Book Review – Tenth Doctor Vol. 4 – The Endless Song

The fourth volume in Titan Comics collection of their Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) collection of Doctor Who comics starts the second year of the series. This collection includes two stories. In the first, the Doctor and Gabby arrive at one of the most beautiful planets in the universe, where the native intelligent species, the local animals, and the human colonists live in harmony. However, soon after the Doctor and Gabby arrive they discover something is wrong – the Santee – living music – are dying from a mysterious illness, and without them the Bovodrines the lungs of the world will die, and without oxygen the humans will also die. The Doctor and Gabby work with a female scientist who has been studying the Santee until she’s injured to discover the source of the outbreak and reverse the effects.
In the second story, Gabby and the Doctor land on pre-historic Earth, where they help a Neanderthal shaman fight off alien slavers who are taking the various clans that live there.
In between we have Gabby’s sketchbook, notes, and letters sent in a book to her friend Cindy.
The Endless Song has beautiful art, and both stories are very good. I liked how the Shaman in the second story was written, with his own form of intelligence and his local knowledge. And the first story was a very unique Science Fiction story and well told. This is another excellent volume in Titan Comics Doctor Who series. I recommend it. If you haven’t read any of the previous volumes it’s also a good place to start, as it doesn’t pick up on any previous stories but starts a new series of adventures for the Doctor and Gabby Gonzalez.

Note: I’ve read the Tenth Doctor volumes 5 and 6 but I haven’t reviewed them yet. I want to re-read them before posting. But once I read and review both volumes they will be cross-posted here from GoodReads.

Book Review – Doctor Who Tenth Doctor vol. 3 – The Fountains of Forever

**spoiler alert** Doctor Who The Fountains of Forever is the third volume of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor graphic novel series. I enjoyed this volume very much! The volume opens with The Doctor and Gabby walking into the TARDIS covered in mud from a recent vacation. The Doctor decides to show Gabby the TARDIS’s laundry facilities. Unfortunately, things go wrong when the TARDIS’s rather special laundry facilities bring a sentient mud creature into the TARDIS.
The second story, which fills the rest of this volume, has the Doctor trying to recapture some alien tech from a specialized auction. The tech however, falls into the hands of a old-time Hollywood actress. But in an unexpected twist – she doesn’t want the tech to become young again, but to live long enough to see the hospital wing she’s donated her money and time to completed, as she’s dying. However, that isn’t all – the tech everyone is after comes from the Osirians (from the Classic Who story Pyramids of Mars). This surprising introduction of a Classic alien society makes for a great story, and I enjoyed it very much. This story is highly recommended.
The only negative about this particular graphic novel is that I thought the art wasn’t very good, especially of Gabby’s friend, Cindy Wu. Yet even the Doctor did not look like the Doctor in some panels. That was a bit sad, as the art in the Titan Comics Graphic novels to date has been extremely good.
Still, the story was excellent and I enjoyed it! Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor Vol. 2 – The Weeping Angels of Mons

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Gabby Gonzalez’s adventures continue in this second volume in the Doctor Who graphic novels from Titan Comics. I thought this book was even better than volume one. The artwork is excellent. The Doctor takes Gabby on his promised trip to the past – but they arrive in the middle of a World War I battlefield. A battlefield that’s under attack by Weeping Angels. First, the Angels appear singly but soon there are hordes of Angels attacking the British troops, and the German troops occupying the nearby town have all ready disappeared.
The flashbacks of the English soldiers who are sent back in time are incredibly well-thought out, as well as well-drawn. The Doctor figures out that the Angels are desperate because they are trying to feed on the future timelines of the Lost Generation – who have no future.
As the Weeping Angels try to approach the British Trenches the Doctor and Gabby help fight them off. Finally, the Doctor is able to reach his missing TARDIS, and trap the Angels underground.
He then brings Gabby home, and says goodbye to her. But, Gabby is not safe in New York as she (and all of New York) is soon attacked by Galactic Hunters who hunt with noise weapons.
I really enjoyed this graphic novel and I recommend it.

Book Review – Doctor Who Tenth Doctor vol. 1 – Revolutions of Terror

Revolutions in Terror collects the first five issues of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor range. The Doctor (David Tennant) meets a new companion, Gabriella Gonzalez (Gabby), a Hispanic-American from New York City. Gabby works in her family’s restaurant and also their laundromat, while studying accounting in night school. (Note to the editors – in the US it’s “accounting” not “accountancy”, and one must *pass* the CPA Exam before one is a certified public accountant. However, you can work as an accounting assistant without passing the exam.) Anyway, Gabby is tired of working for her family, and would rather go to graphic design school or art school and become an artist. Aliens attack the laundromat and soon the Doctor arrives to help. The alien invasion is connected to the Day of the Dead celebration – but the happiness and singing of those gathered to celebrate beats off the invaders.
The Doctor likes Gabby and takes her on “one trip” in the TARDIS to a futuristic art gallery. They end-up in danger, but it’s Gabby who rescues the artist captured by her own creation so to speak. The Doctor agrees to give Gabby a trip to the past too.
I enjoyed this graphic novel. The art is brilliant and the colors pop. I liked the idea of including Gabby’s sketchbook/diary as her comment on life in the TARDIS but I found the lettering very difficult to read. Cursive is not your friend, especially when it’s that small – and on a dark background.
The story felt, well, like they were trying to get their feet under themselves… feeling their way a bit… not polished. But it was enough to keep me interested in buying more of the graphics in the Doctor Who series. And I really enjoyed seeing a David Tennant original story.

iZombie Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: iZombie
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-Ray)
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Blu-Ray, NTSC

Olivia Moore, Liv to her friends, was a driven, A-personality doctor, engaged to Major Lilywhite, and happy with her life. Then she goes to a boat party where things get way out of hand, between the drugs, an energy drink called Max Rager, a fire, fights, and all hell breaking loose, Liv barely notices when she’s scratched by one of the guys at the party. She falls or dives off the boat, and wakes up on the shore, in a body bag, craving brains. Liv is a zombie. She quits her job at the hospital, and dumps her fiancé, then gets a job at the morgue so she has access to brains to eat. Ravi, her boss at the morgue, is the only one know knows Liv is a zombie – she doesn’t tell her family, her roommate, Payton, or Major. But all is not hopeless for Liv, she discovers that when she eats someone’s brain she takes on their personality traits, and has visions of how they died. Liv soon partners with Det. Clive Babineaux, a new Seattle police detective to solve murders. Liv’s excuse for how she knows so much about the victims? She’s psychic.

So if this sounds like a mash-up of Psych, Quantum Leap, and The Walking Dead, it somewhat is – yet… there is more. As the season progresses, it moves from establishing it’s universe, to a medical thriller. Liv gradually learns just what made her a zombie, as well as who. Liv even makes another zombie herself, accidentally, which leads deeper in to a conspiracy involving the Max Rager energy drink and a designer drug called Utopium. Liv’s personal life gets more and more complicated as well. Major works at a homeless shelter for street kids – but the kids are disappearing. He takes advantage of Liv’s friendship with Det. Babineaux, to have someone look in to it. But he’s never satisfied to let the professionals do the work – and slowly uncovers the zombie conspiracy of Seattle. Blaine, the zombie who made Liv a zombie, is a drug-dealer type, supplying brains to Seattle’s zombies. He works out of a butcher shop called Meat Cute. But Blaine isn’t above making someone a zombie so that he has a steady supply of new customers.

iZombie is a complicated mix of police procedural, paranormal mystery, and SF. It has that 20-something vibe of most CW shows, but it’s a bit more grown-up and sophisticated than Supernatural. I was expecting more humor, but the complicated nature of the continuing storyline drew me in. Season 1 still had a bit of a set-up feel, despite the breadth of material covered in the season. iZombie is based on a comic published by Vertigo Comics, the adult/mature readers imprint of DC Comics.

Flashpoint – Is there more to be revealed on the CW DC Shows?

I have now caught-up on the current seasons of all four DC CW shows. And I’ve noticed something. The Flash mentioned Flashpoint at the opening of the season, and Barry attempted to reverse Flashpoint. But his attempt failed. The Flash is now in an alternate reality – Cisco, as Vibe, is much more powerful than he was last year when he was first discovering his powers. In some ways it’s like that character has skipped ahead in time. And that’s not all – somehow, as a result of Barry messing with time – Cisco’s brother Dante is dead, killed by a drunk driver. Meanwhile, Caitlin is exhibiting cold powers – and she fears she is turning in to Killer Frost. And at the Central City Police Department a new guy is in charge of forensics and he’s a total, well, you know, to Barry. By the mid-season finale, we know a lot more about this guy who’s suddenly appeared from nowhere.

But it isn’t just The Flash that’s in a new reality. Arrow is also subtly changed. One thing I’ve noticed – last year on Legends of Tomorrow they visited future Star City – where they met future Green Arrow Connor Hawk (aka John Diggle Jr) and there was a skyscraper called Smoak Technologies. Due to Flashpoint, Diggle now has a son – John Jr, not a daughter, Sara. Felicity has also lost Palmer Tech – and in last night’s episode, Curtis mentioned he and Felicity were working on a start-up company (he mentions this as a cover for his Mr. Terrific duties to his husband) which Felicity seems to know nothing about. But easily, that could be the spark of an idea for her – especially if she pulls back from Team Arrow for other plot reasons. Flashpoint seems to be bringing the Arrow universe closer to the disaster we saw in last season’s Legends of Tomorrow. And let’s not forget – this season’s bad guys on Legends are the Triumvirate of Evil: Reverse Flash (from Season 1 of The Flash); Damien Darhk (from Season 4 of Arrow); and Malcolm Merlyn (aka “The Magician” in the comics, but he’s been hanging around Arrow since the beginning). I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think it’s all related to Flashpoint (which was a world-ending event in the comics and the animated movie).

I suspect since we also saw Damien Darhk in the Legends of Tomorrow last season; and he’s clearly working with the Reverse Flash this season, and later with Malcolm Merlyn. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think something is going on. I suspect time travel is most definitely involved. And I think the disappearance of Rip Hunter is also involved. I would love to see Rip return, maybe with his father, Booster Gold. I think the time paradoxes are only getting started and they will get more and more complex.  The four shows, but especially The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, will have a bang-up complexly-related “super-crossover” feel by the end of this season. Maybe they will even change the “Supergirl is it’s own universe with no other Heroes” left over from last year when Supergirl was on CBS. Have I mentioned how that never made sense?

But I have to say, I love, just love, how all the DC shows are inter-related, just the way the comics are. Yes, you could just watch one or two of the shows – and you wouldn’t be lost. But when you watch all four, everything is connected. Also, just as is traditional for DC – all the Heroes know each other: they know each other’s real names; they know each others allies, friends and family; they know each other’s superpowers; and they work together when needed to overcome major threats (as in this year’s 4-part crossover event). That’s something that’s always been important in the DC Comics Universe. The heroes cooperate with each other. They don’t see each other as threats or rivals. When I first read Justice League International (later Justice League America / Justice League Europe) in the late 1980s and early 1990s – every hero, from the most powerful like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to the ones who really had no powers at all, like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were members of the Justice League. In between the two extremes were a lot of single power individuals such as Fire, Ice, Black Canary, Vixen – all of whom were female. There were many minorities in the League as well, including John Stewart – the Green Lantern at the time and an African American. And there were the magic users: Zatanna, Dr. Fate, etc. There was something for everyone, and a well-balanced League. Young Justice, the animated series, although it had a modern aesthetic and look, also reflected the width and breadth of the Justice League with many female and minority characters or both (Rocket and Bumblebee are both African American young women). The CW Shows have women and minorities on every show. And the women are not simply there as set dressing or to be rescued by the “male hero” – they are smart, educated, career-oriented women (reporter, scientist, computer expert), minorities have viable roles (engineer, army veteran), and Legends of Tomorrow has a balanced team of women and men with minorities on the team. Plus, you have to love a team of self-styled “screw-ups” who manage to be heroes, um, excuse me, Legends, anyway. The CW Network is doing a better job at this point of doing live action DC stories that Warner Brothers is doing with the films – though Suicide Squad was fun (though Arrow did a suicide squad storyline in it’s first or second season) and I have high hopes for Wonder Woman.

Arrow Season 4 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, John Barrowman, Paul Blackthorne, Neal McDonough
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Season 4 of Arrow is very dark, and that isn’t just a pun based on the main villain of the season being Damien Darhk. But the season is also very…strange. The first eight episodes of the season play like an extended backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow, cumulating in the two-part crossover with The Flash that introduces and spins off Legends. Laurel decides to bring back her dead sister, Sara, so she and Thea dig her up and bring her to Nanda Parbat to drop her in a Lazarus Pit – this despite the plot thread of Thea continuously fighting the blood lust she now suffers thanks to being brought back to life by the same Lazarus Pit. Once in Nanda Parbat, both Malcolm Merlyn and Nyssa al’Ghul warn against using the Lazarus Pit – but Laurel persists. When Sara is brought back she’s a feral beast. Even Quentin Lance, her father, considering killing her. Oliver calls in John Constantine to bring her back to herself. Constantine’s magic works. Shortly after, Felicity discovers that Ray Palmer wasn’t killed in the explosion at Palmer Tech, rather his Atom Suit works and he’s become extremely small. Unfortunately, Ray and his suit are captured by Damien Darhk. Felicity and Curtis Holt (Mr. Terrific to be) rescue him. With Ray now alive, and in possession of a working A.T.O.M. suit – he’s ready to become part of the Legends. The lead in brings us to the crossover with The Flash that also introduces Legends of Tomorrow, and Ray, Sara, Heat Wave,  Captain Cold, and the Hawks (Hawkgirl and Hawkman) spin off to face Vandal Savage. However, that crossover also features Barry Allen’s Flash running through time to prevent a disaster, Oliver discovering he has a son (an element from season 1), Barry accidentally messing-up Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, and Malcolm Merlyn taking the dust of Savage as a trophy or something. But both parts of the crossover are included in the DVD set – Warner Brothers must have heard the cries of protest about last year’s DVD sets not including both halves of the crossover on both sets.

Having successfully spun off Legends, Arrow settles down to be it’s own thing. There’s a continuing thread of “let’s bring people back/in for an episode”. We see Constantine – and yes, I loved his episode so much I bought Constantine on Blu-Ray, as well as all six issues of the Justice League Dark and all four issues of the Constantine DC graphic novels – so I’m glad Arrow introduced me to the character. And – it fits with the CW pulling together references to the wider DC universe. But the episode also sticks out a bit – for a series that stated at the beginning that it would be realistic with no “superpowers” it’s slightly odd to have an entire season of magic. John Constantine isn’t the only DC hero to show up – much later in the season, Oliver brings in Vixen, remarking, “We shared an animated adventure in Hub City,” a reference to the CW Seed animated Vixen series. Vixen has also become a regular in Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow. Arsenal, Roy Harper, also returns for an episode. But villains return for single episodes (or two) as well, we see: Brie Larvan (the Bug-Eyed Bandit); Cupid; Anarchy; Felicity’s hacker boyfriend, Cooper; and the Calculator, another hacker who turns out to be Felicity’s father. These one-offs work – but at the same time, they distract from the main villain – Damien Darhk – though Cooper works with Darhk, Anarchy wants to kill him, and the Calculator ends up helping Oliver and company against Darhk. But the effect of the one-offs, especially the Cupid episode (which seems designed to be used in trailers to suggest something happens that doesn’t) and the Bug-Eyed Bandit episode seem like breaks in the storyline. Almost as if when putting together the Damien Darhk story the writing and production crew didn’t have enough story planned for the entire season.

The flashback storyline for this season has Oliver returned to Lian Yu to break-up a drug ring, attempt to save a kidnapped Russian girl, and rescue the rest of Ryder’s slave labor force. However, the last few episodes of the season clearly relate the flashbacks to the current storyline – as the idol used by Ryder and briefly, Tatiana, is the same as the idol used by Damien Darhk (or very close). Oliver also meets John Constantine on the island in one episode, which, at least, explains how he knows him. I liked the smoothness of the flashbacks, and the cuts between the past and the present. It worked so much better than last season.

The season is also marked by Star City’s mayoral campaign. First Jeri Ryan (Star Trek‘s 7 of 9) shows up to run for mayor, but she drops out when Damien Darhk kidnaps her child. Oliver then steps in to run, challenging Darhk, but he, too, eventually pulls out of the race because of Darhk’s threats against his son William, and others he cares about, including Felicity. Darhk’s wife, Revé wins the election.

The season is also framed with a flash forward to Oliver at a grave site. When watching the season for the first time, the obvious question is – Who died? When re-watching it, we know who died, in the episode “11:59” – Laurel Lance is killed, and her legacy as the Black Canary eventually revealed to Star City. Still, these flash forwards still work, not driving the story with an obvious question and worry about who died, but letting the audience know just how serious things are with Darhk.

Darhk’s plan is terrifying and for a “comic book series”, very real and frightening as a threat – Damien Darhk’s “Genesis” plan is to destroy the world in Nuclear Fire – with only his chosen few surviving in an underground colony. The people in this colony, whom we see – because Malcolm has Thea brought there and drugged into compliance – are white families – mother, father, child. ALL of them – there are no minorities, heck there seem to be no families with more than a single child. It’s a “perfect world” of rich, white, no doubt – single religion believing, fascists who have no hope. None. They buy Damien Darhk’s claim that the world is “so evil” it must be destoryed. And despite Darhk’s “Arc” there’s no real plan to rebuild anything. It’s a terrifying vision.

It is a very, very dark season. “And smile, and smile, and be a villain”, which is a Shakespearean quote – seems to apply to Damien Darhk. Neal McDonough, whom I had seen in the short-lived series Medical Investigation, plays the part with a smile – a smile in the midst of his true evil – which makes him that much more chilling. Darhk uses his magic to stop Oliver time and again. He controls the “ghosts” an army for an organization called Hive. These ghosts will literally die for Hive – when one faces capture they take suicide pills to prevent revealing any information. Darhk also gets Quentin Lance, whom he’s bribed to work for him, to upload a virus/worm to a Federal server farm that erases the entire existence of the ghosts – or their records at least. One of the ghosts is John Diggle’s supposedly dead brother – who isn’t so dead, but is a dedicated member of Hive. Quentin Lance sees Darhk’s evil and eventually helps Oliver and Company (he hadn’t wanted to work for Darhk – but at first he didn’t see the harm of supplying information, and later Darhk threatened Laurel). John tries to bring Andy to his side, but it fails – and fails spectacularly.

Felicity and Oliver do get engaged, but she decides against marrying him due to his “Lone Ranger” attitude and occasional lies. Though I felt the subplot concerning Oliver’s son was a bit forced. Samantha, the boy’s mother, comes off as extremely self-centered. Her concern to keep William secret and safe makes some sense (especially as after Malcolm tells Damien about William – Damien kidnaps him); but her insistence that Oliver can’t tell Felicity about William makes no sense at all except to create a secret that would break up the couple. It wasn’t her place to say he can’t tell his fiancée. There’s a big difference between Oliver announcing to the world he has a kid and taking William in – and Oliver letting his closest family and friends know. Also, the bit with the uncashed check makes no sense. True, I could see the pride thing of Samantha not wanting to take Moira’s money – but from a practical sense – she moved to a new city, bought a house, and she was pregnant – so she couldn’t work immediately even if she found a job. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars right there. Raising a kid isn’t cheap. Sam really should have used the money.

Getting back to Darhk – every time he tries to stop him, Oliver fails. At one point, he and his team capture Darhk – but Darhk claims he’s someone else and tries to get the charges dropped. The only thing that stops him is Lance, who incriminates himself to testify against Darhk. Darhk then immediately escapes prison – and in the resulting “riot” he kills Laurel. Darhk also attacks Lilia and baby Sara – and takes Rubicon, a computer program meant to prevent nuclear disaster. Darhk will, of course, use this fail safe program to launch the world’s weapons and create Armageddon. Felicity, Curtis, and Noah “The Calculator” Kuttler (Felicity’s father) work together to bring down Rubicon. However, unusually for this genre – one of the missiles escapes – the only thing Felicity can do is divert it – and the missile hits and destroys Haven Rock rather than Monument Point. Felcity’s feelings about this disaster and the tens of thousands of deaths are played way down in the few remaining episodes of the season. Not only that, but the work of Curtis, Noah, and Felicity only buys the world another twenty-four hours. The computers in the Bunker (or Arrow Cave) are destroyed by a Hive attack and the laptop with the anti-Rubicon program is stolen. But Felicity and her crew are able to get to Darhk’s hideout to stop his hacker, Cooper – who gives his life in the process of saving the world. Felicity and Curtis also save Star City from imminent attack. Meanwhile, Thea and Anarchy destroy Darhk’s arc community – driving Malcom back to Oliver and Company, because he’s sane enough to realise he lives in the world that Darhk still, arrogantly, wants to destroy. Revé is killed, and Thea kidnaps Darhk’s daughter. Oliver and Darhk fight, again, but having learned some magic of his own from a friend of Constantine, Oliver is on more even footing. In the end, Oliver kills Darhk. Oliver is also sworn in as Star City’s interim mayor.

Season 4 of Arrow was overwhelmingly dark – not simply the bad guy of the season – who’s ultimate plan is to destroy the world – but in terms of personal relationships. The season opens with Felicity and Oliver living in Ivy Town, and Oliver states many times he is happy there – though Felicity is bored. Yet, the two’s engagement falls apart. One of John Diggle’s motivating factors was the “death” of his brother – yet when Andy comes back, it isn’t a happy reunion and in the end, John kills him. Thea gets Yet Another boyfriend who is just bad for her. It’s a season of reunions and one-time returns, but all those characters appear in one-off episodes. Well, for the most part. The season spends it’s first eight episodes in an extended back door pilot, and as much as I like Legends of Tomorrow, and it was necessary to bring back from the dead the two characters who would spin off, it felt odd to put so much effort into that “mini-story” and then never mention any of those characters again. The next story has Oliver unsuccessfully running for mayor – because he’s forced to drop out of the race by Darhk. Though, in the last episode of the season, he becomes mayor anyway. Felicity is shot in the back and becomes paralyzed – but regains the use of her legs due to a techno-miracle developed by Curtis. This will, no doubt, make comparisons to Oracle even more obvious – though I feel such comparisons between two brilliant characters to be a disservice to both. Felicity loses control of Palmer Tech at the end of the season. The flashback story is much better integrated into the main story, and provides a lot of background – so that’s helpful, but it’s a dark story as well. And then the main story is about, to be frank, a powerful white rich guy who has every, single, advantage, and still feels the world is “too evil” to exist – so he becomes determined to destroy it. Even when his “ark” is destroyed – he still wants to destroy the world. The arrogance, egotism, and hubris boggles the mind – and Darhk is a pure psychopath as well. Neal McDonough is a brilliant choice for Darhk though, and plays the part with a fascinating twinkle – which of course makes him even more scary. It’s an odd season. It’s a dark season. It a very real sense, it made Arrow my least favorite of the CW DC shows. One thing Arrow has gotten right though, and it’s something I like about the entire CW DC line-up, is the bringing in of other characters from the DC Universe – heroes, villains, allies – CW is almost close enough to having a weekly Justice League on the screen they’ve brought in so many characters. That is fun, seriously. It rewards the long-time DC fan, and for new fans, it send them scrambling for the DC Wiki. This is how DC is done!