Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Characters Who Have Killed

I've got an idea for a little study, but I need your help. Yes, just like Meatloaf at the Special Olympics, I am asking for the mighty comics bloggers to lend a hand to this poor boy. Now that I've run that into the ground, here's what I'm talking about.

I need to know about heroes who have killed, but have since sworn not to do so again. The death doesn't have to have occurred during their career as a costumed hero, it can have happened during an earlier part of their life (soldier, cop, mugging victim, etc.,). Cassandra Cain would be an example, even though she ended up killing again. In fact, if you could include whether they've kept that vow up until now, I'd appreciate that.

One thing, it needs to have at least been something referenced by the character at some point. What I mean is, Batman and Superman both used to kill criminals, but now they don't (Mostly? Is that time Supes killed 3 Kryptonians in continuity?). What I'm not clear on is the specifics of that change. Was there a point in their books, where each said "I'm not going to kill anymore", or did the writers just change the character at some point with no real explanation provided as to why the character's beliefs about killing had changed. If it's the former, by all means include them. If it's the latter, you can mention them, but I'm not sure that I'll count them.

The vague impression I've got right now is that in American comics, it's pretty much all-or-nothing. Either you don't kill, and never have (Spider-Man), or you killed before you were a "hero", and you continue to do that (Wolverine). In Japanese comics, I've noticed at least a few characters who for various have killed quite a lot at an earlier time in their life, and have since sworn, either to themselves or someone else, not to do so again (Kenshin and Ryoko come to mind quickly).

I may be over-generalizing here, but in manga, characters seem to become somewhat less bloodthirsty, or at least, killing is truly a last resort, only when they can't stop the person otherwise. In comics characters either remain the same, at least within the same version. There seems to be a difference between original (Earth-2?) Batman, and the current one. Barring that, they become more violent. They kill, and that causes a descent into greater darkness. I'd probably put Green Arrow and Colossus into this category. It just doesn't seem that characters go the route of getting less dark.

So any information you have on characters, cultural differences, your opinions based on what I've thrown out here, let's hear it.

Monday, February 27, 2006

That Message Was Jumbled, Please Repeat

For what is likely the first and last time, I want to talk about the Shining Knight. I was watching the episode of JLU "Patriot Acts" (because Cartoon Network in the U.S. is way the hell behind the rest of the world, apparently), and something just didn't add up. Run with me here, OK?

So S.K. is criticizing Dirty Harry because in it, Clint Eastwood doesn't follow his captain's orders. S.K. says that dishonors his captain. But then he tells Eiling a story about how he didn't obey an order to destroy a whole village, because he knew it was wrong. And he tells Eiling that the idea that a soldier is supposed to follow orders no matter what is why this time is so screwed up.

So what was his problem with Dirty Harry's actions again? Harry recognized the orders he was given as being, well to be blunt, dumb. Coddling a person who enjoys killing as much as Scorpio did? Harry finds that to be a stupid order, so he ignored it. Granted, it wasn't so good to ignore rules about warrants or Miranda rights (though I did enjoy Harry stomping on the guy's injured leg), but ultimately, Harry was right.

I guess the best I can figure is they hadn't finished watching the movie yet, and maybe Shining Knight would have changed his mind farther along. I don't know, maybe I missed something. But I'm with Vigilante; Shining Knight needs to watch what he says about Mr. Clint Eastwood.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Movies

I watched 2001:A Space Odyssey for the first time a few weekends ago. I kind of wish I hadn't wasted my time. It was a lot like Citizen Kane in that I can see why people gush over it from a cinematography standpoint, but I can't see anyone watching it because they find it enjoyable. I wound up being extremely bored (just like with Citizen Kane), which is funny, because I really enjoyed the book, as well as the next three books in the series. I guess I read faster than Kubrick directs. But this got me thinking about movies.

It seems like there are certain movies everyone has seen. And it also seems like I often haven't seen these movies, for whatever reason. I've never watched any of the Godfather movies. The idea of them just doesn't catach me. I've never watched E.T., which has surprised more than a few of my friends. Nathan always tells me I need to watch Field of Dreams. Yeah, I'm going to waste two-and-a-half hours on Kevin Costner. I learned my lesson after Dances with Wolves about that.

What about you? What are some movies that it seems like everyone you know has seen, but you haven't? Do you have any interest in actually seeing them?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Free-for-all #2 - Comic thoughts

Just a few thoughts on the books I bought this week:

I really want to know the circumstances between Wolverine (hereafter referred to as some form of James Howlett) and Bucky. Why would Bucky kill James' loved ones? Besides the obvious explanation that he's actually the Bucky from the Ultimate Universe, so his role model was the jerk that calls himself Captain America in that universe. Which means the Bucky in the Ultimate Universe may be the Marvel version. Because he's old, he can't tell this isn't the same Cap he worked with during WW2.

Seriously though, I am interested, I just wish it hadn't taken Way four parts of a five part story to accomplish that.

I think that Ultimate Peter Parker's life is difficult enough without Nick Fury actively trying to make it worse, to "test" him. I think what's going to happen is, that Fury is going to unleash those "Slayers" he confiscated (I mean, liberated) on Peter, and simultaneously use that genetic paralyzer S.H.I.E.L.D. has on Peter, to block his powers, to really put Pete through the wringer. Good thing he'll have Spider-Gir. . . I'm sorry, I can't call her that. She's Shadowcat. Period.

This could wind up being like that story Larsen did, when Peter asked to have his powers removed, but then his enemies kept causing trouble, so Peter wound up trying to fight the Scorpion without powers.

I'm still not sure why we're seeing so much of the Squadron Supreme these days, regardless of incarnation. Is this supposed to be Marvel's version of the Pocket Dimension?

Should I just assume we're never going to see Peter use his "new" powers for as long as he has this spiffy armor? Or should I just assume we're never going to see Peter use his "new" powers ever again, thus making "The Other" a complete waste of four months?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Free-for-all - Non-comic thoughts

First off, go check out Len's blog, Commanding Thoughts. You'll do it because I told you.

Second, why does Nintendo keep pushing back the release of The Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess? First it was to be released in November of 2005, then April of '06, and now it's June. Fantastic. Hopefully it's because they're trying to get all the bugs worked out, and not because they've decided to make it a Revolution launch title. If it's the latter, it'll probably be 2008 before I play it (I'm far too cheap to buy a new game console). Still, when you're console got poned as badly worldwide by the PS2 as the Gamecube did (it's even worse if you look just at the U.S.), I'd think you might not want to piss off your customers by pushing back the most eagerly anticipated game again, and again, and again.

That being said, I am enjoying The Legend of Zelda:The Windwaker. It's even made me stop my rotating game schedule (I was playing about 8 different games for about two hours at a time there for a couple months). I've gotten used to the visual style, even if I still don't love it. Cruising around in the boat is pretty fun, especially once it stops making you go to certain places, and lets you travel as you wish. SPOILER WARNING! I was a little disappointed that Tetra seemed to become so demure when she found out she was Zelda, but I guess that could be chalked up to shock from finding out the truth. She had been so brash up until then, taking crap from no one, kinda Huntress-like, only a good leader.

I played a quick game of Heroclix today, and won. Len gave me a rundown of the rules, and I went up against Jack. I did win, but I was playing with Len's clix, my opposition didn't have his full compliment, and I'm pretty sure he held back. There was a moment early where he was going to do something with Emerald Empress, and Len asked him not to do that to a guy on his first time. Still, pity victory, I'll take it.

SPOILER WARNING! Watching Evangelion last night, it occurred to me that the humans should have lost already. Their Evas are actually Angels, but they've got "armor" on, which actually serves to bind their power. So when they fight, their strength is restrained. How then, are they able to defeat any Angels, whose powers aren't restrained? I suppose in a series as messed up as Evangelion, I shouldn't worry about stuff like that. I further suppose I should just ask Papafred. He is after all, the one who taught me that Evangelion really has three endings, and so you should just pick the ending you like best and treat that one as the "true" ending. Who explained all kinds of things about Rei Ayanami's origin that I would have never gotten on my own, not to mention all the Judeo-Christian symbolism. I'm sure he'd give me some line about how the human soul bonded to the Eva, and that makes it more powerful. Of course, when you've watched the series so many times that you know what the characters are saying when you're watching it in Japanese with no subtitles, and you don't speak Japanese, you damn well ought to know the series inside and out.

A few years back, Papafred takes a film history class. For this, he had to watch a classic film and write a fifteen page paper on it. Papafred was a Computer Science major, so writing astute film analysis is not really his strength. Of course, neither is English in general, just ask Dr. Gathman. There's a reason why he dubbed me his "thesaurus". Anyway, he chose Forbidden Planet (it always amuses me that Leslie Nielsen was once a "serious" actor), and gave it his best shot to describe the undertones of repressed sexuality in the film. Which included our favorite dialogue, "Randy (the Robot), where have you been? I was giving myself a lube job."

Yeah, I'll bet.

Anyway, Papafred got through it, passed the class, and that was that, but we always joked that if he could have written the paper over Evangelion, he could have gotten fifteen pages easily. Hell, in fifteen pages, he probably wouldn't even have gotten past all the stuff about Rei.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Future of Cassandra Cain

Now that it's been a week since the release of the final issue of Batgirl I figure it's safe to discuss openly, without spoiler warnings. But mainly I want to talk about what's next for her.

It seems pretty obvious she isn't Batgirl anymore. Even if I didn't have the impression she renounced the title, killing somone doesn't seem to be acceptable behavior to Batman. So I kind of doubt he'd take her back, even if she were inclined to ask. So what then? Is she doomed to just fade into the background of the DC Universe, someone ultimately remembered only by the fans? Well, let's ignore that distasteful possibility and try to figure out some others.

I think the destruction of Bludhaven, for no real reason other than Deathstroke was pissed off that Nightwing showed him up, is the true catalyst for Cassandra's changed outlook. She seems to recognize that it's kind of dumb to let these lunatics like Luthor, the Joker, and Slade Wilson run around killing whomever they please, with the only punishment being they get locked up, usually for a limited period of time. I think Cassandra has concluded some people can't change, and the only way to deal with them, is elimination. It doesn't mean she's necessarily happy about it. I don't believe she took any pleasure from killing her mother, and accepting her "legacy", so to speak, but she understands it may be an acceptable response. This isn't to say she becomes the Punisher, just killing all the time. But I think Cassandra could realize when she's dealing with someone who can't be reasoned with, that won't care about jail time, and in those scenarios, she would be prepared to take that final step.

That being said, she shouldn't go the Deadshot route. She shouldn't become a killer-for-hire. I aslo doubt she's going to be joining the Birds of Prey at this point, although Barbara could try to bring into the group, to try and "rehabilitate" Cassandra.

I could see her just being a wandering vigilante, traveling the world, dealing with problems as she comes across them. This wouldn't have to involve killing, or even violence. I think her ability to communicate should continue to improve, and her ability to read people's emotions would prove valuable in trying to settle some disputes through negotiations. She could cut through any posturing bullcrap.

Two other ideas that came to me today:

Cass joins the Outsiders. Supposedly, they're going to deal with the problems the other teams don't want to handle, because it would require getting too dirty. I think at this point, "getting dirty" isn't something Cassandra would have a huge problem with, and the Outsiders could do a lot worse.

Cassandra is the "surprise!" member of the Secret Six, maybe under the name Kasumi (the one she used in Justice League Elite). Think about it. The way Luthor formed the team, it was designed to have enemies that were familiar with pretty much every heroes rouge's gallery, and who hopefully had some sort of rep with them. I'd say "the girl who killed Lady Shiva" would have a rep with some people. Maybe not all the Bat-villains, they're too crazy (or dumb), but there would be some healthy respect/fear for her. Plus, it would make it a little harder for the Bat-family to try to catch the Six, with one of their friends on the squad.

I got to say, I like that idea the best of all. What are your thoughts/predictions?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What I Bought 2/22/06

It's a little later than normal, but it's been a bit of a hectic day. So here we go, four books, spoiler warnings, yadda, yadda, etc.

Wolverine #39 - And so we reach part 4 of 5 in this story. I got to admit I was stunned by the realization, mostly because I haven't felt like much was happening. And for the second month in a row, I finished reading the book with a sense that it hadn't been finished. Like there were supposed to be more pages this month. I don't know why that would be, the issue ended in a perfectly logical place. Maybe it's because there hasn't been much dialogue, I guess I've grown used to Bendisian yak-fests.

Anyway, Wolverine is hunting for Bucky. I refuse to call him Winter Soldier. I swear that is the stupidest name ever. This has lead him to Bucky's current stomping grounds, which is apparently the nation formerly known as Yugoslavia. Hmm, when dealing with a character with the repuation Bucky has apparently gained (in his universe, not ours) over the last fifty years or so, I would think it would be a mistake to go after the guy on his turf. But the only other option is to draw him to yours, and I doubt Logan could devise a way to do that, so here they are in Belgrade.

The fight between the two is actually kind of sporadic. It starts and stops for various reasons. But there is a sense of brutality in the fight. This isn't too much about flashy moves and ninja tricks. Nope, nobody here is using salad bowls to cross moats, although we do learn that covering yourself in ink is an easy way to hide from enemies, with no short-term health ramifications. Where was I? Oh yeah, the fight. So it's kind of an ugly fight, mostly cheap shots. And at the end, we find out why Logan is so eager to get after Bucky. And it isn't because Buck helped him escape from Department K. I would say I'd be looking forward to next month, if I thought there was any chance Editorial would let James Howlett knock off Cap's "little buddy". Still, I'm hopeful there'll be some sort resolution that evryone can be happy with. Maybe Howlett could castrate Bucky. Not a bad issue, so 3.5 out of 5.

Ultimate Spider-Man #90 - Things I learned in this issue: It's hard to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. (without dying). Silver Sable doesn't like it when you kill her soldiers. If you fire a person, they may put a former espionage agent in a high tech suit and send him to kill you. Nick Fury likes to watch people have bad days. Nick Fury is planning to make Peter's life harder in the near future. Nick Fury is a manipulative asshole. OK, I knew that already. I did learn that Peter really needs to kill everyone in the Ultimate Universe. Seriously, beat Gah' Lak' Tus to it. When even Cyclops is laughing at a crappy made-for-TV movie that involves you, it's time to start breaking some necks.

But that's just silly. Peter wouldn't do that. Even though he probably wishes he was back to just being hated and accused of being a multi-armed freak, as opposed to being laughed at. I did enjoy this issue. I may not have indicated that up to this point, but the fight between Peter and Ultimate Vulture was well done. I really like that Vulture suit. I know it isn't original (the Vulture had one like it in Amazing Spider-Man back in the '90s), but damn, I love those feather-blades! Freaking awesome! What can I say, I'm very visually oriented. It seems like quite a lot happened. The Silver Sable thing got resolved, as I believe she'll want to stay far away from Spider-Man and the crap that surrounds his life. We know who was gunning for "Idiot Who Runs Roxxon", we know Nick Fury's got stuff planned. And we know Nick Fury can do entirely too much stuff. Where's the checks and balances people? Stop the reckless theft and appropriation of high tech gizmos by one-eyed men! 5 out of 5.

Exiles #77 - Man, the Squadron Supreme are everywhere these days. You've got Supreme Power, which is just Ultimate Squadron Supreme, and a few of them have been popping up in New Thunderbolts. And now this. I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or not.

The good thing here is that with a new team member (Miguel O'Hara, aka Spider-Man of 2099), they have to explain things to him, which helps newbie reader (i.e, me) catch up. I find out why exactly the Exiles had been jumping around from reality to reality (fixing damage done by the weird bug guys in the Crystal Palace), and that chasing Proteus around isn't part of that, and that the Exiles have screwed things up in the last two universes they visited.

Anyway, Proteus helps the Squadron out of a jam, and uses Mimic's memories to convince the Squadron he's on their side, and the Exiles are dangerous loose cannons. Which is true to an extent. They run around, altering realities, and from the view of the people in those universes, it may not be for the better. Right about then, the Exiles catch up, and we get the misunderstanding brawl, as Proteus bails to another reality. Hmm, the Squadron is essentially the JLA (a good version, not the crap they trotted out there the last few issues). The Exiles biggest gun is, Sabretooth? Longshot? Yeah, that'll end well for the title characters.

So, they're in deep stuff. I mean Proteus would be hard to stop on most any day. But now he has the Hulk 2099 body (supposedly more powerful than current Hulk), so he doesn't even need to use his powers. I am very happy with this book so far. There was talking, fighting, potentially some set-up for long standing problems, and this book still has a letter column! Hell yes! 5 out of 5.

Amazing Spider-Man #529 - I'm a little concerned about where that stinger thing between his legs is coming from. OK, cheap joke over. So Peter goes out to fight some crime, that's nice. And Tony Stark is still a voyeur, I mean an eagle statue with communication devices in the Parker's bedroom? Freak. They should have had him putting the moves on MJ, not Logan. Tony explains why there was no evidence of Mary Jane's arm having been broken by Morlun in any of the later issues of "The Other". I wonder whether that was actually planned, or if the artist for Marvel Knights Spider-Man screwed up, and they just decided "Screw it. For the rest of this her arm looks normal. When it's over, JMS will have Stark give some goofy-ass answer as to why." Peter does a nice job of saving a hostage, and the cops take advantage of the situation to scare the crap out of the criminals. At the end, Tony (and his gigantic forehead) offers to make Peter his protege. This has bad idea written all over it. I don't mean for the writers, I mean for Peter. Tony is telling Peter, "I can't tell you what it is I need you for, until you take a blood oath to not tell anyone else about what it is that I'm going to use you for. That includes Captain America." There's no possible way that can be a good thing. Peter should just say no thanks, and if Tony is angered by this, then give back the costume, so you don't feel you owe him anything.

Oh yes, the costume. I haven't really discussed it in this review. Here's my take: It's hideous. Spider-Man does not need a suit with all sorts of goofy crap in it. He is not a normal human like Tony Stark. He has spider-powers, powers which have enabled him to beat almost every villain in the Marvel Universe at some time or the other. All Peter needs is his web-shooters (I still don't see how he can use organic web-shooters if he has gigantic stingers popping out of the same location), and a costume that doesn't interfere with his powers. reed Richards could make that in like three minutes, and it would probably look much better. Fortunately, Peter is going to come to his senses in the next few months and dump this thing, so I'm prepared to accept it as just another mistake Peter makes, like that time he teamed up with the Fabulous Frog-Man. And now I will speak of it no more. 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Things I Think About #20

Back when Straczynski first started on Amazing Spider-Man, I thought I knew how his first story was going to go. Ezekiel had been telling Peter all this stuff about how he was a totem, and Morlun was a predator that hunted totems, and there was no way that Peter could beat him. And I was sure I knew what would happen. Peter would have to team up with another totem. And it'd be the Puma.

Now granted, when Ezekiel was telling Peter all this stuff, he told Pete that all these animal-themed villains were 'wannabe' totems, and he made a mention of "cougars", which I guess meant the Puma. But I figured, how could the guy not be a totem? Thomas Fireheart's the product of a specific breeding line, combined with mystical. . . stuff. That sounded like someone who should be a totem to me. Of course, it's more likely that he's like Ezekiel, and he took the power when he wasn't supposed to have it. I wonder if that means there is a creature made out of hundreds of mountain lions somewhere in the Marvel Universe. On second thought, I don't think I wonder about that at all.

I only bring this up because Puma will be appearing in Sensational Spider-Man in a couple of months (too bad I won't be buying it) and it got me thinking about him.

He seemed like such a weird character. Native American, who doesn't seem all that interested in his heritage, quietly expressed contempt for it a few times, but still accepts his supposed role as protector of his tribe.

He's rich as hell, owns his own company, yet his first introduction in comics was as an assassin for hire. Why would he need to do that? Kicks and giggles?

He was capable of going into berserk rages Wolverine would be proud of, which seem to have increased in strength and occurence over time (which might be a sign that he wasn't supposed to have this power), but he's still deeply concerned with honor. Probably from that time he spent in Japan (I think until New Avengers, Spider-Man may have been the only character in the Marvel U. who hadn't been there. I'm only half-joking.)

Honor meant so much to him that he bought the Daily Bugle and turned it into a completely pro-Spidey paper, even sending Jameson packing, to make amends to Spider-Man for the past hardships he caused. Yet, he wouldn't hesitate to claw Spidey's face up if he believed that Parker had shown that he wasn't worthy of that.

I'd say ultimately he was a victim of overuse in the '90s (which is a pretty common happenstance), and that they kept making him more and more vicious. He became more about just clawing people up, and less about any real reason. At least when he appeared in Wolverine a few years back, he explained that the "puma" was stronger and making him participate in things like the tournament Logan was in. I'm not sure how great of an explanation that is, but at least it was something, besides just "I can't stand being in your debt anymore Parker! I must KILL YOU!!" They did they same thing with the Lizard. He stopped trying to kill all the mammals so reptiles could rule the world, and just turned into a mindless killing machine. I guess you gotta try new stuff, but I think they went to that particular well a few too many times. I mean that takes a lot of the personality out of the character, you know?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Things I Think About #19

You know what I would have liked to have seen in House of M? Instead of just widespread loss of mutants, a widespread loss of telepaths, primarily the more powerful ones.

But, how would that work with the Scarlet Witch, you say? I say, why does it have to be her behind it at all? How about Jamie Braddock, Junior, the brother of Psylocke and Captain Britain? He can warp reality, and the X-books have been hinting at something big coming up with him anyway, so why not move it up a bit? He could be trying to make a perfect world by, I don't know, altering the reality within people's minds, altering their perceptions, and thus that alters reality (mind over matter I suppose). Telepaths could either be extraordinarily sensitive to it causing their minds to collapse from seeing all these different minds perceiving a "perfect" reality, or they could be a threat to the plan, by using their abilities to reassert the "true" reality in people's minds. Though I would have to demand that he wear some freaking pants, please! Sorry ladies.

For that matter, what about The Sentry? It's already been established that he has psychic abilities powerful enough to make the entire world forget about him, and to a certain extent seems to be able to alter the way things are to suit what he believes them to be. Hell, use him for that, it'd make him a lot more interesting than he is currently. Oh, I'm sorry, I guess that would be The Void, that would do something like that. Whatever, six of one, half-dozen of the other.

I know that they did this in Earth X, where the Skull's telepathic abilities manifested, and at that moment, every telepath died. I'm not suggesting that, but I think on a lesser scale it would work in a situation where there was a reason for it (namely, telepaths interfering with some crazy/evil person's plan to make the world the way they want it, as opposed to Wanda just concluding mutants are the problem with everything, so she wipes them out, except for the ones Dr. Strange protected, and oh yeah, a few others for some reason or the other), that many of the more powerful telepaths would be removed from the board, so to speak.

The way I figure it, the top-level ones probably have their minds in other peoples' minds pretty much constantly. Just a little bit, and they probably aren't even aware of it. The more powerful the mind, the more minds they're in. It just a unconscious relaxation, letting their minds flow a bit. So if the reality altering occurred quickly, which would be prudent, a telepath could be subjected to multiple realities before they knew what was going on, doing severe damage to their sanity. That leaves them as less of an immediate threat, but a prudent evildoer would still eliminate them, just so they don't pull themselves together and mess things up later. Man, that sounded a lot better when I thought it up. Irregardless. . .

Granted I'm biased, as I'm just really sick of telepaths, and the idea of them bothers me, but I still think that done right (and isn't that always the caveat?), it would be much better than what actually took place. Honestly, the number of telepaths in the Marvel Universe is pretty ridiculous, especially in relation to overall numbers of mutants. It seems like you wouldn't be able to walk down the street there without bumping into one. And there doesn't seem to be any real reason genetically why that's how it is, which could be due to the lack of clarity when it comes to what's behind the X-gene and how powers are transmitted to children (discussed in earlier posts here and here) . And in nature, there are occasional catastrophes, that cause extinctions specific to certain types of organisms, while sparing others. For example, if a meteor hits a planet, and throws lots of dust in the air, competitive advantage goes to beings lower to the ground, where there's less soot, and more clean air. Likewise, if someone is altering the perceptions of every person on the planet, with the alteration perhaps changing from person to person, it's probably better to not have part of your mind in other people's minds.

Of course it would never happen. Too many telepaths are high-profile in Marvel, and like I mentioned a few days ago, Cable is one of Avi Arad's favorite characters, while also being possibly the most powerful telepath actually moving around right now, given Jean Grey seems to be incapacitated - not dead! never dead! - at the moment, and Xavier's nowhere to be seen. For the record, I devised a potential way for Cable to dodge it, one I think could be exclusive to Cable, and would work with the current plot of his book, so I have that base covered.

Oh yeah, and afterwards, there actually would be fewer mutant books like Joey Q said there would be, instead of just fewer mutants.

What can I say? I like to play "What If?".

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Things I Think About #18

Someday, I'll learn to trust my instincts. I mean, I should have figured that out by now. Back in high school they always told us that on a multiple-choice test, if you aren't sure, go with your first instinct, doubting yourself wouldn't get do you much good. So what does that have to do with today's post?

Chuck Austen.

There's an interview on the Comic Book Resources website with Mr. Austen. I've known about it for a few days, and carefully ignored it. My mind kept telling me, "It'll just make you mad. He'll say something unkind about Stacy X, and you'll be pissed off for a week." Today, I stopped listening and went ahead and read it.

It was much worse than if he'd insulted Stacy. At least then I would have just been angry with him, which is a familiar feeling to me when it comes to ol' Chucky. It's worse because he actually came off as sympathetic, which I'm sure was part of the design of the interview. I mean the number of times the fact he has a wife and kids was brought up, and that his wife told him to stop reading all the insults on the Internet, clearly meant to pull on the heart strings.

And damned if it didn't work. A little.

I still don't believe his "everyone wants to be with someone, for one reason or another" explains Stacy's behavior, but I do understand to a certain extent, what he was going for.

I do have to give him credit for being aware of his rep with the fans, and joking about it. The part where he talks about how he and Geoff Johns most definitely aren't friends, and that Geoff hates him, was at least a little amusing.

See, this is the danger of the blogosphereI would have never known about this otherwise. And now I feel sympathy for my sworn enemy (one of them anyway). Sigh. Ruined a perfectly good Sunday.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Things I Think About #17

I keep hearing that one of the big things that's going to happen during Civil War is Peter Parker is going to realize he doesn't like being beholden to Tony Stark. Stark's given him so much: a home, a job, a new cos. . . cos. . . costume. Supposedly, Peter's going to feel the strings attached, and distance himself from Tony, be his own man once more. Which is good. I'm all for it. But I realized, I'd seen this before with Tony Stark.

One of the first comics I owned was Captain America #331, where Steve Rogers stops being Captain America, because he can't bow to the governments' will. He figured they'd make him leave the Avengers, possibly join the Freedom Force (it's the new odd couple, Captain America and the Blob), and probably send him to Nicaragua to help the Contras. There was a shot of Captain America, in a jungle, leveling a machine gun at some guys. Even at five, Calvin found that rather disturbing. Anyway, Steve turns in his stuff, which leads to John Walker becoming Captain America, and when he flames out, he becomes USAgent. So we owe his existence to Captain America giving up. Thanks a lot for that character, Cap.

Anyway, while he couldn't be Captain America, Steve Rogers still wanted to do the right thing. He had fought as Nomad before, but he'd given that identity to Jack Monroe, and he wouldn't just take it away. So he eventually calls himself "The Captain", and yes he always said 'the captain' and guess who provided him with a new costume and shield? Can you guess? That's right, Tony Stark! Boy, what a friend! To go and do a thing like that for a guy, what a true-blue pal, who would never attempt to exploit someone's goodwill towards him! Except. . .

Tony had ulterior motives. See Tony was at this time in his life, where Spymaster had stolen the designs for his armor and sold it to all sorts of people. So Iron Man runs around beating the beejezus out of all sorts of people, and scrapping their armor. Unfortunately, this included the Guardsmen, who were security at the Vault (Marvel's super-prison). Tony had figured that by giving Steve the new costume, that The Captain would stay out of the way, and Tony could attack a government facility unimpeded by his friend. Silly drunky. The Captain did get involved, Tony went through him anyway, and Rogers is left feeling that he can't be in Tony's debt. Does seem familiar to anyone else?

Now I'm not saying that because they've done this before, it's necessarily a bad idea. The dynamic between Parker and Stark is different than between Steve Rogers and Tony. Peter's more impressed/intimidated by Stark's wealth, fame, power, so it's probably harder for him to say "No thanks" to Mr. BigShot. By contrast, Steve Rogers is intimidated by no one. Still, Peter shouldn't have allowed himself to be so reliant on Stark in the first place, and if Civil War helps him realize that and go back to being self-sufficient, that's fine with me. And it isn't like somewhere down the line he and Stark couldn't still be friends. Tony and Steve patched things up, eventually.

The odd thing to me is that I thought of this because of Thor. There was an issue when Thor came back to Earth after a long absence and he finds out from Rogers about all this stuff that's happened. That issue was really damn cool, and I'll have to talk about it someday.

I suppose, the moral of all this is, "Never trust rich people". Or maybe "Never trust rich people with a history of drinking, and who risk their necks flying around in high-tech suits of armor." Especially suits of armor that look like that.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I Canna Take Much More

Of my soul being eaten up by various pursuits. Still, I post today to ask you a most important question: How addictive is Heroclix?

I've never played, but apparently Saturdays are Heroclix Days at Marvels & Legends. I've seen enough of the guys taking animatedly about the booster packs they bought that I'm becoming intrigued. So I'd like to know some things, and I likely won't see any of the guys at the store until next week. And that's when I thought of you, kind, intelligent, helpful readers. And you're still physically attractive to me as well. Uhh, moving on to the my actual questions:

Is Heroclix terribly addicting?
Is Heroclix terribly expensive?
Is this one of those things where I'm getting into it so late, I'd be hoplessly outclassed and wouldn't have any fun?
Will this game attempt to take control of my soul?

Because with the ongoing struggle between comics, video games, anime, blogging, and who knows what else, I'm not sure I have much soul left to go 'round. The good parts have already been totally destroyed by the battles, and the scrub lands of my inner self may not be far behind.

What canst thou telleth me?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Things I Think About #16

I found out from Len a couple of weeks ago, that Avi Arad, the head honcho at Marvel has three favorite characters. They are:

Cable
Namor
Thor

Now Cable's got an ongoing book, and had another one before this. Namor's been in a bunch of different titles and if they ever get around to that book they were going to do about that "Secret Scoiety" we saw in New Avengers, he'll be playing a role there as well.

But what about Thor? Sure, Thor:Blood Oath wasn't bad, but it's off in its own little continuity. So what I'm waiting for is when Arad walks into the Marvel offices and asks "Where is Thor? Why isn't he in any of these books?" Then I'd love for someone to turn to Quesada and say "Joe, you want to field that one?"

So, let's make some guesses? How long until Thor is back in the mainstream Marvel Universe?

I'll say that it happens in the aftermath of Annihilation and Civil War. So that'll be what, end of the year, early 2007, something like that? Ladies and gentlemen, place your guesses.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What I Bought 2/15/06

Only two books this week. One of those is Batgirl #73, the final issue of the series. I will be spoiling parts of it. If that is a problem, skip down to my other review, and I'll do my best not to give anything away in any other posts until at least Sunday. OK?

Batgirl #73 - Let's just pause a moment, give people time to scroll down past this review. So how's your week going? In the labs I teach, they're learning about bacteria this week. So they got to play with fire! Fun! OK, that should be long enough.

Cassandra isn't dead. I can't express how happy I am. I'm sure DiDio can't either, since this means I won't be jamming a rabid weasel down his espohagus. We do get to find out the whole story behind Cassandra's conception in two parts. First, a little discussion Cass has with Spoiler on the Other Side, where Cassandra also learns the fate of Bludhaven. Second, from Lady Shiva herself.

Anyway, Shiva wants to have it out with Cassandra once and for all, to really see if she and Cain succeeded in their attempt. She raises something interesting when she points out all these gadgets that are in Cass' belt, all from Batman, and Cass uses almost none of them. It reminded me of when she came to Bludhaven, she teamed up with Robin. At one point, he brings out a thermal sensor, and Cassandra wonders if she even has one of those. The gadgets, weapons, tricks that are part of being in the Bat-family, just don't fit with her.

Anyway, Cassandra and Shiva do battle, it goes all the way, and Cassandra moves on. I'm not sure what role she's going to fill now. A member of the Birds of Prey seems unlikely, and to an extent, I could see her becoming DC's version of the Scourge, or a version of the Red Hood that doesn't, you know, suck. She's crossed that line, knowingly, and she can't ever go back again. So I'm intrigued. In this context, the book ending makes sense; she isn't Batgirl anymore, can't be really. What is she? I have no real idea. Also, I want to say I'm glad Mhan was back on the book with the pencils. He's not the greatest artist, but he's quite good enough, especially since I can actually follow what's going on in the fight scenes. 5 "I'm just so happy she isn't dead" out of 5.

So where was I? Oh yeah, they get to play with fire because you have to heat kill the bacteria. Did you know some yogurt has live bacteria in it? And people eat it that way? What the hell? I'm sure this is where someone points out milk and cheese also have live bacteria in them, and I swear off dairy products. OK, I think we can safely assume people won't be seeing the score and getting the issue spoiled for them that way.

New Avengers #16 - So, almost no appearence of the actual Avengers. It's a prologue, so I can almost cut it some slack. So, apparently the events of the House of M have caused some being to be really powerful. I'm sorry, I thought that was the whole point of X-Men:Deadly Genesis. The guy in that book got all the weird energy that was released by mutants' powers being taken. So what, there's going to be a whole horde of them now? Goddamnit, Marvel just keeps making things worse. The story starts with Tony Stark arguing with Commander Hill, who isn't happy she wasn't informed the Avengers were going public ahead of time. Sure because telling Jameson about it beforehand worked out so well for them last issue. Cue huge new threat.

So SHIELD tries to deal with the threat, which starts in Alaska, and moves into Canada. It smacks around some SHIELD jets (BOOM), and proceeds to annihilate Alpha Flight. Cripes. I swear that Alpha Flight gets less respect than the Great Lakes Avengers.

Thus, Commander Hill is ordered by the President to send in the Avengers, which she really doesn't want to do, seeing as she doesn't like them very much. But, none of the other teams are available, so there you go. For now, I'm going to cut this book some slack, but there had damn well better be some Avengering in the next issue. This book is really on the edge for me right now. I already got Exiles and X-Factor as superior Marvel team books and New Excaliber is right there. Bendis, it's time to earn that check. 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wonderful, Fuzzy Feelings Day!

Question: Does buying Victoria's Secret lingerie for your significant other really count as a Valentine's Day gift for them? I mean, isn't it really for your benefit?

But that's not the point today. This image, from Full Metal Panic, is:

Isn't that sweet? No matter how much head trauma Sasuke has sustained from getting hit in the head by Chidori with a surprisingly heavy fan for interpreting a girl putting a love letter in his locker as someone planting a bomb, causing him to line his locker with plastic explosives and blow up half the school, he can still be coherent enough to do something nice. Clearly, this ability has surprised the hell out of her.

To be fair, I should point out that he's a soldier assigned to protect her and he takes that job seriously. Meanwhile, she's the class vice-president, and it probably reflects poorly on her that her friend keeps blowing up parts of the school. And given that he's a soldier, I could see the logic of physical violence to discipline him.

To fictional love, which is only sometimes laced with disturbing undercurrents!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Diskutieren Ueber die Videospielen

Hey, if kalinara and diamondrock can give us lessons in everyday Japanese, then I feel it's my duty to get a little German into your lives. So for the record, if you don't know how to put an umlaut (two dots, which can be used with "a", "o", or "u") over a letter, such as the "u" in "uber", you can follow it with an "e" and it's equivalent. Also, with German you can pretty much just jam together as many words as you need to to form a noun. So now you know. Moving on.

This post started because when I was reading New Excaliber #4, I couldn't remember where I'd seen the Warwolves before. I was sure it wasn't a comic, and then it occured to me: they were one of the standard henchman-type villains in X-Men:Mojo World on my Sega Game Gear. Couple this with my finding out Jake was dead on about Ultimate Spider-Man (in my case for the Gamecube), it prompted this question: What are the best games you've played based on comic book characters?

Let's face it, this can be a limited field. Liscensed games can often be hastily put together crap, banking on the mindless fanboys. Look at most anime games, like the Full Metal Alchemist games. So the bar isn't all that high. But surely there are a few?

So here's mine, I'm sticking to games I bought. If I only like it enough to rent it, it clearly wasn't that good.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game (NES). Man I loved this game. It was the first game I played with co-op abilities, and it was so awesome to team up with a buddy, even if my friends usually died fast and ripped off one of my lives to get back in the game. This one gets bonus points for me getting my father to play it with me. . . once.

Batman Returns (Sega Game Gear) - Admist a horde of awful comic games (Spider-Man and the X-Men:Arcade's Revenge) this one offered the ability to choose one of two routes for most levels. Sure the levels ultimately lead to the same place, but I always believed one was more about dexterity, dodging obstacles, and the other was more about beating up thugs. Never did understand the 20-foot tall robot boss at the end of level three, though.

Spider-Man (N64) - Tied in style-wise with the cartoon of that time. It was my first opportunity to webswing in a 3-D environment. Amazingly, there was actual variation in boss battles. Sometimes you had to just slug it out, sometimes it was about taking the openings you could get, while protecting someone. Other times, you had to run for your life, or sucker them into taking themselves out. Gameplay variety, what an astounding concept!

What's been an enjoyable gaming experience for you?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Things I Think About #15

Is 'dwell' one of those words that can't be used in a positive manner? I saw a sign today, it said, "Dwell on the positive things", and it just seemed so wrong. I mean 'dwell' seems like the less gothic brother of 'brood', something you do over mistakes, or missed opportunities. I figure you 'reflect' on positive things, or 'focus' on them. Just something that occurred to me while I was getting gas this morning.

As to the main crux of this post, Maximum Carnage. For those who aren't aware, this was a 14-part storyline spanning 5 Spider-Man books in the summer of '93. Carnage escapes from a mental institute, forms a 'family' with four other psychos (Shriek, Spider-Doppelganger, Carrion, and Demogoblin) and proceeds to run rampant, slaughtering at least hundreds of people before his defeat. Somewhere along the line, I think Spectacular Spider-Man #203, it was pointed out in the letter column that this whole thing was idiotic because the big teams were nowhere to be found. They had a point. You did have Spider-Man and Captain America, but also Venom, Black Cat, Firestar, Cloak and Dagger, Iron Fist, Morbius(!), and Deathlok. Wow, that's pretty lame. No wonder the heroes kept getting their asses kicked. The question becomes, where the hell were all Marvel's teams? Through exhaustive research, I've determined what teams said they were doing that summer, as well as what was really going on.

Well, since it was confined to New York City, you can eliminate teams from other countries (Alpha Flight, Excalibur) and other states (Great Lakes and West Coast Avengers).

There was only one mutant (Shriek) in Carnage's group, so you could probably forgive the X-teams for their absence, but we'll lump them in too, so for the record:

What they said:

X-Force was scattered all over the world. Some were captured by Externals, the rest were on the run from the same, and Cable was doing his own thing.

X-Factor was trapped in Genosha, dealing with the usual "mutant in Genosha" crap.

Uncanny X-Men had Illyana Rasputin's impending death, and Colossus' impending defection to Magneto.

X-Men had the "What is Betsy Braddock doing in an Asian body again?" fallout, and the subsequent trip to Japan.

The Fantastic Four were distracted by Johnny being on trial for burning down part of Empire State University.

The Avengers were dealing with some group of alternate reality losers called the Gatherers.

The truth is:

Excalibur was involved in some Multiverse mess they didn't even understand. The GLA was teaming up with Alpha Flight to stop a giant sturgeon that escaped from Saint Cloud University in Minnesota. And the West Coasters were dealing with Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch and Iron Man's simultaneous mental breakdowns. Between Wonder Man crying about the time the Master Pandamonium had Wanda's babies for hands, and bit Wonder Man with them, to Wanda crying about how the babies tore their gums on Simon's cranium, to Tony insisting they were all pink Titanium Man's, that's a lot to deal with. Then Wanda made them all forget her craziness, and Bendis had his opening.

The X-groups were all taking it easy, in preparation for yet another stupid X-over. Wolverine was busy drinking a lot, after Editorial told him Magneto would rip out his Adamantium in October. The X-Men were still sore about that time in Secret Wars when Spidey found out they were going to bail on the heroes and jump to Magneto's side, and Spidey proceeded to whip them (Before Xavier mindwiped him. Bald Asshole). X-Force was mad about that crossover they had with him, where MacFarlane managed to draw them even worse than Liefeld did. X-Factor couldn't leave Genosha, because Quicksilver refused to leave just to have to come back after Cortez kidnaps his daughter.

The Fantastic Four were actually distracted by Reed's moping about the fact Editorial was going to let Doom "kill" him soon. Sue was busy designing her "slut" outfit, Torch was adapting to Skrull sex, and Ben was mad that when Spidey tried to bring the Torch to jail, he got Wolverine as part of his team, and Wolvie clawed off half of Ben's face.

The Avengers were reeling from the message they would be taking part in the X-book crossover "Bloodties". Besides, they were having trouble with a group lead by a guy named "Proctor". Carnage's group would have wiped the floor with them. If that's false, why didn't Captain America call them in, huh? Man, the Sersi/Crystal/Black Knight Avengers were lame.

The only team I couldn't find anything on was the New Warriors. For whatever reason, they chose not to show up and help their teammate, thus failing to show just how good they were on a big stage. Maybe they recognized Maximum Carnage for the amazing suckfest it was, and voted to stay clear. But when you think about, Firestar is the only one who went on to bigger things. She joined the Avengers, what's Speedball left with? Sure Marvel Boy - I'm sorry Justice - got to join Earth's Mightiest, but that was all because of Firestar. I guess being willing to take part in a horrible mess, and prove yourself as a team player has its benefits, huh?

Good God, Marvel was terrible in the '90s. No wonder I gave up on comics part way through the decade. Well, that and my extremely limited funds.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On Comic Book Stores

Today I want to know what the stores you buy from are like. I guess that's somewhat reliant on you buying from a "traditional" comic book store, but really, wherever you get them from. Is it a large bookstore chain? Do you order online? Or, if it is a place that deasl primarily in comics: What is it about that place that you like? Why do you use them? Are they the only game in town, or is there another reason you shop there?

In Cape, Marvels and Legends is pretty much the only store. There is another store, but it deals almost exclusively in older comics. That actually works out nicely, since Ken doesn't carry many books that go back more than a few years, so they each fill have their own niche.

I think what makes me enjoy using M & L is that people like to come there. That sounds kind of silly, but it's fun to go to a place where you know you can spend a few hours talking about various stuff. And it isn't just about what happened in this month's issue of Infinite Crisis. People are talking pro wrestling, sports, Smallville, movies, everyday life stuff. I don't know how big Ken's overall customer base is, but there's a core of about ten people that are guaranteed to show up every week, who are willing to talk about all kinds of different topics. And even though Ken may not get involved, he's very cool about it. He's not rolling his eyes at us geeking out over last week's Full Metal Alchemist, or getting impatient because we won't buy our stuff and clear out (the store isn't very large, so you get more than about six people on the main floor and space does become a bit of an issue). He likes it if people come in just to talk (over the summer I was there for about two hours every Friday, just to talk baseball with him).

Maybe the reason I like it so much is because I've seen the other side. I graduated from Southeast Missouri State with a bachelors in '04. I spent the next seven months trying to get my butt in gear and get into Mizzou's graduate program, while living back home in Columbia, Missouri. Since, it wasn't feasible to drive 250 miles back to Cape every couple of weeks, I had to cancel my pull list at Marvels and start a new one wth a store in Columbia, called Rock Bottom Comics.

In terms of selection, Rock Bottom matched Marvels for the new stuff, and vastly exceeded it in terms of older issues. But it never felt right. The owner was there, but spent all his time on his computer, possibly placing orders. He had college students to handle all the customer-related stuff, and while they were very helpful, that community sense wasn't there. No one was talking about what came out that week, or something really awesome that happened in Ultimate X-Men last week. People picked up their comics, completed their transactions, and left. Maybe that's how it usually is, but it felt kind of cold, you know? Not what I expected from a store that is primarily comics and related items.

At any rate, no one at Mizzou had money for a grad student, so I reversed tracks, applied at Southeast, and here I am, a year after, with this blog.

So anyway, what's it like for you? Does the environment you're in matter? I got to admit, I'm curious to see what Big Monkey Comics is like. I gotta think with Scipio and Devon running the shows, it's a little. . . weird.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dream Weaver

This isn't what I had planned initially, but it was weird, so I thought I'd run with it.

I don't know how many of you remember your dreams. My ability seems to come and go. Last night, I had an odd one involving the JLA. They were in what I guess was a Siberian bar/dance hall/meeting place. Green Arrow was sitting on the bar with his legs crossed (?), and then he tried to hit one of the patrons with a beer bottle. He missed, and I think they kicked his ass. Batman was doing Riverdance, or "Achey, Breaky Heart" or something with his new sidekick, who is roughly his height, but wears a red cape like Power Girl's, has huge frizzy organe hair, and looks like an emaciated crack addict. Then Kyle started tossing people, I assume villains, around with the ring, and the ghost of Firestorm merged with him. Kyle sprouted huge angel wings and just went off on these guys. The scary thing is that his green aura formed a Phoenix shape, and he started screaming about "No friends, no family!" and people started to vanish. Fantastic, my subconscious confused Kyle with Hal.

I have no clue what this means. it isn't my first comic book realted dream, I had one where I had spider-powers and I was fighting Darkseid behind my high school and the world was black and white. Another where Killer Croc tossed me into an operating room in Arkham (clearly I'd watched too much of Batman:The Animated Series)

Anyway, do any of you dream of comic characters? Do they haunt you? Help you? Get helped by you? Am I touching some sort of gateway, that lets me see into their world? And why was Faye Valentine trying to shoot me?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Comics and Gaming Expo

This'll just be a quick post. I'm giving a quick plug to my buddy Ken Murphy, who runs the store Marvels and Legends, from which this blog steals it's name. So, for anyone who reads this blog in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri area, Ken is arranging a nice little convention on the weekend of April 8th and 9th.

The 8th is going to be a gaming day, the 9th for comics. There's more information at http://www.comicsexpo2006.greatnow.com

To my knowledge, if you'd be interested in having a booth at the convention, Ken has contact information on the website. Let him know.

I know for certain, that at least a few of his customers are going to be showing off their artwork at the show. I've seen at least one of the guys work, it's pretty good.

Tomorrow there'll be a more extensive post, on what I'm not sure. I'm thinking about doing a meme for this whole thing Dorian started, but I have no idea when I'll get that.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What I Bought 2/8/06

A question. If I walk out of my apartment, see it's snowing, and my reaction is "Well that's just great! I really wanted snow to make my drive to school more difficult today!", does that mean I'm getting old, or am I just bitter college kids don't get snow days? Anyway, spoiler warnings as always.

Teen Titans #32 - Todd Nauck draws this issue, though Daniel still gets named on the cover. At least that explains why both Superboy's necks looked too long, and Flash had an unusually large upper body. So this is basically the fight from Infinite Crisis #4, drawn out for a whole issue. I suppose it allows for a bit more depth, but really, it's all feels pointless.

On January 17th I made this post asking what you thought Speedy's arrow was. Turns out none of us were right, not even Chris who guessed it was a plot device. Nope, it didn't even work as that. Len at the store realized it was a placeholder arrow. You know, it fills a gap in Speedy's quiver until she needs to put a useful arrow in there, then she gets rid of it. Seriously, how the hell do you even make an arrow that does what it was supposed to? Also, I had no clue what was going on with all the Doom Patrol stuff. Was that making fun of John Byrne or something? Going into One Year Later, I can't say whether I'll continue to buy this book. 2 "I've Seen This Before" out of 5.

Robin #147 - So this is the end of Bill Willingham's run. I wish it had gone better, both this issue and the run as a whole. As it is, there were lots of things I didn't buy in this issue. I like Tim tried to check on Dana and Eddie, but he tried to call Nightwing and called him "burnout". That sounds kind of disrespectful. And getting mad at Beast Boy for making jokes? Tim, that's what he does, if you haven't noticed by now you weren't paying attention. And I'm left with this question: Which Luthor was Tim getting that cure for Connor from? I guess it had to be non-Alexander Luthor, but he's been kind of out of it lately. Not really in any condition to be dropping hints to Tim to help find that base.

If I had to say what bothered me most about this it would be Tim's behavior. In part one, which was good, he was calm, confident, making a plan, and keeping his teammates aware of it, while at the same time demonstrating some emotion, such as his concern for his best friend and letting Wonder Girl pummel the security bots because she needed to let off some steam. This issue, he's cross, snapping at people, having these weird inner monologues about how viciously he and the other Titans are fighting the Brainiac things. In other words, he seemed to go from a well-written Batman, who would be the master sleuth, but still had compassion, to Batman of recent years, who's a humongous jerk. If they're going to turn Tim into Bats, at least don't make it that one. I'll probably read this book at least until this "did Robin kill Batgirl?" story is over, though the obvious answer to that question is "Not on the best day of his life". After that, who knows? 2 out of 5.

Ultimate X-Men #67 - You know what I liked? Colossus trying to get Nightcrawler to relax around him. To stop being so weird just because Peter is gay. I liked his point that Kurt isn't attracted to every girl, and Peter's not attracted to every guy, so they can just be buds. But it wouldn't be that easy in real life, and it isn't here either. For better or worse, Kurt's reaction might mirror mine, not in the sense I'd think the guy was interested in me (I'm realistic about my physical attractivness), but I might be a little confused about how it changes things, if it does, so that resonated.

As for the rest? Well, it's still leaning towards the Phoenix Saga, and I made my thoughts clear about that last month, and nothing's changed. I'm curious about the guy that Nick Fury's getting ready to arrest, though I guarantee Fury's about five seconds from getting his ass kicked, because Ultimate S.H.I.E.L.D. is still worthless.

I am confused as to how absorbing Gambit's power makes Rouge able to touch people safely again. It seems like it should make her not only put you in a coma, but kinetically charge whatever part of you she's touching until it explodes, leaving you an amputee comatose person. But I'm not complaining. While I don't like her as much as Marvel Rouge, I can still be happy for Ultimate Rouge if this lasts. And yes, I'm ignoring Sabretooth's revelation to Wolverine. Gag. 3 out of 5.

Sensational Spider-Man #23 - Formerly known as Marvel Knights Spider-Man. This is it for this book. I haven't really enjoyed it since Millar's opening run, and even that was up and down. Since then, ugh. And this? Note to Angel Medina: Spider-Man and the Vulture should not have back muscles that would make Captain America jealous, ok? The Vulture doesn't get muscles because he flies, because the suit does the work, and Spider-Man is supposed to be lithe, quick, agile.

As for the story, uhm, animals and people are going crazy. Killing themselves, killing others and so on. For some reason this reminds me of the storyline that made me give up Spawn, where the Clown had turned a huge number of people into disciples of a sort, and they were running around acting out their darker impulses, causing chaos. Even in Spawn, where it works, I didn't read it, and I'm not reading it now. I guess I may keep an eye on this book, see if it turns around, but I doubt it will. 1 "It's a Sad Day When I Drop A Spider-Man Book" out of 5.

Ghost Rider #6 - My intial reaction to the ending was that Ennis had angered me to the point this book wouldn't make my Top Three best mini-series of 2005. Then I calmed down, thought about the ending, what it meant to the character, thought about how this is Garth Ennis, and I reconsidered. So, Ghost Rider takes Green Lantern:Rebirth's spot as the second best mini-series of '05, though it's not in the same hemisphere as GrimJack:Killer Instinct.

Anyway, the battle was kind of lackluster, but you had to admire Blaze's determination. He had a goal, and he was going to get it, he didn't care how powerful his opponents were. Ms. Catamint finally realized her boss needed to die, and this she lives out what Homer Simpson called the American Dream. I don't know how that bullet did as much damage to GR as it did, given he came out OK from being hit with a bus. I guess it was consecrated or something. Even though the end was kind of a bummer, I'd say the Rider definitely lives up to his billing as a Spirit of Vengeance. I'd like to see more of him. And Thor. That's not relevant to this, I just wanted to throw that out there. 3.5 out of 5.

I get the feeling Ennis likes to make fun of religion. I don't know, I didn't read any of his stuff before he came to The Punisher.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Things I Think About #14

Wasn't it wonderful to find out that the reason Dr. Light was such a loser is because he was mindwiped for raping Sue Dibny? As grateful as I'm sure we all are to Mr. Meltzer, I'm not sure I can wait 20 years for him to tell us the real reason behind Max Lord's mind controlling of Superman. So I'm asking you to tell me. Obviously by then, rape will be passe, and the writers will have moved on to a new cliche, but what?

Here's my theory:

Sometime shortly after Big S' return from the grave, Max Lord approached him with a favor. See, he had a cousin with terrible eyesight, who lacked the funds for corrective laser surgery. Now Max was too cheap to give him the money, but he figured Superman would be willing to use his heat vision to do the job for free.

Except Superman said "No".

Oh sure he had his reasons: "It's too dangerous. My heat vision doesn't work that way. It won't be covered by his HMO. Jeez, I just came back from the dead, give me some time to settle in." But it all boiled down to the same thing; Sorry Max, I've got better stuff to do.

And it was then, that Max Lord began to devise his revenge. . .

So, what are your thoughts?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Declaration of Bias?

When I was planning out Saturday's post, it occured to me I had a double standard. I completely accept that Ryoko was under someone else's influenece, and as such, I don't consider her responsible for those actions. But when Geoff Johns tried something similar with Hal Jordan, I screamed "Bullshit!" 'till everyone at the store looked at me like I was about to kill them. Why was that, I wondered? Here were my initial guesses:

1. Ryoko is a woman, Hal's a man. I'm guilty of a bias that says females are weaker, and thus it's more acceptable for them to be controlled. Except, I completely accepted it when it turned out Logan killed a Senator while under Weapon X influence in a Wolverine storyline about five years back.

2. Ok, well, it's because you like Ryoko, whereas you regard Hal Jordan as mostly preventing Kyle Rayner from taking the center stage he deserves. Except, I don't like Superman either. In fact, I think the DC Universe would be much more interesting without him (call it the "Kenshin/Goku Syndrome"). Yet, when they tell us he was being controlled by Max Lord, I say "Sure, I'll buy that".

Finally, I decided it's a matter of timing. With Ryoko, she appears in the first episode on the Tenchi OVA, Kagato shows up by about episode 5, and immediately takes control of her. That suggests it was planned that way all along, at least to me. From the moment Wolverine was accused of killing the Senator, he was plauged by doubts, because he had flashes of things, but couldn't recall all of it. All of which seems suspicious, and raised doubts as to why Logan would do it, if he did. And almost as soon as Superman had finished kicking Batman around, we find out he's under Lord's control.

With Hal, it's been years since he went 'round the bend and eventually tried to remake the universe. It was an established, if not beloved, part of the history of DC. But Johns comes along and decides his hero, Hal Jordan, can't go out like that. Oh no, Johns has to change it so that it wasn't Hal's fault. Maybe it's an arbitrary standard, but it seems like there is a difference between a creator making a character do horrible things with the idea the character is being controlled by an outside force right from the start, and one person deciding this character did these horrible things of their own accord, and THEN a decade later another writer comes along and changes it. Now if Johns could show me proof this was Ron Marz' plan all along? Well, I guess I would have to accept that.

I don't know, it's irrelevant I suppose. Hal's back, he's been absolved, he's not likely to die anytime soon, just have to deal with it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

On Abuse

Man, enchiladas on Super Bowl Sunday. Plus, I was able to drop off all those comics I brought back to the apartment for my "Best of. . ." series, at my mother's house again. And, I was able to to start alphabetizing my comics. Now that I'm back, I can't figure how to start this post, so I'll just jump in. There's been a lot of specualtion amongst fans of the Tenchi Muyo series, as to whether Ryoko was the victim of sexual abuse while under Kagato's control, and I just feel like discussing that briefly.

First off, kalinara has a nice post about whether things such as mind control and technoviruses could also be considered a form of rape, given that they are used to control others into doing things against their will. I would say I'd tend to agree with the idea that they are certainly a form of violation, and in some cases, I would say are even worse (in a fictional world, where these things are more common). When a character is physically raped, they can still be trying to resist, or even if they're immobilized, they haven't consented in their mind. In the case of mind control, even that is denied, as the person's free will is circumvented or blocked. In that sense, Ryoko has most definitely been a victim of abuse, seeing as Kagato forced her to kill and destroy for centuries.

Still, to my knowledge, it has never been discussed conclusively whether he did anything "physical" to Ryoko, during the years she was under his control. And I can see agruments in his demeanor for both. On the one hand, he considered her a weapon, a tool, just something to use for whatever purpose suited his needs at that moment. If he has no problems using her to kill, it would seem doubtful he'd halt at the thought of raping her. At the same time, he might consider her "beneath" him, that as she is a "thing", it would lower him to consort with her in such a manner.

Perhaps we can glean some clues from Ryoko's behavior. At first glance, it isn't promising. Ryoko thinks nothing of flaunting her body, parading around nude as a means to tempt Tenchi. In many cases she may start hugging him, only to progress to outright groping. This might suggest that this is the closest thing to affection Ryoko was exposed to, that with Kagato's philosophy of "want, take, have", Ryoko learned that you should simply grab whatever you desire, whether it wants to go along with that or not.

But, it may not be as bad as it looks. It may simply be Ryoko doesn't have any other idea what to do. There was an episode where Sasami tricked both Ryoko and Ayeka into believing that the romance comics Tenchi's father had held the key to getting Tenchi to profess his love. Ryoko immediately began copying the actions depicted in the comic, cooking for Tenchi, and making odd comments, like one might make in a soap opera. From this, you could infer that Ryoko has simply been so lacking in personal relationships that she has no idea how to go about professing her love for someone, or how to get that person to return that affection. As such, she went with what seemed simplest first, graphic physical displays of her assests, and her interest in Tenchi's. Having had that failed, she discarded the tactic (somewhat, she's still prone to tackling Tenchi with her hugs) and began to try different ideas. Examples would include finding a traditional Japanese kimono and greeting Tenchi in it. Of course, ti belogned to Tenchi's mother, and she accidentally ripped it, so it backfired, but you can see she seems to be learning and adapting on the fly.

So, what is the final conclusion? Well, mine is that Kagato wasn't interested in establishing power over her through sex, and so never bothered with that. He was to busy violating Ryoko in others ways, which I think were even more damaging. Personally, while I'd love to have the creators say, "No, Ryoko was never raped by Kagato", I can live without knowing rather than have them come out and say "Yes, he did rape Ryoko". Quite frankly, her past is traumatic enough as it is.

Based on what evidence I've managed to give, which I'm certain isn't everything, what do you think? And would controlling a person's mind and making them do something, whether sexual or not, be a greater violation than the physical act of rape?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I Sit Here Typing, My Throat Cells Are Lysing. . . Character Archetypes #2

Sometimes, I really hate Blogger. I had this entire post typed out. But I couldn't post it, because Blogger's messed up so I can't add the images. So I save it, I even see it saved. Then I come back, and it's fucking gone! Damn it! Fine!

The first archetype was the person I think I'd be if I had superheroes. More likely, it's who I wish I could be. I doubt I could keep saving the day while putting up with all the crap Parker does. This time around, it's the characters I'm rooting for, the ones I want to get that happy ending. For my prime example I present Ryoko, from Tenchi Muyo.

A quick origin. Ryoko is either 5000 or 2000 years old, depending on what website I check. She's a combination of her mother, Washu's, egg cell, and an organism called Masu, which has unusual energy properties. A student of Washu's named Kagato abducts Ryoko, and uses her as a weapon of mass destruction for at least a 1000 years (more if she's older). To do this he controlled her. It's kind of suggested that Ryoko's mind isn't like most, that it's more of a computer, and like Washu, Kagato could hack into it and assert control. Anyway, under his orders, she attacks the Imperial Planet of Jurai, gets chased by the Crown Prince Yosho, shot down over Earth, defeated by said prince and imprisoned inside a stasis chamber hidden within a cave for 700 years. Yosho's grandson Tenchi inadvertently frees her, and now you're caught up.

Ryoko is a character looking for redemption, even if she rarely shows it outwardly. Though both Jurai's and the Galaxy Police's statute of limitations have run out on her crimes, she's still feared throughout the galaxy. Still most people don't know she was controlled. If they do know, they may not believe it, or may not care. Those people have never seen this "Kagato", but they certainly remember Ryoko. To them, she's at best "Space Pirate Ryoko", and others regard her as an outright demon. And though she wasn't in control of herself, she feels guilt for all the people she hurt or killed. It was shown in one comic that she expects that if Tenchi or the others knew everything that she had done, they'd send her away, want nothing to do with her. But she mostly conceals this behind her loud, wild, somewhat crazy personality that caught my interest initially.

Along those lines, she has to figure out a whole new way to do things. Kagato seems to have lived by the philosophy "want, take, have", or more precisely "want, make Ryoko take, have". Wuss. And that being the only way Ryoko remembers, she often acts that way. Except that it can't help with what she really wants (Tenchi's love and acceptance). In fact, showing off her powers, her fighting ability, scares the crap out of tenchi, or at least makes him nervous for quite awhile. Likewise, she can't simply blow off her rival Ayeka's face, because Ayeka and Ryoko share friends. If she did that, Tenchi, Sasami, and plenty of other people would be saddened. So the ways that seem most natural to her, are the exact things she can't do. It's an uphill battle, and I can't help rooting for her.

Other examples:

Raven - I think this is a result of that season of Teen Titans, but I really cheer for Raven. She seemed to completely believe that she was destined to destroy the earth, that there was nothing she could do to defy her father. It was nice to see her friends, especially Robin, working to convince her that nothing was set in stone.

At the same time, it's Raven's abilties that make it hard to relate to people. She can absorb their emotions, enter their dreams, sometimes without even meaning to. That tends to make people keep their distance, because when you're feeling really happy, you might not want to talk to
the girl who can suddenly drain all that happiness. It's why I thought the "Raven goes to high school" was an awesome idea. Hopefully that'll happen after One Year Later starts.

Batgirl - Like my previous two entries, Cassandra Cain has been screwed over by her father/male figure. Like Ryoko, she had no influence from a mother to counteract that. I do think Cain cared for his daughter more than the others. She was more than just a weapon. True that 'more' was mostly as a testament to his greatness, but it feels like there was something more, not compassion necessarily, but something. Either way, he left her mostly unable to interact with the real world. Speaking is difficult, and if Oracle is to be believed, reading and writing will be damn near impossible. Still, she's trying, and early in Gabrych's work, she was expanding her life. Meeting boys, talking to the coffee shop lady. There was progress.

Stacy X - I've said it all before (repeatedly), but I believe given time she would have felt comfortable enough to drop the tough facade she puts up, and once that's accomplished, she could start to develop a bit. Become someone who doesn't define the majority of her life by sex.

Faith - Faith had a harder life than any of the "Scoobies" could guess. Buffy thought that having to set up everything for Parent-Teacher Night was difficult. Try having a mom who beats you, "B". She made mistakes, got saddled with a crap Watcher like Wesley, made more mistakes. Then she owned up to them, accepted the punishment, and went to prison. When she was needed, she escaped, and all she did after that was try to make amends. Try to be the Good Slayer, and show that she could be counted. And still, most everyone regarded her with mistrust and suspicion, while Willow, who did just as much evil crap, had been welcomed back with open arms. I'm just gonna move on, before I get pissed.

I look over this list, and it's entirely women, after my first list was entirely guys. I don't know whether that's a reflection of me and my being a guy, or whether it represents the stories that writers more often assign to specific genders. I did, however, come up with one guy for this list.

Spike - Probably the hardest road to redemption of all. Even with a soul, the demon is still there, reminding him that humans are supposed to be food. That eating and killing them is what vampires do, not saving them. Even when he gave his big speech about how much he likes this world, one of the reasons was the abundance of people, or "Happy Meals with legs". Still, he's fighting against that instinct. Even when he had the chip that wouldn't let him kill, that didn't mean he had to do good. When Buffy was dead, he didn't have to patrol with the Scoobies. There were other places he could go for a brawl, and probably have more fun without the humans getting in the way.

The thing is, soul or not, he'll never be accepted. The humans will never trust him because his demonic nature is always there, it's just of matter of whether he goes along with it or not. And he's had setbacks. He fell in love with a girl who wound up crushing him like a bug, verbally, emotionally, sexually, and physically abusing him, frequently. And then he snapped, and hurt her back. But he went out, and got the one thing he thought would make him a better person. And still, they didn't trust him. How can I not root for the quintessential "get knocked down, but get up again" character? Frankly, I always thought he and Faith would have gotten along well together, if Buffy weren't in the picture. But that's another subject.

Well, let's see if Blogger holds on to this one. Looking at it, I think these characters are the next step of suffering from the first group. I mean, for all the crap that comes Peter Parker's way, he still has a pretty good life. That's part of why he can remain upbeat and keep doing the hero thing. At least, when he's being written well. These characters have had crappy incident, after crappy incident, after lousy childhood, piled on them. They have to climb out from under the proverbial mountain of stuff, just to start on their path.

Test to See If Blogger Fixed The Damn Thing

Well, the title pretty much says it all. I try to add images to the post I had planned, and I get this "we are sorry for the inconvenience" crap. How dare they be courteous!

Anyway, this is fair warning for when Hellsing Volume 8 is released here in America. I love the Hellsing manga. I mean, Nazi vampire army against Catholics looking to perform and Inquisition? If that isn't a Dave Campbell F--- Yeah!, I don't know what is. So just be advised, and stand by for the actual post I had planned. I'm sure you can't wait.

Friday, February 03, 2006

What I Bought 2/3/06

I know what you're saying. "But Calvin, you already did this on Wednesday. Ah, but these comics hadn't reached the store by then, and now they have, ha ha!"

Finally, after long months of waiting I got the two Bloodrayne one-shots I was waiting for.

I'll pause while most of you leave.

Ok, here we go. I'm probably grading on a curve, to a certain extent, given that we're talking about comics based on a video game character (say, who remembers the Super Mario Bros. comics?). Let's roll.

Bloodrayne: Skies Afire - This one lead to an interesting conversation with Ken. He said, "Did you really want to spend $13.00 on this book?" I kind of got the feeling he didn't think I realized that because it's a limited 2nd printing it would be extra expensive. But I told him that yes, I knew, and I was cool with that. But it lead me to thinking this: When you look at what a comic book really is, in terms of being paper with pictures and words, that tell a story, is any comic really worth $13.00? I say it depends on who you ask. To me, if I want the book, hell yes, it's worth that much. I spent $60.00 on a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #300 (which was really dumb since I could have got it for like $20 less if I'd shopped around a little). To other people, probably not. I suppose if you consider the cultural impact of something like Action Comics #1, what it did propelling superhero comics, which lead to who knows how much economic impact from TV, movies, merchandising, not to mention the sheer amount of time some of us devote to them, then it'd be yes. Anyway. . .

So, the Brimstone Society present Rayne with a mission: Board a German zepplin and terminate a vampire they're transporting to the United States (this is set in 1937). Thus, Rayne boards the flight, and meets a kindly elderly couple and their nephew. So there's some nice character moments, as Rayne spends time with this friendly trio, while trying to conceal that she's a half-vampire, which can be tricky in the daytime. However, the vampire she's here to kill - who also happens to share a father with her - is aware of her presence, and sends one of his soldiers after her. From there, we get plenty of fighting and decapitations as Rayne tries to deal with being ambushed in her suite and destroying her target, while injured and in a zepplin, which had problems with, you know, exploding. That leads to what you might consider an amusing little reveal at the end of the story. At least, I was amused, you might not be.

Steven O'Connell and Jeffrey Stevenson give us a nice story, with some moments that highlight how isolated Rayne feels, what with her father having slaughtered her human family when she was young, all in an attempt to force her to join up with him. You get to see how quickly she takes to this couple that treat her very well, as she's probably lacked for affection for awhile. Still, O'Connell and Stevenson leave plenty of time for Romano Molenaar to draw scenes of great violence, which is of course, a major part of the character. Not that he doesn't do well in the quieter moments, although when drawing someone from a distance, they get a bit lopsided, and he seemed to have some trouble with Rayne's nose, but maybe that's just my opinion.

All in all, bright, vibrant, fun, fast paced, a 4 out of 5.

Bloodrayne: Dark Soul - Fortunately this only cost $4.00 dollars, or I would have questioned if it was worth it. The problem with doing a bunch of one-shots is, that other than the character, the stories have no connection to each other. Each one is basically it's own plot, so it's kind of hard to follow. This time around, Rayne's in a cemetery fighting large horned things (minotaurs?), while she's really looking for a serpent. Some person named Tiger Wraith shows up, Rayne attacks her, then Rayne gets swallowed by the serpent, which is quite large. Wraith damages the serpent, but Rayne's different when she hacks her way out. She's talking about having been imprisoned during "Mage wars" which sounds ancient, but I'm pretty sure Rayne was born in the early 1900s, so I'm guessing this is a suggestion of underhandedness by Brimstone. Then some people who I remember from the game Bloodrayne 2, who I guess I'm going to kill, if I get that far, whatever, they've shown up again. Then more hacking, more slashing.

I felt that the pacing was off, or that they tried to do too much (or maybe I'm too used to Bendis' pace to handle self-contained one issue stories). It feels like between her original mission, this Tiger Wraith showing up, "DarkRayne", and the return of Emphemera, it seemed like too much was going on. They needed to pick one or two and go with them, like maybe just the serpent and DarkRayne, or Tiger Wraith and Emphemera. Doing too much means very little got accomplished. I'm not as pleased with Rob Delatorre's art as I was with Molenaar's. It was alright, but didn't feel like he drew good fight scenes. Maybe it was that they were fighting such large creatures, but there wasn't really of sense of how they were doing the damage they did. Ultimately, it feels like the next one-shot will illuminate what exactly is going on, but it may not. And then I may never know what's going on. I suppose that's the risk of reading comics like this. Still, it was moderately enjoyable, so 2.5 out of 5.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Things I Think About #13 . . Romance edition

Two ideas. Read on at your own peril.

Picture this, if you will. Benjamin Grimm, the ever-lovin', blue-eyed Thing, and Peter Rasputin, Colossus. A tough on the outside, kind on the inside guy made out of rock, and a sweet, Russian with the ability to turn his entire body into organic steel.

Oh yeah, and Peter is an artist. So now picture them reenacting that scene from "Titanic". You'll have to picture it, I'm stuck on that spoof that Family Guy did of it. Maybe that's as far as my brain will let me go. That's probably a smart move by my brain.

As for the other, does anyone here think that Kyle Rayner and Karen Starr (Power Girl) would work as a couple (hypothetically)? It seems like Kyle appreciates strong (independent? pushy?) women, or at least winds up with them. I don't know anything about any previous relationships she's had, but I figure Karen could do worse than a guy who seems sweet, kinda goofy, as well as someone you could talk to about your problems, having experienced so many of his own. Maybe I'm misreading them both completely.

Of course, it's also contingent on Kyle still having a face after that Rann-Thangar Special. What's the deal with the stars?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What I Bought 2/1/06

Four books this week, spoiler warnings as usual.

Spider-Girl #95 - So we find out what's up with the caped guy (who Spider-Girl has always called Fred), who keeps screaming that Tony Stark killed Jim Rhodes. We find out what actually happened to Jim Rhodes. We watch as "Normie Osborn wearing the Venom symbiote" Man sprouts extra arms to try (which I guess are just made of the symbiote) and stop the rampaging Fred. We see Tony Stark being a jerk, and telling Spider-Girl she needs to learn to obey orders. The only problem is, Stark ordered her to do something that might have killed Fred. And we all know how the Spider-people feel about killing.

Oh yeah, we see Kaine pummeling some Scriers because he believes they're going to kill Spider-Girl. DeFalco goes with the classic "We didn't even know about her until now, but maybe we can use her against you" joke, as it appears that Kaine attempting to help has actually made things worse. Yep, he's got Parker's genetics alright. This wasn't a bad issue. There was some teamwork between the old Avengers and the new ones, some action, with a bit of human interest. In fact, I think the single biggest thing that bothered me was Fred saying "oops" on the cover. That just seemed dorky. Other than that, there's just this feeling that this was sort of a setup for the big finale. 3.5 "Here Comes Something Big, I Hope" out of 5.

With the news this book is being cancelled at #100 I wonder whether DeFalco had enough warning to put together a nice ending to the run, or whether he's continuing at the pace he had set, banking on the book being saved again by the fans. Honestly, I don't know why they seem so deadset on cancelling this book. I know it's been sitting at about #125 on IcV2's Top 300 List for the last two months, but you'd think they were making enough money off idiots like me who buy the vastly inferior Spider-Man books to let this one keep going along, selling 17 to 18 thousand books a month.

X-Factor #3 - This book had two legitimately cool moments, one is Layla Miller dealing with the agent from Singularity that's inside their offices. It wasn't a David Campbell "F--- Yeah" moment, but I did get a good laugh out of it. The other was Madrox commenting that it's very hard for him to tell which memories are his, and which are from stuff his duplicates did. It's the sort of thing I've thought about before, starting with the time paradox from Stephen King's Dark Tower series. If there was more than one of you running around, and then you merge back together, how do you keep straight which one did what, and do memories that occured simultaneously clash with each, causing insanity?

Meanwhile, Madrox and Siryn run into problems trying to get evidence to clear their client, Guido and Rahne try to break up a bunch of people - who might as well be wielding torches and pitchforks - who want to attack mutants, especially those without powers. Losers. And Rictor is still having problems adjusting to being human, which makes sense. With the connection he implied he had with the earth, losing that would be jarring. Again though, I think this book is setting up something large, especially with the revelation Layla had near the end of the issue. 4 out of 5.

Two other things. I've seen a lot of comments that Peter David often hamstrings himself by trying to be too clever. He puts in all sorts of little homages to his friends. As someone who can say he knows nothing about Peter David the person, other than the fact Todd MacFarlane hates his guts, I've been oblivious to this. I mean, Layla constantly saying "I know stuff" seemed silly, but not overly bothersome. Maybe I'm just taking adavntage of being uninformed. I do think I might have caught one. Was "Mr. Vaughn" a tip o' the cap to Brian K. Vaughn, who wrote Ultimate X-Men there for awhile (I think?) Damn. Now I'm going to be looking for these all the time. Crap. Also, while Ryan Sook's fights don't resonate like say, a Bagley's, I LOVE his Wolfsbane. This is how I picture werewolves, as opposed to that srawny rat thing Oz used to turn into on Buffy. And I like that David recognizes that a woman who seems deeply religious, and concerned with Hell, would be a bit bothered that she transformed into a werewolf and proceeded to claw people up.

The Punisher #30 - And so "The Slavers" wraps up. I haven't enjoyed this as much as the previous two arcs. It seems like Ennis threw that whole "the cops are really sore at the Punisher this time" thing in there, but I haven't really believed it. Still, when Frank Castle is holding a gas can on the cover, you know it will end badly for somebody. Anyway, Frank gets after that old man, blows shit up, shoots people, and rescues the girls. Oh yeah, he beats the beejeezus out of the old man, after calling him "coward" to get him to quit hiding behind girls and fight. Nice. By the end, the people behind the whole slavery/prostitution thing have improved their methods, and hidden their locations better. Frank can't finish them, but he knew that already. I liked the panel where Frank says "I knew from the start I'd never put an end to it. No more than I could stop the trade in heroin. or the tide from coming in.The most I could do, I figured, was give them pause for thought." I think it's nice to show Frank is somewhat realistic about this. He can't stop it, but he can do things on a small scale to impede it, and help people. Of course, some of the girls he helped didn't do well. Actually, none of them really do well. 4 out of 5.

To be honest, I'd kind of like to see what Ragnell and Kalinara would say about this. Given there has been a lot of discussion of the use of rape in comics the last couple of weeks, and that was pretty much what this story dealt with. What does it say that a social worker, who is supposedly against killing, gave Frank information so he could kill these traders, because she knew her methods couldn't help the girls that were being used? Me, I'd call it recognizing your limitations, but I'm probably biased. Does the whole issue even apply in a book as absurdly violent as this one?

New Excalibur #4 - I think I've figured out what works for me with team books. Either give me characters I like, or give me characters I haven't really seen enough to know about, but what I do know makes them interesting. Do not give me a team full of characters I hate, because I'll just ignore the book (Grant Morrison's X-Men). That's what's going on here. What little I know about Dazzler, such as her powers, the fact she's a musician, I like. I know less about Nocturne - besides her parentage and that she was with the Exiles - but I'm digging her so far. And I actually liked the Juggernaut as a good guy in Uncanny X-Men. Still, I picked this up because of Kelsey Leigh, aka Lionheart, aka "The one thing Chuck Austen did on Avengers I liked".

I still don't get exactly why choosing the sword instead of the amulet means she can't be with her children ever again, but I can see why she chose the sword. I mean, what's going to do a better job of protecting children, a sword, or costume jewelry? I don't know about you, but I'll take the sharp, pointy thing. Of course some would say I'm a man siding with the phallic symbol, but then what would that mean about Brian Braddock choosing the amulet, and, oh never mind.

So the team still hasn't come together, though Pete Wisdom (again, know nothing about him, but I'm at least intrigued so far) seems to be trying to recruit Sage, Dazzler, Nocturne, Juggernaut. Meanwhile, Captain Britain is apparently very bothered by the fact Meggan is gone (I'm not), and this Courtney person is trying to woo him, I think. And Kelsey feels she got tricked by Captain Britain. I think she's got a point. I mean would it really have mattered which she chose? Why not tell her which one will let her be with her kids? Ah well. And we have a threat attacking pretty much all the people Wisdom wants to recruit. I can't really see why the Warwolves are attacking them, but then I couldn't figure out what was up with the "Dark" X-Men from the first three issues. Still, I'm interested, and will be picking up the next issue, though I doubt that my hopes for Kelsey to be a regular character will be fulfilled. 3 "Where Does Claremont Find These Bad Guys" out of 5.