November 30, 2012

The Pull List: 28 November 2012

Okay, come on Marvel. This is taking the piss. You are fooling nobody. It was only last week that I was complaining about having to buy Iron Man twice in one month due to double-shipping. Now I find myself at the comic shop buying second issues of Thor: God of Thunder, All-New X-Men and X-Men Legacy only two weeks after buying the first. You might have got me to keep trying Uncanny Avengers past the first issue - I was on the fence after issue #1 - but there are only so many comics I am prepared to purchase in a single week. If I wasn't reviewing them for this blog, I'd probably be buying even less.

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

Ads from Comics: Lego (1982)

From the back cover of ROM: Spaceknight #36. Cue a generation of adults diving into nostalgia over how Lego used to be.

November 28, 2012

Ads from Comics: Dungeons & Dragons (1982)

Advertisement for Dungeons & Dragons, from the back cover of ROM #28 (1982).
One of the reasons I adore reading old comic books in their original "floppy" form is the advertisements. If you buy the trade paperback you miss all of these hilarious or fascinating ads they used to publish. The older the comic, the better. Read a comic book today and the ads are all for deodorant sprays, cars and TV shows. Read a comic for 1982, and you get ads like this: selling Dungeons & Dragons to the kids of America. This one's from the back cover of Marvel's ROM: Spaceknight #28, dated March 1982.

Free Enterprise #20: "Detained"

Archer and Mayweather wake up in a Tandaran internment camp after encroaching on military space. At first it seems as if their stay will be short - three days in prison, a meeting with a magistrate, then freedom - but when Archer discovers that the camp's Suliban population are being held without cause or charge, and when the overseer Colonel Grat learns of Archer's previous contact with the Suliban Cabal, Archer and Mayweather's stay may just be a little longer.

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

Babble On #30: "The Long Dark"

An early Earth spacecraft drifts into the station's vicinity, carrying within it a cryogenically frozen explorer who's been on ice for a century. If a homeless veteran in the bowels of the station is to be believed, it has also carried an invisible, demonic entity to the station - an entity that murdered his entire team during the Earth-Minbari War. While Garibaldi investigates, Dr Franklin cares for the revived century-old explorer.

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

Who50: The TV Movie

Who50 counts down to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by reviewing my favourite episodes and serials over the history of the programme, counting down from #50 to #1. Today, #49: Doctor Who, a 1996 made-for-television film written by Matthew Jacobs and directed by Geoffrey Sax.

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

Free Enterprise #19: "Oasis"

Following a lead from a rogue trader, the Enterprise investigates a crashed spacecraft. It seems to be long-abandoned, and the crew take a shuttle down to take a closer look. There they discover that despite negative scans the wreck's crew are alive and well. Or are they?

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


A few interesting web links for your weekend:
  • 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)

Quote of the Day

'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.

Random Comic: Daredevil #327 (1994)

It's 1994. Everybody has learned that blind lawyer Matt Murdock is also the New York vigilante Daredevil, but that's okay because they just buried Matt Murdock's corpse in the cemetery. Except not really: they buried someone else, because Matt is running around undercover now disguised as a replacement Daredevil in a slightly different costume. You'd think this was a terrible disguise, but surprisingly it works like a charm. I always figured Steve Rogers to be a pretty smart guy, but even he doesn't recognise Matt when they meet.

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

The Pull List: 21 November 2012

I've always considered myself a DC fan, and not so much of a Marvel fan. It's not that I dislike Marvel, I've just always responded more positively to DC's characters. Ask me to name my favourite superheroes, and I'm going to give you a list that includes Batman, Wonder Woman, Nightwing and Hawkman rather than a list including Iron Man, Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four.

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

Who50: "Terror of the Autons"

The Master (Roger Delgado), in Terror of the Autons
Who50 counts down to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by reviewing my favourite episodes and serials over the history of the programme, counting down from #50 to #1. Today, #50: "Terror of the Autons", a four-part 1971 serial written by Robert Holmes and directed by Barry Letts.

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

Assassin's Creed III (2012)

Assassin's Creed III is a terrible videogame. There, I said it.

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.

Good Soundtracks for Bad Films

There is a phenomenon I noticed in the 1990s, and while it isn't as common nowadays it's still something that I always keep half an eye out for. It's the phenomenon of "good soundtrack, bad movie". I don't mean the musical score underlying a film's action - although there are plenty of bad films with good scores - I'm talking about the soundtracks: albums filled with pop songs that may or may not have appeared during the film in question.

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

Wolverine (1982)

'I'm good at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice.'

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

The Pull List: 14 November 2012

Marvel published four first issues this week, as their Marvel Now initiative finally begins to kick up some heat and start moving. I can see the reasoning behind relaunching their superhero titles the way that they have: firstly, spread over several months it gives them a high-profile launch nearly every week from here to February; secondly, it allows them to avoid copying DC entirely. Let's not pretend otherwise, Marvel Now is a panicky relaunch, cobbled together with great haste after DC's own cobbled-together relaunch resulted in Marvel losing market share.

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.

Blog Space Nine #20: "The Wire"

The enigmatic Cardassian tailor Garak begins to suffer from migraines and seizures. Dr Bashir discovers the cause of Garak's condition: a mysterious implant in his brain, placed there years ago but which now appears to be killing him.

"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

An appreciation of Mary Blair

I am an enormous fan of Mary Blair, and it makes me sad that she remains relatively obscure in motion picture history. Mary was born in 1911 in Oklahoma. She was from an early age a keen artist, and eventually won a scholarship to Los Angeles' Chouinard Art Institute. She made the shift from fine art to animation art due to her husband Lee, and in 1940 she joined him as an artist - as far as I'm aware the only key female artist - at the Walt Disney studio.

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

It's Cold Outside #4: "Entangled"

In Red Dwarf X's fourth episode, Lister loses Starbug and Rimmer in a game of poker, resulting in his being fitted with a explosive device to his groin. Meanwhile Kryten and the Cat become quantum entagled with each other and start saying everything in unison with each other.

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

The Racketeer, by John Grisham (2012)

John Grisham is one of those authors who sells so overwhelmingly well that he's relatively ignored in critical terms. Literary readers will generally dismiss his work with an elitist sniff, mainstream readers will greedily consume his books without question, and everyone in between pretty much takes his presence for granted. He's in that envied tier of authors whose books line the shelves of airport bookshops worldwide, a group that includes other writers such as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy and the late Michael Crichton.

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.

The Pull List: 7 November 2012, Part II

Last Wednesday yet another science fiction comic debuted from Image (Storm Dogs, reviewed under the cut). This arrives on top of Debris, Saga, Manhattan Projects and Prophet. It's impressive - and well overdue for the industry - how Image is going out of its way to prove that science fiction is a fantastic genre for comic books and graphic novels. Add in works of fantasy and science fiction from other publishers (Saucer Country, The Unwritten and Fables over at DC Vertigo, Orbital at Cinebooks, et al) and speculative fiction in general is doing exceptionally well in comic books at the moment.

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 Pull List: 7 November 2012, Part I

Yesterday DC Comics confirmed what many in the industry had long suspected: that Hellblazer, currently the longest-running uninterrupted comic book running at either DC or Marvel, will end with its 300th issue in February. The comic has been written by Peter Milligan since its 251st issue some years ago. It will be replaced with a non-mature readers title, Constantine, within the DC Universe New 52 range.

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

Superman Earth One: Volume 2 (2012)

I applaud DC's experimentation with the Earth One range: complete reboots of their most popular characters, with adventures told in self-contained 128 page graphic novels. They're beautifully packaged, exceptionally well promoted and could potentially save the superhero comic from falling sales and rising prices. People aren't necessarily comfortable spending US$3.99 on a floppy, stapled-together comic book. They're generally a bit more comfortable spending US$19.99 on something durable that they can put on their shelf with all of their other books.

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

Babble On #29: "A Distant Star"

The arrival of an Earthforce Explorer class starship at Babylon 5 leads Sheridan to question the wisdom of commanding a space station - but when the starship then goes missing in hyperspace, he has to use all of his abilities to find and rescue the vessel before it is lost forever.

"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.

It's Cold Outside #3: "Lemons"

The team get stuck on 1st century Earth and need to create a lemon-based battery to power the remote control that can restore them to the future. On the way they meet a noted historical figure in India, with typically disastrous results.

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 (2012)

In the plague-riddled city of Dunwall, a disgraced bodyguard named Corvo - framed from the assassination of the Empress - joins a secret resistance group. One by one he will eliminate those responsible for the deadly coup d'etat and place the dead Empress' daughter onto the throne.

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

Free Enterprise #18: "Acquisition"

The Enterprise is drifting in space. Onboard its crew lies unconscious, their bodies limp where they fell. A smaller vessel quietly sidles up and docks, and a team of salvage workers begin to strip the ship for anything they can find. Trip is the only Enterprise officer still awake - but can he save the ship on his own?

"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

Free Enterprise #17: "Rogue Planet"

The Enterprise stumbles upon a rogue planet in deep space, where a trio of alien hunters have arrived to track down and ritually slaughter the local wildlife. There's something else on the planet with them, however, as Archer continues to see a mysterious woman deep within the jungle.

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 Pull List: 31 October 2012

For the month of November, all profits earned by Monkeybrain Comics from their digital titles are being donated to the Hero Initiative.

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

Popular Posts: October 2012

For once that review of Pale Rider wasn't the most popular thing on this blog. Instead, for the month of October, that honour fell to a post about whether or not Wonder Woman's costume needs changing.

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)
The most popular posts actually written in October were:
  • It's Cold Outside #1: "Trojan" (link)
  • A Random Photo of a Panda (link)
  • I Love the Sega Dreamcast (link)
  • The Pull List: 3 October 2012 (link)
  • The Disney/Star Wars Purchase FAQ (link)

I love the Nintendo 64

With their Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Nintendo was sitting on the top of the home console market. They had rebuilt it with the NES and now completely dominated it worldwide. Anticipation was high for their follow-up, originally dubbed "Project Reality" and then Ultra 64, before finally coming to market as the Nintendo 64.

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!...