Wednesday, 30 June 2010

"The Doctor in the TARDIS doesn't know!"


I was worried. Were you worried? I was. I mean I had trust in Stephen Moffat, he had written some of the best episodes of New Who. Then they released that first dodgy picture of Matt Smith. And that first look at his outfit didn't inspire confidence. A Bow tie? Nonsense. Finally I sat down to watch the new series and, my God, they had messed with the theme tune.

Five minutes and one portion of fish fingers with custard later and I was sold. Now we come to the finale, the traditional final two parter that wraps up the series. Back when Who was under Russell T. Davies, the finales were a bit maligned. All wrapped up a bit too easy with a fair amount of deux ex machina thrown in to get himself out of overwrought cliffhangers, so some say.

How does Moffat hold up? Well, in The Pandorica Opens, he shows that he can write a good cliffhanger. The final reveal of the true nature of The Pandorica itself was a great twist, very cleverly foreshadowed. Moffat nicely wracks up the tension, throwing in a ton of space ships and one of the great monologues from the Doctor. The final scene as well was a stand out moment. All of the Doctor's enemies in one room, an exploding TARDIS and the death of a companion.

The fact that all of these things are sorted out in the first five minutes of the next episode is a very Russell T. Davies trait. Here however it is carried out with such a flair that it doesn't matter. The structure of the first half of The Big Bang is an absolute joy, folding back in on itself, throwing in a lot of laughs at the same time.

All this is, let's be honest, due to the tour de force that has been Matt Smith's Doctor. That stiff first image has been blown away replaced by a whirling dervish of arms that has proved definitively that bow ties are cool. He captures the age and weight of the Doctor as well as the mischievous side. You see this in one of the final scenes of The Big Bang, telling his story to young Amy Pond. It's a great little scene that says a lot about the Doctor but also ties together the series as a whole, linking it back to the first shot of the first episode.

The last two episodes capture what has been so good about Moffat's Who as a whole. The great characters, the finely honed structure, the snappy dialog. Whilst not all the ends were tied up (I suspect that will be the focus of the next series) it was a great finale to a great great series.

I'm even starting to like the new music.

Phil Doyle is one of the creators of and co-host of the sonicsring.compodcast. His real job is in insurance which he hopes won't be forever. He also has every issue of the 1990s Midnight Sons crossover and does not feel guilty about it.

Proud Lion Recommends Wonder Woman #600 and Superman #700

Last week saw the release of the landmark 700th issue of Superman. It's a bumper-sized anniversary issue containing three stories - one by outgoing writer James Robinson which serves as a nice bridge between his work on the War Of The Supermen miniseries and the new era that is about to be ushered in. It also worked well in it's own right, a story of Lois and Superman reunited after the past year's developments.

Next up Dan Jurgens, the writer of the classic Death Of Superman story, penning a story set 'back in the day' featuring a team-up of sorts between Dick Grayson when he was Robin and Superman. A fun and whimsical tale that emboldens the gravitas of the final story, a prelude to incoming writer J. Michael Straczynski's new story 'Grounded'.

JMS can be a writer who forgets that imagery in comics is as important as words, but here the balance is perfect and the hook - whilst not original in today's more introspective era of super heroics - is certainly one that has me eagerly awaiting issue #701.

This week we get the bumper sized issue #600 for Wonder Woman. Again, an anthology of stories form various creators. As of #601, JMS takes over on Wonder Woman as well and he hopes to reinvigorate the title that has been suffering from poor sales for many years.

Part of that plan includes a new costume designed by superstar artist and DC co-publisher Jim Lee. There's a sneak peak below. For more information, Comic Book Resources have a great interview with JMS here.

Wonder Woman #600 is out tomorrow.

Ben Fardon feels his tiara wearing days are behind him now.

Friday, 25 June 2010

First Walking Dead set visit!

Quint over at Aint It Cool has been lucky enough to visit the set of the Walking Dead TV production. Here's links to his two awesome reports. At the end of the second report there is a new zombie picture for you to enjoy.

The Walking Dead Compendium pictured at the top will be back in stock in the next few months. Pre-order now. The standard graphic novels and hardcover collections are available now, and volume 12 comes out in July.

Ben Fardon is planning a zombie themed movie spectacular for this Halloween including Zombieland, Dead Snow and Doghouse.

Friday, 18 June 2010

New Beginnings - New Avengers #1

Continuing the theme of books without a clear reason to exist: New New Avengers! Because the Heroic Age marking the return to a traditional Avengers title doesn’t make New Avengers redundant. Apparently.

New Avengers was an experimental period that sought to update and redefine the Avengers concept, with mixed results. I didn’t like it much, but many did and it sold well. Trouble is, last month’s Avengers #1, also by Bendis, blended the lessons from New Avengers with more traditional Avengers sensibilities, with mixed results.

New² Avengers is just a trimmings and left-overs from the other title.

If you’re going to have more than one Avengers team, they should have different purposes. Secret Avengers distinguishes itself by being a pro-active black-ops team. New² Avengers distinguishes itself from Avengers by… being based in Avengers Mansion? Ok, if you’re not going to give them a different remit, at least a different cast will help to give a reason for existence. Oh hang on…

The New² Avengers is essentially “Luke Cage and Friends”, featuring Luke, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thing, Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Ms Marvel. Three of whom are on the other Avengers team. Wolverine’s in half a dozen other books already and Luke is working with the Thunderbolts. Given the similarities of the two teams’ purposes, sharing characters makes them seem even more repetitive.

Bendis feels the need to legitimise most of these characters as Avengers, which is fair enough, but having them set up a separate team isn’t the way to do it. Actually having them work with the Big Three traditional Avengers on the other team would. This just makes Luke Cage seem like an arbitrarily anti-authoritarian angry black man stereotype, refusing the offer to be a proper Avenger for no good reason. Having Wolverine, Hawkeye and Spider-Man on both teams just highlights the redundancy of the split.

The ultimate ‘what the hell’ factor is that this New² Avengers team (and Luke actually calls them the “New Avengers” for no discernable diegetic reason) is based in Avengers Mansion. If we’re really going to go back to the Mansion after all these years, surely it makes sense for the main Avengers team to go back there? You know, the one with actual history and connections to the building. Shoving Luke’s team in there isn’t going to further legitimise them. It just makes them seem like wannabes not allowed in the Tower.

The book just feels utterly pointless. “Luke Cage & Friends” works as a premise, but faced with logic and an actual Avengers book, it doesn’t qualify as Avengers.
This is to say nothing of the plot of this issue, which goes back to the upheaval of magic storyline Bendis was exploring before Siege. Which is relevant to none of the characters.

New² Avengers is a messy goulash of left-overs from Avengers, a Luke Cage book that never-was and an entirely unrelated magic story. And while it looks nice (thanks to Immonen), it’s certainly not tasty.

Martin S Smith is an author and blogger. He’s just released his first book, The Redundancy of Flightless Birds, and reviews stuff every week over at The Taste of Rising Bile.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Proud Lion Recommends Action Comics #890

DC's blog The Source have put up the first few pages of Paul Cornell's Action Comics #890.

Take a look, I have high hopes for this one.

Ben Fardon would put stickers saying 'Lex & Lois 4Ever' all over the place, but fears the internet would kill him.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

New Beginnings - Avengers Academy #1

Avengers Academy is the fourth Avengers launch in as many weeks and the second new teen team book out this week, so it’s not got an easy task in making itself seem distinctive. Its premise as the training ground for the next generation of Avengers doesn’t help much either, being rather old. While that’s certainly not something to hold against Avengers Academy, it presents potential downfall in the shape of “New Mutants Syndrome”.

New Mutants was a similarly pitched book in the 80s, training the next generation of X-Men. While the characters were rather cool, they failed to live up to their potential. Of them, only Cannonball has been a proper member of an X-Men team. The rest were gradually written out of New Mutants, never troubling the main X-Men titles, who were happily brining in other new characters like Gambit and Jubilee over them. Instead, they just seem to get trotted out for nostalgia driven New Mutants revival books. It’s not an encouraging precedent.

So when the instructors of the eponymous Avengers Academy tell their batch of students that they’re the next generation, with the potential to be the Captains America of the future, I responded with a little scepticism. Thankfully, so do the kids and there is indeed more to their recruitment and tutelage that is immediately apparent.

The characters themselves are a mixed bunch. Our narrator Veil is a bit of a cliché, the lonely, nerdy girl who just wants to disappear at school and then does, but she’s a relatively neutral ground from which to see the other recruits.

Striker, Hazmat and Reptil do little for me at the moment. In fact Reptil and Striker seem to acting interchangeably, comparing their actions and their descriptions from the back matter. Mettle is interesting not only because he’s visually a cross between Colossus and the Red Skull, but he’s aware of the potential of they all have for failure. Finesse walks the fine-line between interesting and walking plot device, but is fine at the moment.

The team are trained by a host of old-school Avengers (Henry Pym, Quicksilver, Tigra, Justice) but most interestingly by Speedball, who’s given up being Penance in identity if not yet in personality.

Pencils are provided by Mike McKone, who’s a fairly competent artist, but doesn’t always manage to mask his limitations. The number of faces he can draw is quite limited and at times Reptil and Striker look very similar, as do Speedball and Pym, if you ignore costumes. The colours feel slightly over-saturated in places as well, very heavy on oranges and blues, though neither are massive problems.

Avengers Academy does have the question hanging over it of whether anything it does will matter in the long term, whether its recruits will ever live up to the potential we’re supposed to believe they have. Thankfully, writer Christos Gage is aware of this and is asking the same questions of his characters, which makes this first issue a promising start for the book.

Martin S Smith is an author and blogger. He’s just released his first book, The Redundancy of Flightless Birds, and reviews stuff every week over at The Taste of Rising Bile.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Birth Of A Villain

Last month I previewed the forthcoming Shadowland event Marvel is releasing.

Since then Marvel have released two new teaser images. It looks like things are going to get pretty dark for Matt Murdoch in July...

Pre-order Shadowland today.

Ben Fardon is the Man Without Cheer.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Green Lantern logo and release date revealed

Here it is the logo/teaser poster for Green Lantern. Shiny. I can't wait.

Directed by Martin Campbell, Green Lantern stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Jay O. Sanders, Temuera Morrison, Taika Waititi, Angela Bassett and Tim Robbins. The movie opens on June 17, 2011.

Ben Fardon once found an alien ring. But it was broken and out of warranty. So he put it on eBay.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

First Walking Dead zombie pictures!

AMC has begun shooting the first six episodes of the TV adaptation of The Walking Dead, set to air in the US this autumn.

Based on Robert Kirkman's graphic novels, the project will be directed by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist) and produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Termaintor 2: Judgement Day and Aliens). This Life alumni Andrew Lincoln will play lead character Rick Grimes.

"AMC strives to make original shows that play like movies and 'The Walking Dead' is a perfect complement to the network's celebrated movie franchise, Fearfest, which has always been an important destination for our audience," said AMC president Charlie Collier. "With its depth of story and the remarkable talent attached, The Walking Dead gives us an opportunity to raise the bar significantly within this popular genre, and continue our commitment to being the home of premium programming on basic cable."

To promote the series, AMC have cleverly released pictures of the zombies inspired by Charlie Adlard's artwork, rather than the usual cast photos. I'm sure most of you have seen this now, but in case you haven't here they are...

Ben Fardon isn't using the zed-word. Are there any out there though?

New Beginnings - Avengers Prime #1

Lurking amongst the other four big Avengers titles launching the Heroic Age is Avengers Prime, a series focusing on the ‘Big Three’ Avengers; Thor, Captain America and Iron Man. Taking place between scenes at the end of Siege, though there are internal inconsistencies on this, the three are assessing the ruins of Asgard and also bickering quite a bit.

Considering the Heroic Age is meant to be about heroes being heroes again and not fighting amongst themselves, it seems a bit odd that writer Brian Bendis would play so heavily on the in-fighting between the three (well, between Stark and Rogers, with Thor stuck in the middle), especially when he has to drive Rogers out of character so much to make it work. Steve here completely contradicts everything he stood and died for in Civil War, making him look like a hypocrite for no particularly good reason or effect.

Before long, the three are sucked through a damaged Asgardian portal and dumped across the nine realms of Norse mythology, lost and alone. Well, Thor’s not lost, obviously. Which only really serves to further make him seem like a third wheel.

Splitting up the characters is a mistake. All these three characters have solo books. Therefore, they don’t really need a joint title doing character pieces on them, unless it’s going to focus on them as a group and as friends. Splitting them up robs the book of its reason for existing, especially as you don’t gain any sort of extra insight to the three when they’re alone. Steve manages to get into a fight with some goblins, which is fun, but all it serves to do is put him in a rough approximation of his Captain America costume – which tells us what exactly? That he’s Captain America? Well, a) we know that and b) he isn’t any more, which is what these new Avengers titles are all trying to establish.

The biggest problem is though that we already know what happens next. This issue takes place before Avengers #1, which still has Tony and Steve hostile to each other and Thor stuck in the middle. If the rest of this series does go on to have some manner of reconciliation between the three, it’s immediately irrelevant, because the reader already knows it doesn’t stick.

The only real saving grace for the issue is the art by Alan Davis, quite possibly one of the best artists currently working in the medium. That’s a bit of a shame really though. I’d like to think there’s more interesting titles he could be putting his talents towards. He seems wasted on this title, even if he does draw the nine realms very nicely.

Avengers Prime really does feel like a waste of time. It’s so busy retreading old ground that we should all be moving away from, with little in the way of return or reward, that it forgets to do anything worthwhile with itself. It’s a character study that doesn’t study its characters.

Martin S Smith is an author and blogger. He’s just released his first book, The Redundancy of Flightless Birds, and reviews stuff every week over at The Taste of Rising Bile.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Fingers on the Pulse

***WARNING: contains mild spoilers***

Short review; I like this show and want to see the full series.

More? Good, as I'm working to a word count here.

Paul Cornell is someone that has gone below the radar for a long time. Since the early nineties he worked on things like Holby City, Casualty, Doctor Who novels and a few Marvel comics. He also wrote a two part episode of Doctor Who for it's third series. Based on his own book, Human Nature and Family of Blood were very well regarded and are probably two of the best episodes of the modern Who series.

This work has now paid off as now we have Pulse, an original Paul Cornell TV show pilot.

Set in a teaching hospital, it follows one of the students, Hannah, who is returning to her schooling following the death of her mother. Trying to fit back in she sees something moving in the stomach of one of her patients. Or did she?

Well, yes she did. In the opening sequence we see one of the surgeons operating on the patient and implanting... something.

There we have the crux of the pilot. Secret medical experiments, someone trying to uncover the truth and a bucket full of blood.

Blood? Yes, this is a hospital. People have operations. Which we see. Graphically. Those scared of blood need to know this. There is blood. And scapels.

If you can deal with the blood the main thing to consider is this; does it work?

Yes it does.

It works as a stand alone show rather well, it feels like a Future Shock from 2000AD. The characters are well drawn and the premises is intruiging. Whilst there are no real answers given as it is a pilot, it leaves you wanting more but in a good way. You don't feel annoyed and left hanging like other island based TV shows.

My only problem with it was the overpowering music. There is a sense of foreboding to the show from the very beginning just in the way it's filmed. This is hammered home by the music, a little too much for my taste. It cheapens a few of the scares in the show.

I want to see more, which you will remember from the beginning. It's a great little concept and, so far, is executed well.

More please.

(Pulse airs Thursday 3rd June on BBC3 at 9pm. You can watch it online right now. If you like the pilot, please comment on the BBC3 blog afterwards - all feedback helps)

Phil Doyle is one of the creators of and co-host of the podcast. His real job is in insurance which he hopes won't be forever. He also has every issue of the 1990s Midnight Sons crossover and does not feel guilty about it.