Saturday, November 10, 2007

Battlestar Galactica Razor Flashback Part 6—Survivors

The Upshot From Sci-Fi Channel: Lt. William Adama/Husker (Nico Cortez) struggles to free human prisoners from the Cylon lab.

Last week we left Husker deep within the bowels of a secret Cylon laboratory behind the lines on an enemy-occupied ice planet. After seeing evidence of human experimentation, as well as disturbing visions of the humans who were experimented upon, Husker encounters a man locked behind a freezer-door like holding cell.

Part 6 of this week’s “mini-sode” picks up directly from last week as Husker attempts to free the man by prying open the heavy metal door.

The terrified man (listed in the credits as Ben Cotton) rapidly tells Husker how his ship—The Diana from Gemenon—was separated from a convoy of traveling ships and captured by the Cylons. The Diana was a crew of 50 but they had been taken out one by one by the Cylons for experimentation.

By then Husker manages with great effort to pry the steel door open just a crack—enough to see (part of) the man’s face and he’s in there with a woman who is equally as terrified but silent (and thus uncredited). The building starts to come apart around them as the massive Cylon baseships are taking off from the ground—it would appear that the “toasters” are bugging out.

Husker can’t force the door any wider than the too-narrow opening whereupon the terrified man rebuffs Husker’s pledge to stay with them. The man tells Husker to go “get help” and that if he stays, Husker will be trapped like them.

Husker knows this and he’s in an untenable position. Credit to Nico Cortez for wordlessly displaying a range of emotions—fear, anger, confusion, frustration and guilt—in the second or two that he has to decide to stay with the captured civilians or to flee and survive.

Just such a dilemma makes for a textbook case of survivor’s guilt. Husker knows that he can’t rescue these poor souls so he runs to live to fight another day and to spread the word. Again, without a word, we see the silent vow that Husker makes—he will indeed fight another day and he won’t forget.

To be continued….

Survivors is where we get to see both the benefits and the limitations of the two-minute mini-sode format. Because of the short duration, the viewer is able to watch again and again to fully dissect the episodic installment—perhaps to a fault.

However, from a storytelling perspective, we can’t help but the see the dramatic flaw….or if not a flaw…the road NOT traveled due to time considerations.

While not impossible, we find it a bit of a stretch that someone held against their will, subjected to such inhumane horrors and terrified in such a way would so easily tell his would-be rescuer to just go save himself and forget out them.

It’s possible they believed themselves beyond saving yet it’s not implausible so much as it is convenient…for the storytellers/writers.

(You know, the same writers who—if the studios have their way, would NOT be paid or even credited for creating original, dramatic, episodic content like these mini-sodes on the Internet. Perhaps the 30-second “brief advertisement” that viewers must endure before the start of each mini-sode viewing was donated and the network hasn’t made a dime from non-broadcast, original content. And perhaps a Cylon will fly out of our arse—but we digress)

A more intriguing and dramatic turn would might have been if, instead of being given a pass (i.e. moral permission) by the terrified man, Husker himself was forced to make the cold, hard soldier’s decision that the door couldn’t be opened, the civilians couldn’t be saved and it was a exigency of war that Husker save himself.

Viewers saw many such selfish (in the non-judgmental meaning of the word) acts of self-preservation at the expense of others less fortunate made in abundance during the opening hours of the Cylon attack on the 12 Colonies during the BSG mini-series.

The decision by then newly sworn-in President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) to abandon the survivors in ships that lacked faster-than-light (FTL) engines and jump away from an impending Cylon attack comes immediately to mind.

However, the clock was ticking in this week’s chapter and demands of timing called upon the story to move along forthwith. Hence Husker ever-so-reluctantly screws the frak out of there.

Bottom line: When all is said and done, Survivors packed quite a lot into an episode that was only two-minutes long. Remember it’s called a “mini-sode” for a reason.

Look for the final Flashback to air next Friday night, November 16 during Flash Gordon, then on Sci-Fi Channel’s website with FanBoyWonder commentary to follow. Then tune-in one week later for the new BSG movie Battlestar Galactica: Razor on Saturday, November 24. So Say We All!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Save Wolfman & Perez’s Titans, Ignore Winick & Churchill’s Teen Titans East Special

A recent interview with Judd Winick in about his upcoming Teen Titans East Special prompted some commentary by the Occasional Superheroine titled “Will The Cast of the New ‘Teen Titans East’ Special Die a Quick and Horrible Death?” which in turn moved us to add our own comments.
Not one to let a good blog posting go to waste, below is our take on the matter from our initial commentary on OC’s page with some addition time to chew on it.

Here’s the Upshot from DC Comics about next week’s Teen Titans East Special: Titans Tower is back up and running on the East Coast as Judd Winick, Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund assemble an explosive new team of Titans under the leadership of Cyborg! But their first mission may be their last as powerful forces gather to destroy all Titans past and future!

You may recall that we commented on this Special over the summer, lamenting how Winick and Churchill not only got their hands on a great character like Cyborg but how they’ve loaded grabbed up a bunch of Z-list heroes and were calling them “Titans.”

But turns out its much, much worse than we first thought. During his Newsarama interview, Winick revealed how next week’s one-shot will be followed up by a new ongoing Titans series featuring Cyborg and the other original seven characters from the classic New Teen Titans days of Marv Wolfman & George Perez—Nightwing, Donna Troy, Beast Boy, Raven and Wally West/Flash.

“I guess the best way to put it is that the Special is the first chapter. The discussion came out of the idea that we originally wanted to bring back the original Teen Titans from the Marv Wolfman/George Perez days. We like the team, it’s a classic combination that works, and all of us were really, really interested in putting them back together,” Winick told Newsarama.

"So in the back of Dan’s [Didio’s] mind, that was where it started – if we were going to do 'Titans East,' we should do the Wolfman/Perez team. Not some combination of new folks, but the originals. So from there, we came to the idea of making a “Titans East” project a first chapter, something that leads – somehow – to the creation/reunion of the original New Teen Titans characters. And it all gelled. That’s why there was a very brief fake-out where we showed the cover to Titans East, which got us the response of “What the hell is this?” from the fans who were asking for a Titans East team book. We expected that reaction, and we got it. So we had our fun.”

Of course you did Judd. As long as you’re having fun, well then it’s all worth it.

Okay, we have a longstanding sentimental attachment with the Wolfman/Perez original seven all the way back to when we bought DC Comics Presents #26 with the New Teen Titans preview back when we were 10 years old.

After a strong early 80s, the team and the book was never the same after Perez move on and Wolfman alone picked up the slack for a little while but he stayed on or was allowed to stay on (benign neglect by DC editorial?) for many years too long.

Since the Wolfman solo years until Graduation Day and Geoff Johns’ era where the Young Justice generation assumed the mantle, the Titans in all their incarnations have been neither fish nor fowl as far as DC was concerned.

Example: Since the original CRISIS, the Titans have played no significant part in ANY major DC “event”---save for Infinite Crisis where past Titans were dusted off only for the express purpose of being killed.

The thing is, we would LOVE to see the original Wolfman/Perez seven back together again and the kicker is that we support and/or agree many of the concepts of “friends and family” that Judd Winick talks about in his interview.

But quite frankly, based on his record of performance Judd is writing checks that his “talent” (or lack there of) simply can’t cash.

Besides, we’re less than eager for Judd to get yet another shot at f**king up Nightwing like he did during his run on Outsiders. And don’t even get us started on “Cheesecake” Churchill.

Winick in his interview all but confirmed what many had suspected when the Titans East Special roster was revealed—except for Cyborg, the rest of the characters pictured are little more than cannon fodder.

If sales of the one-shot special tanks, it may, just may prompt DC Editorial to rethink the wisdom a follow up ongoing monthly with this creative team. Granted it’s a long shot, but DC management DID just do an 11th hour writer replacement on the new Batman and the Outsiders re-launch so it’s not impossible.

Bottom line: We’re left repeating our initial recommendation from this past summer—but this time with much more urgency. Save the Wolfman/Perez Titans from Winick and Churchill—ignore the Teen Titans East Special. Just don’t buy it!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Kingdom’s Superman Comes to JSA and The Mystery of Dr. Fate’s Countdown

We’re a little behind on getting reviews out as FanBoyWonder and Mrs. LoveyWonder kept giving each other the “death virus” that is a kick ass cold.

We were trying to work it out of our system before we head down South next week to meet our baby grandson T.J. and visit our baby girl Brianna the Girl Wonder, so as a result our output hasn’t been what it usually is.

That said, here’s our take on the books we picked up from Brainstorm Comics for the week of Oct. 31.

Justice Society of America #10

The Upshot from DC Comics: Alex Ross joins Geoff Johns as co-writer for Part 1 of "Thy Kingdom Come," the epic story years in the making, springing from Kingdom Come! Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Welcome the newest member to the Justice Society of America: the Kingdom Come Superman! Coming from an Earth plagued by heroes-gone-extreme, how will this Superman react to an incarnation of the Justice Society he never knew? This Superman's world needed better heroes. So does ours.

Generally we’re not a big fan of Elseworlds derivatives of primary DC Universe characters but Kingdom Come Superman has always held a special place in our hearts, as does the 1996 classic Alex Ross/Mark Waid story of Kingdom Come.

The Superman of the Kingdom Come universe is much more powerful but yet much less perfect than our mainline Man of Steel. In Kingdom Come thanks to all of his many years under the yellow sun, KC Superman is much stronger at 60 than he was at 30—a concept that FanBoyWonder at 37 has come to appreciate a lot more now than we did at 26.

Yet it was his years of isolation due to the murder of his wife Lois and the world's repudiation of his more civilized brand of “truth and justice” that drove KC Superman into self-imposed exile—allowing his Earth run amok with meta-human brawlers until it degenerated into the Armageddon of Kingdom Come.

Meanwhile back in the mainline DC Universe on “New Earth”, the Justice Society doesn’t know what to make of this strange visitor from another Earth—a parallel world in the new multiverse we now know is Earth-22.

It seems that KC Superman was plucked from his Earth right after the mega-nuke went off and he believes he is only super-human left alive.

Truth be told, our favorite Superman was the original/Earth-2 Superman Kal-L, who to our mind was killed off needlessly at the end of Infinite Crisis. Whereas Kal-L saw “New Earth” as gone to hell in a hand basket, KS Superman sees this world as “heaven” compared to his world whose meta-humans have stopped even trying to do the right thing.

The JSA’s trepidation at this “other older Superman” is natural and it’s actually nice to see them just warming up the fact that there are indeed parallel worlds out there again—seeing as readers have been force-fed nothing but multiverse since the end of 52.

The painted pages by Alex Ross of Earth-22 contrast perfectly with the other pages by the JSA’s regular art team of Dale Eaglesham and Ruy Jose with Drew Geraci.

We especially liked writer Geoff Johns little touches like Hawkman locking in KS Superman while they deliberate prompting Wildcat to “point out the obvious” that Superman can hear them.

Superman’s sudden burst of power to break out of JSA headquarters despite the best combined efforts of the JSA—including heavyweights Power Girl, Green Lantern and Starman—served many purposes in the story.

It injected some action into the story, it planted the seeds that THIS Superman is more powerful than all of them together—we especially liked a speeding KCS leaving even the Flash in the dust, as the one time Fastest Man Alive notes that KCS may be even as fast as Wally West, the current younger holder of the title.

Most of all it showed KC Superman saving a life of a teen-girl jumper—that’s what Supermen do, save lives. When he tells the girl that “Giving up never helped anyone Miss” he’s as much reminding himself as telling her.

We like Power Girl’s indirect reaction to the arrival of THIS Superman, as she is heartbroken that of all the universes and of all the Supermen, it couldn’t be her cousin, her family, to return.

We look forward to a more direct interaction between PG and KCS next issue as well as the meeting of Superman and Superman. Stay tuned.

JSA Classified #31

The Upshot from DC Comics: “Mr. Horrific" Part 3 of 3. Mr. Terrific has uncovered the full scope of the mystery that made him a fugitive, sending him and his teammates to the Moon. There they will face the mind of one of the Third Reich's most despicable villains. Millions of people will die if Mr. Terrific and the JSA can't stomp out the evil lurking on the dark side of the Moon.

“Horrific” is the word that should be used to describe this three-issue waste of an opportunity to spotlight one of the JSA’s best characters in a meaningful way. Instead we get an awful, unoriginal and uninspired story punctuated by mismatched art.

It’s not that the art by Alex Sanchez is bad—his style is not our cup of tea but we recognize that he is not slouching it—but he is not cut out to draw a straight super-hero story. Sanchez is Vertigo meant to go into a Vertigo book.

He was previously featured in a Dr. Mid-Nite two-part story arc that about vampires and it fit the mood the story but not here.

And the story by Arvid Nelson—please send him the memo that Nazis have been over done and there are a lot worse menaces out there.

The main problem with this book is that the focus is all wrong. While one step above its counterpart JLA Classified—a proverbial dumping ground for back-of-the-file stories—JSA Classified has been hit or miss.

It does do well in spotlighting individual members of the JSA, but more often than not it’s been the junior varsity of writers and artists penning stories that are little noted nor long remembered in JSA cannon.

In the main Justice Society of America title, writer Geoff Johns has mentioned many times the team’s and the book’s mantra—that the JSA isn’t a team but a “society” with an ever-expanding roster. With so characters passing in and out, it’s impossible to do justice (pardon the pun) too many of them in the way of real character development.

That’s where JSA Classified should come in. Classified should be the place where Society members can go when they are ready for their close up—with stories written by or at least in consultation with Johns so the stories matter and meaning to the main JSA title and to the DCU at large.

As much as we love the JSA, if Classified keeps giving us these throw-away story arcs, we may just feel compelled to lighten our pull list by one each month.

Countdown to Mystery #2

The Upshot From DC Comics: Doctor Fate faces a steep learning curve when it comes to mastering his new powers. Uneasy lies the head who wears the helmet when he faces "The Devourer of Souls" in Las Vegas! Plus, Eclipso has discovered Plastic Man's weak point: attacking him through his son, the Titan known as "The Offspring!"

There’s not much to say about this issue (at least the first half) except that we loved it. As we noted last issue, we weren’t crazy about another New Dr. Fate, especially as we liked Hector Hall so much, but writer Steve Gerber is pulling off a re-launch of this legacy character without a hitch.

Mores the pity that DC felt as if they had to shut down the Dr. Fate series just as it was about to launch last year. Gerber has admitted to health problems but we suspect DC’s motives were to stick a really good Dr. Fate story with a really bad Eclispo story together into yet another “Countdown” title forcing us to swallow hard to purchase bad to get the good.

We only hope that the Countdown brand—by now analogous with crap—does not discourage anyone from reading a good Dr. Fate story.

Also, quick word about the Dr. Fate art by Justinano and Walden Wong—top shelf. These guys were born to draw magic. Keep it up fellas.

Trials of Shazam #9

The Upshot From DC Comics: It's the new Shazam versus a god as Freedy Freeman's trials have him going toe-to-toe with Apollo!

Despite our overall, openly-held distain for much of Judd Winick’s work, we’ve been keeping an open mind on this Trials of Shazam so far and we have yet to be disappointed.

Freddie Freeman’s duel with the God Apollo held action, drama and serious story gravity. We were actually enthralled with Apollo’s dilemma to abandon his mortal life as a doctor and family man to take up the slain Atlas’s place of holding up the world.

We’re almost tempted to ask if there isn’t really someone ghost-writing under Winick’s name—it’s that good.

Yet it was a major disappointment for that the artist of this issue isn’t mini-series regular Howard Porter. We know there have been deadline issues—ToS took the entire summer off but Porter created a distinct visual style that we fear would be lost with a replacement artist.

Yet (guest??) artist Mauro Cascioli steps up and carries the visual ball quite ably. No one would mistake Cascioli’s artistic style with Porter’s but Cascioli maintains enough visual continuity to keep the reader from being completely thrown off—while at the same time giving the reader some eye catching visuals.

While we will be seriously displeased if porter can’t finish out the remaining issues of this 12-part mini-series—on principle if for no other reason—we would could more than live with it if Cascioli carries the artistic ball to the finish line.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Razor Flashback Part 5—The Lab

The Upshot from the Sci-Fi Channel: Downed rookie Viper pilot William Adama/Husker (Nico Cortez) discovers a gruesome Cylon secret project.

Last week, we left Husker deep behind enemy lines in the belly of the beast having just parachuted through the skylight of a Cylon building only to beat a downed Cylon centurion/”toaster” to “death” before grabbing a weapon and making his way around.

Part 5 of this week’s “mini-sode” picks up right were we left the action last week with Husker making his way around the Cylon building, enemy weapon in hand. He quickly discovers a laboratory complete with detached, human-looking limbs on wires (the first attempts at creating humanoid Cylons???) in giant vats of liquid and lots of blood splatter about.

Husker sees what we the viewer recognize as either a Cylon rebirth “tub” and/or the vessel that holds the Cylon baseship hybrid that viewers first saw during Season 3.

As he approaches, a disembodied voice faintly fills the room—“All this has happened before and it will happen again” or some such. Husker places his gloved hand inside the “goo” that fills the tub and sees/hallucinates images of people who previously filled the room’s empty cages even as a hand reaches out for his.

Husker pulls himself free and he no longer sees the people in the cages and is sure that there was indeed a hand that grabbed him. He hears a banging noise from behind a locked freezer-like door and suddenly a human face appears in the window begging Husker to free him.

As Husker looks for a bar to pry open the door…..To be continued.

Obviously we are seeing the beginnings of the Cylon evolution from simple walking toasters to flesh and blood synthetic people—all the better to infiltrate and destroy the humans is to become them.

Our first impression is that the trapped “human” behind the door was the Cylon Leoben (Callum Keith Rennie) because it sounds vaguely like him and the disembodied voice (while NOT sounding like Leoben) mimicked the words that Leoben has spoken to Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff).

Yet we’re going to guess that it’s not actually Leoben but perhaps one of his human “ancestors.” We base this on nothing more than we don’t see the actor Calllum Keith Rennie’s name in the BSG Razor mini-sode credits on the website.

We’re starting to see that viewers are not only getting valuable extras for the upcoming BSG Razor movie event but valuable clues for the fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica—if Sci-Fi Channel ever decides to air the fraking show!

Look for the remaining two Flashbacks to air Friday nights during Flash Gordon through November 16 on Sci-Fi Channel’s website with FanBoyWonder commentary throughout before the premier of the new BSG movie Battlestar Galactica: Razor on Saturday, November 24. So Say We All!

FBW TV—Choose “Life” on NBC

A quick word here to note that we’ve received word that our grandson Baby T.J. was discharged from the hospital and went home for the first time yesterday—just 11 days, two hospitals and one heart surgery after his birth.

Although little T.J. will require greater than usual medical supervision from here on, we’re all hopeful that after this early heart hiccup that he’ll enjoy a healthy and happy growing up. Thanks to all of you who extended a good thought Baby T.J.’s way during his hour of need.

FanBoyWonder and Mrs. Lovey Wonder will be taking a trip in a couple of weeks to meet our new grandson, as well as to spend quality time with our baby girl Brianna The Girl Wonder, now six-years-old and thrilled to be a big sister.

With that said this is the part where we take apart the latest installment of NBC’s Bionic Woman except that Bionic Woman took the week off—no doubt licking its wounds from the many critical cuts we’ve inflicted in our disappointment with the series to date.

So instead we’ll take this opportunity to comment and review the most recent episode of what’s fast becoming our favorite new series of the new Fall season—Life on NBC, which as luck would have it immediately follows Bionic Woman on Wednesday nights.

This week’s episode of Life was entitled “Powerless.”

Here’s the upshot from NBC: While attending one of her AA meetings, Danni Reese (Sarah Shahi) thinks she hears a fellow attendee confess to rape. Unable to let go of this information, and despite her partner Charlie Crews (Damien Lewis) advice to drop it, Reese becomes preoccupied with getting this individual to confess. Her persistence puts her face to face with a very dangerous man in a life threatening standoff. And, while on a stake out with Lt. Davis (Robin Weigart), Crews learns his former partner, Bobby Stark (Brent Sexton), lied to him about his involvement in an infamous Los Angeles bank robbery years earlier.

We LOVE this show. How much do we like it? We love Life so much that despite the fact that it airs as the same time as South Park (Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern), we will skip the first run episode of South Park and either wait for the encore broadcast at Midnight or the next day at 10 p.m. to watch Life.

The show since its pilot episode hasn’t been perfect but the writers are settling into a groove with their storytelling while lead actors Crews and Reese (Damien Lewis and Sarah Shahi) are growing more comfortable with their characters.

Since the pilot episode, Life has been following the A plot, B plot formula not unlike what we saw in USA Network’s Burn Notice over the summer—the A plot centers around the murder/crime of the week while the B plot focuses on the Crews’ slow unraveling of the murder mystery—the crime that he mistakenly did the time for.

This past week’s episode, Powerless, was the most powerful yet of the series. While it gave some much deserved screen time to Crews’ partner Reese. In many ways, Reese and Crews are both very flawed people—in some ways different and others very much alike.

The good news is that Crews’ character has ditched many of the annoying quirks that he displayed in the pilot episode, just setting on one or two idiosyncrasies. He still displays an almost child like wonder at some of the many things that he missed while in prison—like GPS or the advent of the Internet, but we have also seen that dark angry side that he struggles—sometimes just barely, to hold back.

Crews’ partner Reese is the perfect counterweight for him. We like her for a number of reasons—first and foremost that she’s not been written as comic relief or as the sidekick to the oddball, quirky detective.

Reese outranks Crews as senior partner and she always seems to maintain her centeredness even as Crews sometimes is at his most wacky. But she has her demons as a recovering drug and booze addict after getting hooked while undercover.

For the past few episodes, we’ve been seeing Reese hook up in one-night stands with married men or people she doesn’t otherwise wish to know the morning after—a way to punish herself.

Since his release from prison, we’ve been seeing Crews hook up with just about every chippie in L.A.—it’s been inferred that these hookups are no good but it’s not so much the social stigma as it would be for Reese if her hooks ups ever became known.

In Powerless, we seek Reese in a bar getting ready to attend her department-mandated AA meetings—a ticket punching exercise when she sees a guy in the bar. The guy is also headed to the meeting and where he all but confesses to raping a woman the year before—blaming it on the booze.

Reese sees this guy for the sexual predator he is and soon Crews is helping her track him.

This is Reese’s episode but Crews still gets some good moments in there—like when he stands up in the AA meeting to admit his powerlessness over hate, that hate is his prison and how he struggles to escape that prison everyday. In another scene, Crews tells a rape victim that surviving and living through it proved that “prison” made her stronger than she ever thought she could be—a Freudian slip which told us it wasn’t just the rape victim he was talking about.

In the episode’s climax, the AA sex predator forces Reese to get drunk at gunpoint. He thinks he has her where he wants her as he tells her to confess to her “secrets” but scared, angry and feeling no pain (and stalling for time while Crews and the other cops come to the rescue) she let’s her mask slip, her dark side show and we see fear in the predator’s eyes even before he’s beaten down and arrested.

Watching Reese drunk to incapacitation by force of will trying to walk under her own power to the waiting ambulance and then only reluctantly leaning on Crews tells us all that we need to know about this character—she’s one tough customer, even when she’s at her weakest, which is to say at her most powerless.

To our mind, Reese is not just one of the best female cop characters on television but one of the best characters period. If Reese were an insurance adjuster instead of a police officer, she would be just as compelling.

She portrays her character the way she does and steers clear of all of the stereotypes—she’s tough without being more man then the men, cop-like brusque without seeming bitchy, and there’s no mistaking that she’s a woman that likes men (i.e. not “butch”)…sometimes to a fault.

If Danni Reese were “Danny” Reese, the cop character who was armor on the outside and flawed on the inside wouldn’t be anything new—but Sarah Shahi successfully manages what few others have been able to so flawlessly pull off (so far) by proving that “woman” and “tough” aren’t mutually exclusive concepts.

Meanwhile, as we get to know the characters, the viewer is also getting fed a little bit more each week about the crime that wrongfully put Charlie Crews in prison for 12 years. Each episode ends with Charlie in front of his “evidence wall” at home trying to connect the dots to the players involved and the evidence he’s accumulated. We sense a big payout coming.

Life has had a tough time in the ratings, helped not at all by the so-far disappointing Bionic Woman but we hope you all give it a chance. You can catch up on all of the episodes to date at and then watch it on Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
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