The Hundred Thirty-Fifth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

It's not just the characters who enjoy racial slurs - the narrator loves getting in on the action as well!


The Hundred Thirty-Fourth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Check it out - another in my semi-infrequent series of diagrams depicting things that aren't complicated enough to require diagramming!


The Hundred Thirty-Third Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Isn't it nice that being dead hasn't kept him from enjoying the little things, such as train explosions!


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 72

Indiana Jones and the Accidental Trailblazer

It’s no surprise that half of the fun of this type of high adventure movie is watching the characters discovering lost civilizations and ancient cities. In world that’s essentially been mapped (save for the Oceans. And Thule) it’s a romantic idea to imagine that there still are mystical peaks and valleys that haven’t yet been seen by modern humanity. It's kind of hard to believe these conceits in modern-age fiction, our world of satellite topography and long-range helicopters has long since killed any notion that there could be a Shangri-la hiding in a mountain range somewhere, even something as basic as Man-Who-Would-Be-Kingistan has been debunked as pure fantasy.

This is why we love adventure films sent in the recent past. The technology and culture is familiar enough that we can easily imagine ourselves there, but the characters’ overall knowledge of the world is less depressingly complete than our own, so their willingness to chase the fantastic can seem admirable, rather than na├»vely quixotic. It’s not like this is a recent trend in fiction, either. Even Alan Quatermain was adventuring half a century before his stories were penned.

One of the key elements that make this ‘lost civilization’ storyline so compelling is the way it sidesteps our own history. Always worried about plausibility, the storyteller has to go to extreme lengths to offer an explanation for how these people have gone undiscovered by humanity and untouched by progress. There’s a certain curiosity that the horizon generates in the human mind. Who’s to say what’s just over that next ridge, deeper into the woods, or just behind that mountain range? Why couldn’t it be an ancient city built entirely out of gold?

Intellectually we know that there aren’t any mysteries left, and that, within out own experiences, we’ll never uncover something ancient and mysterious. That’s why it’s so vitally important that this discovery, when presented in adventure fiction, come at some price. If the struggle that the characters must go through in order to find the underground empire isn’t extreme, then where’s the satisfaction in the discovery?

Consider the Well of Souls in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy has to go to Nepal to track down the key to its discovery, then carefully sneak right under the Nazis’ noses in order to confirm its location. Or the final resting place of the Grail in Last Crusade – it’s established that Sean Connery spent his entire adult life looking for information about its location, and then Indy has to struggle through a setpiece in the Venice sewers to obtain the final clue.

Compare that to Indy and company’s journey to the Valley of the Plastic Prop in this film. First off, just to reiterate, he’s not discovering anything lost to history. John Hurt already did that, but he’s not a whole lot of help just now, what with him being crazy and all. So what does Indy have to do to retrace John Hurt’s steps? Does he have to decode bizarre things the man says? Not really. Find a key to decoding a map that John Hurt makes? Nope.

All he accomplishes is getting kidnapped by the Russians who place him in a convoy, which quickly turns into a chase sequence, as Indy and company find themselves racing through a suspiciously paved jungle. During this chase sequence no one is consulting any maps, or paying any particular attention to the direction they're headed in. One group wants to escape with the skull, and the other wants to stop them. Yet somehow this chase sequence terminates with the characters all arriving at a river approximately five hundred yards from the mysterious city lost to the mists of time.

How did it stay an undiscovered legend for so long? Apparently no one had bothered to walk in a straight line through the jungle before. Fancy that.


The Hundred Thirty-Second Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

This panel, like the horse featured in it, speaks for itself.


The Hundred Thirty-First Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

I think it's the sentence construction that's confusing me this time around. 'Really Was Murdered' suggests that rather than idle threats ("I'm gonna kill that ump!") someone actually killed the man. 'Was Reaaly Murdered' just brings to mind a man being killed an especially significant amount.


The Hundred Thirtieth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Before this panel I didn't know that the gong thing was a real talent show device before the Gong Show.


Criminal Minds 724: Run

When last we left the team, Emily had run into a bank just before it exploded. For no reason. Jr and the two bank robbers were in the basement, possibly sheltered from the effects of the blast. Will either of them survive? My money's on both, but I guess we'll see!

After one of those annoying audio things where the television tries to deafen me by playing a loud high-pitched whine to simulate the after-effects of a bomb blast on the inner ear, the team runs into the building to check if anyone survives. They don't let paramedics and firemen do this, once again, for no good reason.

As they enter, there's a corpse lying on the floor that I don't recognize-

That's a blonde woman in a brown or maroon dress. I'm not sure why she's there. The people who were shot inside the bank were: White Male Security Guard, Black Father, White Male Bank Manager, White Male FBI Agent, Jr. Jr's in the basement. Everyone else charged out of the bank before the blast, so whose corpse is this? I'd have to check, but I'm pretty sure she wasn't in the bank with the hostages earlier.

A search of the premises reveals another corpse, this one a black woman with long hair. She was, in fact one of the bank employees in the previous episode. I guess she just didn't bother leaving with everyone else while the place was unguarded? Why not?

Xander and Reid see footage of the explosion on Xander's computer, which causes Reid to utter the Prentiss Award-Winning line of the night

Yes, because if there's one place that a technical analyst is most likely to be helpful, it's away from his computer. Genius!

After a shot of King running away through the underground, Joe announces that this wasn't a suicide pact, but rather the bomb was meant to cover an escape. He points out that 'you don't learn explosives overnight', which doesn't have anything to do with anything - one of the members of the team is a professional criminal and murderer, and she's had over seven months to teach the other two whatever they needed to know. Also, the working theory is that they just burst a gas main to full up the main floor with gas, which doesn't actually require 'explosives training'.

Inside the bank Emily is revealed to be fine - she's discovered the elderly couple of hostages, who hid inside the bank rather than trying to escape when King left. Perhaps they've been hiding the whole time? Derek and JJ head downstairs to look for Jr, but find instead the hole in the wall that the Royal Flush gang escaped through. King manages to get to a car just outside the building and drive it away because the cops set a half-block cordon around the crime scene. I'm not sure why. He takes the precaution of driving a black SUV with police lights, but still, there should be a roadblock he has to get through, shouldn't there?

Where are Queen and Jr? I guess we'll find out after the opening credits!


The Hundred Twenty-Ninth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Do fat people not have nerves? Is this a prejudice with which I'm not familiar?


Criminal Minds 723: Hit

It's morning in the nation's capital, but the show decides to focus on a reddish sun over the captial dome, so that morning isn't an optimistic one. We cut immediately over to JJ's house, where it's her day off! She and her son say bye to Jr., who heads off to work with his partner. He's a local cop, in case anyone's forgotten.

Then we cut over to Greg, whose girlfriend drops by to spend a little time with him and his son. Gosh, this is all so bucolic that everyone's day off absolutely has to be ruined by a terrible tragedy. Thanks for the telegraphing, Criminal Minds.

Things get super-awkward at the local convention center, when Garcia and Reid, who have dressed up as two Doctors-
Run into Xander and a friend, dressed as Doctor and Amy.

Yikes. Garcia immediately cancels her plans to go inside, such is the awkwardness created by her refusal to marry Xander. During their flee they run into Joe, who was at the center for a different event (or so he claims...). No, he was clearly there for something else.

It seems it's a hotel/convention centre, and their boss is leaving after an overnight assignation, probably with Joe!

Man, this episode is packed with incident and we're not five minutes in! Are they finally just going to give us a crime-free hangout episode of Criminal Minds?

There's more hanging out, this time with Emily and Derek, who are inspecting the new house she was planning to buy. She's having second thoughts because she doesn't want to commit to anything, and Derek encourages her to waffle. Because he's sensitive!

Then the plot starts to intrude, as criminals prepare to rob a bank. We see some happy people and a mother with baby enter the bank just as things are about to go down, so this is clearly going to turn into a hostage situation. Their plan was to walk in maskless, then shoot the guard before putting their masks on. I'm not sure this is a great plan. Are they going to wipe the security system? Hopefully it doesn't record offsite...

The Royal Flush gang's scheme is going just fine when someone calls the cops - and guess whose car is just outside? Man, they'd better not kill off Josh Stewart. His brief appearances are one of the few reasons I keep watching the show. Also, the promise that Xander will turn up from time to time. This is actually a great episode for me, come to think of it.

The gang tries to leave via the side door, but find Jr and his partner waiting. The partner is shot in the head (classy, show), but Jr manages to return fire, wounding one and driving him back into the bank. Things are about to get nasty... right after the credits!


The Hundred Twenty-Eighth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

So he can tear steel asunder with his bare hands, but when under a net he needs a child to chew through the rope? Is Uncle Same just humouring the kid sidekick to make him feel useful.


Boo's rampant discontinuity!

In addition to its other flaws, Boo is notable for some incredibly prominent discontinuity. Check out this brief sequence of shots.

Now let's break it down!


Criminal Minds 722: Profiling 101

We open on Joe sitting outside, going over a list of scratched-off names - all women. The list has 40 typewritten names on it, and a 41st added in pen. Might that be significant? Greg shows up to escort the distracted Joe to some kind of a large gathering where the whole team is waiting. Joe's so flustered he has to splash water on his face first. What's making this class he's going to lecture in front of so stressful?

The team announces that they're going to be talking about what makes a serial killer. They show two women from different backgrounds and classes, saying that they couldn't be more different-

(Other than the whole thin and pretty thing, I guess)
The one thing they had in common? Crossing paths with 'the most profilic serial killer the BAU has ever seen'! Wow, so they're starting an episode talking about Frank? That's amazing! This show basically never references earlier cases, so I'm excited about the twist.

The team talks about how this killer probably grew up in a monstrously abusive household, but that people shouldn't be prejudiced against the monstrously abused, since they don't all become killers. Joe furthers his point by saying 'not all' psychopaths become killers, as if that's some kind of revelation. The vast majority of psychopaths don't become killers, Joe - you should know that.

Okay, so it turns out they were lying about the 'most prolific' thing. The killer they're talking about is still out there, and he butchers women up and down the California coast. But he's only got 40 victims so far, and Frank was well into 3 digits. Still, the team thinks this is a good case to use, although I'm not sure why, since you can't talk about someone's past definitively until you know what it is, and they apparently haven't caught this one yet. I guess we'll find out what they mean (and why Joe was freaked out) after the opening credits!


How To Ruin Your Own Movie - The Barrens Edition

The Barrens opens with an important reminder of Count Vardulon's Rule of Vacations - Don't go on one with either of the Ashmore brothers. It's not going to go well for any of you. In this case, Shawn and his girlfriend are out in the Pine Barrens, walking off the official trail when they come across a pile of torn-apart animal corpses.

Things get even more unpleasant when a mortally wounded deer bolts out of the woods and collapses right on the trail - no doubt it was fleeing from whatever left the huge pile of bodies.

Then the teaser ends with a shadow passing over the girlfriend's face as she looks up and sees something enormous flying over her head. The implication is clear - there's a monster in these woods slaughtering animals, and the two of them are next!


The Hundred Twenty-Seventh Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

War or no war, everybody likes to sleep in.


Criminal Minds Episode 721: Divining Rod

As the episode opens a man is being put to death via a firing squad. At that same moment, a woman is tied to a bed, adjacent to a mysterious figure in a cap. What do these two settings have to do with one another? I don't know yet, but I'm eager to find out! Once the firing squad has completed its work the killer decides it's time to murder his hostage - which he does with an icepick! Which seems like it would take a while. So automatic sadistic personality disorder diagnosis, right?

Over at Quantico the team is discussing Emily's plans to buy a house while walking into the meeting room - the meeting itself once again proves to be one of those get-togethers so brief that it would make more sense to have it on the way to the airstrip. It turns out the icepick stabbing of a blonde woman was the executed man (a serial killer - shocker, right?)'s M.O., so they likely have a copycat on their hands. Will they make it to Oklahoma in time to stop him from killing again?

Of course not, this is Criminal Minds, and we're only one kill in.

Man, they're not wasting any time this week - the very next scene is another blonde woman being stabbed to death, maybe a day after the last one. How can they catch a man killing so rapidly?

Let's find out together, after the opening credits!


The Hundred Twenty-Sixth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

They thought they'd gotten away. They forgot about the bomb eagle.


Criminal Minds 720: The Company

Now that was an unexpected clip package! It seems that we're coming back to Derek's missing cousin? Remember, the one the boat-board killer claimed to have murdered last season, only Derek didn't believe him, but Derek told his aunt she was dead anyhow so that she could have some peace of mind? It seems that story wasn't dead and buried after all - how will it come up this week?

As the episode begins one of Derek's sisters is driving home, stopped at a red light and leaving a message on their mother's answering machine. As she hangs up she notices her missing cousin (the one who disappeared after fleeing an abusive relationship) sitting in the passenger seat of the car next to her! How does she react to this? By trying to yell and get the woman's attention - the driver of that car bolts, and in her attempt to follow them Derek's sister's car gets hit twice! That's why you respect the red light.

Derek rushes to be by his sister's side while she's in the hospital and hears her story about seeing their cousin. Derek assures her that no, the cousin is dead - which is an odd choice, considering he doesn't believe that himself - but sister is firm in her belief. She even remembers the cousin saying 'I'm sorry' before their car made its getaway! Also, and this is the big one - if something weird wasn't going on in that car, why would it have run a red light to escape a random woman saying hello? For some reason she doesn't use that as proof, even though it's really on point.

During a call with Greg Derek comes clean about lying to his family in re: Cousin's disappearance, and Greg offers to bring the team to help look for the missing cousin. Which I suppose they have the right to do, since she was kidnapped, but certainly seems like the kind of thing that Greg would have to check with someone about before committing to be there. Also he kind of misrepresents the events of the boatman episode by saying that Derek 'deduced' that the killer hadn't murdered his cousin. This makes it seem like a feat of detective work or even profiling, when in fact the opposite is the case - it was the killer who read Derek's body language after putting down a picture the killer didn't recognize. The killer made the clever connection that Derek must have had some personal connection to the woman in the picture, and used that information to taunt Derek. By comparison Derek merely observed that unlike all of his other victims, the killer didn't know the cousin's name and personal details. Not exactly a heroic act of investigative logic, was it?

Oh, and Derek's other sister was snooping at the door, and overheard his confession.


The Hundred Twenty-Fifth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Somehow I feel like this flying tank wouldn't work at all. Not that I care in the least.


Criminal Minds 719: Heathridge Manor

The episode opens with a flashback to Heathridge Manor, way back in 1996! Which I guess is sixteen years ago, but I remember it well enough that it doesn't seem like long enough back to be the creepy past. Okay, enough about me - creepy mansion, black truck driving up on rainy night, eerie music... go!

A mother is reading to her child from a badly water-damaged storybook about a white knight battling a wizard who turned out to be the devil.

Oh, it's not water damaged, I guess, it must be a homemade storybook done with watercolours. The men in white from the local institution show up to drag mom off, who leaves the son with an insistence that he look after his sister. She quickly loses her nerve, though, and screams as she's dragged away. Hey, who's the guy who's watching from the sidelines, seated in a chair?

If that's the dad, there was quite an age difference, so I'm guessing grandpa?

Now we move to the present day, where a set of teens are exploring a mental hospital with video cameras, looking for demons - and instead they find a corpse! According to Garcia it's a teacher who went missing some time earlier. She's dressed as an old-timey lady from the storybook, with an elaborate gown and face painted white, so I guess the grown-up son is killing people to recreate the book? They know she was held somewhere else because her nails are mangled and there's limestone under them - did she try to scratch her way free through rock? Never a promising plan. A building old enough to have limestone in it would be a great lead, was the killing not in Salem, Oregon, which has plenty of elderly buildings.

Speaking of limestone, we immediately get a look at the conditions the women are held in - there's a pit in the ground with a contraption over it that dumps water in a little at a time, to torment the woman as they're slowly drowned. Classy guy, this traumatized child.


The Hundred Twenty-Fourth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Okay, as a matter of course I adore charts depicting bases and technology, but this one is noteworthy for a whole other reason beyond my nerdiness. One mistake was made when putting this image together - they laid out exactly where in the world Blackhawk Island was. This made it slightly awkward when, in 1942, the Blackhawks started working exclusively in the Pacific. That's quite a long flight.


Criminal Minds 718: Foundation

The episode opens with a family driving home from vacation, the dad is getting a little tired, so he decides to pull over and get some fresh air before something tragic happens - which will, no doubt, lead to tragedy, unless the episode is pulling a 'Doctor House'-style twist. But before we get there, quick comment - maybe my DVR didn't record the 'previously on', and I'm getting freaked out for nothing, but there was no clip package filling us in on Xander's abortive proposal to Garcia. Greg goes out on one date with a woman and there's a giant clip package about it next episode to set up her showing up at a race and meeting his son. Last episode television's cutest couple may have just broken up, and Derek did everything he could to sabotage the relationship, and there's not a peep. WTH, Criminal Minds?

Okay, where was I? Roadside! Dad goes out to stretch, and when he gets back into a car and turns on the headlights a brutally beaten and filthy teen is revealed! Ah, so they're just rescuing someone? It was a "Doctor House'-style twist after all!

The team is on the plane in the next scene, learning about the case. It seems that the teen probably escaped captivity, since he's barefoot and clearly ran through a cactus field while still wearing leg irons. Leg irons that the police decided to leave on him even after he'd arrived at the hospital.

 Was this really so important to document that you had to keep the kid in suffering until you'd taken pictures? Couldn't you have sprung the leg-irons immediately, snapped a few shots of the wounds and shackles, and assumed that would suffice? In any event, the kid's not talking yet, so they don't know who took him - or if his chance to escape came when another kid was abducted!

That's right, there's been another abduction in the area within hours of the escape. Roadblocks were set up and alerts went out, but no clues have come up. Hopefully the escaped kid will have enough information to help lead them to the basement where the latest boy is being kept!


Are the Persons of Interest made out of clay?

To celebrate tonight's return of lovable actioner 'Person of Interest', I thought I'd present this video I made, chronicling the show's bizarre relationship with biology. Suffice to say, if all the characters were revealed at the end of the show to be mummies, I wouldn't be a bit surprised. So, with no further ado, the video!


The Hundred Twenty-Third Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

That is just an excellent question.


Criminal Minds 717: I Love You, Tommy Brown(!)

The episode opens with a woman talking about her love for someone while footage plays of a teen girl sneaking out of the house to meet the boy across the street - possibly the same one from the voiceover, but on this show I take nothing for granted. Then she returns home to discover her parents executed on the floor of the living room!

Yikes! I hope the girl didn't do it and then forget. The only reason that's even on the table is because the monologue included the line that she wasn't going to let anything keep her and her paramour apart. She can't be the killer, though, since when she snuck out all the ground floor lights were doused-

And when she returned they were all on and the front door was ajar. So there's no way she's the killer - unless of course it's one of those subjective reality things, and we were watching the show from the character's point of view. I hope that isn't the case, because it always kind of feels like a cheat. Of course, they never got around to explaining how Malcolm in the middle could have possible knifed ten gangbangers to death outside of his own head, so anything goes when it comes to this show.

Also, look at that picture and take a moment to be shocked by the show's extremely misguided idea of what Seattle looks like during late February/Early March.

In Quantico Xander stops by Derek's office to announce that he's proposing to Garcia and wants some advice. Derek's oddly unhelpful, and walks to the conference room without shushing Xander up, even though he knows that Garcia is in the window-filled room, and will spot Xander following him like a confused puppy. Very passive-agressive, D.

Case time! There have been two couples murdered in their homes in the recent past - Garcia doesn't say when the first couple (multiracial and gay) were shot, but the prologue people were killed 'last night'. No sign of forced entry, no assault or robbery beyond the executions. It's unclear how the killer could have shot each one neatly in the head at point-blank range without any kind of restraints. At least we know the voiceover has nothing to do with the teen girl.

Then something confusing happens - Greg says it's 'wheels up in 30', letting us know that they're immediately headed out to work on the case. But the very next scene is of another couple being shot to death at nighttime. Is this another killing from the night before? Did the team do nothing of consequence for the whole rest of the day after arriving in town around noon? I'm puzzled.

Oh, and the killer is a blonde woman who shoots the couple with a .22 revolver while they're standing a good distance away from her in their kitchen - by no means the clean executions we were shown previously. So I guess that's just going to go unexplained. For the record, the voiceover explains that she's killing people due to her love for the titular character, one 'Tommy Brown'.


The Hundred Twenty-Second Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Nice to know that the police are in charge of that kind of thing. Seriously, though, how is possible to not adore Zero, the Ghost Detective?


Criminal Minds 716: A Family Affair

The episode opens with a 'previously on' clip package reminding us the Greg is dating someone, so we can expect to see more o that plotline. But not before we see a couple attempting to get it on in a bedroom somewhere. Attempting because the guy is in a wheelchair, and is unable to achieve an erection, which doesn't impress his prostitute. So he murders her. Yikes.

Then a breakfast date with Greg and his girlfriend, whose name I have yet to learn - nothing plotty here, so let's move on to the briefing,  where we discover that two prostitutes have been murdered recently in Atlanta! The weird part? No rapes and the bodies were clothed when dumped. So he's angry at the women, but isn't disgusted by their gender. Why could this be? Wheelchair sexual dysfunction, obviously - but the team doesn't know that yet.


The Hundred Twenty-First Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Once the criminals have been safely subdued, only then is it time to make fun of them for having black paint splashed on their faces. If those insults are racial in nature, so much the better!


Criminal Minds 715: A Thin Line

In a San Berdoo suburban housing development a woman is having trouble sleeping. Between a crying baby and snoring husband, will she ever get the rest she needs. Perhaps... eternal rest? She checks the baby monitor to see how serious the situation is, but is shocked when the camera on it (they have cameras on those now? Neat!) goes dark. It turns out power in the whole house is dead, and there's someone banging around downstairs!

The family then turns stupid, with the parents splitting up - mom hiding in the bathroom with the baby, and dad going to the older daughter's room to snag her cell phone (his is downstairs, where the thumping is coming from). Then, rather than just all heading to the bathroom to hide together, he leaves his 10-year-old daughter alone, hiding under the bed, with the responsibility to call 911 all on her while he goes off to check on his wife and other child. Even worse? He's had a gun the whole time! So why not just bring the whole family into the daughter's room and secure the door? Morons.

While the daughter is on the phone there are some screams and gunshots, then the killer enters the room, looking for another victim. Then the operator hears a gunshot and the phone goes dead. So yeah, parents? It's your fault that your whole family is dead because you couldn't be bothered to stay together and shove a dresser in front of a door.

Then, some time later, for reasons which confuse the hell out of me, we immediately cut to Derek running an FBI training exercise, letting the new people know that they're not taking their training seriously enough. Emily thinks he's being a little hard on the troops, but Derek thinks that toughness is what's going to save their lives out in the field!

Garcia then runs down the case details, and they're confusing as hell - this was the second home invasion in four days in which the entire family was killed, and the previous one happened just one block away! Wow, were those parents not vigilant enough if there had been a massacre that close just days earlier. Here's the confusing part - the killers broke in and cut the power and phone in both houses, but while one house had an old security system with bypassable wires, the other had a modern cell-based one, the service on which just happened to have to have gone into arrears, so the company wasn't listening for their signal. Of course, the killers must have known that, which is one heck of a lead.

Even more puzzling - at each house one of the criminals was killed, then the body left behind by his partner. The cops are assuming that the families killed one guy in a shootout in each case, but that seems like a hell of a coincidence - so the killer must be doing it, which means he also has to ensure that he's going into a house where the families have guns. That's a lot of research. How is he pulling this off? I'm guessing we'll find out after the opening credits!


The Hundred-Twentieth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

In context this isn't so peculiar at all. So I present it without.


Criminal Minds 714: Closing Time

In King's Beach California some graduating high school students are partying on the beach to celebrate the end of classes. A couple wanders off to be alone, and has the bad luck of heading towards the lifeguard shack from which a shadowy figure had been observing the proceedings. As they make out underneath the shack the couple notices blood dripping down through the floorboards. The man of the couple heads in to check out the source alone - because it's not like there's twenty teens armed with cell phones fifty feet away - and discovers a corpse with a mutilated groin, and what might be another two wrapped in plastic. It's kind of hard to tell.

In Virginia Greg has running with that athletic woman, and finally gets around to asking her out on a date! Good for him! Joe is encouraging, and promises to wrap their case up in time to get him back for his date, even if that means framing an innocent person for the crime! Okay, I made that last part up - but how else can you explain a 100% clearance rate and an average solve time of 30 hours after wheels down? Sounds like railroading to me!

Garcia lays out the details of the case - three dead guys, all shot in the head, genitals removed. And, as we learn in a cutaway, the killer's already murdered number 4! They talk a little about the possibility that the guy is recently out of prison, and that the lifeguard tower wasn't due to open for a month, which may well be important. I think the shack deserves a little more attention - you've got a presumably lone guy going to the trouble of lugging ~200 pound corpses into a small building with absolutely no cover around it. And it's an LA-adjacent beach, meaning that there's no time of day when you can be sure that no one's going to be wandering by. All of this conspires to make a lifeguard shack essentially the worst possible place to hide bodies, meaning they must hold some special significance to the killer. Or, you know, bad writing.

Also, and I know I say this all the time, but couldn't they be doing this on the plane? It's not like they're debating whether or not to go on the trip. Are they just shooting in the conference room so that they can justify the cost of the set?


The Hundred-Nineteenth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Can you solve this brain-teaser? If not, you can find the answer in the comments. If I remember what it was when this thing finally goes live. Apparently you cannot pre-post comments.


Criminal Minds 713: Snake Eyes

The episode opens with footage of a flurry of activity inside a casino! Will there be a murder inside one of the most-surveilled places on Earth? That would certainly be an easy one to solve, wouldn't it? So probably not. Maybe I spoke too soon - we cut to an office were a blurry man who may or may not be Dean Cain-

Beats a man to death with an award! Then he walks out onto the casino floor, using his jacket to obscure the bloodstains that cover his shirt. Irony rears its ugly head when maybe-Dean tries to hide from security guard attention by playing a slot machine, only to wind up winning! Although it's a strangely small amount. Check it-

He scored three 'Triple Stars', and according to the machine-

That combination gives a 10000-1 payoff. Wouldn't a quarter bet mean a $2500 payoff, rather than just five hundred?

We don't see how possibleDean deals with the attention, because the show immediately cuts to Penelope, who's woken by the sound of her bedazzled phone ringing off the hook. Excellent work, prop people. It's JJ on the phone, calling Penelope in on a Sunday - meanwhile, Xander is showering in the next room. Garcia explains that she's super hung over since she drank an entire bottle of wine after a fight with Xander the night before, and doesn't remember the rest of the night. Things then take a turn for the 'Penelope is a horrible person' when Xander shows up at the door, bearing flowers he bought in hopes of apologizing for the fight they had.

Garcia slams the door on his face in hopes of keeping him from seeing the shower occupant, who turns out to be Derek! This means that Penelope isn't awful after all, she's just going through another one of those wacky Three's Company-style misunderstandings that this show so rarely does. When will these crazy kids stop with all the hilarious shenanigans and just tie the knot? I'm asking only because that would theoretically give Xander more to do on the show, since he was already robbed of a spin-off. But I promised I wouldn't mention Suspect Behaviour until the end of the season, so let's move on.

The team runs down the case - a mob-connected floor manager was beaten to death in his office, and an 8 of Hearts along with 8 one-dollar bills were left around his body. The team has been called in because of the mob connection. No one mentions the fact that there's doubtless video footage of every second the killer spent in the casino, including entering and leaving the victim's office. There's plenty of time for a super-early Prentiss Award-winning line, though!

That's the opposite of true. Collateral damage is basically the worst thing that can happen to the mob, because it attracts police attention. You'd think Joe Mantegna, of all actors, would know this. Couldn't he have passed that terrible line off to someone else? Why was the line in the episode at all? Are the producers afraid that if only mobsters are in danger there will be no stakes? Wait, why am I asking that? The show already massively adjusts reality so that hookers are almost never the victims for that exact reason.

Then we cut to Dean Cain - turns out it was him, after all, calling his wife to announce that he's parlayed that five hundred dollars from the slot machine into an epic gambling run! He's leaving a message on her phone, though, so it's possible that she's dead, and that was the 'stressor' that led to the floor boss getting killed. Things then get weird when Dean - who's planning to leave the casino with his 30K - is taunted by his reflection in a bathroom mirror-

His worse nature convincing him to keep gambling? Looks like it! Also, did you notice the mistake in the picture? If not, the answer will be at the end of the review!

You know, this might be the most screenshots and video I've ever had before the opening credits of an episode. Also, is this scene set earlier? Because it's not clear if he's been gambling this whole time, and this is supposed to be happening on Sunday morning - if it is, he's going to have a hard time leaving the casino, since the cops have doubtless locked the place down, just in case the killer is still inside the building.

I guess we'll find out after the opening credits!


The Hundred-Eighteenth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

How much did our comic book characters hate Nazis? They were willing to team up with full-on racist cannibal caricatures in order to deal with them!


Coming Soon - A New Novel from Count Vardulon!

That's right, there's a new novel on the way from me, the guy who writes extensively about Criminal Minds. I've taken a break from that to put together a delicious eBook, though, and in the coming weeks you can watch this space for more information about the book's release!

For now I've got two things to offer you - the cover art:

And the title - which until this moment has been a closely guarded secret:

"King of the Ching Chong Chinamen*"
(*A literary response to Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian')

That's right, it's a satirical fantasy western! What's not to love about that? Other than the hugely offensive title, of course.

Anyhoo, stay tuned for more news about this upcoming literary event, including how to get your own copy, and be sure to click the Cow whenever you want to find out what's going on with the book!


Wow, was the film ATM stupid.

Here, broken down into categories, are things that are wrong with the film ATM.

Reality problems:

No one parks that far from an ATM. Especially at 1AM.
If it's cold enough that their lives are in danger, why can I see no one's breath?
If it's so cold, why aren't your hands in your pockets all of the time?
Why is the water so terrifying? By virtue of it not being ice it must logically be warmer than the air you've been complaining about all night. Yes, water can suck the heat right out of you, but it's less scary than -15 degree weather.
And if it's less cold than that outside, what are you complaining about?

Stupid things people do:
You saw the killer get into your car and sabotage it - how do you think you're going to be able to drive away? Just grab the purse and get out of there.
Okay, so you made your friend walk a hundred feet to the ATM just to be a dick - when you also have to go to the ATM, why aren't you driving up to it, rather than also walking 100 feet?
What woman leaves her purse in an unlocked car at 1AM? I don't care how empty the parking lot is.
How did that janitor make it past all the dead bodies and wrecked cars without becoming alarmed?
If he was alarmed, why did he lunge into the ATM kiosk without saying anything or yelling? Why didn't he say or yell anything while he was being held on the ground?
Why wasn't someone always watching for the killer? Isn't knowing where he is priority 1?
When the security guard sees a car with broken windows and people waving from inside an ATM, why does he not radio it in? Isn't the broken window alone worth a police report?
How did he miss the body lying in that pool of light?
After becoming alarmed, why does the security guard get out of his car rather than driving up to the ATM? Is this parking lot mined or something?
Why didn't the characters run out to the security guard? He has a working car, at least a club, and possibly a taser. Wouldn't running to him, waving your arms the second you see him, be your only sane choice?
The ceiling of that kiosk is not so high that you can't simply hold the burning trash can over your head. Why are you messing around with this 'climbing on shoulders' nonsense?

Here are things that had to happen for his plan to work (and why they couldn't have):
More than one person had to stop at an out-of-the-way ATM in the middle of the night - had just one person stopped, the plan falls apart. (Already a stretch.)
All of the people in the car have to go into the ATM kiosk. (This doesn't happen - people wait in the car with the motor running while someone runs in.)
Despite it being winter and freezing, none of the victims can be dressed for the weather. (Which... how?)
None of his victims can have a cell phone. Or a lighter. (As if.)
His victims have to be unwilling to physically assault him, despite the fact that he's alone and unarmed to begin with. (Why don't they do this?)
His victims have to be unwilling to simply run away since, as is established time and again, he's alone, and could only chase one of them - catching that person is not guaranteed. (Yes, one of them would have hit the tripwire, but the rest would have escaped.)
He must have laid the tripwire after the victims arrived, an activity that would have taken some time and been plainly obvious, since it necessitated standing directly under street lamps to wrap the wire around their bases. (So why didn't they see him do it?)
It has to be believable that one of the victims could have spent a half hour breaking into the back of the kiosk. (But the characters were on the ATM camera for all four hours, other than a couple of 90-second gaps when only one of them ran outside, and a thirty-second gap when one ran out to rescue another injured victim.)
For the end of the plan to work, he had to crash a car into an ATM kiosk and somehow be sure that the remaining victim inside wouldn't be hurt. (Which he absolutely couldn't be sure of.)
The police have to be immediately certain that the sole survivor they find in the kiosk is the killer, and be completely unwilling to listen to his story about the real killer, who's just a few feet away. (The cops have no evidence of his guilt, and no reason to jump to that conclusion.)

Criminal Minds 712: Unknown Subject

In Texas a woman returns home and shuts off her security system. So she cares about her safety - thought not enough to have a large dog and one of those guns that telescopes out from under your sleeve, Red Heat-style. This being Criminal Minds, those are oversights she's going to be paying for in the near future.

After she's put down her belongings and downed a glass of wine, the woman notices her vision begin to blur - she's been drugged! As maybe the smartest person to ever appear on this show, she takes immediate action: fill a glass with salt water and swallow it all, immediately inducing vomiting! It was a clever play, but apparently the drug had already taken effect, and the woman is helpless to do anything but lie on the floor and scream while a masked figure-

Enters the house, cranks some tunes, and then looms over her menacingly.

I've got to say, though - that can't be a very good security system if having a glass door shattered didn't set it off. What would be the point of even having one if someone can just put a brick through your door and steal all of your possessions? Who knows, maybe the killer is some kind of expert in disarming the things? I'm just confused about why, if he already defeated the alarm system to poison the wine, he then went back outside. Odd duck, this one.

Over in Virginia, Emily is visiting her therapist. It seems she's been having nightmares and chewing her nails since she got back on the job, and they've been working together to sort out her problems. The  therapist feels some of the residual stress might come from the fact that Emily never mourned the life she lost by faking her death. Which is a possibility, but why is she only mentioning it now, during Emily's last session? What have they been talking about for the past six months?

Garcia lays out the case - a serial rapist (not killer - yet) in Houston that they consulted on six months ago has upped his game, and they're needed on the ground to work the case. So remember, everyone, the BSU's 'profiles' don't help you catch anyone, they're only helpful actually in-town, talking to suspects.

How has the threat increased? The rapist - who scars women by binding their wrists with piano wire while keeping them so drugged they don't remember him or their attack - has begun attacking his early victims a second time! Oh, so that's how she knew to induce vomiting. It doesn't explain the lack of a large dog or wrist-gun, though. Pretty sure the Texas authorities would be cool with a rape victim having a concealed weapon. The compromised security system goes unmentioned, which is odd, since that seems like a good lead.


The Next Day: ATM Edition

For the entire length of the film ATM, the killer remains maddeningly outside of the ATM kiosk where he has trapped three yuppies on a supposedly-cold Christmas night. For most of the film this is a puzzling decision, as it seems to be born of his desire to avoid being caught on a security camera. Which is normally an understandable thing for criminals to avoid, but in this case it doesn't make the most sense, as the killer's wearing both a hooded parka and a ski mask, ensuring that his identity is well-secured.

Finally the meaning behind his baffling decision is revealed when the film asks us to believe that the killer could have successfully framed one of his surviving victims for all of his crimes. Which include three murders, a negligent homicide (at least), and extensive acts of vandalism. The film implies that the killer will get away with this solely because he never actually appears on the ATM's security camera footage.

So, what would happen the next day?

Examining the footage and listening to the survivor's story, the police would conclude that yes, they're obviously looking at video of three people who are besieged by a maniac who trapped them with a car and then tried to cause them to freeze to death by flooding the kiosk with water from a nearby firehose. There's nothing in the tapes that supports any other interpretation of the evidence, especially because the three victims are constantly looking and yelling out the windows, desperately trying to figure out what's happening to them. Not to mention the fact that none of the implements used in the film's murders have fingerprints on them, since the killer - unlike any of the three main victims - was wearing gloves.

Which would a cop more likely believe - that an unknown madman killed a bunch of people at an ATM, or that some random banker hung out in an ATM kiosk for three hours with his co-workers for no reason, then tried to flood the place before driving two separate cars into it?

Yes, the survivor would be on the hook for that janitor that the two of them killed, but given the situation (a man dressed like a murderer barged into an ATM kiosk without warning, then said nothing in his defense while being attacked in response) the most he could realistically be charged with is involuntary manslaughter, and he likely wouldn't serve any time (assuming no prior convictions).


The Hundred-Seventeenth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Getting defeated by a Nazi? Bad - Getting defeated by a female Nazi? The kind of humiliation that makes you reconsider the life choices that brought you into the field of freedom-fighting.


Criminal Minds 711: True Genius

In the San Francisco of the past, two adults are making out in a car on a ridge overlooking the Golden Gate bridge. Well, it's the past, or these are some very dedicated cosplayers, since the car is late-50s/early-60s-era and the woman is dressed to suggest the summer of love.
Is that the Zodiac killer they hear pulling up in a pickup truck behind them? Nope - red herring. The actual killer is huddled behind a bush nearby!

Okay, I was being facetious about the actual Zodiac killer showing up, but that's apparently what's happening this week! Is the team going to catch the Zodiac killer? How will that work when they've already caught their universe's Zodiac killer, the Reaper?

Also, by doing an episode about the Zodiac killer returning in the modern day, you're going to risk comparisons to 'The Mikado', probably the finest hour of television ever produced about a cop hunting a serial killer. Criminal Minds already tried to top it once, and it did not go well.

But hey, maybe second time's the charm?

Oh, and as the killer grabs some blood to paint a symbol on the car's windscreen, the radio announcer reveals that these were just committed cosplayers, since they're listening to an 'oldies' station. So is the Zodiac killer back, or is this another copycat episode?

Then we cut over to a seminar, where famous real-life author Patricia Cornwell passes the microphone over to Reid, one of the real-life 'heroes' who actually solves the kind of crime she writes about. (I had to go to Google to confirm that this was a real person - I suspected it because there's no reason to write a character/pay an actor just to introduce Reid from a podium.) Reid, Emily, and a third guy I don't recognize (the killer?!?!) are there to talk about the details of violent crime! Reid is - naturally - a terrible public speaker, and tries to start off with a joke that doesn't go at all well. He's humiliated, and leaves the auditorium in shame when he realizes that he'll never be able to talk to people easily the way Emily does, or have a large number of people adore him, the way Patricia Cornwell does. She's on the show plugging her book 'Red Mist', apparently.

As he leaves he's stopped by a student who loved his speech. Reid offers to get the student into an internship program, but the guy defers - in addition to being a student he's got a company that a pharma giant has invested a hundred million dollars into! Perhaps this young man is a genius who's turned his gifts to evil (profit, serial killing) rather than good! Although I sincerely hope he's not the killer, since that would mean the show was just going back to the Chekov/Jason Alexander well. I've had enough of killers coming up to them after seminars.

In Quantico the team gets briefed about the new Zodiac killings - they don't think it's a copycat since he left two souvenirs at the crime scene: a photo of a dead woman who may have been one of the Zodiac's victims (taken at the crime scene before the police arrived, apparently), and a piece of shirt that superficially matches the one the Zodiac killer mailed to the police after killing that cab driver! I'm with the team on this one - that's difficult stuff to fake. No wonder they're on their way to SF immediately!

The next scene reveals that it can't be the real guy, however, since this killer - in addition to keeping an elaborate Zodiac notebook, seems to have been motivated to go on a rampage by the recent engagement (or breaking of same) of one Marisa Devon to Harvey Morell. This could be a rough week for those kids - unless Harvey's the killer, of course.


The Hundred-Sixteenth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

This is your warning, bullies - never pick on those 98-pound weaklings. Best-case scenario - they hook up with Charles Atlas and you wind up getting decked. Worst-case? They meet a pair of mad scientists who transforms them into a bifurcated monstrosity.


Criminal Minds 710: The Bittersweet Science

Uh-oh, looks like we're in for another tragic week! A dumb guy calls his friend (Charles S Dutton, TV's Roc!) to share his worries. It seems the dumb guy took a kid to the hospital - possibly his son - and then stumbled outside, no longer capable of discerning fantasy from reality. The dumb guy's rantings involve him maybe beating someone to death in an alley, but he doesn't express them clearly enough to raise Dutton's concern. So Dutton merely tells the dumb guy to get some sleep since he'd had such a brutal fight earlier in the night. It seems Dutton should have listened, as right after hanging up the phone dumb guy notices that he's covered in blood! Not that he calls the police about it or anything sensible like that.

The next morning Greg is out jogging when a woman decides to hit on him! Greg is a little uncertain about calling her, but later that morning he tells Joe about the situation, so despite his reticence he must subconsciously he must feel he's ready to start dating again. After all, why else would he tell someone who would no doubt push him into calling the woman? You know, for a minute there, I was going to hypothesize what reaction he would have been subconsciously hoping for had he confided in another member of the team, but then I realized that all of them are generically super-supportive of one another, so it really wouldn't have mattered.

On to the briefing, where the team is told that tow men were beaten to death with pipes, then propped up on crates, and had their faces covered with cloths. The circumstances are bizarre enough that even with just a single clustered violent act, the team already thinks they need to be there. Which is more of an explanation than the show generally gives - remember those kidnappings they just leaped at the chance to help out with? We also get our first cheat of the night, as it's explained that the killer will likely escalate because he's clearly had a break from reality.

Based on what? He beat some people to death with pipes, then - presumably wracked with remorse - he cleaned them up and put them in seated positions. How do you get completely psychotic and degrading from that? There are fugue states, he could have done it while high on a drug and then regretted decision - it could even be a gang with a strange initiation rite. At this point there's no way you can authoritatively guess that you're dealing with a killer whose mental state is rapidly failing.

That is what they're dealing with, of course, as we learn in the next scene, where the killer contemplates his disturbing memories, showing in the form of flashbacks to a cap-and-glove wearing man beating someone do death with a pipe. But is he, in fact, the killer? We don't see any faces in the flashback, but he's obviously wearing the same clothes, so it would be a stretch if the show tried to pull a twist on us.


The Hundred-Fifteenth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

You're right, Uncle Sam - two ape-monsters fighting each other overtop of a corpse they want to eat is just like World War 2. Brilliant observation.


Criminal Minds 709: Self-fulfilling Prophecy

This week's murderfest begins - as so many do - somewhere deep in the mostly-charted wilderness of America. The Commandant of a military school drives his ATG (all-terrain-Golf Cart) out to a camp where some teens were supposed to be roughing it, only to discover this-

No, I was not prepared for it either. I'll give Criminal Minds this - from time to time they can still surprise me with a singularly unpleasant opening kill!

Over at Quantico Greg is called in to talk with his boss Strauss (who's back - no mention of the absence that was supposed to take her off the field and shift Greg into upper management this year) about the deaths. It looks like a mass suicide, but Greg won't sign off on that analysis without actually visiting the campus. This could be tricky, since the school is in the running for a prestigious grant, and the director of the FBI (Richard Schiff! Not that he'll be in the episode or anything.) went there!

It seems one teen had hung himself some weeks prior, and the rest are thought to be part of a suicide pact whose motivation and details are as yet unexplained. They talk about how the kids probably waited until the heat was off from the last death, then killed themselves when they were unsupervised. Although bringing bedsheets on a camping trip to hang yourself with seems like a lot of work to go to - couldn't they have all just synchronized hanging themselves in their rooms? And what does the 'we're sorry' message that they left carved into a piece of wood mean? Mysteries abound this week!

Also, there were six teens out in the woods, but only five were hanged - everyone wonders what happened to the sixth teen, but the audience is let in on the secret: He's taken to the trees like John Rambo, stalking animals with a pointy stick!


The Hundred-Fourteenth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

Fascinating how much public perception wavers back and forth, isn't it? In the forties, someone calling the FBI to inform on suspicious people was considered heroic. In the following decades, it would become a symbol of America's transformation into a fascist police state.

These days, I honestly don't know what we're supposed to think about it.


Criminal Minds 708: Hope

Penelope is at a support meeting, offering some backstory! It seems that her parents died in a car accident while they were out looking for her during a curfew-breaking incident. Tragic! You know who might comfort you in re: that? Xander. Where is he, I wonder? Another woman shares her story about how her depression is only getting worse, so Garcia follows her out of the meeting room for a heart-to-heart. It seems this is the anniversary of her foreshadowingly named daughter 'Hope' disappeared, and offering that is explanation enough to get Garcia to leave her alone. Once she goes back to her car she gets a much better reason to be distracted - a letter from her daughter sitting on the front seat of her car!

I'm a little unclear how the letter is supposed to have gotten to the mom if the killer didn't know it existed, but the mother is so full of... hope... that she's willing to set aside that obvious question when a mysterious man shows up, holding a few of her daughter's 'missing persons' flyers. He announces that a 'little girl' was putting them up around the parking lot, which really ought to set the mom's nerves on end. After all, are we really to believe that a child would put a set of her own missing persons fliers outside of the very church that her mother was inside without making some attempt to contact literally anyone?

Still, the mom's critical thinking faculties have atrophied to the point that she immediately agrees to the stranger's suggestion that she get into his car to search for her little girl, even though she has a vehicle of her own. One would think that two cars would be able to search for a little girl far faster than one, but if she'd thought of that, how would the killer have so easily abducted her? Also, how could the killer have known that she wouldn't have immediately called the police - sure, the letter said not to, but then he said the daughter was running around with a man. Wouldn't mom assume that her best chance for the police to rescue her is when they're out in the open?

Anyhoo, with mom now missing, it's up to Garcia to realize the game is afoot, which she does by noticing that mom's car is sitting empty in the parking lot. She does the smart thing and immediately calls for backup. It's no wonder she solves all the cases, is it?

Okay, this is strange - when I first saw the mom read the letter, it looked like she was surprised to find it in her car. Its sudden appearance, along with the flyers, could logically stun her enough that she wouldn't notice how incredibly creepy the kidnapper seemed. When we cut back to them, however, the kidnapper announces himself, and suggests that she's read the letter hundreds of times since receiving it yesterday.

So if she's had the letter for over 24-hours, how could she not know the kidnapper was circling her? And why wouldn't she be incredibly suspicious of the solicitous man who showed up, claiming to have seen her daughter? No wonder the actress played the letter-finding scene so surprised-

She was trying to fill in a plot hole.


The Hundredth-Thirteenth Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

(click to bigify!)

Ah, what would a vicious beating be without a racist taunt capping it off?

Really, I suppose we should thank our lucky stars he didn't say 'Excuse Prease'.


Superman: Earth One

Is a bit of an odd graphic novel, largely because it's unclear (at first) what purpose it's intended to serve. Joe Michael Stracynski (JMS from here on out, if I have to use the name again) was writing both Wonder Woman and Superman around the time this was released, but it's not connected to their continuity. It doesn't really function as an 'Elseworlds' title either, since it offers no twist larger than 'what if Superman were 22 in the year 2010, meaning that Krypton exploded roughly around 1987-8, and who could really blame them after all The Quest for Peace did to tarnish the name of their favorite son?' to serve as a basis for the plot.

Finishing the book, I couldn't understand why it had been published - while a fun reboot/reimaginement of the character, it seemed to serve as more of a tease than anything else. The story is built around giving the Superman mythos a race of villains - the denizens of Krypton's neighbouring planet, who are half-angel/half-demon - and establishing a central mystery: who gave those villains the technology to blow up Krypton? More importantly, why was that third party so intent of seeing every Kryptonian destroyed, to the extent that they would send the Demgels on a 20-year quest to track Superman down?

It's a good hook, and leaves the reader wanting more, which is a shame, since there isn't any more to the story. It was only a few days after reading the comic that I realized why the whole experience was so dissatisfying - despite all appearances, I hadn't been reading a comic book at all, but rather the comic book adaptation of JMS' pitch for the new Superman movie. Add a few more scenes of the Daily planet gang, some sequences of Superman stopping general crime (perhaps rescuing a kitten), and a bit more of an epilogue and you've got a perfect jumping-off point for a new movie franchise.

Which is why I'm so disappointed to discover that it's just not going to happen. No, with David Goyer and Christopher Nolan teaming up to deliver a (no-doubt overlong) script for director Zack Snyder to ruin, it looks like the new Superman movie is shaping up to be a stunning disappointment. I like Michael Shannon and all, but who really thinks that making another movie about General Zod is going to be a winner? Is he somehow going to out-Zod Terrence Stamp?

Okay, enough general complaining - it's a tragedy JMS didn't get the Superman movie despite his doing such a great job with Thor, but in the end, I kind of understand it, since the climactic threat - a series of drills positioned over the Earth's surface, might have been a little too close to the ending of the new Star Trek movie for the studio's comfort.

Hey, speaking of those drills, here's the one thing I really had a problem with in the comic!

First off, isn't it convenient that the optimal place for positioning drills to contain/destroy the Earth's core is near incredibly recognizable national landmarks? Secondly, why is there a drill in both Egypt and 'Africa'? Especially when the dunes and camels are offered as stereotypical 'Saharan' imagery, which Egypt is actually inside of? Couldn't they have dropped one on the Sydney Opera house? By that Statue of Jesus in Rio? Near the camp that MacReady wrecked to kill The Thing in Antarctica?

You only have six images to represent the entire world that Superman can apparently sense, and you can't pick a single one from the southern hemisphere? Weak, JMS. It's called Easter Island, and it's every bit as recognizable as the Eiffel tower.

Superman debates The Authority, and it doesn't go well for him.

Superman vs. The Elite begins with writer Joe Kelley asking an interesting question: What if Superman's non-interventive, no-murder morality were held up against that of The Authority, who are happy to use their powers to kill people who they identify as morally corrupt (largely because those villains make ethnic cleansing their trade). Would the world value Superman's endless optimism, even when people have to be sacrificed to it, or would they side with a group who would rather just kill Lex Luthor and call it a day?

It's a debate that could open up all sorts of possibilities for interesting storytelling, if only Joe Kelley had the slightest bit of interest in exploring them. He doesn't, though. Instead of making an impassioned case for Superman's point of view, he simply makes The Authority (pseudonimized as 'The Elite' for purposes of lawsuit-avoidance) simplistic villains so that their way can't be taken seriously as an option.

Am I being too harsh in saying that Joe Kelley uses hack writing to undercut his own characters so that they won't ever be a legitimate threat to Superman's ideals? You tell me. Here is literally the first thing we see them do as a team:

They kill a dog. For barking at them.

Because, you see, only monstrous psychopaths could ever consider killing a supervillain as a solution. Monstrous psychopaths like Barry Allen.

The problem with the movie - and why I'm being so hard on the writer (although who knows how much of this is his fault, I haven't read the comic he adapted this from - although he's the writer of that, too...) - is that the movie completely fails to make Superman look like the good guy. I mentioned earlier that it fails to make an impassioned case for Superman's morality, but that's not entirely accurate - it fails to make any case at all.

This is the Atomic Skull. The film introduces him as he walks through downtown Metropolis, killing anyone who gets within arm's reach. For no reason other than he likes seeing people die. Superman jails him in 'Stryker's Island', but he escapes soon after, killing at least fifty more people. At that point the Elite announce that they've had enough of the supervillain's nonsense, and explode his head, ensuring that he'll never again escape from prison and murder dozens of people.