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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC Comics, 1989) #59-61 – Children of Chaos/Mother of Madness/Brothers in Darkness (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode The Battle.

Continuity is a funny thing. Star Trek: The Next Generation would develop its own internal continuity as it went along. The  episodes featuring the Klingons and the Romulans (and the Borg) all fit together in a somewhat logical and progressive pattern, even if the show lacked the clear story arc structure of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While the show did offer background information on the members of the Enterprise crew, it never felt particularly beholden to them.

Picard’s time commanding the Stargazer was one of the earliest parts of his history to be established, in the first season episode The Battle. Picard’s tenure on the ship is alluded to several times over the course of the series, and there’s a sense that it was a formative experience for the commander. While it’s never stated outright, it’s suggested that the death of Jack Crusher and the loss of the Stargazer may have turned him into the somewhat aloof and distant superior we met in Encounter at Farpoint.

The slingshot manoeuvre...

The slingshot manoeuvre…

And yet, despite that, The Next Generation never delves too deeply into Picard’s past. There’s the occasional reference to his time serving on the Stargazer, or a reminder of his complicated relationship with Wesley and Beverly Crusher, but The Next Generation is a television show that seems to move forwards. Even the events that happen to Picard in the context of the show – his abduction by the Borg in The Best of Both Worlds or his alternate life in The Inner Light – don’t seem to have affected Picard too much.

So it seems appropriate that this bit of future history should become fodder for the comic books and tie-in materials, delving mroe deeply into the history of The Next Generation than was possible (or even desired) on screen.

Stargazing...

Stargazing…

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Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

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

Silver Age comic books are, by their nature, different from modern comics. It’s more than just evolving social norms, or even shifting artistic sensibilities. There’s a massive world of difference between a fairly average comic written in the mid-sixties and a similarly average comic produced today. While I’d be reluctant to describe the comics contained in Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives, Vol. 1 as “great” or “brilliant”, they have a certain charm or novelty to them. They feel alien and unique, as if offering a raw and unrefined sample of a mood that Superman has been chasing for the past two or three decades.

While I don’t think Batman was as well-served by the sixties as he was by later decades, there’s a surreal innocence to these comics which speak to Superman as a character. These are the comics that probably inspired Richard Donner’s Superman film, and though artists like Al Plastino, Curt Swan or Dick Sprang might not have drawn a Superman who resembled Christopher Reeve, it’s very easy to imagine him fitting in among these stories quite easily.

The Silver standard?

The Silver standard?

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Superman: The Action Comics Archives, Vol. 1 (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.

It’s interesting to look back that the early Superman stories in Action Comics. Given that Superman has picked up a reputation for being boring or predictable or safe or conservative, it’s amazing just how radical and inflammatory some of these very early Siegel and Shuster adventures are. These early Action Comics strips were undeniably and overtly political, presenting a strong-willed and proactive version of Superman completely unafraid to impose his will on the citizens of the world.

It’s a dramatically different take on the character than the version we’ve come to accept in popular culture, the benign and well-meaning boy scout who plays by the rules. Even Grant Morrison’s affectionate throwback to these early adventures can’t quite capture the same sense of subversive radicalism which presents us with a version of the iconic superhero who does just flaunt the authority of law enforcement or legislature, but often directly challenges it.

Smashing!

Smashing!

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Justice League Unlimited – Flashpoint (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

While Question Authority kicked off this four-part climax to the arc that had been building through the first season of Justice League Unlimited, it’s Flashpoint that really serves to bring things into focus. Question Authority had been told mostly from the point of view of the Question, an outsider looking in – but Flashpoint explores the consequences of this inevitable conflict for the core of the Justice League. It’s amazing just how thoroughly and carefully writer Dwayne McDuffie was able to explore the concept of the superhero in this cynical post-9/11 world. While Divided We Fall would sidestep quite a few of the issues raised, I’m quite impressed to see them even broached in a half-hour cartoon action series.

All fired up…

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Non-Review Review: The Remains of the Day

It’s a sad truth that Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins are rarely handed roles that allow them to demonstrate their true abilities. The Remains of the Day is an absolutely stunning period drama from Merchant Ivory (which sounds far more impressive than any functional “combination of last names” really should). It’s a rather beautiful look at the classically romantic British character, but also an absolutely scathing attack upon it. It’s a brilliant examination of the inherent tragedy of the stereotypical British detachment, the capacity to maintain emotional distance in order to endure whatever life has to offer. Mister Stevens is the quintessential English butler, but he’s also one of the most tragic central characters I think I’ve seen in quite some time.

All that Remains...

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Non-Review Review: Superman Returns

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way. I figured that, today, I’d take a look at Superman-related movies.

You know, Quentin Tarantino once boasted that he had a 20-page review of Superman Returns that the director had been drafting for some years now. This review is going to be long, but it’s – hopefully – not going to be that long. The film has divided fans, movie-goers and film critics since its initial release, killed an attempt to relaunch the “Superman” brand name in the new millennium, made a shedload of money (although not as much as Warner Brothers would have liked). It’s a movie that deserves a large amount of discussion and debate, and it sure has generated it. I’m not a staunch supporter of the film, but I don’t hate it, either. Superman as a character has endured far greater humiliation. Still, it’s a bit of a disappointing continuation to the on-going Superman mythology.

The weight of the world is on his shoulders...

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Superman: Secret Origin (Review/Retrospective)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

I have to admit that I quite enjoyed Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics. Johns has been one of the most influential writers working at DC over the past couple of years, so it felt right to see him tackling Superman, after years of working on titles like The Flash and Green Lantern. It was an extra special treat because he brought Richard Donner with him for the introductory arc, which restored a sense of continuity between the comic book superhero and his cinematic iteration. You ask anybody to picture Superman, and I promise you that they will imagine Christopher Reeve with his cape flapping in the wind – it feels like the definitive version of the character. And I felt that Johns really tapped into that aspect of the icon. So, I have to admit that I was pretty excited when it was announced that Geoff Johns would be returning to tell the character’s origin story, his Secret Origin, if you will.

That's one super life he's lived...

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