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.

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Book Review – Doctor Who: The Dying Light

  • Title: The Dying Light
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nick Wallace
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoë Heriot, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Frazer Hines (Jamie, The Doctor), Wendy Padbury (Zoë), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/15/2018

The Companion Chronicles series by Big Finish usually has one or two performers only and is like a two-hander play. The Dying Light, however, has three performers, which makes this more like a traditional full-cast play, although Zoë gets very little to do. This is also the third audio play in the 50th Anniversary “Stoyn” Trilogy. The first audio play is The Beginning and the third is Luna Romana. I didn’t realize it was a trilogy when I purchased them separately, so I actually listened to Luna Romana first and then The Beginning and finally this one, but it still works without being too confusing.

The TARDIS with the Second Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë lands in a cave, and when they exit they find they are in a desert that looks like a sea from the heat shimmer, the sun is also a dying sun. However, the planet is not deserted and the TARDIS team soon find a large city called Sanctuary. The first person they meet is a scientist who is researching the local rock formations. The rock looks like granite but it’s very light, porous, and even buoyant. The Doctor gives the scientist a scanner. The scientist who doesn’t seem surprised at all at the TARDIS team’s sudden arrival, tells them where new arrivals should go. Following directions, they meet Catherine who explains more about Sanctuary. The Planet Provides is their motto, and she explains they have two types of storms here – sandstorms, which are dangerous because the sand can literally cut or blind you, so it’s best to stay under shelter until it passes, and the other kind of storm – that bring the ships. Sometimes small craft and other times other larger ships – but all are welcome at the Sanctuary. This explains why no one is surprised that the Doctor and his young companions have arrived. Catherine tells the Doctor that all faiths are welcome, and points to the flags of the different faiths. She brings him to a cave where food is grown and shows him a plant laden with pods that are filled with potable water. Then a storm comes and they see a ship crashing above – it passes the city and crashes into the sea. Catherine asks Jaime to join her and they rush to the rescue boats to rescue the passengers and crew of the ship. After the dramatic rescue, they find out that there’s been an accident – the scientist they met earlier has died, apparently falling off the cliffs where he was working. The Doctor is also brought to Stoyn who’s become a religious leader on Sanctuary. He has his priests bring the Doctor before him.

In part two, the Doctor and Stoyn square off against each other. First Stoyn insists the Doctor give him the TARDIS key. The Doctor does, but it doesn’t work for Stoyn because the Doctor’s set the TARDIS to never let Stoyn in. Stoyn decides to just take the TARDIS’s power so he can somehow return to Gallifrey. He tells Jaime that the Doctor was a god amongst gods but he left. As Stoyn’s attempts to steal power and power a beacon get started, the threatening sand storm grows worse and worse. The Doctor realizes, through some encounters that Jaime and Zoë have with alien creatures that seem to made of the same stone as the Sanctuary, that Sanctuary is a living entity – and it provides everything that those living in the Sanctuary need. Because the World Provides – they don’t need technology, and tech is actually an anathema to the world, which is treated as an infection. Even the crashing ships are there because Stoyn needs them to escape and the others need new people to survive – not to the point that Sanctuary is a Bermuda Triangle in Space of traffic hazards, but some of the people on Sanctuary need company. As Stoyn ignores the Doctor’s warnings and explanations – and tries to operate his newly constructed and powered beacon, the sandstorm worsens. Zoë points out the symbols on tapestries and similar ones on the tunnels in the temple. Jaime remembers that the scientist they meet earlier thought the city looked like the ship. The Doctor has the people Catherine’s brought to the temple for shelter moving the tapestries and the city becomes a ship under full sail. The Doctor also tells Stoyn he must destroy his power converters and beacon. Stoyn doesn’t listen but it blows-up, and Stoyn disappears. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë quietly leave in the TARDIS. The Doctor tells Jaime that the city and the planet have hundreds of years before the sun goes out.

I liked this story better than its predecessor, The Beginning, but Stoyn is still an annoying character. He’s angry, homesick, and a bit stupid – but he also blames the Doctor for everything and doesn’t really seem to understand anything that’s going on. He also doesn’t listen to the Doctor – when Jaime, and then Zoë mention the rock creatures that attacked them – Stoyn insists they are lying. When the Doctor explains something about the power Stoyn needs and cannot get from the TARDIS, which seems like common sense – again, Stoyn insists the Doctor is lying. And Stoyn blames the Doctor for being carried away from Gallifrey.

Zoë is criminally underused in this story, which is a pity – Sanctuary seems like the type of place she’d really like.

Frazer Hines does a brilliant job as Jaime as well as playing the Doctor.

Overall, a good story and I recommend it.

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

Click to order The Dying Light on CD or Download.

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

Riverdale Season 2 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: Riverdale
  • Season: Season 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Marisol Nichols, Luke Perry
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

Some Spoilers Below – be warned.

Riverdale Season 2 opens with the cliffhanger from the end of Season 1 with Fred Andrews getting shot at Pop’s. Archie runs to his father and also sees the man, a man in a Black Hood, who shot his father. Archie rushes to the hospital with his Dad. It’s a near thing, but Fred recovers. Shortly thereafter Ms. Grundy (Archie’s former music teacher) is murdered in Greendale, and Moose and Midge are attacked by a hooded man with a gun in Lover’s Lane, where they are also trying the new street drug, Jingle Jangle. The mystery for the season is: Who is the Black Hood? The mystery of who the Black Hood is is simply not as compelling as the mystery of Who Killed Jason Blossom? from last season. Not to say Season 2 is bad – it isn’t. This is still a well-crafted mystery show, but the first season had a tenser feel and a mystery that was more connected to the characters. About halfway through the season, the Black Hood, who has been tormenting Betty with sick phone calls, is caught. But Archie isn’t sure it’s the right man, because he saw the Black Hood’s eyes and he thinks he could identify him. But since Sheriff Keller shot the man in the back (while he was threatening Archie and Betty) the narrative is set.

The rest of the season focuses more on the characters and their dark emotions and secrets. Whereas season 1 showed us some really messed-up parents, season 2 shows us teenagers who haven’t fallen that far from the tree so to speak. Betty is especially becoming a dark character, but Archie isn’t the “all-American teenager” he appears to be – from briefly founding a vigilante group/protection league for students called, “The Red Circle”, to working for Veronica’s mobster father, Hiram Lodge – Archie is often just not a sweet kid, not by a long shot.

Meanwhile, Jughead is shipped off to the South Side of Riverdale, and it’s through him that we meet new characters, see new locations and form sympathies with people who are poorer than those on the “Northside” and who have fewer opportunities. In his new school, Southside High – a nightmare of a place with metal detectors on the doors, no doors in the restrooms, drugs, gangs, and violence, Jughead’s first priority is to get the school paper up and running again. Told by the teacher-sponsor to steer clear of drugs and gangs, Jughead plans on doing just that. But Toni Topaz, a girl in his father’s gang the Southside Serpents, gives him lay of the land and warns him that he needs to join the Serpents or a rival gang, the Ghoulies, will have him for lunch. Jughead resists briefly but then joins the Serpents. In the Serpents, he finds a home, a community, and as he tries to navigate this new and dangerous world, he also finds dangerous rivals in the gang, especially Tall Boy and the Serpent lawyer, or “Snake Charmer”, Penny.

Jughead shines throughout the season – his narration underlines many of the episodes, and episodes without it are somehow missing something. Jughead emerges as an artistic, romantic, and justice-seeking soul, despite his dark, sarcastic narration. Jughead believes in justice, justice for all, and even manages to see the good in the Serpents.

Unfortunately, another theme of the season is the Northside blaming every bad thing on the Serpents, including the Black Hood crimes (who turns out not to be a Serpent or even from the Southside – both of them). From Hiram Lodge’s business dealings to acquire Southside land, and even landmarks, at rock-bottom prices for a project that’s very hush-hush; to Betty’s mother’s tirades against the Southside in her paper, The Register, to the mayor and Riverdale principal attacking Southside tradition – it’s a virtual Civil War in Riverdale. And pretty much everything the more privileged Northsiders say about the Southside is proven false, but too late to stop Hiram’s plans.

Once we’ve met our Southside cast, and become familiar with its locations – things are shaken up. Southside High is closed so Hiram can buy the land dirt cheap, for, it turns out, building a prison. Jughead, Toni, and other Serpents are sent to Riverdale High. There’s an adjustment period, but when it looks like the Serpents will be transferred again to a school two hours away, Archie and Jughead rally the school to stand with the new students – who get to stay.

Season 2 of Riverdale was not as focused as Season 1 – some plotlines get dropped or resolved too quickly. The street drug Jingle Jangle is mentioned in the first episode, but other than a pair of kids getting high on the drug at Lover’s Lane while doing what one does at Lover’s Lane, and one wild party held by Veronica and an old friend of her’s Nick St. Clair – the drug isn’t much of an important plot. It doesn’t help that Jingle Jangle looks like Pixie Stix – and it’s eaten the same way. Nick is a jerk who tries to assault Veronica (and gets flattened for his trouble), then roofie’s Cheryl and tries to date rape her – only to be stopped by the Pussycats, led by Veronica and Josie. Jingle Jangle is made by a drug dealer called “The Sugarman” with ties to Clifford Blossom. But when the Black Hood sends Betty after him, she discovers his identity in one episode – so not much suspense there.

The kids have ups and downs in their relationships, but for the most part throughout the season, it’s Archie and Veronica and Betty and Jughead. Any issues tend to be temporary. At the very end of the season, we find out that Cheryl is a lesbian, who starts a relationship with Toni Topaz. I hope we see more of this relationship next season because the little we see crackles and it’s awesome. And yes, Cheryl’s horrible mother disapproves of her daughter’s sexuality. Penelope Blossom even tries to have it beat out of her, but Kevin and Veronica rescue Cheryl. (Their line? “Cheryl, We’re here to rescue you!”)

This season includes, “Carrie, the Musical”, which seems to fit the characters, though it also felt like an episode of Glee instead of Riverdale. But the episode ends with Midge getting killed, which gets everyone to realize they caught the wrong guy when it comes to the Black Hood. The end of the season is a wild ride to find out who the Black Hood is. Not saying who it was, though it wasn’t entirely a surprise, especially with hints that get dropped quickly. Also, a character I never quite trusted. And that’s all I’m saying about that.

Overall, I recommend Riverdale Season 2, but it’s not for younger viewers – there’s a lot of implied violence and sex (strong PG-13 levels, sometimes light R). I like Jughead’s narration. When our core characters – Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Archie are together and not on the outs or fighting – it works. Some of the secondary characters: Cheryl, Josie, Kevin, and now Toni, round out the cast and add some needed diversity to the universe. I will definitely watch Season 3.

Read my review of Riverdale Season 1.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beginning

  • Title: The Beginning
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Susan, First Doctor, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Cast: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/08/2018

I listened to The Beginning at the beginning of this week, but it was a good and enjoyable story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line, even if the details are a bit fuzzy now. The Beginning starts with the Doctor and Susan on the run on Gallifrey, they find a TARDIS in a repair/junk shop and leave. The Doctor and Susan are refugees, fleeing their home, because “their home is no longer their home”. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones on board their TARDIS – Quadrigger Stoyn, who is meant to be dismantling the TARDIS engines is also on board when the ship takes off. They discover this when the TARDIS makes a rather ungraceful landing. Stoyn is not the nicest person, and he clearly buys the Gallifreyan party line – whatever it is. The audio doesn’t make things crystal clear, but we can assume a few things: Gallifrey is now supporting isolationism, Stoyn and others have a negative, ethnocentric attitude towards “outsiders” and “aliens”, and although it isn’t stated outright – the Time Lords may even be racist in their attitudes towards others.

The TARDIS half materializes and half crashes on the Earth, but not the Earth we know – and aliens call Archayons are seeding Earth to make it a garden but with the precision of a formal English garden rather than the wildness of a forest. They are doing this from the moon apparently. At first, the Doctor hopes to obtain help from Stoyn (after all he should know how to fix their TARDIS), and a power source from the Archayons. But as it turns out, the Archayons are much darker than they appear, and Stoyn’s price is higher than the Doctor is willing to pay.

The second part begins with Susan waking in a lunar ambulance that is heading to Giant Leap base. She watches the First Contact video shown to her by her nurse, and wonders where her Grandfather is. She can hear his warnings in her head, but she doesn’t know where he is. The ambulance is attacked, the nurse and medical doctor are killed, but Susan finds her grandfather unharmed. They manage to warn Giant Leap base that the ambulance is infested with deadly parasites, but then they see Giant Leap base being attacked. The Blue Lightning clearly is an Archayon weapon. Somehow the Doctor and Susan get to the TARDIS and return to the Archayon base, which is now attacking Earth and the moonbase. Apparently, the Archayons are upset that their order has been upset by untamed life in the millions of years that they were frozen. Still, the Doctor and Susan manage to warn the Earth, which is well-prepared to attack back and even destroy the Archayons weapons and base. Stoyn, who has sided with the Archayons, is left behind and the Doctor and Susan leave in the TARDIS, which has a new power cell and is sort of working. They visit another planet.

This is a new and different take on how the Doctor and Susan left Gallifrey. I liked the idea of the two being refugees. The Archayons are unusual creatures – looking like glass peanuts, with the ability to flow together to form structures or do work, then flow apart as individual beings. However, in part two they become almost cardboard villains – so determined to not only seed life but orderly life they can’t see the forest for the trees. Stoyn, whom I also encountered in Luna Romana is a weird character – played by Terry “Davros” Molloy – he flips between government functionary to nearly radical “anti-alien” activist in a sense. He’s probably meant to suggest the type of people the Doctor and Susan are fleeing, but it feels off. When Classic Who visited Gallifrey, it was often shown to be a rather boring and stuffy place. But Gallifrey also seems to have an awful lot of corruption and political intrigue too. So in some aspects, the character of Quadrigger Stoyn doesn’t quite fit in with that. But then, The Beginning clearly indicates that something’s happened on Gallifrey – something serious enough that the Doctor and Susan are literally fleeing for their lives.

Recommended.

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

Click the link to order The Beginning on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Good Companion

  • Title: The Good Companion
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Adele Matera, Arianna Florean, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 3)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”), Cleo
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/07/2018

**Spoiler Alert** I loved the conclusion to Titan Comics Tenth Doctor Year Three series. It wrapped up everything and even tied into the Free Comic Book Day Event for 2018. The Good Companion starts with Cleo chasing a hidden alien. She catches him, but when his Shimmer shield evaporates he is attacked and destroyed. Cleo, however, finds an alien device that he was hiding. When she looks at the data on the device, she’s shocked and immediately calls the Doctor.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, Cindy, and Gabby are on Ouloumos, Zhe’s private moon. Gabby is learning to control her Block Transfer Computations powers, while the Doctor and Cindy are there for moral support. But Cindy is getting bored. The Doctor is trying to be supportive and not feel too confined by staying in the same place. To keep himself busy, the Doctor is trying to repair Marcie, whom he describes to Cindy as a highly advanced robot. When the Doctor casually remarks that he needs the right parts to repair Marcie, Cindy urges him to take a quick trip in the TARDIS and that they won’t be missed. Sigh. “The trouble with time travel is never having enough time.”

The Doctor and Cindy head to Mechma Onzlo III space station where Onzlo is happy to see him – because his wife is not his wife. Before the Doctor can investigate, Marteek confirms this and heads off in a flying saucer that makes a TARDIS-like sound as it takes off. The Doctor and Cindy start to follow in the TARDIS to track Marteek. Meanwhile, Noobis is still at the library on Aramuko with his girlfriend, Siffhoni, who needles him – he decides to call the Doctor to pick him up to prove the Doctor exists. Not to be outdone – Gabby realizes the Doctor is gone and gets angry, but she is able to control her vortex butterflies and Block Transfer powers. And the Doctor gets an emergency message in the TARDIS.

Leaving Marteek’s trail, for now, the Doctor goes to Earth to see Cleo who shows him the alien artifact, which says the Earth will cease to exist within a few days. The information and device seem to be legitimate – but Cindy points out that it can’t be since they’ve been to Earth’s future.

Gabby is kidnapped by the Time Sentinels. When Zhe tries to contact the Doctor about this – he literally is too busy to answer her call, what with the Earth about to be destroyed and the cloister bell ringing because Noobis wants the Doctor to come and pick him up.

Gabby’s experiences with the Time Sentinels are exceedingly well-told. First, everything is black and then red and she’s confronted by an Ood that has a mysterious message for her. When she wakes up, she’s being held by the Time Sentinels. Aspect Red has gone way beyond his programming and wants to destroy the Doctor whom he sees as a threat to the Web of Time. The Time Sentinels want to convince Gabby to be a weapon against the Doctor. Hint: it won’t work.

The Doctor, meanwhile, realises the box Cleo has is a trap, as he tells Cindy: “Earth’s supposed destruction is a piece of cheese. We’re the mouse. Question is: Who’s the Cat that set the trap?” The Doctor and Cindy go to pick up Noobis. When Noobis sees Cleo it starts a cascade of his memories.

Gabby is hounded and harassed by the Time Sentinels, but she also finds an ally (of sorts) in Aspect Blue who realises that Aspect Red is going beyond his programming. Gabby is knocked out and wakes in a cell with the real Marteek.

On Zhe’s moon, as Cleo and Cindy catch-up over a meal and become closer, the Time Sentinels plans start to come together – and it’s not good for the Doctor.

The Doctor and Siffhoni have a heart to heart and she warms up to the Doctor. A giant red maw appears above Zhe’s moon. The Doctor challenges the Time Sentinels. Gabby attacks the Red Sentinel and has a chat with the Lock-Keeper. Aspect Red sees creativity as chaos and has become convinced the Doctor can no longer exist because he inspires the creativity and the strength of his companions. Aspect Red is knocked out – and Blue becomes Commander. (His level-headed approach is short-lived.) The Doctor gets Marcie working and introduces Cleo and Cindy to Marcie. The Doctor asks Marcie to find the temporal track of “Marteek’s” ship. In her cell, Gabby meets the real Marteek. As the Doctor makes contact, he hears part of Gabby’s warnings that, “It’s a trap”, and the Doctor threatens the time Sentinels.

Commander Blue is taken out, Aspect Red resumes control. But in the TARDIS, the Doctor realises something is off about Siffhoni – it turns out she is another aspect of Sentinel Aspect Blue. This really angers Noobis, because he sees his relationship with his “girlfriend” was fake. But Blue does get to explain a bit.

The Doctor with Marcie’s help puts together a Time Cone Inverter, but he will need a second time capsule to get it to work.

Meanwhile, the Time Sentinels and the Lock-Keeper fight among themselves, and the Red TARDIS shows up which infected Aspect Red. However, the Red TARDIS provides an escape for Gabby and Marteek. Not the best escape, mind you, but any port in a storm.

Marcie stops the Red TARDIS from ramming the Doctor’s TARDIS, and Gabby and Marteek are temporarily safe in the TARDIS. However, Gabby talks the Doctor into letting her go to the Red TARDIS again so the Time Cone Inverter maneuver will work. Aspect Blue goes to help. Gabby has picked up some advanced Gallifreyan time mechanics and math, which the Doctor doesn’t understand. Even with her Block Transfer Computation powers, she shouldn’t understand Gallifreyan engineering. However, there is little time to argue about it and Blue and Gabby go into the Red TARDIS to anchor it. Marcie starts the Time Cone Invertor and Noobis assures the Maw and the pocket universe collapse together – trapping all the traps in their own trap, ending the danger of the Time Sentinels, and assuring that the Gallifreyian Time Lock remains locked and safe. Gabby reaches out for the Tenth Doctor but falls away – and is caught in the TARDIS by the Twelfth Doctor.

I loved The Good Companion it’s a complex story but it’s not confusing to read. I liked the characterization and I was glad Gabby didn’t die in the end. The story also really, really, really moved fast – with so much going on at once that even the Doctor was having trouble keeping track of everything. (Marteek not being Marteek, Cleo’s message, Noobis calling for a ride home, and Zhe trying to reach the Doctor to tell him Gabby’s been kidnapped – all pretty much happen at the same time. Even a Time Lord can’t be four places at once!) I also liked the way the Time Sentinels and their Aspects were written. They are an awful enemy – and I mean that in the best possible way, the Time Sentinels are scary. I also liked how the scenes in Gabby’s point-of-view were written, and the mysterious messenger turns out to be someone very unexpected indeed.

I highly, highly recommend The Good Companion but it is absolutely necessary to read all three volumes at once and in order.

Read my review of Year 3: Facing Fate Vol. 1: Breakfast at Tyranny’s.

Read my review of Year 3: facing Fate Vol. 2: Vortex Butterflies.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Vortex Butterflies

  • Title: Vortex Butterflies
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Iolanda Zanfardino, Arianna Florean, Nicola Right, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 2)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”)
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/04/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Vortex Butterflies is the second volume in the third year of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor Series. It opens in ancient China, where Cindy Wu gives each of her 500 clone daughters a name. Gabby Gonzales, meanwhile, is dealing with the aftermath of seeing her best friend die – even if it was “only” one of her clones. But the TARDIS is also acting weird, so the TARDIS Team leave in a hurry and travel through the universe again – a time summarised by Gabby’s art in her notebook. Noobis decides to stay at the Xenopsychology Library of Aramuko – someplace the Doctor recommends for healing. The Doctor then drops Gabby and Cindy off at an apartment in London, where they have everything they need, while he follows some strange signals in the TARDIS and tries to discover what’s wrong with it.

Cindy and Gabby meet Sarah Jane Smith, which is awesome. Gabby enrolls in short-term art classes, and Cindy is feeling a bit left out, though she gets along well with Sarah. Gabby also has a few incidents of uncontrolled Vortex Energy and Block Transfer butterfly production – which confuses her, but she recovers quickly.

Meanwhile, the Doctor lands his TARDIS on Mechma Onzlo III Station and picks up a Xerobian gadget which he names Marcie. Marcie is half technology, half sounding-board, and adorable! As Cindy and Gabby settle in with Sarah Jane in London, Noobis relaxes at his library and meets a new friend, the Doctor and Marcie set out in the TARDIS to follow the mysterious signals that are interfering with the TARDIS’s ability to travel in the time/space vortex. The Doctor takes the TARDIS to an extremely empty area of space and Marcie finds the signal but has trouble creating a recognizable form for the Doctor, such as an illustration. The Doctor looks outside the TARDIS and sees a new system with an accretion disk. He lands the TARDIS on the orbiting asteroid. There he is confronted by a being who claims to be a future version of Gabby – a version the Doctor abandoned there. This being starts to attack Gabby in London, but Sarah temporarily isolates Gabby’s time signature which allows her to fight back. And the Doctor, although Marcie is destroyed (whimper!) leaves in the TARDIS.

However, the last page features the round-headed people in a cave from volume one, Breakfast at Tyranny’s, who are out to establish a case against the Doctor.

Vortex Butterflies has some wonderful art – the Vortex Creature at first appears to look like the Third Doctor Doctor Who television series credits. The Tenth Doctor also meets up with the Twelfth Doctor, an unexpected cameo that I really enjoyed. I also really loved seeing Sarah Jane, and she’s perfectly in character (and mentions her work from the series The Sarah Jane Adventures). Gabby, Cindy, and even Noobis are more in character and actually have more to do than they have for a while (even when Cindy and Gabby are essentially on vacation in London). It’s just a fun, enjoyable read. Vortex Butterflies is a great graphic novel and highly recommended.

Black Lightning Season 1 Review (spoilers)

  • Series Title: Black Lightning
  • Season: Season 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Cress Williams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, Christine Adams, James Remar, Damon Gupton
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

Black Lightning is the latest superhero television show on the CW based on DC Comics. Jefferson Pierce is a high school principal and the divorced father of two daughters, one in med school and the other in high school. He’s divorced, but he and his ex-wife have a friendly relationship. And once upon a time, Jefferson was the superhero known as Black Lightning. But he’s retired from all that – he thinks.

Modern Freeland, the Pierce family’s home city, is experiencing a resurgence of gang violence, and trouble with drugs, especially a new extremely addictive drug called Green Light. Jefferson Pierce is torn between doing something about it by returning to the superhero life, and doing what his ex-wife wants: helping mold young African American students to be successful by being a high school principal. But when one of his daughters goes to a dance club owned by the 100 gang and gets held at gunpoint, released, harassed at school, and then kidnapped, Jefferson can no longer stand idly by.  He gets his suit out of mothballs, and with some help from his friend, Peter Gambi, he hits the streets to rescue his daughter.

Once Jennifer is freed, Jefferson thinks he can hang up the suit again, but at a rally at his school, a woman challenges him, stating that her daughter is still being held by the 100. The woman, LaWanda, goes to the hotel where her daughter is being held and forced to be a prostitute and she takes pictures of johns, and the other illegal activity at the hotel. Jefferson talks to his friend in the police department, Inspector Henderson, but he says he can’t do anything. When LaWanda is murdered by LaLa, a gang member and former student of Jeff’s – he gets back in the suit.

Gradually, Jefferson realizes he has to become Black Lightning because his city needs him. When I was watching this show week to week last year, it almost became annoying every time Jeff expressed doubts about being a superhero. The show is called, Black Lightning, obviously it’s going to have a Black Lightning in it. But later developments in the series and Jeff’s daughters made the show interesting to watch anyway.

Jeff’s older daughter, Anissa, is a med student, a teacher in the health studies program at Jeff’s school, and a social activist. When she starts to develop special powers, she immediately practices them and sets out to help others. She doesn’t tell her father – and he finds out in the worst way possible. (It’s a scene I found even harder to watch and more reprehensible second time around, Black Lightning beats up his own daughter when she’s in her improvised costume.)

Jeff’s younger daughter also develops powers, but she wants nothing to do with it. Jennifer wants a normal life, not to be a superhero. Jennifer also gets really, really upset when Anissa tells her she’s Thunder and their father is Black Lightning. This family drama is the heart of the show. I found Anissa’s journey to becoming Thunder more interesting than Jeff’s obvious decision to return to being Black Lightning. And Jennifer’s utter disdain for her powers, until the very end of the season, was a very different take on the subject. I liked it a lot.

Meanwhile, the city of Freeland is experiencing rampant gang violence, multiple deadly shootings, LaWanda is killed, LaLa is killed, and Jennifer’s boyfriend is shot in the back and loses the ability to walk. For Khalil its a tragic end to his track and field career. The opening episodes of the season are depressing. But as Black Lightning gets out there, especially with Thunder, they also discover there’s more going on than gang violence.

Freeland was the center of an experiment, with the people being given a “vaccine” that should have made them “passive” (yeah, I immediately thought of Pax in the Firefly movie Serenity). Instead, many people, especially children, died. Other kids became metahumans and gained powers. Gambi was part of the ASA (secret gov’t agency) cleaner crew spotting metahumans and helping to capture them. When Gambi realized the drug was killing kids, he quit. The drug, Green Light is the same drug 2.0, and it’s also turning kids into metas.

Tobias Whale is the “businessman” in control of the 100. He also killed Jefferson’s father when Jeff was a boy – a crime Jeff witnessed. Jeff’s father was a reporter who discovered the vaccine given to children in Freeland was tainted and causing deaths. His story was spiked (not run by his editor). Jeff’s father also exposed corruption surrounding Whale. Much of the early half of the season has Jeff somewhat obsessed with finding Tobias Whale, whom he thinks has returned to town (he’s right). Whale is an albino, huge, and extremely racist, cruel, and uncouth.

Whale’s paid partner is the female assassin Syonide. She reminds me of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, with her clothes, her hair, and her attitude.

Martin Proctor is Peter Gambi’s old boss from the ASA. He’s out to kill Black Lightning and keep the Freeland experiment going – even though it’s now an illegal, rogue operation. He’s racist, bigoted, and not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. The introduction of Proctor makes Whale seem like small potatoes, though in the end, only one of the two survives to return next season.

Black Lightning is an interesting show to watch because almost the entire cast is African American, and it really gives you a view into a different world. In the pilot, we see Jeff being pulled over by two white cops, in the rain, forced out of his car, roughed up, and presented to a mute woman who is then asked, “Is this the guy who robbed your store?” Remember, Jefferson Pierce is a respected high school principal. Jeff continuously reminds his daughters and the students at their school they must control their anger. Another community leader, a local preacher, leads a protest march after LaWanda’s death and is shot – though we’re told later that he recovered. Jeff’s friend on the force, Henderson, is a good police officer, but with so much corruption and institutional racism in his department he’s barely holding on and is limited in the help he can bring.

Black Lightning is highly recommended and will return to the CW this Fall (2018).