I remember back in the first season of Arrow, there were a ton of breaks in the show. It was as if we couldn’t go a straight month without one break in-between episodes or something. It was quite frustrating for someone like me, who hadn’t really watched shows “live” before, binge-watching entire seasons being more my thing, and so it was one of the few things I didn’t like about Arrow. But I’ll admit that when an episode leading up to a break is as awesome as the mid-season finale back in December, or this week’s episode, “Nanda Parbat“, then things are very different.
“Nanda Parbat” this week is one of the most intense episodes of the third season yet, and also one of the best to date. Last week Thea found out that Malcolm had used her in his war against the League of Assassins, making her commit Sara’s murder. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved and the new episode picks from that point, affecting everyone once again. Thea makes a dangerous choice and then it is up to Oliver and Diggle to figure out a way out of this jam, while Felicity and Ray continue working away at his ATOM suit, which we finally saw in full!
With Brick out of the picture, and Oliver back from Nanda Parbat or wherever it was that he “fell” while fighting against Ra’s al Ghul in a duel, it was time for the show to move on to grander things yet, such as Team Arrow dealing with their central element being back in the picture, and Oliver learning how much the city and his friends have changed in his absence. And at the same time, we also got to see some really nifty stuff elsewhere as Oliver finally comes clean with Thea about his… extracurriculars, which in itself was handled maturely by the writers of the episode.
In this week’s episode, “The Return“, we have Thea and Oliver on Lian Yu, training to fight against the League of Assassins. Malcolm wants Oliver to regain his killer instinct, the one he displayed when the two of them had their big showdown in the season one finale and which Oliver did not have during the season two finale against Slade Wilson, and so the Dark Archer puts into effect a really dangerous plan that just might see both Thea and Oliver dead. With the return of the awesome Manu Bennett as Slade, this episode would have been great on its own, but we also get to see Oliver and Maseo come to Starling in the flashbacks, and those sequences expose something deep-rooted with the show.
It isn’t a secret that CW’s Arrow has had an amazingly good season 3 as far as I’m concerned. I’ve loved pretty much all that we’ve seen on the show so far in the 2014-2015 season, and the greatest thing definitely has to be the fact that Starling City has gone bring the Vigilante’s city to a City of Heroes. Season 2 actually had that whole latter theme going on, but it was more a transitionary thing, and it is season 3 is where it all starts to really come together. And along the way, characters like Thea Queen and Laurel Lance have improved immeasurably since their earliest appearances on the show, while the others like Felicity Smoak and Oliver Queen among others have continued to grow.
Two weeks back the villain Brick, who has set himself up as the new power in the Glades, set the stage for a hostile takeover for all of the Glades, pushing out both policemen and city officials. We’ve already seen before that Team Arrow minus Oliver has really struggled against Brick before, so them going up against the big bad once again is perhaps not the best idea, but then, the way it is all handled in episode 12 shows how Team Arrow has grown into being more than just Oliver’s allies of need and circumstance. And this theme carries on over in episode 13 from this week when we see how the team functions when it is whole once again.
CW’s Arrow returned last week and fan expectation was pretty high since the writers had seemingly killed off the hero in the mid-season finale. While the hero’s return was a bit too quick, and perhaps even too soon, the tempo was still right I think and I certainly appreciate that the writers have found a way for the hero to be busy while his allies take charge in his absence. And the new season villain Danny Brickwell, played so brilliantly by actor Vinnie Jones, oozes a lot of rough charm and brutal authority, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next.
Last week Danny Brickwell gained himself an army by stealing entire stacks of case evidences from the SCPD and thus freeing a lot of criminals from their court cases. Now this week, we begin to see a hint of his larger plans, and he wants nothing less than full control of the Glades district, absent any police or governmental authority. Team Oliver gets to flex its muscles again, and comes off the worst in a way that was natural and interesting while we learned yet more about Oliver’s time in Hong Kong and what caused Maseo to turn into Sarab. Excellence all around.
This week marked the return of two of CW’s best and top-rated shows of recent years, the superhero epics The Flash and Arrow. The Flash, a new entry to CW’s line-up last year, made its mid-season comeback in a grand way by bringing back one of the favourite villains of the young show and had the hero fight off against some big challenges, physically, mentally, and morally. It was the kind of writing that has seen the show become such a big hit in a short-amount of time, and for Arrow it is the same. The mid-season finale left things on a very grim note, with the titular hero having been killed by Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins, and the wait for the mid-season premiere has been long and hard.
But, it happened this week, and I’m quite happy to say that it was a pretty damn good episode in almost every way that mattered. The writers touched on pretty much all the major plotlines, whether set in the present time or in the flashbacks in Hong Kong, and they showed how Team Arrow is moving on and handling things in Starling without the aid of Oliver, presumed dead. “Left Behind” is a great episode in the finest tradition of the show, now in the middle of its third season, and shows the entire team taking on challenges that you wouldn’t have assumed they’d take so early. That’s what I love most about the show, in addition to all the new twists on classic things, and the mid-season premiere is definitely an episode to watch.
A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014″ post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.
More comics, yay!
So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.
With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
I’ve long wanted to play EVE Online, a game that many friends over the years have recommended to me on various levels, but I’ve never been able to get around to it. The expansive scope of the game, the concept, the visuals, the mechanics, everything is very intriguing and compelling, and any time I come across something to do with EVE Online, I get a hankering to play the game. But sadly, no time for a game requiring as much investment in time and effort as EVE. That’s actually one of the reasons I stopped playing World of WarCraft a few years back, to my continuing regret since I still have a great amount of nostalgia for that game, which I try to get around by reading the books that are published, which is where EVE: The Empyrean Age comes in.
From a bit of googling I did a while back, EVE: The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales is a tie-in to the EVE Online expansion The Empyrean Age. In it, the writer covers the rise of the Caldari Providence Directorate, the return of the Minmitari Elders, the return of Jamyl Sarum to the Amarr Empire, the fall of CONCORD (in a way), and several other things besides. Since I know very little of the world of EVE Online, I was initially wrong-footed by the novel, but as the pages went by, I discovered a riveting tale of interstellar politics and wars and economics that really drew me in and instilled in me a fascination for all sorts of EVE lore, making it one of the best novels I’ve read this year, even though it wasn’t published in 2014.
As with The Flash last week, we got to see some incredible things happen on Arrow as well when Team Flash came calling and ended up helping Team Arrow with apprehending a villain, Digger Harkness (future Captain Boomerang). It was quite a solemn and sombre episode broken up with the occasional humour from Team Flash, and I loved it to bits, especially the ending when the two heroes decide to do a friendly rematch of their fight in Central City from the eighth episode of The Flash, to see who really could win a fight between the two of them. No conclusions either way, but still a damn good episode.
And now, this week’s Arrow was the winter finale that finally saw Sara’s killer revealed and brought Oliver into direct confrontation with the League of Assassins, specifically the Demon’s Head Ra’s al Ghul himself. After some of the lightness of the last week, this time there is no such thing and it is Mood Serious all the way as the tension between all the characters got ramped up over and over. And Oliver didn’t have a good time over in the flashbacks either since we learn a rather game-changing revelation about his time in Hong Kong, one that I’m hoping isn’t directly carried over, personally speaking.
The previous episode of Arrow brought out Arrow-fangirl Cupid who wanted to be the hero’s sidekick and even developed a ruinous romantic attraction for him. It was a pretty decent episode that also brought forward the expected kickassery of Tatsu Yamashiro, the future superhero Katana. However, it was a relatively stand-alone episode and what actually leads into this week’s Arrow is the episode of The Flash from this week (review), where Team Arrow went to Central City on a case and ended up teaming up with Team Flash for some really good times that also featured a rather spectacular battle between Oliver and Barry.
And in this week’s “The Brave and The Bold“, we get to see a direct continuation of that episode as Team Flash visits Team Arrow in Starling to help them in their search for Sara’s killer, only to end up being the targets for new villain-on-the-block, Digger Harkness, former member of Lyla Michaels’ Task Force X aka Suicide Squad. This was a pretty intense action-oriented episode that only Arrow can do, and also recently that The Flash can do, and I loved this second team-up of these heroes, and all the little things that led to the spectacular ending, which was a cut above all that we’ve seen so far on both shows.
Last week we got to see something spectacular in Arrow. Ted Grant embraced his history as a vigilante, known as the Wildcat, and we learned that he was taking care of the Glades before Oliver Queen ever came back and started taking on the villains of Starling City. It was a pretty emotionally-charged episode with lots of action as well that also segued into the growing relationship between Ollie and Roy as mentor and apprentice, mirroring that of other character pairs on the shows such as Ted-Laurel and Malcolm-Thea. It was a great episode, and it only left me wanting more.
In the new episode, “Draw Back Your Bow“, we see the debut of Cupid, a woman super-obsessed with the Arrow who wants to become his lover, someone who can take care of him since he takes care of all of Starling. She made her debut by killing of Isaac Stanzler, who used to be the Arsenal to Ted Grant’s Wildcat a few years ago and who was the villain last week. As is usual on the show, we got to see some real-time commentary on how things are with Team Arrow, and we also see that Ray Palmer has some really big designs for what he is going to do with Queen Consolidated and its tech resources. Not a mind-blowing episode per se, but this one can easily fly under the radar, and I’d caution you against dismissing this one off-hand.
Getting on a roll again, this week I managed to repeat the “Magic 40″ with 2 graphic novels and 38 singles, with many of the latter being absolutely new series, so that was a lot of fun for the most part.
My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Archer & Armstrong: One Percent #1 from Valiant Comics, Deep State #1 from Boom Studios, Django/Zorro #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Vertigo Comics, and The Kitchen #1 from Vertigo Comics also. The most disappointing comics of this week were Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 and Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #4 both from Marvel Comics, New 52 – Batman #36 from DC Comics and Grimm Fairy Tales: Cfinderella #1 from Zenescope Entertainment. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Hexed, Fables, New Suicide Squad, Red Sonja and Unity all proved to be immensely fun.
The graphic novels for this week were King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon by Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello and Jose Villarrubia, and Fables Volume 5 by Bill Willingham, Tony Akins, Jimmy Palmiotti, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein, James Jean, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha.