Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ratastrophe Catastrophe - David Lee Stone

There aren't a lot of options around here if one wants to go book shopping. The Ratastrophe Catastrophe was the best thing I could find in the local thrift store. Turns out it's written more for kids, but what the hey, it was 50 cents. It's set in your sort of typical fantasy land - goblins, dwarves, magic, things like that. Except most everyone is either corrupt, stupid, or both.

A farmboy named Diek is possessed by some remnant of ancient, dark forces, which prove to  make him fairly mesmerizing. Also unsettling, so it isn't long before his father sends him away to a nearby town. Where he learns that the Kingdom of Dullitch has a major rat problem, and is willing to pay handsomely to anyone who can rid them of the pests. Diek uses his flute to lead them out of town and into the river, where they will surely not pollute the water supply and cause dysentery or something. Not that Diek (or the force possessing him) would care if they did, because he gets stiffed. So he abducts the town's children, leaving the politicians to scramble to find some heroes to rescue them, which turn out to be a barbarian, a dwarf, and a former sorcerer having an end-life crisis who only remembers 3 spells.

It's the sort of story where the characters might actually be fairly intelligent, if they could stop falling prey to their worst habits, be they greed, arrogance, cowardice. They can't help themselves though, because that's always the easy way to them, ignoring the possible long-term consequences. So it's an accurate representation of humans, then, slightly exaggerated for comedic effect. Stone adopts a fairly dry tone for the humor, describing the events in a fairly straightforward manner, as if there's nothing unusual about most of it. It works well for me, but others' mileage may vary. It's also the first book in a series of six as far as I can determine, but I'm not sure I liked any of the characters enough to particularly want to follow their further adventures. I suppose if I stumbled across one of the later books for a reasonable price, I'd give it a whirl.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.18 - Frozen In Time

Plot: We start at an open market, as Darien shops for clothes to match his questionable fashion sense, including a leather jacket with tassels. However, Fawkes soon realizes someone is following him and it turns out to be Kate Easton, the creator of the quantum computer in episode 1.8. She's returned from England because some of her associates have gone missing, and another, who she knows only through online conversations as Hit-O-Rama, has gone into hiding. The Agency can't afford a safe house, so she has to stay with Fawkes. There's a very male gaze sequence where Kate stretches the kinks out after her long flight, which causes uncontrollable invisibility in Darien again. Kate unwittingly takes care of that right quick by telling him she's engaged. Well then.

The next day, Darien tries to convince the Keeper to look into whether Kate's story checks out, without telling her what's going on. Eventually he has to tell her, though I'm not clear on why he was be secretive in the first place. Turns out 16 scientists have gone missing, experts in a variety of fields. Darien and Hobbes return to Fawkes' apartment to find La Llorna from 1.15 hauling Kate away. Turns out La Llorna is actually Allianora (we don't learn that until later in-story, but I had the captions on and they listed her name right off). With Kate abducted, the only hope is to find Hit-O-Rama, but the Internet service provider he's been using is not friendly towards the government snooping around. . . until they find these guys are from Fish & Game, pursuing a vile whale meat smuggler. I laughed out loud just typing that.

So they find him, but he wants no part of anybody, and opens up on them with a shotgun. They decide to wait for Allianora to arrive, capture him, then they'll find out where they're taking them. This leads them to a tractor-trailor with a cyrogenic unit inside, because nobody noticed the really obvious package van following them down an otherwise deserted road. Fawkes distracts the guards outside with a beehive he finds nearby. Aaah bees, they're stinging. And Africanized! He does rescue Hito, and captures Allianora with the same drugs she's been using on the scientists. It turns out that while whoever designed these freezing units has devised a way to safely thaw them out, that window only lasts 48 hours, and Kate's been missing 36 hours. And the Official and Hobbes' attempts to interrogate Allianora fail miserably. Darien cuts to the chase by offering to help her escape in exchange for rescuing Kate.

Escape they do, despite Hobbes putting bullet holes in the drywall. Allianora keeps her world and brings Darien to all the cryo-tubes, as her employers are creating what they call a library. And seeing as they've scrambled his GPS tracker, well, things ain't looking good for Fawkes. Oh no, another faceless goon and he's using the drugging thing on Darien! Oh never mind, Fawkes replaced the sedative with water before he left, and he easily escapes the cyro-tube and rescues Kate. Darien takes her to the hospital and calls Hobbes, but by the time he finds the "library", all the other tubes are gone. In the aftermath, Kate and Darien discuss how she and her fiance will go ahead and get new i.d.s, while Hobbes and the Keeper compare notes in the hallway.

Quote of the episode: Allianora - 'Saving books is useless without the minds that create them.'

The "oh crap" count: 5 (31 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Henry Kissinger, who noted even paranoid people have enemies. Probably because they, like Kissinger, are assholes. And someone said opinions are made to be changed, because that's how you get at the truth.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (6 overall).

Other: Not sure I agree with that quote I used. Presumably other smart people would come along who could build on the things they found in the books.

I notice Darien doesn't have the uncontrollable invisibility issue when he makes out with Allianora.

There's a weird conversation between Darien and Hobbes about who Britney Spears was married to at that time, while they were following Hito's abductors. That was odd. Something else that's strange is that Hobbes is perfectly willing to make dirty innuendo about Fawkes and Kate, but is also unable to actually directly mention sex, as he's demonstrated in the past , such as when dealing with his ex-wife. I guess that's something to do with his difficulties with intimacy.

Speaking of intimacy, he and the Keep are moving closer. He was sleeping in the chair in her office when she and Darien came in. Sure, he says it's because there's no couch in the building where he can nap, but we know better. Keep came with him when they rushed the "library", and sure I think she really wants to get into a gunfight, and yeah, they needed someone to safely thaw people out, but you know she can't get enough of Bobby Hobbes.

Oh yeah, one thing about the freezing. How is it going to help preserve knowledge for a post-apocalyptic world, if you can't thaw the geniuses out after 48 hours? Were they going to hope some other geniuses survived who would figure out a proper thawing for people in longterm deep freeze? I have to assume they already have some method for that, but if so, why have the Keeper describe it in those terms to Darien?

In next week's episode, my single favorite line from this entire series.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Favorite DC Characters #4 - Sgt. Rock

Character: Frank Rock aka Sgt. Rock, the Rock of Easy Company

Creators: Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert

First appearance: Our Army at War #83

First encounter: It could be any one of my dad's old Our Army at War comics. Offhand, I'm going to guess it's either issue 213, 214, or 234. Those are the ones I have the oldest memories of reading through.

Definitive writer: Kanigher and Kubert. Most of my dad's comics are from the period when Kubert took over writing, and Russ Heath drew them, but not all, so I'm going to credit them both.

Definitive artist: JOE KUBERT! Even though Heath drew most of the ones I have, Kubert still did his share, plus the covers, and it's his Rock, a little more worn, a face that's more creased, the whipcord arms, that I think of.

Favorite moment or story: Look, there are a lot of moments of Rock being awesome, beating Nazi's butts and saving the day, but I'm picking Kanigher and Kubert's "Easy's Had It", which was in Our Army at War #203 (I'm not sure if it was a reprint or that was its first appearance). The story is about how all of Easy Company is convinced Rock is this invincible super-soldier and that he's all that keeps Easy going. Rock continually tries to beat it into their heads that no one is indispensable, and everyone is expected to carry on if any of the others fall. Unfortunately, he keeps undercutting his point by saving the entire company with single-handed exploits of awesomeness, as he takes out two Tiger tanks, and later shoots down an Me109. Then Easy Co is sent to take out an entrenched group of Nazis on a hill overlooking a critical road, and Rock gets hit. As Easy Co seemingly has no medic, the guys are convinced Rock is dead (though he's merely stunned). For a moment, all seems lost as his guys carry him down the hill. Then they stop, and set him to, as Bulldozer puts it, 'watch them finish. . . what he started.' Then they start back up that hill as Bulldozer exhorts the guys to show how combat happy they can get. . . for ROCK! It gets a little dusty every time I read that story. 

What I like about him: Well Rock won Toughest Guy in Comics in a 2006 poll conducted on Chris Sims' original Invincible Super-Blog, how can I go wrong with that?

I was not initially a big fan of Sgt. Rock, or any of DC's war comic characters. I wanted superheroes, and my dad had relatively few of those in his collection. And most of what he had was DC, and I wasn't up for Silver Age Superman and the constant stream of tricks he played on his friends. That changed as I got a little older. Part of it was, since the war comics featured characters who were human, they were more in the underdog vein I found I preferred. The Haunted Tank was this little M-3 Stuart that constantly found itself up against German tanks many times larger than it was. The Losers were 4 guys always up against superior numbers (and their own neuroses about being losers). The Unknown Soldier, even with all his skills and tricks, was usually alone in hostile ground, with no hope of back-up if things went wrong.

Then there's Rock. He's tough, but not bullet-proof. He gets wounded, he gets beat up sometimes. He's experienced, but not infallible. The Nazis can still get the drop on him sometimes. He's a good solider, but he's not some specially trained secret agent master of disguise, nor does he know how to fly planes or pilot boats, and he doesn't have the ghost of a Confederate general giving him hints and warnings. The closest thing he has is his "Sergeant's Radar", and that's something he developed by virtue of having fought in the war for awhile. He became a sergeant by, as he puts it in "Battle of the Sergeants", 'just by bein' lucky and lastin' longer than anyone else atop a certain hill I'd rather forget.' Rock might have been a little tougher than your average American citizen who was drafted to fight (by virtue of being a steel mill worker and semi-pro boxer before the war), but at the end of the day, he was mostly a regular guy who had to stay alive long enough to learn how to fight in a war, just like most people.

While Rock is generally a tough, no-nonsense guy, he does have a sense of humor. he's not likely to unleash a gut-bustin' laugh, but he's getting a decent bit of amusement out of Easy's attempt to surprise him with some new duds in the picture up above. Beyond that, he has a solid core of compassion the war hasn't dimmed. Rock looks after the guys in his company, even the ones who cause trouble. When PFC Hogan shows up in issue #214's "Easy Co. . . Where Are You?" and immediately starts in with the sass mouth and questioning Rock's competence, Rock refuse to give in to the urge to whip Hogan's butt. When Hogan gets himself captured (because he thought he could handle everything himself), Rock's determined to save him, and leads the charge on the enemy position to rescue him. When Smitty finds himself too scared to fight, Rock talks to him about how everyone has hang-ups, and the key is to turn them to your advantage. In Rock's case, he cares about his men to the point he nearly gets killed trying to gather the dog tags of the fallen under fire (and we see it in other stories of that time, so this wasn't a one-off thing). But it also manifests itself in the way he doesn't ostracize Smitty for being scared, but instead calmly works with him to conquer his fear, to realize he's part of the group, and while they rely on him, he can also rely on them. That lesson of "Easy Had It" again, that no one person has to win the war themselves, it's everyone's job.

The compassion carries beyond Easy Company, though. Rock's inclination when meeting people not in uniform is to consider them friendly or non-hostile until they give him a reason to think otherwise. In issue #234, when Easy takes part in the invasion of Italy, they make their way into an old pisan's house. He's not out to make any trouble, so when three Tiger tanks rumble up, Rock tells his guys to get ready to hightail, so this family and their home aren't destroyed. As it turns out, the home has a basement, and the pisan encourages Easy to duck down in there with his family, but Rock's first instinct was to draw the war way from these innocent people. A few issues prior to that, Rock was attacked by an enemy soldier in the snow, who turned out the be a 17-year old boy. Rock's exhausted, maybe at the end of his tether, so it haunts him, and ultimately he finds the boy's home to deliver his effects personally to the family. It's not the smartest move, but Rock doesn't want to kill anyone, certainly not a kid, and he felt like he owed it to him. It's one of the key things in DC (and probably also Marvel's) war comics, there's no glorification of the person who loses himself in the opportunity the battlefield presents to kill.

In fact, in issue #233, Rock may have killed one of his own men, Pvt. Johnnie Doe, who was committed to killing anyone he could justify as an enemy. Could be Nazis with their weapons in the air, could be people dressed as farmers carrying guns, Johnnie didn't care, he just shot them. They hadn't said they were resistance fighters, or that they were surrendering, after all. He was just being careful to protect his guys, he might claim, but it's all an excuse. Eventually, he was ready to drop a grenade down the chimney of a house that had enemy soldiers in it, but also a family they were using as shields. Johnnie proclaimed the whole thing a set-up, even as Rock shouts at him not do it, it'll be murder. And then Rock fires in the same panel the grenade explodes, and Rock's left with questions as to whether Johnnie held the grenade too long, or Rock killed him.

Certainly, Frank Rock is a bit of an idealized vision of an American soldier, but I don't think that's a bad thing. He's a citizen solider doing his best to carry out orders, while not spilling any more blood than he can avoid, on either side. He was asked by his country to try and help stem the tide of totalitarianism and help people in other countries be free alongside millions of other people, and that's what he's trying to do. He doesn't take any joy in killing or death, it's just an ugly reality he has to deal with. The goal is to help something better come about, and there have to be people alive afterwards to enjoy that something better for it to mean anything.

Friday, July 25, 2014

October's Shaking Things Up A Little

First things first, Avengers Undercover does end in September. Marvel might want to consider using the same sort of tag DC does in their announcements. "FINAL ISSUE" OR "LAST ISSUE", whichever. Case in point, Hawkeye is projected to ship in October, and it's described as the Final Round between Clint and the tracksuits. It's also listed as the final issue in the fourth trade paperback collection that's popped up in my Amazon recommendations. So maybe it's the last issue. 22 issues in 27 months. 23 if you count the annual. Seems like it's missed more months than that, though it remains to be seen if the book ships when it say it will.

Moving on, there's a few things of relevance. Superior Foes wants us to know it still hasn't been canceled, and neither has anything else I'm buying. Yet. However, as I mentioned earlier this week, I'm skipping the Axis tie-ins for Deadpool.

Deadpool: WHAT?! You're abandoning me?

Only until the Axis tie-ins are over. I'll be back afterwards, assuming the creative team doesn't change.

Deadpool: But Axis is going to change everything, and none of it will ever be the same again!

Yeah, that's why the Red Skull is running around in Onslaught's old clothes. And why the world is being covered in hate. I seem to recall it was being covered in fear just three years ago. Fear Itself ring a bell?

Deadpool: That was totally different. Now the Avengers and the X-Men are going to work together!

Hey, it's great the heroes will actually fight villains instead of each other, but your Original Sin tie-ins haven't convinced me there's going to be anything worth seeing.

Deadpool: Hater.

Scram would you? I think the birders are rifling through your pouches! The only other possible change of note is Ann Nocenti's going to be writing a Klarion series. I have no idea what to expect whatsoever, other than it probably won't resemble Klarion's Valentine's Day team-up with Stephanie Brown. Oh, and it'll probably be canceled in 8 issues. So I'll probably try it. Why not? I know, everybody's all giggly in anticipation over the new direction for Batgirl, and I hope it does well, if only because it might encourage DC to diversify the tone of their line a little more. But, Barbara's still not a Batgirl I'm particularly interested in, so it'll fall to the rest of you to make it a success.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wolverine's Causing Some Problems For Me

One problem I have with Avengers Undercover is this idea that the kids won't receive any benefit of the doubt for their actions, because they're considered damaged goods. That they were considered unstable after Murderworld, and now they straight up murdered Arcade, and that's it, they don't get to be good guys or make any excuses for their actions.

The problem with this, as he so often is in such matters, is Wolverine. The kids were put through Hell, and when given the opportunity to face their tormentor (who had in no way repented or attempted to make amends for his past actions) they killed him. How is this different from the relationship between Weapon X and Wolverine? They experimented and tortured him, and now he kills people connected to the project whenever he gets the chance, and has done so for quite some time.This isn't taking into account his typical slaughterings of the Hand, the Yakuza, random biker gangs or hate groups, etc., etc.

That Wolverine's done these things isn't the problem. It's that he's done them, and continues to do them, and it doesn't seem to hurt his standing with the rest of the costumed hero set at all that's the issue. If Wolverine can kill people for no greater offense than they stand between him and the guy he really wants to kill, and he can still be headmaster of a school, serve on 3 different X-teams, and be an Avengers, why can't Hazmat, Cammi, and the rest be cut a little slack for cutting Arcade? I'm not saying sign them up for the Avengers - frankly, you could hardly blame any of them if they never wanted to do the hero bit ever again - but they shouldn't be in a situation where they're being thrown into SHIELD lock-up and treated like super-villains.

I think sometimes the worst thing that happened in the Marvel Universe was Wolverine became popular. Say what you will about whether the Punisher fits in the Marvel Universe, at least he's still generally regarded with wariness or outright distrust by the heroes (his odd team-up with Dr. Strange in Original Sin aside). I don't know if Wolverine's reputation was ever that bad, but in the day, Spider-Man and Daredevil fought him as often as they worked with him, and Captain America told Logan the Avengers would never have him. Even the X-Men weren't quite sure of him. Most of the time he was a trusted friend and ally, but every so often, he'd lose his temper, lash out at them with his claws, storm off on his own, disregard somebody's orders. Even they couldn't entirely drop their guards around him. He was a bit of a wild card, because he wasn't as merciful as the other costumed do-gooders. If it had been him on top of the bridge watching Gwen Stacy be knocked off, the Spider-writers in the '90s would have had a heck of a time explaining how Norman Osborn engineered the Clone Saga when he'd been hacked into little bits.

Which might have been a blessing for all of us, as it would have spared us the next 15 years of attempts to make Norman more like the Kingpin or Lex Luthor, but I digress.

The key was despite Logan's penchant for bloody revenge, he still had enough kinder, more noble moments you could understand how the X-Men stuck by him, even if the rest of the heroes kept their distance. He was capable of warmth, bravery, sacrifice, compassion, all those good qualities. He didn't always default to them, but they were there.

The problem is, while those qualities haven't vanished over time, neither has all the killing. If anything, it's getting worse, as he grew overexposed and writers couldn't think of any better stories than to have Wolverine slice up 50 bad guys. No, 100 bad guys. No, 200 bad guys. And the bad guys all have laser chainsaws! Ahem. Until you get to Millar who has Logan setting out to kill everyone in HYDRA, which is apparently over 40,000 people. I don't know if he managed it or not (given HYDRA's continued existence, I'm guessing not), but that's ridiculous. Yet Logan only seems to grow more accepted. He and Spidey have breakfast at Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. He and Ben Grimm share brews and play cards. Everyone seems to have simply decided that's who Logan is and they'll just ignore that massive pile of bodies behind him. Which makes it kind of strange when they get bent out of shape about some teen heroes killing one guy, or they treat Deadpool like garbage because he kills people for money (but also saves the world sometimes), even though Wade has a legitimate mental illness.

I don't know what the solution is. Wolverine could stop killing people, or at least kill people much less frequently. Him being dead ought to help in that regard, at least until he comes back. Though I wouldn't put it past Logan to continue to kill people after he's dead. Or, go the other way, let him keep killing people, but make this an actual sticking point, where the Avengers aren't so happy to have him around, and making him headmaster of a school is not a good idea. All that ninja-killing has to be cutting into his time and availability to handle the administrative duties of the position in a timely fashion. Let him be a part-time history teacher, or something. Professor Howlett's Tour of Deaths of the 20th Century. The problem there is trying to explain the sudden about-face everyone would have to experience to put Logan back on the "not approved" list.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What I Bought 7/3/2014 - Part 5

All right, last pair of comics for a couple of weeks. One book has a guest penciler, the other one is getting back its usual artist.

She-Hulk #5, by Charles Soule (writer), Ron Wimberly (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I have never tried that "tape all the pieces of evidence on the wall" thing you see people do. It always looks too messy and disorganized for me. I'd just get distracted by it.

We're into the "let's split up, gang, and look for clues" portion of the investigation. So Jen visits the Shocker, who is both more and less pitiful than he is in the book we'll be discussing further down. But Jen manages to avoid a fight, and the Shocker manages to remember a few things after he zaps himself with his gauntlets. Patsy goes to visit Tigra and they have a pleasant chat until Patsy mentions the name of the guy who brought the case against them. Then Tigra tries to kill her, and herself, though Patsy narrowly averts both those things. Angie's up in North Dakota trying to find the original documents, which she does, but the person at the courthouse is about to shoot her. Which means it's probably a bad thing Jen wraps up the issue calling Wyatt Wingfoot to discuss the case with him.

So we have post-hypnotic implanted suggestions, a mysterious person was up to something and needed two villains with similar shticks to help, and the resultant effort by the heroes to stop it destroyed a town. I have no idea how all that pieces together. I also don't know if it's significant that Wimberly used the same spiral in the eyes thing for the country clerk when he's getting ready to shoot, and for Angie and the monkey when they saw whatever it was they saw in the ruins of that town. Is she (or the monkey) connected to all this?  Is there some sort of illusion cast over the town, and it requires a similar effect to the hypnotic suggestion to see through it?

Can't say I care for Wimberly's art. Everything's too wrinkled, and he draws things so I feel like I'm looking through a fish-eye lens, kind of like Tan Eng Huat does, which is not an effect I'm terribly fond of. He does good work with the sound effects, though. I especially like the SCREEEE when Angie hits the brakes, the way it follows her across the panel. Don't understand why he uses quote marks around them sometimes (like the THMMM when Jen lands on the fire escape. I like Renzi's colors. They're very, "Day-Glo" is the word that comes to mind, and maybe a little unusual, but they evoke the mood well and make sure things stand out. Angie's car against the frozen expanses of North Dakota, or that pink-purple sky over Tigra and Hellcat's heads. It's a good backdrop for their color scheme, and it looks odd enough to put the reader slightly on edge.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #12, by Nick Spencer (writer), Steve Lieber (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Hmm, I get that Wimberly is trying to make their costumes look like they fit as real clothes would, but no. He made the Shocker look even dumber than usual, like it's some common hood trying to pretend to be the Shocker with a custom made ski-mask.

After two issues of stupid time wasting crap, back to the actual storyline. I mean, jeez, did Lieber and Spencer think they were Fraction and Aja, going to stall for time with a bunch of stupid ancillary nonsense? Whatever. Boomerang manages to convince his team that it was really the Chameleon who screwed them over, which wouldn't have worked if the Owl wasn't there backing him up (because Spencer's Owl is about 1/100th as smart as Mark Waid's Owl). And the Owl wants them to help get back his painting from the Chameleon. He even went out and hired a bunch more super-villains for Boomerang to dupe, er I mean lead in an assault. Isn't this a little small-time for Bi-Beast, though? The others, sure, I could see them getting on board (maybe not Shriek), but I kind of thought Bi-Beast was into destroying humanity or taking over the world, stuff like that. Just being cannon fodder here, so I guess it doesn't matter. Boomerang suckers Overdrive into taking a fake of the painting (because Fred's such an expert on art he can detect forgeries now?), and that leaves Boomerang free to loot the safe. The other thread is that Hydro-Man told Hammerhead how Shocker has Silvermane's head, and now Hammerhead's guys are going to storm Hermann's apartment. Hmm, now would be a good time for She-Hulk to show up and ask more questions.

I'm still having a hard time buying Boomerang being smart enough to even come up with a scam like this, let alone keep it together this long. He's a putz. He's always been a putz. He couldn't out-maneuver the Beetle for leadership in the Sinister Syndicate, because he's a dope. Fortunately, everyone else in the book is an even bigger dope. It's like the Futurama episode where the giant brains make everyone except Fry complete idiots. But there are no giant brains to be seen. The book is still funny, but remember how I said a couple of weeks ago that I've grown really impatient waiting for fictional characters to get their comeuppance? I'm kind of itching to see his team kick his butt.

All that (extensive) complaining aside, credit to Spencer and Lieber for making me care about the Shocker. He's a chump, the guy who figures if you say you're a team or a gang, it means something, in spite of all evidence in his life to the contrary. I've always kind of liked the Shocker, because at his core, he's just a thief. He doesn't care about world conquest or bloody revenge. If he never saw Spider-Man again, I'm sure he'd be just fine with that. But he can't help himself being a thief. He either can't, or won't change, and so he's stuck. There's always going to be a hero there to ruin his day. Now he's got to deal with the fact the people in the same boat as him don't even treat him well. I'd really like to see him get a good moment here, just trounce Hammerhead and his guys, but it's probably not going to happen.

OK, that's weird. I was looking back over it, and the Owl says he hired more guys, and that Fred requested 11 more villains, Fred's response being that now they're the Sinister 16. Except with only 4 members (Boomerang, Overdrive, the Beetle, Speed Demon) to start with, that would only be the Sinister 15. But Lieber drew 12 villains, which would make 16. I'm confused. I also notice Speed Demons is nowhere to be seen during the attack on the Chamleon, so either he's got something planned with Fred, or he's hanging back, waiting to pounce when Fred tries his double-cross.

It's interesting how much more subdued Rosenberg's colors are here than on Nightcrawler. It fits; there's not weird magic, super-powered robots, or schools with training rooms that cost billions of dollars. It's a bunch of cheap crooks running around making fools of themselves. It's basic greed and stupidity, just dressed up a little.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Apparently I Don't Trust Anyone In The Marvel U Anymore

A few months back, I was complaining about how, in the pages of Avengers Undercover, Constrictor part of Zemo's little cabal, seemingly get to stand on the same level with what I see as much higher-quality villains. And then I noted that all four of the main villains - Constrictor, Zemo, Madame Masque, Hellstrom - have been heroes or helped heroes in the past. And since then, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that something about the whole situation feels off.

Both sides are trying to run scams, of course. The kids have their plan to go along with the baddies until they can find a way to bring Zemo down and rehabilitate their images. The villains are trying to snooker the kids by presenting being part of the gang as really cool and awesome. And Hellstrom's lying through his teeth when he tells Nico he hasn't done anything to Cullen. We know that's nonsense, because we saw Zemo asking if Hellstrom had Cullen under control at the end of the first issue.

Also, the whole situation with Arcade screamed "Set-Up!" The bad guy's plan to get Cullen his shot at Arcade just so happened to be ready to go right when the others came looking for Cullen. But at the same time, there was no opportunity to check if all the kids were on board with it. Nope, just chuck them into the middle of it. Then, there's how convenient it is that SHIELD just so happens to find Arcade's secret lair - which has presumably been up and running for awhile - right as the kids are trying to bail. This one could be explained as Deathlocket disabled whatever jamming or scrambling devices Murderworld had when she shut down Arcade's powers, but it seems questionable those systems were shut down (even though they're hardly related to Arcade's powers), but not the recording or transmitting equipment that would broadcast Hazmat killing him across the globe. And wasn't it convenient that SHIELD brought along some mages who could block Nico and Cullen's abilities, even though Arcade's never demonstrated mystical abilities? And rescuing them from lock-up makes it look like the kids pulled a jailbreak.

It's pretty obvious the whole thing with Arcade was Zemo's way of boxing them in, so his offer looks that much better, so maybe it's the only option, really. But I can't shake the feeling there's more to it than that. That conversation Zemo had with someone over the phone. The smart money is it's Techno/the Fixer, but what if it's Tony Stark or Hank Pym? I have this feeling the kids are being tested by the Avengers (or SHIELD) as part of some psychological evaluation. What's their decision-making process like, what direction does their moral compass point, how deeply affected are they by their time in Murderworld, how much of a potential threat are they, stuff like that.  It would be really messed up, but a lot of alleged good guys seem to be operating under a vague umbrella of the ends justifying some really awful means, so I could see it.

Now you say, why would these bad guys help with that? Who says they are? Constrictor and Hellstrom have both done the good guy thing before, they could easily be in one of their good phases, or else they're being paid well (or Constrictor could just be a dupe). Zemo and Madame Masque not as much, but by the nature of their outfits, there's no guarantee those are the real Zemo and Masque. We haven't seen their faces, it could be Winter Soldier and the Black Widow for all we know. If Kate Bishop can pretend to be Madame Masque through an auction, I'm pretty sure Natasha could pull it off in her sleep.

Maybe, instead of letting the bad guys infiltrate their peacekeeping organizations, the heroes decided to infiltrate the bad guys, take control, and try to limit the damage. What have we seen the bad guys do so far, besides beat each other up? The kids killed Arcade with an assist from Hellstrom, and a bunch of them attacked an A.I.M. installation. And only Captain America shows up to get involved? With roughly 5 million heroes as part of the Avengers these days? Uh-huh. Sure, the villains could theoretically use AIM stuff to cause all sorts of trouble, but given the structure of the organization they're in, it'll only happen if the top dogs tell them to. And in this scenario I've constructed, that won't happen because the head honchos are really good guys. There was the attack on a SHIELD base at the end of the first issue, but that could be a put-on, just to maintain appearances

I'd say the chance I'm right is 10% or less, that I'm jumping at shadows because the writers these days seem so inclined to have heroes do shitty things and try to justify it somehow. I'm not even sure I'd want to be right, because it would such a lousy trick for the good guys to pull on the kids, but it's an idea I've been mulling over for some time, so there you have it.