Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fanholes Episode # 73: The Podcast That Will Rot In The Bellies Of Twelve Gods

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This episode, the Fanholes discuss the movie "Hunter Prey", as well as DC's Batman: Night of the Owls storyline.

Fanholes Episode # 73: The Podcast That Will Rot In The Bellies Of Twelve Gods

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Filmation Star Trek Special

Presented by Fanholes Podcast in association with RetroVirus movies. A special video presentation covering Filmation's animated Star Trek series!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chainclaw's Top Ten Star Trek Villains

Ahh Star Trek, a franchise as well-known as sliced bread. In three short years the exploits of the Enterprise crew and it's spin-offs will have been around half a century. Whether it's television, animation, or feature films, Trek has a massive fanbase. While of course the adventures of Kirk, Spock, Picard, Sisko, and even Janeway or Archer are the core, there can be no mistake that Trek has some great, and memorable, villains.

The variety of villains is one of the biggest differences from Star Trek to Star Wars, which while briefly showcasing other threats usually hinges its tales on the never ending Sith/Jedi conflict. That variety is why I decided to make this list. Be forewarned this list is not based on fan popularity, or which bad guy sells the most toys or merchandise, it's simply the baddies I enjoy the most from the various series.

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10. The Hirogen - A Voyager Villain? Well...yeah. The Hirogen were basically a more television friendly version of the "Predator" alien. I wish I could list an in depth well-grounded reason for my enjoyment of this giant gun toting race, but really it boils down to they looked cool. Plus, I really enjoyed the two parter where the Voyager crew ran around fighting Nazi uniformed Hirogen, mostly because it had a TOS vibe to it.

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9. The Ferengi - Originally designed as one of the first "new aliens" for TNG, the Ferengi went from rather cardboard cut-out mean bad guys to something more interesting. As they evolved they didn't do bad things with a thirst for conflict, their motives were almost always based on greed and the art of the deal. While this made for many humorous and atypical characters, it also delivered bad guys whom always seemed to be underestimated, yet managed to be more than a pain in the rear for the TNG era crews.

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8. The Cardassians - Oh, the evil spoon heads. Originally debuting in TNG, much like the Ferengi, they really were fleshed out in DS9. Unlike the hot blooded Klingons, the aloof Romulans, or greedy Ferengi, the Cardassians were sinister, backstabbing and brutal beings. Reptilian features like their ridged eye sockets and darting pupils, coupled with slicked back black hair, the Cardassians appeared as two legged snakes, slinking their way around the galaxy plotting their machinations. Another tidbit that adds to their menace is continued reference to a costly conflict with the Federation that was never shown fully onscreen. Add their involvement in the Dominion and you have some excellent villains.

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7. Lore - The classic "Evil Twin" to TNG's Lt Cmdr. Data, Lore was a great villain. Unlike his "brother" Lore possessed more human attributes, such as enjoying cruelty, lying with a straight face, and pretty much being a right bastard. Hey, I didn't say they were GOOD attributes. Lore was a master manipulator, playing his brother like a fiddle, duping everyone from his creator to even corralling some wayward Borg into a mini collective. His plans never came close to benevolent, and it was always fun seeing Brent Spiner stretch his acting skills to play a character so like Data but so....not.

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6. Khan Noonian Singh - Or... more universally known as "KHAAAAAAAN!" Singh was a genetic superman awoken in the time of Kirk's original tenure on the Enterprise. Plotting, focused, intelligent, and pretty damn strong, Khan posed a threat to the galaxy, until Kirk dumped him on a backwater planet. This could have been the end of Khan, but in the classic "The Wrath of Khan" the deposed would-be king returned with, well a whole lot of wrath indeed. Stealing the Genesis Device, hijacking the Reliant, and being indirectly responsible for Spock’s death made an impact no Trek fan can ignore. I'm sure you ask, "If he's so bad, why so low on the list?" Simple, Khan had two appearances total, and while his plans were grand originally, in the end his entire world unraveled to enact revenge on Kirk.

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5. The Romulans - As mentioned, cold, aloof, calculating, and devious... a few of the words that scratch the surface of the Romulans. Most of all mysterious really describes them. The Romulans aren't fans of the Federation for much of the time they appear, and their motivations really seem to depend on which Romulan is appearing which episode. I feel Rodenberry really just wanted "Evil Vulcans" and honestly that idea in and of itself is scary as hell. The fact that during the TNG era anyone nearly pooped themselves when a Warbird de-cloaked is a testament to how threatening the Romulan presence was.

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4. The Borg - A race of millions, controlled by one mind. Disturbing to see, terrifying to fight, and futile to resist, The Borg were the big breakout villains of TNG. Later they were even called upon again to help breathe life into Voyager. Short on characterization, the original encounter was to be a lesson to Picard from Q. However, the Borg followed. Ransacking the fleet, assimilating Picard, yeah they were bad. However, like a lot of popular latter day comic villains, the more they showed up, the less threatening they became. Their first few storylines cannot be ignored, but their continued "nerfing" in subsequent appearances is why they don't rank higher.

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3. The Dominion - The Dominion was something the Federation never encountered, an amoral conquering version of itself. Made of various species all worshipping the shape shifting race called The Founders, the Gamma Quadrant proved to hold a very hostile threat for sure. The shape shifters were just the tip of the iceberg, the drug fueled warriors known as the Jem'Hadar outfought and often outnumbered their Federation opposition. With a shaky Klingon alliance, plus the Cardassian and Breen throwing in with the Founders, it took amazing steps to bring almost all the major races of the Alpha Quadrant together(many like the Cardassians and Romulans, for the first time) to finally end the war. The level of doubt the Founders sowed amongst the Federation and physical/military toll the Dominion War took is why they outrank the Borg in my book.

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2. The Klingons - I can site multiple reasons why the bumpy ridged grouches are number two. I'll list the three that stick out. They were the most constant and feared threat in the TOS era. During the aforementioned Dominion War, it was widely believed if the Klingons had joined the Founders, it would have been the final nail in the Federations coffin. They have the ability to effortlessly go from having heroic and sympathetic characters like Worf, to easily going back to having an air of menace if one of the less scrupulous members shows up such as Chancellor Gowron. Finally, they did something even Khan couldn't do. They executed Kirk's son. The biggest difference in Kirk losing two important people in his life is that, well, Spock came back. Unlike the Borg who seemed weaker with more appearances, the Klingons still to this day have this aura of dread to them. They're warriors, good ones, and anything can set them off, and they've been that way for 45+ years. I think that’s good enough for the second slot.

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1. Q - Funny, oddly charming, amusingly arrogant.... oh, and able to bend the universe to his will. Q was a thorn in Picard's side many times, and his appearances range from simply funny yet poignant stories to scary, costly lessons for old Jean Luc. The reason he is such a good villain isn't just because John de Lancie played him so well, it's the fact that in the first TNG episode Q directly states he's judging humanity. This is brought up again as the series goes on whenever he pops up. It's more than a little disturbing that such a seemingly mischievous prankster is in fact judging our entire race, and if he's not impressed...poof. Unlike the Borg or Dominion threats, no fighting, no war, just gone. Fortunately in the TNG finale, it seems our race earned a stay of execution....for now.

Ok, I know some will cry foul for Khan being so low or the outright gall of me to not mention the Gorn or whatever, but this is my list. Feel free to let me know what you think. – Tony/ Chainclaw

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fanholes Side Story 18: Don't Taze Me, To!

Hiya. I like Iron Man and I read his comics. Therefore! I'm gonna review the first arc of Kieron Gillen's Marvel NOW! Iron Man series, “Believe”, drawn by Greg Land.

I say “review”, but what I'm actually gonna do is just go through it, issue-by-issue, and jot some bullet points down. I'll frame each issue with a brief summary and have some final thoughts at the end. No fuss, no muss! Maybe.

Let's go!


Issue # 1: “Demons and Genies”

Summary: Tony gets a call from a dead friend- Extremis is on the move, Extremis is loose! Cue Iron Man Obsessive Quest To Recover Stolen Tech #6001!!!

*So first things first, let's talk about Iron Man's new "Marvel NOW!" armor, which debuted here or hereabouts. Doesn't seem to have an official name, per se, but it is easily distinguishable from Iron Man's other main armors by its unique color scheme of black and gold. I think black almost always looks good on a superhero costume/get-up, whether it be Spider-Man or Batman or Iron Man, so this is a pretty striking model.

At first glance, I was kinda down on it, because it looked to me like someone just came up with a lazy spray-paint of Tony's Bleeding Edge armor. Upon closer inspection though, it is an all-new design, albeit one that does incorporate elements from his Bleeding Edge, Extremis, and even movie armors. At the end of the day, it gets my approval.

*While we're on the appearances of things, I'll take a moment to address Greg Land's art as a whole for this arc. It's serviceable and he does manage some dynamic images, but there's still the apparently-unavoidable “porn-face” expressions to get by when dealing with him. And he's only seemingly able to draw about one kind of female face- all women between the ages of 15 and 40 are supermodels.

On that note, I was disappointed with Land's interpretation of Pepper Potts-

Admittedly, ever since the first movie came out in 2008, many artists have tried to draw her more like Gwyneth Paltrow, but this isn't even that. This is just some random redheaded woman who could easily be Jean Grey or Mary Jane Watson or whomhaveyou.

Now when I think of Pepper Potts, I usually think of freckles-

What's a little odd/ironic is Land's design of Alex Draguno, a character who appears next issue. She has freckles! I probably would have identified HER as Pepper Potts if I had seen that headshot without the context!

*I find it a little off-putting that Tony makes a joke to Pepper about his one-night-stand-to-be possibly being Spymaster in disguise. Spymaster went on a rampage through Tony's new company, Stark Resilient, in Matt Fraction's Iron Man run, stabbing one of Tony's employees almost to death and threatening Bethany Cabe and Ms. Arbogast. This Spymaster then committed “suicide-by-cop” after being apprehended. Taking “comic book time” into account, this probably happened only a few months ago. Too soon, Tony.

*The catalyst for this story kicking off is the murder of Maya Hansen, who developed Extremis. While I can't say I ever warmed to her as a character that much, I also feel she probably deserved better than to be offed so cavalierly. She was a major supporting character in the Knaufs' Iron Man run before being ditched when Matt Fraction took over. Plus, given how important Extremis was to Tony for a long time, all the problems and enemies he'd encountered because of it, and how obsessed Maya was with developing it, you'd think he'd have kept better tabs on her. Instead, she was apparently kidnapped, forced to develop more Extremis kits for mostly-bad people, and then murdered without Tony ever suspecting until it was too late. At least when the Mandarin kidnapped her the last time, he had the good sense to fake her death first so Tony wouldn't even consider looking.

*Heh, the fact that Tony sneaks into an A.I.M. auction for their appropriated Extremis kits and manages to avoid being identified by simply shaving his mustache off is pretty amusing. As is Tony's mention that he has “a biochemist friend who swears by a solution that can regrow it in a few hours”.

*Tony takes on three A.I.M. flunkies enhanced by Extremis. Okay, I'm willing to take at face-value that ever since Warren Ellis' Extremis arc and all subsequent battles with Extremis enhanciles, Tony's come up with much more efficient ways of fighting them. As well as the fact that having been enhanced by Extremis once himself, Tony's applied the technology and lessons learned to his current armor, thus making it more than a match for these guys. But took Tony almost that entire initial Warren Ellis arc to track down and kill Mallen, the original Extremis enhancile. Here, he takes down all three Extremis guys down at ONCE with...a taser.

You can easily follow the reasoning of this, but honestly...I dunno, to me it kinda feels like a dramatic disconnect in hindsight, I guess.

Issue # 2: “A Gentleman's Wager”

Summary: They're Knights of the Round Table! They steal Extremis and fight Iron Man whene'er they're able!

*We're introduced to a new organization called “The Circle” here, which has set up shop in Symkaria. They're a group of armored mercenaries who have code names based on King Arthur and his knights. This issue is narrated by “Lancelot”, who is in fact the previously-mentioned Alex Draguno. The rest of the people involved with The Circle come off as pretentious pricks, but Alex is someone I wouldn't mind reading more of. She's got the “rival ace” thing going on that I'm usually a fan of in most fictional settings, where she could be Tony's enemy or his ally, depending on the situation.

*Tony heads to The Circle's main HQ because they acquired one of the Extremis kits that was in the wind. “Arthur”, head of The Circle, wants to test their new Extremis-enhanced Knights against Iron Man and proposes a tourney as a way to do so. “Merlin”, the designer of their suits, was humiliated by Tony Stark years ago and wants some payback. And Lancelot just wants to fight Iron Man. All Tony wants is to destroy what remains of the Extremis they acquired, which they place in the arena as a gesture of good faith, under the protection of a force field.

Once he beats two of the Knights one-on-one and fights with Lancelot to a standstill, Tony simply destroys the remaining Extremis tech by using a UV laser that can pass through force fields. I think it's always funny and satisfying when the hero owns some pretentious jerkasses by not playing by their rules.

Issue # 3: “It Makes Us Stronger”

Summary: Tony fights three classic villains. Wait...two. Wait...okay, maybe one. Also, he eats some grilled cheese.

*That's one of the least-convincing sandwiches I've ever seen drawn.

*Some cocaine kingpin who bought the Extremis kit for his dying daughter pits Living Laser, Firebrand, and Vibro against Iron Man.

I like the Living Laser, but I feel like he's one of those villains whose power level fluctuates absurdly between appearances. Sometimes he's powerful enough to give Iron Man a very bad day on his own, and sometimes he's just some chump. When he's a chump, he's usually part of a larger group of villains, like in this issue or when he was part of the Hood's gang (or as my buddy Derek calls them, “The Mega Hip-Hop Masters of Evil”). Here, he's chump enough to be taken down by a single repulsor blast from Iron Man, who notes that the Living Laser is “no Titanium Man”. Ah well. I guess he'll never be as cool again as he was under Romita Jr.'s pencils in “Armor Wars II”. His design here is pretty ugly and generic- it's a carry-over from Fraction and Larocca's run.

Firebrand is a new female version that debuted in Fraction and Larocca's run. I didn't actually read that bit. All I remember is that one of the old Firebrands, the dumpy-wearing-a-metal-baby-harness lookin' one from Busiek's run, showed up in Rick Remender's Secret Avengers run recently. This is really kind of an epidemic with Iron Man villains sometimes. Someone makes a replacement because the old one wasn't memorable enough, or is dead. Then a subsequent someone ignores said-replacement and returns to the original or makes ANOTHER replacement and it eventually gets pretty muddled. Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man are pretty heavy sufferers of this trend. Anyway, she gets chumped out even more than Laser did, sooooo...whatever.

And finally, we have Vibro. Not too familiar with him, but he could be the original one. He showed up in Fraction's run too, but the last I personally read of him, he was part of the Hand-resurrected army of dead D-List supervillains that were pitted against SHIELD in Mark Millar's first Wolverine run. I'm not sure if anyone ever bothered to explain when or how he died and when or how he was resurrected. But he gets punked by Iron Man too, who gasses him and Firebrand within seconds of the fight starting.

I can definitely understand why some people might criticize Iron Man's rogues gallery. All too often, many are used as cannon fodder for their employer, whether it is the Mandarin, Justin Hammer, or this random cocaine merchant. And like I mentioned, sometimes you aren't even sure of which incarnation of the villain you are dealing with. There are multiple unrelated-to-each other Firebrands, Whiplashes, Titanium Mans, Crimson Dynamos, Spymasters, Blizzards, and Ghosts. I think some of these villains need to be nailed-down and given more of a “venerable” status in Iron Man's rogues gallery. When Spider-Man fights Electro, I just KNOW it's Max Dillon. When Iron Man fights Titanium Man...well, I can't always be sure.

Issue # 4: “Fear of the Void”

Summary: Tony kills a bunch of Lovecraftian Extremis girls. Film at eleven.

*Not much to say about this issue. Tony debuts his new “heavy” armor, which acts as a cross between War Machine and Hulkbuster. It's neat.

*Tony finds another batch of newly-created Extremis enhanciles, this time in the form of a bunch of young women whose minds have been overwritten and who have basically been turned into mindless attack dogs. Tony manages to disable them and executes all but one of them, who didn't attack him.

Now, some might have a problem with Tony mercy-killing the lot of them, but I found it pretty in-step with how Tony's always been portrayed. He has a realistic grasp of things and leaving a dozen Extremis-enhanced berserkers alive is just asking for trouble. He keeps one alive, because she seemed completely non-responsive. However, the ending is somewhat ominous on that front...

Issue # 5: “Men of the World”

Summary: The final stolen Extremis kit is in the hands of a retcon! Is Tony gonna let that stand? HELL NAW BRAH.

*So we're introduced to “Eli” here (no last name given), an old pal of Tony Stark from backindaday, and who is somewhat evocative of Jeff Bridges' portrayal of Obadiah Stane. He stole the last Extremis kit from whomever purchased it, which he believes absolves him of second-hand guilt or responsibility over Maya Hansen's death and allows him to use it as he pleases. Man, if I had a nickel for every time a writer played the “old friend/mentor/business colleague of Tony who is now evil/dubious” card...

*Tony is shown Stark Resilient's newest improved version of their last phone. Of course, he has to bring up to Pepper that Stark Resilient was supposed to provide a way to give free energy to the world, but they conveniently haven't figured that out yet. This was one of Fraction's plots, and even back when he introduced it, I knew it was dead weight. Because Marvel exists in the “real” world (hahaha), and a company that comes up with a way to provide free energy to everyone WOULD NEVER EXIST in the real world.

Still, I suppose it was nice to address it, and a “realistic” way of handling it. But it does draw one's attention to the fact that if Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Hank Pym, or any of these guys were really as smart as they've been painted, they should be able to solve most of the real world's problems just so. It's one of the little bits I enjoyed about Superman: Red Son, where Lex Luthor becomes President of the US and within months, fixes all the country's financial problems and quadruples the living standard of every US citizen. I feel like that's how it really should be, if these kinds of comic super-geniuses really were worth their salt. But of course, that wouldn't work well for a serialized, inter-connected comic universe, I guess.

*I was wondering if Tony was going to be shot up with Extremis again by the end of this arc, but it never happens. As far as I know (and I didn't read the last dozen or so issues of Fraction's run), Tony had Extremis purged from his system there. So I guess this is really the end of this little leftover from Warren Ellis' run on Iron Man, which has really lasted longer than I would have expected. Extremis was a nice change for awhile, making Tony Stark a sort of superhuman outside his armor, but I think it's nice to be solidly back to a Tony who is just “a man in a tin can” for the foreseeable future. And although these new batches that Maya was forced to create were all destroyed, there's nothing to stop someone from reverse-engineering Extremis from one of Eli's crew or anyone else who had been treated with it in this arc. So I think Extremis is best locked in the cupboard for awhile now.

*Tony leaves for space at the end of the arc, in his new space armor, preparing for some space adventures. It's funny; he left for space at the end of the Fraction run too, but I guess that was just the little “vacation” that Pepper mentions in the first issue of this arc. This is his space journey for REALZ now. It's a nice change of scenery for Iron Man, and Death's Head pops up, so no complaints here!


In the end, I enjoyed reading this arc, despite my niggles. It does a solid job of providing a jumping-on point or “soft-rebooting” Iron Man. The plot...well...the plot is a little overplayed for Iron Man, but at least there's a wrinkle in it, where it isn't really Tony's own tech that he's recovering or destroying this time. Greg Land's can either take or leave it. While there were a few moments where I had to double-take to understand what was happening (like when one of the Extremis women kills her creator), it still does its job competently-enough. Personally, I think his style is pretty ugly and his people are kinda fake and plastic-looking...but I dunno, maybe someone else thinks that looks “real-er”.

So if you want a nice hopping-on point for Iron Man, I can give this a thumb-up. And even more well-read Iron Man fans will probably get some enjoyment out of this story. Hopefully, Kieron Gillen has no place to go...but up.