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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x05: Kissed by Fire

Oh, Robb, you are your father's son, adhering strictly to the honorable course even to your detriment. I worry that the end result will be the same...

Nevertheless, seeing Robb back in military strategy mode and the suggestion of some payoff to his deal-breaking wedding last season made this one of the more enjoyable Robb outings all season.

North of the Wall
Just a quick check-in here, as the detachment of Wildlings continues on towards the Wall, and Jon takes a break to explore some caves.

I'm fairly certain he's lying about the number of men at Castle Black (a thousand seems like too large a number even before their recent decimation, which of course Jon doesn't know about), but I'm not sure what his endgame is. He's obviously not going to scare the Wildlings away before they reach the wall, and it will become pretty clear once they arrive how understaffed the place is.

Realizing it's a big deal for Jon to break his celibacy oath (especially since he too is a son of Ned Stark), it makes him more fun to watch when he's willing to cut loose a little bit.

Monday, April 29, 2013

X-aminations in May

A return to relative normalcy as we draw ever closer to the big two hundredth issue of X-Men, and take a look at two more favorite issues from the Claremont/Romita Jr. run. Also, remember Secret Wars? Well, it's back, as Secret Wars II begins (don't worry, I won't be reading the whole thing)!
May 1st: Uncanny X-Men #193
May 2nd: New Mutants #28

May 8th: Uncanny X-Men #194
May 9th: New Mutants #29

May 15th: Nightcrawler #1-4
May 16th: Power Pack #12 & Secret Wars II #1

May 22nd : Uncanny X-Men #195
May 23rd: New Mutants #30

May 29th: Uncanny X-Men #196
May 30th: New Mutants #31

Friday, April 26, 2013

Last Week in TV #31

So after it was preempted last week, my DVR failed to record the most recent episode of Revolution, presumably thanks to approximately the third unseasonable snowstorm of the month. I didn't see available on demand, but I'm sure I'll find it online at some point. In the meantime, we'll have to soldier on without it. 

Bob's Burgers: The Kids Run the Restaurant

Perhaps I'm just as squeamish as Bob, but I could have done without some of the blood in this episode. Otherwise, this was another great episodes, particularly the last five minutes, as the family, in a panic, attempts to convince Bob to play Fischoder to win back their money, which was a great showcase for each character and the manic energy that builds whenever the family comes together. I also appreciated that Louise ran her casino exactly like a real casino, despite the fact they were gambling on games like an Operation! knockoff and Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

X-amining X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2

"The Gift
Dec. 1985 - Jan. 1986

In a Nutshell
The X-Men and Alpha Flight investigate a fountain of mystical energy that could transform the world into a paradise. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Paul Smith & Bob Wiacek, & friends (issue #2)  
Letterer: Tom OrzechowskiColorist: Glynis Wein, Bob Sharen (issue #2)
Editors: Ann Nocenti & Denny O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Based On a Premise By: Jim Shooter, Ann Nocenti, Denny O'Neil

Issue #1: Scott and Madelyne are flying a group of scientists to the Arctic Circle when their plane is struck down near Ungava Bay by a mysterious force. In New York, Rachel experiences a psi-flash of their crash. Using the Danger Room, the X-Men are able to recreate the moments leading up to their crash, and are led to believe Shama of Alpha Flight may be behind the crash. Later, in Calgary, Shaman and several of his teammates are suddenly attacked by an enraged Rachel. A fight breaks out, which Xavier quickly quells, admonishing Rachel for her rash action. Learning that Snowbird was struck down at the same time as Cyclops, the two teams decide to investigate the incident together. Meanwhile, Asgardian god Loki convenes with We Who Sit Above in Shadow, urging them to pass judgment on his attempt to curry their favor through a selfless act. As the X-Men and Alpha Flight near Ungava Bay, they discover a massive citadel in the midst of an oasis, from which Cyclops emerges.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

X-amining Alpha Flight #17 & Dazzler #38

Alpha Fight #17

"Dreams Die Hard..."
December 1984

Creator/Chronicler: John Byrne
Colorist: Andy Yachus  
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Additional Material (Pgs 8-11, 13-16)
Dialogue: Chris Claremont
Inks: Terry Austin

Wolverine is in Canada, helping his old friend Heather Hudson cope with the death of her husband, James, leader of Alpha Flight. They discuss Wolverine's past defection to the X-Men and how that affected James, as well as James' efforts to retrieve Wolverine for the Canadian government. Heather then tells Wolverine about James' death, and Wolverine tries to convince her she isn't responsible. He says that sometimes dreamers die, but their dreams live on. Together with Alpha Flight member Puck, Wolverine convinces Heather that she can keep James' dream alive by leading Alpha Flight.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x04: And Now His Watch Is Ended

I'll say this for the episode: shit is going down. Both Dany's big move and the virtual destruction of the Night's Watch felt like things that could have ended each of their storylines for a season (that is, I could have seen a season unfolding in which those two events were the culmination of both threads' season long arcs, and the last thing we saw of those threads before going into a break). Yet we're only in the fourth episode, which makes me even more excited for what's coming.

North of the Wall
Well, I suppose that's what happens when you're forced to stock your under-funded monastic order with criminals, degenerates, and unwanted sons of lords. And here I was just starting to think "all this Night's Watch stuff is starting to get terribly boring", moments before all hell broke loose. Of all the places I was expecting this storyline to go, this wasn't it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dr. Bitz Ranks Every Television Series Ever...Sorta (Part 12)

It's been longer then usual for me to get back to these posts. I've been busy and lazy and there are other reasons. But the important thing is I'm back!
In this installment I'll go over some shows that I finished watching after I made my rankings and where they would fit if I ranked them. Looking at them I see all but one is animated. Not sure what that says about me...:

55 1/2 (between My Own Worst Enemy and Invasion). Durarara!!: Oh boy. When I saw previews for this anime all it focused on was a humanoid creature partially made of dark mist riding a motorcycle. It was like a cross between the Lost smoke monster and Ghost Rider. I thought it could be interesting.
What I got was a cross between Saved by the Bell, West Side Story and Lost. The show seems to focus on society, high school and online communication or...something. I gotta be honest, I never quite grasped what the hell this show was trying to say to me.
All I know is this is a show that involves a kid starting a gang though an online forum, another kid starting a more traditional gang that fights with the first gang, a chick possessed by an evil, sentient dagger, a dude who doesn't feel pain which enables him to be super strong, an Irish fairy searching for her head in Japan and a guy trying to control them all in order to start the apocalypse. Imagine all of that put together as boringly and convoluted as possible.
Boring and convoluted is a self perpetuating downward spiral for a series. The more boring a show is the easier it is to become convoluted because if I'm bored then I pay less attention and don't even try to figure out what's going on.
Anyway, after that ringing endorsement if you feel like checking this series out please let me know what the point of this show was because I have no idea.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Last Week in TV #30

Hey, we've got a decent slate of things to cover this week. And it's not even May yet! 

Also, Monday's Revolution was pre-empted by the President's speech, and as far as I know, didn't re-air at any other point this week (I'm assuming they're just pushing everything back a week and will eventually double up some night), but if you know it did, let me know. 

The Simpsons: What Animated Women Want

This episode was trying to say something, what with it's narration and thematically similar A and B plots, but for the most part, I just found myself thinking "the last thing we need is yet another 'Homer has to repair his marriage' story." The Milhouse/Lisa material was much stronger, what with its examination of the bewildering trend of women inexplicably falling for bad boys who treat them poorly and its callbacks (both subtle and overt) to the classic "A Streetcar Named Marge" episode, but it was all second fiddle to what was really just another Homer/Marge plot (something of which this episode was clearly aware).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

X-amining Beauty and the Beast #1-4

"Beauty and the Beast / Heartbreak Hotel / Showtime / Checkmate"
December 1984 - June 1985

In a Nutshell
Beast and Dazzler fall in love and get caught up in an underground mutant fighting ring. 

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Pencils: Don Perlin  
Inker: Kim DeMulder
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colors: George Roussos (issue #1), Petra Scotese
Editor: Michael Higgins
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Issue #1: In Latveria, Dr. Doom receives word that a boy claiming Doom is his father has reached adulthood and is living in Californa. Doom decides to keep an eye on him. At that moment, Beast arrives in Hollywood, on vacation, while Dazzler mourns the loss of her singing career following her outing as a mutant. She is approached by Alexander Flynn, who wants her to perform in an experimental underground theater for his boss, Hugo Longride. Eager to be back in the spotlight, she agrees. Beast runs into her at a party, and is turned off by the new company she's keeping. However, when her power suddenly goes out of control and she runs off, Beast tracks her down to the Heartbreak Hotel and promises to take care of her. Issue #2: As Beast tends to Dazzler, the pair grow closer and fall in love amongst the other mutants living at Heartbreak Hotel. Flynn finds Dazzler and offers to help her get her power under control if she honors her contract and performs in his theater. She agrees, over Beast's objections. He nevertheless attends her first performance, but is horrified to discover the theater is actually an arena in which mutants fight one another for sport. Flynn claims the whole thing is staged, despite the death of a mutant in the arena, but Beast doesn't buy it, and urges Dazzler to leave. But feeling a kinship with the other misfit mutant performers, she decides to stay.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

X-amining X-Men Annual #8

"The Adventures of Lockheed the Space Dragon and His Pet Girl Kitty"

In a Nutshell 
Illyana tells a sci-fi story starring Kitty and Lockheed. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Steve Leialoha
Original Idea: Jo Duffy
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The X-Men and New Mutants are telling stories around a campfire. As the hour grows late, Illyana, hoping to cheer up Kitty, offers one last story: when the starship Chicago is attacked by the evil White Queen, young Kitty is captured. Using her nascent phasing power, she escapes. Just then, the White Queen's ship is boarded by a group of pirates led by Lockheed. The White Queen kills Kitty's parents, but Lockheed, Wolverine and Nightcrawler rescue the girl, and offer her a place on their ship. Years pass, and Kitty grows up a member of Lockheed's crew. One day, they are invited to help celebrate the jubilee of Charles Xavier. Landing at the imperial palace, they meet Xavier and Lilandra, rulers of the Shi'ar Empire, and Kitty notices a cute imperial guardsmen named Peter Rasputin. As the party begins, Lockheed receives a strange summons. Wolverine follows him, and watches as a group of dragons ambushes and disappears with Lockheed. Just then, the White Queen appears and captures Wolverine. She sends Kitty a message, making her believe she's killed Lockheed, and telling her to turn herself over to the White Queen or she'll destroy Wolverine.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x03: Walk of Punishment

On the Road
It's a testament to how far Jamie has come (especially with such limited amount of screen time) that him getting his hand chopped off wasn't more of a cheer-worthy moment. It certainly helps that it followed him using the one asset left available (his quick tongue) to save Brienne from being raped, presumably for no personal gain, but considering his first significant act on the show was casually pushing Bran to his intended death, it's a crafty (and effective) bit of storytelling that Jamie losing a hand (and thus, the one thing he genuinely earned on his own, his sword fighting skills) felt more like a tragedy for the character than a necessary comeuppance.

My thought process throughout that sequence, after Jamie was laid out on the rock: They're going to cut off his hand, aren't they? No, maybe they're going to cut out his eye instead. Nope, guess they aren't going to do any - HOLY CRAP THEY JUST CUT OFF HIS HAND!

Whether Jamie deserved it or not, that was a pretty great moment on which to end an episode.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Last Week in TV #29

Another light week as the reruns keep running, so we'll do some more catch-up. Also, I finally got around to finishing Last Resort, which, all things considered, wrapped up about as satisfyingly as we could have hoped for (the wrap-up was more rushed than I would have liked, and some of the smaller details pertaining to the overall plot got brushed past, but at least it wrapped up).

As a series, it definitely started to pick up towards the middle (right around the time word of the cancellation came out), and where I once wondered how it could possibly last more than thirteen episodes, it started to show potential for being a long running series. I'd have liked to see where it went had it continued (and how drawn out the overarching plot would have been had the show stuck around), but at least the episodes we got (especially after some of the early time-killers) managed to tell a finite, largely compelling and consistently entertaining story.

Anyways, on to shows still on the air!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #27

"Into the Abyss"
May 1985

In a Nutshell
Professor X and Dani enter Legion's mind to save their friends. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Professor X, Gabby Haller and the New Mutants examine the unconscious forms of Rahne and Moira, marveling that despite the destruction to Moira's lab caused by the explosion, their bodies are unharmed. However, just like Tom and Sharon, Xavier determines that their minds are gone, and suspects David Haller is behind the attacks. With Rahne still in her wolf form, Dani reasons she may be able to contact her through their psychic link via the Astral Plane. Xavier and Dani enter the Astra Plane, where they're attacked just as Gabby Haller and Doug are pulled onto the Astral Plane as well, leaving a despondent Warlock behind. Determined to end the threat, Xavier begins attacking the psychic walls around David's mind. In the process, he discovers that David is his son, a revelation that distracts him enough that the others are get sucked into David's mind. Coming face to face with the three dominant personalities which control David's powers, Xavier plunges into the boy's mind after his companions. He finds himself in a war-torn representation of Paris, dominated by a massive black dome in the distance.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #192

"Fun 'n' Games!"
April 1985

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle Warlock's father, Magus. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Dan Green
Special Thanks: Steve Leialoha
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

In the woods near the mansion, Nightcrawler, Rogue and Colossus play a game of hide-and-seek as an improvised Danger Room session. Suddenly, the night lights up as bright as day as something falls from the sky, crashing into an abandoned house nearby. Meanwhile, Storm, Professor X, Rachel and Illyana wait at the airport for Kitty and Wolverine to return from Japan. As Storm and Professor X discuss a course Xavier is teaching at Columbia University, Rachel's mind wanders. She recalls the moments just before she went back in time, as she and an older Kate Pryde attacked the government's Project: Nimrod facility. Under fire, Kate triggered a post-hypnotic command which sent Rachel back in time. She snaps out of her reverie just as Kitty and Wolverine arrive, and Rachel is surprised to discover that Kitty remembers her from when Kitty's consciousness was in her elder counterpart's body.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x02: Dark Wings, Dark Words

On the Road
Lots of people on one road or another this week, trying to get from one place to another without being discovered, as the show catches us up with Arya and Jamie. The former, along with Gendry and Hot Pie, run into the Brotherhood Without Banners which, if I'm piecing it all together, is the rebellious group the Mountain (brother of the recently-captured Hound) and the Lannisters were trying to defeat last season using Harrenhal as their base of operations (the rat torturer guy was trying to find out information about the Brotherhood), and it consists of remnants of the force which Ned dispatched in the first season to stop the Hound from pillaging villages.

I assume the book goes into more detail concerning what happened to the Hound between last season and getting captured, but hopefully the show might touch on a few things itself.

Friday, April 5, 2013

RIP Roger Ebert

It somehow doesn't seem right to feel this much sadness over the passing of a man I never met, whom I only ever knew through the filter of various technologies. In my head, I know this sadness isn't logical. Yet I feel it nevertheless.

Roger Ebert died yesterday.

Today, the internet is filled with poignant and personal testimonials from people who were inspired or touched or moved by him in some way. Many of those testimonials come from film critics, and I'd wager nearly every one points to Roger Ebert as one of the chief reasons they became film critics.

I unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting Roger Ebert, nor of communicating with him. I commented on his blog occasionally, and once, he responded directly to my comment (I won't lie: it felt like a big deal), but my interactions with Roger Ebert came solely through the long-running TV show he shared with fellow Chicagoan critic Gene Siskel, At The Movies, as well as through his copious writings; I got to know him through his weekly film reviews, blog posts, essays, and books.

I am also not a film critic, at least in any professional capacity, and frankly, for all my aspirations, I'm not much of a professional writer, period. Yet I consider Roger Ebert as having had a tremendous influence on me.  Because I am a writer, and I love movies, and his work played a role in fostering both.

Last Week in TV #28

Well, it's a good thing I was lazy the last couple of weeks and held some reviews back, because with Walking Dead and Game of Thrones getting their own posts and most everything else taking a break on account of Easter/April, this would be an even shorter post without a few of the hangers-on. 

Once Upon a Time: Selfless, Brave and True

In terms of episodes involving a flashback featuring a ruggedly handsome character going on a vague and quasi-mystical journey in an Asian country, this one exceeds "Stranger in a Strange Land", the "Origin of Jack's Tattoos" episode of Lost, though that is admittedly a pretty low bar to hurdle. Compared to the previous two episodes of this series, this was a step down, largely let down by some more dodgy CGI and laughably-convenient plotting (see below). Most of it was setup for the villains and arc that will, presumably, carry us through to the end of the season, and I can't deny there isn't something intriguing about a group of people who are after the magic in Storybrooke despite not hailing from Fairy Tale Land, even though Tamara herself is still pretty one-dimensional and hard to care about.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #26

April 1985

In a Nutshell
The first appearance of Professor Xavier's son, Legion. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

On Muir Island, Tom Corsi marvels at the strength of his new body as Sharon Friedlander looks on. Suddenly, they see the astral projection of a young Arabian man. He screams, then vanishes, just as an alarm sounds. They rush to David Haller's room and discover him crying for help in the midst of a telekinetic storm. As Tom and Sharon duck for cover, David's hands burst into flames and he starts to laugh with the voice of a girl. Then the room explodes. The next morning, Professor X and several of the New Mutants arrive on Muir Island, responding to a call from Moira for help. She shows Xavier Tom and Sharon, whose bodies are unharmed but whose minds are seemingly gone. A surprised Xavier is then reunited with Gaby Haller, his former lover, and the mother of David. Meanwhile, at the Massachusetts Academy, the White Queen admonishes Empath for his recent actions, and after he attempts to take control of her with his power, she telepathically blocks his access to it as punishment. Back in Scotland, the New Mutants explore the town of Ullapool as Xavier attempts to telepathically help David.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #191

"Raiders of the Lost Temple!"
March 1985

In a Nutshell 
The transformed X-Men and Avengers attempt to overthrow Kulan Gath.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Kulan Gath tortures the captive Spider-Man, telling him the blood of innocents will provide the power to spread his spell over the entire planet. He then sends the New Mutants and Morlocks out in search of the rebels. The rebels arrive at what was once the New York Public library, seeking weapons and knowledge to use against Kulan Gath. Just then, they're attacked by Gath's soldiers. Rogue is killed, while Storm is rescued by Warlock. As the remaining rebels head towards Kulan Gath's temple via the Morlock tunnels, Warlock attempts to help Storm remember the real world. That evening, the rebels sneak into Gath's temple, but are discovered. They fight their way into Gath's throne room, both sides taking heavy losses. Watching the melee, Spider-Man summons the strength to break free, intent of stopping Gath once and for all, but is quickly killed by the wizard. Above, Storm and Warlock arrive at the temple, and Warlock is able to make Storm understand that Gath's amulet is the source of his power. Warlock becomes a pair of wings, and together they swoop down, snatching the amulet away.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x01: Valar Dohaeris

Game of Thrones is back, and going forward, I'll be giving it the full post treatment in place of the departed Walking Dead. Like my write-ups of the show within the "Last Week in TV" posts last season, I'll break down each episode by location, then give some general thoughts (when necessary) at the end. So let's get to it!

North of the Wall
Our cliffhanger from last season is rather perfunctorily resolved, as Sam essentially hides from the ice zombies until they're gone, gets attacked by another, then is rescued by Ghost and the rest of the Night's Watch, all of whom promptly decide to skedaddle on account of the, you know, ice zombies. I'm sure it'll be made clear eventually, but last season I was under the impression the White Walkers were heading toward the wall (ie where everyone else is now headed), presumably to invade the south, but apparently they were just moving from one place to another and Sam stumbled into their path?

Meanwhile, we finally met Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, and while the previous two seasons hinted at this pretty heavily, he's not quite the monster the leaders of the Night's Watch would have us believe. Ciaran Hinds is one of those "that guy" actors who I like, and I'm already intrigued by his past as a former Ranger and rise to power amongst the Wildlings.

It took me a moment to remember that Jon's actual goal is to be a double agent within Mance's camp, which is a testament to how well he sold his little spiel to Mance about why he wants to join up.

That said, we're obviously heading towards a season arc for Jon in which he finds himself torn between doing his duty and abandoning the Night's Watch for good, helped along by the saucy Ygritte.

Walking Dead 3x16: Welcome to the Tombs

“In this life now, you kill or you die. Or you die and you kill.”

So says the Governor, and really, for the vast majority of its three seasons, so, seemingly, said the show itself. By the end of this finale that didn't quite feel like a finale, though, perhaps the show, through Rick, is finally repudiating that mentality, and suggesting a different way to live. As a result, this episode, while coming up short in terms of satisfactorily closing off the conflict between the prison and Woobury, was largely successful thematically.

It addressed the question of whether or not Rick would end up like the Governor/what kind of leader he'd be in the world of the zombie 'poc while setting up a new character conflict for next season (will Carl instead embrace the Govenor's philosophy?). Plot-wise, it resolved the immediate conflict between the prison and the Woobury, but by leaving the Governor free to return another day, his transformation into an out-and-out supervillain thus complete, it ended the season on a whimper instead of a bang.

Monday, April 1, 2013

X-amining The X-Men & She-Ra #1

"To Scream Alone in the Halls of Hordak!

In a Nutshell
The X-Men end up on Etheria where they help She-Ra defeat Hordak.

Writer: Chris Claremont & Dom Jon Seepyus
Penciler: P.R. LaFolio
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The X-Men are in space, helping Peter Corbeau conduct repairs on the Starcore space station. Suddenly, a cosmic whirlpool appears, drawing the X-Men into its maw. Meanwhile, on the planet Etheria, She-Ra and her allies in the Great Rebellion are engaged in battle with a contingent of Hordak's forces led by Catra when the X-Men suddenly materialize in their midst. Joining the fight, the X-Men are able to help She-Ra repulse the attack. She offers them a place at their hidden camp within the Whispering Woods. Once there, She-Ra explains their situation: Hordak, the cruel ruler of the planet, has created a dimensional gate with which he intends to extend his influence out over all of reality. Xavier, surmising that it was Hordak's device which unintentionally brought the X-Men to Etheria, pledges the assistance of the X-Men, even if it means stranding the X-Men on Etheria. Combining his power with Castaspella, Xavier is able to discern the location of the gate within a mountain cavern. As Storm and She-Ra devise a plan of attack, the rest of the X-Men bond with the other members of the Great Rebellion.