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Daredevil – Stick (Review)

To celebrate the launch of Marvel’s Daredevil and the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, we are reviewing all thirteen episodes of the first season of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil. Check back daily for the latest review.

Sitting smack bang in the middle of the season, Stick is something of an oddity.

It demonstrates just how episodic Daredevil can be in structure. Stick lets its focus move away from Matt’s conflict with Wilson Fisk, offering an episode built around a guest star and shedding some light on one of the members of Fisk’s cabal. “Ride with me tonight,” Stick urges Matt. “Help me destroy Black Sky, keep it off the streets, and I promise you this: Wilson Fisk will know the taste of fear the day he faces you ’cause he’ll know that you kicked the guy he’s afraid of right in the nuts.” Fisk is still a target here, albeit one temporarily shifted to the background.

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There are obviously ripples from Stick that reverberate through the rest of the season. Nobu’s loss here helps to mount more pressure on Fisk in Shadows in the Glass, while it leads to a very physical confrontation between Nobu and Matt in Speak of the Devil. At the same time, it remains curiously disengaged from the show around it. Despite the fact that the casting of Scott Glenn was announced with the fanfare reserved for primary cast members like Rosario Dawson or Vincent D’Onofrio, this is his only appearance in the whole thirteen-episode season.

Of course, there might very well be a reason for this. Stick is the only episode of the first season with a closing scene that hints at something far beyond the scope of this individual show – a coming “war” between mystical and magical forces. In some ways, Stick feels like it takes advantage of the episodic structure of a thirteen-episode season to relegate all the obligatory set-up and world-building for material outside the show to a single episode in the middle of the season. This is perhaps the ideal place for it, not distracting from the beginning or the end of the run.

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A lot of this feels like set-up for the Defenders project that will unite all four of the Netflix and Marvel miniseries, bringing together characters like Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand to fight an incredible evil in much the same way that The Avengers brought together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk. Stick seems to allude to something decidedly more epic in scope than the details of this individual thirteen-episode run. It is, essentially, the second act of Iron Man 2 structured as a mid-season episode of Daredevil.

However, it all works. Stick might be divorced from the larger plot concerns of the season around it, but it never loses sight of its main characters. After a run of episodes focusing on Wilson Fisk, Stick brings the focus back to Matt Murdock. The return of Matt’s childhood mentor might be tied to some larger plot, but it also helps explain Matt’s character a bit more. Meeting Stick, we get to know a little bit more about how Matt ended up this way.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 1 (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

The first season of Star Trek: Enterprise is caught at a crossroads.

On the hand, it needs to be something new and exciting. The first Star Trek show of the new millennium, Enterprise has to find a way of updating the franchise and pushing forward. It has to find a way to challenge audience expectations and demonstrate that – after fourteen consecutive years and twenty-one overlapping seasons – Star Trek still has something fresh and exciting to offer fans. After all, the television landscape had changed significantly since the late eighties. It was time for Star Trek to change with it.

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On the other hand, there’s a clear desire to seek familiar comforts. Star Trek has been on the air consistently for over a decade now. That wouldn’t be the case if the franchise didn’t have its own merits. There’s a sense that the first season of Enterprise is drawn to the idea that it can keep doing what worked before, offering generic Star Trek stories with a new cast and a new theme tune. This is still Star Trek, after all. There’s nothing gained by changing it to the point where it is unrecognisable.

Throughout the first season, these two impulses seem to be at odds with one another, leading to a surreal sense of whiplash. Episodes that feel as unique as Breaking the Ice, Dear Doctor or Shuttlepod One sit alongside generic shows like Civilisation, Sleeping Dogs or Rogue Planet. The show frequently pushes itself in interesting directions, only to pull relent as it approaches the point of committal. The result is a first season that is uneven, but intriguing, one that has great potential – if not necessarily the will to fulfill it.

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Tintin: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (Review)

In the lead-up to the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I’m going to be taking a look at Hergé’s celebrated comic book character, from his humble beginnings through to the incomplete post-modern finale. I hope you enjoy the ride.

The two earliest Tintin adventures, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo, are looked back upon as the black sheep of the Tintin novels produced by Hergé. While Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is shameless anti-Communist propaganda (and does contain a hint of the foul racism we’d see a lot more of in Tintin in the Congo), one can detect a lot of the charm that Hergé brought to his iconic creations, scattered throughout the work, from the surreal sense of humour to the writing style to the love of ridiculous suspense, seemingly for the sake of suspense. The best was definitely yet to come, but it all started here.

The collection isn't Tintin at his finest...

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Wednesday Comics

Hawkman unsheathes his knife and crawls into the gasping T-Rex’s jaws, thinking “Sadly, this is not the craziest thing I’ve ever done.”

– Hawkman

Wednesday Comics is an amazing little experiment, a bit of comic book nostalgia delivered by some of the most talented people in the business with a smile on their face and a skip in their step. For those who don’t know, DC Comics – always the more boldly experimental of the two major companies – ran a twelve-week collection of newspaper comic strips. Fifteen strips bundled together, the reader was offered one page of a given comic at a time on a super-sized newspaper sheet, with a full story told week-on-week. It was a bold little experiment and while the whole is almost certainly greater than the sum of its parts, there’s much to love here.

There in a Flash...

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