Archive for February, 2009

News and Reviews

Before I get too far, I’d like to point out that “Being Human” — the BBC horror/dramedy I wrote about a couple of days ago — is going to be aired sometime this year on BBC America. Probably won’t mean much to me, ’cause I can’t afford cable, but for those of you who can get BBC America, you’ll be able to see this show. (Of course, it seems likely that we’ll be able to get some episodes through iTunes, too.)

And in news of “When Nerds Go Bad,” here’s an article about a guy who robbed a convenience store with a Klingon sword.

Okay, let’s get a few reviews out of the way, oy?

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #3

The Seance has been captured by cartoon-headed super-assassins Hazel and Cha-Cha but he manages to psychically communicate with Spaceboy, who finally gets his fat butt off the couch. Unfortunately, Seance still gets killed anyway. Then he meets God, who’s a cowboy. He’s a fairly dim cowboy, actually. And though he doesn’t much like Seance, he knows the Devil won’t like him either, so he returns him to life. Meanwhile, Number Five tells Rumor about the time he spent in the future as an elderly, cybernetically- and genetically-enhanced time-assassin.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m still amazed that this series has been so good and so fun. Seriously, first time I heard of it, I figured it’d just be a little vanity project for the singer from My Chemical Romance. Lo and behold, Gerard Way is actually one heck of a writer!

Justice Society of America #23

Who’s leaving, who’s coming back? Well, Hawkman’s gotten kicked out. Good. Weird shirtless, crabby, winged, mace weirdo. Amazing-Man and Citizen Steel are out. Boo! They were both cool. Magog’s out, Lightning is in, Wildcat Junior is in, Cyclone is in, Damage is in, and Atom-Smasher wants back in. The main part of the story focuses on Black Adam and Isis, and it’s creepy. Isis has been held prisoner by Felix Faust, and he’s used a spell to make her unable to move. Nothing specific or concrete is shown, but it’s very heavily implied that Faust has been raping her. Like, for months. Black Adam tracks them down, frees Isis, and knocks Faust around a little, then it’s (again) implied that Isis, um, tears his manly bits off. And she wants revenge on the whole world, so she and Black Adam break into the Rock of Eternity, beat the stuffing out of Billy Batson in his grey-haired wizard Captain Marvel phase, and take away his powers.

Verdict: I’m gonna thumbs-down this one. There’s way too much rape and junk-ripping in more adult-oriented comics without dragging it into the Justice Society’s book. Could the same result (Isis wanting revenge on the world and attacking Captain Marvel) have been accomplished without pointlessly and gratuitously subjecting more characters to rape and torture? Oh, you betcha.

Wonder Woman #28

An injured Wonder Woman mobilizes her Gorilla City allies, Nemesis, Wonder Girl, and Donna Troy in the fight against Genocide. Much hitting occurs. Much, much hitting. Mixed with some angst. But mostly hitting.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Bored now.

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The Black Dossier

I know this has been out there forever, but I only managed to grab this one after Christmas, thanks to some handy and much appreciated gift certificates. So what the heck, let’s review it.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier

This picks up several decades after the last episode of the entirely classic “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. (And if you haven’t read that yet, you really, really should. If all you know of “LoEG” is that awful Sean Connery movie, then excise all memories of that pile of cinematic dreck and go read the comics, ’cause they’re really cool.)

Aaaanyway, it’s 1958, Big Brother’s dictatorship from George Orwell’s “1984” has just fallen, and Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain are still kicking around England. Thanks to an encounter with the “Fire of Youth,” both are now basically immortal. They’re after a book called the Black Dossier, that includes the complete, secret history of their League, as well as the Leagues that came before and after.

While most of the main story is told through traditional comic illustrations, the material from the Black Dossier is, for the most part, recounted in straightforward text. These include a lengthy comic strip focusing on the life of Orlando (the immortal gender-swapping swashbuckler from Virginia Woolf’s novel); a “Fanny Hill” sequel; a short story written in the style of the ’50s beat writers; a Tijuana Bible about life and sex in Big Brother’s England; and a comedy combining P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Bertie Wooster with H.P. Lovecraft’s cthulhoid horrors. There’s also an actual pair of 3-D glasses to go along with the extended 3-D sequence at the end of the story.

Verdict: Well, I’ll give this a thumbs up, partly because I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to thumbs-down an Alan Moore story, and partly because I thought “What Ho, Gods of the Abyss?”, the Jeeves and Wooster story, was extremely funny. But yeah, this story has some severe problems. There’s vastly too many folks running around without their clothes on — sure, there’s an awful lot of classic literature that’s pretty wildly bawdy (like, fer instance, almost all of Shakespeare’s plays), but “The Black Dossier” really does desensitize you to sex and nudity after just a little while. (“Oh, look, it’s Mina without any clothes on. Oh, look, it’s Fanny Hill without any clothes on. Oh, look, it’s Orlando without any clothes on. Oh, look, it’s a Tijuana Bible. Oh, look…”)

In addition, several of the text pieces were really difficult to read, partly because of formatting issues (Paragraph indents, Mr. Moore! And less single-spaced stuff, please!) and partly because they’re not all that well-written — “The Crazy Wide Forever,” written in the style of Jack Kerouac, was almost unreadably awful.

All the stuff drawn from “1984” was a bit of a setting breaker, too, frankly. I just can’t buy into the idea that England would transition so quickly from a fairly normal society, to a crushingly autocratic dictatorship, and then back to a normal society in such a short space of time. The Ingsoc from “1984” wasn’t a government that was going away any time soon, and the concept of doublespeak wasn’t something that would allow a normal, well-adjusted society to occur, in any case.

And finally, one of the characters who shows up at the end is a giant Golliwogg doll. If you’re not familiar with those, they were blackface minstrel ragdolls. Why is there a racist doll running around England with an airship? I got no idea. And it really pulls you straight out of the story. You’re reading along, you’re in an exciting chase sequence, and then, hello, racist stereotype doll! What the frackin’ frack?! Weren’t there any other popular children’s toys in England in the late 1950s? Winnie the Pooh, maybe? Peter Cottontail? Betsy-Wetsie? Madame Freakin’ Alexander dolls?

I really do think this is my least favorite of all of Moore comics, and I’ve read a ton of ’em. But even with that caveat, I still think it’s probably worth reading.

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Being Human


This weekend, I was really, really wishing I lived in the U.K. I learned about a show that airs on the BBC that I really, really wish I could watch — but you can’t even watch episodes on the BBC’s website if you live on this side of the Atlantic.

“Being Human” is a horror/drama/comedy about three housemates — Mitchell is a vampire, George is a werewolf, and Annie is a ghost. Mitchell’s a bit of a playa, but he’s on the outs with the rest of the local vampire population because he’s trying to quit drinking blood. George is a completely awkward geek who had to quit his job and flee his family when he found out he turned into a monster every full moon. Annie is extremely insecure and nervous about even leaving the house she died in because she worries she’ll fade away. And while it does have comedic elements, there’s a good bloody splash of horror, too, and it really seems like a very dark show, especially considering the local vampires’ plans for the human population and George’s painful, bone-cracking transformations.

In other words, this show was made for me.

There was a pilot episode on the BBC last February that got so much positive response from viewers that they decided to give it a full season, although they also replaced most of the cast members. You can see the pilot episode on YouTube, along with a few trailers and the highly recommended and very spooky “prequels” for the three main characters.

Anyway, it sucks that I won’t be able to see any more of this show ’til the BBC releases it on DVD in the US. But when they do, bam, I’m snagging this one, job or no job.

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All Hail the Blue Beetle!


Blue Beetle #35

The next-to-the-last issue of “Blue Beetle.”

After Jaime takes out a bunch of Ted Kord’s old rogues gallery, he heads off to a high school dance with his date, smokin’ hot magic girl Traci 13. And of course, the festivities get broken up by more villains — in this case, the Khaji-Da Revolutionary Army, a bunch of aliens wearing Reach armor like Jaime’s. They were all freed from the Reach’s mental control when Jaime destroyed the Reach a while back. Now they’re roaming the galaxy fighting against oppression. They want Jaime to lead them in the battle against oppression on Earth, which includes everyone from China and North Korea, to the United States and the Justice League. When Jaime tells them he’s not down with that, they don’t respond very well.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of fun stuff here, including some nice spotlights for the outstanding supporting cast. Paco supports a pantsless society, by the way. Just one more issue to go, and I’m really going to miss this series.


Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #7

Loki is trying to turn Thor, in his civilian guise as Donald Blake, into a snake by enchanting the lips of his girlfriend, Jane Foster. If she kisses him, he’ll change into whatever animal is closest to him, and they’re both visiting the zoo’s reptile house. Once Cobra frees all the snakes in the building, things get even more chaotic.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I normally love the “Marvel Adventures” comics, but this one just left me completely flat.


Booster Gold #16

Booster is trapped in Europe during World War I, facing off against the Enemy Ace, one of DC’s more interesting war heroes — he was based on the Red Baron, and though he opposed the Allies, he was considered an extremely honorable and ethical foe.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Enemy Ace is always an interesting character, and it’s fun to see him anywhere.

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