Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Tis The Season For Me To Huck Verbal Rotten Apples At Tony LaRussa

I read an article by Rob Neyer last weekend. It's about baseball, and so is this post, so consider this a warning beforehand, if you're allergic to baseball.

Here's the link.

It's not the stuff about shortstops that interests me. I'm a Cardinals' fan, I know they haven't developed a shortstop in my lifetime. Except for Brendan Ryan, and he couldn't (and can't) hit, but oh, he could field. But he was a little goofy (and possibly has ADD*), and Tony LaRussa wasn't going to have any truck with that. So he was traded for Maikel Cleto, who threw hard, but couldn't find the plate with a road map, and was released three seasons later, having accomplished very little. Never mind Ryan was the best defensive SS in baseball at the time (and for at least two years after); that the Cardinals' pitching staff under LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan routinely ranked in the bottom third to quarter of the NL in strikeouts**; that Duncan's philosophy was for his pitchers to get groundballs, which might be aided by good infield defense; that having good infield defense was already a challenge with a converted outfielder - Skip Schumaker - playing second. No, much better to dump Brendan Ryan, and go with Ryan Theriot, who had less range at shortstop than my dead grandmother. It worked out so well, the Cardinals went back to the Dodgers in the middle of the season and asked them to trade the Cardinals another shortstop. But no, Tony LaRussa's a genius.

I said, this wasn't about the shortstop thing, and it isn't, really, despite the above paragraph. I just like to rant about that whole mess sometimes, because it feels a bit like Brendan got scapegoated for the 2010 Cardinals' failures, which is garbage.

Anyway, Neyer sort of screwed up the facts on the end of Ozzie Smith's time as the starting shortstop (after pointing out that Ozzie's presence had long removed the need to develop a shortstop). This being the Internet, people corrected Neyer, and I guess he added the excerpt for LaRussa's recent memoir to clarify things further.

All it did for me is raise my ire, but there are so many things to appreciate first. Like LaRussa chiding Ozzie for how he handled things, then using Reggie Jackson, Mr Straw that Stirs the Drink as an example of a veteran being more helpful. Of course, Tony undercuts his argument by crediting Reggie with showing Human Train Wreck Jose Canseco how to behave, but I'm sure Tony meant it in a complimentary way. Then there's Tony criticizing someone for being too concerned with alleged disrespect. If I had a thousand bucks for every time during Tony's stint as Cardinals' manager where he complained about an opposing player or team disrespecting the Cardinals or baseball in general, I could buy Guam. If we include his time in Oakland and with the White Sox, I could probably upgrade that to New Zealand.

Sure, I'm biased. Ozzie's my favorite baseball player ever, but Tony's hardly impartial here. He's certainly trying to make himself look better. "Oh, see how quietly I handled my retirement! See how I was so respectful towards Ozzie! I was just trying to be a good manager and run the team, but that darn glory boy athlete was just concerned with himself!"

What a load of tripe. But, OK, he's free to say what he likes, and I'm sure he feels he's just putting his version of the story out there in opposition to Ozzie's, since Ozzie's been willing to tell anyone who asks just why he felt disrespected. I might as well lay it out here, just as a counterpoint. Put simply, Ozzie says LaRussa told him the starting shortstop job for the '96 season would be decided in Spring Training. Ozzie and new acquired free agent Royce Clayton would each get their turn to play, and the better player gets the job. Ozzie outplayed Clayton***, LaRussa named Clayton the starter anyway, and claimed Ozzie misinterpreted what Tony said, that he never said anything about an open competition.

Which is possible, I suppose, but I have a hard time picturing what LaRussa could have said that would give Ozzie that impression. I think it's worth mentioning that in Spring Training of 2006, LaRussa claimed there was an open competition for the 5th starter spot between Adam Wainwright, Anthony Reyes, and Sidney Ponson. Incidentally, that's also the order their performances would be ranked from best to worst. When the season started, Reyes was in Triple A, Wainwright was in the bullpen, and Ponson was the 5th starter, while LaRussa claimed you couldn't make a decision like that based on only the 10-20 innings most pitchers throw in Spring Training.

Normally, I'd be inclined to agree, except for the part where he said that was exactly what he was basing it on. So there's a bit of corroborating evidence for Ozzie's side of the story, with the added bonus of making Tony LaRussa look like a spoiled 5 year old who changes the rules of the board game so he wins.

That's a bonus for me, anyway. Hey, he may have helped the Cardinals win a lot - I'd say Albert Pujols had a hell of a lot more to do with it than the guy who kept giving Aaron Miles 300 plate appearances, but whatever -, but he was still really irritating.

I sort of understand LaRussa's mindset. That if your GM goes out and gets you a 26-year old, fairly promising shortstop, you would plan on starting him ahead of the 41 year coming off an injury-shortened season. But part of being a manager - or any sort of boss - ought to be adapting to changing circumstances, or being able to recognize the talents of your subordinates. Like say, recognizing that even a 41-year old Ozzie Smith is still a better player than Royce Clayton at any age.

* I read an article about him by a guy who covered him while he played with the Mariners, and he mentioned Ryan had ADD while mentioning his constantly being late, but I'm not sure if he means Ryan really does have ADD, or meant it in that joking way you might say it about a scatterbrained friend.

** I went back through the records. The Cards' pitchers ranked 13th or worse in strikeouts every year from 2006 through 2011, LaRussa's last as manager. In 2005, they ranked 12th. All told in his tenure - 16 seasons - they ranked in the top half in strikeouts three times, none of those higher than 6th out of 14, none more recent than 2000.

*** Based on the limited spring training stats I've seen, Ozzie hit .270 and made no errors, Clayton hit .170 and made 6 errors, and it's doubtful Clayton walked enough to boost his on-base percentage above Ozzie, given Clayton's career OBP of .315, even with a .258 average. For the record, Ozzie has a career average only 4 points better, but his OBP is .337.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Some Winding Thoughts About Some Games

A friend loaned me Grand Theft Auto 4 last month. I played it a couple of times, then returned it. I hated how all the vehicles handled, and the whole idea of going on dates, or hanging out with friends seemed strange for a GTA game. It makes sense in Persona 3, since that game is all about building connections with other people and drawing strength from that. But with a GTA game, I'd just as soon pass on all that, keep things on a professional level, where I commit horrible acts, and they pay me for them. That way I don't feel bad if the game makes me kill them later.

Besides, practically everyone I've ever met in a GTA game was a horrible person. Why would I want to hang out with them?

The GTA games I've played always encouraged the player to run around doing whatever they want, but those actions always end up bringing the cops down on you. I don't mind dodging the police occasionally, it can even be kind of fun to see how long I can drive around eluding their traps. But on the whole, my preference has always been to avoid enemies. Especially ones that will keep coming endlessly with ever-increasing amounts of force. Which means my style of play isn't really conducive to rampaging. At least with Red Dead Redemption, I can spend a lot of time just riding around looking at scenery, and if I really want to kill some people, it probably won't be hard to find some guys robbing a stagecoach.

I do find it interesting that Rockstar tries for these characters who are meant to be reluctantly violent, but place them in games where the player can slaughter everyone around them. I've seen a few people mention this issue with regards to Niko in GTA 4 (he didn't seem that reluctant to me, but I suppose he wasn't just attacking everyone like a mad dog), or John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. Is that because they figure the player doesn't want to see themselves as a complete psychopath, so it's better to make it seem as though events are conspiring to make the main character kill people? Or would it be difficult to write an entire storyline for a main character where he might simply kill everyone in a given cut scene? I know Trevor in GTA 5 is probably at least a partial nod to this based on what I've heard, but he's possibly balanced out by two less chaotic co-stars.

Speaking of main characters in Rockstar games, I know there was some talk near the release of GTA 5 about the fact there's still never been a playable female character in a Grand Theft Auto game. Or is it any Rockstar game? Bully and Red Dead Redemption didn't have one. One of the guys at Rockstar said this was because they didn't think guys would want to play as a woman. First off, I imagine at least some women play Grand Theft Auto games, so if the guys want to play as guys, perhaps the ladies would like to play as ladies. Second, guys don't want to play as female characters? What about Tomb Raider, or Metroid? You're telling me guys don't play those games? I can tell you they do, because I've played them, along with two Bloodrayne games, Beyond Good and Evil, Velvet Assassin, Wet, Mirror's Edge, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. . . Not all those games were good, but their quality or lack thereof wasn't due to the gender of the protagonist.

I'll also throw in that I asked Alex, whose roommates own GTA 5, and so he's played it, if he would have any qualms about playing as a woman. He said no, in fact, it might be interesting. Yes, he and I are only two anecdotal data points, but we are guys who will play as female characters at least some of the time, which tends to dispute the guy's point. What's it going to hurt to have one playable female character in your story? I know Rockstar games tend to sexually objectify almost all the female characters (I found it strange how many women were running around the wilderness alone in their undergarments in Red Dead Redemption, and how those women were always going to steal my horse when I agreed to give them a ride into town. The ones that wore more clothes tended to actually be genuine in their need for help, which is a loaded statement by the game), but just because she's a playable character doesn't mean they can't do that. They don't have to, but I imagine they would. Or they could try and comment on it. How does a lady criminal deal with that? Does she use it, try to downplay it, aggressively confront anyone who brings it up?

That might be beyond the grasp of their writers.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Burn Notice 6.11 - Desperate Measures

Plot: We open in a warehouse somewhere in Panama, as Michael and Friends interrogate Tyler Gray. Gray doesn't seem terribly bothered about Nate's death, so Mike's ready to see if Gray's own demise bothers him a little more. Fi is on board (big surprise), but Jesse and Sam are set against it, and it's Sam who points out they can use Gray against Tom Card, but not if he's dead. And not from Panama, which means finding a flight home, and getting Maddy to help smooth things over on that end. Fi finds a pilot all too willing to give her a ride to the States. It won't be until takeoff he learns she's bringing her friends. Of course, it won't be until then that those friends realize they're hitching a ride with a coke shipment. Not that the plane gets far, because Gray tries to escape, Mike refuses to let that happen, and they both win up as prisoners of a very unpleasant fellow named Ramon Vasquez, who doesn't like people he thinks are trying to steal his coke.

While all this is going on, Maddy's been working with Sam's "buddy" Dixon (last seen in 5.10, "Army of One") to erase any record of that flight they're all supposed to be on. After that, she still has to meet with Tom Card, knowing now that he's the one responsible for Nate's death. She's pulls it off, as she always does.

Meanwhile, Mike is trying mostly unsuccessfully to convince Gray to work with him to get out of their predicament. The fact Mike was going to shoot him in the head earlier in the episode doesn't help, but neither does the fact Card showed Gray some file that said Mike and Anson were working together to blah, blah, blah. So they're arguing with each other when Gray isn't trying to cut his own deals with Vasquez, and Mike isn't busy stalling Vasquez, while Sam, Fi, and Jesse, try to arrange a swap of the coke for their friends. That falls through, but presents an opportunity to sneak Fi back in behind the lines and rescue Michael and Gray, who felt his heart grow three sizes as he watched Mike get electrocuted to protect his friends. The growth in cardiac muscle, a sure sign of congestive heart failure, produced a disorientation in Gray which made him decide to help Michael escape and bring down Tom Card once they reach Miami.

He's not really dying of congestive heart failure, and what the hell am I doing making Christmas story-themed references before Halloween? This is awful. Anyway, they made it back to Miami, but Mike isn't telling Maddy who Gray really is. Because he's been so good at lying to her face up to this point.

The Players: Tyler Gray (Nate's Killer), Dixon (Computer Expert), Ramon Vasquez (President Vasquez Cargo Company/Drug Smuggler)

Quote of the Episode: Vasquez - 'So these people you just met, they hang out here with $12 million worth of coke for you? Huh?' Michael - 'What can I say? I'm that charming?'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Well, someone had to make the land mine.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 1 (20 overall).

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (6 overall).

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (1 overall).

Other: No time for aliases this week.

When Maddy has her meeting with Card in his office, I specifically noted the horrible sculpture on one of his dressers/cabinets/end table/whatever. It was like a particularly poor attempt to capture the look of a tornado, or else someone peeled a piece of fruit in one piece and froze the peel. Just awful.

I love that Esteban, the small boy whose phone Sam and Jesse purchased, called them back later to warn them of men with guns looking for gringos. Nice kid.

I like Michael getting frustrated during the escape and shouting at the guards, 'I don't speak Spanish!' Something about the fact he doesn't speak Spanish, yet he keeps working in Spanish speaking countries or places with a lot of people who speak Spanish, is always funny to me. Plus, it's at least one thing he's completely useless at.

I don't necessarily follow Gray's logic that because Michael showed loyalty for Fi and the others, he couldn't be the man described in the files he saw. The files described Mike and the others as traitors, which wouldn't be true for Fi since she isn't from the U.S., and therefore can't betray it, anymore than she could betray, say Mongolia. Anyway, just because someone is willing to betray a country, it does not necessarily stand to reason they would betray the people they work with, if they've been working together long enough.

Michael working with Gray, I'm reminded of what Mike told Fi last episode: that he doesn't care who he has to work with, he will not let Nate's killer escape. Very true. He'll even work with the man who shot Nate, to stop the guy who told him to do it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Be Glad I Didn't Use Two Deadpools. . . Yet

For all I know Battle of the Atom is over, but I might as well discuss this anyway.

So there were/are two future X-teams running around? I guess that would explain that panel I saw of a Future Iceman who looked like a wizard, when the version that appeared in X-Men looked more like the Thing. I'm guessing one of the teams is evil and up to no good, unless both of them are evil.

I figure the group from X-Men is probably bad. Yeah, they have Molly Hayes on their team and it's hard to picture her being evil, but look at the rest of the bunch. Hulking, seemingly mute Ice-creature. Mysteriously young, walking Xavier, when Xavier had been getting proposed as increasingly morally dubious for awhile (since at least Deadly Genesis). An older Jean Grey wearing Xorn's helmet, because that isn't ominous. A Hank McCoy who has one curved horn. I don't know what to make of that. Did he mutate again, only it sputtered out halfway through, or was he experimenting on himself again? Either way, very creepy looking.

Worst of all, they have a Deadpool who barely speaks. He said two words through the entirety of X-Men #5, and it was a simply confirmation that he was going to carry out orders. Two words in an entire issue? Deadpool says more than two words in two words. No jokes, not even an attempt to make a joke that falls horribly flat.

Voice Behind Calvin: [We're trying to save our world by restoring the timeline. There's nothing humorous about that.]

Deadpool? I told you earlier this week the blog wasn't ready for your return yet! *turns* Oh, Future Deadpool. Of course.

Future Deadpool: [And two months from now you'll tell me it is.]

Ha! Now I know you're evil, because that's a lie. Two months from now, I still won't have received my copies of December's books, so I won't have reviewed your series, so you can't show up!

Future Deadpool: [You invited me to help ring in the start of Year 8 here on the blog.]

Hmm, that does sound like something I might do in the height of desperation that comes from excessive exposure to Christmas spirit.

Future Deadpool: [Yes. You said something about me going to the department stores and killing everyone.]

What?

Future Deadpool: [You used "thin out the crowds" as a euphemism, but your meaning was clear.]

Are you sure? I could see myself asking you to scare everyone out but chasing them while brandishing a giant salami like a sword, but not actually killing people.

Future Deadpool: [It didn't matter. I was too intoxicated on Irish cream and boxed wine to do anything.]

Oh. Well, that's good, I guess. Seriously though, where are the jokes?

Future Deadpool: [I told you, this isn't a laughing matter?]

You're running around in the past searching for versions of people you know from the even more distant past. You can't at least keep up a running commentary?

Future Deadpool: [It would just distract everyone.]

Exactly. I might forget I was reading an event tie-in. Did Future Xavier and Jean break your brain?

Future Deadpool: *sighs* [No. Look, I went through a lot of things and I grew up. I became a reliable hero and a member of the X-Men.]

You could at least sound more excited about that last part

Future Deadpool: [It's not a prize, it's a responsibility.]

I don't know why you're bothering.

Future Deadpool: [What?]

You're in the Marvel Universe; the future always sucks in the Marvel Universe. Is not having Scott Summers or Jean Grey around going to break things that much worse? If it isn't Sentinels, it's Alchemax. If it isn't the mega-corps, it's the Martians, or the Badoon, or Apocalypse, or Kang, or some idiot aspect of Adam Warlock's soul.

Future Deadpool: [That's no reason to stop trying.]

True, but is there any reason to think making the kids go back home is really going to fix things? Or that your future is worth preserving? No offense Wade, but if you're on the X-Men, things have gone seriously awry along the line.

Future Deadpool: [You think so?]

Not that you aren't doing your best for them, but the X-Men have historically treated you like something they would scrape off their shoes. They're more likely to let Sabretooth in the front door than you. If they've welcomed you, they probably were out of options.

Future Deadpool: *glum* [Maybe you're right.]

What you need are some mini-pizzas.

Future Deadpool: *perks up* [Yeah, that crunchy because it's burnt on the outside, crunchy because it's still frozen in the middle crust, topped with a melted, cheeselike substance, and something that might be meat if you don't look too close! That's something worth wrecking time for!]

*Future Deadpool waits expectantly, Calvin continues typing.*

Future Deadpool: [Well?]

Oh, I don't have any. I was just commenting that you could use some.

Future Deadpool: [I forgot, mini-pizzas are an extravagance you can't afford on your limited budget.]

Was that a crack at my expense?

Future Deadpool: [Should I have referenced your "broke ass" to make it more clear?]

No, I was hoping your sense of humor was returning.

Future Deadpool: *shrugs* [It might be.]

You going to go help your teammates set things right before returning to your time?

Future Deadpool: [Nah, think I'll go find some corn dogs and nachos, find a nice to set on fire. Then sleep on it. While it's on fire.]

Sounds like an admirable way to spend your time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Should Have Discussed Why I LIke Katana Sooner

I mentioned Monday that DC announced Katana ends in December. As I said then, I'm not surprised, except I thought it would have a couple more months, which would presumably give Nocenti a little more time for some sort of satisfying resolution, although I have a hard time picturing what that would be. She's only begun delving into the various Sword Clans, to save nothing of all the other ones out there, so having Tatsu take over would be pretty rushed, if that was ever Nocenti's plan. It could be a matter of her realizing the task she's presented herself isn't achievable, and altering her goals. Since there's a real question of whether she was doing this solely for revenge, or out of some genuine desire to reform the Clans, she could have a moment of clarity that makes her choose a different path.

As it is, I expect the last issue will feel very rushed, and probably only provide a sense of resolution on the surface levels, if the last issue of Dial H was anything to go by.

I know I'm in the minority on it - just as I was on Nocenti's Green Arrow run - but I enjoyed Katana. It wasn't perfect, wasn't likely to make my Top 3 Ongoing for 2013, but I lay much of the blame for that on the art. Alex Sanchez couldn't lay a page out sensibly to save his life, and would trained fighters really keep lunging (unprotected) face first at their enemies, because he certainly enjoys drawing them that way. Beyond that, yes the book feels a little scattershot, but it also feels like Nocenti is trying to say something with it. I'm not always clear on what she's trying to say, but I appreciate the fact there's something there, beyond a surface of cool moments. Hey, I like cool moments for characters, too, but something extra is appreciated.

Also, Katana has a sense of momentum to it. That momentum is out of control at times, or somewhat unfocused, but I haven't felt like things were being dragged out for the trade. There are fights, revelations, setbacks, new paths opening in the face of new information, new challenges. I recognize that "things happen" is the bare minimum we should expect from a story, but there are some writers out there I think could use a reminder. But the nice thing with Katana is that all these things happening help keep me on my toes. I don't know what's going to happen next, where the story might go. Every issue can bring new surprises, characters impressing or disappointing me, but Nocenti's developed them in a such a way that either reaction is possible. These characters are going to make bad decisions, or irrational ones sometimes, because that happens in times of heightened emotions, or when you only have a moment. I enjoy the unpredictability, and also the sense that the characters are more rounded, not all straight archetypes.

I would understand a distaste for her dialogue, it's a bit stilted, but I suppose I grew up reading comics written like that, so I don't mind. I'm primarily concerned with whether the dialogue is telling you anything, how realistic it sounds is less relevant. People talk in many different ways, after all, but most of them are trying to say something when they open their mouths.

Easy come easy go, another title I enjoyed on the "quickly canceled" pile.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's, Er, Cilxerin' Time?

Sounds like an allergy medicine.

As per usual, the month after I talk about the DC Heroclix I'd like to get, I talk about the Marvel Heroclix I'd like to get. This last year was fairly quiet by Marvel standards, since DC got more sets than they usually do. There was Amazing Spider-Man over the winter, Wolverine and the X-Men in the summer, and they did a smaller set for the new Thor movie earlier this month. There's also some sort of Fear Itself thing, but I can tell whether it's another mini-set, or stuff you get from specific competitive events. Little of both, maybe.

I tend to have more than five characters I'd like to see on the Marvel side of it, so I group them into categories instead. But there are only five categories! So let's check in:

Cosmic: Galactic Guardians in the spring of 2012 took care of most of this, but there's still the matter of Ikon, if I wanted to complete an Annihilators team. I'm not holding out hope, unless she survived Infinity and Hickman makes her a key part of his Avengers run, which is doubtful since he's made so many people Avengers I'm not sure how any of them could be key.

Street-Level: Still no Rage or Silhouette for my New Warriors' themed dreams, but they were longshots, except maybe in the Amazing Spider-Man set. Then again, there's an Iron man-themed set coming in a month or so, and a major part of it is gonna be Alpha Flight so, who knows. On the upside, Amazing Spider-Man did have Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. As a Duo figure (2 character on 1 base), rather than two separate ones (because they needed room for 17 different Spider-Man figures in the set, obviously), but at least it's something.

Mutants: Wolverine and the X-Men came through. Monet and a Layla Miller both showed up, plus the first new Longshot in years, and a Dazzler that isn't the Ultimate version, or the Disco version. No Stacy X, but I wasn't really expecting a miracle.

Avengers: It took 3 sets spread between 2011 and 2013, but they finally finished the Great Lakes Avengers. Flatman and Bertha both showed up in Wolverine and the X-Men. Told you that set came through for me. of course, I think by the way they do set retirement Captain America is about to go out of "Modern Age", and that takes Doorman, Mr. Immortal, and Squirrel Girl with it. But that only matters if you play competitive tournaments, rather than just screwing around like me.

Atlas: Still no sign of Triathlon or SHIELD Agent Derek Khanata. Not expecting the latter, but Delroy might show up eventually. He'll probably be 3-D Man when he does, since he switched to that identity, but I'll take it.

All told, 6 of the characters I was looking for were made in some form or the other, plus some characters got new figures for the first time in a long while. Still leaves six characters out there, none of whom seem likely candidates going forward. Looking ahead, there's the upcoming Invincible Iron Man set, and supposedly a Deadpool set?! Don't ask me.

Deadpool: What are you talking about? I absolutely deserve a set with all the work I've done carrying Marvel the last few years!

Wade, I'm not sure you have enough characters in your orbit to fill an entire set, unless you really think Kane merits a slot. Or maybe, generic dude with pouches you shot in the face.

Deadpool: Generic Pouch Dude is a beloved character for fans of all ages! And how else are the Howard the Duck loonies going to get a Doctor Bong figure?

Point. Now go away, we aren't ready for you yet.

Deadpool: *walks away muttering* Maybe if you'd review that first trade of my new series you bought months ago you'd be ready. . .

If I were going to add characters, it'd be here, in the form of the Slingers. We sort of got them in the Amazing set, but a) it was meant to be Spidey when he used those identities, and b) they were chase figures, so fairly rare and kind of pricey. However, they did include a Prodigy in the Fear Itself stuff, which makes me think maybe Dusk, Ricochet and Hornet could show up later? Though Wolverine and the X-Men would have been a good place for Ricochet (he's a mutant), and Hornet could pop up in the Iron Man set (powered armor and all). I'm less sure where Dusk could appear, but the themes of sets aren't ironclad, so anywhere would be fine.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Slow Month For New Books After The Holidays Isn't Awful

January's various comic solicitations came out last week, and there is not much there for me. The next season of the Buffyverse stuff doesn't start until spring, and I have to decide whether I'm buying back in or not anyway. I don't expect to see any Rocketeer or Atomic Robo for awhile. And DC stealth canceled Katana, by which I mean December's issue is the end, but they neglected to mention that until after it didn't appear in January's listings.

Not that it's a surprise. The sales on it (and Vibe, which is also going away) have been lousy pretty much from the start. Still, I thought once it made it past Villains' Month unscathed, it would at least make it a full year, so February for issue 12. Never mind. Which means DC is back down to one book for me. My wallet thanks them.

Which leaves Marvel. Now Marvel announced quite a few upcoming titles at the New York Comic-Con a couple of weeks ago. Most of them don't even have Avengers or X-Men in the title. Which is either a daring (he said sarcastically) choice on their part, or a recognition that there might be a few too many books with those words in the title already. A few of them are starting in January, and there are even a couple I'm interested in, namely X-Factor and Black Widow. Problem: They're both $3.99, and they're both double-shipping that month. Am I prepared to shell out 8 bucks that month for either of those titles, largely sight unseen?

I generally like Peter David's work, but X-Factor plans to prominently feature Polaris and - ugh - Gambit. Those are not exactly selling points. As for Black Widow, I find Phil Noto's work pretty, but stiff, and the only thing of Edmundsen's I've read was the first four issues of the new 52 Grifter series. You might recall I dropped it because he completely failed to make me care about any of the characters, or to impress them upon me in any way. Maybe this is more up his alley, but that hardly guarantees it's up mine.

I hadn't realized just how many of Marvel's titles are selling at $3.99 these days, probably because most of what I buy is $2.99. In January, by my count, there were 16 books at $2.99 or less - there was something called Deadpool Gauntlet (Net) for a buck - and 63 books at $3.99 or higher. That is not an encouraging ratio. As for me, I'm down for 4 books in January, one of which - X-Men - is at the $3.99 price. The others - Daredevil, Deadpool, Superior Foes - are still at $2.99. I also expect that Hawkeye #16 will show up in January. It was originally listed for December, but seeing as issue 13 showed up a month late, 16 is probably getting pushed back as well. Which brings it up to 6 books overall.

Ah well, I can always put the money saved towards back issues or trades.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Burn Notice 6.10 - Desperate Times

Plot: Since the end of the last episode, Michael has turned over all the information he has on Tyler Gray to the CIA, something Fiona was none too pleased about. But it's produced results, Tom Card has located Gray in Panama, and told everyone that this is actually about a weapons theft (since Gray broke into a weapons depot), since this investigation is supposed to be closed. Which means keeping the group sent to capture him small, meaning Mike, Fi, Sam, and Jesse, plus one Brady Pressman. He was in charge of the op to capture Anson, so yeah, he kind of wants to make up for that foul-up.

Before Mike leaves the country, he visits his mother, who is still angry about Nate's death, and blames Michael and herself. Mike has no answers for her, and capturing the killer certainly isn't going to make up for it, so he tries to reassure her that he will stay in contact, and to drive the point home, he gives her Card's number, so she can contact him if she doesn't hear from Mike. Maddy then turns around and uses that to go visit Card. She wants answers, but more about why her sons turned out as differently as they did.

Mike is not having a good time in Panama, because Gray has an army of mercs at his disposal, and someone tipped him off that there were people coming to get him. Mike's group quickly loses most of their equipment, their headquarters, and Jesse's shoes. So they do what they do best, improvise, and manage to fairly quickly dispatch Gray's security. Gray himself proves somewhat more resourceful, but Fi and Jesse play decoy, and Mike rappels in through the window to kick Gray in the face. Victory! One problem, Gray says he's working for Card, that he was meant to kill Michael, and having failed, Card's going to send in an air strike to finish the job. Brady - who Gray had wounded earlier - sacrifices himself to cover their escape.

The Players: Tyler Gray (The Man Who Murdered Nate), Brady Pressman (Running This Op)

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'Fi, I'm not going to let the man who murdered my brother get away, I don't care who I have to work with.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Not really. She helped make some flashbangs, but Mike had to hog all the fun throwing them.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 2 (19 overall).

Sam Getting Hit Count: 1 (6 overall).

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (1 overall).

Other: No aliases for Mike this week.

Jesse's lack of shoes was an amusing subplot, though it felt a little out of place in this episode. But the fact he couldn't find a merc with big enough feet was nice, and also proof that Jesse Porter is smarter than John McClane. You can find ways to make shoes fit.

Hey, it's Kenny Johnson, who played Lem on The Shield! I really liked Lem, and now he's playing a remorseless sniper. He does it well, though. I didn't really feel too bad for him when Michael hit him unnecessarily after shouting "Don't move!" That line, 'Did he say he was proud of you? Yeah, he said you'd like that. Right before he told me to go for the head shot.' There was such a cruel edge to that voice. He enjoyed twisting that knife.

While we're at it, Michael seems to be losing all control this year. He just keeps flipping out and hurting people excessively. Anson (which I was cool with, but still), Ayn's brother-in-law (that Maddy tried to get that pendant from), Tyler, Grayson (Fi's Weapons Dealer). Not managing his anger well.

With Brady's death, I might as well mention something I've been thinking about for a few weeks. How many people's lives has Michael wrecked over the course of this series? Nate died, Brady died, Max died, Diego died, Pearce's career is wrecked. That's not counting the random people Mike encounters along the way. I keep thinking of this nice lady who worked at an airport. Mike needed info on some government flight, and he sweet talked access to the files out of her. The last we saw, she was getting chewed out by her supervisor. That lady almost certainly got fired, and hell, may have been placed on some watchlist for leaking classified information. All so Michael could continue his pursuit of the people who burned him. He's left a Hulk-like trail of wreckage behind him.

I feel like I should say something about that whole thing between Maddy and Card, but I don't have much. Card's broken glass analogy seemed silly, and it's hard to take anything he said at face value since he was in the midst of a plot to kill Michael even as he talked to Madeline about how many lives Michael had saved.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I Might Be More Attached To Steph As Batgirl Than I Thought

You know how Wednesday I talked about Stephanie Brown's return to DC comics, and that I was OK with her being Spoiler because that's the identity she kept most of the time, so it's the identity I associate her with? My subconscious had to put in its two cents, so that night she showed up in a dream as Batgirl. I'm not sure how she was related to the start of it, when I was wandering through a downtown area that was deserted, save for all the assorted food cart vendors setting up. I thought they were getting ready for a football game crowd or something, but there was no one else on the street. Not even any already drunk college kids.

At some point I spotted Steph striding purposefully down the street in her Batgirl outfit, in broad daylight, which seems like a Steph thing to do. Or maybe a Bob Haney Batman thing to do. Stephanie could do a lot worse than emulate Haney Batman.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cathartic Video Game Levels #5

I haven't done one of these in about two years, but I remembered one I thought would be fun.

Generally, I don't think older games provide a lot of catharsis for me. They tended to rely on quick reactions and precise control. Jump at just the right moment, with sufficient speed, or Mario dies, end of story. It's tense, unforgiving, and there wasn't a lot of variation in the gameplay. You run across the screen jumping on turtles and over pits early in the game and near the end. There a plenty of games like that out now (Singularity is always a first-person shooter, for example), but at least some of them try to mix things up, or provide story elements that make certain things personally satisfying. But older games can pull that off too.

Kirby's Adventure is my favorite NES game. Throughout the game, you'd run into a certain area, and there would be this guy with a shiny metal face mask. Nowadays, I think he's called Meta-Knight, but back then, I didn't know his name, if he had one. He'd sweep aside his cape and point his sword at Kirby, only to run off and leave me fighting their goon squads. They all carried different weapons, but none of them were powers Kirby could copy. So you were reliant on whatever powers you'd brought in, or on inhaling them, then spitting them back at their cohorts. Which means I never got the satisfaction of turning their abilities against them. This repeated itself several times

Finally, I reach the 6th level boss, and look who it is. Mr Sword and Cape. Again he brandishes his sword, but this time, another sword falls from the ceiling and lands before you. He waits. Until you pick up that sword, nothing's gonna happen, but once you do, he's coming for you. It isn't a fighting game, or a quick-time event where I have to hit the right button at the right moment to avoid Kirby being bisected. No counters or parries, just two characters jumping around, charging at each other and taking big swings with their swords. Kirby had three moves as I recall: A basic swing, a charge which would end in him sliding forward on his face, the sword held out in front of him, and a leaping attack where he would spin in midair, the sword whirling around him.

But the straightforward aspect was part of the fun. All the other boss fights you had to wait for them to stop moving so you could use whatever power you had, or wait for them to unleash an attack you could inhale and turn against them. None of that here. You have a sword, he has a sword, attack when you like, dodge as you like. And there was the whole build-up of him constantly making you fight his pitful lackeys, so weak they didn't even have powers to steal. Even the Waddle Dee had powers to steal if they were carrying a parasol. Finally he's chosen to face you himself, and he's not using any tricks, not throwing cannon fodder at you to give himself a chance to recover. It's a fair fight (if you figure Kirby knew how to use a sword before he started this adventure). It makes it so terribly satisfying to cut him down to size.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

While The Character Exists, The Chance For Good Stories Also Exists

One of my coworkers got up and left during Event Horizon because watching all the characters die was making her sad, which is a new one on me when it comes to horror films, but I can't disagree. I do wonder if the ship (which was supposedly alive after its return from wherever) began to reconsider its selection of Sam Neill as part of the crew after he shot out the glass on the bridge and nearly killed the remainder of the crew to be.

That's not what I wanted to discuss today, but I thought I'd update you, since I mentioned it yesterday.

You may have heard Stephanie Brown is finally off the bench in the new 52. I'm. . . cautiously optimistic. There's a part of me that doesn't put it past the higher-ups at DC (who apparently regarded Steph, and still regard Cassandra Cain, as "toxic") to bring her back just to kill her off horribly, as either a joke for their amusement, or a middle finger to the audience. Even if that isn't the case, there's always the chance she lands in the hands of a creative team that doesn't know what to do with her. Bad stories are just one of the risks in any form of entertainment. I can hope James Tynion (who I believe is going to be writing the first issue she appears in, though I can't say I'll be lining up for a weekly Batman comics) can do some good work with her. As long as her use was prohibited, she couldn't appear in any good stories. At least now there's a possibility, assuming of course, the editors don't meddle too much. One thing the relaunch has consistently demonstrated is DC's editors can't keep from interfering. Even if the writers have great ideas, it won't matter if editorial has other plans.

I don't have a problem with her going back to being Spoiler. I know it raises the question of whether she was Robin or Batgirl in the new 52, but I don't mind if she wasn't. I liked her as Batgirl - and don't understand why 4 Earth Green Lanterns or 4 young boy Bat-sidekicks were OK, but there could only be one Flash and one Batgirl - but she was Spoiler the longest. (War Games was crap, and I do my best to ignore it and all that led up to it, so I ignore her being Robin since the writers and editors did it simply to kill her). Spoiler was her own identity. It wasn't bestowed upon her by Batman as proof she gained his acceptance, or handed off to her by Cass and Barbara. She made herself Spoiler, often in direct opposition to Grumpy Bat's wishes, first to stop her father, then because she enjoyed it. If we get a Stephanie Brown who's a little new at crimefighting, but takes to it with enthusiasm and isn't going to stop no matter who tries to make her, I'll be pretty happy with that.

One other thing, does her return strike anyone else as a sign of desperation? A character that was absolutely off-limits for 2 years, even in books not set in the new 52, but just now, it's OK to use her? I suppose it's possible someone in charge realized the stupidity of not letting writers and artists use characters they had good ideas for. Or this could have been some strategy to get people excited for her return. Remember when Thor hadn't appeared in Marvel comics for 2 or 3 years? He died in his own book near the end of Avengers Disassembled, and was gone until after World War Hulk. They even had the fakeout in Civil War with the Clone Thor. Then he reappeared in his own book, and it was a big deal for a while, sales were pretty good (I'm sure JMS' name had something to do with that, since he hadn't completely developed a rep for bailing on projects halfway through at that point), maybe in part because Thor'd been away long enough there was real anticipation for his return. It felt like a big deal. Maybe DC's trying that. It's more likely they've brought her out because they're getting desperate, and they're willing to try anything at this stage. "Anything" meaning any Bat-character they can throw out there to help fill all those Bat-books they publish each month.

We give it a little more time and we might get Cass Cain and the Dibnys back in play. Sure, Ralph and Sue aren't Bat-characters, but they are a detective couple, so I'm sure DC can reconfigure that in some way.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Problem With Horror Movies Is There Are So Many Terrible Ones

I had three or four other things I was thinking about posting, but I'm going to rant about The Mist instead. I read the Stephen King novella the movie is based on some time years ago, long before the film was released. I remember it as being pretty good, not great, but entertaining. I also remembered reading a review of the film that complained about the horribly depressing ending, so I was at least prepared for it.

I haven't done this in awhile, but SPOILERS!

I don't understand why everyone in the Land Cruiser so quickly opted to commit suicide. The moment it ran out of gas they decided to kill themselves. Cripes, at least wait until you're being menaced by something, then kill yourself. But for the military to show up less than 5 minutes after, what is the point of that cosmic nutpunch? At that point, I was surprised that all the people from the supermarket weren't in one of the trucks that rumbled by Thomas Jane as he stood there dumbfounded. Why not? Just completely screw him over for deciding not to stay with the idiots who fell under the murderous sway of the religious nutjob. The whole crew was watching it and there was not one person who thought that was a good ending. Honestly, what was the point?

As to said religious nutjob, she was so incredibly irritating. The single best moment in the movie was the old lady chucking a can of beans at religious wackadoodle and getting her right in the face. I could have watched that scene all day. Or the scene where she got shot in the face after demanding they sacrifice a kid. I could have also watched the lady who called them murderers for that get shot in the face all day. What did she butcher guy stabbing a person repeatedly in the gut, then throwing him to the mist creatures was? I know, human capacity for denial, self-deception, that remarkable ability we have to justify our own terrible actions while condemning similar acts committed by others. I'm sure it's happened once, but I would like to see the person demanding a sacrifice to appease whoever offer themselves up for the sacrifice. After all, surely her God would approve of her giving her life to save all these sinners. But no, it's always someone else who has to pay. Another aspect of human nature, passing the buck.

Well surely watching Event Horizon tonight will wipe the stink away, right?

Monday, October 14, 2013

What I Bought 10/10/2013 - Part 3

Well, this is it for comic reviews for a few weeks. Two and a half weeks, to be exact, unless I decide to discuss some of that manga I picked up last month. I do better talking about single issues than about trades or volumes. There's so much more to discuss in those, I feel like I'm always missing something I should be highlighting.

Daredevil #31, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee (storytellers), Javier Rodriguez (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - The event depicted on the cover does not take place. At least not in this issue.

We open with Foggy leading the discussion for his cancer afflicted group at the hospital, which is very sweet. Part of me says it's a little hokey, but I am not struggling with cancer, so what the hell do I know? In conversation with Matt, Foggy lets it slip he asked Kirsten to take over for him. I think Foggy's trying to play matchmaker. Incidentally, I wish we'd see his girlfriend, Kirsten's roomie around sometimes. It'd be nice to see that Foggy has more than just Matt supporting him.

From there, we jump back to the office, just in time for Matt to hear the verdict on what is essentially the George Zimmerman trial, with the names changed to protect the litigious-concerned most likely. The verdict goes the same way, but afterwards, it appears the D.A. releases the names and addresses of the jury and incites the city to violence against them. Matt realizes this is not what happened, that his old foe the Jester interrupted the broadcast and did that, and that he's probably working for the Sons of the Serpent, since they would a) enjoy seeing a young black male shot with the killer going free, and b) would probably jump at the chance to blame a black District Attorney for a subsequent riot, assuming they don't take the chance to use their crooked cops to just kill him. Fortunately, Daredevil's on the scene to protect D.A. Priest (the name makes me wonder if Waid and Samnee are referencing Christopher Priest), and he placed a little call to Hank Pym for some help dispersing the citywide riots. I'm not convinced a downpour would work that well, but again, I haven't been caught up in riots so what do I know? It probably isn't as fun or easy to break shit in the pouring rain. As it turns out, the Jester couldn't resist replacing one of the jurors' name and address with his own, and Matt rushes off in a disguise to investigate. What we see at the end - that he hasn't yet - is someone has been hung, that they're wearing one of the shirts Foggy distributed to his cancer group, and there's a letter addressed to Matty. I have a lot of ideas, and none of them are good for Murdock.

It's a good thing I don't read the letters pages (though I appreciate that Marvel still has them). I don't want to know what some of the responses to the Zimmerman thing are going to be. I can guess, or hell, I've read some of them from the real one, but I don't need a refresher course. That being said, I appreciate that Waid has the Sons of the Serpent changing things up. I'm not clear on why they seemed to have intensified efforts now, but the fact they're operating in different ways gives a sense of the size of their organization and its goals.

Samnee did an excellent job, as usual. The last two panels on page 2, the very slight upturn in the mouth of the guy next to Foggy from one panel to the next. The little grin on Matt's face on page 4 when Kirsten says she's glad he's back, only to be deflated an instant later when she explains why. Page 9, the bottom two-thirds, with the succession of three lines of three panels each, all showing a different tiny aspect of the rioting. It adds to the sense of confusion Matt mentions dealing with at the top of the page. There's so much going on, he can only sort out pieces of it. I like the odd font he uses for all the ant-related sound effects. The letters and punctuation are more loose and less rigid than for the sound of Pym's phone ringing, which makes a certain amount of sense for an animal noise, but even the cloud-seeding compartments Pym attaches are different. The letters are thin, and just a small sliver isn't colored in on each letter, which creates this odd, but pleasing look to my eye. It's almost like a parody of fancy lettering that you might see in a cartoon.

I do have a question. If Matt can't read the images off a tablet with his radar sense, I'm still not clear how he could read Pym's text message with his fingers like he did when he was running scared from Ikari. I still have to guess different letters cause different heat patterns on the screen, but I don't know if that works.

Empowered Special #5: Nine Beers with Ninjette, by Adam Warren (story, prologue art), Takeshi Miyazawa (art), Susie Lee (lettering) - Having read the story inside, I would not have pictured Oyuki being a red/pink haired girl. Dangers of black and white art, I guess. It lets the reader make all kinds of assumptions. Largely irrelevant ones, I suppose, but hey, I also never figured Ninjette for being a white girl from Jersey. I simply assumed she was Japanese, 'cause you know, she was a ninja. I know, bad Calvin.

So this is the story of Emp's best friend, Ninjette, told by Ninjette, through memories triggered by each beer she consumes that night. As you might expect, most of the memories are pretty lousy, especially those that involve her father. Ah her father, the major alcoholic with rage issues and, hmm, misogyny is about hating women, right? So does it qualify if Pops thinks women are only for having babies, or is it that he's willing to chop off Ninjette's hands and feet if he even suspects she might run away that pushes him across the line. Anyway, he's a piece of garbage. Maybe he was better before her mother died, but now he takes out whatever pain and resentment he feels over her loss on 'Jette. Miyazawa does a great job on him. Never see his eyes, just that terrifying grin and his hair hanging down over his face in disorganized strands. He's all huge muscles, looming large in panels, either behind Ninjette, or leaning forward towards her, dominating the panel. And Miyazawa (I'm assuming) shades him just a little darker than everyone else, so it's as though he generates a shadow that encroaches on others even further.

But even the happier memories are kind of sad, because they're always tinged with some regret for something Ninjette did, or something she lost, a friend, an illusion of something being shattered, whether that's about others, or herself. Ultimately, the crap she did to survive, so she could live her way, has changed her so much she's not sure she can undo it, or that she even wants to. Her dad may have won after all, in the end.

So yeah, kind of depressing, which was not quite what I expected. Especially if the aside during beer #7 was foreshadowing for something really stupid she's going to do in an upcoming volume. Not that I figured it would be all sunshine and lollipops, but that was quite the downer. You know, I never was clear on why Ninjette was trying to capture Empowered in the first place. She had her own crappy goons, which suggested she wasn't working for another villain, but I can't see why she would have gone after Emp of her own accord. But I only read Volume 1, years ago, so maybe they addressed that down the line.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Burn Notice 6.9 - Official Business

Plot: Well the Meyerson Group sales records Jesse and Pearce got (and which Pearce effectively flushed her career down the toilet for), say the rifle that was used to kill Nate was sold to the Pryon Group, which basically trains mercs for people who can afford to hire them as security. So Michael has to pose as an obscenely wealthy guy (with some accessories from Elsa) who needs such people, so he can get a look at their personnel files. Except the Pryon Group doesn't allow anyone to look at their files. So Sam and Jesse will have to sweet talk Mr. Vale's lackey, Thompson, to get a peek at those files. All it takes is making it sound like working for their boss (Michael) is more lucrative than honoring his contract with Vale.

As to why Michael's not helping, well, remember the agreement Fi had to sign to get out of prison? The one that made her a CIA asset? Agency dumbasses Manaro and Bailey are calling that in. They believe a man named Vincent Durov is going to sell ballistics technology to terrorists, and Fi has to infiltrate Durov's home and steal it away first, then escape with their other asset, Durov's girlfriend, Angela. Except Durov is very cautious, very suspicious (plus more than a little sleazy), and Manaro and Bailey are idiots. They already got the first person they sent in to killed. Or, more accurately, Angela killed him, because Durov isn't the one suddenly deciding to sell to terrorists, Angela is. Which leads to a rather tense situation with a bomb, and Michael driving an exploding truck into Durov's gate, but it does get Manaro and Bailey off Fi's back.

While all this is going on, Sam and Jesse have finally weaseled their way into the personnel files, and found a likely match, but he only goes by his initials, T.G. Well, no problem, Michaelw will just request that his personnel have skills that match this T.G.'s profile, Vale will offer him up, it's all good. Except Vale is just a little more suspicious than that, and he's willing to walk away from a 40 million dollar deal when it involves Tyler Gray. Oops. At least he gave Michael a name before he got shot in the chest. Twice.

The Players: Matthew Bailey and Gabriel Manaro (CIA Officers), Angela Flores (CIA Asset/Thief), Vincent Durov (Black Market Entrepreneur)

Quote of the Episode: Fiona - 'Manaro and Bailey. Now are they not the same 2 idiots that nearly got Sam killed?'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 4 (17 overall).

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (5 overall).

Other: Michael sports two aliases this week. He's Mr. Krueger when dealing with Vale, and he's briefly Al when he needs to hide safecracking equipment in Durov's SUV.

I hope Thompson actually waited until he heard back to give notice. I'd hate for him to quit his job for one that doesn't exist. Then again, with Vale dead, maybe he doesn't have a job either way.

I notice that Sam very openly stated that Fi was his friend. It's been obvious for awhile, but I don't know if he'd come right out and said it.

I don't really mind that Manaro and Bailey are incompetent bunglers. They're used just sparingly enough they don't get too grating, and they're sort of comically amusing (even if it's terrifying to think there are people in real life, with real power who are that stupid). If they had been in Pearce's position, where Michael had to work for them regularly, or possibly even rely on them for help, it'd be different. But as guys who have managed to stumble, luck out, or kiss ass their way into positions where they occasionally run field ops they're completely unsuited for, they're OK. I imagine they're actually competent at certain things. Logistics, staying within the budget, stuff like that. It's all the other stuff they can't handle.

This was sort of a slight episode. I think it mostly existed to give Michael another clue to pursue, and possibly address any questions of why Fi wasn't doing jobs for the CIA if she was an asset. The answer is that wasn't how Pearce operated, and now Manaro and Bailey owe her, so it's a non-factor.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What I Bought 10/10/2013 - Part 2

I was told yesterday by my crew leader than a guy on another project asked about the guy who walks down the road talking to himself. She assured him I'm not crazy, but I'm not willing to vouch for that statement.

Avengers Arena #15, by Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (penciler), Jason Gorder (inker), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That cover really makes Aiden look too old.

Good news is Cullen releasing the otherworldly horror imprisoned inside him is going to keep X-23 from killing them all. Bad news is said otherworldly horror will end up killing them all if they can't find that ring again, fast. There's mixed success on that front as they find it, then lose it in the ocean, and the question becomes whether Nara will find it before Aiden has to end things more permanently. She does, and get Cullen to revert, but it may have killed her, unless Nico can turn things around somehow. There isn't any hint she can, mind you, I'm just speculating.

Most of the issue is about Nara. We hadn't really learned anything about her, so we find out why an Atlantean was living in England, or at least not in Atlantis. It's kind of interesting, the conflict between the part of her that tries to take Namor's advice to heart (don't rely on anyone), versus the part of her that wants to be close to people. Which probably explains why she got so heated at Kid Briton when he sided with Katy, and it manifests itself again with Aiden. I'm kind of surprised her feelings for him advanced that far that fast, but I guess that happens sometimes. I'm curious why we aren't seeing any of Arcade's reactions to this. I kind of assumed he was consciously manipulating the path of the sun the way Cullen described last issue, so I figured he'd be pretty interested in one of the kids turning into a giant Lovecraftian monster and rampaging. Maybe that's significant, maybe it isn't.

I hope that in the future, they'll slow the output on these books so Walker has time to ink himself. Gorder's not doing a bad job most of the time, but he definitely rounds off and simplifies the faces on the characters a lot. When Walker inks himself, the lines are a lot firmer, the characters' faces have a more solid feel to them.

Captain America #11, by Rick Remender (writer), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Klaus Janson (inker), Dean White (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I'm guessing on those credits. They list the names but not what anyone did. On another note, the costume, ye gods, could it have any more needless lines? Between the knee pads and whatever that crap is on his hips, I expect him to be a Cap Transformer.

Back on Earth, Cap gets a clean bill of physical health, but does not want to talk about his losses to anyone. Not Maria Hill, played here as much less of a jerk than when she showed up in Avengers Arena a few months back, and not to Jet. As for Jet, she didn't take kindly to this new Nick Fury's interrogation. Or maybe she was just amused by it. Anyway, Cap takes her to his place, where she'll be staying for awhile, and tries to give her advice on how to move past the grief. Except jet doesn't buy "forget the past" from someone living in a museum. So Cap burns all his mementos.

OK, let's stop here for a minute. I understand the symbolic act, of burning all these old costumes and newspapers that record tales of his exploits with the Invaders or whatever. But even setting aside the fact his old shields aren't going to burn in a trash fire, it's just stupid. Even if Steve doesn't want to keep it, that stuff has historical value, or perhaps sentimental value to someone else. Maybe Jim hammond or Bucky would want some of it, or hell, Namor. Give it to the Avengers to keep as part of their history. Or auction off the harmless stuff and donate the proceeds to charity. That's a very Captain America thing to do. Maybe this is just the part of me that has difficulty parting with things, but that's a stupidly wasteful way to go about divesting yourself of reminders of the past. Letting go of the past doesn't mean destroying it

The only other thing of note is Nuke showing up in some Eastern Eurpean country, popping pills, and opening fire on civilians. Whatever.

OK, Pacheco's art. He doesn't get much to do, people sitting or standing and talking, that's basically it. So it's down to faces. I think he draws Jet's face very well, and Steve when he isn't wearing the mask/helmet. When he is, damn he looks really old, which is funny since they outright say in this issue that he doesn't age like everyone else because of the Serum (they also treat that like it's a new revelation. Shouldn't Cap have been in the present long enough for them to already know that?) But Maria Hill's face seems to change a lot from panel to panel, and he keeps giving characters this bored, almost sleepy look. Hill gets it once, and so does Pym while he and Banner are trying to remove the last remnants of Zola from Steve. You'd think Pym would be a little more engaged, but he looks as though he hardly cares. I think Pacheco (or maybe it's Janson) gets too busy with the lines on the face, and that creates the effect. Also, the colors are muted. Not inappropriate for an issue about people dealing with loss, with feeling disconnected, but it dampens my mood while I'm reading, makes the book that much more depressing and me that much less inclined to want to read it.

I guess I like the idea of this issue in theory. Cap trying to adjust to a new set of circumstances - again - and deciding to try a different approach. It's the execution that didn't work for me. Or maybe I've already checked out on the book.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What I Bought 10/10/2013 - Part 1

Behold, the comics have arrived! All of September's books are here! All six of them. Quite the haul, thanks to all those books that didn't come out in September for one reason of another. Perhaps they'll deign to honor us with their presence this month, but in the meantime, I should focus on what I have. So today, it'll be the books I should have skipped until they were done with their tie-ins to dumb events, but I didn't because I am also dumb.

Captain Marvel #16, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jen van Meter (writers), Patrick Olliffe (penciler), Drew Geraci w/Tom Nguyen (inkers), Andy Troy (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - As amused as I am by Hawkeye having to hold on to his recent ex-girlfriend for dear life in the escape, the Avengers really ought to consider making rocket packs a standard part of their outer space gear. For non-flyers anyway. If Stark can afford to build 5 million variant armors for himself, he can take five minutes away from his stupid Illuminati crap to make propulsion systems for his teammates.

Proximity to a black hole has caused Carol's Binary powers to kick in. I thought she needed a white hole - where she could draw energy from a nearby nascent universe - for that, but OK. It's still not enough, as she and all the allies she was trying to rescue are captured. When she wakes up, she's brought to the bridge because the Builders want to know why a bunch of people I don't know are hanging out with Earthlings. This line of inquiry is interrupted by Star-Lord's dad trying to bargain for the life of his empire by selling out Earth. I liked Star-Lord a lot better when his dad was dead as far as I knew. Thanks, Bendis.

That largely pointless scene over, Carol's returned to the holding cell where she tells the others they're going to break out, rescue their friends, then blow up the ship and the surrounding area while they're still on it. Given Carol doesn't disagree with Hawkeye's observation that it's a suicide mission, one wonders why they'd bother rescuing anyone. So they can be conscious when they're blown to bits? Carol's also completely OK with killing anyone else who may be on the ship, 'cause it's war. Wish you'd had that attitude when you had the chance to off Norman Osborn back during Dark Reign, Carol. It's all irrelevant because a) a rescue team of Avengers arrived, and b) the Builders are all gone. So they rescue their allies, and blow up stuff while they safely jump away/stand within a protective barrier. Something like that.

At least that's over. Kind of a mess, frankly. It's hard for me to tell if Carol's so calm because she has experience in military intelligence and knows the value of keeping your cool and listening, or because she's so disconnected she doesn't care much. The dual inking team is doing Olliffe any favors, either. Sometimes it feels like they're overdoing it, too many shadows, making characters too jagged, and other times it goes the other way and the lines look too thin and the characters look wobbly. Let's just move on.

X-Men #5, by Brian Wood (writer), David Lopez (penciler), Cam Smith (inker), Laura Martin (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Oh boy, it's two of my least favorite X-Men on the cover! That's certainly encouraging!

All right, Battle for the Atom. X-Men from the future show up to tell the X-Men in the present that the X-Men from the past need to go back when they came from, but some of them (Scott and Jean) don't want to go. So they run, and the Future X-Men and a group of present X-Men give chase. But Rachel and Kitty aren't totally cool with forcing the kids to return to their own time against their will (as Rachel notes, she came here from the future and stuck around, so it'd be pretty hypocritical of her if she did), so they decide to follow and help Young Scott and Jean escape, and the two of them contacted present Cyclops' team for help. Oh, goody. I really hope his role is done by the time the story reached issue 6. I don't need a book with two Cyclopses in it, unless they're dying.

When I was watching X-Men Evolution the whole way through last fall, I noticed the X-Men's standard response on meeting a new mutant seemed to be, "Tackle them!" Which never produced very good results, certainly not when it came to trust. The group that chased Scott and Jean were working from the same playbook. I don't know why they think hemming someone in and then advancing on them won't be seen as threatening just because they say they want to talk. Also, the present X-Men seem to be bickering almost a comical amount. I don't know if that's the stress of the situation causing tensions to flare, or if it's significant (mental tampering?)It certainly seems significant that in the bickering on the beach, the background for Kitty's panels is this bright red and she seems really angry with Storm and Wolverine, especially Wolverine, who didn't even do much of anything. Is that the problem, she thought he should have stepped in to calm things down? Also, that red is about the same hue as the one Martin uses for the shots inside the new Blackbird, er, the Dove, and for the panel where Young Scott optic blasts Present Beast. In the interior cockpit shots, either Future Xavier or Future Jean is always in the panel, so hmm, two mysterious telepaths, and everyone is acting really aggressive.

David Lopez is still the artist, which is quite all right with me. There was one panel of Jubilee smiling I think he was supposed to draw fangs more prominently, based on her smile and her comment about learning to adapt, but that's as far as the gripes go, since he's isn't responsible for Present of Future Beast's stupid designs. I'm not sure about the new Blackbird design being the one from the '90s cartoon, but I wasn't clear on why their other Blackbird went back to the old SR-71 design. Not that I was complaining about that; I love the SR-71. I do like the Hummingbird design, the little aircar, Rachel let Scott and Jean steal, and Lopez managed to make Cyclops look cool while he was zooming around on the motorcycle. Very Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, not a comparison I'd ever expect to make for Cyclops.

I actually enjoyed this, to my surprise. I'm still not excited about the prospect of multiple Cyclopses, but I like bringing back the argument that was sort of there in AvX, the many versus the few. Cyke was totally OK with using the Phoenix to make people mutants, whether they wanted to be or not, because he thought the needs to the mutant race were more important than those individuals' rights. We'll see if he takes the same stance now that it's a question of sending two individuals, including his past self, back to a life they don't want, to preserve a lot of people's future. I kind of hope he switches gears, just so I can call him a big honking hypocritical jackass. That aside, I like that Kitty and Rachel are on the same wavelength, since they've been close friends for a long time, and I was worried when Storm seemed to imply the whole rest of the team agreed with here about the Arkea situation, and Rachel was the lone dissenter. I at least wanted to see why Kitty disagreed with her friend, especially since she wasn't even there at the time. And like I said, David Lopez is a really good artist, so It's nice to read books he draws.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Sometimes Letting It Get Blown Up Is The Best Revenge

The Halloween moviefest has continued. Two nights ago they watched Aliens, which doesn't make sense to me (I thought Alien was the horror movie one), but fine.

Watching the ending, though, it was pointed out that it was really stupid of Ripley to destroy all those eggs. She wasted time better spent getting out of there, pissed off the Queen enough to have it come after her, and there was no point. The whole place was going to blow up in about 5 minutes, and the Queen didn't seem particularly worried about that. Even if she had been worried, she wasn't fast enough to get herself to a safe distance in time - unless she's hitching a ride on a spacecraft in an attempt to take revenge.

I had always just looked at that scene from the stance of it being really cool, and Ripley taking revenge for all the horror and nightmares the xenomorphs had put her through, but it was incredibly ill-advised. I don't know if Cameron meant it that way, as a commentary on the futility of revenge, or the pointlessness of hating something for following its nature, or if he didn't think it through any more than I had.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Shot - Philip Kerr

The Shot clocks in at 370 pages, and it took me a week to get through. For a novel, that's incredibly slow, but it was that unpleasant of a read most of the time.

It's 1960. The election race between Kennedy and Nixon is coming down to the wire, and the mob approaches Tom Jefferson, professional killer. They'd like him to kill Castro, and his brother if possible. Partially to regain their casinos, partially as a favor to the CIA. Jefferson accepts, and working for the mob has a few perks. Like getting to listen to tapes they have of JFK and his extra-marital adventures. Except one of those is wife Jefferson's wife, Mary, who shortly thereafter turns up dead. And then Jefferson vanishes. The mob, who paid him 100 grand of the quarter million for the job up front, bring in an ex-FBI agent, Jimmy Nimmo, to track Jefferson down. Nimmo concludes Jefferson might be gunning for Kennedy, and off we go, the mob trying to saving the President-elect from an angry husband.

Every character in this story is a pretty lousy human being. Which isn't surprising considering everyone is a hired killer, mobster, bent cop, or spook, but it gets tiring. If it isn't racial epithets, it's a lot of sexist or homophobic crap. Basically every female character is treated strictly as a sex object, which is too bad, some of them could have been interesting. That's pretty much all they talk about, which gets old in a hurry. Also, if I never read another character rhapsodize over how New York City is the greatest place in the world it'll be too soon.

That being said, there are a couple of nice twists that Kerr dropped hints for earlier, and there's a certain amount of tension as to whether Nimmo, the mob, and the U.S. intelligence services (once they get wind of it) can get their acts together sufficiently to do anything to stop Jefferson. Though that might work a little better if any of the characters were acting out of something other than their own self-interest. Kerr does his very best to make JFK enough of an unlikeable shithead that you can see why nobody would be rushing to save him unless there was something in it for him. Even so, the fact there isn't a single character operating under any kind of principle where they object to murder is, once again, tedious. Oh, and Nimmo and the mob tortured a guy for information and guess what? It totally worked! Because of course it did. Then they killed him anyway! Because of course they did.

My overall feeling is The Shot had an interesting idea and some decent foreshadowing, but undercut itself with a lot of disgusting, stupid bullshit that was entirely unpleasant to read.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Last Outpost

My dad included one of those 10-packs of war movies. The kind that aren't good enough or well-known enough to merit their own release. There isn't much that looked promising, but The Last Outpost had Cary Grant and Claude Rains in a competition for better mustache, so it had more going for it than most.

I think Grant's is a little better, but I'm not a fan of mustaches that stop before the edges of your mouth. Rains' is more essential to his look, though. And that's enough of an excuse to use the hair tag. Twice in less than a week!

Grant plays British officer Andrews, captured during World War 1 in Kurdistan, and Rains is the British Intelligence officer Stevenson who rescues him by pretending to be a Turkish officer. They successfully move an entire village and their livestock across a mountain range to safety, though Andrews keeps raising Stevenson's ire by playing patty fingers with the village leader's wife.

Grant fractures his leg during all this, and is sent to a hospital in Cairo to recuperate, where he meets lovely nurse Rosemary Haydon (Gertrude Michael) he starts to woo. Stevenson returns to the field, providing intel that leads to a major British victory. As a reward, he gets six months' leave, and returns to Cairo to see his wife, who, to the surprise of no one, is Rosemary Haydon. She eventually confesses all this, and when she reveals the name of the man she's fallen for, well Stevenson is a bit cross. Rosemary and Andrews can be say they didn't know (she hadn't seen Stevenson in three years, thought he was dead), but he's seen how much a woman being married matters to Andrews, so he doesn't buy it. He sets out after Andrews, who has returned to active duty, and is trying to defend a fort from a large force of warriors. Given that the warriors were depicted as black men, most of them with shields and spears, I'm guessing Andrews was sent into sub-Saharan Africa. Stevenson finds him, but has to decide between revenge and duty, that sort of thing.

It's certainly not the best work Grant or Rains ever did. Grant doesn't get to do much other than alternate between flirtatious and gallant. Gertrude Michael had some potential in her character, but doesn't really get enough time (the movie is about 70 minutes) to do anything with it. She's a woman moved to Cairo then abandoned by her husband. He didn't do it willingly, but he did take off, and hasn't contacted her in three years. So she started working as a nurse, trying to cope with her loneliness, met a guy who charmed her, and then her husband comes back, and everything's changed. Except he doesn't really see it. But she's really only there for the middle of the story, and gets tossed aside once Rains sets off after Grant.

Rains gets a bit more depth, since you can tell he takes his work seriously. But it isn't so much about winning the war as saving lives. To that end he can be harsh and uncompromising, especially when faced with betrayal, but at his core, he wants to protect people if he can. The problem is when he gets to Cairo, he goes a bit overboard with regards to Rosemary. Some of it is making up for lost time, trying to pick up where they left off, but he also underestimates how strong she is. Doesn't recognize that she's grown from the woman he knew, I guess. When she passes out at the sight of him, and the matron of the hospital comments on the strain Rosemary seemed to be under until recently, he remarks that she should never have been working at all. Or perhaps she just needed to know you were still alive and thinking of her, Stevenson.

As unsympathetic as all that could make him seem, Rains is able to show a vulnerable core inside Stevenson, one that he's protected with stiff upper lip and thoughts of duty, but is in serious danger of cracking now that he's home. He really needs Rosemary, which adds a little something to her story because she feels that pull, that he could fall apart if he sees that he's lost her because of his work, but she can't change how she feels. So there was some narrative meat there, if the movie had given it more time to shine, but this wasn't the movie for that. Or for a more nuanced view of the non-white folk the British were fighting, for that matter.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Burn Notice 6.8 - Unchained

Plot: We've jumped ahead to a month after Nate's death. Michael can't get any information about the investigation, which is making him angry, which is making him do stupid things. Like threaten FBI agents. But at least he found out the investigation was shut down on orders from higher up. Hmm. Mike would really like to get a look at what they found before they stopped looking, but that's going to mean a favor for a favor. Sam has an FBI buddy trying to to find and arrest a notorious Boston mobster, before his sole witness dies. But he can't find him, though they know where one of his associates, a "Jimmy Boy", is. So they're going to arrest him, and Mike will pretend to be someone with info for the boss, they escape together, Mike is brought to said mob boss, Sam and the fed track him by the tracer in his belt buckle, make the arrest, everybody's happy.

Except Fiona, who Michael keeps trying to protect, by keeping her out of it as much as possible. And nobody was very happy when Mike had to completely change clothes before he would be brought to Mr. Quinn, while Fi gets left behind with a couple of goons. But underestimating Fiona just makes her angry.

Mike's condition for helping capture Quinn was that he gets the file before he starts. So it falls to Jesse and Pearce to sift through many pages of not much useful data to find that the rifle used was made by Meyerson, and one of their chief sales execs is a real party boy, so liquor him up, set him up, blackmail him. This falls primarily to Jesse, since Pearce should not be involved with a closed case, but when Wayne Meyerson proves more resilient (or stupid) than expected, it falls to her to be the hammer that breaks him. Which unfortunately makes it way back to her bosses eventually, which means Pearce will be going away now. her last gift to Michael is that his bosses still have no idea he's looking into this, which is good since, you know, closed case.

The Players: Woods (FBI Agent on a Clock), James "Jimmy Boy" Leary (Murderous Son of a Bitch), Wayne Meyerson (Party Animal), Quinn (Fugitive Mob Boss)

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'I didn't threaten him. I asked him questions with a gun in my hand.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No, but she wrecks a car, burns up another, shoots the lock off a door, and beats up two guys who were over twice her size.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 1 (13 overall)

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (5 overall). Eh, I'm not gonna count the car wreck. That wasn't directed at him specifically.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (0 overall).

Other: Mike's going as 'Robbie Doyle" this week.

Admittedly, I am no fashion expert, but that outfit Fi wore, jeez, that was horrible. I don't know how she didn't break her ankles jumping down from that parking garage (but then, she always seems to run remarkably well in heels), and that humongous belt. I perhaps shouldn't make this judgment, but "trashy" was the word that blared through my brain. It's intentional, a low-level mobster's girl, doin' her best to look good on a limited budget, but yikes.

I did enjoy Fi taking every opportunity in-character to give "Robbie" grief about doubting her ability to take care of herself. I understand Michael's desire to protect, having just lost Nate, and having been separated from her for so long. At the same time, Mike is the one who once told Rebecca (in the Season 5 finale) that if he couldn't work with women he'd have been dead long ago, and who told Fiona (last week) that he owed her for the thousand times she never gave up on him. By this point, he really ought to trust her to handle herself, but it's that struggle between the intelligent part of him that knows all this, and the emotional part, which is afraid of losing her.

On an entirely different note, I felt sleazy just watching that scene of Jesse and Meyerson in the strip club. Also, I think they fit another car advertisement in there when Fi pulled off the rescue. I have no idea what the car is, but chalk that up to my not paying much attention to brands. All that stuff about speed, low center of gravity, etc.

I'll end by bidding a farewell to Agent Pearce. She took one last bullet for Westen. She didn't have any regrets about it, which I can respect. I always liked Pearce, even if I thought she let Michael off too easy all those times he lied to her, or went behind her back. She was basically always helpful, willing to bend the rules when it was necessary, she understood the strain the job puts on personal aspects, and vice versa. And even if she cut him too much slack, I never felt like she was really dazzled by Michael's song and dance, which was the same thing I liked about Diego in Season 3. Pearce appreciated his skills more than Diego, but then he was helping her, rather than making her life more difficult. I think Mike needs a character like that to play off of, someone to at least try and rein him in professionally, who will call him on his lone wolf crap and maybe hold a grudge over it (Sam and Fi always get over it awful quick), that the audience can take seriously. I'm sorry to see her go.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Frogs, Toads, They Just Sit There Looking Ominous Either Way

The crew has decided we have to watch scary movies all October. So Tuesday was 28 Days Later, Wednesday was Cabin In the Woods, Thursday was The Shining, and last night it was Frogs. Some of us actually watched Frogs last year, but since most of the crew is enjoying a weekend in Memphis, we figured it was a good one to use. Quite why we figured that I can't recall. We couldn't come to an agreement on anything else, I guess.

With Frogs, you have Sam Elliot (with no facial hair whatsoever, is that even allowed), playing a freelance ecology photographer. His canoe gets swamped by this drunk idiot, who brings him back to the Crockett family estate, lorded over by Jason Crockett (Ray Milland, and I thought Panic in the Year Zero was the biggest piece of garbage that guy ever made). The whole Crockett family is there to celebrate several birthdays and the 4th of July, because that is what they've always done, and Jason is real big on doing things as they've always been done.

There are also a lot of toads on the island. Yes, toads. You don't see an actual frog until the last two minutes of the movie. I suppose frogs weren't lazy enough to sit still for all those shots of the toads watching threateningly. Jason's family doesn't much care for the wildlife, so he's had his man going out spraying poison left and right, and frankly, the wildlife has had enough. So they start picking off the Crockett imbeciles one by one, all the while Jason refuses to acknowledge anything is wrong or back down an inch.

The people in this movie are pretty much idiots, and they die because of it. Not that it helps that even non-venomous or aggressive animals have become dangerous. Depending on how you feel about reptiles, amphibians, or large tarantulas crawling all over you and biting you, this may or may not be scary. I work outdoors, I don't really need something in the back of my head telling me those harmless little snakes are suddenly going to go crazy and attack me. I mean, yes, there are actual rattlesnakes and gators (not to mention one very slow, ruthless snapping turtle) in the movie, so some of the creatures are normally dangerous, but most of the things they used are harmless.

There are moments that are a little creepy, but those are heavily reliant on giving the animals a considerable intelligence. Enough to chew through the rope keeping a boat at a dock, to recognize jars of pesticide on shelves, or to somehow mess with the phone lines. Which is a little hard to believe when you deal with toads as often as I do. They aren't very bright, but the ones I deal with aren't the size of a kitten. Maybe all that bulk was an extra brain, stored in their abdomen.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Luthor's Hair, Or Lack Thereof

Lex Luthor shaves his head, right?

I know in the Silver Age, Lex famously lost his hair because Superboy zipped in to see him during some big experiment, disrupting everything and causing all his hair to fall out, but I doubt that's still in effect. Entirely too silly for current DC.

It just occurred to me that Lex is exactly the sort of person who would not want to be seen going bald, with thinning or receding hair. It would be a sign of weakness or imperfection, and Lex would probably feel that people with shaved heads are more respected than those with faltering hairlines (he'd probably conduct research to prove it).

But, this is Luthor we're talking about. Surely he could devise something that would restore his hair. Which leads to a few conclusions in my mind. One, Lex has been too distracted with destroying Superman. Eh, I can't see the hair thing being that time-consuming to Lex. Two, he actually prefers being shaved, thinks it makes him look sleek and aggressive. Three, he has developed it, but chooses not to use it, because he doesn't want anyone to know he did. Because if that becomes common knowledge, people will think he used it, and Luthor wouldn't want his vanity and ego to be so apparent as a sign of weakness. Lex wouldn't admit it as such, he'd decide he was holding it back because the masses didn't deserve it or something. Let them ask their Superman to restore their hair.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

My Subconscious Doesn't Need Any Help Killing My Childhood

Two nights a go I had a dream that involved me settling under a tree, wrapped in a bear skin that had been conveniently left draped nearby. Then I settled in to watch roughly a dozen bobcats appear and stand around for a few minutes, with me futilely trying to get my camera out while the ground beneath turned to ice. Then a black panther appeared and was very happy to see me.

I spent entirely too much time today trying to figure out why a panther would be so glad to see me. There wasn't anything forthcoming in the dream. there was something about it being separated from its parents, then rescued by some lady, which guaranteed its parents would never come back for it, but I wasn't involved in that.

For some reason, I've been thinking about Tale Spin recently, which took the characters from The Jungle Book and put them in a world of roughly 1930s-ish sky pirates. I like the theme song. It's been awhile since I watched either of those, but I remember Baloo being pretty good pals with Bagheera, the black panther. Which makes me wonder if the panther came over because I was wearing the skin of its best friend, and the scent confused it.

I hope that isn't it, the panther probably represents stress seeking me out no matter how I try to disguise myself, but with my brain, I have to consider the possibility.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt

I tried to watch Fail Safe first, but roughly five seconds in, as a George Clooney narrator introduced us to 'our correspondent for the evening, Walter Cronkite', my brain started screaming this was an ego fluffing project for Clooney and fuck that, sir. Out of the 360 it went.

Maybe that wasn't fair. It could have been a suspenseful thriller, but more likely it was going to be some mockumentary about how close we are to nuclear devastation. So very portentous and serious and all that jazz. I'm in some state of mind where I barely have patience for any sort of fiction right now, certainly none of that.

Anyway, I threw in Benefit of the Doubt because I figured it wouldn't take itself too seriously, and it was meaningless enough I could ignore it if I felt like it. My dad and Tom Selleck are really starting to resemble each other. Body shape, clothing choices, facial hair patterns. Selleck has more hair up top, and less grey, but he could be coloring it.

Old Jesse Stone got fired as police chief sometimes since the last one of these I watched with dad, but the new chief and his lone remaining officer get blown up investigating a call about a bonfire. With no options, the town council gives Jesse the job back. So this council is a lot like the one Roy Scheider had to deal with in Jaws: a bunch of backstabbing jackasses until they need something. Well, Jesse needs the job back too, since he's been drinking too much, and not talking to anyone. The first time we see him, Selleck looks bad. His eyes are red-rimmed throughout, but he looks that unhealthy grey color people get sometimes. Maybe that was just the cold, but if they were trying to make it look like losing the job took something vital from him, mission accomplished.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a state police investigation, but Jesse and the cop in charge are pals, so he gets pretty much all the info he wants, though he's like most detectives in these kinds of stories, in that he never treats that as a two-way street. I always wonder why the buddies in those cases keep helping. You know that Jesse (or whoever) is going to find out something important, then withhold it so they can investigate on their own, and that contrary to their supreme self-confidence, this will not work out perfectly (it didn't in this movie). So why cut them in? At a certain point, don't you say, "No, you don't get anything from me, it's my investigation. Come back when you're willing to share like a grown-up."

But Jesse's friend, despite being a pretty smart cop, is a remarkably trusting dope, so he doesn't do that, and Jesse noses around on his own. Mostly because he has no choice. Two members of the Paradise police force are dead, and the other (the ones Jesse liked and trusted) both quit. Which Jesse might have known if he bothered to keep in touch, rather than getting his brooding drink on in his island cabin. That was a development in the film I rather liked, Jesse coming back to find his trusted subordinates are gone, and failing to bring them back in part because their lives moved on while he was busy being self-pitying. I thought that was really how it was going to end, because Jesse at one point watches an old film called The Last Hurrah, which seemed a little on the nose, but you know how people are about having their characters interact with entertainment that's foreshadowing or parallels the actual story. I suppose there are lots of movies and TV shows where characters watch stuff that isn't meant to be significant, and we don't remember them for precisely that reason.

One thing that comes up a lot is that Jesse didn't like his replacement. It comes up, not because anyone ever actually accuses Jesse of the murder (although he made DeAngelo, the other officer's, life miserable), but because people just feel the need to mention it. Like they're surprised that Jesse would take back a job he really wanted if it meant investigating the death of his predecessor/replacement. And every time this is brought up, Jesse says, 'I don't think I ever said that,' only to have the person he's talking with insist he did. After the third or fourth time, what's the point of his denial? Sheer stubbornness? Was he really drunk when he said it, and legitimately doesn't remember? After a while, it grates. Jesse already knows they found a bunch of cash in the trunk of the exploded cop car, but wants that kept mum because he thinks cop deserve, well, look at the title. How are his personal feelings relevant?

There's one other bit that was, a little curious. Jesse goes to talk to local boxing promoter/crime lord Gino Fish. First he has to get past Gino's secretary, Amanda. Jesse asks her out, she sort of demurs, then he asks if she'll walk over to the door and punch him in. She's confused. I guess Jesse either knows the code or was expected, but Jesse explains he likes to watch her walk. And sure enough, when she walks to the door, the camera lingers on her butt. Well, she does have a very nice butt, so I can understand Jesse's interest. But initially, I thought he asked to walk over there and punch him. Like she would walk there, he'd follow, then she'd hit him, a staged fight for some reason. Maybe to keep her bosses happy, her not being friendly with the annoying cop. I thought I saw some goon still standing nearby, no doubt trying to observe so he could report back to da Boss. And once Jesse pretty blatantly checked her out, well that seemed like an attempt to give Amanda a reason to slug him. But no, he just wanted her to punch the code in on the keypad so he could watch her. Well, OK then, I guess.

Jesse does have a nice relationship with Thelma, who works as a car saleswoman by day, and sings at a club by night, because she likes to sing. He told her how much she'd helped him make it through these bad times, and you could tell she was touched. Jesse's not much for that sort of heartfelt sentiment. More about making nice small gestures that convey his affection, so that was sweet. I would advise him that, if he chooses to tail someone in the future, perhaps don't wear your ballcap with PPD on the front, especially when that person knows very well what you look like, and that you wear that cap. C'mon Jesse, at least wear a nondescript ball cap! Just pick a slightly larger size and you can wear it over the other one, take it off when you need to to.