Comic-book Catch up #4

Featuring Ms Marvel #3, Tomb Raider #3, Lazarus #8

Ms Marvel #3

Kamala Khan is experiencing the backlash from sneaking out. Her parents are upset, she’s still upset with Bruno. Bruno has his own mayhem happening, his brother asks him to steal from his register at the convenience store. Zoe is getting all the attention for getting saved while Kamala tries to get a grip on her powers and ends up in hiding even though she’s the hero in this story. She’s worrying she’s outgrowing her life “like a pair of pants that no longer fit” and in the next moment she’s confronting both teenage drama and an armed robber head on. G Willow Wilson writes teenage well, and she provides insight to the way that Kamala’s culture separates her from others in Jersey City, but also how it bonds her with her friends. She questions authority but is realistically insecure and charming. 

Tomb Raider #3

We’re treated to a bit more backstory on the hard hitting Reyes. In Dublin, her daughter is in imminent danger from the Solarii cult. They want the artifact Lara stole. Only, she still doesn’t remember it. She tries to lie, but the cult members don’t buy it. Suddenly, someone takes aim and shoots the gangsters and Lara breaks a glass over someone’s head. Meanwhile, Sam is in trouble. Lara and Reyes make a break for it, with the men in hot pursuit, Reyes and her daughter split from Lara (I love when characters don’t all orbit the main protagonist, btw. So Reyes calling Lara out on being the cause of this, on being bad luck. Worthwhile). Lara clubs a goon with the a busker’s guitar and grabs his gun. Reyes’ daughter says she was too mean to Lara. Lara finds out that Sam has been taken and throws down, but one goon sneaks up on her- she averts disaster but causing a soccer riot. But the goons just keep coming. Luckily, Reyes shows her daughter what it means to be loyal and double backs for Lara, with a “Don’t thank me, it was Miss Manners here.” And Lara declares they’ll go back to Yamatai to stop this and save Sam.

Sam Nishimura has the best answering machine message of all time. “I’m either off shooting an award winning documentary or passed out drunk. You know what to do.”

Lazarus #8

The first 5 were amazing, a new series with so much promise. One with a female lead (and still more females with their own agendas) that creates a world that is bleak, violent and corporate. One of all out class warfare. How could I not be in love? But the momentum has slowed, flashbacks to Forever’s childhood bog down the series instead of advance it. Currently, Forever is looking for and IED while the Barretts are looking to go get jobs with the Carlyles, they’re headed for Denver. Them and everyone else. Like pioneers travelling to a new frontier, to their last ditch effort: the road is hard. Worse when Forever finds that Denver is the target of this attack. But her father refuses to cancel the lift. Forever is in a race to stop the plot in the final pages. but it won’t be resolved til next month. 

Almost Human- Episode 10

And 9 episodes later, we start to get back to Kennex’s major internal dilemma: Anna.

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His GF who betrayed him and gave case files to Syndicate leading to an ambush which killed his partner and left Kennex with a synthetic leg. He’s taking something to help him remember. And he starts to.. he remembers that Anna had something for him.

Then Kennex gets a call that two girls have OD’d at separate locations (one’s at the morgue, one’s still on scene). Kennex takes one, Stahl takes the other -the one on scene is investigated of course by Kennex since Stahl’s not allowed outside ever. Rawr. Anyway, when he’s getting called in he says he’s en route, but Maldonado says Dorian already told her he was still at home. He’s been turning off his locator and Kennex starts having flashbacks while driving putting Dorian in an awkward situation -and getting his ear ripped off.

The main case follows “chromes” -GMO humans (Stahl has modified genes. this has been briefly touched on before, Paul called her out on it a couple episodes ago when she made fun off him for being short). Chromes are enhanced and the drugs that killed the two girls were specific for their DNA and created by and advanced chemical printer. The ideas for tech on this show are awesome because they capitalize on many recent developments taking the a step further and playing up some of the public’s major fears -in this case; teens on designer drugs and 3D printing. Rad.

7 months previous a girl named Lila died on the drug, but she wasn’t a “chrome” she was regular. She had been friends with the recently deceased Ellinor and Scarlett (ick, these WASPy “chrome” names) but their parent’s influence and money bought their way out of the eyes of investigators. Lila’s mother targeted the other girls for what she presumed to be “their role” only it wasn’t, Lila’s BF begged her not to take the drug (for “chromes” it opens a world of possibilities, but for Lila she saw limits) but he still made the drug for her and she committed suicide.

Bullying + teens desperate to fit in + GMO DNA + chemical printing + designer drugs + uneven class structures leading to corruption

AND all this on top of Kennex obsessing and drugging himself, being investigated by internal affairs and finding out that Syndicate is still spying on him with a Russian nesting doll (the Cold War never ever really died).

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But there was something that really bugged me, the “gorgeous +smart +ambitious” Stahl was privileged to have wealthy family who gave her the best damn genes money could buy, we’re meant to see that she took a “common” job and was a disappointment. But Stahl hasn’t proven exceptional in anyway, the only time she went investigating outside the precinct on her own, she was kidnapped. So we’re meant to believe she’s MORE capable but last episode she “helped” by watching TV. Dislike. Why couldn’t Det. Paul have special snowflake DNA? Though, it wouldn’t be Valerie’s *fault* that she had special DNA, people are born with advantages and privileges it’s necessary to acknowledge them not necessary to resent them.

Almost Human episode 9

This awesome episode begins with a repurposed service bot purse snatching. The bot is “destroyed” and put into the evidence locker. It reawakens and finds a head. Attaches the head onto it’s body and walks out of the evidence locker.

Cop: “How’d you get in there?”

Hot android: “Oh, I’ve been in there a long time.”

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Turns out the “brain” is that of the homicidal XRN model. Took out 26 cops, waves of MXs before being “destroyed.” All due to ONE XRN. Kennex freaks out, and Dorian was decommissioned before it happened. They rush to find the XRN before she can wreak too much havoc. She finds Dr. Vaughn’s “repair shop”  where she switched bodies, leaving that of the service bot in favor of a smoking hot sexbot. Dr. Vaughn turns out to be the mind behind both the DRN model and the XRN. Dr. Vaughn says that everyone looks at him as a monster, that he misses science. “Dannika” the XRN is steal processors, presumably to create more XRN models. Dr. Vaughn says he’ll help, set things right, restore his reputation. He makes something that -if stabbed directly into the base of her neck- will take her out.

While Dannika targets an event for Councilman Hart, people get killed mercilessly and Kennex arrives, goes all out action hero, stabs the juice into the back of her neck and …nothing. it’s bunk.

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Dr. Vaughn, back at the station is no where to be found.

Dorian fights Dannika, it’s personal for him since they have the same creator, she’s walking proof that he could go bonkers and kill everyone. A great fight scene ensues which ends with Dorian impaled by rebar. Kennex jumps back in, whacks her with a pipe, pulls the pin on her grenade and kicks her with his synthetic leg into an elevator shaft.

Dannika’s done, but Vaughn is still on the loose, the final scenes revealing that the attack on Councilman Hart was not random, he ordered that Vaughn’s license to practice robotics be revoked and that his bots be decommissioned and that Vaughn was the one who programed the service bot who freed Dannika.

Stahl shows her face 3/4 the way through the episode, and contributed by watching youtube. She is only around to drop cookies for the main characters, I kind of hate her.

But Kennex did that awesome thing where they save each other’s butts and then crack jokes, but still get a little sentimental while Dorian wonders if he’s a ticking time bomb… something the less than stable Kennex knows about. There was also some more world building and meta plot about “The Wall” on the other side it’s anarchy (think Peachtree in Dredd).

This episode featured John Laroquette as Dr. Vaughn and Fast and the Furious 6’s Gina Carano as fatal XRN.

Lazarus #5

I said this in my review for #4

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I HATE this cover. Forever is a child with her head so big. Stiff arms + no action + zero background art… OMG WHY?! Forever and her Lazurus crush had blown up, fought their way through armed mercenaries. She just found out that her “family” has been lying to her!

But inside “Lift: Part One” it’s all explained. We are back in time. Forever is a child trying to earn her sword and the title of her family’s protector. Her father visits her and she is forced to fight the adult badass Marisol. Forever loses, she is not fit to wear the sword. 

In the present day: Forever apologizes to a woman whose father she executed… takes a cell phone call while she does it. Forever heads to the Mississippi River. She’s after Jonah. SHe also thinks Jonah beat up Joanna. 

Jonah appears to have crossed the Mississippi River… into Bittner and Hock’s territory. Bitterner and Hock lost land and resources in a real war between the 1% itself. Forever antagonizes the other side and in response gets called, “Sweetheart”, “bitch” and receives a rape threat. The trifecta.

Worse when one of them shoots her in the back. Bittner and Hock’s men execute the offending soldier… the only way to avoid war between families.

A family in Montana begs the regional administrator for protection against the flooding. Their about to lose all they have but their “Government” won’t help them. 

In South Central Los Angeles, the devious Joanna plays nice with Forever while organizing workers to get the water and sewage running. They’ve narrowly averted a Cholera epidemic. Joanna is, presenting herself as doing the right thing. Earning back the trust of their… err… her father. 

That family in Montana… they lose everything.

Forever is no closer to knowing who she is.

Really a sad start… since this is a part one, I will stay excited. Excited to see more of Forever’s past, Joanna’s master plan and if the Carlyle’s who seek to exploit the oppressed will be taken down!

The world created here is monumental… while this issue didn’t thrill me, I’m sure it’s setting up to something rad. The disconnect between Forever and the “waste” population. Between Forever and her own siblings who treat espionage, war and profits as their right. Rival families bitter over not the way humans are treated but how much money and resources they are entitled to.

For those of you not sold on monthly issues, waiting for the trade: there’s always extras, timelines, fan letters, columns by Rucka on weirdly real science.

This month’s was on lab grown brains: which you can read about here:

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/37262/title/Lab-Grown-Model-Brains/

Next month- LIFT: part two

 

Book Review #28- Exodus Towers by Jason M Hough

The second book in the Dire Earth series picks up where the first left off. Skyler, Tania and other “traitors” are building their colony in Belem, Brazil. Skyler, now enjoying a role as a decisive man of action and Tania is the colony’s leader. As such, she spends a ton of time in orbit away from Skyler and doing important bureaucratic things like debating with Zane and Tim. Skyler and Tania fell in “insta-love” in the first book and now they’re dealing with the aftermath. They really didn’t know each other, and now the distance and differences in opinion drive a wedge between them. It’s very nuanced and well written in that aspect. Skyler, often off scavenging, researching and adventuring, isn’t there for Tania the way Tim and Zane are and the orbitals are egregiously out of touch with what’s happening on the ground. That all come to a head when the camp is taken by a gang/cult/bunch of freaks who are all immunes who refer to orbitals as spacemen and believe that immunes are meant to inherit the Earth. Extremists who believe that they are the chosen-ones.

Speaking of chosen-ones… back in Darwin, my girl Samantha Rinn (who *score* we did get more of in this book) starts off a captive of Blackfield’s. After an attempted escape she is sent on a mission by slumlord/Jacobite leader, Grillo. And then she’s set off on more mission as Grillo has her friend Kelly Adelaide under his thumb. He brings her out into the field when he needs an immune (she is the last known in Darwin) and she runs the scavenger crews, which she hates. The Jacobites believe the Darwin Elevator is Jacob’s Ladder and they start imposing Jacobite laws on the people, no drinking, a holy day, no using the lord’s name in vain… that sort of thing, and like any good religious cult, being armed to the teeth never conflicts with their belief system. Samantha helps Grillo because she gains her freedom and because, frankly she has nothing else to do. But Grillo turns out to have bigger goals than he initially let on.

There are some new characters, one of which is Ana. One of the few problems I had with this book was that I felt like Hough couldn’t decide what age Ana should be, he wanted her to be substantially younger than Skyler and immature/maladapted and she was, but I feel like the age waffled a bit. I read the ARC copy, so perhaps it came together in the final cut, anyway. Ana falls hard for Skyler and he tries to keep her at a distance, but with Tania in orbit and a rift between them… it gets complicated. Ana is impulsive, tough, spoiled and determined. A good teammate but she escapes the overused action-chick cliches.

And throughout love triangles, violent cults and espionage we still have the evolving sub-humans (zombie like survivors of the SUBS virus get tougher in strange ways), upcoming alien events, and beyond weird alien artifacts. My favorites include Sam being trapped in alien brambles and Skyler entering a dome that pays no mind to the rules of space and time.

There’s a ton going on and frankly, it was super awesome. The second book in a trilogy always bugs me. The first is always self contained and then the second ramps up but leaves so much lying around for the third. But I’m in. There’s a good amount of book here, as you can tell. It’s worth it.

The other thing that bugged me a ton: the rift between Skyler and Tania. Tania bartered with Gabriel that she would turn in Skyler (she didn’t mean it), and he heard her, he would have forgiven her but she lied about it because she felt guilty. But she had the nerve to tell him that he started combat with Gabriel, that he should have negotiated. These guys were rapists. Seriously: Skyler needed to kill every last one, no regrets. Period. And he never said “Tania, you don’t even know what is going on down here. Shut up.” 

Last review I cast Michael Weatherly to star as main protag Skyler Luiken, this time Samantha gets a face: 

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Alexa Vega from Machete Kills As much as I would love to throw future Captain Marvel Katee Sackhoff in a time machine and pick her, I’m going with this former Spy Kid to throw punches and throw down one-liners.

and the role of Tania goes to

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Noureen Dewulf from Pulse 2 and Pulse 3 (and frankly, a bunch of movies I haven’t seen) would be great as new leader Tania, the smart scientist, the good friend and stunning love interest.

I’d love to see Demi Lovato get a little wild as our Ana

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And Peruvian model/actress Angie Jibaja should certainly play someone.

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4 Stars for sure.

Movie Review #13- Dredd (2012)

Look at this cover:

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Bet you can’t tell that this movie is jam packed with feminist awesomesauce.

(and decently nuanced social commentary)

Plot Synopsis

The future America is an irradiated wasteland. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One – a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed. 

During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby, a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. She’s repeatedly failed the exam to be a judge after being taken in by the justice system (which is what happens to all orphans).

A heinous, gory and special effects laden crime calls Dredd, played by Karl Urban (action hero extraordinaire 10 times over in Riddick, Doom, Star Trek, Xena: Warrior Princess and the upcoming Almost Human), and his fledgling to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture – a 200 story vertical slum, Peach-Trees, controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma, played by the awesome Lena Headey (of the Sarah Connor Chronicles, 300, Game of Thrones and recently, a box office flop that I enjoyed Mortal Instruments), and her clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and declares a bounty on the pair of judges. All of the Peach-Trees residents are locked in and hostage until Ma-Ma gets what she wants; two dead judges.

Now Ma-Ma doesn’t care which residents live or die as long as she gets what she wants. Which is simple: to not get busted. Anderson (the fledgling) grew up in a slum and is trying to reduce the casualties to the good people that unfortunately live in this shit hole, and Dredd wants to dispense justice. Dredd doesn’t care that the people could starve there for their non-compliance with Ma-Ma, he’s the law and they should abide by the law, unconditionally.

Anderson is trying to behave like a Judge. For those who attempt to kill a Judge the sentence is death. She uses her mutant psychic powers to barge into the apartment of a woman who tells the pair the location of a secret elevator so that they will get the hell off her floor and away from her family.

“Don’t thank me, I just don’t want to see you again.”

Anderson plays a game with their captive: My fucked up head versus your fucked up head, that makes the hardened criminal pee his pants.

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Ambushed by a couple of kids. Their criminal gets the upper hand on Anderson and brings her to Ma-Ma.

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Intent on making it look like a bust gone wrong, and one not involving them, Ma-Ma instructs: “No torture, no raping no skinning, just a bunch of bullets to the head and to the chest. Do you understand me?”

But they still don’t have Dredd. Amidst escalating violence they clan decides to call… 911. Other Judges show up to take Ma-Ma’s money and take on Dredd and Anderson. Bloodshed, broken necks, outlandish explosives and stapling together bullet wounds together ensue.

It was gritty, visually amazing, fun and frankly, pretty damn clever.

Dredd enforces the law as it’s written, something Anderson hasn’t proved she can comply with (which, given the absolute assurance of violence, isn’t such a bad thing) but the other Judges can be bought and sold. Something our main protags could never comply with.

The females in this story: Ma-Ma and Anderson, have their own sense of justice, separate from that of the government which has failed them both (and is failing all of Mega City One). Anderson wants to become a Judge, even though it’s clear from the beginning that the justice system has failed her both as a mutant and an orphan, how far is she willing to go? Is she willing to negate her sense of justice to distribute “justice”?

Ironically named Ma-Ma there’s not a shred of sympathy or softness towards those who stand in her way. But how else is she supposed to make money in this wasteland? Out of reasonable options, her reactions may be extreme, but it beats starving to death. Besides, Was Slo-Mo really hurting anyone? She turns their war on drugs turns into a real war. While I find it hard to sympathize… she’s undeniably badass.

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5 Stars!

If you are reading this today: Give it a watch, stream it, buy it, whatever and then take to the twitter and tell everybody that you want a Dredd2

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Book Review #27- The Darwin Elevator by Jason M Hough

This is the kind of book that would do well enough as a movie is directors had the good sense not to ruin it by giving the role to Tom Cruise (thankfully, he’d be too old for it) or Keanu Reeves (yeesh)…

THE PLOT (snagged from goodreads):

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.
 
Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity

I glanced at the goodreads reviews (for the record: I don’t especially care for goodreads, in general, no offense) some people didn’t like it because the characters weren’t “strong enough” which is fine…

And honestly I can relate. At first I was thinking, “dammit, Skyler, why are you so damn wishy washy?”

Skyler recently became captain, after the former captain of the Melville, Skadz, suddenly abandoned everyone. He’s not particularly good at it. He flew into Darwin with Skadz when humans started going apeshit and eating each other, which is where the rest of the crew got together: Samantha and Angus and Jake. So Skadz leaves and Skyler takes over because the Melville is his. He doesn’t know how to lead, he was a grunt in the Dutch Air Force and was happy not making the tough calls. The people of Darwin have small farms in orbit that supply food and some roof top gardens but they are horribly over populated and depend on scavenger crews ransacking the rest of the earth that is infested with subhumans. The wrong call could get his crew killed or lead to shortages of vital resources… Skyler is caving under the pressure.

“He didn’t want to be special. Or sought after. Truth be told he’d rather be back in the Netherlands, flying mundane patrols for the air force, living a good life. But that was a long time ago, in a different world.”

So, Skyler Luiken hasn’t really gotten over the world ending or his friend freaking out and leaving and doesn’t have the ambition or aptitude for leadership. That’s the point. I know all of you think you would get over your glaring personality flaws and be the Big Damn Hero if it ever came down to it. Reality Check: not everyone is built for it.

Skyler does step up over the course of the book, for the reason straight men do. No, no, not money, not “because it’s the right thing”, not fame, not for adventure, or excitement… for a beautiful woman.

There’s actually a really cute part where he goes to rescue her: not even sure if she’ll remember him, “Hey, it’s Skyler, from Hawaii?”

So if you want to smack him for not being able to make a decision: he will, don’t worry.

In the “women who don’t really need rescuing” category: For the “tough chicks” Kelly Adelaide and Samantha. For the “smart chicks”: Tania Sharma and Natalie.

The story doesn’t follow them around as much (for the record, more time spent with Kelly and Sam would have been optimal)

The world building is good. There’s enough for the general idea of how everything got this way and why every one is going so damn crazy.

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Just kidding, no it’s not. The problem is not really the aliens (or the zombies). It’s plain old human greed. Hidden plans, secret plots, power grabs, revenge, monopolies on resources, money, power, respect. Russel and Alex want to control orbit (where the money lives), tired of being dependent on lesser of two evils Neil Platz. Platz, for the record is hiding too many secrets to name, including the Mother Of All Secrets. And he gets mighty rich off his MOAS. Russel and Alex… and, you know, humanity are right to be resentful.

“The aura is everything.”

This book wraps up a major issue, but leaves the fate of some characters (and earth overall) up in the air. I’m very interested in starting book 2 to see what happens to everybody and how their discovery changes their world! There were also some things that never get fully explained that I hope do in the next book. Like why the “zombies” were changing.

And for the record, if this were made into a movie…. I would pick Michael WeatherlyImage

Even though he is both too old and too tall for it.

PS- It actually reminded me of Outlaw Star, and Gene Starwind who wants to go into space but is terrified. He’s a tough guy and a gunslinger and an all around rad dude, but nothing above and beyond. The first time he’s on a spaceship he passes out, he has to drink to keep his cool. But he ends up inheriting a ship and joining an intergalactic treasure hunt.

4 Data Cubes!