Saturday, November 04, 2006

Battlestar Galactica – Torn

The Upshot from the Sci-Fi Channel: As Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) and Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) stir up discontent aboard the Galactica, while a new and deadly virus forces the Cylons to take drastic measures to protect the future of their race. Even as Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) risks his life to hold his crew together, Baltar (James Callis) realizes that he must face the irrational wrath of the Cylons alone.

We’re already several episodes into BSG’s third season and after a gangbusters premiere with some of the best episodes of this series to date, it would not have come as a surprise to see the show lose a little momentum as Galactica transitions into a new story line.

Yet what Torn lacks in action it more than makes up for in its deft character development and building tension.

Viewers get to see the return of Baltar’s imaginary Cylon Number 6 (Tricia Helfer). After months of hanging around with the flesh and blood (and circuit) Cylon—most recently as a “guest” aboard a Cylon basestar, Baltar retreats inside his head to renew his acquaintance with his synaptic specter.

Just what is she? It’s become clear from Baltar’s time among the real Cylons that “Ghost Six” is not operating at their direction and in the previous season, a CAT-scan disproved the presence of a chip in Baltar’s brain.

Maybe he IS truly a mad scientist or maybe its what Ghost Six is telling him—she’s an angel of God sent to help Baltar, just as she always has.

Back in reality, the Cylons want Baltar’s assistance in order to help them find the 13th lost colony known as Earth—as they have decided that Earth is to be their new home.

Torn provides viewers with the most extensive peak to date at the life of the Cylon. We learn not only about the mechanics of a Cylon basestar and the societal interactions of the various Cylon, but we learn as Baltar presses for answers that we’ve seen only 7 of the 12 Cylon human models.

When he asks where the other five are, Number Six gives him a sharp rebuke that it’s never discussed. Hit a nerve did he? Hmmmmm

This revelation came as the Cylons discover a virus that is savagely and quickly killing them—human model and centurion (“toaster”) model alike. But worry not Dr. Gaius Baltar is there to save the day. God help them indeed.

Meanwhile back among the fleet, we see the human race is down to 41,422 survivors and the transition back to “normal” following the Second Exodus from New Caprica continues—although not so smoothly.

We see a demoted Major Lee Adama/Apollo (Jamie Bamber) back in a Viper and out of the fat suit as his character has managed to shed all of that extra poundage in record time—just by jumping rope. It really should be that easy for all of us Lee.

We see that Apollo’s time as Commander of the Battlestar Pegasus has made him rusty during a training exercise dog fight. Apparently Apollo is back at his old job as the CAG (but since he’s a major now…wouldn’t that make him the MAG??—just wondering).

This was a minor but serious disappointment for us. With the destruction of the fleet’s second battlestar, Lee had become very much redundant to his father the Admiral so it was to be expected that Apollo would have to adjust to a new role but Apollo just as easily could have been tapped as ship’s XO—despite Col. Tigh’s return and Helo’s able filling of the role during Galactica’s skeleton cruise.

Whether by accident or by design, the writers really cheated the viewers out of the opportunity to see on camera how the new command structure was and continues to be resolved. We hope this is addressed in a future episode.

A quick shout out to our man Mr. Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani). He’s come a long way in a short time. Last week, Felix was a hair-trigger away from being blown out an airlock by a post-rescue star chamber-like “court” as a suspected Cylon collaborator. This week he is conferring with Admiral Adama and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) as he reviews Baltar’s research for a way to Earth.

In another fine moment, we see Galactica’s reformed Cylon, Lt. Sharon Agathon (Grace Park) has, with a couple exceptions we’ll discuss in a moment, been fully accepted as part of Galactica’s crew and family. But don’t call her “Boomer.” That was someone else, she says.

So the pilots come up with a new call sign for her—Athena after the goddess of wisdom and war.

We also are enjoying the irony that Grace Park has managed to sort-of be recast from not one but two characters from the original '70s Battlestar—first Boomer and now Athena (Maren Jensen, the actress who dropped off the face of the earth after she dated Don Henley—but we digress).

But not all is well in the pilot’s room. Tigh and Starbuck—who once not so cordially detested each other before New Caprica—have formed a strange bond as traumatized, wounded victims of the occupation. Misery does indeed enjoy company.

The pair quickly succeeds in destroying morale and crew unity by cutting down anyone and everyone who didn’t suffer as they suffered on New Caprica. If you remained aboard ship during the occupation, you’re no damn good in their eyes—not even the invocation of the pilots who died to rescue them will assuage their bitterness.

Admiral Adama is soon forced to step in. Adama is—dare we say it…torn—by his sorrow and his contempt for these two. Starbuck had been “like a daughter” to him while his friendship with Tigh is 30-years old.

But their pain and bitterness and they way they opt to express it is a cancer that must be dealt with before it consumes the crew. Adama’s tough love speech appears to move Starbuck in the right direction but it also seems to push Tigh further away and deeper down the bottle.

The episode ends with Athena and Racetrack jumping their raptor to the coordinates to find “the map to Earth” only to see a Cylon Basestar and fighters floating around dying. Athena seems to recognize this from one of God’s prophecies and Racetrack urges them to get the frak out of there.

Since it’s a Cylon deadly virus out there and reformed or not, Athena is a Cylon, was she infected—you know what the say…To Be Continued.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Battlestar Galactica--Collaborators

The Upshot from the Sci-Fi Channel: Chief Tyrol's (Aaron Douglas’) sense of right and wrong is put to the test when he takes part in a secret tribunal that tries and convicts in absentia humans who collaborated with the Cylons on New Caprica — and then secretly executes them for treason. Only Tyrol has the courage to ask the questions everyone fears: What if the tribunal makes a mistake? What if they put an innocent human being to death?

Well the show is back where it belongs, in space looking for Earth. But even with the rescue of (most of) the colonists from New Caprica following what has come to be known as the Second Exodus, all is definitely NOT forgotten nor forgiven by whose who suffered under the Cylons.

Even with the fleet (and the human race) down to 41,435 survivors, there is a small but determined bunch who have decided that those who collaborated with the Cylons must be made to pay while payback is still a viable option during the time they have.

Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan)
leader of the resistance on Cylon-occupied New Caprica, is now fronting “The Circle” a shadow court that performs the time-honored judicial trifecta—filling the roles of judge, jury and executioner.

The episode opens with Jammer (Dominic Zamprogna), bound and hooded on “trial” in a Viper launch tube. Jammer has been found “guilty of crimes against humanity” for his participation in the New Caprica Police—the Vichy-like force of humans who enforced the law on New Caprica at the direction of the Cylons.

For watchers of webisdoes, BSG: The Resistance, viewers got to see how the one-time resistance member Jammer had his doubts exploited by the Cylon Doral who eventually convinced him that joining the NCP was the best way to save lives.

It’s hard not to feel for Jammer who was by no means evil but just a guy caught in a vice of powerful forces as he tried to do the right thing yet knowing it was the wrong thing to do.

Having been found guilty, the Circle shoots Jammer out an airlock into space. No muss, no fuss—he’s gone, just like a number of other collaborators since Galactica’s rescue.

Meanwhile, Tom Zerek (Richard Hatch), acting President of the Colonies following the abdication of Gaius Baltar (James Callis), tells former President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) that he will put her name up as Vice President then resign the presidency—in effect handing her back the office.

Zerek can read the writing on the wall. Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) can barely tolerate sharing the same solar system with the former terrorist/freedom fighter (depending upon your point of view). A Zerek presidency would not have the backing of Adama and the military.

Yet, we see a bond of respect forming between Zerek and Roslin. They BOTH were slated to be lined up and shot during the occupation. Acknowledging Zerek’s courage for standing up to President Baltar during the occupation, Roslin offers Zerek the vice-presidency. This feeling of good will and trust won’t last long however.

Aboard Galactica, Col. Tigh becomes enraged at the sight of Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani). President Baltar’s former chief of staff should have no place aboard ship. Even Adama can’t get Tigh to back down—an ugly scene ensues and we see that a wide, perhaps unbridgeable rift has formed between these two friends—one who suffered so much during the occupation.

Speaking of Baltar, we see him in a gilded cage aboard a Cylon basestar. You see Baltar is also on trial of a sort. The Cylon is in the midst of deliberating whether or not to allow Baltar to continue to live with them or to live at all.

Turns out its Number Six (Tricia Helfer) who is the swing vote and the jury is still out. It seems she regrets having fallen in love with him. It has prompted her not only to protect him but to work to initiate the now ill-fated Cylon occupation of New Caprica instead of sticking with the original plan of wiping out all of humanity.

It seems that these two are toxic to each other—as bad as they are for one another, Baltar and Number Six appear to need each other all the more.

Meanwhile, Gaeta is selected by the Circle for judgment, Tigh, Tyrol and Starbuck being unaware that it was Gaeta who was their secret source inside who fed them the government death list, the list of NC Police collaborators and most important, the frequency in which they could contact Galactica and affect the rescue.

Gaeta, having enough of being treated like a leper and to his credit, refused to beg for his life. It’s only by luck as Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) is nearly taunting him about his previous statements about his behind the scenes efforts does Chief Tyrol put it together and the group realized what a horrible mistake they nearly make.

It turns out the Circle and the secret tribunals were at the legal direction of President Zerek, who was determined to purge the worst of the worst collaborators before he handed power back to Laura Roslin and avoid years of public trials and forcing open the wound of New Caprica.

Roslin is appalled as is Adama, costing Zerek some of that trust and respect so recently won. Easy come, easy go.

President Roslin, upon re-taking the oath of office, is moved to announce that instead of seeking and investigation and prosecution of collaborators on New Caprica, she instead initiated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission coupled with a blanket pardon of “all human beings” involved with Cylon collaboration—a fresh start.

We don’t think this will be the end of the matter but stay tuned.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Alex Ross’ “Earth One” JLA, Men of the Hour and Junior Marvel wins Round One

Hello one and all. Here are FanBoyWonder’s picks for the last full week of October. Our review of Friday’s Battlestar Galactica is coming. Stay tuned.—FBW.

Justice #8

The upshot from DC Comics: The worst fears of the Justice League are realized, as the villains strike through those closest to the heroes!

Issue 8 has the reader at the part of the story where the heroes have taken temporary refuge in a safe harbor (in this case Superman’s Fortress of Solitude) while they lick their wounds and plan their counterstrike.

This was by far the best issue of the 12 issue maxi series so far—both in the story and especially in the art. On the art, Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross have definitely hit their stride. On the story, even with minimal action, it was the little things that made this issue—the Elongated Man/Plastic Man confrontation, Batman’s interrogation of Captain Cold and the tender moment between Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman as she contemplates the demise of her immortal life.

Given the current events in the DCU, particularly in the Trials of Shazam (see our latest review below) we won’t be seeing many such moments like this anytime soon. Justice isn’t just an Elseworlds book and thus outside of current continuity—this series represents something of wish fulfillment for Alex Ross.

Ross and FanBoyWonder are about the same age so we recognize what he is attempting to do—to revive the DC Universe of our youths—yet cooler.

The JLA featured in Justice is the Silver Age, pre-CRISIS “Earth-1” circa 1978. Barry Allen is the Flash, the Teen Titans were still teens and sidekicks and the Hawks—Hawkman and HawkWOMAN were two married extra-terrestrial policemen from Thanagar (but not so advanced that Hawkman’s wing-harness came with a shirt).

The notable exception to Ross’ “Earth-1” paradigm is the addition of Captain Marvel to “his” League but Ross and I also share a fondness for the World’s Mightiest Mortal, especially when the character is treated with respect as Ross is taking great pains to do.

Keep it up Alex but please just don’t go too far down memory lane—Snapper Carr, for example, we can all do without.

JSA Classified #18

The Upshot from DC Comics: Reluctantly partnered with the lunatic Bane, Hourman must confront his own addictions if he's to conquer the enemy at his side!

This issue was not one for the ages but we really liked it and it worked for us—even if we are hard pressed to figure out how. As we noted last issue in part 1 of this 2 part story, we liked the natural feel of a “team up” between Hourman and Bane, given the similarities in how they both use a drug to give them enhanced powers.

Writer Tony Bedard’s script was weak in a few places, but carried by the art of Scott McDaniel (an improvement from last issue). Yet Bedard makes this story work because Hourman prevails without Bane—a first class bad guy and the man who broke The Batman—being degraded as a character. He’s still a bad ass, he just got out foxed.

We liked this story not only because it allowed current Hourman Rick Tyler to shine but Rick’s dad Rex, the original Hourman, wasn’t just relegated to the role of hostage as he got a few Miraclo-enhanced hits in on Bane.

Next month begins a story-arc featuring Dr. Mid-Nite and we can’t wait.

Trials of Shazam #3

The Upshot from DC: Freddy Freeman barely makes it through his first task — because he still has no powers! And the mysterious Council of Merlin has its own plans to make sure things stay that way for the young Marvel!

So Freddy Freeman has survived his first trial and (re)gained the Wisdom of Solomon. We liked this issue for being what it was—issue 3. It advanced the plot competently without being too flashy. We admit we were surprised at Freddy’s confession that he blamed and resented Billy/Captain Marvel as the indirect cause of the death of his grandfather, as well as his crippling—even as Freddy was grateful to Cap for sharing his power and making him Captain Marvel Jr.

Some honest-to-goodness character development on the part of Writer Judd Winick, with the aid of the consistently good art of Howard Porter. So far, Judd has been able to resist the urge to overtly inject his own pinko-commie political agenda into this story, which is to his credit.

It is for that and the fact that we really want to see Captain Marvel succeed, we are hanging with Winick—but at the first sign of “Gay Marvel” or a very special HIV-positive story or sexual abuse back story (all overused Winick chestnuts), we’re out of here faster than the speed of Mercury.

52 # 25

The Upshot from DC: IN THIS ISSUE: "That's — the Black Marvel Family?" Plus, the Origin of Nightwing by Mark Waid and George Pérez!

This issue was actually a better read the second time around but we’re still only really paying attention to the plot threads we like. The “Black Marvel Family” upstaging Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel was something to see—but it’s always the little things that nag us.

What happened to Black Adam’s cape? Also, Mary Marvel’s costume is white again when last we saw her at the wedding of Isis and Adam it was its original red with no explanation.

Also, watching Ralph Dibny and Dr. Fate’s helmet tour the underworld was interesting, as was seeing the “final” fate of Felix Faust’s soul, but we’re feeling the same as Ralph…how much time HAS passed. We’re losing track too and losing interest. We need an issue where Ralph is the main focus and soon.

Alan Scott’s meting with Michael Holt (Green Lantern and Mr. Terrific respectively) helped fill in some of the blanks of how they ended up working for Checkmate and the United Nation’s helping to police international metahuman activity One Year Later.

Yet, what remains unanswered is exactly HOW and WHY the UN came to Alan Scott of all people. Unless is Secret ID wasn’t so secret, it’s always seemed an unnatural connection that Scott has all of these international diplomatic connections.

It seems to us that Checkmate Greg Rucka is trying to retroactively shoehorn an explanation in the pages of 52 but he didn’t entirely pull it off. Yet it doesn’t matter because Alan Scott is back where he belongs in the pages of the upcoming Justice Society of America.

One last thing: We really liked the backup origin of Nightwing by Mark Waid and George Perez. We have had much use for these two-page quickie origins until now but at a time where Nightwing has been getting so little respect, Waid’s synopsis acknowledges Nightwing to be “the world’s greatest acrobat” and a “team leader without equal, a trait not even his famed mentor [The Batman] shares.” Yes!
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