Congratulations on making it to the end of another week. Was it a good one? Hope so. Before you dive into whatever you've got going this weekend, let's look back at the week that was.
Here they are: the five biggest stories from ... The Week in Geek!
BLACK MIRROR RETURNS FOR AN ABBREVIATED FIFTH SEASON
You never know what you're gonna get with Black Mirror. Over the years, Charlie Brooker's "what if phones, but too much" frightening speculative series has covered politics, gaming, social media, gaming, criminal justice, gaming, helicopter parenting, and most of all, gaming. And now, with Season 5 out this week, Black Mirror takes on the music industry, Facebook, and ... gaming. Well, kinda gaming.
What's interesting about the latest three episodes of Black Mirror is that they're almost entirely without dread. Sans crises existential. Or, at least crises existential that feel so hopeless that you want to crawl under your bed and die. "The Black Mirror Special," is what we call that. And yet, this season's offerings are decidedly absent true horror, even bordering on hopeful.
Whether that is good or bad depends entirely on the individual. The episode "Striking Vipers," which is less about gaming and more about identity and long-term love, seems to be the one most people are responding positively to. But, also, there's an episode where Miley Cyrus sings a sugar-coated rewritten version of Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole," and that, too, is nothing if not noteworthy. Not since the Josie and the Pussycats movie has the music industry been so effectively-yet-playfully skewered.
GOOGLE REVEALS HOW STADIA'S SUBSCRIPTION GAMING PLAN WILL WORK
Since the eighth generation of consoles began in late 2012, there have been rumblings of a major shift in how console gaming would work by generation nine. The biggest rumor was that powerhouse consoles would go the way of the dodo in lieu of a streaming-based platform. And while, for weeks, we've heard snippet after snippet about how the next Sony console will buck that theoretical trend, there is one company that has embraced it entirely: Google.
The Stadia, which we already knew would work through devices like Chromecast rather than a console proper, was first announced properly in March of 2019 with promises of 4k graphics and 60 frames per second without the need of any console in the home whatsoever. How viable that actually is remains the subject of some debate (only certain parts of the world have the technology to stream at high enough speeds to support the proposed technology), but we do, as of this week, know the cost, the plan, and at least some of the games.
The official service, dubbed "Stadia Pro," will cost $10 per month, with the Stadia controller itself costing $70. If you want to be an early adopter and have access to the service when it debuts this November, you'll have to pay for what's being called a Founder's Bundle. For $130 you get a Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra, Destiny 2 (with the Shadowkeep expansion) and a three-month subscription.
Some games will come with the subscription, but the biggest news from the Stadia announcements may be that many games will still need to be purchased. If you were thinking Stadia would be the Netflix of gaming platforms, that's close but no cigar. It's more like Amazon Prime, but without the two-day shipping. And that alone may well be enough to keep people away. We'll know more next year.
SWAMP THING CANCELED AS DC UNIVERSE IS RE-EVALUATED
Last week, Swamp Thing, the series produced by horror director James Wan, debuted on the DC Universe streaming service. This week, the show was canceled. And while this is hardly the first time a TV show has been axed after airing only a single episode, it's hard not to wonder what happened with Swamp Thing considering that not only is it one of only a very few live-action series on DC's burgeoning streaming platform, but it actually got great reviews.
Usually, rumors of the whys and hows come up pretty thick and fast when a show gets the chop this quickly, but the only rumor making the rounds is as mundane as an explanation can be: It's about money. Swamp Thing filmed its first (and only) season in North Carolina, where it was due to get a rebate to the tune of $17 million off the show's approximately $85 million budget. The rumor was that NC did not actually have the money to make good on said rebate. According to the director of the North Carolina film office, Guy Gaster, that is not the case. In an email to io9, he insisted, "Once their audit is completed to verify the production’s qualified spends, the rebate will be paid as agreed upon."
Even if that's so, questions would remain: Would that rebate continue to further seasons? And what would the cost be to move production elsewhere? And where does all of this fit in with the merger between AT&T and WarnerMedia/the streaming service AT&T is looking to provide? We're still waiting for answers, but no matter what, Swamp Thing, as of this writing, remains canceled.
WHAT'S GOING ON WITH VERTIGO COMICS?
It started with what was referred to as a well-sourced rumor on Bleeding Cool. Word started getting around that Vertigo Comics, DC's longtime mature comic imprint, is not long for this world. Comic creators lamented the possibility on social media almost immediately, though no official word has been given from DC.
Vertigo Comics has existed in some form since 1993, helping build some of the biggest careers in comic books. But things have changed over the course of a quarter century. Karen Berger, who birthed the imprint and shepherded its talent for decades, was demoted and fired, as was her successor, Shelly Bond. Both went on to create new, similar imprints at Dark Horse and IDW, respectively.
Meanwhile, most of the 2018 rebooted lineup of Vertigo books have either been canceled, late, or just unsuccessful. Simultaneously, DC is focusing attention on a different, adult imprint: Black Label. That part of DC, unlike Vertigo's current incarnation, continues to deal with DC's stable of superheroes.
ComicsBeat pointed out that DC has seen a considerable downturn in the success of the collected trades. From 2017 to 2018, they dropped from 101 to 47 books in the top 750 highest-selling books. Probably worth noting that Vertigo Comics historically tend to sell better in the trades than they do in single issues.
Much as with the cancellation of Swamp Thing, there is the question of AT&T's acquisition of Warner and how that will impact DC Comics.
Is Vertigo really going away? We don't know. But we do know that it's competing with more publishers and imprints filling a similar role than ever before: Berger Books, Black Crown, Image, Black Mask, and Vault, to name just a few. It's a packed landscape. Maybe there's no room for Vertigo anymore. Only time will tell.
THE X-MEN GO INTO THAT GOOD DARK PHOENIX NIGHT
In 2000, the X-Men joined a very small number of Marvel characters who had successfully made their way to the big screen. Their presence there was enough of a success to help usher in what is now the most bankable genre in moviemaking today.
But nearly 20 years later, the X-Men, at least in the two shared incarnations we've gotten to know, are finished. Dark Phoenix, directed by Simon Kinberg, is the final film (other than New Mutants) to feature the tone, style, and actors that have been associated with the brand for at least the last four films.
Dark Phoenix features Sophie Turner's second turn as Jean Grey. It is largely her story, and most of what works in the film is anchored by Turner's performance. There were reshoots, and perhaps no film could ever measure up to the iconic status that the original comic book Phoenix stories hold in comic book culture, but Dark Phoenix still feels like a movie where everyone involved knew this was their last shot at telling stories in this world.
And that's it. Your week in geek is over. Let us know what were the biggest stories in your week, and we'll see you again next week.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.