could do something to fix it.

Diggle's glib response to Felicity's complaining about her new "secret identity" as Ollie's personal assistant - Well, it could be worse.  My secret identity is his black driver. 

Every moment involving Ollie, Felicity and her making coffee. 

Ollie: Well, I'm just lucky that Oliver Queen has a reputation for not showing up on time.
Diggle: You know, I've been meaning to tell you it really weirds me out to no end the way you refer to yourself in the third person like that.   

Blood: Crucifixion has such a bad reputation.  The Romans used it to punish people who acted against the public good.  

China White: (The Police) still won't see you as anything more than the enemy.  Yiou'll never be anything more than a criminal to them.  Which means you'll never be a hero.
The Hood:
As long as this city is safe, it doesn't matter.


The stone pendant Ollie gave Thea back in The Pilot makes an appearance, as Thea gives it to Roy as part of her ultimatum.  In a flashback, we discover that Ollie originally took it from the body of a dead WWII-era Japanese soldier on the island.  China White, first seen in 102, appears again leading the Triad thugs stealing from FEMA.  Roy makes reference to there being other vigilantes in The Glades besides The Hood but Laurel Lance is only interested in The Hood.  Precisely 503 people died in The Glades because of Malcolm Merlyn's earthquake machine.  First appearance of Sebastian Blood.  John and Carly broke up because Diggle felt guilty dating his brother's widow while his killer (Deadshot) still roamed free.  Laurel saw The Hood walking away from Tommy Merlyn's body sometime after the events of 123 and blames him for Tommy's death, claiming Tommy might have lived had The Hood not been busy dueling Malcolm Merlyn.  Roy has one of The Hood's arrow-shaped throwing darts, but he painted it red.  The Hood tells him to put it in the alley behind Verdant when Roy needs to contact him.  Roy is officially recruited to work for The Hood as his eyes and ears in The Glades. 

The Bottom Line

This episode is amazing from start to finish.  And then it hits the cliffhanger and your mind is completely blown.  They are not pulling any punches this year.  In the words of Willy Wonka, "The suspense is terrible.  I hope it lasts!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fangasm - Episode 4 - Live Tweet Review

Another week.  Another Fangasm live-Tweeted commentary.

10:04 :  Never been to a drink-and-draw myself.  Since I have no drawing ability myself... 

10:05 : Do I even want to know why they are building a 15 foot long tentacle?  

10:08 : - Cuz the Logo is a OCTOPUS! ;) 

10:14 : I know that, .  I'm just implying horrifying nefarious purposes for comic value! 

10:17 :  Yes!  Hide them in front of the camera man.  This will not backfire at all! 

10:22 : I'm calling it right now - Andrew hired an escort to pretend to be his girlfriend. 

10:26 :  Two Andrews.  What a horrifying thought. 

10:29 : Damn you ! Damn you for putting that image in my brain. I must not fear... fear is the mind killer.... 

10:31 : IT'S A VALID QUESTION YOU GUYS. ...although I tend to wonder what everyone's sex life is like. 

10:34 : All the feels, you two.  

10:36 : Watching this is kinda surreal given that I taught my teens to do  make-up at the library today. 

10:37 : It's a minor miracle my Twitter account hasn't been shut down all the talking I've done tonight. 

10:45 :  Remember, kids!  Booze is not your friend, no matter how good it makes you feel. 

10:47: Yes, Mike.  You ARE an idiot.  But admitting it is the first step to recovery. 

10:59 :  "I never thought that dressing as a zombie would end with two girls oiling me down".  Clearly, you've never been to Singapore,

Batgirl #24 - A Review

 Let us pause a moment and give thanks to whatever fickle gods allowed Gail Simone to continue on this title after her unceremonious firing by e-mail and sudden rehiring.


Thank you.

I ask for this blessing because I am truly frightened to think about the possibility of not having had this issue to read.  How could any writer but Gail Simone have pulled off last month's issue without having it seem like a betrayal of the whole story so far?  How could anyone but her have penned this issue, in which Barbara Gordon finds herself pitted against not only the police and every enemy she's made since her return as Batgirl but against her very essence as a person?

There is no word I can think of to sum this issue up, save one: powerful.  This is a powerful issue and one of the strongest, most emotional works Simone has ever penned.  The fact that it's a ripping action yarn at the same time does not diminish its' emotional arc in any way.  I'm aching to read next month's issue now, that's how great it is.  

The artwork of Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion equals the script in quality and excellence.  Everone involved in this storyline needs to be nominated for some kind of award.  If you aren't reading Batgirl, you should be. 

Agents of SHIELD, Episode 4 - Live Commentary

Sarcasm and commentary, as the show plays. Here is the archive of what I said on Twitter.

0:01:  Hey! It's the Red Man Group! 

0:02: Boy, the Red Skull's men are cheaping out on their uniforms

0:04: How soon until Agent Coulson starts asking "Are we there yet?

0:08: I wonder how many spies actually DO thank the techies for Facebook making their jobs easier?

0:12: Geez, with all the agents SHIELD has go rogue, it's a wonder they have anyone on the payroll still

0:16: Short Bus.  BWAHAHAHA! 

0:28: I keep getting distracted by everyone on my Twitter feed talking about the #SuperheroesPBS special

0:29: I think the honeymoon is officially over. And here I thought the show just wasn't clicking for me. 

0:30: But everyone is talking about #SuperheroesPBS and not #AgentsOfSHIEL

0:35: Nice to see Coulson getting some development.  Wish they'd do this for the rest of the cast. 

0:38: She just described James Bond

0:43: I'm recording the for later. Have no fear. I just can't watch it now because I am recording a podcast at 8 PM

0:45: Looking back over all this, I haven't really said much about the show.  Says it all, doesn't it? 

0:50: They even put SHIELD logos on the labcoats!  I call shenanigans on this secret spy organization! 

0:51: There is something very Clark Kent about Agent Ward in glasses.  

0:53: And the obligatory hint that Coulson is not Coulson. 

0:55: Okay.  I DO like Skye calling Coulson AC because it sounds cool.  Ha!  AC!  Cool!   

0:58: "When evil villains have superpowers...." Not subtle on pushing on the fans, are they?

Night Light - A Dresden Files Fan Film - A Review

WARNING: The following review does contain some spoilers for The Dresden Files book series. Don't read any further if you haven't gotten past the book Proven Guilty.  Don't see this movie until after you've read that far either, as it's pretty much a sequel to that book and a prequel to the next book, White Night.

I first ran into Landon and Suzanne Solomon at A-Kon several years ago.  Coincidentally, it was on the very same weekend that I first cosplayed Harry Dresden.  I ran into them again earlier this year at Dallas Comic Con and learned of a fan film they were working on and hoped to have ready later this year.  We kept in touch and I was privileged enough to get a preview of the rough cut of the movie before its' convention premiere this past weekend and release to the Internet at large today.

Set sometime between the novels Proven Guilty and White Night, Night Light sees wizard/private eye Harry Dresden investigating a series of attempted suicides in the local magic-users community.  All the victims were non-religious (or at the least, non-Christian) and uncharacteristically spoke of being sinners before trying to kill themselves.  Aiding Harry in his investigation are Karrin Murphy - Dresden's long-suffering police contact - and Molly Carpenter, Harry's newly appointed apprentice.

The performances in the film are top-notch all around.  Landon Solomon not only looks the part of Harry Dresden but plays the role with the perfect sarcastic edge.  Suzanne Solomon (who also wrote the screenplay) is convincingly tough as Murphy and Rachel Dawson manages the fine balance of eagerness and rebelliousness essential to Molly's character.  There are several cameos by other Dresden Files regulars, whose presence I shan't spoil except to say their performances are equally enjoyable.

Solomon's screenplay perfectly captures the feel of Jim Butcher's writing, though the whole affair seems more like an episode of a long-running television series than a film.  Taken on those terms it works quite well but there's no chance of a complete newbie to the series being able to understand half of the events of this movie. Even die-hard fans of the series may have trouble spotting all the in-jokes but they'll appreciate what they catch as well as the more dramatic moments like when we see what Harry looks like through another wizard's Sight.

Technically, the film is on-par with most fan works.  The direction is good and the special effects are well-executed.  The sound editing is a bit rough at times, with the scenes set in Harry's basement having a high level of reverb that I swear wasn't present in the rough cut.  The best aspect of the production is the set design.  It's clear that a good deal of effort went into the look of Harry's apartment/lab and making sure that all the little details were perfectly captured.  From the model of Little Chicago to Bob The Skull and his shelf-full of smut, this film perfectly captures the visual aesthetic of the series.

Bottom Line: If you're a fan of The Dresden Files, you'll enjoy Night Light.  The final film is available for viewing on YouTube and on Vimeo and more information can be found at Tower of Turtles Films.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Green Lantern Corps #24 - A Review

Picking up right where Green Lantern #24 ended, Green Lantern Corps #24 sees John Stewart taking the fight to the energy-draining villain Relic.  At the same time, the rest of the Corps attempt to evacuate their home base on Oa, fighting a running battle against Relic's technology and the incarcerated villains eager to flee the collapsing planet's prison.   

Van Jensen does a fantastic job with the script.  The characters are all made distinct through the dialogue and all the Corps regulars are given some time on-camera.  Even the newer rookie Lanterns get their moments to shine - no pun intended!  The only weak spot is some Air Force/Marine rivalry added into the dialogue between Hal and John.  While I welcome anything to give the characters more personality, this seems uncharacteristically antagonistic and detrimental given the mission at hand.

Bernard Chang is easily the best artist currently working on the Green Lantern family of books.  His talents in depicting the various unusual aliens consistently is unparalleled.  He's also a brilliant fight choreographer and no slouch when it comes to creating imaginative ring projections. 

World's Finest #16 - A Review

World's Finest #16 offers more of the same high-quality superhero action readers have come to expect from this title.  Trapped once more on Earth One following their battle with the villain Desadd last issue, our heroines are reacting quite differently to their missed chance to leap home.  Helena "Huntress" Wayne elects to throw herself into her work and an investigation of a mysterious arsonist targeting fashion shows.  Karen "Power Girl" Star, by contrast, is wallowing in self-pity - not only because of the missed homecoming but because the battle with Desadd has left her superpowers in a state of flux. 

Paul Levitz does a fine job of playing up Karen's loss without making her seem overly emotional.  It helps that Karen's reaction seems far more natural than Helena's mute acceptance of that which she can't control.  Then again, Helena's always been more of a cypher compared to Karen under Levitz's pen and her interest in returning to Earth Two was limited to begin with.

This title's biggest problem has always been its' artwork and a lack of consistency due to the continually rotating art teams.  That trend continues with yet another new team of artists that proves to be far less competent than the previous one.  Scott McDaniel has delivered quality work in the past and indeed his work with Chuck Dixon on Nightwing remains one of my favorite series of all time.  That being said, his breakdowns on this issue are sloppy and R.B. Silva is a poor choice for a finisher.  I liked Silva's work on Superboy but Silva's rounded, deliberate style is at odds with McDaniel's angular sketchy schtick.  The final product is odd to say the least! 

I fear World's Finest is a title adrift.  With the road to Earth Two closed, there is no long-term goal for its' characters nor is their ultimately a point other than heroism for heroism's sake.  That is not necessarily a bad thing given how rare it is to see honestly heroic characters in modern superhero books.  Yet one senses this divide is the one of the few things preventing this book from being a great title rather than a merely good one.  A consistent art team couldn't hurt, either! 

Constantine #7 - A Review

The biggest problem with Constantine #7 is a lack of the title character.  John is present during the events of the issue but he is largely a bystander to the action despite seemingly being the focus of attention.  The plot sees three of John's enemies working together to destroy John's power and his allies while trapping the man himself.  John is uncharacteristically passive while all this is going on and we see more of other magic-users and magical beings reacting to the closing net than we do of John working against it. 

New artist Szymon Kudranski proves a largely unwelcome change from

I don't think I'll be keeping up with Constantine in the future.  The book is decent but I expect more of ol' ConJob.  Additionally, the recent previews suggest a greater emphasis on tie-ins and crossovers in the coming months and while I do enjoy seeing John pitting his wits against the DC Universe at large again, I'd much rather his solo series focus upon John's adventures apart from Justice League Dark

Red Sonja #4 - A Review

 There may be some debate amongst serious scholars of the sword and sorcery genre as to what aspect of Gail Simone's Red Sonja is the most blasphemous.  I've spoken before about how Howard purists (many of whom take issue with the idea of Red Sonja in the first place) would likely disapprove of an army of sentient beast men working in an organized army under a human leader.  One can only imagine what those same purists of the Howard and Lovecraft oeuvre think of seeing such creatures acting as comic relief!  

I say let the purists hang!  The Hyborian World has grown vast enough under various pastiche novels and comic book adaptations that there is very little that cannot be accounted for somehow.  For instance, the original Dynamite Entertainment series written by Mike Carey and Michael Avon Oeming saw Sonja fighting alongside lion-men and making love to gods.  The series then continued with the idea of Red Sonja being an eternal heroine reborn across generations - an idea seeming inspired by Frank Thorne and Wendy Pini's Red Sonja stage-show.

Sonja and her legends have outgrown the mythos that inspired her and she is become a legend unto herself. Sonja's stories are not histories to be recorded in a dusty chronicle!  They are tales to be told around a fire or between friends in a tavern, with each teller trying to outdo the last in sheer wildness.

In that spirit, Simone is rebuilding the myth of Red Sonja (or at least, this incarnation of her) from the ground up.  Last month's flashback-driven issue eliminated Sonja's rape at the hands of the warriors who killed her family from her history.  This month's issue shows something of Sonja's learning how to fight in the slave pits of Zamora.  Simone shows that while the young Sonja is naturally talented and capable of killing several men in an ambush, she knows little of true battle.  She is a brawler, not a warrior.

Curiously, there has yet to be any mention of the goddess who had previously given Sonja her amazing skill in battle in exchange for a rather vague oath of chastity.  It is this aspect of the Sonja myth which Howard purists find most troubling, preferring the good gods of Hyboria (assuming any exist) be indifferent at best.  It would be amusing indeed if Simone arranged for Sonja's legend to be built upon natural skill and training rather than divine mandate! 

All of this is ably illustrated by the talented Walter Geovani.  I have no word to describe Geovani's work save one.  Perfection.  His character designs are memorable and unique.  His inks not too light or too thick.  His action scenes are well-displayed.  I cannot find any fault in the artwork at all. 

The bottom line?  Red Sonja - as a book and as a character - have not been this fun in quite some time.  This has always been a book I enjoyed reading but now it is a book I look forward to.  The purists can continue their debates about continuity and what constitutes a proper Hyborian tale.  I'll continue laughing my ass off at the funny fish-men, thank you!    

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Batman #24 - A Review

Visually, Batman #24 is a stunning book from start to finish.  This should prove no surprise to regular readers, who have grown used to amazing imagery on a regular basis thanks to penciler Greg Capullo and inker Danny Miki.  Yet this issue seems even stronger for the contributions of colorist FCO Plascencia, whose vibrant watercolor-style gradients lend a cinematic aura to the artwork, with alternating oranges and blues dominating most of the palette.    

This may be the first Hunter S. Thompson reference in a mainstream DC Comics book ever.

The issue's imagery borrows a lot from the Batman films of Christopher Nolan.  The idea of Bruce Wayne marking his territory with his symbol  is a reoccurring theme.  It comes off somewhat better here than in the Nolan films, however, as Bruce has good reason to announce his presence beyond showy displays of force.  There's also a greater element of fun, as Bruce creates a Bat-symbol out of squirming members of the Red Hood gang not only to announce his presence but also because it amuses him to do this behind the back of one minion and then whisper into the thug's ear "My bat... it still needs a head." 

Sure, he knocked out power to a good portion of the city to do this... but it's still awesome!

Scott Snyder's plot and dialogue also borrow heavily from the Nolan films and herein lies the issue's one weakness - unoriginality.  We've seen this same origin story for Batman and The Joker played out ad nauseam.  We've heard The Joker - still in his guise as The Red Hood - give similar speeches about the futility of hope.  The fact that the whole affair is well-written does nothing to change the fact that we've heard this story before. 

Thankfully, Snyder does include enough original ideas to make the familiar scenes bearable for long-time Bat-fans.  The best of these is the conceit of Bruce Wayne becoming as much a symbol of Hope in Gotham City as Batman.  Snyder previously established the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne as the inspiration for The Red Hood's philosophy of nihilistic absurdism and Bruce Wayne speaking publicly of Gotham City as a place where people can be made better through adversity is as much a blow to The Red Hood's work and world view as anything Bruce Wayne had done before as a faceless vigilante.

These ideals come full-circle in the back-up story by Snyder and James Tynion IV, with art by the equally awesome Rafael Albuquerque of American Vampire fame.  The story does little more than set-up the next big story detailing Batman's first battle with The Riddler but it does feature a very good speech by Alfred.  On the surface it's about the nature of masks and theater but really it's about fiction and the power of a good story.  It works on both levels and it alone would make this comic a must-read, even if the rest of the issue weren't excellent as well.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 1 - City Of Heroes

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


It's five months after the collapse of The Glades and Oliver Queen has returned to Lian Yu - the Chinese island called Purgatory.  Reluctantly dragged back to civilization by bodyguard John Diggle and computer expert Felicity Smoak, Oliver discovers that Starling City is in even worse shape than when he left. 

A violent new gang, dubbed The Hoods, has taken to robbing the rich and powerful in the name of vengeance for The Glades.  Queen Consolidated is threatened by Isabel Rochev - a vicious corporate raider out to loot what little value the Queen family name still holds.  And Laurel Lance, now working for the Starling City District Attorney's office, is working with a charismatic alderman - Sebastian Blood - to bring The Hood to justice.  The city is in need of a hero and Oliver Queen will have to find a new way to save it.

But Oliver is not alone in his efforts to save the city, though he doesn't know it.  Roy Harper - his sister's boyfriend - has taken to the streets of The Glades at night, trying to help people in The Hood's absence.  That is, on the nights when he isn't working at Ollie's old club Verdant - now run by Thea Queen.  And then there's the mysterious masked blonde woman in black...

On Lian Yu, five years earlier, Oliver, Slade Wilson and Shado have found the means to survive after their battle with Eddie Fyers and his men.  But their peaceful life is disrupted after a new band of soldiers arrive on the island and Oliver discoverers how fleeting peace can be.


Green Arrow: Year One
(the island sequences), Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunter (Ollie's reaction to Shado being tortured is similar to his response to Black Canary being tortured in this book), Green Arrow: Crawling Through The Wreckage (Ollie returns to the island he was shipwrecked on following the destruction of part of his home town) and Green Arrow: Into The Woods (Mayor killed following major disaster).


Ollie has a remarkably easy time getting into the crime scene following the Mayor's death at the hands of The Hoods.  I can understand Quentin Lance being able to get through, even if his old boss isn't happy about having an ex-detective who was actively helping a vigilante around (Lance probably has some friends on the force) but how the heck does Ollie get through the police barricades? 

Granting Ollie's plan to throw the police off his trail back in Season One was effective, surely someone is going to find it suspicious that Oliver Queen returns to Starling City just before The Hood appears again?

Granting that Felicity is awesome, how did she rebuild The Arrowcave underneath Verdant without Thea noticing if Thea has been running the club for the past five months?  I know the basement had a security keypad but it seems unlikely Thea wouldn't have checked out all the storage rooms after taking over. 


Honestly, the ensemble cast is still in fine form.  I could write for pages about them all, so I shall limit myself to the MVP of the episode. 

Willa Holland gives the best performance we've seen yet and steals the show in an episode full of strong performances.  The final episode of Season One really didn't give Thea much time to deal with her mother's actions.  This episode more than makes up for it, as Thea refuses to visit Moira Queen in prison because it's the only way Thea can think of to hurt her as much as Moira hurt her through her actions.  Thea's reasoning is cool but believable as is her about-face at the end of the episode.  

The action sequence in the boardroom with The Hoods attacking Ollie is very well shot.

One nice little touch in the script, to show how things have changed between Quentin and Ollie - Quentin calls him Oliver instead of "Queen".  Paul Blackthorne and Stephen Amell play this bit perfectly.


In the original comics, Isabela Rochev was a Green Arrow villain known as The Queen.  A former slave in a Siberian diamond mind, she was pretty despite her harsh life and won the affections of Robert Queen - Oliver's father, while he was visiting the mine while inspecting his overseas holdings.  Though there's no evidence that he saw her as anything other than another pretty face, Isabela was inspired by the example of the capitalist captain of industry and determined that she would become a ruler and user of others.  She eventually rose to buy a controlling interest in Queen Enterprises and set about turning Robert's company toward her own devious ends. 

There is no evidence yet that the Arrow version of Isabela Rochev had an affair with Robert Queen, though Moira Queen clearly knows of the woman and Moira did claim that Robert had cheated on her in the past during Season One.  Perhaps there's more to come...

Stellmoor International - the company Isabel Rochev works for - is also the name of the company that bought out Queen Industries in the New 52 Green Arrow comic by Jeff Lemire.

Alderman Sebastian Blood is a reference to Brother Blood - a classic Teen Titans villain.  High priest of a dangerous cult of demon worshipers, Sebasitan Blood preyed upon the outcasts and desperate in society to build his power base.  The original Brother Blood possessed a supernatural power to feed off the faith of his followers.  Thus far, the Arrow version of Sebastian Blood does seem to be building a power base among the people of The Glades but has yet to showcase any superpowers. 

Bethany Snow is a television news reporter for Channel 5 news in Starling City.  In the original Teen Titans comics, Bethany Snow was a news reporter and a member of Brother Blood's cult who used her position to deliver slanted news against the Teen Titans once their battles with Brother Blood became public.  Currently, she's the head news anchor for Channel 52, an in-universe back up feature found in the pages of DC Comics, used to inform readers about important news affecting all the titles that week.  

Bethany Snow's news report makes mention of STAR Labs in Central City nearing completion on a particle accelerator.  STAR Labs (Scientific and Technological Advanced Research) is a fictional research facility that has appeared in multiple DC Comics, usually as allies of various superheroes.  For instance, Doctor Emil Hamilton, an ally of Superman, worked for the STAR Labs branch in Metropolis.  Central City is the hometown of The Flash.  Could this mention of a particle accelerator possibly be foreshadowing of how Barry Allen gets super-speed powers in the Arrow reality? 

Dialogue Triumphs

(Regarding The Hoods)
Diggle: Maybe this town still needs a vigilante. 
Ollie: Now it has four of them!  (sarcastically) How's that working?!

Roy: You already lost your dad.  Your mom - she's still here and I'm sure she'd love to see you.
Thea: I'm sure she's dying to.  Just like a lot of mothers in The Glades, who won't ever get to see their kids again.  Because my mother helped kill them.  I'm not going to that prison.  It's the only way I know how to hurt her.
Roy: You might want to consider how much it's hurting you.

(In Verdant, after being told of Thea's kidnapping by Roy and Quentin)
Oliver: I'm just going to check something downstairs.
(Oliver heads toward the secret entrance to the Arrowcave)

(Regarding Ollie's refusal to kill following Tommy's death but needing to rescue Thea from The Hoods)
Felicity: Maybe there's another way.
Ollie: (speaking in his Hood voice) They took my sister.  What other way is there?

(Quentin Lance returns to his squad car after a traffic stop, finding The Hoods handcuffed to a fence)
The Hood: Do you know who they are?
Quentin Lance: I think the hoods give me a pretty good idea.
The Hood: Bring them in.
Quentin Lance: Where have you been?!  Typically when I bring in guys that you've gone after, they're a little more dead!
The Hood: ... I'm trying another way.


When Diggle and Felicity arrive on Lian Yu, we see the Deathstroke mask from the Pilot.

When Thea is distracted while he is talking to her, Roy asks if she dropped a Vertigo.

Quentin Lance has been demoted from Detective to Officer. 

Roy Harper knows how to handle a semi-automatic rifle.

Roy has nothing nice to say about his parents but he still misses them.  He implies that they are both dead, saying that if he could talk to them, he would, in spite of whathappened. 

Walter Steel has resigned as CEO of Queen Consolidated but taken up a new position with Starling National Bank.  He still considers Oliver Queen family, whatever may have happened between himself and Moira.

In the flashback sequences, we find out that five months have passed since our heroes defeated Eddie Fyers and his mercenaries.

Shado is a good hunter and has been teaching Ollie Chinese in private.

Slade Wilson cannot speak Chinese.

The soldiers who capture Shadow ask her "where are the graves?"  Neither she nor Slade have any idea what that might mean. 

The Fridge Factor

Averted with Laurel, who kicks some serious butt in a gown when The Hoods attack a gala for The Mayor. 

The Bottom LineArrow is back and as good as we remember!  This episode hits all the right marks, no archery pun intendedA solid start for the season to build on.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fangasm - Episode 3 - Live Tweet Review

Since I'm home to watch Fangasm live tonight, we're going to try something new - a live-Tweeted review, archived here for those who missed it. 

10:00 : There's our hook.  Sell a comic to Stan Lee.

10:04 : Molly's nerd penis is mightier than Mike's!

10:06 : My mom told me to not to say anything if I couldn't say anything nice.  So I have nothing to say about Andrew's "comedy".

10:07 : Laughing at your own jokes.  The first sign of trouble.

10:09: Okay. I may get flamed for this.  I don't think Andrew is funny.  At all.  There.  I said it. 

10:10 : Andrew's comedy just seems to be encouraging people to laugh at him rather than with him.

10:14 : Andrew showing the same work-ethic he showed last week - filming his roommate sleep when he should be working.

10:15 : And somewhere, the vengeful ghost of Jack Kirby seethes.

10:17 : Oh please, Mike!  Guy carrying a manniquine isn't the weirdest thing you'll see in LA by a longshot!

10:18: Hell, Mike in drag wouldn't be the weirdest thing walking down your average street in LA.

10:20 : Hot glue on a cosplay - bad idea in general.

10:22 : Seems this live-tweeting has lost me a follower.  Oh well.

10:23: @steve_online - there followed ya.. Now ur even :-)

10:24 : YES! More slaves for the Lust Pits! @steve_online

10:26 : Hey Andrew? Robert Carradine called. He wants his laugh back.

10:29 : Okay.  Sal and Dani?  That was adorable.  

10:32 : Paul - I love ya, man, but this sounds way too technical. 

10:33 : And I say that as someone who wrote about the different specs for various Green Lantern rings.

10:36 : For those who don't get my "Slaves For The Lust Pits" remark, check this out.

10:38 : And speaking of lust pits... damn!  Molly, Kristen and Dani in those costumes!

10:41 : Superhero stories are all about hope.  Words of Wisdom from The Man himself.

10:43 : Great pitches so far, though Sal's character name sounds too close to Wakanda - homeland of Black Panther. 

10:45 : Recruited two spam bots.  Doing something right tonight.

10:50 : Stan Lee hears "The Falcon" mentioned.  Thinks "Hello Lawsuit!"

10:53 : Mike wears a bow tie now.  Bow ties are cool.

10:55 : Anyone who wishes to read my too-technical articles on Green Lantern ring specs - click here.

10:58 : I want to read Dani's Cicada comic so bad now.

10:59 : @RealPaulPerkins Yeah I was trying to get WAY too involved and I needed to simplify it a lot... It's cool though

11:02 : Yeah. Not a criticism. Just a comment. Came off well in the end.

11:03 : @SalvatoreFringo  I know! I knew that when I pitched it, but its also the Indian god of my summer camp, so I went with it :)

11:04 : It's all good. I was reminded of Wematanyea from that one King of The Hill episode.

11:05 : I'm glad I gave the show a second chance. That was the best episode yet.