Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Flash: Season Zero #9 - A Review

Felicity Smoak finds herself distracted at work, as Barry Allen's televised battle with a water-manipulating metahuman causes her to miss an important meeting. That turns out to be the least of Felicity's problems this morning. Because there's a group of terrorists out to turn everyone's favorite White Hat Hacker into street pizza and only The Fastest Man Alive can save her!

This issue of The Flash: Season Zero is somewhat perplexing.  The script by Andrew Kreisberg (based on a story by Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim) is well-written and quite funny, with a fair bit of quirky banter between Felicity and Ray Palmer and many accidental double entendres. Typical fare for an episode of Arrow or The Flash, in other words.

The problem is that it is unclear just when the events of this story take place relative to events in the show. As of the halfway point of the first season of The Flash, the existence of metahumans is still a closely guarded secret - at least so far as the team at STAR Labs and Joe West are concerned.   Explain then how it is possible for The Flash to be fighting a super-villain on a live television broadcast, with the reporter watching the fight acting like such fights are commonplace?

I'll admit this is a minor nitpick but it is an important point given the continuity of the TV series.  That said, the action of the story is well paced and it wouldn't feel out of place in a classic Flash comic.  The only real problem with this story is how it fails to fit into the reality of the show, unless it is set at some point in the not too distant future where The Flash is operating more openly.

The artwork by Marcus To is a definite improvement on the previous creative team.  There is a sense of motion to To's style that meshes well with the general aesthetic of The Flash.  To also does a good job caricaturing the series's cast and in blocking out the action of the story.

All New Invaders #13 - A Review

Tanalath The Pursuer of The Kree Empire and Makkari of The Eternals are both renegades among their respective peoples. And though their peoples would likely consider their interaction an act of treason, they still meet.  For there is a mystery that needs solving and both find greater comfort with another who asks questions than their own kin...

I've never been fond of the cosmic portions of Marvel Comics universe. Yet James Robinson's script for this issue avoids getting bogged down in cumbersome details even as it discusses some involved continuity. We even learn how Makkari shares an association with our titular team and how he was a member of The Invaders under the names Mercury and Hurricane back in World War II!

Steve Pugh's artwork is as amazing as ever.  Pugh is a versatile artist, equally capable of intricate panel work and huge, poster-worthy splash pages. We see plenty of both in this issue and every page looks wonderful.

Batman: Annual #3 - A Review

Five years ago, Tommy Blackcrow was a newcomer to Gotham. A hard-nosed reporter of the old-school, Tommy didn't believe the mystique that Gotham's supervillains generated - particularly The Clown Prince of Prime. Tommy's courage took him places few would dare to go... including The Joker's lair! And it was there that Tommy did something brave but foolish. Tommy laughed at The Joker as he played nice with his minions and boldly declared that The Joker didn't have any real friends.

Little did Tommy realize that bold statement would change his life and that the next five years would seen him changing his name and running around the country. Because it turns out The Joker appreciates honesty - particularly honesty expressed as an insult - and decides that only a true friend could be so honest. And Tommy Blackcrow is about to discover that the only thing worse than having The Joker as an enemy is having him as a friend.

It's been said that some of the best Batman comics don't feature Batman as a character. That's certainly the case with Batman Annual #3 where Batman's presence is limited and the focus is firmly upon Joker's new best buddy. The script by James Tynion IV is a strong one, with a lot of honest humor as The Joker goes through great lengths to try and bond with the increasingly unbalanced Tommy.

The artwork isn't quite as strong as the script, unfortunately. Roge Antonio does a decent enough job in general. His design for The Joker is truly terrifying but nothing else in this issue really stands out or demands attention. The coloring by Nick Filardi is a bit off at points, with Harley Quinn's hair-coloration continually changing in regards to which side is red and which side is black.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #3 - A Review

It's an odd thing, but Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #3 doesn't really feel like a Twelfth Doctor story. The script by Robbie Morrison seems like a lost relic of the Classic Series of Doctor Who, with the Peter Capaldi Doctor seeming at times more like an odd combination of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker than his usual sarcastic self. But somehow, I don't think Whovian purists will mind too much for one simple reason - not a single Series 8 story was as much fun as this comic.

The action begins with The Doctor and Clara being interrupted in the midst of a portrait painting (Apparently Clara inspired the Mona Lisa, but the only part Da Vinci got right was her smug smile). A phone call from an old friend of The Fourth Doctor in 23rd century India sends our heroes forward in time to where they arrive just too late to stop an apparent murder. From there, we're treated to a goodly amount of plot about alien conquerors, Hindu deities, mistaken identities, mysterious thefts and a room that exists in multiple times at once. And The Doctor drops a lot of names of famous people he once knew.

If Robbie Morrison is channeling the spirit of Robert Holmes with his writing, then Dave Taylor is emulating the artwork of another famous Dave - Dave Gibbons. While not quite a physical replication of Gibbons' work, Taylor's pacing and choreography is reminiscent of the Doctor Who comics of olde.  The whole affair is marvelous to look at!

Superior Iron Man #3 - A Review

In order to win Daredevil to his side regarding the use of his new Extremis 3.0 body-modification app, Tony Stark has done the unthinkable and restored Matt Murdock's sight!  Now, as Tony Stark leaves to deal with a newbie villain with a grudge, Pepper Potts and a mysterious figure in an old Iron Man suit work to figure out just what has happened to change Tony Stark...

Tom Taylor continues to impress with his scripts on this series. It's always a tricky proposal to write a heroic character in a way that suggests they are giving in to their darker impulses while still keeping them true to form.  This is doubly difficult with a character like Tony Stark, who is already defined by his dark side.  Yet Taylor manages to successfully portray a Tony Stark who is heroic and unethical at the same time.

Yildiray Cinar's artwork is excellent as usual, but I must note one particularly nice artistic touch. In the scenes between Tony and Daredevil, we see all of the action from Matt Murdock's point of view as opposed to the usual comic art which views the action from the viewpoint of a hidden camera or unseen audience. This subtly helps to increase the power of the scenes, as Tony seems to be addressing the reader directly and we get to experience the thrill of once again being able to see from Daredevil's new perspective.

Superman #37 - A Review

Superman #37 should not work nearly as well as it does. The shocking revelation at its heart isn't at all surprising nor is its conceit of a utopia with a hidden dark secret particularly original. Heck, at this point it would have been more original and surprising if the extra-dimensional home of newbie superhero and Clark Kent's new best friend Ulysses really was all it was promised to be.

So why is it that this comic is as good as it is despite a trite and cliche premise?  Simply because Geoff Johns understands Superman. And while this kind of story is Science Fiction 101, putting Superman into this kind of situation - where Superman is playing the skeptic against blind idealism - is a novel idea that works well within the context of the story.  Clark is a reporter by trade, after all, and a big part of Truth, Justice and The American Way is about seeking the Truth and dealing with it, no matter how ugly and uncomfortable it is.

The artwork is comparable to the story in that it is by-the-book by the standards of the team involved but that standard is a high one and the final product is enjoyable. John Romita Jr. isn't as famous for splash pages or background work as some artists but his work here is eye-catching and memorable.  The inks of Klaus Janson and Laura Martin's color further enhance things.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Doctor Who, Series 9 - Episode 1 - Last Christmas


Derivative as most of Moffat's work for Series 8 and he doesn't do a damn thing to hide his sources. Still, it's hard to be a Grinch with Nick Frost as Santa Claus and the script does a fair job of balancing horror and comedy while Capaldi and Coleman make everything work through sheer charisma.


Clara Oswald is woken from a long winter's nap to find Santa Claus and two argumentative elves on her rooftop.  The Doctor arrives not long after to tell her that humanity is under attack. Telepathic alien parasites that force their hosts to dream of a happy life as the vitality is sucked out of them have been awakened and it is up to The Doctor and Clara to save a team of scientists that are trapped at the North Pole. 

The problem is that it's all but impossible to tell that you are dreaming once you are caught and harder still to escape the Dream Crab's influence... even with obvious clues such as the presence of Santa Claus to warn you that things aren't real.  So why does Santa keep showing up trying to save everyone?  And just how deep does the dream go?


For all its flaws, the script by Steven Moffat does do a fair job of balancing horror and comedy and most of the jokes are quite funny.

* Director Paul Wilmhurst does a fantastic job of pacing the horror elements of this episode and choosing just the right angles at which to film everything.

* Hats off to the production team for designing a motion-picture quality beasty with the Dream Crabs.

* As usual, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman give a merely decent script far better treatment than it deserves.

* Nick Frost steals the show as Santa Claus.


* Albert Einstein once said "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." By that definition, Steven Moffat is one of the least creative writers ever.  Bad enough that the script name-drops Alien.  Worse that it has a literal check list of movies that clearly inspired the episode (Inception, The Thing, etc.).

* The episode also "borrows" a lot from earlier New Who episodes and Moffat's old scripts in particular.  Santa's dismissal of the infected crew is exactly the same as The Doctor's dealing with the victims of The Empty Child in The Doctor Dances.  And the Dream Crabs are virtually the same monster as the beetles from Turn Left.

* While the Dream Crabs are well-designed monsters, surely a better name could have been provided for them?

* Like The Return of The King, the episode suffers from having a few fake-outs too many regarding the fake endings.


It seems less like a Christmas special and more like a continuation of the last season's more horror-based scripts.  Yet it is undoubtedly a Christmas story and it's quite an enjoyable one, in spite of its flaws.  Like a stocking filled with candy and one nectarine, there is enough right with this episode to justify the questionable bits.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three #13 - A Review

Thanks to John Constantine's magic and a cunning attack by Batman, Superman now lies in a deep, enchanted sleep.  But what does the most powerful man in the world dream of in a slumber so strong even The Spectre cannot break it?  

The same thing Superman always dreamed of... a better world.

There is little I can say about Injustice: Year 3 #13 that is not hinted at by its title - For The Man Who's Lost Everything. With a story centering around Superman trapped in a dream, comparisons to the classic Alan Moore story For The Man Who Has Everything are inevitable. One wonders though - especially after the powerful ending of this issue - is Superman the titular man?  Or is it someone else?

The artwork by Bruno Redondo, Juan Albarran, Xermanico & Rex Lokus does a fine job of conveying the story. More, it is filled with lots of novel little touches. I particularly like Harley Quin biting her lip as she realizes just how screwed she and The Joker are on a scale of 1 to 10.

Arrow: Season 2.5 #9 - A Review

Arrow: Season 2.5 #9 contains no major revelations nor big surprises. There are no major plot twists nor exciting cliff-hangers.What it does contain are a number of resolutions and set-ups for adventures yet to come.  These include Felicity being kidnapped by Brother Blood's cult and a Mirakuru-enhanced madman with a grudge against Oliver Queen being released onto the streets of Starling City.

Despite the generally sedate tone of the issue, Marc Guggenheim delivers a lot of good character moments as he engages in his house-keeping of the book's many subplots. Brother Blood indulges in some non-sequesters that would do Felicity Smoak proud. Roy Harper and Quentin Lance both awaken from their respective comas. And Oliver Queen has a prophetic nightmare as he comes down off the newest version of Vertigo to hit the streets.

The Suicide Squad story by Keto Shimizu shares this laid-back tone.  This story is devoted toward the introduction of a brave young woman, who offers herself up as a bride to one of Black Adam's followers in order to spare a pre-teen girl the same fate.  The art for both comics continues to adhere to the high standard set by Joe Bennett and Szymonn Kudranski's work to date on this series.

The Sandman: Overture #4 - A Review

The most interesting aspect of The Sandman: Overture is the paradox of the title. As this story is set immediately before the start of The Sandman, it would seem a fitting name as an overture is "an introduction to something more substantial." But this story is just as substantial as Neil Gaiman's earlier series. And as far as introductions go, readers who have yet to discover The Sandman (presumably there are still some out there somewhere in The Dreaming) would be better served to get to know the original series before introducing themselves to Overture.

As The Sandman: Overture #4 opens, we find Dream of the Endless continuing his journey to save all of reality. Accompanied only by a lost child and another aspect of himself in his guise of the Lord Of The Dreams of Cats, Dream must travel far and further still. He will seek the wisdom of his father and journey to the legendary City of Stars. While this story is interesting as an abstract tale, it will mean far more to those readers well familiar with the story of The Sandman who will know the significance of The City of Stars or why Dream recalls the tale of the first time he had to kill in the line of his duty.

The artwork by J. H. Williams III is as wondrous as one would expect the artwork for any chapter of The Sandman to be. Indeed, I fear I do Williams' contribution to this collaboration a disservice with my choice of scans to share. The best bits of the artwork involve intricate two-page spreads that my scanner could not manage. And a composite image would fail to capture the scale and grandeur of the artwork.  So please believe me when I say that Williams' art matches Gaiman's script in eloquence and splendor.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #5 - A Review

It began, as it usually did, with what was meant to be a peaceful trip.  The Doctor had intended to take Gabby Gonzales to see the great art museum of Ouloumos and check up on his old friend, the master artisan Zhe Ikiyuyu.  But Zhe is nowhere to be found!  Worse yet, Zhe's shape-shifting, reality-warping apprentice proves to be quite mad and murderous when it comes to dealing with uninvited guests.

Writer Nick Abadzis tells quite a thrilling tale in this issue and fills his script with a number of shout-outs to both the classic and current series of Doctor Who. The concept of an artist altering reality with their work is not an original one but Abadzis puts a neat spin on the formula, taking the concept of Real-Time Block Transfer Manipulation from Logopolis and applying it to Art instead of Math. And Gabby saves herself from The Apprentice by using the classic Whovian technique of keeping the villain so busy talking about their work that they stop thinking about killing you.

Talking of art, the artwork in this book is as wonderful as the script.  Elena Casagrande does a fine job of capturing The Tenth Doctor as well as crafting the kinetic, ever-changing landscapes that the story requires. And Arianna Florean pulls double duty as the colorist and as the artist for Gabby's art-based journal, which utilizes a cartoonish style to great effect.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Batman #37 - A Review

The Joker has released his greatest creation yet - an air-borne Joker toxin that acts like a virus!  Not only does it transform the infected into a giggling, murderous zombie - it also turns every victim into a carrier, whose laughter helps to spread the disease!  Will Batman be able to stop The Clown Prince of Crime? Or will The Joker get the last laugh?

Scott Snyder has enjoyed a successful run on Batman, but I fear that he may have tripped over the finish line with this issue. The end of this chapter - coupled with the back-up story by James Tynion IV - suggests a para-natural origin for The Joker.  While the concept of The Joker as a metaphorical agent of primordial Chaos is a well explored avenue, actually making him some manner of immortal monster does a disservice to the core concept of the character. More than likely this is all a fake-out but the possibility they might go this route seems real enough.  Then again, that may be the joke...

Thankfully, the artwork continues to be as excellent as ever.  Greg Capullo and Danny Miki provide their usual quality performance for the main story. The back-up this month is seen to by John McCrea, whose disturbing, cartoonish style is a good fit for the horrific legend about the first clown to curse Gotham City.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Doctor Who: Engines of War - A Book Review

The Great Time War has raged for centuries and across millenniums. Scores of worlds have been destroyed by the machinations of both The Daleks and The Time Lords. And it is in The Tantalus Eye - a nebula now dominated by Dalek forces - that the Time Lord once known as The Doctor crash-lands after the fleet of Battle TARDISes that he was leading is destroyed.

It is on the world of Moldox that he will meet Cinder - a human Dalek hunter rebelling against the occupying Dalek forces.  This puzzles the Time Lord, as Daleks never use slave labor unless they are building something. But what could they be building on the outskirts of the galactic rim?

The answers will unearth a terrifying secret and send the two warriors from the slums of Moldox to the gleaming towers of Gallifrey and back. For The Daleks are not alone in having secrets. And in order to save billions of lives, an embittered old soldier must become The Doctor once more.

The most regrettable thing about Engines of War is its finality. It spoils little to say that this story is The War Doctor's lead-up into the events of The Day Of The Doctor and we get to see the exact chain of events that lead to him uttering the immortal words 'No More". This does make the climax of the book somewhat predictable, as the exact ending is clearly foreshadowed.

The events leading up to that ending, however, are some of the best writing I've seen in any Doctor Who novel to date.  And George Mann is to be hailed for how much drama he wrings out of what could have been a dry, by-the-book pastiche. Gruff and crusty though he may be, The War Doctor is still a likable hero and Cinder is now on my top-ten companions list.

There's a fair amount of continuity for long-time fans of the series, but nothing newcomers will prove unable to cope with.  Fans of the classic series will no doubt enjoy the references to The Five Doctors and The Deadly Assassin. And if nothing else this book is noteworthy for confirming that the Rassilon we see in The End of Time is indeed THAT Rassilon and that the depravity he got up to behind closed doors was even worse than the plans he discussed openly.

Bottom Line: If you're a Doctor Who fan of any age or era, you should check out Engines of War.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three #12 - A Review

As The Phantom Stranger confronts The Spectre on the Saturn moon of Mimas, The Demon Etrigan attacks The Hall of Justice. Even with the power of a Sinestro Corps ring, Superman may be hard pressed to fight the fires of Hell. But who is the "form of Man" that now controls Etrigan?

Detractors of the New 52 universe will love this issue if for no other reason than it makes it clear that, in the reality of Injustice, the identity of The Phantom Stranger is kept a mystery. This is a shame, because there are so many other reasons to admire Tom Taylor's script for this issue.  The surprising identity of Etrigan's new host, for instance...

Bruno Redondo and Mike S. Miller tag-team the artwork on this issue, with inks provided by Juan Albarran and colors by Rex Lokus.  They all do their usual stellar job, to the surprise of no one.  At least, no one who has been following this series and grown accustomed to the high quality artwork that these creators bring to every issue of Injustice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Batgirl #37 - A Review

An impostor Batgirl is making Barbara Gordon's life difficult.  Bad enough that the faux Dark Knight Damsel has been impersonating her on-line.  Now the copycat is helping criminals and posing for sexualized artwork!  Worst of all, they seem to know her secret identity!

The new direction of this series is starting to grow on me.  Brazen Gail Simone fanboy that I am, I do miss the old tone of Batgirl.  But the book's new attitude is not a bad one, driven as it is by modern trends and selfie culture.  Trying to write Barbara Gordon as a college-age woman dealing with the society that real twenty-something women have to cope with is not a bad idea at all and pitting Barbara against an enemy who exemplifies the worst aspects of that culture is a brilliant conceit. The artwork emulates that same level of manic energy and even when the characters are at rest there is a grand sense of motion to everything.

I was going to say something about the controversy sparked by this issue.  Yet I find that my former Comics Nexus colleague - noted comics expert and LGBT activist Dr. Manolis Vamvounis - has already said everything I wished to say and with far greater authority than I could ever muster.  Suffice it to say, I believe that the shock and disbelief expressed by Barbara and the crowds upon the fake-Batgirl's unmasking was honest shock and disbelief and not based upon any kind of prejudice on the part of the creative team.

John Carter: Warlord of Mars #2 - A Review

John Carter is used to facing bad odds. Yet  the current state of affairs on Barsoom is bleak by even his standards. The city-state of Helium has been captured, his warrior-queen Dejah is in bondage and the enemy responsible is a treacherous soldier who has chased him all the way from Earth seeking revenge. Thankfully, John Carter is also used to finding allies in the most unexpected places and he will need the gift of diplomacy as much as his superhuman abilities and fighting skills to succeed.

Ron Marz's script captures the aesthetic of the old pulp adventures with style.  The story here is not a subtle one but it is not meant to be.  This tale is a melodrama where the heroes are heroic, the women as bold as they are beautiful and the villain is one step away from twirling his mustache as he kills a captive just to prove he is willing and capable of doing so.

The artwork matches the script in its epic scope.  Abhishek Malsuni perfectly portrays the awesome grandeur of Edgar Rice Burrough's world.  The inks by Zsolt H. Garisa enhance the artwork without obscuring the original pencils.  And the dry, dead world of Mars has never seemed quite so alive with color as under Nanjan Jamberi's palettes.

The Flash: Season Zero #8 - A Review

Here it is!  The Big Finale under The Big Top, as The Flash faces off against Mister Bliss and his Fabulous Freaks! Can Barry Allen prevail against an army of murderous clowns, a car-crushing strongman and a mind-controlling ring-master?

Yes.  Yes he can.  Unfortunately, this final battle falls flat and ends anti-climatically.  Thankfully, most of the issue isn't concerned with the fight so much as it is with the aftermath.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of the battle raises more questions than it answers, such as what happens to the snake-charming woman Barry had to save from Bliss when she turned on him?  Has she been imprisoned in The Pipeline among with the rest of the circus?  And looking at the cells in the make-shift metahuman prison, those inclined to ponder such things are bound to ask questions about the lack of toilets.

Though the fight is a bit lackluster, this comic is still likely to provide amusement to fans of the show through the comedic dialogue and the trivia relating to the show.  For instance, this issue establishes that this story took place sometime between the third and fourth episode of the show, owing to the facts that The Pipeline exists and Barry is already subsisting on the super-protein bars Cisco first started making in the second episode. Also, the issue ends with Barry running off to face Captain Cold for the first time.
The artwork continues to be decent but unspectacular.  Phil Hester is a great artist but his firm, darker style seems at odds with the more fluid tone one expects of The Flash.  The inks of Eric Gapstur only compound the problem, with the finished artwork seeming more appropriate to a urban-action or horror title than the brighter, more colorful world of Central City.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Justice League United #7 - A Review

It appears that the cast of Justice League United are as bored with this crossover with The Legion of Superheroes as I am.  At the very least, Animal Man and Green Arrow are fed up with it.  Both of them make wisecracks about how many damned Legionaries there are and how hard it is to keep track of all of them in this issue!

Jeff Lemire tries his best to keep the story moving but the inertia of The Legion continues to hold him back.  It doesn't matter that he slips in some quick gags such as Animal Man and Timberwolf sniffing each other.  The story never bothered to explain who Timberwolf was for the readers who aren't already intimately familiar with every single member of The Legion, their powers and their personalities... or lack thereof!

The artwork this month is an improvement.  Neil Edwards' figures are still forced and stiff, but this is less obvious in the splash pages that dominate the second half of the comic.  Strangely, though this issue features two inkers, the finishes on the comic seem less erratic than they did last month when only one inker was assigned to the book.

Bitch Planet #1 - A Review

To say that Bitch Planet defied my expectations would be an understatement. The series was originally described to me as as a satire of sexploitation - a feminist reworking of the classic Grindhouse pictures of yore, specifically targeting movies like Black Mama White Mama and Chained Heat with a sci-fi twist. Technically that is true, but it is as helpful in describing this series as saying that the sun as "a big hot thing that can kill you."

In truth, I'm reluctant to describe Bitch Planet as science-fiction because of the optimistic connotations that go along with that phrase. Yes, it does take place in the future on another planet, but this is not Star Trek. The world of Bitch Planet is no Utopia, unless you're a Gamergate supporter or an Evangelic Christian. Let us instead call it Future Fiction, for the story of Bitch Planet is a cautionary tale akin to It Can't Happen Here or The Handmaiden's Tale.

We don't get any details of how this Earth came into existence. In truth, we don't need any. It is enough for us to know that, on this version of Earth, women who fail to conform to society's expectations are shot into space and put to work off-world on an "auxiliary compliance outpost" known as Bitch Planet.  This goes beyond simply sending away murderers and career criminals - it also includes sending away feminists, women who are overweight and wives who fail to submit to their husband's authority! Or wives whose husbands got sick of them and decided to trade them in for a newer model.

Far-fetched? Not really. As an essay by Danielle Henderson of Feminist Ryan Gosling in the back of the book notes, what we see in Bitch Planet is only a slight exaggeration of what is expected of women in modern American culture.  Any woman who fails to live up to the zeitgeist of what is proper runs the risk of becoming an outcast of the culture. And while Kelly Sue DeConnick explores these issues in the midst of a prison riot in space, that does not make the reality of these issues any less serious.

The artwork by Valentine De Landro subtly evokes the same B-movie aesthetic as the script.  For instance, the point-of-view shots linger on nude women in the background but are more modestly framed in the close-ups.  It is a small touch, but one that emulates a time-honored technique used in exploitation films, as the creators could argue with the censors that you really couldn't see the nudity if it is further away.

There is much to recommend Bitch Planet beyond its artistry in emulating the worst aspects of a low art-form. It stands on its own merits as a warning, a satire and a ripping yarn. And if nothing else, it is worth buying in order to piss off some people who need to be pissed off on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Constantine Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 8 - The Saint of Last Resorts: Part One

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


When something monstrous starts kidnapping newborns in Mexico City, an old lover of John's calls him for help. Reluctantly, as it turns out, as Annie (now Sister Anne Marie) was part of the Newcastle crew and her trust in John is as limited as the local police's ability to deal with the idea of a baby-snatching demon.  And as Chas and John head south, the past Zed has been running from finally catches up to her.


Swamp Thing #37
(introduction of Anne Marie, The Brujeria and The Invunche), Hellblazer: Original Sins (The Resurrection Crusade and Zed's background) Hellblazer #11 (references to The Newcastle Incident) and the writing of Alan Moore in general.


While no reference is made to her exact age on the show, it seems unlikely that Anne Marie is older than John.  At least, she can't be old enough to speak about him having been a 15 year old kid when they met.


The chemistry between Matt Ryan and Claire van der Boom is quite good and the two really do come off as a pair of estranged ex-lovers.


The direction and editing on this episode is top-notch, with some very effective "freak-out" moments.  The scene of John and Annie talking alone in the church is particularly well-framed and John's fight with Lamashtu at the fountain is truly terrifying with its up-close camera-placement simulating the claustrophobia of a drowning victim.  And the effects for The Invunche are film-worthy to say nothing of being really scary!

Pub Trivia

Much of the Arcana from this episode is taken from Swamp Thing #37, which was also the comic that introduced Anne Marie as a character.  This comic also introduced The Brujeria as a menace for John Constantine to fight against and The Invunche as their guard dog.

Not surprisingly, given his penchant for research and reputation as a scholar of magic, Alan Moore stayed very close to the original Chilote folklore regarding Invunche and Brujeria in his story.

In the original comics, John described Anne Marie as "fat, forty and secretly in love with me."  She was a psychic and a groupie for John's band.  The two never slept together.  Her counterpart on Constantine is younger and in better shape.  However, both became nuns as a result of the Newcastle incident.

Reference is made to the demon Pazuzu. While this is the name of a real demon in Babylonian mythology, it is also the name of the demon from The Exorcist.

In the first issue of the comic Warrior (1982) Alan Moore claimed to be possessed by Pazuzu.


John says that Anne Marie has the power of bilocation - the ability to be in two places at once.  This ability is usually the province of saints, sufis and other holy men. In practice, what Anne Marie does seems to be closer to astral projection - the ability to send one's mind outside of the body - on account of Anne Marie isn't physically in John's house and the image of her body cannot be touched.

John identifies the strange creature that Zed draws as an Invunche - also know as an Imbunche.  Invunches are a creature from Chilote folklore.  They are similar to golems in that they are crafted magical beings.  However, invunches are inherently evil and created by warlocks as guard dogs for their lairs.

Invunches are created from first-born sons, who had not been baptized within nine days of their birth.  The baby would have its head twisted backwards and one of its feet sewn to the back of its neck.

John says there haven't been any Invunche since before the last great Biblical flood but is proven wrong about this point by episode's end.

John crafts a Purification Bowl for the trip to Mexico, saying he lost his last good one in Puerto Rico. A purification bowl can do the job of a priest and bless any water placed in it, turning it into holy water.

According to John, many wall-dwelling supernatural beings target children. Among these are Faeries, Duendes (a Latin American pixie, similar to a goblin) and nursery demons.

Rune stones can be used in conjunction with the right spell to identify various paranormal entities at a crime scene.  This generally works with most of the baby-snatching entities, as they aren't clever enough to cover their tracks.  However, powerful and clever entities can use magic to block the scrying and set the runes on fire.

John is mistaken for El Cuycuy - the Mexican equivalent of The Boogeyman - by one of the nuns.  The Cuycuy is also a kidnapper and eater of children.

Many cultures believe that burying the placenta of a baby under a tree on the family's property brings good fortune.

John knows a spell that can determine if a baby is still alive or dead using the placenta as a link.

According to John, the kidnapper is one of the demon goddesses of Hell - specifically, one of Eve's sisters who refused to submit to Adam and chose an eternity in Hell over a lifetime on Earth. He names four of the Sisters of Eve - Lilith, Durgia, Naamah and Lamashtu.

In Jewish folklore, Lilith was Adam's first wife, created from the Earth as he was. For this reason, she refused to be subservient to Adam and left the Garden of Eden. She would later copulate with demons and other spirits, giving birth to all manner of monster.

Durgia seems to be another spelling for Durga. Durga is one incarnation of the Hindu goddess Shakti, who is the personification of feminine creative power and motherhood.  Durga is perhaps best known to Western culture by the name of her most fierce aspect - Kali.

In Jewish mysticism, Naamah was a demoness who caused epilepsy in young children. A frequent cohort of Lilith - she, like Lilith, gave birth to a number of monsters and plagues.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Lamashtu was a demonness who menaced mothers and newborn children.  Whenever possible, she would kidnap babies that were still breastfeeding, suck their blood, eat the flesh and eventually gnaw on the bones.  John identifies her as the youngest of Eve's sister and calls her "a glorified vampire".

John's switchblade is capable of harming demons.

John knows The Brujeria as a legendary group of warlocks from Chile, who have existed since prehistoric times. John believes they died out a long time ago but the truth is that they have been in hiding for a long time.  Legend has it they were so wicked that not even Hell would take them in.

In the real world, Brujeria is a term for witchcraft and may refer to any coven of witches or warlocks.  It is not the name of a specific, larger group.

John quickly figures out that Le Brujeria are the rising darkness he has been recruited to fight.

John is able to craft an illusion using a raw chicken and Hugo's blood that makes the chicken appear to be a baby of Hugo's bloodline.

Pazuzu is the Babylonian demon king of the winds and a bringer of drought and destructive storms.  While an evil spirit, he is also frequently invoked by exorcists to banish other evil spirits.  His power is most frequently invoked by amulets carrying his icon and his sworn rival is Lamathsu.

Lamastu is in the employ of La Brujeria because they have figured out a way to break the boundaries between Hell and Earth, allowing the demons to openly walk The Earth without restriction.

Dialogue Triumphs

I always figured that one of us would flee to Mexico, but I thought there'd be tequila involved. Or skinny dipping.

Chas: (To Anne Marie) He'd rather risk your feelings than any other part of you. That's how... he deals with the pain. John has one thing that makes his life worth a damn and he can't do it if he lets anyone in too close.  Like he did with you.

(When trying to talk Anne Marie into helping him con a demon)
John: No price is too high to save the innocent.

Anne Marie: (To John) I can see it now. It's not that you don't care. It's that you can't care about anybody and do what you do.

John: No, no, no,  You shoot that, it's gonna attack us for sure.
Anne Marie: No, John. It will attack you.
(John looks at her shocked as she aims the gun at him)
Anne Marie: "No price is too high to save the innocent."
John: Oh, you're a quick study, love...


Zed makes reference to still recovering from Kentucky, where she and John traveled in 107.

Touching a fallen angel's heart has inspired Zed to sketch Biblical imagery, including Noah's Ark during The Flood and a picture of an angel.

John reveals that Anne Marie was part of his crew for The Newcastle Incident and that he owes her a favor.

Zed speaks fluent Spanish. John does not.

The hideaway has magical traps that can protect whoever is inside from intruders. It also has a doorway that leads into a dark and stormy abyss.  Zed uses this room to get rid of one of her would-be captors.

John and Anne Marie slept together once.  We later find out that it was the night before The Newcastle Incident and that John left their bed to go bar hopping, looking for other girls to sleep with.

It was Anne Marie who brought John into the occult scene when he was 15 years old.

Anne Marie makes reference to Gary Lester, who we saw in 104 and Ritchie Simpson from 101. She also mentions another member of the Newcastle Crew - Judith.

Zed never took art lessons until recently.

John is good enough at reading people by the tones of their voice that he is able to figure out the gist of a conversation without understanding a word of it.

John makes another reference to the bloodline curse magic practice by gypsies, as he did in 102.

Eddie calls Zed by the name Mary. She reacts violently to it and makes reference to having been locked in a room for most of her life.

Eddie is killed by his fellow Crusaders, shot in the head after Zed threatens to slit his throat.

One again, John is seen smoking on the porch at Hugo's grandmother's house.


Mexico City, Mexico

Untelevised Adventures

John lost his best purification bowl on a trip to Puerto Rico.

The Fridge Factor

Averted, for the most part.  Zed holds her own pretty well until she is snuck upon by a man with a hypodermic full of sedative.

The Bottom Line

As an adaptation of the original comics, it works quite well.  As an hour or horrifying television, it works VERY well. A wonderful episode with a truly shocking cliffhanger that will leave you in desperate need of Part Two..

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 9 - The Climb

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


Nyssa Al Ghul returns to Starling City with an ultimatum.  Team Arrow has 48 hours in which to bring Sara Lance's killer to justice or the League starts killing civilians. As Laurel Lance receives an unexpected visit from her mother and Ray Palmer gives Felicity an unexpected offer, Oliver will begin a long journey to face Ra's Al Ghul directly.

In the flashbacks, Oliver and Maseo race to beat Chien Na Wei to a deadly bio-weapon called The Omega Virus.  But Wa is one step ahead of them and their actions may hold deadly consequences for Maseo's family!


The Batman and Green Arrow comics of Dennis O'Neil.


You'd really think Ollie would be wearing gloves and covering his face if he's going to climb a mountain in the middle of a snowstorm.

Why does Laurel ask Thea not to tell Oliver that Sara is dead?  Oliver already knows!

This episode - and indeed much of this past season - have done a real disservice to Quentin Lance's detective skills. Suddenly he can't tell when Laurel is lying to him even when it is blatantly obvious to her mother (Yes, yes - mother's intuition and all that.  But the man is a freaking detective!).

Laurel's argument that the news of her sister's death would kill her father has never seemed so ridiculous as when she states it here - first to Thea and then to her own mother. It is the height of arrogance on Laurel's part to assume that her father can't handle this kind of shock and it shows how little the character of Laurel has progressed from the lying drug-addicted opportunist of Season Two. To say nothing of how horrible a person Laurel is for planning to endanger herself as a vigilante in some kind of half-assed attempt to find Sara's killer, not thinking of what it will do to Quentin if Laurel gets killed trying and failing to beat up a mugger.

For that matter, why wasn't Laurel assisting with the investigation at any point in the past year? There's a fair bit she could have done to help Felicity with analyzing the evidence from the D.A.'s office...


Matt Nable turns in a stately performance as Ra's Al Ghul.  Some fans quibbled at this casting, particularly after Liam Neeson said he would have liked to have played Ra's again on the Arrow. Still, Nable has the necessary charisma and gravitas to bring life to one of comics' greatest anti-villains and one can't help but sense that he truly does regret the need to kill Oliver Queen as Ra's, in the comics, might wish to avoid killing "The Detective".

Alex Kingston is honestly wasted in her brief cameo as Dinah Lance.  Still, there is a certain fierceness in her performance here that works quite well for the one good line she has.


All of the fight scenes are well choreographed, particularly the final one between Ra's Al Ghul and Oliver.


Shirtless sword duels are something of a tradition in stories featuring Ra's Al Ghul. The first one occurred at the climax of Ra's first appearance in Batman #252. Written by the legendary Dennis O'Neil (who also revamped Oliver Queen into a social crusader around the same time), this issue was later adapted into an episode of Batman: The Animated Series - The Demon's Quest -  by O'Neil himself.  A clip of the famous sword fight from that episode may be viewed here.

The snowman ornaments that Thea places on her tree with her and Ollie's name are wearing ribbons of their respective colors - red and green.

Ra's Al Ghul says it has been 67 years since anyone challenged him to a duel.  This means he hasn't been challenged since 1947.  More, this means that Lazarus Pits must exist in the reality of the DCTVU, since Ra's does not appear to be that old and indeed does not have any of the scars one would expect to see on an experienced warrior.

In the comics, The Lazarus Pits are a naturally-occurring phenomena similar to the legendary Fountain of Youth.  Ra's Al Ghul discovered The Pits and their unique alchemical properties as a young healer. The Lazarus Pits can heal any injury and even restore the dead to life. Once a pit is used, it is burned up and exhausted forever, though Ra's daughter Nyssa was said to have discovered a way to use the Pits indefinitely.


The DNA sample on the arrows that killed Sara Lance was taken from perspiration on the arrows. The sample matches 12 of the 13 STR (short tandem repeats) s in Oliver Queen's DNA.

Votura is a plant native to South America, which thrives in Corto Maltese.  It can be used to prepare a drug that renders a person suggestible and erases their memory.  It is thus drug that is used by Chien Na Wei to control her agents and by Merlyn to brainwash Thea into killing Sara Lance.

Ray Palmer developed a microprocessor with a SPECint score just over 9000.

Dialogue Triumphs

One man's agony is not worth the life of an entire city.

(After tossing the pilot through a window)
Pilot: Please! All I do is fly the plane!
The Arrow: Quiet! (holds up a photo of Merlyn) The man in this photo - did you fly him from Corto Maltese to Starling City?
Pilot: (trying hard not to look up) No!
(The Arrow hands the photo to Arsenal and picks the pilot up)
The Arrow: This time...look at the photo!

Oliver; You know I figured, when I spared the life of the man who killed my mother, I would never kill again. (Oliver forces Merlyn down on the bar and begins strangling him) I was wrong.
Merlyn: You might want to reconsider.
Oliver: Why?!
Merlyn: For Thea!  (Ollie's phone begins to ring) Check your phone.  I can wait.
(Ollie looks at his phone. It plays video footage of Thea killing Sara)
Merlyn: I don't think you want The League to see that. And if you kill me, they will.

Oliver: You've given her a death sentence!
Merlyn: No. What I've done is given you incentive.
Oliver: To do what?
Merlyn: To tell Ra's that you killed Sara Lance. By right you will be given a trial by combat. With Ra's.  His death will erase any blood debt from his reign. Including Thea's.
Oliver: And yours.
Merlyn: I have to be honest. It was my concern the whole killing thing would have been a deal-breaker for you. But I'm gratified to see that Thea is still sufficient motivation for you. Don't take too long making up your mind. Ra's isn't known for his patience.

(As Ollie confesses to Sara's murder)
Ra's Al Ghul: I should have Sarab cleave your head from your shoulders. Not for killing my daughter's beloved but for thinking me a fool.

Laurel: Mom, can I tell you something? Whoever killed Sara, I'm going to find them no matter what it takes and I am going to make them pay.
Dinah: Then you make them pay. And you make them suffer.

(Upon being informed of the A.T.O.M. project and Ray's desire for her to help him protect the city.)
Felicity: Why does this keep happening to me?

Oliver: Felicity, I honestly don't know if I'm a killer anymore, but I do know two things. The first is that whoever I am, I'm someone who will do whatever, whatever it takes to save my sister.
Felicity: And the second thing?
Oliver: I love you.

Ra's Al Ghul: I was eleven years old when I killed my first man. I remember the look on his face when the light went out behind his eyes. Such a sudden change. Almost imperceptible. Between Life and Death. And I felt ashamed. I had stolen from that man the most precious gift of all - Life. But I also felt something else - Pride. Because I had taken up arms against someone who sought to do ill against my family.  I realized what I had done was necessary. You see, I have replaced Evil with Death. And that is what The League exists to do. And I have killed several thousand more men since then. And the world is better off for it.


Maseo is revealed to have joined The League of Assassins. He now uses the name Sarab, which is Arabic for phantom or mirage.

Sarab joined The League of Assassins at the same time as Sara Lance.

The League's traditions demand that they kill 50 people in every city where a murder took place until the killer is brought to justice.

Felicity gets the DNA sample of Sara's killer back from Caitlin Snow, which she originally gave Caitlin in F108.

Felicity matches the DNA sample to the one the police took from Oliver Queen in A105.

Diggle refers to the events of A303 and how Thea and Merlyn were both out of the country when Sara died.

As in A301, Ray Palmer pings Felicity's phone to track her down.

Ray Palmer had a fiance named Anna who was killed during the events of A223.

Tatsu is abducted by Chien Na Wei after the two fight a duel with katanas.

Oliver refers to Slade Wilson killing his mother in A220.

The laws of The League of Assassins allow a confessed murderer the right to trial by combat. This duel must be fought by the current leader of the League of Assassins. If the leader loses this duel, any blood debts owed to the League will be forgiven.  The challenger is given 12 hours to settle their affairs and is expected to meet the League's Leader at a predetermined site on consecrated ground.

When they were cchildren Laurel wanted to be a cop. Sara Lance wanted to be a doctor.

Ray Palmer changed the OMAC Project of Queen Consolidated into ATOM - Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism.

When Ollie is saying his farewells, he hugs Roy, shakes hands with Diggle and kisses Felicity on the forehead before telling her he loves her.

It is customary for the duels of the League of Assassins to be fought shirtless.

Ra's Al Ghul was 11 when he killed his first man.


The sacred dueling grounds of The League of Assassins.

The Fridge Factor

We find out Ray Palmer's motivation for his work and wanting to make Starling City a safer place is the death of his fiance, who was killed by Slade Wilson's men.

The Bottom Line

A great episode with a hell of a cliffhanger.  January 21st can't come fast enough!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 9 - The Man In The Yellow Suit

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


After half a lifetime of searching, Barry encounters the man who killed his mother - a man in a yellow suit with speed that surpasses his own!  Cisco and Dr. Wells think they can help catch the killer, but only with the help of Detective West and a tachyon device from their rival, Mercury Labs. Meanwhile, Eddie Thawne asks Iris a big question and Caitlin discovers that her fiancee, Ronnie Raymond, is still alive and in possession of metahuman powers!


The Flash: Rebirth (the concept of Barry Allen's worst enemy killing his mother) and The Flash #139 (the introduction of The Reverse Flash).


Carlos Valdes - usually the plucky comic relief as Cisco Ramon - gets a number of quieter moments here where he shows that while he may have been cast in this role for his comedic timing, he can handle the serious, softer drama as well.  We see this both in his wordless reaction to Caitlin's heart breaking as she talks about how she regrets the "one more minute" she got with the love of her life and his quite talk with Joe West about a second speedster being there when Barry's mother was murdered.


The opening chase scene with Barry chasing after The Reverse Flash.

Flash Facts

In the comics, the Reverse Flash (aka Professor Zoom)  was a man named Eobard Thawne.  Thawne was born in the 25th century and a major Flash fanboy. So much so that he had plastic surgery to make himself look like Barry Allen (whose secret identity was known by that time) and spent his family fortune trying to replicate the accident that gave Barry his powers so he could go back in time and fight alongside his hero.  Thawne was successful, save that he miscalculated how far he needed to go back and he arrived just a few years after Barry Allen's death. Once there, he discovered - through a display in the Flash Museum - that Barry Allen was attacked by a villain whose name was unknown to the historians of his time - a man named Eobard Thawne.  Faced with the idea that he was destined to become an enemy of the man he admired most, Thawne went crazy and evil.

In the comics, Tina McGee was a college student, majoring in nutrition, who received a grant to study Wally West's metabolism.  The two dated for a time but remained close friends after their break-up.  Tina eventually became the head of STAR Labs Central City branch and assisted Wally with a number of cases.

Tina McGee was also the name of the female lead on the 1990's The Flash TV series.  There, she was a STAR Labs scientist who helped Barry Allen with understanding and controlling  his powers. She was played by actress Amanda Pays, who also plays Tina McGee in the current The Flash show.

The new version of Tina McGee's full name is Christina McGee.  She's the head of Mercury Labs, which was STAR Labs biggest rival until the night of the particle accelerator explosion.  She has a dislike for Harrison Wells which seems to go beyond professional rivalry and she compares Barry to Harrison unfavorably after Barry threatens to send the professional scientific journals after her digging for information on her latest projects when she refuses to let the police borrow her technology as bait for a trap for The Reverse Flash.

Mercury Labs is named after Mercury - the messenger of the Roman Gods, who was said to possess amazing speed.  The common artistic depictions of Mercury inspired the costume of the first Flash, Jay Garrick. Many mythological scholars have correlated the legends of Mercury to modern superhero comics starring The Flash.

In his Firestorm form, Ronnie Raymond's eyes glow white - just like in the comics.

As in the comics, Firestorm is capable of flight.

The ring that Wells uses to open his secret room has a The Flash insignia.  In the comics, Barry Allen used such a ring to hide his costume, which he kept folded up VERY tightly within a secret compartment in the ring.  When he needed to change into The Flash, he could just open the ring and have the costume spring out so he could change into it unseen at super-speed.


The Reverse Flash tries to rob the Superluminal Development Lab at Mercury Labs.  Superluminal is the scientific term for "faster than light".  It is used in reference to superluminal motion - the idea that some objects (particularly radio galaxies and quasars) are capable of moving faster than the speed of light - and superluminal communication, which theorizes that we might be able to transmit electronic information at speeds faster than light.

Barry notes that the blood-splatter pattern found at Mercury Labs is consistent with that in a high-speed collision.

Tachyons are theoretical particles capable of faster-than-light travel. Although their existence has yet to be proven, their theoretical effects play a major role in defining modern physics. Tachyons are routinely referenced in modern science-fiction as the key to time travel,   Dr. Wells states that tachyons could be used to make a person capable of faster-than-light travel and could well render a person invincible.

The trap for The Reverse Flash creates an electronic barrier using super-capacitors.

Cisco is able to track Ronnie by following a trail of ionized particles he leaves in his wake with a meter that measures the radiation emitted in counts per minute (CPMs).  The CPMs increase the closer they get to Ronnie.

Dialogue Triumphs

Nora: If I turn this light off now, would you be scared?
Young Barry: No.
Nora: That's because I'm here with you. See, you're not afraid of the dark, Barry. You're afraid of being alone in the dark. And that goes away when you realize something. You're never really alone.

Barry: It was you!  You were the one in my house that night! You killed my mother!  Why?!
The Reverse Flash: If you want to know that, you're going to have to catch me.

The Reverse Flash: It is your destiny to lose to me, Flash. Just as it was your mother's destiny to die that night.

Dr. Wells: The reason I know all this is because your powers are almost exactly the same as The Flash!
The Reverse Flash: Well, I'm not like The Flash at all.  Some would say I'm the reverse.

Joe: When you first moved in with us, I thought it was going to be too much. I was already a single dad. Finances were tough. And you were a little boy who just lost his mother. But,man, I was wrong. Within two weeks you changed the whole dynamic of the house. Suddenly the house was filled with this light, this energy. I mean, you brightened up everything. You've seen more darkness than any man will in a lifetime and you never let it dim your soul. So there I was thinking that I'm changing your life by taking you in, but the truth is you changed mine. So don't lose that light, now, Bar. The world may need The Flash, but I need my Barry Allen.

Dialogue Disasters

You're too close to this!
Barry: Well maybe you're not close enough!


Barry's Christmas gift to Iris is a replica of her mother's wedding bands, which Iris lost while on a field trip in 5th Grad.  She gets him a new microscope.

Grandma Esther West has a famous eggnog recipe with a liberal definition of  what "light on the bourbon" means.

Eddie asks Iris to move in with him.

Dr. Wells has a deep hatred of Stephen Hawking.

Joe tells Barry about being attacked by The Man In The Yellow Suit back in F106.  The figure not only threatened Iris' life but also stole all the evidence in Nora Allen's case file.

Barry was afraid of the dark as a child or- according to his mother - being alone.

Barry confesses his love to Iris, who says nothing in response, though she does cry a little.

The field fails to contain The Reverse Flash.  At least, he is able to pull Wells into the field and deliver a beating to him.

Firestorm tells Caitlin not to look for him again.

Joe tells Eddie about the existence of metahumans and that he knows who The Flash is, but that The Flash saved their lives.

Dr. Wells promises Caitlin they will bring Ronnie home.

Barry has a snow -globe of Tower Bridge in London, that belonged to his mom.  She got it while she was traveling Europe after college.

Cisco figures out - based on Barry's memories of the night his mother was killed - that there must have been two speedsters present: The Man In The Yellow Suit and another one.

Dr. Wells has a ring with a Flash insignia that is used to open a second closet in his secret closet.  This closet contains The Reverse Flash costume .  At the end of the episode, he fits the costume with a harness utilizing the tachyon device from Mercury Labs.

The Fridge Factor

There is a painful attempt to try and pair up the series' only two female characters for a scene in order to pass the Bechdel Test.  Too bad the only thing Iris and Caitlin have in common to talk about together is Barry Allen and Iris's blog entries on The Burning Man.

The Bottom Line

A fitting mid-season conclusion that advances all the major plot-lines without really resolving any of them. Just when we think we have the answers, we're left with more questions. And that is as it should be in both science and in science fiction.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three #11 - A Review

Left with few allies in the wake of their failed attack on Superman, Batman and John Constantine puzzle out the prophecy of Madame Xanadu and plot their next move. Meanwhile, The Phantom Stranger questions The Spectre and it becomes clear that something is not right with The Spirit of Vengeance. And in order to get at Superman, The Resistance may have to raise a demon that even John Constantine is reluctant to summon...

I've said before that Tom Taylor has done a fine job of adding little moments of humor and character into this series and that's certainly true of this issue.  Little touches such as Catwoman playing with Karlion The Witchboy's familiar Teekl or Harley Quinn's continuing to call out Dr. Fate on not being a real doctor help to lighten the tone of the story as more serious characters discuss the dark business of killing Superman.  What I've never noted, however, is Taylor's boldness as a writer and if having Detective Chimp wearing a T-shirt mocking Rocket Raccoon on the same day that Guardians of the Galaxy is released on DVD in the USA isn't bold, I don't know what is!

The artwork matches the script in courage and audacity.  Bruno Redondo captures the cosmic scope of both The Phatnom Stranger and The Spectre perfectly, depicting them walking on the rings of Saturn!  And inker and finisher Xermanico does a fine job of enhancing Redondo's pencils, going far beyond offering mere outlines and shading.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Arrow: Season 2.5 #8 - A Review

Poisoned by a new Vertigo variant, Oliver Queen is running amok. Hallucinating that his dead loved ones have come back to haunt him, Ollie put a major hurt on John Diggle, who was just barely able to escape to the Arrow Cave.  Good thing Sara Lance just got back into town and The Canary is on the case!

There isn't much action to this issue of Arrow: Season 2.5 and what action there is proves surprisingly brief.  Another surprise is that Joe Bennett seems to be a little off his game this week, with some of his characters oddly posed throughout the book - particular Canary in her fight with Arrow!  Still, Marc Guggenheim delivers some fun and witty dialogue as Round Two with Brother Blood and his followers is set up.  More, he appears to drop some hints regarding a certain mastermind with a league of his own and how it might be possible for several characters thought dead to have come back.

I fear I'm becoming a broken record with this comment but I have to say it again.  The only thing wrong with the Suicide Squad back-up comic is that it is too short!  Szymon Kudranski's artwork is amazing and Keto Shimizu's script manages to convey the personalities of both Deadshot and Bronze Tiger, though they barely have any dialogue at all!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Earth 2 #29 - A Review

The Earth 2: World's End weekly series introduced us to the Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon of Earth 2.  On this world, Barbara Gordon is a Chicago cop and her husband (yes shippers, they are married in this world!) is a journalist.  They have a son together. They're struggling to survive in the wasteland that is Chicago in the wake of the attacks of the Furies of Apokalips.

That is the Alpha and Omega of everything we've learned about the characters so far.  Given that Babs and Dick are two of my favorite characters, I was looking forward to this issue, which featured Barbara in a defensive position on the cover.  Gun in hand, ready to defend her child and kick some ass as only a redhead from Chicago can.

Sadly, the adage about judging a book by its cover has never been more accurate. Barbara spends most of the issue as a hostage and the story is told from Dick's point of view. It is Dick who is pressed into action when they are abducted by a doomsday cult and Barbara is chosen as a sacrifice to a captured Parademon. While the story of the pacifist Dick choosing to turn to heroism to save the woman he loves is an interesting one, it is still disappointing to see Barbara Gordon placed in the damsel-in-distress role even if it is acknowledged how unnatural that is for this version of Barbara.

The pencil work by Andy Smith is just odd.  Most of the characters seem remarkably clean and well groomed for people we've been told have been living in a ruined city.  The doomsday cult looks more like a group of college kids at a rave than a group of  dirty nihilists.  Worst of all, there's no continuity in the artwork, with Barbara losing the head wound that she had in the first part of the book just before she is taken to be fed to the Parademon.

All in all, this issue is something of a disappointment.  It isn't bad as such but it could have been so much better.

Green Arrow #37 - A Review

The mysterious Mia Dearden has been rescued and the reasons for her endangerment have been brought to light.  It seems she's the illegitimate daughter of billionaire philanthropist John King and she's gotten a hold of a list of thousands of "Kings Men" - bought officials ready to do whatever Mr. King wants. And what Mr. King wants right now is Seattle under his thumb and Green Arrow dead!

By all rights, I shouldn't like this new run on Green Arrow as much as I do.  Virtually all of the supporting cast has been jettisoned, with Felicity Smoak quickly sliding into the trusted techie role after only a single issue.  That sort of thing is normally a big no-no for me when it comes to established titles.

And yet, here it works to the book's benefit.  The honest truth is that for all the good Jeff Lemire did during his run on Green Arrow, he didn't do much to develop the supporting cast.  Most of the characters he introduced were unmemorable at best or outright annoying in the case of Ollie's half-sister Emiko.

For lack of a better way to say it, this comic just feels more like what a Green Arrow comic should feel like. Not only in terms of bringing in characters like Mia and Merlyn (he isn't identified by name in this issue but - c'mon, we all know who that archer in black is!) but in terms of setting Oliver up against an enemy who is a symbol of everything Oliver Queen should fight against - corruption and corporate power.  The final page of this issue is also a nod to the classic DC Comics of yesteryear and a relationship that has been sorely missed in The New 52 universe.

While some may quibble about the continuity of aesthetics between creative teams, I do not believe anyone can complain about the artwork on this issue.  Granted, my opinion may be biased as I'm a fan of Sampere and Glapion's previous work together on Batgirl but I do love the artwork on this book. The characters are all uniquely designed and the fights are well laid-out.  My one complaint is that colorist Gabe Eltaeb could try and offer a little more variety in the shades of yellow used to depict the many blond cast members.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Constantine Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 7 - Blessed Are The Damned

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


In the Kentucky town of Briarwood, a modern-day Lazarus has begun performing miracles in the church where he survived a close encounter with death while handling a rattlesnake.  Zed questions whether or not the Preacher Zachary is a willing pawn, but John doesn't care much either way. Because while the source of Zachary's power may be heavenly, the bill must come due eventually and someone will have to pay...


Hellblazer #5 
(the theme of religious faith accidentally tapping into dark forces), Hellblazer #66 (the idea that angels can have their hearts cut out and they still beat until entirely destroyed) and The Sandman: Seasons of Mists (the idea that angel's become mortal if their wings are destroyed)


The effects work for the ghouls look goofy as all get out, from the cheap make-up jobs to the lumbering ape-like movement of the actors.

It never is fully explained just why John was unable to take Imogen's feather from Zachary but Zed could. Zachary claims it is because John is evil, but Zachary is just as evil being a murderer, by classical Biblical terms.  Perhaps only evil people can handle a fallen angel's fathers but that wouldn't explain why Zed could handle it... unless she has a much darker secret in her past than we suspected.  It is possible that feathers can only be handled by one who has faith, which would explain why Zed and Zachary could handle it but John could't. This may not be a goof, but it is a confusing point.

Pub Trivia

John says that Chas is away visiting his daughter.  In the comics, Chas is indeed a father and his daughter's name is Geraldine.


Snake-handling (or Serpent-handling) is a tradition practiced by some evangelic Christian sects, particularly Pentecostals in the American South and Appalachian regions.  The theory is that those who are truly strong in their faith will be uninjured by the snake's bite.  The practice is discouraged by most denominations in modern times.

Faith-healing is another power claimed by some religious leaders, though few claim to have managed anything so unlikely as regenerating severed limbs.

John possesses a scythe blade that he claims he took from The Grim Reaper himself.  It proves capable of killing ghouls

Enochian is the language spoken by angels.  The first record of Enochian was transcribed by Dr. John Dee (the court magician of Queen Elizabeth I) and Edward Kelley (a spirit medium who worked with Dee), who called the language Celestial Speech or Angelic.  The name Enochian was applied to it by later scholars, based on Dee's assertion that the last human to know the language before him was the Biblical patriarch Enoch, father of Methuselah.

Magic has laws similar to the laws of thermodynamics, in that energy cannot come from nothing or, as John might put it, everything has a price.  In this case, the energy Zachary is using to heal people is being taken out of the immediate environment, resulting in all the fish in a pond close to his church dying and the people Zachary heals turning into ghouls.

Angels can be summoned using a magic circle in the same way as demons.

Dried myrtle can be used to attract angels when attempting a summoning.  Saying please also helps, according to Manny.

Guardian Angels, such as Manny, are assigned to watch over several mortals at once.  Manny notes that he does have things to do besides watch over John.

Angels use echo-location when flying.

Angels are rendered physical when their wings are damaged.  This is the only way an angel can manifest physically on Earth.

Pulling the feather from an angel's wing is apparently enough for it to be "damaged".

According to Manny, angels are heavy compartmentalized and they do not typically coordinate.  This is why he does not recognize Imogen despite sensing her power once he meets her and why - despite John's assertion to the contrary - Manny could not have sensed the injured angel any more easily than John could have.

Manny also notes that angels can die but that unlike humans their souls are extinguished completely and they cease to exist.

John knows a magic spell that creates a circle of protection from evil.  It requires the use of running water, which is a frequent bane for evil magical creatures in mythology, such as the rule that vampires cannot cross running water.  It is also effective in creating a circle that evil creatures cannot escape from.

A mortal who takes possession of an angel's feather can use the touch of the divine within it to perform miracles, though these miracles do drain energy from the local environment and the healed will eventually become ghouls.

Ghouls, according to John, are zombie-like beings created when magic goes wrong.

Baptism is a ritual of purification and rebirth practiced by several Christian denominations.

Angels do not feel pain.

Fallen angels have black wings instead of white, though they are capable of disguising themselves. They are subject to the same rules as angels regarding physical manifestation on Earth.

Angels can possess mortals the same way demons do.  Manny does this with Zed to fight Imogen.

Dialogue Triumphs

(As John is packing his travel bag)
John: (as he places some kind of talisman in his bag) Must have protection.
(John pulls out a chain of condoms)
John: Of various kinds.
Zed: We're going to go visit a preacher in a church.
John: Hmmm.  That's a good point.
(John takes one condom off the chain and stuffs the rest in his bag)

Zed: Blind faith can he a dangerous thing.
John: Spoken from experience?

Zed: I have so many questions I want to ask them.
John: Good luck with that, love. They're real cagey types. What do you need them to tell you?
Zed: Where my powers come from, for starters.  Do they come from God or somewhere else?
John: Doesn't matter where they came from.  What matters is what you do with them.  And what they cost you.


Chas is away visiting his daughter during the events of this episode.

We see John smoking before he puts the cigarette out just before entering Preacher Zachary's church.

Zed mentions that she saw a lot of false prophets claiming holy powers as a kid.

John cannot speak Enochian, but he can identify it by sound.

John once again notes that he was born in Liverpool.

While no specific religious denomination is mentioned, Zed is confirmed to believe in some Christian doctrine while John has little use for organized religion in general.

Zed is able to pitch a tent but she denies having been a Girl Scout.

We see Zed pickpocket Zachary to take the feather while she is being baptized.

John stores Imogen's heart in a jar.

Eddie - the model who asked Zed out - is working with the people who have been trying to track her down.


Briarwood, Kentucky

The Bottom Line

As a character piece for Zed and Manny, it works very well.  As a monster-of-the-week episode, it's incredibly weak.  Of note purely for how it defines the rules for angels and fallen angels.  Beyond that, there's really nothing of note.  At least, nothing positive worth noting, with the goofiest monsters yet.  Still, the core cast manage to sell their scenes together.  It is only when the ghouls come out or John has to deal with Preacher Zachary that we see the wires holding everything up.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 8 - The Brave And The Bold

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


The search for a killer named Digger Harkness brings Arrow, Arsenal and Diggle into conflict with an ARGUS team that is also hunting the dangerous criminal.  Luckily, The Flash is on hand to offer his help. But Harkness is more than just a terrorist - he's a former Suicide Squad member with a grudge against Lyla Michaels and a coat full of special boomerangs that make him more than a match for The Arrow.  Bringing him down may require The Arrow to do some things The Flash doesn't approve of... like enhanced interrogation of the local thugs.

In the flashbacks, Amanda Waller begins training Oliver Queen in the fine art of tortu- ah, enhanced interrogation techniques.


The Brave and The Bold
comics of The Silver Age, but also every single story where a jaded veteran butts heads with an idealist newbie. This has been the story behind literally hundreds of comics stories but perhaps the most famous modern example of this sort of thing is the rivalry between Superman and Batman, as seen in the animated movie World's Finest.


When Caitlin shows up in Felicity's office, she refers to Canary as Sara, despite Felicity being very careful not to identify Sara Lance by name in F108 where she asked Caitlin for help in identifying a DNA sample.

While Barry is quick on the uptake to save Ollie from Captain Boomerang's attack in the first fight scene, he doesn't do anything to stop the villain from throwing down a smoke bomb and running for it.

Granting that they have a high-tech metal detector that trips almost immediately upon Digger Harkness entering a secure area, it still seems strange that a group as security minded as ARGUS only has one guard watching the entrance to their headquarters.


Again, it's hard to single out any one cast member for particular praise as everyone does a damn good job playing off one another.  But David Ramsey may come the closest to stealing the show, playing John Diggle with a bit more verbosity than we're used to seeing.


The first fight scene with Captain Boomerang vs. Arsenal and The Arrow is amazing.  And then The Flash shows up and it becomes better.


The episode's title - The Brave and The Bold - comes from a classic DC Comics book series. Originally started in 1955 as a showcase book for stories about Robin Hood, The Silent Knight and The Viking Prince, the comic would later come to depict the stories of the original Task Force X (aka Suicide Squad) and superhero team-up tales - usually Batman paired with another member of The Justice League.

The Brave and the Bold contained a number of significant stories during its run.  The Justice League of America's first appearance was in The Brave and The Bold #28 (March 1960). The first appearance of The Teen Titans (or at least the first story pairing up Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad which inspired the Teen Titans monthly comic) was in The Brave and The Bold #54 (July 1964). And Green Arrow's first appearance with his Robin Hood-inspired costume and social-justice-warrior attitude came in The Brave and The Bold #85 (Sept. 1969).

The opening and closing shots of the show's logo features the word 'Arrow' being bisected with a stylized lightning bolt like in The Flash's symbol.

The ARGUS agent killed in the last episode is identified as Kai Wu.  He is named in tribute of Kai Yu Wu - a writer on The Flash TV series, who co-wrote A104 with Geoff Johns.

Felicity's office is bigger than Cisco's apartment.

Cisco asks if The Arrow has an Arrowmobile.  In the comics, Ollie did indeed call have a special car for crime-fighting that he called The Arrowmobile.

In the comics, George "Digger" Harkness (a.k.a. Captain Boomerang) is an enemy of The Flash as well as a frequent member of The Suicide Squad. Born of a traveling toy salesman's affair with an American army wife in Australia, Digger grew up abused by his mother's soldier husband, who knew full well that George was not his son.  This imbued young George with a life-long disrespect for authority. The only bright-side to George's life was the one thing his birth father gave him - a toy boomerang that he learned to throw with great skill.  Embittered by years of abuse, he turned to petty crime and was kicked out of the house, spurring his mom to give him a plane ticket to Central City so he could be with his father.  Once there, Digger was put to work as Captain Boomerang - a mascot for his dad's toy company. But the toy company was failing and George turned to crime in earnest after one too many of his paychecks bounced.

The Arrow/Flash version of Digger Harkness is a former ASIS agent (presumably Australian Secret Intelligence Service and not American Society for Industrial Security) who went rogue - a weapons and technology expert.  He was caught by ARGUS three years earlier and recruited for Task Force X aka The Suicide Squad.  Like Captain Boomerang in the comics, he is fond of making jokes about boomerangs always coming back when he kills people.

In terms of skill, Digger Harkness is to boomerangs what Oliver Queen is to arrows.  In the comics, Harkness makes use of all manner of trick-boomerangs as Oliver Queen uses trick arrows.

Putting together a puzzle at super-speed (in this case, the fragments of Digger Harkness' exploding boomerangs) is another standard Flash trick from the comics.

Quentin mistakenly calls Barry "Bart Allen".  In the comics, Bart Allen is the name of Barry's grandson, who fights crime with his super-speed powers using the codename Impulse.

Harkness is hiding in a warehouse on the corner of Infantino and Adams. This is a tribute to both Neal Adams (the artist who created the look of the Bronze Age Green Arrow) and Carmen Infantino (the artist who created the Silver Age version of The Flash). Infantino is also the artistic creator of Black Canary and his first credited professional work was the story in Flash Comics #86 which first introduced Black Canary as a partner for Johnny Thunder.

A villain hiding multiple bombs around a city, requiring a superhero team to split up to defuse them all is one of the oldest comic book tropes of all time and a particularly frequent problem for speedster heroes like The Flash.


The Arrow is able to identify the armored but not identified soldiers as ARGUS by their flanking patterns, which he notes they haven't changed in years.

The Jettisoning Arrow uses compressed CO2 to jettison high tensile-strength polymer cables.

Digger Harkness' exploding boomerang is made of a 3D printed polymer with a circuitry weave. The grooves in the boomerang are capable of holding a C4 charge.

Cisco identifies the exploding boomerangs as the work of a weapon's designer named Klaus Marcos. The collapsible node design is his signature.

Harknesses bombs are radio-controlled IEDs  - improvised explosive device.

Caitlin notes that some of the STR markers on the DNA sample of Sara's killer are gone, but she has a computer program that can fill in the gaps.

Cisco makes a new shirt for Oliver made of a polymer-Kevlar weave. 25% lighter and capable of carrying 15% more gear.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Arrow:
Drop your guns.
ARGUS Agent: Sure thing. Right when you learn how to count. You're outnumbered, jerkwad!
The Arrow: You're not SCPD.
ARGUS Agent: Unless police uniforms have gotten really interesting, neither are you.
The Arrow: ...ARGUS.  Your flanking patterns haven't changed in years.

(Regarding Cisco and Caitlin hanging out in their base)
Roy: Since when did we start selling admission to The Arrow Cave?
Ollie: It's- (bites his lip before pointing at Felicity)  Do you see what you've done?

(Regarding the Salmon Ladder)
Caitlin: Hey, what's that for?
Felicity: (sighing happily) Distracting me from work.

Harkness: You know, you should be careful how you treat people, my friend.  After all... (throws boomerang, which kills the ARGUS guard) ...what goes around, comes around.

(Watching Barry Allen work The Salmon Ladder at super speed)
Caitlin: How often does Oliver do this?
Felicity: At least every Wednesday.  There's a lot of sweating.

Barry: I need some dinner. That salmon ladder made me hungry for sushi.
(Barry runs off and a gust of wind knocks all the papers off Felicity's desk.)
Felicity: And I need to get some paperweights down here!

(As Barry runs into the Arrow cave, maskless, in front of Lyla)
Caitlin: Hey!  Secret identity?
Barry: They're married!
Lyla & Diggle: We're not married.
Barry: Or together. Whatever. He told her about me.
(Diggle shakes his head)
Barry: You didn't?
Diggle: I keep secrets for a living, man.
Barry: Ah. My bad.

Caitlin's wordlessly pulling away Cisco's phone as he tries to take a picture of Ollie and Barry together without their masks.

(As The Arrow enters a warehouse to find The Flash standing next to six tied-up, unconscious mobsters)
Barry: I had eight seconds to kill!

Barry: You tortured that guy.
Ollie: I interrogated him.
Barry: When my friends said your tactics made you a criminal, I defended you because I thought you were supposed to be a hero.  I thought we were supposed to be better than them?
Ollie: Barry, you live in Central City. Where it's sunny all the time and your enemies get cute nicknames!  You're not in Central City.  I live in a city where my best friend was murdered! Where a woman that I loved was shot full of arrows and sent tumbling off of a rooftop!  Where my mother was murdered right in front of me!  So before you-
Barry: My mother was murdered in front of me too.  But I don't use my personal tragedies as an excuse to just torture whoever pisses me off!
Ollie: Well, I'm sorry Barry.  I'm not as emotionally healthy as you are.

Lyla: Everything alright between you and Speedy?
Ollie: (confused) What? Roy?  Yeah.  We're fine.
Lyla: I meant him (looks at Barry)

Lyla: Sometimes bravery isn't enough. Sometimes the world requires us to be bold.

(As Ollie enters the warehouse to find that Barry has, once again, tied up all the thugs)
Barry: You're late.
(Ollie shoots the thug who comes up from behind Barry)
Barry: ... I knew he was there.  He's not dead, right?
Ollie: Tranq Arrow.  Same thing I used on you in Central City.

Harkness: You know what I like best about boomerangs, Lyla?  They're proof that things can always come back to haunt you!

Waller: There are people in this world who deal only in extremes. It is naive to think that anything less than extreme measures will stop them.

Ollie: To do what I do takes conviction. But more often than not it's the will to do what is ugly. Every time I do that I'm trading away little pieces of myself.  So... you ask what's wrong with me. That's what's wrong. Because the part of me I'm trading away is Oliver Queen. And lately I've been feeling like there's nothing left except The Arrow.
Barry: I think you're full of crap. Look, you've convinced yourself that everything you've been through took away your humanity. But I think it's because of your humanity that you made it through! You wouldn't have survived, much less come out the other end a hero - somebody that wants to do good - if you didn't have a light inside of you.

Cisco: Screw you, Captain Boomerang!

And every single instance of Diggle calling Lyla "sweetie" and her responding that he only calls her that when he wants something and every moment someone prompts them - or anyone - to declare that they aren't married.  All so they could build up to this moment...

Diggle: Hey Sweetie.
Lyla: You only call me Sweetie when you want something.
Diggle: I do. I want you to marry me. I can't believe I waited this long to ask. I need you, Lyla. Now. Forever. Officially. I need you-
Lyla: Would you please stop talking so I can say 'yes'?


The man killed by Digger Harkness in A307 was an ARGUS agent named Kai Wu.

Using a residue from the boomerang Oliver Queen gave them in F108, STAR Labs was able to track Digger Harkness to a certain address in Starling City.

Felicity says they do not call the basement they operate from The Arrow Cave. Ever. This is exactly the same way Ollie answered the question when Roy Harper asked if they called themselves Team Arrow in A212.

According to Cisco, the events of F108 occurred one week before this episode.

Barry refers to the lessons Ollie gave him in casing a crime scene before running in a week earlier and how he's been practicing.

Ollie's connections to the Russian mob are referred to, though Ollie notes that after his falling out with them in A206 he's probably no longer a member.

Ollie makes reference to the Tranq Arrow he used on Barry in  F108.

Cisco installed a miniature video camera behind the emblem in Barry's costume.

Barry makes reference to Multiplex - the self-cloning villain from F102.

Diggle proposes to Lyla.

Digger Harkness is locked up in the ARGUS prison complex on Lian Yu.  Ollie says that he and Slade Wilson are now roommates but this probably isn't literally true.

Felicity makes reference to the landmines on Lian Yu, which nearly killed her back in A201.

Ollie sets up a third mannequin in the Arrow Cave to hold Barry's costume when he is in town.

Cisco makes Oliver a new shirt/quiver.

STAR Labs industrial fabricator was based out of Starling City.

The Fridge Factor 

Averted somewhat.  While all the female members of the cast are imperiled at one point, Lyla Michaels fights back against Digger Harkness and even Felicity tries to take him down with a small explosive.  Of course Caitlin and Felicity are non-combatants but they prove their worth to the team later on, with Caitlin's medical training being essential to saving Lyla's life and Felicity tracking down Harkness' location.

The Winick Factor

Barry could have taken down Digger Harkness pretty easily at the beginning of the episode if he hadn't stopped to smile at Ollie after catching the boomerangs that nearly killed him.  Just saying...

The Bottom Line

Perfect.  Just perfect.