Friday, July 03, 2015

It's All About One Book in September

It’s shaping up to be a great month for books in September!

That’s not how I originally planned to start this. I was going to focus on how few books there were from Marvel I was interested in that month. Here’s the complete list:

Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos #4
Daredevil #18

That’s it, a (probably) mini-series, and Daredevil. It’s like 2011 all over again. I have no idea where Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, or Marvel Zombies went to. Secret Wars still won’t be over by then, but I don’t know if that’s relevant. Like, things are getting bad in-story, so the other books are ending/going on hiatus because their section of the world is “destroyed” or something. Who knows?

Outside of that, there’s the handful of DC books, but will I still be buying Batman Beyond come the fall, and there's no sign of All-Star Section Eight #4. So it may be a small month there, too. Descender is at least on a skip month after completing its first arc, could end up being more than that, depending on how much lead time Nguyen and Lemire need. Roche Limit: Clandestiny is ending that month as well.

But none of that matters, because IDW is releasing the first issue of Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire! I was hopeful, when Clevinger and Wegener went the digital route with Robo this year, they’d at least keep doing trades, if not single issues. But I’ll take the single issues if I can get them. I’m also going to hope being published through IDW will eliminate some of the shipping issues they had with Red 5. Where the book would miss a month, then ship issues in consecutive weeks, when there was no apparent delay on the creative team’s end of things. That solicit pretty much saved the month for me.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Grave Peril - Jim Butcher

There’s been a recent outbreak of angry ghost activity in Chicago, and Harry Dresden is naturally the guy who has to stop it. He does have some assistance from a man named Michael, who carries the title “Fist of God”, and a blessed sword to go with it, but Harry would have to figure out who needs a meeting with the business end of the sword first. That’s going to require traveling into a realm called the Nevernever, which is home to all manner of supernatural beings, included a faerie queen, Harry’s Godmother, who says he made a deal with her long ago he needs to keep. Except Harry keeps ducking it, with dire consequences for a lot of people.

It’s good to see Harry have to deal with the results of breaking his word. He seems to do it often, always with some reason or another, but it seems like a bad habitat for a wizard. He says in this story that most words, in of themselves, don’t have power. They’re just a way for wizards to focus and direct the magic.  Even if that’s so, it would seem unwise for a wizard to repeatedly demonstrate that what he says means nothing, in terms of getting the desired effect when he tries to direct a spell.

I’m still waiting for Butcher to stop bailing Harry out when he lets his temper get the best of him. There’s always at least one time where he acts too rashly and makes a new enemy, but each book also usually has a point where Harry takes hold of some great source of power, and goes nuclear with it. Afterward, he’s always deeply worried he may have killed someone in the process (which violates the First Law of Magic, apparently, and would result in his execution), but there’s always some manner in which that doesn’t happen. Someone intervenes and calms him down, or kills the target first, or whatever. At some point, his luck on that score has to run out. And now that he’s started a war between wizards and vampires, it just might.

Little surprised Butcher seems to have moved Susan to the sidelines. She was a reporter/love interest, very into the supernatural out of curiosity, and probably a desire to know and illuminate the truth about things, since most people are quite content to dismiss magic as hokum, even in a world with an openly practicing wizard (even some of the cops Harry works with think he’s a fraud). Things seemed to be progressing, and now she’s possibly going to be off-screen for awhile, due to circumstances. Don’t know if Butcher’s planning to build something between Harry and Murphy, the cop who hires him as a consultant, or if he wants to give Harry someone to pine over and rage against the vampires about.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Day 17

It finally occurred to me last week I usually haven't been telling you what the category is. I title in the Word document I'm using, but then I don't transfer it over to here. Whoops. So, Favorite Legacy Character. Pretty much has to be a DC character doesn’t it? Marvel has a few characters I like who are legacy characters (Spider-Girl, the current Ms. Marvel will certainly merit consideration before too long), or could possibly be considered so – Patsy Walker wears a costume originally designed for Tigra when she was the Cat, rather than a cat lady, so that might work – but that’s still more DC’s balliwick.

The question is, does it have to be a happy legacy? Does the character taking the mantle have to be glad of it, and like their predecessor or not? If yes, the answer is Cassandra Cain.

Cass took being Batgirl seriously. At first, because she understood what the symbol meant, and what Batman expected of her, and she worked hard to live up to that. To the point of getting herself briefly killed, even. But Barbara was the one she turned to with questions about things. The scene above actually started with Cass asking Barbara what a soul was, and it went in other directions when Oracle didn’t have a solid answer. I have no idea what would have happened if Cass had asked Bruce that question, but probably nothing good considering the attitude he usually took in her book.

The end result of the conversation is Cassandra gets curious about Babs’ time in costume, which sounds very different from her own, and ultimately steals Barbara’s old costume. Which leads to a sequence where Cass struggles to adjust to fighting in boots with heels on them, and Tim behaves most unprofessionally when they have an impromptu team-up. The costume gets a little torn up, but Barbara’s not bothered at all. Her first real question is whether Cass had fun or not, to which Cassandra replies that she did.

They had their differences. Barbara tried very hard to not only act as buffer between Cass and Bruce’s worst tendencies, but also to introduce Cassandra to things she thought a girl her age should get to experience. Things Cass was not terribly interested in, like vacations and cruise ships. Barbara got frustrated with Cass’ slow-to-indifferent progress learning to read, and Cass was sore at Barbara when she had a falling out with Batsy after War Games. But they reconciled before the end of Cassandra’s series, and were willing to help each other (I’m just going to ignore that whole post-Infinite Crisis stretch where Cass was nuts/brainwashed and Oracle didn’t seem to be doing anything, because that was just a bad editorial decision all around).

On the other hand, there is one DC character I like more than Cass, and he’s also a legacy character.

It just isn’t a real great legacy.

Ray Terrill’s dad was the original Ray. He was also a HUGE jerk, at least throughout Ray’s mini-series and ongoing. He had his brother pose as Ray’s dad and pretend any exposure to light would kill Ray, as opposed to granting him awesome power. Christopher Priest would later explain why Happy feared that outcome, but for a long time the apparent explanation was, “He’s an asshole.” When his brother dies, he finally reveals himself to Ray, but with some nonsense about how he’s a ghost now, and needs Ray to save an island from a volcano.

When Ray sees through that ruse, after almost failing to save the village, and then almost dying in the eruption he redirected into the ocean, Happy tells another load of bull. This time he’s an alien who was stranded on Earth, where he met Ray’s mom. So Ray is half-alien. This also turned out to be a lie, and Priest later revealed Ray’s mom didn’t die in childbirth, but she thought Ray had been stillborn. So when she meets Ray (at the same time he’s learning she’s still alive, living with his dad in the countryside out West), she thinks he’s Happy’s kid from some affair her husband had. Sheesh. Maybe Ray should have asked that New Genesis guy if he could adopt his name as a legacy. He’d only have to add “Light” to the front of his name. Still, a legacy is a legacy, I guess.

Batgirl panels from Batgirl #45, Dylan Horrocks (writer), Rick Leonardi (penciler), Jesse Delperdang (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer). Ray panels from The Ray #3 (mini-series, not ongoing), Jack C. Harris (script), Joe Quesada (penciler), Art Nichols (inker), Steve Haynic (letterer), John Cebollero (colorist).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ty Cobb - Charles C. Alexander

I can’t imagine what possessed my dad to think I was itching to read a biography about Ty Cobb, but here we are. Not being an expert on the man, I can’t tell you how thorough the book is, but it seems to cover most of his life, from his early years in Georgia, to his last, cancer-filled days.

Cobb is in many ways pretty much what I’d heard about in other books or stories about baseball of that era. He’s intensely competitive, one of those athletes who feeds on the scorn or distaste of opposing players and fans, whether it’s real or merely perceived. And if there isn’t enough of that to go around, sticking it to the teammates he thinks have it in for him will do just as well. As a result, there are multiple occasions every season where Cobb is in trouble for arguing with an umpire, or getting into it with an opposing catcher or infielder who objected to Cobb’s slide (although Alexander contends Cobb did not sharpen his spikes to try and injure players, that was merely a rumor started by two other guys on the team to psych out their opponent). If that isn’t enough, he’ll get into an altercation with a fan every few years, meaning he’ll literally run into the stands and fight the guy. He shows up late to spring training every year (it must be said, always in shape when he arrived), and has contract disputes regularly. Though I won’t fault Cobb for disliking and speaking out against the reserve clause system that was in effect until the 1970s, where a team had control of a player’s rights for as long as they liked, and could pay as much or little as they chose, with the player’s only option to sit out if they didn’t like it.

And of course, the racism. Cobb would probably contend he had no particular problem with black people – he probably wouldn’t employ the, “I have black friends!” excuse, though – as long as they, you know, didn’t get insolent. That was a favorite word he apparently liked to use to explain why he had to thrash some elevator operator, or a clerk in a butcher store (after Cobb barged in with a gun and threatened the guy’s boss for mischarging Cobb’s wife on an order). They were “insolent” with him, and he couldn’t tolerate that, fine Southern gent that he was. Alexander lets Cobb off the hook for those actions, describing him as someone who would today be called a racist, but otherwise kind of lumps it in with “those were the common views of the time”. Well, just because a large proportion of white people in the early 20th Century were really obviously racist (as opposed to more subtly racist), doesn’t make Ty Cobb not also a racist.

Also, he waits until Cobb’s first wife, Charlie, files for divorce after Cobb retires to mention that, oh yeah, Cobb could be a really tough guy to live with, what with the sarcasm and angry outbursts and such (no physical abuse, apparently, that’s something). Up to that point, Alexander gives no impression there’s any real issue with the marriage, except perhaps that Cobb is away from his family a lot because of baseball. Could just be a matter of it being a different era, when whatever marital unrest there was, actually stayed out of public knowledge, but it came as a bit of a surprise. Up to then, Cobb seemed like a loving father and husband, loyal to his wife, undoubtedly demanding of his sons, but mostly wanting to be there. Then his playing career is over, and that’s apparently not been the case. Or not entirely the case, anyway.

I didn’t expect to learn Cobb has been involved in funding a modern hospital for his hometown, or a scholarship program for kids in need after his playing days were over. Or that he would push hard to get his old teammate Sam Crawford elected to the Hall of Fame, given they never exactly got along. But Cobb does seem to get slightly better at making friends, or mending fences, after he’s done playing. There are some acts he wouldn’t forgive, but with people he’d feuded with simply because they were on other teams, there was a chance. He strongly disliked what Babe Ruth’s success did to the game, but they eventually became friends. Cobb mused near the end that he ought to have done things differently, not pushed so hard all the time, not always had to be right, and maybe there’d have been more people there for him at the end. It sounds good, but I’m not sure Cobb could have been anyone other than who he was, even given the chance to see how things turned out, I think he wouldn’t be able to help himself. When he was player-manager of the Tigers, he initially promised not to meddle too much, make too many changes, go easier on the players (who claimed didn’t respond well to abuse like the guys in the game when he started). It wasn’t long before he couldn’t stop trying to do something, anything, that might help the team’s chance to win a little, and wearing everyone out by yelling about every mistake. That’s who he was.

The story that surprised me the most was when Cobb charged into the stands to fight a fan. Not because he did that. He and the fan had been going back and forth for innings, he said something about the guy’s mother, the guy called him half-black (using the pejorative term that starts with an “n”), and Crawford asked Cobb if he was going to let that slide. What surprised me is, after Cobb is indefinitely suspended by the league, his teammates all say they’ll go on strike if the suspension isn’t lifted. Then they go through with it. Reading the story initially, and knowing his teammates’ antipathy for him, I had figured Crawford baited him into it specifically to get him off the team for awhile, but no. I wasn’t surprised all the major sports pages roundly condemned the players for going on strike. Always bet on the media outlets to back management, since they’re the ones who decide if the press hacks get access to the players.

‘Juggling, finagling, exhorting, encouraging, railing, and fuming at his ball club, Cobb kept it in contention nearly all season. His men had to respect his past and continuing achievements as a ballplayer. Some of them may even have feared him. But apart from Haney and maybe one or two others, they did not find him likeable. The simple fact was that neither age, wealth, fame, nor parenthood had mellowed Cobb. As a manger, he was what he had always been as a player – smart, ingenious, hard-driving, ruthless, and overbearing. Long accustomed to his celebrity status, he was charming and graceful on public occasions, as when, at a reception in mid-May in Washington attended by Michigan’s two U.S. Senators and thirteen Representatives, he received a set of twenty historical biographies to commemorate his twenty seasons in the American League. A few days later in Philadelphia, however, he was “back in old form,” as the Sporting News put it, punching a black groundskeeper after an argument over the use of a Shibe Park telephone. And a few days after that he was at Yankee Stadium hurling ugly epithets at Ruth, jumping around to distract the New York pitchers, and egging on Blue and Haney into fights with Yankees Mike McNally and Wally Pipp.’

Monday, June 29, 2015

What I Bought 6/12/2015 - Part 5

Let’s look at the other two Secret Wars mini-series I decided to try. I can tell you right now, I was pretty happy with both. This is not going to convince me to try more of the ones currently coming out, mind you, but it’s still a nice turn of events.

Marvel Zombies #1, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Frank D’Armata (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) – Is Elsa grabbing the scalp of Zombie Volstagg? Volstagg is a zombie? Noooooo! Next you’ll be telling me he ate his kids or something. Don’t tell me he ate his kids.

Here, the Shield is a giant wall staffed with people who keep the ravenous zombie hordes in their little piece of land. Why the hell did Doom include a piece of Marvel Zombies Earth in his planet? Poor planning, Victor. Elsa Bloodstone is a commander there, and after killing one of her new recruits after he got bitten – because I guess Kev Walker was disappointed he didn’t get to draw Striker dying in agony in the pages of Avengers Arena? – Elsa gets teleported way the hell out into Zombie Wasteland by Zombie Nightcrawler’s Dad, I think. Where she wakes up to find some bald, amnesiac, non-zombie kid, and they try to make the trek back to safe territory. The kid spends a lot of time telling her he thinks they should go the other way, and Elsa spends a lot of time being verbally abusive, because that’s how her father raised her. I have to admit, as much time as the kid spends sniveling and crying, I’d probably tell him to shut up a lot, too. Anyway, after narrowly surviving Zombie Juggernaut thanks to some unexpected reaction from the Bloodstone amulet, Elsa sees just how many zombies are between her and home, and decides to go with the kid’s idea, while some creature, probably Zombie Nightcrawler’s Pop, watches them from a distance and plots to use her own knife on her.

I bought this for the promise of Kev Walker drawing Elsa bloodstone killing lots of monsters, and I’m getting just that so far. Spurrier’s taken the backstory Ellis gave Elsa in NextWave, about her father putting her through all this crazy training as a baby, and approached it from a more serious direction. That would be traumatic for a kid, it would certainly affect how she relates to other people she regards as soft, or unprepared, and would give her a mindset very focused on doing her job. It works, though I’m not sure that backstory was ever meant to be taken seriously. Also, I had figured Ellis was the only writer Marvel let use “toerag” in his books (considering Pete Wisdom couldn’t go 5 pages without saying it during Ellis’ Excalibur), but Spurrier gets to as well.

I don’t know if it means anything that most of the people on the Shield with Elsa had glowing red eyes. That seems like an ominous sign. Also have no idea what the kid’s deal is. No memory, vague sense of wanting to go south, no apparent skills, but somehow still alive in a land where anything alive is food for everything undead. Actually an android? An attempt at a Trojan Horse, zombies eat him, he infects them with some virus that kills them once and for all, but they can sense it and avoid him? Juggernaut went right for Elsa, even though she had the gun, instead of the kid. Paid the kid no mind whatsoever.

Particularly liked the panels Walker did of one of the zombies with rats crawling around inside its flesh while it lay dormant. Reinforces the idea the zombie is dead, rotting meat, also adds the idea they can remain still and silent for a long time, until something catches their interest. I also like how the panel borders get thicker and more ragged, the panels themselves slight tilted or angled, during tense moments, like the Juggernaut fight. Then the borders gradually smooth out, and the panels revert to a nice, even, rectangular shape. It helps zoom in on the action when that’s what needs the focus, and after is when you can pull back and get the sense of how desolate and alone the place they occupy appears to be.

Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos #1, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Salva Espin (artist), Val Staples (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) – I don’t feel like those guys really qualify as commandos, but it’s been several years since the last time Marvel used that to describe a team of monster creatures, so what the hell, right?

So there was the Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet mini-series, where Wade fought and defeated Dracula, and then married Shiklah, to much rejoicing. In this version, Wade lost, because Dracula cheated, so Shiklah is still married to Drac. And it’s the crappy, “updated”, Final Fantasy villain Dracula, instead of cool, dark cape and beard, Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman Dracula. The Howling Commandos work for him, and Shiklah can’t stand them any more than she can Drac. But as the last living member of her family, she’s kind of up the creek. Until she finds part of the Scepter of the Manticore on one of her brothers’ corpses, and the other has a map leading to the other part. So she comes up with some excuse about ferrying their remains to Hell personally, and sets off in her best Lara Croft/Indiana Jones outfit. But Drac insists the Commandos accompany her, and tells Werewolf by Night to make sure she doesn’t survive the trip. Deadpool’s only present as a ghost narrator, telling people to get over making jokes about Man-Thing, then promptly making a Man-Thing joke a few pages later. Also, he grouses about dying in books in back-to-back months. I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s going to team-up with Thanos this fall, so he’ll probably be dying every page when that happens.

It says the one Commando is Marcus the Minotaur (also combined with a symbiont), but he looks more like a centaur to me. He has four horse legs, plus arms. Maybe Dracula’s just trying to confuse his foes, unless “minotaur” is the name for centaurs with diabetes, since Marcus has that. I also don’t know why one of Shiklah’s brothers is wearing an outfit that’s a cross between one of Jamie Madrox’ shirts and Rachel Summers’ old Hound outfit (the red one with spikes all over it), while the other stole that horrible outfit Frank Castle wore when he was Captain America for 5 seconds. Remember that, after Civil War, Fraction had him fight Hate-Monger and Frank decided he needed to stand up like Cap would have, and he wore some incredibly stupid garb? I do not appreciate this series making me remember that happened.

It’s nothing spectacular, pretty much an exposition issue, but I’ll trust the creative team to make it work. They used a Die Hard quote, that buys them some leeway, and I’m curious whether Shiklah will turn all these guys around to her side of things, or kill a few first to make a point.

Espin's art seems well suited for this. He draws monsters well, but since the book is far from serious in tone, the art needs to be able to do silly or comical, and he's up to the task. It's all kind of bright and exaggerrated. When the Commandos are temporarily turned to stone, it's done in one quick panel showing them looking surprised. No drawn out thing where they tried to flee, or close-ups on their terror. It's essentially so Shiklah can later tell Drac when he asks what she did, 'I made them hard.'  Jokes, but with monsters.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Zorro 1.21 - Zorro Springs A Trap

Plot: The lancers have captured Zorro! They’ve placed him in a cage on the back of a cart, and set it in the square for all to see, and the peons are not happy about it! But there’s Diego coming into town with Bernardo, so something’s up, especially when Diego learns Sergeant Garcia has no idea how Zorro was captured. When it is announced that Zorro will be unmasked, then hung immediately after the next day, Diego sends Bernardo back home for his other outfit, and waits.

In Ortega’s office, the Magistrado demands to see results, and tells Ortega he’s received messages from the Eagle suggesting he isn’t pleased with Ortega’s work. But the false Comandante is sure the peons will try to rescue this Zorro, and when they do, he will capture some of them and they will tell him how to find the real Zorro. While Ortega inspects the gallows with Garcia, several peons arrive outside the cuartel with suspicious carts. Diego advises them to go home, but each group reiterates the same message: Zorro is a hero to them, their only protection from the cruelty of those in power who abuse the law. Soon, they try to block the gates of the cuartel with the carts to give themselves time to free Zorro, only to have him call for the lancers. By this time, Bernardo had returned, and the true Zorro rides out and tells them to flee, and the fake’s mask is removed, showing him to be one of the lancers. As Zorro also beats a hasty retreat, Tornado stumbles and Zorro is thrown from his horse. This gives Ortega time to lasso him, but his triumph is shortlived. Zorro’s able to brace himself against a well, and Ortega is pulled off his horse, saddle and all.

Zorro may have escaped, but the lancers captured Tornado, and Ortega announces an auction. Again, he plans to arrest any “suspicious” people who bid on the horse, then force them to tell him who Zorro is. He also specifically orders his lackey Roberto not to explain this to Garcia, who will be conducting the auction, so Garcia doesn’t get confused. Unfortunately, this means Garcia thinks he can buy the horse, and Diego is nice enough to loan him the money, which he gives to Corporal Reyes to bid for him. Unfortunately, Reyes doesn’t understand bidding, and so even though he’s the only one making bids, the price keeps going up, because he keeps raising his bid each time Garcia announces the current bid. Still, he gets a really nice horse for just 205 pesos, but also gets chewed out by Ortega.

That night, Bernardo tries to sneak out and feed Tornado, only to be observed by Roberto, who starts whipping him, while demanding answers. To Bernardo’s credit, he keeps up the disguise of being deaf, not that it stops the whipping. Crawling into the corral does, because Tornado is more than willing to protect him, and Roberto is more than willing to whip a horse. Because he’s an asshole. In the process, he knocks over one of the torches ringing the corral, starting a fire. Things get worse for him, because Tornado’s a little more than he can handle, and he winds up stomped (though probably not dead). By then, Bernardo has alerted Diego, who goes back upstairs, changes to Zorro, swings down, frees his horse, and rides away, much to Garcia’s relief.

Quote of the Episode: Juan – ‘I’m sorry, patron, but this man, Zorro, may be a bandit and outlaw in the eyes of the law, but he is the only one standing between us and the whipping post!’

Times Zorro marks a “Z”: 0 (10 overall).

Other: Garcia finally called Reyes a “baboso”. We haven’t had one of those since episode 10, when Garcia was supposed to keep that judge occupied.

I’m not sure, but I wonder if the lancer posing as Zorro was Leon, the one I thought died from the knife in the back last week. He and Roberto seemed to be Ortega’s loyal, personal goons, and Roberto was busy outside the cell. Although, I think it was Roberto who shoved an old woman at the start of this episode for not being happy they captured Zorro. She replied that Zorro wasn’t an outlaw to the poor, and that he protected them from the likes of the soldier. Then he proved her point. At first, though, I thought he was the same lancer who was so quick to believe Garcia had stolen the soldiers’ pay back in episode 15. There was one lancer in particular who was ready to basically hang him right off.

Ortega’s plans, both of them, were. . . not good. Really stupid, in fact. I guess the first one stems from a reasonable place. Neither he, nor the Magistrado, nor Monastario for that matter, could accept that this one guy can constantly elude them and thwart their plans so easily. They’re smart, resourceful fellows, with the full weight of a garrison at their disposal. Zorro must likewise have an army supporting him. But it doesn’t take into account the peons might still try to rescue Zorro, even if they don’t know who he is. But the end result of that would mean Ortega orders the interrogation and likely, the whipping, of some innocent fellow who can’t tell him anything, and Ortega’s not the sort to lose sleep over that. The auction plan was just idiotic. The Magistrado already told him last week the peons don’t have much money, yet they’re the ones he suspects of working with Zorro. How the hell are they going to buy his horse? So who was the suspicious person going to be?

I like that when Diego saw Roberto lashing at Tornado, he nearly broke his cover and charged in there. Bernardo barely held him back. We see that from Diego occasionally, when he can’t play the unconcerned popinjay, and has to at least make a cutting remark or observation. And sometimes you can even see him straighten up a little, like he wants to hit the person. This is one of the few times so far where the identity he’s made for himself slips almost entirely. It’s just fortunate everyone was too preoccupied with putting out the fire to notice.

Garcia tried to use Reyes as a proxy to buy Tornado for him, but since it was really Diego’s money, I guess Diego used Garcia instead. Oh well, Sergeant, better luck next time. Maybe you can still catch Zorro, even if he does have his better horse back, in addition to be being a better rider than you. And braver, too, I suppose.

One thing I want to keep an eye on is whether this is when Garcia and Reyes become a more frequent comedy duo. It’s been an off-an-on thing so far, it hasn’t come up much for a few weeks, so this may be the point the writers realize they have something there. Or it may have been they knew the story was kind of thin, and they used Garcia and Reyes to pad things out.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What I Bought 6/12/2015 - Part 4

Last week, my boss complimented me on my positive thinking, which is not a phrase that tends to be associated with me. Not sure what it says if I'm the optimistic member of the crew, though it's probably more relevant I seem to be the most heat and uimidity resistant of us. I’ve delayed it as long as I can, so let’s venture into the exciting world of Secret Wars cash-in, I mean, tie-in books.

Master of Kung-Fu #1 and 2, by Haden Blackman (writer), Dalibor Talijac (penciler), Goran Sudzuka (inker), Miroslav Mrva (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer) – Must be hard to concentrate on kicks with that giant leering face behind you.

It’s K’un Lun, but in this version, the city is ruled by whichever Master wins the 13 Chambers tournament. For 100 years, it’s been Zheng Zu, Master of the Ten Rings. His son, Shang-Chi, is a drunk who ran away years ago because of a task he carried out on his father’s orders. So his father wants him dead, for defiance, and Rand-Kai, current Master of the Iron Fist, wants him dead because the act he committed was to kill Rand’s master. Presumably Rand doesn’t know it was on Zheng’s orders. Yet. Shang had been out of the city for some time (or was so complete in his descent into dereliction no one noticed him in the city), but he has to defend himself from some of Zheng’s students, which brings him to the notice of a group of kids who were cast out of their schools for various transgressions, and now live underground as outcasts. They want Shang to teach them as he was taught. Shang points out if he did so, they’d probably all die, and goes off to drink by himself. His attitude pisses off Callisto, so she informs on him to his father, which brings Rand, plus two of Zheng’s servants down on the lot of them. Shang survives, but one of the kids doesn’t, which is the kick in the pants he needs to agree to be their Master, which will enable him to enter the tournament and defeat his father

It’s good, I enjoy it. I like the take on the characters, how what would be their mutant abilities in the conventional Marvel U., are turned into something that fits the setting. Though I’m not clear on who the other student of Zheng’s was Shang beat up in the first issue. Razorfist, obviously, and Typhus was Typhoid Mary. The other one appeared to wield shadow stuff, so Black Mamba, from the Serpent Society? I like these opening scenes talking about how the Tournament came about, because so far, they sort of agree, and they maybe don’t. The Red Sai’s version of things seems to have opened a different avenue Shang’s didn’t, which makes me wonder what the real story is, if there even is one.

I haven’t read anything Talijac has drawn since, I think that issue of Deadpool Team-Up with Hercules and Arcade, but I do enjoy his work. He has those clean lines I prefer, and he’s good at drawing action. When Shang fights, you can tell from his position in one panel, how he got to the next one. The movements make sense, and seem possible. It’s not a lot of ludicrous contortions, which makes sense with a character who doesn’t have inhuman stretching powers or anything, and doesn’t really want to be fighting anyway. He’s not going to expend any more effort than he needs, which isn’t very much, apparently. I like that Kitty is apparently so used to being intangible she does even walk around things or people on instinct anymore. She walks through a piece of rubble after their narrow escape, and she puts her arm through Shang’s chest to point when Cy tries to rescue Rahne. It’s a nice touch, implying how long she’s been this way, and how resigned she is to it.

I especially like the scene where Kitty explains how they all wound up as they are, to convince Shang to really train them, and so we get these panels of her moving among them, always smiling, upbeat about it. Right as she explains her own mistake, we get this large panel of Shang denying he can help them, refusing to make eye contact, clutching a bottle in those hands with the bloody wraps around them. Then he starts in on what the training they desire would really be like, and again we get the close-ups on each student, but Shang’s not in the panels at first. Just his harsh words, and their scared and disappointed faces, until he suddenly pops up right in Callisto’s face, talking a bunch of shit, and then follows that up by casually moving his hand through Kitty, just to demonstrate how helpless she is. Then he strides off with them set against a white backdrop, but his face is obscured by shadows. It’s just a nice encapsulation of how he’s tried to reject everything since he started running, and since he can’t hide in an alley from these kids, he tries driving them off.

This is the sort of thing I can go for with Secret Wars. It has its own story to tell, and it doesn’t give a toss what Hickman’s up to, and doesn’t expect the reader to, either. It’s just a fun What If/Elseworlds thing, essentially.