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The X-Files (Topps) #13 – One Player Only (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

After a twelve-issue opening mega-arc of interconnected stories about conspiracies-within-conspiracies and wheels-within-wheels, author Stefan Petrucha and artist Charles Adlard step back a little bit to close out their run with a series of standalone stories. The four issues (and three stories) that make up the rest of their run on Topps’ X-Files comic stand alone. They are connected by themes and subtext, but very clearly stand apart from what came before. Indeed, they play out almost like a postscript to the main body of work, a series of smaller bite-sized chunks.

In that light, it is interesting that One Player Only feels – superficially, at least – a lot more in step with the television show. The early issues of the comic had seen Petrucha and Adlard creating their own supporting cast and their own conspiracy, so as to avoid stepping on the toes of the production company. The Cigarette-Smoking Man was largely reduced to a number of cameos, with Skinner popping up once or twice along the way.

Ghosts in the machines?

Ghosts in the machines?

Not only does One Player Only feature a guest appearance from supporting characters like Mr. X or yhe Lone Gunmen, it also harks back to the structure and format of the first season of the show. On the most basic of levels, One Player Only feels like a more cyberpunk take on Ghost in the Machine, right down to the fact that Mulder is drawn into a murder at a tech company by an acquaintance from his days in the Violent Crimes Division. At one point, Mulder and Scully stumble on a ransacked house, for Mulder to deadpan, “Hm. Nothing new.”

However, if one peels back the layers, One Player Only is a fascinating piece that sets the tone for Petrucha and Adlard’s last three issues on the series, while infusing the comic with a host of fascinating cyberpunk stylings and body horror that seem to call forward to William Gibson’s future writing for the show.

Coding out...

Coding out…

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David V. Reed’s Run on Batman – Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed? (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

David V. Reed enjoyed a long run on Batman. While he’s probably more infamous for his rather mean-spirited attack on Batman artist and co-creator Bill Finger in the pages of The Amazing World of DC Comics only a year after Finger passed away, Reed did some interesting things with the character and world of Batman. Perhaps the most notable of these stories is the four-part Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?, an ambitious four-part story offering multiple-choice takes on the death of Batman.

It could be argued that Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? has been a very influential Batman story. David V. Reed’s four-part saga sets up a structure that has been emulated quite a bit over the history of the Caped Crusader. For example, Almost Got ‘Im from Batman: The Animated Series follows a similar structure, with four Batman villains boasting about almost killing Batman. And Neil Gaiman and Adam Kubert’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? features many different deaths for Batman.

Long live the Batman!

Long live the Batman!

There are even faint echoes of Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? to be found in the pages of Grant Morrison’s extended Batman run – populated as it is with replacement Batmen, cabals of evil villains boasting about their crimes, and the almost-but-not-quite death of the Dark Knight. Published in 1977, Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? is a four-parter that seems quite a bit ahead of its time, if a little clumsy in execution.

It’s a decidedly goofy concept, executed in a decidedly goofy manner, but it is also quite wry and astute and perhaps even a little prescient.

Batman drops in...

Batman drops in…

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Marvel 1602: The New World (Review/Retrospective)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

One of the more frustrating things about the major comic book producers is the general reluctance to let any potential franchise or brand die with dignity. Marvel Zombies was an amusing gag, but the company ran it into the ground fairly quickly – although they did work to keep Robert Kirkham and Sean Phillips around for at least one of the sequels. Marvel Apes went from a vaguely witty cover gag into a spin-off universe of its own. Those two side projects eventually (and inevitably) overlapped.

Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 was a curiosity. It was a rather simple gimmick, transposing the modern-day Marvel Universe to the seventeenth century. It afforded Gaiman to make some of his typical meta-commentary and was an excuse to play around with novel twists on classic characters. The Marvel Universe is big enough and vast enough that even a rather basic concept like that can be maintained across eight issues.

A smashing time...

A smashing time…

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Doctor Who: Nightmare in Silver (Review)

I trust the Doctor.

You sure he knows what he’s doing?

I’m not sure I’d go that far.

– Clara and the Captain make sure they’re on the same page

Nightmare in Silver might not be as breathtakingly ambitious as The Doctor’s Wife, but Neil Gaiman’s sophomoric Doctor Who script retains the writer’s charm and wit. A collection of wonderful high concepts thrown together into a blender, distilled to their essence and gleefully sprinkled across forty-five minutes of television, it’s a beautiful reinvention of the Cybermen. After all, the show’s golden anniversary probably wouldn’t be complete without a visit from the Doctor’s silver nemesis.

Face-off!

Face-off!

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Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (Review)

“Good guys do not have zombie creatures. Rule one, basic storytelling.”

– Clara understands the way the universe works

And here our big theory that this anniversary season is a “greatest hits” collection runs into a bit of bother. Okay, Cold War was definitely a Troughton-era throwback. And Hide had a definite Hinchcliffe-and-Holmes feeling to it. (“The Baker Street irregulars” in 1974.) Maybe you could stretch it a little bit and argue that The Bells of St. John is a tribute to the Pertwee era by way of Russell T. Davies; and The Rings of Akhaten definitely feels a little like a classic bit of Hartnell-era world-building.

Making the case for The Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is just a little bit harder. After all, The Crimson Horror is another throwback to Hinchcliffe and Holmes, while Nightmare in Silver is another “base under siege by classic monster” tribute to Troughton. So there’s only one missing piece here. If that “greatest hits” argument holds, then Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS must be one gigantic shout out to the John Nathan Turner era.

Hear me out.

A shining beacon of light...

A shining beacon of light…

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Have a Look at Jill Thompson’s Sandman Movie Concept Art!

We’re big fans of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman here at the m0vie blog. It’s genuinely one of the masterpieces of the medium, and the perfect book to recommend to somebody who wants to see the very best work in the medium. There has been talk of adapting the story for film before, and I remember having nightmares about the damage that could have been done to it by an industry that hears “comic book” and thinks “superhero.” At one point Gaiman apparently read “not only the worst Sandman script I’ve ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I’ve ever read” attached to the project.

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Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory: Zatanna (Review/Retrospective)

December is “Grant Morrison month” here at the m0vie blog, as we take the month to consider and reflect on one of the most critically acclaimed (and polarising) authors working in the medium. We’ve got a special treat for you this week, which is “Seven Soldiers Week”, so check back each day for a review of one of the Seven Soldier miniseries that Morrison put together.

Zatanna is undoubtedly the most recognisable DC comics character among Morrison’s seven-character line-up. Sure, Frankenstein is a cultural icon and Mister Miracle is a member of Kirby’s New Gods, but Zatanna is an iconic part of the DC Universe, with her own rich and established history which has played into large events within the fictional universe repeatedly. As such, it’s no surprise that she is the only member of the Seven Soldiers ensemble to have a current on-going series – written by long-time Batman author Paul Dini. Of course, Dini mostly handles his own interpretation of the stage magician, to the point that this little four-issue series might really have never happened. Still, I’m glad it did, if only because Morrison gets to handle some pretty important character beats and acknowledge the character’s rich history at the same time.

I take my hat off to Morrison...

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