Wednesday, January 25, 2012

End Of The Year, End of the World

Hi! Miss me?

It's been a crazy few months here at Phortress Phantasmic, mostly due to an overload of illustration work (which is a very good thing, of course, for my ability to not starve to death and those who enjoy watching me not starve to death). Things are calming down a little now, so it's time to take inventory of...stuff.

Firstly! Lemuria is back, obviously, and if you haven't been following it, it's recently featured the return of Hordo of Atlantis from the second-ever story. Plus lots of pirates. I do have every intention of colouring these strips as soon as I can find a moment to do so...

I also want to finally return to Freak U. and yes, even Night Shift; I'm going to say Freak U. will return sometime in February. Night Shift, I'm not sure about. Even Amazon Space Rangers, which is effectively dead as a comic, is sort of back in the form of a series of prints I'm working's the first.

More on that later. Um, what else? I guess I'll bang out some reviews for the end of 2011 and early 2012:

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows and Sherlock, Season 2: It's kind of weird how pop culture is suddenly Sherlock-happy, isn't it? And now apparently there's an "American Sherlock" TV show in development, which will probably just be "House meets CSI" crap. Anyway, it must hurt Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. right down in their spleen to know that their big-budget theatrical steampunk version of Sherlock Holmes is being so consistently upstaged by a BBC production starring a previously-unknown and the guy from The Office. I mean, the Downey Sherlock Holmes movies seem to make decent bank, and I actually liked the first one somewhat--putting aside the stupid action movie setpieces, the script actually captured the tone and characterizations of the stories, and avoided some of the pitfalls modern Holmes adaptations sometimes fall into (Watson isn't an idiot, the supernatural is revealed to be fraudulent). But Game of Shadows was just awful--loud, bloated, bombastic, without a trace of wit or refinement. Yes, refinement. Sherlock Holmes should be REFINED, dammit. He should also spend at least a little of his time, y'know, solving mysteries, something Ritchie apparently has no interest in whatsoever. Even worse, the movie's version of Moriarty is staggeringly bland, which seems like it's the last thing Ritchie would get wrong.

This, more than anything, is something that looks completely embarrassing when stacked up against the Stephen Moffat show, because this was the season they got to play with Moriarty, and they absolutely nailed it. The accepted wisdom on Moriarty is that there's something "everymannish" about him, as if he had no personality of his own and could blend in perfectly with the background, the better to manipulate his criminal network. The movie interprets this, as I said, as "let's make Moriarty really, really boring". The show has a very clever take, as we saw last season: first by having Moriarty "speak" using other people's voices, and then revealing him as an unsettling creature whose speech patterns seem to vibrate at random across the entire spectrum of human speech, while never once sounding natural--an obvious advantage when your archnemesis is a guy who can tell everything about you from a glance and a few words. Some people seem to have found this a little annoying, and actor Andrew Scott has toned it down a lot this season, but it's still present. Scott is creepy every second he's on screen--he knows exactly when to go over the top and when to tamp it down a little (but only a little). His over-the-topness is employed in a highly restrained manner, if that makes any sense. But then, it may be necessary to go a little over-the-top when you're sharing the screen with Benedict Cumberbatch. On the flip side, Lara Pulver plays it perfectly cool as Irene Adler, in "A Scandal in Belgravia", somehow managing to be impassive and expressive at the same time, and she too strikes sparks with Cumberbatch--if this season has an overriding flaw, it's that Martin Freeman as Watson gets pushed a little too far to the side by all the larger-than-life personalities.

In general, though, this season is better than the mostly-great first, which was weighed down by the inferior (and racist) "The Blind Banker" and a somewhat chaotic plot in "The Great Game". This seasons' weakest entry is "The Hounds of Baskerville", which is a little padded, but which still manages to get some real mileage out of pitting Sherlock against the supernatural, and develops the theme of Sherlock's increasing humanity in a smart way, by having him deal with crippling terror, something he never thought he'd have to do. "Belgravia" is probably the best single episode of the show so far (for the record--SPOILERS--my opinion is that Adler faked the whole scenario at the end for the sake of faking her death, but also to see if she could draw Sherlock out; so did in fact "win" their game in a sense, by revealing him to have feelings. That's just my interpretation, though, and if Moffat meant for it to be a straightforward "Sherlock saves the day" moment, I do think that's a misstep). And Moriarty's plan in "The Reichenbach Fall" is extremely clever, a brilliant way of upping the stakes and showing why he's a real threat to Holmes, as opposed to just a guy with a really epic scheme to take over the world.

I *am* a little skeptical that Moffat can pull off the reveal of how Holmes pulled off his triumph at the end there--Moffat's shown he's not immune to illogical deus ex machinas in Doctor Who, as the last season showed--but I'll definitely be watching. Oh hell yes.

Hmmm, that ended up taking a lot more space than I expected. OK, I guess I now have the material for a whole series of posts!

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