Monday, February 28, 2011

Being Human: Daddy Ghoul

Hmmm, I think I forgot to write a review for last week's Being Human episode. Never mind.

Last week, a seemingly amnesic Herrick was back to bother our friendly foursome. And indeed it does appear that Herrick has forgotten all that he did as a vampire. But that doesn't mean he's all sweetness and light. He's still plotting behind the scenes, showing Nina the Box Tunnel 20 scrapbook that Mitchell had taken from Graham. Which led to Nina tipping off the police.

This week, after Annie almost catches Mitchell reading about the Bow Tunnel massacre, things head off in another direction as Annie spots something shocking in the obituaries. It appears George's father has died and so George decides to attend the Christian (not Jewish?) funeral. Well, he sort of hides behind a tree watching from a distance and in doing so meets his father doing the same. Of course, George immediately assumes this is George Sands Snr's ghost.

Was it stated where his parents are living and thus where George is from? I'm guessing they're from Bristol but, if so, why didn't George move away from there once he "died". I always assumed George still saw his parents, albeit only rarely (and certainly not during a full moon!), and they still thought he was alive but just going his own way. Considering he's technically considered dead, I wonder how George manages to get a job, rent a place, have a bank account, etc?

Part of the way through the episode - especially when it was raining and the legs of George's father were stopping the ground from getting wet - I realised that Sands Senior wasn't actually dead. Instead, it turns out he'd faked his death in a morbid way to get at his wife for leaving him for another man. Which, of course, meant that George's talk of ghosts, doors to the afterlife and howling at the moon reaffirmed his father's view that George had spent 3 years being treated for psychological problems.

The ending of this little diversion was a bit clichéd though. George Snr reveals to his cheating wife that he's alive and still loves her, she's unsure because he's so boring and unadventurous, the other man (George's old PE teacher) tells George's father to piss off, his father decks the lover and, lo and behold, suddenly his wife is all over him and sorry she ever left him. Everything sorted by a punch? Sounds like a superhero comic.

So, other than this weak, but slightly amusing, story with George and his parents, what else was going on? Well, after Nina's tip-off, a policewoman - Nancy "Drew" - comes round to the B&B to interview Mitchell. And here's where the two best scenes of the show occurred - both involving Herrick. Herrick's feast on a bloody tissue was strangely perverted but that bit in the bathroom as Herrick leans in to 'whisper' his secret to the policewoman was wonderfully tense and scary. A well shot scene with Herrick's mouth approaching Nancy's smooth and defenceless neck, the sound of blood rushing in the background, whilst we hope he doesn't feed on her like he did her tissue. Marvellous.

Thinking she's helping Mitchell out to come clean about Daisy (his partner in crime during the train massacre), Annie rentaghosts off to the police station to leave clues for Nancy to follow. Together with Herrick's gift of the scrapbook, it looks like Mitchell may be in a spot of trouble next week whilst Annie remains oblivious - and sadly underused in the show. Though her playing detective at least gives her something to do.

So, a bit of a weak episode this week although still interesting to watch. This season feels like it has concentrated on Mitchell's fall from grace (which actually happened in the last series) and obsessive fixations on the Box Tunnel 20 and the wolf-shaped bullet far too much. I'm guessing that won't be resolved until the end of the series in two weeks time.

Of course, then there's the Becoming Human webisodes. There's not really a lot to say about this other than to repeat that the shortness of each episode harms the storyline. It's difficult to get into when, before you know it, it's over. Anyway, we've discovered that Matt really liked Christa, that it looks like a man drowned Matt in the toilet, and that CCTV recordings leading towards the toilets may help identify the murderer. My bet (right from the off) is that it's the detention teacher.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Shall Wear Midnight (by Terry Pratchett)

Like a pair of comfy old slippers, reading Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld book - I Shall Wear Midnight - is a familiar, pleasant experience for me that is enjoyable and welcome. Although set on the Discworld, like Nation it is one of Terry's "young adult" books and therefore slightly separate from the main Discworld series. Again, the only real differences between this and his more 'adult' books are that the protagonist is a girl (well, now a young woman), it has a linear narrative which almost exclusively follows this single protagonist, and it has chapters. It really is just a standard Pratchett book that's trying to muscle in on the lucrative Harry Potter market.

The book follows on from Wintersmith and Hat Full of Sky with Tiffany Aching settled into her role as the fully-fledged witch of the Chalk (a remote-ish part of the Discworld countryside not far from the mountains). Together with her 'friends', the Nac Mac Feegles - little blue gnomes or pixies with more than a hint of rough gaelic about them - she helps out the people of the Chalk in her own wise witchery sort of way.

However, trouble is brewing. Her defeat of the Wintersmith with a kiss have released the Cunning Man, an evil vengeful spirit - well, more of a rumour really - that leads folk to hate and distrust pointy-hatted witches. Or any old woman who happens to spend far too much time on her own and has her own broomstick - like the older witch in black Tiffany keeps catching glimpses of and seems to be watching her. The Cunning Man, a frightening phantom with holes for eyes, is coming for Tiffany and as he gets closer he causes more and more unrest.

Meanwhile, there's a hare who keeps leaping through fire and disappearing. Is it some sort of omen?

I suspect this is the last Tiffany Aching book - not that it'll stop the character appearing in other books of course - as here Tiffany's role in the countryside is firmly established and her future (or at least potential future) assured. She finds a sort of love, not with the old Baron's son who takes over running the place when his father dies, but with perhaps an unlikely, intriguing, and somewhat inept guard. And, of course, she eventually does wear midnight - but only when she's 'old'.

One of the highlights in the story is when Tiffany, the latest witch to be helped by Granny Weatherwax meets up with first 'witch' to be trained by aforementioned Mistress Weatherwax. Eskarina "Esk" Smith hasn't been seen since waaay back in the third Discworld book (Equal Rites) over 20 years ago and it's great to see that this character hasn't been forgotten - or, at least, has finally been remembered in time for an encore.

Overall, this was a relatively quick, easy and fun book full of Pratchett's intelligent but gentle humour and packed with interesting ideas. His main characters tend to be a little too wise and clever and thus, in this book, you never really get the sense that Tiffany is truly threatened. Otherwise, a refreshingly entrancing read that was difficult to put down.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fishy Friday


Strength: 8
Toughness: 8
Special Powers: 4
Status: 7

Namora is, in a way, Marvel's version of Mera. Although she's Namor's cousin, she has also been his love interest. Hmmm, Atlanteans. Since then, she's gone on to be a hero in her own right as one of the Agents of Atlas (a series that I really should read one day). So, again, Marvel beats DC.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Outcasts (Episode 5)

Now on to this week's Outcasts, which at the start almost seems like a repeat of the last episode. Another mysterious figure from the wilderness moseys on over to the frontier town of Forthaven - this time somehow able to bypass the guards at the entrance. Probably because they're all drinking at the town's only bar I suspect. Why is this the only apparent source of relaxation and entertainment in Forthaven, other than Tipper's old-time radio show?

The old visitor starts throwing around bags of diamonds in the bar, which causes a good ol' fashioned (though sadly brief) bar brawl and then runs out, with Cass and Fleur - the only deputies in the town it seems - hot on his tail. Again, he manages to get out of Forthaven without being stopped by the non-existent guards and heads off towards the ocean, where he wants to show the two PAS officers something.

Now, the story about the diamonds - spread by Julius Berger - causes unrest in Forthaven as everyone wants one. I'm not sure why though because they don't seem to use money on Carpathia and Forthaven doesn't seem to be an ultra-capitalist state where the rich have everything whilst the poor go hungry. So what use are diamonds to them?

Meanwhile, outside in the pleasant looking countryside, we get our first hint as to why the folk of Forthaven perhaps haven't explored the rest of Carpathia. Apparently there are Closed Zones - areas of high radiation - in the wilderness. Though Jack, later, is able to plot a course through these without too much trouble as he and Stella go after Cass, Fleur and the old man. Why only those two (and an XP redshirt who gets shot by some roving ACs) were sent to find them and not, say, a dozen XPs I don't know. Perhaps the rest of them were nursing hangovers after visiting the bar the night before?

Stella wants to go because "the ocean is where all life starts" and she wants to find out more about the fossilised remains. This seems a bit of a shot in the dark - why not just dig up the area around where that jawbone was found last week? Anyway, at least someone is finally exploring the planet whilst at the same time proving she's a crack shot with a pistol.

The old man called Pak turns out to be Patrick Baxter, the now almost-legendary person who first set foot on Carpathia. Although, as we find out from Pak, he wasn't the first to land on the planet. An AC (called Tigger? A tiger link?) was sent down first but, of course, no one considers them human so they don't count. Unfortunately, the scientists who modified the AC forgot to give him a decent immune system (seriously?) so, like a martian invading Earth, Carpathia's "invader" died of a cold.

We also find out that, after apparently killing his commanding officer, Pak tried to fly his plane to get away but crashed. It seems it's now well known that planes don't work on Carpathia. Why? What is it about the atmosphere that prevents flight? Or do they mean he tried to fly off the planet but was caught out by the same problem that hampered the transport ship in the first episode? Again, more questions.

Eventually, they make it to the unnamed ocean and find lots of cut diamonds in the water. How did the water cut the facets in the diamonds like that I wonder? They also find some more fossilised bones, though they didn't particularly look like fossils to me. Meanwhile, Pak - who somehow knows his time is at an end - heads off into the water followed by his ghost dog... where he promptly falls over and dies. Which, of course, means he's unable to tell them what his vague proclamations concerning "the planet not wanting them" were about.

So, was Pak's ghost dog linked in some way to Tate's visions of his children? Tate is adamant that he's not going crazy but isn't that the sort of thing mentally disturbed people say? After a while does the planet start to affect it's inhabitants, giving them strange visions? Whatever, Tate's admission to Stella that his children are with him will only help Julius' rise in the council.

Regarding Julius, there's another meaty cliffhanger at the end of this episode. Another transport ship is out there in space on it's way to Carpathia and someone on this one (perhaps every one on board?) has a dark motive with regards to Forthaven and Tate's 'mission'. From Julius' transmitted message, it appears he's there to clear away any resistance.

So, will this new storyline be resolved within the next 3 episodes? Will all these questions be answered? Is being a cross between Lost and Battlestar Galactica really such a bad thing? So many questions and so little time...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #5

art by Don Heck and Frank Giacoia (from Avengers #29 1966)

Outcasts (Episode 4)

After a brief break and sorting out a few problem with my BT Vision+ box, I'm finally back up to date with episodes of Outcasts. But first, let's skip back an episode...

A wounded and exhausted AC appears at the entrance to Forthaven, requiring assistance. Why Eliyah, this rogue AC, is in a bad way and why he came to Forthaven isn't really explained. I guess the latter might be because his violent blackouts are increasing in frequency and he thinks the folk of Forthaven can fix him. However, considering it turns out that Tate was the one who caused his problems in the first place and that Cass and Fleur decide the best thing for him is to return to his fellow ACs, it seems that Eliyah had something of a wasted journey.

Anyway, Eliyah is locked away in a cell with a flimsy lock where he has flashbacks of cruel manipulations and experiments conducted on him by Tate in order to produce a "better" clone. It's emphasised that Tate was only doing this to help the humans on Carpathia survive but it paints him as something of a grey man who is quick to suppress certain ethics in order to ensure survival. Before long, Eliyah shoulder-barges the door and easily escapes, free to roam around Forthaven. Security obviously isn't much of a priority.

Soon after, Lily, Stella's daughter, approaches old-school DJ Tipper and tips him off about the escaped AC. She does this by handing him a printed out memo detailing the event. Again, a lack of security there. Why the council of Forthaven needed to send this out as a memo is beyond me but it does raise something that has been bothering me for a while regarding the technology level on Outcasts.

The humans here are sufficiently advanced that they can travel vast distances on large transport ships to other Earth-like planets. The journey only takes about 5 years and yet the closest known star to our own Sun is Proxima Centauri - which is just over 4 light years away. That means these ships must be capable of almost lightspeed travel or better, which is pretty damned advanced. And yet the only other two instances of higher technology we've seen thus far are the genetically manipulated clones and that Deep Brain Visualisation thingy that Stella plays with. Everything else is equivalent to modern-day tech - or earlier in the case of Tipper's turntable. They still write things on paper (or maybe it's supposed to be a sheet of e-ink?), travel around on foot, use needles to inject people, have modern day pistols and rifles.

They even use pickaxes and shovels to dig a hole for a water pipe and, in the process, uncover what appears to be a fossil of a human-like jawbone. A little more on that later.

So where's the rest of the higher tech? Why does it feel like this is just set about 10 years from now but somehow space travel has advanced significantly whilst not a lot else has? It's like the writers are aiming for a western frontier-like ambience to the show whilst unfortunately ignoring the fact that it's set in the far future.

Back to the story and Fleur and Cass locate Eliyah, befriend him and then agree to help him - by sending him back out into the wilderness without treating him for his problems at all. However, Cass is loyal to Tate and betrays the AC and Fleur. Whilst some XPs and the other PAS officers (I assume there are others - we only ever get to see Fleur and Cass!) attempted to capture Eliyah, Jack - the XP leader since Mitchell's death - shoots him. Even though it looked like the AC was about to attack someone, this seems a bit harsh - and against the commands given. Of course, Jack's not reprimanded and later we find out he's siding with a clone-hating Berger.

Then at the end we get that big cliffhanger regarding the human fossil. Have humans been on Carpathia before? Or, more likely (though a bit of a let down), perhaps it was just a humanoid native of the planet that died out millions of years ago? Why doesn't anyone try digging up the rest of the fossilised body in the hole? Why doesn't there appear to be any scientists in Forthaven to give this fossil to? More questions left unanswered.

Aside from a flood of niggling little questions about how Forthaven works (this week we saw some more of the town - which seems to consists solely of empty transport containers), Outcasts does continue to improve - but it's a slow process. The mysteries, such as the fossil, help a lot but let's hope we get a satisfactory conclusion to these by the end of this series. Because, with the news that Outcasts is moving to the late slot on Sunday nights due to plummeting viewing figures, it's unlikely we'll get a second series.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fishy Friday


Strength: 4
Toughness: 5
Special Powers: 3
Status: 6

Aquaman's wife from the dimension Aqua, although that's currently being retconned away in the Brightest Day series. In a way, she's sort of not a superhero on her own but more of a love interest, like Lois Lane. She and Aquaman had a baby called, of course, Aquababy who, of course, died due to the evil schemes of Black Manta. Comic books, eh?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

I'm a big fan of superhero cartoons - even if my wife thinks they're childish - but I often don't get to see a lot of the American output due to not having a satellite or cable subscription. Thank goodness for good ol' YouTube then.

Whilst browsing YouTube on my iPod, I first came across large numbers of X-Men: Evolution that Marvel have posted on the video sharing site. Amusingly (well, I thought so), in the description to these excellent X-Men cartoons, there's a note from Marvel to go and buy the episodes from iTunes. Why would anyone do that when they're able to watch these ones Marvel themselves have provided for free?

Anyway, after watching a few of these episodes, I noticed someone had (illegally) posted the recent Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes cartoons on there and so I had a look. And I'm very glad I did!

The series has obviously been created to ride the wave of interest associated with the recent Marvel movies, including the upcoming Avengers movie. Here, the animated Iron Man sounds quite like Robert Downey Jnr, he has a computer system called JARVIS, Captain America fights HYDRA in WW2 not Nazis and Thor meets Jane Foster who looks similar to Natalie Portman. It also uses a line-up close to that in the Avengers movie - Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Captain America as well as Ant Man/Giant Man and the Wasp. And if the movie version can be half as exciting as this, it'll be amazing.

What I love about it is the way the show is organised and how a common series-wide storyline is woven into each episode.

It starts right in the middle of the action with the big four supervillain prisons - the Cube, the Vault, Big House and the Raft - shutting down, releasing all of the villains inside. So, it's a bit like the beginning of the New Avengers series in 2004 only multiplied by four! More worrying though, it also releases Graviton, a corrupt and very powerful ex-SHIELD scientist, who now has the power to command gravity itself. A number of individual heroes - Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man and the Wasp (echoing the original Avengers as Cap and others heroes join later) - arrive on the scene and join forces to take down this single, city-destroying menace in a blistering two-part opener. Following the battle, they decide to remain together as a team to help track down the other 74 supervillains.

Then, instead of continuing onwards with the storyline showing the heroes rounding up the villains, the next five episodes detail some of the heroes' background leading up to the big breakout. Each features an individual hero (or both Ant Man and Wasp for the 7th ep) and explains what the heroes were doing before the series opener plus character origins, where required. These expand on many of the unexplained threads from the first two episodes and hint at who, or what, might have been behind the simultaneous mass supervillain breakout.

Again, in a way it mirrors Marvel's method in managing its movies. Each character in the Avengers is given his own movie (or two) to introduce the character and explain his background whilst throwing a few hints regarding the overarching Avengers Universe. The same occurs here but with 25-minute episodes instead of movies. It works extremely well, keeping things episodic whilst also having an ongoing storyline.

Of course, with the whole Marvel Universe at it's disposal there are plenty of appearances from other superheroes and supervillains. From Wolverine as one of Fury's Howling Commandos in Captain America's past to Kang the Conqueror who travels back from the future to ensure his timeline isn't wiped from existence.

The stories are engaging, the action wonderfully relentless and the voice acting is decent too. The only negative thing I would say is that the art and animation is sometimes a bit rough; it doesn't look as accomplished as DC's Justice League Unlimited, for example. Still, after watching the first batch of this Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes series, I'm hooked.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #4

art by Don Heck and Frank Ray (Avengers #26 1966)

Outcasts (Episode 3)

This week Outcasts continues to deliver the same quality as it did in the last episode, not significantly improving but not as laden with depression as the first episode. Sure, some characters are still gloomy and there are still a number of deaths (all minor characters we've never seen before or extras) but it doesn't seem quite so hopeless. Not quite...

This week Forthaven had to contend with a large "whiteout" - a type of electrical dust storm - whilst Fleur headed out to return the ACs' baby and a couple of engineers (one of whom is due to marry Trix, an old flame of Cass) tried to secure the Earth communication aerial. For a minute I thought Leon, Trix's fiancé, was going to snuff it in the storm but, surprisingly for Outcasts, there was actually a happy ending - although his mate did die.

This episode seemed to concentrate on Tipper, the young genius who slept with Stella, as he was asked to decipher some notes about the whiteouts that Julius brought from some guy on the transport ship. Considering we have problems predicting the next days weather, how some guy predicted these whiteouts from millions of miles away I'll never know. Anyway, it gave Tipper something to do instead of lounging in his bleak, shack-like home listening to LPs on his turntable (where the bloomin' heck did he get that antique, I wonder?).

Anyway, the usually happy-go-lucky waster Tipper was now saddled with psychological problems due to the death of his four sisters. Coincidentally psychotherapist Trix was treating him, again reinforcing the fact that there only seems to be a few dozen people in Forthaven. What is with this programme that everyone has to have issues regarding deaths of family members? I suspect Trix is a busy, if not particularly successful, woman.

Talking of deaths, Tate comes clean to everyone that he ordered the deaths of the ACs, which will probably help Julius' standing in future episodes. He also seems to be hallucinating items - such as that tin cup - related to his dead children. So it seems that moving picture from last week was just Tate going a bit, well, mad and not something interesting, like latent telekinetic abilities. Also, is it just me or does his voice sounds like Patrick Stewart's?

In a similarly manner, the whiteout we saw in the first episode seemed somewhat unusual in the way it suddenly appeared and then sucked backwards disappearing. I thought perhaps there was something sinister with this but it seems these dust storms are just a natural phenomenon and will probably not feature much after this episode.

Which leads me to wondering where will Outcasts go from here. There no longer seems to be much of any mysteries to be solved. I suspect there will be something of a power struggle as Berger tries to usurp Tate's authority but otherwise what else is there to come? I have no idea where Outcasts is going. Heck, I don't even know why it's called "Outcasts" (although, I read somewhere that originally the Forthaven inhabitants were supposed to be convicts and criminals but the Beeb felt that we wouldn't empathise with them. Or something). Whatever, let's hope the hand-wringing deaths are played down a little from now on.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Legion of Superheroes: The Great Darkness Saga

Another collection of comicbooks bought for nostalgic reasons!

During the early 80s my dad used to get a bunch of cheap, random DC comics from the local indoor market every month. These would be rolled up into a cylinder and held with a rubber band so that you couldn't tell what comics you were getting. Often they'd be a couple of Superman/Superboy issues, a couple of horror comics, perhaps a Batman comic or two. And on a few occasions there were also some issues of the Legion of Superheroes - some of which featured the Great Darkness Saga storyline from 1982, written by Paul Levitz and drawn by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt.

So, for Christmas I asked for the recently published "deluxe" hardback edition and, lo and behold, I received.

Now, one of the things to point out is that this book collects together #284-296 of LoSH and Annual #1 whereas the Great Darkness Saga only really occurs in issues #290-294. Thus the first half of this book (and the last issue or two), pencilled by a variety of artists but mostly Pat Broderick, has very little to do with that saga. There are one or two hints of the darkness to come in these earlier issues, plus they explain why Light Lass is grumpy with Timber Wolf and why Chameleon Boy is in jail. Otherwise, although the earlier and concluding stories are nice to have, they're only really of average quality.

Broderick's art on the first couple of issues is clean, clear and decent (I remember his work most from my collection of Alpha Flight) but is not quite as good as Giffen and Mahlstedt's later on, which I prefer. And whilst looking at the art, I was slightly surprised to see how skimpy the female Legion members costumes were. Many of them look like they're wearing bikini's or have had their "costume" painted on. I can see why, at 12 or 13 years old when these were originally published, I liked the LoSH so much. Or maybe I'm just a old prude now?

Anyway, after a so-so start of soap opera relationships (everyone in the Legion seems to be going steady with someone else on the team!) mixed with some space action, half way through the book the good stuff - the Great Darkness Saga itself - kicks in. The story here works well, ramping up the danger with various battles against the dark enemy's genetically twisted servants, until a planet full of Daxamites - each with the power equal to Superboy or Mon-El - are controlled by the master villain Darkseid in order to pound the United Planets into submission and bring the whole universe to its knees.

In a way, it's almost like a dress rehearsal for Crisis on Infinite Earths, which would be published 3 years later. The whole universe full of planets (not just a single city or even the Earth) is in crisis from an extremely powerful foe. A large cast consisting of almost every legionnaire, past and present, appears in this story and they are generally handled well enough, if in some cases briefly, by Levitz. Meanwhile Giffen's art remains (for the most part) clear and detailed and almost as good as Perez's in CoIE.

Of course, at the time, one of the main draws of the book was in trying to deduce the identity of the shadowy villain behind all the darkness. Many hints are given along the way but it's a pity then that, when I read this as a 12 year old, I had no idea who Darkseid and the New Gods were. Although I still enjoyed it, the impact of the big reveal around two-thirds of the way through the story was somewhat lost on me. Of course, for anyone reading this story for the first time, the identity of the villain is somewhat spoiled by Darkseid's looming visage on the cover!

My only slight criticism of the main Great Darkness Saga story would be that Darkseid is not ultimately defeated by the Legion themselves. The Legion defeat many of Darkseid's servants and, I suppose, keep the young child who turns out to be a reincarnated version of the New God Izaya out of Darkseid's clutches. However, it is Izaya himself who has to power to defeat Darkseid - with, perhaps, some final assistance from Superboy and Supergirl and the threat of that planet full of Daxamites about to descend upon him.

This hardback is a wonderful blast from the past, reprinting one of the greatest comicbook stories from the Bronze Age. It is well-presented on glossy, slightly oversized paper and included at the back is a collection of pencil sketches by Giffen and the surprisingly brief scripts for a couple of issues (the first and last of the GDS storyline). Well worth the purchase even if you weren't a fan of the Legion in the 70s and 80s and certainly if you're a fan of Levitz's current Legion work.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Being Human: The Pack

This week's Being Human brought a number of threads together into an almost midseason finale - though somewhat low key and not really a finale. It was decent enough, with a few laughs (highlights including a ventriloquism act, an unusual double-bill at the cinema, and a dirty talk script) but just felt like it was average episode for me. Mind you, average on Being Human is still pretty exciting.

The wolfy McNairs show up again when Nina and George decide they need to find out more about giving birth to a werewolf. Quite why George thought the young werewolf he glimpsed in the woods near Barry in episode 1 of this series would be a good source of information I don't know. It wasn't until later that they discovered he had a father and that, according to McNair Senior, the lad was born a werewolf. I suppose he was the only other werewolf they knew about.

Meanwhile Mitchell and Annie were trying to take their new relationship together to the next stage and get a little... physical. Unfortunately, it wasn't doing anything for Mitchell who, we find out later, has never really considered sex as an act of love, at least not since turning. I'm always wary about how TV and film portray relationship where characters must have sex within 48 hours of either meeting or going out with one another. In many shows there seems to be a need to have them "doing it" and for a while, it looked like that would be the case here. I'm glad that in the end Mitchell wanted a less physical relationship, which is fitting for a ghost and a vampire.

Unfortunately for Nina and George, after a bit of detective work by Nina, it appears Tom wasn't born a werewolf. His parents were attacked by NcNair when he was very young and he was turned into a werewolf by his "father's" scratches. That means Nina and George still don't know what to expect regarding this potentially-monstrous pregnancy.

With the arrival of the two werewolves looking for their "pack", Mitchell becomes understandably worried, given Lia's prophecy. Thinking that the elder McNair may be the wolf-shaped bullet destined to kill him, he goes to see Richard and Emma, the kinky vampires, in their suburban house and tells them where they can find the werewolf to use in their cage fights. However, when the vamps arrive at the McNair's van, they find George, Nina and Tom instead and take them to the cage.

Cue a big ol' fight as Mitchell and McNair rush to the rescue just as the full moon begins to transform the furry ones. Lots of vampires are killed - including Richard - whilst Mitchell and Annie are trapped inside the cage with four howling werewolves prowl outside.

This episode seemed to wrap up the McNair, Richard and Emma and cage-fighting storylines whilst allowing Annie and Mitchell's relationship to settle in. All in time to reintroduce a crazy Herrick, and Cara, who look like being the main story next week and perhaps for the rest of this series.

Meanwhile, Becoming Human continues over on the red button. However, with only another 5 minute "episode" shown, it feels like you only just get back into it when it comes to an abrupt end. It needs to be longer! Perhaps this would do better if stitched together to form one long, complete episode? Anyway, this week, the finger of suspicion over Matt's death points towards pretty girl Brandy, after Matt was caught spying on her in the girl's changing rooms.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fishy Friday

Another undersea, aquatic superhero. This time, Marvel's answer to DC's Aquaman. It's...

Namor the Sub-Mariner

Strength: 9
Toughness: 8
Special Powers: 4 
Status: 8

This triangular-headed, speedo-wearing anti-hero also has little wings on his ankles that somehow enabled him to fly. However, rather than being laughed out of existence, Namor was given strength and toughness almost the equal to that of the Hulk and Thor. Thus, he became a member of the powerful Defenders (along side the Silver Surfer, Hulk and Dr Strange). Plus he's fought Nazis as an Invader. So it would seem that Namor the Sub-Mariner - with his imperious, abrasive personality - beats DC's Aquaman (not that this is a competition).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Outcasts (Episode 2)

After a mediocre (and somewhat morose) first episode, the second episode of Outcasts was an improvement. It's still a little dreary and many of the characters seem slightly fed up but it wasn't quite so bad as before - or perhaps I'm just getting accustomed to it?

In this episode the mystery of the group of people Mitchell spared - and also who attacked Fleur and Cass in their tent - is revealed to be a bunch of clones, created to help explore this new planet. And, although genetically altered to be sterile, it appears they are able to reproduce. Years ago, it was thought that they were the ones spreading the C-23 virus and so President Tate had ordered them to be killed. But, thanks to Mitchell, they're alive and well and now that they've know their saviour is dead, well, things don't look too good for the folk of Forthaven.

Perhaps I missed it when it said when these clones were created but surely they weren't "born" after the colonists arrived on Carpathia? Because they look older than 10. Or do they also have some sort of rapid growth technology in Forthaven's rather down-to-earth, current-tech medical centre?

When the new colonists from the doomed transport ship in the last episode arrive in Forthaven, again the impression is given that the town is only sparsely populated. The small number of arrivals are greeted by just a few dozen inhabitants. Where are the rest? Forthaven just looks like an old frontier settlement. Is there only supposed to be a hundred or so people there?

One newcomer is Julius Berger, a seemingly morally unscrupulous man who has found religion on his journey to Carpathia. His introduction helps to bring some conflict to the show after the death of Mitchell. Hopefully, we'll see more of his scheming as he tries to usurp Tate's and Stella's authority. He's one of the more interesting characters (not a difficult feat, I admit).

Cass still remains my favourite person in the cast though. He seems to be the only one with a sense of humour and, at least until near the end of the episode, has a lightness to his character. Unfortunately, finding himself in a situation with blood on his hands, a secretive shadow has fallen across this man. What dark deed has this individual done in his past?

Actually, there is another, lighter character - Tipper Malone, the lay about that Stella had sex with in the last episode. He befriends Aisling, another new arrival who has something against Berger. Tipper is supposedly a child genius but now seems to just spend his time listening to music and getting high. Does he do nothing? Does Forthaven's society just provide for these people even if they do nothing?

And what do people do there anyway? It seems that very few people explore beyond the town's limits. Everything is built from grey metal, salvaged from the transport ships. In the 10 years since arriving, why haven't some people been out and chopped down a few trees and introduced a bit of wood into the place? Or even a bit of colour? Are people not interested in the fauna and flora of the planet? Stella just remarked that they had only seen "a few insects and small birds" (or something like that); isn't someone cataloguing these things, investigating why there aren't any large animals? Again, no one seems interested in discovering more about the planet, about it's potential inhabitants, it's geography or geology, or it's strange weather patterns such as that "whiteout". They all just seem to be stuck in Forthaven, moping about how they miss their family and the only bit of entertainment seems to involve going to a shady bar and drinking milky beer.

Perhaps the inhabitants of Forthaven are prevented from leaving the town by Tate who doesn't want people to discover the ACs are out there and that he ordered them killed? Now I can see why Mitchell was adamant that he and others had to get out and find their freedom.

Of course, the big unexplained mysteries now are what was the C-23 virus all about if it wasn't the clones fault, how can the clones have kids and what the heck caused that sketch to move on Tate's desk? Was it some sort of supernatural power, invisible aliens, or has Tate been stuck in his office for far, far too long?

It's these yet-to-be-explained events and a couple of interesting characters that mean I'll be watching the next batch of episodes, hoping that things will cheer up a little.

Mr Men Movie?

Is it the first day of April? No? Well, apparently Fox are going to make a Mr Men movie! Yep, Mr Tickle, Mr Bump and the rest are coming to the big, silver screen. Fantastic. Even now, thirty-something years after originally reading them, I still love the stories when I read them to my daughter (it helps that they're short).

Of course, there has already been a Mr Men Show movie. But let's hope this new one is more like the original Mr Men books and cartoon (voiced by Arthur Lowe) rather than that Dillydale version - which was okay but I prefer the originals.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #3

art by Don Heck and Dick Ayers (from Avengers #12 1965)

Outcasts (Episode 1)

My, that was depressing.

Despite the wonderful views and weather of the planet named Carpathia after the ship that rescued passengers from the doomed Titanic by its new settlers, things generally seemed grim in this new sci-fi drama. Everyone seemed unhappy. President Tate (Liam Cunningham) had lost his children to some halo-inducing virus, his wife couldn't cope and is also nowhere to be seen, and there's a secret splinter group of settlers wanting to leave his town of Forthaven that he's worried about. Stella (Hermione Norris), PAS leader (standing for Protection and Security, I think) is missing her husband and daughter - both of whom had not yet made it to Carpathia - so she spends her time reliving memories of them in a DBV (deep brain viewing) chair and having meaningless sex with younger men. And then there's the heroic explorer Mitchell (Jamie Bamber) who has gone a bit mad, attacked his wife who was spying on him, abducted his son and left the settlement to find his freedom. Even the idealistic Fleur (Amy Manson), who apparently loves their new settlement and believes they can make it work, seems drearily depressed about the whole thing.

It's also a little plodding. The storyline ambles along, with folk peering moodily into computer screens whilst a new transporter from Earth nears orbit with heat shield problems (or something like that). BTW, even the captain of this new ship seems depressed. It's not quite a glacial pace but a little more action would be welcome.

That's most of the bad news.

The good news is that the performances are generally very good. I especially like Cass (Daniel Mays), who harbours some dark secret but also seems like the most normally adjusted person on the planet (which considering we first see him taking a cloned piglet for a walk on a lead, is perhaps saying something). The views are certainly pleasant, although the size and scope of Forthaven inside the town doesn't match the view from outside; due to a lack of extras it seems like there's only a few dozen people living there. There's also some interesting mysteries hinted at during the sluggish story line. Things like a group of people who Mitchell was supposed to execute but didn't and who are probably the "aliens" who attacked Fleur and Cass in their tent. Also, there's a strange virus known as C-23 that supposedly wiped out many of the children in Forthaven. And, finally, why the President and Stella are concerned that Julius Berger (Eric Mabius), head of the Earth Evacuation Programme, may be arriving on the planet.

Still, after the many unexpected, but in a way refreshing, deaths in just the first episode - Mitchell, his wife, most aboard the transport ship (except for a few 'lucky' ones in the life pods) - the main impression I came away with was that this mystery-strewn sci-fi drama was just a bit too gloomy. And yet, I also found it oddly interesting and thus will be watching further episodes, hoping that the mysteries and drama start to shine through the dusty glumness.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Being Human: Type 4

A kinda disgusting episode in parts this week with the debut of a fourth type of "monster" - a Welsh zombie - in the show. And also riddled with cliches. It was fairly obvious that Sasha, the Type 4, would perish at the end of the episode, that Mitchell and Annie would share a kiss, that Graham would be staked and Nina's view of the mother-daughter relationship - after many years of abuse from her mother and a stern resolution not to be a mother herself - would be reversed after just a few heart-wrenching death-bed words from a zombie she met the day before.

Still, Being Human manages to keep things interesting even though the guy gets the girl in the end, another girl finds peace upon death, and the couple resolve their differences regarding parenthood.

I'm not sure why Annie goes out at night to haunt the drunken pubs and rowdy clubs of Barry. Seemed like just an excuse to get her to stumble across drunken WAG Sasha, who was indeed the Type 4 (zombie) whose bloody hand we saw in the depths of the hospital at the end of last week's episode. She follows Annie (who forgets to "do a Rentaghost" and teleport straight to the house) and ends up, first screaming and shouting and then crying on their front door step. Mitchell points out that she might attract the attention of the police, which of course he wants to avoid at the moment, so Annie brings her inside.

After a horrific toenail-pulling scene, the group realise she's a zombie and Annie and Mitchell go to investigate the morgue at the hospital whilst George finally gets to go to the bathroom after "just getting up to go for a pee". From a carelessly discarded pregnancy test, he discovers Nina has a bun in the oven - it seems the pill doesn't work on werewolves. Nina has already decided to terminate the pregnancy due to her own experience of motherhood from a child's point of view. George is a little put out (and is pushed out of the bedroom) that he did not factor in the decision making process.

Annie and Mitchell, meanwhile, discover that there were four zombies in all and that the hospital had conducted gruesome tests on the other three. Which, in yet another horrific scene, seemed to involve removing their organs whilst they screamed in agony. I have to say that this seemed a little inconsistent - Sasha didn't seem to feel any pain from multiple injuries (including being stabbed in the gut with a trophy later on) and yet those being operated on obviously did.

So, instead of handing Sasha the zombie back to the hospital, the gang (well, Annie) decided to help her meet up with her rugby-playing boyfriend - with ended with that trophy impaled in Sasha's stomach - and after that failed, gave the rotting zombie a make over and took her out clubbing. During this girlie night out in Barry it only highlighted the fact that some blokes will snog anything in a short dress given enough booze or for a bet. Unfortunately, there is only so long a rotting body can remain standing, and so - with her life force seeping out of her - Annie and Nina dragged Sasha back to Honolulu Heights and to her eventual "live life to its fullest" speech and a familiar death's door scene.

And it seems Mitchell's Box Tunnel exploits have spread throughout the vampire society resulting in a visit from his biggest "fang", Graham. Threatening to reveal to Annie and the others what Mitchell got up to at the end of the last series, Mitchell at first goes along with the larger version of himself until Graham pushes things too far with regards to Annie. After Mitchell tells his stalker to push off, Graham decides to emulate his idol and boards a train, intent of slaughtering all the passengers. Mitchell realises this in time and, somehow, gets on the same train where he confronts Graham. Appalled to hear that only his violent actions have inspired yet another vampire, Mitchell knows he's left with no choice and crazy Graham gets staked.

In the end, everything gets conveniently wrapped up, with Annie and Mitchell sharing their feelings and Nina and George back together and agreeing to have a baby. Aww.

Still no sign of Herrick though - although Graham did mention to Mitchell that Cara was out and about raising trouble. I wonder when he's going to turn up?

Of course, once Being Human finished, Becoming Human started over on the red button. Sadly, only 5 minutes this week, and mostly just Matt confronting his bully. I still love Adam's little 80s references though which, of course, no one else around him understands. Mind you does this mean that, since turning into a vampire, he never watched TV again? Hopefully, we'll see more from underused Christa (the werewolf) in future mini-installments.

Overall, although flawed and little too self-contained, it did a decent job of introducing the BH's bone-crackingly funny version of zombies whilst forwarding both the Nina/George and Annie/Mitchell relationships. Perhaps not quite as good as the other two episodes of this series but still better than most stuff on TV at the moment. And nowhere near as bad as Den of Geek made it out to be.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Avengers Movie

Large crossover events, where characters from a number of different comicbooks come together to fight some great evil, may be somewhat overused in comics nowadays but back when I was a teenager this idea was awesome. Skip forward a (ahem) few years and I remember being incredibly excited when Marvel announced they were going to do the same thing with movies. They were going to crossover a number of superhero films they were producing at the time and create the Avengers!

Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America would join Nick Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye (and, ya never know, perhaps even the Wasp) together on screen to form one of my favourite ever comicbook superteams (I even have the t-shirt!). At the time, I was skeptical thinking it was all media buzz and would probably never come to fruition. However, it looks like things are going ahead and the film should arrive next year.

And, of course, as a couple of stepping stones to that event, I'm looking forward to the movie versions of Thor and Captain America; the first trailer for the latter is due to be shown tomorrow during the Superbowl.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Fishy Friday

Time to get off my perch and start a series of posts where I flounder through the shallow pool of aquatic superheroes carping on about their woefully limited usefulness on dry land (where the majority of super-conflicts occur, of course). Or, to put it another way, I'll be posting pictures of undersea superheroes from comicbooks every Friday.

Here's the first...
Strength: 7
Toughness: 7
Special Powers: 5
Status: 9

DC's premier aquatic hero - whose strength and toughness are well down the scale compared to other JLAers like Superman, Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter. Even his ability to talk to, and control, sea creatures doesn't seem to help much due to it's limited usefulness. Poor Aquaman. They really should make him more like the excellent Brave and the Bold cartoon version. 

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Being Human: Adam's Family

This week's episode seemed to be playing things more for laughs, what with "the last Russell Brand" Mitchell's (I never realised his first name was John. Why does everyone call him Mitchell?) job interview and the kinky events in the posh country house. Yes, it was funny but in an oddly disturbing way. Other than Mitchell's guilt over the Box Tunnel 20, this episode also seemed to put the main characters' stories to the side for a moment to concentrate on Adam, a 46 year old vampire stuck in the body of a 16 year old.

At the start of the episode, we're shown how Adam's parents coped with his 'condition', letting him drink their blood to keep his vampiric hunger at bay. It's a creepy, cooky sort of love this family shows for its child that, like a funhouse mirror, is reflected in the "love" that gimp number 7 shows for Richard and Emma, allowing them to drink his blood and servicing their 'needs'. It also makes us wonder which family is more disturbing - the one who lets their 46 year old son suckle from their veins or the seemingly respectable middle-class family who partake in sordid sex games, consider humans to be pets and keep a gimp in the basement.

Of course, Adam's natural parents being mortal, it's only a matter a time before they wind up in a hospital at death's door (literally in the case of Being Human). This is where Nina and George meet Adam, as he takes a last feed of his father's dwindling blood supply. After a brief chase, Nina, being a caring soul, takes him in, hoping that Mitchell can help him.

Meanwhile, Annie has unilaterally assigned herself Mitchell's guardian angel, much to Mitchell's annoyance ("And I need to iron your free paper. I'm not sure why, but I saw it on House of Elliot"). Humorously, this causes Mitchell to initially fail at his job interview as a cleaner at the hospital. Later, it seems Annie has somehow helped secure him the job (though it isn't explained how).

Back to George and Nina who want Mitchell to help out the wonderful Adam - who is stuck as a cocky, horny teenager from the early 80s. Having recently met up with Richard, an emissary of the Old Ones who offered an escape from the Box Tunnel aftermath, Mitchell suggests they take Adam to him. And this is where things get even weirder and slightly disturbing with the aforementioned gimps and kinky, ritual sex parties...

...though also very amusing when Nina and George eventually decide to head back to 'rescue' Adam ("We'll wipe our feet on the way out" "I'd high five you if I had a free hand").

Once back with the gang at Honolulu Heights, Mitchell gives some advice to Adam telling him that he should surround himself with friends whom he doesn't want to let down. Considering these words, Adam then leaves to find his own place in the world - and into the start of "Becoming Human", a web (or red button) based extra. This is sort of like Being Human's version of Grange Hill (or a cross between the parent show and Skins, as some have put it) and is an excellent little addition.

Heading to a school to finally get some qualifications after 30 years, Adam gets stuck in detention with a standoffish werewolf called Christa who is haunted by a food-loving, friendless ghost called Matt. They soon realise that in order for Matt to find his death's door and move on to the afterlife, they have to play detectives and discover who killed Matt and why. Altogether an excellent, though lower budget, start.

So, another great episode - though it's a pity that Annie gets played more as comic relief and doesn't have a story arc herself. Plus there's that little mystery at the end of what's behind that locked door in the bowels of the hospital. Is it the Type 4 of next week's episode?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #2

art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers (from Avengers #1 1963)