Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is It A Salve, Or Salt In The Wound?

This one came to me as I played Dragonquest VIII last night. In the game, you come across this kingdom where everyone dresses in black and is very depressed. Their queen died, and the king has ordered a period of mourning - for the last two years. So you can see how that would wear on the villagers' psyche. The king himself is a wreck, spending his days locked in his room, and his nights in the throne room, sobbing about wanting to see his wife again. One of the servants mentions a folklore about a place where wishes can come true, and you, being the goodhearted sort you are, go off to that place, and meet some oddball that agrees to help the king out of his funk. This person tells you that everything has memories, including walls and shoes, and upon reaching the king, draws out the memories of the room around them so the king can see his beloved from times past. From this, he realizes she wouldn't want him to drown in sorrow, and resolves to be the good ruler she thought he was, and move forward. And so happiness returns to the kingdom.

What I was thinking was, this trope of the grieving character turning themselves around by seeing their lost loved one seems to come up every so often (I recall Monk had a hallucination where he saw Trudy again, and didn't Sisko on Deep Space Nine see his wife once or twice?). Seeing this one play out made me think it was a little odd. I suppose it works in this case, since the king specifically said 'If I could only see you one more time', but in most cases, it would seem as though seeing the person that you miss so much, would only make it hurt that much worse when they inevitably go away again. In others words, it wouldn't actually help the person to move forward.

I guess it works because the lost loved one usually tells the grieving party to pull themselves together, and so the person resolves to do so, or they'd be dishonoring the deceased. Even so, I'd figure it would open an old wound as much as it would provide closure.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What I Bought 1/30/08

Before I get to the one book I got this week (Diamond is really dragging on shipping those trades Ken ordered for me), tow other things from comics I read through in the store.

New Avengers Annual #2: I talked about it a little in the comments from Saturday's post, as a response to Pedro, but I might as well mention it here as well. Tigra gets a moment. I don't think it is the moment that Lenil Yu mentioned, but it's something. I'm still not certain that when it's all said and done, Bendis will have improved Tigra as a character, or that this will be viewed as a positive arc for the character, but I have hope that it'll turn out OK, which is more than I had on Saturday. And if he proves me to be a fool, as I stand humbled before the totally awesome story of Tigra he tells, then I guess I'll have to make an apology post for doubting his brilliance. But we aren't there yet. I still think Bendis may have dropped Tigra too low before he started to build her back up again. And someone mentioned this on scans_daily, I'll bring it up here, why didn't Tigra tell SHIELD about the Hood threatening her mother, and wanting Tigra to be a mole for him? Wouldn't SHIELD have had some response to that? Her stock can't be so low they'd just blow her off, would they? They'd get her mother to safety, or at least ask her to play along with him?

The Annual was pretty good on the whole. Not as good as the first one (in my opinion), which was the best issue of the title I actually bought, but pretty good. Bendis seems a lot better at putting a lot of story in an Annual that's equivalent in length to two regular issues, than he does with two regular issues. More substantial, which is good, with the increased price and all.

Batman: I don't know whether it was a hallucination, or just an example of what he sees in his mind, or if it's real, but there's a point where Bats is thinking of his Robin's, and we see memorial cases. Three of them, one of which holds a costume that looks a lot like the one Stephanie sported during her brief time as the Girl Wonder. I'm not sure why there are three though, unless he put one up for Grayson, even though he just switched names. Just thought I would mention that.

So, howzabout that one review? I know, I know, expand the pull list. Next month alright?

Ultimate Spider-Man #118 - It's a fine enough cover. I don't really have anything to say about it. I'm glad the covers at least give you a hint of what's going to happen, instead of just being generic pin-ups.

It's mostly an interpersonal relationship issue. Liz is having some intermittent health issues, which is probably why she's been keeping to herself for awhile. Pete's thinking about Harry, Johnny's thinking about needing a change of pace dating-wise, and Kong knows something. I can't remember whether it's been hinted he knew this, or whether I heard people discussing that online. Bugger. So then two of the costumed sect show up at school. They don't cause trouble though, which probably made the teachers happy. And everybody has fun, for awhile. Then things get weird, as they have a tendency to do in the life of Peter Parker.

The Liz thing is a little odd. Not a lot, because Bendis has been making it pretty clear something was wrong with her for awhile, though the particulars of that something weren't entirely clear. I'm curious as to why BMB is handling the situation between Kitty and Bobby. Maybe Kirkman doesn't have the time? I do find it interesting that Kitty is sticking to the reason for her being at this school that she gave Pete initially, even though it conflicts with the reason she gave in Ultimate X-Men. It's not a big thing, I just figured there was a psychological reason she did that, and I think now it's more that Kirkman picked a reason, but it wasn't really a big deal since the character was leaving his title. Again, not a big thing, just something to note.

About the art. There seems to be a lot of putting character's faces in shadow. It happens on the first page, as Pete is trying to focus on reading, it happens later as Johnny tries to break down the specifics of the Pete/Kitty/MJ thing, and when Kitty and Bobby are having a to-do, it happens with all the background characters. I find it a little odd, because it seems to carry a different meaning in each case, but I think I need to spend more time reflecting on it. It's slow, but there were some things in this issue I definitely want to see followed up on, especially the thing Kong knows, so it works as a set-up at least, if not as an individual issue.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ah, Lighthearted Funtimes!

Wind's really blowing out there. Hope it doesn't knock out the power. . . again. Last weekend I picked up Spider-Man/Human Torch in a bookstore, on the strength of two reviews of it. Lucky me, I got it for four bucks. It was in the bargain shelves, can ya believe that? Ah, good times.

Anyway, it a five-issue mini-series that details some interactions between Webhead and Matchstick at different times in their lives. In most cases there's some conflict between Spidey and the Torch, but on a couple of occasions, the difficulty is between the Torch and Peter Parker, such as when Pete gets an internship with Reed and hits it off with the hot Soviet intern, who has shot the Torch down effortlessly. The envy each guy has for the others' life is a recurring theme throughout the stories, although there are times it rings a little false coming from the Torch. That may be because I'm not as up on my Johnny Storm history as I am Peter Parker, but it was a little odd to see Johnny gawking at Peter Parker having Gwen and MJ glad to see him. . . when the Torch has Crystal sitting right next to him. Of course, that's Johnny for ya, I guess.

Ty Templeton's on the art chores, and I think he does a good job of it. This is meant to be a largely lighthearted story, and his work and the coloring go well with that. It;s not meant to be a dark or gritty tale (even when Pete is talking to Gwen while standing on the bridge where she died), and it doesn't look like one. Plus I loved the facial expressions he gave Johnny in #5 when he learns Pete's big secret. No, not that the Pete is the "Parker" in Mary Jane Watson-Parker. The panel was set too far back for a good view of Johnny's face at that point, silly. Of course, sadly, I suppose that story could never have happened, since Pete was married, and had organic webshooters, and was teaching (did the teaching get taken out of his history? If not, why the hell isn't he still teaching? "Freelance photographer" is really better?! Really?!)

I'm sorry. I didn't plan to bring that stuff up. It is a fun mini-series, with Johnny's hair misadventures, Spidey's introduction to Kirby dots, and appearances by She-Hulk, the Black Cat, Kraven, Paste Pot Pete (sorry, the Trapster), and of course, DOOM! For what mini-series would be complete without Dr. Doom? None, says I!

So yeah, go find Spider-Man/Human Torch. Buy it. And hopefully you'll enjoy it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

And Everything Else Just Fades Away

Originally, I was going to do a post about how, in the final confrontation between the Punisher and the Barracuda, inside the school in #54, the background faded away, leaving only darkness, and talk a bit about what that meant.

Then I went back to check and whoops!, there were some background details. Not a lot, but enough you could tell they were in a room and such. So that didn't quite work the way I had planned. But then I noticed something else, and that's what I've got to talk about today. It's the internal monologue, you see. Or the lack thereof.

What I noticed was, that in that final confrontation, Frank has no captions until after he has used the AK to remove 'Cuda's head. Compare this to every confrontation they had prior to that in this story.

In #50, as 'Cuda lays waste to criminals with a M-60, Frank's thinking about how he's at a disadvantage, and how Barracuda planned this out perfectly. In #51, Frank wakes up in a hospital, and tries to figure out what must have happened. And in #53, he's thinking about exactly what he's doing to Barracuda as he kicks him in the head, hooks up jumper cables to 'Cuda's boys, and how he probably made a mistake leaving 'Cuda chained up in the back of his car, with all his firepower. Even at the beginning of #54, when they're fighting in the woods, Frank thinks about what'll happen to his daughter if he can stop 'Cuda. But when Frank breaks out the ax, all conscious thought, at least that we are made aware of, goes away. It's all about the action of the moment, and after that, Frank can take the time to think.

I think it's a nice move by Ennis, letting the fight speak for itself, and tell us a little something about the lengths a parent might go to protect a child, even when that parent is someone as seemingly inhuman as Frank Castle can be.

One other thing that occurs to me now. While the background doesn't completely fall away in the final battle, the lighting dims significantly in each battle. The first fight is in a brightly-lit hotel room, the second in a seedy, but lit, room, then subsequent battles take place in a darkened home, the forest, and finally an empty school. And it does get darker as the battle continues and the night stretches on. Maybe it signifies that Frank and Barracuda keep descending into more and more savage methods in their attempts to gain final victory. Certainly their clothes get less spiffy, since Barracuda had that nice jacket when he showed up in the hotel, but he's in an increasingly ragged tank top and jeans as they go back and forth, and Frank's bandaged up like crazy, and it ceases to be about planning anything, and more about grabbing whatever is handy, and using it to kill the other fellow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Know It Can't Be Easy, But Still

OK, so yesterday was dealing with the source of frustration by screaming about it. Today shall be dealing with a source of frustration by mocking it.

See, there's this panel where Jarvis tells Stark that he'll quit if Tony lets Tigra back onto the Avengers. Actually, Jarvis tacks a four-letter expletive on after her name, unknown which one, but regardless, what the hell? What could be so bad about Tigra that her presence would cause Jarvis to quit, where getting tortured by Mr. Hyde did not? Sure, Tigra probably sheds, or leaves hairballs laying around, and she might use the furniture as scratching posts, but consider the other people Jarvis has had to look after:

Hank Pym: When not having nervous breakdowns, unleashes killer robots on the team. Unless he's unleashing killer robots while in the throes of a nervous breakdown. Also, leaks Pym Particles allover the place, making things shrink without warning. Jarvis must constantly order new furniture because someone steps on the miniaturized couch.

Scott Lang: The Pym Particles thing goes for him too.

Hawkeye: Tied up Jarvis the first time they met. Freed him by shooting arrows at him. Probably used fine china for target practice. Made inappropriate comments about Jarvis' sort of niece, Silverclaw.

Beast: Larger than Tigra, and just as covered in fur, ergo he sheds even more than Tigra, and does so while hanging from chandeliers, meaning it gets in all sorts of hard to clean places, like on top of bookshelves. Disturbs Jarvis' sleep by making lots of noise when coming in from partying with Wonder Man.

Wonder Man: Out carousing with Beast, makes lots of noise on returning to the mansion. Also probably comes home with many floozies, leading Jarvis to have burn lots of sheets.

Moondragon: Generally unpleasant to be around. Cold, unfriendly, unfairly critical, rude.

Hercules: Also parties a lot. Comes home drunk, can't master the intricacies of the doorknob, so knocks down walls to enter mansion. Leaves giant casks laying around.

Deathcry, Black Widow, Jessica Drew, Wolverine: All of questionable moralities and allegiances. Not beyond the realm of possibility they could have hidden triggers that would cause them to kill Jarvis for some Byzantine purpose, orchestrated by a shadowy mastermind. Also, Wolverine and Deathcry shed too {Edit: As pointed out by Lurkerwithout, Deathcry probably molted, rather than shed. I forgot the Shi'ar were avian descended}. Especially Logan.

Ares: Might kill Jarvis just because. Hey, every other thought this guy has is about how he could have his way with the female teammates, I'm not putting murder out of the realm of possibility. Also sheds, but only when he bathes, which is rare. Once a month, tops, but seriously clogs the drain.

Scarlet Witch: Unstable hex powers constantly causing things to show up in the last place you would expect them. Like when the good silverware wound up in Hawkeye's underwear drawer, or when the vacuum was in the Quinjet, or the Christmas turkey was in the dishwasher. . .

Quicksilver: Slipstream from super-speed throws everything into disarray.

Warbird: Got into drinking contests with Herc and Stark. Drank up expensive bottle of Chateaus La'Tour from 1876 Jarvis was saving for special dinner with Aunt May. Replaced it with bottle of cheap stuff from corner liquor market.

Namor: Do I really need to explain this? Fine. Imagine having to meet Namor's specifications for living arrangements. "These sheets are not of fine enough silk! You call this caviar?! The water in the bathtub is loaded with mineral deposits! I demand a bath of fine mountain spring water, if you foolish surface dwellers haven't defiled it all!" And on and on.

The Hulk: I don't have to explain this one, right? "Coffee too hot! Hulk Smash!"

The Sentry: Batshit insane. Look, he can bring people back from the dead. It only stands to reason, therefore, that Superman Jesus (trademark: somebody else) can make that work in reverse as well. And who knows what would set him off? He could get terribly depressed from watching an episode of Animal Cops for cripes' sake!

USAgent: I don't think he was ever part of the East Coat branch, though he did help them in the last issue of Busiek's Avengers run. But they must have interacted at some point, and since we're talking USAgent here, there's no way it was pleasant.

Jack of Hearts: Leaks radiation. Leaves Jarvis concerned about cancer, or radiation poisoning in general.

Sandman: Tracks sand everywhere. Duh.

That's what I've got, just off the top of my head. I'm sure there's other heroes with other reasons, but it does seem odd the cat girl would be the one Jarvis vehemently opposes having around. Hmm, maybe he's a dog person? Either way, I feel better. Ah, cleansing the soul.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Lack Words

There are times that, I, I just don't know about Marvel, or me and this hobby of mine.

We've got the Millar on an upcoming Wolverine arc, and his well, incestuous Hulk grandkids. From the creative team who brought you Civil War! I'm using "creative" very loosely there.

Then there's Bendis and whatever it is that put a bug up his ass about Tigra. Bendis, please, stop writing about Tigra. I know Yu said she was gonna get a moment in the sun to make up for all the crap lately, but I have no faith in you to do right by the character. No faith whatsoever. If it was your pets, Luke Cage and Jessica Drew, then I might believe you were doing this with the purpose of showing what true heroes they are, and how they persevere. But since it's a character you've professed to hate, a character you have Edwin Jarvis, of all characters, calling an obscenity, I can't give you that benefit of the doubt (and we're gonna talk about that Jarvis thing tomorrow). Because you've given no indication you deserve it. The funny thing is, once upon a time (in Mexico) I wasn't prepared to buy that you did hate Tigra, thinking you just said that as a joke. I believe it now.

So here's the thing: Millar, please stop writing. Or at least, please stop trying to outdo Jeph Loeb in terms of unsubtle, gratuitous stupidity. And Bendis, please stop writing Tigra. Stop writing about her. Make a deal with Mephisto to forget that she even exists in the Marvel Universe. Or I'll make a deal with Mephisto to make you forget. I can trade my love for Ultimate Spider-Man. I'm willing to do that. Marvel got my money for them, so it's not as if you would care, and I'll have stuff to keep me warm when the Apocalypse comes and there's no electricity (because I don't burn reading material otherwise). You don't have to finish the story you have planned for her, just drop it. In a few years, someone will come along who likes the character, who can do right by her, they'll make her part and they'll rehab the character.

I, I, I ju- I don't know. I'm not even buying these books (nor do I plan to) and their existence is driving me up the walls.

*sighs*

I'm done.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Good Week To Catch A Second Wind

Are you sure I can't read The Punisher? {Positive.} Are you ever going to get your labels finished? {I've kind of concluded I'm never going to be entirely happy with them, no matter how many times I expand the list of labels. Which won't stop me from trying.} That's the way! {Thanks.} You are going to start buying more books next month, right? {Tell Marvel to stop pricing so many things I want to buy at four bucks. 9 titles from them next month, and 3 of them have that price bump. Like I'm made out of money.} Oh. Well, I'll go talk to them after this. It won't take long.

Well, Rayne needs some Applause for surviving the Automaton and the giant fire salamanders, and for getting the book she needed. And since she got smashed through a ceiling, and nearly crushed a couple of times, here's a Hug too. {I wonder if Rayne accepts hugs?} Sure she does! She let Mynce hug her at the end of Tibetan Heights! {Point for you.} That reminds me, I'm going to Hug for Mynce for being adorable. {Ugh.} What? {Hugging children.} What's wrong with children? {They're grabby, sticky, noisy, smelly, though not as bad as babies, oh yeah, and destructive.} But you were a child once. {Yes, but I was a perfect child. I never acted up, or made any messes.} Oh. So I guess you wouldn't want me to Hug the mutant baby in Messiah CompleX? {It's your hug, you can give it to whomever you please. Just keep the baby away from me.} Good.

*phone rings* {Yeah? Hey mom. You want to talk to ABP? O-kay. Here.} Hello? Fine, and you? That's good. What's going on? Oh really? Well, thank you for telling me. You have a nice day. *hangs up*

{What's up?} Oh, not much, your mom just wanted to tell me you did to make messes and act up when you were a kid. {She told you that?} Yes! And you know what that means - BONK! {Aieee!} 'Aieee'? Why would you say that? {I don't know. I just felt like trying out some of Bendis' patented "person in distress" dialogue.} It sounds pretty stupid. {It does, doesn't it? Say, what's that?} Oh, that poor horse, it's been whipped to death. *rimshot* {So, we done with the comedy portion of our show?} I think so, but I don't have anyone else to bonk. Can I bonk Barracuda, even though I didn't read the comic? {If you had read the comic, you'd know there isn't anything left of 'Cuda's head to bonk.} Ew. {You said it.} In that case, I'm off to Marvel, to get them to lower prices. {Good luck with that. Oh, and watch out for Quesada. it's said that he steals the happiness of those young and adorable to make them more relatable to the fans.} I'll be careful. See ya!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Don't We Need A Custody Hearing?

I was flipping through the last chapter of Messiah Complex yesterday, and thank goodness that's over. Hopefully Peter David can get X-Factor back on track. Wait, that wasn't what I wanted to discuss.

Cable has the baby. Cyclops wants the baby. Cable is holding a gun on his father, and things are getting kind of emo, and I'm squinting and trying to decipher Bachalo's art, and Xavier steps out and tells Cable to give Cyke the baby. He says that Cyclops leads the X-Men, and so he has to speak for all of them.

All of who? All the X-Men? Is Cable an X-Man anymore? Not too long ago, Cyclops was convinced Cable might be their enemy and sent a heavily redundant team after him, but now Cable is supposed to hand over this baby he's been protecting to Cyclops, because Scott speaks for them? Sez who? Cyclops is the guy who once bailed on his wife and kid to go run around with back-from-the-dead Jean Grey, so I think that has to count as at least one strike against his judgment, and against him getting to play Solomon. What strikes me as really odd is, Cyke ultimately gives the baby back to Cable and tells him to go. In other words, Cable should proceed as he had planned to originally, so was all the talking and pointing of firearms really required?

On the plus side, at least someone stopped looking at the kid as some prize to be won, or a threat to be eliminated. The Purifiers want to destroy it because they hate mutants, Bishop wants to kill it to save his future, the Marauders, well Sinister, wanted it for whatever eugenics program he was planning to start up (come on, it's always something like that with Sinister). Mystique wanted to save Rogue, the X-Men wanted it for, some reason beyond just protecting it (because they're the X-Men, and all mutants must be under their care? Are we sure the kid wouldn't be less likely to be the target of attacks if it was with Sinister? He'd be harder to find?)

Cyclops seems to feel the child has the best chance of actually being a child if she stays with Cable. I'm less certain of that myself, but cheers to Cyclops for making his decision based on that. Did I just give a cheers to Cyclops? I'm not feverish, but I certainly must be sick. I better go lie down.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What I Bought 1/23/08

Sorry about the lack of posting yesterday. I just had. . . absolutely nothing to talk about. In other news, I noticed that S-Prime is preparing to square off with the Monarch, which is kind of what I figured might happen, based on the ludicrous ramping up of the Monarch's powers DC's done. Hopefully at least one of them will die. If I'm really lucky, both of them would die, but I'm not that lucky. Moving right along.

Bloodrayne: Automaton - It's a pretty decent cover, but I think they could have put Rayne father back, so that the shadowy figure she's looking at could be a little more prominent. I think it would add to the sense that she's boxed in, and going to have to fight her way out. Also, she needs smaller heels on those boots. I mean, that has to just kill her feet, doesn't it?

So, at this point, the heads of the society that Rayne has worked for these past decades have been taken over by some god-like beings, and the society has basically fallen apart. Rayne and a few others are searching for the Book of the Fifth Sun, which holds an incantation that sealed up the beings centuries ago, before they were released by Valerio, who we met in the Red Blood Run mini-series. Clues point to the book being housed inside a tomb-like building in Prague, and Rayne has to get inside and get the book, while dealing with giant fire salamanders, giant robots, and gas mask wearing ninja monk guys. Just another day in the life of an evil-crushing half-vampire.

OK, so after the art for Red Blood Run drove me away, there were some concerns on my part about how the art would go for this. Concerns mostly allayed. Andre Coelho has a style that reminds me of a combination of the Dodsons and Rafael Albuquerque (artist of Blue Beetle). It's generally clean, expressive, and mostly easily to follow. There was one point I felt Rayne's facial expression didn't quite line up with what her comments were conveying (she seemed angry, but she was staring up with almost surprise), and the action doesn't always flow well from one panel to the next (in one panel a fire salamander appears ready to bite her in half, in the next it appears to have only headbutted her), but on the whole, it was pretty well done. And the brighter coloring was a nice change after the depressing, murky grayness of Red Blood Run.

Considered by itself, this is pretty good. There's a definite goal, there's some interesting character interaction, mostly between members of Rayne's support crew, and of course, lots of Rayne kicking weird mystical butt, which is, of course, why I'm here. There's one thing unclear, and it's something I was curious to see how it would be handled. I didn't get the final issue of the Red Blood Run mini-series. At the end of the second issue, Rayne had received some treatment that had robbed her of her powers. She was just human. This issue takes place sometime after that, and it seems clear she is supernaturally powered again, given she gets smashed through walls without being crippled, and manages to climb a stone building with her bare hands. But no mention is made of how, which is probably because it was handled in the final issue of Red Blood Run, but a little explanation on the recap page (which explained several other things quite well) would have been appreciated. As a continuation of an preexisting plot, this issue is still good, it's just that one little thing nags at me.

The Punisher #54 - Yes, Tim Bradstreet, that's Frank Castle pointing a boomstick at us. What am I supposed to say about that? The shadows over his eyes is a nice touch.

Frank and 'Cuda fight. Frank wins, and now has to decide what to do with his daughter. I am sure his decision will surprise absolutely none of you. There, I just summed up the entire issue.

Of course, that's not the whole story, as Ennis and Parlov have combined for what may be the single most graphically violent issue of Ennis' run on this book yet. Blood is flying everywhere, body parts are being separated from the whole, it's just gory. It's the kind of stuff Ennis hinted at off-panel or in shadow in the Marvel Knights Punisher book (like the guy's head getting swatted off by the polar bear) in full view, in color, front and center. It's enough to make me somewhat uneasy reading it, whereas I usually take Frank's brand of justice in stride (since it's fiction and all).

I suppose the simplest reason why is that Frank knows that for him, the stakes have never been higher (ugh, cliche alert!), and so he really can't take any chances, especially not since Barracuda seems to be the single most dangerous enemy Frank's faced in the MAX run. I can't help but feel sorry for Frank, even though he made the decision and is prepared to live with the consequences of it. He knows himself too well. Despite my unease at the level of violence, I enjoyed the issue, and look forward to seeing what Ennis' final story (as currently solicited) does with Frank.

And that's it. And only one book next week. Either there need to be fewer of these five Wednesday months, or I need a bigger pull list. That second one isn't likely to happen, so clearly it's time to change the calendar. We may need to speed up the Earth's revolution, but that can't too hard.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Shall We Discuss Discussing Comics?

There's no hope of stopping the Patriots fairly now, is there? Then again, if there was ever a franchise that could host the Super Bowl in their year-old stadium, only to have it hit by a meteorite during said sporting event, it would be the Arizona Cardinals. So there's that, at least.

But that's not really what I was going to talk about today, I just needed to get it out there.

What I wanted to ask about today is what you try to get out of other people's reviews of comic books. Or TV shows, movies, video games, books, whatever. Is it to see whether there's something out there that's really good that you should check out, or conversely, something that's really bad that you should avoid (say, that Wolverine story Jeph Loeb did last year)? Do you use them as a cheap way to keep up on titles you once loved but no longer wish to financially support (*cough Amazing Spider-Man cough*)? Is it a way to get a different point of view on something you've already read (or watched, or played)? An opportunity to see if there's something you missed when you read it, or maybe just to see if someone else interprets things differently? Or is it all three, depending on what we're talking about?

I think it's all of those things for me, since I can get introduced to something I need to consider purchasing, or save myself cash by not buying something I don't feel is worth it, and I never know when someone more astute than me is going to point out something I missed, that will cause me to rethink my opinion of a work. One of the Savage Critics did that with Punisher: The Tyger once, since I had initially felt it was good, but fairly pointless, and whichever one it was mentioned that it seemed to be Ennis building on what make Frank Castle who he is. Viewing it from the perspective, it was a lot more interesting of a comic to me, and it changed the way I was looking at Ennis' Punisher work as a whole.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

So Many Choices

So, if you've been reading Annihilation: Conquest (or talking to someone who has), you know that Moondragon tried to protect Quasar from Ultron and got punched in the heart for her trouble (see issue #2). Then partway through #3, Moondragon's body dissolved into mist as she said her tearful farewells to Phyla. Even as jaded as I am towards death in the superhero comic world, I found it at least a bit touching.

Still this is at least the second death for Heather, and so I imagine she'll bounce back at some point, leading to a happy reunion with her beloved. The question, as those of you accustomed to the trains of thought I purchase tickets for around here, is in what form?

Though I imagine it's possible for her astral form to escape the portion of space the Phalanx have walled off, I have think she would try to stay there, so that if she could find a suitable replacement, she would be better able to help Phyla.

First possibility: One of the High Evolutionary's "Nu-Kree". I'm not sure how many are left since he had the star near his floating lab explode, but the H.E. is a fairly intelligent individual; it's reasonable to expect he has more of them stashed somewhere, or has other facilities that could be used to make more. They don't seem to have much in the way of minds; they mostly stand around unless the H.E. is nearby, then they crowd around him and do as he commands. She could take one of those bodies fairly easily. Or, H.E. also said the Nu-Kree were his early attempts, and that he had finished the work he was there to do, so maybe Heather can snag one of those perfect expressions of Kree genetics he made.

Second possibility: Heather projects her mind into an empty Phalanx husk. Ultron had the Phalanx create a new body for him, and then downloaded himself back into it. If she could find a similar form that had no mind yet, maybe she could hop in and take over.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Too Cold To Think Of Clever Title

Or even one of my usual titles for that matter. I normally like where I've got my computer, but the cold is just seeping through the window. Oh well, at least it isn't precipitating.

I don't know if anyone else noticed, but AMC's been showing all of Charles Bronson's Death Wish movies this week. I was somewhat dismayed to discover there were five of them.

I thought the original was pretty interesting, because there seemed to be more thought to it, whereas all the others seem to just be about giving Kersey something that makes him happy, then taking it away from him so he can shoot lots of people. The first one let us see Paul Kersey's early attempts at vigilantism, and the toll that took on him (him staggering back to his apartment and throwing up after he shot his first mugger). Then there was the idea of his actions sparking a cultural phenomenon, with the old lady defending herself with a hat pin, and the construction workers pummeling that mugger that tried to escape through their work site. And that lead to the difficulty the mayor and the police department faced with what to do with the Vigilante once they caught him.

I liked the detective, Ochoa. He was pretty clever, not in the sense that he had a bunch of one-liners, but because he seemed to understand people easily. He had a pretty good idea of what to look for in a vigilante (though Kersey's being a conscientious objector threw him a bit), he understood why the old guy Kersey saved couldn't recall what the Vigilante looked like and he always seemed to have a good idea what his superiors were thinking when they gave him orders. Find the Vigilante, but don't arrest him. Scare him, make him stop, but don't arrest him, don't confirm he's the Vigilante. Get him to go someplace else, but if he starts up again, you're the one that'll have to go and stop him. Pretty raw deal on the whole, but he dealt with it pretty well.

Until he got shot repeatedly, anyway.

Friday, January 18, 2008

And Here's To You, Baby Panda

{A toast, for the panda with the most!} Are you drinking? {It's just sparkling grape juice. I'm no bad influence!} Can I have some? {Did you bring your sippy cup?} I don't need a sippy cup! {Seeing as it's my carpet you'd be spilling on, I say you do.} . . . Fine. Here's the sippy cup. {And here's some juice. We good to go?} Just as soon as I do one thing. {Don't take the lid off the sippy cup! That defeats the whole purpose of the sippy cup!} Ha ha ha!

{Why must you torment me?} Because it secretly lightens up your life. {Lightens up your life, you mean.} That too. I think Chesbro needs a Hug. He looked so surprised someone wanted him dead, but he tried to warn Spider-Girl about the contract on her, so he also gets some Applause. And since she has a contract on her head, and she saved Chesbro's life, Applause and Hugs for Spider-Girl, too. {Not to doubt your judgment, but don't you think you're being a little loose with the hugs and applause?} No! I'm also going to Applaud Deadpool for showing Ka-Zar a good way to stop the bad guy from escaping on a pterodactyl. But he also has to get a Bonk for setting dinosaurs loose in New York City. [What? It was a mistake! And I'm going to clean it up next issue!] {Besides, after the damage Girltron wreaked on NYC in Mighty Avengers, not to mention the Hulk, is anyone going to notice some dinosaurs?} [That's right! Wait, Girltron?] {Ultron hacked Iron Man's brain, and made him into a new Ultron body, that looked like a naked Janet van Dyne.} [Why?! And is there evidence?] {Frank Cho, and I'm sure you can find pictures somewhere, Wade.} [Then I'm off!] What about the dinosaurs? [I'll take care of them next month!]

{Moving on?} Yeah, I think so. I think Davos needs at least a little Hug after the beating he took. And the Prince of Orphans needs some Applause for being awesome. {Do pandas know how to turn into green lightning?} I'm not sure. Maybe? I know there are some who can use lightning, but I don't know if they can be lightning. I'm going to Hug and Bonk Fat Cobra. He didn't get to fight, and he didn't do very well with Tiger's Beautiful Daughter. {Then what's the bonk for?} Because he should have been smarter about trying something with Tiger's Beautiful Daughter. {True. The arm stretching maneuver probably was not the best approach. Maybe poetry? I bet Fat Cobra can be quite poetic when he wants. Anyone else getting a mention.}
Hmm, I think Hobgoblin needs a Bonk for keeping his brother locked up in that underground bunker. People need sunlight. {Not vampires.} Vampires aren't people! {Great, now we're going to get sued by some Equal Rights for Vampires organization. I hope you've got deep pockets.} I don't have any pockets. {Thank you! We'll be here all week!} Not me, I'm going home now. {Fine. I'll be here all week!}

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Whoa, You're Quite Large. I'm Just Gonna Run Now

I think it's been awhile since my last post about games, though I'm too lazy to check my archives. Seems that way, at least. Anyway, I figured I'd talk about Shadow of the Colossus, having defeated it and all, especially since it once vexed me so.

For those not familiar with the game, a quick intro: You are a boy with a name lost to time. You have journeyed to a "Shrine of Worship" in the Forbidden Land, to ask a being of great power trapped there to bring a girl, of uncertain connection to you, back to life. The being, named Dormin, agrees, but first you'll have to defeat some colossi scattered across the vast landscape of the Forbidden Lands. The quest won't be easy, and you're told it won't come without cost to you, but you are resolute, and so, armed with a fabled sword that can locate and harm the colossi, and astride your horse, away you go.

And that's about it. It's a very sparse game. You have to kill the colossi in a specific order, so you find one, kill it, cue cut scene where you get attacked by black tentacles exiting the colossi's wounds and pass out. Then you wake up back in the Shrine and you're ready to go after the next one. There's no sidequests, unless you want to get some fruit to boost health, or kill the white-tailed lizards around the save points to boost your strength (which does make clambering around on the colossi a bit easier). There aren't any henchmen to fight, or archery or horse-riding mini-games like you might find in say, a Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda. It's remarkably straightforward in that respect. You just climb around on those Colossi until you find their weak points, and you stab the hell out of them, trying not to fall off, or getting squashed.

The Colossi are found allover, from lakes, to caves, to mausoleums, to abandoned fortresses. They range from a little smaller than an elephant (by my estimation), to so large Galactus would be craning his neck back to see their faces (the 16th Colossus especially). Some were more fun to fight than others, as I got a bit annoyed with some of the rigmarole you had to go through at times, just to expose the weak spot on them, let alone actually attack them (the 14th Colossus leaps to mind here). But, I guess it's a way to mix up the strategy a bit.

One of the enjoyable parts for me is the landscape. The Forbidden Land is massive, with ravines, waterfalls, numerous lakes, forests, deserts, caves, ruins here and there, it even borders an ocean. I just wish it didn't take so long to get places, even with your wise, trusty, and very brave horse. It's a place that would take years to explore if you were there with just your faithful steed (you have no idea how faithful). That's one thing I'd love to have as an unlockable, the ability to get a jammin' car with the radio blasting, so you could just go tearing around, check out everything. It'd be like GTA, but without drive-bys. Maybe a Warthog, from Halo? See how those Colossi like a little firepower of the future? I doubt they would be very impressed.

That would ruin the mood of the game, though. It's very tranquil. Until the very end, it's always light out (though you can never pinpoint the source of the light, it's just everywhere, and it's almost too bright, as things tend to get washed out, especially at a distance). Never too much wind. No real distractions. The occasional lizard scurries by, depending on location you'll see hawks, doves, seagulls, crows, and they may follow you as you ride (And you can apparently grab one and be carried through the air. Not sure how that works. Never tried it). Then you find the Colossus and suddenly the earth is being shaken, landscape torn up, the Colossi aren't above roaring at times. It's quite a shift.

The other thing I like is the sense of backstory to the game. Like I said, there are ruins scattered throughout, and smaller versions of the Shrine of Worship (those are the save points). People used to be here, but they aren't anymore. It's 'Forbidden Land' now. Why? What did Dormin do to be sealed here? There's some signs at the end of a cultural struggle, and a sense that the loser hasn't exactly been pleased with the way things turned out, and that the winner isn't completely in control of things. So the end sheds a little light on things, but it's one of those cases where it's just enough light to reveal more questions. I do enjoy it when the game clues you in to why things are as they are (Phantom Dust being an example where I thought it was done well), but Shadow of the Colossus is an example of how it can be fun when the creators leave it to you to decide what happened to make the world that you're in the way it is.

I don't know about replay value with the game, I haven't tried to replay it yet. Jeez, I only beat it this afternoon, give a man a little time to absorb the experience! I probably will play again, maybe on Hard mode, maybe not. Mostly, I just want to ride around the landscape and see what there is to see.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What I Bought 1/16/08

So in addition to the usual comics, I also got my copy of Beyond! in trade form. Haven't sat down to read it yet, but I'll get to that later tonight, I imagine. In the meantime, let's get to the new comics of the week, shall we?

Amazing Spider-Girl #16 - You know what I like about this cover? How Frenz drew the fabric of the costume bunched around the neck, which gives it some sense of being actual clothing. I know, it's a little thing, but those count for a lot with me sometimes. Anyway, in this issue May lets her father in on the recent development with her baby brother, finds out Gene Thompson wants to get back together with her (don't do it May!), and gets attacked by an assassin named Deadspot. Sadly, there is no indication she is somehow the offspring of Deadpool and The Spot. That would be awesome, though, if she were. In the process of fighting said assassin, she saves Black Tarantula's second-in-command, who had also been targeted, and was the one who warned her of the contract.

That's the part I didn't follow. It seems like Tarantula is the one who sent Deadspot after May, but then Chesbro can't figure out who sent Deadspot after him, even though the killer says Chesbro has become a liability. That would seem to make it fairly obvious who sent her, but maybe I'm reading it wrong. I like though, that we continue to get some progress on Hobgoblin's attempts to be the new Kingpin, though I wonder if DeFalco's not putting too many balls in the air, now that there appears to be a new player on the scene (besides Deadspot) that's going to be mixed up in the gang war, besides Fancy Dan (Hey Chris Sims! Enforcer cameo! No Ox or Montana, though. Sorry). I think Frenz' work on faces suffered a bit this issue. They seemed a bit too exaggerated in places, but I like the way things are laid out in the panels. It's not revolutionary, but he does a pretty good job of knowing when to go close up, and when to pull back and show things from a distance, such as when May tells her dad about Benjy's recent wall-crawling. I enjoyed the issue, minor concerns aside.

Where In The World Is Carmen San Deadpool? #49 - I must admit, I'm not sure what Skottie Young is going for with these covers some times. Beyond being amusing, I mean. Which is fine, I'm just curious about the style of his art. So Wade travels to the Savage Land with Weasel and Bob for Irene, to get a doohickey Magneto had, and then they're going to give it to the people of Rumekistan to make their lives better. That's nice. First though, Wade will have to defeat Brainchild and his lackeys with his tactical genius that can only come from playing Super Mario. And no, I don't mean that Wade eats 'shrooms and jumps on turtles. They should save that for the lest issue. Anyway, as is typical, Wade's method of handling a problem - in this case, a stampede of hungry dinos - has unfortunate side-effects, which are briefly shown at the end of the issue.

There wasn't anything gut-bustingly funny in this issue, but there were a lot of scenes that made me chuckle, from Bob's blog entry at the beginning, to how Wade was immune to Lorelei's song, to the contract negotiations, and of course, Wade's potential slashfic comment about Ka-Zar. Given Reilly Brown did the writing, and Nicieza was 'script monkey', I'm not sure who gets credit for what there, but let's just say a strong job by both, aided by Brown's usual strong job on the pencils. I did think the layout when Wade tells Irene that he'll get this doohickey for her, with the small panels with black backgrounds, was a bit of an odd choice. It worked, but it caught my attention when I was reading. Issue definitely enjoyed. Alright, 2 for 2! Can we get a perfect 3?

Immortal Iron Fist #12 - I have nothing to say about the cover. So, we've learned why Danny's father never became Iron Fist. We've learned what Lei Kung and Orson's daughter are up to, and we've learned what the Prince of Orphans does when someone disrespects what the Tenkaichi Budokai is all about. Suffice to say, it involves lots of punching. There's something else to him as well, but I don't know what it is. . . yet. I think that's for next month.

The stuff about Wendell Rand and Davos was very interesting, and Bruaction came up with a pretty logical explanation for why Wendell did not slay the dragon and become Iron Fist, all things being considered equal. Plus, they're doing a really good job of making Davos someone who seems to think he's fine as he is, but who is a sack of garbage as far as most others are concerned. Heck, Davos may even recognize that, but like most villains he chalks it up to them, not him. I can't figure out the reason for the Javier Pulido pages, by which I mean I can't figure why he drew those pages instead of David Aja. Thematically, I can't figure what was special about them. Plus, he draws Danny kind of scrawny. Still, I have to say I enjoyed this. Alright, 3 for 3! Woohoo!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Artist/Audience Relationship?

You ever get a headache where it feels like hammers are pounding on your forehead, and there's an icepick being jammed into the base of your skull, simultaneously? I got that right now. I even know what the problem is, but I can't loosen my neck up enough to give it a good "snap, crack, pop!" to sort everything out. In other news, I enjoyed the beginning of PTI today, when Kornheiser said the first thing that should be on his "Bucket List" would be to tell Stat Boy TK is his father, if only for Reali's anguished "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" It made me laugh, even through the pain. Good times.

OK, enough skylarking.

I'm not sure where this post originates from. I think it's a general thing that I've been thinking about recently, based on different people's reaction to the same comics. I think it may have actually began with Diamondrock's post about his general disinterest in manga, and his comment that part of the problem was the art felt static, lifeless. In the comments, I had mentioned that with the manga I had read, it wasn't an issue of lack of motion, but perhaps of too much motion, or a lack of clarity in representing said motion. I don't have any idea if Diamonrock and I have looked at the same stuff, but I was curious about the different reaction. There have been a few other things that contributed, including Brian Hibbs description of the art in Punisher War Journal #15 as 'pretty stinky' (I'm too lazy to do any links, the issue came out last week, the review's part of a clump of reviews). In the comments, Tim Callahan expressed the opinion that PWJ #15 was one of the best-looking comics of the week. I've also seen people debating Stuart Immonen's work on Ultimate Spider-Man compared to Mark Bagley's. There are people who feel Immonen's lacking, that Bendis has had to add more talking because Immonen's art can't carry emotions as well, and there are others that think there's no difference, no dropoff from Bagley to Immonen. Personally, I don't think Immonen conveys the more subtle emotions as well, and his fight scenes aren't always as clearly laid out as I prefer, especially compared to Bagley, but there are obviously other people who feel differently.

So here's the point to all this. When reading a comic book, how much of the burden for following or understanding what is going on falls on the penciler/inker/colorist, and how much falls to the reader's ability to interpret the pictures in front of them? I know that with comic books, the writer plays a large role, since they can provide expository dialogue, caption boxes, or comments that shed light on what's happening, but for now I'm going to try and leave them out of it (good luck with that, right?)

When I really started to wonder about this, I started looking at my volumes of the Rurouni Kenshin manga and wondering if, when Sanosuke rears back to headbutt his opponent, the art was giving the sense of Sano throwing his head back in preparation, or if my mind was projecting/inserting the motion into the panel. Obviously, if I'm seeing actual motion, it's in my head because we're dealing with 2 dimensional drawings of things moving, as opposed to actual movement, but is the artist drawing in a manner that suggests the motion, or is the reader making that leap themselves? Is it possible for someone to illustrate in a manner which would evoke the proper response (assuming that the creative team is going for a specific reaction/emotion/image) in all people? Or do we, as the audience, each have our own blind spots, where certain styles simply don't mesh well with our minds, and so to our eyes those styles fail to achieve their desired effect, leading us to label the art as "ineffective", "poor", "ill-suited for the subject matter" or whatever adjectives we want to apply?

And if we do have "blind spots", then how much of the failure for the art to connect with the viewer is on the artist? Is it a case of them choosing the method or approach they think is best, and hoping that by and large, it strikes the right chord? I know there are basic rules that are generally followed (though I'm not real clear on what those rules specifically are), unless not following them serves a purpose in the story. I figure things like perspective, and not changing line-of-sight in odd ways, abrupt ways are kind of supposed to be observed, but beyond basic rules of art, how much are the artists responsible for?

As you can tell, I have no answers, just a bunch of questions. I figure somebody out there knows Art Theory better than me, and hopefully they'll speak up. Even if you don't know Art Theory, if you've got something to add, please do so. I'm gonna go lie down.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hardly Seems To Be A Point In Delaying The Inevitable

I was kinda, sorta following the Resurrection of Ra A'Ghul story, through the magic of online reviews, and I was left a bit disappointed that Robin didn't follow through with what looked like a potential heel turn.

It seemed like the pieces were there. Tim has always been at least somewhat calculating, and it only seems to have intensified in the last few years. He's lost a ridiculous number of people close to him in the span of what, two years (their time, not our time). Bats, Alfred and Nightwing may be trying their hardest to help him through it, but they can't replace all the people he's lost. And Tim's already wasted a bunch of time trying to clone his best friend, so I was surprised that he wouldn't at least keep those samples he had briefly taken from the Lazarus Pit, even if he isn't going to actually join Ra. I mean, Tim tried cloning, even though that wasn't likely to recreate Superboy's soul, but he's going to give up on this possible answer because Nightwing talked to him?

Teen Titans has been telling us that it's apparently inevitable that Tim will get his "control the world" freak on at some point in the future, even though he keeps meeting his future self and acting as if he's disgusted by him. So why wait? Start now! Heck maybe if he uses the Pit to bring his friends back now, it'll stave off his metamorphosis into what he's been shown to become. Or maybe successfully using the Pit's chemicals would convince him that he was right to try this, and accelerate his change.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Petard Hoisting Is Fun!

Idea: So Superman-Prime is traveling between universes by going through the Source Wall, right? I've been thinking about something that would be kind of amusing to have happen, the next time that happens. Say Prime punches the Source Wall, because it's a wall, and he's been known to get angry and punch those before. This punch causes reality to be altered, as has happened before. However, this time around Prime's punch causes him to be wiped out of existence. Or it changes reality so he's dead (kind of a reverse Jason Todd). Right then. Completely without warning.

It may just be me, but I would find that really funny, especially if it somehow also creates the perfect universe he's been searching for. Because really, any universe that doesn't have Superperson-Prime is automatically that much closer to being perfect. Plus, Prime isn't one of those characters I have any burning desire to see defeated, assuming he even can be. I'd rather he just went away, the sooner the better. Besides, he already took on practically every hero on New Earth, and still had enough left to toss the injured Anti-Monitor into deep space, so who can beat him? The Monarch? Are we destined to see a battle of two ridiculously overpowered, murderous loons, for the fate of the DC Universe?

The other thing about Prime going out the way I suggested is what it might represent, if you go with that idea I've seen bandied about that Prime is meant to represent the fans, which I've got to say, is a pretty unflattering portrayal of the people who buy your work if that's true. What would Prime wiping himself out of existence mean? If you keep changing things, seemingly just for the sake of changing things, the fans eventually go away? I'm just throwing that out there. The people who more frequently analyze the metafictional aspects of the comics we read could have some fun with that though, I imagine.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

2007 Comics In Review, Part 4

And so, we have come to the end. I think I've drug this out long enough, so as of this moment, I don't intend to try and do some ranking of best story arcs, ongoing titles, mini-series, etc. Of course, I could change my mind by tomorrow. I'm wacky that way, especially since that Titans Lost Annual came out. I didn't even buy it, but the bits of it I saw on Scans Daily have apparently warped my fragile little mind. So we'll see. Anyway, 2007 was the year Annihilation wrapped up, and Annihilation: Conquest began. Conquest hasn't equaled its predecessor in my eyes, but I haven't regretted spending money on it, which is more than the people who bought Amazons Attack can say, I'm sure. *rimshot* I also put Nova in here because the titles came out of Annihilation, and it's been mixed up in Conquest to a certain extent the last seven issues.

Annihilation: Conquest - Prologue - The thing I've enjoyed about both of the prologues the Annihilation events have had, is that they clue you in on what the score is before everything starts going wrong. You find out what at least some of the important characters are up to, and so it gives someone unfamiliar with them at least somewhat of a starting point, without having to resort to Wikipedia. Always a good idea, from my perspective anyway. I do have to say, looking back over it, there's something off about Mike Perkins art for me here. It seems like either the inking or the coloring aren't really complementing his style. Facial features seem to get lost at time, or faces seem too plastic.

Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar (1-4) - The search for the "Savior" by a novice Quasar and her girlfriend, Moondragon, complicated by a Phalanx-Select Super-Adaptoid that's hunting them, plus a host of other problems.

High Point: I was generally very impressed with how Christos Gage handled Phyla and Heather's relationship, and there was Wendell Vaughn's brief, but nice cameo in the last issue. But you know me, I'm big on fights, so I'm going to choose the series of battles between Phyla and the Super-Adaptoid. What's interesting is that in a battle between a person with the Quantum Bands, and a machine capable of imitating all the powers of the Avengers, it wasn't really a case of one overpowering the other. They kept outsmarting each other, and using abilities not taken from other sources (the Adaptoid using it's ability to adapt to simulate Quantum Bands in #2, and Phyla using her speed to cause S-A to wipe out in #1).

Low Point: This is just me, but I was kind of disappointed that the "Savior" is Adam Warlock. I guess I saw too much of him during the '90s. Not the character's fault, and I don't have a better suggestion (other than Rom the SpaceKnight, naturally), but I had a "Him again?" moment when I saw Warlock emerge from the cocoon in #4.

Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord (1-4) - For my money, the most enjoyable of the lead-ins to the actual Conquest mini-series. And it just so happened to be written by the fellow who brought me Annihilation in 2006, how nice. I liked Timothy Green II's art more at some times than others. It matched the generally light tone of this Dirty Dozenesque story, but there were times his depiction of movement seemed incorrect, or didn't convey the movement well. Minor quibble, on the whole.

High Point: Gabe and the Uni-Force's strategy to uncover the defense against the Phalanx's big weapon was clever, and it was good to see Gabe show some toughness, given that he'd been somewhat flaky in the early going. But I'm going to go with #1. I know, that doesn't seem like a good thing, saying the first issue was the high point, but for an issue that was essentially just exposition on the characters and the situation, with no actual action or progress, it was very entertaining. Starlord's realizing he needs to adjust to weapons with recoil was, for example, pretty funny.

Low Point: Um, nothing jumps to mind, actually.

Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith (1-4) -Everyone was so sure this guy was Rom, but no dice. New character. Seems a tad overpowered, what with his ability to strike fear into the Phalanx, and I wonder how it is his weapon can't be infected by the Phalanx. It seems high-tech enough, but maybe the virus can't be that close to Wraith either? I don't know. I was very pleased with Kyle Hotz' art, and Gina Going-Raney's coloring, because they really sold the dark, creepy atmosphere that seems to hang around Wraith. Very horror-vibe, which is appropriate for a story about a fellow who can't die and body-controlling viruses, don't you think?

High Point: I'm fond of the point in #2 when Ronan is trying to interrogate Wraith, and having gotten nothing from Wraith, and having been told by the Phalanx that his complete submission to them is inevitable, and completely loses his shit. The former Supreme Accuser seemed like one of those types that usually maintains his cool, but he just lost it trying to kill Wraith. Plus, it was pretty cool watching Wraith casually pull himself off the spire he was impaled on, and ask Ronan if that was the best he could do. It's cliche, but it works well after what had just been inflicted on him.

Low Point: The idea that the Supreme Intelligence wasn't actually dead. He got a good sendoff from Ronan in Annihilation #5, and it seemed kind of a waste to bring him back now. Plus, the idea that he could be used to transmit psychic message to submit to the Phalanx didn't quite fly with me. I'm not sure why that was the thing I got hung up on in this mini-series about dead characters bonded to soulless parasites, but there you go. It was good to see the Phalanx had multiple strategies working.

Annihilation: Conquest (1-2) - Only two issues released in 2007, but they certainly upped the ante against the white hats, what with Ultron being restored to a properly menacing form as the leader of the Phalanx show.

Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus (1-2) - Each issue had two stories, and each story dealt with a different Herald. I think I enjoyed the Stardust story the most, but maybe that was just for the idea of a sentient group of beings made out of energy that is constantly changing form, where nothing lasts for more than a second. That seemed extraordinarily cool to me, if somewhat hard to grasp, conceptually. The Silver Surfer vs. Tenebrous and Aegis story was a lot of fun, in the more basic sense of having kickass fight scenes. Really, none of the stories were bad.

Nova (1-9) - This comic is quite a lot of fun for me. We've seen Rich go home, tell of Iron Man, make the Thunderbolts look like chumps, and recoil in horror at Dark Speedball. Then he dallied around in Kree space for his Conquest tie-in, and then things got awesome.

High Point: As cool as his verbal smackdowns of Tony Stark were, there can be no other choice that issues 8 and 9, where Rich helps defend a sort of scientific/religious commune - set inside a Celestial's severed head - from NotZombies with the aid of a telepathic Russian dog. That sentence is a reason why comics are awesome. Also worth noting is Ko-Rel (Nova 01) and the Wolrdmind's battle against a Phalanx Select Richard Rider in #6. At least, up until the end of the issue.

Low Point: I think it's Ko-Rel dying in #6. I suppose I understand the reasoning, but I think it would have been nice to have a Nova involved with Conquest, since Rich seems like he's going to spend all his time trying to get to the Phalanx homeworld, and Ko-Rel was right there, already powered up and ready to go. I really wonder why, if the Nova Force can revive a Richard Rider that looked like a dessicated corpse from slamming into the barrier around Kree Space, it couldn't have fixed one little stab wound to Ko-Rel. I know she didn't have as much Nova Force, but the injury wasn't as severe either. And Rich has got to start putting the Nova Corps back together at some point, right? Just seems a waste.

What If? Annihilation - Let's just call this a purchasing mistake on my part. Sure, it was nice to see Iron Man and Captain America put aside their differences to deal with a true threat, but it wasn't really worth the money.

So, I'm either done at this point, or I've got one more of these in me, but either way, I'm going back to posting other stuff for at least a week. That way I have time to decide if Starlord #1 was better than Brave and the Bold #7, if I wind up doing that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Living Here In Pandatown

So people are still talking about One More Day? {Well, still screaming about it, yes. But now we've got the people telling the screamers to calm down, or just shut up, and I find them more annoying.} Really? {The screamers are passionate. Frighteningly so, but the passion is endearing on a certain level. The ones telling them to shut up are giving off that faux-hipster, "cooler than you" attitude like it was a serious case of B.O. Besides, they're being morons. Telling people to stop talking about One More Day only encourages those people to comment about why they're still talking about it, which turns it into another fit of screaming about it. It's a self-perpetuating cycle.} I guess so. Are you screaming? {Nah. I'm just sad, and a little amused by the mess they seem to have made, which I am also confused by. We should probably move on, though it's likely that the comments on this post will be flooded by people who want to complain/discuss that story. We really shouldn't have mentioned it by name.} Sorry. {It's OK. I did it too. We'll just soldier on.}

Right! Well, maybe if we start with hugs, it will make people happy, and no one will want to scream or complain. {Yeah. Good luck with that.} You have to believe! Clap if you believe! {What, are we in Peter Pan now? Will I be able to fly soon?} Not with that attitude. {Rats.} Hug for Jamie Madrox, who got blown up, and now has a stupid tattoo to remember his trip by. And a Hug for Layla, because she's stuck in the future. I hope they remember to go get her after Messiah CompleX is over. {Me too. I wonder what the other Jamie's up to, in that other future?} Probably getting shot at, Marvel future's always seem to be bad. I think Gamora needed a Hug, because she was kind of sad at times during this last issue. Nova should have told her why he stopped spending time around her, instead of just trying to stay away from her. {But he figured he was the only one with any serious feelings about the relationship, so she wouldn't care. But as I recall, Rich also bailed on Namorita when she turned blue the first time, so he's got a track record of running when the interpersonal stuff gets too heavy.} Well that's not right.

Bonk for Nova then, for bailing on Namorita and Gamora. {So we're handing out retroactive bonks now?} Well, I'm still Bonking Tony Stark for Sallyp, even though he hasn't always done something that particular week, so yeah, I guess so. {OK then. Just making sure.} Hmm, Bonk for Bishop. I know his future is bad, but I'm not sure what he's going to do if he gets his hand on that baby. {I know, he'll take it into the future, where it'll be treated for exposure to the techno-organic virus that it was probably exposed to from being around Cable, and then it'll return to the present to to kill Cable, and become. . . Cable!} That doesn't make any sense! {We're talking about the X-Men, and time travel. Nothing ever makes sense. Not to me, anyway.}

I am going to Applaud Nova, because he didn't abandon Gamora, and even though he might be dead really soon, he's still trying to finish the mission he gave himself. {Yep, all the best heroes in the Marvel Universe are somewhere other than Earth. As long as you don't count The Seven Cities of Heaven as being on Earth, and if you figure that Deadpool is just weird enough to not actually exist on 616-Earth. Somehow.} You're counting Deadpool as a hero? {Certainly more of one than the Mighty Avengers. He gave his soul, part of it, so T-Ray might live. Truly noble.} I think Layla should get some Applause, because she was clever to steal that grenade, and she knew she had to send Jamie back, even if it left here there alone. {Geez, I really hope they go back and get her soon.}

Thursday, January 10, 2008

2007 Comics In Review, Part 3

Lots and lots of solo titles this year. Heck, I'm actually leaving one out, because I think it fits better in Part 4, which we'll get to on Saturday. I did include the Spider-titles this year, rather than keeping them separate, because there weren't as many. I don't have anything else to say so let's begin.

Amazing Spider-Girl (4-15) - This title's been one of those steady books for me, rarely knocking my socks off, but also rarely depressing or aggravating me. I've been a little worried that DeFalco's run out of things to say about the characters, but I think Ron Frenz' artwork has made a dramatic improvement over where it had been during his work on the previous Spider-Girl. May's made a full return to the webs, with all the problems that causes in her personal and academic life. MJ's gotten a job at the school, in addition to her fashion work. Carnage showed up, and the story remarkably did not suck, probably because the symbiote was primarily a means to an end, and the real focus was on how the characters react. And through it all, Hobgoblin's been trying to tack control of the New York criminal underworld, with Black Tarantula periodically taking steps to slow him down, when Spider-Girl doesn't do it first. Interestingly, Peter Parker hasn't been much of a factor in the series this year, as it's been mostly about May and Mary Jane.

High Point: I'm going to give it to #6, when Jimmy Yama convinces his girlfriend to dress up as Spider-Girl, to help promote their comic, with hilarious consequences. OK, I suppose Hobgoblin showing up and abducting Heather to draw out the real Spider-Girl isn't hilarious (more like terrifying), but I was glad to see another Spider-Girl/Hobgoblin direct confrontation. All the behind the scenes stuff Hobby's been up to is nice, but sometimes you just need a reminder that the Hobgoblin is a personally dangerous dude. #14, where Hobgoblin learns all about Black Tarantula's history was pretty good too.

Low Point: I'm going to say #15, when Mindworm begins messing with May's mind, but then May breaks loose, a bunch of heroes show up, and Hobby and Mindworm retreat. As much as I've felt that the gang war arc has dragged at times, this part seemed to happen too fast, and I thought it might have been better to show Mindworm gradually messing with May's mind, while Hobgoblin continued to make inroads in his schemes elsewhere. Mindworm's still out there, so I suppose he can try again later, but it felt rushed, like DeFalco just needed a conflict to fill part of this issue.

Amazing Spider-Man (537-542, Free Comic Book Day offering) - Wasn't that great of a 2007 for Spidey, was it? I must say though, I think not having bought One More Day has lowered my reaction to it. I'm still not happy with it (seems incredibly half-assed. Quarter-assed, even), but at least I didn't spend money on it like I did Sins Past and Sins Remembered (back when it was much harder for me to give up hope on a title). And for the record, no I'm not planning on buying Brand New Day (though Jackpot intrigues me for some reason), because that would tell Q I thought his break up the marriage scheme was a good one, and I don't. Vote with your wallets, blah blah.

High Point: #542, where Peter Parker goes to the prison and breaks out the can of ass-kicking on Wilson Fisk. I am surprised Fisk didn't have a better plan than to try and fight Spider-Man hand to hand (no weapons hidden in the cane?), but on a sheer, visceral level, I enjoyed Spider-Man reminding Kingpin of just how much nothing he is compared to someone who can bench a city bus. Daredevil can have his legal victories, temporary as they always seem to be, but Parker can outright humiliate Fisk in front of all the people he wants fear and respect from. Plus, as overwrought as JMS' tough guy dialogue came off at times, I thought Garney and the rest of the art crew (inker Bob Reinhold, colorist Matt Milla) did a great job on the whole arc.

Low Point: #537, because it had those two pages of Captain America quoting Mark Twain to Spider-Man. Yawn.

Cable/Deadpool (36-48) - Severely hamstrung by Mike Carey stealing half of the main characters, thus removing the major thing the book was built on, Cable and Deadpool interacting, and how they affect one another. Still lots of funny moments, but it just wasn't the same.

High Point: The fight with Taskmaster in #36 was fun, and who could forget #38, where we first meet Bob, Agent of HYDRA? The two issues with Wolverine (#43 & 44) were pretty good, especially when Logan realizes Wade was right all along at the end, just for the confusion on the Canucklehead's face. #46 had its moments, but I got tired of Black Panther's attitude pretty quickly. Jerk. Still, the high point goes to #41, when Wade arrives on Providence to help Cable in the aftermath of that Hecatomb or whatever nearly destroying the island. Really, the scene where Domino tells Cable that Wade showed up and saved Irene from Sabretooth, and Cable smiles a little, it was just great. I think it really surprised Nate, and in a good way.

Low Point: Eh, I'm going to say #39 and #48, because I really don't care about T-Ray, or his issues with Deadpool. Of the two, I'll say #39, because #48 had the scene where all the different parts of Wade's mind appear as different heroes, including IronPool, who says he will start a Civil War in Wade's brain, and all brain cells must register. #39 had none of that, so it loses.

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1 - I felt I'd already read this story, it's largely the fourth Dark Tower book, so I didn't really need to buy it twice. Maybe the next set, since that seems to be something that wasn't in the original books.

Deadpool/Great Lakes Initiative Summer Fun Spectacular - I don't know what to say about this. I really liked it though. Especially Squirrel Girl's heartbreaking quest to find Speedball, and Tippy-Toe's assertion that Squirrel Girl's victory over Dr. Doom counts because it was in story that involved Steve Ditko, so deal with it fanboys. Plus, the adventures of Deadpool as the deadbeat houseguest the GLI can't get rid of.

Dr. Strange: The Oath (4-5) - Oh, there's not really enough here to do a high/low points, but I do want to say I loved this mini-series (BKV for the win!), and I especially liked Strange bringing the martial arts beatdown in #5. Hell yes. And heck, Dr. Strange and Night Nurse being a couple even made it into New Avengers, though based on where Bendis went with the Hood, maybe that isn't a good thing. You'll have to decide that for yourself, as I don't read New Avengers anymore. Thank goodness I broke free of it! My soul has been so much lighter since then!

Immortal Iron Fist (#3-11, Annual) - I don't seem to love this title as much as everyone else. I mean, I enjoy it, but not with the "This is the greatest thing EVER!!!" passion of some others. I must say though, it reads a lot better when I read several issues in a row for this post, which I guess is a pretty convincing argument for the trades. It just seems as if they take the Countdown approach of advancing all plots incrementally every issue, rather than the 52 strategy of advancing one plot a lot, then the others only a little. Maybe I'd like it more that way. Or maybe I just want more kicking.

High Point: The Annual was pretty damn good. Of course, so was #6, when Danny and Orson, with a little Heroes for Hire backup, fight HYDRA, Crane Sisters, and that punkass Davos. #8, with our introduction to Fat Cobra was pretty badass as well. But, for my money, #7, with the story of Wu Ao-Shi, takes the gold. I don't know why exactly, it just seemed like a stirring tale of love, honor, triumph through force of will and cunning, but with pirates, and chi energy fired like arrows of lightning.

Low Point: Hmm, there hasn't really been an issue I can point to and say, "That was awful", but a lot of these Tournament of Heaven issues aren't moving enough for my tastes, so I'll say #10, which felt a lot like an issue of pure set-up, though the parts with Davos and Wendell Rand were plot advancing.

Ms. Marvel (11 & 12, 14-22) - Kind of an up-and-down year for Ms. Danvers. She made some strides to make up for her unpleasant attitude during Civil War, bu then there was the whole thing with Puppet Master, and now I'm very worried about what she's going to be like when this Brood thing is over. Are we on the verge of a Carol that strives for world domination? And how will Tony Stark respond if Carol gets closer to accomplishing that than he does? On the plus side, we got an arc with MODOK, we have Aaron Stack and Sleepwalker, and I, at least, enjoy the presence of Arana on the title (I may be the only person other than Brian Reed of that opinion, though).

High Point: I'm going with #19. Not only is it Tigra's best moment of the past year (her mind-controlled battle against Ms. Marvel, where she actually holds her own), we got Aaron Stack in a fake mustache. Aaron Stack is comedy, if it were turned into gold. And I have no idea how one would do that. Also worth mentioning is the Scientist Supreme checking out Wonder Man's butt, and Wonder Man appreciating it (he's such a skank), the battle with Doomsday Man in #11 & 12, and of course, Carol's attempt to make things right with Julia Carpenter in #14.

Low Point: #20, when Carol lets the Puppet Master blow himself up, because she knows she'll survive it somehow. It's not that she let the bad guy kill himself; I don't care if he wants to commit suicide. But how did Carol know that all the women he'd abducted were far enough away that the explosion wouldn't harm them? She couldn't have, but she let him do it anyway. Then she lied about it. If you're going to play hard, then damnit Carol, take responsibility for it! Don't try and lie about stuff! I know, it's supposed to demonstrate that harder edge she has, her Binary personality I guess, but still. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

The Punisher (43-53) - And soon, Garth Ennis' run on this title will conclude. It's probably for the best that he wraps it up before he runs out of stories to tell, but I can't help but be bummed out. Sure, it's the very definition of "written for the trade", but that doesn't mean it isn't awesome. I'm willing to give the new person, whoever they wind up being, a first arc to prove themselves, but it's going to be a hard act to follow.

High Point: So much to choose from. There's Frank's battles with Barracuda in #51 and #53, or just the final page of #52, when it looks like "Cuda has made a severe tactical error. For my money, though, I'm going with #49, the conclusion of The Widowmakers arc, when Jenny exacts her revenge, and then tries to go on beyond that. I saw someone say the arc was giving a message of "Girls can't be vigilantes", which I don't buy because up to a point, Jenny is as calm and cool as Frank ever is. Yeah, she loses it with her sister, but she feels betrayed by her own sister, so it figures she'd lose it. Frank lost it with those people in The Slavers arc, and they weren't family, so why can't Jenny have a freakout? The point I figured Ennis was trying to make wasn't about whether certain people can be vigilantes (though I think the detective illustrated that to a certain extent), but that Frank isn't a normal vigilante. It isn't revenge with him, it's something beyond that, and that's the difference between him and Jenny. I felt it was a really powerful arc, though I don't understand why Jenny had to have breast cancer specifically.

Low Point: #48 was kind of slow, but I think I'll go with #47, when we learn how Jenny got to the point she's at. It was a very disquieting issue to read, which was Ennis' hope, I'm sure. Still, it was not an enjoyable experience, to read about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, and her friends. It did help paint the picture of how she sees herself, though. Still, it was perhaps too ugly for my delicate sensibilities.

Thor #2 - I bought it because the Legion of Doom asked me to join in their Book of Doom discussion that week. It's a very pretty book, certainly, and I thought Copiel did an excellent job conveying the sense of loneliness Thor must feel, but not much happened to make it worth the time.

Ultimate Spider-Man (104-117) - The Ultimate Clone Saga ended, Spider-Man helped bring down the Kingpin, and Osborns went crazy again. Also, Mark Bagley left (and I wept), and Stuart Immonen did his best to step in. He's done pretty well, but there's just something lacking. A lack of clarity, perhaps.

High Point: #105 had its moments, from MJ wanting to know why Fury is always on Peter's case, to Fury admitting he was wrong about Peter (And Peter's "Thank You!" in response), and Kitty finding out the hard way she's been dumped (Bad Ultimate Peter Parker). I'm going to pick the Ultimate Knights arc, because it was when Peter really seemed to step up and take control. He told the other heroes that if they tried to kill Wilson Fisk, he'd bring Fury down on them because they are supposed to stand for something more (someone might want to clue the Ultimates in on that though). Then he told Fisk to leave all of them alone for the same reason, because he remembered that Fisk knows Fury protects Spider-Man. Plus, there was the point where he confused Moon Knight by saying he was there for chicken wings (Moon Knight's response: 'There - there are no chicken wings' He's so funny when he's all confused), and when he managed to talk Daredevil out of killing Fisk's comatose wife. Man, Daredevil was pretty scary in that scene. Good times.

Low Point: #117. Not so much because Harry died (weird that one Harry dies as another is brought back), but the whole thing just felt rushed, and it really did feel like Bendis just had to get the Osborns wrapped up somehow, and in a hurry. So, it was a lot like the Isolationist story in X-Factor in that regard. Stupid events, messing with preexisting story arcs on actual good books.

My gosh, that took forever. And as I type this, I haven't even added the images to break up my boring text. As far as I know right now, Saturday will be the last one, unless I decide to do some big ranking thing after that. I'm kind of getting a itch to do it, but I'm not sure I'm up for it. Either way, Saturday: Cosmic Marvel!