Friday, October 24, 2014

Dipped My Toe In Spider-Verse And Nearly Got It Bitten Off

'When your mind is a blank, and you've got nothing to post on, you can always trust. . . Dan Slott!'

(sing it to "Downtown")

Not sure how he became the comic writer most likely to do something that causes me to roll my eyes, but here we are. Probably because while Millar is off doing his creator-owned stuff, and Bendis and Hickman are mucking about in sections of the Marvel Universe I can ignore, Slott's got his hand around Spider-Man's throat.

This week, the Spider-Verse event paid a visit to the Spider-Girl universe. One of Morlun's, cronies, cousins, whatever, killed Peter and Mary Jane (and possibly also Mayday's boyfriend Wes, I'm not sure about that), while Mayday took her baby brother Ben and ran. Two Spider-Guys from other universes showed up just in time to tell her it was too late to save her parents, and they escaped. But not before Mayday swore to the trenchcoated murderer that she'd forget everything her parents taught her about being a good person and hero to get revenge on him.

So yeah, Spider-Girl's about the DARK VENGEANCE now. Because a young hero vowing to avenge their dead parents hasn't been done a thousand times before.

The issue before this, Morlun personally paid a visit to the universe for the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoon, and slaughtered the lot of them. Even had a nice chuckle about how that Spider-Man literally had no words for what was happening (since nobody ever got killed on the show, I guess, so murder didn't exist until Morlun arrived). I'm not sure what it was supposed to accomplish. I mean, I didn't know which Spider-Man it was until Morlun was leaving and we see Firestar and Iceman's corpses. This isn't even setting up cardboard cutouts just to immediately knock them down and hope for dramatic effect. It's just thrown in casually, after the fact. "Oh yeah, by the way. . ." At least Peter and MJ got to go down fighting together, albeit off-screen.

I don't see the percentage here. If you're someone who doesn't know anything about the characters, the couple of pages they get before their death probably aren't going to sway you. It's possible they could I suppose, I know Mightygodking once argued Marv Wolfman did a good job giving a minor hero (Sunburst) in Crisis on the Infinite Earths a little arc before his off-screen death, but I don't think Slott's putting in the effort to manage that here. If you're a fan of these versions of the characters, are you supposed to be happy about it? To want to keep reading, excited to see if Slott kills off some other alternate version of Spider-Man you like?

I've seen some suggestions among fans online Slott's doing it intentionally to piss people off, that he's said as much at conventions. I have to wonder if that's legit, or if he's just playing a heel. Get some talk going about his book, get people interested to see what everyone is yelling about. Or maybe he got tired of everyone yelling at him about Brand New Day/One More Day and decided, "Heck, if they're going to scream no matter what, I'll give 'em something to scream about." I'm not sure fostering a hate-filled and adversarial relationship with your audience is the best strategy, but history suggests that in the short-term, you can do worse than to write something that will piss everyone off, then count on the fans to buy the comic so they can rail on about how much they hate it. I don't think it's viable long-term, but maybe that's not his concern.

{Brief aside: I will admit I don't understand buying a book you expect to hate. I have bought a lot of comics I hated. If you've read my reviews for any length of time, you know this. But I'm not going into it wanting to hate it, I'm hoping it will be good. Even when I was buying Uncanny X-Men during the Austen run, because I was still very much a completionist and the idea of dropping a book just didn't register, I kept hoping the book would turn around. It never did, but I never stopped hoping. It's the same thing with Hawkeye now. For all I'm disappointed in it, I'm still hoping Fraction and Aja pull it out at the end. It's why I didn't buy Civil War, and why I dropped Amazing Spider-Man before One More Day started: I didn't see any way I'd enjoy either of them, so it was better to not spend money on them. Aside over.}

The funny thing is, as far as I go, Slott's strategy backfired. I had a certain curiosity about Spider-Verse, in no small part because Mayday was going to be involved. Except I had been expecting a couple of the Spider-Guys to show up and ask if she would accompany them to help with this threat. She agrees, hugs her parents, and off we go. She gets to meet 616-Parker, her dad at a younger age. She did this once before, early in her title, but it was during his high school days, so presumably this Parker would be a little more mature. And Parker could meet the daughter he could have had if he didn't reveal his identity to the world like a schmuck, setting a whole series of stupid events in motion that culminate in deals with Mephisto (where he even showed them the daughter they were losing for making the deal).

I'm not sure why Marvel works so hard to make me not want to read Spider-Man comics.

Anyway, I was not expecting Mayday to go on the run as an orphan to keep her baby brother from being eaten by the Douchebag Goth Brigade, to have to leave her parents' (and possibly her boyfriend's) bodies to burn in the remains of her home. I was not expecting her to be out for revenge. Also, I am really concerned at the idea of Spider-Ock being anywhere near a baby with spider-powers. There's no part about that I like. I know he can't die there, because he has to go back and finish the last 10 issues of his title, but he needs to.

I'm not angry, more annoyed he couldn't think of anything better to do. But he's not the first to go for the cheap pop with a quick death he didn't build properly, he won't be the last. I've long ago decided to pretty much ignore anything I don't like. If the writers, editors, and artists can do it, so can I.

The end result is, my interest in Spider-Verse evaporated like water on the highway in Death Valley at noon in July. Not only that, I had been planning to add the various older She-Hulk series to my back issues searches, including Slott's run, but now I'm wondering if I want to bother. It's possible he wasn't always this kind of lazy writer; I picked up Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. earlier this fall, so I know Geoff Johns wasn't always about dismemberment and gratuitous double-page splashes. Writers can change over time, or certain assignments just aren't suited for them. I'm not sure any longer I want to waste the money to find out if that's the case with Dan Slott.

On the plus side, that whole mess did make me want to reread all my Spider-Girl comics, and maybe track down some of the ones I missed or let go of previously. So, uh, thanks, Dan Slott?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Italian Secretary - Caleb Carr

A friend was planning to give it away and asked it I wanted it. I said sure, figuring I can always donate it to a library later if I don't want to keep it. As it stands, I don't think I've read anything of Carr's since The Alienist, which my dad gave to me back in the misty days of junior high. I can't tell you if I enjoyed that book or not, since I probably read it grudgingly, as that was my default response to pretty much anything my parents offered or requested at that time.

In this case, Carr has eschewed stories set during Teddy Roosevelt's tenure as New York City police commissioner in favor on a Sherlock Holmes tale. Mycroft Holmes requests Sherlock and Watson travel to Scotland, where two men involved in the upcoming renovation of the west tower of Holyroode - where Mary, Queen of Scot often stayed until a man named Rizzio, the Italian secretary in question, was murdered by people who didn't want Mary hanging about any dadgumed Catholics - have been found dead, stabbed many, many times. Holmes confounds Watson by not immediately dismissing the notion that the ghost of Rizzio has something to do with it all. I will admit I was also confounded because having Holmes admit the possibility of the supernatural seemed as out of place as having Scooby-Doo contend with real werewolves and ghosts of space aliens, rather than cantankerous people in goofy costumes.

As it turns out, and as Holmes explains near the end, he meant something different than Watson (and I) thought, but Carr still seems to hint at there being a spirit running around the house, and that it was getting involved in the whole mess for some reason. I've no idea why it would get involved, nor does the book offer an explanation, though horror movies have taught me the best explanation is, "ghosts are jerks". Stop bothering innocent living people, innocent dead people!

The story breezes by; I read it in an afternoon, and it didn't seem to cover more than two or three days. Holmes seemed to know basically what was going on by the time they reached the castle, and put the remaining pieces together by that evening. It wasn't a terribly difficult mystery, seeing as I had most of it figured out before the end. I did make a mistake on how they shattered the bones of one of the victims, but on the whole, things were straightforward. I wouldn't consider it essential reading for a Holmes fan or, a fan of mysteries in general.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Man From St. Petersburg - Ken Follett

Spur of the moment buy from a thrift shop. It's the summer of 1914, and the Czar has sent one of his nephews, also an Admiral, to England to negotiate a treaty with the British. The British want Russia onboard as an ally against Germany, the Russians want what they always want: a warm water port. The British enlist one Lord Stephen Walden to handle the negotiations, since he's an uncle to Alecks Orlov by marriage. A small anarchist sect has gotten wind of all this, and one of their members, a Felicks, travels to England. He hopes that an exiled Russian political activist killing the Czar's nephew in England (which allows exiled Russian dissidents within its borders) will put the kibosh on these talks, and spare millions of young Russians from being drawn into a war they know and care nothing about.

There's also the fact that Felicks knew Lady Lydia Walden (Stephen's wife, and Orlov's aunt) long ago, before her marriage, and the Walden's daughter, Charlotte, has reached the age of 18, which means she's being sent out into society now. But she's much more interested in the inequity of the world she's just now seeing, the fact of which - along with quite a few other things - her parents have kept from her.

I guess I had missed early on when they mentioned the year, so for quite some time I was wondering if Follett was going to explore the futility of Felicks' act. After all; the Russians got drawn into the war because they decided to tangle with the Austro-Hungarians over Serbia (or they saw that as a good opportunity to start a fight that might net them territory). So it seemed as though, even if Felicks succeeded, it wouldn't matter. As it turns out, Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated during the course of the book, and Felicks does contemplate whether he can accomplish anything at this point. But he carries forward, and as it turns out, still isn't allowed to accomplish anything.

I'm actually curious who, if anyone, Follett expects us to root for here. Felicks is at least trying to minimize casualties, but he's willing to kill, willing to burn down an entire building just to smoke out his target. And he's willing to use people who care for him to achieve his goals. He might feel bad about it, but he does it anyway. He is capable of kindness, especially towards people worse off than he is, and his intent is to try and keep many people from dying in a war, by killing just one of the people who treats them as disposable pawns. And he finds essentially all of England's constabulary, government, and even military set against him.

Walden is the very model of conservative English landed gentry. He and Orlov have a conversation where Orlov asks for half of Thrace to be given to the Russians. After all, they would prefer Russian rule to Ottoman. Walden notes they would prefer self-rule even more, and Orlov basically laughs and responds that neither he, Walden, not either of their respective governments actually care what the Thracians want, and Walden agrees. Which pretty well sums it up for Walden. He's had a very privileged life, but either he can't see that, or he does see it but has decided it suits him just fine.

Lydia drives me nuts because she can't make a decision. When confronted with a man from her past, set against her present family, even once she understands Felicks goal and that Stephen bars his path, she chooses to . . . take laudanum. Swell. I suppose I feel bad for her, because a lot of her actions and decisions over the previous 18 years seemed to be in reaction to how she was raised, and the fact she was told feelings and thoughts which are totally natural, were actually wrong and evil, and she was wrong to be having them. So I think she drugs herself to try and shut that part of herself down. But at a certain, she needs to do SOMETHING. At least try to warn Felicks off, or convince him to run away with her. Or warn Stephen. Or warn Orlov. Or kill one or all of them herself. But flippin' take action, make a choice, even if it's a conscious decision to sit back and see how things play out. I wouldn't necessarily respect her for that, but I might more than I do for trying to drug herself to the point she forgets what she was worrying about entirely.

Follett spends a lot of time demonstrating the British upper class haven't a clue what it's like for the lower classes. They have all the resources, all the power, and they use it to ensure their goals are carried out. And at the end, after Felicks actually did outmaneuver them, they use their influence to essentially wipe away Felicks' act, and indeed, his very existence. So I guess I was supposed to root for the underdog, or maybe it's just me. I rooted for the assassin when I read The Day of the Jackal, too. Or it's Charlotte who is the key. Seeing the world, being outraged by poverty, by the way women are treated, are ignored, are blamed for things that are done to them, and wanting to change all that. Maybe the point is that Felicks' methods won't work, because there are always more aristocrats than a lone person can handle, but the aristocrats will gradually be overcome by the subsequent generations, who will see the world differently, and won't be satisfied with as much of it as their predecessors.

'The train appeared, smoke billowing from the funnel of the engine. I could kill Orlov now, Felicks thought, and he felt momentarily the thrill of the hunter as he closes with his prey; but he had already decided not to do the deed today. He was here to observe, not to act. Most anarchist assassinations were bungled because of haste or spontaneity, in his view. He believed in planning and organization, which were anathema to many anarchists; but they did not realize that a man could plan his own actions - it was when he began to organize the lives of others that he became a tyrant.'

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Paranormal Activity 2

The off-and-on horror movie watching spree continues. I watched Paranormal Activity some years ago with Alex, and it was solid. I was watching for the moments where something would start moving closely enough none of it had much success at surprise scares, but it had its strong points. The sequel actually takes place about two months before the first movie, as Kristi (the sister of Katie from the first one, and Katie and her idiot boyfriend Micah appear here as well) and Daniel celebrate the birth of their first son.

Then things start moving around, there are noises, their older, possibly Latin American housekeeper/nanny Martine keeps burning sage in the house, the dog keeps flipping out. You know, the usual stuff. An early incident, where practically everything in the house was tossed around, led Daniel to have a lot of security cameras set around the house, and so that's how we see a lot of the film. The rest is through handheld cameras character have for various reasons. They're documenting the child's early life, Daniel's teenage daughter from an earlier relationship, Ali, starts carrying one because what's happening around the house is freaking her out.

I guess the subsequent films continue to go back in time and address why this presence is around, but through this film and the first one, you only really know that it seems fixated on either Kristi or Katie, but you aren't sure why, or what can be done about it. Martine knows a way to get it off Kristi's back, but this ultimately accomplishes nothing. It diverts the threat for a time, but it really only succeeds in getting more people killed. This is probably isn't accurate, but it's what I think Lovecraft stories are a bit like: Character confronted with something they can't really fight, that's pursuing goals they don't understand, and which tends to break all the ideas they have about how things are supposed to be.

Of course, Dan's response to all the strange happenings is to insist there is some logical explanation, which for him is apparently, "blame my teenage daughter and her mop-topped boyfriend". When we watched The Conjuring, we all appreciated the fact that the husband didn't try to dismiss his wife's concerns, and supported her seeking outside assistance. By the time Dan gets on that track, it's way too late for anything other than ineffective damage control. At one point near the end, he literally leaves Ali alone with Kristi and the baby because he can't put off meeting with some guys from Portland any longer. This coming the morning after the dog had a "seizure". Brilliant work there, Dan. None of us felt terribly bad for him. I did feel really bad for Ali and the dog, Abby. Poor dog, just trying to protect that baby, and no one was helping it.

It's basically like the first one: You watch the screen, and wait to see something move that shouldn't be moving. Then you wait to see if someone reacts to it or if something else starts moving and they react to that. It's strength in being able to scare you comes from the fact that for me, at least, the characters I cared about were the ones most aware something was wrong, but least willing or able to just get away. And I didn't find it likely the presence would flinch at collateral damage.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Picking Up Where We Left Off. . .

Calvin: *monotone* {Well, now that Deadpool has finished destroying the coffee pot and my coworkers have finished cooing over you, Clever Adolescent Panda, we are free to continue over conversation from just a few minutes ago while continuing to eat delicious cookies.}

Deadpool: [That was the driest, most boring exposition ever. And it was a week ago.]

Calvin: {You're crazy, it is still Columbus Day! Stop being crazy Deadpool! Wait, what am I saying?}

Clever Adolescent Panda: It was a week. He really smashed that coffee pot.

Deadpool: [Along with the other two coffee pots and a breadmaker!] 

CAP: And a microwave.

Deadpool:*wistful*  [Oh yeah, I really smashed that thing good.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *sarcastically, as she puts instant oatmeal in other microwave* Yeah, thanks a lot for wrecking the big microwave. Great work.

Calvin: {Yeah, those belonged to my coworkers, Wade. I'm gonna need you to replace those.}

Deadpool: [I'm not going to be doing that.]

Calvin: {CAP, if you please?}

*BONK!* *BONK!* *BONK!*

Deadpool: [OK, OK, I'll get new ones.] *accusatory* [I thought you weren't a fan of forcing people to be good.]

Calvin: {I'm not, but it has its uses.}

CAP: Forget that, what about me?! My fur is nearly gone from all that petting. And I feel all jangly, like it's weird nobody's petting me now. Somebody pet me and tell me I'm pretty!

Deadpool: [Aw, it's baby's first fetish! *sniff* Always a proud day for a parent.]

CAP: Ew.

Calvin: *sighs, leans forward, resting forehead against his fingers* {Yeah, sorry about that. It was a long week for them, too, and they have poor impulse control. It's over now, they'll keep their distance now that Wade threatened to drink all their alcohol, so we can get back to other matters. You wanted to pay UnCalvin a visit, right?}

Deadpool: [My unrequited? I mean, ex-unrequited, because I'm a happily married man.]

CAP: Does that count if it's in another continuity?

Calvin: {I frown on cheating, so I'm going to say yes, yes it does.}

Deadpool: [What about your tourism slogan: What's happens on Earth-58008, stays on Earth-58008.]

Calvin: {I told you, Deadpool, this is not Earth-Boobs if you look at the calculator upside down!}

CAP: Why wouldn't it just be Earth-80085? Why does it need to be upside-down?

Calvin: {You know, I don't remember.}

Deadpool: [Me, either, but that's no surprise.]

Calvin: {Something to do with how the numbers look on an old-style calculator? The 5 looks more like an "s" upside-down? I don't know. Anyway, we've padded this thing out sufficiently, so no infidelity for Wade, and a visit to UnCalvin pending?}

CAP: I can't show up with all these bare patches!

Deadpool: [Heh, "bear".]

CAP: *glowers* Wade, don't start with me. They'll all laugh at me. Her security is supposed to be terrified of me!

Deadpool: [You know, people used to laugh at me. But then I let them see who I was underneath the mask, and they started to scream. Then I stabbed them.]

CAP: What?!

Calvin: {Umm, what I'm going to take from that is, once you start tearing through them, they'll fear you again. And maybe you won't even have to fight. We could just show up and ask to see Blender Furby. I bet if we're polite, UnCalvin will just let us in to see it, so we go away without destroying anything.}

Deadpool: [I'd like to vote against this "ask nicely" plan, and speak in favor of maximum devastation.]

CAP: No, he's right, it'll probably work. But I still don't want to go out like this.

Calvin: {You can borrow my blue hoodie.}

CAP: I don't know. . .

Calvin: {Your choices are the hoodie, my rain jacket/trashbag suit, and this orange shirt I got from a dentist's office. Or you can take your chances with what's in Wade's pouches.}

Deadpool: [I almost definitely have clean underwear in here someplace. Also, Kevlar.]

CAP: Kevlar's tempting, but I'll take the hoodie. As soon as I get some more of these cookies. They're fantastic!

Deadpool: [I know, they taste like rum and cordite!]

CAP: I was thinking Kool-Aid and warm soup, but OK. You don't want any Calvin?

Calvin: {No, better I don't. The secret ingredient is love.}

Crowd noise: Awwwwwwww.

CAP: What the hell was that?

Calvin: {No idea.}

Deadpool: [Who cares? Gimme another cookie!]

CAP: Seriously, though what's in these cookies?

Calvin: {I told you, love. There's a bunch of elves, or gnomes, or something, down the road. They take things with strong feelings of love attached, melt them down, and stir them into the cookies.}

CAP: What?!

Calvin: {Well, they tried making them with hate. Plenty of that to go around. Overabundance, really, when the birders were here. But everyone complained the cookies were bitter and sour. Love's less abundant, which is what makes each bite taste so special. Or so they say. Could just be pharmaceuticals in there.}

Deadpool: [So I could be eating some little girl's happy memories of playing with her Big Wheel?] *pushes away from table* [THIS WILL NOT STAND!] *grabs another cookie*

CAP: He's right, why haven't you done anything about it?

Calvin: {Hmm, let's see. For one, I don't know where it is exactly. In case you haven't noticed, we're in a forest, there are a lot of freaking trees. I tried asking the Ghost of the Forest, but I haven't heard anything from it since. Don't even know if it went looking. Two, they're little magic cookie making forest critters. I'm not qualified to handle something like that. But you guys are, so yeah, let's go get 'em.}

CAP: But you don't know where they are.

Deadpool: [I've got it! We'll burn the whole forest down! I just need a jet fighter and some napalm!]

Calvin: {NO.}

Deadpool: [I can make it work with a crop dusting plane, lighter fluid, and some matches.]

Calvin: {Still no.}

CAP: He's right. We have to rescue all the items they've stolen, and return as many as we can. But we still have to find them.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass (Still waiting on oatmeal. "Instant", my eye): They're in a walnut tree at that bend in the road with the berm before you get to the mailbox, about 40 yards down the back slope towards the pond. I can show it to you when we get there.

CAP: How do you know?

Calvin: {She has very good vision.}

Deadpool: *flatly* [Really.]

Makes Brakes Fail And Sees Things Lass: Yeah, I also know exactly what time it is when I wake up without looking at a clock!

Deadpool: *deadpan* [Wow, Cyclops and Wolverine will be fighting it out to recruit you.]

Has The Power Of Lots and Lots of Powers Lass: Cyclops? Blech. What a loser.

Deadpool: [While I concur that he is terrible, you'll never get the cool recruitment visit gifts if you don't play them against each other. You want car dealerships to give you a new ride under the table, don't you?]

Has The Power of Lots and Lots of Powers Lass: I'd rather they paid off my student loan debt.

Deadpool: [Let's not gets nuts. We're talking about a pair of paramilitary organizations with state-of-the-art technology and security. Not some magical world where elephants sneeze platinum for peanuts.]

CAP: Let's get going!

Lots of Powers Lass: OK, just let me grab my oatmeal.

*opens microwave door*

*oatmeal explodes in her face*

Lots of Powers Lass: Dammit technology!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.7 - Insensate

Plot: Darien comes home at night to find a strange little man in his apartment. Thomas Walker claims to be largely insensate, save for a sense of touch, and a sensor array that allows for some rudimentary sense of sight and sound through electrodes that connect to his head. He's looking for Kevin Fawkes, who worked on the project that made Thomas this way, along with a man named Augustin Gaither. Thomas was hoping Kevin could undo what has been done to him, but on learning Kevin is dead, is somewhat despondent. Darien on the other hand, is intrigued by the possibility this Augustin may have worked with Kevin on the gland, and so maybe he could remove it. In the meantime, though, Kevin directs Darien to a building filled with other subjects of the experiments, ones with no senses at all.

But Darien's snooping did not go unnoticed, and the man in charge of that ward (a real Heston/Rutger Hauer looking old man badass) is so powerful, even the Official is cowed by him when he comes a calling. I mean really cowed, like Charlie can't make eye contact. The Official orders Hobbes to find Darien and find out what's going on, but this results in the two of them and Thomas being grabbed by a bunch of guys in SWAT gear and thrown in a room. Thomas tells them they're prisoners of the SWRB: Secret Weapons Research Branch, which Hobbes insists is a myth, but the rumors are it has no oversight, reports to no one, and the people who work there aren't nice people. Some of those not nice people barge in and grab Thomas, despite Darien and Bobby's attempts to protect him. Fortunately, the Fat Man shows up and bails them out, then orders them to forget everything. Which Darien ignores, and he and Hobbes go back, and Darien rescues Thomas, tossing him in the van with Hobbes, then going back by himself to capture Augustin.

But the evil Rutger Hauer guy isn't Augustin. Thomas Walker is Augustin. Tommy Walker was the name of the project, named after the character in Pinball Wizard. Darien is able to talk his way out of this problem by leveraging the importance of the gland, and by promising to hand Augustin/Thomas to the SWRB guys after he finds out what he knows about the gland. As soon as the uncuff him and put him in a nice Humvee, Darien bolts. But Nameless Scary Guy anticipated this double-cross and slipped a tracker on Darien's jacket. Darien reaches the safe house, where Hobbes has made calzone for Augustin, who of course, can't taste it. Darien accuses Augustin of hiding his identity, but the man seems completely bewildered by all this, and then the SWRB blows up the house with some tiny tinkertoy looking plasma cannon. But Darien got them all out safely. Back at the Agency, the Official isn't happy but has agreed to set up Augustin in a basement cell, contingent on them finding a psychologist that can draw those repressed memories out.

Quote of the Episode: Thomas Walker - 'You'd be surprised how much you can remember when you have no place to go but inside your head.'

The "oh crap" count: 3 (10 overall)

Who's getting quoted this week? Shakesspeare said the thief fears each bush is a cop, Hitchcock said the terror is in the anticipation, and some Russian author whose name I must have written down wrong because I can't find him online said something about it being best not to recollect at all.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (2 overall). Surprising considering how much he snuck around this week.

Other: Second week of Fawkes trying for a way to get the gland out. They'd actually moved away from "Fawkes attempts to get gland out" story of the week for awhile, but it's come back a bit here. I also thought it was interesting that while Darien was horrified by Augustin's experiments (and was concerned Kevin had been a part of it), he never loses sight of that possibility Augustin is his way out. Sure, he wants to protect Thomas, but it's an open question whether he's more concerned with Thomas or himself. I mentioned last week that I'd be curious to see fallout from Kevin's decision to not get the gland out, and I wonder if this is the start of that.

I do find it interesting Darien keeps interacting with these evil overlord types, and keeps making agreements with them, only for Darien to immediately double-cross them. Stark a few weeks back, this nameless guy this week. These are the bad guys, but the hero is the one breaking his word. Sure, Nameless Guy was almost certainly going to kill Fawkes, Hobbes, and Augustin even if Darien played it straight with him, so I guess credit to Darien for striking first. Still, little odd for the good guy to not wait to be betrayed, then find a way to work around it. But it suits Darien being a thief, not entirely an honorable profession. He'd have learned to be ready for the double-cross from working with other thieves.

I don't have much else to say about this episode. I feel Nameless Guy would have worked better as an antagonist if there hadn't been all the hoodwinkery about him being Augustin. Like, what's his deal? How did he get in that position? How does he know the Official, and what's their backstory? It's hard to figure out his character, because the episode was so deliberately trying to obfuscate who he was.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

He Doesn't Get A Spoon Until Issue 7

I picked up The Tick: The Complete Edlund collection a month or so ago. There are a lot of Tick comics, I was curious, and starting at the beginning seemed like the best idea.

I'm pretty sure I'd read some older collection of some of this in a bookstore in the '90s, because I remembered the Tick fighting lots of ninjas and being very confused by that (my only experience with the character having been the cartoon up to that point). Early on, Edlund pokes at Superman a little bit by having the Tick meet a Clark Kent analogue called the Caped Wonder (from the planet Otter Creek) who believes himself the protector of The City. Shortly after that, it shifts to more of a Frank Miller Daredevil pastiche with "Night of a Million Zillion Ninjas" (also, "Early Morning of a Million Zillion Ninjas". Complete with a lady ninja in a familiar (albeit color-swapped to yellow) outfit named Oedipus. Oedipus Ashley Stevens.

Arthur, the Tick's sidekick, doesn't appear until near the end of that story, and he asks to work with the Tick because he wants an extraordinary life and was finding that difficult to manage on his own, even with the flying suit. They leave the City shortly thereafter (because there's very little crime), get into a few hijinks on the road, and eventually reach New York City, where there are so many superheroes they have to reserve a section of street ahead of time to patrol, and there's still almost no super-villains to fight. By the end of all that, Tick and Arthur decide they want to go back to the City, though the next collection was Karma Tornado, and they didn't do it there. Because that was sort of a placeholder while people waited to see if Edlund came back to work on the characters some more. I wasn't as enamored with that one, maybe because it felt a little too obvious it was spinning its wheels.

It's interesting how different Tick is initially. Maybe it's due to the story opening with him escaping from a mental institute, but at times he's almost sinister. While he's working at the newspaper (as Mr. Nedd, the new crossword editor) he seems to delight in tormenting the Jimmy Olsen analogue, and in making life difficult for the Caped Wonder. I'm not sure how much of it is meant to be purposeful, and how much is the Tick unwittingly using his power of dramatics. Apparently his presence will make any situation more dramatic. So maybe he's behaving that way to try and spark a hero versus hero brawl. But when it nearly happens, he immediately breaks Clark's glasses, and here comes the Olsen analogue, so Clark has to stop fighting and come up with some ludicrous way to maintain his secret identity. It's like Tick's genre savvy without realizing it.

Some of the Tick's more ominous air is probably the inking. The book is all in black and white, and for the first half of it, the Tick's costume is basically presented as black. Which makes him this huge dark presence on the page. In the latter half, after he and Arthur have teamed up, he's mostly presented as being lighter, with occasional shadows where appropriate. He's a brighter presence at that point. In general, I think Edlund's linework gets stronger in the second half, and he cuts down on the hatching and some of the excess little lines, relies on shading more. I think it works better. The Tick plays out as kind of an old-style superhero, and so the more solid look, with fewer lines fits him well, as a square-jawed do-gooder.

Though the Tick's do-gooding is mostly incidental. As he remarks at one point, he doesn't want to stop crime, he wants to fight it. He's really excited when he gets a super-villain to fight. When an innocent person gets hurt, he responds by getting depressed, questioning his purpose, and then destroying stuff.

There was one sequence in the book I couldn't quite decide on. When Tick first accompanies Arthur back to his apartment, there's a moment where Tick becomes concerned Arthur is. . . funny. Arthur responds that no, he isn't. . . funny. They both agree heroes shouldn't be. . . funny. Then decide they need beers. Manly beers. So is Edlund commenting on the people who makes jokes about two guys in spandex living together, or on the writers and fans who are so eager to assert that no, there's nothing like that about it all, or is he making the "hurr, hurr, two guys in spandex living together" joke himself? The fact that it's Tick and Arthur each getting very eager to prove they aren't. . . funny, by getting beers makes me think it's the second one, but I'm not sure. I just could not decide what Edlund was going for there.

That brief bit aside, it's an interesting book for watching the shift in the Tick over time, and the second half of the book provides the kinds of Tick stories I was expecting. It also introduces a lot of characters and plotlines that made it into the cartoon (though they were often recombined in new ways on TV), as well as some that didn't, but that I would very much like to see followed up on. The first half of the book, while not what I was expecting, was still pretty cool just for seeing the Tick in a story where he seemed so out of place. A battle to preserve or destroy the soul of ninjutsu is perhaps more deep (or attempting to be deep) than what you'd expect for him. Bad guy tries to carve his name into the moon with a laser? Sure, that sounds like something for the Tick. A story about whether opening up something to any schmoe with a few bucks cheapens it, and whether that gives someone who truly loves it the right to destroy it, that's a little more heavy. So it's neat in that it's unusual, and it does give the Tick the opportunity to fight a whole lot of guys all at once, which is something that suits him.