Monday, January 31, 2011

Primeval: Series 4 Episode 6

Aww. Cute liddle prehistoric baby hyenas.

This week's episode was much improved, I felt. Perhaps it was seeing an old member of the ARC team come back (albeit briefly) that helped? Or maybe it was those baby hyenas?

At the ARC, an anomaly alert indicates a possible incursion at a stately home. Matt, Abby, Connor, Emily - and some black-clad back-up for once! - head out to investigate, whilst Becker takes the job of hunting down the mysterious murderer Ethan. Whilst Becker and Jess check out police reports from over 100 years ago to see if they provide any clues, the rest of the gang track the anomaly down to the basement of the grand house. Why there were plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling in the basement, and not draped over the furniture to keep it clean, I don't know but it all helped add to the tension when Connor finally encounters one male Hyaenodon...

...and also Jenny Lewis (aka Claudia Brown in an alternate timeline), who is due to have her wedding ceremony in the building the next day.

Meanwhile, Becker tracks Ethan down to an old warehouse near to Matt's apartment and where he is keeping Emily. Unfortunately, Ethan has worked out that he's being followed and so sets up an elaborate (almost comicbooky) booby-trap in the warehouse to trap Becker. It's a good job Jess had brought Becker some Chinese food earlier, because she follows Becker and, in a tense moment involving pressure plates, tripwires, a metronome (?) and two red wires (eek!), manages to disarm the bomb with vocal assistance from Becker.

Back to the main gang who, believing that they've subdued the only prehistoric monster present, are invited to Jenny's wedding. But later that night, when Connor goes to talk to Abby about putting his foot in it earlier with his marriage comments, he spots another hyena. Tracking it down to the basement, he gets trapped down there with some hyena pups whilst the mother prowls around outside. It's amazing how a little bolt on a flimsy door can hold back a huge, monstrous hyena creature. Anyway, Connor ends up trapped down there all night.

Eventually, he does get out and decides to send the pups back to their own time. However, this means unlocking the anomaly, which allows a couple of other hyena monsters through. And they're just in time to disrupt the wedding ceremony that's going on upstairs!

There's a fight, the guest scatter, the wedding seems ruined but after Jenny hits a creature or two down the stairs, the day is saved and Lester presides over the marriage ceremony. Jenny then tells her husband all about what she used to do (with a nice little summary of the series) and everyone is happy.

Well, all except Matt, who we find out was trained for the ARC leadership all his life (in which case, why wasn't he on the team from the beginning?). We also discover Gideon is from an apocalyptic future and Matt's father just before the old man shuffles off this mortal coil. I had hoped that Gideon would actually be older Matt from the future who had come back in time to warn his past self but, alas, this was not to be.

There's also a little bit with Ethan who goes back to where he used to live and an neighbourly old woman appears to recognise him. I wonder if he's related to Danny - perhaps his lost brother from series 3?

Overall, a more exciting episode than the last couple of weeks with quite a few chuckles (Connor's non-marriage proposal, for example) and a couple of hints regarding what's to come in the final episode of this season next week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Outcasts


A show I was looking forward to is Outcasts - BBC's new sci-fi drama series - which starts on Monday 7th Feb at 9pm. Together with Being Human on Sundays, and Dr Who and Sherlock when they come back, the BBC is currently doing very well producing geeky TV shows.

Den of Geek already have a spoiler free review of the first episode of Outcasts. The first episode sounds like it's a slowish start but perhaps promises more drama to come in later episodes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #1

Speaking of comicbook deaths...

Inspired by Heropress' "Wonder Woman Wednesdays" entries, Bully's "365 Days With..." posts and other regular image dumps on other blogs, I thought I'd start something similar of my own and totally ignore the Human Torch and instead honour the dearly departed dynamic damsel known as Janet Van Dyne, aka Wasp (also known as Janet Pym when she was married to the man known as Yellowjacket/Goliath/Ant-Man/Giant-Man, Dr Henry "Hank" Pym). How dare that big bully Bendis brutally bump off this beautiful, erm, babe during the Secret Invasion crossover event! Grrr...

So, every Wednesday we'll wander through the winsome Wasp's wonderful and wacky wardrobe, highlighting the many different costumes this fabulous fashionista and female founding member of the Avengers has had over the years. I've had a little look through my Avengers collection and, man, she went through a lot of outfits! At this rate, it should give me more 'Marvel'ous, magnificent material (enough of the forced alliteration) than I know what to do with. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Being Human (Season 3 Episode 1)

It was lucky that I bought a newspaper with a TV guide this weekend because I hadn't realised that Being Human was back on Sunday. I knew it was due to come back soon but not this week!

Anyway, I managed to catch it and, yes, it was very good. Whereas ITV's Primeval is sort of good in a "don't-expect-too-much-from-this-piece-of-light-entertainment" way, Being Human surpasses it and into the realms of absolutely flippin' excellent. Gripping character drama with a splattering of ghostly gore, a pondering of wolfy weirdness and a smack of vampiric violence.

Mitchell had to descend into Purgatory (which wasn't quite so bureaucratic as expected) to bring Annie back whilst George was mistakenly caught 'dogging' (ha ha) and had to be released from prison by Nina whilst minutes away from transforming. And whilst the gang settled into their new faux-Hawaiian digs on Barry Island, a couple of new werewolves enter the scene and get caught up with some cage-fight loving vampires.

My only complaint would be the influx of 'known' actors into the show. What with Stacey from Eastenders, Dennis Pennis, Robson Green and even Rhys from Torchwood, it was almost a case of "Spot the Celebrity" this week and sort of distracted me from the show. I prefer it when secondary characters are not played by actors well known for other parts (still, having said that, I thought Robson Green was very good and the others weren't bad either).

Still, that's a minor complaint. Lia's revelation to Mitchell that his death has already been accounted for and that he will be killed by a werewolf will no doubt haunt our friendly vampire for the rest of the season. I do wonder though whether Lia's name could perhaps be pronounced "liar" - maybe she is actually the Devil, the lord of lies, himself and seeking to plant seeds of distrust in Mitchell's mind? We shall see.

What with Hustle on Friday evenings, Primeval on Saturdays and now Being Human on Sunday nights, TV at the weekend currently looks pretty good.

Spoiler Free Comment on 'Spoiled' Comicbook Deaths

Is it a spoiler to discover which member of the Fantastic Four died?

Well, yes, I suppose. But let's face it, it's not much of a spoiler. It's just a publicity stunt.

Readers have already been "spoiled" because we've known for a while that one of the FF was going to die. Which means it's already spoiled any shock value over the character's death, whoever it may be. There was at least a 25% chance we'd be able to guess who was going to die anyway. Finding out who it is would now surely just result in a shrug of the shoulders and the usual response of "How long will the character stay dead?"

Of course, what we don't know (until we read the book) is how the character died and why. And what effect it has on the rest of the team and other characters in the Marvel universe. If a story can be spoiled just by knowing who's going to die, then IMO it's not much of a story. The death scene can occur on one page of comicbook - so what are the other 21 pages (or however many pages there are in FF #387) about?

Also, I like Joe Quesada's comment about not saying if the character will ever return from the dead and adding "but I can assure you that it's going to be very, very interesting and not what anyone expects". Which kind of implies that it will happen, but in a way no one expects.

So, I guess that means the remaining Thantastic Three aren't going to journey into the afterlife to 'rescue' their dead companion's soul? I mean, they did it with Ben Grimm a few years ago so that's not unexpected. Maybe it's all a dream? ;)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Primeval: Series 4 Episode 5

Another entertaining episode (though not quite as good as last weeks) with one or two plot holes and hints of interesting things to come. Again, just three of the main ARC crew (it's good to see Becker was given some time off after almost dying last week) head off to investigate an unstable anomaly in some seaside village. And again I have to ask why they didn't take along some military back-up?

BTW, considering this coastal village has a holiday caravan site nearby, why were the locals so rude and "Slaughtered Lamb"-like in the pub? Surely they see plenty of tourists in there and so should be used to newcomers?

Anyway, when the inevitable point comes and they have to split up, Abby is left to track and take down the (yet another) dino-croc - a Labyrithodont - on her own whilst Connor investigates the anomaly. Which is both near an old farm and, in the next moment, near the cliffs. I guess the anomaly detectors don't work in 3D as the anomaly is actually under the farm in a dark, damp cave. For a while, I did wonder whether they'd killed off Abby (noooo!) but, thankfully, she came back to save the day and send mummy and baby dino-croc back to their own time.

Philip, back at the ARC, eagerly learnt one or two new things about anomalies - specifically that they are weakened by acid. I wonder what the high-flying business mogul wants with these unstable time portals?

The most interesting part was Emily's kidnapping by Ethan. Matt went off to rescue her and we discovered there's more to this Ethan chap than originally thought. For one thing, if he's from Victorian times, how did he know how to drive a car? It seems that he may be from the present but has traveled to the future and to the past. Certainly Gideon, Matt's mysterious adviser, is very interested in him and believes this mysterious newcomer might be the big threat he's been predicting.

So, who is Ethan and where does he come from? What is Philip planning to do regarding the anomalies? What does Gideon know and how does he know it? And why is Matt so mysterious? It's these questions that elevate this average monster hunt episode up to a decent show.

Finally there was that single word mentioned in the post-credit teaser for next week's episode - "Jenny". Looks like Jenny Lewis is back!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Essential Marvel Two-In-One (Vol 3)

One of the things I've always done when visiting America is to buy a superhero graphic novel/trade paperback whilst I'm there to give me something to read on the plane back. Usually, this would be bought from a 'local' comic book store. However, due to a lack of nearby stores, I had to buy it from the comic shop in Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park during my recent trip to Florida. And this time I chose Volume 3 of the Essential Marvel Two-In-One, which reprints issues #53 to #77 and Annuals #4 and #5 of MTIO.

I'd considered buying this on Amazon a while back (where it is actually cheaper, as is often the case with TPBs) but had resisted. Seeing it on the shelf on holiday - and with nothing else to take my fancy - I succumbed and bought it. I'm glad I did.

I've never really been a fan of these Essential compendiums - nor of DC's Showcase collections. I like to read comics in full colour, not black and white. However, they are certainly value for money and probably the only way to get to see some of these older comic books without intensive searching through back-issue bins. Anyway, up until now, I think I only had two of these types of books - an X-Men one and the Batman and the Outsiders Showcase. So this is only the third of these affordable phone-book collections I own.

I should point out here that I prefer team books rather than those dedicated to individual superheroes. I was always a fan of the X-Men or the Avengers, the JLA or Teen Titans. Why have a story about one person with superpowers when you can read about six or seven (or a dozen)!? Marvel's Two-in-One falls somewhere in the middle. Yes, it mainly focusses on the Fantastic Four's Thing, but in each issue ol' blue-eyed Benjamin Grimm would team up with one or two other (often C-list) heroes - sometimes even a whole team!

As well as the wonderful (though early) John Byrne and George Perez art throughout much of the book, I was surprised to find that I remembered some of the stories and art. I actually remember having (and reading) the original issues that made up the Serpent Crown Affair storyline plus the Impossible Man issue and a couple of others. I fondly remember my original introduction to Stingray, a character I still love to this day (though, to be honest, I'm not sure why). Nostalgia is a wonderful thing!

I haven't actually read all of the book yet - I'm saving the latter half for the future - but this was a fantastic blast from the past for me. The stories are reasonably good too; there's no decompression in order to produce 6 issues for the trade here but, instead, plenty of action. It's also a good introduction to some lesser known Marvel characters. And the FF's Ben Grimm has always been a favourite. I may have to look out for more of these MTIO collections.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Primeval: Series 4 Episode 4

This week's Primeval episode was much better than last week's and one full of tense, dark moments during which a few school kids have to survive against a small herd of venomous dino-dogs (therocephalians, apparently). Although you didn't actually see anything other than a severed arm from a distance, this episode was sort of gory and certainly very shocking for an early Saturday evening TV show. It was nearly as 'behind the sofa' scary as some episodes of Doctor Who.

An anomaly opens in a surprisingly high-tech school (even the locks on the doors are controlled by an unmanned computer system) where, because it is supposedly outside normal hours, there's only 3 kids stuck behind on detention overseen by just one teacher. Seems a little unlikely but still. A dino-dog emerges from the temporal gateway and quickly eats the teacher all before the title sequence - and the ARC team - turns up.

Well, I say ARC team - it just seemed to be Matt, Becker and Connor. Where were all the rifle-wielding, black-ops back-up soldiers? Were they on annual leave that day? Unfortunately, the three of them aren't quick enough to save the X-Factor-wannabe teenaged girl from becoming the second victim to these dinosaurs during a chilling encounter in the gym. Because of this death, Jess decides not to help Abby release all the other dinos - due for extermination after being deemed too dangerous to remain alive by Phillip - from the Menagerie at the ARC.

It seems a little late for the characters to suddenly get emotional and morose now after all the other public deaths we've seen on the show. For example, a number of homeless people and construction workmen were killed by a giant prehistoric alligator just two episodes ago but no one seemed bothered that much about them. Perhaps they were not pretty or young enough? Still, I guess it was about time they showed a more human side to these people.

Knowing what Abby has in mind, Lester has a friendly chat with Phillip and points out that once the existence of the time anomalies and dinosaurs get out, Phillip's legacy as the "dinosaur killer" might not sit well with him. This leads to a reprieve for the wooly mammoth, and the other creatures unseen due to budgetary constraints, but does raise another question.

It's often inferred that the government, via the ARC, is covering up the dinosaur attacks and that the public are therefore unaware of these incursions from the past (and future). And yet, right from the very first episode of the first series, Nick Cutter and Connor investigate the Forest of Dean because of a newspaper photograph of a dinosaur.

Since then, there have been various other high profile incidents - the afore-mentioned mammoth rampaging across the M25, a stegosaurus in the Houses of Parliament - plus all the other incidents where dinosaurs have run through the daytime city streets (such as the Spinosaurus in episode 1 of this series or the dino-croc in the first episode of series 3). Surely plenty of people have now seen these creatures and started asking questions?

Also, a lot of people have been killed, such as the teacher and the girl in this episode. Does no one outside the ARC crew investigate their cause of death or wonder where they are and what happened to them? What do they put down on their death certificates - eaten by an escaped tiger from the local zoo?

Anyway, in the end, the remaining kids are saved after Becker encounters a whole room full of these dino-dogs. He gets injected with venom but thankfully is saved by Matt, who somehow manages to wrestle a dino-dog into submission (is the guy superhuman or something?), and Connor, who concocts some handy smoke bombs in the chemistry lab. Even though just minutes before Matt said Becker had only 30 seconds to live before the venom killed him, everyone seems to pronounce him okay once they've knocked out the demon dogs and finally called for medical back-up (perhaps they should've done that earlier?). Connor must've included some miraculous cure in those smoke bombs.

Although there was very little of the ongoing storyline other than Emily, the Victorian woman from last week's episode, being abducted by Ethan, this was still a well-directed, thrilling episode. Yes, there were plenty of silly little things in the plot but, for me, these weren't enough to spoil it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cosmics: Cliffhanger

Finally, Marty had found him.

After all the searching, it was Unicorn - Dr Dynamo's teammate from the Cosmic Knights - who had provided the answer. Marty had checked the Orlando hospital written on the card Unicorn had passed to him and discovered someone on the patient list with the same name as Dr Dynamo's secret identity. It had been a long shot - surely there were dozens of men called Robert Hammond in the state of Florida alone - but, nevertheless, he'd whizzed northwards to check it out.

He hadn't been expecting to meet an old guy in his 80s.

"Hullo Marty. You found me at last, eh?" the frail old man wheezed, as he lay almost hidden within crisp white sheets on the hospital bed. Wires and tubes were festooned about the man, whilst some sort of monitor beeped occasionally next to the bed.

"Doc? Isthatyou?Itcantbeyou!" Kid Kinetic babbled, excitement and suspicion colouring his lightning quick words. He glared at the man in the bed who, to Marty, looked like he was close to the end of his life.

"Kid, kid. Slow down. *cough* I can't tell what you're saying", the old man stuttered, shuffling a little in an attempt to sit up.

Marty squeezed his eyes shut and, with effort, tried to calm down.

"Sorry. It's just I can't believe it's you Doc. Was this what Entropy did to ya? Turned you into an old man?!" This time Marty spoke at a more normal pace, though his words were still a little rushed.

Finally managing to sit up a little, the old man replied with a sad sort of smile.

"Yeah, it's me - in the flesh. Well, what's left of it. And Entropy was sort of responsible for my predicament but not in the way you think". Dr Dynamo stopped for a moment to catch his breath before continuing. "It's a long story".

Kid Kinetic stood there, tapping his foot, waiting for Dr Dynamo  - also known as Bob Hammond to those few who knew his secret identity - to continue. The old man rolled his eyes and took a rattling deep breath.

"Ok, ok. Just give me a moment, it's been a long time", he replied, closing his eyes.

For a moment, Marty thought his old mentor had fallen asleep. However, a second or two later the man in the bed opened his eyes, nodded, coughed weakly and continued. He spoke slowly, his rasping voice strained and peppered with coughs.

"When the villain you know as Entropy and I fought towards the end of last year, the clash somehow ripped a hole in space-time creating a temporal bridge between now and then..."

Dr Dynamo glanced up at Marty and saw the look of confusion on the teen's face. He sighed.

"During the fight, Entropy's chaotic power threw us both back in time. Back to November 1961. I appeared there first, closely followed by Entropy. Our arrival did something though. *cough* Caused some sort of energy fluctuation that rippled outwards".

Dr Dynamo's cough got the better of him at that moment and he paused to let his wheezing, rasping chest settle before continuing.

"Anyway, when we reappeared in '61, we were both disorientated and not sure where or when we were. All we knew was that we were fighting, trying to stop one another. So we continued to fight. *cough* Eventually I halted his attack, although it took a lot of my power. *cough* But just as I hit Entropy with a electro-bolt that should have rendered him unconscious, Entropy disappeared. Though that wouldn't be the last I saw of him".

Again, the old man's cough resurfaced. He struggled to reach for a glass of water on the bedside table, until Marty zipped around the other side of the bed and handed it to him. Dr Dynamo took a sip from the glass before carrying on.

"*cough* Thanks kid. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Entropy had disappeared again, leaving me there in Miami at the start of the '60s. I soon learned what had happened to me and where, or more importantly when, I was. I also discovered something that really shook me up. *cough* Before my arrival there had never been any other person with cosmic powers. I was the first".

"What do you mean, you were the first?" Kid Kinetic interrupted. "Cosmics have been around for ages!"

"Nah, kid. Read your history books", Dr Dynamo admonished. "Cosmics didn't start appearing until the end of 1961. It was my arrival that started it off, you see? The influx of tachyon particles caused a chrono-atomic reaction that, in turn, released a wave of exotic cosmic rays. *cough* These rays mutated the DNA in some people causing the birth of the Cosmic Age. Entropy and I caused all the cosmic powers".

"You sure, doc? Really?! Wow, that'ssoawesome". Kid Kinetic zipped around the bed, his arms waving in the air as he went. Dr Dynamo simply took another sip of water and sighed.

"Yeah, well. Whatever it was, there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck in the '60s with no way back. *cough* So I had to live my life as best I could. First, I helped the fledgling cosmics come to terms with their new, and sometimes bizarre, abilities. Then later, I helped set up the first iteration of the Cosmic Knights. All the while I had to get a job, find somewhere to live, and try to adjust to being fifty years in the past".

"So that's it? That's why you're so old?" Marty stopped zooming around and actually stood still for a moment, a look of astonishment on his face.

"It is, kid, yeah", Dr Dynamo rasped. "But there's more and this is important, Marty. Y'see, like I said earlier, that wasn't the last we saw of Entropy. Around 12 years later in 1973, he reappeared in Miami. *cough* He was bigger this time, about twice the size of a regular person, and his chaos energy had mutated him. He went rampaging through downtown Miami causing lots of weird things to happen and, unfortunately killed a couple of people - including the Arachnid's girlfriend. Eventually we stopped him but he went and disappeared on us again *cough*".

He took another glug of water to help his cough and then put the glass back down on the nearby table, his boney hands shaking as he did. When he spoke again, Marty noticed that his mentor seemed somewhat more agitated; worry and concern was etched across his grey, wrinkled face.

"He reappeared in 1986 and, again, his arrival caused a crisis", Dr Dynamo continued. "This time he'd grown even taller; he was now around 50 feet in height, perhaps more. And, he was meaner and more powerful. Like before, a bunch of us tried to stop him but all that happened was that he vanished again. Though not before we'd all caused a lot of damage and quite a few deaths".

Dr Dynamo paused thinking for a moment back to those darker days.

"That event led the way for the Cosmic Powers Registration Act. The government had seen how much damage cosmics could do and so wanted to curtail, or at least control, our actions. Although in hindsight it seemed somewhat harsh, I could understand why they did it. They feared us and what we could do. That's when I retired for good *cough, cough*".

The old man shook his head and slumped a little in his bed. He turned his steel blue eyes away from the past and stared towards Kid Kinetic.

"You know of the last time he reappeared", Dr Dynamo finally stated, somewhat enigmatically.

"What do you mean? A couple of years ago when he broke out of the Cube!?" Marty asked, puzzled, trying to look away from the other man's cold gaze.

"No, kid. I mean back in 1999. Of course, then everyone called him Monstro..." Dr Dynamo explained, his voice trailing off into another fit of coughing.

"What the...?!?" Marty exclaimed. He'd heard of Monstro - everyone had heard of Monstro. He'd been the biggest threat cosmics had ever faced. And here was his mentor saying Entropy and Monstro were one and the same. "Monstro was Entropy!? Entropy is Monstro? How the...? Are you serious?"

"Deadly serious, kid" Dr Dynamo replied, his voice low. "The latest time Entropy reappeared, he was so powerful and so crazy that he caused the wholesale destruction of Miami. *cough* Millenia was built in it's place with help from the cosmics, like the Professor. But that won't help next time. Each time Entropy reappears, he gets exponentially larger and more powerful. Next time... *cough* well, he'll cause the destruction of most of America, I'm sure of it. Tens of millions will die!"

Dr Dynamo lifted his frail hand and suddenly gripped Kid Kinetic's arm. Although the retired cosmic hero was old and weak, Marty could feel the tingle of electricity from the fingers that dug into his arm. Dr Dynamo glared at his sidekick, his eyes wide and his voice shaking with fear.

"I've been doing the calculations, kid, analysing when he arrived the last three times. If I'm right, I reckon we've only got a couple of months. Kid, you've got to warn the Knights. Tell them to build up their strength and prepare".

"Tell them... Entropy, Monstro, whatever you want to call him... is returning and he's going to destroy us all!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Primeval: Series 4 Episode 3

Perhaps it was just the mood I was in when I watched this, but I found this week's Primeval episode to be a little rubbish. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh - it wasn't that bad - but it did seem somewhat flawed. There were some interesting things dotted around but it was padded out with the obligatory monster chase sequence. Oh, and a daft ARC shutdown bit.

We start with an anomaly opening in a theatre somewhere. Not sure where this was supposed to be but, like nearly all the other anomalies, it seems to be within an hour or so of the ARC. Why are all the anomalies in the south of England, I wonder? Three people emerge from this anomaly, one of whom is ill (and promptly dies before they can get her to a hospital). A couple of lizard men also pop through. I have to say that the CG work on the lizard men (called Tree Creepers here) was generally excellent and one of the few highlights of this episode.

Matt arrives on the scene first - after chatting with the mysterious Gideon bloke, who it appears hasn't long to live, about potential traitors. He sees the woman from the anomaly return back through the shimmering portal and decides to follow her. After tracking her for a while she hits him on the head with a branch. I thought he was supposed to be ex-military? She was just standing there and he just ran into the branch she was wielding - there was no sneaking up behind him or anything!

Then the woman just stands there and lets a lizard men wrap its tail around her. You'd think she'd at least try and move out of the way. This leads to the rather pathetic fight between knife-wielding Matt and powerful, leaping, clawed lizard man. This wasn't helped by the fact that they didn't have enough budget to show a tree creeper and an actor in the same frame. So it kept cutting from Matt waving his puny knife to the creature snarling and hissing but doing very little and then back to Matt.

Anyway, eventually Matt takes the injured woman back through the anomaly to our time just in time to hunt down the two tree creepers in the theatre - one of which eventually makes its way outside. Cue the (slightly boring) monster hunt.

Meanwhile, new owner Philip Burton asks Connor to integrate and trial his new dino detector system installed in the ARC. Problem is, this new system detects Rex and initiates a complete lockdown of the ARC, trapping Philip in a room where the air is slowly being sucked out.

Now, why the supposedly super-intelligent Philip would attach the lockdown procedure to the initial trial run of his dino-detector system is somewhat suspect. Even worse is getting someone else to run it when only he can disable it. Plus, why can't people unlock the doors during the lockdown? It's only supposed to stop dinos from getting out (and, as we've seen in this episode, they're quite happy to just smash through doors and windows).

Anyway, it provided a convenient excuse for the folk hunting lizard men out in the field to lose comms with one another and for Philip to let slip something about a secret project called "New Dawn". I thought that was a bit heavy-handed.

In the end, the tree creeping lizard men are downed and we find out that the woman, called Emily, is originally from the Victorian era. Together with around 15 others, she got lost through an anomaly and is now managing to survive by traveling through random anomalies and eating grilled dino meat. Of course, this isn't the first time humans from earlier periods have come through one of the sparkly time-holes; the medieval knight from Series 3 galloped through one chasing a 'dragon', for instance. But it is interesting to see confirmation that these anomalies have been occurring throughout history (and into the future, of course!).

Unfortunately, we don't discover much more about Emily and the other time-lost humans in this episode. It seems this week was just a set up for future episodes, as she is now staying with Matt. We also have the companion of hers - he may or may not be Jack the Ripper (and if it is, then I did something very similar with a PBeM character of mine) - who also came through the anomaly and is now going around killing people for no particular reason. Again, more set up for future episodes.

So, some interesting titbits regarding a secret project at the ARC and time-lost Victorians plus some great lizardy tree creepers. Oh and a rather foxy looking Jess! But the rest was just okay and, sadly, a little embarrassing at times.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cosmics: The Future (part 2)

...continued from yesterday...

After running a number of blocks, eventually the Twilight Man stopped outside the door of a simple townhouse. It was on the outskirts of Millenia, in a reasonably affluent-looking neighbourhood. As I neared the front of the house, T.M. knocked on the wooden door. I stood beside the man of mystery as we waited for an answer.

After a short wait, the door opened a little. The Twilight Man turned to look at me. He nodded and simply said, "Come in" before making his way inside.

It was dark in the entrance hall as I stepped inside and there was one was inside to greet us. It was just a dark, gloomy, empty hallway.

"This way", the Twilight Man said and walked over to a door without looking back.

I followed the masked man of mystery into another dark room lit only by candles. In fact, candles were positioned everywhere around room. Also, at one end of the room there was an old, wooden table with four chairs around it. Otherwise the room was bare of furniture.

"Greetings Unicorn", said a voice.

It was then I noticed the three women sitting around the table. For some reason, I just hadn’t been aware of them before that. The Twilight Man stepped forward at this point and introduced the others.

"Mark. This is Miasma" he indicated the woman on the left and then turned to the young woman on the right, "and Voodoo". Both nodded but for now said nothing. "In the middle is Tarot. These three are all seers. They say they've seen our future".

The Twilight Man moved back whilst I took a moment to look at the three women.

The one on the left was blonde, good-looking and probably in her early forties although she looked younger. She wore a smart, dark blue business suit and blouse like a high-rolling manager or politician. She looked vaguely familiar, like one of the US senators on the West coast. She smiled warmly as I looked her way but said nothing.

It took me a moment to realise that I knew the young woman on the right. It was Renee Dubois, a teammate of mine during my days in the Young Cosmics. She still had long, straight dark hair and a haunted look about her just like she had all those years ago. However, her eyes looked tired and bloodshot; she seemed weary and exhausted. She didn’t appear to recognise me, although the shadows that surrounded her made it difficult to tell.

The third woman sat between the two and was obviously in charge. The subdued lighting in the room hid a lot of the details but there were a few things I could tell about her. The first was that she was old. She looked to be in her seventies, her face wrinkled and her long hair grey and brittle. She also had a vaguely Asian look to her, although her apparent height didn't agree with that assessment. Covering her eyes was a simple dark, satin cloth with what looked like a stylised Eye of Horus stitched into it in golden thread. Even though her eyes were covered, she seemed to be looking right inside me.

In this third woman's left hand was a pack of cards and in front of her were other cards arranged in a cross shape. Without looking at them, she turned one of the cards over. I couldn't quite see what was on the card but it looked like two naked people - a man and a woman - side by side.

"You're wondering why you are here, aren't you?" whispered the old woman called Tarot.

"Well, now that you mention it, yeah", I replied, feeling a little foolish in such theatrical surroundings. I glanced across at the Twilight Man but just kept himself to the shadows.

"Please sit down and let us tell you your future". She indicated the chair opposite her, which suddenly moved of its own accord. Either it was a cheap parlour trick or the woman was a cosmic with some sort of telekinetic ability. Whatever, I sat down.

"The reason the Twilight Man brought you here is because we asked him to", began Tarot. "We have convinced him of our cause and that the future we see shall come to pass. We are the Coven"

"O-kaaay. Right". Again, I looked toward T.M. wondering what this was all about.

"What they said is true, Unicorn", the Twilight Man replied. "Apparently the world is going to get a whole lot darker in a few months time. Listen to them".

I turned back to Tarot.

"He is right", continued Tarot. The Eye of Horus seemed to looking at me. Tarot reached out and turned over another delicate card. This showed what looked like a king sitting on a throne holding a sceptre.

"Each of the three of us here has the power of divination. We can see into the future. Miasma can part the mists of time to see what is to come. Voodoo's connection to the spiritual loa gives her knowledge of the future. For me..." the old woman paused trying to decide what to say and seemed to select her comments carefully "...the cards help me focus on the things to come".

She turned over a third card. This depicted a woman in robes sitting between two pillars with a moon at her feet and scroll in her hands. Without looking at the cards, with her head still held forward, she continued.

"You have come here so that we can tell you what is to come and what you will do. We have seen the future. We have tried to change it. But still the future prevails"

"You mean to tell me that you've had some visions and you want me to believe the future can't be changed? That we have no free will?" I asked, not believing what I was hearing.

The Twilight Man spoke up again at this point. "I know how it sounds but believe me when I tell you that these three have told me 'bout things that are going to happen and have happened. They predicted Bedlam's attack earlier and many more things besides. And I've tried to change these things - stop certain disasters from happening - but nothing I do changes things".

He bowed his head after this whilst the shadows appeared to smother him in their dark embrace. My eyes widened in shock; nothing ever spooked the Twilight Man! I quickly turned my gaze back to the Coven.

"As the Twilight Man says", continued Tarot, "we knew of the villain's attack today and your involvement with him. That was why the Twilight Man was there to help and how we knew where you'd be to bring you here".

Tarot turned over another of the ornately patterned cards. This one depicted what appeared to be the devil above two humans. She continued talking.

"Unicorn. We have seen the future. Chaos is coming, a war against a cosmic so powerful it will destroy the country. Tensions between cosmics and normal humans will increase. We see death and destruction. Fear followed by flight".

Another card was turned and this showed a picture of a skeleton riding a horse. Tarot immediately turned over a further card and this depicted a man riding a chariot with two horses, one black and one white, pulling it.

"The chaos will kill many, riots against cosmics will rage across the planet”, she continued. “Eventually the cosmics will flee into space, to the red planet, some by their own power but many in a ship. You will lead them to this ship and into the skies, Unicorn".

The woman known as Tarot turned over another card and, for a moment, this appeared to show an old man carrying a staff in one hand and a lantern in the other. However when I looked closer, the image appeared to be more that of an angel with a horn in his hand.

"I...” I started but Tarot interrupted me.

"I... We are concerned about you", said Tarot turning over another card, this one showing a beautiful woman sitting on a throne whilst wearing a crown and holding a sceptre. "But you need to be told the future so you can prepare for it. So you can accept it".

And this they did. They told me that sometime in the near future something would attack us, something very powerful. The Cosmic Knights would be hard pressed to repel it. The attack would destroy much of the country and destabilise worldwide politics. At this point, many cosmic villains would take advantage of the recent chaos, which in turn would cause even more problems for normal people.

Due to this, the public's view of cosmics would take a nose-dive. The Cosmic Powers Registration Act would be brought back into force, but this time across the globe. This would be followed by minor civil wars erupting between cosmics and then many executions and deaths. In the end, life on Earth would be hell for a cosmic.

"This is our dreaded future", the old woman said, turning over another card and revealing a burning castle or tower hit by lightning.

"No", I replied. "If this is the future, which I’m not sure I can really believe, then it's just one possible future. We can change it - or at least try".

I looked at the three of them and then to the Twilight Man, trying to reason with them. He shrugged but said nothing.

"You do not understand. You are full of doubt and confusion", continued Tarot, ignoring my concern. "So we shall give you this. Remember it well. Soon a swift child shall bring foreboding news from the time-lost man with the power of the storm. Heed this child and prepare the Knights".

Whilst talking, Tarot turned over two remaining cards side-by-side. One showed a large stylised sun complete with a stern face and a child below it. The other presented a man in robes holding a wand high in the air. He was standing behind with a table and what looked like the symbol for infinity floated over his head.

Only one card remained. Tarot's hand hovered over it but she did not turn it.

"For now", said Tarot wrapping up the little meeting, "that is all we can tell you. But we shall meet again. You will have many questions and we will answer them then, in your future. Thank you for your time, but you need to leave now to get to your prior engagement before... she misses you, Mark".

It was the only time that this Tarot had called me by my real name. And something about the way she said it sounded familiar. But, I could not place it.

The final tarot card distracted my attention. Reluctantly, the woman known as Tarot turned it over. This showed a wheel floating in the sky. The wheel had runes or marking on it and was held aloft by four creatures. Somehow, I knew the name of this card - the Wheel of Fortune.

It seemed that the turning of this chaotic card signified that the meeting was over.

The Twilight Man led me away even though I still had many questions. They seemed to want something from me, although I wasn't sure exactly what. Still, the Twilight Man trusted them and that meant an awful lot.

As we reached the front door to the house of mystery, the Twilight Man pulled something out of his utility belt and handed it to me. It was a small card with an address written on it.

"This is something to do with the witches in there. I was doing a bit of research and finally turned up something earlier that might be of use. You need to find Kid Kinetic and give this to him. Let him investigate this".

The Twilight Man’s cowl hid most of the man’s face but his mouth smiled. He opened the door and we stepped outside into the cool shadow of the building.

"After that, I guess we'll meet back at the base", said the Twilight Man, noticing me looking back at the house.

I pocketed the card and stared at the building for a few seconds, wondering whether to head back inside and confront them. But something told me not to. Not now anyway. Like they said, it was getting late and Sam would be waiting.

"Yeah, see you..." I started to say but, as I turned round, I saw that the Twilight Man had gone. He'd pulled his usual disappearing act again. Sighing, I walked away from the building and thought about what had happened and about what the Coven had told me about the future.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cosmics: The Future (part 1)

Death and destruction.

Fear followed by flight.

This is our future. Or at least, this is what I've been told is in our future. Something terrible will happen, something that will affect the whole world, and human kind will come to fear cosmics. That fear will turn to hate. And eventually, those of us who are left will be forced to leave this planet and seek refuge on Mars.

I'm told it won't happen tomorrow or next week but soon, perhaps in a year. And I've been guaranteed that there's nothing anyone can do to change it. The future is, apparently, fixed. So much for free will. All I can do is decide whether I join those preparing for this future or try to fight it. And even that isn't really a choice. Not in the end. When push comes to shove, I join those leaving this Earth to the resultant chaotic hell. Or so they tell me.

They are the Coven.

It all happened yesterday, just over a year since the latest incarnation of the Cosmic Knights was formed. Whilst teleporting across town to get to a dinner date with Sam, my wife, I noticed flashing blue lights, the squeal of sirens and the pounding of collapsing buildings coming from near the centre of Millenia. I ported over to the top of a building near the scene of the disturbance and looked down. There was Bedlam, one of the Masters of Mayhem, not seen since he'd attacked the Cube a few months ago.

There seems to be very little information out there on Bedlam. He generally appears to be a large, musclebound guy standing around 7 feet tall, with blue skin and horns spiralling out from his head. He looks like a demon on steroids - but is as dumb as a brick, doesn't say a lot and has serious anger management issues.

Anyway, as I stood there on the roof of the building watching, Bedlam picked up a cop car and smashed it into the ground, breaking it into pieces. Fortunately no one was in the car at the time. But still, enough was enough. One port later and I appeared in front of the big behemoth.

"Hey, no damaging public property!" I said (or something equally witty) whilst waving my hands in front of him as a distraction.

"Go screw yerself!" was all the big, blue guy said in return, always a great conversationalist. Rather than talk a little more, he just glared at me and then swung a huge fist in my direction. Luckily, Bedlam isn't that quick so it was easy for me to port out of the way.

"Aha! You missed, ya big lug", I retorted, whilst porting in behind him.

In retaliation I tried punching the villain but, as expected, all that did was tickle him. Bedlam grunted and turned around trying to grab me. I ported again, punched, ported, punched, ported, punched. Each of my hits landed and, although Bedlam staggered back a little, my punches just seemed to make him even more angry.

By now he was getting bored of trying to grab me so instead he bellowed some colourful language far too obscene to repeat here and then grabbed a nearby lamppost. He swung it at me but missed, smashing it into a wall behind me instead.

Obviously not impressed with my punches, I decided some other tactic was required. It was time for my newly developed multiport.

"Hey! Ugly butt. Over here!" I yelled.

As Bedlam paused and glanced my way, I ported over to him. He began to lift the post to try swat me away again and, as he did, I grabbed ol' Big Blue and ported him one foot to the left. Then, whilst the twinkling stars of my last port still hung in the air, I ported him again. And then again and again. And so on until Bedlam had been ported about ten times. Finally, I teleported away from the guy to see what effect it had.

Bedlam stood there, obviously disorientated. He held his head in his hands and growled in my direction. Surprisingly, he was still conscious. A second later, even more surprisingly, he had picked up the dropped lamppost and swung it at me again. I wasn't expecting it. The metal club hit me and hit me hard. I went flying backwards into a building.

Luckily, my gleaming force field is practically indestructible. I felt the blow but the post didn't penetrate my shield. It was a minor injury but I felt it nonetheless. Still reeling, my vision swam as I stood up. Bedlam had moved towards the edge of the police cordon and was approaching a female police officer. She stood her ground, holding a pistol up to ward of the big cosmic villain. I knew the gun would do her no good against Bedlam and that I should port over to get her out of trouble. But I was still groggy from that last hit. I could hardly move, let alone port. I staggered forwards but I wasn't going to make it.

Thankfully, someone else saved her. Out of nowhere a figure in dark grey swooped down on a swing line and snatched the woman out of Bedlam's deadly grip. In response, he howled in anger (and said a few more choice words) whilst turning to face the newcomer. The howl was met by a flight of three crescent shaped blades, which zipped through the air and struck the guy in the face. Unsurprisongly, Bedlam swore again.

I turned to look at the dark figure as he dropped down to the ground and let the police officer escape to freedom. Instantly, I recognised our rescuer. His mask and grey cloak were unmistakeable. So was his glowering, confident manner. It was my fellow Knight, the Twilight Man.

Shaking my head to clear it, I ported over to Bedlam and, whilst he was recovering from the Twilight Man's attack, hit him with another flurry of blows. When Bedlam began to swing his muscle-bound arms again, I ported away next to the Man of Mystery.

"Hi T.M. What brings you to this part of town?", I asked, a little surprised to see him.

"Later Unicorn. First let us tackle this adversary", replied the Twilight Man in that monotone, foreboding voice of his.

"Sure, so shall...", I started but never got to finish. The Twilight Man was off, leaping into action. He launched a couple of moon blades at Bedlam to distract him and, at the same time, fired off his swing line around the villain's feet.

Feeling a little foolish standing there talking to nobody, I also leapt towards Bedlam. Flipping in the air, I launched a foot at the muscle-man's face, kicking him solidly on the nose. I then jumped up, ported and landed behind Bedlam. With as much strength as I could muster, I kicked the cosmic creep in the small of his back whilst the Twilight Man yanked on the line wrapped around his feet.

Bedlam went down, smashing into the sidewalk with an almighty thud.

"Yeah!" I yelled punching the air, but the Twilight Man quickly brought me back down.

"Unicorn. Hit him with a horn blast, before he recovers", he called out, his voice a sharp order. I turned towards Bedlam and concentrated.

The twinkling of my force field intensified around my head. A single, shining horn of light began to appear from my forehead. This was my ultimate offensive power - a beam of pure force that hit as hard as a missile. Over the years, my horn blasts had been getting gradually more powerful but also more uncontrollable. Nowadays, I was reluctant to use it and then only against the most powerful of opponents.

Against Bedlam however, its use was justified.

The beam of blinding energy shot out from my forehead, crackled through the air, and slammed into the back of Bedlam's head. The villain groaned with pain. He tried to lift himself up but finally fell back to the ground, unconscious.

Dust hung in the air where Bedlam had fallen and gently floated down into the crater. Part of a building behind me dropped to the ground with a dull thud. There was a quiet moment before everyone gathered - police, fire department, bystanders - started to react.

In that moment, the Twilight Man grabbed me and pulled me to one side.

"Follow me", he said matter-of-factly.

He then added "You need to meet some people" and ran off into a side street.

Shrugging, wondering what was going on, I sprinted after the dark figure as the people behind me began to tidy up the mess left by Bedlam's attack.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks

Searching around Apple's App store on my iPod Touch recently, I came across a few apps for the Fighting Fantasy series of books. After much "umm"ing and "ahh"ing over which book to choose, I decided against the first in the series - Warlock of Firetop Mountain - and went with Deathtrap Dungeon instead.

The Fighting Fantasy books were a series of "choose you own adventure" type books with some added dice-rolling to resolve combat against monsters. They first appeared in the early 1980s and were interactive books and games all in one. They were some of the first proper 'novels' (if you consider these books as such) I read after The Hobbit and the first half of Lord of the Rings (it wasn't until I was in my late 20s that I read the whole lot). They were also my introduction to roleplaying games. I fondly remember collecting a whole stack of them - together with my best friend I think we had all of the first 20 or so and I read most of these (often more than once). I think I also had the Sorcery! books, one or two of the Lone Wolf books as well as a few other similar books that were published at around the same time.

Now, I have to admit that I did used to cheat whilst playing/reading these books. I'd keep my finger on the previous page in case the new page I turned to resulted in the death of my character. That way I could "rewind time" and choose the less-deadly path. I think I also cheated sometimes with some of the dice rolls.

These new Fighting Fantasy apps are great. They reproduce the whole thing on the iPod, together with the occasional pieces of (coloured) artwork that were in the original books. Rolling of the two dice is done for you with a shake of the device which produces some accompanying 3-D animation, and you can access your character sheet (and each stamina-reviving food) whenever you want. As with many ebooks, the text can be resized and changed to a variety of different fonts. The app also automatically bookmarks where you last were. It feels just like reading the real thing.

Unfortunately though, it doesn't let you cheat. If you take a wrong turn or make a bad choice and your character dies, you have to restart from the beginning. Which, of course, means rereading all the pages you've been through before (unless you choose an alternate route) after rerolling up another character.

Deathtrap Dungeon was probably the third FF book I bought when I was a young teenager and, I believe, one of the hardest/deadliest of the series at the time. Certainly, in this electronic iteration, I found my character dying quite a few times. This was not helped by being specifically told that you character will need several items in the dungeon to get through. Therefore there is a tendency to try every door and pick up every object you come across. After my character had died half a dozen times, I started to get somewhat cheesed off having to skip through all the numbered paragraphs to get to the same point again to try a different course of action (damned stupid Buddha-like idol).

Otherwise, it's great fun and very well put together. Although I'm suspect it's only of interest to those over 30 who remember the original books. Still, if you want to try something similar online, the Project Aon website hosts most of the Lone Wolf gamebooks, which are free to play.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Cosmics: Negative Feedback

Convenience store? More like an inconvenience store, mused Paul as waited in line to be served. At least this one is. Why the hell can't there be one nearer to home?

After the evening's testing of his weird ability, Paul needed a cigarette and he'd run out of the little white cancer sticks earlier. But if he didn't get home soon, Paul knew that his wife, Alison, would be wondering where the hell he was.

Standing there in the short line, Paul stared at the huge shoulders of a well-built, leather-clad guy dressed in front of him as he considered how things were going. In his car he'd found that when he'd turned up the radio's volume to maximum and stuck his hands over the booming speakers, he could also absorb sound energy. As before, back at the apartment, a slight trickle of power worked its way up his arms and into his chest. Together with what he had discovered earlier, it looked like he could absorb any type of energy.

Paul glared at the large man in the leather jacket ahead of him. In reality it had only been a moment, but for Paul it felt like this guy was purposely taking hours. For some reason he was arguing with the anxious worker behind the counter, shoving his hand towards him, whilst trying not to attract too much attention. Paul craned his neck around the big man's arm and saw that the guy's clenched fist was glowing. He was a cosmic.

"Shit", Paul muttered. Leather-clad guy was trying to knock the place over. And the clerk was trying to stall.

"I tol' ya", Paul heard the man snarl at the clerk. "Hand over all dey money... hey, wha' you lookin' at? You wanna piece of Havoc's heat blast?"

The wide-shouldered man, all six foot and change of him, turned around and glared at Paul.

Paul, looking up, met the man's eyes under his domino mask. Shit. It's that Havoc guy from the Masters of Mayhem, he thought, his gut beginning to seethe and boil.

"Leave him alone, asshole", Paul muttered, backing away a little from the villain's blazing right fist which was now pointing his way.

"Wha's dat?" Havoc growled. "You talkin' to me?"

"Yeah", Paul replied more loudly this time, his anger increasing his confidence. "I said leave him alone, get out of my way and get the fuck out of here".

The cosmic villain looked down on Paul like he was dirt found on the sole of one of his big black boots, and thrust his fist forwards threateningly.

"Wha' you gonna do 'bout it, ass-wipe?", the big man jeered. "I'll tell ya. You gonna do nothin' 'cause yer gonna be dead".

Paul stood his ground as the big man sneered and released a blast of superheated flames in his direction. The scorching energy hit Paul, pushing him backwards a little, but - amazingly - didn't hurt Paul one bit.

Paul turned back to the villain, seething.

"That's where you're wrong idiot. I'm going to do this", he spat and, both hands thrust forwards, he leapt at the villain.

His outstretched hands grabbed the man's shoulders and pushed him back against the wall. Havoc, his initial surprise turning to anger, released a blast of red hot energy at his attacker. Or he tried to. Instead of the expected blast, Havoc felt the energy being siphoned out of his body.

"Wha' the fu...!?!" the villain began. But by then, even the sound of his own voice was being absorbed by Paul, who now gripped the masked man's arms at his side. Havoc found that even his own strength had deserted him. He couldn't move nor struggle out of Paul's vice-like hold.

The big man juddered for a second or two before his eyes rolled up and he dropped to the floor, powerless.

Paul lifted his hands and examined his fingers. Other than a very slight burn, he was unharmed. He glanced back at the thug, saw he was down for the count but still breathing, and then turned his attention to the clerk.

The man's muddy brown eyes were wide in disbelief and shock. But beyond the initial surprise, Paul saw something else. Fear. Fear of the cosmic in front of him and dread concerning what had been done to the masked man. Paul couldn't sustain the gaze for long and soon looked away.

Calmness soothed his nerves as he said to the clerk, "Call the cops and the paramedics. Perhaps even those Cosmic Knight guys".

"Wha... who are you?" the man behind the counter stammered.

Paul looked up at the man again, saw the fear still there in his eyes. Was this what the average guy in the street thought of cosmics? Did they fear the power available at their fingertips?

"I'm called Feedback", he stated. Then he added, "And I’m here to help".

With what he hoped was a friendly nod to the clerk, Paul walked quickly over to the store's exit and left before things got complicated.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Cosmics: Dynamic Daydreams and Missing Mentors

Kid Kinetic still couldn't find Dr Dynamo. Any clues to his whereabouts didn't seem to make sense. It was so frustrating. But then again, life in his normal, slowed-down guise was frustrating. He wanted to run, wanted to feel the excitement that came with hurtling along the ground at a hundred miles an hour. Instead, right now, he was stuck in class listening to a boring lecture whilst daydreaming about one of his first training sessions with Dr Dynamo…



"No kid", called out Doctor Dynamo, one of America's finest superheroes, "you've got to time your punch right. Accelerate up, pull back your fist and, just a moment before you think you're going to hit, swing. No earlier!"

The blurred figure of Kid Kinetic, also known as Marty MacNeil when not in costume, zipped from the other side of the abandoned warehouse and, in the blink of an eye, was standing next to Dr Dynamo rubbing his injured right fist.

"ButitfeelslikeI'mswingingtoolate", explained Marty, speaking so fast that the words all ran into one.

"Slow down, kid", admonished Dr Dynamo, "That's your problem; sometimes you're
too quick".

Marty saw Dr Dynamo sigh and then, with a crack of lightning, launch himself across the warehouse. Dr Dynamo was about to pick up the mannequin they'd been using for target practice when Marty suddenly zipped past, a blur of colour, and picked it up himself.

"Letmegetthatforyou", uttered Marty as he placed the dummy on the stand. Dr Dynamo shook his head but Marty didn't notice. He was too busy rushing around the room. He zipped off, turned on a dime and then rushed back, trying once more to land a decent supersonic punch on the dummy.




Kid Kinetic realised that he'd been lucky to find a mentor like Dr Dynamo. When his cosmic powers had surfaced nearly a year ago, it had taken him by surprise.

Up until then, Marty had only dreamed of moving fast. He'd always loved watching motor racing on TV, jet fighters at air shows and sprinters at sporting events but he'd always been slow and steady.

Suddenly he found himself running as quick as a car and not being able to stop. His cosmic abilities had been so hard to control at first - the energy just wanted him to move quicker and quicker. It was exhilarating but also a little scary and not very practical.

Thankfully, Dr Dynamo had been nearby and, after they'd managed to get him to slow down, the good Doctor had trained him in the use of his abilities. Together they had fought crime, stopping those who wanted to harm or cause fear in others. He'd been the sidekick to one of the greatest heroes who had ever lived (at least in Marty's view).

That was then though. Now he was no longer a sidekick because just a while back, Dr Dynamo disappeared. No one seems to know where he's gone or what's happened to him. One day he was fighting Entropy and then suddenly he was gone. Maybe Entropy's chaos effect had sent Dr Dynamo somewhere? But no one has seen Entropy since that day either, so Marty can't ask him. It was all so frustrating.

But perhaps, wondered Marty as his teacher waffled on at the front of class, he could get a lead to his mentor's whereabouts from the Cosmic Knights?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Primeval: Series 4 Episode 2

Although this show is never going to win any prizes (except, perhaps, for its CGI effects), I felt that this second episode of the revived series of Primeval was a little better than the first. It felt more... focussed or straightforward or something. Whereas the first episode had to establish Connor and Abby back in the past, then somehow bring them back, set up a new ARC and some new characters and also have the obligatory dino-encounter, this second episode just concentrated on that dino-encounter whilst dealing a little with Connor and Abby's roles in the team.

Abby was accepted into the team as the keeper of the "bestiary", which meant they didn't compromise the ARC's new rule of allowing only (ex-)military personel to go out into the field to investigate anomalies. We only got to see a vague glimpse of this "bestiary"; I'm not entirely how it's supposed to work. Are the dinos left to wander around some large room or are they kept in cages? Why are they kept at the ARC and not some other, perhaps open-air, facility? These dinosaurs would be of great scientific interest so I can only assume they are being studied at length behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, Connor is kicked out. Despondently he uses Jess' computer (she seems far to friendly and accomodating to be true. Is she the enemy in the ranks that old man Gideon keeps going on about?) to try and find a place to stay but ends up discovering that his old mate Duncan is hunting 'monsters'. Tracking him down, they head to a building site where they find a half eaten body - and a dino-croc! Apparently, this dino came through anomaly as a baby five years ago and thus before the ARC and its anomaly-detecting apparatus were established. Since then it's been living in the sewers - just like the urban legend of giant alligators underneath New York.

Connor contacts Abby to get her help, Matt follows Abby after she sneaks away and soon the whole of the ARC team are involved in a dino hunt within a maze of large transport containers. Nameless extras are eaten (off camera), cowardly Duncan is left in a green container somewhere and eventually the dino is put down or stunned or whatever. The day is saved and Connor is brought onto the team because, well, he's in the titles so he has to be.

It's good to see that, although Primeval generally does the whole "dino of the week" thing, each episode progresses things from the weeks before. There's a feeling of continuation and evolution (hah!) rather than reset button pressing at the end of each episode. The new characters are also settling in quite quickly - I quite like Jess (she's certainly easy on the eye) but Matt sometimes seems a little too stilted and aloof. We also still haven't seen much of Dr Bashir - I mean, Philip Burton - which is a pity. Then there's the mystery of this enemy - or enemies - on the team that Gideon keeps talking to Matt about. The writing's far from brilliant but the show is interesting and entertaining and this ongoing mystery adds to that.

Next week sees some people from the future (?) coming through an anomaly. Sounds like fun and makes a change from a dino, although I'm sure they'll be one or two of those as well.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Cosmics: Red Baron

  "Red Baron, this is Red Leader. The rat is in the trap", chattered the radio in the Red Baron's headset.

Reflected streetlights gleamed scarlet from the polished exterior of the Red Baron's helmet as he stood looking over at the luxurious building in the gloom. The 'rat', in this case, was Millenia's senator and the 'trap' was a building that had been rigged with explosive earlier that day. As far as the Red Brigade knew, they were attacking yet another capitalist leader of this country in order to bring down the old and usher in the new. However, what they didn't know was that the Red Baron had taken an order for the death of this man and would make a large amount of money from this hit.

In the suit of high-tech armour, the Red Baron smiled.

"Excellent", he muttered into his radio microphone as he steepled the fingers in front of him. "Time for the Brigade to disappear", he added.

He waited a moment longer and then lifted up his burnished, left gauntlet to near his visor. By now, having taken out the guards around the building and planted the explosives, his agile agents would be converging on the Sky Fortress away from the building. He was free to detonate the device. In a somewhat louder voice, he cried out,

"May the Reign of Red prevail!"

And, with his right gauntlet, he pressed a button on his left. There was a dull thump and then a high-pitched whoosh as bright, red light streamed out of the building into the night sky. The Red Baron stepped back and a few seconds later there was an almighty boom as the small building in front of him collapsed into dust and rumble.

With a grin, the Red Baron pressed another button on his gauntlet and the boot jets in his armoured battlesuit fired into life. With a quick salute, he blasted off into the night sky and towards his gleaming red Sky Fortress.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Cosmics: Maxwell Merlini


"The game's up, Madame Xanadu. Your mystic séances are all fake!" came a resonant, commanding voice in a reasonable - but fake - upperclass English accent.

An ominous top-hatted shadow fell across the large, round felt topped table as Maxwell Merlini, Master of Magic, stepped into the doorway. Across the table, the beautiful but deadly Madame Xanadu gasped in surprise and rose from her ornately carved seat.

In the years before his death, Merlini's mentor - the famous Harry Houdini - had spent much of his time exposing the so-called psychics and mediums for the charlatans and fraudsters that they were. After Houdini's death, Merlini had gathered his assets, cashed them in and used the money to travel the world - first to England and through Europe during the Second World War and then into Asia. When he'd died in the 60s and then cosmically been reborn, he'd journeyed back to America, continuing his master's mission to debunk fake mystics and expose con artists. That was what had led him to the sorcerous séances of Madame Xanadu.

"It was thin wires that moved objects around the room, not spirits from the underworld", Max Merlini's voice called out, echoing across the room. "Radio transmitters in the walls produced the voices from beyond the veil. All cheap parlour tricks! Your days as a mystic, taking money from rich widows, are over".

"Curse you, Merlini!" Madame Xanadu spat as the Master of Magic stepped further into the room draped with silk sheets and decorated with fake mystic icons. "You may have uncovered my diabolical schemes but you won't leave this room to tell anyone about them!"

And with that, Madame Xanadu pulled sharply on a golden wall sconce and, with a faint creak, a secret door suddenly opened in the wall behind her. From out of the shadowy gloom beyond this doorway, two tall and bullishly strong thugs stepped into the room. One had a dull grey pistol in his hand and the other wielded a solid-looking crowbar. The two hoodlums began to edge their way around the table.

"These won't save you, Madame Xanadu!" Merlini called out. "Not against one who commands the mystic dark arts themselves" he added, his voice low and threatening.

Contrary to the reputation he was happy to uphold, Maxwell Merlini did not actually command any mystic arts. Other than his cosmic power of reincarnation, he was simply a master of mesmerism, stage magic and perception. His command lay in the illusionary arts, originally taught to him by the world famous Houdini himself before his death and further enhanced during his time with skilled monks in hidden part of Tibet.

Merlini glanced at both of the two thugs and then focussed on the one with the firearm. He was obviously the greatest threat at the moment. Locking eyes with the man, Merlini waved his arms the air and called out a suitably impressive incantation.

Suddenly, the room went dark. Or at least it did for the thug with the gun. Voices began to call to the gunman, eerie chanting from the shadows.

"...Begone..." the voice echoed in the man's criminal mind. "...Leave this place...Run...before we destroy your body and take your soul...Run away!"

The last two words were said by Merlini himself, however, to the gunman it seemed like the shadows within his mind were speaking to him. The gangster began to panic, swung his gun around firing into nothing but thin air, punching holes into the walls. Still the imaginary darkness suffocated him, bringing madness in its wake.

Merlini gestured again towards the man and, finally, the thug dropped his gun and ran out of the room through the doorway. Smiling, the Master of Magic turned towards the other hoodlum.

Too late! The man was only a step away and bringing his crowbar down in a wide arc to strike upon Merlini's head. Reacting quickly, Merlini raised his crystal-topped cane, easily blocking the blow. He dodged another powerful thrust and parried a third swing of the iron bar whilst pushing the thug away a little.

Looking deep into the man's eyes, Merlini's pupils appeared to glow as he waved his gloved, nimble hands in the air. Not only could Merlini cloud a man's mind with mental illusions that seemed real, he could also control that man's actions with nothing but a word. Another trick learned from the monks hidden deep within Tibet.

With a deep, penetrating voice, the magician commanded the crook to cast his crowbar away. Unwittingly, the man stopped his advance and stared at Merlini. He dropped his weapon and stood there, still as a statue. He was trapped by the magician's mesmerising hypnosis.

The thug continued to gaze, enraptured, at Merlini's twisting and turning left hand as the magician approached him. With a dark smile, Merlini swung his cane in his right at the side of the man's head. The crook didn't know what hit him and he crumbled to the floor like the filthy trash he was. "Beware the mesmerising magic of Merlini", muttered the magician as he stood over the hoodlum's prone form.

Looking up, Merlini glanced around the room. Madame Xanadu was gone! No doubt she had left through the secret door and into the passageway beyond. Before he could investigate further, the familiar sound of sirens rose like the eerie shriek of questing eagles. His call to the police had been answered and finally they were here. Madame Xanadu would have to wait until another day whilst he explained things to Millenia's authorities.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Primeval Series 4 Episode 1

Well, I'm glad I watched the short pre-episodes on the web before this first full episode of season 4 of the resurrected Primeval - ITVs dino sci-fi show. Because this episode started with the new ARC - and new characters - already in place. Those mini-eps certainly add something.

As per the end of the last series, Abby and Conner have been stuck in the Cretaceous period for a year now with, it seems, no hope of getting back. Until they happen across Helen's damaged anomaly-opening device. Unfortunately they have to get past a giant spinosaurus and a raptor first.

Meanwhile, back at the ARC, after dealing with a small dino breakout, a new anomaly is detected. The military-based team, armed with new electro guns, head out to investigate and meet up with two old friends - plus one large dino!

As always, the effects with the dinos and the anomalies are very good. The acting is great and the new characters seem pretty good. Matt Anderson (Ciaran McMenamin) is cool and seems to be secretly in league with a mysterious old man in a garden. Who is this and who are they looking out for? Jess Parker (Ruth Kearney) is perky and great fun - plus very geekily attractive. A pity we didn't see more of Philip Burton (Alexander Siddig), the private investor in the new ARC and something of an inventive genius according to Connor.

With some nice little humourous bits - like S Club 7 playing when Abby tries to distract the spinosaurus - and plenty of drama make for a great (re)start to this series. Although it seemed a little disjointed at times and over far too quickly. The surface of any kind of ongoing story line was barely scratched. Thankfully there's only a day to wait for the next episode. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop