Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I Bought 4/25/2014 - Part 2

I've really been enjoying the NBA playoffs so far this year, the whole thing where Clippers' owner Donald Sterling reminded everyone he is a terrible human being aside. Between the Mavericks and the Wizards surprising me, the Pacers self-destructing, at least three teams that made the playoffs thinking about firing their coach if they get bounced in the first round, it's a lotta fun. Anyway, times like this make me regret not having any TV around here. Makes it kind of hard to see the games, though knowing my luck, if I was watching, every game would be a tedious blowout.

Enough sports, comics now!

Ms. Marvel #2 & 3, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (art), Ian Herring (color art), Joe Caramagna (lettering) - Do you think backlighting makes everyone look more badass, or does that only work in art? It didn't really work for Batman and Co. at the end of the two Schumacher movies, but after sitting through the actual films, no one was going to look badass, I don't care how silhouetted they were.

Kamala, finding herself looking like Carol Danvers, is a little freaked out. However, it isn't permanent, because she's actually sort of a Skrull/Mr. Fantastic super-type. Shape-shifting, but also stretching the parts of herself. She doesn't quite have it down pat yet - she keeps shifting to look like Carol when she's panicked, she kind of wrecked a locker room - but she did manage to save drunk idiot Zoe from drowning (and kept drunk idiot Zoe's drunk idiot boyfriend from jumping to save her and drowning). Kamala did not, however, manage to sneak back into her room unnoticed. For one thing, she kind of stinks at stealth, and for another, her friend Bruno called her parents and told them she had been to the party and left alone. Man, narcing on your best friend. Unacceptable, Bruno. I may have to send Clever Adolscent Panda to bonk you on the skull.

So now she's grounded, and ticked at her best friend, who has his own problems, like a ne'er-do-well brother trying to get him to rob the register at his job. When Bruno turns that down, said brother finds himself a gun and a ski mask, and tries to rob the place himself. The robber then proves to be a moron by forgetting the first rule of handling a firearm: Know whether it is loaded or not. Unfortunately, Kamala (posing as Captain Marvel) is the one who demonstrates the importance of that rule. This could be the shortest super-hero career in history.

I like this, though it's hard to articulate why, but I know I like Kamala. I like that she's kind of pissed at Bruno, but he's her friend, and she knows he meant well, and she could use his advice, so she wants to talk things out. That she figured out just having the costume didn't make her feel stronger, helping someone did. That she's struggling with the idea that it's OK to be herself and be a hero. She still doesn't think she can look like herself and save the day. She thinks she has to be taller, blonde, white, or nobody's going to respect her or listen to her. The powers are a way to be what she thinks she has to be, but it's exhausting, and it makes difficult things more difficult. How can you concentrate on stopping a robber, if you're too busy concentrating on making sure your disguise doesn't slip?

The scene at the end of the second issue, where she's unsuccessfully snuck back in, that's a good one. Her entire family barges into her room, and even though they're all very worried about her, they just overwhelm her. Alphona keeps drawing them so they dominate the panel, and Kamala keeps getting shoved to a corner, or the edge. Like her father in the middle of page 17. He's concerned for her, but he just overwhelms her, and she's left in one little corner, arms wrapped around herself, just trying to maintain some space. The page before that, her brother misinterprets her comment that something weird happened, and crushes her in this hug, vowing that he and his friends will get whoever hurt her. Kamala has to physically shove him just to reestablish some room. Nobody is really interested in hearing what's going on with her, they all have their own theories or responses. Her mother doesn't want to have a discussion, her father is worried about trust, but it's all about him trusting her, not her trusting them (or herself) enough to tell them what happened, so grounding. And her brother's going to pray for her. The end result of all that is she's left alone.

Alphona does some excellent work with the body language. He knows how to draw her father so that he's a hefty guy who feels hefty when you look at him. Some artists draw a fat guy, but it might as well be one of those super-light fat suits. Her dad has weight to him, which really helps convey that sense of authority in those panels. Even when it's just his hand in a panel with Kamala, it's this huge meaty thing on her shoulder, and you can feel how much his approval or disapproval factors with her, why she can't meet his eyes when she explains that she can't explain things yet. Well done all around.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sometimes The Hero's Greatest Challenge Is Themselves

We haven't, as far as I know, seen Vril Dox (second Brainiac, founder of L.E.G.I.O.N. and later R.E.B.E.L.S.) in the new 52 DC. Frankly, given the current low level of support and trust the Green Lantern Corps has among the various advanced species of the universe, it seems like the perfect time for a smart, ruthless person to emerge offering his own brand of security and troubleshooting for people who want some say in how and when they're protected, as well as who does it, rather than it happening at the whim of a bunch of little blue twerps handing out wishing rings to any brain-addled person able to 'overcome fear'.

But that's not what this post is about. I was thinking about why I like Vril Dox. I mean, he's arrogant, pushy, indifferent to other's feelings, a grandstander, entirely too impressed with himself, and pretty callous. It's most of Tony Stark's worst personality traits, save the alcoholism and womanizing.

The key is, Dox behaving that way actually has consequences. Stark can make himself God-Emperor of the Super-Hero community, going around getting Captain America killed, using nanites to take powers away, and while everyone will yell at him and punch him for a time, eventually they all welcome him back into the Avengers, bygones be bygones (conveniently ignoring that Stark has shown no remorse for any of his actions, and is, in fact, still convinced he was completely in the right).

Dox, though, nobody wants to work with Vril Dox. They recognize he is probably the smartest guy in any given room, but also that he'll throw their lives away in a second if he thinks it'll improve his odds of winning. He'll make deals with rulers like Despero or Kanjar Ro because they aren't despots, they're potential customers and powerful allies. Emotional ties are irrelevant, which isn't necessarily a bad approach when an entire galaxy is in danger, but isn't going to win you a lot of friends. So people are reluctant to work with him. When he calls for help, most people hang up the phone, and that's assuming they don't try to kill him because they think he's behind whatever went wrong. He ends up having to plead or bargain for help, make grand speeches everyone pretty much knows are garbage, but have just enough truth in them, people go along with it, or manipulate people by an appeal to their nobler sentiments. Which works in the short-term, but produces more bad feelings (the people doing it to save lives don't like working with despots, the despots fear betrayal because that's what they'd do, etc.), and represents, if not more bridges burned, at least badly damaged.

Vril Dox, by his nature, kind of stacks the deck against himself. Which means half the challenge for him is the hurdles his own difficulty dealing with others causes him. And so we get to watch him think his way out of these problems. If there are people who stick around because they want to keep an eye on him, Dox will use that. See how committed he is to transparency, keeping around people who will question his motives and actions. Ignore the fact Dox would never actually let that person's qualms stop him, but he does have to find a way around it. It's one of the reasons his portrayal as sort of a diplomatic facilitator between the Tamaraneans, Rannians, and Thanagarians worked pretty well. He has a real knack for keeping each side just happy enough they don't walk away. Or kill him.

Ultimately, I enjoy that Dox succeeds (since he's better than the people he's fighting), but the less than stellar way he treats the people he uses actually creates problems for him. It isn't like Thor and Captain America ignoring Stark's latest attempt at imposing his ideas on the world to welcome him into the fold because he gave them his cheesy grin. At a certain point, treating everyone else like tools there for your use ought to have repercussions. With Dox it does, and it's fun to watch him navigate through it, especially with how frustrated he gets with everyone else's inability to see things like he does. Difference being he can't force people to help, so he has to find other ways to save the day.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What I Bought 4/25/2014 - Part 1

I had some errands to run in town last week, so I swung by and got books. It's almost too bad, I'm pretty sure he would have mailed them this week, and the first issue of the next Atomic Robo mini-series is due this week.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #10 & 11, by James Ausmus (writer #10), Tom Peyer & Elliot Kalan (writers, #11), Carmen Canero, Gerardo Sandoval, Nuno Plati, Siya Oum, Pepe Larraz, Wil Sliney (artists), Terry Pallot (inker), Chris Sotomayor, John Rauch, Andres Mossa (colorists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I am not going to the trouble of listing who worked on what issues. There's a lot overlap, anyway. Leave it to Octavius Spidey to have crooked, uneven web designs on his costume. That's the lack of attention to order I'd expect from a villain playing hero. Not to mention a guy who wore a green-and-orange spandex outfit that made him look like a billiard ball.

I figured since I made mention on Friday of these issues being disappointing, I might as well start here. Just in case one of you had been thinking about picking this title up based on my glowing reviews of the previous 4 issues. I have, I will admit, softened somewhat since Friday, but not much. Both issues are a bunch of vignettes. Issue 10 is the 3 remaining members of the Sinister Six swapping stories about their greatest victories. It's as sad as you might expect. The Beetle claims victory over Daredevil because she beat Matt Murdock in court once. By hiring the Looter to attack the courthouse so Murdock would bail on the trial and go save the day as Daredevil. Issue 11 was about a super-villain support group we were introduced to earlier in the series. It doesn't involve the main characters at all, as it's more about how the Grizzly and the Looter have both been traumatized by the new, "superior" Spider-Man.

Look, any appearance of that Spider-Man is going to bring a frown to my face, so that issue was swimming upstream from the start. The annoyance here was that issue 9 ended on a really good cliffhanger, and I wanted to find out what had happened. These issues did not tell me that. They were filler, and issue 10 wasn't even full-size filler. 18 pages. That's right, 18 pages for a $4 book. And while we learned some stuff about the cast in #10, it wasn't anything we couldn't have learned in the course of actual, plot-relevant developments.

I mean, yes, Overdrive is probably a bigger coward than Shocker, and is his own biggest hurdle to success, just due to the limits he places on his powers. Yes, Speed Demon is an idiot with the same attention span as Impulse. And yes, Beetle is the only one with any brains, but she's probably too aware of all the pitfalls of super-villainy to be good at it. She's trying so hard not to get tripped up on something like a parole violation, she only keeps weapons available when she thinks she needs them. Which ignores the fact she's in costume, so she's probably always going to need them. Because you don't know when Hercules is going to strolling into the bar you're robbing/patronizing.

Let's discuss a positive. The idea of Grizzly being reduced to robbing drunks for pizza money, and using kid's music to lure them in, is hilarious, even if he's doing it because he's too scared of Spidey to try anything more high-profile. Nuno Plati's artwork is nice. He goes heavy on the black, but it works for him, especially on the Looter's story of woe. The way the Looter returns to New York, and leaps off a ledge to start his daring heist, fully illuminated. Then you turn the page and here's Asshole Spider-Octavius, showing up to not only shatter his bones, but his sense of self-worth. The panels get shorter, closing in, crushing Looter, and the shadows close in as well, bringing all focus on his humiliating defeat.

I'm a little sad to see Will o' Wisp among the villains Looter approached about working for him. I recall when Spider-Man had convinced him to be a good guy, like he did for Sandman, Rocket Racer, and the Prowler. I think Prowler might be the only one of those guys still doing the hero thing, though I haven't seen him since Carol Danvers beat him up and threw him in jail while she was busy being Stark's Pro-Registration lackey.

If you were thinking about picking up Superior Foes, well, honestly there's only 4 issues left, so maybe buy the trade of the first 6 issues, and wait for the next trade to come out once the series wraps up. But if you, like me, are too impatient for that, go ahead and give these issues a pass. I guess there's always a chance the Six' flight from Hercules will be relevant, but right now, it doesn't seem like these were essential issues.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.5 - Impetus

Plot: Fawkes is waiting for a shot of counteragent when the Keeper comes in, seriously distracted by a computer printout. When Fawkes asks her about it, she plays vague, but he's able to steal enough of a glance to note the words "painful" and "death". Darien is reasonably concerned, but the Keeper insists it has nothing to do with him or the gland. She further insists the Official is not holding anything over her to make her work here, even though Darien is right when notes someone as talented as her could make beaucoup bucks in the private sector. The Keeper deflects, telling Darien he's much too suspicious, and no one is forcing her to work here.

This is where the Keeper's utter failure to build that trust she said she would in "Catevari" comes home to roost. Darien is determined to get another look at that prinout, which leads to him stowing away in her car. Which is how he sees her visit a father and his two kids, all of whom seem happy to see her. But she doesn't live with them, she lives in a very nice apartment with her dog. And her name is Claire. Fawkes gets the printout - and an eyeful - and learns of Lab 2. Which means more stalking, which leads to an old woman named Gloria the Keeper is treating. And thus Darien hatches a bad plan.

Convinced this woman is a relative of the Keep being kept prisoner by the Official to ensure Claire's compliance, he engineers Gloria's escape, figuring if he helps the Keeper, perhaps she'll give him the formula for the counteragent in return. The problem is, Gloria isn't related to Claire. She's a 35 year old woman who volunteered to test a vaccine meant to protect soldiers against biological weapons.But Claire attached it to the wrong DNA sequence, and it gave Gloria Werner's Syndrome. meaning she almost instantly went from 35 to 70, and she's spent the last 10 years aging normally from there, Claire her only attachment to a family that thinks she's dead. The Official agreed to give Claire resources to look for a cure in exchange for being responsible for the counteragent. Oh, and Gloria can transmit the Werner's through contact with other people. By biting someone trying to bring her back in, for example. Like Darien, perhaps.

Good news, Claire has a cure ready to test. Bad news, the General that commissioned the original project, doesn't want any loose ends just as he makes his pitch for a new bio-weapons division, and Claire's lab assistant reports to that General. And this is where Darien's suspicious nature comes in handy, because the fact it worked on him when administered by Claire, but not on Gloria when the shot was given by Justin, doesn't pass the smell test with him. Of course, he's wrong to suspect the Official, but the suspicion in general was sound.

Quote of the episode: Gloria - 'You haven't been telling the truth to anybody, have you?'

The "Oh crap" count: 0 (11 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Sir Robert Walpole.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (4 overall).

What Department is the Agency affiliated with? Still Fish & Game, but I noticed the lettering on the door of the office building they're in said 'HUD Document Disposal Control". Not at all sure what that means. Housing and Urban Development isn't under Fish & Game is it?

Other: I thought it was really funny how the Official is only mock-offended Fawkes would suspect him of keeping an old woman prisoner to make the Keeper stay. He completely cops to the fact he would try something like that. Doesn't make it less horrible that he would, but I was impressed he didn't try to deny it was up his alley. I also enjoyed the fact he took a lot of pleasure in busting General Grissom. We learn during this episode the Official once tried to open a file on Grissom's bio-research while in Internal Investigations, and Grissom used his pull to get the Official fired. It humanizes the old man a bit, that he wants payback, but also makes him look a little better. He does draw the line somewhere, vague as it may be, and he won't look the other way just because it's his own countrymen up to no good.

Also of interest, the continuing evolution of Fawkes and Hobbes' partnership. early in the episode, when Darien complains he knows nothing of the woman who holds his sanity in her hands, Hobbes goes into a spiel about not needing to know, and just do your job. It's very much in the vein as his comments about doing your duty not always being nice, and how he would even kill himself if he was told he was a threat. But later on, once Darien's been infected, Hobbes is no longer willing to accept "need to know", and demands the Keeper be upfront with them. Sure, he presents as not wanting to be blamed for Mr. Quicksilver Gland aging to dust, but there's genuine concern.

Also, the bit where he gets drawn into the tearful family reunion hug at the end was funny. He's flustered, but touched. Oh, and we learned a few things about him. One, he's had 7 shrinks and fallen in love with all of them (were they all women I wonder). Two, Hobbes has spent a lot of time noticing the Keeper's looks, and like me, he digs the accent. This will become relevant later in the season.

One thing I wonder about with Gloria. When she was infected, it aged her to 70, and then she aged normally to 80 over the next decade. So when the Keeper administered the cure, did she de-age to where she was before the Werner's, or to the age she was before the Werner's, plus 10 years?

Along with Darien, we learned some things about the Keeper. She likes to dance in front of the mirror to rock music. She likes Twizzlers. She has a dog she speaks in baby talk to, and she named it Pavlov. Eesh. I can't really figure out how Darien was able to stow away in her SUV for the entire ride home without her figuring it out. How did he get in? You'd think it you worked with a guy who could turn invisible, you'd be more alert to doors opening and closing for no apparent reason. Maybe the Keeper just badly underestimated him. That was Darien's assessment, certainly.

I do think Darien should have come clean about being in her apartment, though I understand why he didn't. Maybe don't want to tell the woman who regularly jams needles into your arm you saw her in the shower. Still, in the interests of trust, it would be better to tell her, and accept what will hopefully just be a punch in the jaw.

One other thing we learned about Claire: She has a strong sense of responsibility. Unlike Grissom, she was not willing to walk away from her mistake, and took a job that gave her a chance to try and fix it. That's something that's becoming apparent about the Agency. It's a place for people who screwed up or pissed off the wrong people elsewhere, but they come here and work together well. The Governmental Agency of Misfit Toys, basically.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

This Post Is To Force My Hand As Much As Anything

Summer of 2011, the Comics Should Be Good site did their Top Characters for Marvel and DC poll. List your Top 10 from each company, based on whatever criteria you like. I sent in my lists, imperfect as they were. Year and a half later, I mentioned going through my lists here, during one of those blogiversary celebration posts I do in December.

You may have noticed those posts haven't materialized. Because I struggle at taking that initial step, because I started to doubt the lists, whatever. Point being, I've decided Saturday is going to be the day to run through the lists, until I'm done with them. Start at #10, alternate between DC and Marvel as I work to #1. Then I'll probably go through all the characters I think I should have put on there instead. There's at least a couple of DC characters, and I could swap out 80% of the Marvel list and still think it was pretty accurate.

It won't be anything too elaborate. I'll discuss why I like the character, the writers and artists I most associate with them - meaning, at least for artists, when I mention that character, whose version do you picture - stuff like that. It's something I've been meaning to do, and now that I've announced it, I'm committed. So that'll start next week.

Friday, April 25, 2014

There's Confusion And Disappointment In This Month's Solicits

There are actually things I plan to discuss which aren't related to Marvel. I know, shocking. But we'll start with those anyway.

Good news: New Rocket Raccoon ongoing! I have no idea how long Skottie Young will continue to write and (especially) draw it, but I'm on board for the time being.

Bad news: Gee, where to begin? Hawkeye isn't listed, meaning it's fallen behind. Again. Instead of soliciting what I think was going to be the final issue of Superior Foes, they resolicited issue #13, which is supposed to come out in May. So it's going to skip the next 2 months? If that's so, the fact the most recent two issues were lousy is going to leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Daredevil's shipping twice. . . I think. I didn't see a solicitation for #6 anywhere, but it's on the order form. Don't double-ship Daredevil, Marvel! I don't want loss of quality because you starting rushing those fellows.

Also, don't make it do a tie-in to Original Sin. Bad enough Deadpool's tying in, at least that might take the piss out of the mess.

I considered adding Spider-Man 2099 to the pull list. Peter David is writing it, but man, Wil Sliney. I was not impressed by his artwork on Fearless Defenders. I didn't hate it, it was just sort of there, and I loved Leonardi's work on the original 2099 series. For $3 an issue I'd live with it, but not $4.

I think that covers the Marvel stuff, so let's move to other things. DC posted solicitations not only for July's books, but September's as well. As you may recall, DC has decided every September will be some sort of special event month for their books. Last year was the Villains Month, the year before that the Zero Issues. This year will be some Future's End related nonsense, complete with more special covers! Oh boy! At least this time they have announced that there will also be cheaper versions of the comics, presumably with boring, unspecial covers for lameos like me. Assuming I choose to buy any of them, which is no guarantee. May just sit that month out.

I know Image has this reputation now for having a lot of good, creator-owned stuff. Frankly, not much of it has appealed. I thought about East of West, but Hickman's pacing is so glacial I think I'm better off waiting for a conclusion to see if people think it's worth the trouble. I considered Deadly Class strictly on the basis of Wes Craig drawing it (loved his work on Guardians of the Galaxy), but then I read that it was about a school for prospective young assassins and what I pictured in my head looked really tedious. I was considering Low, which is a new thing Remender's got starting up with Greg Tocchini in July. The idea of humanity living at the bottom of the ocean to escape overwhelming solar radiation, and now they've emerged to recover a probe that might point to another inhabitable planet, sounds good. But that's what I thought about his Dimension Z idea for Captain America, and that was a massive disappointment. I just don't trust Remender enough right now. Maybe if I hear enough good things

The latest Atomic Robo mini-series will be continuing, and the only other thing of note for me is they relisted Tick The Complete Edlund trade. I haven't seen it available anywhere online for less than what it'll cost to get a new copy in two months, so what the hell. I've been meaning to try the Tick comics for awhile now, and I figure it makes sense to start at the beginning and work forward from there. Assuming I want to continue, which hopefully I will. Should I be hopeful about that? Another thing to hunt down and spend money on. Hmm.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's A Double Dose Of Blue Blurs

I haven't talked much about video games lately. For awhile last winter, I was replaying games I beat earlier in the year. Then I was running through the copy of Arkham City a friend loaned me, then I shifted to playing games on my older systems. Wave Race and GTA: Vice City, mostly. There was about a month where I had no functional TV, and even after that, there was the steady stream of books from my dad. But I have managed to play three games recently. The first-person shooter and the RPG I'll get to whenever I finish them, probably in another month or two. As for the other game, that would be Sonic Generations.

The gist of the story is some monster is moving through time, disrupting it by throwing parts of it loose, rendering them sort of lifeless. So two Sonics team up. One is the current version, the other is the Sonic of the earliest games, who is much shorter, chubbier, and doesn't talk. Frankly, given the voices of the characters that do talk, Classic Sonic might be my favorite for precisely that reason. You can tell by the dialogue it's written for a much younger audience than me, so maybe I should cut the voice actors some slack.

There are three large sections to the game. Each section has three worlds and a boss stage. The three worlds are typically from a specific era of Sonic games. The first section's worlds are from the Genesis era, the second from the Dreamcast/Gamecube time, and the third from the 360/PS3 generation. Each world has two Acts, one to be played with Classic Sonic, the other with Newer Sonic. Classic Sonic's Acts are the sort of side-scrolling stuff you might know from the games on the Sega Genesis. Newer Sonic's Acts tend to be a little more complicated, because he has a wider skill set, with the Boost meter, the Homing Attack, the Light Dash you can (theoretically) do along a line of Rings. The camera tends to hang behind him, though it'll flip around to the side or even in front if it wants you to see what's in pursuit.  In terms of game play, it isn't any different from how Sonic played in Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the Gamecube. A little more polished, more emphasis on doing tricks while in mid-air (you can fill the Boost meter that way).

You beat both Acts, and Challenges appear, five at each level for each character. You have to beat at least one for each level to release a key you need to open the door to get at the boss. Beat the boss, then next section opens up, you do it all again. And again, and after the third boss, the section opened is just the place where you fight the final boss. The levels are all from previous games, with the games getting newer as you go along. I did feel as though there was a considerable spike in difficulty between the second and third sections. I was breezing through most levels on my first or second try, needing maybe 4 minutes to finish a level, to dying 5, 6 times, on levels requiring 8 or 9 minutes for a successful run. Everything got a lot more complicated, and I wouldn't say the additions improved the game. I am probably never going to play that Planet Wisp level again. Screw the stupid transformation stuff.

So there's a lot of hoops to jump through, but at least the game doesn't make you beat all the Challenges to get the keys. It does, however, require you to get all the Chaos Emeralds so you can fight the final boss. Being forced to get all the Chaos Emeralds was the thing most likely to make me dislike Sonic games on my Game Gear back in the day. At least in this case, you get the Emeralds for beating the bosses, as well as the mini-bosses stationed somewhere in each of the three sections.

The reason I never liked searching for the Emeralds is it seems at odds with the gameplay. To find them, you need to slow down and search for hidden passages, or hard to reach places. But Sonic games are predicated on speed (except Sonic Labyrinth, which was terrible precisely because they thought for some reason people wanted to play a Sonic game where you couldn't run fast). Doing the Spin Dash, whipping through a loop, rolling down a hill through a horde of enemies to go up a ramp and off through the air at a dizzying speed, that's what it's about. I can't do that if I'm constantly slowing down to make sure I didn't miss a jump for a different path.

Sonic Generations has the different paths, but this time it's the Red Ring Stars you can collect that encourage you to try the different paths. That's mostly for unlocking art or music, but if you can collect all 5 for a character in a given level, it unlocks a Skill they can be equipped with. Some of the Skills are protective shields, or letting you retain some of your Rings after a restart, or allowing you to land on your feet if you take damage. For the most part, the Skills aren't essential. I've beaten the game, but I hadn't collected 5 Red Rings on any level at that point. I had all the other Skills that could be purchased or earned through Challenges, but most of the time, I'd forget to equip any of them. So it's possible to get by without them.

I've said this about other games (Shinobi on the PS2 was probably the first), but Sonic Generations is one of those game where, when things are going well, and I can see what the creators envisioned, it's incredibly fun. When it's not, it's frustrating. I love using the Boost function for Newer Sonic. It's the purest expression of that sense of velocity Sonic games provide. But just as surely as I open up the throttle and take off, I realize I just blew past a place where I needed to make a jump if I wanted to try a different path. There's that conflict between the game urging the player to go fast, and the game also wanting the player to seek out alternative routes and find secrets. It's hard to know when I can just charge ahead full tilt, when you I have to charge ahead to have the speed to make the jump to the next step in that trail,  when falling just means having to take a longer route, and when falling means death.

The game gives out grades based on time, rings collected and such. I do a lot better on Classic Sonic's levels, probably because he doesn't have the Boost, so I can't start running out of control. I have to actually build up speed as I go along, which gives me a better chance to be aware of hazards or other routes. I still frequently hit those hazards and miss those other routes, but I'm at least aware of them. Conversely, Newer Sonic's Homing Attack seemed to throw off my timing for Classic Sonic's attacks. The way the Homing Attack works, you make him jump, and if there's an enemy, you can do a spinning attack on him. There's a nice green targeting reticule telling you an enemy can be attacked an everything. When I was playing as Classic Sonic, I kept screwing up my jumping attacks, where I need to land on top of the enemy. I'd land right next to them, too close to avoid taking damage from contact, but not in the right place to destroy them.

I do want to compliment at least some of the level music. It's a mixed bag, some of it annoying, some of it hitting that sweet spot for me of the kind of Sonic level music that just seems to fit somehow. One thing they did was even though both Acts are playing roughly the same tune, they change it up a little so each Act gets its own version of the song.

If you're a Sonic fan, I think this is a pretty good game for you. If you like old-school Sonic games, there's some of that, if you like the newer style of play, there's some of that. The boss battles are kind of garbage, though. But if you earn enough points, you can play the original Sonic the Hedgehog game if you'd like. If you're not a Sonic fan, then no, Sonic Generations is not going to be the game that changes your mind.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez died last week. I only read about it last night. It hadn't occurred to me he might even be close to passing, though I'm sure on some level I recognized he wasn't a young man (he was 86).

I obviously didn't know Marquez personally; I only know him through his work, and I only discovered that in the last few years, when I happened across a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude in the library here in the boonies. After that it was The General in His Labyrinth, and last year Love in the Time of Cholera.

I'm probably more focused on plot when I read than I should be. If the story is interesting to me, then I want to see how it ends, and digressions from that can irritate. Marquez, though, had this ability to constantly introduce new characters, even taking a page or two to detail their lives up to then, and keep me enthralled. He was still doing that 400 pages into Love in the Time of Cholera, and I was eager to see what he'd cooked up for each one. Maybe it was because he made every character's life seem fascinating in its own way. I think even if he had a described a character living what we'd call an "ordinary" life, he would still have made that character interesting, if only for the novelty of having lived such a life.

Maybe it's because Marquez seemed so adept at capturing those little quirks that make up human nature. The resilience in the face of long odds, the conflict between what a person knows is best, and what they want. That was what I found most  intriguing about his portrayal of Simon Bolivar in The General in His Labyrinth. Bolivar knew that for democracy to flourish in South America, they had to learn to lead themselves. They couldn't keep turning to him, and so it was good they had finally roundly declined to even nominate him for the presidency. Even so, it hurt his pride a little. He had grown used to being the savior, the hero, and he wanted to be asked, just one more time, so he could decline it. He knows the way things worked out is for the best, but it doesn't eliminate that desire to be wanted. I think it was that ability to write characters I enjoyed the most.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Gift Can Be A Trap

I'm two issues behind on Harley Quinn currently, so this may already be dated, but what the hey.

The patient who left Harley her current digs is also the person who put the hit out on her.

I don't know Harley's full backstory in the new 52, but we know she for certain she worked at Arkham. She was primarily interested in the Joker, but I'd be really surprised if he was the only inmate she saw. Can't she even as shoddy an operation as Arkham letting some newbie start in on their most dangerous patient right off the bat. Arkham is full of dangerous people, though. Ones Harley may have crossed while working for/pursing Mistah J, or as part of the Suicide Squad. Or they may simply not like her. We're dealing with people who don't have the firmest grip on sanity, so there's no guarantee their reasons are anything I can fathom.

But it does seem remarkably convenient that Harley's storage unit blows up, and immediately, here's some legal eagle telling her she's inherited property. And once she gets there, people immediately start trying to kill her. It would be a pretty sound plan. Take away her living space (and maybe kill her). If she survives, now she needs a place to stay, and you provide one for her. It also means there's a solid lock on her location, which makes it easier to send other killers, or just to keep tabs on her. And, since she was told the property was "left" to her, she'll never think to look into who the patient was, because the patient is dead. They can't have put a bounty on her head.

I guess there's a chance it could be the Joker behind it, though that would involve him putting more thought towards Harley than usual. Maybe Waller's trying to tie up a loose end? Again, seems a little out of character for her, but I'm thinking of the pre-reboot versions, so who know how applicable that it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.4 - Tiresias

Plot: The Agency is being audited! Or something. Mr. Quinn's from the General Accounting Office, he wants to see their books. Problem being, the Agency has a buttload of money tied up in the invisibility gland, which is classified, so good luck explaining that. On the other hand, Mr. Quinn's niece recently committed suicide, and perhaps the Agency could investigate if there was any foul play? What we already know - and the Agency quickly learns - is that this young woman, in addition to being a sheriff, frequently visited a blind seer named Scarborough. Hobbes pays the $25 "donation" to go in, while Darien sneaks in. We learn Hobbes was bullied as a child, but Scarborough can sense Darien, and the things he sees mirrors some disturbing dreams Darien's been having lately. Dreams about him going Quicksilver mad and killing Hobbes. Then the old man advises Fawkes that his only hope of averting the fate is to kill himself. A little research back at the Agency reveals there have been an unusual number of suicides for a town that size since Scarborough received his gift, though not everyone took his advice.

Unfortunately, nobody really helps Darien through this crisis. The Keeper won't give him a shot of counteragent (this time citing concerns that he'll develop immunity, rather than that she needs time to make it). He won't tell Hobbes what's bugging him, and Hobbes insistence that it's all bunk is reassuring right up to the point one of the people who didn't listen dies alongside his family in a house fire. At which point Fawkes panics and rushes back to ask the Official to give him a different partner. But Darien still won't explain why he fears killing Hobbes, and between that, the pressure the Official feels over the budget (much of which is tied up in Darien's head), and Fawkes' resentment over being press-ganged into the service of this Agency, there's no help there. The Official calls him a worthless loser, says they should have let him rot in prison, and tells him to prove he's worth keeping around. That is some really shitty human resources management. Someone needs to attend a seminar on being a team player.

With no other place to turn, Darien runs back to Scarborough, where he meets Hobbes. Bobby stuck around the fire because certain things didn't add up, and found some evidence that points to Scarborough's daughter as having set the fire. So he's there to arrest the both of them (though she contends she acted alone to convince them the visions were real so they'd back off). Which brings Darien back into contact with Hobbes, he goes Quicksilver mad, and if the Keeper hadn't shown up someone was gonna die. Darien confronts the old man sitting in his cell and points out the vision didn't come true. Proving his charlatan nature, Scarborough rebuts that it hasn't come true yet. Yes, because there will be another time where Hobbes finds a random box of fresh doughnuts he'll try to use to cheer up Fawkes, prompting Darien to come flying through the passenger window.

Anyway, the Keep had been doing some tests on a rat (which went crazy and killed another rat, which is why she came looking for them and was nearby when Darien went nuts), and she's devised a little diode or something that looks like a snake tattoo. As the Quicksilver builds up in his system, the segments of the snake turn red. So now we have a handy way of keeping track of how close Fawkes is to going crazy and killing people.

Quote of the Episode: The Keeper - 'It's a biosynthetic gland. It's not evil.'

The "oh crap" count: 0 (11 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week: Scarborough and his daughter were fond of the Bible, but Darien quoted Balfour and Doris Day.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 1 (4 overall).

What department is the Agency affiliated with? Still Fish and Game. This one may not change often enough to be worth keeping track of.

Other: Something Scarborough said before Fawkes tried killing Hobbes, I described as 'specious bullshit reasoning'. But I didn't write down what he said, so I don't know what it was.

I continue to be amused by the budget problems of the Agency. The Official trying to grease the wheels with Quinn to avoid answering awkward questions about the books (it worked). The sly handoff of incriminating paperwork from the Official to Eberts to "accidentally" shred. That package van being so weak they can't outrun a '73 Toyota. Fawkes and Hobbes having to pool their money to cover the $25 donation (though Darien's apartment looks really nice, when he isn't tearing pillows to shreds in a nightmare frenzy). Hobbes consistently wanting a calling card because he can't get in touch with people when he needs to.

If Fawkes can build up a resistance to counteragent, couldn't he build up a resistance to the narcotic effects of the Quicksilver? If it's acting like a drug on his system, people eventually build up resistances to drugs they're exposed to regularly. Or so I've observed from my friends and their drinking. If the gland is always pumping Quicksilver into his bloodstream, then his body should eventually gain a tolerance for it. How long that might take is anybody's guess, but I feel like it must have been awhile since the Pilot. The Keep launched into an explanation of what the gland does and Darien fed it right back to her, so they've obviously been doing this dance long enough he's got her answers memorized.

One problem with episodes about someone having a vision of the future is how many problems they cause when they choose not to tell people what they saw. I'm not expecting the Official to give a damn, but I feel like if Fawkes had told Hobbes he'd been having recurring nightmares of killing him when Hobbes offers doughnuts, maybe Hobbes would have been forewarned when he took that guy's box of doughnuts. Also, maybe the Keeper wouldn't have blown him off so much. OK, she probably would have. Naming the rat she was experimenting on Darien (and the other Hobbes) is not very nice. I don't feel she's carrying out her plan to earn his trust very well. He doesn't trust any of them. Then again, he told the Keeper that he wants to be killed if he goes Quicksilver mad again, so not sure how much trust he needs to have.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Return Of The Meme

Something I keep meaning to do is revisit some of those old "list of questions" posts and see how the answers have changed. So here's one, it's been over five years since I did this.

Favorite regular series?
Daredevil holds this until someone takes it away.

Comic book character you recently discovered/started reading?
The current Ms. Marvel's only been around for a couple months, I'd say that qualifies as "recent".

If you could write/draw one character, who would it be?
Well, Kurt Wagner's got his own series right now, so I'll leave him to Claremont and Nauck. The idea of trying to do right by any character I really like is still terrifying, but I don't want to pick somebody I hate, much as I might enjoy hate-writing Batman as a jackass that actually gets called out for being a jackass. So let's say, Darkhawk. Maybe just because I have this itch to try and do a sketch of him recently. Admittedly, I don't know if I'd keep him on Earth of send him to space. If I did the latter, I prefer his original origin, but either way, he could be a marked man or someone who has a bad reputation because of the armor and has to deal with that. Lots of weird unsavory alien characters. Wizards robbing planets of nitrogen to create stuff.

Are you a big fan of multi-issue crossover extravaganzas?
Hahahahahahahaha - NO.

Last comic book series you dropped and why?
X-Men. The inability to keep a consistent artist, the weird hanging plot stuff where I couldn't decide if Wood was teasing something out for later or just being sloppy, the way he tried to show off the characters' powers in ways that were meant to be cool, but ended up seeming needlessly complicated. Plus, because it was an X-book, I realized it was always going to be getting drawn into whatever stupid multi-issue crossover extravaganza Bendis had cooking. Guaranteed to go nowhere, accomplish nothing, and be damn boring while doing it. No thanks.

Favorite character?
Spider-Man, Spider-Man, but no damn Otto Octavius running around in his body, thank you kindly.

Are you a DC or Marvel fan?
I like and read considerably more Marvel comics than DC, so Marvel. These days it's drifted back towards the levels of the blog's early years. Not quite the 12-to-1 ratio of 2007, but 8 or 9-to-1 is in play. I will mention that I've been buying a lot of older series from DC over the last 5 years, moreso than with Marvel, so that's something.

Do you remember your first comic/series?
Answer hasn't changed. Amazing Spider-Man #273. I mean, you could argue it was any of the Marvel comics that were in that first batch of Christmas gifts. Spectacular Spider-Man #111, Incredible Hulk #316, West Coast Avengers #6, ROM #75, Fantastic Four #287, Avengers #263, Uncanny X-Men #202 (first issue after Storm beat Cyclops and sent him packing). I remember Chad Nevett wondered once how someone could like the X-Men and not like Cyclops. It's easy. Start reading X-Men comics when Cyclops isn't around, then see how much he ruins things when he reappears.

Is Watchmen the movie going to be as good as the comic book?
That's a little dated, and I believe the answer was "No." Let's change that to Guardians of the Galaxy, and there the asnwer depends. If the bar is Bendis' run on the title, then I sure hope the movie is considerably better. If we're talking Abnett/Lanning, or Valentino, or the original '70s stuff, well it'd be nice, but I'm not confident.

Favorite comic book movie?
Holy crap, did I put the Thomas Jane Punisher movie in the running there? Jeez, let's just forget I said that. It's either Iron Man, or Captain America: The First Avenger. Probably Captain America. I like Iron Man, but I can't totally ignore RDJ kind of copped comic book Hawkeye's personality for movie Tony Stark.

Worst comic book movie?
I said Batman and Robin, and I stand by that assertion.

Character you'd like to see in a movie?
Comic book Hawkeye, with the personality and everything. Someone who hasn't occurred at all? Patsy Walker? Do the whole schmear, popular actress or whatever the equivalent would be of her Archie-style comic days, moving into her wanting to be a super-hero and finding the suit. I think she'd have to find it herself, because with the way the Avengers' creation is all tied up in SHIELD in the cinematic universe, I can't see them giving her the outfit. Or the Black Cat, a slinky, flirty cat burglar who really enjoys stealing, and enjoys doing the job well and with style.

Series you'd like to see on TV?
Well the Suicide Squad is already showing up on Arrow, so I still think the mutant detective agency X-Factor has potential, and let's switch GrimJack from a movie idea to a series. Yeah, the effects budget will be lower, but it'll let them really flesh out the idea of Cynosure as a pan-dimensional city with a lot of different moving parts and players.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Airing Of Minor Grievances

Marvel's been doing better at releasing books that I'd like to read lately than they have in several years. This is nice, but there are still certain silly things they do I'm not happy about. I say silly because these ultimately aren't that big a deal, not like questionable treatment and depictions of people who aren't white dudes, or the fact that a lot of the people who created their big moneymaking characters aren't getting their share of the dosh Marvel's raking in off those characters. Those are actual serious issues, which I think Marvel is maybe, slowly, improving on. Hopefully. The annoyances I'm looking at are the sort where someone could almost make an argument for why they're a good thing, so quite a different matter. Less world hunger, more the garbage man left your trash can on its side so it rolled in the street and got flattened.

The less-dire things I'm thinking about are: Event tie-ins, double shipping, constant restarting of books, and of course, $4 for 20 pages of comics. Let's break this down.

Event Tie-Ins

Why they're a nuisance: They typically disrupt whatever story the creative team was already telling. The actions contained within sometimes make no sense because all the context is in the main mini-series. Unless the title you're reading is a big seller written by one of the big names, the story may be utterly pointless not only to your title, but to the event as well, raising the question of why they bothered to do a tie-in at all.

Why they aren't so bad: Marvel doesn't seem to be making as many books play along these days, so these aren't nearly as pervasive as they were back in the Civil War times. Um, sometimes the writers make them work. Either they're able to work the conflict into the preexisting themes of the book, or they're able to take the changes imposed by the event and run with it in an interesting direction. My go-to examples for these are the Cable/Deadpool and X-Factor Civil War tie-ins. At the same time, it ought to be a little concerning I have to go back to '06 to find ones I thought worked really well (Abnett and Lanning usually did well tying Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy into their cosmic events, but they were writing all the relevant books, and it was happening in a small, self-contained section of Marvel's line, so I'm not sure it counts. they didn't do nearly as well with Secret Invasion, especially on Nova).

Double-Shipping

Why it's a nuisance: Forces creative teams to shuffle, usually the artists. If they don't, artwork can start to look rushed because the artist is hustling to try and keep up. So either the book has to potentially shift to match the fill-in artist's style, or the quality suffers, either because the pinch-penciler isn't suited for the story, or the regular can't do their best work.

Why they aren't so bad: More issues of your favorite title! Helps to combat decompressed storytelling by getting more issues in your hands in less time! More seriously, Marvel at least seems to let the creative teams know ahead of time this is going to happen, and they're able to make plans. Deadpool does "inventory" issues, Hawkeye has two story arcs running simultaneously, one for each character, each with a different artist. Daredevil simply seems to be plotted so there are smaller stories that are part of a larger arc, but can be wrapped up in a couple of issues, and Javier Rodriguez handles those when Samnee needs a breather.

Constant Restarting of Titles:

Why it's a nuisance: Real pain in the ass if you're trying to sell someone on a book or character by pointing them in the direction of a particular run. "No, not that volume of Daredevil, that other volume of Daredevil! The one by, uh, the exact same group of people as this one." Hey, as someone who preaches the gospel of Hornhead these days, that's more of a problem than you might think (though not as bad as trying to explain the Summers/Grey family tree, or how Power Girl fit in the post Crisis on the Infinite Earths, pre-Flashpoint DCU. It's weird how readily I take some of it for granted until I have to explain it.) Kind of disrupts any sense of continuity between titles. I know, dirty word, but it can be fun to see a team take the end of the previous group's run and spin it in their own direction. Now it feels more like clean break, start fresh. Also, it's utterly ridiculous to be restarting the book when the people working on it are the same.

Why they aren't so bad: Makes for easy starting and stopping points if you were strictly there for the creators. Unless they carry over to the new volume, obviously. The clean break idea means creators might not be beholden to some particularly awful ending cooked up by the previous team. Really, this one is less annoying to me, and more just kind of silly.

$4 for a 20 Page Comic

Why it's a nuisance: A lot of times, it isn't a good value. Story is sparse, maybe in six issues you'll get a complete story arc, but possibly not. Makes it hard to justify sticking with a book doing a slow burn, unless you really trust them to nail the landing. Makes me less inclined to try new books. Makes it harder for me to sell other people on new series, because I don't feel comfortable asking them to shell out that kind of cash.

Why it's not so bad: Saves me money! Gives me series to track down through back issue hunts or discounted trade purchases later! If people are turned away from trying comics by the price, then I don't have to worry about sharing my hobby with people of differing views or perspectives! OK, fine, that last one is nonsense. Does a higher price mean more money for the creators? Or are they getting paid on a flat per page rate regardless? I don't know. If it meant more money for them, that would certainly be good, but I don't know if that's how it works.

Looking over them, it's either the double-shipping or the pricing that bugs me the most. Event tie-ins intrude on my buying habits rarely enough that I don't mind them as much, as the constant canceling and restarting of books is more silly to me than anything else. But I worry that double-shipping hurts the quality of the books by getting the creators to churn out more issues, faster. And I would like to buy more books, but I'd also like to think I'm getting good value for my dollars. The higher the price, the better the book needs to be, the lower the odds it reaches that level.

So that's me. You have a minor grievance that you'd like to air? Or a not so minor one? Doesn't have to be about Marvel. Hell, gripe about morning traffic if you feel like it. Get all the toxins out so they don't ruin your weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I've Been On The Road

Which is why there weren't any posts the last two days. I still don't seem to have shaken the headache that developed during the second half of last night's driving, so a few observations from the road:

- Lately, no matter what direction I'm driving, it's into the wind. Tuesday I went north, the wind came strongly out of the north. Wednesday I went back south, the wind came even more strongly out of the south. I went west last weekend, the wind was even stronger out of the west. I'm sure there's a lesson to all that - persevere in the face of adversity, life is a never-ending series of challenges, the universe is a real asshole - but I'm not sure which it is.

- I'm used to the idea that people who drive pickup trucks like to wave, especially to other people in pickup trucks. I don't know why they do that, but it's very common here. I had sort of assumed it would be similar wherever there were people in trucks, but several of my coworkers have expressed confusion over strangers waving to them while they drive their work truck. So maybe it's a regional thing.

My dad's commented more than once on people who always wave to him when he's in his truck, but not when he's in his Accord. Presumably they don't know it's the same guy, which raises some questions about why they wave at all. I suppose it could be a sightline issue - they can't see the car drivers, or that being higher up makes them feel superior, but then I'd expect car drivers to wave to each other more often, which my own experience suggests isn't the case. And a lot of SUVs are on the same height as trucks, and I feel like I get fewer waves in when I drive an SUV.

Maybe people in trucks just feel very secure and cool sitting up high, and want to feel connected to other folks in the same situation.

- Back in early November, I mentioned driving past a church with what I found to be a fairly irritating sign posted in front of it: "The truth can sometimes seem intolerant." I had to drive by again this week, and they've changed it to, "Christianity isn't a theory, it's a way of life." Stupendous! So stop trying to get it taught in science classes like it is a scientific theory! Then everything will be hunky-dory! Fine, not everything, just that one particular thing.

That church might want to consider getting someone less passive-aggressive to come up with sign ideas. Even if I were a person inclined to attend church, which I'm not, I'd hardly choose one run by a bunch of jerks. Was that mean? Well, I heard somewhere the truth can sometimes seem intolerant.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pebble In the Sky - Isaac Asimov

This was the one book out of all the ones I've read so far this year, I actually requested this one. I wanted to save it for last, but the books just kept coming. So here we are, 4 months after Christmas, and I finally got to it.

A middle-aged tailor from Chicago abruptly finds himself thousands of years in the future. He's still on Earth, but Earth is now just one planet among millions of the Galactic Empire, and what's more, it's an almost universally looked down upon and discriminated against backwater with radioactive soil. Which breeds a people hostile and resentful of the Empire, proud of how it's different from every other world, and determined to reclaim what it believes to be its proper place at the head of the Empire. Which leaves Mr. Schwartz in the middle of a determined Society of Ancients, a tired and frightened scientist, and an Imperial archeologist that actually wanted to prove Earth was the origin of humanity.

One of things I enjoyed about this was how Balkis (the Secretary and a major member of the Ancients) concocts this elaborate scenario of deception an intrigue among the scientist, the archeologist, and Schwartz, because it seems too fantastic to be a coincidence. But it actually was just a coincidence. Even so, the way he lays it out, his explanation makes sense, especially if one has his suspicious and scheming mind. And of course Schwartz' appearance looks suspicious. How could Balkis know, or even suspect Schwartz' lack of identification and apparent inability to speak the language are a result of being from the past? Much more likely he's a otherworld spy trying to pass himself off as feeble-minded.

One thing I find kind of interesting is how it often comes down to a clever individual. That's hardly unique to Asimov's stories, obviously, but when viewed in contrast to the idea of pyschohistory he uses in his Foundation series, it stands out. The idea that history is predictable because large masses of people are predictable suggests it's large groups that set the course of history. But time and again it's an individual in the right place at the right time, that sways things. I guess the key is that the individual is rarely some special chosen one. Frequently it's someone like Schwartz, an average person who finds himself mixed up in something by chance, and tries his best to make sense of it and do what thinks is right.

'Ennius smiled without conviction. "Don't you think you're being ridiculously overdramatic?"

"Oh yes. I'm a dead man and you're a corpse. But let's be devilishly cool and Imperial about it, don't y'know?"'

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.3 - Ralph

Plot: A young girl runs through the woods to a rock formation to visit her imaginary friend. From there she has an unfortunately perfect view of a foreign political figure being killed by a sniper. Unfortunately, the sniper saw her, too, and she won't tell anyone anything, except her imaginary, invisible friend, Ralph. The Agency is only officially peripherally involved, because when the sniper took a shot at Jess, the bullet ricocheted and hit an endangered peregrine falcon, but it's pretty hard for the FBI, especially the twit they put in charge, to keep an invisible guy from nosing around. Which is how Darien ends up playing Ralph, despite his serious misgivings about the morality of nosing through a 2nd grader's stuff. Better him than Hobbes, who is already on edge since he knows the FBI agent, and they don't like each other.

Fawkes manages to befriend Jessica anyway, despite some difficulty controlling his emotions which leads to some gland malfunction. Which is good, because the sniper is also part of the FBI, and he's looking to tie up a loose end. Fawkes takes a bullet for her, then takes several more later, but the Keeper thought to sew Kevlar into his jacket after the first time. He does save Jessica's life, but maybe kills a little of her childhood in the process, since she sees him nearly kill the sniper while in the throes of Quicksilver Madness. But it looks as though Jessica is going to make real friends now, so that's good.

Quote of the Episode: The Official - 'A foreign dignitary was killed on our soil and that is FBI jurisdiction. But an endangered bird was killed in a national park, and that belongs to Fish and Game.'

The "oh crap" count: 2 (11 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week: Not a quote so much as a reference, but Arthur Conan Doyle.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 1 (3 overall).

What department is the Agency affiliated with? Fish and Game obviously. Read the quote.

Other: That was some incredibly manipulative sad piano music there in the final scene between Fawkes and Jessica. Just crushing.

One of the things I like about this show is the constant budget issues. Last week, we saw that the Official maintains the books (or checks them at least) himself. Because they can't afford someone to do it. They still use that crappy package van Darien and Kevin rode in to reach the lab in the pilot. And as Fawkes notes this week, the Agency shut down for a few days because the copier broke and they wouldn't pay to have it fixed. It has that same sort of forced improvisation I enjoyed about Burn Notice. Also explains why they don't have a lot of high-tech gizmos.

I'm curious to see if it comes up, but the Keeper told Darien something potentially troubling this week. It takes 48 hours to make one does of counteragent, and she doesn't keep and surplus on hand. Because it doesn't keep well, you see. Though it just occurred to me now, we can't necessarily take that for granted. One thing I'm struggling with here is to ignore the things I know will happen down the line, so as to not let them cloud my perspective now. At this point, I'm not sure at all how much we should trust anything the Keeper says. Certainly here sewing Kevlar into Fawkes' jacket is significant, but should we see that as an actual act of kindness and concern, or a manipulative act designed to look concerned? Anyway, the lack of any immediate reliable source of counteragent in the event of an emergency seems risky. Catching an abruptly out of control invisible can't be easy.

The other major thing this episode did was flesh out Bobby Hobbes a bit. We knew he feels put upon and unappreciated. We know he's a bit paranoid, though whether that's the cause or the effect of feeling unappreciated I don't know ( he tells Fawkes this week that he didn't have invisible friends, he had invisible enemies growing up). We also know he's intensely decorated. He's a guy who has bled, sweated, and killed for his country, even though he believes he'll never receive his due because others are actively trying to deny it to him. Now we know the Agency wasn't the first stop on his list - more like the last - and despite what people like FBI agent Jones might say, Hobbes is very good at what he does. He was able to figure out a sniper's position based off a child's painting and knowing where she was standing. Then he was able to figure out the sniper's position again later by listening to the shot and impact. He's still lacking in much sympathy or compassion for other people, which is one reason Fawkes won't let him anywhere near Jessica. But it's worth noting that when Darien tries to explain to Jones that another fed just tried killing him, Hobbes immediately jumps to his aid. Sure, someone of that is the desire to rub Jones' nose is his mistakes, but it's a bit of a shift.

Up to that point, Hobbes has treated Fawkes like a burden. A foolish, soft-hearted dope that Bobby Hobbes has to constantly look after and keep from tripping over his own bleeding heart. Darien, for his part, sees Hobbes as just one more person conspiring to keep him working for the Agency indefinitely, someone who has no compunctions about anything he might have to do if someone tells him it's his duty. But this episode, there's a bit of a change, where the two are starting to recognize each other's gifts and how to compliment them. It's harder for Darien, because Hobbes' gifts are kind of outside Fawkes' range of experience, but it's there.

One last thing. You'll be glad to know Vincent Ventresca shaved off that crappy, wispy mustache he had the first two episode. Really wasn't doing him any favors, since it made him look so young he couldn't grow a proper one.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dragons Deal - Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye

All these books about dragons. This one, though, was a loaner from a friend who's reading a different series of books by the same author. This one's a bit different, as it's set in New Orleans, in a world where there are all sorts of supernatural creatures, many of which can and have interbred with humans over the history of the planet. This is not common knowledge among the public, but there are some people who know.

The book focuses primarily on the McCandles siblings, Griffen and Valerie. Both of them only recently learned they're dragons, both of them are apparently from a really strong bloodline. I'm not totally clear on whether they're entirely dragon, but can make themselves look human, or just mostly dragon. Anyway, they're kind of important whether they want to be or not. This book is somewhere in the middle of the series, so quite a bit has happened already. Val has a kid on the way, the unfortunate consequence of her falling under the glamour of some other dragon (so rape), and now the father's mother is trying to horn in, demanding rights to be near her grandchild. Considering the dad ran like a scalded dog to avoid death, I feel the proper response is "Walk into a chopper blade", and that is thankfully Val and Griffen's initial response. But Melinda's a cagey old bat, so she makes her moves well, though that whole issue remains unresolved by the end of the book.

Beyond that, Griffen runs a roving poker game thing, which is under attack by a group of eastern dragons he somehow muscled out in an earlier book. I'm not at all clear on how that works. Why can't they establish their own roving poker games. What's he going to do, call the cops on their illegal gambling operation because it horns in on his illegal gambling operation? I don't think he has the audacity, balls, or outright hypocrisy to try that, let alone the influence to pull it off.

On top of that, he nearly bankrupts himself when he agrees to be king of some parade krewe for Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras stuff was the least interesting part of the book for me. I'm sure there's a lot of fascinating history behind the whole thing - and Asprin and Nye talk about it some - I just don't care. It's a huge loud party that people use as an excuse to behave like drunken buffoons, set in a humid coastal city, which is just about the least appealing thing I can imagine. Maybe if you threw roving poisonous snakes or math pop quizzes into the mix it would be worse, but I'm not sure I'd notice. Plus, all Griffen's woes in regards to his bank account, planning parties, renting tuxes, keeping his ladies happy, they're all self-inflicted. He agreed to be king, let people play on his ego (also his desire to do something good for the city), and now he's reaping the whirlwind.

The parts of the book about Valerie trying to keep herself safe from Melinda, the threats Griffen has all around him, his attempts to patch up his friendship with the cop, Harrison, that stuff was good. I just didn't have any interest in the party stuff, though, except as it could be turned to tie in with the other plotlines.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Full Circle - D.L. Moore

One thing I haven't mentioned as I've been reviewing these Night of the Dragon books (Full Circle being the third and final installment) is that D.L. Moore passed away a few years ago, and since I don't know the circumstances, I don't know how much that affected the books. Full Circle in particular read very much like someone trying to provide a conclusion, without having the chance to build it up properly.

For example, at the end of the previous book, Jakes Giles leaves the group of people who have spirit-dragons. He thinks Eric is too unfocused and lacks a clear plan and Jake should be in charge. The fact Jake put on a second ring, and has two dragons in his head, has something to do with this. Initially in Full Circle, we don't see him, but when we do check in, we see he's hidden himself off in some frozen wilderness and is sending both the dragons out conducting his own searches for rings. He seems pretty determined to do whatever he thinks he must to prove he should be the boss. His first spirit dragon, Jak Oma Sall, seems less and less sure of what they're doing, while the second one, Loye Na Jil intensely resents being ordered about by a human. What's more, Jake seems unconcerned with anyone else's suffering, showing complete indifference when Loye destroys a village in Africa because one of his ancestors died near there centuries ago. To that end, his dragons attack one of the dragons in Eric's group and badly injure her (injuries inflicted on the dragon transfer to the person's physical body). But shortly after that, we're told Jake had a change of heart and rejoined the group.

Reading those sequences as they happened, it felt like such a waste. There were so many directions to go with it. Jake setting both dragons against Eric's group, or even Jake getting more rings and wearing them, with the resulting instability making each dragon a greater and greater danger. Jak could have tried to work with Eric's group against Giles. Loye could have found a way to defy Giles and fight all of them. As it is though, there's a brief squabble and he has a change of heart. It falls flat, and that seems to be because Moore didn't have time to really play it out, build the tension, then provide some sort of resolution. So that was a little disappointing because the potential was there for something very cool, but it didn't carry through.

Also, I found the repeated focus on using the spirit-dragons to find terrorists kind of awkward and uncomfortable. It seemed like an attempt to shoehorn a real world concern into a story where it didn't entirely fit. Especially in the latter two books, where Eric should be busy trying to stave off the destruction of the universe, but there's still lip service to trying to seek out and destroy terrorists. Have to prioritize.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Broken Dreams - D.L. Moore

The sequel to Night of the Dragon. One of the things described in the first book was that dragons don't perceive time like humans, if they perceive time at all. I don't entirely get it, but imagine if you walked to a chair, sat down, and gazed blankly into space for an hour, then rose again. For the dragon, it would be as if that interval of inactivity didn't exist. I think. Anyway, this property of dragons can have disorienting and strange effects on everything around them, and that's partially why there's a Valley outside of time. But when Eric put on the ring, he kind of broke that, and now the Valley is gradually falling to pieces. The rings contain the relevant knowledge of the different Hideclans, but to access them is going to require creating more human-dragon hybrids. Eric's attempt to put the band together doesn't go quite right, the fact they don't get enough people to figure out how to fix the problem in time to save the Valley chief among them. Also, the first guy he picked decided he should be in charge and put two rings on, so now he's got two haughty dragons jockeying for position in his brain.

The detachment I described yesterday was less of a concern here. It hasn't entirely vanished, but Moore's dialogue has loosened up a bit, and that helps. The way people spoke in the first book was so stiff and unnatural, it was hard to think of the characters as people. Fighting that, there's still a scattershot element to the writing where he doesn't follow any on plot line or scene for very long. The book is constantly jumping to what someone else is doing somewhere else every few pages. It works against the reader's getting into the book because we've hardly started seeing what one character is up to before we're off again. The book is about 60 pages shorter than the first one, and frankly it probably could have used those extra pages to make the search for the rings, or the search for suitable candidates to wear them seem a little more important. The former especially is almost perfunctory. The dragons fly around and maybe they recognize a hillside or cave entrance, then they search for a page or so, maybe they find a ring, maybe they don't. It makes things seem so easy, there's little urgency to it.

I don't know if Eric had the best idea for selecting people, though. He tried to find notable people who appear to have a conscience and desire to help people. Environmentalists, activists, people like that. Still, that means cold approaching people about something kind of crazy. Helps if you can fall asleep and send the spirit-dragon to visit them, I guess. I would have just asked my friends, personally. I wouldn't have trust issues that way.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Night of the Dragon - D.L. Moore

Night of the Dragon is the first book in the fantasy series I bought at Capecon this year. I'm not usually much into fantasy, but I figured why not. It tells the story of Eric who finds himself lost in a cave that happens to be the final resting place of Dragell, the last of the dragons, who fled Europe (I'm not using the, I guess dragon spellings) to find a place free of marauding humans to live. Eric doesn't know this when he puts on a ring he finds, which sort of binds his soul to that of the dragon's, providing him with a spirit-form that is a combination of the two which emerges when he sleeps.

It takes Eric some time to piece all this together, but once he realizes those dreams of his childhood bullies being murdered weren't only dreams, he has to make some decisions. Eventually he manages to gain some measure of control, and uses it to try and help people. Or kill evildoers. Lots of evildoer killing in this book. He also discovers some land out of time that can be reached by flying towards the moon, where Eric falls in love with a Native American girl Dragell met back before he died, and there are other rings, which other people are putting on.

There's a lot going on, but some of it makes so little sense at this stage it's hard for me to get into it. There are some good ideas between the different perspectives of humans and dragons, the idea of trying to control and direct a force that's part of you, but isn't. How even great changes won't automatically change a person's entire personality. But it's so all over the place it doesn't feel much like it meshes. Eric using the dragon's apparent considerable ability to recognize faces to hunt down and kill terrorists doesn't really seem to belong in the same story about him traveling to the Valley of the Lake of Laughing Eyes where he falls in love with a woman who lived centuries ago. Which might explain why he tries to get out of the former and stay in the latter.

The one major issue is the use of third-person omniscient narration produces a detachment from the story, so I never felt drawn in or invested in the characters' fates. I never felt how despairing Eric was of his life before the ring, and his concerns about his spirit-dragon's tendency to murder people are frequently mentioned, but you never see him deal with any despair. Part of that is the dragon side of the equation thinks these people all deserved to die, so what's the point of mourning them? Well yes, those childhood bullies or the recklessly driving lady in the Beamer might be assholes. But they might also be human beings who had their own shit going on that was messing them up. They may have tried to turn things around and be better people, or they may not have. But now they're dead.

Eric does try and move permanently to the Valley, and one of the reasons seems to be to distance himself from Earth, and the killing, but it doesn't really stop it, since Erigelle can still fly back to Earth each time Eric sleeps. And frankly, it's more about Eric thinking that's where he'll be happy than anything else. Which is fine, characters can behave for selfish reasons, but if that's going to be the case, don't waste time telling me how bothered they are by something when it doesn't seem that way.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What I Bought 3/14/2014 - Part 9

Let's talk some comics, since this blog is still ostensibly about those. It's the last of the books I got last month, 4 whole issues of Deadpool. Kind of nice to have a major chunk of a story, including the conclusion to review like this.

Deadpool #22-25.Now, by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan (writers), Mike Hawthorne (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Holy crap, all 4 issues are by the exact same group of creators! Look, it's a lot more impressive when you remember Deadpool's coming out basically bi-weekly by this point. Also, there was absolutely no way I was posting the cover for issue #23. Because I love you, my dear audience, too much to inflict that on you.

It's the final 4 chapters of "Deadpool vs. SHIELD", though it'd be more accurate to say "Deadpool vs. that Cheap Back-Stabbing Weasel Agent Gorman", but that's really long and not as catchy. Not content to refuse to pay Deadpool for killing all those undead Presidents, Gorman has sent the Agent Preston LMD he was using for gun-running and leaf raking after Wade. When that doesn't pan out, here comes the Horde of 1,000 Second-Rate Killers. Sorry, Batroc, it's true.

The problem for Gorman is that after recent events, Wade is well an truly through with being jerked around, tricked, and betrayed. He lets Paladin live (what's he doing taking assassination gigs anyway?), Batroc (thank you), and Paste Pot Pete?! Oh come on, Deadpool! That guy is terrible! Just feed him his stupid paste gun and pull the trigger till he bloats up and explodes. With the help of Agent Coulson, our heroes chase Gorman to his new hideaway, a helicarrier run by ULTIMATUM. Coulson tells Wade to disable its cloak and weapons so he can go get SHIELD's helicarrier and blast it out of the sky. Deadpool, however, is in no mood to wait for others to do their part, and simply takes care of the helicarrier himself. By killing everyone of those poor saps in their white jackets and snazzy black berets. Gorman escapes, though he's wounded in the process.

While SHIELD tries to track him, it's time to get Agent Preston in her new LMD body. But Wade doesn't want her to go. Well, parts of him don't, and it turns into a real mess with Wade trying to defend Preston from different versions of himself so she can be uploaded into the LMD. Incidentally, I have to wonder if things wouldn't have gone better if that SHIELD doc hadn't put Wade to sleep so she could read a New Yorker during the procedure. Way to care about your job, doc. At least Dr. Strange and the Ghost of Ben Franklin were there to help, but Wade, happy as he is for Preston, can't stand to see another person leaving him, and he departs to find a bar and drink.

Just as he's finding out there's still a Preston in his head - which Wade takes to mean the procedure failed - Crossbones comes in looking for revenge after being dumped in a hot air balloon. It's a brutal, ugly, though comical at times, fight. Wade doesn't really want to fight, but Crossbones is seriously pissed, and Wade is tired of people thinking they can come after him with no consequences. So he nearly beats Crossbones to death. In fact, he beats him so badly Sabretooth comes around the corner, believing Wade to be an wounded, easy target at the moment, takes one look at what's happening, and immediately turns around and leaves. Which was hilarious, and effectively scary. What's perhaps more concerning is the Preston is Wade's head, instead of arguing against excessive violence, urges him on. Wade pulls back from killing Crossbones, but not that idiot Gorman, who thought it'd be a good idea to try and kill both guys at once. He wound up in the back of a garbage truck.

About this time, Preston, Michael, Adsit, and Ben Franklin show up. Wade is glad to see Preston back in physical form, and Adsit has his money, in a big pillowcase with a "$" on the side, which is the proper way to receive large sums of cash. And yet, Wade is still kind of sad, hurting, and tired. He takes some of the cash, asks Preston to hold onto the rest, and goes to France, I think, to be alone and try to get away from it all. I don't think it's going to work, because it looks like some vampire douchebag in England has plans for him. Gad, it's that terrible, Final Fantasy-esque version of Dracula isn't it? I know Wade needs a break from violence, but it sure would mean a lot to me if he kills that ass.

This was an outstanding arc, because it gets at a lot of what makes Deadpool the character he is. The previous arc did it a little more forcefully, but here again we see people thinking they can just use Deadpool for whatever dirty work they need and then toss him aside. For some reason, Wade's life is full of people who simply don't regard him as a person, only a tool. Is it because he's a mercenary, someone who does things for money, or did he become a merc because people treated him like that, so he might as well make some money off the assholes?

Also, the whole thing with Preston. Wade wants her to be reunited with her family, it's what he's been working towards since the end of the first arc. He likes Preston, knows she tried to do right by him, and he wants to do the same for her, which is a good impulse. But when the time comes for it to actually happen, he doesn't want her to go. Maybe because he knows she's a moderating influence on him. He killed a lot of people in this arc, and maimed the ones he didn't kill. Preston's a SHIELD agent, but even she found it excessive, and I think that helped Wade realize how skewed the way he views things is. He thinks of killing people who wrong him as relatively no big deal, but maybe that's no such a good idea. Question is, can wade rein himself in without her? And there's the simple fact Wade doesn't want to be alone again. One of the other recurring themes of his life is that nobody sticks around very long. Sometimes he drives them off with his self-destructive behavior, sometimes they leave. Very few of them seem happy to see him the next time. Wade doesn't want to lose someone who actually cares about him, even though letting her go is the right thing to do. So he ends up at war with himself, which is Deadpool perfectly encapsulated. A guy who knows what the right thing to do is, but a lot of times he can't make himself do it. He wants to do what's best for him instead. Not this time, though I can't help being concerned about that creepy hooded Deadpool in the black and grey outfit that brought mental projection Preston her arm. was that really whatever part of her the arm represented? Was he one of the worse version of Wade he warned 'Pool about, playing some long con?

Mike Hawthorne draws all 4 issues, and you can tell the crunch got to him a bit near the end. Mostly in #24. Some of the faces, Michael's and Dr. Strange's looked quite a bit rougher, as though Hawthorne leaned more heavily on the inks to compensate there. Some of that might be that they're meant to be older, more weary characters, but they just look less finished than in other places. But he plays the comedy bits well. Sabretooth turning around and trying to walk away nonchalantly.  Issue 23 is this weird thing where Deadpool is just slaughtering these hapless ULTIMATUM guys, but it's done in a way that repeatedly makes me laugh. The slap fight between biological weapons' makers, the one soldier stopping to think about ways they can tell who is who. My favorite part is Coulson commenting that Namor will be pissed about dumping a helicarrier in the ocean, and Wade dismissively replies, 'Ooh, I hope he doesn't ride a manatee out of that giant toilet below and flutter his ankle wings aggressively at us.' while lifting one leg into the air and waving his hands in a mock-terrified manner. Sure, Namor could tear Wade in half and jam the pieces back together in a horrifying fashion, but he's still eminently mockable.

One other bit Hawthorne drew I liked from #23: When Wade is advancing on Gorman, and all you can see are 'Pool's legs and the two swords he's holding, the tips dragging across the floor. There's something really badass about that, but also kind of scary. Maybe the fact it draws your attention to their sharpness, makes you think about what they'd do to a human body? Like in Jurassic Park, when the raptor's claw taps on the linoleum, a reminder of what awaits. Also, there's a sense when the swords are down that way that the wielder isn't thinking about defense. They aren't worried about blocking or protecting themselves, only killing their target.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Space Mavericks - Michael Kring

The other book I bought at the thrift shop. It's the tale of a couple of cargo-hauling space pilots, Fripp and Kohn, who first find themselves mixed up in a kidnapping and extortion plot being carried out by Central - the primary governing body for inhabited space (I think) - and the Union - which is some sort of major interplanetary shipping group that Fripp and Kohn aren't part of. The target, a young woman named Renate, has a father who found his own way to create a highly profitable drug that's in limited supply, and they want their cut/to restrict his distribution/something. Point being, Fripp, Kohn, and Renate find themselves chased from world to world, seeking a safe haven.

While fleeing, they have to set down on an uncolonized world, where Fripp finds the ruins of an ancient civilization, and a nifty ring that can do pretty much whatever the story requires at that moment. Rapid healing, making its wearer go blind, putting some mind whammy on other people (basically the equivalent of Ghost Rider's Penance Stare), or even absorbing and redirecting laser fire. By the end, Renate has been ferried home safely, only to have her home attacked by the forces of Central. But Central feels Fripp and Kohn are largely irrelevant, so it lets them go, recognizing it was the overly panicked decisions of some of the lower level agents that got these two involved (and thus complicated things) in the first place. And our two freight haulers seem more than happy to wash their hands of the whole thing and go hunting for ancient stuff.

It's obviously meant to be the first book in a series, since Kring lays out all these pieces, different cultures, different political situations, the nature of Warp, and this old, lost civilization, which a few other people clearly know about. But the way it's laid out, the abduction of Renate feels almost pointless, a way to force Fripp and Kohn into landing on that deserted planet. Because simple mechanical failure wouldn't have been exciting enough, I suppose. But it might have helped to develop Renate as a character a little more, so that the point where she parts with Fripp and Kohn has some impact. As it is, Kring made her a fairly irritating character by the end, so I wasn't bothered she was going.

Or maybe she'll reappear later. Her dad (not entirely accurate, we learn she's a replicate of his dead wife which, kind of creepy) is one of those people who knows about that lost civilization. Assuming he survived the attack on his home, he may trail our intrepid heroes. If you care, which I'm not sure I really do. I'm sort of curious as to what Kring's going to do, but I'm not confident it would be worth trying to find any sequels. The dialogue's not all that strong, there were certain things that happened which didn't make much sense, and the book was riddled with spelling errors.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.2 - Catevari

Plot: We lead off with Fawkes breaking into the Official's office. In story, it's him searching for the counteragent. It also serves as his chance to recap relevant parts of the pilot for us. The counteragent is being kept in a lab downstairs, but when Fawkes goes there, he's ambushed by a British sounding blonde lady who describes herself as he keeper. Then she tranqs him and throws him into a padded room, where she leaves him until he appears to have gone Quicksilver mad, then comes in and tries to get him to trust her by calling him "mate" far too many times. Fawkes, not eager to go mad, agrees reluctantly.

At the San Pablo Military Infirmary, two men sit playing chess. Well, Warren plays and talks, Fogerty sits and does nothing else. According to one of the doctors, he hasn't done anything else in 30 years, but that night, Fogerty rises from his bed, and removes his gloves, revealing some really nasty nails. He shows concern for Warren, who was a guinea pig at an H-bomb test, but Warren's still dead the next morning, along with most of the staff. The Official sets Fawkes and Hobbes with the task of finding the so-called "Catevari", but won't explain the importance. Hobbes doesn't care, and is distinctly hostile towards Fawkes' questions and doubts. As it turns out, Fogerty was an earlier experiment from the Agency, an top agent who agreed to be made into a walking poison. But something went wrong - surprise! - and Fogerty's brain seemed to be fried, leaving him in the comatose state we first observed. Except that based on a quote he used, Fawkes and Hobbes realize Forgerty was aware all those years, but also trapped in his own mind. So he's a bit pissed.

By the time the Official finally came clean, Fogerty's already killed the former head of the Agency (now a Senator in a really ill-fitting suit), and nearly killed the Official (Fawkes saved him, but wouldn't let Hobbes shoot Fogerty). The Official tasks them with killing Fogerty, and Fawkes tells them he'll likely go after the guy who made the drugs. In reality, Fawkes expects the victim to be Fogerty's keeper, and wants to try and talk him down. He's right about Fogerty's target, but the talking part doesn't go so well. He keeps Fogerty from blowing them all up, but Fogerty prefers to go out in a hail of gunfire from Hobbes, who had stuck a tracker on Fawkes' shoe. At the end, Fawkes is left still working for the Agency, taking injections from his Keeper.

Quote of the Episode: Fawkes - 'Your pal has been stuck in frozen, crazy hell for over 30 years.'

The "oh crap" Count: 0 (9 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week: Fawkes used Santayana and JFK, Fogerty opted for the Grateful Dead, and then Nietzche's abyss line.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (2 overall). The Keeper indicated he hadn't done it yet at the beginning, but it sure seemed like it. I'll defer to her, though.

What department is the Agency affiliated with this week? Still Fish and Game.

Other: This episode really establishes Fawkes as being in hostile territory here. The Official was already questionable, considering his willingness to use Arnaud's own strategy of the counteragent to keep Fawkes around. Here, he claims Fogerty was his best friend, but does not allow any outward sign that ordering Fogerty's death troubles him. And if he'll do that to his best friend, it doesn't bode well for Fawkes if he steps out of line.

Hobbes is completely hostile now. He was already irate about a lack of perceived respect towards him from the Official, and now he's been paired with a complete ingenue when it comes to spycraft and serving one's country. One who makes twice as much as Hobbes, while constantly complaining about and questioning his orders. Hobbes doesn't question, maybe he can't afford to. He's wrapped up in his job and if he stopped to consider how awful the compensation for his job is, he might not be able to go on. Or he's just a true believer in the value of his work. As Fawkes tries to point out, he's not the only one with similarities to Fogerty. I did think Hobbes' reaction Fawkes saving a baby instead of the Senator was interesting. He said that wasn't doing one's duty, it was being a nice guy. Hobbes knows that in their line of work, there's a difference. The question is whether it bothers him.

And the Keeper did a pretty poor job of implementing her "make Fawkes trust me" plan. I suppose her attempt to tranq Fogerty at the end was an attempt, to show Fawkes she understood his desire to save the man, but I feel like the big conversation between the 4 of them in her lab prior to that undercut it. She takes a very clinical approach to describing things as the Official lays it all out, and when she basically confirms Fawkes as an experiment - by comparing him to Fogerty who she says is an experiment - she displays a general lack of concern for him as a human being. It reinforces the idea she's there to keep Fawkes in line, not to help him. She's the Keeper, a job, a title, not a person as far as Fawkes is concerned. Like the Official. Which does make for some interesting possibilities with Hobbes, since we know his name. And it's worth noting he backed up Darien when he pointed out Fogerty had been aware all these years, as Hobbes is the one who says where the line 'my rain shall fall like crazy fingers' comes from.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

What I Bought 3/14/2014 - Part 8

OK, enough books for a couple of days. I'm not stopping with my attempts to tear through them, just no more reviews until Monday. Instead, we turn to Hawkeye. With three whole issues to discuss, there will almost certainly be at least a little plot advancement. Right? Yes, right.

Hawkeye #15, 16, & 17, by Matt Fraction & David Aja (#15), Matt Fraction & Annie Wu (#16), Matt Fraction and Chris Eliopoulos (#17), Matt Hollingsworth (color art, #15 &16), David Aja (art, pgs 1 & 20, #17), Jordie Bellaire (color art, #17), Chris Eliopoulos (lettering, all issues) - Is Kate rocking the swimsuit that one actress wore in Dr. No? If so, coincidence, or deliberate reference on Aja's part?

OK, so the ladies - meaning Bobbi and Natasha - have put things together. The east-European bros owned all the pieces of property for 3 blocks around Clint's building, everything, except Clint's building. Which explains why they're so eager to hustle him into a van they won't even let him pull up his sweat pants. Jeez, Clint, are you the man who needs both a belt and suspenders? Is Henry Fonda gonna have to shoot you?  Anyway, he and Barney beat the guys up, then realize the only way the tracksuits got in was if they had help, and in a mad panic, they walk into an ambush by Sad Clown Man and get, well Clint gets stabbed with an arrow, and barney gets shot, and Jessica Drew does nothing. Isn't she a badass, superpowered secret agent in her own right? How the fuck does Sad Clown Guy shoot a guy right in front of her - Barney's blood splatters across her face - and she doesn't beat Sad Clown Guy into a bloody pulp?

Also, Sad Clown Guy realizes Clint probably doesn't have any legal claim on the building, meaning he can't call the cops, and that's why he gets so aggressive. OK, setting aside the idea Clint would call the cops for help rather than either handle it himself or call the Avengers, if Kazu or whatever his name is was so worried about cops getting involved, why did he shoot Grills? Murders tend to attract police attention!

Sigh, I was actually really enjoying the issue right up to that point. Clint still seems like the least competent character in his own book, but at least he's sticking to his principles in the face of all arguments, which is a very Clint thing to do. Hollingsworth has made orange sort of Barney's color. When the Tracksuits call his name, it's in orange, his panel backgrounds when he fights are also orange. Orange is not quite the direct opposite of purple on the color wheel (yellow is, orange is opposite blue) but it's close, so it's a nice contrast. I like the kind of deranged look Aja gives Clint when he asks if they'd like to see a magic trick, and also the outfit Natasha's wearing. The fact she tries to play it off as not her in disguise, in a particularly bad manner, was kind of funny. Thought, honestly, I could have seen her wearing that just because. She makes it work.

OK, on to other issues. #16 finds Kate trying to help a poor musician, who was never quite able to pull together his greatest ideas, to get back his music from his brother, who is releasing it on the Internet piece by piece. This doesn't exactly go well. She finds out what both brothers were trying to accomplish, and gets the crap beat out of her by a couple of goons. But it seems to convince Will to at least play some of it for the world, even if he never does pull it all together. So that's nice. Then Madame Masque shows up, just long enough to creep Kate out and ruin her good mood. It was an excellent last page, though. The red's nicely ominous, the way Wu draws the shadows so Masque's face looks like her mask. I am surprised by how quickly all the bruises from Kate's beating vanished, though I guess it could have been a couple weeks in between then and the next page.

I'm curious how this thread is going to line up with Clint's in terms of the timeline. I feel like Kate's been out there a lot longer than Clint's been dealing with stuff without her. Still don't know who the guy she talks to in the supermarket aisle is supposed to be. Someone described him as Elliot Gould. OK, I can see the resemblance, but does it mean something? Is this like Kate not knowing what The Maltese Falcon is? One of those gaps in my culture knowledge, coming back to bite me?

Finally, the issue where Clint has a dream that conflates his current predicament with some ridiculous animated holiday special. Steve the Dog with no powers who hangs out with the Winter Friends for some reason must save the holidays from some evil sun-faced guy in a suit. Whether he wants to or not, he's gonna get help from an annoying little yappy dog, and his big dumb brother dog. Also three other lady dogs. But Steve wants to do it all by himself, but that's not what the holidays (or fights against the living representation of summertime) are all about, so they all save the day together. Hooray!

Let's get this out of the way first: How can Clint be dreaming about his brother and ex-girlfriends helping him fight the "dingoes", when none of them had entered the fray until after issue #6? Is Clint unwittingly a mutant with precognitive abilities? {Note: Do not make Clint a mutant with precognitive abilities.}

Nitpicking aside, I did enjoy this. Clint got to sort of save the day, even if it was in animated canine form. And they remembered some of the things I like most about Clint. The unwillingness to quit, the need to prove himself, the fact he pulls off the win even when he's ludicrously outgunned. Also, Kate as the sort of annoying yappy dog that won't shut up. That kind of sums up my feelings about Kate generally. I really like that kid freaking out about Snowy melting. 'My nightmares are turning real!!' Welcome to the real world kid. I feel like I should be annoyed, because it's a story where nothing much happens, but I didn't mind this time. It was sort of funny - I didn't laugh out loud, but I grinned - and it was enjoyable as sort of its own thing.