Saturday, January 31, 2015

All New Invaders #14 - A Review

It is a time of adjustment. The original Human Torch Jim Hammond, still a newbie SHIELD agent, is catching up with his estranged sidekick, Toro, who has just been revealed to be an Inhuman rather than a Mutant. But they will have little time to reminisce when their new friend Iron Cross requires help dealing with an army of Neo-Nazi cyborgs!

This is the penultimate issue of All New Invaders yet I already find myself missing it as if it were gone. Perhaps that is because of the feeling that James Robinson had so much more to say with this book and so much more to do with the new characters he created for it. And I'm dearly sorry we won't get to see what happens to Speedball's cat and can only hope the poor creature slinks off into Comics Limbo without some completest deciding it had to be dissected for the shock of it.

While the story may have a hint of ennui, the artwork is as exciting as ever. If I were to sum up Steve Pugh's artwork in one word, I could only say that it is epic. And the colors by Guru-FX make every panel vibrant and beautiful.

Bitch Planet #2 - A Review

With the basic premise of its world established in the first issue, Bitch Planet #2 travels at a more sedate pace as the basic plot begins to unfurl. We find out that the society of this world is built around an annual sporting event called Megaton - or Duemila if you're a snob.  Apparently general interest in the bloodsport is waning, which displeases The Powers That Be. Luckily, the overseer of Bitch Planet has an idea on how some of his charges might be put to work in solving this problem.

It seems paradoxical that after all the originality we saw in the first issue, that this second issue should prove so relatively mundane. The idea of a dystopia built around bread and circuses is nothing new (Do the words Hunger Games ring a bell?) and The Overseer's plan is straight out of the 1974 Pam Grier film The Arena. Yet while one may have heard a song before, how the band plays can alter the tune. Such is the case with Kelly Sue DeConnick's script, which wrings new life out of the familiar premises.

Talking of Pam Grier, one can't help but see her in artist Valentine De Landro's design for our protagonist Kamau Kogo. Not because the character seems to be a direct caricature of Grier but because she's evocative of the sort of grindhouse heroines Grier built a career on playing.  Whether the homage is intentional or not, it speaks to how effectively De Landro captures the aesthetic of the genre that I should immediately hear the voice of Cofy as I read the dialogue and look at the artwork.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Constantine Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 11 - A Whole World Out There

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


Manny sends John to Ivy University, to offer his help to a reluctant Ritchie Simpson - another member of the Newcastle crew - whose students have found a way to travel into another dimension, only to wind up at the mercy of a psychotic killer.


Hellblazer: Original Sins
(the character of Ritchie Simpson and the idea of magically-facilitated dimensional travel) , The Dream Cycle novellas and short stories of H.P. Lovecraft (the rules for inter-dimensional travel are similar), The Most Dangerous Game (a bored sportsman hunting people in a place he controls), A Nightmare on Elm Street and the many urban legends involving a killer who attacks through mirrors and dreams.


Jeremy Davies steals the show in his return performance as Ritchie Davies.  By episode's end, we see a little of the man he once was - the one person John Constantine saw as a peer - even as we see how remarkably well John has held together in the face of Newcastle, relatively speaking.  The interplay between Davies and Matt Ryan is remarkable and the two are very convincing as old-friends grown apart.


The direction for this episode is top-notch, with the opening scene before the title splash being truly terrifying and atmospheric.

The lightning design of Shaw's house is incredibly creepy, as are the visual FX for the realm beyond the house - both before and after.

Pub Trivia

In the Hellblazer comics, Ritchie Simpson conducted experiments using computers in conjunction with astral projection in order to explore other dimensions.

The idea of using hypnosis or magic to force a state of out-of-body travel is a staple of speculative fiction.  For example, the pulp hero John Carter used a form of astral projection to leave his body and travel to Mars.

The rules for other-dimensional travel discussed in this episode closely parallel what was said about mortal travelers in The Dreamlands of H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle. Specifically, how it is possible for strong-willed dreamers to alter the landscape around them or how it is possible for a person to die in the Dreamlands and for the shock to kill their physical body in the material realm.


Bloody Mary is the subject of many urban legends regarding a ghostly figure who will appear under various circumstances - usually by saying her name three times while facing a mirror in the dark. Some legends say that - properly summoned - Bloody Mary will tell your fortune, Improperly summoned (or summoned at all in the legends where she is not at all benevolent), she will either scratch out your eyes, strangle you, slash you to ribbons or take your soul.

Catoptromancy is the magical art of divining with a mirror.

The Egyptian chant used by the students invokes the name of "Ma-at" - the Egyptian goddess of truth, justice, balance, law, morality and order.

John possesses a magic mirror that lets him see the past.

Samsara is the repeating cycle of birth, life and death in many Eastern religions.  It is possible to achieve liberation from this cycle, but only through good deeds and by fulfilling one's life purpose.

John knows a spell that allows him to detect and analyze residual magic. He uses this to analyze the ritual the students used.

Beeswax candles, hieroglyphics and residual ash are signs of Egyptian magic.

Ritchie makes reference to Shaw's ritual being based on Eygptian dream temple techniques.  Ancient Egyptian dream temples - or sleep temples - were hospitals of a sort that treated a variety of ailments, including mental disorders.  Archaeologists have theorized that the attending priest/physicians used hypnosis as part of their treatments.

A singularity - as Ritchie defines it - is the merging of humanity and technology to bring about immortality for a person's consciousness on a computer network. Or, as John puts it, "a bomb-shelter for your brain."  Typically singularity is applied towards the idea of an artificial intelligence born of technology that perfectly emulates human thought rather a human mind being preserved technologically but Ritchie is dumbing things down a bit for John's benefit.

In Egyptian magical tradition, mirrors are used as doorways to other spiritual planes.

All the mirrors in the Mill House are enchanted to prevent them from being used as doorways.

Typically it is impossible for a being in another dimension to attack people through mirrors.  Ritchie determines that Shaw is able to do this to the students because of the ritual they use to travel to his realm leaving them vulnerable to him.

Astral dimensions can be reshaped by a strong will.

In Buddhism, Nirvana is the state of enlightenment and peace achieved by accepting certain truths. These truths include that suffering is unavoidable, that desire is the root of all suffering and that while one can achieve Nirvana it cannot be done until one rids one's self of desire.

Dialogue Triumphs

John: Alright. we need to talk with Adam.
Ritchie: Okay, so that would be talking meaning talking, right? Not harassing?
John: Oh yeah, well, you know me. I'm well versed in the art of pretending to be a gentleman.
Ritchie: I do know you.. that is debatable.

Ritchie: You see what we are, John? To other people, we are what you call cancer.  We're just spreading our disease.
John: You know, when you're done sitting on your bloody pity party, we've got work to do. All right?
Ritchie: Pity party, that - that's good. That's good, John. Man, laugh it up. Tell your jokes. But I'll tell you something. You don't fool me.I know your secret. I know what you pretend not to feel. You know why? Because I'm feeling it right now.

Ritchie: We are flying blind into his domain. He controls it all! The only rule there is Shaw is God.
John: And he wouldn't be the first one I've dealt with.

Ritchie: Some god you turned out to be, Shaw. You forgot the sun.

Ritchie: All this time you spent here. You could have been building worlds! You could have been redefining life and how we live it! The day you gave into your weakness Shaw, that's the day you became obsolete.

Ritchie: I just don't want to be afraid anymore, John.
John: Fine. That's fine. Indulge yourself, Ritchie. Just like Shaw. You're two visionary peas in a bloody pod. But do me a favor. Don't lie to yourself. This isn't about creating something new. This is about you running away.


We see Ritchie Simpson for the first time since the first episode.

John refers to Gary Lester's death in 104.


Atlanta, Georgia.

The Bottom Line

After last week's episode, it's a little jarring not to have Zed or Chas. But Jeremy Davis' performance as Ritchie Simpson keeps this episode from feeling empty. What could have been a run-of-the-mill monster-of-the-week story is strengthened by the interplay between Ritchie and John and a strong script that fleshes out the reality.  Shame the killer and the students are little more than cardboard cut-outs, but you'll have too much fun watching Matt Ryan and Jeremy Davis playing off each other.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 11 - Midnight City

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


Oliver Queen is alive but the League of Assassins is closing in on him and his allies.  Malcolm Merlyn is in similarly dire straits and is ready to flee Starling City with Thea in tow. As Ray Palmer continues the work on his ATOM suit, Felicity struggles with what she can and will do to help the city in its time of need. And Laurel Lance has taken to the streets in costume to take on Brick's followers. John Diggle and Arsenal are quick to try and get her to stop risking her life but when Brick takes several city aldermen hostage, they may be forced to accept her help.


The Green Arrow/Black Canary comics of Judd Winick and Andrew Kreisberg.


Brick says he hates hitting women. He also seems to be reluctant to shoot them, as he doesn't take two perfectly good opportunities to shoot Laurel while he has the chance.  Also, he seems to have abandoned his tick of offering those who oppose him a chance to shoot him from last episode.

Despite training as a boxer, Laurel seems committed to fighting with a melee weapon (quarterstaff) we don't have any evidence she's trained with.

How did Felicity have access to numerous recordings of Sara Lance's voice?

One wonders why Captain Lance doesn't arrest the mayor when she starts talking about literally giving a part of the city to a crime lord.  It has to be a violation of eminent domain, if nothing else and it's not like he could plunge The Glades into further chaos.


Colton Haynes really steps to the forefront in this episode. He hasn't always been given a lot to do as Roy Harper but he nails ever single scene he has in this episode, from his warning off Laurel after saving her life to his bonding with Diggle after their mission goes south.  Even when he confronts Malcolm Merlyn, Haynes proves capable of holding his own against John Barrowman - no mean feat!


The opening nightmare sequence with Ollie and Felicity is an effective bit of horror, made all the more effective by us not being aware at first that it is a dream instead of a flashback and not knowing who the dreamer is.

The best fight scene of the night?  The fight in the Hong Kong nightclub during the flashback. Very well choreographed and well-shot.


When Laurel is threatening one of Brick's henchmen, she drops the name of Belle Reeve prison and suggests it is a much nicer place than Iron Heights. In the comics, Belle Reeve  is a notable penitentiary devoted to the incarceration of metahumans. Located in Louisiana, it first appeared in Suicide Squad #1 and probably is a nicer prison than Iron Heights if only because the warden of Iron Heights in the comics was a sadist who performed illegal experiments on the metahumans in his charge.

The press refers to Arsenal as "The Red Arrow".  This was indeed Roy Harper's codename when he joined The Justice League.

Brick claims to quote from Shakespeare's Julius Cesar - Act V, Scene 2. "They stand and would have parley." - when he calls the mayor making demands.  Brick quotes the line perfectly, but the line is actually from Act V, Scene 1.


The ATOM armor does not fire lasers. It fires compressed hard-light beams.

Felicity is able to fake Sara Lance's voice using a symbolic algorithm and recordings of Sara's voice.

The nanite chip for the ATOM armor won't function without a quantum processor.

Dialogue Triumphs

Oliver: If Ra's finds out that you saved me... betrayed him.. he's going to kill you.
Maseo:  Don't waste your breath on worries for me. Your concern should be for your home and what has become of it in your absence.

Roy: (To Laurel) I've had training from Oliver and years on the streets. You have a law degree. (sighs) Look, I get it.  This isn't how you deal with grief, Laurel.  This is how yourself get killed.

Felicity: And by help you mean money and counsel - not a suit powered by dwarf-star alloy that fires lasers at people?
Ray: Well, they aren't lasers. That would be ridiculous! They're compressed hard-light beams.

Tatsu: The line between grief and guilt is a thin one.  Sometimes death is preferable to the agony of life.

Roy: You need to stay away from her. I don't know why you want her to leave Starling City but I'm not letting her go anywhere with you.
Merlyn: Well, thank you for that. I was in need of some humor.
Roy: I wasn't joking. You're a poison. You put her in Ra's Al Ghul's gun-sites. You had her kill Sara.
Merlyn: Thea knows nothing about Sara. And she never will.
Roy: That's where your wrong. I know her. She'll get to the truth, no matter how well you think you're hiding it. And when she does find out that you've been lying to her, you're going to lose her forever. Trust me - I know from experience.
Merlyn: This is a family matter, Mr. Harper. And you are not family.

Ray: When I started The ATOM Project it was all about avenging Anna. But what it's become about is protecting the people I care for.
Felicity: You mean the city?
Ray: No. I mean you.

Laurel: I'm not going to be putting on that mask again. I'm not strong enough to fight for Sara.
Felicity: Maybe you're not supposed to. Maybe it's not about Sara. Or Oliver. Or anyone else that we care about that we've lost. Maybe what we've been doing, we've been doing because there are people we still care about who are... alive. Maybe we're doing it for them.

Felicity: I need the keys to your helicopter.
Ray: How would you even fly it?
Felicity: I've got that covered. Can you please just give me the keys now? I promise, promise I will not crash it.
Ray: I've got to be honest. I''d feel a little more confident in your aeronautic abilities if you knew, for instance, that helicopters don't actually have keys.

Thea: So why run? Why not stay and fight? Seven months ago, I asked you to teach me. To teach me how to not be afraid and how to not get hurt.  So why are you asking me to be afraid now?
Merlyn: I'm not asking you. I'm telling you. You should be very afraid-
Thea: But I'm not! And my father taught me how not to be. He taught me how to stand my ground and how not to give an inch in a battle. I'm not afraid of this man and you shouldn't be either.  He should be afraid of us.
Merlyn: Then we'll stay.


The opening nightmare scene opens just like Oliver's goodbye to Felicity in A309.

Oliver never actually died.

Maseo and Tatsu are no longer in regular contact with one another.

Diggle taught everyone on Team Arrow how to suture a wound. Felicity was a faster study than Roy.

The current mayor of Starling City is a woman named Celia Castle.

Roy refers to the events of A220 and how he was responsible for a death then as well as now.

Diggle and Roy make a toast with vodka, as Diggle repeats Ollie's toast from A206 - Prochnost. He admits he has no idea what it means ("Strength" in Russian).

Amanda Waller apparently suspected Maseo and Oliver would attempt to bargain for Tatsu's life with the Alpha, so she replaced it with a fake elixir.

At the episode's end, we learn that Chase - the DJ Thea hired in A307 - is an assassin reporting to Maseo.


A cabin in an unidentified location, within several hours walking distance of the League Of Assassins' dueling grounds.

Untelevised Adventures

We know that something happened to end Tatsu and Maseo's marriage, but we still do not know the details... yet.

The Fridge Factor

Granting that she is new to the whole vigilante thing, very little of what we see of Laurel in action in this episode inspires confidence that she will ever live up to her sister's legacy.  She survives her first action scene in the episode only because Arsenal saved her.  The only reason the Brick doesn't kill her several times over the course of the episode is because he says he doesn't hit women and/or forgets that he's holding a gun.  And yet the largest concern is that Laurel lacks the moral fortitude to be a hero, only just now realizing that her actions are causing other people to come to harm.

Much is made about Felicity being the one to encourage Laurel and eventually drag the rest of Team Arrow out of their doldrums.  A shame her inspiration to do this comes from Ray Palmer's speech about why he's really making The ATOM Suit - to protect her.

The Winick Factor

The entirety of Team Arrow is downgraded for much of the episode. Granting that everyone is shaken up by the possibility of Oliver's death, it still seems to be contrived to make Brick appear to be more awesome than he truly is as a criminal mastermind.  Local politicians and police being made to look incompetent or corrupt is another staple of Winick's Green Arrow run.

The Bottom Line

It isn't as bad as it could have been but it isn't that good, either.  The script is one contrivance after another that serve no purpose other than to pump up the villain at the expense of our heroes. Paradoxically, the best bits of the episode are the ones where we see our heroes bonding together, though the scenes with Laurel interacting with the rest of Team Arrow still feel hollow as there's a presumption of relationships we haven't seen all season. The cast give it their all but there's still a feeling that we're treading water until the big finale next week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 11 - The Sound And The Fury

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


Two years ago, Hartley Rathaway had a promising career at STAR Labs but a falling out with his mentor Harrison Wells left him broken emotionally.  Then the particle accelerator accident broke him physically, leaving him permanently deaf and in excruciating pain.

Now, Hartley has used his knowledge of sonic technologies to fix his hearing and empower himself. Calling himself The Pied Piper, he's out to make Harrison Wells pay for his crimes.  For Hartley knows about a secret Dr. Wells has been hiding for quite some time....even from the rest of the STAR Labs team!

Of course The Flash can outrun sound... but can he out-think the mad genius who is out to destroy his mentor and friend?


Various The Flash comics over the past 55 years, including The Flash #106 - the first appearance of The Pied Piper.

Flash Facts

The episode title - The Sound and The Fury - is taken from the name of a classic American novel by William Faulkner. That title itself comes from a line from William Shakespeare's Macbeth - "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Early in the episode, we get to see The Flash take on The Royal Flush Gang.  We don't get to see if this is the same group of criminals from the Arrow episode Legacies (A106) but it would not be unprecedented for another group to have taken on the name.

In the comics and cartoons, various groups known as The Royal Flush gang formed under the command of various super-villains including Amos Fortune, Hector Hammond and even The Joker! Most versions of the gang featured five members - Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten - although one version in Superman: Man of Steel #121 had cells in cities around the United States consisting of 52 members each.

Iris gets a job with the Central City Picture News. In the comics, this is the name of Central City's major newspaper - their equivalent of The Daily Planet.  In the comics, however, Iris started off as a photographer rather than a reporter.

Hartley Rathaway is based on a classic Flash villain know as The Pied Piper. Born to a wealthy family, young Hartley was found to be deaf at an early age. After an experimental surgery restored his hearing, Hartley became obsessed with sound and sonic technologies. A scientific genius, Hartley found a way to hypnotize people through music and to generate tremendous damage with focused vibrations.

Hartley would later reform and become a social crusader who fought for the poor and needy. He also outed himself as homosexual and became a vocal LGBT activist, noting the irony of his being the first Rogue to "go straight".

In the New 52 universe, Hartley is exclusively dating David Singh - Barry Allen's superior officer. The DCTV universe version of Captain Singh was revealed to be gay in 108.

As in the comics, the DCTV version of Hartley was disowned by his family due to his sexuality.  In the Silver Age comics, he was disowned to his criminal activities.

Iris' unwilling mentor at the Central City Picture News is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter named Mason Bridge. In the comics, Mason Trollbridge was the name of a reporter friend of Wally West - the second Flash.  Trollbridge also had a brief career as the second crime-fighter known as The Clipper.  The first Clipper was a Depression-era hero whom a young Mason had briefly assisted as an unnamed boy wonder.

Iris asks her editor if she should call him Chief. This is a nod to a running gag in the Superman comics, where Daily Planet editor Perry White continually tells people - Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent in particular - not to call him Chief.

Cisco is caught in the vibrational shockwave of Pied Piper's technology when Hartley escapes the pipeline. Could this be what triggers Cisco's metahuman powers, turning the DCTV version of Cisco Ramon into this world's version of Vibe?

At one point Harrison Wells makes reference to The Norris Commission.  This may be named in honor of Paul Norris - a Golden Age comic artist responsible for co-creating Aquaman, Roy Harper, The Sandman and Sandy The Golden Boy.

The end of the episode marks the first mention of The Speed Force - the energy field in the DC Comics universe that empowers most heroes with super-speed.


The glass in Harrison Well's home did not have any point of impact when it broke.

Magnetic flux is measured by Hall Effect pick-up.

The dual of a parallel R-C circuit is a series R-L circuit.

Everything has a natural frequency Since sound is expressed as a vibration, if the pitch of a sound can be made to match the natural frequency of an object, it can be made to shatter the object. This principal is most frequently observed in a singer holding a note that can shatter glass.

The radio transmitter in The Flash suit broadcasts on a frequency of 1900 MHz.

The Pied Piper has special hearing aids that treat the pain caused by the head trauma he sustained during the particle accelerator explosion.  They also enhance his hearing to the point where he can hear radio waves.

The particle accelerator's anti-proton cavities were converted into confinement cells by Cisco.

Pied Piper was able to devise a hexagonal algorithm that allowed him to track where The Flash was coming from whenever he went to stop a crime to STAR Labs.

Pied Piper's equipment utilizes sonic resonance. The intensity regulator on his gauntlets measures in decibels. The lowest setting is capable of shattering windows. At high levels, it could destroy an entire skyscraper in one blast.

Pied Piper's hearing aid is capable of being refashioned into a device capable of blowing a vault door into pieces. He uses this to escape from The Pipeline.

Harrison Wells makes reference to a 10 volume report issued by the Norris Commission regarding the STAR Labs particle accelerator malfunctioning.

Cisco is unable to track Pied Piper's broadcast signals. He finally tracks Pied Piper by monitoring seismic activity, theorizing his sonic attacks may cause tremors.

In chess, a discovered attack is one you don't see until it is too late to counter.

Wells makes use of a satellite radio to broadcast a signal that will disrupt Pied Piper's technology.

Dialogue Triumphs

We need a picture!
Barry: Pretty sure Rule Number One of having a secret identity is NOT taking pictures in your super suit without a mask on.
Cisco: Oh, come on! Please? This is just for us. Just to document all this.
Harrison: Who knows? Maybe people in the future will want to know how all this happened.

Hartley: We both know what you did. It's time to pay the piper!

The Flash: It's over, Rathaway.
Pied Piper: You know my name? I know some names too. Caitlin Snow. Cisco Ramon. Harrison Wells. I can hear the radio waves emanating from your suit. About 1900 MHz. Is that them on the other end listening? Are they going to hear you die?
The Flash: No. They're going to hear you get your ass kicked.

Pied Piper: Being scooped up by a guy clad in head-to-toe leather is a long-time fantasy of mine, so thanks!

Caitlin: The next time you choose to put our lives and the lives of the people we love at risk, I'll expect a heads up.

Iris: I may not have a lot of experience, but I have -
Mason: Spunk? Grit? Gumption? What is this? A Chick-Lit novel?

Barry: The people we admire aren't always who we'd like them to be.

Harrison: Has Hartley made contact yet?
Caitlin: What makes you so sure he will?
Harrison: Because he's Hartley and he'll want to have the last word.


Cisco is a competent enough hacker to change stop-lights.

Barry is now fast enough to take a picture with a camera phone, run into the shot and then run back and catch the phone before it can hit the ground.

Iris is hired as a reporter at Central City Picture News based on her blog. While she intends to become a real reporter, she finds that her editor is only interested in her ability to get scoops on The Flash.

Cisco was hired at STAR Labs one year before the particle accelerator accident.  At that point, Caitlin and Ronnie Raymond had been dating for one year but were not yet engaged.

Rathaway Industries was founded by Hartley Rathaway's grandfather and his father expanded the company. Hartley was poised to inherit everything until he outed himself.

Hartley was responsible for helping design and build the STAR Labs particle accelerator.

Hartley is capable of speaking Spanish, French and Latin.  Cisco speaks Spanish. Caitlin speaks French. Harrison Wells speaks Latin.  Barry, to his embarrassment, did not take a foreign language in school.

Wells confesses to Caitlin, Cisco and Barry that Hartley warned him that the particle accelerator might explode and that he decided to activate it anyway. He later makes the same confession at a press conference.

Cisco is caught in the vibrational shockwave generated by Hartley's technology as he escapes. He is left concussed by the experience.

Wells claimed Hartley left STAR Labs around the time of the particle accelerator explosion. We find out later in a flashback that Wells fired Hartley when he said that he knew that the accelerator might explode. Wells further threatened to ruin Hartley's career if he went public with that knowledge.

At his press conference, Harrison Wells calls on unknown cub reporter Iris West, hinting that he knows something of her destiny to become a great reporter.

Joe West and Eddie Thawne decide to start investigating Harrison Wells after being unable to find anything about his past in his house.

Hartley claims to know where Ronnie Raymond can be found, what happened to him when the particle accelerator exploded and how he can be saved.

Harrison Wells' use of a wheelchair is not entirely an act. We see him loose his ability to walk during Pied Piper's escape from The Pipeline and mutter "not again".

Later, we see Wells using the tachyon device from 109 to treat his unnamed condition,  At maximum output, the Speed Force absorption rate is at 35% and rising, though this is past the acceptable tolerance range.  This is not enough to allow Wells to stabilize. He says he cannot hang on to his speed and he can't control it.  However, Wells notes the tachyon device was only ever mean to be a temporary fix.

The Boomerang Factor

For someone with many secrets, Harrison Wells is remarkably nonchalant about walking around in front of windows that offer a clear view into his home.

The Bottom Line

An interesting episode, but not for the reasons I think the creative team intended.  The Pied Piper is decent enough but what really sells this episode is Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells.  By this point, the viewers know far more than the characters do but even we are in the dark as to what Wells motivations are and just how much of the truth we know... if indeed we even know the truth!  Wells is a manipulator - that much is certain.  But is he continuing to manipulate his employees at STAR Labs even now?  Or does he honestly enjoy their company in spite of his villainous plans?  That is the crux of this episode and Cavanagh plays it perfectly.

Four Fast Thoughts On Fantastic Four (2015) Trailer

1. Could they possibly have made this look any more like a generic sci-fi movie?

2. Am I the only one worried that they seem to be actively obscuring the heroes using their powers? 

3. Meh.

 4. 4 replacing a vowel in the title - because that worked so well for THI4F!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Flash: Season Zero #11 - A Review

Barry, Caitlin and Cisco were enjoying a nice working vacation in Coast City, testing Barry's powers in a coastal environment to see if he might be the Fastest Swimmer Alive. Sadly, the fun is cut short when Barry gets called back to investigate a strange murder.  One seemingly committed by a walking shark...

The script for this issue is a fun one, with most of the focus being on the interaction between Barry, Cisco and Caitlin.  There's a fair bit of humor with Barry and Cisco cracking wise about the possibility of werewolves and zombies being potentially realities in their post-metahuman world (Caitlin is not amused, naturally) and the writing perfectly captures the spirit of the show.

Phil Hester is back as the series penciler along with Eric Gapstur on inks and, again, I must say that they seem an odd choice for the regular art team on this book.  They are both undoubtedly talented but their style seems at odds with the basic aesthetic of The Flash. The best bits of the artwork occur at the beginning and the end, where we see a shadowy monster attacking its victims at night. Unfortunately, most of the book takes place on a sunny beach in the middle of the day and Gapstur's inks are at their best when they are at their heaviest, strongly defining Hester's pencils.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Constantine Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 10 - Quid Pro Quo

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


When thousands of people - including Chas's daughter - fall into magically-induced comas, John, Zed and Chas must track down the dark forces responsible. But will Chas pay the ultimate price to save the day?


Hellblazer: Original Sins (Zed's background and the mention of The Resurrection Crusade), Hellblazer: All His Engines (a plot involving people in magical comas, including a member of Chas's family) and various Justice League comics involving Felix Faust, especially the recent Justice League Dark series where John fought Felix Faust.


Charles Halford is excellent throughout, as we see Chas pushed past his breaking point worrying about his daughter.  But for my money his best bit of acting in the whole episode is his wordless reaction to his ex-wife saying, "She's all I have left." regarding their daughter. Chas knows full well his marriage is over but actually hearing the words clearly affect him deeply.

Matt Ryan does a similar job of effective wordless acting later on, as he hugs Renee shortly after Chas blows himself up to stop Felix Faust. The expression on his face says it all regarding his feelings for Chas and how much John regrets having ruined his best friend's life by turning him into a weapon against the forces of evil, in spite of all the good they've done since then.

Finally, Angelica Celaya doesn't get quite as much to do as Zed in this episode but she steals what few scenes she has as we see her showcasing her compassion in trying to comfort Renee while defending Chas' decisions and in trying a new trick with her powers.

Pub Trivia

The episode title - Quid Pro Quo - is a Latin phrase meaning "something for something", referring to an exchange of goods or services where one transfer is contingent upon the other. Or in plain English - you scratch my back, I scratch yours.

The main plot of this episode comes from the Hellblazer graphic novel All His Engines by Mike Carey.  The novel also deals with a number of people being put into comas by a magical influence and John's attention being brought to the matter after a member of Chas' family is stricken. The key differences are that the novel is predominantly set in Los Angeles rather than New York City and that the victim is Chas' granddaughter Trish rather than his daughter Geraldine.

Zed finally drops the name of the group that seeks her - The Resurrection Crusade. She also tells John that the group's leader is her father.  All of this is straight from Hellblazer: Original Sins.

The song that trigger's Chas' flashback to how he gained a number of extra lives is Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper.  Curiously, the album cover for the LP the song came from - Agents of Fortune - features a stage magician holding tarot cards, whom bears an uncanny resemblance to DC Comics' magical hero John Zatara.

According to Executive Producer Daniel Cerone, the nightclub fire in this episode was inspired by the Station Nightclub Fire of 2003 where over 100 people died due to outdoor fireworks being used as part of an indoor pyrotechnics display.

Lillian Axe - the band playing at the club - is a real band. Indeed, they were the first hard rock band to be inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Thanks to John's protection spell, Chas gains 47 lives from the people who died around him when the nightclub collapsed. Lillian Axe - perhaps not coincidentally - have a song titled 47 Ways To Die.

At one point, John drops the name of Aleister Crowley. Described in the press as "the most wicked man in the world", Crowley claimed to be a powerful magician and certainly threw some fairly wild parties.  In the Hellblazer comics, John actually knows Crowley personally and knows where he has been hiding since faking his death in 1947.

As in the comics, Chas' real first name is Francis.  In the comics, he was given the nickname in honor of Jimi Hendrix's producer Chas Chandler.

As in the comics, Renee hates John Constantine with a passion.  In the comics, this was the case even before Renee left Chas during the Mike Carey run on Hellblazer.

Fennel is also the name of the psychic contact John seeks out in All My Engines.  And like in the show, Fennel in the comic is burned to death.  However, the Fennel in the novel doesn't work in an Army Surplus store.

John has never used a cattle prod before.

In All My Engines, the main villain is a demon named Beroul who blackmails John Constantine into dealing with his rivals in exchange for freeing Trish's soul as opposed to a human mage.

Felix Faust is a reoccurring enemy of The Justice League and various magic-using heroes in the DC Universe, who first appeared in Justice League of America #10 (March 1962). Originally a dark sorcerer in 5000 BC, Faust tried and failed to challenge the most powerful wizard of his age and his soul was summarily banished to another realm. In the 1920s, he was able to take advantage of another sorcerer's mistake, took over his body and adopted the name Felix Faust as he resumed his quest for ultimate cosmic power, repeatedly butting heads with The Justice League in the process.

John describes Faust as a lifetime apprentice and second fiddle to the greatest black magicians of his generation. This does match up with the regard most mages have for Felix Faust in the comics, where Faust makes up for his lack of raw power with a talent for research and a willingness to experiment in ways no sane wizard ever would, to say nothing of trading in souls with high-level demons.

As in the comics, John has a glass jaw and is easily knocked out with one punch by Chas.


John weaves a Duplicity Spell around the Mill House.  Rather than making the house invisible, it causes people who are looking for the house to wander onto a path leading away from it.

In the flashback, John casts a spell of protection on Chas. Surprisingly, it works despite John being incredibly drunk.  We find out later the same spell was used by Merlin to protect specific knights at King Arthur's request.  If any knight protected by the spell was killed in the company of lesser knights, the spell would pass their lives on to the protected.  In this case, Chas was given the lives of the 47 other people who died in the club fire.

John owns a brush that belonged to Alister Crowley. He says that he always takes it with him on a case when he doesn't have a clue where to begin and later uses it to detect evidence of the soul leaving the body on an unconscious Geraldine.

John also has a leather cord made from the sinew from Achilles' Heel. According to John it is impervious to magic and has the highest tensile strength of anything in this world or any other. Used as a whip, it can cut off the circulation to someone's hand within seconds. John claims it is Chas' favorite trick.

Chapped lips are celestial burn marks and can signify a soul leaving the body.

According to John, separating a soul from the body is the Holy Grail of Black Magic for black magic practitioners and no mortal has ever managed it... until Felix Faust.

Water from the River Jordan can be used as a magical lubricant to ease communication with lost souls.

According to John, only five books contain the spell used to disrupt a seance and kill the medium that was used to kill Fennel, each scattered across the globe by an Irish High King. Zed uses her powers to locate the closest copy of the book.

John knows a spell that can dispel elementary cloaking spells. It involves an evocation to the five elements and six directions.

According to Felix Faust, Karabasan is a named demon who is stealing the souls he has captured. In Turkish folklore, a karabasan is a type of monster - a boogeyman - who preys upon people while they sleep and scares them to death. Karabasan is also the Turkish word for nightmare and the medical term used to describe Sleep Paralysis.

John Constantine and Felix Faust both take a blood oath to honor their agreement, "in the name of Dedi of Dejed-Sneferu - he who endures".  Dedi of Dejed-Sneferu is an Ancient Egyptian magician, who is a character in one story contained with the Westcar Papyrus.

According to Chas, once a magician dies any spells they have cast that are still on-going will be broken.

John makes use of a rock with a hole in it in order to track and detect Karabasan.  This rock is known as an adder stone, but is also known as a fairy stone, witch stone, hag stone or aggri.  Whatever the name, they are all the same thing - a rock that has had a hole worn through it naturally, usually by water.  Looking through an adder stone allows one to see invisible beings and see through magical illusions and glamours.

John knows a spell that can induce sleep. He uses this to put Zed to sleep so she can act as bait in a trap for Karabasan.

The Monkey King is a trickster figure from Chinese mythology. He was a monkey born from a stone who acquired supernatural powers through Taoists practices, including super-strength, great leaping powers and the ability to shape-shift into one of 72 forms. He was also a powerful warrior and no mean spell-caster in his own right.

Zed is briefly able to use her powers to act as a medium and communicate with Geraldine's soul.

The amount of time between when Chas dies and when he comes back to life varies depending on how violent the death was and Chas does feel the pain of each death fully.

Dialogue Triumphs

You've yet to flinch in the face of The Underworld. Why are you so afraid of a man from this one?
Zed: Because he's my father.

John: I've heard it said that nine-tenths of reality is perception. And in my trade, it's eleven-tenths.

John: All those people wasting away by your hand as life passes them by - that is not the legacy you want, Felix.
Felix Faust: And what would you know of legacy? A boastful, smutty, infantile boy? You create magic by accident and insolence while the truly devoted sweat and toil with no reward. You'll never know my magic, Constantine. You will know my pain!

Chas: I've watched other people suffer the consequences of your actions but this is my family! So I'm going to do things my way! Not yours!
John: Yeah?!  And how would you plan to do that?!
(Chas punches John and knocks him out cold. He takes John and puts him in the back of the cab)
Chas: My family's suffered enough because of you.

(As Chas wakes up after slitting his throat)
Felix Faust: A man of your word, indeed.
Chas: I wish that were true.


John refers to The Resurrection Army's attempted abduction of Zed in 108.

By the episode's end, Chas is down to 30 lives.

Renee makes Chas a scrapbook fill of photos and stories about all 47 lives he absorbed.  He shows Geraldine the pictures and talks about the friends who are with him every day.

Zed apparently spoke to John's mother and he told Zed to tell John that he wasn't responsible for her death.


Brooklyn, New York.

Untelevised Adventures

Felix Faust and John Constantine have had dealings in the past.

At one point before Chas and Renee were divorced, he missed Geraldine's birthday dinner due to his saving another family from The Monkey King.

John Screws Up

John gets his medium ally Fennel killed.

We find out that Chas' apparent immortality is due to John casting a protection spell on Chas that worked when he didn't expect it to.

(And now, a moment of silence for contemplation as we ponder how John can screw things up even by casting a difficult spell perfectly.)

The Bottom Line

The strongest episode of Constantine to date.  The script is wonderful, the cast is firing on all eight cylinders and everything comes off perfectly. The only downside is the loss of such a great villain as Felix Faust. Then again, it's not like Faust didn't die and come back more than once in the comics...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Red Sonja #14 - A Review

One might think Red Sonja cursed, even if that weren't literally the case. She has a vengeful sorcerer on her trail, an unwanted sidekick in the form of a magicless apprentice mage and the one surviving member of the war-band that killed her family has suddenly reappeared only to have eluded her once more.  The actual magical curse that removed her capacity to forgive even the smallest of annoyances is just the icing on the cake.  Yet that may prove to be the most dangerous thing Sonja has to cope with this night...

I've spoken before of how Gail Simone has revitalized the character of Red Sonja. It occurs to me, however, that I haven't said much about how good the dialogue on this series is. There is much wit and humor, as one would expect, but there are also a number of bad-ass lines, including a new title for Sonja - The Curse of Hyrkania - that is reminiscent of the Dalek's name for The Doctor - The Oncoming Storm.

Walter Geovani's artwork continues to be excellent. Geovani is one of the foremost Sonja artists, being one of the few who can depict a Sonja that is sexy while still appearing dangerous. He also offers up unique and eye-catching designs for every supporting character, so there is no fear of getting any members of the large cast confused.

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #4 - A Review

Freed from a localized time warp, The Doctor seems to have lost one companion but gained two more.  Accompanied by Rani Jhulka (an Indian warrior from 1825) and Priyanka Maratha (an Indian astronaut from 2315), The Doctor uncovers a plot stretching back to a long-dead race of fourth-dimensional beings who once played at being gods on Earth. And in order to save Clara Oswald, The Doctor will have to help the sinister Scindia family recover one of the Swords of Kali - an artifact that could cut the very fabric of space and time!

Robbie Morrison writes one HELL of a Doctor Who story. His supporting characters have well-developed motivations and fleshed-out histories. His villains for this piece - The Kaliratha and The Scindia Family - are one of the more interesting concepts in the series' history. And the whole affair is reminiscent of the classic Fourth Doctor story Pyramids of Mars which utilized Egyptian mythology in the same way that Morrison makes use of Indian legends. There's also a fair bit of witty dialogue through the book that sounds just like Peter Capaldi's snarky Doctor.

Unfortunately, I can't praise the artwork for this issue quite so heavily. The general look is inconsistent - a problem that can probably be credited to the fact that two separate artists worked on this issue. A larger problem is that this inconsistency frequently results in Chandra Scindia - the patriarch of the Scinidia family - being rendered in a manner that can only be described as an Arabic stereotype, which is doubly strange since the character is mean to be an Indian!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 10 - Left Behind

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


With Oliver Queen still missing some three days after he left to duel Ra's Al Ghul, it falls to the rest of Team Arrow to protect Starling City. But demoralized and disorganized as they are, can they hold-up as an aspiring crime-boss makes a bold move to release hundreds of criminals from prison and form an unstoppable gang?  And if they can't, could a new vigilante take flight in the city's time of need?

In the Hong Kong flashbacks, Ollie and Maseo must work quickly to recover the other half of the compound needed to make Chien Na Wei's bio-weapon if they are to have any hope of saving Tatsu.


The Green Arrow comics of Judd Winick.


David Ramsey, Colton Haynes and Emily Bett Rickards are each given a good amount of screen-time to showcase how their characters are coping with the apparent reality of Ollie's death.  Felicity takes it the hardest, of course, and has the most dramatic reaction.  Diggle is the most understated, ironically only losing his cool in the fact of an increasingly unsure Roy, who copes with things by looking inward and questioning his actions... just like Ollie in a crisis.  This episode is written as an ensemble piece for the rest of Team Arrow and the actors all nail their parts.


The opening chase scene is of cinematic quality and a feather in the cap of the show's stunt team.


Danny "Brick" Brickwell is based on a crime-boss from the Judd Winick run on Green Arrow.

Like his comic-book counterpart, the Arrow version of Brick seems to possess some form of  super-durability that makes him resistant (if not immune) to the effects of ballistic weaponry and bludgeoning damage. He does, however, seem to be less resistant to arrows.

Thus far,the Arrow version of Brick does not seem to possess the super-strength that Brick in the comics had. He also lack's the comic Brick's red skin and increased size. He does, however, possess his comic-book counterpart's talent for hand-to-hand combat.


The Omega element has to be mixed with another compound called Alpha in order to create a viable bio-weapon.

Ray Palmer tries to generate a two second electrical burst at 800 volts through a gauntlet..

When Felicity enters his office, he admits to having trouble  modulating the stress energy tensor.

Ray tried over-clocking the magnetic coils but that didn't work.

Ray then asks Felicity to see if she can get a nanite chip to function.

He later asks if the problem is the transplex interface.

Dialogue Triumphs

(On seeing Arsenal chasing them)
Thug One:
It's him!
Thug Two: I thought he was green!

Diggle: (defensively) I'm more a Glock kind of guy.
Arsenal: I didn't say anything.

Ray Palmer: Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Start small!

The scene in which Oliver fails to easily break a window even after Maseo shoots it is rather funny given how easy breaking in through a window is usually made to look on TV and in the movies.

Merlyn: Could you put the gun away? They don't scare so much as annoy me.

Roy: Thea just asked me to talk to The Arrow about finding Oliver.
Diggle: And what did you tell her?
Roy: What else? I lied.
Diggle: Oliver didn't want Thea to know.
Roy: That was then. But now, what's the point?
Diggle: I keep asking myself the same question, Roy.
Roy: Then why do you keep going over the case evidence?
Diggle: Because it helps me keep my mind off of Oliver.
Roy: Doing this without him while we're waiting for him to come back is one thing. But doing this without him WITHOUT him? That's a whole other situation.
Diggle: And what do you want me to tell you, Roy?! I can only see one inch in front of me and this is the only thing in front of me right now.

(After Diggle tries shooting him in the head and nothing happens)
Brick: Smart man. Nobody thinks about going for a head shot.

(After shooting Brick in the back while he was strangling Diggle, causing a grunt of pain)
Arsenal: I guess arrows work a little better on this guy than bullets.

Diggle: He's not coming back. Oliver. I know you don't want to believe it, Laurel. God knows I don'tBut he's not coming back.
Laurel: Are you?  Are you coming back?
Diggle: I don't know. For the first time since I've met Oliver Queen, I don't know what happens next. I know it's silly but... I still like to think of myself as Oliver's bodyguard. I just couldn't protect him.
(Laurel hugs him) 
Diggle: It's funny. He was worried something would happen to me.


As this episode opens, it has been three days since the events of A309 and eight months since Slade Wilson's attack on the city.

Diggle wears the Arrow suit for the first time since A105.

Ray Palmer has hated clowns since childhood.

Roy Harper knows Brick by sight.

The blueprint Diggle and Roy find is of the police evidence storage facility. The list they find is case numbers of all the violent offenders convicted in Starling City in the past eight months.

League of Assassins custom demands that any weapon used to kill someone in a duel be left on the dueling site as a memorial to the fallen.

Merlyn brings the sword Ra's impaled Oliver on to Felicity as proof of Oliver's death.

Roy does not usually drink alone.

Thea figured out on her own that Roy was The Arrow's new partner - the man in red.

Felicity is 25 years old.

Felicity quits Team Arrow and returns the chip Ray asked her to fix.

Laurel takes Sara's wig, mask, gloves and Canary Cry greanades from the Arrow Cave.

Merlyn asks Thea to flee the city with him, never to return.

Oliver plants a tracker on one of Chien Na Wei's men and lets him go so they can follow them back to her base and rescue Tatsu. Maseo swears to repay Oliver for this someday.

In the present, we find Maseo is the one who took Oliver's body from where it fell after the duel.  We find out he took it to Tatsu, whom he did not want to see.  Somehow, she brought Oliver back to life.

The Bottom Line

A solid episode that gives the supporting cast a shot at the spotlight.  As usual, the weak point is Laurel but this is due more to the script than any failing on Katie Cassidy's part. The sad fact of the matter is that Laurel has been isolated from the rest of the cast for so long that she no longer has more than a passing acquaintance to most of the show's important characters.  So there's no chance at the same wonderful interplay we get between Diggle and Felicity or Diggle and Roy because Laurel is absent for most of the episode.  Even when we do see her, she doesn't show any reaction to Oliver's death once she hears about it and does little in the scene where she does find out apart from hug Diggle. Still, we do get to see her in costume for the second time and she doesn't get beaten up this time, so that's something.

Superior Iron Man #4 - A Review

With crime on the rise as The Have-Nots of San Francisco turn to crime against The Haves to pay for their Extermis 3.0 treatments, a new crime-fighting solution is required. Tony Stark has the answer - drones watching everyone who signed his service agreements to make sure that they're safe at all times. Naturally Matt Murdock is less than thrilled about this new development. But what can The Man Without Fear hope to do against The Superior Iron Man?

Tom Taylor does a masterful job of manipulating the reader's expectations with this issue. We don't know quite what to make of this Tony Stark. For every moment he seems to have returned to the wicked ways of the Civil War Tony, we see some signs of the man of compassion he once was. Nowhere is this more clear than in Tony's treatment of a young super-being known as The Teen Abomination, whom Tony defends from SHIELD.

Despite being handled by two inkers this month, the artwork for this series remains undiminished in quality.  Quite often when a book employs more than one inker, it shows. And any disparity in style and skill-level between those two inkers is immediately obvious.  That isn't the case here, thankfully.  Both Cory Hamsher and Tom Palmer do a fine job of enhancing Yildiray Cinar's original pencils.

Red Sonja: The Black Tower #4 - A Review

And so it was that Red Sonja was killed by Thraxis - God of The Black Tower!  And lo were the people of Hyboria enslaved. Even the random superheroine who was there for some reason.

Okay - maybe that's just futuristic clothing that Thraxis was kind enough to give the enslaved. We're honestly not that sure about the time scale between chapters here.

But there were those who would resist inspired by the legends of Red Sonja - The Spawn of The She-Devil! But they all got killed almost instantly and inspired Thraxis to become even more cruel. So screw them. And forget we mentioned them, because they aren't at all important to this story.

What is important is that Thraxis was awesome. And he had a harem of totally hot smoking babes who would do anything to make him not kill them or send them to the mines.

Is Hyboria doomed?  How will this story end when our heroine got killed in the last chapter? Does anybody actually care at this point?

How does the story of Red Sonja: The Black Tower - a tale that has thus far involved dragon-riding, robots, lightsabers, ray guns and flying saucers -  become even more convoluted in its final chapter?

By introducing time travel.

I'm not even kidding. It turns out that the attractive couple we saw get killed WAY back in the first chapter were time-travelers.

Mom hung on just long enough to deliver her son, who was raised by the robots in the tower and he was able to use the advanced technology to watch the outside world, developed a crush on Red Sonja and then became this monstrous warlord to get revenge on the people who killed his parents.  Oh, and he killed Sonja after realizing there was no way she'd ever surrender to him.

He explains all this to an attractive redhead who wishes to serve the living god more directly. And I don't need to say anything more because you already know how this is going to end.

Just one question remains - how is this possible?

You have to love it when the writer can't be buggered to choose just which hackneyed plot twist he should use and just decides to say A Wizard Did It. The irony being that this is one of the few genres where that would be a legitimate explanation...

Is a comic truly bad if you find yourself amused by it?  I'll leave such questions to other scholars. For me, it is enough to say that Red Sonja: The Black Tower seems incredibly conflicted as to just what kind of story it is trying to tell.

The worst part is not the introduction of science-fiction elements into the Hyborian world or the vague plot. It is the fact that the base plot is virtually identical to the much reviled Avengers #200, with the only difference being that our villain beheads the woman of his dreams rather than raping her and that she (or her clone/daughter/spirit/whatever) gets revenge by going back in time to kill an innocent woman ala The Terminator.

It's a distasteful comic. And I feel sorry that the genuinely skilled Cezar Razek will have this book on his resume. Hopefully he'll be able to draw a much better Red Sonja story in the future.  Better yet, let's get Amanda Conner (who did the cover for this issue) to write and draw a Red Sonja comic!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 10 - Revenge Of The Rogues

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


In the wake of The Reverse-Flash's attack, Barry has become obsessed with becoming faster and taken Dr. Well's lead on focusing on a strict training regiment. If nothing else, it's taking his mind off of Iris moving out of her dad's house and in with Eddie Thawne. Unfortunately, Leonard Snart has become increasingly bold in trying to lure The Flash out of hiding. And with his new partner - arsonist Mick Rory - Captain Cold is hoping to expose The Flash to the world at large before giving the Scarlet Speedster a bad case of "freeze or burn".


The Flash #140
(first team-up of Captain Cold and Heatwave) and The Flash comics of Geoff Johns.  The title itself seems to have been inspired by a Final Crisis tie-in - Rogue's Revenge.


Barry's sudden leap that FIRESTORM is an acronym is somewhat contrived.

One wonders why the cops on the scene don't try shooting Captain Cold and Heatwave while they're distracted and looking up at The Flash as he runs along the sides of the surrounding buildings.

Granting that Barry's costume is a modified fire-fighter's suit and that his speed makes him resistant to the effects of Captain Cold's freeze ray, it still seems unlikely that Barry could endure what is meant to be absolute zero AND absolute hot for as long as he does with no adverse effects.


As in 104, Wentworth Miller steals the show as Captain Cold. But Dominic Purcell holds his own as Heatwave. Carlos Valdes is given a rare chance to stretch his wings beyond being simple comic relief and proves capable of delivering a number of touching speeches sans technobabble.


Geoff Johns and Kai Yu Wu deliver a mostly solid script. The exception to this is the scenes centering upon our titular Rogues, which are straight-from-the-comics perfect.

The special effects for this episode are top notch.

Flash Facts

Captain Cold's new partner in crime is a pyromaniac arsonist by the name of Mick Rory.  In the comics, this was indeed the name of the man who became the villain Heatwave.  Both characters are experienced arsonists who suffer from pyromania.

On the show, Snart gifts Rory the STAR Labs flame gun.  In the comics, Rory was an independent super-villain who built his own flame-thrower before joining The Rogues.

As on the show, it was Captain Cold who brought Heatwave into the gang of super-criminals known as The Rogues.

As on the show, Captain Cold and Heatwave don't really like each other much, with Cold disapproving of Heatwave's mania regarding fire and Heatwave disliking Cold's cool, business-like manner. Still, the two work together recognizing the benefits their partnership has to offer.

Iris has a stuffed turtle toy named McSnurtle the Turtle. This is a reference to a rather obscure funny animals comic character about a super-powered turtle - The Terrific Whatzit - who dressed in a costume based on the design of Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick.

Barry had a red and yellow backpack as a kid, which matches his costume as The Flash.

Barry is revealed to have collected comic books as a kid.  In the Silver Age Flash comics, Barry Allen was also a comic collector.

The rich couple who bought the painting Fire and Ice are named Osgood and Rachel Rathaway. They make mention of no longer having a son. This is a reference to Hartley Rathaway who eventually become the super-villain The Pied Piper.

The reason for The Rathaways disowning their son is probably due to Hartley being gay.  The Pied Piper was one of the first openly gay characters in American superhero comics.

In trying to discover what happened to her fiance, Ronnie, Caitlin seeks out a man named Jason Rusch. In the comics, Jason Rusch was one of the people who became a host for the Firestorm Matrix.  Originally, he absorbed the powers of the original Firestorm when Ronnie Raymond died.  In the New 52 reality, Rusch is a brilliant science-minded high-school student who become forcibly bonded to football team captain Ronnie Raymond to form the hero Firestorm.

Jason Rusch co-wrote the 800 page paper about F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. with Dr. Martin Stein. In the comics, Dr. Martin Stein was a physicist who - after being caught in a nuclear accident - joined together with high-school student Ronnie Raymond to create the matter-manipulating hero Firestorm. In the New 52 reality, Stein was the scientist whose work was responsible for merging Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch together to become Firestorm.

Mention is made of Hudson University being the college where Rusch and Stein worked on the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. project.  In the comics, Hudson University was the college that employed Dr. Stein when he became one-half of the Firstorm matrix.

Captain Cold tells The Flash to meet him at the corner of Porter and Main. This is likely a reference to comics artist Howard Porter, who worked on The Flash with writer Geoff Johns.

Leonard Snart's "sis" who helps him and Mick Rory escape at the end of the episode is Lisa Snart.  In the comics, Leonard Snart's younger sister became a super-villain called The Golden Glider.


The remnants of the door to the vintage car warehouse that Captain Cold and Heatwave broke into indicates that the door had zero viscoelasticity when it hit the ground- i.e. steel shattered like glass.

Cisco and Dr. Well coat the ballistic shields used by CCPD's SWAT teams with a compacted heating ribbon designed to repel temperature attacks - particularly Absolute Zero temperatures like those generated by Captain Cold's freeze ray.

S.C.U.B.A. is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. is an acronym for Fusion Ignition Research Experiment & Science of Transmutation RNA & Molecular Structures.

Transmutation is the process of altering the structure of an element by unzipping its atoms and rebuilding it to create an entirely new element.

Heatwave's gun generates Absolute Hot (aka Planck Temperature) the same way Captain Cold's freeze ray generates Absolute Cold.

Cisco is able to find where Caitlin is being held captive through a combination of analyzing traffic-stop cameras to track Cold's vehicle and then figuring out which warehouse has the heat turned on.

Dialogue Triumphs

Dr. Wells: Look, Barry.  Cisco and I will work with Joe and the police to devise a way to catch Cold. Yes, I said it, Cisco. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I heard it.

Barry: I told Iris.
Joe: You told Iris you're The Flash?
Barry: Oh, no.  No, no, no, no. Sorry, no.  I told her how I felt about her.
Joe: Oh God.
Barry: Mmm-hmm.
Joe: What did she say?
Barry: Well... still moving in with Eddie, isn't she?

(After being asked why the police should trust STAR Labs' tech to protect them)
 You're right. You're right. You shouldn't trust us. What happened a year ago - that was out fault. And we can't change the past. As much as we wish we could. But tomorrow is a different story. Tomorrow is a different thing. We just want the chance to make things better.

Heatwave: (to a group of cops) Why do they call you people The Heat?!  I'M THE HEAT!

Cold: Give me one reason I don't kill you right now.
Heatwave: It's gonna be hard to find someone else to listen to your winning speeches.
Cold: You lost it out there. Just like the last job. You lost focus. Became obsessed.
Heatwave: I'm obsessed?  What about you? You're usually counting the seconds. Got the whole planned out.  Dotting T's. Crossing  I's. But all you care about now is The Flash.

Wells: (To Barry) I hope we're not enemies.

Dr. Wells: So, potentially, these two guns could cancel each other out.
Cisco: Yeah. But to do that you'd have to make them cross streams.
Barry: You mean like Ghostbusters?
Cisco: That film was surprisingly scientifically accurate!
Dr. Wells: And really quite funny.


Barry is now fast enough that he can outrun a heat-seeking missile, grab a hold of it, and throw it before it explodes. Dr. Wells notes his reaction to stimuli while moving at super-speed has improved dramatically over the past month.

Cisco officially dubs "the man in the yellow suit" The Reverse Flash, pointing out the man named himself in 109.

The painting that Captain Cold and Heatwave steal is named, appropriately enough, Fire and Ice.

Cisco reminds everyone that he built Captain Cold's gun, as we discovered in 104.

Jason Rusch mentions having just gotten hired at Mercury Labs, last seen in 109.

Either Leonard Snart or Mick Rory is capable of hacking a television broadcast signal.

At the episode's end, Cisco reclaims the Freeze and Heat rays on behalf of STAR Labs.

Though nothing definite is said about abandoning the Anti-Flash squad Eddie Thawne formed two episodes earlier, it is made clear that many of the cops have a positive opinion of The Flash.

The existence of The Flash is outed to the public of Central City.

Iris moves out of Joe's house as Barry decides to move back in.

The Bottom Line

The episode is a little slow to start and some moments of the final battle are a little goofy, even allowing for the fact that Flash comics in general tend to be a bit silly.  Nevertheless, its an enjoyable episode made more enjoyable by all the cliches that are blown apart as the story proceeds. No cops living in fear of our hero. No secretive war to save a city that doesn't know he exists. The Flash is out in the spotlight and a friend to all, as he should be.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three #17 - A Review

The Tower of Fate is breached! Now, Batman and his resistance will need all the magic they can muster as Superman and his allies invade their secret base. But even with the added advantage of Lex Luthor's super-pills, will they be able to hold their own long enough for one last gamble from John Constantine?

This issue is basically one extended fight scene. But as far as extended fight scenes go, it's a darn good one.  The script by Brian Buccellato allows a fair bit of character development in spite of the focus on fighting and there's some rather creative pairings at play as the respective sides square off. My favorite is Harley Quinn vs. Shazam.

Xermanico is largely responsible for the excellent artwork of this issue.  Fellow regular Injustice artist Bruno Redondo offers an assist with the layouts and inker Juan Albarran helps with the finishes. Rex Lokus contributes his usual vibrant work on the issue's colors.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Arrow: Season 2.5 #11 - A Review

About the last thing John Diggle wants to do is go back overseas in the company of Deadshot - the man who killed his brother. But when the alternative is his pregnant ex-wife going overseas in the company of the man who killed his brother (i.e. the very last thing John Diggle wants), he didn't have much choice but to volunteer and lead Task Force X into a war zone. He may be signing his own death warrant but that's why they call it The Suicide Squad.

I asked for it. And boy did I received it!  A full-length Suicide Squad special worthy of the name! I said in Arrow Season 2.5 reviews past that the back-ups by Keto Shimizu and Szymon Kudranski needed to be their own full-length book.  And what we see in this issue more than justifies my belief in the creative team.

I'm reluctant to say more about this issue save this: if you're a fan of the classic Suicide Squad comics of John Ostrander, you'd do well to check out this issue even if you're not normally an Arrow viewer.  Fans of military adventure fiction will likely enjoy this comic as well.  And Arrow-heads?  You'll like it too, especially for the cameo at the end.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #6 - A Review

The Tenth Doctor had intended to take his newest companion - aspiring artist Gabby Gonzales - someplace nice and beautiful. But as we all know The TARDIS sometimes takes The Doctor where he needs to be instead of where he wants to go. And where he needs to be is the front lines of World War I, where a group of Weeping Angels is making a meal of the approaching British troops.

Robbie Morrison proves to be as skillful in capturing the essence of The Tenth Doctor as he's been in portraying The Twelfth Doctor. He also does a fine job of establishing the supporting cast for this story, creating a truly touching tale for the first soldier to fall prey to The Weeping Angels. Morrison also manages to convey the true horrors of war without slowing the story down a step.

For the most part, artist Daniel Indro matches Morrison in terms of quality on the issue's artwork. Indro has a fine sense of dramatic pacing and a good sense of proportion. The only real flaw is that some of his pages are over-inked, with there being a few occasions where the line work is completely obscured by shadows that seem too thick for the scene in question.

Batgirl #38 - A Review

It isn't often that a comic manages to change my opinion of it in one issue but Batgirl #38 managed this task. Ironically, it did this by trying to defend its new direction on a metatextual level.  It seems I was willing to forgive this title its flaws until it began pointing them out, like a nervous homeowner during a tour of their house.

The book opens with a scene of Barbara Gordon enjoying her new-found celebrity status as the defender of Gotham's Burnside district. This doesn't sit well with Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary), who is currently crashing on her couch and still harboring a grudge over Barbara accidentally burning down her hideout. It's a long story...

To cut that long story short, Dinah acts as a proxy for the critics of Batgirl's new direction. She points out that Babs is no longer the studious bookworm she once was and that Babs has apparently forgotten all about her former best friend and roommate, Alysia.  Babs counters that there's nothing wrong with her wanting to have fun and enjoy herself after everything she's been through recently and tells Dinah to get out of her life if she's going to act like this.

The hell of it is, Dinah is right. Babs IS acting childish and is totally out of character.  And the rest of the issue showcases not only how Dinah is right about Barbara's changed personality but how the detractors of this title have been 100% right about everything else.

This book is not about Barbara Gordon. The Barbara Gordon I know and love would never be as stupid and short-sighted as the heroine in this bat costume we see in this issue. With all the horrible things going on in Gotham, who does this Batgirl choose to focus on?  Some rich douche-bag who - while a douche-bag who commits numerous petty crimes and then gets off because he's rich and famous - is ultimately less responsible for the destruction that occurs than Barbara.

In the middle of this, I realized that while many detractors of this title have focused on Barbara abandoning the one friend she had during the Gail Simone run, nobody has made the same complaint about Barbara's love life.  Whatever happened to Ricky Gutierrez - the ex street thug gone good Barbara began seeing during Simone's run?  Apparently he's been abandoned for Officer Powell - a goody two-shoes cop who hates vigilantes like Barbara hates clowns.

While I may grouse about the writing, I have no such complaints about the artwork of Babs Tarr.  Her energetic style is a perfect complement to the story. I just wish she had better material to work with.

The crazy thing is that there is a story I'd like to read in this comic but it isn't about Barbara Gordon learning a Very Important Lesson about popularity being fleeting and power needing to be used responsibly.  I want to read a comic about Dinah Lance trying to rebuild her life and getting a gig singing for a rock band. And if Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart ever elect to tell that story, I'll be the first in line for that book.

As it is, I think I'm done with Batgirl for now.  There are good stories to tell about a newbie heroine who learns from her mistakes and I wish Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart would tell them. I just wish they used a heroine besides Barbara Gordon to do it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Star Wars #1 (Marvel 2015) - A Review

Like most people my age, I was a fan of Star Wars growing up.  I had the original Kenner action figures, played pretend I was Luke Skywalker and wore out at least one video tape of the first movie. Yet somewhere along the line, despite still owning a plastic lightsaber, I became less fanatical about it.

Maybe it was the disappointment of the prequels.  Maybe it was the entire Expanded Universe being written off. Maybe it was a fandom that had somehow gone from holding Han Solo as the epitome of coolness to worshiping Boba Fett as the embodiment of bad-ass.

(Okay. So maybe one good thing came of the EU being sacrificed. But is losing Mara Jade really worth insuring that Boba Fett died as he was meant to - accidentally catapulted into a giant space anus?)

Regardless, I wasn't quite as hyped as some of my colleagues were about a new Marvel Comics Star Wars series.  At least, I wasn't before I picked up this first issue.  And suddenly my inner five-year-old was making WOOOSH noises while wielding a cardboard tube and squealing in glee inside my head.

The story opens sometime shortly after the end of Episode IV, with our favorite group of Rebels infiltrating an Imperial weapons factory with the intent of blowing it up. The good news is that - for once - the infiltration goes smoothly. The bad news is that what was meant to be a simple act of espionage suddenly becomes a rescue mission once the timer is already running...

Writer Jason Aaron perfectly captures the feeling of the classic Star Wars movies. Not only in how the story opens with a familiar opening scroll of yellow text and a long shot of a spaceship but in terms of how all the dialogue scans. You can almost hear the voices of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and company throughout the book.

Artist John Cassaday does a good job caricaturing the cast of the movie. Indeed, the only flaw to Cassady's work is how lifeless some panels appear, with more work being put into emulation of the famous faces than in conveying expressions.  Still, the action sequences are well-laid out and exciting. The colors by Laura Martin are well chosen. And Chris Eliopoulos's letters subtly enhance the dialogue.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Justice League United #8 - A Review

I must apologize to you all, dear readers. I had intended to review Justice League United #8 today. But owing to some kind of printing error, my copy seems to have been replaced with a Legion of Superheroes comic.

*whisper whisper whisper*

Say that again?

*whisper whisper whisper*

This IS the new issue of Justice League United?

*whisper whisper whisper*

Then why do we barely see the Justice League in it?!  I mean, I know there's a crossover going on, but shouldn't the title team have most of the action focused on them?

*whisper whisper whisper*

You think this gag where I talk to an unseen person is getting stale and I should drop it, especially since it doesn't really make sense in print?  Oh, okay.

In all seriousness, I commented in previous reviews that the presence of Legion characters in this comic was a hindrance to the story as little effort was made to explain who the dozen-or-so characters were and what their powers were, let alone their personalities. Introducing another dozen of them in this issue does little to help matters.  Indeed, nothing of importance really happens in this issue until the last few pages. Until then, everything is all about how things are still terrible in the future and how the Legionaries still in the future come to the past.

At least the artwork by Neil Edwards is still good.  Though one wishes he focused less on two-page splashes and more on trying to make the action flow smoothly.  Edwards is great in an open space but confine him to a few panels on a page and everything becomes hemmed in and sloppy.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Constantine Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 9 - The Saint of Last Resorts: Part Two

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


Bloodied and betrayed, John invites the demon Pazuzu into his body in order to heal his wounds. Now Chas, a harried Zed and an incredibly reluctant Anne Marie must work together to prevent the demon from escaping into the world and save John's life in the bargain.


Swamp Thing #37 (introduction of Anne Marie, The Brujeria and The Invunche), Hellblazer: Original Sins (John using a demon to heal himself, The Resurrection Crusade and Zed's background) Hellblazer #11 (references to The Newcastle Incident), Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits (John using demons to heal himself) and Hellblazer: Hard Time (John taking over a prison where he's been locked up). 


The entire ensemble does a fine job, as we get to see all of our cast together in a single episode for the first time.


The direction on Zed's visions continues to be amazing.

The lighting throughout the episode is very atmospheric and moody without obscuring the action.

Pub Trivia

The idea of John seeking demonic intervention to heal his injuries is not without precedent. In Original Sins, John undergoes a blood transfusion using demonic blood in order to heal his injuries. And in Dangerous Habits, John forces three powerful demons to cure his lung cancer.

John's taking over a prison from the inside may be a reference to the Hard Time story line, where John did the same thing in an American prison while serving time for a murder he didn't commit.

John's nickname in prison is El Diablo - The Devil.


The First of the Fallen offers temporary power to mortals, eventually turning them into his possessions.

John likens demonic permintion to the flu, noting there is an incubation period between the first infection and full possession. John estimates that he has a few days before Pazuzu can take him over but owing to Pazuzu's strength and/or John's overconfidence, it takes a bit less than that.

Chas notes that Pazuzu was the Assyrian god of famine, locusts and storms.

John has a tape-recording of himself reading exorcism rituals in 50 languages, including Assyrian in his kit.

John also possess a ceremonial Tibetan Phurba. A phurba is a ritual knife which symbolizes the destruction of obstacles.  It can also be used as an offensive weapon against hostile spirits.

Up until a certain point, Holy Water causes a violent reaction when sprinkled on a possessed person.

Nahash is the Hebrew word for 'serpent'. It is one of the names used to refer to the physical manifestation of earthly temptation. Other titles include The Trickster, The Tempter and - most recently - Vincente. He was the serpent in the Garden of Eden and was set free by the Brujeria purely so that he could aid them in destroying the world of Man with no other promises or expectations.

Nahash is a shapeshifter and it can take on the forms of people it has killed by slithering inside of their bodies.

When one of the Nahash's physical forms is destroyed, it breaks into a swarm of snakes.

Until they fully take over a human body, demons are vulnerable to anything that effects the physicality of their host. To that end, strong sedatives (i.e. enough heroin to kill a herd of elephants) can be used to disable a demon and its host.

Anne Marie is capable of crafting complex illusions with her magic. Either that, or she is able to change the appearance of her biolocation form. Either way, she uses some kind of power to create an image of herself in nothing but her underwear to distract the guards and she, Chas and John escape from the prison.

Pazuzu is too powerful to be warded off by a recording of John's voice. It takes true faith and conviction to banish a demon king.

Under normal circumstances The Roman Catholic exorcism ritual requires a fully ordained priest to perform. However, it can also be performed by any devout Catholic who has undergone a divine epiphany or otherwise seen first hand proof that Heaven and Hell exist.

Dialogue Triumphs

Manny: To save yourself from Hell, you acted without considering the consequences. It's not that I can't help you, John. I won't.

Manny: I've got to admit - I never thought you'd do anything THIS stupid.
John: I'm John Constantine. I do stupid in spades!

Zed: John talks to an angel.
Anne Marie: What did you say?
Zed: His name is Manny. He came to John for help. You kneel here, night after night, hoping against hope that Heaven hears your words. Well, guess what?! John has Heaven on speed dial! Someone up there thinks he's worth a damn and now he's dying because of you!

Zed: Should I be scared? For John, I mean.
Anne Marie: He's in a bad way. But John believes he has every situation under control and he makes you believe. That's his magic. And his curse.

(As John describes his plan to use a monster dose of heroin to knock Pazuzu out)
Anne Marie:
And if you're wrong?
John: Well, then I'll go out riding the world's greatest high. With my first love at my side.


Zed makes reference to 107, where she learned of Manny's existence.

Zed grew up near a prison and knows something about how hookers are snuck inside of them.


Mexico City and Atlanta, Georgia

The Fridge Factor

Averted hard as Zed escapes from her captors on her own and Anne Marie proves essential to saving John Constantine.

John Screws Up

Granting that he was in dire straits, inviting a demon into his body in order to heal a bullet wound is foolhardy even by John Constantine's standards.

The Bottom Line

Not quite as intense as Part One, but the leisurely pace  does allow the entire cast a chance to shine as we get to see John's friends come to the foreground as Constantine is incapacitated for the better part of the episode.  A welcome return to form after the break.