Thursday, September 29, 2016

Project Seven Alpha - Leland Shanle

Project Seven Alpha is story that uses the attempts by the U.S. Army air Force to keep forces in China going by flying in supplies over the Himalayas via converted DC-3 commercial airliners, flown by American Airlines pilots, operating out of Burma. That part really happened, and was critical as the Japanese forces swept down through Southeast Asia and took control of the seas and skies, meaning Burma, and later India, were the only paths in.

Shanle tries to work the story through the two top officers of the group of pilots, J.T. and Charles Henry, both of them World War I fighter pilots, both of whom struggle with the return to combat, and the danger the men under their command are facing. For Charles it's even more acute, since his son also volunteered and is normally his co-pilot. Nothing too ground-breaking there. The story even has the requisite section where the crews get some R&R and crash a stuffy Governor's Ball.

Shanle's a retired Navy aviator, and a current airline pilot, so he knows his stuff about flying, and works in a lot of technical detail about keys to flying in formation, or how to throttle the engines properly. Unfortunately, at times he overdoes it a bit and it kind of sucks the life from the narrative. One of the DC-3s is jumped by a Zero, but due to the cargo pilot's greater experience, he's able to elude the fighter until its pilot overreaches and crashes. But Shanle is busy explaining about the drag on the wing in tight, low-speed turns, and angles of approach, and it saps the scene of any suspense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What I Bought 9/21/16

I managed to pick up a couple of books last week. Not everything I needed, but the rest will be here later in the week. Course, it all adds up to a measly 4 books. Everything waited until this week to come out.

Deadpool #18, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne and Brian Level (pencilers), Terry Pallot (inker), Jordie Bellaire and Rochelle Rosenberg (colorists) - People lining up to injure Wade, something everyone can get behind, event he people who don't like Deadpool. Actually, those folks are probably trying to figure out where that line is.

Wade and Shiklah have a big knockdown, drag out fight over their relationship, all the way from Shiklah's bedchambers to the street. The fight brings out a lot of the problems in their marriage that were readily apparent from the start. Like how marrying the first guy you see after being asleep for thousands of years possibly isn't a good idea. And that Deadpool is not a reliable partner. But it's unclear if things are over or not. Even Wade can't figure it out, so he goes to the remains of his Avengers' teams HQ, which was also his cool building with the speakeasy in it. Runs into Rogue there, and takes her to see Eleanor. Explains his daughter is a mutant, and Rogue promises the kid will have her in her corner. Meanwhile, Madcap is still putting things together for his plan.

The thing I finally realized this issue is that Duggan and Hawthorne are having Wade get into a fight every issue of this tie-in, but they're all pointless, unnecessary fights. He and T'Challa didn't need to fight; Wade hadn't hurt Ulysses and he was leaving. Wade and the Mercs should have focused on getting out of the vault instead of killing each other, and definitely shouldn't have continued the fight while cops showed up. Wade couldn't pay them, so just let them leave. And then after all the fighting, they have to ride the same train home. Now this fight with Shiklah, which I don't know what's going to happen. It's all stupid fighting for no purpose, which is pretty much Civil War II in a nutshell. Bravo, Deadpool creative team.

I didn't enjoy this fight as much as the previous couple. It isn't badly drawn, Hawthorne's still doing good work, but it doesn't have as many clever bits to it as the previous fight. That and I was sad to see a married couple having a falling out. Why won't Marvel let any characters stay married?! Still, there were a couple of parts I enjoyed. The expressions Wade has on the page where the fight ends, first when Shiklah proposes they go back to bed, the one with a wolfman minus a head in it. that's a bit weird even for Deadpool (and it confirms Jack Russell won't stay dead, if you're one of his 4 fans). And the expression in the last panel on the page, as he declines. He just looks so sad and tired, which is never a good sign when it comes to Wade. Then the part in the subway when Wade thinks Shiklah is threatening his loved ones and flips out for a minute. And the fact she immediately recognizes why he flipped out, and even raises the possibility it wasn't simply poor phrasing. That was a little chilling.

Brian Level takes over art chores halfway through. There's just a bit of a shift in how Wade's drawn that I mostly notice around his mask, the lines on it not being as defined as usual, or the shape being slightly different, that makes me think that. Otherwise it's a pretty smooth transition, and I don't know if that's due to Level shaping his style to mimic Hawthorne's, or if Terry Pallot's inks are doing it. The colors shift somewhat, Wade's costume seems brighter than in the earlier pages, but otherwise, it's a smooth transition. There are times Level really nails some of the body language Hawthorne typically gives Wade. The pose Deadpool makes when he tries to lean against Rogue's closet door, for example.

I gotta say, I still hate Civil War II, but this has been a solid tie-in. Definitely the best one I've seen by Gerry Duggan over his time writing Deadpool.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #10, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Megan Wilson (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Why the heck are Boomerang and Shocker there? Nothing better to do than watch exes arm wrestle in a bar?

Daimon dumped Patsy into the hands of Belial, a lord of lies. And this wasn't Daimon actually trying to help Patsy, he really did get duped by Hedy. Maybe that hellfire on his head is cooking his brain. Belial tries to get Patsy to buy into embracing her rage and taking control of her full power and cutting loose, which does sound fun, but Patsy is uninterested. She gets Belial to bring her back to earth by daring him to prove he has powers somewhere outside Hell, at which point Jubilee breaks his face, and Daimon banishes him. Then the boys apologize and the day is saved, while the Black Cat prepares to get Hellcat out of her way.

But Felicia, I'm pretty sure Patsy was Hellcat before you showed up in comics, and I know Greer Grant was wearing that costume as the Cat before you came along. So they can't really be biting your style, can they? That's not even getting into the fact her costume is yellow and blue, and yours is black with a little white fringe. That's like saying iron First is biting the Hulk's style because they both have green in their color palettes. So becoming a crime boss hasn't made Felicia smarter, clearly.

I've been trying to figure out what seems so different about Williams' art in the scene in Belial's realm. Some of it is Wilson's colors, I'm sure. Things seem more washed out. The colors are lighter, but not as rich. But it seems like Williams isn't doing any shading around the characters. What I mean is, in places where Patsy's hair should be casting a shadow across her face, it doesn't. It's as though everything lacks a certain level of detail, because it's just a surface illusion. Belial is going with easy, obvious stuff, the simple conclusions someone could draw if they wanted to to make a person feel bad, without looking at the deeper levels of who people are and why they do stuff.

Or it could be Williams is trying to use a style more similar to what would have been in those books starring Patsy and her friends from back in the day. Some of the peculiar background effects, like how the shadows in her mom's hospital room are a lot of narrow black lines, close together. Or the static on TV backdrops that appear a couple of times. Those seem like techniques more common to much older comics, and so maybe Williams and Wilson are trying to put things in that style.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Man Who Didn't Shoot Hitler - David Johnson

The story is that Hitler claimed to Neville Chamberlain when they met in Munich, that during World War I he had been part of a German unit under fire from British soldiers, and while the Germans, including Hitler fell back, a British soldier could have shot him, but did not. And Hitler had a copy of a painting by Matania hanging in a room where they met depiciting the Green Howards (a British unit) in combat, and pointed to a soldier in the front, claiming that was the man who spared his life. That man just so happened to be Henry Tandey VC, the most decorated British private soldier of the war.

As it turns out, the story is probably completely bunk. Hitler generally seems to be referring to the battle during which Tandey received the Victoria Cross, among other honors (in fact, he got a certificate explaining he wouldn't receive any further medals for bravery because there weren't any left to give him), but a) that battle was in 1918, and the painting is of a battle from 1914, b) as far as Johnson can discern Hitler probably wasn't even with his unit at the time of that battle, and if he was, they were 50 miles away, and c) Hitler was a regimental dispatch runner and wouldn't have been close to the front lines anyway. Oh, and the version of Tandey in the painting apparently bears no resemblance to the actual person.

Johnson saves the discussion of this legend, the theories on how and why it came about, and how Tandey responded to it (mostly dismissing it by remarking he didn't remember seeing anyone like Hitler, though his response varied some over the decades) for the end of the book. The first three-quarters are devoted to the rest of Tandey's life, as best as Johnson can reconstruct it. He doesn't have much to go on, as Tandey was fairly private, and only sporadically close to his family. It's especially notable in the chapter on World War I, as Johnson has no diary or letters home to work from, only a couple of times where Tandey has written something or been interviewed that was featured in a newspaper. Beyond that, he discusses the general life of frontline infantry during the war, and draws inferences from there. Which seems a little dodgy, when he's quoting from other soldiers letters home as to how soldiers felt about the possibility of death, and then musing on Tandey's based on this.

He does discuss Hitler's upbringing a bit, as a compare/contrast to Tandey's, which he continues through the Great War. What's interesting in that part, though, is where he points out the revisions Hitler made to his wartime experiences, versus what the surviving records suggest is more accurate. this also helps establish a basic timeline where he can look for other points in the war when the two could have possibly crossed paths so Tandey could unwittingly spare him.

Ultimately, I think the fact Tandey is such a private person works heavily against the book. There isn't much to work with, because he isn't the kind of person to write volumes of correspondence (or the people he sent it to didn't care enough to keep it), so a lot of the book is guesswork and supposition. Which makes it harder to be drawn into the sections about Tandey's life, which made it harder to stick around until Johnson got to the hook of the book. Fortunately it's only about 170 pages, so you can still reach that section quickly enough.

'Henry may also have resorted to another much-used method of lice control, involving running his fingernail through the seams of his clothing. The lice were referred to as 'chats' and their removal became known as 'chatting' - the men would sit together 'chatting'.'

Monday, September 26, 2016

Marvel's Trying To Keep Me Warm With Anger Through WInter

Let's look at the solicitations for December. Over at DC, the Deadman mini-series is back, and they say it's bimonthly, so that explains the absence of it in November. Blue Beetle's solicit says Ted Kord's getting an unexpected visitor, so cross your fingers for Booster Gold, although since this Ted doesn't seem to have any history of costumed derring-do, they may not know each other.

There's also going to be a Justice League versus Suicide Squad story in one of those two books, which doesn't seem like it should be much of a contest. If they're fighting each other, the Squad should get trounced. If Waller is using political maneuvering to protect the Squad, then what is the League going to do? Tell the government to go piss up a rope and attack their facilities? But perhaps it'll play out better than I expect, someone can tell me how it goes.

Atomic Robo Temple of Od is wrapping up in December, and Darkwing Duck #8 is scheduled to come out. That latter is a little odd, since I was sure I didn't see #7 in last month's solicits. There's also a new Locke & Key book coming out that month, I'll probably check that out.

And then there's Marvel. You may have heard Civil War II has been delayed, and so it won't be finishing up December, by which point Inhumans vs. X-Men will be into its second month. Brilliant work. This is the second event in a row Marvel can't pace properly to finish in the originally allotted number of issues, and which was delayed. I'd start to question whether they're doing this on purpose, as some bait-n-switch to get more sales, but I don't want to credit them as having that much foresight.

She-Hulk is getting a new series, where she now can transform into an unstoppable rage machine, jsut like her cousin did. Oh joy. Not sure why taking the character that had transformed, but was largely in control and enjoyed it, and going this direction was a great idea. Kate Bishop is getting her own series, and of course the solicit bags on Clint Barton, so I'm definitely not buying that comic. Slapstick is getting his own series, which I can't imagine is going to last more than 5 minutes, but the same is true of Solo and Foolkiller, so whatever.

They're also giving Rocket Raccoon a new ongoing, as well as Star-Lord, and Gamora, but the whole team is stuck on Earth because of Civil War II and general writer stupidity. Like, Rocket complains there are no spacecraft on earth capable of interstellar travel and that is total crap. The Fantastic Four had them for years, and Ben Grimm was literally just on a team with Rocket. You telling me Ben can't drop by Parker Industries and grab a ship for his friends? Hell just steal one. Deadpool had the old Fantasticar, security can't be anything special. Shit, go talk to Dr. Doom. He's a good guy now, he can probably build an intergalactic travel capable ship in an afternoon. Out of a box of scraps.

Marvel's teasing the return of a Nova, and the obvious conclusion would be that it's Richard Rider. This is a return I would be in favor of. But I'm not sure it is Rich, because they're trying to be so coy about it. Something about the way they question how it will impact Sam Alexander makes me wonder if he's finally going to find his father.

As far as the books I'm buying, Great Lakes Avengers promises an actual fight, Deadpool is continuing to battle with Madcap, and Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat is still not canceled. Hooray! Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is going to do an issue devoted to Nancy's cat, Mew. They said Marvel should have known this would happen after they let Fraction/Aja do the Pizza Dog issue, which was the thought I had as I was reading the solicit. I didn't see Ms. Marvel listed anywhere, so I don't know if that was an error, or if they're going to reboot the book again for some new, disaffected youth status quo.

X-Men '92 is ending, and I'm going to wait and see if the restart it as X-Men '93 next year.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Foyle's War 1.3 - A Lesson in Murder

Plot: We open with a Mr. Beale in a hearing to be listed as a conscientious objector. He's application is denied, because he said he would help a child injured in a bombing raid. He protests this and gets hauled off to the Hastings jail, where several of the officers torment him, and then he hangs himself in the cell. Which becomes something for Foyle to deal with.

Elsewhere, the city is in full swing preparing for a possible invasion, pulling down street signs and having committee meeting about the fact Hastings is expected to hold out for 7 days without support. Which seems unlikely, considering how few weapons the Home Front unit has, according to one Raymond Brooks, the head of the local unit. The meeting involves Foyle and keeps him late, which means it keeps Sam late, so she finagles dinner out of him at Carlo's an Italian restaurant run by an old friend of Foyle's. An old friend whose son, Tony, is quite taken with Sam, and asks her to a dance. Carlo has his own worries, that he and Tony aren't communicating well, and that Mussolini may declare war on England, and what that might mean for him and his son.

Judge Gascoigne, who rejected Beale's application has a young boy staying at his home, Joe, who was sent there as part of the program to protect children from bombings, which have not materialized. So Joe's father is coming to get him, to the judge's relief. It was his daughter's idea anyway. As it turns out, Gascoigne has other problems. Beale had some pacifist friends, including one named Theo, who is perhaps not as pacifistic as he thought. Also, a young friend of Tony's, Jack Winters, is out of prison, a prison he was in because of Gascoigne, and none too happy with the judge. His daughter, Susan, is trying to secretly continue a relationship with a local tradesman, Peter Buckingham, over the judge's objections. And his wife's station is pushing him beyond his financial means. With all that, it perhaps isn't too surprising some rigged the door to his summer cottage with a grenade. Unfortunately, it isn't the judge who opens the door, but Joe. And Joe was only one day away from retirement, I mean, going home with his dad.

Quote of the Episode: Susan - 'Joe had never slept in a bed before he came here. He thought sheets were for dead people.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No, this week he and his police friend go golfing. Foyle is much worse at golf than he is at catching fish.

Things Sam is good at: Not taking any guff from jerks. Jack Winters tries to chat her up at the dance and she shuts him down straightaway. 

Other: At the preparedness meeting, Raymond Brooks chafes at not being able to tell the men serving under him exactly what they may face and are preparing for. Foyle argues that would be a mistake, I presume to avoid panic. And this is a theme that runs through the episode. People opting to withhold things for one reason or the other. Tony has decided to enlist, but had not told his father. He lies about Jack Winters being around, because he knows how his dad feels about Winters. Foyle is nervous because he hasn't heard anything from Andrew for awhile. He plays it off as a joke, that at least Andrew obviously hasn't run out of money, since he hasn't written asking for any. But that's his way, to conceal concern.

There's also a reveal about what Peter Buckingham is up to, and why it's such a big secret, that plays into this as well.

Sam and Tony had no chemistry, unless you really enjoy people being awkward around each other. Which it seems like Sam knows, but is too nice to tell him so.

Theo is played by David Tennant, who was the Tenth Doctor, and Killgrave the Purple Man on Jessica Jones. Here he's the pacifist who rages against the injustice in the system. Gascoigne is unsympathetic to people applying to be conscientious objectors, unless he knows their father.

In the continually worsening life of Paul Milner, he came home from work to find Jane with a suitcase packed. She's going to Wales to see her sister for a few weeks, and simply chose not to let Paul know. He would not have found out if he hadn't happened to come home early, although I guess she'd have left a note. She's still studiously avoiding making eye contact unless she absolutely has to. Paul says he'll miss her, she responds that she'll write, which isn't really the same thing. I guess she's wanting to break it off, but hasn't quite worked up the nerve to do so entirely. Maybe she's trying to push it to a point where Paul will do it, so she doesn't feel like the bad guy? I don't know. I really would like to get her perspective, her reasons at some point.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Any Excuse To Talk About The Ray

So CW is going to do a series of animated shorts, or animated somethings, with The Ray, similar to what they did with Vixen previously, probably with an eye to incorporating him into the various live-action DC shows they have down the line. Assuming that's how it goes, I don't expect he'll look as cool as powered-up Ray did in the comics, but that's not new. I don't think live-action can match artists for making superhero stuff look cool. There's just a limit to what actors and costumes can achieve versus art, where you can do anything you can draw, regardless of whether it'd be at all feasible in the real world. Not a big issue, though.

And it turns out he's going to be gay, possibly a nod to an issue of Grant Morrison's Multiversity, where he did an updated version of the Freedom Fighters. Or they just recognized there's nothing about Raymond's character that requires him to be heterosexual, so why not broaden the range of people represented. I hadn't ever seen that comic, so I didn't know that had happened. My thought when I read the announcement was someone had been reading some of Ray's ongoing from the '90s.

There was an issue, #19 I think, that was part of Underworld Unleashed, where Ray is making out with this woman, who then reveals herself to be Neron, basically DC's Devil. And Neron makes Ray the old, "I'll give you X in exchange for your soul." Except Ray is more focused on having kissed a guy than about the fact the "guy" was the Devil*.

It's generally played as a joke; Neron even grows frustrated that Ray won't focus. I've always read it as Ray still being naive, not recognizing that as a superhero, these are the kind of things that will happen to him. Having seen the announcement about his character coming to TV, I thought, "Well, you could read that as his having been confused about his feelings after finding out it was a guy**." Then I started thinking about his other romantic relationships. The aborted one with Jenny Jurden, the only friend he had as a kid living inside in the dark all the time. There was Galeon, a young woman he meets when he and Black Canary are lost in time, who he finds out future him is having a relationship with. She also gives him a note with instructions on how many times to circle the sun to get home, which he gives to her as a kid when he meets her basically the moment he and Dinah reach home, and Child Galeon instantly develops a crush on him, which apparently persists to adulthood. Or there's whole puppy-dog thing with Dinah.

Jenny was the one person his age he had any connection with growing up, so he cares deeply for her. If his childhood friend had been John Jurden, would that have changed things for him? Dinah's the experienced older woman that mostly doesn't even seem to want him around, except when she can use him for something. She also seems like what popular culture tells young guys they should find attractive (especially as drawn in the '90s) Long blonde hair, big chest, fishnets, impractical heels for all that jumping and flipping, but what the hell. Maybe Ray's going with what everything around him says he should (or he's bisexual). As for the relationship with Galeon, I don't know. She saves him in the future, then he saves her as a kid, and she develops a crush on him, which apparently develops into something more, to the extent her future, cop, self travels back in time to try and straighten him out by stabbing Vandal Savage. I'm not sure what to make of all that. Future Ray doesn't seem to treat her that great, but Future Ray is a dick to everyone, a pitiless corporate ass, Justin Hammer with superpowers, so who knows.

It doesn't have to be read that he was a closeted (unknowing?) gay/bisexual who's trying heterosexual relationships because he thinks he's supposed to, but I could see that interpretation. Or he could be a young heterosexual guy with limited life experience making poor relationship decisions without a good support network. Relationships are tough, and Ray didn't have a lot of experience with people in general growing up. But it could also be that he was a young guy with limited life experience and no good support network, who is also gay.

We don't know much about his childhood, except that he was raised by his uncle (pretending to be his father), in a house kept perpetually dark***, and taught by nuns, I think. I have no idea what he learned about love, or sexuality, at all, but I can't imagine they spent much time explaining to him that sometimes boys are attracted to boys. They probably didn't mention the possibility at all. Now he's out in the world, but the man who raised him is dead. His birth father is a dick who has done nothing but lie to Raymond. His mother doesn't even know he's alive, because his father told her he died while being born (Happy Terrill may be the worst comic book dad ever). His boss is Vandal freaking Savage. His only other surviving relative is Hank, who looks and acts like the Fonz. I get the impression most of his Justice League teammates treated him like a dumb kid (J'onn seems like someone who'd be a good sounding board, but I don't think they were close). He's got effectively nobody to work through this stuff with.

I doubt much of that is playing into the character as he'll appear on TV, though I could be surprised.

*I think he actually makes the deal because he doesn't take it seriously, and that gets undone somehow. That's around the point in the series things started to get confused for me, because I think Priest was addressing things that were happening to Ray in Justice League Task Force, or Extreme Justice or something, and I don't really understand what those things were.

** Assuming a devil really has a gender. I guess they do if they want to.

*** Because his birth father's first son had the same powers, but stopped aging at 10, with the mind of a 4-year old, and was extremely dangerous. So Happy Terrill locked him in a missile silo for decades, alone.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's Finished When He Decides It Is

I probably saw An Unfinished Life for the first time last spring, or maybe over the winter. It's one of those films my dad will autotune his TV for if there's nothing else on at that time he likes better. I will pretty much always stop to watch Hot Fuzz or The Rocketeer, he's lining up to see movies about Robert Redford being an angry drunk who can't cope with losing his son.

And also movies where Burt Lancaster kills a bunch of fucking Nazis (The Train), but that's not what we're here to talk about.

Jennifer Lopez is a single mom who flees her abusive boyfriend with her daughter in tow to Redford's ranch. He's her father-in-law, but as he blames her for his son's death, he is not happy to see her. Or to find out, like 12 years after the fact, that he has a granddaughter, named after his son*. He lives on his ranch with his old friend Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who is partially crippled up from being mauled by a bear the year before, and it's at least partially Einar's fault. the bear has reappeared and gotten itself captured and put in a nearby shitty zoo, which ends up being a pain in Einar's butt.

So it's one of those movies where people try to come to grips with emotional trauma they've previously tried ignoring, or locking away. There are several scenes of people yelling at each other, or people backsliding and acting stupidly, or lashing out. But gradually everyone sort of hashes things out, at least to the level of coming to some sort of peace with each other (I think they all sort of unite over the abusive boyfriend appearing like a moron to get his ass beat). At least a couple of scenes with no dialogue and sad piano music in the background.

There's some decent one-liners in there. Redford has a good deadpan delivery, and Morgan Freeman can play well off most anyone. Lopez carries a pretty good sense of desperation and frustration, and I especially like the scene at night when she and Einar finally have it out. Where she's so pissed at him, but she's trying to keep her voice down because her daughter is supposed to be sleeping downstairs. The anger, but with her still trying hard to control it. She ends that argument by pointing out he wants to be dead, and should just lie down so they can bury. But maybe he's afraid no one would come. Einar didn't have any sort of a comeback for that.

Becca Gardner does well as Griff, the kid stuck in the middle of all this. In the early stages of the film, she's very quiet. Keeps her eyes on the ground, avoiding eye contact. Doesn't approach people readily, always staying out of arm's reach. You can tell she's used to being in situations where adults will scream or grab or hit her, just because, and she's trained herself to be ready for it at all times. Even when she brings Mitch some lunch, or helps Einar work on his truck. She'll step forward to hand something to them, then immediately move back a safe distance. She can't be sure what might happen, and if something goes wrong, she might get blamed. Which feels like it contradicts Einar's assessment of her as being at the age where she still thinks things will work out, but she does open up with a little encouragement, so maybe he's right.

I gotta agree with my dad, they flub the very end. There's a nice bit with Einar and Mitch sitting next to each other, disagreeing about the weather, and the Mitch asks to be buried there on the property, where Einar's son is. And Einar plays it off as obvious, you're family and all that. But then Einar asks if Mitch thinks the dead care what they do, and Mitch goes on this long soliloquy about it, and it's just bleh. Completely unnecessary.

* He mentions, when they're introduced, that Griff is an odd name for a boy, but his name in Einar, which is an odd name for anyone, so glass houses.