Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What I Bought 3/29/2010 - Part 2

OK, it's Marvel's turn, no time to waste.

Avengers vs. Atlas #3 - The teams stop fighting each other and fight the Hulk instead. See, it's one thing to fight the Hulk yourselves, as Atlas did last year, but you haven't really made it until you team up with another team to fight the Hulk. They keep him busy until Venus wakes up (after the Wasp zapped her last issue), and she calms the Hulk down. The teams then work on figuring out what's going on, concluding it has something to do with the Avengers' first battle with Kang. The vortex is still around, and it's gotten larger and angrier looking. The back-up strip, by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk, is Venus answering people's questions about their love lives. She doesn't know what she's talking about. She told Hercules to shave his beard! We've seen that, it happened in the '90s, which ought to tell you right there it's a bad idea. To make it clear, once he shaves the beard, then he starts wearing stupid metal shoulder pad/flak jacket looking things. It's a terrible look for him. That aside, it's mildly amusing.

Gabriel Hardman's art grows on me the more I see it. He draws a fine fight scene, doesn't skimp on the details, and it's always clear what's going on. I think he may have whiffed by drawing Cap with his shield on the first page (the dialogue a couple of pages later suggests Namora had only just retrieved it when she threw it at the Hulk), but assuming I'm right, minor quibble. Everything else is golden, including Iron Man's gold armor, which Hardman gives some heft to. It looks big, clunky, and heavy. Parker does a good job of writing an Avengers team that is still getting to know each other, and aren't clear on what they're each capable of.

My favorite scene is spread out a bit. Bob Grayson is examining the vortex, and as he figures it out, he starts getting affected, and telepathically sends the info to Giant-Man before he returns to his 1950s state. The fight with the Hulk is still going, so it isn't discussed but after, Pym mentions this to everyone else. As he does, Iron Man says Bob could have sent it to him, he would have understood. In the next panel he continues, 'I built this suit. . .' Two things about it I love. First, no one is paying attention to him, they're all listening to Pym lay things out. Second, Tony's shoulders are slumped, like he's depressed no one realizes he's smart too, darn it. I don't know if I'll ever get tired of Tony Stark being marginalized. Thank you, Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman.

Deadpool #21 - We start in FF headquarters, because Spidey brought Deadpool there to heal up. Reed wants Deadpool out immediately. They go to Spidey's apartment so he can switch costumes, Deadpool steals the costume Spidey changes out of, pretends he's Spider-Man, and he died of the shoulder wound. There's a big funeral, and Hit-Monkey shows up, Deadpool pops out of the casket in his costume, fully armed, telling the cops to arrest the monkey, which doesn't happen. Spidey won't let either one kill the other, but Hit-Monkey won't accept Deadpool's offer for them to go their separate ways, and see if they can be better. They try to use damaged guns, which explode, but kills neither of them. Spidey breaks Deadpool out of jail, tells him to leave town, and that he's not really trying to be a good guy, he's trying to be loved for being a good guy. Deadpool sees no difference.

Things I don't understand. One, why bring Deadpool to the Fantastic Four? He could heal anywhere, like a dumpster. Two, why is Reed being so brusque? He's had more dangerous people than Deadpool in his home, and been less of a dick about it. Three, how did Deadpool fake being dead? If nothing else, how did he keep from talking long enough for them to pronounce him dead and arrange a funeral. Four, if Spidey is convinced Deadpool is only trying to be a hero to be loved, rather than for the right reasons, why not leave him jail? I'm guessing he's worried about people being hurt when Wade makes his own escape.

It was nice to read Spider-Man say that it's about being the good guy, not about being loved for it. That was a nice, heroic type thing to say, though I'm not sure when Spider-Man stopped being bothered by the fact everyone thought he was a menace and hated him. Maybe around the time they stopped thinking he was a menace and hating him.

Girl Comics #1 - Oh Spidey, why did you bet on Tony Stark? He never comes through when you need him! And Bucky, gambling? What would Steve say if he could see you? Probably, "Why did you bet on Tony? That wasn't very smart Bucky. I learned in the 1980s to always bet on the big green lady" I am a flawless Steve Rogers writer.

G. Willow Wilson and Ming Doyle's Nightcrawler story was nice, though a little strange. Kurt rescuing the pretty lady, or helping her rescue herself, at least. A little swashbuckling banter might have been nice, but it would have interfered with the song overlaying the story, so I understand not having any of that, just a personal preference. The Trina Robbins/Stephanie Buscema Venus story had some funny bits, the bloviating of the male gods and the snark of the ladies, and I loved the art. With Valerie D'Orazio and Nikki Cook's Punisher story, I wonder if it might have worked better if they'd held off on the gag until the end. We see 'sadprincess' likes posies, but we don't know it's the Punisher until the end. I'm not sure it would actually work better that way, just pondering. Ultimately, it's a 4-page Punisher story, there's only so much you can do with that, and I have to admit I've never seen Frank use that tactic to lure out a target.

One of my two favorites was the Doc Ock short by Lucy Kinsley. Her art did such a nice job of capturing Ock as this nerdy outcast, trying to keep a low profile, but being hampered by his various hang-ups, be it his love of octopi, or his hatred of that accursed Spider-Man. My favorite has to be the Robin Furth/Agnes Garbowska story of Franklin and Valerie Richards lost in the strange world inside the clockwork tree. I did keep expecting it to rhyme, even after a page or so when it became clear it wasn't going to. I kept thinking of those Calvin and Hobbes strips where Waterson would write the story in rhyme. Rhyme or no, I still enjoyed it considerably, and it neatly outlined the differences between the two kids in just a couple of pages. OK, that brings us to the Devin Grayson/Emma Rios story about Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Logan. I was intrigued, but I don't quite get the last panel, when Logan raises his mug to Scott. Is he congratulating Scott on being with Jean, or is he mocking him? "Sure Summers, she says we're just friends, but you're always gonna wonder, ain't ya? Cheers, bub." As you can see, my Steve Rogers writing is only matched by my Wolverine writing.

I don't quite get the inclusion of the She-Hulk pin-up in the middle. Marvel already had my money, and was someone going to buy it strictly because of that? The text pieces about Marie Severin and Flo Steinberg were welcome. I don't usually have much interest in the history of the comics industry, but in these small chunks it was informative without weighing things down.

Marvel Boy: The Uranian #3 - Marvel Boy's back on Earth, thwarting revenge-driven college professors with Not A Devolving-Ray and dating a college girl. Good times. Then comes Orlaa, who is not actually a monster, but a creation of fearful and corrupt idiots in the government. Nice to see the Marvel tradition of people mistrusting the costumed heroes didn't start with Spider-Man. Before the web-slinger and Jameson, there was Marvel Boy and Agent Belgard. Jimmy Woo arrives to help Marvel Boy out, and they have many adventures while the Uranian Council stew over Marvel's Boy refusal to follow their orders. The ominous foreshadowing of what his refusal will lead to is offset by the end, where Bob finds the home his parents lived in, which was a sweet ending. Too bad things will be so rough over the ensuing decades.

I don't have anything to say about this mini-series. It was entertaining at times, but I can't see the point of it. It moves from one thing to another so much, it doesn't seem to flesh out much at all. We see him fights some criminals, meet a girl, go back to Uranus, return to Earth, struggle with people in power who want to use him, I don't know. It's not bad, just sort of there.

Nova #35 - Old Sphinx has 2 Ka Stones now. This is bad, as he sorely outclasses all the remaining folks from his and New Sphinx' little battle for supremacy. Reed Richards realizes the things the Sphinx has done inside this magic bubble he created inside the Fault haven't started affecting the universe. . . yet. Once he moves out of the Fault, which will be once he's used to having 2 Ka Stones, then he can remake reality however he pleases. The key becomes to get him out of the Fault sooner than he's prepared for, which falls to Nova, who, with some computational help from Reed, makes it happen. Then everyone starts to be sent back to wherever they were plucked from, only Rich isn't going to let that happen to Namorita, and he pulled it off.

First, Darkhawk is right, Rich saving 'Nita from going back to the time she came from so that she doesn't die sometime after that at Stamford will cause problems. However, I'm with Richard in that I don't care. I'm very happy Namorita's back in play, even if I fear she'll end up having to go back, or end up dying in the upcoming Thanos Imperative. Damn, I can't even let myself enjoy the happy moment for five minutes. Second, I'm surprised Nova would say, during his standoff with the Sphinx that he's at maximum Nova Force, more than he's ever used before. Is he saying he wasn't going all out when he fought Annihilus (who was wearing Quantum Bands and feeding off Power Cosmic at the time)? What the hell, Rich? I'm not saying the Sphinx wasn't more powerful, but still, why hold back against Annihilus?

Whatever. I liked this issue. Most of that is probably my love for classic New Warriors, and so of course, I'm happy with how things turned out. I would have liked for the others to have the opportunity to do more against the Sphinx, so it could be more of a team effort, but considering the power the Sphinx had, it's reasonable that the others couldn't do much. Mahmud Asrar is on the pencils, and does a solid job. There was one page where the Sphinx spans two panels, and I thought maybe that was something that could have been played with more often, considering the powers at the Sphinx' disposal. Attacks not necessarily coming in a linear fashion, like what Chris Bachalo did in the Mayan Death God story he drew in Amazing Spider-Man in 2008. That was really cool. It's not something that needed to happen, just a thought.

That's it for my new comics. Amongst today's selections, let's give Nova my Happy Ending Award, and Avengers vs. Atlas the I Love Fights and Sad Iron Man Award. Girl Comics is Promising, but Needed More Pages, and Deadpool and Marvel Boy are co-winners of Why Did I Buy This? I might need to turn that into a weekly feature. The awards will change depending on what the books provide, naturally, but the concept would remain the same.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What I Bought 3/29/2010 - Part 1

I'll break this down the simple way. DC stuff today, Marvel stuff tomorrow. It's 4 books to 5, so it's basically even. Sound good? Fantastic.

Batgirl #8 - Does Tim look old on the cover? Awful lot of lines on his face. Maybe it's the teeth-gritting.

Red Robin surprises Steph in the Batcave. He's not happy to see her in a costume, and acts bossy, Steph gets defensive, and then the computer says someone is breaking into Dr. Thompkins' clinic, so off they go. Separately. Where did Grayson and Damien set up shop? Ra's is up to something, so Tim and Steph borrow some clothes from a store to infiltrate the party Leslie is at, and try to extract her before things go wrong. No dice. Credit to Steph for taking the dress heels off before she and Tim beat up assassins. There's a sort of reconciliation starting between Steph and Tim, interrupted by a "Pru" who Tim knows. How they know each other is not mentioned. It is covered in Red Robin #10, which we'll get to in a couple of paragraphs.

There's some things I want to discuss, but most of them revolve around the Tim/Stephanie relationship, and they're better saved for a post of their own. As someone who knows the past history, I'm not a proper judge, but Miller did a good job providing the gist of their relationship, as well as the things that came between them. Since the issue is written from Batgirl's (it's odd to think of her as Batgirl) perspective we're not only aware of her pain, but her awareness of how she screwed up and how she's struggling not to let this fall into old patterns. We don't get that with Tim, at least not in this comic, so mostly we see that he's hurting, but he's also kind of a jerk.

Talent Caldwell's the guest penciler and things are a little rough, as I think Caldwell could use an inker. Or he could stand to ink his own work more heavily, as things look unfinished in places. Mostly faces, and not always. Yvel Guichet and John Stanisci handle the end sequence, and their work is also a bit rough. The lines are heavier, but I'm not sure it's helping. Batgirl's pupils vanish in one panel, but only one panel, the why is unclear.

Red Robin #10 - Ra's learns his assassins couldn't kill Dr. Thompkins. So he sends some of them after Tim. We learn Pru is with the League of Assassins, worked with Tim, and is here to kill Steph. Or not. Batgirl kicked her butt either away, so who cares why she was there? Tim cops to making mistakes, asks for Steph's help. Hooray, possible reconciliation is go! If they survive all the assassins. Also, Vicki Vale is looking for Tim and pestering Alfred, and Ra's is making Hush get him all Bruce Wayne's stuff.

OK, first question, was that Katana Ra's goons had beat up in Hush/Wayne's place? he called her an outsider, but I don't know if that's sort of a "general, loner" outsider, or "member of the Outsiders", outsider. This issue is written from Tim's perspective, so we get to see what he feels guilty about, the mistakes he knows made and so on. So the books work well in tandem that way, though Tim's regrets circle around not convincing Stephanie to give up the costume at the start as much as anything else. Right, because her mom, dad, Batman, Cassandra Cain, and the Birds of Prey couldn't accomplish that, but he would have. *rolls eyes*

I like Marcus To's artwork. It has that clean but detailed linework I enjoy, and his Tim isn't quite as big and bulky as Caldwell's, which works since I never figured Tim for being a linebacker. Also, Tim and Steph are more similar in size here, which I'm accustomed to. I'm not so fond of the designs for the assassins. They're kind of dorky-looking, but maybe it's hard to find good assassins these days.

Power Girl #10 - According to the cover, men and women alike check out Power Girl's rear end! Look at the people on either side behind her. Gotta love the cockiness the kid is exuding there. I take that back. I'd actually like to clean his clock, by which I mean wipe my muddy boots on his Green Lantern shirt. What, that's too cruel? Fine, how about a punch in the nose?

Terra threatens to go '90s on Satanna unless she tells Terra how to get the doohickey off Power Girl. Title character saved, they head back to Peej's apartment, where she is confronted by the twerp, who blackmails her over the photos. Power Girl agrees, and that is how she winds up at a comic book store, helping the kid look awesome in front of the other comic buyers. Then Terra starts defending villainous activities, Manhawks show up, and it turns out Ultra-Humanite's inside Terra's body. OK then.

First off, did anybody see Terra/Humanite eating a banana in this issue? Power Girl said it was that and the bad behavior that gave it away, and I figure she's making a witty comment, but with Amanda Conner you never know, she might draw Terra eating a banana in the back of a panel, but I didn't see it, but I could just be missing it, so I thought I'd ask you. Besides that, I'm wondering how Power Girl will manage to resolve this situation. Is she still going to want to help the Ultra-Humanite, now that he does know all about her secret identity and could wreak havoc anytime he chooses?

Secret Six #19 - Black Alice infiltrates a Brother Blood cult looking for someone. She's about to die when Ragdoll charges in and kills a bunch of people, followed by most of the rest of the team, except Bane, who is being annoyed by the lack of discipline. They learn about the kid, worry about the growing whatever between Alice and Ragdoll, and leave to receive their payment. Which they don't receive, because the creepy old rich guy is up to something. Chesire has been attacked, and beat up by three oddballs, who took her (and Catman's) son. For some reason, they want Catman to kill his teammates, and the kid will live for one year in exchange.

I don't know what to say about the issue. There are many things to discuss, but they need their own space. Oh, I was surprised to see some members of the team have stealthy black variants of their costumes. Especially Ragdoll and Deadshot. I'd think Ragdoll would find them drab, and Deadshot wouldn't care if his costume stood out. I like the banter between the team, as usual, and strangely, that Scandal wears a sort of business attire to collect their payment. It's professional. The other thing I'm wondering, after the revelation of last issue, is how does Waller factor into what's happening here. Does she factor in at all, and if not, would she attack to protect her unsuspecting pawns? Probably not.

Tomorrow, various Marvel comics from March!

Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm Almost Ready To Review Some Comics

I did pick up my comics today, but I'll start discussing them tomorrow. I'd like at least a day to digest them, and at this point, how much difference does one more day make, really?

I watched two more of those Westerns last night, both less than 70 minutes. Neither one really stuck with me the way To the Last Man or Boot Hill did. With Song for Arizona, I couldn't believe that Roy Rogers doesn't even play a role in the film. He's just, Roy Rogers, singing cowboy.

Winds of the Wasteland was a little more interesting, though very short (55 minutes), about two former Pony Express riders trying to start up a successful carriage line, which pits them against an already established carriage line mogul. Once again, the honorable heroes must persevere against the dirty tricks of the fat cat businessman. Of course the heroes succeed, one of them is John Wayne. However, since this movie's from the mid-1930s, he's not JOHN WAYNE yet, so he isn't the commanding presence he was later. Part of that might be it's still early in his career and he's learning, but also, I think the camera isn't being used to make him seem larger. The sound quality doesn't help, either, as his voice doesn't seem to have as much power. It's a different experience from the Wayne movies I'm more familiar with, but it wasn't a bad thing.

One thing the movies had in common was the use of skunks for humor. I feel that's something you don't see as much in movies these days, people freaking out when they see a skunk, because holy crap, it's going to make them smell really bad. Yes, it just might if you rile it, so perhaps screaming and running around in a panic isn't the best strategy. I can't guarantee I'd be Joe Cool if confronted with a skunk, but unless it starts making aggressive moves like scratching the ground or raising its tail or hind legs, you're probably fine if you back slowly away.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Talking About Westerns I Had Never Heard Of

Last weekend, among other cheap DVDs, I picked up a collection of 20 Westerns for 5 bucks. Seemed like a good deal, and since I've started to watch them the last two days, I might as well talk a bit about them.

Problem is, I don't have much to say about the first movie, Powder Keg. I think it was made for TV, and it feels more like an episode of the A-Team than a Western. Being set in 1914, and having the heroes ride into town in a car, rather than on horseback might have something to do with it. Hey, it's a swell car, but they look kind of ridiculous with the goggles, scarves, those driving caps, and long coats, I presume to keep dust off their clothes.

So let's move on to Boot Hill, or La collina degli stivali, as I guess it's known in Italy. Giuseppe Colizzi's the writer and director, and the movie reminds me a bit of Leone's work, at least as far as the numerous close-ups on people's faces and hands, especially when those hands are holding firearms. There's also a tendency for the the man doing the shooting to not be in the same shot as the target. A man is nearly hit, but we never see the shooter until after the near-miss. It's a nice way to ratchet up tension, because it feels as though death will always come from whatever direction you (or the camera) aren't looking, and a body can't look in all directions simultaneously.

It takes a long time to establish what's actually going on. Early in the film, a man (played by Terence Hill) tries to escape from a town, pursued by many shadowy gunmen. Though he's wounded, he manages to stow away with a traveling circus, and thanks to a trapeze artist named Thomas (Woody Strode), he survives. I'd say the movie is over halfway done before we learn why Hill is being pursued. It ends up working fairly well, because at that point, my expectation was he and Thomas would be attacking the shadowy gunmen for killing one of Thomas' fellow trapeze artists, but the truth is a much bigger problem. It's a similar problem to the one presented in Pale Rider, with the rich guy using his wealth to hire people to intimidate the poor prospectors, or otherwise make their lives difficult. So perhaps both films are drawing from Shane, only Boot Hill has salvation come with a traveling circus, rather than a preacher or hired farmhand.

There are some odd combinations of music and shots in the film. Cheery circus music over a huge brawl between the heroes and the villains, or the opening scene which cuts between dirty, sweaty fellows playing heated games of poker and craps, and scenes of dirty, sweaty fellows dancing and having a good time. I would say I was more interested in some of the shots Colizzi used, and the use of music, than in the plot, but the story did have its moments.

OK, before we hit this last film, To the Last Man I need you to remove your hats, and place them over your hearts, because this one stars. . . Randolph Scott.

Heavenly chorus: Randolph Scott!

Thank you for observing the customs established by Blazing Saddles. The film starts after the conclusion of the Civil War, as Mark Hayden (Egon Brecher) returns to his Kentucky home. he doesn't plan to stay long, though, as he's going west with his children (I think his wife is deceased). There's a problem, a feud between his family (or his wife's) and the Colby clan, and before he can get home, Grandpa Spelvin is killed by Jed Colby, who is seeking revenge for Spelvin killing his father. Tradition demands Mark go kill Jed, but he's having none of it, having seen too much killing in the war. He goes to the authorities, who are clearly confused by his desire for them to deal with this. The judge doesn't sentence Colby to death, just 15 years in prison for murder*. Hayden continues west with all his kids except Lynn, who stays behind to care for Granny Spelvin**.

I thought it would be one of Jed's kids who would continue the feud, because I figured the odds a man would survive 15 years in a mid-19th century prison were poor. I either underestimated the condition of the prison, or simply forgot how movies work. Colby survives, and his cellmate Jim Daggs (who had been released a few months earlier) has located Hayden. The two of them and Colby's daughter Ellen head west to start the feuding once more. Colby has his men start stealing horses, a few at a time, to drag out Hayden's suffering, against Daggs' suggestions they just take everything. After a year of this, Granny's died, so Lynn (Scott) comes west. Naturally he runs into Ellen***, and there's an attraction, until they share their last names****. Daggs wants to marry Ellen, though neither she nor her father think much of that idea. Daggs starts making plans.

Colby keeps escalating things, and Mark keeps refusing to respond, until someone dies. Here's where the movie gets strange, many spoilers follow. One of Hayden's sons is now dead, her widow berates Mark for continuously refusing to go kill Colby, so finally, Mark succumbs to peer pressure, and takes his rifle into town to get Colby. He sees him, raises the rifle. . . and Colby shoots him first. I wanted the rifle to be empty, so Colby would be guilty of killing a man who couldn't shoot back. Surely that, plus killing Bill Hayden would be enough for a hanging. That's not how it plays out, so I suppose the gun was loaded. The rest of the Haydens ride in, and the Colbys lead them into an explosive trap. Flushed with success, Daggs kills Jed Colby, and rides home to tell Ellen they should marry. Except Lynn survived the rockslide and somehow made it there first (despite staggering there and collapsing on the porch). Ellen hides him, then has to try and protect him from Jack when he discovers Lynn. Lynn deals with Daggs by rolling out of the loft while holding his knife, and stabbing Daggs as he falls on top of him. The next shot is of a photo being developed, and surprise, it's Lynn and Ellen's wedding picture. End flick.

It's a ridiculously abrupt shift. Near as I can tell, all the other Haydens (and their ranch hands) are dead. Jed Colby is dead, I have no idea if his men were caught in the rockslide, or if they survived. Mark Hayden finally did what everyone wanted, and it got him killed. No time is spent on any of this, and it isn't as though the movie was long, it's 70 minutes. They say people today have short attention spans. What, were the filmmakers worried people would be losing interest, so better hurry up and end it? It's 1933, I'm sure people were dying for the film to end so they could leave the theater and remember they were in the middle of a depression.

Sarcasm aside, I was surprised by my reaction to the movie. Normally, I have no issue with vigilante actions in my entertainment (obviously, I read superhero comics). Still, I was deeply impressed by Mark Hayden, who kept refusing to go that route. He saw it would solve nothing, his killing Jed would only force one of Jed's kids to come kill him, and the his kids would have to go kill Colby offspring, and that's just stupid. It's rough to see how much grief he takes for the decision. Granny Spelvin, Molly Hayden, his sons and son-in-law, Jed Colby*****, even the authorities and the judge in Kentucky seemed disappointed that Mark would bring this to them rather than deal with it himself. I was disappointed when he finally decided he had to go kill Jed Colby, to the point I can't decide whether I'm glad he failed or not.

It's interesting that Hayden shows the effect of time passing, but Jed looks roughly the same after he leaves prison, as he did before (he might be a little cleaner after). Hayden looks more wrinkled, more drawn, so perhaps he's supposed to be haunted by not taking action all those years ago. Or the scorn he feels from others wears on him. Or maybe it's simply that building a ranch from scratch is harder on a person than being in prison. I don't buy that last one myself.

The two families find peace, but only when the two remaining members get hitched. Everyone else, including the one member of the two sides that refused to feud for so long, dies. It suggests Mark was right, revenge killing is the wrong approach, but the characters keep treating him as though he's done wrong, including the one member of his family who survived. Lynn wasn't as aggressive as his brother, but he was certainly more het up to get those Colbys than his father had been. When Mark finally does what everyone's been telling him to, he dies, and the ensuing battle gets several more people killed, which would also support the idea than taking the law into your own hands is a mistake. Except the battle also kills off the two people doing the most to keep the feud going, Jed Colby and Daggs, and that probably wouldn't have happened without Mark Hayden finally taking action. As long as they live, things would have kept going, so I don't know what to make of it.

* Upon hearing this Colby, replies 'Murder? It was just feudin'.'

** I assume Granny didn't want to leave her home, which is a blessing for Mark. She was pissed he wouldn't kill Jed, so if she'd come along, he'd have likely heard about it for the rest of her life. Sixteen years of an old person bitching at you would not be pleasant.

*** When Lynn arrives at the Hayden ranch, and mentions he met Ellen, his brother Bill retorts, 'She's white trash'. His wife scolds him for that, but I was struck by the phrase. I wasn't aware it existed in the 1930s, let alone the 1880s. Maybe it didn't exist in the 1880s, but it obviously did in the '30s. I figured it was more recent, maybe from the '60s, or '80s.

**** Lynn tries to explain there's no reason they have to be enemies, and Ellen spits back that Lynn's dad had hers locked up for 15 years. I think the proper response would have been to point out at least her pop is still alive. If Mark had settled things as everyone else wished, her dad would be dead. Period.

***** Who really ought to be grateful he's alive, but never considers that he's living in the West, with a ranch, his daughter, and that he actually has people who work for him, and that's better than possibly being dead at Mark Hayden's hands.
He can't get past the stupid feud, not even long enough to realize Daggs is a much greater problem than Hayden.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Things Never Quite Work Out As I'd Like

I can't think of anything in particular to post about. This is what happens when it's been four weeks since I've received comics. Right now, they're sitting at the post office, but since they arrived on Saturday, it was naturally closed long before the note telling me I had a package even reached the mailbox.

I wonder sometimes how the honchos at Marvel and DC decide who is assigned to a particular project. If nobody stumps for it, or pitched it themselves, how do they decide who to give it to? I'm looking at the solicit for the Thanos Imperative mini-series, and Abnett and Lanning are writing it, that's fine, works for me, but the artist is Miguel Sepulveda, whose work on last December's issue of Thunderbolts I was not particularly fond of. Some of that was the coloring, which was muddy and dark, and while that's fitting for a nighttime battle in a swamp, I don't think it did the art any favors. Things still felt flat, and the battles felt posed, rather than giving off any strong sense of motion. Going off that, I wonder if Sepulveda's the right artist for a big cosmic hootenanny.

Why not Andrea DiVito? She drew Annihilation and did a fine job. She's been working on Nova over the last year, but hasn't drawn an issue of that since January. Or Wellinton Alves, who drew Nova the year prior to DiVito's coming on the book? The last thing I know for sure he drew was War of Kings: Ascension, which was last summer. I know they can't use Paul Pelletier because he was gobbled up by the Hulk books (damn those Hulk books, they don't deserve good artists!), but it feels as though Marvel's cosmic titles have had a certain circle of artists they use, some more often than others, but with all the ones they might choose from, why go with someone else. Are all the others occupied on projects that haven't been solicited yet?

Oh well, Sepulveda drawing Thanos Imperative is like Winick taking over writing Power Girl: I really hope it works out well. I want to open the book and say 'Damn, Sepulveda/Winick's knocking it out of the park on this!', but it dampens my enthusiasm, at least a little.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Times Change, Do People?

Greg Bear's Eon was published in 1985, which probably explains why the plot starts with considerable tension between the U.S. and Soviets, even though it takes place in 2005. There's already been a little nuclear exchange, which destroyed Kiev and Atlanta, among other places*. Into this comes The Stone (or the Potato, if you're Russian), an asteroid which had been moving through the Solar System for years, and basically parked itself in orbit around the Earth. Scientists from allover the world are now inside, examining the cities and technology, but since the U.S. reached it first, they're running the show, and subsequently excluding most of the other nations from the coolest stuff (especially the libraries in the 2nd and 3rd chambers, and the kind of staggering 7th chamber). This causes tension. Patricia Vazquez is the newest addition to the science team, and her primary focus is to figure out what's going on in the 7th chamber, and what it all means. There's also something of deadline, as the library has revealed some troubling things.

The book shifts in perspective from character to character. Some characters as the focal point more often, such as Vazquez, her boss Gerry Lanier, or a Russian soldier named Mirsky**, but there are at least 8-10 characters we ride along with over the course of the book. With the characters who receive more attention, Bear does a fair job helping us get to know them. I couldn't tell you their hobbies, but I have a distinct idea what the Stone means to each of them. There are several times Bear loses me with the science speak, talking about geometry stacks or relativistic speeds, and even how things are laid out inside the Stone isn't always that clear. The key thing is, even if the specifics lose me, the generalities come through. Sometimes that's due to one of the characters needing it dumbed down for them, other times, it's simply Bear's narration simplifying what the characters were describing.

The book ends in a way as to suggest as sequel, which I think the library here also has a copy of. I'm somewhat curious what direction that book would take. There's the possibility of one character trying desperately to find what they think they need, or it could focus on the problems on Earth that were hinted at by the ending, or the problems Axis City will likely face down the Way.

About the conflict on Earth. The new arrivals are trying to force the Earthlings to undergo Talsit meditation. It's a process designed to help someone move past their troubles, be it anger, fear depression, mental defects, whatever other destructive impulses a person might have. The idea is, this process will keep the Earthlings from repeating their past mistakes, because they'll be in a state of mind beyond the one they were in when all those irrational things governed them. I'm not sure I buy it. These new arrivals have access to Talsit meditation, but they still couldn't work things out with the Jarts. And when the Jarts decided to open a gate inside a star, thus flooding the Way with plasma in an attempt to exterminate the inhabitants of Axis City, half the inhabitants decided to settle on Earth. The other half took their part of the city, cranked it up to light speed, and went through the plasma energy, wiping out all the gates the Jarts had, as well as any Jart settlements along the Way. Yes, it seems Talsit meditation did wonders for getting those folks past baser impulses, because otherwise, I'd think that was at least a little revenge motivated. I'm sure the Axis Citians would justify some way or the other, "The Jarts started it!" or "We created the Way, and they shouldn't be here anyway!" or something, but it still reeks of overdoing it. Maybe I just can't buy the assertion in the book that the Jarts simply can't be negotiated with, as that seems to excuse any actions by Axis City. We never see any negotiations, so we have to take their word that they haven't done anything that provoked the Jarts to the point they open a gate inside a star.

I was a little disappointed with the direction the book took. I was hoping to see more of a focus on the two antagonistic sides realizing they were now in the same boat and trying to work together, with various successes and failures along the way. The story went in that direction for a little bit, then shifted focus to this problem with the Jarts, as well as Patricia and what she's after in all this. Where the book ended up going wasn't so bad, but it lacked impact with me. Part of the problem is that I didn't feel much connection with Patricia, or many of the major characters, except Mirsky. It was difficult for me to care much about what happened to them.

* Each superpower's anti-nuke defenses were concentrated elsewhere.

** Mirsky's my favorite character, especially after some of what he experiences leads him to wonder if he's even still alive, and what that does to him.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Subconscious Needs To Stop Teasing Me

You ever have dreams where you see or hear something that seems really intriguing? Like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer needs money, and he has a dream where he invented some revolutionary device that would make him millions, but he never gets a chance to see what it is, or what it does.

Last night, among other things, I dreamt I was reading a post discussing something about changes in writing in comics from the '80s to now. In the post, there was a graphic novel used as an example of the older style called Domino: Heart of Arclight, with a cover that looked drawn by Tim Sale*.

I have no idea what the story was about, though the gist of the post's text suggests it was a typical sort of '80s story, with a focus on current issues, but not handled in a particularly subtle manner**. Still, I want to know. If I had somehow managed to make the image on the screen into a tangible copy and opened it, what would it have been about? A love story? A tale of morality, difficulties in choosing between good and evil (since Arclight was a member of Mr. Sinister's Marauders back in the day)? Maybe it would be a quest story. I really have no idea, but it's frustrating.

There was a dream a couple of weeks ago where at the end Alex and I were watching a musical with his parents, and I think the song may have been something I came up with. It wasn't great (not much lyrical variety, as I recall), but better than I'd expect for someone as tone deaf as myself. How about you?

* Doesn't make much sense, as Domino didn't exist until the '90s, and I just now learned by looking it up that Tim Sale was drawing comics in the '80s. As far as I know that I knew, he started in the '90s. The reason I think it was him was the style for Domino's face reminded me of some work of his I saw in Spider-Man: Blue.

** From which I infer my subconscious thinks such things are discussed with more depth and less broad strokes today. I'm not sure my subconscious is right in its assessment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'll Answer These Questions, You'll Read The Answers, We'll Call It A Day

I'm very disappointed in myself, misspelling "common" in the title of yesterday's post. So sloppy.

I saw this at Sunset Over Slawit, and I'm running a little low on inspiration today, so here we are.

1) Are you currently in a serious relationship?

Well, my car and I are approaching our 75,000 mile anniversary, if that counts.

2) What was your dream growing up?

To play shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals.

3) What talent do you wish you had?

Assuming spider-powers are off the board, I'll stick with my answer to last week's hypothetical: dancing.

4) If I bought you a drink, what would it be?

Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, most likely. I am the eternal designated driver, aided by the fact I've yet to meet an alcoholic beverage I didn't think tasted terrible.

5) Favorite vegetable?

See, now I'm confused. That Manwich commercial says corn is a grain, but two online sources say it's a veggie. Whatever, I'll stick with potatoes.

6) What was the last book you read?

The Forgotten War, by Hermann Joseph Hiery, which I discussed March 12th. I'm working my way through Greg Bear's Eon right now.

7) What zodiac sign are you?


8) Any tattoos and/or piercings?

No. I hate needles.

9) Worst habit?

Some combination of my impatience, my temper, and my profanity. Manifests most commonly while driving, as I become quickly annoyed by other drivers, curse about it, then get over it, all in about ten seconds.

10) If you saw me walking down the street, would you offer me a ride?

I'm guessing I don't know you, or don't like you if I do, so no.

11) What is your favorite sport?

To watch, American football, preferably professional. To play, basketball.

12) Do you have a pessimistic or optimistic attitude?

I'm very much of the "hope for the best, expect the worst" school, so you tell me.

13) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?

I'd sit in one corner, and ignore you as much as possible.

14) Worst thing to ever happen to you?

So far, either sliding down the hill into that fence with the nails sticking out, or the car accident.

15) Tell me one weird fact about you.

When I talk to myself, I sometimes can't remember or decide what word I want to say next. In those cases, the first word to come out will always be "thirteen", regardless of the fact it rarely has any connection to whatever I was sorting out.

16) Do you have any pets?

Only when I look after my father's many, many dogs.

17) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?

If we're still assuming I don't know you, or dislike you if I do know you, I wouldn't open the door, as I'd figure you either want to sell magazines, or talk to me about Jesus.

18) What was your first impression of me?

That you like to ask questions.

19) Do you think clowns are cute or scary?

Scary. Which makes me sad, because they only wanted to entertain.

20) If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be?

Something to do with my hair, besides having more of it, I mean. Maybe a different color, or it being more curly? Or maybe go shorter. Hell, I don't know. Changing one thing isn't nearly enough.

21) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?

If my friendship with Alex is any indication, I'd be the wet blanket, trying to talk you out of world domination.

22) What color eyes do you have?

Blue-green. More blue to the edges, a hint of yellow or hazel towards the center.

23) Ever been arrested?

No. I'm the wet blanket, or the Straight Edge as I explained to Alex' other friends. It sounds cooler than wet blanket.

24) Bottle or can soda?

Either. Both. I don't care, just gimme it!

25) If you won $100,000 today, what would you do with it?

Buy some DJ equipment for Alex, buy some books and DVDs for myself, find someone to finish building the fence around my dad's property (he's sure as hell never going to finish it), buy a place for my mom in the desert, throw whatever's left in the bank.

26) What's your favorite place to hang out at?

My room. Though any place that's quiet, relatively clean, and not bug-infested would suffice.

27) Do you believe in ghosts?

Sure, why not?

28) Favorite thing to do in your spare time?

Maintain this blog, I suppose. Or walk.

29) Do you swear a lot?

Not when I'm around people who wouldn't approve. The rest of the time, more than I'd like.

30) Biggest pet peeve?

Minivans. Nothing good ever happens to me when minivans are around. That or the elderly, especially when they're driving.

31) In one word, how would you describe yourself?


32) Do you believe/appreciate romance?


33) Do you believe in God?

Sure, why not?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What They Have In Comoon Is They're All Lousy

Movies! With movies comes much griping about said movies. I think the cheap movies I purchased would have been better (I know for a fact Smokey and the Bandit would have been), but we never got around to watching them. I'll just watch them by myself some time. These movies we're discussing today, I'll be spoiling parts of them. You're welcome.

Wrong Turn 3 - 4 college kids go kayaking down a river. Three are killed five minutes into the movie by a hillbilly freak, who is also a cannibal. A prison is transferring several convicts, and fearing one of the prisoner's soldiers will attempt to free him, has changed the route, sending the transport bus through the same patch of wilderness. One of the guards happens to be from the area, and knows the sheriff. The transport crashes off the road, the cons gain the upper hand, then start getting picked off one at a time, as tends to happen in these situations. They run across the surviving college kid, and also find an armored truck (which has been there for decades) and the con giving the orders decides escaping wasn't hard enough already, everyone must carry bags of money. The sheriff hauls his fat ass out there to help, as does his perky young deputy. The guard from the area generally proves incompetent at finding his way around, and the Hispanic fellow giving orders keeps butting heads with the white supremacist he's sort of business partners with. There's also a whiny ginger car thief, an undercover U.S. Marshall, and a guy protesting he's innocent of the murder he was convicted of. Most of these people, and a few others, die. No one dies pretty.

Eddie told me it's established in this series that the mutant hillbillies can regenerate, so they essentially have to be blown up to be killed. It sounds more like something viewers of the films came up with to explain it themselves, but maybe it is canon. My problem with that is likely a symptom of my larger inability to suspend disbelief. I found some of the deaths improbable, the level of skill the killer demonstrated out of whack with what I figured its intelligence to be. The idea he/it's a cannibal because all the animals are already eaten struck me as ridiculous. People with head starts continually run into the people they were fleeing, because those people have somehow gotten ahead of them. Considering those people are weighed down with bags of money, or are injured, or shouldn't have any idea where the hell they're going, it makes no sense they somehow got ahead of the people they were pursuing. Of course, firearms have ammunition until the precise moment they would actually do some good, at which point they run dry.

This is not a good movie, but that's not usually an impediment. I enjoyed the first Wrong Turn a bit, though the enjoyment can be summed up in two words*. I'm less interested in movies that's primary gift to the audience seems to be gore than I was when I was younger. This is where I seem to differ from Sheena and Eddie, and Alex as well. An arrow going through the back of someone's skull and out through their eye socket, the eye on the tip of the arrow, until the cannibal pulls it off and eats it, does nothing but make me wish I was watching something else. There were a couple of parts I liked. The white supremacist steals all the money bags, then is hit with a Molotov cocktail. He's sees his former business partner (who beat him to a bloody pulp earlier) coming, and decides if he's going, he'll take the money with him, and makes sure the fire consuming him takes all the cash as well. That was funny. The car thief was instantly annoying, so I was worried he'd somehow survive, but he didn't. Even there, the death was more unpleasant than I'd prefer. I just wanted him to no longer be an active presence in the movie. Being wrapped in barb wire and dragged on the highway was a bit much. A simple bullet to the head would have sufficed.

Funny Games - I can't review this, because I gave up watching it after 30 minutes, opting first to watch Alex' computer run a virus scan, then go to another room and watch something else. Then Sheena and Eddie lost interest and went to bed, and Alex suggested we could do something else when I came back**. He did confirm my fear about the ending, so I was glad I didn't finish watching it. As far as I watched, a family comes to their lovely summer home, and are immediately annoyed by a couple of young men staying with a neighbor. The young men ask to borrow eggs, then keep dropping them for various reasons, drop Naomi Watts' phone in the sink, and ask to borrow her golf clubs, just one swing please. Of course, they are actually psychopaths, who want to play horrible torture mind games with the family before they kill them. Then they'll go to another fancy summer house and start all over again.

I think it was by design, but I found Peter and Paul irritating. Their manner of speaking, to be unfailingly polite and a little pathetic, but at the same time, resolute to get whatever it was they wanted. They just keep politely pleading for you to please let them have those last four eggs, and I know it means you won't have any more, and I know I already dropped eight eggs, because I'm trying to appear to be a moron when really I'm just fucking with you, but really, couldn't you please just let me have those last four eggs? Shoot me. Also, they look like wusses. Naomi Watts keeps asking them to leave, then asking her husband to tell them to leave, and I'm thinking she could probably kick both their asses, and throw them out on their ears. She should have done it. I would have been entertained.

According to Alex, the family dies at the end, and the boys use their sailboat to travel across the lake to torment a family that stopped by briefly earlier in the movie. So they commit horrible acts and escape. If that's how a movie is going to end, with the killers receiving no comeuppance, it better make them a damn sight more interesting than these two were. Pierce Brosnan in The Matador, for example. He was a hitman, and at the end of the movie, had found a renewed zest for his work, and I didn't mind that he hadn't died for what he did. Because he was a character I found something to like in.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li - What can I say, it was a slow afternoon. I wasn't planning to watch this until I saw Michael Clarke Duncan was in it, playing Balrog***. So I was faced with the possibility he'd fight Chun-Li, played by Kristin Kreuk, and since she's the hero, he'd lose. I was eagerly awaiting this, as I wanted to see whether I would find this defeat more plausible or less than the one he suffered at the hands of Ben Affleck**** in Daredevil. Sadly, it did not come to pass, as Duncan was defeated by Robin Shou, who played Chun-Li's mentor Gen. Also, he played Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat movies, so Michael Clarke Duncan losing to him doesn't inspire much disbelief.

Hmm, I don't have anything else to say about the movie. I only caught the end of Monsters vs. Aliens, so I'll just say what I saw I liked, and I'll probably make a point to watch the whole movie some point in the near future*****.

* The two words being, Eliza Dushku.

** We opted to play Rock Band 2.

*** Looking online, it says he was M. Bison in the Japanese version of the film. Works better than Neal McDonough as Bison did. McDonough looked like Bison's accountant.

**** I Affleck wins after he manages to get water flying all over the place, taking away Duncan's vision, but somehow I could still picture Affleck hitting Duncan as hard as he could, even those shots at the knees, which was a pretty smart idea, and Duncan being unfazed by all of it.

***** I was planning to do just that later that night when they showed it again, but everyone else wanted to go to Buffalo Wild Wings, so I missed my opportunity.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Like A Rubber Ball, I've Bounced Back To You

Thanks to the folks who answered last week's hypothetical. Now I'm reconsidering my choice. An excellent singing voice is tempting.

As usual, I'm tired. I only manage to adjust to Alex' schedule for fun to the extent of staying up until 3 AM. I can't seem to master the "sleep 'til 11 AM" part. What's done is done, but what was done?

I had fish tacos for the first time, and they were excellent. Played Rock Band 2, and was able to do enough as vocalist to avoid wrecking the song for the other players. This usually involved me humming the song, except for the rare occasions where I knew the words. Apparently, i can't read the lyrics off the screen while simultaneously singing them in proper key.

Alex continued to kick my butt on Wii Sports Bowling, but I'm able to return the favor on Golf, so it all evens out. He laughs at me letting go of the ball too soon four times in a row, I laugh at his continual missing of putts from all distances.

We tried developed roughly five variants on the exploding respect knuckles, including "Vroom, Vroom, I just bought new tires", and "That Attractive Lady Made The Crappy Movie More Bearable" Respect Knuckles.

Played a game, the name of which I forget, where one tries to get their partner to guess a phrase before time runs out, so you can pass the device to the other team, and the team with the device when time runs out loses. Through this game learned a relative of Alex' does not know what state Indianapolis is in. They were trying to get me to guess "Minnesota Vikings", and told me the state was where one finds Indianapolis. They're 24.

Berated by Alex' neighbor, after the two of them made salsa, for picking up a chip and eating it without salsa. Then berated for not putting enough salsa on when I did dip. Was not sorry when neighbor went back to his apartment to most likely drink alone in the dark.

Watched some movies, which I'll discuss tomorrow. I can't say any of them were good offhand. Monsters vs. Aliens probably was, but I only caught the last 40 minutes or so. Saturday morning, stumbled across Turtles Forever, that TV movie where the Ninja Turtles from the more recent series team-up with the ones from the late 80s (early 90s) series. Didn't not remember the Shredder from the old series being so Cobra Commander like, and not in a good way. Blithering, whiny incompetent.

Laughed heartily when Alex's sister's cat made it outside, only to be frightened so badly by the hundreds of blackbirds in the trees (which all began squawking loudly when they saw it) that it tried to climb the screen door to get away.

Other than the lack of sleep, and the cold, gray weather on Saturday and Sunday, had an excellent time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Again With The Pointless Questions

I'll be off visiting friends starting just as soon as I can tomorrow, so more than likely, there will be no posting until Monday. I'll leave you to ponder this, a question I posed to Alex in response to a question of his (which I posed to you last December).

If you had a choice between being a fabulous dancer and a horrible singer, or a fabulous singer and a horrible dancer, which would you choose? When I say "fabulous", you are possibly the best in the world. There's no dance you can't dance flawlessly, no song you can't sing perfectly. Your movements will draw appreciative glances from all around, your voice will make people fall to their knees and weep with joy.

Conversely, by "horrible", you are possibly the worst in the world. You have three left feet, all wearing right shoes with greased soles, and you're drunk. People will run screaming as if you were a starved Tasmanian Devil. Not only can you not hit the right note, you can't hit in the same area code as the right note. Babies will sharpen their spoons in an attempt to gouge out their ears.

OK, I'm overstating it. You'll be really good at one, and really bad at the other. I'll leave it to you to explain how you're so magnificent at your choice. I went with being an excellent dancer. I figure I'm already a poor singer, but that doesn't stop me from singing along to my CDs in the car. So I would simply restrict my singing to moments when I'm alone. If I'm an excellent dancer, then my balance, flexibility, agility, and coordination are all considerably better than they are in real life, so that presumably would carryover into other parts of my life*. I suppose if my voice is that bad it precludes a life involving public speaking, but I don't consider that much of a loss.

I don't remember what Alex chose, if I remember to ask him, I'll add his answer to the post. In the meantime, you give it some thought, and let me know what you'd choose in the comments, and I'll probably talk to you on Monday.

* I probably wouldn't trip over rocks and tree limbs while tromping up and down hills as part of my job, for one thing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Power Girl Said She'd Like To Have More Friends To Hang Out With

I've been thinking, I'd like to see Power Girl and Dr. Mid-Nite (Pieter Cross) hang out in their civilian identities. Between Power Girl, 2008's Terra mini-series, and that JSA Classified arc, I've seen Power Girl interact with Dr. Mid-Nite more than just about any other crimefighter. Maybe that's because Amanda Conner likes to draw scenes of his owl doing amusing things, but let's assume for a minute that's not the only reason.

Admittedly, Cross seems more restrained than Power Girl, but that just means he's a gentleman. He was able to loosen up when he dated Black Canary*. Let's see, they're both pet owners, Mid-Nite's into yoga, Peej likes horror movies and snow globes. I don't really know anything else about him, except he attends church and some of the people he helped in Portsmouth serve as a sort of community watch/group of sidekicks for him.

If nothing else, as a medical man, Cross probably has some suggestions for things Power Girl's company could look into developing. I know that's not really where Starrware's interests lie, but creating more efficient or less resource-consuming medical equipment wouldn't hurt the old bottom line.

Maybe it would just be awkward, but if it could work, they'd have a different sort of friendship from what she has with Terra, where Power Girl's a sort of mentor, as well as friend. I'm guessing Cross is a little older than Karen, he'd see things differently from her or Terra, so he'd be a different perspective on her attempts to fit back into a civilian identity, or trying to be a solo hero, or whatever. Or they could, I don't know, go to an art gallery or something. Then again, he sees in thermal wavelengths, right? So maybe a concert would be a better idea. Ooh, or a fireworks show! Bright lights and loud noises that don't herald the latest convoluted attempt by shadowy villains to destroy the JSA!

* Question for you about that. Canary and Mid-Nite's relationship ended for reasons I don't know, but she wound up with Ollie again. Setting aside his recent turn towards murder for JUSTICE! did she trade up or trade down? I think trade down, if only because Ollie seems like such an overbearing ass, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Can't Help But Be Somewhat Bummed Out By This

Turns out Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner are leaving Power Girl after issue #12. This is not happy news. I haven't read anything which names the creative team yet, but fingers crossed, they can maintain the tone of the book. Or, failing that, their take will be equally entertaining, but in a different way.

Attempts at positive attitude aside, I'm still disappointed. Power Girl was one of three titles whose place on my pull list was completely secure* with its creative team. Every issue had something entertaining, whether it was a funny line, a some nice superheroics, or just the usual interesting backgrounds Conner would draw. It isn't one of the books that, when it arrives, I'm hopeful it'll be good, but worried I'll be bored or displeased with. I'm excited when Power Girl shows up.

I'm not giving up on the book, mind you. Well, if the creative team is composed of people whose work I have never enjoyed I might, but even then I'm inclined to give them a chance. I stayed with The Punisher for three issues post-Garth Ennis, and normally I wait to see how the first arc for the new team plays out before making a decision. Hopefully whoever the new folks are, I like what they do. I'd like to keep buying and enjoying the book for as long as I can.

* The other two being Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova. This assumes Snell was right - and I hope he is - and those titles are just taking May off as Abnett and Lanning gear up for their next cosmic hoedown.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Which Means Rip's Chalkboard Is From DC's Creative Summits

Booster Gold decides he wants to change how some event turned out in the DC Universe. Rip Hunter tells him he can't, it's necessary for that thing to happen because {insert reason}. Booster listens and lets things play out as they did. Or he changes things anyway, disaster ensues (witness his saving of Ted Kord).

That makes Rip Hunter one of DC's editors in disguise, right? He uses Booster to make sure events deemed important happen, and tells him not to mess with things that upset too many apple carts. Hank Henshaw has to become Cyborg Superman because it spurs on new heights of heroism means "The Superman writers need him for Reign of the Supermen, and Geoff Johns wanted to use him in Sinestro Corps War".

Or Rip could be a representation of how the title's various writers see editors. Similar to how Superboy-Prime can be considered an example of how DC views the fanboys. Which would mean they feel that DC's editors are level-headed, big picture people who don't like to shave. They have a certain amount of patience, but are prone to lecturing when trying to ground their charges' flights of fancy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Escalation Never Solves Anything

Satanna didn't think this whole "revenge on Power Girl" thing through very well, did she?

She's angry that Power Girl defeated Ultra-Humanite and carted him off to the authorities. So she hires Sivana to whip up some gizmos for her, and sets out to kill Power Girl.

OK, let's say she succeeds. She won't, but say she does. Either Terra didn't show up, or Satanna outmaneuvered her, or something. Power Girl is dead. What's that earned Satanna? Some dap from other villains? That and five bucks will get you a coffee.

Now she's going to have all the heroes breathing down her neck, out for revenge, and at least some of them will be willing to kill her right back. Certainly Terra seemed willing (or is an excellent bluffer), there's Magog to consider (I know it's painful to do so, but we don't have to consider him for long), Ray Palmer jumping on people's brains (not lethal, but unpleasant), Green Arrow killing people for JUSTICE!* and so on. What's she going to do about them? Claim Jean Loring paid her to do it?

This is the thing about evildoers, they never think. If they beat up the hero, maybe make them look bad, sure, the hero is still alive and after them, but said hero is only annoyed. That's less hazardous to a villain's health than a hero out for blood. This is why, if I were a villain**, I'd stick to using my powers for robbing banks, and jewelry stores and stuff. The heroes would probably be pretty nice, since I'm not endangering the lives of civilians or their loved ones. Yes, they're still going to punch me and throw me in jail, but it'll be a relatively gentle punching.

* Misspelled "justice'" there for a second. Considered leaving it, making joke Ollie was committed to a concept he can't even spell, which might explain why he was going about things in such a stupid manner. Decided it was funny enough to mention in a footnote, not funny enough for the main post.

** I'd probably start as a hero, but wind up saving Marvel Universe*** style citizenry, who would berate me for not also saving their car/hat/fruit cart, at which point I'd turn to evil. I'd rob banks, and make sure to smash fruit carts as I escaped (while being careful not to harm the fruit cart vendor, naturally).

** I know the solicits say that in the Heroic Age, the majority of the citizens will finally appreciate the heroes, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Forgotten War

Hermann Joseph Hiery's The Neglected War doesn't spend very much time actually discussing World War 1. That's largely because there isn't much to discuss, as far as the locale he's focusing on. The fighting's over quickly, but there's much to discuss in what comes after.

Hiery's interest is in what were, prior to WWI, Germany's Pacific colonies. German New Guinea, Micronesia, Samoa, Nauru. He looks at how the Germans went about their administration, and compares it to the policies and actions of Australia, New Zealand and Japan once they took the colonies away, both during the war and afterward. These sections also include discussion of how the various indigenous people responded to these people ordering them around, the differences they perceived between the imperialist powers, and the actions they took in response. He feels these are overlooked areas of history, with most historians plainly stating the new rulers just kept the German systems in place. Hiery wants to demonstrate that's categorically false.

The Germans didn't do too bad a job, and this seems related to the fact Germany attached only symbolic significance to its Pacific colonies. There was no major drive to economically develop the regions (outside of copra plantations), and they either lacked the military resources or the interest in defending it*. This meant there was little pressure to develop the land, and it wasn't a place for a man to conduct actions that launch a career up a ladder. The governors were doctors, lawyers, people who had studied philosophy, and more importantly, had learned from the debacle that was Germany's East African colonies, where there had been considerable violent resistance.

The Germans made sure their laws were clearly outlined, and consistently enforced, so the people they were governing had clear understandings of what was OK, and what wasn't. Exceptions were made for people from parts of the colonies the Germans hadn't set up administrative shop in yet, and so wouldn't know the laws yet. There was no doubt the Germans were in charge, but they made few attempts to remove normal cultural practices of the people they were in charge of. They included the heads of the villages in policy making and in the day-to-day aspects of running the colony (such as appointing a person in the village to collect all fines). They tried to provide decent medical coverage, to help the natives develop their own economic interestes, rather than have all big planters be Europeans**, and encouraged education, ultimately employing the various peoples in administrative positions in the government. In fact, Wilhelm Solf, governor of Samoa, had the schools teaching in Samoan, and encouraged the Europeans to attend the school so they could speak enough Samoan to get by, which surprised me. It's all still imperialism, but it's about the nicest imperialism I've heard of, if there is such a thing. Hiery points out the system wouldn't have lasted much longer, as the educated Samoans were starting to wonder why they couldn't run things perfectly well themselves, and the young Europeans were starting to question the current situation as well. The war ended up making the Germans look better to their subjects because it abruptly ended their rule, rather than it gradually falling apart on its own, with bad feelings on both sides.

Yes, each of the powers that took over took certain actions that produced nostalgia in the natives for the Germans. The various peoples forget (or gloss over) what the Germans did they disliked (flogging, plantation owners wanting more recruiting and land, the fact the Germans were still in charge and don't you forget it), focusing instead on what the current bosses were doing that irked them. The Aussies were troublesomely inconsistent, so it was difficult for the Melanesians to figure out what they could and couldn't do. One minute the Australian soldiers are eagerly sharing supplies, they next they're raping the women, without repercussion, or any apparent concern from the people at the top. The Aussies and New Zealanders both showed little interest in educating their new subjects, or in providing health care***. In fact, once they have German New Guinea, the Australians hardly seem to pay it any mind. It's expected to be self-sufficient, so no funding is coming its way, it's basically run by the company Burns Philp, and the primary function the government sees in it is as a shield against the Japanese, who the Australians are stone-cold terrified of. There's no oversight on the people in charge in the colony, and every authority figure in German New Guinea interprets laws however they wish. It's a cesspool of corruption and cruelty which rapidly falls apart. The Aussies quickly lose control outside pretty much anywhere outside the urban areas, such as Rabaul. Collecting taxes gets harder, unrest grows, it's not a happy place.

Japan is interested in developing Micronesia, and they set to it quickly, establishing telephone lines, hospitals, providing education, and generally getting the people to see the benefit of living under Japanese rule. They aren't too different from the Germans in that regard, except the Japanese are more forceful about it, and less concerned with preserving Micronesian culture and customs. That leads to conflict, because the Germans had been OK with most customs continuing, except for things like retributional violence between villages, since that increases unrest. The Japanese do seem to have had a plan to marry as many Micronesian women to Japanese men as they could with the idea of gradually making Micronesians Japanese, in physical appearance, as well as culture.

There's a lot of racism in this book, as you might expect. Being an American, maybe I shouldn't talk, considering our country's less-than-stellar record in race relations. The Australians and New Zealanders forbid indigenous people from wearing European fashions (after the Germans had encouraged it), going so far as to confiscate European articles of clothing, and the Aussies passed a law requiring natives to wear only loincloths. Have to maintain those barriers, make it clear there are differences. After the war, as the Allies decide who gets what, as you would expect, no one bothers to ask what the people in these lands want (and all the interested parties show up with letters supposedly from the natives, saying how much better they like being ruled by the Aussies/Japanese/New Zealanders than the Germans). The Samoans tried everything nonviolent they could think of to gain self-determination, or at least more say in how their island was run. The various Administrators don't listen, send petitions to the honchos in New Zealand. That didn't work, try appealing to the Prince of Wales, he seemed nice that time he visited. Nope, well maybe the League of Nations will listen. Sorry. The impressive bit is that they keep trying, and even as various leaders are shot or arrested, they stick to nonviolent resistance.

The book talks a lot about various policies enacted, and what the reasons were (if any), but Hiery always remembers to discuss the response of the natives to these policies, and when useful to compare it to reactions either to earlier policies from the same government, or to the Germans. he discusses the measures they took, like the Samoan efforts at self-determination I mentioned, or withdrawing from the society, which happened in German New Guinea, as people fled farther into the interior to escape recruiters, or the forms of dissent, sometimes strikes, sometimes violence, though the understanding seems to have been reached that violence never worked. it just got a lot of people killed, and the folks in charge didn't care, so that accomplished nothing. He also, at the end, talks about how being ruled over by the Australians, New Zealanders, and Japanese was a learning experience for the various peoples, because it showed them not all these people outside their islands were the same. An idea of what typical European behavior is, instead becomes typical German behavior, in contrast to typical Australian behavior.

I would have liked to learn a bit more about either German rule in East Africa, or the control Neuguinea Kompanie tried to exert prior to the government assuming control of the Pacific colonies. Hiery makes it clear things went wrong in both cases, and prompted the different approach the German governors took, but I'd have liked some more details, for comparison purposes. Were the Germans lousy like the Aussies, the Japanese, or an entirely different kind of terrible overlord?

The Neglected War can be frequently depressing, but there are also moments where I felt a lot of admiration for the determination different people showed, or the desires of some of the people in charge to actually do right by the people they'd been asked to govern. Also, it was interesting to see the different approaches and emphasis different nations put on having colonies. Are they for defense, for economic exploitation, or just for show? It's not a fast read, at least it wasn't for me, considering its length, but if you have any interest at all I think you'd enjoy it.

* Despite all the holdings being islands, Germany established zero naval bases among the colonies, kept no standing garrisons on the islands, no stores of ammunition, and didn't train the civilians in how to serve as an impromptu militia. Which is why the book spends so little time on fighting, because there was hardly any. Only German new Guinea mounted any sort of resistance, and that stopped swiftly.

** Which is why several of the German plantation owners were happy when Australia took over German New Guinea. Now they were allowed to do pretty much as they wished. The joke is that the Aussies wanted the Germans to expand and improve their holdings, so the Aussies could later deport them and take their farms. I'd feel bad for the plantation owners, but they were OK with the system when it meant they could hire ex-soldiers to march in the jungle and "recruit" as many workers as they could, so to hell with them.

*** One quote I have to share, because I couldn't believe the speaker was this blunt. In 1917, Britain suggested perhaps the Australians should stop selling liquor to the islanders. The governor-general's response was, and I quote, 'I think it extremely doubtful that the Commonwealth Government would take up this matter in any way, seeing that it would to some extent provide for prolonging the lives of the coloured races.' Ronald Munro-Ferguson, everybody!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bouncing Ideas Off The Wall

What's Amanda Waller's game? She targeted the Secret Six with two apparent goals: To get Deadshot back on the Squad, and to lock the rest up (where they could be used by her at her convenience later, if necessary).

Then it turns out Waller is also Mockingbird, the person hiring the Six recently. Which means Waller (not Vandal Savage, as I theorized last fall) sent them to that prison island, and sent them to Belle Reve to be attacked by the Squad in the first place. When all was said and done, the Six weren't captured, Deadshot didn't rejoin the Squad, and Waller has a bullet too close to her heart to operate. Naturally, the Wall is not bothered by any of this.

OK, I understand her idea that now that Deadshot's made his feelings clear, he might be willing to hire back onto the Squad later. he shot her, and if Waller doesn't care, well then Floyd probably won't either. I also think I understand why she's unperturbed by the Six still running free. She can still use them (without them realizing it), and they fact they stood together against her may make them a more effective team. It's a massive, bloody, ridiculous team-building exercise.

There are still two questions I have left. One, why use the Six at all? She already has Task Force X, who she's more familiar with, has more people she trusts (assuming Waller trusts anyone), and more control over. The advantages of the Six are they only receive money, not time off jail sentences (no need to explain why so-and-so is already back on the streets), and there's an extra layer of deniability with the Six, since they could be working for anyone who'll cut them a check. Also, the Squad has a few people with scruples who might (I emphasize might) object to certain jobs (Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, maybe Rick Flag), which the Six likely will accept. So perhaps the Six are who Waller turns to when even her official hands are tied.

Second question then, why hire them for that prison job? It seems she would have to be involved somehow, since she hired them for Mr. Smyth, and he had no issues with the hire. If Waller expected them to protect the construction of the prison, she misread them. Which could happen. Amanda Waller does make mistakes. Or she was counting on the Six to dislike the job sufficiently to help bring the prison down. If that's the case, I can understand Waller sending the Six. Smyth mentioned all the Amazon prisoners were there with the express consent of the U.S. government, and Waller is too smart to openly cross them. Maybe locking every criminal in the world in that prison would cut down on her access to recruits for the Squad. Maybe she dislikes the idea of simply locking up all the world's criminals in one place. The potential for evil networking is remarkable. Or maybe she dislikes the idea of all the criminals being locked up in a place not directly under her control.

Is Checkmate still active? Waller was pretty high up the totem pole there as well, so she could be using the Six for Checkmate-related activities she either couldn't get the other honchos to sign off on, or for missions Checkmate approves of, but needs to be able to distance themselves from in the event things go wrong.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who Can Tell With His Issues?

In Avengers vs Atlas #2, Venus halts 4/5ths of the Avengers in their tracks with a little song, as she is wont to do. We see that Thor and Dr. Blake have different ideas of who they'd like to spend the night with, that Tony Stark can't be happy with just one lady (big surprise there), and that Steve Rogers perhaps had a sweetheart while he was in France.

The one member of the team affected whose desires we don't get a glance at is Hank Pym. Safe money would be on the Wasp. Then again, there's his first wife, Marie Trovaya, from before he even discovered Pym Particles. Since her death spurred him to fight against evil, he might think of her.

I was thinking, though, about how Hank Pym always seems to struggle with self-doubt. It wasn't presented as much of an issue at the time this Hank Pym comes from, certainly not compared to in later years, but it's probably still there. So perhaps Hank wouldn't see anyone in particular. He'd worry no one loved him, and see nobody. Or his mind would create someone, probably an amalgamation of every person he'd loved, because that would just be perfect. Maybe he'd simply picture Venus, since she's singing so nicely to him. Those aren't very likely, at least not for this Pym*, but they were possibilities I thought of, since we've seen Venus' song had unexpected effects on people before.

* The Hank Pym booted from the Avengers for misconduct, or the one who came within a second of blowing his brains out would be more likely candidates.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Hundred Days

At one point while I was reading Patrick O'Brian's The Hundred Days, I had the idea that my review would simply be a listing of all the words or phrases I looked up after I'd finished reading it. Then it would fall to you to piece what the book was about based on the words. Upon reflection, I decided that wouldn't be fun for anyone.

So here we are. The Hundred Days is, if I counted correctly, the 19th book in O'Brian's series of novels about Jack Aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin. The one you might be familiar with is Master and Commander, which was turned into a movie starring Russell Crowe. This is the first one of the series I've read, which does work against it at times.

Set in 1815, after Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to Paris, the book follows Commodore Aubrey and his ship's doctor Maturin as they attempt to keep Napoleon from gaining allies in his battles. British Intelligence has learned there are some Muslim mercenaries prepared to drive a wedge between the Russian and Austrian forces slowly making their way west. The idea being they will delay those forces, allowing Napoleon to deal with Wellington and Bluecher's forces in the Low Countries. However, since these are mercs, they won't make a move until they (or their ruler) gets paid. So the goal is to stop the payment from reaching its destination, along with destroying any ships being built which might be turned over to Bonapartists, and protecting shipping.

A tall order, but Maturin is familiar with intelligence work, and he and another associate in the medical business do much of the work. Between them, they convince an undecided French captain to surrender his vessel, stir unrest amongst the workers in the shipyards, and track down where, when, and how the gold is being shipped.

The pace of the book mirrors what I would think life on a ship was like. There are long periods where nothing much happens, with sporadic outbursts of action which usually end quickly. There are certainly more pages devoted to Aubrey, Maturin, and their friends having fine dinners together on the Surprise, than there is to ship-to-ship combat. I think O'Brian's writing is simply more character-oriented, and things happen largely to reveal different facets of the characters. How does Aubrey (and Maturin's) steward, Killick react when he makes a drunken fool of himself and draws the ire of the entire ship? How does Maturin cope with the recent death of his wife, and being so far from his daughter? How does Aubrey cope with all the challenges set before him? The other possibility is O'Brian knows the battles are rather formulaic, so it's simply better to focus on the pasts of the different folks inhabiting the ship.

There are certain things I noticed I assume are an attempt to mirror the attitudes and codes of conduct of the times. Though characters die, including some the survivors knew well and had served with for some time, little time is spent in reflection on it. I imagine that death was an accepted part of service, so the sailors had grown accustomed to seeing friends pass. Oddly, the one person whose name keeps coming up is a Governor Wood of Sierra Leone, who was dead before the book even started, but was so widely known (and liked) that his passing is discussed on multiple occasions. It's strange, because he has no bearing on the story I can see, but he keeps being mentioned. The other thing was that even when someone had important information for another character, the two would waste time discussing what had gone on since they'd last seen each other, or they'd settle in for a snack of toasted cheese and wine. It seemed a startling lack of urgency, especially considering how desperately, for example, Maturin wishes to relay to Aubrey what he learned during his meetings with the Vizer and Dey.

The two bits I found most interesting were the idea of using a doctor for intelligence work, and the Hand of Glory. With the former, I assume Maturin's being a medical man provides him with colleagues the world over, it implies a certain attention to detail, and it's coupled with a knowledge of a fair number of languages, which would prove valuable. Since I'm coming into the series in the middle, I don't know if Maturin received training (I think they at least taught him ciphers, but maybe he learned it at school), but I wouldn't be surprised if they simply requested he help them, and trusted him to know how to tread carefully.

As to the Hand of Glory, Maturin's associate presents him with a preserved hand demonstrating palmar aponeurosis. They take it back to the ship to dissect it. It's quickly dubbed the Hand of Glory and considered a good luck charm. What's strange to me is the way it's described a Hand of Glory is the hand a killer uses to slash their victims throats, which is chopped off after they are hung. The idea having a dead killer's hand on the ship is a good thing strikes doesn't make much sense to me, but it leads to an amusing moment partway through, where we learn that a) sailors will drink anything, and b) to not leave hands out to dry on a table when there's a dog on the ship.

It's unclear to me whether Aubrey completing his mission did anything to hurry Napoleon's downfall. I don't believe it did, but I imagine that isn't the point. The point is he and his crew did their duty to the best of their ability, in service of the Crown. The end of the book points to Chile, which I guess is where the next book would take place, and possible issues for the main characters. It wasn't a bad book, and I greatly appreciate the vocabulary lesson, but I won't be hunting for the next one in the series. I didn't find myself invested in the characters, and maybe that's because, as I mentioned earlier, they seem so unconcerned with the death's of those around them.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Now Try Saying It Without The Bruises

Near the end of Amazing Spider-Man #621, Mr. Negative arrives in an alley he believes Spider-Man is in. He finds only a piece of Spidey's costume. Negative, knowing Spider-Man is somewhere nearby, launches into this bit about how by his code of honor, he has to really bring the hammer down on the web-slinger, now that Spider-Man had the temerity to invade his home.

From some unseen position, Spider-Man fires back that according to his code, he has to take Mr. negative's plans, and feed them back to him even worse. His reason being, Mr. negative invaded his home first. Mr. Negative is confused, until Spider-Man explains that by "home", he meant New York. That's just like an only child, to claim everything in sight belongs to them.

Well, that's a nice proclamation from our hero, vowing to defend his city from the crime lord. Describing what he'll do as taking 'whatever you're planning and give it back to you in IMAX 3-D' was a little clunky, but I guess something like "give it back to you tenfold" would have sounded more villainous. The only problem is, Spider-Man doesn't seem to be speaking from a position of strength at the moment.

Yes, as he and Negative are having their little chat, Black Cat is stealing back the vial of Spider-Man's blood Mr. Negative had, meaning he won't be able to make anymore of his special poison gas that's only toxic to people who share DNA with Spider-Man. That does help Spider-Man a bit. Still, the reason Mr. Negative was looking for Spider-Man in that alley is because he put him there. Spidey took a swing at, Negative blocked it with one hand, then hit Spider-Man with that same palm and sent him through, by Spider-Man's account 'two windows and three walls'.

While Mr. Negative might be slightly surprised that Spider-Man not only survived the hit, but is already up, moving, and still determined to stop him, I don't see that he would be terribly concerned. "You're going to stop me, Spider-Man? The way you stopped my hand with your face?" Well, Mr. Negative would say something better than that, but the same principle applies.

Maybe it works better if I think of it as Spider-Man speaking to the audience, letting them know he was caught off guard, but he's not out of the fight. I think Roger Stern and Tom DeFalco did the same thing at points in their Spider-Man versus the Juggernaut and Firelord (respectively) stories. Spider-Man would be swinging into battle, having struggled to survive to that point, but vowing to stop the other guy, no matter what. The antagonist was nowhere nearby in those cases, so he was speaking to himself, and to us. In this case, he's making this promise to the villain, who had previously dealt with him with ease. It doesn't work as well.