Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye Cruel 2009, the Future Awaits!

So what has Science Fiction predicted for us in 2010?

In films...
2010: It's the year we make contact! And turn Jupiter into a second sun! Handy for, you know, global warming and stuff.

District 9: Let's all let a cheer for that alien saucer finally leaving. Been a long, hard 18 years.

On tv...
Doctor Who: A double-decker bus disappears and reappears next Easter, but I don't think we'll notice. Our collective facelift next Christmas, however, is gonna be DISTURBING.

Knight Rider 2010: I've been holding out on getting a driver's permit for this very year, when I can just download my consciousness into a sports car. That's what science has been leading up to all this time.

The Simpsons: Lisa gets married. How old is she, currently? Oh, that's gonna be all kinds of wrong.

In books...
Stand on Zanzibar (John Brunner): The only book I've read that takes place in 2010 predicts unmanageable over-population, media oversaturation, eugenics laws, rampant drug use and big ass world paranoia. I think we have ourselves a winner! DING! DING! DING!

Star Trek 1119: Dealers in Darkness

1119. Dealers in Darkness

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Shadowheart #2, DC Comics, January 1995

CREATORS: Michael Jan Friedman (writer), Steve Erwin and Charles Barnett III (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Kurn, Worf and Riker reach the planet Nothra and meet an informant that sells them a map leading to Nikolai Rozhenko, who is posing as the Klingon demon of legend, Shadowheart and leading an insurgency. The Nothra governorship is in cahoots with the Duras, but the Sisters aren't happy that the insurgency has put their raids on border worlds on hold. The away team gets into trouble with the authorities and bolts through the jungle, but not before Worf's containment suit is destroyed, placing him at the mercy of the jungle gases. However, it's Riker who gets into trouble when he trips during a killer ant stampede...

CONTINUITY: See previous issue (the Rozhenkos, Kurn). The Duras Sisters were last seen in Past Prologue.

DIVERGENCES: Duras Sister cleavage has been colored in.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Worf was raised in a bunker.
REVIEW: Really does feel like a "Klingon episode", with the Duras coming out of the woodwork and politics being called into play. Worf is at the center both of the drama (his authority over his brother, the flashbacks to the Academy) and the action (the bar fight, him ripping off his jacket as the "disruptor energy" eats through it). Oh and bits of Klingon folklore too. Riker's a bit dour for my tastes, but otherwise, still a winner.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cat of the Geek #42: Scratchy

Name: Scratchy
Stomping Grounds: Itchy & Scratchy comics and cartoon-within-a-cartoon
Side: Good (beware the propaganda machine)
Breed: American shorthair
Cat Powers: Coming back from the dead to suffer some more.
Skills: Eat 7, Sleep 4, Mischief 6, Wit 4, Assorted Weapons Skills 5
Cat Weaknesses: Itchy. Dying in the goriest possible way over and over and over again.
I'd Pay Money to Play This:

Star Trek 1118: The Lion and the Lamb

1118. The Lion and the Lamb

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Shadowheart #1, DC Comics, December 1994

CREATORS: Michael Jan Friedman (writer), Steve Erwin and Charles Barnett III (artists)

STARDATE: 46479.3 (between Aquiel and Face of the Enemy)

PLOT: Though believed dead, Worf's foster brother Nikolai Rozhenko has taken on the identity of the legendary Shadowheart and is fighting with Nothrani rebels against the Klingon governorship. Worf, Riker and Kurn are tasked with stopping him before his actions destroy the alliance between the Empire and the Federation.

CONTINUITY: Nikolai Rozhenko appeared in Homeward (in the future from the story), but was mentioned as early as Heart of Glory. Attending his "funeral" are his parents (Family) and Alexander. Jenna D'Sora (In Theory) is part of Worf's security team. Admiral Quinn (Conspiracy) gives the Enterprise its mission. Gowron appears. Kurn (last seen in Redemption) does not, but is assigned to the mission.

DIVERGENCES: None (as yet).

PANEL OF THE DAY - Channelling Dr. Seuss?
REVIEW: Shadowheart quickly shapes up to be a promising Klingon story. We get to see plenty of Klingon action, including new specialist uniforms and equipment, all very well drawn by Erwin and Barnett. It also acts as a prequel to Homeward, and thus as a strong Worf story. And the trio of Worf-Riker-Kurn (the three recurring Klingon heroes, Riker by virtue of A Matter of Honor) should work well together (as well as Worf, Dax and Kor? we'll see). I'm actually excited about this one.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Upgrade Complete!

Or pretty close, actually. My internet projects will now resume.

Star Trek 1117: The Unseen Enemy

1117. The Unseen Enemy

PUBLICATION: Deep Space Nine/Star Trek: The Next Generation #2 (part 4), DC Comics/Malibu Comics, January 1995

CREATORS: Michael Jan Friedman and Mike W. Barr (writers), Gordon Purcell and Terry Pallot (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (follows the last issue)

PLOT: The combined TNG/DS9 crew escapes from the Gamma Quadrant aliens trying to sabotage the Wormhole and Odo reveals clues that the Cardassians may be the ones actually behind the scheme. They head for a Cardassian outpost and both defeat and implicate the Cardassians there. The GQ aliens get skittish and abandon their post. With the crisis resolved, the crews go their separate ways.

CONTINUITY: See previous issues (Dukat, Alexander)

DIVERGENCES: See previous issues.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Petty rivalry between the shows?
REVIEW: A disappointing finish. The art remains great, there's no dearth of action, and the Cardassians are well handled, but all the same, it seems fortuitous that the aliens would abandon their mission. The political landscape on Bajor was well used in previous issues, but there's no pay-off. Some nice goodbyes between characters, but both on the plot and character front, this is a slim resolution.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Upgrade Day!

Seeing as my computer is many many years old and now requires a fan to be directed straight into its innards unless I want it to shut down unexpectedly, it's time for a change. I'm off!

Star Trek 1116: Encounter with... the Othersiders!

1116. Encounter with... the Othersiders!

PUBLICATION: Deep Space Nine/Star Trek: The Next Generation #2 (part 3), Malibu Comics/DC Comics, November 1994

CREATORS: Mike W. Barr and Michael Jan Friedman (writers), Gordon Purcell and Terry Pallot (artists)

STARDATE: 47270.9 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Riker and his crew beam over to the admiral's runabout just before their own is destroyed, but they are quickly captured by the aliens with a stasis beam. All but Odo, that is, who stages a break-out aboard the lead alien ship. Meanwhile, Picard and Sisko help in the relief efforts on Bajor, where the Wormhole's instability is causing massive flooding. Back in the Gamma Quadrant, the crew splits up to both destroy the stasis generator AND rescue the admiral's party. As they walk into his cell however, he is shot and killed by his captors...

CONTINUITY: See previous issues (Bareil).

DIVERGENCES: See previous issues. Odo mimics a humanoid face.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Riker gives a wooden performance.
REVIEW: They keep ramping up the action! Again, a strong showing from both crews, both in their various escapes and fights with the would-be invaders, and in their relief efforts over on Bajor. There's a nice scene between the O'Briens where Miles tells her he'll transfer back to the Enterprise if she wants, but she refuses to stand in the way of his happiness, but on the whole, there are fewer pure character moments. It all hinges on the finale now!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This Week in Geek (21-27/12/09)

Buys'n'Gifts

Spent Christmas at my sister's in Montreal - highlights include spending Christmas Eve in an outdoor hot tub surrounded by snow, an "absurd gift" activity (I gave a garden inukshuk I packaged as a caveman's teddy bear "from when times were hard" and got a deer call), watching Rise of Cobra at one in the morning, and getting hit by a thrown soft drink from a road raging Quebecer - and got a number of geek-worthy gifts: There's the DVD copy of Inglourious Basterds, Season 4 of The Unit, a Joker pez dispenser, an old-school slinky, and accessories for my iTouch.

I also bought myself a terabyte external hard drive at a Boxing Day mega-sale, and grabbed the DVD Lord of War on my brother's recommendation.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Since it was one of the few things I had in Montreal, I flipped Inglourious Basterds. I've spoken about this massively entertaining film before (when I saw it at the theater), so I'll just talk about the extras. Tarantino doesn't really do commentaries, but he's got a 30-minute interview (with Brad Pitt) that illuminates some of the ideas. The DVD also includes the whole of the film inside the film (Pride of a Nation) and a fake making of featurette starring the characters who made it. A couple interviews besides, and a discussion on films referenced in the film, including the original Inglorious Bastards. It barely scratches the surface, really.



Big Finish Doctor Who audios: I thought I'd listen to more, but only managed to finish out - Robert Ross' Medicinal Purposes starring the 6th Doctor and Evelyn. As with The Settling, I really wasn't sure what historical moment the audio referred to despite it seeming common knowledge to the leads. Are Burke and Hare REALLY that infamous? Anyway, Doc6 acts very strangely, I thought, and the story is barely saved by things not temporally being what they seem. Oh, and Tennant's in it as a village idiot!

I brought some comics with me and managed to get through 80+ comics. The evidence of this binge is on Twitter. Still way late though.

Neglected Post of the Week
"Amalgamonth" was a feature I tried back in 2007 that didn't get much reaction. Oh, the "re-do" on various DC vs. Marvel fights got some attention (everyone has an opinion), but the accompanying piece that splits Amalgam comics back into its two constituent parts were rather ignored. Check out the Super-Soldier one (and its accompanying "fight" feature) and let me know if I should bring this feature back in the new year.

Star Trek 1115: U.S.S. Enterprise-D NCC-1001-D Blueprints

1115. U.S.S. Enterprise-D NCC-1001-D Blueprints

PUBLICATION: Pocket Books, 1996

CREATORS: Rick Sternbach

STARDATE: Published after the events of Generations

SUBJECT MATTER: A sort of memorial for the just-destroyed Enterprise-D, this box includes detailed folded blueprint of every deck of the ship, and a 16-page document that discusses how the Enterprise-D's design came to be, with a round table featuring the designers, among other things.

CONTINUITY: These plans are the ones used in onscreen graphics throughout the series.

DIVERGENCES: None.

ILLUSTRATION OF THE WEEK
REVIEW: Funny the things people get you when you're a known Trekkie. Though I seem to remember this was in a bargain bin before it came into my hands, Pocket Books charged... let me see here... 24$ U.S. for it. Worth it? For completists, I'm sure it is. The floorplans create a fun "it's real" feeling, and role-players, for example, might even use it to stage their own adventures aboard a Galaxy-class ship, or perhaps as nice postering for their game room. You COULD wallpaper your room with the prints (there are 13 sheets). They all kinda look like this.
So a pretty nerdy item, you'll agree. The 16-pager has a nice discussion about the ship's design and how the designers felt about it being destroyed in Generations. I haven't seen all of this in other books/DVDs, but it doesn't feel essential either.

Next for the SBG Book Club: Warped (DS9), No Surrender (SCE), World Without End (TOS), A Rock and a Hard Place (TNG).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What If... Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth Today?

Announced as "Next" since What If? #2, this Conan story took its merry time getting to the book's pages. Especially considering that What If? is a bimonthly. And what an odd choice for a What If story! I guess Roy Thomas always had it in him, and could never find a way to actually use it in one of his Conan comics. Be hard to explain Spider-Man to the Howard estate, I suppose. What's nice at least is that Roy pairs up with Conan artist John Buscema in this, so it's really "of a piece" with the Conan stuff.

And though I still question to relevance of this idea today, it managed to spawn at least 4 more What Ifs, including a direct sequel to this issue! Shame about those rights, eh?

What If Vol.1 #13 (February 1979)
Based on: Savage Sword of Conan #7
The true history: In the "full-length thriller" Citadel at the Center of Time, a wizard puts Conan in a bucket and drops him down the well of time. He sees the fall of Atlantis, the rise of Homo Sapiens and the reign of the dinosaurs. He manages to climb back up the rope and kick some magical ass.
Turning point: What if Conan was just a pound heavier?
Story type: Conan Crossover (trust me, it's a recurring type)
Watcher's mood: Critical of the readership
Altered history: The rope snaps and Conan falls back into the well to find himself in contemporary Manhattan (at 8:37 PM on Wednesday July 13th 1977 to be exact... His trip may or may not be responsible for the infamous New York City blackout). The future isn't what he imagined, which was this:
It's not much like that. Roy Thomas is more prescient than Conan however:
Right the first time, Girl #1! That is EERIE. Arnold's first Conan film didn't come out until 1982! Surprisingly, he doesn't much mix with any Marvel characters even if New York is lousy with them. Closest he comes to is getting ignored by Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.
No, instead, he has a very Conan-esque adventure. For example, he attacks a cab at one point, and of course, the cabbie is a hot chick.
Despite the damage he does to her car, and the fact he doesn't speak English, she decides to take him home. Conan being Conan, he gets his Commerian groove on.
Danette is surprisingly well read and has a collection of books on history and architecture that comes in handy. Since Conan left his era from a ziggurat, then he must return via a zyggurat. The only one in NYC is upside down and...
...the Guggenheim! After having taken care of some rioters without killing them, Conan reverts to his true habits in the closing chapter after Danette gets shot by museum raiders. It's an arty massacre.
The temporary lovers exchange gifts (sadly, Conan doesn't wear the beret) and Conan gets to the roof of the building in time to be magically taken back to his own time.
Books canceled as a result: None.
These things happen: According to Wikipedia, Conan walked the modern Marvel Universe a number of times, for example in Excalibur #49, and Fantastic Four #405.

Next week: What if Sgt. Fury fought WW II in outer space?
My guess: The Romulans would lose.

Star Trek 1114: The Wormhole Trap

1113. The Wormhole Trap

PUBLICATION: Deep Space Nine/Star Trek: The Next Generation #1 (part 2), Malibu Comics/DC Comics, October 1994

CREATORS: Mike W. Barr and Michael Jan Friedman (writers), Gordon Purcell and Terry Pallot (artists)

STARDATE: 47269.1 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: The Cardassian saboteurs beam out before being captured and the combined crews use the tech left behind to modify a runabout so it can enter the raging Wormhole. Bashir and Crusher determine that they weren't Cardassians thanks to a blood sample, but Riker and his combined team go in anyway. The Wormhole disables the runabout and on the other side is a fleet of alien ships, waiting...

CONTINUITY: See previous issues (Bareil, Lwaxana). Gul Dukat puts in an appearance. Alexander runs around with Jake and Nog.

DIVERGENCES: See previous issues (empaths). Alexander's appearance causes problems with Sons and Daughters.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Odo without budgetary limits.
REVIEW: I guess Ro isn't really in this after all, just background (as is Keiko and the kids in this one). No problem, I just like the character is all. There is no sense of discontinuity even if Part 2 is published by Malibu, except for the cover art, and Purcell's big, bold panels tell an exciting story. We have a fight, a huge fleet, dramatic lightning coming out of the Wormhole... And still time for character moments as the two best crews of the modern era interact.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Movie Marquee Friday: The Christmas List

One holiday's tropes may well be another's...
We returned once, for a Christmas party...

Fairy dust and trains, oh my...

As small as a child's world...

And as hard as steel...

It had to be you, wonderful you...

In fields of snow, a lonely typist updates her resume...

And across the water...

Star Trek 1113: Prophets and Losses

1113. Prophets and Losses

PUBLICATION: Deep Space Nine/Star Trek: The Next Generation #1 (part 1), DC Comics/Malibu Comics, December 1994

CREATORS: Michael Jan Friedman and Mike W. Barr (writers), Gordon Purcell and Terry Pallot (artists)

STARDATE: 47268.4 (between Dark Page and Attached; between Melora and Rules of Acquisition)

PLOT: The Enterprise-D has ferried some high-ranking officers to Deep Space 9 so they can visit the Gamma Quadrant. Their runabout disappears in the wormhole however and Picard is put in charge of the investigation. This doesn't make the Bajorans happy as unrest and meteorological instability mount and fundamentalists say they've been abandonned by the Prophets. They feel safer with Sisko heading the team. An unauthorized entry on the station then leads Odo and Worf to a party of Cardassians...

CONTINUITY: The Enterprise was last at DS9 in Birthright. Odo recognizes the family resemblance between Deanna and Lwaxana (which he met in The Forsaken). Crusher sees Dax and remembers Odan (The Host) despite the deep dissimilarities in make-up the Trill have undergone. Sisko is still uneasy about working with Picard (Emissary). Vedek Bareil appears here, not long after his appearance in The Siege.

DIVERGENCES: Troi has "trouble" reading Ferengi emotions, when it's been established Betazoids can't read them at all. Ro Laren probably shouldn't be aboard the Enterprise-D at this point (though according to the comic series, she is). The two crews working together like this creates some slight problems with every TNG guest appearance since (Defiant, Way of the Warrior, the DS9 II books).

PANEL OF THE DAY - Worse than Cardassians, worse than Klingons.
REVIEW: First off, let me say that Purcell's art is great in this. The likenesses are excellent (both the people and the environments) and the characters expressive (great eyes). Good-looking stuff. The first chapter of this crossover is basically just a chance to meet all the regulars (except Jake) and have them interact. Geordi catches Quark's crooked dabo tables, Bashir puts the moves on Beverly, O'Brien is wistful about his time on the Enterprise, stuff like that. The comic also makes sure to use the DS9 setting to its fullest potential, and that means including Bajoran religion and politics, Cardassians, and Rom and Morn. Plus, Ensign Ro comes home to roost. That should be interesting. A strong, character-driven intro.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Have a good one!

Star Trek 1112: Game, Set and Match!

1112. Game, Set and Match!

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Modala Imperative #4, DC Comics, October 1991

CREATORS: Peter David (writer), Pablo Marcos (artist)

STARDATE: 44398.7 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: The Ferengi have captured everyone except Spock who melds with Troi through a wall and allows her to nerve pinch her captors before they undress her. The Modalan leaders (official and dissident) are taken out to be shot, and at least agree on one thing - better to die than live as slaves. Picard offers a deal. If the DaiMon can defeat him at "Ferengi Challenge Cubes", he gets the Enterprise. If not, he loses the planet. These cubes provide a psychic assault each participant must withstand. The Ferengi is cheating thanks to an implant, but Spock telepathically bolsters Picard so he can win. The Ferengi leave just as the Enterprise arrives from its decoy mission, and Modala finds more stability in its reunified leaders.

CONTINUITY: See previous issues (Modala, McCoy, Selar). O'Brien makes an appearance. There's a reference to the Vulcan Death Grip (The Enterprise Incident).

DIVERGENCES: See previous issues (freighter-shuttle, Spock). Riker speaks to an admiral in a decidedly non-Starfleet uniform. The stardates make it appear like Data's Day happened during this adventure.

PANEL OF THE DAY - I know they say Betazoids can't read Ferengi, but I think Troi can just about feel the lust.
REVIEW: A couple of cool bits make the comic worth it. There's Picard stopping the Ferengi in their tracks with the words "Let's deal". And there's Spock's neat trick in giving Troi the "touch". In the end, though Spock is the big hero, the badass is still Picard. That's good, because for a TNG comic, it was really more about the surviving TOS guys. In the end, there's a real merger between the two, quite literally in fact. A fun and hopeful ending that makes the second mini-series much better than the first. Hey, and there's even a poker scene at the end. Lame joke there, but that still says "TNG".

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cat of the Geek #41: Christmas Cat

Name: Christmas Cat
Stomping Grounds: Icelandic legend
Side: Evil
Breed: Corrupted Icelandic Shorthair
Cat Powers: According to the legend, unless you get at least one new garment to wear for Christmas you "get caught by the Christmas Cat". Man eater.
Skills: Eat 10, Sleep 2, Mischief 10, Wit 2, Sense Fashion (not to be confused with Fashion Sense) 8
Cat Weaknesses: The reason you got socks again this year.
A relevant poem as translated by Viggi: The Christmas Cat

Star Trek 1111: Prior Claim

1111. Prior Claim

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Modala Imperative #3, DC Comics, August 1991

CREATORS: Peter David (writer), Pablo Marcos (artist)

STARDATE: 44397.7 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Riker and the Enterprise-D realize that the Ferengi attack on the freighter, though real, was just a decoy to get them away from Modala. The planet's dissidents attack the Ferengi and in the ensuing skirmish, Troi and McCoy are captured. Picard and Spock join the rebels and plan their rescue. Though they manage to get inside the government building via the sewers, the Ferengi are waiting for them with guns to the prisoners' heads...

CONTINUITY: See previous issues (Modala, McCoy). The Ferengi are aware of the events of Ménage à Troi.

DIVERGENCES: See previous issues (freighter-shuttle, Spock). The cargo the freighter is carrying is depended on by millions of people, yet the ship is just the size of a shuttle!

PANEL OF THE DAY - Ferengi sure know how to posture.
REVIEW: So now the plot kicks into high gear (not a bad way to structure the story, with all the character stuff up front, so that you never have a laxly plotted issue). Not that the plot is anything amazing, but it does the job. Dynamic art, feuding factions, sneaky Ferengi, and McCoy getting all the best lines. I don't think I approve of how rude Riker is being to the freighter crew, but then he's just been tricked into not getting "screentime" with the guest stars.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Secrets of Africa Revealed

Maybe they got lost in the tall brush?

Star Trek 1110: Lies and Legends!

1110. Lies and Legends!

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Modala Imperative #2, DC Comics, September 1991

CREATORS: Peter David (writer), Pablo Marcos (artist)

STARDATE: 44396.0 - 44396.2 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: While the Enterprise stays on course for Modala, Spock and McCoy charm the crew. When they reach the planet, the ships gets a distress call from the freighter that brought Spock and goes to help, leaving an away team (including Picard and the guest-stars) at the celebrations, celebrations that are interrupted by Ferengi looking to collect on a deal made with the fascists 100 years ago - weapons for the planet!

CONTINUITY: See previous issue (Modala, McCoy). Spock's wife is mentioned (this must be Saavik as per Vulcan's Heart, though the novel was published 8 years after the comic). Dr. Selar (The Schizoid Man) puts in an appearance. Selar's grandfather served on the lost USS Intrepid (The Immunity Factor).

DIVERGENCES: See previous issue (freighter-shuttle, Spock). The Ferengi fighter is of a design never seen before nor after.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Being Vulcan means awkward hugs.
REVIEW: The Enterprise doesn't reach Modala until page 19. The way Peter David is celebrating Star Trek's 25th Anniversary is to basically have the TNG cast indulge in a little hero worship with Spock and McCoy. It's not quite as funny as the first issue, but there are still some great bits, like Data and Spock's mental game of 3D chess (and musical duet), and McCoy admitting Spock's is favorite captain. It's a more mature relationship, but still once full of quips and barbs. The Ferengi stuff is just a pretext, really.