Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Comic Books and Lost, Part I

I've been meaning to write about this for quite a while, but just haven't found the time until now. Having been a comic book buff all my life, it's difficult for me to watch the show and not be reminded of certain stories and themes from various comics, especially considering the fantastical nature of the show. In many ways, Lost reminds me of one of those "TWELVE ISSUE LIMITED MINI-SERIES" that DC and Marvel used to pump out with regularity back in the 80's. And the way the show is structured around flashbacks gives the show the sort of a "See ish 159 - ed.!" connectivity and history that comics used to traditionally provide.

I've already written on how the time travel aspect of Lost reminds me of "Days of Future Past" and, while there's been no indication from Darlton that that particular story has influenced the show, it's such a famous tale it would certainly be one of the more likely candidates. But I'd also like to talk about three comic book stories, much less well known than DofP, that remind me a bit of what's been going on in Lost the past few seasons. As I started writing this, it turned out to be a much larger post than I expected, so I'm breaking it up into three.

The common thread through all these is the Fantastic Four, not necessarily because they were one of my favorites (which they were), but more because the nature of their adventures involved quite a bit of time and interdimensional travel. Two of these stories also involve a character called the Beyonder, an omnipotent being who later turned out to be a rogue fragment of a Cosmic Cube, something which sounds suspiciously like Ben's famous magic box. All of these stories came out in the 80's and early 90's.

1. Fantastic Four Vol. 1, Issues 337-341

For six glorious years, famed comic book writer and artist John Byrne (the same artist coincidentally who drew the aforementioned DoFP story) inked and wrote Fantastic Four during the eighties. It's largely considered to be one of the best runs of the comic in its 45 year history. Following Byrne's time on the book, the FF comic entered a three-year period of turmoil, going through a variety of writers and artists, all of whom were pretty poor in comparison to Byrne and never really managed to capture the larger-than-life feel the comic had during his tenure.

Enter Walt Simonson. Starting in issue 337 (Click on the pics for biggie versions), Walt, who had single-handedly resurrected Thor as a Marvel title during the eighties, took full control over the FF, both writing and inking. Style-wise, his art is like no other, a helter-skelter sketchy style that on one hand is very simplistic, yet still filled with eye-popping details. Simonson, along with Byrne, actually used Reed Richards in the way he should be used, fueling FF stories with his brilliant inventions and making lots of very, very long words come out of his mouth. Comic readers sometimes hate Reed, because they think he's boring, but I only think he's boring when he isn't written well. If he is, he's the most versatile character in the Marvel Universe because he can create anything. Kinda of a stretchy deus ex machina, if you will.

Simonson's first tale was one of cosmic proportions: a five-issue, time travel story that contained one of the best holy crap, jaw-dropping shock endings of a comic book I've ever read (coming at the end of issue 338), very similar to a classic Lost ending. For those of you who may wish to read these comics in the future (and you can buy them very cheaply on eBay), I will not spoil that surprise. But here's the basic gist of the story...

The comic opens with an alarm sounding in FF headquarters. Someone has set a bomb, trying to destroy Reed's latest research project. The project is saved, but it turns out to be something secret Reed hasn't revealed to everyone else on the team. In fact, Reed has built his entire research area in a small pocket dimension inside Four Freedoms Plaza. While the entire sequence is too long to go into here, this little snippet gives you a taste of how Simonson wrote Reed. "Tesseract volume analog" may invite snickers from some, but 1) Simonson made no pretensions of sticking with actual science (or traditional science fiction) throughout his run as long as it sounded fantastic and cool and 2) it's certainly better than midichlorians, right? But I digress. Of course, everyone on the team wants to know what he's working on. Reed explains with the little time experiment below.

Basically, somewhere in the future, is a "time bubble" containing a Celestial, an ancient God in the Marvel Universe, who is creating a terrible weapon. The bubble protects this weapon and no one has been able to time travel inside the bubble or out. Furthermore the bubble is expanding, such that thirty-five years into the future time ceases to exist. Reed, with the help of Iron Man and Thor, construct a Time Sled with which they hope to penetrate the bubble and destroy the weapon. It's just a terrific tale with a terrific ending and, as I said before, the shocker in the middle of the story is one of the best I've ever read in a comic. (Note: at this time Ben Grimm, the Thing, is human and Ms. Marvel, Sharon Ventura, has been transformed into a She-Thing. Don't ask. It's a remnant of the regime before Simonson took over. 'Nuff said.)

So what does this story have to do with Lost? Well, the time bubble is the obvious connection, given that we've never gotten a real explanation for the barrier surrounding the Island. Plus, now that time seems to be moving differently between the two zones, it makes me think of it even more. In addition, the bubble in the comic was artificially created to protect the Celestial's weapon. I think I've always assumed that the bubble surrounding the Island was a natural thing, i.e. a by-product of the Island's mysterious properties. But what if the bubble was actually artificial, something erected to protect the Island and the black box at its center? And, even more importantly, what if the bubble was something that could be turned off or even destroyed? And, and... what happens if the Island's barrier starts to expand? Makes you think, eh?

Another connection to Lost was in the way Reed and company entered the bubble, navigating its perimeter at a very precise trajectory, much like Frank and Michael were instructed to do with the Island barrier. But what happens if you don't? Do you just get bounced back like Desmond did? Or can something worse happen if you get trapped in the barrier around the island? I was honestly surprised when Michael did actually make it through the barrier okay. Part of me thought that he might have been trapped in the bubble and he and Walt were both spit out years older. Obviously we now know that's not the case, but the nature of the barrier has never been fully explained.

In the comic, as Reed penetrated the bubble, an infinite number of copies of the sled were created, representing an infinite number of possible futures. Reed says he has to find the one, true timeline in the bubble's center and must enter into a turbulence-filled, wormhole-like"vortex" in order to do so. Now Lost doesn't seem to subscribe to an infinite probability-type future, given that everyone seems to have a specific fate on the show (or at least we've been led to believe so far). But given the theory that Ben and Charles are one and the same, an infinite number of copies makes me go hmmm...

When Reed finally emerges in the bubble's center, he found he and the sled were out of phase with the time inside, moving at a much faster speed than its inhabitants. Reed's explanation for this is that the bubble, since it was growing, was creating a "time-dilation effect," slowing down time inside. This effect is obviously very similar to what's happening to time on the Island, though not to the same degree that it's happening in the comic. But I do think that an "out-of-phase" effect to that degree could be something the show visits in the future. I've long thought that one of the explanations to all the coincidences between the characters was that someone we know (likely Desmond) who goes back in time to coordinate everything and make sure everyone gets on the plane. Of course, it would be helpful if he could go back and move around unseen, something this effect would allow him to do.

So that's all I'll talk about this tale, one which I highly recommend, especially if you're a Marvel fan. Chances are, Darlton has never even heard of this story, given that, as far as I know, it largely flew under the radar to anyone but the geekiest of comic book geeks *ahem*. But as the show has progressed with more and more of a time travel storyline, I keep being reminded of it and I thought it would be fun to share it with everyone. In the next installment, I'll talk a bit about the Marvel Secret Wars and how that tale (which WAS a Marvel classic) might relate to Ben's black box. :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

About Those Glyphs...

Been looking over Wikipedia's glyph lists to try and figure out what the heck Ben's door says, but it's really tough to see them all.

The door again:

As far as I can tell, the two little men on the door are A27 (top) and A24 (bottom), both of which seem to mean "to strike" or "to hit."

The container is probably W24, which means "to get."

The ankh traditionally means "life," but the one on the door seems more stylized than a normal ankh symbol. It looks a bit like an upside-down Q7 symbol. Sort of.

There's also a folded cloth up top, one of the symbols from the Swan timer, which means "health."

The squiggly line is universal for water, but I can't really make out the symbol it's under. It looks like one of the container symbols with two little circles inside towards the top.

The little upside down fish like symbol, depending on whether there really is a line underneath the tail or not, could be either V7, which is a phonetic symbol, or perhaps U36 which can mean "alas."

Anyway, I've stared at these things long enough. Best guess: "Enter this chamber and get a weapon to use to strike your enemy and save your life." Or something. Anyone out there with better eyes than me? :)

Lost Episode Review 4.09: "The Shape of Things to Come"

: "I'm here, Charles, to tell you I'm going to kill your daughter."

Wow, was that great episode or what? Certainly the second-best this season, only behind "The Constant" and, in my book, another Top 10 episode contender. It really did a lot of things well - It tied up a bunch of loose ends, including how Ben recruited Sayid, how the DHARMA polar bear ended up in Tunisia and whether Ben was really lying or not when he said he knew nothing about the Smoke Monster (HA - I knew he was lying!). But it also delved quite a bit into Ben and Charles Widmore and the fact they had a pre-existing relationship/agreement and now sets up a harrowing end game for the rest of the series: Whether Ben will end up killing Penny or not?

So much to talk about, but we simply have to start with:

1. How much control does Ben have over the Monster?

I was so STOKED to see Smokey again. And how awesome was it to see it barreling through the Barracks like a freight train? Ben appeared to "release" the Monster from an underground chamber that reminded me a bit of how the Rancor was released from "Return of the Jedi." When he emerged he was covered in dirt, lending credence to the theory that the Monster lives underground and travels to the surface through certain "Cerberus Vents."

But how much control does Ben have over it? He didn't seem to want to release it initially, probably for fear of his (and later, Alex's) life. From the Blast Door Map, The Monster was rumored to have been DHARMA's security system. But judging from the looks of the door to the Monster Chamber, it really looks like the Monster definitely pre-dates DHARMA. Look at the hieroglyphics here - I've lightened the door so you can see them:

Similar to the ones on the countdown timer in the Swan, eh? Those glyphs translated to "Underworld" - wonder what these mean? So were the Barracks built over a pre-existing structure? Did DHARMA build them there so they could control the Monster? Was this a contentious point that set off the war between DHARMA and the natives? Locke needs to grill Ben on this the next couple episodes.

2. How did Ben get to Tunisia?

Obviously the same way the polar arrived there in "Confirmed Dead." Ben was wearing Edgar Halliwax/Marvin Candle's jacket bearing a new DHARMA logo that looks like (to me) an orchid inside a swirly design. He had an injured arm and vomited upon regaining consciousness. When he arrived at civilization, the hotel clerk informed him it was October 21st, 2005 and Ben specifically asked about the year.

Ben also obviously lied to Sayid about how he arrived though and, interestingly, I think it's the first time on the show he's specifically mentioned Desmond by name.

So what questions does all this raise?

* The Orchid Station is likely able to teleport/transport people off the island. Question is, how specific can it be? Can it only teleport to Tunisia and/or a couple select areas around the globe? If so, why?

A distinct possibility is there's a wormhole where you enter and are spit out in a specific place. If so though, you would think Widmore would have had a small army camped out at the exit point (he would have to know where it is by now). And it should be pointed out that the Orchid video does mention Casimir effects, which can be used to stabilize wormholes.

* How did Ben injure his arm? Was he fighting some people off when he jumped or was it a side-effect of the trip? Remember Marvin Candle seemed to have a prosthetic arm too.

* Why was Ben wearing a parka if he knew he was going to end up in the desert? Is the trip a cold one? Is there a cold part of the island?

Then there's the question my friend Matt asked me over e-mail this morning:

3. Is Charles Widmore a future version of Ben?

This question was originally "so what agreement do Charles and Ben have?" but I like this one better.

Future version, I'd say no.

But what about an anti-matter copy? Remember in the Orchid video that the rabbits seemed to copy themselves and Halliwax screamed "make sure they don't come in contact." Could Ben and Charles be anti-matter copies of themselves and that's why they can't kill each other (or even come in contact)?

Perhaps Ben had an accident in the Orchid Station a long time ago and ended up creating an anti-matter copy of himself who became Charles Widmore. Both Ben and Charles found out the truth and realized they couldn't kill each other, however they both still coveted the island. They also originally agreed not to hurt each other's family, but apparently those gloves have now been taken off.

4. Did Ben set Sayid up or merely take advantage of a situation?

I think the conventional wisdom here is that Ben arranged the whole thing to get Sayid on his side. However, I do think it's possible Ben found out Charles had someone kill Nadia (possibly in gunning for Sayid) and decided to use the situation to his advantage.

Question now is, will Ben have Sayid kill Penny or will he have to do it himself? I have a very hard time believing that Sayid could bring himself to kill Penny after what happened to the two women he loved on the show. Not to mention, Sayid's gotten to witness first hand just how much Penny means to Desmond. If Sayid ends up killing Penny, I'll be very, very disappointed in the writers.

Not to mention, I'll just be really pissed if Penny dies, period. :P

5a. Why can't Ben or Locke find Jacob's cabin now?

Is it like only the last person or persons to see Jacob's cabin can find it again? I find it very weird that Ben needs Hurley to find the cabin.

5b. What happened to the doctor?

Question really is, what day is it on the freighter? Last we checked, the island was a couple days in the future compared to the freighter ( I think Sun mentioned to Jin in "Ji Yeon" that Desmond and Sayid had been gone three days). So the good doctor was killed on the freighter and his body traveled back in time a couple days when it washed up on the beach.

This probably doesn't bode well for Des and Sayid. I do wish we'd seen them this episode. Grrrrr...

Other Tidbits:

* We still don't know for sure whether Danielle is alive or dead. How much you want to bet she shows up a crucial moment and saves the day? How much you want to bet she ends up killing Keamy?

* The painting of the Black Rock that Charles Widmore purchased in "The Constant" was hanging on the wall of his bedroom. There also seemed to be a painting of the island in the hallway.

* Did no one think to check Ben's piano bench for errant shotguns? Just askin'...

* I can't tell you how upset I am that Alex is dead.

* "Australia is the key to the whole game!" Innocent comment on a game of Risk or something more? BTW, I thought that scene was awesome.

* Even Ben's piano playing sounds evil...

* Sawyer's concern for Claire and Hurley this episode was also touching. Will he become de-facto leader once the Oceanic 6 are gone?

* It's worth mentioning again, what the heck is going to happen to Desmond at the end of Season 4? He's not one of the Oceanic 6 and now Ben is after Penny. Do he and Penny go into hiding? That could mean a very Desmond-less Season 5, if that's the case.

* That new DHARMA logo. Sure looks like an Orchid to me.

Overall: The only quibble I have over the episode is I really thought Ben handed Alex's situation poorly. It's true that she probably would have been shot no matter what he did, but I seriously thought that Ben misjudged the situation. Otherwise we got one of the best episodes of the season. Smokey's simply awesome when he gets his rage on. 4.6/5

Review Coming...

Work busy. Plus there's so much to talk about this episode. It'll be up this afternoon. :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

11 Hours And Counting...

So very excited. Tonight's episode, The Shape of Things to Come, notably takes it's name from H.G. Wells' novel of the future. Might we see some Desmond-y predictive goodness tonight? I hope so!

Incidentally the NY Times today has a good spoiler-free article on the show and how setting an end-date changed everything.

I guess the big question going into tonight that I hope is answered right away is whether or not Danielle is still alive. We still need a flashback from her so I'm hoping for the best. And speaking of flashbacks, here's what I'm hoping for as far as the rest of the season goes (and remember that the finale is a three-parter):

1. A Ben flashback
2. Another Jack flashforward
3. A full freighter person flashback (preferably Charlotte)
4. A Richard/Alex/Danielle flashback

I imagine I could find out just what to expect on the spoiler sites, but I really want to be surprised. We definitely need another Ben flashback and it would be nice to get some perspective on what all the other Others have been doing while all this has been on. Richard can certainly provide that. Furthermore, if Danielle is really dead, either Ben or Richard will have to provide perspective on what happened when Alex was taken.

Enough speculation! I can't wait for tonight! :)

Monday, April 21, 2008


Ready for "Lost" yet? I'm still somewhat buried with work , wedding planning, etc., but I'll have my usual review up on Friday. I've been keeping as far away as I possibly can from all spoiler sites to maximize my enjoyment of the rest of the season. I so need a "Lost" fix now. :)

Thanks for all the congrats on Yale too. I was so incredibly stressed in the week or two leading up to the interview. It's taken me a week just to decompress from that back down to normal. But now that I've had time to absorb the prospect, I'm so tremendously excited at the opportunity.

The one thing I'm wondering about the final six (SIX!) episodes is where is the season going to end? The logical ending of the season would be with the Oceanic 6 getting off the island, but part of me wonders if the writers are going to throw us a curve in that regard. I'm also curious to see if anyone else is going to die, especially since Claire and Jin still seem to be in the crosshairs and since there seems to be another "war" brewing between the freighter folk and the islanders, you have to think there's going to be some casualties coming.

You guys have any hopes/thoughts for the last six episodes?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oh Yeah!

Amazing how much difference a week can make - the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the Mets are playing (slightly) better, I now have postdoctoral fellowship at Yale (yay!) and Lost is back in a week!

Not only that, we get a two-hour season finale (really a broken-up, three-hour finale like we had in Season 1) and we get this tremendously awesome preview of next week's episode.

Looks like Frank did indeed drop the freighter guys off for an ambush and I really, really wanna know what the heck that door was Ben was pushing open. I can't wait! :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Lots of work, Mets bullpen sucks, long day tomorrow, no LOST for another two weeks. :(

How you all doing?

Addendum: This TOTALLY brightened my evening, though! :)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ranking Season Four

How's everyone holding up? I've been busy and distracted this past week - Busy with some papers and an upcoming job talk I'm preparing for, distracted with baseball and Super Smash Bros. Brawl which is just... so... awesome! If anyone wants to play online (especially if you're on the East Coast), my FC is 3179-5886-7788. Let me know in the comments if you're interested. :)

Not much of anything on Lost out there, but Doc Jensen has a new article up on EW where he grades the first eight episodes of Season Four. I thought it would be interesting to see how his grades jived with my own and the results of my episode polls. They are (Jensen's grade, my grade, my poll average)

Now this isn't perfect since 1) My poll scale really doesn't conform to my rating scale, something I should really correct, but we can see a few things here. He's down on "The Other Woman" a bit more than we were, but everyone here tended to think "Eggtown" was the worst episode this season. And, of course, there's a general consensus that "The Constant" was the highlight of the season, if not the series, so far.

It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the season rates in comparison considering their rushed production schedule and the fact they're condensing eight episodes down to five. I also wonder what's going to happen to the Season Four DVD set? Will it be a reduced price because there are only 13 episodes? The shorter season probably means fewer extras as well. *sigh*

Anyhoo, my posting will be sporadic over the next week or two. There more weeks!