Doctor Who Deep Breath Review

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 Doctor Who Deep Breath

Review by Paul Bowler

[CONTAINS SPOILERS]

 Doctor Who Deep Breath (5)

In Victorian London, a dinosaur suddenly appears outside the Houses of Parliament. The Paternoster Gang, investigating trio extraordinaire, Silurian Warrior Madame Vastra (Neve Mclntosh), her human wife/maid Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart), and the Sontaran Nurse/Butler Strax (Dan Starkey), arrive to help Inspector Gregson (Paul Hickey) just as the T-Rex spits the TARDIS out onto the banks of the Thames. After taking charge the Paternoster Gang soon encounter a newly regenerated Doctor (Peter Capaldi) when he emerges from the TARDIS along with travelling companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).

On their return to the Paternoster Gang’s residence Clara struggles to accept the Doctor’s transformation and new personality. When the Doctor witnesses the dinosaur bursting into flames from the rooftops, he sets off to investigate, and soon the connection with the recent outbreak of spontaneous combustion in the capitol becomes apparent. A newspaper advertisement for the Impossible Girl catches Clara’s eye. Believing it’s a message from the Doctor, she goes to meet the Time Lord in a restaurant, where the patrons turn out to be clockwork robots from the 51st century, controlled by the sinister Half-Face Man (Peter Ferdinando), who has been ghoulishly harvesting human body parts to rebuild himself.

Trapped inside the robots buried spaceship, the Doctor manages to escape, seemingly abandoning Clara in his confused state. Clara holds her breath to try and evade the robots, she’s captured, but the Doctor uses a robot disguise to reach her as the Paternoster Gang join the battle. The Doctor and his companions must end the terrifying menace of the Half-Face Man before he can escape, but exactly who is this new incarnation of the Doctor, is he a good man, and will the Time Lord’s friendship with Clara survive?

Doctor Who Deep Breath (2)

The eighth series of Doctor Who launched in a blaze of publicity with Deep Breath, a special feature-length episode, staring Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, and written by show runner Steven Moffat, and Directed by Brian Minchin. Deep Breath certainly gets the 12th Doctor’s era off to a great start as Peter Capaldi, actor, Oscar-winning film-maker, writer, artist, and life-long fan of the show, known for playing darker roles, especially the notoriously potty-mouthed Malcolm Tucker from BBC’s cult political comedy The Thick of It, brings a much darker, edgier side to his incarnation of the Time Lord. With his piercing gaze, wild eyebrows, spiky attitude, and unpredictable nature, the 12th Doctor is instantly captivating, very impatient, abrasive, and even a little intimidating at times. Peter Capaldi’s superb performance energises virtually every scene and quickly establishes the mercurial idiosyncrasies of the new Doctor’s personality.

Post-regenerative high jinks aside, in between forgetting everyone’s name, his insistence that Clara is a control freak, running across rooftops in his nightshirt, or charging off into the night on horseback, the Doctor actually spends a lot of his time in Deep Breath telling people, and even a dinosaur, to shut up! There is a great scene were the bewildered Doctor meets a tramp, Barney, played by Brian Miller (the widower of Elisabeth Sladen), where the ensuing discussion about the Time Lord’s new face, the fact he’s Scottish now, and has “attack eyebrows” provide some really fun moments. Midway through the episode we being to get a real sense of what Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor is about: he’s a real livewire, he wont necessarily care what you think about him, and he certainly wont stand around waiting for your to keep up with him either – if anything, his erratic behaviour and unruly nature makes him seem even more alien and mysterious.

Jenna Coleman is excellent in this episode as Clara. Its clear from the start that Clara is struggling to cope with this radically different, older, and greyer version of the Time Lord, who she had, until now at least, developed a close friendship with. Now she’s not even really sure who he is anymore. The Impossible Girl proves as resourceful as ever though, especially after she’s reunited with the Doctor in the restaurant, their banter is terrific, and the flashback when she becomes the Half-Faced Man’s prisoner gives us further insight into her character. Jenna Coleman really gets a chance to shine in this episode, she makes Clara seem bolder, more confident, and as a consequence the new dynamic that’s established towards the end of the episode between Clara and the 12th Doctor also feels all the stronger and refreshingly different as a result.

Doctor Who Deep Breath (3)

Fan favourites, The Paternoster Gang, also make welcome return in Deep Breath. Neve McIntosh is magnificent as the Silurian warrior Madame Vastra, she is accompanied by Catrin Stewart who plays Vastras human wife Jenny Flint, and Dan Starkey is also back as the hilarious Sontaran Nurse/Butler, Strax. This episode is a great showcase for their characters individual strengths: Vastras and Jennys relationship is beautifully portrayed, Vastra also provides some very timely advice for Clara about the Doctor, and Strax gets some brilliant comedic moments too.

Deep Breath also heralds a significant change in the pace and tone of storytelling from Steven Moffat as well, there are longer, more developed scenes, and the extended running time is an added bonus that really allows the plot and characters a chance to develop naturally. Deep Breath is Directed by filmmaker Brian Minchin (Kill List and Sightseers), who brings his own distinct style of horror and suspense to this episode, and as a result, the sombre atmosphere, Victorian streets, and sinister Clockwork robots are elevated to a whole new level that really underlines the darker tone of this of this new series. There are references to a number of past Doctor Who adventures as well in Deep Breath: perhaps most notably with Vastra’s initial observation about the 12th Doctor, which is reminiscent of the Brigadier’s line: “Here we go again,” from the Planet of the Spiders (1974), when Jon Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker, there is also mention of the 4th Doctor’s long scarf, and when Clara first sees the changes inside the TARDIS she says: “You’ve redecorated, I don’t like it,” echoing Patrick Troughton’s classic line from the Three Doctors (1974/74). During her debate with Vastra, Clara also mentions Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who she quoted in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor (2013) while teaching in a lesson at Coal Hill School.

The Clockwork robots are also very effective, it’s clever how the episodes title forms the basis of how they attack, and their clunky, jerky movement are quite unsettling. The Half-Face Man (Peter Ferdinado), driven by his quest to reach the Promised Land, with his creepy mechanical features, unnervingly brought to life with some incredible special effects, also makes a perfect foil for the 12th Doctor. I thought the scene where Clara held her breath to try and evade the robots was really tense, and the way the Doctor then disguised himself as a robot provided an unexpected twist. The Doctor’s confrontation with the Half-Face Man in the restaurant after it takes off using a hot air balloon made of human skin, also reveals the Clockwork robots link to the 10th Doctor story The Girl in the Fireplace (2006), when the Doctor discovers this ship is the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the SS Madame De Pompadour. The parallels between the Doctor and the Half-Face Man are actually quite striking in this story, both are attempting to rebuild themselves in some way, and the resolution of their conflict is chillingly effective.

Doctor Who Deep Breath (4)

When the Doctor and the TARDIS vanishes, leaving Clara stranded in Victorian London, Vastra assures Clara that the Doctor will return for her, which he soon does. However, Clara is unsure if she wants to continue travelling with him but when the TARDIS lands in Glasgow she gets a call from the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) on her mobile, imploring her from Trenzalore to stay and help his new incarnation. The 12th Doctor remembers this conversation, he asks Clara if she will help him, and she agrees as they leave to go for a coffee. It is this scene that really stays with you long after the credits have rolled. Matt Smith’s cameo as the 11th Doctor provides a great link into the events of The Time of the Doctor (2013), Jenna Coleman handles this scene perfectly, and when Capaldi’s Doctor steps from the TARDIS and asks Clara to help him it become a heartrending moment of clarity that effectively re-defines the Time Lord’s friendship with his companion and reboots the series in an instant.

In the final scene the Half-Face Man wakes in a garden, where he is greeted by a strange woman called Missy (Michelle Gomez), who seems to know the Doctor and refers to him as her boyfriend, as she welcomes the Half-Face Man to Heaven. Michele Gomez’s unexpected appearance in Deep Breath as Missy, having already been officially announced as playing the Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere, hints that this bizarre Mary Poppins like character will play a key role in series eight. Could she be the woman in the shop, the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of St John (2013), the same person who apparently put the advert in the newspaper so Clara and the Doctor would meet at the restaurant in Deep Breath? For now she remains a mystery, whoever she is she certainly knows the Doctor, and seems to delight in telling the Half-Face Man that he has finally reached the Promised Land.

Deep Breath features a brand new title sequence, a glorious steam punk mix of whirling cogs, punctuated midway with Capaldi’s steely gaze, all set against the swirling backdrop of the time vortex as the title logo is revealed. The special effects in Deep Breath are uniformly excellent, and the attention to period detail is exquisite. There’s a new theme tune as well, which initially took me by surprise, but it‘s really beginning to grow on me now. The TARDIS also gets something of a makeover, bookshelves now line the upper gantry of the console room, and a vivid orange glow emanates from the time rotor – swathing the entire TARDIS set in deep shadows.

Doctor Who Deep Breath (7)

While events in Deep Breath are resolved relatively straight forwardly, above all else it is Peter Capaldi’s terrific performance as the new Doctor that really impresses. Jenna Coleman also excels, and return of the Paternoster Gang was most welcome. Deep Breath, while not the most complex of stories, still offers an excellent introduction to Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor, and provides an enjoyable start to the new series.

Batman #34 Review

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Batman #34

Review by Paul Bowler

Now that Zero Year is over, and events in Batman: Eternal have caused major upheaval in Gotham City, Batman #34 finds the Dark Knight faced with task of tracking down a mysterious killer who has been secretly haunting the streets of Gotham for many years. Now with the GCPD turned against him and Jim Gordon in jail Batman must work quickly to solve the mystery behind these heinous crimes before the killer can strike again…

Following the thrilling conclusion of Zero Year, Batman #34 sees the series move forward in time to coincide directly with the events and continuity that will follow the conclusion of DCs current weekly series, Batman Eternal. Batman #34 is a stand-alone story, written by Scott Snyder and co written by Gerry Duggan (Who is also writing this Octobers new series Batman Arkham Manor), is a spooky detective mystery, one that offers an unsettling insight into the mind of a killers deranged psyche, with art by Matteo Scalera.

When a patient from Leslie Thompkins medical clinic goes missing, Batman suspects that a killer is operating in Leslie’s neighbourhood. Batman #34 reintroduces us to a Gotham City still in turmoil following the events of Batman Eternal: the GCPD are no longer his allies, Selina Kyle is now a Kingpin, and Jim Gordon is locked up in Blackgate for murder. Now it seems a killer has been at work in Gotham and Batman didn’t notice. Furious with himself, Batman resolves to find this murder who has, until now, managed to evade the Dark Knight’s sight.

Batman #34 (COVER)

The Meek is dark and disturbing tale, one that simultaneously brings us bang up to date with current events in Gotham City while also providing a seamless transition from Snyder’s and Capullo’s 12 issue re-imagining of the Dark Knight’s origin in Zero Year. With its excellent story by Scott Snyder and co-written by Gerry Duggan, Batman #34 sees the Dark Knight working in a Gotham where the status quo has now been drastically altered. While so much has changed for Batman its good to see him working with his old friend, Leslie Thompkins, the medical practitioner who runs a clinic for the neglected and impoverished, during his investigation.

One of the aspects I really liked about this issue was the unsettling way it actually gets under the skin of the killer himself. This average guy, a person no one would notice, whose everyday life is as entombed within the realm of darkness, death, and despair as the poor and impoverished lost souls that he preys on at night. He’s one sick, twisted individual, someone who just happens to have slipped between the cracks, an opportunist nobody ever sees, his crimes blending into the dark underbelly of Gotham City, unnoticed even by the Dark Knight himself.

Matteo Scalera (Deadpool, Black Science) provides the art for Batman #34, capturing the dark and foreboding atmosphere of this tale with a series of dynamic page layouts that really pull you into events as they unfold. Scalera’s rendition of the Dark Knight’s world is perfectly suited to the tone of this story: from the cavernous shadows of the Batcave, to the headstones of Potters Field with Gotham’s skyline looming ominously in the distance, the concisely delivered recap of Batman Eternal forms a sublime collage of interconnecting images as Batman swings over the city, and the finale offers a chilling descent into the full horror of the killers design. The subdued grey and brown tones employed by colorist Lee Loughridge serves to enhance this issues dark atmosphere even further, creating a grainy mix of light and shadow that makes Batman’s search for the killer seem even more intense.

The issue concludes with a razor sharp double edged coda. While the Meek is effectively dealt with, the full extent of his depraved appetite and the dark legacy which it ultimately unearths is enough to render even Batman speechless. By the time you reach this stunning final page by Matteo Scalera and Lee Loughridge, the full impact of this issues story really hits home, and it’s an image that’s sure to send a few chills down your spine.

Batman #34 is a great self-contained issue, Snyder, Duggan, Scalera, and Loughbridge have crafted a deliciously dark and macabre story, and it certainly delivers plenty of shocks and surprises. Next we have a glimpse five years into the future, with Septembers special tie in issue Batman: Futures End #1, before we return for the start of Snyder’s and Capullos next major Batman story arc, Endgame, that begins in Octobers Batman #35, Endgame, is also set in during the same continuity established in Batman #34, and will subsequently take place directly after the conclusion of Batman Eternal.

Batman Endgame is Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s big event story for Batman’s 75th anniversary, featuring a large cast of characters and major events in store for the Dark Knight, together with back-up stories linking into the main story arc of Endgame, co written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with artists changing monthly, Batman Endgame promises to be Snyder’s and Capullo’s most epic storyline to date.

 

Doctor Who Deep Breath Official TV Trailer

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Deep Breath Doctor Who: Series 8 Episode 1 Official BBC TV Trailer

Check out the official TV trailer for Deep Breath: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 1

12th Doctor & Clara

Tales To Admonish #3 Review

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Tales To Admonish #3

Review by Paul Bowler

Tales To Admonish #3 is the latest issue of the noir adventure series by Australian writer Andrez Bergen (Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? & prequel comic book series Bullet Gal) and artist Matt Kyme (That Bullet Proof Kid) and will be available in print form and digitally on August 17th 2014 from IF? Commix.

This third issue from Tokyo based author Bergen and his fellow Melbournian, artist Matt Kyme, is their most innovative and stylish issue to date. Tales to Admonish draws on many influences, predominantly from the Silver Age of comic books, to splice its rich blend pulp adventure and noir inspired visuals with a knowing twist of black humour.

Tales To Admonish #3 Cover

Tales to Admonish #3 features two very different stories. Hell’s Angels showcases the WWI ace pilot, “Wilks” Wilkinson, is a Biggles-style adventure set high in the skies above the North Sea where Wilks has a surprise run in with the goddess Britannia, and accidentally shoots at her before crashing his Sopwith Pup into the back of an enemy zeppelin. With his aircraft now embedded in the side of the zeppelin, one very angry goddess clinging to his planes landing gear, and the German’s shooting at him as the zeppelin rapidly loses altitude, our fearless hero must find a way out of his perilous predicament.

This Wilks Wilkinson tale is derived from The Condimental Op (Andrez Bergen’s collection of short stories, involving comic books and articles about music, movies, and Japan) and this faithful adaptation makes a seamless transition into the world of Tales to Admonsh. Hell’s Angels is a great story, the dialogue is sharp and witty, and it’s sure to keep you guessing right up until the surprise ending

The second story features the return of Roy Scherer and Suzie Miller, who also featured in the first two issue of Tales To Admonish. Hock, Flock, and Two Choking Carols, sees this darkly comic duo and their paranormal investigations uncover a gruesome skeletal corpse – who also turns out to be their client. Matters are complicated further when they find a bizarre alien device near the dissolving remains.

Roy and Suzie are like chalk and cheese, they are also popular characters from The Condimental Op, and this decidedly odd couple make a terrific team. Roy is tough private investigator, while Suzie is the enthusiastic geek of the partnership. The banter between the two of them is really funny, with Rory more concerned about not getting paid now their client is dead, while Suzie is more fascinated by the alien technology. Hock, Flock, and Two Choking Carols may be a little on the short side, but it’s a punchy little tale, and as ever where Roy Scherer and Suzie Miller are concerned, there is a fittingly neat twist that resolves the case.

This issue of Tales to Admonish is rounded off with brilliant piece from Sly, editor-in-chief, as he waxes lyrical about: “The Lamest Comic Book Villain Ever.” It serves as a perfect complement to his profile about Greatest Heroes from last months issue, and there are some equally fun references and anecdotes here as well.

Matt Kyme’s art is excellent throughout, both stories have their own distinct style, and Kyme perfectly captures the tong-in-cheek tone that makes Tales To Admonish such a great Aussie iNDie comic book. I really like how Matt Kyme’s art manages to convey the characters emotions and expressions, the page layouts are really well structured, and every humorous line of dialogue is pitched just right.

As a series, Tales To Admonish is a terrific homage to the 1960’s era of comics, with Bergan and Kyme ensuring there is just enough contemporary swagger to make every story shine. The Silver Age themes are carried through to the Dejavu at the Neon Bullpen letters section, and there are notes and galleries featuring Bergen’s and Kyme’s many IF? Commix titles to enjoy as well. The 32-page Tales To Admonish #3 comic will be published in print in Australia – launching on August 17th in Melbourne, with two striking covers by Andrez Bergen, and people can start ordering the physical edition internationally ($5, with no postage charge) or digital ($1) from that date, via the IF? Commix website from the link here. http://iffybizness.weebly.com

Earth 2 #26 Review

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Earth 2 #26

Review by Paul Bowler

The final battle begins in Earth 2 #26. A massive Boom Tube has opened in space. While Green Lantern attempts to prevent the world being transported to Apokolips, the Wonders of Earth 2 have united with Commander Khan and the surviving World Army forces to attack the facility generating the Boom Tube in Geneva. The young Kryptonian Val Zod must now battle the evil Superman as Earth’s fate balances on the edge of oblivion…

Events take a dramatic turn in The Kryptonian: Part 6 as Tom Taylor steers the conflict on Earth 2 towards the mother of all showdowns between the combined forces of this parallel world and the might of Apokolips itself. After last issues extra sized prelude to this main event, Earth 2 #26 wastes no time at all in plunging you right into the thick of the action, with Green Lantern using all his power to stop the world being dragged through the Boom Tube, while Batman leads the charge against Bedlam’s base in Geneva, and Val Zod steps up to the plate as Earth 2’s new Man of Steel to confront the wrath of Superman, the former protector of this world, now transformed and resurrected by Apokolptian science as Darkseid’s crazed Herald.

Tom Taylor rounds off the current Kryptonian storyline in Earth 2 #26, with an issue that’s positively bursting at the seams with action, as we see Val Zod embrace his destiny as the new Superman of Earth 2. Faced with an army of Parademons and Warhounds standing between them and the complex housing the source of the Gateway threatening the world, Batman forms a plan with Aquawoman, Flash, Hawkgirl, Major Sato, and Commander Khan’s forces to breach the facility so they can free Mr Terrific, Terry Sloan, Mr Miracle, from Bedlam’s mind control and shut down the device they’ve been forced to build.

Earth 2 #26 (Cover)

Earth 2 #26 certainly has more than its fair share of action, and Tom Taylor does an excellent job maintaining the pacing and structure of this issue while balancing all the characters and big action set-pieces. Its great to see all the Wonders of Earth 2 working together as a team, there are some great moment of characterisation as well, along with a couple of surprising plot twists that few of us could have seen coming either. Unfortunately there’s no sign of Dr Fate this issue, which is a shame really, as it would’ve been great to see him take part in the battle.

The scenes in Smallville, where Lois and Martha are still reeling after Superman killed Jonathan Kent, as the young Jimmy Olsen continues monitoring the global situation from Amazonia are handled really well. Tom Taylor has written some really strong roles for all the female characters of Earth 2, especially Lois Lane, her resurrection as the Red Tornado was an inspired move by Taylor, and her role proves even more crucial now following the events at the Kent’s farm. Aquawoman is another great character, regal and powerful, Queen Marella dominates every scene she’s in. The way she puts Commander Khan in his place when she arrives in Geneva is priceless, dismissing Khan’s greeting with hardly a glance, and her clash with Bedlam leaves us with no doubt that the Queen of the Sea is a mighty force to be reckoned with.

Ever since the Superman returned from the dead as the crazed Herald of Darkseid and Val Zod was discovered in Arkham Asylum, the inevitable showdown between these two Kryptonian powerhouses has been the major event that we’ve all been waiting for. One of the four Krytonians that Lara and Jor-El sent into space before Krypton was destroyed; Val Zod was then hidden in Arkham Asylum by Terry Sloan. It’s been fascinating to see Val’s character progress over the course of this storyline, as his new friends Jimmy Olsen and Red Tornado helped Val overcome his agoraphobia and he learned how to use his powers. Now his journey has come full circle. Val Zod’s confrontation with the evil Superman is the undoubted highlight of this issue as Val’s vow of pacifism clashes with the raw power and ferocity of Superman’s wrath.

Nicola Scott’s art is as superb as everything we’ve come to expect from her work on this series. Earth 2 #26 contains so many artistic highlights that you will be completely immersed and swept away by the sheer spectacle of it all. Nicola Scott has excelled herself with this issue, along with inker Trevor Scott, and colorist Peter Pantazis, every page is so vividly detailed and crammed with action: from the Warhound flattening Bat-Punch, to the epic scale of the ground battles themselves, and the conclusion of Val‘s showdown with Superman, this issue of Earth 2 has it all.

Earth 2 #26 is also Nicola Scott’s final issue. Nicola Scott has been with Earth 2 since issue #1, she has brought so much to this series, creating the distinct look and style of this parallel world, its technology, and of course its heroes. Nicola Scott’s contribution to this series has been outstanding, and I look forward to her future projects.

So, with Nicola Scott’s departure, a new era of Earth 2 is set to begin. First off we will discover what happens during the major clash of worlds in Futures End, followed by a glimpse five years into the future, with September’s special tie in issue Earth 2: Futures End #1, before Earth 2 #27 hit’s the shelves (Oct 8th) and the new DC Comics weekly series, Earth 2: Worlds End, debuts in October. Earth 2 #27, written by Tom Taylor, also sees Marguerite Bennett joining the main series as co-writer, (Taylor and Bennett are also part of the writing team on Earth 2: Worlds End), with Andy Smith taking over as Earth 2’s series artist.

While not quite living up to the promise of the great cover by J.G Jones and Paul Mounts, Earth 2 #26 is still an excellent issue. Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott have wrapped up this storyline up in fine style, with its brilliantly staged action, beautiful final page, and intriguing epilogue, the possibilities for the future look very promising indeed….

A Look Back At Marvel’s Cinematic Universe Phase 1 & 2

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A Look Back At Marvel’s Cinematic Universe Phase 1 & 2

MARVEL

Marvel Studios have released this awesome look back at their Phase 1 & Phase 2 movies in order to celebrate the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the release of “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Batman Eternal #17 Review

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Batman Eternal #17

Review by Paul Bowler

Arkham Asylum is in the grip of a terrifying new horror. Batwing and Jim Corrigan were sent by Batman to investigate the Asylum, where they both encountered supernatural forces, before uncovering the horrifying truth. Meanwhile, Red Robin and Harper Row find a new lead in Tokyo that could solve the mystery of the nanovirus that is slowly killing her brother. Many years ago Gotham faced a power that even Batman struggled to defeat. Now this same dark force is gathering in Arkham’s shadowy depths, soon he will rise, and the city will tremble before him.

Batman Eternal #17 delves ever deeper into the hellish events unfolding beneath Arkham Asylum, enlightening us with a series of flashbacks that offer us greater insight to the cause of what’s happening in Arkham, while other plot threads involving Batman’s allies continue to play out and reach new turning points. With it’s tightly plotted story by writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with script by Ray Fawkes, and consulting writers John Layman, and Tim Seeley, Batman Eternal #17 casts a spectral eye over the horrors emerging within Arkham while other significant characters and events in this weekly series also get a share of the action.

Batman Eternal #17 )Cover)

The Savior is a terrific story that sees Batwing and Jim Corrigan faced with the full horror of what has been happening in Arkham, as they confront the spiritual manifestation of Deacon Blackfire himself in a cavern below the Asylum. Deacon Blackfire’s spirit has returned to unleash havoc on Gotham City. The story of this deranged cult leader, who first appeared in the four part mini-series Batman: The Cult (1988), is told here though a series of flashbacks. It’s revealed how he preyed on the homeless, using drugs to subvert them to his cause to create an army beneath Gotham and begin a war on crime. Blackfire even captured Batman and attempted to brainwash him, but the Dark Knight managed to turn the Deacon’s minions against him and they killed him.

As well as the ghostly happenings in Arkham Asylum, Batman Eternal #17 catches up with Red Robin and Harper Row in Tokyo where their investigation into the nanobots released in Gotham has brought them to the Akihabara District, and a meeting with Sergei Alexandrov. Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor, Alfred’s daughter, Julia, confronts him about his decision to dedicate his life to serving the Wayne family, leading to some particularly emotional scenes where Alfred’s dignified silence conveys everything the ideal he serves so loyally means to him.

Dustin Neguyn’s art for Batman Eternal #17 really gives a dark and chilling edge to the scenes in Arkham, with Derek Fridolfs inks also enhancing the foreboding atmosphere, to make Batwing’s and Jim Corrigan’s plight seem all the more desperate. The investigation by Red Robin and Harper Row in Tokyo provides a stark contrast to the main events of the issue, as they confront Sergei Alexandrov in his high-tech lab, while the scenes back in Gotham at Wayne Manor serve as a backdrop to Julia’s argument with her father. Each location is given its own distinct pallet and tone by colorist Jason Kalizi, with vivid hues used for the interludes in Tokyo and Wayne Manor, while the flashbacks featuring Deacon Blackfire have more a grainy, darker tone, and the pitch black shadows beneath Arkham are punctuated with a shimmering blend of unearthly energies from beyond the netherworld.

With the return of Deacon Blackfire, channelling his spirit via the lumbering form of Maxie Zeus, and with the Joker’s Daughter as a maniacal sidekick, this issue ends on a supernatural high, and sets in motion a series of startling events and ghostly transformations. I really like how Batman features in this storyline, as the past entwines with the present, it shows just how flexible and versatile the format of a weekly series can be. Personally, I really like Batman stories when they dip into the realm of the supernatural like this, especially when the art and the story works so well together. Batman Eternal #17 is an excellent issue with and exciting story, great character moments, and enough dark paranormal twists in the plot to keep you guessing right up until the final page.

Batman #33 Review

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Batman #33

Review by Paul Bowler

It’s the showdown that will decide the fate of Gotham City, as Batman confronts the Riddler in Batman #33, the special extra-sized finale of Zero Year! Following the terrible destruction unleashed by the Riddler’s actions during the superstorm, the city was transformed into a flooded post-apocalyptic urban wilderness. Batman survived and returned to free Gotham from the Riddler with the help of Lieutenant Gordon and Lucius Fox. Batman set out alone to find the Riddler in his secret lair. Now, with a military air strike on the way, the Dark Knight must solve the greatest challenge of his early career to save Gotham City and defeat the Riddler.

Batman #33 marks the conclusion of the epic Zero Year storyline by Eisner Award-winning writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. Their bold re-imagining of Batmans origin has offered us an entirely fresh perspective, one that has remained eminently respectful to the character, and skilfully redefined it within the context of DC Comics’ New 52 continuity.

The final countdown has begun, fighter jets have been scrambled from Fort Robbins, but the Riddler intends to misdirect the air strike towards a series of strategically placed explosives that will detonate and sinks the entire city. While Batman faces the Riddler’s challenge in the museum, the Dark Knight’s new allies, Lieutenant Gordon and Lucius Fox, together with the Special Ops Seals, must find a way to delay the air strike. This final part of Savage City brings a complex, thrilling, and fittingly cerebral edge to Batman’s showdown with the Riddler, as the Dark Knight tackles the complexities of Nygma’s deadly high-tech version of the circular Oroboros game – first seen in Batman #22 when Bruce originally encountered Nygma in the museums Egyptian exhibit.

Batman #33 (Cover)

With the Sphinx looming over them, this setting – so ingeniously hidden in plain sight all along and masterfully revealed last issue – not only provides a fitting backdrop for their final battle, it also links back though virtually every aspect of Zero Year itself. The way Scott Synder brings everything together in Batman #33 is staggeringly brilliant, and it is this total summation of everything that Zero Year stands for which now ultimately culminates with a gripping battle of intellects between the Dark Knight and the Riddler.

The Riddler and his web of puzzles and schemes have been an intrinsic part of Zero Year, yet it perhaps only now, as we approach the climax of this storyline, that we can fully appreciate how masterfully Snyder and Capullo have not only woven the character into the narrative of Batman’s origin, but also re-defined this classic villain in a way that has made him infinitely more compelling than ever before. Nygma and his ego-driven narcissistic designs for Gotham has given a fascinating insight into the psychology of the Riddler, believing himself slighted by the world around him, Nygma has basked in the chaos and destruction he’s unleashed in order to prove his point to the city while challenging the Dark Knight and the citizens of Gotham to evolve and defeat him. Batman #33 is a veritable showcase of Edward Nygma’s uncanny ingenuity and cunning as Batman races against time to solve each of the twelve mind-bending historical riddles entwined in the games lethal web of lasers.

Over the course of Zero Year, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have explored many facets of the Dark Knights origin. The flashback sequences have often proved to be the most compelling aspects of all and with Batman #33 Snyder and Capullo continue to explore the psychological trauma caused by the murder of Bruces parents during his teenage years. We see his life beginning to take a dark, and self-destructive path, and it is only through the events in Batman #33 that we learn the full extent of Bruce Wayne’s struggle with depression, as well as the lengths he was prepared to go to erase his pain, and the resolve that gave him the strength to fight his way back through the darkness with a decision that would see him leave Gotham City and begin the journey that would ultimately set him on the path to becoming Batman.

Greg Capullo’s incredible art work never ceases to amaze me. Batman #33 is easily one of Capullo’s finest issues to date, the level of detail on every page is staggering, and I guarantee when you’ve finished this issue you will be reading it again right away to savour each and every panel Greg Capullo has crafted for this Zero Year finale. Danny Mikis inks and FCO Plascencias colors are superb, the shading, details, and rich color pallet is a joy to behold, and the amazing work of this artistic team on Batman #33 has, quite literally, blown me away. As well as Capullo’s, Miki’s, and FCO’s stunning cover (Great to see FCO also credited on the cover now as well), Batman #33 also has two excellent variant covers by Bryan Hitch and Paolo Rivera.

The intellectual battle between Batman and Riddler is just one of the many highlights this issue, as fate spins like penny, Gordon and Lucius also get their moment in the spotlight. Greg Capullo is the absolute master of conveying the characters emotions, their expressions, their stance, everything just works together so perfectly. Seeing the Riddler and Batman face to face, with Nygma finally seeing Batman as a worthy adversary, transcends their battle of wits to a whole new level. Incidentally, they are both wearing purple gloves, another nice touch that makes Zero Year’s reworking of Batman’s origin feel so special. Likewise, the scenes between Alfred and Bruce, and the way that Bruce’s past strikes a deeply moving, and emotionally charged symmetry with the Riddler’s grand design for Gotham, and its subsequent aftermath, will I’m sure, leave a warm smile on your face.

Batman #33 (Preview 1)

Scott Snyder concludes Zero Year with a brilliant coda that personifies his love and respect for the character of Batman, and through his deeply personal, and emotive re-envisioning of Batman’s origin, Snyder has ensured that Zero Year delivered everything he promised, and then some. Gothamites are made of strong stuff, the city will rebuild, and Bruce’s speech at Wayne Enterprises, and the announcement he makes on this day heralds the dawn of a new age, and the simple gesture of a surprise gift heals a rift with a bond of life-long friendship. Above all though, it is the final, closing scenes of Zero Year that are the most magnificent of all, and the clarity of this moment is one that will remain with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Batman #33 is a stunning finale to Zero Year, as Batman’s confrontation with the Riddler concludes the third arc: Savage City. Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s epic twelve issue re-imagining of Bruce Wayne’s early crime fighting career has encompassed the classic elements of the Dark Knights origin, modernising and redefining many of the iconic cornerstones that have defined the character over he last seventy five years. I think Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia have done tremendous work on Batman, I’ve enjoyed all the storylines, and I think Zero Year in particular has been their most outstanding achievement of all!

So what’s next for the Dark Knight? Well, in August, Batman #34, and the Batman issues which follow, will be jumping forward in time, to coincide with the events and continuity that takes place directly after DC’s current weekly series, Batman Eternal. Batman #34 will be a stand-alone story, co written by Gerry Duggan (Who is also writing this October’s new series Batman Arkham Manor), is a spooky detective story, with art by Matteo Scalera. This will lead into Snyder and Capullo’s next Batman story arc, Endgame, which begins in October’s Batman #35, Endgame, is also set in the same continuity as Batman #34 and both take place right after the ending of Batman Eternal.

Batman Endgame will be a six part storyline, and it promises to be Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s most exciting story yet. Endgame is Snyder’s and Capullo’s big story for Batman’s 75th anniversary, boasting an extensive cast of characters and thrilling cataclysmic events. Each issue will also feature back-up stories that link into the main arc of Endgame, co written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the artists changing monthly.

Batman #33 is extra special in many ways, not only because it’s the final issue of Zero Year, it also happens to be released on Wednesday, July 23rd, as part of DC Comics international Batman Day celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of Batman. So, enjoy Batman #33 and have a happy Batman Day Batfans!

Doctor Who Classic Series Review The Curse of Fenric

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The Curse of Fenric

Review by Paul Bowler

The Curse of Fenric Doctor Who episode

When the TARDIS lands in a top secret naval base by the Northumberland coast towards the end of the Second World War, the Doctor and Ace meet Dr Judson – a crippled scientist who has built a new computer to crack German codes. However, the base’s Commander Millington intends to allow a Russian commando unit steal Judson’s Ultima Machine, which has been booby trapped with a deadly nerve agent that has been developed.

Dr Judson is also researching some ancient runes in the crypt of the St Judes church, using the Ultima Machine to translate the symbols on the walls. This unleashes an ancient evil called Fenric, a being who the Doctor met in third-century Constantinople, where the Time Lord defeated him at chess and imprisoned him in a shadow dimension – sealing his essence inside a flask that was eventually brought to England by the Vikings in the ninth century. One survivor of this doomed voyage settled here, spawning generations of ‘wolves’ that bore the genetic code of Fenric Now the Curse of Fenric is about to be unleashed, having manipulated these descendants to engineer one last game of chess with the Doctor, where Ace will discover she is also a pawn in Fenric’s grand design.

As the Russian commando team, led by Captain Sorin, arrive at the beach some of his troops go missing, and strange things begin to happen as night falls. One of them is found on the beach the next morning, his body drained of blood; soon the Haemovores rise up from the sea, undead humans who have been transformed into horrifying vampires by the Ancient Haemovore. This creature is the last survivor from a future Earth, where the world has been destroyed by pollution, has also been brought back in time by Fenric.

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With all the pieces in place on the board the Haemovores turn two young evacuees, Jean and Phyllis, into vampires, and together they lead the attack on St Judes. While Ace fights the Haemovoers on the roof, Rev Wainwright and the Doctor are attacked inside the church. Captain Sorin leads his men in helping them, while the Doctor uses his faith to repel the Haemovores, giving them time to escape back through the secret tunnel to the base. Rev Wainwright tries to buy them more time, but his faith falters, and he is killed by the Haemovores. They are too late to stop Fenric possessing Dr Judson, but when Fenric faces the Doctor to complete the chess game, Judson’s fail body begins to deteriorate.

Ace inadvertently tells Fenric the solution to the chess game, unaware that Fenric has now possessed Captain Sorin, and it uses the younger man’s strength to complete the game. The Doctor and Ace are trapped by Fenric and the Ancient Haemovore. Fenric taunts them as Sorin, revealing how Judson, Millington, Wainright, Sorin, and even Ace have all been used as pawns in his conflict with the Doctor, and how he plans to unleash the deadly toxin stored at the base – which was discovered seeping from the stones beneath St Judes Church – to destroy the world.

In order to defeat Fenric the Doctor must break Ace’s faith in him; he succeeds and manages to turn the Ancient Haemovore against Fenric, who drags Sorin into the chamber to destroy Fenric’s host body and sacrifices itself in the process. The Doctor and Ace go to the beach as they prepare to leave, with Ace finally coming to terms her relationship with her mother, after learning that the woman she saved from the Haemovores – Kathleen and her baby daughter Audrey – was actually her grandmother. Ace dives into the water, no longer afraid, and ready to embrace the future.

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The Curse of Fenric (1989) is the penultimate episode of Season Twenty Six, and this story in particular is one of the highlights of Sylvester McCoy’s third year. In a season full of exceptionally good stories, writer Ian Briggs’ tale is rich with Norse mythology and vampire legends that fully embrace script editor Andrew Cartmel’s new ethos for the programme. Nicholas Mallett’s superb direction also makes this a thoroughly atmospheric adventure, with the discovery of a lost artefact, an ancient evil rises from the mist shrouded waters of Madien’s Point, and the Haemovores assault of St Judes church all recall similar elements from John Carpernter’s 1979 horror film: The Fog. This is not the first time Doctor Who has drawn on themes from horror films, some of its best stories have been rooted in the genre, and The Curse of Fenric is all the more enjoyable for it.

Sylvester McCoy gives one of his finest performances as the Doctor in The Curse of Fenric. He breezes into the story with an air of authority, walking straight into the naval base, and there is a great moment where he types his letter of authorisation – showing he is ambidextrous as he forges the signature of the Head of the Secret Services and the Prime Minister simultaneously with two pens. It seems that the Doctor has been aware of Fenric’s plan, even before he met Ace, and it is here that the 7th Doctor’s darker, more manipulative side is played to great effect by McCoy as events force him into shattering the faith of his loyal companion Ace to defeat Fenric.

The development of Ace is one of the major factors that make Season Twenty Six so entertaining to watch. Sophie Aldred brings such depth and sensitivity to Ace’s performance in The Curse of Fenric, her characters story arc reaches a defining moment in this story, as Ace not only faces up to the inner demons that have haunted her for so long, but she also shows just how much she has grown as an individual in her own right. Ace is now more mature, enjoying the thrill of adventures, but wise enough to heed the Doctor’s warning about Maidens’ Point, when she refuses to join Jean and Phyllis for a swim. Her flirtation with the sergeant during the third episode, to give the Doctor the chance to free Captain Sorin, shows Ace as a confident young woman, one far removed from the troubled tomboy who we first encountered in Dragonfire (1987). Ian Briggs was the writer who created Ace and he does a great job of developing her character in The Curse of Fenric. Ace is bold enough to stand up for herself now, even challenging the way the Doctor manipulates people, and the closing scene at the beach where she confidently dives into the water perfectly concludes this excellent story.

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The Curse of Fenric has a terrific guest cast: with Alfred Lynch as the base’s Commander Millington, along with Dinsadle Landen as the crippled Dr Judson who gives a great performance as the cantankerous scientist, before becoming cold and sinister after he is possessed by Fenric. The Russian troops are led by Commander Sorin, played by Tomek Bork, and he also gets to show both aspects of his character as well after he is also possessed by Fenric.

One of the pivotal moments in The Curse of Fenric comes as the church is attacked by the Haemovores, led by the newly transformed vampires, Jean and Phyllis, who spearhead the assault on the building. These scenes are brilliantly staged by director Nicholas Mallett, with Ace and the Russian soldiers fighting back the Haemovores on the roof, while the Doctor and Rev Wainwright are trapped inside. When they are overwhelmed and the Haemovores break in, the Doctor uses his faith in his companions to repel them, reciting the names of his companions to drive the creatures away. Captain Sorin uses a similar method to escape as well, using his belief in the revolution to make a path through the bloodthirsty ranks of the Haemovores.

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Joann Bell and Joann Kenny are wonderfully creepy as the evacuees, Jean and Phyllis, who are transformed into vampires after swimming in the waters. They entice another of Sorin’s men to his doom, luring him into the water, before the Haemovores arise to claim him. Jean and Phyllis also take their revenge on Miss Hardaker (Janet Henfrey), before attempting to claim Rev Wainwright. There are some really striking underwater scenes in The Curse of Fenric, which all help to build up the suspense, leading up to the moment where the Haemovores rise form the sea to attack in force.

The Curse of Fenric

Nicholas Parsons is superb as the Vicar of St Judes. He has some great scenes with the Doctor and Ace, and plays a pivotal role in the story. The moment where he is confronted by Jean and Phyllis in the graveyard is chillingly surreal. His faith isn’t enough to repel them and the Doctor and Ace save him, and when the Haemovores attack the church he is powerless to stop them. His doubts about the war have given Wainwright cause to question his faith, and when he bravely decides to stand his ground against the Haemovores his belief crumbles and ultimately proves to be his undoing.

The Curse of Fenric is a highly evocative story, offsetting the morality of warfare against some stark ecological issues, whilst skilfully juxtaposing it with the faith of all the characters involved in this adventure. Even though the Doctor’s actions seem deceptively enigmatic, events quickly begin to escalate according to his design, until the time is right for the Time Lord to face Fenric again and play one last game of chess. Fenric is another example of a disembodied force, or ideal, against which this 7th incarnation seems perfectly tailored to counteract.

The Curse of Fenric deals with plot thread that stretch right back to Ace’s debut story, Dragonfire, as Fenric delights in revealing how it was the one who was responsible for the Time Storm that brought her to Iceworld. From the moment the Doctor saw the chess set in Lady Peinforte’s house in Silver Nemesis (1988), the Time Lord was aware of Fenric’s involvement. There might also be some connection with the Gods of Ragnarok, who the Doctor encountered in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1987), although they appeared to exist in another dimension. The Curse of Fenric was released on DVD in 2003 in a special two-disk set that featured the original episodes, along with a number of extra features and commentaries, as well a re-edited Special Edition with extra footage and added special effects.

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The Curse of Fenric is one of the best stories from the 7th Doctor’s era. It illustrates the full potential that McCoy’s darker incarnation of the Doctor had to offer, and Sophie Aldred’s journey as Ace is unique in the shows original run. Few companions ever enjoyed as much character development as this. The McCoy years were over before we realised what we had, its only now, with the power of hindsight that we understand just what could have been. The Curse of Fenric is my favourite 7th Doctor story, it’s a thrilling adventure, and a great example of this era of Doctor Who.

 

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