Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Do They Call Them Comics: Snuffy Smith

Get a load of this Snuffy Smith comic from last weekend. If we're to believe Loweezy's plaintive cry in panel three, her husband Snuffy has apparently stopped drinking (!). 

Wha...? When the hell did that happen? For 80 years now, Snuffy Smith has been portrayed as a lazy, uneducated, chicken stealing, card cheating, law dodging, moonshine brewing no good hillbilly drunkard. Now suddenly he's off the sauce?

I have to assume this ret-con is all part of the touchy-feely, Kumbaya singing, politically correct system that passes for our current society. I wouldn't be surprised if the Brittle Soccer Mom Brigade had something to do with it as well.

Because a character who's a "comical drunk" is no longer acceptable, especially on the nation's comics pages, dontcha know. People with such addictions are terrible role models! Won't someone please think of the children?

I can't wait to see what's next for Snuffy. I suppose in addition to his alcohol abuse outreach program, he'll also seek help for his gambling addiction. Then he'll no doubt stop stealing chickens and become Sheriff Tait's deputy. Or maybe he'll quit dozing against a log, leave Hootin' Holler, move to the big city and finally get a job. Perhaps as an investment banker, or marketing consultant?

I don't want to live on this planet anymore...

By the way, here's some fuel for your nightmares: see those two pendulous masses sagging well below Loweezy's waistline? Those aren't folds in her top. Those are her mammoth, drooping breasts. Shudder.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 9: Flatline

I honestly didn't have much hope for this episode when I saw the preview, as it looked like nothing more than a retread of Fear Her, largely regarded as one of the low points of the revived series. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a fun little romp with a legitimately scary foe and some of the weirdest scenes in the show's fifty-plus year history.


The Plot:
The Doctor takes Clara home to London but they wind up in Bristol instead, because his ability to control the TARDIS varies based on the script requirements. As soon as they land they discover that aliens are leaching energy from the TARDIS, causing the outer shell to shrink to 1/3 its normal size. 

Clara takes a look around Bristol and when she returns, she finds that the TARDIS has now shrunk to action figure size, trapping the Doctor inside. He gives her his sonic and tells her to investigate the energy drain before the TARDIS shrinks even further.

Clara and a local vandal, er, I mean graffiti "artist" named Rigsy discover that two dimensional creatures are causing the disappearances of local residents. The Doctor, through Clara, tries to communicate and reason with the creatures (dubbed "The Boneless") but is unsuccessful. Clara, Rigsy and several other characters whose names you needed bother learning are chased by the Boneless into a nearby subway.

Inside the subway the Boneless figure out a way to pop out of the walls and become 3D, shambling toward Clara and the others. Meanwhile, the TARDIS has gone into Siege Mode, sealing the Doctor off from our universe. Clara must then think like the Doctor in order to recharge the TARDIS, release the Doctor and defeat the Boneless.

She's eventually successful and the Doctor tells the Boneless to shoo, much the way you'd yell at a strange dog in your yard. Clara learns why the Doctor is so often such a prick, and discovers that lying to her boyfriend Danny Pink is as easy as breathing. And Missy, who we haven't seen for quite a while, was apparently watching the same episode we were on her iPad, and says she "chose Clara well," whatever the hell that means.

• I thought this episode's cold open was very well done. After the victim is killed by the Boneless, we see a strange decorative stripe on the wall behind him. As the camera moves toward the wall, the parallax shift reveals the stripe to be the flattened victim's screaming, elongated face. Creepy!

• In Deep Breath, the first episode of the season, the Doctor asked Clara if he was a good man. She replied that she didn't know. A few weeks later in Kill The Moon, Clara finally had an answer for the Doctor. She was so fed up with his constant lying and manipulation– even though it was for humanity's own good– that she told him to shove off for good.

Then in Mummy On The Orient Express, the Doctor demonstrated to Clara that lying and manipulation was sometimes necessary. Now this week Clara was forced to become the Doctor and found herself lying in order to save the people she was trying to protect.

Putting Clara into a position where she basically IS the Doctor is an interesting way for her, as well as the audience, to examine his motivations and see what makes him tick. Whether the Doctor's doing this intentionally or not, it's helping her understand why he does the things he does.

• Last week I accused this season of recycling plot lines and elements of previous episodes. This one is no exception. The idea of two dimensional artwork attacking the Doctor was used a few seasons back in the aforementioned Fear Her. When the Doctor tells the 2D aliens to shove off because Earth is protected, his speech is virtually identical to the one he gave to the Atraxi in The Eleventh Hour. Even the ending, in which the Doctor seems displeased that the detestable Fenton has survived, recalls his similar reaction when the greedy Rickston Slade was one of the few survivors of the Starship Titanic in Voyage Of The Damned.

This isn't even the first time the TARDIS has shrunk. It and its inhabitants were
reduced in size way back in 1964's Planet Of Giants. The TARDIS also shrank in 1974's Logopolis.

Despite these recycled elements, screenwriter Jamie Mathieson (who wrote the previous episode Mummy On The Orient Express) weaves them into something wholly original and best of all, bizarre. This is my favorite episode of the season so far.

• Just about every episode this season has focused on Clara, while the Doctor is elbowed into the background. Nowhere is that more evident than this week, in which Clara pretty much IS the Doctor.

There's a very vocal group of fans out there who desperately want to see the Doctor regenerate into a woman. I wonder... is it possible this whole "Doctor Clara" thing is a sneaky attempt to pave the way for such an occurrence? You've tot to admit, it's a great way to gauge audience reaction. If fans react negatively to these Clara-centric episodes, then the BBC will know that the time's not yet right for a Doctor with two X chromosomes.

• This is some hard core nitpicking, but I thought it was worth a mention: when the TARDIS first shrinks, the front door is about half its normal size but is still lined up with the bottom of the wall.

Later on when it shrinks again, the now even tinier door is in the middle of the wall. So why the change? Shouldn't the little door still be down on the bottom of the wall, like a cartoon mouse hole?

• When the Doctor and Clara first squeeze out of the tiny TARDIS, he thinks for a moment that it's normal and they've gotten bigger. HAW!

• I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Rigsy's name sounds an awful lot like Banksy, the world's most famous graffiti "artist." And yes, as you may have deduced, I have a low opinion at best of taggers.

• Despite the fact that Steven Moffat didn't write this episode, creatures that exist only in two dimensions seems right up his alley. I'd be very surprised to find out he didn't have at least a small part in their creation.

The Boneless, as they're called in the episode, made for an extremely creepy foe, especially once they made the jump to 3D. Something's got to be done about their name though...

• Hey, we've gone two episodes in a row now without the Doctor making a disparaging remark about Clara's appearance. Progress!

• After the TARDIS has shrunk to toy size, the Doctor tells Clara to pick it up.

The Doctor: Clara, I need you to pick up the TARDIS. Carefully! It should be possible. I've adjusted the relative gravity.

Clara: You mean you've made it lighter.

The Doctor: Clara, it's always lighter. If the TARDIS were to land with its true weight, it would fracture the surface of the Earth.

That's something I never thought of before, but it makes perfect sense! The TADRIS is infinitely large inside-- infinite weight / mass plus the Earth would indeed spell disaster.

• I wonder if the fun-size TARDIS was an off-the-shelf toys from Character Options? I've got a few in my collection that are close to that size.

• Favorite line of the episode:

Banksy, er, I mean Rigsy: It's bigger on the inside!

The Doctor: You know, I don't think that statement's every been truer.

• My favorite part of the episode was the mind-bending scene in which the Doctor uses his hand to right the tiny TARDIS and then move it off the subway tracks. 

I wonder though– he sticks his hand out the door and then turns his wrist to move the TARDIS upright. Could he then have simply raised his hand to lift it up into the air? As if the TARDIS was like a watch or a bracelet looped around his wrist? Would that have worked?

• After the Doctor moves the TARDIS off the tracks, it accidentally tips back over. To prevent it from being struck by the approaching train, the Doctor activates the TARDIS' Siege Mode, which essentially locks it off from the entire universe.

I believe this is the first ever use and mention of Siege Mode.

I wonder if it's just a coincidence that the Siege Mode TARDIS looks a lot like the Pandorica from The Pandorica Opens? Expect a toy version any minute now.

• The Boneless have a great way of preventing their victims from escaping– they turn the door knobs (and the doors as well?) from 3D into 2D!

• With the Doctor incapacitated, Clara comes up with a dangerous idea to save everyone. She has Banksy, er, I mean Rigsy use his amazing tagger skills to paint a fake door on the back of a large poster. They then hang the painting in the subway tunnel, hoping the Boneless will aim their energy rays at it as they try to turn this fake 2D door into 3D, which will hopefully recharge the TARDIS that's hidden behind the poster. 

The risky plan works, until about 2/3 of the way through when the top of the poster comes unstuck and droops down. Fortunately the Boneless don't seem to notice this discrepancy and continue blasting away at the fake door. I guess they hadn't yet adapted to living in 3D to notice?

• I kind of like the notion that the Boneless aren't poor misunderstood aliens, but just plain evil. 

There's way too much of this "sympathetic villain" crap going on in fiction right now. I don't want to see Sleeping Beauty told from Maleficent's point of view. Why can't a villain just be a colossal asshole once in a while?

• Once the TARDIS has been recharged, it reverts back to normal size. The Doctor emerges, takes his sonic from Clara, gives a short speech to the Boneless, and then either kills them or banishes them back to their own dimension– it's not quite clear which.

Did I miss something? Clara had the Doctor's sonic all through the episode. Couldn't she have just used it to kill the Boneless? Or did the sonic need a power boost from the TARDIS? Or maybe killing 2D aliens with a sonic requires a special flick of the wrist that only Time Lords can perform.

• At the end of the episode the Doctor uses the TARDIS to transport everyone from the subway tunnels back to the surface (as opposed to having them, you know, just walk). So once again he seriously disrupts the lives of several ordinary humans by exposing them to undeniable existence of alien technology. 

Granted the others had already seen the Boneless and were forced to accept the fact that extraterrestrials are real, but... did he have to show them the mind-melting interior of the TARDIS as well?

OK, so he's not Batman and doesn't have a secret identity, but he's being pretty casual about revealing his alien nature lately.

• I have absolutely no clue what's going on with Missy and her monitoring of Clara, so I'm not even going to speculate.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Do They Call Them Comics: The Wizard Of Id

Earlier this year Jeff Parker, the current artist and writer of The Wizard Of Id, taunted the notoriously litigious Tolkien estate by producing a strip featuring a Hobbit, a creature whose appearance and name are not in the public domain.

Now he's courting similar legal disaster by throwing rocks at the sleeping giant that is the J.K. Rowling empire. Rowling jealously protects her literary baby the way a dragon guards its gold (and rightly so). 

So I ask you Mr. Parker, was it really worth risking your home and career to make that lame play on Rowling's "expecto patronum" spell? And if it was, couldn't you at least have taken the time to look it up and get it right? It's "patronum," not "patronus." A patronus is what the patronum spell conjures.

By the way, what the hell's the punch line to this strip? Is it that the Wizard over-enthusiastically used magic to refill his wife Blanche's coffee mug, and the arcane energies slightly dirtied her nose? If so, that's a hell of a joke there.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 4: Face My Enemy

Another very good episode this week. Lots of action, snappy dialog, and best of all we got to see Ming-Na Wen in a slinky dress fighting Ming-Na Wen in her bra and panties. This was the greatest episode of Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever!!!


The Plot:
When a church in Miami burns down (really, God? You let a church burn?) and the only thing that survives is a painting of the Madonna and Child. Oddly enough, the back of the painting contains alien markings identical to the ones Coulson's been drawing on the wall during his nutsy-cuckoo spells.

The painting finds its way to an art auction, and Coulson and May go undercover to steal it, in order to study the alien markings. Everything goes according to plan until Major Glenn Talbot shows up, threatening to blow their cover.

Things take an unexpected turn when May discovers that Talbot isn't really Talbot, but Daniel Whitehall's Lackey in a high tech HYDRA disguise. He incapacitates May, and the Brainwashed Agent 33 uses the high tech mask to assume her identity.

May eventually escapes and we're treated to the awesome sight of Agent May fighting Agent May. Oh, and Coulson gets the painting in the end.


The Flash and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. both aired episodes about duplicates on the same night. The Flash fought Mulitplex, a villain that could create multiple copies of himself, and S.H.I.E.L.D. featured Agent May fighting someone disguised as her.

Coincidence? Or part of something more sinister?

Obviously these two episodes aired on the same night as part of a global conspiracy orchestrated by the Anti-Vaxxers, along with the 9/11 Truthers and the Global Warming Deniers as well.

• Once again I have to mention how amazing Agent May looked in that slinky dress. I'm having a hard time believing that actress Ming-Na Wen turns 51 this year. 51! She was born in 1963. 

And not only does she still look incredible, she's kicking and punching and doing all kinds of awesome hand-to-hand combat. We should all look as good at her age.

It actually seemed weird to see Agent May smiling in this episode! She definitely needs to smile more often.

• Man, Brett Dalton, who plays Evil Ward on the show, has a pretty sweet gig right now. Last season he starred in all 22 episodes and shot a ton of fights and physical stunts.

This season all he has to do is show up on set once every three or four episodes and stand behind a glass wall looking crazy. Cool deal, brah!

• Speaking of Evil Ward, when everyone's chilling at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters talking about their exes, Skye casually says, "The guy I had a crush on is now the psycho living in our basement." Whaa??

I was under the impression that Evil Ward's presence was supposed to be a secret. I guess not.

• I still think the evil she-beast of an ex that Lance Hunter's always talking about will turn out to be Mockingbird, who makes an appearance next week. I could be wrong though, but I feel like there's a reason why he keeps mentioning her.
• Poor Fitz. It seemed like he was having a relapse this week. Imaginary Simmons was in his head more than ever in this episode.

 • It seems like Tripp hasn't had much to do since the additon of Mack and Hunter. Last season Tripp was providing Coulson with all kinds of cool retro S.H.I.E.L.D. gear, courtesy of his Grandpa. So far this season pretty much all he's done is stand around and look concerned.

• Once again, the Top Secret, We Don't Officially Exist, Super Spy Organization HYDRA slaps their logo all over everything. This week it was even on a goddamned file folder!

Later when the HYDRA troops come after Coulson and May, they've got logos on their backs. So much for secrecy!

• Does Daniel Whitehall's Lackey have a name yet? Because I'm getting really tired of having to type "Daniel Whitehall's Lackey" whenever I have to mention him.

• Brainwashed Agent 33 takes a drop of May's blood and uses it to recreate her appearance on her Face Shifting Mask. A couple of things here.

First of all, I'm pretty sure that's the same mask technology that Black Widow used in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Cool!

Second, using May's blood to get a DNA sample is kind of iffy. Human red blood cells do not contain DNA. That's why we can have transfusions. Only white blood cells contain DNA. I guess Brainwashed Agent 33 got lucky and there must have been one or two white cells in May's drop of blood, or it wouldn't have worked.

• The May on May fight was very well done, especially on a TV budget. And it went on for quite a long time! My favorite move: when Real May leaped into the air, grabbed Fake May's head and smashed it onto the table.

• May gets pinned down by Fake May, who's about to stab her with a pair of scissors. May reaches up and grabs some bare wires from a broken lamp and shoves them into Fake May's face, shocking her unconscious.

Fake May was in contact with Real May when she was shocked, so I'm pretty sure the voltage should have knocked them both out. 

• "Laser grids. Why is it always laser grids?"

• So Fake May plants a piece of HYDRA tech in the bus, which systematically overloads its every system, causing dozens of explosions to rock the plane.

Despite hundreds of these explosions, at the end of the episode the Bus is up and flying like nothing every happened. Must be some of that patented S.H.I.E.L.D. technology.

• Fitz manages to save the Bus by basically moving some microchips from one slot to another. Well, actually Hunter moves the chips, while Fitz yells what to do.

I honestly don't see how it was any easier for Fitz to tell Hunter what to do was any more efficient than just doing it himself, but whatever. 

You know what bugs me about watching live TV? This kind of crap. You're sitting there watching an exciting scene of your favorite show, and all of a sudden a second show starts up in the goddamned corner.

You know what, ABC? Because of your stupid-ass little promo that disrupted my concentration, I'm now going to go out of my way to not watch your little Toy Story show.
• At the end of the episode, Daniel Whitehall kidnaps Raina, sticks some kind of bomb thing on her hand and tells her she has just 48 hours to deliver the Obelisk to him.

 Does Raina have a super power? She starts speaking to Whitehall and he says, "I'm not like most of the people with whom you interact. I'm not easily confused." His statement implies she has some sort of Jedi Mind Trick power.

I thought she was just a femme fatale, but maybe she has superpowers as well.

• Next week Mockingbird appears, and we'll find out if my theory about her and Hunter is correct.

This Week In Off-Putting Fast Food Mascots

I was watching actual live TV this week (a rarity for me these days) and I saw this-- yet another off-putting and disturbing anthropomorphic fast food container-based mascot. This time it was Mr. Bag, the new face of regional burger chain Rally's.

I am 100% convinced that Rally's adopted Mr. Bag in response to this unholy abomination from McDonald's.

I honestly don't get it. When I was in art school, it was hammered into my brain on a daily basis that simply adding a face to a product and calling it a mascot was the lowest form of design. The visual equivalent of a pun, if you will. 

Designing such a mascot was a sure-fire way to flunk your design class. In fact, I actually witnessed a professor tell a student to find a new major after he came up with a mascot like Mr. Bag.

But times, and I suppose tastes, change. Apparently here in the 21st Century, products with faces are the new black.

Since I obviously can't beat 'em, I might as well join 'em. I present to you several new Anthropomorphic Product Mascots!

First up is Waxman, The Ear Wax Removal Bulb. This personable fellow cheerfully helps keep your ear canals free of unwanted ear wax, without compressing and impacting it like harsh cotton swabs can do.

Next up is Mr. Squirty, Your Friendly Neighborhood Enema Bag! Alternate name: Barry Um. Whatever you call him, he works hard to keep your colon sparkling clean. Why, you could practically eat off your insides, they'll be so clean!

Last but not least we have Ms. Maxine Pad! Ladies, let Maxine be your best friend during your less delicate time of the month. Don't be afraid to tell her anything-- she'll soak up your troubles like a sponge!

If any corporations out there want to start using any of these new mascots immediately, you can forward your payment courtesy of the blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Flash Season 1, Episode 2: Fastest Man Alive

This week The Flash continues to move right along, throwing out concepts and back story left and right. I like that. Too many shows these days tend to drag things out for far too long. It's refreshing to see a series that speeds things up, so to speak.

Last week I said I wasn't completely sold on actor Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash, mainly because he looks much too young, especially for a CSI. Eh, I didn't even think about that this week. I guess he's winning me over with his nerdy charm.

Kudos also to Carlos Valdez as tech guru Cisco Ramon. Cisco, who comes up with all of Barry's cool gear and technology, could have easily been an annoying character, what with his constant overenthusiastic patter and catchphrases. Surprisingly he hasn't come off as too irritating (so far) and I haven't wanted to strangle him yet. 


The Plot:
After rescuing citizens from a fiery apartment building, Barry starts having performance issues. Don't worry, Barry. It happens to all guys from time to time. Anyway, he begins passing out every time he uses his powers. The STAR Labs Gang run tests on him and determine the problem-- he's not eating enough tacos to fuel his super speed.

Meanwhile, Barry's boss slash surrogate father Detective Joe West is angry with him because he's always late to his day job. Wah-waahh. They investigate a robbery at the Hex gun shop (Easter Egg Alert!). Even though the security camera only shows one man committing the robbery, Barry finds six sets of footprints. Hmm...

Barry discovers a new metahuman (which is nothing like a mutant, so calm down, intellectual property lawyers) called Multiplex is behind the robbery. Multiplex has the ability to show more than one movie at a time, er, I mean he can split into countless duplicates of himself. I bet that comes in mighty handy when he moves to a new apartment. Multiplex is after sleazy businessman Simon Stagg, who stole his research.

Barry then has to figure out how to balance his day job with his life as the Flash while he deals with his relationship with Iris, while a man who can turn into an army wants to kill him.

Oh, and creepy Dr. Wells does his "Surprise! I'm not really crippled" party trick again and kills Stagg.

When Joe summons Barry to the crime scene, he dashes off so quickly he forgets he's still wearing his superhero togs. He glances over at a men's wear store and a second later he's wearing brand new civilian clothing. One of the cops notices a price tag still attached to Barry's new jacket.

Did Barry just steal those clothes? It's unlikely that he carries his wallet in his Flash suit, since it doesn't appear to have pockets, and a clerk would probably remove the tag if they rang it up. So I'm going to say yes. Yes he did.

By the way, the whole "Fastest Man Alive Is Always Late For Everything" trope was a staple of the comic book for many years.

So we're doing the old "My Powers Are Going Haywire" plotline so soon, eh? Fortunately they didn't drag it out forever and solved the problem... in a flash! Yeah, you're gonna get tired of that joke real quick.

This also happened to the comic book Flash from time to time. Heck, it's happened to pretty much every superhero, especially Spider-Man and Superman-- their powers have all gone haywire now and then.

Barry starts feeling faint and collapses after every burst of super speed. The STAR Labs Gang runs tests on him, and discovers his metabolism is now so high his super speed is burning up calories faster than he can eat them.

Once again, this is an element taken straight from the comics. It happened in the 1990s to Wally West, aka Kid Flash and later just the Flash.

Cisco tells Barry that when he uses his super speed he'll needs to eat the equivalent of 850 tacos a day.

First of all, poor Cisco. He has to measure things in terms of Mexican food, because of his ethnic heritage.

Secondly, I hope for Barry''s sake that if he really does eat that much food, his body converts nearly all of it to energy. Because if not... that's gonna be a lot of poopin.' Don't look at me like that, you know you were thinkin' it too!

Holy crap, Cisco just invented the Flash's Cosmic Treadmill, another staple of the comics. The Flash used to use it to travel to the future, running on it so fast he broke the time barrier. 

Given last week's glimpse of Dr. Wells' 2024 newspaper, I wouldn't be surprised if he uses the Treadmill to time travel here as well.

Multiplex was the arch enemy of Firestorm The Nuclear Man in the comics, and his name really was Danton Black. Someone on the writing staff's doing their homework. He dressed a bit more like a swashbuckler in the comics though.

In the comic, Multiplex was created in the same nuclear explosion as Firestorm. However, where Firestorm was the result of two separate individuals fusing together, Multiplex gained the ability to split into hundreds of copies of himself.

This makes three characters from Firestorm that have shown up or been mentioned so far-- Caitlin Snow, her fiance Ronnie Raymond (who's secretly one half of Firestorm) and now Multiplex. I'm betting it won't be long before Firestorm himself shows up. Hopefully with a flaming head. 

• When you're dealing with a comic book world, sometimes it's best to not try and explain how super powers work.

Case in point, Multiplex. Instead of just saying he can make duplicates of himself, they try to come up with a rational explanation for how this could possibly work. According to them, Danton Black was working on some sort of cloning experiment when Dr. Wells' particle accelerator exploded, giving him the power to endlessly duplicate himself.

This "explanation" wasn't necessary, and raises more questions than it answers. Multiplex is instantly creating clones of himself. Fine. But how is it all the clones are wearing the same clothes as him? Shouldn't the clones all be naked? Are his clothing cells somehow being cloned as well?

This is why you shouldn't bother trying to ground your superhero's powers in reality. Just say he duplicates himself and don't try to explain how.

Simon Stagg is also a character from the comics. He was an unscrupulous businessman who often clashed with Metamorpho, The Element man (that's element, not elephant). It would be awesome if his appearance signaled a Metamorpho cameo, but given the events of this episode that doesn't look like it's going to happen. 

The scenes between Barry and his surrogate father Joe West were very well done. Kudos to the actors! 

When Iris is blathering to Barry about her problems, he can't contain himself anymore and confesses that he's really the Flash. But because he does so at super speed, she doesn't see or hear him.

Hmm. At one point he zips beside her and then speaks several sentences before zipping back. Let me repeat that-- he moves at super speed, stands still and then zips back.

The moving at super speed I can understand, as it's been determined that Barry can run faster than sound. But the only way he could stand there and speak and not have Iris hear him is if he was standing and speaking at super speed as well.

Apparently he ran to her side in a split second, so fast she couldn't see him, then stood there and said several lines in a split second as well. If not, he'd have become visible and she'd have seen and heard him.

I wonder if he sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks when he was talking at super speed?

• Speaking of Barry's powers, several times in this episode he rescues people by moving them out of harm's way at super speed. He moves them so fast they're not even aware of what happened.

In the comics, whenever Barry used his super speed, a force field automatically formed around his body, protecting his clothing and anything-- or anyone-- he was carrying from the effects of friction and velocity.

I'm assuming the same thing is happening here. Because if something's not protecting people when he moves them at top speed, there's gonna be a lot of snapped necks in Central City. 

So Caitlin takes some of Danton Black's cells that she found at a crime scene, and nonchalantly creates a clone from them. A full grown adult male clone. In the space of a few hours. Something our top genetic scientists still can't do. Perhaps they should consult Caitlin's notes? 

This raises a ton of ethical questions. She just created a human being. Granted, it's mind is blank, as it "doesn't have any brainwaves," but it's still a person. Is she planning on feeding and caring for what is essentially a 150 pound infant? Does it have guaranteed rights like the rest of us?

Detective West then enters the lab, see the clone of Multiplex, and shoots it dead. Looks like Joe's now guilty of murder! Clone or no clone, he just shot an unarmed human being.

What would the STAR Labs Gang have done with the clone had Joe not killed it? Keep it around the lab for the rest of its natural life, or shove it in the incinerator when they were done examining it? 

Growing people like you'd grow penicillin in a petri dish seems like a misuse of science. I know, I know, lighten up, it's a comic book show. 

By the way, the Multiplex clone is wearing the same outfit as all the others. So unless Caitlin just happened to have the same kind of leather jacket lying around the lab, I guess his clothes really do get duplicated along with Multiplex.

• Near the end of the episode we find out the reason why Dalton Black is trying to kill Simon Stagg. Black was experimenting with genetics in order to clone a new heart for his dying wife. Stagg fired him and stole all his research. Awww, poor Dalton.

Of course all this is an attempt to justify Multiplex's actions, and make us feel pity for him. This touchy-feely, poor misunderstood villain thing started with the original Spider-Man films, and it's still going strong today.

I'm not a fan of this particular trend. Why does the villain always have to be misunderstood, or have no choice but to go bad? Just once, why can't a villain just be a big asshole?

 Multiplex shows up at Stagg's office, intending to kill him. Barry intercepts him and the two of them recreate The Matrix: Reloaded. Multiplex goes all Agent Smith on the Flash's ass as hundreds of his duplicates attack. It was fairly impressive for a TV budget. 

Barry defeats the army of Multiplexes by knocking out the prime. Ah, the old "Take Out The Mothership And The Rest Of The Fleet Will Fall" plot. Haven't seen that one before. 

Then Multiplex Prime, who sounds like one of the less popular Transformers, is hanging off a ledge. Barry grabs him by the arm and tries to save him, but then a little baby hand, that reminds me of one of those novelty banks, comes up out of his arm! It looks like it pries Barry's hand off, and Multiplex falls to his death. Weird.

So... there are now hundreds of Multiplex's dead bodies littering Stagg's lobby. What the hell are they going to do with all those? They're gonna run out of burial plots in Potter's Field!

Of course they can always bring back Multiplex if they want by saying one of the hundreds of clones somehow survived.

• I'm hoping Dr. Wells isn't going to dramatically rise from his wheelchair bit at the end of every episode. It'll start to lose its shock value after a while.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This Week In Ill-Advised Halloween Costumes: Too Soon Edition

It's October, so you know what that means here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld! Dozens of posts pointing out inappropriately sexy and/or dangerous Halloween costumes! Hey, at least I'm consistent.

As we sit here pondering the all-too-real possibility of a global pandemic, what better way to salute the end of life as we know it than by dressing up in an overpriced Ebola Containment Suit costume!

The suit is currently available on the BrandOnSale website, and according to their sales blurb:

The deadly Ebola virus has landed in the United States and the crisis has reached new levels of domestic escalation. You are sure to be prepared if any outbreak happens at your Halloween party. This will literally be the most "viral" costume of the year.

Wow. That... they really just said that. You know, there's nothing I like better than a good old fashioned deadly disease pun! Humor like this is infectious! Better be careful; your laughter might be contagious!

The suit comes complete with an Ebola White Costume, Ebola Face Shield, Breathing Mask, Safety Eye Goggles, and Blue Latex Gloves. Yellow boots not included.

It even says "EBOLA" right there on the left breast! 

Am I surprised by this tasteless display? I should be, but given the current state of our oafish society, it's pretty much par for the course.

The only thing that does surprise me is that there's no Sexy Ebola Containment Suit Costume. Yet...

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 1: No Sanctuary

After a seven month absence, The Walking Dead's finally back! 

I suppose when you think about it, seven months isn't too awfully long. It's certainly better than the FIFTEEN month gap between the most recent seasons of Doctor Who!

Wow, Season 5. Can you believe our little zombie show is already five years old? Seems like just yesterday Rick was waking up in the hospital, staring at the "DON'T DEAD, OPEN INSIDE" sign.

This season opener hits the ground running and never stops, and heads off in a surprising direction that I didn't see coming. That's always a good thing.


The Plot:
Picking up right where last season left off, Rick & Co. are still being held prisoner in a railroad car in Terminus. A group of Termites takes Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob to their human slaughterhouse, at long last confirming that they're cannibals, something everyone and their dog has known since the middle of last season.

Our four heroes are lined up over a killing trough, along with three redshirts. The redshirts get slaughtered first of course, and just as Glenn is about to be next, a massive explosion rocks the building, sending ripples of relief through everyone who's read the comic.

The explosion was caused by Carol, who's infiltrated Terminus in the most bad-ass way possible. In the confusion she causes, Rick & Co. are able to escape their captors, rescue the rest of the cast, and hop over the fence to relative safety. Carol encounters Mary, Terminus' resident short order cook, who gives her a brief rundown of the sanctuary's grim history.

The music then swells as all the characters who've been separated for seven months or more are finally reunited. The score: Team Rick - 14, Termites - 0.

• Well, that was certainly... unexpected. After the series spend half a season setting up Terminus as this year's Big Bad, it's destroyed in the space of one episode. I fully expected the characters would spend at least half the season there as their numbers dwindled and they tried to escape. 

Kudos to showrunner Scott Gimple for bucking expectations and doing something totally unexpected to keep us on our toes.

• You know what I miss? I miss the days when a TV show would display the credits in thirty seconds or less. These days the credits endlessly appear for what seems like half the runtime. 

This episode finally got to the director credit around the twelve minute mark. Twelve minutes! That's a quarter of the run time! Tighten it up, guys! No one wants to see lines of text superimposed over the action for the entire episode.

• Man, that opening scene was brutal, to say the least. The blood and gore was bad enough, but I think the dispassionate way the Termite butchers went about their work, like they were slaughtering cattle, was even worse.

I was barely able to look at the screen when they got to Glenn. I don't want to give too much away, but if you're a reader of the comic book you'll understand why.

• One of the redshirts who gets slaughtered at the killing trough is Sam. Who the hell's Sam, you ask?

You may remember him from the Season 4 episode Indifference. Shortly before Rick banished Carol, they went on a supply run and encountered a young couple named Sam and Ana. Rick was going to bring them back to the prison, but Ana, who had a bum leg, was overrun and killed by walkers, and Sam (who quite frankly seemed borderline mentally incapacitated) disappeared.

I have to admit that I didn't recognize Sam, and only found out it was him while researching the episode.

• Terminus is apparently big on paperwork, as Gareth, the leader of the compound, interrupts the slaughter to ask the butchers about their shell counts. I'm betting Gareth was an accountant before the Fall.

• Carol, Tyreese and Baby Judith narrowly avoid a walker herd on their way to Terminus. Funny how every single one of the walkers expertly stepped over the railroad tracks, rather than tripping over them and doing a face plant like you'd expect.

Later the walkers hear gunfire and explosions coming from Terminus and move toward it, shambling down the tracks between the rails. Oddly enough they don't trip over the railroad ties either.

One last thing about the tracks. Last season, Rick demonstrating to Carl and Michonne how a rabbit snare works. He said you make some sort of funnel shape along a trail to steer your prey into a trap at the end.

The railroad tracks do just that! The walkers all stumble along between the rails and are effectively funneled right onto Terminus' doorstep! 

• Last season I posited the theory that the producers realized how they completely botched the character of TV Andrea, and were taking steps to turn Carol into Andrea 2.0, the person she should have been all along.

I still believe that, but they've now officially gone above and beyond. As of this episode Carol is now more badass than Comic Book Andrea ever was, and may even have passed Michonne in terms of badassery.

• Carol disguises herself as a walker by smearing her poncho with blood and guts, and caking her face and hair with mud. 

She sees Rick & Co. being taken to slaughter, so in a totally Macgyver moment she spots a propane tank near the building, shoots it full of holes, then fires a bottle rocket at the escaping gas, creating a massive explosion. She then calmly walks through the walker herd, hiding her weapons under her poncho as she infiltrates Terminus.

Everything Carol did this week was carefully planned and well thought out. Why, it's almost as if the writers know we're just waiting for the characters to do something stupid, and are taking steps to avoid such pitfalls. Well done, guys!

• Rick and Co. escape their bonds and kill the butchers. As they leave the killing floor, Rick gets a glimpse of a dead body on a slab. The camera lingers on the body a little longer than necessary, a dead giveaway that it's someone we're supposed to recognize.

That body is none other than Gareth's brother Alex, who was killed last season when Rick and Co. were trying to escape. Apparently Gareth decided to add his delicious brother to the menu! Family first!

• Carol enters a room in which the Termites store the personal effects of their victims. Among the items she finds there are Rick's watch and Daryl's trusty crossbow.

Seeing those hundreds of items neatly laid out like that was creepy enough, but the big pile of stuffed animals was almost too much. Really, Termites? It's not enough you eat innocent adults, but you snack on kids too?

• Carol's almost taken out by Mary, the Termite chef. Mary does a quick little info dump and tells us why the Termites do that thing they do– namely lure innocent people into their lair and then kill and eat them.

Apparently Terminus started out as a genuine sanctuary, until they welcomed the wrong people into their peaceful camp, who then proceeded to take over and turn it into a rape and torture den. After several gruesome weeks of this the Termites fought back and eventually won. 

So how'd the Termites prevent such a thing from ever happening again? Did they fortify their walls? Post more sentries along their perimeter? Booby trap the entrance? Nope, they decided to become the "butchers" rather than the "cattle," luring innocents into their cannibal camp!

Seems like there's a step or two missing here. How do you go from "Oy, I'm being held against my will" to "What the hell, I'm going to eat everyone who isn't me?"

I get that they all suffered unspeakable traumas during their captivity, but this seems like a bit of an overreaction. It would take quite a bit to make me slaughter another person, slice them up and grill them for brunch. 

• Inside the box car, Sasha asks Eugene about this mysterious cure for walkerism that he's supposedly carrying around in his head. He tells her he was part of the Human Genome Project, which was working on weaponized diseases. He believes he can develop a weaponized disease that will fight weaponized diseases– fighting fire with fire.

All this from a guy who seems like he'd be unable to figure out how to make pancakes.

Plus, is that even a thing? Is it really possible to make a disease that attacks another disease?

As a reader of the comics I know where Eugene's storyline is headed, so I don't want to say too much, but I will say that he's not telling them everything.

Abraham and Rosita exchanged a few glances while Eugene was talking, implying they may know his secret as well.

• Gareth, the leader of the Termites, is shot in the shoulder during the confusion. You know what that means, kids! He'll be back for sure! Probably sometime around the mid-season finale.

And I'm betting he'll die when Rick kills him with a machete with a red handle. Just like he told Gareth he would at the beginning of the episode.

• After everyone escapes, Rick digs up his weapons cache and wants to go back to Terminus to make sure everyone is wiped out. The rest of the Team balks at this notion, not wanting to risk being recaptured or killed. Rick is eventually outvoted.

I'm going to have to side with Rick on this one. They just narrowly escaped being slaughtered by a group of goddamned cannibals. Cannibals!!! Even if you're not big on vengeance, I'd say they owe it to anyone else in the area to make sure these people never get hungry again.

• I was very, very, VERY surprised that there were no major cast deaths in this episode. Very surprised. I figured it would be a bloodbath. I mean c'mon, Bob, Sasha, Tara and Rosita practically have targets on their backs.

This is another example of Scott Gimple playing with the audience. He steers the car one direction, then violently swerves in another at the last second, constantly subverting our expectations.

• It's been so long since the prison was destroyed and the characters scattered in various directions (December of 2013, to be exact), that I honestly forgot that Rick and Carl didn't know that Baby Judith was still alive. And that Daryl and Carol and Tyreese and Sasha hadn't seen one another since then. 

• As Rick is reunited with Carol for the first time since he banished her, he indicates the rubble of Terminus and asks, "Did you do that?"

I had to laugh, because he says it in the exact same tone you'd use to ask a coworker if they're the one who planned your surprise birthday party.

• In the final episode of last season, Rick blusters that the Termites "don't know who they're screwing with."

The cold hard truth of the matter though is that the entire cast would be dead now if Carol hadn't happened along at the exact right time.

• As the group leaves Terminus for good, Rick takes some mud and blacks out their sign and writes "NO" above the word "Sanctuary."

Good thinking, Rick. That'll last until the first good rain.

• At the end of the episode, we see another flashback to the Termites and their Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Mary and her sons, Gareth and Alex, are being held in one of the very same boxcars that Team Rick was in. Suddenly the door flies open and a man enters, dragging out one of the girls to be his rape victim.

Was that Negan who poked his head in the boxcar? Holy crap! It sure looked like him to me. Same stocky build and slicked back hair. Negan has been a huge presence in the comic book for the past year or two; a dangerous and sadistic psychotic who out-Governors even the Governor.

Unfortunately it wasn't him. I lightened up the image, and you can see that whoever he is, he's sporting a face full of tattoos, something Negan doesn't have.

So if he's not Negan, then who is he? He'ss actually the Crazy Tattoo Face guy that Rick freed from the storage container. The one who shouts, "We're them! We're the same!"

There's no way this was an accident. They very deliberately filmed him in shadow and slicked back his hair to make him resemble Negan. Gimple's definitely playing with us here. 

• So what's next? Now that the threat of Terminus has been negated so quickly, where do we go from here?

Based on the comic I have a pretty good idea, but I don't want to spoil it just yet.

• This week The Walking Dead takes a cue from Marvel movies and gives us a post credits scene. A hooded figure stands and stares at Rick's altered "No Sanctuary" sign. He dramatically lifts his hood to reveal he's really... Morgan! The first human Rick met after the Fall (well, technically the second, since Morgan's son clocked Rick in the head with a shovel when he was looking), and last seen in the Season 3 episode Clear.

Apparently he's been following Rick all this time? Morgan sees Team Rick's trail and follows them, after passing a mysterious mark on a tree. So who's making the marks, and what do they mean?
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