Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Drashani Trilogy

 Well, it's time for a multi-Doctor set of stories! This isn't actually a crossover, but we do see the Doctor visiting the same empire in three different incarnations across 80 years. These three audios also do a good job of introducing their Doctors and might be a good starting place for new listeners. There are no recurring companions and the unified story seems designed to show the differences in the Doctors.

The Burning Prince (2012) By: John Dorney

Impressions
The Doctor arrives on a warship on the way to rescue a princess from a starship crash. Her betrothed, Prince Kylo, cannot wait for the wedding and is anxious to find his bride. The wedding is meant to unite the Sorsha and Gadarel factions. The Doctor is captured and thought to be a spy. As he is brought before the security captain Shira, an Igris, an invincible creature they have for study, is released from its cage. The invincible creature runs amok on the ship and crashes the ship to the planet below where there are thousands of Igris.

This is another action packed tale for the Fifth Doctor. However, this is more of a survival thriller than an adventure tale. It does a great job of setting up the stakes as well as the cleverness of the a saboteur in their midst. Some of the military envoy get rather lost in the story. So much so that when the saboteur is revealed, I had to wait for the Doctor to explain which character that was. All in all, it succeeded in making a daring chase story with high stakes and mostly likeable characters.

Our Hero
The Fifth Doctor is almost his usual peace loving self. He has a few moments where I was wondering about his lack of compassion as people are being killed off, but these were only a few fleeting moments and could be chalked up to the Doctor's optimism. He also gets more light and humorous moments than in a normal Fifth Doctor story.

Hunted Observers
Prince Kylo is the eponymous prince in addition to being a sappy naive romantic. He can get a bit annoying with his fits and his freak outs, but I don't think we're meant to like this whiny privileged adolescent. He is definitely changed by the events of the story.

Shira is the mission leader and a brave military commander. She is the first to accept that the Doctor is not a spy or saboteur. The way her character is built up is really effective. Over the course of the first episode, she's the first of the characters that the listener can care about. Also, through her convictions, the listener can come to care about the mission despite Kylo being an annoyance.

Tuvold is the Gadarel ambassador and uncle to the missing princess Aliona. He is a kindly old man whose only hope is for peace and the return to his newly born daughter. He provides the empathy this story needs. There is a lot of staunch military hope, but Tuvold provides genuine non-adolescent emotion.

Corwin is Shira's second in command. He is brash and foolhardy. Naturally he and the Doctor don't get along.

Altus, Riga, and Tyron are other military personnel. They largely exist as cannon fodder and to interact with the others. Not to say they have no personality. They do and do quite a bit, but they are rather similar to one another and even their leaders Shira and Corwin.

Hateful Foes
The traitor has stock motives and really only serves to create a lurking suspicion and drive the action. In these functions, this person works well, but as a character he's/she's little more than a plot device.

The Igris are a really cool species. They actually come across as unstoppable killing machines and their weaknesses are few. As a threat they work really well especially as the traitor's chief means of killing of the party.

Crashed Atmosphere
The spaceship, crash, wreck, and spaceport are all lent enough detail to serve as viable pieces to move the action along. The action occurs in short bursts and lends itself well to the audio with characters in danger communicating their movements to characters in a safer location.

In the End
The twists in part three are not too impressive, but I was pretty shocked by the ending. It contains both hope and tragedy and made me want to listen to the rest of the series much more than the predictable post-credits cliffhanger.

Overall
This trilogy is all about how hate and revenge can turn things from bad to worse. I think this episode manages to create a tense and exciting romp with the Doctor and earn the ending it gives. Some strong character writing for the Doctor, Shira, and Tuvold really help overcome this episode's shortcomings.
7.5/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

The Acheron Pulse (2012) By: Rick Briggs

Impressions
The Drashani Empire is at peace and Empress Cheni has come to oversee some mining negotiations incognito. The Doctor arrives on the mining planet of Cawdor only to be taken captive by some barbarians. He winds up at the mining negotiations as the Warlord Tenebris and his Wrath attack with their ultimate weapon the Acheron Pulse.

This story can be divided into three somewhat connected plots. The barbarians taking back their world is wholly unnecessary time filler. Duhkin and Teesha trying to stop a bomb on the station is the B plot and one of the last to develop. It seemed kind of necessary, but was far more enjoyable than the stupid barbarians. The A plot involves the Doctor, Cheni and Tenebris facing off for the fate of the empire. The problem is that the A plot isn't that interesting until they reveal what the Acheron Pulse actually is. The Acheron Pulse also brings back the Igris for the better.

Our Heroes
The Sixth Doctor lets his arrogance get the better of him. I also thought it was a bit strange that he waited a whole regeneration before returning to the Drashani Empire and I would have liked more explanation. I liked the Doctor's plan at the end and he was at his best face to face with Tenebris.

Stratified Observers
Empress Cheni is the ruler of the Drashani Empire and has grown up with the stories of the romance Kylo and Aliona. She is a kind ruler, though a bit on the naive side. Her presence is also stronger toward the end, though she gets kind of forgotten about.

Teesha and Duhkin are a natives of the planet Cawdor and some of the people negotiating with the Drashani over mining rights. They must deal with a bomb planted by one of the other minor characters. This is mixed in with the main plot and works to add some lighter moments during the dark chapter three and start of four.

The Barbarians seem like filler at the beginning and do nothing to disprove that during the course of the audio. They should have been left out and had the A and B plots expanded.

Vengeful Foes
Tenebris is a warlord with a grudge against the Drashani. Anyone who has listened to The Burning Prince will know immediately who this is, fortunately they don't dwell on that 'twist' for too long. Tenebris is given the weight he deserves and his soldiers are even pretty cool themselves.

The Wrath are the soldiers of Tenebris. They can project flame bolts and even kill Igris. Fortunately, this isn't presented as a reduction of the Igris but shows the power of the Wrath. You can see them in the background of the cover and they kind of sound like more intense Cylons. First Indiana Jones, now Battlestar Galactica, what next?

Atmosphere
I'm still not sure about the end of the bomb subplot. There was an explanation, but I'm not sure it made sense. Anyway, the coolest part of the setting is the very end that I can't talk about. So, yeah look forward to the end because even the Doctor says the space station isn't all that.

In the End
This ending plays to all the Sixth Doctor's strengths as well as his faults. It's also nice to have a happier ending after the depression of the first half of the Drashani arc. I was a bit disappointed that they seem to forget about Empress Cheni though.

Overall
I can say this story is a weak start followed by a strong finish. The first two chapters are cluttered with filler and a lot of backstory, it manages a 5/10. The last two have some filler, but manage a successful conclusion to the main story as well as the previous one. An 8/10 for sure. This is quite a shame, since with a better writer this story could have managed a lot better. This does continue the theme that hatred and revenge cause destruction. It is uneven, but definitely worth a listen.
7/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

The Shadow Heart (2012) By: Jonathan Morris

Impressions
The Wrath have extended their reach across the galaxy and now are searching for the ones who made them that way: the Doctor and Tenebris. They've sent bounty hunter Vienna Salvatori to capture the Doctor.

This is a fun action adventure piece by one of my favorite audio writers, Jonathan Morris. It has overtones of many of the best loved sci-fi and can even be a bit goofy at times. The edge of the first two installments isn't gone, but it is a lot more blunted. Most of the side characters are used for comedy. The villains get enough screen time with a little emphasis on a new potential star, Vienna.

Our Heroes
The Seventh Doctor walks the line between his humorous and manipulative sides. There is a fun bit of out of sequence time for the Doctor that came off as much as luck as cleverness. The doctor once again gets defensive over his past action and that's one thing I would have changed. The Doctor never really accepts his role in these events.

Jandor is the Doctor's mysterious sidekick. I had no idea who this was for the entirety of the audio. I had a stronger feeling toward the end, but it really could have been any of the good or bad guys.

Observers
Talbar and Horval are intergalactic salvagers who fly around in a space snail named Hercules. Does it sound ridiculous? Yeah. But, it actually turns about to be a nice set of characters that I cared about and wanted to be okay at the end.

Foes
Vienna Salvatori is a bounty hunter who kills anyone that hears her name. Well, at the start anyway. She's shown as a shifty, backstabbing sellsword. I'm not sure if she's meant to mellow in her own series. At first I found her voice a little strange to listen to, but I soon got used to it. Her voice actress, Chase Masterson, also played Leeta on Deep Space 9 and I could hear it occasionally though not enough to distract me. On a side note, Chase Masterson is looking fantastic for almost being fifty. Had to say it.

Tenebris is back and has evolved as a character even more. He has more solid and understandable reasons for returning to plague the Doctor. This is his trilogy and this is a fitting send off.

The Wrath are back and have become more like the Borg. They are less threatening, but I guess that's because their objectives are less harsh than in The Acheron Pulse.

Atmosphere
Is that the Cantina? Yeah, I can almost hear Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes. Then a Star Trek spaceship battle. Then the MCP at the end. Okay, maybe I'm being a bit unfair, but that's what it seemed like. Not that it was bad.

In the End
A fitting end to the trilogy and a fun story after the gloom at the start.

Overall
Not Jonathan Morris' best, but this was a fun end to a long and sometimes grim adventure. The loose ends are tied up and we see a long character arc close as another begins. The empire spanning Wrath are less terrifying than before, but no less cool. Check this trilogy out.
7.5/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

This series culminates in introducing a new line of Big Finish audios due out next year called Vienna staring Chase Masterson as Vienna Salvatori from The Shadow Heart. It is only $5 to pre-order the first episode of this new series, so if you liked her in this, you should check that out. It will be released in February.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Tigers, a Comet and a Puppet - Fifth Doctor -

Today I finally get around to the Fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison. He was the Doctor from 1981 to 1984. He is another of the more unloved Doctors, but he heavily influenced the popular Tenth Doctor (David Tennant also married Davison's daughter, Georgia Moffett). The Fifth Doctor is supposed to be pretty hit or miss on audio, but this collection is fairly solid. This is actually my first time listening to his audio stories, since I'm fairly new to the line and I prefer the Sixth Doctor. Fortunately (for me anyway), the Fifth Doctor is with his main companions from the classic series: Nyssa, Teagan and Turlough. So less catching up for me anyway.

The Emerald Tiger (2012) By: Barnaby Edwards

Impressions
The Doctor does the Jungle Book. An archaeologist discovers jeweled beetles among other things and plans to bring his discoveries to the world. Unfortunately, his camp is attacked by giant tigers. The tigers kill the archaeologist and get his son as his wife escapes. Later, the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough arrive in India to see a famous cricket match. Their plans are interrupted when a rabid man starts attacking people. During the attack Nyssa is bitten and the man is shot by a British officer. Teagan goes off to get some rabies medicine. The officer leaves to board a train. The Doctor and Turlough aid Nyssa with the help of Professor Narayan, the rabid man's friend. Can Nyssa be saved? Who are the giant tigers and their leader Khan?

This is such an enjoyable adventure. As you can tell by the summary it can get rather confusing. As such, listen to it as a two hour chunk, or as close as you can get to it. The adventure serial nature really drives this. It almost feels more like an Indiana Jones serial than a Doctor Who one. All this combined with Hindu mythology and Jungle book references leave it quite a satisfying adventure to listen to. On a side note, the cast sounds older than they do on the other Fifth Doctor audios.

Our Heroes
The Fifth Doctor is among the most pacifistic incarnations, but this adventure makes that a boon rather than a bore. The Doctor is all about saving as many lives as he can and much like the best of his episodes this results in him being more driven. Thus we get the Fifth Doctor at his best.

Nyssa is one of those companions who can fade into the background, however she is much more vital in this. Saving her is the crux of the story and acts as a way to point the group in the right direction. Her interaction with Dawan helps us relate to the more mystical characters.

Teagan always annoyed me in the series and I can't say she does too much to fix that here. She has her moments, but isn't anything too special.

Turlough seems to be around just to argue with Teagan. He talks a bit and is concerned for Nyssa. We'll see the best of Turlough in the next story.

Observers
Professor Narayan is a professor of mythology who comes into contact with the Doctor and co. by accident. Or is it? He discovers his past as they go into the unknown. Also, he has an awesome car that provides some great Fifth Doctor moments.

Dawan is a giant talking green tiger, how cool is that? Okay, I admit that part of my love for this story has to do with the fact that they paint a fantastic far eastern tale. Dawan is one of my favorite characters in this story because she adds a great deal to the story in a short amount of time.

Lady Adela Forster lost her family years ago and now only seeks to prevent anyone else from losing them. She is a concerned mother and adds to the drive and danger of the story. She will do anything to accomplish her mission.

Imperialist and Mythic Foe Respectively
Major Haggard is a trigger happy constable. This guy is a much more effective villain than Khan. He has the cool Imperialist arrogance that I just like to see put down. He didn't have enough time to live up to his potential.

Shardul Khan is a cool villain, but far too underdeveloped. His threat is built up, but he doesn't do that much. Nice idea with a shoddy execution. Fortunately, this story is more about the atmosphere than his machinations.

Jungle Atmosphere
The music has a fantastic Indian cultural vibe and brings the story to life. The sound effects for the train scene and car chase are also magnificent. They facilitate the action and help you picture a classic car chase and an old fashioned train fight. This is an action packed adventure done right.

In the End
The end was satisfying, if a bit strange. It fit the mystical lost city vibe and is more up beat that either of the stories that follow. Even the techno-babble had a cool concept.

Overall
Doctor Who takes mythology and adapts it into a fun adventure without overly complicating it. This one is certainly more satisfying than Gods and Monsters. It could have used one or two less characters though. Sadly I'd have them cut Turlough. As it is, this story had to force everyone in on some sections. I think fans of Doctor Who and mythology should definitely check this one out.
8/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

The Jupiter Conjunction (2012) By: Eddie Robson

Impressions
A mysterious cloud being kills a man. The Doctor, Nyssa, Teagan and Turlough arrive on a comet outlet mall. Teagan and Nyssa head off to shop and run into a young thief named Violet who is stealing a space suit. She cannot legally buy a space suit and needs it to find her missing boyfriend. Meanwhile the Doctor and Turlough are picked up and charged with the massive amount of thefts occurring on the station over the course of a few months.

The first two episodes start it off hot and has a really lukewarm conclusion. Turlough makes the first two sections entertaining and carries this story to where the plot begins. The problem is that the plot suffers from a typical Doctor Who ending and weak shock value. The conspiracy and the twists that accompany it just aren't very exciting.

Our Heroes
The Fifth Doctor is a peacemaker and never lets his honor fail. Due to this we get the blander five in this story. There are overtones of Adric in sections of this which seemed like blatant emotional manipulation. Ultimately, the Fifth Doctor has his moments, but this is not at his best.

Turlough has some excellent moments in the first two parts and then fades into the background during the second two parts. This is a shame because Turlough being a sly bastard is really where he shines and I think we need to see more of it.

Teagan also has her moments, but is back to her typical screaming and running around. She gets points for her "walabies in skyhoppers" comment. She needs some more of those since 'the longest serving companion' seems rather superfluous on the Tardis team.

Nyssa gets her best parts at the end, but they don't amount to much. Some interaction with the enemy, but her presence could be left out and there wouldn't be a lot lost (It might have even gotten better).

Lower Class Observer
Violet is missing her boyfriend and convinces Nyssa and Teagan to help her find him. Her section leads into the stuff at the end and the lame twist.

Militant Foes
The Lieutenant Colonel was almost useless. She, like many characters in this, does a lot of things that didn't matter. Waste of a character? Probably.

Major Nash is an officer who appears in the third section . He serves as the major villain and tries to be impressive and really fails. His minions, the cloud monsters, are much more impressive after much less effort. His story path was about as stupid as his posturing.

The Cloud Monsters are an awesome race and I liked the idea behind them. Unfortunately, this story treats them like standard alien #645 and that is a shame. They need a story worthy of their cause!

Mall Atmosphere
The feeling of being at Costco runs through this, but the station acts as a kind of strange collective and that didn't come across until the end, seeming to adapt as the plot required.

In the End
The end was... the end. It filled the Doctor Who checklist.

Overall
After writing all this, I realized I seem really down on this episode. That's not exactly true. I was disappointed by the end. It was good, but so typical. I'm bumping this to good for Turlough being awesome. Check this out if you want to hear Turlough on his A-game.
7/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

The Butcher of Brisbane (2012) By: Marc Platt

Impressions
A man is sentenced to labor in the colonies by Magnus Greel. Meanwhile, the Tardis is hit by a beam and Nyssa and Turlough are ejected from the Tardis. They land in snow covered Bhutan where dead bodies are raining from the sky including the man we just heard sentenced. He seems to recognize Nyassa and Turlough.

This story is a prequel to the classic episode The Talons of Weng Chiang. I've only mentioned that episode in The Voyage to Venus and Mahogany Murders reviews before. So see it! This doesn't quite live up to its promise, but being a prequel to one of the great classic episodes sets the bar pretty high. The biggest problem was that this episode didn't do anything that we hadn't seen in the classic episode itself. The most interesting part should have been Nyssa's impending marriage to Greel. However, nothing really new was brought out of that either.

Our Heroes
The Fifth Doctor is acting mysteriously and not answering his companion's questions. This is supposedly to 'preserve the timestream', but it is more to prevent spoilers of the classic episode and convolute the plot.

Nyssa should have had a great many more moments with Greel. They wanted to show how she had the potential to fall for him, but they had so few scenes together that it didn't work. Also, Nyssa was basically plot deviced out of any meaningful scenes in the last episode.

Turlough plays secret agent man and the few scenes we get have me wishing there were more.

Teagan... Do the writers really know what to do with her? She spends most of her hassling the Doctor.

Reporting Observers
Ragan is a young man who works for the Free World news trying to solve the mystery of the bodies falling from the future. What he doesn't know is that one of those bodies is his!

Sasha is another reporter at the free world news and the love interest of Ragna. With Ragna's dying words he hints that her fate is not going to be a happy one. Both of the news characters seem to have important rolls, but they don't end up as meaningful as they should have been.

Chops is a mutated dingo who serves as one of Findecker's guards. He was supposed to be comic relief, but he just wasn't very funny.

Ruthless Foes
Magnus Greel is described as a smooth and honorable foe. They don't show it, but that's how he's described. He does prove a nefarious foe, which is something. He needed more meaningful screen time and what he got was just moving the plot forward.

Dr. Findecker is here so we can kill a bad guy. That's not a good enough reason for inclusion. He also needed some more concrete motives and maybe a back story more than 'that alien scientist.'

Dystopian Atmosphere
The music has overtones of the classic series soundtrack. The world plunged into a tightly controlled dystopia was decently rendered. However, the bombing at the end didn't produce the suspense it should have.

In the End
The ending is about what I expected. It leads into the TV show. There wasn't anything surprising other than them trying to pull more pathos from Nyssa than they should have.

Overall
A lot more should have come from visiting a classic villain at the height of his power. As it is, it is good backstory, but there aren't any meaningful new dimensions given to the original. The bodies being flung back in time was kind of cool, but not given enough weight. The mutations were cool, but forced into supporting roles. The reshaping of a psychopath didn't have enough time to develope. So many missed opportunities, though it also didn't do anything badly. It was good, but I expected great.
7/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Black and White Tardis Trilogy - Seventh Doctor -

The Seventh Doctor is played by Sylvester McCoy. He was the Doctor from 1987-1996, though his final television season was in 1989 when Doctor Who was cancelled. He evolved from a comical figure to a mysterious manipulator over his three short seasons and some of the novels. Now he's back on Audio! It is said that he has among the most non-TV media stories of any Doctor. His main companion from the end of his first season is Ace a girl from the 1980s. In the trilogy today we also get three audio only companions in Hex, Lysandra and Sally.

The Black and White Tardis Trilogy is the conclusion of a few different storylines that have been running in the Doctor Who audios:

White Tardis Stoires
The Angel of Scutari, Project Destiny, A Death in the Family, Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge

Black Tardis Stories
Robophobia, The Doomsday Quatrain, House of Blue Fire, Project Nirvana

You don't need to listen to these stories, but it might help especially with Black and White as well as Gods and Monsters.

Protect and Survive (2012) By: Jonathan Morris

Impressions
The Tardis beings sounding its cloister bell, but the Doctor is nowhere to be found. Ace and Hex, the Doctor's companions, land their white Tardis in a field on, what appears to be, earth. They soon meet Albert and Peggy Marsden who relate that they're in the north of England on November 9th 1989 and the world stands on the brink of World War III. Soon the klaxons sound and the bomb is dropped, but wait, no nuclear warheads were ever dropped on London!

I've already reviewed Mary's Story and The Curse of Davros by Jonathan Morris and this is above and beyond both of those stories. This is an alternative history Cold War story with the Late 80s Doctor Who cast. What a brilliant idea. I think the first two episodes of this serial are nearly perfect in setting the stakes and the pain that Ace and Hex go through in this. A weaker writer would have cut that time down, but the tension and buildup are crucial. In the end of part two and the beginning of part three that threw in some things I though were going to ruin the story, they didn't! The twists straight through to part three were exciting and earned!

Our Heroes
Ace is a sassy girl from the 1980s with unshakeable faith in the Doctor and boy is it tested in this adventure. She and Hex play off each other perfectly.

Hex is a nurse from 2021. He has traveled with the Doctor for awhile, but is beginning to get tired of his tricks. Hex finds himself in a harsh world and his faith is shaken to its its breaking point. Even his friendship with Ace is tested.

Mortal Observers
Albert and Peggy Marsden are a lovely couple whose plight is unfortunate. You really get to feel for what they go through.

Godlike Observer
The Seventh Doctor acts mostly though recordings and flashbacks in this story, but it really serves to draw the mystery around him and his enemy. The Doctor also appears to wield an incredible amount of power in this tale, but it isn't really that off putting. He's used with subtlety and to great effect.

Demonic Foes
The Elder Gods are a force I can''t delve too deeply into. Suffice to say, they work effectively and I look forward to more of them.

Desolate Atmosphere
The isolated countryside during the eve of World War III is everything . The 80s feel is palpable and the dread is awesome. This story serves up genuine terror especially when you consider that something like this could still happen today.

In the End
By the end I knew what was going to happen, but I didn't care. It is a great end to a great story. I almost feel that this is too good a start to the trilogy as it is difficult to top this start.

Overall
This may not be the best story to dive into, but with a little working knowledge of the Seventh Doctor you can easily enjoy this. It is also the only one of the trilogy that stands mostly alone. It gets very dark, but it is not without its moments of levity. This is among the best 'Doctor-lite' stories and it really gives you a great feeling for both Ace and Hex. If you're a fan of Cold War alternate history or the Seventh Doctor or Ace you owe it to yourself to check this out.
9/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

Black and White (2012) By: Matt Fitton

Impressions
Ace and Hex enter the Black Tardis to find two soldiers, Lysandra and Sally, already inside. Ace and Hex have fought against Lysandra in the past. However; it turns out the Doctor has recruited the four of them to face the Elder Gods. By hitting the fast return switch on the Tardis they find themselves drawn to the time of Beowulf. Why was the Doctor in that time and how does it relate to the reading of the mythical hero?

This story is split across two times with large sections shown in flash back. It is an ambitious narrative, but it only partially pays off. The core story isn't really big enough to deserve all the pomp and circumstance this tries to give it. It mostly boils down to a filler 80s Who story with some forced tension and a twist ending.

Our Heroes
Ace spends her time getting into trouble and arguing with Lysandra. I don't really know why I found this entertaining. Maybe it was the fact that both arguing with enough snark and sense that it was actually entertaining.

Lysandra Aristedes is a military character from a secret organization called the forge. She's part of a series I have no interest in because if there's anything I hate more than witches in my Doctor Who, it's vampires. That aside, the character has a part to play, mostly as a foil to Ace. She is by far the least interesting of the group though.

Hector 'Hex' Schofield is fresh off the harrowing experiences from Protect and Survive. This episode sees him deal with all his issues from that episode. As such, he doesn't do much except a great deal of soul searching and sparking up a romance with Sally.

Sally Morgan is a former officer who falls under the Doctor's employ. She's bright and much less strict than Lysandra. We get caught up on her backstory and even get a romance between her and Hex. Sadly, like Hex, that's about all we get.

Beowulf should have gotten more time in this story. There is a wonderful arc in this somewhere that that strips away all the aliens shit and... oh wait, that's the actual Beowulf story. Huh. Beowulf does have some great moments that are removed from the legend, but they don't come until near the end.

Well Intentioned Observer
The Seventh Doctor is once again shown only in flashback. Aside from the fact that he seems somewhat incompetent during part of this, I think he put on a very typical Seventh Doctor performance.

Silly Foe
Garundel is not the savage and brutal beast from the Beowulf story. He's a short and sarcastic frogman. He would have been a good villain for a less significant and more comedic story. Here he just seems disappointing and annoying.

Nordic Atmosphere
The feel of locations comes across well and doesn't get lost in the jumbled storyline.

In the End
I liked the end more than the whole rest of the story. It gives Beowulf the service the rest of the story didn't and has some nice character closure.On its own the twist would have pissed me off, but Protect and Survive really earned it, so I'll let it slide. Oh, but the last line 'hook' was unnecessary and should have been stricken.

Overall
Not the follow-up I was expecting. There are a few surprising moments, but this is definitely just the middle part of a trilogy. It wasn't exactly bad, but it wasn't very good either. I'd say skip it, but it is the necessary middle section of this trilogy. So, enjoy the character interaction and don't expect much from the plot.
6/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

Gods and Monsters (2012) By: Mike Maddox and Alan Barnes

Impressions
The elder god Fenric and the Doctor play chess for all of reality. With Ace, Hex, Lysandra, Sally and others as pieces on a flat chessboard world.

This is probably the most ambitious of all the audios I've listened to. It is actually a bit confusing at the start, but understandable in the long run. It builds to a truly epic conclusion that I wish would have been tied into Black and White more. The villains have some loose tie backs to previous episodes which aren't exactly needed to understand it, but help quite a bit.

Our Heroes
The Seventh Doctor is back on the main playing field and doing his best to outwit beings far more powerful than himself. This allows for some nice moments for the Doctor to show his cunning.

Ace really gets to cut lose in this adventure showing the spunky young adventuress I've come to love. The ending is where this audio really hits home though.

Hex doesn't really seem to do a lot while doing a lot for the plot overall. There are some key things for him mentioned from past episodes, but I'm not sure they do anything but recall some foreshadowing.

Lysandra Aristedes runs around a lot, but I'm not sure it serves to do much. During chapter two she gets a flash-forward of herself and Sally that ties into her time at the forge, but it didn't serve to do that much in the story really. I thought she was kind of a waste, but I don't really like her storyline to begin with, so take that into consideration.

Sally should have had more time with Hex and less with Lysandra. She gets some great moments at he end, unfortunately up until then it's just running away from hemovores and flashbacking with Lysandra.

Previous Observer
Peggy Marsden returns mostly to provide continuity and a sense of eeriness. In that she succeeds.

Ancient Foe
Fenric is an elder god who was defeat by the Doctor in the classic episode Curse of Fenric. It has been awhile since I've seen that episode, but the story does a nice job of reintroducing him. I got a good sense of their longstanding rivalry.

Atmosphere
The chessboard and castle were well realized and the music lent itself well to the story.

In the End
They even branch off of the chess theme and compare the gods' competitions to tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons. If the second and third episodes had been more like the fourth, this would have gotten a much higher score. The end is appropriately climactic with a post credits cliffhanger that I though it earned.

Overall
This episode serves to launch the next set of episodes which are due out next year. The post credits cliffhanger got me excited for the future of these Seventh Doctor stories. As a whole, I'd recommend watching the Curse of Fenric and listening to the prior audios before this one. It is a solid episode, but not a great one. A good end to the trilogy and an interesting set up for future episodes.
7/10
Buy it here from Big Finish!

Monday, 26 November 2012

DC Comics New 52: The Top 11 (11-1)

New 52 November goes into the final countdown! Be sure to check out: The Bottom 11, The Low 10, The Middle 10, and The High 10 in that order.

The Top 11 are my favorites!

11. Demon Knights Vol. 1 Seven Against the Dark (2012) By: Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves
A group of unlikely heroes team up to protect a small village and defy a great power. Etrigan, the demon, is bonded to Jason Blood by Merlin and the two struggle for control. Madame Xandu acts as a lover to both Etrigan and Jason and guides them. Vandal Savage is an immortal who is a traveler before joining the fight. The Shining Knight is an androgynous warrior from Camelot. The Horsewoman is a mysterious traveler. Al Jabr is a master tactician and mathematician. Exoristos is an amazon warrior.

The first volume of the sword and sorcery adventure is quite entertaining. It has a slow build that allows most of the characters to be introduced and given their own flavor without rushing. This has the same basic story as Seven Samurai with seven reluctant warriors teaming up to defend a village. This also reminded me of the first session of an awesome DnD campaign (yeah, I'm a geek, I know). This starts a brand new story, so new readers can start here. This serves as a start to a much more epic tale. Something that I think that fits the high fantasy genre this comic is going for. I'd recommend this to lovers of fantasy.
7.5/10

10. Batwing Vol. 1 The Lost Kingdom (2012)
By: Judd Winick and Ben Oliver
Wayne Enterprises is funding a Batman in every corner of the world. David Zavimbe, an African police officer, is selected as Batwing, the Batman of Africa. When someone begins to kill off Africa's legendary superheroes, Batwing must discover the culprit and stop him before Afirca's heroes die.

This was one of my biggest surprises in making this list. This springs out of a prior storyline in the DCU, but it doesn't feel like it. David is a unique character with his own supporting cast. He struggles with his secret identity and dealing with crime in one of the most corrupt places on earth. You see his backstory and come to understand why he was chosen. The African superheroes are also well portrayed. They all have cool superpowers and understandable motives. Massacre is a fantastic villain and he provides a worthy threat for Batwing's first volume. He's a brutal foe for a brutal land. Batman fans should definitely check out this spin off. Unfortunately the arc doesn't end until the next volume. Check out this different spin on Batman.
7.5/10

9. Batman and Robin Vol. 1 Born to Kill (2012)
By: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Batman is adapting to having his son, Damian, as Robin. Complicating the matter is that Damien was raised by his mother Talia Al'Ghul and the League of Assassins. When a villain called NoBody begins targeting the Batmen of the world, Batman and Robin respond. But, when NoBody targets Robin, Robin must choose between being a hero or a villain.

This comic does what it needs to get new readers up to speed on the modern world of Batman. We are given the rundown on Damian's past and Batman Incorporated before the plot really gets going. We also see Damian's struggles to conform to his father's code as he takes out his frustrations on criminals and animals. It can be disturbing at times, but it is well worth it in the end. I've heard this volume covers eom groud that prior comics have already done, but this is necessary stuff for new reader. NoBody is an interesting villain, but I think he'll be quickly forgotten. Hopefully future arcs will contain some classic villains or create one of its won. Batman and Robin is not the best bat-book, but it certainly deserves a place in the top ten.
8/10

8. All-Star Western Vol. 1 Guns and Gotham (2012) By: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Jonah Hex is a frontier bounty hunter who has come to the big city. Gotham City. Amadeus Arkham, future founder of Arkham Asylum, contacts him about tracking down a serial killer. The pair then set out to uncover the person behind the murders. There a also some other western themed short stories.

This is an excellent Western themed mystery that has several interesting tie-ins to the Batman universe. They explore both the elite and the underworld of Gotham. Jonah Hex does a great deal to redeem himself from the terrible movie adaption. He is a kick ass, no-nonsense, hard edged lawman who doesn't let things lie. Amadeus Arkham works well as the more Holmesian and analytical sidekick, even if he can be a bit timid sometimes. The stories occasionally slip into cliches, but for the must part provide excellent wild west entertainment. THe backup stories are alright, but provide characters I hope to see in the future. This series begins a new story and should be a must get for Western fans.
8/10

7. Batwoman Vol. 1 Hydrology (2012) By: J.H. Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman and Amy Reeder
Kate Kane is an heiress and former military officer. She is also the Batwoman. Now she must deal with her cousin wanting to become her sidekick, her father's machinations, and a mysterious power stealing babies.

Much like the Flash, this series pushes the level of art in comics. The panel work and storyboarding are incredible and once again push this higher than it may have otherwise gotten. Not the the story is bad, but it is a pretty strange story and involves the supernatural. Now, I normally don't like that in my Bat-books, but Batwoman is much farther removed from Bruce Wayne than say Red Hood. Batman is in this, but acts in more of a guidance role. This isn't exactly a reboot, but it gives all the information needed for new readers to understand Batwoman's side of Gotham. This title also features the only lead homosexual character in the New 52, since Kate is a lesbian. So, check this awesome volume of one of DC's leading ladies.
8/10

6. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Vol. 1 War of the Monsters (2012) By: Jeff Lemire and J.G. Jones
Frankenstein is a poetic beast who's been a soldier for a great many years. His wife is a six armed femme fatale who keeps Frank at arms' length. Velcoro, a were-bat vampire, and Griffith, a werewolf, act as comedic soldiers. Kharis is a mute mummy with incredible mystical power. Dr. Nina Mazursky is a merwoman and the group's scientific advisor. Father Time is an old soul in the body of a young girl who runs S.H.A.D.E. Together they combat strange threats throughout the world. In this volume they face a town overrun by monsters, O.M.A.C., and the original Creature Commandos.

This is a fun action adventure series featuring a band of super powered heroes based on classic Universal monsters. It certainly owes a debt to Hellboy, but the similarities stop at premise. All the action is nicely offset by humor. This series is enjoyable with lots of over the top action and interesting characters. They only really delve into Dr. Nina Mazursky, but I have high hopes for the continuing series. The next arc hints at more development for Frankenstein and his estranged wife. Unfortunately, the series is set to end at issue sixteen which is a shame. This series is pretty much all action and may not be some people's style. However; I'd recommend it to anyone who likes action or comedy or horror motifs.
8/10

5. Batman Vol. 1 The Court of Owls (2012)
By: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Batman knows Gotham City. He has been raised in the city. He has protected it from multiple threats. But he's missed something. Someone has been controlling the city his whole life.

This one has come out on top of many other New 52 lists, but it didn't make it quite as far in mine. While I enjoyed this start to the Court of Owls arc, I wasn't completely blown away by it. It has great art and an interesting premise, but I've read it all the way to its conclusion and that is a bit weak. Batman is made younger in the reboot and most of his old timeline is compressed. However; fans of The Dark Knight trilogy should have no problem navigating this tale. I think the biggest problem I had was that Batman has shows some weaknesses of character that don't really mesh with my idea of the dark knight. Conversely, it does have a good amount of mystery and detective work. The Talons are an awesome new set of enemies. If you're going to read one Batman volume in the New 52, this should be it.
8.5/10

4. Wonder Woman Vol. 1 Blood (2012)
By: Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
The Iliad with Wonder Woman is about the shortest summary I can give this book. Wonder Woman must protect a woman impregnated by Zeus who is caught in the middle of a battle for the throne of Olympus. 

I'm sure you can tell by the name of the blog that I have read my fair share of Greek mythology. This Wonder Woman story blends new sensibilities with old world myth. It is Epic stuff, but the one thing that dissatisfied me about the whole thing was issue 3, Clay, which revealed Wonder Woman's boring new origin story. I understand the revision in the context of the story: to connect her more with the gods and create a new 'family' for her. I still dislike it. The rest of it is grand storytelling on an epic scale. This volume is a fresh look on Wonder Woman and is a great introduction for new readers. It is an ongoing story, so it isn't concluded in this volume or the next, but don't let that stop you. I recommend it to fans of legendary epics and fans of Xena Warrior Princess.
8.5/10

3. Aquaman Vol. 1 The Trench (2012)
By: Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado
Aquaman and Mera, his wife, are trying to get back to a normal life. That doesn't prevent him from fighting crime, unfortunately the citizens and police think of him as a joke. But, when strange ocean creatures start snacking on locals, it's up to Aquaman and Mera to stop them.

Color me surprised. Aquaman was engaging, funny and clever. All this was managed without a real villain. We got to see the human side of Aquaman and his desire to protect humanity. Mera, however, is the more interesting character. She is fiery and doesn't understand Aquaman's mild temper. Mera even got her own issue which made me like her character even more. I must commend Geoff Johns for using our expectations to enhance the story. The jokes and Aquaman's response make the story hilarious.  It is helped by brilliant art and a properly inserted backstory. I did not expect to like this comic as much as I did, but I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys comics.
9/10

2. Swamp Thing Vol. 1 Raise Them Bones (2012)
By: Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette
Alec Holland is a botanist who could be Swamp Thing. Unfortunately, he doesn't want to become the monstrous creature. The Green, force for all plant life on earth, is under attack by the force of death and corruption, the Rot. Assisted by Abigail Arcane who fights against the taint of her family, Alec must come to terms with himself and stop the agents of the Rot.

Swamp Thing is sort of a Romeo and Juliet tale with crazy zombies and hulking undead monstrosities. We are given a good introduction to Swamp Thing that gets us up to speed on what has happened. They leave out anything that overcomplicates the plot, so much so that new readers can easily jump in here. This is far more than just another zombie tale. The family dynamic allows for the Arcanes to become so much more than another group of villains. The  Also, like Flash and Batwoman, this has gorgeous art and unique paneling. This series also links up with my number one choice. I recommend reading them both, though they don't intersect for quite awhile. This is not a complete tale, but it does set the stage for a war. This unique blend of hero and horror is one I think anyone can get into.
9/10

1. Animal Man Vol. 1 The Hunt (2012)
By: Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman
This volume starts off with a magazine article that tells us about Buddy Baker: family man, animal rights activist, vegan, actor, and superhero. He has the ability to take on the ability of any animal through the Life Web. After stopping a hostage situation he begins bleeding from the eyes. What is happening with his abilities? And what will happen when his family gets drawn into the action.

The first New 52 comic I read is still my favorite. I'd read some great reviews of the first issue and the praise didn't stop coming, so I picked it up. My summary contains about half the first issue because the cliffhanger at the end of issue one is something that should not be spoiled. Unlike most of the other superheroes, Animal Man gets to keep his family and this is definitely to this series' benefit. His family drives the stakes as the Rot threatens the keepers of Animal Man's Life Web, the Red. We also get much more delightful envoys than those of the Green from Swamp Thing. Socks the cat provides humor amidst the horror. I liked the art, but it has gotten mixed reviews from others. I feel it enhances the bizarre and often horrific tone of the story, but the ordinary scenes are also imbued with this strangeness. I see this as the bizarre touching even the normal world as it soon does, however some dislike it. This volume sets the stage for the Red's war against the Rot and connects to a much longer ongoing story. If you're interested in comics, check this one out.
9.5/10

I plan to keep up with some of these series and hopefully check back in with major crossovers and when the New 52 Second Wave gets released in Graphic novel form. Marvel has also done its own relaunch with the terribly named Marvel Now and I hope to do a countdown of those for next year. Until, next time. Happy Reading!

Friday, 23 November 2012

DC Comics New 52: The High 10 (21-12)

New 52 November is almost over! I hope everyone in the U.S. had a Happy Thanksgiving! Be sure to see the first three lists before continuing: The Middle 10, The Low 10 and The Bottom 11.

The High 10 are comics that I enjoyed and above number twenty I feel comfortable recommending to anyone.

21. Catwoman Vol. 1 The Game (2012)
By: Judd Winnick and Guillem March
Selina Kyle is a master theif living a life of luxury and danger. Unfortunately, she's stolen from the wrong people and ends up getting in over her head. She faces the criminals Bone and Reach while being tailed by some of Gotham's finest (and not so finest).

This is another comic that really shouldn't be as high up as it is. The first and last issues in this are pretty bad, but the middle I actually found quite good. Catwoman has be revamped and seems much newer to the game. She still has a relationship with Batman, but sadly it is one of the weakest points of the volume. When we actually get into the consequences of Selina's thievery during issues two and three, I found it much more compelling. The issues following were alright, but the concluding cliffhanger was even weaker than the first issue. Also you may have noticed the large amount of cheesecake on the cover, that is the standard in this title. The art is good, but there is quite a lot of it that cannot be excused. This book is an uneven introduction to the world of Catwoman and might be good for those who like more adult heist stories.
6.5/10

20. Suicide Squad Vol. 1 Kicked in the Teeth (2012) By: Adam Glass and Frederico Dallocchio
The government assembles a team of super villains to do high risk black ops missions. In order to keep them in line they are each implanted with bombs that will blow if they get out of line. Can the team actually work together to vomplete their missions or are they really just committing suicide?

I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The 'one member dies every issue' schtick got a little old, but I think they're going to ease up on that. Plus I don't think many of them actually died. With the exception of issue two (zombie mission *roll eyes*), I enjoyed their missions. The gore was a bit excessive sometimes, but this is an adult book about super-villains turned government assassins. I was surprised at how involved I got in the members who lasted more than an issue. Deadshot turns out to be and intelligent and capable if ruthless leader. El Diablo manages to have a nice anti-hero vibe to him as does Black Spider. King Shark works as a crazy monster and sometimes comic relief. Harley Quinn is actually in good form despite some unnecessary changes to her backstory. As for the others, I'd like to see Voltaic back because he seemed interesting. Light seemed a puzzling choice, but I like where they could go with her. Amanda Waller is pretty forgettable as standard hard edged government agent, but I think its a role that needed to be filled. I'd recommend this to fans of super villain teams and quirky assassination squads.
6.5/10

19. Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1 Fearsome (2012)
By: Peter J. Tomasi and various illustrators
This is another one that isn't really a first volume, but gives you enough about the characters that it can be a gateway into the Green Lantern Universe. Guy Gardner and John Stewart must face a group of resource stealing assassins that the Guardians claim to know nothing about. These villains destroy a whole world easily and use powerful willpower based weapons.

At the start this is a typical Corps story, but at the end there are some very nice touches that make it more complex. This is definitely worth a read and might be the best intro of all the New 52 books to the Green Lantern series. I really enjoyed the focus on how John and Guy's real lives have been affected by the Lantern Corps. This allows readers a look at the characters without needing to read all the continuity up to this. To anyone familiar with the DCU: It is weird seeing Guy and John not recognize the Martian Manhunter after the Blackest Night event, but yeah weird semi-reboot. This is definitely one to check out if you like the Green Lantern.

7/10

18. I, Vampire Vol. 1 Tainted Love (2012)
By: Joshua Hale Fialkov and Jenny Frison
Andrew Stanton was sired long ago by Mary and they shared a passionate undead love. Unfortunately the two became divided when she sought to lead vampires to their 'proper' place of dominance. Now Andrew must assemble allies and go to war against his former love.

I actually read the first two issues and gave up awhile ago, so I was pleasantly surprised that the whole volume is actually pretty good. The first two issues get a little 'emo vamipre-ish' for my taste, but the third issue gets better with he introduction of the supporting cast. The fourth issue is by far the best of the lot. Constantine's cameo is a welcome influx of humor to a rather serious book. I have mixed feelings about the last two issues. Does EVERY New 52 book have to have a Batman cameo in volume one... I think I'll do a count at the end. Anyway, Batman brings some interesting ideas, but I'd rather have some more character development of the core cast. Plus his role as a justice straw man is pretty ridiculous and more than a little eye-rolling. Overall this falls into a solid, but not my style vein of comic book. New readers can easily get into this and it is not at all in the Twilight vein of vampirism. I recommend this to fans of vampire fiction.
7/10

17. Captain Atom Vol. 1 Evolution (2012)
By: J.T. Krul and Stanley Artgem Lau
Captain Atom used to be an air force pilot before an experiment transformed him into a demigod. Now he struggles with his power over the very forces of creation itself. Unfortunately, he is not the only one they performed the test on and he must face the another creature like himself.

This version of Captain Atom is heavily influenced by Dr. Manhattan of the Watchmen who is based off the classic Captain Atom. Not that you need to know anything about that to follow the story, but it is an interesting loop. There is a simple elegance to this story that is also present in many of the best Superman stories. It focuses on about five characters and has nice arcs for all of them in one volume. Its problem is that it is not the most original fare, but it does ask some interesting question without leaving you feeling too ponderous. However, the cliffhanger at the end is annoying and I really wish it hadn't been added. This is a nice reboot to the character as well as a solid single volume that anyone can pick up and read.

7/10

16. Birds of Prey Vol. 1 Trouble in Mind (2012)
By: Duane Swiercynzski and various illustrators
Dinah Lance aka Black Canary and Ev Crawford aka Starling are vigilantes who uncover a strange conspiracy, lead by new criminal called Choke, involing brainwashed sleeper agents. In order to stop this threat they ally themselves with the possibly insane Katana, the villainous Poison Ivy and the newly active Batgirl.

Mind control plots are tricky to handle, but Birds of Prey manages to do it with a fair amount of success. We get a decent enough introduction to the characters, most of whom I had little prior knowledge of. I think Katana stuck out the most for me due to the awesome amount of comedy she brought to the table. Black Canary makes an interesting enough leader, but I felt they could have expanded a bit more on why she was wanted for murder. Starling was alright and stood out enough as second in command. Poison Ivy had the least reason to join the team, but it seemed like she had enough to gain by helping them. Batgirl's involvement seemed the most arbitrary and a bit distracting. The villain, Choke, manages to be mysterious and interesting. There are some great cliffhangers that really left me wondering how they were going to get out of his clutches.There is also something to be said about having a team of ladies in a male dominated universe (just look at the Justice League line-up below). I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to read a decent girl power comic.
7/10

15. Justice League Vol. 1 Origin (2012)
By: Geoff Johns and Jim Lee
Green Lantern and the Flash encounter Batman while investigating some strange alien technology. Believing it is supernatural in origin they decide to consult Superman. Soon Cyborg, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman are drawn into battle against the threat of Darkseid and his minions on Apokalips.

I have to give this book some props. The slow build actually gives us some time to get to know the characters (though we already know most of them) and this is an actual issue 1, so we don't have so much continuity in the way. Also, each hero is given the chance to be bad ass and have a nice team dynamic. It does have its problems. Batman stealing Green Lantern's ring was stupid. Darkseid went down way too easy. I enjoyed Cyborg, but his dad having a 'hot and ready' suit all prepped was a little too plot convenient. Overall, I wasn't as blown away as I wanted to be, but it was a solid start as well as a good way to get an introduction to the Justice League for new readers.
7/10

14. Supergirl Vol. 1 Last Daughter of Krypton (2012)
By: Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar
Kara's planet has been destroyed. Her family is gone. And she must find out what happened!

It's like everything I hated about Superboy was fixed in Supergirl. We get Kara's thoughts, but she constantly has a purpose and a drive. She wants to find out what happened to her world and about who she has become. We focus on essentially one villain at a time and neither is a figure cackling from the shadows. The first is an eccentric billionaire in the vein of Lex Luthor, but by the end of his arc he struck me more like the main villain of Batman Beyond (a good thing in my opinion). The second villain is Reign, leader of the Worldkillers, who may have been developed by Kryptonian science to conquer worlds. Neither villain is outright defeated, so they will return. Setting up two interesting recurring villains in a row: Awesome! We also get flashbacks of Kara's life in Argos City that mesh really effectively with her current events. The only drawback was her uniform which looks kind of stupid, much like a lot of her enemies' outfits. That aside Supergirl is a fun superhero romp that's great for new readers.
7/10

13. Batgirl Vol. 1 The Darkest Reflection (2012)
By: Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf
Barbara Gordon has spent three years confined to a wheelchair, but now, thanks to some hard work, she is back on her feet. But, is she ready to face life back in the cowl? A new super villain called Mirror is targeting people who should have died, including Barbara. The second villain, Gretel, targets Gotham billionaire Bruce Wayne.

Gail Simone is much more up to her usual standards than on the mediocre Firestorm. Barbara Gordon has some great scenes and her struggle is very relatable. Her insecurities and fears help to make this book one of the more real takes on a character in the New 52. This isn't quite a reboot, but it does give you a solid picture of Barbara's world and it should be easy enough for new readers to get into. The biggest let down of this volume are the villains. Mirror was definitely superior to the forgettable Gretel, but even he wasn't too interesting. This highlights the overall problem of this issue that these are not big even stories. These are much smaller stories. However, I do think the ongoing series is in good hands. Bat fans should definitely check this book out!
7.5/10

12. Green Lantern Vol. 1 Sinestro (2012)
By: Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
Hal Jordan is no longer a Green Lantern, but he can't go back to his old life. Even his old flame Carol Ferris, the Star Sapphire, has trouble with helping him out. However, Sinestro now has a power ring and he has come to his old enemy, Hal Jordan, with an offer he can't refuse.

Okay, this is not a 'Volume One,' in fact you probably need to read at least Green Lantern, Vol. 6: Secret Origin, Blackest Night, Blackest Night: Green Lantern, Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern, Vol 9. Brightest Day, and Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns to understand how Sinestro, Hal and Carol got to this point. This book is all about the mistakes the three characters have made and how they feel they should go about fixing them. In that respect this comic succeeds fantastically. It is a well written drama about the characters' struggles. I found it a bit strange that none of the other lanterns comes to check on Hal in this series. I guess they had better things to do. Once again this is a great read and deserves this lofty post, but it is shut out of the top eleven since new readers will be lost in this title.
7.5/10

Only one cancellation in this set, so maybe economics do work in my favor sometimes. Only a few left and you can figure out who's left by process of elimination. How do they stack up against each other? Head on to The Top 11.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Dark Eyes - The Eighth Doctor and Molly -

Another Doctor Who audio post on the latest the Eighth Doctor has to offer! This time it's a miniseries that acts as the fifth season of the Eighth Doctor Adventures. I got the impression this was a potential jumping on point for new listeners, so I decided due to monetary constraints, to skip the more expensive first four seasons. This was not the wisest of decisions, but I'll get into that later. I'll be reviewing all four episodes as one, since doing them individually would only create a lot of repetition.

Dark Eyes By: Nicholas Briggs

Impressions
The Doctor has been devastated by recent loses and is looking for hope. The Time Lord Straxus promises he will find that hope on an important mission. The Doctor is sent to save Molly O'Sullivan from an unknown foe during the height of World War I.

As you can probably tell by the short description, my decision to skip the first four seasons was a poor one. This adventure had me going back and forth over whether I liked it or not. The actors were fantastic and when there wasn't action going on it was usually pretty good. However, there were just some parts that reminded me of the worst of the new series of Doctor Who: the Daleks are stormtrooper-esque pawns, the sonic screwdriver's railroad fixing setting, and about half of episode three (you'll know what I'm talking about if you get there). That said it also contained some fantastic character interaction, some intriguing mystery and some great music.

Our Heroes
The Eighth Doctor is angry and exhausted at the start and is very reminiscent of the Ninth Doctor. My favorite parts were when the Eighth Doctor and his new companion Molly just talked about their feelings. This provided an emotional depth that helped me get through some of the poorer sections of this audio. There were parts when he had emotional breakdowns that resulted in a kind of yelling fit that was definitely not a great addition. With that exception, Paul McGann (the Eighth Doctor's actor) is definitely one of the strongest parts of this story.

Molly O'Sullivan starts off a bit harsh, but is a great match for the angrier Eighth Doctor. She injects levity and comedy through episodes two and three. As always, they have a great deal of fun with her being out of her own time. She also, has some surprisingly dark and worrisome turns that balance things out.

Observers
Straxus is a popular character from the previous seasons of the Eighth Doctor Adventures. He is a typical conniving high level Time Lord in this. He seeks to manipulate the events to his own ends and will use anyone to get his way. I wasn't too impressed by him, but I think the plot really let his character down.

Calculating Foes
Kotris or 'X' starts off as a mysterious figure with a plan and gradually works up to main villian. He is fantastically portrayed by Toby Jones (The Dream Lord from series 5 of Doctor Who). Later the Time Lords designate him X (during first half of the last episode). It seemed very arbitrary and I preferred Kotris.

The Daleks are sadly back to their new series standard with terrible aim and a willingness to accept surrender. These are not the Daleks I enjoy. Daleks are insane killing machines, so they'd better have a great reason for not shooting and killing first. In this, they tend not to.

Semi-effective Atmosphere
The music is fantastic and serves to make the emotional and dark moments tremendously effective. Unfortunately the actions scenes, and there are a lot, lack tension and began to wear on me. I've complained about the Daleks already, but there a great many scenes that I had trouble visualizing exactly what was going on. Audio seems to work best with short stretches of action interspersed with explanation. The long and bizarre stretches in this just don't work and kill the serious mood provided by the engaging dramatic character scenes.

In the End
The end was about as convoluted as the rest of the story. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly good. I really got to love Molly right before the end and I cannot overstate how much I loved the character writing and music.

Overall
I guess the main issue with this story is: does character beat plot? Normally with me that is a complete yes! With this one, I am a bit mixed. I really think that you need to hear the other seasons of the Eighth Doctor Adventure before this. It doesn't quite spoil anything, but it comes as close as you can without it. That said, I can't give it a wholehearted recommendation. More like a "listen at your own risk." There are vastly better Eighth Doctor stories and you should listen to them first. I may update after I get round to the other seasons, but that will be awhile.
6.5/10
Buy it here from Big Finish or start with the rest of the Eighth Doctor Adventures.

Monday, 19 November 2012

DC Comics New 52: The Middle 10 (31-22)

New 52 November passes the halfway point! Be sure to see The Low Ten and The Bottom 11 before reading on.

The Middle Ten bridge the gap between average and good. I enjoyed a great many of these, but they were definitely flawed.

31. Blue Beetle Vol. 1 Metamorphosis (2012)
By: Tony Bedard, Ig Guera, JP Mayer, and Ruy Jose
High school student Jaime Reyes gets a scarab attached to his body. This scarab gives him the ability to transform into the Blue Beetle, an armored warrior. Unfortunately this scarab is meant to be a tool to dominate the Earth. Can Jaime deal with the threats appearing around him while living a normal life?

This one could be placed below the Teen Titans, but the flaws in that book force me to place Blue Beetle here. The thing is that I actually enjoyed Teen Titans more. It should be better, but it is just so play by the numbers superhero that it bugs me. Mostly crappy evil villains. Hero fights destiny. Hero has secret identity. Hero fights villain with same powers. Hero has trouble getting with love interest. This is a full reboot of the character so anyone can come to this book and some new readers will likely enjoy it. The art is interesting, but it just didn't work for me. I doubt I'll read volume 2.
5.5/10

30. The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men
Vol. 1 The God Particle (2012)
By: Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver
A pair of high school students, Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, are accidentally transformed into Firestorms. Unfortunately, government agencies are after them and even more bad news happens as the mystery of the god particle falls into unsavory hands.

This is another full reboot of a character that I knew nothing about. Jason Rusch is a smart kind and Ronnie Raymond is a jock. Naturally they have some stereotypical moments, but I think they managed to move beyond that. I was a bit exasperated by another book with a secret government organization (What is this number 5?) and the bad guys weren't all that impressive. However; this could be interesting for some and it definitely a different concept from other books.
5.5/10

29. Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 1 The Ring Bearer (2012)
By: Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham, and Batt
Lantern Rings begin flying from their rightful owners and heading to Kyle Rayner. Lanterns from their respective Corps including Saint Walker, Fatality, Arkillo, Bleez, Munk and Glomulous begin appearing to get them back. They must unite to discover who is behind this strange phenomena and why they are doing it.
 

None of the Green Lantern stories have rebooted. This volume makes a very good attempt to be a true Volume one by showing Kyles backstory and tying it in with the main story arc. It gives enough information on the other Lanterns that it might even be accessible to open minded new readers. The problem is that this volume doesn't tell the whole story. It is a decent start to a story though the villain, Invictus, is a bit uninteresting. It also sheds some light on Larfleeze's past and reintroduces him to new readers. The story has a lot of potential, but the end did disappoint me. I think people who have seen the Green Lantern movie and have an idea of their powers, so new readers beware.
6/10

28. Red Lanterns Vol. 1 Blood and Rage (2012)
By: Peter Milligan and Ed Benes
This book tells the origins of several Red Lanterns while Atrocitus is having a crisis of rage. Atrocitus unsure of the direction of his Corps gives Bleez back her intelligence. After this he feels she may have betrayed him so he gives three others their intelligences. Meanwhile an old man is killed on Earth leaving two brothers fighting over how to grieve. Also, Krona the mad lantern and object of Atrocitus' rage disappears.

None of the plotlines are really resolved in this book. The closest is the Earth Red Lantern, John Moore aka Rankorr, who is drafted in the Corps near the end. This is a number one at least, but like Green Lantern: New Guardians, it does not contain a full story, but sets up several ongoing ones. Also the timelines are a bit fuzzy between Red Lanterns and New Guardians as to how Bleez has time to do all the stuff she does in each book. She gets around. I'm not sure this is a book for new readers, but if you like Bleez pinup shots every other page I mean, if the Red Lanterns intrigue you, you might want to check it out. For new readers, you can check this one out as it doesn't really rely on the past too much.

6/10

27. Legion Lost Vol. 1 Run From Tomorrow (2012)
By: Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods
Several heroes from the 31st century are stranded in the twenty-first when their time ship crashes due to a strange event. Tyroc, Tellus, Brin, Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timberwolf and Chameleon Girl. They must contend with an alien virus that morphs people into aliens. They must stop their future from being destroyed and find a way to get back to it.

I enjoyed this more than the main Legion of Super-heroes. This title benefits from having half the number of characters and a more streamlined plot. It was a decent splash of super heroes and more of a volume one than its sister-title. The characters are a little on the overly good side, but they are from a utopian future. Anyone can jump into this adventure with no knowledge of the other title or Flashpoint (the event that caused them to crash). This issue leads into a tie in with Teen Titans and Superboy, which then spawns a new title The Ravagers. So, if you get into this series, there may be quite a bit added to your list if you start any of those.
6/10

26. The Savage Hawkman Vol. 1 Darkness Rising (2012) By: Tony S. Daniel, James Bonny, and Phillip Tan
Carter Hall burns his Hawkman wings and gives up being a superhero. However, the Hawkman refuses to go down and bonds with him. Carter is an archaeologist and his newest discovery hides a terrible new force called Morphicius. Then the Hawkman faces the villainy of the Gentleman Ghost.

Maybe it is because I know less about Hawkman, but I found these stories not too bad. I wish Morphicius had been a little more badass and I wish that the Gentleman Ghost saga had been fleshed out a bit more, but overall it was decent. I also enjoyed the art, which brought out the Savage part of the title much more than the writing. I might consider reading more if the nect arc had not been taken over by Rob Liefeld. Ah well. It has also been noted that Hawkman had a hero career prior to this, but no one seems to know who he is. So, there are some minor inconsistencies. It is quite friendly to new readers and even works a somewhat standalone volume.
6/10

25. Men of War Vol. 1 Uneasy Company (2012)
By: Ivan Brandon, Jonathan Vankin, and Tom Derenick
Sergeant Joe Rock is the grandson of a legendary soldier who takes command of Easy Company, a group of privately contracted soldiers. They a landscape torn by war and the supervillains of the DCU. It also contains other military style stories.

This book has kind of a strange ethereal quality about certain stories. I enjoyed the main story of Sgt. Rock leading his commandos against superhumans. Some of the backup stories were good, celebrating the lives of our actual soldiers. Other backup stories were overly preachy. Issue 8 switches tone entirely and gives us a World War II tale of Frankenstein (Future Agent of S.H.A.D.E that I'll cover later). I enjoyed the Frankenstein section, but it was a definite tonal switch from everything else. I'd recommend this to new readers who like strange military stories; however you shouldn't buy this for the Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. story since it's included in the second collected volume of that series.
6/10

24. Action Comics Vol. 1 Superman and the Men of Steel (2012) By: Grant Morrison and Rags Morales
Superman is not the beloved hero of Earth. Clark Kent does not work for the Daily Planet. Superman struggles for the common man and faces Lex Luthor, a military scientist, and the alien supercomputer Brainiac. He also gets a view of the future.

I said in the previous list that I am not a big fan of Superman, that said Grant Morrison has written some great Superman stuff in the past (All-Star Superman). This one doesn't live up to that standard. I thought the Superman/Occupy Wall Street thing was kind of forced. I got really confused during the Legion of Super Heroes back story thing because i thought their time bubbles didn't work... Wasn't that the plot of Legion Lost? So which am I supposed to follow? Anyway, the end thing with Brainiac was nice, but I feel like most of this is stuff we've seen. The one thing that I thought was really interesting was the part with Krypto and the Phantom Zone. This is definitely something new readers can get into and I'd probably recommend this if you like Superman.
6/10

 23. The Flash Vol. 1 Move Forward (2012) 
By: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Barry Allen is back as the Flash, fastest man alive. He works as a cop and has recently started dating Patty Spivot. In this volume he faces the Mob Rule who are trying to kill his old friend Manuel. Then he deals with his old enemy Captain Cold and a mystery of the speed force.

The art and panel designs are gorgeous in this book. I'd recommend the read purely based on that. The story is not so great. It contains several very comic book plots with some barely explained stuff all thrown together in a giant melting pot. Also, I didn't find much humor in this title. Isn't the Flash supposed to be funny? He tackles the now typical superhero issue of his powers doing more harm than good, but that is overshadowed by the multitude of events going on around him. There's his friend issues, girlfriend issues, job issues, Mob Rule, Captain Cold, time vortexes, and Turbine all competing for their part in the story. I think the problem is the pacing and the out of sequence storytelling. It makes it harder too focus on the characters who are for the most part fairly weak. I can't say I really cared for or much liked them. I know this is the Flash, but the story needs to slow down and focus on something for more than a second.

6.5/10

22. Resurrection Man Vol. 1 Dead Again (2012)
By: Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett, and Fernando Dagnino
Mitch Shelley is a man who can't die and every time he resurrects with a different power. Angels, demons, the government, superheroes, and supervillains alike are after him, but all he wants to do is discover who he is.

The first half of this reads very similar to Grifter except replace aliens with angels and demons. People want him because of his power. What makes Resurrection Man a bit better is that he finds out part of his past and doesn't like it. He struggles with his current feelings and has a bit of a crisis about it. He also develops his powers and has to figure out how to use them (not always successfully). This creates a character that is one of the more interesting of the New 52. He also has an interesting supporting cast that gets developed over the course of the series. Rather than killing many of them off like some other titles. This book has been cancelled as of issue 12 (or issue 0 which comes after it), but this book does have actual ending in its second volume! New readers are quite welcome with this title and I think it is worth a read.

6.5/10

I think this section of the list got re-ordered more than any of the others while compiling it. While writing it up I came pretty close to bumping Teen Titans up to 30. This would bump down Blue Beetle and Firestorm. I read all three of these very early in my read through, but I remembered way more about Teen Titans. I may have to update after I post the Top 11.

Another four series cancelled and we're onto series I actually really enjoyed. Ah well, capitalism tends to side against me anyway.

I continue the countdown to number one on Friday!

21-12 The High 10
11-1 The Top 11