Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
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See what that last line of the summary says? Yeah. Cape action. And let me tell you, not just any cape action, but some really GREAT cape action. It's speculative as to what it all meant, seeing as Jordan said that he lived for ever, but the basic gist is that we see the cape headed through strange Universe territory toward some unnamed star, we can only assume Superman, after everyone he loves is dead, searching for new terrain, per the pre-painted DeMatteiss picture from a few years back.
And I loved it. I expected your normal, average freak of the week episode (and we got one, to degrees) but I never expected what I'd term a Reeve moment in the middle of an otherwise rather benign setup.
And boy, Lana sure didn't look like Lana when she was old, did she? But hey.
It's a one and a half page of notes episode, which speaks well to it.
Now if you look at the premise of this episode, as I did, I expected disappointment. For many reasons. The best ones?
This plot has already been done. Three times.
First, the time the coach went insane. Done.
Second, the time Lana is kidnapped and almost killed. Done. (I think more than once, actually).
Third, the person who can tell the future with their hands. Done.
Come to think of it, how many parents have we seen that keep their kids away from the rest of the world. Oh yeah! Byron, the crummy poet. Can't forget him.
If you can get beyond that, and I can understand if you can't, but I could, this was a pretty good episode.
All the bad stuff was missing from this episode save the freak. There is brief Lana Clark tension, but not enough to be annoying, and Pete is not a major player, but he does appear, albeit quietly, for about five minutes, running with Lana.
Let's go through the episode.
First, Clark uses his powers in front of about a bo-jazillion people, and makes like it's nothing (per usual) BUT, and this is a big BUT, not the Sir Mixalot kind but the theoretical philosopher's, he does it because he has no other choice. Otherwise, that guy would die. Now, seeing as he did use his powers in front of everyone, there's not a person who wouldn't have noticed he came from nowhere paying even remote attention, but I say we forgive it, at least this time, because he had to. No other way.
If I were the writer, I might have had Jordan get picked up on the other side of the school where no one would be looking, but hey, that's just little annoyed-when-Clark-uses-his-powers-in-front-of-people me.
Then we hit a Mentos commercial without the traditional doo doo doo dooooo do wop, do wowwwwwwww! Lame. I mean, those doo wops are funny. And then what do we get in their place? Some dude making out with a dog. I mean, I know I have to watch the show here, but man, do I have to watch a dog making out with a dude?
How about something funny, instead of something trying to be funny, like a duck kicking the living crud out of a moose or something. Or Yoda trying to lightsaber fight (No flames! For the record, I liked the fight. Jokes!).
And then, the cape. The cape, the cape, the cape. They lied about no tights again, and expect that in the KO Count, but do I care? No. Not at all. Totally cool with me.
First time we've seen any part of the suit in the show, actually, and not a bad way to introduce it.
This kid's kind of like Unbreakable lite. He can see the bad things, but he doesn't know exactly how to stop them, he kind of can't. Too bad for him.
Lana, Lana, Lana. Always hooking up with the bad boys, always hooking up with the jerks, then lumping Clark in with them, just because he went nuts and smashed ATMs for three months. Okay, maybe that's a good point. BUT, hey, she just puts up with Adam, and I have no idea why. A lot of people have troubles with relationships like this. They keep putting themselves in self-destructive situations that blow up in their face, then they play the victim because it's easy until the next schlub comes along to screw up their life. I know, because my life used to be like that. I used to do that, when my life was a little rougher than it is now. Thankfully, that has changed, but an important point to place here, and an impetus on the Lana character's evaluation is that she holds a very serious responsibility here as well. Who chose to be with the guy who loved her so much he went off to the middle of nowhere and got blown to bits? Who chose the guy who ran off and smashed ATMs? And who now chose the already dead? It's not like there weren't warning signs from all three. All pro football guy, mysterious nice guy with a dark secret, and now a guy who knows kung fu, has no past, and shoots up in the computer lab. Way to pick the winners, Lan-ey.
I put out the cattle call last week for redeeming qualities about Lana. I'm really trying to like her character, post first season. It's hard. Mainly, a few people, three or four, wrote me saying that Lana is a good character because anyone would react the way she does when Clark did what he did, and be mean, and demure and put-offish. Well, I wouldn't have, but okay. I'll concede that point. But how does that speak to her character? It really only points out that she's vengeful. Okay, Clark was a butt, but he had no choice. The secret means lives lost. Lana had a choice. She could have turned her cheek. She could have not been with him anymore. Instead she lies. She says, "I don't love you." Then she goes away crying. Clark tries to make amends, and she walks away. I really don't see the appeal beyond a pretty face. She's a really annoying person, generally. I mean, she does nice things, as one of my Lana defending writers pointed out, Arelis, through some good citation...over the last two seasons, she helped with Search/Aid, she threw the party for Ryan, she set up the drive for Martha, she gave the apartment to the Kents to stay, and now she's giving Adam a place to stay. Those are nice things, I'll concede, but it's five nice thing for some 50 episodes worth of material.
She's passive aggressive, she's manipulative (how many things about Clark does she want to change, and how much does Clark ask Lana to change?), she's constantly written oddly (for instance, she's a damsel in distress one minute, and she's kung fu kicking girl power the next), and frankly, she gets more screen time than other, more vital and interesting characters to me, like Pete, Chloe, and Ma and Pa Kent. Why? Maybe because Kent loves a pretty face. Me? I think the world likes a pretty face more than their common sense, so because Lana is considered hot (making top 100 sexiest women lists and the like), they forgive and forget the flaws in their character. Ladies who complain about getting regarded for their bodies, take note. There IS some benefit to it. Alas, to me, I'd rather look at characters with character, not situation starters, but that's just because as a person I don't prefer games, manipulation, passive aggression, and to be honest? I don't really like hot chicks. Mostly they're mean because people forgive them so much for their beauty. Is Lana an example of this? Perhaps. For the last two seasons, to varying degrees, certainly.
The reason I bring this up? I'm trying to think it out. I don't want to get biased. I know I got to hating Chloe, and then her character came back from the brink and is totally cool again now. In fact, that's my next note. Chloe and Clark cool again. And how cool is that? No more games of petty jealousy, and instead the old gang. Conflict can come from elsewhere other than passive aggression, people hiding their feelings, people trying to be noble over being honest, etcetera.
Which brings on the next note. Adam had just gone nuts and kicked Lana in the gut. Now she not only doesn't tell him what he has done (a dangerous move in a relationship that just became, in essence, abusive, albeit on accident), she still knows nothing about him essentially and tends to favor him over Clark. Why? Because he's a royal jack$#% every time she's around and not honest and selfless to a fault, like Clark. I'm beginning to think being as Adam is the only way to garner attention, because nice guys, in effect, always finish last with the ladies. Someone give me an example other than Billy Joel or Charlie Sheen (Christie Brinkly and Denise Richards, respectively).
In fact, not only does he kick her in the stomach, but he turns to her and says, "I'll put some clothes on. Clean up this mess."
Now, you could take this as "I'll go put some clothes on...clean up this mess." With an implied elliptical conjunction, saying he will go get dressed then clean up the mess himself, but like the handcuffed line last episode which may or may not have been metaphorical, it is important to make this very clear to the viewer, and in this the writers either dropped the ball, or perhaps they did mean handcuffing, and Adam did, after kicking Lana in the story, tell her to clean up his mess.
Either way, it's pretty disturbing to me she remains silent about it and feels perfectly fine about ripping Clark for things he can't help, and I find Adam in this all the more contemptible. But the key difference here is that we're supposed to hate Adam, given what's coming, and Lana, we're supposed to love. I can't help but just sit there and ask why she's such an idiot. I'm still looking for her redemptive qualities, beyond a simple niceness when the situation calls for it, which I believe we all should have. If it was needed, most of us would volunteer, help friends. But interpersonally, she's about as worthy to me as Lex Luthor. Deceptive, manipulative, and without the striking intelligence or intriguing future.
Someone, please, again, write me and tell me how wrong I am with some facts, like Arelis' deeds. I want to believe in her again, but now, she's as lost as Chloe was to me a year ago.
No. Seriously. I just watched that scene again, and the guy says, very imperative, "I'll go put some clothes on. Clean up this mess."
Lana needs counseling, she needs to stay away from rear end guys for a while, and she needs a re-evaluation of life and relationship's basic proprieties.
Right now, I don't need to watch that kind of maladjusted dysfunction during what I call entertainment... that's where I stand today with Lana.
Now back to the less social commentary, more slapstick review.
Lana goes to Lex, who's called her into a meeting because stuff in his property is getting busted up, then gets mad at him because he tells her he doesn't like the fact that Adam is disturbing the neighbors and breaking his things, after he's kicked her in the stomach and told her to clean up his mess.
Bright. Get mad at Lex for trying to be helpful with relationship problems. De Nile IS a river in Egypt.
Come to think of it, that's another time she failed to block a kick with kung fu, isn't it? I'm sure to get flamed for that, but I know some of you are sniggering. Let me make it very clear I abhor violence against women. I further abhor purposeful ignorance. Lana's made me watch both today, with Adam's help.
A mom, because she's born on the day of the meteor shower and is hit by a meteor, passes on the ability to see the future to her son.
Well, okay. At least his visions are cool, unlike most freaks, whose powers are just kind of, well, elemental or stereotypical.
Clark had to walk to the home of the missing cheerleader...good continuity. He doesn't have a truck, after all, given last week's attempted homicide. Oh, but wait! He drives old Jordan to the fire in the same truck that just last week was crushed to pulp. Sigh.
Another affirmation, this time from Jordan, that Clark lives forever. I personally like this aspect of the mythos, and I'm glad they used it this episode.
Did you all see? The silent film festival is STILL on, at least before the live music starts later. That Lana is just CRUEL. I mean, think about it. He loses his sight, she starts a silent movie festival (gotta see to enjoy it) and then keeps it going for weeks. Really nice. Really friendly.
Lex is researching Adam. Good man. A bit underhanded, but you could call it protecting an investment. I mean, how many people go whacko and start fires? Well, if this episode's any kind of example, the Torch could burn next episode.
I like Lana's attitude. She directly asks Adam why he's using needles, then he tells her she's accusing him, and she's SO passive aggressive, SO afraid of being wrong or at least manipulative or direct, she says, "No, I'm not accusing you."
For the love of monkeys, you ARE, and you have every RIGHT to. Cut the crap!
And hey, what a good guy. She finds out he's a user of some kind, she asks him about it, and he refuses to ask any questions. Clark's secret never really hurt anyone beyond a few dates he had to leave, unless you count Metropolis under his secret's guise, but actually I blame that on Jor-El's threat. Adam's secret is actually dangerous directly, threatening, but she stays with Adam and leaves Clark. Way to go.
Seriously, Clark. Just start seeing Chloe. Never you mind continuity.
A knockout for Lana. Chloroform, ether, something or another. Tell me, where the heck does a football coach get his hands on some chloroform?
You'd think, call me crazy, but you'd think that if the first coach burned himself to death, they'd ask the second coach if he had similar self-immolation objectives in life, or even if he had any issues, like losing a daughter that might have made him homicidal or something. I'd like to meet the HR person for Smallville high. First the coach, then the new teacher, then the new coach, and a disappearing principal. Sigh.
You might call this breaking and entering. I might say the same thing to you. I own this place. ZING!
Of course, owning a house myself, I know that by the law you can't enter a tenants house without notice, at least here in Washington, but am I gonna say anything? MMMPH.
Now what did Chloe do with that drug, how the heck did she get in, and what will she do with it? THAT is a cool sub-plot.
What I want to know is why all the mains in this show are all adept at B and E and never get caught. Kinda breaks up your stereotypes of suburb kids being straight laced, eh?
The house explosion that made the Vancouver folk mad. So now we've seen it, and it rocked the remains of the house. Nicely done. Though I would think that number one, Clark giving CPR to a kid might hurt him more than help him, and I would further think that after revival through CPR you don't just sit up and start talking, you gasp with pain because your sternum is cracked, but hey, this Jordan kid, in losing the future, must have gained an impervious sternum tempered by fire. He will be called The Stern, and he will soon have his own monthly at Vertigo.
And there was an 8:50, but it was rather short. It did involve a Lana lie, "You okay, you have that look." "I'm fine, Clark."
Yeah, except that big black and blue bruise on your stomach and the lie you just told. Way to go again, Lanette.
And hey, not only does she turn down his offer of friendship at 8:50 again, she does it while stealing his mentor kid, and in FRONT of said mentor kid, which probably does wonders for that old Kent self confidence.
I hearby nominate Lana for humanitarian of the day for helping little Jordan. Such a kind thing to do.
At least it was short.
And then, the quintessential moment of the episode, the delivery of the cookies to find a dumbfounded and dying Jonathan on the floor. Absolutely critcally great. Though I did feel a twang of guilt at the loss of the cookies.
Very emotional, very well done, and very strong.
If I actually believed they were going to kill Jonathan, it might make me feel the tension more. It's hard to see a character you like hurt, but alas, I think he'll make it. Why? There are three or so seasons left, at least, and he's a critical component. Besides, he may die, but I don't think they have the gumption to do it yet. If I am wrong, strike me with lightning, this is the best episode ever, just like when Lex found out, but I'd bet money he's fine within a few episodes, or at least not dead.
Still, the heart attack, the cape, the sub-plot (which, while I don't like how Lana's handling it, is at least interesting), the freak that didn't go homicidal, all of these were really fun to watch.
BUT, one guy did go homicidal for no apparent reason, and it's become more than one every other episode again, so I am forced to reconsider an automatic point dock for the freak, since we've had enough of the stupid punks.
BUT, given the cape and the Jonathan, I am making special exception.
4.5 out of 5.
And next week, folks, we have a bunch of poor Podunk Kansas kids who stole a bunch of wares from the set of a Vin Diesel movie. Join me next week for what I'm liking to call:
2 Pete, 2 Furious!
Alternate titles are welcome, the best published next week right here.
Good week, all in all. My anthology came out, my first paying anthology. It's called The Horror Writer's Network Presents: New Voices in Horror, and you can pick up a copy if you'd like at http://my.lulu.com/content/39138. If you do, it will help me in several ways. First, it will put money in my pocket (just a little, but a sum). Second, it will expose me to more people, because in the publishing business, it's all about numbers. How many you sell, all that. Thirdly, if it sells a lot, I can put that in queries, basically the things that allow publishers to decide whether they want to see a book you wrote or not, and an editor is more liable to look at it, particularly if a number of copies of an anthology you were in sold.
Now, that said, I have to say I'm conflicted about asking. I'm old school punk rock, myself, and I think trying to get sold is tantamount to slitting my own wrists, but I'm at the Green Day point. I'm writing, I'm being read by some wonderful fans, but unless I can sell a book, I'll probably stay about here. And there's a LOT to be said for that, and these last few years have been the happiest writing of my life because of all your support and letters. I just know that sometimes in order to affect some social change, to be a more powerful artist, it helps to be able to command an audience. So I'm being straight with you about this, and if you can help me, great. I'm still conflicted. :)
Besides, if the story sucks (and Steve, the webmaster, said he liked it) you know exactly where I am and you can yell the bejesus out of me for making you spend your money. It's fifteen bucks in book form, five bucks ebook. Five bucks. I'm poor, and I can do five bucks! :)
This week I was hit with a barrage of email, more than I'm used to, and my website got 172 hits. I don't know how to thank you all enough. I feel blessed. My point? Lotta business this week.
Eric Sherman point out that Clark lives at super speed, even when he's not using it, technically, so how do you hpynotise him against his will? It's impossible.
James Pemberton, over chat, has some good ideas...
He points out that I missed the fact that Clark just runs all the way from Metropolis to Smallville in the space of a few seconds, and no one questions it or notices it. This is a problem for Lex because Lex would ask how they were saved and know Clark arrived supernaturally fast, and Chloe would know as well. A number of people pointed that out, actually, but James was first. I'll give more credits below on that one.
He also points out that Adam not only leaves the school (as in, goodbye) and rushes back it with no warning really to save Lana, but the entire school stands by as Lana and Chloe duke it out. I mean, I've watched my share of two girl cat fights in inner city schools, but I always stepped in if it came to blows, and when it comes to murder, most people tend to as well. No one helped. There's a syndrome on this in psyche, I forget the name, where in groups people hesitate to help a victim, but I mean, come on, she was swinging an axe!
EL was the first to point out that the preview made the episode appear to be about Lana when it was about Chloe, further cementing her place as the center of the show without actually being the center of the show.
Bill Albanito also pointed out the run to Smallville, and he further was the first to point out that Jonathan hit Clark with a K rock right in front of Chloe, then Clark lobbed a bale of hay a great distance when Pa could hardly lift it, right in front of Chloe.
Felix Vasquez, a guy I write back and forth with with cool reviews (http://thebalcony.coolfreepage.com/) points out that even the Kents, in small town Kansas, would know not to open an email from someone they didn't know, what with SPAM.
JB also noticed the misleading trailer.
Gailyn Baritot had some good observations about Lana so well put I wanted to put them right here, but alas, of press, I hadn't received permission yet. Next week, perhaps. He did however point out the reason that Clark might have chosen Sherman...Sherman is a conflicted historical figure who used broad and violent ends to achieve means. As is Lex Luthor, eventually.
Also, sheesh, I got a BUNCH of mail defending Sherman because I called him a bad man. Let me explain, so I don't get more flames. Sherman and his company led a march to the coast in Atlanta and basically, despite being hated by the public, he took the state. He did so by burning all of the valuable things in the city, meaning, tearing down all structures and crippling the social structure of the populace. Now, this enabled the Civil War to be won by the Union in its own way, and it also allowed the capture of Atlanta. BUT, though history is conflicted on this, he couldn't control his men by some reports, and there were horrendous rapings, killings, and razzing of homes that were unnecessary.
Many people laud ends justify the means approaches to warfare. I don't. I didn't like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I don't like pre-emptive actions to stop a predicted end, I don't really like things like the bombing of civilian targets in Dresden. That's my thing. Let me say that I completely understand if it is YOUR thing. I'm just like Superman. I believe good and ends can be achieved without taking unnecessary life. Call me a naive idealist. I am. But that's why I stand where I stand with Sherman. He helped in a war that freed slaves, but his charges may have been party to war crimes. That's the "bad" I mentioned.
Several people have written and asked that I put a column into the KO Count. Times Lex asks Clark if he's not telling Lex something. And it's a good category, but it's also a very difficult category, because to be fair, I would have to go back and re-watch season one and find all the times he asked things along those lines there. SO, ergo, if someone wants to do that, I will gladly put them in the KO Count with a credit, but I tell you, watching the whole show in a broad sitting once a year is my absolute limit. I almost cracked last summer when I watched season one and two in a few days.
Mads Robin Kasmo, back after a while with no letters, (just kidding, Mads) writes in with a good observation. Binary language, as used by computers, is merely a quantitative sum arrived at through powers of two proceeding from whether a power is "on" or not, basically, whether it's a 1 (on) or 0 (off). So if you show a computer, programmed to read these symbols and their numerical command equivalent, a series in binary, they may be commanded to kill someone. But a human? Binary is just a series of ones and zeroes. Unless, as I suspected, Lana and Clark are merely robots. Of course, I'm crazy, and I think everyone is a robot and the world is merely a combination of monkeys holding hands under apple pie crust. But that's me.
She also cut me to the quick with the astute observation that IPs CAN be masked, but even those are traceable. Still, she points out, I was right in that the computer nerd girl could have hidden her trail if she knew ANYTHING about computers.
Scott R. Jones also noticed the hay throwing. Hay!
Arelis deserves another credit for pointing out those deeds. They're the best piece of redemption for Lana I've found yet.
Bryan noticed the hay throwing. Hay!
Keith Price noticed the run to Metropolis and brought up the lineage of Max Taylor, wondering if he's the son or grandson of the predecessor editor to Perry, George Taylor. I think it's intentional, and I smell a Loeb behind THAT one!
Not only does Clark move at super speed, making hypnosis impossible, we've already learned, through the handshake guy, and I BELIEVE Magneto that magical mind control doesn't work on him. Keith caught that one too.
Bob Tyson asserted that I was incorrect about Lionel being behind Chloe's death plot, because Somerholdt was behind the whole affair. Likely, I agree, but I have to wonder why, then, the girl computer geek was at Luthorcorp...
Steve Alexander and Chris McShane noted that the Kent email address was CNH320@..., which is the license plate for the General Lee. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HAW!
Anonymous believes that the handcuffing comment wasn't literal. I tend to agree, now, but still, it's a little odd and strained. I think the writers and the delivery are responsible for that one.
And I came up with a piece of business myself this week, on tonight's chat, which went well (after each show, west coast 9 PM, in the Superman Homepage Chat room). About five folk showed up, and I revealed the big secret I've been mentioning, the big surprise coming up...now don't you wish you were there?
Anyway, my business is that Clark is now 17. He has to be shaving. Why haven't we seen him figure that out?
And someone in the chat (sorry, I forgot who) also mentioned that we missed what could have been a cool episode, the learning to drive episode. But hey, since they were all wrecking cars at 14 anyway...
And BJ, from the chat, also brought up something I was uncertain on. Martha was going to keep working for Luthorcorp despite the danger to protect Clark, right? Did that ever get tied up? Tell me I'm forgetful. If it didn't, that's a big oops.
Mike Bowman wrote me a really nice summation of Lana in the first season, and where she did a lot of good, character proving things, so hereby, though I sort of already did, I concede Lana's character first season. Now go to it for two and three! :) Man, he came up with a lot. I wish I could list it all, but basically, Lana was pretty darned selfless first season.
AAAAAAAAAAaaaaand, I'm sorry folks, but I left four or five emails unfinished this week because I went to a William Gibson reading Tuesday night when I usually respond to most of the week's emails, so if I didn't get back to you, it's not because you suck, it's because I suck. And, well, heck, I respond to every email I get and I got 65 or so last week.
But that is NOT a complaint. Not at all. It just kills me! Two years ago, I got maybe three, four emails from readers a month, and a year ago, I got 30 hits to my website. You guys are all the best, seriously, and thank you.
Thanks beyond belief.
And when you've detatched my lips from your butts, where I insist they belong, they do, (especially the ladies, mwu ha!) go and check out the ever loving KO Count! Look, now there are 50 people close to the mains who have died in the last 3 years! And hey, it looks like Adam's the candidate for the old Double Whammy. Who knew there'd be two characters in a comic book based show to die twice? Buckeeeeeeey!
This has been 2 Neal, 2 Furious. Time for me to bounce.