Comic Book Review: All New Inhumans #7

Marvel has been trying very hard in the last few years to make The Inhumans a thing. There's a whole corporate politics angle to that and while Marvel won't admit it the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong. Marvel can't use the X-Men characters on screen and recent story developments have turned Inhumans into something that closely resembles Marvel's mutant characters. The push has been a strong one and as well as their regular presence on TV in Agents of SHIELD, they are currently supporting not one but two monthly books. There's a problem with ramming things down the throats of comic book fans though. They are a rather conservative and …Read more  »

Supergirl S01E20 — Better Angels (or How to Make the End of the World Boring)

If you want to know both what is right and wrong with Supergirl then the season one finale is a great summary.  There's some great acting, some decent character moments and yet somehow the show manages to leech all of the drama out of what should have been a tense end of the world scenario. Every time the show sets up something interesting instead of building on it, it falls back on the most clichéd of clichés. When it's not doing the tedious love triangle stuff there's some good relationship and character work in Supergirl. But the credit for that goes almost entirely to the actors who do a remarkable …Read more  »

Daredevil Season 2

The second season of Marvel's Daredevil is not as strong as the first, but calling it a sophomore slump would not only be cliched, but overstating things. Much of what made the first season of the show enjoyable remains but there are some pacing and focus issues that mark things down a notch. The first four episodes of the season form what I have internally referred to as the first Punisher arc. While what happens here is built on later they do feel like a complete story that could have been told on its own. It's bleak and slow moving (particularly in the first episode) but narratively coherent. The Punisher …Read more  »

Review: The Expanse S01E05 — Back to the Butcher

If the latest episode of The Expanse doesn't have the level of tension that the previous one did, that does at least give the show a chance to do yet more world building and let its characters breathe a little. One of the biggest problems with this show for people who aren't familiar with the books is the amount of characters and locations and story that are being crammed into a mere 10 episode season. At the very least that can make it hard to keep everything straight. Up to now each episode has been packed with events and characters and stuff.  This week though if you just wrote down what …Read more  »

Review: The Shannara Chronicles S01E01 through S01E04

What do you get when you cross epic-fantasy heavily inspired by Tolkien with a post apocalyptic future and MTV? Apparently the answer is The Shannara Chronicles a series that is, based on the first four episodes, resolutely... okay. I mean it's just exactly what you would expect... I guess? It's not like it's bad... you know? By this point my ambivalence should be shining through and there are a few reasons for that. One is of course the fact that someone in their forties isn't in the prime demographic for MTV dramas. Another is that while I acknowledge their flaws I do have a soft spot for the first three Shannara books …Read more  »

Sherlock Christmas Special — The Abominable Bride

I'm not sure what exactly the expectations were for this year's Sherlock special The Abominable Bride. All the promotional material made it clear than unlike the regular series it was going to be set in the Victorian era and thus just a stand alone stocking-stuffer. And that's how it proceeded for let's say the first 60 minutes of its running time (I didn't use a stopwatch I may be off by 3 seconds). At which point it got, complicated. Okay let's step back. Opening with a "previously on" was an interesting technique that actually worked really well because it gave the audience an easy way to compare and contrast modern Sherlock with this Victorian …Read more  »

TV Review — The Expanse S01E04 — CQB

2015 has seen the rise and rise of serialized storytelling on tv. It's a trend that has been growing slowly for years but particularly with the likes of Netflix and Amazon it is coming into its own. While The Expanse is on a traditional cable tv channel it's very much serialized rather than episodic in nature. Hardly surprising perhaps given it seems to be a very faithful adaptation of the source material (a series of scifi books). There's a lot to like about serialized storytelling not least of which is the ability to go unexpected places. In episodic tv you set up your "home locations" early on and keep returning to …Read more  »

TV Review: Colony S01E01 — Pilot

I am predisposed to like science fiction shows so it's probably not a good sign when part way through the pilot of USA Network's new show Colony I found my attention drifting away from the screen and over to my laptop. It's not that it was boring so much as that I just didn't care about what was happening to the people on my screen. I guess the opening sequence which subtly revealed the status quo of the world (it's been invaded by aliens, spoilers!) through the lens of a family just going about doing it's normal morning routine should probably have been a clue about the sort of show this …Read more  »

Movie Review — Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is Star Wars. Forget the prequels, hell forget the Ewoks. This is what got you excited to visit a "Galaxy far, far away" in the first place. The Force Awakens had a lot of goals to accomplish and I think it managed to do all of them (some better than others perhaps). It's not a literary movie, nor a particularly deep one but it is Star Wars. The Force Awakens is not a reboot in the traditional sense, but it does wipe about 80% of the slate clean leaving future movies somewhere interesting to go. The prequels exist but they don't matter and the neat resolution that we were presented with …Read more  »

Doctor Who S09E11 — Heaven Sent

Well if this isn't just the most Moffaty of Steven Moffat episodes. In many ways it epitomizes what Steven Moffat brings to Doctor Who, both the good and the bad. Heaven Sent is the much heralded Doctor on his own episode with a promised huge cliffhanger. And, based on the online commentary at least, it has proved to be very popular episode. Which surprises me because as I said it's a very Moffat episode and not just the stuff everyone likes but the things people have been complaining about for several seasons now. Plus the cliffhanger really isn't anything to write home about. Peter Capaldi If you're compiling a list of …Read more  »

TV Review: The Expanse S01E01 — Dulcinea

Those of you lamenting the lack of space based science fiction on tv should be very pleased about SyFy's latest series The Expanse which is adapted from a series of books by James S. A. Corey (actually a pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) because we're firmly in Space Opera territory here. While the story is set within our solar system we're looking at a (partially) terraformed Mars and assorted space stations. The reason you don't see shows like this on TV very much is that even with modern CGI, doing them convincingly is expensive. People have become so used to movie style special effects that they are not at …Read more  »

Doctor Who S09E10 — Face the Raven

I'm always a bit reluctant to rank Doctors or seasons of the show but I will say that season 9 is one of my favorites. The stories haven't been perfect, they never are, but I've loved the slower pacing and the variety on offer. There's really only been one clunker in my book and fortunately Face the Raven wasn't it. Generally I prefer two part stories because it gives things more time to breathe, but in this case the pacing was just fine. Yes, you could argue that this is really part 1 of a three parter, but you would be wrong. This is a stand alone story with a …Read more  »

TV Review: Marvel’s Jessica Jones S01E01 — S01E03

While DC comics basically owns network tv adaptations of comic book characters, Marvel Comics has been setting out to do something radically different with its Netflix series. Daredevil set a very high bar giving is a dark exploration of  a street level vigilante. Marvel's Jessica Jones  is even darker and quite possibly better. I say that having only watched the first three episodes of the series so far, but the quality is immediately apparent. While Daredevil showed us the blood and violence that the inhabitants of Hells Kitchen were exposed to Jessica Jones is a much more personal exploration. The violence here is as much emotional as it is physical. Strong Female Character If ever …Read more  »

Doctor Who Review: S09E03 — Under the Lake

I love a good base under siege story in Doctor Who and that's exactly what Toby Whithouse gave us this week. Or at least he gave us the first half of one, but I have high hopes for part 2. Whithouse has a pretty good track record when it comes to Doctor Who. He has given us The Vampires of Venice, The God Complex and A Town Called Mercy,  all of which should a solid grip on how to tell a Doctor Who story and in this case I think he's come up with something that should appeal to all Who fans. What's So Great About a Base Under Siege This particular story-telling trope isn't …Read more  »

Doctor Who Review: S09E02 — The Witch’s Familiar

Episode 2 is even better than episode 1 (which I enjoyed a lot). I'm pretty sure a lot of the people who haven't liked the direction Who has gone in for the last few seasons still won't like it though. The show isn't offering methodical, fill in all the gaps type of stories. It takes jumps and expects you to accept it (like the cuppa). Nor is it offering up sciencey science fiction. In all honesty it rarely did, but it has fully embraced bombastic movie blockbuster fantasy in stylings in recent years. The Titles, They Mean Something So last week Clara was the Magician's Apprentice and this week she …Read more  »

Book Review — Star Wars: Aftermath

Chuck Wendig's entry into the Star Wars mythos has garnered a lot of attention and a lot of criticism. The first is not surprising given the he is essentially launching the "Journey to The Force Awakens", the second seems disproportionate to any literary or fan crimes committed. Fast Paced Present Tense One of the biggest criticisms comes from the writing style. Wendig has chosen to imitate the feeling of the Star Wars movies by using the present tense and a lot of very short or broken sentences. I think this does in fact capture the pacing of the movies very well. It may however come across as rather jarring to …Read more  »

TV Review: Minority Report — S01E01 — Pilot

If you want a one sentence review of Minority Report then here it is: Entirely adequate. In fact the pilot episode of Minority Report is exactly what you would expect from a broadcast network tv show in 2015 and not one bit more than that. There are hints of an ongoing story-arc; there's a pleasantly racially diverse cast; there's a "strong female protagonist" and it's shot like a mini-movie. None of these are bad things by the way it's just that it all came across as terribly predictable. It's competent enough but we've seen it all before right down to that final moment reveal that "something bad" is coming. This is TV …Read more  »

Doctor Who Review: S09E01 — The Magician’s Apprentice

Don't spend too long thinking about the title, its significance is likely not that great and besides you'll need to concentrate to catch everything that's going on in this episode. Despite being the return of two-parters (something I am terribly happy about)  there is no noticeable slowing of Doctor Who's break-neck pace here. If anything Moffat goes overboard in scattering ideas that could probably have sustained an entire episode in their own right only to sweep them aside and move on. But that's a minor criticism for what is not only a very enjoyable but also dense (in plot and character) episode of Doctor Who. And there's so much to like that …Read more  »

Star Trek: Renegades Review

There is a long tradition of Star Trek fan productions and over the years the drive to come closer and closer to production quality has been impressive. While I've seen a lot of Star Trek over the years I wouldn't designate myself as a fan of the show specifically. In truth I actually prefer the recent movies to any of the previous or the tv output. So I may not be the best judge of what makes a great Star Trek story for a Star Trek fan, but I think I can speak for the more casual viewer. While most of the fan productions I'm aware of have focused on recreating …Read more  »

TV Review: Sense8 S01E01 — S01E04

The modest goal of the latest Netflix Original Sense8 (created by the impressive teaming of the Wachowski's an J. Michael Straczynski) was to reinvent the television series. So if nothing else this show is shooting for the moon and while the landing isn't smooth, but I think they at least made orbit. The high concept of Sense8 isn't radically different to other genre bending shows. Basically you've got a group of 8 individuals who are going about their lives when they are somehow gifted with the power to sense each other, talk to each other and utilize each other's skills. There's also an evil (I'm assuming) group lead by a …Read more  »

Book Review: Lock In By John Scalzi

There's no mistaking what Lock In is, it's a police procedural. It's got a couple of twists to the formula but at its core it is unapologetically the sort of detective story that CBS would happily put in their lineup. Procedurals tend get looked down on because they rely so heavily on a certain pattern, but they're also really popular. Which should tell you something. More importantly Lock In is a well executed procedural, and the twists are interesting in their own right too. What's It All About? The story is set in the near future after a virus (named Haden's Syndrome) ravages the world on a scale close to …Read more  »

Book Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

If you're looking for something a little different for your next fantasy read then you should check out City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. It's not epic fantasy in the traditional sense nor is it the more modern grimdark fantasy. It eschews the common pseudo middle-ages time frame and sort-of european setting. So What's It All About? Shara Thivani, a secret agent (of sorts) arrives in the city of Bulikov to investigate the murder of a noted historian.  But Shara is walking into a tense political situation. Bulikov is still recovering from the war that Shara's country Saypur waged against "the Continent". A war in which the Continent's Divinities …Read more  »

TV Review: Marvel’s Daredevil S01E09 through S01E13

This review is going to be a little different to my usual style. Normally I keep it pretty light on the spoilers and talk in generalities. In this case though I'm reviewing the last 5 episodes of Daredevil season 1 and I've posted two previous reviews. You already know I like it and think you should watch it. Let's talk specifics. The Origin of The Kingpin While we do get most of the elements of Daredevil's origin revealed to us over the course of the season, the show isn't really telling his origin. Matt Murdock has already decided he wants to be Daredevil and how he wants to behave.  Yes …Read more  »

Book Review: Cursed by Benedict Jacka

The second Alex Verus novel continues in the vein of the first. Which is to say that comparisons between this urban fantasy series and Jim Butcher's Dresden novels are inevitable and in some cases obvious. That's not entirely fair because Verus is a very different character to Dresden but, as my father likes to tell me, life isn't fair. One of the challenges with reviewing series books is coming up with something new to say. Unless the author doe something radically different, the people who liked the first book will like the second, and those who didn't, won't. Benedict Jacka isn't breaking new ground here, but he's executing well. What's It …Read more  »

TV Review: Marvel’s Daredevil S01E05 — S01E08

So in my initial review of Marvel's Daredevil (because all Marvel tv shows apparently must be called Marvel's xxx) I think I made it pretty clear that I was really enjoying the show. If you're looking for a synopsis of this review it would be: Still enjoying it! But the show is evolving and I think I have some additional thoughts to offer on it, so this won't simply be a recap of the episode nor a repeat of my last review. What Happened to the Lawyering? In the first couple of episodes Daredevil leant on some familiar tropes to establish the setting and the type of show it was …Read more  »