Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Bought 7/22/2015 - Part 2

Two more comics, each starring heroes who can’t quite seem to get things right.

Ant-Man Annual #1, by Nick Spencer (writer), Brent Schoonover (artist, flashback), Ramon Rosanas (artist, present day), Jordan Boyd (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) – Is Scott planning to stop a runaway trolley with the power of ants? That would be pretty impressive. Hopefully he’s not going to make them throw themselves under the wheels, in the hopes they jam them up. O’Grady tried that with a jet engine once, and I don’t recall it working terribly well. Plus, it’s kind of mean to makes the bugs kill themselves like that.

I was leaning towards giving this a pass and just waiting for Astonishing Ant-Man to start in October, but it got some good reviews, and I decided to skip All-Star Section Eight #2. Scott tries bonding with his employees at a Dolphins’ sports bar, to little success. Wait, there’s no such thing as Dolphins’ fans, said the supposedly non-existent Arizona Cardinals’ fan. Credit to Machinesmith for helping Grizz out. Also credit to Grizzly for sticking with a theme, even though the Bears are kind of a mess right now. Haha, enjoy rooting for Jay Cutler, says the guy who had to watch Ryan Lindley play quarterback like a drunk infant for his team last year. Lindley is a terrible QB. Roger Goodell could do something useful for once and force some team Arizona plays this year to start Lindley, just so their defense can pad their stats against him.

Where was I? Right, a broadcast announces Hank Pym died fighting Ultron in some book I didn’t read. Except I think everyone is just pretending he’s dead? This makes Scott think back to the last time he saw Hank, when Pym visited to track down something he hid in a lab inside the helmet Scott’s using. It’s a killswitch for some fake Avengers he built to make himself feel better, but they’ve been stolen by Egghead, who is back from the dead. I honestly assumed he’d been brought back years ago, just because that’s how it seems to go, but then I keep forgetting the Wasp is back, too, until she showed up at the end of this issue. Scott gets many laughs at Hank’s expense, which seems fair considering Hank keeps basically calling him an idiot, and outright says he let Scott keep the Ant-Man costume because he knew Scott wouldn’t make him look bad in comparison.

This is the thing I struggle with when it comes to Spencer’s writing. In a vacuum, this is all pretty funny. I chuckled more than once. But part of the reason it works is because I have certain familiarity with these characters based on past experience with these characters, and in that sense, it jars. It was an issue in Superior Foes too, where I couldn’t jibe Spencer’s Boomerang with the guy I’d seen previously, even accounting for Fred being the narrator and thus probably lying through his teeth to make himself look better. It’s like, “Ha, sick burn, but wait, would Pym actually think that? Well, OK, Hank can be kind of unaware of others’ feelings sometimes. Would Jan confirm Pym felt Scott was an idiot to Scott’s face?”

I know it’s all part of the theme Spencer’s going for, Scott being on the outs with other heroes, regarded as unreliable, a second-rate legacy version of a third-tier hero. To the point Stark can actually get other Avengers to ignore Scott when he calls for help, even though you figure at least a few of them would help just as a “screw you” to Tony. I think it’s all sort of satirical, taking something, then exaggerating it for comic effect. Pym struggles with confidence issues, so he builds robot versions of his teammates to say nice things about him, and talk shit about themselves. Lang has a tendency not to stick with any team for very long, and he’s not usually presented as a Reed Richards like super-genius, so he becomes someone who can’t see things through, and is not very bright, and people think so little of him they all tell him so. I think my issue is Spencer takes it a step further than I can stretch my disbelief, and it snaps me out of the story periodically.

Schoonover does a pretty good job of working close to Rosanas’ art style, though I’m guessing Boyd’s color work also has something to do with it. Schoonover gives Scott a bit bigger nose and more pronounced chin than Rosanas (not that you can tell when Scott has the helmet on, and I would laugh if it turned out the helmet was designed like that to deemphasize Scott’s chin and nose.) He also goes with much broader facial expressions and body language. Rosanas tends to keep things restrained, so even when someone is supposed to be freaking out, there isn’t a lot of weight behind it. Schoonover tends to go the other direction, people reacting more with their whole bodies. It’s not a bad approach. There is one glitch. When the flashback starts, Scott punches the Porcupine with his left hand, but he shakes quills out of his right in the next panel. I suppose he could have punched him less carefully with the right earlier in the fight and we didn’t see it. Also, I couldn’t tell if the A.I.-Vengers were supposed to be moving inside those tubes, or if he just wasn’t keeping their poses consistent. And whatever one might say about Hank Pym, he’s right about Wonder Man being a terrible actor.

Hawkeye #22, by David Aja and Matt Fraction (storytellers), Matt Hollingsworth (color art), Chris Eliopoulos (lettering) – Well, the Apocalypse will no doubt commence now that the final issue of this series has shipped. I have it on good authority God was waiting for this to wrap up before killing us all. Eh, it’s been a good run. We invented movable type and porkpie hats, not too shabby.

The redhead remembered the combination to red safe, but here’s Boss Bro and the Sad Clown. Clint shows up, then Lucky, then Kate. The other tenants take care of the rest of the goons, Kate deals with the tracksuit imbecile – finally! – and Clint, after some difficulty, puts down the Sad Clown. I think that’s the first fight Clint’s won in like 15 issues, so good for him. But Barney stole all his money back, and thinks Clint can’t find him again. Barney, Clint is friends with like 20 super-scientists, not to mention the Black Widow, I’m pretty sure he can track your fat butt down before you finish your drink if he wants to. Which I would, on principle alone. Barney appeared to throw in with Clint, then bailed. That’s betrayal, and I believe I’ve made my opinions clear on that a few times. But the whole universe is ending and Clint’s going to become real old for some reason or another, so I guess Barney gets away with it.

All the crime bosses have decided to continue trying to kill Clint and Kate, because they’re morons, I guess. You’d think Fisk at least would know better than to waste time with something like that. Is this an end result Fraction and Aja always had planned, or is it something Lemire was hoping to run with in his book, and this team was like sure, we’ll set that up for you? It doesn’t matter, really, other than I find it curious these characters, ostensibly concerned with making money and doing business, really think trying to kill super-heroes isn’t a waste of time and money. It’s something I was thinking about, given Marvel went ahead and started All-New Hawkeye before this had finished. I wonder if there were changes made to this, to accommodate that book.

It’s a pretty book as always. I’m curious about the use of the mauve/lavender color, whatever it is, Hollingsworth uses for backgrounds a few times. Almost always in conjunction with Aja doing a black shadow for whatever is in the panel, be it Lucky, an arrow, Penny’s hand and the gun she was holding. I don’t know if it just makes a good backdrop for the black, or if it’s meant to have a particular emotional resonance. He switches to a yellow when Clint and Kate finish off the clown guy. I really like the headbutt panel. Something about the way the shadows are drawn on Clint’s face, the way they almost evoke speed lines in his hair, makes me think of Joe Kubert’s art, the way he drew people getting hit, and how it could distort them. That’s never a bad comparison to elicit in my brain, for the record.

I might do a post-mortem in the future, though I could basically sum up my feelings in one double-page splash I’ve had saved on my computer for like 8 months now, but we’ll see. If I look at it strictly by itself, it was good. This is what I was hoping for from this book when it was originally announced. Lots of action, well-illustrated, some snappy dialogue. Clint getting to do some cool stuff and save the day, even if it doesn’t always go smoothly, and there are other problems to contend with down the line. It’s not the greatest final issue I’ve ever read, but it’s a long way from the worst.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Yangtze Patrol - Kemp Tolley

I had expected, knowing Tolley served on gunboats in China, for this to be a recounting of his days there, or maybe the era in general. Frankly, I hoped he might illuminate me as to who the lady was he referenced a few times in The Cruise of the Lanikai, but no dice. As in that book, he covers a much broader range than I expected, going back to the earliest attempts by Western nations to get their ships up the Yangtze (and to get permission to trade with the people there), and then moves forward, with a greatest focus on U.S. ships. Although, with their frequently close level of cooperation, he discusses the British a fair amount as well.

It treads some of the same ground as Far China Station, but it’s narrower in geographic focus, while wider in chronological range. Unlike that book, Tolley doesn’t stop at the Spanish-American War, but goes all the way up to the early days of the U.S. involvement in World War 2 (when all the gunboats that could be gotten out of the Yangtze, were). There’s also a postscript describing a brief attempt immediately after World War 2 by the Western powers to revive it. By then, Communist Chinese forces have the firepower to enforce their desire for those boats to scram. It provides a good sense of how things gradually turn against the foreigners. There isn’t a huge threat when there are hordes of warlords and duplicitous generals just trying to make a buck. The gunboats almost regard it as a game when they move along the river and a few shots ring out from the woods, since they get a chance to unload with their machine guns and cannons. As the Chinese grow more organized and focused, it becomes more apparent how limited the power of the gunboats to enforce Western interests can be. They’re vastly outnumbered, if better armed and trained. The ships can’t withstand heavy firepower once the Chinese get some artillery and learn to use it properly, and the fluctuating levels of the river limit the ability of the boats to respond. At certain times of year a boat either can’t get upriver, or can’t get back downriver from a station. The Chinese put together at least one mass strike that emphasized how much their labor was the underpinning for most of what Europe and the U.S. had going on there.

There’s a lot in there about life on the boats. The lack of recreation on board, or even in the ports of some of the towns further upriver. The stress of trying to get up the river, especially in vessels that ought to have been decommissioned a decade earlier. All the confusing variations of money and exchange rates, and the need to establish the price and specific service required before starting anything, whether it’s buying groceries, fuel oil, or getting a sampan ride back to the ship after a night boozing it up. Also, I learned about an alcoholic beverage I’d never heard of before, shandygraff. 50% beer and 50% ginger ale. Sounds vile - and now I want to convince Alex to drink it for my amusement - but the Americans were already so hard up for booze (especially once it was outlawed on board) sometimes they’d willingly drink gin if the British were offering.

Unlike Cruise of the Lanikai, Tolley only obliquely references his time serving on the Patrol. When he does, he usually refers to himself as the ex-navigation officer of the Oahu or something similar, but never tells you he’s actually talking about himself. I thought that was curious, given the number of stories he either lived through, or is relating from conversations he was involved in. He spends enough time repeating stories of drunken escapades, or reminiscing about lovely White Russian ladies I don’t think he could have been trying for a detached, scholarly approach. Maybe he felt it would distract from the focus of the book as a history of the Patrol as a whole, and make it look more like a memoir.

There are some comments in this book, as with Tigris Gunboats, I had to look askance at, but in general I didn't feel Tolley was passing judgment as much as Nunn had. Tolley describes the gunboats being sent to 'carry out the White Man's Burden,' or however he puts it, but it seems tongue in cheek. I'm pretty sure he recognizes they were there primarily to protect U.S. economic interests, and the Chinese would have done OK without them.

‘In the latter half of the nineteenth century, much of the silver had been drained out of China. Replenishment was made from Mexico, in the form of Mexican silver dollars. The thrifty Chinese saw no point in redoing a highly satisfactory minting job, so the coins were circulated “as-was.” In the majority illiterate, the average Chinaman saw no incongruity in that the rare silver dollar which came his way bore an unknown bird (eagle), perched on a roost foreign to Chinese soil (cactus) surrounded by unfamiliar hieroglyphics. It rang satisfactorily when expertly struck, acted properly when bitten, and had a uniform, recognizable appearance. This was enough.’

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Day 21

Favorite Event? Easy-peasy. Acts of Vengeance merited some brief consideration, but there’s really one only choice.

ANNIHILATION!

This event showed up at just the right time, when Civil War was making me sick of all the nonsense going on with Marvel Earth. I had no interest in watching alleged heroes punch each other over legislation, seeing the New Warriors dumped on, or watching Spider-Man reveal his identity to the world like a moron. On the other hand, give me a story that presents Annihilus as this terrible, single-minded threat to the entire universe, but has actually marshaled his considerable forces so he might actually carry out his goals?

Then throw in Thanos, who is helping Annihilus pretty much because he was bored and wanted to see what would happen if things got shook up a little. Of course they can’t trust each other. Annihilus trusts no one, is dead set on his plans, with the power to back them up. Thanos is more circuitous in his approach, always with contingencies, but no less powerful. Neither one would really like how the other's plans would turn out, where they to learn of them. That doesn’t mean they can’t cause a lot of damage before the partnership falls to pieces. Combine a being clever enough to bargain with two ancient beings to defeat Galactus, and also smart enough to turn Big G into a weapon, with a being crazy enough to actually use said planet-destroying weapon, and it’s bad for everyone.

So bad in fact, Kree and Skrull willingly teamed up. Ronan and Kl’rt weren’t happy about it (well, Super-Skrull enjoyed killing Kree traitors), but they did it. This whole part, where Ronan, Super-Skrull, and Praxagora storm the current ruling house of the Kree and find them negotiating a truce with the Annihilation Wave, leading to Ronan pretty much killing everyone and assuming control. Then he launches entire rocket-propelled city blocks loaded with Kree soldiers at the Wave. And all that’s really a sideshow to what Galactus was up to, and what Nova was about to face.

I know I cut part of that off, but I do like the jabs at what was going on with Civil War. 'It's as if they've forgotten how to be heroes.' 'The Annihilation Wave will rip the planet out from under them while they shoot at each other!' This was the point when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s stretch writing Richard Rider began (they wrote the Annihilation: Nova mini-series, though Keith Giffen wrote the main series, and the above scene). Rich finds himself the last of the Nova Corps, carrying all the Corps’ power and knowledge, without going crazy, and save all life in the universe. Even if that means dying trying to take out Annihilus. Though that's still not a very good costume for Rich.

There’s a fantastic sense of momentum to the whole thing. Super-Skrull comes back from an apparently noble death in his tie-in mini-series, and there’s only enough time to vaguely handwave in the general direction of an explanation, because things have gotten even worse for the good guys. It wasn’t enough Annihilus had an army of millions or more bugs, or that the Negative Zone has its own super-humans, willing to fight for what they’ve been told is the survival of their home. The odds keep ramping up, and the heroes have to try a different approach. It plays up the idea that Earth’s heroes, normally such a potent force in these sorts of things, are too distracted with stupid crap to be of much help. Reed Richards isn’t going to pop-up with some doodad to reverse the polarity and toss the Annihilation Wave back into the Negative Zone, or disrupt the hive mind of the Wave. Drax is working for the United Front, killing lots of bugs, but it’s very clear it’s all a means to an end for him, Thanos’ end, which isn’t as good a thing as you’d think.

Oh, and this is the mini-series that introduced me to Cammi, at that point claiming ownership of Drax (she’d gained that in an earlier mini-series Giffen wrote I’d missed). Their whole relationship is a little strange, and it’s hard to say how much of what people imply is concern for her on Drax’ part is just projection on theirs. The ambiguity is interesting.

Things mostly work out. The day is saved. Most of the characters get happy endings of a sort, even Thanos (his doesn’t stick, but oh well, it was nice while it lasted). It sets things up for Nova’s ongoing, put Star-Lord back in circulation (Giffen sort of started that with his stint on Thanos, but this got Quill out of the prison and into action), which eventually led to Guardians of the Galaxy (I’m thinking of Abnett and Lanning’s version, but if you want to envision Bendis’, or the movie, that’s your call). It was always disappointing there was never enough time between events to really explore the new status quo (Annihilation: Conquest kicked off about six months after Annihilation ended), but that isn’t the fault of the event itself. I thought it put a lot of potential fodder for stories out there, even if it didn’t get used.

All images are from the primary Annihilation #1-6 mini-series, by Keith Giffen (writer), Andrea DiVito (artist), Laura Villari (color artist), and Cory Petit (letterer).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tigris Gunboats - Wildred Nunn

The British gunboat operations in Mesopotamia were one of those things I really wanted Halpern to spend more time on in Naval History of World War I. But no, he had to talk about totally ineffective German surface raider efforts off the American coast. So this is the recounting from the Senior Naval Officer in charge of operations during much of it, Wilfred Nunn. As such, it isn’t the most eloquent thing you’ll ever read – there are more than a couple of sentences where he uses the same adjective twice in the one sentence, like picturesque, or gradual – but he’s very precise and thorough.

He covers the Army operations in the area as well as the Navy, because the two had to work in concert so much. The gunboats were the primary method of moving men and supplies up the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers for the first couple of years, because there wasn’t a railroad finished yet. He mentions that when the operations were first being planned, this issue was brought up, but they were only supposed to go as far Basra, so it didn’t seem necessary. But once they had Basra, they needed Kurna to establish a protective position. Then they needed to get up the Tigris and Euphrates as far as the ships could manage, to establish positions to protect Kurna. And before too long they were trying for Baghdad, only to find themselves badly overextended and put into retreat. It was only after that, the higher-ups agreed they needed to actually work on things like improving lines of supply, and building wharves and docks to repair and unload ships. Sending some gunboats that had a shallow enough draft they could actually make it up the river wouldn’t hurt, either.

There are a lot of interesting bits in there. The field artillery giving the gunboats lessons on indirect firing. The early use of airplanes for observation, directing fire, and even trying to drop supplies to encircled forces. Both sides of the conflict capturing the others’ vessels and using them themselves. The British lost the Firefly, but had earlier captured a Turkish patrol boat which the British renamed Flycatcher (as all the gunboats sent later were given names with “fly” at the end). That floods were often not helpful, because they made it too deep around the river for the armies, but it was still too shallow for the navies. The need to send ships and crews to Ceylon every six months or so to recover from the heat.

There are some unnecessary and out of line comments, conveying Nunn’s opinion of British racial superiority compared to their opponents. Stuff about the ‘Turk’s habitual lethargy and lack of enterprise.’ Or their tendency not to bathe (he basically says the Turks stunk up the Firefly for the year they had it), but I don’t know, maybe bathing wasn’t common in the region at that time? Might have seemed a waste of water in a desert, but I don’t think that’s the direction Nunn was approaching it from. He also made some disparaging remarks about the sanitary conditions in Arab towns along the river, and all I could think was that Britain wasn’t far removed from people just throwing their filth out on the cobblestones. I don’t even think he’s doing it to be snide, it’s just him speaking from his secure position.

I did wonder, when he talks about how some of the Arabic tribes in the region would throw in with whoever was doing better and making a good show of force, could the British have tried just making friends? He makes a point they often steam up with the gunboats as a show of force, and the village will show a white flag, and then there are greetings and many assurances from the villagers that they are friends. Is the show really necessary? Maybe by that point those folks had seen so many outsiders barge through and take what they wanted, they wouldn’t have trusted a display of friendship, I don’t know. When I was reading Far China Station, Johnson mentioned that on the U.S.’s first attempt to get Japan to open ports, Commodore Biddle made mistakes because he talked to officials of too low a rank, and went to their ship, rather than making them come to him, and that Perry did much better by showing off the force he had, and by refusing to speak to any envoys he felt weren’t of sufficiently high title (also he had a letter of treaty direct from the President, something Biddle didn’t have). Johnson wasn’t criticizing Biddle, who as he noted, had no way of knowing what the Japanese would consider proper procedure and was not under orders to force the ports open, just acknowledging it was the wrong approach. My inclination would be to try for friendly and not pushy, but apparently in some cultures that would make me look like a weakling chump.

‘We had come to Mesopotamia to safeguard the head of the Persian Gulf and the oilfields. It had then been found necessary to hold Basra, to protect which we were led to capture Kurna and to occupy Ahwaz. Now, in order to ensure the security of these holdings, the little force was led farther into the hostile country, to Amara and Nasiriya. The will-o’-the-wisp was to lead it still further.’

Monday, July 27, 2015

What I Bought 7/22/2015 - Part 1

As promised, I ventured to the store and purchased comics, obtaining most of the ones I sought. They were missing a couple, but I’ll find those somewhere else and tack their reviews on later, maybe next week.

Harley Quinn and Power Girl #2, by Amanda Conner, Justin Gray, and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Stephane Roux (artist, pages 1-18), Elliot Fernandez (artist, pgs. 19-22), Paul Mounts (colorist, pgs. 1-18), Alex Sinclair (colorist, pgs. 19-22), John J. Hill (letterer) – Harley, you’re partially obscuring Peej’s boob window! How is she supposed to distract these guys when you do that? I guess she could just punch them without them being distracted first. Seems inefficient, though.

That’s what she spends most of the issue doing, trying to smash Oreth’s considerable army, while Harley flees from a cheerful killbot out to sew her orifices together. While Harley succeeds in transforming her foe into a cheerful pile of rabbit-shaped robot junk, Peej is overwhelmed by numbers, until a super-powered strike team of Vartox’ exes arrive to lend a hand. This team tends to bicker a lot and pointlessly shout their names, so it’s pretty much the ‘70s X-Men (albeit dressed more like the Mike Grell-drawn Legion of Super-Heroes). At least they don’t constantly describe their powers out loud. Harley shows up with a spaceship so they can rescue Vartox, who is busy being transformed into something by Oreth.

I’m guessing the chief bad guy is going to wind up have a lot of repressed urges he needs help getting in touch with. Good thing Harley’s a licensed psychiatrist. I was just joking about that, but I could see that being how this problem is handled, with liberal doses of trying to smash the problem with a hammer thrown in. Because it’s still not at all serious, from Power Girl telling Harley not to blow anything up, especially crap (and Harley didn’t blow anything up), to the XGF arguing about whether the one guy on the team should even be there, and him arguing that calling it an Ex-Girlfriend Force isn’t fair to him. Peej’s expression in that panel is great. She has her eyes shut and this sour expression, and you can tell she’s about to start hitting people if they don’t change the subject.

It does highlight a difference between pre- and post-Flashpoint DC. I think pre-Flashpoint Power Girl would have been exasperated, but she’d have rolled with the absurdity of all this, whereas this Power Girl just seems massively frustrated by everything about this world. Part of that is the old Peej had met Vartox, so she’d at least have context for some of these comments. But in general, she seemed at least a little more inclined to accept things were odd and enjoy it. Current Power Girl is a little more focused, but consequently much more easily aggravated by distractions.

Starfire #2, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Emanuela Lupacchino (pencils), Ray McCarthy (inks), Hi-Fi (colors), Tom Napolitano (letters) – And on that day, Starfire learned parrots don’t like it when you try to remove their feathers to clean them.

Kori gets an introduction to severe Earth weather as the hurricane hits the island. She manages to get her landlord and her grandson to the school where everyone is hunkering down, then gets plastered with a big sign, which knocks her into some odd fellow’s bathroom, where he is hunkered down. He (and his pugs) go with her, but only because the Sun Goddess told him the Mistress of the Winds would be coming. I can’t tell if that’s going to be significant later, or if he’s just a random oddball Kori meets once. Sheriff Stella’s brother heads out in the middle of all this to try and rescue a couple in a busted boat, and they all get sunk. Fortunately the sheriff found Kori, and after a brief detour to rescue that freaking parrot again, Kori heads out and rescues them all, though it was a bit of a near thing with Gabe, who is possibly smitten with his rescuer. The storm passes, families are reunited, but Kori’s new home is destroyed. Wow, that didn’t take long, and this is why I don’t have much interest in living in coastal regions. Also, some odd thing crawled out a hole in the ground, looking for someone, and he at some poor guy with really obvious tan lines on his arms and legs. Possibly even worse than mine, which is impressive. Nice touch there by Hi-Fi, I assume.

One thing that concerned me about Conner and Palmiotti’s writing on Harley Quinn was that at times they seemed to just be throwing everything they can think of at the wall. The end result is that there are so many different things and characters around, most of them don’t really get developed. It still works to an extent there, because the title character is so scattershot herself, but I’m hoping a similar approach isn’t going to be taken here. Now that Kori isn’t going to be living at the trailer park, will we see Tina and Boone again, or is their part in the story done already? It’s too early to say for sure, and I feel pretty confident Stella and her brother will be regulars in the book, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

I’m curious how they did the rain in this issue. It’s a bunch of thin white lines, and so I don’t know if that’s something Hi-Fi did, or if Lupacchino drew all those in over the rest of the art, and it was understood not to color those in. In the places where they overlap other linework (a person’s hand for instance), you can still see that linework, but sort of faded. So maybe it’s not about not coloring those spaces in, but coloring them in with white? I don’t know, it was just something I noticed on the two-page splash on pages 2 and 3, and it got me wondering. I will say the characters don’t look like they’re inhabiting the same space as the hurricane. I feel like their clothes, and especially their hair, ought to be showing more effects from being in this storm. I’ve been drenched to the skin plenty of times in storms that are likely nowhere near as fierce as what those characters are supposed to be experiencing, and clothes sit differently on you in those situations. OK, Kori’s wearing some alien fabric, and she’s solar-powered, so maybe it’s different for her, but that doesn’t explain all the Earth folk. I mean, the poor joker who gets killed by the subterranean creature is wearing a shirt that ought to be clinging to him by the time he died, you know?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Zorro 1.25 - The Fox and the Coyote

Plot: As the citizens of Los Angeles exit church one morning, they observe a group of children playing some game. It’s like “Duck, Duck, Goose”, but with one kid wearing a mask and playing at being Zorro. Everyone seems quite amused, except the Magistrado, and once he points out that the coyote in the song is Captain Toledano, Raquel isn’t amused either. So Toledano orders Garcia to break it up, and the kids have a merry time running rings around the unfortunate “Senor Elephant”. There’s also a blind man outside the church, and the Magistrado slips a note into his hat. Soon enough, Bernardo observes the blind man approach Figueroa (on guard outside the cuartel), and under the guise of begging, pass the note on to the lancer. Bernardo starts to follow the beggar, but gets distracted by a pretty lady and loses him.

Shortly afterward, the rancheros gather at the tavern to hear a proposal from the magistrate. There is a big festival coming up next week, and he thinks they should have a cross-country horse race. With a cash prize, no less, to which he will contribute 500 pesos. Which encourages Alejandro and the others to chip in, resulting in a total prize of 4,000 pesos. Even Toledano chips in, on the condition his lancers are allowed to enter. On the ride home, Diego wonders why there needed to be a cash prize, when everyone would enter just for the fun, but first he has to come up with an excuse not to ride their prize mare, Princessa, a horse which seems fully prepared to win. So he pretends it threw him, and advises his father to let Manuel, who has been training and caring for her, ride in the race.

The Magistrado hasn’t been idle during all this. We’ve already learned the Eagle has arranged for Relampago, the champion horse of California, to be shipped down, where it will be done up to look like an entirely different horse. This will enable them to gain a substantial sum to fund their enterprises. More importantly, he boards a ship off the coast to purchase a considerable number of muskets, pistols, and sabers, but no powder. When Diego is finally able to get away from his father, he learns what Bernardo saw, and Zorro rides to the pueblo. In town, he sees the blind man speak with the Magistrado, and follows the former, who it turns out can see perfectly well. A close encounter with a yappy mutt nearly gets Zorro caught between the two villains, but he’s able to trail them to their secret meeting place (the local pharmacy, closed for the night). Inside, he learns the magistrate will have men ride up to the cuartel with a wagon, supposedly on orders from Toledano. Since this is during the race, there will only be a few, unfortunate lancers standing guard, including Figueroa, who will give the order to let the wagon in. The soldiers will be overpowered, and the gunpowder stolen.

Diego decides the best bet is to have Bernardo slip another note to Garcia, but the sergeant gets distracted when he sees those kids, and in the process of chasing them, loses the note. Which leads to a bad surprise for Diego when all the lancers arrive at the hacienda for the start of the race. Diego says he wants to find a better vantage point as a way to slip out, and Zorro joins the race right as it starts. He’s able to get the soldiers to chase him back to the cuartel, and the thieves are caught red-handed. Meanwhile, Manuel won the race (despite Gallindo’s rider being a cheat), and Diego can’t resist ribbing the sour-faced magistrate a little.

Quote of the Episode: Magistrado – ‘We must continue to cloak our actions in absolute secrecy.’

Times Zorro marks a “Z”: 1 (11 overall). On the tarp covering the stolen gunpowder.

Other: It made me glad to see Garcia got to be the one who grabbed the two thieves, after those kids made him look so bad earlier in the episode. Admittedly, he was able to grab them because he’d fallen well behind the other lancers and was walking his horse back into town, but still, he stopped both men with one hand on their collars apiece. Not too shabby.

I like that having established Bernardo’s skill at sleight of hand two episodes ago, they’re actually making it a recurring tool they try to use. I also like that it doesn’t always work, or else you’d start to wonder why they don’t try this method more often. But the sergeant unfortunately is not the most reliable courier.

Does painting a horse hamper it? I wouldn’t expect the paint to add significant weight, but it smells, it probably feels uncomfortable on its skin. It’s probably not real paint, though, just mud and such.

I have to say I’m fairly impressed with this week’s plan by our villains. They propose a big horse race, which everyone will enjoy and support, then throw in a cash prize, seemingly just for the fun of it. But it not only gives them a chance to pull in some serious bank (mostly) above board, but ensures as many lancers as they could hope for will be out of the cuartel. With only one soldier in their employ, they have to be clever to leverage that as much as possible, so creating a situation where there are relatively few honest soldiers around was a good first step.

It’s interesting that the muskets Gallindo bought were from France, but the pistols from Germany, and the sabers from Spain. I mean, it’s interesting the pistols were from Germany considering Germany didn’t exist in the early 1800s, so he meant Prussia I guess. But also just the fact it’s from an array of nations. Were each of those really the best in those specific areas? Given the marksmanship the lancers demonstrate shooting at Zorro, we can safely conclude Spanish firearms aren’t worth shit. Or is it easier to only acquire one type of weapon from each nation illegally? Simpler for someone to make sure a shipment of pistols goes “missing”, rather than pistols and muskets.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

And This Is Why I Listen To CDs In The Car

I haven't posted on a Saturday in a while. I have some posts ready available, but I've been holding them back in case the well ran dry during the week. So it would have to be something immediately and massively annoying to get me to go ahead and throw one up.

Since I've been on this job, I've struggled to find a decent local radio station. Everything is either country or church stuff. The former I can tolerate under certain circumstances, the latter is a no-go. I did find a classical station earlier this week, but the reactions of my coworkers convinced they were not receptive (I generally operate on the rule it's driver's choice, meaning me 90% of the time, but I try to not torture the others).

I did find a decent classic rock station, the only problem being that in the morning the station plays/runs/broadcasts/whatever you call it the John Boy and Billy Show, and it is terrible. Perhaps this isn't news to you. I've heard of the show, but never actually listened to a station that played it. It's like listening to an NFL pregame show. None of the jokes are funny, but that doesn't stop the people on the show from cackling constantly at everything.

'The fat lady walks up to the parrot -' *everyone laughs madly*

The Joker wishes he could get those kinds of results. Every segment is interminable, and frankly, country music sounds pretty good in comparison. Hell, commercials sound pretty good in comparison. I've gladly changed the station and stayed on one that was on a commercial break.