Thursday, April 30, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron - A Spoiler-Free Review

When the first Avengers movie came out three years ago, I was in the midst of a boycott of all things Marvel following Spider-Man: One More Day. I relented only because of my love of Joss Whedon's writing.  Afterward, I agreed to limit my boycott to Spider-Man related materials, since it wasn't fair for me to punish myself by avoiding the works of creators I liked in the name of proving a point against a single publisher.

I mention this because the thing that astonished me most about The Avengers was how accessible it was. Despite my not having seen Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger or anything after the first Iron Man movie, I was still able to follow the plot without any issues.  Whedon took care to introduce all the players and relate all the information we needed quickly and subtly.

Age of Ultron doesn't manage the same feat. How can it?! At this point, The Marvel Cinematic Universe is fast becoming as complex as the comic books that inspired it and to miss one movie is to lose a piece of the puzzle. In this respect, it is a weaker film than its predecessor because it cannot stand on its own merits.

That being said, it does have a lot of merits and the good far outweighs the bad.  In fact, I'd say it does improve upon the first film in one respect by giving Hawkeye and Black Widow some much needed definition. Ironically, the newer heroes don't get that much development in comparison but that may be rectified by the longer director's-cut that has already been promised for the Blu-Ray release.

This is a Joss Whedon movie, so you should all know what to expect: witty dialogue and lots of humor amidst the action. Unfortunately, a lot of the best moments have already been spoiled by the trailers but there are some good moments that aren't. One of these involves the greatest Stan Lee cameo yet and I shan't say a word beyond that.

Well, I will say one thing.  There is a mid-credits scene to wait around for.  There isn't anything at the end of the credits, apart from a note that The Avengers Will Return.

In the end, the best thing I can say about Age of Ultron is this. I had a royally bad day before I went into the movie theater.  Two hours later, I had forgotten my troubles. And once I remembered them on the drive home they didn't seem quite so worrisome.

This movie lightened my heart at a time when I needed a pick me up. And when you get right down to it, isn't that the mark of all good escapist fiction? I think it is.  And Age of Ultron is very good escapist fiction.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 21 - Al Sah-Him

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


Three weeks have passed and with Oliver now firmly committed to his new role as Heir to the Demon, one task must be taken care of before any other - eliminate Ra's wayward daughter Nyssa Al Ghul! Nyssa is ready to face her fate alone, but Laurel is determined to help her and asks Diggle and Felicity to join in the fight.

Five years ago in Hong Kong, Ollie and The Yamashiros try to slow the spread of the Alpha Omega virus as they race across Hong Kong to retrieve Akio.


Batman: Son of the Demon (plot involving hero becoming Ra's Al Ghul's heir), Devin Grayson's Titans (mention of Damien Darkh), Gail Simone's Birds of Prey (the relationship between Laurel and Nyssa mirrors that between Dinah Lance and Lady Shiva) and Batman: Contagion (Ra's Al Ghul seeks to destroy a whole city with a plague).


Despite the Lazarus Pit resurrection supposedly changing a person, Thea seems remarkably the same after three weeks.

Where did Laurel get a tracking device from?

It's been three weeks since they got back from Nanda Parbat and Felicity doesn't think to tell Thea that Roy is still alive and wants her to be with him in all that time?

Come to think of it, why hasn't Roy called in the past three weeks asking about Thea?

Wouldn't it have been nice if Laurel had used The Canary Cry at any point during the fight with the League of Assassins once Lyla was free?  Like right after Lyla was turning to grab the guns from Felicity and all the assassins were in a nice line in front of her?


Katrina Law gives a masterful performance and proves to be the best thing about an incredibly weak episode.

Willa Holland, as underutilized as she is in this episode, works miracles with what little she has to work with.

Given how controlled he usually is as John Diggle, it is a thing of wonder to see him lose control and grow truly angry with Laurel and Nyssa after Lyla's kidnapping.


The show opens with a special opening, noting Oliver Queen is no longer the Arrow or Oliver Queen.

Ra's Al Ghul makes reference to a former friend turned rival named Damien Darhk, who founded his own organization to compete with The League of Assassins and stole water from The Lazarus Pit. In the comics, Damien Darhk was a criminal mastermind who founded the second incarnation of the criminal group H.I.V.E.  Darhk was a computer genius and also gifted with some form of immortality.


The League of Assassins use an intensive brainwashing technique on some of their new recruits. Part of this includes the use of an herb that causes the conscience of the one who takes it to come to the forefont of their mind - usually their family, friends and mentors. In this case, Oliver hallucinates John Diggle.

Dialogue Triumphs

Oliver: My name was Oliver Queen. For three years I worked to save my city. But to save my sister, I had to become someone else. I had to become... something else.

(After Laurel apologizes for not telling her that Ollie had agreed to become The Demon's Heir)
Nyssa: Were I so inclined, I'd question why your first instinct is to always keep matters secret even after doing so cost you a relationship with your father.

Thea: (walking into Ray's secret lab) Nice secret headquarters upgrade! Does Mr. Palmer know you guys are in here?
Felicity: (flustered) Yes. He's out of town. How did you get in here?
Thea: My dad's a super-villain. And you left your doors unlocked.

(After Thea suggests she help Diggle and Felicity out in the field)
Thea, this might actually be the worst week ever for this conversation.

Felicity: It's going to be fine. We're handling it.
Thea: (pause) You are a terrible liar.
Felicity: That is true!

(After Thea says it's one thing for Ollie to sacrifice his life but another to be a killer)
Merlyn: What did you think he would be doing in The League of Assassins?

Lyla: What happened to you?  Johnny told me, but how could you become this?
Al Sah-Him: Quiet. It will be over soon.
Lyla: No. I genuinely want to know. How could the man who stood up at my wedding do this? How could the man who's been like a brother-
Al Sah-Him: Quiet!
Lyla: You know, when John's brother died, a part of him died too. His guilt and the emptiness from the loss outweighed everything. I tried my hardest to help him but no one seemed to be able to comfort him or fill that void.  Until he met you. You gave him hope and purpose again!

(After shooting Al Sah-Him in the arm as he stood over a helpless Diggle)
Thea: (half-growled) Get away from him or the next one goes in your eye!

Dialogue Disasters

Laurel: I know you're furious with Ra's for what he's done to Oliver. We all are. But Nyssa... she saved my sister's life. She gave her a home She's a good person. In spite of everything she grew up with. And the last time I checked, protecting good people is what we do.


In universe, three weeks have passed since the end of the last episode and the start of this one.

Ra's Al Ghul says that Damien Darhk was responsible for a number of crimes Oliver Queen or his associates stopped.  He was the one who tried to buy Malcolm Merlyn's spare earthquake generator (212), gave the Afghan drug lord Gholem Qadie safe passage to Markovia (216) and hired Mark Shaw to steal a secret file from ARGUS (303).

Laurel loves black-and-white milkshakes and dipping her fries in them.

Nyssa proved a talented thief as a child.

The League of Assassins came into possession of the Alpha/Omega bio-weapon sometime after it was released in Hong Kong.  Nyssa Al Ghul stole it when she left The League but Ra's recovers it from a hidden compartment in her sword.

Ra's Al Ghul declares that Nyssa shall marry Al Sah-Him as a sign of unity between their families.

In the flashback, Akio Yamashiro shows signs of having the Alpha/Omega virus despite having taking the vaccine.

The final act of ascension before a member of The League of Assasins can become Ra's Al Ghul is for their home city to be destroyed by their hand. In this case, Ra's decrees that the Alpha/Omega virus will be released on Starling City.


Nanda Parbat

The Fridge Factor

Laurel would have been stabbed to death by a random mugger had it not been for Nyssa's timely intervention.

Laurel's idiocy regarding Nyssa Al Ghul being "a good person" beggars belief.  Thank goodness Diggle calls her on it.

Lyla is turned into a damsel in distress for the sake of the plot, though at least she takes Ollie to task while she's being held hostage and acquits herself well in the fight that follows.

The Bottom Line

Quite possibly the single worst episode of the series, redeemed only by the strength of the supporting cast and some good character scenes. The flashback sequences are pointless filler  - well, more so than has usually been the case for this season. Laurel continues to be a puzzle piece that will not fit no matter how they twist her. The only person interested in trying to talk to Oliver without pointing a gun or a bow at him at the same time is Lyla of all people. And the less about the script and how Ra's Al Ghul has shifted gears over the course of one episode the better. Without Stephen Amell at the core of the show, it proves to be as empty and soulless as Al Sah-Him.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three Annual #1 - A Review

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three Annual #1 is a perfect coda for Year Three of this series. Ironic really given that the second story in this collection is set during Year One. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

The opening chapter - A Proper Mage - is set just before the beginning of Year Three and reveals that John Constantine was not the first magician to whom Batman turned for help after Zatanna. That honor went to the team of Rose Psychic and Doctor Occult, whom quickly piqued John Constantine's interest and inspired him to offer his assistance... whether they wanted it or not.

Written by Constantine writer Ray Fawkes, this tale is a fine look at the parts of the supernatural side of the DC Comics Universe that we didn't see during Year Three.  This story also offers a good explanation for just how the usually neutral John Constantine became so hell-bent on getting involved in the fight against Superman as well as how he got such wonderful toys with endless possibilities, such as a bag of "nameless sand".

The second story - Fall of The Titans - answers a question that many Teen Titans fans had regarding the Injustice Universe - where the heck are Beast Boy, Starfire, Kid Flash and all the other sidekicks? The only Titans we saw in the game and the comics until now were Cyborg, Raven and Nightwing. That's a good chunk of the team missing in action!

While this story by Brian Buccellato won't satisfy all of the Titans fans (there's no sign of Donna Troy or Roy Harper, for instance) it is good for what it is. The subplot involving Connor Kent's reaction to his mentor taking a life is an interesting mirror to the feelings of many Superman fans regarding the core conceit of Injustice and there's some interesting interplay between Starfire and Nightwing, who recently left The Titans to join The Justice League in this reality.

As per usual for this series, the artwork is top notch.  Xermanic and Alejandro Sanchez do their usual sterling job on the first chapter. Sergio Davila, Juan Albarran and Rex Lokus ace it on the second chapter. And Wes Abbott does an amazing job lettering both chapters.  All in all this issue is well worth the $4.99 price tag.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 20 - The Trap

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


Having uncovered undeniable proof that the man they knew as Harrison Wells is The Reverse-Flash, Barry, Caitlin and Cisco must set a trap for their mentor. At the same time, Eddie makes a hard decision regarding his relationship with Iris which will leave Joe and Barry unsettled.


The Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns.


Even at this late stage in which we know what a villain he is, Tom Cavangh still manages to make "Harrison Wells" into a likable villain. And the episode's closing monologue is easily his best speech yet.


The scene with Cisco in his lucid dream is shot in a very effective manner, with the fuzzy camera work and music emulating a dream incredibly well. The final effect is very trippy.

The special effects for the sequence in which The Flash extinguishes a fire are top-notch.

The sequence in which Barry chases after the bullets racing towards Wells and Cisco is exciting and well shot.

Flash Facts

Cisco notes that the photo of The Flash in the future shows Barry wearing a bright red costume with a white circle behind his lighting bolt insignia. This look corresponds with the original costume Barry Allen wore in the comics as The Flash.

Cisco compares seeing the future newspaper to the movie Back To The Future and the photo of Marty McFly and his siblings that allowed him to monitor his timeline destabilizing.

Caitlin notes that the byline for the story says Iris West-Allen.  In the comics, Iris West and Barry Allen did get married, though she took Barry's name.

Gideon is about to describe The Flash as the founder of something before Barry cuts her off.  Perhaps she was about to say "The Justice League" - the superhero team which Barry was a founding member of in the comics?

Cisco calls Gideon HAL - a reference to the malevolent AI from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

When asking about the possibility of dying in reality if he dies in his lucid dream, Cisco makes reference to the movies Inception (where dying in a dream normally causes you to wake up) and Dreamscape (where death in a dream causes the death of the physical body).

The glasses for the dream device that Cisco wears resemble the shades worn by the superhero Vibe as part of his costume in the comics.

The glasses that Barry wears resemble those from the classic Captain Cold costume in the comics.

Barry extinguishing a fire by generating a vacuum is a frequent feat that The Flash accomplishes in the comics.

Cisco makes a reference to Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom and how Dr. Wells killed him in his dream by attacking his heart.


Cisco suggests they may be living in a causal nexus - a state where everything the affects a phenomenon becomes a factor in creating said phenomenon. In this case, by seeing Barry's future costume, this may cause them to change his costume to match the one in the future.

Gideon describes herself as an interactive artificial consciousness.

Cisco says that if he can get access to Gideon's operating system, he may be able to disable her memory core.

The device Barry, Caitlin and Cisco build allow Cisco to see into his own dreams.  Caitlin said she got the idea from an article on lucid dream therapy and the idea that it could be used to treat people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The theory is that people will be able to objectively enter their own dreams and face their fears. She has difficulty in figuring out how the subject will be able to talk while this is occurring.

Caitlin claims the amount of electricity needed to trigger lucid dreaming is probably harmless.

Wells helps complete the communications interface for the device, noting that the middle brain lights up with activity during dreaming while the higher brain remains dormant. With both sections stimulated, it then becomes a matter of finding the right frequency to stimulate the language center, allowing the subject to speak while dreaming.  Wells suggests starting with a frequency of 45 hz.

The glasses attached to the dream device emit a low-level delta wave that should assist the subject in sleeping.

As Wells begins his attack in the dream, Cisco's blood pressure jumps to 200 over 147. This is well above the threshold for a hypertensive crisis - i.e. heart attack or stroke.

Barry is able to create a vacuum by rotating his arms at super-speed, generating a wind funnel that blows all of the oxygen out of the room.

Cisco creates a speedster-proof force-field to protect him from Wells as they try to trick him into confessing to Nora Allen's murder.

Dialogue Triumphs

(after seeing the byline on the future newspaper reads Iris West-Allen)

Barry: Iris West...Allen?
Cisco: (beat) Mazel Tov!

(After Barry agrees to talk to Joe about Eddie's proposing to Iris)
Eddie: Oh, thanks! I appreciate it so much. And so will the future Mrs. Thawne. (excited) Iris Thawne!  Sounds pretty good, huh?
Barry: (quietly as Eddie walks off) I have a feeling she's going to want to hyphenate.

Barry: You know, I couldn't have done any of this without you.
Wells: I feel the same way about you.

Barry: You ruined my life!  All of our lives!
Caitlin: We stood by you after everything that happened!
Wells: I can see how this might be difficult for you to understand, but trust me. Your lives now are so much better because of what I have done for you.
Joe: You don't have to hide anymore. We know you're not Harrison Wells. Just tell us who you are.
Wells: A confession will get you nowhere. You've seen who I am. You know what I can do.
Barry: You want to kill me? Go ahead. I'm not going to fight you but..  just tell the police what you did. Get my dad out of prison!
Wells: I don't want to kill you, Barry. I need you. And... (chuckles) I also did not anticipate, as difficult as the past 15 years have been for me, how much I would come to love working with you. With all of you. And yet, that does not change what needs to happen.
Barry: Then face me now!
Wells: Oh, we will face each other again. I promise you. Soon. Very. Very soon.

Eddie: You might as well take that mask off. I know it's you, Wells. Or whoever you really are.
Reverse-Flash: Well... allow me to introduce myself. (removing his mask) My name is Eobard. Eobard Thawne.
Eddie: I don't understand. Why do you have my name?
Reverse-Flash: Why?  Well, because we're family, Eddie.
Eddie: Funny I haven't seen you at any reunions or weddings.
Reverse-Flash: (laughs) That is funny. And the reason for that is because as far as those guest lists are concerned I haven't been born yet.
Eddie: So that's why you didn't kill me that night at STAR Labs? This whole thing... it's been about me?
Reverse-Flash: Not a chance. You, my friend, are simply my insurance.

(speaking to a comatose Barry Allen)
Wells: You look so young... And I could kill you. Right now. So easy. What I wouldn't have given... all those times before to have you like this. So... helpless. But fate... fate's tricky, isn't it? I come here to destroy you. And then to get home I have to be the one who creates you. (chuckles) I will say... it's been an education. Watching you grow up all these years. Science fairs and soccer games. No hint, no sign, no trace of the man you will be one day. For whom I have nothing but hate. And to be clear... nothing is forgiven. There will be a reckoning. I promise you, Barry Allen, that you will die.


Barry refers to the events of 109 and how The Reverse Flash said they would be fighting for centuries.

The April 25, 2024 newspaper discussing the Crisis in which Barry Allen disappears makes mention of Starling City's Green Arrow, The Atom and Hawkgirl being present for the fight with The Reverse Flash which preceded The Flash disappearing.  This reveals that, at some point, Oliver Queen will adopt the name of his comic book counterpart in the DCTVU.  Hawkgirl has been confirmed as part of the cast of the so-far unnamed spin-off series that will also feature The Atom.

The newspaper also confirms that Barry and Iris get married in the future, as the article is written by Iris West-Allen.

Gideon confirms that Barry Allen becomes the director of the CCPD CSI Division in the future.

Gideon only knows Harrison Wells as Harrison Wells and does not understand the question when asked who Wells really is.

Gideon further confirms that Wells came to the past to kill Barry Allen and that he killed Nora Allen because he was angry about Barry Allen escaping at some point. Confusingly, Gideon also claims that Wells goal is for Barry Allen to be The Flash

Gideon says she will happily obey any command Barry Allen gives her - including not telling Wells of their discovery of "The Time Vault" - because Barry Allen created her.

Eddie asks Joe for permission to propose to Iris. Joe refuses, because he believes Iris truly loves Barry and she will have a miserable life if she marries the wrong man before realizing that.

Cisco refers to how he and Joe discovered in 113 that Barry is destined to travel back to the night his mother died.

Barry refers to the events of 115 and how he time-traveled back one day as well.  He theorizes that Cisco's visions of being killed by Dr. Wells are actually memories of the alternate timeline.

The information Cisco gleans from his lucid dream matches what he learned before his death in 115 - how the energy readings for the Reverse Flash trap don't make sense and how they instead generated a hologram of The Reverse Flash. He hears but does not seem to remember the Reverse Flash's real name - Eobard Thawne.

We see Captain Singh's fiancee Rob for the first time since 115.  He is among the people The Flash saves from the fire.

Iris' research into the various odd things in Central City leads her to conclude the particle accelerator explosion at STAR Labs was responsible, that The Flash got his powers from there and that The Burning Man (i.e. Ronnie Raymond) worked there.

Joe West kills Hannibal Bates (a.k.a. Everyman) whom Wells released and convinced to impersonate him in exchange for his freedom.

Wells had surveillance cameras set up watching Cisco and Caitlin's apartments, The West home, Barry's lab and the newspaper Iris worked at among other locations that enabled him to spy on Barry, Joe, Iris, Caitlin and Cisco at all times from The Time Vault.

As Barry, as The Flash, assures Iris that he will rescue Eddie, a blue spark passes between them. This seems to reawaken Iris's memories from the alternate timeline in 115 as she suddenly realizes that Barry is The Flash.

As the episode ends, Wells takes Eddie to his hideout in the sewer.  He introduces himself to Eddie as Eobard Thawne. He is confirmed to be from the future and Eddie Thawne's future descendant though we still don't know from how far in the future he's traveled.

In the flashbacks, we see the first meeting between Wells and Joe West, where Wells convinces Joe to let him take Barry to STAR Labs despite Joe having a bad feeling about him.

In the flashbacks, we see Iris talking with a comatose Barry shortly after Eddie Thawne asked her out for the first time. She credits Barry with saving her and her father's relationship in the wake of her mother's death and making them a family again.

In the final scene of the episode, we see Eobard Thawne confessing several things to the comatose Barry - chiefly of how he came back in time to kill The Flash but how returning to his own time requires him to turn Barry Allen into The Flash.

The Bottom Line

A powerful episode that is surprisingly free of the series usual light humor and witty dialogue. Still, the plot is pushed forward though we don't really know any more about Eobard Thawne and his precise motivations than we did last week.  We do learn a fair bit about the future of the show, however, and Tom Cavangh turns in his finest villainous monologue yet in the show's final minute.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Arrow: Season 2.5 #18 - A Review

Oliver Queen has done a fair job improvising in the wake of Caleb Green's attack. But even he can't stand alone against a Mirakuru-crazed mad-man.  Luckily, Roy Harper is on hand to offer an assist... but will it be enough?

There is a bitter irony to this issue given Colton Haynes' recent departure from Arrow. The script by Marc Guggenheim and Brian Ford Sullivan perfectly captures the playful spirit of Roy Harper's character from the comics but folds it well into the personality of the DCTVU version of the character. And the action sequences are very well written.

Those action scenes are also ably illustrated.  Joe Bennett is a great fight choreographer and Craig Yeung finds the right balance to the inks, neither too thick nor too thin. This comic looks as good as it reads.

Starman Plays Discworld - A Let's Play Adventure - Part Four

In which we continue to explore Ankh-Morpork, Death has a Near-Rincewind experience and we continue our string of petty thefts and taking everything we can get our greasy little mitts on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 20 - The Fallen

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


With Thea near death, Ra's Al Ghul has finally made an offer Oliver Queen can't refuse. For Nanda Parbat houses The Lazarus Pit - a magical pool that can heal those near death. Oliver will gladly sacrifice himself to save his sister's life, but will his allies - particularly Felicity - allow him to make that choice?

Five years earlier, Oliver, Maseo and Tatsu race to stop the release of the Alpha/Omega bio-weapon on Hong Kong.


Son of the Demon. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (the ritual involving the Lazarus Pit and the scary fortress - as Felicity calls it - having a secret passageway out through the catacombs). Various stories involving The League of Assassins by Dennis O'Neil. Ollie and Felicity's night together is reminiscent of the night shared between Oliver Queen and Marianne in Green Arrow #76.


Thea's leap from The Lazarus Pit involves some rather obvious - and clumsy - wire work.

Apart from giving Katie Cassidy an excuse to appear in this episode, there seems little reason for Felicity to unburden herself on Laurel Lance of all people.  To quote the woman herself, "Are we friends now?" Cassidy's wooden reaction to Emily Bett Rickard's breakdown doesn't help how unnatural the scene feels.


Stephen Amell does some great wordless acting during Thea's surgery and in the scene immediately after the title cut.  It's the first time we've seen Ollie so shaken and he conveys it well without saying a word.

John Barrowman is famed for his campy performances but his reaction to Thea's injuries as Malcolm show that he can play it subtle when needed.

Emily Bett Rickards dominates this episode as Felicity shows a new fire in her efforts to save Oliver as he's saved her so many times before.

As before, Matt Nable plays Ra's Al Ghul perfectly, with just the right sense of menace and sympathy. You really believe he regrets the actions he's taken to push Oliver to this point, even before he tells his own tale of how he came to join The League of Assassins.


The chase scene in the flashback as Ollie and the Yamashiros go after a military vehicle is a thing of beauty.


In the comics, The Lazarus Pits are naturally occurring pools of an unspecified chemical mixture. The Lazarus Pits are capable of restoring the near-dead to life and Ra's Al Ghul has used the pits to extend his life for several hundred years.  The effects of The Pits are temporary, however, and they lose effectiveness over time.

In the comics, The Lazarus Pits cause temporary insanity in the person resurrected by them. They also give them a measure of super-human strength while they are possessed by the madness. On the show, this seems to be true of Thea as she leaves The Pit.

On one occasion, a dying Joker was placed in a Lazarus Pit and it temporarily restored his sanity.

On another occasion, Black Canary was placed in a Lazarus Pit and it healed the damage to her vocal cords that prevented her from using her Canary Cry.

In the comics, each Lazarus Pit can only be used once.  However, Ra's daughter Nyssa discovered a way to make The Pits last forever though these pits had more unpredictable effects. For instance, one of Nyssa's pits changed Mr. Freeze's wife Nora into an insane lava monster.

There is some suggestion The Pits may cause permanent insanity with extended use, though it is possible Ra's Al Ghul was mentally unstable before his discovery of The Pits.

In keeping with the DCTVU version of Nanda Parbat, The Lazarus Pit here is a special healing spring ala The Fountain of Youth.

Malcolm Merlyn claims Ra's has used the waters of Nanda Parbat to live for over 100 years and that in rare instances those waters can be used to raise the dead. He further claims the waters change a person's soul and that the person who comes back will not be the same as the one that died.

The Pit leaves the resurrected Thea with a wildly erratic form of amnesia. She recognizes Malcolm Merlyn as her father and calls him Dad, apparently not remembering her reasons for hating him. She doesn't recognize Oliver but does believe her brother Ollie to be dead. She doesn't remember that her mother Moira is dead and seems to believe that she and Merlyn are on good terms.  She seems to be fully recovered by the time she returns to Starling City. At the very least, she's back to hating Merlyn.

Ra's story to Felicity about his past suggests that the League of Assassins was founded long before he joined it. In the comics, Ra's founded the organization.

Dialogue Triumphs

Felicity: Oliver...
Oliver: I'd prefer that we didn't do our usual 'Please don't go' dance.
Felicity: We're not going to. Because I'm coming with you.

Felicity: I need a favor. A really big favor.
Ray: The last time you asked me for a big favor I had to loan you my helicopter.
Felicity: Don't need your helicopter.  I need your jet.

Diggle: (scoffing) League of Assassins. You're feared for your bravery. And power. But all I see are a bunch of weak men running from their lives. Trying to escape. That's not powerful Maseo. Or brave. It's cowardly.
Maseo: Do not presume to know me until you've held your dying child in your arms. Until you've told him everything would be okay. So that the last words he'd ever hears are a lie. You know nothing!
Diggle: I'm sorry.  What was your child's name?
Maseo: Akio
Diggle: Do you think Akio would be proud of his father right now?

Ra's Al Ghul: You have a great fire within you. I can see now why Oliver loves you.
Felicity: If you knew the first thing about love you would not be ripping Oliver away from his family.
Ra's Al Ghul: I am merely helping him fulfill his destiny.
Felicity:  Yeah. I know all about the "Survive My Sword" prophecy. And I am here to tell you that I could really give a crap. Me and John and - God help me - Malcolm are not going to let this happen. And we have resources. And we will go to war to get Oliver back.
Ra's Al Ghul: You know, many lifetimes ago I loved a woman immeasurably. And she loved me. And we had a son. And then a daughter. And for many years I felt I was the most fortunate man in the world. My life was bliss. And one night a man came to my door and gave me a horrible choice. To leave without saying a word to them. Or to stand and watch them tortured and then killed. And I left without a farewell. And to spare them pain, I endured an agony worse than death
Felicity: Sounds like you gave up too easily.
Ra's Al Ghul: There is one immutable truth about life - it is often more cruel than it is fair. And it rarely provides an opportunity for any of us to find closure. And all your posturing and all of your threats of war... they merely delay the inevitable, causing you to forfeit the opportunity you have which was denied me. You need to tell Oliver goodbye. Tell him how much you love him.Tell him whatever it is your heart needs to express. And do it now. Before he is lost to you forever.

(After Felicity and Olvier make love)
Felicity: So... that happened.

Oliver: Hold! I am Al Sah-Him! Wahreeth Al Ghul! Heir To The Demon! And you will obey!

Diggle: Oliver... Oliver, I don't know what to say.
Oliver: I do. John, you're the best man I've ever known. Whatever happens, you're my brother.
(The two slowly hug)

Ra's Al Ghul: The word "assassins" has fallen victim to many abuses of language. It's real meaning hidden beneath the sediment of lies and falsehoods. In truth, Assassin comes from Hashishiyya, which means "Those who stand apart from society". Now, every man and woman in here have renounced their past life and forfeited their identity in the name of something new. And it is a cleansing only achieved by fire.


The address of Thea and Ollie's apartment is 455 Merced, Unit 10.

The League of Assassins use smoke signals to communicate.

Ray Palmer owns a private jet as well as a helicopter.

Ray refers to the events of 319 and Roy's farewell to Felicity.

Malcolm Merlyn suggests consulting with STAR Labs to see if they might be able to help Thea.

Ollie tells Felicity about the events of the flashback scenes in 314 and how he briefly returned to Starling City and killed Thea's drug dealer.

Ollie's name in the League of Assassins is Al Sah-Him - The Arrow.

Felicity drugs Oliver using the same powder used on Thea following the resurrection ceremony.

Oliver takes on the title Wahreeth Al Ghul - Heir To The Demon.

Maseo/Sarab confesses to aiding in Oliver's attempted escape. Ra's forgives him, for the actions were those of Maseo - not Sarab.

Oliver is branded with an arrow-shaped brand below his right shoulder.

In the flashback, the vial containing the virus breaks during Ollie's struggle with the soldier holding it.


Nanda Parbat

The Fridge Factor

Thea is reduced to being a damsel in distress for the entirety of this episode  And the soul-changing effects of the Lazarus Pit doesn't seem to have changed her much at all.

The Bottom Line

An episode that is far more than the sum of its parts, though some of the individual parts are unforgivably weak. For all of Merlyn's warnings about The Lazarus Pit changing people, Thea seems fine by episode's end after spending the entire episode in such an inert state she could be replaced with a house plant and nobody would notice.  That said, Emily Bett Rickards and Stephen Amell knock it out of the park with this episode and David Ramsey and John Barrowman do surprisingly well with the little they have. This episode wasn't much for big reveals but it has set the stage for the end of the season and the final battle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 19 - Who Is Harrison Wells?

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


As Joe and Cisco journey to Starling City to look for more information on Harrison Wells' past, Barry must contend with a shape-shifting metahuman back home in Central City.


52 and the Green Arrow comics of Judd Winick and Andrew Kreisberg (both made extensive use of Everyman)


Most of the crowd Barry runs into as The Flash while chasing after Everyman the first time seems remarkably unperturbed about a costumed superhero in their midst.

How did Laurel find out Barry Allen is The Flash?  It's not a secret Team Arrow was likely to let slip and The Flash's presence in Starling City when he visited was low key enough it's unlikely she would have heard about it and put two and two together.


The scenes between Paul Blackthorne and Jesse L. Martin are pure magic and both actors play off of one another well.

Daniele Panabaker gets some of her best moments ever in this episode. She has the dramatic conflict of her loyalty to Wells vs. her belief in Barry Allen's essential goodness and righteousness. Her motivations in doubting Barry are rooted in selfishness yet completely understandable.  And then there's the comic scenes later where she deals with Everyman disguised as Barry Allen and the momentary guilt of thinking Barry just made a move on her before Iris walked into the building.

For that matter, Grant Gustin clearly has a lot of fun playing Everyman in the same scene, having no idea what the relationships between Barry and Caitlin or Barry and Iris are and playing his hand quite badly.

Surprisingly, Tom Cavanagh doesn't have much screen time this episode given that Harrison Wells' name is in the title.  But the last ten minutes and his discussion with Joe about their dead wives... you still ALMOST believe him even though we now know that "Harrison Wells" is a lying scumbag.


The scenes of Harrison Wells walking around his home to light music are well-shot and the music is very well chosen for the scene.

Flash Facts

We see a billboard for Ferris Airlines as Barry runs to Coast City in the opening scene.  Coast City is the home town of Hal Jordan a.k.a. The Green Lantern and he was employed as a pilot at Ferris Aircraft in the comics.

In the comics, Hannibal Bates was given superpowers by Lex Luthor and joined the new Infinity Inc. company Lex Luthor sponsored as part of his efforts to sell metagene activation therapy for a price. Given the name Everyman, Bates had the power to shape-shift into the form of anyone whose genetic material he had consumed.  He usually ate hair or nail-clippings but built up a taste for human flesh. He became an honest to goodness supervillain for a time, contesting most frequently with Green Arrow. He was eventually killed by the Green Arrow villain Cupid.

The DCTVU version of Everyman seems to have similar powers to his comic book counterpart, save that he merely has to touch a person to be able to copy their appearance.

Hannibal Bates was named in honor of the fictional killers Hannibal Lectre and Norman Bates. The former was a cannibal and the later dressed like his mother when killing people.

On Arrow, Hannibal Bates was one of the names on Oliver Queen's list of people involved in The Undertaking.

Wells theorizes early on that Everyman may have the power to absorb superpowers or memories from the people he touches. This turns out to not be the case.

The District Attorney of Central City is a woman named Cecile. This may be a reference to Cecile Horton née O'Malley - a defense attorney who represented The Flash when he was put on trial for the murder of The Reverse Flash in the comics.

Another 52 reference - the camera on the squad car that recorded Everyman, disguised as Eddie Thawne, shooting two police officers is Cam 52.

Cisco modifies one of Sara Lance's sonic devices for Laurel Lance. Not only does he make the decide more powerful but he fits it onto a choker-style necklace. This is a reference to the classic Black Canary costume, which featured a prominent choker.

 Cisco's name for the new device - The Canary Cry - is a reference Black Canary's famous sonic scream power in the comics.

Cisco working with sonic weaponry could be another hint to his eventual destiny as the hero Vibe...


Dr. Wells notes that programmable matter was only theoretical until Everyman's shape-shifting proved it possible.

Cisco's "metal detector" actually detects abnormal sound waves and tachyons.

Barry conducts a GSR (Gun Shot Residue) swab which proves Eddie's hands are free of lead, barium and antimony.  In other words, it would not be possible for him to have fired a gun recently despite what the video-taped evidence shows.

Caitlin theorizes she can create a serum that will stop Everyman from morphing by terminating the polymerization reaction, essentially forcing the bonds to revert to their original form.

Cisco was able to bump up the specs on Sara Lance's original sonic device, quadrupling the range and tripling the resonance. He also fit the device onto a choker-style necklace.

Hannibal Bates cells' have the ability to transmogrify at a rapid rate.

Caitlin's serum operates by creating a cortical reaction around Everyman's cells, depriving them of their electrical charge.

Dialogue Triumphs

Barry (opening voice-over)  
I'm getting faster. Faster than I've ever been and I wonder if it's because lately something's chasing me. I know what it is that's stalking me. It's my past. It's getting closer and as fast as I am I can't help but feel like my past has almost caught up with me.

Eddie: No priors. No arrests. Not even a speeding ticket. And everyone who knows this woman - co-workers, neighbors - say she's the kindest, nicest most honest woman they've ever met.
Barry: So unless she woke up this morning and out of nowhere decided to become a criminal...
Eddie: ...maybe we should be looking for a metahuman?
Barry: Yeah.
Eddie:  One that can control people's minds. Coerce them into becoming thieves. Is that possible?
Barry: Is that a real question?

(Barry has just carried Caitlin, at superspeed, away from Harrison Wells' front door)
Caitlin: Wha- are you spying on me now?
Barry:  Caitlin, what were you doing at Wells house?
Caitlin: I was going to talk to him and get some answers of my own.
Barry: You can't!  You can NOT talk to him!
Oh, so I'm just supposed to stand by and watch all of you ruin this man's life? Or my life?!
Barry: What are you talking about "your life"?
Caitlin: Those nine months that you were in a coma were the worst of my life! I lost my reputation, my fiancee. And through all of that Harrison Wells stood by my side. He told me everything was going to be okay. If Dr. Wells is who you says he is, everything I've done since the minute I set foot in STAR Labs has been a lie.
Barry: Caitlin... if I am right about all of this and you tell him what's been going on, I'll never be able to get my dad out of prison.
Caitlin: Barry...
Barry: If not for me, just do it for him.
Caitlin:  (sniffling) I can't believe you're pulling the dad card.  That's dirty pool, Barry.
Barry: Just until Joe and Cisco get back... please?

(After Barry runs Eddie out of an interview room and onto the street)
Barry: Okay, look... you get to STAR Labs. They'll set you up with a burner phone. I'll contact-
Eddie: No!  I run now, that surveillance video is the least of my problems. No way I don't smell guilty. No way they'll let me stay on the force.
Barry: Look, you said it yourself.  If we don't find Hannibal Bates, you'll go to prison for a crime you didn't commit. I won't let that happen! Not again!
Eddie: This isn't like your dad, Barry.
Barry: Eddie...
Eddie:  When your dad was put away, you were a kid. There wasn't anything you could do. But you're not a kid anymore. You're a scientist. Hell, you're The Flash. You are going to find Bates. And you are going to clear me. So go do it.

(As they are digging where Cisco detected tachyons and find something)
Cisco: Please tell me that's not what I think it is.
Quentin: Okay, that is definitely a hand.
Cisco: Okay, see, I thought that was a foot, but a hand is just as bad.

Dialogue Disasters

The exposition in the scene at Joe's house with the pizza is incredibly clunky.


Coast City reportedly has the best pizza on the western coast of the USA in the DCTVU.

At this point Joe and Barry have been investigating Harrison Wells for six months.

Harrison Wells lived in Starling City when his wife died.

When explaining Cisco's absence, Caitlin says he's helping his brother Dante, whom we met in 116.

Quentin Lance asks Joe about Barry's health following the lightning strike. Quentin and Barry met back in A208.

Laurel Lance refers to having met Barry back in A308.

Laurel Lance reveals her secret identity to Cisco and asks him to modify one of the sonic devices Sara Lance used as The Canary.

Quentin Lance's coffee levitates out of his cup once he is in the immediate presence of what turns out to be Harrison Wells' body, just like the chemicals in Barry's lab  levitated out of their beakers right before he got struck by lightning in The Pilot.

This is one of the rare occasions Caitlin, not Cisco, names a villain.

Joe persuades Quentin not to report the dead body they found together.

In her research, Iris discovers six crimes over eleven months committed by people who had air-tight alibis but were still caught on video committing crimes.

Barry Allen and Eddie Thawne are both right-handed. Everyman is left-handed. Iris realizes Everyman is an imposter based on this fact.

Cisco's payment for creating The Canary Cry? A picture of himself with Black Canary, in her full costume, which Laurel instructs him never to show to anyone on pain of death.

Cisco later confirms the body they found is that of Harrison Wells through two separate DNA tests.

When Laurel asks how he got The Canary Cry made so quickly, Cisco says he's gotten some experience working with sonic devices recently.  He's referring to his work with the Pied Piper technology, which began back in 112.

The DA of Central City is now aware of the existence of metahumans as is Captain Singh.

Eddie tells Iris the reason he's been so distant lately is that he has been working with The Flash in secret.

Everyman has no memory of what he originally looked like.

Barry quotes Dr. Tina McGee's comments about Harrison Wells becoming a completely different man following his wife's death in 118.

Cisco made a 3D Model of the STAR Labs building to try and figure out what went wrong with the particle accelerator.  Examining the whole model allows him, Caitlin and Barry to find Wells secret room, where they see the Reverse Flash costume. The Tachyon device and the newspaper from the future showing Barry Allen's disappearance.


Starling City

The Boomerang Factor

The idea that Everyman might be more than just a shapeshifter keeps Barry from just running up to him and grabbing him early on.  There's no reason for their final fight to take as long as it does, other than to give the visual effects team a chance to show off by letting Everyman keep changing faces during the fight.

The Bottom Line

A rare treat this. For once the villain-of-the-week subplot doesn't feel tacked on. Indeed, the best bits of acting in this episode center around it and there's a farcical element to Everyman's invasion of STAR Labs disguised as Barry Allen. There's also a rare logical reason why Barry's speed can't be used to defeat this week's guest villain quickly (No Pun Intended) despite the relative lack of strength in their power levels.  The bits with Joe West and Quentin Lance are pure fan-service but they're well-acted by Jesse L. Martin and Paul Blackthorne. The bits with Laurel and Cisco aren't bad but they clearly exist only because they needed to justify Laurel getting Black Canary's signature power in a hurry somehow.  Oddly enough there's very little of the titular Mr. Wells.  Well, up until the last ten minutes and the biggest cliffhanger ever.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Tithe #1 - A Review

For the past several months, a hacktivist group known as Samaritan had been robbing mega-churches' bank accounts and donating the money to small, local charities. Now, with their latest heist, they've stepped up their game, robbing the churches physically while leaving behind evidence of the church leaders' moral and legal misdeeds. Two FBI agents - one a company man and devout Baptist and the other a white-hat hacker who doesn't believe in much of anything - have been assigned to the case, charged to bring down Samaritan at any cost. But whose cause is the righteous one?

Matt Hawkins' conceit for this series couldn't be more timely. Hawkins makes his own religious and political leanings clear enough in his afterword to this first issue but the story itself is not quite so clear as to where our sympathies should lie, save that they should not rest with the money-changers who have taken over the temples. Both FBI agents - the skeptic and the believer - are presented as men concerned with doing their jobs and following the law, even if they disagree upon Samaritan's ultimate goals and the means used to achieve those ends.

Even Samaritan itself is not entirely presented as a positive entity, with some members being presented as good people trying to fight corruption but others shown as being scornful of religion in general and not just corrupt churches. It's an unexpected bit of moral complexity in what I thought was going to be a simple modern-day Robin Hood story. I hope we'll continue to see this level of writing in the issues to come.

The artwork by Rashan Ekedal serves the story well. Ekedal's style is streamlined but effective, managing a nice balance between complex line work in the close-ups and simplicity in its far shots. And the colors by Bill Farmer are well suited to their respective scenes.

Doctor Who - The Twelfth Doctor #7 - A Review

In another time and another place, a scientist who had lost his wife and children in an accident developed a suit that would enable him to traverse the void between realities. He found another world - one where an accident had killed his alternate universe counterpart - and leaped into the space between.

Now the scientist is in our world.... and he hasn't come alone. He's been followed by The Fractures.

The Fractures are the repairmen of The Void.  Auditors of reality who destroy all that might threaten the continuity between worlds. Only The Doctor might be able to save the day. But while he might be able to fight The Fractures, can he do it without a family from being broken apart in the process?

Once again Robbie Morrison has expanded the Doctor Who universe with his creation another unique and terrifying monster. While The Fractures are reminiscent of The Reapers from the episode Fathers Day, Morrison differentiates them by making them formless Lovecraftian monstrosities. The horror is enhanced by the fact that The Doctor cares little about the miracle of Void travel being possible and worries only about the possibility of all reality being erased because of one man's desire to explore and save his family. Given The Doctor's own past, one wonders if the hypocrisy of this will be pointed out...

The artwork by Brian Williamson is excellent. I commented in my review of the previous issue that the only flaw to Williamson's work was a few instances of over-inking a few panels here and there. There are no such flaws in this issue.

Superior Iron Man #7 - A Review

The Superior Iron Man is growing out of control and Pepper Potts was just barely able to thwart his efforts to buy his own media empire.  Now the new Tony Stark must face Pepper's ally - the old Tony Stark!  Well, an old Iron Man suit containing an A.I. based on Tony's memories from eight years ago, created for just such an emergency... but close enough!

It should be no surprise that this series continues to be a wonderful read.  The action of the issue, featuring a battle between one of Tony's earliest suits and his latest digital symbiote suit, is a thrilling one. And the dialogue is filled with Taylor's trademarked witty banter.

The artwork was finished by two separate teams but you'd never know it from how well the images fit together. Both Yildiray Cinar and Felipe Watanabe are to be commended for their pencils on this issue.  The inks by Ruy Jose and Cinar are also excellent as are the colors by Guru-FX.

Starman Plays Discworld - A Let's Play Adventure - Part Three

In which we begin to explore Ankh Morpork, spend ten minutes in a room with a complete git, talk to some very old heroes and meet an amazon warrior who resembles but is legally distinct from Red Sonja.

The Flash: Season Zero #17 - A Review

Trapped in the bowels of ARGUS, Barry Allen has only minutes to save the unfortunate King Shark from killing again at the behest of Amanda Waller.  Naturally The Wall doesn't care about the toll the shark-man's endless hunger is taking on his mind - only that he's an asset that Task Force X can use. A little help from his friends may get Barry loose but can even he reach Coast City in time once he's free?

This latest issue is thrilling right up until the very last page where a whopping big plot hole reveals itself as we find out King Shark's target was a terrorist who needed to be questioned about an active bomb. Of course Amanda Waller wouldn't lose sleep over a dead terrorist. But the idea that The Wall would send an untested resource - to wit, a man-eating shark-man - out to capture a target who needed to be taken alive and hope that it could be kept under control long enough for an interrogation to occur is just plain idiotic!

Phil Hester is back in the artist's chair this time around and I can't say I've missed him too much. Some of the pages in this issue look rushed and sloppy. And I really do believe Eric Gapstur's style better fits the brighter aesthetic of The Flash universe.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Convergence: Green Arrow #1 - A Review

I know I said I was done with Convergence last week. And yet, I felt compelled to give the Green Arrow tie-in a shot. Not just because it's Green Arrow but because I wanted to see how Christy Marx - who authored the excellent Conquests Of The Longbow adventure game - wrote my favorite Robin Hood inspired hero.

It is another place. Another time. And it came to pass that Oliver Queen found himself in Metropolis at a time when he was feeling lost and without purpose.  The raising of the dome gave him some purpose as the only costumed hero in town. But Green Arrow is not the only one protecting the city...

Elsewhere in Metropolis, a young monk named Connor Hawke also fights to protect the weak and helpless from a new gang - the racist Brothers Of Purity. Hawke is something of a Green Arrow fanboy and is overjoyed when he finds evidence that his hero is in Metropolis.  When circumstances force the two men together, a dark secret will be revealed - that Connor Hawke is Oliver Queen's long-lost son!

Marx spins a wonderful Elseworlds tale here about how Oliver and Connor might have met under decidedly different circumstances.  Both characters are written true to form, with subtle nods in the script and artwork pointing to hidden sides of both characters. For instance, I loved seeing Ollie crafting a trick arrow, as many writers rarely depict Ollie as being capable of making his own arrows and forget that Ollie was an amazing engineer when it came to weapon design back in the day.

The only real flaw with the script - and I can't fault Marx for it - is a subplot built around the idea originally proposed by Brad Meltzer in The Archer's Quest that Oliver Queen was a deadbeat dad who knew about Connor years before the two met. I've gone into the general impossibility of this conceit elsewhere so I won't repeat that rant here. Suffice it to say this storyline adds nothing to the larger narrative, existing only to create artificial tension before the action truly begins.

The artwork for the issue is generally good, though there are a few oddities. Rags Morales has been a favorite of mine since his run on Hawkman though some of his pages here seem rushed and I'm not sure Claude St. Aubin's inking style is a good match for Morales' pencils. And the color art by Neil Ruffino is uneven, with the shirt sleeves of Ollie's costume alternating in whether or not they match his jerkin.

John Cater: Warlord of Mars #5 - A Review

John Carter has arrived just in time to stop the execution of his true love, the princess Dejah Thoris. But will he be able to escape with his life and his love? Not if the conniving Captain Clark - an old enemy from John Carter's days as a Captain in the Confederate Army - has anything to say about it!

With his creation of Captain Josuha Clark, writer Ron Marz has crafted a worthy arch-enemy for John Carter. Clark is everything that Carter is not while seemingly having much in common with his fellow Captain. Chief among these differences are their motivations, with Carter being motivated to battle by love and a desire to protect those in need.  Clark, on the other hand, is motivated by hatred and a need to win, being more barbaric than Carter despite his veneer of civilized courtesy.

The artwork on this books continues to impress. Abhishek Malsuni brings the world of Barsoom to life as few artists have. The inks by Zsolt H. Garisa perfectly enhance the original art. And Nanjan Jamberi provides one of the finest color art jobs I have ever seen.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #9 - A Review

Trapped in the No Man's Land between the German and English forces of World War I, The Doctor and his current companion - Gabby Gonzales - have had a trying time of it. The Weeping Angels have made a banquet of the soldiers presumed lost to the bombings and battling.  And now, in the maze of trenches and tunnels under the desecrated earth, The Angels have The TARDIS!

Robbie Morrison brings what has been a delightful story to a satisfying conclusion. This issue, combined with the three parts preceding it, constitutes one of the most well-written Doctor Who stories I've seen in any medium. The epilogue at the end also proves to be a fitting tribute to every soldier who has ever given up their lives for the lives of others.

The artwork proves the equal of the story.  Arianna Florean and Elena Casagrande make use of a cartoonish style in depicting the artistic Gabby's personal journal entries.  Different, but no less effective, is the more realistic style used by Daniel Indro, though his inks are overly heavy at times and threaten to obscure the original pencils.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 19 - Broken Arrow

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


Roy Harper's sacrifice has bought Oliver Queen his freedom... for now. But Quentin Lance is still determined to see Oliver Queen behind bars. Looks like a good time for The Arrow to lay low. But that's impossible with a new metahuman villain threatening Starling City. Reluctantly, Oliver will have to turn to Ray Palmer and his ATOM Suit for help. But can the inexperienced hero save the city in The Arrow's place?

Five years ago, Oliver Queen discovers that it is The US Army - Not ARGUS - that has been hunting him and The Yamashiro family. And that unless he moves quickly, the Alpha/Omega bioweapon may be unleashed on Hong Kong!


The Fall of Green Arrow and The Rise of Arsenal by J.T. Krul.


How did Oliver wind up at the police station before Roy and Quentin?


Colton Haynes gets a wonderful send-off episode, if this really is good bye for Roy Harper. Frankly, I'm Scooby-Dubious, even if the news says Haynes is out for good. But if this is his final bow, it's a hell of an episode to go out on.  Between a great fight scene, a great death scene, some wonderful scenes playing off Ollie, Thea and Quentin and riding off into the night... there's a lot of great Roy moments in this episode and Haynes plays them all perfectly.


The shot of Ray high-fiving Oliver, with his twitching ATOM gauntlet in the foreground.

The fight scene between a handcuffed Roy Harper and several inmates is very well executed.


In the comics, Deathbolt was a wanted murderer named Jake Simmons, who acquired electricity-control powers after the biplane he was flying was struck by lightning.

This origin is similar to how both of the Mardon brothers acquired weather-control powers in the DCTVU.

The DCTVU version of Deathbolt has similar powers, though he seems to generate plasma rather than electricity. Also, this Jake Simmons is a serial bank robber rather than a convicted killer.  He most frequently manifests his powers through his eyes with a red blast of focused energy reminiscent of Superman's heat vision.  He proves capable of absorbing the electrical power of Ray Palmer's compressed light beams and thanks Ray for "topping him off".

Quentin Lance is described as "going Ahab" after Oliver Queen. This is a reference to the vengeful captain from the novel Moby Dick.

Felicity quotes The Wizard of Oz when saying farewell to Roy - "I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow."

Cisco mentions that Deathbolt was in prison in Opal City on the night of the particle accelerator explosion.  Opal City is the home of the superhero Starman in the DC Comics universe.  Perhaps not coincdentally, one of Deathbolt's last appearances in the comics was attempting to kill the first Starman, Ted Knight, during the DC One Million event.


Ray says that the injection Felicity gave him injected 6.2 billion nanobots into his epithalamus.

Ray develops a neural network for The ATOM suit, allowing him to move the suit just by thinking. This is later used by Oliver to turn Ray into a puppet he can fight through.

Ray used enhanced resonance scans to take "photos" of Deathbolt's crime scene.  These, interlaced with the news footage of the robbery, allows them to get a clear picture of Deathbolt and determine his identity.

During the first fight with Deathbolt, The ATOM suit recorded over 10 terabytes of data, which were transmitted in real-time to a geosynchronous satellite.

Ray creates a transponder that can be uploaded to a power source and used to track Deathbolt.

Roy fakes his death with the help of an ARGUS agent trained in cutting a person in just the right way to make them bleed a lot without cutting anything lethal. The knife was laced with a beta blocker that slows the heartbeat to a crawl, creating the illusion of death.

Dialogue Triumphs

Roy: Oliver, ever since I found out that I killed that cop, I've been trying to make it right as Arsenal. Maybe what I need to do is make it right as The Arrow.
Ollie: No, Roy...
Roy: I killed a police officer. Mirakuru or not I should be punished for that. I should be in prison.
Ollie: That won't bring the officer back. This city still needs you!
Roy: It needs you more. For the first time since I remembered what I did... I'm okay.

Roy: When we got back together... hell, even before that... I... I made a promise to myself that I'd never lie to you again.
Thea: Okay.
Roy: That's why I didn't want to see you. I didn't want to break that promise.
Thea: Why would you?  Roy?
Roy: Thea, please... just... know that I'm gonna be fine.
Thea: Is that a lie?
(Roy just snorts and hangs up the phone)

Ray: How many abandoned warehouses do you think there are in this city? No, no - I'm genuinely curious!
Ollie: Stay focused, Ray.
Felicity: (nervously) Maybe Simmons isn't in there?
Ollie: Do you get this anxious when I'm out in the field?
Felicity: I honestly can't think of an answer to that question that doesn't get me in trouble.
(Ollie glances to Diggle, who shakes his head)
Ray: Still nothing. Not a visual sighting or any other reading at all from The ATOM. And when I say ATOM, I mean the suit. Not myself in the third person.
Ollie: (To Felicity) There's a decent chance that you and Palmer are related.
(Felicity glares daggers at Ollie)

(After fighting off several prisoners with his hands cuffed together and being challenged to show how good he is without his arrows)

Roy: Just remember - that was without arrows.

Diggle: You have to throttle this back, Oliver! You have to! Before you lose everything.
Ollie: I've already lost everything. I'm not going to lose Roy.

Quentin: Look, I know you've got to be doing this because you think you owe Queen something, but you don't.  You don't deserve to be here!
Roy: Patrol Officer Gabe Vincent. Left behind a wife and a nine year old boy.
Quentin: I know.
Roy: I killed him!  I stabbed him in the chest with an arrow. So don't think for a second that I don't deserve to be here.
Quentin: No.  You don't think for a second what you're doing here makes up for any of what you did out there.

Oliver: You did all this without asking?
Roy: How many times have you saved one of us without asking?  This time we had to save you.

Felicity: (To Oliver) I just think sometimes you're so focused on the people you love, you forget to see that there are people who love you.


Roy refers to the events of 212 and how he found out Ollie's secret identity.

Roy Harper has previous convictions on charges of breaking-and-entering, petty theft and grand larceny.

Felicity makes reference to the events of F118 to explain why they can't call The Flash for help.

Ollie refers to what Maseo told him in 301 about a man not being able to live by two names.

Quentin refers to the events of 120 and how he once showed Roy Harper the body of a man killed by The Arrow to scare him away from trying to find him.

By the episode's end, the public thinks Roy Harper was The Arrow and that The Arrow died in Iron Heights prison.  Roy Harper hits the road to start a new life, with an untraceable satellite phone Felicity gave him and a red sport car.

When Ray drops Deathbolt off at STAR Labs, Cisco makes an amazing discovery.  Namely, that Deathbolt - despite having a last known address in Central City - was in prison in Opal City on December 11th, 2013.  This means that some people outside of Central City have metahuman powers.

Ra's Al Ghul kills Thea Queen in her apartment,.

The Fridge Factor

Laurel shows up just long enough to spring Ollie from jail and then disappears for the rest of the episode.

Felicity briefly handles The Idiot Ball, not thinking something is odd about the masked man (Deathbolt) at the power plant.  At least she's redeemed by tricking him to get away later.

Thea is killed, purely to push the plot forward and give Ollie more to angst about.

The Bottom Line

Like All-Star Team-Up, the actual team-up aspect of this episode falls flat. Not through any fault of the actors, mind you.  Doug Jones is menacing enough as Deathbolt but he has too little to work with. And the interplay with Felicity and Ray works even better with Oliver rolling his eyes and biting his lip in the background.

What really sells this episode is everything involving Roy Harper and it's seemingly a shame that the writers just now seem to have turned Roy into an amazing character only to push him off-stage.  Of course, TNT is working on that Titans series...

The last 10 minutes of the episode are some of the most powerful we've seen yet. And it ends with a cliffhanger that left me screaming.  Next week can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 18 - All-Star Team Up

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


Barry's new partnership with Eddie Thawne and Joe West as The Flash is making fighting crime more efficient. Unfortunately, hiding Barry's secret is taking a toll on Eddie and Iris's relationship. And Barry is having trouble hiding his mistrust of Dr. Wells and his friends at STAR Labs.

It's the worst time for a visit so naturally Felicity Smoak comes to town, with Ray Palmer in tow, to seek STAR Labs advice on how to improve The ATOM suit. But Barry may be thankful for the back-up, as a mysterious menace threatens the scientific community of Central City with a deadly bee weapon.

Bees. My God.


The comics of Gardner Fox, particular his work on The Flash, The Atom and All-Star Comics.


Apart from the connection to The Atom, there's no good reason to call this week's villain The Bug Eyed Bandit.  Queen Bee would make much more sense given that she only uses robot bees. Plus she didn't actually rob anyone.

Ray Palmer builds a multi-million dollar power armor suit... and doesn't make it water proof?


The chemistry between Emily Bett Rickards and Brandon Routh as Felicity and Ray is amazing. What a shame we Arrow-Heads already know the relationship has gone south.

Grant Gustin is cursed to be a straight-man 90% of the time on this show. Yet he gets to showcase his comedic and dramatic skills quite well in this episode. The former comes as he plays the fifth wheel at the dinner date and the later comes in his speech to Iris where he tries to defend Eddie Thawne's odd behavior.


The shot of the bees emerging from the second victim's mouth is truly horrific.

There's a parallel made in this episode between Barry and Ollie, with Barry telling Iris that he just wants her to be happy with Eddie. This is the exact same thing Oliver told Felicity when he found out she was dating Ray, on Arrow.

Flash Facts

The title for this episode comes from All-Star Comics - a 1940's series which was the first comic to team-up the most popular heroes of All-American Publications, which was one of the two companies that joined to form DC Comics.

The first superhero team - The Justice Society of America - first appeared in All-Star Comics #3.

The original Flash and Atom - Jay Garrick and Al Pratt- were among the eight founding members of The Justice Society.

In the episode's opening scene, Barry makes a reference to catching someone committing indecent exposure in Powell Park. This could be a reference to Desmond Powell - a character from the 1990s The Flash TV show, who was the vigilante Nightshade.  Nightshade, in turn, was based on The Sandman - another JSA founder and another Gardner Fox creation.

Indecent exposure is also known as 'flashing'.  So The Flash caught a flasher in this episode.

We see another reference to Hudson University - a college in DC Comics that is nominally located in upstate New York.  Perhaps they have a campus in Central City.

Cisco paraphrases a line from Raiders of the Lost Ark - "Bees. Why did it have to be bees?".  The original line referred to Indiana Jones' fear of snakes.

Cisco and Caitlin make reference to the opening of the 1953 Adventures of Superman show, quoting the introduction to the show "Look, up in the sky - it's a bird!  It's a plane!" This is also a reference to the fact that Brandon Routh, who plays Ray Palmer, also played Clark Kent/Superman in the 2006 movie Superman Returns.

In the comics, the original Bug-Eyed Bandit was an inventor named Bertram Larvan, who invented a robot insect that could be used to eliminate real insects. Unable to secure the financial backing needed to mass produce his robots, he resolved to steal the money he needed with his prototype... then just kept on stealing, as he built more and more robotic insects and arachnids.  He would go on to be a frequent nemesis of The Atom, until he accidentally dosed himself with amnesia gas and forgot all about his evil plans.

The DCTVU version of The Bug Eyed Bandit is similar, except that she is a woman named Brie Larvan. Also, she seems to be less interested in money and more interested in revenge on the people responsible for her losing her job.

Ray Palmer quotes the opening of the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man - "We have the technology."

Ray makes another reference to the solution to his problems with his suit to be "going smaller".  In the comics, Ray Palmer's super-power is shrinking.

Felicity makes a reference to not charging Barry five cents for her advice.  This is a reference to the old Peanuts comic-strip, where Lucy offered advice for five cents.


Anaphylkaxis is the medical term for a severe allergic reaction.

Apitoxin is the technical term for honey bee venom.

When a honey bee stings a target, their stingers are torn from their abdomen. This kills the honey bee.

A honey bee can only deposit .1 milligrams of apitoxin when it stings a target. Dr. Linsay Kang, the first murder victim, had enough apitoxin in her system to kill a herd of elephants.

Bees communicate by releasing pheromones.

Angry bees will wait for a target to surface for air, should they submerge themselves under water.

The ATOM Suit has solid oxide fuel cells in the belt. According to Ray, this was the only way to hide the hardware.

Cisco theorizes the problem may be the operating temperature and that the suit is overheating. He suggests that a ceramic compound might insulate the fuel cells and improve the overall operating efficiency.

Barry's suit has a built in defibrillator capable of generating a shock of 400 joules.

Brie Larvan's robot bees each have a 360 degree vision system, with multiple micro-cameras capable of recording from various angles at the same time.

The mechanical bees were originally developed for agricultural uses.  Brie Larvan weaponized them for military uses.

The bees are controlled wirelessly.  Felicity is able to track them and later hack their signal to shut them down.

Dialogue Triumphs

(looking at the half-full back-seat of his and Eddie's patrol car as they chase a car)
Joe: We're going to run out of room though.
The Flash: I'll take care of it.
(The Flash exits the car at super-speed and grabs Joe West from the passenger's side of the car)
Eddie: (not noticing Joe is gone as he drives)
What do you think he meant by that?
(In the blink of an eye, The Flash deposits Joe in the driver's seat of the fleeing car. A second later, the driver is in handcuffs next to Eddie in the police car)
Oh!  That's what he meant.
(Cut to the crook's car, where the crook in the passenger's seat is looking behind them, not noticing Joe is now driving the car.)
Crook: I think we lost them.
Joe: Uhhh... no, you didn't. And by the way, you're under arrest.

Dr. Wells: Your ATOM suit is quite the technological achievement, Mr. Palmer.  I'm impressed.
Caitlin: And he is never impressed.
Ray: Well, thank you, but I can't quite seem to keep it up.
Felicity: (quickly cutting in) He means the suit!
Ray: Yeah. I mean the suit.
Felicity: Yeah. I can attest that everything else works just fine! There's nothing we need to fix in that area.
Ray: No, no, no...the sex is great!
Caitlin: God, there's two of them.

(Regarding Iris being kept ignorant of Barry's secret identity)
Joe: Keeping her in the dark keeps her safe.
Eddie: I don't agree.
Joe: Well, I'm her father.
Eddie: And I'm her boyfriend. When does my vote outweigh yours?
Joe: When you become her husband.

(Upon finding out Felicity knows Barry's secret identity)
Eddie: So everyone BUT Iris?
Barry: Feels that way.

Dr. McGee: To what do I owe this visit? Did you finally find my tachyon prototype, or are you here to blackmail me for another one?
Dr. Wells: Do you have another one?

Barry: Iris? Remember when we were kids and Joe would come home from work with that blank expression on his face?
Iris: Yeah. The "Earth To Joe" look. How could I forget?
Barry: I never understood that look until I started working for the CCPD. Showing up at crime scenes and seeing someone murdered? It can be... ugly work. I'm lucky. I get to hide behind the science of it and just stay in my lab, but Eddie... he's out there. Every day. In the darkness. I just think that maybe if he doesn't want to talk to you about his work, it's probably because he wants to keep you in the light.

Caitlin: You're so lucky. Ray's so nice and smart and hot.
Felicity: Yeah, it's kind of like I'm dating Barry but in Oliver's body.
(Felicity turns beet red)
Felicity: A sentence you will never repeat to anyone!

Dialogue Disasters

Every damned bee pun that Brie Larvan makes.


Cisco has a fear of bees.

Cisco begins having visions of his death in the alternate timeline in 115.

Dr. Tina McGee is seen for the first time since 109. She refers to the Mercury Labs Tachyon Device, which The Reverse Flash stole in that same episode.

Felicity makes reference to Oliver Queen bringing her a bullet-riddled laptop (A103) and hacking some company's website (A111) before she knew he was The Arrow and coming up with the worst excuses for why he needed her to do these things.

Barry uses his speed powers to generate controlled electrical blasts for the first time, creating a shock that restarts Cisco's heart.

Dr. Tina McGee says that she and Harrison Wells were close friends 15 years earlier but that after Tess Morgan's death it was like he became another person.

Iris dumps Eddie.

Barry tells Cisco and Caitlin his suspicions about Harrison Wells being The Reverse Flash.

Cisco tells Caitlin, Barry and Joe about his visions of Harrison Wells being the Reverse-Flash and killing him.

The Boomerang Factor

There's no reason Barry shouldn't have been able to outrun the bee robots.

The Bottom Line

Mostly dreadful. The show is now openly mocking how contrived it is that Iris is the only person who doesn't know Barry Allen's secret identity at this point and Barry is nerfed so that The Atom can be useful and Felicity can have a nemesis. Never mind that she already had one in The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak.  And yet, the cast manage to make most of this work through sheer charisma, with the exception of Emily Kinney, who portrays the villain of the week with a cheesiness that makes Uma Thurman's performance as Poison Ivy look restrained.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ant-Man #4 - A Review

With his daughter Cassie kidnapped and his ex-wife on the warpath, Scott Lang is in dire straits. Luckily, his new employee Grizzly knows a guy from his ex-supervillain support group who may be just the backup they need. But Cross Technological Enterprises is not without its own super-powered protectors.  Will The Mighty Machinesmith Be Enough To Counter The Canny Crossfire?

I had to put this book down several times, I was laughing so hard while reading it. Nick Spencer puts the human back into superhuman, taking the obscure background players of the Marvel Universe and turning them into real people with real problems, thrown up against the insanity of the world they live in. D-List villains are reduced to serving as children's party entertainment while the heroes who can't afford personal jets cruise into battle behind the wheel of a customized van.  Not a battle-van, mind you - just a customized van.

Ramon Rosanas answers this absurdity with some truly amazing artwork.  Rosanas has a great gift for expressions and the best bits of this book involve close-ups on the cast, as their faces contort into all manner of outrageous aspect.  The action scenes are also well depicted. And the coloring by Jordan Boyd is top-notch. This is the finest, funnest superhero comedy since the Giffen/De Matteis/Maguire Justice League.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Starman Plays Discworld - A Let's Play Adventure - Part Two

In which I explore Unseen Univeristy, pester the cook, harass the faculty and aggravate the Librarian.

Convergence: Batgirl #1 - A Review

A year has passed since the dome came down over Gotham City and Stephanie Brown has found a new peace. She's abandoned her super suit for surgical scrubs and gone to work as a nurse's aide. After all, with Black Bat and Red Robin around it's not like the city needs Batgirl.

Except the city DOES need Batgirl. For when the dome lifted and The Powers That Be insist on a fight to the death to decide which of two cities lives or dies, it was Stephanie Brown who was chosen to stand for Gotham City. And with Steph out of action for so long, it's doubtful she'll have a chance against the Catman of another world who is her chosen opponent.

I'm somewhat conflicted about the story of this issue. After everything Stephanie has done to prove herself as a hero - as Spoiler, as Robin and as Batgirl - it seems a bit odd that she'd give that up as readily as she seems to in this issue, even if she did find another way to help people. Ignore the base concept, however, and the dialogue in this issue is spot on, with the friendship between Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown being perfectly captured.

The artwork is similarly unpolished. The pencils are average, at best, with the characters looking misshapen and half-finished in some panels. And  the inking and coloring are some of the sloppiest I've ever seen on a professional book.

Sorry Steph and Cass. I'd hoped to see you return. But not like this.

Descender #2 - A Review

Ten years ago, robot armies decimated the core worlds of the United Galactic Council. Since then over 90% of the sentient robots have been destroyed by the bounty hunters known as Scrappers. All of this is news to Tim-21 - a robotic child companion who went dormant ten years ago, only to reactivate on an abandoned mining colony. Unfortunately, his awakening has summoned The Wreckers...

This new series by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen borrows from a lot of classic science-fiction. The story combines elements of Astro BoyBlade Runner and A.I. while the artwork is reminiscent of Robotech and the films of Miyazaki. Yet the combined aesthetic is entirely original and uniquely memorable.

Descender has proven to be one of the best new series of 2015. It's a must read for all fans of good comics as well as sci-fi genre enthusiasts. If you haven't picked up the first issue, do so immediately.

Howard The Duck #2 - A Review

Trapped in a prison he never made, Howard The Duck seems doomed to be a part of The Collector's collection!  Luckily, Howard is locked up with Rocket Raccoon and the rest of The Guardians of the Galaxy are ready to spring their pal while The Collector is away on important business (i.e. attending a Con). Unluckily for Howard, they may get him killed long before he ever sees Earth again, much less gets paid for his current case!

Not surprisingly, Chip Zdarksy's script for this issue proves as hilarious as the first. Curiously, less of that humor is born of Howard himself and more from the sheer insanity of the Guardians of the Galaxy, such as Rocket's shaving a totally unnecessary treasure map into his fur. There's an equally funny back-up story where Howard is sued by Iron Fist and Power Man over the right to use the phrase "hero for hire" in his advertising.

The art team deserves just as much praise for their contributions to the book.  Rob Guillory's amazing facial expressions add to the fun of the back-up story. And Joe Quinones is to be commended for how many little sight gags he fits into every panel of the main feature.

Convergence: Harley Quinn #1 - A Review

Harley Quinn was poised to make her big solo comeback. Then that got all futzed up when a giant dome surrounded Gotham City.  A year later, Harley is a changed woman.  Well, mostly changed.  She's given up crime and has a new boyfriend.  And she hardly ever hears the bad voices anymore, though she does see happy little fish swimming around her hands. But hey!  It's a change!

Yep!  She's a whole new Harley.

Too bad the old Harley is needed.  For The Powers That Be that trapped the city have decreed that Harley Quinn is to represent Gotham in a battle to the death for the city's fate. And even though the other champion is a bunny in a cape, the threat is real enough that Harley's gal pals are determined to get the old Harley back...

This book was quite the delight. Steve Pugh perfectly captures the spirit of fun that has eluded everyone who has tried to write Harley Quinn in the past few years. Phil Winslade matches that attitude with his art, which has a fluid, cartoonish sense of motion in even its most static moments.

 All in all, if you've found yourself missing Harley - the REAL Harley - this book will be a real treat.