Secret Wars Agents of Atlas #1 Review

Of course on Battle World, almost everyone has “Kill Doom” on their bucket list. That motivation has made the vast majority of Secret Wars very hit or miss, but mostly miss. That’s fine for a few of the series, but sometimes a series embraces its messed up world and its adventure takes place largely in spite of Doom being god. Agents of Atlas does it in what might be the most refreshing way possible: a fairly simple rescue mission.

Synopsis

The book opens with a brief description of Baron Zemo who rules Metropolita with a ruthless iron fist. SHIELD acts as his bludgeon, and the Agents of Atlas is the only group who stands against him in any significant way. Gorilla Man has a meeting with agent Coulson because Johnny Woo (leader of the Agents) is missing. Turns out SHIELD isn’t the bludgeon the Agents thought they were, and off they go looking for Woo. As a plot, it’s pretty simple. So, what gives it it’s A+? As far as I’m concerned, there are three things: the art, the quirk, and the tightness of the narrative.

Art

Steve Pugh handles the art. I know him most memorably from Generation X (Marvel’s most underrated book IMHO), though his CBDB reads like a good portion of the comic book reading public’s “best of” lists. His art is clean, and expressive and makes good use of heavy lines. Those seem like such basic comic-art requirements, but Secret Wars has been overwhelmingly plagued by some low-rent looking art. But, in a single panel, we don’t even need the caption to see the looks of absolute haunted trauma.

Secret wars agents of atlas 2

He captures reactions and subtle details of non-human characters as well. It’s not really a ground breaking skill, but it’s nice to be able to interpret emotions via faces without having to rely on story cues (looking at you, Mike Land). I mean, ultimately, Pugh isn’t the best artist, or even the best artist of Secret Wars, but his clear, crisp art is.

Quirk

The story is full of quirk, both inherent to the concept of Atlas, and playing within the bounds of Marvel. Just for eyeball’s sake, (most of) our heroes:

agents of atlas 1 potw

Gorilla Man: a man turned gorilla through a curse, and whoever kills him inherits the curse
Marvel Boy: alien royalty psychically bonded to a UFO (not pictured)
Namora: cousin to the ruler of an underwater kingdom
M-11: a robot riddled with some pretty faulty programming.

Not pictured are Jimmy Woo — Chinese American secret agent; and Venus — a living siren acting as goddess. I mean, really, the team cries out for a Morrison run. If there’s anyone out there who can incept that idea in his brain, then by all means, please do. For the sake of the world.

The weirdness doesn’t end there either. I mean, Baron’s making these:

Secret wars agents of atlas 1

And I don’t care about spoilers, but there’s some weirdness with Baron’s sun that’s too delightful for me not to want you to discover it on your own.

Narrative

I think the best thing about this, like the Silver Surfer stories, and “Pax Romana” is that not a single word or panel is wasted. The story is so tight and fast paced. Every element feeds just perfectly into the next, and all the tension is character driven: because Gorilla Man is so good, they hunt for Jimmy Woo; the story resolves in part because M-11 is able to overcome his faulty programming. Zemo’s evil is the result of a very flawed search. But the action feels purposeful and fast and inventive, and you can’t wait to see what comes next. I mean, u guys…

Secret wars agents of atlas 3
I frequently think that Marvel tries to steer away from the weird and nonconformist sometimes because now they’re owned by Disney, and as such, their entire survival depends on being accessible, non-alienating, and recognizable. It just feels like genuine fresh air to see something so unique.

Rick and Morty: Season Finale Review

Alright guys. Hey guys. Look: I know we haven’t reviewed any Rick and Morty, That’s not for lack of desire, it’s for lack of time, alright guys? You know what I mean when I say, when I say I haven’t had any time? Yeah, while you guys have been bleep bloopin your blip blops, I’ve been busy working, and being a parent, and, like, dealing with a sick toddler, AND a sick wife. You know what that’s like? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

So, when I say that I just finished — just. finished. — the season two finale and couldn’t help but write something about it, you know how serious it is. And because this is Rick and Morty, and it’s a grown up cartoon for grown up people, I’ve gotta invoke the principles behind this gif:

Rick and Morty sensitive

That means if I spoil it, you’ve gotta put on your big boy (or girl, I don’t discriminate) plague mask and deal with it. Alright? Good.

So, my theory of Rick and Morty is that it’s a philosophical pessimism tragicomedy space opera. Always has been, always will be. And if you don’t know what I mean by “philosophical pessimism,” go watch True Detective (just the first season? Apparently?) and get yourself educated. Jesus. I can’t be responsible for every little fragment of your life.

The problem with philosophical pessimism is that it isn’t really fit for human consumption. The only ways we have to deal with it are to detach from reality in a psychotic way, drink ourselves into a stupor, or recognize that we only have a limited amount of time and space while we hurdle through this stupid universe, and your best bet is to try to game the system while you’re here. The problem, though, is as living creatures, our very cells and chemicals predispose us toward wanting to live, and admiring life. See that baby? Here, have some dopamine, says our brain. Oh, you liked those strawberries did you? Here’s some dopamine. Yeah, you like how running three times a week lowers your bad cholesterol  and prevents heart disease? Dopamine. On the house. Our brain is a life chemical pusher, and our bodies are junkies.

We see all this in Rick Sanchez. And we see it all culminate.

The episode centers around this.https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/yGRtQ0P.gif

Bird Person’s wedding, in which he gets shot by his bride, Tammy, who turns out to be working for the Galactic Federation. They don’t like Rick, or Bird Person, or most of the people at the wedding, and the hunt is on. But Rick knows, all things being equal, the universe is an equally horrible place no matter where you go, but he doesn’t want to get caught. Three worlds sport the kind of life they want, but they have their own issues. The first one:https://i1.wp.com/i.imgur.com/dsBfWRL.gif

And I don’t even have to communicate to you the dangers of a cob based planet.

The second, which speaks for itself:

https://i0.wp.com/i.imgur.com/3svsfQ0.gif

The planet they end up occupying? I mean, it’s not terrible, but they did hunt the pig to extinction for breakfast.

morty planet
Uh, 20 yards that way, or, y’know, 300 yards the other way.

And that’s where Rick’s self serving pessimism hits the wall. The only way for his family to be happy is for him to be absent. So that’s what he becomes.

And then that music? Damn, girl.

So what do you think happens next, huh? Oooooeeee!

My prediction is a definitive and nearly irreversible schism between Jerry and his family as the rest of the family attempts to rescue Rick. And Jerry? Since he’s all about that positive reinforcement and he just got a job (an intergalactic government job even), and he’s going to feel the need to be loyal to the alpha dogs in his world. OOOOOEEEEE! Gonna be family versus family you think? Huh? OOOOOOEEEEE! Wubalubdubdubs!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek: the Motion Picture

I think this was the first movie I ever watched recognizing it as science fiction. It’s an intensely boring movie by most people’s estimates, but for some reason, it grabbed ahold of my curiosity as a five year old and still hasn’t let go.

1

Ever since I was a kid, the kind of movies that let me know my place in the universe was small and dwarfed by the more mundane concerns of the rest of the universe has always appealed to me and triggered my sense of wonder. This is compounded by the fact that, as it turns out, the solar system sized robot is a child looking for its father.

The movie excels at its portrayal of mind bending alienness: a machine of unimaginable proportions wrapped in some kind of defensive cloud of also unimaginable proportions communicating on wavelengths simultaneously too advanced and too archaic. It simply wants information and a greeting, but this being millions of miles in length doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, and that’s lethal for those around it.

2
They don’t know it yet, but these birds of prey are about to be cornholed. Cornholed, cornholed, cornholed.

Our best human qualities are the only things that can stand being this close to this particular fire. They are best represented in the dual opposites of Ilia, the Deltan, and Spock, the Vulcan.

Ilia Represents sexuality and perfect empathy
Ilia Represents sexuality and perfect empathy
Spock represent celibacy and perfect intellect
Spock represent celibacy and perfect intellect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roddenberry’s possible sexism aside, it’s Ilia’s perfect empathy, and her feelings that overcome the V’Ger (the unspeakable galactic monstrosity) programming, ultimately allowing the crew to resolve the drama of the whole movie. It is Spock’s indomitable curiosity that discovers the ultimate truth of what V’Ger is. The best parts of what being a human has to offer is represented here in these characters, and any foray into the unknown without either vital part is doomed to fail. But…

I never noticed this before, but Spock’s near slavish adherence to logic, reason, research, and his curiosity makes him a duplicitous character at times. In the course of the movie, he is warned repeatedly about risking the ship and its crew in the pursuit of knowledge. Eventually, he schemes his way into a flight suit and out of an airlock.

5

This puts everyone else in a difficult position: ultimately this kind of curiosity pays off and paves the way for ultimate resolution, but it means that intelligence ultimately believes in the rightness of its conviction regardless of what convention and authority say. So, how much do you trust the intelligence of those around you? Every great advance within culture and society is abhorred by the structures preceding it.

The movie resolves in a case study of chaos theory. Knowledge of a largely symbolic gesture nearly 300 years earlier proves to be the only thing to subdue this angry toddler of a Lovecraftian monstrosity.

6

Spock, in his psychedelic light trip through the guts of this mechanical creature discovers an entirely different galaxy populated by machines whose minds are so vast and alien and old as to be incomprehensible to his capable Vulcan brain. Shooting into this unknowable landscape comes our fragile ancient Voyager satellite with its inscription about a creator. A religion is made, and a timid toddler (by the scope of machines) granted a shaky kind of sentience sets out in pursuit of the creator. His only hope is to be reunited in eternity with the creator. Even machines suffer delusion.

After diligent research, the crew finds the return codes for the satellite, and it is satisfied in having found god. But, god must come with it. It must join with god and carry this experience home. It won’t leave unless the creator comes too.

7

Earlier in the movie, V’ger steals Ilia – her mind being most receptive to the kind of machine magic necessary for his work – and makes a perfect mechanical copy of her to investigate the Enterprise. V’ger, perhaps showing his mechanical privilege, believes the Enterprise to be the sentient being, and the humans to be invasive parasites. It’s Decker’s (above) gentle persistence and constant reminders at the relationship he and Ilia shared that overcomes the mechanical duplicate’s programming. And it’s Decker’s love for Ilia that allows him to sacrifice himself and return with the Ilia-unit and V’ger to an unknown home world. The movie closes with Kirk’s observation that we’ve witnessed the creation of a new lifeform.

8
Just in case you were curious what that new life was

 

 

 

Grant Morrison to take Editor-In-Chief Chair at ‘Heavy Metal’ Magazine

Heavy Metal is one of those magazines that I’ve definitely gotten a cultural contact high off – I’ve seen the 70’s animated movie, own probably 28 things with Frazetta’s art on it, as well as exposure to artists like Mobius and H.R. Geiger – but a magazine I’ve never actually opened.

But starting in 2016, comic book superstar Grant Morrison will be taking over as editor-in-chief for Heavy Metal magazine. I think it’s an intelligent move; Morrison’s earliest gigs were with 2000 A.D., whose own magazine is very Heavy Metal flavored. Plus, I’m willing to bet the current owners (no one you’ve heard of) are banking on Morrison’s unending popularity to super inject their magazine with new found relevance. I’m thinking it’ll work.

I love Morrison’s punk rock attitude toward comics, and am legitimately looking forward to the opportunity to crack open a Morrison edited issue.

Source: EW

Community Review – “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” S6E13

How do you even write about the final episode of the sixth season? Being the show that it is, every season after its second was assumed to be its last. In an almost emotionally-debilitating way, this show has given its fans more closure in its finales than you get from probably any other show, and more than we’ll ever get from Firefly (unless you read the comics. What are you doing if you don’t read the comics?), Carnivale, and Wonderfalls – just to name a few of my favorites. I mean, if you’re reading this, I don’t have to tell you what it’s like being a fan of this show and the kind of emotional toll it exacts in a way few other shows do.

But there is hope. If you listen to Harmontown (WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING TO HARMONTOWN? HUH? ADRIAN?), or the final words of this episode’s ending gag, Yahoo! freakin’ loves Community. It gets huge views, and it’s doing for Yahoo! what it never seemed to be able to do for itself once Google appeared – primarily name recognition and a sense of loyalty. One of the Yahoo! producers recently said that they aren’t eager to let go of Community any time soon. Plus, how about that ending card?

I know I’ve gotta actually start this review, but where to start? I mean, did you see that?

Pros:

Dean-Nouncements:This is one of my favorite gags from older seasons that seemed to have mostly vanished as the show got more abstract and experimental. But as a season finale set piece, it’s an amazingly smart piece of callback from earlier seasons to automatically generate a sense of nostalgia.

Silly Dean-fits: This whole segment where the group seems utterly flummoxed at the idea that Community, *HAHACKHEM* I mean Greendale, is saved is, roughly, 1,000% how every fan feels. No way is this pig in the green zone. So, y’know. Nipple Dippers 4eva.

"I didn't even notice. Good for him."
“I didn’t even notice. Good for him.”

In honor of my favorite Dean costume, I leave you with god himself.

What? That’s crazy. People use LinkedIn?: In addition to being a funny line, it’s exactly how I feel. I recently got paid to invite over 1,500 people to a CPA conference using LinkedIn, and this was my mantra every two minutes. Also, how cripplingly sad is Elroy’s exit? I like him as a character, but I feel like he was barely explored. I hope he comes back if for no other reason than stability.

Pitches: Oh my god you guys. Oh my god. How about just a series of pics? By the way, have you seen OUR pitch for Season 7??

F*cks, don’t give any: Did anyone else’s head lift six inches from their body, do on full rotation, and then slowly settle back on your neck?

Annie and Jeff… not quite: It’s so great that the show didn’t simply not acknowledge this. It dealt with this. It might not be the resolve we were looking for, but they addressed it.

Sorry. Got something in my eye.
Sorry. Got something in my eye.

End gag: Wow. This season’s end gags have been transcendent and otherworldly. This insane combination of high concept and anxiety – laughing because it’s funny and because you’re scared what might happen otherwise. And did you catch that? That’s Dan Harmon’s voice. And he loves us. I had an opportunity to hug Dan Harmon a couple years ago, and I didn’t. I just awkwardly thanked him for his work.

end gag
“You stupid child. Nobody’s winning anything. Don’t you see? This means we don’t exist. We’re not created by god: we’re created by a joke. We were never born, and we will never actually live.”

Cons:

Nothing. I mean, I wish Troy could have popped in for a cameo, but the dopamine rush I got at seeing Shirley by itself made it worth it.

In Conclusion:

This episode. Wow. After saving my tenth image for the night, I realized I was just going to end up building my own Wiki-po-diuh out of this episode. It’s one of those rare crystalline perfect moments in TV that gives you everything you wanted out of the characters, nails all the jokes, and looks blurry because there’s something in your eye. I feel like I scraped the surface of what I could talk about in this episode: I didn’t even mention Abed or Annie’s departures, or Franky’s stiff and lame pitch, or how Todd might very possibly be having a mental breakdown. Oh, and Chang’s gay? Man. Or the super serious stuff, like how Abed’s still not coping without Troy.

The most interesting theme throughout the episode is how Jeff is the one now trying to hold the group together. The opportunist turned out to be the one with the greatest number of feels, and through his inability to cope with his own lack of mobility tries to convince everyone that stagnation is preferable to anything else.

No matter what happens, we'll always have this.
No matter what happens, we’ll always have this.

The season started a little rough with a couple episodes that really made me scratch my head, and the absolute lowest point being when Britta shit herself. But the last half really started picking up steam and ended on the best possible note. Hush Comics gives “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” an A+ #andamovie.

All images credited to Yahoo! Screen and NBC.

Community Review – “Modern Espionage” S6E11

The 11th episode sees the gang waging a secret war. A paintball war. An illegal secret paintball war. Despite Frankie’s constant recriminations against paintball, City College is offering a cash prize for the person who paints the most ball. In the midst of it is the mysterious sharpshooter Silver Balls. Can the gang wage their secret war, beat back the creeping scourge of City College, and unmask Silver Balls? I dunno. Prolly.

Pros:

community s6e11 modern espionage 03

STAR BURNS, MOTHER F*CKERS!!: Being the kind of guy I am, I am all over the Harmontown podcast and Community subreddit, and this has been a constant question all season: where is Star Burns? As hard as it may be to believe, the truth is Dino Stamatopoulos hates acting on Community, which sounds utterly inconceivable to us mortals. It’s nice that they gave him a character wrap up as nearly satisfying as Dr. Spaceman’s.

There is no paintball: This season has been real anemic on the side-characters. It’s great seeing Todd, Vicki, Starburns, and Garrett get such prominent roles.

community s6e11 modern espionage 07

Abed corrects us on homage vs. parody: I love Dan Harmon correcting the misapprehensions of his fans via Abed.

Koogler!: So, if you don’t know, like, if you were on a Japanese submarine since 1935 and didn’t learn the war was over, or you just got released from a Victorian asylum, The Koogler (or Fun Dad for this episode) is creator of Arrested Development and all around comedy god Mitch Horowitz. And if you don’t listen to Harmontown, well, I’m not sure what you’re wasting your life on, but go listen to it right now, and listen to any of the episodes with Mitch as guest star. Plus, this scene is great because Abed hasn’t gotten to do much this season. I love Jeff’s command that there be no “references, no callbacks” right before Fun Dad Koogler appears. And I love Abed’s line, “That’s the description of every paintball.” Oh, so you know your stuff.

community s6e11 modern espionage 06

“Desperate Deans call for dean-sperate measures”: I’m glad the double-deaning is back in play.

Abed and Annie in the morning: Abed and Annie teaming up is one of the best things to happen since King T. Rex defeated Hitler’s Murder Go-Bots.

Last action dean-ro: A dean action scene is unexpected, but deeply satisfying.

community s6e11 modern espionage 05

Who’s heckling me?: Abed. Abed is heckling you. Also, I love Kumail Nanjiani. He was a longtime Harmontown staple, plus he runs his own fantastic podcast, The X-Files Files, AND he stars in Silicon Valley. I love that he can take time out of a busy day to mastermind a hostile takeover. I also like their exchange about Indian vs. Arabic. Kumail is Pakistani, and talks, frequently, about the terrible stereotyping he experiences in the pursuit of acting gigs.

community s6e11 modern espionage 04

Frankie’s revenge: Frankie’s revenge is amazing. She’s been spending this whole season trying to fit in with the group being unsuccessful. I think she’s finally cracked it in her own way. Plus, this is the first time I’ve felt she’s clicked as a main character.

community s6e11 modern espionage 02

Monologues about Vicki’s solo show: These post credit sequences this season have been the most satisfying. I love the line they’ve struck between funny, touching, and uncomfortable.

community s6e11 modern espionage 01

Cons:

Club Club: I love the joke of Club Club, and the place of nightclubs as a threshold for heroes in the action genre. However, and this is my only criticism of this episode, the club looks cramped and cheap. In fact, this whole season periodically looks small and cheap. It doesn’t dissolve my ability to enjoy the show, but how many scenes have been shoehorned into that janitor’s closet in the last 3 episodes alone? Meanwhile, I’m not even 100% sure I’ve seen a classroom or the quad once this whole season.

Final Ramblings:

This is the best episode of the season so far. It continues this frustrating “Save Greendale” theme that’s permeated the last two seasons, but it mixes in some pure, bizonkers buhnaynays for good measure. The theme of saving Greendale has really dragged this season down, but this episode was able to synthesize that compulsion into the school’s longstanding rivalry with City College. And turn away if you don’t want spoilers, because, y’know, SPOILERS… but am I wrong in thinking that the janitor was Silver Balls? That was my suspicion when I watched the episode the first time, and I could have sworn that was even explained, but the second time through I can’t tell. Either way, best episode of the season so far, and the more restrained smaller scale espionage story really spiced up paintball, which otherwise might have been kind of a burnt out idea.


Hush Comics gives “Modern Espionage” an A for being able to muster up enough school spirit to make us remember why we love Community in the first place.

All images belong to Yahoo! Screen.

Community Review – “Advanced Safety Features” S6E7

Pros:

Do you believe half your politics?
I can’t even believe how much I love Britta Perry. First place is a struggle between Troy and Abed, and second place (or third, I guess) is a struggle between Pierce and Britta. But this season has made the Britta of Britta-ing Britta. It’s been almost mean spirited with how superfluous and dumb and gross they’ve made her. The episode opening up with the difference between prison and jail followed by answering honestly and thoughtfully to the question, “Do you believe half your politics,” instantly triggered my Britta jones. I was in. Already in.

Just a guy who knows Powerpoint:
This whole section killed it. As if his presentation wasn’t weird and self-indulgent on Changnesia levels, breaking two eggs expecting a dollar bill each time was inspired. 

Troy was really good at steel drums:
I like that the show isn’t trying to pretend Troy never existed and instead acknowledges (in the word’s of Abed), “I haven’t really been all that funny,” since he left. It doesn’t really excuse how nearly “year of the gas leak” season six has been, but it does create a kinship with the creators. Augmented with Abed’s remark about Elroy being “young Troy, or black Pierce, or Shirley without a purse,” it really feels like the creative team is saying, “I know those feels, bro.”

community advanced safety features 01

“Don’t even say that name without compensation.”
YES, emeffer, YES. A Britta episode that blows the wheels off this pig. Except it’s Honda instead of Subway. It’s so incredibly inspired that the person the most opposed to marketing is the person who gets hooked into it in the most invasive possible way. I can’t even put into words how jonesin’ this episode had me.

“We’re workshopping handshakes”
I love that Annie and Abed have latched onto each other. Thematically, it makes sense as they were closest to him emotionally and geographically. It’s also satisfying because, once again, the show is showing us that everyone feels everyone’s absence.

Annie and Abed's Handshake

 

A level seven susceptible
Dean’s insane need for approval extends to his buying habits. He’s not buying Honda, he’s buying the approval of Rick.

One mechanical alligator?
Finally Elroy feels like he’s got a spot in the show. The exchange between Britta and him about drawbridges slayed me. He’s also getting some emotional depth, and his resolve with Jeff (and not-Natasha of Natasha is Freezing) was great.

community advanced safety features 06

Cons:

Guerilla Marketing
I understand that an ugly truth of our world is that shows need sponsors to exist, and sometimes those sponsors demand their products be heavily featured. But I’m feeling like this show didn’t quite hit the post-modern irony that the Subway arc originally knocked so far out of the park that someone in Russia’s about to experience head trauma.

This will pay off later
I don’t think Frankie playing steel drums is funny. I can’t tell if it’s a joke because it’s not funny despite having the comedy formula, or if it’s a joke that swung and missed hardcore. I feel like either way, the entire setup and the payoff isn’t even nearly what I expect of the show’s self-awareness.

community advanced safety features 03

Wrap it Up, Folks:

I think this is without a doubt the best episode of Community this season, and one of the best Britta episodes. Though, speaking frankly, I think every Britta episode with the exception of the year with the gasleak, is a great episode. But this is probably number 3 after the UN episode and the original Subway arc. Srsly though folks, I don’t know if there was a single scene in this episode where Britta wasn’t funny.

In addition to finally doing Britta’s character justice, this episode expertly handled even it’s most minor plot lines. Dean’s need for approval destroys his need to be a good dean (and thus achieve approval. Jeff only does something like seek vulnerability when he’s still in a position of power. Thus, when Elroy gives him the validation he needs, Jeff has to pretend it makes no difference. Finally, Elroy feels like he belongs.

But that product placement is problematic. It doesn’t feel ironic enough and like just plain old product placement (for a reference on product placement that will make you violently puke in indignation, see Modern Family). I think there’s two things that needed to happen. First, the plot of the original Subway arch was so over the top, that the show didn’t need to tell us what was happening. This arch with Rick didn’t top the Subway arch: the idea before being that you can buck the norm and achieve desired ends by bucking the norm, but this time around the norm is set higher. Now, in order to buck you must buck harder.

Second, in shows like 30 Rock, pre-Yahoo Community, and Arrested Development, there are clues to let you know that they understand this is how it has to go, and they don’t have a choice, but as a show they haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid personally. I think the cincher here is when Rick says something like, “Do you have a problem with Honda’s quality?” and Britta says, “Of course not! Honda’s quality was never in question!” Britta should have instantly snapped back with something about child labor, exploitation of third world countries, or the kind of marketing that makes us think cars=happiness.

community advanced safety features 05


Hush Comics gives “Advanced Safety Features” a B+ (++++++++++). Definitely one of the better this season, if not the best, and I so badly want to give it an A, but the way the product placement was handled forces honesty to stop it just short.

All images belong to Yahoo! Screen.

(ablogabout) Community Presents: A Dean’s List: The Study Group According to The Dean: An Exercise in Deansperation

There was a period of time when the Greendale Seven were absent from Greendale: right after their graduation. Life in the school continued as normal with the student body largely neither noticing nor caring about this seven-sized hole in the heart of Greendale. But one person, when he’s not busy inspiring the student body to greater heights, feels the absence left by the study group.

The Dean: a portrait of sadness

The Dean.

In his truly good-natured, though equally misguided, love of the group, he feels Greendale has suffered a great loss, and it must be remedied. Being the busy little guy that he is, he’s just the guy to fix it. The Dean, doing what he thinks is best for the school, must draw upon the student body to fill those roles because nature can’t be trusted to fill this particular vacuum: it’s much too precious.

But before we get started:

The Meta:

A little bit of writing about this writing: in the words of the Dean, the original study group represented so much diversity (“hispanics notwithstanding”). However, the supporting cast is overwhelmingly white, especially when you count only the students. And there are two girls. But, the Dean does the best with what he’s given.

Also, as far as I’m concerned, season 4 never happened.

Jeff Winger

The role of Jeff is the most precious. The replacement captain of the group must be in the most capable hands as possible since this is the position that determines the direction of the entire group. So obviously, the Dean must step into that tailored shirt.

Oh come on, Jeffrey.

Deanspired?

Well, as I said, Dean (is it OK if I call you Dean? I’ll just call you Dean, OK Craig?) can’t trust any of these positions to fate, but this one least of all. Jeff, after all, is the beating heart of the group that controls its direction, cohesion, mood and flow. And really, isn’t that just the Dean of the study group?

Britta Perry

If I apply this oldwest filter…

In the study group, Britta forms the often overbearing moral center of the group. As Jeff tells her in Science of Illusion, “You are the heart of this group.” However, the Dean being the gentle narcissist that he is interprets these roles through his need to feel liked. Moreover, some of the Dean’s biggest fears are to be seen as racist or sexist, and his own hard to decipher sexuality, makes his dedication to the genders of the people he’s trying to replace not so firm.

Deanspired?

After a failed attempt to get Britta’s one time beef snack, Vaughn, back into the group, Dean has to consider who he might put in this role that would help feed his need for approval. As we’ve seen, Magnitude and the Dean have some effective chemistry, and the Dean loves setting him up. Dean might be disappointed there won’t be a chance for romance, but Magnitude will be an easy ally.

Abed Nadir

God forgive my use of season 4

In the group dynamics, Abed’s the catalyst: it’s because of him the group exists, and it’s because of him many of their wacky hijinks ensue. Without him we wouldn’t have learned what to do when the goldmine of looking kind of like Stuart French dries up, or the meaning of multiple Christmases. For the audience, he’s the guy just slightly to the left of the show’s internal reality commenting and documenting it, going so far as to make eye contact and break the fourth wall more than once in season 5’s two part finale. Filling his role is difficult, However…

Deanspired?

To the Dean, Abed’s a weird guy perhaps not quite capable of taking himself. Sometimes he’s fun to baby, and sometimes he makes life difficult.

… so if you don’t like it, that makes you Hitler.

Leonard Rodriguez certainly has the catalyzing features of Abed: he leads his own band of insane hipsters (Youth! Scatter!); pranks Dean; but maybe more importantly, he’s the only other character with such an interest in film.

“I’m thinking about breaking into the TV game since it’s apparently sticking around.”

Despite Abed’s treasured status, the Dean might look and Leonard and think, “He’s weird, likes film, and is difficult to get along with. Close Deanough.”

Troy Barnes

I don’t care which Dracula.

Troy is the one person Dean seems to love most next to Jeff. Hell, I personally want to hug Troy more than any other character (for the record, the list of people I want to hug is Troy, Abed, then Pierce). To the group, Troy is the innocence: if Britta stops the group from becoming too judgmental and caustic, he’s the one that keeps them from becoming too curious or self-serious. He kind of is the human anti-AT&T-of-people.

Deanspired?

There’s no other student for whom the Dean feels this level of affection. Instead, the Dean would take the opposite track and try to find the person he think would feel the most honored being placed in such an honored position (too many honoreds for one sentence? Honored. Now it is).

This is Real Neil with The Pipes of Steel.

“Ooooh. Neil.” – Troy

Neil is pretty likeable. Even after he was found guilty of sabotaging an entire class’ sweet potato project, he still somehow manages to land the gig as school DJ. Plus, after what the group did for him in his darkest hour, the Dean might figure this is the least he could do. Also, this is probably the least racist decision the Dean could make (while being the most unintentionally racist, a la season 6 trailer).

Pierce Hawthorne

Resident level five Laser Lotus.

In the group’s dynamic, Pierce acts as the original group’s ego. Sometimes an ego is good: sometimes an ego can make you one of the world’s most successful moist towelette companies; sometimes ego can stand up to a corrupt and racist father. But sometimes ego is bad: ego easily classifies anything as other veering close (or directly into) racist or homophobic thinking; sometimes ego fails to accurately grasp its reality. But lest we forget: Pierce was forced, throughout his tenure, to confront and conquer each of those things that make us cringe allowing him to, ultimately, will a vial of semen to every one of his group mates.

Deanspired?

The Dean, however, might just focus on the fact that Pierce (despite helping birth the Human Being) was kind of a gross, slightly sexist, slightly racist old guy. Which is why Starburns would be the Dean’s choice to step in.

What if the guy who played me was, like, 50 years old and kind of racist and gross himself? That’d be pretty crazy, right?

Starburns is the closest the show comes to outright having a real life scum bag: he sexualizes Britta and Annie in ways that even Pierce would find excessive; he stole Magnitude’s back pack; he even built a mobile meth lab in his car. In fact, the only scum bag thing he’s guaranteed not to have done is put quarters down people’s butt cracks. Plus, the Dean might figure, Starburns owes him.

Shirley Bennett

“Jesus is a friend of mine” – Sunseed

Shirley’s blessing and her curse is her religious mother hen persona. Sometimes it guarantees she’s cut out of the fun (i.e. Jeff’s fight, Troy’s 21st birthday, or the dinner she couldn’t make that led to the events of MeowMeowBeenz) or cutting others out of their fun, preventing what the group has admitted might be sporadic and frequent hooking up if not for a judging eye. Sometimes, it allows her to transform into a bear and protect the troop when they need it most (i.e. Jeff’s fight, Pillows and Blankets, A Few Paintballs More).

Deanspired

The Dean doesn’t really want anyone else pulling mother hen on him. Dean-as-Jeff can’t feel like he’s doing his job, can’t feel happy, if he’s relying on anyone else (or fearing that anyone else) might assume a position of authority. Dean might be compelled to, instead, focus on Shirley’s other qualities: her dynamic vocal register; the fact that when she isn’t making you feel welcome, she’s making you feel self conscious; her instigator status.

I’d elaborate, but I’m out of breath because I walked here very briskly!

It’s an odd choice. But Garrett’s what you get when you strip Shirley of everything that makes you love her. It’s like God spilled a person.

Oh. I also made this.

Annie Edison

I feel like if I could find an image of this done in the Obama poster style with the word “plan” underneath it, I would have found the picture that perfectly encapsulates Annie. She’s very difficult to represent with a single picture.

Annie is the group’s headcase: she keeps them on track and singlehandedly keeps them from failing or veering too far onto the easy path. As you can see from her many freakouts, she’s a constant redline on the verge of overheating. To the Dean, she might just be the kind-of bossy girl who’s yet another distraction for Jeff.

Deanspired?

The internet has barely more on Vicki than this slide. Poor Vicki.

Hardly anyone knows anything about Vicki, but Dean doesn’t have too many choices (simply choosing Other Annie isn’t clever enough for him). Ultimately, Dean would be banking on the fact that their mutual placement in the group would allow Neil and Vicki to finally hook up after some exhausting shenanigans, and that would be enough to endear him to them.

Outcome?

Ultimately, Dean’s attempt at this replacement group would result in him having a nervous breakdown as no one takes their roles as seriously as he is convinced they should. And since this group isn’t really composed of anyone who could be described as a good person, they leave him in a self destructive spiral similar to when he tried to make a commercial.

Community Review – “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” S6E3

In this the third episode of the sixth season of God’s own TV show, Community, it opens with Annie, having successfully organized her to-do lists, received troubling information and assembles an emergency meeting of the Save Greendale Committee to, well, save Greendale. Apparently dogs can get college degrees. Events ensue.

Pros:

“Hank” Hickey: Annie has some fun names in her phone. Apparently Hickey still roams the earth. Damn I loved that character.

Jeffrey, best friend of Dean: The best running gag in this episode.

Community - Basic Crisis Room Decorum

Drunk Diarrhea:  I wasn’t aware drunk diarrhea was a thing.

Chang: I think Chang might be the real star of this season. Perhaps the slogan of this season should be “insanity replaces heart” as Chang has become the only real source of heart… but he’s also insane. More on that later.

Community - Basic Crisis Room Decorum

Dreamy Britta sequence: I really thought this was the moment the show was going to rip it off the rails. But this amazing sequence just ends.

Community - Basic Crisis Room Decorum 1

Goliath’s rant: Oh my god. I need more of this style of Community in my life.  I love when it almost turns on itself with its own post-modern indifference. Oh, and because this actor, no matter what he does with his life, will always be the voice of Goliath to me, that’s how I think of him. No matter what, he is Goliath.

You might be a genius: It’s amazing watching Abed be amazed by Chang’s filmography. Simultaneously, it’s horrifying to think about what Chang filmed. And then to think that he screwed it up (and himself, I guess) so badly that he has to redo it. I think this was the highest point of the episode. Except for maybe…

Post-credit sequence – many yes: It’s so weird and unexpected that the part most packed with meaning is the throwaway ending sequence. The father discovers the son has been playing pranks and cranking out huge phone bills. The whole bit was so beautiful and aching, and somehow that made it funnier than the rest. I’m not sure what kind of magic is being tapped here and when Goliath rants about how much easier it used to be unimpressed, but there’s something almost enlightening in seeing these profound moments happen in the midst of people trying to discredit a dog’s bachelor’s degree.

Cons:

Britta: What the hell’s happening with her character? I love her. I truly do. This episode doesn’t seem to know what to do with her, so it just shits on her, almost gives her something to do (when things get psychedelic), and then she just falls asleep. So disappointed.

Hope: This whole exchange: maybe it’s an expression of my own cynicism, but I hate conversations about hope in TV shows. I mean, will the outcome ever be Annie saying, “Wow, you’re right! Hope really screwed me over!” I honestly wish it would. I feel like hopelessness is, ironically, funnier (think It’s Always Sunny, orArrested Development). Hope deferred is rich comedic soil.

No heart: Not having Troy or Shirley is really creating drag on the show. They were both so pure and naive that it gave the show heart, and replacing Shirley with another Annie type is bogging this episode in so much analytically minded stuff that it feels like something we might have seen in the year of the gas leak.

Community - "Basic Crisis Room Decorum"

By the numbers: The fact that two of the protagonists have this conversation of the hope automatically pigeonholes the episode: there’s only one place it can go, and it’s not going to be the direction in which we learn hope is a lie only fool’s believe. Of course Annie’s values will be reinforced.

Predictions:

A home for Goliath: When I learned Goliath was on the show, Jesus wept. I love this guy and everything he and his magnificent voice have been in. But we’re three episodes in, and one of the core characters have yet to justify why they’re there. His big contribution this episode was asking, “Oh, were you close?” when Annie leaves the room in disgust. Which is funny, but I still don’t understand why this character is needed yet (other than de-whitening the cast a little bit). So… yeah… my prediction is that this guy is going to have to justify himself.


Hush Comics gives “Basic Crisis Room Decorum” a C because the season set the bar so high for garbage. If it weren’t for the year of the gas leak, it’d probably get at least a D, maybe an F. I was not impressed by this episode. Chang tore this bitch up, and is easily the funniest character now. But this episode was formulaic, a little short on the laughs, and didn’t really feel like it added anything. I think this is my least liked Harmon-episode.

A Science Fictional Year: Earth to Echo

I’m pretty sure that, “The 80s and the 90s consistently made the best movies, especially, but not limited to, family movies, and if you disagree shut up because you’re wrong,” is a statement of science. It goes: 1. Newton’s laws of gravitation; 2. The laws of thermodynamics; 3. General relativity; 4. If you don’t like 80s and 90s movies, shut up because you’re dumb and have no friends.  I don’t even know if I could count all the movies I’ve done on this list so far (and that are yet to come) that come from the roughly ’79-’94 range that are amazing.

It’s something about the time period: digital effects were non-existent or so primitive that the film’s practical effects had to be on their A game, and if digital was involved at all, its presence was very limited and there to patch up the cosmetics; the story writing hadn’t yet become jaded and people were still trying to evoke genuine emotional reactions through AAA movies. Plus, there is an unboundedness to those movies as studios haven’t yet come upon the idea that there were magic ideas that would make millions of dollars appear. Because very few rules had yet to be established, they were more inclined to take on risky and unknown projects.

And what made family movies of this time period so meaningful and endearing is that they actually respected kids. It’s hard to place exactly, but kids were frequently extending beyond their reach going places adults were too afraid, jaded, or dumb to go themselves. They constantly put themselves in danger — real danger — that might mean even their death.

So when I saw Earth to Echo, the thing I was least prepared for was how earnest its story is. Yes, on one level it’s the story of three friends who find an alien on their last night together in the same town, but really it reflects what it’s like growing up: how unfair it is to have powers bigger than yourself impinge on your freedom forcing you to do things that, even in your admitted ignorance, you sense as short sighted and unnecessary. It reflects the heightened importance EVERYTHING carries because it’s the first time it’s happened to you, and you don’t know if it will happen again. And kids are crappy sometimes. It neither deifies nor villainizes them. They can be self-sacrificing (like when Munch is taken by a strange adult), but they can also be cowards (like when Tuck refuses to help save Alex from an arcade’s security guard). I admit to tearing up at least once.

On a technical level the movie shines. A few scenes feature CG that looks a little squishy, but there were times when I wasn’t sure if it was a CG alien on the desk, or a puppet. And it’s a “found footage” movie, which is usually the kiss of garbage, but it was utilized in a way to actually further the story and inflate the world rather than as an excuse for terrible camera work.

The best part, though, is how the movie shows your life can instantly become elevated above the lives of those around you if you’re willing and open for the right moment. In a world in which adults were willing to believe appearances and do as told, a group of kids were receptive to a moment of transcendence and change the course of lives and (inferrably) history. But that acts as footnote to the fact that this moment of transcendence allows the four friends to overcome their enforced isolation from each other. And it’s so touching.

Pretty much the most adorable group of protagonists to protagonize.

From what I can tell, the movie didn’t get much traction: it didn’t cost much to make, but 3 times not much is still a third the budget of Avatar. It’s a little disheartening to see the only kid’s movie not made out of hot steaming garbage (since Harry Potter) pass by unnoticed. It’s on Netflix, and worth your time.

All images belong to Relativity Media.