Saturday, June 30, 2007

B&B 2-in-1 Round 18: Sgt. Rock vs. Ka-Zar

Batman keeps up the spread: 6 to 11 against the Thing as Round 18 begins.

In the black corner... we've got Batman and Sgt. Rock, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Neal Adams, Brave and the Bold #84, The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl!

In the orange corner... it's the Thing and Ka-Zar, written by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Ron Wilson and Dan Adkins, Marvel Two-in-One #16, Into the Savage Land!

Pick your side... WWII Europe or the Savage Land in the Antarctic? DING DING DING!

The Stars
The first complete rundown of the DC multiverse I ever read was an essay in ICG's Official Crisis on Infinite Earths Index. It included all the Earths I already knew about, plus a few curious others. One of these was Earth-B, or what we now call the Haneyverse, where stories that defied continuity could be relegated to without a hitch. That essay specifically mentioned the Batman/Sgt. Rock team-up as taking place on Earth-B, because Batman couldn't possibly have been active in WWII, right? Except this was written in 1969, so a story taking place on the eve of D-Day (1944) would only be 25 years away. If Batman is a very mature 45, why couldn't he have been active at age 20? Stretching it a bit, but Haney may just be within his rights to believe the Golden Age Batman to be the same man as the Silver Age Batman. The yellow oval is missing as is proper.
But that's all prologue to one kick-ass Batman adventure. Bruce Wayne is doing his part for the war effort by parachuting into France at the behest of Churchill after the proper agent dies in his arms. Easy Company isn't so keen on bringing this playboy along, but he proves his worth when he does THIS:
After that, the Germans get a good taste of "Ein Fledermausmann", keeping to the shadows and acrobatically screwing their Nazi plans without Easy ever seeing the cowl. It's non-stop action until he blows up a bridge and saves the Rock's life. Oh man, and Batman rides under a tank!
+10 bat-points

Ben Grimm starts this story Mantlo-style, i.e. in the middle of a stunt:
What kind of parachute can break a giant pile of rocks' descent anyway? The slow descent does give him a chance to beat up a pterodactyl though. Yes, he's going to the Savage Land where Reed Richards has detected a chain of volcanoes about to blow simultaneously that could create a ginormous tsunami. Reed's not risking the lives of the Fantastic Four on this one, he just sends Ben. Next up: An allosaurus! And a fat one too.
I like a hero who knows his paleontology. Oh yeah, one more thing:
OTAC! One Thing Army Corps! +9 points

The Guests
Sgt. Rock isn't too sure about this "Fancy Dan" he's being forced to take on, and he seems pretty worried that his mission might be "goofed" by Bruce or even by his own men. The Rock don't take no crap though, no matter how long you've served with him.
He does his job, but it's mostly Batman's show here. The comic postulates that the Sarge survived the war and he appears in a present day sequence where he knocks a Nazi out. If you're wondering, he's still in the army and is stationed in Europe. In Wayne's own words: "Tough, indestructible! Uncle Sam's got nothing to worry about with men like him defending America!" +4 bat-points

Ka-Zar and his pet sabertooth Zabu are obviously going to be involved if we're traipsing around the Savage Land. Sure enough, he shows up all savage-like, with a knife between his teeth, hampering in no way his ability to communicate.
he prompty kills the allosaurus with that knife and then screams out his bloodlust. Ben's opinion: "Wotta set o' lungs!" He later uses his Tarzan yodeling to part a rampaging sea of mammoths spooked by a volcano eruption. It's stuff like that you never saw Mark Waid's Ka-Zar do. +7 points

The Villains
Nazis! Batman fights Nazis. Specifically, a WWI reject (complete with monocle) called Von Stauffen. Ratzi's just begging to get the stauffen beat out of him. Oh! Oh! I kill myself, I am such a wit! Ok, enough of that. Von Stauffen's scheme is to bottle nerve gas in a winery to later release it on our troops. Can Batman and Sgt. Rock save D-Day? Von Stauffen's biggest problem seems to be his own men filching bottles to drink, so he wasn't MUCH of a threat. +4 bat-points

Dinosaurs! The Thing fights dinosaurs. But they're not the real enemy here. Rather, it's "V for Volcanus" and his merry band of Numbered Guys. They've got a vehicle with BIG TIRES!
And lasers that sometimes work on the Thing! And they eventually capture the heroes and put them in a cage above a volcano! V's plan is to use volcanic energy to give himself powers, but when Ben pulls on the cage's chain, it topples a rig and V falls into the lava. "For once a super-villain has died before he was born." Well played, Mantlo, well played. +6 points

Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-Ok, Neil Adams is a great artist and this issue is full of great, great stuff. And yet, I'm giving bonus points for the one page he DIDN'T draw.
Yes, that's the legendary Joe Kubert on his beloved Sgt. Rock. No one draws war comics like Kubert. +2 bat-points
-Haney's a bit proud of himself as narrator: "And as they call, "They'll never top this one,' goes echoing down the halls..." He's kind of right so only -1 bat-point

From Marvel Two-in-One:
-There's a lot of unnecessary blurbage on the splash page. They comment on an alternate title they didn't use, then segue into the credits, and then "Oh, by the way, this is also titled PART ONE!" and when you think it's over, there's a reference as to where the story fits into continuity. Sheesh. -1 point
-It's a pet peeve of mine when the Earth is drawn badly. Ron Wilson should have been sent to remedial geography class.
-2 points

Farewells and Scoring
Though Sgt. Rock will never know Bruce Wayne's real name or the Batman's involvement that day, the two men part as brothers in arms.
No, thank YOU, Batman. +3 bat-points

Ben and Ka-Zar don't get a farewell, friendly OR unfriendly. Though it is the final goodbye for wannabe-Volcanus.
+0 points

It's not for lack of trying, but Ka-Zar loses this bout to Sgt. Rock 19 to 22! If only the lord of the hidden jungle had just turned to the Thing and say "you suck" or something. So close! That puts Batman even more ahead at 6-12.

Songs of the Time Lords

In last week's Doctor Who episode, The Sound of Drums, the Master used Voodoo Child by the Rogue Traiders as his theme song. As Dorian at PostmodernBarney says, planning the apocalypse with that level of detail is pure evil.



My thought: Wouldn't it be cool if the Rogue Traiders had let RTD use two of their songs? In the last episode (airing tonight), Last of the Time Lords, maybe the Doctor could have a theme song too?

Star Trek 204: The Host

204. The Host

FORMULA: Transfigurations + Too Short a Season

WHY WE LIKE IT: First appearance of the Trill (such as they are).

WHY WE DON'T: They're nothing like the Trill we'll see in Deep Space 9. And more besides...

REVIEW: A second doomed romance in a row? I'm not sure that was a good idea. And while I love Crusher as a character, and want more episodes to spotlight her, I simply can't support yet another sappy romance with a mysterious and ethereal alien character. Odan is just John Doe with a slug inside him, isn't it? And then, the host body dies, and it turns into some kind of fanfic, with Beverly bedding Riker. Why not jump hosts every 15 minutes and do the whole crew, Bev? It certainly doesn't help that Frakes doesn't really differentiate Odan and Riker. I kept thinking that Riker was just taking advantage of her.

The Host might've been a good "historical" episode if you want to see where the Trill began, but they've got almost nothing in common with the joined species presented in Deep Space 9, so it's actually better ignored. Different make-up (including the symbiont itself), different attitude towards the host body and the changing of hosts, the beaming danger, the amazing inflatable stomach (imagine Dax doing that), Starfleet's familiarity with them... You'd rack up the no-prizes trying to explain it all. The words are the same, but that's it.

This leaves us with character moments, such as Picard's discomfort when he realizes Beverly's in love with someone else (very different from her attitude when she meets Vash, so it seems he's the only one who can't resolve his feelings). Troi seems much more evolved when she throws Crusher into Riker/Odan's arms. The two "girl talk" scenes fall flat for me, especially the "comedy" version in the salon. And then Crusher cops out of girl-on-girl action. It's 40 minutes of gossiping, crying and melodramatic music, occasionnally punctuated by what might have been interesting negotiations. Better luck next time, Doctor Crusher.

LESSON: Don't forget to vet your new boyfriend before taking him to your parents. If it takes invasive surgery to do it, then that's what it takes.

REWATCHABILITY - Low: I thought for sure The Host would make it to Medium, but it doesn't. It's derivative, mushy and strident.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Cap in your ass

You know, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Captain America stories from Tales of Suspense were little more than 10-page fights, but for some reason, they're works of genius anyway. I could draw from Essential Captain America volume 1 for all Friday Night Fights from now on and never feel like I could be kayoed. Not even by the Great Bahlactus himself!

Let's take a given situation: Captain America has been captured and his feet have been tied together. Uh-oh!!!Little known fact: Cap could have ripped off Iron Man's helmet at ANY TIME and delivered an Aparo Batman Explosive PunchTM. He just chose not to.
Cap can take 'em all on. Pile up?...
...Just an opportunity to beat up more guys all at once!
Cap is trained in many styles from around the world:
Did I mention Explosive Fists of Fury? Oh, I did? Ok, bears repeating, don't you think?
And when it's all over...
...Cap sits down with a good book.
He even READS intensely! HARDCORE!!!

Tagged by the Hypnoray AND Again With the Comics

Damn it. Joncormier AND Brian Hughes have both tagged me with the "8 Things People Don't Know About You", a meme that entails just what it sounds like it does, and then I have to tag 8 more people (give or take 7). I'm fessing up to hidden depths of geekery.

1. I've played in two Star Trek PBEMs (Play By EMail rpgs), but I've since forgotten the names of the ships. I'd certainly give a shout-out if I remembered or had any archived messages.

2. To procure my one missing issue of Son of Ambush Bug, I traded the issue of Spectacular Spider-Man that first starred the Spot. I have regretted this loss ever since.

3. I collected Masters of the Universe action figures a little too far into my teens. My mom has since gotten rid of them all.

4. Back when it was new, I busted 1,000,000 points on Activision's Demon Attack and the points clocked back to zero. This was before saved games and the term "carpal tunnel syndrome".

5. The total number of girls I've role-played with is 8. That number goes up to 14 if I count LARPs (no Vampire the Masquerade either). Sadly, if you only count the last 10 years, the number goes down to 1, and exactly once.

6. When I was in high school, I used to keep a running list of every mutant that ever appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics. When I'd talk to someone, they would get the powers of the next mutant on the list, and I'd keep both lists (mutants and people) in mind as a mnemonic exercise. Pretty soon, it felt like I was going to Mutant High. I had Professor X's powers.

7. Only two people in the entire world own a set of a card game I painstakingly created based on the film Waking Life, and I'm not one of them.

8. I liked the Elektra movie.

Now I'll send this virus over the French Zone, tagging the first 8 bloggers in my "Friend's" category. Maybe it'll give BassBlog something to post on Wednesdays. Just remember, I didn't start this, I'm only finishing it.

Star Trek 203: Half a Life

203. Half a Life

FORMULA: Manhunt + A Taste of Armageddon + 3 grams of Soylent Green

WHY WE LIKE IT: Lwaxana is actually palatable. More than palatable.

WHY WE DON'T: She's still Lwaxana.

REVIEW: A Lwaxana episode is normally something I dread, and the brow furrows as soon as we catch sight of Picard slinking through the ship uncomfortably à la Qpid. We're in sitcom land again. Majel Barrett has the annoying tendency to over-emote, especially in those telepathic conversations with Deanna. Ugh, if I never see one of those...

But there must be some truth to the idea that great actors bring out the best in lesser ones (something she tried to disprove every time she's in a room with Patrick Stewart), because her work with David Ogden Stiers is the best we'll ever see. His Dr. Timicin is a sad, usually quiet figure, whose euphoria quickly turns to anguish, and it's all done brilliantly. Barrett was never so subtle and grounded as when he refuses to go into her quarters, or at the episode's resolution.

Now, we call this the "euthanasia episode", but it's not really the issue, is it? Timicin isn't ill or otherwise suffering, so it fails as a euthanasia debate. No, it's really about how to deal with an ageing population. It's about retirement homes, health care, the fears of GenXers who will work all their lives to pay for Baby Boomers' pensions while possibly getting none themselves, and the general fear of ageing and becoming irrelevant. Timicin's assertion that before the Resolution, elders would simply try the patience of younger people is harsh, but how far is it from the truth? In the early 90s, this was a concern, but today, there are more people retired than in the work force. And it's only getting worse.

Half a Life makes the case for both sides, it explores the issue without beating the pulpit on one side or the other. In the final analysis, it remains true to the characters and the setting. The Prime Directive ties Picard's hands and he DOESN'T interfere (he's learned his lesson in The Drumhead). Lwaxana truly loves this man and in the end, respects his culture and wishes (too bad that character growth didn't really stick). It's really quite touching, and a twist on the viewer's expectations.

Take note of Michelle Forbes who appears as Timicin's daughter. Sadly saddled with a stupid hairstyle, she's very strong and affecting here, and I can see how this was viewed as her audition piece for the role of Ensign Ro.

LESSON: It's better to make me think than tell me what to think.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Normally, an episode that focuses on guest-stars would be iffy, and a total disaster if one of these were Lwaxana Troi. That it manages to be moving and uncompromising is something of a miracle.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Sound of... Time War History

(Spoilers for The Sound of Drums to follow.)

In the final analysis, I'm unsure about The Sound of Drums, but as part 1 (or in fact, part 1.5) of a finale', I guess it throws enough candy and jeopardy at us to properly get my stomach in a knot for a week while I wait for the end. After all, previous penultimate episodes featured reality show parodies and ghosts on Eastenders, so why was I expecting more?

John Simm's Master has some good moments, but also goes over the top at times (see the Scene I could have done without below). I do give him props for the intense phone conversation with The Doctor, for example. Some have said his performance is akin to Cesar Romero's Joker on the campy Batman series, something it's hard to not give credence to after he gasses the cabinet. New Who just can't play things straight on the Downing Street set.
The biggest piece of candy thrown at us is without a doubt the lovely CGI shots of Gallifrey (seen with its twin suns for the first time). The snow globe citadel is a bit hokey, but it's a great shot. The Master as a little boy may contradict some of the "looming" references in the novels, but not that much, and I did enjoy seeing the original Time Lord costuming from The War Games. Other candy includes (quite literally) the Master's bag of jelly babies. I immediately recognized the plain white bag, and it seems to pay hommage to Tom Baker's idea that he should play the new Master. Also fun is the UNIT helicarrier, a revamped version of the UNIT Mobile HQ (which was a sad bus the last time we saw it).The biggest question being discussed over the Internet is the identity of the Troclofanes, of course. Just who are these floating balls of death? The most interesting theory is that they are Time Lords who programmed the Master with the drumbeat to eventually create a paradox that resurrects them, which will ask the Doctor to choose between humanity and his own species. Lame theories would have these as modified Daleks or Cybermen, or even the Gelth (the voice, the rift). The most depressing theory would have them be the entire population of the parallel universe, converted into Cyberthingies when their Earth suffered heat death, which means Rose is one of those balls. Whatever it is, is has to break the Doctor's hearts. Thing is, none of those really fit the childish attitudes and speech patterns of the Troclofanes, nor do all the theories explain the drums, or the gaps in the Master's knowledge. It's a wait and see situation.What is more interesting to me right now is just what happened during the Time War. We get a few more hints here. The Master was resurrected to act as a (ruthless) soldier, but he ran. The Doctor stayed, but "had to end it". Intriguing. We know the Doctor was the only one to survive (give or take millions of Daleks). We also know he feels immense guilt, which has always mystified me a little since he didn't really get on with his people. But did we mistake that for "survivor's guilt"?

Let's look at the language again: "I had to end it." First person singular. Previously, he's said that he not only saw the Daleks burn, HE MADE them burn. And we also know that Gallifrey and the Daleks burned together. But how? A clue in one of the Master's lines occurs when he asks the Doctor how it felt to see two mighty civilizations burn: "You must've been like God." In Utopia, we get a pointed speech about what happened to Rose in The Parting of Ways, that she looked into the heart of the TARDIS, that if a Time Lord did that, he would become a god, a VENGEFUL god. But Rose was human, bla bla bla.

Does the Doctor know this from experience? Go back to Parting for a minute. When Rose is the Bad Wolf, she sees all that is, was, will ever be, and the Doctor says "That's what I see, doesn't it drive you mad?" Was he the Bad Wolf once? Did it drive him mad? Did it turn him into a vengeful god who could commit genocide on a cosmic scale? I would explain how he alone survived, how he regenerated, how he knew he could take in the vortex energy to save Rose at the cost of his present regeneration, and why he's so reticent to even discuss the Time War. Just a theory, of course.


Other thoughts on The Sound of Drums: 
-On the quick get-out from last week's cliffhanger: I didn't mind at all. Audiences had pretty much figured out that Jack's bracelet was gonna get everyone home, so we didn't really need to linger there, did we?
-UNIT dating takes another hit when 1968 is mentioned in connection with a relevant UN resolution. 1968 is the broadcast date of the first UNIT story, "The Invasion", but was meant to be in a near future. UNIT episodes after it either went along with that or supplied evidence to its being contemporary with the show.
-It seems to be a penultimate episode tradition to give famous closet Whovians a chance to play themselves. As usual, much of it is lost on non-UK audiences, though I of course know who Sharon Osborne is. Look, if I was famous, I'd love to support Saxon or the Cyber-ghosts too, so I'm not gonna gripe for 20 seconds of air time.
-I love hearing the Torchwood theme layered into the show. Here's hoping these Captain Jack appearances will remind Torchwood writers of his true personality.
-Scene I could have done without: Among the Master's worst excesses is the "funny/serious" faces he pulls in the cabinet room. I don't mind him played as a hip Doctor-like verbal whirlwind or even chuckling at the Teletubbies, but that went a bit too far into the ridiculous.
-Favorite line: "I do what I like." I love Martha's strength. She's not the kind of companion to just stand there and look gorgeous.
-The Ghost of Rose: Better not have gone through the rift and started snicker-snakking the world's population at the end there.

Last of the Time Lords (a title that works with the Time Lord resurrection theory, at least) is in only a few days and I can't wait, even if I have the sneaking suspicion the paradox machine will be used to wipe the story from continuity. Still, does the cannibalization of the TARDIS coupled with UNIT's return signal a new Season 7 in which the Doctor is trapped on Earth? Even if Earth's future is assured, Series 1 and 2 both had serious repercussions on Doctor Who. I'm certainly giving RTD the benefit of the doubt.

 
Bonus Doctor Who content

PostmodernBarney offers up a Music Video Stream of Consciousness (Doctor Who Edition). Thanks, Dorian!

Steve Flanagan at Gad, Sir! Comics! lends credence to my theory. Thanks for the researched references Steve!

Commissioner Gordon of Two Worlds

The Siskoid Crisis continues (I would never be so deluded as to call it the Final Crisis, but egocentric? sure) and worlds are still being weeded out. Meanwhile, on Earths 95 and 9:
Earth-95: Batman has a gun, and he shoots the mother of his child, Talia! By allowing this, Commissioner Gordon-95 has doomed his world to perdition. SO HAVE THE MONITORS SPOKEN!

Earth-9: Commission Gordon kills the Batman. If there's one thing Elseworlds has taught us, it's that an Earth without a Batman cannot stand. SO THE MONITORS HAVE SPOKEN!

Star Trek 202: The Drumhead

202. The Drumhead

FORMULA: Court-Martial + Coming of Age + Reunion

WHY WE LIKE IT: It's always great when Picard gets righteous.

WHY WE DON'T: So where's Troi THIS week?

REVIEW: It's hard to go wrong when Picard plays the advocate, but The Drumhead would work half as well without an actress that has the chops necessary to take on Patrick Stewart. Jean Simmons has them, and soon enough you're watching one of those modern lawyer shows where no one can trust anyone, and dirty tricks come out of left field. But the episode is also a taut political thriller.

In the great Star Trek allegory, the Drumhead is McCarthyism in action, and Romulan is just another word for communist (or today, it's the Patriot Act and terrorists). There's an avowed spy (with a cool mode of encrypting intel), possible sabotage, and suspicions laid at the feet of the innocent. Just to raise the stakes, Satie's investigator appeals to Worf's inner Nazi and turns him into a willing participant in a witch trial... until he himself is betrayed. It's a good show for Worf overall, from his quick attack on J'Ddan in the teaser to his realization that he let his Klingon heart get the best of him.

But the star is really Picard. Patrick Stewart gets the unenviable task of making speeches throughout, but he always makes them interesting, always makes us believe it's more than just a writer's words. When Satie starts questionning how the past episodes reflect on his competence and loyalty, we know the truth, but it's still an excellent nod to continuity (anyone else try to find the 9 times he broke the Prime Directive?). When she opens the wound of his Borg assimilation, it really hurts, and that's when he goes on the offensive with her father's own words. Great moment. One of many for Picard.

The mystery of the sabotage is solved with technobabble, but here it works. First, it's not the point of the story, and second, it makes Satie's inquiry even more dubious, even more paranoid. I must mention the noose she wears around her neck, a lovely and subtle piece of design. Everyone was doing their best in this one.

LESSON: A "bottle show" doesn't have to be boring.

REWATCHABILITY - High: With no effects (except stock footage) and only one new set (the inquiry room, as modified from the computer core in Evolution I think), The Drumhead stands up thanks to great writing and acting. One of the best episodes this season.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lawsuit Pending

Let it be known that any similarities between the comics in this post and Archie......Casper the Friendly Ghost...
...and Dennis the Menace...
...are purely coincidental.

Star Trek 201: Qpid

201. Qpid

FORMULA: Encounter at Farpoint + Captain's Holiday + Spectre of the Gun

WHY WE LIKE IT: "I am NOT a Merry Man!"

WHY WE DON'T: Annoying guest characters... TOGETHER AT LAST! Add Lwaxanna Troi and you have a perfect storm of iritation.

REVIEW: What Vash and Q have in common is that they are major pains in Captain Picard's life. So bringing them together is a recipe for entertainment, yes? Well, no. I'm not a big fan of Vash, I've said so before. Q, for his part, can be hit and miss. But let's take them one by one:

I think was nags me about Vash so much is that as written, everyone must immediately be attracted to her. Picard, Riker, Worf, Sir Guy, even Beverly fall under her spell. Is she emitting pheromones I can't smell through my tv screen or what? I just don't see it. She's nowhere near as charming, sexy or charismatic as everyone seems to think she is. And that's a problem. If I don't buy the chemistry between her and Picard, I don't buy the premise. And I don't.

After 12 minutes of ridiculous sitcom squirming where nothing happens, enter Q. He's out to repay a debt to Picard by "helping" him somehow (it's a funny moment when Riker responds by alerting the crew). Q works least when he's just a nuisance because he tends to be as annoying to the audience as he is to Picard. His choice of good deed is to reconcile Vash and Picard after they've had a spat... Spare me.

We're then plunged into the world of Robin Hood, and yes, there are a couple of good jokes, especially for Worf (merry man, the mandolin), but the rest is very ordinary. There's something to be said about Q not figuring on Vash skanking it up to save her skin and Data using one of his components to cause an explosive diversion, but it all devolves into a fight where the girls smash pots on guards' heads (so what's the use of a helmet, then?). Let's just say I wasn't sad to see Vash go into the great beyond with Q at the end.

LESSON: Qpid sounds like Stupid.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: I've been a little hard on this one, but it's not THAT bad. There is some humor to it, and it moves along without ever being dull, but it's highly ridiculous fluff.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Showcase Presents... the DC Universe

With some 30 Showcase Presents and Marvel Essential collections on my shelves, I've now given up hope of reading any of them all the way through in one go (unless I'm actually doing a running feature on one). My reading strategy is to instead read one story a night, switching books every night. It's like living in a limbo time between 1958 and 1972 where comics were fun and black and white!

But what if DC's total monthly output today corresponded to the titles released under Showcase Presents? You'd be buying 23 comics a month (with more on the way):

Aquaman: A series dedicated to one of my favorite heroes, bar none (get it? bar? sandbar? ok, never mind). It's got to have Topo and plenty of finny friends. And it's gotta be the REAL Aquaman.

Atom: Search for Ray Palmer? In the Showcase universe, he never went anywhere. As per the Silver Age version, its strength would be the possibilities of size-changing and the pure evil that is Jean Loring.

Batman: What would the DCU be without the Dark Knight?

Brave and the Bold: Just like it is now, please!

Challengers of the Unknown: An adventure series that need not dip into superheroics, but that still has to be over the top. The crazier the better.

Elongated Man: A detective series starring... well, it could star the Dibny ghosts, that's fine. But make sure Ralph's ectoplasm is stretchy.

Flash: Whether Barry or Wally is wearing the mask, mad scientific concepts and an excentric rogue's gallery should be the focus.

Green Arrow: GA without trick arrows isn't GA. Bringing him back to these roots would mean playing him as Batman with a bow, and that's fine. Oliver Queen would make a nice bubbly counterpoint for Bruce Wayne.

Green Lantern: An exciting SF superhero series starring Hal Jordan and his photogenic butt. It strikes me that many of these comics had fun with different twists on the Superman/Lois relationship. Hal needs to get every girl except the one he wants (Carol).

Haunted Tank: An exciting WWII series starring everyone's favorite piece of moving artillery. Plenty of technical detail and verisimilitude tempering high action and the supernatural.

Hawkman: Reboot the Hawks once and for all as alien police and DC's sexiest couple. And you have to throw as much money at Joe Kubert as possible so he'll draw it.

House of Mystery: An horror anthology series by today's top writers and artists (maybe the Vertigo folk doing their best work for all ages audiences) with some macabre but funny gag strips as well.

Jonah Hex: We get to keep everyone's favorite western series.

Justice League of America: Make it star all the big guns, and make the stories high concept. If that sounds like Morrison's JLA, well, that's what it sounds like.

Legion of Super-Heroes: But which version? I don't really care, but a member of the Superman family should probably co-star.

Metamorpho: A funky superhero comedy reestablishing Rex as an important player in the DC Universe.

Phantom Stranger: Come on, tell me you wouldn't like the Stranger starring in his own series. And with Doctor Thirteen back-ups just like in Showcase Presents.

Shazam!: The modern equivalent is Jeff Smith's recent mini-series. It would be great.

Superman: Soap opera would give way to high concept craziness in the Silver Age mode, so it would basically be All-Star Superman. It's actually a direction I wouldn't mind the actual Superman books taking.

Superman Family: More of the same, except starring Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. The All-Star Jimmy, not Countdown Jimmy.

Teen Titans: For it to work, you really need to showcase sidekicks and younger versions of the big guns. Robin and Wonder Girl make sense. To match the original roster, how about the new Aquagirl and a resurrected Impulse? It's got to have a crazy teen-beat feel to it, not unlike the WB cartoon. And they only help teenagers.

Unknown Soldier: Another war series? Yes, this one more in the spy mode. You could even set it in the present day, or throughout the 20th century, and it would still work.

War That Time Forgot: Nazis + dinosaurs = Instant commercial success. At least in my mind. In today's market, there'd probably be recurring characters, but as long as you could reproduce Khaniger's crazy action, it wouldn't even matter.

Now, looking at this, there's a definite lack of women and minorities. Yeah, it's a problem. Though in the coming months, DC would launch Wonder Woman and Batgirl, in addition to Adam Strange, Metal Men, Martian Manhunter, Captain Carrot, Batman and the Outsiders, Atomic Knights, and Who's Who.

On Earth-47 anyway.

Star Trek 200: The Nth Degree

200. The Nth Degree

FORMULA: Hollow Pursuits + Where No One Has Gone Before + Where No Man Has Gone Before + Spock's Brain

WHY WE LIKE IT: Barclay episodes are generally fun and this one's no different.

WHY WE DON'T: Did they have to end it on a note of psychobabble and a cheap joke?

REVIEW: Barclay's back! This is good for two reasons: 1) His first appearance was a great episode and 2) while it's accepted fact that a guest-star playing a crew member is always somewhere on the ship, it's so rare that we actually see them. So though Barclay appears here, where is he usually? Night shift? But let's let that go. We have him, let's enjoy him.

And we do. We get just enough of the jittery Barclay before he becomes "like everyone else on board", a progression that's well played by Dwight Schultz. By the time he becomes a human computer (complete with shockingly cool laser show), the episode enters 2001 territory, or was I the only one reminded of HAL 2000 as Geordi was working the Jeffries tubes? In a final twist, the reason he takes over the ship is totally benign (even cute), and it was great to see Picard go from pissed to excited explorer mode in 1 second flat.

Because that's one of the good things about The Nth Degree: Even if it centers on a guest-star, the main cast isn't ignored. Geordi was always going to be heavily featured, but more interesting is Beverly, showing interest in the arts again. I have to say that the scenes Barclay is given to perform are perfectly chosen. Cyrano COULD be played as flustered when meeting Roxanne at breakfast (though maybe not that self-conscious about his wig), so it's not like Barclay's nervous tics are ruining the scene. Later, the moon fantasy not only plays with Star Trek's genre, but also includes the line "What is he doing among us" which speaks to Barclay's character specifically.

Data's critical opinions, Worf being teased, Riker getting jealous over Barclay hitting on Deanna... And yes, the hint of a romance between the shy lieutenant and the counselor (in that blue dress? I'd be very tempted as well) which sadly never really amounted to anything. It is sweet though, so this is a (surprisingly) strong episode for Troi.

LESSON: N = a lot.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Almost makes you wish Barclay was featured more often, maybe like Deep Space 9's guest-stars were (that cast was a lot bigger than the opening credits let on). Fun and still surprising.

Monday, June 25, 2007

How Tintin is like Hal Jordan

Wait for it...
Wait...It's coming...Waiiiiit... Oh, oh! We're almost there!
And there we have it: Hit in the head by a ceiling tile.
All brain damage from a single source: Le Crabe au Pinces d'Or by Hergé.

Star Trek 199: Identity Crisis

199. Identity Crisis

FORMULA: A Matter of Perspective + The Man Trap + This Side of Paradise + some cool UV rays

WHY WE LIKE IT: Cool invisibility effects and black light make-ups. An interesting use of the holodeck.

WHY WE DON'T: The plot is nonsense.

REVIEW: A Geordi story based in MEDICAL technobabble? Yes indeed! TNG seems to have trouble doing mysteries properly, and it's really because they hinge on technobabble solutions. Just as with Dr. Apgar's death was by an automated particle beam's hand in A Matter of Perspective, the crew of the Aries disappears by virtue of a strange virus. The audience can't participate in the mystery's solving because it's all too technical and, face it, arbitrary. This is a shift from TOS which had better mysteries (The Conscience of the King, Court-Martial) because they were based on human motivations.

And the technobabble is fairly nonsensical here. A species that reproduces by changing the DNA of another into its own? That seems entirely too dependent on other humanoids coming to planet Tarchannen, doesn't it? You also have to accept that DNA can be spontaneously rewritten (giving you magical mittens in less than a second), and that Susanna can magically know everything about their biology after being returned to normal. Or even that Geordi would refuse Data's help on a scientific inquiry.

Despite it all, Identity Crisis possibly stands as the best Geordi episode of all time (sad as that is to say). His characterization is still stuck on being unlucky in love, as shown in an on-point conversation between him and his "big sister" Susanna. Is it me, or is there an awkward moment there when it looks like Geordi is trying to muster enough courage to hit on her? He's so pathetic, I think it would be totally keeping in character for him to have had a big crush on his "big sister". Hey, at least she hugs him while he's naked, right?

The simulated "crime scene" in the holodeck provides a creepy moment, though it would have been a whole lot more chilling if they'd dispensed with all the computer screen investigation beforehand. Note that we never see away teams being filmed elsewhere. Not much for the other regulars to do, though they get small moments. Data strongly motivated to solve the mystery, Crusher bringing this admission out of him (for some reason I really like the moment where she drinks water, something real and human in an otherwise technological story), Picard allowing Geordi not to sit it out.

And that invisibility effect is pretty cool (Predator, call your lawyer).

LESSON: Ultraviolet isn't just for funky dance parties!

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The human elements are watchable, though you have to suffer through [TECHNOBABBLE] altogether too much. And if another failed romance for Geordi, at least things are left unsaid.