Why Watch… ‘iZombie’

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Olivia ‘Liv’ Moore was living the dream; she had the perfect job, the perfect fiancé and the greatest friends. She worked as an upcoming medical resident with a promising career in becoming a great cardiac surgeon until one fateful boat party changed her life forever. The boat was attacked by brain-eating zombies and the entire incident was thought to have happened due to the influence of drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, Liv did not escape unscathed; getting scratched by the drug dealer turned zombie Blaine. Having distanced herself from her friends and family to avoid ‘infecting’ them, she is thought to be suffering from post-traumatic stress. With the hunger for brains (and the need to cover anything she eats in hot sauce just to taste it), Liv Moore (the irony would kill her if she could die) now earns an ‘unliving’ as a coroner’s assistant where she can eat the cerebral tissue of the already deceased. However, every time she eats a brain the victim’s personality and memories permeate into her own for better or for worse.

Life as a secret zombie couldn’t get any worse; that is until her boss Dr Ravi Chakrabarti discovers her ‘mid-dinner’ and wants to study her ‘disease’. Moreover, she is thought to be psychic by detective Clive Babineaux because of the information she can accumulate from the victim’s memories. Nonetheless, zombie life does have its perks, as she helps detective Babineux solve murders, Liv comes to realise that although her living life has ended, that does not mean she has to stop living altogether. Now with her boss actively looking for a cure Liv comes to realise that being a zombie may not be permanent.

Although only vaguely based on DC’s Vertigo comic book series, iZombie does pay homage to its original medium through the use of pop art-like chapter sequences and comic strip opening credits. It also follows a typical comic book strategy in that it has a stream of consciousness narrative by Liv Moore. The series mainly focuses on how the murder victim’s personality helps solve murders all the while affecting Liv in her already lacking social life; making her as cold-hearted as her hit-man victim to as nurturing as her pregnant victim. However, the programme also attempts to show how being untrue to the ones she loves can have terrible consequences with her confused ex-fiancé slowly losing his grip on reality by uncovering Blaine’s underground brain harvesting business without any idea what they are or why they are doing it.

If you like Warm Bodies, Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies then you will love iZombie. With its black humour, character development and dramatic subplots, iZombie is a must-see television programme that you would have to be dead not to give it a go.

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Why Watch… ‘Arrow’

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Set as playboy millionaire Oliver Queen is rescued from an island he had been shipwrecked on for 5 years, the series centres around his return to Starling City. Oliver is intent on fulfilling a promise he made to his father before his death when he gets home and, using the survival skills he gained while on the island, dresses as a hooded archer who targets those that have corrupted his city. Due to his unlawful exploits he becomes known as the Vigilante and must lie to all those around him including his mother, sister, best friend and love interest causing a rift between them all for being dishonest with them. Nonetheless, Queen does gain help from his bodyguard John Diggle and an IT expert Felicity Smoak who both see the importance of what he does and not only helps with Queen’s mission to right the wrongs of his father but also help Oliver escape the isolation he became accustomed to on the island.

The series constantly moves between the past and present with the events that occurred during those 5 years on the island and Oliver’s vigilante activities in Starling City. During the scenes set on the island it becomes evident that Oliver’s account as to what happened there is not as true as he wants people to believe and as the series progresses more of the truth is revealed to the audience. Additionally, the programme also introduces other characters from the DC universe such as Deathstroke, Deadshot and Black Canary. Not to mention introduces Barry Allen in season two, creating the new The Flash series thus sharing the same television universe.

A city owned by the wealthy and a devious plan that connects the Queen family right in the centre of it. Packed with lies and family secrets, Arrow constantly refreshes its narrative by adding more to Oliver Queen’s past. This is cleverly made possible through the use of his decision to keep his past a secret; perhaps due to a sense of trauma he suffered there. However, with his past refusing to remain just that, Arrow will leave you wanting to know more.

Why Watch… ‘Gotham’

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Similar to the short-lived Gotham Central comic book series which focussed on the Gotham City Police Department rather than Batman, Gotham centres on Jim Gordon’s first year attempting to fix the corrupt Gotham City before Batman existed. As one of Gotham’s few ‘clean’ cops, Gordon gets tasked with the murder of a young Bruce Wayne’s parents which leads him to the mob; most specifically Carmine Falconi. Since Falconi owns the police force and there cannot be “organized crime without law and order” Gordon is tasked to prove he is ‘part of the programme’ by killing a whistle-blower lackey named Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin). Keeping to his moral code, Gordon pretends to kill him and orders him never to return to Gotham. Unbeknownst to anyone, this action is the beginning of a big change in Gotham. With mobsters such as Fish Mooney and the Moronis attempting to overthrow Falconi, Cobblepot returning to create his own mob and Bruce Wayne beginning to train with Alfred, the only thing clear is that Gotham will never be the same again.

The programme mixes the gangster genre with comic book elements in order to create a gritty portrayal of a city in need of a saviour, allowing for people uninterested in comic books to enjoy a police drama. That is not to say that Batman fans will be disappointed as the show is filled with characters from the Batman mythos such as Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya and Edward Nygma. Some characters are obvious but there are many hidden allusions to the DC world such as the introduction of Thomas Elliot (Hush) and even Harley Quinn’s costume (seen on dancers within Fish Mooney’s night club). These ‘easter eggs’ add to the programme’s appeal for die-hard Batman fans while those who are not familiar with the comic books will not truly feel excluded from following the plot.

A gritty police drama filled with plenty of plot twists and betrayal Gotham will leave the audience unsure who to trust in a city where the police are just as corrupt as the criminals. The show bypasses the expectations of a simple series to set up a world before Batman by making sure that each case Gordon and Bullock do tackle are just as difficult to solve as any other crime drama. The viewer won’t be disappointed by the judiciary narrative or the connections with one of DC’s most recognisable superheroes.

“Not all Heroes Wear Masks” – The Kind of Hero We Should be Inspired by

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Since I am a self-professed and proud nerd, a question I am asked as a conversation starter on a regular basis is ‘Who’s your favourite superhero?’ Of course, I am a Batman fanatic so I reply with such and begin discussing in detail several reasons as to why until their eyes glaze over. It becomes evident they have no idea what I am talking about anymore (because their only knowledge of Batman is from seeing the 1992 animated series as a kid or through the mental scars left from Clooney’s nipple defining Batsuit in 1997). Of course, those eyes that were fully glazed suddenly widen to full panic when I ask the same question back to them and they quickly change the topic.

I must make clear that I am not complaining that they avoid the question though as it was originally an attempt to make small talk with me and so I am thankful for them taking an interest. I am certain many people are not interested in comic books or superheroes just as I am not interested in football. So I understand the limits one can have on topics that do not interest us for example I know little about the current football players and managers (the last manager of Man United I recall was Alex Ferguson – which I can now claim, after googling, there have been 3 since then).  What I have come to realise though is that the question we should be asking each other is not ‘who is your favourite superhero?’ but ‘who is your hero?’. Not celebrity wise but on a much personal scale. After all, we are all heroes in our own way.

You dear reader may not realise this but someone may consider you an inspiration. I for one did not believe I could be until one day recently, as I slowly fell asleep, I came to realise the number of times people have told me how motivated they were by actions I took. For example, after coming out of the closet, one of my best friends decided to tell our group that he was a furry (one that is interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters and is wrongly thought by others to enjoy ‘furry sex’). He told me that my coming out had inspired him to trust us all as I did with him. Of course at the time I felt complimented but only now do I see the significance I was part of in helping my friend be proud and honest to whom he is.

Of course I am also inspired by those around me too. My 6th form tutor truly inspired me to be who I am without trying to, by simply being herself it inspired me to want to live a life like hers; a life with no limits. My partner obviously inspires me (cue a sickeningly sweet ‘aww’), he inspires me to try new things and once in a while leave my comfort zone. One such moment I recall it happening was when I rode ‘The Smiler’ (the world’s record holding rollercoaster with the most inversions) at Alton Towers which I must admit was no easy feat for a lily-livered man such as I. There are others also, family members, friends, teachers, even people I have only met once through chance encounters.

I ask you reader, to think hard and think about who your hero is? Who has encouraged you to be the best you can be? Made you do things you never would have done by yourself and made you so glad they encouraged you to do so? For me that would be much more of an ice breaker than any superhero could be.

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Not just Pulp: A Comic Book Conundrum

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Comic books. Just the words bring to mind an image of a socially inept spotty teenager with too much time on his hands. Seen as a nerdy pastime (just look at The Big Bang Theory) comic books and graphic novels alike have both been misjudged and undervalued by the everyday public. There is more to them than meets the eye than simply the out-dated assumption that they are for kids. In fact, quite a vast array of graphic novels portray within them images I certainly wouldn’t want my kids exposed to due to its mature material. They are not something to scoff at simply because of the stereotypical and ultimately negative images society has assigned onto comic book readers. After all, leading bookshops such as Waterstones are expanding the number of shelves they allocate for graphic novels in their stores so surely they must see something in them that others do not.

Graphic novels have recently become integrated into popular culture than you might have originally guessed. Obviously they have been used as the core material for an abundance of movies such as the Batman and Spiderman film franchises. Yet, comic books have permeated into filmdom much more than these frankly obvious examples. How many people knew that V for Vendetta, Sin City, Constantine as well as 300 were all adapted for the big screen from graphic novels? These adaptations were created because their original media platform were thought to be worthy of captivating a much larger audience in the cinema. Additionally, comic books are also used in some cases to continue already aired TV programmes that were extremely popular but too expensive to screen continuously; two examples of this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which began publishing ‘seasons’ through graphic novel format after the season 7 finale on television, and another cult television series Farscape which has so far released 8 graphic novel volumes since 2003. Additionally there have been some examples where films have also been adapted into comic book format such as the Star Wars franchise; however there are very few compared to television adaptations.

Graphic novels are also used because they can express views on key social issues more easily than other forms of literature due to the blurred lines they draw between word and image. Comic books have already been used to discuss mental illness (Batman), anarchy (V for Vendetta) and even environmental issues as seen in Swamp Thing just to name three. A key figure in this approach to using graphic novels as a conduit to discuss important subjects that were originally thought as too complex for comics is Alan Moore. Moore is thought to have helped add a greater respect for the medium by evolving them out of the simple pulp comics of the 1950’s and into mediums which stand on their own due to their social critique.

Just as comics have evolved from simple pulp, so has literature. It is a fluid concept that constantly changes over time. Arguably graphic novels are simply the next evolutionary step of literature; moving contemporary texts away from the post-modern writing style. What other alternative can literature make after post-modernism which is defined as a style that attempts to be different than any other form of literary movement that has preceded it? Additionally, classic texts such as Brontë’s Pride and Prejudice have been converted into graphic novels suggesting an attempt to ‘modernise’ old classics. Other popular texts which are not renowned for being classics such as Meyer’s Twilight saga have also been converted into comic book format, again suggesting a leap towards a future where graphic novels are viewed as a key form of literature rather than a form of low art only geeks and adolescent boys read. Proving that comic books are NOT just for kids!

‘Arkham Origins’ send a chill down the public’s spine with ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ DLC

The trailer for the new downloadable content (DLC) for Batman: Arkham Origins has arrived, and is aptly named Cold, Cold Heart, in reference to the Hank Williams song of the same name, that is heard as covered by Troy ‘The Joker’ Baker during the original gameplay’s credits.

However, this DLC will contain much more than a few extra costumes or challenge maps. The teaser-like trailer, which first debuted on episode 204 of DC All Access, seems to suggest that the origins of one of Batman’s frostiest foes, Mr Freeze, will be the focus of this add-on.

For those unfamiliar with Batman’s rogues, Mr Freeze is a villain who uses cryogenics in his weaponry but is only motivated by a desire to save his terminally ill, cryogenically frozen wife by any means necessary. From the trailer, all that has been determined is the plot will centre on the GothCorp Company where the Wayne Foundation has awarded someone as the Humanitarian Of The Year.

This anti-villain is hoped to create a new open world, narrative-based DLC that will feel more like, as WB Games Vice President of Production suggests, a “mini-chapter” for Arkham Origins, whereby Batman will need to adapt his bat suit in order to overcome the extreme cold he is sure to run into within this DLC. The creators claim that through the use of a new inventory, such as the Extreme Conditions Suit, gameplay will forever be changed.

It is no surprise for the game developers to create a DLC about Dr Freeze however, as he has become a favourite villain of many a Batman fan. Additionally, there was speculation as to why he was not in the original plot already as, having been set around Christmas Day, it seemed like the perfect narrative to introduce him into.

Be prepared to feel a chill in the air this spring, as Cold, Cold Heart will be released on 22nd April.

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