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Daredevil – The Man in the Box (Review)

This month, we’re doing daily reviews of the second season of Daredevil. Check back daily for the latest review.

Throughout the second season of Daredevil, major characters debate the nature of Frank Castle.

In Bang, Frank Castle is introduced as a force of nature; he is presented akin to an old horror movie monster. In New York’s Finest, Frank tries to argue his case with Matt; Frank suggests that he simply offers a more permanent variation of the justice that Matt dispense. Indeed, Regrets Only seems to suggest that Karen has a more sympathetic perspective on Frank; Foggy dismisses him as obviously insane. In Semper Fidelis, Matt and Karen argue about whether Frank could be considered a hero.

"You should put that on a t-shirt or something."

“You should put that on a t-shirt or something.”

As the second season of Daredevil marches on, the series continues to offer excuses and justifications for what Frank does. The show goes out of its way to avoid any potentially challenging read of Frank Castle, tying everything neatly back to the death of his family. Guilty as Sin implies that Frank is a victim of “sympathetic storming” that keeps the death of his family constantly fresh in his mind. Seven Minutes in Heaven makes it clear that Frank still has a lot killing to do to avenge his family. Frank is presented as a brutal avenger, rather than a violent serial killer.

However, as the second season of Daredevil enters its final act, the show tips its hand. The Man in the Box makes it clear that Frank Castle is not an anti-villain. He is not even an anti-hero. Frank Castle is a straight-up hero. As the show moves into its final stretch, it becomes clear that the production team have crafted a thirteen-episode superhero origin story for Frank Castle. That gets to the root of the problems in his characterisation.

Sai.

Sai.

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The Lone Gunmen – Eine Kleine Frohike (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

With Eine Kleine Frohike, the first season of The Lone Gunmen is still in its teething phase.

There is a sense that the writers are still finding the show’s voice and struggling to get the tone right, while also trying to figure out how to structure an episode and what to do with the two new characters. Eine Kleine Frohike is messy and disjointed, but that is to be expected three episodes into the first season of an hour-long comedy. The first season of any show will inevitably be a bit rough; it is very rare for a television series to emerge from its production team fully formed.

Eich bin ein Frohike...

Eich bin ein Frohike…

At the same time, there are a few things that Eine Kleine Frohike does quite well, with John Shiban honing in on a few of the show’s strengths. Most obviously, Eine Kleine Frohike positions Frohike as the heart of the leading trio. Byers has always been the idealist of the bunch, but Frohike has a fundamental (and perhaps unlikely) dignity that makes him a solid foundation for an episode like this. Indeed, the best scene in Eine Kleine Frohike uses Frohike’s humanity to forge a connection with a guest character who otherwise seems like a joke.

Eine Kleine Frohike is too disjointed to really work, but it does represent a clear step forward for the show.

The son also rises...

The son also rises…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Countdown (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 August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Star Trek: Enterprise spent a lot of the final stretch of the third season playing at being Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There are a number of episodes that provide a direct parallel with stories from that earlier underrated Star Trek show. Damage riffs on In the Pale Moonlight. is very much Children of Time. More than that, the moral ambiguity and the long-form storytelling that define the third season of Enterprise also owe a very conscious debt to the work done on Deep Space Nine.

However, the final two episodes of the third season drift away from the ethical uncertainties and moral quagmires that defined a lot of the year’s stories. The Council effective resolved the big thematic questions hanging over the third season, allowing Archer the chance to propose a diplomatic solution to the Xindi crisis. This allows Countdown and Zero Hour to go about the task of providing a suitably impressive action climax to this twenty-four-episode season-long arc. There is precious little soul-searching here; instead, there is one big race against time.

The life aquatic...

The life aquatic…

In that respect, the last two episodes of the third season hark back to a more traditional form of Star Trek storytelling. In particular, Countdown and Zero Hour feel like an old-school blockbuster two-parter, in the style of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Voyager. In fact, with Archer’s fate in question and a hostile unstoppable force invading the solar system only to be destroyed in orbit of Earth, Countdown and Zero Hour play like an extended homage to The Best of Both Worlds.

While one of the most frequent criticisms of Enterprise is the sense that the writing staff are simply regurgitating classic Next Generation and Voyager plots, this feels almost earned. The third season has largely been about the show’s journey back to the heart of the Star Trek franchise, a trip that concluded with Archer embracing traditional Star Trek values in The Council. But what fun is that journey if you don’t get to celebrate it with an epic high-stakes world-ending rollercoaster ride?

"We cool?" "We cool."

“We cool?”
“We cool.”

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Robin: Year One (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.

Chuck Dixon is one of the definitive Batman writers, particularly in the context of the nineties. Dixon enjoyed a long and well-regarded run on Detective Comics in the nineties, serving as one of the three writers driving the Batman franchise – along with Doug Moench and Kelley Jones on Batman and Alan Grant on Shadow of the Bat. Dixon even got to stay involved with the Bat titles for a little while after No Man’s Land in 1999, when the entire line had a massive turnover in talent.

However, while Dixon is an incredibly influential writer on Batman, he had as much of an influence on Dick Grayson. Dixon was the writer who handled Dick Grayson’s first on-going Nightwing series, building off a miniseries written by Denny O’Neil. Dixon worked on Nightwing for seventy issues between 1996 and 2002. He even returned to the title with collaborator Scotty Beatty after its one hundredth issue to write Nightwing: Year One, an origin story covering the former Robin’s transition into his new superhero persona.

Swinging into action...

Swinging into action…

As such, it makes a great deal of sense for Dixon to collaborate with writer Scott Beatty on Robin: Year One, a prestigious miniseries spanning four extended issues and featuring wonderful artwork from Javier Pulido. Pulido’s distinctive artwork lends itself to vibrant colours and dynamic expression, as demonstrated during his wonderful stint as part of the rotating art team on The Amazing Spider-Man. If ever a comic book lent itself to Pulido’s style, Robin: Year One is it.

Dixon does some nice work trying to explain the dynamic between Batman and Robin, and even to argue why Robin is an essential part of the mythos. Most interestingly, he, Beatty and Pulido try to integrate the arrival of Robin with the atmosphere and mood established by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One.

Suit up!

Suit up!

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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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Infinite Crisis: Villains United (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

I have to admit that, as a rule, I have a great deal of respect for DC’s massive event-related tie-ins. Rather than typically offering expanded or deleted scenes from the main crossover, the tie-ins to their gigantic crossovers will frequently serve as prologues or epilogues to new concepts and relaunches. With Final Crisis, for example, Legion of Three Worlds served as prelude to a rebooted Legion of Superheroes and Rogues’ Revenge offered something of a hint of Geoff Johns’ return to The Flash. Infinite Crisis: Villains United is no different. While nominally the story of evil Alexander Luthor Jr.’s evil Secret Society, it’s actually something of a stealth pilot for Gail Simone’s Secret Six, introducing the characters and the concepts that would define the series.

Just an average day at the House of Secrets…

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Kurt Busiek’s (& George Perez’s) Avengers – Avengers Assemble! Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” And so we begin, one month short of the release date…

It is good to be together again.

– Thor, Once An Avenger…

A lot of life is context. In order to fully appreciate things, you need to know the history and events which drive it. Kurt Busiek’s massive almost-five-year run on The Avengers is well loved by comic book fans, but is quite hard for me to get a read on. The plots are simple, the cast is over-crowded and the dialogue is corny. However, these are perhaps the reasons why the run is held in such high esteem, because the fictional Marvel Universe of 1998 was quite different from how it looks today.

Consider them assembled... all of them...

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