Thursday, October 09, 2008

Life—Everything All the Time & The Business of Miracles

The decidedly mixed blessing of having FanBoyWonder’s favorite television show airing twice a week is that it makes blogging about each episode difficult—especially if much of your non-blogging time is consumed with either earning a living or family obligations.

Another thing—it turns out that we much rather prefer to view Life at it’s “Special” time of Monday at 10 p.m. as opposed to it’s regular time slot of Friday nights at 10 p.m..

The reason? Simple. By the end of the work week, FanBoyWonder’s ass is seriously dragging as the demands of the aforementioned work and home life, as well as our Washington, D.C. commute which compels us to get up at 4 a.m. to catch the 5:10 a.m. train into D.C.’s Union Station each morning.

So by Friday at 10 p.m. it’s tough to coherently enjoy much of anything. Thank goodness for the Internets where we can watch each aired episode of Life in full. See for yourself at—newcomers to the show are most welcome.

Okay, we’re going to do a two-fer review so here’s the Upshot of each episode from NBC.

Everything All the Time: Detectives Crews (Damien Lewis) and Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi) investigate the murder of a man found beaten and tied to a chair at the bottom of a pool. While at first it appears to be gang related the investigation leads to an underground party circuit. Dani Reese's father Jack (Victor Rivers) goes to Ted (Adam Arkin) to see what Crews knows about him. Charlie asks his ex-wife to talk to Rachel the only survivor of the family he was accused of killing.

The Business of Miracles: The body of a cancer research scientist is found frozen, at first Crews and Reese think it was an animal rights group, but as they look into the scientists personal life they aren't so sure. Crews tries to prove that Jack Reese was involved in him going to prison.

Among the many other things we like about Life, we like the wide variety and the quirkiness of the mysteries Crews and Reese must solve each week.

The spoiled rich kids were made to love to hate but it was interesting to see Crews acting the safari guide for Reese in identifying and explaining the three “dog types” of the pack of lads—Alpha (leader) Beta (attack dog) and Omega (clown/fool). No doubt this was hard wisdom Crews learned as both predator and prey during his 12 years in federal maximum security prison.

We found ourselves doing a double take when we realized half-way through the episode that the hard bod head shrink who was a suspect and accomplice to the murdering punks was Stacey Haiduk—formerly Lana Lang from the better to be forgotten (except for her) Superboy TV series of the late 80s.

Oh goodness—still smokin HOT after all these years. Even hotter we must say if truth be told. Three words—“Va-Va-Voom!”

Okay…our apologies to our female readers (if there are any left—we’re thinking of Monic and Elizabeth) but that’s out of our system now.

Moving on, it was not unexpected that Jack Reese would lean on Charlie’s old prison pal and current housemate and money manager Ted Early for information by threatening to violate Ted’s parole and send him back to the slam for his remaining three years stretch.

It scared Ted and who can blame him. The wordless scene later on with Ted starting at Jack Reese’s confidential (and “borrowed”) police personnel file—seriously weighing the two evils of betraying his friend Charlie and losing his friend or not giving up a friend and going to back to the hell that is prison. It was a great, understated scene that we wish they played out just tad longer.

Worse however at the end of the episode when Charlie tells Jack to back off Ted. We REALLY wanted to see Ted stand up to Jack or at least come clean with Charlie—to see Ted make his choice and face the demon head on.

Perhaps this scene was shot and ended up on the editing room floor but we feel cheated because this was a chance for the audience and Ted to take a big step together. We’re surprised that Team Life dropped the ball like this but can’t win them all.

In the Business of Miracles—it was morbidly funny to watch Crews accidentally shatter the frozen solid murder victim. Funny if only for Reese’s reaction “You have to touch EVERYTHING don’t you?”

These two have definitely settled into a groove some not quite hybrid of pals and bickering siblings. Please Team Life, do NOT try to force romance between these two characters—they are pals….or at least we see where they could be.

Meanwhile the bug that Crews planted in Jack Reese’s car last episode is already bearing fruit in the form of finding another conspirator higher up the food chain. Who this big guy is isn’t yet revealed to the viewer but he scares Jack Reese and it’s oddly interesting to see HIM being squeezed.

Suddenly big bad Jack doesn’t seem so tough after all. Rather, there’s someone a whole lot worse waiting in the wings for Charlie as he follows the conspiracy trail.

Better yet was the confrontation between the Reese father and daughter—Jack and Dani—at the extended family dinner table in all of its awkward inevitability.

The confrontation appears to have made Dani fall of the wagon slightly, leading to a funny and completely undignified meeting between her and the creepy new Captain (Donal Logue).

At the same time that Reese is not fully sober, Crews spills a chemical in the lab crime scene and ends loopy where he sees his ex-wife Jenn (Jennifer Seibel) everywhere. We found this to be somewhat over the top and we guess that they are going to pursue the ex-wife storyline.

It’s logical that they should but we are just having trouble figuring out if it’s the character of Jenn we don’t like or the actress.

As we’ve noted previously, Life also employs the A-plot, B-plot formula each episode where our heroes must deal with the mission/crime at hand (A-plot) while unraveling the larger conspiracy putting the pieces together a bit a time (B-plot).

However, Life employs this much more effectively, both in terms of the much more interesting A-plot mysteries but also with the satisfying speed in which they are moving forward with the B-plot conspiracy mystery.

Perhaps because Team Life knows and has known almost since Day One that they are on borrowed time until and unless ratings improve. Whatever the reason, the viewer feels like the show is building ever closer at the end of each episode to a big payoff. Keep it up.

The next episode of Life is Not for Nothing airing tomorrow (Friday) night at it’s regular time of 10 p.m. Eastern. Here’s the Upshot from NBC: When a university's social experiment of running a prison goes wrong Crews and Reese are there to investigate when a student acting as a guard is murdered.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The ‘Murder’ of Superman’s ‘Pa’ Jonathan Kent

“OH COME ON!”—that was our reaction when we read the New York Daily News online today while at work.

Thankfully, FanBoyWonder’s office door was closed so our exclamation and the curse words that followed were muted by the wooden door and remained out of earshot of anyone who could or would narc us to Human Resources for discharge of a potty-mouth within company limits. It’s a good thing too—just one more round of “sensitivity training” at HR “re-education” camp and we are sure to break.

Yet, we really are pissed off that DC Management has opted to kill off Jonathan Kent in the pages of this week’s Action Comics #870, on sale today.

Hey don’t blame us for spoilers, yet again the &*@&#$ NY Daily News played the spoiler by posting the story well before any comics store opened today—we don’t currently read the Superman books but it sucks for anyone who does.

Even getting beyond the annoying fact of HOW the news was released, it’s the WHAT that truly offends us.

Just last week when commenting on the DC Nation panel at Baltimore Comic-Con and the upcoming Superman/New Krypton storyline, we expressed our resentment at being force fed a wholesale return to the Silver Age—in other DC books (i.e. the return of Hal Jordan and soon the resurrection of Barry Allen) and now in the pages of Superman.

FanBoyWonder hasn’t regularly read any of the Superman books for quite a while...we jumped off during the awful Electric Blue Superman story arc of a decade ago but for a while we kept an eye on the Superman titles—occasionally picking up a Super book.

Yet in recent years, Superman has looked less and less familiar to us. We totally lost any connection for the Super books when DC retro-conned the Superman origin to make Clark Kent and Lex Luthor boyhood chums and rivals—JUST like the Smallville TV show.
TV shows/movies are supposed to take their cue from the Comic Book—not the other way around.

Which brings us back to the “murder” of Jonathan Kent. Actually, not murder so much as a sacrifice…a character sacrifice to appease the gods of the sales gimmick. The few press articles that are out as we write this have noted the similarity to Pa Kent’s comic book demise and his same fate in Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman The Movie.

This is hardly a co incidence given that writer Geoff Johns was Mr. Donner’s one-time personal assistant and protégé.

So here we go—Pa Kent’s death is one more step backward to the Silver Age—in this case via the Donner-verse.

As we previously noted, FanBoyWonder has been a long fan of John Byrne’s Superman post-CRISIS on Infinite Earths reboot The Man of Steel.

It’s not perfect and it did cause some continuity problems (i.e. no Superboy and the Legion) but Byrne and the creative Superteams that followed transformed what had been a dull, one-dimensional iconic caricature into an organic character that readers could more or less relate to, identify with and root for.

One of the best things that Byrne did in his Man of Steel re-boot was to bring the Kents—both Jonathan and Martha—back to life. This was a major shift from cannon as the Kents’ demise was one of the fundamental premises that Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster had laid out when they created the Man of Steel.

The object lesson was supposed to be that for all his powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man, Superman couldn’t prevent his adoptive parents from passing away.

Yet Byrne’s return of the Kents was applauded roundly. And with good reason. There was NO reason to make Clark/Kal-El a double orphan. Over the years, Clark would have many great scenes looking to Pa Kent for counsel or advice or to account.

Jonathan Kent was one of the few people in the universe who could put the Man of Steel in his place and keep him grounded. These scenes were made the character Super because Pa Kent’s moral compass directed the Man who was is son.

Even Geoff Johns agrees as he told the Daily News.

If baby Kal-El had fallen in the hands of a lesser man, the world would be a lesser place," the NYDN quoted Johns.

Because it’s Geoff Johns we know Jonathan Kent’s death would be quite poignant and otherwise well done—the pages we’ve seen online confirm this—but we disagree with the decision and the direction DC is taking—backward.

It was probably the most difficult scene I've ever had to write," said Johns again to the NYDN. "That's why there's no dialogue in the scene, there's nothing left to say."

Actually there is just one more thing to say—Rao save us from Silver Age nostalgia.

Monday, October 06, 2008

FanBoyWonder’s DC Nation Baltimore Invasion—The Exit Strategy

In our final installment of our DC Nation invasion during Baltimore Comic-Con, FanBoyWonder and Kemosabe partook in the question and answer portion of the program.

A little aside—we are writing this Friday evening thanks to the miracle of modern technology and the dumb luck your humble blog host as we remembered to take our laptop when Brianna The Girl Wonder half pleaded, half dragged us bodily to the cafetorium of Brianna’s school for PTA “movie night.”

So as Brianna is enjoying Finding Nemo with her some 50 of her friends, Grandpa FBW is thankfully at the grownups table occupying ourselves with this blog posting—at least for a long as the laptop battery holds. We pray the movie ends before the battery does.

Ok….on with the pain.

As we’ve noted, the DC nation panel featured Executive Editor Dan DiDio, along with Jimmy Palmiotti, DC’s uber writer Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates, Kemosabe’s favorite writer James Robinson, Sean McKeever and DC Comics Story Editor Ian Sattler.

John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad

When it came time for the Q&A, FanBoyWonder was feeling a little snarky. Our first time up at bat, we asked a question to which we already knew the answer.

To Dan DiDio, we praised the recent Suicide Squad mini-series as one of the best books they did this year and noted that writer John Ostrander is on record as saying he’s up for writing more Squad, so will there be a follow up Squad?

DD answered that despite pockets of dedicated fans, the book—Suicide Squad: From the Ashes (now available in trade paper back)—didn’t sell as well as they had hoped so there are no immediate plans for another Suicide Squad series.

However, DD did helpfully point everyone to Squad appearances in Manhunter and Secret Six and the Squad will continue to appear in other books throughout the DCU. If there’s demand, there will be another Suicide Squad book.

We followed up by asking if John Ostrander would be writing said hypothetical future Squad book.

That’s a scheduling issue,”
DiDio replied, which means “Don’t hold your breath.”

FanBoyWonder’s Take: While it’s lovely that the Suicide Squad characters are appearing throughout the DCU—it’s better than Limbo—it was John Ostrander’s golden pen that made those characters and the Squad special.

It’s not a surprise that the recent reunion mini-series Suicide Squad: From the Ashes (to repeat—now available in trade paper back) wasn’t a top seller.

Even back in the day, the original Suicide Squad struggled with sales throughout its entire five year, 66-issue run. However Ostrander (along with his late wife and writing partner Kim Yale) set the gold standard for super hero espionage/political storytelling.

Greg Rucka’s Checkmate and Gail Simone’s Secret Six can both trace their roots back directly to the trail blazed by Suicide Squad two decades ago.

This year’s Squad mini-series was not only just as good but even better than the original series—Ostrander’s experience and continued growth as a writer over the past two decades really showed up in the series.

So various members of the Squad may appear in other DCU titles but Suicide Squad without John Ostrander is like Justice League in Detroit—a shadow of its true self.

Green Lantern John Stewart—M.I.A.

A bit later during the Q&A, following a presentation of the Johnny DC titles Tiny Titans (a favorite of Brianna the Girl Wonder as is Super Friends), DiDio unveiled another new book in this line is “Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade,” which will be released in December.

We complemented Tea m DC for this—noting that our seven-year-old Girl Wonder loves these books and Grandpa FBW loves that they serve as a gateway to the DCU and to comics in general (without a Frank Miller “C” word to be had anywhere)—so we encouraged them to stay on this right track.

Yet, we just couldn’t help ourselves when we tweaked the panel and Geoff Johns in particular that just about the only place we can read Green Lantern John Stewart is in an issue of Brianna The Girl Wonder’s Super Friends comics—So how about that Geoff Johns?

He answered a tad defensive—not unjustified given our snarkyness—that John IS in Green Lantern and DiDio jumped in by noting that John Stewart is in Justice League of America so we must not be reading it.

We replied that JLA is unreadable but they didn’t hear or didn’t acknowledge my retort as they moved on to the next question.

FBW’s Take: Okay, we knew we were being ….prickly and we DID know that John Stewart was featured in the pages of JLA before we stopped reading it. But only AFTER current writer Dwayne McDuffie shoehorned JS into the line up at the start of his run.

That came AFTER the over-rated Brad Metzler pushed John Stewart out of the League to make room for Green Lantern Hal Jordan because Hal was part of Brad’s fanboy fantasy baseball line up.

Here’s the deal—Of the literally thousands of Green Lanterns, John Stewart is THE recognizable public face of Green Lantern thanks to being featured in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. It’s John Stewart who is on the toys and in the Super Friends20comic and in a line up of elementary school age kids (like our girl wonder) John Stewart is THE Green Lantern.

Yet the nano-second that Justice League Unlimited went off the air, John Stewart was stuffed into a trunk out of sight. The aforementioned Dwayne McDuffie, formerly JLU producer, is the ONLY reason why John Stewart is regularly featured anywhere right now.

Worse, in this month’s Justice League of America #25, (we didn’t buy it, we viewed the preview pages on Newsarama), it features Green Lantern Hal Jordan AND John Stewart. Upstaged AGAIN.

In Green Lantern, scripted by Geoff Johns, John Stewart hasn’t been seen in months because of the current Secret Origin story arc—a.k.a. Hal Jordan Year One, a.k.a. Emerald Dawn: The Do-Over.

We can already here the reply to our complaint: “Well, Green Lantern is Hal’s book and John Stewart is just a supporting player.”

Okay. WHY? In the pages of Green Lantern Corps, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner—the former “Last Green Lantern” and emerald standard bearer for a decade—have carved out a home in that book yet John Stewart is perpetually the last one standing without a chair when the music stops.

Again why? Hal Jordan was dead. Okay. There was a significant anti-Kyle movement. Okay. So why not something daring and so safe—by elevating John Stewart in the main DCU to the status he enjoyed in the JLU universe as THE Earth GL.

It would have been the best of both worlds—a three decades old character but with a blank enough landscape to treat as new.

DC Management’s misguided revival of the Silver Age has resulted in bringing back a dead white guy to push aside the most high profile Green Lantern—who only happens to be a character of color and in our humble opinion a much more interesting character than Hal Jordan is or ever was—to reinstate the 1960s status quo.

John Stewart and his fans deserve better.
Ok….that’s off our chest and we feel better. Next.
Dr. Fate's Fate?

Kemosabe asked that given the brilliant yet tragic re-boot of the Dr. Fate character by the late Steve Gerber, what will be Fate’s fate in the DC Universe.

DiDio pointed out that Dr. Fate is currently in Reign in Hell (apparently this book is on it’s 3rd issue and we’ve never even heard of it—good job DC Marketing) and will be making supporting appearances throughout 2009, but DC felt that in the wake of Gerber’s untimely passing, it didn’t feel right to launch a new Dr. Fate series.

FBW’s Take: Meaning they don’t know what the hell to do with Dr. Fate right now and no one wants to try to top a dead man’s last work. Heck we can’t blame them. We’ll give DC a year to regroup before we expect to see a Dr. Fate series—but please guys, take your time and do it right.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read it, pick up Dr. Fate: Countdown to Mystery trade paper back, featuring Steve Gerber’s final work. His final legacy is a new Dr. Fate that reminds us of the original but is breathtakingly original in his flaws and in his strengths. Check it out.

Final thoughts and Parting Shots

Okay…bit of a disconnect…FanBoyWonder is writing this closing section of our DC Nation posting on Monday afternoon on the train ride home. It turns out the movie ran out before our laptop battery but Grandpa had been busy ALL weekend long with babysitting duty…not just Brianna the Girl Wonder but nearly one-year old T.J. The Wonder Lad.

So now that we’ve gotten some rest at the office, we can end our tour of DC Nation with some overall observations.

After we left the DC Nation panel and for the more than week that we’ve had to chew on what we heard…and what we didn’t hear from DC Management, we can’t say that we are able to muster a lot of excitement for what DC has planed in 2009.

We like what’s going on the in Green Lantern part of the DCU—the near endless and unnecessary re-telling of Hal Jordan’s origin not withstanding—but we liked Green Lantern going in nothing new.

Also we are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming Power Girl series but feel that Justice Society of America needs a shot in the arm that only a co-plotter/co-writer can provide. As a title, JSA was strongest when there were two creative heads on board—right now the book has one talented but VERY overextended scribe.

In between child care duties, we had some time to think about what was most bothering us about the DC Nation panel and the state of the DCU in general. The make up of the Baltimore panel appeared to represent the state of DC Management—each creator up there was more or less talented (some more some less than others) but each is beholden in some manner to Executive Editor Dan DiDio—they’re all “Dan’s Guys.”

Geoff Johns is top dog in the kennel and he’s not so much beholden to DD it seems they have struck a partnership in which Johns gets the runs of the place as long as he can produce for DD.

Palmotti and Gates strike us as go-along guys who know they are at-will employees and DD is the boss. James Robinson is a slightly different creature. JR is every bit Johns’ peer in the talent department but he has the option of picking his ball and screwing if he doesn’t like the deal—he wants to be there but doesn’t NEED to be there.

The fact that a proven talent like John Ostrander can’t get regular work from DC but the DC Nation panel consists of all “young turks” beholden to their “Czar” says that DC Management enjoys like-mindedness. It’s tough to think outside the creative box in an echo chamber.

So we come back to Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns and the analogy that hit us—think New England Patriots Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

As soon as star quarterback Brady became injured and was out of the season, the Belichick Patriots went into the toilet.

At Team DC, so long as Geoff Johns can continue to toss storytelling missiles into the End Zone, all is well. But DC’s current Golden Boy Wonder has been the starting quarterback and the star for about 5 years now, he is showing obvious signs of fatigue and there is no one….NO ONE waiting in the wings to pick up his creative slack.

Winning coaches (and we use that term loosely as it’s a matter of debate whether DC has been a “winning team” lately) can only harness/exploit talent for as long as the talent can take to the field—and if you don’t have any other tools in the tool box, you’re screwed.

So let us close by reiterating our two words for Bill Belichick ….uh…that is to Dan DiDio—“Deeper Bench.”
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