TRANSFORMERS: THE WAR WITHIN VOLUME 2 – THE DARK AGES

Transformers: The War Within Volume 2 – The Dark Ages
Simon Furman, Andrew Wildman (Illustrator)
Paperback 168 pages (September 30, 2004)
Publisher: Dreamwave
ISBN: 0973381752

Whilst Titan reprint the old stories, the Canadia based giant robot nuts at Dreamwave are producing brand new stories featuring the new and classic Transformers lines. Even better, the almighty Simon Furman and the dynamic Andrew Wildman are onboard as well. It? the 20th Anniversary of all things Cybertronian, and with a movie on the way it seems they will be here for a while yet.

The War Within series is a great concept, focusing upon the million year long war on Cybertron before the Bots and Cons left for Earth. Even better, it? got funky Cybetronian vehicle and robot designs by Dreamwaves?premier artist and fanboy fave, Don Figueroa. Sketches of these can be seen in the back of this trade paperback.

Plot is quite Furmanesque, dealing with a demonic being known as The Fallen stalking Cybetron, attempting to summon his evil master Unicron. It holds up well enough, and contains appearances by characters such as Jetfire and Shockwave, the former with an amazing design.

Put bluntly, It could do with more fleshing out. The Fallen never get? enough time on page to come off as an effective villan, and the Autobots without Prime to lead them come over as a load of bickering old women. At times the dialogue is not quite up to some of Furmans best in earlier works.

The main art is handled by Andrew Wildman. He drew a lot of flak for his work on this series, there being a clear distinction between his style and the manga lead imagery of the Dreamwave crew. I personally think it worked out ok, and by the sixth issue Wildman was in his stride. I hope he does more work with Dreamwave, his art was a highlight of the Marvel UK series.

The inking is at times overdone, with bold black lines jarring against Wildman? pencils. The attempt at creating a gothic ?ark age?palette also jars somewhat against Don Figueroa? colourful designs.

Not the best that either Dreamwave or Furman has done, but worth a checking out, as are most of Dreamwaves?new titles. ]]>

99 CODE RED!

?o, no he has not got the plague! That? Pizza faced Dave-he is just an Ugly, he is JUST an Ugly.?

What with the release of DREDD VS DEATH on all the major platforms recently, Ol?Stony face is enjoying some extra exposure- and that can? be a bad time to release a new audio drama on top of a new game. Its also nice to see some continuity from one Dredd project to another. Toby Longworth, the voice of the lawman through nine audio adventures lends his honed vocals to the game, as do other BF stars (most notably Jeremy James, the man of a thousand snivelling side-kicks). Sadly, 99 Code Red is without JJ- but Longworth? Dredd is present and correct. So far the 2000ad audio series seems to have been embraced by the writers and actors at Big Finish towers, due to the fact this is as radically different from DOCTOR WHO as anything can get. But this month, it seems everything has fallen a bit flat.

Written by the usually excellent Jonathan Clements, this release sees Dredd (following on from a fire fight in a packed amphitheatre, an outbreak of plague (via a terrorist attack) and the wounding of a rookie Judge) forced to take over the overcrowded and poorly equipped Mega City General. This allows the writer to take the mick out of everything from ER to CASUALTY, whilst ensuring that Dredd? brand of sick humour comes to the fore. Its comedy as black as night, but for once it seems a tad?ell uninspired. Since this series began over a year ago, the stories have been varied and fun. However, 99 Code Red set some alarm bells off in my head. I felt like I had heard this all before, just dressed up differently. We?e already had terrorists in DREDDLINE, ensemble comedy in TRAPPED ON TITAN and I LOVE JUDGE DREDD and tv host Enigma Smith has been done to death. At one point in this play i thought she might finally get bumped off- however, she lives to see another audio. Its all a shame that this release is a let down, because nearly all the previous ten dramas have been winners.

The cast is good, but the characterisation is either annoying or way off what it should be. Judge? Hill and Renko whoop at the ladies and snuffle up doughnuts. Now, knowing what I do about Dredd? world, these men would have been trained to be the best of the best- not the morons they are here. This perhaps wouldn? be too much of a problem if we weren? asked to care about them- but when one of them gets gunned down I really didn? give a drokk. Every other character is generally annoying when their meant to be funny. Even Dredd seems a bit tired (Longworth sounds bored at points). Its all so much of a jumble as well that, whilst not hard to follow, its simply hard to want to.

As good as Dredd has been, it shows how sluggish this has all gotten when STRONTIUM DOG: FIRE FROM HEAVEN was a fast paced, funny piece of work. It would seem author Clements forte is with Johnny Alpha, and perhaps he should be given a greater chance to show off his skill with the bounty hunter. Maybe some new blood would lift the series up- some ROGUE TROOPER or MISSIONARY MAN audio? to spice things up. But with 2004 promising six new Dredd adventures, it will be a while before things change. For arguments sake, ill put this mess down to a one offond hope WAR PLANET is better. . .

TWO OUT OF FIVE

NEXT PROG: The return of the evil Efil Drago San in Dave Stone? JUDGE DREDD: WAR PLANET, the sequel to THE KILLING ZONE. . . . . ]]>

I ROBOT

It’s a Will Smith sci-fi summer blockbuster and suddenly everything’s right with the world again. You know the score, we’ve seen it time and again since INDEPENDENCE DAY redefined the term ‘blockbuster’ all those years ago. Since then we’ve had MEN IN BLACK, MEN IN BLACK 2, WILD WILD WEST (snigger) plus even more disposable stuff like BAD BOYS 2. You know where you are with Will; plenty of street wise attitude, fancy footwork, luxurious special effects and lots of explosions. Generally you don’t get much in the way of subtlety because…well, that’s not just Will’s wa ]]>

THE CORE

Ah, I remember the heady days of 1999. You could see roughly two disaster films a week about giant comets heading towards the Earth and still have enough time for a fish supper on the way homeUr something. The good old disaster movie enjoyed a bit of a renaissance a few years back courtesy of the likes of ARMAGEDDON and DEEP IMPACT. It was about time too; the glory days of THE TOWERING INFERNO and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE were a long time ago and the movie industry was in need of an adrenaline-shot of world-in-peril/people-screaming big screen entertainment. And now, after another brief lull, here comes the biggest and probably best of the modern slew of disaster flicks?adies and gentlemen, welcome to THE CORE.

It’s a simple but chilling scenario. The molten core of the Earth has stopped spinning. This has all sorts of terrible potential repercussions for humanity, ]]>

ELEKTRA

Ah, another under-powered film featuring an obscure female comic book character. Mr. Hollywood, you spoil us! After the trash rush of last year? CATWOMAN it? time for that long-awaited (??) spin-off from the dreary DAREDEVIL to make its way onto DVD, apparently mere weeks after it wandered onto the multiplex before quickly wandering off again, unwatched and unloved.

It? hard to know what they were thinking of when they decided that Elektra Nachios (snigger), a barely-interesting character from the turgid DAREDEVIL, deserved her own film. Maybe it was the read leathers – and Goddamit she hardly wears them here, so why bother? The signs weren? good when Rob Bowman was assigned as director – this is the man, remember, who managed to make a film about dragons devastating the world (REIGN OF FIRE) boring a couple of years ago. He fares little better here, although he? admittedly hampered by a dreary script and some rather dull, lifeless performances.

Elektra died at the end of DAREDEVIL, you may recall – but Hollywood suits never let death stand in the way of a bad idea and the character is resurrected via some mystical mumbo-jumbo at the beginning of ELEKTRA and before long she? become a scary kick-ass assassin-for-hire. To protect her anonymity (not really difficult, the film is full of extremely anonymous stereotypes) Elektra adopts an itinerant existence, travelling from assignment to assignment. Holed up in a nice lakeside house she becomes chum with her neighbour mark (Visnjic) and his petulant 13 year-old daughter Abby. Imagine our heroine? surprise when she? informed that they?e her next target! What? a girl to do?? She decides that Mark and Abby are worth protecting and she goes on the run with them – followed by the supernatural assassins of the Order of the Hand, the secret cabal which has been employing her.

ELEKTRA isn? an especially bad movie it? just a rather dour, dull one. Technically it stands up well – there are some good action set pieces and the direction is competent enough. The problem is that the film is thoroughly unengaging. Elektra isn? likable enough to elicit the audience? sympathies, Abby? a bit of a brat and her father? a bit of a wimp. There? practically no humour – and films like this need doses of humour to off-set the essential ludicrousness of it all – and the story is too simplistic and predictable to be at all engrossing. Interest perks up a bit when some of the supernatural baddies appear – particularly Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe) and Tattoo (Chris Ackerman) – and there? some sign of dramatic invention during their tussles with the big E. Garner herself is sleep-walking through the film and she only comes alive in the last reel when she finally dons that eye-catching costume again.

Fans of less highly-regard comics may find some thrills here but for those of us whose comic education ended in the mid-1970s this is about as pointless a movie as you could care to imagine.

THE DISC: Decent transfer for a potentially grey and grainy movie and a thumping soundtrack (full of the usual grating grunge rock) and not much of interest in the features which consist of a few deleted scenes, a standard ?aking of?and, best of the lot, a feature entitled ?lektra Incarnations.?n]]>

CHAPTERS ONE, TWO AND THREE

Listening to Nick Briggs third foray into the world of the tin plated pepper pots was an interesting experience for me- I had only a passing knowledge of the first two series, but I like both the Daleks and the idea of a whole series about them. Acclaim has been heaped on Dalek Empire and Dalek War and judging by the first three chapters (entitled The Exterminators, The Healers, The Survivors respectively) I have been missing out. As I sat on the beach during my summer hols, I was transported to the Graxis system, to Georgi Silestru’s office, into the mind of Siy Tarkov- I was gripped within seconds, and thanks to a brief flashback at the opening of Chapter One I came into this world with no disorientation and no confusion. It also helps that this Dalek series is not really linked to the first two in such a way it will turn off new listeners.

The story is split so that it focuses on several groups of characters and pulls of that rare trick of you actually caring about the lot of them. Its like The Empire Strikes Back I suppose- and if that’s not praise im not sure what is. Galanar played by David Tennant, took a while to warm up for me, but the revelation at the very end of Chapter Three got me really interested. This is obviously Briggs world, from the funky package design to the nice recap paragraphs in the CD sleeve, you can feel Briggs hand in the whole thing (indeed, he works in pretty much every department in the Dalek series). He also stars as the Daleks, and is as good as anyone can be WHEN-SPEAK-ING LIKE THIIIIIS! If anyone deserves to voice the new metal meanies from Skaro in the Ninth Doctor’s adventures its this man. Reading the ‘His Dalek Materials’ article last months DWM it was astonishing to find out that my favourite group of heroes, the Graxis wardens, weren’t going to be in the story at all before the script was looked over by a few people at BF towers. The way Briggs has remoulded his story it does not show that these characters (who are interesting, well played and well rounded) were never going to be in it at all! He also exposes how he is afraid of his Dalek series failing, and it would seem to be this worry that has made his script and direction so strong.

Packed with great dialogue and acting, Dalek Empire III Chapters one to three are exciting, terrifying and thoughtful in equal measure. Briggs makes the Daleks scary, and while they were cool on TV, for me, as a sixteen year old who watches too much telly, they aren’t scary at all- Nick has pulled off something special in that alone. You can tell there is still more to come from this series- im halfway through and its all building towards something. I have my suspicions about the Dalek supreme, and that alone keeps me hooked. Dalek Empire III is, so far, great Doctor Who without the Doctor. I would like to hear one of them pop up (it would just be a cool surprise!) but seeing the Daleks minus their Gallifreyan nemesis is refreshing and exciting- after all, as there is no companion or Doctor, we know that no one HAS to survive for next week….

FOUR OUT OF FIVE ]]>

CREATURES OF BEAUTY

DOCTOR WHO: CREATURES OF BEAUTY

“As for making a difference, I don? think we really influenced anything at all”

With the renewal of BIG FINISH? contract to release new, original audio drama, we can all breathe that these pictureless classics can keep jumping out at us each and every month. CREATURES OF BEAUTY is another slice of original WHO that, despite the fact it? not the new series (2005 is so FAR AWAY!!!!) it pushes the boundaries of the format and ensures this release won? be forgotten easily. BF seems to have been playing around with chronology of late- FLIP FLOP tells a tale along two different time streams while COB tells a story that follows a linear pattern- its just not presented that way. We open near the end then siege into the first half – or as it would have been, told from the TARDIS landing to the TARDIS leaving. This isn? a mindless gimmick though- if the plot were related to us in sequence, we would know too much too soon, spoiling a great adventure that is packed with mystery and thrills when told in this non linear, almost lyrical format. Nick Briggs writing ensures (somehow!) we stay with him even when were listening to things near the ?nd?of the adventure. His script is dark and brutal, affording a chance for the normally easy going Fifth Doc to show a side more typical of his brooding Seventh life.

When I reviewed NEKROMANTEIA, I slammed Peter Davidson for being ?lat? I take this back- Davidson is probably the best actor the WHO canon ever had (Syv McCoy is still the best though!!) and since March has gotten into my top three timelords along with Troughton and obviously McCoy. He is just a great as he was on TV here- as mentioned above, he is more introspective, not really like him but it? side to him that just wasn? seen on telly- that doesn? mean it was never there! Sarah Sutton makes a nice return as Nyssa, finally given space over Adric? wining/dying or Tegan? mouth. The character is shown as suitably tragic- after all her father was killed and then subsequently used as a host by the Master who then went on to destroy her home planet! The rest of the cast is excellent- David Daker? Gilbrook is a complete bastard, while the Lady Forleon is played with suitable grace by Jemma Churchill.

CREATURES OF BEAUTY is an innovative, clever play. While a tad dull in places its never less that totally engrossing, and the sting in the tail climax comes out of the mist and shocks the hell out of you. Mature, gritty, dramatic, COB is a fluidly written, quality work- well worth a listen.

WHO? NEXT? Both Colin Baker (yay) and Sylvester McCoy (double yay) star in PROJECT LAZARUS. . . . FOUR OUT OF FIVE ]]>

SHAUN OF THE DEAD

One of the better British sitcoms of recent vintage has undoubtedly been SPACED, Channel 4’s wickedly funny slacker comedy about two unlikely flatmates and their circle of bizarre friends and acquaintances. Written by and starring Simon Pegg and Jessica (THE ROYLE FAMILY) Stevenson, SPACED was a modern show for modern people, chocful of sly cultural asides and modern media references. It looks like SPACED may have bitten the dust after just two series but the spirit of the show lives on in SHAUN OF THE DEAD, directed by the TV series’ Edgar Wright and starring almost all the original cast. The situation may be somewhat different and the characters variations on a theme but this is SPACED – THE MOVIE in all but name. And hurrah for that because SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a fast-and-furious romzomcom (romantic-zombie- comedy) which shows there is so ]]>

SLIDERS


SLIDERS: SEASONS ONE AND TWO BOXSET

Every now and then a genre TV show comes along and promises so much and ultimately fails – often quite bravely – to live up to its potential. One such show is SLIDERS, Tracy Torme’s courageous little adventure series about a High school student (naturally) who manages to create a gizmo which can open up a portal which enables him to cross between dimensions, to travel to worlds which are just like Earth but with slight differences. What a concept! What can’t this show do! What fun! What a shame it all went a bit pear-shaped and never really found its feet…

It all starts very promisingly. The SLIDERS eighty-odd minute pilot is one of the finest first episodes of any new show in recent memory. Torme’s jaunty script effortlessly introduces its lead characters and its science is never techno babble or gobbledegook. As Quinn Mallory (O’Connell), his friend Wade Wells (Lloyd), Quinn’s science teacher (Rhys-Davies – Gimli to you) and passing soul singer (don’t ask) Rembrandt Brown (Derricks) are sucked through the ‘wormhole’ to find themselves in a frozen, windswept Second Ice Age San Francisco, it seems there may be nothing this show can’t do and that we might be in for quite a ride. The pilot runs out of steam a bit when the group land in a USA ruled by Russia and we fall into familiar ‘rebels-versus-invaders’ territory but it’s all done well with a nice line in wit and some good action sequences.

But SLIDERS was not to have an easy ride. Not exactly a huge ratings success the show was ‘pulled’ after nine episodes – a nice bunch of instalments which saw the group arrive on a plague-world, a world about to be destroyed by an asteroid, a world where men are the underdogs (I think I’ve slid onto that one!) and a world where the hippy movement still rules (man). The first brief season ended on a cliffhangar, with Quinn shot in the head as the Sliders escape a world where the lottery has a very different meaning. Despite its iffy reception, SLIDERS returned for another 13 episodes, also included in this boxset. New music and titles ushered in another batch of interesting stories – from the world ruled by magic, to a world where dinosaurs still roam free, via some supernatural high jinks in ‘Gillian of the Spirits’ and gangster antics in ‘Greatfellas’. They’re all watchable enough, performed with gusto and good humour – but there’s always the feeling that the show could be so much more, that the concept could be taken off in some far more interesting directions. Towards the end of series two we find ‘Invasion’, an ambitious ‘hard’ SF story which Torme had to fight to get made. Here we encounter for the first time the Kromaggs, over-evolved caveman-creatures from another Earth who have also discovered sliding and intend to use the technology to dominate all the dimensions. High concept indeed but, as the ‘making of’ feature reveals, not to the taste of the show’s core fans who preferred the quirkiness of earlier stories.

SLIDERS rolled on for three more seasons. Season three lost the plot (and eventually Rhys-Davies) when, in a bid to pull in more viewers, the show decided to ape recent Box office hit films such as TWISTER and JURASSIC PARK. The show fizzled out a little later, with only Derricks remaining of the original cast, an unloved cheap filler on the Sci-Fi Channel. If you remember SLIDERS at all, these are the episodes you’ll be interested in seeing again. If you never saw it but you think it sounds interesting – well, it is. But it was never really much more than that. These episodes are all you need of SLIDERS, the show with big ideas which never really knew what to do with them.

THE DISCS: Six shinies housed in a glossy silver and purple box. Good quality picture and sound but not much in the way of extras. Commentary on the pilot and an interesting but all-too brief ‘Making of’ which is quite candid about the network interference/indifference which stifled the show’s creativity from the start. Dreary picture gallery pads out these slim pickings.