Saturday, January 31, 2009

Spaceknight Saturdays: Stairway to Heaven

WARNING!

THEY'RE STILL AFTER OUR CHILDREN!!!

The Dire Wraiths, I mean.

I confess that I'm a little eager for the "Earth is aligned with the Dark Nebula so let's turn the children into Wraith pawns" storyline that's been going on for the better part of the last 6 issues. but it looks like things are finally coming to a head.

I'm not saying that because I'd like more variety. I'm saying it for Rom. This thing has really taken its toll on the poor Spaceknight.
Well, the kids thing AND the fact he can never have Brandy Clarke (more on her at the end of this post, Brandy fans - mmm, brandy, that would hit the spot, be right back... ok, hi again). Rom desperate needs to get some, cuz he guy is getting suicidal.
Oh ouch. Trying to kill yourself is bad enough (don't do it, kids, it's not worth it), but botching it? That's even worse. You know, the only reason I find the attempt acceptable here is that Rom is a tragic hero in the classical sense. A Chorus, hubris, gouging out your eyes with your mum/wife's broach, Tragedy with a capital T, y'know? Or to our modern ears: A drama queen.

One thing still manages to snap our boy out of it, and that's the sweet, sweet voice of Julie Andrews.
Or Lez Zeppelin. Whichever. The piper, in this case, isn't the devil, but might as well be. He's a Dire Wraith who's taken on the form of the Pied Piper of Hamlin to pipe children out of their beds and into a massive wormhole!
He doesn't mean to send them to the Dark Nebula, but rather to free the demonic embodiement of the Wraith Sun itself, a creature quite able to turn the kids into a Wraith pawn army. And it's really ugly too. Consider it Bonus Nightmare Fuel for the week.
So after zapping the Piper but good, Rom throws himself at the demon and into the hole. That's where it gets a bit... squishy.
Will he finally put an end to this godforsaken plot?

Meanwhile, back in Clairton, there's another Dire Wraith playing dress-up. Yep, supervillain Dr. Dredd is in actuality in Wraith Warlock. Why the disguise that isn't really a disguise? Who knows? And what's he doing with naked Brandy there?
He's gonna make her do the beast with two backs with the Starshine armor while her paralyzed fiancé watches!
Bill Mantlo, I didn't know you were this dirty-minded! Of course, if I was Dr. Dredd, what I would do is, first not be Dr. Dredd, and second, steal the armor and put it on somebody evil. But maybe Brandy's desire is part of the spell or something, and once she's in the suit, she's perfectly under his control. As the Torpedo soon learns! So he's out and Rom is overseas AND overgalaxies. What's next?

This:
I so love that title.

Star Trek 785: A World Against Itself

785. A World Against Itself

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #55, Gold Key Comics, September 1978

CREATORS: Arnold Drake (writer), Alden McWilliams (artist)

STARDATE: 72:35:3 - Follows issue #50.

PLOT: The crew is asked to settle a dispute between two warring peoples on the same planet, a world where a band of radiation used to keep them separated and evolving separately. On one side, telekinetic savages; on the other, science-worshiping midgets. Spock and Scotty beam down, are captured by the midgets and forced to undergo brain-enlarging techniques before they are allowed to help. Something goes wrong, and while Scotty is made smarter, Spock is turned into a savage. Both want to kill the other and so the become generals to the two armies. Kirk resolves the conflict by making them fight each other hand to hand until the effects wear off, and then both populations decide peace is a better answer.

CONTINUITY: None.

DIVERGENCES: The comic series keeps casting Scotty in the role of a man who puts no trust in science, which is surely a mischaracterization of the chief engineer.

PANEL OF THE DAY - A good Starfleet goosing.
REVIEW: Behind a lame cover with a stupid typo sits a lame story. Two of our heroes are essentially other people through most of it, and the quick resolution to the dilemma is highly dubious. No, not dubious... ludicrous. Shame, because the premise behind the planet was an interesting one, and the action is generally dynamic.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Nightmare Fuel: Crustaceous Toddlerpede

Jon Beinart has a few more of these sculptures on show. Check 'em out......if you dare!

Final (Crisis) Thoughts

So it's over. What's changed? We don't know. Not really.

Final Crisis was just about 5 issues too long. Or really, it should have been FC #1, Superman Beyond #1-2, FC #7. Yeah, that sounds about right. The rest is just killing time.

The new model for the DC Universe we thought we were getting is basically this: The Monitors pledge not to interfere anymore. Which sounds like there should be no more crises, but it's not like they caused all the others...

Don't get me wrong, I liked a lot of what I saw in Final Crisis #7. I liked the whole sweeping montage of Earth's heroes' final stand. I liked the 50 Supermen (Sunshine Superman!). I liked the Zoo Crew. I liked that it came all down to a personal story between two Monitors. I liked what Superman wished for from the Miracle Machine. I like that the real Aquaman is back!
It just didn't have any kind of emotional impact because the set-up didn't work. Production issues were only one part of the problem (chronic lateness, a piss-poor lead-in event, rotating artists, inconsequential tie-ins, and possible editorial interference). Morrison should take some knocks as well. He cluttered the story with too many new and irrelevant characters (the Japanese Justice League), made everything important happen in the background, never gave the apparently important Monitors the screen time required to make the ending works, let it all drag in the middle, and to top it all off, wrote a much better "Crisis" in the Superman Beyond tie-in, which frankly made the main story something like a footnote.

Though some of the new status quo is evident and well publicized - Barry Allen and Aquaman are back, the Martian Manhunter is dead - most of it is unknown (have there been ANY changes to the multiverse or the all-important Earth-1's continuity?) or nebulous (did we just see Hawkman and Hawkgirl die? Is the Batman in the cave really "our" Batman and how does that all tie into Battle for the Cowl? What will Legion of 3 Worlds affect the LSH and is it even relevant to Final Crisis?).
Despite the anti-climax of Final Crisis, I can't help but feel excited at the coming month's Omens & Origins titles. Final Crisis didn't really give up the goods on how the universe has changed (if at all), but in a sense, it's good that it'll allow each book's creators to define the new reality for their characters (obviously, I'm not so naive as to think DC Editorial didn't have a say in it - or to believe the effort will actually be coordinated into a coherent whole, sigh).

The one thing on the list that isn't an ongoing title (and I deeply resent that Vigilante gets a O&O tie-in) is Adventure Comics #0. I so wish this was going to star Aquaman, but unfortunately, it reprints Adventure #247, so the new Adventure Comics will be a Legion title. Well, that's good and everything, though I have a couple questions: 1) If it's a new continuity title, why reprint a Silver Age story already avaialble in a number of different formats? 2) Will it effectively spoil the ending of Legion of 3 Worlds by being published before the end of that mini-series is out? And 3) WHAT ABOUT AQUAMAN!!?!*

I leave you on that powerful and pertinent question. Until the next crisis...

*This message has been approved by F.O.A.M. And if not, I'm sure they'll rubber-stamp it.

Star Trek 784: Sport of Knaves

784. Sport of Knaves

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #54, Gold Key Comics, August 1978

CREATORS: George Kashdan (writer), Alden McWilliams (artist)

STARDATE: 3004.8 - Follows issue #47 (after The Tholian Web).

PLOT: As the Enterprise approaches the Federation game preserve planet, an illicit ship escapes from it, leaving a hole in the climate control sphere, which Kirk fixes with Tholian web technology. He then tours the planet to see if any animals are missing. Many of these need - let's say extreme - living conditions.
-1045 indeed! The only missing animals are male Gharian wedding birds who quadruple in size and go into a killing frenzy if separated from the females. Scotty leaps to the natural conclusion - they were taken by criminals from Grotus for cockfighting purposes. Going there undercover, the landing party is beset first by eager hookers and then by hoodlums who go off and warn their leader, Zarcun-5. Spock and Scotty face a nasty bird in the arena. When a female is beamed down, it pacifies the male and the crows jeers, no doubt toppling Zarcun-5's criminal empire.

CONTINUITY: Kirk makes use of Tholian technology...

DIVERGENCES: ...but how he managed to procure it isn't known.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Planet of the gay pirates
REVIEW: Between the gratuitous Tholian element, the asteroid that looks like a planet, and the amazing, size-changing emus, this isn't a story with very strong legs. Again, McWilliams' costume designs are tragically misjudged, with everyone looking like the L'il Rascals all grown up or something. His vehicles are better. At least the plot structure manages to link the various set pieces into a coherent whole. And hey! Kirk, Spock and Scotty running away from beautiful girls! It's one for the slashfic fans.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What If... Spider-Man Had Joined the Fantastic Four?

What If? #1. Where it all started. Man, I'm starting to realize how much Roy Thomas is responsible for my grooving on comics as a teen. He's definitely responsible for my love of Golden Age characters, mostly thanks to his All-Star Squadron (The Invaders just had the worst artwork). And he conceived What If? and wrote the first issue. And so history was written. From the cold open with Uatu the Watcher to the potentially disastrous epic that follows, the format was set down right from the start.

Since this is the first issue, the Watcher goes into a little more detail about parallel universes and alternate futures, going so far as to mention whatever crossover universe allowed Superman versus Spider-Man!

But back to the issue at hand. Surely asking what would have happened if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four couldn't be answered with a high body count... could it? The subject matter seems inocuous enough...

What If? Vol.1 #1 (Feb 1976)
Based on: Amazing Spider-Man #1, and events from ASM #2, and Fantastic Four #13-14.
The true history: Spidey tried to join the FF because he thought they paid well. Since they gave all their cash away to scientific research (i.e. Reed blew it all on his hobbies), he didn't take the job. That, and they were kind of mean to him, buying into J.J.J.'s propaganda.
Turning point: What if Sue Richards spoke up for Spider-Man?
Story type: Hockey trade.
Watcher's mood: Musclebound zombie.
Altered history: Peter Parker unmasks to his new team, the Fantastic Five. Endorsed by Reed Richards, J.J.J. seems to jump on the Spidey-loving band wagon. The Chameleon who should have fought Spider-Man in his first issue instead "lapses into relative obscurity" (oh wait, that happened here too). The new team goes on to face the threats they all would have, but together, as Spider-Man commits his first fashion faux pas by putting a little 5 in his chest spider, and Sue gets to sit out all the cool missions.
But when the Puppet Master makes Namor kidnap her, she winds up choosing him over Reed. Hey, the F.F. doesn't need her, right? Not with the more powerful Spider-Man. So she goes through the DNA-changing machine and becomes Namor's water-breathing Atlantean queen, which Reed hopes will keep the Sub-Mariner mellow.
Books canceled as a result: Well, it doesn't look like an Amazing Spider-Man title would be necessary, but if the Human Torch could get his own solo book in the 60s, so could Spidey. No doubt he was the first to go exclusively solo and be replaced by Medusa or Luke Cage. At least Fantastic Four doesn't have to be retitled. They go back to 4 in a matter of a few issues. No Franklin Richards specials down the line though.
These things happen: Was Spider-Man EVER a member of the FF in the standard Marvel continuity? No, though he was a frequent ally of the Torch's. The Fantastic Four DID become the Fantastic Five, but in the so-called MC2 universe, Spider-Girl's future timeline, which spun out of What If? Vol.2 #105. A middle-aged Spider-Man was not part of its line-up. [De rightly corrects me that "he did team up with Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and the Hulk as a Fantastic Four in FF #347-349. So there.]

So not a massacre. That'll have to wait for a later issue. Refreshing in hindsight, though the changes made don't result in a dramatically different timeline, which is somehow less than satisfying.

Star Trek 783: What Fools These Mortals Be

783. What Fools These Mortals Be

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #53, Gold Key Comics, July 1978

CREATORS: George Kashdan (writer), Alden McWilliams (artist)

STARDATE: 2901.1 - Follows the last issue (Season 3).

PLOT: After the Enterprise saves the USS Pathfinder from the Klingons, everyone but the command staff becomes lazy, caught in the orbit of an unknown planet. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down and are immediately attacked by cannibals, then a cyclops. Spock finds a parallel with Homer's Odyssey, prompting the Olympian gods to appear. The landing party then goes on to face sirens (Kirk's loins cry out for succor), Scylla and Charybdis and a waiting population of hedonistic ancient Greeks. Unable to accept a happy yet subjugated people, Kirk invokes the Prime Directive and has the Enterprise fire at Zeus. The gods leave, sulking, and the Greeks get to choose their own destiny.

CONTINUITY: Aside from the Klingon cruisers that quickly disappear, the Olympians in the story are quite possibly Apollo's brethren...

DIVERGENCES: ...though McCoy acts like they've never met an Olympian god before. Also, photon torpedoes are shot out of the bridge.
PANEL OF THE DAY - Any way the wind blows.
REVIEW: There's a lot of stuff going on in this one, but hardly any plot at all. Where do Pathfinder and the Klingons go? They're just there to fill up pages. Spock makes his leap of logic way too soon, and while the author tries to fit in as many episodes from the Odyssey as possible, he may show his lack of research in using Zeus rather than Poseidon in the villain's role. And the ending hardly makes sense. But for all that, it's an enjoyable couple of minutes with crazy drawings and action. It's got momentum, even if that may be its only redeeming value.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What the If?!?

Digging out an old issue of What If? last week really gave me a taste for the concept, enough so that you can expect some content on the subject. The original series was definitely my favorite, as mostly important moments and origins were used to spin off alternate histories. The second series was far less successful, wasting too much time on how recent crossover events might have turned out differently. As the book became more and more "90s", with gritted teeth, terrible art and Wolverine stories, it even lost its descriptive titles. You knew who was featured, but not what the What If was. It died the death it deserved, but it could have come sooner. What we might call the third series is basically a series of specials, usually based on a recent events, though there is some variety. I've yet to sample any of these, but I've heard that they can sometimes devolve into justifications for unpopular canonical choices.

It's possible that Marvel characters' origins and major historical moments have been exhausted, which is why there are so many What Ifs about the Age of Apocalypse or people joining SHIELD. It's too bad Marvel cornered the market on such stories with that wonderfully evocative title, because I'd LOVE to see a DC What If. There are a LOT of classic moments and origins to explore in the DCU. Elseworlds just aren't the same. Though a few of them HAVE taken the What If tack (like maybe Golden Age or that Superman Annual where the Kryptonians listened to Jor-El), most simply plop the hero into another time and space and retell the legend from that perspective. Even something like Red Son, which seems to ask "What if Superman landed in Russia as a baby?" isn't really a What If, not with the supporting cast and villains re-imagined to fit the Soviet world. (That said, What If also experimented with Elseworld-style stories at times, like having Captain America fight in the American civil war and Daredevil in feudal Japan.)

So for DC What Ifs, you have to look a little harder. That is to say, they're not all in the same place. They still have the largest backlog of "imaginary stories" going. Maybe if they had a Watcher to index the damn things...

What would be your favorite idea for DC What Ifs?

Off the top of my head, I'd try...
What if Supergirl had arrived on time?
What if Martha Wayne had survived?
What if Guy Gardner had been closer than Hal Jordan?
What if Plastic Man had remained a criminal?
What if the Invasion had succeeded?

Your turn!

Star Trek 782: And a Child Shall Lead Them

782. And a Child Shall Lead Them

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #52, Gold Key Comics, May 1978

CREATORS: George Kashdan (writer), Alden McWilliams (artist)

STARDATE: 28:11.5 - Follows the last issue (Season 3).

PLOT: The Enterprise tracks black marketeers to a planet where they have enslaved the stone age inhabitants by addicting them to space-crack. After Kirk has one of his shuttles destroy all of the nasty Capt. Flamm's chemical-mining equipment, he is attacked by the local leader, a super-smart, super-strong and nigh invincible boy. Kirk manages to convince him of his good intentions and Flamm's evil, but the marketeer turns the locals against the young Klwama. But he prevails in the ensuing fight and Flamm must surrender.

CONTINUITY: The Enterprise explores the "Organian Treaty Zone" which makes it sound like stopping the war with the Klingons opened up some territory.

DIVERGENCES: None.

PANEL OF THE DAY - The Ewok Principle
REVIEW: The drug subplot is fairly adult for this series, and there's certainly a lot of joy in seeing Kirk blow the bad guys' stuff up with a simple shuttlecraft. Flamm hasn't a shred of nobility in him, which makes him a limited villain, but still an effective one. Of course, there isn't much of an explanation for Klwana's powers, though I suppose it must be linked to the life-saving chemical his world of filled with. A story that needed to be just a touch longer to really work, though what's there is serviceable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hank Pym Is the New Doctor Who

So I tried Mighty Avengers for Dan Slott mostly, and lo and behold, he's turned Hank Pym into his own version of Doctor Who. Pym's HQ is a "Pym Pocket" in a broom closet, much bigger on the inside. Amadeus Cho makes reference to the TARDIS immediately:And check it out, it's a "magic door" through space-time as well:
We'll see if it can be used to time travel as well (probably not). But it doesn't stop there. He SOUNDS Doctorish:
There also a bit where he says magic is just science he hasn't explained yet, and his knocking "7th smartest person on Earth" Cho back a slot.

And and he's got his own version of the sonic screwdriver:
What does it say about me that I'm going to check up on this series despite the Dark Reign tie-in crap that's bound to accompany it only for this correspondence?

Star Trek 781: Destination Annihilation

781. Destination Annihilation

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #51, Gold Key Comics, March 1978

CREATORS: George Kashdan (writer), Alden McWilliams (artist)

STARDATE: 26:04.4 - Follows issue #38 (Season 3).

PLOT: On its way to an indefinite patrol of a warring system, the Enterprise comes across a planet spewing junk. Investigating, Kirk finds old acquaintance Prof. Osric Whipple, a screw-up scientists who reversed the polarity on his electromagnet by mistake. Kirk saves him from the authorities who are none too pleased and brings him along on his next mission to the twin worlds of Arima and Mazda. These have been in a religious war since they shared the same planet back in the stone age, and both are expecting their god to show up at this time. Well, Whipple turns a tricorder into a transporter and mistakenly winds up on one god's throne, then on the other, which plunges the planets into war. Later, when he attempts to create a force field between fleets, he gets turned into a radio wave and winds up telling both sides to stop fighting. Believing he is their god, they quickly hammer out a treaty and get to stay in the Federation.

CONTINUITY: None.

DIVERGENCES: Well, I sincerely doubt the Federation would have accepted two warring worlds.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Don't fall asleep at Kirk'n'Spock's party.
REVIEW: What the hell!? Though essentially a comedy story with a "nutty professor" type, it's not so much funny as it is silly, especially the level of coincidence and weird science on show. Perhaps at home in a quaint Silver Age Superman comic, but this was made in 1978 when they really should have known better. McWilliams may be showing off his weaknesses in this one, in particular, design. His costumes are horrendous and his original spaceships based on objects he has around the house (it's war between the footrests and the ballpoint pens). Even his Enterprise, usually dynamic, looks rough and unfinished. Deadline problems? A big piece of fluff.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just Soothsayin'

(Spoilers for The Fires of Pompeii and the whole of Series 4 ahead.)After two home-bound adventures, Donna's first trip in time and space brings her and the Doctor to Pompeii, the day before Vesuvius' fateful eruption. Fateful. As in fate. Indeed, the second episode of Series 4 more obviously advances the destiny motif more subtly started in Partners in Crime. If Partners hid it in "coincidence", Pompeii deals with proper "prophecy".

In fact, it's rather an important theme of the 4th series, whether we mean the Ood's self-fulfilled threat, the mythical Eden of The Doctor's Daughter, the inevitable fate of Agatha Christie, the unknowable future of the Doctor in Silence in the Library, the soothsayer in Turn Left, Dalek Caan's mad ramblings in Journey's End, or the prophecies of this episode. Pompeii actually tells us how precognition can be possible in the Whoniverse: "The explosion was so powerful, it cracked open a rift in time. Just for a second. That's what gave you the gift of prophecy. It echoed back..." This isn't far off from the explanation of Gwyneth's powers in The Unquiet Dead, and is exactly the sort of reasoning behind Donna hearing Doctor Blue's heartbeat in The Stolen Earth. And so the beginning sets up the end.

The Doctor's dilemma is part and parcel of this. He calls Pompeii a fixed point in time, in other words, something that should not be changed. He's aware of this and explains the burden of the Time Lords as seeing "what is, what was, what could be, what must not" (similar to The Parting of the Ways) and in the end is forced to make the eruption happen. He and Donna become the direct cause of the eruption, even if the Pyroviles are really to blame. And this is how destiny works for a time traveler. Vesusvius was "destined" to erupt, and yet the Doctor could have prevented it. Things that happen in the future, are nonetheless "destined" to happen. Time seen from the outside is "fixed", even if we're not aware of that part of it. That's how the "future" can have echoes in the "past" - both exist "simultaneously" in a sense. Obviously, since there are non-fixed points, it's a lot more complicated than that...
Though each Series has used foreshadowing to set up its finale (Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Saxon), this one uses actual, true blue oracles to give us what seem like riddles at first, but will come into their own on second viewings. Of the things we're supposed to be watching for...

Dusty Rose: "She is returning." Though you might make the argument this could equally mean Donna being forcibly returned home.
Back problems: "There is something on your back." Obviously Turn Left's giant bug isn't there right now, but Lucius Dextrus foresees its presence.
They call it foreshadowing: "Even the word 'Doctor' is false. Your real name is hidden. It burns in the stars of the cascade of Medusa herself." Obviously a reference to to the site of the finale, but what does it MEAN? How can his name burn in the Medusa Cascade? Well, we find out later that he went there are a 90-year-old youth. When he was still using his real name? Or did the Cascade have something to do with the Time War (reference to burning).

One prediction that was coming true at the time was my own that Donna would be a great companion. Tate is very effective here, hitting the right notes both in comedy and drama. Just like at the end of The Runaway Bride, she sparks the Doctor's compassion. More than a year later, he admits that she was right. He needs someone, someone to humanize him. She's also great on her own, mind you. She befriends Evelina and gathers as much crucial information as the Doctor does, and her anger at winding up about to be sacrificed brings "feisty" to a whole other level.

Yes, there are some weaker elements, like the whole Latin/Celtic translation humor and the Roman sitcom family that at times pull you out of the drama (and yet can be quite enjoyable in the right mindset). Lots of great moment as well, like the Doctor fighting off Pyroviles with a water pistol, the epic proverb duel between him and Dextrus, and the beautiful set design.
(More) things to watch out for
Donna's Destiny: By Journey's End, the Doctor has to be able to say that people all across space and time are singing songs of Donna Noble. At least one family does, as the Pompeii survivors' household gods have been converted into Donna and the Doctor by a TARDIS temple.
They call it foreshadowing: The Doctor and Donna are mistaken for brother and sister and told they look very much alike, prefiguring their DNA exchange in Journey's End.
Are you my mummy?: Breathing in Pyrovile skin flakes results in the oracles slowly turning into stone (and into Pyroviles themselves), another example of the abiogenesis that heralds Doctor Blue's metacrisis. Jeff R. took me to task last week for implying that the transformation motif was always a positive one. He's right, there are also transformations into less forms, but note that the Doctor fights against one type and not the other. The Doctor encourages change, but a specific kind of change.
Where's my planet?: Pyrovillia was "taken" and is now "lost", which is why the Pyroviles left, eventually crashed on Earth and now have no home to return to.
The reference section: "Volcano Day" was of course coined by Captain Jack in The Empty Child, though it would appear he never actually used Pompeii to con anyone or else he would have stumbled upon the Pyroviles and/or been around this episode. It's possible he was there and the Doctor didn't want to tempt a paradox. The Doctor himself previously visited Pompeii in the Big Finish audio The Fires of Vulcan (7th Doctor and Mel), which starts out similarly, but has no Pyroviles. Has this story thus been de-canonized like Human Nature? Well, I guess it's possible that it occurs elsewhere in town. Be a shame to lose it, it does more for Mel than any of her tv stories. The Doctor also mentions his role in Rome burning from The Romans.

Next Monday: Oodles of Ood.

Star Trek 780: The Planet of No Life

780. The Planet of No Life

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #50, Gold Key Comics, January 1978

CREATORS: George Kashdan (writer), Alden McWilliams (artist)

STARDATE: Unknown - Follows issue #46.

PLOT: After picking up a new lieutenant who's only in Starfleet to satisfy his High Command father and not willing to do anything but the barest minimum, the Enterprise comes upon an uninhabitable planetoid that is nonetheless inhabited. It's the Sanoora from issue #41 who created an anti-radiation drug so they could live here. Kirk and the lieutenant take the drug and are invited to the planet, but a violent faction who wants to retake the former homeworld stage a mini-coup and capture the landing party. Without a renewal of the drug, their start to die and their skin starts to go transparent. The lieutenant wants to sell Kirk out, but meanwhile, Spock and McCoy find a way to use the drug to make the planetoid fertile. After a demonstration, cooler heads prevail, but not before the leader of the Returner faction shoots Kirk, whose life is saved by the young lieutenant throwing himself on the beam. Aw, he had what it took all along.

CONTINUITY: A sequel to issue #41, The Evictors.

DIVERGENCES: None, unless you count Uhura's horrible afro.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Who's Bones NOW?
REVIEW: A none-too-bad sequel to The Evictors, though we do have to suffer through a four-page recap (they might as well have pasted in panels from that story). The story manages to redeem Kirk and crew after the original story's blunder, giving the Sanoora a happy ending and the Federation reason. The subplot introduces an interesting dynamic, though we shouldn't be surprised that the guest star is killed. That's par for the course with these one-offs, and too bad too. A simple story, but as far as the Gold Key series goes, not a bad one.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This Week in Geek (19-25/01/09)

Buys

Though I consider myself a Studio 60 man, I finally gave in to peer pressure and grabbed Season 1 of 30 Rock. When my friend Carolynn recommends something, that recommendation has weight, but she's also way into Office Space, so a second opinion is sometimes required. Sniper Ninja Bears' Bass put it thus "well are you an Alec Baldwin fan?" Yes, yes Bass, I am.

Oh, and I also got Jack of Fables vol.4 - Americana. 'Tis the season.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Flipped Six Feet Under Season 5, which means I flipped the whole series. Goodbye television-induced clinical depression! But seriously folks, the last season retains the high level of quality set by the series. The last few episodes are sometimes relentless tear jerkers, but I think it ends beautifully. I mean, that's what *I* would have done too. The season comes with some nice retrospective featurettes and more than half the episodes have a commentary track. The bog boxed set also comes with the two soundtrack albums and a beautiful "In Memoriam" booklet that tells you what happened to the characters after the show's final moments. No peeking! Real spoilers in there!

Cinema: Yes, I actually went to a theater and saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Hey, it's a David Fincher film. And one that really takes its time, though I can't say I was ever bored or restless, even as it hit the 2h45 mark. It's a much more lyrical film than Fincher fans might be used to, and there's plenty of interesting aesthetic choices to keep the alert viewer engaged. The storm cloud/lightning leitmotif alone is enough to make me watch again some time.

 

Someone Else's Post of the Week
A post about Inauguration Day AND a Crisis rip-off? That's exactly what Bully offers up over at Comics Ought to Be Fun. And I hope you're also catching his 365 days of Ben Grimm!

Star Trek 779: Bloodletter

779. Bloodletter

PUBLICATION: Deep Space Nine #3, Pocket Books, August 1993

CREATORS: K.W. Jeter

STARDATE: Between Vortex and Battle Lines.

PLOT: The Cardassians are in an undisclosed space race to claim the other end of the Wormhole and when the crew of Deep Space 9 find out, they attempt to get their own substation there first. Bashir's just arrived quarantine module will be converted for just such a purpose. Meanwhile, a violent Bajoran cult, the Redemptorists, have infiltrated O'Brien's engineering crew. Their hit list includes all the Bajorans who are cooperating with the Federation, most especially Kira. They sabotage the module and their leader stows aboard to kill Kira who, with Bashir, will pilot the substation through the Wormhole. But when its engines break down mid-way, the Prophets take notice. So while Kira fights for her life, Bashir attempts to negotiate safe passage with the Wormhole aliens. Temporally shunted to the very end of the universe, Bashir can reignite the engines without hurting the Prophets, and the Redemptorist leader gets a very violent death indeed. Deep Space 9 also helps by sending an important warning via the racing Cardassian ship, allowing Kira and Bashir to win the day and stake the claim first.

CONTINUITY: Sisko seeks Opaka's advice. The Prophets pull some of the same tricks they do in Emissary. Page 213 has a prophetic line about Sisko still existing in one time.

DIVERGENCES: The Bajorans have a parliament. Odo can perfectly mimic humanoid faces and has his own quarters. The word "Prophet" seems not to be in use, especially odd in Bajorans.

SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK
REVIEW: Religion, politics, and the backdrop of the crew still fixing the station and learning to work together makes Bloodletter fit in quite well with Season 1 despite the divergences listed above. In fact, it's hard to believe the show never used this plot with the Cardassians. Of course, the stuff with the Redemptorists WAS done and more than once, though this was written before the Circle, before Kai Winn and before the Pah-Wraiths. It tends to drag in the thriller sections, but the characters' voices are surprisingly well captured and the featured characters all get to shine (that's everyone but Dax, Quark and the absent Jake). Jeter does an especially sassy O'Brien, and fills in Kira's character with flashbacks to her youth and resistance days. Odo's excellent as well. Just a couple fixes and this thing could easily be canon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spaceknight Saturdays: A Night in the Museum

So we're where two axes of badassery intersect...

Coming from one direction, Rom, Greatest of the Spaceknights. From the other, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.

At the middle point, the Dire Wraiths, trying to resurrect a pharoah princess who just happens to be a Wraith who came down to Earth millenia ago and got mummified alive for her trouble. (Well, she DID kill her adopted father and cause some plagues of Egypt (just not those plagues). Their ceremony involves some brainwashed children, as all their schemes do at this point. It's easy when you have the Jedi mind trick on your side.
And both our heroes are in the museum. At the same time. And together, they battle!

Kung Fu versus mummies!
Yes, you heard me! That's KUNG FU + MUMMIES!!!
Also: Spaceknight versus Knight of the Round Table!
And: Kung Fu versus cavemen!
And of course, a lot of Wraith-fighting too. But while that's going on, the ceremony goes on, and the kids awaken the phalse pharaoh!
Soon enough, our heroes realize she can't be defeated by Rom's neutralizer because she's drawing strength from the kids. Now, I'll say this about Shang-Chi's supporting cast: They're HARDCORE!
(Did I mention I love the inking on this mag? Well I do.) While Rom and the Wraith princess trade energy blasts, it's up to Shang-Chi to upset the balance of power. Museum... museum... what could be helpful?
Oh yeah!!! And in case you thought only his supporting cast was hardcore, let me the say the same about Shang-Chi:
HE'S HARDCORE TOO!!!

A job well done, kids freed, Wraiths dust... Meanwhile, back in Clareton:
That's no-name villain Dr. Dredd turning up out of the blue to turn Brandy into the next Starshine. Stay tuned every Saturday!