December 16, 2017

Highlander: The Series: "Innocent Man"

It's 10 October 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

Homeless veteran Leo Atkins (Vincent Schiavelli) is in the wrong place at the wrong time when he stumbles upon the recently decapitated corpse of an immortal. Framed for the crime by local sheriff Howard Crowley (John Novak), he must rely on a visiting Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul) to demonstrate his innocence.

The late Vincent Schiavelli is one of those beloved fixtures of cult and genre cinema that his mere presence alone seems to demand that "Innocent Man" deserves praise. In a long career he appeared in such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Buckaroo Banzai, Amadeus, Ghost, Batman Returns, Lord of Illusions, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Man on the Moon. The temptation is there to simply shout 'Vincent Schiavelli, it's great, shut up', and call the review a day.

December 14, 2017

Black Cab: 明 (Akira) (2017)

For their fifth studio album, Melbourne-based electronica band Black Cab pay direct tribute to Katsuhiro Otomo's legendary 1988 anime feature Akira. In a project that commenced as a live in-cinema performance, they now distil the melodies and rhythms developed there into a full-length album. You won't be able to whack it into a CD player and play it in sync with the actual movie, but you can slip on a pair of headphones and imagine a 45-minute long cyberpunk film of your very own.

The immediate surprise is how much the album sounds like Blade Runner, rather than Akira. Its extended use of drawn-out synthesiser notes immediately remind you of Vangelis rather than Akira composer Geinoh Yamashirogumi. Even at the base melody level there is a sense that the band is often only one misplaced note away from a Blade Runner cover version. That is not necessarily a bad thing - Blade Runner boasts one of the best movie scores of all time - but it's a surprise when one expects to hear an aural tribute to another 1980s cyberpunk film.

December 13, 2017

The Pull List: 6 December 2017, Part 1

Tom King is regularly and effectively perfect as the writer of Batman. Take "Superfriends", the new storyline beginning in issue #36. Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are engaged. Bruce has told his sons, both biological and adopted. Now, surely, it is time to tell his best friend Clark - but is Clark his friend? Do Batman and Superman have anything in common?

Over the course of one issue Tom King drives right to the heart of Bruce and Clark's relationship: how they relate to one another, how they perceive one another, and just why a friendship between the two seems so odd and difficult. The characterisation is pitch-perfect; not just the two superheroes but also their respective partners Lois and Selina. It is regularly and hugely funny, but then that humour leads to genuine insight.

It's a structural marvel too, with a clever layout and story structure that impresses enormously once it becomes apparent. Clay and Seth Mann's artwork is simply stunning, and excellently coloured by Jordie Bellaire - currently the best in the business, as far as I'm concerned.

I really think this might be my favourite King issue of Batman so far. It's quite simply and effectively perfect. (5/5)

Batman #36. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art by Clay Mann and Seth Mann. Colours by Jordie Bellaire. 

Under the cut: reviews of Darth Vader, Rocko's Modern Life, and Superman.

December 12, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Genesis"

It is 21 March 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

An unexplained disease begins to affect the Enterprise crew in different ways. When Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Data (Brent Spiner) return to the ship after an away mission, they find the entire crew have devolved into a variety of animal-like creatures.

At the time of its broadcast I felt reasonably certain that "Genesis" was the worst episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever made. I hated it so much that it has taken me more than 20 years to get around to watching it a second time. It is still awful, but time has somehow made it that special kind of awful in which - once you overcome its silly premise and unconvincing make-up effects - it's a strange kind of fun. It's an episode in which Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is a fish person and Picard begins to transform into a lemur. It's hard to top that kind of insanity.

December 11, 2017

The Pull List: 29 November 2017

The latest movie property to be adapted into a comic book is John Wick, the 2014 action film directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Thanks to Dynamite Entertainment and writer Greg Pak, John Wick's ultra-violent gun-shooting adventures come to comic books on a monthly basis.

It's a wonderful concept to adapt, given Wick's stripped-back nature and reliance on near-endless, brutal gunfights. It is also heartening to see a talented writer like Greg Pak taking the reins. This first issue kicks off with Wick revisiting his childhood with lethal intent, and fills in some back story in the process.

Telling an origin story feels in some small part a betrayal of the films, since Wick's pre-existing reputation and anonymous history forms a fairly key part of his appeal. At the same time Giovanni Valletta's artwork does not seem dynamic and energised enough to capture the tone of the two John Wick films. There's promise in a John Wick comic book, but based on this first issue Dynamite is struggling to find it. (2/5)

John Wick #1. Dynamite. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Giovanni Valletta. Colours by David Curiel and Inlight Studios.

Under the cut: a bumper crop of reviews including Aquaman, Atomic Robo, Batman, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Green Arrow, Poe Dameron, Sacred Creatures, Spy Seal, Star Trek: Boldly Go, and Star Trek: Discovery.

December 7, 2017

The Pull List: 22 November 2017, Part 2

The world has ended, with almost all of humanity gone and the Earth populated by strange alien insects. Three human survivors wander through a vast, empty city in search of both food and other people. Now the three men have met a mysterious woman, and everything looks set to fall apart.

The Beautiful Death is a strange, somewhat surreal post-apocalyptic drama. It has an arresting sort of dream-like style to it. Explanations have, to date, been in pretty short supply, but the air of mystery that leaves makes it all the more intriguing.

The real selling point is the artwork. Bablet has a slightly unusual style, giving his characters a distinctive angular look. The backgrounds and cityscapes are beautifully detailed, and it is all coloured in a typically French subtle style. Add in the lengthy page count per issue and this is a hugely addictive and enjoyable read. (4/5)

The Beautiful Death #3. Titan Comics/Statix Press. Story and art by Mathieu Bablet.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Copperhead, Detective Comics, Doom Patrol, and Rat Queens.

December 6, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Eye of the Beholder"

It is 28 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When a crew member commits suicide, Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) begins to suspect that their death may be related to a previously undiscovered murder while the Enterprise was under construction.

"Eye of the Beholder" takes and ruins a pretty cool premise: that there's been a dead body sealed inside one of the Enterprise's bulkheads for close to seven years. It also sets off in a pretty bold direction for mid-1990s science fiction drama by starting things off with a suicide. From there it runs pretty enthusiastically downhill. The individual elements all have merit, but some specific creative choices halfway through scuttle the whole thing by the end. It's a shame, because I think the episode has genuine potential.

Highlander: The Series: "Road Not Taken"

It is 17 October 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

A cyclist goes on a violent rampage in a jewelry store before collapsing dead just outside. With the cyclist a friend of Richie (Stan Kirsch), he and Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul) investigate - leading them to an old immortal acquaintance of Macleods who has spent centuries seeking the perfect super-strength elixir.

"Road Not Taken" marks an improvement over "Family Tree", which in its own small way improved upon "The Gathering". Highlander: The Series definitely appears to be getting better with each episode; in this case the episode is almost good. For one thing it involves another immortal. For another, it actually holds a comparatively complex storyline. On top of that the action is genuinely impressive stuff for a weekly television drama. It's still not particularly good television, but at least you can begin to see the good stuff in the distance.

December 5, 2017

The Pull List: 22 November 2017, Part 1

Swordquest has been one of the big surprises of my comic-reading year: an adaptation of an Atari 2600 videogame that came from a right angle and told an unexpected and inventive story about a terminally ill gamer, an unfinished competition, and a planned heist at a retro-gaming convention. As it went on the book made a shift from realistic and light-hearted crime book into an actual fantasy, which I was prepared to run with because I'd enjoyed it all so much.

Sadly when the time comes to tie everything together in a final issue, Swordquest stumbles and falls. The art and colours by Ghost Writer X remain solid and enjoyable, but they work best with a relatively mundane, realistic setting, and don't do anywhere near as well with the fantasy elements. It is the script by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims that actually causes the book to collapse. Everything feels rushed, causing the issue to feel less like a conclusion and more like a set-up to a sequel miniseries or ongoing book. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

I'm sure some readers will enjoy the fanciful manner in which the book concludes. I found myself longing for the grounded tone of earlier issues. (2/5)

Swordquest #5. Dynamite. Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. Art and colours by Ghost Writer X. Colour flats by Ellie Wright.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Giant Days and X-O Manowar.

December 4, 2017

Highlander: The Series: "Family Tree"

It is 19 December 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

Richie (Stan Kirsch) is trying to find out who his birth parents were, which leads the desperate con artist Joe Scanlon (J.E. Freeman) - who is in for $50,000 with the local mob - to masquerade as his father to get the money from him. Macleod (Adrian Paul) is suspicious, which puts him up against Joe's crime boss (Tamsin Kelsey) and violent henchman (Peter DeLuise).

Highlander's second episode is much better than the first: it's cleanly plotted and shot, the acting is better, and the production values seem a great deal stronger now that the majority of the budget isn't being spent on Christopher Lambert. You shouldn't get the wrong idea, however; "Family Tree" is still awful. It is derivative, creatively lazy and has almost nothing whatsoever to do with immortals fighting each other to the death. Some decent flashbacks to 16th century Scotland do lift it up a little, but certainly not by enough.

December 3, 2017

The Angriest: November 2017 in review

An absolute age after reviewing the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager Season 2 (I'm not joking - it was more than four years ago), I suddenly felt the urge to rewatch a few more episodes. The review of "Initiations" was the most-viewed post on The Angriest this month, as were the reviews of "Projections" and "Elogium". Over on the comic book side, reviews of comics from 18 October (here and here) proved unusually popular.

Over on the film side, readers of FictionMachine (where I keep all of my new film reviews and essays now) were most interesting in Justice League and Grosse Pointe Blank.

All up in November 2017, I reviewed three new films, seven older films, eight TV episodes, one music album, and 68 comic books. A full index is available below the cut.

The Pull List: 15 November 2017, Part 3

Talk about climactic: Tim-21 and Tesla fight off Tim-22, while the UCG and the Hardwire finally confront one another in open space - with catastrophic consequences.

All of that is probably unintelligible to you, assuming you don't already read Descender. This is a distinctive and smart science fiction series in which a galactic civilization was almost destroyed by a mysterious robot invasion, and ten years later it has become clear that the robots - all apparently destroyed - were not as thoroughly eliminated as had been assumed.

It's dramatic, intelligent and original, the latter nowhere more so than in Dustin Nguyen's excellent artwork. The entire series is illustrated in loose watercolours that are high on beauty but low on background detail. It's a style that forces the book to concentrate on the characters, not the technology around them. Given the technology-centric storyline, that creates a wonderfully odd effect.

This issue is probably the most satisfying Descender has had since it started more than two years ago. It pulls a lot of threads together and pushes the series into an all-new phase. (4/5)

Descender #26. Image. Written by Jeff Lemire. Art and colours by Dustin Nguyen.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Aphra, Ninja-K and Super Sons.

November 30, 2017

The Pull List: 15 November 2017, Part 2

Nicholas Cox is an enthused teen fencer, one desperate to win a regional championship. In his first round, however, he finds himself facing top-level fencer Seiji Katawama - does he even stand a chance?

You know all of those manga and anime based around sports, with a plucky teen protagonist slowly learning how to be the best in their particular pursuit? Meanwhile they make friends and establish relationships with a wide variety of supporting characters? That's Fence: it really is a sports manga in an American comic book format.

That's both good and bad. It's nice to see this genre get a decent shot in the English-language market, but at the same time it's a comparatively expensive way to experience this sort of a story: a manga might be in black and white, but it's going to give you a lot of pages for comparatively little money. While the writing and character work here is solid, and the art clean and very easy on the eye, it's really going to come down to how much you love this genre to buy it every month. (3/5)

Fence #1. Boom Studios. Written by C.S. Pacat. Art by Johanna the Mad. Colours by Joana Lafuente.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Darth Vader, Doctor Strange and Mech Cadet Yu.

November 29, 2017

New Pants: New Pants (1998)

A few years ago I stumbled upon a CD by a Chinese post-punk band named New Pants. I bought it on a whim and absolutely loved its blend of Ramones-esque fast punk and breezy electronica. I've enjoyed what I've heard of the band ever since, but recently I managed to track down a copy of their original 1998 self-titled album. It is a chance to hear the band in their early stages.

It's a slightly strange experience, since it almost sounds as if the tracks were laid onto the album in the chronological order in which they were written. It certainly ends with a fairly similar sound to the one with which I'm familiar, but it begins somewhere quite different. In truth it begins with them sounding like a straight-up Ramones tribute act.

November 28, 2017

Highlander: The Series: "The Gathering"

Small-time thief Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch) breaks into the antique store owned by the mysterious Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul) - only to stumble into a confrontation between Macleod, a sword-wielding immortal, and the villainous Slan Quince (Richard Moll). Slan is intent on decapitating Macleod and stealing his power, however another stands in his way: Macleod's relative and fellow immortal Connor (Christopher Lambert).

In case you spent the 1980s under a rock: Highlander was a moderately successful fantasy film released in 1986, which starred Christopher Lambert as a Scottish highlander cursed by immortality. It depicted a disparate group of immortal warriors scattered throughout history that would fight one another to the death - by decapitation, the only means that worked permanently - until they would all assemble for "the Gathering", finish off killing one another until only one survived, at which point the winner would receive a mysterious "Prize". It was very stylishly directed by Russell Mulcahy, boasted a great soundtrack by Michael Kamen and Queen, and did a particularly strong line in flashbacks to various historical periods. In 1992 its producers decided to make a TV series out of it.

November 27, 2017

The Pull List: 15 November 2017, Part 1

The Wicked + the Divine is a fantastic comic book. It is almost certainly the best work that writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie have ever produced - and they have done some sensational books over the years. In many ways it feels like the most refined and perfected form of their respective styles. It's energetic, musical, emotive, detailed, nuanced, funny, sad - I could literally just keep on listing adjectives, because they somehow encapsulate all of those things and more in a fashion that almost seems miraculous.

The book has been circling towards its conclusion for a while now, with a huge apocalyptic wave of ominous foreboding crashing over the entire cast. This, issue #33, was the final part of their "Imperial Phase II" story arc, and I was expecting something monumental to happen. What I did not expect was to have the rug pulled out from under my feet.

This isn't an issue to talk about without spoiling. This is an issue with big surprises, and game-changing reveals, and if I wasn't already feverishly anticipating each issue before I absolutely am now. This is one of the best single issues of an ongoing book I have read this year. (5/5)

The Wicked + the Divine #33. Image. Written by Kieron Gillen. Art by Jamie McKelvie. Colours by Matt Wilson.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman, Kill the Minotaur, Spider-Men II, and Superman.

Star Trek: Voyager: "Non Sequitur"

It is 25 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) wakes up in San Francisco, in a parallel world where he never joined the crew of the USS Voyager. While Starfleet begins to believe the confused Kim may be a Maquis spy, Kim desperately works to discover what has happened - and if he can ever return to his own universe.

Poor Ensign Kim. He doesn't get a huge amount of attention by the Star Trek: Voyager writers, but in Season 1 he did get to be the focus of "Emanations" - in which Harry is trapped in an alternative reality and must effectively die to get back to Voyager. Now he gets to feature in "Non Sequitur", in which Harry is trapped in an alternative reality and must effectively die to get back to Voyager. Like I said: poor Ensign Kim.

November 26, 2017

The Pull List: 8 November 2017, Part 2

In a neat twist on the usual first contact story, Port of Earth depicts a future where aliens do come and make contact with humanity, but only to lease space on the Earth for an interstellar spaceport. The aliens keep to themselves, the humans get advanced technology in payment, and that is supposed to be it. Unfortunately now and then an alien leaves the transit zone, leading to murder, violence and all kinds of mayhem.

The real strength here is that the aliens genuinely feel alien, since we do not really get to see them and we have no insight into their motivations. It makes everything feel just that little bit unsettling and paranoid - can the Earth be sure it's made an even-handed deal?

Port of Earth is a great spin on a traditional science fiction set-up, and in a comic genre that sometimes struggles to find fresh angles writer Zack Kaplan appears to have hit one right on the head. While it is too early to tell how this series will go overall, as a set-up it is second-to-none. It also benefits from great artwork by Andrea Mutti, and subtle colours by Vladimir Popov. It has a very mature, distinctive aesthetic. So far, so good - possibly even great. (4/5)

Port of Earth #1. Image. Written by Zack Kaplan. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Vladimir Popov.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Daredevil, Ms Marvel, Scales and Scoundrels, and She-Hulk.

November 23, 2017

The Pull List: Doomsday Clock #1

It is 1992. The United States government has uncovered the truth: that several years earlier the world-famous superhero Ozymandias faked an alien invasion to prevent global war, murdering hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process. Now the whole world is falling apart. Thermonuclear war seems inevitable. Meanwhile a vigilante presumed dead breaks into prison to rescue a pair of criminals.

Alan Moore turned 64 on Saturday. It seems a fairly distasteful birthday present, then, that DC Comics would yesterday publish Doomsday Clock: the sequel to Watchmen, arguably his most famous work. Moore and artist Dave Gibbons produced Watchmen for DC Comics between 1986 and 1987, under a contract in which the rights to the characters would revert back to their creators once the comic was out of print. Put simply, Watchmen never went out of print. It remains in print today, and as a result Moore and Gibbons never got the rights back. Warner Bros have produced a Watchmen film, they're currently producing a HBO TV series, and a few years ago they even produced a string of fairly average prequel comics about the key characters. Moore has long since washed his hands and moved onto more interesting projects, but whenever DC mines back into Moore's work - knowing that he created these characters and that he doesn't want them exploited in this fashion - it feels a remarkably tacky move.

November 21, 2017

The Pull List: 8 November 2017, Part 1

If you ever wanted a demonstration of how much Grant Morrison influenced the DC Universe over the past 20 years, then Dark Nights: Batman Lost is a perfect place to start. This one-shot, which ties in directly to Scott Snyder's six-part Metal miniseries, positively screams the name "Morrison" from every panel. It is difficult to imagine it being published at all had Morrison not laid out the groundwork in advance.

Some years ago Batman was struck by Darkseid's omega beams, throwing him all the way back to the dawn of the human race (see Morrison's Final Crisis and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne). There he attracted the attention of Barbatos, a dark god that exists in the 'dark multiverse', which exists on the flipside to the main DC multiverse. Across thousands of years Barbatos has manipulated the entire human race in order to bring the 21st century Batman to a specific act in a specific place and time, and the gateway to the dark multiverse has been opened. While Earth falls to the power of Barbatos' Dark Knights, Batman is trapped in a nightmare world of illusions and cannot get out.

This is essentially an interlude to Metal, in which Batman struggles to escape the dreamlike environs into which Barbatos has placed him. It is a love letter: to Batman's seven-decade history, to Grant Morrison's unique style of comic book storytelling, and ultimately to DC Comics itself. It is tremendous fun, with a deliberately shifting art style and a wealth of clever comic book references. I imagine it might be hard to fully enjoy this issue without reading Metal, but in context and with an informed reader, it is one of the very best comic books I've read this year. (5/5)

Dark Nights: Batman Lost #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson. Art by Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jimenez amd Jaime Mendoza. Colours by Wil Quintana, Nathan Fairbairn and Alejandro Sanchez.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Mister Miracle.

Star Trek: Voyager: "Elogium"

It is 18 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

When Voyager encounters a school of alien creatures in deep space, the crew are keen to investigate. The creatures then surround and trap the ship. Their emanations have an unexpected effect on Kes (Jennifer Lien), accelerating her development and forcing her into her 'elogium'; the brief period of time in which her species may conceive a child.

We need to talk about Neelix and Kes. They were introduced to the series as a romantic couple in the very first episode, "Caretaker". It is not a relationship that sits well with me, and it never has. A lot is made in the series about how Kes is two years old, and from a species with a life-span of  nine years. Neelix's age is never referenced in the series, although we know he was an adult at least 15 years prior to meeting the Voyager crew. It seems safe to assume he is at least in his mid-30s (Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix, was 40 when the series premiered). In the end, it is difficult to see Kes and Neelix's relationship as being anything other than one between an adult and a child.

November 19, 2017

The Pull List: 1 November 2017, Part 2

It has taken Titan Comics three attempts, but they have finally nailed a multi-Doctor Doctor Who crossover miniseries without feeling forced and without tying everything together with a rushed and disappointing finale.

By contrast, The Lost Dimension has been well-plotted, carefully thought out and brilliantly fore-shadowed. The entire storyline has circled around a mysterious white void that has been sucking things in from all of time and space. By the time the true nature of the void is revealed, it is simultaneously a shock and stunning obvious at the same time: the best kind of revelation.

Every Doctor gets at least a momentary cameo, with the bulk of the lead time shared between Doctors 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Mariano Laclaustra's artwork is superb, giving everything a beautiful aesthetic somewhere between painting and traditional pen-and-ink. Carlos Cabrera's colours only enhance it. It simply looks tremendous.

So congratulations to writers George Mann and Cavan Scott; while individual issues of the crossover have wavered in quality, they have pulled out one hell of a climax. And think this all started with a comic I absolutely despised... (4/5)

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Omega #1. Titan Comics. Written by George Mann and Cavan Scott. Art by Mariano Laclaustra with Fer Centurion. Colours by Carlos Cabrera.

Under the cut: reviews of Atomic Robo, The Beautiful Death, Darth Vader, Extremity, Lazaretto and Superman.

November 17, 2017

The Pull List: 1 November 2017, Part 1

I couldn't honestly tell you why, but I have an enormous soft spot for Deadman, aka Boston Brand: a circus acrobat who was resurrected upon his death as a roaming spirit capable of possessing bodies and fighting crimes. DC recently gave him a miniseries in the form of Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, which was a lot of fun, and now they're back with a new six-issue run simply titled Deadman. In this first issue, Deadman and Batman meet one another when Hook - the assassin who originally murdered Boston - sets up an attempt to kill Gotham's Commissioner Gordon at a nuclear power plant.

The story is genuinely messy, and regularly mystifying. For some reason Gordon is now acting as a US ambassador, and why he's assumed the role and why he's inspecting a nuclear plant both go unanswered. The artwork, however, is wonderfully old-fashioned and enjoyable to view, and will be the book's main selling point. Deadman is, after all, a book written and illustrated by legendary DC artist Neal Adams. Anybody with a sense of history and a love for DC's 1970s titles will get a lot out of this new series.

Overall it's a head-scratcher, but in the moment it's a wonderful throwback to the fast-paced, chummy books of my childhood. I'm a huge fan of Adams' artwork, and his talented have not abandoned him with age. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it is hugely fun to read. (4/5)

Deadman #1. DC Comics. Story and art by Neal Adams.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Spider-Man and Usagi Yojimbo.

November 15, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Masks"

It is 21 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise encounters an ancient temple in space, hidden beneath the surface of a comet. After an attempt to scan the temple, Data (Brent Spiner) begins to suffer the effects of external manipulation: he becomes increasingly obsessed with unusual sigils and begins to develop multiple personalities. As the Enterprise itself is gradually transformed by the temple's power, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) must play out ancient history in order to save his ship and crew.

"Masks" really is one of those episodes where you feel compelled to applaud the production team for their adventurous outlook, but you cannot actually praise the end result. It's a somewhat silly, and certainly very uneven hour of Star Trek. The ideas are there, and they're potentially great ones, but the execution stumbles badly.

November 14, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 3

At this stage we all know the drill: another six issues have passed, bringing a story arc of Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan's Saga to a close. There is going to be tugging on heartstrings, a shock conclusion, perhaps a violent character death - it's become something of a routine.

That's where Saga #48 comes as a total surprise. Readers expecting to see some terrible tragedy befall Alana, Marko and their daughter will be shocked to find themselves back with the anthropomorphic seal Ghus, the young robot prince Squire, and the journalists Upsher and Doff. They are stranded on a remote planet with no hope of rescue and a rapidly shrinking supply of food. To avoid killing Ghus' beloved walrus, he and the young prince set off into the forest to kill an invisible monster for its meat.

It is not only a refreshing change from the trials of Alana and Marko, it is also a refreshing change in tone. This issue has a beautiful fairy-tale quality that makes it stand out. The characters are sweet and pleasant to read about, and Fiona Staples' art is - as always - wonderful to look at. Saga may go up and down from arc to arc, but now and then it really knocks an issue out of the park. I thought this one was fantastic. (5/5)

Saga #48. Image. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Art and colours by Fiona Staples.

Under the cut: reviews of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Copperhead, The Power of the Dark Crystal, Star Trek: Boldly Go, and X-O Manowar.

November 13, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 2

Science fiction horror series Southern Cross is back for a third story arc, and it is a very welcome return indeed. For the past 12 issues writer Becky Cloonan, artist Andy Belanger and colourist Lee Loughridge have developed a gripping and claustrophobic story that started with a murder and has no reached the exploration of a missing spacecraft that has just returned from somewhere outside of our own reality.

Set your expectations to Event Horizon and you'll have a ball with this series, which combines science fiction and horror with a strong cast of hard-edged, cynical characters. Andy Belanger's artwork uses slightly grotesque designs and a thick inking style to make it all look very stark and brutal. Lee Loughridge's limited colour palette tones everything down and gives it a very consistent and desolate aesthetic.

The biggest strength of all is the unpredictable storyline. Each arc has taken off in an unexpected direction, and this third volume seems set to do the same. Things have moved much faster than I expected them to here, from the opening - which pretty much picks up the exact moment the second volume ended - to the violent climax. (4/5)

Southern Cross #13. Written by Becky Cloonan. Art by Andy Belanger. Colours by Lee Loughridge.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Daredevil and Rebels.

November 12, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 1

Abram Adams was a cosmonaut who was sent into deep space, where an unexplained encounter transformed him into the enormously powerful cosmic entity known as Divinity. Now, after three great miniseries, the character is heading back out into void in this new four-issue event from the Divinity creative team of Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine.

It is a strong opening, one that both reminds the readers of Divinity's origins and current situation as well as set this new story in motion. The alien sequences are easily the best, showcasing a wonderfully 'out there' imagination of strange characters, names and settings.

The visuals definitely sit on a shelf next to the likes of Jack Kirby and Moebius, but there is a much more direct and realistic aesthetic to it. All in all it is an intriguing hook into what looks to be yet another excellent Valiant miniseries. (4/5)

Eternity #1. Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Trevor Hairsine and Ryan Winn. Colours by David Baron.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, and Silver Surfer.

November 11, 2017

Star Trek: Voyager: "Projections"

It is 11 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

The Doctor (Robert Picardo) is activated in Voyager's sickbay, only to discover the entire ship has been abandoned. After discovering both Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Torres (Roxann Dawson) are still onboard, the Doctor then discovers the Starfleet engineer Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) who drops a bombshell: the Doctor is not onboard Voyager, but is in fact hologram designer Lewis Zimmerman inside a holodeck simulation that cannot be deactivated.

"Projections" hits off with a fairly dramatic hook: that we're not on Voyager back somewhere all the way back near Earth (Jupiter Station, to be precise). The problem is that before we even get to the central mystery - is he the Doctor or Zimmerman - the episode has included scenes that make the Barclay/Zimmerman scenario fundamentally impossible. The result is thus a fairly tedious wait for an extra 25 minutes for the Doctor's actual situation to be resolved. Thanks to poor scripting by writer Brannon Braga, the entire episode becomes a waste of time.

November 10, 2017

The Pull List: 18 October 2017, Part 3

Editor Shelly Bond was one of the most critical and successful editors at DC Vertigo, the imprint where she worked from its second month of publication all the way through to April 2016 when DC Comics made her redundant as part of a company restructure. Now she's back, thanks to IDW Publishing, with a new imprint called Black Crown and a new monthly comic by Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler: Kid Lobotomy.

Sadly, as an imprint-launching comic, it is a messy disappointment. The story feels haphazard and unfocused. The characters feel derivative and uninteresting. All in all it feels as if writer Peter Milligan is running on automatic: this reads like a photocopy of much of his earlier, much better work. Tess Fowler's artwork is good, but artwork alone can rarely save a comic book.

It's ultimately a big disappointment, because Bond had a huge opportunity here to set up something truly dynamic, original and provocative - and instead she's edited together something that just feels like a by-the-numbers Vertigo copy. It's a terrible shame. (2/5)

Kid Lobotomy #1. Black Crown/IDW. Written by Peter Milligan. Art by Tess Fowler. Colours by Lee Loughridge.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Behind You, Kill the Minotaur, Spy Seal, and The Wild Storm.

November 9, 2017

Star Trek: Voyager: "Initiations"

It is 4 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is undertaking a Native American ritual in a shuttlecraft when he comes under attack by the Kazon. His key assailant is Kar (Aron Eisenberg), a Kazon youth undergoing a ritual initiation to become an adult member of his community.

With the Season 1 finale "The 37s" held over to launch Season 2, this actual opening episode got bumped to the second week. It is certainly a much stronger episode, although that doesn't necessarily make it particularly good. "Initiations" is a flawed hour of Star Trek with some decent character work, but a fairly rote and underwhelming story.

November 8, 2017

The Pull List: 18 October 2017, Part 2

Four issues in, and Swordquest is really firming up as one of the most surprisingly good comic book miniseries of 2017. I find myself how things possibly worked out as well as they did. Dynamite, a publisher mainly responsible for remakes of old pulp characters like John Carter of Mars and Vampirella, picked up the rights to make comic books out of Atari videogames. I expected fairly tedious attempts to expand 8-bit arcade games into science fiction narratives. I didn't expect Swordquest.

Writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims did the cleverest thing by noticing that the most interesting aspect of Swordquest was its real-life background. A four-game series, in which players who completed each game and solved its puzzles, could write into Atari and register for a special event. The best player at each game's event would win a special game-related prize. The final prize - a sword - was never given away, because Atari essentially collapsed before it could be awarded. It is that weird set-up and downfall that is powering this series, as a terminal ill ex-games player works to steal the never-awarded sword from a retro games expo. This issue things get a little weird, in the best possible fashion. The pseudonymous Ghostwriter X illustrates the book beautifully, with a very grounded, thickly inked style that add to its sense of real world, small-scale criminality.

That this series is not only readable but genuinely great is possibly the biggest surprise of my comic-reading year. (5/5)

Swordquest #4. Dynamite. Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. Art and colours by Ghostwriter X.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange, Green Arrow, Poe Dameron and Super Sons.

November 7, 2017

The Pull List: 18 October 2017, Part 1

For a lot of people Aquaman is a kind of silly punchline: the ridiculous superhero from that old cartoon Super Friends who wore orange and green and talked to fish. For DC Comics fans he's often something more, but in the grand scheme of things not that many actually care about the character enough to read his comic.

They should. You should. Right now Aquaman the comic is about as good as it has ever been. Under writer Dan Abnett it has evolved into a long-running, character-focused epic. Arthur Curry, the rightful king of Atlantis, hides in his city's bottom slums while the tyrant Corum Rath rules in his place. Above the surface his fiancee Mera fights desperately to locate a way into the city. It is one big undersea fantasy, with long-term consequences and great character-based pay-offs. This particular arc is illustrated by Stjepan Sejic, one of the finest comic book artists working today.

This issue brings the current arc right up to a climactic point, and it feels like it's going to be character-defining one. This is a sensational run on a hugely underrated character. (5/5)

Aquaman #29. DC Comics. Written by Dan Abnett. Art and colours by Stjepan Sejic.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor, and Superman.

November 6, 2017

The Angriest: October 2017 in review

I am yet to be impressed by Riverdale, but my review of its second episode - "A Touch of Evil" - was the most-read post on The Angriest in October. Other popular posts included comic book reviews for 20 September (link), the review of the Colditz series finale "Liberation" (link), and reviews of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "The Pegasus" (link) and "Sub Rosa" (link).

All up in October 2017 I wrote one film essay, six film reviews, 11 TV episode reviews, three artist profiles, and short reviews of 48 comic books. A full index is included below the cut.

The Pull List: 11 October 2017, Part 3

The Seven Deadly Sins have lived in exile on Earth for thousands of years, under the careful watch of the angel Naviel. Now they have successfully killed Naviel, and the only thing stopping them from running riot over the Earth is Naviel's son and an innocent human bystander drawn against his will into the conflict.

Sacred Creatures is warming on me more with each issue. It is a beautifully illustrated book, with detailed artwork that carries two distinctive styles - one for the present day and one for a series of flashbacks. It is also a much thicker comic than you usually see - this issue has 48 pages of story, for example - and that gives it a lot more room to expand each installment for maximum impact.

It is a decidedly adult comic book. Previous issues have featured plenty of violence; this one tops that by the personification of Lust sparking off an incontrollable orgy in a New York hospital. Interestingly while the design and illustration of Sophia (aka Lust) is of the vaguely tiresome Greg Land school of sexualised characters, the actual story feels a lot more like the sort of thing you'd see in an issue of The Invisibles. I had my earlier doubts, but this book absolutely has me hooked. (4/5)

Sacred Creatures #4. Image. Story and art by Pablo Raimondi and Klaus Jansen. Colours by Dean White, Chris Chuckry and Brian Reber.

Under the cut: reviews of Lazaretto, Mech Cadet Yu, and Scales and Scoundrels.

October 29, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Thine Own Self"

It is 14 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Commander Data (Brent Spiner) wanders into a medieval village on the planet Barkon IV with no memory of who he is and what he is doing there. While he is adopted into a local family, the radioactive fragments he has carried with him go unnoticed as they begin to make the villagers sick. Back on the Enterprise, Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) resolves to take the commander's exam to gain further command responsibility.

On the whole "Thine Own Self" is a well-written and engaging riff on James Whale's Frankenstein adaptation, with Data inserted into a pseudo-period setting as the Monster. He does not fully understand the world around him, he tries to befriend a young girl, and ultimately he gets hounded to destruction by angry villagers with torches and pitchforks. Thankfully in between those touchstones it tells its own story; it's a nice blend of science fiction story and pastiche.

October 27, 2017

An Artist: Hisashi Tenmyouya

An Artist is a series of posts profiling contemporary artists whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, particularly from North Asia. I am by no means an expert in the field, but on a personal level these are the artists whose work I have liked the most in recent years.

Hisashi Tenmyouya is a Japanese artist whose work deliberately straddles a line between contemporary popular culture and art history. In 2001 he proposed a new style of art he called 'neo-Nihonga', or 'new Japanese-style', which combined traditional Japanese painting with sharply contrasted modern imagery. This style led to what is probably his most famous painting: two samurai playing football, in a commissioned piece for the 2006 FIFA World Cup (pictured below the cut).

Tenmyouya works extensively with gold leaf in his neo-Nihonga works, laid down onto wooden boards in a traditional Japanese style. He then paints over the top of the leaf in acrylics. There is a huge amount to love in these works: the blending of style, the combination of realist art, manga/anime and graffiti-style imagery, and a sort of deliberately absurd humour caused by the cultural clash that results.

October 26, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Lower Decks"

It is 7 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Four junior officers onboard the Enterprise ready themselves for their staff evaluations; success can mean a much-wanted promotion, while failure could potentially set them back for years. One of them, Ensign Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill), struggles to move on from her misconduct at Starfleet Academy, and finds herself under the stern attention of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart).

So here's the funny thing: I have an essay in a new book, Outside In Makes It So (link here), which contains 174 separate pieces by a huge variety of writers with each piece focusing on a different episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. My essay focuses on "Lower Decks", which is hands-down my all-time favourite episode of the entire series. It is probably my favourite episode of any Star Trek series. So part of me is sorely tempted to just point all readers in the direction of the book and have you read my opinions there. On the other hand it seems a little unfair to demand everybody drop US$24.95 plus postage - although you totally should go but it - so I suppose I'd better provide some critical opinions here for free.

October 23, 2017

An Artist: Yang Yongliang

An Artist is a series of posts profiling contemporary artists whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, particularly from North Asia. I am by no means an expert in the field, but on a personal level these are the artists whose work I have liked the most in recent years.

I first encountered Yang Yongliang's digital art works in an exhibit of contemporary Chinese art in Singapore. They grabbed my attention immediately, and have been stuck in my memory ever since. They're just enormously effective and captivating. I think they have a near-hypnotic effect.

Yang originally trained in traditional Chinese ink painting before formally studying visual communication in Shanghai. After a few years of experimentation in ink painting, short film-making and photography, he started working on his so-called 'phantom landscapes' in 2006. In his works he draws intricate Chinese landscapes in the popular 'shanshui' style of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 CE). Into them, however, he inserted modern buildings and technology, and tightly clustered fictional cities. Then he animates them.

October 22, 2017

The Pull List: 11 October 2017, Part 2

Scott Free is back on Earth, on leave with his wife Barda from Orion's new war against Apokalips. It soon becomes clear, however, that Orion's war ambitions will stop at nothing - including allowing millions to die.

The writer/artist team of Tom King and Mitch Gerads are back with a third issue of Miracle Man, the best arthouse take on a long-running DC superhero you're likely to find on the shelves. It is inventively staged and shows off a lot of complexity, combined with some lovely flashes of character throughout. It's a challenging read, but as the issues go on it's becoming an increasingly satisfying one - assuming you're in that crowd who already knows their New Gods from back to front.

There is a lot of assumed knowledge going on in this book, and I would be interested to see how accessible it actually is to readers unfamiliar with Jack Kirby's Fourth World comic books and their various spin-offs and sequels. Characters step into frame with barely an introduction, and key sequences rely on a foreknowledge of exactly who each person is and what their significance is in relation to the events. While this is a great issue, it hardly seems an accessible one. (4/5)

Mister Miracle #3. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art and colours by Mitch Gerads.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Detective Comics, Ms Marvel and The Wicked + the Divine.

October 21, 2017

An Artist: Takashi Murakami

An Artist is a new series of posts profiling a contemporary artist whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, and was keen to step out from a usual diet of comic book and television reviews to provide something a bit different.

Takashi Murakami is a Japanese pop artist, best known for founding the so-called "superflat" movement of bright, colourful, anime-inspired paintings and sculptures. He has also expanded into film-making via his 2013 fantasy feature Jellyfish Eyes (which I reviewed here). Murakami is unapologetically a commercial artist: his stuff is widely merchandised and mass-produced, and he attracts a far wider audience and fan base than a typical fine artist might. More than one critic has compared his style and career to American pop artist Andy Warhol. Certainly he has followed Warhol's lead by establishing an entire factory-style studio where a team of assistants enable him to produce art works on an accelerated schedule.

I find myself attracted to Murakami's work because of the colour. The bright, bold colour schemes that dominate his work just jump right off the canvas, grabbing the attention in whatever room in which his works get exhibited. There's a childlike simplicity to most of his work, but there's something about some of his works that can be weirdly unsettling too.

October 20, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Sub Rosa"

It is 31 January 1994 and time for the worst episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever made.

This is not a drill. It's not an exaggeration. It is not as if I have forgotten all of those absolutely dire episodes made all the way back in Season 1, or the cobbled-together clips show that concluded Season 2. The truth is that "Sub Rosa" trumps them all with easily the most ridiculous and unsuitable premise ever pushed into the series, and a very poor execution of that already unfortunate concept. To momentarily use the episode title convention of Friends, this is "The One Where Dr Crusher Has Sex with a Space Ghost".

The Enterprise visits the colony of Caldos IV so that Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) may attend the funeral of her grandmother. Caldos IV is a colony deliberately styled upon 18th century Scotland. While staying in her grandmother's cottage, Crusher is visited by a spectral apparition that calls itself Ronin; the same apparation with whom her grandmother appeared to be having a passionate love affair. As Ronin and Crusher enter into a romance of their own, she decides to resign from her Enterprise post to remain with him.

October 18, 2017

The Pull List: 11 October 2017, Part 1

Scott Snyder epic and ridiculous story of dark universes and evil Batmen continues for a third instalment. This one feels as if the story has jumped forward a little too much, suggesting that all of those Batman one-shots in recent weeks were more of a necessary read that DC had previously suggested. What we get here is a lot of fast catching-up on how America is falling to the dark universe Batmen, followed by an assembly of remaining heroes working out a plan of fighting back.

The issue moves in fits and starts. It really does lack any iconic action, although the central hero meeting in the Oblivion Bar is a hugely enjoyable one. Fans of Detective Chimp will get an immediate thrill, as will anybody who enjoys these kinds of widescreen-style superhero event titles. The combination of characters is clever and effective, and while this issue feels like a bit of a drop in quality it does set up the future well.

Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion's artwork is excellent, and really sells the dynamic, over-the-top nature of the story. The colours by FCO Plascencia give everything a rich and dramatic look. It's imperfect, but this issue does keep Snyder's epic going. (3/5)

Dark Nights: Metal #3. Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion. Colours by FCO Plascencia.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension, Hulk, Kull Eternal and Star Trek: Boldly Go.

October 17, 2017

Colditz: "Liberation"

It is 1 April 1974, and time for the final episode of Colditz.

The American and Russian armies are both storming through Germany, as the prisoners-of-war in Colditz Castle wait to discover what happens first: rescue or execution at the hands of the SS. The Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) recognises that, regardless of which army reaches the castle first, his time in command is over, and begins arrangements to transfer control to Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) and Colonel Dodd (Dan O'Herlihy).

After 28 episodes and two seasons, Colditz comes to a conclusion with this straight-forward and hugely dignified final act. Truth be told, there is not a huge amount of suspense to be found here. We know from history that Colditz was liberated, and that its prisoners were successfully rescued by the United States Army. The focus here is not the 'how' of the story, but rather on the effect the events have on the characters we have been watching for the past two seasons.

October 16, 2017

The Pull List: 4 October 2017

In the aftermath of the battle between the Paznina and Roto clans, Thea and Rollo find themselves lost in the so-called "Ancient Dark", where they find a community of humans in the last place they expected to find them.

Daniel Warren Johnson's post-apocalyptic Extremity returns for its second and final story arc, bringing with it strong and well-developed characters and absolutely stunning art and design. This is one of the best new comics of 2017 - if not the best - and it has lost none of its impact or style during its brief hiatus. Johnson picks up the story threads across the entire cast and points them all towards what I fear will be a devastating climax in the issues to come.

The detail of the artwork is incredible, particularly in one particularly impactful double-splash page where Thea gets her first glimpse of the mysterious "Essene". This is a wonderful comic book, and knowing that it has been planned as a limited 12-issue series from the outset just makes each issue feel a little more precious. (5/5)

Extremity #7. Image. Story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. Colours by Mike Spicer.

Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Batman, Darth Vader, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Shadowman, Spider-Man, Superman and Usagi Yojimbo.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Homeward"

It is 17 January 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise comes to the planet Boraal II to rescue Nikolai Rozhenko (Paul Sorvino), a noted Federation anthropologist and Worf's adoptive brother. Boraal II is suffering a total atmospheric collapse, killing the primitive population entirely - but Worf is shocked to discover his brother has broken the Prime Directive and saved an entire village from destruction.

Another episode of Season 7 that deals with family: this time introducing the son of Worf's adoptive human parents the Rozhenkos. It illuminates Worf's back story a little more, as well as provides a strong personal link to the ethical and moral quandaries raised by the episode. This is not an out-and-out classic episode, but it's one that definitely provides an interesting story with some proper issues to discuss.

October 14, 2017

The Pull List: 27 September 2017, Part 3

At an unexpected intersection between global finance and supernatural horror sits Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker's The Black Monday Murders. The series tells a story of rival, magically powerful houses controlling the world through its financial markets and a homicide detective trying to find out what they are doing. Hickman does this not just through the comic narrative but also through various documents - e-mails, press releases, newspaper clippings - interspersed between scenes of the main storyline. It's beautifully illustrated by Tomm Coker and hugely atmospheric, but it's also a stunning work of graphic design and layout.

It also gets dark - sometimes very dark - and this seventh issue is not only the darkest to date it's also certainly the very best. The story takes what feels like a significant step forwards here, as Detective Theodore Dumas and academic Tyler Gaddis buy their way into a meeting with the god Mammon - and the price is terrifyingly steep. It's a meeting that finally shifts the book from dark and creepy urban fantasy into full-blown horror, and the book is all the better for it.

Hickman is an uncompromising writer, and his creator-owned work rarely wastes time handing the story to his audience on a plate, but if you like intelligent and complex genre works in a comic book format he's genuinely tough to beat. The Black Monday Murders is incredible. (5/5)

The Black Monday Murders #7. Image. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Tomm Coker. Colours by Michael Garland.

Under the cut: reviews of Generations: The Spiders, The Infinite Loop, and Rat Queens.

October 11, 2017

The Pull List: 27 September 2017, Part 2

In the past year or so UK publisher Titan Comics has expanded into publishing 'bandes desinees', French comics that sit somewhere between American-style floppy issues and trade collections. The page counts are generally higher per installment than their US-counterparts. In France they are usually handsomely packaged in hardcover editions. Here they're just repackaged as thick comic books, but it still affords readers a chance to experience stories that were previously unavailable in English.

The Beautiful Death, by writer/artist Mathieu Bablet, follows a group of young scavengers working their way through a massive dead city. After more than three years on the run every other human is long dead, and they are rapidly running out of supplies. They are being pursued by giant insectoid creatures intent on killing them, and the stress is beginning to tear them apart.

As a scenario it isn't strikingly fresh, but it is excellently developed and beautifully illustrated. The extra page length is a godsend here - you could honestly see the same plot get squeezed by an American creator into 20 pages. Instead the real loneliness and hopelessness of the situation has time to fully sink in. Bablet's art has a nice distinctive style to it, reminding me a little of Noelle Stevenson's Nimona in its aesthetic. Bablet's colouring work is masterful. (4/5)

The Beautiful Death #1. Statix Press/Titan Comics. Story and art by Mathieu Bablet.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Saga and War Mother.

October 10, 2017

Colditz: :"Death Sentence"

It is 25 March 1974, and time for the penultimate episode of Colditz.

Major Mohn may have departed from Colditz Castle, but Major Carrington still remains under a death sentence for threatening to kill him. As he execution approaches, Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) impresses on the Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) that such a killing would amount to a war crime. As the American tanks approach, tensions within Colditz reach an all-time high.

The oddest aspect of "Death Sentence" is that while the plot is primarily focused on Phil Carrington, the character - played by Robert Wagner - does not actually appear. It creates a weird sort of Waiting for Godot vibe throughout the episode; you keep expecting Carrington to turn up, and he never actually does. There is probably a behind-the-scenes explanation for his absence, but it sure does make this episode weirder than it was likely intended to be.

October 8, 2017

The Pull List: 27 September 2017, Part 1

So Mr Oz, the mysterious hooded figure who has been trapping heroes and villains of various persuasions and monitoring Superman's ever move has revealed himself to be Jor-El of Krypton - Superman's presumed-dead father now living in hiding with a face full of kryptonite fragment.

Never judge a story before it's done. That said, DC and writer Dan Jurgens are doing their level best to make me judge this particular story as soon as possible. I really hate the idea. I cringe at the re-imagining of Jor-El as some kind of selfish villain intent to removing his son from the Earth and letting the planet destroy itself. It's not noble. It's not dignified. It flies in the face of everything we know of Jor-El from decades of comic book lore. I am still half-convinced that it's all a ruse, and a shock twist in a fortnight or two will unmask the real Mr Oz. Or perhaps I'm just hoping that's going to be the case.

Ryan Sook's artwork is strong and boldly coloured. Jurgen's script is solid enough, although its reliance on narrated flashbacks makes it all feel unnecessary static and uninvolved. After such a long build-up, I'm not so much feeling disappointed as angry. Please be a ruse... please be a ruse... (2/5)

Action Comics #988. DC Comics. Written by Dan Jurgens. Art by Ryan Sook.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hi-Fi Fight Club, The Power of the Dark CrystalRebels and X-O Manowar.

October 7, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Pegasus"

It is 10 January 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise is co-opted for a secret mission by Admiral Erik Pressman (Terry O'Quinn), the former captain of the USS Pegasus - where Riker (Jonathan Frankes) was first posted. When it is revealed that the wreckage of the presumed-destroyed Pegasus may have been found, and that its destruction coincided with an unprecedented mutiny against Pressman, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) finds himself pitted against his own first officer to uncover the truth.

"The Pegasus" is a great little episode that takes the pristine, whiter-than-white image of Starfleet in The Next Generation, and then kicks a pretty firm dent in it. That's an enormous step for the series, and will be followed by several more in sister series Deep Space Nine. Watched now - particularly in the wake of CBS' new series Star Trek: Discovery - and it may seem a little tame. In 1994 it was pretty shocking stuff for the Star Trek universe.