Saturday, October 15, 2016

Nick Travers Vol. 1: Last Fair Deal Gone Down by Ace Atkins and Marco Finnegan

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 9:00 A.M.

Like a rediscovered piece of music, the short story that led to this graphic novel has an interesting history: My late friend David Thompson published it in Busted Flush Press's 2009 reprint of Crossroad Blues—Ace Atkins' 1998 first novel featuring blues historian and former New Orleans Saint Nick Travers—and it garnered 2010 Best Short Story Edgar®, Macavity, and Anthony nominations. However, Atkins wrote the story in 1996, so it can also be seen as introducing Travers.

At Christimastime, Nick gets to the truth behind the apparent suicide of a sax player friend. Marco Finnegan's artwork is large and striking and reminds me of Darwyn Cooke's graphic adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novels. In the book's introduction, Atkins recalls meeting Finnegan via sketches Marco shared on Twitter. I was following Ace at the time, so part of the fun of this book is having looked on as it came together.

I was not aware of the story's publication history before I read the introduction, but I'd been friends with David since 2006. Along with bringing Nick Travers back to life, this graphic novel reminded me how much David championed material he believed in.

Sure to win fans for Atkins, Finnegan, and 12-Gauge Comics.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Big Day

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 4:00 A.M.

Now a couple years past forty, I'd like to have done more, but it's okay I haven't. My birthday never fails to remind me to appreciate life. Being here, doing stuff I like doing, means more in the moment than how much stuff I get done. At least that's what I'm telling myself this year.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Marvel's Luke Cage on Netflix

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 6:00 A.M.

Mike Colter reprises his Jessica Jones role of tough-skinned Luke Cage for Cage's own 13-episode series leading up to next years Defenders event. Written and produced by Cheo Hodari Coker (Southland, NCIS: Los Angeles. Almost Human, Ray Donovan), the show has instant street cred, distinguishing itself from the more fantastic Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Looking to keep his strength mostly secret, Cage works at beloved Pop's barbershop and fills in for a friend tending bar at Harlem's Paradise nightclub.

Club owner crime boss Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes (Mahershala Ali) isn't pitted against Cage to begin with, thanks to their mutual respect for Pop. The balance is tipped when two of Cottonmouth's employees try to rob him. One of them, Chico, seeks refuge at Pop's, but the man Cottonmouth sends to kill him goes overboard, shooting up the entire shop. Luke is able to shield Chico, but Pop is killed.

Like Jessica Jones and Daredevil Season 2, Luke Cage runs into pacing problems. Episode 4 unnecessarily goes into the backstory of how Luke got his powers in prison, and yet Luke's showdown with Cottonmouth results in Cottonmouth being arrested by Episode 6, at which point I double-checked that there were thirteen episodes in all.

In the second half, Luke's old nemesis, Willis Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey), reemerges with armor-piercing bullets, one of Justin Hammer's knockoff Iron Man suits, and a penchant for melodramatically quoting the Bible to justify himself. By the end, new masterminds rise to power, and Cage decides it's time to answer for his criminal record. Sorry to spoil that, but I think it's a flaw in most of today's gritter takes on superheroes. The point of superhero stories is that good still overcomes evil and wins. Dress your story in so much grit that you fail to make that point, and your story fails. In a world as naturally gritty as Cage's, it's even more important to show that good wins. I didn't want to wait for next season or The Defenders to see it.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gary Glasberg dies at 50

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 4:30 A.M.

NCIS showrunner since 2011, Gary Glasberg died unexpectedly in his sleep yesterday. Along with his work on NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans, I'll remember him for Crossing Jordan, Bones, and Shark. By all accounts, he was a kind, insightful, good-humored man. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

CBS's MacGyver: "The Rising"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 5:30 A.M.

Over the years, there have been many rumors and at least two unaired pilots attempting to reboot the 1985–92 classic MacGyver. The version that finally aired on CBS last night comes from Peter Lenkov, who previously helped reboot Hawaii Five-0 to six seasons and counting of moderate success.

Exec-produced by Lee David Zlotoff and Henry Winkler, the new MacGyver shows some of the ol' heart, even if Mac's supporting cast has been tweaked: Meet Jack Dalton (George Eads), Mac's gun-toting, ex-Delta operator backup; and the boss, Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt).

The pilot sees MacGyver infiltrate a Lake Como party in search of a biological weapon for sale. The mission goes sideways, and Mac is forced to hand over the weapon only to see his analyst girlfriend, Nikki Carpenter (Tracy Spiridakos), shot.

After three months recovery, Mac and Jack go after the bio-weapon again, recruiting new analyst Riley (Tristin Mays) out of prison. I've buried the lede long enough: Does Lucas Till pull off MacGyver? I'd say so, most importantly Mac's sheer earnestness that inspires characters like Riley, who have even a shred of decency, to do the right thing.

I'll generalize my criticism: the show overloaded me with information, from Mac's voiceover to pop-up text telling me what Mac saw that he could use, e.g. paper clip, light bulb filament, etc. This isn't an irreparable problem. The voiceover waned in later seasons of the classic.

Tellingly, the new MacGyver was scheduled in the little-watched Friday 8:00 P.M. slot—Firefly, anyone?—but I've got nothing better to do the next few Fridays.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

FOX's Lethal Weapon

Matt Miller (of ABC's Forever and NBC's Chuck) is behind the TV adaptation of the Lethal Weapon franchise. The characters are tweaked in ways that seem minor in the pilot: TV's Riggs is a Texan former Navy SEAL whose dead wife is named Miranda. Feature film Riggs was Army Special Forces with a dead wife named Victoria.

Clayne Crawford as Riggs and Damon Wayans as Murtaugh aren't Gibson and Glover, but they are likable enough for me. I had previously seen Crawford on NCIS: New Orleans as LaSalle's bipolar brother, Cade.

Just as the Lethal Weapon movies remain a cut above the Rush Hour movies, TV's Lethal has an edge on CBS's Rush Hour, canceled last season. Its challenge is balancing breakneck action scenes and more leisured scenes, such as those with the Murtaugh family.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bull: "The Necklace"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 9:15 A.M.

I ought to like Bull, the show Michael Weatherly left NCIS for. It has shades of several shows I've liked, three in particular: House, Shark, and Lie to Me. Weatherly plays psychologist and jury analyst Jason Bull, loosely based on Dr. Phil McGraw. In a nutshell, Bull reads people as uncannily well as House diagnosed medical mysteries. He also manipulates them to achieve his ends, more than a little creepy.

It's as early as can be to react to a series, but I worry that playing the mysterious, commanding role of Bull won't allow Michael Weatherly's spontaneous humor to show, the gift that fueled Anthony DiNozzo for thirteen seasons. If I'm right about that, I'm going to have to find reasons to like Bull besides Weatherly. Time will tell if any emerge.

NCIS New Orleans: "Aftershocks"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 5:15 A.M.

Now sooner does Pride's team return from forced leave in the aftermath of John Russo's terror plot do they have to deal with a sniper later discovered to be targeting Russo's accomplices.

A good deal of the episode's emotional weight came from Brody's offscreen decision to quit NCIS, which didn't sit well with Pride and the others. Percy especially saw it as Brody retreating when she was needed most. I might have swallowed it better myself if Zoe McLellan had been in any scenes. Most believable would have been a cold, practical, executive decision to drop Brody due to her involvement with Russo. I have to say, like her debut, Brody's departure was somewhat mishandled.

As bad as I feel about that, if the writers felt the show could do better with a change of character, they had to go that route. I'm onboard to see how Vanessa Ferlito's FBI agent Tammy Gregorio develops and how Season 3 unfolds.

NCIS: "Rogue"

© by Gerald So | G_SO at YAHOO dot COM | 4:45 A.M.

NCIS's fourteenth season—its first post-DiNozzo—began with a military family being car-bombed due to their relation to NCIS Special Agent Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), whose deep cover has been blown. Meanwhile, Gibbs's rejection of eight agents sent to replace Tony draws out FLETC instructor Alex Quinn (Jennifer Esposito), whom he may have wanted as Tony's replacement all along.

Since Michael Weatherly's January announcement of his departure, I'd been wondering how well NCIS would compensate for the humor and physicality Tony brought to the table. I've liked Jennifer Esposito since Spin City. As Quinn, she has a lot to teach McGee and Bishop, yet still a few things to learn from Gibbs. Torres strikes me as close to Shane Brennan's original vision of Callen in the Season 6 two-parter "Legend", but better executed out of the box.

The episode's most powerful scene was a physical confrontation between Torres—who wanted to go out of NCIS bounds to get revenge for his family—and Gibbs—who gained little if anything from his own act of vengeance.

NCIS can still deliver the goods, including an appearance by now-Captain Bud Roberts (Patrick Labyorteaux), one of the victims' JAG colleagues. In fact, Bud almost tells McGee what Rabb and Mackenzie are up to before Quinn brings him back on point.