Netflix Tag-Team Review: Daredevil is Awesome

You might have guessed that I enjoy to collaborate, and given the fun I had with Hannah on the Age of Ultron review, I’ve been dropping some major hints! So when our Instigator-In-Chief, Gene’O, suggested a collaboration on Daredevil, I jumped at the chance.

Daredevil_netflix_cover

First, we’ll start with our overall views before we break it down a little and end on a verdict!

Mel – As a television show, Daredevil works for a number of reasons. It has a dark, edgy comic book feel to the production; great characters you can enjoy even if you don’t know their history, and a hero who is fighting his own personal demons while taking out the trash! I’ve always been a fan of Matt Murdock and, although I was nervous about how the character would be represented, I had high hopes for the show. I wasn’t disappointed.

Gene’O – I’ve always had a soft spot for Daredevil myself, and I was not disappointed either. In fact one of the things I like about the show is its “dark-but-not-too-dark” tone. It manages to be a serious show without taking itself too seriously. I think that’s mostly in the acting, and I have to say, the casting is phenomenal. Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk is an especially inspired choice . . . but let me not get ahead of myself in the intro.

The Good

Mel – The differing points of view. It is especially powerful when the audience is allowed to see through Matt’s eyes; what he hears, feels, experiences.

The fight scenes – the choreography is wonderful; some of the best I’ve watched. An example of that would be the corridor scene from Episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. It reflected the character beautifully and, to me, was a personification of Matt’s fighting spirit.

Gene’O – I agree about the fight choreography. It’s beautifully done. The two I find most memorable are the final showdown and this one, which is absolutely epic. [WARNING: BIG-TIME SPOILER HERE.]

I also think the points of view work well, but the thing that stood out the most for me were the relationships. This is a well-scripted and superbly acted show. The characters are complex, and there are a lot of emotional moments in this series that just feel genuine. That’s not something I expected in a Netflix superhero series. It was a welcome surprise.daredevil_netflix_claire

MelI have to jump in here, Gene’o because I completely agree about the relationships. I particularly enjoyed the character-centric episodes, “Nelson v. Murdock” being my favourite. The acting in that episode was superb; raw and extremely moving. Matt and Foggy’s relationship is one of the highlights for me – their dynamic works so well. I also enjoyed Matt and Claire’s chemistry, especially when we got to see his vulnerable side.

Gene’O – And I have one more. I like the way they handled the Daredevil costume. You know it’s got to be coming from the beginning, but it’s very late in the season before it’s even developed, and it’s an important element of the plot. I thought the reveal, when we finally got there, was a huge payoff and worked well.

Mel – I agree. The build up to the reveal was particular well-timed. I was so excited that, by the time we saw the suit, the tension was killing me! So cool.

The Not-So-Good

Gene’O – I had a hard time coming up with any of these, but this is a review, so we must find something to criticize 😉 If the show has a weakness, it’s in some of the supporting cast. Even though Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk is so good, he could almost carry the show on his own, I thought some of the villains could have been better.

daredevil_kingpin

I don’t think there are any poor performances or terrible casting choices here, I just thought a lot of the bad guys were . . . well . . . forgettable.

And I may take some heat for this one. Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson annoyed me at times. I thought he overplayed some of the more serious dramatic moments, but that may be as much about direction as about Nelson’s technique. And he does get props for doing well with the occasional comedic bits.

Mel – You won’t get any heat from me about Foggy, though I loved his character I will admit. If I have a criticism it’s that, after the emotional roller coaster of “Nelson v. Murdock,” his ultimate acceptance felt a little rushed.

As for Vincent, he was superb. My favourite scenes were when he lost control. I loved his sinister energy, and the fact he turned into a rage monster. It was bound to happen, given how much he suppressed. That said, there were times he reminded me of Goren from Criminal Intent.

In an effort to be constructive, because I’m also having a hard time finding fault with the show, I did feel the transitions were a little lacking at times. I also agree about the villains in general, which is why I’m really looking forward to the next season and keeping my fingers crossed we get to meet ninja cult, The Hand.

Gene’O: LOL. Criminal Intent. I didn’t pick up on the Goren vibe, but I agree about the transitions. A few times, as I was starting a new episode, I went and scanned through the last 10 minutes of the previous episode to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I’m also hoping we get to meet The Hand, and I like the supernatural undercurrent that seems to be developing.

The Verdict

Gene’O — If you like action/drama with plenty of grit and the martial arts turned up to 11, give Daredevil a look, even if you don’t typically go in for comics characters. On a five-point scale, I give it a solid 4.5. I’m tempted to rate it higher, but it’s not quite perfect, though it is one heck of an entertaining series.

Mel – I’ll concede to the rating for an overall score, though there are some episodes (such as “Stick”) I would give a 5. Matt Murdock is a compelling character, and it’s not only his tremendous skills, it’s his heart, the vulnerability that pulls you in. He’s a hero who is struggling with his own dark side which, granted, is not a unique trope, but the show handles character conflict exceptionally well. Add in the action, the dark comic-book feel to the show, and the strong relationships and it’s a hit in my book!daredevil_netflix_charlie

Gene’O – Yes, some of the individual episodes are 5’s all the way. I agree about “Stick,” and I’ll add “Cut Man” to the list. There was absolutely no chance of me not finishing this season after that episode. Did we just write an entire review of Daredevil without mentioning Charlie Cox??? I’m a bit of a Charlie Cox fanboy, but even if I weren’t, I’d still have to say. He is pitch-perfect in this.

Mel – I could wax lyrical about Charlie Cox all day! You’re right. He’s perfect for the role, so colour me a fangirl for Charlie and Matt both!

Gene’O – Thanks, Melissa! This is so much fun!

Mel – It’s my pleasure. I think it might just be my favourite way to review! Fair warning though, I’m hoping to convince you to make it a feature. With all the great contributors here on Sourcerer, it should be a blast. I appreciate the chance to work with you on it.

But now we’ve had our say, it’s over to you. How would you rate Daredevil? What are your highlights from the show? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ms. Marvel #17 Review

Ms. Marvel #17 coverI didn’t want to spoil the big reveal at the end of Ms. Marvel #16, way back in June, but it’s on the cover now so what can I do? IT’S CAPTAIN MARVEL. Ms. Marvel’s hero and namesake, meeting Kamala Khan for the first time and I am SO EXCITED.

Kamala handles it pretty well, all things considered.

Ms. Marvel #17 KamalaCaptain Marvel explains about the planets in the sky. Apparently it’s what happens when realities are bumping up against each other, and Carol only came to tell Kamala that no one else is coming to Jersey City, Kamala will have to defend it on her own. But Carol agrees to stay and help rescue Kamala’s brother from Kamran, Kamala’s evil ex-crush.

Most of the issue is Carol and Kamala wandering around the city looking for Aamir, Kamala’s brother. Carol dispenses a lot of superhero advice, and it’s good advice — a step beyond what she’s learned from Wolverine and Lockjaw. It’s harder advice, and there are kittens involved. (I just hope the kittens come back, otherwise there may be crying involved. Those are the cutest kittens I’ve ever seen.)

Unfortunately, even though the advice is pretty okay, the dialogue is uninspiring. There’s no real personal connection between the two women, or if there is it’s one-sided. The final effect is just of a paint-by-numbers conversation, like Captain Marvel could’ve given the same advice to any young superhero. There’s too much of it at once, rather than an organic conversation growing from where Kamala is now as a superhero. Just bang-bang-bang, advice-advice-advice. I want more out of a team-up I’ve been anticipating for a year and a half!

We do get this gem of a panel though, after Carol compliments Kamala’s skill with her powers, and it really sums up the entirety of the Ms. Marvel series…

Ms. Marvel #17 Kamala CarolThe team-up isn’t over, and there should be more plot development in the next issue. To be continued!

Shows which will rise in the Fall

Being as I’m from the UK I have to experience Comic Con vicariously (at least for my favourite shows). There is so much to look forward to this year. Supernatural returns for its eleventh season, and who can resist the Winchester Brothers? This time the producers are stripping everything back, so Sam and Dean will have the kind of relationship they had in season one; two brothers fighting against evil. I’m sure there will be help from an angel or two, and more laughs from the King of Hell, Crowley. It says something about Mark Sheppard when you’re rooting for a demon!

A few shows had their debut this year, and perhaps my favourite is Sense8, which Gene’o reviewed here. The concept of a group, or cell, being connected telepathically – that they can somehow channel each other’s skills and abilities – it’s pretty exciting. Mix that with powerful themes and our most basic need for connection and, in my opinion, you’ve got yourself a hit.

DC

DC and Marvel continue to shine, and both introduced new shows this year. We’ll start with DC. It won’t surprise you in the slightest that I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Arrow. Having spent some quality time with Felicity Smoak, Olly will have plenty to smile about in this season – it will be interesting to see a lighter side to Oliver Queen.

The Flash also returns for a second season; a relief considering the dramatic finale. I really enjoyed the introduction to Barry Allen, and the show is one of my favourites. It is the light to Arrow’s dark, which works perfectly. There will be more opportunities for crossover between the shows – episodes I particularly enjoy.

Olly and Barry will also be ‘popping over’ to the all-new Legends of Tomorrow, which is set for release early 2016. The cast includes Ray Palmer (The Atom), Rip Hunter, Mick Rory (Heat Wave), Sara Lance (White Canary), Leonard Snart (Captain Cold), and Dr Martin Stein.

But that’s not all, in October this year Supergirl premiers. The pilot episode was recently leaked on the internet, so it’s a safe bet many fans already have an opinion about the show. I haven’t seen the pilot, but I’ve heard plenty of good things, and it was this show which prompted the post. Considering Greg Berlanti is on board, it certainly has potential. We need a strong female lead, and I’ve always liked the character, so I’m reserving judgement until October.

It’s an interesting cast. Melissa Benoist, who starred in Glee, plays Kara Zor-El (Superman’s cousin). Calista Flockhart plays Cat Grant, and Chyler Leigh (from Grey’s Anatomy) plays Alex Danvers. It tickled me that Dean Cain is also credited, and I will admit to having a weakness for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

The trailer didn’t blow me away, but it interested me enough to want to give it a go. Here it is, I’ll let you decide!

So that leaves us with Marvel, who brought us Daredevil this year. I loved the show; it’s dark and authentic, and I have high hopes for the next season. There is also Agent Carter, and Agents of SHIELD.

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There are other great shows, new and existing. But I’d like to hear from you. What are you most excited about? Which are your favourites?

Social Media Sunday: Some Thoughts on the Direction of This Here Blog

My quarterly stats are past due. The old stats page that I was using to take the simple screenshots and do quick-and-dirty trend analysis went away (thanks a big fuckin’ lot for that, WordPress gods!), and I’ve just not had the time to crunch numbers lately. I’ll discuss how we’ve done here this summer at some point. In general, we’ve taken a traffic hit and our engagement is down since June. That’s mostly because I’ve not been around enough to keep up the chatter.

social media

Today I am more interested in discussing what’s worked here over the last 21 months and why. This is important because we’re one quarter away from our two-year blogiversary, and because I think we need to do more of what’s worked best.

What’s Worked Best

Batman

Worked because Jeremy blogged Batman (an insanely popular character) here every week for almost eight months, and he did a good job saying interesting things about Batman characters.

The Walking Dead Recap/Reviews

Worked because Luther is one of the most entertaining bloggers around, TWD is very popular, and we timed his reviews to catch people at the right time to offer them a recap of the previous episodes before the next one aired.

Penny Dreadful Season 1 Reviewspenny-dreadful-ep-6

Worked because Diana is just plain good at writing about anything involving monsters, has an engaging, easy-to-read style, and picked a winner — a show with a small but engaged audience as it was airing for the first time.

Marvel Comics, especially Marvel Cinematic Universe blogging

Worked because Marvel is growing in popularity and David’s made good choices about what to focus on. Agent Carter and Guardians of the Galaxy both did very well; and Melissa’s Ant-Man post has also done well.

Sourcerer’s 11 Interviews

Work because they’re fun, easy-to-read, entertaining, and are good for capturing the attention of both this blog’s normal audience and the friends/readers of whomever is being interviewed.

A Handful of Blogging-Related and Social Posts

survivor-atoz_by_RetroI’m thinking of the Geek and Greet post, some of the A to Z organizational stuff, and a few of my Blogwanking posts. The Geek and Greet worked because I offered to do something for people who joined in and the event was an opportunity for people to get their blogs seen by other bloggers. The rest worked because they grabbed the attention of bloggers who are trying to up their games — and I say this a bit. Whomever else your target audience is,  it’s mostly bloggers who read and share blogs.

What’s Not Done as Well as Expected

Doctor Who Reviews

Will reviewed the latest season here at the same time I was reviewing it at Part Time Monster and Hannah was writing about it at Things Matter. That was a lot of fun, and it didn’t do so poorly that I’d rule out more Doctor Who. But it didn’t do what I expected, even though we timed the posts well. I think that’s because Doctor Who is so well-established that the competition for audience is just too intense for us to handle.

Penny Dreadful Season 2 Reviews

Again, not so poorly that I’d rule out a third go. But it didn’t do what the first season did — especially not with search traffic. Lots of reasons this could be. Penny Dreadful hit us just as we were wrapping up A to Z and neither Diana nor I had time to do much in the way of interacting because of offline stuff. But I think either a lot of people lost interest after the first season, or a lot more people were writing reviews this time around, and so we had a tougher time getting into searches.

House of CardsHouseofCards

Diana and I just plain played this one wrong. Everything about House of Cards says we should be able to work it for traffic. We got the timing wrong and we shouldn’t have done extensive recaps. I think the time to post about a Netflix series is either immmediately after it’s released, or AFTER everyone’s had time to binge on the whole thing. I don’t see episode reviews being an effective way to blog about series that are delivered all-at-once. Because no matter when you choose to publish them you don’t have a weekly timeslot generating internet buzz on a predictable schedule. I think the way to go with these is to do one to three posts per season and publish them either on Mondays or Saturdays.

Arrow

The performance of these reviews was the biggest surprise to me in all the time I’ve been doing this. I expected them to do way better than they did, because I know a lot of people who love this show, but the audience isn’t absolutely huge. And I don’t think the problem has anything to do with Melissa’s blogging. Everything else she’s published here has done just fine, and she usually gets good comments. I think we timed them wrong. We didn’t have a lot of choice, because we had to work around the UK air date. But Friday morning has always struck me as a bad time to post long-ish, serious posts. That’s why I mostly do music videos on Fridays. I also think we overestimated our ability to compete for searches, and we expected too much, given that Arrow was into its third season before we ever started blogging about it.

Actual Music Blogging

I’m not talking about the posts where I share a YouTube video and write a paragraph or a personal note about what it means to me. Both David and I have tried serious music blogging, and it’s just never worked for us. Could be that we’d need to blog about music once a week for a year to gain the traction to make it worthwhile. It could be that music blogging is just not a good fit here, or that people who like our comics and tv posts have different taste in music than we do, so aren’t interested in what David or I have to say about music.

Arrr, mateys!

Arrr, mateys!

Everything else has been within the bounds of my expectations. I don’t always make content decisions based on the traffic I think it’s worth. Sometimes I approve things for the fun and the mischief value. Sometimes I just want to give another blogger the chance to step onto the stage here and try to find a few new readers, which is a game of ones and twos no matter how you go about it. But I always have some idea what I think a series of posts should do, traffic-wise. I don’t approve things that have no chance of getting read, and when a post does exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly, I try to figure out why.

The Takeaway

Consistency, not Content, is King

Content quality and topic selection are vital, but the most important consideration, if you are trying to build an interest-based audience, is to offer the quality content on a schedule and do it so consistently that people just come to expect it. The most successful thing we’ve done here is comics, and we blogged about Batman every Wednesday for the better part of a year, then once the Batman run was done, we moved into Marvel without missing a beat just as the MCU was getting crazy-good. There’s no coincidence here.

Timing is as Important as Topic

It’s true that you have to write about things people are interested in if you want readers. But you also have to publish when people are looking for it. This is the lesson of The Walking Dead, Penny Dreadful, Arrow, and House of Cards.Arrow-arrow-cw-fanpop

Consider the Competition

If only a handful of big sites are writing about something, it’s possible for a blog the size of Sourcerer to get a slice of the search traffic (see Penny Dreadful above). But if everyone from io9 to the New York Times entertainment section is writing about a thing, best make sure you’re getting a lot of personal enjoyment out of your own writing, or bring friends along (see Doctor Who above).

Multiple Voices are More Compelling Than One on an Everyday Blog

If I had to, I could shut down my personal blog and run Sourcerer by myself. I could even keep the focus on pop culture and do comics every Wednesday. But if only I had been blogging here these past two years, I’d not have seen even the modest success we’ve achieved by publishing contributions from 12 to 15 bloggers.

What’s Next for Sourcerer?

Tl;dr version: Do more of what’s worked and less of what hasn’t.

Keep it up with the Comics

Comics is obviously the core interest at this point. Maintaining the quality of our Wednesday posts and finding ways to expand our comics offerings are the smartest things we can do for this blog over the next year. Since both comics and significant content from me are essential, it makes sense that I should find a way into comics. I’ve not written much about them here to this point because we’ve had so many contributors here who are better-versed and better at writing about the comics than me. That’s gotta change.

Get Smarter about the Television

I’d like to move away from blogging tv shows just because we like them. The time to blog about a tv series, honestly, is during its first season, unless you have a lot of advantages to work with (like we have with The Walking Dead). This means, for example, that while I might blog the next season of Doctor Who, I’m not twisting myself in knots to give it a prime posting slot, I’m looking at as a “just for fun” series, and I’m not asking anyone else to do it (though I’d certainly consider volunteers, because if someone else blogs Doctor Who here, that frees me up to do the same at Part Time Monster and we can link to one another in our posts).

I think we need to concentrate on Marvel Cinematic Universe series and promising new series (see what I said about Agent Carter and Guardians of the Galaxy above), and we need to figure out how to blog Netflix effectively. TV viewers who also read blogs are moving decisively to a “binge on instant video when you can find the time” way of interacting with television as opposed to the old “drop what you are doing and watch at the same time every week” pattern.

I’m thinking the way we’ve been blogging tv is eventually not going to be a sound scheduling strategy, no matter how well we do it. We’re approaching the point where the behavior of our tv audience has changed so much that posting a review the day after a tv episode runs, in and of itself, doesn’t get us anything we couldn’t get on our own by sharing on Twitter and Facebook.

More Book Bloggingtolkien2

Our book blogging has always been sporadic, but given that we’ve never done it consistently, it’s been successful. Some of our most popular posts in 2014 were book lists written by a variety of contributors. Rebecca Bradley’s reviews did well here, and the fact that our first few Sourcerer’s 11 interviews were author interviews timed to coincide with releases has helped that feature a lot. All this tells me that people who read and follow this blog are interested in books — and interested in the same sorts of books we are. This is our easiest and most promising area for real growth. There’s traffic here to be had for the asking, and we’ve not fully tapped into it yet.

Marvel Movies, Please

It’s just essential for this blog that we review every Marvel movie from here on out within a week of its release, publish those reviews at a prime time, and share them around, for as long as we continue to hang together. Absolutely essential.

More Collaborative Posts.

See the Hannah-Melissa collaborative review of Age of Ultron. That’s a sweet post — quality-wise, one of the best we’ve offered to date. And this is something we can do that very few blogs can. We’ve got a dozen contributors, easy ways of communicating with one another behind the scenes, and this blog to post on. Collaborative posts could be a thing for us, and I think readers will love them. This is a genuine advantage. It’s something we have that almost no one else does, and it’s compelling.

Sourcerer’s 11 Reorganization

SourcererCollageEventually, I want to have more than one interview per month. For now, though, I just want to keep them going. They’re good, but the “tag, you’re it!” model just isn’t going to work for a feature that comes around once a month. We set these up from the beginning so we could not only interview authors to coincide with book releases, but could also sometimes interview interesting bloggers who don’t have books publishing. I’m starting the blogger interview thread of these next month.

What we need for this is a pool of contributors who like to do these interviews, and we need to have a once-a-month discussion about who’s doing the next one and who they are interviewing. If, on occasion, I want to offer people we’ve interviewed an opportunity to interview someone else, I will. But just not something we can do with every interview, because it puts too many constraints on the schedule and limits the pool of potential interviewees.

More Contributors

Not a lot more, but a couple. People come and go here. We’re in a phase now where a lot of the people who have contributed over the last year are ending runs and have other projects they need to prioritize. We have a rule that contributors come and go as they please, and that once you’re to the point where I trust you to schedule a post, you’re free to pitch future contributions to me at any time — a week from now, six months from now, doesn’t matter. We’re ok to get through the fall as we are, but I’d be a lot more comfortable if we had another blogger or two in the mix here.

And that’s it. This is where I think this blog is, and this is my vision/direction statement for the next phase. I thought I needed to do this today, because we’re certainly moving into the next phase.