Sunday, June 25, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.1 - The Origin of Peter Puppy

Plot: We open on a montage of times where Peter transforms into a monster and ruins everything. This leads to Jim getting fed up and firing Pet - no, wait, that was the first episode of season 1. This time, Jim resolves they must learn the origin of Peter's curse. Unfortunately, since it seems to have originated at the same time as his intelligence, speech, and fashion sense, he can't recall how it came about. Through a series of attempts to unlock his memories - including hypnosis, phone psychics, and letting Jim perform brain surgery - they learn nothing.

But Jim knows the Earthworm Mind-Meld, and by merging their astral selves, we and they learn the answer. Peter, in an effort to prove himself to the other dogs, ventured too near a running vacuum, and was sucked into Heck, where Evil bonded him with a demon, then sent him back home. We also see Peter and Jim's first meeting, when a devastated and lonely Peter, having wandered the globe, looking for a place he fits, crashes into Jim. They fight a bit, Jim feels bad for Peter, they become a crime-fighting duo. Their first vanquished villain was even Evil the Cat.

Flashback over, Jim and Peter venture to Heck and insist Evil remove the demon. Which he does. Which reverts Peter to an ordinary puppy. Whoops. Which gets Jim in a lot of trouble, which necessitates Peter bonding with the demon again, which saves the day.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'Note to self: Do not throw super-villains at buses full of orphans.'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 8 (8 overall).

Cow? Yes.

Other: There were a lot of possibilities for Quote of the Episode. 'Looks like I pulled a stupid.' Or, 'Jim, only one thing is powerful enough to save us now: Origami!' Strong episode for funny dialogue.

So even after gaining a sidekick, and building a hideout with a grant from the national Endowment for Super-Heroes, Jim wasn't having much luck getting to do actual super-heroing. So he put an ad in the paper that he was seeking a super-villain for a climactic battle. Which is how Evil showed up. No problems there. But Jim specifically said, 'No fatties' in his ad. Not cool, Jim. You could have had your very own evil businessman villain, but you had to go do that. Tsk, tsk.

Peter says it was his size as a puppy that caused the other dogs to not like him and make fun. I think it was more his penchant for gymnastics. he was leaping around, doing flips and cartwheels. These dogs were probably raised to believe puppies are supposed to chase balls, and play football, and stuff. We also see that, after his transformation, he was mocked and ridiculed everywhere he went for being a talking dog. I'm pretty sure Peter could have found himself a place somewhere in the world where Peter would be happy to see a talking dog. Probably a lot of places.

Jim spends a few scenes fleeing Evil and encountering the various dark realms of Heck. My favorite was the Room of Coffee Tables with Sharp Corners. That's such a little thing, but hitting your shin on those does hurt like the dickens. Nice touch by the creative staff.

Terlawk is the haggis capitol of the world, except for Scotland. In other food news, the opening saw the return of Peter's Coquille St. Jacques Nouvelle, this time actually appearing to have scallops in it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

What I Bought 6/16/2017 - Part 2

Alex' roommate wanted us to watch this Netflix show, Haters Back Off. We made it through a little over one episode, and it is the worst goddamn thing I've watched this year, which is saying something. Painfully unfunny. Maybe Clint was getting revenge because we don't clean his grill enough after using it? But we share the barbecue with him! Anyway, comic books.

Ms. Marvel #19, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marco Failla (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Must have been a lot of worked to stitch all those faces on there. Kind of complicates the costume.

Kamala's family attempts to celebrate Eid Al-Adha, but those HYDRA dopes are at it again, having managed to get that Chuck Worthy twerp installed as mayor without the pesky hurdle of winning an election. The wannabe fascist Becky, from the Civil War II tie-ins, is working with them, and has herself a henchman, who is extremely smug and self-righteous. And it looks as though Wilson is going to address the whole thing about Aamir getting super-powers right before Secret Wars maybe rebooted everything. Only took almost two years of completely ignoring it.

I would be a lot more impressed with Discord's attempt to play on Kamala's compassion if we weren't dealing with a group that's being run and/or supported by Dr. Faustus. Who mind-controls people? Who showed up in this book originally with some mind-control soda pop thing? So I can pretty easily dismiss all those "angry" people who support what HYDRA's up to as being mind-controlled.

Or, they're not being controlled, they're just idiots. Or assholes with abhorrent views. In either event, I don't care what they want, so I hope we're not going to spend a lot of issues of Kamala doubting whether she should get involved because the side rounding people up on no good grounds has supporters, too. But we'll see.

Failla's faces tend to be elongated with chins I find distracting, and there are times I'm not sure what expression he's going for. The panel of Kamala, Aamir, and Tyesha I assume fighting over a chocolate in the car, I assume it's supposed to be kind of funny, them all grabbing for it, but the looks are so intense and weird it doesn't really feel funny. The page of Kamala stretching out of the way of a bunch of attacks was really good, though.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #21, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Brain Brain's logo reminds me of something, but I can't remember what. It may be the current Batgirl's logo, between the large yellow emblem against a purple outfit, but I'm not sure that's it.

Ken, Tomas, and "Brian" are confronted with a series of crimes being pulled off by people dressing up as villains and heroes. The heroes pretend to arrest the villains, but are actually sneaking off with the loot. There are so many heroes in New York, it'll be hard to know if the ones they see are real or not, but Brian has worked out an algorithm so he can better distinguish faces and this lets them tell who's a fake or not, and capture everyone.

Most of the trouble for our heroes comes from Brian's attempts to initiate hanging out protocols which ruin everything. Although that teacher giving Ken math problems to perform in class in front of everyone for 5% of his grade is complete bullshit. I'm sorely disappointed in Tomas for not stepping up on Ken's behalf and giving that tool an earful. I exempt Brain Drain because he would have rolled out some soliloquy about how math, though a vital tool in demonstrating the ultimate descent into nothingness of the universe, can't fill a man's heart. Maybe that would have crushed the professor's spirit, as he realizes he has wasted his life in academia.

I was debating whether the Doctopus was really a good analogue for Steel (since each of the Octopals is representing one of the guys who popped up after the Death of Superman), but Steel took the "Man of Steel" thing and made a man-shaped suit out of a steel-like material. So a Doctor Octopus with a literal octopus on his head is appropriate, although it can't be much fun for man or gastropod. Also, Doctopus was carrying hammers, so totally a proper analogue to Steel.

I appreciate the touch that Brian's eyes simply float wherever they want in that jar. So they can be in the top half, bottom half, swing way over to the side. It's fun watching where Henderson sends them from one panel to the next. As is Brian's questionable fashion sense. That cool dude outfit was awful. He ought to be hanging out with friggin' Brad wearing that.

And at least fake Spider-Man remembers he has a spider-sense, even if Spidey's own clone apparently does not.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Christmas Movie In June

Decided to rewatch The Ref over the weekend. I randomly found out it was on Netflix a month ago, and given how badly all my recent attempts to watch movies I hadn't seen before have gone, going back to something familiar I liked didn't sound too bad.

Denis Leary is a thief, trips an alarm robbing a house, his driver panics and bails, so he takes Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis hostage. This leaves him trapped in their home on Christmas with the squabbling couple, Spacey's idiot brother's family, and their domineering mother. Angry, hilarious yelling ensues. I think "Shut up" constitutes one-third of all words spoken during the movie.

I hadn't watched this in years, so I remembered the part where the in-laws have arrived, and Leary tries passing himself off as Caroline and Lloyd's marriage counselor being a much bigger part of the movie. It's actually only the last half-hour. Prior to that is the burglary, the intro to Caroline and Lloyd's dysfunction, their delinquent son (who is annoying in that way "bad" kids in '90s movies often are, but the film points out the kid really has no idea how good he has it, so I think he's supposed to be annoying).

Every character in the movie is right, but also wrong. (Except Lloyd's mother, who is a complete ass with a martyr complex. My favorite line is Lloyd leaning down to her and telling her that next Christmas, "we're going to get you a big wooden cross, and every time you feel unappreciated you can climb up and nail yourself to it." Spacey has this great look of smug satisfaction come over his face as he says it, too. You can tell he had hit his limit with her, and he's pissed enough to let her have it with both barrels. Best of all, she's never going to see it coming from her dear boy.)

Characters are quick to point out each other's faults, but are oblivious to their own, and often misread the others. Gus, for all that he cuts through Lloyd and Caroline's bullshit, also brings a lot of his own class resentments into how he sees them. He's not happy with his life, and figures Lloyd should be with his, not realizing the truth of it. But Lloyd does have a little of the martyr in him, with his whining about how someone (meaning him) has to be responsible.

You end up a few people with love each other, but have allowed too much crap to build up between them, and a bunch of other interactions where the characters hate each other, but pretend they enjoy spending time together because that's what you're supposed to do. Connie doesn't really want to visit Lloyd and Caroline, hates the food Caroline prepares, but it's what you're supposed to do, so they go and pretend to like it. Gus, the wandering Santa, probably doesn't like delivering a fruitcake to Lloyd and Caroline, but does it out of routine. No one likes Rose, but she's the matriarch, and has a fuckload of money, so they all pretend.

And it's Gus, who as a cat burglar trying to avoid arrest and preferably not be noticed, and therefore the one with the most to gain from everything proceeding as normal, who upends everything. His presence applies enough pressure that all the facades shatter. It happens even before he meets Caroline and Lloyd, because his crime brings all the wealthy asshole bigshots to the sheriff, who can't deal with any more of their self-important crap and tells them so, rather than continue to kiss their asses. The added stress of a gun-toting burglar having their son as a hostage upstairs leaves Caroline unable to keep up a pretense of everything being OK, which gets to Lloyd. And that starts to infect the others, and they start to grate on Gus, and he loses control and the whole thing spirals out of control. It's a lot of fun sometimes to watch fictional people with fucked up families scream at each other (it helps that no one is going to get seriously hurt).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What I Bought 6/16/2017 - Part 1

I did manage to find most of last week's books on Friday, but too late to post anything then. These are the first two books I read, so the ones I was most interested in, then.

Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #3, by Peter David (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), John Dell (inker), Jason Keith and Jay David Ramos (color artists), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Well, he's back in his classic duds. Not a perfect costume, but fairly simple, and when in doubt, simple is probably better.

Kaine is not killed by the people with guns, who were sicced on him by Ben, after Rita warned him. Ben has more immediate problems, as Mr. Slate jams a tracer in his neck, and Cassandra lies and says it's also a bomb. Doesn't Ben have a spider-sense? While Ben mulls that problem over, a trio of guys dressed in various Spider-costumes barge into the casino, and right into Mr. Slate, who promptly kills one. Ben, in costume, saves them, and warns them to stop this nonsense. When the one dressed in Ben's old costume criticizes the current one, Ben takes his costume.

One of the reasons I picked up this book was because I figured, with a veteran writer like Peter David, we'd get more subplots involving supporting characters. I'm still not clear if that's going to happen. Ben ran into Mandy, the redhead he rescued in the first issue, trying to get a job as a dancer at the casino. "Aunt June" is still around, shoveling quarters into the slot machines. We learned Mr. Slate has a son.

I have no idea if any of that is going anywhere. I'm still trying to get a bead on Ben. He didn't hesitate to jump and fight Slate to protect remaining two do-gooders. But he was not-so-subtly reminding Mandy she had better get him his money just prior to that. And he tried to have gunmen kill Kaine, who is, admittedly, a multiple murderer himself, albeit a somewhat reformed one. Is this going to end up being about Ben futilely trying to assemble a family around him, because he's trying to do it through threats and conniving?

I liked the coloring most in the scene in the firefight between Kaine and the hired guns. The lighting from the firearms and the bullets was shown as reflecting off Kaine's outfit, and it just looked nice. Not that the colors are muted in the other scenes. There are a lot of panels with dark or muted backgrounds, mostly in the parts involving Cassandra, since she's opted for an atmospheric darkened office.

There's a couple of quick fights scenes, lets Bagley do a little something besides draw people talking. Nothing spectacular in page layout, but some solid work, things flow well. There's a nice contrast between the panel of Ben getting backhanded, which seems almost casual, and the next panel where's he's sent flying through a row of machines. You only see Slate's hand, which means you can't judge his expression or level or exertion, which makes it seem like a very casual slap. Which makes the effect it has all the more impressive. They've established Slate as a pretty formidable physical threat, I'm curious to see how Ben's going to handle that.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #17, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - The impish Gwen who filled in the artists' names on the cover might be my favorite of the lot.

Gwen has stayed in her world, even gotten a job working the counter at a movie theater. But she can see her internal narration boxes, and the title. Gwen tries to figure out how to confirm her suspicions, and settles on thinking a lot so her caption box grows large enough she can reach it. Unfortunately she overdoes it and the box forces her out the window. So everyone thinks she tried to kill herself. Given a few moments alone, Gwen is able to breach the panels, and steps outside something. She didn't exactly break the fourth wall so much as the third wall, the border to the next panel, so I'm not sure where she is at the moment. Suffice it to say, I'm extremely curious where Hastings is going with this.

Also, her experiences working at the theater make me extremely grateful I have never worked in customer service, but I'm grateful for that every day.

So Gwen lives in New York, correct? When she reaches out to touch the panel border, and briefly succeeds before finding herself touching another person's face, everyone on the subway is gawking at her. Would people on the subway actually do that? I was given to understand from other fiction people on New York subways try to ignore everything going on around them. Don't make eye contact and all that. Perhaps not. Or perhaps it's the narrative twisting things to produce a reaction from Gwen. her father has mysteriously become much "cooler".

The various effects are illustrated well, Gwen seeing through the break in the panel she created, into the next several panels yet to occur for example. Or the page of her being launched out the window by her bloated thought caption. I'm a little surprised that in the third panel of the page prior to that, she didn't notice her head was being forced outside the panel borders by the caption, but her mind was kind of running on its own train. It's a nice visual representation of the way your thoughts can get going and prove hard to stop sometimes. Usually don't see it like that in comics, but people aren't usually trying to do that on purpose.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man - Mark Hodder

Maybe not the best idea to start with the second book in a series, but I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. The book is set in 1862, one that has been altered from what we're familiar with because in the previous book a man traveled back from the far future to the 1840s and killed Queen Victoria, then bounced around the 19th century and was ultimately killed by Sir Richard Burton. The end result is history has changed significantly, though only Burton and a few others know it, and there are a wide array of advances, both technological and biological, popping up. I'm not sure what a time-traveling assassin has to do with being able to grow enormous, carnivorous plants, but OK, sure. Burton recaps enough of the story to other characters at different points where it's possible for a new reader to grasp the general outline of what's happened before.

Here, there's a group after a mysterious black diamond with the ability to increase one's spiritual powers, including mesmerism and astral projection. This has some connection with the sudden appearance of an heir to a landed family, and a marked increase in social unrest among the working classes towards people higher up the economic ladder. And Burton, who serves as an agent of the King (via Palmerston*, who has apparently undergone steampunk botox or some such thing), and his poet acquaintance Algernon Swinburne get tasked with figuring out what the hell is going on.

It reminds me a bit of Harry Turtledove's books, which I loved when in I was in junior high and high school. Now, it's more noticeable that even with this shift in the timeline, most of the major players are still people who were major players in our timeline. Heck, even Burton's local paperboy is an orphaned Oscar Wilde, already showing a knack for pithy observations, because of course he is. I guess the choice is to resent it and fight it, or accept it's that kind of book and go with it.

For the most part, I went with it. It didn't take long to read, the plot proceeds at a solid pace, and Hodder introduced a bit of a Chekov's Gun in the first two chapters that paid off in a way I wasn't expecting at the end. Actually, I initially thought the first two chapters were their own story, and this was going to be a collection of short adventures of Burton and Swinburne. But no, it was part of the larger story.

There'll probably be another book down the line; Hodder telegraphed that. I might pick it up if I see it. This was a decent enough action story to stand on its own, though. one other point. There's that story about John Ostrander having an Australian friend who talked to him about Captain Boomerang's dialogue. Ostrander argued Aussies say all the things he writes for Boomer, and his friend replied, 'Yes, but not in the same sentence.' There are a few instances of that, where Hodder took every English exclamation or slang he could think of and made a sentence of them.

'A bizarre vehicle had snaked into view from around the next corner and was thundering toward them at high speed. It was a millipede - an actual insect - grown to stupendous proportions by the Eugenicists. When it had reached the required size, they'd killed it and handed the carcass over to their Engineering colleagues, who'd sliced off the top half of its long, segmented, tubular body. They'd removed the innards until only the tough outer carapace remained, and into this they'd fitted steam-driven machinery via which the many legs could be operated. platforms had been bolted across the top of each segment and upon them seats affixed, over canopies arched, echoing the shape of the missing top half of the body. A driver sat at the front of the vehicle in a chair carved from the shell of the head.'

* Every time Palmerston appears in the book, I think of the Simpsons, and Barney Gumble punching out Wade Boggs over whether Palmerston was a greater Prime Minister than Pitt the Elder.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Brief But Enjoyable Convention Visit

Saturday, Alex and I went to the St. Louis Comic Convention. It was actually in St. Charles, but whatever. We didn't get to stay long, since Alex had two gigs that afternoon and evening, but it was pretty nice. In terms of number of artists and vendors, I think it was about on par with Cape-Con. I'd imagine it had greater attendance, given the proximity to St. Louis, so more people in easy driving distance. It was starting to really fill up about the time we left (roughly one).

I was pretty excited because Chris Claremont was there, but then I dicked around too long and by the time I was ready to get my copy of Uncanny X-Men #218 signed (the second half of Rogue, Psylocke, Dazzler, and Longshot's fight with Juggernaut in Scotland), there was a long line, and we couldn't spare the time, unfortunately. Too bad, I had wanted to tell him I liked his recent, brief Nightcrawler ongoing with Todd Nauck. I mean, I could have done without the Shadow King, but you just have to accept that guy is going to be a thing when you're reading Claremont's stuff. Could have been worse. Could have been Mr. Sinister.

Alex was more excited about the presence of David Yost, the original Blue Power Ranger, but apparently froze it when the opportunity presented itself to walk up and say hello. So we both whiffed. Maybe next time.

I abandoned any idea of looking for back issues fast. There were a lot of vendors selling comics at 5 bucks a pop, and advertising that like it was some kind of a deal. Maybe if I had remembered to hit the ATM the night before, so I had more than 50 bucks once I got in the door, but as it was, no. There was a moment of massive letdown when I thought I found someone which multiple shelves of superhero trading card collections, only to find out each plastic case had one (1) card, plus a Lego version of the character on the card. A crushing reversal of fortune.

The whole Lego version of characters thing feels like it's exploded recently, which is probably not the case. I just noticed a lot of people selling them here, and the same was true at Cape-Con. Not really my bag.

I did pick up a couple of pieces of artwork. No commissions, I didn't have the cash for that, but a couple of nice prints, including a really nifty Samus. I almost talked Alex into buying a Black Panther print from the same fellow, but Alex said he didn't have any place to put them, so what's the point? I figured the point was you like it, and at some time, he will have a place to put them, so have it for when that day comes. He would not be swayed from his financially practical decision.

There were a lot of interesting vendors and artists, just a lack of time and funds to do more, really. There was a nice lady who paints using coffee, there was a glassblower there, just a lot of cool stuff.

One thing we both thought was weird, and maybe it changed after we had left, but we didn't see anyone dressed up as Wonder Woman. Not even any little kids. I figured with the movie being a big success and all, we'd see tons of them, but not the case. But I wonder if the cosplayers were holding off on getting there until a little closer to the costume contests. It was not a day to be in any kind of heavy apparel, or to be covered head to toe in spandex. June in Missouri is rough that way.

Hopefully the convention comes back around next year and we can spend a little more time there.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Earthworm Jim 1.13 - The Anti-Fish

Plot: We open with Psycrow using a De-Evolution Ray on Jim, turning him into a giant amoeba. So Jim launches himself at Psycrow and prepares to digest him. Yikes.

In the main plot, Bob seeks to awaken the dreaded Anti-Fish to help him conquer the universe. Jim is busy being menaced by Evil Jim on the Planet of Eerily Spooky Landscapes, when he gets a call from the Fur-bearin' Trout, warning of the Anti-Fish's imminent awakening. Of course, he won't put in another quarter to extend the call, so Jim doesn't get to hear how to defeat the menace, but no matter. Off he flies, leaving the Princess to deal with Evil Jim.

As with most of these attempts to avert fate, the effort only causes the prediction to come true. Bob had failed to awaken the Anti-Fish, but Jim's presence, the scent of a worm, works. The bad news for Bob is the Anti-Fish won't listen to him. The bad news for everyone is it seeks to eat the Great Worm Spirit, which resides at the Dawn of Time, which will end everything. So hero and villain must team up. Which goes as well as you expect. The attempt to ambush the Anti-Fish in the Time Sewer results in them being knocked into prehistoric Earth and nearly eaten by dinosaurs. A long stint at the Restaurant of Time is able to send them to their destination, but working separately, they can barely annoy the Anti-Fish. But they do succeed through teamwork, and existence is saved. And Jim eventually remembers to go back for the Princess, who is busy being wooed by Evil Jim's notebook full of love poetry.

In the interlude, Professor Monkey-for-a-Head tries telling the monkey a bedtime story. It doesn't go well.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'By the Great Worm Spirit, whose heartbeat forms the very lifeblood of the universe, this sounds. . .fairly. . . bad!'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 0 (11 overall).

Cow? Yes, appearing in response to Jim's plea for things to be easy for once. I need cows to appear to help make things easy for me sometimes.

Other: Peter didn't use the "better than pro wrestling" line this week, so maybe it isn't going to become his new catch phrase. He did encounter his old enemy, haggis, at the Restaurant of Time, as that was the Dawn of Time Special. That is such an incredibly random idea, you eat a meal and it opens a portal to take you to a specific time.

Jim at one point refers to the Anti-Fish as the "sea horseman of the apocalypse", which is a pretty good line.

I wonder if it bothers bagpipe players that cartoons use bagpipes as shorthand for "awful noise". That has to get a little irritating after a while.

The Great Worm Spirit speaks in a parody of Christopher Walken's voice. Interesting choice.

The classic story of hero and villain, forced to cooperate. Not much new here, other than Jim being the uncouth one who leaves the toilet seat up. And, while Bob does try an immediate attack after the truce ends, and is undone by their cooperation, Jim just leaves him stranded in space. But Jim never does take his villains to Space Jail or whatever. Of course, most of them are monarchs of one world or another. Form a group, R.E.F.E.M. Revolutionary Earthworm Focused on Ending Monarchies. OK, it needs some work. I'm not Vril Dox, people.

This is, according to IMDB, the last episode of Season 1, for what that's worth. I don't think seasons mean particularly much with this show, but maybe my memory is wrong. We'll see starting next week!