Gotham S1:E4 – Arkham (Too Many Nights in Gotham)

When we last left intrepid Detective James Gordon, Oswald Cobblepot had shown up at his doorstep with a tuxedo and a smile.

Jim off-sets the presence of Oswald (introducing himself as Peter to Barbara) by saying that he’s a “work friend”. We get through the awkward stuff and Jim gets Oswald out of his posh clock-tower penthouse apartment (which we found out last week is actually Barb’s) and onto the street. In his best Christian Bale Batman voice, Jim interrogates Oswald asking why he came back to Gotham when Jim told him not to making us painfully aware that Jim has never seen any movies ever because telling someone never to come back usually assures that they will be sooner rather than later. Jim threatens, saying he should have killed Oswald, Oswald knows Jim would never do it even offering Jima free shot with a broken bottle. Oswald offers to be Gordon’s inside man with the crime world (citing Jim as the “last good man in Gotham” to no surprise) and pulls the old ninja disappearance (with a terrible limp) in the middle of a city street.

We then get a scene with a city councilman and his assistant in a dark parking lot. A random man shows up and wants to show the councilman something. Rather than just walk away, the moron assistant takes a device from the man and holds it up to his eye when he is instructed to do so. SURPRISE!!! Knife to the eye! Are there no movies in this universe? Does no one see these tricks coming?

The councilman runs, is pursued, and gets murdered by the stranger. Cue titles.

Captain (not) Sarah Essen gives the double homicide case to Jim and Harvey as Bullock predictably bitches about it. Turns out the councilman had something to do with the Arkham plan.

Cut to the Mayor giving a speech about the redevelopment plan for “Arkham City”, the shanty-town district in the exact middle of the city (comprising most of its volume, actually) and the revitalization of its aging mental asylum. According to the Mayor, the Wayne plan called for demo-ing the entire area and putting up new, affordable housing for the city’s less fortunate as well as building a state-of-the-art mental health facility (otherwise known as another ASYLUM) and the opposing plan which would involve putting a giant waste treatment facility in A CENTRAL PARK SIZED AREA IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GOD DAMNED CITY. Is this real or just a bad game of SimCity?

We cut to the same killer now taking out another councilman who is for the waste treatment facility plan. We find out through some gallows exposition that the Falcone family supports the Wayne plan while the Maroni family is backing the waste treatment bit. The killer burns the councilman alive.

Jim and Bullock show up at the scene in the morning (inside the gates of the old Arkham Asylum) and we’re treated to a bit of Ed Nygma who explains to our favorite dicks that the hit man killed both a Falcone supporter and a Maroni supporter (and that’s called a paradox!). The boys are stumped. They get a bit of info from a current inmate and freelance hitter that the guy they’re looking for has a reputation for using a metal spike to do his killing.

The clue leads the pair to an office where the killer purportedly works, he disappears from his desk and Jim goes to investigate the back. Hitter is hiding behind a shelf, holding his tube of spiky death, waiting to ice the cops hot on his trail, when Harvey calls Jim back to the main office area to let him know that he found news clippings about both deaths in the hitter’s desk because that was much more important than actually tracking the guy down.

Cut to Oswald who, earlier in the episode, witnesses a large bag full of what we assume is money come into the Maroni run restaurant where he washes dishes. A bunch of masked men come in to rob the backroom of the payroll, plugging the restaurant manager in the gut with a shotgun blast prompting Oswald to go on the move. Maroni’s men get to the scene, find all their fellow gangsters dead, and follow a bunch of bloody footprints to the freezer where Oswald is currently hiding with half of the payroll. Boss Maroni appreciates Oswald’s efforts enough to promote him to restaurant manager.

Jim stays at the police station while Harvey goes to ask our favorite Eartha Kitt clone, Fish, about the word on the street, which is really just an expositional jaunt into Fish’s subplot (which we’ll get to later) rather than any clear lead in the investigation. Jim, meanwhile, gets a call from Oswald who, in his new position but not yet out of his dishwasher clothes, has another clue which connects to a previous clue leading Jim to realize the next hit is the Mayor.

Jim runs to the Mayor after leaving a message for Bullock, the hitter shows up at the mayor’s mansion, and we immediately see that the Mayor’s mansion is much larger than the one-room study of stately Wayne Manor including a concert hall with chairs where Jim and the hitter have a prolonged showdown. Just when the hitter gets the upper hand, Bullock shows and the two wind up taking the hitman down.

After the day is saved, the Mayor announces that he’s merging the Wayne/Falcone plan and the Maroni plan for Arkham by doing low-cost housing, a new asylum, and a waste disposal site. Bruce, who was consulted earlier by Gordon on the whole Arkham thing, is shown in his “mansion” (read: only room they ever show) disgusted as the mayor says the Waynes would be proud of this idea.

This week in sideplots:

Fish Mooney is auditioning vampy/gothy singers for a job that isn’t, apparently, being a vampy/gothy singer for her club. After the first audition, with a girl who has some decent pipes and looks like Eva Green, she asks the girl to try to seduce her. Fish is unimpressed with the girl’s skills (she gives her a shoulder rub. 1.5/10.) and sends her away revealing that she’s not looking for a singer, she’s looking for “a weapon”. When Bullock mosies in during the main plot, Fish is auditioning a girl who looks kinda like Lorde (not the Stan Marsh version, ya ya ya) but sings like Lana Del Ray got stabbed in the throat. When asked to seduce, there’s a girl-girl kiss. Fish then brings the two prospective “singers” to a seedy river dock area and makes them fight it out. Lorde girl wins after bashing Eva Green’s head on the pavement a few times. At the end of the episode, Fish is icing down Lorde’s bruises while saying that she got her “just in time”.

Barb starts asking Jim “who is Oswald Cobblepot” after Detective Montoya spilled the beans to her about Jim’s supposed killing of the Penguin in last week’s episode. Barb finally comes clean to Jim about the romantic nature of her and Renee’s relationship, much to Jim’s dismay. Before the end of the episode, Barb comes to the police station with a lot of relationship angst and I’m sorrys but still presses Jim on the Cobblepot issue. Jim says “it’s work and I don’t want to talk about it” which Barb whines about. Jim justifies himself by referencing the fact that the last time he told Barb about work, she called the newspaper to give an anonymous tip on the child snatchers in ep. 2. She walks away in the most dramatic fashion possible after telling Jim to make a choice about honesty blah blah romantic tension blah.

Bruce wants to start trying to connect the murder of his parents to the Arkham deal and the councilman slayings, proving yet again that he’s going to be Batman eventually even if his mansion is only one room.

Oswald, as it turns out, orchestrated the robbery and the murder of his boss. We get a scene where the thieves are counting the loot from that job in an empty apartment and are joined by Oswald. It’s all smiles and laughs and, hey, Oswald even brought them a nice pink box of cannoli from the restaurant! Do I need to go on after mentioning that Oswald didn’t eat a cannoli after his friends scarfed theirs down? Yep. Poison. Room full of dead robbers and Oswald walks out as the end title card hits.

This week in anger:

Arkham Asylum, though placed in the inner city by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins, was never in Gotham proper. It was always outside of Gotham. In the comics, it’s depicted as a large facility in the middle of the woods, up on a hill, much like Wayne Manor. Arkham City was not a thing unless you count the recent video games but, even then, Arkham City was Mayor Sharpe’s idea to put a giant prison in a more run-down district of Gotham. In that universe, Arkham is on an island. Arkham is not and was not ever a district in Gotham City proper.

They didn’t really get much more into the mythos this week and Fish’s parts were mostly tolerable. I would have to say that this is the best episode of Gotham yet and is honestly more of what I was looking for from the start. The writing is still crap and plays out the cops to be bumbling idiots. Most of the acting is still shit and any time Gordon is with a perp he launches into the Christian-Bale-Needs-A-Cough-Drop voice but, other than that, this is more of what the show should be – a crime drama that just happens to be set in Batman’s future city.

A shinier turd than the rest, still not very good. I remain confident that they will give

Bidula’s Last Word – 5/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Gotham S1:E3 – The Balloonman (Three Nights in Gotham)

When we last left intrepid white-knight Detective James Gordon, he was sitting on a bench next to young Selena Kyle at GCPD headquarters. Right before cutting to black, she says, “I know who really killed the Waynes.”

After a sequence where Oswald returns to Gotham (which amounted to a supercut of every conceivable street crime happening at once within the same city block and a sequence where a lowlife financeer gets vigilant-ed the hell out of by the titular Balloonman (wearing a pig mask, so there went the Professor Pyg idea) hand-cuffing him to a weather balloon and leaving him to the mercy of the four winds while a large crowd of reports simply watch him drift away into the air, we finally catch up with our favorite Dicks, Gordon and Bullock, on the scene of another case entirely.

In what dimension should our first encounter with Jim Gordon in this episode NOT be extracting the exact information Selena Kyle teased at the end of last episode? How is he not doing everything but beating the identity of the real Wayne killers out of her right on that spot? Either this is truly shoddy detective work or this show really thinks we’re dumb enough to believe that the best (morally) detective on the force would say, “Ok, well, you have a lead on this closed case in which I know I killed an innocent man. Stop back whenever and I’ll take that info. Thanks, street urchin. Go ahead back to the streets where people just snatched you away and I’ll see you later.”

Nope. Jim and Bullock are now hot on the tail of “The Balloonman”, the afforementioned vigilante. Bullock continues to prove that his character was written as the laziest most BS detective on the force by saying that the financeer “got what he deserved”, case closed. Of course, Bullock is pissed that his partner is dragging him into another investigation because he has to be the absolute counterpoint to Gordon. Let the crime-of-the-week begin!

We get a quick glimpse of Fish Mooney as she speaks with Detectives Montoya and Allen from Major Crimes about the Oswald Cobblepot “murder”. Continuing with her best Eartha Kitt in the most vomitous fashion, Fish coughs up Jim Gordon as the shooter with Falcone (mispronounced) giving the order. Predictably, the two Dicks from the MCU confront Gordon about it but not before we get back to a bit of Selena Kyle.

Selena leads Jim to the alleyway after Jim called her back into the office (rather than, y’know, getting that over with immediately like a good detective) and does nothing more than set herself at the scene by referencing the stolen wallet she ditched in the sewer back in episode one. Jim handcuffs her to a fire escape before going into the sewer which turns out to be predictably laughable as she picks the cuffs and promptly ditches him while he’s ankle-deep in human filth.

We also get introduced to another mega-corrupt cop who winds up being red-shirted as the Balloonman’s next victim. See, Jim found out that there were four weather balloons stolen from a supplier (through some easy dicking around) which means there are two more victims yet to come.

They track down the guy who originally stole and sold the balloons and it’s not until this point that two police detectives – people who are paid to figure things out, mind you – need to have a skeezy stoner guy tell them exactly how balloons work and make them realize what goes up must come down. Frozen. And fast. We then get treated to the corrupt cop plummeting dead onto an innocent woman walking her dog. The coroner’s office promptly shows up with giant shovels to scrape them off the street because apparently victims of horrible accidents are routinely considered comic relief in Gotham City.

Key evidence is found on the body of the cop which has Jim Gordon’s name on it (GASP!). We find out that it’s the child services request Gordon made to have Selena brought to him. Apparently, orphaned children are as easy to order up as Chinese food. The bad cop JUST SO HAPPENED to swipe the orphan receipt from the Balloonman’s jacket just before he was sent to hypoxyia heaven.

Long story short, the next turns out to be a Cardinal who molested children (topical as well as borderline controversial, So Brash! So Bold! So Fox!). They use the orphan order slip and figure it’s (WOW!) the guy from child services! They track him to his place, have a bunch of overly long-winded pointed gun discussions, Bullock winds up cuffing him to his last balloon. Jim jumps to save him, tells Bullock to shoot the balloon. Bullock hesitates, thinking to his lazy self that if the Balloonman is killed, it will save him the work part of police work. He eventually shoots the balloon and Gordon and the Balloonman fall onto the roof of a conveniently parked van so as not to hit the ground from at least two stories up.

That’s the main plot, let’s get to the sub-plots.

Oswald comes back to town (as referenced) and is recognized by a Falcone thug. He pretends to be Dimitri from Odessa but the thug knows better. The thug drags him into a garage where he tells Oswald that he’ll be turned in to Fish Mooney for a bounty because Fish believes Oswald to be dead. Oswald begs for his freedom and, when nothing comes of it, he murders the thug with a pocket knife, steals a benji from the guy, and buys a tuna sandwich at the food truck across the street while the corpse bleeds out all over the garage floor.

Oswald then gets a job washing dishes in an Italian restaurant (not associated with his former, oft mispronounced, crime family) after first being denied and then straight up murdering the guy he wants to replace (after hours, of course). A smile comes over his face when Sal Maroni walks into the place and makes nice with the owner. Maroni being the main competition for the unpronounceable Falcone family.

Eventually, Oswald, now posing as Paolo (Italian on his mother’s side rather than crazy on his mother’s side) overhears a conversation between Maroni and the restaurant owner that involves a lot of names, including (as they directly point out) Falcone and Arkham. He gives “Paolo” a couple hunskys for claiming he heard nothing. They have a rather jovial exchange (including a VERY stereotypical Catholic Italian mobster moment) and it seems like Oswald is well on his way to starting into a new crime family. I’m sure he’ll quickly rise through the ranks, giving the inside dish to Maroni on Fish Mooney’s operation.

Speaking of Fish, there are a few extra-creamy limburger moments where she purrs at her lover, Laslow, the one who last week got the crap kicked out of him by Falcone’s goons as Fish’s “punishment”. She tells her head muscly guy that Laslow has lost his spine. She orders a retaliation against Falcone’s current lover (Natalia, for the record) and also tells muscly guy to “take care of poor Laslow as well”. Look, I know she’s supposed to be cold, but seriously? Straight-up killing her lover because he’s nervous after getting the shit beat out of him by serious gangsters is a bit too over-the-line-crazy which is, apparently, how they would rather characterize Fish Mooney. They’d rather use the “bitches be crazy” stereotype than the “cold, calculating, cunning businesswoman” type which, in my opinion, devalues the character. I guess shows like this that tout strong female leads only like them when they’re sex kittens or crazy. Or tiny teenage pickpockets. More on that in a minute.

Falcone and Fish have an exchange later in the show where Falcone stops by Fish’s club for seemingly no good reason other than to tell her that Natalia was mugged and he’s going to kill anyone responsible once he finds them. Blah blah foreshadowing blah. The exchanges between these two are supposed to look like a well-organized chess game and instead it looks like two rednecks playing checkers on a pickle barrel. Thankfully, there wasn’t much Fish Mooney in this episode which actually lent to this episode being marginally better overall.

Also in this episode, we get a little more about Barbara. Though not the worst character on the show by far, Barb seems to be the most sexualized. Every time we see her, she’s dressed in a sexy manner. In this episode, we see her in one of Jim’s dress shirts and nothing else, just as she gets out of the shower, and in sexy evening apparel. Yes, we get it. Jim’s fiancée is hot. Yes, their penthouse apartment (with awesome and incredibly uncommon clock tower window) is opulent, so she must also be well-to-do and have a decent job even though we haven’t yet had a hint of what that might be aside from her saying that “she has a meeting” later that day.

We find out, after Detective Montoya breaks in to expand on their sexy side plot, that said meeting may have been AA. After hinting at their shared past back in episode one, Renee comes back to warn Barb about the strong rumor that Jim shot Oswald on Falcone’s orders. This is the scene where Barb has just got out of the shower and is wearing a short hooded robe because she can’t wear normal clothing that doesn’t show the max amount of leg while on screen. Barb pulls out a joint (lolwut?) and sits down to smoke it in front of her police detective ex-girlfriend (yeah, they openly admitted it finally). Renee shows some concern and wonders if Barb is back on drugs because blah blah Renee’s been clean for a year since Barb left blah blah romantic tension blah blah Barb less-than-threes Jim blah blah. Renee, in typical romantic fashion, questions the safety and health of her ex-lover and goes in for the unwanted kiss at which point Barb asks her to leave. Yay, pan-sexual love triangle! At least Detective Montoya has the good sense to put some freaking pants on. Then again, they’re not selling her as the bombshell hot chick, they’re selling her as the discarded lesbian, so pants it is!

Lastly, we get to see young Master Bruce. First, practicing fencing with Alfred using a pair of wooden canes, dancing around the same study we’ve seen in every episode of this show so far. Stately Wayne Manor has been reduced to a single room, probably due to the show’s budget constraints. From the looks of things, tiny grieving Bruce is becoming tiny Howard Hughes and not leaving this damn room for anything. Also, he’s the heir to the freaking Wayne fortune. Can’t he afford legit fencing gear rather than likely antique wooden walking sticks? Couldn’t they clear out one of their likely vast dining rooms or even a ballroom and practice there? Nope. Wayne Manor only exists in this tiny study.

During the ruckus, Alfred uncovers the fact that Bruce has been looking at the police file of his parents’ murder. When asked by Alfred how he got the file, Bruce simply says: “It wasn’t hard.”

Time-out. You mean to tell me that Bruce Wayne, without adult supervision or guidance, left Wayne Manor on his own and talked to some likely seedy characters in order to gain access to a restricted, confidential police file. And that it “wasn’t hard”. Look, I know he’s supposed to be Batman someday, but he sure as hell isn’t anywhere close yet. Practically everything he does would go through Alfred (as his legal guardian). Don’t tell me Alfred leaves him be with like a thousand bucks in bribe money for him to sneak off to the police station and get one of any hundreds of corrupt cops to give him the file on the most prestigious homicide case to ever befall Gotham City. And, don’t tell me for a minute that even a corrupt cop would question giving that file to a child, let alone a famous child and recognizable face like Bruce Wayne. I shake my head in pain at you, writers. I shake my head.

Anyway, the rest of Bruce’s portion of the episode involve him not eating (claiming lack of hunger) and reading headlines/watching newscasts involving the Balloonman. Bruce seems inspired by the antics (big shock) but tells Alfred that the Balloonman was wrong because he killed, and killing made him just another bad guy. So yeah, Batman-ing it up already. They are going to rush this kid into a costume.

No real complaints this week about misused characters or dropped names. The only thing that disappoints me is that they used a pig mask for the Balloonman in his first scene and squished it without context into the sizzle reel, making every Bat-fan worth their salt think that Professor Pyg was on the horizon. Shame on you for abusing nerds like that, Fox.

There have been rumors floating that Gotham may already be facing the axe. I am not surprised. As much as I would love this shit and cheese show to continue, if only because it gives me fodder for blog entries, the earlier this disgrace to the Bat-franchise can be laid low, the better. Though this episode was a slight improvement over last week’s, I will continue to rail against it based on principal. As always, we’ll see what kind of slop they throw in front of us hogs next week and evaluate it then.

Bidula’s Last Word – Gotham S1:E3 – 4/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Gotham S1:E2 – Selena Kyle (Two Nights in Gotham)

I’ve decided to make this an ongoing recap/review series because, as the biggest Bat-Fan in my particular region, I feel it necessary to provide an ongoing progress report of Bat-Culture, for better or worse.

In this case, it got much, much worse.

Gotham S1:E2, for all the promise shown by the “this season on…” sizzle reel currently circulating the internet, was horrible.

Start with some homeless teenagers who looked as though they could still afford massive amounts of hair-product and had regular access to showering facilities. A truck approaches with overly-sweet, 1950’s-dressed, little-over-middle-aged, white guilt poster people step out offering sandwiches and snacks to the “poor, hungry orphans” who looked like they skipped out on their family vacation to their lake house because their parents didn’t understand them (ie, probably not that bad off at a glance).

Of course, the caring, as it often does on television, plays far more sinister. Sinister to the point where you wonder how actually stupid these kids would be to attempt to take a sandwich from these people who were obviously just going to drug them and throw them into the back of their large truck. Then, the stupid kids get drugged and thrown into the back of their large truck.

The creepy couple stabs the kids with a long pin (which everyone in the episode continues to incorrectly identify as a “pen” either by miscommunication between props and writing or due to some as-yet-unheard Gothamite accent’s poor pronunciation) providing the movie-appropriate immediate knockout except for one of the hardier “street kids” who leads the male member of the duo on a chase, eventually breaking a restaurant-front window while people are eating. As long as we’re doing tropes, we might as well do them all, right?

Of course, our friend Cat (aka, young Selena Kyle) is nearly a party to these shenanigans but smartly makes a getaway just as the stabby-stabby bits begin. An older homeless man the kids call Soldier attempts to interfere and takes a bullet to the chest for his trouble in a very unsurprising death.

Cut to Gordon and Bullock in the street staring at Soldier’s body. Gordon, being the ex-soldier himself, finds the dead guy’s dog tags buried under his bloody shirt and has that stereotypical uber-patriot moment of extra sad at which point Bullock shows up and basically flips him the middle finger by announcing, coffee in hand, that he got Jim a cup of coffee but he “dropped it”. I don’t know if you could pick it up by this point in the show, but these guys don’t really like each other. Subtle hints. Very subtle.

Gordon berates a beat cop because he wasn’t there preserving the crime scene which leads to a lot of “You killed the Penguin, I thought you were ‘with the program’” talk regarding Jim’s continuing to be a White Knight in a sea of corruption. Banter, banter, fight with the fat lazy cop stereotype, Bullock drops his coffee, irony ensues.

The Dicks (yeah, I’m going to keep using that double-entendre until it doesn’t apply anymore) do a bad-cop/saccharine-sweet cop on the sturdy street kid who fell through that plate glass window earlier. This is the first time that the PIN is misidentified as a PEN. Repeatedly.

Bullock goes over-the-top stereotype on the kid and then lashes out at Jim. The acting by Bullock here is absolutely atrocious as there doesn’t seem to be any reason that he could be as upset as he plays. Not to mention Bullock is berating his partner in an open area of the police station where all of their peers can see. He punches a guy for being in his way as a surrogate for Gordon and storms off.

Cut to a highway where we conveniently find that it is approximately nine miles to Gotham City. The newly gimped and still shabby Oswald Cobblepot is trying to hitch a ride back to town. A couple of (again) overly-stereotypical frat boys stop to pick him up, doing the old “reach for the handle, drive away” on him a few times before legitimately picking him up and proceeding to bully him for the first few seconds before handing him a beer and trying to make nice (still laughing at him). You can feel the tension building as Oswald continues to be very polite and proper.

He, of course, loses it when the passenger-seat boy tells him that he “walks like a penguin”, breaks a beer bottle he’d been given, and goes for the kid’s neck to the horror of douche-y boy #2 driving the car.

Meanwhile, Fish Mooney is continuing to be portrayed by Jada Pinkett-Smith with levels of cheese potentially exceeding Adam West Batman. She is channeling Eartha Kitt in all the wrong ways and even a severe sit down with Don Falcone – regarding information of her attempted coup cited in last week’s episode – into a bad caricature of the way elderly people think organized crime operates. He decides to beat up the waiter she confesses she uses for “exercise” (wink wink, nudge nudge) as a warning and leaves, prompting Fish to scream to her operating nightclub full of people to “GET OUT!!”

This leads to a quick aside. Based on this scene and Fish’s not-so-subtle request for everyone to scram from the main room of her club: does this mean that Fish’s place isn’t really a nightclub but more of a honeycomb hideout for her many minions, or is Fish just a very bad club owner who would clear a packed room of paying customers due to an overly emotional (and unprofessional, even for presumably a Capo in the local mob) outburst? If it’s the latter, she lost out on quite a bit of money, in which case Falcone should look into shutting her down for real. Threats or no.

She then sits at the bar and proclaims in her most cheese-ball line yet that, “I’m gonna kill that old man with my bare hands… and my TEETH.”

Bitch, please.

By the way, writers/actors: IT’S STILL F***ING falCON-ee NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU SAY falCONE. I know my Batman, don’t fight me on this.

We are then treated to a scene with Detective Montoya and Partner at Casa de Cobblepot where we meat Oswald’s insane immigrant mother who, of course, insists the cops use the correct old world pronunciation: Kapelput. This is the one bright moment in the show as Mrs. Kapelput is played by Carol King – always the awesome eccentric (see Princess Bride and Scrooged at least for more details). She does crazy good and proper and plays herself as a doting mother to Oswald’s well-dressed and well-behaved demeanor. Showing the eccentricity of his mother only serves to add to the cold sociopathic nature of Oswald and cements him as my favorite character in this show so far. This scene only serves as exposition for Oswald and has really nothing else to do with the episode as a whole.

I’m going to be a bit more brief with the rest of the episode.

The homeless kid snatchers become a serious threat. Jim and Bullock chase down a lead based on Ed Nygma telling them the kind of drugs they found in the hearty orphan’s blood, making them lean on the pharmacies that have it in their inventory. We find out that one pharmacy is holding the kids in an overly-dungeony basement with a brick-lined bottomless pit to nowhere in the middle used for “evidence disposal” as implied by the typically fat-and-greasy corrupt pharmacy owner.

Jim, being the supercop that he is and Barbara, being the oft-trodden voice of reason that she is, discuss Jim’s latest case likely in some kind of violation of HIPAA laws or something similar. She does exactly what the Mayor, the Captain, and Bullock told Jim not to do and calls the Gotham Gazette to tip them off about the missing kids in an attempt to spark public outrage. The Mayor, the Captain, and Bullock are all shocked when the story suddenly hits the front page and berate Jim, calling him out for supposedly being “with the program”.

We do get a shout out from the kid-snatching duo that they work for the Dollmaker (a more recent addition to Batman’s coterie of villains in the comics) just before Jim and Bullock bust in to try to find the well-groomed homeless kids and do so after a bit of trickery.

The Mayor (not given an official name in this episode but, depressingly, not Mayor Hill) applauds the two detectives publicly and vows to get all the homeless kids off the street, telling Gordon, Bullock, and the Captain (who I’ll get to later) over an on-the-job glass of whiskey that it’s “foster homes for the ‘cute ones’, upstate for the rest”. Gordon, predictably, is outraged that the mayor is using the abductions as an excuse to move these poor homeless kids to juvenile detention, blah blah, moral argument, Jim is a good guy, we get it.

Also, the writers continue to hint at the insane amount of corruption in Gotham by referencing the fact that Jim’s “murder” of Oswald puts him “with the program” and implies that his White Knight code should go immediately out the window, making him as bad as the rest of everyone else (according to a brief interlude with Fish Mooney in her continuing efforts to bog the gears of the show down with immense amounts of congealed dairy product).

Suddenly, faced with “going upstate” we see that Selena Kyle wants to speak with Gordon (and Gordon only) and gets a quick brush-off as she’s getting on the bus for her trip up north. In a “surprise twist” the bus driver and attendant turn out to be the kid snatchers and aren’t taking them to Juvie but rather to a cargo container to be shipped off to the Dollmaker in the most conspicuous act of human trafficking ever attempted. They throw awake and alert teenage kids into a cargo container and expect them to be quiet for the entire trip via pounding on the container from the outside and yelling threats at them.

Of course, the kid snatchers realize they’re short one Selena Kyle (who insists on being called Cat for no good reason aside from, possibly, street cred). They search for her and find that, even at 13, she is extremely good at hiding and avoiding detection. Off screen, she claws a guard’s eyes out, prompting a hide-and-seek sequence with the female kid snatcher who, just as she gets Selena in her clutches, Jim Gordon bops on the head with a pistol whip knockout. Bullock enters the scene with the male kid snatcher at gunpoint and we’re left with a happy ending to that plotline.

Laced throughout the episode, we get glimpses of young emo Bruce Wayne burning his hand over a candle while “testing himself” and drawing gory pictures while listening to thrash metal. We’re left to believe that this is his way of acting on PTSD in a very sad attempt at a troubled-kid trope. Eventually Alfred asks Jim over for tea to talk about Bruce’s development because, y’know, you barely know this guy from Adam and there were apparently no close friends of the most famous philanthropists in Gotham to talk to. Alfred throws out some BS about Thomas Wayne telling him that, in the event of his death, Bruce should be left to “find his own way” in the world because reasons and because f*** parenting, right? Alfred expresses to the childless rookie police detective with no qualifications that he doesn’t know what to do with Master Bruce at which point the worst actor to ever play the character enters. He’s written as a child well beyond his years in speech and attitude (aside from the fact that he immediately goes for the biscuits on the tea tray) and plays it like a block of wood. Rich or not, no kid speaks that properly. I don’t care if he will grow up to be Batman someday, he’s still a kid and should be written as more of a kid whether or not he has a brooding dark side.

By the end of the episode, we get Selena and Jim on the same bench in the police station together. She tells him that she can identify the murderer in the Wayne case right before we cut to black.

Some additional points I would like to address:

GCPD Captain Sarah Essen. First thing you should know is that, in the comics, Sarah Essen was not a police captain. Sarah Essen was indeed a GCPD officer, specifically one who became romantically involved with one James Gordon long after Barbara was out of the picture (by death or divorce depending on continuity). She died at the hands of the Joker during the No Man’s Land event. Gordon shot the Joker in the leg and apprehended him (in a moment where he could have outright murdered the Joker) and, upon the reformation of Gotham, retired from the force as a broken man. After the DCnU continuity came into play, Sarah was ultimately written out of the story and Gordon remains Commissioner. In my opinion, this is an incredible disrespect to the original Sarah Essen and seems to be a way for Fox to continue shoe-horning familiar names into a show with absolutely no context or respect to the source material.
Aside from that point, the writing and directing on this show is bargain basement. I know this is a show based on a comic book, but we don’t have to ramp up the cheese factor just because it is. It feels like they’re taking their cues from Batman and Robin rather than the Nolanverse, which is extremely upsetting.

The sizzle reel makes Victor Zsasz look very exciting in this incarnation, however, I almost feel this is going to continue being a villain-of-the-week show involving the lower or less-recognizable caste of the rogue’s gallery. Zsasz is a stretch for most and Professor Pyg (presumably, also glimpsed in the sizzle reel) is an extremely recent and unknown villain to the uninitiated. We did see what looks like Scarecrow as well, which should prove interesting.

Before the season is over, I predict Calendar Man or Holiday (from The Long Halloween). Holiday would make more sense because of the show’s involvement of the falCON-ee mafia but, without Batman and the other supporting cast as grownups, it would be tricky to pull off. Knowing this writing staff, if they tried it, they would absolutely butcher it.

I’ve resolved to be here for you, my friends, as a source of everything that is wrong with Gotham. I will keep watching and keep pointing out everything I find good or bad with it because, for people unfamiliar with the canon, you’ve got to know how bad they’re destroying the mythos so that you don’t get the wrong idea about the universe surrounding the World’s Greatest Detective.

Bidula’s Last Word on Gotham S1:E2 – 4/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

One Night in Gotham (Bidula’s Last Word Review)

A few months ago when I heard about Gotham, I was both intrigued and sort of nauseous.

Though I’m not a Superman fan, I remember having the same sort of reaction when Smallville first aired. I remember watching that pilot (and maybe the second or third episode) and giving up. I realize that it blossomed into a culty fan favorite but something about another reboot of a famous origin story, concentrating only on the origin years, didn’t appeal to me.

A big part of this was probably because it was a Superman show, I won’t lie.

So, now they come to give Batman the same sort of treatment with Gotham. I know, it’s not supposed to be about Batman per-se but, as of the pilot anyway, it’s more about the origin of Batman’s amazing cast of supporting characters as well as his rogues gallery. Face it, he’s got some of the best in all of comics to the point where they spin-off into their own books and even their own TV shows (hands up if you remember Birds of Prey).

The story opens with the Wayne murders. (note – No, I’m not posting spoiler alert. If you’ve got a heartbeat, you know that Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot in a mugging that left Bruce Wayne a screaming orphan in the street.) This is lead into after a sequence in which we see a young Selina Kyle, somehow already a parkour-expert pickpocket, steal a half-gallon of milk from a poor old lady and pulling a businessman’s wallet but nearly getting caught. Of course, she winds up with a prime viewing angle on the infamous superhero-creating double homicide.

After the Waynes are shot, we see what, in my opinion, might be the only actor worse than George Clooney (or Val Kilmer) to play Bruce Wayne – a child with enough smarts in his head to know what just happened – try in vain to rouse his parents who he apparently thinks are sleeping… with inch-wide bleeding holes in the center of their chest. Once it’s through his thick skull what happened, he drops to his knees and lets out the worst sort of pre-pubescent scream imaginable – like a fake temper tantrum scream – before we cut to the main titles.

We get quickly introduced to Jim Gordon in an expository sequence involving a crazy man wanting his pills and taking another cop hostage INSIDE THE POLICE STATION (just in case you thought pre-Batman Gotham was some kind of crime-free utopia). We’re left to know that Jim is a rookie detective in homicide and is partnered with an older and more seasoned Harvey Bullock who is immediately forced on the audience as a cynical man who has a borderline hatred for his job (or at least the action surrounding it). I can’t complain too much about Bullock, they seem to be doing him right and the actor playing him was the funny bearded ginger who got his arm cut off twice by Blade. He is troped as the “walk the line and sometimes step over it” character, though. A bit too much at times.

Gordon and Bullock, naturally, get put on the Wayne murder investigation. They show up in crime alley, blah blah blah, Jim endears himself to Bruce somewhat, enter Alfred (who seems to be going the “Beware the Batman” route with a much rougher London-street accent and attitude), rain rain rain, sad sad sad, Selina Kyle is still watching from the shadows for whatever reason, moving on.

Through the investigation we get introduced to a myriad of Mafiosi including Fish Mooney, the woman who “runs the theater district” for the Falcone mob. The murders took place on her turf and we’re shown that Bullock has a very close personal relationship with her. She’s played by Jada Pinkett Smith who seems to be doing a pretty good job of it though she channels a bit of Eartha Kitt style cheese with a fancy for a bit of the old ultra-violence.

Fish’s right-hand (more like slave), one Oswald Cobblepot, is introduced. A pale fellow with piercing blue eyes and a rather beaky nose (to no one’s surprise). Seriously, before you even knew the guy’s name, he’s standing there with an umbrella practically screaming “I’M THE PENGUIN! WATCH ME BECAUSE I’M GOING TO EVOLVE HEAVILY OVER THE COURSE OF T HIS SHOW!!!”

Oh, and it should be known here that there is much reference to the Falcone crime family, prounounced fal-KOHN, when in every other spoken Batman story, it is pronounced fal-KOHN-e. This bothered me to the point where every time a character said “fal-KOHN” I was correcting them out loud by shouting “fal-KOHN-e!” at the screen. Even when Carmine Falcone introduced himself as Carmine fal-KOHN. Drives me nuts. Anyway…

Eventually, we get introduced to Barbara Kean, Jim’s fiancée, and her ridiculously lavish yet appropriately gothy apartment in which they will eventually (sez her) co-habitate once they get married. They never let on what she does for a living in this version, but there’s no way she’s not in the upper-set with an apartment (and clothing, and fashion sense) like that. Probably another good plot in to the “Jim runs into Bruce” stuff.

Bullock being a dirty cop runs him into a lead on the Wayne killer which brings them to the house of one Mario Pepper whose daughter, Ivy, answers the door when Jim and Harvey arrive. I have to take a bit of an aside here because in the promo workup for Gotham they were promoting this little Ivy Pepper as Poison Ivy which absolutely kills me more than anything else so far. They’re leaving every name intact and they couldn’t have made the pre-pubescent Poison Ivy have her real name? Pamela Isley is Poison Ivy, promo art be damned. If they wind up really turning this little ginger nut into Poison Ivy without at least first changing her name to what it properly should be… well… it won’t matter, I guess, but at least get the damn name right.

The pair of dicks (meaning detectives, come on you pervs) wind up shooting Mario Pepper down at the end of a chase. They find Martha Wayne’s string of pearls among his loot stash, and it’s case closed. That is, until Oswald informs two competing detectives from the Major Crimes Unit (including Renee Montoya, one of my favorite characters from the DCU) that Pepper was framed by Fish Mooney to cover up for the real killer of the Waynes, likely a hired hitter.

This, interestingly, leads Montoya to the door of Barbara Kean. Montoya hints at a past with Barbara (likely a romantic relationship considering Montoya’s orientation in the comic books) and tells her that her husband-to-be must be on the take because he participated in the frame-up of Mario Pepper. This meeting had no real purpose other than to give Barb a reason to doubt Jim’s super-honest-good-guyness (as contrasted by Bullock’s overly-dickish and, to use the show’s term, lackadaisical attitude) and hint at a rather interesting history between her and Renee. I actually kinda like this twist. Barb Kean-Gordon wasn’t ever really expanded on in the DCU and this might be her chance to get a bit of semi-important story time other than being Batgirl’s mom/namesake (depending on which continuity you’re talking about). Ten bucks says we’ll see Batgirl born before this series is over.

Jim finds out about the frame-up after Barb predictably questions his honesty and goes to Fish Mooney without saying a word to anyone at which point she also predictably bashes him over the head and has him taken to “Butch” who, as it turns out, is a butcher who will likely mutilate Jim’s carcass in a number of unrecoverable ways.

Bullock finds out that Jim is missing and immediately calls to question Fish. Fish lets it slip that Jim has gone to Butch, Bullock tries to talk Fish down from killing him, makes the typical cop threats to his long-time friend, and she makes the decision to string Bullock up along with Jim because her good friend – an inside source in the POLICE DEPARTMENT – made an idle threat against her that he would never back up due to his mostly cowardly character flaws. The writers really just wanted Fish to look intimidating and they really made her look crazy.

Oh, AND, Bullock inadvertently tipped off Fish to Oswald’s betrayal so, of course, she uses a chair leg to brutally bash Oswald’s lower extremities until he can’t walk properly anymore (he sorta limp-waddles now… big surprise).

The pair of dicks (pervs…) wind up getting saved by direct intervention from Deus Ex Carmine Falcone (it’s fal-KOHN-e, dammit…) who happens to arrive at the butcher shop just as Butch himself (a mask-wearing, cleaver-wielding, super-minion in training) is about to do the deed. Falcone then reveals in a private discussion that he knew Jim’s father well. “The best DA this city ever had,” said Falcone. He wants Jim to realize the balance of power in the city blah blah blah, the mob controls Gotham and Jim needs to get with the program instead of being a mega-Boy Scout.

To prove this, Falcone sends Bullock and Jim home with a little Penguin in their trunk and gives Bullock instructions to have Jim off Bird-Boy by shooting him at the end of a pier and dropping him into Gotham harbor. After the requisite mafia-style threats to Jim’s fiancée, Jim takes Oswald to the end of the pier and, predictably, does not shoot him (because you can’t kill the Penguin before he’s the Penguin) but makes it look like he does, pushing Oswald into the water after whispering, “Never come back to Gotham” in his best Batman voice.

Jim goes to Wayne Manor (where Bruce is seen balancing on the rooftop in some extremely un-subtle foreshadowing) to tell Bruce that the case really isn’t closed. They have a moment where the worst actor to play Bruce Wayne ever agrees that Jim Gordon should go out there and keep fighting crime, blah blah, Jim’s faith in the system is renewed. As he leaves, Selina Kyle (the ever silent teenaged thief) watches, perched atop the gates of Wayne Manor, probably casing the joint.

Oh, and Penguin pops out of the water and murders an innocent fisherman for his sandwich.

End of episode.

I can’t say I’m sure what to make of this from the first episode. It included a few good references, a few bad references (Ivy Pepper?! I’m still mad about that…), some very predictable circumstances, and enough little bits of cheese to remind you that DC still doesn’t know how to properly transmute things to screen. Gotham was supposed to be this gritty new show, a la Chris Nolan, but winds up looking like a run-of-the-mill crime drama with a very familiar over-plot. If you removed the Batman element from it, it would probably be replaced mid-season.

I’ll keep watching it if only because I’m a huge Batman fan and I want to nitpick the details.

Oh, bonus round, they also introduced Ed Nygma as a slightly-too-crazy police analyst (a tactic used in the Arkham video games) as well as an overly nervous stand-up comic being auditioned by Fish Mooney in this week’s Joker possibility. The producers of the show mentioned that every episode will have at least one suspect who could wind up being the Clown Prince of Crime, presumably in season two if this show makes it that far.

Bidula’s Last Word – 5/10. I will continue watching for novelty and novelty alone, (very) cautiously optimistic that this show will improve with time.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Tainted Magic (Guardians of the Galaxy sort-of review)

I wanted to write this gigantic full-blown review about Guardians of the Galaxy when suddenly the internet.

Everyone and their father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate went to see this movie over the weekend. The buzz won’t be dying down any time soon, but it reached its peak sometime between Friday and Saturday. If you’ve read any amount of internets you know that Guardians is an awesome flick and you don’t need me as another voice in the geek chorus screaming that you need to see it because it is the absolute definition of a great summer blockbuster.

To reinforce that point (and in case you didn’t hear it elsewhere) I’ll just say that it’s one part Indiana Jones, one part Star Wars, sprinkled with Firefly and a heavy dose of Marvel lore, tossed liberally with 80s references and served on a bed of huge important connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a large side of awesome effing soundtrack. I don’t think the recipe misses a beat and the whole thing goes down smooth and tasty.

Instead of elaborating on the movie’s very important use of a certain character who rhymes with Shmanos and the foreshadowing of a certain item that rhymes with the Shminfinity Shmauntlet and how excited that makes me for Shmavengers 3, I’d like to talk about my theater experience for this movie in particular as it was not one of my favorites.

I’d like to establish that I understand trolls. I am at least a sixth-dan blackbelt in the art of trolling. I understand the appeal of purposefully causing others frustration. In more youthful times, I used my craft for selfish reasons – causing wanton chaos and disruption whenever possible. As I grew through the ranks growing ever closer to mastery I realized how to channel my powers for the greater good and how to use trolling as a tool for vengeance and justice rather than for pure entertainment.

The decidedly lesser-experienced group of younglings sitting in the front row of my theater that night had not yet reached the stage of enlightenment that permits one to remain silent and attentive in a movie theater and so began trolling a theater full of people seeing a blockbuster movie on opening weekend.

Were it me at their age, I may have trolled, but not nearly as hard or as constant as this troupe. Every silent or near silent moment within the first five minutes of the movie was disturbed by their narration of actions and shouting of ridiculous things. There were not many profanities from what I can remember, which proved to me that this was pure trolling and not just an attempt to throw sand in the face of the theater by getting kicked out. They would be with us for the long haul, even if someone summoned the dreaded uniformed-teenager-with-a-flashlight usher to attempt to calm them down.

Knowing this, I was resigned to it. Misguided and disruptive though they were, the theater’s speakers would likely be loud enough to drown out most of their shouts (it was a large theater and they were far away from us). They were, as it turned out. Though the young trolls could be heard as a mutter below the dialogue, they were dismissed as easily as crowd noise in the actual movie. The loud space battles and constant pumping music made them almost invisible.

This would have been almost tolerable, had it not been for what happened during the opening sequence.

Just as we were getting acquainted with young Peter Quill, a man from the very back of the theater screamed a typical unkind request for the young men in the front of the theater to be quiet followed up by a racial slur.

The entire theater collectively cringed, wondering if there would be some sort of immediate retribution. There was a tangible panic from a theater full of nerds and people otherwise unprepared to defend themselves should violence erupt. Luckily, the young trolls remained seated, shouting back that they would find the man after the movie was over. This was of some relief to the crowd that likely nothing would occur while the film ran but it tainted the room. A crowd of people waiting excitedly for the hit of the summer to get through the prologue and run the title card were, because of the addition of that racial slur to the scatological request for silence, unnerved and disenchanted. Whatever true magic may have been experienced – trolls or no trolls – was gone.

This is not to mention that the racial-slur-screamer failed to recognize the commandment “do not feed the trolls”. Taking things to a racist level is the filet mignon of troll food.

While the small group was easy enough to ignore – their display of skills including a noisy lap around the ground level of the theater and the search for an imaginary bag of popcorn – it would have likely been avoided had they not been further provoked by the racist in the back.

In addition to this, we were treated to a 40-something woman behind us who had, by all accounts, never seen an action movie before as she continuously shouted out questions in a vaguely mid-western accent about the particular goings on of the plot. She audibly gasped and shouted about the welfare of the characters in particular situations, letting the entire upper-portion of the theater know that whatever happened must have really hurt that guy. She also had a laugh like a harpy’s scream which didn’t help due to the very comedic aspects of the film.

Though I cannot blame this woman for what she did – her being an obvious shut-in without cable or erstwhile Amish on some sort of mid-life Rumspringa – as she was not doing anything with malicious intent. She was simply overly excited by the combination of light and sound which caused her moronic tendencies to become inflamed. Her ignorance of theater etiquette was far less tolerable than the group of trolls in the front row.

This was the first time my wife and I attended this particular movie house. We wanted to try something different and were far outside our home turf. They charge $6 any movie, any time and have extremely fresh and delicious popcorn at a reasonable price (for a movie theater). The seats are a bit worn in as it languished empty for a while before coming under new ownership recently and there were enough commercials before the previews hit that the first trailer didn’t run until 8:25 (for an 8PM movie). I suppose this is the best way to make up for $6 tickets, though, and I didn’t mind sitting through a few ads to save a couple bucks.

My wife and I did agree to one thing as we left the theater (where no visible trolls awaited the man who shouted the racial slur, by the by) and that was that we are going to remain very selective of the movies we go to see on opening weekend as there was far too much hassle in this crowded theater for things to truly be fun. While I realize these are common problems and you’re probably saying to yourself that this happens all the time in opening weekend showings, I’m merely stating my preference. GotG was a movie I wanted to see right away because I knew the internets were exploding with references and if I waited until the week after I would probably be spoiled. Any other movie for the rest of the summer won’t, in my opinion, warrant an opening weekend buy-in and I intend to avoid this as often as I can.

In the end, I saw Guardians. Because of the mayhem during the opening, I didn’t get the experience I wanted out of a first viewing. It didn’t take away from the movie but it did greatly detract from the atmosphere. There is a certain magic that keeps me going back to the theater and this night had none of that.

However, when the most disappointing part of the movie is something that has nothing to do with the movie, that makes it a good movie.

Bidula’s Last word – 9/10. See Guardians and remember your childhood. See it in a decent theater and remember the magic of your first summer blockbuster all over again.

I may have to go see it again while it’s out there just to get the full experience.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Changing The Story

It’s not often that comic books make headline news anymore.

The movies based on them are usually the top story of entertainment pages for much of the summer, especially the weeks leading up to San Diego Comic Con. Many of the trailers concerning them will soon be among the most watched on YouTube once they’re displayed for the first time in a stuffed-to-the-brim panel at the convention center. This is nerd season. The time of year people like me spend a weekend clamoring for the latest news from the west coast.

Comic books themselves, though, have not had quite a year like this going into SDCC in quite some time.

Marvel’s most recent announcements about changes were enough to warrant late-night-talk-show level attention (as well as some strange mid-afternoon-talk-show attention). By now, if you’re a fan of this blog, you’ve likely heard the big news.

Thor is going to be a woman. Marvel has insisted, emphatically, that this is not just some “She-Thor” or “Thor Girl” sub-character, this is the real-deal, Mjolnir-wielding, lightning-throwing, hammer-smashing, Loki-pummeling Thor.

There was some raucous over the canonical inscription on Thor’s ancient weapon that “Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” Personally, I always thought of it as “…if THEY be worthy…” because, for one, there should have been no reason in the first place a woman wouldn’t be worthy of becoming one of the world’s greatest heroes and, two, Wonder Woman actually lifted the hammer once, though the probability of that being canon is sketchy at best what with all the “punching reality” and “Age of Ultron” level nonsense that’s gone on since that point in the 90s.

I love the change. Thor has a long tradition of being a staple and main cast member of The Avengers but suffers when it comes to solo stories. Asgardian drama, while appealing to some, has never really been the comic reader’s cup of tea. Thor isn’t typically solo-ing any super villains of note in the Marvel U aside from Loki and sometimes they put aside their differences and work together – so often that, when Thor gets all wrath-of-God on him, it makes Thor look like he’s got some serious bi-polar issues. In the end it winds up not being an interesting read. Even though Thor is a mega-badass and can (on most occasions) stand up to even the Hulk in a fist fight, based on his mode of speech he is relegated to near comic-relief status in the Avengers. I have had many chuckles at a well-placed “Verliy”, I won’t lie.

Nerd alert: the current story does allow for this to happen. Recently, original Thor inherited the Odinforce, essentially making him Odin. Also recently, it was revealed that Angela (a refugee from Spawn brought to Marvel by Neil Gaiman as the result of a lawsuit he won for rights to the character over Todd McFarlaine) is actually Odin’s daughter and Thor’s big sister. If they’re going to keep it in the family, it seems likely that this is how it’ll go down. Original Thor inherits Odin’s throne in Asgard and Angela steps up to claim her birthright (as the firstborn Odinsdottir) by wielding mighty Mjolnir. Seems like the smoothest way to do it and allows for more permanency than another “I got cursed by Loki” jaunt where Thor, suddenly a woman, must go on a quest to find his lost sausage while complaining about being one of the “fairer sex” the entire time as it feels has been done a million times before.

I am extremely interested in this and want to see which direction this will go. Thor was never one of my favorite characters but this change makes me want to read that book.

The other headline they made was announcing that Sam Wilson, aka, the Falcon (you might remember him as the dude with the wings from the Cap movie sequel) will be taking over duties as Captain America. This means that, for the first time, the mainstream current Captain America will be African-American.

They’ve toyed with this notion in the past by introducing Isaiah Bradley. After the original Cap was dosed with super-soldier serum and sent out to punch Hitler directly in his Nazi face during WWII, the government continued trials on the serum attempting to replicate the results that made Steve Rogers into a shield-throwing sentinel of liberty. The storyline was actually pretty dark and involved a Tuskeegee Syphillis Study-type situation where African-American soldiers were deemed “expendable” and thus used for experimentation. Isaiah Bradley was the only one deemed a success. He didn’t receive nearly as much recognition as Cap for his part in the war but was considered the “Black Captain America”.

This was all encapsulated within a 2003 mini-series and, really, had no major impact on the mainstream Marvel U except for the fact that Isaiah’s grandson, Elijah, wound up in the Young Avengers. That title didn’t last very long, unfortunately.

This type of change is nothing new to Cap fans who, at the end of the Superhero Civil War, saw Steve Rodgers “killed” which brought Bucky (the Winter Soldier) to pick up the shield and carry on the name. When Steve returned, the President appointed him Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, though he still ran in the field a bit, allowed Bucky to retain the mantle. He returned to it after Bucky’s “death” and held onto it until now.

Nerd alert: the current story does allow for this to happen. In the recent Original Sin storyline it was revealed that Nick Fury is dying. Quickly. Seems to me that the only logical replacement for S.H.I.E.L.D. would once again be Captain Steven Rogers which leaves Cap’s actual shield on the shelf. Bucky (since resurrected) has returned to his dickish Winter Soldier ways (probably to fall in line with the movie) leaving the vacancy open for Sam Wilson to take over.

It won’t be as world-shattering a change as Thor but I still like it very much. I enjoyed the post-resurrection Steve Rogers, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff. It was nice to see someone with such authority and wide-ranging respect in the Marvel U take over. It was fun to see him as an actual commander rather than just a field team leader. If anyone deserves a cushier job it’s Steve. I think it will be fun to see how he handles it for real this time and how Sam reacts to his new mantle.

Comics need more changes like this. Both sides of the major-label war, DC and Marvel, need to remain flexible and realize that making changes like this within the main canon universe only make for more interesting stories. They should also learn that erasing things that someone didn’t like about a particular character (or erasing an entire character itself) via “reality punching” only shows weakness. You want someone gone from continuity? There’s nothing better than DEATH to solve that problem. You want someone back into continuity after they’re dead? Don’t punch reality. They’re dead. Leave them in the ground. If you want a particular mask back in play, have someone else pick up the mantle.

For years we’ve had more and more of the same unless there’s a major event. Just back there, I mentioned Cap dying. Yeah, he was dead. Shot point blank. Boom, done, end of story, right? That is, until you find out that the bullet that killed him actually took him outside of time and allowed for him to return. I like Steve and all, but if you’re going to kill him, let the man die. The books dealing with his loss were some of the best character stories I’ve seen in a while. Watching Tony Stark cry over the man he was directly opposed to during the Civil War – that was a moment. Bringing Cap back out of some random ether invalidated that entire scene. Change was awesome. They kept it pretty good by allowing Bucky to hang on to the shield for a little while longer. By the time Steve was back in the saddle, everyone forgot that he died in the first place. Such is the cyclical nature of comics.

I personally can’t wait until my characters in Unlucky Seven are recognizable enough that, when the hatchet comes down and the game changes, it will shock my audience and please them that in my book death is for real and is insurmountable. Mostly.

Permanency, though, would be preferable to resurrection or reconstruction. As long as there is money to be made, comic book companies won’t see it that way.

With the amount of publicity they’re generating, I can hope that these changes will be for the long term. It seems unlikely. Thor will be back to a man and Steve will be Cap again before the Avengers Sequel drops next summer because what’s the point of crossover marketing when your main movie characters don’t match up to what’s in the comic. Bet you a dollar. Any takers?

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

I Wrote a Book.

More like I finished a book. Finally. Really. You can buy it here.

If you’ve known me for a while and you’ve been around since way back in the old livejournal days (God, that feel so dated it’s almost embarrassing) then you know about Unlucky Seven.

I’ve mentioned it in this blog on a few occasions, mostly using it as an excuse in the long lapse between blog entries. It is, actually, a real and tangible thing. Well, as real as words typed on a screen can be.

Some of you still reading from way back when may remember that I used to post chapters of this story on a separate livejournal (there’s that feeling again) as a sort of serial. I had at least two or three people who I considered fans that kept up with it as it grew ever more monstrous.

It got to be too big. 60+ chapters. Over 2 million words. At one point, I said to myself that enough was enough. If I ever wanted this thing to hit print, I couldn’t keep going, especially since the narrative had grown out of my control with continuous foreshadowing to things that were never realized or were simply forgotten about leading up to a time travel story arc. What can I say? The last livejournal posts were made in the summer of 2008 (just went to check for sure, THAT was a trip down memory lane…) and the last parts of the gigantic ridiculous original tale were written sometime around 2010. They weren’t publicized as the audience had largely dried up. I kept working and, let me tell you, I’m glad I kept the rest of it behind closed doors. It was utter travesty with absolutely no direction. I blame the fact that I was watching LOST with severe interest at the time.

It was upon this realization in 2010 that I decided it was time for an overhaul. I read through it, hated most of it, liked some of it, and decided that my original idea of chopping it up into bite-sized chunks for mass consumption would not be as simple as that. There were so many problems and I was guilty of pride in not noticing them. This work, which had taken most of my creative time (between ranting about things and arranging fictional fisticuffs), was a literal monster.

The first thing I realized was that initially it had taken fifty (that’s 5 x 10) chapters in a story about superheroes to get to any kind of real, major, tangible conflict. I’m talking over a million words before a serious blow was thrown. There had been minor conflicts, sure, but not to really resolve anything. I created some of the most amazingly super-powered people and did next-to-nothing with them for the majority of their existence on the printed page. Obviously, I couldn’t just chop it off at a random chapter. The story needed a climax – a major event – before the first manageable (read: not 500 page) installment could end.

The tool belt was broken out. The rewrite had begun.

I started hacking away using the original monstrosity as source material. I started to cherry pick the best parts and stuff them into a neat little package. Entire chapters survived because, again, I was too proud to eliminate a majority of the work I’d already done. After a year or so, I had it down to about thirty chapters with a definitive ending including a cliffhanger into what I planned to be the next book. I was fairly pleased with what I had Frankenstein-ed together enough to start submitting to publishers.

Dozens of rejection letters came. After really reading over it and evaluating, I wasn’t surprised.

Chapter one was garbage. It would have to be redone. Chapter two wasn’t much better. Something I stated as untrue in chapter seven was suddenly made crucially true in chapter twenty-one because it just had to be there. The pacing wasn’t right. The ending was flimsy. Even the cliffhanger wasn’t well executed. As a whole, I was displeased.

I put it down for a year. I stepped away and didn’t touch anything. I tried to move on to other projects. I tried to write something else but that specter, the shadow of that giant, loomed over me. I knew what had to be done.

I started with a ground level rewrite and I did it the right way this time. I outlined everything just for the sake of having notes. I knew where I wanted the story to go, I just had to write my way there. I changed so much that the tone of the entire work was permanently altered. Character dynamics, interactions, places, people, situations… nothing looked the same. It was like blowing up your hometown, leaving for a decade, and coming back to something completely different yet still somehow familiar.

As typical and pretentious as it may sound, I found the voice of the work. I figured out the devices which might help to set it apart from its contemporaries. Eventually, after poring over it time and again, it was complete.

The concept for Unlucky Seven came to me in 2002. I started writing it in 2004. That’s an entire decade this story has been added to, chipped at, broken down, reconstructed, played with, rearranged, and untangled. Ten years later, it was finally what I wanted it to be.

It feels like an achievement that it’s now out for public consumption.

I got tired of waiting for publishers and literary agents to get back to me and tell me they weren’t interested or that the market wasn’t right or that their house had another similar project in the works. I wanted this out there and I wanted it out there now. A friend suggested Amazon as an outlet and, after some serious research, I decided that self-publishing would allow me to keep a tighter grip on my beloved IP and I hope that I’m right.

With no excuses left to hold me back, I pushed the go button. So, now we’re going. Hopefully we’ll keep going and keep going well.

A cover design is all that is holding back a print-on-demand version of the book, by the way, but if you want it cheap, I recommend the Kindle version. Kindle reader is available for just about every platform from PC to Android to iOS, so it’s not just limited to one particular brand of eReader. If you’ve enjoyed my non-fictional words in the past, I humbly ask that you pick up a copy of U7. Swag will be forthcoming as well (there’s a logo, which means merch can be produced with relative ease).

I thank you, my loyal audience, for all the times you’ve read and commented. Now, I call on you to help a brother out. Spread the word about Unlucky Seven. Get your friends to buy it. Get your family to buy it. Get your enemies to buy it. Write a review for it on its Amazon page. Most importantly, get ready for a sequel. It won’t take ten more years, I can promise you that.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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