Since it premiered back in 2012, Arrow has not been a show to ignore the dark corners of the superhero psyche. Again and again we have seen some really horrible things happen on the show, whether it is torture or mutilation or what have you and betrayal of the self and betrayal of the family is something that has been a running theme on the show. Season 3 itself got off to a really grim tone last year, and recent episodes have shown that this theme isn’t going anywhere and that the times are indeed wholly dark for Team Arrow.
Episodes 18-20 of the show have been very interesting from a story perspective. Oliver’s secret is once again out in the open as Ra’s al Ghul intensifies his… pressure on Oliver to become the next Demon’s Head, and with this come some true heroics from the team. And not only that but we also get to see Ray Palmer become a hero himself, as he begins to embrace the difference he can make alongside Team Arrow and even perhaps as a part of it. But that is all overshadowed by what is happening in the flashbacks, where Oliver and the Yamashiros’ freedom has become anything but.
Two episodes back The Flash finally addressed the question of whether Barry would get to time travel or not when he accidentally went back in time for about a day, and then ended up repeating that day (to a degree). The writers also did well in addressing the notion of what happens when you time travel, how you do it, and what the consequences can be. Of course, the time travel was important in more ways than one since in the “repeat” events unfolded in a manner conducive to Dr. Wells not killing Cisco, so that was a thumbs-up in my eyes. Some of the other things though, well, they really didn’t sit well with me.
And the two most recent episodes, “Tricksters” and “All Star Team Up” haven’t really done much to address those issues. If anything, things have kind of gotten worse, at least as far as Iris and her relationship with everyone is concerned. In last week’s episode we saw the amazing Mark Hamill return to the franchise as the Trickster, though now aged and past his prime when the CCPD gets him to consult on a case that ties into his legacy. Suffice to say, it was an explosive episode in the way that only an episode with the Trickster can be. And in this week’s episode, we saw yet another crossover with Arrow when Ray Palmer and Felicity arrive in Central City to consult with the STAR Labs team on Ray’s suit, and all sorts of hilarious shenanigans follow, including one of the most… well, weird villains the show has had to date.
In recent weeks, CW’s Arrow has taken a somewhat darker turn, and it all has to do with how the metaplot concerning the League of Assassins has developed and the large shadow that the season villain, Ra’s al Ghul, has begun to cast on the characters. He is a downright manipulative bastard and since Oliver has refused to take up his offer of becoming the next Ra’s al Ghul, the current incumbent has seen fit to take it upon himself to make sure that Oliver does what he wants, no matter who has to die for that, criminals or innocents or both.
Last week’s “Suicidal Tendencies“, while it involved the Suicide Squad for much of the episode’s running length, was pivotal in what it made Oliver confront when it came to the League. Maseo is wholly sworn over to the League and he is now on a mission to destroy the Arrow’s reputation in Starling, on orders of Ra’s al Ghul. And this creates problems, not the least of which is Ray confronting the Arrow while decked out in his brand-new ATOM suit. And on the other side of the world in Kaznia, the Suicide Squad team does a few really unexpected things, things that really made me love the likes of Deadshot and Cupid. Oh and there was a wedding involved, which was kind of fun amongst the darkness.
The Flash last week ended on a pretty exciting note: Barry doing some real time travel finally, amid a whole host of other complications for the scarlet speedster that leave him in some of the most complicated situations of his life as a superhero. With all that happened in last week’s episode, what I wanted out of the episode this week was to go big and go explosive because it is a pretty big freaking moment for everyone involved on the show, and the trip getting there was certainly one to talk about and go home to.
In this week’s episode, “Rogue Time“, we have the consequences of Barry time-traveling as he did. Like I said, it was a pretty big moment, with him going back in time almost an entire day, and this episode lays out just what that is going to cost him in the long run. For one, though Cisco doesn’t die in the “new” day, and Barry is able to ensure that Mark Mardon is caught well in time, the Rogues are back in town and they make life hell for Barry. And all the complications of time travel mean that it is not just Barry’s superhero life that is affected, but also is his personal life, especially his relationships to two other characters.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers about this episode.
When CW’s Arrow went on break back in February, the final minutes of the 15th episode of the 3rd season provided us with one of the biggest twists to date on the show: Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head and leader of the League of Assassins, wanted to make Oliver Queen his successor, the next Ra’s al Ghul. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Hold your horses there! What!? Yep, pretty damn big twist and something that needed a lot of clarification from a story perspective. Which is where the returning episode from last week, “The Offer“, came in.
The episode last week laid out exactly why Ra’s al Ghul chose Oliver as his successor instead of his own daughter, Nyssa al Ghul, who has been quite the force on the show ever since her debut in the middle of the second season. In a war of dual identities where much of the good he has done has been twisted and rendered ineffective, Oliver seriously considers the offer, and the journey to get to that point speaks volumes about how he and his friends and allies have developed over the last three years, and the long road that lies ahead of them all.
We currently live in one of the greatest periods in comics history. First, superhero movies have become the real BIG thing on the box office and there are several studios scrambling to get a slice of the big pie it is and create some lasting legacies. Second, superhero television has continued to grow at a breakneck pace in the last three years, surpassing most expectations I dare say, even after all the previous greats that we’ve already had. And leading the charge for superhero television right now is CW’s The Flash, which has done much to incorporate comic-book concepts in a realistic way for the audience and also balance the humour and the grim realities really well.
About a month ago, The Flash left us off with a great episode that did much to cement the place of yet another superhero in the incredible line-up of CW’s other characters, Firestorm. The episode also finally gave us a good view of Gorilla Grodd, in an epic scene that involved Harrison Wells and General Eiling as well. Returning this week, the show kind of got back to the basics as Clyde Mardon’s brother Mark Mardon returned to Starling to avenge his brother’s death, while also moving forward with the whole “identity of the Reverse-Flash” plot that has been swinging about in the story for a good while now.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
The first two installments of The Eternity War have been very impressive. Writer Dan Abnett did some great work in the now-cancelled ongoing and then he ported all of that to the new series, where he has finally pitched He-Man against Hordak in a mass epic war that is something straight out of a fantasy novel. And it is glorious. Utterly glorious. It also helps that artists Pop Mhan and Mark Roberts have given him ample support and have put out some really great visuals that perfectly capture the feel of the setting and the franchise at large.
The newest issue from this past week takes a break from all the He-Man stuff and instead focuses on a character I’ve dearly missed in the new series, She-Ra aka Princess Adora aka Despara aka He-Man’s sister. She has been conspicuous by her absence so far, but in this issue Dan Abnett deftly segues her arc into a mission for the new Sorceress, Teela, and shows what happens when She-Ra goes after her former Horde comrades. And along the way, we get more awesome visuals by Pop and Mark, who have a great handle on how to depict all the glory of She-Ra.
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!
Of late, Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson transformed the title from one that was meant to remind us of the incredible potential of brand-new characters (and young ones at that) to one where the title could actually tap into the apathy of the modern generation and force them to sit up and take notice of the things around them. It was a nice (subtle) arc that I really liked, and it also brought to conclusion the whole thing going on with the supervillain The Inventor, with the whole thing becoming one of the most fun and awesome meta-arcs of any comics of late.
In this past week’s issue, we see a new guest character on the comic, none other than Loki Laufeyson, the adopted son of the All-Father Odin and the All-Mother Freyja. Loki is sent to Kamala’s high school by Freyja to find out and neutralize a threat to Asgard. Of course, said threat also involves The Inventor, so things are a bit woozy there for a while, but by the end, you see some fantastic stuff between Loki and Kamala, not to mention that Elmo Bondac’s art made for a nice change from Adrian Alphona’s typicla high standards.
Nathan Edmondson has been going full out with Black Widow of late, backing the SHIELD agent into a corner of hell and making her work doubly hard. Recently, she finally infiltrated a high-level meeting of CHAOS, the group that has been causing problems for SHIELD and for her right from the first issue of the series last year, and she didn’t exactly come out of it without a scratch. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far in this series, and with the addition of yet another guest star this past week, things look set to get even more crazy.
Black Widow #15 deals with the aftermath of Natasha’s infiltration of a high-level CHAOS meeting, a meeting that she forced to happen so that she could finally face her enemies. But things didn’t go according to plan since it turns out that CHAOS has hired soldiers who can, effectively, turn invisible. Problematic for sure, and much of this issue focuses on how Black Widow beats these guys, with some expert help of course. And that’s where the true fun of this book is, since each guest appearance so far has been handled artfully, and that looks set to continue with this one too.
Last month Valiant launched Ivar, Timewalker, bringing the third and final Anni-Padda brother into the spotlight with his own book, with Gilad and Armstrong already having their own solo titles in Eternal Warrior and Archer & Armstrong and the two have also shown up in the recent The Valiant mini-series. This new book by Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry and Brian Reber explores the time-traveler’s self-appointed mission to keep the timelines safe and also feature a great supporting actor in CERN scientist Neela Sethi, caught up in Ivar’s time-hopping madness.
The second issue, out this past Wednesday, picks up from where the first issue left off last month and we have Ivar and Neela in a prehistoric time several millions of years in Earth’s past trying to figure out what to do next. Having just “discovered” time travel, Neela is attempting to sort everything out while Ivar fills her in, and the neat thing here is how he teaches her about the immutable nature of changing the past or the future, with the most classic of tropes of time travel: killing Hitler.