Monday, June 30, 2008

Iron Man, Venture Brothers, The Wall

Related to last night's post, I thought of another: Don't try to stare down, or otherwise intimidate, Amanda Waller.

Related to last night's Venture Bros., it was strangely cathartic to see Dean get angry, and actually do something about it. Sure, his technique didn't seem quite right, but given he was fighting a teen twice his weight, and he managed to give said teen a black eye without getting a single scratch, it's hard to argue with results. Go Team Venture!

I went back to see Iron Man today, just for kicks. I realized my dream of having an entire theater to myself, only to realize that it would be a lot more fun if it's me and a friend. So I guess I can't quite cross that life's goal off the list, since it's had to be modified. I found I enjoyed the movie more the second time around, as any concerns as to its quality had already been assuaged. As an added bonus I wasn't worried about being thrown out, since this time didn't involve a friend who decided to sneak peppermint schnapps into the theater. Friends, huh?

I still really enjoy the scenes where Tony is testing his flight capabilities, but I tried to concentrate on Jeff Bridges, since some of the other reviews I read after my initial review made me think I'd missed some aspects of his performance. I think they were probably right. Maybe it comes from having already watched the movie once, but I felt like I picked up on the hint of menace in Stane a little better this time. The sense that the joking exasperation he shows in Vegas over having to accept Tony's award for him, masks the real anger he feels towards Tony, and the fact much his job seems to be cleaning up after the playboy industrialist*. The cheer he leads when Tony comes back and has the press conference, it feels more forced, again hinting at what's going on underneath. The scene I really like is the one at the benefit that Tony surprises everyone by showing up for. When Stane tells Stark that he's the one that filed an injunction to block Tony's decision to cease weapons production, it encapsulates everything about Stane. He claims to be looking out for Tony, and with the cameras around, he makes a big show of being buddy-buddy with Tony, but there's still the fact that he pretended to be helping Tony, while all the time he was working against him. It's what the public sees, versus what is really there.

I think how over the top he gets once he's in the suit made more sense to me this time around. He's always holding himself in reserve, having to play the moderating voice to Tony's wild swings of fancy. he doesn't really want to, but his strength lies in making connections, building relationships with interested parties, not with designing things those parties want. So he had to stay in check, but by the time he hops in the Iron Monger, there's no reason for that any longer. He's already (as far as he knows) killed Tony by removing the arc reactor, and Pepper's told the SHIELD guys what he's been up to, and they probably (hopefully) have copies of the evidence somewhere. There's no point to playing the nice guy anymore, and when you've got a kickass weapon like that, why would you want to? It's designed to destroy stuff, in a loud and impressive manner, not pull off fancy aerial acrobatics like the Iron Man suit. I think Stane was just reveling in the opportunity to be himself, to really show Tony and everyone else what he thinks of them, for the first time in decades. It was a purging experience for him, until he got killed.

I read this somewhere, and I tend to agree, it might have been better to let the fight end when Tony takes advantage of the icing problem. That would have given him the win on the basis of superior experience and technical creativity, which are the areas he would have Stane beat. Just a quibble.

Did anyone else find it interesting that Tony says he's not nostalgic, but he keeps around a robot that he constantly derides as being useless? It winds up being to his benefit, but it caught my attention.

* Between Stane, Pepper, and Rhodey, I'd say Tony had someone looking after him, and picking up after him 24/7.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

You Should Never Say. . .

OK, we know you don't tug on Superman's cape*. This week Kate Bishop learned that you never tell Clint Barton that he 'can't make that shot.' My question is, in comic books, what are some other things you should never tell certain characters?

Obviously you should never tell Spider-Man that "At least things can't get any worse." That could probably apply to Spawn as well. I wouldn't advise telling the Hulk he can't lift something. Even if it's true (say, if you were talking about Mjolnir), the Hulk's liable to cause massive property damage in the attempt, or in the frustration that ensues**. You probably don't tell Hal Jordan he can't get a lady's phone number. You can probably say the same thing in regards to Dick Grayson or Clint Barton, come to think of it.

Can you think of any others?

* Though really, wouldn't it be a worse idea to tug on Batman's cape? Superman will probably turn around to see who wants to speak with him. Batman probably unleashes a ninja nerve strike on the offending party.

** But nobody will die. Hulk rampages that don't involve mind control do not result in innocent fatalities. That's what keeps the Hulk from needing to be destroyed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dark Knight Thought

With The Dark Knight nearly upon us (well, couple more weeks anyway), this seems an appropriate time to consider the Scarecrow. According to Gordon (Gary Oldman, you were the bomb in The Professional, yo!) Crane was still on the loose as of the end of Batman Begins. This may be common knowledge, I don't know, I haven't been paying attention to movie message boards (I fear to tread there), but can we expect to get some progress on that?

I'm not picky. They can mention he was caught sometime between the movies (though I doubt they'd go that way). They can say he's on the loose still, but we don't see him. He could be connected to the Joker, unconnected, an immediate threat, working quietly in the background, waiting for a moment in the future to strike, whatever. Any sort of little mention would be hunky-dory for me. More would also be perfectly fine. Like I said, I'm not picky, and I don't think the movie would be ruined for me if they didn't make some nod to it, but I can imagine it might distract me while I'm watching. More likely, I'll forget all about it when the movie starts, until they made some mention, then I'd remember I was worrying about that and be happy.

I liked Cillian Murphy as Dr. Crane, and I'm sure they do have something planned for him, I'm just wondering how big a part of Dark Knight he'll be. I'm guessing with the Joker around it won't be too much, but some presence should be fun.

Friday, June 27, 2008

For Pandas Only. Fine, People Too

{That's better. We don't discriminate around here.} You came up with the title! {I did no such thing!} They already figured out three of your quotes, ha ha. {Ah, those were the easy ones. Now it'll get tougher.} They can figure out your quotes, I know they can. {You're cheering the audience now? That might be too meta.} No. It's a game, cheering makes sense. {It's your show, boss.}

Then I'm going to Applaud the kids at Iron Fist's Thunder Dojo. They were excited about math, and math is important, even if you don't have HYDRA trying to steal your company. {See, when I was struggling with math in junior high and high school, no one ever offered to let me use nunchucks if I improved my grades. My teachers weren't that cool.} What about your Calculus teacher? You said he would come to school dressed as a Highlander, with weapons and everything. {Yeah, but he wasn't big on letting other people touch the weapons, and I wasn't crazy enough to ask.} You miss the shots you won't take. {And I'd miss the fingers he'd take away, too. You been hanging out with Clint Barton?} Yes, and he's awesome, which is why he gets Applause. He totally made that shot Kate said he couldn't. {Ah, Clint's made that shot like 700 times in the comics. It's his classic "I'll just casually demonstrate how cool I am" stunt.} It's super-cool, and he was nice to Kate, even though she was rude, and stole things. {Hey, stealing is the coolest of all crimes! Just ask Bender!} Well, stealing isn't cool to me, so Kate gets a Bonk for that, a Hug for Clint making her look silly, and Applause for not backing down. {Wow, that ought to confuse her.}

I want to give Fat Cobra a Hug. He looked so handsome in his nice clothes and glasses. {Yeah, but he had his big feet on a bunch of probably priceless scrolls. That's disrespectful.} Well, it's hard to avoid stepping on things with big feet. {I know that! Did you forget I'm the one that wears size 14 sneakers? I know all about the dangers of big feet, but there had to be some tables or other chairs he could set the scrolls on, so they'd be out of the way.} Well, if it was so disrespectful, someone would mention it to him, but they didn't, so it can't be that bad. {I guess. He did look pretty dapper. And Bride of Nine Spiders looked pretty fine, except that one close-up made me think of the ghosts from Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterflies. Creepy.}

Not much of a show. You need more books. {Well, it won't be any better next week. Fair warning.} Don't warn me, just fix it! {Fine, I'll tell DC and Marvel to put more of my pull list books earlier in the month.} You could buy more comics. {Why don't you buy more comics?} Pandas don't use money. {Well isn't that convenient for you. . . and the money.} What?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's Time For A Game

I saw Ami do this on her blog, and I've kept it in the back of my mind as something to do when I don't feel particularly inspired. Also, I was trying to save it for a time when I knew I'd be around for a week so I could update it as necessary. I picked quotes from 10 different movies. They aren't all favorites of mine, as some of them are from movies that just happened to be on TV. I'm going to post the quote, and you've got to guess what movie it's from, and who said it. I think some of them are pretty easy, but that's because I've seen those movies so many times, I imagine. If you get it right, I cross out that quote, post the answer, and the name of the wise person who provided it.

FYI, you can't use Internet Movie Database, or any other sort of Internet search function to look up the quotes. You'll just have to fumble about inside your memories, or watch the movie if you think you know which one it was. Come next Thursday (July 3rd), I'll post the answers to any of the quotes that haven't been figured out yet. Good luck.

1. 'Whoa lady, I only speak two languages: English and bad English.' {Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) - The 5th Element. Congratulations to Matthew!}

2. 'Sure get some high arc with this low gravity, huh?'

3. 'About the time Raquel was spilling her little secret, a man nobody ever laid eyes on before strolled into the Maine National Bank. Until that moment, he didn't exist - except on paper.' {Red (Morgan Freeman) - Shawshank Redemption. Give it up for Jason!}

4. 'I've got three weeks to whip you suck-ass failure junkies into shape!'

5. 'What wanton hubris is this? Speak child, now! Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord! So sayeth the Psalms!'

6. 'It's only an island if you look at it from the water.'

7. 'Lately, your low self-esteem is just good common sense.'

8. 'I'll tell you what it isn't. It isn't Napoleon brandy.'

9. 'I know you motherfuckers have epinephrine!' {Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) - Crank. Once again, Jason is on target!}

10. 'When the chimes end, pick up your gun. Go ahead and shoot me, Colonel. Just try.'

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What I Bought 6/25/08

Marvel released so many comics this week, and I purchased so few of them. I was surprised to see Ultimates 3 #4 had come out, I'd almost forgotten about it. In other news, uh, there is no other news, so let's move along.

Immortal Iron Fist #16 - Brubaker's already gone, and this is it for Messers. Fraction and Aja. So sad. Most of the issue revolves around decisions that Danny's made based on what he learned about K'un-L'un. Decisions about his company, his wealth, his friends, stuff like that. I'll be interested to see whether the "Danny helps the less fortunate" stuff still appears from time to time after this issue, or if it'll just get dropped due to emphasis on face-kicking and intrigue. I love face-kicking and intrigue, but it's always a little bit of a bummer to see some aspect of a character's personal life introduced, then quickly shoved into the background. I'm not saying I need a scene devoted to Danny helping the homeless, or ordering the construction of medical labs, but maybe once an arc or so would be nice. Of course, I've got no idea how much oncoming writer Duane Swierczynski has collaborated with Fraction/Brubaker, if at all.

I wouldn't have thought it possible when the series began, but I'm really going to miss David Aja on the art. He can make Iron Fist look so dangerous, but Danny so sloppy, goofy, and a little unkempt, it's a lovely contrast. Plus, we get to see Fat Cobra wearing spectacles, tie, and conservative business garb. And, I'm pretty sure Fraction and Brubaker cameo in one panel. Quesada as well, though I'm uncertain who the skinny fellow with glasses standing next to him is. Maybe Aja himself? The sequence where Danny meditates by himself is very nicely done, moving from one image to the next fairly smoothly.

It's a mostly quiet issue, no big explosions, though at least one metaphorical bombshell. It perhaps feels a little too heavily of "setting the table for the next guy", but if that allows Swierczynski to hit the ground running, it'll be just fine. That's been my issue with Cable when I've looked through it: I don't feel it conveying the urgency I expect from Cable trying his damnedest to protect that baby from an obsessed Bishop. Maybe it comes through on a more intensive reading, but that's a concern for next month. For this month, things were pretty good.

Young Avengers Presents: Hawkeye #6 - Eh, I figured with such a small week, why not? Alan Davis art, Clint Barton using a bow, worth a shot. I was primarily interested in Clint's interest in testing Kate's skills. I think that mostly served to teach Kate something important: Never, ever, tell Clint Barton he 'can't make that shot.' This is flippin' Hawkeye we're talking about, his whole career is about making that shot, then bragging about it to incredulous onlookers. It's why we love him so. As you might expect, he makes the shot, and Kate gets burned as a result. I laughed. It's not very nice of me, but you don't respect your elders, and this is what comes of it.

I don't really know much about Kate Bishop, so I don't know if this was an accurate portrayal of her, compared to past appearances, but the point seemed largely to be about getting a bit more Clint Barton personality into her. Kate's very concerned with not making the wrong move, to the point she won't make any. She goes to the edge, then retreats. Well, "Hawkeye" is not about doing things halfway, right? If it was, then a person with just a bow and some hand-to-hand skills doesn't get to fight alongside Thunder Gods and people with armor that can level skyscrapers. It's not always a good thing, since it causes one to decide to grab a jetpack, and fly headlong into a starship, but I think Kate's calm enough to avoid that. So the issue is partially about that, and partially about one of the vets giving the newbies some support. I guess most of both the Mighty and New Avengers squads have been adamant about shutting down these kids, and it was time for someone who understands dealing with others' doubts to give them a vote of confidence.

As to the art, it's Alan Davis, and I like Alan Davis' style. it's very smooth. I like that when Kate's in the carriage with Eli, he's decked out in a suit and tie, and she's wearing, well, it's not too different from what she wore when she was punching the heavy bag. It's much more casual, definite "we're just two friends", at least compared to Eli. Poor guy. Wonder if he went to talk the the Winter Captain after that evening? Also, there's a dress she wears later, I think it's a riff of that outfit Clint wore, with the skirt? Only with the classic Hawkeye colors. The "H" on the belt is a nice touch. I also like how Clint hefts the arrows and the bow. I know exactly zilch about archery, but I guess he's testing their balance, or their weight. I don't know if that's something you normally do, but it seemed like a nice touch. Heck Alan Davis draws so nicely, I'm actually cool with Ninja Hawkeye, which is not something I expected to be saying anytime soon.

So that's that. How were your comics?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trying To Claim Lost Planetary Property

This is related to yesterday's post, in the sense that I'm still discussing that Superman/Batman story. While I was making yesterday's post, a different thought occurred to me. Superman is running around, taking all this Kryptonite of various colors wherever he finds it. Along the way he's been meeting resistance from people who claim the various hued K belongs to them.

Do you think it would have been possible for Superman to go to court, and legally claim the Kryptonite, rather than taking it by force? Sure, force can be more entertaining, but I thought for Superman violence would be a last resort. To be fair, he usually tried to ask nicely for the Kryptonite, but if anyone gave him any static then he and Bats started busting heads (in a somewhat restrained manner when possible, but still).

I was looking around on the Internet, and I found a web sites that said (in the U.S., at least) that if a meteorite (say a chunk of green K) falls on your property, it's yours. If it falls on federal land, it belongs to the Department of the Interior. But in Denmark, for example, any meteorite found must be turned over to the government. However, nothing I looked at described what happens if an alien shows up and claims that meteorite is from their home planet and belongs to them. Still, with as many aliens as run around DC-Earth, there could potentially be legal precedents established in a few countries. Superman and Supergirl could file the lawsuit together. I guess they would have to prove it is a piece of their home planet, and there would be a question of whether, with no other Kryptonians remaining, do those two get to claim all remaining Kryptonian land*.

I suppose they'd probably have to purchase it, which would be tedious and time-consuming, and the less-scrupulous parties would probably try and withhold some Kryptonite, or hurry up and use it before it could be purchased or repossessed, but it would be a somewhat reasonable response, as compared to "I'm Superman. Give me that Kryptonite or I'll take it, and smack you if you try and stop me!"

* That aren't in the Phantom Zone or from another universe, and excluding Chris Kent if he was still out and about, since they were trying to keep his being Kryptonian a secret.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Random Thoughts From Last Week's Superman/Batman

I've sort of been aware of this arc in Superman/Batman where our two title heroes travel the world, collecting all the Kryptonite so Superman doesn't have to feel vulnerable (except to magic). That of course, leads to writer-mandated conflicts with people who don't want to give the Kryptonite up, except Superman gets his way because he's awesome, or something. Can't say much for the portrayal of Amanda Waller. Probably would have been better served creating "Generic Shadowy Amoral Government Person #2735" just for the story and running with it. I had a hard time buying Waller so blithely commissioning a Doomsday laced with Green K, and letting it wipe out Smallville, and not giving a crap. As for Lana Lang, I don't know. Someone needed to smack Superman's hand and tell him "No". I thought Ma and Pa would have taught him you can't always get what you want.

Beyond that characterization concerns, I'm not sure how wise of an idea it is to get rid of most of the world's Kryptonite, especially after the whole "Max Lord's controls Superman" thing. It's not that out of the question for it to happen again, and now all the Kryptonite currently on Earth is in Batman's possession. Because surely no villain would ever be able to get in there and steal some of it, and certainly mind-controlled (or evil for some reason) Superman wouldn't think to immediately cut off Batman's access to that room. I don't suppose it really matters. If another writer wants Superman* menaced by Kryptonite, I'm sure some more will pop up from somewhere.

What did interest me about the issue was the assist our do-gooders got from Toyman, the adolescent version**. He has these little nanites that can seek out microscopic Kryptonite and eliminate it, and he agrees to do it, if he can get a date with Power Girl (though he already had the nanites working, 'cause he's not going to leave Superman in dire straits). Setting aside Batman offering Hiro a Power Girl robot (why do they have one of those?), eventually Hiro does get to go on a date with Power Girl, which is pretty nice of her, though I guess he helped make Earth livable for her and the other Kryptonians, so maybe it's a nice tradeoff.

I wonder how that date went. I figure Hiro enjoyed himself, but I hope that he was an charming conversationalist, so it wouldn't be a complete chore for Power Girl too, ya know. I'm sure dinner in Paris is nice, almost regardless of who you're there with, but having someone you're interested in talking to probably makes it nicer still.

These are the thoughts that occupy my mind. How troubling.

* Or Supergirl, or. . . Actually, is Power Girl vulnerable to Kryptonite? Earth 2-Superman wasn't bothered by Batman's ring, so I have no idea how that works these days.

** I'm not sure how I feel about the story Johns did in Action Comics last month, where the original Toyman had robotic versions of all the others, including Hiro and the one from the Animated Series. It seems like an attempt to get rid of a story where Toyman killed Cat Grant's kid, and I guess if that's damaging to the character concept, maybe it isn't a bad idea. Still, I hope they don't run with it and declare that only the original Toyman is real, and the others were all constructed by him. No reason we can't have an older Toyman who is really concerned about children, but goes too far, and a younger Toyman who wants to hang out with and help superheroes, and date them if he can, because he thinks they're cool. We've got 7000+ "Green Lanterns", and it works because they're fairly distinct characters. Same can apply for "Toyman", right?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Seeing If A Book I Loved Holds Up

One of the good things about flying, and the hours spent sitting in airport terminals, is that it gives me an excuse to do some reading. Keeps me occupied, keeps me from being tempted to buy heavily overpriced airport food*, and of course, reading is fun! Anyway, it gave me the opportunity to reread Asimov's Foundation. I originally read the Foundation series in junior high, and when I picked up Spider-Man/Human Torch last - jeez January, it's been that long? - I also picked up Foundation. I just hadn't taken the time to read it.

Basic summary, for those of you unfamiliar with the series. A scientist known as Hari Seldon has utilized a science known as psychohistory - which predicts future events based on the concept that large groups of people are predictable, and odds of them doing certain things can be calculated** - to determine that the current Galactic Empire will decay completely within three centuries, and that will lead to over 30,000 years of anarchy before a new Galactic Empire emerges. Seldon proposes to create an Encyclopedia of all knowledge, which will enable the anarchy to be limited to 1,000 years. At least, that's what he says will help.

The Empire, eager to be rid of his doom-saying, sets him and his scientists up on a planet at the edge of the galaxy, and this book is largely about the threats the planet faces in its first two hundred years of existence.

The thing about Foundation, and I think this is true for Asimov's Robots series as well, is that the sci-fi stylings seem like window dressing. The space ships with faster than light travel, blasters, personal force fields, 3 Laws governing robotic behavior, all that, are just there to help establish the setting, the rules of the world. What it's really about, is people. Not surprising, given the premise is that large groups of people are predictable and can be manipulated (provided they aren't aware of it), and that this can enable one to shape the future. Given that, it raises the question of what actions one can take to manipulate people to preserve Hari Seldon's Plan? The planet the Foundation is set on is a tiny world, no metals, only limited natural resources, a planet that's only real resource is that it's full of scientists. A world full of scientists, surrounded by aggressive worlds where science is being lost, because people are no longer taught to understand how things work, only how to keep something running. So if a person works in a power plant, they know to pull a switch if the dial goes into the red, but they don't understand why the dial went into the red, or what them pulling the switch is doing, or even the basic principles behind how the power plant works. Now how, one supposes, can that work to the Foundation's advantage?

What's interesting is that Foundation is set up similarly to I, Robot***, in that it's like a series of novellas, all loosely connected. In I, Robot, it's about dealing with problems that arise in the minds of robots due to the broadness of the 3 Laws. In Foundation, like I said, it's people using an understanding of the human mind to keep the Foundation out from under another world's boot.

The curious thing is that the protagonists are rarely what one would describe as admirable men. They are often concerned with garnering power or profit for themselves. Power, because they think they would be best suited to run things. Profit, when applicable, because the characters involved are Traders and that's what they do****. Honestly, some of their tactics are reminiscent of things Lex Luthor or Wilson Fisk might do. Agreeing to investigate the loss of Foundation ships, but using the opportunity to establish exclusive trade agreements with other worlds. Owning a newspaper through several other companies, and using that to get the public to demand you be given more political power. Sure, it all seems to work out, as the people doing this stuff are clever sorts who do help keep the Foundation afloat, but they're often the actions that might best be filed under "the ends justify the means".

There are certain things that perhaps date the book. I find it a little surprising that in a setting so far in the future that no one is even certain where humans originated from (that's the plot of Foundation and Earth), they still would fall back on coal and oil when nuclear power is beyond them (as is the case for the Foundation's aggressive neighbors). I suppose it's easier to determine how to use those fuel sources, but you'd think that kind of knowledge would have been lost to the march of time along with mankind's original home. Also, the idea that they'd still have working space ships (with faster than light travel), when they use coal and oil for power sources on the planet. I suppose the ships (which run on something called "nucleics") just haven't all broken down yet, but it still struck me as curious. Ultimately though, I think it's part of what I mentioned about the sci-fi aspects just being for show, because it's really about people, and how they think and react, and the value in understanding that.

I was not disappointed by the book. Reading about people being clever, as long they aren't being complete jerks about it, is usually a good read. I find it's less fun to read about people outsmarting others when the clever one is someone I'd rather not root for*****. I do wonder about the implications of needing a Galactic Empire to minimize the anarchy, because it sounds very much like a monarchy (though the king is a figurehead by this point), and I wonder if the new Galactic Empire the Foundation would help establish would also be a monarchy. Their home planet seemed more similar to an executive/legislative set-up, but it didn't seem as though the council could really do much if the "mayor" (as almost all the population was concentrated in one city) decided to follow a particular course. I suppose maintaining a representative government that spans a galaxy could be a bit dicey, though faster-than-light-travel ought to solve some of those issues. Then again, the end of Foundation's Edge may have presented another solution, which I won't mention, in case you want to read the series.

* Six dollars for a freaking Extra Value Menu?! I'm not that hungry, thank you very much.

** If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's the same science Reed Richards used to justify his Civil War actions, when questioned about them by the Mad Thinker. At least, that was McDuffie's explanation, as opposed to the "I fear for Sue's safety" or "I watched my uncle get crushed by McCarthy hearings so we should always do what authority figures say" reasons JMS tried to stick him with.

*** If you think of the Will Smith movie when I saw that title, ignore it. The only thing they have in common is the 3 Laws of Robotics. The book was almost entirely bereft of shooting, and there were no high speed maneuvers on motorcycles.

**** In Asimov books, it's common to have a generic, one word, capitalized title to describe people. Trader, Foundationist, Spacer, Settler. I think it fits with the idea of grouping people for ease of prediction.

***** That's probably my problem with the generally unpleasant, godlike Batman DC was giving us for awhile. Yes, he's brilliant, but he's just unlikeable enough for me to enjoy it when things blow up in his face, and for me to want that to happen more often.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Step Right Up, Place Your Bets

That's right, it's time for yet another round of Oddsmakers! Today we're taking odds on which member of the Guardians of the Galaxy is the traitor Mantis alluded to in issue #1! This seems as good a time as any, since we're a scant two issues away from the start of the Secret Invasion tie-ins.

Adam Warlock: So Adam Warlock was found inside a weird stone cocoon, not a trait he was known for that I'm aware of. His powers seem more magical in nature than I recall, and Warlock has a tendency to be the source of trouble, such as the Magus and Goddess, who were the Evil and Good expelled from his soul. So really, he's always a sign of bad things. Could the bad things be space-time fissures? Sure. Could also be Skrulls, as they clearly know how to use magic. Plus, Gamora said his pretentious phrases are now attractive to her, when they used to be irritating. That could signal a change in her, a change in him, or perhaps, mental manipulation? And whatever it is this Skrull Queen lady is up to, certainly Lovecraftian horrors from other realities would jeopardize it. Odds: 18%

Drax: Well, he's green (this will be a recurring theme). And this current incarnation is pretty different from the dunderheaded flying dude with a cape we used to see. I know, swallowed ship propellant and all that. Wee suspicious to me. Plus, we don't know where he was, or what he did, between killing Thanos and when Nova and Gamora caught him and made him a Phalanx-Select. He has a very basic powerset, which wouldn't be terribly difficult to duplicate, and he's normally gruff and standoffish, which again, is also easy to imitate. However, he's not totally resisting Phyla's attempts to help him/bring the team closer together. Odds: 19%

Gamora: Green!!!! Has recently complained of a lack of direction, which lead to Nova suggesting she join the team to find a purpose in life. Such convenient timing. Her skills are also not terribly difficult to copy. Odds: 20%.

Groot: I don't know. Groot's so biologically different, I have a hard time thinking they'd be able to copy him. On the other hand, his ability to grow, release spores, and regenerate from a tiny sprout would be useful. And, with him being as small as he is, it'd be easy for him, while the team's out on a mission, to slip away and investigate Knowhere, which has to have something that would interest the Skrulls. it's a freaking Celestial's head, fer Pete's sake! There's got to be all sorts of cool stuff there! Of course, the Phalanx scanners recorded him as what he appears to be in the Starlord mini, and while the Skrulls might be able to fool Richards or Starktech, I'm not willing to assume that means the Phalanx can't pick up on it. Odds: 7%

Mantis: She was in a coma, now she's not And Bug, who was waiting by her bedside, is nowhere to be seen. Could Bug have been a Skrull, waiting to impersonate the telepath? Plus, she's green, thus automatically suspect, and admitting she knows there's a traitor is a great way to throw suspicion off her. Odds: 27%.

Quasar: I can't really explain it, but I just don't think Phyla's a Skrull. I don't believe that it's due to her girlfriend being a telepath, or because she was in psychic contact with the Supreme Intelligence while searching for Adam. We've already seen the Skrulls can mask themselves from Xavier, and that some of the Skrulls even grow to believe they truly are who they appear to be, so that wouldn't be a guarantee. Though a part of me thinks that there would have been a brief moment at some point, where a Skrull-Phyla would drop her guard and Moondragon would have seen the truth, as much time as they spent with each other. Oddly, it's the fact that during the big fight with Annihilus, Phyla was able to convince the Quantum Bands to leave the bad guy, and work with her instead. It seems she would have needed to make an honest plea to make that happen, and a Skrull in disguise couldn't pull that off. Also, Phyla seems the most into making this group work well together, and that seems unSkrull-like. Odds: 1%.

Rocket Raccoon: I tend to doubt the Skrulls can replicate Rocket's level of radness (for the record, that's why there is a 0% chance Cosmo's a Skrull, there's simply no way to artificially recreate a being that obviously fantastic). Plus, an innately brilliant/lucky tactical mind seems like a pretty difficult thing to duplicate. Still, I don't think anyone would see it coming, and Rocket hadn't been seen in a long time before Conquest. Odds: 3%

Starlord: With Peter, the difficulty comes in the "why?" He has no superhuman abilities, no particularly unusual weapons, he's just a guy. On the other hand, Starlord does (or did) have access to the entire Kree defense network, and that's the sort of thing I'm sure the Skrulls would enjoy having in their possession. However, the cover for issue #4 shows Peter with a Skrull face, so I vote that it's too obvious. Odds: 5%

All right ladies and gents, take your pick, place your bets, and show your work!

Friday, June 20, 2008

You Get The Best Of My Hugs

I tried flying in coach, it's not bad. You wouldn't last five minutes in the cargo hold. {No argument there, but you're small. You can curl up comfortably in one of the seats, an option my spine doesn't allow me.} We could work on that. {You have some Gingold? That would be kind of neat to try.} I meant lots of exercising! {Oh. No thanks then. I've grown accustomed to my lack of bending.}

Exercise is easy, you just have to keep your energy up. Like Dr. Minadad did while he was controlling OMAC. {Remac.} Oh, right. Remac. That's why he gets Applause, and so does Alfred, because he was the one providing food. {Plus, I got the feeling Minadad really appreciated the food, which is nice. I don't know that Batman thanks Alfred for the food often enough.} Nightwing and Robin probably do, so maybe they balance it out. Madrox gets some Applause because even though he blew up his own building, he did it by following the rules, so Val can't arrest him for anything. {That was pretty clever of him. Too bad Val won't leave them in peace.} I know. That's why X-Factor all get Hugs. And Green Arrow gets a Hug, because then maybe he won't gripe so much about how the Outsiders do things. {I don't believe any force can make Ollie Queen stop griping. It's what he does.}

Maybe I should hit him then. {I think you should limit your use of a Hug/Bonk combo. Let the characters fear it, never knowing when the warmth and happiness will be replaced with annoyance and pain. Like when that bag fell out of the overhead compartment and landed on my head. Didn't hurt so much as it caught me terribly off-guard.} You should be more aware of your surroundings. {Can you teach me the Arashikage Mindset? I wanna be a lethal killing machine!} I will not turn you into a lethal killing machine! We already have Deadpool for that! {But Wade never shows up anymore, not that his next solo series is getting solicited, he thinks he's too good for us!} That's not true! I talked to him last week. {He never comes by here anymore, though. Woo, we wandered off-topic. Were you going to hit anybody?}

Um, Val Cooper gets a Bonk. She's pushy and mean. {And, if O*N*E's protection of the X-Mansion was any indicator, incompetent. Don't forget incompetent!} That mansion gets blown up all the time. {But it was her job to make sure it didn't, and she failed. I think she's just mad that with fewer mutants, her job isn't as important, she's been marginalized, and so she takes her frustration out on X-Factor with all the ultimatums. That, or she's a Skrull.} I thought we weren't doing Skrull jokes. {Did we agree to that?} I'm pretty sure. {Huh. Then I retract my Skrull accusation. She's actually Mr. Sinister.} What?!

{You know what would make flying easier? A flying castle, like UnCalvin's.} Wait, the castle flies? You didn't tell me that! {I didn't know it until I saw it while I was in the air this week. UnCalvin was laughing at my discomfort.} Well, now how can I catch UnCalvin? {Trampoline?}

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pull Back The Curtain And What Do We Find?

Question for the day: In fiction, when dealing with someone incredibly powerful and seemingly evil, do you think it's more common that the character is a) someone inherently good who tried to gain greater power with the best of intentions, only to be corrupted by it, or b) an evil person seeking greater power for their own benefit who was overwhelmed by a more powerful, more evil force?

Lex Luthor during Morrison's World War 3 arc in JLA might qualify as an example of the latter, and I think the original Phoenix/Dark Phoenix Saga (before it was retconned that Jean was in stasis in the bay, and it had simply been the Phoenix assuming her form that went crazy) could be an example of the former.

Which one might the Hulk's story qualify as? In one sense, I feel Banner probably hoped the gamma bombs studies could be turned to something useful to humanity, but he was ultimately changed into perhaps the biggest anti-gamma research symbol you could have*. That seems to be the first scenario. However, the gamma bomb was intended as a weapon, one that was meant to give the U.S. the edge in the Cold War**, which, if used, could lead to significant loss of life. I don't know if the U.S. military ever used any gamma bombs in the Marvel Universe after that test. Probably not, out of fear of creating lots of Hulks. From that view, the attempt to build a devastating weapon to increase their strength unleashed a creature that they were unable to stop or control, at least not for any extended period of time.

I don't know what stirred all this up, but here it is.

* We know that tragic as this has been for Banner, the Hulk has saved the world several times, and so it's probably been a good thing in the long run that it happened. But people in the Marvel Universe are not very bright, so the majority of them probably don't see it that way.

** I'm sticking to the original origin. I have no idea what it may have been changed/updated by Marvel these days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I Bought 6/18/08

Having - as of last night - wrapped up a 3700 mile round trip in about 36.5 hours, I can say I don't know how people who have to fly everywhere for work do it. I know why, because they feel they have to, it's part of the job. Maybe they shell out the extra to fly first class, or maybe they just enjoy it. All I know is, my knees didn't enjoy it at all. Also, after hearing the spiel about the snacks for purchase, and the safety measures, and turning off electronic devices, I started to wonder why it sounded so stilted. I'd figure the flight attendants are used to telling passengers all that, but they go through it as if they read three words off a sheet, say those three words, pause to read the next three words, say those, and so on. Like they've never done it before in their lives. Very curious. Maybe they're told to speak slowly so people can understand them. That's enough talking about flying. Let's talk about comics instead.

Batman & the Outsiders #8 - Rescue mission time. Batgirl gives her captured teammates a chance to go down fighting while Nightwing, Thunder, and the OMAC that isn't show up to help out as well. Also, Metamorpho is somewhat put out when the Outsiders tech support is less than concerned with a giant gun being fired at the moon. What is the gun up to? No idea thus far, though I hope it's going to spell "Penguin", or maybe "Cobblepot". I know, it's more Luthor or Sivana's style, why would anyone do that for Pengy? Well, why not? Penguin's cool.

There's a lot I like about this issue. Batgirl saving her teammates and being cool, even with Green Arrow hassling her (really Ollie, just shut up). Nightwing coming in to help out, though I'm still a little unclear on why he came. Did Bats urgently need to remain at the command post? It's not like he couldn't have had Nightwing drop off Dr. Minadad at the Batcave. I also liked Dr. Minadad learning the drawbacks to using a V.R. interface type thing to control the not OMAC, and his meeting Alfred. FYI, he doesn't know Alfred's name, he just knows him as the "guy who made the sandwiches", and his enthusiasm about that is endearing. Plus, Rex crashed a space shuttle into the International Space Station. Guess he won't be getting to fly the Batplane anytime soon.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2 - No, the shield on the cover does not mean the return of who you think it does. Well, maybe it does, if you're taking the book's title into consideration. Not sure what he's doing here (neither is he), but we'll just have to wait and see. The team tries to close another fissure in space, though Warlock does most of that. Mantis tries to talk to their newly discovered friend, and the team ends the issue being attacked by high-ranking members of the Church whose giant ship they attacked (and saved) in #1. And that's happening inside a Dyson Sphere, if you recognize that term from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I mean, they don't call it that, but that's what it sounds like to me. Abnett & Lanning are really going to use any oddball sci-fi concept they can think of, aren't they? And I love that about them.

I think Rocket Raccoon's being played as a bit of nuisance. Not that he needs to be dead serious, just that he's constantly blathering on about something. I'm not sure why he's so insistent they pick a name. Is he wanting to get some merchandise out there to sell, and he needs a name to put on the t-shirts? Plus, I'd like for someone to get him his rocket shoes. This team needs more fliers, and he'd really useful with the added mobility. Quasar seems to be trying to be the relationship builder on the team. She keeps reaching out to Drax, which is nice, and she also seems very close, or attempting to be, to Adam Warlock. Could be how each of those two connects to Moondragon, Drax having been her father, and the mission that lead to them finding Adam (and then the High Evolutionary) is what got Moondragon killed. I'm somewhat doubtful she'll make a similar outreach to Gamora, who also seems isolated, but I could be pleasantly surprised.

The Punisher #58 - I have no idea what the multiple pages of "photos" were about. I know, they're an excerpt from the book, but I still don't know what we're supposed to be getting from these excerpts. Hopefully, it'll make more sense when the arc is over, as I may have to do some big post trying to pick apart a meaning from all of them when the story is over. They've got to mean something.

Frank spends some time in the cemetery talking with the Colonel who's trying to capture him. Frank lays out exactly why these "generals" want him brought in so badly, and that shakes the colonel up just a little bit, but he remains resolute in his desire to capture Frank, and they know that Castle still won't kill them. Frank tries to fight his way out (I think), but it doesn't go as well as it did last time. Maybe he should have kept the bat.

When I say I think he tried to fight his way out, it's not a reference to the art. Parlov's art is fine with me. I say "think", because part of me wonders if Frank hasn't worked this into some larger strategy. It's hard to believe his strategy involved getting shot in the leg, getting beat on the head with batons, and tasered five times, but this is the Punisher we're talking about, so nothing is impossible. Maybe Frank's trying to recruit allies who would have less compunction with eliminating the generals than he would. Or maybe, Frank is just trying to sucker them into coming close enough for an easy kill. He did call them executives, so they may not be under the protective canopy of "American soldiers". Man, I hating waiting when it comes to this book, though I'm also dreading the end of Ennis' run. I don't want future authors to have to just mimic him, but I wonder if any other version will work that well for me now, I've just enjoyed this version so much.

X-Factor #32 - Val Cooper gives X-Factor an ultimatum. Madrox is sad, and also hallucinating. maybe. Given the subject of his hallucinations, nothing is certain. For a moment there, I was pleasantly surprised as to how the book was going. The team had some bad luck, but they seemed to forge stronger bonds, and it looked like they were going to walk their own path, do their own thing. Maybe things were looking up. So naturally, on the last page things go sour for them again. Bugger. I get that it's a hard life for mutants in the Marvel Universe these days, being so few in number, and yet still hated so much, and life is a constant struggle for them, even more so than it is for your average person. But come on, this is just felt like a bit much.

Perhaps I just enjoyed the thought of them continuing to do their own thing for awhile longer, and that seems to be in dire jeopardy of coming to an end. And of course, Secret Invasion lurks around the corner. I had reasonably high hopes for it earlier, because I figured at least PAD would be using the book's usual characters, as opposed to Messiah CompleX when he kept having to write about X-Force, but I'm less confident now. Fingers crossed that next month's issue gets my attention in a good way.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Talking About Teams I Like

This time around, I'm turning to an '80s era X-Men team. I don't know what term might be most appropriate to describe them. I think this group existed from around the time of the Mutant Massacre until the Australia years, for what that's worth. I only have a few issues from that brief span, but I'm still kind of fond of that bunch.

At this point, Cyclops is off with his wife and kid*, Xavier's off in space with his honey, magneto's focusing on the New Mutants, and Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat are all on the DL**. Oh, and Storm's still depowered and off with Forge trying to do something, I was unclear on what. It was either her trying to get her powers back, or the two of them trying to stop that Trickster God, or both.

What you've got is Psylocke, in her pre-Asian ninja days. Dazzler, who half the time isn't sure she wants to be there. Rogue's the team's powerhouse, but she tends to be standoffish, with the whole "no touching" issue, and she and Dazzler have issues since Rogue used to try and kill her. Longshot's there, and I've always had a soft spot for him. He's like a more naive version of pre-Frank Miller Daredevil, acrobatic, carefree, and just enjoying the ride. I guess that the life of an X-Man isn't much more difficult than his time with Mojo, so the deadly battles didn't seem like any big deal. Plus, "luck power" seemed to provide vast possibilities, yet wasn't ludicrously powerful. Havok joined up eventually, I think because Malice had taken control of Polaris. In theory, having his power on their side would be useful. In practice, Havok was often unwilling to use his power, because he 'might hurt them - or worse.' Well, that's all very well and good Alex, but your team kind of needs you to do something useful, so howzabout you get to it, eh?

So you have a couple of characters with insecurity issues (Dazzler, Havok), one character that rarely seems to grasp the seriousness of the situation (Longshot), and two characters that are a little too headstrong for their own good (Rogue and Psylocke***). Tactically, you've got a telepath (a veritable prerequisite for X-teams), one close combat brawler, and an acrobatic gnat-type, and a couple of long-range specialists, so it's a decent mix.

I think what sells me on this team, though, is that Wolverine was the team leader. It was a bit of a change of pace from how he'd been in the X-Men up until then. Sure, if he was off on some personal mission with Nightcrawler, he might give orders (ala the fight with the Wendigo), since he knew best about what they were facing, but if Storm, Cyclops, or magneto were around, Logan fell back into his pattern of being a pain-in-the-ass, who questioned orders and took shots at the leader****. He couldn't do that now. And since they were frequently fighting these Marauders, who were apparently a bunch of badasses, he had to really work at trying to get the team to function together, and he had to keep himself under control. The leader can't go off on a berserker rage, or do his "I'm a lone wolf, you all just stay here, I'll finish it" thing. And honestly, I'm not sure how good he was at it. He still seemed more inclined to take point than to give orders, and he didn't have a lot of luck keeping Longshot under control, as evidenced by a fight with the marauders in San Francisco. Scalphunter's drawing a bead on Rogue from the Golden Gate Bridge, but Wolverine gets up there in time. But Longshot tagged along, and pops up in front of Scalphunter's scope, making little jokes. He's just casually balanced on the edge of the bridge, until Scalphunter starts shooting and over the edge he goes. Whoops! And then Logan berates himself for not convincing the kid to be more cautious. It was just a very different take on Wolverine for me, compared to what I'd seen earlier. It put him out of his depth, forced him to exert more control over himself and others, and basically try and mature a little.

No post tomorrow. See you Wednesday!

* As little as I like Cyclops as a character, I've still always had a hard time seeing him bailing on Maddy and Little Cable-To-Be to go run around with newly Not Dead Jean Grey.

** Though Colossus did make a comeback right around the end of this time, while the team was in Dallas trying to track down Storm.

*** There's a two part story where Dazzler leaves the team for awhile, comes across the Juggernaut, tries to fight him alone and fails, then all four of them try and stop him. Except Rogue flies in a tries to punch him down, which just gets her batted into the atmosphere. Psylcoke's chastising her for not working as a team, except then she goes and tries to ram Juggy with a truck, which fails, then tries to psi-blast him through his helmet. You know, the helmet that protects him from Xavier's psychic attacks? So she barely survives. Both of them were just a little too sure they were awesome for their own good.

**** Though he didn't seem to do as much of that to Storm. Maybe her leading with no powers earned her more respect.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

TV Crossovers Can Be Oddly Groovy

I used to enjoy it when two TV shows would have a crossover episode (or a couple of them). I don't so much mean when one show is a spinoff and cast members from the old show come by, or when two shows in the same franchise cross over (like two of the Law & Orders or CSIs), because that's too easy. I'm talking about two shows, apparently separate of each other, and the characters meet up somehow.

I recall Law & Order and Homicide: Life on the Street did that at least once, because I remember Benjamin Bratt's character giving Andre Braugher a lot of crap about being too out of control. Nowadays, I think Bratt's character was probably right, but I'm sure back then, I thought Detective Frank Pemberton was awesome. Actually, I still think that, on the occasions I remember how much I used to enjoy the show Homicide*.

CBS did it a couple of times with their Saturday lineup, having Martial Law crossover with both Walker, Texas Ranger** and Early Edition. Man, I loved Early Edition. Come on, guy gets tomorrow's paper today and uses it to save lives, and resists friend's urging to use for personal gain. I did fall out of the pattern of watching it in later seasons, when I think they started to focus on how and why he was getting the paper. They might have been better off just letting that go, since I'm sure their answer couldn't match what fans came up with in their minds (and I don't recall what the whole deal was). The Walker/Martial Law episodes worked because they're both cops, and they both like to kick people, and the Martial Law/Early Edition set-up sort of worked since you've got a guy claiming bad things are going to happen, and he seems like he wants to help, but he won't tell you how he knows, so do we trust him? conflict. Hmm, maybe that crossover was an attempt to get more face-kicking into Early Edition. Gary Hobson wasn't a very violent guy, as I recall.

USA likes to tease at this sometimes, with the commercials where Monk and Johnny Smith meet at a detectives convention, or Johnny and Shawn from Psych are comparing who has it easier in a diner. I'm not sure how well an actual meeting/collaboration between the casts of some of the shows would work. Since they're all detectives, it might be hard to keep them from getting in each other's way. Ooh, maybe a Burn Notice/Dead Zone crossover! I'm sure Michael Westin would appreciate having a psychic helping him. Actually, I'm just going to stop now, before you lose respect for me. What's that? It's too late? Damn.

*That's probably not as often as I ought to.

** Thanks to Wikipedia, I just found out JMS was a producer on Walker until he left to work on Babylon 5. The odd things the Internet learns ya.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Impermanence Of Creative Teams

I was thinking today, though not for the first time, about how creative teams at DC or Marvel don't seem to stick with a book as long as they used to. First off, I guess we should discuss whether that's accurate or not. I'm not really well-versed in comic history, so I'm not sure how true that is, but it seems as though it's more common for a writer to stay with a book for one arc, maybe a year, then move to a different title.

For example, Supergirl's on its sixth writer in 30 issues (once this month's issue written by Will Pfeifer comes out, anyway). Fraction and Brubaker stayed on Immortal Iron Fist for 18 and 16 issues, respectively (I'm counting the Annual, and the Green Mist of Death one-shot in those totals). Wolverine's had at least 7 writers in less than 70 issues, and Greg Rucka's responsible for the first 20 of those.

Of course, it's not all short-term runs. Geoff Johns has been on Green Lantern for the entire current run, and I think the same is true of the Palmiotti/Gray writing team on Jonah Hex. Bendis has been on New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man the entirety of their existence, Brubaker's been on Captain America for about three years, Ennis has been on Punisher Max for going on 5 years (and wrote a lot of the Punisher Marvel Knights series before that). And of course, there's DeFalco and Spider-Girl. So it's a bit of both, which is probably the way it's been for awhile now (maybe the last decade or so?)

Still, it seems as though there are always a lot of titles in flux, new writers, new artists, so on and so forth, and I've been wondering about why that might be. The frequent artist switching seems to result from there not being enough artists who can do consistently good work every month. But is there a larger trend? I thought of two possible reasons, not original I'm sure, but it's what I've got. One, more writers have this one story in mind they want to do with a character, what they hope will be a defining story arc, and once they've done it , that's it, they're done, next character. I sort of get that, the desire to write the {insert character} story that everyone remembers and hearkens back to. And if you stick around longer, you run the risk of writing a story everyone thinks of as a dud, that winds up overshadowing that earlier story* .

The other possibility I considered was that frequent creative team changes are part of the larger "event-driven comics" time we're presently experiencing. One of the things I recall getting brought up in those month-to-month sales posts that Paul O'Brien and Marc Olivier-Frisch do for the Beat was that under normal circumstances, once retailers find the level a title sells at, it will decline a little bit at a time from there, just due to a person here or there dropping the title each month. Sales can be boosted (in theory) by crossovers, tie-ins to other titles, or creative team changes. At least, temporarily. So maybe frequent changes are a method for getting fans to notice a title, in addition to trying to find a formula that really works for a title's sales.

Under the second possibility, we'd see more consistency on titles (say, a larger percentage of titles having the same creative team 3 or more years) early this decade, before Diassembled, Infinite Crisis or anything like that. I don't know whether it would come out that way, but it would at least be a testable hypothesis, were someone so inclined**.

* Of course, the reverse could also be true, where after a weak start, the writer hits their stride with the later stories. I'm sure that's happened more than a few times.

** Someone other than me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Only The Pandas Have Fun

So, um, it's raining outside. {Sure is.} Still hot, though. {Welcome to another summer in Missouri. Could be worse. I've heard Houston is miserable this time of year, if ya hate high humidity with your really high temps.} I do hate those. It makes you all sweaty and smelly. {Oh well pardon me. Nobody was willing to teach me the ancient art of chi manipulation which creates a bubble of cool air around me at all times.} I bet Iron Fist knows how to do that. {Bei Bang-Wen, maybe. I don't think Danny's smart enough to even conceive of such a use.} Danny's smart! {If you say so.} I do!

{Think we successfully stalled our way through another opening paragraph?} Sure. {Then the floor is yours.} What am I going to do with a floor? {*rimshot* I thought we were ready to get started.} I was just having fun. Mr. Mind is too small to bonk, so I'll just Squish him. {I think Blue Beetle beat you to that. He had 1000 babies you could pass that on to.} I'll do that then. The Black Beetle gets a Bonk for killing Fire and for being a whiner. Boo hoo, Jaime Reyes took someone from me, so I'll screw everything else up! Whoever she is, she would have left him anyway, because he's a big baby! {Ouch, ABP comes out swinging!} I'm giving Moose and Sara Bonks, and some Bonks for those Humanity First people. And since Norman Osborn might have clones Spider-Girl, I want to give him a Bonk too. {Um, he's sort of dead already. Has been for over a decade.} Not in the Marvel Universe! {I told you, we call that the 616 universe here, because every time someone calls it that, Tom Brevoort's souffle falls as he pulls it from the oven.} That sounds evil. {Only a little bit. It's Flash Thompson level evil, not Norman Osborn EVIL. Like a prank almost.} Oh. That sounds OK.

Wait, can Tom Brevoort even cook? {I don't know, maybe. It just seemed like a fairly unobjectionable thing to do to torment him.} Torment? {I mean, prank. How about some hugs?} I guess Spider-Girl could use a Hug. {I think she needs a bonk, might get her head straightened out.} NO. She's feels bad right now, she needs to feel better. {Fine, it's your show, just stop giving me the death glare. Sheez.} Booster gets a Hug, he was so sad before everything went white at the end of the issue. Skeets gets some Applause for beating that evil robot, and Batman gets Applause for punching Degaton a lot. {You know, I think that we should demean Degaton, what with him being a time-traveling Nazi and all. He has a D on his chest like a giant moron, so let's call him D-Man.} I thought Marvel had one of those? {Yeah, and he doesn't get a whole lot of respect. That's supposed to be the joke, see? We'll be using the name to sort of link the two, as an insult.} Seems kind of mean to Marvel's D-Man. {Yeah, I guess so. Degaton really needs to get rid of that stupid D on his chest, though. Looks like a twit.}

Thursday, June 12, 2008

He's Not The Greatest Hero You'll Never Know

One thing that caught my notice in Booster Gold this week was Rip Hunter's inner monologue on the first page. He says Booster is important because he'll train the greatest of all the Time Masters. This has been hinted at earlier, such as in #8 when the Time Stealers discuss how they must destroy Booster's confidence, because of his importance to the lineage of the Time Masters, which suggests Booster's influence would extend far beyond his own lifetime.

Still, it's an unusual comment to me, given where Booster is at now, still very new at protecting the time stream, prone to letting his emotions dictate his actions*. He does show a certain aptitude for it, given his ability to save Superman's life by drinking with Jonah Hex, but he's still very much a novice. And usually in cases like that, Rip would be playing the role of Sage/Teacher, who takes the character who never lived up to their potential/Diamond in the Rough and makes them the "Greatest Blank of Blank". Yet, if what Rip says is true, the role of "Teacher of the Greatest" actually falls to Booster.

It strikes me as a deviation from what we usually see, where the main character is the best, the person who will save the world, the only one who can**. For an imperfect comparison, it would be similar to beating the final Super Mario game ever***, and learning that all Mario's battles with Bowser accomplished little, and his true gift was his actions giving one of the Toads the courage to become a hero, and that Toad is the one who finally completely defeats the Koopas and brings peace and harmony to the Mushroom Kingdom for all time. Except we don't ever play that story, we just learn about it at the end of the of Mario's game****. Or maybe we would have needed to learn that somewhere in the middle of one of the earlier games, Super Mario 64 or Super Mario 3, perhaps?

I'm curious to see if this colors Booster Gold's stories from here on, assuming that whoever takes over for Mr. Johns opts to pick up on that idea (perhaps it could go to his cowriter, Mr. Katz?)***** Are the missions going to be as much about Booster learning something about protecting time, as the actual protection of time?

*Which I'm not against per se, but it seems to have backfired in the case of saving Ted Kord.

** Not that the person that taught them, so they could do that, isn't important, but stories often seem to focus more on the person who'll be doing stuff, rather than the one teaching characters how to do stuff. Unless it's a story about teaching.

*** I don't know why there would be a 'final Super Mario game ever', just humor me.

**** I thought about using Legend of Zelda for the example, since that definitely conforms to the idea of "Only this very special person can save us!". But I remember the Ocarina of Time Player's Guide suggested that it might not be the same Link and Zelda in each game, but rather generations of them, so that might actually be the same thing as what's being suggested in Booster Gold, they just don't come right out and say it. Hopefully, they haven't made similar suggestions for the Mario franchise.

***** I know, Chuck Dixon wrote the August issue, but I doubt he was the permanent replacement, even before he and DC parted company. I meant the permanent writer, assuming the book will have one, and not just start rotating creative teams.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I Bought 6/11/08

Both the books I purchased this week made me sad, though not in the same way. One of those ways is good, if a touch overdone, the other's more deeply depressing.

Amazing Spider-Girl #21 - Ron Frenz sure does like doing collage covers. At least they tell us something about the issue itself. I'm always in favor of that. Unfortunately, the issue itself doesn't work as well for me. DeFalco is trying real hard to pile the doubts and guilt on May, have her doubting herself, I assume in preparation for her finding out about the little surprise Normie Osborn showed Peter last month. Really, it's just too much, and she's feeling guilt over stuff she has no business feeling guilt over.

Granted, that's part of the Parker Curse, but consider that in this issue, Sara, who was revealed as a mutant back in issue #8, has teamed up with the violent mutants introduced last issue, but she's been followed to the meeting by Spider-Girl and Moose. Sara kayos Moose, then attacks Spider-Girl. May doesn't want to fight, just check on Moose, but Sara attacks her, saying she's lying. When Moose comes to, he starts cheering for Sara to stomp Spider-Girl, and when Spider-Girl defeats Sara with a minimum of force (really, the most Sara has to worry about is some motion sickness), Moose calls her a bully, and May feels bad about how she handled things. The problem with all this is that rather than making me feel bad for May, it's leaving me frustrated with her, wanting someone to tell her to quit trying to take on so much, stop being so worried about hurting other people's feeling (especially people who want you hurt/dead), or not meeting other's expectations. Maybe that's the point, that may needs to learn that, but I'm getting a little disgusted with her, and I'm considering dropping the book.

Booster Gold #10 - Confession: I don't understand how what happens at the end of the issue resolves the temporal/alternate reality problem our heroes faced. That's the kind of thing I'm always worried about when it comes to time travel. At least I know why all the big baddies were listening to Booster's dad. Should have expected that, but I never was much good at unraveling mysteries. I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Miracle though: I don't like time-traveling Nazis, either.

All in all, not a good day for Booster. Just nothing going right. The end of the issue was very sad, but again, I'm not really sure how it solves the problems they had. Also, I'm not sure where that scarab that appears at Booster's feet on the 3rd to last page came from. It couldn't belong to the Black Beetle, he's still all carapaced up. And how did we get so many "last sons of Venus"? Asexual reproduction? I wonder if this story is teaching Booster to make the hard choices, that you can't save everyone. I suppose that's true, even in superhero comics, but I kind of enjoy it when the hero figures out how to save everyone, rather than having to pick. Like at the end of Spider-Man, he saves MJ and the cable car full of passengers. I really liked that, but maybe the success don't mean as much to the reader without the failures?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Movie Analysis - The Hunted

What is this, the 3rd time I've mentioned The Hunted on this blog? That must just mean it's outstanding then. About two weeks ago I was flipping through the channels, and I came across it already in progress. Quick Recap: It's a 90-minute chase movie with Tommy Lee Jones pursuing Benecio del Toro, who appears to have gone out of his head.

I half-watched, since I'd already seen it before, but I also hopped on the Internet and looked up Ebert's review of it, because I usually find those pretty insightful. In his review, he mentions how Aaron Hallam (Benecio del Toro) discusses the number of chickens slaughtered per year, and asks FBI agents how they would feel if there was some being that treated humans with as little respect. Ebert mentions that it seems clear Hallam feels he is that being. Well, I'm not so obtuse* to have missed that, but it did raise a question in my mind I hadn't previously considered: Is L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) also one of these beings? The difference being that while Hallam is a "higher being" that preys on humans, Bonham is one that protects them.

Bonham is, after all, the one who taught Hallam (and others like him). He's the one who taught Hallam how to quickly, efficiently, quietly kill a man with a knife you make yourself, how to blend into the background, how to set traps. Skills Hallam used with great ability for the government (the opening sequence is Hallam, with a four-man team in Kosovo, killing a Serbian commander in the middle of a slaughter), but which are now being used without much regard for the victim. After Hallam is captured early in the film, he's turned over to the people he worked for, who will likely kill him themselves. They're after him because he was supposed to kill a diplomat, which he did, but he also killed the diplomat's family. Hallam's response is that they weren't his real family, they were soldiers, that he was set up. One of the "sweepers" comments that Hallam can't tell the difference between sharks and guppies anymore, but it's more likely that to Hallam, there isn't any difference. They're all just people, which to him is no different than saying such and such are "just animals".

It's interesting to contrast Hallam with Bonham. Bonham taught Hallam, but has never killed anyone himself, while Hallam has killed several people from what we know. During a flashback, Bonham sees himself training the group Hallam was in. As he tells them what they'll learn, he says how he'll teach them to kill, and the camera flashes to Hallam watching intently. However, when Bonham emphasizes that 'they will learn to survive. . . or they will not', the camera stays on him. I think that sums the two men up, that Hallam is (or became) a killer, while Bonham is a survivor. What he knows would keep him alive most anywhere, but he hasn't needed to kill. Hallam, unfortunately, has.

Bonham lives alone in the woods in the north, working with the Wildlife Fund as he puts it. Hallam is seemingly living in the a tree at the start of the chase, but also lived with a woman and her daughter for a time, and he seems to have taken a shine to the daughter, since there's a scene where he's working with her on recognizing animal tracks, and explains that when they hear the cat out in the yard, to leave it be, because it's hunting**. Both men seem to care about wildlife, as Bonham marches into an establishment near his home and warns the men there to stop using snare traps on wolves, as he'd just removed one from an injured wolf. Hallam, meanwhile, criticized some "hunters"*** for using such high-tech scopes to hunt deer.

Bonham seems less comfortable around people and civilization. When he's in the Feds building where they're interrogating Hallam, Bonham is constantly agitated, pacing, shaking his fingers, speaking monosyllabically. In contrast, Hallam, who's actually being interrogated, sits calmly, without a care. He blends in more readily in public, switching just a few clothes to appear like a construction worker, or a skater punk, or a homeless person, while Bonham runs about in the same dirty clothes with a heavy beard, looking like the Wild Man of the Mountain. And yet, this may be why he works as a "protector". Hallam has clearly been warped by his missions, especially the Kosovo one, when he was forced to ignore entire families being drug into rooms and shot to pieces, because his mission was simply to kill the Serb commander****. Bonham, meanwhile, hasn't been exposed to that. He's seen the casual attitude people can have towards harming animals, but not nearly as much the lack of concern they can have for harming each other. I think that's part of why he's determined to stop Hallam, as he might not feel the same had he seen what his protege has.

Watching the chase/battle between the two men is fascinating. They seem totally aware of their environments, of all the people around them, but they don't really seem to touch them, as though they were separate. They move through the city or the woods disturbing very little, which would suggest they were being extra cautious. But they move in a way that suggests they aren't all that concerned with what's around them, because there are more important things at hand. Rain and mud are nothing, the same with swimming across a river. The cold is irrelevant, especially to L.T., who leaves his coat behind early, and never bothers to retrieve it. It's as if everything else falls away around them, just leaving two guys trying to kill one another. Each has an uncanny knack for knowing whether the other is, and where they'll be. It is easier for Hallam, since he knows Bonham will be wherever he is, but no matter how clever Hallam is, Bonham always susses out where he is. This doesn't mean Bonham doesn't still get caught off guard, or that he figures it out in time, but it's evident their minds are on the similar paths. In contrast, the feds, cops, the "sweepers", they can't see what he's doing, and so they continue to fall for his misdirections, and to underestimate him. It goes beyond one having taught the other*****, to the point where they almost sense each other. As if they're attuned to each other on a wavelength no one else can find.

There's one other sequence I think is significant. During the chase, Hallam has made his way onto the town's train system, with Bonham right behind him. Law enforcement closes off the the bridge and stops the train. Hallam climbs out, and begins climbing a ladder to the top of the bridge, as the lead Fed announces "target of opportunity, open fire!" The whole scene is reminiscent of King Kong, or any other movie where people with guns attempt to kill the "monster", a monster which is often misunderstood by those same people with guns, because they fear (perhaps with good reason). Yet, as badly as Abby wanted Hallam for killing her fellow agents, she orders cease fire when Bonham continues his pursuit (in spite of his fear of heights, no less). Is it just because she recognizes him as an ally, or has he not completely reached that level Hallam's at, and so he's not different enough yet?

By the end of the flick, Bonham's got blood all over him, his and Hallam's, and he's finally really used the stuff he taught, but how different was what he chose to do from what Hallam had been getting ordered to do? I think it's the reasons behind it. Hallam had been, originally, killing because he was told to, and later, because he believed himself to be a target (which is at least partially true). Bonham does it out of a sense of responsibility, to the people Hallam's recently killed, but also to Hallam himself, I think. Hallam reached out to L.T. for help at one point, and received none. That may have made the difference.

* I really like "obtuse", ever since I heard Andy DuFrense use it in The Shawshank Redemption when talking to the warden. Boy, did I enjoy watching the warden kill himself. With some villains, it's just more satisfying to watch them descend so low they finish the job themselves, hence my wish for Superboy-Prime to reality-wall punch himself out of existence.

** Throughout the film, I get the feeling these are important skills, that are passed down through generations. Bonham learned them from his father, and passed them on to all those soldiers. Hallam probably took to them better than any other, making him L.T.'s son in a sense. Now Aaron is passing them on to Loretta, who isn't his daughter, but clearly looks up to him, and he seems to care for her, and her mother for that matter. Hallam isn't completely beyond humanity.

*** Hallam contends they were actually there to kill him, and I think he's right. As Abby and Bonham noted, neither of the hunters brought a knife to quarter the deer, or anything to carry meat in, little suspicious.

**** There's a sequence right before Hallam completes the mission, where the commander orders one of his soldiers to continue killing, and level the village. The solider comments that the NATO air strike might do that for him. The commander says 'The West can not solve this. The war started here. It will end here.' That has some deeper meaning to the movie, but I can't quite determine what it is. The futility of what Hallam's doing, killing this one commander, while the soldiers were slaughter hundreds, and the idea that it may never stop, so Hallam is destroying himself for nothing? Is it an idea that the conflict between Bonham and Hallam is somehow older than it would appear, and the West is law enforcement, and ultimately powerless to do anything? I don't care for that last one (yet I thought of it, what the hell?), since it smacks of predestination, or it may just be taking the higher being thing too far. Also, for some reason it's making me think of that horrific story Jeph Loeb did in Wolverine, where we learn Logan and Sabretooth are part of two lineages that are always fighting, and you distinguish them by their hair color or some such dumbassery?

***** Especially since you'd think that Hallam would have learned some new things, by necessity, while in the field.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Brief Family Guy Related Post

I don't watch Family Guy much anymore, but I used to. Not because I think I outgrew its humor (I doubt my taste has progressed any), as I just don't remember to watch new episodes and Adult Swim has run the older ones (which I found a lot more funny) into the ground. But when I did watch it semi-regularly, I always liked those two vaudevillians, Vern and Johnny.

Well, "always" probably isn't accurate. I think the first time I saw them, watching Alex' DVD sets of the early seasons, I was left wondering what the hell it was all about, this fellow talking about how vaudeville was dead, and TV was the box that killed it, then trying to jump through a hoop and falling flat on his face. But they grew on me. I think Johnny gets credit for that, the way he energetically played his piano*, whether Vern's bit worked as intended or not. Sure, times are probably tough for these holdovers from 1920s stage acts, but that doesn't mean Johnny's going to bemoan his fate. No, darn it, he's going to play his jaunty tune, because a man's got to make a living, and that's what he does. Good for him, living his dream**.

Of course, then Stewie decided he'd had enough of them and killed them both, and that was the end of that. Nothing ever lasts.

* Or is it a pianie? Pianny? That way of pronouncing "piano" that's usually reserved for the saloon style plunking away at the keys from Westerns and such.

** Assuming, of course, that was Johnny's dream. Maybe he wanted to play that amphitheater Alvin and the Chipmunks always destroyed during their opening sequence. Maybe he didn't want a musical career at all, maybe he wanted to be an investment banker, or a roofer. In which case, his is just another sad case of dreams left unfulfilled.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

It's Not So Easy Going Back To The Way Things Were

While reading Nova this week, I had the impression that the Surfer is having a bit of difficulty getting used to being Herald of Galactus again. Sure, he tosses Nova around when our hero gets too close to the Planet Devourer, and he spouts the usual spiel about Galactus not interacting with lower beings, and how, as his Herald, the Surfer really shouldn't be talking to Rich either. Still, he keeps slipping out of character, only to catch himself mid-sentence.

On two occasions he starts to tell Nova something, only to stop and say he need not explain himself to Rich. His willingness to discuss why he seems different, or to explain how casually he can shield the ark ships from electromagnetic disruption, seems to be a holdover of the days when he routinely interacted with costumed heroes, having misunderstanding battles, followed by team-ups, and the like. That was his life for a long time, and even if he didn't find it entirely fulfilling (since the reason he rejoined Galactus was at least partially a lack of direction) it became a fairly regular occurrence, and so it wasn't out of the ordinary for him to explain what he was doing or feeling. In fact, given the Surfer's tendencies to zip around on his board bemoaning his fate (whether he's trapped on a planet of madmen, or otherwise separated from his love), the hard part was usually getting him to shut up.

Now though, he's back on the clock, and he's apparently serious about being a loyal Herald*, and that means he's supposed to follow Big G's lead, which means limited interaction with lesser beings, and that you do not explain your actions. He's supposed to be above all that once again, and he's at least trying to act like it. The fact that he's not entirely successful, that he keeps slipping into old habits, is something to keep in mind for the future.

Given the cyclical nature of comics at Marvel and DC, it's pretty much a given the Surfer will turn against Galactus again at some point. I find it unlikely that after all those years protecting lives that are inconsequential to Galactus, and now having helped Nova with a planetary evacuation, that he'll ever easily fall back into his ways from before he encountered Alicia Masters. Which could be bad for him, as Galactus figures the Surfer will turn against him someday, thus Galactus accepted Stardust back to serve as co-Herald alongside Silverado**. In the event he turns against Galactus, he's going to have to contend with perhaps the most fanatically loyal Herald Galactus has ever had, and if Galactus opts to remove the extra power he gave the Surfer***, well, that would be bad news for Norrin.

*Serious enough he has no qualms about leading Galactus to inhabited worlds.

**See Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #1!

***In Annihilation: Silver Surfer #3 - Footnote Favoring Calvin!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Horrific Saga Of Losing Comes To An End

Since it was Saturday, and I wasn't going out of town, I figured I'd play some Heroclix. I'm telling you that in advance if you'd rather leave and come back when I post something comic-related tomorrow.

We're into more free-form games now, since the event that went with the Crisis set is finally done, and the Secret Invasion set doesn't come out until the end of July. I trotted out some Freedom Fighters (Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady, the Ray), and was paired off against Bob for the first round. Bob is someone I've rarely beaten (though that's true of pretty much everybody) and I get the sense he puts a lot more thought into the teams he uses, and what maps would work best with that team than I do. Actually, I know he puts more thought into it, because I never bother to worry about maps, period. Anyway, Bob put out a "Scientist" team of Niles Caulder, Tomar Re, Kang, and a HYDRA Technician. Only in Heroclix, folks. Well Heroclix and fan fiction. Putting it simply, I got smoked. This was not one of those games where I say afterwards, "Gee, if only I could have made that one attack roll, things might have been different." No, I just got crushed. It wouldn't be so bad, except Bob seems so joyless about it. I sometimes wonder if he's having any fun at all. Maybe it would help if he got more competition (he rolled through all 3 matches today without losing any of his characters even once). I don't know.

I did deduce from that game, that it was a bad idea to send the Ray charging out on his own, with his teammates left in the arrears, so for the 2nd game, I changed it up a little. I was playing someone I hadn't before, a fellow named Henry, I think. He was a nice guy, possibly inexperienced (or just out of practice), but he knew the basics, which puts us on roughly equal footing. He had a High Evolutionary/Saturn Girl/Ultimate Captain America team. I think I owe this victory entirely to favorable rolls of the dice. I was able to use Ray's Hypersonic Speed to zip out, take a shot at Saturn Girl (and actually hit her), then use my remaining movement to retreat back to my other characters, and out of range of Cap's Charge, forcing Henry to use a turn simply to get Cap in range (as H.E. was too far away to TK Cap right into my face). That gave me an opportunity to bring Sam and Phantom Lady up to Cap, and the three of them eventually bludgeoned Cap to death. I got very lucky, as Henry at one point had Saturn Girl boost Cap's damage +2, the High Evolutionary boosted his attack +1, and he was swinging a light object at Uncle Sam. Potential for 3 damage after Sam's Invulnerability, and he only needed a 4 to hit, with a 2d6.

He rolled snake eyes (critical miss). The object's wasted, and Cap takes damage. I was visibly relieved. Anyway, once Cap was out, I had Sam carry Phantom Lady over to Saturn Girl and the two of them pummeled her (after she missed a Mind Control attempt on Sam), then they went after the High Evolutionary, who scared the hell out of me by getting more dangerous the more I hit him. I managed to pretty well finish him in a round where I pushed Phantom Lady to flurry (two attacks, I hit with one), and pushed Sam to flurry (hit with both), and shot at him with the Ray (an 8 attack against 18 defense, and I got the 10), which was roughly 6 clicks of damage. Then Henry's Regeneration attempt didn't work, and I was able to wrap things up without losing any figures. There were only five players today, so I drew the bye for Round 3. I spent that time watching the other matches and listening to Ken chat with a friend about next year's Cape Comiccon (Yes, Ken's already making plans).

So I won for the first time since a February match against Jack. It had been 14 consecutive losses - counting today's match with Bob - in between wins. I am the Kansas City Royals of Heroclix*. Oddly, every match today was a clean sweep, by which I mean all of the loser's characters were KO'ed, and none of the winner's characters were defeated. Weird.

*Which is different from being the Arizona Cardinals of Heroclix. That would involve me having the advantage in the matches, or at least appearing competent, then doing something mind-bogglingly stupid to lose, which did happen once or twice, but most of the losses were just me being terrible. If you prefer, I would also accept the title of "The Detroit Lions or Memphis Grizzlies of Heroclix".