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  • All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s03e01 – Second Time Lucky

    All Creatures Great and Small (2020) s03e01 – Second Time Lucky

    Last season’s Christmas special ended with World War II getting started (or as close as they could get to the war starting without it starting); this season begins with the recruiters in Darrowby, but the vets are exempt from service. It’s a running subplot throughout the episode, initially very gentle, as Nicholas Ralph discovers you can override your exemption and opt-in. Everyone else starts wondering why he’s so keen.

    Because it’s not a “James Herriot goes off to war” episode—one thing about “All Creatures” being based on memoirs is you could just google and spoil the story; I’m going to let myself be surprised, or not. No, it’s a wedding episode. Ralph and Rachel Shenton are heading down the aisle, complete with bachelor’s night at the Drovers, Ralph’s parents coming to town (Gabriel Quigley and Drew Cain have surprisingly little to do), and everyone worrying Shenton’s going to have second thoughts again.

    There’s a lot of nice character stuff for Shenton, with the various people in her life asking how she’s feeling about this wedding, including little sister Imogen Clawson, who’s ready for Shenton to move out (even if Shenton isn’t), vets’ housekeeper Anna Madeley, and, of course, dad Tony Pitts, who gets gruffer and more adorable every episode.

    But Ralph’s arc is muddled, partially through intentional obscurity (the enlistment subplot), partially because part of the story is Ralph, Samuel West, and Callum Woodhouse getting blackout drunk at the Drovers for the bachelor’s party. Madeley’s got to get them motivated and moving, with a veterinary case making it hard to make the church on time.

    The episode feels more like a special than a season premiere, with nothing really being established for what’s next. There’s also this weird moment when Woodhouse comments on Ralph’s Brobdinagian sense of duty, based on something in the veterinary case, but the example was someone class shaming Ralph, not his sense of duty. It’s a disconnect.

    The episode’s good; the performances are rock solid; nothing feels off; it just doesn’t feel like we’re really back in Darrowby yet. Even the Tricki Woo (essayed, as ever, by Derek) cameo feels too forced for a regular episode but just right for a summer special.

    It also might just be the “missing wedding ring” subplot, running through the entire episode, is the closest the show’s ever gotten to saccharine. “All Creatures” has always been exceptionally well-balanced (save a couple times), and it’s always weird when they go too far.


  • Red Room (2021) #4

    Red Room (2021) #4

    Rr4

    I don’t know how creator Ed Piskor is going to keep it up with Red Room. Sure, he’s doing four issue volumes, but does he have an overall plan? I suppose I could’ve read the back matter. Because, as usual, Piskor finds an entirely new way to slice the comic, this time following the story of one Raina Dukes. In the eighties, pre-Internet, her father’s snuff video was infamous. In Piskor’s most unrealistic plot detail, the U.S. Government passed a law requiring possessors of such materials to pay restitution to the victim’s family. He tries to make it realistic as a ploy by the convicted rich and powerful to get time off their sentence.

    So, Red Room takes place in a universe where the rich and powerful get convicted. Sure, Jan.

    Raina’s spent her life preparing to take revenge on the woman who killed her father on camera. First, the “Crypto-Currency Keeper” tells us her story, followed by the story of the murderer, followed by the “Tales from the Crypt”-esque conclusion.

    Again, as usual, it’s fantastic. In terms of done-in-ones, it’s probably the best issue. Piskor’s got great pacing for both stories, with the murderer’s origin filling in some details of how the Red Room started. The art’s phenomenal; Piskor leans into the horror comic narrator with the Keeper, but Raina also does first-person narration of her story. There are a couple surprises, though when the Keeper tells the reader not to think things are going to be too predictable, it’s a distraction from the story format.

    The only time the issue slows down is for the epilogue, which ties it back into the rest of Red Room to some degree. Until then, it’s a beautifully paced revenge story, followed by a horrifying but uncomfortably close to grounded flashback origin.

    I’m not worried about the comic per se; it just seems like Piskor’s doing a very focused anthology. He can only do the victim’s kid out for revenge once, right?

    Then again, it’s Piskor and Red Room, so I wouldn’t bet against him being able to do it all day, every day, if he wants.

    It’s so good. And, for a Red Room, surprisingly less gory than usual. It might be the most accessible issue yet.

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  • 709 Meridian – 5×3 – Predators (2010)

    709 Meridian – 5×3 – Predators (2010)

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  • Beware the Creeper (2003) #2

    Beware the Creeper (2003) #2

    Btc2Now, here’s the great Cliff Chiang art I remember on **Beware the Creeper**. He maintains quality with faces while still doing all the great Parisian street scenes. He’s got a lovely sequence with a girl, apparently living on the street, waking up and starting her day. It’s charming, which **Creeper** can often be, when writer Jason Hall lets it. Most of the time, however, he’s holding onto the reins way too tight for funny business.
    This issue picks up a month after last issue. That issue ended with someone attacking and raping Judith, probably some rich boy painting poser (last issue pointed an arrow at him, this issue acts as though he’s already been revealed). Then the Creeper appeared and terrorized the poser for a few panels, telling him to “**Beware**”.
    “Beware” becomes the Creeper’s catchphrase as she has nighttime madcap adventures in Paris. We don’t see many of them, just the ones where she’s attacking the poser’s family. She starts the issue stealing some of their jewels and tossing them in the river. The jewels, not the family.
    Just like the comic heavily implies the poser is the rapist, it also implies Judith is the Creeper. Of course, her identical twin Maddy is always around too, so who knows. Hall’s got a handful of moves he can make.
    But we don’t learn anything about the Creeper. We don’t learn anything about Maddy and Judith’s lost month. Judith and her surrealist friends want to start some trouble, Maddy wants to work on her new play and garden. Then the blond guy cop is around too, getting suspicious about Judith and the Creeper.
    The art’s a wow, the story’s baseline okay. There’s a cute **Year One** “your feast is nearly over” montage and some literary cameos, but there’s no character development; in fact, Hall works intentionally against it.
    Thank goodness Chiang’s clicking.


  • Resident Alien (2021) s02e14 – Cat and Mouse

    Resident Alien (2021) s02e14 – Cat and Mouse

    “Resident Alien”’s been leaning on the soundtrack a lot this half-season. Usually, it’s too much country country rock, but this episode’s got some great songs, used to excellent effect. It’s like someone didn’t like how they were doing it and fixed it.

    Thank goodness.

    There are only a couple more episodes this season, so it would seem this episode is moving the chess pieces into position for the season finale. The episode starts teasing Linda Hamilton’s latest discovery, along with an unexpected character reveal; it’s unexpected enough the show might be able to wrap her arc this season.

    But she’s only in it for the opening. The rest of the episode is the regular cast about their business, with Alice Wetterlund’s painkiller addiction the main character development plot. The A plot is Alan Tudyk dealing with returning guest star Terry O’Quinn, come to town at sheriff’s deputy Elizabeth Bowen’s request. O’Quinn’s an alien hunter who can see real aliens, just like little kid Judah Prehn, which O’Quinn soon realizes and sets about turning Prehn against Tudyk.

    Both those arcs—Wetterlund’s and Tudyk’s—go a lot darker than expected. When “Alien” started, it was a far cry from the Capraesque comic series, but it’s mellowed since the start. This episode removes the mellow.

    The subplots include mayor Levi Fiehler and wife Meredith Garretson fighting over the planned resort; Fiehler supports it, Garretson does not. Garretson’s helping Sarah Podemski with her injunction against construction; the show says Podemski’s character’s name about sixty-four times in a three-minute scene, so it’s like they knew no one else could remember it either. It’s Kayla, incidentally.

    Podemski plays a little support in Sara Tomko’s subplot later on; Tomko’s reeling from meeting her real mom last episode, which gives her and her friends (save Tudyk) all sorts of feelings. Well, not Wetterlund either, because she’s self-destructing, particularly with boyfriend Justin Rain. But there’s a little movement on Tomko’s plot, enough they’ll be able to do something with it before the end of the season.

    Then Corey Reynolds has his awkward romance arc with Nicola Correia-Danube still going while conspiring with Fiehler against Garretson and those danged environmentalists.

    Another packed episode, especially since the show’s making sure to give Jenna Lamia at least one great comedic scene an episode. She actually might get two here.

    Lovely little moments from Gary Farmer, too, as he tries to help adopted daughter Tomko navigate her latest emotional trauma.

    They’re in good shape; can’t wait to see where they close up this season.


  • Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1977) #254

    Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1977) #254

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    One of the disappointing but reliable experiences of reading Joe Staton’s Legion of Super-Heroes has been the panels where his art seems to be improving but then doesn’t. In this issue, the same thing happened, and I reminded myself of the phenomenon. First, the art would seem reasonable, then go disastrously wrong.

    Even with Dave Hunt inking Staton, the art doesn’t go disastrously wrong in this issue. There are some problem panels, to be sure, but there’s consistently better Staton and Hunt art on this issue than I’d have thought possible.

    I wouldn’t bet on much more improvement, but I also wouldn’t have bet on the art getting this reasonable.

    The story’s also surprisingly okay, with writer Gerry Conway exhibiting a knack for writing Brainiac 5. The story doesn’t cure or redeem Brainiac 5, which adds a layer to his participation—Superboy goes to him for help; no one can save the seemingly dead Legionnaires but Brainy.

    Only Superboy then gets killed with Kryptonite lasers, which seem like such an obvious idea Richard Pryor should’ve used them. Or did he?

    Anyway.

    Brainiac 5 will figure it all out and save the day with the help of some familiar but irregular guest stars, which allows Conway one of those enthusiastically belabored Legion fights where everyone’s powers are essential. Conway keeps the reader in the dark about Brainy’s plans, so the big battle specifics come as surprises. It’s perfectly decent superhero stuff.

    Besides the Brainiac 5 as bad guy stuff, the only other subplot involves the Legion finally tracking down their financier R.J. Brande. He doesn’t tell them how he escaped the shit monsters a few issues ago, but he does finally tell them he’s broke and they’re up a creek.

    It’s not a great scene, especially not for the art, but it’s brief and doesn’t drag the rest down.

    I’m not optimistic about the book with the current team; maybe someday, though, which is a long way from the norm.


  • Giant-Size Chillers (1974) #1

    Giant-Size Chillers (1974) #1

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    I don’t think I lost anything not reading the resurrectrion of Lilith in order. I missed out on some of the gimmick: Lilith is cursed with vampirism, not a natural vampire. She and her dad, Dracula, go to a rugby game because Lilith likes watching sports and she reminds him of her origin story. She was product of a political marriage when he was human, so when his father died, he cast her and her mom out. Mom paid a Romani to look after baby Lilith and killed herself; fast forward until Drac’s a vampire, he just killed a bunch of Romanis for turning him into a vampire, so the one who’s caring for now adolescent Lilith curses her as revenge.

    The curse involves Lilith being a daywalking vampire, but also possessing the body of human girls whose fathers don’t want them. So, basically, her caretaker made sure the curse reminds Lilith she’s got a shitty dad all the time.

    Lilith’s resurrection is never explained though. Thirty years ago—so during World War II, apparently—Quincy Harker killed Lilith, maybe as payback for Dracula killing Mrs. Quincy Harker, but they don’t sort out the order.

    Or writer Marv Wolfman did and he overwrote it so much I couldn’t get through it. Wolfman starts the comic in second person, talking to Dracula about his return to London. It’s strange because Wolfman tries to be mysterious about it, but basically Drac’s just visiting with some lackey about getting a new mansion. It’s a lot of lead up for very little, so it’s nice when the Lilith story actually has some action. Even if—and again, reading Lilith’s first appearance out of order—she’s not quite the complex anti-hero of the Steve Gerber strips. She’s just feeding on folks left and right, including her human host’s father.

    Also, had I read in order, I’d have known the human host’s pregnant. I just found that out with the human host’s current beau over in Dracula Lives; quelle surprise.

    Gene Colan gives Lilith’s bat form long, flowing lady locks, which I feel like I’d have remembered in Lives. It’s a look, especially since inker Frank Chiaramonte really leans into the horror. The bats are icky monsters. Dracula is garrish. Gone are Tom Palmer’s noble inks; this Dracula is human, but demonic. So Lilith’s bat having some seventies hair is something. Maybe I love it, actually.

    Doesn’t matter.

    Lilith coming back is basically just to spin in her off. We get a scene where she tells Dracula it’s finally time for him to admit they’re both Draculas and she should rule the Undead with him. He says no, never, you’re no kid of mine, and leaves her to be upset about it. Despite the often overwrought narration, Wolfman does a good job with Dracula being a dick this issue. It’s a special too, so it’s a flex; you’re marketing the regular book as having an asshole lead.

    Especially with the actual main plot, which involves that house Dracula wants. The mansion. There’s a girl living there and the house is haunting her. Her name’s Sheila Whittier and she’s mysterious and tormented, trapped in a British haunted house movie. When it crosses over with Dracula, she thinks he might save her, but then he doesn’t because he’s a dick.

    It’s amazing.

    Of course, he comes back because he needs the house and there’s a resolution, but still. He dumps this helpless woman right after accidentally saving her.

    The art’s objectively not as good as on the main series, but for a special, there’s a certain charm to it being brusk. Similarly, while Wolfman’s exposition is a lot—in the British horror movie context it at least makes sense—the characterizations play through. It works out. Good special.

    Then Wolfman spends a couple pages addressing continuity between Tomb of Dracula, Dracula Lives!, and Giant-Size Chillers Featuring The Curse of Dracula. Basically, they knew they were all over the place but they’re trying to do better and sort through it all. Wolfman promises a timeline, but I’m not sure Lives lasted long enough for them to do one.

    A couple Atlas reprints (possibly colored for this reprinting) close out the Giant-Size.

    First is a Stan Lee and John Romita (Senior) joint about an Austrian village’s vampire and public corruption problems. It’s middling.

    Second is about a haunted house on a graveyard. Russ Heath does the art, no writer credit. The Heath art, including fifties horror good girl art, eventually sells the story but it’s a slog to get there.

    The reprints do remind of how nice they were to have over in Lives.

    Chillers is more than worth its 35¢ cover price.


  • Onesies – 4×4 – Morton & Hayes (1991)

    Onesies – 4×4 – Morton & Hayes (1991)

    4×4 – Morton & Hayes, Episode 4 Onesies

    Emily and Andrew head out of Hong Kong Bay to the island of Ooloo the Giant, happy to sing and dance along the heroes, be not underwhelmed wtih guest starring friend Courteney Cox, but still suffer the double hits of Christopher Guest.

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  • Detective Comics (1937) #477

    Detective Comics (1937) #477

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    Despite my youthful indiscretions in reading the famed Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, I had no idea what came after it. Turns out neither did DC at the time, since this issue’s got Len Wein, Rogers, and new inker Dick Giordano doing three new pages around a reprint from 1971.

    Batman and Commissioner Gordon go to visit Rupert Thorne in Arkham—Rogers’s Arkham is situated right next to the Gotham Mountains—and Thorne tells Batman about Hugo Strange’s ghost. Gordon says it’s a bunch of hooey, but Batman met a mysterious ghostly figure last episode (not to mention he’s Batman, and he’s met ghosts before, right, he’s friends with aliens and gods).

    As Gordon soapboxes about ghosts being stupid, Batman remembers back to the previous issue, which is reprinted. Wein and Marv Wolfman get the writing credit. Giordano’s inking too, but it’s Neal Adams pencils. Lots of great art, but the writing’s so insipid the art doesn’t matter. There’s the curse of bad superhero comics… sometimes the writing can ruin the art as a narrative. Individual panels look great but taken as a whole, super yuck.

    Batman has tracked a missing Robin to a newly appeared haunted mansion somewhere in Gotham. Robin’s in college in the story, which means Dick Grayson took a long time to graduate, no doubt too busy superheroing.

    The mansion’s haunted and starts scaring Batman, who takes to whining, especially after he walks in on his funeral, and all his friends show up to talk about how much he sucked. Superman calling him “The Caped Conman” is nonsense but more amusing than the rest, especially when a tweenage Robin decides with Bats out of the way, he can run Gotham his way.

    The reveal’s terrible. Racist too. Be terrible even if it weren’t. It also doesn’t have anything to do with ghosts. It’s got to do with “Batman: The TV Show” levels of silly death traps, but no ghosts.

    The last page, back to the present, has a cliffhanger involving a new villain.

    Wein and Wolfman write the story in second person “tension” talk, directly addressing Batman and telling him how and why to be concerned or afraid. It’s a bad device once, terrible twice, but then they do it another forty-five times or whatever. It’s atrocious and succeeded in making me miss Englehart.

    It’s certainly not a good sign for the post-Englehart but not yet post-Rogers Detective Comics.