Saturday, March 18, 2006

Infinite Crisis Secret Files 2006 –The Missing Link Is Found

The upshot from DC Comics: “Don't miss this important side chapter of the INFINITE CRISIS saga! Kal-L, the Superman of Earth-2, his wife, Lois Lane-Kent of Earth-2, Alex Luthor of Earth-3 and Superboy from Earth Prime (Superboy Prime or SBP): the last survivors of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. What happened to them after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS is finally revealed here for the first time by one of the masterminds behind the original CRISIS: writer Marv Wolfman (NEW TEEN TITANS)!

“Learn what these heroes have been doing, how they have changed, and how their reappearance will force the DCU's heroes to reexamine themselves. This is the one Secret Files you dare not miss!”

FanBoyWonder’s take: For once, the story matched the hype…and then some. FBW has not made it a secret our disappointment in Infinite Crisis, the sequel to the classic 1985 maxi-series CRISIS on Infinite Earths—but Infinite Crisis does end up pulling out a victory by the end of issue 7, Infinite Crisis Secret Files will be (or should be) seen as the turning point.

From what we were told when we picked up books this week, many retailers were gun-shy about ordering too many IC Secret Files copies for fear that FanBoys (and girls) would be turned off by the $5.99 price tag for Secret Files.

Frankly we weren’t expecting much given the usually anemic story content of your average Secret Files book, as well as DC’s bait and switch MO with some of the Infinite Crisis IC crossovers (yeah, we’re still peeved over the “This is your life” train-wreck story arc in the Superman books).

However, our expectations were widely exceeded. The issue not only was the story as advertised—the promised back story to fill in what happened between the events at the end of CRISIS # 12 when Kal-L, Lois, SBP and Alex Luthor they took refuge in “heaven” and when they busted out at the end of Infinite Crisis #1—but Infinite Crisis Secret Files was 64 pages of pure story which injected some much needed heart and emotion into the so-far passionless story that is Infinite Crisis.

As we suspected, life in ‘heaven” for the last survivors of the CRISIS had not been good. As Kal-L dotes over his aging and increasingly fragile wife Lois, Superboy longs for the past and the life that is now erased from existence but yet accessible to review and replay over and over again—up to and including the moment of his parents and his world’s death from the anti-matter wave.

Meanwhile, Alex Luthor has it even worse. Made a man before his time, he’s a case of knowledge without the wisdom that’s earned from living life a day at a time. As readers of the original CRISIS know, Earth-3 sole survivor and son of the Alexander Luthor (that Earth’s only hero) and Lois Lane, Alex grew from infancy to manhood in days.

Alex Luthor was born to save the universe and having done so, he has nothing left to do but all the time in the universe to do it.

For these four characters, their heaven has turned out to be more of a hell—something like the Phantom Zone but much, much worse as they are not only consigned to watching the world they sacrificed everything to (re)create and save, but the past, present and future of the universe, any universe is an open book for them to watch.

Worse for Alex, we find out that at the moment of decision, after the Anti-Monitor died as the deadly shockwaves approached, he found two portals of escape—one seemingly to “heaven” the other what surely had to be Hell. Alex chose “heaven” sealing them off permanently from Earth and the rest of the universe not knowing “hell” was actually Apokolips, home of Darkseid…not much different from Hell but accessible to Earth.

Tormented by choosing the wrong fork in the road in a place where time has no meaning, never having lived life and watching the “heroes” of the post-CRISIS squander their lives, we can see how anyone could be driven to madness and a desire to “fix” the imperfections of the post-CRISIS universe to create a “perfect” Earth.

He sees his chance after Superboy punches the “looking glass” barrier and result changes reality. And Luthor puts it together—history changes each time they continue pound away at the barrier and attempt to escape because the singular Earth has not fully settled. The multiverse was incorrectly collapsed into one Earth—the wrong Earth, a flawed Earth.

So this new Super Luthor team use their combined powers—Alex’s anti-matter energy abilities and SPB’s pre-CRISIS Kryptonian planet-moving strength—to punch away at the barrier. Each one of SBP’s punches creates continuity ripples which serves to explain the two origins of Jason Todd, the Hawkman mess, and the countless other “tweaks.”—it’s as good excuse as any to explain away 20 years lax editorial discipline in at DC.

We are also glad to seek Lois Kent get some well deserved attention. She is dying and she knows it even if her husband can’t bring himself to accept it. Although the two Supermen—Golden Age and Modern—are alike in so many ways, a key difference for Kal-L was that his Ma and Pa Kent died early in his life leaving him twice orphaned and alone in the universe but for his Lois.

The thought of losing a spouse can be frightening in any circumstance but to this greatest of heroes who has literally lost everything else, we can see how clinging to the love of his life and his desperate prayers to save her would make him blind to everything else—including Luthor’s machinations.

At last, we’ve been given the emotional connection we’ve been seeking. Here’s the irony, it’s Marv Wolfman, author of the original CRISIS, that injects the heart and soul into the story. IC Secret Files should be considered as the unofficial eighth issue of Infinite Crisis, but the reader and the story would have been better serve if it had come out a month or two earlier.

Veteran Superman writer-artists Dan Jurgens provides the layouts for this mega 64-page issue while Jerry Ordway is credited with finishes for Chapter 1, Cam Smith, with Art Thibert on Chapter 2 and Nelson (first or last name?) on Chapter 3.

The Jurgens/Ordway collaboration in Chapter 1 is top shelf bar none. It’s so good that the art in the subsequent chapters is a bit of a letdown—still serviceable but clearly inferior but there’s enough of Jurgens' hand throughout to keep the story consistently moving.

We really enjoyed the splash pages in the beginning and at the end recounting the original CRISIS, but seeing Harbinger reminded us how much we missed her.

Having survived the CRISIS and for years afterward, Harbinger was unceremoniously killed off by Jeph Loeb a couple of years back in Superman/Batman during the return of Supergirl story arc.

It’s too bad, because Harbinger represents a missed opportunity for Geoff Johns and the other Infinite Crisis architects. During the original CRISIS, Harbinger—thanks in no small part to her power to create multiple versions of herself—served as a bridge between the various plot points, at times serving as story narrator and allowing the reader access from her point-of-view.

A POV bridge character is yet another thing that Infinite Crisis has lacked. Bonus—she would have been a gimmick-free yet plausible link between the CRISIS and Crisis. But alas, we digress.

Bottom line: Infinite Crisis Secret Files has at last provided the long-missing emotional connection to this ‘event”—one last gift from the original CRISIS. It’s up to the Infinite Crisis crew to hold on to the ball and run with it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Justice League Unlimited—Grudge match

The upshot: Roulette starts Metabrawl up again this time with female contestants only.

What can we say—“Chick Fight!” What’s not to love?

The episode centers around Black Canary and The Huntress, as BC is fighting for Roulette unbeknownst to her thanks to some Sonar induced mind control via the League com units.

Canary makes short work of Fire in the ring. As Huntress tries to bust Canary out, they are captured and forced to fight.

Black Canary and Huntress vs. Hawkgirl and Vixen quickly turns into the four of them versus Wonder Woman.

Outmatched, the heroines hold their own long enough for Black Canary to blast open the cage, giving themselves some room to fight. Vixen and Hawkgirl double-team Wonder Woman, while Huntress and Black Canary take on Roulette’s guards and head for the control center. Sonar and Black Canary exchange sonic blasts and martial art blows, while Huntress and Roulette fight it out.

The heroines win and convince Sonar to stop the signal, and Wonder Woman comes to her senses just in time. Huntress declines Black Canary’s offer to rejoin the League, and they decide to resolve their issues with best two out of three.

This wasn’t a great episode but it certainly wasn’t bad. We wished we could have seen more female heroes but we had fun watching.

As we keep count, the Grudge Match marked the 9th of the 13 remaining JLU episodes before the series goes dark.

Next week: Far From Home. Supergirl gets abducted to the 31st century, home of the Legion of Super Heroes, where it is destined she will never return.

Battlestar Galactica –Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2 ---SPOILERS!!!

The upshot: When Baltar wins the vote, Roslin considers stealing the election because she believes (rightly) that he is a Cylon collaborator. Meanwhile, the fleet is stunned to receive a peace offering by Cylon representatives.


Holy Frak!!!!! In case you haven’t figured it out my now, in the world of Battlestar Galactica, there is no such thing as the status quo. Following the events of Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2, you either love what’s happened at the end of this Season 2 finale or you hate it but there is no middle ground and there is no turning back.

Mrs. FanBoyWonder, who watched it with us, hated it. We on the other hand, liked the boldness of the storytelling and the resulting shake up in the show’s status quo. That said, the episode was not without its problems and we understand why the Mrs. had issues with the episode.

The 90 minute season finale essentially broke down into Season 2 in the first hour with the last 30 minutes as the beginning of Season 3. The end of Season 2 was a bit of a let down as the plot lines that had been building to critical mass during the past few episodes—the presidential election, Starbuck’s rescue mission back to Caprica and the fate of the prisoner Cylon Sharon among other things were resolved (more or less) hastily and without much satisfaction.

On Caprica, Starbuck was reunited with Anders just before they came under fire by the Cylons. After being pinned for hours, the Cylons abruptly withdrew.

The latest Cylon model is revealed to be the priest played by Dean Stockwell, whom we first saw last episode. We felt a bit cheated by this, not only because we accidentally happened on a spoiler that gave up Stockwell’s role, but because we liked the character and felt his exposure was rushed. We hope we see more of him!

The Priest Cylon conveys a message of peace to Adama and Roslin, the Cylons have left Caprica, nothing the Cylons have concluded the attack on humans and the pursuit of the fleet was a mistake. “We became what we beheld, we became you,” he said, noting Cylon and Man will now go their separate ways.

On the election: Riding the way of the public’s desire to settle on New Caprica, Baltar wins the vote but Roslin attempts to have the ballot box stuffed. She is (rightly) convinced that Baltar is a Cylon collaborator and she feels his leadership will be a disaster.

Unfortunately, the plot is discovered by Adama who quietly talks her back. Doing the right thing has consequences. President Baltar immediately orders planetary settlement.

Meanwhile, the Cylon Number Six whom Baltar rescued from the Battlestar Pegasus after being repeatedly raped and tortured remained damaged from her experience. She used the nuclear bomb Baltar gave to the Cylon-for-Peace movement to blow up herself and everyone aboard Cloud Nine.

The show abruptly shifts to One Year Later. New Caprica is a dreary place of little sunshine and frequent rain. New Caprica City, population 39,192, far from a mega-metropolis is little more than a shanty town. People are living in tents and eking out a living seemingly not much better than existence they shared cooped up on the tin cans of the fleet.

Speaking of the fleet, the Battlestars Galactica and Pegasus remain in orbit of New Caprica, manned by skeleton crews. It’s an occupation fleet that’s grown soft by inaction.

President Baltar’s leadership is rife with discontent and he has not used his power wisely. The populace is discontented. Starbuck is now married to Anders, Chief Tyrol and Kallie are married, with child, Col. Tigh and wife Ellen are also living on the planet.

Out of the blue, the Cylon fleet shows up. The Colonial fleet jumps away, knowing they are no match in a fight but vow to return. President Baltar offers his surrender to the Cylons and we see New Caprica under the heel of the Cylons.

Love it or hate it, it’s a whole new show. Even counting that God-awful Galactica 1980, the new Battlestar Galactica has by all measures surpassed the original show—not just in terms of quality but now in duration.

From here on, this BSG charts it own course. Sci-Fi Channel is not bringing back BSG until October and we think that’s a wise move. Events this jarring require some time for the reader to decompress and absorb. The best show on television –Frakin A!

Stargate Atlantis--Allies

The upshot: Atlantis joins forces with a Wraith faction led by Michael, the Wraith they tried to turn into a human, who seeks their help in destroying their common enemies.

This was kind of a dumb finale. The team got totally suckered and it was a dumb premise. There was some suspense but we found ourself not caring. We’re waiting until July for this to be dumb cliffhanger to be resolved and we can all move on.

SG-1 Camelot

The upshot: SG-1 discovers the village of Camelot on an alien world, and must face Merlin's security system when they go in search of an Ancient weapon. The weapon they believe can stop the ORI invasion of earth.

See our answer for Stargate Atlantis—we’ll wait until July.
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