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Friday, September 06, 2019

Comic Cuts - 6 September 2019

The momentum I was starting to build last week suffered a few stalls and misfires as I seemed to spend an awful lot of time looking blankly at the computer screen or rolling my eyes ceilingwards as people tried to make recovering money owed as near impossible as they could.

I returned to the house from my walk last Friday to find that my computer wanted to do a major update for Windows 10. Normally this would chug along in the background without me even noticing, but in this instance, my hard drive was clogged up with scans for Ebay and I needed to plug in an external hard drive to give the computer enough space to do the update. Two hours later, a message about rebooting the machine popped up. Which I did.

There followed half an hour of watching a blue screen with a series of dots chasing each other in a circle above a neat message that read "0% complete". At the end of that half an hour, it changed to "1% complete" and I wandered off to watch the TV.

It eventually took over three-and-a-half hours to update. I stuck my head around the doorway every fifteen minutes to make sure everything was OK, that the computer hadn't gone into sleep mode or blown a gasket, and around 11:30 spotted the above message... "Undoing changes made to your computer..."

After 3 hours and 38 minutes, the very welcome password screen appeared and I was able to get on with the day's work. That update lasted until this morning, when I received another message that some features had not installed and, again, I would need to plug in an external hard drive to give me the 10gb of space required to do the update. This one hasn't taken nearly as long, but is now waiting for me to reboot. Should I? Will I be waiting more hours for the features to install? Is this the last of the updates? Let's see...

So, that took from 8:52 am until 12.15 pm, so another 3 hours and 23 minutes. No "undoing" message this time, so hopefully that will be the end of it.

It isn't. I've just noticed that the update has meant my scanner no longer works. Grrrrrr! I think this happened when Windows 10 installed, so hopefully it's fixable. (It is... I'm back up and running smoothly.)

Onto happier things... Stranger Things, in fact. Spoilers  ahead once you jump over the picture...

The third season keeps up both the pace and expanding plot of earlier series and does it in eight tightly plotted and packed episodes. It remains one of the best shows on Netflix and I was looking forward to every episode wanting to know what happened next in various threads of the plot. Chief amongst them is the introduction of a Red Menace, in the shape of Russian soldiers and scientists using a device to open a new vagina (sorry, but that's what it looks like) into the other world, known as the Upside Down.

The townsfolk are (for the most part) back: young Mike and El (the psychic Eleven) are romantically involved, as are Dustin and Max, leaving Will as a spare wheel. Dustin returns from camp boasting of his own girlfriend. Will is not the only one struggling with his friends growing up and into relationships; so is Chief Jim Hopper, who has adopted El and, at the same time, is trying to find a way to ask out Will's mother, Joyce.

At the newly opened Starcourt Mall, Steve Harrington and Robin Buckley are working in an ice cream parlor where they begin hearing coded Russian messages. The mall, has led smaller shops to struggle, including Joyce's electrical shop. She, however, is more puzzled by her fridge magnets losing their magnetic grip, skipping a date with Chief Jim to try and find out why.

Meanwhile, Billy Hargrove, the sex-pot swimming pool guard, crashes on his way to a clandestine meeting and is captured and inhabited by the Mind Flayer. He begins to gather others, including an elderly lady who has captured a possibly rabid rat. Her story is investigated by Nancy Wheeler who is working as an intern with the local paper, although she is being badly treated by misogynist male staffers; her only friend is Jonathan Byers (Will's brother), who is working as a photographic intern.

These disparate threads are all drawn together in a most satisfying tapestry with a killer mid-eighties soundtrack.

I'm far from being the only fan of Stranger Things. It seemed to catch the zeitgeist just at a time when people were getting into the "binge watching" habit. American Horror Story has been running successfully for nine seasons, and other horror anthologies have been launched recently (The Twilight Zone, Two Sentence Horror Stories) to popular acclaim. So quite why Swamp Thing was cancelled as soon as it was released, I have no idea. A DC Universe staffer asked that very question was quoted as saying, "Unfortunately we are not in a position to answer at this time." Producer James Wan has also said that he didn't know or understand why the show was cancelled."

The cancellation, announced six days after the first episode debuted, also meant that only 10 of the planned 13 episodes were made. Actor Derek Mears has said that he had already received the script for episode 11 when the new broke, and the script to episode 10 was reworked to give it a satisfying ending.

Reaction to the show was overwhelmingly positive, the season earning a 94% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. And, having watched it myself, I have to agree that it was a series worth preserving and continuing. There was quite a lot of set-up and many characters that readers of the comics will recognise were introduced in the first couple of episodes, including Alec Holland, a brilliant but disgraced scientist who is convinced that a mysterious disease that has broken out in Marais, Louisiana, is linked to a mutagen found in the nearby swamps. Abby Arcane returns to her former home, sent by the CDC to investigate, and teams up with Alec.

The latter heads out into the swamp to find a number of cases that have been dropped into the swamp at the behest of Avery Sunderland, a powerful local businessman. Also at Sunderland's behest, Alec is killed, his body sinking into the swamp only for a mossy monster to rise in his place.

The season appears to be working its way towards introducing the Alan Moore version of Swamp Thing, most clearly in episode nine which shares Moore's "The Anatomy Lesson" title (Saga of Swamp Thing #21) in which it is revealed that the swamp monster is not a moss-bound Alec Holland but a plant that thinks it is Alec Holland. With the concept of The Green and (although not named) a ruling force (in the comics it was The Parliament of Trees) introduced, it would have been fascinating to see if the TV show had followed more of Moore's storylines. The final episode's post-credit transformation of Jason Woodrue into The Floronic Man hints at where the story was headed (Saga of Swamp Thing #22).

Shame. I would love to have seen the introduction of John Constantine and Swamp Thing's travels through Moore's "American Gothic" storyline, which I followed obsessively back in the 1980s.

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