May 26, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Suspicions"

It is 10 May 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) has been relieved of her duties as ship's chief medical officer, and awaits transportation to a court martial for disobeying a direct order. In conversation with Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) she relates how she attempted to set up a small scientific conference only to have it end in a murder, a suicide, and the end of her Starfleet career.

Poor Gates McFadden. She does not get episodes dedicated to her character very often - certainly a lot less often than male counterparts like Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spider - and when she does get them they are almost invariably terrible. Her losing streak does not break with "Suspicions", a laboured and trite murder-mystery in which the killer is obvious and the flashback-based verbal narrative grates constantly on the nerves.

May 25, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Frame of Mind"

It is 3 May 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Riker fears for his sanity as he seems to shift back and forth between the Enterprise, where he is rehearsing the role of a mentally unwell murderer in a play, and an alien hospital - where he appears to be a mentally unwell murderer for real.

"Frame of Mind" is a trippy paranoid thriller, and a sharp change of tone and pace from its preceding episode ("The Chase"). It shines a spotlight on Commander Riker and puts him through pronounced psychological torture. That his mental instability is all some kind of alien ruse is never really in question, but the manner in which the story plays out remains enormously impressive.

May 24, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 3 Episode 1

It is 21 May 2017, and time for the Season 3 premiere of Twin Peaks.

This review assumes that the reader has either already viewed the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, broadcast back in 1990 and 1991, or does not remotely care about having key plot points from those seasons spoiled for them. I have recently reviewed Season 1, but not Season 2. Keep an eye on the blog titles to ensure you know which season I am reviewing in any subsequent review, as I will likely be jumping back and forth between Seasons 2 and 3.

25 years later in New York City, South Dakota and the small town of Twin Peaks, mysterious events occur. That is pretty much the only synopsis you need.

May 23, 2017

The Pull List: 17 May 2017, Part 4

Angela Spica has a robot suit inside of her body that pours out whenever she is in trouble. She appears to be in a lot of trouble with two secret high-tech agencies hunting her down and murderously fighting each other over who gets to grab her. There is a lot of other stuff getting thrown at the reader in The Wild Storm, but thankfully that central conceit is enough to handle for now. Everything else is just washing over me.

It is a mark of how effectively Warren Ellis can develop a story that I can find myself surrounded by too many characters referencing too many names without context, but still find a tremendously entertaining story being told. The effect is rather like being thrown into white-water rapids: sure you're probably drowning, but it sure as hell seems exciting at the same time. More experienced readers of the old Wildstorm universe are probably going to spot and understand a lot more here than I am, but what I am seeing is some fantastic and immersive world-building.

Jon Davis-Hunt and Steve Buccellato are doing sensational work with the art. It is a clean, very neatly composed world of sci-fi tech, that reminds me a little of The Manhattan Projects but with a much less exaggerated style.

This book is taking its time, but it was announced from the outset as a self-contained 24-issue story, so to be honest I have no problem with that. Right now, I'm just trying to keep my head above water and enjoy the view. (4/5)

The Wild Storm #4. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon David-Hunt. Colours by Steve Buccellato.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Night Owl Society, Poe Dameron, Satellite Falling and a much-delayed review of Hadrian's Wall.

The Pull List: 17 May 2017, Part 3

Marvel's revolving door of relaunches and re-numberings continues this week with Generation X #1, a new take on the popular 1990s X-Men spin-off. With Kitty Pryde taking over as head of the Charles Xavier School, a new group of young mutants all learn to control and apply their powers.

So there is a group of mutants to follow - some new, some pre-existing - and fan favourite Jubilee has been assigned to mentor them. This issue focuses solely on introducing them and leads to a cliffhanger ending for some action in issue #2. Plotwise it is nothing anybody has not seen before, and that is a bit of a problem. Marvel's sales are declining across the board, and offering up relatively generic X-Men titles are unlikely to help alleviate or even reverse that trend. The bottom line with Generation X is that there is nothing here to get returning readers excited and not enough introductory material to let new readers get in on the ground floor.

To its credit the artwork by Amilcar Pinna is nicely distinctive, and I particularly Felipe Sobreiro's relatively soft colours. It should also be noted that Christina Strain's script does not do anything specifically wrong, it just fails to bring a fresh angle to the title. The so-called "House of Ideas" desperately needs some new good ones. (2/5)

Generation X #1. Marvel. Written by Christina Strain. Art by Amilcar Pinna. Colours by Felipe Sobreiro.

Under the cut: reviews of Britannia, Star Wars and The Wicked + the Divine.

May 22, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Chase"

It is 26 April 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is urged by his own archaeology professor to abandon his Starfleet career and join the expedition of a lifetime. When that professor is killed shortly afterwards, Picard commands the Enterprise to investigate his discovery. It leads him on a planet-to-planet race against the Cardassians and the Klingons to gain an ancient secret from billions of years in the past.

"The Chase" takes a huge series-transforming concept and then attempts to tell it in the space of a self-contained 42-minute episode. That is a mistake on several fronts. For one thing the central concept that is revealed seems to demand a follow-up or further exploration, and gets none. For another the quest-like narrative turns the episode into a series of quickly expressed events rather than an actual story with weight and emotional resonance.

May 21, 2017

The Pull List: 17 May 2017, Part 2

Paige continues her attempt to stop her father from participating in a bank robbery, while her friends abandon her for their own safety. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is a masterful miniseries from Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss and Clare Dezutti: masterful because the dialogue sparkles, masterful because the art is engaging and effective, and masterful because this isn't the sort of story we often get in comic book form.

It strikes me as inevitable that someone is going to turn this series into a feature film, because while it works beautifully as a comic book it contains the perfect ingredients to make a fantastic movie as well. That film will potentially become a moderate hit and a cult favourite, and if you act now you can claim you knew it back when it was an independent comic book.

The structure is great. The use of fantasy sequences feels pitch-perfect. The characters are immediately recognisable from anybody's childhood. This is a stunning miniseries that is worthy of a much wider audience than the one that it is getting. (5/5)

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #4. Black Mask. Written by Matthew Rosenberg. Art by Tyler Boss and Clare Dezutti.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman, and Green Arrow.

May 20, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 7

It is 23 May 1990, and time for the Season 1 finale of Twin Peaks.

Under the orders of Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer), Leo (Eric Da Re) sets about burning down the Packard sawmill - with murderous intent for Shelley (Madchen Amick), Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Catherine (Piper Laurie). Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) successfully lures Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz) across the border to the USA, and discovers his role in Laura Palmer's murder.

Season cliffhangers were a popular technique in American television at the start of the 1990s: get the audience on the edge of their seats and then leave them hanging desperately over the Summer months before the series can make a widely hyped return in the Fall. Twin Peaks engages in a cliffhanger as well, but it does so in a typically self-aware, ridiculous and over-the-top fashion. I am not sure any other American series has developed a cliffhanger with so many characters' welfare at stake.