Sunday, January 03, 2010

Hello, I Must Be Going

Well, then. 6 years ago, give or take a day, I started up this blogging thing, and proceeded to talk a load of nonsense about comics, tv, films, and anything else that sprang to mind (or, to put it another way, links to other, better, blogs). Six years on, and like David Tennant, I think it's time to call it a day. Which may surprise anyone still reading, who may be excused for having thought I'd called it a day a long time back.

Thanks to any of you who've read or commented over the years. The content, such as it is, will remain for the forseeable future. Look for new Marvel Comics content on my other blog, Mighty World Of Marvel, sometime soon. Any non-comics related content will doubtless appear on my Facebook page,, so look there for my occasional thoughts and musings. Follow the links on the right hand side for things I like to read, and from whom I pinched most of my non-original content from.

That's all, folks. Until my next regeneration....

Monday, November 23, 2009

46 Years

Just when you thought I was dead, or just too busy to update this thing...

Happy Birthday, Doc!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

From The August Solicits

Well, my order form in due in, so it's time to take a quick look through the catalogue - or rather, through the Newsarama postings for the month. Off we go.

What's New

"Once again, Kevin Smith – the fan-favorite creator behind GREEN ARROW and Daredevil – teams up with Walter Flanagan – the artist on the acclaimed series BATMAN: CACOPHONY – for an all-new adventure starring The Caped Crusader. The stakes are high as Batman encounters a new vigilante under his wing amidst what Smith describes as a “backdrop of romance, intrigue, and geek-bait guest stars galore.”"
I wonder, is there anyone out there, who is not waiting for the trade on this? Or do people still expect Kevin Smith to produce regular output?
"In the wake of “Batman R.I.P.” and BATTLE FOR THE COWL, a new heroine has emerged in Gotham City, and as she begins her nocturnal crusade to take back the night, she will truly learn what it means to wear the mantle of the Bat. But who is this young woman, and why has she donned the cape and cowl?"
Another new Batgirl? Really? Isn't that just Cassandra Cain's outfit she's wearing? Assuming it's not Cassie, of course.
"It's the return of one of DC Comics' longest running books and one of its greatest modern-day heroes – Conner Kent! In our first heroic issue, Superboy can't wait to jump back into his life – but which life will it be? With a clarity he's never had before, Conner makes a beeline for the greatest place on Earth...Smallville?"
Superboy, huh? Guess that whole legal dispute thing got settled then. DC's recently punted Superman out of his own titles, figuring that the books will somehow be more interesting without him. Go figure.
"J. Michael Straczynski dives into the DC Universe at last – and he’s bringing four of the finest heroes of the Golden and Silver Ages with him!"
Um, I know I'm getting old, but wasn't JMS just doing this particular trick over at Marvel, with The Twelve? Really, DC, have some original ideas, please!
"Come one, come all! The world's strangest Super Heroes are back, and they brought those robot guys along with 'em! Thrill to the strange adventures of the Doom Patrol, with script by Keith Giffen and art by Matthew Clark! Whether you think you know 'em or you wouldn't know 'em if they bit you on the behind, this Doom Patrol's for you!"
And here we go again. I'm amazed that DC haven't already announced the cancellation of the last DP relaunch. Admittedly, with Giffen at the reigns, there's a chance that the book won't entirely suck, but my hopes aren't high.
"Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting unveil the defining story of the origin of the Marvel Universe, revealing the hidden connections that unite the earliest costumed champions, and whose reverberations are felt dramatically into the present day! It’s a world on the brink of war, and the race is on to create the world's first super-soldier! Witness the first days of the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and many more-- how they shaped the world to come, and how the future they would create in turn shaped them!"
I dunno about this. Presumably, Brubaker's enjoyed dipping into the nostalgia well in the pages of Cap, but I'm not sure the world really wants a book devoted to the secret history of the Human Torch and Toro.
"You’ve seen how the mutants and the heroes were changed in the world ruled by Magneto...but what about the villains? Their story stands revealed at last as The Hood assembles a gang of the deadliest Sapien super-criminals: Madame Masque, The Absorbing Man, Titania, The Wrecking Crew, Nitro, Constrictor, The Sandman, Crossbones and more!"
Marvel continues to milk the House Of M cashcow, and much as I love the Masters Of Evil in pretty much all of their various incarnations, this holds no appeal for me. Bah.

What Makes Me Groan / Laugh / Weep
Well, pretty much all of DC's Blackest Night titles, but especially...
"Deadman can't shut out the cries of the dead rising as he comes to the aid of the new Batman. It’s just in time, too, as the duo face a circus of zombies including the Black Lantern Flying Graysons!"
"Black Lantern Superman has unearthed Pa Kent's grave!"
"John Stewart comes face-to-face with his deceased wife – and longtime Green Lantern – Katma Tui."
Marvel Zombies has a lot to answer for.
"Norman Osborn! Black Widow II! Songbird! Nick Fury! When you finally learn how these four powderkegs intersect and collide, you will be picking your jaw off the floor!"
Can anyone explain to me why Nick Fury hasn't just capped Norman Osborn? Or, you know, managed to find some evidence that he's a wrong'un? Certainly, I'd expect the all-new, all-serious Nick Fury to be playing a more proactive role in the Dark Reign books.
"This is it! The 500th issue of DAREDEVIL! What is the Kingpin's true plan? What do he and Lady Bullseye have in common? What will Matt Murdock do to make things right again? And just how will Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark leave this story for the next creative team to pick it up?"
Hey, wait, what? Next creative team? Brubaker's quitting? When did this happen? Say it ain't so!

What I'm Ordering
"The X-Men get up to the delicate art of living as the Sisterhood plan their imminent demise. The Science Team gets to work, trying very hard not to kill one another first. Simon Trask gains traction in the California state legislature, muscling PROPOSITION X to an emergency ballot vote. If it passes, mutants past and present, powered and otherwise, won't be allowed to breed...all this and a friend returns as a foe and ready for murder. Oh, things are getting ugly."
Matt Fraction continues to hold my attention, and this continues to be the one X-Title I can still be bothered collecting. Besides, who can resist the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants? Not I, that's for sure.

And that's about it. My order form looks a little empty this month, which will make my accountant happy, at least...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kids, Who'd 'Ave 'Em?

So, today, Firstborn bit a boy in his class. Not for any descernable reason, as far as his teacher can see. He was a bit twitchy and then, bam! Or rather, crunch! Other child very upset, unsurprisingly, and as said small child goes to the same after-school club as Firstborn, I look forward to being mortified at, or possibly by, his parents.

It's been a rough few weeks: for reasons which are a mystery to us, Firstborn has been behaving quite badly in school, since the start of the summer term. We've had hitting, pushing, chair-throwing, oh, you name it, we've had it. I've had at least one call a week from the school, telling me what he's been up to.

He continues to be stubborn to the point of pig-headedness, and as he gets bigger, the teachers are less able to exercise control over him when he decides he doesn't want to participate in whatever activity is going on.

Obviously, my concern is that, if he carries on like this after the summer holidays, eventually someone's going to decide that Firstborn really isn't suited to mainstream schooling, and that'll be the end of it.

Fortunately, some days are better than others. But today is not one of those days. Roll on tomorrow.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Human Target Comes To Telly!

While I was looking, mostly in vain, for interesting new shows for this year, I did notice the following:

Human Target
"It takes a brave, selfless man to make himself a “human target” in order to save the lives of those in danger. Based on the popular DC Comics graphic novel, Human Target is a full-throttle action drama centered on Christpopher (Mark Valley, Fringe), a unique private contractor/security guard hired to protect. Call him what you like, because for Chance, it’s about one thing only: saving his clients’ lives. When there is an unusual or imminent threat that can’t be solved through “normal” means of protection, Chance is hired to completely integrate himself into his clients’ lives – to become the human target. If you’re a corporate manager whose disgruntled employee has gone violently off the deep end, Chance is your new auditor. If you’re the president of a bank who’s been tipped off to a potential heist, Chance is your unassuming bank teller. During each job, Chance, assisted by his business partner Winston (Chi McBride, “Pushing Daisies”) and hired gun Gurrero (Jackie Earle Haley, “Watchmen”), puts himself directly in the line of fire as he races against time to save his client, while unraveling the truth behind the mission. With every new danger, Chance’s dark history will also unravel. Does anyone know who Christopher Chance really is, or what secrets lay buried in his past? What would make a man willingly become a Human Target?"

Not sure it was ever a "popular" title, but it's certainly a book which should be able to translate to the structure of a tv show, assuming Mark Valley is prepared to dress up in a series of unlikely disguises, like a modern-day Hannibal Smith, or, if you prefer, Simon Templar. Could be worth a look. By the time it turns up, I may be desperate for a half-decent genre show.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eye On CBS (Part 4 Of My Unfair Previews)

Non-American readers, myself included, are left out of the loop, trailer wise, when it comes to looking at CBS' autumn line-up. Not sure if this is a failing on their part, or on all the other networks. Anyway, based only on the written world, let's see what's out there, shall we?

Accidentally On Purpose
"ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE is a comedy starring Golden Globe Award winner Jenna Elfman as Billie, a single woman who finds herself "accidentally" pregnant after a one-night stand with a much younger guy, and decides to keep the baby. and the guy. A newspaper film critic, Billie is barely surviving a humiliating breakup with her charming boss, James (Grant Show), who's still trying to resume their relationship. Suddenly expecting a child with her "boy toy," Zack (Jon Foster), Billie and Zack make an arrangement: to live together platonically."

Doubtless, my Wife will be delighted to see Dharma (from Dharma & Greg) back in a lead role. Can't say I'm fussed, either by that, or by the description of the show. Mind you, I'm not as opposed to it as some of the commentators on the show's own description page. God bless the free press!

The Good Wife

"THE GOOD WIFE is a drama starring Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies as a wife and mother who must assume full responsibility for her family and re-enter the workforce after her husband's very public sex and political corruption scandal lands him in jail. Pushing aside the betrayal and crushing public humiliation caused by her husband Peter (Chris Noth), Alicia Florrick (Margulies) starts over by pursuing her original career as a defense attorney."

This doesn't look too terrible, although the synopsis gives no hint as to whether this is a melodrama, romantic comedy, or knockabout slapstick. Julianna Margulies back in a lead role can only be a good thing, and I'm sure that Chris Noth didn't get where he is today without some acting chops. Unfortunately, that terrible woman from Cybil's turning up as well, which might just about be a showstopper. Still, if the Wife's interested in it, I may catch the pilot and see where it goes.

What's next?

Three Rivers
"THREE RIVERS is a medical drama that goes inside the emotionally complex lives of organ donors, the recipients and the surgeons at the preeminent transplant hospital in the country where every moment counts. However, dealing with donor families in their darkest hour and managing the fears and concerns of apprehensive recipients takes much more than just a sharp scalpel. Leading the elite team is Dr. Andy Yablonski (Alex O'Loughlin), the highly-skilled workaholic lead organ transplant surgeon, whose good-natured personality and sarcastic wit makes him popular with his patients and colleagues."
I'm sorry, I understand every show is somebody's baby, but this sounds terrible. When you've just been told your loved one is at death's door, what better medicine that the sarcastic wit of a good-natured workaholic. Truly, the spirit of Hawkeye Pierce lives on. Next!


What, that's it? A couple of reality shows, and a spin-off of NCIS? Jings. Slim pickings indeed. Ah well, let's take a look at The CW, CBS's red-headed step-son. Surely the channel behind such classic shows as Smallville and 90210 will have some exciting new shows?

Melrose Place
"In an elegant apartment building on Melrose in Los Angeles, a diverse group of 20-somethings have formed a surrogate family."
Missed it the first time round. Missing it this time round. No regrets on either score.

The Beautiful Life
"The life of a high-fashion model appears glamorous and sexy, but as every new model learns, behind the beautiful facade is a world of insecurity and cutthroat competition."
Oh dear me, no. It becomes increasingly clear that I am not the target demographic audience for this channel. Still, it could be worse: I could be the target demographic audience for this channel.

The Vampire Diaries
"Elena Gilbert has always been a star student; beautiful, popular and involved with school and friends. As the fall semester begins, Elena becomes fascinated with the mysterious new boy in school, Stefan Salvatore, and she has no way of knowing he is a centuries-old vampire."
Hey wow, it's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Only without Buffy. The Wife's read some of the books on which this turgid-sounding show is based, and I'm sure she'll be delighted to know this is coming. I'll tell you now, she'll not be watching it with me.

So, that's it. Two channels, one show that doesn't sound terrible between them. At this rate, I'll be forced to just switch off my television set and go and do something less boring instead...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Easy as ABC (Part 3 of My Unfair Previews)

Right, we've covered Fox and NBC, what about ABC's new season?

Cougar Town
"Can a woman of a certain age be a mom, a successful career woman and still be on the prowl? Jules Cobb (Courteney Cox) is about to give it a try. In a small Florida town, the center of high society is the Cougars high school football team... which is wildly appropriate since this town is the natural habitat for over-tanned, under-dressed divorcées prowling for younger men. Jules desperately doesn't want to be one of them, but with an ugly divorce behind her and 40 staring right back at her, she's longing for a little more action in her life."
I suppose if you are a woman of a certain age, or a man (or a woman) who finds women of a certain age attractive, or a Courteney Cox fan, this might float your boat. Personally,I pretty much want to tear my eyes out just watching the trailer for this. Here, see what I mean - but put the knives away first.

I see that Dr Cox's ex (from Scrubs) is here, playing (from the 2-second clip on the trailer) much the same role again. And it appears that Carla from Scrubs is also here. One can only hope that the last-minute reprieve of Scrubs will save them from having to earn a crust by appearing in this terrible-looking show.

"Single-handedly, housewives accomplish astonishing things... and together, watch out. In the seaside village of Eastwick, this might just be evidence of their inner-witch rising to the surface. Until today, Roxanne, Kat and Joanna didn't get along because of their preconceived notions of each other. Roxanne was the flaky artist, Kat was a doormat wife and mom, and Joanna the uptight local reporter. But after a weird encounter in the park coupled with a few margaritas, these three have suddenly become fast friends. Now, a mysterious stranger's arrival in town will bring them even closer and test them in ways they'd never imagined."

Frankly, this doesn't look much better, although as a remake of an 80s movie, it's a better choice than Parenthood. Odd to see Paul Gross (Benton Fraser from Due South) making a comeback:

If I had to choose between this and Cougar Town, this would win by a country mile, but thankfully, I don't have to choose, so instead my tv screen will remain unpolluted by either show.

Flash Forward
"A mysterious global event causes everyone to black out simultaneously for two minutes and seventeen seconds, and each person sees a glimpse of their lives six months from now. When they wake up, everyone is left wondering if what they saw will actually happen. "

This is ABC's great hope to recapture the lightning in a bottle which was Lost's first season, and it's an interesting idea. The idea that all these people know what their future holds, and their efforts to understand and, in some cases, avoid that future, could be engaging. It has Joseph Fiennes and Sonya Walger, who shows up from time to time in Lost as Desmond's significant other. I'll be taking a look at this show, but I worry it might be a bit too sci-fi for it to last long.

"Sometimes scaling back is the best way to get ahead. Wall Street legend Hank Pryor (Kelsey Grammer) and his wife Tilly have been living the high life in New York City. That is until Hank is forced out of his CEO job and has to move his family back home to the small town of River Bend. A self-made man, Hank is used to running the show, but now that he's lost almost everything, can he learn how to hang with his family?"

Yes, it's another attempt to kick-start Kelsey Grammer's career, after the roaring success that was Back To You. And, on first impression, it looks like Mr Grammer will continue to be best known as Frasier Crane. Mind you, in these troubled economic times, maybe what the public wants is to laugh about a successful businessman getting sacked and ending up losing his house? (Note to American fans: in the United Kingdom, ousted CEOs usually do a little bit better in the settlement)

Modern Family
"Today's American families come in all shapes and sizes. Just ask these three families. Jay recently married Gloria. Now Jay is trying hard to keep up with his much younger and hotter Colombian wife, along with her passionate pre-teen son, Manny. Claire is having a hard time raising her own family. Her husband Phil is great, except that he thinks he's "down" with their three kids, much to all their embarrassment. And, Mitchell and his enthusiastic partner Cameron have just made a major life change by adopting a Vietnamese baby named Lily. Shot from the perspective of an unseen documentary filmmaker, this comedy takes a modern look at the complications that come with being a family in 2009."

The Office has a lot to answer for. One mockumentary at a time is enough, even if it does have Al Bundy in it. Oh, and Denise from Boston Legal. I can't say the trailer exactly gripped me, but hey, your mileage may vary. At least Kelsey Grammer's not in it.

The Forgotten
"Gone but not forgotten. That's what they say. But what if a killer took your life -- and your name? Every city has its share of unidentified murder victims. When standard police procedure fails to give them a name, that's when the Identity Network steps in. A group of dedicated, amateur detectives, the members of the Identity Network attempt to reconstruct the pieces of these John and Jane Doe's lives from what little evidence is left behind. "

Actually, I quite liked this trailer. Mind you, I'm having trouble working out what that accent that Rupert Penry-Jones is using is meant to be. (I guess the producers weren't sure either, since apparently he's been bumped, along with co-star, 24's Reiko Aylesworth) I'm also unsure if this is supposed to be based on a real situation: are there amateur sleuths throughout America putting their efforts into solving murders where the solution isn't handed to them on a plate. Either way, it looks vaguely interesting, though again, more the Wife's scene than mine.

The Middle
"Forget about athletes, movie stars and politicians. Parents are the real heroes -- but Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), well she's some kind of superhero. A loving wife and mother of three, she's middle class in the middle of the country and is rapidly approaching middle age. Frankie and her husband, Mike, have lived in Jasper, Indiana their whole lives. A man of few words (every one a zinger), Mike is a manager at the town quarry and Frankie is the third-best used car salesman (out of the three) at the local dealership. She may not be a high-powered career woman, but when it comes to her family, she'll go to just about any length."

Again, this doesn't look too bad. I sometimes wonder if I react better to comedy shows without a laugh track, as I suspect the show won't be as much fun as it seemed from the trailer. By the way, this is where Patricia Heaton, Kelsey Grammer's co-star from Back To You, ended up. I'll probably give this a try, possibly only because the Janitor from Scrubs is in it.

You know, considering Scrubs' renewal, ABC appear to be posting an awful lot of the show's cast to other shows. They really are serious about just getting a whole new cast, aren't they?

Anyway, I reckon of this lot, I'll be taking a look at Flash forward and The Middle, and possibly The Forgotten, if they ever settle on a cast. The rest of them, I think I'll give a miss.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Assembled Avengers

When I was a lad, first picking up comics, the Marvel Universe was a rich and varied place, and everyone had their favourite part. While the X-Men skulked in shadows, the Fantastic Four explored strange new worlds, and the Defenders didn't even officially exist, the Avengers were the heroic core of the Marvel Universe. Not cool, perhaps, but necessary to a balanced shared world.

Nowadays, the Avengers aren't so much the heroic core of the Marvel universe, though they do perhaps continue to reflect the general state of that world. Where before they lit up that world with their actions, now that universe is a much darker world, and so are they.

Let's take a look at the various 'Vengers titles, old and new, and see what's what, shall we?

First, some background for the non-initiated. A few years back, as you may know, the Scarlet Witch lost the plot, blew up Avengers Mansion, and killed off a few of the team.

Tony Stark disamantled the team, for a couple of weeks, then brought the team back as the New Avengers, now including Wolverine and Spider-Man. No lowest common denominator stuff this, oh no...

Anyway, no sooner had the new team formed than the whole Civil War thing kicked off. Spider-Man revealed his identity to the world, Reed Richards and Hank Pym built a clone of Thor, just for something to do, apparently, and Iron Man and Captain America faced off against each other, each with their own army.

The war ended with Cap realising that all this fussing and feuding was making people not like heroes anymore, and turning himself in. Iron Man ended up as the new Director of SHIELD, and Cap ended up dead, shot by an agent of the Red Skull.

The Avengers went underground, hunted by the government. Meanwhile, Iron Man set up his own team of (Mighty) Avengers, and launched the Initiative, a plan to have an officially licenced super-team in every state.

The real Thor came back, courtesy of J. Michael Straczynski. He got busy finding his fellow Asgardians, but found time to let Iron Man know how cross he was about the whole cloning him thing, among many other grievances.

With Steve Rogers dead, his formerly dead sidekick James "Bucky" Barnes decided to give up the life of a cryogenically frozen assassin, and became the new Captain America.

And what nobody noticed while all this was going on was that the Skrull Empire was infiltrating the superhero community, getting ready for their Secret Invasion. It turned out that the Hank Pym who cloned Thor was actually a Skrull, a revelation which Reed Richards was a bit slow in coming to.

Naturally, the Skrull invasion was repulsed, although the hero of the hour wasn't quite who you'd expect.

Yes, that Norman Osborn. Despite being crazy as a loon, the US Government just put him in charge of the country's national security. And in case you were thinking that maybe he's all better now:

Think again. In case you're wondering, that would be Sub-Mariner, Emma Frost, Doctor Doom, the all-new all-lady Loki, and the Hood, current kingpin of the supervillain underworld, meeting with Norman. Yes, looks like we have our very own updated Super-Villain Team-Up!

So, that's how we got where we are today. So, let's take a dive into the various titles which make up the Avengers "Family", and see what's hot, and what's not.

First up, New Avengers (#52) (by Bendis, Billy Tan, Chris Bachalo, and a cast of thousands). Currently consisting of Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Ronin (who used to be Hawkeye, but isn't any more), Mockingbird, Luke Cage and Ms. Marvel, the team are still underground, hiding out in Brooklyn, and are currently helping Dr Strange find the new master of the mystic arts. See, Doc used black magic a while back, so now he's been stripped of his title. Meantime, the Hood, who's secretly allied with Doc's old foe, Dormammu, is trying to get the title himself. Fighting ensues.

The trouble with this issue, I found, was that the bits with Dr Strange and the Hood were interesting (and, happily, drawn by Chris Bachalo, who always throws himself into his work) , but the bits with the Avengers were not. Mostly, they sat around while Doc played the role of Basil Exposition (not the first time he's performed that function), hold his hand because he's feeling bad, and argue whether it's morally acceptable to steal a quinjet from Norman Osborn (A: It's not). The storyline's not bad, it just doesn't (so far) need the Avengers to be in it. Which is a bit of a flaw in an Avengers title.

Speaking of Norman Osborn, over in the newly-minted Dark Avengers (#4) (from Bendis, again, and Mike Deodato), he's got his own super-team off the ground. This gets a bit confusing when written down, but basically the team consists of a whole load of bad guys playing at being good guys: Spider-Man (actually Venom), Hawkeye (Bullseye), Ms. Marvel (Moonstone), Captain Marvel (Noh-Varr), and Wolverine (Logan's long-lost son, Daken), alongside Ares and the Sentry, with Osborn himself dressed in a Shellhead knock-off, and calling himself Iron Patriot. Whilst the real (New) Avengers are forced to hide out in (sob) Brooklyn, this, as far as the public knows, are the "real" Avengers.

(Note to self: supervillains pretending to be heroes, in order to pursue the nefarious aims of their mentally unbalanced boss? Haven't I seen that before somewhere?)

This issue consists mostly of the team helping Doctor Doom to beat up on Morgan Le Fey, who has earned Doom's wrath by trashing Latveria in revenge for some imagined slight. There's a couple of nice moments here, such as Dr Doom setting Oor Norman straight on the correct protocols of time travel (aparently the Blinovitch Limitation Effect is alive and well in the Marvel Universe), and Hawkseye playing the role of Captain Boomerang:

However, overall, it's a less-than-fine book, and one which it's sometimes hard to see the point of: presumably, no-one wanted to see the real Avengers pushed out of the core book. Oh, and the cover shows Iron Patriot attacking Dr Doom, which doesn't happen anywhere in the book. Ah well.

Next up, Mighty Avengers, which is brought to us by Dan Slott and Rafa Sandoval. Here, the Scarlet Witch has brought together another Avengers team, this one made up of Vision and Stature (formerly of the Young Avengers), Hercules, US Agent, and Hank Pym, who's now adopted the identity of the Wasp, in tribute to his dead ex. What the new team doesn't know is that they haven't really been recruited by the Witch.

Yes, in a novel twist on the very first Avengers tale, Loki has inspired a team of Avengers to form. Mostly, this appears to be in order to wind up Norman Osborn. Which, I guess, is as good a reason as any. It's nice to see Jarvis showing up here, in his perpetual major domo role, and it's heartening to see Hank Pym portrayed as a heroic character, rather than as Tony Stark's cheerleader. It's also interesting to see Quicksilver trying the heroic route again, albeit his explanation for his less than heroic actions in recent years suggests that he's not entirely sold on this new lifestyle choice.

These Avengers seem determined not to be sucked into the whole Dark Reign thing that's feeding the plots of both of the other Avengers books. Here, Hank Pym is leading a team of international heroes, who are quickly being recognised worldwide as the "real" Avengers, much to the consternation of Osborn and his cabal. Of the three Avengers titles, this one feels most like a proper old-school Avengers grouping.

And then we have the Young Avengers, resurrected by Paul Cornell and Mark Brooks, and featuring our teenage heroes taking on a new group of teen heroes, suspiciously patterned after the Masters Of Evil. Too early to tell what this is going to turn out like, but since I'm a fan of both Cornell and the Young Avengers, I'm fairly sure it'll be worth my while picking up the trade when it arrives.

The last of the team books is The Initiative, which is a book I've consistently failed to get to grips with. It's only tangentially connected to the Avengers family, by dint of having sprung from the Civil War. The only Avenger to be directly involved with the team, Hank Pym, turned out to be a Skrull infiltrator, and the revolving cast means every time I look at it, I have no idea who anyone is. So, my hopes when looking at issue #23, brought to us by Christos Gage and Humberto Ramos, weren't high.

The issue deals with the Initiative picking up the pieces after the aforementioned Thor clone (here dubbed Ragnarok) went on the rampage, blowing up half of the Initiative's training camp. Meantime, Justice (he of the New Warriors, as was) is investigating the death of one of the Initiative's recruits. Meantime, again, a group of agents known as the Shadow Initiative are in Madripoor fighting Hydra. And, if not for the introductory page, I'd have no idea why any of this was happening.

Don't get me wrong, the book's not bad by any stretch. It just doesn't feel like an Avengers book. It has more of a Suicide Squad vibe to it at times, and I can't help but feel that it's only an Avengers title because editorial decreed it. Still, the sales figures look good, so maybe it's a sensible tactic.

Right, so that's the team books out of the way. Now for a quick look at the solo titles:

Captain America: I've mentioned recently how much I'm enjoying this book, and the latest issue (#50, from Brubaker and Luke Ross) is no exception. It splits its attention between the past and present birthdays of the new Captain America, from his days as a kid sidekick to his present as a renegade superhero. It's a nice little done-in-one, nothing special, just a nice spotlight issue.

As an added bonus, there's a back up strip, showing the history of Cap, presented by Marcos Martin:

Beautiful stuff.

Meanwhile, in Ms. Marvel #38 (by Brian Reed and Rebekah Isaacs), the title just caught up with Dark Avengers, and features Karla Sofen's first day as the new Ms. Marvel. Somewhat more badass than her predecessor, Karla wipes out a gang of jewel heisters, before having a somewhat stressful confrontation with Norman Osborn's pet psychiatrist.

Again, an interesting enough one-shot, which shows us what drives the "hero" of the book, and I guess if you weren't a fan of the old Ms. Marvel, this might be your thing. The sales for the previous wearer of the costume weren't great. I wonder if more people really want to read about Karla Sofen's adventures, although sales on Thunderbolts never really indicated that.

Invincible Iron Man #13 (by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca) features the adventures of Tony Stark, who, thanks to Norman Osborn, is pretty much the most wanted man in the world. See, a couple of years ago, Stark built a database of superhero secret identities, and the only copy of it is rattling around inside his head. Osborn wants it. Badly. Unfortunately for Osborn, Stark is off the grid, and the only person he can find who might be able to help is Stark's perpetual Girl Friday, "Pepper" Potts. Unfortunately, she's not proving very helpful.

An interesting enough book, with a fair amount of action and adventure, but this isn't Fraction's best work. That said, it is the most readable I've found Iron Man to be in several years, so perhaps I'm being unduly harsh.

Thor (#601, from JMS and Marco Djurdjevic) has the thunder god exiled from Asgard and with a broken hammer to boot, whilst Loki and Dr Doom scheme to have Asgard moved to within the boundaries of Latveria. Why they couldn't just have it sit over international waters, I can't quite fathom.

Meantime, it's nice to see that some things never change, and that the Warriors Three are still providing comic relief.

On the whole, I didn't feel drawn to this title, but then I haven't been drawn to it since Walt Simonson left the book, 22 years ago...

So there we have it. The Avengers seem to be vying with the X-Men for the lion's share of the Marvel Comics Catalogue. And why not? It's not like we can ever have too many superhero books, can we?

Friday, May 22, 2009

And So, Farewell, Earl Hickey (Or Part 2 of My Unfair Previews)

So, we've seen what Fox is bringing next season. Now, let's move on to NBC and see what new shows await us. But first, let's take a moment to note the passing of an old show, My Name Is Earl.

Nearly 4 years ago, I warned you that that this show was "too weird to be around for long, so enjoy it while you can." Just under 100 episodes later, the show has finally been put to death. Not exactly Cassandra, am I? The first couple of seasons of this show were unmissable, and I said so on many occasions. Then season 3 came along, and the show, if I'm being kind, lost a little of its focus. If I'm being unkind, it kind of jumped the shark. This last season, though, has been much more like the Earl I first fell in love with, and I'm really going to miss this show. Thank the lord for box sets.

NBC also finally killed off ER, about 10 years too late. More annoyingly, they decided that two seasons of Life was enough, for which I will be continuing to sulk for some time to come.

So, what do we have that's new and exciting? Let's find out together, shall we?


"It's been said that community college is a "halfway school" for losers, a self esteem workshop for newly divorced housewives, and a place where old people go to keep their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity. Well, at Greendale Community College...that's all true. Community focuses on a band of misfits, at the center of which is a fast-talkin' lawyer whose degree has been revoked (Joel McHale, The Soup). They form a study group and, in "Breakfast Club" fashion, end up learning a lot more about themselves than they do about their course work. "
How great does that sound, eh? Why, if this isn't the breakout show of the season, my name isn't Father Christmas! Not convinced? Did I mention it has Chevy Chase in it? Wait, come back!

Maybe the trailer will convince you:

Actually, that didn't look as bad as I expected. I might take a look at the first episode, but I suspect I'll end up passing on this one, somehow.

"This is the story of the Bravermans - Sarah, Adam, Crosby and Julia - four grown siblings sharing the headaches, heartaches and unexpected joys of being a parent. From Imagine Entertainment's Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, writer/executive producer Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights), and Emmy Award-winning director Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing) comes this contemporary re-imagining of the blockbuster film Parenthood, focusing on the everyday challenges that modern families face while raising children and starting over. "
I'm at a loss, I really am. Is this really what the world needs, a remake of a frankly terrible 80s movie? It's got Bonnie Bedelia, Bruce Willis' frequently endangered wife from Die Hard, Peter Krause (he of Dirty Sexy Money fame), and Maura Tierney, among others, but I suspect none of this will turn this into an even remotely watchable show. Don't believe me? See for yourself:

Oh dear me. What a waste of talent. Moving on...

"Like an adrenaline shot to the heart, Trauma is an intense, action-packed look at one of the most dangerous medical professions in the world: first responder paramedics. When emergencies occur, the trauma team from San Francisco General is first on the scene, traveling by land, by sea or by air to reach their victims in time. From the heights of the Transamerica Pyramid to the depths of the S.F. Bay, our heroes must face the most extreme conditions to save lives, and give meaning to their own existence in the process."
Yes, folks, it's another nail-biting medical drama. Just what the world needs.

Again, I really can't see this one doing much for me. I'm entirely not a fan of medical shows (and before anyone mentions ER, I was pestered by the Wife for two years before I finally gave in and watched it, and I have so far resisted giving in and watching Grey's Anatomy for the best part of three years!) and the concept of this show, M*A*S*H* meets International Rescue, does little to draw me in.

So that's three for three on the "sucky shows I'm really not interested in" front. At this rate, I'm going to be going out in the evening a lot more in future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Miss Tom the Dog

Longtime readers may remember that, in years past, renowned Pop Culture Blogger and TV Game Show contestant, Tom the Dog would browse the upcoming tv schedules, and bring forth his Unfair Previews, which I invariably relied on to tell me what new shows I should look forward to.

Tragically, Tom has been lured away by the bright lights of Twitter. I must therefore venture forth to try to find myself some gold among the televisual feasts which will be showing up after the summer.

Let's start with Fox, shall we, since they were the first out of the gate.
"Mike is a retired NFL player and his wheelchair-bound brother Daryl are brought together with life altering changes. Both brothers find their sibling rivalry heightened with age."
It's a sitcom, and other than the fact that Apollo Creed plays the brothers' dad and Claudette from The Shield plays their mum, I can't say it calls to me.

"Will Schuester, a young optimistic teacher, has offered to take on the Herculean task of restoring McKinley's Glee Club to its former glory. Everyone around him thinks he's nuts. He's out to prove them all wrong. "
I had to look on the internet to find out what a glee club is. It seems a bold choice for a primetime drama show, even from the man behind Nip/Tuck, seeming a bit too "Fame"y for my taste. Mind you, the trailer seems quite fun:

Plus it's got Jack Bristow as a recurring guest star! I'll mark this one as a "maybe", for now.

The Cleveland Show
"Everyone's favorite soft-spoken neighbor CLEVELAND BROWN moves to his hometown in Virginia with his 14-year old son, CLEVELAND JR. Many years ago, Cleveland was a high school student madly in love with a beautiful girl named DONNA. Much to his dismay, his love went unrequited, and Donna wound up marrying another man. Cleveland once told Donna he would always love her, and if this man ever done her wrong, he'd be there when she called. Well, this man done her wrong."
If I was a fan of Family Guy, this would probably be a source of excitement. Oddly, although I've seen a couple of episodes of the show, and enjoyed them, mostly, I've never been as drawn to this show as I was to The Simpsons. Too many odd little cutaways for me. Anyway, in case you are a fan, here's the trailer:

Well, that's Fox done. To sum up, I'm losing two of my favourite shows (Prison Break and Terminator), and, unless Glee turns out to be appointment tv, gaining nothing. What a gyp. Let's hope the other networks do a bit better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Here Come The Cliffhangers 2008! ( Spoilers Ahoy)

For some reason, I didn't do one of these last year. Maybe the writers strike stopped there being any cliffhangers to speak of, but I doubt it. Anyway, what's finished up so far?

Well, there's Terminator, which ended the season with half the cast stranded in the future (and presumably due to bump into Christian Bale any minute now), with no way home. Unless you include the time travel which has been integral to the concept of the Terminator franchise, that is. Unfortunately, it looks like Fox has capped the show, so we'll never know what happens next. Bugger.

Another casualty of this year's show-cull was Life, which tied up some of the mysteries behind Charlie Crews' troubles, whilst showing that he's still got some puzzles to solve, and which will never now reveal the answers to those puzzles. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.

Lost ended its run last week with a bang, having spent the season with the viewers having to remember which characters were in which time zone. I'm already getting ready to rewatch this season, because I can hardly bear to be without my Lost fix.

The season finalé of Fringe featured the most unexpected guest star of all, in the most unexpected location of all. Another show which I'm keenly awaiting the return of.

The Office rarely features an end-of-season cliffhanger, and this year was no exception, with a nice peaceful company picnic, some nice moments from Michael, and an unplanned trip to the emergency room. Back next year? Good show!

And, having started with two shows which will not be back next season, we finish with two which, despite all expectations, will be. Dollhouse, the somewhat flawed vanity project from Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku, has been snatched back from the brink, as has Scrubs, which looks like it'll be back, but without JD. Which makes no sense. I mean, really, why bother?

Couple more finalés to go, before the summer glut begins. At least I'll have no excuse for not getting out more.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My (Slightly Less Than A) Day In Court

So, after avoiding any civil duties for the best part of 20 years, I was finally called up for jury service this month. Nothing exciting, sadly, just the local Sheriff Court.

And, ooh, what a palaver! Let me take you through the past few days...

On Tuesday, after work, I called the Sheriff Court, to be told that the Wednesday morning sitting had been postponed to Friday. Since I was meant to be working on Friday night, this necessitated a call to work, to sort out someone to turn up in my place (at work, not in court, I hasten to add), in case I was picked for the jury (about a 1 in 3 chance, apparently), and it went on a bit.

On Thursday, I called again, and, yep, we were on.

On Friday, the Wife dropped me by the court, and went off to Tesco, telling me she'd hang round in case the case was delayed again. I showed up in court, with dozens of other prospective jurors, and waited. And waited some more. Eventually, the Sheriff himself turned up, and we were off. Or rather, we were off home, since it turned out that getting witnesses to show up for court appearances is not as easy as one might expect. Come back Monday, they said.

Oh well, said I, and, after calling and cancelling the chap who had been going to come in for me, I called the Wife to come pick me up. Oh dear, said she, I have gone shopping elsewhere with my pal, and am twenty miles hence. I can come get you, but it will be some time. Not to worry, said I, I'll catch one of them that buses that are roaring past every few minutes.

To the bus stop, then, where I discover that, although there are buses home, they run every two hours, and I have just missed one. No taxis to be seen either. What is a boy to do? Wait an hour and a half for a bus? Why, it can't be much more than an hour's stroll home from here! And I can avoid all that nasty getting hit by cars nonsense, by strolling along the canal, which, handily goes all the way home.

Only, of course, there's the small matter that the canal doesn't exactly go straight home. Rather, it arcs around most of the county, adding a couple of extra miles to the journey, so that my little walk home ends up being eight and a half miles, or two and a half hours, give or take. By the time I get home, it's 3pm, and I have to leave for work in three hours, leaving little or no time for an afternoon kip. Oh, how I wish I had just phoned and told work I wasn't going to be in!

So, naturally, Friday night at work turns out to be one of those nights where we do twelve hours without a break, and then Saturday night is just as bad. By the time last night rolled round, I was just about ready to drop, but of course, there were a hundred and one things to do at work before I could flee the scene.

Got home this morning at six, grabbed a couple of hours kip, then had to take people to work, nursery, and in the case of Firstborn, to his pal's house, as the schools here celebrate Victoria Day by closing for the day. Then it was off back to the Court.

It's a complicated affair, choosing a jury. First, the assistant to the clerk of the court tells you to turn off your phones, spit out that gum, and stand up when the Sheriff walks in or out of the room. Then the clerk of the court tells you how they're going to choose the jury (by pulling names out of a goldfish bowl) and talks a bit about the case, tells you the names of the main players, and gives you a chance to duck out. Then the sheriff and the accused turn up, along with the accused's lawyers, and the "Persecutor Physical", mutter amongst themselves, and then names are picked out of the bowl.

Tragically, or perhaps, happily, my name was not picked, which saved me from having to judge the guilt or otherwise of the accused, based on "he said, she said" evidence. Having selected the jury, the clerk read out the charges: briefly, Accused A (male) allegedly beat up Victim A with a pole, whilst Accused B (female) allegedly hit Victim B with a bottle "to his severe injury, permanent disfiguration, and permanent impairment". Nice.

After the reading of the charges, one of the defence lawyers objected to one of the jurors, who was shown off the premises. A substitute juror was sworn in, again not me, and then, oddly, the clerk had to read the charges again. The jurors took the oath, and the Sheriff sent them off for a cuppa, whilst telling us we needed to hang around until the case kicked off, in case of any unforseen problems.

During the break, my favourite moment of the whole event. The accused had left the room, and one of the assistants put a large glass of water on the table for her. After a minute or so, (during which I assume the assistant read the specific charges against the lassie), the assistant came back, removed the glass, and replaced it with a nice safe plastic cup.

After yet another break, the first witness showed up to be quizzed, and then the Sheriff remembered us, and sent us packing. I have to phone again tonight, in case they decide they need some more jurors, but at this point it looks like I'm in the clear. Unfortunately, Firstborn had a bump at his pals, and decided to come home, so I am still sleep deprived.

Ah well, I'll sleep when I'm dead. Which should be quite soon, at this rate.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

From The July Solicits

Since I'm due to place my order with my favourite mail order company, I figured I'd resurrect another old feature, in which I scour the comics solicits and try to work out what's likely to tickle my fancy.

What's New
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis raise the dead in the most anticipated comics story of the year! Throughout the decades, death has plagued the DC Universe and taken the lives of heroes and villains alike. But to what end? As the War of Light rages on, the prophecy of the Blackest Night descends upon us, with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps at the center of it all."
Oddly, the idea of an army of zombie Black Lanterns, led by the Earth-2 Superman, doesn't really raise my opinion of modern DC Comics.
"WEDNESDAY COMICS is unique in modern comics history: Reinventing the classic weekly newspaper comics section, it is a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28” x 20” tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14” x 20” page."
It's a fascinating idea, and some of the talent lined up to produce it is appealing: Neil Gaiman, Mike Allred, Walt Simonson, Kurt Busiek. Nevertheless, I suspect that the format will just be too "weird" for the average reader to cope with.
REBORN #1 (of 5)
"Solicit to be revealed soon."
Your guess is as good as mine, but since Ed Brubaker's behind it, we can, I suppose, speculate that this could be the return of Captain America?
"Who are the Dark X-Men and how did they come to be? FIND OUT HERE! Each issue has 3 11-page stories, each dedicated to one of the Dark X-Men and how they came to be part of the team. This first two issues focus on Emma Frost, Mimic, Cloak & Dagger, Daken, Weapon X and Dark Beast!"
Marvel try another anthology book, sensibly as a limited series. Paul Cornell takes on some of the writing chores, although I'm not sure on his own, he'll be enough to make it a decent book.
"Fat Cobra! No man has fought more heartily, consumed more mightily, or lived life more fully! Fat Cobra! Master of the sumo thunder stomp and the devil’s skullcrusher! Fat Cobra! Immortal Weapon from the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven! But to this day, no man has known the story of Fat Cobra’s life...including the Cobra himself! Discover the shocking origins of this boisterous brawler and witness his decades of adventure!"
Iron Fist seems to be on hiatus, and this is intended to fill the gap. I'm not convinced.

What Makes Me Groan / Laugh / Weep
MARVEL DIVAS #1 (of 4)
"Diva (dee-vah), noun: An unusually glamorous and powerful woman. See: Patsy "Hellcat" Walker; Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy; Angelica "Firestar" Jones; and Monica "Photon" Rambeau. What happens when you take four of the Marvel Universe's most fabulous single girls and throw them together, adding liberal amounts of suds and drama? You get the sassiest, sexiest, soapiest series to come out of the House of Ideas since Millie the Model!"
If you're thinking "That sounds great!", you can see yourself out.
"Thor and Hercules aren't the only gods in town, as the ENCYCLOPAEDIA MYTHOLOGICA spotlights everything from Aztecs to Zoroaster! Brush up on the eternal rivalry between the Green Knight and the Red Lord! Meet Anitun and the Diwatas, the gods of the Philippines! Learn the dark origin of Mikaboshi, the Shinto god of evil! Explore the mystical dimension of Otherworld! Plus: Panther Gods, Lion Gods and Snowbirds!"
Oh, good lord! I really don't know what use I could possibly make of this, other than using it as a sourcebook for Scion, but I want it. I really, really, want it!

What I'm Ordering
"Join Catman, Scandal, Deadshot, Ragdoll, and the rest as they hit the road on the run from some of the world's most dangerous killers! A contract has been put out on the lives of the Six, but the sly team has some tricks — and a whole lot of bullets — up their own sleeves in this trade paperback collecting SECRET SIX #1-7!"
I've been enjoying Gail Simone's tales of this team if anti-heroes and outright wrong'uns, since the days of Villains United in 2005. Deadshot alone provides value for money. We'll see how this latest foray works out.
"You’ve gotta ask yourself: If Doctor Doom’s the most evil guy ever, how much more evil’s it gonna get when he puts a whole TEAM of VILLAINS to work?"
From all accounts, this book was a bit of a madcap romp, with Victor von Doom teaming up with most of Marvel's classic villain teams. The writer, Paul Tobin, seems to have come out of nowhere, but these days, that's not such a bad thing. At least he's not Mark Millar.

Those, Fables, and the latest Strontium Dog TP should ensure this to be a cheap month, then.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back From The Grave! Comic Prognosis

Those of you who visited back in the days when I blogged regularly may remember a little feature I used to present, where I checked a couple of blog entries from Marc-Oliver Frisch and Paul O’Brien, had a look at how my favourite comics were doing, and speculated on what fate might befall them. Since I've just told you what I'm reading, I wonder if we might take a look at their current standing in the sales charts. Ready?

First, let's start with the best-selling book, shall we. That would be:
Dark Avengers #3 - 96,546 ( -5.6%)
(Interestingly, the best-selling book the last time I looked at these figures was Infinite Crisis, clocking up 182,633 sales. Where's everyone gone?)
Moving on to the books I'm taking an active interest in:
Uncanny X-Men #507 - 77,957 (+8.8%) 6 mnth ( -5.9%) 1 year (-12.5%) 5 year ( -9.8%)
Sales up this month, but down generally.
Captain America #48 - 62,108 ( -1.2%) 6 mnth (-17.8%) 1 year (-23.7%) 5 year (+58.6%)
Sales up this month, down generally, but it seems Brubaker has considerably more pull than poor Robert Morales did in March 2004.
War of Kings #1 of 6 - 58,709
A decent start for the series. Now, where are the tie-in issues of those other cosmic books?
Secret Warriors #2 - 48,086 (-23.4%)
Ah, the old 25% drop in orders for the second issue! How I've missed you! Still, it's doing good numbers, presumably more to do with Bendis' involvement than with Nick Fury's...
Daredevil #117 - 41,046 ( -0.5%) 6 mnth (-11.2%) 1 year ( -1.2%) 5 year (-24.5%)
OK, so the book's not selling as well as it was during the rockstar days of Bendis and Maleev, but overall, the book's staying pretty static. Which, these days, is pretty good.
Guardians of the Galaxy #12 - 26,764 ( -2.4%) 6 mnth (-36.4%)
Although it's not exactly a big seller (shock), it's holding its own.
Agents of Atlas #2 - 26,783 (-22.3%)
See Secret Warriors for explanation of the drop. And, if you're thinking this is a poor seller, remember it's about a talking ape and his pals!
Nova #23 - 26,413 ( +5.4%) 6 mnth (-31.2%) 1 year ( -6.2%)
In case you're wondering, there was a weird spike in sales 6 months ago, so the 1 year drop is the one to pay attention to here. Not great sales, but it could certainly be worse.
Immortal Iron Fist #24 - 22,326 ( -1.6%) 1 year (-30.3%)
Sales have been dropping month-on-month, but not by much, which means the book could last a while yet. But still, hopes aren't high.
Captain Britain & MI-13 #11 - 17,757 (-13.9%) 6 mnth (-46.2%)
Meantime, this book is circling the drain, and I can't imagine it'll last much longer. It's losing approximately 10% of its readership every month. Doomed, dammit.

So there you go. In case you wondered, Fables is selling pretty much exactly what it was selling two years ago. Which I guess proves that sophisticated Vertigo readers are as much victims of the completist mentality as superhero fans.