• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

Iron Fist – Bar the Big Boss (Review)

It’s impossible to talk about Iron Fist without talking about cultural appropriation.

There are multiple reasons for this. The most obvious are baked into the character himself, from his origin all the way back in Marvel Premiere as a white guy who travels to a mystical Asian city and becomes better at kung fu than any of the inhabitants before returning to America. There’s also very much the conversation that has been happening around the television series, which has prompted larger debates about the role of Asian performers and culture in Hollywood. Finally, there’s the fact that show so expertly puts its foot in its mouth.

Shaping up…

Bar the Big Boss is the perfect point at which to address this. Again, for multiple reasons. The most obvious is that it represents the last point at which the most obvious aspects of Asian exoticism are in play; barring the closing scene of Dragon Plays with Fire, this episode is the end of the Hand and K’un Lun as narrative forces in the context of the larger narrative. It is also an episode that effectively allows Davos to lightly touch upon the issue of cultural appropriation before brushing his concerns aside by turning him into a stock villain.

But, really, the issue is so firmly baked into the Iron Fist mythos that it is impossible to talk about in isolation.

Warding off evil spirits.

Continue reading

Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

It is hard to figure out what exactly the point of the Season One line was meant to be.

In a very superficial way, the point was obvious. The intent was to add a second regular series to Topps’ line of comics based around The X-Files. Even during the comic book bubble burst of the mid- to late-nineties, The X-Files was a good seller for the company. The monthly book sold well enough that Topps’ eagerly supplemented it. New stories were published as Digest editions, published alongside the less successful Ray Bradbury comics. Annuals were published alongside the monthly book. Collections were published frequently.

xfiles-beyondthesea13

However, this was not enough to satisfy market demand. Topps wanted to publish more X-Files material with greater frequency. However, Ten Thirteen were less interested with the supervision that the line required. A compromise seemed in order. Rather than creating a new original series of comic books, they flooded with market with new adaptations of existing X-Files media. Writer Kevin J. Anderson and artist Gordon Purcell offered a four-part comic book miniseries adapting Anderson’s Ground Zero prose novel.

The publisher also decided to put out a series of adaptations of classic first season episodes, released once every two months. These would be adaptations of stories that had already been properly vetted by Ten Thirteen, having been produced in-house. The trick would simply be translating them into comic books.

Burn with me.

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #9 – Shadows (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

And, with Shadows, the Season One line comes to a close.

Although The X-Files was at the very peak of its popularity between the fifth and sixth seasons, the Topps line of comics was winding to a close. Although Topps had turned a very tidy profit on the line, Ten Thirteen had been less enthused by the relationship. The production company decided not to renew their contract with Topps, and so the X-Files line of comics was quietly retired. Shadows was published in July 1998, a month following the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future.

A shadow of itself...

A shadow of itself…

It was not the last X-Files comic book to be published by Topps. The company would release one more issue of the regular series – Severed – shortly before the start of the sixth season. There was little indication that Topps expected the contract to come to an end; the publisher had actually solicited two further issues of the Season One line beyond Shadows, adaptations of The Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine. These were somewhat lackluster first season episodes, but episodes with the sort of impressive visual ideas that might translate well to the comic book medium.

An adaptation of The Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine would certainly have made for a more visually satisfying final issue than an adaptation of Shadows.

What we do in the shadows...

What we do in the shadows…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #8 – Beyond the Sea (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

Beyond the Sea is more than just the best episode of the first season.

Beyond the Sea is one of the best episodes that the show ever produced. Airing half-way through the first season of The X-Files, Beyond the Sea demonstrated exactly what the show was capable of doing at that point in its run. It was a television masterpiece, and remains one of the very best episodes of an extended nine-season run. More than Ice, more than E.B.E., more than Darkness Falls, Beyond the Sea is the unqualified success story of the show’s first season.

Sea change...

Sea change…

This makes the decision to adapt it as part of the Season One line a relatively risky endeavour. The last two episodes adapted as part of the series – Space and Fire – are unlikely to rank highly on any fan’s assessment of the show’s first year. This was not a bad strategy. If the comic book adaptations were good, like the adaptation of Space had been, then it was a success story for everybody involved. If the comic book adaptations were not great, as was the case with Fire, then it seemed unlikely that anybody would care too much.

Adapting the season’s strongest episode was a bold creative decision. It seemed highly unlikely that writer Roy Thomas and artist Sean Scofield could compete with the episode written by Glen Morgan and James Wong and directed by David Nutter. The best case scenario for an adaptation of Beyond the Sea would be to serve as a reminder of just how wonderful the television episode had been, rather than a comic book that was memorable in its own right. It was very much a situation where the best possible outcome was not messing it up.

Haunting visit...

Haunting visit…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #7 – Fire (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

Space was perhaps the best of Topps’ Season One line of comics, a version of the first season episode that came much closer to realising the potential of Chris Carter’s outer space mystery than anything that appeared on a television screen during the show’s first year. In a way, Space suggested a possible sustainable model for the Season One line of comics beyond a rather cynical attempt to have two separate X-Files comics running in parallel. What if the Season One line could be used to “fix” stories that had misfired the first time around?

This makes a certain amount of sense. After all, there is little point in just rehashing the show’s strongest moments. The comic adaptation of Beyond the Sea might entertain, but it will never be the definitive or stronger example of that story. The comic adaptations lack the chemistry of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, but they do have an unlimited visual effects budget and the ability to filter a story through a unique artistic sensibility. So perhaps Season One should not fixate on a “greatest hits” tour of the first season, but should instead focus on the misfires.

Burn with me...

Burn with me…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #6 – Space (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

If the jump to Ice suggested that the Season One line would only be covering the “highlights” of the first season of The X-Files, then the decision to immediately follow with an adaptation of Space puts paid to that theory.

Ice is generally regarded as one of the strongest stories of the first season. It is moody and atmospheric, tense and claustrophobic. It shines a light on the characterisation of Mulder and Scully, while also offering a particularly memorable (and unsettling) monster of the week. In contrast, Space is generally regarded as one of the weakest stories of the first season. It is clumsy and muddled, slow and dreary. The episode’s direction is bland and the special effects are woeful. On paper, it is probably the least likely choice for a Season One adaptation.

Face the future...

Face the future…

However, Space ultimately lends itself to a comic book adaptation. The story finds itself well-suited by the transition from live action footage to comic book page. there are a number of different reasons for this, but the truth is that the story is simply better suited to this format. That applies to the technical limitations imposed on film, but also to the storytelling conventions associated with comic books as opposed to live action television. It is a startling result, and arguably the biggest success of the entire Season One line.

Although it is a qualified accomplishment at best, Space is the first Season One comic that manages to surpass its source material.

Is there life on Mars?

Is there life on Mars?

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #5 – Ice (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

With Ice, Season One jumps ahead a bit.

It is hard to blame them. The first four episodes of the first season are relatively solid, outlining the heart of The X-Files and conveying everything the audience really needed to know at this point. However, the first season gets a little bit rocky after Conduit. Episodes like The Jersey Devil and Shadows are unlikely to top anybody’s list of favourite X-Files episodes. Ghost in the Machine is somewhat underrated, but it is hardly a world-beater either. So it makes sense to skip ahead to probably the most highly-regarded episode in the first half of the first season.

Worming its way into your heart...

Worming its way into your heart…

Ice is a classic installment of The X-Files. Like Squeeze, it is an episode that tends to lodge itself in the popular memory. It is hard to verify such things in any objective fashion, but it is an episode that many casual fans reference or point to whenever the show is mentioned. It has just the right balance of memorable imagery and distinctive hooks, brought to life in a haunting and atmospheric fashion. It would have been crazy for Roy Thomas’ adaptations of the Season One episodes to skip over this particular episode, and it makes sense to jump right to it.

Then again, there is also a pretty clear precedent for this.

This is not who we are...

This is not who we are…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #4 – Conduit (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Conduit is an interesting choice for a Season One comic.

It is the last of the first season mythology episodes to be adapted by Roy Thomas as part of the Season One brand. The Pilot and Deep Throat had launched both The X-Files and the mythology, but Conduit was really the show that emphasised that The X-Files would be returning to the idea of alien abduction quite frequently in the months and years ahead. Conduit paved the way for later first season episodes like Fallen Angel or E.B.E. Neither Fallen Angel nor E.B.E. were ever adapted for the Topps Season One range. Neither was solicited when the line was cancelled.

Myth-making...

Myth-making…

At the same time, Conduit is an episode that has not dated particularly well. As the fourth episode of the first season, it was quite effective at spelling out who Mulder was and how the abduction of Samantha motivated him to do what it was that he was doing. It was not subtle or nuanced character development, but there was a certain blunt appeal to it. Viewers had only just been introduced to Fox Mulder, so it was perfectly reasonable to bludgeon them over the head with his motivation and his back story.

However, the show has marched on. Mulder has developed and grown into a multifaceted character. Samantha will always be an essential part of his character arc, but she is no longer the only motivating factor. Indeed, David Duchovny even improvised a line into Oubliette that criticised Scully for behaving like Samantha was the only motivating factor in Mulder’s life. As such, it feels strange to go back to Conduit after all this time, and to see a very basic and early take on Mulder’s character. It underscores how far the show has come.

Far afield...

Far afield…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #3 – Squeeze (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

There is an argument to be made that this is the perfect time to feel all nostalgic. The X-Files is one of the biggest shows on television, sitting just outside the top ten as it entered its fifth season. The climax of the fourth season generated a national conversation, something that very few season-ending cliffhangers can do. The X-Files: Fight the Future was filmed in the summer of 1997 and primed for release in the summer of 1998. If there was ever a time to look backwards and dig into the show’s history, this is it. However, Season One feels like a flawed exercise.

There are a lot of problems here that contribute to the sense that Season One is not everything that it could be; the price is a little too high, there’s no new content to justify the nostalgia, and the show was becoming more easily available on home media as Season One was being released. The relaxed release schedule meant that Season One (and, presumably, any follow-ups) would never keep pace with the show, let alone catch up. At nine issues a year, the comic would fall further behind the show, even allowing for the decision to cherry-pick episodes.

In a tight spot...

In a tight spot…

However, the adaptation of Squeeze demonstrates perhaps the biggest problem with the Season One line. While writer Roy Thomas was working from Glen Morgan and James Wong’s original script for Squeeze, and artist Val Mayerick can reference the finished episode, there is undeniably something missing from this adaptation. There is some part of Squeeze that is not replicable in the classic four-colour design, a vital part of The X-Files that seems lost in translation and seems to identify Season One as an inferior imitation.

Quite simply, Season One does not have access to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Closing in to seal your Tooms...

Closing in to seal your Tooms…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #0 – Pilot (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Given the success of the monthly comic book series, it made sense for Topps to try to capitalise on The X-Files as much as possible. The series was exploding into the mainstream. Chris Carter was launched a second television show, Millennium, to capitalise on the success. Fox were planning to move the series to Sunday nights. There was already talk about a possible movie franchise. This was a great time to be publishing X-Files comics.

Topps had already used the series to sell “digests” packed with unrelated comics, and had published annuals to get a little extra sales revenue into the fiscal year. However, there was a clear desire to publish more X-Files work with more consistency. Ideas began to percolate – Kevin J. Anderson would pen a miniseries based on his Ground Zero novel during the show’s fifth season, for example. The company also decided to publish a series of comic books adapting early episodes of the series.

The truth is out there...

The truth is out there…

The series didn’t properly launch until the following year, with a series of monthly adaptations of first season episodes running from the start of the fifth season through to the month following the release of X-Files: Fight the Future. Conveniently titled Season One, these comics were only cancelled when Topps folded its comic book division – vanishing quite suddenly from the stands, with little warning.

The adaptation of The Pilot was actually released a year earlier than the monthly series – it was re-packaged and re-released once Topps committed to a monthly series of adaptations. As such, it makes for a strange teaser of things to come.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship...

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

Continue reading