One to beam up – Majel Barrett-Roddenberry returns

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry

Star Trek fans will recognize a familiar voice this May when Star Trek beams back onto the silver screen.

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (wife of the last Gene) will reprise her infamous off-camera role as the voice of the Starship Enterprise computer.  In the past her voice can be heard as the standard for Federation systems in four of the television series and in many of the films as well.

In the original series, Majel did appear onscreen as Dr. McCoy’s assistant Nurse Chapel, and Deanna Troi’s mother Lwaxana on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

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Comics: Batman Cacophony #1

Cacophony 1

Cacophony 1

I generally have a very favorable response to anything writer/director Kevin Smith touches.  I enjoy his movies immensely, although at times I find the abrasive language a bit much and sometimes overdone.  But when it comes to his comic book writing, who can deny that he helped re-elevate many DC and Marvel characters who seemed at one time very cool, but were losing their ‘it’ factor.

He helped me discover Daredevil when he took over the relaunch of that title years ago, and I still collect and read that avidly (of course M. Bendis has a lot to do with that today).  He brought Green Arrow back to the forefront of DC (although I’m not sue how that title is doing today).  And even the often delayed and criticized Spiderman & Blackcat series helped bring Felicia Hardy into her own again.

With that said I was excited to learn that Smith would be involved in a three issue series starring Batman, although I was a bit surprised Smith chose this character to tackle.  There’s been a lot of focus on Batman as of late with the Final Crisis/R.I.P storyline, All Star Batman project, Batman & The Outsiders (personal yawn), The Dark Knight movie this past summer, in addition to all the other Bat titles that DC is churning out.  I often think Batman is becoming DC’s own Wolverine….over exposed and involved in way too many titles to keep his continuity in check.

A Batman story needs to be impressive and handled well in my opinion to hold my attention, and to grab my $3.99 anymore, and I believe that Smith can usually turn out gold.  With what I personally think is becoming a fiasco over at DC with the very drawn out and sometimes confusing and continuity challenged chaos which is Final Crisis, I despretly want to like this book.

I just finished issue 1 (of three), and I’m happy to say I approve and look forward to the next two installments.  However, while it was indeed good, it was not ‘great’.

As always, Smith’s intricate dialogue and creativity are what help make this book such an enjoyable read.  Smith, like Bendis can tell a fun story with snippets of humor and dark and scary content and seem to blend the overall theme and direction fairly well.  That said, the initial setup with and backstory with the Joker and Deadshot was intriguing and a very fresh idea for once in the often rehashing of anything dealing with Arkham Asylum.  The interaction between these two is classic, both funny and disturbing at times.  However, the one gripe I have is the stated $20,000 a disgruntled guard agrees upon to sell all of Arkham’s secrets.  It should have been much higher, and the explanation as to why the guard was let go to begin with was a bit weak.

Smith’s prior creation, Onomatopoeia, also shows up to run interference with Deadshot.  Onomatopoeia, doesn’t talk, but instead, mimics the sounds of his surroundings and my first thought upon seeing his costume was a possible homage to Bullseye (Marvel).

The Joker is also portrayed a bit more disturbing than I remember him in the past, with some homosexual and necrophilia tendencies.  With Smith at the helm of writing, this doesn’t really surprise me too much, and adds an additional ‘creep’ factor to the clowned prince of crime.

There is a scene about half way through the book between Onomatopoeia and The Joker which seems to be the initial setup for act two and a hint towards Onomatopoeia’s motivations.

So by now you’re wondering, “Where is Batman in all this?”.  In an abrupt cut, Smith takes us to witness villain Zsasz commit a heinous crime, and once again Smith throws in a very disturbing moment in which Zsasz turns his back to the panel and commits self mutilation on what can only be suggested as his genatalia before Batman crashes in to take him down.   All in all, I’m not exactly sure what the point was in all this other than Smith wanting to inject a twisted moment into the book and shoehorn Batman in at this point.  It’s not that it doesn’t work and detracts from the overall story, but its placement and abrupt cut over to seemed a bit off.

That also goes for another character, Maximillian Zues, who is introduced to the story in another abrupt cut scene.  My first thought was “What?  Of all the characters to choose from, why Zues?  Well, I’ll just have to trust Smith to flesh this out in the next issue as only he can.  I just hope I won’t be scratching my head at the end of issue 2 as I am now. 

The pencils provided by Walter Flanagan also leave me a bit unsure how I feel in the end.  In some panels I think Flanagan did a fine job, especially with Jokers expressions and mannerisms.  Yet in others, the artwork felt simplistic and rushed and ‘under-developed’ like with Zsasz and Maximillian.

Overall, even with a few jarring interuptions in the flow of the book and inconsistent art, this is still a buy and already more cerebral than what happening over in Batman & The Oustiders…once a fine book that seems to have lost its way (already much like the newly revamped Titans)