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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Random Thoughts On... The Watchmen

Next up for the month is a return to the comic world. The 1980’s was a time where comics began to change. You do see some changes in the 70’s, but the industry really goes through them in the 80’s. We got event books, a total revamp of a universe, and two stories that changed the way creators tell stories in the comic medium. Whether these stories were good or bad for the industry is a debate unto itself. One of them was The Dark Knight Returns, a story that really brought the edginess back to Batman. The other story and the subject for today is Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It’s a story that I think is good… if a little overrated.

While I wait for legions of Alan Moore acolytes to chastise me, I thought I’d just talk about the story in general. For those aren’t familiar with this story, here are the simple points. Watchmen was a 12-issue maxiseries that was released from 1986 to 1987. It was written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons with John Higgins as the colorist.  It takes place in an alternate version of 1985 where Richard Nixon is still President of the United States. While there are government superheroes, other vigilantes are outlawed because of a law called the Keene Act. Moore takes these characters and explores them through a variety of ways.

I think I first learned about Watchmen during my time in college. That was when I really started to dive into comics. Plus, the movie was being talked about at that time. I already knew about the story before I even read the trade. I’ve really only have read the whole story a couple of times with my most recent read being a few days ago. I actually didn’t own a copy until a few months ago. As you can probably tell, it’s wasn’t high on my “must-read” list. After reading it this last time, I think I was a little wrong to have it that low.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Movie Talk - The Robocop Movies

Next up for the month is a little something different. If folk think that you need aliens, space adventures, and big booms to tell a story, then the Robocop series will prove you wrong. Well, the big booms are there at least. Robocop is something I’ve always had an interest in. I think I saw the first Robocop movie on ABC a long time ago. I never watched any of the animated series but I think I owned a toy. I’m not sure on that. It’s one that I’ve wanted to revisit here, so now’s the time to re-visit the first three movies and the 2014 reboot.

As I said before, I saw the original 1987 movie when it aired on TV. It and Robocop 3 were one of the first movies I viewed on Netflix. I don’t know how I first saw Robocop 2. It may have been on TV. I know I’ve seen it since then on TV. I actually rented Robocop 3 when I was a kid. Other than Netflix, I don’t think I’ve seen this one on TV. If it was on there, I probably skipped it. Then, there’s the 2014 reboot. This one was also a Netflix viewing. I never got to see it in theaters (nor rented it), so Netflix was the best place. So, what do I think of these now that I’ve recently re-watched them?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Random Thoughts #45 - Thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery

So, after much delay (literally), we’ve finally seen a glimpse of the newest Star Trek show, Star Trek: Discovery. I thought I’d give some thoughts on it. I gotta say that I wasn’t that excited about the show. Heck, I didn’t even know if the show would even be produced. All the behind-the-scenes rumors about the show definitely didn’t paint a good picture. Then, add the fact that Bryan Fuller, a pretty popular showrunner and Trek alumni, left the show. Top it all off with the show being exclusive to CBS’s new streaming service and you have something that may not work.


After seeing the trailer, I’m still unsure about this series. I can say that it all looks pretty cinematic from the planet scenes to the stuff on the ship (don’t remember what it’s called). I can’t say too much about the whole cast, but Sonequa Martin-Green looks fine as the first officer. I wonder if she’s half-Vulcan or has a Vulcan background. That part with Sarek was kind of interesting. I like that the series is going down another path by focusing on someone other than the captain. We also got a nice look at Doug Jones’s alien character. He looked pretty good.

Now, there are the things I’m worried about. It’s supposed to be set 10 years before TOS but things look too different. The ships and uniforms look pretty different. It’s supposed to be set in the Prime (the original) universe, but it looks like it could take place in the reboot’s universe. There’s also the look of the Klingons. They almost look like a new species but I will say it's kind of cool. This is only a teaser, so we don’t have the whole story behind the changes. Hopefully, the production team cares enough to explain some of the changes.

There’s also the fact that most Star Trek doesn’t have a glowing record when it comes to first seasons. Outside of TOS, Season One tends to be not a great time. Hopefully, the writing, the action, and the acting is on point. We ain’t so forgiving on shows these days. Then, there’s the whole streaming thing. I’ve heard that All Access is $5.99 a month which isn’t that bad. Still, it seems like overkill for CBS make us pay to see it. What’s worse is that outside the US, the show’s being streamed on Netflix. What the heck happened there?

In the end, I will check out the pilot of the show. It’s airing on CBS in the Fall, so I and many others will get a taste of it. I have no expectations right now. Until we see more, I think we all should go into this show with that mindset. Well, that’s all I got for now. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and chill folks... chill.

Oh yeah, to those complaining about the diversity: have you seen Star Trek? I know it's mostly trolls, but it is grating.

Random Pics of the Month - Eight Things About Daniel Jackson

It's been a while since I've done one of these. I think it's time to look at a property I've barely touched here: Stargate. So, in keeping with the tradition, here are seven things about the other brain of the group, Daniel Jackson.
Daniel Jackson looked a lot like James Spader for some reason...

Daniel Jackson somehow gets all the ladies with that brain of his.

Daniel Jackson 'bout to bust up some fools, yo!

Daniel Jackson is such a softie.

Daniel Jackson got some guns. MacGyver got him working out!

Daniel Jackson will do the will of anyone even if it's the government, the Ori, or the Ancients. Just pay the man!

As I said, Daniel Jackson can get the ladies.

Finally, the gene pool didn't stray far when it comes to Daniel Jackson since he started it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Look at PKD - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner

Now that I’m back from Chicago, it’s time to look at more PKD stories and adaptations. Tonight,  it’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Yes, that is the title to the book. I doubt Warner Bros. would have been fine with that name. I can see why Ridley Scott or who ever was behind the movie)changed to something edgier: Blade Runner. The Phillip K. Dick novel was first published in 1968. It’s been reprinted a lot since then. Blade Runner was released in 1982 and got a mixed reception at first. Since then, it’s become more popular and some claim it’s one of the best sci-fi films.

Now I have a confession about this movie: I hadn’t seen it fully until a couple of days ago. Yes, I know I’m a pretty bad sci-fi fan. Put down your digital ptichforks! I’ve seen small reviews here and there about the movie beforehand. I know Confused Matthew did a review back in the day. I think SFDebris did one as well. I actually read the novel before I saw the movie this time. I checked out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep at the library a couple of years ago. Now that I’ve finally seen the movie and revisited the book, what do I think?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Blade Runner
Novel Written by Phillip K. Dick
Movie directed by Ridley Scott

BRIEF BLURB: In the not too distant future, a bounty hunter named Rick Deckard must hunt down fugitive androids that have landed on Earth.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trade Tales! - The Star Wars

Next up for the month is a weird return to the Star Wars universe. Actually, I don’t even know if you can call it that. I guess it’s the “Earth-2” of the Star Wars multiverse or something.

For those who don’t know, George Lucas had an original draft to Star Wars called “The Star Wars.” It was similar to what he put into the original trilogy but a lot of crap was different. Some names and characters are similar but there are a lot of things different about it. For example, Luke Skywalker is older and is in Obi-Wan’s role. Annikin Starkiller is more or less of the main protagonist and basically has Luke’s role from the movie. There’s a Darth Vader who’s only a scarred general, R2-D2 (spelled differently) actually talks, and Han Solo looks like Swamp Thing. Those are just some changes.

I actually found the trade at a comic convention last year. I got it along with the adaptation to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. The 8-part miniseries came out through Dark Horse. I think this mini was one of the last ones done before Marvel got the rights for the comics. J.W. Rinzler is the writer of the adaptation. He’s done a few things for the Star Wars universe. He even had to get permission from George Lucas to adapt the script. The artwork is done by Mike Mayhew and I’ve seen some of his stuff with DC. So, how does this original draft hold up?

The Star Wars
Writer: J.W. Rinzler
Art: Mike Mayhew
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Michael Heisler
Cover Art: Nick Runge

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"It's A Video Game!" - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Next up for the month is a return to something cool. Back in 2011, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released. It was a first-person shooter/stealth RPG that was heavily influenced by cyberpunk. Imagine someone mixes Robocop, Blade Runner, and a few other sci-fi properties together. I heard good things about it and tried it out one day. I’ve tried it out a few more times since then.  I even have it’s predecessor/sequel, Deus Ex, on my computer. If I had a good game controller to play the thing, I’d be set. A couple of years ago, I talked about DE: HR here and I had good things to say about it.

Around the time of my review, I heard that a sequel was finally coming down the line. Of course, I was hyped.  Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was eventually released in August of 2016. I didn’t get to play it until a couple of weeks ago. It takes place two years after the events of Human Revolution. At the end of that game, the Illuminati (yes, The Illuminati) wanted to halt human progress, so they created software to cause all augmented people to go mad. The event was known as the “Aug Incident.” Don’t get it mixed up with Marvel Netflix’s “Incident.” You (as Adam Jensen) were able to stop them before they did any more damage. Afterwards, something happens and you’re out of commission.

The game picks up with Adam two years later. Because of the Incident, Augs are now outcasts to society and treated like crap. Adam is now working for Interpol in Prague. He’s also secretly working for the Juggernaut Collective, a hacking group who’s wants to take down the Illuminati. When a terrorist bomb goes off in Prague, Adam has to do what he can in finding the true culprits. Not only do you have to deal with anti-Aug problems, you also got Augs stirring up trouble. Adam also has to deal with things related to some new upgrades he mysteriously gotten to his body.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Look at PKD - The Minority Report

Next up for the month is a new, small segment. Ever since I started to do this branch out, I’ve been looking into the writings of different sci-fi authors. One of the big ones has been author, Phillip K. Dick. I wanted to touch upon one of his novels and its adaptation last year, but I didn’t finish it in time. Then, there’s the fact I can’t find the dang thing. Anyway, instead of A Scanner Darkly, I think I’m going to start off with a more well-known property: Minority Report.

The Minority Report was a short story that first debuted in Fantastic Universe, a sci-fi magazine from the 1950’s. It’s been reprinted in a lot of places since then. It was even adapted into a small indie movie by the guy who did one of the Jurassic Park movies. I think the lead actor was some up-and-comer named Tom Cruise. Hopefully, you can smell the snark. I originally saw the movie before I read the story. For a while, I didn’t know it had been adapted. Later on, I actually found the story in a book that had other short stories written by Dick. So, what do I think of the original story and its adaptation?

The Minority Report
Story Written by Phillip K. Dick
Movie directed by Stephen Spielberg

BRIEF BLURB: In the future, a division known as Precrime is used to stop and punish crimes before they happen. Its director, John Anderton, ends up being accused of murdering a man, so he goes on the run to find out how it happens.

Monday, May 8, 2017

TV Talk - Battlestar Galactica Season 1

Well, this took a while to get to. A few years ago, I decided to revisit the original Battlestar Galactica show and its horrid sequel, Galactica: 1980.  If the original 70’s sci-fi show was a father, then G: 1980 was the child who decided to go down the dark path and become an arsonist. If the reboot is anything, it’s the franchise’s child who went to get his doctorates in Science, Liberal Arts, Theology, Philosophy, and Aerospace. What I’m trying to say is that Season 1 of 2003’s Battlestar Galactica might be pretty good.

Battlestar Galactica came out as a mini-series in December 2003 and eventually had their first season a year later on the Sci-Fi Channel. I don’t remember what I thought of the show when it first aired. I saw some of the original mini-series when it was aired on NBC of all places. I think my thoughts were “Hmm… this is a little racy. Nobody isn’t in the room, are they?”  Okay, it's not Game of Thrones, so it's not that racy. I actually didn’t get to see much of the first season when it was aired. I think I only saw a few episodes especially the season finale.  Talk about “Holy Crap!” Since it’s not on Netflix anymore, I’ve been finding the seasons for cheap in different places.

I know some were bothered by the changes to the reboot. Starbuck’s a woman? Tigh’s a white guy and a jackass? Boomer’s a pretty attractive Korean woman? I wasn’t as knowledgeable about the original series, so I wasn’t really bothered by the changes made. Heck, I’m still not bothered by them. Not a lot was changed though. If anything, stuff just got modernized and it looked less Star Wars-like. After all, BSG was a bit a riff on Star Wars. I didn’t recognize any of the actors at that time except for Edward James Olmos.

Battlestar Galactica takes place in another part of the galaxy. There, humanity lives in a group of planets known as the 12 Colonies. Beforehand, humanity was at war with the Cylons, a robotic species that they created. After the war, the Cylons went into deep space and stayed hidden for 40 years. In the present day, the come back much different and more powerful than ever. They strategically wipe out the 12 Colonies. About 50,000 humans remain from the attack and one Colonial fleet ship, the Battlestar Galactica, remains to keep them safe. Since their area of space is pretty much overrun by Cylons, humanity’s leaders decide to take the survivors and search for the mythical 13th Colony known as Earth.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Trade Tales! - Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 17: Clone Saga

Well, it’s May and you know what that means: Cinco de Mayo! Also, it’s Sci-Fi Month, a time where I pretty much praise (or wreck) one of my favorite fictional genres. This month is different in that this is the first time where I won’t be looking at any Star Trek shows or movies. I’ll still fit it in though. The thing I like about Trek is that it’s not just contained to movies or TV.

This time though is a return to the Ultimate Universe. I’ve been wondering when this day would come. Now that it’s here, I’m a little sad. I thought about ending this long look at Ultimate Spider-Man with the next volume but I may continue to its end. Besides there are really only a few volumes left in this iteration of the series. It does mean I will have to browse the horrible subject known as Ultimatum, but I’ll get to that stuff later.

Today's post is about the Ultimate Clone Saga. Now, my history with the Clone Sagas (Sagi?) is a little limited. I never read the original Clone Saga from the 1970’s. Back in the day, I did peruse a few issues of the pretty infamous 1990’s version at grocery stores. I know this may be sacrilege, but I kind of liked Ben Reilly. His costume was kinda cool. Hey, I had to do something while my mom was getting groceries! This trade also marks an important time for the series. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley together made it past 100 issues. That’s actually pretty rare in the comic book industry.

This 9-part story takes place in Ultimate Spider-Man #97-105. As usual, Bendis does the writing. Bagley is on the pencils. Inks are handled by John Dell and Drew Hennessy. They also get some help from John Sibal and Matt Ryan. The colors were done by Justin Ponsor, Richard Isanove, and Andy Troy. The letters were done by Cory Petit and Chris Eliopoulos. The trade I have also has some interviews from Wizard Magazine with Bendis and Bagley. So, let’s see what happens when Spider-Man meets a crapton of people who look like him!

Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 17: Clone Saga
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: John Dell, Drew Hennessy, John Sibal, and Matt Ryan
Colors: Justin Ponsor, Richard Isanove, and Andy Troy
Letters: Cory Petit and Chris Eliopoulos

SYNOPSIS
Life for the Parker boy is a little complicated right now. He and Mary Jane Watson are talking again which leaves Kitty (the current girlfriend) understandably miffed. Then, there’s the fact that his lunch with MJ is ruined when the Scorpion wrecks it all. He changes into costume and not only has to subdue this new foe but also not get shot by the NYPD. When they’re alone together, Spidey removes Scorpion’s mask and finds out that he looks exactly like him. Meanwhile, MJ makes it home she is then kidnapped by someone who is later revealed to be a disfigured clone of Peter.

Since the villain literally has his face, Spidey knocks Scorpion out and takes him to the Fantastic Four. He also reveals his identity to the four (take a drink) and Johnny recognizes Peter from his time at Midtown High. Peter realizes it’s getting late, so he heads back home and finds out that MJ’s missing. He first heads to the warehouse where they’d sometimes hide out and instead finds a young woman in a spider costume. Thinking she’s behind MJ’s disappearance, he attacks her and is effectively taken out by her. After she checks his vitals, the girl leaves.

Peter wakes up and heads back to his house where he finds someone else who’s supposed to be dead: Gwen Stacy. She’s wondering what’s happened and remembers little. Then, Aunt May shows up and sees Gwen. Obviously, she flips out but Peter is able calm her down. He also tells her his secret about being Spider-Man. May angrily tells them both to leave but they then get another visitor: Richard Parker, Peter’s father. It turns out that he didn’t die on the plane crash. Agent Henry Gyrich of the FBI found him and had him working for their Research Dept. He’s also behind Gwen’s resurrection. Then, things go from bad to worse when SHIELD shows up outside. Reed Richards told Nick Fury about the clone since cloning’s illegal, so Fury and a legion of new Spider-Slayers have come to take Peter in.

Because of all of this, “Gwen” transforms into a symbiote-like creature (a lot like the one that killed her) and attacks SHIELD while May has a heart attack. This enrages Peter who also attacks SHIELD. Ultimately, they are both stopped. Then, the Fantastic Four show up and try to defend Peter. Sue Storm goes into the house and takes May and Richard to the hospital. Peter surrenders himself to SHIELD when the woman in the Spider costume (I’ll call Spider-Woman) shows up and takes Peter out of the area. She reveals herself to be a female clone of Peter and tells him everything about how she and other clones were created. She also tells him that one of the clones (I’ll call Kaine) may have kidnapped MJ. They end up heading to the disheveled Oscorp where it all began.

At Oscorp, they find Kaine, a multi-armed clone, and MJ who has been transformed into a Goblin creature. Kaine entered the OZ formula into MJ so she could protect herself. Seeing Peter causes her to transform back to normal and Peter knocks out Kaine. Suddenly, Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four, and SHIELD shows up and they have Otto Octavius with them. The Fantastic Four leave and take MJ back to their lab. It’s ultimately revealed that Octavius is the true creator of the clones and “Gwen.” They were created so that the FBI more could have super soldiers that weren’t under Fury’s hand. It’s also revealed that Richard Parker did die and that the man Peter met is another clone with fake memories. Kaine tries to attack him but is killed by SHIELD agents.

After hearing all is, Fury has had it with… well, Doc Ock and leaves Peter and the remaining clones to “deal” with him. Unfortunately, it’s revealed that Octavius actually has the power to control metal and creates new arms for himself. The multi-armed clone is killed but Peter and Spider-Woman are able to take Octavius down. Spider-Woman leaves while Peter stays and is eventually picked up by Johnny Storm. At Baxter Building it’s revealed that Reed and Franklin Storm were able to cure MJ. Peter professes his love for her and they kiss. Reed also reveals that they could also make Peter normal if he wanted to be. Peter ultimately declines the offer, though.

At the hospital, Peter finds out from Sue that his cloned dad has died of old age. Peter stays with Aunt May and is visited by Fury who apologizes for all that went down. After he leaves, May wakes up. Kitty (who got the X-Men to see what was going on) is in the hospital with Jean and wants Xavier to erase Peter’s identity from May’s mind. Xavier doesn’t do it and it turns out that’s it a good thing since May is glad to see Peter safe. In the end, Peter stays at MJ’s house while May is in the hospital. Kitty also finds those two kissing later too. Fury holds on to “Gwen” and Scorpion. Then, this Clone Saga comes to an end.


OPINION
So, what did I think of this 9-part saga? This thing was long but it doesn’t read like that. Other than that, this was really good in my opinion. Bendis really gets to put Peter through the wringer this time. Not only does he have your stereotypical teenage problems, he’s got problems with “The Man,”man! It was interesting to see Peter deal with all of the crap being thrown at him. I also liked seeing this concept modernized. It’s like Bendis grabbed every small idea from the other Clone Sagas and threw them into a blender with some octopus meat. It also felt like a nice continuation of all that came before in the series with Peter’s dad, Doc Ock, Oscorp, and Nick Fury.

The drama gets ratcheted up to 11 with the dead returning and May finding out about Peter’s secret. I did feel it was weird for May go rail on Peter like that when she found out. Luckily, it was only a moment of madness since she’s fine with Peter at the end of the story. I also liked the heroic additions to the story with the Fantastic Four playing a major role and the X-Men cameoing once again. Probably the best addition to the series is Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman. She was actually pretty cool and she was even cooler than Peter was. It was also cool to see Doctor Octopus return in the way he did. The “Magneto” powers were weird but they did make sense in a way.

The artwork is pretty good overall. As usual, Bagley and team put in some good work. The quiet moments between everyone were pretty good. The action was awesome as usual. Seeing Peter and Spider-Woman tag team Doc Ock was pretty cool. I also liked the designs of the clones. They hearkened back to similar things we saw in the 616-universe. While I thought some of the art was a little sketchy at times (mostly the first issue), it was overall good.

I actually don’t have many problems with the story as a whole. I’ve said before that it’s weird for Peter to be the ultimate players of women’s hearts, but he is a teenager. Aunt May’s outburst felt pretty out of left field but when you consider all she’s gone through in the year, it makes sense. Plus, she’s accepted Peter at the end. I did think MJ turning into a Goblin creature herself was way out of left field though. Add the other weird elements of Gwen-Carnage and an aged Peter clone and you get one weird story.  At least it’s a well-written, well-drawn weird story that doesn’t get as weird as the 90’s Clone Saga was. It doesn’t take 3 years to complete either!


Unmaskings/Reveals of Spider-Man: 3
This time, we got 3 reveals of Spider-Man’s identity. I thought about including the FBI and their research team, but they’re a part of the government, so they already knew. The Fantastic Four find out Peter’s identity when he tells them at the Baxter Building. Later, Franklin Storm (Sue and Johnny’s dad) finds out his identity. Then, there’s Aunt May’s reaction to his identity. I’ll just leave it at three since that sound like enough to get drunk or gain calories on.
Uh... May? You okay? Missing your meds again?

Total Unmaskings/Reveals of Spider-Man: 18


HIGHLIGHTS
Finally, here are the highlights. While a lot of cool stuff happens, here are my favorite bits.

-Professor Xavier… is okay? – This occurs at the end where Kitty pleads with Xavier to erase Peter’s secret from May’s mind. Now this is an Xavier who isn’t a complete douche, Mark Millar! By the way, I know regular Xavier could be a d-bag too at times.

-Tag Team against Doc Ock – the fight between Peter, Spider-Woman, and Doc Ock was pretty cool.

-Meeting the Fantastic Four – It was about time he met up with the other four.

-Together Again – While Kitty being thrown to the curb is harsh, it is nice seeing Peter and MJ get back together.

 ……………………………………………………………………………..


Overall, this was a really nice arc. It definitely made up for the last few issues I’ve read. I felt the series had been a little off before this moment. Hopefully, this momentum continues from here. Well, I’ll stop here with my gushing over Ultimate Spider-Man. I do have something else coming later that involves Spider-Man and it may not be too good. Let’s just say that it involves skateboards, Emma Stone, a bewildered Jamie Foxx, and lizard cops. For now, Peace, God Bless, and watch out for my clone. He’s a bit… rough.