Thursday, March 31, 2011

Doctor Who: New Series 6 Trailer

Yes, I know I'm doing a lot of these lately, but that's a function of my awaiting with baited breath the 6th series of Doctor Who, which starts around Easter. We just got a new trailer:

How awesome is this?

Stuff to look for...
0:09. River Song relationship escalation!
0:11. Coming out of a crack? What's on the other side?
0:24. River Song cool action!
0:30: The 11th Doctor certainly has gotten over his survivor's guilt!
0:37: The RTD era TARDIS revisited!
0:47: Amy makes a dreadful mistake... are we meant to believe SHE is River, killing the "best man [she's] ever known"? I'm not convinced - hell of a prison stay, for one thing - but let the rumors fly!

Screw chocolate eggs, I know what I'M waiting for!

Reign of the Supermen #162: Baby Kal-El

Source: Superman vol.1 #106 (1946)
Type: The real deal (since retconned)Superboy Month ends today, so we're going back, way back, in time to Kal-El's VERY FIRST adventure. Before the Boy of Steel, you might argue even before the Babe of Steel. Bet you didn't know Kal-El's rocket took a detour on its way to Earth. Now, the story can be told (and by "now", I mean 1946)!

In the original telling, the rocket wasn't so much a gestating chamber, but an actual spacecraft, and Baby Kal-El could already walk and talk (albeit with a limited vocabulary). So there he is in his rocket, playing with his toys, when he's distracted by what always seems to distract Super-Baby: Shiny things. He pushes the rocket's door opens and flies to a golden meteor where the shiny thing is revealed to be a crystal mantis. Ladies and gentlemen, Superman's first fight:
Drawn back to the rocket by his toys, the craft then brought him to Earth and rest, as they say, is history!

Bonus: Astronomers can now reveal that by pushing off the meteor, Super-Baby changed its trajectory away from Metropolis, making it the first time Superman ever saved the city!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cat of the Geek #105: Tom

Names: Tom Cat
Stomping Grounds: Tom and Jerry cartoons
Side: Ambiguous
Breed: American shorthair
Cat Powers: Cartoon elasticity. The ability to come back from the dead or survive extreme violence. Ladies' man. Singing voice.
Skills: Eat 4, Sleep 3, Mischief 8, Wit 5, Love/Hate Relationships 7
Cat Weaknesses: Jerry's uncanny luck and cleverness. Thunder stolen to the likes of Itchy & Scratchy.

Reign of the Supermen #161: Kal Brande

Source: Superboy's Legion #1-2 (2001)
Type: ElseworldsAt the start of the millennium, Mark Farmer and Alan Davis created a Legion story that I'm not sure has been topped since by having baby Kal-El's rocket get stuck in Krypton's debris for a thousand years. In 2987, wealthy financier R.J. Brande finds it among now inert kryptonite, its stasis systems still intact.
14 years later, Kal, inspired by the heroic age of the 20th century, has started wearing a costume and calling himself Superboy, much to the dismay of his father and the surprisingly fascist Science Police. Taking his example from the now dwindling Green Lantern Corps, Kal builds his own team - the Legion - more or less taking Lightning Lad's place in the original trio. But his cockiness gets them into trouble, and their first mission costs them Legionnaire's life and another's arm. As this is a Superman Elseworld, his legacy villains must come into the picture, and they do. Lex Luthor has survived all these years by uploading his consciousness into the Universo system that runs the Science Police, and his ultimate goal is to find Colu and get himself into Brainiac's robot body. In the end, the Legion prevails through teamwork and friendship, and both Luthor and the Science Police are overthrown. Bouncing Boy does particularly well - no joke! My favorite bit comes at the end when the new Legion HQ is unveiled and it looks like Kal-El's rocket.
And now... BONUS LEGION BABIES!
1000 years after Tiny Titans! Brought to you by the Emerald Empress in glorious Eye-o-vision!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kung Fu Fridays in April

April has five - count 'em, FIVE - Fridays, which means a whole extra night of Kung Fu goodness. Our Asian star for the month is the beautiful Maggie Cheung who appears in this month's In the Mood for Love (though the picture is from Hero - click for larger image). What can my inner circle of visiting viewers expect to see each week? Perpend:

Shaolin Mantis - I thought about putting something silly on the schedule for April Fool's, but didn't really have anything appropriate. A Gordon Liu-directed action flick from the Shaw Brothers days will do in a pinch though, because it always would.

The Bride with White Hair 2 - I think we mostly enjoyed the first one in March, and the second has a change of director that probably does away with some of the artsy touches of the first. And though we didn't have enough of the Bride (it was an origin story), this time, it looks like she's got white hair from the beginning.

In the Mood for Love - No Kung Fu here, but some of my crew have expressed interest in the greatest Wong Kar-Wai film ever made (at least, according to every Best 100 Films of All Time books out there). It happens to be the only international release of his I haven't seen yet; I hope my gang likes the change of pace

The Deadly Duo - Already did a Lau Kar Leung, so how about a Chang Cheh? This one is from his relatively early days (1971) and features many of Chang's usual stars, including Ti Leung. Probably full of bromance and violence.

Seven Samurai - Bringing up the rear is Kurosawa's greatest work, and so the greatest work in Asian cinema. I've seen it and it doesn't disappoint, but I haven't flipped my own copy. That'll be a big weekend of commentary tracks and documentaries for me!

So that's the line-up. If you're in town, drop by eight-ish on Friday nights. If you're not, find your own copies, won't you?

Reign of the Supermen #160: Match

Source: 1st - Superboy vol.3 #35 (1996)
Type: BizarroBizarro or no?

Match started out as a more-perfect clone of Superboy created by The Agenda, itself a second generation Project Cadmus. He was a smarter, faster, stronger and WHITER version of Conner, and had power applications Superboy hasn't even developed to this day.
He went on to infiltrate Young Justice, and later to deteriorate into the Bizarro-like zombie pictured above, reverse-speak and all. So while only an echo of Bizarro at first, later writers went ahead and made him one. Because he was so dangerous and couldn't be contained, Jericho possessed him for an extended period, which is was drove him mad and evil.

Match, I have issues with you, sir.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut Prequel

Ramping up to Doctor Who Series 6, the BBC has released a 2-minute prequel to the first episode, The Impossible Astronaut. Not a preview, a PREQUEL. I'll wait while you watch.

Done? Ok, so what does it tell us? Though the creepy aliens and desert environment seen in the previews might have put us in mind for a 1940s or 50s Roswell story, the president here looks to be Nixon. I'm going by the nose more than the voice (sorry, Nixon actor!). So late 60s, early 70s then. Moffat returns to the trope of creepy child voices because, hey, it's the creep that keeps on creeping.

Man, whoever listened to the Watergate tapes in the Whoniverse must have gotten a chill!

Reign of the Supermen #159: The Superboy Wonder

Source: Superboy vol.3 #60-61 (1999)
Type: Alternate EarthImagine a world, lost in Hypertime, where Superman never returned and Batman took the clone Superboy under his wing, effectively trading Tim Drake in for Kon-El. We hardly knew ye, alternate reality, but I wouldn't have minded reading the full Monty. A Superboy trained by Batman has got to have a few tricks up his sleeve, although this bit of Hypertime may have had a certain amount of camp to it, with the Superboy Wonder (sadly, a title never used in the comic - maybe it's just my Amalgamation-crazy mind, but it would have been great) saying things like "Holy evil twin, Batman!"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This Week in Geek (21-27/03/11)

Gifts

An improv fan came up to me Monday night after the league finals and handed me an Aquaman button. How nice! The stock art is an old José Luis Garcia-Lopez standard, but I haven't seen the button on the Aquaman Shrine. Gotta take a picture of it and send it to Rob, I guess!

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: The Kung Fu selection this week was Ong Bak 3: The Final Battle, Tony Jaa's sequel to the prequel to the movie that made him an international star. Though the primal martial artist of the story has some bad guys to stop (Ong Bak 2 was very much the Empire Strikes Back of the series), the "final battle" is really the one for his own soul, working towards purer martial arts (undoing my problems with Tony Jaa using weapons) and a serenity that is beyond vengeance. The action is of a very high standard, and though the Buddhist teachings and healing are beautiful to look at, they may frustrate some viewers by their length and relative disjointedness. Not me though. Ong Bak 3 is a martial arts epic, yes, but it's also a decent Buddhist fable. The 3-minute HDNet featurette that accompanies it, however, is terrible, telling you exactly three things about the film, and one of them isn't true. This DVD deserved better, especially considering the stories of Jaa having abandoned movie-making for the monastery after Ong Bak 2.

I also flipped the 4th Doctor Who/Sarah Jane story The Masque of Mandragora, a well-remembered tale of a power from the stars trying to subvert the Italian Renaissance. The Doctor and Sarah are particularly good in it, and both the location and studio work look incredible (the former is in Portmeiron, but I could never tell despite being a Prisoner fan). There's a subplot that's pulled right out of Hamlet, but with Horatio consistently advising violence. If there's a flaw keeping Masque from becoming a true classic, it's in the ending. A bit of technobabble, the Doctor does something, the villains are stopped. It's not really clear on a single viewing, only partly due to execution. The DVD includes an unfortunately dull audio commentary. Tom Baker is often off-topic, while the others (producer Philip Hinchcliffe is the recognizable name) get a number of details wrong (dumb stuff like not knowing if the Hartnell years were in black and white). Gets better towards the end though. Other extras include a solid making of, a history of the console room motivated by the first appearance of the wood-paneled one, and a spoof of such extras by writer Gareth Roberts and Doctor Who magazine editor Clayton Hickman. It got some laughs out of me.

Revenge of the Cybermen was NOT so fondly remembered, in fact, I couldn't remember anything from it at all. The story has its strengths: Nice location and sets, a good Doctor-companions dynamic, and uhm, that's it really. Sadly, the Cybermen's first appearance in color is overly ambitious and the production team gets a lot of details wrong, from stiff alien masks to silly effects to naff models to paceless fights. The script is likewise cribbed with holes. So while not a terrible hour and a half, you might want to spend it with a beer in your hand. The commentary has Liz Sladen, so that's nice, but she's absent from the making of (most people are). Much better is a half-hour documentary about the collecting of Doctor Who in video, especially before Revenge came out as the official first video from the BBC. It's awesome and gave me the giggles as well as a teary eye on a number of occasions. A great bookend to the documentary about recording Doctor Who on audio tape that's on another DVD. There's also a vintage interview with Tom Baker when he was just starting.

Audios: A few 5th Doctor audios this week. Paul Sutton's Exotron features the worst audio performance for Peri I think I've ever heard, but the story that puts the TARDIS heroes in the middle of a war between telepathic monsters and killer robots has enough twists and turns to keep you interested, and ends on a rather emotional, and effective note. Still, took a while to get there, and the regulars just aren't in their best form. The disc has a second story, Urban Myths, which occurs just after Erimem has left the crew, and has Peri (here in better form) play waitress to a trio of Time Lords investigating events touched by the Doctor. It's a kind of playful Rashomon, and all told, better than Exotron.

I've loved what Daniel O'Mahoney prose I've read, but it's all been luxuriously dark, so I was intrigued by what his single audio would be like. Return to the Web Planet is a 5th Doctor and Nyssa sequel to the Hartnell original. They arrive on Vortis centuries or more later and face a new threat from the ground itself. The 50-minute play makes me wish O'Mahoney wrote some others. The two Menoptera in the story are charming, and represent well an alien point of view. As with his prose work, O'Mahoney crafts a thematically centered story about rebirth that weaves in some intriguing science fiction concepts. The cover in the style of the old Target novelizations is lovely too.

Erimem gets her replacement in The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, but not really. The Dickensian street urchin pairs up with Nyssa, not Peri. Jonathan Morris' story is a strangely structured one, but all the better for it. Part I is almost entirely Brewster's story, one we'll end up revisiting in other ways as aliens from a potential future contact him through his mother's ghost. The Doctor and Nyssa show up rather late, then separate them through time - which gets us a "look" at a bearded 5th Doctor - and then all the pieces start to come together. Because Brewster is the focus of the story, it's not clear how he'll do as a companion, but he gets a good start.

My Job Can Be Geeky: This week, not only did I issue the 4th of 4 "Where's Waldo?" type images attacking the provincial budget asking students to find their Prime Minister, eagle-eyed geeks of all stripes will also find a bunch of other stuff in the wilds of Canada. And then there's the Video Game Olympiad I had to organize and host for the "Campus Cup". Of the 16 games on consoles from across time (the oldest being an Atari 2600) and game types, who would have thought that the crappy Enter the Matrix multi-player mode would be the most popular. The combination of crazy moves and cool music made for a great exhibition event though it's actually crap to play. Clear win by the Improv team (my boys!), with the Science faculty a solid second. The Nutritionist school did the worst, but did so entertainingly, with the Halo player crying he was a pacifist.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.ii. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern - Branagh '96

Reign of the Supermen #158: Jal Quorz

Source: Superboy vol.1 #81 (1960)
Type: The real deal (since retconned)Been a while since our last, true Silver Age attack, hasn't it? Well...

Remember the time Superboy was asked by astronomers to go into space and count the stars in another galaxy? Not only did we get valuable data (uhm... well one, big number), but Superboy had a little side-trip as well, courtesy of an old Kryptonian rocket (unmanned), part of a junk field flying through space. Superboy goes in to investigate and gets pulled down to the planet Xenon where the gravity and red sun make him lose his powers. He is soon rescued by a Xenonite couple who not only have super-powers, but speak Kryptonese! All can be explained easily:
They just liked Kryptonese better! Their world was shrunken by cosmic forces, but retained its mass so they all inherited super-strength and the ability to fly! So simple! But some are born without super-powers, and since the super-dictator Zozz took office last year, he's been sending out Weakling Search Squads to round up these inferiors and exiling them on "Weakling World". Superboy's new family ferret him outta there.
Because they don't have spaceships on Xenon, Superboy is effectively trapped, so they adopt him under the name Jal Quorz and allow him to use their exiled son's clothes, and maintaining the various tricks that hid the fact he was a weakling, like anti-grav generators in the ceilings, a silent rocket pack, and a super-dog. Super-useful when it comes to preventing love interest Llela Llark from exposing him as a weakling.
Lana's a pest, but Llela will get you exiled! But "Jal" is exposed anyway when his dog Zollo rips his cape off and reveals the jet pack underneath just as the Weakling Search Squad passes by. Despite the Quorz' contention that there were no spaceships to be had, Superboy is sent to Weakling World via "space missile".
Couldn't you just point that thing at open space and get out of the solar system? Well, to be fair, they're just ordinary folks... with super-powers. Which makes me wonder why they can't escape imprisonment at the hands of Zozz. Superboy makes friends with the Weaklings and is able to mount a revolution when a bully throws a rock at him.
A RED KRYPTONITE ROCK! He could have become fat, or tall, or turned into a pink elephant, but no, luckily, he gets his powers back! He goes off to fight Zozz and manages to beat everything the tyrant throws at him. So Zozz has his men throw a mountain at Weakling World to send Superboy away, and then as the Teen of Steel catches it in space, blows it up with a uranium ray. Oh, Zozz, you just undid yourself!
Yes, just as blowing up Krypton created kryptonite, blowing up a mountain from Xenon created powers-removing Xenonite. (We shouldn't be worried about creating Earthonite, I think it only works on worlds named after inert gases.) Result: Everyone on Xenon lose their super-powers, Zozz is captured, and the exiles can come home. Superboy is applauded by his adopted family, but I do have to wonder how everyone else is taking it. After all, this was a world where the front door was on top of the house, and where merchants traveled with their stores on their backs!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reign of the Supermen #157: Supergrrrl

Source: Superboy vol.3 #61 (1999)
Type: Alternate EarthWere you among those that though the new Superboy's fashions were an irritant? The thigh belt. The trendy leather jacket. The fade. The hipster shades. THE EARRING.

Well imagine a world somewhere in Hypertime, now possibly Earth-11 where the gender of many characters is reversed. What would a trendy new clone Supergirl have been like? Thigh belt, check. Leather jacket, check. Shades, check. Rat's tail, uh-huh. USING THE "WORD" GRRRL?!!!!

We have a new irritation champion!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reign of the Supermen #156: Telekinetic Superboy

Source: New Adventures of Superboy #11 (1980)
Type: TransformationThis is probably a coincidence, but...

Connor's "tactile telekinesis" wasn't the first time a Superboy exhibited a telekinetic power with a dubious name. New Adventures #11 tells the story of a Luthor super-weapon gone wrong that gives Superboy the strange new power of "bio-magnetism", which allows him to move things with his mind (it's especially good at moving them towards him). Of course, Connor never used his tactile TK in quite so creepy a manner.
Ultimately, the power turns into a "magnetic curse" as Clark's bedroom, a copse of trees and almost his mother get stuck to his hide and he is forced to fly into space before he gets much fatter. It's all part of a trap to guide Superboy to a black hole that can suck the magnetic power right out of him, which Lex hopes will then suck in the Boy of Steel. Even in 1980, Superboy's adventures used Silver Age science, so he was able to use centrifugal force to escape the event horizon.

So did the creators of the new Superboy read/remember this story? You make the call!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reign of the Supermen #155: Black Zero

Source: Superboy vol.3 #61-64 (1999)
Type: Alternate EarthBefore Superboy-Prime came on the scene, there was another hyperdimensional evil Superboy, and his name was Black Zero (after a Kryptonian protest group). Unlike Prime, he doesn't kill other Superboys. He only captures them so they can't interfere with his plans to protect DNAliens--I mean "Genetix"-- from us cruel, cruel naturally-born humans. He seems to be the only Superboy clone decanted as an adult, and he uses his mature powers of tactile telekinesis, his chamber of Doomsdays, his army of Guardian clones, and incredibly garish fashions to subjugate humanity in ever reality.

And his soul patch.
His terrible soul patch.
They call it that because it eats your soul.
DO NOT STARE STRAIGHT INTO IT!
Too late. You are his.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reign of the Supermen #154: Superboy-Prime

Source: 1st - Infinite Crisis #1 (2006)
Type: Alternate EarthThe ultimate fanboy, the Superboy of Earth-Prime got to live his superheroic dream for about a day before it got him trapped behind the wall of reality with one no-name and two has-beens. It was enough to make him lose his mind. And what does he do, disgruntled teenage fanboy that he is? He punches the continuity bottle to make changes that appeal to him. Which is a lot of what he does once he's out too. Here then are, in my opinion, Superboy-Prime's 5 worst punches:
5. Conflicting origins. As soon as you like a certain version of the Legion or Hawkman & Hawkgirl, they get rebooted again. Frustrating!
4. Maxwell Lord has always been a villain conspiring against heroes. I hate that he's a villain AT ALL, and specifically hate the villainy he's responsible for. It's bad enough that he turned evil, but making the entire JLI era part of an evil manipulation threatens to ruin my childhood.
3. The punch responsible for the Rolling Head of Pantha.
I don't mean the physical punch, though it IS quite awful, but it seems to me that Superboy-Prime's fanboy love of gore and shock theater would have made him punch the TONE of the DC Universe, enabling such acts to become more and more frequent (often in Geoff Johns-scripted books). People being ripped limb from limb, faces ripped off, beheadings, and more. Heck, we have a whole Corps of people who puke blood now. I blame Superboy-Prime, the purest embodiment of this aesthetic. Even Dr. Light's retconned motivation can be attributed to this tone punch. Boo!
2. Superboy-Prime himself. Eventually, his punches free him from his exile and we have to suffer both his violence and his whining from then on. Yes, folks, he will return to Reign in other guises! Jeers!
And Superboy-Prime's #1 worst punch...
1. The resurrection of Jason Todd!

Thanks folks, see ya tomorrow! (And if you have any to add or subtract, see you in the comments section as usual.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hell Week: Every Year Has One

And this is the one. Between refereeing the university improv finals, organizing and running a video game Olympiad, planning for the para academic awards show that's at the end of the week, AND the province and country's budgets being announced, I'm going to have to put the blog on simmer until Sunday. That means Reign of the Supermen will proceed apace, but no other content will be posted (sorry, Cat of the Geek fans!). If you really need extra eye candy, Your Daily Splash Page is all pre-blogged and will not suffer any interruptions. Wish me luck... with life!

Reign of the Supermen #153: Karkan the Mighty, Lord of the Jungle

Source: (pre-Crisis) Superboy vol.1 #183 (1972) / (post-Crisis) Superboy vol.3 #61 (1999)
Type: Imaginary story / Alternate EarthSuperboy #183 features an unmotivated imaginary story that asks What if Superboy's rocket had fallen in the jungles of Africa and he had been raised by apes? As he grows up, he gains more and more formidable powers, but still can't get no respect from fellow apes who call him "Hairless One". He avoids his landing site because of a kryptonite rock, but does go back to get his swaddling clothes from the crash and fashions them into a Superboy uniform. The "S" is simply the shape of the snake he defeated. Kirok--I mean, Karkan--goes on to fight poachers and animal thieves and embarks on a new life once he kisses the first human girl he's ever seen.

And Karkan is still part of continuity! Yes, thanks to the Hypertime story line in the modern day Superboy series, Karkan returned for a cameo.
He's out there! (Just don't tell Tarzan... he wants his shtick back.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Doctor Who: The Comic Relief Episodes

In the "we don't get this stuff in North America" category...

Doctor Who Grand Guru Steven Moffat has written two brief episodes for Comic Relief, a UK-based charity that strives to end poverty and social injustice around the world. Moffat had written a Doctor Who spoof for Comic Relief in 1999, and this year got the chance to return to the telethon event using the actual characters and actors. So while "Space" and "Time" are a silly piece of timey-whimeyness, they can be considered canon with no trouble at all. Parents, you might want to PG it as some of the humor is a bit... saucier than usual. The videos themselves will tell you about various ways in which you can donate to Comic Relief.

SPACE


TIME

Can't wait for the new series!

Reign of the Supermen #152: Spider-Boy Prime

Source: Age of Amalgam (2011)
Type: Fan-made AmalgamAmalgam Comics merged Carnage with Bizarro, but what about VENOM? Well, never fear, PaulC is here with all the answers and his amazing Amalgamation talents. Venom is of course merged with Superboy-Prime, for twice the evil twinage!

"When Spider-Boy was trapped on the world of the Anti-Beyonder fighting alongside his fellow heroes in the Secret Crisis, he found a powerful suit of armour which boosted his strength and responded to his thoughts. Upon his return to Earth, Spider-Boy soon discovered that the armour was actually a sentient shape-shifting being made from a part of the Anti-Beyonder himself!" Read the rest at the Age of Amalgam...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This Week in Geek (14-20/03/11)

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Finally saw The Social Network, which initially didn't interest me because, you know, I refuse to go on Facebook, but I was convinced by the movie's pedigree, namely director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin. I do make a point to see practically everything these two guys have done. I wasn't disappointed in the least. The script and direction are of course, top notch, and the acting isn't too shabby either. I love a film that's thematically resonant, and The Social Network delivers on that front too, as the way practically every character is written says something - ironic or not - about their inventions or role in said invention. There's an entire essay in there if I can ever write it. The extras are equally good, but two commentary tracks, the first by Fincher, the second by Sorkin and the cast (edited clips, since they are not all together). The second disc features two hours of making of material that has its own distinct style. Well worth it.

Speaking of Oscar movies, Dead Fish is a quirky British comedy-thriller I won as part of the stash up for grabs in our Oscar pool (a stash I invariably refer to as the "pile of crap". As most are devoid of extras, I thought I might try to "flip" one each week. Dead Fish features Gary Oldman as a bizarre hitman whose mobile phone gets exchanged for a petty thief's played by Primeval's Andrew-Lee Potts (for no good reason playing it American). It doesn't quite work, but it's not unpleasant. The main story's misunderstandings are fun enough, and you can't tell where it's going. And while the cast of zanies has a lot going for it (throw in Billy Zane, Terence Stamp and Robert Carlyle, among others), the subplot never really connects with the rest of the story. It's part of the joke, but it's a joke that falls flat. And though it has a vivacious style, it's over-directed, with unmotivated shots and flights of fantasy that don't fit the overall picture. In the end, I've got to ask myself: Into the collection, or back on the pile of rubbish? And this one's going on the shelf.

Three Kingdoms is a massive historical Chinese novel that has given us most recently John Woo's Red Cliff, which only tells part of the story. In the film Three Kingdoms, Daniel Lee attempts to tell the whole story through the eyes of a relatively minor character. the hero who saves the baby at the start of Red Cliff and who becomes a general in the Liu army. Many details are invented to fill out his story, of course, and it stands out as one of the best Asian films I've seen lately. Much of the credit goes to Andy Lau in the lead role, though it's also got Sammo Hung and Maggie Q in strong performances. There are some masterful martial sequences, though Lee tends to give them a too-modern frenetic look sometimes. Ultimately, it's more than a martial arts picture or a war film, and stands as a meditation on accepting one's destiny. Also on the DVD are interviews with the director and three stars, which I found mostly insightful.

For a while, I've been sitting on David Tennant's last Doctor Who DVD, the animated adventure titled Dreamland, because I wasn't keen on the art style (as opposed to the wonderful Infinite Quest's). And the art IS the problem here. While Dreamland does have good aliens and ships, and strong camera work, effects and lighting, the human (and Time Lord) figures just look like average video game characters, badly interacting with their surroundings and showing far too little expression. It's like puppeteering blow-up dolls at times. The story's fun enough however, as the Doctor visits Roswell and Area 51 in the company of two 1950s friends. The pace is very quick - blink and you might miss a transition - but action-filled and fun. It comes with an extra disc containing Doctor Who Confidential's three "Greatest Moments" specials celebrating the end of the RTD era (The Doctor, The Companions, and The Enemies). These are high on clips and low on insights, and in the case of The Enemies, though we do get to see some of the actors interviewed without their monster make-ups, the voice-over narration is worse than Julie Chen on Big Brother (i.e. badly written and full of unfunny puns). The Companions is the best of the lot, but none are anything special and I'm loathe to even call them "Greatest Moments".

Music: I've been listening to Murray Gold's Doctor Who Series 5 double album soundtrack for a couple weeks now, and I'm ready to give my verdict. I was a big fan of the Series 5 music from the off, especially since it was 1) all new cues (though Gold's driving beats are recognizable his) and 2) not as over-used as they'd been in the RTD era (read: wall to wall). Without the thunder sound effects, the Doctor Who theme is actually the most listenable for me (I usually skip over the theme tune on other soundtracks, but not this one). From there, there are hills and valleys, mostly because Gold's included so many cues, especially from the finale (22 tracks just for that). The Eleventh Hour's main themes are awesome, and Vincent and the Doctor yields some beautiful pieces. Most episodes yield something good, though the suspense-filled music of The Time of Angels and The Hungry Earth break the flow of the music with discordance (skip!). As an overall listening experience, the motifs you love return to give the album a good flow. Gold's liner notes have become less and less insightful as the records have been released, and they're now down to his basic impression of each episode. Still, the music stands up, and that's what counts.

Audios: The 8th Doctor and Lucie Miller's second season ends in a two-part finale by Nicholas Briggs which I'm sad to say disappointed me. The first part, Sisters of the Flame, is unusually slow for this range, and its humor often falls flat. Though less than 50 minutes long, it still finds time to flash back into itself, and the revelation that Karn and Morbius are somehow involved is deflated by our knowing Part II's title. It certainly doesn't help that the Doctor is absent for most of the story. The one breath of fresh air is Alexander Siddig as a friendly giant centipede police detective (you read that right) even if I didn't recognize Dr. Bashir at first.


While The Vengeance of Morbius brings back the Doctor and elicits more interest because of its Time Lord connection, it sadly does away with Siddig's centipede and is the worse off for it. Oh, Briggs knows how to produce good radio plays, of course, and Vengeance is perfectly fine in that respect. But perhaps because Part I didn't rack up any sympathy points, Part II left me a little cold as well. There's a nice WTF! cliffhanger ending to propel us into the Doc8/Lucie Series 3, but this is tacked on and not really relevant to the Morbius plot.




Back to the numbered range... The Dark Husband by David Quantick is a farce featuring the 7th Doctor, Ace and Hex that though completely ridiculous, still manages to advance their personal stories. The audio starts out with fun TARDIS banter, sends the characters on a vacation to a festival, only to find two warring peoples where festivities were expected. And then the Doctor announces he's getting married. Some fun complications ensue, as well as a sense of world-building you wouldn't expect from a story with such caricatured aliens. The 7th Doctor works best when he's up to his neck in whimsy, it seems.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.ii. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

Reign of the Supermen #151: Gerard Christopher

Source: The Adventures of Superboy, seasons 2-4 (1989-1992)
Type: TelevisionAs discussed last week, John Haymes Newton would not stay in the role of Superboy for long. After a single season, he was booted off the show to make way for Gerard Christopher, who lasted for three seasons. I still did not watch it, but if you have find or not so fond memories of the show from this era, the Comments section is at your disposal. Here's the opening credits sequence to jog your memory:

Of course, Superboy wasn't the only face to change on the show. Lex Luthor got some drastic plastic surgery so he could be played by veteran actor Sherman Howard. More villains from the comics made their debut live action appearances, like Bizarro, Metallo and the Yellow Peri. In Season 3, Superboy got out of college and into the Bureau for Extra-Normal Matters in Capitol City, Florida, as an intern along with Lana. For the rest of its run, Superboy would feature darker stories, perhaps inspired by the success of Tim Burton's Batman. In the end, it wasn't low ratings that killed Superboy. It was doing well enough that 5th and 6th seasons were planned. But Warner's wanted to rights back to make Lois&Clark, so some court stuff later, one show gave way to the other.

But the big question remains! Would puckery Gerard Christopher have grown up to be a good SuperMAN? Well, he was apparently considered for the role Dean Cain eventually got, and here's how he turned out:
Bit too rugged? You tell me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What If... the All-New, All-Different X-Men Had Never Existed?

As it was back in 1991, so it is 20 years later. I'm fast losing interest in What If? all over again. I'm not saying there are no more good issues, but my impression remains that through the 90s, there were far more stinkers than winners. Frequently lackluster - or outright terrible - art, and an overuse of mutant characters and anti-heroes, made be drop the book after #25. Today is my last weekly What If feature for many of the same reasons. It may just become an occasional thing (as it was before), or it could show up as much as twice monthly, but I'll be looking to spend my Saturdays some other way. I think you'll like what I've come up with (in fact, you used to, I'm resurrecting an old feature). For now, enjoy our last regular What If? story, by a young Kurt Busiek who obviously put a lot of thought into tracking the events in the X-Men's lives to come up with his alternate chronicle. I sadly found it... inconsequential. But that may be the Watcher Fatigue talking.

What If vol.2 #23 (February 1991)
Based on: Giant Size X-Men #1
The true history: The original X-Men land on Krakoa the living island and get captured by the monster. Professor X assembles a new team of X-Men who free their fellow mutants. After the dust settles, many of the original X-Men leave their spots for the all-new, all-different guys.
Turning point: What if Krakoa had not gotten the jump on the original X-Men?
Story type: Hockey Trade
Watcher's mood: Cross-eyed
Altered history: In this new reality, the X-Men send Krakoa spinning into space with Polaris' magnetic powers much earlier, obviating the need for Xavier to recruit a new team. Not only does the team stick together, but Beast even leaves the Avengers and comes home. So what of the X-Men that MIGHT have been? Well, Nightcrawler and Thunderbird (now Proudstar) get conned into attacking the X-Men by a Shi'ar posing as Eric the Red.
Nightcrawler escapes at the end. As for the old X-Men, they have to face pretty much the same threats the new X-Men did in our continuity, but there are differences in how they handle them. For example, though Jean Gray is all about sacrificing herself o bring down a shuttle from a Sentinel base in orbit, Polaris reminds her that she can do it easily with her magnetic powers. And so, the Phoenix Force is never attracted her way and never comes to possess her. No Dark Phoenix, no genocide, no death and return of Jean Gray. The X-Men just have to find a way to overcome threats originally handled by the Phoenix, that's all.
Other adventures do happen though, and the all-new, all-difference mutant concepts appear here and there. The Warhawk who infiltrates their mansion is now Colossus. They go to Africa to prevent Arkon from kidnapping Storm. And when they help Sunfire with Moses Magnum, the Japanese government also enlists the help of Canadian super-team Alpha Flight. And who's a member? None other than Wolverine! I guess he'll take any Japanese missions he can get so he can see Mariko.
Logan inspires Cyclops to ask Jean to marry him, but Hellfire Club trouble comes knocking before they can order the flowers. Of course, without the Dark Phoenix's influence, Jean isn't tempted to become the Black Queen. But speaking of the Phoenix Force, the X-Men are suddenly whisked away by the Shi'ar who want to destroy our sun, where the Phoenix has been hiding all this time. The X-Men ask for a few days to try and fix the problem themselves, and Cyclops' plan is to allow the Phoenix to take him over so that the Shi'ar can immediately kill HIM. Well...
So who is this shadowy figure willing to sacrifice himself for Cyclops/the universe? Here's a clue:
"Unglaublich." Yes, believe it or not (and I have trouble myself), it's Nightcrawler. He's been following the X-Men since he escaped from them and has seen they do good works. He eavesdropped on the plan to kill the Phoenix and decided to redeem himself for that time another dude tricked him into attacking the X-Men. He's the Phoenix for all of 2 seconds before the Shi'ar blow him up, leaving the X-Men depressed and Professor X expounding on how "no man is beyond redemption, no man." A fine speech for the likes of, I dunno, Magneto or, you know, Parallax, but a random mutant dude who was at best misguided that one time? I sure hope to hell he could be redeemed! The Marvel Universe is a harsh mistress!
Books canceled as a result: Depends. It's entirely possible that the revised first appearance of Alpha Flight would have led to their own series and from there, Wolverine's rise to popularity. However, the X-plosion of the late 80s and early 90s seems less likely when you consider that Uncanny was only a lukewarm seller before it made the big cast changes. It would have continued to plod through, month after month, without attracting much more of an audience. Imagine a world without New Mutants, X-Force, Excalibur, X-Factor and so on. Heck, it might even mean we'd have been spared DC's Sovereign Seven (Claremont no longer prized super-star) and quite a few early Image comics.
These things happen: All the X-Men who dropped out after Giant Size X-Men eventually returned to at least one of the X-Men books, and Nightcrawler is indeed eventually killed (in Second Coming).

Next week time: What if Wolverine was lord of the vampires?
My guess: Things would have gone down the Twilight.