Monday, October 31, 2016

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 4 - Survivors

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



Plot

A DEO sting leads Kara, Alex and Maggie to investigate an underground fighting arena where aliens are forced to do fight to the death for the amusement of high-paying patrons by a woman called Roullette, At the same time, Kara tries to mentor Mon-El and J'onn gets to know the mysterious bartender who seems to be another green Martian.


Influences

The comics of Geoff Johns (he created Roulette for JSA, Miss Martian for Teen Titans and co-wrote a Superman storyline based around Mon-El's arrival on Earth with Richard Donner and James Robinson), the film Eyes Wide Shut (the general aura of Roulette's elite parties, with masks required to enter) and the Superman comics of Gerry Ordway and Roger Stern (character of Draaga).


Goofs

What are the odds that Mon-El would also program his ship to travel to Earth?

Some of the make-up for the aliens in the final confrontation between the DEO and Roulette wouldn't pass muster at a low-rent Star Trek convention.


Performances


David Harewood all but steals this episode as J'onn. Usually reserved, it's a treat to see him let his mask slip a little bit as he tries to open himself up to another of his kind and runs the gamut of emotions as his dreams of meeting another Green Martian and the reality of what they are like collide.

Chris Wood finally gets a chance to reveal Mon-El's personality in this episode and he turns out to be quite the likeable character. While we do see shades of the hedonist Kara accused him of being in his interactions with Winn, there is still honor enough in his character that he is quick to apologize for giving offense. And it says a lot about him that he uses trickery and persuasion on Winn rather than brute force, despite his powers.

Dichen Lachman proves an effective presences as Roulette. There's not much depth to the character, but Lachman plays the devious witch you love to hate perfectly.


Artistry


Fantastic special effects for the opening sequence in which we see the destruction of Daxam.

The effects work for the various aliens during the fight scenes are also impressive.


Super Trivia


This episode originally aired on Halloween Night 2016. Based on the scene with Winn and Mon-El in the bar, this episode also takes place around Halloween.

James Olsen is absent from this episode.

Veronica Sinclair a.k.a. Roulette first appeared in JSA Secret Files #2 (September 2001). She was the granddaughter of the original Roulette - a minor crime boss/casino owner who fought against Terry Sloane a.k.a. Mister Terrific. Veronica established her own underground casino - The House - and catered to an elite clientele willing to finance illegal gambling events such as metahuman death battles. This business brought her into frequent conflict with various heroes, particularly the members of the JSA

The DCTVU version of Roulette appears to be a perfect mirror of her comic-book counterpart. She has the same unique appearance of Roulette from the comics - a slinky red dress with strategically placed holes revealnig a full-body dragon tattoo along her torso.

Miss Martian first appeared in Teen Titans #37 (August 2006). Born to the Martian name M'gann M'orzz, Miss Martian claimed to have been sent to the Vega system in a rocket by her parents during the war between the White Martian and Green Martian species in order to save her. This story was true with one fine detail omitted - M'gann was a White Martian posing as a Green Martian, due to the White Martian's war-like nature and negative attitudes towards them on Earth. M'gann, however, rejected her racial heritage and worked to protect her adopted home.

The DCTVU version of M'gann M'orzz tells J'onn a similar story, only she escaped from one of the concentration camps the White Martians created to hold the Green Martians thanks to the mercy of a White Martian. As with the comics version, this turns out to have been a lie and she truly is a White Martian. It remains to be seen if she is as noble-hearted as her comic book counterpart, but it seems likely that she is the White Martian who defied orders to spare a Green Martian that she mentioned in her story.

Draaga first appeared in Action Comics Annual #2 (May 1989). A powerful alien warrior, Draaga was the undisputed champion of the arena located on Warworld - a mobile artificial planet used as a base by the warlord Mongul. He never knew defeat until he faced a captive Superman, who refused to kill Draaga as per the conditions of the battle set by Mongul. Rather than being grateful, Draaga saw Superman's mercy as the ultimate insult of his strange code of honor, which demanded death in combat at the hands of a worthy foe if not victorious. Since then, he has sparred with Superman seeking either to regain his honor through killing Superman or dying by his hand.

The DCTVU seems similar to his comic-book counterpart in both appearance and power level, being capable of injuring Supergirl. The only real difference is that he doesn't seem to have fought Superman before, telling Kara that he has never killed a Kryptonian before.

In the original DC Comics, both White and Green Martians had the power to phase through solid matter. We see both J'onn and M'gann use this power in this episode.


Technobabble

Maggie Sawyer determines that the Syvillian corpse she found made a habit of fighting, based on months of scar-tissue build-up which had developed on its knuckles. The lack of skin under the fingernails indicate that he was not fighting defensively before his death.

Daxamite hearts are on the opposite side of the body relative to where human hearts are located.


Dialogue Triumphs


(J'onn tells Kara and Alex about his discovering M'gann.)
J'onn: I offered to merge with her in The Martian Way.
Kara: But you guys just met!
J'onn: It's psychically, Kara! The bond is the traditional Martian way of communicating. We...we link minds, share dreams, emotions... memories. We kept no secrets from one another. Imagine a world without ego, selfishness... Without... lies.
Kara: That sounds beautiful.
J'onn: She didn't seem to think so. The moment I talked about it she left. I am grateful to have you both in my life. I truly am. But with Martians, it's ... it's different than talking. Deeper. Deeper than talking. Fuller.  With her, there's a chance that i can live the way I was meant to live.
Alex: Just tell her that.

(Mon-El walks in on Kara talking to the hologram of her mother.)
Kara: Sometimes I just like to come in here to tell her about my day. I know it's not really her, but I... it makes me feel less...
Mon-El: Alone?
Kara: ... yeah.
(There as an uncomfortable silence.)
Mon-El: She is a babe.
Kara: Excuse me?!
Mon-El: Well, your - your mother, I mean.
Kara: Uh - okay?
Mon-El: Winn told me that "babe" is what you call a beautiful woman on Earth. I'm sensing that's not right...
Kara: Maybe don't let Winn teach you too much about women on this planet.

Supergirl: I'm shutting you down, Sinclair.
Roulette: Unlikely.
Supergirl: You're conducting illegal fights!  You're breaking the law!
Roulette: Technically they're not people. They have no rights. So how can I be breaking the law?
Supergirl: Pretty cynical view.
Roulette: Not at all. To these... freakshows?  I'm a savior. I've given them a place to feel special. Find glory. And earn a little cash too. What have you ever given them? Black eyes? All you do is lock them up.
Supergirl: And what about the ones you kidnap and force to fight?!
Roulette: Some of them owe me money. Fighting is just a way of getting squared.
Supergirl: And if they die in the ring?!
Roulette: Plenty more where that came from. See, Michael Vick made a big mistake. People don't care about what happens to aliens... but they do care about dogs.
Supergirl: You're sick.
Roulette: And you're naive. You're not going to change their hearts any more than you're going to change the hearts of the spoiled rich who pay good money to see blood spilled. You can shut down the matches, but only for a little while. Because you can't stop gambling. And you can't stop beings from doing anything it takes to survive. Thing you'll learn about me?  I only play safe bets. And you... little girl... are as safe as they come.

(Supergirl walks into the middle of the stand-off between the NCPD/DEO officers and Roulette and her fighters.)
Supergirl: Things are bad. I know. But fighting amongst each other? That's what they want us to do. Other aliens are not the enemy. (pointing to Roulette) She is! And the more we fight each other, the more we distract ourselves from the real problems. Cadmus? People like Roulette? They say we're dangerous. That's what they want everyone to believe. Don't let them be right about us.
(Roulette turns around to leave. One of her fighters moves to cut her off as Maggie Sawyuer steps forward and starts to cuff Roulette.)
Maggie Sawyer:
You're under arrest.
Roulette: (scoffs) For what?
Maggie Sawyer: For operating without a liquor license, for starters.
Supergirl: I'm sure you've figured it out by now, but it's not a good idea to bet against me.


Continuity

Mon-El was a bodyguard to the Daxamite royal family. He was sent to Earth after the Prince trapped him in a single-passenger Kryptonian rocket that had been utilized by Kryptonian ambassadors visiting Daxam at the time of Krypton's destruction.

Garata is a Daxamite sport. It is similar to soccer but is played with dragons.

Syvillians are a peaceful alien race that have formed a society Kara describes as Utopian. She notes that not only do they not usually fight - they barely argue.

M'gann claims that she escaped from the Green Martian concentration camps 300 years earlier after a White Martian took pity on her and helped her escape.  However, this entire story is of questionable truthfulness given what we learn of her background later in the episode. It seems likely that she is the White Martian who "broke rank".

Brevakks are an alien species which grow thorns from their forearms as a biological defense mechanism.

There is only one Brevakk officially registered in National City, per The President's Alien Amnesty Act.

Daxam has hologramatic constructs similar to the hologram of Alura Zor-El.

Thus far, Mon-El is not manifesting any super-powers other than super-strength and super-jumping. He apparently also has an immunity to the effects of alcohol on par with a Kryptonian as well as increased density and durability, based on the reaction of the man who tried punching him in the bar.

Mon-El is confirmed not to have flight, heat-vision, x-ray vision or freeze breath.

According to Mon-El, the highest insult on Daxam is to refuse a toast.

Mon-El once saw Draaga fight on Warworld. He noted that Draaga has favored his left leg ever since taking a knife to a nerve-cluster in his right leg.

Lena Luthor went to the same boarding school as Veronica Sinclair. She didn't like her then or now.

Roulette is ordered released shortly after Maggie Sawyer arrests her.

Maggie Sawyer rejects Alex's offer to go out for a drink, already having a date with another woman.  Alex seems to be jealous.

Kara agrees to take Mon-El under her protection and allow him to leave the DEO base under her suprevision.

It is revealed that M'gann is a White Martian.


The Bottom Line

A solid episode that manages to balance all of its various subplots effectively while tying them into the central theme of survival.

The Flash #9 - A Review

Wally West was thrilled to become The Flash's new partner. It's something of a shock, however, when he discovers that there's another Flash... one who The Flash trained before him. Then comes the revelation that his criminal uncle Daniel (who became The Reverse Flash) was his real father and suddenly Wally can't run fast enough to burn away his frustration and fear. Luckily there's someone who knows just what he's going through better than The Flash... another young man named Wally West!


Given that this story features two Wally Wests and two heroes called The Flash, it ran the risk of becoming confusing in a hurry. Thankfully, Joshua Williams gets to the heart of things equally fast and makes this into a story about people rather than heroes, with the action limited to a brief sequence at the start of the story. It;s touching to see the older Wally West bonding with the younger one and a reminder that being a hero doesn't always mean punching criminals.

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the artwork. Jorge Cornoa's distorted style seems a poor fit for The Flash, with odd posing and over-inking both frequent problems. Even Ivan Plascencia's usually vibrant colors seem oddly dull when applied to Corona's dark art. It isn't bad but it does seem incongruous.

Batgirl #4 - A Review

Having learned just what sort of bad business her old friend Kai has gotten involved in - and just why he's being hunted across Asia by a gang of newbie super-villains - Barbara Gordon turns her attentons to tracking down the gang's leader, the mysterious figure known only as Teacher!


I love Hope Larson's take on Barbara Gordon. Larson's scripts have restored the super-genius detective that seems to have been absent since Gail Simone's run on the series. The plot is a thrilling thing that shows Barbara to be a capable heroine even outside her usual comfort zone in Gotham. And the noir tone of the mystery is perfectly brought to life by Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig.

Future Quest #6 - A Review

As FEAR and Dr. Zin attempt to abduct Dr. Quest and their friends fight a stampede of dinosaurs, the rock-band/secret superhero team known as The Impossibles and a new friend have their own fight with the forces of FEAR! And half a universe away, Space Ghost gives chase to the multi-dimensional monster known as Omnikron...


Jeff Parker continues to weave an amazing tale utilizing some of the most beloved (and most obscure!) Saturday Morning cartoon characters ever into one sprawling epic. Reading this book is like listening to a group of children mixing and matching all of their action-figures into one massive fight, but with a better sense of continuity. This is the kind of comic where dinosaurs with bombs strapped to them does not seem the least bit over-the-top or absurd... and thank heavens for that!


I wish I could be as universally enthusiastic about the art.  The first chapter with Team Quest and Birdman is excellent but the artwork for The Impossibles back-up story seems half-finished, with a good portion of the panels depicting the characters as outlines filled in with their dominant costume color. This may have been a stylistic choice, but - coupled with some uneven inking - it makes the whole affair seem rushed.

Starman Plays Monkey Island 2 Special Edition - Part 4

In which we explore Booty Island, take our first steps toward rigging a spitting contest and do unpleasant things to people who annoy us for no good reason. Like you do when you're an adventure gamer.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Detective Comics #943 - A Review

In the wake of Tim Drake's apparent death, the rest of his team try to carry on. Nobody has been harder hit than Stephanie Brown but everyone is feeling Red Robin's absence. Still, the recent attacks on the city by honest-to-goodness giant monsters neccesitate Bruce Wayne and Kate Kane appearing at a police gala to fundraise the rebuilding of Gotham. The rest of the team attends as well, with no one aware of the new gang that is about to enter their lives.

James Tynion IV devotes most of this issue to simple dialogues between our core cast, plus other Gothamites such as Rene Montoya, Harper Row, Jean Paul Valley and Luke Fox.  There's not much in the way of action but his command of these characters is such that they could discuss their library books and it would still be fascinating. The scenes between Oprhan and Clayface - perhaps the two least touched-upon members of the team thus far - are particularly enjoyable.


The artwork showcases a worthy team effort. Alvaro Martinez has a great gift for faces, drawing unique characteristics for every character. Raul Fernandez enhances the pencils perfectly, avoiding the over-shading that often plagues Batman books. Colorist Brad Anderson's contribution is perhaps the most subtle, with palette switches occurring mid-page in the fight sequences to emphasize the action of a particularly powerful blow.

Titans #4 - A Review

Wally West restored the memories of his closest friends but the woman he loves - journalist Linda Park - remains a stranger to him. Now Abra Kadabra - the mad mage from the future Wally is destined to destroy someday - has taken Linda and given him one hour to find her. It's an impossible task, even for the Fastest Man Alive! Good thing Wally West has all those friends...


Despite Brett Booth's figures being somewhat forcibly posed at times, this issue boasts some impressive artwork. Booth has a great talent for depicting figures in motion, which works well during the issues' action scenes. The inks by Norm Rapmund enhance the pencils without obscuring them and the colors by Andrew Dalhouse are vibrant.


While I still wish more of the Titans had been better developed as characters n this opening arc (Lilith and Garth particularly), Dan Abnett still writes a solid action-based comic better than most. The fight scenes are fantastic and it's heartening in these cynical days to see a team book where all the cast get along and can deliver a battle cry without irony.

Trinity #2 - A Review

Clark Kent was having a hard enough time coping with life on a new Earth before Lois insisted on trying to socialize with this world's version of Bruce Wayne and Diana of Themyscira outside of work. Now, the three of them seem to have wound up in the past! But is it the Smallville of this Superman's life or that of his now-dead counterpart? Either way, he seems to have accidentally saved the life of Pa Kent and sent his younger self into hiding.
Francis Manapul continues to impress, as he pulls double-duty as both writer and artist on Trinity. The focus is firmly on Clark Kent this time around, with the theme of fathers and sons introduced in the first issue continuing here as Clark helps Pa Kent to find his past self, all while trying not to risk further paradoxes while still enjoying the gift he's seemingly been given to see the only father he's ever known one last time.

It's a great story and the artwork is gorgeous throughout. My only complaint is that Batman seems a little stand-offish given the circumstances.  Despite being the Spock of this Trinity, you'd think Batman of all people would be sympathetic to getting another chance to meet your father! This is a minor note, however, and this is still a wonderful book that should be read by all fans of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman.

The Irony of Mockingbird #8 & The Stupidity of Anti-Feminists

I've never thought much of Mockingbird. What thoughts I've had about Bobbi Morse have not progressed much beyond "Black Canary rip-off".

While that's a little unfair to the character - who existed for nearly a decade in a variety of roles before she became Mockingbird - the historical record is clear on this point. Mockingbird was paired up with Hawkeye for the first time in his 1983 solo mini-series. This occurred several months after Green Arrow (famously paired with Black Canary for over a decade at that point) appeared in his own 1983 solo mini-series. And Mark Gruenwald - who wrote the Hawkeye mini-series - was known for taking inspiration from the Distinguished Competition. (There's a reason comic critics call the original Squadron Supreme one of the best JLA Elseworlds stories ever.)

The sad truth is that Mockingbird's writers did little to distinguish her as a unique character. Her most notable story-line before her death involved her being drugged, brainwashed and raped by The Phantom Rider and Hawkeye divorcing her for allowing her rapist to fall to his death, but really because he felt that she'd cheated on him. This is because Clint Barton is the worst, but I digress.

Take that general sense that there's no real character there apart from Mrs. Hawkeye. Throw in my general antipathy towards Marvel Comics at present as well as anything tied into Civil War II (The Search For More Money!) and the odds of my ever picking up an issue of Mockingbird were slim to none.

Then this cover came out and all Holy Hell broke loose.


Faster than you could say "two tubby Tribbles in trilbies", a certain contingent of fandom arrived to take back comics from The Feminist Menace. These attacks drove Mockingbird writer Chelsea Cain from Twitter once she got sick of dealing with sorting through hate speech to get to important messages. Why they went after the writer of this book rather than the artist who drew this cover I have no idea. Then again, this contingent of fandom - well-represented by this one fellow who claimed that "comics are the last safe space for men" - are not noted for their reasoning skills.

Thankfully, their efforts at harassment have backfired horribly. Because if there's one thing the majority of comic readers can't stand regardless of political credo, socioeconomic status or religious affiliation, it's bullies. As a result, the first TP collection of the the Mockingbird series is topping the Amazon sales charts, with the print book at #1 and the Kindle edition at #2. Vol. 2 of the series is at #8 on the charts, despite not being due out until April 2017.

In all this hullabaloo over a cover, I hadn't heard anyone say anything about the content of the book. I sought out a copy of Mockingbird #8 to see how the book's interior compared to the exterior. It turns out you can judge a book by its cover and had any of the people going after Chelsea Cain bothered to read this book before complaining about it, they would have been pissed off royally.


The basic plot of Mockingbird #8 is that Bobbi is on a Comic Convention cruise and is being harassed by the ghost of her aforementioned rapist, The Phantom Rider. He's trying to torment her with news that Clint Barton is on trial for murdering Bruce Banner and trying to win her back with "sweet talk" that will sound familiar to any woman who ever rejected a "nice guy". Thankfully, Bobbi is not without friends and everyone on the cruise - from the superstar nerds to the most humble of cosplayers - are united in fighting "The Phantom" menace.

Let us pause to consider that for a moment. A bunch of anti-Feminists lost their minds over the cover of a book - not knowing the story inside the book is about fandom standing up against harassment - and wound up inspiring a mass uprising of fandom against harassment. The irony is so thick you could slap a trilby on it and call it a Men's Rights Activist.



Ignoring all irony and my instant attraction to anything involving a cameo by The Doubleclicks, Mockingbird #8 is a damn fine comic. The script by Chelsea Cain is full of wit and humor. The artwork by Kate Niemczyk, Rachelle Rosenberg and Joëlle Jones looks fantastic. In fact, I was so impressed by this issue, I went and bought the rest of the series to date on Comixology.

So do I still think Mockingbird still a Black Canary rip-off?  Yeah, I do. But I enjoyed reading this book a lot more than I did the last Black Canary book. And if a dyed-in-the-wool Dinah Lance fan like me can say that with a straight face, there's no reason for you not to pick up Mockingbird Vol. 1 yourself.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Starman Plays Monkey Island 2 Special Edition - Part 3

In which we drive Large LaGrande from Scabb island, only to make things worse for ourselves... even before we take a job in the service industry and flee Scabb island ourselves in search of Booty!

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 3 - Shogun

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


Plot

After a training accident in the cargo bay of The Waverider, Ray and a newly empowered Nate crash in Feudal Japan, where Ray's armor is stolen by a local warlord.. Sara finds her leadership skills put to the test when she must convince a stowaway Vixen that Mick Rory - for all his faults - is not a killer. Or, at the very least, not Hourman's killer. And Professor Stein and Jax make a startling discovery in a secret compartment on-board The Waverider while repairing the ship in the rest of the teams' absence.


Influences

The JSA comics of Geoff Johns (character of Citizen Steel) the X-Men comics of Chris Claremont (Nate's powers and appearance mirror those of the mutant hero Colossus), Star Trek: The Original Series (the sequence of Sara trying to pilot The Waverider while Jax tries to fix the engines on the fly), the TV series Lost (mentioned by Jax when discussing why you never open secret hatches), Ninja III: The Domination (Mick refers to this film when examining the buildings of Edo Period Japan), the films of Chuck Norris (also referred to by Mick, and the main influence on his fight with a group of "real" ninjas), Star Wars (Nate refers to the teachings of Master Yoda) and the films of Akira Kurosawa (general tone, fight choreography and cinematography; The Legends protecting a village mirrors the plot of The Seven Samurai)


Goofs

It's highly unlikely Vixen would be familiar with the term "ninja" since the term - in its modern usage - didn't come about until 1945. (Perhaps this is a slight difference in the timelines of our world and the DCTVU?)

Mick says the buildings of Edo Period Japan look just like they did in Ninja III: The Domination. In addition to being a poor source of historical ninja lore (the plot concerns a sexy aerobics instructor who is possessed by the spirit of a ninja warrior), the movie is set entirely in 1980s Los Angeles with no historical sequences. (Mick could be misremembering which ninja movie he's thinking of.)

Granting that ninjas in some form did exist (in that there were secretive mercenary assassins in Feudal Japan) they did not wear all black outfits in broad daylight.

Also, it makes no sense for the ninjas to be attacking Mick, given that ninjas tended to fight against corrupt nobles.. like the Shogun Mick and his friends were fighting.

Ray and Masako somehow survive an energy blast that totally disintegrates the Shogun and The ATOM suit.

Mick complains that he has no proof ninjas are real. What about the black robes he took off of one of their bodies?


Performances

Nick Zano continues to do a fine job of developing Nate into a sympathetic hero. This time, he manages a fine balancing act between Nate's desire to do good and his frustration over suddenly having power but being unable to wield it.

Maisie Richardson-Sellers has a similar trick to accomplish in establishing her version of Vixen as a completely different character from her granddaughter. This is accomplished through her being a much more traditional heroine (Mari was somewhat more reluctant in Vixen: Season One) and some wonderful scenes that play her off of both Sara and Mick.



Artistry

Great combat sequences throughout, particularly Sara's fight with multiple samurai and Ray's fight with The Shogun.

A witty script with wonderful dialogue that does a great job of developing Nate and Amaya and building their relationships with Ray, Sara and Mick.

There are a lot of dramatic arty shots in the Kurosawa style but perhaps the best of these involves the rain of cherry blossoms as Nate goes for a walk with Masako.


Trivia Of Tomorrow

The episode opens with yet another new introduction - this time delivered by Nate Heywood.

In the comics, Nate Heywood gained powers after his wounds were exposed to the metallic blood of the neo-Nazi villain Reichsmar. Some unknown quantity in the villain's blood fused with Nate's body, causing him to become a being of living steel and to regrow his amputated leg. This made Nate super-strong and extra durable but also left him with his sense of touch drastically reduced. He had to be given a special suit that limited his movements and reduce his strength to a more manageable level as he couldn't even take a step on certain substances without the ground crumbling at his feet.

The DCTVU version of Nate Heywood differs from his comic-book-counterpart in that - despite developing a body made of living metal - Nate still looked completely human in the comics though he was unable to turn off his powers.. The TV version, on the other hand, has silver metallic skin, reminiscent of Colossus from X-Men and can turn his powers on and off.

Nate runs through several potential codenames after Mick suggests just plain Steel.  This was the codename used by Nate Heywood's cousin, Henry Heywood III, who followed in their grandfather's footsteps and joined the JLA. He also mentions Citizen Steel, which is the codename used by Nate Heywood in the comics.

There's some metatextual irony that Ray is the one teaching Nate how to become "a man of steel", given that Brandon Routh famously played The Man of Steel a.k.a. Superman in the movie Superman Returns.

The Edo Period of Japanese history corresponds to 1603-1868 AD.

Reference is made to how foreigners are not trusted and unusual in Japan at this time. This is consistent with Sakoku - the foreign relations policy of Japan at the time. Under Sakoku, severe restrictions were imposed regarding travel within Japan - both on foreign nationals entering the country and Japanese traders traveling outside of Japan without special permission. The first of the edicts making up Sakoku were laid out from 1633-1639 - just before the time of this episode (1641). While enforcement varied of the years, Sakoku was the law of the land until 1866.

Tokugawa Iemitsu was the third Tokugawa shogun, ruling from 1623-1651. As the episode notes, he is considered one of the most brutal warlords in Japanese history, though nothing is said about him routinely slaughtering his brides. It is a matter of record, however, that  he instituted the policy of Sakoku and ordered a ban on Christianity in Japan, ordering missionaries to be crucified.

The reality of ninjas is a subject of debate among historians to this day. While it is generally agreed that there may have been some assassins who operated in secret during the Edo Period, it is also agreed that they did not run around in black clothing all the time or use special weapons, stealth training or martial arts techniques. You can read a bit about the controversy in this Time Magazine article.

Imemitsu's lead henchman boasts that he was "trained in the art of war by Shimura himself." This is probably a nod to actor Takashi Shimura, who played the lead samurai in The Seven Samurai.

Amaya reveals that she was born in a remote African village in Zambesi before being recruited for the JSA  Zambesi is the fictional African nation that was the home of Vixen in the original DC Comics Universe.


Technobabble

Ray altered the Nazi super serum to quintuple his own strength and transform his skin into an alloy 100 times stronger than steel. These effects are passed on to Nate, who also has his hemophilia cured by the serum.

Ray says that Nate's powers manifested as a result of a heightened adrenal response.

Jax reroutes power from the secondary manifolds to try and stabilize The Waverider.

Ray takes an ingestible translator to understand/speak Japanese.

The ATOM suit is made of and powered by dwarf star alloy. It is strong enough to resist bullets, arrows and explosives. Underneath the left thruster is the alpha-stabilizer. If destroyed, the photons that stream from the suit's weapons systems will overheat. Theoretically, this will cause somatic overload and destroy the suit beyond repair.

The armature relay of The ATOM Suit enhances the limbs' reaction time.


Dialogue Triumphs

Nate (voice-over): Time travel is real. And all of history is vulnerable to the attack of rogue time travelers. But one group travels throughout time to stop the spread of these so-called Time Abberations and erase their damage to history. A group of outcasts and misfits, these individuals aren't heroes. They're something else. They're Legends!

(Mick is in the galley of the Wave Rider, overturning a container full of silverware) 
Mick: Where are all the knives?!
(Vicen comes up behind him and puts a knife to his throat.)
Mick: Oooh. There's one.

Vixen: Sorry for knocking you out.
Sara:  Sorry for locking you up. Call it even?
(The two shake hands.)

(Sara is trying to convince Vixen that The Legends can find Rex Tyler's killer.)
Sara: Don't worry. We're professionals. We know what we're doing.
(The sounds of weapons discharging is heard in the distance. The two run to the cargo bay to see Ray and Nate trading blows as Jax looks on laughing.)
Jax: Yeah!  Come on!
Nate: If Grandpa Heywood could see me now!
Vixen: Professional?
Sara: - Ish.

(Nate just fell to Earth and emerges from a crater looking around at the buildings in the distance.)
Nate: Edo Period. Mid-17th century Japan. That's cool.
(Nate falls backwards and passes out.)

Mick: You snuck up behind me and sliced my throat like a ninja.
Vixen: There's no such thing as a ninja, you idiot!
Mick: Tell that to Chuck Norris.
Vixen: Who's that?
Mick: And I'm the idiot?!
Vixen: And by the way, I'm not your "girlie"!
Sara: Alright. If you two don't quit your squabbling, I'm going to maroon you in a time period of my choosing. Together.

(Mick, Vixen and Sara approach the Shogun's castle.)
Vixen: It doesn't exactly look inviting, does it?
Mick: It's just like Ninja III: The Domination.
Sara: Never took you for a cinephile.
Mick: All I know is ninjas like to hide in trees. (glances up into the tree tops)
Vixen: I don't see anything.
Mick: Exactly! You don't find them. They find you.
Vixen: Just because you saw ninjas in a movie doesn't make them real.
Sara: I have to side with Mick on this one. They're real.
Vixen: You think there's a secret brotherhood of men trained in the art of assassination?
Sara: I hate to break it to you, Amaya, but I'm basically a ninja.
(Mick laughs.)
Vixen: (sigh) I miss the JSA.

Lead Henchman: I have been trained in the art of war by Shimura himself
Sara: League of Assassins. Class of '09.

(Nate explains his hemophilia to Masako.)
Masako: So every day, you were afraid to live?
Nate: Pretty much.
Masako: In the Samurai tradition, a warrior is always prepared for death. A woman celebrates when her husband dies with honor.
Nate: Wow. That's hardcore.
Masako: A Samurai who fights without armor... THAT is hardcore.

Sara: How does the Shogun even know how to operate your ATOM suit?
Ray: I designed it so an idiot could use it.
Mick: An idiot does.

Future Barry: Sorry to contact you like this, Captain Hunter, but I can't risk putting any more lives in danger.  And neither can this.Which is why you'll keep what I'm about to tell you a secret. Even from the rest of your team...

Nate: You don't think I don't want to save the girl, spare the village and be a hero for once in my damn life?! I spent half of my childhood in a hospital, where it didn't even occur to me to dream about having super powers. But guess what? I got them! I lost them!And now I really, really need them. And I can't get them back!
Ray: This isn't all about you! I spent billions of dollars to develop The ATOM Suit! I nearly died learning to shrink! And now I have to teach you to destroy the very thing - the only thing - that makes me a hero!
Nate: Wait... somatic overload means destroy the suit?
Ray: Yeah, Nate. We can't beat the shogun while he's wearing the suit. So we have to blow the suit up. Your powers ware within you. After today, I'll have nothing left.

Ichiro: You remind me of my son.
Ray: Why? Was he a terrible teacher too?
Ichiro: He was a great samurai. I built hm the strongest and most formidable armor in all of Japan. Forged him a sword fit for an emperor.
Ray: What happened to it?
Ichiro: My son was popular with the men who served under him. And the Shogun resented him for it. So he ordered Oda to commit seppuku.
Ray: We'll make sure the Shogun pays for what he's done to your family.
Ichiro: Maybe. Maybe not. But I ask you - would I rather hold my son again or his armor?
Ray: Your son, obviously.
Ichiro An armor is nothing but iron, leather and silk. It can be replaced. But a man who wears the armor is...
Ray: I get it. You're saying I don't need a suit of armor to defeat the Shogun.
Ichiro: Don't be ridiculous! He'll kill you in seconds!  Follow me.

Nate: I'm going to die.
Masako: Yes, probably.
Nate: That was actually your cue to cheer me up.
Masako: If you accept death, there is nothing to fear. 
Nate: I'm more afraid of what's going to happen to you if I die. I know I have these powers inside me. I just can't figure out how to use them.
Masako: Does a child learn to laugh? Does he sit and practice laughing? No. He just laughs.
Nate: "Do or do not. There is no try."
Masako: Exactly! Where did you learn that?
Nate: From... a great sensei from where I'm from. Yoda.
Masako: This Master Yoda is very wise.


Continuity

Nate is competent enough a historian to identify the exact period and location of where he is based on the architecture.

As noted in 202, Nate speaks Japanese, which is why he doesn't need an ingestible translator.

Ray, based on his need for an ingestible translator, does not speak Japanese.

There are 36 compartments on the Waverider, including one hidden compartment Rip Hunter never told Jax about.

The secret compartment is an armory full of highly advanced futuristic weapons and a computer with a message from Barry Allen in the year 2056. We do not hear what the message is, but both Jax and Stein agree they have to keep it secret from the rest of the team as Rip Hunter did.

Nate destroys The ATOM Suit.

Nate apparently adopts Steel as his code-name.

It is revealed at the end of the episode that Masako is of the clan Yamashiro. This is a hint that she is the ancestor of Tatsu Yamashior and that the katana Nate gives to her will eventually become the ancestral weapon of the heroine Katana, who was seen throughout Season 3 of Arrow.

Edo Period Japan is Ray's favorite time period, apart from The Wild West.

Vixen gives Mick a ninja throwing star she took from the battlefield - proof of a real ninja.


Location

Kansai Region of Japan on the Island of Honshu, Near Kyoto - 1641


Untelevised Adventures

We don't see just how Vixen was able to infiltrate The Waverider.


The Bottom Line

A solid episode that does a great job of developing Nate and Amaya while adding another mystery to the show. Between that and a funny script with some great fights and truly artful design across the board, this is easily one of the five best episodes in the series run to date.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 5, Episode 4 - Penance

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



Plot

When Lyla asks Oliver for help in breaking John out of a military prison, Oliver goes off despite Felicity's objections. While Oliver's gone, Tobias Church launches a serious of vicious attacks on the police, requiring the rest of the new Team Arrow to move against him.


Influences

The TV show Prison Break and the Judd Winick run on Green Arrow.


Goofs

Team Arrow moves to confront Oliver in costume but without their masks?

The circle Oliver makes in the hole of Diggle's cell looks far too neatly cut for something created by an aerosol compound.


Artistry

The script does a fine job of drawing parallels between various sequences. For instance, the flashback plot mirrors the current events, with both stories involving Oliver breaking into a prison. There's also some brilliant interplay between Oliver and Diggle's escape from a military prison and Team Arrow and the Police escaping the police building being attacked by Tobias Church's men.


Trivia

The briefcase Team Arrow recovers in the opening sequence was stolen from Kord Industries. This is a nod to the business run by Ted Kord who - in the DC Comics Universe - was a scientist superhero and the second hero to use the name The Blue Beetle.

This episode marks the first time that Evelyn Sharpe is seen using a bow and is addressed by the codename Artemis.

The original Artemis came from the Young Justice animated series. Artemis Crock was the daughter of two super-villains - The Sportsmaster and The Tigress. She and her sister Jade were trained from a young age to take over their parents roles. After Jade ran away from home and her parents divorced, Artemis began looking for a better life. She met Green Arrow and became his protege, with Green Arrow coming up with a story about her being his niece to hide her connection to a criminal family.

In the original comics, Rory Regan's father was a pawn-shop owner named Gerry Regan and a Veteran. The DCTVU version of Rory Regan's father is also a pawn-shop owner and a Veteran, but his name is also Rory Regan. This is taken from the origin of the post-Crisis Ragman from the comics, who was the latest in a long-line of Ragmen.

John Diggle's cell number is 1138. The number 1138 has been used in a number of media - mostly as a reference to George Lucas' first film THX-1138.

The IP address Oliver is given for communicating with Kovar is 108.166.7.161. This is the IP address for The CW Network's website.


Technobabble

Oliver steals an anti-molecular compound capable of dissolving any material from PalmerTech. This is used to break the floor of John's cell.

The item stolen from Kord Industries by Tobias Church's man was a 6800 computer processor available for purchase in any computer store. Curtis notes that it makes no sense for this to have been stolen given the more valuable cutting-edge technology Kord Industries makes that could have been taken.

The man Oliver talks to communicates with Kovar through a digital dead-drop on the Dark Web. The IP address is 108.166.7.161.

Felicity is able to predict where Tobias Church and his men are heading by cross-plotting his prior locations into a projection algorithm.


Dialogue Triumphs

Adrian Chase: Public service isn't easy. Sometimes you get a little dirty clearing out the filth.

(A black-clad figure moves into a secure area at Palmer Tech. Suddenly, their phone begins to vibrate. The figure stops and pulls up their mask. It is Oliver Queen.)
Ollie: What's up?
Felicity: Hey. There's been a break-in at PalmerTech. Are you still in the area?
Ollie: Uh, yeah. I can look into that.

(Ollie enters into The Bunker, still wearing his burglar blacks. Felicity is waiting for him.)
Felicity:
How was PalmerTech? Before you answer, you should consider that your phone has GPS. And if you were thinking about lying, I do admire your consistency.
Ollie: I wasn't thinking of lying to you. I was't looping you in after you made it clear you didn't approve of the decision
Felicity: John's the one who doesn't approve of the plan.
Ollie: John's not thinking clearly.
Felicity: Well, I'll bet Roy is. And if he were here, I think he would tell you that life on the run is no life at all. And I seem to remember you not being on-board with that plan.
Ollie: Roy was making a bad choice. Just like John is making a bad choice. He is currently locked up in a military prison for a crime he didn't commit!
Felicity: To atone for a crime that he did commit! And what does it matter? John doesn't want to leave! It is not your choice! Why do you always have to make decisions for him?!
Ollie: He already abandoned the team. I am not going to let him abandon his family.
Felicity: Is that what this is about?  John leaving the team?
Ollie: This is simple. I am going to stop John from making a decision that he will come to regret. You should consider doing the exact same thing with Rory.
Felicity: You do realize that me having a chat with Rory is completely different than you committing half-a-dozen felonies, right?

Adrian Chase: Did you ever think you'd be doing this again? Handling evidence?
Quentin Lance: No. Didn't think I'd be Deputy Mayor either, but here we are.
Adrian Chase: I was surprised you took the job, to be honest. From what I hear, you and Queen have a, uh... complicated history. Got a lot of hatchets to be buried there.
Quentin Lance: Yeah. Well, at least I know where they're buried. That's something you can't buy or steal.

(Oliver easily took down the rest of Team Arrow when they tried to stop him from leaving town.)
Curtis: You know, Felicity? Could you please explain to me again how you thought this was all gonna go down?
Felicity: I thought that if he saw you all united against his crazy plan, he'd reconsider.
Curtis: Right. Because Oliver Queen is known for thinking things through and taking input from others.

Ollie: Tell me where I can find Kovar.
Pytor: You think you scare me more than him?
Ollie: No, but he's not locked up in here with you. I am.

Sergio: I'm not rolling on Church. You think you scare me more than him?
Adrian Chase: No. But he's not here with you. I am.
(Chase stands up and begins to roll-up his shirt sleeves.)
Sergio: Hmm. You're not going to a beating on me. You're a D.A.
Adrian Chase: Yeah. Haven't you heard?  All of the justice in this town comes from vigilantes.

Evelyn: Things have really fallen apart without Oliver, haven't they?
Oliver: (entering the room) A good thing I'm back then.
(Everyone turns to look at him.)
Rory: Was he waiting for an entrance line?
Curtis: Nope. He's just that cool.

(Tobias Church walks into the room where his men are torturing Wild Dog.)
Tobias Church: Man. (gestures to a bruise on his face) Been a long time since someone tagged me like this. Respect.
Wild Dog: Oh, my pleasure. But I promise you if you untie me, I'll show you a hell of a lot more than respect.
Tobias Church: Oooh, man, you've got spirit. And I am duly impressed. But I'm gonna break that spirit. I'm gonna break your soul. And when we're finished, assuming that you're still alive - now, I wouldn't bet no money on that, though - there's gonna be very little of you left for The Green Arrow to work with.


Continuity

Curtis Holt was a bronze-medalist in the Decathlon.

Evelyn Sharpe is identified by the codename Artemis and seen using a bow for the first time.

Curtis Holt is identified by the codename Mr. Terrific for the first time.

Wild Dog served in the US Navy, but was dishonorably discharged.

As of this episode, Quentin Lance hasn't had a drink in a week.

Rory Regan is a sculptor who welds scrap metal together.

Rory Regan's father was a pawn-shop owner.

Rory Regan's father was a Gulf War Veteran - 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. He was also named Rory Regan and he too wore The Ragman costume before passing it on to his son.

John's cell number is 1138.

18 Mill Road is where the Anti-Crime Unite of the SCPD is bunkered.

The Ragman costume is capable of deflecting a bomb blast and repelling bullets.

Oliver sets up John in an old HIVE hideout until they can find a more permanent solution.

Wild Dog is captured by Tobias Church and is being tortured by him and his men as the episode ends.

In the flashbacks, Oliver passes his third and final test to join The Bratva. This requires him to kill a person on orders from Anatoly with no questions asked.


Location

U.S. Disciplinary Barracks - Langham Penitentiary

In the flashbacks, Oliver goes into an unnamed Russian jail in an unnamed Russian city.


The Bottom Line

Not bad but a far cry from the quality of everything we've seen so far this season. It's telling that the most interesting interaction is between Adrian Chase and Quentin Lance and the hints at Adrian Chase becoming a Vigilante himself. Everything else in the episode is competently executed, but is awfully repetitive up until Wild Dog sacrifices himself to complete the objective. 

Injustice: Ground Zero #4 - A Review

As the heroes of another Earth arrive just in time to save a group of anti-Regime protesters, Harley Quinn finds herself in the unlikely role of hero, moving to protect the crowd from the fallout of a superhero battle. This leads to some deep thoughts of the insanity of heroism and how Harley - for better or worse - has definitely become one of the good guys.


The last thing most people expect from a Harley Quinn comic is deep thoughts. Yet that is precisely what Chris Sebela delivers this week, as Harley pontificates upon how inherently silly superheroes are. Of course Harley, being Harley, revels in the insanity rather than criticizing it... right up until the point when two bozos in spandex slapping each other around becomes more important than the people put in danger. Still, the opening speech of the comic is on-par with the speech Alan Moore wrote for Rorschach regarding the clown who couldn't laugh anymore.


The artwork continues to impress, with Daniel Sampere and Juan Albarran turning in their usual high-quality work. Every panel of this comic looks gorgeous, with intricately drawn figures, astonishing colors and inks that enhance the original pencils without making the comic look overly shaded.

Starman Plays Monkey Island 2 Special Edition - Part 2

In which we get to (finally) see the dancing monkeys intro to the original Monkey Island 2. meet up with our old friend The Voodoo Lady and begin gathering the ingredients we need to make Scabb Island safe for honest pirates.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 4 - The New Rogues

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



Plot

Two new metahumans - Mirror Master and The Top - emerge looking to settle an old score with Captain Cold. Barry and Jesse get in the middle of things, with Jesse's rash actions leading to disaster! Meanwhile, Harry Wells begins scouting the multiverse looking for another Harrison Wells that is willing and able to replace him on Earth One when he returns to Earth Two.


Influences

The Flash comics of John Broome (creator of The Mirror Master and The Top) and the television series Twin Peaks (Cisco refers to it when explaining how he can make Barry's backwards talk understandable).


Goofs

It seems odd that Iris isn't the least bit disturbed by the idea of kissing Barry in front of her dad, like Barry and Joe are.


Performances


The romance between Jesse and Wally reaches its naturally conclusion and Violett Beane and Keiynan Lonsdale play it perfectly. Ironically, given that they are the younger couple, their relationship seems to be handled with more maturity than the romance between Iris and Barry and I put that entirely down to the performances of these two talented young actors.

Speaking of romance, Ashley Rickards and Grey Damon are stunning as The Top and Mirror Master. Turning these two Rogues into a romantic couple was a bold choice and damned if the actors do not make the most of playing a couple in love who are intent on building a new life for themselves... albeit by robbing Central City blind.


Artistry


The cinematography throughout the episode is stunning, taking full advantage of the mirrors on the set and using them to establish a number of arty shots.

The special effects work is solid throughout the episode, from the high-speed chase sequences to the "twisty world" effects when The Top uses her powers, all the way to the final battle with Mirror Master jumping from mirror to mirror to evade The Flash.

There's some nice comedic irony in the script, with The Flash beating Mirror Master using a hologram and a mirror trick.


Flash Facts

The industrial building Sam Scudder uses as a hideout is Broome Industries. This is a tribute to John Broome - The Flash writer responsible for creating both The Mirror Master and The Top.

Sam Scudder a.k.a. The Mirror Master first appeared in The Flash #105 (March 1959). A criminal since childhood, Scudder became obsessed with mirrors and the idea of entering into them. Eventually, he somehow succeeded, discovering a whole other dimension which he dubbed The Mirror World. Scudder also developed all manner of weapons and devices based around the manipulation of light - chief among these being lasers and holographic illusions.

The DCTVU version of Sam Scudder differs from his comic book counterpart in that his powers are due to his status as a metahuman rather than advanced technology. He has the power to teleport himself and others through reflective surfaces. He can also trap people inside of mirrors.

Harry Wells says that there was a Mirror Master on Earth Two, but he wasn't a metahuman. He was a criminal armed with some sort of special mirror gun. Wells doesn't know how the gun works, but speculates that the gun had dimensional warping tech that changed everything into two-dimensions. This is a nod to the Mirror Master's powers in the comics.

Harry Wells identifies the Mirror Master on Earth Two as a man named Evan McCulloch.  In the comics, Evan McCulloch was the name of the second Mirror Master. An orphan with a dark side, Evan fell into the life of a criminal. After building a reputation as the sort of man who could reliably do dirty deeds with no questions asked, McCullouch was approached by the FBI - who had taken possession of Sam Scudder's costume and equipment after his death - and offered a chance to work for them while posing as a super-villain.  McCulloch played along at first but eventually went rogue (literally!) and soon fell in with The Flash's Rogue's Gallery.

The Top a.k.a. Roscoe Dillon first appeared in The Flash #122 (August 1961). As a boy, Dillon was obsessed with tops to the point where he ignored all other toys. Falling into the life of a criminal as an adult, he got out of prison and decided to build a new career around his favorite toy. Dillon discovered that by spinning at tremendous speeds, he could dramatically increase his intelligence. This eventually lead to him developing psionic powers, including telekinesis, telepathy and the ability to instill vertigo in people. He was also able to possess the corpses of the newly dead, following his own apparent death.

Rosalind "Rosa" Dillon, the DCTVU version of The Top, is a gender-flipped version of the original Top and Sam Scudder's girlfriend. She has the power to cause intense vertigo in other people.

The character of Cecile Horton first appeared in The Flash #332 (April 1984). She acted as The Flash's legal console when he was put on trial for murdering The Reverse Flash.

In the DCTVU, Cecile Horton is a prosecutor with the Central City District Attorney's office rather than a Public Defender. She is also an African-American woman, whereas the comic book version was Caucasian.

We see four versions of Harrison Wells from other dimensions - two of which are named by a specific Earth number. Curiously, these numbers do not correspond with like numbers in the official number of the various universes that make up The DC Comics Multiverse.

The first alternate Harrison Wells (aka Hells Wells) dresses like an American Old West cowboy and speaks with a Texan accent. This may be a reference to the DCM Earth 18 - the Wild West inspired world of the characters seen in the story Justice Riders.

The second Harrison Wells is dressed in a steampunk costume, with a top-hat and goggles. He is identified as being from Earth 17.

In the DCM, Earth 17 is also known as The Atomic Earth. In that world, the crash of the rocket carrying Superman to Earth triggered World War III and 97% of the world's population was killed in the ensuing nuclear fallout.

Curiously, this second version of Harrison Wells would seem to be a better fit for the DCM's Earth 19 - the setting of the story Gotham By Gaslight - a world in which various heroes came into existence during the Victorian era, but various advanced technologies existed.

The fourth version of Harrison Wells comes from what Caitlin labels Earth 19. As mentioned above, Earth 19 is a steam-punk setting in the DC Comics Multiverse.

Cisco refers to Twin Peaks and the character of The Man From Another Place in explaning how he can record Barry's speech when he is trapped in the mirror world and turn it into something they can understand using backmasking.

Joe understands the technique of backmasking and refers to hidden messages being placed in Ozzy Osbourne albums. Officially, Ozzy only did this once - as a sarcastic response to the accusations of hidden Satanic messages being found on his albums when played backwards. That message "Your mother sells whelks in Hull." was itself a parody of an infamous line from the film The Exorcist.

This episode confirms that Caitlin's cold powers allow her to chill an object to Absolute Zero. In the DC Comics Universe, only Captain Cold - out of all the villains with cold-based powers - has the ability to lower temperatures to absolute zero with his Cold Gun.

Ironically, The Flash uses a hologram of Captain Cold and an optical illusion to trap Mirror Master. In the comics, holograms and optical illusions are two of the Mirror Master's most frequent tools.

The Droste Effect is the technical term for when an image appears to repeat into itself forever. The effect is named for Droste cocoa powder - a popular Dutch brand, whose packaging was the first recorded instance of the effect in 1904. Artist M.C. Escher was fond of employing the effect and - as Barry notes in this episode - the effect can be created by standing between two mirrors, creating the illusion of the person between the mirrors repeating into infinity.


Technobabble

Jesse Quick is almost as fast as Barry, her top velocity peaking at just under Mach 3. This is just over 2300 mph.

Jesse's heart rate while running at top speed is 100 BPM.

Harry constructs a "fishing pole' satellite with which to broadcast his "bait" - a message embedded with a tachyon-enhanced laser.

Harry describes his "bait" as "a complex algorithmic cryptogram, designed to test deductive reasoning, intelligence quotient and problem-solving skills." Harry also describes it as an invitation and an elaborate "Help Wanted" ad. Cisco describes it as a riddle.

Harry speculates, when asked about the Mirror Gun of the Earth Two Mirror Master, that it had dimensional warping tech that changed everything into two-dimensions.

Sam Scudder is able to travel in and out of mirrors by linking Einstein-Rosen bridges through anything with high solar reflectance. Or, in simpler terms, he creates wormholes through reflections.

The Earth 19 Harrison Wells complements Harry's embedding secondary measures in the primary data string of his cryptogram.

The sounds made by a person trapped in a mirror sound backwards in the real world. This means that Barry can't be understood by his friends until Cisco figures out a way to take what he says and play it in reverse.

Cisco uses backmasking - a recording technique where sounds are recorded backwards onto a track that is meant to be played forwards - to translate Barry's speech when he's trapped in the mirror world.

Barry is unable to phase through the mirror once stuck inside it because the molecules of the mirror, once used as a wormhole by Scudder, are in a hyper state of flux. In order for the molecules to reach a state Barry can phase through, they need something incredibly cold to slow them down.

Once chilled to absolute zero, the mirror has to maintain zero-point energy long enough for Barry's molecules to pass through it. While doing this, they have to account for the internal energy of the mirror's molecules. This means that while absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature, it is not the lowest enthalpy state possible.

Harry and Cisco try to overcome this issue by building a molecular decelerator onto the cryogenic generator. However, it is only able to lower the temperature of the mirror to -280 degrees Fahrenheit. This is roughly half as cold as Absolute Zero, and is equal to -173 degrees Celsius and 99.8167 degrees Kelvin.

Absolute Zero is 0 degress Kelvin, -273.15 degres Celsius and -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Droste Effect is the technical term for when an image appears to repeat forever. Barry refers to it as an infinite reflective loop.

Every inch of Sam Scudder's cell has been modified with an anti-reflective material, to prevent him from using his powers.


Dialogue Triumphs

(Scudder is dressed in a fancy suit, admiring himself in a full-length mirror.)
Scudder: How do I look?
Dillon: Better. (pauses) How much?
Scudder: Do we really need to ask that question?
Dillon: Our take wasn't that big.
Scudder: Big enough.
(Scudder takes her by the hand and spins her in front of him, holding her close as he looks at their reflection.)
Scudder: The only question you should be asking is what size rock you want dangling from this beautiful neck. A kiss from you makes my world spin.
Dillon: (chuckles) You're so full of it, you know that?

(Barry trips Jesse as they are racing around the track in The Speed Lab)
Jesse:
Okay. Well... that wasn't very heroic.
Barry: Nope. But there is a lesson in there somewhere.
Jesse: What's that?
Barry: The difference between having powers and having precision.
Jesse: What do you mean?
Barry: I mean, it's gonna take more than speed to take down some of these metas. You've got to think. Anticipate. When you enter a new environment, you've got to case every inch of it. You never run in blind.
(Barry suddenly stops, looking astonished.)
Barry: Oh my God...  I've become Oliver.
(Barry laughs as Jesse looks confused.)

(As Harry is describing the criteria he is using to test his doppelgangers.)
Cisco:
Will it test their attitudes, too? I'm not sure I can stomach another Wells with your bedside manner.
Harry: I care for you too... you jack wagon!

(Wally enters the room where Jesse is thinking. He points to her mask, dropped on the floor.)
Wally: Aren't you going to need that?
Jesse: What's the point? You know, I thought I was ready. But clearly I'm not.
Wally: Jesse, you can't blame yourself for this. What happened to Barry...
Jesse: - was totally my fault! I mean, he told me to stay back but I didn't listen! You know, I just ran in blind and... and now he's stuck, so...
Wally: Look, you made a mistake. So what? I mean, I'm sure Barry made a lot of mistakes at first too.
Jesse:  ... yeah.
Wally: Don't let this destroy your confidence. You're meant to do this, Jesse. You're meant to be a speedster. That's why you have these powers and I don't.
Jesse: You're just trying to cheer me up. (sighs) I know you said you don't want to hang, so...
Wally: Uh, no. I said I didn't want to hang out because I was scared. Because you live on another Earth. But...I realized I don't want to be scared of that anymore.
(Wally moves in and kisses Jesse.  They hold the kiss a moment and then laugh softly.  Wally steps back does a courtly bow and offers Jesse her mask. She takes it with a wide smile on her face.)

(Mirror Master jumps into a mirror and comes up behind Captain Cold. He tries to punch him but his fist just goes through him. Captain Cold flickers and turns around.)
Captain Cold:
Bang!
(The hologram of Captain Cold fades away as The Flash walks into the Hall of Mirrors.)
The Flash: Funny thing about holograms - they're just pale reflections of the real deal.


Continuity

Mirror Master and The Top both gained their powers on the night of the particle accelerator explosion. Leonard Snart was present, ready to kill Scudder for violating his rules about spending their share of the loot while the heat was on.

Mirror Master was apparently pushed three years into the future when he fell into the mirror.

There are metahumans with telekinetic and cloaking powers on Earth 2. Harry suggests both as possibilities for how The Rival was killed in his cell in Iron Heights in 302.

Jesse Quick's costume resembles that of the villain Trajectory from 216, with the addition of a Flash logo.

While training Jesse, Barry refers to the speech Oliver Queen gave Barry while training him in how he had to learn not to rely exclusively on his powers in 108.

Oliver told Barry about Captain Cold leaving with the rest of The Legends.  Barry apparently told Joe about this in the pre-Flashpoint timeline, but didn't in the new timeline.

Caitlin has never been fishing before.

Barry has never taken Wally on a run at super-speed before.

Jesse kisses Wally.

Wally admits to being attracted to Jesse, but he doesn't want to start getting romantic with her when she's eventually going to go back to her Earth. They agree to be friends but Wally laters changes his mind and kisses Jesse.

Four versions of Harrison Wells from other Earths are able to solve Harry's test.

The first alternate Wells dresses like an sheriff from the American West and speaks with a Texas accent. He identifies himself as "Hells Wells" and says he has a checkered past he'd rather not speak about right away.

The second alternate Wells is from what Cisco dubbed Earth 17. He speaks with a British accent and wears a steampunk-style outfit with a top hat and goggles.

The third alternate Wells speaks French and is dressed as a mime.

The fourth alternate Wells is wears a trilby hat and button-up vest with a t-shirt and jeans. He is from what Caitlin calls Earth 19. He seems both nice and not-evil, according to Cisco.

Caitlin uses her ice powers to chill the mirror in secret when Harry and Cisco's improvised device can't get the job done.

Caitlin's powers allow her to lower temperatures to absolute zero.

The CCPD has the ability to monitor specific cells in Iron Heights from their main station.

Joe realizes that Cecile Horton is flirting with him but is afraid to ask her out.

Cisco vibes across 18 dimensions for the first time.

The Harrison Wells of Earth 19 asks to be called HR. He has a much better sense of humor than Harry Wells, speaking in a mock deep voice and saying "Greetings Earthlings" when he first meets Team Flash.

Harry tells Cisco that their device didn't work and that something else removed Barry from the mirror.

Harry and Jesse return to Earth Two, with Harry trying to tell them never to do something just before he vanishes.

HR Wells also likes Big Belly Burger as much as Harry.

Barry decides to move out of Joe's house and get his own place.

Caitlin's cold powers appear to be getting out of control, as she freezes the water in her shower by accident. Her lips have also begun to turn pale blue and a streak of her hair is bleached white.


Untelevised Adventures


The Top was apprehended at some point in the past after her powers manifested and locked up in Iron Heights' metahuman wing.


The Fridge Factor


The scene of Caitlin in her shower is a little fan-servicey.


The Bottom Line


A rare episode where one wishes we saw more of the villains of the week than the supporting cast. Mirror Master and The Top are two of the better baddies to be introduced in recent memory and the interplay between them as a couple is a neat twist on the usual villain partnership. It's certainly a lot more interesting than the forced humor of Wally feeling awkward getting romantic with Iris in the same house as Joe. The romance between Wally and Jesse is more enjoyable, precisely because Violett Beane and Leiynan Lonsdale underplay their scenes. Again, less is more and the episode - while enjoyable - would have done better to sacrifice some of its subplots.  Maybe introduce Joe's new love interest and the new Harry Wells another time?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 3 - Welcome To Earth

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




Plot

When President Olivia Marsdin is attacked following her offer of amnesty to aliens living in hiding in the United States, the DEO is put in charge of her personal security. As Alex and a NCPD Detective named Maggie Sawyer butt heads while investigating the attack, Kara goes chasing after the mysterious young man in the rocket from Krypton who is their prime suspect.


Influences

The Max Fleischer Superman cartoons (Supergirl shielding The President mirrors a similar scene of Superman protecting Lois Lane with his cape),  The Adventures of Superman TV series (the line about "strange visitor from another world" is mentioned), the 1977 Wonder Woman TV series (Kara does the famous Wonder Woman spin at one point) and the Supergirl comics of Sterling Gates.


Goofs

How is Mon-El able to speak English?

Given how frequently J'onn calls Kara to task for less, it's surprising that he doesn't call Kara out on jumping to conclusions regarding Mon-El clearly being their assassin because he's a Daxamite.

The Alien Amnesty Act waiting to be signed bursts into flame before a fireball gets close to the President's podium.

You'd think Kara or Mon-El would comment upon their having similar (if not exact) last names?

Unlike previous episodes, which made use of established races and planets from the rich history of the DC Universe, this episode throws out a number of references to apparently original places and peoples, such as Roltikkons, Inferians and Delvarians. While there's noting wrong with this, it is a shocking departure from form.


Performances

Lynda Carter may not be playing Wonder Woman in this episode but damned if President Marsdin doesn't have the same grace and poise. Nearly forty years later, she's still a wonder.

Floriana Lima immediately establishes Maggie Sawyer as the same sort of no-nonsense cop with a troubled romantic life that she is in the comics.

Chyler Leigh is often stuck with the thankless role of being the back-up or the deliverer of exposition. Left to her own devices for most of the episode, she proves more than capable of carrying the load as Alex investigates the assassination attempt without Kara.

Finally, Melissa Benoist manages a neat trick with this episode, revealing an ugly side of Kara we haven't seen and managing to make it jarring but not instantly off-putting. Seeing Kara spouting bigoted attitudes (albeit it towards an alien race) is just so shockingly out of character that it puts another spin on the episode's key themes.


Artistry

The sequence in which Kara swoops in and shields The President from a fireball.

The script does a surprisingly good job of drawing parallels between the real-world issues of amnesty for immigrants and amnesty for aliens from outer-space as well as the comparisons between how aliens are treated in the world of Supergirl and how immigrants and LGBT citizens are treated as second-class in American society.

It's also worth noting that Maggie Sawyer - in defiance of the usual lesbian cliches in popular entertainment - does not immediately begin hitting on Alex Danvers, despite taking her to a bar and buying her a drink.


Super Trivia

The episode's title - Welcome To Earth - may be a sly reference to a line of dialogue said in the movie Independence Day, by an American fighter pilot (played by Will Smith) before he starts beating up an alien invader.

Lynda Carter - the actress playing The President - was the star of the 1977 Wonder Woman TV series.

According to some of the press materials for this episode, The President's full name is Olivia Diana Marsdin.  Diana, of course, is Wonder Woman's first name.

The scene of Kara protecting The President from a fire with her cape mirrors a scene from one of the 1940s Max Flesicher Superman cartoons.

Maggie Sawyer first appeared in Superman #4 (April 1987). One of the first openly gay characters in comic-book history, Sawyer was in charge of the Metropolis Police Department's Special Crimes Unit - the team charged with dealing with rogue metahumans and other tasks ordinary patrolmen and detectives weren't equipped to handle. She later became part of the Gotham Police Department and became romantically involved with Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman)

The DCTVU version of Maggie Sawyer is a Detective in the National City Police Department Science Division, which serves a similar function to the MPD SCU. She is also a lesbian and apparently has no problem with dating aliens. Unlike her comic-book counterpart, who is a blonde Caucasian, this Maggie Sawyer is Hispanic.

The password to the alien-friendly bar is "Dollywood" and Dolly Parton music is heard every time we cut to the bar. This is a nod to Dolly Parton's status as a gay icon and her work as an advocate for LGBT causes, which parallel the aliens as immigrants and outsiders themes that fill this episode.

Maggie makes reference to being from Blue Springs, Nebraska.  This is a real-world town with a population of 331 people.

The young man in the rocket that Kara and J'onn found is identified in this episode as Mon-El. Also known as Valor, M'Onel and Lar Gand, he first appeared in Superboy #89 (June 1961).

A native of the alien world Daxam, Lar was an explorer who landed on Krypton shortly before it was due to explode. Luckily, Lar was found by Jor-El, who gave him directions to Earth. However, his ship was delayed in arriving and he arrived after Kal-El and developed amnesia during the long voyage. This - coupled with his developing powers under Earth's Yellow Sun - led a young Superboy concluding Lar must be his younger brother and calling him Mon-El.

The truth was tragically uncovered when Mon-El proved immune to Kryptonite. Believing he was part of some treacherous scheme, Superboy tried to trick Mon-El with a fake piece of Kryptonite made out of lead. It turned out that lead had an effect on Daxamites similar to Kryptonite, removing their superpowers permanently as well as lethally poisoning them. In guilt, Superboy sent Mon-El into The Phantom Zone until such time as a cure could be found. Later, in the 30th Century, Mon-El was cured of his condition by Brainiac Five and became a full member of The Legion of Superheroes.

In the DCTVU, Daxam is a sister-world of Krypton, orbiting the same red star. Kara claims that Krypton and Daxam fought a bloody war to a stalemate hundreds of years earlier. The reason for the war (which Kara says Daxam started) was that Daxam was a monarchy of hoodlums and hedonists and Krypton was a democracy made up of philosophers, scientists and explorers.

In the original DC Comics Universe, the world of Daxam orbited a red star but it was different than the star Rao, which Krypton orbited. The world was colonized by a group of Kryptonian explorers, led by an explorer named Dax-Am.  The colonists interbred with the original humanoid race that inhabited Daxam, abandoning their Kryptonian roots and naming themselves Daxamites. The Daxamite culture that developed was intensely xenophobic.

The President's speech regarding the Alien Amnesty Act has a line about how "No longer will our alien visitors be strangers."This is likely a reference to the opening narration of the classic The Adventures of Superman TV series, which described Superman as a "strange visitor from another world."

While not identified by name or alien species in the episode, IMDB.com and pre-production materials identify the alien assassin played by actress Nadine Crocker by the name Scorcher.

There are several DC Comics villains who have used the name Scorcher, but none of them were aliens and only one of them resembled the character we see on the show physically.  This Scorcher - the second one - was a red-haired metahuman named Cynthia Brand, who was an enemy of the monster-themed superhero team/rock-band Scare Tactics.

In terms of personality and powers, Scorcher is reminiscent of Volcana - an original villain created for Superman: The Animated Series. While not an alien, she maintained the same cynical attitude and fire creation/manipulation powers as the DCTVU version of Scorcher and was ultimately defeated in the same way - by depriving her of the oxygen that she needed to breathe and to power her flames.

Supergirl does a deliberate super-fast spin to beat out the flames that have engulfed her body. This may be a nod to the classic Wonder Woman TV series, where Diana Prince would transform into Wonder Woman by doing a super-fast turn that ended with her wearing her costume.

When Supergirl talks about how cool it was to see Air Force One, The President says that Supergirl should see her other jet.  This is a wink and nod joke to Wonder Woman's famous Invisible Jet.

Miss Martian first appeared in Teen Titans #37 (August 2006). Born to the Martian name M'gann M'orzz, Miss Martian claimed to have been sent to the Vega system in a rocket by her parents during the war between the White Martian and Green Martian species in order to save her. This story was true with one fine detail omitted - M'gann was a White Martian posing as a Green Martian, due to the White Martian's war-like nature and negative attitudes towards them on Earth. M'gann, however, rejected her racial heritage and worked to protect her adopted home.

The DCTVU version of M'gann M'orzz works as a bartender at the alien-friendly bar in National City. It is unknown at this point if she is truly a Green Martian or a masquerading White Martian.


Technobabble

The burn pattern on the bodies of the dead Secret Service agents is consistent with the signature of a heat-vision blast.

Maggie Sawyer deduces that the blasts that killed the Secret Service agents either came from a Kryptonian or a Inferian.  Both species have heat-vision.

Alex makes use of the special DEO ID card that can camouflage itself as other forms of Federal ID - in this case, The Secret Service.

L-Corp has developed and is planning to mass-market a hand-held device that can determine whether or not a person is human through a simple touch-pad skin-test.

Winn is able to track Mon-El by reactivating the tracker on his DEO-issued medical bracelet.

Roltikkons are a humanoid alien species capable of making telepathic connections by making physical contact with the dorsum of the tongue. This can allow them to learn new languages.

Winn catalogs the Seven Lost Tomes of the Delvarian homeworld.


Dialogue Triumphs


J'onn:
People in this world don't have much tolerance for others who look different. I say that as an alien and someone who has worn the face of a Black man for 15 years.

(Supergirl lands next to a girl in the crowd waiting for The President. The girl is awestruck.)
Supergirl: (pointing to Air Force One) It's pretty awesome, right?
Girl: Do you know her?
Supergirl: (flustered) Uh, no. No. Not yet. I'm pretty sure we'll be cool.  You know?

President: I'm surprised now that your true identity is known to the world you don't live openly as your Martian self.
J'onn: I find looking human makes people feel more comfortable.
President: Hopefully my Alien Amnesty Act will change that, for you and everyone else from beyond the stars that have made Earth their home. I know the DEO's mission is to hunt renegade aliens but that mission is going to have to adapt. You disagree, Director?
J'onn: I do, Madam President. There are aliens out there - killers who wouldn't understand the concept of the very rights you're offering them. Evil creatures who could take advantage of your good will.
President: I imagine the very same thing was once said about you, J'onn J'onzz. But someone gave you the benefit of the doubt. Isn't it time we payed that forward? I can think of no better time than the present to extend our hand in friendship.
J'onn: Even if that hand might get bitten off?
President: One has to have hope.
J'onn: What if it's false hope?
President: False hope? It's hope, J'onn.  How can it be false?

(A waitress brings Alex and Maggie two beers. The waitress takes a long look and Alex and then turns to Maggie.)
Waitress: You moved on quick.
(The waitress walks away as Alex turns to stare at her.)
Alex: That waitress?  Is she Roltikkon?
Maggie: Yes. She is.
Alex: I've read Roltikkon can form telepathic connections by making physical contact with the dorsum of the tongue.
Maggie: How do you think she learned English? She's my ex.
(Alex's jaw drops as she finally gets the waitress's remark from earlier.)
Alex:
Ohhhh.
Maggie: I don't strictly date aliens for the record. Though I do like them more than most humans.
Alex: Why?
Maggie: I can relate to them, I guess. Growing up a non-white, non-straight girl in Blue Springs, Nebraska? I might as well have been from Mars. I was an outcast and I felt like it. Our alien neighbors? They're no different. Most of them are hard-working immigrants or refugees just trying to get by. They have to hide who they are in order to survive. I can sympathize with that.

Kara: We had a saying on Krypton for Daxamites - "May tex kolar Daxam."
Alex: And that means?
Kara: ... nothing i can repeat in English.

President: My fellow Americans. Over a century ago, this nation erected a monument in New York Harbor - a Statue of Liberty. That statue looked down on Ellis Island, where thousands of immigrants came to seek refuge from a home country that didn't want them and wouldn't have them. But America took them in. That is our story. The American people today stand as one with history. No longer will our alien visitors be strangers, committed to the shadows, forced to the fringes of a hostile and unwelcoming world. They will be granted the full rights and privileges of American Citizens. The Statue of Liberty will stand for aliens too!


Dialogue Disasters


Kara: Why did you send a broadcast to Daxam?
Mon-El: It was a distress call.
Kara: Why were you sending a distress call?
Mon-El: Because I'm in distress!

(Supergirl talks about how cool it was to see Air Force One.)
President: If you think that's cool, you ought see my other jet.


Continuity


Mon-El likes Zakkarian ale.

Daxam was destroyed when Krypton blew up.

As she walks away from the DEO, The President's face turns red and her eyes glow slightly blue, indicating that she is an alien of some kind.

J'onn discovers that he is apparently not the last Green Martian after all.


Untelevised Adventures


Kara talks to Alex about talking to The President after saving her life, but we don't get to see it happen. (A scene cut for time?)


The Kryptonite Factor

Given J'onn's frequent paranoia, it seems unlikely that he wouldn't have investigated other avenues of inquiry despite their bringing a Daxamite into custody.


The Bottom Line


Certainly the most ambitious episode of Supergirl to date in terms of politics and story structure, with numerous parallels between the story and real world event. It's a shame then that the villain is so under-developed and undefined and Kara's bigotry - despite being well-played by Melissa Benoist - still seems hastily forced into the story. The episode also overdoes it on the Wonder Woman gags in the end but the cast manages to keep things from getting too cheesy or preachy. Now if only they could find something for James Olsen to do besides look like an idiot at work...

Starman Plays Monkey Island 2 Special Edition - Part 1

In which we begin our hunt for The Treasure of Big Whoop (TM). But first we have to start a flashback, lose the treasure we have now and harass the humble merchants of Woodtick Village with our stupid questions.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Aquaman #9 - A Review

The living weapon launched by the sinister organization N.E.M.O. has torn its way through Atlantis. Now it moves upon Arthur Curry's childhood hometown of Amnesty Bay. Not even the full might of the Atlantean Navy was able to stop the creature - what hope does one lone man have against such power?


Comparisons between this storyline and The Death of Superman are inevitable and doubtlessly intentional. Yet the stakes are much higher, with Aquaman having to stand alone not because he is the only one capable of fighting a monster but because of how events contrived to make him the only one able to fight the monster. Dan Abnett has done a masterful job of building the drama in this series since the first issue and that drama is perfectly presented through the artwork of Scot Eaton, Wayne Faucher and Gabe Eltaeb.  If you aren't reading Aquaman, you're missing out on a great comic!

Lucifer #11 - A Review

There is much to admire about this issue, but - if asked to choose only one page to hook you all as I have been hooked - I would have to choose the image below. In it, The Guardian of Hedgehogs explains the history of Lucifer's life. I should perhaps mention that one of the characters in this series is a goddess whose only job is watching out over hedgehogs. If that fact doesn't make you want to read this book, I don't know what will.


I'm increasingly afraid that I won't be able to review Lucifer. It's a shame because I love this book. Holly Black has continued the original stories by Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey perfectly and the artwork by Lee Garbet and Antonio Fabela is some of the best to come out of Vertigo Comics in years.

So why can't I review it?  Because the enormity of this series is so grand and intricate that my simple reviews cannot do them justice. There is no way for me to easily much less eloquently summarize the multiple subplots and story-lines this series contains.  Lucifer is no more comic book - this is a legend.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #13 - A Review

A self-duplicator dubbed Enigmo has taken over the world by cunningly splitting himself into millions of clones and slowly working his way into several key positions. Trapped in the wilds of Canada without a decent wi-fi signal, Squirrel Girl is powerless to do anything.  The good news is that Brain Drain (Squirrel Girl's appointed substitute hero while she was on vacation) has brought her reinforcements.  The bad news is that the reinforcements are Scott Lang sans Ant Man costume and he's a little cheesed about being dragged to the wilds of Canada on account of the whole "convicted felon not allowed to leave the country" thing.

Ryan North is one of the greatest humorists working in modern comics. There are multiple levels to the comedy in this issue and it's impressive how he manages to keep all the gags moving like a master plate-spinner. From the idea of a villain taking over the world through hard work and showing up to the animosity between Doreen and Scott (she has objections to mind-controlling animals, he thinks she's nuts for actually talking to squirrels) and the well-meaning incompetence of Brain Drain whose purely logical perspective leads to totally illogical actions, this series has a lot to keep you laughing.


Erica Henderson matches Ryan North quite well. Her animated style perfectly presents the comedic timing North's scripts require and colorist Rico Renzi does a fantastic job finishing the artwork. Yet attention must also be paid to guest artists Anthony Clark and Hannah Blumenreich, who provide the artwork for one of the series' best running gags - 'Deadpool's Guide To Super-Villains' Information Cards. Get Marvel's Marketing wing on making that product a reality!