Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "Unleashed" - The key moment in this one, the absolute best bit of television from this show in a long time, was the Penguin appearing at just the right moment with Butch to deal with a certain problem. I mean, there were some truly fantastic moments in this episode, from Bullock's queasiness at retrieving the sword to the most badass manservant ever in a fight for life, but that one moment took the prize. I also enjoyed the meetup of Catwoman and Nygma, as well as the glimpse of another future villain while Selina is on the prowl. This was a surprisingly good episode, with the right balance of humor to offset the usual grim tone of the show. I love Butch's comment about his security. Ha! Brutal, but good.

  • The Flash: "The Runaway Dinosaur" - Ah, a trip into the speed force to explore what's holding Barry back. This is a trope of science fiction, where the aliens/power/whatever take familiar forms to talk to people. This time it was mostly well done. I enjoyed Cisco using his powers to find Barry, and how Barry eventually finished his journey. The scene that explains the title of the episode, with Barry quoting it, was touching. What I found even more funny, though, was that Joe suspects Wally of having gotten powers and how Joe tested his theory. Between Wally and Jesse, I'm dying to know if it happens. Throw in a zombie version of an old foe, and this was a solid episode. I didn't much like the cliffhanger or the preview of next week, but everything else was strong.

  • Arrow: "Monument Point" - Ok, if I understood this episode correctly, a town with thousands of people was nuked by Russia. So... how exactly is there not some serious and scary retaliation happening very quickly? Not to mention fallout and other problems. There doesn't seem to be a superhero there soaking up the radiation, so this cannot be good for the environment. I get that they are trying to give Darhk some serious power with the deaths, and I get that they have to make the stakes really high. But this seems a bit much to swallow unless there is massive and major repercussions that we hear/see in both the Flash and Arrow in the future.

  • Legends of Tomorrow: "Destiny" - NOOOOO! He's my favorite character on the show!!! You can't kill him off! NO!!!! With everything horrible and falling apart, people imprisoned and Rip learning that he was manipulated all the way through his adventures, the team manages to pull together and succeed in a single goal. But the big one, Savage, still remains. And we have one more episode to go. And I can't imagine it without him. *sniff* No, no no no... my favorite character... no... no... why?

  • Battlebots Preview: The Gears Awaken - A play-in episode featured four rumbles between three robots each to fill the final four spots on the tournament roster. In the episode, Son of Whyachi pounds out a win against Creepy Crawlies and Ultraviolent, throwing the crawlies around the battlebox and knocking violent out for the count. Blacksmith was an anvil against Basilisk and Gemini, with Basilisk and its flying companion getting knocked down, while Gemini's split bots were out of their weight class. Then Mohawk won a fight by luck because Lycan was far too aggressive and continued to attack Invader after it was immobilized... but still spinning. I think if Lycan had gone after Mohawk instead, it would have won the day. Then the astronaut-designed Black Ice surprised the crowd by jamming Skorpios into a hazard and knocking Bad Kitty off its feet. I really, really love this show. I feel uninhibited yelling and cheering for robots, and I am so thrilled by all the teams and the work they put into it that I can't help but be proud of all of them. Plus, lots of massive destruction, including sparks and flames and moments of sheer horror (no, the remote stopped working!). Add in the incredibly silly commentary and introductions, and it's just one of the best shows on television for me.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 13th
  • Earth 2 Society #11 - Well, that went south fast. I was a little shocked by the Amazons and how they came to exist on this world, but it only makes sense for them. As for the rest... couldn't they have found a better earth? For that matter, can't GL wander off and find a better one now, or is he linked to this one?
  • Green Lantern Corps: The Edge of Oblivion #4 - And the truth isn't what it appeared to be, of course. I'm still not that interested in the space lanterns, but at least there appears to be a nice plot twist and hope for a solution. With the reboot rebirth coming soon, I figure we've got only a couple more issues of each of the DCU storylines to go before we're into something new entirely.
  • Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 - The clock is ticking on the turtles, who have a limited time in the DCU before they mutate back into ordinary turtles. But Shredder has no intention of just sitting around waiting to be taken down. So Batman is up against the Foot clan and their newest allies... alone. Ha. I'll bet he's alone. I can't wait to see how this one gets resolved, as it sure looks like a no-win for Batman.
  • Wonder Woman '77 Special #3 - Four short stories, a couple pretty good and others not quite as good. It was amusing seeing Clayface show up, and I'd like to see more about that clinic he visited. The anti-ivory story was predictable, but nicely drawn. If only the people who ought to read it would have a chance to read it. The Reverend Mike story was... um... well, I really don't have much to say about it. I'm not keen on aliens showing up, it just seems hokey, and the solution was a little too pat. As was the declaration of love. It was fairly bleah all around. The final story was ok, with a bit of amusing action combined with plot holes you could steer a ship through. Not a bad package, overall.
  • DC Comics Bombshells #11 - Wait... Mera was Wonder Woman's first kiss? Wow, this messes with the DCU timeline in all sorts of ways. Ahem. Anyway, this was a mess of an issue, with all kinds of action leading up to the gathering of the entire Bombshells crew in London for one beautiful splash page. This, of course, will not happen again, I'm sure. But it was fun for a moment. Mera had a few good bits in this one, but with the King of Atlantis still on the rampage, I suspect the next issue is going to be her moment.
  • Baker Street Peculiars #2 - Well now, if they'd followed directions and returned to report... maybe they wouldn't have been in trouble. Maybe they would. As for the rest... the concept is an old one that's nicely explained within the story, giving the origin of the bad guy along with all his methods. I find it hard to believe that more people wouldn't have spotted them in action and done *something*, but that's one of the amusements of a comic like this. All-in-all, fun stuff. Nice appearance by Miss Hudson as well.
  • Doctor Who 9th #1 - At first I thought this was going to be an alternate universe tale, but it turned into something much more crazy funny very quickly. Getting further into the tale, it's definitely going to be a wild ride. I like seeing the Doctor with Rose and Captain Jack, and the hint about Jack's lost time was very intriguing. I'd love to have some of that mystery cleared up, but I'm not sure it's going to happen in the comics. Still, using it as a way to convince them to walk into what appears to be a trap? Lovely. I can hardly wait for the next issue.
  • Spongebob Comics #55 - So in this issue we have a pastiche of Popeye the Sailor Man, along with Mermaid Man. It's all a bit confusingly awesome. As a child I was a huge fan of the Popeye cartoons, and could even distinguish between the "good" ones and the "ok" ones by the opening credits. It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned his real origins in the comics pages and found out more about him. Anyway, this means that this comic was a combination of SpongeBob's versions of a couple of entertainment properties I love, so in that sense, I enjoyed it. One aspect of SpongeBob I appreciate is that the creators do not slavishly imitate stuff they are riffing on, so Barnacle Bill is not Popeye, but has lots of familiar aspects. This sailor's gal is a mermaid, and his Bluto is named Gus and drives a speedboat. The Sea Hag is a witch and Sweetpea is... Barnacle Boy? Which leads into a case of mistake identity and utter insanity. The back-up strips are fun, with Patrick getting tattoos (drawing on himself) and Mermaid Man trying to wash his own underwear. I'm curious how this will pan out in the next issue.
  • Xena Warrior Princess #1 - I really cannot figure out what's going on in this issue. Ok, well, this issue #1 has a "Previously" text, which says Xena and Gabrielle slept for 25 years, and now half the gods are dead. I think there's a whole lot of context missing because this is a volume 2, and I clearly didn't pick up the first volume. Anyway, the rapport between the pair is still there, if buried by the format. The kids they rescue are a nice way to introduce their abilities and attitudes. It's not a terrible start, but I need a bit more context to understand why things are happening.

Short story reviews:
  • "We've Lied" by Bob McHugh. A very short, very simple story. The neat thing about it is the gut-punch ending lines. The idea that a normal life is more interesting is a fun one to explore, and this story allows folks to do that exploring on their own. And it makes me that much more paranoid.

  • "The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One" by JY Yang. This is a really creepy tale of aliens and ritual cannibalism that's more than ritual. Told from the point of view of one of the aliens, the story focuses on the pain of having been caught doing what came natural in a form that looks human. I wouldn't want to say more for fear of spoilers, so I'll leave it there. It's a haunting and disturbing story

Novelette review:
  • "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay" by Alyssa Wong. I'm not really sure what to think of this story. It doles out the details slowly, drip by drip, until you get a rough idea of the situation. But it's never quite crystal clear. The main character, a second-person narrative, is named Ellis, and you are a bit wild. You live in a whorehouse in a mining town, doing odd jobs to get by. And it goes on like that. It almost works, but I felt like I needed just a little more certainty to really like the story. As it was, I suspect I understand what happened, but I'm not really sure I know. Decent... strange, but interesting.

Fortean Times #339
Fortean Times #339 (April 2016). I'm not sure why the teddy bear on the cover is so creepy, but it manages to be pretty darn creepy. I guess the general poor state it's in mixed with the vivid blue eyes is what does it. The cover story is a fascinating tale of how a culture has updated the concept of the evil eye and how to ward it off. I suppose I understood that the evil eye was something to do with jealousy, but I never had any sense of how it would be warded off. I don't know how accurate this article is, but the explanation seems logical enough from an emotional angle. A very interesting sidebar asks how we can apply the notion of tokens against the evil eye online to ward off trolls. I'm not sure there is any way to do it, but it's funny to think about.

Another feature article looks at the belief that a murder victim's eye would hold an image of the last thing the victim saw... presumably the murderer. It's a concept that worked much better in fiction than fact. Yet another feature article is about Chaneques, mischievious little people who cause problems for humans in Veracruz State, Mexico.

The Editorial page starts with the story of Sophie Lancaster, who was murdered by a gang of teens because she looked "different". A book called Dare to Shine will be published with proceeds going to a foundation set up in Sophie's honor to combat prejudice and intolerance. The editorial continues with a bit about a soccer player and his supposed curse, but that's all pretty silly.

Strange Days starts off with a penguin love story: I'm a sucker for that sort of goofiness. The Conspirasphere has an actual interesting tale... more because of the medical facts than the conspiracy itself, which is pretty thin. There's a piece on boring guys, something on alien sex, and some unexplicable footprints in the snow on the side of a mountain. There's a really terrifying piece on Thai dolls that are supposed to hold the souls of dead children. The terrifying bit comes in when the older origins of the tradition are explained... *shudder*. There's also a piece on pets that sniff out illnesses in their human companions.

Science has a 14th Century Computer, sort of. Archaeology tackles folklore origins and finds some stories are much older than thought. Classical Corner goes sailing with a bunch of boats that didn't quite manage to be boats. Ghostwatch covers a couple of topics, including deathbed visions and ghosts that have appeared thanks to the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. Alien Zoo looks at a ghost octopus, black fox and black coyote. Mythconceptions demolishes the old canard about why there is no Nobel for mathematics.

Strange Statesmen goes back to American politics and finds a couple of really odd folks. I'm sure there's plenty more where those came from. Building a Fortean Library is... well... about forteana in classical times. With a rather odd image of a statue that kind of ties in with the evil eye story along with the fortean classic and isn't something I'd be showing to any child.

The forum revisits a strange sighting from 1967 in one article, then has an article I can only describe as really freaking odd in support of an upcoming book. I don't intend to get the book.

Speaking of books, the reviews are awsome as usual, starting with one about why people believe in conspiracy theories. The second review is about giants reported in America, and in an act of synchronicity I recently sent a "clipping" of one of the local newspaper's articles from 1906 about skeletons of giants being found in Maryland, originally from the Baltimore American.

It can be said I found the letters in this issue extremely entertaining, as this issue contains my second printed letter to the magazine. That letter is probably the worst of the lot, with many other great letters from FT readers, including a nicely informed reader who writes that there hasn't been a death attributed to a black widow spider since 1983... a fact that reassures me a bit, since I grew up in an area with no native poisonous spiders and have since moved to a place with plenty of the nasty little critters.

All-in-all, another excellent issue of my favorite magazine.

My book this week was Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News that Matters to Cats by Georgia Dunn. The instant I heard that there was going to be a collection of this online comic, I pre-ordered it.

The book concerns the activities of three cats who live in a house and report on their daily activities. They have microphones and a newsdesk. Puck is a black cat with only three legs. Elvis is a grumpy siamese. Lupin is white and more adventurous than the other two. In this book they experience their home, moving home, a guest and the woman growing bigger then bringing home a larval human.

The strip that got me addicted to the comic is on Page 27... you'll have to purchase the book to figure out which one that is. In the meantime, if you've never read this, you can read the current storyline at Breaking Cat News, or start from the top. The comic is also available at Go Comics, which is a bit behind the main site. This book collects all the strips from the beginning until The People Won't Let Us Up On The Counter. I wish it had gone one more, since The Man lost his tail is hysterical.

The book is great, and a great way to support an excellent comic. Incidentally, when the package arrived from Amazon, I set it down on a chair and when I came back, Inkwell was attempting to open it. I thought it was pretty cute. As usual, as soon as I tried to get a photo of him doing it, he reverted to cleaning himself.