Tag: Storytelling

Riddle Me This: When is a Spoiler Not a Spoiler?

When it's on the damn cover.

Robin, RIP

"Spoilers" follow. If, you know, you looked at that cover and found yourself scratching your head wondering what could possibly happen in this comic.

As I may have mentioned once or twice last week, I've been laid-up with a cold. I wasn't up to leaving the house for comics last Wednesday. I knew there was some big "One of these characters will die!" thing going on in Batman Inc #8, that comics sites like Bleeding Cool were filling their headlines full of spoiler warnings, and that non-comics media outlets like the New York Post were blithely covering it with no such concern for spoiler warnings.

And then, on Thursday, one day after the issue hit, I ran across a headline on Robot 6 that spelled it out. I was pretty pissed-off at the breach of etiquette.

Up until I finally made it into the comic shop yesterday and actually saw the issue in question.

At which point I realized that yes, all this spoiler-warning nonsense really was nonsense. It's not a spoiler if it's on the damn cover.

The issue itself wasn't bad. Had some good moments; I particularly like Damian telling Dick he was his favorite partner.

The ending -- well, there are some fantastic reaction shots of both Batman and Talia, but ultimately the whole thing actually felt a little anticlimactic considering how much it'd been built up.

Plus, it's comics. Odds he'll actually stay dead? There is a comic book called Batman and Robin. To the best of my knowledge, it is not being cancelled. I suppose they could make Tim Robin again, or there could be some other Robin, but...well, I'm pretty sure Damian's going to get better. Lazarus Pits may be involved.

(There's also the point that the cover is based on one from the Batman: RIP arc a few years back. Batman, of course, also did not actually die. And "RIP" turned out to stand for "Rot in Purgatory". Which, I guess to be fair, is an apt way to describe all the benched DC characters.)

Doctor Who: Kinda

Still pretty out of it with a head cold, so here's another old Who review. Originally posted Brontoforumus, 2009-09-07.


Kinda (the first syllable is pronounced like "kin") is a Fifth Doctor serial. I checked it out because I read on Tardis Wikia that it's one of Moffat's two favorite serials. After watching it, I don't quite share his enthusiasm, but I understand why he likes it.

The high concept is Dr. Strangelove set in the Garden of Eden. The Doctor lands on an unspoiled planet with apparently-primitive natives, and finds a military expedition sent to survey it. The second-in-command of the crew goes crazy, takes over, and decides he's going to blow up the world, while an evil entity enters the world through Teagan's dreams and launches an attack to force his hand.

The highlight is that dreaming sequence. It's some Lewis Carroll fever-dream shit, and precisely the kind of thing you'd expect from a Moffat episode. The other Moffat-y bits are the sense of confinement, of an oncoming and implacable enemy, and of a crew going crazy, as well as characters who speak in riddles. And lots of iconic imagery.

In the end, my main problem with Kinda is that I just don't like the Fifth Doctor very much. He's got this air of helplessness and incompetence about him. During several of the sequences where he's at Hindle's mercy, I found myself thinking, "#3 would have just judo-chopped the motherfucker."

The last episode of the serial has the most straightforward story, and suffers from it. The final confrontations with the antagonists are somewhat anticlimactic. The ending does redeem itself a bit by being one of those nice oldschool short-and-sweet Who goodbye scenes that is utterly unheard of in the RTD era.

Ultimately, there are some great damn ideas in Kinda, and it's a perfectly solid serial, but I certainly wouldn't call it one of the best. Worth a rental if you're still getting discs from Netflix, but it's not available for streaming and I wouldn't pay the $20 Amazon is charging for it.

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks

Originally posted Brontoforumus, 2009-08-18.


Remembrance of the Daleks delivers what it promises: not just Daleks, but also remembrance. The Doctor travels back to 1963, to the same scrapyard where the series started, and throws out a slew of references to the earlier shows (including a delightful, R-rolling impression of Pertwee with "Now you listen to me, Brrrrrigadier! -- I mean, Group Captain.").

But it's less interesting for looking at what came before as what came after: in many ways, this serial is the template for the current series; all the coolest shit from Davies's run has seeds here. The Daleks have gained some rudimentary time-travel capabilities and set their sights on the Time Lords in the hopes of perfecting the technology; meanwhile, their use of humans continues, and their factioning and infighting continues.

But more than that, it's the Doctor's depiction here that leads directly into the 2005 series. When he executes his coup de grace, it's brutal, and he's utterly cold and remorseless. #7 was really the first You Do Not Fuck With the Doctor Doctor, and even though I still haven't read the original Human Nature novel, I have hit a moment of thinking, "Oh, well of course it was originally written for the Seventh Doctor." While the last few Dalek serials were marked with an increasingly annoying reluctance to violence on the Doctor's part, #7 has no such compunctions, and his actions here make it believable that he could bring himself to push that button, to annihilate his own planet and his entire race if that's what it took to destroy the Daleks.

And because of all that, it's quite a neat little serial -- not as good as Genesis or Revelation, but worth the $15 at Amazon (or $20 for the Special Edition, if that's your thing). Not a good one to start off with; it's worth checking out An Unearthly Child, some Third Doctor stuff (Green Death and Inferno, as mentioned earlier, are my favorites), and some other Davros serials (at least Genesis and Revelation) first, and you'll appreciate it more if you've seen the current series too.

Redboxin'

Caught a rather interesting and unlikely pair of movies last night: Beasts of the Southern Wild and Hotel Transylvania.

Beasts isn't like most movies, and it took me awhile to really hit a point where I could describe what I was seeing. But at the point where Hush Puppy finally comes face-to-face with the aurochses, it hit me: a movie about a little girl, with one parent missing and the other suffering from a vague illness, a watery disaster, strange beasts, strange houses, and strange modes of transportation? This is a live-action Miyazaki movie. I don't really give a shit about the Oscars, but it's nice to see this movie nominated for a few because the film, its director, its writers, and its stars deserve the recognition.

Hotel Transylvania is, of course, a thoroughly different animal, but I enjoyed it. The script was decent enough, Sandler and the other SNL vets' hammy performances suited the material, and, most notably, Tartakovsky managed to pull off some cool Tex Avery/Chuck Jones shit that you really don't see in a lot of CG films. It leads me to believe that he's just the right guy to take a stab at the Fleischer style in a Popeye movie.

Skyfallin'

The theme of Skyfall is the conflict between the old and the new. You can tell because every third line of dialogue reminds you of this.

I think the trouble is that the writers and director don't seem quite clear on what that premise actually means.

Spoilers follow.

Does Silver represent the new, because he is a computer hacker and a new kind of enemy? Or does he represent the old, because he's a Cold War-era agent who's gone rogue for reasons that are entirely tied to the way M has run MI6?

There's also the question of the contrast between the original Bond films and the Craig-era ones. This movie makes a big point of bringing back the trappings of the original films -- Moneypenny, Q, a 1960 Aston Marton with machine guns -- but it also makes a big point of how the original movies felt a lot more high-tech and futuristic than the current ones. (The gadgets Q gives Bond are "A radio and a gun -- not exactly Christmas, is it?") So which is the old and which is the new? And that's before you even get into the point that Craig's Bond, and Casino Royale as a whole, are throwbacks to Fleming's novels, the oldest version of Bond there is.

There's another conflict between the old and the not-quite-so-old: the last two Bond films seemed intent on introducing Quantum as the new, non-infringing version of SPECTRE, a shadowy organization that would pose a recurring threat through the rebooted franchise. And then, in Skyfall? No trace of Quantum at all. We're back to isolated, one-off villains -- perhaps because someone at the recovering-from-bankruptcy MGM realized that self-contained movies without recurring villains just make more sense for the film franchise. (Hell, even when the old films were using Blofeld as their go-to villain, they still had a different actor in the role every time; it may as well have been a different character.)

On the whole, though, it all hung together pretty well; I thoroughly enjoyed the first and third act. (The second act was stupid and had Magic Computers. I don't know where the writer picked up the phrase "security through obscurity", but apparently he missed the part where it is not an expression any security professional would ever use without sneering. The less said about the movie's idea of data encryption and depiction of code as a stupid-looking early-1990's wireframe screensaver the better.) But nonetheless, perfectly decent. Though I'm kinda glad I waited to see it at the cheap theater.

Snyder's Batman

I'm increasingly of the opinion that Scott Snyder has some great ideas about Batman but his stuff's just not for me. That one-off issue with Becky Cloonan on art was the best Batman story I've read all year, but Death of the Family was some good ideas wrapped around a needlessly violent and decompressed story. (My favorite part: you can show people dancing until their feet bleed, you can show a tapestry made of sewn-together still-living people -- but if you want to say "ass", you'd better use comic-book symbols to bleep it out.) I think both the setup and the resolution were solid. I just think there was too much dithering in-between. Even without the half-dozen tie-in books.

Gail Simone recently responded to a reader who was put off by the grimness of Death of the Family by saying, "The bat-verse in general IS in a pretty dark place right now, but I do believe some lighter stories are coming." Here's hoping. Snyder's already done some great work -- but great work where Batman smiles now and again would be more to my tastes.

Doctor Who: Mark of the Rani

Originally posted on Brontoforumus, 2009-01-11, following up on my preceding review of Revelation of the Daleks:


You know, I thought Revelation of the Daleks was pretty good -- good enough that it makes me want to check out more Sixth Doctor episodes, which I hear is an emotion most people rarely feel.

Aaaaand Mark of the Rani has cured me of it.

The setting is interesting, and it's got the Master, and the Rani is a character with potential, but...it's pretty much terrible. At this point I want to punch Peri in the mouth every time she opens it (though this actually makes me kind of want to check out Trial of a Time Lord just to see her die).

The fact that this is regarded as one of the better Sixth Doctor serials goes a long way toward explaining why everyone hates the Sixth Doctor. Not worth buying, not worth renting, not even worth watching while drunk.

Dinner on a Flying Saucer: My Third Audiobook

My third audiobook is available from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. It's called Dinner on a Flying Saucer and is written by Dean Wesley Smith. The publisher's description is as follows:

Sometimes, when a fella gets to help out with fightin' a war between two alien races, it's just not such a good idea to tell your wife. Sometimes the truth just isn't good enough.

This is my favorite of the three I've done so far. It's a good tall tale and it's got accents; I particularly enjoyed playing the husband as gregarious and over-the-top and the wife as quiet and deadpan.


Be sure and read my first audiobook post for some notes on Audible DRM. And you can discuss my audiobooks at Brontoforumus.

Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks

Originally posted Brontoforumus, 2009-01-06.


You know, I thought Revelation of the Daleks was pretty good -- good enough that it makes me want to check out more Sixth Doctor episodes, which I hear is an emotion most people rarely feel.

Probably the most interesting thing about it is that at this point the show had abandoned all pretense of being a kids' show -- while it doesn't have as high a bodycount as the previous Dalek arc, it's probably more violent, dark, and disturbing all around, with the most memorable scene being a woman searching for her father in a Ubik-like cryo-preservation center and finding his mutated head inside a Dalek armor. (Yeah, we've got Davros mutating humans into Daleks here -- a precursor to The Parting of the Ways.) That and every shot of Nicola Bryant's stockings or cleavage tend to prove the show was trying desperately to keep a now-teenage audience rather than acquire new viewers -- there's some parallel to be drawn between this and my frequent "How the comic industry is fucking itself" musings.

It veers off-course in places, with the first ep's cliffhanger resembling a game of Xanatos Roulette (even with cameras all over the place tracking the Doctor's every move, it's hard to figure how Davros knew Peri would see the Dalek and follow it to the Doctor's fake memorial), and the Doctor's broken pocketwatch feels a lot like an unfired Chekhov's Gun -- maybe it's covered in Trial of a Time Lord (I have very little interest in finding out; if Douglas Adams and Tom Baker couldn't get me to watch a season-long arc, I really don't see doing it for one that everybody seems to hate), or maybe it's just a way of destroying a deus ex machina like they did with the Sonic Screwdriver during the Davison era.

The biggest problem with the serial was the same as in the only other Sixth Doctor serial I've seen to date, Vengeance on Varos: the Doctor and Peri don't really do anything, and the story would transpire pretty much the same without them. Peri's got a good emotional moment in the first ep that is largely ruined by her "Where the fuck is she supposed to be from?" accent; she sounds more like a real person in the second half but overacts to the point of obnoxiousness. #6 has a few good lines and makes me want to see more of him, but again, he doesn't really do anything.

Far and away my favorite part is the utterly nonsensical and downright surreal appearance of comedian Alexei Sayle as the DJ (everyone, including the supposedly-American Peri, pronounces his name that way, with the accent on the "J"). He has fuck-all to do with the story, and shows up a few times in the first ep to speckle the fourth wall and impersonate Elvis; in the second ep, he kills several Daleks with a beam of pure rock'n'roll. It's a very clear example of a celebrity guest star awkwardly shoehorned into a script, yet as far as I'm concerned, the result is completely awesome.

Other thoughts: the Daleks do not actually seem like a race that would have courts and trials. (This plays into the opening of the 1996 TV movie, which piles on the additional questions of what the Master was doing there, why the Time Lords apparently sanctioned the Daleks' brand of justice, and why the Daleks let the Doctor show up on Skaro to collect the remains.)

Anyway! Best Dalek story I've seen in a long time, better than Resurrection, Destiny, or either of their very bad appearances in the past two years. I'd say it's worth a rental, but it's not that damn much more to buy it -- nobody loves the Sixth Doctor.

Your Average Ordinary Alien: My Second Audiobook

My latest audiobook: Your Average Ordinary Alien, written by Adam Graham. Available from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

The description, in the author's words:

Kirk Picard Skywalker is an unemployed sci-fi fanatic who dreams of being abducted by aliens from outer space. One day his dreams come through and he's horrified to learn that the aliens are all too ordinary.

It's the story of an unemployed computer scientist and his long-suffering girlfriend -- can't imagine what drew me to it -- and gave me the opportunity to flex some comedy muscles and play three characters plus narrator. It's a fun read, a bit of good-natured but ultimately sympathetic skewering of fanboys, and it made me smile. It's also got a Christian message -- a bit outside my usual, more cynical milieu, I suppose, but "Work hard and be kind to people" is, I think, a sentiment most everybody can get behind.


Be sure and read my previous audiobook post for some notes on Audible DRM. And you can discuss my audiobooks at Brontoforumus.