Book Review – Bombshells vol. 3: Uprising

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 2: Uprising
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Sandy Jarrell, Pasqualle Qualano, J. Nanjan (colors), Wendy Broome (colors), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Batwoman (Kate Kane), Mera (Aqua Woman), Zatanna, John Constantine, Raven, Renee Montoya (The Question)
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/15/2018

Bombshells is a graphic novel series that was originally based on a series of World War II pin-up style statues of female DC Comics heroes. However, the series has been developed by author Marguerite Bennett into a strong female-led superhero team in a World War II slightly different than the one we know.

This volume begins with the Batgirls, teen heroines inspired by Batwoman Kate Kane to defend their city of Gotham and help the innocent, especially immigrants, Jews, and others who are persecuted by Conservatives and the Right. The book opens with Harper, Cullen, and Felicity breaking up Kate Kane’s poker game with the news that they have found the man who agreed to buy art, jewels, and other priceless artifacts stolen from Jews that the Wilmot brothers turned over to the Nazis. The Batgirls respond and find Penguin is behind the art thefts, taken from numerous black marketeers and thieves as well as the Wilmot Brothers. They find Penguin at his Iceberg Lounge, but he escapes and the Batgirls find the young want-to-be reporter, Lois Lane, who because of her age, gender, and ethnic background as a Puerto Rican, has been unable to get a reporting job. Undaunted, she has determined to find and write a big story that will be her ticket into her preferred career. Penguin, however, convinces Mayor Harvey Dent that the Batgirls are a threat and uses the media – magazines, books, radio, etc., to paint the heroines as villains. Still, the Batgirls investigate and Lois starts her own newspaper, to put their story out there for all to read and understand. The Batgirls discover that Penguin is working with Hugo Strange who is hypnotizing and drugging Dent into doing what Penguin wants so the crime lord can make as much money as possible off others suffering. The Batgirls and the police rescue Dent from Penguin and Strange, but both villains escape. Maggie Sawyer offers the Batgirls use of one of the abandoned apartments in Kate’s building as their new Batcave.

In Ireland, in the ocean near Arthur Curry’s lighthouse, Arthur rescues Mera – who has lost all her special abilities including the ability to break under water. He cares for her, cures her ills, and takes her to the village on the island. But all isn’t simple romance. Priest and Red Cardinal Hagen of Atlantis returns and accuses Mera of abandoning her people. Considering that her sister’s husband convinced Atlantis to abandon its centuries-long tradition of having the most qualified crowned as new ruler when the old one dies or abdicates her throne, and then said husband and now King-Consort threatened to kill Mera’s sister if Mera didn’t leave Atlantis never to return, and then to top it off the husband was the one behind Atlantis’s alliance with the Tenebrae and Nazis – this really is not Mera’s fault. Hagen leads Mera to Atlantis. They discover Hila, Mera’s sister has killed her husband and taken the Atlantean throne under the name, Siren Queen. Siren proves to be very jealous of her sister still. However, Mera expresses her love and concern for her sister. She and Hila become allies and promise to help Mera’s friends, the Bombshells.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Bombshells and main characters are drawn to the Jewish Ghetto in Berlin. Ivy and Harley Quinn are looking for the Joker (aka “Mistah J”) but only find Joker’s daughter. Harley fills in Ivy on her backstory with Mistah J – how the two became bank robbers who gave to “whoever” and caused chaos – only to have Joker’s increasing reliance on illegal alcohol and ethanol to cause him to become cruel. When Joker goes into the swamp – Harley realizes she must leave. Joker’s daughter seems to have some of Elizabeth Moone’s Enchantress powers – carrying a crescent moon staff and having glowing green powers. She even conjures the ghost of Mistah J to confront Harley.

Batwoman, Kate Kane, drops by parachute into Berlin and meets Selina and Renee Montoya. Selina’s knocked out a room full of high-powered Nazis to turn over to the Zambezi for cash for the rebellion. Kate and Renee have a past – having been lovers in Spain before the Spanish Civil War crashed their plans and they ended up fighting the Fascists. Ivy and Harley wait at The Cat’s Cradle basement. Zatanna and John Constantine head there, and run into Raven – another magic user and former prisoner of the Joker’s Daughter – well, they think she’s a former prisoner. Raven’s background as the daughter of a human woman and the demon, Das Trigon, is beautifully and quickly rendered. Raven is initially suspicious of Harley and Ivy but they work it out – and they are joined by Selina, Kate, and Renee. The Huntress meets them at the Cat’s Cradle, bringing her Swing Kids. She tells Batwoman her background as a German youth and a woman – who knows her country is wrong for what it is doing and is trying to help Jews escape. Helena’s story, her determination to fight, and fto ace being tried as a traitor by the Germans, her countrymen, is well-told. We also see Kate is upset not merely by who Helena is but by the recent loss of Stargirl, and the loss, in Spain, of young red-capped Jason who died in the war. The final panel of that backstory mirrors that of the famous panel of Batman holding the beaten and battered body of Jason Todd from A Death in the Family. Kate tells Helena to survive, above all. It is Helena who takes all the Bombshells to the Resistance and they finalize their plans to free the ghetto.

All of the characters: Poison Ivy who alters the ph. of sacramental wine so it will burn, Harley Quinn, who makes Molotov Cocktails, a priest who brought the wine, the Swing Kids, Kate Kane, Huntress, Renee Montoya (also known by the nom de guerre The Question), Zatanna, Constantine, and Raven – work together on their plan. During the battle, it’s revealed that Raven is under complete control of the Joker’s daughter. She’s revealed the rebels’ plan to the Nazis who far from being surprised – are ready for them. Meanwhile, several Jewish children are hidden in a basement. The oldest girl, Miri, (also a friend of Kate’s), reads to the children the stories of heroic Jewish women, such as Esther and Shiphrah, Huldah, Zipporah, Abigail, Asenath, and Miriam. As she repeats the names: Shiphrah, Huldah, Abigail, Zipporah, Asenath, and Miriam – Miri is transformed into Shazam. As the new Captain Marvel (aka Shazam, because: copyright) she and Zatanna confront Raven who is under the control of Joker’s daughter – and has grown to gigantic size. But Miri and Zatanna manage to break the Joker’s Daughter’s conditioning of Raven. She comes to her senses and helps the rebels. Kate and Constantine lead the rebellion anyway – as ordinary citizens come from all over Berlin to help after hearing the signal on the radio. Breaking Joker’s Daughter’s control of Raven also frees Zatanna who gets her magic back. Miri, as Shazam has considerable power – she rescues everyone taking them to a haven. They appear in France – but it is Nazi-occupied France. Joker’s Daughter thinks she’s won. Then Atlantis appears. Mera and Hila are now partners and co-Queens. They offer Atlantis as a haven and home for all refugees from the war. Zatanna attacks the Nazis with her magic – clearing a path to the sea-bound refuge. Harley and Ivy join the fight. Zatanna is able to use her magic to end Joker’s tracking spell on her. Everyone will take refuge in Atlantis, though the Bombshells will no doubt soon go out to fight again, especially as Queen Mari of Zambesi, aka Vixen, wants their help in the next arena.

Bombshells is an excellent alternate-reality historical “Golden Age” graphic novel series. The female leads are strong, and their backstories are well-told (sometimes very different than the ones we know and sometimes very slightly changed if at all). The art in this book is amazing. I liked the colored tile borders for the backstory of Renee, Kate, and Jason in Spain – the red thorny vines for Ivy’s tales, and the other details for other characters. The sepia tones for scenes showing the characters past histories were also well done. The Story of Arthur and Mera, though a well-known romance, had new twists and turns to it – making it work within the larger story. I especially liked that rather than making her sister a villain – Mera and Hila ended-up co-operating together. And Hila cutting off her traitorous husband’s head was an awesome way of showing her independence (this was picked up in one of the tales of Jewish Biblical Heroines that Miri (Miriam) tells Kate or the children when she talks of her pride in being who she is.

I highly recommend DC Comics Bombshells – not only to comics fans but to anyone who likes stories about strong, capable women.

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Book Review – Still Life

  • Title: Still Life
  • Author: Louise Penny
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/05/2018

Still Life is an intriguing mystery novel set in a small Anglophone (English-speaking) village in Quebec. It features Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec, the Quebec Provincial Police, and his associates. When Jane, a retired schoolteacher, is found dead in the woods near the remote village of Three Pines in November, everyone assumes it is a tragic hunting accident, especially as she was killed by an arrow. However, things are not always what they seem, especially in quaint artistic villages.

On the Friday before her death, Jane Neal, who had painted for years but never shown anyone her art, submitted a painting for the nearby village juried art show. The painting is quite a surprise to the committee but Clara, Jane’s friend, who also is a struggling artist, sees the brilliance of the piece – and convinces the jury to submit the painting to the art show. Two days later, on Sunday, Jane is killed.

Gamache and his crew investigate – assuming the killing was accidental, but trying to find the person who did it. Three Pines holds quite a number of secrets – as well as being populated by people who had found success and given it up to do what they always wanted to do by moving to the village (eg. becoming artists like Clara and her husband Peter; or owning her own bookstore, like the former counselor). Gamache also has a new trainee, Yvette Nichol. One of the brilliant aspects of Still Life is how the character of Nichol is written and treated. In general, the book is third person omniscient – letting you discover what the Inspector and townspeople are doing. But scenes with Yvette also change to her point of view and way of thinking. Yvette always, always, manages to get it wrong, no matter what she does. Gamache tries to take her under his wing and train her – but she bristles under any orders or suggestions he gives her. When she manages to give a good suggestion on the case, she assumes she’s solved it – and demands the credit. I found myself wondering just what was wrong with Yvette. At times she seems almost Autistic – completely unaware of how to connect with people.

The story is extremely well-written and the description of people and places really bring them to mind – without being so full of trivial details as to be irritating. The book also is not so breezy and lacking detail as to be bland and superficial either. It’s a perfect balance.

The story really is about perspective. The perspective Jane puts into her painting – and all her art. The way that Gamache perceives his new trainee – and the way she, in turn, perceives herself and her new position. The way the townspeople perceive each other. Just what, one perceives as success. The painting becomes a metaphor for all of this and more. The artistic backdrop is not simply a background for a cozy mystery – it is integral to the plot and who these characters are. Still Life is a brilliant novel – that is also a well-written mystery.

I highly recommend this novel.

Doctor Who – Spearhead from Space Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: Spearhead from Space
  • Story #: 51
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/03/1970 – 01/24/1970
  • Cast: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

“What are you a doctor of, by the way?” – Dr. Liz Shaw
“Practically everything, my dear.” – The Doctor

Spearhead from Space is known for its firsts and is almost what would now be termed a soft reboot of the series. It’s the first story filmed in color, and unusually for the series – the entire episode was shot on film and on location. At the end of the previous story, The War Games, the actor portraying the Doctor, Patrick Troughton left, as did his companions Zoë (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie (Frazer Hines), so as well as introducing a new Doctor, Spearhead from Space introduces a new companion, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist from Cambridge, and the Brigadier returns, still in charge of UNIT. Doctor Who will now be focused on Earth-bound invasion stories, set in the “near future” (something later forgot by the production team who seemed to assume the stories were contemporary to when they were made).

This story has the Doctor’s TARDIS arriving in a wood, the Doctor stumbling out, and collapsing. He’s brought to a nearby cottage hospital and is unconscious for much of episode one, and erratic for much for episode two. It isn’t until he takes a shower in the hospital and borrows some clothes that the Doctor seems to wake up – eventually working with Liz and the Brigadier to discover just what the mysterious landfall of meteorites and strange goings-on at Auton Plastics factory mean. The story develops somewhat slowly but fits together well, as bit by bit, UNIT, the Doctor, Liz, and other characters in the story, learn what is going on. UNIT’s radar station reports on the meteorites and the Brigadier tells Dr. Shaw a larger group landed earlier. Liz scoffs at the Brigadier using the word, “landed”.

Meanwhile, a poacher in the woods finds one of the “thunderballs” and buries it to hide it. UNIT is looking for the meteorites and finds the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Doctor is unconscious at the local cottage hospital. In episode 2, a salesman returns to his factory only to discover it mysteriously changed, his boss unreceptive to his hard work opening a new market in the US, and a letter of dismissal at his home. He later sneaks back into the factory and discovers an Auton who fires at him. Terrified out of his wits he runs out to the woods and into UNIT’s hands. One of the Brigadier’s men takes his statement. He later convinces the Brigadier something is wrong at the factory. Meanwhile, the poacher digs up his “thunderball” and transfers it to a metal box in his shed.

The alien in this story is the Nestene Consciousness, which has no form to speak of, only a hive mind stored in the hollow plastic-like balls that landed during the meteor shower. The Consciousness can animate plastic and co-opts the manager of a plastics factory. This story features story dummies breaking out of window displays, and plastic duplicates of General Scobie and other civil servants and military leaders. The salesman is instrumental in giving information to the Brigadier and UNIT that something is wrong at the factory – but he’s also killed by an Auton dummy. Eventually, his boss, the factory manager, who was under Channing’s control is also killed by the Autons. And when the Doctor and Liz construct a device to disrupt the signals animating the Auton mannequins and break up the Nestene Consciousness – Channing is revealed to be another Auton dummy. During the final attack, the device works fine on the basic Autons but doesn’t work on the Consciousness itself. The Doctor is attacked by tentacles coming out of a tank, and it’s Liz who, on her own must adjust the device until it works, which saves the Doctor and defeats the alien menace, so to speak.

They return to UNIT, and the Doctor bargains with the Brigadier, getting a job as scientific advisor to UNIT, with access to equipment and tools, plus essentials like clothing (since he borrowed his current outfit from the hospital) and a car (since he must return the borrowed red roadster he used in the episode). The Doctor gives the name of “Dr. John Smith” for his paperwork that will make him official on Earth.

Spearhead from Space starts off a new era for Doctor Who. It introduces Dr. Liz Shaw and changes the direction of the show. The cost savings of staying on Earth with contemporary settings, like offices, and 1970s London, were put into car chases, effects, large-scale practical attacks, and a grander scale for the stories. Spearhead from Space is almost like a pilot in introducing these ideas: there’s a chase scene with the Doctor in a wheelchair, UNIT makes an assault on the Auton Factory, the setting is meant to be slightly futuristic but since people still use corded phones (and pay phones at that) and in one scene all the reporters are male – there’s an old-fashioned quality to it too. But it definitely starts to establish the new rules and new patterns for the next three years. Pertwee would play the part for five years, but only regain the time and space traveling abilities of his TARDIS after the tenth-anniversary special, The Three Doctors. The story itself is a bit slow in spots, but the four-episode length helps it from being extremely slow. I liked that Liz actually saved the Doctor herself without any assistance, but I didn’t like that she gets no credit for this, not even a thank you from the Doctor. Still, this is a great place to start with when watching the Third Doctor, or even for starting to watch Classic Doctor Who.

The Flash Season 4 Review

  • Series: The Flash
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Hartley Sawyer
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Season Four of The Flash opens with Barry having been trapped in the Speed Force for six months with Iris in charge of the new “Team Kid Flash”. But when Wally is challenged by a Samari who demands to see the Flash, Cisco quickly works out a way to get Barry out of the Speed Force without blowing up the city. However, he appears in Keystone not Central City and when he returns… a wave of dark matter hits a city bus full of people, creating new metahumans.

Wally leaves to find himself, and Barry returns to Iris, being the Flash, and working with Cisco (Vibe) and Caitlin (Killer Frost). At the beginning of the season, they are dealing with a sudden increase in new metahumans, who like always can be criminals, or heroes, or something in between. But before long, Barry realizes there is a new villain at work – someone who isn’t a Speedster. The Thinker is a Chessmaster – someone who plans everything and has been plotting events for three years. The Thinker gained powers during the particle accelerator accident but also was “cursed’ with an advanced and deadly form of ALS. Yet, as we discover – his planning predates the particle accelerator accident as does his sociopathic nature and utter hatred of humanity.

Clifford Devoe was a history professor at Oxford when he met and married a scientist Marlize, and the two relocated to Central City to take tenured positions. However, Devoe was angered by his students paying more attention to their phones that him and his lectures. He also insulted Marlize and her work when they met – and revealed his negative view of humanity. As the season progresses, Marlize changes from being completely complacent and even an aide to her husband’s work, to a manipulative and cold woman, to a victim – as she realizes her husband’s plans would hurt her too, and he doesn’t care. By the end of the season, it’s clear that Marlize is key to taking down The Thinker.

Wally leaves after Barry returns. Cecile discovers she’s pregnant and tells Joe West about this. She also gains temporary telepathic abilities during her pregnancy. One of the bus metas is Ralph Dibny, a private investigator who lost his position with the CCPD after Barry as a new CSI accused him of evidence tampering. After a certain amount of questioning from Barry and doubt from Ralph, he joins Team Flash as the Elongated Man – and adds a considerable amount of lightness to the team. Ralph is one of those characters who acts tough and even self-centered, but he has a good heart and cares considerably about stopping the bad guy. I liked Ralph and I hope he’s still on the show next season.

Many of the other bus metahumans are good people who have no idea what to do with their new abilities. Unfortunately, The Thinker’s plan includes killing each of the new metas in turn and absorbing their powers, as well as using their bodies. This leads Marlize to realize her husband isn’t a good person, though it takes her a while – and her discovery that he’s drugging her and manipulating her mind and memory before she starts to realize anything.

This set includes part 3 of the “Crisis on Earth X” crossover – which was pretty good but it’s without context since parts 1 and 4 are missing (they are on the Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow DVD sets presumably, which won’t be available until later in September). The first episode after the crossover has a “Did I miss something?” feel to it. And apparently, Iris and Barry are now married, finally. As I said in my review of Arrow Season 6, I really wish that Warner Brothers and the CW would do what the BBC does with the Doctor Who Christmas specials and put them out on DVD/Blu-ray immediately after the entire special airs. I would pay for a disc that includes the entire special – and still buy the season sets with that episode included in context on each series’ season set. It would be nice to have a movie version of the crossover special.

Despite all their setbacks, in the end, Team Flash, including Cecile, work together with secret weapon, Marlize, and defeat The Thinker, reversing his diabolical plan, as expected. However, this was a good season. Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, one of DC’s lesser-known heroes, provides a sense of humor and fun – and also someone for Barry to train as a new hero. The Thinker isn’t a speedster, which was a different approach to a season-long villain, though I must admit I liked the “new meta of the week” episodes almost better than the ones focusing on figuring out what the Thinker’s plans were and how to stop him. The Thinker is a chessmaster, a planner, someone who can easily pull Barry’s strings. He’s also a diabolical psychopath – something held in reserve until his evil plan is finally revealed. Parts of this worked, whereas other parts really seemed like our characters being dumb for plot purposes (especially when Barry is set-up, accused of murder, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison in the same cell as his father had occupied).

Overall, I enjoyed the season and I’m looking forward to watching season 5.

Read my review of The Flash Season 1.

Read my review of The Flash Season 2.

Read my review of The Flash Season 3.

Book Review – The Time Machine (audio)

  • Title: The Time Machine
  • Series: Big Finish Classics
  • Discs: 2 CDs
  • Author: HG Wells (original novel); Marc Platt (adapted screenplay)
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Cast: Ben Miles, Nicholas Rowe, Anjella Mackintosh, Nicholas Asbury, James Joyce, Hywel Morgan, Christopher Naylor

I have read HG Wells famous novel, The Time Machine, so I was looking forward to this adaptation by Big Finish. However, although it is a full-cast audio, the majority of the play consists of the Time Traveller telling his story to his friend, “Bertie”, identified in the credits as HG Wells. The play begins with a boys’ club dinner, with the Time Traveller presenting his idea of a machine that can travel in time though not in space, as well as a model to his friends. When his friends mock his idea, his next appearance is a traveler much the worse for wear that tells his friend his tale.

The Time Traveler does just that and travels to the far future. On a warmer Earth, he meets the Eloi, small child-like creatures who eat only fruit, speak in a “baby talk” and seem joyful but unmotivated. They are also terrified of the dark, and murmur in fear of “Morlocks”. The Time Traveler moves from frustration at this overly simple life to gradual acceptance. One day he saves a young Eloi girl from drowning when she gets a cramp, and the two become close. Uweena follows her savior around, and the Time Traveler attempts to teach her his language. Eventually, he convinces her to journey with him to find out more about their world, though the Time Traveler also wants to find his missing time machine so he can go home. They journey to a far city, finding a green marble museum, where the Time Traveler picks up a few weapons and matches. But he and Uweena are also attacked by the Morlocks – pale, simian, animal-like creatures who hate the Eloi, and even take them as food. The Time Traveler beats them back and he and Uweena retreat into the forest. They make fires at night and plan to return to a Spinx statute which the Time Traveler thinks hides his machine. But one night they are attacked by a pack of Morlocks. The Morlocks overwhelm the Time Traveler and Uweena. The next day, the Time Traveler is all right, but Uweena is missing. He makes it back to his machine, and even finds the doors in the Spinx’ pedestal are open. He thinks it’s a trap but enters anyway. It is. Still, he escapes going forward in time.

The Time Traveler moves forward millions of years to when the sun is a red giant, and the air thin. The only life is crawling creatures that live by slurping up the lichen and moss on the rocks at the edge of the sea, and red crabs that eat said creatures. Continuing on to the future, the Time Traveler nearly reaches the end of Earth’s time before he finally heads back to his own time. Appearing a week after he left, he tells his tale to his friend, Bertie.

His friends from the men’s club arrive — and they express their displeasure at the Time Traveler’s trick, insisting that he couldn’t have invented a time machine. When they which the lab/study the Time Traveler has disappeared – and according to Bertie, he is never seen again.

This is a faithful adaption of the story, The Time Machine, and that is part of the issue. The Time Traveler and Bertie discuss the Eloi and Morlocks clinically – as the result of evolution. Both believe that industrial workers would spend so much time in dark mines and darker factories and dark houses in dark slums – they’d grow pale with big eyes, unable to tolerate sunlight. Whereas the Eloi are “sunkissed” but “dumb” and innocent – like children because they have no work to give them purpose. It’s a classic ethnocentric and patronizing Victorian/Edwardian attitude that “those people” must be given work to keep them out of trouble. It’s also an over-simplification of genetic evolution. No sense of pity or responsibility or even empathy is given towards either the Morlocks or the Eloi. The Time Traveler claims to care for Uweena – but he manipulates her for his own purposes, taking her from her people, and on his own dangerous quest that she cannot possibly understand.

On the other hand, the descriptions of Earth’s far future under a red sun are well-realized and the descriptions are awesome. It becomes moody, depressing, but accurate. The word-pictures were vivid and an excellent use of the radio format. I liked that.

To sum up: on the negative side, The Time Machine shows it’s Victorian roots with a rather long debate on the future of mankind, to wit: evolution creating two sub-species. But on the positive side, the use of language in this story is evocative and moving. Overall, recommended, but there is a certain amount of ethnocentricism, patronizing attitude, and sexism that comes from the time the novel was originally written.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to Order The Time Machine on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Second Chances

  • Title: Second Chances
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Emily Pithon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/22/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles audio Doctor Who Second Chances is the final volume in the Zoë series, which is now four titles total. The audio picks-up where the previous one left off, with Zoë in the clutches of The Company who want information from her – information on the Doctor, on Time Travel, and even on the Achromatics from Echoes of Grey. But whereas before Zoë had been reluctant to say anything, her interrogator, Kym, gets her talking pretty quickly this time.

Zoë tells Kym that the TARDIS landed on a space station. She the Doctor, and Jaime learned quickly that the station was one of a pair, and the sister-station, Apollo, had just broken up. But before the break-up, Artemis Station received a coded message. Zoë offers to decode the message. As she works, she realizes the full horror of the message – it’s a computer virus that can jump species and infect humans as well, through sync operators that plug physically into computers. She tries to block and contain the virus but is knocked out.

Back at the company’s stronghold, Kym returns and tells Zoë that the Apollo Station has been destroyed, but since she said Artemis Station was destroyed two days later, they can reach the station and stop the destruction. Zoë agrees. But when she gets to the station, she slowly realizes the truth. It was Kym who knocked her out in the station – allowing the virus to get loose. And it was the older Zoë herself who gave the injured younger Zoë a breather, stating it’s “standard issue”. It’s even Kym and Zoë who are locked in the shuttle that refuses to let anyone from the station on board – and then rips the station apart when leaving. But Zoë is able to send the virus to The Company’s computers – to utterly destroy the company, and then burn itself out before it does any more damage. Younger Zoë is rescued in space by the Doctor. Older Zoë is rescued by Jen, a former Company employee and the pilot of Kym’s shuttle, who tells Zoë she will use leftover Company technology to help her remember – no strings attached.

I enjoyed this story. It was good to have the Zoë Trilogy (Quadology?) finally wrapped up and with a satisfactory conclusion. I did find the story to be a bit predictable though. Still, the performances are excellent, and I liked the story. It is highly recommended. Do listen to the first three volumes first, however.

Read my review of volume one: Echoes of Grey.

Read my review of volume two: The Memory Cheats.

Read my review of volume three: The Uncertainty Principle.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to order Second Chances on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Arrow Season 6 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Michael Emerson, Kirk Acevedo
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Due to circumstances beyond my control I missed Arrow last year and as well as the rest of the CW DC shows, so the DVD release was my first chance to watch Season 6, and it was not good. I try to be positive in all my reviews, and I will keep to the attitude and promise here, but this past season of Arrow really shows the program’s age.

The season starts with everything status quo – Oliver is mayor of Star City and managing his new team as the Green Arrow. If you were wondering what happened on Lian Yu, the series gives you a few flashbacks and that’s it. Thea is in a coma – everyone else is fine, and the series doesn’t even mention that Malcolm gave his life to save Thea. We guess. Because she’s the only one who is still injured. Oliver’s one-time girlfriend, Samantha, and mother of his child is dead. With her dying breath, she asks Oliver to care for her McGuffin, oh sorry, I mean their mutual son William. Because, yes, this season, Oliver has a child. William starts out as an annoying and spoiled child, though to be fair, he just lost his mother and he’s been introduced to a new father who basically came from nowhere. However, Oliver, with Felicity’s help manages to get through to William, so the two at least seem to be close by the end of the season.

It’s Deja Vu all over again and once more a villain is introduced, who seems unstoppable – only to be completed defeated halfway through the season. And to make matters worse, Cayden James is killed in police custody. This reveals the “real villain” a drug pusher, mobster, and gang leader with ideas above his station. Ricardo Diaz is not a compelling villain – he’s the type of bad guy Oliver ate for lunch in Season 1. Plus, in the current climate – a Hispanic villain who personifies everything that racists claim about Hispanics is not exactly the best choice for a season-long villain. At least Cayden James was compelling (he reminded me of Felicity’s father, Noah Cutter, aka “The Calculator”, actually).

The other theme of the season is family. But in this case, it’s the breaking up of families. Cayden James manages to break up Oliver’s team. First Rene (“Wild Dog”) leaves after admitting he decided to be a witness against Oliver in his trial (Oh, did I forget to mention? Oliver is accused of being the Green Arrow and is due to be put on trial.) Rene was pressured to testify because he was told he’d never see his daughter Zoe again if he didn’t. Apparently, no one in Star City hs ever heard of witness tampering, because you simply cannot do that.

Cayden James briefly assembles his own powerhouse of bad guys that look like Star City’s own Legion of Doom, including: Black Siren (Laurel Lance from another Earth), Vigilante (who turn’s out to be Dinah Drake’s former police partner and boyfriend), Ricardo Diaz (introduced as a drug dealer and thug), and Anatoly Knyazev. As alluded to before – most of these characters will end-up dead as Diaz takes over from James as villain of the season. Diaz also brings in The Quadrant, four super-mobsters who allegedly control the entire country. He manages to kill one member of the Quadrant and his son for a seat at the table, and latter kills two more members – threatening the last remaining member.

Meanwhile, Quentin Lance attempts to convert Black Siren to being his Laurel. And she does at one point claim to be Laurel in the public eye – claiming she was held hostage for two years. Quentin’s love for his daughter is a two steps forward one step back situation, though in the end it seems Laurel is willing to go against Diaz and help her father.

In Oliver’s world, having exiled Rene, he does the same thing to Dinah when she decides to kill Black Siren for killing her boyfriend, Vigilante. Even Curtis gets fed-up and walks out. Wild Dog, Black Canary, and Mr. Terrific form their own superhero team. It’s cute, but they are the B team for sure. And when Felicity discovers that one reason they’ve had so much trouble all season is that the bunker was bugged, honestly, everyone should have come home. When Oliver is dosed with Vertigo and starts hallucinating, including seeing Adrian Chase, and imagining Felicity dumping him – it should have brought the team back together. And considering how badly Oliver’s been behaving during most of the season, the Vertigo seems to have been introduced far earlier than the episode stated it was. But alas, for plot reasons, though his team seems to understand a bit more – they don’t return. And even John Diggle has left to join Lyla at ARGUS.

Thea, who is missing for much of the season, eventually awakens from her coma, only for Nyssa al Ghul to show up with a warning: Athena has formed a new group – The Thanatos Guild, which wants Thea’s blood to lead them to a mysterious box and a map. Felicity describes the box as “the box from Hellraiser” which is the best pop-culture description on the show since a Lazarus Pit was described as a “magical jacuzzi”. By the end of the episode, not only has Team Arrow found the box, opened it, and figured out how to read the map that seems at first to be blank – but Thea, Nyssa, and Roy Harper who has suddenly arrived – leave, for good, on a mission to destroy what the map reveals – the last three remaining Lazurus Pits. The entire episode comes from nowhere and reads like a backdoor pilot, at least for a mini-series. And since I’ve come to really like Thea and I like Nyssa – it’s a mini-series I’d watch. But, really, the entire episode seems to be an excuse to get Thea off the show. This makes me sad.

Oliver and Felicity also apparently get married this season – for real. Though I say, “apparently” because their marriage was during the 4-series crossover event which is not included on the DVD set. The Arrow episode of the crossover is the only one included, so it more or less makes no sense. I look forward to watching the entire crossover – but I won’t see it until all three remaining CW shows are released on DVD in late August or even September. Warner Brothers/CW needs to do with the crossovers what the BBC does with the Doctor Who Christmas specials: release them on a separate disc within a few weeks after the special airs. Then they also need to include the episodes on the respective series box sets. I would gladly shell out money for a “movie version” of the crossover. I’d even buy it if they retroactively released each crossover to date – the crossover often feels a little out of continuity anyway, they are great stories, and like the comics the idea comes from – it’s the type of thing fans will pick-up as a collector’s item even if they aren’t normally interested in the individual title(s). Plus – more money, just saying. And yes, also put the crossover episode on each season set. I wouldn’t mind owning it twice, once in the series each story comes from, and once as a complete movie on DVD or even Blu-Ray.

Meanwhile, especially once Cayden James is out of the picture, Diaz consolidates power – he has Black Siren kill Vigilante, whom he’s figured out is an undercover double-agent. He extends his control over the police force, city hall and the DA’s office. Anyone who gets in his way, Diaz kills off as he consolidates power. But the problem with this plot is two-fold: first, Diaz is basically a mobster or gang boss – no more, no less. He doesn’t have the scary psychopathic planning laser focus as Adrian Chase from last season – yet the plot seems about the same as just last season. Diaz really is more like the type of two-bit hoods and connected yet corrupt business people and officials from Season 1. Also, but the entire story reminds me of the Batman graphic novel Dark Victory – which did a better job of showing a vigilante superhero new at his job cleaning up a corrupt city. For Green Arrow, for Oliver to step back, distance himself from everyone, and attempt to clean up Star City by himself? That simply makes no sense. It also destroys what Oliver has built and what makes him work as a hero: his team.

In the end, Oliver is tried for being the Green Arrow. Diaz has a corrupt judge in charge of the case, and a prosecuting attorney who while probably not corrupt will try every trick in the book to win her case. The best bit of the trial? Christopher Chase, the Human Target, showing up to save Oliver’s butt. After the trial the team starts to realize that they need to work together again. Oliver even loops in Diggle who brings in ARGUS. Oliver also manages to get Anatoly on his side. And yes, David Nykl is brilliant – and compelling as Anatoly. In the last two episodes, everybody works together. Even the FBI is brought in. The team gets Diaz’s list of corrupt officials, who are subsequently arrested by the FBI. But Diaz himself gets away – in one of those “they never found the body” moments. Quentin Lance is killed saving Laurel. Oliver also throws himself under the bus, bargaining for immunity for his entire team, by publicly admitting he’s the Green Arrow and being sent to prison by the FBI officer they have been working on. With Diaz loose and Oliver in prison – the entire season feels like a transitional one. We will have a Season 7, but it may be the last.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 3.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 4.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 5.