October 29, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Thine Own Self"

It is 14 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Commander Data (Brent Spiner) wanders into a medieval village on the planet Barkon IV with no memory of who he is and what he is doing there. While he is adopted into a local family, the radioactive fragments he has carried with him go unnoticed as they begin to make the villagers sick. Back on the Enterprise, Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) resolves to take the commander's exam to gain further command responsibility.

On the whole "Thine Own Self" is a well-written and engaging riff on James Whale's Frankenstein adaptation, with Data inserted into a pseudo-period setting as the Monster. He does not fully understand the world around him, he tries to befriend a young girl, and ultimately he gets hounded to destruction by angry villagers with torches and pitchforks. Thankfully in between those touchstones it tells its own story; it's a nice blend of science fiction story and pastiche.

October 27, 2017

An Artist: Hisashi Tenmyouya

An Artist is a series of posts profiling contemporary artists whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, particularly from North Asia. I am by no means an expert in the field, but on a personal level these are the artists whose work I have liked the most in recent years.

Hisashi Tenmyouya is a Japanese artist whose work deliberately straddles a line between contemporary popular culture and art history. In 2001 he proposed a new style of art he called 'neo-Nihonga', or 'new Japanese-style', which combined traditional Japanese painting with sharply contrasted modern imagery. This style led to what is probably his most famous painting: two samurai playing football, in a commissioned piece for the 2006 FIFA World Cup (pictured below the cut).

Tenmyouya works extensively with gold leaf in his neo-Nihonga works, laid down onto wooden boards in a traditional Japanese style. He then paints over the top of the leaf in acrylics. There is a huge amount to love in these works: the blending of style, the combination of realist art, manga/anime and graffiti-style imagery, and a sort of deliberately absurd humour caused by the cultural clash that results.

October 26, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Lower Decks"

It is 7 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Four junior officers onboard the Enterprise ready themselves for their staff evaluations; success can mean a much-wanted promotion, while failure could potentially set them back for years. One of them, Ensign Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill), struggles to move on from her misconduct at Starfleet Academy, and finds herself under the stern attention of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart).

So here's the funny thing: I have an essay in a new book, Outside In Makes It So (link here), which contains 174 separate pieces by a huge variety of writers with each piece focusing on a different episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. My essay focuses on "Lower Decks", which is hands-down my all-time favourite episode of the entire series. It is probably my favourite episode of any Star Trek series. So part of me is sorely tempted to just point all readers in the direction of the book and have you read my opinions there. On the other hand it seems a little unfair to demand everybody drop US$24.95 plus postage - although you totally should go but it - so I suppose I'd better provide some critical opinions here for free.

October 23, 2017

An Artist: Yang Yongliang

An Artist is a series of posts profiling contemporary artists whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, particularly from North Asia. I am by no means an expert in the field, but on a personal level these are the artists whose work I have liked the most in recent years.

I first encountered Yang Yongliang's digital art works in an exhibit of contemporary Chinese art in Singapore. They grabbed my attention immediately, and have been stuck in my memory ever since. They're just enormously effective and captivating. I think they have a near-hypnotic effect.

Yang originally trained in traditional Chinese ink painting before formally studying visual communication in Shanghai. After a few years of experimentation in ink painting, short film-making and photography, he started working on his so-called 'phantom landscapes' in 2006. In his works he draws intricate Chinese landscapes in the popular 'shanshui' style of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 CE). Into them, however, he inserted modern buildings and technology, and tightly clustered fictional cities. Then he animates them.

October 22, 2017

The Pull List: 11 October 2017, Part 2

Scott Free is back on Earth, on leave with his wife Barda from Orion's new war against Apokalips. It soon becomes clear, however, that Orion's war ambitions will stop at nothing - including allowing millions to die.

The writer/artist team of Tom King and Mitch Gerads are back with a third issue of Miracle Man, the best arthouse take on a long-running DC superhero you're likely to find on the shelves. It is inventively staged and shows off a lot of complexity, combined with some lovely flashes of character throughout. It's a challenging read, but as the issues go on it's becoming an increasingly satisfying one - assuming you're in that crowd who already knows their New Gods from back to front.

There is a lot of assumed knowledge going on in this book, and I would be interested to see how accessible it actually is to readers unfamiliar with Jack Kirby's Fourth World comic books and their various spin-offs and sequels. Characters step into frame with barely an introduction, and key sequences rely on a foreknowledge of exactly who each person is and what their significance is in relation to the events. While this is a great issue, it hardly seems an accessible one. (4/5)

Mister Miracle #3. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art and colours by Mitch Gerads.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Detective Comics, Ms Marvel and The Wicked + the Divine.

October 21, 2017

An Artist: Takashi Murakami

An Artist is a new series of posts profiling a contemporary artist whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, and was keen to step out from a usual diet of comic book and television reviews to provide something a bit different.

Takashi Murakami is a Japanese pop artist, best known for founding the so-called "superflat" movement of bright, colourful, anime-inspired paintings and sculptures. He has also expanded into film-making via his 2013 fantasy feature Jellyfish Eyes (which I reviewed here). Murakami is unapologetically a commercial artist: his stuff is widely merchandised and mass-produced, and he attracts a far wider audience and fan base than a typical fine artist might. More than one critic has compared his style and career to American pop artist Andy Warhol. Certainly he has followed Warhol's lead by establishing an entire factory-style studio where a team of assistants enable him to produce art works on an accelerated schedule.

I find myself attracted to Murakami's work because of the colour. The bright, bold colour schemes that dominate his work just jump right off the canvas, grabbing the attention in whatever room in which his works get exhibited. There's a childlike simplicity to most of his work, but there's something about some of his works that can be weirdly unsettling too.

October 20, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Sub Rosa"

It is 31 January 1994 and time for the worst episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever made.

This is not a drill. It's not an exaggeration. It is not as if I have forgotten all of those absolutely dire episodes made all the way back in Season 1, or the cobbled-together clips show that concluded Season 2. The truth is that "Sub Rosa" trumps them all with easily the most ridiculous and unsuitable premise ever pushed into the series, and a very poor execution of that already unfortunate concept. To momentarily use the episode title convention of Friends, this is "The One Where Dr Crusher Has Sex with a Space Ghost".

The Enterprise visits the colony of Caldos IV so that Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) may attend the funeral of her grandmother. Caldos IV is a colony deliberately styled upon 18th century Scotland. While staying in her grandmother's cottage, Crusher is visited by a spectral apparition that calls itself Ronin; the same apparation with whom her grandmother appeared to be having a passionate love affair. As Ronin and Crusher enter into a romance of their own, she decides to resign from her Enterprise post to remain with him.

October 18, 2017

The Pull List: 11 October 2017, Part 1

Scott Snyder epic and ridiculous story of dark universes and evil Batmen continues for a third instalment. This one feels as if the story has jumped forward a little too much, suggesting that all of those Batman one-shots in recent weeks were more of a necessary read that DC had previously suggested. What we get here is a lot of fast catching-up on how America is falling to the dark universe Batmen, followed by an assembly of remaining heroes working out a plan of fighting back.

The issue moves in fits and starts. It really does lack any iconic action, although the central hero meeting in the Oblivion Bar is a hugely enjoyable one. Fans of Detective Chimp will get an immediate thrill, as will anybody who enjoys these kinds of widescreen-style superhero event titles. The combination of characters is clever and effective, and while this issue feels like a bit of a drop in quality it does set up the future well.

Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion's artwork is excellent, and really sells the dynamic, over-the-top nature of the story. The colours by FCO Plascencia give everything a rich and dramatic look. It's imperfect, but this issue does keep Snyder's epic going. (3/5)

Dark Nights: Metal #3. Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion. Colours by FCO Plascencia.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension, Hulk, Kull Eternal and Star Trek: Boldly Go.

October 17, 2017

Colditz: "Liberation"

It is 1 April 1974, and time for the final episode of Colditz.

The American and Russian armies are both storming through Germany, as the prisoners-of-war in Colditz Castle wait to discover what happens first: rescue or execution at the hands of the SS. The Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) recognises that, regardless of which army reaches the castle first, his time in command is over, and begins arrangements to transfer control to Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) and Colonel Dodd (Dan O'Herlihy).

After 28 episodes and two seasons, Colditz comes to a conclusion with this straight-forward and hugely dignified final act. Truth be told, there is not a huge amount of suspense to be found here. We know from history that Colditz was liberated, and that its prisoners were successfully rescued by the United States Army. The focus here is not the 'how' of the story, but rather on the effect the events have on the characters we have been watching for the past two seasons.

October 16, 2017

The Pull List: 4 October 2017

In the aftermath of the battle between the Paznina and Roto clans, Thea and Rollo find themselves lost in the so-called "Ancient Dark", where they find a community of humans in the last place they expected to find them.

Daniel Warren Johnson's post-apocalyptic Extremity returns for its second and final story arc, bringing with it strong and well-developed characters and absolutely stunning art and design. This is one of the best new comics of 2017 - if not the best - and it has lost none of its impact or style during its brief hiatus. Johnson picks up the story threads across the entire cast and points them all towards what I fear will be a devastating climax in the issues to come.

The detail of the artwork is incredible, particularly in one particularly impactful double-splash page where Thea gets her first glimpse of the mysterious "Essene". This is a wonderful comic book, and knowing that it has been planned as a limited 12-issue series from the outset just makes each issue feel a little more precious. (5/5)

Extremity #7. Image. Story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. Colours by Mike Spicer.

Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Batman, Darth Vader, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Shadowman, Spider-Man, Superman and Usagi Yojimbo.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Homeward"

It is 17 January 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise comes to the planet Boraal II to rescue Nikolai Rozhenko (Paul Sorvino), a noted Federation anthropologist and Worf's adoptive brother. Boraal II is suffering a total atmospheric collapse, killing the primitive population entirely - but Worf is shocked to discover his brother has broken the Prime Directive and saved an entire village from destruction.

Another episode of Season 7 that deals with family: this time introducing the son of Worf's adoptive human parents the Rozhenkos. It illuminates Worf's back story a little more, as well as provides a strong personal link to the ethical and moral quandaries raised by the episode. This is not an out-and-out classic episode, but it's one that definitely provides an interesting story with some proper issues to discuss.

October 14, 2017

The Pull List: 27 September 2017, Part 3

At an unexpected intersection between global finance and supernatural horror sits Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker's The Black Monday Murders. The series tells a story of rival, magically powerful houses controlling the world through its financial markets and a homicide detective trying to find out what they are doing. Hickman does this not just through the comic narrative but also through various documents - e-mails, press releases, newspaper clippings - interspersed between scenes of the main storyline. It's beautifully illustrated by Tomm Coker and hugely atmospheric, but it's also a stunning work of graphic design and layout.

It also gets dark - sometimes very dark - and this seventh issue is not only the darkest to date it's also certainly the very best. The story takes what feels like a significant step forwards here, as Detective Theodore Dumas and academic Tyler Gaddis buy their way into a meeting with the god Mammon - and the price is terrifyingly steep. It's a meeting that finally shifts the book from dark and creepy urban fantasy into full-blown horror, and the book is all the better for it.

Hickman is an uncompromising writer, and his creator-owned work rarely wastes time handing the story to his audience on a plate, but if you like intelligent and complex genre works in a comic book format he's genuinely tough to beat. The Black Monday Murders is incredible. (5/5)

The Black Monday Murders #7. Image. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Tomm Coker. Colours by Michael Garland.

Under the cut: reviews of Generations: The Spiders, The Infinite Loop, and Rat Queens.

October 11, 2017

The Pull List: 27 September 2017, Part 2

In the past year or so UK publisher Titan Comics has expanded into publishing 'bandes desinees', French comics that sit somewhere between American-style floppy issues and trade collections. The page counts are generally higher per installment than their US-counterparts. In France they are usually handsomely packaged in hardcover editions. Here they're just repackaged as thick comic books, but it still affords readers a chance to experience stories that were previously unavailable in English.

The Beautiful Death, by writer/artist Mathieu Bablet, follows a group of young scavengers working their way through a massive dead city. After more than three years on the run every other human is long dead, and they are rapidly running out of supplies. They are being pursued by giant insectoid creatures intent on killing them, and the stress is beginning to tear them apart.

As a scenario it isn't strikingly fresh, but it is excellently developed and beautifully illustrated. The extra page length is a godsend here - you could honestly see the same plot get squeezed by an American creator into 20 pages. Instead the real loneliness and hopelessness of the situation has time to fully sink in. Bablet's art has a nice distinctive style to it, reminding me a little of Noelle Stevenson's Nimona in its aesthetic. Bablet's colouring work is masterful. (4/5)

The Beautiful Death #1. Statix Press/Titan Comics. Story and art by Mathieu Bablet.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Saga and War Mother.

October 10, 2017

Colditz: :"Death Sentence"

It is 25 March 1974, and time for the penultimate episode of Colditz.

Major Mohn may have departed from Colditz Castle, but Major Carrington still remains under a death sentence for threatening to kill him. As he execution approaches, Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) impresses on the Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) that such a killing would amount to a war crime. As the American tanks approach, tensions within Colditz reach an all-time high.

The oddest aspect of "Death Sentence" is that while the plot is primarily focused on Phil Carrington, the character - played by Robert Wagner - does not actually appear. It creates a weird sort of Waiting for Godot vibe throughout the episode; you keep expecting Carrington to turn up, and he never actually does. There is probably a behind-the-scenes explanation for his absence, but it sure does make this episode weirder than it was likely intended to be.

October 8, 2017

The Pull List: 27 September 2017, Part 1

So Mr Oz, the mysterious hooded figure who has been trapping heroes and villains of various persuasions and monitoring Superman's ever move has revealed himself to be Jor-El of Krypton - Superman's presumed-dead father now living in hiding with a face full of kryptonite fragment.

Never judge a story before it's done. That said, DC and writer Dan Jurgens are doing their level best to make me judge this particular story as soon as possible. I really hate the idea. I cringe at the re-imagining of Jor-El as some kind of selfish villain intent to removing his son from the Earth and letting the planet destroy itself. It's not noble. It's not dignified. It flies in the face of everything we know of Jor-El from decades of comic book lore. I am still half-convinced that it's all a ruse, and a shock twist in a fortnight or two will unmask the real Mr Oz. Or perhaps I'm just hoping that's going to be the case.

Ryan Sook's artwork is strong and boldly coloured. Jurgen's script is solid enough, although its reliance on narrated flashbacks makes it all feel unnecessary static and uninvolved. After such a long build-up, I'm not so much feeling disappointed as angry. Please be a ruse... please be a ruse... (2/5)

Action Comics #988. DC Comics. Written by Dan Jurgens. Art by Ryan Sook.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hi-Fi Fight Club, The Power of the Dark CrystalRebels and X-O Manowar.

October 7, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Pegasus"

It is 10 January 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise is co-opted for a secret mission by Admiral Erik Pressman (Terry O'Quinn), the former captain of the USS Pegasus - where Riker (Jonathan Frankes) was first posted. When it is revealed that the wreckage of the presumed-destroyed Pegasus may have been found, and that its destruction coincided with an unprecedented mutiny against Pressman, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) finds himself pitted against his own first officer to uncover the truth.

"The Pegasus" is a great little episode that takes the pristine, whiter-than-white image of Starfleet in The Next Generation, and then kicks a pretty firm dent in it. That's an enormous step for the series, and will be followed by several more in sister series Deep Space Nine. Watched now - particularly in the wake of CBS' new series Star Trek: Discovery - and it may seem a little tame. In 1994 it was pretty shocking stuff for the Star Trek universe.

October 5, 2017

The Pull List: 20 September 2017, Part 3

Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt are back with the second six-issue arc of The Wild Storm. It's wonderful to have it back.

This series takes the various characters of Jim Lee's Wildstorm Universe, long since subsumed by DC Comics, and re-works and re-imagines them into a contemporary science fiction story. I'm not sure if 'post-superhero' is a term, but it should be so that I can use it to describe this book. It has all the hallmarks of a superhero title, but instead it's a story of billionaire tech industry CEOs, black ops crews, and rival secret services ruling both Earth and the space around it.

Davis-Hunt's artwork is clean and expressive, and gently coloured by Steve Buccellato. Ellis' script is smart, well-plotted and does a remarkably great job of bringing new readers (and readers like me with bad memories) an excellent summary of the first six issues to brings everything back up to speed. This is a long game story that Ellis is telling; DC announced from the outset that it's a 24 issue story. So far it's pretty much brilliant, and a must-read for fans of Ellis and that blurry space between costumed heroes and near-future SF. (4/5)

The Wild Storm #7. DC Comics. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon Davis-Hunt. Colours by Steve Buccellato.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange, Green Arrow, Kill the Minotaur, Nightwing, Secret Weapons and Star Trek: Boldly Go.

October 4, 2017

Riverdale: "A Touch of Evil"

Riverdale still reels from the death of rich teenager Jason Blossom, and the mystery over who murdered him. Archie (K.J. Apa) struggles over whether or not to tell the authorities what he knows of Jason's death. Meanwhile Betty (Lili Reinhart) stops talking to Veronica (Camila Mendes) over her kissing Archie at a party.

is an odd beast. It has a lot of positive elements: notably some great actors and a very well-defined mise-en-scene. At the same time it seems to want to be two different TV shows at the same time. My problem is that I am not really sure that either of the series Riverdale wants to be is one that I particularly care about watching.

October 1, 2017

The Angriest: September 2017 in review

Lieutenant Worf's crazy journey through an array of parallel universes in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Parallels" was a pretty fun episode to review, and it became the most-read post on The Angriest in September. You can read the review here. Also popular with readers were reviews of the Doctor Who episode "The Pandorica Opens" (link) and the Colditz episode "Chameleon" (link).

Altogether, in September 2017, I wrote one full-length film essay, two new films in cinemas, five older films, 10 TV episodes, one anime review, and short reviews of 51 comic books. A full list of posts with links is included below the cut. Thanks for reading The Angriest this past month.

The Pull List: 20 September 2017, Part 2

When God told Noah to build an ark and save all the animals of the natural world, it turns that Lucifer told a man named Shrae to build a second ark and save all the animals of the unnatural world. It's a neat little premise, and suggests a rather inventive story, but sadly Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe's Dark Ark stumbles badly out of the gate.

This new book from Aftershock simply feels dull. The concept works but the execution is sloppy. Bunn does not - in this issue at any rate - find an interesting enough story to build up his hook. There's some moping, and argumentative monsters, but no real indication on precisely where the story is supposed to go or why the readers should care. Juan Doe's artwork focuses a little too much on close-ups and head shots, without giving anything a particularly interesting background or sense of action. Then again, what sort of backgrounds can there be? The entire issue takes place on a ship in a storm.

A more interesting take might have focused on Shrae's journey to become the master of this 'dark ark'. Instead the most interesting parts of his story appear to have already happened.

Dark Ark #1. Aftershock. Written by Cullen Bunn. Art and colours by Juan Doe.

Under the cut: reviews of Cloudia & Rex, Generations: The Marvels, Invader Zim, and Superman.