Thursday, April 30, 2015

Limerick Review: Arrow S3E21, Al Sah-Him

Ra's Al Ghul has a hidden scheme,
And wants Oliver on his team.
And through some blackmail,
He acquires his grail,
So Ollie's training as Al Sah-Him

We get some more flashbacks for filler,
But Ra's' hand's still on the tiller.
And Nyssa's betrayal
Was beyond the pale,
So Oliver's sent back to kill her.

John's wife, newly un-estranged
Is kidnapped and pulled out of range.
He starts an attack
To try getting her back,
And there's a violent hostage exchange.

As for Nyssa, Ra's still declares her
A traitor, and so he ensnares her.
He says execution's
The only solution
But at the last minute, he spares her.

At the end, we hear the same old ditty
Of population control without pity.
So his ninja clan
Will soon enact his plan
To unleash a virus on the city.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E19, The Dirty Half Dozen

With Mike and Lincoln off the field,
And Coulson with no choice but to yield,
Seems they're all forsaken,
Or otherwise taken,
They by Hydra, Coulson by SHIELD.

Hydra wants their prisoners' condition
To bring their own plans to fruition.
With minimal winces,
Phil Coulson convinces
SHIELD to go on a rescue mission.

Though at times they just scrape by,
They get back their people and fly,
Especially now
That their team is endowed
With a freshly returned agent Skye.

Raina's visions brought about
Skye's new, SHIELD-convergent route.
But post this collision,
She has one more vision:
That Age of Ultron's coming out.

Of late, the show has a good spine,
But feels it must pad out the time.
To that end, we have scenes
About what it all means
That it could have covered in one line.

Limerick Review: The Flash S1E20, The Trap

Our heroes found Wells' little shrine,
And a plan they soon start to design.
And through science intel,
They find out that Wells
Killed Cisco in another timeline.

From these memories Cisco repressed,
They plan for Barry's dad's egress.
They set traps and wait,
Using Cisco as bait,
And try to get Wells to confess.

Things go south, and Joe shoots Wells dead,
But turns out they've all been misled.
The newly-dead laddie's
The shapeshifting baddy,
And Wells is still one step ahead.

And now that he's set them unsteady,
Wells begins to get himself ready.
He's already displaced
To his underground base,
And made a prisoner of Eddie.

The show is swiftly making tracks,
And gives us no time to relax.
After weeks of cases,
We're off to the races,
Looking forward to the climax.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Limerick Review: Arrow S3E20, The Fallen

Last time, Ra's stabbed Thea, then fled,
And given just how much she bled,
It beggars belief
That to our slight relief,
She ends up in a coma, not dead.

But this was hardly a botched hit,
And Ra's just refuses to quit.
And says, to their chagrin,
That if Ollie gives in,
He'll let them use the Lazarus Pit.

With no choice, Ollie takes this route,
And lets the succession come about.
Though while they hold court,
The league has to thwart
Abortive tries to break him out.

Ollie's friends try to give chase,
But he thinks their efforts are misplaced.
He says 'bye to each friend,
And so by the end
He's ready to be the new Ra's.

Whatever the villainous cackles,
Or whatever drama it tackles,
The plan of attack
Will always be held back,
For the flashbacks are still self-made shackles.

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E18, The Frenemy of My Enemy

Fitz is still in last week's scrape,
Agents trailing behind like a cape.
He calls friends to sort
Out a little support,
And they talk him through how to escape.

With not enough people aboard,
Coulson puts pieces back on the board.
So despite the treason,
And against all reason,
He tracks down and then recruits Ward.

Cal is intent on restoring
His fam'ly with feelings outpouring.
And he uses his clout
For a father's day out.
That ends up surprisingly boring.

We're almost glad when things emerge
And Hydra pours forth in a surge.
And Skye chose to invite
SHIELD for the firefight.
Meanwhile Hydra and Coulson converge.

Skye gets teleported and grabbed,
Hunter gets shot, Hydra gets stabbed,
No one wins the brawl,
And most crushing of all,
Both Lincoln and Deathlok get nabbed.

Limerick Review: The Flash S1E19, Who Is Harrison Wells?

With the prof betraying no tells,
And the info here ringing no bells,
Cisco and Joe
Hit the road and go
To Starling City to get dirt on Wells.

They find a body, and are wary.
They must bring this info back to Barry.
But not quite before
Cisco works to restore
And improve a sonic for Canary.

Back home, Flash must be even swifter.
There's a well-disguised, superpowered drifter.
And before they're ready,
Both Barry and Eddie
Must battle a skillful shapeshifter.

This baddie's got serious chops,
And Barry's first plan rather flops.
And while they're in a tizzy,
The shapeshifter's busy
Framing Eddie for shooting two cops.

But the shapeshifter's cover gets blown,
And the real truth about Wells gets shown,
But it's just so much grinding,
Because they're just finding
Out things viewers'd already known.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Limerick Review: Arrow S3E19, Broken Arrow

Roy's gambit was foolish, but brave,
And soon might send him to the grave.
The team thinks they can
Work out some kind of plan,
But Lance unearths the Arrow Cave.

But then, they have to improvise
As a new villain starts to arise -
An unpleasant soul
With ambiguous goals
And lasers coming out of his eyes.

With cops' eyes upon him all day,
Ollie is no longer free to stray,
But the ball can't be dropped,
And Deathbolt must be stopped,
So instead, the task falls upon Ray.

Team Arrow remains in no doubt
That Roy's escape must be brought about,
So within a short span,
They carry out a plan
To fake Roy's death to break him out.

With all plan A's chances now fled,
Ra's makes a new one in its stead.
And so his rebuttal
Gets rather unsubtle:
He seems to kill Thea stone dead.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E17, Melinda

With Coulson a late escapee,
And Fitz on the lam with the key,
The show takes a breather
To focus on neither,
But three stories concurrently.

First, we find out what's so extreme
That it managed to curtail May's dream,
And what she went through
Is that she once had to
Kill a child to save her whole team.

Skye's story, by contrast, is calm,
And she takes to her life with aplomb,
And especially
When she learns guide's ID,
And gets to spend time with her mom.

And, fin'lly, May with the new crew,
Trying desperately to sort through
The myriad plans
That have passed through her hands
And find what Coulson's been up to.

The crosscutting sometimes gets clogged,
But the whole thing is hardly a slog,
And after that bout,
We get to find out
That Raina might be a precog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Limerick Review: The Flash S1E18, All Star Team Up

Central City suddenly sees
Lots of bee-sting deaths causing unease,
Which opens the door
For hijinks galore,
And SO MANY jokes about bees.

Felicity drops by en route,
Bringing Ray and his super suit.
And I'm perfectly hip
That it's not everyone's ship,
But Raylicity is so cute.

No matter how dire the threat,
Our heroes don't just mope and fret.
In fact, I'd agree
That this might just "bee"
The funniest episode yet.

Once the goods and bads have their clash,
And the robot bees got soundly thrashed,
Iris throws a fit,
And threatens to split
If Eddie won't talk 'bout The Flash.

Barry conquers his inhibitions,
And makes his most dreaded admissions.
He calls up his friends,
And fin'lly contends
With his Harrison Wells suspicions.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Song Notes: Judy Is Your Viet Nam by They Might Be Giants

Songs that hinge on central metaphors typically fasten themselves to a familiar structure: the first verse introduces the situation, the chorus introduces or solidifies the metaphor, and further verses elaborate on the metaphor while further choruses act as a grounding device to keep everything safely within the bounds of the metaphor. Brick by Ben Folds Five is a terrific example of this.

Which brings us to Judy Is Your Viet Nam by They Might Be Giants, and the interesting way it approaches its central metaphor.

Broadly, the song uses the U.S. involvement in Vietnam as a metaphor for a long-term relationship that went bad a long time ago - and was maybe even bad from the beginning - but is nonetheless difficult to extricate yourself from. It's a perfectly sound little idea with the occasional truly great lyric like, "she's the storm before the calm," standing for the awareness that ending the entanglement would make you much happier, which leaves the fact that you haven't disentangled yourself to imply the idea that you can't.

But what makes the song distinctive is this: it doesn't introduce the metaphor until the very last line. They Might Be Giants realize that whatever the merits of their lyrical idea, it is a little idea. Small but significant details of the relationship under examination get introduced over the course of the song, but the central conceit gets introduced as a punchline at the end. What could have been an over-reaching and wearying metaphor in the traditional format becomes fun in this one.

Does this alternative metaphoric format have much outside application? Well, no. A mix of commercial demands, audience expectations, and semantic necessity require that the standard format remain the default, but whatever its instructive value, "Judy Is Your Viet Nam" does illustrate that the standard format is not the only one available. It is a little trifle of a thing, but a fun and even valuable one. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to write a song about a messy one-night-stand called "Meredith Is Your Falklands."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Daredevil, Wilson Fisk, and the Language of Violence


I am, I gather, hardly alone in finding Vincent d'Onofrio's performance as Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, fascinating in the new Marvel Netflix series Daredevil. But there is an aspect of the writing and performance that I want to highlight and discuss in slightly more detail, and that aspect is the language of violence.

A big part of what makes d'Onofrio so compelling in the role is how much effort it seems to cost him to say every word. Each syllable is a deep whisper and feels deliberately labored. I say deliberately because this sort of fundamental difficulty is a theme that runs through the entire performance. Every movement and gesture is made to look difficult and even forced, from courting ambitious art curator Vanessa to simply drinking a glass of wine. Normal human behavior is something that it looks like the character of Wilson Fisk has had to learn by rote.

However, there is one aspect of behavior that is not performed with this same awkwardness, and that is violence. The scene in episode 4 in which Fisk brutally murders Russian gangster Anatoly is the only time up to that point in which we have seen him move, speak, or do anything with ease. He fights as if he has been doing that his whole life, and we learn more about his emotional state through that scene than through any of his conversations heretofore.

Essentially, the Language of Violence is the only one in which Fisk is fluent, and this point of characterization is driven home in his dinner scene with Vanessa in episode 5. This scene plays host to the longest sustained conversation we have seen him conduct in the series, but it is not until he takes Vanessa to the window to see the burning hideouts left by his extermination of the Russian Mafia elements in the city that we get the sense that Vanessa truly understands him. All of his rhetoric about rebuilding the city is lovely but vague - when Vanessa sees him express his goals in his native language, violence, she suddenly comes to understand him in a way she never did before.

This is a beautiful bit of characterization all around, and it is only possible through a coordination of writing and performance that I do not see nearly as often as I would like to. To all those involved, I would just like to say, well done.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E16, Afterlife

Spoilers, obviously:

With SHIELD determined to stalk,
Coulson's left to wait out the clock.
But he proves tricky prey,
And soon gets far away,
Now joined by Hunter and Deathlok.

And Skye, never to be outdone,
Finds the Inhumans' place in the sun.
And, as is tradition,
Gets three-scene exposition
That could have been covered in one.

May's in the cell once used by Ward,
But her ability strikes a chord,
Olmos lets her live,
And then offers to give
Her a seat on alterna-SHIELD's board.

With Skye as a one-woman bomb,
Raina's presence threatens her calm.
So "The Elders" decide
That Sky should have a guide,
Who turns out to somehow be Skye's mom.

Coulson wants to clean SHIELD's clocks,
But also free Skye from her locks.
Ward will be recruited,
And, also, Fitz looted
That little black mystery box.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pet Peeves: Don't Shelve Comics With Books

On occasion, I will visit a library (or even a bookstore, although there it is far less frequently a problem) where comics and are shelved amongst the novels, all listed by author. so let me just put out this slightly pleading message to any who organize their establishment's shelves in this way:


I love comics. I love what the medium can accomplish, and the effects made possible by the heightened reality that particular styles of artwork can evoke. But that is precisely the point: comics are a different medium from books, and even when there is overlap among the authors contributing to both (e.g. Greg Rucka, Brad Meltzer), they are authors working in two different formats and adapting their writing to each format as appropriate.

In short, putting comics and novels on the same shelves just because both are printed on bound stacks of paper is like shelving CDs and DVDs together because they both come on discs.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Preview Of My Scheduled Video Content This Month

Cinemibus: Episode 1, I Love The Cabin In The Woods from Cinemibus on Vimeo.

I am in the process of migrating my more intensive webseries, Cinemibus, onto Vimeo. This is largely because the YouTube content ID system is more trouble than it is worth, and I would just as soon do without the hassle. I have reposted my first episode of the series on that platform and embedded it above. All episodes of Cinemibus from here on out will be hosted on Vimeo, and I would like to preview those episodes, as well as the first episode of a new series, that are coming up this month!

On Thursday, April 9th, the second episode of Cinemibus will be posted. This one focuses on Iron Man 3 and focuses on the theme of superficiality. And I promise it is nowhere near as boring as I have just made that sound.

On Thursday, April 16th, I will be starting The Discerning Lyricist webseries, with a first episode discussing the awesomeness that is the musical Chess.

On Thursday, April 23rd, Cinemibus will be celebrating the impending arrival of a new Avengers movie with a look back at the old Avengers movie. This first part will be an in-depth look at the storytelling challenges the movie faced and what it did to overcome those challenges.

On Thursday, April 30th, I will release part 2 of the Avengers retrospective, this one focusing on the narrative problems that afflicted the first Avengers movie and how the sequel might improve on those elements.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Limerick Review: Arrow S3E18, Public Enemy

So Ra's has dispatched an array
Of fake Green Arrows into play.
And just to inflame
This extravagant frame,
Faux-Arrow just up and shoots Ray.

The cops now won't back down or flee,
'Til the Arrow's their detainee.
And just to be sleazy,
Ra's makes their job easy
And outs Ollie's secret ID.

Ray's health is still on the downswing,
But the one thing this subplot can bring
Is merely to tie
Up Felicity's eye
So she can't just resolve everything.

And really, Ollie's actions have been
Getting much harder to spin.
Whether out of remorse
Or a matter of course,
Ollie finally turns himself in.

There's a great scene on the police bus
As Quentin and Ollie discuss,
But all of that sport
Is abruptly cut short
As Roy tries to pull a "Spartacus"

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E15, One Door Closes

To kick off the story to tell,
We watch a flashback for a spell,
How Bobbi and Mack
Countered Hydra's attack
On the darkened day that SHIELD fell.

Today, both are back from the field,
But their secrets will soon be revealed.
Though 'fore Coulson can brace,
The team's secret base
Is invaded by alterna-SHIELD.

Once Olmos has breached their redoubt,
He wants intel for Coulson to spout,
And to break the locks
Of a strange little box,
But May rescues, then sends Coulson out.

Team Olmos thinks Skye is just mental,
And sends a team who's less than gentle,
But Skye receives quarter
From the teleporter
Who zaps her to Inhuman central.

Although he's been given the sack,
Coulson is still on the track.
He'll have to be blunter,
And so he and Hunter
Will team up to take SHIELD back.