December Bonus Review #4: Stories of Ibis

The Stories of Ibis is a novel from 2006 written by Yamamoto Hiroshi. Although I’ll be reading from the 2010 English version since, in spite of being a massive weeb, I don’t speak Japanese. In any case, it’s been quite a while since my last book review. So, I’m excited to get on with this one.

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Story:

We open with a wandering storyteller being confronted by an android. She says she just wants to talk, but he doesn’t believe her and proves no match for her and injures himself trying to bust her systems. She calls for help and he wakes up in hospital, a prisoner of the robots.

Our heroine introduces herself as Ibis and she entertains the story teller during his convalescence by telling him some stories. But can he overcome his deep-rooted mistrust of machines and actually listen?

The story is based around bibliotherapy and is reminiscent of 1001 Nights in that regard. The main narrative features Ibis telling stories to our protagonist while the stories she tells are feature a few thematic similarities. Namely that they’re about artificial intelligence and a positive attitude towards it. This eventually culminates in Ibis telling the non-fictional story about how mankind has reached its current state.

My first minor criticism of the narrative is that the Black Hole Diver story isn’t that great. It’s good, but not on par with the rest. My second is that it feels like it goes a bit far with how divorced humanity has become from its past. I understand why a lot of our history has to have been lost but the degree seems a tad excessive.

That being said, these stories are, generally, excellent. Even the worst of them is still good. They have a good variety in terms of content, but they all tie in together pretty well. Which is impressive considering that most of them were initially published as short stories by themselves. And the interactions with Ibis and the story teller are really interesting. It keeps you interested in how things got to this point. The pay off is well worth it too.

Characters:

The major characters are Ibis and the story teller. We get his point of view which gives us some insight into how humans of the age think as well as how he specifically differs from the norm. Which combines to give him a strong sense of personality. Ibis is quite compelling too. She has a sense of complexity but there’s enough that’s odd about it to give the impression that she’s not quite human.

The characters you see in the short stories are really well defined too. Yamamoto does a great job of giving you stories with a lot of nice background details and interesting technology but also making them very character focused.

Final Thoughts:

This book is fantastic. If you’re a fan of science fiction and you want to see how to handle the general concept of sapient AI really well and not like a bumbling man child, David Cage, I highly recommend it. I’ll give this one an enthusiastic 9/10.

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Kanamemo: When one character brings the whole thing down

Kansmemo is an anime from ’09 based off of a manga by Iwami Shouko. It was brought to anime form by feel. One of the studios behind the 4th series of Galaxy Angel, which I’ll get to eventually & the studio behind Oregairu. It’s a shoujo-ai slice of life, so it should be pretty firmly within my area of expertise. Let’s have a look.

kanamemo2.png Story:

The plot is simple enough. Young Nakamachi Kana loses her grandmother and finds herself without any relatives to look after her. Fortunately, she manages to find a job at a paper and it comes with boarding. It also comes with a bunch of quirky co-workers, which results in either completely normal events or shenanigans. As a premise for a slice of life comedy, that’s fine but the true test lies in the execution.

My big issue with the way the comedy is handled goes back to one of Kana’s co-workers, Haruka. Haruka’s comedic quirk is based around two things: She drinks a lot and she tries her utmost to molest little girls. That’s the big “joke” with her. And it’s not funny. At best, it comes across as uncomfortable and cringey. Haruka’s big scenes are, by a wide margin, the worst part of this series.

That being said, a lot of the humour that ignores her character works pretty well and the series does have a lot of funny moments. It goes in some weird directions as well, like having a musical episode but it generally does it well. I also appreciate Kana’s character arc as she becomes more secure and capable thanks to her determination and the help of those around her, besides Haruka who’s just interested in groping the thirteen year old. Have I mentioned that Haruka is horrible?

Characters:

The big flaw in the characters is probably obvious after the preceding discussion. I do have to say, Haruka isn’t exactly a unique character type. She’s reminiscent of Akane in Yuru Yuri or Kimura from Azumanga Daioh. The problem that Kanamemo encounters is that she’s a much more prominent character than either of those two. You can go episodes without an appearance by Akane or Kimura. You can have episodes where they appear for maybe a minute and the rest of the episode is good. Haruka, in contrast, does something despicable in every single episode. Usually in longish segments.

That being said, there are some great characters in this too. We have the love birds, Yume & Yuuki. The two of them are consistently adorable. We also have Hinata, the stingy ronin who’s trying to get her life together and has a bit of a clueless attitude when it comes to judging others. For example, there’s a scene where she calls Yume out for being irresponsible. When really, Yume has things together pretty well, certainly better than Hinata. She’s studying to be a pastry chef, she works hard, she has her bride lined up and their relationship dynamic is pretty well defined. She’s just weird and can come across as childish. We also have Saki, the strangely serious “chief” of the newspaper, who also happens to be in grade school. Then there’s Mika, an employee at a rival paper with a serious crush on Kana. What I like about her character is just what a genuine portrayal you get of a young teenager’s awkward first love.

One thing I do appreciate about the characters in general is that they’re shown as having goals and lives outside of the paper. Even Haruka is trying to become a sommelier. Although, in her case, that pretty much just translates to drinking a lot. I also like the way Kana’s character arc and consequential development are handled. If you exclude Haruka, I also like the dynamics you get with the characters. They work well for comedic purposes and characterisation purposes.

All of these characters are shown as having positive aspects to their personalities, except Haruka and negative as well. Which helps make them a bit more rounded. For example, Saki can come across as cold and, possibly too serious, but she also displays genuine concern for her employees. Yume can be childish but she also has a kind heart and tries to bring joy to those around her. Yuuki can be possessive and needy when it comes to Yume but she’s also a hard worker, loyal and she mitigates her jealous tendencies with understanding.

So, if Iwami can write characters this well, why did she just decide not to bother with Haruka?

Art:

As a whole, the art is fine. It’s not among the best I’ve seen, even for the genre, but it’s passable. The big thing I don’t really like about it is the way animals are drawn. They’re portrayed with these tiny, button-like eyes that makes their faces look huge by comparison. Especially when it comes to dogs. One thing that’s a bit interesting is that the series likes to censor out its potential fan-service with little cat pictures. Which is better than being fan-servicey, but it’s also kind of bizarre.

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Sound: 

Feel did get some strong actresses for this. With excellent performances from Toyosaki Aki, Hirohashi Ryou, Kugimiya Rie, Endou Aya & Mizuhara Kaoru. Even with Haruka’s actress, Horie Yui, I can’t fault her performance. She does about as well as anyone could when voicing such a trash character. Hashimoto Yukari’s music is good. Then again, she’s done well in every series I’ve reviewed that used her music. So, no surprise there.

Ho-yay:

There is a lot and of greatly varying quality. Any time Haruka gets involved, it’s awful. Yume and Yuuki are the opposite. These two are like really affectionate newly weds and they make for an adorable couple. Any time there’s a scene of them lying in bed together, sneaking a kiss or just interacting, it’s fantastic. There’s also Mika’s obvious feelings for Kana, Kana’s friends even notice and use that fact to tease Mika, and some strong indications that they’re reciprocated.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Get rid of Haruka. This one is really simple. Haruka single-handedly brings the series down. I would say there are two ways to go with this. The first is to just have one less major character. The second is to replace her with a not despicable character. Maybe a charming womanising girl who isn’t a rapey paedophile.
  2. Learn to draw animals. I just really don’t like the way animal eyes are drawn in this.
  3. Give us the scene where Mika learns that Johnny is a goldfish. This one, I just think would be really funny and probably cute. So, I’d like to see it. And I’m sure someone is going to say “oh, that’s in the manga. Just read it.” I intend to check the manga. I’d still like to see it animated.

Final Thoughts:

Kanamemo is one of those series that really works when it’s doing what it’s good at. Unfortunately, it also has a massive flaw that really hurts it. And her name is Haruka. Without her, I could say this was great, maybe even fantastic, and whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who likes slice of life. With her, I have to pull back and say it’s just okay. If you can tolerate Haruka in all her horribleness, you’ll probably appreciate all the fun, charming moments it does have. And it may be worth watching just for the Yume and Yuuki scenes. So, I’ll give it a 6/10.

December Bonus Review #3: The Black Cauldron

Disney may be one of the world’s most famous studios but it’s not one I’ve looked at all that much, unless you want to count all the Marvel reviews I’ve done. It’s pretty much been The Rescuers. So, let’s look at another Disney feature. The Black Cauldron was released in 1985 and it was a huge commercial failure and it’s probably the film Disney likes to acknowledge the least. Yes, even less than Song of the South. Now, I never saw this film as a kid. I wasn’t born yet when it came out and its flop status basically meant that it wasn’t one of those “classics” that was released a thousand times and made available everywhere. So, let’s take a look at the film and ask two questions. First, does it deserve its negative reputation? Second, why did it bomb so badly?

Black Cauldron.png

Story:

We open with an explanation of what the titular Black Cauldron is. It’s a seal for an evil being who was feared even by the Gods. And those with wicked intentions seek to use its power for their own ends. We cut to a small farm where an elderly man and his assistant look after a pig. The assistant, Taran, wants to go out into the world as a soldier and stop the Horned King but is quickly reminded of his place. He’s washing the pig, Hen Wen, when she suddenly becomes agitated. It turns out she has the power of prophesy. The old man uses her power and becomes worried that the Horned King will find out. As such, he sends Taran off to hide with her and keep her safe. He’d go but he’s very old.

This results in Taran coming up against the Horned King and embarking on a quest to find the Black Cauldron to keep it out of wicked hands.

The biggest general issue with the story is the pacing. It never gives you time to sit with the main characters and get to know them. You pretty much go from one big event to the next pretty rapidly. If the film were even twenty minutes longer and had some time to breathe, it could have been legitimately an excellent film.

The film does provide you with an adventure. Even if it is hectically paced. There’s consistently something interesting happening. It also does a good job with tone. The film is considerably darker than other Disney films of the time but it’s never over done or poorly done. I quite appreciate the sacrifice scene towards the end as well. It has some power to it. I also like the way it works to give all its major characters a place in the party and moments to shine. In terms of fantasy films for a younger audience, this is up there.

Characters:

One side issue with the overly rapid pacing is that the characters don’t get as much development as I would like. That being said, they aren’t bad compared to a lot of the Disney films from that time. They’re at about the same level of complexity as Disney’s Robin Hood. 

One thing I will credit the film with is having the best Disney Princess of its time. Seriously, when this came out the Disney Princess formula was basically taking a helpless damsel, putting her into trouble outside of her control and letting the hero come to her rescue. See Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty & Maid Marian from Robin Hood. Princess Eilonwy, in contrast, takes an active role in the adventure and she meets Taran when she comes to his rescue. She’s portrayed as an equal partner in the adventure. Even if you compare her to all Disney heroines that existed at the time, Miss Bianca and Alice are the only two better characters and being number three is pretty respectable.

Art & Visuals

Here’s another area where you have to give this film credit. It looks stunning. The art direction is very impressive. The movements are smooth. The backgrounds look great. The Horned King is intimidating and his Cauldron born are pretty damn creepy for the five minutes they’re on screen.

Acting & Music:

Most of the acting is decent enough. The positive exceptions to that are John Hurt, who is excellent as the villain and Susan Sheridan who gives a strong performance as Eilonwy. The big exception in a negative sense is, unfortunately, Grant Bardsley as Taran. His lines just come across as awkward and stilted half the time. It’s like he wasn’t sure whether or not to exaggerate for the film and he kind of starts to only to pull it back. And all without much of that troublesome emoting. Elmer Bernstein’s musical score is pretty fantastic.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Take some more time to develop the characters and their relationships. If there’s one thing that could have benefited this film more than any other, it’s more relaxed pacing. Like I said, I’d give it an extra twenty minutes of run time.
  2. A different lead to play Taran. I’m sorry, but Bardsley sucked.
  3. Explain about the magical tools a bit. Of our main characters, three either have or acquire magical implements and there’s not really an explanation for, say, what Eilonwy’s glowing bauble actually does. Or why the bard carries a magic harp that snaps its strings when he lies.

Final Thoughts:

Is this one of Disney’s worst films? Personally, I’d say it isn’t. Honestly, I thought it was pretty solid. It has some notable flaws, certainly, but it also has quite a few factors going for it. I’d certainly put it far above Disney’s shit films like The Little Mermaid. I’d also put it higher than the more mediocre films like The Aristocats. So, why didn’t it do well? I think the fact that it is darker than Disney’s other films of the time was a factor. It’s tough to pull off a departure like that. I would also say Bardsley’s performance was a part of it. It’s not easy to sell audiences on a character who sounds like that. The hectic pacing and the film’s high budget were probably also contributing factors. Still, I’d go so far as to give this one a 7/10. It’s not one of Disney’s best, but it’s pretty good. If you haven’t seen it and you like fantasy, give it a try.

Meisou-Ou Border: Basically Nothing

Meisou-ou Border is a forty five minute OVA from ’91. It’s based off of a Caribu Marley manga and was brought to life by Artland. That’s right, the studio behind such pieces of complete tripe as Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu and Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou. But they also did Mushishi and Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino, so we can’t assume the worst.

Story:

We open with two blokes living in filth in a sketchy flat complex being hired to do a job. Since it’s good money and they’re incredibly stupid, they don’t think to ask what the job actually is before taking it. From there the plot just meanders.

Therein lies the big problem with this OVA. There’s some build up leading to their job but the actual work ends in five minutes and, after that, it’s just these idiots faffing about for the second half of the OVA. Even the job doesn’t get resolved well. There’s never a point where anything really engaging, funny or interesting happens. Which makes watching this roughly equivalent to staring at your wall. You probably won’t be too bothered by doing it but you also won’t gain anything from it.

Characters:

I’m just going to refer to our protagonists as young scruffy guy and old shabby guy. Yeah, I could take ten seconds to look at their names, but I don’t care enough. Scruffy is one of those protagonists who’s an amicable, well-intentioned slob. Shabby is more the hedonistic, cheapskate but good on the inside type. They’re both incredibly stupid and we get the same problem with them as we have with the narrative in general. They’re just devoid of anything noteworthy or compelling. You could replace them with stray dogs on an adventure with no dialogue and at least the dogs would be cute which would make them better.

Art:

In terms of artwork and animation, it doesn’t look bad. It’s not the world’s most polished looking work, but it’s fine. And that’s, unfortunately, the highest praise I can give any element of this OVA. The worst part of the artwork is the character design. A lot of the major dudes who show up are just these kind of generic looking mangy guys. So, a lot of it ends up looking the same. It’s kind of like Marvel’s old GI Joe comics with clean cut blonde, blue-eyed dudes you can’t differentiate at a glance. Except that those gave them distinct outfits and these guys all dress similarly too.

Maybe Caribu just likes having generic mangy guys as characters as much as I like writing LGBT characters.

Sound: 

The main characters are voiced by Yara Yuusaku & Horiuchi Kenyuu. Their performances aren’t particularly impressive but they’re perfectly passable. I’ve heard better performances from both of them in the past, but those were in series where they were doing things that warranted range. The music is entirely forgettable. It’s all just rather generic.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any on display.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Focus on one story line. Part of the problem with this work is that, instead of giving us one cohesive narrative and doing it well, it gives us a mesh of thrown together, half-assed plot lines. Focusing on one story would have given it a chance to develop the conflict and characters better.
  2. Characters need personality. If you’re going to waste more than half the work doing nothing, at least use that time to give the characters some complexity.
  3. Distinctive Designs. These guys looking very similar and just generic in general does not help this OVA. Even if you want to maintain the aesthetic of having them both look shabby, you can do that while also giving them more differentiated facial features. At the very least.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, Meisou-ou Border isn’t a bad OVA. Its biggest failing comes down to one simple factor, there’s nothing to it.  So, unless you need a sleep aid I can’t really recommend it. I’ll give it a 4/10 for being dull and tedious but inoffensive.

December Bonus Review #2: A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night is a film from 1964. Directed by Richard Lester and starring the Beatles, as you may have surmised from the title, who were riding high at the height of Beatlemania Possibly from drugs as well. This was the era of hippies after all. In any case, let’s take a gander at the film.

Hard Day's Night.png

Story:

We open with The Beatles running from hordes of fans while the titular song plays. After a bunch of Benny Hill style shenanigans, they manage to reach their train. George, Ringo & John are surprised to find that Paul’s brought his granddad along. Paul describes him as a rascal and a troublemaker, but says he was asked to bring him because he needs a change of scenery. The film then follows the fab four as they try to get through their concert while dealing with fallout from the elder McCartney’s troublesome behaviour. It doesn’t help that the Beatles themselves are quite fond of causing shenanigans.

The biggest issue I have with the film, narratively, is with the concert at the end. It’s kind of a lazy series of scenes where we see the Beatles play parts of songs we’ve already heard in full in other parts of the film while they show crowd shots of young people, mostly women, going crazy. And we already know that the Beatles caused a lot of moistness/ hardness in their prime so that doesn’t really do much. Another bit that bothers me a little is the whole chase scene with law enforcement. The chase scene is quite funny. It just never gets any proper closure.

On the positive side, the film’s sense of humour is pretty spot on. The part with the crotchety old man on the train is fantastic. Seeing George Harrison get dragged into a fashion office and giving them a piece of his mind is a great scene. The whole interview where you hear them all give absurd answers to questions is hilarious. The back and forth between John and their fictional manager, Norm, is great. And the vast majority of the jokes do hold up really well. The big exception there is the ongoing gag about Paul’s grandfather being very clean. Which was a reference to a sitcom the actor did but I only know that because I looked up some information about the film. I’m totally going to use that as an example of why references don’t work as jokes from now on.

Characters:

The Beatles themselves are a lot of fun. They seem to be enjoying themselves and they do come across as highly charismatic, fun-loving lads. And I know the surviving band members are more than twice my age, but they were lads when this film was made. There are also some strong supporting characters for them to play off of. The grandfather’s trouble making serves to bring out a slightly more responsible part for the main cast. Which works nicely in allowing them to showcase a bit more depth.

Cinematography, Visuals and Effects

My big complaint, in terms of the visuals, is that the musical numbers they just sit and play are kind of boring and the lip-syncing that goes with them isn’t great. The film also features some songs that play while The Beatles engage in entertaining visual gags. The chase scene from the start and the field cavorting scene are both strong examples of that. And those musical scenes are amazing. The film does feature some strong visual gags as well.

Acting & Music:

The acting is really good, surprisingly so given that this was the band’s first foray into film. I think it does help that they’re just having a blast. The actors working alongside them are pretty clearly seasoned professionals and give strong performances as well. The songs are fantastic, as you would expect from the Beatles. There are classics like A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy me love, And I love Her & She loves you to just name a few.

Areas of Improvement:

Time for everyone’s favourite segment, me talking about the specific things I’d change.

  1. Shorten the Concert scene. I already mentioned the problem with this scene but I also understand why they needed to show something for it. I’d just cut it down so you still get the idea but you aren’t sitting through so many segments of songs you’ve already heard.
  2. Give John and Norm some more scenes. Like I said, their trading jabs throughout the film is one of the best comedic parts. So, I’d play it up a bit more.
  3. Less Sitting, more action in musical numbers. Like I said, the best musical numbers are the ones where they’re actually doing something during while those that feature them sitting down and playing are a bit boring, even with the good music. So, I’d find some zany shenanigans for them to get up to during more of these segments.

Final Thoughts:

For its time, this was a very influential film that set the standard for what a musical film should be. Over fifty years later, it holds up pretty well. The comedic elements largely work, the music is classic, and it’s just a lot of fun. I’ll give it a solid 7/10.

Panda Kopanda: Early Miyazaki

Panda Kopanda is a pair of sort films from the early 1970s. Yes, that is even older than me. It was put out by Tokyo Movie Shinsha. You may remember them as the studio behind Magic Knight Rayearth & Versailles no Bara. That might give you low expectations but it was also written by Miyazaki Hayao, back before Studio Ghibli was a thing. And he’s done screenplays for some of the best anime films out there. So, get your expectations away from mediocrity or worse.

Panda Kopanda.png

Story:

We open with young Mimiko seeing her grandmother off. Apparently it was time for the old bat to go into a home. (Actually, she’s going on a trip and can’t take Mimiko because she has school.) While on her own, Mimiko finds out that something strange happened while she was out. She swiftly finds the culprit and it’s a baby panda named Pan-chan. Pan-chan’s father arrives and is very upset to learn that Mimiko has no parents. So, he decides that he’ll be her father and, in exchange, she says she’ll act as Pan-chan’s mum. I know that sounds really questionable, but it isn’t. Thus the trio forms a bizarre little family.

The biggest issue with the films is, ultimately, that it doesn’t always take full advantage of its scenarios. For example, there’s a segment where Mimiko takes Pan-chan to school and some shenanigans ensue. But, ultimately, considerably more could have been done with this. Then there’s the grandmother. Mimiko having a grandmother doesn’t really do anything. Theoretically, she’ll get back from her trip at some point and that will lead to something, but there were only two films and that never came to fruition. Having her departure scene doesn’t really do anything and having Mimiko write to her doesn’t really do anything. Although, tying into the first point, there could have been a really funny scene of the grandmother reading the initial letter and misunderstanding it. It also is a bit weird that some animals talk and others don’t. Most of the circus animals, for instance, don’t say anything.

With that being said, the content they do have is fun and it has a real charm to it. Watching the characters interact with circus animals is fun. The stuff we do get at the school is enjoyable. The initial meeting with the characters is a fun time. There’s never a moment where what’s on the screen is just nothing. Miyazaki also does a good job of bringing in some minor sources of tension for the children. As adults, we know it’s going to turn out okay but for the intended audience, they work well.

Characters:

The cast is simple, but they’re entertaining. Honestly, their interactions and dynamics are strong enough for a work with a comedic bent. Even if it was intended for older audiences they’d be perfectly functional in that regard.

Art:

The artwork definitely shows its age. It uses that really old school style where the animation is a bit janky and the art style is very basic. Honestly, though, it holds up pretty well. You’ll never confuse it for a newer series, but the bright vibrant colours and simplistic style do have their own sense of charm when they’re used well.

Panda Kopanda1.png

Sound:

Our little family is voiced by Kumakura Kazuo, Oota Yoshiko and Sugiyama Kazuko. You might not be super familiar with them since a lot of their acting roles are in older anime but they all give solid performances. The music is very energetic and just fun.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any romance whatsoever in this. So, no ho-yay. And, in this case, that’s a good thing.

Areas of Improvement:

Now it’s time for me to present those changes that I think could have made for a better work.

  1. Cut out the grandmother. Honestly, I think it would have been better if they’d left out the grandmother and had a girl, living on her own and finding a strange family with talking pandas. The grandmother just does nothing.
  2. No Mum. Basically, instead of having Mimiko agree to “be Pan-chan’s mum” I’d just have her agree to help take care of him and have her treated as an older sister. Because the mum thing is the only part of the films that’s weird and not in a good way.
  3. No More Mute Circus Animals. I don’t really think they all need to talk. Especially since most of them appear very briefly. But the Tiger mum could benefit from some actual lines. Especially since her baby talks and has quite a bit of dialogue. And it just comes across as strange that she only seems capable of making actual animal sounds.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, Panda Kopanda is an entertaining, endearing children’s film. If you’re just looking for something that’s simple and fun, give it a go. It’s not one of Miyazaki’s best works, but it is quite good. I’ll give it a solid 7/10.

December Bonus Review #1: Star Trek: Next Gen/ X-men Second Contact

Some crossover ideas just don’t work even when you hear them. Like combining Final Fantasy with random Disney worlds or having The Looney Tunes, Muppet Babies, Ninja Turtles, Smurfs, Winnie The Poo, Chipmunks, Garfield and Alf all combine forces to talk about Marijuana or having Archie meet the Ninja Turtles. On the surface, this seems slightly better than those but not like something that could work well. I love Star Trek: Next Gen and I have a great fondness for the X-men. The book was brilliant for that decade when Chris Claremont was writing it. However, they just don’t seem like they’d mesh well. But let’s take a look, maybe it’s better than it sounds.

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Story:

We open with the Enterprise crew returning to their time after the events of First Contact. But something goes askew and they end up in the past. They detect Shi’ar technology and realise that, not only shouldn’t it be there, but it’s their only hope of repairing their ship and returning home. This leads them to the X-men who happen to recognise the Enterprise name from that time they met the original series crew.

The two groups are approached by Kang who warns them that there are anomalies thanks to the Enterprise crossing over from another time and universe. They decide that even though he’s known to be evil, they can’t take the risk and set out to fix things.

Therein lies the first big problem with this crossover, Kang is lying. Yeah, that’s perfectly in keeping with his character but the Enterprise crew has Counsellor Deanna Troi on it. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Next Gen, Counsellor Troi is half Betazoid. They’re an alien species that can read the minds of most species. As a half blood, she can’t read minds properly but she is an empath and she can sense things like, say, when someone’s deceiving her. There are several episodes where that comes up as an important plot point and she should sense immediately that Kang is lying to them but she doesn’t cause the whole plot of them travelling to Wolf 359 from Star Trek and the X-men’s Days of the Future Past wouldn’t happen if her abilities were working as they should. Shadowcat gets the same kind of treatment. At one point she phases through a Sentinel and they forget that she short-circuits machinery when she phases through it.

Another issue is just that the whole situation is a bit boring. They meet, decide to work together, fight some threats that should be kind of menacing but come across as kind of weak given how easily they’re dispatched. It all comes across as more than a little rushed. Although I will give them some credit for trying to give both teams equal time in the spotlight.

Characters:

Both of these casts should be great, in theory. Unfortunately, the writing from Abnett and Edgington doesn’t do them justice. They come across as pretty bland. And some characters, like Angel, don’t get to do or say anything. I’m not even kidding. Angel is there, but he seems to spend all his time in the background just standing around. I don’t recall him even getting a line of dialogue. Doctor Crusher doesn’t fare much better. They also don’t do much with the characters interacting. They go on missions together, sure, but they don’t talk much beyond very strict, business stuff. If I were someone who really wanted to read this crossover thinking it might be good, I would be very disappointed.

Art:

The artwork has its moments. The characters in general look decent enough. As do the backgrounds and action sequences. One issue with it is that the dialogue balloon placement isn’t the best and it can be challenging to figure out who’s supposed to be talking in large group shots. Maybe that’s where all of Angel’s dialogue is. There’s also a big artwork fail in a panel with Banshee and Commander Riker. To put it simply, they’re exchanging some dialogue while Banshee is clearly using his powers. For those who don’t know, Banshee’s power is a sonic scream. He literally can’t use it and talk at the same time. It would be like Cyclops shooting his optic blasts while reading.

Areas of Improvement:
This one is going to be a challenge, because I honestly don’t know how to make this a good crossover using what’s presented as a base. If I was writing something completely on my own, maybe I could manage it. So, I’ll kind of have to settle for suggestions that might have made it somewhat passable.

  1. Reworking Kang’s Villainy. Honestly, I would have him use a combined force of Sentinels and Borg drones to steal the Shi’ar tech. You could keep the same villains, give both teams a reason to go after him and you wouldn’t need to drag a bunch of extra characters in just so they could have a cameo.
  2. Let the Teams Chat. This comic could be way more interesting if the X-men and Enterprise crew had some real banter. Wolverine and Worf could talk about what it means to be a warrior. Storm and Captain Picard could talk about what his future’s stance on mutants might be. Shadowcat could talk tech with Geordi, or at least try to because I doubt he’d give her any real information even though she’s an enthusiastic nerd when it comes to technology. Having more banter would really liven the story up.
  3. Give Angel and Doctor Crusher something to do. Seriously, if you’re going to be bothered putting them in, let them do something.

Final Thoughts:

Second Contact isn’t dreadful. It has pretty decent art, mostly. And there’s clearly effort put into making it an equal crossover. Unfortunately, the details are off, which puts in some pretty significant plot holes. The teams have weak interactions which, in turn, makes the characterisation come across as weak. But hey, maybe the actual novel they advertise at the end as a continuation is better. This comic is pretty bad though. I give it a 3/10.