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‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Rises Out Of Suck Status

I admit it – I am a Marvel fan boy. Among the comics I read the most as a kid were “Avengers” and the amazing Jim Steranko-drawn psychedelic “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” I am also a big fan of Joss Whedon, although I admit I didn’t get bitten by the Buffy bug until season three, and used to fall asleep during some of the slower “Firefly” episodes.

So I was very excited when the new “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was announced after the huge success of “Marvel’s The Avengers,” with Joss Whedon as the show runner. I had visions of Jayne Cobb in Splinter Cell-like gear, or Faith in a black leather S.H.I.E.L.D. “uniform.” And of course, like everyone else, I wanted superheroes (Jessica Drew, please dear God) and super villains (MODOK and A.I.M.; Strucker and Hydra).

What we got was a show that was somewhere between “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “Warehouse 13 – without the real international intrigue of the former or the humor of the latter. The show quickly fell into the “baddie of the week” formula, and if I wanted to watch super-science gone awry with real drama and well-done moments of humor, I would re-watch the much better late Fox series “Fringe.”

My friends have almost completely abandoned the show, and they are not alone. According to AdWeek, the show has lost a whopping 53 percent of its viewers since the premier episode, in only seven episodes. The show reached a low point with episode five, in which a Hong Kong man with flame-manipulating powers (and no explanation of who he got them initially, since Disney/ABC/Marvel studios legally can’t use the term “mutant” as long as Fox holds the licensed rights to X-Men) gets abused by the shadowy researchers first seen using chitauri technology in the pilot episode.

This should have been an episode in which the nature of how the show deals with super-powered beings gets set, and in which more clues about the shadowy group of scientists are revealed, Instead we get a guy who is given the horrible name “Scorch” by the bad guys, who despite having a pretty comfy life decides to go all psycho killer on everyone (yes, I know, the chitauri tech helps them get that way, but the transition was almost like flipping a switch). And we find out almost nothing more about the scientists, except that the only one we have seen in more than one episode – SPOILER ALERT – gets killed off.

But the next episode starts to turn things around. It turns out there is no bad guy in this episode, just a mystery that needs to be solved and ultimately a tragedy that is beyond the abilities of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to stop. Eventually – SPOILER ALERT – the source of the tragedy, a chitauri helmet endangers the life of the lovely and nerdy Agent Simmons. That leads to a great bit of character development, and sets up some actions which – in perfect Joss Whedon fashion – has consequences in the next episode.

That episode, No. 7, is hands down the best in the series so far, and the most Whedonesque. It introduces Saffron Burrows as the perfect incarnation of Victoria Hand from the comics. It makes the massive bureaucracy of S.H.I.E.L.D. seem like an impersonal monster in true Whedon fashion, then turns that on its head. It continues the Fitzsimmons character development, this time making Fitz the subject and revealing depths to his character as an agent. It also advances the concept that even Coulson knows at some level he isn’t the man he once was – maybe not a man at all.

Is it the episode “Ariel” from “Firefly” when it comes to twists and character development? No, but what in modern television on a major old-school network has been?

What episode 6 and particularly episode 7 were turns out to be satisfying shows that leave you wanting to experience more – something that can’t be said of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the first episode. Will it be enough to reverse the precipitous slide in the show’s ratings? Maybe, since Disney owns ABC and Marvel, and is likely willing to let the show simmer until the recipe comes together properly.

At least we can now start to smell that it could ultimately be as good as the recipe promised.

DMZ: A Journey into our Society’s Heart of Darkness

There are two sides to every story. Two versions. Two factions in every Civil War.

Except when there’s not.

That’s the beauty of DMZ‘s first collection of the DC-Vertigo comic series by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli: there are two armies with so many people caught in between, each with their own story to tell. Matty Roth, an aspiring photo journalist, ends up trapped alongside of them, trying to understand their plight and the depths that the two warring nations, the United States of America and the separatist Free States.

In this volume Matty travels inside of civilizations that have cropped up in the DMZ located on Manhattan. It’s a little bit Apocalypse Now, a little bit Planet of the Apes, but all too real. And his journey into this heart of darkness leads him further and further away from the simple black-and-white truths that he thought he knew before he boarded the helicopter in the opening scenes.

The issues came out nearly at the same time as Marvel’s big crossover event Civil War, but nothing in those 100 issues comes close to the originality and timeliness of DMZ. The ideas draw on the best war literature and expand on what Tim O’Brien and Ambrose Bierce and Joseph Conrad wrote in a medium that could tell the story with immediacy. The illustrations are almost sketches of people against a solid background – temporary lives against a temporary city. They are walking the ruins at the end of the world.

The one qualm about this collection, as presented here, is that the story feels episodic and unconnected by the end. There is a journalistic quality to how Matty appears to not judge the people he meets, but I hope that the overall narrative builds the story into a solid direction instead of doing a tour of horror, which in some ways is my biggest complaint about Apocalypse Now, too. But it’s my first encounter with Brian Wood’s work and it’s tantalizing enough to keep reading this or branch into his other comics work.

In short: DMZ’s fiercely frightening. It’s exciting. It just might be brilliant enough to resonate decades into the future when readers want to understand the polarization and anxieties of our time.

Buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/DMZ-Vol-1-On-Ground/dp/1401210627

Fan-Made Music Video: BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT By The Hillywood Show

Here’s an awesome Fan-Made Music Video with outrageous production quality! It’s called THE DARK KNIGHT & is performed by “The Hillywood Show”. I really like the costumes, props, & set design, it’s very very cool! So, CRANK-UP YOUR SPEAKERS & Check it Out!!

CLICK HERE For More Batman Video!

Video: BATMAN ARKHAM ASYLUM Exclusive JOKER Trailer # 2

Here’s the most current video for the Batman: Arkham Asylum Video Game – PS3 Exclusive Trailer featuring THE JOKER…Can’t wait to play this because it just keeps looking better all the time! A friend told me today that the release date is finally set for August 25th, 2009. Hmmmm, we’ll see. Be sure to stay tuned to the Bat-Blog for more news.

CLICK HERE For More Batman Video!

MEET BATMAN & ROBIN! Vintage 1960’s Newspaper Advertisement

My good friend John sent me this Vintage Oklahoma Newspaper Ad ( John & I both live in Oklahoma City ) the other night. This old advertisement announces that the real-life Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder will appear at the Founder’s Fair Department Store. Of course this was Adam West & Burt Ward from the 1966 TV Show! The copy reads, “Dynamic Duo Due Here – TV’s famed Batman and Robin will appear at Founder’s Fair Sunday at 1 p.m. in a Rolls Royce. They will be there from 1 to 3 p.m. and from 6 to 7 p.m. to pass out rings and autographs for the kids. The store will stay open till 8 p.m. for numerous prizes & drawings.” Oh man, this would have been an amazing event to go to as a little kid back then. I bet that those lucky ones that did totally freaked out, ha ha! Thanks John for sending this wonderful piece of Bat-History.

Cute Pin-Up Models – Batgirl & Harley Quinn!

A Bat-Blog Reader, named Rob, sent us these 2 photos he said he randomly found on the internet. They show 2 extremely cute pin-up girl models dressed up in costumes like Batgirl & Harley Quinn, in bed, on a pile of comic books!! Mmmeeeooowww, this has gotta be every Batman Fan’s total fantasy! Not too mention all the comic books nerds ( I mean “nerds” in a good way ) out there who would totally freak-out if their girlfriends did this, ha ha! Of course you know some of the comic book collectors would complain that they are “damaging some MINT copies” of their favorite titles, ha ha! Thank you Rob, these pics are totally awesome! Oh yeah, hey fellas, please leave a comment & let us tastefully know which pin-up girl is YOUR favorite!!

BAT-BLOG CONTEST: Win a Signed-Copy of Burt Ward’s Book to Promote The New ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER Website!

OK! I’m extremely excited to say that it is still “Robin, The Boy Wonder Month” here at the Bat-Blog! Awhile back we teamed-up with Burt Ward to help promote his brand-new website called ROBINTHEBOYWONDER.COM. Of course we all know him as the actor who played Robin on the 1966 Batman TV Show. He’s really proud about his new site & he asked us to give a few fans a chance to win some cool prizes. I was like, “Oh my god, my childhood hero has contacted me to ask if I can give away some incrediable prizes to my blog’s readers… how could I say NO to that?!” Ha Ha! So, proudly, we’re now offering Bat-Blog Readers ( above the age of 18 or legal age only ) the chance to win a signed-copy of Burt Ward’s Biography Book titled “BOY WONDER, My Life In Tights”. As you can see it’s completely autographed with the name BURT WARD “ROBIN” on the front title page. It also has a special “Robin The Boy Wonder” Hologram Sticker to prove it’s authenticity! This book recalls Burt Ward’s many adventures that happened around the time he did the 1966 Batman Television Series. Plus, some of his life afterwards. It’s a total Bat-Fan Favorite & now you have a chance to win your very own copy, signed by the Boy Wonder himself! Also, there will be more prizes later so stay tuned to the Bat-Blog for those ( we’re doing one contest at a time but have a few things to give away ). The rules are pretty simple. Due to the adult nature of this book all entrants must be of Legal Age Only! That means you have to be at least 18 years old or older in the USA. What you need to do is e-mail us your FULL NAME & ADDRESS with the message, “I am a legal adult ( 18+ ) & wish to enter this contest”. You also need to put “ROBIN THE BOY WONDER’S NEW WEBSITE” in the title of your e-mail. Here’s the Rules Again, Just To Clarify:

  • Send us your Full Name & Address in an e-mail with the message, “I am a legal adult ( 18+ ) & wish to enter this contest”.
  • Put “ROBIN THE BOY WONDER’S NEW WEBSITE” in the title.

Now, don’t forget to include your full name / address, the message, & the correct title. If you have done all of these 3 things correctly then you’ll be entered and on June 21st, 2009, at 11:30pm Central Time, we will randomly pull a lucky winner’s name out of the hat! The winner will be announced right here on the bat-Blog the very next day. Plus, remember, after you enter the contest you need to visit Burt Ward’s new website to see what special events are going on over there too! Thanks.

CLICK HERE To Visit The Official Burt Ward Robin The Boy Wonder Website!!

CONTEST RULES:

  1. The contest is open to the general public as well as anyone currently reading the BAT-BLOG on a daily basis. Employees of the Bat-Blog and employees’ immediate family members and persons with whom such employees are domiciled are excluded from this contest.

  2. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded.

  3. Decisions of the contest judges are final – no substitutions will be available.

  4. By claiming the prize, the winner authorizes the use, without additional compensation of his or her name and/or likeness and/or voice/photograph and municipality of residence for promotion and/or advertising purposes in any manner and in any medium (including without limitation, radio broadcasts, newspapers and other publications and in television or film releases, slides, videotape, distribution over the internet and picture date storage) which Bat-Blog may deem appropriate.

  5. In accepting the prize, the winner, and any reader(s), acknowledges that the Bat-Blog may not be held liable for any loss, damages or injury associated with accepting or using this prize.

  6. The person whose name is drawn as being the winner of the specific prize will be required to send us their correct mailing information before the prize is awarded to them. Postage to be paid, free of charge, by the Bat-blog.

  7. Detailed contest rules applicable to this contest, including contest entry dates, how to enter, and prize value, number and any restrictions applicable to these prizes are available upon request by reading these Contest Rules, ha ha!

  8. The Bat-Blog retains the rights, in its absolute and sole discretion, to make substitutions of equivalent kind or approximate value in the event of the unavailability of any prize or component of the prize for any reason whatsoever.

  9. This contest is subject to all federal, provincial and municipal laws.

  10. The Bat-Blog reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this contest at any time without prior notice.

  11. Approximate value of prize varies.

  12. Contest open to loyal Bat-Blog Readers only.

  13. One entry per person, per household.

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