Thursday, September 24, 2020

Killing Them Softly

A movie about a couple of dumbasses who rob a local card game, for another dumbass. The guy who would normally sort this kind of thing out (played by Bill Pullman) is dying of a heart attack, or cancer or some shit, so Brad Pitt's character gets called in to sort things out.

I assume the movie takes place during the recession of 2008, because there are these constant sound bites from Dubya and Obama, going on about hope, or opportunity, or holding the ones responsible for the economic troubles accountable. Except, of course, for these guys, the only opportunities are stupid jobs like this, that are gonna end badly, or small time schemes like stealing people's dogs and taking them to Florida to sell. Everyone is scrambling for whatever money they can get, and we never see anyone higher up than a middle manager type. The ones making the actual decisions are somewhere hidden away, ordering people killed or beaten (but not too badly), or stiffing someone on their fee, entirely unaffected.

All of which could have been conveyed by the events of the film and one clip of Bush the Lesser or Obama feeding us a line of shit, rather than doing it over and over again. It definitely didn't need Brad Pitt's little speech about how Thomas Jefferson was a hypocritical piece of shit and the whole country is founded on rich guys fucking every one else. I mean, all that shit is true, but I already know that. I don't know if it means the director thought we were too stupid to get his point, or if he just felt really smart and wanted to do a flex.

The movie definitely didn't need James Gandolfini's hired killer character, who spends all his time drinking and crying bitterly over his ex-wife. The middle of the movie grinds to a screeching halt the moment he comes on screen, because whatever was going on up to that point is sidelined so he can monologue about stuff while Brad Pitt sits there looking vaguely constipated. I don't care about the character's problems. He's just some asshole who wandered into the middle of the story I was somewhat mildly interested.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

You Don't Quit, You're Fired

A couple of weeks back, there was a Teen Titans Annual where Batman confronts Damian Wayne about some crap he's been pulling as Robin. Like keeping supervillains locked up in a secret basement in Titans Tower, and possibly trying to mess with their heads, something like that. Which, as I unfortunately recall because of the existence of Identity Crisis, is not a thing Batman approves of.

They have a fight, Damian accuses Bats of not going far enough, Batman says he won't fight because he loves his son and Damian rips the "R" off his costume, proclaiming he quits.

Yeah, no. If there was ever a time for Batman to actually fire one of his many teen proteges, this would have been the time. Damian shouldn't get to extra-judicially imprison people, then act like he's got the moral high road on someone else.

(And yeah, he's sad 'cause Alfred died. I'm pretty sure the rest of the Bat-family is sad, too, and none of them are going around pulling this shit.)

But this has always been the problem with Damien, the double standard. Benefits of nepotism, I suppose. The first time he suited up as Robin and went out to fight crime in Gotham, he decapitated a guy. Cut his head clean off with a sword. Not even the Joker, or Zzazz, or Kobra. Some Scooby-Doo-looking chump called The Spook.

Did Damien know what he was doing, that he was killing someone? Yes. Did he show contrition? No. Did Batman put his foot down and bar the kid from ever being Robin again? Of course not. Damien got to be Robin, and stay Robin for the next 15 years or however long it's been now since Morrison introduced him.

He took being Robin away from Stephanie because she disobeyed orders once, by trying to help him during a fight he was clearly losing. He tried to take Batgirl away from Cassandra because he thought her commitment was lagging because she showed interest in boys and a life outside crime-fighting in general. Damien can kill a guy, and Batsy just kind of shrugs like Ace piddled on the tires of the Batmobile.

Anyway, I eagerly await Damian challenging Jason Todd for the "lethal Bat-kid" spot. Hopefully each of them kills the other.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Technology. Useless, Useless Technology

I was at Alex' over the weekend for his birthday, we decided to try and play a little Call of Duty on his PS4. I'm not a Call of Duty guy - the more "realistic" first-person shooters aren't really my thing - but it was what he had. But first we had to create an account for me on the Playstation Network. 

OK, fine. I'm really, truly planning to buy a PS4 here in the next few weeks, finally*. Might as well save myself some trouble. We get that done, eventually. But wait, I don't have an Activision account! Now I need to create one of those, even though, again, I don't really give much of a shit about Call of Duty. But sure, whatever, let's get this done. 

Alright, time for fun with my buddy running around throw grenades at people in a safe environment! But wait, Call of Duty doesn't allow for split-screen gaming. 

I think it was about that time I started laughing. 

You can play cooperatively with some random, foul-mouthed 10-year in Belize, but you can't team-up with your best friend in the same room? Or have fun killing the each other? I don't even care about playing against other people on the Internet, especially people I don't even know. But I would like to be able to play with actual friends when we're hanging out together.

And I thought Blogger managed to bork the alt text function with the switch to this new version, but apparently I have to type my attempts at alt text humor into the "title text" line, rather than the "alt text" line. Why they decided to change that, I don't know. 

* Assuming my apartment isn't hit by lightning or I have to loan someone else a bunch of money again.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Hunt Your Sister, Hunt Whoever

That guy bears up under being burned better than I would. Of course, he's already dead. Perks of being a ghost, fire doesn't hurt as much.

The first volume of Isabellae collects the first three books of Raule and Gabor's story about a half-Gaelic (or at least Irish from before the Celts arrived), half-Japanese girl, trying to track down her sister, who she hasn't seen in 7 years. Their mother was a powerful witch/sorceress, who left Ireland and traveled to Japan, where she met a samurai and they had kids. Both the parents died around the same time, Siuko was banished, Isabellae narrowly avoided execution (after killing 13 grown-ass men for beheading her mother).

Isabellae accumulates allies as she goes along. A young bandit she didn't kill while pursuing a bounty, who is maybe just a little too decent for that work. A boy that isn't cut out for the monk lifestyle. A older warrior who lost everything that mattered to him. A suspiciously intelligent monkey.

All of that is part of some larger plan or destiny the two sisters are caught up in. Which is not really a

trope I enjoy in fiction, the fated characters. I prefer for characters to have control of their own choices, and if they get mixed up in something, it's their choice, or bad luck. It is argued that Siuko and Isabellae have a choice, that they could deny what they're supposed to do, so long as they're prepared to deal with consequences. 

However, given the forces at work literally dropped an angel (or some strange creature with wings) in Isabellae's path to present her with a test, it's hard for me to think they aren't pulling more strings beyond that. But I guess I better buy the second volume and see how things play out.

There is an element of the fantastic, intermingled with the more everyday challenges. A sea voyage finds Isabellae trying to protect an advisor of the Emperor in the midst of a power struggle, but also ends up with her and her party on a ship full of reanimated corpses. The angel landed in a village struggling through a poor growing season, so he's either blamed as an omen, or seen as something they can sacrifice to reverse their fortunes. It makes things just a little more interesting, since you aren't sure what they might run into next.

Gabor's art style reminds me a little of David Baldeon, in the smoothness of the faces, shapes of characters' heads and noses. Most of the linework is lighter or thinner than Baldeon's, though. G

abor saves the thicker lines for heavy brows or faces scrunched in anger or pain. Doesn't exaggerate facial expressions quite as much. There's a good flow in the fights, how one move sets up the next. Gory when necessary, but I wouldn't call it excessive for the level of violence. But I may not be a fair judge of that.

As far as I can tell, Gabor handles the color work as well. Fight scenes, at least ones where Isabellae's feeling something strongly, tend to be done in shades of red. Like she's in a blood haze or fury. It contrasts nicely with the softer background colors in most of the other scenes. When they're just traveling, there's a sort of washed out effect to the skies or the surrounding landscape. The flashbacks to things from the girls' childhoods are often much more brightly colored, although red again seems to play a major role.

Grousing about destiny and fated stuff aside, this is easily one of the most enjoyable comics I bought this year.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #132

"Safe Word, Safe Word!", in Deadpool (vol. 1) #66, Gail Simone (writer), Alvin Lee, Rob Ross, Eric Vedder, A-Zero and LTRZ (art team), Dave Sharpe (letterer)

Welcome to the Deadpool neighborhood of the Sunday Splash Page town. We'll be here the next couple of months.

I didn't really become a fan of Deadpool until his "bromance with Cable" years. As far as his first volume, I read the first 8 issues of Joe Kelly's run a decade ago, and I think I bought the two-part Punisher guest appearance Jimmy Palmiotti wrote when it came out, because Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's "Welcome Bank, Frank" story had gotten me hyped for the Punisher? Maybe that's why. As likely a reason as any, considering we're talking about me here.

Anyway, none of that stuff is still in my collection. What is, is the five-issue run by Gail Simone and the Udon art team that concluded the volume. Where Deadpool has his mercenary business, with Sandi handling his administrative duties and a man with cognitive issues named Ratbag as his other employee. Taskmaster is also hanging around. Wade unwittingly takes credit for a career-making kill pulled off by an assassin named Black Swan, who puts a mind-whammy on Deadpool that will gradually erase his brain.

I know, how could Wade tell? That was kind of unimpressive as a revenge scheme, given I read this after years of Nicieza giving him constantly shifting amnesia, and Duggan revealing Wade was pumped full of memory-erasing drugs for years. Fucking with Deadpool's brain is like trying to make a toxic waste dump worse. What's the point?

Wade confronts Black Swan, although his goal is not what you might expect. He ends up dead, which they did like 10 issues earlier in his book, but hell, Wade dies a lot. It just never sticks. Shortly after that, Simone and the Udon team were working on Agent X, starring a mysterious amnesiac with scars and a healing factor.

It's only 5 issues, but Simone's brief stint on Deadpool establishes Sandi and Taskmaster as supporting characters, and at least introduced Outlaw, although she only briefly appears here and doesn't really become a recurring character until Agent X. Ratbag, fortunately for him, did not join the pantheon of Hapless Comedy Sidekicks Wade's had over the years (Weasel, Bob, maybe Michael the Necromancer and Agent Adsit.) It gives us Deadpool on a moped, Deadpool using Pym Particles to defeat the Rhino (Rhino would repay the favor in Cable/Deadpool), and Deadpool acting as a bodyguard for Dazzler.

A lot of memorable stuff for so few issues.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Random Back Issues #43 - Star Spangled War Stories #155

Yeah, Unknown Soldier, I can't imagine why a black man in the 1940s might sound bitter.

OK, so the writing is not the appeal for this week's entry. No, it's that sweet Joe Kubert art that's the draw. First up, we have "Invasion Game!", where Unknown Soldier is parachuting into Occupied France under the cover of being a traveling salesman. He's seeking the leader of the Nightengale resistance cell Chat Noir, who is a former US Army sergeant, court-martialed. He never does say what the actual charge they made against him was, which I feel like is Haney trying to hedge and not actually suggest the Army might have engaged in racism.

Anyway, they've been talking for about five minutes when the Nazis find their hideout. In the escape, one man is wounded, and Chat Noir says they have to leave. 'We can't afford to sacrifice two. . .for one!' The resistance meets up again, and the Soldier explains Nightengale is needed to take the Nazi stronghold at Fleur-Le-Duc, to support the Allied landing at that beach. On June 5th.

You can see where this is going.

Chat Noir is suspicious, considering they got attacked right after they welcomed the "Salesman". The Soldier goads him by saying he ran out on his buddies because of a 'bum rap.' I'm pretty sure the Nazis aren't going any easier on Resistance fighters than official soldiers. Nightengale takes the stronghold, but surprise! There's no Allied landing. What's more, now they're under attack from a bunch of tanks and Stukas. The Soldier catches some shrapnel in the leg, and explains to an angry Chat Noir they used Nightengale to draw troops here, so they won't be able to make it back to Normandy by tomorrow. Considering how slow the Allies initial progress was through France, I'm not sure one day is gonna help that much, but fine.

Chat Noir, curiously, decides to help the Solider reach the shore and a French fishing boat, stating that since they're fighting the same enemy, 'maybe we're still part of the same country!' The Soldier must have gotten Chat Noir reinstated, as his batman, or second, or assistant, something like that.

Then we've got an untitled Enemy Ace story, where von Hammer is formally challenged by the Canadian ace, The Hunter. The Hunter showed up a couple of issues earlier to challenge two German pilots who ran for their lives from him. Von Hammer made them accept, and the Hunter shot them both down.

But this time, with challenging the Hammer of Hell, the Canuck bit off more than he can chew. Or maybe not. Their battles a back-and-forth thing with von Hammer in pursuit for most of it, but the Hunter always staying just out of reach. Finally, the Hunter turns so they're on a collison course. von Hammer can't pull away because it'll leave him exposed, so they just keep flying right at each other and shooting, until they both fall from the sky.

Von Hammer survives almost unharmed, despite his plane landing nose first into what looks like solid rock. That's what being drawn by Joe Kubert will do for ya. Your entire body transmutes to steel. He's determined to take his opponent in as a war prisoner. The Hunter's got other plans, and first tries to shoot von Hammer. He misses, but it doesn't matter, because he dies of his wounds anyway. Oh well, no prisoner for von Hammer, but he'll get another victory cup. Of course, as always, the sky is the true victor.
[10th longbox, 169th comic, Star Spangled War Stories #155. "Invasion Game!" by Bob Haney (writer), Joe Kubert (artist). Enemy Ace story by Robert Kanigher (writer), Joe Kubert (artist)]

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Safety Not Guaranteed

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an intern at a magazine and gets sent along with a writer, Jeff, and another intern, Arnau (played by Jake Johnson and Karan Soni, respectively) to investigate a classified ad requesting a partner to travel through time.

This leads them to Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who works at a grocer, but spends a lot of time chatting with quantum physicists online and scouting out medical research laboratories. Johnson's attempt to talk with Kenneth by approaching him as a potential applicant falls through, but Plaza succeeds. Getting Kenneth to actually spill the beans about his plans means spending a lot of time with him, so things go from there.

It's basically about not getting hung up on the past. Kenneth isn't over some coworker that was nice to him a decade ago. Darius lost her mother when she was a kid and has a lot of unresolved guilt over that. Jeff takes the opportunity to try and reconnect with his high school sweetheart. Everyone other than Arnau is trying to get back to some better point in the past, to correct their fuck-ups and do things "right". (Arnau, near as I can tell, is both focused on his future, while being scared of making his own fuck-up in the present.)

Duplass plays Kenneth in this way where some times he just seems like a hopeless goober lost in a fantasy, but shows these flashes of frustration that are just enough you wonder if he might be dangerous. Plaza has a lot of that exasperated/disgusted air she used on Parks & Recreation, but she manages to shift it just enough it makes Darius come off as socially awkward, rather than her being deliberately an asshole.

I don't know how I feel about the ending, and without spoiling it, that's about all I can say.