About the Star Trek: Discovery finale…

I’ve mentioned previously how much I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek: Discovery and how against a core of fan’s howling at the moon, it has managed to actually do something different with the Star trek formula. This week was the final episode of the first season and from here in there’s spoilers.

The last half of the first season has been superb. Based in Star Trek’s Mirror Universe where baddies are goodies and vice versa, this allowed the writers to play with the idea of what is Starfleet and what are the principles of the Federation. Plus it had Michelle Yeoh fighting…

That kick Yeoh does at 1.22 is, well, more than impressive for someone of 55. Anyhow, everything was set for a fantastic finale then I saw Akiva Goldsman’s name smeared over the credits like dripping phlegm. Goldman is the man who brought us Batman and Robin, and who’s writing C.V is peppered with shite. Shite which makes Hollywood money so he’s managed to get into a position beyond his actual talent and thus was the finale of Discovery placed into his hands.

It was to be utterly nice; average. If I was being honest I’d say I was utterly let down by it mainly because it was badly written. The main plotline of the Klingon War was finished too quickly and characters barely had time to breathe as the episode tripped and stumbled to a close which didn’t feel earned. We’ve followed these characters (And I think what Discovery has been great at is introducing new characters into Star Trek that are more than variations on a theme, plus in Stamets and Tilly they have a pair of fantastic characters to build on, while Doug Jones is doing tremendous work as Suru.) through hell, and them *poof* everything’s solved and we’re onto the cliffhanger.

Before I get to that cliffhanger I can’t make it clear how much of a shame this was. It could have been better as opposed to alright at best but now they’ve told the big over-arcing storyline in the first season I hope they learn from their mistakes in their second. Build on the characters more and give the bridge crew more to do than just look over their shoulders at Suru but that cliffhanger. Again, spoilers, but if you’ve read this far you probably don’t care by now.

At some point they would have to deal with being in the same era as when Pike captained the Enterprise, but to my surprise they’re going right into it now and isn’t that a lovely looking Enterprise?

So with the promise of big things in season 2 Discovery I hope improves, learns from mistakes made and becomes better because we need a good, positive bit of Star Trek so now we’ve got over the grim war, we can build up the positive vision of the future we could all do with dreaming about.

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A quick word of appreciation for The Rocketeer

One of the joys about picking up collections of comics is finding the gem in the rough. This time the gem wasn’t the most expensive item, but The Rocketeer graphic novel.

Written and drawn by the late Dave Stevens, this is a comic that has a core cult following but in the history of 1980’s comics that changed how the industry works, not to mention how comics were perceived by people outwith our little comics ghetto, The Rocketeer never gets a mention.

Originally published by Pacific Comics, The Rocketeer was the first big success of the then small, but growing, independent scene that was taking advantage of the expanding direct market. Stevens was a genius and is also the man most responsible for the Bettie Page revival in the 80’s.

The Rocketeer helped prove independent comic publishers could have a hit, and proved creators didn’t need Marvel or DC to be successful. Sadly Stevens was a tad, well, slow, so it took years to get his story out but it was worth it as it is a work of art with every panel a clear labour of love.

Stevens even managed to get his character onto film with a perfectly respectable and even underrated film adaptation in 1991.

Since Stevens untimely death other people have attempted to carry on the story with IDW publishing some decent story but they’re nothing like that original Dave Stevens story which remains, and always will be, a complete joy.

What I thought of The Cloverfield Paradox

A decade ago Cloverfield came out having had one of the best marketing campaigns for a film I’ve ever seen having built up an air of mystery about a film which was and is, something hard to achieve. I love the first film because it is the giant monster film I’ve had in my head since being a teenager, and although its sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane is patchy, it works as a claustrophobic thriller before the end gubbins. A third film has been coming which was originally promised last year, and was expected in the spring before suddenly dropping after the Superbowl on Netflix worldwide.

From here on in lies SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!

Directed by Julius Onah and starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw who has fully recovered from having Bonekickers on her C.V and here frankly holds the entire thing together which is good because at times The Cloverfield Paradox is a tedious mess of technobabble and stuff we’ve seen in the likes of Event Horizon.

Mbatha-Raw plays Ava, an astronaut on Cloverfield Station in orbit round an Earth dying through a lack of energy resources which amount in this film to some blackouts not to mention the world’s superpowers squaring off against each other. The station is the one last chance to solve Earth’s problems peacefully as the multinational crew use an experimental particle accelerator to create unlimited free energy for the planet. As you’d expect, something goes wrong and the crew find themselves stranded having lost Earth with increasingly strange happenings occurring on the station.

The plot is pretty routine but the script is appalling. Characters spout clichés, or when faced with horror make quips that sap the scene of any tension. There’s one scene especially with Chris O’Dowd’s character that could have been a highlight of creepy body horror but ends up played for giggles then there’s the climatic fight scene that is welded on badly to the end. This for me is the problem with The Cloverfield Paradox in that is doesn’t know what it’s trying to be and I’ll be blunt, Life trod this sort of ground pretty recently and better. It does manage to explain the events of the two previous films, and I assume future films as there’s at least one more Cloverfield film coming in the next year but take the Cloverfield name and the last 90 seconds off this film and it really is the sort of film you’d watch on Netflix if there was nothing left on your list. The last 60 seconds do lift the film and make it worthwhile though it teases the prospect of a sequel that should be made but probably won’t be.

What is interesting is how Netflix and Abrams decided to release this. It could have had a release in cinemas and made a decent amount of money, but releasing it this way without any notice on Netflix suggests this is an experiment. If this film is deemed successful (and it will be as the Cloverfield name, and the last 60 seconds guarantee it)  then we’re likely to see more films dropping with no notice and that would be a good thing. After all it means then that at least for a day or two we’ll be forced to make our own minds up but hopefully if this sort of thing is done again it’s done better than this.

A word of appreciation for Elektra: Assassin

There’s a number of comics constantly spoken about as breaking new ground in the 1980’s and bringing a new audience into the world of comics. The same names come up; Watchmen, Maus, Dark Knight Returns, maybe Love and Rockets, Swamp Thing and Daredevil. One a few lists you’ll get possibly the most subversive comic published by the Big Two publishers in the 80’s; Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz‘s Elektra: Assassin.

Originally an eight issue mini series from Marvel’s Epic imprint (their creator owned or non-mainstream line) , Elektra: Assassin starred Frank Miller’s creation Elektra who he’d introduced and subsequently killed in his acclaimed Daredevil run. This though was something out of continuity is still some of the most brilliantly insane comics Marvel have ever published.

The story seems basic enough. Elektra is on the trail of The Beast, a demon whose end-goal is possessing the president of the United States and starting a nuclear war. In this task she’s aided and abetted by a SHIELD agent called Garrett who in the course of the series because more and more of a cyborg due to being blown and cut up.

Remember that in 1985/6 America was trapped in the presidency of Ronald Reagan while the baby boomer generation had started gaining power and influence over politics, culture and media. There was also a wave of comics where characters started waving big guns around as the 80’s Rambo culture seeped into comics with ultra-violent titles like The Punisher. All of this was thrown into the mix to create an ultra-violent satire on American politics, culture and superhero comics that doesn’t grow old or not relevant.

Elektra: Assassin is from that period prior to 911 where Frank Miller was one of the few creators who could take on the left and right of politics equally and find both lacking, while at the same time playing on the monsters created by both. It really is a comic that gives its all, and asks the reader to work to go with the inspired lunacy, not to mention genius, being paid out from page to page.

So if you want to see how exciting comics were in the 80’s as well as reading something that is a fantastic work of art, then Elektra: Assassin should be for you, assuming killer cyborgs and ninjas are to your taste of course…

What I thought of Doomsday Clock #2

DC’s Doomsday Clock started off last issue it provoked a strange reaction from the majority of comics media in that it was all strangely positive, though this series of articles by Chase Magnett made a great case against the comic while explaining the problems with it from  it from an ethical point of view. Thinking it’d be worth seeing how Doomsday Clock is developing I dipped into issue two.

We pick up with Ozymandias, Nu-Rorschach and Mime and Marionette. The latter two are a sort of generic Joker/Harley Quinn type of DC psychopath who seem to be here to show off how Geoff Johns can write ‘crazy and dangerous’, but in the verisimilitude of Moore and Gibbons Watchmen these would be characters who’d  be shot by the police but Johns has to build them up as ultra scary baddies even though this weakens Johns point that Watchmen was the well of all these characters. As said last time, in fact it was those trying to copy Moore’s prose and who only took the violence away from Watchmen that made the industry worse.

Anyhow we have a flashback to them raiding a bank, when Dr Manhattan’s shows up and doesn’t kill them because…

Yes, it does look as if Manhattan doesn’t turn them both into tomato soup because he’s clocking her tits out but this mystery is why Ozymandias freed the both as he searches for the missing Dr. in hope of saving the world and to do so they all pile in NIte Owl’s Owlship, Archie, which has been converted to follow Dr. Manhattan however the nukes have started falling.

Meanwhile in the DC Universe (I suppose all this is now the DC Universe) Bruce Wayne has some issue with Lex Luthor, as well as Gotham protesting Batman while Geoff Johns shoehorns something in he heard on the news.

The group makes it through into the DC Universe, and we find out Nu-Rorschach is Malcolm Long’s son Reggie.

We then get what DC have been wanking themselves into a fury to achieve for nearly 30 years as Watchmen characters walk the streets of Gotham City!

Nathaniel Dusk was a great series DC did back in the 80’s by Don McGregor and Gene Colan. Not content with dragging Watchmen through the mud, Johns drops this in here hinting (well, making an obvious bloody reference) to something important in the plot and dear god, this is all plot. Every page is dense plot dripping from the page with no time for characterisation or any form of subtlety which by the time we get to Lex Luthor and Ozymandias swapping cringe-worthy dialogue with each other has left the building.

That isn’t what people came for. They came to see Nu-Rorschach fight Batman!

Which is teased for next issue, but this issue features the return of the Comedian who shoots Lex Luthor, while the text pieces tell more about the backstory. No characterisation of course, just more big, bleeding, juicy chunks of plot.

All Doomsday Clock is, is plot. As an example of the sort of comic Moore and Gibbons were satirising in Watchmen, and what followed as lesser talents tried to ape the success of Moore and Gibbons.Doomsday Clock works as fan-fiction because lets all be honest here; that’s what this is. There’s no attempt to deliver a greater meaning outwith of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if X met Y‘ and while that can be fine, watching the industry cannibalise itself this way isn’t good.

Reason being that if you’re an up and coming writer, or any writer in any stage of your career with a Great Idea, and you happen to work for DC why the hell would you deliver it to them when you’re watching them dissect the work of the biggest writer in comics of the last 30 years? Doomsday Clock isn’t even a very good comic as I couldn’t care less about any of the characters on display. Nu-Rorschach is probably the most interesting as there’s still something to find out about him but Johns will flatly just deliver those revelations as plot points spelled out tediously on the page.

As an example of corporate comics unleashed, Doomsday Clock does what it has to. Here’s the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe. That’s it.It carries a pretence of trying to be something greater but as said, this is fan-fiction that has managed to give DC clout over its main competitor Marvel (who to be fair, are shooting themselves in the foot constantly) and make themselves lots of money which is the point of all this. So when you cheer on Batman and Nu-Rorschach fighting (or not) remember the purpose of this isn’t to create, but generate product to keep shareholders happy and people in a job who were running out of ideas.

Why fan reaction to The Last Jedi shows we’re not allowed nice things

The latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, has been out now for a fortnight or so and the response has been polarising to say the very least. For every reasonable review of the film (and I’ve made it clear that although I like the film, I found it overlong among other things that hold the film back) there’s been a reaction such as this one from someone called”The Dishonoured Wolf”. Have a look.

Yeah, if you made it to ‘fat Asian bitch’ then you’ve done well. There’s another 35 minutes after that in a similar vein. Here’s another…

You can look online and find, hundreds, if not thousands of more videos like this many of which are variations of the ‘no true Scotsman‘ fallacy. For example;

 Person A: No Star Wars fan can like this film.

Person B: Actually I do and I’ve been a fan since 1977

PersonA: No true Star Wars fan can like this film because you’re a FUCKING SJW!! GRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

There’s an aggressive, almost violent reaction against the film because of the prominence it gives female and minority characters, and while there are fans disappointed by how the film plays out not to mention the message of the film which is to let go of the past, the sheer tsunami of toxic bile is overwhelming.Any review even remotely positive ends up with the sewage of comments suggesting they (see Kevin Smith’s review for example) were ‘paid off by Disney’ or just negative, frequently violently aggressive comments such as the response to Red Letter Media’s review.

That review resulted in Jay Bauman getting death threats…

Now The Last Jedi does show a healthy contempt for ‘canon’ and fan nostalgia but the biggest issue some fans have is the fact Rey (who was assumed to have a mysterious background) isn’t anyone. She’s the child of drunks who sold her to get even more pissed.She is essentially nobody in the Star Wars universe. This came as a surprise to everyone mainly because we know everyone knows everyone in the Star Wars universe, but all through The Force Awakens there’s hints that Rey is ‘nobody’, but the point here is that there’s no such thing as a ‘nobody’. Everyone is important in some way be it Rey as the last hope of the light side of the force, or Finn as the only Stormtrooper to rebel, or Rose as the nobody who helped inspire an underclass.

There’s a theme of collectivism running throughout The Last Jedi, and that seems to be one of the things that is sending people off the edge, but it really is how about how one person can make a difference, regardless of their heritage. This leftish ideology is partly sending people off the edge but its the fact the film puts women on an equal parity with men that drives some off the edge. For some, the idea of a woman being the hero is part of some ‘global conspiracy’ to neuter masculinity or some such bollocks people who are so insecure in themselves that the idea women are equal to women makes them aggressively, even violently reject or attack anyone with opposing views.

There are good criticisms of the film, though moaning about plot holes is pretty academic as Star Wars is a Swiss Cheese of plot holes, but the Trumpesque rage The Last Jedi has provoked because it actually tries to be different is at odds with the overwhelmingly positive message of hope the film sends out and it is this message people are raging at. People are well within their rights to dislike, even hate the film, but the film is clearly being used by a core of radicalised bigots to attack women, minorities and those that don’t fall in line and frankly, the attempt to spoil things for everyone else only draws a light to their own closed minded hatred which places them very firmly on the dark side…

What I thought of Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time

In terms of stakes this episode of Doctor Who had a lot to achieve. It wasn’t just the last episode of Peter Capaldi’s run, but also head producer Steven Moffat, as well as being the first introduction of the first female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. Add into this the fact the story was a multi-Doctor story with David Bradley doing a good job of portraying William Hartnell’s first Doctor plus we’ve got a WW1 army officer played by Mark Gatiss who has been displaced in time for some reason. It sort of works as long as you’re prepared to ignore the plot as that’s really secondary to what else is going on here.

The episode starts with a recap of the very first regeneration 709 episodes ago as the First Doctor (One) faced down the Cybermen, and that nicely leads into One meeting Capaldi’s Doctor (Twelve) at the South Pole after he’s just faced down the Cybermen. Both are refusing to regenerate; in One’s case because he wants to die in the same body he was born in and in Twelve’s case because he’s done with it all. He’s tired of fighting and just wants some peace. In the middle of all this is the riddle of why a WW1 officer has be placed out of time with both Doctor’s? Enter a group of glass androids powered by memories called Testimony who harvest people’s memories at the moment of death, so when Twelve’s former companion Bill Potts returns she can only remember everything up the point of her death. Twelve suspects something bad is going on, and One and Twelve team up to find out what’s going on.

It turns out the plot doesn’t really matter. Testimony aren’t baddies, but actually an academic project from the future to preserve human memories and experiences. This plot device allows Moffat to bring back all of Twelve’s companions (yes, including Clara) to give Capaldi’s Doctor a farewell, and deals with the idea of memories never being replaced. We’ll just make new ones and move on instead of wallowing in past memories which is as subtle a way as possible as saying we need to move on but we’ll still have memories to fall back on when we can. to an audience partly made up of people concerned the new Doctor will be having adventures while not in possession of a penis.

As an episode it is probably the best Christmas special since A Christmas Carol, and a nice sendoff for Capaldi who again shows that he can make any script sing, and here’s been the problem with Moffat’s time as head writer; all the promise of his first year with Matt Smith vanished as plots became needlessly convoluted and were rarely resolved in any satisfying manner. Twice Upon A Time is a fairly simple story by Moffat standards but the hundreds of thousands watching for the regeneration who aren’t regular viewers would have been scratching their heads over some of the plot which did involve having a bit of knowledge of Moffat’s run and indeed, the 54 years history of the programme. Indeed one of the other problems of Moffat’s time is a viewer needed some knowledge of the history to appreciate the programme fully. That said the revelation of just who Mark Gatiss is playing is a lovely wee touch for fans of the programme going back to Patrick Troughton’s time, though I found Moffat making Hartnell’s Doctor a sexist prick

Yet this episode feels like a palate cleanser for what’s to come. A new producer/head writer in the shape of Chris Chibnall, and of course, a new Doctor in the form of Jodie Whittaker. Everything is set up at the end of this episode for a totally fresh start which brings me to the regeneration. Isn’t my favourite. That’s still Peter Davidson to Colin Baker at the end of Caves of Androzani. That story also featured a Doctor fighting off a regeneration, but in this case it was to save the life of his companion and it features the best opening lines from a new Doctor while breaking the fourth wall.. It still can’t be beat.

Capaldi’s regeneration is good though and is essentially a monologue outlining what the Doctor should be; never cruel or cowardly which is the line former Doctor Who writer Terrance Dicks has used for years to describe what the basic character of the Doctor. How Moffat uses that line here is to tell the audience that as long as the Doctor remains these things then they are the Doctor, regardless of how they look.

The new Doctor has a cliffhanger to resolve but she comes to the audience as either a blank slate, or as an evil example of how the snowflake Femnazis are making everything awful from the ”we’ve got blue passports” brigade. She’s got the potential to give the programme the jolt it needs as long as Chibnall remembers that not every viewer will be dripping in the history of the programme and to make stories accessible while at the same time keeping the hardcore fan happy. Not an easy task, but I wish them well and although I’m full of regret we never saw Capaldi hit his full potential that we’re going to get something very special with Jodie Whitaker.