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The Thick of It: Rise of the Nutters (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Are you f***ing kidding me? I mean, you’ve just watched me break my not-inconsiderable balls trying to get you the second spot on Newsnight. And succeeding! I can’t back down! No, no, you’re on, pal, right? And it better not be too boring, and it better not be too interesting either, ok? And it better not cost too much. It can’t be an old thing, obviously, and don’t make it too new. And whatever you do, please try not to embarrass yourself, right?

– Malcolm tells Swain his media strategy

I love the BBC’s Christmas specials. I mean, I know that other networks do Christmas-themed episodes of their shows, but the BBC does tend to go the extra mile. We get the opportunity to spend some time with a series that is on hiatus or even to provide an epilogue to a series that has ended. It generally affords considerably more leeway to a series to tell a different kind of story than they normally would. Here, in the hour-long Christmas special, Armando Iannucci’s political comedy gets a chance to drift its attention away from the fictional surroundings of the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship to explore the resignation of the sitting Prime Minister. Mirroring Tony Blair’s decision to step down at the same time, it lends the series a somewhat especially timely feeling, as well as allowing more focus to fall on the show’s main attraction, the brilliantly cynical and manipulative political advisor Malcolm Tucker, brought to life by Peter Capaldi.

Bully to that...

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Y: The Last Man – The Deluxe Edition, Book IV (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Y: The Last Man. In April, I took a look at all the writer’s Ex Machina.

It’s very clear that we’re now entering “end game” when it comes to Brian K. Vaughan’s spectacular Y: The Last Man. Even if I didn’t know that the next deluxe edition will be the last, there’s a clear sense that the writer is moving everything into position for the final few issues. Characters die, our heroes are closer than ever to their goals, explanations are teased… It seems that the stage is being well-and-truly set for the last chapter in this magnificent saga.

No time for no monkey business...

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume II (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

It’s interesting how times change. Ex Machina was originally published in August 2004, written by a New Yorker as something of a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It’s an exploration of a time when the country needed heroes and figureheads more than it needed politicians and diplomats. Is a superhero in Gracie Mansion any more insane than a cowboy in the White House? However, reading it now it’s interesting to see the similarities between Vaughan’s protagonist, the Honorable Mayor Mitchell Hundred, and Barack Obama. It’s the sign of a good storyteller that the tale remains relevant years after initial publication. It’s the sign of a great storyteller that the tale becomes even more relevant in the years that follow.

He's got the whole world, in his hands...

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume I (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

I don’t think that any creator has had quite the success of Brian K. Vaughan when it comes to original comic book series over the past decade (okay, maybe Robert Kirkman). Both of his famous original books recently came to a close after runs of over fifty issues each, and are both being collected in superb deluxe editions. Ex Machina doesn’t quite have the same dramatic hook or clarity of focus as Y: The Last Man does, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a stunning example of pulp fiction – wonderfully well-written social fantasy which is cleverly observed and even more smartly constructed.

All cogs in The Great Machine...

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