Saturday, April 30, 2011

Who Is That Masked Man?



My name is Captain Elias, and that's not a mask, it's protective headgear. I can't sleep past 7am and I'm too lazy to take it off. Too lazy to really blog either.

In addition, I don't feel like anything is particularly newsworthy today. Sure, Superman flipped America the bird and it remains endlessly debated, The Scarlet Witch is back (though people seem to have gotten since Young Avengers comes out 4 times a year) Joss Whedon is filming the Avengers, Fringe is incredible as always, and the second part of the thrilling Doctor Who series premiere is tonight.

Good news, bad news, fantasy news, it's not as important as cooking a lovely meal for my wonderful parents visiting today, and enjoying a beautiful spring Saturday.

Just call me The Cop Out, go to brunch, watch Doctor Who, and check back tomorrow.


Captain Elias is...

reading: The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault (2nd part of Theseus retelling)

reading: Gutters the hilarious webcomic by Ryan Sohmer and rotating artists.

listening to: the only mixed CDs he owns, which consist entirely of Glenn Miller Band songs

writing: really cheesy poetry, but it's better than nothing, and a horror story

cooking: a meal made of grains and veggies but no meat that will somehow, despite all rational belief, prove to be delicious

NOT googling: images of Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer

looking forward to: Parents! Doctor Who! Dry summer wines! (Vinho Verde!) Windows open! And eye contact with the guy who works in that coffee shop.

Have a lovely Saturday folks.



    



Friday, April 29, 2011

Link Me To The Moon, Captain

A collection of links for Friday.


-Tor.com looks to the past to explain why The Doctor finds so much trouble whenever he comes to America. (Though that can be said for every country, planet, and time he visits as well.)

-Not particularly news-related, but always worth a link is the incredible Josh Rogan and his modHero artwork. I have two on my wall, and want about 20 more. The bastard keeps making new ones, and they keep getting better. Here's one he did a couple months ago on the Fantastic Four. Go to his site!!

-In honor of National Poetry Month (an arbitrary extended holiday that bothers me almost as much as National Coming Out Day) I do wish to share the wonderful news that Suzanne Buffam has been short listed for the Griffin Poetry Prize, the most prestigious Canadian poetry honor one can receive, for her second collection of poetry The Irrationalist. It is my belief she should win the whole thing, but I imagine a little recognition, not to mention some bank, is always welcome. Kudos Suzanne! And, dear Readers, find her books. They're spectacular.



-The Wedding of Kate and William happened this morning, or is still happening, and thus news pieces abound about the happy couple. Just saw a little video of the events, and it was surprisingly affecting. Mostly I like her dress, and hadn't realized how pretty she was. However, ComicsAlliance (who got linked to DrudgeReport yesterday for their Superman-revoking-citizenship story..damn, I knew I should have written about that one) has a link to an artist who shows us the truth about how they met.


-Sticking around the UK, Wales Online has an interview with Kenneth Branagh in which he discusses the upcoming Thor release, and how he was first enthralled with the comic as a young boy (fanboy alert!) Also there's something about someone named Anthony Hopkins, but mostly little Kenneth reading comics!

-Bleeding Cool shows a list of comic book creators' reactions to the Superman controversy, showing the majority of them to be surprisingly off-base, with Paul Cornell believing our focus should be on the story instead. The story IS the controversy. Regardless, it was not a good story. Once again, reinvention and originality has come to mean the destruction of what came before. This does not reveal some epiphanous inner workings of Superman's mind, but rather David Goyer's own opinions, and that's not why comic fans spend six freaking bucks on a special supersized 900th issue.


-The latest X-Men: First Class Trailer shows more clips from the upcoming movie, and continues my growing excitement. Some of the mutants they've chosen to include feel horribly random, but it's still a new, ambitious, original approach, and it certainly looks well made.

-And last but not least: Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods, long spent painfully collecting dust on the MGM shelves, is being sold to Lionsgate! Rumor has it we may see a Halloween release. Been dying for this movie.



Happy Friday.


     

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yesterday's Comics Reviewed



Ruse #2:

This comic is fantastic. I've long known Mark Waid was a man of great talent and sensibility, but I once believed his keen insight was solely directed at the world of superheroes.

How satisfying to be proved ignorant. This title, his characters, are so enjoyable I plan on tracking own Waid's original CrossGen run, whatever the older art style may be.


Archer Can't Swim

Waid takes the best of the Sherlock Holmes archetypes (genius, energy, inhuman focus) and adds a more common and continuous sense of humor. Putting Simon Archer in a fast paced Victorian mystery is reason enough to buy Ruse, but then there's Emma Bishop, Archers assistant or partner (depending on which one of them you ask.) In effect his better half, Emma provides muscle, common sense, more humor and a strict adherence to the details Archer overlooks (eating, swimming, compassion, etc.)

Together they make a dynamic, eminently readable team. This title MUST be made into an ongoing series, and quickly.

Best Line: "Simon's doing what he always does when he's faced with a problem he can't solve: He tackles one he can." Pure Sherlock.


FF#2 and Amazing Spider-Man #659:

Despite the different tones, these titles can be combined for obvious reasons; namely, the perfect chemistry that Spidey has with Reed, Ben and Sue, and even with Valeria and the rest of the Future Foundation.

FF focuses first on Ben's reactions to Doom joining the team (hint: they're negative) and then on the brilliant minds of the FF (basically everyone except Ben and Sue who instead go have a drink at a bar) working to restore Doom's injured mind.


Clearly I've been out of the loop pre-Johnny Storm's death, but I had no idea Victor had become mentally retarded (apparently it happened during the unread Doomwar series.) Nor can I see the benefit of fixing him, though it seems Val (man I love her) has some deep plans for him. In the end, another solid Hickman issue, beautiful as always, though rather less dramatic and eventful than usual.

The Spidey issue hearkened back to an oldschool Fantastic Four romp and is a comic of adventure and hilarity as the team faced pirates, zombies, pirate zombies, and the dangers of cosplay. Full of action, humor, great dialogue, a solid climactic twist and that pitch-perfect Spidey team chemistry, it seems I owe Dan Slott more chops as a great writer than I've given him. Not only does he know Spidey through and through, he knows how to make a comic full of joy.

Best Line: (Ben attempting to Blackbeard) "Oi, what's all this then? Why are ye botherin' these fancy pants blokes when we should be having a tot o' rum and chasin' birds?"


New Mutants #24:

Age of X concludes here, and it went out in style, if a little predictably. But shock value is overrated and this was a solid story. Ambitious, beautifully drawn, and very tightly paced (three months to tell a six-part story? Unheard of) Mike Carey's mini-crossover can be considered a great success.


Last Stand

While nothing very new was revealed in this final chapter, the crux of the story having been hinted at and discovered previously, we still got some satisfying closure to this world and some very promising dangling plot threads to be explored in the future. (Frenzy and Scott, Pixie as Nightmare--dear God do I hope they retain their memories a bit longer.)

Best Line: (Emma Frost to Scott, after his post-return liplock with Frenzy) "Not to be completely forgettable has always been an ambition of mine." Carey's got her snark down pat. He should write Emma more often.


The Walking Dead #84:

The No Way Out arc ended here. Fortunately Rick didn't die, but Carl's future remains uncertain (one doesn't need ALL of one's head intact to live...right?) Kirkman shows us yet again why his titles endure so long, despite often heavy-handed dialogue.

In the midst of his greatest turmoil and fear, Rick has an epiphany. A clever, simple twist of perspective that casts this Zombie world into a new light. The benefits of organized manpower. Miraculously the survivors manage to destroy the entire enormous herd of Walkers, though in the end it seems like common sense that they should do so.



Rampage

I didn't like this arc at first, and certainly didn't appreciate another widescreen tragic gore splash page from last months issue, but this issue redeems it with a new insight on this long-running comic. Kudos. I look forward to seeing Rick put his new ideas into action.

Best Line: "After everything we've been through, all the people we've lost...I suddenly find myself overcome withs something I thought we'd lost...Hope."


Brightest Day #24:

Another series comes to its end, and this final issue has been a year in the making. However, I don't feel psychologically ready to discuss. I was perfectly willing to accept all of Geoff Johns' new mythology, the return of swamp thing, the white light and traces of Nekron, elemental heroes, the resuscitation of Captain Boomerang for yet another murderous action, but then Johns hits me with a cliche that I hate.

He gives Dove and Boston Brand true love, has them finally admit it out loud, and then kills Boston, though returning him in his ghost form, fulfilling all tired, tragic love dramas. Frankly it felt embarrassing, and I almost put down the comic (I've grown fond of Dove, and Boston, turns out, is super handsome when not wearing that creepy white skull mask.) I'll revisit the issue in awhile, but for now, can't get over that cheap, obvious, and not even well-executed emotional manipulation.

Best Line: "I'm...I'm sorry." (I read that as Johns speaking directly to the reader.)


There are more to review, such as the new Batman, Inc. But I got a page into it when that trademark Grant-Morrison headache kicked in, so I think I'll put it off another day.




           

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This Week's Comics

As tradition and inclination dictate, I shall be buying new comics at my local comic store during my lunch break today, Wednesday April 27th, 2011. Here beith my (distressingly large) list:


DC:

Action Comics #900: Supersized and gimmicky, I am nonetheless a complete sucker for supersized gimmicks. Besides, maybe it will be fun to read a Superman comic (haven't picked one up in a long time, what with Grounded and Kryptonian genocides.)

Batman, Inc. #5: As I've said before, not a huge Morrison fan, especially when it comes to Batman, despite the fervent worship he has received from reviewers for this newest series. Still, it's hard for me to not buy a big Batman issue, especially when he's teaming up with some of his Bat-family, in this case the new red-headed lesbodian Batwoman.

Brightest Day #24: The conclusion to the series. I'm guessing we're gonna see Captain Boomerang through his, well, boomerang at Dove, and other prophesies fulfilled. Also, Swamp Thing's role as ultimate protector revealed. This comic kind of lost its mojo around the time they chopped Aquaman's hand off again, but at least it's still colorful. As for biweeklies, I never kept up with Justice League International: Generation Lost which also concludes today. Looking forward to that in Trade Paperback.




Marvel:

Age of X Universe #2: Have we not already established I'm a complete sucker? Tie-ins, prequels, parallel stories, they all get me. I love Mike Carey's Age of X, so naturally, this tie-in being only 2 issues and starring an alternate, grim team of Avengers, I'm getting it. First one wasn't very good, but why not finish it off?

Amazing Spider-Man #659: Not a regular Spidey-issue-buyer, especially since it seems they come out every week, but I'm rather enjoying this period where he joins the FF, so I'll follow the consistent Dan Slott for a little while longer.

Avengers #12.1: The .1 initiative is idiotic. They're always trying to get new readers (the way Doctor Who seems to be catering to Americans now) and provide them with accessible "jumping-on points." Dudes, its 2011. If I want to find out about this newest Avengers team, or read about the origins of Avengers history, I'll either ask the guy who owns the comic book store I'm currently standing in for back issues and trades, or I'll read wikipedia. If they want it, they'll find it. How about you just focus on making great stories, and feel free to leave them full of historical minutiae.

FF #2:  Ben Grimm vs. Doctor Doom, with Sue Storm as ump. Also Valeria Richards is around (waiting for her and Layla Miller's team up already.) 'Nuff said.



Mighty Thor #1: This is the only one I have a big question mark with. Undecided if I should buy it. Kinda soured on Matt Fraction after his run on X-Men, and miss the Fraction who wrote Immortal Iron Fist. BUT, it seems the story is concerned with Silver Surfer, who is naturally awesome, and drawn by Oliver Coipel, whose art is painfully beautiful. Guess I'll decide on the spot.

New Mutants #24: The conclusion of Age of X! Love the art, love the story, love the length. Mike Carey's brilliant.




Ruse #2: Brilliant Holmsian Detective Simon Archer struggles to protect his able, intelligent assistant/partner Emma Bishop as someone is targeting her life. This reboot is written by its original, and always fantastic (see: Empire, Irredeemable) writer Mark Waid, and is funny, smart, aesthetically pleasing, and particularly joy-inducing for any true Sherlock fan.


Secret Avengers #12 & #12.1: This series has been the most disappointing of the new Avengers titles, but...it has the word 'Avengers' in the title, and thus I must buy it. See above, re: sucker.

Uncanny X-Men #536: I have a really good feeling about Gillen on the X-Men. Clearly he loves Kitty Pryde, a good sign, and has reunited Joss Whedon's Astonishing team with Joss Whedon's villainous-setting of Breakworld and Agent Brand. This arc's moving fast and I have high hopes (make Kitty tangible already!)

X-Men #10: Dear God is this NYC sewer-lizard story still going on?? Gischler has been completely overrated on this title. And sacrilegious as it may be, considering he's a 'master of the comic book art form', Bachalo's art always makes me nauseous. My reasoning for spending hard-earned money on it? I bough all prior parts of the arc and this is the last one, and it focuses on Emma Frost and Spider-Man teaming up. That's something at least.



Image:
The Walking Dead #84: The conclusion of the No Way Out storyline. Last issue was a big one...which is to say, something horribly tragic and gruesome happened, natch. I remember when I discovered, bought, and read the first 60 issues of this comic one night, not sleeping just reading the next. When it got to the end of their life in the prison, I was crying and nearly physically sick. I imagine if I hadn't been reading this latest arc in monthly single issues, the same thing would be happening right now. Some rumors have this issue being the end of Rick Grimes, a thing Robert Kirkman has said before he'd do, and still continue the comic. Guess we'll find out in a few hours.







 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Game of Thrones Review



Spoiler warning.


Just last night, I caught up on the new HBO show Game of Thrones, based on the hit fantasy novel series.

I don't think I ever wrote about the books by George R. R. Martin on this blog, but I do recall following and posting about the casting news they revealed a long time ago. There's a good reason for that. Two actually: Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau, both of whom I love. So is the wonderful actress from Possession, Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Imagine Me & You, and the charming actor from New Amsterdam, Wimbledon and Virtuality, reason enough to keep watching?

 














Nope.

Even just focusing on those two (and the disappointment, though complete understanding, I felt for Jennifer Ehle leaving the project) something is missing. Lena does a good evil bitch while playing Cersei, but unfortunately the character is flat and uninteresting. As for Nikolaj, he's as devastatingly handsome as ever, but somehow his accent doesn't translate so well to this fictional world full of British actors, and he just sounds off.out of place.

The show is faithful to its source material, which is to say it takes itself far too seriously. Clearly they focused heavily, as HBO tends to do (Rome) on set design, outfits, and the importance of graphic sex scenes and lots of words like "fuck" and "tits" in the script, leaving the actors little to do but stare vacantly at the stirringly beautiful landscapes or else brood over recently revealed shocking news. My complaints with the series are the same as my complaints with the novels: they are long winded, often boring, and the fictional world Martin created in such detail is 90% morally bankrupt, with no hope or happiness allowed for the few remaining noble characters.

No mission our protagonists ever embarked upon has been completed. The 'good guys' are continuously waylaid by kidnapping, treachery, or death. Five books have been written with a sixth coming out in July, and yes I stuck with them two years ago to read all in the hope of some resolution. A few hundred pages each, one would think that goals, established in the first novels and not of huge complexity ("find my daughters" for example) would be at least marginally closer to fulfillment, but alas. Brienne is hanging from a rope, Daenerys is about to receive ambassadors, Arya is blind and ruthless and far from home, Jon acting suspicious, Catelyn dead and avenging, Eddard and Rob just dead.



These are not satisfying tales, hence HBO's interest in making them. Potentially this TV series could last at least 6 years, with increasing brutality, betrayal, sex scenes and high production values. Many fans compare Martin to Tolkien and Lewis, and the only reason I can see for that is the scale of his fantasy series. Absurd. I don't see Diana Gabaldon compared to those great men and the beautiful, uplifting stories they wrote. One might as well call Charlaine Harris the keeper of the legacy of Narnia.

A good fantasy story has a moral center. A Song of Fire and Ice is a massive, decently written series of intertwining adventures, with occasional sparks of justice and nobility, and a constant stream of base, primitive characters doing evil things.

Perfect for cable.



  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Avengers Begins Filming Today


According to a post Joss Whedon left on Whedonesque, today sees the start of filming for the epic Marvel movie, The Avengers:

"Hi Pumpkins, joss here.

Tomorrow we start shooting (I THINK I'm legally permitted to say that). Day one. That's right. We'll be shooting the pivotal death/betrayal/product placement/setting up the sequel/coming out scene, at the following address:

[Marvel Lawyers rush in, take Joss's keyboard, blowtorch a picture of his family like in "Stormy Monday", drink his milkshake, leave the seat up, fluff his pillows, violently unfluff his pillows, leave]

Went too far. My bad. Anyhoo, it should be a fun day, followed by the eighty thousand other fun days it will take to finish this. I'll be checking in from time to time, if there's news or I crave attention (i.e. am awake) . None of it will be Avengers news -- I have some very denty pillows to remind of that -- but I may have tidbits. (They're not about Firefly. I should say that up front, if only to protect Sis Mo from the HATORZ.)...

So wish me luck. DO IT! LUCK! NOW! I'm off to finish some Buffy pages, and then figure out what the movie is about already. I'm pretty sure it's about the Justice League [Marvel Lawyers re-enter, unspeakability occurs] or possibly something else. I'll get it. I've been looking forward to this. For about 46 years.

Catchphrase!

-j. "

Already looking forward to leaked pictures from the set, and it seems as if Joss will keep us fans informed on the process.



In other movie news, I recently learnt that a movie called  Immortals starring Henry Cavill as Theseus will be coming out in November of this year. Now, I get that Henry Cavill is beautiful and the mere idea of him in Grecian outfits and battle armor is enough to sell tickets, and that being cast as Superman puts him on the path to stardom, and I've even seen him in a slightly-cheesy horror movie (Blood Creek) where he came off as a solid actor...but the bastardization of Theseus' myth is more than enough to set me firmly against this movie.



Apparently the plot is about Theseus avenging his mother's death by going to war against the villainous Mickey Rourke, who seems to be rampaging across Greece. Other than being a brave warrior with the same name, this has absolutely zero relation to the actual myth, which is a shame since it is one of the greatest classical stories ever.Would it really be so hard to write a script that actually reflects their source material? Or, if they insist on doing an ancient Greece adventure epic, why not create something wholly original? Hollywood can be extremely irksome.

For a wonderful retelling of Theseus' life, check out one of the greatest authors to tackle ancient Greece through historical fiction, Mary Renault, and her books The King Must Die, and its follow-up The Bull From The Sea:



       
 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The 10 Greatest Resurrections Ever


Today is Easter Sunday and in honor of J.C., Superpowers That Be takes a look at the best (and worst) back-from-the-dead events that have occurred in comics, TV, and literature. One might as well call this an X-Men list, but I'll try to add a little diversity. Let's work our way from "meh" to "Holy crap that was awesome!"


10. Psylocke

Here's a situation that we're going to encounter a few times. Namely, that I love the character and am very glad that she was brought back to us, but the manner in which it was done, and the potential stories wasted upon her return is enough to sour the whole experience.

Betsy Braddock is a gem of a character. Purple haired, gorgeous, British telepath, she fought hard to prove herself among Powerless-Storm's kick-ass 80s X-Men, then BOOM Siege Perilous happens and she's in the body of a Japanese ninja assassin (not to say that she only assassinates ninjas, she's pretty liberal about her targets) and back on the X-Men, being hardcore and dating fairly heavily.



Her death at the hands of Vargas, in an attempt to protect the already badly defeated Beast, came as rather a surprise, though I recall they didn't show much of the fight at all, just her body bleeding from a stab wound in the gut. Vargas was super-powerful, not super-interesting, and was never seen again after Rogue, avenging her old friend Betts, apparently kills him off-panel. Psylocke's reappearance, wonderful as it was to have her back in the fold, unfortunately came during a terrible run of stories in Uncanny X-Men, far worse than even the pages of X-Treme X-Men, where she had been killed.

Basically, she showed up where she had died (Valencia, Spain) fully intact and extra powerful. Her teammates come to check her out, verify she's the real deal, and then they all get detoured on a Savage Land adventure in which her teammate Rachel gets convinced she's a dinosaur, Storm is used in a plan to destroy the world by weather, X-23 mimics Pyslocke's every posture, and Pyslocke kinda flirts with both Bishop and Nightcrawler. All in all, a pretty embarrassing story. Then we learn it was her crazy, reality manipulating, hobo-resembling brother Jamie who brought her back to life, for another bizarre semi-spiritual story called, I believe, The Foursaken, whose title alone was enough to encourage me to forget all other plot points.

Obviously I'm glad she came back. She was in some fantastic X-Eras, and can have some great character development coming up (look at Uncanny X-Force) but honestly, that's the best way we can bring her back? Resurrection is very common among the X-Men, granted, but it's just like killing off one of the team--you don't treat it as a cheap, throwaway plot point to get you to the next issue. It's rather a big frikkin' deal.



9. Colossus

Sticking with the X-Men, Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men saw the discovery of a captive Colossus by none other than Kitty Pryde. Another character I was glad to have returned to us, the manner in which it was done was certainly better than Psylocke's (if only for Kitty's reaction and the inevitable emotional complications) yet it still felt a bit like devaluing past stories.

Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin (aptly named, it turns out) had sacrificed himself in order to cure the long-running and devastating Legacy Virus that had killed his little sister (don't get me started on Illyana Rasputin's unending cycle of death and rebirth.) In a similarly weak time for Uncanny X-Men, Piotr's unwillingness to wait for Beast to design a non-fatal cure illustrated the extreme grief he had lived with ever since his sister's death. If it meant a single mutant would die while Beast perfected the cure, Colossus couldn't live with it, so he injected himself and shifted into armored form in a powerful scene with Dr. Cecilia Reyes trying desperately to resuscitate him.

The subsequent mourning issue was equally affecting, showing us a hardened, grown-up Kitty taking his ashes back to Russia and scattering them in the Ust-Ordynski Collective he loved so much (one of the greatest tricks the writers ever did was vaguely acknowledging what a Commie Piotr was, and still getting us to love him.) Kitty performs the funereal rites on her own, having loved him and been closer to him than even Wolverine or Nightcrawler or Storm, with whom he joined the X-Men as the second generation. Afterwards, his death tipped the scales for Kitty. Having lost too many friends and loved ones, Kitty writes a letter to Professor X telling him not to look for her, that she had to find her own way to save the world, and she goes off to college to be brilliant and make her own way in life.

That alone was inspiring, since if anyone could have their own dream and the ability to change the world, it would be Kitty Pryde. Plus it led to the exciting, if all-too-brief, stories of her as a graduate student at the University of Chicago (yes, she's THAT brilliant).

So when Whedon brought him back, (his body had been switched, he was revived and locked up by an alien who used the cure in his bloodstream to create a cure for mutants via a human corporation, duh) obviously there was relief and interest in Kitty's immediate future, but there was some sadness about the invalidation of past stories. Of course, being Joss Whedon, he showed them reuniting, happily in love, and even finally consummating their feelings, and then pretty quickly separating them by sending Kitty on a space bullet to the ends of the universe. She's since returned, but now she can't un-phase, and their relationship resumed without any physicality.

The main point being, life is cruel for X-Men.


8. Jean Grey

The last X-Men addition, what Resurrection list would be complete without mention of Jean Grey? The poster child for rebirth, Marvel Girl/Phoenix/Jean Grey died and came back at least 3 times, possibly more if you count miniseries. The first time was while piloting the X-Men in a space shuttle. Then after that whole Dark Phoenix debacle the Shi'ar put her on trial and she sacrificed herself again by jumping in front of an alien laser gun on the moon (though I think that might have really been a Phoenix-crafted Jean-Grey-duplicate, but it's a classic story.)



She lasted awhile after that, barring the occasional body death, but what's that to a gal who can transfer her mind into another body and wait for her kindly old Professor to put her back where she belongs? Once Grant Morrison became writer of the X-Men he decided to take the age old kill-Jean-Grey-awaken-the-Phoenix cycle and supercharge it, having Wolverine gut-stab her (his true love) on a space ship before the heat of the sun could make her suffer anymore before death. Naturally this ended up tapping her into her omega-class Phoenix powers, and she saved them both, bringing them back to Earth, so it all worked out.

Oh, wait, no, it didn't. Upon returning to Earth she helps stop the rampage of Xorn/Magneto Clone, who takes his revenge by giving her a massive magnetic pulse and causing a 'planetary scale stroke' so she died, yet again.

Until a year later when they wrote a miniseries where a wounded Phoenix Force comes back to Earth and brings Jean back to life, needing her help. She asks her ol' buddy Wolverine for some help, so he stabs the crap out of her again, and then she buries herself under ice, ascending to a higher plan, the "White Hot Room" where it can be assumed she is in a kind of enlightened limbo.

No plans have been revealed to bring her back, and most writers and editors vigorously deny it will happen, but c'mon, you can't keep Jean Grey down. We never had nearly enough Emma Frost/Jean interactions. I expect it may not be in the immediate future, but once all the lingering Phoenix-Hope questions are resolved, I predict we'll see dear Jean before 2020.


7. Kara Thrace/Starbuck

The foul-mouthed, rebellious Kara Thrace was one of the best characters on the Battlestar Galactica reboot (a not inconsiderable compliment, considering the caliber of the cast.) Originally causing anger among fans, since the original Starbuck was male, Kara was pitch-perfect as the consummate warrior, the best pilot on the ship, the surrogate daughter of Adama, and the unrequited love of Lee.

As the series began to build to its end, Kara, having suffered through occupation, psychological torture, and an unhappy marriage, grew bitter and resentful. Her storyline began to be bogged down by prophecies and dreams, portents and recurring images. She was told by cryptic characters that she is the harbinger of death. Eventually, unable to resist when a bizarre storm cloud appears in the shape of her visions, she flies into it despite orders and her viper explodes.

During the Final Five Cylon climax, she reappears, unharmed and claiming she knows the way to Earth. For the most part her resurrection is considered a cylon trick and she is not trusted. Mini-mutinies, discord and rebellion ensue, and Kara struggles to convince others to believe her. From a dedicated soldier she became a paragon of faith, trusting in her instinct and things she could not explain. Eventually, after considerable heartache and drama and action, she is the one who types in the coordinates to a blind jump that brings them to the ideal, uninhabited world that is their journey's end (and will become our modern-day Earth.) She says goodbye to her loved ones and then disappears, with no explanation given as to whether she was a ghost or an angel or some other God-sent guide.

According to actress Katee Sackhoff "She's with Anders playing pyramid in the sky somewhere." No matter what you may think of the ultimate final episode (no, I was not a fan of the ending), one must admit that Thrace was one of the most valuable and interesting characters on the show, and whether it caused heartache or skepticism, her personal story arc was impressive. Although I must admit, I preferred her when she was chewing cigars, swigging ambrosia, and shooting the hell out of cylons.


6. Bruce Wayne


Another massive Grant Morrison death and resurrection, this time in the DC Universe. The death of Batman at the hands of Darkseid (who he, in an uncharacteristic move that I have never gotten over, shot in the head at the same time as being fried by Darkseid's Omega Beams) attracted huge media attention as well as comic sales.

Despite the lack of fans who doubted that Bruce Wayne would remain dead for long, it was still an emotional image to see Superman cradling the burnt husk of Batman. The interim that saw the reordering of the Bat-family, with Dick Grayson the original Robin stepping into the main role, and Damian Wayne, Bruce's unstable, violent, abrasive son becoming the new Robin. While definitely interesting and unique, it was only a matter of time before Bruce return, especially when it was pointed out that Darkseid's Omega Beams are "the death that is life."

Meaning, Bruce wasn't killed (though I guess his body was?) but sent back in time to live through thousands and thousands of years of history, never fully remembering who he is, but working to get closer to the present. Now, I was quite a fan of Morrison's X-Men run, at least up until the whole Magneto/Xorn thing, but his time on Final Crisis and Batman? Not in any way my favorite.

These stories have been critically acclaimed and drooled over by comics fans and reviewers all over, who analyze and break down every word of Morrison's scripts. Perhaps I am too lowbrow when it comes to my comics, but I don't particularly enjoy the ones I need to reread 3 times to understand what's going on. Esoteric and "unique", I find Morrison's Batman run boring and dry, and like most of his work tinged with a nausea-inducing darkness, whether it be from the gore or the commentary on modern life.

So, again, another resurrection I was very glad for, but the manner in which it happens leaves me cold. I mean, Batman sent back in time in the middle of a buried-treasure Pirate story? That's the kind of thing that was MADE for a fan like me, and yet it was too convoluted and self-important to be an enjoyable read.


5. Sherlock Holmes

This one isn't, strictly speaking, a resurrection (though I don't imagine it would be hard to convince Dr. Watson that Holmes was actually capable of such a feat.) In truth, Sherlock faked his death on the spur of the moment when an opportunity to rest, recover, hone some new skills, and confront the criminal mind from an unsuspected position proved irresistible.

It is quite possibly the most famous Holmes story of all, the final meeting with Professor Moriarty at the top of the Reichenbach Falls. Climactic battle, dangerous precipice, a physical end to an intense mental struggle, the greatest arch-enemy ever created for the most brilliant hero ever written...what more could one ask for?

His eventual return to London and the world of crime is a well-known event by now, but imagine the surprise and gratification back then when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published his unexpected return. In fact Doyle had no intention of bringing him back: "I think of slaying Holmes ... and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things." His mother responded, "You may do what you deem fit, but the crowds will not take this lightheartedly." True words, since the public reaction led him to return to the character in The Hound of the Baskervilles, which in some ways surpassed the fame of the Reichenbach story. 

Holmes went on to become one of the most enduring characters in literature, being written by multitudes of authors, both worthy and not. Most recently, Laurie R. King performed a kind of resurrection of her own, writing about his years post-retirement as a beekeeper in Sussex, and creating a female character, Mary Russell, who is not only the intellectual equivalent of Holmes, but brings out the often overlooked emotional side of the great man. Even Michael Chabon wrote a wonderful mystery that took place in his old age. Sherlock Holmes is a character that will never die, or if one writer has the temerity to kill him, there will always be another to bring him back to us.


4. The Doctor

Specifically, the phenomenon of Regeneration, possibly the most inspired characteristic ever created. The Doctor is an alien, a Time Lord, who possesses the ability to Regenerate. That is, when his body either grows old and infirm and past the point of living, or if he is grievously wounded or his energies spent, he can activate a biological process in which a new adult body is immediately grown in its place.

This simple, brilliant ability led Doctor Who to become the longest lasting television program ever, with, so far, 11 actors having portrayed the dynamic Doctor, now considered the role of a lifetime for a British actor. An entire list could be made of the best Doctor resurrections alone.


In later years, since the 2005 reboot, the Doctor has regenerated twice and been played by three actors. Additionally, they began to experiment with the limits and possibilities of regeneration. For instance debate raged about the amount of times a Time Lord could regenerate, with lines from Classic episodes saying 12, and a line from the last season of The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Death of the Doctor" having Matt Smith state the number was 507. The jury's still out, but one can imagine the BBC is not eager to limit the number. David Tennant's Doctor had a number of regeneration-concerned plot developments, include one soon after his 'rebirth' in which a cut-off hand was able to be regrown due to the energies of the process still coursing through his body. Later, a climactic regeneration was occurring when instead he transferred the energy into the aforementioned cut-off hand (which he saved in a box, natch) which in turn later reacted with Donna Noble to create a hybrid clone, the DoctorDonna.


Tennant's Doctor was also the first incarnation to reveal the deep terror and grief associated with regeneration, giving us an emotional description of how similar to dying it really was.

And just last night, in the premiere episode of the sixth series, "The Impossible Astronaut", it was shown that the only way to truly kill the Doctor would be to kill him in the midst of regeneration. Doubtless, we will not see the death of Matt Smith's Doctor for awhile, but watching the story unfold is always the most interesting part.


3. Captain Jack Harkness

Staying in the universe of Doctor Who in the 2000s, the first series sees Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as fan-favorite companion Rose Tyler. Along the way they befriend Captain Jack Harkness, a Time Agent from the 51st century, who is brave, handsome, and apparently omnisexual, bringing him along in their further adventures. Originally sneaky and rather self-involved, Captain Jack is inspired by the Doctor and his noble companion, rising to heights of heroism and sacrificing himself in the season finale when they fight against the Daleks.

However, a considerable plot twists sees Rose Tyler absorb the power of the Time Vortex and become a seemingly omnipotent character. Speaking in a dreamy, enlightened, superpowerful voice, just before destroying the entire Dalek fleet, she says "I bring life" and we see Captain Jack gasp awake, resurrected.

In her vast but inconceivable power, Rose not only brought Jack back to life, but back to life forever. That is, he cannot die. Ever. From any wound. A thrilling twist on the basic resurrection plot device, it has lead to Captain Jack becoming one of the most constant characters in this universe, leading the Torchwood team in his numerous spinoffs (the latest from Starz is upcoming), and often rejoining the Doctor on his adventures (here's hoping for an appearance alongside Matt Smith's Doctor and Amy Pond.)

Not only a wonderful plot development that continues to pay off, but a stroke of good fortune for the gorgeous John Barrowman's career.


2. Captain America

Another Captain, but even more long-lasting and certainly more iconic, this is another resurrection that might not technically deserve the name. Still, consider what the Marvel Universe would be today if he had never been brought back. No, don't, stop now, it's unthinkable.


Steve Rogers, after getting all super-secret-soldier-serum'd, fought the Nazis with a vengeance in World War II. Alongside his team the Invaders, they fought the Red Skull, Nazi scientists, and your basic, evil, goose-stepping foot soldiers. However by the end of the war, he had an unfortunate fall off a plane and landed in the very-cold part of the North Atlantic Ocean, where he was subsequently frozen in a large block ice.

There he remained in suspended animation, until The Avengers found him and thawed him out in the deservedly classic Avengers #4. Quickly he became their leader, and, with a few strange diversions (including yet another, more legitimate but not personally enjoyed, recent murder and resurrection), remained the heart of the Avengers to this day.


Not only did this plot development give the basis of Steve Rogers' character as a noble, just, traditional hero, a man-out-of-time who remembers when good and evil were clearly delineated and will never stop fighting for justice, but it solidified the still-new team of the Avengers, which has become perhaps the most recognizable and influential super group in comic book history.

1. Buffy Summers

Buffy the Vampire Slayer first died (yes, that's right, first) in the finale of the first season, when the Master vampire drowned her, thus fulfilling the prophesy of her death. However, this nontraditional slayer had involved her best friends in her war against evil, and stalwart Xander was able to revive her in moments. Any confusion as her to her truly being deceased was cleared up when another Slayer was called, an event that can only happen when the previous Slayer dies.


But that resurrection alone is not what brings her to the list, nor what gives her the Top Spot of honor. At the end of season five, when her newly-formed sister Dawn's magical blood opens a portal to multiple hell dimensions, Buffy realizes that her blood can close, and in one of the most stirring and beautiful moments of the show (and thus all of television ever) she dives into the portal, sacrificing herself to save the world.
If this had been a typical season, the teenage Buffy obsessed Captain Elias would not have doubted her return. He would have known that of course she would come back, that the following Autumn the God-like Joss Whedon would cleverly start anew. But that episode ended with the WB putting an epigraph on screen before the credits, thanking the show for five great years, and then the news that their contract had not been renewed.

My despair at watching her death was overshadowed by the grief and confusion that this could really be the end of the show. Imagine my joy when, driving in the car with my family to the city, I beheld a large, red, (unfortunately cheesy) billboard with a pair of glowing eyes and the words "Buffy Lives" above the logo for UPN.

Not only did Buffy the Vampire Slayer resume for two more years on the lambasted and lesser known channel, but the sixth season premiere gave us the harrowing two-parter "Becoming" in which Willow, Buffy's magical best friend, performs the blackest of black magics to bring Buffy back to life.

Disturbingly, Willow and her friends neglected to dig her up first, and we were forced to watch the painful scene of Buffy coming back to life in her coffin, and forced to dig her way out of her grave, mirroring the common experience of vampires that we had seen time and time again.

"Hey, I've died twice."


This wasn't a simple, easy, back-to-life, the show-goes-on storyline. Not only do we watch Buffy's reacclimation to this world of chaos (Sunnydale had been overrun with demons since her death) but we soon discover that she had been in a place of peace, a Heaven-like dimension, perhaps Heaven itself, before her best friends had selfishly ripped her out of there, causing ramifications that led not only to the darkest Buffy season yet but gave an opening to the Big Bad for the following, and final, season that turned the Buffy mythos on its head forever.

Buffy exemplifies the inherent power of resurrection as a device in fiction, showing the forced maturation of a character, the dealing of life and death issues, and the various ways in which new stories can be created to resuscitate old characters and classic brands, bringing us exciting and heretofore impossible opportunities.

Happy Easter.


       

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Last Week's Comics




Avengers #12:  So...Thanos wasn't Thanos, just Dr. Strange performing some well-timed illusion spells. Parker Robbins lost the infinity gems. Tony Stark got them and didn't go crazy and start reordering reality. Hulk (the Red one) joined the Avengers, and, after lying to everyone else, the Illuminati welcomed Steve Rogers to the fold, where they proceeded to divvy up the gems with the intention of hiding them, so this exact story could happen again in a few years. Plus there was a lot of dialogue (well, it's Bendis.)


I found this conclusion anticlimactic. After all the hype and fear and previous attempts to stop Parker Robbins, he really gets taken down rather easily, and sent back to jail, the lil' rascal. I've loved and enjoyed Bendis' Avengers work over the year, and I appreciate how this rebooted Avengers title has a different tone than the prior stuff, an attempt at a more classic team with "Avengers-level" threats (as the fun Oral History describes them). Hence the Infinity Gauntlet homage, a past storyline I'm fond of with Thanos and Death and their weird creepy space house and a third of the universe's population not existing and certain heroes rallying to fight back. But if you want to do epic and sprawling and cosmic, you'll never beat Jim Starlin on his own turf. Bendis needs to do his own thing and not rehash, fan as I am of Avengers history and minutiae. Just look at the wonders DnA made in terms of cosmic comics. Used Starlin's stuff and what came before, but made their own thing. Unfortunately a petty criminal with delusions of grandeur isn't a huge contribution to Avengers mythos.

Best line:
Namor: Imperius Rex!
Ms. Marvel: I need a battle cry!


Avengers Academy #12: Not a Bendis Avengers comic, but writer Christos Gage is also well versed in Avengers history. The latest story arc brings back Korvac, the cosmic omnipotent villain of the classic Korvac saga. It also wisely brings back Carina, the woman Korvac loved and who was distressingly slave-like in the original story. This time she is his main opponent, and after he disposes the entire line-up of main Avengers, she takes the young, training class of the Academy and transports their consciousnesses into their adult, experienced-filled bodies, plucked from different futures where they are at their peak.


Naturally, teenage emotion ensues. Pride and excitement over their increased knowledge and power for some, depression and anger for those who find their future hopes of escaping the pain brought on by Norman Osborn's torture and manipulation to be unfounded, the curse remaining. The battle with Korvac is interesting and unique while fulfilling classic Final Battle norms. Striker is killed in action abruptly, though returned quickly to his original pubescent form. All the team members express their new abilities and general rage at a life they have no control over. Korvac is defeated by the combined efforts of the two most damaged and emotional characters, Hazmat and Veil, in a blatantly scary display of their full power. In the end we are shown that even the most innocent-seeming members of the team, Veil, is subject to the allure of power and it is shown she is not necessarily immune to the misuse of it. Gage has written the title so far with skill, and where once we had high hopes of this generation emerging as the future of the Avengers, we now begin to believe that their feared paths towards villainy is possibly inevitable.



Best line:
When Hazmat takes off her helmet and reveals her grief to Mettle, who's situation is comfortingly similar.
Mettle: I know. Me too.



X-Factor #218: The shooting-through-the-chest of Guido is eerily familiar (think of that old X-Factor cover of Guido on the ground with a heart attack, and little Lila Cheney pounding on his chest.) This issue felt a bit lighter than I was hoping for, with no satisfying resolution. The best part by far was Monet. In a case of diverse and interesting characters, I understand how hard it is for Peter David to focus equally on all of them, but Monet has always been fascinating. With power levels that could make her one of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe, she often is relegated to background snarkiness. Here, fueled by her rage and grief, she shines.

Peter David continues to write perhaps the best mutant book on the shelves. His run in the '90s is classic and personally beloved, but his return in the past few years has been even better, full of intelligence, humor, a deep understanding of the characters, and well-written, elaborately weaved plots. As usual he provides a conclusion that generates yet more questions, regarding Guido's miraculous recovery (they're never dead if the cover implies they are) and the uncertain meaning of Layla's facial expression in the final panels.

Best line:
Noelle: Belive me, I'm sorry for this.
Monet: Belive me...I'm not.


Uncanny X-Force #8: Finally, an issue that focuses almost exclusively on the most compelling character of the bunch, Psylocke. Yet again an issue built upon the work of writers, and the experience of characters, from years ago. (I love this kind of this.) At last we see a rematch with the all-time-great X-Men villain Shadow King, aka Amahl Farouk. I distinctly recall the issue when Betsy, tricked by the Shadow King in a fight against the X-Men (one of the worst periods in X-history, when the team included Marrow, Maggot and Cecilia Reyes) turned the tables on the villain and imprisoned him in her own mind for a long time.


Here the solution is neither on account of her direct involvement, though she puts up a stirring and courageous fight, nor so humane. The similarly imprisoned mental personality of Archangel is released by Farouk, only to be cut in half and then decapitated by the death-obsessed ex-Horseman. Archangel goes on to murder the man who was about to send nukes at Utopia, leaving us, and the team, with suspicions that Warren Worthington III has completely left the building. Rick Remender deftly juggles interesting plots with relevant character developments, though issues of X-Force are often bogged down by a density of dialogue and exposition (think Deathlok and Fantomex.) Speaking of which, how does Fantomex constantly recover from knife stabs and severed forearms? And where is E.V.A?

Best line:
Her unique place on this team of murderers and assassins has not yet completely wiped out Betsy's dry X-Men sense of humor.
Psylocke: You gentlemen stand around and look tough while I do an astral reconnaissance.


A solid week so far, if slightly underwhelming. More to come, as I have not yet finished Wednesday's stack. (God of the Hive by Laurie R. King takes presence--nearly impossible to put down it's so indescribably fantastic and exciting.) Besides, it's nice to spread out the ephemeral enjoyment of unread comics. Looking forward to Sigil #2 most of all.




     

Friday, April 22, 2011

Webcomicopia

The world of webcomics is a rich and growing field. Considering the oppression I feel at the thought of all the books in existence I have yet to read, it is no wonder that I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to discovering and following webcomics.

Nonetheless, there are a few stalwart webcomic-creators whom I follow, checking weekly on their developments for a distraction during an ordinary workday as well as a genuine interest in the material they create.

The first place I check for an update is usually Hark! A vagrant. Kate Beaton, now a superstar cartoonist, has written hundreds of hilarious short comics, mostly history related but touching on everything from autobiographical stories to superheroes. Her style and comedic pacing and sensibility is completely unique, and often laugh out loud brilliant while being intelligent and well-researched as well. Her site is highly recommended, as well as finding her book(s).


Another humorous short-length webcomic is Buttersafe by Raynato Castro and Alex Culang. It is simply drawn, often just with stick figures,though occasionally it goes all out with graphics and color. This site nonetheless succeeds in producing quirky, clever jokes and twists and punchlines, twice a week for as long as I've been following it (and I came in a few years after they started.) It's a staple of my Tuesday and Thursday internet surfing.



One of the most beautiful webcomics out there is Sailor Twain, or A Mermaid in the Hudson, by Mark Siegel. This is an ongoing serial story, published three times a week, and presented in stunning hand-made chalk painted graphics. The story follows Captain Twain and the steamboat Lorelai in the year 1887 as it travels upon the Hudson, encountering mystery among the crew and passengers, drama from the past, and romance with the fantastic (mermaids.) It is truly gorgeous and captivating, and each page has a blog post beneath it with massive amounts of information about the time period, the Hudson, and other related history facts. A truly ambitious work, well worth the read.

Last but not least, and appropriately relevant since a new chapter goes up every Friday, is Freakangels by the famous Warren Ellis. This is a story about 12 English kids born on the same day with the same purple eyes and the same burgeoning superpowers (telekinesis, pyrokinesis, telepathy, teleportation, etc). As teenagers their abilities are discovered and, upon being hunted by the government, they fight back with all their strength, doing something as yet fully unexplained to damage the fabric of the world, creating a huge flood that wipes out most of London and apparently Britain as well, creating a refugee state out of the entire nation. As a gang, dubbed FreakAngels, they move to Whitechapel where they set up a community, protecting civilians, building machinery, and trying somewhat to make amends and survive this new world.

Ellis does a great job introducing us to all the characters, who are somehow all interesting and often hilarious, surprising us often with massive plot twists and telling a story with a fast pace and a clear end being built too. The art by Paul Duffield is perfect and exactly the kind of comic book art I like. Clear, colorful, with readable expressions and differentiated characters, just the right amount of visual information in every panel, and straight up aesthetically pleasing. This story is ending pretty soon, so I suggest starting from the beginning and having a blast catching up. Several graphic novels have been compiled , which is also worth checking out, if only to support the potential financial success of webcomics in general.

Obviously there are many others out there, but these are the ones I'm most familiar with and loyal to. Please feel free to suggest any others. The important thing is to support this innovative medium, a free way in which to enjoy, and create, wonderful stories and intelligent insights and comedy via the comic format we all know and love. So if you're not gonna buy 'em, at least give the sites a chance, help 'em rack up a few more Page Views.

Happy Friday.





 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Justified Season 2 Review



"Homicide is justifiable when committed by public officers...when necessarily committed in overcoming actual resistance to the execution of some legal process, or in the discharge of any other legal duty." That part really leaves some appropriate wiggle room, and is damned convenient for good storytelling.



 
I clearly remember being excited last year for the premiere of Justified. The marketing campaign, focused on Timothy Olyphant's old-school-lawman character Raylan Givens, was fantastic and I definitely tuned into the pilot. I remember liking it too, but for some reason I didn't stick with the show. Could be life just can't fit all the television one wants to watch, could be certain aspects of the show itself were either slow or daunting. Regardless, it was a year later that I fell victim again to their truly effective marketing and watched the 2nd season premiere. And then, again, I didn't stick with it. This time, however, it lingered in my head, and after missing a few, I told my DVR to record 'em all and waited for a day to come when the mood was right.

Last night I got caught up. It's a good show. A really good show. Better than most of the stuff on TV. The thing about Justified is, one becomes acutely aware that the premise is basically just the main character. Without Olyphant, the show would be completely boring and the portrayal of Kentucky Hill-folk as wild west rednecks would be damn near unwatchable.


Olyphant is why it works, and works so well. He is ridiculously charming and constantly pitch-perfect. Any scene that doesn't include him, or someone we're convinced he cares about (ex-wife Winona, boss, partner) feels about 20 minutes longer than it really is. That could also be because any scene he's not in focuses on one of the criminal characters working on their machinations to 'run this town' via bleak, cruel, belligerent and despicable means.

The character of Boyd Crowder, who was apparently written for the pilot and perhaps a couple more episodes but then got extended into a main cast member, is Givens' main recurring antagonist, alongside whichever Big Bad is also in the picture this season. Lifelong friends who went very separate ways, Boyd himself, as well as their civil, violent, oscillating friendship, is a running metaphor for the thin line between good and evil, and the common difficulty of distinguishing the two. As such it is certainly ambitious, and brings some more meaning to the situation than a mere shootout would, plus it is always well written, but it remains often a little heavy-handed.

One problem for me is the writers' apparent intention for the audience to sympathize with Boyd. Between his criminal activities we see him sporadically having Raylan's back, speaking like a priest, and somehow getting a sweet, young, beautiful blond woman (his dead brother's widow) to fall in love with him. But then he shoots some people and takes off his shirt, showing a giant swastika on his left arm, and no matter how much authenticity of the local Kentucky culture the show has established (about 50% of which I instinctively don't believe) there's no coming back from that for me, and I'm merely waiting for him, like all the villains in the show, to get a bullet between the eyes courtesy of our favorite US Marshall.

Givens himself straddles the line of right and wrong, legal and, well, anything but. Refreshingly, when it comes to himself at least, this does not result in a profound, philosophical questioning, a reflection on one's conscience and the morally gray world we live in. Instead, Givens knows he's a good man, he knows how to spot a bad man, and he knows how to fire a gun so well that the latter neither sees it coming nor gets up after. Even when he is compelled to do something illegal on behalf of Winona, the ex-wife whom he's kind of dating, he doesn't spend much time troubling himself over his motivations, and merely comes to the conclusion that he's in love with her and therefore justified in doing anything he has to in order to protect her.


Winona as a character is a little difficult to like. She shifts between strength and spunk to emotional vulnerability and the need to be saved. The main reason one enjoys her, and looks forward to her screen time, is that Raylan loves her (therefore she must have merit) and when she's on the screen, he's usually with her.

The pace of the show is a bit erratic, though it seems to be improving. The brief pre-credits opener is always solid and captures the tone of the show perfectly, but later it gets a little plodding, as if it can't decide between formats. Sometimes a procedural, sometimes a mystery, sometimes a taught-with-tension thriller, and sometimes a meandering exploration of a character's past and the lives of honest, drug dealing, flannel-wearing gangsters. Invariably, for the last 15 minutes of the show, we are given a more consistently exciting climax, featuring gun-battles, fist-fights, or resolutions found by Raylan simply threatening gun-battles and fist-fights.


So while almost all the characters pale in comparison to the main one, though with some exceptions and overall solid acting, Olyphant gives us more than enough to keep watching. He is a funnier Eastwood, a softer Constantine, a laid back Marlowe. He is the reason I'm gonna watch the last couple episodes of the season, and I recommend you give him a chance as well.