created by John McNamara
Another brilliant piece of recent TV history, that sadly was killed by being in a timeslot along with the best stupidity-test ever conceived, Friends. The basic premise is actually quite simple, a man helps people get justice after the law has failed them. What makes this rise above most shows with a similar concept is the manic quality of lead actor Michael Madsen, who seems to enjoy his job of punishing evil-doers a bit too much. He gets paid either one million dollar per client or one favor per client and due to his nature (not quite sane) most people are happy to never see him again, even when he helped them. A shame that there was only one season.
created by Alan Spencer
One of the best pieces of TV ever created. A violent, gun-loving, bigot cop who still is charming in his own way, trying to do good and blow things up. Really, what kid could not love watching this. When I saw this more than a decade ago, I thought it actually was cop show, not a sitcom. Now watching this a little older, it’s even better, even funnier. Where other shows from the same time period seem pedestrian and boring, this one has lost nothing of its charm. Every character is perfectly portrayed by its actor, every scene honed to entertain. These days it’s not as offensive as it might have been on its first run, but it’s still as much fun. Classic.
The most irritating thing about Spin State is that everything about it tries to make you believe it’s hard SF, the title, the quotes, the reference section at the end of the book and some reviews on the net, but when you actually read it, you realize that the setting and the book is as much hard SF, as Simmon’s Hyperion/Endymion sequence is.
The second annoying thing about the book is that large sections of the book deal with mining that makes you feel like you’re reading a novel about mining in the 18th century. I’m aware that this doesn’t make it completely unbelievable, technology isn’t evenly distributed in any civilization, but assuming that what they dig out is the most important thing in this future setting, you’ll wonder why the UNSC (the major power) doesn’t just take over and installs a modern and secure mining operation, that uses remote-controlled robots instead of humans.
The third annoying thing is that the book is far too long, without providing an equal amount of content. A much tighter narrative could have helped make the story more focused and thus more concise.
Despite these gripes, it’s an interesting future, where baseline humans try to control and contain any activity of transhuman powers, be it biological constructs or artificial intelligences. The book starts out as a mystery, but at the end the mystery has become a side-plot to the conflict between baseline humans and transhuman powers. It’s far from perfect, but at times it’s a good read, sometimes, for a few moments, even passing into the domain of greatness. And it does provide what everyone is expecting from the beginning, the system frozen on the edge between the baseline past and a future with a multitude of transhuman beings, has been allowed to unfreeze and go forward.
The first time I played this was shortly after I’ve gotten through Super Castlevania IV. At that time I was relatively new to consoles and gaming in general and somehow got the idea this was a sequel to the fourth part. What a disappointment.
The game lacked the sophistication, the variety, the near-perfect gameplay of the former. Especially the simple whip movement was annoying, after having such absolute control of the whip in the fourth part. Really, I wondered what had happened, how could a game devolve from such heights, not knowing that this was just a port from another system and not a sequel.
Yet, despite being an inferior port and also far from reaching the quality of other Castlevania games, I have grown to like the game. Has taken me some years, but eventually I did. Even in its dumbed down state, the core Castlevania gameplay is there and can be fun.
Ultimate Human starts with two very strong issues, pure, vintage Ellis excellency, only to close with two rather weak issues. I like the reinterpretation of superheroes or superhumans as the first step toward post-humanity, a trend seen first in Wildstorm’s superhero universe, which makes me check it out occasionally over DC and Marvel stuff. Back to Ultimate Human, which shows some interesting talk between Banner and Stark and delves into the mechanisms that make the Hulk work. This is all Ellis’s stuff and quite fascinating, especially the pieces about adapting to the environment on other worlds and then…
Ellis includes a full issue detailing the background of Ultimate Pete Wisdom who became the Ultimate Leader and has head issues (and other issues as well). Then we have a final issue that closes the whole conflict between the Leader and Stark/Banner in a rather abrupt manner. It’s not that it’s not entertaining, but the first two issues made me expect something more meaty and interesting than what it turned out to be.
A short-lived, one season animated version of the Avengers, that was called the worst Marvel cartoon of all time in an earlier version of the wikipedia entry about it. I can understand where this might be coming from, but I have to admit I really enjoyed the series. Sure, all the adults were written like idiotic teenagers and the inclusion of sentai-elements looked really stupid, but aside from that it’s exactly what I wanted from such a series: fights with cool villains (Kang, Ultron). Really, that’s all there is to like about the series. The rest, not so good.
Don’t expect something similar to Gyo or Uzumaki, Ito’s short work is much less impressive than his longer stories. Partly it’s due to the length of the pieces. The impact of Uzumaki, for example, comes from the cumulation of single stories all involving a common element that makes them pieces of a bigger tapestry, which allows Ito to explore the characters and the ideas (and its consequences) with much more depth and to flesh out the details.
Here we have disconnected pieces that stand alone and don’t have the same cumulative force. The characters and ideas remain underdeveloped, and very often it feels like the author is telling us what’s horrifying, instead of showing it to us (like he did so eloquently in Gyo or Uzumaki). Also the stories are far too often formulaic and have generic endings (or endings that feel as if Ito didn’t knew how the end it properly and just stopped).
As this is only one of the early volumes of the 15-part collection of his short work, I wonder if his later short work improved much. That’s not to say this collection is bad, it’s an interesting read, but in comparison to Gyo or Uzumaki much weaker.
Take a simple concept (a spiral), make people obsessed about it and tell seemingly disconnected stories about people in a small town going nuts over the spiral pattern in all the variations it can turn up in nature, humans or artificial things. Then crank up the pace, until you have a small apocalypse engulfing the small town, with no one able to leave (entering from the outside is still possible).
I saw the movie some years ago, that covered most of the first volume, and while it was interesting, it couldn’t capture the spirit of this brilliant manga. Like Gyo this is an endlessly inventive horror manga that starts out slowly and subtly, then picks up the pace and uses in-your-face shock effects and fast action and yet still remains dreadful and disturbing in subtle way up to the end. Uzumaki is quite unlike anything else, a rare find in our world, where seemingly every idea has been done already.
Think Hellboy, less serious in tone but with an art style that makes it look at times like a fever dream. The effect of being both funny and quite disturbing at times is an interesting experience. Wormwood himself is a talking worm who uses human corpses as exo-skeletons and gathers other able personal to solve cases, not because he likes doing it, but because somehow strange things always happen around him. This time it’s about pregnancies of the monster-kind, humans (both gender) birthing some strange things and dying in the act.
It’s an entertaining story up to the ending, which utilizes such a stupid (but also funny) deux ex machina that I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Still, apart from the ending, quite good.
I rarely say something about the art in comics, because in general I’m much more interested in the writing, the plot and the characters. But comics is more than that, the art is as basic as the rest. And sometimes, when it’s really weak, you can’t overlook it. Point in case this one-shot sequel to Garth Ennis’s Chronicles of Wormwood, which has a nice cover by Jacen Burrows, but the interior art is completely by Rob Steen. And man, did I miss Burrows art (he did all the art on the original Chronicles of Wormwood).
I don’t want to heap all the blame on Steen’s art, the story itself is a bit lackluster and not that interesting, but boy does the art look like shit. It’s still readable, after all this is work by Ennis and even at his worst he’s not the bottom, but it surely isn’t his best.