Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Rocks Last Longer Than Others

I've been thinking about Sgt. Rock again recently, specifically, Robert Kanigher's assertion that Rock didn't survive the end of World War 2. Looking over Wikipedia, I saw different descriptions, which is fitting considering how loosely Kanigher could play with continuity. Heck, Kanigher even wrote a story himself where Rock survived the war (Our Army at War #168), but I guess he reconsidered later.

Typically it's said Rock is killed by the last bullet fired in the war. DC Universe: Legacies #4 expanded on that, stating Rock was killed by the last bullet fired, saving a child who wandered into a crossfire. OK, I can certainly see Rock dying to save a kid. But I've read stories where Easy thinks Rock has been killed*, and the idea they wouldn't return fire, especially when they're already in a firefight, doesn't quite fit.

Kanigher said in the letters column of Sgt. Rock #374 he believed Rock and all of Easy Company died during World War 2. The citation at least doesn't mention any specifics, if Kanigher provided them.

I'm not attached to any of Rock's post-World War 2 appearances myself. The only one I've even read is an issue of Giffen's Suicide Squad I flipped through once. I don't have a burning desire to see Rock still alive now, interacting with the JSA, or the Doom Patrol, or whatever. Besides, if someone does want that, it's easy to say the Sgt. Rock of 1943 was on night patrol, and a grenade explosion blasted him through a random time portal to the present day, and there you go. If one is so inclined.

I just find it a little odd that Kanigher is so adamant about Rock and the rest of Easy Co. not surviving the war. He said with regards to Rock, 'He and Easy Company live only, and will eventually die, to the last man, in World War II.' I know soldiers die in war, that's no newsflash. And given the amount of gunfire, grenades, tank treads, and lousy weather Rock encountered, he probably shouldn't have survived. The way Kanigher describes states it, gives the impression Rock didn't exist before the war began. That he was some Uncle Sam like spirit of battle, given form by the intensity of the conflict. On a meta level that's true, though Rock wasn't created until after the war. But Kanigher provided backstory for Rock, about his father, about what Rock had done before the war. It isn't as though (in universe) Rock sprang fully-formed from an exploding shell hole directly into battle. He was a person before the war, so the end of the war shouldn't necessarily mean the end of his existence. Some soldiers do die, others make it home.

The world's not fair, of course, so there's no reason to expect that Rock or the soldiers he lead would be rewarded for their efforts by getting to go home alive, but there's no reason why they couldn't wind up making it. It seems equally apt for Rock to survive and return home to take up a job, maybe something that would involve fighting or protecting others, maybe he goes back to the steel mill.

Your thoughts?

* See "Easy Had It" in Our Army at War #203. There they paused to carry him back down the hill they were advancing on first. Then they turned around, marched back up, and took that position. In that case, though, they hadn't really engaged the enemy, as Rock was struck with the enemy's first rounds.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Whose Rep Is He More Worried About?

In the song "Wake Up, Little Susie*", do you think the singer is more concerned with what's going to happen to him, or to Susie?

The chorus is what sticks with me, where he asks her what she's gonna tell her mamma, her pa, and all her friends when they say 'Ooh-la-la'. It comes off as his being more concerned what people are going to think about him, for keeping a girl out until 4 a.m., than about her. He does say their gooses are cooked, and their reputations are shot, but there's still the chorus, and I picture him driving her home, looking at her nervously before asking "Uh, what are you gonna tell your parents about tonight?" I suppose it was his responsibility, since he promised to have her home by ten, so the fault is his.

I can't decide whether he's worried he'll get a bad reputation, as no one will believe they're six hours late because they fell asleep in the theater, or if he's worried they will be believed, and he'll be ridiculed for it. Is it worse to be seen as a Casanova, wisking his girl off for some late night wooing, or a guy who can't stay awake until 10?

I think the tone of the song is why I don't think he's worried about Susie as much as himself. The whole time he's laying things out for her, it's this sort of jaunty, cheerful tune. The situation is dire, as far as teenage romance in middle America goes, but the music doesn't convey a sense of seriousness.

* Written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, as performed by the Everly Brothers.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sometimes I Want To Play With My Friends, Not Against Them

I've been playing Phantom Dust again lately, and I wonder why they didn't include a co-op mode in the game. You can fight your friends, but you can't team up against them. Maybe they save that for online play, which has never really been my bag. Since it's possible for a single player to combine skills in an arsenal that will complement each other, it'd could be crazy fun to make complementing arsenals for you and a friend. I understand sometimes the game wants to assign you a specific character as a partner for a mission, but I don't see why your friend couldn't play as that character. My best guess is that in some cases, it's critical a character behave in a certain way, and if your friend was controlling the character, rather than the computer, it might not work that way.

Example. There's a mission where Tsubataki asks you to help her seek out and fight the Gyne Sisters. Part of your mission is to win the battle, the trickier part is to keep Tsubataki alive. Tricky because she's kind of suicidal, and likes attacks that drain her health. So I'm scrambling to find a useful attack, watching her health plummet and she keeps using the Fire of Gehenna. If I was playing with a friend, they'd presumably not be so reckless, though I can never tell with Alex.

The situation where I miss it the most is flight combat games. This is not surprising, given I've complained about the idiot wingmen those games tend to saddle the player with. Secret Weapons Over Normandy would have been a better game if I could actually count on one of the fellows flying with me to carry out my commands. The computer's clearly not up to it, so having a friend I can tell to cover me when I go dive-bombing, and trust to actually do that, would be a welcome change. This would apply for Heroes of the Pacific as well. Even Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge would be more fun. It's a little different from the other two, since you can't issue commands to your wingmen, but also don't necessarily need them. Again though, with the variety of aircraft available, you could mix and match strengths. If it's a boss level, one you the players picks a heavy firepower plane, the other picks something light and quick to keep the fighters off their partner.

If there were concerns that it would make the games too easy, I'd point out a) that's what higher difficulty levels are for, and b) there's always the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 strategy of doubling the number of cannon fodder enemies.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How Long Can The Titans Deal With Damien?

JT Krul's writing Teen Titans now, and he's added Damien Wayne to the cast. Or his bosses asked him to add Damien to the cast. I don't know. Either way, Damien's there. I wonder if this'll mean the near-constant roster upheaveal the team's gone through the last 4 years will continue. I wouldn't think people are lining up to be on a team with that little snot.

I don't think the characters are going to start bailing because they can't stand Damien. I'm sure the veterans will try to guide Damien, get him to tone the condescension down a bit, Damien will ignore them, they'll keep trying, and so on. Certainly, I don't think most people would want to spend much time around Damien Wayne, but they're heroes, so they'll deal.

Has somebody done that in team comics previously? Have a character, not evil, just not fun to be around, that kept driving people off, forcing the few who remain to recruit new members, who decide they'd rather not work with the unpleasant character either. I suppose the question would be raised of why the teammates who stay don't kick out the obnoxious person. That can be handled with some stuff about wanting to help the person, or having them on the team as a favor to someone.

Wonder Man was pretty irritating in Engelhart's West Coast Avengers, but it seemed more likely he'd leave to pursue his acting career. Guy Gardner was exceedingly annoying, but Fire, Booster, and most of the rest stuck around. Maybe that was Max Lord's doing. The JLA voted Batman out, when he wasn't leaving of his own accord to found the Outsiders. The Secret Six keep splintering over differences of opinion about where they draw the line (The Depths story), or what's important (the current split over whether to chase Blake or carry out a job), but they seem to patch things up eventually. I've seen the rest of the Fantastic Four get fed up with Reed to the point they might leave once (Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men mini-series), but I think that was reconciled by the end of said mini-series. Anyway, that was because the team thought Reed had purposefully left out proper shielding on his shuttle, because he thought the world would need super-powered defenders to protect it*. Not quite the same as Reed simply being unpleasant.

You'd think Wolverine, with his penchant for killing, drinking, brawling, smoking (when that was permitted) would drive people away, but a) he's on so many teams it's hard to get away from him, and moving is such a pain it's easier to stay put, and b) he's off fighting ninjas or HYDRA on his own enough it probably lessens his annoyance factor.

* You can see why Ben Grimm might be a little angry about that, but I think the diary he found that said these things was a plant, by Doom, maybe. Now, I could see a writer deciding that was a good way to go with Reed's character, but not so much in the 1980s.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Saga Of The White Wolf And The Little Bug

Just as soon as I did a post about how I wasn't playing any of the games I still needed to beat, I finished Okami that night. I could have finished it sooner, but when I know I'm near the final boss, I start running around, trying to finish sidequests, or make more money so I can buy better equipment. It's stalling when you get right to it, because I do so hate to lose.

The story of Okami is that the god Amaterasu has returned to the mortal plane after 100 years, taking the form of a white wolf, determined to protect the people of Kamiki Village from a returning evil. Namely Orochi, the 8-headed dragon Amaterasu helped defeat a century ago. That's where it starts, but the threat spreads across the land, drawing Amaterasu into conflict with several other dangerous entities, from 9-tailed foxes to Water Dragons, and musical instrument playing demon monkey spirits. You play as Amaterasu, accompanied by Issun, a little fellow who plans to become a great artist and has decided to tag along on your adventure. That's because Amaterasu needs to reclaim its power, and that means finding the lesser deities that hold the various Celestial Brush Techniques "Ammy" needs to vanquish evil. Issun actually teaches Ammy the first technique, and is tagging along to learn the others. Issun's primary role is to do the talking for the both of you, though there is another sequence where Ammy is shrunk where Issun proves useful.

The style of the game is very much like Legend of Zelda. You roam the countryside, entering dungeons and fighting monsters, taking on sidequests for the various people you meet along the way. As you progress and learn new Brush Techniques, you'll find yourself backtracking to unlock treasures you couldn't reach previously. The nice thing is enough of the things you unlock are nonessential, that the backtracking doesn't feel as tedious as it did when I played Metroid Prime 2.

What distinguishes the game is its visual style, which is even incorporated into the combat. I think it's cell-shaded, but it's presented in such a way as to resemble traditional water colors. I haven't played a game that looks quite like it, which is nifty. Once Ammy learns Celestial brush Techniques, you can use them most anytime (provided you have some ink, which gradually refills). You press the R1 button (if you're using the PS2 like me) and the screen shifts to resemble a piece of parchment. Then you use the controller to manipulate a brush to make the appropriate symbol for the technique you want to use. The power of the technique can be modified in some cases by how large you draw the symbol, though more power also uses more ink. None of the symbols are particularly difficult, especially once you get the hang of them, though the game doesn't always recognize them (I had trouble with the Inferno symbol, personally), but it adds a nifty element to combat, in addition to using various weapons or exorcism slips.

The brush techniques can also help Amaterasu to earn "praise". If you help a person out by retrieving something they wanted or needed, or cause a tree to bloom, or feed an animal (that requires purchasing bags of different feed types, rather than brush techniques), those actions earn you praise, which in sufficient qualities allows you to power Amaterasu up. More health, more ink pots, a larger change pouch, so on. It's mostly optional (you don't have to feed critters, or fish, or help any random passerbys), but it doesn't hurt.

The one negative I found was the cut scenes. They look nice, especially when it shifts to depicting past events through what look like painted scrolls, but they are terribly slow. I'm no doubt jaded, but some of the dialogue is as pretentious and overdone as anything Claremont ever wrote (though no one says anything about whether quarter was asked or given). When I was fighting the final boss, it appears I've won only for a dramatic reversal to take place. Then before the battle can resume, the game goes into a 5-minute cut scene about the people regaining their faith in Amaterasu, thus repowering Ammy, and everyone talks about how much they like Ammy, and I'm sitting there waving my hand, yelling at the game to get on with it. It killed the momentum of the climactic battle.

That's my only beef, other than some voice actors might have been nice. When characters speak, its presented as captions accompanied with indecipherable mumbles. Kind of like the parents in Charlie Brown stories. I think that makes the cut scenes seem longer because I finish reading the captions swiftly, but I can't tell how far along in the speech the character is, and you can only speed it up so much. Still, it's a beautiful game, the music nice, there is fair amount of humor to the story, some oddball characters, combat is fun, but not overly complicated, and the makers remembered there's more to being a protector of the people than beating up monsters. it's also available on the Wii, and while I haven't played it on that system, I'd think it was made for it, with the brush strokes and all.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I Bought 11/24/2010

Hey, Happy Thanksgiving to ya! Unless you're not celebrating Thanksgiving ('cause you're Canadian and you celebrated last month, or whatever), in which case Happy Last Thursday of November! Unless you're across the International Date Line, then Happy Last Friday of November! You are almost to your weekend, so rejoice! Unless you're being forced to work over your weekend, in which case I've got nothing. Look, what do you want? I have a limited supply of starry-eyed optimism, and until my stomach relaxes enough to make room for pie, that was it. Which may not bode well for these two reviews.

Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet #4 - Thanos loses the Gauntlet thanks to U.S. Ace, but then it winds up in the hands of Dr. Doom, which might be even worse. Things don't go as Doom expects, and after a close call, Spider-Man winds up with the Gauntlet and saves the day. Which is nice because I'm not sure Spidey had done anything useful up to that point. He saves the day using the "reset button" technique, which means no one remembers what happened, except Spidey and one other person. Which would be bad news for Spider-Man, if there's follow-up to the mini-series.

Well, that was fun. I especially enjoyed Clevinger's Dr. Doom. He has the arrogance Doom needs, but there's also a hint of petulance and some weariness, like he can't believe he's allied with these morons. Chruilla's artwork looked a bit rougher this issue, like he was rushed. Or maybe it's the presence of 3 inkers, including Churilla. There was one page, right after the reset button, where Spidey's head seemed smaller, and the linework was thinner. His art still works well enough, though I'm unclear what Doom did in the panel he claimed he helped. Teleport the rest of the team to his location I guess, though I'm not sure why he did it.

Batman Beyond #6 - That's a nice cover. The black and red of Batman and the ground, the mostly white of Hush and the buildings. Plus, Hush's hands on the fissure, like he's forcing it apart, and how he's partially transparent, like a ghost. It works well.

Terry and Dick Grayson head off to stop Clone Grayson, with an assist from the new Catwoman. Still, the heroes are mostly getting stomped by the hijacked Bat-Wraiths and the clone until Old Man Bruce performs a little computer magic to turn the tables. The city is saved, the clone may have died, but probably didn't, and Dick Grayson and Old Man Bruce do not patch things up. Also, Waller deftly covers her rear, and hires a new person to take charge of their clone research. Judging by his last name, he's probably a bad choice.

As much as I enjoyed this, and I did, there were certain things that nagged at me. Little things, but Bruce was suppsoed to be giving the good guys heads up on how to deal with the robots. He told them nothing. Then again, the clone figured out there weak points, so you'd think Real Dick Grayson could do the same. The bit where Waller asks the detective if he's related to Harvey Bullock grated, because it felt unnecessary. It doesn't matter in the story whether he is or not. Detective Bullock doesn't even provide a definite answer, so why bother to bring it up? Let the reader wonder until such time as it's relevant to the story.

Griping aside, I did like how Beechen wrote Terry, Bruce, and Dick Grayson, especially Dick. He's hardened, bitter (with reason), but there's still a bit of of old style. The banter, the rescue of Dr. Reid in the earlier issues. Benjamin's art continued to be OK. I don't love it, but it works. Some of the fight panels are pretty good, but in this issue at least, I noticed a tendency for characters to speak like they've been punched in the jaw. So their lower jaw is jutting out to one side for no particular reason. On the other hand, I like his Waller. She's obviously older, and he can draw her in such a way that she can look like a kindly old woman, but her posture still gives her away as being in charge.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Terror? Didn't He Punch Roosevelt Once?

Caught part of a movie I'd never seen before on Turner Classic last night. The Terror, starring a very old Boris Karloff, and a very young Jack Nicholson. Like I said, I only saw part of it, but Nicholson was a French soldier from the 18th Century who found himself separated from his regiment. He was supposed to be trying to meet up with them, but wound up at the castle of an old baron (Karloff), and couldn't help but try and untangle the mysteries surrounding the Baron.

I thought Nicholson held back too much, as his delivery seemed flat much of the time. Maybe the audio quality didn't help, because his voice sounded unusually distant sometimes, but it's probably more attributable to inexperience. Especially compared to Karloff, who was letting the melodrama fly, loudly expressing his sorrow at the drop of a hat. Most of the other actors seem suitably animated, though the delivery by Karloff's wife (Sandra Knight) felt similarly stilted. Maybe it was the dialogue's fault. Very stylized, but in a heavily expository way (at least for the part I saw). Considering Nicholson's character seems heavily invested in learning the truth, it doesn't fit that his emotions don't really leap off the screen, especially when compared to the rest of the cast. I mean, he's playing a young soldier, who followed an attractive woman to this castle, and now he can't find her again, and everyone's giving him the runaround, you'd think there'd be more passion.

The film has madness, secret passages, characters shadowing each other through a dark castle, revenge gone awry, most of the cast dying in a short period of time near the end, and a man getting his eyes clawed out by a hawk. I'm certainly game to try and watch it the whole way through if the opportunity presents itself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Sure We've Discussed Endings Before, But. . .

How much does the ending of a story matter to your enjoyment of it? A good ending on top of a good story is a plus. I don't think a good ending can salvage a story if the beginning and middle didn't interest you. if what's come before didn't make me care about the characters, or the stakes, then it's unlikely the ending will have any impact, assuming I haven't given up on the story already.

What about when you really enjoy the story, then feel like the ending fumbled? As you might guess, this relates to Thanos Imperative. I'd been loving it for the first five issues. The interplay between the characters, the raising of the stakes, the surprises, some of the ideas being thrown out, I was having a great time. I wouldn't place it on par with Annihilation, but it was on par with Annihilation: Conquest, maybe even a little better*.

Then the last issue came out, and I already detailed my dissatisfaction with that on Saturday. I still like the first five issues, but the ending's taken some of the shine off. Still, I'm not sure my dissatisfaction is largely with how the ending leads into future stories, rather than strictly judging it as the end of that particular story if I look at it that way, it fares a little better, though there are still some internal inconsistencies that irritate me.

I'm sure the old saw about the journey being more important than the destination could be dusted off here, and it's probably apt. Even though where I wound up was a dud, the trip getting there was fun, so I should take what I can from that**.

* Conquest had some outstanding mini-series leading to it, Giffen and Timothy Green's Star-Lord one in particular, while Thanos Imperative had Ignition, and that's it until Devastation comes out. Overall, Conquest was better, but judging strictly by the main event, it's closer.

** I've never successfully applied this to actual traveling. If the place I visit is a letdown, I always wind up wishing I hadn't bothered. traveling does cost more in time and money than reading does, though.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tales From The Woods #4

I don't know the deal with the Ghost of the Forest. Don't know what it is, why it resides where it does, or how far it roams. I didn't notice it last year, when I was working in a patch of woods a few miles to the north. But since I was assigned my current location to sample from, I sense it around me when I'm working. Not constantly, mind you. Like I said, even if its confined to the site I work, we're still talking 1,000 acres, so there's plenty to observe besides me. I wonder if it's as entertained by the pack of horses (there are too few for me to feel comfortable calling them a herd) that roam the hills as I am. There's also bears, bobcats, mountain lions, those devious raccoons, of course, and the snakes and salamanders I spend my time dealing with.

Still, I keep up a running dialogue while I work, in case the Ghost is nearby. It's yet to directly respond, but I know it listens. No, it's never attacked, or behaved in any manner I found threatening, but it likes to play games. This fall, I found a toy in a bucket trap. It looked to be an old Happy Meal toy, from 1993 to be exact. A little Joker, seated in a little Jokermobile. It was cute, and in excellent condition, I might add. Not dirty, the wheels still turned perfectly. Made me wonder if the Ghost had the raccoons hold onto it. The Ghost wasn't around when I found it, but within 30 minutes (and a set of traps), I could feel it nearby. So I said, "Thanks." I mean, I don't understand why it wanted me to have the car, and as usual, the Ghost wasn't forthcoming with answers. But that's no excuse for poor manners, and the work day had been terribly dull up to then. It wasn't even a pretty day, with the total cloud cover, minus any interesting weather conditions like strong winds or rain. Then again, I had enough rain last year in the fall to last me several Octobers.

Sometimes, though, the Ghost of the Forest's methods of amusing itself aren't so amusing to me. In the spring, I came to one of my arrays to find a fence out of the ground. I don't believe the Ghost did it, no. The fences stick up a two to three feet, and it's easy for the wind to catch them like a sail. Then all it takes is sufficient back and forth from wind and gravity, and the fence wriggles itself out of the ground. Just because it's understandable, doesn't mean it isn't a pain. Digging trenches isn't fun, and the hills are annoying with the presence of rocks, rather than alive with the sound of music.

In my favor was my lack of a suitable digging instrument. So I checked my traps, stood the fence back up as best I could, and resolved I'd return the next day, and set things to rights then. There were still two hours' worth of traps to check, after all, and it'd take time to return to the office and grab a pulaski. Having internally justified my procrastination, I continued with my work. Now, my last three sets of traps are along the same dirt trail. I choose to walk the trail because a) I like walking, and b) I don't want to risk my work truck on some crappy dirt track. The higher-ups are unsympathetic to the difficulties we face with these roads when they see the condition trucks are often returned in. I parked my truck at the entrance of the trail and set off. Hour and a half later, I returned to my truck to find a pulaski. It was leaning against the driver's side door, pretty as you please. No sign of the Ghost, but I got this message clearly. I drove back to the unearthed array, and spent the better part of an hour first digging a trench, then trying to scrounge up enough dirt to hold the fence in said trench. It seems there's never as much dirt to put back into a trench as there was to take out. During all this, the Ghost was a constant presence. I could feel it peering over my shoulder, naturally unconcerned with the pointed tool I'm swinging around. Other times I could feel it right in front of me, and I pictured it sitting on a nearby tree branch, watching me with an amused expression on its face.

Oh yes, it never speaks, but after enough time, I learned to recognize a certain vibe it gives off, the way you'd read the expression on a person's face. What I haven't learned, is where it found the pulaski. None of my coworkers reported one missing, so either it traveled all the way to the office (about 7 miles) and back, or it had one of those hidden somewhere. If it was the former, that would explain the coworkers who found their trucks up on jacks, a rear tire inside the cab, one day. At least one of the trucks was even farther from my site than the office, but if distance isn't an issue, then it could have been the Ghost. Fingers were pointed at workers on the other crews, and one person even took credit, but you know how it is. Some people will claim they've done anything that nets them attention.

It wouldn't surprise me either way, but I think it had the tool just laying around. I figure the Ghost has been in those woods a long time, and it collects or interacts with whatever catches its interest. I don't understand its interest in me, unless it's my tendency to talk to myself. Yeah, I said I kept up a running dialogue for the Ghost, but I was talking practically nonstop to myself long before I even had an inkling the was a presence observing me. Maybe one of these days it'll say something back, in a way I can understand.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Everyvody Wants To Drive What Tommy Vercetti Drives

I've been playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in my spare time lately. I ought to be concentrating on the 5 games I haven't beaten*, but I find it so much easier to waste time tearing through the streets of Vice City on motorcycles, picking up the money my illegal operations bring in, and occasionally getting into gun battles with gangs and/or the cops.

Playing GTA, I was reminded of something I used to notice (and complain about) quite a bit. It seems like whatever vehicle I'm driving, there will be lots of those on the road at the same time as me. It won't only be that car, but whatever it is will probably make up a fair percentage of what's available. Which is a pain when I'm driving a Perennial (crappy station wagon) and I need something faster/heavier/better armored, which is when I usually notice the phenomenon. It probably happens just as much when I'm in a good car, but if I already have a sweet ride, I don't need to be paying much attention to what else is available, do I?

I used to think it represented how a person may not be able to see something readily, until they find one example, then they start to develop a search image, and suddenly they notice what they're looking for everywhere. I've experienced that outdoors, looking for particular plants, or leaves, 4-leaf clovers, whatever. I'll be struggling to find them, but once I find that first one, I start seeing theme everywhere. Now I think the game might be trying to create a false sense of security. The cops are after me, but so what, there are dozen otehr cars on the road just like mine, surely they'll never pick me out of the crowd.

Except they do, of course. The police (and whatever gangs are angry at me) can always spot me, no matter what I'm driving, or how fast, so it doesn't matter how many other drivers are out in their Banshees, whoever is after me isn't going to lose track of my specific ride. I look at it as a tradeoff, though. It really shouldn't work that when I'm being chased, I can drive to an auto shop, get my vehicle repainted and drive back out, and the police who saw me drive into the shop, will be completely befuddled. But it does work. As long as I don't do something stupid.

* I did beat the Level 7 boss on God Hand this evening, though, so that's a little progress.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Cosmos Is Saved With A Thud

If I told you that the more I think about Thanos Imperative #6, the more I hope there was editorial interference, would that give you a suitable sense of my disappointment?

The Cosmic Cube bit still irritates me a little. The idea that there was only enough left in it for one shot (used to stun Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy #25) was presented as fairly critical through the last six months or so of Guardians of the Galaxy, and even earned mention in Thanos Imperative: Ignition, that Star-Lord abruptly telling Nova there might actually be enough for one or even two more uses felt like cheating. It only irritates me a little because, in terms of Thanos Imperative, its impact is small. It just happens to be the tool Star-Lord's going to use to help Nova try and keep Thanos in the Cancerverse until it self-destructs, as opposed to say, stealing one of Rocket Raccoon's unfeasibly large guns. It strikes me that Abnett and Lanning present abruptly present the Cube as not being exhausted, because its powers provide a potential out for Nova, Star-Lord, and Thanos' apparent deaths (or their being trapped in a sealed off, dead universe).

The more I think on it, the more Richard's taking all the Nova Force is what bothers me, because it served so little purpose in story, but seems to take a toy away from future writers. Rich tells the Worldmind to give him all of the Nova Force, uses it to throw off the attacking Revengers, and that's pretty much it. Thanos' plan to destroy Lord Mar-Vell kicks in before Rich can reach him, so we never see if the extra power would have given Nova a better shot against Mar-Vell. Presumably it helped some against Thanos, but we didn't see that fight, so there's no evidence the extra Nova Force made any significant difference there. All it did was take the Nova Corps off the board*. In theory, that'll be a set-up for future stories ("Who protects the spaceways with the Nova Corps gone?"), but personally, I'd like to see the remainder of the Corps carry on as best they could, without Richard Rider, or most of the Nova Force. Those kinds of stories, where the supporting characters try to carry on without their big gun, can be a lot of fun.

I also didn't understand why destroying the Many-Angled Ones - by killing their Avatar - caused the Fault to close. I follow the armies of the Cancerverse dying. They were connected to the Many-Angled Ones, so one dies, both die. The Fault was a tear in the Marvel Universe caused by the Inhumans Terrigen bomb, which lead to space between universes. At the other end, was the Cancerverse, presumably with a tear of its own, perhaps caused by the shockwave of the T-Bomb. I guess maybe the destruction of all those beings caused a disruption that made the Fault close.

The last issue reads like Abnett and Lanning had a checklist of stuff that needed to be done, or in place by the end, and things were twisted as necessary for them to happen. Maybe they were edicts from on high, maybe the story got away from DnA, and they had to jerk things back on course a tad abruptly, I don't know. I like their work, I want to give them benefit of the doubt.

That's part of my problem. The other part is, and maybe I haven't thought enough about it, I don't feel this conclusion provided the basis for more interesting stories. The thing about Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest, or War of Kings was after they were done, things were different in a way I wanted to see how the writers would take advantage**. Now frequently, I didn't feel they did take advantage, because Marvel's endless event cycle seemed to bring us around to the next Big Thing before the writers had a chance to explore the repercussions of the last Big Thing, but the potential was there.

I'm sure part of my issue is I'm used to seeing the changes presented through Nova and Star-Lord's eyes, and they're dead (absent, at least). But the Fault's been closed, the Nova Corps are gone, there were no upheavals in the ruling powers amongst the major space groups. The Guardians are minus Star-Lord (and Drax and Phyla), but the team's soldiered on through greater apparent losses. There wouldn't appear to be an Avatar of Life or of Death active in the Marvel U. It feels like things were taken away, without anything being added, which is disappointing. I'm hopeful the Thanos Imperative: Devastation one-shot will fire me up again, but right now, I'm not seeing it.

* It's kind of callous for Rich to order the Nova Force drawn away from the other members, considering they were fighting in space at the time. It's fortunate Quasar was with them, so he could use his Quantum Bands to save all of them, because otherwise that would have made them slightly dead. Unless they were relying on a life-support system in their uniforms, but I'm not clear on whether that's a property of their uniform or the Nova Force, and either way, they'd be floating, depowered, in the middle of a huge battle.

** That's the same silver lining I tried to find with Civil War. I wanted to see how writers would use the post-CW status quo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tracking The Gorilla-Man Across The Covers

I've been thinking about the covers for last summer's Gorilla-Man mini-series for awhile now. They're by three different artists, but I feel like they have an increasingly savage portrayal of the character.

The first issue, Dave Johnson draws the cover, and we have Gorilla-Man as the Bond-style secret agent. He's wearing a nice suit, albeit with rolled-up sleeves, to accommodate his large forearms I assume. He has a satisfied look on his face, a smile (or smirk) accompanied by a raised eyebrow as he regards the audience. His weapon of choice is a silenced handgun. Of course, there are the ladies surrounding him, most leaning casually against him, or draped over him, with whom he seems perfectly at ease. The other presence on the cover is an old enemy of his, Omega Borgia, who seems to have used science to empower himself, where Ken Hale used curse. Borgia is the sort of ridiculous-looking villain a super-spy might encounter, what with having a head within his head.

Issue #2's cover is courtesy of Leonard Kirk and Dave McCaig. It's an action shot, with Mr. Hale leaping out of a plane, two guns blasting in rapid-fire as he descends towards us. The weapons are louder, less precise, and Hale is certainly less friendly looking. He's glaring, and possibly yelling. At the least, he's baring his teeth at us. A slightly wild, certainly dangerous look. Still, he's using a parachute, and was at least riding in a plane (could have been flying it), so he hasn't abandoned skills he learned as a human. He's alone on this cover, though, no other people or creatures visible.

By Gorilla-Man #3 (by Gabriele Dell'Otto) there's hardly anything on the cover except Gorilla-Man. He's closer to the audience than ever, but also looks more savage than ever. The canines are more pronounced than they were in Kirk's rendition, and there's saliva dripping from his teeth, adding to his "wild" aspect.

Then there's the eyes. On the first two cover, the pupils were black, and in Dave Johnson's cover, Hale's eyes aren't different from those of the girls. In Kirk's the pupils seem smaller, but that could be the result of the eyes being more open, or because his Gorilla-Man is looking directly at us, while Johnson's is observing us from 3/4 perspective. With Dell'Otto's, Hale's pupils have a reddish-golden glow, from the light source behind his left shoulder. It brings to mind phrases about "eyes burning like coals in the night", or something similarly designed to suggest predatory threats. Because of the light, he doesn't have whites of eyes, so much as yellows, which adds to the otherness factor.

Both Kirk and Dell'Otto's Gorilla-Man wear a featureless shirt with buttons, (though Kirk's opts for more of a polo shirt, Dell'Otto's a full button down) in Dell'Otto's version the shirt seems to be straining to hold. Part of that is we can see the top buttons are undone, which isn't something we can determine with Kirk's cover. But part of it is simply how Dell'Otto draws it, suggesting the shirt is strained at the seams to contain all the raw power of the wearer. Certainly the suit Johnson drew him wearing fits comfortably, no sign of stress on the material. Though he's carrying a gun, Dell'Otto's Hale has opted to wield a very large knife instead. On the one hand, it's a potentially more silent weapon than the dual firearms of #2, but it could also be used to inflict pain slowly, and in great quantities, if the user so desired.

OK, having blathered on about all these details, whether they're real, or merely perceived by me, what's my point? The big revelation at the end of the mini-series is that Ken Hale doesn't want the curse undone. Prior to this, it was acknowledged in other Atlas stories that Ken had eventually come to grips with being a gorilla, but this is the first time I can recall reading that being human holds no appeal to him. It's not resignation, or even simple acceptance, it's an embracing of who he's become. He used the holographic emitter in the mini-series, simply because he might attract less attention on a mission as a human, than as a talking gorilla. He's perfectly comfortable being a gorilla around Banda. He speaks gorilla as fluently as he does English. So the cover could represent Ken Hale moving away from a gorilla who used to be human, still trying to be human, to simply being a gorilla who used to be human. There are things he learned as a human that can be useful, but he's not human, in the sense of being Homo sapiens anymore. However, he can combine what he knows as a human, with what he knows and can do as a gorilla.

As for why he's increasingly aggressive looking over the course of the covers, he told Banda is #3 that gorillas aren't violent, unless they feel threatened. He didn't seem to regard Borgia as much more than a nuisance, but Bastoc and his forces were more of an issue, so he'd have to respond with fewer witty one-liners, and more direct aggression.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What I Bought 11/17/2010

This has been a good month for my weekly pulls. No weeks with lots of comics followed by weeks with no comics. Just a few books every week, which is how I prefer it.

Darkwing Duck #6 - It turns out that in addition to there being several alternate universe Darkwings running amok through the city, the city's water has turned violent. Naturally, the starring Darkwing (our Darkwing? Darkwing-Prime? Ugh, let's not use Prime, brings back unpleasant memories of Reality-Wall Puncher) takes the blame, so he tries to solve that problem to restore his image. And fails miserably, at which point all the mind-controlled alternate Darkwings are released upon the city to fight each other. I think I even saw a Fozzy Bear Darkwing leaning out a window.

I think there's a significance to the arrow-using Darkwing never saying his name. Twice now it's been mentioned that Magica and Negaduck don't actually know what he calls himself, which doesn't seem like a coincidence. But we'll see. I hope Silvani's having fun drawing all these weird Darkwings. Presumably, they're just letting him go nuts with it, hence Bowling Ball Darkwing. I love the panel before the citizen screams "Everybody Panic!", where not only is the citizen staring at the talking bowling ball, but there's a bird flying past the window, looking in quizzically as well.

Nightmaster: Monsters of Rock - Nice touch, making the title look like something off a metal album. They even added an umlaut over the "a". The Shadowpact's been captured by an old enemy of Nightmaster's. Nightmaster needs to rescue his friends, but runs into a fan of his. Not a fan of his superheroic work, but of his musical career, which ended decades ago. The fan is very persistent, and follows Jim Rook throughout the quest, prattling on about what Rook's music meant to him, asking if he's making a comeback, pleading with him not to play in Vegas, and so on. Throughout this, Rook is trying to keep them both alive from the various threats Lord Meh is throwing at them.

This was a cute one-shot. Nothing consequential about it, but fun. Not necessarily funny, but fun. I don't know if it was intentional on Beechen's part, but I was drawing some comparisons between Eddie the music fan and comic fans. It could be as simple as fans all being alike, regardless of what they're fans of. As to the rest, I appreciated that Beechen tells us pretty much all we need to know about Nightmaster's past in a page, tops. Really, Jim Rook cover most of it in a panel, but Eddie takes a page describing Rook's last gig. Kieron Dwyer's art was fine. Dwyer's work has never been a personal favorite, there's something about the squared off, abrupt way people's faces are drawn I don't care for, but there's nothing wrong with it. The one issue I'd take here is Rook sustained an injury in his shoulder midway through the issue, and it seems to vanish then reappear for the remainder of the story. At first I thought it had healed, some property of his sword, or the realm they're in, but it came back, so I don't know.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #22 - I don't think I want to add those periods every time I type the title. This issue is related to use by a Green Lantern trying to explain her actions to the Blue Twerps Who Ruin Everything. This Lantern, Gorius, is a member of the same race that destroyed Starfire's homeworld, and she knows a little bit about Starfire's unpleasant past. Which lead to her following Starfire for awhile. Eventually, the go to the Psion homeworld, and we see how Psion females are treated and it's pretty disgusting. Which leads to Starfire and Gorius killing several of the male Psions. This could be an issue for Vril Dox' LEGION, since they were supposed to be protecting the Psion world, but once Vril sees how strongly Starfire feels about it, he wisely annuls the contract. The Psions are miffed, but not planning on changing their style anytime soon. Lantern Gorius' fate has not yet been decided.

I'm not clear on why she stalked Starfire, though. Was it empathy, a need to talk to someone who understood some of what she'd been through? It doesn't seem like Gorius always planned to bring Starfire to her homeworld so they could kick some ass. I have to say, that was a more serious issue than I expected to see brought up in the first issue I purchased, but that's OK. I'm also not entirely clear why Lanterns were planning to arrest Vril Dox, though I can guess. I wonder if I'll be able to tolerate Dox. He's so manipulative, arrogant, and image conscious, I may spend much of my time wanting to see him punched in the face. Then again, he's supposed to be captured by Starro soon, so that may take care of that for me. Claude St. Aubin and Kevin Sharpe are the pencilers. I think Sharpe handles the pages in the middle, when they reach Psion, but I'm not certain. St. Aubin draws Starfire a little different than I'm accustomed to, mostly that her hair is big, but not curly. It's not an issue, just different. I love that's she's drawn as being significantly taller than Captain Comet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anyone Have A Spare Bat-Computer?

This here is the cover from Green Arrow #35. I don't know which volume it would be, it's the series Kevin Smith wrote the initial arc for, the one that brought Ollie back from the dead. Volume number is not relevant though, or is it? I don't think it is. Moving on.

I've looked at this cover many times, and I can't decide if the arrows are arranged in a purposeful pattern. Sometimes I think they make out a question mark, but the bottom one, over by his waist, is kind of off-line for it. Besides, arrows in the form of a question would be too obvious for Nigma.

There are nine arrows, you could make three triangles out of them, but I don't know what the significance of that would be. Maybe if one was equilateral, one isosceles, the other obtuse, which I think can be done, since it seems a little more complicated. Not overly so, but Eddie was dealing with Green Arrow, not Batman, so I imagine he dumbed it down a little.

If you have any ideas, please share. I don't have anything else to say about it, other than I like the Riddler's pose there. Very stylish, like he's three seconds from a dance number. Spin the cane a little, doff his chapeau, show off his coordination a little.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Might As Well Enjoy The Crossovers

If you've looked at DC's solicits for February, did you notice Secret Six is having a crossover for the 2nd month in a row? First it was Action Comics, now it's Doom Patrol. I don't look at the sales figures anymore (it was too depressing seeing every title I bought near the cancellation line), but I'd imagine there's a hope for sales boosting involved.

What the heck, though. If it's gonna happen, might as well run with it. What other DC titles would you like to see Secret Six crossover to? I'll cast my vote for Booster Gold, since that could mean the Sis in a time-travel adventure. They're already visiting dimensions with dinosaurs and neverending day, why not the future? Scandal could run into her daddy again, I'm sure she'd love that. Course, she could do that in the past as well, but Skartaris is like being in the past, technology-wise anyway, so let's go a different route. Take them off Earth while their at it. Imagine Ragdoll interacting with aliens, perhaps ones who have never met Earthlings.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can't Buy Her Love, Noooo

Looking over the recent Black Cat mini-series, I've been trying to decide what Vasili's hopes were. He was going to reacquire the treasures of the Kravinoff family, lost to them decades earlier, I assume when the czar fell, because he fell in love with Ana Kraven. Was he courting her mother's favor, since she was angered by the loss of those pieces, in the hopes she'd OK a courtship with Ana? Or was it his way of proving that he was more than a mere servant? That's all he was viewed as, another in his family's line which serves the Kravinoffs, which would firmly establish him as beneath them. If he could recover everything, demonstrate his skill and devotion, maybe he'd be viewed differently, by Ana at the very least.

Felicia presented it to the Kravinoff matriarch as the former, Vasili expecting Ana as some reward for his work, but her objectivity is questionable, since he held her mother hostage to make Felicia steal what he couldn't. The fact he didn't push himself to be better, to finish his mission on his own, lends validity to her statement. If it was really about proving himself, he'd have kept trying on his own, rather than force someone else to do it for him. Which says it was less about how it was accomplished, and more that it was accomplished.

I'm not an objective theorist either, of course. I'm a sucker for those big gestures, the bold declarations of affection I think mostly occur in fiction. it doesn't work that way, which is probably Vasili's mistake. He figured he'd present all these recovered baubles, and Ana would look at him differently, more than indentured help. Maybe she would have, but it's unlikely. The Chameleon served her father for many years, and I don't think they were ever friends, let alone anything more. It's the Kravinoff sense of superiority. Someone once beneath will always be beneath them. If Vasili had succeeded, he might have earned praise, but he could easily have been beaten for overstepping his bounds. The family was in the middle of something big, and his personal mission could have jeopardized that, if he'd attracted police attention. Involving the Black Cat may have messed things up, though I didn't read Grim Hunt, so I can't say.

Still, even though Ana trusted him, enough to insist to her mother that Vasili would never work against the family, it's the trust one extends a pet, confident it'll never bite its master's hand. Which is not what he was looking for, and wasn't likely to ever become what he was looking for.

Interesting to contrast Vasili and Felicia, though. He serves the same role as his father and mother, though he seems dismayed by how his father served (helping Kraven kill himself). There was no sign of his relationship with his mother. Felicia follows in her father's footsteps, likely surpasses actually, but has a distant relationship with her mother, who's unconnected to the work, and doesn't approve. Vasili stole for Ana, and for himself, since he believed it would help him with her. Felicia steals because she's good at it, and she enjoys it. Vasili loves a girl who is never gonna love him back, while Felicia is (was?) in a relationship with a guy who might have wanted it to be more, but she's fine keeping it casual. For Vasili, everything he does is in pursuit of a goal - Ana. With Felicia,, the doing is as much the point as anything else. She made the choice to follow her father, makes the choice of what she'll steal, how she'll do it, and who she works with. And those things don't have much relation with who she sleeps with. She might not steal something for a villain out to get Spider-Man if it'd be used against him, but she that doesn't stop her from stealing all sorts of other pretties.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Surely Steve Rogers Won't Let Power Corrupt

Do you think we need to be worried about Steve Rogers? He's this sort of top cop, leader of all superheroes position now, and I wonder if it's taking a negative toll.

The thing that started me thinking this was near the end of Hawkeye and Mockingbird #6. Steve's trying to snap Hawkeye out of a funk. Clint's lacking confidence since he maimed Crossfire, and Rogers basically browbeat him out of it. That's fine, I tend to think of Steve Rogers as being the type to resort to an uplifting pep talk more than a kick in the pants, but he's worked with Hawkeye for a long time, he knows the right approach.

What worried me was that he did it to so Hawkeye could be in the right mindset to rejoin Mockingbird's group. Steve's reasoning is 'they're a group we can use, as long as they're staying on the level.' When asked if that means he wants Hawkeye to be a mole, Steve deflects, saying he needs Clint, and not just as an Avenger. He doesn't come off as terribly concerned with whether Hawkeye can keep Bobbi out of the downward spiral he fears she's fallen into, saying 'That's between the two of you.' It feels pretty dispassionate for the former Captain America.

Reading the first issue of She-Hulks, Bruce Banner says he wants Jennifer Walters and Lyra to live in New York, rather than at the Gamma Base with him, so that all the Hulks aren't in the same place if Rogers decides the world's better off without them. Perhaps Banner's paranoid, but he has reason to be after his buddies decided to shoot him off into space. Steve Rogers wasn't involved in that, but he has more authority at his disposal if he came to a similar conclusion.

Admittedly, it's only two things, and neither was in a book Rogers figures prominently in. McCann and Wilcox could be taking cues from how he's being portrayed in books where he is a major character, though. I know he's asked for the support of tons of heroes, if those opening pages of Avengers were any indication. He set up a secret Avengers group, for reasons I'm unclear on*, which includes a character like Eric O'Grady, who is of questionable morality at best. There's the Avengers Academy, which Pym runs but I assume has at least Steve's support, with teenagers damaged by Osborn, who could be heroes, but might be villains. The positive outlook is these are attempts to encourage these characters (the Academy kids, O'Grady) to choose to fight for good. The darker outlook, it's a way to keep an eye on them, to have them close by to squash if they cause too much damage if they go bad.

Part of my concern is the last two characters in this sort of position didn't do such a stellar job. of course, they were Tony Stark and Norman Osborn. Norman's a criminal scumbag lunatic, and Stark is the type who seems to believe the ends justify the means, but has no set guidelines on what's right or wrong. If it's right to protect his secret identity, he has a satellite to remove the knowledge from everyone's minds. If it's right to register said secret identity with the government, better do it or Papa Stark will kick your butt and take away your powers.

Rogers has generally been portrayed as having a set of principles he maintains. But he's never been in a position of actual authority quite like this. He's lead the Avengers at times, worked for SHIELD, but this is more far-reaching, and a little different. There's more pressure, and I wonder if his principles wouldn't start to bend some under the demands of the job. It can be as simple (on a meta-level) as his principles shifting with different writers. I don't think Brubaker's Steve Rogers is the same as Mark Gruenwald's. I don't know where Brubaker's Steve Rogers stands on killing, but he seems less bothered with using guns than Gruenwald's did. Things change, situations faced change, maybe the character changes, too. Plus there's the fact he's not Captain America anymore, not the symbol of the American spirit/will/people. He could figure that while there are things Captain America shouldn't do, Steve Rogers can do those. That's a little concerning, since it could be read he didn't necessarily believe in the ideals he espoused as Cap, but adopted them strictly because he felt the position demanded it.

My biggest concern is authority figures in the Marvel Universe almost inevitably end up either being corrupt, or being corrupted by their position. If they weren't evil to begin with, they were manipulated by someone who was, or they did some questionable stuff because they felt the situation demanded it (Xavier leaps to mind there). So the odds are against Steve Rogers not suffering the same fate.

* Is it a proactive team, or one designed to deal with ugly threats he'd prefer never reach the light of day, or public awareness?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Some Thoughts About A Cover

I like the cover for Young Allies #6. Really, it's Emma Frost that I like, because the way Emma Rios drew Frost sums her up perfectly to me. She's calm, confident, she's provoking a reaction in someone else while remaining in control herself, and of course, she's looking down her nose at Firestar. Arrogance, composure, mind games? That's pretty much Ethe White Queen to me. I know there's more than that, but those have been the dominant traits in most of her appearances I've read, besides "evil" and/or "inexplicably attracted to Cyclops".

Maybe it's just me, but her face is drawn more sharply than Firestar's. Certainly in the noses, Emma's comes to a point, while Angelica's is more rounded. Someone who didn't know the characters might not read it this way, but the fact Frost's nose looks like it could stab an eye out works for a character who is very good at cutting with words. OK, "cut" and "stab" aren't precisely the same, but they're both methods of hurting others. Even though Firestar's the one who looks ready to attack, Emma Frost is the one who seems more dangerous. She's unfazed by Firestar's anger, standing there waiting for something to happen. She's daring Angelica to try something, because she's got things in hand, and that gives her control because she'll use that to her advantage. There's a hardened edge to her that Firestar lacks.

Also, I like that both characters' hair is blowing backwards. It implies the clash of their personalities, the conflict between them creating a noticeable blowback.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Little Heroclix Chatting

Two months back, I typed up a list of DC figures I'd like to see in Heroclix, that hadn't made an appearance. #1 on the list was Ragdoll, and good news, he's going to be in the next set! They even gave him a trait that makes him a more effective attacker when combined with The Parademon, since they were such pals in Villains United.

Today they released some more info on the new Sgt. Rock figure. There's been a Sgt. Rock figure before, released several years ago in DC's 2nd set, Cosmic Justice*, but figures that old are somewhat limited in their playability with the newer ones. Plus, the version of it I had gave Rock the defensive power Mastermind, which the designers have fortunately left off the new Rock's dial.

The deal with Mastermind was, if a character's hit with an attack, they can pass the damage off to another character on their team, provided that character's directly next to them, and costs fewer points. There are specialized variations on the power sometimes. Luthor can pass damage off to team members not immediately adjacent, and Niles Caulder can pass it to Doom Patrol members with higher point values (useful since I think the rest of Doom Patrol cost more than Niles). You might see a problem there. Mastermind's typically a power assigned to total bastards (depending on which version of Caulder you subscribe to, I suppose), characters with no compunction about sacrificing others. Viewed that way, the power suggests Sgt. Rock used his men as bullet shields for himself.

The other way to look at it is his men were so loyal they willingly took bullets for him, which has actually been depicted on covers of his comic before. Like the one to the left there. Still, once I started thinking of it as him throwing his guys' lives away, it was a downer. Instead of that, they gave the new version Defend, which means he can share his defensive value with friendly characters, making it harder to hit them, which I think suits Rock's protectiveness of Easy Company pretty well.

I wish they'd given him Probability Control or Super Senses, though. Probability Control lets you, once during your turn, redo one of your rolls, and once during your opponent's turn, makes them redo one of theirs. So if you miss an attack you were sure you could make (cause you only needed a 4), and your Probability Control-user can see it, you can try again. Longshot, Scarlet Witch, they've had that power at some point. Super Senses means anytime an attack would hit your figure, you'd roll a die, and if it comes up 5 or 6, you dodge the attack. Flashes, Spider-Man, Daredevil, they tend to have that power.

You might wonder, "What the Hell you doing giving it to Sgt. Rock then?" I would respond, "Combat Antenna**" It wasn't uncommon for Rock to get a bad feeling there was a trap nearby, or to have a hunch about the approach an enemy would take. As Chris Sims put it, 'Sgt. Rock's been fighting the war so long he developed telepathy.' Call it precognition if you prefer, but it has a certain amount of comic book justification, and it would have been really cool. Either power would work, though PC would enable him to protect his soldiers, so it'd be more appropriate.

Oh well, maybe in the future.

* I know it doesn't make much sense to release Sgt. Rock in Cosmic Justice, but I think the designers like to diversify sets a bit, rather than keep everything in a specific theme. It's how you get Groot in the Web of Spider-Man set.

** Or "Sergeant's Radar".

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What I Bought 11/10/2010

Feels a little strange to be back to weekly reviews. In other news, I thought R.E.B.E.L.S. was coming out this week, and was preparing to buy it, but it didn't show. Perhaps the universe is trying to make me keep buying Power Girl. Well it won't work! To fill things out, I took a chance on a couple of Marvel mini-series I was on the fence about. I would have looked them over first, but the store has taken to bagging the comics before shelving them, to reduce people flipping through them. Which I understand totally (though I'm not a fan of the bags with tape on them, it's making different comics stick together), and we'll see whether I take more chances on things, or less in the future.

Ant-Man and the Wasp #1 - That's a nice cover. I like the one for next issue better, where they argue while standing on an unconscious A.I.M. agent.

Eric O'Grady's Ant-Man, and he's a sleaze. He knows this, feels sort of bad about it (or pretends to), so he jumps at the opportunity to earn some points with Hank Pym by warning him of a plan to swipe one of Pym's inventions. Except he's being tricked, and serves as the entryway for AIM's agent to breach Pym's defenses and steal the device, which is a sort of electronic Heaven. One which contains a copy of the consciousness of Bill Foster, who was Goliath, the poor fellow killed by Clone Thor in Civil War. Ant-Man feels guilty about helping this happen (or pretends to feel guilty), so Pym agrees to let him come along to save the day.

You might notice I keep questioning O'Grady's sincerity. What can I say, but he's a glory hound, a scumbag, and I liked Scott Lang. Lang being dead isn't O'Grady's fault (Bendis killed Lang after all), but it doesn't make me like Eric any more. Depending on how much you enjoy watching a character be sleazy (and occasionally receive comeuppance for it) there are some funny bits in the story. Tim Seeley, who writes and draws the comic, brings the reader up to speed on the status quo for the important characters, without it seeming blatantly expository.

There was one thing that bothered me, and that was Tigra's necklace. I didn't realize that was part of her ensemble now. I call it a necklace, because the other word I keep coming back to is "collar", and that creeps me out. It's probably my experience with Engelhart's West Coast Avengers, what with the story where Graviton put her on a leash.

Batgirl #15 - I had to look at this cover at least twice before I realized those were lots of people with hoods in the background. I must have glossed over them, or thought they were a low stone wall, carved with ridges and peaks. Like a picket fence, only rock.

At any rate, the scientist guy from the previous issue is murdered by some guys in hoods, despite Batgirl and the new Grey Ghost's best efforts. It's initially ruled a suicide, though Detective Gage doubts it, and then a bloody Batarang magically appears, so the crime is pinned on Batgirl. Ths, she will spend the next couple issues fleeing police. Fortunately, Gotham cops have proven themselves generally incompetent, or there wouldn't need to be so many costumed vigilantes around.

I don't know what Steph is talking about, everyone hating Spoiler. I liked her from the first. I suppose she means the Bat-clan, though. Not sure why a Batarang pins it on Batgirl. There are a half dozen people in Gotham using variants of those things. It was probably Damian, the crazy little snot.

New artist Dustin Nguyen, which is cool. I never bought it, but I enjoyed the issues of Detective Comics I flipped through that he illustrated (one where Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum tried to pin their work on the Hatter comes to mind). Some of the faces here look a little unfinished, but I think that's Nguyen's style, trying to get the maximum across without too many lines? I thought the fight scenes worked fine, some of the expressions were fantastic, and the first several pages, where Steph is illustrating the history of Batman for Wendy (and she used Bruce's name? Is that OK? And why no Cassandra mention?) were beautiful. I might love this comic even more if Nguyen drew it all like that.

She Hulks #1 - Say hello to the second book I took a chance on. The credits say "McGuinness and Hollowell" for the cover, and I can see McGuinness in the Hulk in the background, but I thought the She-Hulks were Art Adams. The bend Jen is showing from chest to waist to hips seemed like an Art Adams pose, but I guess not.

I haven't read a Hulk comic in, um, well, I flipped through World War Hulk, but I've heard online about the Intelligencia, a group of Marvel's super-geniuses who were up to something. I guess they were defeated and scattered, and the ladies have taken on the task of capturing them and throwing them into prison cells. . . in their underwear. Hope the cells have nice heating systems. Trapster and the Wizard are brought down this month, with Lyra (the redhead) having to brave the horrors of high school (and Jen the horrors of trying to acclimate Lyra to everyday life) in between. Both fights go roughly the same, with Jen making the actual capture, after Lyra charges in and gets clocked (or eats paste). I liked the Trapster fight more, since he seemed more clever about his attempted escape. Plus, the boat crash during the Wizard fight seemed awful abrupt, and shouldn't our heroes be more concerned about civilians? This is the Heroic Age people! Even Deadpool got that memo!

I don't know if I'll follow up with this. Perhaps if writer Harrison Wilcox shakes up the fight formula for their confrontation with Red Ghost and his Super-Apes. Or, show me more of Jen trying to teach Lyra about the rules of this world. It reminded me of Power Girl and Terra interacting, which was one of my favorite things about Power Girl. Ryan Stegman's art is nice, though it reminds me of someone else, and I can't put my finger on who. Maybe Salva Espin, but that might be the work of the colorist. it's mostly bright and cheerful, which I associate with Exiles, which was my primary exposure to Espin's work. The convoluted paths my mind makes.

Thanos Imperative #6 - Nova's really working a Dr. Strange pose there, don't you think? or maybe Dr. Doom. It doesn't work as well without a cape, though.

OK, Cancerverse Mar-Vell is defeated. The Many-Angled Ones are damaged enough to be put out of commission for eons. This causes all the forces of the Cancerverse to either die, or be sucked back into their universe, thus sparing the Marvel Universe. The Fault collapses. Thanos still can't get what he wants from Death. Star-Lord and Nova make the big hero stand. Everyone starts to pick up the pieces.

Nothing went quite the way I expected. Death triumphed, but not how I expected. I definitely didn't expect the fate of the Cancerverse or the character deaths at the end. I do call bullshit on Star-Lord pulling out that busted Cosmic Cube, though. In Thanos Imperative: Ignition, he and Rocket Raccoon declared it dead, drained of power after Quill used it to knock Thanos for a loop. Now it has sufficient power for one, maybe two shots? Since when? I don't guess it makes much difference in the end (or does it), but it felt like a cheat. At least throw something in earlier about how you might be able to recharge it, but it'll take time.

So lots of surprises, to me at least, but I'm not sure they're good surprises. It'll depend on what whoever writes Cosmic Marvel stuff in the future does with them, I suppose. If I like it, then I guess they're good. If I don't, then they're terrible, and so it will be recorded.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some Administrative Jobs You Pass On

Chronicles of Riddick was on G4 last night. At the end, Riddick killed the leader guy, and thus, by the rules of Necromonger faith/society, becomes the leader. As usual, since I'm slow, the question finally occurred to me, what's Riddick going to do with all these followers?

He's been a leader, but it doesn't seem to be a role he particularly enjoys. It seems to happen because he's the best person in the group at surviving, so everyone expects him to help them survive. Admittedly, some have leadership thrust upon them, but that doesn't mean they won't drop it the first chance they get. With this group, you're only leader until someone decides they can kill you, so it'd be an especially unpleasant reign. Maybe Riddick's grown used to being constantly vigilant, but it seems he'd rather keep a low profile where he could relax a little, than a high one where the bullseye is always there.

I suppose he could try abdicating the position, but there's a) no guarantee they'd let him, and b) no guarantee whoever took his place would be smart enough to leave him alone. More likely, the New Guy would feel he had to kill Riddick to properly take control.

So if he keeps the job, what'll he have them doing? The Necromongers seem intent on forcing conversion of people to their faith, then destroying the worlds (and all those who refused) as they move on. Riddick's not adverse to bloodshed, but killing for a cause doesn't strike me as his style. Actually, learning about his origins in this movie gave me the impression that much of his earlier killing was what he had to do to survive. The Lord Marshal tried to kill every male member of Riddick's race, so at the least, Riddick grew up without a dad, possibly without parents, period, on a world ravaged by Necromongers. Mostly he seems to want to get away from people, for his own good, or for theirs.

I can't see him being able to order the Necromongers to stop doing anything, that'd likely set them to overthrowing him immediately. But I can't figure how he can direct them in positive ways. Their whole shtick is to forcibly spread their faith, gather new members, and kill the rest. I suppose he could order them to stand before any survivors of their attacks and let themselves be killed, but again, I can't see them complying with the order. Maybe their technology can be converted to peaceful means, but is Riddick the one to lead that transformation?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

There Are Times My Games Shouldn't Test Me

I've owned enough versions of Madden to know there are times the game is going to win. Not in the sense that I play teams that are so much better, triumph is unlikely. More the game seems absolutely determined to make me lose. Usually, I have a seemingly comfortable lead when the computer begins completing long passes where their wide receiver outruns everybody on my defense, followed by my team fumbling or throwing improbable interceptions to give the computer the ball back. They respond to that gift by throwing more long touchdowns where my players forget how to tackle, or let possible interceptions bounce off their hands.

Sunday was a bit different. The game seemed to have made its decision to beat me from the start, rather than waiting until the end. My first pass was intercepted and returned for a TD. Another pass was intercepted later (I'd thrown 1 INT the previous 5 games), then that QB left with a broken jaw, followed shortly by my starting tight end. My backup QB also had a pass intercepted and returned for a TD, and my kick returner lost a fumble. All told, I was fortunate to be losing by 10 with 5 minutes left, and I engineered two touchdown drives in the next 4 minutes to take the lead. I was surprised, but happy. Then the computer decided on the last play that its receiver would catch a pass between two of my defensive backs, they'd both whiff on the tackle, and said receiver would run untouched into the end zone, handing me the loss.

Normally, I'm annoyed by this, but able to shrug it off and beat the next team. It doesn't happen terribly often, after all. Sunday, however, I was playing to relieve frustration with the real Arizona Cardinals blowing a game against the Vikings that afternoon. I was playing as Arizona, and in a strange coincidence (since this was Madden '05), the team the game decided absolutely had to beat me was. . . the Minnesota Vikings.

As the game would attest (if it could talk) I didn't respond well to that turn of events. There are times when I can appreciate the sense of humor displayed by the universe, but this wasn't one of those times. Next time, I'm probably better off playing a shooter to relieve stress (I tried taking a walk, it didn't help).

Those attempts at elastic A.I. or whatever it is are one of the most frustrating things about sports (and especially) racing games for me. Burnout 3 used to drive me nuts that way. The game would tell me I had a 20-second lead, five seconds later I'm being told "They're right behind me!" How they'd catch up when I didn't let off the gas was a mystery, and it was maddening that there was no level of perfect driving I could achieve that would ensure easy victory. The game was always going to get some opponent close enough to challenge. If I were being generous, I could say the game was playing it so that until I took a huge lead, the computer opponents didn't take me seriously. Considering their ability to destroy my leads seemed to violate even the questionable physical laws governing the Burnout games (and the fact drivers were given no personality or identity), I'm not feeling generous.

Monday, November 08, 2010

I Didn't Expect To See That On The Side Of A Van

I took my vehicle in for some maintenance today, and since it would be awhile, I decided to have some breakfast. I'm standing in line, waiting for my order when a van pulls up outside. It represented a group that does airbrush work, be it for shirts, helmets, vehicles, whatever. On the side of the van was a picture of two guys fighting, both wearing masks and looking quite angry. I couldn't shake the feeling I'd seen the picture before somewhere, and it finally hit me.

Yes, they used the cover from Countdown #31 as a reference for the design. It was just Jason Todd and Owlman, not the buildings visible in the background. I'm not sure whether I'm more concerned about their choice of image, or the fact I recognized it despite avoiding Countdown as best I could. Did they love Countdown, or just the cover? Maybe it was a random selection, one they thought would demonstrate their skills.

They did a pretty fair job, not that I'm an expert. It was good enough I could recognize the reference, anyway.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Wall Doesn't Need Aynyone To Tell Her About Deadshot

There was one other bit from Secret Six #27 I liked, though I'm not sure if it was intended to be enjoyed that way.

At the beginning, the fight between the two teams is accompanied by Tremor's field report to Waller, largely outlining her observations of the group she's with (Scandal's team). It felt like an attempt by Simone to get any new readers up to speed, a recap that isn't. She mentions that Waller had Catman pegged as a man of ethics, possibly Suicide Squad leader material, but that's wildly out of date (evidenced I guess by Catman biting Dwarfstar as she says it). If you'd been away from the book for a time, or were brand new, that would tell you biting people is atypical for Catman, until recently anyway. Not sure that was Simone's intent, but it was a thought I had.

That's not the specific point I enjoyed, which came a panel earlier. In her assessment of Deadshot, she states 'I've seen snipers who are disconnected from their emotions as a defense mechanism. Lawton's problems go beyond that. I think he hates himself, Amanda.'

OK, there's nothing real "Ha, ha" there offhand, but what amused me about was I pictured Waller hearing this report. I see Tremor making some dramatic pause before the line about Floyd hating himself, expecting some big reaction, only to have Waller stare calmly at her and respond, "Yeah, and?" Maybe a little smirk, if there's any response at all.

I imagine this is Tremor's first major interaction with Floyd, so perhaps it's news to her (though you'd think Waller's files would mention something about Floyd's suicidal tendencies), but for Waller (or readers who have followed Deadshot for awhile), it's old news.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

It Takes More Than Planted Files To Crumble The Wall

Reading Secret Six #27, I found myself a lot more entertained by the handful of pages with Amanda Waller and Spy Smasher than the conflict between the two Secret Six squads. The fact the two costumed teams wound back where they started by the end of the issue didn't help. The location had changed, and there were extra people involved, but they started the issue fighting, and they ended it fighting. Running in place.

The subplot though, that was great. Waller handled it so easily, not just covering her own tracks, but pinning everything on Katrina in the process. It's strange, but if Batman had been in Waller's spot, I might have been annoyed, since it could play as another example of Batman being 10 steps ahead. The difference here for me is twofold. One, Katrina's plan wasn't overly complex. She baited Waller into doing something, then tried to plant more evidence to seal the deal. It didn't feel like the product of years of meticulous planning. Two, Waller seemed to be fooled at first*, but was naturally suspicious enough to that she took certain precautions. It's less that letting Katrina spring her trap was all part of Waller's trap, and more Waller finding a way out of the trap once she was in it. Which doesn't mean Waller didn't have plans to deal with Katrina if necessary, just she wasn't planning to use them at that time, until the situation forced it.

Whatever. Point remains, I was highly impressed with Amanda Waller. Again.

Now here's a question for you. Do you think Waller will honor her promise of a presidential pardon for her group if they succeed? Based on Dwarfstar's comments, it appears Spy Smasher offered her group the same, but considering they were only pawns in her scheme to oust Waller, I think it's more likely she'd try to have them killed when they came back. If she didn't simply strand them in Skartaris**. The Wall, near as I can tell, sent her group in because she truly believed Katrina was serious (and heck, Bane and Co. don't know it's bull, so they are serious about conquering), so her offer could really be legit. Especially if Spy Smasher was working on a personal vendetta, with no higher authorization.

The downside for Waller would be that Deadshot would have a clean record, and we know Amanda loves to have Floyd on her team. Still, she could always just hire him, or wait until he commits another crime. Even if his record was expunged, I can't see Deadshot no longer shooting people. It's only a matter of time until he'd be back at it, then Batman beats him up and throws him in prison, and there ya go, Waller's got her shooter back. I think Waller will try to get them the pardons, but the higher-ups will nix it, or the Six will go right on doing what they do, thus racking up brand-new criminal charges.

* Or she fooled me as the reader into thinking she believed Spy Smasher's line about an imminent nuclear strike that would be allowed to happen, which Waller hadn't been informed of. She did still seem determined to stop the annexation of Skartaris, so I think she bought it initially.

Katrina and Peter Gyrich should have a crossover some time. With any luck, they'd stab each other in the back and free their respective universes from their presence.

Friday, November 05, 2010

What I Bought 11/4/2010

I know today is the 5th, but I picked these up from the store yesterday. Yes, I picked them up directly from the store, which means weekly (bi-weekly) comic reviews have returned. For how long, I don't know. In other news, this is a spotty Internet connection, so trying to post will likely be a challenge. I'm not going to review it, since I reviewed #4 two weeks ago, but I also found Black Cat #3 at the store, so I've happily finished collecting that mini-series. Now I need to read it the whole way through in one sitting.

Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet #3 - The cover's by Grummett and Delgado, and I'm wondering if that's Tom Grummett, because if so, I'm having a hard time recognizing it as his work. Ms. Marvel's nose looks how I'm used to Grummett's noses looking, but the rest not so much. It looks more cross-hatched, sketched, in places than I'm used to seeing. It's not bad (though it's not an interesting or exciting cover), the art's just different. It doesn't say whether Delgado inked, or finished an illustration Grummett started, but I guess collaborative effort is the explanation.

As to the plot, the heroes defeat Baron von Zeppelin, then Wolverine defeats marauding astrocrows, because he has a grudge with them, then they reach Thanos, and are roundly thumped. As far as defiant stands against Thanos go, Spider-Man's on the final page isn't up there with Captain America's during Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet, but Cap does set the bar pretty high.

The story is a bit sparse in this issue, but Clevinger (and Lee Black, whose name doesn't appear on the cover for some reason) and Churilla are using that as an opportunity to fit in several jokes, one-liners, and amusing visuals. There's the Hulk sitting around, bummed out because the space pirates aren't worth smashing, Ms. Marvel's disinterest in Zeppelin's motivations, the team's wait while Wolverine works out his issues with the astrocrows, and Dr. Doom in a apron that says "Galaxy's Best Mom". The way his shoulders are hunched as U.S. Ace's mother berates him into making sandwiches works perfectly at conveying how unprepared he was for her force of personality. Also, Thanos has a lovely evil smile as he makes Logan's attack futile.

Hawkeye and Mockingbird #6 - I meant to drop this book after last month and start buying Avengers Academy, but the store seemed to be out of those, and this is the last issue, so I'll wait until next month, when Hank Pym begins another slide into nervous breakdown territory. What? He's changing identities, and past Avengers runs have told me that's a bad sign.

Here, we see Clint Barton troubled by what he did to Crossfire, ripping out his cybernetic eye. He observes Crossfire at the Raft, then gets chewed out by Steve Rogers for having lost his confidence, or trust in himself, or something, which apparently pisses Hawkeye off enough he gets back to his old self. Steve then asks Clint to rejoin Mockingbird's group. Through all this, Mockingbird's in the Savage Land with Dominic, and she sees the result of Barton's freakout from Secret Invasion, and learns the truth about Dominic Fortune. The end of the issue is leading into the Widowmaker mini-series, which doesn't interest me, but will probably be of interest to some of you reading.

Maybe the point of the series was the toll covert work takes on a person's ability to have healthy relationships, or demonstrate much kindness towards others, but it was too much. Dominic didn't come by her old work by entirely square means, but that she's willing to consider just letting him die was troubling. I wasn't particularly happy with Steve Rogers' approach with Hawkeye, either. It felt like Tony Stark-style manipulation. He needs Hawkeye on Mockingbird's team, so tell Clint her life is in danger. In other stories, this sort of thing doesn't bother me as much, GrimJack for example, but here it did. Probably because the characters didn't act the way I expected.hoped they would.

Secret Six #27 - Yes, it's the cover with Bane riding a dinosaur. It even accurately reflects the story within! As you might guess, that means Bane didn't die of his neck wound received last issue. It's magic, or a mutant. Close enough. The two teams cease fighting for awhile, thanks to Jeanette, but by the end of the issue they're back at it again. The only difference is most everbody has changed their wardrobe some. Not sure why Catman thinks his teammates might laugh at him. He's wearing more clothes by the end of the issue than he was in the beginning. Don't worry ladies, it's not that much more. In other developments, we learn what Spy Smasher is really up to with all that talk of nuclear strikes in the U.S. It's not a bad plan, but she's up against Amanda Waller, and you just aren't going to win against her. Batman couldn't do it, neither can Spy Smasher.

One thing I found strange was Scandal telling Jeanette she didn't mean to kill Bane, she simply flashed back to her training under her father. The strange thing is the way Calafiore drew the sequence at the end of the previous issue, I didn't think Scandal had any say in it whatsoever. It appeared Bane grabbed her wrist, and guided her blades up to his throat, helping her kill him, rather than fight her. Her flashing back to her training wouldn't seem to make much difference.

Also, I love Deadshot's attempt at sweet talk to Jeanette. 'Um, sweetie-pie cookie-puss' coming from Floyd Lawton's mouth? I'm amazed all the others present didn't burst out laughing.