November 30, 2012
There is one reason for Marvel to double-ship all these relaunches in a single month, and that's market share. They want to be able to claim their sales dominated the market, and smashed those of their "Distinguished Competition" (am I the only one who used to love the way they used to write that in the letters columns?). Except they won't have, not really, and I think in the long term it'll do them damage. You only have to look at The Amazing Spider-Man, whose sales declined further and further once they started publishing it three times a month.
I had no problem sticking with quite a lot of fairly average DC New 52 titles because they were only costing me $2.99 a month. A lot of Marvel's comics cost $3.99, and if they double ship them I'm paying $7.99 a month for the privilege of their company. That suddenly makes a lot of the mid-list a much less attractive proposition, and if you take a close look at the sales figures you'll see a hell of a lot of Marvel's range is mid-list. The slack I gave DC from last September is simply not an amount of slack I'm going to be willing to extend to Marvel. Iron Man's gone - after the first two issues I've decided to drop it. I'm going to take a pass on Uncanny Avengers as well. Indestructible Hulk and X-Men Legacy are currently on the fence - they could go either way. If I'm asked to buy either title within the next two weeks, they're toast.
Under the cut: reviews of (deep breath): All-New X-Men, All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batman Incorporated, Bedlam, FF, The Flash, Journey Into Mystery, Multiple Warheads, Nowhere Men, Planetoid, Revival, Thor: God of Thunder and X-Men Legacy.
November 29, 2012
November 28, 2012
In the role of Colonel Grat is Dean Stockwell, a veteran actor of American film and television. Contemporary audiences still probably remember him best for his five season run on the science fiction drama Quantum Leap, which starred Scott Bakula (Captain Archer). This is then the episode of Enterprise that I think every science fiction fan knew was coming: an unofficial Quantum Leap reunion inside the Star Trek universe.
November 27, 2012
Is it just me, or is Dr Franklin a hysterically bad doctor? He comes dangerously close to taking advantage of his patient. It isn't as if she makes the first move - he's fawning over her and stroking her hair as soon as she's awake. Never mind she's 125 years old or more, her husband is long dead and he hasn't actually told her either of those facts yet - our hair-strokey doctor is deeply inappropriate at best. No wonder she abandons him at the end of the episode to return to Earth. If it was me I'd have been running for the hills from the fifteen-minute mark. Thankfully I wasn't the only one to notice Dr Franklin's malpractice: Garibaldi calls him out on it, and Sheridan gets pretty short with him as well.
November 26, 2012
The TV Movie is possibly a contentious pick for one of Doctor Who's fifty best stories. It's been a controversial episode in the series' history pretty much from when the idea of an American co-production was first mooted in the early 1990s. Lots of fans seem to actively hate it. I've even seen some, albeit a thankful minority, attempt to claim that the TV movie "doesn't count" and that Paul McGann is not a "real Doctor".
This is insanity: Paul McGann is an outstanding Doctor. He slips into the role with such apparent ease. I remember when Peter Davison debuted as the Doctor. It took me a full four episodes to accept him in the role. Colin Baker took me half a season. Sylvester McCoy took me a couple of weeks. Paul McGann took about six minutes. There's something about his gushing enthusiasm and intensity, oblivious to how silly he may look or sound, that simply convinces. He's that perfectly-formed English eccentric that American audiences would have gone crazy for, had the TV movie not been broadcast against one of the highest-rated episodes of Roseanne ever.
November 24, 2012
There's a strange sense of deja vu about "Oasis", until the penny drops and you remember that you've actually seen this episode before. It's Deep Space Nine's "Shadowplay", in which a sad old man has resurrected his friends and family as unwitting holograms. That version was written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe; this version is by Stephen Beck, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. If was was Wolfe, I'd be asking for some royalties.
November 23, 2012
- It's the 49th anniversary of Doctor Who, and the BBC's celebrated by giving him a new Director General. (link)
- Speaking of Doctor Who, Tansy Rayner Roberts is counting down to the 50th anniversary with a series of great posts like this one: (link)
- Deadline have a short interview with Bill Murray about playing F.D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park on the Hudson, and not winning Oscars. (link)
- Patton Oswalt talks through his film performances - this one is a must-read for his section on Blade III, which is almost on a par with Richard E. Grant's memoirs on making Hudson Hawk. (link)
- Kyrax2, the famous Batgirl of Comicon, writes about Stephanie Brown and DC Comics - it's weird how the only people I see criticising this for being a silly, frivolous issue are men. (link)
'Although Bigelow is a major filmmaker to anyone who has looked closely at Near Dark, Blue Steel or The Loveless, she is diminished in press clips as that woman who makes action movies. Yeah, and Hitchcock was that old fat guy who liked to scare people.'
Peter Travers, reviewing Strange Days for Rolling Stone.
Both Captain America and Daredevil is on the trail of a gang of dangerous computer hackers-turned-supervillains known as System Crash. They all have hilarious super-villain names like Cobol Charlie and Sinclair Spectrum. To be honest, it's all pretty appalling stuff but it's also inexplicably appealing stuff too.
November 22, 2012
I can't help but notice, however, that I'm starting to buy more and more of Marvel's product. Obviously I'm checking out their Marvel Now relaunches as they come out, but I'm also regularly buying Daredevil, Hawkeye and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, and they're consistently among the best comics I read. Add in the new Thor and Captain America comics and I'm becoming more involved in Marvel by the minute.
This doesn't take into account Image, whose string of science fiction miniseries have me hooked pretty aggressively as well. Between them, Marvel and the DC titles I was already buying, my weekly comics spend is threatening to spin out of control. It may be time to make some tough choices on which regular titles I keep, and which get dropped.
Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Captain America, Comeback, Daredevil, Hawkeye, The Indestructible Hulk, Iron Man, It Girl and the Atomics, Judge Dredd, Legion of Super-Heroes, Sword of Sorcery, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Wonder Woman. I intended to read and review Journey into Mystery #646 and Revival #5, but haven't managed to buy copies of them yet. I really need to pre-order more often.
November 21, 2012
|The Master (Roger Delgado), in Terror of the Autons|
Every hero needs a good villain. It was a core requirement of 20th century pulp fiction. Flash Gordon fought Ming the Merciless, Batman fought the Joker and Luke Skywalker fought Darth Vader. For the first four years Doctor Who coasted along using the Daleks, but after their climactic appearance in Season 4's "The Evil of the Daleks" they hadn't been seen. Successive production teams tried replacing them with the Cybermen, but that didn't seem to suffice. To be honest, the Daleks didn't seem to suffice. They were an army, full of faceless minions with no individual personality. They weren't able to look the Doctor in the eye and taunt. They couldn't gloat. The Doctor didn't need more monsters. He needed a villain. He needed a nemesis.
"Terror of the Autons" was the first serial of Doctor Who's 8th season. It was notable for quite a few reasons, including the debuts of popular companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and UNIT's Captain Yates (Richard Franklin) and the return of the faceless Autons. What it is really famous for, however, is introducing the Master.
The Master (Roger Delgado) was another rogue Time Lord, like the Doctor: only while the Doctor travelled the universe fighting evil and righting wrongs, the Master travelled the universe being evil and creating the wrongs in the first place. Or so we were told. In practice, the Master spent a large amount of his time on Earth, ostensibly trying to take over the world but for all intents and purposes just hanging around to give Jon Pertwee's Doctor the absolute shits.
November 20, 2012
I hate such high hopes. I adored the original Assassin's Creed despite many finding fault with it. I found it had an elegant simplicity that made it an entertaining sort of stripped-down sandbox game. It was pretty to look at and had a wonderful historical setting. Assassin's Creed II was even better, taking the framework and gist of the original and adding a more complex plot, more varied gameplay and much more charisma. More importantly it retained the open world, sandbox feel. There was a plot to follow, but a lot more besides. It was easy to explore, and have fun. Side missions were abundant. So much fun was in Assassin's Creed II that it received two spin-offs, Brotherhood and Revelations, before the franchise finally wound its way on to a third proper instalment.
And it sucks. It's a depressing, unlikeable, sluggish chore of a game. It's mind-bogglingly disappointing, taking every element that worked so well in the earlier titles and removing them. It did keep the most annoying aspects of the old game, however, and even added a few of its own. Now other opinions are available: the game has received numerous glowing reviews, which are wrong. It's sold millions of copies already, sales that it does not deserve. It's the sort of offensively disappointing experience that doesn't make me want a refund - I demand that the designers and producers involved are spanked.
The movie soundtrack in the sense that we know it today - a group of contemporary pop songs collected together as a 'various artists' release and with the movie's key art splashed all over the cover - was pretty much invented by Hollywood producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer for their film Flashdance. It was a genius move: a popular film could now dominated the Billboard charts at the same time as the box office. It allowed for synergy between business divisions, since most companies that owned a film studio also owned a record label (and those that didn't rapidly set one up).
A new wrinkle on the soundtrack album came to prominence with the 1994 soundtrack to Alex Proyas' film The Crow, which featured all-new songs composed by pop artists specifically for the movie. This is a whole different beast entirely, and of far greater interest to music fans. If you're a fan of The Cure, for example, your record collection is incomplete unless you get the soundtracks to The Crow ("Burn") and Judge Dredd ("Dredd Song"). Yes, Judge Dredd - to be clear, not the recent one written by Alex Garland.
And this is the thing: you can have a terrible, terrible movie, and it can have this fantastic tie-in album with brilliant pop song unavailable anywhere else. The Judge Dredd soundtrack also includes contributions from White Zombie, The The and the Cocteau Twins. Under the cut are three of my personal favourites: the movie may be bad, but the soundtrack is well worth tracking down.
November 19, 2012
When Wolverine learns that the love of his life has unexpectedly married someone else, he boards the next plane to Japan - finding organised criminals, conspiracies and several violent attempts on his life. This is Wolverine, a 1982 four-issue miniseries that was Logan's first-ever solo comic book and which led to decades' worth of solo adventures for the character since. It's written by Chris Claremont, then pretty much the most popular comic book writer in America thanks to his work on Uncanny X-Men. The art is by Frank Miller, then a wunderkind artist in his mid-20s, hot off the success of drawing Daredevil.
Even 30 years on, Wolverine is a tightly scripted and beautifully drawn comic miniseries. Chris Claremont was absolutely one of the best writers of superhero comics in the early 1980s, and Frank Miller's art was at a stage when it was bold and inventive without being distorted too far into overly muscular charicature (not to mention hysterically misogynistic and Islamaphobic).
November 15, 2012
It does make me question the point of comic book numbering. If the industry is so reliant on issue #1 being a sales-boosting 'jumping-on' point, why on Earth would any publish worth their salt allow a comic book series to extend beyond it's 12th issue? Why not relaunch the books every year? Or with every change of creative team? While I may be nostalgic for the old days of comic books with numbers up into the mid-100s, I have to admit it's a lot easier to convince me to try issue #3 or #4 than issue #573 or #228. Titles such as Marvel's Journey to Mystery, which has been knocking it out of the park in the last year, mostly floated under the radar because unless you were paying close attention you'd fail to notice it. Had it been launched at #1 under the title Loki, I think they might have found more success.
When Hellblazer and The Amazing Spider-Man wrap up, the longest running single volume still in publication between Marvel and DC will be Bill Willingham's Fables. That just blows my mind.
Under the cut: reviews of All-New X-Men, Batgirl, Batman, Batman and Robin, Demon Knights, Fantastic Four, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE, The Massive, Red She-Hulk, Saga, Thor: God of Thunder and X-Men Legacy.
"The Wire" is not, sadly, a multi-layered drama about drug dealers and police officers on the streets of Bajor. Instead it's a very small, personal story that finally exposes much of Garak's backstory. It isn't a perfect episode - some scenes are positively sedate - but it allows Andrew Robinson a great opportunity to flesh out Garak's character and develop an even more interesting and complex version of him. Crucially, I think it does this without sacrificing the "is he, isn't he?" questions that have tantalisingly hung over Garak since he was introduced to the series.
November 14, 2012
Mary contributed design art for several noted Disney productions, including Dumbo, Fun and Fancy Free and Song of the South. In 1941 she accompanied Walt Disney and others on a government-funded research trip to South America: the purpose was to create animated features set in South America that would encourage those nations to side with the Allies in World War II. As a result Blair provided designs for Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros as well.
It's in the early 1950s that Blair's work really made an impact. She was the colour stylist for three films in a row: Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Her work on these three films pretty much shaped and perfected the classical look of Walt Disney animation.
November 13, 2012
Well it had to end sooner or later. Red Dwarf's unexpected winning streak of genuinely funny episodes comes to a crashing halt with "Entangled", an episode reminiscent of the tedious episodes around the sixth and seventh seasons - replete with strange ugly mutant people, overplayed gags and fairly shoddy writing. It's not completely devoid of humour, but quality jokes are thin on the ground this episode.
In the end it boils down to a question of quality versus valuable time. Is this episode of sufficient quality to warrant your valuable time? In this case I'd have to say no.
November 12, 2012
Within that tier, however, there's a pretty wide spread of talent. I'm not keen to simply dismiss the appeal or talent of authors like Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown, but they do have a prose style that is to me relatively depth-free and simplistic. On the other hand, I think authors such as King, Rowling and, yes, Grisham, provide a lot more texture and depth beneath the surface of their narratives. They write books that are both populist and popular, and while their works may not entirely challenge readers they certainly satisfy them a great deal.
The Racketeer is the latest in John Grisham's long line of legal thrillers (the 25th, for those keeping score), and actually presents something a little different.
I am keen to see if this influx of quality genre work into the field has any effect on the Hugo Awards in 2013. Since 2009 the Hugos have included a Best Graphic Story category, but the voters' choices for nominees have been somewhat odd to say the least: TV spin-offs, webcomics and in one case a Neil Gaiman two-part comic that wasn't simply not the best comic of the year it wasn't even the best Batman comic in which Batman died and had an afterlife experience for that year.
2013 is a key year for this category in the Hugos. With so many worthy works eligible, this is the year that Hugo voters can either prove they know a damn thing about English-language comic books or consign their category to an amusing irrelevance for the future.
Under the cut: reviews of the thankfully customs-free comics for 7 November. 47 Ronin, Action Comics, Animal Man, Batwing, Detective Comics, Storm Dogs, Stormwatch, Worlds' Finest.
November 9, 2012
The cancellation of Hellblazer is not a great surprise: sales have not been strong in recent years, and as a continuing title it lacks the ability to be easily collected and sold in trades like The Sandman, 100 Bullets, Preacher or other popular DC Vertigo titles. That it coincides with the announcement of a DC Universe relaunch of its protagonist, John Constantine, is unfortunate. It feels like Constantine used to be about stories, but now he's just a commodity. DC Vertigo used to be the place to go for great comic book works of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Today I feel a better place to look is Image Comics.
John Constantine joining the Justice League and Image being the place for progressive, intelligent genre titles. Who'd have picked that out 10 years ago?
As the bulk of my comic book shipment appears to be stuck in Australian customs, I'm running through this week's Pull List in two sections: stuff I have now and stuff I will hopefully get by the end of this week. So in Part 1, you can find reviews of Deadpool, Green Lantern, Iron Man and Manhattan Projects.
November 8, 2012
I haven't read the original Superman Earth One, which was the initial volume in this series. I did read Geoff John's Batman Earth One and liked it a lot - albeit with a few reservations. Since my local comic shop didn't have their weekly shipment in last night (damn you, Australian customs), I spontaneously decided to pick up the all-new Superman Earth One: Volume Two.
November 7, 2012
"A Distant Star" is written by D.C. Fontana, which gave me hope because she wrote some of the best episodes of Season 1. Sadly this script is nowhere near as accomplished, and seems to rely on obvious plot developments and cliches to win the day. I know I'm only four episodes in, but I'm finding myself surprised by Season 2: I remember it being a significant step up in quality from Season 1, but so far I haven't actually been able to discern a difference - other than the opening credits aren't as snappy and the brighter lighting continues to make everything look cheaper.
I feel like this season of Red Dwarf is charting some kind of twisted course through the history of the series. While the first episode felt like something out of Season 4 or 5, and the second like something out of Season 1 or 2, "Lemons" feels much more like a late-season episode - only actually quite funny and with more to recommend it than most of Red Dwarf's later instalments.
November 5, 2012
Dishonored is a stealth-based action game, played from a first-person perspective. One of the game's biggest hooks is its versatility: each level is a self-contained sandbox, with multiple solutions available to each of the game's tasks. Take the front door? Maybe sneak in through an open window? Find a way in through the sewers? User magical powers to possess a fish and swim inside through the drainage system? Many options are available, and it's up to the player to decide which will be the easiest or most satisfying.
It is apparently possible to complete the game without killing a single character: I wouldn't know, as I'm dreadful at videogames and racked up an unintended bodycount like nobody's business.
November 3, 2012
"Acquisition" is fast-paced, beautifully shot, well plotted and regularly funny. It's an entertaining commercial hour of television that ticks all the right boxes, made me laugh several times and provides an inventive antidote to the dull, predictable episode that preceded it. So as a general viewer, "Acquisition" gets a solid and enthusiastic tick of approval. As a fan, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall - or preferably the heads of the episode's writers.
November 2, 2012
This is, to be direct, exactly the kind of Star Trek episode that ultimately got the franchise killed in the ratings. The Enterprise comes across a mysterious planet. They meet some aliens who look exactly like humans except for bumpy growths on their faces. There's a mystery and a bit of action. Everything gets resolved and the Enterprise flies on. It's Star Trek by the numbers: utterly unengaging and inoffensive, and eminently missable.
The Hero Initiative is an important charity for the comics industry. For decades the only income earned by America's comic book artists, writers and creators was a simple page rate with no ownership of their work or characters and no residuals or royalties to carry them into retirement. The Hero Initiative has helped more than 50 comic book veterans in the past decade or so to the tune of about US$500,000. It's very important, commendable work, but they constantly need donations. I applaud Chris Roberson, Allison Baker and the rest of the team at Monkeybrain for making this significant high profile donation.
So help out, and reward them. Get onto Comixology and download a few of their titles. I'm reviewing Olive Hopkins and the Ninth Kingdom under the cut, but I strongly recommend you also check out Bandette (pictured to the left), Masks and Mobsters and Edison Rex. They're inexpensive, creative and very enjoyable.
Under the cut: reviews of A+X, Aquaman, Batman: Li'l Gotham, Bedlam, Happy, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Wander: Olive Hopkins and the Ninth Kingdom.
November 1, 2012
The most popular posts for the month of October were:
- On Wonder Woman's Costume (link)
- Pale Rider (1985) (link)
- It's Cold Outside #1: "Trojan" (link)
- Five Films: David Morse (link)
- A Random Photo of a Panda (link)
While a lot of people were anticipating a hard battle between the N64 and Sega's new Saturn console, pretty much nobody saw Sony's PlayStation coming. It blitzed and overwhelmed the market, massively expanding the videogame user base and dominating videogaming hardware for the next decade. While the Nintendo 64 did okay sales wise, it was a harsh knockback for a company that must have felt it could do no wrong.
In the end almost 33 million consoles were sold, streets ahead of the Saturn's 9.5 million consoles but ridiculously far behind Sony's stratospheric 102 million. I absolutely adored it: the N64 was graced with some of the best videogames of all time, including at least two games with a strong argument to be the number #1 greatest game of all time. This was the last non-handheld Nintendo console I was really engaged with: I purchased a Gamecube and a Wii, but never really played either console that regularly. I was addicted to the N64, and played several of its games to death.
Under the cut: the 10 games I liked the most. Hey! Listen!...