Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Week in TV #11

The Simpsons: A Tree Grows in Springfield


Once again, The Simpsons gets to the party late, skewering the iPad long after it moved from the tip of pop culture's tongue. Timeliness issues aside, this episode was a vast improvement over the previous two. While still not terribly funny, it was at least amusing in places, and the last two acts flirted with the kind of introspection/deeper meaning the show was capable of handling in its earlier golden years.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #13

"School Daysze"
March 1984

In a Nutshell
Magma settles in at Xavier's school as Doug Ramsey makes his first appearance. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Finisher: Tom Mandrake
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Principal: Jim Shooter
Presentor: Stan Lee

Plot
The New Mutants introduce Amara to Professor X, who welcomes her to the school and shows her to her room, which has been designed to resemble her room back in Nova Roma. That evening, the New Mutants hold a welcome barbeque for Amara, but when Sam, trying to show off, accidentally spills soda on Amara's dress she runs off, triggering an earthquake as she goes. Roberto prevents a fire from breaking out and Rahne and Dani follow Amara into the woods, but decide to respect her privacy. Meanwhile, at Project: Wideawake headquarters, Sebastian Shaw and Henry Gyrich are showing Val Cooper a Sentinel test when the machine goes wild, a victim of someone taking control of the computer system, forcing Gyrich to destroy the Sentinel. Back in New York, Kitty and her friend Doug Ramsey realize their connection to the government system they hacked has been severed, but Doug doesn't think they'll be discovered.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #178

"Hell Hath No Fury..."
February 1984

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle the Brotherhood, and Kitty is seemingly killed.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.  
Inkers: Bob Wiacek & Brett Breeding
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Horrified by what happened to Colossus and realizing she's no match for the Brotherhood on her own, Kitty telepathically alerts Professor X. Xavier sends Storm and Wolverine in response, but neglects to tell Rogue about the attack for fear of testing her loyalty too soon. Suddenly, he's hit by a tremendously powerful psionic scanning wave which leaves him wracked with pain. Back in New York, Kitty remembers reading about a recent invention of Mr. Fantastic's that could help Colossus, but when she contacts the Fantastic Four, she's told they're unavailable. Hoping to find the device herself, she takes a cab to the Fantastic Four's headquarters in the Baxter Building. Meanwhile, Callisto, Sunder and Masque find the body of a dead homeless girl, and Masque begins to work on her. Back at Lincoln Center, the Brotherhood attacks Nightcrawler and Amanda, but they manage to hold their own until Wolverine and Storm arrive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Walking Dead 3x07: When the Dead Come Knocking


In terms of plot progression, not a whole lot happened in this episode. Woodbury learned about Rick and company clearing out the prison, and the prison folk learned about Woodbury, but in terms of moving the overall narrative forward, that's about it. However, as the penultimate episode of the fall half of the season, the end result was an excellent exercise in increasing tension. With Rick, Daryl, Michonne and New T-Dog poised on the outside of Woodbury, with Glen and Maggie of no more use to the Governor on the inside, with Merle still a bastard but likely to choose his brother over the Governor, with Andrea still stupidly falling for what the Governor is selling, and with the Governor poised to take the prison for himself, the slack has been pulled tight, ready to explode next week. The ending, as the various players moved into position with the score pounding relentlessly, was one of the show's most ominous moments yet.

Monday, November 26, 2012

X-aminations in December

We round out the year in X-aminations with a pair of issues from each series, a pair of limited series intended to capitalize on the X-Men's growing sales success, and, appropriately enough for the day after Christmas, a twelve issue series involving most of the Marvel Universe's biggest characters created to support a toy line.

December 5th: Uncanny X-Men #179
December 6th: Magik #1-4

December 12th: X-Men and the Micronauts #1-4
December 13th: New Mutants #14

December 19th: Uncanny X-Men #180

December 20th: New Mutants #15

December 26th: Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #1-12
(depending on how my schedule shakes out, this may get pushed to the 27th, or split into two posts, with the second half on the 27th. We'll just have to play that by ear).

Also, in the interest of continuing to share cool new (to me) X-Men related blogs with you, I've added a few new sites to the blog roll.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Last Week in TV #10

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, and remains pleasantly stuffed!

As you may have heard, Last Resort was cancelled last week, with ABC committing to running the remainder of if its full, initial 13 episode order. I do plan to finish the show out, though as I fell a couple episodes behind, the impetus to catch up is lessened by the news of its cancellation. So even though there's no review of the show in this post, I will get back to it soon and write-up the remaining episodes. 

The Simpsons: Penny Wiseguys


Another perfectly average, unexciting episode, one handed over almost entirely to Steve Carell's new character, who didn't quite fit the aesthetic of the show. Lisa once again gets the subplot, raising some interesting questions about the nature of her vegetarianism (I'm curious what Dr. Bitz thought of it) without really doing much with those questions before the plot was quietly shuffled aside. I did enjoy some of the callbacks to past episodes, like the Pin Pals or the picture of the Be Sharps on the wall at Moe's.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #12

"Sunstroke"
February 1984

In a Nutshell
Amara loses control in Rio De Janeiro, convincing her she needs to join the New Mutants. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Finisher: Tom Mandrake
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Louise Jones
Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In Rio De Janiero, Emmanuel DaCosta arrives to his office to find Roberto waiting for him. Roberto tells his father to forget about the Maderia, that Nova Roma is off limits, or else he and the other New Mutants will do everything in their power to stop him. His father tells him that if he leaves, it will be as though he has no son, to which Roberto replies that he's now half an orphan. Enraged, Emmanuel calls Sebastian Shaw and tells him he accepts his invitation to join the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club. Meanwhile, Dani and Amara are enjoying the beach at Ipanema, with Amara reflecting on her father's decision to send her to Xavier's school to gain control of her power, when the girls are accosted by a group of men. When one of them kisses Amara, she triggers a volcano on the beach.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #177

"Sanction"
January 1984

In a Nutshell 
Mystique attacks the X-Men to retrieve Rogue. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.  
Inker: John Romita Sr.
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Eliot Brown
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Traffic Manager: Virgina Romita

Plot
In an abandoned circus, Mystique is attacked by Wolverine, but she manages to evade his attack and slit his throat, killing him. Posing as him when Kitty investigates, Mystique kills her as well, then leads Cyclops and Colossus into a fun house where a series of pre-placed amplifiers increases the power of Cyclops' optic blast, killing Colossus. Mystique then sneaks up behind Cyclops and strangles him. Donning a special suit, Mystique exits the fun house and is attacked by Storm. She absorbs the energy of Storm's lightening attack via the suit, and explodes a nearby fuel tanker, killing Storm. Inside the big top, Mystique is attacked by Rogue, but manages to blast her into oblivion. Mystique is then grabbed by Nightcrawler, who teleports her throughout the tent. Mystique is unfazed by the teleportation, but hesitates when she's about to stab Nightcrawler, who uses the opening to knock her out. Later, Mystique awakens to Destiny tending to her wounds as Arcade enters, congratulating Mystique on her performance against his robot X-Men. Mystique arranges to have Arcade run her Brotherhood through the same program.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Walking Dead 3x06: Hounded


One of the advantages of the way the show has opened itself up this season is that in episodes with multiple storylines, the ones that are duds are buoyed by the more successful ones (a condition plenty of other shows have used to their advantage, but one which Walking Dead has struggled with because its narrative had been so insular for so long). As a result, even though the ongoing adventures of Andrea, the Colossally Stupid Girl continued to fall somewhere between "boring" and "actively irritating", they were a lot more tolerable when it was only a matter of time before the narrative would return to Rick's telephonic breakdown or the Merle/Michonne hunt (for the record, if I had to rank the storylines in this episode, from least engaging to most, it would go Andrea/the Governor, Rick's phone calls, Daryl, Carl and New T-Dog cleaning out the prison, and the Merle/Michonne stuff).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ten Pop Culture Things For Which I am Thankful

Marvel Comics the Untold Story by Sean Howe


No less than a narrative history of Marvel Comics, culled in part from new interviews between the author and a smorgasbord of Marvel creators, editors and business people, I picked this up on the strength of a review at Longbox Graveyard (well, picked it up immediately; I was going to get it eventually) and have since fallen asleep most nights reading it (because I'm forcing myself to stay awake to keep reading, not because it's boring). I'm currently coming up on the inception of the New Universe, and it's remained a compelling, fascinating and fun read. Highly recommended to any fan of Marvel Comics (though not to any fans who don't want their image of a happy Marvel Bullpen working in tandem to churn out comics with no conflict whatsoever tarnished).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Last Week in TV #9

I've fallen behind on Top Chef and Last Resort, so we'll hopefully get to those next week. But no time for jibber-jabber! Onward! 

The Simpsons: Gone Abie Gone


This was a perfectly cromulent episode; it had decent hook, a solid structure, and a mildly entertaining subplot. Too bad it wasn't terribly funny (see the two best exchanges below). I am mildly curious to see if Grampa's newly revealed love interest will ever show up again, but otherwise, this was the very definition of a thoroughly average episode.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #11

"Magma"
January 1984

In a Nutshell
Magma helps the New Mutants defeat Selene. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Finisher: Tom Mandrake
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Amara attacks Selene, who defends herself by animating the rock within the cavern. That use of power leaves Selene old and frail, but she sacrifices her followers to rejuvenate herself. Turning to Dani, she entrances her, declaring her intent to use her and the other New Mutants to conquer the world. Dani fights her influence, just as Amara escapes from the rock and attacks Selene again, blasting her with lava. Dani vows to help Amara, just as Selene suddenly drains Amara's lifeforce. Meanwhile, Senator Gallio triumphantly leads Senator Aquilla away in chains, much to the consternation of Sam, Roberto and Rahne. Spying a red-haired woman amongst Aquilla's captured slaves, Roberto steals a guard's armor and follows her. Inside a dungeon, he discovers his captured mother being taunted by Castro. Roberto knocks out Castro, then frees his mother.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #176

"Decisions"
December 1983

In a Nutshell 
Cyclops and Madelyne are attacked by a giant squid on their honeymoon. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.  
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the South Pacific, Scott and Madelyne are flying their seaplane towards their honeymoon destination, hoping to avoid an oncoming storm. As Scott contemplates his father's offer to join the Starjammers, the plane is suddenly struck by lightening, sending it crash towards the ocean. Meanwhile, in Japan, Wolverine visits Mariko, asking why she sent him the Yashida Honor Sword. She explains that while it is his by right, she refuses to marry him until she's severed all the criminal ties she forged while under Mastermind's influence, thus restoring her family's honor. In the Pacific, Scott and Maddy work frantically to repair their plane before the storm blows in, with Scott narrowly avoiding a shark attack. In Washington DC, Henry Peter Gyrich attends a meeting held by the president's National Security Adviser, during which the NSA's assistant, Val Cooper, gives a presentation discussing the imbalance of power between nations created by mutants. She urges the government to consider drafting mutants to work for them, something Gyrich worries would only trigger further attacks from mutants like Magneto.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Walking Dead 3x05: Say the Word


Any episode that followed last week's mini massacre was going to feel like a slight letdown, and sure enough, this episode was the first of the season to really slow down and spin its wheels a little bit. That's probably not a bad thing, because the audience needs a chance to breathe as much as the characters. It also dealt , at least on the prison side of things, with the kind of "how do we function in this world" kind of issues that the show could do well to address more (like getting formula for the baby, a detail I'm glad the show turned into a plot point), while also handing over some time to watching Rick go insane.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One Sentence Reviews

Hey! It's been a while since I've done some One Sentence Reviews. So...how about some One Sentence Reviews!

Mass Effect 3 (X-Box 360 Video Game, 2012) - This was a series where the thought of them screwing up the ending never crossed my mind...they screwed up the ending.

Skyrim (X-Box 360 Video Game, 2012) - The problem with these type of games is that the ending can never live up to the copious amount of time I've put into them.

Ready Player One (Novel, Ernest Cline, 2012) - A really fun and engaging book and a must read for all geeks out there.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Last Week in TV #8

It's Novembers sweeps, so it's a full week, though I did sneak in a showing of Wreck-It Ralph on Thursday, so I'll cover this week's Thursday night shows in the next post. 

The Simpsons: Adventures in Baby Getting


This struck me as another story which would have worked better if the characters were allowed to age, however slowly. The episode at least acknowledged the idea that Maggie is still essentially a baby, but it still felt strange to watch Marge pine for a baby while Maggie is around. That aside, it was a pleasant enough character-based episode for Marge, with some particularly hilarious act breaks (after Marge declares her desire for another baby, Homer thinking, "I should have fixed the faucet"; imagining twins that look like Patty and Selma, Homer screams repeatedly).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men Annual #7

"Scavenger Hunt"
1983

In a Nutshell 
The Impossible Man leads the X-Men on a zany scavenger hunt. 

Plot & Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Michael Golden, Bret Blevins (pp28-32)  
Inkers: Michael Golden (pp1-2), Tom Mandrake (pp 3-7, 24), Bob Wiacek (pp 12-13,16), Terry Austin (pp 14-15, 17-19), Brett Breeding (pp 20-23), "Wild Bill" Anderson (pp 25-27), Joe Rubinstein (pg 28), Steve Leiahola (pg 29), Sam De La Rosa (pp 30-31), "The Rube" (pg 32), Al Milgrom (pg 33-37), Brett Blevins (pp 38-39)
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski, Mike Higgins (pp 31-32)
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Eliot R. Brown
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men are playing baseball when a massive space ship appears in the sky above them, from which Galactus emerges. He declares that he requires the X-Men's domicile, then disappears along with the X-Mansion. With Professor X's help, the X-Men track Galactus, whom Xavier believes isn't truly Galactus, to the SHIELD Helicarrier, where Nick Fury's eyepatch is stolen. Next, the X-Men track the alien to the Savage Land, where Ka-Zar's sabretooth tiger, Zabu, has been stolen. Back in New York, the Wasp's costumes are stolen, leading to a tussle between She-Hulk, Iron Man, Colossus and Rogue, while Dr. Strange's sigil window is stolen. At the Hellfire Club, the X-Men battle Sebastian Shaw as the alien steals the Black Queen's costume. Finally, the X-Men chase the alien through the offices of Marvel Comics, eventually cornering him and overpowering him when Rogue attempts to absorb his power, at which point he reveals himself as the Impossible Man of the planet Poppup.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Walking Dead 3x04: Killer Within


Well played, show, well played. Lori's death was genuinely shocking. Lord knows she's been a troubling character for awhile now, inconsistently written with ever-shifting motivations. Yet up until this season (which is quickly shaping up to be the show's most consistent, if not best), there was no indication that anyone involved in the production of the show viewed Lori that way. Couple that with her proximity to the main character (and the potential for drama that proximity created), and even on a show that has arguably the best claim to the notion that "nobody is safe", it felt like Lori was near the top of the short list of safe characters.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Last Week in TV #7

Things in TV Land should pick up next week with the start of November sweeps, though we did get a lot of good Halloween episodes (I love Halloween on TV because all the costumes are unrealistically elaborate and everyone can trick-or-treat in temperate, not-near-freezing weather). In addition to what I write about below, I did watch the Halloween episodes of Modern Family, Suburgatory, Big Bang Theory and Happy Endings. I don't have much to say about them (other than to say that you should be watching Happy Endings, the best non-Parks and Rec and Community comedy on TV) but feel free to bring them up in the comments if you're so inclined. 

Once Upon a Time: The Doctor


The revelation that Dr. Whale is Dr. Frankenstein (clever naming, by the way) opens a whole new avenue for this show. While it's already dipped its toes into the characters of public domain novels, in the forms of such characters as the Mad Hatter and Captain Hook, most of those dalliances involved characters with some ties to Disney. Frankenstein is the first literary character the show has used without any strong connection to the world of fairy tales and/or Disney. It opens a (potentially) troublingly deep well of characters, but with this episode making clear something the show has hinted at before, that there are all kinds of different "realms" (some a conglomerate of stories like Fairy Tale Land while others represent a specific fictional story like Wonderland or Neverland), each accessible by various magical items (like the Hatter's hat), with Storybrooke/the real world as just one more such realm, I think this expanded well of characters can ultimately work to the show's advantage. So long as the writers continue to find new and clever ways to re-imagine the characters and work them into the ongoing narrative (and in the case of someone like Dr. Whale, explain why he got pulled into Storybrooke by the curse that was placed on FTL), I have no objections to seeing a wide and varying range of public domain characters pop up on the show. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #10

"Betrayal!"
December 1983

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants are drawn deeper into the machinations of Nova Roma. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Finisher: Tom Mandrake
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Consultant: Diana Schutz

Plot
The New Mutants, heralded as gods, are paraded through the streets of Nova Roma. Arriving at Senator Gallio's palace, he tells them of how Senator Aquilla, Amara's father, wishes to declare himself emperor of Nova Roma. Though both Sam and Dani sense that Gallio is lying, they play dumb. That night, Roberto goes for a walk, and sees a woman he believes to be his missing mother in the street, but Gallio's guards detain him, and following Xavier's teachings, he refuses to use his power on them, so he loses his mother in the crowd. Later, Dani sneaks out of the palace, hoping to get a sense of what Nova Roma is really like, when she's grabbed from behind. Back inside, Roberto is suddenly shot in the arm, and the New Mutants discover the gunman is Castro, who claims Senator Aquilla hired him to kill the mutants. Gallio orders the immediate arrest of Aquilla.