Monday, October 31, 2011

Is TERRA NOVA Fun to Watch Because It's Terrible?

There's a new episode of FOX's incredibly-disappointing dinosaur sci-fi drama Terra Nova tonight and I couldn't be more pleased.  Oh, the show makes you want to reach for the remote control at times and find something more intellectually stimulating like The Jersey Shore or perhaps Ghost Hunters Academy, but maybe -- just maybe -- that's a good thing.

As many of you already know, this is a great time for fans of science-fiction, horror and fantasy TV shows.  Doctor Who, Fringe, the U.K. Being Human, Futurama, True Blood, American Horror Story, Game of Thrones and others give us quality entertainment on a regular basis, so with Terra Nova having such a huge production budget, it's not too much to ask for something along these lines, right?

Terra Nova works with the premise that sometime in the 22nd century, when the Earth is polluted beyond repair by us environmentally-uncaring humans, a time tunnel is discovered into the distant past.  Specifically, 85 million years ago, the peak of the time of the dinosaurs, but the tunnel is a one-way passage -- once you go back in time, there’s no coming back.  Human society decides to “start over” by sending groups of colonists selected as the best, brightest and presumably most useful, to create a brand-new society in this prehistoric age.

Now, that's not a bad premise, unless you start thinking about things like why these brilliant 22nd century scientists can invent a way to move large groups of people, machines and supplies across 85 million years but can't invent ways to clean up the pollluted atmosphere in their own time.  Or why having more than two kids is still considered a crime in the overpopulated 2149 when groups of humans are bailing on 2149 for the distant past.  Okay, okay, maybe things like this don't matter, especially considering this is supposed to be a show about humans interacting with dinosaurs.

Except they don't, not often anyway.  Most of the time, the focus is on members of the Shannon family and the most recently-aired episode, "The Runaway," didn't feature dinosaurs in the story until forty-five minutes into the hour.  Mostly, the episode was attempting to slowly build up tension between the Terra Nova camp and the Sixers, the mysterious group of humans living on their own that in no way whatsoever resemble The Others from LostWhen lead character Jim Shannon, played by Jason O'Mara, is taken captive by Sixer leader Mira, she informs him that Terra Nova has an oh-so-secret purpose beyond what he's been told by Terra Nova leader Commander Nathaniel Taylor.  When Jim asks Mira what that purpose is, she merely replies "You'll see" in a smirky way that makes you think showrunner Brannon Braga hasn't actually thought up the real purpose yet or has watched too many episodes of Lost and the recent Battlestar Galactica and now expects you to watch Terra Nova for a few more seasons before getting any real answers.

If it sounds like the writing on this series is forced and by the numbers, that's because it is.  There's little sense of actual drama here, only that you're supposed to care about certain characters because you're supposed to care about them.  And when Braga starts recycling story ideas like the uber-cheesy "amnesia virus" that makes characters forget just enough to cause conflict with no lasting consequences, you have to wonder if you're watching a show called Terra Nova or Braga's previous series Star Trek: Voyager.

So why is Terra Nova's poor creative execution so fun?  Anyone who's watched an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 could tell you that cheesy movies and TV shows are made more entertaining when you make fun of them while watching.  My personal preference for MST3K-style Terra Nova smacktalk is Twitter, where I'm able to post my thoughts and reactions to whatever nonsense is going on (or not going on) using the searchable hashtag #TerraNovaIf you check it out, you'll see I'm not the only one who does engages in this bit of schadenfreude, which may help explain why the show's ratings have only gone down 0.3 points since the two-hour pilot aired a month ago.

Or maybe Terra Nova is far better than I think it is and I'm just being excessively hard on a series that hasn't yet finished its 13-episode first season.  Check it out and decide for yourselves if you haven't already, but in the meantime, I'll be waiting for you on Twitter...

Friday, October 28, 2011


Sure, Justice League Dark sounds way too much like a specific type of beer or chocolate, but if that's what it takes to get more people to buy this book then so be it.

Back in April, I posted my thoughts on rebooting John Constantine back from his current geriatric state in Hellblazer, blissfully unaware that DC Comics was already making plans to give us a young Constantine for their relaunched Post-Flashpoint "New 52" DC Universe.  Obviously, the Justice League Dark version was going to be sanitized, with no F-bomb dropping or middle-finger extending, but interestingly, the new DCU version was going to have the exact same writer, Peter Milligan.  Yes, the Peter Milligan made famous for his legendary 70-issue run of Shade, the Changing Man for DC's Vertigo line, and oh look -- Shade just happens to be in Justice League Dark as well.

Milligan emphasizes that this team -- which still isn't a team -- are "half-insane and damaged goods," setting the apparent tone for the series.  No character personifies that better in this issue than Deadman, who reveals all kinds of issues centered around his sexual frustration of being a ghost involved with Dove, a living woman.  When Geoff Johns first paired these two up in Brightest Day, it seemed as though their relationship was over when Boston Brand died and became Deadman once again.  However, Milligan seems interested in exploring the "dead and living couple" concept to its potential, toying with the idea of Deadman making love to Dove using a possessed male body.  Dove is understandably thrown by the suggestion, especially when Deadman accuses her of being "old-fashioned" and then caresses her cheek softly and tells her he loves her while using the body of June Moone.  It definitely gives the book more of a Vertigo-esque edge than your standard Justice League title and gives Dove far more depth as a character than she receives in the disappointing Hawk and Dove series.

Bringing this and other scenes involving Zatanna and Constantine to life is artist Mikel Janin, a newcomer most recently known for the Flashpoint mini-series Deadman and the Flying Graysons.  His figures are a bit stiff at times, but combined with some stellar coloring by Ulises Arreola, they become very visually bold and interesting to look at.  Simple scenes such as Dawn Granger transforming into Dove that look flat and lifeless in Hawk and Dove shine brightly and magically here, while John Constantine's spellcasting glows far more impressively than the standard dark and gloomy color palette found in Hellblazer.  There's some genuine talent here, and it's going to be interesting to see how this book grows and evolves in the months ahead.

As this issue ends, we get another glimpse of the growing threat from the Enchantress while an unexpected flip from one of the lead characters makes you wonder exactly how Justice League Vertigo Dark is going to coalesce into a full-fledged team.  Or maybe they won't, I guess we'll just have to wait and see...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fandom: The Next Generation

Generation X, this may be hard for some of you to accept, but it's time to step aside and make room for Generation Text.

I know, I know...As a comics and science-fiction fan of forty-two, I'm not overly fond of my increasing obsolescence but I like to think I'm secure enough to understand my reduced place in the rapidly-shifting landscape of fandom.  While attending the 2011 Mid-Ohio Comic Con as a guest this past weekend, I had several opportunities to engage in a writer's favorite pastime -- people watching(And no, not in a creepy, stalky way...)  Here's a little of what I observed:
  • Those Damn Kids are just as passionate about stuff they like as you are, probably more so -- See those four guys in the photo above?  They spent a good ten minutes hanging out at my table, talking all kinds of fun, good-natured smack to me and to one another about who was better, Generator Rex or that nowhere-near-as-cool-as-Generator Rex Ben 10 guy.  They threw out each character's advantages, flaws, you name it, all with energy and true geek passion that used to fuel many a Kirk vs. Picard argument back in the day.  They love what they love, just as you geezers do, even if you have absolutely no clue why that is.
  • Those Damn Kids aren't just fat white kids with bad skin anymore -- Ever since the Lord of the Rings movies and the Harry Potter films debuted, the traditional white, straight male geek demographic has been seemingly halved by a much more diversified and more importantly, female presence.  As a result, you can find things like Twilight memorabilia (shudder) and all kinds of custom jewelry mixed in with all those Japanese katanas and Klingon Bat'leths.  Some comics creators are wisely making specific efforts to reach out to those new types of fanbases, which only helps to grow them further.  If you're looking for real social progress, take a good look at a modern comics convention floor.
  • Those Damn Kids love to cosplay -- Once upon a time, nerds with Spock ears and Batman masks roamed the convention floor in often cheesy homemade garb, but now you can find all kinds of elaborate costumes made by people talented enough to be working in film and television instead.  Oh, cheesy still has its place, as it always will, but you can find fans wearing quality costumes from just about every TV, movie, novel series and animation project you can think up.  With numerous comics and science-fiction sites posting cosplay photos these days, these younger fans know they need to come up with something attention-grabbing and they often do.  Young women have the advantage here, obviously, and are more than willing to wear the skimpiest of costumes whether they have a decent physique to pull them off or not.  Halloween costume shops seem to be big for those female fans who want to show off as Sexy Captain America, Sexy Robin or yes, even Sexy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
  • Those Damn Kids are The Future -- Just as our geezer generation replaced the Silver Age-obsessed Baby Boomers, this new generation is gradually replacing us.  Digital comics and e-books are rapidly becoming the norm, whether you like it or not, and we've just seen how accommodating these newer formats and technologies has helped companies such as DC Comics earn their best sales in years.  Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley have given way to Pine, Quinto and Urban, creating a new generation of Star Trek fans for decades to come.  One group's Star Wars is now another group's Clone Wars.  Tom Baker Doctor Who scarves have been replaced by Matt Smith bowties and fezzes.  The names and details may change, but the core of What We Love continues on in What They Love.  As it should be.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mid-Ohio Comic Con 2011: Day Two Photos

Mid-Ohio Comic Con 2011 wrapped up today.  After meeting all kinds of people and signing and handing out at least thirty free copies of Cartoon Network Action Pack #61 over the weekend (over twice what I expected), I can easily say I had a full convention.  Hope everyone who attended enjoyed it as much as I did and let's do it all again next year, okay?

And as promised, some more photos...

Arthur Dent (A frood who knows where his towel is) and The Eleventh Doctor
Harry Dresden and Molly Carpenter from Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files
V from V for Vendetta (or a member of Anonymous, take your pick)
Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas
Flash Thompson as Venom
And just as before, you can find more photos at my Facebook account.

See you next year!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mid-Ohio Comic Con 2011: Day One Photos

Day One of Mid-Ohio Comic Con 2011, my first-ever convention as a guest, is officially in the history books.   An absolutely huge turnout for Saturday and I gave away twice as many free copies of Cartoon Network Action Pack #61 than I expected. My many thanks to everyone who stopped by my table today and a Special Shout-Outs to fellow ex-TitanTalker Neil Southwell and to all the Doctor Who and Generator Rex fans. 

Oh, look...photos!

The Tenth Doctor, The Eleventh Doctor, The Ninth Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness (with banana because bananas are good)
Mistah J and Harley Quinn
Four new recruits for Team Generator Rex.  Represent!
Ed Brubaker-era Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Aquawoman
Rose Tyler from "The Idiot's Lantern" and The Tenth Doctor from "The Girl in the Fireplace"
My favorite pairing of Day One -- Mysterion from South Park and Shipwreck from G.I. Joe
Want to see more pictures?  Check them out on my Facebook account!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- NIGHTWING #2

It may have taken a little while, but Dick Grayson is officially Nightwing again.

Last month's return of the Nightwing monthly series seemed a bit off somehow.  Maybe it was writer Kyle Higgins' excessive internal narrative captions that described way too much instead of simply showing, or maybe it just seemed strange to see Grayson back as Nightwing again after being such an effective Batman, but this wasn't Nightwing.  Not yet.

Four weeks later and we finally have a book that feels like the previous Nightwing series that was handled so well by Chuck Dixon and Peter J. Tomasi.  Higgins still relies too heavily on narrative captions, but he pulls back a bit here and things improve considerably.  Dick's apparent Kryptonite-like weakness for redheads resurfaces, leading to a sudden membership in the Mile High Club, even though the character's Pre-Flashpoint track record makes you wonder how long it'll be before Raya the Love Interest turns out to be evil.

The real highlight of the issue though, is the outstanding art by Eddy Barrows.  Barrows did some great work on the first issue, but he's rapidly evolving to another level.  Right from the start, everything is bold and vibrant, especially thanks to Rod Reis' coloring, with solid action sequences and poses that look dynamic.  Barrows is also improving on facial expressions, showcasing Grayson's natural charm in scenes with Raya and the final look of sadness in Mr. Haly's left eye as he dies.  If Barrows keeps growing at this pace, this series will look absolutely breathtaking six months from now.

As for Saiko, the first villain of this new Nightwing era, I think he has potential despite his somewhat ridiculous name.  Yeah, it's a pun on the word "Psycho" but I also keep waiting for Nightwing to compare his name to a Seiko watch or perhaps some Japanese sake.  By not revealing exactly why Saiko considers Grayson "Gotham's fiercest killer," it seems a rematch down the road is inevitable, especially since the old comic book axiom of "the villain isn't really dead if there's no body...and even then" seems to be in full effect here.

So at last, we finally have a Nightwing comic that feels like a Nightwing comic.  Now if DC Comics could just switch his chest symbol back to blue from red...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Matt Smith Makes Bowler Hats Cool on Ferguson's LATE, LATE SHOW

Matt Smith wears a bowler hat now.  Bowler hats are cool.

Making his third (Third!) guest appearance on CBS' The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson last night, Doctor Who star Matt Smith returned to the late night talk show under the pretense of promoting the upcoming release of Doctor Who Series Six on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 22nd, the day before Doctor.  Of course, Smith was in town to accept the Best Sci-Fi Actor award at the Spike TV Scream Awards held on October 15th at Universal Studios, but does it really matter?  I think not.

This time, the featured Doctor Who clip preceding Smith's introduction came from the Series Six finale, "The Wedding of River Song," showing the Live Chess match between The Eleventh Doctor and Gantok.  Smith arrived wearing a black bowler hat and discussed his acceptance of the Scream Award, saying that after he accepted the award on stage, some show representative took the award away from him backstage and told him they would engrave it and send it back to him later.

Smith also mentioned that he had just finished filming the untitled 2011 Doctor Who Christmas Special and once again brought up the campaign to get Ferguson to appear on Doctor Who at some point.  Ferguson shrugged at the subject, remarking "I'm too busy, so they (the showrunners) can say 'Good.'"  The host also fretted that Whovians will be mad at him if he's not good.

After flashing the Series Six DVD to the camera for a very brief second, Ferguson ended the segment with offering Smith a Big Cash Prize of $50 if he answered the question of whether the traditional "Jack and Jill" nursery rhyme is actually about Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI of France.  Smith said that was false, but Ferguson said that it was true (even though this is only a possible theory and the rhyme's true origins remain unknown).  Regardless, Ferguson gave Smith the $50 anyway, but as the show ended, Smith gave the $50 to a pair of visiting Swedish women that were featured at the beginning of the program.

If you'd like to see the full interview, you can view it below thanks to the kindness of YouTube user Indigenous4logic...

Monday, October 17, 2011

My GENERATOR REX Revolution Returns in January

It is happening again...It is happening again...

If you've managed to check out the DC Comics January 2012 solicitations, you may have noticed this little item...

On sale JANUARY 11
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Desperate for help with last-minute holiday shopping, Rex heads to the mall with a caffeine-deprived Dr. Holiday. Is doing a little shopping and flirting with cute girls too much to ask? Maybe you should ask the ginormous EVO.

This is the second of my four Generator Rex stories for Cartoon Network Action Pack, although technically the fourth because it was written last.  My previous story, "Night of the Living Movie," featured Rex and Noah, but this one partners Rex up with Dr. Holiday for another 10-page round of teenage hormones and pop culture references interrupted by giant monster fight scenes.  I've only seen the rough pencils by Adam Archer so far, but this should look outstanding when everything's finished.  I really hope you dig it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Geoff Johns Hopeful for GREEN LANTERN Film Sequel

With yesterday's release of the film adaptation of DC Comics' Green Lantern onto DVD and Blu-Ray, just in time for this weekend's New York Comic Con, it's no surprise that The Hollywood Reporter is asking about the possibility of a sequel.  Even though the film disappointed with only $116.6 million in domestic box office, it still pulled in a total of $219.8 million worldwide, $19.8 million over its reported production budget of $200 million.  And that was before home video sales, so a sequel may not be as out of the question here as some might think.

THR's Heat Vision posted a piece about DC Comics' Chief Creative Officer and current Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns speaking about the subject at the "Green Lantern All Access" panel yesterday at the New York Comic Con.  "There is the hope that we will eventually see one," Johns said, apparently channeling his hopeful Blue Lantern creation Saint Walker.  "I hope that the character gets another film, and it will be live-action again -- I guarantee."

Johns also mentioned the criticism the film received for not having enough character development, but he was happy that it introduced Green Lantern to a large amount of people not familiar with the character.

"There was a lot of really good stuff in the movie," said Johns, pointing out that the Extended Cut Blu-Ray released yesterday includes additional scenes that add to Hal Jordan's character.

In addition, Johns discussed the upcoming Green Lantern: The Animated Series debuting on Cartoon Network on November 11, 2011.  "With the new animated series, Green Lantern is only going to get bigger," he remarked, which could potentially tip the scales in the film sequel's favor if the animated series brings in solid ratings.

One of my chief criticisms of this summer's film was that the character Sinestro was being set up for a sequel even though he was far more of a menacing threat in his limited screen time than main villains Hector Hammond or Parallax were in all of theirs.  As a result, Sinestro is the obvious choice for the sequel's villain and based on the post-credits sequence where Sinestro receives his yellow Sinestro Corps uniform, it seems "The Sinestro Corps War" would be the presumed basis for the storyline.

But bottom line, if you want to see a sequel to Green Lantern, it sounds like you'd better go out and buy that Blu-Ray and watch the animated series every week.  And maybe then, all will be well...

Friday, October 14, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- THE SHADE #1

According to The Shade, the month of October brings melancholy.  Perhaps, but it also brings post-season baseball, bargain bags of Halloween candy, and of course, some damn good comics.

When the now-classic Jack Knight Starman series debuted in 1994, I became fascinated with writer James Robinson's depiction of The Shade.  The character had been an unimpressive one-note Golden Age Flash villain until Robinson completely revamped him as an immortal English gentleman with a deep love for the fictional Opal City.  The Shade was a terrific supporting character for the series, earning his own four-issue spinoff mini-series, and when Starman ended in 2001, it seemed like we had seen the last of this wonderful corner of the DC Universe.

Thankfully, Robinson wasn't ready to let go of The Shade just yet.  He included him in his Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series, a special Blackest Night tie-in issue of Starman, and most recently in his run that ended Justice League of America (Vol. 2).  And now, one month after DC Comics' relaunched Post-Flashpoint universe, Robinson's back with a twelve-issue Shade maxi-series and I couldn't be happier.

With the aforementioned melancholy plaguing him, the Shade invites the former and current Starman, Mikaal Tomas, over for tea and reveals that he is at his weakest during the month of October.  It's exactly the kind of conversation Robinson loved to spin in the pages of Starman and if you were a fan of that series as much as I was, it pulls you right back into that world.  Robinson's recent work has received a fair share of criticism for not being up to his earlier standards, but he obviously feels at home in Opal City and it shows here once again. 

He brings back another of his obscure creations, William von Hammer, who previously debuted in the Mon-El era of Superman, and has him fight a group of assassins on rooftops before tying him briefly into the main story.  Then we're treated to the return of Hope O'Dare, still romantically involved with The Shade after the events in the Blackest Night tie-in Starman #81.  And if that isn't enough, the issue ends with a rather gory confrontation with Deathstroke, of all people, with a cliffhanger that can't possibly be resolved but has to considering there are still eleven issues to go.

Jack Knight co-creator Tony Harris makes a welcome return as cover artist for this series, but it's the Cully Hamner artwork inside that gives the series its appropriate tone.  Hamner makes solid use of shadows, a must for this character, but keeps things moving nicely whenever called to do so.  It's just a shame Hamner had to depict Deathstroke in his ugly and overly clunky Post-Flashpoint costume, but that's certainly not his fault.

So all in all, if you loved Starman then The Shade is an absolute must.  And if you've never read Starman (You fool, you), I definitely recommend giving The Shade #1 a try.  If it appeals to you, then you have something wonderful to track down and enjoy while waiting for #2.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Valentine's Day 2013 is A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD

Action movie fans, it looks like your Valentine's Day in 2013 is officially set.

Speaking less than an hour ago to syndicated sports talk radio program The Jim Rome Show, Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman and chief executive officer Tom Rothman gave exclusive details on the upcoming fifth Die Hard film, once again starring Bruce Willis as John McClane.

Rothman announced that the movie will be called A Good Day to Die Hard and filming is scheduled to begin in January for a release date of Thursday, February 14, 2013.  As rumored, the film will feature an adult John McClane, Jr., a character who hasn't been seen on screen since actor Noah Land played him in the original Die Hard in 1988.

According to Rothman, McClane will "go to Russia to bail his miscreant son out of trouble, but things are not what they appear."  He went on to say that "the apple has not fallen far from the tree.  The only person tougher than John Senior is John Junior."

When asked by host Jim Rome if the franchise could continue on with McClane, Jr., Rothman replied, "Certainly that's a possibility."

As for whether the new film would go back to a traditional MPAA R rating from the previous PG-13 for Live Free or Die Hard, Rothman wasn't very commital.  "Whatever the movie warrants," he said.  "We'll make the best movie possible and that's what it'll be."


Update as of 4:25 p.m. EST -- You can now listen here for the announcement by Tom Rothman on The Jim Rome Show.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Javier Bardem Confirms Role as JAMES BOND 23 Villain

It looks like James Bond finally has his newest nemesis.

In an interview with ABC's Nightline, actor Javier Bardem was asked about the role during a discussion about a documentary Bardem is doing to raise awareness for western Sahara refugee camps.

Bardem responded, "I am very excited, my parents took me to watch the movies, and I saw all of them, and to play that is going to be fun.  They chose me to play this man, but I cannot give you many details."

This follows up on comments James Bond star Daniel Craig made last month that Bardem and Ralph Fiennes were up for roles as villains.  The movie, which may or may not be titled Skyfall, is the twenty-third official James Bond film and is currently scheduled to be released on November 9, 2012.

If you're interested in viewing the Nightline interview, you can check it out here...

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Friday, October 7, 2011

GREY'S ANATOMY Gives DOCTOR WHO Love in "What Is It About Men"

I think it's official now...Doctor Who has entered the American television zeitgeist.

As if shout-outs on FOX's House, M.D., CBS' Criminal Minds and NBC's Community weren't enough, ABC's medical soap opera drama Grey's Anatomy has now jumped on the Doctor Who bandwagon.  In last night's episode, "What Is It About Men," the series took a little time to take potshots at geek culture by featuring several E.R. patients who were injured during a stampede at a local comic book convention.  Over the TARDIS.

Or as a nerdy Lord of the Rings Hobbit in horn-rimmed glasses explained, "Fifteen collector's edition replicas of the Doctor Who TARDIS in original packaging, signed by Russell T. Davies, free to the first fifteen people through the door."

I dunno, I can see a stampede over Steven Moffat signatures, but Russell T. Davies?  The guy who gave us "Love & Monsters"?

Another patient named Keith had his ear ripped off after having it caught on one guy's costume.  "At least we got what we came for," sighed Keith.  "We got a TARDIS!"

"Well..." added his heavyset friend in a "Droid Rage" t-shirt, "...I got a TARDIS."

If you're interested in checking out the episode, you can find it here on ABC's official site.  Thankfully, these mentions take place in the first segment.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- THE BOYS #59

The first bad day.  Just the first.

There have been a number of memorable scenes since The Boys debuted at Wildstorm back in 2006 before the series was hastily dumped and picked up by Dynamite Entertainment six issues later.  Some have been surprisingly touching, others excessively violent, but most of them just downright shocking.

As writer Garth Ennis prepares his final two Boys storylines, he wraps up "The Big Ride" with an incredibly powerful conclusion.  After several issues of backstory and character introspection, Ennis finally takes two players off the board, ramping things up in what should be one hell of a showdown between The Boys and The Seven.

Or what's left of them.

The issue starts out with Seven member Jack From Jupiter, the team's Martian Manhunter analogue, losing his shit over some incriminating footage of his unsavory exploits being leaked.  Jack thinks The Boys are responsible for ruining his public persona, but he's told by the Homelander that Butcher isn't lying when he says The Boys aren't responsible.  Someone, it seems, is attempting to start the inevitable war between the two sides and there's obviously far more going on behind the scenes than we know at the moment.  What follows is a brutal series of events, starting with Wee Hughie unleashing his increasing anger and frustration with Butcher's treatment of him.  Just when the conversation is about to go too far, though, Hughie retreats and the matter is dropped.  And then you turn the page and BOOM, the shit officially hits the fan.

Russ Braun does an excellent job selling these key plot points, giving Butcher's confrontation with Jack the intensity it deserves.  I still find myself missing Boys co-creator Darick Robertson on the interior art, but Braun's work feels like a blend of Robertson and frequent Ennis partner Steve Dillon, which complements Ennis' scripts nicely.  It helps that he draws such an imposing version of Butcher, who is now even more emotionally damaged and dangerous after the events in this issue.

And now the war between The Boys and The Seven escalates.  At this point, you have some idea of how things are probably going to go, but I get the distinct feeling that Ennis hasn't played all his cards yet.  If nothing else, it certainly won't be dull.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

THE SIMPSONS Could End This Season? Worst. News. Ever.

I know, there are plenty of reasons to hate the Fox network -- the cancellations of Firefly and Human Target, that asinine CGI robot they show during NFL football games, giving us Glee and American Idol -- but this could potentially jack up the hatred to another level entirely.

The Daily Beast reported earlier today that The Simpsons, the longest-running sitcom ever, may cease production after the current 23rd Season ends sometime in May 2012.  It seems there's another contract negotiation issue with the principal cast of six -- Dan Castellanetta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer -- only now the suits at Fox are insisting that if the cast doesn't accept a 45 percent pay cut, The Simpsons will officially be cancelled.

The ultimatum was given Monday night after Fox rejected the actors' proposal of taking a 30 percent pay cut in exchange for a small percentage of the show's back-end profits.  As you might imagine, with twenty-three years worth of syndication and merchandising, most of the billions of dollars made ends up going to Fox.  But hey, they're job creators, right?

The Daily Beast quotes a Unnamed Insider (whose real name is hopefully not Jeff Albertson) who says, "Fox is taking the position that unless they can cut the production costs really drastically, they’ll pull the plug on new shows.  The show has made billions in profits over the years and will continue to do so as far as the eye can see down the road.  The actors are willing to take a pay cut of roughly a third, but that’s not good enough for Fox."

So bottom line, unless the cast agrees to give up almost half their salary or some form of compromise is reached, Simpsons is probably done.  After twenty-three seasons and the show not pulling in peak numbers anymore, it doesn't seem like the cast has much in the way of leverage here.  Fox could easily go ahead with selling the show for a second round of syndication money, and with almost 500 episodes in play, it may be more profitable for them to finally end the series instead of giving the cast their proposed amount.

Let's hope things are worked out somehow, though.  I've been watching The Simpsons since their original shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show back in 1987 and can't imagine my Sunday nights without them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

DAMN Good Television -- DOCTOR WHO Series Six

Doctor Who Series Six has just ended, leaving us with over two a half months until the next Christmas episode.  With showrunner Steven Moffat writing Series Five and Six as season-long arcs, I thought I'd save up my thoughts, rankings and assorted nonsense on each of the Series Six episodes until the end.  It's been a pretty bumpy ride in the TARDIS this year, but some definite gems to be treasured for years to come.  So here are my thoughts on this season, and shhhh, spoilers...
  1. The Impossible Astronaut (4.5 out of 5 Sonic Screwdrivers) -- This opener was key to setting up the Big Series Six Mystery and certainly doesn't disappoint.  Making the most of the first-ever series filming in America with some beautiful shots in the Monument Valley (a.k.a. "Lake Silencio") desert, this episode features Steven Moffat at his craftiest.  There's so much to enjoy here, with the shocking death scene of the 1,103-year-old future Eleventh Doctor, the introduction of Canton Everett Delaware III (young and old), the Doctor meeting President Richard Nixon, and the introduction of The Silence.  A solid start to the series.
  2. Day of the Moon (4 out of 5) -- Picking up three months after the end of "The Impossible Astronaut," I found it somewhat amusing that the Doctor was hanging out in America during the period of my birth in June of 1969.  (There's a story for me to write in there somewhere, I just know it...)  This episode takes full advantage of the setting around the Apollo 11 Moon landing and cleverly works it into the Silence's defeat.  More Series Six mysteries are introduced, including Amy Pond's apparent quantum pregnancy, the strange "Eyepatch Lady" and the game-changing regeneration scene of a little girl at the end.  Doctor Who internet forums go all asplodey.
  3. The Curse of the Black Spot (2.5 out of 5) -- Just about killing the momentum from the opening two-parter, this episode by writer Stephen Thompson wasn't entirely horrible but certainly a waste of the fun idea of the Doctor and his companions meeting pirates.  It does create a fun connection to the classic First Doctor story "The Smugglers" with the use of Captain Henry Avery and continues teasing us with another quick appearance by the "Eyepatch Lady" but that's about it.
  4. The Doctor's Wife (5 out of 5) -- With everyone's expectations lowered after the previous week's episode, writer Neil Gaiman comes along and reminds everyone why Doctor Who is still the greatest show in the galaxy after all these decades.  Moffat loves to treat Doctor Who as a fairytale, but it's Gaiman who weaves the most magical story out of the simplest of story ideas, the TARDIS given human form at long last.  Actress Surrane Jones positively shines as Idris/The TARDIS, playing off the equally brilliant Matt Smith to perfection.  There's so much love here, from the reintroduction of Hypercubes from "The War Games" to finally seeing corridors inside the TARDIS for the first time since the series' return in 2005.  My favorite episode of the series, hands down.
  5. The Rebel Flesh (3 out of 5) -- The first part of this two-parter by Life on Mars creator Matthew Graham is thankfully better than his previous Doctor Who script, "Fear Her," but still plods along more than it should.  It does introduce the concept of the Gangers, which pays off a little later on in Series Six, and teases more of the "Eyepatch Lady."
  6. The Almost People (3.5 out of 5) -- Following up on the rather predictable cliffhanger, Matt Smith gets the chance to act against himself and makes the most of it.  Two Eleventh Doctors working in tandem make every scene they're in so much more interesting and after we're back in the TARDIS, things really get interesting.  We're hit with the solid cliffhanger of Amy collapsing into a puddle of white Flesh goo and then cut to the Eyepatch Lady telling the real Amy (now about to give birth) to puuusssssh.  Internet forums resume exploding.
  7. A Good Man Goes to War (4 out of 5) -- Steven Moffat returns for the Series Six summer break point and wraps up the previous cliffhanger while indulging himself in more of his River Song fanfic.  We finally learn that Eyepatch Lady is named Madame Kovarian and that she has a serious peeve about the Doctor.  More importantly, we learn that Amy has named her new daughter Melody Pond and that Rory keeps his Roman armor handy whenever he wants to look all badass against a bunch of Cybermen.  Dorium Maldovar returns along with a motley crew of people the Doctor has apparently met before, including the scene-stealing Victorian lesbian Silurian Madame Vastra and her human lover/assistant Jenny.  Ultimately though, it's all about River Song, so everyone who's been paying attention gets to take pride that they figured out that River is actually Amy and Rory's daughter Melody all grown up.
  8. Let's Kill Hitler (3.5 out of 5) -- Back from summer hiatus at last, Steven Moffat bizarrely shrugs off the events of the previous episode and instead goes into full-on River Song fanfic mode once again.  We learn that Amy and Rory's troublemaking childhood friend Mels, who has never been seen until now, is actually the previous incarnation of River Song with a regeneration scene that only seems to surprise Amy and Rory.  Moffat crams a ton of his River Song character plot points into this rushed episode, never giving it the chance it needs to breathe and only frustrates us in the process.  Even worse, the idea that Amy and Rory never get to raise Melody properly, that they already "raised" her as Mels, feels extremely wrong and unjust.  Meanwhile, there's this strange Teselecta robot manned by a miniature crew of humanoids that can change its appearance.  I'm sure it's important for some reason...
  9. Night Terrors (2.5 out of 5) -- Just before you start to wonder if Moffat is changing the series title from Doctor Who to Doctor Song, we scale things down with the traditional budget-saving episode, this time by writer Mark Gatiss.  For an episode that is shot very dark and atmospheric, we don't really feel any sense of terror that we should.  Everyone seems to be going through the motions in this episode and fandom starts to wonder when things will get back on track.
  10. The Girl Who Waited (5 out of 5) -- And just like earlier in Series Six, a dud episode is followed up immediately by one of the best.  Tom MacRae, who hasn't written for Doctor Who since the first Cybermen two-parter of the new series in 2006, turned in a powerful episode with the tale of Amy Pond being left to fend for herself in a time-accelerated alien world.  Karen Gillan gives her best performance of the series as the Older Amy, once again jaded by abandonment and hardened by her circumstances into a katana-wielding force.  Once again, we're reminded of the deep love Amy and Rory now share, making Amy's flirtations with the Doctor just last year seem like a lifetime ago.  Whovians worldwide suddenly find themselves low on tissues in this solid tearjerker.
  11. The God Complex (3 out of 5) -- I'm convinced that there's a solid Doctor Who story in this script by Toby Whithouse, creator of Being Human, but it's hard to tell from the way this episode was executed.  Wandering around a strange hotel with people's fears hidden away in different rooms seems like a strong concept to me, but this episode is way too brightly-lit and has no sense of dread or mood going for it.  The Doctor gets some nice dialogue, though, and there's a fun nod that the minotaur creature is a relative of the Nimon from the Fourth Doctor story "The Horns of Nimon."  And then suddenly, without warning, the Doctor drops Amy and Rory off on Earth, gives them a nice house and a car, and sets off for somewhere else in the TARDIS.  Just because.  Whatchutalkinbout, Moffat?
  12. Closing Time (4 out of 5) -- Now companionless and suddenly two hundred years older, the Doctor returns to Earth to look up his old mate Craig Owens in this fun, lighthearted sequel to last year's "The Lodger" by the same writer, Gareth Roberts.  We learn that Craig and Sophie now have an infant son named Alfie, who apparently prefers to be called Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All.  (Well, who doesn't?)  The Cybermen return as the episode's villains, still not as impressive as they used to be, but this bunch reintroduces the Cybermats to a new generation of Whovians that are now especially bitey.  But just to remind everyone what's really important this season, the Doctor receives his Stetson hat from Craig and picks up some TARDIS blue envelopes.  Oh, and there's a not-so-subtle cliffhanger with Madame Kovarian and The Silence turning up to kidnap River Song and stick her in that astronaut suit so that she can kill the Doctor...or will she?
  13. The Wedding of River Song (4 out of 5) -- Okay, big finale time, which means it's also time for Steven Moffat to remind everyone that he's far cleverer than they are.  We start off with the Doctor tracking down the head of the presumably deceased Dorium Maldovar and soon discover there's a timey-wimey fusion of Earth's history in a moment of frozen time just to make things interesting.  With some returning cameos by Simon Callow's Charles Dickens, Ian McNiece's Winston Churchill, the Teselecta robot crew and Richard Hope's Silurian Malohkeh, we soon get the necessary explanation that River Song is responsible because she didn't carry out killing the Doctor, which is a moment of fixed time.  Well, of course.  This turns out to be a trap by Madame Kovarian and her new best buds The Silence, but the Doctor restores temporal reality by persuading River Song to allow time to continue by marrying her.  The Doctor is seemingly killed as shown in "The Impossible Astronaut" but he's got a plan, right?  Right?  The post "Flesh and Stone" River Song turns up at Amy and Rory's house to tell them that the Doctor was hiding inside a Doctor-shaped Teselecta robot when she shot him in Lake Silencio and is still alive.  And yes, as most diehard Whovians suspected, the oldest question in the universe is indeed "Doctor...who?"  Exhausting stuff, but Steven Moffat pulls everything together as well as can be expected and sticks the landing.  I'm not sure why everything had to be this convoluted, but this is how Moffat's brain works, apparently.  God forbid he works on a movie with Christopher Nolan someday.
So now we have the 2011 Christmas Special to look forward to, and then a lonnnnnng wait until after the 2012 Summer Olympics in London for Series Seven.  But at least Matt Smith is returning as the Eleventh Doctor and hopefully Moffat's new ominous tease of "The Fall of the Eleventh" in the Series Six finale won't be happening for until Series Eight or longer.  Oh, and we still don't know who that sinister voice was that took over the TARDIS in "The Pandorica Opens" and said "Silence will fall," do we?  Hmmm, I wonder who that could be...