Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Commercial Breakdown With Jimmy Carr
11x02 (22/6/08 edition)

Doctor Who [classic]
26x12 Survival Part One [3rd watch]
26x13 Survival Part Two [3rd watch]
26x14 Survival Part Three [3rd watch; season finale]
See here for my thoughts on this story.

Wimbledon 2008
Bits of Andy Murray vs Fabrice Santoro


Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: The Dragon King by Trevor Baxendale
See here for my thoughts on this book.

Heat Guy J by Chiaki Ogishima; Kazuki Akane, Nobeteru Yuki & Satelight
Chapter 1 (pages 32-66)
Chapters 2 & 3

Preacher: Dead or Alive by Glen Fabry
A general flick through this collected volume of all the Preacher covers, with comments from Fabry and series writer Garth Ennis.

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Chapter I
Under the Hood by Hollis Mason I & II
Chapter II
Under the Hood by Hollis Mason III & IV
See here for my thoughts on these chapters of Watchmen.


Incesticide by Nirvana

"Watchmen" by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons - Chapters I & II

Watchmen is the graphic novel: it's widely credited with revolutionising the comics industry in the '80s (leading to such seminal works as The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, the primary inspiration for the massively successful Batman Begins); it's written by Alan Moore, probably the most prolifically praised writer in the medium; the art is by Dave Gibbons, another high-profile creator; and it was the only graphic novel to appear on Time's list of the 100 greatest English language novels published since the magazine's inception. With the millennial resurgence in popularity of the comic book movie -- kicked off by 2000's X-Men, reaching new heights with Spider-Man, continuing this year with Iron Man, and showing no signs of going away soon -- the time is more than ripe for the long-mooted film adaptation of Watchmen to finally hit our screens. Its release is still 9 months off, but I thought I'd get a jump start on all those who will finally, shame-facedly, read the original graphic novel when hype kicks in next year, and read it now.

Yes, you interpreted that sentence right: this is my first time reading Watchmen.

Thankfully, so far at least, it's brilliant. And it's brilliant in the sort of non-flashy way that means it stays with you and undoubtedly continues to reward, at a level beyond moving from one pretty or exciting panel to the next. Which isn't to say Dave Gibbons' art isn't impressive, because it is, fitting the tone of the story perfectly -- realistic, but with the sort of gaudy neon colours that fans would deride so much in Batman & Robin (one suspects they work better on the page than in Real Life). There's even the odd splash panel, though these are rarely of exciting fight moments and more often punctuating dramatic scenes. The regular pattern of panels -- a hallmark of something written by Moore, it seems to me -- keep things clear and filmic, even if they're rarely the same shape as a film frame.

This is one thing that sometimes bothers me about Moore's style, actually: for a writer so vehemently opposed to film adaptations of his work, he uses a hell of a lot of filmic 'shots' and transitions. They work on the page too, but they're effects that originally come from film and, truth be told, they work even better there. For example, Chapter II focuses on flashbacks to memories of the Comedian. The structural brilliance of this chapter (both within itself and as part of the larger story) aside, Moore transitions into and out of these by replicating a dissolve from the character in an identical pose in the past and present, by placing two similar/identical panels (one present, one past, and vice versa at the end) side-by-side -- it's a very visual technique, consequently hard to explain but very clear when seen! But it's also a very filmic one, which does work better when there's an actual dissolve rather than just consecutive panels.

On a similar note, for a writer so highly praised for his originality and revolutionising of the industry, Moore re-uses an awful lot of the same tropes and tricks, both in the visuals he writes and the plot points within. I expect many of them originate in Watchmen and its in his other books that he's repeating himself, but in reading this close after two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books (Black Dossier and, before this blog began, Volume II) the similarities are all the more apparent. Nonetheless, if one can place aside the feeling they've read it all before (not a problem if you've not read other Moore books; and, outside of his work, similarities are undoubtedly copied from this), his plot points and imagery are all very effective.

There's a lot to love in Watchmen, even after just two chapters of twelve -- it is, relatively speaking, quite long, which I suspect allows Moore to explore what he wants in a suitable level of depth; even after these two there's a lot to mull over. I don't want to reel off to much because I'd hate to spoil it if you haven't read it. Suffice to say, on the evidence of this opening, it's living up to my expectations. I can see why a film adaptation worries fans (a miniseries would seem to allow the right amount of space), and perhaps I should have joined the masses who'll read the book after the film -- that's usually my rule with adaptations, as that way round you tend to enjoy both more. You can wait to be one of them, or you can get it now, but either way I'm going to echo everyone else (ever, it seems) and say that, if you have the remotest interest in this sort of storytelling, you need to read this.

Pretty strong after just a sixth of the story.

"Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: The Dragon King" by Trevor Baxendale

It's nearly over now -- The Dragon King is the penultimate book (to date) in the Doctor Who: Decide Your Destiny series of gamebooks. It's penned by regular Who author Trevor Baxendale, who also wrote the series' sixth book, War of the Robots. I had a mixed experience with his previous effort, initially being shuttled along with minimal choice, though a re-read revealed better plotlines. Fortunately Dragon King has less of the former, though I'm not sure of the latter. This time "your journey takes you to the planet Elanden, where people live side by side with dragons. But hunters from a neighbouring planet are attacking... Can you restore peace to these two clashing worlds?" Ooh, fantasy-y.

Like his previous book, Baxendale's new effort is a mixed bag. There's no plot to speak of, at least on the path I followed (could I have been unlucky enough to stumble onto the one poor plot thread in both of Baxendale's books?), and the ending was utterly lacklustre -- after pointlessly running up a volcano and then running away from some dragons, I stumbled across a dragon graveyard where the spirit of a dragon plonked the TARDIS down in front of me and that was it! I certainly never encountered "hunters from a neighbouring planet" -- mentioning them in the blurb when there's at least one route on which you don't even encounter them seems a bit much, but maybe no one realised you could avoid them entirely. Consequently, I do feel like I've fallen into the unlikely trap of hitting the weak plot thread twice over!

Some of the choices certainly suggest a variety of other paths -- the TARDIS can materialise in a couple of different locations, or you can choose to encounter a spaceship instead of a dragon (presumably the dragons turn up later after that choice) -- and there are an impressive eleven endings, so maybe I just got the rubbish one! The choices you make are a mixed bag, with most being genuine while others choosing what the Doctor will do, or, as with the spaceship-or-dragon one, making you choose story points.

The thread I followed in The Dragon King was plot-free and a tad weak, but the variety of others suggest I can't condemn the book fully. I wasn't that impressed, but by the same token the fact I seem to have missed noteworthy things on other paths (rather than just similar alternatives) means it's the Decide Your Destiny book that I'm most likely to re-read. In that respect it's value for money at least.

Days til New York...


For a full explanation, please see the start of the countdown.