Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 41

The Avatar Returns episode 41 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

Book Four: Balance begins as we move into the final season of The Legend of Korra. Time jumps in fiction tend to be something of a mixed bag, but as our story picks up three years after the end of Book Three it quickly becomes apparent the device works like a charm here, in what Arlo dubs the strongest start to any season in the entire Avatar Universe. In chapter 401, “After All These Years,” Korra is missing and former Zaofu Captain of the Guard Kuvira has become “The Great Uniter,” using military force to bring order to the chaos in the Earth Kingdom in the wake of the Queen’s death. Chapter 402, “Korra Alone” answers where exactly the Avatar has disappeared to, and why. (Hint: it involved Nega-Korra.) And finally it’s Toph love in chapter 403, “The Coronation” as the O.B. Original Beifong returns to go all Yoda on Korra’s ass.

Paul introduces the podcast’s version of Cousin Oliver. He and Eric both wax rhapsodic about Star Wars Rebels. And Arlo compares Mako to Vin Diesel. Not in a good way. (IS there a good way?)

Next: the next three chapters of Book Four; 404, “The Calling,” 405, “Enemy at the Gates,” and 406, “The Battle of Zaofu.”

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 41.)

Listen to ‘Gobbledygeek’ Episode 304, “Oh Hi, Superman”

Gobbledygeek episode 304, “Oh Hi, Superman,” is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

If only these walls could talk, the secrets they could tell. Among them: murder, betrayal, lies, infidelity, and how in the hell Tommy Wiseau made a movie. It’s time for another Geek Challenge, and Arlo has seized the opportunity to finally force Paul into watching Wiseau’s 2003 cult classic The Room. In turn, Paul has challenged Arlo to Sidney Lumet’s much more dignified 1982 crime comedy Deathtrap. The boys discuss the advantages of stage over screen, and vice versa; questionable acting, be it Dyan Cannon or Greg Sestero; homoerotic subtext (or maybe it’s just text); and, yet again, Arlo’s fascination with epically bad filmmaking. Plus, Paul got his ears blown out by the Alabama Symphony’s Led Zeppelin performance.

Next: Kenn Edwards joins Paul and Arlo for the next installment of their year-long Four-Color Flashback discussion of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man. This time, the gang will talk Vol. 3: One Small Step.

(Show notes for “Oh Hi, Superman.”)

Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 40

Art from ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender – Vol. 4: Smoke and Shadow’ by Gurihiru.

The Avatar Returns episode 40 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

This week, a break between seasons of The Legend of Korra means a return to the days of old as we look at the fourth collection of the Dark Horse Comics Avatar: The Last Airbender series, Volume 4: Smoke and Shadow. Having reunited with his long lost mother Ursa, Zuko returns with her to the Fire Nation Capital City (which really needs a name) and wackiness ensues, some of which serves to remind us that Avatar has actually really always been The Zuko Show. Even with Mom back in the picture, daddy (and uncle) issues continue to dominate the story. Mai, Ty Lee, and Suki finally get some much-needed page time, even as we lose Katara and Sokka (and the comic relief that Sokka provides). We discuss how relevant this volume feels today with its look at totalitarianism and the struggle to balance security and freedom. And Azula is back and feelin’ good with a brand new Sisterhood of Evil Mental Patients in tow.

Speaking of character development, Arlo finally achieves his own Avatar State as a podcaster. And Eric makes a Hamilton reference! I’m Paul Smith and you’re listening to All Benders Considered on NPR.*

(*) Not really, but…yeah.

Next: the end is coming. This is it, we begin our exploration of the final season of The Legend of Korra with Book Four: Balance. We’re kicking it off with chapters 401, “After All These Years,” 402, “Korra Alone,” and 403, “The Coronation.” (And we are so deeply, deeply sorry for Arlo’s predictions on what those episodes will be about.)

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 40.)

Listen to ‘Gobbledygeek’ Episode 303, “Don’t Be What They Made You”

Gobbledygeek episode 303, “Don’t Be What They Made You,” is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

People get old. Claws get rusty. Movie franchises get tired. After 17 years of real-world time and 150+ fictional years, the time has come for James “Logan” Howlett AKA Wolverine to take a bow. In Logan, the final film featuring Hugh Jackman in his iconic star-making role, we’re introduced to a near-future bereft of mutants and full of sorrow. Logan’s mind is a potent cocktail of regret, pain, and futility. When a young girl named Laura throws him back into action, he takes the nonagenarian Professor X on the road for one last adventure. Though “adventure” is not a word one would use to describe this brutal, melancholy film, about as far in tone as you could get from any of the nine previous installments in the X-Men series. Paul and Arlo discuss the film’s worthiness as a swan song for Canada’s most violent, how it fits perfectly alongside Cop Land in director James Mangold’s canon, whether or not the very R-rated violence is gratuitous, and if in a perfect world this should be the end of the X-Men’s silver screen career.

Next: Paul and Arlo will be subjecting each other to yet another Geek Challenge. Paul must finally watch Tommy Wiseau’s infamous 2003 cult classic The Room, while Arlo is tasked with Sidney Lumet’s 1982 crime comedy Deathtrap.

(Show notes for “Don’t Be What They Made You.”)

Listen to ‘Gobbledygeek’ Episode 302, “Y: The Last Man – Vol. 2: Cycles (feat. Donora Rihn)”

Art from 'Y: The Last Man - Vol. 2: Cycles' by Pia Guerra and José Marzan Jr.

Art from ‘Y: The Last Man – Vol. 2: Cycles’ by Pia Guerra and José Marzan Jr.

Gobbledygeek episode 302, “Y: The Last Man – Vol. 2: Cycles (feat. Donora Rihn),” is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

Bringing a much-needed feminist perspective to a story about a man surrounded on all sides by women, Jeff Bridges poet Donora Rihn joins Paul and Arlo for their year-long Four-Color Flashback exploration of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s acclaimed Vertigo comic book series Y: The Last Man. This time, the gang discusses Vol. 2: Cycles, which collects issues #6-10 of the original series. Donora asks Paul and Arlo how they perceive the book as men, and if they think it shows Yorick growing into his role as the last man on Earth; in turn, Paul and Arlo ask Donora if she finds Vaughan’s narrative voice to be overwhelmingly male and if it fairly represents its many female characters. In between, Arlo can’t stop recommending things to comics newbie Donora, there is yet more praise of Guerra’s clean and beautiful artwork, and there are select readings from Valeria Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto. Plus, Donora has a new name and the gang remembers the late great Bill Paxton.

Next: after a week off for another of Arlo’s poop cruises, the boys sharpen their claws to discuss the final Wolverine film, Logan.

(Show notes for “Y: The Last Man – Vol. 2: Cycles.”)

Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 39

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The Avatar Returns episode 35 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

This is a big one, kids. Team The Avatar Returns assembles to breakdown their thoughts on the final four chapters of The Legend of Korra, Book Three: Change. There’s a lot to cover, starting with the typical children’s television tropes of on-camera assassinations and Boxer Rebellions when Zaheer proclaims “Long Live the Queen” in chapter 310. In 311, “Ultimatum,” he may possibly have bitten off more than he can chew when he challenges Tenzin to a slap fight after airbending school. Bolin learns that the answers were inside of him all along in 312, “Enter the Void.” And Korra She-Hulks out all over Zaheer’s face in the final showdown of 313, “Venom of the Red Lotus.”

Paul gets weepy over the incredible fight choreography this season. Eric is positively giddy with anticipation for Book Four: Balance. And Arlo drops the knowledge we’ve all needed about Shadow the Hedgehog.

Next: as always the break between seasons of Korra gives us another opportunity to revisit old friends by exploring the official Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel series from Dark Horse Comics. This time we reconnect with the Aang Gang as they face Vol. 4 – Smoke and Shadow.

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 39.)

Listen to ‘Gobbledygeek’ Episode 301, “The X-Files: Season 4 (feat. Wesley Mead)”

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Gobbledygeek episode 301, “The X-Files: Season 4 (feat. Wesley Mead),” is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

Just in time for everyone’s distrust in government to be at an all-time high, Wesley “Wezzo” Mead joins Paul and Arlo once again to discuss Chris Carter’s seminal sci-fi series The X-Files. This time, the gang sets their sights on season 4, and opinion seems to be divided on just how well the season holds together. Is this where the mythology stuff starts to really go off the rails? Does Scully’s cancer make for a compelling dramatic throughline? And most importantly of all, is there an obvious heir to Darin Morgan’s throne (a couple suggestions are thrown out)? Plus, Wezzo laments the progression of Brexit, while Paul and Arlo sift through the Trump Administration’s mounting atrocities; and on a happier, sillier note, the gang has a blast with The Lego Batman Movie.

Next: this year’s Four-Color Flashback exploration of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man continues. Jeff Bridges poet Donora Rihn joins Paul and Arlo to discuss Vol. 2: Cycles.

(Show notes for “The X-Files: Season 4.”)