Friday, June 15, 2007

The Dark Knight Returns …Without Nipples

With the sequel to Batman Begins slated to hit theatres only one year, one month and three days from today, the slow drip of information about The Dark Knight has begun.

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly,,20042739,00.html we all get to have a good first look at the Batman’s new costume/armor.

At first thought it’s oddly reminiscent of Batman’s battle armor that he wore during his final duel with Superman in the last issue of the Dark Knight Returns. Perhaps it’s the lighting but Batman’s suit looks more grey than black. We’d prefer it darker but we like the funky weapons and gadgets that come with the suit.

Upon viewing the picture, Mrs. FBW asked if this suit comes with the “bat-nipples” a la Batman Forever and Batman and Robin (director Joel Schumacher’s lasting legacy to the Bat-franchise—he must be so proud).

To the best of our knowledge, the Dark Knight suit does NOT come with nipples and we have no comment vis-a-via any alleged Bat-codpiece. However for the record, Mrs. FBW asked us to point out she was NOT hoping for the inclusion of bat-nipples on this new and improved Batman but rather she (like so many of us) was deeply disturbed at the addition of areolas on the armor.

Meanwhile, here’s the upshot on the Dark Knight from Warner Brothers:

Visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan's sequel to the highly successful "Batman Begins," sees Batman (Christian Bale) as he raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as 'The Joker' (Heath Ledger).

This looks promising. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

FBW's Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Roundup

Ok, now it’s just getting ridiculous. It’s been 2 ½ months since Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica wrapped up but we’ve been too wrapped up ourselves with travel and the day job and eating and sleeping and such to sit down at the keyboard and post our take on Galactica’s most recent season—until now.

As we’ve noted, seeing our old friend Jenn The Drama Goddess last month during our New York City business trip and finding out she’s a Galactica fan inspired us to get off the stick and commence with our BSG post-mortem.

Yes, given the events of the thermonuclear bombshells dropped at the end of Season 3, we needed some time to digest all of the implications of recently revealed Cylons in Galactica’s midst.

But as we digested, talk has already begun about the fourth and—now it’s official—the final season of Battlestar Galactica starting in January 2008. While the news was by no means unexpected, BSG producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick recently put out the word in a statement.

"This show was always meant to have a beginning, a middle, and, finally, an end. Over the course of the last year, the story and the characters have been moving strongly toward that end, and we've decided to listen to those internal voices and conclude the show on our own terms. And while we know our fans will be saddened to know the end is coming, they should brace themselves for a wild ride getting there: We're going out with a bang."

We will definitely be sad to see this show end, but we'll have twenty-two new episodes to watch before that time comes.

Upon reflection, it’s better do get it out now and remove the uncertainty over the show’s fate. We know that Season 4 is to be the final act and frankly it’s better to have four superior seasons than to keep going just for the sake of keeping it going.

Production on the final 22 hours of season 4 is currently underway, while an extended two-hour episode, "Razor," will premiere in November, setting the stage for the rest of the season to commence in 2008.

Meanwhile, as FanBoyWonder looks back on BSG Season 3, we can say without a doubt that this was where the series that was “re-imagined” from a 1970s Star Wars and Star Trek hybrid clone came into its own.

In a word, Season 3 was “dark”—like total eclipse dark. It started with (most of) the fleet under Cylon occupation on New Caprica with collaborators, suicide bombings, secret star chamber-like trials and summary executions and got decidedly darker from there.

All but forgotten now are the 10 “webisodes”—Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance—that “aired” over the Internet in 2-5 minute bites during the month of September in advance of the BSG season premiere in October.

Viewed as a whole, The Resistance featured two very ancillary characters—Duck (Christian Tessier) and Jammer (Dominic Zamprogna) as they followed very different but ultimately destructive paths.

Duck, grieving of the loss of his wife to Cylon occupiers, joins the resistance to eventually become a suicide bomber, while Jammer is in equal measure frightened, cajoled and persuaded into joining the New Caprica Police and thereby becoming a Cylon collaborator.

The Resistance was a nice preview for Galactica hungry fans between seasons but it was not vital viewing if you missed it. Yet the webisodes added so much context to scenes during Season 3—especially Jammer’s “trial” following the fleet’s Second Exodus from New Caprica and his execution (right out an airlock) in “Collaborators.”

During the last episode of Season 2, the BSG writers had jumped the series ahead in time by one year—a device that not only spared viewers watching the mundane tasks that would come with the fleet settling on New Caprica but the narrative fast forward forced the viewer to reorient to the new character dynamics as things occurred during the missing year.

Example: Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) and Apollo (Jamie Bamber) were now both estranged from each other and also married to other people, while Starbuck and Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), who once not-so-cordially detested each other, were now seen embracing like family.

Dramatically, Galactica was at its most powerful during the first half of Season 3 in dealing with the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, the Resistance, the escape and the aftermath—all of which consisted of the first quarter of the episodes this season.

With the destruction of the Battlestar Pegasus (taking three Cylon baseships with it) during Exodus Part 2, BSG had been returned to the show’s original status quo—a rag tag fugitive fleet and the last battlestar, Galactica looking for a mythical planet known as “Earth”—yet they were all so much worse for wear.

Kudos to BSG’s visual effects department for the kick arse battle scenes—Galactica jumping into the planet’s atmosphere to launch vipers was the coolest thing we’ve ever seen in sci-fi—as well as for the battle-damaged look of Galactica following so much cumulative pounding by Cylon weapons.

BSG developer and show runner Ron Moore had once blasted Star Trek Voyager as clearly unreal for being alone in their part of the universe and constantly under attack yet consistently portrayed clean, well-lit starship.

There is asking the viewers to suspend their disbelief and then there is phoning it in. Moore has learned the lessons of what NOT to do from his time on Star Trek and BSG has profited handsomely from his experience. But we digress.

As good as Season 3 was, BSG clearly strained in its effort to produce a 20 episode season—helped not at all by the Sci-Fi channel’s programming decisions to pit BSG directly against all of the Network shows, and then to move Galactica mid-season to the Sunday at 10 p.m. time slot.

On the other hand, if Mary McDonnell gets an Emmy Award nomination out of the deal for her always exceptional portrayal of President Laura Roslin, then it will have been worth FanBoyWonder losing his Sunday-evening beauty sleep.

Speaking of Emmy, Michael Hogan who plays Col. Tigh should is absolutely deserving of not just a nomination but the gold statute itself for his performance in Exodus Part 2.

In the episode, Tigh is forced to deal with the fact that his wife Ellen (Kate Vernon) betrayed the resistance to the Cylons—to save her husband she says but the fact is her action got people killed. Tigh had been the hard charger of the resistance, sending in suicide bombers and showing his enemy no quarter—and he couldn’t let this slide. So the Tighs’ most tender moment on screen became their last as Saul poisoned Ellen. As Tigh cried over his dead wife, it brought a tear to our eye as well.

One of clear stumbles in Season 3 was Hero which introduced Bulldog (Carl Lumbly) a pre-war Colonia pilot held prisoner all these years by the Cylons. His convenient existence and more convenient escape forced Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) to “realize” that it was HE who was responsible for provoking the Cylons into launching the genocidal thermonuclear sneak attack on the 12 colonies.

As an episode, Hero was a not ready for primetime and an idea that was too clever for its own good. The Eye of Jupiter two-part mid-season cliffhanger fizzled, as well. Another mistake was the soap opera love rectangle between Starbuck and Apollo and their hapless spouses Dualla (Kandyse McClure) and Samuel T. Anders (Michael Trucco).

The character of Starbuck suffered the most during all of Season 3. From her imprisonment and psychological torture on New Caprica and the aftermath following the Second Exodus, the Kara Thrace we all knew and loved was M.I.A. this season and replaced by a drunk, a malcontent, an adulterer and in the end, someone so toxic it was impossible to like or even feel sorry for her.

That is until the episode Maelstrom near the end of the season. This was the payoff where the viewer got to get into Kara Thrace’s head, watch why she is the way she is (it’s ALWAYS something to do with the mother), see her embrace her “special destiny” and her “death.”

That one episode and her appearance in the last 30 seconds of Crossroads Part 2 completely redeemed the abuse that Starbuck (and the audience) had endured by the writers.

Season 3 also allowed viewers to get up close and personal with the Cylons aboard one their baseships—from the point of view of former President Gaius Baltar (James Callis).

Watching Baltar being tortured by the Cylon D’Anna (Lucy Lawless) watching her fall for his “undying love” for her and the subsequent scene of Baltar, D’Anna and Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer) all sharing a bed together is—in a nutshell—what makes Gaius Baltar one of the best antagonist or anti-villain character EVER.

The second half of the season did suffer from the extended absence of the Cylon and their impending threat following the Eye of Jupiter but it was necessary as it helped re-establish the “phantom menace” mystery quality of the Cylon that only a long disappearance could achieve.

With no outside threat, the surviving members of the human race had time to turn on each other again. It was a mixed bag as Taking a Break From All Your Worries and The Woman King both fell flat while a Day in the Life and Dirty Hands clearly worked.

The latter two episodes both featured Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and he’s a big reason why the episodes worked. In Dirty Hands especially, viewers got to see how the other half lives as workers toiled to refine fuel and an unofficial but very real caste system has developed within the fleet.

Tyrol’s rise to preeminence as a labor leader was welcome and it was great to see near the end of the episode Tyrol being placed on equal footing in a scene with Mary McDonnell’s President Roslin.

The Trial of Gaius Baltar was in interesting diversion but we’re glad that the writers treated it for the sideshow that it was. Nonetheless, Lee Adama’s impassioned monologue during Crossroads Part 2 perfectly summed up the entire series up to this point.

Baltar, Lee argues, is little different than everyone else who went along with the Cylons rather than face summary execution by their occupiers on New Caprica. Lee further notes that following the second exodus from New Caprica, President Roslin issued blanket amnesty/forgiveness to all suspected Cylon collaborators.

Furthermore, then Commander Adama had once initiated a military coup against President Roslin and he was “forgiven.” Chief Tyrol and Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) murdered an officer on the Battlestar Pegasus (who was attempting to rape Sharon/Athena)—forgiven. Col. Tigh expended dozens of lives using suicide bombers on against the Cylons on New Caprica—forgiven.

We’re not a civilization anymore, we’re a gang,” Lee says, as much to himself to the court. The 40-something thousand survivors of the human race are making up the rules as they go along all the while running for their lives everyday.

With a Not Guilty verdict, Baltar is a free but still despised man yet someone with a Christ-like religious following now. We look forward to seeing how this plays out next season.

Yet the money shot comes in two equally stunning reveals. First that Tigh, Tyrol Anders and President Roslin’s aide Tory Foster (Rekah Sharma) are four of the final five Cylon models.

After all this time, the switch goes off just like that,” notes Tyrol.

This is indeed a shocker and it raises more questions than answers. The irony of this scene is that at the end of Season 2, Tyrol nearly had a break down fearing that he might be a Cylon and not know it—he was counseled by Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell) who turned out to be a Cylon.

So this foursome is part of the final five Cylons—which means there is still one more “skinjob” unaccounted for.

We love the delicious irony that Tigh—the most rabid of Cylon-haters—is now a self-hating Cylon. But we strenuously disagree with the writer’s choice of Tyrol as a Cylon.

As one of the “knuckle-draggers,” Tyrol represents the everyman of the fleet and having just seen his aforementioned rise as labor leader, we feel cheated by this. Say it ain’t so Ron Moore.

Yet it all comes together in the last 90 seconds as Starbuck appears in a Viper next to Apollo. Seemingly back from the dead [We FRAKING KNEW that she wasn’t really dead!!!!!] a more contented Starbuck tells Apollo that “It’s going to be Okay.” She’s been to Earth. She knows where it is and she will take the fleet there. Holy Frak!!

The episode ends with the view of God point of view that starts with the two vipers and pulls back beyond the fleet to a quick zoom across the universe to the planet Earth.

Ron Moore has all but just promised us that the Children of Kobol will find the lost colony of Earth by journey’s end—but when? Will it be present day Earth, or Earth of the distant past or Earth much like what Charlton Heston finds at the end of Planet of the Apes (i.e. a primitive wasteland with a half-buried Statue of Liberty)???

Our comparison of BSG and Planet of the Apes is not idle. Apes came out two years before FanBoyWonder’s arrival on this earth yet nearly 40 years later we still talk about it because it’s become an icon.

We dare say that BSG will has the potential not only to stand up years from now (unlike say the aforementioned Star Trek Voyager which is unwatchable now) but it currently stands at the threshold of lasting greatness.

So really, no pressure going into Season 4 fellas. “So say we all!”

Monday, June 11, 2007

'Dark Mary's' Seduction Begins, Nightwing’s Femme Fatale & Simone’s Swan Song

Greetings our faithful readers near and far. If you missed us, we’re back after an out of town excursion to Rochester, New York to attend the wedding of our cousin Alice and her fine new husband Paul.

It was a lovely ceremony and a nice family reunion weekend where FanBoyWonder and Mrs. FBW got to see Mom and Dad FanBoyWonder, our brother Joe and Sister-In-Law Suzanne and to meet our 18-month-old nephew Jack for the first time.

We also saw our Aunt Jean and Uncle Bud, Cousin Howie and wife Pam and their new year-old baby girl Mary. We missed having Brianna the Girl Wonder there but she was there in spirit.

With all of our traveling done for a while, we can get back to our fanboy ways. Thankfully it was light week—only three books from our pull list at Brainstorm Comics.

Here’s our picks for the week of June 6:

Countdown #47

The Upshot from DC Comics: This year-long weekly series featuring a cast of hundreds kicks into high gear in its second month, under the watchful eye of head writer Paul Dini! See Mary Marvel undergo a surprising transformation! Learn why Donna Troy and Jason Todd are integral players in a cosmic chess game! And see Jimmy Olsen as you've never seen him before!

Despite our oft-stated misgivings about this series and its flawed execution so far, we love all things Marvel Family so the only thing we care about in this issue is Mary Marvel.

So Black Adam has affected a power transfer to Mary giving his power to her and the wardrobe change. We’re overlooking the fact DC within the last year seems to have been re-writing and/or making up as it goes along the rules of the Power of SHAZAM but we’re taking at face value that Black Adam, who recently got his powers back after World War III, is sick of his “curse” and has given Mary his “gift”.

Of course if that was REALLY Black Adam. But we’re not going to try to dig too deep into this plot.

What does disturb us is what we see as the potential “Supergirl-effect” of Mary Marvel with this whole “Seduction of the Innocent” storyline.

Following DC’s continually botched re-introduction of Kara Zor-El into the DC Universe—a version of Supergirl that makes Paris Hilton look down right virginal and upstanding—we are wary in the extreme as to what we see going on with Mary.

The tight-fitting black cocktail-dress/cheerleader uniform with a Thunderbolt looks creepy when drawn in even the most “innocent” visual interpretation—we shutter to think what Michael Turner and his like would make out of it.

Power of Shazam creator Jerry Ordway weighs on the current Mary Marvel situation at the request of Comic Book Resources

“I think that I, like most Captain Marvel fans, am very loyal to the original concepts. But I sure don’t mean to come across as someone who thinks it can only be done by CC Beck. During my run on the title, I honestly tried to do the character as a 1960’s Marvel comic, as my way of updating it, but not trashing the groundwork that Fawcett had. I know even at that time, certain comic fans wanted us to ditch the wholesomeness, and go for grim and gritty, but I think that would be a slap in the face to the original creators.

“I had issues with the time that Peter David “borrowed” Mary Marvel for a Supergirl crossover, and immediately wanted to have her sexually molested in his story. Then Keith Giffen wanted her to lose her virginity in Formerly Known as the Justice League! Now it looks like the movement to gritty Mary up are finally getting their way in Countdown.

“I know there are fans out there who are disdainful of any character who is wholesome and good, and dream of dragging that character through the mud just for spite. I go to comic stores, and have heard it all.

“As to the dark Mary Marvel– it’s just playing into a few fans’ hands. Whether it turns out well or not will play out in Countdown. I have 3 kids who like different stuff, and variety makes the world go round, but I do steer them clear of most of the mainstream comics.

“They can read what they want when they are older, but I have introduced them to appropriate material first. But having every comic book feature dark, moody and self-centered teens or adults is shortchanging the marketplace of positive, heroic, self sacrificing HEROES. With dark, you must have some light. The Marvel Family and Superman were heroes to look up to, because they did the right thing, even when that choice meant sacrifice from them.

“I’m no prude, but if you want to “violate” the intent of a character, create a new damn character, will you? Just my opinion.”

For our part we agree with you Jerry but we’re trying hard to reserve final judgment, both here and with Judd Winick’s Trials of SHAZAM mini-series but historically, the Marvel Family often gotten the short end of the stick form DC.

We’ll play along for now but we really wouldn’t mind seeing some actually character development as opposed to seeing characters used simply to advance Countdown’s alleged plot.

Nightwing #133

The Upshot from DC Comics: A new story arc exploring the lost year of Dick Grayson's life, after he dropped out of college and before the New Teen Titans formed! It's the year that changed his life, during which he made a fateful decision. Now a friend, a foe, and a love from the past have returned from the darkness to haunt him!

We are finally starting to see this book pick up some speed. Writer Marv Wolfman is starting to hit his stride after his previous two story arcs were either lackluster and/or drawn out far too long.

321 Days” purports to fill in some of the blanks of Dick Grayson’s development in between his transition from Robin to Nightwing.

We like Nightwing as he is taking on crime at the street level. Artist Jamal Igle is definitely in the zone here with his visuals as he shows Nightwing as the second-to-none acrobat that he is. It’s a 180-degree contrast to Dan Jurgens’ art that came across so stiff.

Wolfman’s take on the Nightwing/Dick Grayson character—particularly with the assistance of Igle’s art—reminds us of Wolfman’s long ago run on the Amazing Spider-Man way back during the Carter Administration.

We like the introduction of Liu, the previously unknown femme fatale from the missing year that Wolfman intends to explore. Dick has always had a thing for the ladies and despite all his smarts and training, we can see how she is shaping up to be his “favorite mistake” like from that Sheryl Crow song.

However, as Nightwing sets her free from the thugs he was fighting, it seems that she does not know that it’s Dick Grayson under the mask, yet she appears at Dick’s workplace at the very next page. Some ambiguous storytelling there Marv.

Another thing, we really don’t like Dick’s new “day job” at Bones Gym and the supporting characters. We wouldn’t mind seeing Dick being a cop again by day and masked vigilante by night.

Speaking of which, Wolfman there a new Vigilante in town. Wolfman along with George Perez during the New Teen Titans days in the early ‘80s created new character with a storied name in the persona of Adrian Chase, a district attorney whose family was murdered by the mob.

It spun off into a Vigilante series of its own that lasted 50 issues. However, the book really didn’t get good until about half-way through the run when writer Paul Kupperburg took over and took the book and the title character places Wolfman could never dream.

Vigilante was the epitome of 1980s grim and gritty hero which dealt with on onset of crack cocaine, child trafficking, and other hot button issues with a protagonist who was anything but a hero.

By issue 50, Kupperburg closed the book in a controversial but largely forgotten ending when Adrian Chase—unable to stop killing cop and robber alike--put a gun in his mouth and ended his life.

Wolfman tried to reinvent his version of Vigilante, this time a female—Patricia Trace, a rogue cop—in his Deathstroke the Terminator Series in the ‘90s but it went nowhere. We frankly don’t see the third time being a charm but we’ll give Marv a chance.

Birds of Prey #107

The Upshot from DC Comics: A final confrontation pits Spy Smasher's Birds of Prey against Catman's Secret Six in Russia for the soul of one of DC's most beloved heroines! Oh, and Oracle hasn't given up on getting her team back either!

We’ve liked this story arc pitting the Birds up against the Secret Six—both beloved creations of writer Gail Simone, but in this issue it’s obvious that Simone is wrapping up things on the double quick so she can make her move over to Wonder Woman.

But even on auto pilot, Simone is a fun read. We end this story arc knowing full well that the resurrection of former Justice Leaguer Ice was little more than an afterthought instead of the central point of the story but we enjoyed things nonetheless.

Watching Lady Blackhawk punch out Spy Smasher was long in coming but oddly not as satisfying as we had hoped. The Smasher that we had seen to date was arrogant but not dumb yet she pushes Zinda’s buttons in such an obvious way as to invite a knuckle-sandwich.

We think this is a product of Simone’s get out of the plot rush job. There are hints of vulnerability with Spy Smasher as she feels compelled to explain to Huntress why she “fired” Lady Blackhawk for “insubordination” and see her for a moment on the defensive.

The stage is set next issue for THE confrontation between Oracle and her one-time friend and rival Spy Smasher with the fate of the Birds of Prey in the balance. We hope Gail hits a home run out the door and doesn’t strike out with her eye already on her next job.

A quick word about the art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazelwood. This is the best regular issue art team in comics today. How can we say that? Because this is the same art team that provided visuals for Birds of Prey 106 just TWO WEEKS earlier and they had also been providing art chores consistently since their introduction in issue 100.

Quality, consistency and ON TIME. It doesn’t get any better than that. We’re glad they are staying after Gail is gone.
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