Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes, page 4

April 26, 2018

Big Finish's 99p sale is back (use password: redballoons) through April 30th. All of the original items I recommend to meet the Eighth Doctor are there except for the Destiny of the Doctor Release.

This is a great opportunity to get into some Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. This post will focus on the Sixth Doctor. Colin Baker was really dealt a bad hand on television. His costume was obnoxious and his personality was abrasive. To be clear, I don't think his time on television was nearly as bad as detractors indicate. I like most of his stories and appreciate Colin Baker's efforts, but he was really hampered by a bad first impression and some poor creative decisions influenced by a script editor who thought he wasn't a worthy Doctor.

Big Finish has allowed Colin Baker to really write a new chapter for his Doctor. The ego and bravado are still there, but it's also been tempered with more kindness, compassion, and introspection which makes the character feel more like the Doctor. Colin Baker is the best Big Finish Doctor in my opinion and with the first fifty Big Finish releases on sale, now is a great chance to see what kind of Doctor Colin Baker can be if you give him the chance:

1) The Marian Conspiracy: One big change Big Finish has brought to the Sixth Doctor is new companions. Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables) is the first and she played a big part in softening the Sixth Doctor's image. She's an elderly instructor who the Doctor visits because she's at the epicenter of some time travel shenanigans. The Doctor takes her back to the time that Queen Mary is on the throne in England and the two have an adventure. The details of the story are okay, and the story does show the tragedy of how during this period, many sincere Christians killed each other over interpretations and what a tragedy that was. But what the story is ultimately about is the Doctor and Evelyn getting to know one another. Their chemistry is great. The Doctor only took her back in time to sort out the problem in her timeline but to paraphrase Bogie, "This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

2) Spectre of Lanyon Moor: The Sixth Doctor didn't properly meet the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) on television, but they team up in this audio adventure to investigate a strange mystery on the moor. This is the type of story Doctor Who did back at its height and it really plays out well over audio. Colin Baker, Nicholas Courtney, and Maggie Stables are all in fine form and just a delight to listen to.

3) The Apocalypse Element: The Apocalypse Element represented Big Finish’s most ambitious production at the time as we’re given a massive tale of a Dalek plan to invade Gallifrey and take over the Universe.

This time of thing has been tried since, but the Apocalypse Element works exceptionally well because it manages to really create the feeling of a true space epic where the galaxies burn and the Universe itself is at stake. Lalla Ward’s return as Romana makes this story a standout, particularly her brilliant monologue in Episode 2.

While there are some slow moments in the first part and the soundscape could probably stand being remastered, this is a very well done space epic, and listened to in light of the new series, this story can also be seen as a prelude to the Time War.

4) The One Doctor:

The Sixth Doctor and Mel (Bonnie Langford) find themselves in the vulgar period of time where all the secrets of the Universe are known including that of the existence of the Doctor. It's so well know that a con man and his girlfriend have set up a racket impersonating the Doctor and his companion in hopes of collecting money from grateful citizens. The two impostors succeed in thwarting the Sixth Doctor's attempt to expose them. However, when an alien cylinder issues an ultimatum requiring the Doctor's action, only the real Doctor can do it.

Colin Baker and Bonnie Langsford are both superb. Gareth Roberts' writing is effortlessly funny, so he doesn't have to have them act out of character for cheap laughs. The result is a story that showcases hol the Sixth Doctor and Mel can work together. Christopher Biggins is a great foil for Colin Baker as the fake Doctor Banto Zane, and the best scenes in the story are when they got at one another. Look out for future companion actor Matt Lucas who plays two roles in this one.

Overall, this is a delightful story full of clever dialogue, fun characters, and a few well-done audio gags. The only comedy better than this in Doctor Who is City of Death.

5) The Sandman:

A good concept where the Doctor is viewed as a monster by a race he stopped long ago and is playing up to the reputation for his own reasons, but he finds the aliens have strange goings on for which the Sandman is being blamed.

Overall, this is a very fun story. Evelyn is the perfect companion for the Sixth Doctor in this story where he’s trying to be an over the top menace. There are some clever ideas here. I particularly like the idea of the Doctor’s multi-colored coat actually being a weapon.

6) Jubilee:

Rob Shearman's story tells of a dystopian world where humans destroyed the Daleks with the help of the Doctor and then became an autocratic society is brilliant and chilling. The actors are all on point with Colin Baker turning in a fascinating performance, along with Briggs as the Dalek.

The story has a great combination of dark comedy, piercing social commentary, and memorable characters. The release is known for being the basis for the TV episode, "Dalek," but it's more influential than that. The story has shaped the way most Doctor Who writers deal with the Daleks. Easily a must-listen.

7) Doctor Who and the Pirates:

A historical that finds the Doctor and Evelyn telling a story of adventure and piracy on the high seas. The basic plot of the pirate story is fairly standard. The Doctor and Evelyn arrive on a ship just as its raided and most of its crew is impressed into the service of the mad pirate Red Jasper, who is seeking a treasure on the Ruby Island.

However, it's the telling of the story that makes it so good. Throughout Evelyn and the Doctor telling the story, it's clear that something is troubling her. In the third part, the Doctor tries to alleviate the tension with song and comedy, turning the whole affair into a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, one of Big Finish's earliest and most ambitious musical pieces. In addition, the biggest mystery is why Evelyn is telling the story to a former student.

The result is a tale that manages to mix hilarity with poignancy while portraying the sweet friendship between the Doctor and Evelyn and also showcasing Evelyn's heart.

8) Davros:

This story is the definitive examination of Davros in Doctor Who in a Dalek-free story that finds Davros revived to work for an intergalactic corporate mogul.

The moments between Davros and the Doctor are superb and one of the best explorations of their relationships ever recorded. Colin Baker is perfectly matched with Terry Malloy in this one. Wendy Padbury's character of the historian wife of the company's CEO is fascinating. Her actions in getting her husband to revive Davros is guided by a sort of amoral view of history that focuses only on what a genius Davros is and how mankind could benefit from his genius.

Beyond that, most of the characters are somewhat stock, but it really doesn't matter. Davros is a bold and absolutely brilliant exploration of one of the Doctor's greatest foes.

Bonus recommendations:

Jago and Litefoot: Big Finish made thirteen box sets and three specials centered around Jago and Litefoot, two characters who appeared in the classic Doctor Who story, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang." If you're wondering how you got that many stories out of two characters who only appeared in one episode together on television, check out the Mahogany Murderers. It's their first ever team up for Big Finish and it will give you a taste of the awesome series that came out of that.

Eighth Doctor Adventures: The first series of Eighth Doctor Adventures is also part of the 99p sale. The Eighth Doctor Adventures was a series starring Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith as Lucie Miller. They were given a new Who vibe with a 21st Century companion and (mostly) self-contained hour-long episode. The best parts of the season are two-part opener Blood of the Daleks and the two-part finale Human Resources. All eight episodes are worth a listen, though you could skip Phobas and not really miss anything.

Sherlock Holmes: Check out Roger Llewellyn performing audio versions of his one man plays, "The Last Act" and "Death and the Life."
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Published on April 26, 2018 21:43 • 146 views • Tags: big-finish, colin-baker, sixth-doctor

April 24, 2018

Doctor Who - The Twelfth Doctor Vol 8: Time Trials: The Wolves of WinterDoctor Who - The Twelfth Doctor Vol 8: Time Trials: The Wolves of Winter by Richard Dinnick (Author),‎ Brian Williamson (Illustrator),‎ Pasquale Qualano (Illustrator),

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects two stories.

The first is the three issue titular story, "The Wolves of Winter," which throws a lot of elements in. The Doctor and Bill arrive to find Vikings fleeing from other Vikings and they encounter Ice Warriors who are on the trail of the Flood (the monster from Water of Mars.) The book also throws another mystery villain from Classic Doctor Who. Usually, when Doctor Who comics throw in a bit of continuity, it doesn't work. This book is an exception. Nothing feels really extraneous and the story is well-paced. Good luck understanding it if you're not a Doctor Who fan, but this is a good story.

The other issue is, "The Great Shopping Bill" which finds the Doctor, Nardole, and Bill having to make an emergency shopping trip after the dimensional stabilizer in the Vault fails endangering its occupant. So the Doctor, Nardole, and Bill go to the Ubermart where Bill runs into a lost little girl and tries to help. This is a fun cute little run around that's a pleasan diversion and a nice little one-shot. Overall, this is a fun little volume.

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Published on April 24, 2018 23:04 • 62 views • Tags: doctor-who, twelfth-doctor

April 14, 2018

Superman, Volume 4: Black DawnSuperman, Volume 4: Black Dawn by Peter J. Tomasi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 20-26 of Superman.

The six-part Black Dawn story brings the Kent family's time in Hamilton County as mysteries are unfurled that have been raised throughout the run. The story features the return of an old enemy and also features highlights like Batman and Robin sitting around the dinner table where we learn that Batman doesn't like pie Also, Lois Lane drives the Batmobile. As usual, there's a lot of cool art in the book and the Kent family shines through.

The final issue is the one part, "Brains v Brawn" which finds the Superman-Superboy team running into conflict about how Jon uses his powers. It's a good story with a mostly true but somewhat flawed moral that brings up the importance of respect.

Overall, I found this another strong Superman book by Peter Tomasi.

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Published on April 14, 2018 21:19 • 74 views • Tags: dc-rebirth, superman

April 6, 2018

Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 YearsLois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years by Jerry Siegel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects nearly 400 pages of Comics in celebration of Lois Lane. This is a challenge because Lois really isn't the main character most of the time and so ideally we're looking for stories where she steals the show and for those rare solo works. Here's a list of highlights and lowlights:


---Action Comics #6. Of course, the book reprints the first story featuring Lois Lane (the oft-reprinted classic Action Comics #1 and #2) but #6 is a trip as it predicts the coming of Superman-merchandising and licensed media, though it involves a racketeer and Lois using her brain. This is just terrific.

---Lois Lane, Girl Reporter: We get back up three stories of Lois Lane, Girl Reporter in which Lois stars as the protagonist and solves things herself. These are simply marvelous. I wonder how many were made and if all these Golden Age Lois Lane tales could be collected in a book rather than just the three here.

---Story of the Century (Man of Steel #2), At first glance, I thought DC had reprinted the over-reprinted Superman #2 by John Byrne, but this is far better. This is a nice introduction to Lois for the post-Crisis world. The story manages to have fun with Lois in her quest to get an interview with Superman. It's funny, but in a more relatable way than the Superman's girlfriend stories. Also, I liked Byrne's back up Lois Lane script from Action Comics #600 which shows her conflicted feelings about Superman, how his work overshadows her own journalism and her feeling of inadequacy during a time when Superman and Wonder Woman were thought to be a thing.

---Superman Takes a Wife (Action Comics #484): This tells the story of how Golden Age/Earth 2 Superman finally got married to Lois. A sweet story I hadn't seen reprinted before.

---All-Star Superman #2 and #3-Grant Morrison's brilliant All-Star Superman makes an appearance with the two most Lois-centric stories. Great story and a nice update on the Silver Age.

The lowlights:

Modern stuff is problematic because of decompressed storytelling, so many comics are multi-part stories, so we're given a single part of a longer arc that may not say a whole lot about her character. Probably, the worst example of this is Adventures of Superman #631 which is part five in a multi-part story and doesn't do a whole lot with Lois and ends on a cliffhanger. Then there's "Secrets in the Night" which contains Superman revealing his identity to Lois, but is mostly about a battle with Silver Banshee and ends without us finding out his reaction. One exception to this is, "With This Ring" which is part of a larger story arc but features Lois prominently and manages to highlight the relationship between Lois and Clark in such a way that I felt satisfied.

One other consequence of modern stories is that the book has some one-shot tales like a special Lois Lane comic from 1998 and a 10-page story from an annual that are mediocre at best, but are included because they're actually self-contained.

I will say that reading, "She's a Wonder" in here reduced by distaste for it, if only slightly. It's about Lois going with Wonder Woman for a "day in her life" report. It's still a boring overly-speechified preachy story. It still has a big error right on the big panel that introduces Wonder Woman (Lois' narration describes Wonder Woman as wearing no make-up despite the fact the artist drew her with lipstick and nail polish.) Yes, Wonder Woman does make a ridiculously goofy number of wardrobe changes in a single day (and often for arbitrary reasons). Yet, as a Lois Lane story, it works as a kind of follow up on Byrne's tale of her insecurity about Wonder Woman. It's a bit of a clearing the air session between them at the end that at least makes, "She's a Wonder" slightly more tolerable.

Overall, these aren't all great, but there are some really fun reads in here, particularly from the Golden Age, but there's even some modern stuff that's very good, and a few that are at least enjoyable and worth a read. Overall, a nice collection.

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Published on April 06, 2018 19:47 • 86 views • Tags: lois-lane, superman

April 1, 2018

Nightwing Vol. 4: BlockbusterNightwing Vol. 4: Blockbuster by Tim Seeley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 22-28 of Nightwing. The first four issues are the titular Blockbuster arc and find the new Blockbuster (brother of the original) confronting Nightwing and asking for his help to take down Tigershark and free the city from crime. But whose side is he on and what are his motives? It's a nice four-part arc with a lot surprises and a lot of great guest villains.

A former criminal, Gizmo, who was helping Nightwing as a hacker is murdered and in the second three-issue arc, Night Wing teams up with the Huntress to find who killed his friend and who's behind the Second Hand, a group sending alien technology into Bludhaven and this three-part arc takes him back to his time at Spyral. Overall, another solid story.

The book's side characters deserve a comment. Shawn, his girlfriend at the start of the book (formerly the supervillain the Defacer) goes on a journey in the story as she begins by wanting Dick to get a job. However, she ends up breaking up with him and goes into a very dark place when Gizmo dies. The journey she takes as well as that of other former supervillains is an interesting and engaging one. The end for Shawn isn't catastrophic but is heartbreaking in its own way. I hope we see more of her character. It's a testament to writer Tim Seeley that this character has become that important.

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Published on April 01, 2018 17:35 • 58 views • Tags: dc-rebirth, dick-grayson, nightwing

March 29, 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection Volume 4 (1983 -1984)The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection Volume 4 by Stan Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects two full years of Spider-man goodness from 1983-84 and we're given several storylines.

Some highlights.

The good:

---Peter is sent to the Bermuda triangle and encounters Namor who almost becomes the lead character. Peter doesn't don his webs but there's great Sub-mariner action.

---A totally 1980s story in which video games machines are changing people's personalities and turning them evil including Aunt May.

---A true twisting turning adventure tale that goes on for eight months and just begins as a racketeer trying to kill Jameson and includes amensia, blackmail, love triangles, and much more.

---Mary Jane has a growing place of prominence in Peter's life leading up to the marriage even though there are some very contrived efforts to keep them apart. Also, the gives her a grown up career selling computers.

---Spidey goes to a lot of trouble to save an impersonator.

The bad:

----Jameson being dumb enough to pay an obvious Spidey impersonator $50,000 for his "secret identity."

----The Last Storyline (partially collected here) spent weeks dragging on through repetitive scenes of our hero talking to spymasters.

----Spidey's overall cluelessness/creepiness with women. It seems someone (maybe Stan Lee) though Spidey had a love interest in every story and so he falls in love with someone in every tale in which MJ doesn't take a role and pursues them in the most cluelessly annoying way possible even when they're clear they have no interest in him. In the final storyline, Spidey acts like an unserious idiot while a female agent is discussing a risk to world security. Once she rejects him, he sneaks and takes the same tact as Peter Parker. Really?

Overall, despite my annoyances, I enjoyed this one. It's made even better by an introduction that provides context on how these sort of strips are written. A nice read for Spidey Fans who can tolerate a little nonsense if they get the good stuff.

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Published on March 29, 2018 22:51 • 56 views • Tags: newspaper-strip, spider-man

March 27, 2018

The Flash Vol. 5: NegativeThe Flash Vol. 5: Negative by Joshua Williamson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book collects Issues 28-32 of the DC Rebirth run of the Flash along with an excerpt from DC's Holiday Issue.

Once again, Barry's life continues its downward spiral now that Barry's girlfriend Iris left him once learning he'd been hiding the truth about being the Flash from here. Now, he possesses the power of the negative Speed Force which is more dangerous and harder control even while his work life falls apart.

The first two issues in the book focus more on Barry's personal collapse with fights more incidental, in the third and fourth issues, he solves a mystery of missing evidence that leads him to a new rogue named Bloodwork, and then the final issue sets up his new status quo.

Overall thoughts, the art on the first two issues is painful to look at. It reminds me of one of those grungy too hip for its own cook indie comics. It's just unpleasant. The rest of the art is okay, though not spectacular. The story is too dark for the Flash, Josh Williamson should keep mind that he isn't writing Batman. The Flash has historically been a book full of amazing feats and colorful sci-fi. That said, the story does take a few turns that indicate that Barry may be going in a more positive direction even though so much is messed up.

The little Holiday special comic was a bit hokey and cheesy but with all the depression in the Flash book, we could use a little hokiness in this book.

***I received a free digital copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review***

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Published on March 27, 2018 22:30 • 100 views • Tags: dc-rebirth, the-flash

March 26, 2018

Green Lantern: Earth One, Volume 1Green Lantern: Earth One, Volume 1 by Gabriel Hardman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Green Lantern, Earth One, Vol. 1 marks an interesting new beginning for the Green Lanterns Corps as Hal Jordan discovers a power ring while mining an asteroid on the finger of a dead Abin Sur (though he's never identified by name.). He's carried away by the ring on an adventure. Joining forces with Kilowag, who has a ring but doesn't know what it's about, they search the galaxy for other bearers of the ring.

The book features solid art. It's dark, but not grimdark. It's appropriate for beautifully rendering a search through dingy backwater planets that are not pleasant. Jordan's heroism and determination make him a likable protagonist. In many ways, he's more likable than the main DC universe Jordan as he doesn't have that edge of arrogance about him. Rather he has a past and some things to atone for.

While this volume works well, there are some directions, I'm questionable about. For example, the rings don't seem to choose the user. It appears to be a bit of a crapshoot as to whether the person who gets them will use it responsibly or be fit to wear it. Also, the lack of experienced Lanterns is a problem. Will they just make up their own traditions if they reconstitute the Corps? That could be good or awful.

Still, while I'm dubious about the direction of future books, this book has enough working for it to make it an enjoyable read.

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Published on March 26, 2018 17:03 • 83 views • Tags: earth-one-novel, green-lantern

March 22, 2018

Essential Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1Essential Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by Gerry Conway

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects the entire Miss Marvel series from the 1970s (1-23) along with two previously unpublished stories that were released with Marvel Superheroes Magazine #10 and #11 in the 1990s, and Avenger Annual #10. While Carol Danvers had been introduced in 1968, this book really marks her heroic beginnings as Miss Marvel.

Throughout the book, Miss Marvel is a battler, having the knowledge of a Kree Warrior. The character was introduced when seventeen page issues had become the norm and this leads to some tight and exciting battles. My favorite stories in here are found towards the back of the book. Issues 17 and 18 have her dealing with a murderous plot involing SHIELD and the Avengers. Issue 19 sees Ronan the Accuser trying to take her and Captain Marvel back to the Kree homeworld in a good team up. In Issue 20, she gets a new (much better) costume and begins a two part story involving sentient lizards in the desert. The story in Marvel Superheroes #11 shows how she began investigating the death of a friend and ultimately ran into the then villainous Rogue and Mystique and lost her powers and memories to them. Avengers Annual #10 is a great story about the Avengers having to fight Rogue, but Miss Marvel's main role in this is as the inciting character and to chew the Avengers out over something they did in an issue not collected in this book.

The biggest challenge with this book is the character of Miss Marvel and Carol Danvers. Probably the main point of sympathy is her relationship with her dad, class A chauvinist who won't accept that she can do anything and when she was younger refused to pay for her college because he was spending all the college savings on her brother. Beyond that, the writers tried to give her some feelings of duality for the first dozen issues. But beyond that, she comes close to becoming an example of the "Strong, Independent Woman" archetype that replaced the damsel in distress...and is just about as interesting. In the first issue, she's hired on to edit a magazine for J. Jonah Jameson, says in the interview that she'll ignore the his vision of the magazine and edit the thing her way. She bulldozes him so that Jameson gives her the pay rate she demands to run the magazine the opposite of how he actually wants it run. Again, this is J. Jonah Jameson.

To be clear, the stories are all good fun, if you're looking for some fine comic action. The writing is by Gerry Conway (for the first three issues) and then by Chris Claremon, two comic book legends. The art is all competently done. This book will give you some fun action. If you're looking for a deeper and more well-rounded female character, however, you'd do better to check out Spider-woman and She-hulk books that came out a few years later.

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Published on March 22, 2018 19:30 • 59 views • Tags: carol-danvers, marvel-comics, miss-marvel

March 17, 2018

Better Days and Other Stories (Serenity, #2)Better Days and Other Stories by Joss Whedon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects the three issue story, "Better Days" as well as three shorts published in 2008 and 2010.

In, "Better Days," the crew appears to have struck it rich. However, Inana accidentally puts not only the money, but the crew's life at stake when a client of her's gets under the impression that Mal is a Dust Devil, someone who fought on the war on the side of the Independents and continued to fight using terrorism.

This is a good story that captures the feel of a typical episode of Firelfy. It's not a great episode, but a good one.

In, "The Other Half," the crew is defending a stagecoach for a client who is secretly scheming to sell them out.

"Downtime," finds the crew snowbound and having a typical day in the life. The story plays for laughs the design of the infirmary as being totally open with no privacy curtains. And of course some people get killed because Firefly.

Finally, we get, "Float Out," whcih was written by Patton Oswalt and finds three friends of Walsh memorializing him. This is the first comic set after the movie and has a nice emotional feel.

Overall, these are worth additions to the Firelfy canon and worth a read for fans of the series.

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Published on March 17, 2018 21:57 • 49 views • Tags: firefly, serenity

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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