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She’s Got Some Guts!

Doctor Who Beast Below“The Beast Below”, the second episode of the new Doctor Who series is one that takes the Doctor and Amy to the far future, where humanity has been forced to leave the Earth, and whole countries become space ships searching for a new home.  Of course, they land on Britain’s ship, where the Doctor immediately pulls Amy into mystery and adventure in an underworld that is dark in more ways than one.

This episode is a good example of why I enjoy Steven Moffat’s writing style so much.  He throws the characters into an unknown situation, usually with a dark or menacing feel to it, but is able to turn it around at the end, and it doesn’t feel forced.  There is a dark secret on Starship UK, one that keeps the people in check with creepy Smiler enforcers, and in blissful ignorance.  I won’t say anymore, as I try to keep these impressions as spoiler free as possible, but suffice to say, it’s a national shame, all the more because it didn’t have to be that way.

Doctor Who SmilerAmy really shines in this episode, as she first tries to save the Doctor from the truth, and then later saves him from making the biggest mistake of his life.  Even though she’s good in the first episode, it’s in this episode that she proves she’ll be a great companion.  She’s smart and sassy, and is willing to stand up to the Doctor when necessary to tell him he’s wrong.  Or in this episode’s case, shows him since he won’t listen. She seems to have a knack for putting pieces of information together. Pieces the Doctor misses, mostly because they have to do with him, and only an outsider could put the pieces together. This episode is an affirmation as to why the Doctor needs a companion. And best of all, there’s not any “lovey-dovey” stuff developing between them! That’s the worse thing one can do to a companion.  They may feel something for the Doctor.  It’s hard not to love him for all his quirks and arrogance, but please spare us the meaningful looks.

Overall this was a strong second shot for the season, boding well for Moffat’s inaugural series.

Review: Olympians: Zeus: King of the Gods

Zeus CoverHere’s where it all starts: the beginning of the everything–the world, the gods, and even humanity.  Mighty Kronos, the most terrifying of all the Titans, reigns as the unchallenged tyrant of the cosmos… until his son, the god Zeus, stands up and takes on his own father in a battle intense enough to shatter the universe! Who will emerge triumphant?

By George O’Connor
Publisher: First Second
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Action/Mythology
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

A recent re-watching of the classic Clash of the Titans has inspired me to write this review.  I’ve been in love with mythology since I was first introduced to the Greek myths in the 5th Grade.  They were my gateway to other mythologies, such as Norse and Egyptian.  Now, the Greek myths are getting a face lift of sorts.  They are being retold in the way they were meant to be told; as tales of action and adventure, with monsters to be fought and maidens to be rescued.  Zeus: King of the Gods tells the tale of not just Zeus’ beginnings, but also of the world and the Olympian gods themselves.

The Greek gods are like the original superheroes.  They possess super powers such as invulnerability and the ability to transform, and yet were just as fallible as the humans they ruled.  They suffer from all the same emotions and faults that humans do.  When he is first introduced, Zeus is shown to be just as active and full of energy as any youth in his prime would be.  He is impatient, reckless and a bit of a rake, as he chases the nymphs that watch over him and flirts with Metias.  These are not the traits one would usually associate with their supreme being, but Zeus was all this and more.  He was also brave and shows himself to be a born leader as he faced his father and freed his siblings.

There’s plenty of action in this volume, with Titans battling the Olympians, Zeus going on a quest to gain his birthright, and the final battle with Kronos, though most of it’s toward the end.  The beginning is just that; the beginnings of the universe and the world.  Gaea and Ouranos, and their children, the Titans Kronos and Rhea, and Kronos’ reign all have to be set up so that Zeus and his siblings have some to fight, and something to fight for.  It also sets up a cycle of father against son, and warns you don’t anger Mother Earth.

Zeus: King of the Gods is great retelling of the original myth.  It emphasizes the action and adventure that makes the myths thrilling, while still imparting it’s lessons. The other gods are introduced, with just the brothers Hades and Poseidon helping Zeus in the battle against Kronos and his brothers.  It’s good to see the women show some sense and let the men bash their brains out.  I liked how each sibling, when spit out, landed in an area that would become their domain; Poseidon in the sea, Hades under ground, Demeter in a field of grain.  I also really enjoyed the small seeds that were planted through out the story, hinting to connections to other myths.

The art was very well done.  O’Connor does a great job bringing the creatures of myth to life, especially the Cyclops and the Hekatonchieres, creatures with 50 heads and 100 hands.  The Titans are just otherworldly enough to make the transition from Earth and Sky to the human sized Olympians.

If you love Greek mythology or are just a fan a tales of adventure, then this book is definitely for you.  It’s definitely safe for a middle school library.  Kids will love not just the story, but the extras at the end that give the stats for key characters, like a trading card, and parents and teachers will like the study guide and bibliography.  There’s even included reading for younger readers.  I highly recommend this title.  It’s a great resource, and just plain great reading.

Check out the Good Comics for Kids Book Club for more on this title.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © First Second

It’s NOT About The ‘Shipping!

BonesRecently the TV show Bones showed it’s 100th episode.  Usually these episodes are about fun, looking back and celebrating making it for 5 years, an accomplishment that a lot of shows don’t get.  The episode “The Parts in the Sum of the Whole” got only one of these right.  This episode retconned a whole case from before the first episode, where Booth and Brennan met and worked together.  It was nice to see Zac Addy again (yeah Zac!  How I’ve missed you!), and Brennan was her old “straight-forward, resort to violence” self, but the whole dynamic of the lab was off.  Zac and Hodges were at each others throat.  Angela was dragged in to do the reconstructions, and Booth and Brennan were trying to jump into each other pants.  So over the course of one year, Angela creates and becomes a compute graphics whiz, Zac and Hodges are the best of buddies (most likely, but still doesn’t feel right), and Booth and Brennan then take on 4+ years of cases without a hint of what happened in the first case?  I don’t think so.  It stretches my suspension of disbelief just a little too far.

What was the real deal breaker for me was the whole Booth confessing to Brennan thing at the end.  That whole scene just felt wrong.  Neither Booth nor Brennan seemed to be acting like themselves.  Not even the words felt right, and the episode ended with a down feeling instead of a feeling for hope for many more seasons to come.  I think want irked me the most was an article written on TV.com.  The writer wasn’t happy with the episode either, but for the wrong reasons.

Bones has never really been about the forensics (and neither was Brennan’s book in last week’s episode, “The Bones on the Blue Line”). In fact, this show could be a sitcom and it would still be watchable. As much as I hate Hart Hanson for keeping this ridiculously indulgent fantasy alive…

Brennan-ZacBones has ALWAYS been about the forensics.  It got through it ‘s first season no doubt because of David Boreanaz’s fangirl base.  The SDCC panel for it after it’s first year was filled with fangirls who just wanted to profess their love for David and kept other fans from asking any real questions.  One girl was nearly in tears asking David to accept a letter from her.  It was really pathetic.  And this writer just reflects that same attitude.  The show is not about the actors or the characters love lives.  It’s a police procedural show.  It’s the cases that come up and how Brennan and the team work together to find the clues and answers to the solve them.  Relationships are just part of the character building, but if they ever become the focus, than this show will have lost it’s magic and be done.  The episode before this, “Bones on the Blue Line” showed just how the producers felt about people’s emphasis on the relationships.  Brennan spends the whole episode protesting that her books are about the science and no one listens to her.  Mr. Hanson must feel the same way with so many fans demanding that Booth and Brennan get together, and the 100th episode was ruined by telling those fans it’s not going to happen.

I for one don’t want it to happen.  Booth and Brennan have a great relationship without being romantically involved.  It reminds me a lot of the 10th Doctor and Donna Noble’s relationship.  Donna was a better companion because she wasn’t always making googly-eyes at the Doctor and was an equal of sorts with him.  Booth and Brennan are the same way.  They are equals in their own fields.  Brennan is the scientist and find the answers while Booth is the intuition and sees the interpersonal relationships that fills in the blanks that science alone can’t.  That’s what makes this show great.  They can bicker and disagree all they want, but at the end of the day, they are equals in their own fields and sometimes even learn something from each other.  Quite frankly, Booth has been a disappointment to watch, with his mooning over Brennan.  I want them to get back to their old buddy, bickering selves and leave all this romance behind.  It’s all about the forensic and cases, and not about the ‘shipping.

Daleks, Now in Fruit Flavors!

d11s01e03_wallpaper_11It’s the third episode of the new season of Doctor Who.  In the first two episodes (reviews to follow), Matt Smith has proven himself to be the Doctor, and no one can dispute this taking the role.  Karen Gillian, his new companion of Amy Pond, proved herself a worthy companion in the second episode.  This episode hits it’s marks and follows the pattern first set up by Russell T. Davies with the revival of the series.  And I guess I’m alright with it.  Some consistency is good, but at the same time I’d hate for the series to get into a rut.

Just like every season before it, this season is following the patter of first taking the new companion to the future, and then they taking them to the past to meet some historical figure.  In this episode, it’s to meet Winston Churchill, during the blitz of London.  Now, I wasn’t bother with the Doctor already knowing Churchill.  It was a nice change to see him know a historical figure instead of always seeing him meeting them for the first time.  He’s traveled throughout Earth’s history for a good amount of 900 years.  You’d think he’d know some of the people of important.

Like most Doctor Who episode with the past, there is a bit of the fantastical.  This time it’s in the form of an old enemy that just won’t stay down. The Daleks.  While I knew it was inevitable that the Daleks would be back, they are in the promo wallpaper the BBC released for the new season, I have to say I wasn’t really looking forward to it. The Daleks have gotten rather tedious, as they have been the big bads for 3 of the last five seasons.  You can see them be destroyed only to come back again only so many times before you start rolling your eyes.  This episode was a lot like that for me.  The whole point of the episode was just bring the daleks back.

New DaleksAnd not only do they come back, they are back bigger, badder, and in fashion colors!  As I watched them roll out, I thought, “It’s a rainbow of fruity flavors!  The iDalek!”  I can’t say I blame Steven Moffatt for wanting to bring the Daleks back.  They are popular in Britain, and it is a British show.  And with all the other reboots, the Daleks were sure to get theirs.  What I do hope is that this is all we see of the Daleks for the rest of the season.  Let them go wherever in time, and start to rebuild their fleets.  There seems to already be an overarching story arc going, as the end of the episode showed.  Just please, don’t let it involve the Daleks.  Moffatt comes up with such great baddies on this own.  Every episode he wrote in the 9th-10th Doctor seasons were the best and always had original monsters.  The Weeping Angels, the Vashta Nerada, the Clockwork Men, all Moffatt’s creations and all fantastic.  Even this season with the Smilers.  Keep adding more great monsters to the Doctor Who pantheon, and let sleeping Daleks lie.

No Respect

Why do I read so much manga instead of American comics? Let’s take Marvel’s latest story line in Amazing Spiderman as a good example. It’s riled up a lot of comic fans, and been kind of hard to avoid if you follow the forum boards at all. Basically, in the story line called “One More Day”, Aunt May is dying. She’s old, it was bound to happen. Peter, who’s been married to Mary Jane for the last 10 years, just can’t seem to accept that. Peter “with great power comes great responsibility” Parker decides he can’t live without Aunt May, and goes to the Marvel Universe’s version of Satan to make a deal (like those always turn out soooo well). He gives up the last 10 years of his life, and his wife, so Aunt May can live. He’s doing this over Aunt May’s protests, by the way. Mr. Responsibility turns into a selfish 2 year old.

So what’s Marvel done here? In technical terms, it’s called the “Big, Red Reset Button”. They are wiping out 10 years of continuity to turn Peter Parker back into a young bachelor, unencumbered by the hassles of a wife, to be a carefree swinger again. Why? To appeal to a younger audience, they claim, since they wouldn’t be able to relate to an older Peter. Screw the older readers that had stayed with the book for the last 25+ years and supported Marvel even through it’s hard years. They don’t matter. Just the young kids that are looking for the Spiderman they saw on the movie screens. So, all those Spiderman compilations you see on the shelves at Barnes & Noble and Borders, they have just become meaningless thanks to Joe Quesada.

This “retconn”ing as it’s called is a big reason I stopped reading a lot of comics, Marvel and DC in particular. There is no point in reading and becoming attached to characters, since in a few issues it can be wiped away by a new writer with new ideas. Continuity has become a meaningless word and readers are coveted only for their money.

There is no retconning in manga. It’s one writer creating one story. A story that has a beginning, middle and end. Even manga that has been going on for years (Detective Conan) has an end. There are no musical writers, and no “take backs” on story. If a title is popular, then sequels or prequels can be written to continue the story. So the investment I make into the characters and story will pay off, instead of the cheap thrill Marvel wants to offer.

This is just lazy writing and bad editorial decisions. And the worst of this is that, readers will take this slap in the face and keep buying and reading not only Amazing Spiderman, but all of Marvel’s titles. They will whine, bitch and moan, but they won’t do anything about it. So Marvel knows they can do it again without reprisal. And will.

Even though I do continue to read some comics, none of them are from the Marvel Universe, and probably never will. I’m not going to waste my time and money on something that’s going to be trashed anyway. I’d rather waste my time and money on something that at the end of the day will be something I’ll want to read again.