Monday, November 30, 2009

Perhaps They Are Avatars Of Being Wrong?

Sometime soon, I'd like to see the Luminals do something competently. The Luminals are heroes from the planet Xarth that first appeared in Nova in the arc that introduced Knowhere, and have subsequently become antagonists in Guardians of the Galaxy. The Worldmind described them as analogous to the Avengers, but so far they've been more similar to Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, from Die Hard.

You remember, the guy who tells John McClane that he is in charge, to which McClane responds that from where he sits, Robinson is in charge of jack shit. As Roger Ebert noted, Robinson's role is to be wrong at every possible opportunity, and that sums up the Luminals.

They brought their arch-foe, Abyss, to Knowhere, planning to dump it into the edge of existence. Except he turned several of the Luminals into meat puppets, and terrorized Knowhere before Nova was able to seal his prison up properly again, which also gave the transmode virus a stronger foothold in Nova's system, nearly killing him.

They were resistant to the Guardians setting up shop in Knowhere, and lead a witch-hunt for the Skrulls, and Drax (which served to have their butts get kicked by Drax). They refused to take a side in the recent War of Kings, because they were afraid to land in the sights of either the Shi'ar or the Inhumans/Kree. Never mind the Kree were in no position to fight anyone other than the Shi'ar, and thanks to Vulcan, the Shi'ar were fighting practically the entire universe. Not to mention all existence was on the line, and the Guardians could have used the help.

Now they're against letting the Guardians do all the exploring of the Fault, which isn't such a bad thing. The Luminals should have more resources, so a joint venture would be helpful. Except they decided to just go barging in on their own, and now one of their team is infected with something, and is liable to get Moondragon in trouble as well.

Unlike Ebert, I didn't have a problem with Robinson's presence, because I found his ineptitude hilarious, and I like for my action movies to make me laugh. With the Luminals, as part of an ongoing series where they appear regularly, there needs to be some sign they aren't complete putzes. Their planet exists (as far as we know) so they are able to protect it, so they ought to be able to do something right. They don't have to get along with Star-Lord or the Guardians, but Star-Lord is, as Moondragon noted, intense, driven, and proactive. That can lead a person in over his head, where a calmer approach might work better. The Luminals seem more cautious, surely that pays off occasionally.

Or maybe, when Worldmind compared them to the Avengers, he meant a particularly lousy lineup. I'll let you decide for yourself which one that would be. The debate ought to be interesting*.

* The ones with Dr. Druid! The one with Gilgamesh! The Sersi/Crystal/Black Knight group! the Dark Avengers! The New Avengers! The Kooky Quartet! What? I like them, but they are underpowered. I'm just throwing them out there, lest you think I'm only fogging rosters from the last 20 years.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Move Along, Nothing To See Here

The other thing that post got me thinking about was Power Girl's costume. Now me, I like the costume. I like the boots, especially with the heavy tread Amanda Conner gives them. Those will leave an impression in the villainous backside she kicks*. I like the cape, probably because it's kind of unusual. Most super-hero capes reach the knees or father, hers stops at the waist. It's only attached at one shoulder, and the way it does reminds me of either a matador, or a 19th Century cavalry officer, which is definitely cool**.

Of course, there is the window to consider. Easiest alteration would be to just remove it. Don't have to add a logo, just more white fabric, but I imagine there'd be caterwauling from certain sectors of the fandom. So, see if you get artists to draw it smaller. Use Jerry Ordway as your example. He draws the window at least half the size of most of the other artists. That way, it strains credulity a little less.

The real key would be to not have characters comment on it. There's no need to. If Power Girl works with the JSA in an issue drawn by Amanda Conner one month, and Jerry Ordway the next, the writers don't have, Hawkgirl, mention that the window is smaller this month. That just draws attention to the fact it's a different artist, which draws people out of the story. Commenting on it seems to make writers feel they have to explain or justify it, and that never ends well. Probably the best explanation is (as others suggested) that for whatever reason she used to wear it, she wears it now because she's used to it, or comfortable with it. Trying to turn it into some big deal about why people shouldn't be bothered by it doesn't work. The explanations ring hollow.

All of that lead to this.

Got to let sleeping dogs lie, you know? For a long time there, the Spider-writers didn't reference the Clone Saga, because they knew fans tended to have a bad reacton to it. So no Ben Reilly, no Kaine, no talking about how Doc Ock died and was later revived by the Hand, no mention of MJ's pregnancy***. The writers figured there wasn't much of anything they could do with it that wouldn't get a negative reaction, so they left it alone. It was still there, if one wanted to think about it, but creative teams didn't rub one's nose in it.

I think that might have been the way for Adam Beechen to go with that Batgirl mini-series. Don't try and explain precisely the sequence of druggings, killings, relapses, etc., just establish that she's back fighting crime, has a few more things to atone for, and go from there. If the goal is to give fans what they want, it's better to get to it, and move beyond the past swiftly****.

* Which got me thinking about Deadpool. Reilly Brown drew Deadpool as having his logo on all his grenades and guns, and his name on his gloves. Maybe Power Girl could put "Power Girl" on the soles of her boots, so the villain would an even starker reminder of who stopped them.

** I imagine the shoulder pad Amanda Conner draws as being the attachment for the cape is more practical (and sturdy), but I'm partial to that circular buckle that Jerry Ordway and Adam Hughes draw myself. With the way they draw her belt as hanging loose, you can have it's buckle resting on the right hip, balancing the cape buckle on the left shoulder. A symmetry thing.

*** Outside Spider-Girl, but that universe wasn't imposing itself upon those who wished to forget.

**** Of course, we could have a discussion about how wise an idea it is to worry about appeasing the fans with the stories, but I'm not up for it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Not As Though You Get Along With All Your Coworkers

There was a scene in the JSA: 80 Page Giant involving Power Girl and Cyclone, where at least part of it revolved around the two of them discussing Power Girl's costume, and Cyclone giving all these reasons why she thinks it works, and so on and so forth*. There are a couple of different thoughts I had that spun out from that page, so let's cover one today, and one tomorrow. Don't worry, neither one is going to devolve into me ranting angrily about anything.

When Power Girl said, 'Most women don't see it that way', I thought she was talking about other super-heroes**. Maybe she was, though considering a lot of the costumes other ladies sport, that would seem a bit odd. I imagine I was remembering the comment Huntress made in JSA Classified #3, when she told Power Girl most of the guys liked her, and most of the girls didn't, which I also thought referred to other super-heroes***.

OK, so clearly I've lost touch with the fact that super-heroes do occasionally hang out with people who aren't costumed vigilantes. It did start me thinking, the heroes are people. Maybe they're people from other worlds, dimensions, times, universes, but still, they're people. They have likes, dislikes, personalities, quirks, so on. It would make sense that some of them wouldn't get along. I don't mean in the sense that Frank Castle doesn't get along with Spider-Man or Daredevil because they have a serious difference of opinion about how to do their crimefighting. I'm thinking more about people who respect each other, can work together, but don't like each other.

I guess Justice League International era Guy Gardner and just about anyone might be an example. His personality rubbed people the wrong way. I feel that Spidey and Daredevil used to have this. They'd work together, but Peter found Murdock to be too serious****, and Daredevil felt Spider-Man was too immature, unwilling to see the grays in the world. I think they may have become closer friends now, at least to the point each is more readily willing to work with the other.

One pair I'd think wouldn't work are Colossus and Wolverine, back in the day. Peter the friendly, naive farm boy, Logan, was well, you know how Wolverine is. Actually, it's kind of amazing Wolverine made any actual friends on that team. I have a similar problem seeing Batman (Bruce Wayne version) being friends with Superman, and maybe they weren't actually friends. I couldn't really tell.

* I think they're having a conversation. The writer, Jen Van Meter, left a comment about the intent of the story on the post at the 4thletter that originally introduced me to the whole thing, and the comment makes me think the conversation might all have been in Cyclone's mind. I haven't read the issue, so I'm just guessing.

** It can be meta-textual even if the writer and artist don't intend that, correct? Van Meter doesn't sound like the aim was to jab at female comic fans unhappy with Power Girl's costume, and I can't speak to the artist, but it can be read that way, regardless.

*** Which could also have been a comment about the fans, couldn't it? I mean, Geoff Johns wrote the story, so it's certainly likely. Yes, I'm incredibly slow on the uptake, this has been well-established previously, let's keep moving.

**** I think Spidey also found Murdock too concerned with the letter of the law, but that's probably that philosophical difference about how to do their work.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kind Of A Risky Way To Use Your Secret Identity

In GrimJack: Manx Cat #4, we were introduced to St. John of Knives, vigilante demon-slayer, and outlaw in the eyes of the Lord Protector, who is responsible for maintaining the peace between all the various churches in Cynosure. During the day St. John is Fra Benjamin Marsh, a priest from the X Street Mission. The church he serves is porr so they can't pay the Lord Protector the tribute as the other churches do. The alternative is to pay with information, namely, information on the activities of St. John of Knives*.

This seems highly dangerous. The Lord Protector has considerable power and resources at his disposal, and Marsh can't provide false information too often, or the Lord Protector will get suspicious, or at least stop protecting the mission. For some reason, this set-up seemed similar to me. A vigilante whose civilian identity is working in cahoots with authorities to apprehend his crimefighting persona. The problem is, I can't remember who I thought fit the bill. Zorro played it the other way, using Diego's friendship with Sergant Garcia to learn about the scheme of the week the Commandant had hatched to capture The Fox. Bruce Wayne usually pretends to have no interest in Batman, and certainly isn't working to help catch him.

Oh! I think I just remembered what I was thinking of! Armor Wars! Since everyone believed Iron Man was an employee of Stark's who had gone rogue, both SHIELD and the military brought Stark in to try and help corral Iron Man. Stark agreed because it provided a way for him to disable the Mandroid armors he built for SHIELD, and do the same to Firepower armor the military had developed. That second one didn't work too well, initially.

That explains why I was thinking it might be Zorro. The picture I had in my head was of someone with a mustache, and it seemed more likely the hero would be a street-level type. Well, might as well ask you if you can think of any others with similar situations. I'd be especially curious in ones where that was a long-term part of their story. We've seen St. John of Knives briefly, and Armor Wars only lasted a half year, so I'm wondering if that staus quo could be maintained for any significant period of time.

* St. John and his brethren kill demons, or what their religion believes are demons. But the Lord Protector doesn't discriminate - what with all money being equally good - so people are free to worship whomever or whatever they like, and someone going around killing other people's targets of worship is not acceptable.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Not At All Holiday Themed Post

Adorable Baby Panda: It is too holiday themed!

Calvin: {How do you figure that?}

ABP: Me applauding characters could count as giving thanks for them, right?

Calvin: {. . .}

ABP: Right?!

Calvin: {I'm not coming up with a new title.}

*exasperated* Fine, be lazy. The Prince of Orphans and Iron Fist deserve Applause for stopping a dragon and an army of ghosts. {Don't forget the Prince was run through as well.} Oh yeah, Hug for him too! I'm giving Er Shi a Bonk. He betrayed the warriors that served his father, and made them want to kill lots of people. He wasn't being very nice to people who helped make the empire he ruled. {He probably ran it into the ground. Or he was attacked and conquered by a force that he needed those 10,00 warriors to defeat. That'd probably be the storybook version.}

Moondragon needs a Hug. She lost her girlfriend, she passed out at that conference, and she's about to get eaten by a plant monster thing. {Or it's going to plant seeds in her. Boy, I hope it isn't planning to deposit seeds in her. *shudders*} Bonk for the Luminals. They make every situation worse. {Yeah, it's getting to be a bit much.}

Couldn't you buy more comics than this? {I have to save some money to purchase gifts for other people. Things will pick up a little in January. Promise.} You should make your gifts, like I do. {Yes, that bamboo/hairball scuplture you gave me last year was lovely. Sadly, I lack crafting skills, and I'm not cute enough for people to worry about sparing my feelings.} Oh. So what are you getting me for Christmas? It's not a sweater is it? I have enough sweaters! {I'm not buying you a weapon.} You don't have to. Deadpool said he'd give me his third-favorite gun. {Swell.}

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What I Bought 11/25/09

I forgot to mention something when I reviewed With Wings Like Eagles last week. Korda makes sure to give credit to both Neville Chamberlain and Stephen Baldwin for approving the funding of the fighter squadrons and radar towers that helped protect Britain. For as much grief as they take for trying to appease Hitler, I should have mentioned they weren't completely sticking their heads in the sand. Oh yeah, I'm back.

Guardians of the Galaxy #20 - We see what's left of the Guardians trying to get back to their work of protecting the universe, as Moondragon officially joins the team. The major focus of the Guardians' activities for now seems to be investigating the Fault, but not everyone is content to leave that up to the Guardians. Plus, the Universal Church of Truth is steamed about the loss of their savior at the hands of our heroes.

The issue is largely about Moondragon, who has the double whammy of having lost her girlfriend, and having recently returned from the dead (again). Then there's her telepathy, which gives her a window into her teammates grief, which is severe enough that even Bug is being serious. We also may have another hint about what's in that other cocoon the UCT has, but I don't know what it could mean yet.

I didn't find it a great issue, maybe because I'm tired, or because I'm still bummed about all the character death last month. Brad Walker does fine with the art, his Fault monstrosities are freaky enough looking, though I'd like to see Wesley Craig's take on them. I wonder if it's significant that Moondragon's reports on Rocket and Drax' mission through the raccoon's thoughts, rather than her father's.

Immortal Weapons #5 - The Prince of Orphans needs Iron Fist's help with a problem. OK, not really. Part of the problem is a dragon, which is from K'un-Lun, and Mr. John Aman feels it would be a stain on Danny's honor for someone else to deal with the problem. Meanwhile, Aman will dispatch the 10,000 great warriors who have resisted death to gain vengeance who will escape the moment the dragon's killed. That's what he does, though it may not explain his title.

David Lapham chooses to keep the Prince of Orphans as a mysterious figure. He explains what he does, but not why. The trials he underwent to become an Immortal Weapon are not discussed, who he was before is not discussed. Which is fine. We know what he does, we know honor is important to him, and he likes to mess with the Immortal Weapons by gently chiding them. He may also set them vying with each other for his approval, which would be a dick move. I have a relative who plays games like that. I don't like them very much.

Artuo Lozzi handles the pencils for this story, and reminds me most of Doug Braithwaite, as it's pretty, clean, but kind of lifeless. Much of the combat panels have less life to them than I'd prefer. There's a sense of movement to them, but it's muted, moreso than I'd expect for a story involving the Green Mist of Death. Swierczynski and Diaz conclude the back-up story, and things work out as well as they can. It was OK, nothing special.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Is My Kind Of History

Yeah, I didn't buy any comics today. I'm sure they came in, but I think I only had one comic, and I actually can't remember if I ordered a copy, and if I did, I'm not sure I want it after all. So I didn't go. Also, I'm taking a trip starting tomorrow, so we'll be entering no posting mode, unless my friend received his new laptop (and set up an Internet connection).

For today, With Wings Like Eagles, by Michael Korda. I've mentioned a couple of different times that I like books about military aviation, especially pertaining to World War 2. So a book about the Batlle of Britain, as well as the preparations on both sides for it, was right up my alley. If there's a main character, it would be Hugh Dowding, leader of Fighter Command until November 1940. Dowding is a serious man, uninterested in playing politics or sugar-coating things for people, and unswayed by sentimentality. On the plus side, this helps him devise a strategy for using his fighters in such a way they can be effective in defending Britain, without being annihilated, in the face of others demands to be more aggressive or more supportive of the French*. On the other hand, a man prone to bluntly speaking his mind makes enemies, in Dowding's case quite a few of them, with few friends to protect him. Also, he didn't show much interest in settling squabbles between Air Vice-Marshall's Park and Leigh-Mallory, two of his direct subordinates, and that gave Leigh-Mallory the opportunity to go up the ladder on him.

Korda devotes some of the earlier chapters to the development of the important technology in the battle. This includes the origin of the Spitfire, Hurricane, and Messerschmitt fighters, as well as the origin and establishment of radar towers along England's coasts. Since Dowding was pushing for the radar towers, their approval didn't come easily, especially since most of the higher-ups were counting on their bombers to protect them**. The Spitfire had its origin with seaplane racing, where aircraft routinely flew 100 to 150 miles per hour faster than any plane any air force had at the time. Messerschmitt had difficulties even getting the Luftwaffe to accept his design, because he'd made an enemy of Goering's righthand man, Erhard Milch. I'm not much of an engineer, but reading the struggles and accomodations the engineers had to make with regard to reducing drag, while still having space for weapons, wireless radios, and so on, was interesting.

The details of the Battle itself is fairly well-done. Korda alternates the information he provides. For a few pages, he'll discuss the Luftwaffe strategy, when they were sending bombers, how many, where the fighters were, how the British responded. Then he'll spend a few pages discussing it from the pilot's point of view, or those of the Women's Auxilary Air Force, who were often in the observation posts at the airfields, even as bombs were dropping all around them. These sections tend to focus on the British side, and it works to depict the exhaustion the people defending England's shores were experiencing, especially as the Germans ramped up the size of the attacks from mid-August into September. Presumably, the German crews weren't flying five, six sorties a day, and so weren't passing out in their planes upon landing. Nor were their ground crews at risk of being blown up by British bombing, so it's a somewhat different circumstance.

I feel the alternating focus lets Kroda discuss the battle at both a large and small scale. It's still the early stages of the war, the Americans and Soviets haven't even gotten actively involved yet*** , but it is the first progress the Allies have had, but it's costing everyone. Dowding's whole strategy was to send up his fighters in small swarms (to disguise the strength of his force, it worked), and focus on the bombers, because they have more crew members than fighters, so shooting down one them removes 4 enemy soldiers, rather than the one lost with a downed fighter. On a more personal scale, these are people dying as part of this strategy, in the air and on the ground, and Kroda makes sure to keep that in the near background at the very least.

The book also has a couple of sections of photographs of the principals involved, and even two lovely paintings, one by John Howard Worsley of the crash of American Billy Fiske. If you look under "Echoes of the Home Front" on the John Howard Worsley website you can see it.

* One thing that doesn't seemed to have helped Dowding is that he would bluntly inform Churchill that it was a waste of time to be sending Britain's Hawker Hurricanes to try and help the French, because the French were hopelessly disorganzied, and poorly prepared. As the squadrons sent across the Channel were being rapidly wiped out with no coherent plan or direction, Churchill got the message, but he still didn't like telling the French "No".

** The belief of the day was that bombers were invincible. They flew too high, too fast, to be caught by a fighter, and were too well-armed for a fighter to survive to shoot them down if they could catch up. The feeling was bombers always get through, and safety was relying on mutally assured destruction. You send your bombers, we'll send ours, we'll both be destroyed, and nobody wants that. Except, of course, the bobmers can't escape the fighters, the bombers don't always get through, and as parties on both sides demonstrated, unless you can destroy a city in one blast, the people don't surrender.

*** Unless you count FDR's Lend Lease program, which I'm not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Got Ahead Of Myself With The Speculating

Have you seen the commercials for Ninja Assassin? Before I saw the title, I was thinking "Wow, Marvel went and made a Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu movie."

The guy's been trained from a young age to be an incredible fighting machine, only to turn against his trainers when they make to heavy of a request of him, which sets him into conflict with their vast and powerful organization.

I suppose that's hardly a story exclusive to Shang-Chi, but with every other property Marvel's made a movie out of (or been rumored to make a movie out of), I didn't think it was totally out of the question.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Villainy, Death, Redemption, Etc.

This one's been brewing in my mind for a couple of weeks now, and I still haven't ordered it terribly well. Just have to see how it goes.

Earlier this month, Chad Nevett was reviewing New Avengers #58, and he mentioned his annoyance with the simplistic morality of superhero comics, where the heroes usually claim that their refusal to kill their foes, no matter how terrible the villain's crimes, makes them better (morally) than the bad guys. Nevett didn't want all heroes to start pulling Frank Castle's and kill every crook, but he would like to have seen some nuance to the debate, rather than just "Killing bad, ALWAYS" which seems to dominate*.

Is it OK to kill a villain? When? How many chances do they get? What kind of effect does it have on the hero to have done that? Does it get harder for them, having killed once, to resist solving more conflicts that way? Does it cause them to lose hope (which is kind of what I was discussing with regards to Star-Lord a couple of days ago), because they feel they failed somehow (Bill Willingham did that with Tim Drake, briefly, at the start of his run on the title)?

I certainly wouldn't mind Norman Osborn biting the dust, but thematically, it feels like Spider-Man ought to do it. This is his arch-foe who's gotten out of control and wrecking lives left and right. Under the proper circumstances, I could see Spider-Man killing** him, though given Norman's regenerative abilities, Spidey would have to get pretty extreme to make it stick. I'm thinking decapitation, and tossing the head and body in separate incinerators, which I'd be uncomfortable seeing Spider-Man do. So maybe I'm not OK with Norman Osborn being killed, after all.

At various points in the past, I've mentioned that I'm a sucker for redemption stories, and I think that's part of the problem for me. Marvel and DC have dozens of characters that were villains and became heroes. Some of them make it stick (Hawkeye), some don't (Spider-Man's Sandman), some yo-yo back and forth (Namor & Quicksilver), some seem to settle comfortably in a gray region (Catwoman, Harley Quinn?). If the hero kills the villain, that removes any possibility of the villain reforming. I would think that for the heroes, knowing that some of their foes have become allies is what gives them strength that it is the right choice not to kill them. They hold out hope that the others will come around too, someday.

We could probably say the Joker is never going to reform, but I wonder if fans in the '60s would have said the same thing if you told them that in 20 years, Sandman was going to be an Avenger. He fought Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four regularly, he can't be a good guy! So how far can the villain go before the hero ought to decide that's enough? If they try to turn things around, but fail (Two-Face, for example), does that buy them some extra chances, or should that be taken as a sign that they'll never reform? Is there a level of property damage, or loss of life which the hero can't excuse by saying "Everyone's life is precious, including yours"? Is it OK if you've beaten them and they're unconscious, to just go ahead and off them, or is it only acceptable if they're actively threatening someone's life at the moment (that's the one I feel can most easily be accommodated, where it's the villain's life or that of Innocent Bystander)? What if the hero is wrong about how how much of a threat the villain is to that innocent life, though? Maybe the villain was bluffing, and now they're dead, and the hero can't take that back, ignoring the seeming ease with which characters return from the dead. Which would be a strike against killing them, since what's the point if they just come back five minutes later?

I think Esther at 4thletter had a good idea when she suggested fewer homicidal maniac villains, more bank robber, art thief, kooky mad scientists out to prove their intellect types. If the hero defeats those villains, and carts them off to jail, it seems more reasonable than to try something similar with Deathstroke after he blows up a city, especially since as readers we know the prisons are wholly inadequate to hold the villains.

I feel like there ought to be situations in which it's acceptable for heroes to kill. Not every hero has to take that opportunity when it's presented though. Whether they do or not, there ought to be some sort of consequences, whether legal, the loss of friends (who died, or disagreed with the choice), or emotional issues (guilt/doubt/worried because there is not guilt or doubt). Preferably, the issue would come up sparingly, because the hero would only occasionally be confronted with a situation that dire.

* At least at Marvel, their cosmic titles don't seem to take this approach, but that could be due to the foes often not being Earthlings, and as Secret Invasion demonstrated, Earth heroes tend to take a more lax attitude toward not killing when it comes to aliens. Annihilus was out to kill everyone in the universe, Nova killed him. Adam Warlock/Magus was going to end up ruling every universe in existence, Star-Lord kills him. Doesn't want to, but he does it.

** Though if he couldn't do it in the immediate aftermath of Norman killing (or assisting in killing if we're going with the "the sudden stop caused by the webbing made her neck to snap" story) Gwen, it's gonna have to be pretty dire.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This Wasn't As Engrossing As I Hoped

I can't say precisely what I was expecting from Michael Howard's The Continental Commitment. I think I was hoping for something along the line of Luttwak's book on the defense strategy of the Roman Empire, where there'd be a tactical discussion of how the British deployed their forces over the first half of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a book more about policy, politicking, and funding issues. Which are the forces that underlie decisions about how to deploy, but are not typically as interesting to me.

Which isn't to say the book is a total bore. The British Empire finds itself in a position where it has these vast holdings all over the globe, and prides itself in this measure of its power, but at the same time, trying to protect the various Dominions simultaneously is a real pain in the ass. They start to realize their Fleet can't provide the defense Australia and New Zealand are demanding, and protect Egypt from the Ottomans, the Germans, the Italians, the Russians (the threat varies over the years), and protect India from an overland attack by the Russians/Soviets. Still, they do a good enough job of it that the Dominions send troops to help fight on the Western Front. That's good news. Oh wait, the leaders of those lands aren't happy with how their countrymen are being thrown away, and want to have a say in the tactical discussion. Then after the war, several of the Dominions make it clear they don't want anything to do with any more European conflicts. Not a good turn of events, as the Empire largely becomes more trouble than it's worth.

One part I found especially interesting was the reason for the sluggish build-up of the British Armed Forces, which ties into the tendency to appease the fascist powers. Partially, it seems to have been an attitude of "Never Again", as Howard puts it. The other aspect is that at any given moment, the British seemed acutely aware of the fact that Germany was stronger militarily than they were, so the British didn't wish to agitate them, for fear of getting into a war. They took "not agitating" to the extent of not doing nearly enough to close the gap in military strength, because they were worried that a build-up of their forces would lead to hostility. So they're afraid to get in a fight, but aren't willing to get themselves better prepared in case that starts the fight. I don't suppose I should poke at them for that policy, since I'm an U.S. citizen, and our response was to close our eyes, cover our ears, and yell "La, la, la, I'm not listening! I can't hear anything you're saying about German aggression!"

I mentioned Luttwak's book back at the beginning of the post, and something in this book did remind me of his work. Off and on through the book, various British officials push for having an army (or Expeditionary Force) ready to come to the aid of France, with the statement that the British frontier is at the Rhine. The idea being that it would be easier to protect Great Britain, if the fighting can be kept on the Continent, and it would certainly limit an opponent's ability to strike from a distance. It reminded me of the strategy Luttwak described as the client state. Where the Romans maintained good diplomatic relations with the lands on their borders, and they served as buffers against more aggressive lands farther out. If those client states could handle the threat themselves, great, but if not, the Romans had time to move their legions there and repel the enemy, without letting actual Roman lands be endangered. In this case, the role of the client state will be played by France and the Low Countries.

Still, it's a dry book. Lots of names of politicians, and Neville Chamberlain (and others) crying poverty in the face of people requesting funds to build more fighter squadrons or whatever, not exciting, but the book is, in that sense, blessedly short (you reach the notes section in less than 150 pages).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Do Hope He's Not Going To Backslide

I've been thinking about Peter Quill, Star-Lord, in light of his killing Adam Warlock last month. The Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord mini-series told us that some time ago Star-Lord killed an entire mining colony to use their life energy to stop a crazed Herald of Galactus*. Prior to that, he'd been a cocky, self-assured super-hero, who figured there was no villain he couldn't stop. And if his battle with the Fallen One was any indication, he was right. Still, he turned himself in to the Nova Corps, and was sent to the Kyln, formerly the prison for life sentence convicts only. He basically gave up on life, and trying to do good. Well, tried to, at any rate.

Inevitably, he seems to be drawn back in more and more. Serving as part of Nova's High Command in Annihilation, trying to help the Kree rebuild, leading his little crew against the Phalanx, and eventually setting up the Guardians of the Galaxy. I think originally joining up with Nova might have been a death-wish, since Nova noted that Peter joined right after the good guys were dealt a crushing defeat. Even as he seemed to become more comfortable with being a useful force in the universe, he still wanted nothing to do with the name Star-Lord. He didn't want to be called that, didn't want to be reminded of it. He made mistakes, and wanted badly to put them behind him. Somewhere along the line, he seems to have grown comfortable with his teammates calling him "Star-Lord". Maybe he saw the title really does mean something to them, regardless of past errors, or maybe he accepted they were going to call him that whether he wanted them to or not. He goofed with the whole idea of using Mantis to convince people to join his team, but the group seems to have been quite forgiving**, to the extent they rescued him from the Negative Zone, which had to encourage him.

The concern is how he'll deal when he has to make tough choices. There's little doubt he'll make those tough choices, but the aftermath could be ugly. I already mentioned what he did after he sacrificed that mining colony to stop a guy that was running around destroying entire worlds. He was largely indifferent about his survival after he accidentally let the Phalanx take control of the Kree Empire. When the truth about how he put the Guardians together came out, he went off on his own to stop what he feared was a Skrull infiltration of the Kree Empire. Then he tried to fight Ronan one-on-one, which went as well as you'd expect. So he tends towards self-destructive behavior when he's had to make hard decisions, mostly out of guilt. Now he's saved the entire multiverse from being conquered by Adam Magus, and all it cost him was half his team, including one team member Peter had to kill. Star-Lord's quiet 'Look what you made me do, Adam. Look what you made me do.' does not bode well.

The rest of the team might want to keep a close eye on him for awhile.

* You know, Galactus really needs to do a better job tending to his former Heralds. Some of them help save the universe, but they sure do seem to wreak havoc a lot.

** They really did seem to cut him a lot of slack on that. Except for Adam, he clearly still held a grudge when he rejoined the team, but the others didn't seem to give him much crap about it. Maybe the the actions he took by himself convinced them how seriously he was taking this protecting the universe stuff?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hunting Steel Fish Is Not The Same As Hunting Marlin

At one time, I was a pretty big Ernest Hemingway fan. I still am, I suppose, though I haven't read any of his books in a few years. I'm looking at my bookcase, and there's 10 Hemingway books over there, most of which I read at some point, some I haven't, but really ought to. In high school, I probably liked Hemingway because of the subject matter: the wars, the bullfighting, fishing, drinking, all that manly type stuff. Same reason I read Jack London at that time, I imagine. Still, there was something about his style I appreciated, a directness that appealed to me. Hemingway got to the point, which was how I wrote essays. I included enough information to support my point, but unlike my friend Jesse, I wasn't going to include every single relevant fact I could recall*.

I've never been able to quite describe that appeal, but Terry Mort summed it up perfectly in The Hemingway Patrols. On page 61, he discusses Hemingway's tendency to become an expert on any subject which caught his interest, the better to write about it in his works. He quotes Hemingway discussing how if a writer knows enough about a subject, he can leave out details while discussing it and the reader will still grasp them, even without having them directly stated. Mort's summation is that 'Properly crafted, the writing was not only lean and efficient, but also evocative and suggestive.'

The book isn't just about Hemingway's writing, though with his tendency to draw from his own experiences (usually with embellishment), his writing is a part of it. The crux of the book is the time Hemingway spent in 1942 and 1943 patrolling the waters off the coast of Cuba in his fishing boat, Pilar. He was searching for U-boats, German submarines, which were taking a toll on shipping at that time. Mort covers Hemingway's life prior to this, his time in Italy in World War 1, his time in Paris, his writing in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, his failed marriages**, as well as touching on his life after this period of time, up to his eventual suicide.

Mort writes in such a way that we understand that searching for U-boats is not just some isolated incident, but connected to Hemingway's experiences up to then, his beliefs about the universe***, the characters he tended to write about. There are times I think Mort plays armchair psychologist too much (early one, he mentions a quote by Hemingway about what happens when one reaches the pinnacle of their life, and later muses that while on the bridge of his ship, Hemingway probably thought about how he was past that point), and I can't say whether I think he excuses Hemingway's actions too much. I believe he's trying to be moderate, pointing out that Hemingway was difficult to live with, that he antagonized the FBI in Cuba unnecessarily (though that may have been related to the paranoia that characterized his depression near the end of his life), that there was no call for some of the dismissive comments he made about F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had helped him early on. At the same time, he defends Hemingway from some of his critics, particularly Martha Gellhorn, whom Ernest was married to at the time****. Mort makes it clear that the two were horribly matched to try and have a persistent relationship, and it sounds to me like they would have been better off only occasionally meeting, then going their separate ways once more. I think Mort, while recognizing Hemingway's foibles, also has an appreciation for Hemingway's strong individualist streak.

Mort draws frequent parallels between Hemingway and characters or scenes from his works, both things he had already written by then, and things he would write afterward (Islands in the Stream draws heavily from this time period). So this leads into the discussion of the life cycle of the Hemingway Hero, and which characters occupied which parts, and where Hemingway might have sat at this time himself. Mort also includes sections which detail specific missions by specific U-boats, and an idea of what the situation was like along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean coasts at that point, partially to explain Hemingway's motivations, or perhaps to explain why the U.S. would authorize a civilian naval scouting force (dubbed the Hooligan Navy). I found the third chapter, which dealt heavily with the Spanish Civil War (and the early stages of Hemingway and Gellhorn's relationship) interesting as well. I hadn't realized it had been such a muddle of political groups on the side resisting Franco and his fascist allies. Tortskyists, Stalinists, anarchists, and poor moderate Republicans, just to name a few.

In a way, the actual searches for U-boats are almost incidental, perhaps because there's only one time when Hemingway might (I stress might) have even seen a U-boat, so there's not much action to be gleaned from them. Mostly they fished (so as to appear to be an ordinary fishing boat to any observing U-Boats), drinking, and playing cards. Which they would have done anyway*****. But the stories of how Hemingway planned to attack a U-boat if they caught one, the fact he and his friends actually trained at shooting Thompsons and chucking grenades, the fact that when they were patrolling for possible hidden supply dumps, he brought his 2 youngest sons along, and when the cave they explored grew too narrow, sent the boys ahead alone, those bits are interesting. Admittedly, Mort can only extrapolate as to why Hemingway might do these things, since you probably can't trust his own writings on the subject (what with the tendency to embellish and all), but it does make for intriguing reading.

* Which explains why Jesse tended to get higher grades than I did. We're talking A versus A-, but he did score better.

** Which tended to fail because he couldn't or more likely wouldn't remain faithful. Also, he tended to want to assert his personality and interests on his partner, and that's only going to be allowed so far. I like his writing, but I'm not sure I'd like him as a person.

*** Which seems to have been that the universe is random, and can be cruel, so best to be active while you can, since life may be snatched away at any moment.

**** Gellhorn doesn't strike me as a likeable person, either. She despised what she termed objectivity shit in writing, but at the same time was contemptuous of people who she felt rewrote history for their own goals, something she was guilty of herself. So a hypocrite, as well as someone concerned with suffering of the lower class mostly in the abstract.

***** Which Mort theorizes was part of Gellhorn's problem with the whole thing. She didn't think things were that bad around Cuba, and thought Hemingway was just using it as an excuse to get away, goof around, avoid writing, and drink. As to the last one, at one point, Mort comments that Gellhorn should have known by then that Hemingway needed no excuse to do that. I chuckled.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It Seems Strange to Be Doing This Again So Soon

Adorable Baby Panda: What does that mean?

Calvin: {Well, I got used to us getting together every couple of weeks. I'll have to readjust to the weekly stuff.}

ABP: But you're happy about it, right?

Calvin: {Oh yeah, totally. It's always nice to have guaranteed content.}

ABP: *sniffles* Is that all?

Calvin: {And, of course, I get to hang out with you, which is great fun!}

Cessily gets a Hug, since her dad's embarrassing her in front of all her friends. And Mr. Kincaid is telling a bunch of lies, so Bonk for him. {Not giving him the benefit of the doubt?} No, Cessily said he barely showed up when he had visitation rights, and he's helping Osborn, so he's bad! {OK, I agree, just making sure. You probably don't have to bother. Even if he doesn't kill him, Deadpool's gonna scare years off the guy's life before he's done.} I think Deadpool needs a Bonk. {Because he's going to kill Mr. Kincaid?} Not really, more because he's doing a bad job of it. He could have done it quietly, that would have been better. {Like he told Daredevil once, he's hired for style, not stealth. Besides, that's not how Wade operates. He thinks it better to send a big obvious message warning people off, rather than doing things quietly. If no one knows you killed someone who crossed you, how do they know not to try it again?} But he's making life hard for everyone else! {Which might explain why he's alone. He doesn't consider that.}

Oh. We should talk to him about that. {Eh, maybe later. Stuff to focus on here and now.} Do you think Deadshot needs a hug? {That'd be a "no. He seems to feel he's OK now, but I wouldn't push it.} You think hugging him will make him snap? {I think being in range of him might make him snap.} Chicken. {If that's what you wanna call it.} Fine, I'll Applaud Craemer. He's not afraid of Deadshot. {La-de-dah for him.} I'm sorry I called you chicken. {Whatever. Did you check in on the cows like I asked?} Yes. They were just standing in the field, watching me and chewing. {They were chewing? Then it's worse than Wade thought. I've got to leave, right now.} Huh? What are you talking about? Calvin? Come back!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I Bought 11/11/09

Two books, just two books this week. One of those is from last week, I'm sure you know what it is, and the other, well you probably know what it is too. Not much mystery to me, is there?

Deadpool #17 - I don't know what to say about that cover. That's quite a look of disgust? bewilderment? on Domino's face, though.

Deadpool's dead-set on killing the deadbeat dad/Osborn puppet of that X-Kid. Said X-Kid tries to warn her dad, he won't listen. Cyclops tries to warn him, he interprets it as a threat. Or he's faking, since he's having a live TV interview at the time. Then Deadpool tries to kill him, on live TV, which puts Norman Osborn in an odd position. He's angry Wade is not, in fact, dead, but happy because he's making the X-Men look terrible. I can't decide who I'd rather see unhappy: Cyclops or Norman Osborn.

What, it's not as easy of a choice as you might think!

Domino helps Deadpool, drugs Deadpool, ties him to a hotel bed, then releases him because she thinks Cyclops ordered Wolverine to kill Deadpool. I'm still not convinced he didn't. A 'special mission' to China? Right. Pull the other one, Logan. Anyway, now the two Stabbity Kill Teamers must work together to stop Deadpool, who's still trying to kill Deadbeat Dad, and is being assisted eagerly by Norman Osborn.

This is a strange issue, because I feel like I just described a lot of stuff happening, but when I finished reading it, I was distinctly unsatisfied. I'm guessing that's because the story is exactly where it was at the end of the last issue, with Deadpool planning to kill this guy. Only the setting and the number of X-Men after him has changed. So that's frustrating, and there weren't any bits I particularly laughed at, which makes things worse. I did like that Domino was nice enough to not want them to kill Deadpool. That was kind of sweet. I don't have anything new to say about Paco Medina's art. I don't love it, but I don't hate it, either. It doesn't move me one way or the other.

Secret Six #15 - Take a look at that cover if you can, your own copy would probably be helpful, at Deadshot's pants. Does it look like he's wearing fishnets? There is definitely some scale pattern there, which is strange. I can't shake the feeling things are shadowy down there because Deadshot has some weird clothing fetish that we aren't supposed to know about.

OK, now that I've unfortunately locked that thought into the front of my mind (and yours!), the comic at hand. Floyd meets with Reverend Craemer, who used to work with the Suicide Squad. Floyd's been thinking about just going wild and killing everybody in sight lately, and it bothers him. Not the killing everyone, the fact that he might not be in control when he does it. So they walk, and they talk, as Deadshot tells us a couple stories, both his origin and run-ins with Batman, and about running some drug dealers out of what used to be his home. Craemer says some stuff I don't totally follow, but which seems to make sense to Floyd, and he feels he's back in control. For now. He walks away, end of issue.

Yeah, I didn't really follow what was wrong there. Floyd has survivor's guilt, but he projects it outwards, and that's why he wants to kill everyone around him? I know Deadshot seems to switch between suicidal tendencies and a more general indifference to his existence, and he does kill lots of people anyway, so maybe it all mixes together that way, it just seemed kind of a leap. I guess the issue I'm having is that if Craemer's right, then Deadshot really cared for his brother and son, and I have trouble seeing Deadshot caring about anything, that indifference I mentioned.

It's a fine enough issue, though I can't decide whether Deadshot's "kill everyone" attitude was sufficiently established prior to this. There was that one panel a couple of issues ago, and maybe some of his other behavior could be interpreted that way, but it came to a head faster than I expected, and seems to have been cut off faster than I expected too. I don't have much to say about Calafiore's artwork. Like Paco Medina, he falls into that category of artists I don't really feel strongly about one way or the other (though I appreciate his ability to hit a deadline). I did like the flashback to Floyd running those people out of his house, as he looked suitably dangerous. But that might just be the bug red eyepiece. With the right amount of shadows, that things looks really intimidating.

That would be the week in comics for me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting To Know GrimJack - Manx Cat #4

Well, you know the drill by now. This issue might be kind of tricky, since GrimJack's astral form is hitching a ride inside another person for the entirety of the issue.

Page 1 - GrimJack's (aka John Gaunt) astral form has moved outside his body before, back in Pdwyr, a place he mentioned in Manx Cat #2. While there, he had a mentor named Maethe. The section of Cynosure we see looks old, medieval. GrimJack's seeking out St. John of Knives, an outlaw saint/demon killer from a millennium ago.

Page 2 - We see St. John, fighting on a rooftop. I stick by my description of him from last week's reviews: Ragman with swords. Fighting vaguely reptilian things.

Page 3 - Gaunt thinks St. John saw his astral form. If he's right, does St. John have extrasensory perception, like GrimJack seems to? GrimJack implies St. John was fighting demons, so they were loose in Cynosure in the more distant past.

Page 4 - Souls can apparently hitch rides in other people's bodies, in addition to simply floating free of their own. At least in this case, that causes a sharing of memory between the 2 parties.

Page 5 - The things GrimJack described as demons call St. John a 'goblyn'. So maybe they aren't supernatural? Also, despite everyone we've seen so far using pointy weapons, guns do work.

Page 6 - St. Dryden, the one with the gun is someone St. John knows, and works with at killing these alleged demons. St. John knows 'the way of violence'.

Page 7 - However allied St. John and St. Dryden may be, John doesn't feel inclined to mention there's another soul inside him besides his own. Why?

Page 8 - St. John not as young as he once was, but who is? The city has a 'Lord Protector'. Demon blood smells pungent.

Page 9 - St. John actually Priest Fra Benjamin Marsh. St. Dryden is Fra Hugh Pentacost, another, younger priest. The head priest of the Sleepless Monks from last issue was 'Fra Jess'. Same religion? Marsh and Hugh live at the X Street Mission. Marsh is attracted to Hugh, but Hugh doesn't know it, and Marsh won't mention it, as he feels the age gap is too great. Marsh was a warrior who sought peace as a priest, but it didn't take. GrimJack says he can relate. So did he have a stint as a priest, or similar peace-minded person?

Page 10 - Butterfly arrives. Hugh dismayed to see it, Marsh grimly resigned. Butterfly a message from Maethe. To GrimJack, Maethe is dead. Not surprising, since Gaunt knew him Pdwyr, and he described that place as 'doomed' in #2. Since Grimjack says he also knows the land, are they now in Pdwyr? If so, it has green grass and pink pterosaurs-type things.

Page 11 - Maethe says reincarnation is common, but it doesn't always move linearly(?) He remembers all his lives, but warns that could drive you mad. Hugh's is not impressed. Chaotic Gods get a mention. The sky was pink, kind of frothy on page 10, not it's gray, like night fell.

Page 12 - Maethe reiterates some of what Fra Jess said last issue. The Chaotic Gods exist outside existence, and they want in to Cynosure. Since all of the multiverse meets there eventually, the Chaotic Gods could get anywhere from there. They plan to use Mannachs to open the way. Mannachs is cruel towards humans, and not trustworthy with its own kind.

Page 13 - Maethe taught Hugh and Marsh how to fight demons, but why? Hugh not happy that they do the fighting, while Maethe does the planning.

Page 14 - Lord Protector lives in the Manson Mansion, next to the Iron Cathedral. Iron Cathedral is headquarters for the UCCC - United Covenant Church of Cynosure. All churches fall under its rule and protection, even if the worship demons. Iron Cathedral is where the center of the Pit will be someday. Hugh doesn't like wizards, tends to sulk. Marsh doesn't mind, GrimJack does.

Page 15 - To reach the Lord Protector, one must get past the Prefect Trifecta. Three heads, named Wynn, Plaise, Shaw (oh, the puns!), set in a door. Each head looks slightly reconstructed, though moving from left to right, each head is more artificial (metallic) than the one before. Prefect Plaise is concerned with punctuality. Marsh can be a bit of a smart mouth. Plaise says it's a sin to keep the Lord Protector waiting. Is he serious, or just melodramatic?

Page 16 - Lord Protector's name is Damian Kristos. Wears partial mask, has sword, staff, jester shoes. Or he needs to get his toes straightened out. He keeps churches fighting with each other to keep himself strong. Gaunt doesn't approve of that. Kristos not concerned with Marsh's complaints about demons near their mission. Actually makes a fair point that one sentient's god is another sentient's demon. Which would actually make Marsh and Hugh religiously intolerant, what with their killing of what they term "demons". Kristos probably only saying that because the "demon" worshippers pay him lots.

Page 17 - X Street Mission is poor, pays with information. Kristos wants to catch St. John of Knives. Kristos also not a fan of pants, has about as much back door coverage in his outfit as Psylocke does in hers, so something for the interested ladies and gents. There's a place called 'Extreme Junction'.

Page 18 - Kristos wants St. John gone badly enough to summon battle cherubs, or as Marsh describes them, 'imps from Hell'. They're little pink things, with gold wings, red boots, diapers/underpants, and oh yes, guns. Marsh is not pleased by this development.

Page 19 - Lot more saints than just John and Dryden, all garbed and armed roughly the same. They describe themselves as the 'Church of Ephemeral Salvation'. Why Emphemeral? Because their battle never seems to end? Because they save by killing demons, and so they're saved for the brief instant between death and a return to Hell?

Page 20 - The other saints don't know Marsh and Hugh are John and Dryden, consider the two priests informers and turncoats.

Page 21 - In Cynosure, dimensions meet and co-exist, adjacent to each other. The Extreme Junction is where they blend. It looks like a Stargate with a huge fog machine set somewhere nearby. Dryden would rather die than wind up in a state of living death.

Page 22 - St. John can't promise he could kill Dryden to spare him that. Gaunt can be quite cruel.

Page 23 - Apparently certain powers come with being Lord Protector. Kristos can fly, and he may have summoned the Battle Cherubs, or they may just hang out at his house. Are those some of the powers? Mannachs has Night Terrorists, the living dead lining the street leading to Extreme Junction. They're asleep, but still up and moving, and whatever they see in their sleep makes them want to kill everyone.

Page 24 - Lord Protector unwilling to work with St. John against Night Terrorists. He's a better swordsman than St. John.

Page 25 - So being punched into the Extreme Junction is not immediately fatal. Might drive you insane. And it's where Mannachs is hanging out. Oh, and Mannachs is a giant, female, partially mummified cat-person. She says she's seen St. John coming and going, which I'm thinking is a reference to GrimJack moving through time and hitching a ride. She does describe them as 'my new playthings'. That's plural, so she clearly thinks she has more than one.

That's it for this issue. Lot of new things to learn, though it'll be interesting to see how much of it applies in GrimJack's time.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I Was Originally Sure This Was A Novel

My first impression of Thomas Levenson's Newton and the Counterfeiter was that this was historical fiction, similar to Patrick Culhane's Black Hats, which I reviewed December 8th, 2008. However, while Levenson doesn't have all the information (since not everything was recorded or preserved) it is apparently a fact that Issac Newton became Warden of the Royal Mint in the mid-1690s. As Warden, his job involved guarding against counterfeiting, and investigating and prosecuting those suspected and/or guilty of it. His most difficult adversary seems to have been a William Chaloner, and it's that struggle between the two that occupies the latter half of the book.

The first half alternates between sections (each with several brief chapters) devoted to Newton and Chaloner's lives up to then. Newton's unsurprisingly is much better known, so the section on Chaloner's early years is somewhat shorter and less certain of the details. I would imagine that to someone well-read on Newton, the early parts are rather dull, recounting his disinterest in farming, his throwing himself into his studies, his tendency to not have many close friends, his writing of Principia, and so on. I found it useful for gaining a feel for his personality, his willingness to do the dirty work of scientific investigation himself, and his meticulous nature, both of which served him well in pursuing Chaloner and other criminals.

Levenson eventually gets to what brought Newton to the Mint. He feels that Newton had finally reached an impasse in his alchemical studies, and that he might also have been depressed because a young protege of his, a Fatio de Duillier, had gradually ceased contact with Sir Issac. Newton eventually came out of his funk, which saw him writing several strange, paranoid letters to friends such as John Locke, and it seems the Warden position offered him a change of scenery, and perhaps a new challenge.

Chaloner strikes me as a fairly clever criminal, but to his downfall, not as clever as he thought. He set-up several counterfeiting operations of various sizes, always finding some way to escape, usually by knowing when to turn on his partners. He eventually schemes to get himself a position at the Mint, from which he could swipe whatever materials he required for his operations, and that seems to have been his mistake*. While making his claims that the Mint needed his knowledge to stop counterfeiting, he more or less implied that the current folks in charge of the Mint were either thieves, or idiots. Including Newton. Implying Issac Newton is a crooked fool is not a good idea, as that's the point when Newton seems to have turned his focus from any counterfeiters he could catch, to Chaloner in particular. It doesn't end well for Chaloner.

One other thing Levenson does well is ground the whole affair in the time it occurred in. He explains how the conflict between the William-led Brits, and Louis the XIV France placed pressure on the government to raise funds, how the difference in the price of gold in England versus the Continent helped fuel England's monetary crisis (largely through people clipping coins), and how some of Newton's ideas on how to solve the problem were too modern for the times**. he also provides a good overview of the British system of justice, and how it worked for and against both Newton and Chaloner. Chaloner, for example, has to provide his own defense, and is not warned as to what witnesses will be brought against him. Newton has to cope with the fact that people who provide information receive rewards, and so the juries tend to distrust their statements. Also, there's not much cooperation between groups, so the Mint and the Treasury can both be pursuing Chaloner, and neither knows what the other is up to.

OK, so that hasn't changed in over 300 years. I really enjoyed this book quite a bit, I learned several new things, and if you have any interest in Newton, 17th century England, true crime, any of that, I'd recommend it.

* What wasn't apparently a mistake was his sales pitch. He tried to demonstrate that he knew ways to render their coinage more impervious to counterfeiting, and brought coins he created as proof of how he could make coins he claimed couldn't be copied. Yes, he basically confessed he not only knew how to counterfeit, but had the equipment to do so, directly to the authorities. And none of them noticed anything unusual.

** Newton suggested making new money, which they did. He also suggested that instead of making a schilling piece out of however much silver cost a schilling, just make a piece that the government says is worth a schilling, but isn't necessarily a schilling's worth of silver. Kind of like today, where a $10 bill isn't worth $10 bucks in terms of what it's made out of, but it can still buy you ten bucks worth of stuff. People weren't ready for that idea in 1696 apparently.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Assessing Where The Guardians Of The Galaxy Go From Here

Things stand at a bit of a different place after issue #19, than they did after #17. I don't think it's an improvement myself, but there could be some things to work with. After #17, Abnett and Lanning had Adam Warlock turned into Adam Magus, and in control of the Universal Church of Truth. As the UCT has billions of followers, and the faith of those followers can be drawn on as an actual power source, that's no small thing.

Consider the possibilities. Magus is considered the savior by the UCT. They'll kneel to him, follow him, sacrifice their lives for him. And well they should, since he saved the universe. Now, I don't know whether Adam had managed to make the universe permanently safe from more ruptures by stopping the expansion of the Fault or not. I'm going to assume that he hasn't. I'd figure a giant open wound in space-time is only going to render the rest of it more vulnerable. Magus wants to conquer the universe, not see it lost, so he'll have to keep going around and patching up those fissures. The downside for him is that takes time and energy. The upside is doing so enforces his image as the savior. If he can save a few imperiled worlds, he can probably gain more adherents, which has the bonus of giving him more power to draw from. Pretty soon, he might make the UCT powerful enough to threaten the Kree/Inhuman and Shi'ar Empires. He's got a ready made sales pitch: They spend all their time fighting meaningless wars that nearly destroy all creation, I save all creation. Who do you want to lead you? Do the empires take that lying down, or do they try to win their people back, or just opt to destroy the UCT, which would kind of prove the Magus' point.

Then for the heck of it, throw Kang in, as he decides to take matters into his own hands. Whether he's using an army of Starhawks, or just his more standard armies, is not terribly critical. Maybe Magus decides to wipe the Guardians out, because he thinks they might get in the way. Then they're up against the might of the UCT, lead by someone who knows all about their base, tactics, etc. Maybe he doesn't bother, because he doesn't think they're worth it, and can the Guardians really challenge him? He's protecting the universe, for his own fiendish reasons, but still, people are alive because of him (though he's likely drawing heavily on the power of his followers' faith, which is probably killing them, but they're willingly giving that to him). Magus present a huge problem, one the Guardians will have to decide if they should even try to stop or not, and if so, it's something they're going to have to plan in detail, as he's too powerful to just go charging in, especially if the other major powers in the universe start to get involved.

But, Magus is dead (though that other cocoon is still out there, presumably), and the Guardians are down a lot more members post- issue #19 than they were post-issue #17*. So, no Magus making the UCT ever stronger, to the point it might threaten the entrenched political powers. No Magus taking over every timeline so that Kang feels the need to intervene. So, where to go from there? Well, with Magus eliminated, it's always possible Kang the Conqueror will drop by to conquer. It looks as though Nova and Darkhawk are gonna run into the Sphinx, a foe so dangerous Reed Richards once asked Galactus to come and deal with him. He has a stone that can alter reality, so maybe Kang's going to be annoyed by yet another person messing up his plans, and drop by to deal with this one himself. Then the Guardians have to decide who to help, or how to set themselves in position to make certain neither of those two wins.

I think, though, the primary possibility is for the Guardians to be hunted by the UCT. We don't know if the lady that was leading the church died when all those temple ships blew up after Magus' death. She didn't seem terribly sure that Warlock/Magus was the real deal, so perhaps she stayed behind. Still, Warlock did save the universe, and the Guardians did kill him, and I doubt their reasons will be persuasive to the UCT***. So, the Guardians have to move forward, continue guarding against threats inside and outside the universe, somehow. The UCT doesn't care about that, though. Their savior is dead, it's time for vengeance. Put the Guardians on the run as the UCT devotes all it's still considerable power to destroying them for what they did. Eventually, it's going to get severe enough that they can't stay on Knowhere, especially since Cosmo's not around to vouch for them anymore****. They aren't likely to have many friends in the Shi'ar, and Phyla pretty much burned their remaining bridges with the Inhuman, the ones Star-Lord hadn't wrecked with Ronan last year. So where do they go? The Nova Corps isn't nearly strong enough to house and protect them from the UCT.

The team's going to have to go back to its roots. Which can mean how they operated during Conquest, when they had to be sneaky because they were locked in with their enemies all around them, or it can refer to the original Guardians of the Galaxy, who operated much the same way, though they weren't confined to a limited space, but the places they were interested in were swarming with enemies. They'll still need to do the work that needs doing, but in such a way the UCT doesn't get wind of it. I think you could make something of that for awhile at least. Then you have the cocoon hatch, and go from there, depending on that's inside.

* Assuming everyone lost in the future made it back safely, they originally lost only Phyla, Gamora, and Adam Warlock. At this point, you can add Major Victory, Cosmo, and Mantis to those three**. Which leaves them a pretty limited team, power-wise. They have two people who like to solve problems by shooting them (Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon), two that solve problems by hitting them (Groot, Jack Flag), one who uses both those plus stabbing (Drax), and a telepath (Moondragon).

** Why didn't Star-Lord try and use the Cube to resurrect them? I'm not clear on what the Cube's limits are, but if they can be used to enslave Celestials, as the Badoon did in that one future, or rewrite history, as I think the Red Skull did in a Captain America story once, I think they could bring a handful of people back from the dead. Maybe Kang limited its powers precisely so it couldn't be sued against him if he stopped by.

*** Namely, "We didn't want your savior ruling every single timeline in existence". I'm sure that would go over well. "And just what's wrong with our glorious and perfect savior?"

**** I am really bummed out they killed Cosmo and Mantis. Three telepaths on the team, and the one they keep alive is my least favorite. I know she just came back earlier this year, and I don't have anything against Moondragon in particular, I just don't like her as much as Mantis or Cosmo. Then again, Mantis was originally, by her own admission, supposed to at Ultron's hands during Conquest, so I guess she's been on borrowed time since then.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Change Of Setting Can Be Enough Sometimes

That day I took off last week involved, among other things, getting to visit with my dad. Which gave me the opportunity to loan him some books, and borrow some, too. Having finished the first book last night, it's time to discuss Shinju, by Laura Joh Rowland.

It's a murder mystery, with a newly appointed investigator unwilling to go along with the official explanation, and the difficulties that come along with that decision. In that regard, it's much like any number of other mysteries of my dad's I've borrowed over the years. The difference is this one's set in 17th Century Japan, which means there are some differences in the resources available, but more critically, in the culture the story takes place in.

Sano Ichiro is a newly appointed yoriki, still trying to find his way in the job. He has a hard time accepting that he's supposed to stay behind a desk and sign reports, and his earlier employment as a tutor and historian makes him naturally inquisitive. So he's not inclined to simply accept the official explanation that the daughter of a powerful family committed shinju (double suicide, where the couple tie themselves together and jump in the river) with her lowly artist lover. So he deals with the typical stonewalling from the heads of the powerful family, as well as his politically connected superior. There are more murders, cover-ups, people being relieved of their positions, all the sorts of things you see in many other such stories.

The key, for me, was the difference that comes with the culture's focus on honor, duty, to a person family, their superiors, and so on. Usually, the detective in these stories is the type that has nothing else in their life except the job, and so they do it well for lack of anything else*. Sano doesn't want to be a yoriki. He liked being a tutor, and helping teach at his father's martial arts academy. He's there because a powerful family owed his family a debt from the warring era which preceded the Tokugawas assuming control of the country, and his father called in that favor. Pops wants more for Sano, and Sano has to honor his father's wishes. So the situation presents him with the choice of pursuing what he believes is the truth, and running the risk of losing the position, and disgracing himself, and by extension, his father. He's faced with a decision where his training says the way to spare his family greater dishonor is seppuku, and he considers it, but part of him still wants to learn the truth, and stop the murderer. Thus, more struggle.

I feel like it was an error to let us know right from the start that it was definitely a murder, and not an actual shinju. Sano struggles with that doubt off and on, along with the doubt about whether pursuing this is worth the loss, but the reader knows he's right all along. I think it limits our ability to empathize with his inner conflicts, because we know he's right to keep digging, there is something there.

If you aren't a murder mystery fan, or you've read a lot of them and are burned out, probably not gonna be your cup of tea. If you are in the mood for one, and you'd like a different setting from the usual, this could be a book for you.

* Or they have nothing else in their life because of how seriously they take their work.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Can We Stay on Topic Today?

That's no fun! {Yeah, but it's been awhile since we've done one of these where we didn't get distracted by going off on a tangent, or get disrupted by surprised guest appearances.} Tangents are fun, though! {Well, yes, they are, but. . . Wait a minute! You're trying to get us on a tangent right now! Well it's not gonna work!}

Darn. I'm giving Arcade a Hug, because he was getting used as a pinata. Hey, pinatas are filled with candy! Let's go get some candy! {No.} I think all the Guardians of the Galaxy that are still alive need a Hug. {Except Drax and Moondragon. They already hugged each other.} I can still hug them if I want! It's in the rules! {They aren't any rules!} Then I should definitely be able to hug them if I want! {Well of course you can if you want, I'm just saying it's not necessary.} Who cares about that? I want to. {Fine. Whatever. Don't blame me if you're tired by the end.}

Kang helped save the universe, so he gets Applause. {Yeah, saved it so he can conquer it later.} So? {I'm just pointing out his ulterior motive. Carry on.} Tiger's Beautiful Daughter trained and led an army, so Applause for her. Bonk for her dad. {Wait a minute. He may have been a coward, but he had good intentions. He didn't want to see his loved ones die in a battle they didn't seem able to win.} You don't know if you can win until you try! {The ladies were already getting stomped, I think it was fairly evident it wasn't their day!} They could have turned it around! {Or they could have been exterminated! Dang it, you got us off on a tangent!} Nuh-unh, you were the one who disagreed, so you started it. {Huh. I did, didn't I?}

And it was fun, wasn't it? {*grudgingly* Yes.} See, tangents are good! {I won't go that far.} I suppose Monark Starslayer and Darkhawk can both use some Hugs, and I like Philo, so he's getting some Applause. Fraktur gets a Bonk for insubordination. {Like you're a model of discipline.} I always listen to my parents! {You don't listen to me.} Because you're stupid. {Ouch.} Not all the time! Just usually. {Wow, that qualifier totally repaired my self-esteem!} Great! Namor gets Applause for stopping the fight between the X-Men and the Atlas Organization. {That's not applause-worthy! I wanted to see more fighting. Cyclops hadn't been kicked in the head nearly enough.} Can Cyclops ever be kicked in the head enough for you? {No. *pause* What's your point?}

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What I Bought 11/04/09 - Part 2

Something that annoys me when I go to the store is if I need to visit the restroom, and when I exit, I find someone's taken my cart. I had goods I planned to exchange money for in there! I don't know whether it was some other customer who decided they also needed soda, floss, and WD-40, or some employee, but what the hell? I can't take the stuff in the bathroom with me, and apparently I can't leave it outside, either.

Guardians of the Galaxy #19 - Kang saves Star-Lord's team from Magus' followers. Kang explains that the future where Warlock becomes Magus is gradually taking over every future in every timeline. This is bad, especially for Kang since it means there aren't futures where he takes over anymore. He provides Star-Lord with a Cosmic Cube, and sends him back to the moment between when Warlock saved the universe, and when he becomes Magus to do 'what's necessary'. Except Peter dicks around, and by the time he actually does what's necessary, things are a lot worse than they were before.

Damn, that was an excessively depressing issue. They killed half the team, including several of my favorites! I'm not sure whether Wesley Craig's art really worked for this issue. I like his style, but I think it' being exaggerated kind of undercuts the seriousness of the situation. On the other hand, he does an excellent job with the facial expressions, so the grief and anguish of the characters comes through clearly. Maybe the colors are too bright, and that's what bothers me. Either way, the issue certainly surprised me. I never thought I'd actually prefer an ending that had the Magus on the loose.

Nova #30 - Rich and the other Novas attempt to deal with the simultaneous problem of the Mindless Ones showing up to rescue their boss, a Not-So Mindless One, and the fact Ego's woken up, and is very angry about the Nova Corps using him for a base. So Rich, as he put it, handles two birds with one stone. We also learn something about Mr. Monark Starslayer, and it looks as though both he and Ego may be problems for the Nova Corps down the road.

One thing I found curious was how stupid some of the Novas seemed in this issue. I know Morrow and Fraktur are still technically rookies compared to Rich, and especially compared to Philo, but they'd been handling themselves pretty well on Earth. Maybe that was because Richard was there to guide them, or maybe because the Serpent Society isn't supposed to be on the threat level of Mindless Ones (though the Serpents ought to be harder to plan against, just because they aren't mindless). I still can't warm up to Kevin Sharpe's art. There's nothing wrong with it necessarily, it's a little too shiny, maybe too many little lines, but I just can't get comfortable with it, though i do like how he draws Philo. He's supposed to be old, so the little lines work well on him.

Nova #31 - No idea why the released Nova on back-to-back weeks. Kind of disappointed by it, since I liked having Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy as my double dose of cosmic goodness at the end of the month. Besides, I have enough books that come out the first week of the month already.

Darkhawk is wanted by the Shi'ar for killing Lilandra (except he didn't do it). He's been located on a planet called Shard, which is falling into the Fault. So off Richard goes to find Chris. he finds him, they scuffle a bit, Chris starts to explain, so cue weird, other-dimensional plant thing that starts tearing the planet apart. Rich and Chris must save Kree archeologists that were too stupid to leave earlier, and then our heroes run into another Raptor. Crap. Then the planet disintegrates. Damn. Also, Philo is taking his job as trainer for the rookie Novas very seriously, and I think I'm gonna like him.

While I'm still not real keen on this "Fraternity of Raptors" stuff, I am enjoying Darkhawk in space. The size of the mission he's tasked himself with, and the trouble on his tail, but now he's got a friend with him, so that ought to help. Be interesting to see if Nova Prime vouching for Darkhawk would help with the Shi'ar. Also, could an Earthling killing Lilandra really be considered treason? Regicide, sure, though she hadn't officially taken control of the Empire back, but treason? She's not Darkhawk's ruler! I think Gladiator's just making up charges because he's grief-stricken, or it's that Raptor posing as Gladiator's Araki. Andrea DiVito takes over for this arc, which is OK with me. It's a simpler style, fewer lines and thicker ones, but I have a fondness for it.

I know he's busy drawing Hulk-related stuff, but I'd like to see Paul Pelletier back on this book. Or Wellinton Alves, I had gotten used to his work. Oh well, DiVito and Sharpe are certainly preferable to any number of other possibilities.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What I Bought 11/04/09 - Part 1

Good news, I'm back to reviewing comics weekly! Bad news, it's only for a few months! Good news, I have many comics to review (by my standards)! Bad news, this week's haul is roughly half of what I ordered for the month, so looking at some slim weeks the rest of November! Bad news, my shop got shorted on Secret Six! Good news, that'll be one more book I can review next week!

Deadpool Team-Up #899 - Deadpool and Hercules try to find their way out of a deathtrap created by the combined expertise of Arcade and Nightmare, which forces them to face their, um fears, I guess. Deadpool triumphs by being Deadpool, by which I mean, crazy, and Hercules succeeds by punching things. Then they celebrate their victory in an appropriate manner.

It was about what I'd expect from a team-up book where the story concludes in a single issue. Van Lente does a pretty good job explaining some aspects of our heroes, and why these particular villains are teamed up. it's a little info dumpy, but it might not seem so if I were less familiar with the characters. Dalibor Talajic's on the pencils, and it is good. Deadpool's foe is suitably freaky looking, the action flows well from one panel to the next, and he keeps track of the details, such as the thread from Deadpool's pants they used as their bread crumbs. It's not gonna be my favorite Arcade appearance, but it's thoroughly OK.

GrimJack: Manx Cat #4 - GrimJack's astral form has traveled back in time and finds St. John of Knives, fighting demons. He hops into his body, and we see that St. John is a Priest Fra Benjamin Marsh during the day, along with his sidekick partner Fra Hugh Pentacost. They meet with a wizard who warns them of the coming of Mannachs, an agent of the Chaotic Gods who'll be trying to enter the universe through Cynosure. Our heroes have to stop this, but are going to need help from the Lord Protector, who just so happens to want to capture (or kill) their costumed alter-egos. So, set-up, but pretty soon John of Knives is face to face with Mannachs. Uh-oh.

Throughout the issue I'm unclear on how much control Gaunt can exert over John. At times he seems to be running the show, like when he lets Pentacost lead the way home because he doesn't know it, but at other times he seems to be in the background, observing Marsh's actions and thoughts. He says marsh is sort of aware of his presence, but why does Marsh not tell anyone then? Not the Lord Protector, but why not Maethe (the Wizard), or Pentacost? They fight demons, so surely possession wouldn't be that absurd to them? Tim Truman's art is nice as usual. I like the designs for the Battle Cherubs (yes, Battle Cherubs), and for John of Knives. Kind of Ragman with Swords.

Immortal Weapons #4 - It's Tiger's Beautiful Daughter's turn in the spotlight. In her village, the women are pampered, and the men go to fight, but she'd much rather fight. She loves her father's stories of his battles, and longs to be taking part in them, as opposed to waiting on the menfolk, and dealing with their advances. Well, she gets her chance when the truth about their home comes out, and she sets things right, swiftly. Meanwhile, in the backup story, Danny and Jada have found Jarel, but it might be too late to save him.

I'm kind of disappointed that the men in Tiger's Beautiful Daughter's home are totally worthless. They don't even really try to pick up the slack for the ladies, only to find themselves not up to the task. Maybe they had good intentions, but they could have exerted a little more effort. Khari Evans' is the penciler for the main story, and the style is sort of sparse, thin lines, not too many, and it works, the backgrounds aren't lushly rendered, but the primary characters in the panels are well done, and there are some fantastic facial expressions (her pouting expression when he father keeps delaying telling her about his most recent battles). Hatuey Diaz draws the back-up, and I prefer the art to Travel Foreman's, but Diaz's Danny seems kind of ugly, honestly, short and scruffy, which bothers me for some reason.

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #2 - Man, I hate that cover. There's no life to it. Namora looks more like she's draped around Colossus in a friendly manner, rather than applying a choke hold. There's no sense that it's a fight, that she's exerting any pressure at all. Adi Granov is not one of my favorite artists. Must be popular with some people, though.

Fight scene in the Atlas organization's headquarters! Wolverine gets buried under a statue (though shouldn't headbutting him have hurt Gorilla Man more than Logan? Only one of them's got a metal-coated skull)! Namora gets frozen in ice! Xavier is in a hospital bed for some reason! Then people start passing out and that weird flashback/thing from the end of #1 intrudes on the story, and we learn why details didn't match-up, and what's happening. Then Namor shows up, and of all people, acts as the voice of reason. I know, crazy times we live in. Explanations are finally provided, the X-Men lot Bob use Cerebra, they find Venus, and rescue her. For now.

Was Parker referencing one of his X-Men First Class stories? Gorilla Man talked about the X-Men showing up a long time ago in the jungle, looking for Xavier, and that sounds familiar. Either way, the story's purpose seems to be bringing the Atlas Foundation more directly into conflict with the Olympus Group, or whatever it's called, which I think Hercules is going to be fighting, and Agents of Atlas is a back-up strip in that book now, so getting them on similar tracks probably isn't a bad idea, but, sigh, I don't know. I can't decide whether I wanted more fighting between the teams (really have some brawling), or less (the Agents ask directly, then team up with some X-Men to rescue Venus). A good compromise leaves everyone unhappy.

Tomorrow, cosmic books! Will I cry out in anguish about last month's Guardians of the Galaxy?!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I Feel Like This Was Set-Up Backwards

More Hitman discussion!

While I've generally enjoyed the trades, I was a bit disappointed in Who Dares Wins. The majority of the trade is the story of 4 SAS members, tasked with seeking out and killing Tommy and Natt. Turns out that during Desert Storm, those two accidentally killed some British soldiers, then tried to cover it up. One of the dead soldiers is the son of a Brigadier General, and thus these Brits are ordered to go kill our heroes. Make an example of them, I suppose. Fine, no problems with what gets the story moving, high-ranking officers abusing their authority is a well-worn tool, but I like it well enough.

The problem is Tommy. Once the four blokes (the "Regiment") first attack, and Tommy and Natt realize what this is about, Tommy's about one second away from pissing himself the remainder of the story. I kept waiting for him to get himself together, but he never did. One of the SAS guys fired over his head, at one point, and rather than, you know, kill the guy, Tommy actually dropped his guns and started pleading, for fuck's sake.

OK, well these are SAS guys, super-tough, super-trained, maybe the best soldiers in the world. Could very well be. They're well-organized, singularly determined* and seem impervious to pain. So I can certainly see how Tommy and Natt could struggle against them, especially since they seem to realize that while shooting allies accidentally is bad, trying to cover it up was an even worse thing to do. So maybe they're struggling with doubts, wondering if maybe they ought to be killed.

But it's not so much that they're being outflanked, or that Tommy doesn't seem on his game. He really seems terrified of trying to deal with these guys. The problem is, Ennis had just finished a story where Tommy faced off with two demons from Hell, neither one of which likes him. Even though he managed to kill Mawzir, with an assist from Catwoman and Baytor, Etrigan's still kicking at the end. Not only that, he visits Monaghan and promises that someday, he's going to come for Tommy, and what he'll do won't be pleasant. Tommy's response is to stand there grinning, and respond 'I'll be waitin'.

But Calvin, you say, Tommy has the Ace of Winchesters, a gun designed to kill demons. Yes, yes very true, and Etrigan knows that too. He is the one who provided the gun to the orphaned son, after all. I'm gonna stop trying to rhyme now. All he need do is keep his distance and wait until Tommy doesn't have it on him. Nothing else in Monaghan's arsenal is likely to even slow Etrigan down, so the odds are poor he could stay alive long enough to retrieve. Surely Tommy has to realize that, but if so, he didn't show any sign of it. The Regiment is comprised of humans, who can be killed by ordinary bullets, which Tommy and Natt have in abundance. The won't make it easy to kill them, obviously, since that probably runs counter to training, but it's not as though hitting a clever, immensely powerful demon with a lever action rifle (whose capabilities the demon is well aware of) is a walk in the park, either.

I guess the point Ennis was making (and Natt lays it out at the end), besides the pointless nature of revenge, is that Tommy and Natt had been getting by on luck. The only survived the battle with the Mawzir because of a variety of fortunate occurrences. Tiegel showed up, giving them another ally who can be useful in a fight, Six-Pack arrived with Section Eight to occupy Mawzir's human pawns, and Baytor hitched a ride to Earth inside Etrigan's cape. Any of those (especially the last two) don't happen, Tommy dies. They can't always get lucky when they fight people better or more powerful than them. If their opponents plan things well enough, there aren't likely to be those fortuitous happenstances than turn things around, and then where are they? Screwed, that's where.

Still, you could have Tommy being supremely confident that he can handle this (after all, he just faced down a ten-armed, gun-wielding demon from Hell), he tries to do things in his typical manner, and proceeds to get whomped throughly, but he's uncharacteristically (at least based on what I've read of the series) subtle, and well, timid. His strength of will seems to flee every time he comes face to face with them. He's constantly running, trying to sneak attack, or trying to sucker other people in to taking the SAS boys out, all of which seems at odds with his more common response of just shooting people until they stop trying to kill him. It's not a bad idea, just not what I'd come to expect of him.

Maybe it's that I'd be more afraid of the fire-spitting demon of Hell myself.

* Even the one member that doesn't like the mission, Eddie, is determined to complete it as quickly as possible, mostly to protect his buddies.