Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Review of "Dexter In The Dark"

Written by Jeff Lindsay
Released in 2007

Dexter: “You got caught. What happens when you get caught?”
Cody: “Time out?”
Dexter: “Uh-huh. And if you’re thirty years old?”

Third book into the series and it’s easier to get settled into Dexter’s world and while I haven’t seen the third season of the show yet, I do know that apart from impending nuptials, this book is a different beast altogether.

On one hand, it’s arguably stronger than the first two books but on the other, it’s also the weakest of the three that I have read, even if it is still thoroughly enjoyable and engaging like the show itself.

It’s strength is in the interpersonal relationships that Dexter has with certain people. For one thing, if the previous two books only hinted at Deb being aware of Dexter’s killer tendencies, then this one has the decency to spell it out in detail and greatly it does.

Halfway through the book there’s a beautiful scene where Deb openly admitted her difficulties in understanding Dexter’s need to kill as well as her horror when he discussed the Dark Passenger element of him. Better still is that you get a moment where Dexter actually stands up to Deb as well.

Even though Deb’s foul mouthed tirades and permanent scowling at her brother have gotten beyond old at this point, her reactions to what Dexter told her about himself however are believable and I’d have a harder time in believing Deb if she readily accepted this side to brother. Maybe at some eventual point she will but for now, the fact that she barely tolerates it is something relatable.

Then there’s Cody and Astor. The previous book threw hints about them having their own Dark Passengers and this book put Dexter in the awkward position of having to train them, something which he didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about having to do, even if he was duty bound.

The kids themselves didn’t exactly make things easy for Dexter. When they weren’t pestering him to train them up, they got caught taping a cat to a workbench by Rita. I have to admit that Dexter did manage to deal with that scenario a lot better than I expected him to do so.

There was also the wedding to Rita, something which Dexter found as interesting as pulling teeth. In the series we’ve been given the strong impression that he genuinely loves her whereas third book in, she still comes across as his beard, one that he even married towards.

The story with the loss of his Dark Passenger (which managed to return on Dexter’s wedding day) was a good way of looking at his psyche. Dexter went through long passages of the book trying to wonder if he could function at all without the Passenger. He even made some sloppy mistakes as well so there is a level of dependency on his darker scene.

The plot with Moloch followers and their various dismemberment of many people didn’t thrill. It was by far the weakest threat we’ve had in the book and the resolution to it was a massive let down. It’s a job the personal stuff kept momentum because this fizzled very fast.

- Doakes briefly appeared in this book and recognised that Cody had a Passenger. He didn’t seem to recognise Astor’s.

- Deb is still dating Kyle, who only briefly appeared in this story as well.

- I loved that Masuka had a fear of expensive wedding caterer Manny Borque. Dexter commented on Masuka faking emotions a lot in this book.

- I’m actually surprised that neither Paul nor Gail have really surfaced in this book, what with Rita marrying Dexter.

- Parts of the book’s viewpoint where on The Watcher as he stalked Dexter.

- The tagline for this book was “No peace for the wicked”.

Quote, Unquote

The Watcher: “You have something inside you that represents a threat to us. We plan to get rid of it and you.”
Dexter: “Actually, that thing isn’t there anymore.”

A good book but like I’ve said, it’s interpersonal stuff rather than the villains of the piece that kept things going for me. Also can we please have more on characters like Angel?

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures: "From Raxacoricofallapatorius With Love"

Written by Gareth Roberts And Clayton Hickman
Directed by Joss Agnew

Clyde: “You’re a Slitheen.”
Eranius: “Whatever gave you that idea? It’s not like I got a big zipper on my head.”

When the Doctor Who universe isn’t making itself known during the Children In Need, it’s decided to come up trumps for Comic Relief 2009. Of course by that, I mean giving us a nice little scene from The Sarah Jane Adventures for a change.

When I heard that both the Slitheen and K9 were going to feature, I had mixed reactions. I really shouldn’t because while I’m still not particularly taken with the Slitheen, they are better handled in Sarah Jane’s world compared to The Doctor’s.

Casting Ronnie Corbett in the little scene made for a good treat. He interacted brilliantly with the cast and had a wonderful back and forth dynamic with both Rani and Clyde mostly.

Also due to the night in question, the scene was largely light and the Slitheen were played for laughs. Despite the fact that it was the first time that Rani had to interact with them, she wasn’t particularly impressed and even got in a wonderful joke at the Slitheen’s expense.

Eranius’s big plan wasn’t that big. He simply wanted K9 to help him rule the universe and even having the gang detained briefly enough wasn’t enough to stop him. In the end, K9 sent him far away and Sarah Jane mused about the encounter being strange. For Sarah Jane, it’s probably not that strange when you really think about it.

- The writer/director credits weren’t actually shown. I found them out from the March 2009 issue of DWM.

- Naturally it was David Tennant and Davina McCall who introduced this scene as they were on presenting duties for Comic Relief.

- Any chance this little scene can feature on the Season 2 DVD for the series?

- K9 got a Red Nose at the end of the episode. The gang got them on headpieces earlier on.

Quote, Unquote

Luke: “What are these?”
Eranius: “We didn’t know what to get you. Humans are very fickle to buy for.”

As mini-scenes go, this was a hoot. Now all we have to do is wait another month for a new episode of Doctor Who. That being said, Sarah Jane should do more of these little gems.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x23: "Predators And Prey"

Written by Drew Z. Greenberg
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Andrew (re Buffy and the gang): “The thing about the slayer organisation is that we’re not just co-workers. We’re family. The bonds between us are tight and unbreakable. You hurt one of us; you’re taking on all of us. It’s like our guiding principle. Nothing comes between us.”

Out of the all the characters being deemed a solo shot, one I wasn’t looking forward to was one involving Andrew. I’ve mentioned in past reviews that I dislike the character and these comics have done little to change my mind.

However seeing as the writers have thankfully only used him sparingly, I suppose we were due an actual issue where he’d come out to shine and this was the very issue. Everything opened with Andrew talking wistfully about finding a place in the gang that he once schemed against.

I could scoff but given the time period that has passed, there had to be a reason why he was still around. Buffy and company must like him enough to have him trained up as a watcher and entrusted with enough slayers and he was sort of useful during the final days of Sunnydale.

That being said, Andrew’s infectious enthusiasm can be hard to come to grips and that’s certainly evident when Buffy threatened to make him eat a door just because he slammed. The funny part however was Buffy having to apologise to Andrew for her harsh remark.

Of course Andrew does actually have a use and that’s to inform Buffy that one of Simone’s bad slayers has been tracked down. Given that Simone hasn’t been mentioned since “A Beautiful Sunset”, it’s nice to get some continuity on her but don’t expect a resolution that will satisfy you as a reader.

Because of this information, Andrew proposed a road trip and Buffy volunteered herself, despite Xander pointing out the obvious. Would you want to be travelling with Andrew for a lengthy period of time? Points to Buffy for actually thinking that Andrew wouldn’t pose a major problem.

And to be fair, he doesn’t really but he certainly went into overdrive on their journey to Italy. I mean I get that Andrew is enthusiastic about his TV loves and loathes but it would’ve been nice to actually know something about the character’s sexuality.

A lot of viewers (myself included) have been speculating for years that Andrew is gay. His lack of commentary on Daniel Craig in swim trunks could be denial or maybe Andrew actually is asexual. Would the series actually be brave enough to address asexuality in a serious manner without moralising or mockery? Massive points of bravery if they could.

Moving from possible sexual identities, the focus shifted back to Simone. From what I’ve seen, Simone is little more than a mouthy, volatile little idiot has now decided to use the public’s hatred for slayers to her own benefits. Maybe I’m a terrible person but I pretty much want this character killed by the end of the season.

However the other problem Buffy and Andrew faced was saving Nisha from the Ragna demon’s web. A floaty bubblegum pink effect was cute and Nisha’s every bit as unpleasant as her crappy leader. However despite her less than charming bedside manner, she was pretty adept with the Ragna demon’s history.

Another thing she was adept with was telling Buffy in no uncertain terms that Andrew was responsible for the creature existing again. It’s things like this that alienates viewers from sympathising with Andrew. If he knew how dangerous these creatures were, why on Earth did he feel the need to make one?

Okay, I know he wanted to capture Simone and I can’t blame him for that but there were other more logical ways in which he could achieve that objective. Needless to say that Buffy was pretty miffed with him so I suppose the interruption of Simone should’ve been viewed as a good thing really.

Bad girl slayers might make for good adversaries but Simone just doesn’t have the chops of Faith during her heydays or psycho brat Gigi. However she is quick to assault both Andrew and Buffy and when she’s not nerd dissing, she was more than happy to remind both Buffy and Andrew that the public hate slayers.

What’s more annoying is that Simone is pretty efficient for a slayer I can’t muster real interest in. She managed to slap both Buffy and Andrew, throw in some decent insults and hard facts and also rescued both Nisha and the Ragna demon without breaking a sweat. Well she did have magic on her side as well.

As for Andrew, I’m really glad that he does feel guilty for Simone’s descent. While I don’t actually believer he caused it, from what we’ve seen, Andrew hasn’t been all that effective as a watcher. All we’ve seen him do is make some lame Star Wars references and that would drive anyone to distraction after a while, not just Simone.

However it was nice that Buffy didn’t hold him responsible. Some people just can’t handle power and Simone is one of them. She’s let it go to her head that even if she had been assigned a more competent watcher like Giles or Robin, the same outcome would’ve happened.

Plus I even understand why Andrew elected not to be so forthcoming with Buffy over the Ragna demon. Given that “Storyteller” was an incredibly contrived way of attempting to redeem the character; I have to at least believe that since we’ve first seen him that Andrew is genuinely trying to atone.

In Season Seven I had a hard time believing that he cared about the Scoobies and that if given the opportunity, he would end up selling them out to The First Evil. Now I do believe that he cares for them and the fact that Buffy believes in him is also reason to believe it too.

As for Simone, with the world hating slayers and her giving them an increased bad reputation, it’s not surprising that she’d find a nice Italian island to take over. She even managed to scare all of the villagers out of there and as a result, the bloody village looks like it’s been hit by a nuclear bomb.

There are plenty of things you should probably say before going into battle but I’m pretty sure that commenting on your boss’s hairdo and taste in men is not the kind of things I would have in mind but this is Andrew and he does tend to be unpredictable. Buffy surprisingly enough seemed non-plussed by his assessments.

Similarly no-plussed was Simone, who delighted in telling Buffy and Andrew that she was expecting their company. Well, it would have extremely impolite of Buffy not to show up unannounced and share a few lethal smacks with the latest slayer to fall off the wagon.

Simone’s guff about admiring Buffy however was just yawn inducing. I don’t care if Simone does admire Buffy and I’m more than annoyed that Simone continued to justify her actions with the world’s fear of slayers as an excuse. Simone, you’re just a psycho in need of putting down and fast.

Of course Simone does surprise a little in this story. She made the promise of actually stopping if Buffy handed Andrew to her on a platter. Chance of that being genuinely true are slim to none so my bet is that Simone wanted to torture the crap out of Andrew.

Simone’s not the kind of person to take responsibility for her actions and she more or less blamed Andrew, which is rich, given that he really didn’t put her on the path she chose to take. This isn’t a Faith redux. Simone isn’t lacking the support here so her descent doesn’t feel as tragic.

That’s good because it meant that I could watch the fight scenes between Buffy and Simone without feeling the sort of conflict when I used to watch similar scenes with Buffy and Faith. Simone’s arrogance about Buffy being past it made her look like a dunce and then she had to realise that half her slayer army were actually working for Buffy on the sly.

The other massively debateable thing in this issue was Buffy locking Simone and her band of bad girl slayers with a loose Ragna demon. It should be as harsh or as shocking as when Angel locked Holland, Lindsay and Lilah in with Darla and Drusilla in “Reunion” but I’m not sure if it is. Buffy should’ve technically ‘arrested’ Simone, even if she could take on all of the slayers and given the island back to it’s villagers there and then.

The last panel between Buffy and Andrew did serve as a decent coda. He messed up with the Ragna demon but had the good sense to draw up a list of it’s weaknesses for Buffy and he was surprisingly curious when she told him he was part of the family. Although this comic didn’t suddenly convert me into an Andrew fan, at least it didn’t feel forced in terms of the character’s characterisation if you catch my drift.

Also in “Predators And Prey”

The cover I got was with Buffy and Simone duelling. The James Bond styled cover with her and Andrew did look cute though.

Buffy: “Andrew, if you slam that door one more time, I will make you eat it.”
Willow: “Buffy!”
Buffy (to Andrew): “Sorry. That may have come out sounding harsh.”

It seems that Simone has been robbing the odd bank, military base and the occasional hot topic since we last saw her.

Xander (re road trip): “Buff, you sure about this? Hours and hours of travel time with Andrew? Really?”
Buffy: “Come on, he’s matured. I can absolutely handle him.”

Buffy: “You said Daniel Craig. I like Daniel Craig. I get Daniel Craig. He’s so…”
Andrew: “…Gritty and real?”
Buffy: “Um, sure. Oh! And that thing where he’s running on rooftops and cranes? I’ve done that and I was still scared for him.”

Andrew referenced Superman, Star Wars (go figure), Battlestar Galactica, V For Vendetta, the Smurfs and Mad Men of all things. I’m surprised Drew Z. Greenberg didn’t throw in a Dexter reference while he was at it.

Andrew: “Well, well, well, Nisha. I see we’ve gotten ourselves into quite a jam.”
Nisha: “I’m gonna get my foot into quite your ass soon as I’m free, you tiny …”

Simone: “’Beaming’ right, that’s what you Stargate nerds call it?”
Andrew: “It’s Star Trek, hag. Were you not listening to any of my lectures?”

Buffy made a reference to Charlotte Web when she saw the Ragna monster’s web, which was made of pipes.

Andrew: “Can I just point out that I was trying to do the right thing?”
Buffy: “Seriously? This seems like the time? When we’re about to walk in there?”

Simone: “Way I see it, now there are two kinds of people in the world. The ones who fear us so much, they hope someone kills us all and the ones so stupid, they want to be the ones to try. I don’t have much use for either.”
Buffy: “So you think the answer is taking over an island.”

Andrew was wearing a Britannia sweater during his later scenes with Simone and I can’t help but notice that the Ragna demon was depicted victim like in Simone’s captivity.

Buffy: “I’ve been doing this longer than you. Which means I’m more experienced, so you’re done.”
Simone: “And I’m younger than you. Which means I’m faster, so you’re fucked. This one is a real gun.”

Andrew: “But you were right. I lied to you.”
Buffy: “Yeah, you’re part of the family. Get used to screwing up for good reasons. It’s what we do. Swing by when you’ve got the specs written up. We’ll take a look.”
Andrew (to himself): “I’m part of the family?”

The next issue, “Safe” (Faith/Giles return – yay) is out on April 1st. Interesting day to release a comic.

“Predators And Prey” is the kind of issue that might not grab you on first sight. Several reads though and it does improve but I do feel we’re getting off lightly with the fallout of slayers being vilified because of vampires. Hopefully the last two issues will give this arc a stronger/darker end.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

My Review of "Dearly Devoted Dexter"

Written by Jeff Lindsay
Released in 2005

Dexter: “I don’t know what I’ll do when you’re dead.”
Harry: “You’ll do fine.”
Dexter: “There’s so much to remember.”
Harry: “You’ll remember it.”

As soon as I finished the first book, I made the conscious effort not to delay reading the second. Given that the second season of the series itself went its own way than being bound to the book’s structure, it would be fun to see what Dexter got up in his second scribed adventure.

The first thing that did stand out was Doakes stalking Dexter. Not only did this make things difficult for Dexter but it also served as an interesting point. On the series when Doakes did this, it didn’t feel as extreme. I know it sort of rendered Dexter from killing those who deserved it but here it felt worse.

Mainly because it forced Dexter into some sense of domesticity that he couldn’t bear. The idea of him being another regular Joe staring at the TV and guzzling bored the shit out of him and as a reader, I wasn’t particularly that gripped with it either.

At least the book to its credit went some way into exploring the Dexter/Doakes dynamic. Both of them see a darkness in each other that intrigued and alarmed the respective other person. Dexter believed that Doakes found him responsible for LaGuerta’s death and Doakes past also came back to haunt him in more ways than one.

While the second season offered us the crazy Lila as a villain, this book is far more satisfying with Dr Danco, a demented torture expert whose been mutilating the several men who betrayed him back in El Salvador.

Every now and then I’m given a pleasant reminder of how squeamish even I can be and the description of the acts that Danco performed on his victims was enough to make me glad I didn’t see this on screen. Severed arms and legs are bad enough but adding severed lips, tongues and teeth into the mix and I’m just grateful that I was never eating during the time I was reading this book.

Dexter himself is no less impressed by Danco’s methods and it finally put him in a position where he could outsmart Doakes and learn more about his enemy. It also meant that because Deb had developed feelings for Doakes’ former comrade Kyle Chutsky (who lost some appendages thanks to Danco) that Dexter was forced to deal with his sister’s overbearing emotions.

As much as I like Deb in the series, I’m not particularly warming to her in the books. I wonder why that it. It also doesn’t help that Dexter doesn’t stand up to her but at least this book made it more clear that Deb was aware of Dexter’s “Dark Passenger” so to speak.

The final confrontation between Dexter and Danco is great. There’s a lot of black humour and unlike Biney, there’s no escape for Danco. Nope, thanks to Deb, he’s killed on the spot and also for Dexter’s joy, Doakes is so badly mutilated that he no longer poses a threat to Dexter.

- There were seven intended victims of Danco’s. From what I’ve gathered, Danco only successfully dismembered two of them. He didn’t get to complete his work on Kyle or Doakes.

- Rita found Kyle’s ring and mistook it for a proposal. Vince throwing Dexter a stag party added some lightness to the book.

- Doakes first name was Albert and he was in his forties. Danco had ‘Treachery’ as a description for him.

- The book featured a nice flashback with Harry during his final days.

- Dexter noticed that Cody had a bit of a “Dark Passenger” in him. The series has also addressed this but the book was more blatant about it.

- The tagline for this book was “Serial killer or family man? Or both?”

Quote, Unquote

Dr Danco: “All right then. I believe you came here alone. Although I am curious about why.”
Dexter: “I wanted to study your technique.”
Dr Danco: “Oh, good. I’ll be happy to show you – firsthand. And then feet.”

A fun second book, with some truly visceral moments but a lot of the characters (aside from Deb and Doakes in this one) still feel like ciphers. Can we have some more on them, please?

Rating: 8 out of 10.