Tuesday, August 20, 2019

April and the Extraordinary World

There are a lot of different threads in this movie, that was the first thought that came to mind when I looked back over it. The search for a serum which can make living things (except humans) basically unkillable. All the world's most accomplished scientific minds being abducted for decades, leaving the world stuck in a coal and wood-powered age.

A family of scientists, several of whom are missing, who left their young daughter April and her talking cat behind. There's an angry, incompetent French cop pursuing April, and using a young pickpocket to do it, so then there's a romance subplot. There's a whole thing about how any scientist or engineer not abducted has been press-ganged into making mostly shitty weapons for their respective governments. I don't know if the implication is none of them are smart enough to figure out how to harness electricity, or any other kinds of fuel, or the governments simply don't care because it can't be demonstrated to be helpful for killing other people right now.

It basically comes together, all ties into the very first scene in the movie, so it isn't messy or incoherent. It's like an animated version of one of those 1940s adventure serials. The kinds of things Indiana Jones and the Rocketeer are playing off of. Or maybe Tintin's the better comparison, with the teenage protagonist and her clever pet sidekick. The weird contraptions, the chase scenes, the big villain who either wants to save the world or destroy it.

But everything does drag just a little bit too long. There are a few too many scenes reminding you the two masterminds aren't entirely on the same page, telegraphing the inevitable falling out, instead of just getting to it. The whole bit with the prison/military research lab and the mobile house is kind of interesting, but feels like a needless digression. The movie needed something to delay the final scenes a few more minutes, and that's what they came up with. Fun movie, just a bit of padding in there it doesn't need.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Dark Trail - Chapter 4

Deadpool and Rhodez wound their way through the rows of cubicles. Wade hummed to himself as he picked through the abandoned work spaces. Rhodez hefted her rifle nervously, attention divided between the unpredictable mercenary and their surroundings. Even with sunlight filtering through the dirty and broken windows, the whole floor had a gloomy feel. The cubicle partitions almost reached the ceiling, so in places where they still stood, the ambient light was low, conditions similar to dusk. Just enough light their lights weren't helping much.

Eyeing her flashlight, Rhodez turned to Deadpool. "Wade, you have any nightvision goggles?"

"Nah. You wouldn't want those, anyway. You turn a corner into a bright light and you''d end up blind. Or maybe that was just Weasel after I pointed that floodlight at him. You'd think his eyes would be more resistant, staring at computer screens all day, with their comforting, irradiating glow."

Deadpool chattered on, unconcerned. Rhodez went ahead and tuned him out, other than wondering how he'd talked for three minutes without pausing to breathe.

"Hey, check this out!" She snapped out of her thoughts at Deadpool's excited call. He'd move several cubes down without her noticing. She rushed up to find him hunched over a desk.

"Look, this person made a whole petting zoo out of paper clips! This one's gotta be an elephant!" Wade tried imitating an elephant's call, to little success. It sounded more like he was making a fart noise. Actually, since this is Deadpool, he might have been.

"Oh yeah," Rhodez replied uncertainly, "that's kinda cool. They must have been bored as hell."

Deadpool turned to face her as he walked out of the cubicle, the paper clips animals having lost his interest. "Tell me about it! Normally when I come on these adventures with you guys there's a lot more explosions and a lot less mood-setting."

"Really? I only got to go on that one where we tried to shoot a pie at Pollock out of a bazooka. That was pretty exciting, but I didn't know if that was normal."

The mercenary put his finger to his chin in an imitation of a person capable of thought. "Hmmmm, I'd say that was on the low end, really. No robots or chainsaws, no extended kung-fu battles. Don't they tell you about their adventures?"

Rhodez thought about it as they turned a corner to find another row of cubicles. "Calvin does sometimes, but he always underplays things. It's like pullin' teeth. Everything is "OK", or "a little rough."

"Huh," Deadpool grunted, "he sure bitches a lot more when we're in the middle of them."

"Ha, I can believe it." Rhodez snapped her head around as she caught a glimpse of something moving behind her. It scurried out of a cubicle and around the corner to another row. "Did you see that?"

Deadpool walked past, drawing a katana with one hand and a pistol with another. "No. You're imagining things." As he said this, he spun around the corner, gun leveled at. . . nothing. The merc motioned for Rhodez to follow him as he moved slowly down the row.

"7th Rule: If you think you saw something, you probably did. A little yellow bird taught me that. Unless you're drunk. or fighting a telepath. Or have an unstable brain prone to hallucinations." He stopped and looked at her intently. "You aren't experiencing any of those, right?"

"I don't think so, but how would I know if there's a telepath messing with me?"

"It tingles like a bad rash or the clap, but inside your brain."

Rhodez made a disgusted face. "I'm not feeling that."

"That's what my doctor at the massage parlor said!"

"Let's just keep looking."

They reached a four-way intersection of rows and scanned in all directions. There were no signs of anyone or anything moving. The only sound was cars passing by on the road off in the distance.

A hollow metallic thud at the end of one row caught their attention. An empty coffee can rolled slowly into view and then stopped. Deadpool turned to Rhodez and made a series of hand gestures. By the time he was mimicking a bird flapping its wings while he twirled in place, she was completely lost.

Recognizing this, he put a finger to his lips in a "shh" motion, then began to move silently down the hall, holstering his gun as he did. Once within 10 feet of the place the can came from, he crouched, then sprang into the air, doing a neat flip and drawing his other katana. He landed on the desk, blades ready, Rhodez moving up behind him.

There was nothing. Office supplies and a few random tchotchkes left behind. A magnet proclaiming "Stick to it!" on a file cabinet, holding up nothing. But there was a gap in the base of the rear partition, allowing access to the next row. They both heard movement, a scrabbling sound, like a large rodent. Rhodez turned and went the way she came, hoping to loop around and cut it off. Deadpool simply vaulted the partition, but miscalculated the location of the desk and landed awkwardly. Fortunately it was more embarrassing than painful.

He stepped in the walkway and spied a small person moving swiftly away. The most notable feature, other than their small stature, was a tall, pointed red cap on their head.

"What's your hurry, Pippin? If you're hunting for second breakfast, I got a nice pineapple for you. And that's not a reference to my junk, it's a euphemism for a grenade."

The figure stopped as Rhodez rounded the corner ahead of it and sighed. "I'm not a hobbit, you jibbering idiot."

"I think he's a gnome, Wade."

The gnome grinned at her, with unpleasantly sharp teeth. "I am indeed."

"So are you Gerber's Elf with a Gun? Do elves Pokevole into gnomes? Doesn't matter, my sword has +3 poison because I haven't cleaned it in weeks!" Deadpool lunged, bringing the blade in an overhand swing towards the gnome. The gnome reached up casually with one hand, caught Deadpool's wrist, and flung him over his head.

The Merc with a Mouth smashed into the ceiling before falling facefirst to the floor. The gnome calmly pulled a syringe from its pocket and jabbed it into Deadpool's spine.

"I hope that was a clean needle," he said as he started to climb to his feet.

The gnome gave a toothy grin again. "Sure, except for the acid in it." Deadpool crashed back to the floor, legs refusing to respond. The gnome tossed the syringe aside and drew another, leering at Rhodez. "Guess what time it is?"

"10:17?"

"Huh?"

"It's 10:17 in the morning. I'm right, right?"

The gnome checked his wristwatch. "Yeah, yeah it is." When he looked up, she was sighting down the barrel of her rifle.

"Knew it."

The gnome kicked Deadpool's limp body into the air as she fired, the bullet joining several others inside the mercenary's body. Rhodez winced, but Deadpool barely grunted. The gnome grinned, until he noticed something spinning on the ground. A grenade with Deadpool's emblem on it. He turned to escape as it exploded.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #75

"That Suit is. . . Really Something", in Batman Annual #11, by Max Allan Collins (writer), Norm Breyfogle (artist), Adrienne Roy (colorist), Albert DeGuzman (letterer)

I own a grand total of two stories, from two different issues, of Batman Annuals. And that's because - say it with me now - they were drawn by Norm Breyfogle. It's this one or the one where Jason Todd has to get involved in an extracurricular activity at school, so let's stick with "Love Bird".

Pengy is paroled, over Batman's strenuous objections, and visits Dovina Partridge (whoo, wow), who he met through each of them sending letters to the Orinthological News. She'd be delighted to marry him. . . as long as he stays on the straight and narrow. So he opens an umbrella factory, staffed with lots of crooks Batman's put away. As it turns out, that is the only crime  he's guilty of this time around, consorting with ex-convicts is a violation of his parole. Batman goes 0-for-2 against the parole board, this time asking for leniency, but does vouch for Pengy with his fiance. Although my guess is the marriage never took place.

Breyfogle gets to draw Batman being put on his heels by Dovina when he tries to warn her about Penguin, and there's one panel of him and Robin watching the factory where Batman looks distinctly like he's sulking. He's in a crouch and has his cape wrapped around him so you can only see the part of his face that's beneath the cowl. Robin's leaning against a chimney like he's vaguely disgusted, or just giving boss some space for his pouting.

I'm pretty sure Batman: The Animated Series did a version of this, except the woman Penguin had fallen for was only leading him on because she and her society chums enjoyed laughing at him. I think the episode ends with Penguin muttering, 'I blame society. High society.'

Friday, August 16, 2019

Random back Issue #5 - Exiles #3

No matter the universe, everyone can unite via their enjoyment of Havok getting beaten up. Especially because Panther doesn't even look like he hit him particularly hard.
This isn't from the Judd Winick-written Exiles that ran for 100 issues, but the 2009 attempted reboot with Jeff Parker as the writer. Morph has stepped into the role of the Timebroker (or the little bugs that used the Crystal Palace) and Blink is wearing the Tallus again, but pretending she's as new to all this as the rest of the team.

For their first mission, the team was sent to an Earth where Magneto runs Genosha, with the former X-Men and the various villainous mutants united under his banner. The Exiles are supposed to help Wolverine overthrow Magneto, except by the time they arrive, Sabretooth and a bunch of X-Men are parading Logan's corpse through the main plaza.

The team tries to infiltrate a celebration party, taking advantage of the fact two of their team members are Magneto's kids in their respective universes, but all the telepaths around made that a non-starter. Most of this issue is the team escaping confinement and trying to get Magneto's helmet off so the telepaths can see what dark secret he's hiding. No, not that he's a Kid Rock fan.
If this had been written on the Internet, I'm pretty sure Mags would be arranging Moira's death so he could have Charles all to himself. Or they'd just be polyamorous, which might have solved all the problems. I kind of love the idea of Magneto being petty enough to let Charles die at the hands of giant murderbots because he wants Moira.

It's enough to get the X-Men cheesed at Magneto, but the Tallus says calamity hasn't been averted, even as it opens a door to another reality and the Exiles bolt, over Blink's protests. There's a nice double-page splash I will absolutely use for Sunday Splash Page whenever I make it this far - rough guess, fall of 2021 - where Salva Espin draws the half of them leaving, and Casey Jones, who draws the next story, draws the half of them arriving in the next universe. Where they'll have to face a artificial intelligence trio of Ultron, Vision, and Machine Man, plus the incomparable might of Security Camera Lizard!
I picked that image because of the lizard, but now I'm fixated on why Forge thinks Magneto doesn't like the desert. Because there's nothing made out of metal? I'd imagine there are plenty of rocks with metallic elements in them all over the place. I guess wearing a bucket on your head might be unpleasant under the noon sun. . .

[Longbox #5, 14th comic. Exiles (vol. 2) #3, by Jeff Parker (writer), Salva Espin and Casey Jones (artists), Anthony Washington (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer)]

Thursday, August 15, 2019

White Chamber

The movie's first half-hour is a woman who insists she's a delivery person named Ruth being tortured within a white box by a person that turns out to be the leader of a revolutionary army that is attempting to overthrow a military dictatorship in England.

Right about the point I wondered how the movie could have another hour to go - after Ruth kills a crazed woman with a partially melted face by stabbing her in the eye with a finger that was on the floor - it cuts back to five days earlier, and we learn how things reached this point, and that Ruth isn't who she claims to be. Although the flashback creates more questions which have to be answered in the final 10 minutes when we get more or less back to where the movie began.

The chamber isn't only a torture chamber, and the movie spends some time on the justifications people will make for their actions, the lies they'll tell others or themselves about what they're doing. What does a person who leads a revolution tell himself about the people who die on both sides? Or the person who tests drugs on a prisoner without knowing what it will do to them (or knowing what it will do)?

There are four people outside the chamber in the flashbacks, and at least two seem motivated by grief or revenge, and this is just a convenient opportunity they can pretend is something else. It's for science, or the greater good. One of the others simply hadn't felt affected by the issues that stirred unrest, and didn't know what they were getting into. It was easy enough to believe what they'd been told and to see this as a big chance.

Also kind of hard not to notice the three most staunch in their support of the work they're doing are all white, while the person they have trapped and are torturing/experimenting on is Kurdish, and that the one member of the four who ultimately has doubts is also not white. White Chamber, indeed.

I did laugh when the head honcho shows the newbie all these examples of drugs different groups of soldiers have used over the ages, to demonstrate how it's not a new idea. Except the examples she cites are all from sides that lost the wars she mentions. Oh, the Nazis used this methamphetamine, U.S. soldiers used weed in 'Nam, the Zulus used this to feel invincible when they fought the English in the 1870s. What I'm taking away from this is, winners don't use drugs!

I wouldn't say I liked the movie exactly, but when it started I was worried I'd chosen some kind of torture porn horror flick, like that Saw bullcrap. Simply not being that, or not only that, was a good start. And I knew one of the four was going to help the prisoner escape, and it seemed pretty obvious who, but I was curious if the film was going to pull a fast one late. It didn't.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Random Back Issues #4 - Supergirl #78

I have a feeling Deadman uses that one on the Phantom Stranger a lot. Or maybe Guy uses it on Hal a lot. . .
This is within the last few months of Peter David's run on Supergirl (the book ends at #80), the one focused on the combination of Linda Danvers and that post-Crisis, weird goo, "Matrix" Supergirl, which turned into an Earth Angel. Yeah, I'd need to reread a lot more issues to explain it better than that. Leonard Kirk moved on as artist after issue #74, and Ed Benes replaced him, which, yeah. Supergirl started getting drawn as a lot older, with more sex appeal emphasis. The skirt got a bit shorter, and half the time is drawn as so form fitting it might as well be bike shorts. I know, shocking to hear.

By this point, I think the "angel" aspect has been resolved, but now we have two Supergirls running around. One, the Linda version, in the outfit Supergirl had gotten when she showed up in the Timmverse Superman cartoon. The other, Silver Age Kara Zor-El Supergirl, rocket to Earth has been shunted into the wrong universe and time by some guy called the Fatalist.

(That's not the guy mouthing off to Hal up above, by the way. Skyrim Cosplayer up there is called Xenon, and has been trapped in some place by a Supergirl, and has been busy trying to lure Supergirls there to kill them until he gets the right one and can escape. Hal is doing a good job as Spectre by impotently telling him to stop, or else.)
The first part of the issue is Kara letting the half-metal bad guy pummel her, because she thinks her X-ray vision made an elderly woman's pacemaker fail, so she deserves to get beat up. By the time Linda is able to rush to help, Kara's started fighting again because Rebel has explained it was probably the self-diagnostic he ran that caused the pacemaker to fail. I assume he's being serious, but it's possible he's lying just to get her to stop being a sad sack and fight back. Which, considering this is a Silver Age Kryptonian, is a spectacularly stupid idea, but there's no reason he'd know that.

Once Spectre and the Fatalist show up, we learn Kara has to go to her proper universe to die fighting the Anti-Monitor, which she understandably doesn't take well. Also that the Fatalist arranged for Rebel to show up test their might, I mean test their spirit. That old lady with the bum pacemaker will no doubt be ecstatic to know that, you tattooed, three-eyed dumbshit.

Linda promises to talk the Spectre out of making Kara, then goes in her place. That doesn't end up working, either. Still, Linda ends up in Silver Age DC, and eventually marries Superman. She's not his cousin and he knows it, it's OK!
Kara's written as kind and innocent, suggesting to Linda they can restore her secret identity through some sort of scheme, probably involving Batman. I feel like Silver Age Supergirl wasn't quite this naive, but I'm no expert. It helps emphasize the differences between her and Linda, who has been through some shit by this point, and is probably somewhere in her 20s, while I'm pretty sure Kara's supposed to be a teenager.

[Longbox #11, 60th comic. Supergirl #78, by Peter David (writer), Ed Benes (penciler), Alex Lei (inker), Digital Chameleon (colorist), Comicraft (letterer)]

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Layer Cake

Daniel Craig in his pre-James Bond days playing this mostly calm and orderly middleman in the cocaine trade. He figures to make his money, then get out, but finds that more difficult than he expected.

This is very much one of those crime movies with a lot of layers that are supposed to interlock and overlap. Craig's character (who is never named) and his small crew end up in trouble because this other idiot threw their names around when he went to Amsterdam and stole a lot of Ecstasy pills from some very angry Serbians. One of the guys Craig works for, Jimmy Price, has tasked him to locate an old friend's (played by Michael Gambon) missing, heroin-addicted daughter. There's an entire subplot involving the death of a major drug dealer from the 1970s named Crazy Larry, which involves at least three other characters running around in the present. There's even a bit where Craig meets a woman named Tammy inadverdently through the inept nephew of the jackass that stole all the pills that factors in.

The movie tries too hard on that account, though, because some of the threads feel superfluous. The one about Crazy Larry in particular is meant to illustrate a point, but I think the rest of the movie was handling it just fine.

I like the obvious lesson that to a certain extent making plans can be futile. Because people with power over you will change the rules whenever they feel like it, if it suits their purpose. Craig has no skills whatsoever towards finding a missing person, but Jimmy Price has power, so if he says do it, Craig has to try. Craig can have an agreement with Michael Gambon, but Gambon has more power so he can alter the deal as he sees fit, or so he thinks.

(Gambon gives this lovely spiel about how life is about starting at the bottom and eating a lot of shit, then gradually climbing higher and eating less shit, until you reach the point you don't even recall what it smells like. He's doing it to lord his position over Craig, but there's an obvious part of it he forgets that comes back to bite him I rather enjoyed.)

Most of the big surprises or reveals you can see coming pretty easily, but they mostly work with the story, so they're still effective. It has a few parts I laughed at, and some good performances. A solid crime movie, basically.