Star Trek The Next Generation Mirror Broken #1 Review

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Star Trek The Next Generation Mirror Broken #1

Review by Paul Bowler

Get ready to boldly return to the Mirror Universe in Star Trek The Next Generation Mirror Broken #1 as Captain Jean-Luc Picard resolves to seize command of the Empire’s deadliest new warship, the ISS Enterprise! It is a quest fraught with deception, intrigue, and murder – with allies and enemies vying for power at every turn. Picard aims to use the Enterprise to restore the Empire to its former glory, the challenge he faces is immense, but fortunately he has a cut-throat crew on his side that will do whatever it takes to succeed!

IDW Publishing’s new six part Star Trek: The Next Generation Mirror Broken mini-series, written by David Tipton and Scott Tipton, and illustrated by J.K. Woodward, kicks off in fine style with this exciting first issue. The Tipton brothers are a winning team when it comes to writing Star Trek, having already brought us many popular Star Trek comic books, including the Star Trek / Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive crossover series and the FCBD Star Trek TNG Mirror Broken special (which was also the prequel to this mini-series).

The Tipton’s take on the Mirror Universe is a fascinating and insightful one, particularly as their was never a TV episode featuring the STTNG crew in this alternative dimensional pane. Star Trek TNG: Mirror Broken shows how the aftermath of the STTOS crews’ adventure in the episode Mirror Mirror (1967) that led to that universes Spock’s more logical and tolerant rule over the Terran Empire, was ultimately overrun during the Klingon / Cardassian alliance that was eventually forged during the TNG / DS9 era. With most of its fleet in ruins, the balance of power in Alpha Quadrant has shifted, and the Terran Empire has been driven back to Earth.

Captain Picard and the crew of the ISS Stargazer are among the few remaining starships of the fleet left defending the Empire. Following a run in with a Cardassian vessel, the Stargazer visits the Mars shipyards of Utopia Planitia, where Captain Picard learns about a new warship that’s secretly being constructed for the Empire, and it’s a ship that could shift the balance of power in his favour!

Star Trek TNG Mirror Broken presents us with a sleeveless, pumped up, and ruthlessly ambitious Captain Picard. Even the familiar Picard phrases have a far more sinister, edgier, inflection to them. Picard has been playing the long game, and it looks like the Captain’s steely patience is about to pay off. We also meet some of the other TNG crewmembers in this issue, including the alluring Inquisitor Troy, the efficient Commander Data is ever present with his seemingly stoic penchant for Borg-like perfection and adaptations, there’s a decidedly cunning version of Barclay as well, and the downtrodden La Forge seems equally as cunning as Picard.

Well known for Fallen Angel, longtime Star Trek artist, J.K. Woodward’s art is a perfect choice to illustrate IDW’s STTNG Mirror Broken and realize a darker version of the Next Generation crew in the grittier reality of the Mirror Universe. From the scene setting opening flashback, to the brooding introduction of Picard, J.K. Woodward’s stellar artwork instantly transports you right into the heart of this Mirror Universe saga. The likenesses of all the characters are stunningly realized, the bridge of the Stargazer feels alive with activity during the fight with the Cardassians, and the scenes with La Forge, Picard, and Data on Mars crackle with suspense.

As this year is the 30th anniversary of Star Trek The Next Generation, it makes this Mirror Universe comic book epic all the more exciting, and its great to see these Mirror Universe versions of Picard and Co reunited for this daring escapade to take the Enterprise for themselves and make the Terran Empire great again. Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #1, with its intricately crafted storyline by David Tipton and Scott Tipton, and stunning art by J.K. Woodward, certainly gets this IDW mini-series off to a terrific start, and a must read for all Trek fans this new comic book day. Make it so!

Publisher IDW Publishing

Writers David Tipton & Scott Tipton / Art and colors by J.K. Woodward

Letters AndWorld Design / Cover by J.K. Woodward

War For The Planet of the Apes: Final Trailer Released!

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War For The Planet of the Apes: Final Trailer

Check out the awesome final trailer for 20th Century Fox’s War For The Planet of the Apes! In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

Directed By Matt Reeves, and staring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer and Terry Notary, War For The Planet of the Apes is in Theaters – July 14, 2017

Doctor Who Oxygen Review

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Doctor Who Oxygen

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Oxygen finds the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole responding to a distress call that leads them to a huge space station, Chasm Forge, on the far reaches of the galaxy. After becoming trapped on board they discover that the crew, except for the four remaining survivors, have all been brutally murdered. But the dead are still stalking the corridors! In this future where oxygen is a valuable commodity sold by the breath load, and space suites are worth more than their human occupants, the new TARDIS crew must confront the most nefarious of evils…

The fifth episode of series ten, Oxygen, marks the welcome return of writer Jamie Mathieson to the series with another exciting and scary adventure. Mathieson made his debut with his impressive script for 2014’s Mummy on the Orient Express, and he also wrote the highly innovative Fatline (2014), and most recently The Girl Who Died (2015). Also making their return to Doctor Who is Charles Palmer, the director of 2007’s Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code and the acclaimed two-parter Human Nature / The Family of Blood.

Kicking off with a nod to Star Trek’s iconic-voice over, Oxygen soon has the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole donning spacesuits after their arrival on Chasm Forge, a vast mining station in deep space overrun by a spacesuited army of the walking dead. The Doctor and his companions, along with the stations four surviving crewmembers, must fight for their lives as the undead horde closes in, but what has caused this terrifying outbreak to occur? Just like the pervious episode Knock Knock, Oxygen is another spookily atmospheric episode, although with Oxygen the horror is far more full-on and intense – especially where the space zombies are concerned.

The political, corporate, and capitalist undertones that permeate Oxygen’s stark vision of the future are equally as chilling realized as the hostile environment of space itself in this episode. Ironic computer statements punctuate the narrative with a satirically charged social commentary, it seems oxygen has become big business in the future, and here on Chasm Forge the very air that you breathe is one of the most valuable assets of all!

Oxygen makes space feel edgy and dangerous in again in Doctor Who as writer Jamie Mathieson jettisons the more familiar Sci-Fi tropes the series usually adopts for a decidedly more scientific and accurate portrayal of the harsh realities of space. A whole scene during one of the Doctor’s lectures at the university is given over to establishing some of these facts, which in turn gives added credence to the dangers encountered on Bill’s first proper adventure in outer space as events on board Chasm Forge begin to spiral out of control. The script also cleverly separates them from the TARDIS and puts the sonic screwdriver out of commission – so there’s not going to be any easy way out for the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole this time!

Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie make a terrific team as Time Lord and companion respectively, they get some really powerful and emotional scenes in this episode, and it’s good to finally see Matt Lucas taking a more active role alongside them in Oxygen as Nardole since his character has felt a little sidelined since The Pilot. This is also an extremely challenging episode for Bill, as the terrifying situations she faces on Chasm Forge test her – and her faith in the Doctor – to the limit, none more so perhaps than the heart-stopping horror of being exposed to the vacuum of space. Trapped on this space station where human life is weighed up against the value of a spacesuit and oxygen is credit highly prized above all else, even the Doctor encounters a crisis unlike anything he’s faced before when Bill’s spacesuit malfunctions and the Time Lord gives her his suits helmet to save her but the prolonged exposure to the vacuum affects his eyes and blinds him!

Oxygen features a good cast of supporting characters: with Justine Salinger as Tasker, Katie Brayben as Ellie, Mimi Ndiweni as Abby, Kieran Bew as Ivan, and Peter Caulfield as the blue-skinned Dahh-Ren. Although their character development is a little sparse, they prove sufficient to drive the narrative where necessary, and it is probably the wry Dahh-Ren who makes the biggest impression of all the surviving crewmembers.

Zombie-like monsters with a deadly electrified touch in Oxygen are also really impressive. Whether shambling along dark corridors or walking en masse across the hull of Chasm Forge, the make up effects for these bloated, decaying, lifeless-eyed creatures are quite a frightening sight to behold. This army of the walking dead has actually been created by their own spacesuits, which have deactivated their organic component, but most horribly of all they carry on working regardless because of the sophisticated programming running their suits. The Doctor later discovers this is a ruthless algorithm used by the company, the lives of the crew have become too inefficient, and its deemed more efficient by the mining company to have the dead cadavers working in the automated suits instead of the living so as to maximize the company’s profits.

There are a number of Who references to look out for in Oxygen, most notably the Fluid Link, which Nardole tries to uses to sabotage any further attempts by the Doctor to leave Earth again and neglect his oath to guard the Vault. The Fluid link was first mentioned in the 1963 episode, The Dead Planet, where the Doctor stated the link has gone wrong and the TARDIS couldn’t operate without a functioning fluid link which also requires Mercury to operate. This was actually a ruse by the Doctor (William Hartnell), the link wasn’t faulty, but it allowed him to convince his companions to go along with his wish to explore a strange alien city. But the planet they had landed on turned out to be Skaro, and soon the Doctor would encounter the Daleks for the first time in the programmes history. In a more recent connection to the series, we also get to see the picture of Bill’s mother again from Knock Knock which she glimpses in her minds eye as she begins to succumb to the vacuum of space. Incidentally, director Charles Palmer is also the son of Geoffrey Palmer who had roles in Doctor Who and The Silurians (1970), The Mustans (1972), and Voyage of the Dammned ( 2007).

Having been forced to abandon Bill to a fate that seemingly saw her become one of the space-suited zombies, the Doctor and the surviving crewmembers become trapped. At the last moment the Doctor revenge hacks the computer and links their suits to Chasm Forge’s systems, if they die, the station will explode, so killing them would be the more expensive option and the company’s profits will be wiped out. This ingeniously uses the company’s own warped corporate economics to their advantage, effectively turning the tables, and the zombies give their own oxygen supply over to the living survivors – including Bill who was only really stunned – to keep them alive and save the station.

Nardole later repairs the Doctor’s eyes and they return to the university. However, once Bill leaves the room, the Doctor suddenly has a grave secret to tell Nardole. It would seem Oxygen is going to be something of a life-changing experience for the Time Lord after all, because his vision hasn’t returned, he’s still blind!

With great performances all round, Oxygen is a taut, excitingly crafted adventure from writer Jamie Mathieson, the drama and peril the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole face in this story certainly puts this new TARDIS team through the wringer, and the outstanding direction of Charles Palmer keeps you on the edge of your seat as the action steadily progresses. All in all, Oxygen, with its scary zombies-in-space premise and impressive special effects, proves to be another thrilling addition to series ten, and the shock cliff-hanger concerning the Doctor’s sightless predicament sends everything spiralling off on an entirely new and unexpected tangent few could’ve predicted.

And here’s the ominous Next Time trailer for Extremis!

Images belong BBC

All Star Batman #10 Review

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All Star Batman #10

Review by Paul Bowler

The Dark Knight detective faces a new, deadly enemy in All Star Batman #10, an unpredictable foe, one whose attacks are seemingly impossible to counteract! Batman uncovers a dark scheme from decades past, but inconceivably the architect of this insidious plot could well be one of his closets allies of all! All Star Batman #10 reunites Scott Snyder with his American Vampire collaborator Rafael Albuquerque for this stunning new Batman story arc: The Last Ally!

Interspaced with flashback to a rooftop chase across the pond in London and Batman and Alfred’s present day escapade in Miami, All Star Batman #10 hit’s the ground running, and doesn’t let up for a moment. The Batmobile is driven like an old pro, there’s an enemy with a familiar face to be caught, and the crowd goes wild before you‘ve even finished turning a few pages. Hell, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’d be enough full-on Bat-action for one issue alone, but this is Snyder and Albuquerque we are talking about here, and like Batman in this issue they sure know how to grab our attention with a scene stealing entrance!

Having got word something dangerous is being smuggled into Miami, Bruce and Alfred go all good cop bad cop to get the information they need, and their subsequent attempt to infiltrate an old fort off the coast sequestered by a quartet of leaders from Miami’s most feared crime families puts Bruce in terrible danger. Initially what feels like an Oceans 13 heist coated with Miami Vice glamour and menace, soon becomes a deadly game of pirates, and before you can say shiver me timbers all hell breaks loose as the bullets start flying!

This storyline is going to delve into Alfred’s past, an exciting concept in itself, but what I really liked about this issue was how Scott Snyder used the narrative to highlight the surrogate father / son bond between Alfred and Bruce. There are certain points in this issue, usually right in the thick of the action, where Alfred’s reminiscing feels genuinely heart-warming and quite moving. However, these moments are also powerfully counterbalanced with Alfred’s steely determination, especially during the interrogation scene, where we gain further insight into his character and just how far he’d be willing to cross the line if need be.

The pencils and inks of Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork brings the first chapter of The First Ally to life in glorious fashion. The action is often fast and furious, with concisely structured page layouts relaying Snyder‘s vision with the same flawless synergy their collaborations always bring, as story and art seamlessly fuse as one. Rafael Albuquerque’s spectacular art effortlessly draws you in, you’d swear can almost hear the roar of the crowd as Batman ejects form the Batmobile, there’s centrally no doubting that Alfred means business either, those flashbacks have a unique favour that perfectly encapsulates the era, and the high-tech security of the fort soon becomes engulfed in a slow-motion barrage of gunfire with a yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum. The colors by Jordie Bellaire beautifully complement Albuquerque’s art, from the dusky hues of London from times before to the bombastic tones of the opening chase sequence, though to the vivid shades of the Miami skyline, and the ice blues and greys of the fort showdown, Bellaire’s colors sublimely enrich every single scene.

Killers-In-Law, written by Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone, featuring art by Sebastian Fiumara, and colors by Trish Mulvihill, is the new backup story which accompanies this new All Star Batman story-arc, involving Bruce Wayne going deep undercover to infiltrate the Russian mafia. It’s an edgy, brutal, bare knuckle story, one that plays its cards close to its chest, insomuch that it fills in just enough back story to keep us guessing how everything is going to slot together with The First Ally story-arc.

Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque round off The First Ally: Part 1 in fine style. You might say that Bruce’s good taste in art is his saving grace in this issue, but it also puts him smack-bang in the middle of a heart-grabbing mystery, one that Snyder brilliantly blindsides us with as past and present collide in the most unexpected way possible. The First Ally is another masterpiece in the making from Snyder and Albuquerque, with its gritty storytelling and outstanding artwork, All Star Batman #10 doesn’t just exceed expectations, if anything, it drives right through them!

Publisher DC Comics

Writer Scott Snyder / Art and Cover & Variant cover by Rafael Albuquerque

Colors Jordie Bellaire / Letters Steve Wands

Variant Cover Sebastian Fiumara

Blade Runner 2049 Official Trailer Released!

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Blade Runner 2049 Official Trailer Released!

Warner Bros have released the full official trailer for Blade Runner 2049, the Blade Runner sequel is set 30 years after the first film and judging from this first full trailer the movie looks amazing.

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, with Dave Bautista and Jared Leto

Blade Runner 2049 in theaters October 6 2017

 

Doctor Who Knock Knock Review

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Doctor Who Knock Knock

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Knock Knock sees new companion Bill deciding to house share with her student friends. It looks like the perfect house, so there’s nothing to worry about, even though it’s surprisingly cheap, and the Landlord is a bit strange. The Doctor believes something is very wrong here. As the wind blows and the floorboards creak, there’s also a tower in middle of the building, but why doesn’t there seem any way to get inside it?

The fourth episode of Doctor Who’s tenth season, Knock Knock, is a terrifically eerie, atmospheric tale, written by Doctor Who newcomer Mike Bartlett (best known for the BBC hit drama Doctor Foster and his Olivier award-winning play – King Charles III), and the episode is directed by Bill Anderson.

Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie continue their adventures as the Doctor and Bill, as they explore the mystery of this house where the trees begin creaking, even when the wind doesn’t blow, and the floorboards move and seem to have a life all their own. Legendary British actor David Suchet (Poirot) also guests stars in this episode as the mysterious Landlord, a strange, disturbed man, who guards a terrible secret.

For such a surprisingly spooky episode, Knock Knock begins innocuously enough, as Bill, along with five of her friends attempt to find somewhere they can live. Following some disastrous, and rather hilarious viewings, they finally settle on affordable digs in an old house offered by the Landlord. But outdated sockets and poor mobile signal reception are just the start of their problems, in this house, with its creaking floorboards and woodwork, peculiarly freaky drafts, and tower that’s off limits to all tenants. As night falls the spooky happenings in the house close in and its time for Bill’s oddly cool “grandfather” to help them out.

The Doctor is soon on the case with Bill and her friends to confront the Landlord and the dark mystery lurking in the house, and Time Lords suspicions are soon confirmed. It seems the building is eating people, Bill’s friends start disappearing, there are weird alien woodlice creatures inside the walls, and why is the Landlord so protective of his daughter’s well-being? Knock Knock masterfully builds the chills and thrills, and the intricate plot certainly gives our little grey cells plenty of food for thought as well. So, when the woodlice creatures begin to emerge and the Landlord reminds them that they’ve signed the contract and “its time to pay…” it heightens the palpable sense of horror and mystery surrounding him and the house even further.

Even though the plot separates them for a time, the charisma Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie brings to the Doctor / companion relationship still shines through and just seems to get better and better with every episode of series ten. The addition of Bill ‘s friends Shireen (Mandeep Dhillon), Harry (Colin Ryan), Paul (Ben Presley), Felicity (Alice Hewkin), and Pavel (Bart Suavek) in this episode also gives added depth to her character as well as their perfect student house-share becomes a nightmare for them. Its great to see the Doctor becoming part of Bill’s everyday life too, he even helps Bill move in, and gets to know her friends!

Matt Lucas only appears as Nardole for a short scene, which leads to a pivotal moment in the ongoing Vault story-arc for the Doctor. The Time Lord seems to know who is inside the Vault, and whoever they are they seem to share the same taste in music – specifically Beethoven. Of course, it goes without saying that David Suchet is superb as The Landlord, an awkward, unsettlingly pallid looking character who prowls around the house with a tuning fork and touches the walls in a bizarre manner. The genial, yet coldly menacing Landlord is the primary villain in Knock Knock, and David Suchet’s marvellous performance makes the character as chillingly disconcerting as he is tragic, and his scenes with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor are simply magnificent!

The unsettling, giant woodlice creatures attracted by high-pitched sounds that emerge from the woodwork are alien insects of an unknown origin. They can interact with wood on a cellular level and hide in the Landlords’s creaky old house, waiting to strike on then unsuspecting human victims he’s lured to stay there over the years. Even the Doctor, who christens them “Dryads”, hasn’t seen anything quite like them before. However, the main monster in Knock Knock is the gangly female creature Bill and Shireen find in the tower. Eliza (Mariah Gale) is the Landlord’s “daughter”; she has been quarantined here since she grew gravely ill. The alien woodlice infecting her wooden body are keeping her alive, her tragic circumstances have left her terribly lonely and isolated, and Eliza has no idea about the innocent people the woodlice have consumed to preserve her own life.

There are plenty of pop culture references to look out for, including Indiana Jones, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, and even Scooby Doo. Knock has the distinction of being the first Doctor Who story to be made available in binaural 360 soundscape, and subsequently released on the BBC iPlayer after the standard episode had aired on BBC One. The exterior location used for the Landlord’s creepy house in Knock Knock were filmed in the same location in Newport, South Wales, used for the Wester Drumlins, scenes in Stephen Moffat’s 2007 episode Blink – the story that introduced the iconic Doctor Who monsters The Weeping Angels. When Bill moves into her new room, she refers to events in The Pilot, Smile, and Thin Ice as she talks to her mum. The Doctor also states at one point that, “Sleep is for tortoises!” Something he remarked upon The Talons of Weng-Ching (1977). The Doctor also mentions a “Klarj neon death voc bot” at one point, perhaps a vague reference to a variant of the voc robots seen in The Robots of Death (1977)? The episode Knock Knock has enabled David Suchet to fulfil his wish to appear in Doctor Who, he’s also worked with Peter Capaldi many times before, and Peter Capaldi guest starred in Poirot – ‘Wasps Nest’ in 1991.

In a surprise turn of events, the Doctor and Bill eventually discover that Eliza is in fact the Landlord’s dying mother. He found a box containing the woodlice under a tree in the garden when he was a young child and used them to keep her alive. Tricking people to stay here so he could feed the woodlice and keep her alive, his mother remained youthful, though her memory clouded and her body transformed into wood, while he grew old as they’ve lived together in the house for seventy years. The conclusion of Knock Knock wraps everything up in a convincingly satisfying manner when Eliza finally learns the truth. She takes control of the woodlice, persuading her son to accept their fate together, whilst freeing the Doctor, Bill, and her friends as the house crumbles away.

Mike Bartlett’s suspenseful first foray into Doctor Who with Knock Knock is a Sci-Fi / Old Dark House mash-up of the highest order. With its brooding atmospheric setting and sets, this is easily the darkest episode of the series so far. Its jam packed with horror film clichés, thrilling excitement, humour, great special effects, and Bill Anderson’s taut direction gradually builds the action and scares right up until the end. Knock Knock continues the strong run of stories in series ten, the mystery of The Vault continues to build significantly in the background, and there’s a real sense now that we are on course for a truly outstanding season.

Images belong BBC

Netflix debut official trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders!

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Netflix debut official trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders!

Check out the awesome new trailer for the Defenders series, can’t wait for this new series form Netflix!

Marvel’s The Defenders follows Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones). A quartet of singular heroes with one common goal – to save New York City. This is the story of four solitary figures, burdened with their own personal challenges, who realize they just might be stronger when teamed together. The Netflix original series will launch globally on August 18, 2017.

 

Doctor Who Thin Ice Review

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Doctor Who Thin Ice

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

The Doctor and Bill travel back in time in Thin Ice to Regency England, in London, to the last of the great frost fairs on the frozen river Thames. But while the time travellers take in the sights, they discover that revellers and children have been mysteriously disappearing on the ice. Bill finds the past can be more like her own time than she expects, and something is lurking in the inky depths of the Thames, waiting for the ice to crack…

Continuing directly on from the final surprising moments of the last episode, Smile, Thin Ice, sees the Doctor and Bill donning stylish period garb as they visit London during 1814 in the third episode from Series Ten, written by Sarah Dollard (the writer of 2015’s Face The Raven), and directed by Doctor Who newcomer Bill Anderson (whose previous TV work includes Mr Selfridge, Taggart, and Silent Witness).

Based around the spontaneous frost fairs that happened on the frozen Thames during the 1300’s and 1800’s, were all walks of life came together to celebrate this icy wonderland in the heart of London, but suddenly ended when the Thames froze in 1814 and never froze over again. It’s that underlying mystery that Sarah Dollard’s wonderful script explores, as the Doctor and Bill set out to enjoy the jubilant surroundings of the frost fair. But when it becomes apparent there are strange lights under the ice luring people into the depths of the Thames, the Doctor and Bill, with the help of some street urchins, embark on a dangerous quest for clues. Someone of great power schemes to get as many people as they can to the frost fair, hiding their true motives, Bill finds out that not all creatures are from space, and in the inky gloom beneath the ice an ancient creature lurks.

Peter Capaldi is in his element here as the 12th Doctor, sporting a dark suit, and dashing top hat, he looks right at home in Regency England and its not long before the Doctor is caught up in the mystery of the strange disappearances beneath the ice. Bill is from 2017, so naturally she finds London in 1814 takes a bit of getting used to, but she looks resplendent in her period dress and soon embraces the carnival atmosphere of the frost fair, and Pearl Mackie gives a wonderfully endearing performance as Bill experiences her first adventure in the past. She continues to ask the Doctor some interesting and pressing questions as well, which in turn continues to build on the refreshing Doctor / Companion dynamic between them. The nuances of time travel Thin Ice present affords the Doctor a chance to explain the somewhat unpredictable nature of the TARDIS, and Bill also learns that there can be a darker side to the Doctor’s adventures.

Nardole (Matt Lucas) once again only appears fleetingly to berate the Doctor for neglecting the promise that’s been keeping the Time Lord on Earth, and there are further – somewhat chilling – hints concerning the ongoing mystery of The Vault. However, Thin Ice does have a good supporting cast of characters to look out for: Peter Singh plays The Pie Man, Nicholas Burns is the villainous Lord Sutcliffe, and from the young gang of pickpockets Asiatu Koroma gets some good scenes and character development as Kitty

After enjoying the sights of the frost fair its not long before the Doctor and Bill set out in diving suits and get to work checking out the mysterious lights under the ice. The time travellers adventure takes them into the inky depths of the Thames itself, where the Doctor and Bill finally get to the bottom of the mystery as they encounter a gigantic snake-like-creature! The monster in Thin Ice is a giant underwater leviathan, captured and chained by the ancestors of Lord Sutcliffe, and the creatures dung has been used as a superheating biofuel in industry to build his families wealth. The snake’s symbiotic bond with the glowing fish that tend it has been used by Sutcliffe to lure people to the frost fairs in order to secretly feed the imprisoned beast.

Thin Ice includes a delightful number of subtle Doctor Who related references and themes. The Doctor casually informs Bill that he’s been to the frost fairs before, which coincides with what River Song told Rory in A Good Man Goes To War (2011). Although the species of the aquatic sea creature in Thin Ice isn’t specified, the Star Whale from The Beast Below (2010) is the most recent example of such giant a creature in the series, the Loch Ness Monster appeared in Terror of the Zygons (1975), but Nessie was actually the Zygon’s cyborg Skarassen, and it also went on to emerge from the Thames like the sea snake does in Thin Ice. When the 12th Doctor says, ‘your species hardly notices anything’ it harkens back to similar statement the 7th Doctor made in Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) about humanities “amazing capacity for self-deception.’ The Time lord once again uses the alias ‘Doctor Disco’ which he first used in The Zygon Invasion (2015). Bill mentions concerns about the Butterfly Effect, a concept that was referred to by Martha in the Shakespeare Code (2007). Bill’s first steps onto the ice of the frozen Thames seem to mirror Martha’s initial caution on emerging from the TARDIS in that episode, and to a lesser degree there are also echoes of Rose Tyler’s first footsteps in the snow as she visit’s the past for the first time in The Unquiet Dead (2005).

Their discovery of the snake creature in the Thames and information Kitty knows about Dowell, soon leads the Doctor and Bill to Lord Sutcliffe, but he takes them prisoner. Once they escape, and while the Doctor sets out to free the creature and foil Sutcliffe’s plans, Kitty and her gang help Bill evacuate the frost fair before Sutcliffe can detonate the explosives. There are impressive and moving scenes as the Thames ice snake is finally freed when the ice brakes up, and Lord Sutcliffe’s fate provides a very fitting from of poetic justice for his actions as the conclusion of Thin Ice gives Kitty and her friends the chance of a better life.

Thin Ice is a fantastically paced and very traditional feeling episode. Sarah Dollard’s scrip embodies the core values of the Doctor’s morality, and it tackles some particularly strong themes at times – including racism, the social class system, and ecological issues. The costumes and sets are absolutely stunning as well, and director Bill Anderson skilfully keeps the drama and suspense building throughout the episode. Peter Capaldi gives what is arguably one of his finest performances yet as the Time Lord, including one of those awesome powerful Doctorish speeches (after the Doctor stands up for Bill and punches the vile Lord Sutcliffe in the face) that Capaldi does so well, and Pearl Mackie is really settling into her role as Bill Potts.

The coda with Nardole talking to the ominous – and rather familiar sounding – knocking coming from The Vault rounds off this episode in fine style, and is sure to fuel the speculation about who, or what, might be inside it. Doctor Who’s tenth series really feels like its getting on track for something very special, especially with the Doctor’s new travelling companions introductory trilogy of adventures set in the present, the future, and the past are now completed, the Doctor’s and Bill’s adventures in time and space can really begin in earnest!

Images belong BBC

Thanos #6 Review

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Thanos #6

Review by Paul Bowler

A reunion is on the cards in Thanos #6 as the Mad Titan faces his greatest battle of all in this stellar Marvel Comic series from Jeff Lemire, Mike Deodato, and Frank Martin. Thanos is dying! Defeated as he searched for a cure by the Shiar Imperial Guard, he was imprisoned. Now, as Thanos seeks to escape from his interstellar jail, Thane’s secret pact with the mistress Death to kill his father finally nears fruition, and soon two of the most powerful entities in the Marvel Universe face-off as the galaxy trembles before their might!

Yes, the cosmic you-know-what hit’s the proverbial fan in Thanos #6 after that certain “something” Thane’s audacious heist with Starfox, Nebula, and Tryco Slatterus set out to steal from Terrax the Terrible actually turned out to be a Phoenix Egg, and writer Jeff Lemire quickly addresses the grievances that Thane’s allies have about being so grossly misled into doing his dirty work for him. The Phoenix Energy will enable Thane to reclaim everything that he’s lost since his powers were taken from him, but his associates aren’t going to stand idly by and just let him take it either! Meanwhile, Thanos faces an army of jailers, but even with his powers faltering the Mad Titan’s resolve is undiminished, and he confronts his fate as a warrior, a conqueror of worlds, and a God who has even make reality itself cower before his power.

The distinct air of all-pervading doom that closes in around Thanos in this issue is brilliantly offset by his determination to be free of those who have so blatantly disrespected him. Jeff Lemire has skilfully crafted the events around the Mad Titan’s rapidly declining health to a point where you feel like you are right there with Thanos, as every step, every bone-crunching blow, begins to feel weaker and more laboured that the last. Likewise, Thane’s betrayal of his allies is master class in characterization, snappy dialogue crackles with tension, hitting all the emotional beats, before the realization of the ultimate sacrifice that has been made finally becomes frighteningly apparent.

When it comes the depiction of Thanos’ plight in this issue, artist Mike Deodato’s rendition of Thanos’ pure rage and undiluted contempt for the wave after wave of opposition he’s forced to bulldoze his way through to obtain freedom, is stunningly realized with an opaque series of panel layouts that dynamical relay the bone-crunching action. I especially like how Deodato angles the entire page during two key instances to accentuate the drama, giving added credence to Thanos’ waning power and the shock turn of events over on Terrax’s starship. There are some stunning emotional scenes from Dedato as well, the fury of Tryco Slatterus, self styled Champion of the Universe, feels at being betrayed is so palpable in one scene it almost eclipses Thanos‘, and Thane’s anguish at betraying Tryco is so clearly evident its almost heartbreaking. Color artist Frank Martin uses a palette of rich vivid tones to accentuate every scene, even the panel layouts are heightened as they intercut between sold backdrops of burnt orange and stark white hues that uncannily seem to give an almost cinematic quality to the visuals they frame as each scene moves seamlessly into the next.

But it is in the showdown between father and son where Jeff Lemier’s powerful storyline comes full circle. Mistress Death’s machinations have brought everything and everyone in this saga to this point, there is no turning back now, and Mike Dedato and Frank Martin pull out all the stops to ensue that the final scenes in this issue are every bit as breathtaking and jaw-dropping as the journey that has brought Thanos to this fateful moment.

Thanos #6 brings the first chapter in this epic storyline to a shocking close. The fantastic creative team of Jeff Lemir, Mike Deodato, and Frank Martin have done amazing things with this new Marvel Comics series already. The scope and scale has been unparalleled, its been unflinchingly brutal at times, and I’ve been gripped by every twist and turn in the plot since the first issue. Now they’ve set Thanos on a path unlike any he’s walked before and I can’t wait to see what happens next in the aftermath of this issues cataclysmic standoff.

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Writer: Jeff Lemire/ Artist: Mike Deodato / Colorist: Frank Martin /

Letterer: VCs Clayton Cowles  / Cover: Mike Dedato and Frank Martin

Variant Cover: Jamal Campbell

Doctor Who Smile Review

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Doctor Who Smile

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Smile brings the Doctor and Bill to a colony planet on the edge of the galaxy. It look like a beautiful, idyllic utopia, but this gleaming city holds a dark secret. The Doctor and Bill soon encounter some welcoming robots, but these robots want you to be happy, and the only way to stay alive here is to keep smiling!

The second episode of series ten, Smile, is written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who also wrote 2014’s In the Forest of the Night, continues the series’ back to basics approach as the Doctor takes his new companion Bill on her first fully fledged adventure to an alien planet in the distant future. Directed by Lawrence Gough (Misfits, Atlantis, and Endeavour), Smile was partly filmed Valencia in Spain, and features some incredible locations – including Valencia’s futuristic looking City of Arts and Science complex.

The first proper visit to the far future for a new companion is always an exciting event, so when the Doctor and Bill arrive on the colony world of Gliese 581 D, Bill naturally finds the experience really exciting and continues to ask all the bright, fun questions that makes her character so appealing: enquiring about things like why the seats are so far away from the TARDIS console, along with numerous other questions about the time machine, along with why the Doctor is Scottish (something which the Doctor gives a very timely response), she discovers the Doctor has two hearts, that he stole the TARDIS, and Bill is clearly a comic book fan as she even mentions Mr Fantastic – the leader of Marvel’s Fantastic Four – at one point!

The sunny planet and the futuristic city they set out to explore is managed by tiny bird-like Vardies robots, and their very useful interface – the friendly looking Emojibots. As their name implies, the Emojibots have a very special way of communicating, and Bill is thrilled to meet her first robot. But something is amiss in this oasis of happiness. The human colonists are nowhere to be seen, a grim pile of skulls is soon uncovered, there’s something in the walls, and the Emojibots watch and wait as the Doctor and Bill close in on the horrifying truth!

Award winning author Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s scrip tackles familiar sci-fi themes, such as concerns about artificial intelligence, a futuristic utopia that’s not quite what it seems, and a threat that cleverly eschews the present day subtleties of communication through emojis to give us menacing robots that smiles pleasantly before hugging you to death. Peter Capaldi’s performance as the Doctor excels on every level, and Pearl Mackie also continues to impress as new companion Bill Potts. Predominantly featuring only Capaldi and Mackie for the first 20-30 minutes or so, Smile isn’t that eventful an episode initially, in that respect it feel very much like an old-school-Doctor Who episode 1, which often acted more as an atmospheric scene setter, and this traditional approach from Cottrell-Boyce’s script affords a welcome chance to give the narrative the time to explore the characterisation of the Doctor and Bill as they get to know each other more.

Matt Lucas only appears as Nardole in one scene at the start of this episode, but his brief appearance dose instigate some more hints about The Vault the Doctor has been guarding at the university with Nardole. It transpires that the Doctor isn’t supposed to go off world at the moment, which he subsequently explains away in Smile to Bill, as because of something which happened a long time ago, that in turn made him make a promise, and the results of that promise means he has to remain of Earth guarding The Vault. I find it is all very intriguing how the mystery of The Vault is being built up, its clear this will probably be a key factor in Series Ten, but I really like how it doesn’t seem to be something that’s being done in a way that feels unnecessarily overcomplicated or shoehorned into the plot just to stitch everything together.

The super-technology of the future in Smile presents us with the small Vardies, a kind of nanotech that works in conjunction with their robot interface with humans – the cute yet creepy Emojibots. Both have been engineered from technology created to keep people happy, colonists haven’t “cracked the secret of human happiness”, instead of being a garden of Eden their new world has become a lethal trap, and the chilling realisation that the doomed “skeleton crew” ended up as fertiliser makes their fate all the more horrific. The Doctor has visited many Earth colonies is the series’ past, The Ark (1966), Colony In Space (1971), and The Ark in Space (1975), all spring to mind as stories of humanity setting out to find a new home in the cosmos, and of course The Happiness Patrol (1988) was a story where sadness was something to be avoided at all costs! Smile brings an added twist to some of these themes by having the Doctor and Bill thinking that the colony is deserted, but their space ship is in fact already here, with the crew in cryogenic hibernation waiting to be revived, a fact the Doctor discovers during his attempt to blow up the colony.

After such a strong start, Smile does come a bit unstuck towards the end, and the episode does feel like a mad dash for the finish line as it attempts to wrap everything up. Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are joined by a good supporting cast featuring Mina Anwar as Goodthing, Ralf Little as Steadfast, and Kaizer Akhtar as Praiseworthy, but, with so little screen time, the guest actors roles do feel rather underused. However, the revelation about the Vardies and the Emojibots sentience subtly entwines with the fate of the colonists, who also happen to be the last survivors of Earth, and provides the story with surprisingly timely and relevant ending.

Smile provides a good adventure for Bill’s inaugural trip to the future in the TARDIS. Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie have forged a great bond between their characters that positively lights up the screen. Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s second story for Doctor Who is a skilfully crafted, cautionary tale, interwoven with some extremely clever ideas and themes. Lawrence Gough’s stylish direction really makes the most of the beautiful locations and scenery, the plot builds gradually, there are some good scares along the way, and the ending provides a satisfactory – if a little bit rushed – resolution to the whole Emojibot threat.

Series Ten is shaping up quite nicely already. I thought Smile was a good episode, the Emojibots might not be the most memorable robot menace the series has ever had, but they were quirky enough, and overall the stunning scenery and excellent performances by Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie more than make up for any of the episodes slight failings. Smile continues Bill’s introductory trilogy of adventures in time and space in fine style, and the way Smile concludes by leading straight into the next episode Thin Ice was an inspired move to leave us eagerly anticipating this historical adventure set in the Regency Era on the frozen Thames!

Images belong BBC