Tuesday, September 25, 2018

As Above, So Below

An archaeologist searching for the tomb of a famous alchemist thinks she knows where it is in the catacombs beneath Paris. She enlists the help of a local expert on exploring the catacombs, who calls himself Papillion, along with his two friends/partners, and brings along a cameraman and an unwilling linguist expert. Things rapidly get strange, as they are forced to travel through a tunnel Papillion declares as "evil", and people begin seeing things. They eventually find the tomb and the Philosopher's Stone, but they still have to find a way out, and that's when things start really going downhill.

You know how these found footage horror movies tend to go. The things that you and the characters catch a glimpse of simultaneously, so you can both freak out at once, or the things you see they don't, because they aren't looking in the direction the camera is pointing. The survival rate is higher than I expected. The first couple of deaths are brutal, but of a fairly straightforward variety. After that is when things start to get really bizarre, the next death in particular. It fits with the idea of where they are, but it also felt very much at odds with the movie up to then. Things had been obviously creepy, and not following typical laws of the universe as we understand them, but not in quite as obvious of ways. Then that goes out the window and it felt a bit odd, like we'd stumbled into a different kind of horror movie. I'm not sure I dislike the shift, but I'm sure I wasn't a fan. Your mileage will vary.

One thing I appreciated is I spent much of the early part of the film criticizing Scarlett for being a terrible archaeologist, and putting everyone in danger with a seemingly mad obsession with finding this tomb. George, her Aramaic expert in particular, who keeps telling her he will not go underground, and she keeps making him get closer to the entrance, insisting to Papillion that yes he will, don't worry, we're going to talk about it. It's like, maybe you don't want someone who hates underground spaces because of childhood trauma with you in a massive and extremely dangerous complex of underground tombs, but her pursuit trumped any concerns about the damage she left in her wake.

But the movie presents her with a chance to redeem herself, and it actually works. She gets some closure, confronts what's really driving her, and is able to make some amends. I've said before I don't like horror movies where I like some of the characters, but they all die horribly, so I enjoyed how this one turned out.

Monday, September 24, 2018

What I Bought 9/21/2018 - Part 1

I only found three of the four books I was looking for from last week, and the one I missed is the one I wanted the most. Typical. In other news, it was a pretty exhausting weekend. Enjoyable at times, frustrating at others. The pitfalls of having an extremely social friend whose works requires him to be around lots of people.

Multiple Man #4, by Matt Rosenberg (writer), Andy MacDonald (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - And that was the last time Jamie asked Layla to do his laundry.

Emperor Madrox, unsatisfied with decapitating the duplicate last issue, travels back in time to stop him there. Which leads to the fight between two Madroxes we saw in Hank's lab in issue 1. The issue keeps jumping to all the dupes sent into other timelines to find help, and how they became the mishmash heroes that show up at the end of issue 1. Which we see here, from their perspective. The issue ends with the Emperor's top general (also a Madrox, natch) arriving just after the mishmash Madroxes left to return to the future. So the whole thing loops back around on itself and the Emperor has by that time already been absorbed (in issue 1) by the duplicate he will decapitate in the future (in issue 3).

I have no idea what the ultimate point of this is going to be. Half the Jamies just stumbled into their powers by accident. The one that didn't get picked back up is on the Marvel Swimsuit Illustrated universe, and probably drank himself to death. I heard the New Mutants mini-series Rosenberg wrote ended like it was just a midpoint on a larger story he's telling, possibly to pop up in Uncanny X-Men. No true conclusion. Is this going to tie-in as well? Is all this time travel nonsense going to cause X-Men Disassembled? At least Wanda won't have to take the blame for this one.

MacDonald's art continues to be fine. I enjoyed the touch of showing the former Emperor's fingers still partially sticking out of the Jamie that absorbed him, since the process isn't entirely complete yet. It's kind of creepy, especially when you figure the dupe didn't go willingly, so it's a bit like being dragged underwater to drown. The other timelines are sort of interesting, but not there long enough to really care much.

Stellar #4, by Joseph Keatinge (writer), Bret Blevins (artist), Rus Wooton (letterer) - That little air car thing looks like it'd be fun to drive.

The doorway to another universe led to a world just like theirs, only not destroyed by war. Stellar's been there for some time, long enough the people who met her when she ran through the portal are old men now. And there's a kid that looks a lot like her. Unfortunately, if she tried to keep Zenith from making it through, she failed, and he's found her. Both hers.

What odds do you give the portal isn't to an alternate world, but actually to the past of their own, and the fight between Stellar and Zenith is going to trigger the cataclysmic war that resulted in them being used as guinea pigs for a super-soldier project? Has to be even money at this point.

Lot of close-ups on Stellar's eyes in this issue, various emotions, none of them happy. Haunted looks, frightened, angry, lost, but the one scene where she actually appears happy, meeting what appears to be a younger version of her, the view maintains a little more space. The panels may focus on her face, but it's the entire face, just a bit more distance. It's interesting that scene is followed by showing us how the adult version of her is living: In a crappy, barely furnished apartment. It seems like she could have a better place if she wanted, but she opts not to. Because she's trying to maintain a minimal presence in a world that isn't hers? She tells the bartender that other than him and the professor, she can't think of anyone else who would call themselves her friend. She's been there 30 years, and she has two friends?

Zenith presents a bit of a contrast. I doubt he has any friends, but he's shown as smiling in almost every panel he appears in, or at least looks relaxed. Granted he has a big surprise he's planning to spring, but he also really likes the the world they're in. I'd be curious if he's made more effort to make friends than Stellar has. Figures he's on this world now, why not?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #33

"Lotta Cracks in the Finish There" in Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #2 by Keith Giffen (writer), Andrea DiVito (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)

So after Nova made Annihilus' insides his outsides, they followed that up with a two-part mini-series that looked in on the status of all the currently living Heralds of Galactus, seeing as their numbers had taken a hit during Annihilation (Morg, Red Shift, and the Fallen One all bit the dust at various points). One story each for Terrax, Firelord, Stardust, and the Surfer, by various creative teams, although Keith Giffen wrote both stories in this issue.

My favorite story of the four was the one about Stardust (by Stuart Moore and Mike McKone), because of the idea Stardust originally came from a civilization composed of very short-lived and constantly changing exotic particles. That just seemed extremely cool, and the idea of how you'd have a civilization if you can exist for long periods of time, but nothing you create lasts more than moments. Those unusual settings and concepts are always a good hook for me, but there was no splash page.

For this particular image, we have the Surfer getting a little payback on the two "proemial" gods that beat down Surfer and Big G and handed them over to Thanos during Annihilation. OK, he's not doing it for revenge but because they plan to defy "cosmic consonance", which I believe is the nonsense term Galactus uses to justify his existence. Course, the Surfer alone against two beings on Galactus' level is a bit of mismatch. . .

Friday, September 21, 2018

What I Bought 9/18/2018

I found a new comic store while on the road this week. They didn't have any of the old back issues I was looking for, but they had one book from earlier this month I wanted, which is even better.

In other news, Happy Birthday to my friend Alex, who will hopefully not run me ragged with his birthday weekend these next few days. Or maybe he will! It's his birthday!

Giant Days #42, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Christmas depression starts earlier every year. It's not even fall yet.

Esther has decided to confess feelings for Ed Gemmell, despite Susan's concerns that it will upset the character dynamics. And Esther's going with the tried-and-true route of a 20-year old Babylon 5 Advent calendar. Interesting strategy there, Bob. You know it Jim.

But Gemmell and his physical therapy buddy Nina have already got something going, and Ed's debating whether to try and keep it going by visiting her in Australia between semesters. He asks Esther for advice.

In other plot developments, McGraw is abruptly freed of helping this bizarre man, Cliff, that he was suddenly friends with last month. But Daisy has unknowingly put herself in the same guy's employ at his Christmas tree ranch/farm/village. You know, one of those places in urban areas that are fenced off vacant lots and for three weeks you can go buy Christmas trees. Whatever you call those.

One thing that comes up with this book from time to time is this feeling that there are other books I need to be reading, but no one is telling me which ones. This thing with Cliff and McGraw felt like it parachuted in behind the lines at night and then morning comes and hey, where did this development come from? I think I know everything I really need to, but, you know how in Claremont's X-Men there would be certainly subplots that would get teased along in the background for years, and sometimes completely abandoned? This feels like the opposite, where the subplot has been progressing completely off-page and only now, at a climax point, has it actually made it into the book. It's an odd experience.

Sarin's art is at its usual high level. Esther looks a little more round in the face than I think she normally is. Which makes her look a bit more vulnerable. Appropriate considering she's decided to take a risk, only to have it fall apart before she got off the starting line. The body language Nina demonstrates during her post-sex chat with Ed was pretty impressive. She has a big personality, and so in a lot of panels its big smiles or laughs. But she's also bracing for rejection, so she shifts quickly to fiddling with her hair and avoiding eye contact. And even when she's being nervous, it's a big, obvious nervous. Wears her feelings on her sleeve (if she were wearing a shirt with sleeves during the conversation).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Fear Artist - Timothy Halliman

There is a series of books about this character, Poke Rafferty, who is nominally a travel writer living in Bangkok, but somehow keeps falling into trouble. In this case, a man crashes into Poke as he leaves the paint store and is then shot. Then man whispers a few words before dying, and suddenly the cops are hassling Poke about a killing that is being kept out of the news. So he has to figure out what's going on and try to deal with the guy behind it.

Frankly, it's a little hard to believe Poke pulls this off given the forces that are supposedly against him, but the main person he's up against has enough dirty laundry he can be hung out to dry if that laundry can be aired to the public. But the book jacket really plays that guy - the "fear artist" in question - as being a little more fearsome than he comes off in the story. The guy rarely has any clue where Poke is or what he's doing, and we see enough of his life to see that yes, he is a piece of crap, but he's also a past-his-prime schmuck who has gotten himself stuck in a life he doesn't really want, and can't figure out how to escape from.

Halliman adds in a whole theme about fathers and daughters, or maybe its dads and their kids in general. The dads not knowing what to do with their daughters, or worrying about maintaining a connection with them as they get older. That you can shape who they become in ways you don't recognize. It works to add some context to Poke's worries, his concerns about the distance between him and his adopted daughter feeding into his general worries he might never see her again if he doesn't get this handled.

Halliman keeps the action moving. There's always another development. Even when Poke is just living out of roving freelance ambulances for a few days, he's trying to figure out his next move, and there are other plot threads advancing at the same time. The old Russian spy Poke is able to buy the assistance of was a little too cliched, but he's entertaining, like most of the characters. There are a few other subplots that will probably play out in future books in the series, or were following up from developments in earlier ones. I didn't really care about whatever was going on between Poke and his dad. Didn't add much other than something for Poke to complain about. Seems like he had plenty of options there already.

'After a stop to put three stitches in a patient, they drop him two corners from Mrs. Shin's apartment and circle the block while he cuts across a couple of sois to get to the building, where he reaches into the bushes and comes out with a brown paper bag, Then they return him to the place where they picked him up. He hikes back to the hotel, calls Dr. Ratt, and arranges to be picked up by another team at 7:00 A.M.

The safest place to be, he figures, is nowhere, and what could be more nowhere than the backseat of a car rolling through Bangkok at random?

Just another dark-skinned guy idling along in the back of a car. While he figures out how to live through all this. Whatever this is.'

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Speak of the Undersea Princess

This was the last page of the second issue of the Dan Slott/Sara Pichelli Fantastic Four.

The idea apparently is Reed tricked some powerful villain into letting him bring the "full" Fantastic Four to challenge her. She assumed he meant Ben and Johnny, but no. Relevant to my interests, who's that I see in the upper right corner, above Spidey and to the right of T'Challa and Iceman? With the blonde hair and the ankle wings?

(Nita was a member of a team Johnny pulled together during I think the Jeph Loeb/Carlos Pacheco run. The two of them, She-Hulk, and Scott Lang. Johnny and Nita were dating at the time.)

As far as I know, this is the first time Nita's actually appeared in a Marvel comic since the end of Abnett and Lanning's Thanos Imperative. She survived that, because we see her back on Earth at Project PEGASUS with Nova's kid brother and Quasar when Cosmo came to recruit Quasar for the Annihilators. That was late 2009/early 2010. It didn't seem to get any wider acknowledgement, though.

(And this was right after Marvel had finally given up trying to make the Agents of Atlas a thing, so we've still never gotten any sort of mother/daughter reunion there. Which would have been a nice moment.)

Granted, that Nita was from some point in the past due to weird circumstances involving a massive tear in the fabric of the universe, but come on. That time travel shit works for the X-Men all the time. Cable's dead! Oh wait, no, here's Cable, possibly the same one, but maybe not. Time Travel!

I think Christopher Yost's New Warriors book had an Atlantean on the team looking for Namorita, but I don't think it ever paid off. I'll probably try to grab that series at some point, I like Marcus To's art.

I don't know if she'll get to do anything of significance in this FF story, but hey, at least someone remembered she's around to be used as a character. Either that or Dan Slott decided Secret Wars erased Civil War from continuity, which would be fine with me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Serious Man

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) watches his life fall apart around him. His wife wants a ritual divorce so she can be together with Sy Abelman. His son sees him as only useful for fixing the TV aerial so the kid can watch F Troop (I've seen F Troop on Nick at Nite, the kid ain't missing much). He's got a student trying to bribe him for a better grade on the midterm, then threatening to sue him for defamation of character for accusing him of offering a bribe, and a lot of other crap.

And Gopnik can't figure out why all of this is happening to him, or what he's supposed to do about it. He tries talking to not one but three rabbis, which doesn't seem to help. He has no control over his life, things are being done to it completely beyond his grasp or without his input. People guide him to and fro, manipulate his emotions while trying to claim they aren't doing that, and he just sort of drifts with it. His resistance is token. I spent most of the movie waiting to see if he'd snap and just let everything loose at once.

The movie opens over a century earlier, and introduces the idea of a dybbuk, a spirit possessing a corpse and potentially cursing people. I don't know if we're meant to think that's what's happening here, or just people will use anything as an excuse for why things are going wrong. Maybe that family was cursed because they invited a dybbuk in for soup. Or maybe they're cursed because they stabbed an old man because they thought he was a dybbuk. Or maybe he was a dybbuk, and they'd have been fine if they just gave him some soup and hospitality. You can never tell with the mythological creatures, whether you can kill them with kindness. Or there is no curse, but it makes a convenient excuse for why their lives sucked going forward.

If there's a higher power doing all this, they're never going to give Larry or us the answers as to why. Even if they do, there's not shit you can do about it if they have that kind of power. I mean, he may very well be hopelessly doomed because of vast forces beyond his ken, but since he can't know, he might as well proceed as though he can do something. I'm not sure that's where the movie is going with it, though to be honest I was starting to check out in the last 20 minutes because I was getting frustrated with it.