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Doctor Who: The Long Game (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Long Game originally aired in 2005.

No, no, you stick with the Doctor. You’d rather be with him. It’s going to take a better man than me to get between you two.

– Adam outlines another reason he had to get kicked out of the TARDIS

The Long Game is a breathtakingly ambitious piece of Doctor Who, for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is the fact that it’s basically Russell T. Davies pushing through a story idea that Andrew Cartmel rejected when he pitched it to the classic show in the eighties, but there are a whole bunch of other reasons. The Long Game is trying to do so many things at once that it ends up getting a little lost. However, it does serve as an example of what Davies was really trying to do with this first season of the revived Doctor Who.

On the surface, The Long Game a clever and daring piece of science-fiction television, a piece of social commentary hidden behind funny-looking aliens and scenery-chewing villains. It’s really a spiritual successor to the science-fiction stories of the Cartmel era. However, it’s also something else entirely. It’s a conscious embrace of the new realities of television, an acknowledgement that these trappings have be blended with character-based storytelling and more modern tea-time telly conventions.

After all, for a show about the manipulation of the media to corrupt the public consciousness, the teaser doesn’t end on a monster reveal or a shocking twist, but a pithy personal comment. “He’s your boyfriend.”

Body of work...

Body of work…

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The Death & Return of Superman Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

The Death & Return of Superman stands as one of the most influential and iconic Superman stories ever told. It was certainly the best-selling, even if that doesn’t necessarily make it the most-read, due to the nature of the nineties comic book speculation market. Read today, separate from all the hype and publicity and novelty items, it’s a very interesting part of the character’s lore. It’s certainly an ambitious tale, epic in scope. However, it’s very clearly disjointed and oddly paced and often demonstrates a strange disconnect with its own subject. A story with the title The Death & Return of Superman should probably offer some profound insight into its lead character. This just feels like a series of plot twists peppered with some casual observations.

Death of a hero...

Death of a hero…

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 15 (Review/Retrospective)

The Spirit Archives, Vol. 15, finds Will Eisner in the middle of a very strong run on his most iconic creation. While this collection of stories doesn’t necessarily do anything new or radical, it does offer an example of a master storyteller at the height of his powers, crafting entertaining and exciting pulpy adventures on a weekly basis. Indeed, this run of stories offers a fairly efficient cross-section of what the strip was capable of at its best, perhaps more than any of the volumes surrounding it. While it might not be the very best collection of Spirit stories written, it is a pretty handy introduction to the character and his world.

Doesn't somebody want to be wanted?

Doesn’t somebody want to be wanted?

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Adam Strange: Planet Heist (Review/Retrospective)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

Note: Although technically not a lead-in, and not included in the Omnibus, Planet Heist leads directly to Rann-Thanagar War, so I thought I’d take a look at it. Also, it’s a pretty damn fine series.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Adam Strange. Along with The Flash, Strange’s adventures in Mystery in Space are among my favourite of DC’s Silver Age comic books. (That would suggest a fondness for Carmine Infantino, who – his Batman work aside – is certainly a favourite of mine.) I’m boggled that DC has never managed to make more of Strange than they have. A delightful science-fiction concept, blending John Carter of Mars with a fifties ray-gun aesthetic, it seems ripe for pulpy exploitation. In fact, before Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy, I figured that Strange might prove DC’s best big screen hope of distinguishing themselves from Marvel.

Andy Diggle and Pascal Ferry’s Planet Heist is a delightful eight-issue miniseries featuring the character, updating him for a new era. I can’t help but feel a little sad that the pair didn’t extend the miniseries into a run, and that Adam Strange remains a neglected character in the DC pantheon.

All the Strange, Strange people…

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Non-Review Review: Now is Good

Now is Good wallows in all the clichés that we’ve come to expect in these stories of young lives cut tragically short. There are long sequences without dialogue, scored to music designed to cue our emotions, inviting the audience to contemplate the profundity of everything going on. There’s care not to dwell on this as a bleak or depressing story with an inevitable downer ending. However, despite the awkward and trite direction, the script itself is surprisingly sturdy. While it seems to check off all the items on the list – not that set down by our protagonist, but the one codified by other recent stories of child mortality – it does have a hint of humanity that shines through from time to time. “Life is a series of moments,” the narration is prone to remind us, and there are some nice moments to be found in Now is Good, slotted between the plotting and structure dictated by the genre.

Their troubles are far afield…

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Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams’ Batman – Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, Vol. 2 & 3 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

It’s really quite difficult to overstate just how influential the team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams were in redefining Batman during the seventies. Editor Julius Schwartz had made some steps in the right direction with his “new look” relaunch in the sixties, but his attempt to revitalise Batman wouldn’t truly bear fruit until the seventies. While the other definitive Batman partnership of the decade – Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers – had a clear run of issues with an over-arching story, O’Neil and Adams worked together on a number of issues scattered across a period of time when the entire Batman line was showing signs of improvement. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that we wouldn’t have Batman today without O’Neil and Adams, but I would argue that he would look pretty different.

Sharp pencil work…

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Non-Review Review: No Strings Attached

If ever there was a movie that demonstrated that you need more than a single great idea to make a good movie, I think No Strings Attached is really it. It basically takes the conventional romantic comedy and reverses the traditional gender roles that have ben reinforced for centuries. Instead of an emotionally-needy woman being paired with a commitment-phobe man, this time we see a free-and-easy lady hooking up with a guy who simply wants more. In fairness to it, it’s a nice way to distinguish the comedy conceptually from the standard rom-com template, but the problem is that it’s executed in the most mundane and half-interested fashion ever, substituting vulgar and crass jokes for actual humour and development.

Is she stringing him along?

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