On the Stargate: Universe Comics

I love Stargate: Universe. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know it’s one of my favourite shows of all time. Its premature cancellation left a hole in my heart that’s never quite been filled.

Cover art for an issue of the Stargate: Universe comicsWhen it was announced the series would continue in a series of canonical comics, my feelings were decidedly mixed. I want to cheer any continuation of Universe, but I’m not a big comics reader, and it’s not the same without the fantastic performances of actors like Robert Carlyle and Louis Ferreira. More worryingly, the comics would not be written by the same people who brought us SG:U, nor would they follow the long-term series plan created by Robert Cooper.

Still, while strolling through Indigo, my eyes landed on a compilation of the first six issues of the comics, and I couldn’t contain my curiosity.

It was a decidedly mixed experience.

The one thing the comics do very well is capture the characters. They’re all immediately recognizable as their old selves. Rush is still a shifty bastard, Eli is still a lovable dork, and Colonel Young is the gruff father figure we all know and love. Even their speech patterns have been captured perfectly. I was constantly hearing the actors’ voices in my head as I was reading.

The good news, sadly, pretty much ends there.

This is basically Deus Ex Machina: The Series. It’s just an endless spree of incredibly lucky breaks for the Destiny and its crew. If that sounds out of character for SG:U, congratulations, you’ve seen at least one episode of the series. The tone is just way off, and the end result is the removal of much of the struggle that made Universe special as a story.

What makes this even more egregious is that the story doesn’t really advance any other way. We learn nothing new about the mysteries of the Destiny or its mission. The eternally rushed comic book medium doesn’t have space to develop the relationships and character arcs that were so memorable on the show. The entire focus is on the festival of deus ex machinas.

These comics are the brainchild of writers who previously worked on Stargate: Atlantis, and honestly, I can’t escape the impression that their main goal was to turn Universe into Atlantis so they’d be back on familiar ground.

I’m a fan of Atlantis, too, but what made Universe special was that it broke new ground. It had its own character that was separate from the other incarnations of Stargate. The writers of these comics either don’t understand or don’t appreciate that, and for that reason I don’t think I can give the comics a recommendation, much as I wish it were otherwise.

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Review: Mass Effect: Andromeda: Annihilation

If there’s one question Andromeda left me wanting an answer for, it was the fate of the Quarian Ark. Oh, there are many more unanswered questions from the last Mass Effect game, but none of the others have such an immediacy. Questions about the Kett, Jaardan, and Benefactor can wait for the sequels — and yes, for all the doom-saying around Bioware in general and Mass Effect in particular these days, I do expect Andromeda sequels, though perhaps not for a while.

Cover art for Mass Effect: Andromeda: Annihilation by Catherynne M. ValenteThankfully, that burning question has at last been answered. In the new novel Annihilation, author Catherynne M. Valente uncovers the true fate of the Keelah Si’yah.

I will say off the bat: This is a delightful book. Initiation was fun, but not really essential reading, even for hardcore fans. Annihilation, on the other hand, is something I’ll recommend to any fan of any of the Mass Effect games. Not only because it answers a crucial mystery from Andromeda, but just because it’s so good.

In the truest Bioware tradition, the best feature of Annihilation is its characters. The Keelah Si’yah carries not just Quarians, but members of many other less influential Milky Way races, allowing for a cast as diverse and colourful as any of the Mass Effect games. Particularly memorable are the acerbic Volus fashion designer Irit Non, lovesick Quarian outcast Senna’Nir, and the Elcor wannabe thespian known as Yorrick.

What really surprised me is how funny Annihilation is. I was expecting a very dark, unhappy book, and in some ways it is, but the characters are such oddballs and the writing has such a wry, quirky style that I found myself laughing out loud on almost every other page.

Not to say that it can’t be serious when it needs to be. Actually I found the mystery of why so many things are going wrong aboard the Ark quite effective. The ultimate reveal is not at all what I was expecting, though it makes perfect sense in retrospect — everything a good mystery’s conclusion should be. It’s also far more interesting — at least in my opinion — than any of the popular fan theories for what wrong aboard the Keelah Si’yah.

It is not entirely perfect, of course. I really only have one complaint, but it does cut down on the enjoyment of the book a fair bit: It’s much too short, and much too rushed. These characters could have carried a book twice this long. They could have carried a trilogy, or a quartet. I wanted to spend more time with them. I wanted to see their relationships continue to grow and evolve.

Annihilation is like a delicious, inventive meal, but the portions are all too small, and it leaves you hungry for more.

Overall rating: 8.1/10