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Books Review

Book Review – The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The First Law Trilogy is another series I’m late to, but I enjoyed The Blade Itself quite a bit!  This is not my first Joe Abercrombie, having checked out Half a King previously.  Abercrombie’s books tend to the ‘grimdark’ side of epic fantasy, and this is no exception.

The cast of characters

Much like A Song of Ice and Fire, the book follows several key characters through seemingly unconnected storylines.  Logen Ninefingers, a barbarian in exile from the far north.  He falls in with the wizard Bayaz, who may or may not be the legendary First of the Magi.  Captain Jezal dan Luthar would like nothing more than to fence and drink, but also gets swept up in the intrigues that are afoot.  Finally, Sand dan Glokta used to be a hero of the Union.  Crippled after a stint in the Empire’s prisons, he now spends his days torturing confessions out of the Union’s enemies (and friends) in the Inquisition.

The Blade Itself

The story takes a long time to really get started.  It’s a common complaint and I have to agree.  That being said, there was enough character building going on that I did want to keep going.  Just not at my normal ‘a book every other day’ rate. By the end, though, I was definitely wanting to find out what happened next.  I wish there was more of an ending and less of a “to be continued” feel, but I get that it can be tough to do.

If you are looking for another series to start while GRRM averages approximately a word per day on the next ASoIaF book, this is a solid starting point.  You can find it at Amazon, with a preview in the window below.  Let me know what you think!

 

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TV

How The Inhumans Should’ve Started

The first three episodes of The Inhumans have aired (the fourth is tonight), and they are…not great.  I’m no pessimist, and I’ll probably keep watching, but I have a LOT of thoughts on what went wrong, and how it could’ve been fixed.

Why Inhumans couldn’t be a movie

I actually agree with Marvel that The Inhumans shouldn’t be a movie.  They already caught lightning in a bottle with Guardians of the Galaxy.  Taking a group nobody knows and making them a huge hit may not have worked again.  Plus, you’ve already introduced the idea of Inhumans on TV via Agents of SHIELD.  Why give up that synergy?  It’s one place where Marvel could look to DC for inspiration.  A lot of the fun with the DC TV universe right now is how they can intermingle at will.  Wally West can pop in on Legends of Tomorrow, Felicity can slide into The Flash.  Use that.

Rushed it

“…”  -Black Bolt’s best line of the series

It seems clear to me that the background strive between Marvel’s TV and movie arm had a huge negative effect on The Inhumans.  What we ended up with was a movie-length story stretched to fit 8 TV episodes.  We have no reason to care about the Royal Family.  You can’t even tell whether or not Maximus is in the wrong.  That might work as an action movie where you just keep up a breakneck pace, but for 8 TV hours, nope.

Should’ve been SHIELD

If it were me, I would’ve gone ahead and made this part of Agents of SHIELD.  They had some great success with story arcs last season, and that could’ve worked well here.  You can even start building things the same way.  Triton comes to Earth to rescue an Inhuman, but instead of finding some babe in the woods, it’s Daisy.  I mean, it’s unclear how many times Black Bolt has sent people to Earth to rescue Nuhumans.  Has he really never encountered someone aware of the whole Inhuman society that happened?  How did he find out about Nuhumans, period? Those things break down the more you think about them.  If you bring SHIELD into the mix, you can build from a stronger base.  Maybe the Royal Family team with Coulson/Daisy to help the Nuhumans escape from a shadowy organization that’s hunting them.  You can then build Maximus’s betrayal out over the whole episode arc.  It would also give you time to show just WHY Black Bolt’s rule is a good one.  Because brutal caste systems aren’t usually something we’re supposed to root for.

Marvel missed big with The Inhumans.  On the plus side, the characters exist now in the MCU (albeit the TV branch).  Even if their show is cancelled, there’s no reason they can’t appear further.  In the mean time, read Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt series.

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Review TV

Pilot Season – The Gifted

The Gifted is a new X-Men-adjacent show on Fox, which I will explain momentarily, and it’s pretty awesome.  It’s almost too bad for Marvel that The Inhumans release around the same time, because it’s not even a contest as to which is better.

“Adjacent”

The first question with most comic book adaptations nowadays is what does it connect to.  The short answer so far for The Gifted is, nothing really.  It exists in an alternate universe where “something” has happened that has caused both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to disappear.  The rest of the mutants are just trying to stay alive, with the government actively hunting down any mutant that uses their powers and “threatens public safety”.  More than any property since X-Men: The Animated Series, they truly show a world where mutants are hated and feared.

The Story

The Gifted follows Reed and Kate Strucker, and their mutant children Andy and Lauren.  After an event that outs Andy and Lauren as mutants (Lauren knew and had been hiding her abilities), the family has to go on the run.  A major complicating factor is the fact that Reed is a prosecutor that focuses on mutant cases.  That doesn’t exactly make him a trusted figure in the mutant community.

What Works

They have a great set of actors, save maybe for the young man playing Andy (Percy Hynes White).  However, he’s got time to grow into the role.  Stephen Moyer (late of True Blood) and Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest) are very good as the parents, expertly showing the stress and conflict of people who had been comfortable in a life, now thrust into something very different.  The mutants are solid so far, with a mix of new characters for the show and familiar faces from the comics.  This includes Emma Dumont as Lorna Dane/Polaris, Jamie Chung as Clarice Ferguson/Blink, and Blair Redford as John Proudstar/Thunderbird.

What Doesn’t

Like I said, not sold on Andy but there’s time to grow.  Lorna’s story leans heavily on prison cliches but I’m still interested to see what happens.

Where We Go From Here

The next episode has already aired, and continues the solid presentation of this version of the X-Men universe.  They’ve nailed ‘hated and feared’ much better than the movies, and The Gifted should continue being more accessible than Legion.  I’m all in.

Categories
Review TV

Pilot Season – The Inhumans

I’ve watched the two episodes of Marvel’s new show, The Inhumans, and I’m reminded very strongly of season one of Agents of SHIELD.  With a little of the lackluster parts of Iron Fist thrown in for good measure.  It’s not great, but there is the tiniest of hope in me still that it can get there.

The Basics

Inhumans, in case you aren’t a comics fan or caught up on Agents of SHIELD, are humans who are descended from ancestors who were experimented on by the Kree long ago.  When exposed to a material called Terrigen, they mutat–*Fox kicks in the door*–er, transform in some way.  Some gain cool powers, some might just get a minor change, like a tail or cat ears.  The Inhuman royal family lives on the moon in the city of Attilan, where a rigid caste system somehow keeps the population limited…?  It’s honestly a bit unclear.

The Family

You have Black Bolt, the silent King, who has a voice that can shatter mountains, and Queen Medusa, whose can control her long super-strong hair.  Medusa’s sister, Crystal, can control the four classical elements (earth, fire, water, air).  Gorgon has hooves.  Karnak sees the flaw in all things – he’s one of my favorite Inhumans.  Triton is the acquatic member of the family.  Maximus is Black Bolt’s brother, and seems so far to have no powers from his Terrigenesis (though if they follow the comics that may not be the case).  He thinks the Inhumans belong on Earth.

What Works

They do the best they can with the costumes.  Like most shows, they don’t like covering the heads of anyone expected to emote, and that’s going to be double for Black Bolt, who can’t speak without destroying people.  I’m curious about where they are going with this, which is enough to get me watching the next episode.  I like Ken Leung as Karnak, and Iwan Rheon is good as Maximus.

What Doesn’t

The CGI is lacking for sure.  They seem to have improved Medusa’s hair somewhat, but then they work around that anyway.  Lockjaw is cute but never seems to inhabit the scene, and he’s sidelined too.  A lot of the rest of the acting is subpar, though the dialogue given to them doesn’t help.  My hope is that it improves as you get past the pilot but it’s a Scott Buck show.  There was a lot of exposition to get through, but it’s done as just static infodumps.  Even those would be okay, but the dialogue is clunky.

Where We Go From Here

I was able to make it through the early bits of Agents of SHIELD because I liked some of the characters, and was curious about the mystery of Coulson’s return.  There’s less of an “in” here because you haven’t met any of these people before.  It’s a short season so I’m probably in for the rest (especially with a Kevin Tanchareon-directed episode coming up) but I wouldn’t blame anybody who bailed.