Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

First Impressions: Arrow

WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS!
 

 

 

So I decided to bring back an idea that I used to do on an old blog of mine, whereby I give my impressions on a brand new series (or returning series) I've seen and see what I think about it. Last night I saw the opening episode of the superhero series Arrow, created by the makers of Smallvile and based on the character of Green Arrow.

 

I have to be honest, the Green Arrow is kind a superhero that passed me by over the years and so I know very little about him - other than he's a Robin Hood type hero that's also a part (or has been part) of the Justice League. So it's a refreshing change checking out a superhero that I have little knowledge about.

 

The opening episode details our hero Oliver Queen (the Green Arrow), having been shipwrecked on an island for five years. During that time he had been training himself and learning the art of archery. Why? Because his dad (who was on the boat with him when it was destroyed in the storm) admitted to being involved in some dodgy dealings and made his son promise to make up for his mistakes. So Queen has been training himself to peak physical condition and marksmanship so that when he is rescued (and he is by a passing fisher boat), he can return to Starling City to kick butt and save it from the baddies that are dragging it under!

 

If the familiar set up reminds you too much of Batman, you'll be forgiven for that. Indeed, the original character of Green Arrow was originally written as a counterpart to Batman, although these days with much more Left-Wing political beliefs. Indeed, they are both very similar - both are rich and both use technology and their own physical strength to fight the baddies. The one main difference I've noticed is that Batman tends not to kill his enemies, whereas Green Arrow seems to have little hesitation killing or maiming his enemies - which I'm not too fond of, but that's just me.

 

On returning to Starling City, Queen has to catch up with his life as much as possible, and learning that things have moved on. His mother has remarried, his sister, nicknamed Speedy (who was Green Arrow's apprentice) is now a party going drug addict (a reference to the comics when the original Speedy was addicted to Heroin), and his old girlfriend Dinah "Laurel" Lance (the alter ego of Black Canary in the comics, but it's not currently clear whether she has her powers in this TV show) has never forgiven Oliver for sleeping with her sister - who was on the ship with him when it died. So, it seems that Oliver Queen has a lot of catching up to do - but right now he's more concerned with making the criminal underworld pay.

 

Another great supporting character is Detective Quentin Lance (played by British actor Paul Blackthorne of 24 and The Dresden Files). He is the father of Dinah and blames Oliver Queen for the death of his daughter. He could be considered the antagonist of the series as he's determined to find out who this "hooded archer" is.

 

I was half expecting this episode to go through the usual "hero origin" story and go through all the slog of the hero learning to use his powe and go into great depth as to why he became a hero - but in actual fact the first episode pretty much went past all that and went straight into the action. It gave a brief introduction into the character of Queen, his backstory and his motivation - not to mention the shock of returning to his old life and seeing how much has moved on - and then left the last 30 minutes or so to have some pretty decent action. Overall, I thought the pace was spot on. The story was pretty tight and has plenty of room for expansion throughout the series - plus there was a twist at the end that did grab my attention. The characters were well done and I could believe that they were real. I'm interested to see how the Oliver/Speedy storyline pans out as I think that could make for some pretty cool stories - maybe how her drug additiction could effect her.

 

The action was pretty cool as well and the fight sequences were well correographed. My only real problems with this episode is that it suffered a little bit with what I called "Chris Nolan Batman Syndrome", in that it tried to be a little too dark and mature to keep it in line with those films. The problem with that is that sometimes, the dialogue was too cheesy and hammy in places so this kinda ruined the dark edge. Nevertheless, the action scenes more than make up for it.

 

On the whole, I think this has a lot of potential and hopefully can only get better. Not only that, but I've heard that other characters from the DC universe will be making appearences in this series. In fact, at the beginning, I noticed there was a referrence to the long standing enemy of the Teen Titans, Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke the Terminator. Could HE be making an appearence? That would be awesome if so!

 

WOULD I RECOMMEND? Definately! Arrow I think has come out at the right time, seeing as the superhero genre is gradually gaining strength and seems to be more popular now than ever before. Even if you don't know the comics, there is still plenty in here that would keep you interested. This is one series I will keep an eye on closely and hopefully, it will only get better as it goes on!

 

 

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews - One Small Victory by Maryann Miller

 

Being an avid reader of comics in my time (although less so these days), there has always been one aspect of the superhero genre that has interested me – the double life. It has always been a somewhat torturous aspect of many superheroes. Sure, they may get to save lives and fight the bad guys (and girls), but what about their civilian life? How does it affect the lives of those they care about? This is a theme that I think was brilliant explored in the Spider-Man comics, as Spider-Man often found himself missing an important date or other event because he had to fight a villain, and Peter Parker was often accused of being a coward when trouble started and he ran away, the public not knowing that Peter Parker was actually the one saving their lives.

 

This is why I was most intrigued by the storyline of One Small Victory by Maryann Miller, it may not be a superhero story in the “traditional” sense, but it does deal with the subject of a double life. But not only that, it also deals with one woman’s desire for closure and seeking justice for her son’s death.

 

So let’s get down to the story of realistic superheroine and discover the impact her choices make.

 

 

About The Author

 

Maryann Miller is an award-winning author of numerous books, screenplays and stage plays. In addition to One Small Victory , she has written several other books. The latest, Stalking Season ,  is the second book in The Seasons Series that debuted with Open Season . The mystery series features two women homicide detectives in Dallas. Miller has a suspense Play It Again, Sam , novel, One Small Victory , a young adult novel, Friends Forever, and a short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages , is also available as an e-book and paperback.

 

 

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Cover

 

 

 

This is a simple, but strong cover. We see the heroine, Jenny, standing at the front, whilst behind her some sort of shoot-out has taken place (for the sake of spoilers I won’t go into that). The subtitle “A Story of One Woman’s Courage” illustrates the fact that the scene behind her was an intense battle and one that she came out stronger because of. It’s eye catching as well as the contrast between the blurred background and person at the front really make it stand out in my eyes.

 

 

Overview

 

When her son, Michael is killed in a car accident, Jenny (and her family) is torn apart. Learning that the driver of the car was involved with drugs, and realising that these were the cause of her son’s death, Jenny just can’t sit back, knowing the dangers out there. She therefore joins with a special drug task force to help track down the criminals and bring them to justice – but she never imagines the effect it would have on her life, or her family.

 

Jenny has to be respected as a heroine. Rather than sit around letting the loss of her son drive her into a deep depression, she makes a stand, deciding that she will prevent this happening again (or do so to the best of her ability) and do what she can to protect her own children from this horror. It may seem like a rather hasty move, joining a drug force, but her motivations are completely justified. And I also liked the fact that Jenny didn’t just get a gun and go guns blazing, killing every drug dealer she comes across Punisher style (which has been done too many times in my eyes).

 

Despite her best intentions, Jenny quickly realises the stress of the situation. Throughout the book, we see her leading two lives and trying to hard to keep them apart. As well as working as an undercover agent in the drug trade, she has to still be a mother to her children and do all the things a single mother has to do to protect her children (Jenny is divorced by the way). But the fact that she has to lie to her children almost tears a hole in her family, as well as eats away at her inside. Throughout the novel, we hear Jenny’s thoughts and feelings, her guilt and even her self-doubt. Whilst she puts on a strong exterior, Jenny is screaming inside and it can be really painful for her at times. But she never forgets why she is doing what she does and we, as readers, support her every step of the way.

 

The effects of Michael’s death truly takes the toll on the family – particularly in the younger son Scott. He becomes much more aggressive towards Jenny and is constantly harassing her for the truth. Sometimes, the situation between Jenny and Scott becomes really heated – but I can understand Scott’s anger. The family need support after Michael’s death, and Scott feels that Jenny isn’t around that much to be the strong support the family needs. Everything that Jenny does seems to make it worse, and yet if she could only tell the truth, it may make things a little easier. That’s where the tragedy of the piece comes from. It’s brilliantly written and never once ceases with the drama, making you want to carry on reading to find out whether it has a happy ending or not.

 

I also thought it was a nice touch to see the life of some of the drug dealers that Jenny had to “work” with and there were a few chapters that showed them doing tasks on the orders of other drug barons. Even though they were only short ones, I liked them because they actually showed you that the drug dealers weren’t necessarily the villains, they were just doing what they had to because they were dealt a bad hand – ala, The Wire. There were a couple of characters that I wished could have stayed with the story a bit longer, but overall it was good that the author did this and didn’t just go with the “drug dealers are evil” storyline.

 

The only negative thing that I can say about this was that there were one or two formatting issues with the book. Sometimes, during the text, they would be integrated with thoughts from the main character – but these didn’t stand out (ie, not in italics as is the standard way for showing a characters thoughts) and it sometimes became confusing what was part of the text and what was a characters thoughts. Later on, we did get italics to show this, but this didn’t always happen.

 

Aside from that minor point, this is a powerful story and it’s not hard to see why Maryann Miller is an award winning author. It kept my interest the whole way through and I would gladly recommend this book to anyone.

 

 

PROS (superheroine):

  1. Story has a lot of drama and has great power.
  2. A strong heroine.
  3. Perfectly illustrates the complications that a double life can have.

 

CONS (villianess):

  1. A few minor formatting issues.

    

Summary

 

One Small Victory is stated (on the front cover) as “A Story of One Woman’s Courage” – and it is one that readers will enjoy every single step of the way. It has its heartaches and drama, but it is also a testament to the power of family and the steps that people will take to assure the safety of their loved ones. I give this book a 4.5/5 (because some minor formatting issues put me off a little), but it’s a very HIGH 4.5. This is definitely one book that I would recommend to those that want a true superhero story.

 

FINAL SCORE: 4.5/5

 

 

Pandragon

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