Book Review – The World of Flashpoint Featuring Superman

  • Title: World of Flashpoint featuring Superman
  • Author: Scott Synder, Mike Carlin, Rex Ogle, Dan Jurgens
  • Artists: Lowell Francis, Rags Morales, Paulo Siqueira,
    Norm Rapmund, Gene Ha, Eduardo Francisco
  • Line: Stand Alone Graphic Novel
  • Characters: Superman, Lt. Sinclair, Project S1, Traci 13, Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Jason Todd, Canterbury Cricket
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/29/2016

The World of Flashpoint featuring Superman is another volume in the World of Flashpoint series that fleshes out the characters and situations from Flashpoint, explaining in greater detail this alternate view of the DC world we know, created when Barry Allen travels back in time to save his mother. This volume also features four stories.

The Superman story is definitely the strangest of the bunch – and the focus of this volume is the more mystical aspects of the DC universe. The Superman story features Lt. Sinclair, recruited by General Lane (Lois’s father) to become a super-soldier. But Sinclair is a bit unbalanced before he starts the process and the experiments, drugs, and torture only make him worse. At the same time, the being who would be Superman is a small child – who is tortured, experimented upon, and abused. We even see Krypto the Super-dog, as well as what happens to him. Sinclair, meanwhile, develops strong mental powers, influencing Project S 1 (Flashpoint’s “Superman”). Both Sinclair and Project S escape, but Sinclair goes on a rampage. Project S also meets General Lane’s young daughter, Lois. When they escape, both Sinclair and Project S head to Europe to join the fray.

The next story, “World of Flashpoint”, features a character I couldn’t pin down as being a version of a known DC character – a magic user known as Traci 13. But she was fascinating and I really enjoyed her story. 13 is, as I said, a magic user. Her mother was a precog – who dies during the Atlantean attack on Europe. This creates a rift between her and her father (who becomes the leader of H.I.V.E.). Her father blames her for her mother’s death (to be precise for not preventing it) and tells her to not use magic. Traci 13 uses magic anyway, especially her teleporting ability. She meets with a fortune teller in New Orleans who becomes a good friend.

The fortune teller sends her on a mission to find other people to assist in the fight for Earth. This gives a wider view of what’s going on in the Flashpoint world – Red Tornado and his android brothers and sisters protect Japan but want nothing to do with the rest of the world; Nat Irons in Brazil leads a group fighting the Nazis who have taken over the country; Guy Gardner has found Buddism, let go of his anger, and opened a bar in Australia; and Jason Todd is a priest in Gotham. Although none of these people can help in Traci’s fight – Traci returns to H.I.V.E. and finds her father has primed the weapon that will take out New Themyscira and Atlantis – despite projected casualties in the billions. Traci 13 tries over and over to talk her father out of the destruction. Her father, who’d preached against the use of magic – is revealed to be a strong magic user who is soaked in dark magic. But Traci manages to finally get through to him. He makes a tremendous sacrifice, but Traci also manages to save him. It’s a great story with a lot of levels to it – especially as these aren’t characters we “know” at all. That Traci is a magic user reminds me a bit of Zatanna but Traci’s magic is different and far stronger. Her teleporting ability is also something we’ve seen a few times in DC characters.

The next story is Booster Gold’s story. Booster is the same guy we know – and, as a time traveler he knows the Flashpoint world is wrong. Booster, tries to figure out what is going on, and he’s not helped by the military strike team “Sea Devils” who are convinced he’s an Atlantean and keep trying to kill him and the woman with powers that he picks up as an ally. This story may be integrated with the graphic novel Time Masters: Vanishing Point.

The last story is “The Canterbury Cricket” – what happens when a former con man is turned into a giant cricket? This story tells us. Canterbury Cricket joins a number of bug-themed heroes in the Resistance. This story is short, and focuses more on Cricket’s back story, but it’s fun and an enjoyable read.

Other than the Superman story which was both confusing and very sad, this volume was excellent. I liked all four stories, even the Superman one, I just found that story to be sad. Booster’s story is great – I always like Booster Gold stories. Traci 13 is an awesome superhero in her own right, and intriguing as a new character. Even Canterbury Cricket, though that story is quite short, is something very different as both a hero and as a story.

Book Review – Doctor Who – The Beast of Babylon

  • Title: The Beast of Babylon
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Charlie Higson
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/05/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who – The Beast of Babylon is part of the 50th Anniversary 12 Books – 12 Doctors collection of mini-books. This book features the Ninth Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccelston and takes place between Rose deciding not to travel with the Doctor in “Rose” and the Doctor coming back and asking her a second time, also in “Rose”. It’s a unique idea that the Doctor could have an entire adventure in that brief span we see as seconds in the first episode of the new series.

The novel starts with Ali having a picnic with her family, when the Doctor shows up. The Doctor, well, does Doctorish things, which seem a bit confusing because the story is from Ali’s point of view. Then Ali sits and thinks about how much she wants to travel and have adventures as she watches the moons over a lake at night. So we know Ali and her family are on an alien planet. The Doctor arrives and says that Ali has something he needs back, a silver orb. Ali does have it, but she wants to travel with the Doctor. The Doctor agrees.

As the Doctor takes the TARDIS to ancient Babylon on Earth, he explains he is after a Starman – a being created during the collapse of stars into black holes and white dwarfs and such. The silver orb can be used to send the Starman back where it came from before it can eat a planet. And it was the silver orb that the Doctor used to defeat the Starman on Ali’s planet. The Doctor also talks about the girl, Rose, he met on Earth.

When the Doctor arrives on Earth, he tells Ali to stay in the TARDIS. Ali listens, but full of curiosity, figures out how to use the TARDIS scanner. So she sees the Doctor getting in trouble. When the guards, who have hauled the Doctor off, attack the TARDIS – Ali strikes back, using her antenodes and even killing a man. Ali then wanders around, following the Doctor, trying to help, and causing havoc in a way. It’s at this point we realize she isn’t human.

The ancient Babylonians think Ali is a monster and the Doctor a sorcerer. However, when the Starman attacks it prevents the Doctor’s execution, and the Doctor and Ali work to defeat the Starman. The Doctor then rushes Ali in to the TARDIS. Ali is, it turns out, an ant-like being, but, obviously, intelligent. The women are the deadliest of her species. And she convinces the Doctor to give Rose another chance. Ali is returned to her home planet, glad to be home, and appreciative of her home.

This is a good story, especially the way Higson gradually reveals that Ali isn’t human, but that she is still a “person” so to speak. And I really liked seeing the Doctor with a non-human companion for a story. The Starman wasn’t a great villain – basically a monster to defeat that, despite being a strong threat, is rather easily defeated. Ancient Babylon and King Hammurabi make for a different setting for a Doctor Who story.

Recommended.

Book Review – The World of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern

  • Title: World of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern
  • Author: Adam Schlagman
  • Artists: Pornsak Pichetshote, Marco Castiello, Jeff Lemire
  • Line: Stand Alone Graphic Novel
  • Characters: Green Lantern (Abin Sur), Frankenstein, Oliver Queen, Hal Jordan
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/22/2016

The World of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern is one of a series of graphic novels that flesh-out the characters introduced in Flashpoint the alternative-universe story in which Barry Allen (the Flash) changes time – much to the the detriment of the world – by saving his mother. As with other graphic novels in this series, this one features four stories.

The first story is the story of Abin Sur Green Lantern of Earth – and I loved it. Abin Sur survives crash landing on Earth, so Hal Jordan never gets the Power Ring. Yet the story gives a great back story for Abin Sur, introduces his planet, and has an awful lot about Sinestro too. The Green Lantern Corps is trapped in a war on two fronts against the Black Lanterns on the one side (yes, Blackest Night not only is still happening but it happens simultaneously to Flashpoint) and the Manhunters on the other. As if having two of the worst Lantern enemies tearing the universe apart isn’t enough, Sinestro decides to interrogate Atroicious – which goes about as well as you’d think. The Guardians, being rather concerned with the state of the Universe also only send Abin Sur to Earth for a simple “find-and-retrieve” mission. Abin Sur, who it turns out, is a really nice guy, gets involved in the mess that is Flashpoint Earth. Sinestro tracks him down and well… things happen that I really don’t want to spoil. Needless to say it’s both satisfying and a great story that in a way makes you sad that Abin Sur died in the “real” DC Universe.

“Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown” – This story would make for a great movie on it’s own. During World War II, a scientist discovers a way to turn normal soldiers into the great gothic creatures of Victorian fiction. The main characters would have all died without some form of treatment, including the scientist’s own daughter, who now resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Also in the group are Frank (Frankenstein’s “Monster”), a werewolf, and a vampire. These “creatures” win the war for the Allies, but after the war they are moth-balled in storage. With Flashpoint, the group escape or are released. There’s a considerable amount of flashbacks and flash forwards to explain who the characters are, and where they came from as they search first for Nina’s father and later to find where she and the rest came from. The story has a great feel to it and mixes the modern and the gothic really well.

“Green Arrow Industries” presents us with an Oliver Queen, CEO of defense firm, Green Arrow Industries who’s precisely the opposite of the Oliver Queen we know from the normal DC Universe. This Oliver resembles the pre-Ironman Tony Stark in more than one way. Oliver steals alien technology, meta-human DNA, super abilities, even weapons like Heatwave’s and Citizen Cold’s guns and weaponizes them, then sells them to the highest bidder. His defense plants start in the US, but he’s recently outsourced them over seas to make even more money. This Oliver has eight children (at least) from various wives and girlfriends and knows none of them. It’s even his own daughter who comes after him for not thinking of the consequences of his actions.

“Hal Jordan” tells the story of what would happen to Jordan without the ring. Now a fighter pilot, still in love with Carol, totally unable to be serious enough to tell her so, and basically a guy who acts like Tom Cruise in Top Gun (not a compliment) Hal is a mess. Although Hal is still a hero in that he, and Carol (also a fighter pilot) are fighting hard in the losing war to save Earth from the Amazon-Aquaman war; Hal needed the steadying influence of the Green Lantern Corps and the ability to be part of something greater to lose his innate selfishness. Hal does, though, volunteer to drop the Green Arrow Industries untested bomb on the Amazons. If you’ve read Flashpoint you know how successful that was.

This is a great graphic novel. The art is consistently excellent. The stories are also a fascinating glimpse into what “might hav been” thanks to Flashpoint. For readers of the series it’s a must read.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Spore

  • Title: Spore
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Alex Scarrow
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/03/2016

Doctor Who – Spore is the eighth book in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Books 12 Doctors collection and features the Eighth Doctor as played by Paul McGann. The Doctor has no companion in this story. The Doctor lands in Nevada in the dessert and immediately runs into a military investigative team. They are all in protective gear, but Major Platt jumps to the conclusion that The Doctor is from the CDC in Atlanta, this bit of mistaken identity doesn’t actually last long though and the Doctor ends up introducing himself as being from UNIT – which gives him the run of the operation.

The Doctor goes to the nearby town of Ft. Casey, where everyone is dead and only a black goo remains – of all organic matter (plants, people, even animals). The Doctor recognizes the signs – it’s an ancient spore which once terrified Gallifrey, killing thousands of Gallifreyans. In the town, the Doctor meets Cap’t. Evelyn Chan, the soul survivor of Major Platt’s original team. The Doctor explains what the Spore is – but far from a simple organic virus or biological entity, it’s designed. Whether it was a weapon or a form of terraforming is unknown. However, the surprising thing is that after the first stage of gathering organic material, and the second stage of making organic constructs for defense, it begins the third stage – constructing a brain – this brain will ask The Question. If the Question is answered correctly, the entity will self-destruct, leaving the intelligent species alone. But if the species answers incorrectly – the entire planet will succumb to biological destruction. The Doctor enters into conversation with the entity and gambles.

This was a good short story. The idea of an intelligent virus or entity was unusual. And the story, though at first sounding like The Andromeda Strain actually ends in a much better way and is more intelligent.

Recommended.

Glee Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Glee
  • Season: Season 1
  • Episodes: 22 Episodes
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-ray)
  • Network: Fox
  • Cast: Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer, Lea Michele, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

Glee was an extremely popular series that I somehow managed to miss. Unfortunately, the first season is extremely disappointing and at times even painful to watch. The series follows the adventures and misadventures of a group of misfit kids who manage to grow and learn by becoming members of the Glee Club at a small town Ohio high school. It’s an interesting premise at least. Musicals are one of my guilty pleasures, so I really should have enjoyed this show.

Unfortunately, Glee has some of the worst writing I have ever seen. The characters aren’t characters – they are stereotypes: the gay kid, the fat Black girl, the kid in a wheel chair, the dumb cheerleader, the spoiled Jewish brat. The stereotypes are offensive – and represent short cuts in writing. Rather than let us know what it’s like to be in a wheelchair, or overweight, or be raised by two gay Dads, or to be a gay high school boy – this show instead merely gives us stereotypes, especially in the first half of the season. The kid in a wheelchair doesn’t even get a name until ten episodes in. Sue, the cheerleading coach even calls Artie, “cripple”. Now, Sue is the series “bad guy”, but the principal uses the same extremely offensive word to describe Artie, as well as using “budget” as an excuse to deny him basics like handicap-accessible school transportation, a handicap-accessible entrance to the school (other than through the loading dock), and one has to wonder about bathrooms. This is a clear example of Title IX violations (and violations of the ADA) and would get the school sued. But Artie isn’t the only kid treated in deplorable fashion by the writers of this show. Rachel constantly mentions her two gay dads, but we never, ever see them, even when Rachel gets suddenly curious about her birth mother (a surrogate). The show could have shown us Rachel asking her fathers some pointed questions, and gotten real drama and emotion out of the issues of adoption and surrogacy. But instead, her dads are always absent and it’s Rachel who finds her mother, a showbiz diva and show choir coach of the rival high school glee club, Vocal Adrenaline.

The adults in this show are even worse than the kids. At least the kids are likable, especially as we learn more about them (yes, this is one of those ensemble shows that eventually focuses an episode or two on each main character). We have Will Schuester, the Glee Club coach (and Spanish teacher), who is the perfect teacher and perfect guy. He’s married to Terri, his high school sweetheart, a materialistic woman who is more focused on keeping up with the Jones than being happy or letting Will be happy. She even fakes a pregnancy when she fears Will wants to leave her. He eventually figures this out and they divorce. Good riddance, Terri.

Sue Sylvester is the cheerleading coach, she hates Will with a passion, and hates the Glee club. We are given absolutely no reason for this whatsoever. Sue is rude, cruel, mean-spirited, and dumb. She’s conniving as well. The only reason we are given for her hatred of Glee is that they are “taking her budget”, but considering Sue’s champion cheerleaders have apparently the world’s largest budget, she shouldn’t even care about the pennies going to Glee. Sue is also just as terrible to her own cheerleaders as she is to every one else – making fun of the girl’s bodies, firing her team captain when it becomes obvious she’s pregnant, forcing two girls to join Glee as her spies, etc. Sue even gets a commentary spot on the local news where “Sue Sees It” encourages littering and other such drivel. Sue might be interesting if we ever learned why she hates Will (I mean, What did he do – ignore her in high school? Tell her she couldn’t sing and kick her out of the glee club?), but since we don’t – she becomes a cardboard villain. The only hint we get is Sue is jealous of Will – which makes no sense at all. Late in the season, Will finally takes their rivalry to her and gives Sue a well-deserved dose of her own medicine.

Other characters include Emma, the OCD guidance counselor who is not so secretly in love with Will. Or “has a crush” might be more accurate, because when they finally start dating, she pulls way back. Emma is likable, but written as weak and a bit dumb because of her OCD (which has her constantly cleaning the teacher’s lounge, and using wet wipes on her grapes before eating them), so she becomes a caricature rather than a character. The gym coach loves Emma, and even convinces her to marry him as a “second choice” since Will is unavailable. Needless to say, the marriage falls through and we never see the gym coach again. The principal rounds out the characters – he’s relatively fair, though he ends up under Sue’s thumb when she drugs him and takes sexual blackmail pictures of the two in bed.

The only thing Glee has going for it are the musical numbers. The singing and dancing are fantastic, as is the Broadway Musical Film style choreography. I was continuously impressed by the singing, dancing, and song craft in this show. At times, it is obvious (at least on Blu-ray) that the characters are lip syncing, but it’s a minor issue. I’m used to musicals with bad (or no) plots and good dancing, but it’s a lot harder to overlook bad plots, weak characterization, and extremely bad writing for 22 hours rather than two or three. Even though I know some of the actors from The Flash and Supergirl were eventually on Glee, I will not be buying more of this series. I was very disappointed, and that’s sad, because I really wanted to like it.

Book Review – The World of Flashpoint featuring the Flash

  • Title: World of Flashpoint Featuring the Flash
  • Author: Scott Kolins
  • Artists: Sean Ryan, José Marzán Jr., Sterling Gates, Adam Glass, Ig Guara, Oliver Nome, Rodney Buchemi, Joel Gomez
  • Line: Stand Alone Graphic Novel
  • Characters: The Flash (Barry Allen), Citizen (Cap’t.) Cold, Bart Allen, Gorilla Grood
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/19/2016

The World of Flashpoint is a series of graphic novels that flush out Flashpoint giving the reader more details and greater depth to the alternate universe characters that we briefly met in Flashpoint after Barry Allen changes time to save his mother and creates a disastrous and apocalyptic world. This novel contains four stories. I liked two of the four, so it’s hard to even rate the book – the two good stories that of “Citizen Cold” and that of Kid Flash – Bart Allen I’d rate at 4. But the Gorilla Grood story I’d rate at 2 and the prison break story I’d rate at 2 or 3.

The first story in this collection is about Citizen Cold – the hero of Central City. Yet Leonard Snart is the same cold so-and-so we see as a villain. He’s killed villains – and anyone who might discover his secrets alike (including Wally West). He has a thing for Iris, and he’s desperate to save his sister who’s being held captive by the Rogues Gallery. And Cold’s Rogues, though similar or the same as the Flash’s Rogues that we know, are terrified of Cold. Cold’s a fascinating protagonist. He’s not precisely good. And he’s not out and out evil. And the way Snart is written in this story, reminded me very much of the way he’s played by Wentworth Miller in CW’s series Legends of Tomorrow, since this graphic was originally published in single-magazine form in 2011 and as a compilation in 2012, perhaps it did inspire the CW character. Also the art for the story is really excellent.

The second story, “Legion of Doom” is, essentially a prison break story. Remember the evil helmet headquarters of the Legion of Doom, the anti-justice league from Superfriends? In this story, it’s a prison for super-powered villains, and criminals without super powers but who are deemed too dangerous to be held in regular prisons. It’s the Flashpoint universe’s Belle Reve. Heatwave is taken into the prison, where he spends time learning how it works. He then pairs with a totally out of his head Plastic Man to stage his escape. They also fly the dark-helmet Doom prison to Detroit to destroy the place so Heatwave can have his revenge on Cyborg. None of this made any sense to me – but the Legion of Doom is not something in DC comics that I’m super aware of in terms of comics history. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the story. While Captain Cold is someone that isn’t exactly heroic to say the least, one can have some sympathy for his feelings of protectiveness for his sister. Heatwave has no redeeming factors at all, so there’s no one to engage you as a reader in this story.

The third story is “Grood of War” – the telepathic, talking, super gorilla has conquered Africa, with Capetown South Africa the last to fall (of all places). Grood’s lieutenant wonders what they will do next, and Grood plans a personal trip to Capetown to inspect the governmental facilities his troops have conquered. On the way there, the caravan is attacked. Grood and his troops destroy the attacking humans, all but one young boy. Grood however, rather than killing the boy, tells him that “he wants him to live, to spend his whole life hating him [Grood], planning to kill him, and when you’re ready – come find me and do it.” Even stranger, when his lieutenant says, “What next?” after Grood examines what’s left of Capetown, Grood announces they will invade Europe. Yet Grood says he hopes they will be destroyed. Why is the telepathic ape so suicidal? No one knows – it’s not explained. This was a weird story, and I found it difficult to follow.

“Kid Flash Lost” I really enjoyed – it features Bart Allen as “Kid Flash” (but he’s described as an “Impulsive” young man, and Hot Pursuit. Bart wakes from a virtual reality prison of sorts and finds himself on an alien spaceship belonging to Brainiac who’s taken over the Earth in Bart’s time. Bart is shocked – this isn’t his time. But he and Hot Pursuit (Patty Spivot) have to figure out what’s going on. When Patty dies, Bart realizes the best he can do is go back in time to see that none of this happens – and thus everyone will be saved, including the future he knows. Bart travels to the past and meets Windrunner in the Old West, but when Windrunner reaches out to him, he’s destroyed and Bart jumps forward. Bart arrives in Jay’s time – but he’s been murdered. He also arrives at a cemetery only to see Iris mourning the recently dead Wally West. But then Bart realizes the Speed Force is propelling him forward so he can reach Barry – and as the White Flash, pure Speed Force energy, he can urge Barry to put things right and save everyone. In the end, Bart sacrifices even himself to help Barry make it.

Again, the first and last story in this collection were good, and the last one, especially was really good. But I wasn’t as impressed with the other two.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect

  • Title: The Ripple Effect
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Malorie Blackman
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2016

Doctor Who – The Ripple Effect is part the of Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Books series of mini-books. The Ripple Effect features the Seventh Doctor as played on the BBC television series by Sylvester McCoy and his companion Ace (aka Dorothy McShane). The mini-book opens with the Doctor and Ace in the TARDIS and they are stuck. They are in the space/time equivalent of the Sargasso Sea – becalmed and utterly unable to move. Other ships are also stranded. While the Doctor works on the TARDIS console trying to fix it so they can get out of the time/space trap, Ace watches out the viewing screen at the greyish exterior. Then she suddenly sees the TARDIS. But the Doctor dismisses this as an illusion.

The Doctor makes a desperate move, and the TARDIS is kicked free of the trap. They “auto-land” on a planet, which they soon discover to be Skaro. But rather the home of the militaristic, xenophobic, racist, bullies we know as Daleks – Skaro is home to a race of Daleks who are the center of teaching, medicine, and research for the entire galaxy. People of all races and of all ages come to the Academy on Skaro to learn, study, and do research. Even the Time Lords have come to Skaro to say thanks for the Dalek medical team that saved the life of the Lord President of Gallifrey.

The Doctor, of course, knows this to be wrong. Ace also remembers her own fights against vicious Daleks, but over time she comes to accept the new world she’s on, and the new universe.

The Doctor, however, continues to investigate – and although the Daleks are as good as they seem, this alternate universe isn’t stable – and in the end, he and Ace must do something about that.

The Ripple Effect is an excellent story, in that it’s really about prejudice – the Doctor’s previous experiences with evil Daleks make it difficult for him to accept that these Daleks are good. Ace at first agrees with him, but she gradually accepts what she sees with her own eyes, despite her memories, these Daleks are good. Ace even becomes friends with one of the other students – which makes the end even more tragic.

This is an excellent and very short story, as all the other stories in this series are short. Recommended.