Monday, August 31, 2009

This Could Keep Building On Itself Endlessly

Taskmaster has some peculiar condition that lets him learn any sort of physical motion simply by watching it. He doesn't even have to practice it; he just watches, then repeats. Simple.

At some point, to expand his array of skills, he procured footage of various hero types doing their flippy, jumpy, fighty thing, and watched it, picking up all sorts of cool moves from Captain America, Daredevil, and so on. If he watches the footage on fast forward, he can even use the moves at that speed for brief periods of time, assuming he's not already too worn down.

I was mulling that over at work this morning, during some down time, and I started thinking about the limits of that ability. If Taskmaster video recorded himself watching footage of say, Iron Fist, then watched the video of himself on fast forward, could he copy his own ability to copy moves, only at an even greater speed? Normally, he has to see the entire move before he can copy it, but perhaps this way he could perceive what the move was going to be the moment the person he's observing/fighting even starts to move, let alone even really start the attack. He could mirror their move back at them even as they were unleashing it upon him.

Then I thought that perhaps observing himself copying people could cause some sort of exponential increase in his ability, as though it removed block, and he could then read a person's intentions or emotions based on body language. Not telepathy, more like what Cassandra Cain has, which is really an amped up version of what Taskmaster has*.

* Sort of. Reading the Kelley Puckett issues, Cassandra can certainly perceive a wider array of things from a person than Taskmaster, but he's been portrayed as being able to learn a person's entire fighting style from one move, whereas I know Batman said it took him 5 minutes to teach Cass stick fighting. Admittedly, that's really fast, but not quite the same as "You executed a back flip into a double foot smash to the face; I know now every move you'll make". Then again, you can flummox both their abilities if you're crazy; see Cass against the Joker and Tasky against Deadpool.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Factoring Your Expectations Into it

One blog I make a point to read everyday is Joe Posnanski's. I happen to like his style of writing, because I think he's capable of critiquing something without being cruel about it. So two days ago he posts about how this year's Royals team is the worst one he's seen since he started covering them. In the course of explaining this*, he brings up something he's described on his blog before, his Movie Plus/Minus Scale.

He doesn't act as though he invented this, since he feels (and I agree) that most people do this. Namely, they grade a movie not based solely on how good or bad it was, but on how good or bad they expected it to be. So if they expected a solid movie (as Posnanski did with Toys that he figured for a +2.5), and are disappointed, then the movie seems even worse. He goes into all that because it's part of his explanation for calling this Royals' squad the worst he's covered.

This concept can obviously be applied to comics as well. For example, I didn't have high expectations for the current Deadpool series, and so the seires seems better to me than it probably is, though Way has pretty much resisted creating a supporting cast, and several of his plots have been light. But it makes me laugh, and I can follow the plots, so hey, it exceeded my expectations!

I've been trying to think of a comic that would work the opposite way for me. I'd say that when I was younger I probably thought Maximum Carnage was going to be great. I can't remember that for certain, but it seems like the sort of stupid thing I'd think when I was that age. There have been a few series in the last few years that everyone was raving about, and I'd be expecting something incredible, and find something I thought was merely good. I can't point at Civil War, because I don't know that I was ever high on it. I think Annihilation: Conquest would be a minus. Not a huge one, because I figured it wouldn't match Annihilation (which would be one that wildly exceeded expectations, because I had none for it when I bought Annihilation: Prologue), but it wasn't quite as cool as I thought it could be. The last three issues of Kevin Smith's Spider-Man/Black Cat mini-series would probably be a large minus. I had some positive expectations, because I'd enjoyed the first 3 issues, but by the time we learn the new origin Smith is sticking Felicia with, the reality was a big negative.

So I'll ask you, what was a series (or event) that wound being a lot better than you thought it would be, and what disappointed you terribly?

* And he has to explain it, because sadly the Royals have several lousy teams, and you can't simply proclaim one the worst without justifying it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Game Redminding Us Of The Value Of Maintaining Supply Lines

Nowadays, when I'm not working, or doing any of the other myriad activities I while away the time with, I find some time to play some games. Having received a PS2 relatively recently (last couple of years), there's a massive game library out there for it, and I've been grabbing any game that looks good now, lest I not be able to find it later. So I'm in the cycle of trying to beat a dozen games simultaneously these days, so the progress I make is sometimes limited. And if the gameplay itself seems to be what's limiting me, well, that's not going to help my disposition.

Which brings me to Dark Cloud. At this point I've put in less than 5 hours on the game, but part of that owes to the beginning being frustrating. A genie flies over a village and nearly destroys everything, except some helpful, elderly fairy saves everyone and everything by storing them in giant capsules. For some reason, he then decided the best place to put said capsules was in a cave full of monsters. I guess senility is a problem for mystical creatures as well. I'm playing as the typical adolescent hero who winds up with the responsibility of venturing into said cave, recovering those capsules, and restoring the village. I imagine I'll eventually have to defeat the genie, but that's a long way off.

So into the cave/dungeon I go. Now, Dark Cloud does a few things I'm not really accustomed to. For one, health doesn't just decline when a monster smacks you. You have a thirst meter, and if you go too long without water, your health starts plummeting. There are springs scattered through the cave, but no guarantee there's one around when you need it*, so you have to bring water with you. Also, your weapon will gradually wear down with use. There's a helpful meter to warn you how close you are to that happening. If you aren't careful, the weapon breaks, and if you keep using it, the weapon is destroyed and lost forever. You can fix your weapons with Repair Powder, so in theory you can keep going.

The trick is, in the early going, you receive supplies from the mayor**. He only provides the bare minimum, so one bag of Repair Powder, maybe a single bottle of water. So once you run out, you have to leave, get him to cough up some more supplies, and then go back in. It's makes for a rather herky-jerky progress, as I find myself at times trying to avoid any fights while I search desperately for either a spring, or better yet the key to the next level so I can make a little more progress. I imagine my trail would look similar to early European exploration of the Great Plains: A bunch of excursions that travel out a little way, realize there's nothing to replenish supplies, and a hasty retreat back home.

So on the one hand, I think it's a nice touch, because those are things that an actual heroic explorer would have to concern themselves with, but on the other hand, it's a pain to actually deal with. Also, certain levels of the cave have special rules. So I've gained a partner, and one level specified that only she could be used. Other levels won't let you switch or repair weapons. Not really sure what the game designers thought that contributed.

For some reason I've yet to learn, a person I believe is from the future is trying to take the little device you used to open the capsules and restore the village. He's one of those "You're not worthy of it" types, which I guess makes me the Guy Gardner to his Parallax-influenced Hal. And this guy does switch from being calm to red-eyed and hyper-aggressive, so there's definitely some possession going on.

One nifty aspect of the game is that you're responsible for putting the town back together. You have all the pieces, so you put them where you like. That includes houses, trees, rivers, roads, etc. Once a house is placed, you can add the people that lived there (if you've found them), and talk to them about what their house needs, or get some ideas on how to rebuild the village. Though the ideas for the village usually involve things that only pertain to them, so one lady desn't want her house near the mayor's because he likes to tinker with inventions. I don't think you have to accomodate them, but you can if you'd like. If you can completely restore their houses, they'll give you a gift. I've already realized I'm not much of a city planner, and I'm starting to worry about how many more homes there can be, as space is growing scarce. I guess I'll just tear down the trees, fill in the pond, and dam up the river, and I'm sure that will solve all the problems forever. Who needs water and trees, right?

* Unrelated, but also irritating. Every time you visit a particular level of the cave, it's layout changes. So just because there was a spring there last time, doesn't mean there will be when you return.

** The Mayor is cheap. I've reached the point where I found the capsule containing the village trader, and his trading wagons, so he's set up shop. Now the Mayor won't hook me up at all, telling me I can't rely on him forever. Oh, well in that case, how about he goes in the damn cave and rescue his constituents?! He can't rely on me forever. The stingy bastard.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm Never Quite Sure What Will Entertain Me


I have a few wallpapers I could have picked to lead the post with, but I went with this one because a) it makes me laugh, and b) I actually know where I found it, so I can properly credit its creator (my old IBook was always very good about recording the web address I saved an image from, but I've not figured out how to get my PC to divulge such information). So, the wallpaper comes from Desktop Anime, for the record.

A month ago I picked up a box set of Azumanga Daioh, as I enjoyed it when I watched fan subtitled episodes years ago, and I figured I ought to get around to actually paying some money for some DVDs. I've spent some of my evenings this week watching it again, and I wanted to start laying out some thoughts on it.

The series is based on the comic by Kiyohiko Azuma, who went on to create the comic Yotsuba!, which I've seen receive some fine reviews around the old comics blogowhatchamafloogle. I haven't seen nearly as much about Azumanga Daioh, though whether that's because I'm not looking in the right place, because it's an older work and so most discussion of it passed a couple of years ago, or because it just wasn't as good and so didn't garner as much attention, I don't know. Some of the reviews I've read about Yotsuba! have lead me to think it might be the third one, as I know Chris Sims read that first, then went back and tried AD and didn't quite dig it as much. I haven't read Yotsuba!*, so I can't compare the two qualitatively.

Azumanga Daioh is unique amongst animes I've actually watched all the way through, due to its complete lack of sword fighting, shooting, giant robots, people screaming while they power up in impressive colors, or anything like that. It's mostly a comedy, so its closest comp amongst series I watch is probably Excel Saga, but that series is considerably more, insane? Unfocused (intentionally, I think)? AD follows six girls (and a couple of their teachers) as they progress through their first, second, and third years of high school up to graduation.

The series starts by introducing us to Chiyo, who is 10-year old prodigy who was bumped up to high school. Chiyo is smart, cheerful, polite, a little naive, and frequently cute to an extent I'd expect someone to harness that cuteness as a weapon**. It could destroy civilizations***. She reminds me a little of myself at that age (though I wasn't bright enough to skip the 5th-9th grades) in that she's terrified of letting down or disobeying her teachers (forgetting to finish homework causes her to nearly break into tears). Chiyo's friendly nature means that she serves as the facilitator for many of the characters to start hanging out together, since she makes friends with Sakaki, the quiet loner that everyone is too impressed/intimidated by to approach, and Ayumu Kasuga, who just transferred in from Osaka (and is thus slapped with that for a nickname), and has to deal with being the new kid in school (plus she's a bit of a space case). So the group gradually forms around her, and things proceed from there.

Azuma takes advantage of the repetitive nature of life in school to use certain events as the basis for multiple episodes. So there are two episodes based on the annual culture festival, three on the similarly annual sports fest, and three about the group taking trips to Chiyo's summer home over their vacation. I think that's actually a good idea, because there are certain episodes that I feel lack any sort of connecting thread. Those seem to be more of a loose collection of short stories, grouped into a single episode. Which also works, they're usually amusing, but wouldn't work if you tried to stretch them over the length of an entire episode. The episodes with a common thread will also jump a bit, but they do have a greater sense of interconnectivity. So the series can change its pacing from episode to episode, which can keep things feeling a bit fresher.

OK, the humor. I remember that Sims, while discussing the manga, said that jokes had a tendency to hang there unfinished, as though there was no punchline. I think a discussion started up in the comments about whether this was a case of Sims not understanding Japanese humor, which I take it is not identical to American humor, but I don't know if any conclusions were reached. There are times watching where I'm left befuddled as to why characters react as they do, but the series delivers enough broad physical humor (usually in the form of hyperactive Tomo doing something over-the-top), or bizarre non-sequiters (that'd be Osaka's department) that I still find myself laughing quite a bit. Really, all the characters at times behave in either a silly enough, or angry enough fashion to provide some hilarity.

More serious moments occur occasionally, especially near the end, when the kids start realizing that once they graduate, they're all going their separate ways****. I know that bit hit me hard the first time I watched it, since I had just recently finished college, and figured if it went anything like high school, I was going to lose track of pretty much all the friends I'd made, which was not an uplifting thought. The fact that hasn't happened sort of muted the effect during the most recent viewing, but I can still recall feeling the same way once upon a time. The series doesn't do that often, though, and when it does, there's usually a point about focusing on what you gained from those times, not what you might lose as you go forward. Also a bit about not wasting time with regrets, though I think that's more prevalent with episodes that focus on the teachers, because they're farther along in life, and have more decisons to look back on.

I know that was a little scattershot, but I wanted to say something about the series, and the more intensive posts I've been considering were going to take too long to put together. They're somewhere in the recesses of my mind, so I'll dig them out, and get them polished up. Not sure when.

* I haven't actually read Azumanga Daioh either, only watched the anime, and I don't know how much the anime may have diverged from the comic. I read online that Kaorin had a much expanded role in the anime, and I think Mr. Kimura may have been more disturbing in the manga, though I kind of hope not. He was strange enough.

** Tragically, the practical applications of the cuteness as an energy source would be ignored. Until it was too late, of course.


*** Hmm, where is the Lantern Corps harnessing the devastating power of cuteness? Surely not all cats are acid blood spewing beasties?


**** Also, oddly enough, at the end of the first culture festival episode, when a few of the students have a
'victory parade'. The music includes what sounds to me like a kazoo, and the scene is always a bummer. I think it's due to the fact they really enjoyed the culture fest, and are trying hard to hold onto it, but they know tomorrow they'll be back to the usual grind at school. Time marches on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Think Three Deadpool Ongoings May Be Asking For Trouble

I was thinking about my irritation with Hal Jordan getting a prominent role in DC these days, and I wondered about whether Deadpool is going to suffer the same fate, on a larger scale. He's getting an even bigger push than Hal, in some ways. True, Deadpool's books don't serve as the focal point for the big comic event of the year, but still, three ongoing series, plus he seems to pop up as a guest star quite a bit. True, he's not at Wolverine levels, but I'm not sure Deadpool has ever reached Wolverine levels of popularity*, so that would be expected.

I know there's already some irritation online about Deadpool having three books while things like Agents of Atlas fall to backup story status, but I'm not sure whether those folks were fans of Deadpool to begin with, so their dissatisfaction wouldn't constitute a backlash. Do you think there'll come a point when even Deadpool's fans go "Whoa, that's enough; I'm burned out on the Merc with a Mouth"? Or will they just gobble it all and demand more? I do like Deadpool, and I don't want to grow tired of him, so I'm hoping to limit my exposure over the coming months**. Deadpool: Suicide Kings should serve as a warning to me about that, but I can be slow on the uptake.

* When was Wolverine's popularity at its height, do you think? Last year, mid-'80s, the '90s, the mid-2000s? I feel like he isn't quite the instant big seller he used to be, but he is still in three different team books, plus two ongoings, and whatever assorted one-shots they throw out, so maybe he's still peaking.

** Though I ordered that Team-Up with Hercules against Arcade and Nightmare issue. It has Arcade in it, all right?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cats And Headbutts

Keeping this short and simple today.

Power Girl has a cat, of which she is very fond*. So, do you think she likes cats in general, or just her cat in particular? Because there are folks who like their cat/dog/iguana, but don't care one whit about other people's cat/dog/iguana.

Not related to the query above, but just for the record, I like that Power Girl often responds to problems by headbutting them. Not always, because, hey, headbutting can't solve every problem**. But she did use heat vision to propel her head backwards and smack Ultra-Humanite in the face with the back of her skull, and she headbutted the big green monster right in the nose, so that's two, at least. There's something short and direct about it that I think is cool. Plus, if you're nearly invulnerable, why not headbutt less resilient opponents?

* I assume that, or else why would she keep it? Unless she keeps it solely as a Guy Gardner deterrent, which would be useful.

** Though if you unleash the headbutt early enough, maybe it can solve the problem, by preventing it from reaching the point where headbutting wouldn't be useful.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What They Do When They Can't Find The Words

TV shows will occasionally bust out the "clip show" episode. They come up with some contrivance that allows for lots of flashbacks so they can just use footage from old episodes, rather than actually provide anything new. This is a terrible thing, and we should scorn those responsible and throw balloons filled with toothpaste at them*.

Fine, we don't have to scorn them and throw things at them if you don't want to. It's not really relevant to the post anyway. The question that came to me last night was what is the musical equivalent to a clip show?

The answer that seemed obvious was a "greatest hits" tour, or "greatest hits" CD**. But I would tend to equate a specific CD (or album, or tour) with a season of a TV show. Which would make individual songs the equivalent of single episodes. So having decided upon that, my vote for the musical equivalent of clip shows would be songs that just tend to rattle off people or place names.

Huey Lewis' "The Heart of Rock n' Roll", or any of those songs where the singer just lists all the different places they've been (or all the people they want to thank) with a one sentence description. I think Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" would qualify, since he spends most of the song just rattling of noteworthy stuff from the previous thirty years, which doesn't impress me terribly much. There's at least a couple of Limp Bizkit songs I can think of, one which I think focuses on places they performed, another on various people they wanted to thank***.

Basically, I think that type of song is pretty lazy, at least from a lyrical standpoint. Which is the same opinion I have of clip shows, which is why I think they're equivalent. But I want your input, because I think most of you know more about music than me. So, if you agree with my idea, what are some other songs that would fit? If you think there's a better musical comparison to clip shows, by all means, tell us.

* Why toothpaste (and it's new toothpaste, not used toothpaste someone spat out)? Well, garbage, or rotten vegetables, or animal waste would by unhygienic for everybody. I don't want to make them ill (and I don't want to become ill either), I just want to humiliate them.

** Though I own lots of greatest hits CDs for various bands, because it's a good way to get a variety of their work, theoretically from across their entire history.

*** Which, hey, it's swell that they want to thank people for their success, let them know they care, but I don't think it makes for the best song.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blame The CD Presentation

I was in a store yesterday, and as I wandered by the music section I noticed what I think was a Neil Diamond collection. It might have been one of those CDs that includes a DVD of his concerts, because the box was much larger than your typical CD case.

I do have a point here, just hang with me.

As it was, it took me a few seconds to recognize what it was because I didn't read the case, I just noticed the picture. The picture was a profile shot of Mr. Diamond in front of a microphone, set against a black background, with him apparently singing. Except that as wide open as his mouth was, and as sweaty as he appeared, I thought it was a man screaming into the mike. Which made me think it was one of those DVDs of a standup comic routine, with the comic in question being one of those angry types, who is always pissed off about everything. Then I noticed the words on the case, and things made a bit more sense.

Except part of my mind latched onto the "angry comedian" thought. Are they as angry as they appear*? If they so, wouldn't it be horrible for their anger to produce laughter in others? Sure, they're comedians, so I guess they're trying to evoke laughter, but the idea that all one's fears, concerns, and irritations would be treated as jokes for some mass audience you can possibly only dimly see, but whose voices might seem to come from everywhere. Well, that sounds like a slice of Hell, doesn't it? It sounds like an awful experience, but I was never big on standing up in front of others and speaking, in any format, so perhaps it's just me.

* Why is it that people, myself included, will sometimes react to people being angry by laughing? Is it because we think they're being silly, or because it angers us to, but we think laughing about it is better than getting up and going to attack the source of our frustration? or maybe it's laughter of relief, because at least this person on stage understands what we feel?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's DC, So It Could Happen

In Power Girl #4, while she and Terra are at the movies, this one fellow comes up and tries to hit on Power Girl, and that doesn't go terribly well for him Below is the scene (I yanked that from the Comics Should Be Good post Brian Cronin did about this scene).

So apparently those four guys are from that show the Big Bang Theory, which I did not realize when I read the book. I'm aware of the existence of the show, but that's mostly because the announcers for football games on CBS usually have to plug that week's episode at some point during the game. So that was lost on me, but at least the scene works fine anyway. Who is being foolhardy enough to try and smooth talk Power Girl is irrelevant; it's that they tried and the fallout that counts.

However, my first thought when I saw that guy was that he was one of the Beatles, somehow still in the flower of youth. I was thinking maybe George Harrison or Paul McCartney. Of course, he's not speaking in any sort of comic shorthand for British. No "luvs", "bloody hells", or "what's all this then?", but maybe he's just trying to blend in. And certainly the three guys behind him aren't the other Beatles, but I wasn't sure they were with him. They could have been random other moviegoers trying to reach their seats, only to be blocked by Lothario here.

The thing is, since this is the DC Universe, I couldn't rule it out as a possibility, you know? Someone could have accidentally (or purposefully) brought one of the Beatles decades into the future. Booster Gold does have access to a time machine, and he's the guy who wanted to travel to the '50s so he could hit a jukebox like the Fonz, so I could see him bringing a Beatle along for the ride. Or it could be a dastardly plot by some music themed villain (I can't think of any off the top of my head), to alter the course of music forever!

That's not how it turned out, though.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Can't Believe I'm Suggesting This

Did anyone else notice there wasn't a solicit for Power Girl for November? I wonder what that's about. Giving the creative team a little extra time, or are they planning to ship two issues in December? They can't be canceling the book already; the July sales figures indicated it's still well above the point where Marvel and DC usually ax books.

Of course, that didn't stop me from having some momentary concern that they were ending it, and in that moment of panic, trying to figure how they could goose sales, and with the state of the DCU right now, the easiest way to do that would be a Blackest Night tie-in.

For better or worse, there's even one that would make perfect sense. Earth-2 Superman is already up and running around again. He's Power Girl's cousin, and after her less than wonderful trip to Earth-2 courtesy of Gog, he would be about the only connection she has to that old life. And a big part of these dead rising seems to be about gut-punching the heroes by confronting them with dead people who were important to them, so it would make sense.

Question: Will Zombie Earth-2 Superman, who was a very cranky old man when alive in Infinite Crisis, spend time complaining about how people on this Earth just don't taste as good as they did back on his Earth, and how the fashions of this world ruin the presentation of his meals, consarn it? Goldarn it, in his day, people knew how to gussy up so as to make dining an enjoyable experience!

I'm not sure whether crotchety old person zombies would make Blackest Night better or worse. I imagine it would undercut the tone, but it might also be truly a horrifying experience. Yea, the assaulted heroes would beg for death, just to be spared hearing anything else about the superiority of zoot suits and Studebakers. I leave that to those in the audience reading it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Looking At A Couple Of Covers

I know "Separated at Birth" is Bully's thing, but hopefully he won't mind if I borrow it as a starting point for this post.

As I mentioned Wednesday, Spectacular Spider-Man #206 (penciled and inked by Sal Buscema) and Deadpool: Suicide Kings #5 (Mike McKone with Morry Hollowell).












I like the newer one better myself, though they both get the point of villainous triumph across. Still, the mood of Spectacular is undercut by the yellow color. Sure, it's kind of a sickly yellow, like the book has hepatitis, but compared to Suicide Kings with it's dark red, it lacks menace. Also, McKone and Hollowell titled Tombstone's head slightly downward, which lets them add some shadows to enhance the menace of the grin even further. I almost feel like he's leering up at me, ready to pounce. It's disquieting, because he seems to be looking up at us, so we should be in a position of power, but nothing about his face suggests that. instead, it looks like he's ready to do to us, what he just finished doing to Deadpool.

Plus, the story in Spectacular Spider-Man (titled "Death by Tombstone") introduced Tombstone's leather outfit (including leather boots, leather pants, and a leather shirt with plunging neckline and really high collar), which I am not a fan of. I like super-powered mobsters that dress like classic mobsters, dagnabit! I understand a suit is the sort of outfit one might not want to get dirty, and that's difficult to avoid if you like to kill and torture people with your hands, as Tombstone did, but that's part of the appeal. You wouldn't expect a man dressed so nicely to be eager to snap your neck, or to be capable of doing so. Plus, Tombstone had operated under an odd moral code, at least as far as Robbie Robertson was concerned, and the classic mobster look evokes that idea of organized crime having certain rules. It can still be ruthless and horrifying, but there were certain lines not crossed. I can't remember the details of this story, so maybe Tombstone's methods had changed, and that's why they shifted his taste in clothes, but the look still costs it points with me.

Ther's also the matter of Deadpool's teeth and gums showing through one of the holes in the mask, but I'm not holding the lack of that against the Buscema cover. It fits into the darker sort of humor you get with Deadpool, a character that can survive his head being exploded by a sniper round, but probably wouldn't work with Spider-Man. Certainly not in the early '90s.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Feels Very Familiar Somehow

Deadpool: [We've moved Calvin back to his springtime hideout, now let's see if his audience can tell the difference!]

Adorable Baby Panda: You dunderhead, of course they can now that you told them! *bonks Deadpool on the head*

CalvinPitt: {Hey now, I taught you that word to use it for good, not for evil! Also, don't hit Deadpool when you're sitting on my shoulder. I'm not eager to be caught in the ensuing fallout.}

Deadpool: [Dunderhead?]

I don't like it when you stay out here! It's dirty, and you don't review comics enough! {Now don't start whining.} I'm not! It's just, if you don't have comics, I don't get to show up! {Well, I promise to try and tell some more stories where you can show up and do stuff.} [What about me?] {I'm not sure that's a good idea Wade. You're already dangerously overexposed, and I think there'll be a backlash eventually.} [Fortunately nerds don't scare me.] {Well, they might dress up as clowns. 'Course, if you're lucky, it'll just be bloggers who backlash, and we're never representative of the audience, so you could pin your hopes on that.} [*bored* Sure, sounds great. I'll clear a space on my schedule to show up in your next story.] He's not listening. {You can't be surprised.} Nope.

I think I should hit Mr. O'Shea for calling the cops on his son. [No way! He paid me lots of money for services, and might do so again in the future! Besides, his son was a loser. A backstabbing, murdering loser.] {I have to side with Wade. The kid did blow up a building full of people just to frame Wade.} [When he could have just waited for me to blow up the building myself!] Fine, no hitting! [Don't I get any dap?] {Dap?} No. The Wrecking Crew beat you up, then Tombstone beat you up, too. {Besides, I think Outlaw already took care of that didn't she?} [Oh, right, she did! I forgot. Never mind then.] {You forgot?}

Power Girl and Terra both get Applause for saving the day, and for not just throwing the villain in jail. {There's something to be said for throwing some villains in jail, though.} [There's more to be said for just shooting them.] {Now Wade, if you kill all the villains, who are you going to fight to keep sales up?} [Fighting villains doesn't drive sales. Talking about fighting villains drives sales. And if you really have to fight one, you just handwave them back to life so I can kill them again.] I thought you got tired of killing all those clones though? [Well, yeah, but that was because I was killing a lot of them in a short period of time. If you space it out so I kill them every few months, it's fun. Like a root canal.] {You like root canals?} [Sure! Nitrous oxide, pointy, drilling things, bright lights shining directly in your eyes, what's not to love?] {Sounds like a day in Weapon X experimentation.} [Weapon X? Dr. Killebrew? *screams, shoots wildly as Calvin and ABP hit the deck*] Why did you mention Weapon X? [Weapon X?! *more screaming, more shooting*] {I was trying to follow his logic!} You should know better! *bonks Calvin on the head*

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What I Bought 8/19/09

Another week, another two books.

Deadpool: Suicide Kings #5 - I can't figure out why it's called "Suicide Kings". No one was trying to commit suicide. FYI, the cover is a send up of Spectacular Spider-Man #206, though I like this one better.

Deadpool and Spider-Man get trounced by the Wrecking Crew, who are under the mistaken impression people are impressed they've "fought" (read: "gotten whupped by") Norse gods before. Then the Punisher shows up in the most ridiculous outfit he's ever worn. And the letterer Cory Petit, or writer Mike Benson, mispelled "Klaw". Klaw, as in "the Master of Sound". It's little, but it bugs me. Wrecking Crew defeated, Deadpool fights Tombstone, manages to turn losing a hand into a positive, returns the whiny rich kid that set him up to his rich father, gets paid, clears his name, and makes out with Outlaw, which is probably the best turn of luck Deadpool's had in a long time.

This mini-series is one of those things I'm wishing I hadn't bought, but by the time I figured that out, I'd already requested pretty much all the issues, and I didn't want to stick my comic store with an extra copy they ordered for me, so here we are. For a five issues of Deadpool, only having two scenes that made me laugh out loud is not good. And honestly, I probably shouldn't have laughed at the overweight guy running from Wade but only getting five feet before being winded, but I did. I'm not strong. So disappointment reigns, I'd say I learned a lesson, but we all know I didn't, so let's move on.

Power Girl #4 - As thanks for helping to save the city, Power Girl takes Terra to the movies. So we learn a little something about Power Girl, and that Terra is trying out an Australian accent. It serves for a cheesy (and fairly obvious) joke, but I chuckled. Then they have to stop the armies of Mordor from wrecking a bridge on the Lower East Side. They take care of that, and Power Girl even uses connections from her everday life to try and rehabilitate their foe. Let's hear it for rehabilitation! Then we check in on her company and some of their work, and maybe she has a place to stay, and then something crashes destructively in the park.

So we saw how Power Girl interacts with her friends, employees, random strangers, how she handles problems both superheroic and everday, there was a fight scene, there were some in-jokes attempted ("Allen Barry" as the movie protagonist who died, but got better), good times. The dialogue's a bit stilted at times. Not in the overly melodramatic "Great Guardians!" Silver Age way, more mechanical. Sometimes Power Girl speaks as though she's not totally familiar with the English language. Or maybe she doesn't like contractions, since that was what mad me notice it, and it reminded me of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. OK, need to say something about the art. Amanda Conner is very good at drawing things going on in the background, while the main story is proceeding in the foreground. It's a positive attention to detail, because it doesn't make the panels feel overcrowded, it does help make the characters in focus feel like part of a larger world. It's not just about whoever happens to be talking.

All right, I'm done for the day. Discuss amongst yourselves if you'd like.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The More The I Hear About Him, The Less I Like Him

The statement above neatly sums up my feelings about both Brett Favre, and Hal Jordan. It isn't necessarily their fault; with Favre I'm mostly annoyed that he gets all this ridiculous leeway when he's been a mediocre or worse QB 3 out of the last 4 seasons. He's Jake Plummer with a marginally better arm! Yet coaches make these allowances for him, and now we've Ron Jaworski claiming Favre makes the Vikings the NFC's best team. Really, the guy that completely wore down at the end of the season last year, and is now a whole year older, and do we have any idea if he's in shape to play? But oh yeah, forget the Giants, Eagles, Panthers, Falcons, Buccaneers, Cardinals, none of those teams have the incomparable Pick Master on their team, so they are doomed to fall before the old Gunslinger. Pardon me for not quaking in my boots, but if this was Unforgiven, Favre would be more English Bob than William Munny.

With Hal, again, it may not be the character's fault. I was indifferent to him for a long time. Read a couple of his Silver Age adventures, they were OK. He went crazy, destroyed the Corps, then tried to recreate the universe? Eh, whatever. Gave his life restarting the sun? Well, that's a nice redemptive finish for him, good for him. Became the Spectre? Wait, we're hooking up the guy who went on a mad quest for more power, so he could make things how he wanted them, with the Spirit of Vengeance, one of the most powerful beings around? This seems ill-advised*. But he was just sort of there on the edge of my comic awareness, not interfering with my enjoyment of stuff, so no big deal.

Somehow, though, the more things seem to revolve around him, whether he's rounding up a team because he cries for justice, or it seems that every freaking one of these different Corps want him as part of the group, the more irritated I get with him. Maybe if he'd go away for awhile I'd better remember the good times. If I could think of one now, I'd mention it.

* Dying restarting the sun wasn't enough to redeem him? It feels like something out Angel, where the characters never stop paying for their past mistakes, they'll never balance the scales, which is horribly depressing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Those Smaller Comic Universes Can be Fun

Middle of last week, I picked up a set of Impact Comics' Who's Who online. Impact was the line in the '90s DC set up for the Archie Heroes that are starting to show up in the DC Universe proper these days (the Shield, for example), but who were originally published by Archie Comics back in the Golden Age.

I wasn't a big reader of the Impact line back in the day, though I had a couple of first issues that I picked up in those grab bag collections that also account for the Knightfall-era Batman issues I own. I think I eventually passed those Impact issues to Alex, so in a roundabout way they might have made their way back to me, since I'm currently holding onto his collection for him, due to space limitations*. Still, the idea of a fairly small superhero universe is apparently more appealing to me these days, and the Who's Who seemed a relatively easy way to get caught up. Now, if I'm so inclined I have a decent idea about what might appeal to me.

Interestingly, the comics came to me, not as comics, but as a series of sheets collected in a 3-ring binder. Maybe that's one of the ways they were originally released, though I know it was also a 3-issue collection, which I assume were your standard American comics. I don't have a problem with this format; I like to keep stuff in 3-ring binders sometimes anyway, it just surprised me a bit.

I can't find the name of the person (or persons) who did the bios on the characters, but I'd say they're well done. The one thing that is slightly irritating if you read a lot of them consecutively is the same event is referenced repeatedly, in essentially the same wording. The event that caused the disbanding of the original Crusaders being one such thing. It makes sense in that the event is important to each character whose bio mentions it, and maybe that's par for the course with these sorts of these. I never collected Who's Who or Marvel Handbooks**, so I'm not really up on how it works.

Still, the writer(s) has fun with it when they can. When describing the skills and abilities of a member of WEB, they're said to 'be well-versed in the handling of small arms, as is absolutely everyon, without fail, in the Impact Universe, which I find vaguely amusing.' I liked that because, as this was one of the last bios, I can attest to the relative accuracy of the statement, and that I was having similar thoughts by the time I reached that point***. Also, the writer(s) like to make portentious statements, such as suggesting the next time a hero and villain meet, things will different, or telling us that a hero knows the answer to a particular mystery, even if they don't realize it. Providing information, and teasing future story arcs, nicely done.

Plus there are some pretty good artists at work here. Rags Morales, looking a bit simpler in style here than what I typically associate with him. Rich Burchett, who I think was at some of the past Cape Comic-Cons, and looking at his work here, I'm kicking myself that I didn't swing by his table. Too absorbed in back issue hunting (a problem I'm hoping to have eliminated by next spring). Tom Lyle and Scott Hanna are teamed up on characters related to The Comet, and Mike Parobeck and Paul Fricke are both credited for art on ones connected to The Fly.

I think for about ten bucks (and that's with shipping) I'm really happy with what I picked up here.

* I say they might have because I haven't bothered to check and see if he held onto them.

** Which given my nerdy, orderly inclinations, kind of surprises me. I guess that by the time I'd think to look for such things, I realized that hard copies would constantly be failing out of date. Characters would have died, or had new love interests, or had a change in powers/costumes/status quo, and what I'd have wouldn't be as useful as a reference material.

*** The other part I liked about it was that 'vaguely amusing' is the sort of phrase I might use, so I wonder if an older me traveled back in time to write these.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Getting To Know Jack - Manx Cat #1

Like I said yesterday, I'm going to go through each issue of the Manx Cat mini-series and see what Ostrander and Truman tell us about GrimJack over the course of the issue. I already know most of it, but I'm trying to approach it as if this is my first time ever having heard of the character.

Page 1 - A character (not yet named) breaks into the home of one Johnny Aristo. This character has at some point, suffered for the amusement of the 'aristos', probably meaning upper class. The lizard thing's plight indicates the aristos enjoy watching more than just humans suffer for their fun. The lines on his face indicate he's probably not a spring chicken.

Page 2 - The character's name is John Gaunt, or GrimJack, and he does work for hire, probably dirty work (he says he's who you hire when you need an asshole). In this case recovering a piece of stolen art Johnny Aristos has. Gaunt has some marble thing called the Cat's Eye.

Page 3 - The Cat's Eye is magic (it floats and moves on its own), and Gaunt knows enough about magic to use it. He knows how to get past vaults guarded with 'wards'.

Page 4 - Gaunt has some extrasensory skill, based on his comment that something in the vault feels 'psychically dank'. Or this is simply a "gut feeling" related to past experience he might have, depending on how one looks at it. Either that extrasensory skill is in play, or Gaunt hear's voices sometimes, because the statue (called the Manx Cat) talks to him.

Page 5 - Some thieves stake out particular areas as their turf, Darlin' Lil being one. GrimJack isn't one of them. He also doesn't believe in dibs. He smokes cigarettes.

Page 6 - Lil likes to play dirty. Grimjack may have a history of trouble with women.

Page 7 - Gaunt knows a little about fighting dirty too. He grew up in the Pit (what's the Pit?). He killed a man before the age of 10 (why? who?).

Page 8 - Gaunt likes to stick to shadows. He's not above using profanity, or regretting not killing someone. Lil is not above using other people to do her work for her.

Page 9 - Grimjack likes to be prepared for things to go wrong. Or he just likes smoke grenades.

Page 10 - In addition to swords and magic trinkets, Gaunt carries a swingline gun. He knows how to use terrain to his advantage (he swings above the crowd which are obscured by the smoke grenades so the hired guns can't shoot for risk of hitting their boss. Since I felt the need to explain it, I'm not sure that should count, but one of the goons orders his guys not to shoot and explains why, so I think it's OK. Though I may be making a mistake in assuming that was something Gaunt planned on.)

Page 11 - Wherever Gaunt is, there are plenty of things that don't look like Homo sapiens that walk, talk, and shoot. Gaunt fought in the Arena for the amusement of the rich (see Page 1). He believes in gettin payback when the opportunity presents itself.

Page 12 - Has enough awareness to hear a small lizard ask for help. Saves the lizard for reasons even he doesn't understand. The lizard is apparently a 'gatorlizard' (Why can it talk? Why was it being tortured?)

Page 13 - Gaunt's not above mocking a person he just stole from.

Page 14 - Gaunt will work for people who are 'almost respectable' (Does he work for people who aren't anywhere near respectable?). Gaunt can be hired by middlemen such as Goethe, who serve other people. Gaunt does not care, as long as he gets paid. He wanted to hold onto the Manx Cat, but didn't. Will give cigs to gatorlizards, will not tolerate Goethe badmouthing it (feels a kinship with animals?).

Page 15 - Gaunt doesn't like it when things don't go as planned. Doesn't actually want the gatorlizard around. Gaunt's sympathy for the plight of others only extends so far.

Page 16 - Gaunt has some connection to a place called Munden's. Looks like a bar. The bar does not accept 'tourbots'. Bartender is named Gordon, he refers to GrimJack as Mr. Gaunt. Gaunt will drink liquor, or hold a bottle like he's thinking about drinking. Gordon and Gaunt trade insults casually. Gaunt not the only who one who thinks of him as an asshole.

Page 17 - Gordon's father's name is (was?) Bob. Father not seen on premises (dead? vacationing? sleeping in back?). Mention of father a sore spot for Gordon (for Gaunt too?). Gaunt owns the bar. Gordon not entirely happy being there? Or working for Gaunt? Bob the Gatorlizard will drink alcohol. And sing.

Page 18 - Gaunt can recognize the pain in Bob's singing, because he's lived through something like it (what?). The aristos tortured Bob Because his song sounds best when he hurts. Gaunt sees things cynically, and his idea of sympathy may include a bullet to the head. He may or may not consider that kindness (depending on how you read 'A regular angel of mercy - that's me.')

Page 19 - Gaunt was a member of the Transdimensional Police (what's transdimensional about them?) He had a partner named Roscoe Schumacher, and their being partners didn't end well for Roscoe (meaning what?). Grimjack thinks they're on speaking terms. Roscoe smokes, and hacks, and curses the cigs for the hacking. He's missing an eye. Roscoe doesn't think much of Munden's.

Page 20 - Gordon doesn't think much of cops (why?). Gordon does care about Bob. Gordon expects Gaunt will make Roscoe bleed. Roscoe likes Gordon, in spite of telling him to piss off. So Roscoe, like Gaunt has a tendency to be rude regardless of his feelings. He calls Gaunt "Jawn", and isn't interested in why Gaunt took/stole the Manx Cat. Not going to let him skate on the charges because they were partners.

Page 21 - Gaunt cares about his reputation. He will assault a cop if he thinks he needs to. Would rather handle things himself, than turn it over to the police.

Page 22 - Cares enough about Roscoe not to fight cops if they might die. Feels he owes Roscoe (for what?).

Page 23 - Gaunt's been in jail before (why, where?). Knows how to ensure he won't be bothered, how to make people afraid of him. Knows how to kill someone with no weapons (assuming police confiscated all of his before putting him in the cell).

Page 24 - Gaunt's been in front of judges before. Has a walking, talking weasel for a lawyer. The bar is collateral for his bail, and though he didn't want it, he doesn't want to lose it now (related to his acting like the gatorlizard was his when Goethe talked down about it?). The "Justice" statue in this place is a serpentine, one eyed thing, with a little hangman on one end of its scale, and a dollar sign on the other. The dollar sign is heavier, so life is cheap.

Page 25 - Johnny Aristo is a walking talking dog. Very rich, not above using that to influence legal system. GrimJack doesn't let on to others if something matters to him. Is willing to go to jail, as long as he thinks it's worth his time.

Page 26 - GrimJack knows the value of a good threat.

I had fun with that. First time in awhile I've done a page-by-page breakdown (I think the last one was either New Avengers Annual #1, or Annihilation: Silver Surfer #3). I guess the acid test would still be to have someone totally unfamiliar with the book read it, and get their reactions, so I'm going to have to try that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Accessibility Of GrimJack

One of the things I've enjoyed about the GrimJack work of the last few years is that Ostrander and Truman have made it a point to craft stories that newcomers to the series can follow. At least, that's been my perception of them as I've read them*.

I know there have been complaints online about the fact the most recent work has been mini-series set before the ongoing ever started, rather than picking up at some point the ongoing left off at, but I think that might be a mistake. Sure, these mini-series might not attract any readers unfamiliar with the concept, but I imagine the people involved would prefer it did. Which means I don't think you can assume everyone will easily follow that John Gaunt lives in a city that is the nexus of realities, so the fundamental rules can change from block to block. Or that Gaunt's fate is tied to the city's, and he's doomed to be reborn again and again until the city is destroyed, with the memories of his past lives along for the ride.

Maybe you can make that work, make it seem an attractive hook to the new reader, but I think it's probably a better to go with a "standard day for GrimJack" story to get people interested in the character, which might encourage them to pursue trades which get into the more complicated work. In the meantime, there are still opportunities to enlighten readers about the character as they go along, through dialogue, inner monologues, the art, etc., but in a way that works with the story. That way you avoid exposition dumps in the middle of your comic.

What I'm going to try to do, starting tomorrow, is go through the issues of Manx Cat as they come out, and see what Ostrander and Truman tell us about Gaunt and his world, that a newbie wouldn't know.

* I guess I should try having Alex read an issue and see if it makes sense to him. Maybe next month.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Perhaps Popular Culture Killed It

I was watching one of USA Network's daily NCIS marathons and they run the episode where DiNozzo opens an envelope that has some sort of plague virus in it, and nearly dies before the rest of the team can find the person responsible and get an appropriate anti-viral.

What I noticed was how he opened the envelope. Rather than lifting the flap, or tearing open the top, Tony cut it open along a side, pinched the ends so the envelope pooched out, then blew into it, causing the plague-infected dust stuff to fly into the air and infect him. Whoops.

A similar thing happened to B.J. Hunnicut in an episode of M*A*S*H*, except all he got was a face full of what I guess was talcum powder (as he was the victim of a prankster, not a desperate lunatic). He opened the envelope the same way, and blew into it the same way, and had the same result.

In real life, I've never seen a person open an envelope that way. I've seen people carefully pry the flap loose, or cut along the top with a letter opener, or my usual tactic of wedging my finger under the flap and tearing it open. Cutting along the side, and blowing into it? Never. Is this something that used to be a common practice, and people stopped?

I have to assume someone was doing it, or else why would scriptwriters have characters use that method. Maybe it's a regional thing. Hunnicut was a Californian, I don't know where DiNozzo's from, though I know he was a Baltimore cop, so maybe it's a coastal thing. Or maybe it was a practice that died out because of the potential for prankery.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hey, Hey We're The Pandas

CalvinPitt: {There's a problem with that title.} Adorable Baby Panda: What? No there isn't. It's a great title. {Well, the follow up line would be something about 'people say we panda around', but "panda" isn't really a verb.} It should be! {Fine. Then what is someone doing if they're pandaing?} Um, uh it means you're doing something really awesome! {*raises eyebrow* Really? That's what you're going with?} Yes! {Good luck getting that one into the parlance.}

Bob needs a Hug. {Which one, Deadpool's Bob or GrimJack's Bob?} Both. Gatorlizard Bob is alone, drunk, and sad, and Parrot Bob has scurvy. {Then maybe parrot Bob needs Vitamin C, instead of hugs.} Panda Hugs are a fine source of Vitamin C! {Might keep that to yourself. If the Juice Producers hear, they'll engage in a scorched earth campaign to protect their monopoly as the Vitamin C source.} *snorts derisively* What are they going to do, throw fruit at me? {Well, they could always choke you with pulp, or toss you into a giant juicer.} Eeep. {Might be wise to discuss something other than hugs.}

Right. GrimJack earned some Applause for saving Bob, but he also hit a cop, so that's a Bonk. {Aw, he and Roscoe are old buddies, it's all in fun.} Roscoe didn't seem to like him very much, though. {Can't let on around his fellow officers. All a ruse.} *unconvinced* Mm-hmm. Darlin' Lil gets a Bonk for trying to get GrimJack shot. What a sore loser. {I think that's why "honor amongst thieves" is kind of a joke saying.} GrimJack has some honor. {Sure, but he's not just a thief. He's a solider, merc, assassin, spy, detective, periodic exorcist, drinking establishment entrepenuer. There's enough codes in those occupations for honor to carry over to his thieving. Sometimes.} *unconvinced* Uh-huh.

I don't know what to give Deadpool. Those arms dealers suckered him out of a lot of money. {Deadpool did most of that himself, and it's not like he's hurting for cash. Besides, he's happy with his purchase, isn't that the important thing?} I suppose, he beat Bob an awful lot, though. {He doesn't beat Bob that much.} Really *dials number on phone*

*Thousands of miles away. The phone rings* [Deadpool the Mer- I mean, Deadpool the Pirate, who is totally unrelated to recently dead Deadpool the Mercenary! Hey you roly-poly punching machine! Could you call later? I'm busy beating Bob. Bad parrot! Never tell people I'll do jobs for free! I'm a pirate! We're ruthless and greedy! And why aren't you sqwaking like a parrot when I hit you?]

*Back at the computer, ABP hangs up the phone* See? {Fine, Bonks it is, then.}

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What I Bought 8/12/09

I don't know why I didn't mention it earlier, but Former Marvels and Legends Owner and Current Customer Ken was in the store on Saturday, running it for the current owners, who were enjoying themselves at Chicago Con over the weekend. So I saw Ken for the first time since the convention in April, and we (and several other customers) shot the breeze for three and a half hours. We talked about movies, what Ken's up to (quite a bit, as usual), a convention Customer Jack attended recently, things Ken is planning for next year's convention, his disappointment with Lone Ranger's irregular release schedule, etc. I would have stayed longer, but I had a prior engagement, so I had to leave. Bummer. I don't know that any of you were interested, but I must draw on whatever I can for opening paragraphs.

Deadpool #13 - Fed up with laying low, Deadpool decides to become a pirate. So he buys a boat, and it sinks (later he learns it was a submarine). So he buys another boat, overpays ridiculously, brings Bob, Agent of HYDRA in to become Bob, Captain Deadpool's Parrot, and embarks on what is a pretty intelligent pirating scheme. No, really, you can tell because someone else thought of it too. He also meets an attractive, sharp-tounged blind woman, who he wants as his navigator, so we'll see if next issue's actions help that dream to become a reality.

Shawn Crystal, who drew the Games of Death one-shot earlier this year, handles the art chores, which is fine with me, though everyone he draws looks seedy. Fine for Russian arms dealers, perhaps not so fine for rich beachgoers and blind tour guides. Actually, she doesn't look seedy, her mouth is just exceptionally large for her face. Maybe it's the big sunglasses that make her face look small. Either way, I like that Crystal decks Wade out with a big skull belt buckle and those poofy Jack Sparrow pirate pants. It's a good look. As for the story, I'd say this was an unusually busy issue. It seemed like Way had more plot advancement than normal. Probably allowing for an issue long fight two weeks from now. Why is Deadpool coming out twice this month?

GrimJack: Manx Cat #1 - From Bob, Agent of HYDRA/Parrot to Bob the Gatorlizard. This mini-series was already released online, and at least so far, there's no extra content, though they're hoping for a letters page. I should come up with something nice to write to them. At any rate, it's Ostrander and Truman on GrimJack, they had my money as surely as if Gaunt put a sword to my throat. But with less cursing under my breath.

OK, so this takes place before GrimJack #1, but after the Killer Instinct mini from 2005, if you were curious. Grinner's after the Manx Cat, a valuable statuette he's endlessly having to steal for others. He runs afoul of another thief, Darlin' Lil, who wanted it too. He beats her, escapes in a hail of gunfire, and snags the aforementioned gatorlizard on the way out. He returns the Cat, gets arrested, gets out on bail, gets threatened by the fellow he stole it from, and that pretty well covers it.

Ostrander and Truman do a fine job (I think) of giving the potential new reader all the information they need to follow along, whether it's from internal monologues, dialogue, or Truman's art. He does a fine job of conveying Gaunt's age, through the way he sits, moves, fights, like he's not going to waste any energy. I will agree with a comment I remember from the letters page for Killer Instinct, when someone said they felt the shiny paper did a disservice to Truman's art. Maybe it's the coloring style, or just a progression in Truman's art, but it does feel as though the griminess of the people and their surroundings is being undercut.

Oh, and Ostrander includes a few funny bits, my favorite being the phrase Gaunt has to chant to activate the Cat's Eye. 'Miao, miao, miao, miao, fsst, fsst, miao'. I chuckled at that one.

That's it for me. Night folks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Who Keeps Putting Drugs There?

Near the end of Secret Six #12, the trio that object to their current employer (Jeanette, Scandal, and Bane) are preparing to leave when Scandal asks Bane to go back to the way he used to be, back when he first appeared. She's concerned about Catman's tracking abilities, which confused me because he already let them go, so is she worried he's going to hunt them down and kill them later? He's too conflicted for that, but I digress.

Scandal's insistence that they need the old Bane means Bane needs to get back on the juice, I mean, Venom. He might as well, since all the sanctimonious sportswriters have already condemned him for tarnishing their beloved game, wait, what was I on about? Right, Bane, Venom. Bane seems disappointed that she's urging him to use it, after she supported his decision to toss some down the toilet two issues earlier.

Originally, I was wondering who was carrying the Venom, since Scandal did flush those ampoules. Of course, Bane has more than one pouch on his belt, so maybe they're all full of vials of Venom. Yet, I couldn't shake the idea that Scandal might have held on to some of them, just in case. Still, Bane didn't seem very surprised to see them, so they were probably his.

That raises the question of why Scandal didn't destroy those too. Is she just being pragmatic, knowing they might need an amped-up Bane down the line? She asked Bane what should be done with them, and he wanted them gone, and she complied, so encourage him to backslide? Or is Bane receiving new shipments periodically, and if so, who is responsible for that?

For me, Bane is the most sympathetic character in the bunch. They all seem to have rules, but they all seem willing to break them whenever it's convenient*. It just so happens that Bane's rules make him more honorable than the others. He won't sell them out to Junior, he succumbs to the Venom to save Scandal, and by extension, his team, and when he won't stand with the team (or more particularly, Deadshot), it's for reasons that make me side with him**. It's a little odd.

* The exception might be Ragdoll, who seems to have no rules whatsoever, and thus nothing he does would really go against the standard grain of his character.

** Getting angry when Deadshot keeps threatening Tarantula, to the point he asks Floyd if he'd liked to try that on him. Or the disagreement over their current job.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wondering About Banshees

Not the X-Men type, in case the prospect of that was getting you excited. Sorry, maybe another day. Jeanette, in Secret Six, now I get she's a Banshee. I'm not totally clear on what that means*, but she's a banshee, I know that.

Now, is she the same on that fights Superman sometimes? Silver Banshee, I think? Or are we looking at two different people, both who gained power in the same way? I'm guessing they're different people. Silver Banshee seems to be sort of a thief, or collector type, and Jeanette doesn't seem interested in those sorts of things. Or maybe she just steals differently**.

The other thing I'm wondering about Jeanette is her history. We learned what happened during her childhood, with the crazy mistress she fed ground-up glass to. We know she loved a crazed warrior guy, though he looked like he predated the time period where she was a child. She's spent time in several prisons, all over the world, and she was beheaded. Now I'm starting to wonder if the beheading came before the prisons (or some of them, at least). Or is it the banshee's memories we're hearing about, not the young girl's? The banshee could have lived in many people over a long period of time, with the only connection being some sort of horrible suffering they endured***.

Or maybe some of the stories are bunk. We only have Jeanette's word they're true anyway. I'm guessing we can accept the story of the decapitation as truth, since she used the pain of it to drop Wonder Woman like a sack of potatoes, but as for the rest, corroborating witnesses are in short supply.

* I think it means she died horribly and her suffering either drew some spirit to her, and it reanimated her, or it replaced her, like a vampire, where the demon replaces the human essence/soul/whatever.

** She owned a casino after all, bilking people out of their cash.


*** Or the connection could be something else. Maybe they all hated mutton, or liked to wear wool socks.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Potentially Interesting Conversation

I have a question for those of you that kept reading Ultimate Spider-Man after I jumped ship. Relax, the question is not 'Why did you stay?'

I was wondering if Peter and Kong ever had a discussion about Kong knowing Pete was Spider-Man. Kenny originally hit upon that flash of inspiration in Ultimate Spider-Man #14, which lead to his attempt in the next issue to prove it to Flash, and Pete having to play the weakling and get kicked into his locker, which lead to Gwen Stacy threatening to cut Kong. That whole scene seemed to settle things. Peter Parker, who started crying after getting kicked in the rump, was definitely not Spider-Man.

Then in #118, Kong's doing some push-ups, worrying that he'll botch his chance to date Kitty Pryde, and he starts wishing that Pete would tell him he's Spider-Man so they could talk about Kitty, and Pete could maybe give Kong some pointers on what to avoid*. Just out of the blue after 103 issues. By the next issue, Kong tells Peter he knows, when he tells Pete to suit up and go talk to Liz about her powers manifesting. It's never one thing out of the blue for Peter Parker.

I would have liked to see Pete and Kenny talk, how he figured it out, why didn't Pete's performance work, when, why he hadn't said anything to anyone else. Looking at the people who know who Spider-Man is, Kenny's I think the only one to piece it together that didn't have a vast intelligence network at hand, or was involved in the spider bit**. So that's sort of noteowrthy, and maybe they would talk about how Pete screwed things up with Kitty, which is one of those things I was in favor of Peter being reminded of fairly regularly. The possibility of that conversation, and Gwen coming back, almost made me keep buying the book. But Venom was coming back***, and I was fairly convinced that the title would be wrecked just because Bendis and Immonen would have to play along with Ultimatum, and here we are.

* Here's a big one: Don't start kissing your old girlfriend when Kitty is standing about fifteen feet away, especially after she rushed to your house to help you through a crisis. She's not fond of that.

** Osborn and Octavius were responsible for the experiment, and they told who knows how many guys. Clearly Otto blabbed to all those damn feds and scientists working on the clone project. Pete blurted his name out to the X-Men after they unmasked him. He told the FF. Wolverine and DD tracked him with their senses. Harry came in on Pete and Norman fighting when Pete's mask was torn. Fury had the aforementioned vast intelligence network, but Kong just had himself. The Kingpin knows what Peter looks like, but he never got his name, and he's the freaking Kingpin of Crime!

*** In a story tying into the video game, which had really frustrated me when I owned it, so consider that another strike.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

One Little Mugger

Bruce Wayne's origin as Batman. The mugger shooting both his parents. When i asked a couple of months ago, Diamondrock told me that as of Infinite Crisis, Batman knew the mugger was Joe Chill, but he wasn't aware what Chill's specific fate was. And of course since then we've had 52 and Final Crisis, and who knows what those have done.

Here's my question for you: Which version do you prefer? Do you prefer Batman never knew the name of his paretns killer, or that he knew but could never catch him, or that he caught him and brought him to justice, or the Untold Legend version where he reveals to Chill that he's Bruce Wayne, thus Chill created Batman, Chill freaks and runs to other criminals for protection, and they shoot him for creating Batman (before thinking to ask who Batman is, whoops).

When Batman's being written as a jerk, and I find myself disliking him, I prefer that he knows it was Joe Chill, but he could never find him, because Nigh-Omnipotent Bat-Jerk annoys me, and I enjoy it when things don't go well for him. When I'm feeling more charitable, I like the idea that he never learned the killer's identity because he was some random thug, and by the time Bruce was ready to be Batman, there were lots of crimes happening right then to deal with, and now time to focus all his energies on solving a case from (fifteen? twenty?) years earlier. Ultimately, the death of his parents can't be anymore important to him than any other person's death, so he has to operate in the now.

Friday, August 07, 2009

My Kind Of Villain

I think I've mentioned before that as far as the Goblins go, I generally prefer Harry Osborn to Norman as a Spider-Foe. Harry has that extra kick of being someone Peter actually cares about, whereas Norman's just related to someone important to Pete. it also gives Harry an edge because he understands Pete better, plus his father's shadow looms over it all.

That's also part of what I like about Suwan as the Jade Claw, the new leader of a new international organization trying to take over the world Jimmy Woo's going to have to stop. He cares about her, which makes it harder to fight her*. Whether she's evil or not is up for debate, since we don't really know what she's been up to since she took control of half of Atlas, or what methods she's used to accomplish her goals, which is also probably going to make Jimmy want to hold back a little.

On her side of it, she appears to have some anger towards Jimmy, since she thinks he just used her to get near her pops**. So in that same sense that Harry questioned whether Peter was actually his friend, since he killed Harry's dad and all***, Suwan doubts that Jimmy ever actually gave a damn. And even if she's dedicated herself to running this vast empire, being reunited with someone she thinks used her is going to be painful for her. She never had closure, and now she has the means to exact extreme, permanent closure.

Plus, Yellow Claw/Golden Claw/Master Plan casts his shadow over the whole thing, much like Norman did Harry and Peter's friendship. Harry had to deal with the fact that his father was often distant, and seemed more impressed by Pete's scientific acumen than whatever his son might be up to. Though it came after Harry's death, Norman's tried to turn Peter into his heir on a couple of occasions, while usually denigrating Harry as being too weak to be a true Osborn****.

Suwan worked hard to ready herself to take control of the Atlas Empire, but her ad blew her off, 'cause she was a girl. He was more interested in Mister Super-Special FBI Agent Jimmy Woo, who was spending all his time trying to arrest Plan. That has to sting. Even when she took half the empire and ran it well, which certainly should have been a sign of her strength and capability, her dad still wouldn't give her the nod. So that frustration probably drives her as much as Harry's desire to live up to his father's memory did.

Those distant villains, focused on their long-term goals, who regard the hero as a mere annoyance can be fun, but I really like an antagonist who can hit the hero on the personal level, at least as a change of pace.

* Looking at the issue, I think Jimmy keeps trying to convince himself this is really a joke, or hallucination, or something, and Suwan will stop any time now.

** It certainly can't help they went decades without seeing her, and by the time they meet again, he's running her father's operations.

*** Well, that's what Harry thought at times.

**** I have no idea how Brand New Day changes those, though if anything it could potentially be even worse, since Harry would actually still be alive and Norman's basically discarding him in favor Pete.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

My Legs Are Killing Me, And There's Just One Cure

Potassium? {I was thinking some panda healing magic myself.} Oh. {Well, chop, chop.} I don't know how to do that! They don't teach those sorts of things until much later. Besides, I'm going to learn to be a great warrior, not a medic. {Hey, medics are important! You could do worse than becoming a doctor. Without them, who's going to patch you up so you can keep fighting?} I'll never be injured. {Ah, the imbecility of youth. Can we hurry this along? I want to lay down.} You should take water when you go for a bike ride in the summer. {Obviously yes, that would be the smart thing, but remember what I said about imbecility and youth?} You aren't young anymore. {Now that hurts.}

Sorry. {Forget it. It's true, I'm old now. It's terrible.} At least you didn't get blown up like Black Bolt and Vulcan. {Oh, they're just drifting outside the universe somewhere.} I'm still giving Medusa a Hug. I'd give Vulcan a Bonk for not knowing when to quit, but I don't think there's any point. {I'm telling you, we aren't so lucky as to have him die. So give him a whack. He'll feel it, somehow.} I think Deadshot needs a Hug, after Wonder Woman wouldn't let him shoot her. {I think Jeanette needs a Hug more, myself.} Yeah, she really does, but she's kind of scary right now. {What, she was passed out at the end of the issue? How scary can she be?} What if she wakes up? {Remain calm, act friendly, hope Scandal's around to talk her down if things go bad.} I don't want things to go bad!

{Who does? But some things just happen. Besides, I'd be more concerned about the angry red head with the firearms.} And that's another reason I don't wanna go! {Then don't. I won't force you. This is your show. How about we move on?} Sure, the Exiles saved a world, so they get some Applause. Morph gets a Bonk for not being more helpful the first time around. {Thank you.} Jimmy Woo can probably use a Hug. {Yeah, his girlfriend's out to kill him and take all his stuff. That's rough.} Applause for Gorilla Man saving those backpackers from the zombie thing. {Wait, the Agents just left the Hulk in the desert.} He was already in the desert. {Yeah, but Bob held out the promise of a way to control the Hulk, then they bailed.} Oh, it wouldn't work. It would get broken, or Banner would need the Hulk and have to take it off anyway. It's not like they gave it to him, then took it back. It's not a big deal.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What I Bought 8/5/09

I always feel bad when I end a visit to my dad's, mostly because he always seems down about my leaving. Which is good in a way, since it means I haven't overstayed my welcome. Still, it was time to go. He has several dogs, but one in particular feels that to properly defend the house, or to assert his dominance over said house, he must bark at all noises he hears at night. Which is endearing, if he's so determined to protect my dad, but after a week it grates on my nerves. Long story short, I'm back. I like dogs, but not when they wake me up at 2 in the morning because one of the other dogs moved and her dog tags jangled. Reviews!

Agents of Atlas #9 - Leinil Yu draws a creepy pupiless Namora. He often draws people pupiless, and it's always creepy. Jimmy's reunion with Suwan is not going well, as she's become quite the domineering leader. Even when Jimmy's team shows up to help, and leaves Bruce Banner alone in the desert (which isn't new for him, but still), things still don't go well. The Agents appear outgunned, which isn't surprising. Suwan's been building her organization for decades, Jimmy only recently inherited his, and still doesn't know all that it's involved in. Plus, I think they've grown complacently reliant on technological superiority thanks to Bob, and that may not be the case here. I expect things will get worse before they improve at the last moment.

I hope we get the opportunity to see some of what the Jade Claw has been up to, besides designing bigger and better killer robots. Suwan's a nice adversary for Jimmy, she has that confidence that probably borders on arrogance, she sort of carries a grudge, but it doesn't appear to be blinding her to larger goals. Dan Panosian's on pencils, and he's alright. Reminds me of Ron Frenz a bit in places, maybe a little Erik Larsen, and I think he's the same sort of solid storyteller. Not flashy, but he gets the work done.

BloodRayne Prime Cuts #4 - This is the last one of these for awhile, from what I've read online, and it offers up another three short stories. One involves Rayne going monster hunting in the sewers, and has sort of a dark ending which comes out of left field as well. The second one fills in a bit of backstory on Rayne's assistant Severin and one of the villains from the second game. I think that one needed more space if it was going to work, because it didn't really convince me that Severin and the lady in question had something special that was destroyed by her accepting her heritage. We see him picking out a ring, but we don't see how they met, what they did together, so it falls kind of flat.

Now the third story, that's what I've been looking for. Rayne's on vacation, and catches an "evolved" vampire killing a man in broad daylight. The vamp claims he just svaed her life, she punches him anyway, they both wind up transported temporally. Yep, he's a vampire of the FUTURE! here to preserve the vampire bloodline. I'm surprised a half-vampire qualifies, especially one that spends so much time killing vampires. Either way, one narrow escape later and the story is over. Quick, but kind of nifty. I mean, cybernetic vampire timecop. That's a concept I'd like to see again.

Exiles #5 - Contrary to last issue's cliffhanger, Polaris isn't dead. The Exiles team-up with the same artificial lifeforms they fought last issue, as is the Marvel manner, and they save that world. But the first world they went to is still in trouble, and they'll be going back to try and fix it.

I wonder why a North America full of LMDs with people inside them is better for that reality than an outright machine-dominated world. Also, I had kind of figured that something from that world was going to play a key role in fixing the first world, but that doesn't seem to be the case either. And why the bloody hell didn't Morph tell them they needed to break up the alliance back when they first went there, instead of vague crap like 'Help Wolverine overthrow Magneto'? Don't be busting their chops for not finishing the mission when you provide insufficient info, Morph!

Secret Six #12 - Wow, it's been a year for this book already? Where does time go? Wonder Woman wants to know who killed Artemis (psst, Diana, check for a pulse before you start making those sorts of statements). She also does not want to be called an Amazon. Of course, by the time Jeanette finished with her, she's not really in any position to be telling anyone what to call her. So things are looking up for the baddies, and we learn what's in the box, and well, I was disappointed. Possibly because I have no idea what I'm looking at. It reminds of that Firestorm villain, the Hyena, I think. There have been several, because writers keep using them as cheap "dead villain" fodder. I imagine that's not who this is, but that's who I thought of, and it's hard for me to be impressed by a Firestorm villain you know?

Well, that restored my faith in the team a bit. Not a lot mind you, since Wonder Woman is apparently getting fed to. . . whatever it is. But the three idiots showed a little kindness to their teammates. Little something with Nicola Scott's art that I liked. When Artemis recovers and lays waste to the guards, and we see Scandal and Bane wathcing her, while Scandal seems stunned, bane has a little smile on his lips. I don't know whether he's impressed by the efficiency of her attacks, her viciousness, or if he just likes seeing guards beaten up, since he was a prisoner himself. I don't usually say much about Scott's art, so I wanted to mention that I liked that.

War of Kings #6 - Huh, on Marvel's site they showed the cover for this issue as being the cover for #5, and #5's cover as the one for this issue. Not sure what that's about. Anyhoo, Vulcan and Black Bolt fight. Vulcan stubbornly refuses to acede to my wishes and simply die. Meanwhile, the Royal Family argues, until Crystal reminds them they have a teleporter and goes to retrieve Black Bolt, and make the T-Bomb just another big explosive, instead of an instrument of change for the galaxy. Well, I guess it is going to change the galaxy unless Adam Warlock gets off his butt and saves the day. Cripes, the fate of the universe in his hands? The only way I could be less enthused was if it was the Sentry.

The big kingly fight ends, and I got the result I wanted, and it means my pet theory for the future rulers of the Kree is in play. As for the Shi'ar, looks like we'll be getting a ruler that Len has been suggesting for years, ever since Vulcan took over really. That could be interesting. Actually, the overall state of Cosmic Marvel appears to have been pretty significantly shaken up, and I'm hopeful the writers can have some fun with it.

That's it for me. What about you?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Those Romans Sure Are Popular

Over the last few days, I've read two different books on the Roman military, and each takes a slightly different tack.

The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, from First Century A.D. to the Third, Edward Luttwak - Luttwak focuses on the Roman's military strategy, and troop deployments from around the time of the Illycium revolt of A.D. (which halted Augustus' advancement into Bohemia, because he had to put down said revolt first) up to the rule of Constantine. He describes three different strategies over that time, and goes into the mechanics of them, what defenses would be constructed, how troops would be divided up between cavalry or infantry, the reasons behind employing those strategies, as well as their weaknesses.

Personally, the client state strategy of what he calls the Julio-Claudian era sounds the most efficient to me. In that system, there are states/kingdoms on the edge of official Roman territory. These areas aren't strictly under Roman control, but they're on positive enough terms that the Romans don't feel it necessary to send legions to crush them. But the Romans could do that, and the client states know it, which is why they go along with it. Plus the client states will act as a buffer between the Romans' territory and any threats from outside their zone of control. If the client states can handle the threat themselves, great. If not, by the time they're overrun, the Romans probably have time to move some legions to their border and halt the enemy advance. It's not a great system for the client state, but they maintain some limited suzerainty (Luttwak is very fond of that word), and in theory they can work up an arrangement where the Romans will help them if they need (because it would be in Rome's best interests to keep a friendly group on the border, rather than some new hostile conquering bunch). This method requires a lot of diplomacy, but it's a pretty efficient way to use the military since the mere threat of them serves as a deterrent to most (and you can always grease some palms to ease their wounded pride), leaving them free to concentrate more fully on the folks who won't play ball, say the Parthians. Plus, it lowers the chances the Romans have to fight in their own lands, which is the sort of thing the populace appreciates.

Luttwak goes from there to the Antonine system, where the client states are largely annexed (and the ones that aren't are so weak as to be useless as buffers). At this the armed forces are everywhere, because there are no more buffers between Roman territory and potential enemies, so you can't concentrate a large portion of your forces in just one trouble spot. Still, Luttwak points out that simply spreading your forces evenly along a wide perimeter isn't a great strategy except in certain circumstances. So he goes into a discussion of the Roman use of limited walls (Hadrian's Wall, for example), which were not heavily staffed, but would provide some early warning of impending large-scale attack, and could conceivably handle smaller raids on their own. The legions would be stationed father in the empire, ready to move to a specific location as necessary (which is where all those nice roads come in handy).

There's a lot more, but I'll leave it for you to read. My warning is that Luttwak was apparently a modern military systems analyst, and depending on your tolerance for it, he can bury you under specific legion names, sites of conflict that are called very different names now (and he doesn't always provide those names, so I'm not always clear where things are happening in relation to each other), and at times, a lot of numbers on how many legions were where, and how many people that constituted, and how many of those were infantry and so on. Still, the discussion of elastic defense versus defense in depth, both of which the Romans used later on, and the advantages and disadvantages of a centralized field army were highly interesting.

The book does raise one other point, and maybe this is a common issue for historians. In attempting to explain why the Romans might adopt a certain tactic, Luttwak assumes they were thinking rationally, and investigates the problem accordingly, so that ultimately he ends sections with a statement to the effect of how it's obvious why they did x, y, z. Except it's not as if all the Roman leaders were tactical geniuses, or if what they say about Caligula is true, even sane, so I wonder if rational thinking actually determined the plan of action. Luttwak makes a convincing enough case that I tend to agree with him, and I suppose it's more satisfying to feel you can understand the logic behind something, rather than throwing up your hands and declaring the perpetrator off their rocker, it was just a thought I had.

Arther Ferrill's The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation is what the title suggests. Have to hand it to these historians, they don't seem fond of misleading titles. Ferrill's book is a bit shorter, and with a lot more pictures (mostly various artwork of noteworthy people, whereas Luttwak's illustrations were maps of territories or diagrams of defense systems, which I found more useful), and actually offers an explanation for the fall of the Roman Empire, which Luttwak doesn't concern himself with. Ferrill starts around the time of Hadrian (after a chapter discussing past historians' views on the Romans), and goes up to 476 A.D., so there's only limited temporal overlap between the two books. Ferrill uses considerably less technical jargon, so in that sense, it's easier to follow. His feeling is that the western Roman Empire fell because their military declined, losing its trademark discipline, due to the increasing addition of barbarians to their ranks. The barbarians followed their own commanders, who weren't following Roman tactics or drills, so the Romans didn't see why they ought to have to drill, so they lost that discipline that helped them maintain composure even if a battle might be going poorly at a given moment. Ferrill seems to pin a lot of this on a Stilicho, who followed Theodosius' plan of compromise with the barbarians, trying to integrate them into the empire. Also, for various reasons Stilicho failed on roughly four occasions to destroy the Visgoth leader Alaric, which Ferrill argues lowered the morale of the Roman forces. Then, when Honorius wouldn't even send them out to try and defend Rome from 407-410, they were irrevocably wrecked, and fell apart.

I don't know. Certainly discipline was a key to the Roman infantry success, and so if they lose discipline, but use the same tactics that demand it, things are going to go poorly. I can't shake the feeling that Romans had too many enemies, and discipline or no, at that point, they couldn't defend themselves from every direction at once. I'd tend to point more at all the instability at the leadership positions myself, with different commanders proclaiming themselves in charge, then using their legions to fight other legions run by other commanders who made the same claim. It seems like that would damage the unity of your forces, when they never know if tomorrow they'll be fighting other Romans because their commanders are squabbling. Maybe that's just another way discipline breaks down.

It's interesting that both authors take shots at various historians. Luttwak isn't fond of what he perceives as a Clausewitzian bias against defensive systems, a bias which apparently feels if a defense can defend against everything, it's useless. This is the charge leveled at the walls the Romans erected, since they certainly couldn't stop large-scale invasions. As I mentioned, Luttwak argues they aren't supposed to do that, but serve as an early warning against those (and a deterrent against smaller incursions), so the larger military forces can be brought up before the enemy reaches important urban or agricultural locales. Ferrill on the other hand, seems mostly contemptuous of historians that argue that barbarians weren't so bad, that they absorbed enough Roman ideas that they helped carry the way of the Roman Empire forward, so they didn't really bring about a Dark Age. Ferrill really has nothing nice to say about the barbarians at all, unless you consider a statement that once the Roman legions lost their discipline, their tactics were worse than the various Germanic tribes a compliment.

He also throws in a jab at Luttwak, whose book predates his by a decade. Except I think he read Luttwak wrong. He describes Luttwak as one who viewed the use of the forts and walls as theoretically flawed defensive system, and that they were better off when they went to the defense-in-depth strategy supported by a large central reserve. Except Luttwak spent a lot of time explaining the logic (as he saw it) behind the use of the walls and forts, and why he believes they eventually switched. He even notes that when defense-in-depth succeeded in driving enemies back, the Romans would switch back to the preclusive defense at the first opportunity. So Luttwak saw their use of defense-in-depth as something they did temporarily, and with good reason, since it allows the invaders more time to run amok, which makes the empire look weaker, both to the people inside (who are losing homes, lives, crops), and outside, who are thinking they can rush in, grab some stuff, and vanish before the legions show up. So I don't know what Ferrill was going on about there.