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Ah, another mid-series two-parter, another chance to reinvent a classic series enemy.

That’s not entirely a fair statement, as representing old series enemies in a more contemporary context has been a fairly standard theme throughout each series. Even “Rose” used the Autons as bad guys for the first episode, rather than an original enemy. But it probably is fair to say that the success of these various reintroductions has been…mixed.

While “Rose” did bring back the Autons, it also failed to provide any real personality to them. In the past, the Nestene Conciousness behind the Autons always worked through a human collaborator. There was no sign of that here, leaving the question of how, precisely, mannequins with guns inside them were placed throughout London shopping centers. While they do provide the benefit of a recognizable enemy to bridge the old series and the new, they may just as well have been generic aliens.

“Dalek” did a much better job, making a sometimes inelegant piece of design seem scary. There was a real sense of menace and danger to one, single, solitary Dalek that made the idea of an entire army of them seem truly Earth-shattering. Too bad all of that momentum was wasted by several stories in which the Daleks came back for really-reals this time, only to be banished forever, again, by the end of the season. Three times.

The redesigned Cybermen from “The Rise of the Cybermen” seem to have been one of the more contentious redesigns, judging from online reactions. This is one of those situations where I find my own reaction to be heavily mixed. On the one hand, bringing back the original Cybermen raises the specter of all kinds of incredibly dodgy and dated bad science-fiction concepts, such as their planet of origin, Mondas, being a “twin” of Earth that orbits on the other side of the sun. Having them come from a parallel Earth retains much of the same intent, but makes them a little less dated. Aesthetically I’m rather fond of their new look, save the stylized “C” on their chests, and given that their looks were modified a number of times in the old series, I’m not too put out by the change. On the other hand, though, I think the efforts to make them inhuman and robotic have gone too far in the series. For the most part, the new Cybermen may as well be robots. The original Cybermen had flashes of anger and arrogance and pride that served as a reminder that these are creatures that were once human.
I also wish that they were still killed by contact with gold, but I’m willing to admit that I might be in the minority on that one.

They certainly did bring back the Macra in “Gridlock,” didn’t they?

The Sontarans were actually changed very little when they were brought back in “The Sontaran Stratagem.” They’re still a race of short, belligerent clones who look vaguely like potatoes and shout a lot. The only real change is that this time there’s a lot of them instead of one or two skulking around in the back-ground. Their design is updated, but still fundamentally the same.

And then we’ve got “The Hungry Earth” which brings back the Silurians, which we all know everyone is going to call them no matter how embarrassed the writers get over the name not being scientifically accurate. This has been another seemingly controversial update, and I will admit that part of the appeal of the classic Silurians is that they were utterly inhuman looking. The practical nature of this change is obvious, as now actors can actually, well, act if they’re playing a Silurian, but I will miss the third eye and head ridges. But establishing that this is yet another sub-species of the classic Silurian model does somewhat mollify the change. If purists really want to worry about it, the “real” Silurians are out there, somewhere. Probably somewhere under western England.

As for the episode itself, even more than most two part stories, much of this episode felt like set-up for the “real” story in part two. Even the ending is not so much a cliff-hanger as a “to be continued” moment. Which is odd, because otherwise most of the story felt very small scale. One little group of people being endangered by something unknown and inhuman. It’s a classic premise for the show, but the flip into “the great meeting of the cultures” doesn’t quite seem to mesh. And, yes, knowing what it is to come in the second part goes some way towards explaining that, but we’re still left with a story that feels less like a whole than two different concepts clumsily joined together.

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Can you discern the sinister secret that links the two images?

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We start off the month in a fairly promising manner, as the first new release listed for sale is Dark Horse with the latest attempt to revive the old Magnus, Robot Fighter property. This would be the book about a man in a skirt who kicks robots to death.

I have a real hard time believing that Magnus didn’t raise at least a few eyebrows back in the 60s.

Dark Horse is also offering this iPhone skin featuring a nearly naked Tarzan:

I feel like there’s a Grindr joke in there somewhere…

I realize some of you are probably sick of hearing this by now, but this is the cover to Green Lantern‘s August issue:

Why is the male embodiment of love and lust covered head to toe? It’s not hard to find actual men’s clothing that makes the Star Sapphire outfit look tame, but I’m not sure if I should chalk up this outfit to Crotch Panic or just cluelessness.

Also, and this is straying from the topic slightly, IDW has a Dungeons & Dragons comic coming out that I wasn’t interested in until I noticed that it’s being written by John Rogers, of Blue Beetle and Leverage, so that gets a look. Though it still doesn’t make up for putting Orson Scott “the government must be overthrown if gay people get to marry” Card on their Dragon Age comic.

Here’s the variant cover for the latest attempt at a Namor series:

Even with what I’m sure will be very pretty art by Ariel Olivetti, I’m just not sure a bitchy queen running around in speedos has a large enough fanbase to support an ongoing for very long. Especially when this latest attempt is tied into the X-Men books and is part of yet another cross-over.

Okay, here’s the big one, Veronica #202, the introduction of Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in Archie Comics (because what Dilton and Moose get up to behind closed doors is still a secret, and although Midge’s hair-cut isn’t fooling anyone, she’s still not out):

I’ve got strongly mixed feelings about this, and I’ve mostly avoided discussing the issue because I wanted to read it before I made a statement about it, and because I still feel pretty miffed at Archie sending Dan DeCarlo down the memory hole. On the one hand, I can honestly say that I never expected Archie to publish a comic with a gay character, not with the current management in place anyway. On the other, the hints of the plot that have trickled out make me nervous that Kevin is going to be less of a character in his own right and more of a plot device. The whole “girl tricked into hitting on gay guy” plot is pretty regressive, and problematic for a variety of reasons.
I guess we’ll find out in September how this ends up playing out.

Bluewater is publishing a bio-comic about Taylor Lautner, featuring his greatest assest: his abs.

Dynamite bring us The Last Phantom, featuring the title character nearly naked, bald and covered in some sort of sticky liquid.

The line between mainstream comics and fetish art is very thin sometimes.

Going off topic again, but NBM is bringing Peyo’s Smurfs comics back into print in English editions. A few volumes were available from Random House back in the 80s, and they really are fantastic…if filled with the sort of racial and sexual politics that make 60s Francophone comics a little uncomfortable today. There’s nothing particularly gay about them…except for Vanity Smurf…and Hefty Smurf…and Smurfette basically just being a Smurf in drag in her first appearance…and a village filled with 99 little men…
Okay, so Smurfs are pretty gay. Here’s hoping that all 27 volumes make it into English this time (and I wouldn’t mind seeing all their Johann and Peewit appearances showing up either…speaking of gay subtext…)

Titan Comics, publishers of the not-at-all-gay wrestling comics, is launching a Torchwood comic as well. From the solicitation, it sounds like it will be reprinting the comics from Torchwood Magazine, but I’d be willing to wager that more comic shops will pick this up than the magazine.

It’s been awhile since I saw something that really made me despair for the taste of straight men…how did I fail to guess that it would be a piece of Neon Genesis Evangelion merchandise?

As if the popularity of “bandaged Rei” figurines wasn’t creepy enough to start with, putting the character in an ass-flashing outfit takes it to a whole new level of needing to go and scrub my eyes with bleach.
Straight Men, what the hell is wrong with you?

Gayest Thing in Previews This Month
A Legend of Zelda statue depicting Goron leader Darunia.

Basically, an entire race of bears who spend their days wrestling each other.

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The first batch of Doctor Who novels featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Amy came out not too long ago. I’m a fairly consistent reader of these books, mostly because the bulk of my free time to read these days is shortly before bedtime, and frankly I’m never in the mood for anything too heavy, or too compelling, at that time of night. (I did skip out on the last few batches of Tenth Doctor novels, because honestly, I really don’t care about more adventures with the Krillitane or the Slitheen, especially when almost all of them felt compelled to include a plucky teenage girl as the Doctor’s temporary side-kick. I should probably go pick up that Sontaran one, though, because I guess it has Rutans in it too, and that’s the kind of nerd I am. Anyway…)

In comparison to previous offerings in the line, the new set of books are slightly larger, though still in hardcover. This makes them more durable, especially considering that the primary audience for these books is children, but as an adult reader it does rather make me feel like I’m reading a Perma-Bound book. It’s not exactly infantilizing, since the Torchwood books were in the same size and hard-cover format, but I prefer the cover-stock that BBC Books used for their Being Human tie-in novels. Those are closer to something in between a standard trade size paperback and that elongated mass-market size. On the other hand, with the new season, it does slightly feel like the core audience for the franchise is aging up a bit, and being closer in size to “real” books does have a slight psychological effect, possibly, of making the books seem more grown-up. In any case, moving away from the smaller, mass-market format does make them stand out from the rest of the tie-in novels in a bookshop, and that’s probably not a bad thing.

There’s very little continuity between the three books, or between the books and the television program. Normally, this is perfectly fine, but there are moments in each book here that give off the impression that the books were originally written with a Generi-Doctor and Companion in mind, with sudden declarations of the Doctor’s or Amy’s appearance or mannerisms inserted afterwards. More probably, the authors were writing from a brief, without having seen Matt Smith or Karen Gillan in the roles, and a more natural characterization simply wasn’t possible.

The first book in the set is Apollo 23, by Justin Richards, which also has the distinction of having the best cover of the three books, by far.

The plot involves the Doctor and Amy investigating the appearance of an American astronaut in a London shopping center, conincident with the death of a woman and her dog on the moon. This leads them to discovering an American prison on the moon for “the worst of the worst,” with a strong yet unspoken implication that the prison is housing mostly political prisoners, with again unspoken comparisons to the American prison in Guantanamo Bay. The political subtext is probably subtle enough to escape kids, but it’s mostly forgotten in favor of an alien invasion plot that bears more than a passing resemblance to the plot of “The Idiot Box.” Though the Doctor and Amy end up separated from one another for much of the story, and the American setting is novel for the series, the solution to the problem sounds, from a non-technical stand-point, much like the Doctor endorsing homeopathy. An “I’ll explain later” can go a long way in situations like this.

Next up is David Llewellyn’s Night Of The Humans, which features the Doctor and Amy investigating a distress signal at a planet-sized garbage dump in space, only to get separated from one another. Amy ends up with the Sittuun, a race of humanoids who all adopt Arabic names for themselves, while the Doctor ends up with the humans, savage primitives who worship cowboy films. Again, the political subtexts are probably going to go right past any kids, and the casting of humans in the role of evil aliens is clever and a subversion of the shows usual tropes, the inclusion of Dirk Slipstream, as a criminal Captain Kirk/Flash Gordon/Buck Rodgers type of space hero is gilding the lily somewhat, especially with his occasional references to previous encounters with the Doctor. (His recognition of the just regenerated Doctor is one of those moments that would seem to suggest that the book was written with a previous Doctor in mind.) Night of the Humans is also noteworthy in that it’s one of the very few of the new series book tie-ins to feature a “pile of bodies” ending.

Finally, there’s The Forgotten Army by Brian Minchin, featuring the Doctor and Amy at some relatively contemporary version of New York City that is being menaced by a resurrected albino mammoth. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to be a cover for an alien invasion, from tiny beings whose resemblance to troll dolls we are frequently reminded of. They’re a visually interesting idea, and a concept beyond the scope of a reasonable television budget, so they work well as villains here, though the separation of the Doctor and Amy is starting to feel a bit forced at this point, and while the invasion strategy, to make New Yorkers so afraid of nonspecific, invisible and potentially nonexistent threats is cleverly described, once again it feels like some political subtext has sunk in.

Overall, the three books are light, distracting reads. Fun for a fan of the franchise, but probably of little appeal to anyone else. Night of the Humans is probably the best of the three, and also the one that feels most like an episode of the television series. All three books suffer slightly from a similarity in plot, particularly the reliance on the Doctor and Amy being separated for much of each story. To be fair, it is a trope of the series itself, but as a plot device it feels extremely heavy-handed in this set of books. The next set of books, for my own taste, looks to be more promising, with another Gary Russell novel in the offering and the presence of Amy’s fiance Rory as a full cast member. Rory is great, and I’m looking forward to getting as much of him as possible. I even love the “talk to the hand” pose he has on this cover.

It’s good that the show is making use of him and…wait…what?


Well, fuck.

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