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Radio Drama: "Subject 428A" (1964)

Subject 428A"Subject 428A"

Original air date: October 2, 1964, from the series Theatre Five.

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Thoughts Before Listening

I’m thinking this will be about a prisoner or a patient or an experiment or a prisoner patient experiment. Also thinking that it would be really neat if this was about zombie unicorns. It probably isn’t. It might be though.

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Friday Five: 5 Comics About the Magic of Everyday Life

This week's Friday Five features five comics books that talk about magic. And life. And where the two intersect. Or don't.

Wicked + Divine

The Wicked + The Divine (Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Image, 2014/15)

This is absolutely a capital-G-Great comic, with stunning art and an exceptional high concept premise: perpetually reincarnated divine avatars, reappearing (briefly and wonderfully) every generation to inspire the mundane. The whole thing, see, is a metaphor for art, y'know - with the gods as creators, living their (literal) fifteen minutes of fame and bringing magic to the masses. And, in WicDiv (as the tumbleyoot say), that's hammered home in pretty much every conceivable way: the gods are artists, and use their holy platform to make everything from dance videos to long-form Medium-esque rants. 

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Stark Reviews: Robin Hood (1973)

Stark says: “Listen Friar, you’re mighty preachy, and you gonna preach your neck right into a hangman’s noose.”

Sounds like a Western, doesn’t it? What if I told you there was also a corrupt Sheriff, a ruthless Land Boss, a shooting contest, a root-tootin’ barn dance, a pair of outlaws and a stagecoach heist? No, it ain’t The Quick and the Dead. It’s Disney’s Robin Hood and for this month’s review I’m going to forgo my usual Good-Bad-and-Ugly rating and bust a gut trying to convince y’all that this film is actually a Western.

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That's One Impressive Pair Of Ironies

Red One

Team One Comic tries its best to be alert to the subtleties of its subject matter as well as trying to bring some political awareness and sensitivity to bear. Issue #1 of Red One from Image Comics offers a challenge or two on this front. If you're being ironic about sexism in a visual medium it's hard to avoid it looking like sexism, and that's assuming it's meant to be ironic in the first place.

Red One herself is a Soviet-era super-agent, so Jared takes the opportunity to have a rummage around among the various Soviet and Russian super characters scattered across the comics landscape for this show's 3&1.

Review Round-up: The Collegium Chronicles and Unfaithful Wives

Two books/series with very little in common. Except, I suppose, I found them both kind of dissatisfying - Mercedes Lackey's Collegium Chronicles and Orrie Hitt's Unfaithful Wives.

RedoubtThe Collegium Chronicles (2008 - 2013) are five of the (counts rapidly) bajillion Valdemar novels by Mercedes Lackey. This particular sequence follows the young Mags as he's rescued from working as a mine slave and makes the startling transition to student at a magical university. His efforts to fit in, make friends, and adapt to his comfy new existence are occasionally interrupted by assassins.

If I sat down at wrote a list of 'stuff that bugged me in fantasy novels', the Collegium Chronicles would tick a dozen different items - from annoying dialects to poverty porn to magical horses to meandering descriptions of meaningless trivia (seriously, one of the books features a page-long list of pie fillings) to frequent, implausible deus ex machina to heavy-handed infodumping. Hell, there's even a shameless Quidditch knockoff.

And, good lord, the Chosen One-ness. Mags is lifted from obscurity because he's born magical and special - if he weren't, his plight (like those of his dozens of peers in the mines) would have gone completely unnoticed. As he grows, we learn that he's amazingly special in so many, many unique ways. Even at a magical university packed with magical snowflakes, he's the snowflakiest of all: the best at everything he does, possessed of a uniquely powerful magical talent, and, of course, descended from a mysterious bloodline. 

And yet...

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Not a Hoax! Not a Dream!


This issue, an X-Man dies!

They didn't use that cover line, as they didn't want to give it away, but at the risk of spoiling something thirty five years old, One Comic spends some time with the issue that gave the world the (first) death of Jean Grey: Uncanny X-Men 137. Double-sized and ending a story years in the making, this is one of the most famous Marvel comics of all time. But how does it hold up? And how much difference does the editorially-mandated change to the ending make?

And to round things out, we consider the best and worst of the X-Men retcons - mostly the worst, because they're all pretty bad.

Extended Memory: Captain Bible in the Dome of Darkness

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 12.04.54 PM

Game: Captain Bible in the Dome of Darkness (1994)
Developer: Bridgestone Multimedia Group
Original platform: DOS

I grew up in the Catholic Church, which feels exactly as an old religion should – austere, towering, kinda spooky. It’s got incense and chanting and gilded human bones. As a kid, mass was an experience that teetered between abject boredom and divine intimidation. There was nothing fun about it, nor should there have been. This was God’s House, and that meant serious business.

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Review Round-up: Planes, Fruit, Rags and Lions

Four oldish treats from the 1950s and 1960s. I suppose they're all sort of joined up by being "thrillers" in unconventional settings. But that's pretty spurious - they're really joined up by being four books that caught my eye recently; there's not much more pattern than that.

High CitadelHigh Citadel (1965), by Desmond Bagley, is a nice combination of survivalist horror and siege-porn. A small plane carrying a motley group of passengers is hijacked, and makes a crash-landing in the Andes. It turns out one of the passengers is politically important (the ex-President of a mythical South American country) and a group of Communist insurgents are keen to see him disposed of and out of the way.

But the Commies didn't count on American derring-do! The plane's captain, a former POW in Korea, shrugs off his burgeoning alcoholism and assembles the remaining passengers into a rag-tag group of freedom fighters. It is more fun (and less preachy) than it seems, as the team defend their mountain perch with a combination of medieval and jury-rigged weapons. And, in parallel, others try the murderous march over the mountains to get help - but with almost no supplies.

Although it tries, this isn't exactly a soaring novel of human triumph - the characters are mostly one-dimensional and the situation escalates far past the ability to suspend disbelief. But the detail is enjoyable, in a Robinson Crusoe Goes to War kind of way.

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Pompidou Posse by Sarah Lotz

Pompidou PosseFreedom's just another word for nothing to lose.

And with that, Janis Joplin captures the beautiful/painful dichotomy of Sarah Lotz's Pompidou Posse. Vicki and Sage are seventeen and practically drowning in freedom. After an incident (fire, building, art college), the two friends make the only 'rational' decision: they run away to Paris. Armed with Pet Semetary, some 2000AD comics, a few of their favourite sculptures and, of course, their boots, the duo head to the city of love to find themselves. They're young, they're artistic; they've got enough money for at least two bottles of cheap wine... and, plus, they're together. What else do they need?

As it turns out: quite a bit. 

Pompidou Posse oscillates between the joy and the agony of perpetual freedom. Vicki and Sage are responsible to no one and to nothing; their anarchic existence is purely about scraping together enough money for wine, shelter and the occasional shower. Any excess is spent on, well... more wine (or other addictions). This is freedom: they're making art, they're making friends, and they're living beholden to no one.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)


I wrote about the first two Hobbit movies and their major problem (they’re not about Bilbo) last year.

Last night I rewatched The Battle of Five Armies for the first time since it came out in the cinemas. And it’s hard to muster the energy to talk about it. Everything I said before is true: Bilbo is lost as a character, there’s too much about Thorin’s backstory, and there’s too much meaningless tertiary stuff.

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