GI Joe Complete Cover AniI’m a sucker for big hardcover comics, but when IDW announced, right after releasing the 15th and final volume of GI Joe Classic, that they would be re-releasing the entire series in hardcovers, I wasn’t interested. Mainly, because I was a bit pissed off. IDW’s Classic GI Joe trades, reprinting and carrying on from the five Marvel ones, were fine. Ok, so the line-art reproduction was pretty fuzzy in some volumes, but it wasn’t terrible. And Special Missions was separated off into its own trades, but hey, it was a separate series anyway. Yes and the Yearbooks were all excluded and collected into a separate volume, filled with repeated material from the main series, but god damn it, I’d already bought 15 books and they were fine! To come out and replace them immediately after they’d all been released was pretty crappy.

Eventually though, I capitulated. There are two reasons for this. 1) My paperback copies, especially those first five Marvel ones, were getting fairly worn out. 2) These Complete Collection hardcovers promise to do everything right. Read the rest of this entry »

Valkyrie's not actually jumping - her boob-plates are levitating her.

Cover by Art Adams

Big event comics have been a staple at Marvel again for a decade now and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about them it’s this: they’re generally pretty crap. From House of M to Secret Invasion to Siege, most event comics just don’t fulfil the hype and the few exceptions tend to be the smaller ones (such as Marvel’s cosmic Annihilation cycle). Not touching event mini series with a ten foot bargepole (which never gets to touch anything these days) means that spin-off and tie-in series to these events are doubly damned. A tie-in from an existing title, I can deal with, but a series that exists only to support an event? No thanks.

Which brings us to Fear Itself: The Fearless, a spin-off maxi series to Marvel event series Fear Itself. For a few reasons, I broke my rule and put down hard cash (well, my debit card actually) to give this a go.

Hey, everyone makes mistakes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Deadpool CoverWhen a new creative team moves onto a long-running comic book, they tend to do one of two things. Option 1 is to respectfully continue the themes, plot threads and style of the previous creative team, making a seamless transition into their own material that keeps existing readers happy and hooked. Option 2 is to just make a completely fresh start, ditching most of the previous run and almost resetting the character(s) back to zero.

Although Option 1 generally sounds like the best choice, Option 2 can often be exactly what a comic needs, especially after a particularly toxic run. It’s exactly what Deadpool needed and thanks to Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, it’s exactly what he got. Read the rest of this entry »

Collected Editions are fantastic. They look better on shelves, they don’t require annoying bags and boards for storage and they’re sold by proper shops in a normal manner instead of the frankly sort-of broken Diamond Previews system used by comic shops. The other great thing is that it makes reading older comics convenient and affordable, removing the need to trawl longboxes for mouldy, decaying back issues.

Well, in theory. The problem is, there’s an unspoken commitment from the publisher to the consumer when reprinting old series. Namely, that they’ll do the whole thing. Unfortunately, in practice, this is routinely broken and there are now several comic series only partly reprinted in collected editions, with seemingly no more instalments on the way. Here’s a (highly subjective) run down of the series that really need some publishing love. Read the rest of this entry »

Just a reminder that the Cynic’s Survival Guide To Disney Animated Classics has been separated off into its own site: New entries are still being added weekly, just over there and not here and all the existing entries are over there as well.  So be sure to update your bookmarks, likes and whatnot.

Top Ten Doctor Who Stories

Posted: 16 November, 2013 in Doctor Who, Television
Tags: , ,

My friend Justin did a Top 10 of Doctor Who stories recently and I couldn’t help but vehemently disagree with a lot of it (I mean really, Attack of the Cybermen?) In rebuttal, I figured I’d put up rather than shut up and present my own highly subjective Top 10 of Doctor Who stories (off the TV, not audio and novels and what not).

WhoTop10Androzani10) The Caves of Androzani

In the mid-80s, Doctor Who got increasingly dour and violent in tone, despite the overlit, gaudily designed, BBC light entertainment aesthetic permeating the show (go watch an episode of Bob’s Full House and you’ll find the set looks like it’s straight out a Who episode of the time). Most of this sadistic panto era doesn’t work, but the one indulgence of Eric Saward’s space mercenary fetish that does is Caves of Androzani. Written by former script editor Bob Holmes, Androzani revels in its own bleak atmosphere. All the supporting characters are arseholes – the notional villain ends up perhaps being the most sympathetic – and the Doctor almost immediately gives up on the whole place and just wants to leave. It’s an incredibly tense story, culminating in the most visually dynamic regeneration of the Classic era.

WhoTop10Five9) The Five Doctors

The anniversary Doctor team-up is a good idea, but one perhaps always destined to be more gimmick than substance. The Five Doctors’s writer Terrence Dicks embraces this and so it ends up being more successful than its brethren that try to tell a proper story at the same time. The plot is quite thin – someone on Gallifrey is collecting together various iterations of the Doctor, along with some enemies, for NEFARIOUS PURPOSES! – but it doesn’t need to be more than that (especially as the show originally aired in Children In Need, an annual BBC telethon, so most of the audience would have only a casual knowledge of the show at best). Dicks quickly sets about writing entertaining set-pieces for his varied cast of characters. There’s contrast between the present and original Doctors, and their companions, there’s quick showcases for previous enemies, Jon Pertwee gets to drive his car and lots of Cybermen get slaughtered in a desolate Welsh national park. What’s not to like?

WhoTop10Robber8) The Mind Robber

I should admit personal bias here, as this is the first Troughton, the first black and white Who at all, I ever saw in full. I was convinced that all 60s Doctor Who was this gloriously strange (unfortunately it’s not). The Mind Robber finds the 2nd Doctor and his companions in a strange limbo between places, before arriving in the Land of Fiction. Here a bevy of fictional characters aid and hinder their efforts to find their way to escape. The Mind Robber’s so successful for just how out there it is. No other Doctor Who story could have gotten away with covering Frazer Hines’ sudden illness by replacing him with another actor after the Doctor failed to reconstruct his face properly. But the Mind Robber does it and it works in the world it creates. Subtly creepy and wonderfully imaginative.

WhoTop10Pyramids7) Pyramids of Mars

The Hinchcliffe/Holmes era of Doctor Who is perhaps the most consistently high quality the show’s ever had and Pyramids of Mars is perhaps the definitive example of their collaboration. There’s a Hammer-esque period horror tone throughout, using both an Edwardian setting and Egyptology trappings, mixed with science fiction elements. Ok, it loses its way a bit near the end, but it’s an atmospheric and stylish story, with a wonderfully sinister villain in Sutekh.

WhoTop10Death6) City Of Death

Douglas Adams is probably the most famous of Doctor Who writers, but there’s very little you can actually point to and say “look, Douglas Adams wrote Doctor Who”. Ironically, the best of these scant examples doesn’t even have his name on it. City Of Death is credited to “David Agnew”, but was really written by Adams and producer Graham Williams over a weekend, replacing a script by David Fisher they didn’t like. It manages to be both an interesting science-fiction story, about experimentations in time travel, and a brilliant comedy, as sharp as most of Adams’ work. Plus it was filmed in Paris, which unlike most Classic Who foreign location filming actually adds something to the story, giving it a certain bland-yet-exotic charm.

WhoTop10Spearhead5) Spearhead From Space

Spearhead From Space presents so many firsts and new starts that it’s practically an entirely different programme to the Doctor Who that preceded it. It’s a testament to its quality that the almost total sea change doesn’t matter much. It immediately establishes itself as being legitimately Doctor Who, not least by giving Jon Pertwee an excellent introduction as the Doctor. As well as allowing the new cast to bed in, it introduces the iconic Autons in what is still, over forty years later, their best story to date. Being shot entirely on location using film instead of video doesn’t hurt either, making it one of the best looking and directed Who stories of its era.

WhoTop10Parting4) Bad Wolf and The Parting Of The Ways

The first series finale of modern Doctor Who is still the best the show’s had since it was revived (the only ones close are Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday and The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang). The two-parter manages to do so much right. The Bad Wolf sub-plot, which had gone unnoticed by practically everyone until the previous episode, is brought to the fore and has a delightfully simple and effective reveal (moreso than any during the Stephen Moffat’s tenure), while the climax main story itself, of the Doctor (and also Jack and Rose) being ready to sacrifice it all against the Daleks, is powerful, especially the Doctor’s almost final act of choosing cowardice over killing. This two-parter provides both a satisfying end to Christopher Eccleston’s short tenure as the Doctor, with a great lead in to his regeneration, while still leaving the viewer wishing he’d stuck around to do more.

WhoTop10Fang3) Horror Of Fang Rock

Fang Rock is one last hurrah for the gothic horror of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era, though it’s the first story after Hinchcliffe’s departure and is written by Terrence Dicks. Anyway, set on lighthouse in the early 20th century, it’s a brilliantly atmospheric thriller, that’s also incredibly compact. There’s barely half a dozen characters in the whole thing and they’re all convincingly and economically brought to life (before being killed, natch). Throw in Tom Baker in his stride and Louise Jameson on top form as Leela and you have perhaps the best period horror Doctor Who’s ever done.

WhoTop10Blink2) Blink

Since Stephen Moffat took over as head writer for Doctor Who, it’s easy to see his pet themes recurring. That’s not necessarily a problem – it happens to all writers and script editors. One of those that keeps cropping up is using Doctor Who, a show where time travel is usually almost incidental, to present complexly arranged time travel conundrums (another example of this can be found in Moffat’s story in the Bernice Summerfield short story anthology Dead Man Diaries, which is worth picking up). The thing is, Moffat absolutely nailed this type of story early on with Blink and everything after fails to match up. It seems a bit perverse picking an episode of Doctor Who that barely features the Doctor as one of the best, but Blink’s surrogate lead, Sally Sparrow, is awesome. She’s smart, compassionate, funny, gentle but ultimately strong – essentially many of the qualities you want in the Doctor. This was quite rightly a big break for actress Carey Mulligan, as well as the launch pad for the Weeping Angels, modern Who’s only legitimately successful new recurring monster (no, the Slitheen don’t count).

WhoTop10Remembrance1) Remembrance Of The Daleks

Remembrance Of The Daleks has it all: an interesting period setting in the 1960s, presenting a chance for Dr Who to re-examine the period of its own birth with fresh eyes; the 7th Doctor at his manipulative best, giving the Daleks enough rope to hang themselves; Ace in her first story as a proper companion being instantly wonderful and endearing; a great supporting cast; Daleks (obviously) including some getting actually blown up; and properly mature, intelligent subtext about racism. Remembrance is a break from the sadistic panto Who of the mid-80s, a mission statement for its creators’ intent to revitalise the show and make it everything it should be and could be again. It’s just a shame no-one at the BBC was paying attention.

FoxHound2Release date
12th December 2006 (DVD)

Running Time
1 hour and 6 minutes

Saccharine Factor

Funny Factor

Remember all those wacky adventures Copper and Tod had before they became mortal enemies locked into a grim hunt to the death? No? Well, here’s one of them anyway, as Copper and Tod go to the local County Fair and get involved in a dog chorus group. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fox and The HoundRelease date
10th July 1981 (cinema)

Running Time
A torturous 1 hour and 19 minutes

Saccharine Factor

Funny Factor

Bloodhound puppy Copper is destined to be a hunting dog, so it’s probably not a big deal that he becomes friends with semi-domesticated fox kit Tod, right? Yeah, I’m sure there won’t be some natural conflict coming between them at any point. Read the rest of this entry »

RobinHoodRelease date
8th November 1973

Running Time
1 hour and 19 minutes

Saccharine Factor

Funny Factor

Wily outlaws Robin Hood and Little John delight in undermining the substitute rule of Prince John by robbing from the rich to give to the poor. But Robin suffers a total eclipse of the heart when childhood sweetheart Maid Marian reappears in Nottingham. Read the rest of this entry »

LeroyRelease date
27th June 2006 (DVD)

Running Time
1 hour and 10 minutes

Saccharine Factor
Surprisingly high

Funny Factor

Having helped Lilo pacify all 625 experiments, Stitch, Pleakley and Jumba are rewarded with their dream jobs. But will they be able to say ‘aloha’ to Hawaii forever, especially when Dr Hamsterviel forces Jumba to create Leroy, an evil improvement on Stitch? Read the rest of this entry »