Tuesday, November 26, 2013

POBB: November 20, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
November 20, 2013
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week I review Batman 66, Batman and...., Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn and the first issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up.  I'll also have a few words about Batman Beyond Universe, Supergirl, The Wake and Wonder Woman, but first I have three words for "The Day of the Doctor" as a 50th Anniversary Special.

Worthy.  Absolutely worthy.

Right.  On with the reviews.  Oh, what, you want more insight? All right then.  Drop way, way, down.  Past the yawn of Wonder Woman.

My history with Scooby-Doo is long and treasured.  It all of course started with the cartoon Scooby-Doo Where Are You?  Since then I've watched every iteration of the show, even the lousy ones with Scrappy-Doo and that Puerto Rican kid.  I followed Scooby-Doo in the comics, and I became known not just for scalding the post-Crisis but also for reviewing every DC issue of Scooby-Doo.

After years of providing Scooby-Doo fans with entertainment, DC mismanaged the franchise.  The wonderful stories by such writers as Terrance Griep Jr. and The X-Files' John Rozum accompanied by the fantastic art of Joe Staton gave way to a more overtly juvenile anthology. The stories and artwork were still amusing but these elements often didn't match the quality of the previous generation of occasionally challenging mysteries and the accomplished near animation of Staton.

As DC concentrated more on Big Stupid Events, they let Scooby-Doo fall through the cracks.  DC eventually committed fraud by charging more money for reprints of Scooby-Doo after advertising them as new.  It was the last straw for me. 

Before the crime occurred, one of the more inventive second wave Scooby-Doo writers took over as the senior scribe. Sholly 
Fisch stands behind this newest Scooby-Doo imprint, and I immediately included it on my list because I knew that there was no chance for reprints.  The idea behind the new title arises from the New Scooby-Doo Mysteries.  An hour long series that came after Scooby-Doo Where Are You?  In the most memorable episode, Scooby and the Gang meet Dynamic Duo Batman and Robin, and that's who guest stars in Scooby-Doo Team-Up.

Scooby-Doo and the Gang investigate giant bat sightings but instead of finding a monster, they uncover Batman and Robin looking into the same felonies.  Fisch acknowledges the continuity of New Scooby-Doo Mysteries  in clever snatches of dialogue.   

Fisch's cleverness however isn't isolated to that one scene. He keeps everybody in character while he relates a most enjoyable clash of worlds.  He saturates the interaction and the plot with good-natured but genuine humor, and the comedy is more sophisticated than what you would find on an upper tier sitcom.  

In addition, Fisch creates a plausible explanation to the mystery that attracts both teams of crime solvers.  He works within the formula of Scooby-Doo, while providing plenty of action for Batman and Robin.  Indeed, while this issue acts as a well above average Scooby-Doo caper, it also operates as a fine Batman and Robin episode.  With little editing, the story could have appeared in Detective Comics.  Although this villain perhaps has worn out his welcome in that title.  He seems newly energized here.

The art by Dario Brizuela is also impressive.  Scooby and the gang are on model, and Brizuela's Batman and Robin surpasses some of the so-called serious artists' interpretations of the character.  Batman can be dark in the shadows but a caped crusader in the light.  His ear length and cape design are ideal.  This is a Batman that you actually might imagine in the real world, and that's how he's supposed to be.  Robin is excellent, a younger man in the classic costume that's free of angst and full of vigor.

A crime wave involving the sleep-inducing Sandman interrupts Bruce Wayne's and Dick Grayson's fishing trip.  On the Batman television show, Michael Rennie portrayed the Sandman, and artist Ruben Procopio comes up with a pretty good likeness.  

Procopio's Batman and Robin also resemble Adam West and Burt Ward.  The cast's mirroring isn't the only nod to realism.

The Sandman isn't a crazy psychopath.  He instead fosters a plausible motive for his crime.  Extortion.  He just wants money, damn it.    He doesn't even care about finding out Batman's secret identity.    The Sandman wants to discover something about Batman, but only to gain more profit.

It's during these scenes when the Sandman tries to extract information from Batman that the tone of the book becomes more palatable to adults.  The trippy dream sequence is a surreal pleasure that's too elevated for kids.  Both audiences though will enjoy the fact that Batman deduces and combats the dream sequence head-on.

Jeff Parker's Batman 66 is a lot less campy than the television show.  Like Scooby-Doo Team-Up it just seems like an all-ages Batman book.  On the one hand Batman is not threatening.  On the other hand, he is very intelligent and resourceful and not averse to socking the bad guy.  When you put sound effects in a comic book, it's still just a comic book.

The reason I purchased Batman 66 is very obvious.

What I didn't know is that I would also be getting Colleen Coover artwork.  As a result, the Batgirl feature is a charming, delightful short choreographing Batgirl's battle against Catwoman, as portrayed by Eartha Kitt.  
Again, there's no camp.  Just action, action and more gorgeously illustrated action.  The dead-on Batgirl and the kinetic escapade is even more rewarding given the dire dip in quality that's currently the norm in Gail Simone's Batgirl.

Batman fares pretty well in the new 52 this week.  It appeared that Peter Tomasi was doing his best to turn Batman insane.  Affected by the death of his son Damien, Batman even dissected Frankenstein to discover the secret of bringing back the dead.  He was hostile to Batgirl, but she's on the road to a nervous breakdown.  So, I'm pretty sure that they were both at fault.

Tomasi started the healing process with Batman having an encounter with Catwoman.  She suckers him into doing the right thing, and by saving a little girl's life, he starts to come out of the deep well he dropped into.  

For this issue of Batman and... Tomasi presents Batman back to normal.  He saves a handful of lives by thwarting Two-Face and then follows up by reprising his role as a classic Bronze Age persona, that's a lot of fun to watch.  

The reason behind the charade ties into previously unknown history between Batman, Two-Face and a hardened criminal named Erin McKillen, think of her as if Fiona Glennan never met Michael Westen.  McKillen is a daughter of the Irish Mob, and Two-Face wants her dead for reasons that become clear.  Batman cannot allow that.

Tomasi and his partner Patrick Gleason detail excitement in the present and in the past.  They turn their attention to Gotham Penetentiary and end the book on a laugh out loud funny comment from Alfred, back to being Batman's behind the scenes partner. 

In the new 52, Christy Marx puts together a pretty decent "Year Zero" tie-in.  That's mainly because she really only pays the moments lip service and instead exploits the opportunity to flesh out the Black Canary's past.  

Marx relates Diana's origin, and it's a refreshing change from the old one where Ted Grant trains her.  Wildcat is a boxer.  Black Canary is historically one of the top three female martial artists in comics: Batgirl, Black Canary and Harvey's the Black Cat.  I always felt there was no need for every hero having a link to Wildcat, especially when his method of fighting wasn't pertinent.  

Marx's newst version drops continuity in favor of martial arts movie traditions but wrapped in a decidedly American kung-fu diversity.

Most importantly, there's a lot of violence, courtesy of regular Birds of Prey artist Romano Molenaar, involving gang-bangers, looters and Ninja.  So, it's not dull, and Marx just for fun throws in a tie-in to Team 7.

Harley Quinn is also not dull, but it's not as funny as some people are crediting.  It's more of a hit or miss and potluck.  Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conners haven't yet focused on how this comic book is going to work.  This issue is a free-for-all that's dependent mostly on slapstick and sight gags.  For example...

This is a sample of my favorite page in debut.  I have no idea why the thought of Harley fighting crime while riding dolphins tickles me, but I could not stop laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing.  This scene just clicks.

Dan Panosian offers a slice of delicious cheesecake, but the actual parody fell flat for me.

Bruce Timm strives and succeeds at presenting both cheesecake and comedy.  Other artists opt for a more traditional approach.

The thing is with such a variety, you're bound to find something you like in Harley's premiere.  I'm hoping however the second issue is a bit more substantial so the gags hang better.

I can read about Supergirl beating the crap out of H'el all day long, every day.  She already killed him once, what did he think was going to happen? It actually gets worse for the time traveling putz.  This is part three in a Superman story arc, but I'm still recommending it for Kara's toughness.  Bad ass and artist Paolo Sequeira's dynamic artwork.

Batman Beyond Universe also gets a recommendation for Christos Gage's terrific Superman/Justice League story.  The Kyle Higgins Batman mystery just kind of peters out, but we've got scenes such as this in Gage's tale.

Although the Phantom Zone levels the powers to zero, the Justice League are still dangerous.  I grinned from ear to ear upon seeing that.

Wake me up when this guy stops talking.  Wake started out really interesting but it just went nowhere unexpected and stretched out the whole Gill-Man vs. Humans war by having the folklorist drop knowledge acid at random moments.  Wake just isn't as good as American Vampire or Batman

Wow! Just look at the cover! I can't wait to read this.  Wait.  Wait.  What? It's all talking and exploring feelings, and what the hell, this scene isn't in the book at all! Bastards.  

Spoilers Ahead!

You Have Been Warned

Like "Night of the Doctor," a few multidimensional Easter eggs await older fans.  I mean in addition to all thirteen Doctors being represented, which is well done and superbly paced.

There's the devotee's scarf, which is obvious.  There's a record of the Doctor's companions and his granddaughter, whom Clara recognizes from her visit to Gallifrey in "The Name of the Doctor."   The companions are the Doctor's history.  You expect them to be identifiable, and it makes sense that UNIT would keep tabs on the Doctor's friends to prevent the odd impostor from infiltrating secret bases.

The two biggest Easter eggs occur in the beginning and toward the end.  Clara works in Coal Hill Secondary School, which is where it originally all began on screen.  Two curious teachers follow an unearthly child to Totter's Lane where awaits a Police Box in I.M. Foreman's Scrapyard.  Hint, it's not a Police Box.  One of those teachers, Ian Chesterton, is now a Chairman on the Board of Governors to the school.   Go back and read the plaque.  Clara's lesson plan also includes the phrase "no more time" from a quote by Marcus Aurelius.  "Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be.  Be one."  I'll let you decipher the importance.

The other big Easter egg is the the reappearance of the Time/Space Telegraph, which the Doctor, during his fourth incarnation, did indeed give to the Brigadier.  The Brigadier used the device to call the Doctor back to earth to fight the Zygons and the Loch Ness Monster in the episode "Terror of the Zygons."  Just released on DVD.  That was the episode that started it all for me.  Oh, and the Zygons reappear in "Day of the Doctor" largely unchanged.  They were really beautifully designed Doctor Who aliens.  Why fix what's not broken?

"Day of the Doctor" calls back to recent history as well as classic history.  For example, Queen Elizabeth I is the catalyst of this whole adventure.  She first appeared in the Third Series episode "The Shakespeare Code," and wanted to behead the Doctor for past crimes, whatever they may be.  As the Doctor indicates in "End of Time," the now next to last David Tennant special, the Doctor does indeed marry Queen Elizabeth.  That racks up the Doctor's marriage count to three.  The Doctor married a Time Lady and had a daughter who in turn mothered Susan.  The Doctor married the Queen.  The Doctor married River Song.

Stephen Moffat sidesteps a lot of continuity headaches by bringing Billie Piper back as an entity rather than specifically as Rose Tyler.  This eliminates any need for Rose to act jealous of Clara, ask for an explanation from twelfth Doctor Matt Smith on where she is in his life and eschews the potential undermining of drama in Rose's ultimate fate.  The way Moffat manages this also retains the power of Rose being in love with the Doctor while importing a crucial plot point to "The Day of the Doctor." At the same time, Moffat drops a stitch or two to another anniversary episode "Silver Nemesis," in which the seventh Doctor frees a different conscious Gallifreyan weapon.  That's hindsight foreshadowing.

The premise of the story really grants John Hurt a lot of meat for his status as the ninth Doctor.  Like I said about "Night of the Doctor" it seemed as though Moffat made Hurt a legitimate Doctor, and guess what?  He did.  People however looking for a dark Doctor are going to be somewhat disappointed.  Cause, baby, this isn't any one of those wretched books.

John Hurt's Doctor fought the Time War--which as established touched not just Time Lords and Daleks.  He aged because of it, but he's still the Doctor.  He may have done some terrible things, but he didn't do that one thing the Doctor must never do.   Condemn an entire species to death.  Genocide.

As it turns out John Hurt's Doctor isn't a phantom Doctor.  His memories are phantoms.  Moffat is a sly-boots.  He anticipated what we thought and turned it around on us.  As a result, Moffat keeps the Russell T. Davies series in a crystal composed of false memory but still valid.  The men the Doctor becomes are the result of a regret for nothing done but nevertheless very real to the observer; hence the Doctor's perusal of a book about quantum theory in the opening scene.

The children of Gallifrey are the prime reason behind the Doctor's decision.  We assumed they died before the events in "The End of Time" unfold; of course adherents of the books believed they never existed, indeed could not exist--Ooooo, there's that shriek again.  I never tire of hearing it.  No.  You know what? It's time to put these books out of their misery.  


There.  As of today, there's no need to ever contrast or compare.  The books have never been relevant, but now, they're really not relevant.

It turns out that the Daleks did not exterminate the children and the innocent on Gallifrey.  It turns out that the High Council of Gallifrey led by Rassilon wasn't all that was left of the Doctor's scorched world.  It's just all we saw of Gallifrey.  It was furthermore necessary for the Doctor to send Rassilon back into the howling void of the Time Lock.  Rassilon furthermore must be killed by the Master in "End of Time" in order for a saner regime to take over.   So this isn't "wibbley-wobbly, timey-wimey,"as some of have alleged.  Instead, "The Day of the Doctor" is quite linear, fitting into the previous series as well as classic Doctor Who without so much as even a tiny snag.  Well done.  Well done indeed. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

POBB: November 13, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
November 13, 2013
Ray Tate

If you haven't seen it yet...a must view official seven minute prequel to Doctor Who "The Day of the Doctor"...I'll wait for you to come back, and you're welcome.

My thoughts on this important moment in Doctor Who appear at the end of the column.

Greetings from the Pick of the Brown Bag.  In this blog, I review the week's best and the worst comic books.  For this installment, I'll be observing Batman, World's Finest, Rocket Girl, Smallville and first issue fantasy Umbral.  I'll also look at the new graphic novel Bandette and the film Thor: The Dark World.  First though, warnings about the current Justice League of America, Batgirl and Nightwing.  

Justice League of America repeats the previous issue.  J'onn and Stargirl attempt to escape the same prison incarcerating the Justice League.  At least, that's how it must work.  Whatever the case, this is just a dull, beautifully illustrated exercise of spinning wheels in place.  It's entirely skippable.  Deja vu.

Batgirl and Nightwing so far claim the prizes for the most irrelevant and least entertaining "Year Zero" tie-ins.  It took a lot of effort to push last week's Action Comics out of first place, but they managed it. The artists however cannot take credit in this dubious honor.  Both art teams put their all into stories that deserved the effort of untalented kindergartners with Crayolas.   

Nightwing takes place before prima donna circus brat Dick Grayson becomes Robin.  The stand-alone draws upon the blackout instigated by the Riddler in Batman.  When the blackout hits, Gothamites panic like lemmings.  The chaos leaves Dick in charge of some kids who become de facto Teen Titans.  The by-the-numbers tale factors in four dead characters--The Graysons, Raymond and Raya--to make the trip down memory lane extra superfluous.

Batgirl trumps Nightwing.  Marguerite Bennett turns what could have been an innocuous survival story, outcome assured, into a vehicle for dank cynicism.  Barbara Gordon must lead her yet to be cracked brother and innocent Gothamites through the hurricane, that Superman failed to stop or mitigate, to safety.  Every bit of the journey, inconsequential.

The flashback could have been made better and more memorable very easily.  All Bennett had to do was reveal that the character Babs met during the hurricane had been Batman in disguise.  This would have negated the dystopian vision, foreshadowed the inevitability of Babs' transformation into Batgirl and through the shared history of Batman and Batgirl, embodied the whole with (gasp) relevance.  Instead, we're stuck with this thing.  You know what.  Just.  Fuck.

After reading of my disappointment, you just might be willing to give up.  Don't worry though.  There's a big bright light coming up on the horizon.  It's the reflection beaming off of the Batmobile.

My reaction?


In the proper "Year Zero," Batman has never been better.  The "old" version of the Batmobile bears the superior technology conceived from Bruce Wayne's brilliant mind while alluding to the lines of the 1930s Roadsters Batman used to drive.  

The Batmobile is the source for the first moment of the sense of wonder that Batman instills.  The optimism and technopolis World's Fair type of futurism contrast the horror of Gotham's villains.  The villains of Gotham are a stain on a progressive society.  They're not products of the civilization they despise.  Rather they seem more like invaders or viruses.

Scott Snyder and Gregg Capullo reintroduce Dr. Death to new 52 mythology.  The original Dr. Death was a monocled, goateed mad scientist.  Most people remember his cackling like mad while his lab burned to the cinders.  However, the lesser known sequel provided Snyder's and Capullo's inspiration.

For the day, that was pretty gruesome.  He's much worse looking now.  The monster's nasty murders immediately attract the Dark Knight to the scene, as well as the police that intend to pursue Batman.  This includes Jim Gordon.

Snyder reveals new information regarding Jim Gordon and why Bruce doesn't trust him.  It all originates from the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne as well as the undercurrent of corruption in Gotham City police.

Whereas all the other "Year Zero" books appear to be using the disasters that befell and in some cases will befall Gotham as their focal points, Batman only uses the blackout and the impending hurricane conditions as a backdrop.  Snyder and Capullo concentrate on establishing Batman as the hero of Gotham City in the most stylish way possible.  There's just no comparison.

World's Finest continues the hunt for the new 52 Tattooed Man, who Paul Levitz introduced last issue as a Tattooed Woman with a grudge against the fashion industry.

Helena and Kara investigate tattoo parlors in search of a lead.  Kara though has another purpose.  With her powers in flux, she attempts to get a tattoo.  The results are expected.

This scene leads to more of that terrific interplay between the crimefighting partners and a reveal that explains why Helena wears a more modest costume than the post-Crisis Huntress.

The team splits up later in the book.  Helena quickly finds the Tattooed Woman conducting her arsonist graffiti, and Power Girl schedules a flight into space to saturate herself with sunlight.

The scenes could be in any superpower based book, but what really puts these moments over is how Levitz deals with each as instructed by the characterization of his champions.  The savvy businesswoman Karen Starr secures her secret identity in a realistic, humorous manner, but not before she has a comedic conversation with the pilot of the shuttle.

Huntress abandons a visceral fight against the Tattooed Woman to save her friend because she knows as invulnerable as Kara may be superheroes still need help.  She learned that from Batman.  Furthermore, the clockwork timing by artists R.B. Silva and Scott McDaniel mirrors the history of the legacies.  Huntress reacts in an eye-blink.  She's that fast.  She's that prepared.  Although afflicted, Kara moves with confidence and ignores risk.  All  of these elements pool together for yet another solid issue of World's Finest, the most consistently entertaining cape and cowl book DC publishes.

Bryan Q. Miller concludes his introduction of Wonder Woman to the pages and universe of Smallville.  Faust set Hades free, but in so doing he unleashed the wrath of Wonder Woman and attracted the attention of Superman.  

In this issue, Hades gives Superman two choices, neither of which he can abide by.  So he picks door number three.  In so doing, The Man of Steel preserves his honor while demonstrating that bad asses can wear primary colors.

Wonder Woman caps off this superb finale with comedy and genuine emotion.  The entire story earns my highest  recommendations, and if you haven't picked it up by issue, get the trade.  You won't be disappointed.  In case you're counting, that's two Smallville stories that are essential reading.  One debuting Batman and Babs Gordon.  The other Wonder Woman.  Both tales effortlessly energize these old heroes for a new audience.

Some People Can Make Anything Look Good

The second issue of Rocket Girl is as good as the premiere.  We open with our title hero Dayoung breezily making pancakes for her physicist hosts Allison and Ryder.  

One of the tropes that always tires me is when a time traveler finds the future or the past an alien culture in which he or she cannot cope.  Sure.  A time traveler might be confused a little by the monetary systems or some pop culture fads, but by and large, what we have now is really a reiteration of the past.  

This blog for instance was once on the usenet before the world wide web as we know it.  In the past it might have been in a free newspaper or a pamphlet or on the back of a penny dreadful.  In the future, who knows it may be an injection that can be read on the skin.  The point is that the future isn't indecipherable and our ancestors weren't completely ignorant.  The best time travel stories such as those in Doctor Who, Star Trek, Time After Time and Warlock all feature savvy time travelers, capable of comprehending the future or the past.  In Rocket Girl pancakes are forever, as they should be.  Dayoung quickly dopes out the twentieth century means to make them.

Rocket Girl of course is more than pancakes, and Dayoung is in the past for a reason.  This issue we discover what time laws have been broken, and our heroine relays just how much she's willing to sacrifice to see history preserved.

It turns out that the Quintum Corporation created a real paradox, and the cover-up extends to the high.  Dayoung represents a group of dedicated teens that are the only ones that can be trusted in the future.  At least that's how its supposed to play out.  Dayoung has traveled back in time essentially to preclude her future.  That's really an extraordinary selflessness.

Along the way, Dayoung alters time and space by simply being in the past, and she doesn't stay meek.  She attracts attention, from the news and the police, and interferes.  She's saving lives that might have been lost if history took its proper course.  

Amy Reeder's illustration is exuberant and inviting.  She choreographs Dayoung's limber flight path, undercutting criminal episodes with knowing comedy.  Dayoung completely overpowers the modern criminal in terms of gray cells and dynamics.

I'm a tough sell when it comes to fantasy.  Anthony Johnston's and Christopher Mitten's Umbral looked low on magic and high on gorgeous artwork.  So, I gave it a try and liked what I read.  

The story takes place in a mythical realm of kings, queens, princes, sorcerers and thieves.  Young Prince Arthir is a friend of Rascal a femme fingersmith.  She possesses a magical mist, which the Prince wishes to use in a bit of magical experimentation...ah, you can just smell the star-crossed loving in the future, except, it won't be that simple.

Johnston surprised the hell out of me by turning the fairy tale promise of a happy ending inside out and instead creating a gripping adventure.  

At the same time, he casts intriguing characters expressing invigorating dialogue that carries the reader smoothly through a gorgeous tableau of rich, colorful designs.

Paul Tobin's and Coleen Coover's Bandette is exactly as I hoped it would be.  The graphic novel presents an escapade starring the infamous Bandette, a young master thief who is also on the speed dial of Inspector Belgique.  Bandette you see steals from criminals and doesn't truck with murder and hostage taking.  She enjoys the thrill of thievery and outwitting her opponents and their lackeys.

Of course, there's always a danger in such a character coming off as arrogant, but it's difficult not to enjoy Bandette's exploits given a joie de vivre so evident in Colleen Coover's delightful cartoons.  Her style hasn't changed an iota from Banana Sundays, X-Men First Class or Small Favors.  

Coover's Parisian scenery and the many trophies in Bandette's possession however exhibit heretofore unexpressed detail in her artwork.  These environs and ill gotten goods enrich the freewheeling mood and attitude of Bandette.  It really reads like an all-ages European strip, inspired by sixties heroines like Batgirl.  Tobin and Coover even borrow a tactic from Babs.

The plot however could be interpreted as darker than one might expect. Absinthe a gang leader who doesn't care for Bandette's niceties intends to eliminate her once and for all.  As such he hires an assassin, trains snipers on her, and indeed a very disturbing murder may have occurred off panel.  

His intentions are enough to engage Bandette's friendly rival thief Monsieur, who does not want to see this particularly colorful bon vivant femme fatale removed from the chessboard.  Bandette in turn concocts the perfect means to fight back against Absinthe, and Tobin rather than propose a team up between Bandette and Monsieur offers a witty alternative that breathes some originality into the typical caper.  Also of note, Tobin's repartee often comments on the chestnuts to be found in more serious treatments of the same things that occur in Bandette.  While this contest of theft would indeed be marvelous to watch, readers will need to unfortunately wait until the next volume.  Bandette whets the appetite.

Saturday Afternoon at the Movies  

As usual the mainstream critics are wrong.  Thor: The Dark World was exciting, funny and moving in parts.  Best of all it was unpredictable.  Once again, the team behind and before the camera remind us that the Asgardians are not truly gods but long-lived aliens.  Thus, Thor is in reality science fiction, and this sequel more obviously so than the previous movie.  Laser pistols and Asgardian swords and shields all gel nicely.  

Chris Hemsworth portrays a Thor that thinks not just slams with his hammer.  Furthermore, all that depth the willful son of Odin gained from the first movie doesn't just get thrown away.  The filmmakers build from it.  Tom Hiddleston's Loki was a marvel, and Christopher Eccleston--the Doctor--presented a totally alien evil.  

There's more activity and range from the Warriors Three, Sif and Frigga--who honestly had to be Rene Russo.  Natalie Portman imbues Jane Foster with a constant scientific curiosity, and her chemistry with Hemswroth makes the legendary love between Thor and Jane a living, breathing thing.  Definitely stay for the scene after the credits.  Unlike most Marvel films, Thor sets up Guardians of the Galaxy early.  The very last scene after the credits is part of the movie you just saw.  It's the reward. 

Thoughts About 
Doctor Who 
"The Night of the Doctor"

Unlike some of the other mini-episodes produced for Doctor Who, "The Night of the Doctor" wasn't just a lark.  It instead offers a decisive moment in the unbroken continuity of Doctor Who.  

I was elated and sad when I heard McGann's voice.  "I'm a doctor.  But I'm probably not the one you were expecting."  I suspected that we would see Paul McGann's Doctor regenerate in the 50th Anniversary episode, and I knew that I would feel more than a twinge of regret.  

I liked the idea of the eighth Doctor still being out there somehow, in a limbo television realm where he doesn't regenerate.  Of course, that's silly.  I knew the eighth Doctor regenerated since the ninth debuted in 2005.

Seeing Paul McGann as the Doctor again was just wonderful.  He has always been a favorite Doctor.  So, although he basically loses in this episode; fails to impress upon Cass that he's a nice Time Lord, dies in the crash because he stubbornly refuses to leave her, caves in to the demand that he end the Time War, abandons his position as a renegade, "The Night of the Doctor" still feels like a triumph.  A proper return, an acknowledgement that Paul McGann's Doctor is the first truly new Doctor, if you catch my drift.  Paul McGann's Doctor deserves to regenerate, even if it's painful for a fan to watch.

The Doctor Who 1996 special--you really can't denigrate it by calling it the TV Movie anymore thanks to David Tennants' Doctor Who specials--foreshadows so much of how we define Doctor Who today.  Its glossy look.  Its far better special effects.  Its speed.  Its dramatic content and the context of Doctor Who.  

Paul McGann's Doctor was the first to take a romantic interest in his companion.  The Doctor mentions a handful of companions in "The Night of the Doctor."  I'm a little miffed that he didn't add Dr. Grace Holloway's name to the mix, but I suspect that was due to real-world legal issues rather than preference.  It's very easy for Grace to appear in comic strips or comic books, but nettlesome for her to actually return to Doctor Who.  I feel so cheated out of a Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook Doctor Who series.  I don't blame Russell T. Davies for introducing the Doctor as a clean slate, but I do blame Fox and the BBC for dickering over Doctor Who in the interim.

Paul McGann's Doctor planted a great big boot to the stones of the self-proclaimed canonical books by revealing a secret.  "I'm half-human, on my mother's side."  Christopher Eccleston would imply that he was a father and a grandfather in the first series.  We see Time Lord children in David Tennant's series.  Matt Smith's Doctor explains that Time Lords became that way because they reproduced in the Time/Space Vortex.  All taboo in the books of the nineties.  Oh, and although the Doctor lists his Big Finish Audio companions.  He doesn't include any of the companions made for the books.  There's that high pitched shriek again.

But enough of the real...Let's talk fiction.  "The Night of The Doctor" lays out some juicy allusions for old Doctor Who fans.  The Doctor's ensemble is based on the Wild Bill Hickock costume he stole in 1999 after he regenerated.  The Doctor actually uses his sonic screwdriver.  In Doctor Who 1996 it remained in his collected possessions bag until Chang-Li returned it to him at the end of the adventure.  The Doctor's thwarted by a Dead-Lock Seal, sound defense against Time Lords.  Sonic technology though perhaps not invented by the Time Lords certainly is one of their trademarks.  

The Doctor and the TARDIS look considerably more haggard presumably as a result of being unwelcome by his people again.  He and the TARDIS looked quite good in 1999, and at that point, he was still in the Time Lords' good graces, relatively speaking.  

The Doctor crashes on the planet Karn, introduced in the classic Tom Baker episode "The Brain of Morbius."  The Sisterhood of Karn are not Time Lords but allies and under Time Lord protection.  The Sisterhood employ the chemicals condensing from the Sacred Flame.  The chemistry grants them eternal life, should they choose it.  

The Doctor helped the Sisterhood in the past, but that was only after they intended to sacrifice him in order to reignite the flame.  So the Doctor's lack of trust in "The Night of the Doctor" is perfectly understandable.

The elixir triggers the Doctor's regenerative process.  This is the second time that the Doctor's natural abilities had to be triggered by an outside force.  The first occurred when the third Doctor "died" from radiation poisoning, and one of his Time Lord teachers hidden on earth kickstarted his regeneration.

After the Doctor regenerates, the so-called War Doctor looks at his reflection and sees a young man.  The War Doctor we meet at the end of "The Name of the Doctor" is an older man.  This would suggest a very long war indeed.  

There's an insider's joke here as well.  During "The Brain of Morbius" the Doctor wrestles against the title Time Lord using a device, similar to the one that the Master exploited to steal the Doctor's remaining lives.  

During the mental wrestling match, all the Doctor's faces appear, but a multitude of other faces--mostly from the crew--also manifest.  The thirteen incarnation limit was introduced after the episode by Robert Holmes in "The Deadly Assassin."  

The wrestling match has long been a thorn in the side of the continuity obsessed.  Fortunately, there are enough faces to suggest that Morbius is simply losing and perhaps one of the younger faces is the first Doctor just as a young man.  In reality, the crew had no idea that "Deadly Assassin" would  limit regeneration.  So, here on Karn, we're faced with another conundrum: a phantom incarnation or a true Doctor that bumps the incarnation count to twelve. Nice one.