Monday, February 20, 2017

What I Bought 2/18/2017 - Part 1

I made a trip to visit Alex over the weekend, and took the opportunity to visit some comic shops up there. And was able to get all 5 of the comics I had missed over the previous two weeks. Hooray!

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #5, by Jonathan Rivera and Gerard Way (writers), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - Is Wild Dog demonstrating feet of clay there? Falling apart under the pressure of the circumstances?

The thing that caused terrifying visions last issue is some sort of demon trapped within a crystal the Muldroog once worshiped, but now try to keep sealed up. The elder Bornstein, the goo monster, is after it, and used initial interactions between his people and the Muldroog to get someone in to try poisoning their water supply, which reduces the resistance he'll face. he was after Chloe because he needs someone with Muldroog blood to open the vault to the Whisperer. Although he captures her grandfather during an assault on the stronghold, so never mind, problem solved. Most of the crew of the Mighty Mole 2 realize this situation is fucked up and defect, but Cave's plan to call Superman flounders on the rocks of Superman not bothering to send Cave a text that he changed his phone number.

Which is hilarious the more I think about it. That Way and Rivera go to the trouble of saying Cave is buddies with Superman, just to have his attempt to call in the Kryptonian cavalry fall flat on its face. On a different note, I appreciated that there isn't some big scene of Cave and his in-laws arguing and being hostile to each other. There's grief, but there's understanding. Mazra was an adult, she made a choice to go with Cave and live on the surface, no point in a lot of anger about it. It's nice to avoid that mess sometimes.

Oeming and Filardi continue to combine for some strong art. The strange masks Bornstein's people are wearing, with the huge ears and the red eyes remind me of something, maybe an old Golden Age hero, but I can't place it. There's a bit at the beginning where Cave, Chloe, and Wild Dog are listening to the story and eating hallucinogenic pudding, and Cave isn't fully affected because the cybernetic eye's perceptions aren't altered. So half of him has this stretched, yellow outline pulling away, and the side with the eye doesn't. I'm a little concerned about Wild Dog. Between the page showing he's reliving the various misfortunes that brought him to this point, and him having cut off the head of one of Bornstein's guys with a large knife, which seems more visceral than simply shooting them. Plus, the background for that panel is an extreme close-up of his face, like his spirit or something is looming out of control. Cave's getting the opportunity to try and deal with his shit, but I'm not sure he isn't messing his friend up worse in the process.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #15, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Fire sneezes or no, I think America is going overboard with an entire sink. Think of the security deposits.

Patsy has convinced all her temps to have a multi-holiday party at the office, which is ruined when Patsy's magic sneezes go out of control. She alters people's clothes, summons America Chavez from bed, apparently, brings forth the physical representation of her childhood imaginary tiger friend, and makes Jubilee tiny. Patsy does calm down Mister Sniffles, but her next sneeze makes him a giant, they say bee, but I thought wasp or hornet. The problem is dealt with, but then she makes the entire building vanish. Whoops.

America's jacket being changed to have the Canadian Maple Leaf on it cracked me up. Canada Chavez was a natural joke just sitting there, and Leth and Williams reached out and took it. Bravo. And this is a great issue for Williams to draw various horrified or stunned faces. Sharon's reaction to a giant bug smashing through the door. Or everyone else's reactions when Mister Sniffles was turned into a giant bug (scowly pink cloud Jubilee is great). Patsy's various looks of illness-induced dementia. I wonder if she's loaded up on various medicines or what. Being sick just makes me grumpy, in addition to being tired.

I have to assume they'll call in Dr. Strange to try and deal with this. I guess they could call someone else, but Stephen and Patsy are old friends, so why not contact him? I'm not sure how he fixes it, but it involves magic, and based on some of what was discussed in the issue about Patsy spending time in Bailey's bag while wounded, it's an illness. So magic illness, who do you call other than Dr. Strange?

On another note, I just noticed Ian is entirely absent from the episode. Maybe he wasn't in a party mood, or he and Tom needed some time. But I was a little surprised. You get used to a supporting character just always being there.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Foyle's War 7.2 - The Cage

Plot: A woman, who we'll learn is Evelyn Greene, receives a call at home and vanishes out the door within minutes, no word of explanation or good-bye to her soon-to-be-bewildered husband. Elsewhere, a man we'll learn is known as Palenko reaches a hospital, bleeding from severe wounds. He dies before Dr. Ross can help him, uttering only the phrase "ten-eye". Ross, however, suspects he saw someone lurking outside.

Back at MI5, the new boss is settling in. Not Miss Pierce, but Sir Alec, and he's most concerned with the three Russian defectors who have been garroted in British safe houses recently. Foyle was busy interviewing possible recruits, and had found a promising candidate in Daniel Willis, formerly of Special Operations Executive, but Valentine nixes him. Foyle works his way around to the hospital to speak with Dr. Ross, and they discover the remains of a tattoo on Palenko, the NKVD insignia. Sir Alec leaps to the conclusion he was the mystery garroter, Foyle is not so sure. He speaks to Evelyn's husband, who mentions he tried calling her sister (their parents are dead), to no avail, and that Evelyn was a Communist sympathizer in college. Then Dr. Ross calls, asking Foyle to visit his home tomorrow morning. When Foyle arrives, he finds the doctor shot in his study, to the surprise and sorrow of the doctor's wife.

Intertwined with all this is that Sam has begun working at MI5, and is trying to find her footing. She quickly gets in deep by nosing in a file she's delivering to Valentine on Evelyn Green, who Valentine has heard turned up in East Berlin. She also overhears Valentine telling Charlotte, head of the research section, to keep him informed on what Foyle is up to. All of this is very interesting to Sam because, while Adam was going door-to-door, canvasing support for his election bid, he met an elderly woman living in the bombed-out remains of her home. And this poor woman's daughter had gone missing three days hence. The girl's name is Evelyn Greene. And then Sam tells Adam what she learned, which was not very wise. But then they both tell Foyle, which was a bit smarter.

Foyle has meanwhile learned that Dr. Ross was called out to the scene of an auto accident the day before his murder, at an Army installation called Barton Hall. Foyle is initially rebuffed in his efforts to get in, but manages it eventually. Lt. Col. Galt and Major McDonald lead him around, showing him how they're installation is just to listen to and transcribe Soviet radio traffic, then send it on to code-breakers. And that's all. Which doesn't explain the bars on the inside of the basement windows, or how the listening room which is supposedly always staffed, was empty five minutes after Foyle got walked through. Or why Sam found the bow from a woman's shoe in a place noticeably lacking in women.

And that's why Foyle contacts Daniel Willis, and asks him to break into Barton Hall, and rescue Evelyn Greene. The one whose mother is still alive, as opposed to the actual Russian spy, who was magically alerted the authorities were on to her, and was then somehow able to make it to East Berlin. Which still leaves the "who", and the "why" of that, plus the reason for the murder of Dr. Ross.

Quote of the Episode: Sir Alec - 'Unusual background for intelligence - police.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No. I fear he won't be granted much time for it either, with all this espionage.

Things Sam can do: Snoop in files. Tell her husband top secret information. Those are really more things she shouldn't do, though. She can type 20 words per minute. Cripes that's bad. I know she's using a typewriter, but that can't slow things down that much can it?

Other:  Spoilers of some sorts.

Michael Kitchen looks even mour dour in the new opening than he did in the old one.

I suppose I should feel bad for Miss Pierce. I imagine she expected she would succeed Chambers after his ousting, only to be left playing second banana to another puffed-up white man. On the other hand, she's been involved in so much devious, morally questionable shit that keeps harming innocent people, I kind of think she deserves it.

Of course, it could be she doesn't want the big chair. It lets her move about in the shadows, and puts somebody else's neck on the chopping block. If she can manipulate them as she likes, great. If they get in her way, she can deal with them like she did Chambers, and take her chances with the next guy.

We're two episode into this season, and I've yet to see anything out of Valentine that suggests he's of any use whatsoever. The man is a putz, and what's worse, he's a putz who thinks he's hot stuff, the worst kind of putz to have to work with (great to work against, though). Also, whenever I look at Tim McMullan (who's playing Valentine), I think that if he'd been an actor in the '30s or '40s, they'd have pegged him to play Charlie Chan. You know how they would give some white guy that role, Werner Orland or whoever, and add tape at the edge of his eyes to stretch the skin because they thought that made him look Chinese or some shit. McMullan seems to have that naturally, just very squinty, narrow eyes. Although he was in The Fifth Element!

I think the implication is Galt took the pistol and shot McDonald, although I'd have much preferred McDonald's final act to be to at least kill one person worth killing. I doubt Foyle would have walked away if he expected McDonald to kill Galt, and McDonald was boned anyway.

I chuckled at Foyle briefly chiding Sam for sharing top secret information she wasn't supposed to be looking at, anyway, then asking her what else she learned. He doesn't really care. As he observed in last week's episode, MI5 doesn't seem to have any regard for the law. Why should he worry about their rules? Just remind Sam there's a risk, and go from there.

Dr. Ross dies fairly early in the episode, but there's a subplot running forward from that about Katrin, his wife. Or once wife, now fiance. It's pretty depressing. They met and were married in Germany, then forced to divorce, and she lost her license to practice medicine. Because she was Jewish. Ross wrote some pieces against the Nazis that got him booted. She was stuck in Germany, and survived the concentration camps. Now she makes it to England, they're going to be remarried, and he gets murdered. She's going to get kicked out of England, but her family in Germany are all dead, and there are other people living in her home. It looks as though Foyle can pull some strings to help her remain in England, but that's going to be of limited comfort.

There's a lot of people not being able to go back to where they were before the war in this episode. Katrin, Palenko, who most likely just doesn't want to go back to the Soviet Union. Evelyn's mother, living in the remains of her home, waiting for her turn to get a new one, at which she'll probably never be back to this one. Maybe even McDonald, who seems to want to recapture something from earlier days. Adam and his campaign manager, Glenvil, have a disagreement about how to engage voters. Glenvil thinks they should try to invoke wartime spirit, Adam and Sam disagree, arguing they need to be looking toward the future. That they can't go back to how it was before the war, and that people don't want to. Some might quibble with the second part, but the first is correct. Things are different, and going back isn't an option.

The shift towards more espionage has brought an uptick in the action component. Willis' infiltration of Barton Hall was pretty cool. Since Sir Alec suggested to Foyle they should get Willis to apply, perhaps we'll see him next season.

Adam Wainwright may never have been able to win a Cy Young Award, but at least he's won a seat in Parliament. That's something, I guess.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I Bought 2/15/2017

The last two weeks I've had 9 comics come out, and only been able to find 4 of them thus far. Very frustrating.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #12, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Boy Gwen, I bet you wish you were a hero now. Give you much better odds against Arcade.

Gwen wakes up in a strange castle, with no memory of how she got there. Fortunately, her old merc crew is there as well, to help battle through this dungeon. Gwen quickly surmises that's it's like a game, with traps and tricks to get around battles, strange old men who sell weapons in the middle of places no one would have a shop, and repeated warnings of an "unkillable, talking beast". While you can no doubt guess who created this deadly environment based on amusements because he's on the cover, can you guess who the unkillable beast is?

C'mon, it's someone who likes Death, can't die, and never shuts up. Yes, next issue Gwen, Batroc, and Co will somehow defeat Thanos! I wish. Thanos would be so humiliated he might actually stay dead. Jim Starlin would cause a time paradox by writing a comic declaring it was not really Thanos so fast, it would have been released last month. No, it's actually another character.

Anyway, Arcade! This blog is staunchly pro-Arcade, and I like the idea here that Arcade has decided to try his hand at killing mercenaries rather than heroes. Gwen would obviously know Arcade's poor track record at killing good guys (though he maintains his impeccable success rate capturing targets). Which would in theory give her a big edge. But she, Batroc, and our special guest star aren't good guys, so the rules quite possibly don't apply to them (although they will almost certainly escape).

Also, I enjoy how weary her friends have gotten of Gwen insisting their world is a comic book. Someone doing crazy stuff that they involve you in because they are sure your world isn't real and operates on a specific set of rules they claim to understand, that could get old fast. Beyond making them question their existence, it's watching a person constantly succeed despite no discernible talent or intelligence, just stupid luck they insist is knowledge. But there's no arguing with results, I guess, so Trust the Process.

I like the little scarf Batroc is sporting. It's stylish, and it's something to flutter when he leaps around kicking things. Also, Arcade's long hair works better with the Gurihiru art team than it has with almost any other artist I've seen. It makes him look like one of those pretty-boy manga characters, and he's being drawn in a style that more closely matches that. And the design for the way Arcade initially tries to present himself, as the burning, enormous shadow, is very cool. It actually disappoints me a bit Gwen no-sells it so completely. Come on, points for effort at least, Gwen! I am curious why Gwen has this constant pink tinge on her mask across the bridge of her nose. It isn't there in the first couple of panels she appears in, but it is after that. I'm used to that being shorthand for being tipsy, but I'm certain that isn't the case here, so who knows.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Always About Appearances

I can't recall discussing The Tin Star previously, although it seems I should have at some point. I haven't watched it in a few months, but I'd seen it several times prior to that.

In general terms, Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins a few years away from playing Norman Bates) is the new sheriff of a small town, still struggling to figure out how to do it, but driven by a belief in serving the community to try. Morg Hickman (Henry Fonda) is a bounty hunter who brings his most recent bounty to their town, dead. He receives a chilly reception, which doesn't bother him much. See, he was a sheriff once, until he lost his family and decided the life wasn't worth it.

Still, he needs Perkins to stay alive until he can get authorization to pay the bounty, so he steps in at one point when perkins has to confront the the local drunk bully Bogardus for murdering another man. At which point Perkins begins trying to learn about being a sheriff, and Fonda reluctantly teaches him. Things kind of spiral from there, as a couple of brothers (one played by Lee van Cleef) kill the beloved town doctor, and Ben quickly loses control of the posse to Bogardus. There's a whole big confrontation to be had there, and Morg has to decide what he wants to do.

That's not really what I'm interested in. What's curious to me is the attitude of the townsfolk. They picked Ben for sheriff, or he volunteered, because there was no one else. Well, Bogardus wanted it, but as Morg notes, Bogardus just wanted a license to kill. And the townsfolk want prisoners brought in alive (so they can kill them after a trial and the joys of jail chow).

So they've got Ben. Upright, pliable Ben. Ben has no actual idea what he's doing. He doesn't know how to handle drunks, or when to use his guns or not, or that he can't get bogged down with macho posturing. Here's Morg, who was a sheriff for years, who survived the profession, and is willing to educate him. Probably because it's just too painful to watch the hapless dope flail about in the dark. And none of the townspeople are helping. He has no deputies, and all the support he gets is a bunch of platitudes from Doc McCord about how some people walk through the briars picking flowers for others. So helpful.

Of course, even the platitudes run out once he starts spending time with Morg. Quickly he's told that the "leading" townsfolk aren't encouraged by him hanging out with this killer. When he tries explaining to McCord that Morgan was a former sheriff, McCord laughs at him like he's a silly child. He tells Ben his one failing is being too trusting, a little naive. But that's why they wanted him, because he'd do what they wanted. They told him he could do this, and it needed doing, and he went along with it like a schmuck. And if he kept going the way he was, they'd have needed another sheriff shortly. So he tries to get some training, to do the job they picked him for properly, and now they've got concerns.

It's just kind of interesting, that the doctor, the mayor/banker, whatever, are more concerned with having a manipulable incompetent than someone who can do the job, but might not always do exactly what they want. They figured he was a decent person, are they really afraid picking up a few tips from the bounty hunter will turn him into Dirty Harry? That he's somehow going to become worse than Bogardus? It's more about maintaining the appearance everything is nice and normal, rather than actually having someone who can protect the populace

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bandette Volume 3 - The House of the Green Mask

This collection came out last fall, and normally I immediately jump on Bandette collections, but I was preoccupied. Job, moving, the complete collapse of all hope in decency, the usual shit. But now I have it, hooray! (Before we start, I want to say the colors in the book look much better than they will here. I took the pictures without using the flash, so as to avoid the glare that so often mars the pictures I use here, but the counter to that is how dark the pictures are)

In Volume 3, a mysterious criminal known only as The Voice is abducting people to interrogate them about a House of the Green Mask. One of the people abducted is Daniel, the delivery boy who is one of Bandette's associates (and completely smitten with her). So Bandette sets out to find and rescue Daniel, by drawing in basically everyone she can. Her friends, the police, various politicians and socialites, dogs. She does find him, they rescue the others, we are given a tantalizing hint towards Bandette's backstory, and the Voice is now a potential threat (and source of creative henchmen) going forward, with Absinthe being taken off the board in Volume 2.

But with Bandette, it's less about the plot, and more about how Bandette moves through it, her reactions, the jokes. So there's an extended sequence where she's trailing The Voice across town through a parade, with the aid of her various Urchins. This is played out over several nine-panel grid pages of Bandette in pursuit of his black car, checking in with her friends via walkie-talkie, while sporting a different disguise in each panel. In one, it's Lincoln's hat and beard. In the next, she's dressed like the Man with No Name. And she's wearing this over her usual outfit, while claiming to be in perfect disguise.

Or Le Monsieur, the only possible challenger to Bandette's title as World's Greatest Thief, thinks he's on the trail of the Green Mask, after watching a film about Madame Presto (which Bandette stole and screened for her friends). And that doesn't go how anyone might expect, either.

Paul Tobin's writing is light, and funny, both in terms of sight gags which Colleen Coover ably draws, and some well-delivered lines (which are also aided by Coover's illustrations). Bandette re-positioning a pigeon while telling it that it is interfering with the drama. Tobin's able to write so that, even when Bandette is being serious - for example, when she's advancing on Dart Petite and mentioning how they're going to discuss how Dart harmed 'her Daniel' - the voice is still recognizably her. It felt silly, but also perfectly in character for Bandette to call up her friend in the police, Heloise, simply to tell her she was stomping, then hang up. That should seem stupid or pointless, but the creative team sells it, so it's cute? Charming?

As mentioned above, Coover uses a lot of nine-panel grids, which allows for a deliberate pacing. Jokes can be drawn out over 3 or 6 panels. We can see a sequence, be it a chase, a fight, or simply a conversation with a flow to it. Things don't seem rushed or crammed together. Coover knows what information needs to be in each panel, and doesn't waste space on stuff that doesn't need to be there. Which is kind of key when working with nine panels, since they isn't going to be much room in each one.

Also, Bandette almost seems to use the pacing of the grids as a chance to disappear at the top of the page, then reappear at the bottom. What I mean is, Bandette likes to surprise people, appearing suddenly behind or above them, seemingly from nowhere. But between where she was and where she ends up, we were following someone else across and down the page at the steady pace of the grid. Like in the page above, where we see her in the upper right corner, then we follow Daniel methodically to the right and down, only to be met by Bandette, who has taken some more direct route. But of course a thief would have no time for for the normal narrative flow of the page, and cut simply to the part she enjoys.

As with the previous two volumes, I highly recommend The House of the Green Mask.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Ultimate Cardinals' Record Book - Dan Moore

I asked for this for Christmas because I enjoyed Moore's work when he wrote for the Viva El Birdos website, so I figured I'd enjoy this. A choice based on writing style, more than any specific need for the book.

My dad opined it's fairly small for an "ultimate" record book, which is fair, but Moore's approach is to look at a general area of statistics, say single-season hitting records, and then pick a particular record and player, and discuss those in depth. So he spends a chapter discussing Mark McGwire hitting 70 home runs, or talking about the double-header where Stan Musial hit 5 home runs. Or Bob Forsch somehow managing to throw two no-hitters, despite generally striking out no one.

Interspersed in each chapter are small sections about other Cardinals' notable for one reason or another. Like Vince Coleman, who had one tool as a ballplayer - he was really fast - and used that to steal over 100 bases each of his first three years in the league, playing under Whitey Herzog. Or a section on Jim Bottomley, who was a great hitting first baseman on the Cardinals' teams of the 1920s (when the franchise first managed to actually be good after 25 years of flailing about).

Moore's style is easy to read, and he reined in the literary metaphors and references I was used to from his online writing*. Which was disappointing for me, personally, but understandable, and probably a smart choice in the larger picture. People are going to have certain expectations for a book about baseball team records. And Moore still seems to be having fun with it.

He worked in a sub-section about Ray Lankford, who I think is Moore's favorite player, and is underappreciated by Cardinals' fans, since his best years were wasted on mostly mediocre teams. I keep expecting him to get elected to the Cardinals' Hall of Fame in these games my dad and I attend, but I don't think he's even been listed as an option to vote for yet. I mean, Lankford is Top 5 in home runs for the franchise, ahead of even McGwire, he at least needs to be getting listed as a candidate.

'The no-hitter was impressive enough, but the story got more improbable still 10 days later when Jimenez beat the eventual Cy Young winner 1-0 again, blanking the Diamondbacks with a two-hitter. That year saw Jimenez post a 0.00 ERA against Randy Johnson and a 6.58 ERA against everyone else.'

* Moore wrote a post once about Skip Schumaker moving to second base, as some kind of Shakespearean play. Which didn't serve to make me any more enthusiastic about the Cards trying that, but was still a solid piece of writing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What I Bought 2/8/2017 - Part 2

Might as well cover the other comic I have at the moment. On another note, John Wick was on Syfy for some reason, and I notice they got their commercial break out of the way before the big nightclub fight scene that I love so very, very much. Thumbs up.

Ms. Marvel #15, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Oh no fair, she can block the axes? Dang it Mario, why couldn't you be more like Kamala Khan?

Kamala is doing her best to try and track down this mysterious hacker who has figured out her identity. She thought she'd managed, even defeated the surprisingly powerful foe at a construction site, but immediately after losing, the apparent villain became very confused. Because Kamala is actually up against a self-aware program, one that can control people as well as machines. It's goals are unclear at the moment, maybe even to itself, except that it enjoys attention. The only way something with no corporeal form can feel like it has a real presence?

I'm not sure about the virus' assessment of the situation. He says she froze because he knows her secret, but she was at that construction site because she thought she'd tracked him down. She was in the "fight" half of "fight or flight" But was that because she thought she'd figured out his secret and restored equilibrium? I'm wondering if this is going to be the point when she reveals her identity to everybody, as a way to unmake the sword dangling over her head. She's seemingly lost Bruno because of Ms. Marvel - she was the one Danvers entrusted with this predictive justice thing, which is why they put a detention center there, which is how Bruno got hurt - and it's hard telling how the rest of her friends and family are going to react if the secret is blown. Nakia being extremely pissed would seem a certainty, probably Mike as well. She's possibly as scared of that as the whole "villains know where my loved ones are" (which, considering HYDRA Cap probably knows her secret i.d., is too little too late. Man I'm sick of HYDRA Cap being a thing that exists).

Miyazawa draws a pretty good "kicked in the stomach" face. I'm surprised Kamala is still carrying a bag with Carol Danvers' old logo on it. I know Kamala has kind of appropriated the logo, but I expected her fandom to have cooled. I like the shade of red Herring's using in this arc. He probably uses it a lot and I don't notice, but it's working real well here. He shades it towards purple in the lower half of a couple of panels during the big fight, down towards where the violence is taking place. In the panels where the virus is talking that he uses it, it's either all red, or it goes to black at the top of the panel. For the latter one, it's when it begins to dawn on Kamala she's got no clue how to deal with this threat. Either way, the red's a real attention-getter, although I feel almost feel like it's cribbing of the whole "red skies" thing DC uses for various Crises. But it could just as easily be the skies afire, or the onrushing twilight, or just red as in an alarm going off.