Sunday, May 31, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: DC The New Frontier

I will be 100% honest here: the first time I read DC: The New Frontier I didn’t think much of it. Sure the art was great, but the story just felt a little flat, not quite fully coalesced.

That was a couple years ago.

Something drew me back to the book a few months after that, and on my second read through, I started to dig Darwyn Cooke’s late eighties vibe. The first half came off as a masterpiece, a real build to a guaranteed epic. The second half still was not so great though.

By read number four, I started to get in to the whole heroes coming together to fight the monster island. Cooke is a very subtle writer at times, which makes it easy to miss a lot of the nuances he makes between his story and his art.

I just finished reading the New Frontier for the sixth time. It is quite possibly the best book DC has released in over a decade. Not since Kingdom Come has the company produced anything this epic in scope.

I am not going to say much more about the greatness of this book. You should go read it. Then read it again. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Official Coolest Thing Ever...

This is by no means super-powered fiction related. But it is still the coolest thing ever made:

If you don’t know, that is Ravage from Transformers. Easily the coolest Decepticon ever. He will even be in the upcoming Transformers 2 in a modified movie form (although he will probably die within 5 minutes of his introduction). But what makes this beyond cool is that it is also a working 2 gigabyte USB flash drive. It isn’t available until September, and it is a little pricy at $43.99, but the utter awesomeness makes up for it.

You can pre-order yours at Big Bad Toy Store.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Complete Clone Saga Part 3: The Exile Returns

The Exile Returns starts with a visit to the museum by the spider-clone, as for the first time he seems ready to restart a life. But he’s not sure how to go about it, until he rescues a suicidal woman jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. He realizes that he still feels the calling to be a hero. He designs a new costume, all red with a blue spider-styled vest, and exposed webshooters. Meanwhile, Venom is back in town...

...and Clone Spidey seems to think its a good idea to confront him, despite the fact he doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone (this is his lethal protector period after all). The clone battles Venom, but the fight is derailed by the arrival of the Female Symbiote from the first Venom limited series. The clone comes to terms with his issues over not being “human” and saves an innocent bystander. The reporter he confronted about info on Venom, Ken Ellis, dubs the new hero the Scarlet Spider, but Venom still waits to confront the new hero!

The injured Scarlet Spider is rescued and dragged to a hospital by one Gabrielle Greer who gets him to a hospital in time. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure named Kaine is attacked by criminals and uses his acidic touch to leave one of them dead. And Venom battles the female symbiote, nearly kiling her, until the Scarlet Spider arrives just in time for a battle...

And the Scarlet Spider takes a chance to whine for a bit again. But he drops the whine in order to fight back against Venom. Meanwhile, a new villain, the Grim Hunter (son of Kraven), arrives with plans against Spider-Man. Kaine watches the fight finish between Scarlet Spider and Venom. Eddie Brock unconscious, the symbiote tries to bond with the Scarlet Spider, but he fights back. With his victory, the Spider feels a new level of confidence... unaware of the forces moving around him.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Arc... It's Gettling Closer

Long time readers of this blog know that I’ve been working for some time with the fine British comic artist AJ Rainford-Nash on our first comic project Arc. I have thrown a few image previews your way here and there, but I can officially announce that we finally have the first few finished (scripted, penciled, inked, and lettered) pages queuing up in preparation for a launch later this year.

We should have the first pieces of merchandise available soon, so be sure to keep your eyes open here for that. Here’s a little preview image of the first planned t-shirt design:

Good stuff, right? Stay tuned for more information on Arc, coming soon!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Super-Powered Prose: Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers

Rob Rogers’s Devil’s Cape came out of left field for me. Having never been familiar with him (not surprising as this is his first novel) or aware that the Wizards of the Coast Discoveries line existed, I was happy when the folks over at A Thousand Faces pointed out this work.

I have mixed feelings about the novel as it stands. As a single novel it seems to have some serious weak spots, but at the same time it seems to establish itself as the first book in a potential series. Nonetheless, I think it could have been a little more substantial. Despite a page count over four hundred, Devil’s Cape seems to serve as little more than an origin story for its characters. It does nothing to solve the conflict of the novel. The heroes do little more than win a battle, albeit it a harrowing one. The war has barely begun.

The characters are well developed though, as is the city itself. The first eleven chapters, nearly a fourth of the book, is all flashbacks across the history of both the city and the characters’ backgrounds. While a little long winded, I actually enjoyed this part of the book more than the rest. We really get a feel for both the legacy aspects of the novel and the city of Devil’s Cape itself in these first hundred pages. Each chapter begins with a quote or a snippet from some in-story media event (a device I really enjoyed in Brian Daley’s Robotech novels) which also fleshes out the world. Devils’s Cape really feels like a living, breathing city, and even when the characters fall in to typical comic tropes, the realness of their surroundings keeps the novel moving.

All in all, I really enjoyed Devil’s Cape. I think if Rob Rogers continues with the series we could be looking at the potential premiere name in super-powered fiction. I only hope he gets the chance to do so.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: Batman R.I.P. and Heart of Hush

So, DC has decided once again to remove Bruce Wayne from play. Unlike the nineties attempt at the storyline, Knightfall, we are actually claiming to have killed the Batman instead of just crippling him.

The thing that amazes me most is that we have done the Last Batman Story before (thought even it had a sequel). I cannot think of a better end to Batman’s story than The Dark Knight Returns, but it doesn’t look like DC cares to do things that way.

Like I mentioned in my review of the Umbrella Academy, Grant Morrison is a talented writer with an inability to reign himself in. His editors don’t seem to care to do so either, and it often leaves his storytelling rather incoherent. His run on Batman has been rather bland, with only the “Club of Heroes” storyline shining through the dullness. His obsession with integrating seventy years of continuity in to Batman’s history oftern supplants good stories and it showed in the book. It is sort of like Alan Moore’s Supreme with all the quality drained free.

So when we get in to “Batman: R.I.P.” it should be a surprise to no one that the continuity bits go in to overdrive. We get dozens of obscure villains, references to the most obscure of Batman tales, and a hero that spends most of the storyline tripping on a poisonous psychedelic. And through most of it, as a reader I honestly could not buy most of the issues Bats dealt with as any kind of problem. Not as he is normally portrayed. Morrison ignores that characterization in favor of his own psychotropic form of story. The revelations that come in the story are uninspiring and even Batman’s final fate seems weak. Of course, his story continues in Final Crisis, a story that makes “R.I.P.” look like Goodnight Moon in terms of complexity.

The book’s only real saving grace is art by Tony Daniel, but even he doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders. The art often feels like he is trying way to hard to ape the art style of Ethan Van Sciver. Batman deserves so much better than this. Not Recommended.

We get something a little better in the form of Paul Dini’s “R.I.P.” tie-in, Detective Comics’ “Heart of Hush”. “Heart of Hush” not only gives us a creditable, understandable plot and threat to Batman and Catwoman, it also takes a mess of a villain and finally makes him the threat he deserves. After meandering around the Bat-universe with no purpose, Thomas “Hush” Elliott finally realizes his place as a big name Bat-villain. And all it took was some open heart surgery on Catwoman.

Dustin Nguyen has been flitting about the Bat-verse for quite some time now, but he really shines on these pages. I’m sure his art style is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he combines the right level of Jim Lee-style cool with an Alex Maleev kind of grit to make a style uniquely suited for Batman.

While it would by no means work as “The Last Batman Story”, “Heart of Hush” definitely pushes the Bat-universe forward in an understandable and entertaining way, and sets up an important storyline for the post-Bruce Wayne era of Batman. Recommended.

What I take away from the supposed final stories of Bruce Wayne is quite simple. DC is barking up the wrong tree when it looks at who should be the architect of the Batman titles. Clearly, Paul Dini is far and away more prepared to take the books in a positive direction. Instead he will soon be writing Bat-periphery books, albeit two of them. While Morrison will get the new flagship title Batman & Robin, you will see Dini on both Streets of Gotham (where you can expect to see Hush) and Gotham City Sirens (starring Catwoman & Harley Quinn!) My suggestion: skip over Morrison’s work and go straight for Dini’s titles. Even without Batman, his titles are sure to give more of that Gotham City grit we all new and loved from his Batman the Animated Series. Not to mention cohesive, engaging, entertaining stories. And what more can you ask for in a good comic?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Super-Powered Prose: Busted Flush A Wild Cards Novel

I have just wrapped up reading Busted Flush the latest book in the quintessential series of super-powered fiction, Wild Cards. The nineteenth book in the franchise follows directly after the events of last year’s Inside Straight, and continues to look at the stories of the new young heroes that have formed the UN’s official super-team, The Committee.

For the most part, this book maintains the short story format of previous formats, but each story interacts with the other stories to produce an ongoing narrative that advances the shared unvierse forward once again.

Though the series is nominally edited by George R. R. Martin (whose name makes up the largest text on the cover), Martin’s hand in this process seems negligible. He didn’t contribute a single tale to this volume, and (I assume just like earlier volumes) Melinda M. Snodgrass’s assistant editing consisted of most of the busy work on the project. But if GRRM’s name helps sell books, more power to them. I would like to see the revamped franchise continue for some time to come.

The aformentioned Ms. Snodgrass produces the book’s framing sequence and main story featuring her new character Double Helix. Able to teleport and change shape, she plays a part in just about every major story of the book, from strife in Africa, a battle over oil in the Middle East, or flood damaged New Orleans, Double Helix is a player in it all as she plays multiple sides of the world’s government.

Caroline Spector brings back the Amazing Bubbles from the last volume as does Carrie Vaughn with Curveball. Neither really produces much character development over the course of the story, but Spector does give us an interesting new(?) character in the form of Hoodoo Mama, an ace that can summon corpses in great number to form her own zombie army.

Ian Tregillis and Walter Simons team up to introduce the sad characters of Niobe and Drake, but both actually play greater roles in other stories than their own.

Some of the older characters like Kevin Andrew Murphy’s Cameo and Victor Milan’s The Radical (who debuted in the first Wild Cards book) come back in new and different ways. One plays an important role in the Committee while the other becomes a major player in the WC universe.

S.L. Farrell gives us another lackluster tale of Drummer Boy, and just like the previous volume he remains a more compelling character in other writers’ hands.

Another old-school Wild Cards writer John Jos. Miller returns with a tale of Carnifex. Billy Ray is now in charge of SCARE, the organization responsible for arresting rogue American aces. The tale is all right, but bland by his usual standards.

Though the book is riddled with some long winded and unnecessary sections, overall the product maintains quality. The new and improved Wild Cards universe still seems weak compared to the first six or so volumes of the franchise, but the characters finally start coming in to their own in Busted Flush. The book never excels, but it does give a solid piece of super-powered fiction we can all enjoy. Hopefully the third (and I pray not final) book, due next year, should give us some more insight in to the new generation of heroes. Until then, make sure to check out Busted Flush; it definitely ranks a solid Recommendation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tales of the Living Legends: The Return of the Golden Age Daredevil!

Up now at Tales of the Living Legends you can find the first page of the new serial featuring none other than the Golden Age Daredevil!

This feature comes from some of the worst quality art scans I have had to work with, so for the first time I will be heavily using Photoshop to edit the pages. Using some of its texture tools has allowed me to darken some of the colors and allow for a smoother appearance of the page.

Daredevil, now known as Coward in the pages of Living Legends is set to be a major player in the expanding Quadrant Universe. Stay tuned for more details soon.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Super-Powered Web: The Red Circle redux

I wrote about these characters just a few days ago, but the fine folks at the DCU Blog, The Source, have more up on the Red Circle books here, including art teams. Above you can see another image of the Web from the series. We can look forward to some great art with Tom Derenick teaming with Bill Sienkiewicz on Hangman, Greg Scott on Inferno, former Ultraverse and Azrael artist Roger Robinson on The Web, and the always amazing Scott McDaniel on The Shield. Sounds like some winning art for some winning titles.

And courtesy of Comic Book Resources here are the solicits for the four titles!

J. Michael Straczynski dives into the DC Universe at last – and he’s bringing four of the finest heroes of the Golden and Silver Ages with him! Completely reimagined for the modern world from their original appearances in Archie/MLJ publications, these four heroes will show you a side of the DC Universe you’ve never seen before! Arriving weekly throughout the month of August, these specials thrust four amazing new characters into the heart of the DC story!

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Tom Derenick & Bill Sienkiewicz
Cover by Jesus Saiz
The Civil War claimed many lives…but one of those lives still hasn’t ended! Union doctor Robert Dickering found himself on the wrong side of the battle lines, and despite his heroic treatment of a fallen enemy soldier, he also found himself on the wrong end of a noose! But a shadowy power stepped forth in the twilit moments between life and death and offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse: to forever roam the Earth, saving the lives of innocents condemned like himself – or hastening the deaths of the guilty! But in taking the seemingly righteous mission of the Hangman, has he accepted God’s work? Or has he become the vengeful fist of the Devil himself? Featuring art by Tom Derenick and Bill Sienkiewicz, the acclaimed team behind REIGN IN HELL!
On sale August 5 • 32 pg, one shot, FC, $2.99 US

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Greg Scott
Cover by Jesus Saiz
The mysterious stranger was brought into the hospital with one name on his lips: “Frank Verrano.” He has no memory of who he was, where he came from, or how he could possibly be the only survivor of a bombing attack on a cruise liner that killed hundreds of people. But as deep as that mystery runs, a violent attack on the hospital opens a deeper one. How can this man burst into flames…and survive? And why does the man who stands in those flames, the man know as the Inferno, look nothing like the one who stood in his place just seconds before? Blaze into this thrilling issue featuring art by Greg Scott (GOTHAM CENTRAL)!
On sale August 12 • 32 pg, one shot, FC, $2.99 US

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Roger Robinson & Hilary Barta
Cover by Jesus Saiz
Billionaire John Raymond has it all – fame, fortune, and a brilliant mind! He also has a brother with the one trait John lacks: compassion. No matter how relentlessly awe-inspiring John’s achievements get, it’s his brother who’s always seen as the hero. So John sets out to upstage his brother one more time. He’ll show the world just how much heroism money can buy as the amazing (and suspiciously well-equipped) Web. But when a dark fate arrives for his brother, John learns first-hand what a hero leaves on the line, and that there are worse losses than the ones that hit your checkbook! Featuring art by Roger Robinson (THE BRAVE & THE BOLD, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS)!
On sale August 19 • 32 pg, one shot, FC, $2.99 US

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens
Cover by Jesus Saiz
Lieutenant Joe Higgins was dying in the dirt of a battlefield in Afghanistan when they whisked him away to a top-secret facility and saved his life with nanotechnology so experimental they couldn’t dare to use it on a living man. Now Higgins has been enlisted to a whole new mission – to be the public face of the American fighting man as the patriotic Shield! But today’s grueling military battles test the limits of patriotism and the limits of the technology that keeps him alive. And the shocking secret behind that technology may be too much for his bullet-riddled heart to bear. Featuring art from Marco Rudy (FINAL CRISIS)!
On sale August 26 • 32 pg, one shot, FC, $2.99 US

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite

With the second volume, “Dallas”, coming to an end I thought I would take a look back at one of the greatest new super-powered concepts of the last few years: Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s The Umbrella Academy.

When I first heard of the book a year or so before its release, I got excited. I already really enjoyed Ba’s work on both De:Tales and his Image book with Matt Fraction, Casanova. And as I glanced over the announcement, I saw the name Gerard. Instantly I got excited to see Gerard Jones returning to comics. Jones was the writer of some really solid books back in the nineties: Prime, Wonder Man, Green Lantern, El Diablo, etc.) He left the industry late in the decade after his books continuously were canceled.

I was somewhat chagrined when I read another article about it and noticed it was not Gerard Jones behind it, but Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance.

Now I have to be honest here. I know My Chemical Romance has a lot of fans out there. I mean, a lot. But I am sure as heck not one of them. I find their music to be dreary, tedious, and unbelievably trite. But still I thought the Umbrella Academy looked good. Ba was still there after all, and his art was fantastic.

So I picked it up. And I was glad for it.

The Umbrella Academy takes weird conceits straight out of the playbook of a Grant Morrison or Warren Ellis, twists them in to a whole new form, and unleashes them on the page in an utterly readable manner. This isn’t an existential clusterf**k the way JLA: Rock of Ages or Final Crisis were. The storytelling always remains clear and the characters and their personalities shine through.

The book revolves around six of the seven children taken by a genius decades ago and raised as the country’s super-beings. Decades later, the family hates each other. But when the man that created the original academy dies, they find themselves drawn back together to defend the world from a new wave of threats, one originating from within their very midst.

The cast is well laid out for a team book with the right level of interplay between all the main players, both personality and power-wise. The villains are something out of an acid-fueled Mignola page. Doctor Terminal, the Orchestra Verdammten, Zombie-Robot Gustave Eiffel... these are cool and crazy whack-jobs unlike the world has ever seen. And they are all fun and different. You will be hard pressed to find anything like any of these characters from the big two.

Ba delivers on the art side with a strange style I like to call proportioned-Mignola. The Hellboy creator’s art style is clearly an influence. But Ba takes it and makes it his own... and then some. He brings solid story-telling and a unique look to every page.

Oh, and did I mention the series won the Eisner for Best Limited Series? Sure did. And I cannot think of many books more deserving. If you haven’t already, you owe it to yourself to check out Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite today. Highest Recommendation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Super-Powered Web: The Red Circle

I mentioned DC’s new blog, The Source yesterday and it has been a font of interesting preview images over the last few weeks, but none have interested me more than the images from the upcoming Red Circle project. For those who don’t know, this project will revive a whole bunch of defunct Archie (back when it was still called MLJ) superheroes. And I for one am a huge fan of the characters from Archie’s superhero line. One of the first line of books I really tried to collect was the Impact line that DC produced in the early nineties. They felt like characters aimed straight at tween readers like myself, modern despite a sixty year history behind some of them. I was more than devastated when the line discontinued less than two years later. Outside a couple appearances in Archie’s Weird Mysteries, the characters have remained dormant for nearly twenty years until now. The blog gave us images to look at of the revamped characters all designed by J.G. Jones (of Final Crisis and the far superior Shi: Black, White, and Red fame) and drawn for the J. Michael Straczynski-penned series by Jesus Saiz. My thoughts on the initial four characters:

Not much can be said about the redesigned Shield. The costume was pretty iconic from the get-go, and neither artist did much to tweak it. Gone is the armored look of the Impact version. Hopefully the anti-military storytelling of that version will be gone as well. It just didn’t hold true to every previous version of the character.

I am not overly familiar with the Silver Age version of the Web other than a few reprints of Fly stories that gave little detail about the character. His costume was pretty dated however, and this redesign integrates the color scheme and style while updating it to a more modern look. I still agree with the Impact Comics concept for the series better though, as The Web works better as a organization name than an individual hero.

I think the Hangman is probably the weakest redesign. While the late 40’s Hangman had far too generic a superhero costume for the name, I think this look goes too far in the other direction. He looks like an actual hangman with a cape added on. Not a lot of innovation there, but maybe I am just partial to the Impact version.

I cannot really comment much on the redesign of Inferno. A golden age character with no silver age or Impact era variation that I can find, he does definitely look like he might fit in to the reformed villain concept of the original. I would have preferred Fireball, the member of the Crusaders with a just plain awesome costume.

So while I am wary of where The Red Circle is going to take some of my favorite heroes, I am definitely looking forward to its premiere later this year. Hopefully this time the Archie/MLJ heroes can stick around a whole lot longer!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Super-Powered Web: Linking Up!

Saw Star Trek over the weekend. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with superheroes, but it is one amazing flick. Still haven’t seen X-Men Origins: Wolverine and after Trek I think it may be even more disappointing.

Anyway, here’s a few super-powered links worth checking out:
  • The Source - the DCU’s new blog offers more coolness than I have seen from either of the big two for quite some time!

  • X-Men Origins Wolverine: Weapon X - a surprisingly entertaining Facebook flash game. Somewhat limited, but fun for a few minutes a day at least.

  • Green Lantern DC - Not Quite Safe For Work... Yeah, DC might want to start registering some domain names before this happens again!

  • El Santo Comics at From Parts Unknown - a look at Mexico’s own real life superheroes. Fun article.

Got any more quality super-powered links for me? Be sure to post them in the comments!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Super-Powered TV: Dollhouse 1.12: Omega

Topher begins to act suspiciously in the aftermath of the fight.

Alpha flashes between multiple personalities as he and his Southern trash girlfriend Echo are apparently on a crime spree.

We flashback to a few years before, to the previous imprints of slightly crazy folks (I assume the imprint that Echo has now). They were the ultimate fantasy of some guy named Lars, but the female active wasn’t Echo at all... it was the good doctor Claire Saunders. We look at the perverse torture they put the customer through, before they are taken out, and Alpha and Whiskey are brought home.

Back in the present, they explain that Ballard brought Alpha back in to the facility. Ballard makes a deal with the Dollhouse to get a terrorist threat that Alpha called in canceled. Ballard tries to use his connection with the FBI agent to get a full scale raid, but his old rival Graham instead just empties the outside are of all agents.

Alpha has built his own chair in his own home and he took Echo’s previous imprints to go along with it.

We flashback to the previous Dr. Saunders as he treats Whiskey. He acts with an uncanny similarity to the current Dr. Saunders. They watch as Caroline is shown the grand tour of the facility and given the five year spiel again.

The woman Echo and Alpha kidnapped is strapped to Alpha’s chair. They make out as Alpha imprints his victim with another memory.

The flashbacks continue as we watch Alpha’s obsession with Echo grow deeper.

And in the present, Alpha imprints his victim with the mind of the original Caroline. Alpha proceeds to mentally torture the new Caroline and Echo’s current imprint.

In flashback mode, Alpha cuts down Whiskey because he hears her handler say she’s the number one doll. They take him in to the treatment room. He attacks his handler who damages the device. He kills his handler by driving thumbs in to the man’s brains, and murders the original Doctor Saunders as his first victim.

Alpha composites Echo as Caroline is forced to watch. The new Echo, who Alpha calls Omega, gets up and instead of killing Caroline takes out Alpha with a pipe.

Carl William Craft was Alpha’s original identity. He was a criminal: a kidnapper, an attempted murderer, a potential sociopath.

Alpha talks to the new Echo. He declares them gods, or at least supermen. As Echo talks to Caroline, Alpha attacks again and the two fight it out.

Ballard and Boyd visit Craft’s previous victim... a victim he slashed just as Alpha does. Echo and Caroline decide to put her mind back in Echo’s mind. But Echo kills the new Caroline and threatens to destroy the wedge.

He forces Echo in to the chair. He promises to imprint her with her own memory, kill her, and then imprints other Carolines and kill them too. But Echo calls his mindgame and chances him out of the industrial pit (the same one he was at with Whiskey) and goes skyward.

Ballard and Boyd arrive in time to get shot at by Alpha, even as Echo is still following him. He throws her imprint away and she climbs out on a bar to go get it. It falls, but Ballard retrieves it. Alpha uses the time to escape.

Claire Saunders realizes that she is in fact Whiskey. She has a brief, vindictive meeting with Topher about it, even going so far as to ask him why he made her hate him so much. Interesting little play between the two.

Ballard makes a deal with DeWitt in exchange for November’s (or rather Madeline Costley’s) freedom from the company. Topher resets Echo back to her blank slate, while Claire stops Victor to give him one of the original Dr. Saunders’ candies.

We end with Echo going to bed and she whispers the name “Caroline”.

A check at IMDB shows this isn’t actually our finale though, as come mid-summer (my birthday of July 28 to be exact) we have at least one more episode of the show: “Epitaph One”. These reviews will be back this summer to cover it. In the mean time, we can all sit and see if Joss’ new vision returns for next season.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Super-Powered TV: Dollhouse 1.10 Haunted and 1.11 Briar Rose

We have a Dollhouse two-fer as I skip back to cover Haunted followed by last week’s Briar Rose! Then I will be back within the next day with a look at Omega!

Echo wakes up in the body of an older woman named Margaret, who decided to use a doll to finish off the issues of her estate. But her main goal is to solve her own murder. Definitely a unique use of a doll.

Topher has a special project that apparently involves turning Sierra in to his ultimate game playing buddy. Really?

Ballard tries his best to have a romantic dinner with Mellie despite his knowledge of her dual identity. And wants to run a DNA test apparently. Woops, no just prints. They looked in to various aliases of November, only to have the files disappear instantly.

Son tries to make out with “mother” which ends in dry heaves. They are playing this one for all they can.

Margaret-Echo-Julia works her way through the list of suspects, but she cannot quite grasp any potential murderers.

Wild, crazy sex between Ballard and Mellie. I was hoping we might get out of this holding pattern.

Someone is stalking Echo-Margaret in the dark stall. It’s her son Nicholas, who recognizes her as Margaret. He knows about the Dollhouse, but only the New York branch.

The husband finds out his new horse was juiced and gets angry as mother and son watch on. The son helps Margaret escape, and the husband chases them down. Nicky gets her to write a note about how her husband murdered her, but she begins suspicious as she writes the note. Nicky pulls out the drugs and plots to poison her again.

The two men fight, and Jack laments the loss of his wife as he bleeds out in the bed.

She writes a different, posthumous will for the rest of the family.

An interesting episode, although it seems a little late in the season to really be useful to the ongoing storyline. It feels like a holding pattern episode yet again, in a show that I feel has had a few too many of them.

Briar Rose opens with a living body in a trash bin and a disturbed young lady listening to a story. Which is apparently why we are here.

Okay, so we are imprinting the future best possible scenario of the kid on Echo and using her to help the child as a test.

Mellie is suicidally despondent before her handler retrieves her. And Ballard follows her right straight to the Dollhouse. That was easy, wasn’t it?

They bring Victor back with Dominic’s imprint and he freaks out. (Victor does an amazing Dominic impersonation by the way.) But why wouldn’t they tweak Dominic’s brain just a bit like they do with other imprints?

Ballard goes to meet Stephen Keppler, the environmental expert that helped design the Dollhouse (who is played by Alan (Wash) Tudyk of Firefly). He is a crazed environmentalist with a lot of pot in his apartment. Ballard forces him to take him out and open the Dollhouse.

Dominic admits the drive isn’t from the NSA, but from Alpha. Someone killed a person near the Tuscon dollhouse, but it may or may not be Alpha’s work.

Ballard and Keppler are doing a bad comedy act with their break-in at the Dollhouse. Obviously there is more to Keppler tahn we are letting on. They find themselves in the same space where Sierra was raped by her handler.

Nice cut to Susan, the kid, as we show how Ballard is Briar Rose’s Sleeping Beauty.

Sierra is a forensics expert sent to investigate the slashed body.

They sneak in to the Dollhouse and Ballard immediately tases Topher and heads in to his lab. Topher’s computer is too secure to access however. Keppler is strangely more interested in investigating now, all though still a paranoid. Ballard sees Victor and realizes Lubov was a fiction as well.

Keppler starts opening security to release dolls while Ballard checks them one by one. After a brief glance of November and his decision to leave her behind, he finds Echo.

But Boyd stops him with a gun to his head. Boyd and Ballard fight, breaking through Victor’s bed. Echo flashes back to their preivious fight and turns on Ballard. Boyd and Ballard start fighting again. Keppler systematically removes all security as the two men fight.

The doctor takes Victor back to her lab and Keppler appears to slash up his face. Because, of course, Keppler is Alpha. Saw that one coming a mile away. He plays mindgames with the doctor as Boyd takes Ballard to see DeWitt. They discuss Boyd’s fate, while Alpha has the doctor call to Echo.

And Keppler was a vic in Tucson, replaced by Alpha. Alpha imprints Echo as the episode ends and we play up the Sleeping Beauty aspects again as they leave.

Not exactly the way I thought we would get to Alpha, but beautifully put together episode by Joss Whedon and Jane Espenson. My Buffy fandon (and I am sure a lot of Buffy fans got it as well) makes me immediately suspicious of simple plots, as does the fact that Tudyk was a Firefly star. But even though Alpha was no surprise to me, this will still a spot on episode. This is exactly what the show has built to, and it is carried out perfectly here. On to “Omega” shortly!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tales of the Living Legends: Doctor Frost Has Arrived!

The new serial featuring a golden age adventure of the enigmatic Doctor Frost will shed a bit of light on his history as a secret agent. He's not quite the crazy, armored mystery man we have come to love in Living Legends.

The story is almost half done so be sure to check it out over at Evolution Comics!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Super-Powered Web: Meet Shadow Hare!

A resident of the World Superhero Registry, Shadow Hare has become the focal point of heroism nationwide after a news report covered his Cincinnati-based super-team, The Allegiance of Justice. An interesting piece which gave Shadow Hare more than his share of fans.

Don’t belive me? Check out his Myspace page where you can find him and hundreds of his friends.

The story of our epic hero has now traveled the globe, and reports of his exploits have went as far as Austrailia. Looks like good-natured heroism pays off after all.

Out For Vengeance 1 Notes

Out For Vengeance is one of those ideas I have had floating in my head literally for years. The main inspiration behind it comes from Alan Moore and his utterly stunning twenty-or-so issue run on Supreme from Maximum Press and Awesome Entertainment. The idea of taking one of the basic archetypes of super-powered storytelling and turning it in to something new and vital... the concepts started flying willy-nilly after that.

I actually created the character of Vengeance in high school. Back then he was just a hodge-podge of the Punisher and Batman, and more than slightly based on the Ultraverse character Night Man. I took the name and a few supporting cast members and moved them in to New Salem. I left everything else by the wayside.

The concept of using both Black Terror and Black Fury as the basis for Vengeance came out of Living Legends. Of all the bigger name public domain characters, I had yet to find a roll for the Terror that worked for me. Finally it hit me how well the character would actually mesh with Vengeance. And don’t you worry, Tim will be on his way soon enough.

I rewrote A New Beginning multiple times. It still doesn’s feel like it quite gets done everything a first chapter of a serial should get done, but I think it serves as an intriguing introduction to our first two players. Amy Evans is going to play an important role in the future of this series, so keep an eye on her.

In the meantime, enjoy Out For Vengeance and let us know what you think here or at the forums!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Super-Powered TV: Heroes 3.25: An Invisible Thread

Welcome back to my rather late post on the final episode of Heroes for season three as well as my two hundredth post on Take the Helm. Thanks again for everyone reading!

We start with half a dozen replays of where we left off, all set to a Mohinder voice-over. Clair and Angela are slowed down by a need to sneak in to the city after a roadblock. When they get in to town, Angela leaves to fulfill her dream by finding Matt Parkman.

Sylar uses his shape-changing to frame Danko for murder and take care of his credibility. Claire confronts Sylar-Nathan (lets just call him S-N) who uses his powers to imitate Nathan to perfection, so much so he convinces Claire. Or does he? Claire and S-N head to the White House, but small ticks make Claire suspicious.

Nathan wakes up alone in the bathroom. Peter finally shows up a few hours too late.

Noah has a confrontation with Danko in the conference room. They discuss the natures of their failures, only to be frozen in time together.

Hiro and Ando watch Building 26 secure Danko and discuss Hiro’s power problems. Inside the Building, Hiro continues to have bleeding issues. But they rescue Suresh (again) from captivity. They connect everyone active in to the facility to the sleeper units instead. Hiro freezes time again to rescue Noah, even after Mohinder’s warning. He collapses in the aftermath as Noah runs off. Noah calls Claire, but Sylar takes the phone and transforms in to Claire to answer. Sylar seems to have the Puppetman’s powers as he taunts Claire (although I suppose this may be his telekinesis at work and her just going along with it).

Nathan and Peter arrive and attack Sylar, as Claire sits in the hallway only able to watch as things fly inside. In the aftermath she heads back inside to see scorched ground, flames, and a lot of damage. Claire runs off with Peter. Sylar and Nathan return, and Sylar cuts Nathan’s throat. Nathan bleeds out in his chair, dead. (A season finale tradition, maybe this time for real.)

Parkman meets up with Angela outside and they find Nathan’s corpse.

S-N attacks the chief of staff, takes his place, and goes after President Worf. He uses his new form to climb in to the car with the president. But the president isn’t who he thinks he is. Peter stabs Sylar with the knockout drug and they take him back upstairs.

Noah, Angela, and Matt are faced with a hard choice: transforming Sylar, alter his memories completely, and use him as a replacement for the late Nathan Petrelli. Matt realizes he has little choice and starts to erase Sylar’s identity and replace it with Nathan. Sylar’s body spasms in the aftermath before it transforms in to that of Nathan. Nathan Petrelli awakes, unaware of his previous identity.

In the aftermath, the new Nathan burns the false Sylar’s body as all the other members of our cast watch on. Nathan sets up a new Company with the President, and Noah is placed in charge. A hurting Hiro leaves with Ando, his problems still unresolved. And Noah once again lies to Claire about the nature of S-N.

Volume Five “Redemption” opens six weeks later. A Building 26 agent returns home, finds water overflowing in his house. Water that slowly but surely reforms in to the body of Tracy Strauss. She proceeds to drown the agent, apparently her fourth victim. Angela visits Nathan at his office, but Nathan doesn’s feel right about himself. He looks at a clock behind a glass case, and realizes it isn’t running at the right speed, as a worried Angela looks on.

A definitely unique finish to the season, one that definitely has the feeling of Bryan Fuller on it as opposed to Jeph Loeb. The show seems ready to set its cast out in to new directions, which is something desperately needed in Heroes. I am a little disappointed by the lack of Claude in this episode, the ‒invisible” in the title got my hopes up, apparently for nothing.

Everyone enjoy their summer free of my less than regular updates, and the Heroes posts will return next season!