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The Phoenix Gate

Comment Room Archive

Comments for the week ending January 10, 2021

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Thanks Todd, I rather like this episode for the political intrigue angle it has. Plus Taiwan doesn't always get representation in various media.
Remember, young or old, rich or poor, friend or foe. We're all in this together.

Thought let you guys know that #SaveSpectacularSpiderMan is trending on Twitter in the UK.

Oh, and that was a good point about how it'd be more profitable to have the two warring nations make peace so that you could sell them factories and other peacetime goods, than to go on arms marketing to them. The Illuminati from "To Serve Mankind" could have learned from that.
Todd Jensen

MATTHEW - Thanks for your latest review.

This episode I do remember, or parts of it, at least, including this being the point where Lex Luthor and Ra's were revealed as two of the members of the Light, and it being set in a fictional counterpart to Korea. And the "rewatch value" for the "Broken Arrow" moment.

One of my favorite of the quotes you listed was the part where they suggested "Kent" for Superboy's "civilian identity" surname, ahd when Ms. Martian thinks it's a reference to the late Kent Nelson, Martian Manhunter takes a "Sure, let's go with that" approach. (I also recall Superboy's expert summary or Rhelasia at school.)

Todd Jensen

Watched "Targets" today where we check in on Red Arrow and how his solo act is doing. As I've mentioned before I do like that the series is willing to make use of the entirety of the DC universe and shakeup the usual character dynamics, Red Arrow coming into conflict with the League of Shadows isn't that unusual, but with Lex Luthor? That's a little different. Another thing I like about the show is that it's willing to blend DC's fictional world with the real one as we see the story bounce between the fictional Happy Harbor and the actual Taipei. I don't know why but it feels like the world is fleshed out a bit more than other DC shows, especially some live-action ones where other cities are within convenient travel distance.

The conflict of the episode revolves around the peace summit between the stand-ins for North and South Korea, and once more we see how characters adapt to situations they're unfamiliar with. Red Arrow can handle assassins no problem (for the most part) but being embroiled in a tense political situation isn't something he knows how to handle because even thwarting an assassination attempt won't guarantee peace between the two nations. That's why his dynamic with Lex is so intriguing this episode, even if he knows that Lex is rotten to the core and is only using this crisis for financial gain he still remains the best figure for reunification as evidenced by the fact that he was the only arbitrator the two leaders could agree on.

Lex Luthor is one of the characters that can go really well or really poorly depending on how he's used and I'm glad to say he makes a great first impression here. It's funny but over at the forums for SF Debris we were recently covering the crossover episode for the DCAU "World's Finest" and one thing that's consistently agreed on is how badly Lex comes off in that three-parter. Consistently being played for a chump by the Joker. Not here though, here he never loses that cool whether it's in the middle of massive battle or negotiating a peace deal. It's all one big game of chess and he's three plays ahead of everyone else. But the biggest thing of all is that not only is he and Ra's working towards the same goal but ensuring that each pawn plays the way that they're supposed to.

While Lex keeps in control for most of the episode he does have to play ignorant just enough to keep Roy suspicious enough to investigate the nature of the assassination attempt and manages to convincingly play the role that you can believe that he and Ra's are competitors. Meanwhile Ra's is treating the fake assassination with all the seriousness of a legitimate one, so much so that I don't any of his minions (save perhaps Sportsmaster) know that the whole thing is supposed to be a set up. But that's the point, nothing sells the idea better if the public, heroes and villains are convinced. I've seen some criticism about the denouement where it's revealed that not only are Lex and Ra's working together but I actually think it works if you consider not only there backgrounds in the comics but Greg's credo of "Evolve or Die" when it comes to his series. Ra's is indeed the leader of an international cartel of assassins, spies and saboteurs but he's also an ecoterrorist. The kind of man who would save the world even if it meant destroying half of it. Luthor on the other hand is taking a more pragmatic route especially if reunification comes through his economic "guidance." Yes he may rake in the dough supplying arms to both sides but bombs and bullets can only be used once and they're only good if there's at least two people willing to use them. But buildings? Factories? That can pay off more than just in conflict and it helps his image as a "job creator." For the longest time Lex has been defined by his unending hatred for Superman and everything he stands for, so much so that it completely clouds his judgment at times. But for a character who's supposed to be the genius he claims to be this is a big problem and considering that the world and indeed the galaxy is full of problems much bigger than his enmity with Superman. Well...if he's going to be taken seriously in this world of heroes and villains then he has to put aside his ego and realize there's somethings he can't do on his own.

Speaking of which, the action in this episode is pretty good, I like the banter that starts to arise from Roy and Cheshire. I also like how when Sportsmaster starts the fight he's pretty nonchalant, taking down bodyguards without effort and only starts getting serious when he faces off against Aqualad. A good reminder that for the ancient Greeks athletics and combat went hand-in-hand. There's an interesting parallel between the two groups, while Cheshire and Sportsmaster compliment each other pretty well the tension between the two is so thick you could cut it with a katana. And while Roy begins the episode with the same dismissive attitude he does come to the realization that he can't do everything himself and at the end opens up to his old friend and admits that the "junior Justice League" is worthy of respect.

Some Final Thoughts: I thought that Rhelasia might've been something just created for show but it turns out it was actually created by Chuck Dixon for Birds of Prey one-shot. I like that little gag in the beginning where Roy is confused by the use of meters for height, even Atlantis uses the metric system. The subplot with M'Gann and Conner starting school seems simple enough but it's actually loaded with foreshadowing, we have several characters making their introduction like Mr. Carr, Mal, his girlfriend Karen and the other Bumblebees. Plus little details like Sphere paying close attention to Conner while he works on his bike. As for M'Gann, she seems more excited for school than any teenager really should but knowing what we know about her, there's the possibility that the chance to to start anew and without any previous drama and just do normal teenage things must excite her. It's kinda funny that she spent "hours" choosing her outfit and just settled on the same thing she normally wears.

Finally there's the nature of the mole and how it's been brought up. If you forgot that Ra's even mentioned that they had an informant you could be excused for thinking that Sportsmaster merely brought it up to sow discontent and he knew about the Team's journey to Bialya simply because the Light knows and he reports to them. There's also the nature to how Roy and Kaldur react to it, with Roy immediately growing suspicious from the revelation and Kaldur more pensive on the matter.

Another couple of Acting MVPs, the first goes to Yuji Okomoto for his roles as both Minister Tseng, General Li and the various background Rhelasian and Taiwanese extras. I'm no expert on Asian languages but he did a great job with the characters, I can't be sure if he was speaking Korean or Taiwanese Mandarin for the various parts but it was distinct enough from his Japanese background.
The second goes to Mark Rolston as Lex Luthor, it only took one episode for him to sell me on the role. He manages to balance affable and arrogant perfectly and the way he flounces that untouchable nature just makes him so entreatingly smug. I also have to give credit to Oded Fehr, as Ra's, he's one of many instances where I think he could've played the character in real-life as flawlessly as he did here. I mean, if you saw the Mummy films you know he can handle the physicality.

DC Profiles: Marvin White and Wendy Harris are interesting characters, given that they originate from the old Super Friends cartoon. More than that, they actually managed to make their way to comics despite the fact that they were kind of useless in the show itself. Just there to appeal to the kids. But if this show has proved anything it's that they're more than willing to use most everyone to fill in the world, and this won't be the last time that they'll use characters who got their start in another animated series, as Mercy proves.

Favorite Lines:

Red Arrow: I need access to the Justice League's database and the exact height of the League of Shadows assassin known as Cheshire.
Aqualad: Checking. Cheshire is 1.67 meters.
Red Arrow: Um...
Aqualad: She is 5'6. And exceptionally dangerous. Do you require backup?
Red Arrow: Please. The last thing I need is the junior Justice League.
Aqualad: Just our computer.

Red Arrow: Why should either side trust you?
Luthor: Because LexCorp is a company founded on peaceful enterprise for all humanity.
Red Arrow: Cut the act Luthor. I've got intel linking LexCorp's shell companies to the sale of weapons in both Rhelasias. You're profiting off this war. So what's your angle?
Luthor: War income is pocket change compared to the billions to be made investing in a peaceful, united Rhelasia. And isn't it better to have peace even if that "scoundrel" Lex Luthor profits from it?

Aqualad: A last name will also be required.
Martian Manhunter: Perhaps Kent?
M'Gann: Oh, in memory of Doctor Fate. The late Kent Nelson.
Martian Manhunter: Of...course.
Conner: Wait, shouldn't I be Conner Nelson?

Cheshire: Master...
Ra's: And client. So, twice disappointed in your failure.

Sportsmaster: I hear you go by Red Arrow now. Hah. More like Broken Arrow.

Red Arrow: Take Sportsmaster, Cheshire's mine!
Cheshire: So territorial, and only our third date.

Sportsmaster: Not bad, lad. Better than your team did in Santa Prisca. Or Bialya.
Aqualad: How did you-
Sportsmaster: Let's just say I have and inside source. Very inside.

Aqualad: It is over.
Red Arrow: Is it? I heard what Sportsmaster said. Do you really think there's a mole on your team? Feeding him intel?
Aqualad: I cannot rule out the possibility. I will investigate. Quietly.
Red Arrow: Not tell them?
Aqualad: I do not want the unit unraveling over baseless suspicions. And if there is a mole, I have no wish to tip him, or her, off.
Red Arrow: Good luck with that.
Aqualad: One moment my friend. Tonight you could've called Green Arrow for help, or the Justice League. Instead, your first instinct was to call the Cave.
Red Arrow: You're right, the Team deserves...has my respect. I'm still getting used to this solo act stuff. But if you need me, I'll be there.

Remember, young or old, rich or poor, friend or foe. We're all in this together.

I'm curious if anybody here could help me identify a Gargoyles product I had as a child (bonus points if anybody can help me locate one). It was basically just a background scene of Manhattan that came little window clings of the characters, so you could build your own scenes. I have no clue what this was called, though they must have been a fairly common thing back then, I also had a Power Rangers variant of the same thing. Many thanks to anybody who can help. I'm a 32 year old fan of Gargoyles from its original tv run, and I've only just gotten my paws on the SLG trades (actually waiting on Clan Building V1 in the post, but soon). I may be back to share some thoughts once I have read them all. Thanks for keeping the fandom alive.
D.J. Dambach - [jeevesac999 at gmail dot com]

Oh, also - I forgot to bring this up when we were actually talking about Downtime, but I love the bit we see of Paula and Artemis, and how their relationship and how they have trouble talking to each other didn't just disappear, but continue at least into season 3. This show lets things lie in wait for a while, but just when you think they've been forgotten they come back hard.

Because the thing I find most interesting about those two is - they do really love each other, and they want to have a familial relationship, but Paula doesn't know how to be a mother to her daughter and Artemis doesn't know how to be a daughter to her mother, and neither knows how to talk about that. It's not for lack of effort or appreciation of the other, but it's still there, and that scene in Downtime is a good microcosm of just what's going wrong and why they can still go right.

Paula wants to do right by her daughter and give her opportunities that she never had, and make sure she doesn't pass up what she's given - that's normal and good. But at the same time, she's still adjusting to having a 15 year old daughter who's had to learn to push back against her dad when hr's home and fend for herself when he's not. Meanwhile, Artemis is adjusting to have a mom around all the time at all, instead of someone she writes letters to every week, and who isn't just there to enable Lawrence.

And that results in the scene we get, where Artemis and Paula both have reasons that make sense to them for their original decisions - Artemis doesn't want to leave her friends to go to classes with snobby rich kids, Paula doesn't want her daughter to give up the chance for a prestigious education and a path to a better life - and for how they clash over them - Paula doesn't know how to talk her daughter around to something besides disapproval and threats, Artemis has spent 5 years learning how to weather and ignore disapproval and threats. In the end, Paula does tell her the real reason, and why she feels so strongly - she wants Artemis to have a better life than her - and Artemis gives in, but we see her face when she turns away, the unhappiness she doesn't want her mother to know about, the - regret? disappointment? That this is also part of their relationship, along with the love.

Paula loves her daughter, but it's easy for her desire to give Artemis better life to turn into wanting to live through her vicariously, and respond harshly when Artemis turns out to have her own priorities. The high school transfer ended up working out very well for Artemis, of course, but we'll see this same conflict come back in season 3, in a much more complicated situation. I think it's really interesting to see relationships like this in fiction, where characters do really love each other and want to be good family, but still mess up in ways that stick around for years, and cause problems that run through their whole history, because love isn't enough on its own without communication and give and take and accepting that other people will need and want different things than you.

Karrin Blue

Ah man, I actually have a lot of thoughts on pre- and post-face-turn Terra - most of which I'll try to save till we get to when she actually shows up - but that would be really interesting! Especially since, oddly enough, I think Terra and Kaldur have a lot in common. Not so much in their roles in the plot or abilities or jobs on missions, but in terms of personality. Though of course, a lot of that is my own interpretation, and that's rather tricky with a character who rarely speaks and hasn't yet had an internal monologue.

Also, seconding that last bit, and here's hoping this ends quickly and safely for everyone.

Karrin Blue

Karrin> Oh I'm definitely not suggesting that both sides are totally in the wrong and I'm DEFINITELY not suggesting a "fine people on both sides" argument. The Purists still harassed and attacked others who did nothing to them and took part (knowingly or not) in an assassination attempt against the queen and her unborn child.
What I wanted to show was how ugly situations like this can easily bring out ugliness from those who have been negatively affected. Something that really stood out to me was what happened after Kaldur, Garth and Tula broke up the fight between the Purist youth and their non-human friends and defend them, their non-human friends are just as quick to turn their backs on them as the Purists are.

And I also wonder if they'll address Wyynde's past with the Purists, with Terra turning over to the side of the heroes I'd like to see a conversation between the two where maybe Wyynde talks to her about how difficult the path to redemption is and the burden of having to live with mistakes like that.

And to anyone living in DC, please be safe.

Remember, young or old, rich or poor, friend or foe. We're all in this together.

I hope this doesn't come off as too nitpicky, but I don't think the comic is trying to say that neither side is totally in the wrong - after all, the Purists are genuine bigots. The point there is, I think, that just because someone is born into the same group as someone else, doesn't mean they WILL be on the same side, that everyone born into a more privileged group gets to choose whether they want to gain more power at the expense of others or if they want to help everyone. The Purists are totally wrong, but Tula and Garth, despite "qualifying" as ""pure"", still see them for the bigoted they are and want nothing to do with them.

I'm honestly still wondering when the Purist subplot is going to come up again. I'd think it was a one-off, but then s3 went and had Kaldur and Wyynde become an item. Wyynde is so obscure, and this subplot so easy to miss, that "Kaldur's partner used to be in a hate group" really didn't need to happen for anything we've seen yet to work - so I wonder if it'll be brought up in greater relevance in s4.

The stuff with Morrow is still some of the creepiest I've seen in this show. That bit where he's cutting off poor Jim's skin and forcing him to desecrate Danette's grave while he doesn't know what's going on, ugh. It really makes me wish we could get more of Inferno and Torpedo - yeah, I know they were pretty solidly destroyed, but Volcano came back somehow, so maybe...

Karrin Blue

MATTHEW - Thanks for the latest review. I have some memories of the comic story you reviewed, but not enough to make any substantial additions. (I was amused, though, to note among your list of quotes "What sorcery is this?" Trust that line to show up somewhere in a series that Greg Weisman was working on.)
Todd Jensen

We're back to Atlantis as we cover issues 14 and 15 "Under the Surface..." and "...Here There be Monsters."
As I mentioned last week this is where we'd cover more with Ocean-Master aka Prince Orm. Yeah. Big Shocker there. It's actually kinda sad that this is the only time he takes the center stage in the story's conflict, I know that the series doesn't focus too much on life under the sea but for one of the founding members of the Light to be so small it's a shame.

I haven't exactly dreaded covering these issues, but with the political climate that's been building up over the past few years it has made me a bit more...I guess thoughtful is the closest I can describe it. The central conflict of course being between the more human like Atlanteans and the more creature like ones. This kind of racial prejudice and demonization of "the other" is actually well explored here, it could've been easy just to write one side as completely in the wrong for their bigotry but there's a lot more nuance shown. The less human Atlanteans can be just as hostile as the "pure" ones with ones figures like King Sha'ark not actually concerned with the welfare of others like Topo and more just using the hostilities as a chance to indulge his bloodlust. Even Kaldur's former schoolmates are quick to give him, Garth and Tula the cold shoulder as they presume their more human like appearance would mean they couldn't know what they would go through. And after the conflict is settled and Ocean-Master is revealed to not share their prejudices, that doesn't mean those prejudices will just disappear.

That's why having the heroes made up of Kaldur, M'Gann and Superboy such an inspired group for this story. Narratively, it makes sense that Kaldur would bring the ones best able to survive the pressures of the deep, but in another sense it's rather inspired. All three of them straddle the line on what is and what isn't socially presentable within their own culture's preferences and prejudices. Kaldur while appearing human, has the visible gills and webbed hands that marks him as "impure" by others and is too human to be accepted by the other group. Superboy is a clone and constantly struggles with the notion not being as powerful as Superman; and yet he's been gifted with an appearance that allows him to walk in human society without fear unlike his Genomorph brothers. And M'gann, well she mentions that her home world of Mars is in need of lessons when it comes to accepting diversity. But there's that little moment when she shifts her legs into fins and Lori Lemaris remarks that she's flattered but her face suggests otherwise. It's a nice little reminder that not everyone likes appropriation, even when it's done with sincere appreciation.

Ocean-Master and the Purists provide and interesting choice of antagonists, especially where Ocean-Master is concerned. Like many figures past and present, he's willing to use underlying prejudice as a means to an end and like so many demagogues he doesn't even need to believe in it as long as his followers get results. There method of disguising themselves and ganging up on the lone and helpless unfortunately mimics all too many real life hate groups. At the same time it would make sense for Ocean-Master to teach them the importance of hiding one's true nature, unlike the rest of the leaders of the Light he actually has a secret identity and one that requires a lot of misdirection. In "Downtime" he's seen fighting with an Atlantean gun, hiding the fact that he can do magic (at least when he possesses Neptune's Trident), he plays the role of the protective and supporting younger brother so he can stay close to the pulse of Atlantean royalty and look out for any potential heir that might get in his way to the throne.

Some Final Thoughts: One thing I rather liked was seeing Superboy's look of joy and wonder when they first visit Shayeris, it's nice to see that even a moody, Byronic character like him can be swept up in the beauty and majesty of the world. It's also interesting to note that he was programed to understand Atlantean, it doesn't seem like the kind of language that would be well known on the surface which means Cadmus would need someone who was fluent in order for the G-Gnomes to teach him that. There's also something really weird about the fact that M'gann remembers being in the womb. We get to meet Kaldur's parents this issue and I like the fact that his name is derived from his father Calvin Durham, it's similar to how many cultures named their children.

Some things I didn't notice on my first read of the comics, one of which is that several of the buildings resemble the super villain lair Atlantis from the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me." Another nice detail is La'gaan's eagerness to learn about the surface world, we'll see where that leads in season 2. I have to give credit to the design of Ronal, he looks like a poster child for the Hitler's Youth, something that works well for a comic on prejudice. Yet having seen season 3 I can't help but think it would've been better if it was Wyynde who had overheard Ocean-Master monologuing and ultimately turned against him.

And finally we have the subplot of T. O. Morrow and his little escapade with Jim Lockhart, there's something really horrifying about how he's able to effortlessly command the old man into following him around, dig up the grave of his friend and find out she hasn't changed at all since she "died." And that's even before he pulls back the curtain and reveals what the two of them really are...

DC Profiles:
Ocean-Master has gone through a lot of changes throughout his history and what degree of blood relation he has with Aquaman is dependent of which reboot you're reading. But one thing remains the same, the enmity between him and his brother and his desire for the throne. This has had the disadvantage of making him a bit of a one-note character, that's why the New 52 version was so well received. He's just better fleshed out.
King Shark despite his aquatic theme, originally started out as a villain to Superboy. In fact it took some time before he showed up in any of Aquaman's comics. I like that the comic settled into his pre-New 52 look and name where he's modeled after the Shark King Nanaue of Hawaiian mythology. Even his name Sha'ark is broken up to resemble that of the Hawaiian language.

Favorite Lines:
King Sha'ark: Careful Earther! Come between a shark and his meal, and you become the meal!
Superboy: Try me instead. You'll break your teeth...chum

Morrow: Open her up.
Jim Lockhart: At least help! I'm ninety-one years old!
Morrow: Yet remarkably well preserved...and given that our Miss Reilly has been in the ground for over three score years-I'd say she's remarkably well-preserved too.

Ocean-Master: What sorcery is this?! Who seeks to rip the trident from the Ocean-Master's grasp?!

King Sha'ark: Neptune's Beard, I hate being beholden to a squid.

Remember, young or old, rich or poor, friend or foe. We're all in this together.

Vinnie - [thomaspeano at yahoo dot com]
Deplorable and loving it!

Ah, thanks. I'd forgotten about that, though I should have thought of it in light of Felicia Hardy.
Todd Jensen

TODD> Walter Hardy is Black Cat's father. And, in the world of "Spectacular", Uncle Ben's killer.
Greg Bishansky

Who's Walter Hardy? The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I might be thinking of Thomas Hardy or Oliver Hardy instead.
Todd Jensen

Happy New Year!

It’s The Spectacular Shakespeare Podcast! Greg, Greg Weisman, and Jennifer L. Anderson discuss their fondness for the Bard’s work, favorite plays, and how “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was integrated into the penultimate episode. Following that, they discuss elevating Walter Hardy to a much more influential figure in Spidey’s life, and their own experiences on stage.


Greg Bishansky


Then came old January, wrapped well
In many weeds to keep the cold away;
Yet did he quake and quiver like to quell,
And blow his nails to warm them if he may;
For they were numbed with holding all the day
An hatchet keen, with which he felled wood,
And from the trees did lop the needless spray;
Upon an huge great Earth-pot steane he stood;
From whose wide mouth, there poured the Roman flood.

(From "The Faerie Queene" by Edmund Spenser.)

Todd Jensen

Looked back a couple weeks and saw that Antiyonder asked whether I'd be covering the video game Young Justice Legacy. Sorry I missed this, but yes I will cover it after season 1 is finished.

Also first.

Remember, young or old, rich or poor, friend or foe. We're all in this together