Saturday, February 18, 2006

Battlestar Galactica –The Captain’s Hand

The upshot: Apollo works alongside the new unstable Battlestar Pegasus commander when a Raptor scouting party goes missing. Meanwhile, President Roslin's relationship with Vice-President Baltar continues to strain during a political crisis pitting personal liberty at odds with humanity.

Standard spoiler warning…don’t read further if you missed BSG on Friday and are waiting to catch the encore on Monday, 11 p.m. E.S.T. (check your local listings).

That old Vulcan proverb… “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few”...likely was never intended to cover the dilemma that President of the Twelve Colonies Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) has to grapple with in this latest BSG.

The dilemma starts when a pregnant teenage girl from Geminon is discovered on Galactica stowed away and seeking an abortion from the ships doctor. Despite abortion being legal under colonial law, the ultra-religious Geminese consider the termination of any pregnancy murder and a political hot potato to Roslin, who is ramping up for the fleet’s first elections.

Despite Roslin’s inclination to grant the underage girl’s request for asylum and permit the abortion, Admiral Adama reluctantly points out Roslin’s own words following the Cylon attack—that the future of the human race depended on the survivors’, now counted at some 49,500, ability to start making babies.

Roslin reluctantly announces an executive order outlawing the termination of any pregnancy throughout the fleet in order to begin repopulating the species. Although it wasn’t mentioned, Roslin must have noted the irony from a couple episodes ago when she ordered the forced abortion (later rescinded) of the Cylon Sharon’s human/Cylon fetus for the security of the fleet.

For his part, Dr. Baltar, vice president of the colonies, is encouraged by Tom Zerek (Richard Hatch), the former terrorist and political opponent of Roslin, to challenge Roslin for the presidency. Baltar makes his move during Roslin’s press conference to publicly admonish the president for her curtailment of civil liberties and announces he will run against her.

Meanwhile, what was billed in all of the previews actually turns out to be the “B” plot. The new Pegasus commander—guest star John Heard—the ship’s engineer has been promoted beyond his ability and butts heads with Starbuck. A newly promoted Major Lee Adama/Apollo has been dispatched from Galactica to lend a hand as the ship's executive officer and to keep Starbuck in line.

The commander rashly jumps the Pegasus to find the missing raptors only to come under attack by three Cylon baseships. Apollo is left in command while the commander goes below to fix the ships faster-than-light (FTL) drive—he succeeds with his dying breath, allowing the ship to hyper-jump to safety.

Following Apollo’s impressive command under fire, Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) promotes Apollo to commander and gives his command of the Pegasus.

If the point hasn’t been made before, let’s be clear—Battlestar Galactica isn’t a sci-fi show, despite that fact it’s on the Sci-Fi network. It’s a political drama punctuated with space action.

For all of the press that ABC’s Commander and Chief has received, President Geena Davis hasn’t had to make half of the tough calls that Mary McDonnell’s character has made—that is one tough broad.

Also, the two Stargates—Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were also decent.

Stargate Atlantis-- Coup D'etat

The Upshot: When the Atlantis team finds out that the Genii have grown into a new menace, they realize that the armistice with their old enemy may soon come to an end.

This episode was pretty good—more than a couple plot twists. We like the Genii—they are belligerent, untrustworthy and so fun to hate—think the Soviet Union under Stalin…in this case played by Star Trek: Deep Space 9’s Colm Meaney.

Stargate SG 1---The Scourge

Upshot: While a group of foreign delegates are touring the Gamma Site, a swarm of alien bugs linked to the Ori escapes containment...and adapt to become carnivorous.

Not a bad episode but the bugs reminded us of The Mummy, with a little bit of Tremors mixed in. Actually we do like the political tension with the United States led Stargate program as the other nations—particularly the commie Chinese want a piece of the action. Something to watch in the future.

A special thanks to FanBoyWonder’s good friend Dr. William Marcus for lending the FBW family his West Virginia cabin for the weekend. There’s nothing like roughing it in the woods with Direct-TV and a king-size bed. –Thanks Bill!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

JSA Classified, Kal-El & Girl Power with some Justice on the side

Hey true believers, thanks for checking out the site and for your comments. FanBoyWonder aims to please.

Here’s FBW’s drive-by picks for the week of February 15:

JSA Classified #9

The upshot: The second of two parts, The Spear and the Dragon, spotlights Wildcat and The original Flash! The mysterious Dragon King and his cult have gained control of the Spear of Destiny, one of the most dangerous artifacts on earth, and is using its magic to pit the two heroes against each other!

Writer Peter Tomasi crafts a first-rate story while JSA veteran artists Don Kramer and Keith Champagne turn out another flawless issue. FBW is going to miss this art team after the big switch-a-roo One Year Later.

Unlike JLA Classified—which serves mainly as a warehouse/dumping ground for throw-away and forgettable JLA story lines—JSA Classified actually supplements and advances the plot of the main JSA book.

One question we did have, however, is when exactly this story took place. We initially believed this took place after the events of Infinite Crisis #4 but in the midst to the story, Flash made reference to the Speed Force, which was supposedly eliminated during IC#4.

Action Comics #836

The Upshot: Part 2 of the 3-part This Is Your Life, Superman! "Superman is caught by the one person he can't defeat: Lois Lane! Witness the undying love story of the greatest couple of Earth-2, and how their love could bring about the end of the universe."

That’s how DC Comics described the issue and we reasonably believed that it would be a re-telling of the origin of Kal-L the original/Earth-2 Superman.

However, this issue is told from Kal-El’s perspective in flashback form, in the midst of battle with whom the reader can presume is Kal-L…a ramp up to Infinite Crisis #5 perhaps. However, just as with Superman 226 and the Kal-L spotlight, key areas of Superman’s life are altered in the retelling—was history changed during Alexander Luthor’s cosmic tinkering?

One thing that is becoming a common refrain for us, there is a bakers dozen of artists providing visuals in this issue, just as with part 1 of the story in Superman #226. We can understand to a point everyone wanting a piece of this story, but the going from page-to-page of radically different art styles adds an unnecessary distraction to the reader—as if this whole story isn’t tough enough to follow.

Birds of Prey #91

The upshot: Guest writer Jim Alexander teams up with guest artists Brad Walker and Jimmy Palmiotti for a stand-alone tale of a sought-after organ donor whose plight is personal to The Huntress and Oracle, while Black Canary has their back.

Jim Alexander does great job filling in for series regular writer Gail Simone, so much so regular readers such as ourselves forget this is a one-shot fill-in issue, while artists Walker and Palmiotti do an able job on the visuals.

If you haven’t been reading this book, jump on next month after One Year Later. Simone is one of the few writers that DC has allowed to stay on their book following OYL—and for good reason.

The only good thing about the god-awful Birds of Prey WB TV series from a couple years back was that it prompted DC to add the Huntress to the team, who until now has been a misunderstood, mishandled character. This is a chick book in the best sense of the word—smart, funny and sexy—the Birds are much more than the sum of their parts.

Justice #4

The upshot: The former super villains known as the Legion of Doom announce their plans for the betterment of humankind! But while they're behaving as saviors to the populace, they strike out as adversaries their ultimate target–the Justice League!

This series is Alex Ross’ non-continuity homage both to the Silver Age JLA and to the original Super Friends cartoon that we both grew up watching—with a grown up twist. Written by Ross, with scripting assist by Jim Kruger, Ross also provides the art via breakdowns by Doug Braithwaite.

The 12-issue Justice is Ross’ first attempt at a regular series in years. We admit, it took us a while to warm up to both the story and the Braithwaite/Ross art arrangement but both story and visuals seem to be hitting their stride.

Part of the problem has been that Ross’ detailed art style does not lend itself to a monthly book—which is why Justice comes out every other month…but in the eight months since issue one hit the stands, its been tough to remember what the heck the story is about.

But Ross is getting more comfortable stretching his artistic legs—we were starting to grow concerned that he had been doing posters for so long that he forgot how to draw paneled action. We’re a third-of the way through the series—keep it up Alex!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Earth-2 JSA, Kal-L and Donna Troy

FanBoyWonder continues to play catch up following our work-related incarceration at Walt Disney Hell last week so FBW, accompanied by Brianna the Girl Wonder, finally made it to the comics store. Here’s FBW’s pics for the week of Feb. 8.

JSA #82
This critical Infinite Crisis crossover features Power Girl as she copes with her newly restored memories of her past life on Earth-2, as well as the contents of the Earth-2 Lois Lane’s Journal.

Written by Paul Levitz, now a big shot vice president at DC Comics, he once was the Earth-2 JSA writer from the 1970s. The art is by FBW favorite George Perez, with Bob Wiacek.

It was nice to see a JSA story with the Golden Age Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman as part of the team again. Perez’s visuals are top shelf as usual. What we like most is a continuation of what he did during the original CRISIS on Infinite Earths—in drawing the Earth-2 Superman, as well as Wonder Woman and Batman—Perez doesn’t draw a carbon-copy of the current/modern/Earth-1 characters with a slightly different symbol but the reader can see these are different individuals.

Example: The Earth-1 Superman drawn as a lean, body-builder type; Earth-2 Superman is built like a circus-strongman.

What we also liked about JSA #82 that unlike Infinite Crisis so far, this issue of JSA actually let us get to know (again) the Earth-2 Lois Lane. During Infinite Crisis so far, Lois has been wall paper with virtually no speaking parts but here we get to see a three-dimensional character..

Superman #226

Part 1 of "This Is Your Life, Superman," a 3-part tale running through all three Superman titles in February! Witness the arrival of Kal-L, the Last Son of Krypton! Learn how he grew up to be the greatest hero of Earth-2. This issue includes a special origin album by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the creative team behind SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS! This is the origin of Kal-L with an Infinite Crisis twist.

JLA #125

The “astounding” conclusion of the 6-part “World Without Justice League” also brings to an end the 10-year-run of this Justice League title—not a moment too soon.

This book has always been hit or miss depending upon the story arc and the creative team, just as it s always been a showcase for DC’s big guns without a lot of character development. During the last few years in particular, with the exception for the recent “Crisis of Conscience” story arc by Geoff Johns—the quasi sequel to 2004’s Identity Crisis, this title has been sucking wind.

Just like the Flash last month, this current and last JLA story arc has been handed off to the junior varsity simply to mark time until the culmination of Infinite Crisis and the start of One Year Later.

We are looking forward with guarded optimism to the Justice League of America re-launch (the third in two decades) by Identity Crisis writer Brad Meltzer this summer.

So why is JLA #125 one of our pics? Two reasons: 1) To complete our continuous collection of 125 issues. 2) To watch Batman and Green Arrow beat the crap out of one another.

Titans/Outsiders: The Death and Return of Donna Troy

The upshot: This trade paper back (TPB) collects the separate mini-series TITANS/YOUNG JUSTICE: GRADUATION DAY #1-3 and DC SPECIAL: THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY #1-4 Written by Phil Jimenez and Judd Winick; Art by José Luis García-Lopez, Alé Garza, George Pérez, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning and others.

Following the original CRISIS on Infinite Earths, no character in the DC Universe has been abused, misused or recast more than Donna Troy—the original Wonder Girl, founding Teen Titan, one-time Darkstar and heroine once known as Troia.

Power Girl and Hawkman could tie for a close second in the most fracked-up post-CRISIS treatment, but hands down, the Donna Troy character has been taken apart and reassembled more than the engine of a ’69 Charger.

In pre-Crisis history, Donna had been rescued by Wonder Woman and raised as her adopted sister. Her powers had been given to her by the Amazons of Paradise Island. Following the post-CRISIS re-boot of Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl had appeared before Wonder Woman, so Titans team creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez have Donna Troy a new origin in the classic “Who is Wonder Girl” in New Titans #50-55.

John Byrne’s run on Wonder Woman in the late 1990s went and screwed things up even more. Donna was actually a doppelganger of young Diana as a child. She was magically created to be the young Wonder Woman’s twin, but kidnapped by Dark Angel, who had abandoned her master and escaped the Crisis. Donna lived hundreds of lives, and Dark Angel would appear at the lowest ebb of each and send her back to live the next.

The first half of the TPB featuring the “death” of Donna Troy is an amusing waste of time but even then, we knew Donna wouldn’t be dead forever. It’s the half of the book featuring Donna’s return….particularly issue 4 that makes it all worthwhile as writer Phil Jimenez settles the question of Donna Troy’s origin one and for all—All of her origins are true. She remembers the multiverse and for all of the Countdown issues, this stealth prelude to Infinite Crisis was the best run up of all.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Justice League Unlimited—Flash and Substance

The Upshot: “Flash and Substance” is described as: "Batman and Orion see a different side of the Flash when a rogues' gallery of villains attacks the museum that is opening in his honor."

Given the recent events in Infinite Crisis, seeing the Flash run with the Justice League is almost quaint.

FanBoyWonder was initially excited when we heard about this episode and the long-overdue spotlight on Flash. We’ve never really liked the way his character has been handled since the beginning of the show—as the comic relief and the lightweight in the powers department.

Both powers and personality wise, the Flash we see on JLU is the circa 1990 version during the William Messner-Loebs era of the Flash comic—a not too bright, goof ball whose heart is in the right place but a “B” list hero.

Our initial excitement turned to disappointment by the time we finished watching “Flash and Substance.” It wasn’t a bad episode; far from it… it was quite solid. But we see it as a missed opportunity to flesh out the Wally West character, and to introduce some explanation of the Flash legacy.

In the JLU universe, Wally West is the one and only Flash who is living a loose approximation of Barry Allen’s life—working at the Central City Police Department’s crime lab.

Central City is a bright city and Flash is a loving caretaker where the city residents return the affection for their hero—so much so they built a Flash Museum.

We did like seeing the Rogue’s Gallery in this episode—Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang, The Trickster and Captain Cold.

The voice of Trickster was handled by Mark Hamill, who played the same character in the short-lived but now classic Flash live action TV series of 1990-91 and who has also served the voice of the Joker in Batman and JLU episodes.

Hamill is mercifully understated in this role. The best scene of the episode comes at Central City’s villains-only bar as Flash asks the Trickster how’s he doing, if he’s off his meds, talking him into turning himself in to the cops after he finishes his beer as an astonished Batman and Orion look on.

We also see an appearance by TV reporter Linda Park, Wally West’s wife in the comics. Also making a cameo appearance of sorts is Barry Allen…at last that’s who we think the blond haired guy wearing the lab coat and crew cut was.

We also wish JLU did more with Flash’s powers. In a single recent episode of Teen Titans, which featured an appearance by Kid Flash (also voiced by Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum), he performed all the super-speed tricks—creating cyclones, vibrating through solid objects, super speed heat friction…etc.

We understand to a point that JLU creators didn’t want to many the leaguers too powerful given the ensemble nature of the cast but all this Flash does is run (not too) fast...and often not fast enough to avoid get nailed in a fight.

The Wally West character has been a favorite of ours as we’ve watched him in the comics struggle to evolve from sidekick to hero—but we just have to accept the fact that FBW’s vision of Wally West/Flash is different, broader than the vision that the JLU creators have for him.

As we reported the other day, JLU is on borrowed time. Flash and Substance was the fifth of 13 remaining episodes. Better enjoy them while they last.
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