Wednesday, September 30, 2015

31 Days of Scans - 5 Character Dream Team

I said last December I wanted to do a few of those "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" rosters this year, and thus far, I haven't. Because I decided to wait and kick it off with this one. As usual, these can be difficult, because there are so many options. Which is why I have to restrict myself in some ways, or I'll never make a decision. This time around, I opted for characters created outside Marvel and DC. So, same rules apply as the last time, only there'll be no Mastermind, since it states 5 characters only.

The Leader: Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener's Atomic Robo. For the purposes of this exercise, Robo is in his normal body. However, I'm not sure precisely when I'm taking him from. It might be simpler, in terms of getting the team together, to take him from the 1940s (for reasons that will become clear shortly). But if I take '70s Robo, we get possible Carl Sagan appearances and Robo wears a Gilligan hat sometimes. If I take current day Robo, we get the benefit of considerable experience and greater scientific knowledge in our Robo. With the present day, it's easy enough for Dr. Dinosaur's Time Bomb to throw Robo to the '40s, or perhaps another universe. There were his multiple run-ins with the Shadow from Beyond Time, or Tesla's device that opens a doorway to the vampire dimension (which Majestic-12 later got its hands on). Or something else we haven't seen yet. The options are there, and really, any Robo will be good.

So Robo is going to be the leader, but he's also going to be the brains of the outfit, at least as far as science goes. In more criminal areas, there are at least 2 characters on this team more experienced. However, given the nature of the world some of these characters inhabit, Robo is going to run up against some things he is going to have difficulty squaring with his views on how things work. Magic for one, time travel for another. One of the things I greatly enjoy about Atomic Robo is when he gets exasperated with stupidity or nonsense and resorts to sarcasm. Probably because that is how I respond to stupidity and nonsense. I expect this team to exasperate and confound Robo repeatedly. And everyone is a strong personality in their own way, so keeping them together is going to be a challenge. Especially because, in a crisis, Robo seems inclined to try and do everything himself and keep his Action Scientists at a safe distance. Understandable, since he's bulletproof and they aren't, but I doubt this crew will be as accepting. But he'll bring lightning guns, and lightning guns heal all wounds. With horrible burns, but still.

The Man with a Boat: Doug TenNapel's Earthworm Jim. This one is fudging it a bit since, a) Jim was originally a video game character, and b) the comics he did appear in were published by Marvel. But once again, Blog Commissioner allows it (all those illegal payoffs, er, paid off). Jim may or may not have a boat, but he does have a rocket large enough to carry a couple of passengers, and capable of traveling to other star systems. Close enough. (Note: One could substitute the Tick, and it would largely achieve the same effect, but I prefer Jim and it's my team, so nyeah.)

Jim operates in a sort of Silver Age world (which is why I can't be sure he doesn't have a Worm-Boat. He had a Worm-Cycle in the cartoon). Heroes keep their word, and triumph because they believe in things greater than themselves, like honor, or true love. Things that ought to be bizarre are treated as largely unremarkable. Radiation gives you super-powers, not cancer (though the powers are more likely to be funny than useful, as the need for jokes requires). Problems can be solved with science that makes not the slightest bit of sense. In a lot of ways, putting Jim on this team is a way to torment Robo with a heroic version of Dr. Dinosaur. There are going to be times Jim will suggest a completely idiotic solution to a problem (like dressing up as waiters to fool pursuing henchcats into eating explosives dressed up as seafood), and in the time it takes Robo to start listing all the ways that's nonsense, it'll work.

Of course other times, the nonsense solution won't work at all, because it's nonsense. In that event, Jim can just fall back on blasting things. Robo should at least appreciate having another person on the team who solves many of their problems with combinations of shooting, jumping, and hitting.

The Rogue: Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin's Bandette. This could put Bandette out of her depth, which by itself might make it worthwhile. Robo and Jim have both dealt with threats that could have ended existence. Then again, Bandette quite likes the world, because it has so many things for her to take from people, she'd be quite willing to help. Neither of the first two characters are all that great at stealth. But they are both fairly upright guys, so I wonder how much friction there would be about her stealing. Because it's a certainty if they storm the combined lair of Helsingard and Professor Monkey-for-a-Head and she sees a painting she likes, she'll take it. I'm pretty sure she can talk circles around Jim at will, which won't stop him from pleading she abandon her life of crime, and when that fails, probably trying to haul her off to jail.

Robo's going to be a harder sell. But Robo has worked with governments in the past, even though he doesn't trust their motives, because he fears how much worse they'll make things if he leaves them to clean it up themselves. So working with a thief who is more than happy to assist the police in bringing down other, more serious, criminals might be something he can live with. Until it puts the whole team in the crosshairs of someone better left alone. . .

I expect Bandette to enjoy the experience immensely. She's going to have an opportunity to steal things no one else from her world might ever have a chance to even see. She has the chance to become the greatest thief in the entire multiverse, which is the kind of challenge she'd love.

The Muscle: Dave Stevens' Rocketeer. Making Cliff the Muscle is a bit of a joke. If this were the old JLI, Robo would be J'onn, and Bandette would probably be Ted (she's too clever to be Booster). I'm not sure who Jim is, maybe the Big Red Cheese? He has that sort of upright, honest outlook, albeit a little more wacky than Billy. Cliff would be Guy, shooting off his mouth and getting punched in it. I fully expect him to be knocked unconscious within 5 minutes of this group being put together (and I expect Bandette to borrow the rocket pack about 5 seconds later).

Still, Cliff is generally an upright guy despite his temper, and he's more than willing to put his neck on the line. He has a little experience with super-science, so he ought to take a liking to the lightning guns at the very least. I do expect a giant talking worm to shock him (Bandette would probably just respond with some variant of how marvelous it is to meet a giant worm, and set about charming the pants off Jim. Even if she were flustered, she wouldn't show it). Cliff is probably the one who is going to struggle the most to prove his value, so he's going to overreach, make mistakes, try to butt into things that he should have stayed out of.

Also, if you think that Betty will team-up with Bandette at some point, probably to get their hands on some important classified documents, you're absolutely right. Betty's stubborn and enthusiastic nature ought to play well off Bandette's more playful outlook. There will also almost certainly be a team-up between Bandette's dog Pimento, and Butchie, that bulldog that hangs around the diner Cliff eats at most of the time. Hell, we have the possibility of an Atomic Robo/Doc Savage team-up, since the Doc is the one who designed the rocket pack. Hmm, could we tie that into Robo's Flying She-Devils of the Pacific mini-series? Rival jetpack designs, or the She-Devils could have improved on the Doc's design. Basically, my reason for possibly having '40s Robo is to say he and Cliff already inhabit the same universe. Their worlds can at least sort of coexist.

The Woman of Mystery: John Ostrander and Tim Truman's GrimJack. I know you're thinking John Gaunt isn't a woman, and you'd be correct. However, it was established that - spoiler for 25+ year old comic! - having rejected Heaven to save his best friend, Gaunt's fate was tied to the city of Cynosure, and he's doomed to be reborn until the city is destroyed. At least some of the future incarnations we saw in the double-page splash that explained this were female. It could be one of those GrimJacks. A good writer could do something with a character who is a woman currently, and has grown up as a woman, but also remembers past lives as a man just as vividly, and how they choose to identify themselves in light of that. I have no idea, frankly, how GrimJack would approach it, though I expect there'd be an adjustment period when he recalls his past lives and handles it badly. You need someone who isn't me writing this thing for that, but the potential is there.

Setting that aside, GrimJack brings a lot of experience to the table. Even if were aren't using a reincarnation (in which case he has multiple lifetimes), he has decades of conflict in his life. Robo's been alive for awhile, but he's lived comfortably enough he could spend time going to school, running a company, developing entirely new disciplines of science. Gaunt had to spend almost his entire life struggling to survive. Grows up in the shittiest part of Cynosure, the Pit. Gets sent to the Arena to fight for his life for the amusement of the upper class while still a kid. Gets out as a teen, finds a little love and peace in a pocket dimension, then returns home and finds himself in a battle against the literal forces of Hell. Survives that, joins a bounty group called the Lawkillers. Survives that, joins the Transdimensional Police, then the Cadre as an assassin, then becomes a freelance mercenary. He lives and thrives in a city that is constantly changing in size, shape, and population, where the physical laws that govern one street corner may have no bearing around the next block, and that too, is constantly changing. He's pissed off innumerable people, from politicians to bounty hunters to gods. Even if he did catch a bullet eventually, he made past 50 in a profession where a lot of people would be lucky to reach half that. He knows how to survive, is what I'm saying.

It's that knowledge I think the team really needs. Robo can be deceptive, but for him, that means he plays bullet magnet while someone else sets things in motion. Cliff is a generally lousy fighter, and not much good at making plans, and abandons the ones he does make at the drop of a hat. Bandette is sneaky, but tends to let fights drag out because she's having fun. As for Jim, well, despite his great big muscles and his really big ray gun, Jim is still an earthworm, which means he is pretty dumb. Gaunt fights dirty, using any edge he can get. Any weapon, any bit of his surroundings, any distraction, any moment of weakness in his opponent, GrimJack takes advantage of it. He wouldn't have lived as long as he did if he hadn't. Plus, he's getting old, and with the aches and pains, it's just better to end fights quicker sometimes, you know?

Also, I'm curious how he'd respond to Robo. Gaunt had a rule about not allowing Tourbots in his bar (those are ways for people to cheaply travel the city while sitting safely in a chair in an office somewhere, by placing their consciousness in a rolling trashcan), and once of his worst foes was Kalibos, an artificial intelligence that merged science with magic, and kills people to wear their skins so he can roam the city doing as he pleases (sowing discord and chaos as the ultimate expression of his freedom). So GrimJack might have some problems with artificial intelligence. Until Robo helps him put Kalibos down once and for all. Gaunt is, again in JLI terms, Batman, which is not something I'm hugely happy about given my frequent antipathy towards the Bat, but I don't see a better comparison. I do think that, once he got to know them, he'd develop moderately warm feelings. Jim might remind him of his friend Judah the Hammer, Cliff's a young hothead GJ would probably try to keep from getting his head blown off (that said, GrimJack is the one I expect to put out Cliff's lights in the first 5 minutes). I think he'd have to respect Bandette's skill (there will NOT be any romantic relationship between those two. however. Bandette is not spinning the wheel of likely death all his girlfriends have).

As for how you get them all together, rough draft, assuming Robo and Cliff occupy the same universe. There's a mishap with the portal, only they're thrown somewhere other than the vampire dimension, probably Cynosure (or the vampire dimension went into phase with Cynosure and they survived it long enough to emerge into the city, probably joining whatever forces from the city are keeping the vampires from overrunning the susceptible dimensions). At the same time, Bandette's world came into phase, and through some circumstances, she's come into possession of the Manx Cat. Maybe someone from Cynosure came to Paris and found her, and offered her the job. When the Cat gets stolen, GrimJack is the one who always gets dragged in to retrieve it. Which sets off a chase through the city, and Cliff, observing the chase, tries to help Bandette. Which doesn't go well, so Robo jumps in (literally), and GrimJack brings out the heavy artillery. Bandette probably hangs around to watch, or recognizes she has no idea where home is at this stage, and at some point, Robo falls into a section of the city where technology doesn't function, which hopefully slows things down enough nobody gets killed. As for Jim, I expect him to abruptly arrive after an incident involving him trying to make root beer in his garage for a box social he invited his rogues gallery to. He shouldn't have accepted a golf club from Psycrow to stir the mixture doing a thunderstorm. They could potentially end up in a section where technology can develop low-level sentience, in which case his suit would go out of control, and the whole group has to try and contain it, destroy it, or get it to a different area where it'll revert to normal.

Robo ponders the choices that have brought him to this place in "Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur", by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Patterson (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). Commandeering a giant hamster to stop a shotgun wedding is just another day in the life in Earthworm Jim #2, by Dan Slott (plot), John Lewandowski (script), Barry Crain (pencils), Sam DeLa Rosa (inker), UL Higgins (pencils), Ed Laz (colorist). Bandette is living the dream in Bandette #3, by Paul Tobin (writer), Colleen Coover (artist), Ryan Jurgensen (digital production), and Irina Beffa (design). Cliff is more confident than he ought to be in Rocketeer, Chapter 4 (I couldn't figure out which comic specifically it would be in), by Dave Stevens (writer and artist), Laura Martin (colorist), and Carrie Spiegle (letterer). GrimJack's stint as a dentist ended swiftly amid complaints about his primitive working conditions in GrimJack #1, by John Ostrander (writer), Tim Truman (artist), Janice Cohen (colorist), and John Workman (letterer).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Year's End May Bring The Gift Of Titles I Want

Secret Wars may finally end in December. Maybe. I hope Hickman can actually manage to wrap the damn thing up by then, though I may be giving him more credit for understanding the concept of "pacing" than he deserves.

Marvel's still rolling out new series, and I'm even going to buy one, because I will absolutely try the new Hellcat series. I don't watch Broad City, so comparisons to that show are largely lost on me, and I only know Kate Leth's work from those mini-comics she posts on Comics Alliance, but what the hell.

Let's see, beyond that, Fabian Nicieza and Reilly Brown have a 3-issue Deadpool & Cable mini-series coming out that month. It's initially going to be released in digital format in November, but as usual, I await the physical copy. They were the creative for almost the entirety of the time I was buying Cable/Deadpool, so I trust I'll enjoy this. Meanwhile, Marvel is double-shipping Deadpool for the second month in a row. Did Mike Hawthorne spend all the time between the end of the last series and this one just trying to get ahead?

Also, Marvel used the reboot as an excuse to bump Ms. Marvel up a dollar. This surprises exactly none of us.

Stepping outside Marvel, Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire continues, and IDW is releasing a new Rocketeer mini-series. At 5 bucks an issue. And it involves Cliff serving in World War 2, which makes sense, but I don't know if that's going to lead to the tone for the series I like with the Rocketeer. But there's a decent chance he'll mix it up with some super-science stuff, which would help. That'll be a game-time decision, I suspect. As will the 8th issue of Descender, and possibly the 7th issue of Starfire. With the former, I wonder if I have the patience to deal with Lemire's leisurely pace (plus there's always that concern he's not interested in the things I'm interested in). As for the latter, I'm just not sure it's going to come together into anything more than an OK book.

I was considering buying Prez, because I've heard nothing but good things, but it's not in the December solicits. I may have waited too long. Sorry, Prez fans. Hopefully it's just a skip month! Maybe I should go back to Secret Six.

I was looking at the new Street Fighter Unlimited series, but this runs up against the problem I usually have with Street Fighter comics (and shonen manga as well): There's only a few characters I care about, and they have to share the spotlight with too many I don't care about. Assuming they get any spotlight at all. With Street Fighter, so much of it always seems to come back to Ryu, and man, I just don't care about Ryu. Copperhead isn't back yet, and the third and final Roche Limit mini-series won't have started either (though the trade of the second one is solicited). There is a series called Henchgirl, published by Scout Comics, I keep thinking about. It was originally a webcomic, and I guess now the earliest stuff is being released. It might be worth a shot. I can spare the room, I'm quite sure.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What I Bought 9/15/2015 - Part 3

A final issue deserves its own post, don't you think?

Daredevil #18, by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid (storytellers), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - If that's the cover they go for on the actual autobiography in the Marvel Universe, they could do worse. I think it's reasonably attention grabbing as it sits on a book shelf.

Matt's plan is to pose as Ikari and deliver the news of Daredevil's demise, mostly as a stall tactic while the Shroud and Jubula convince the Owl to barf all of Fisk's records out into the open for all to see. In the meantime, Matt still needs to free his friends, and not get his skull caved in by a Kingpin who is more than a little happy to see his old foe isn't dead. Matt manages this, he and Julia Carpenter capture the Shroud, but the Owl and Jubula escape (how did she disconnect him from all the fiberoptic cables?), and Ikari's body is missing. Matt's able to clear his name, but his and Kirsten's legal careers are pretty much dead. But Foggy's cancer is in remission, good for him!

I didn't realize Fisk was presumed dead. I assumed he was keeping a low-profile while his attorneys tangled up all the accusations against him in immeasurable red tape, and he'd reemerge when he felt like. I mean, Norman Osborn was publicly outed as the Green Goblin, and somehow still became Boss of All Superheroes, so clearly memories in the Marvel Universe aren't any longer than they are here.

Could be a contrast with Matt faking Foggy's death. Matt is acting to save a friend, but is operating openly despite being the sort of celebrity figure who attracts a lot of eyeballs, which heightens the risk of the ruse being exposed. Whereas Fisk acted only to preserve himself (I'm guessing), and thus stuck to the shadows. His biggest mistake was actually accepting Murdock's request. Better to leave Matt twisting in the wind, cast doubt that perhaps the Kingpin is truly gone.

I don't think I agree with Foggy's argument that secrets are kept only to protect one's self. It's a blanket statement about people's motives, and I tend to find those risky and oversimplifying. Matt keeps the secret that Foggy is still alive. Is that to keep matt from losing his best friend, thus benefiting Matt by sparing him emotional pain? Sure. Is it also protecting Foggy by enabling him to undergo treatments for a life-threatening condition without having to fear super-villain attacks? Yes. But I also don't agree with Foggy (or Waid/Samnee, if this is one of them speaking through Foggy) that people can't operate safely behind masks any longer, so Nelson and I will just have to agree to disagree.

I still feel like the Shroud got a raw deal. Again, contrast for Matt, a character who lost the things close to him, and wasn't able to pull himself out of a toxic mindset, instead essentially embracing it. And the Shroud's toed that line before, pretending to be a crime boss so he can infiltrate the criminal underworld, so it's possible he'd let the line blur too much, decide to many questionable actions were acceptable. Again, not unlike Matt with all the mess he went through pretending not to be Daredevil, then trying to set himself up as new Kingpin, maybe even that Shadowland mess. I can't pretend to be a huge Shroud fan (though I typically enjoy his appearances), but for someone who is, I wonder if this was a little like when Cass Cain showed up in Robin post-Infinite Crisis, and suddenly she's crazy and evil. It seems like it would have to be disconcerting and a bit of a letdown.

I thought it was interesting that Ikari's mask, when Matt wears it, has a crack running through it. I'd assume it was fabric, as Matt's appears to be when he holds it in his hands, but that makes it seem more like some sort of solid helmet. I guess it has to be, since it shattered under Kingpin's fists. I wonder if that's meant to be a statement, that Ikari tries to protect his cranium more than Matt, because he's not "The Man Without Fear", for all that Matt derides that title for himself. It was a nice touch having the noise of the choppers fade in the moments when Fisk is hammering Matt in the face. Just a good contrast between Fisk with a big smile (while there's a "whp whp whp" he can't hear) and then KAK and everything goes red, and it takes Matt a moment to pick up things farther away again. It's a good, if brief fight, since it shows off Fisk's power, and how Matt can't get too fancy. He has to stab Wilson with a fork just to buy a moment, and when he gets the chance, he starts hammering away. It plays up how much Fisk really enjoys being able to get his hands dirty with someone he really hates, and how much Matt hates Fisk as well. He's not holding back, he really wants to pulp Kingpin's head like a melon.

I don't anticipate I'll buy the next volume of Daredevil. Not right off, anyway. This one has been high quality work, though, and the almost constant bright spot of my pull list over the last 4 years

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Zorro 1.33 - The Deadly Bolas

Plot: Diego and Bernardo ride to the mission, under the pretext of Diego returning a book on the history of the Church in South America. While there, Diego mentions hearing a rumor the Cross of the Andes was stolen, which the padre confirms. Our heroes quickly depart. Back at the hacienda, Sergeant Garcia comes calling, and Bernardo foolishly answers the door when he knocks, which prompts some awkward questions Diego has to answer with discussion of vibrations. Anyway, Garcia is there to inform Diego the party he hadn't officially invited Diego to - the one for Senorita Bastinado - has been called off, because the sergeant can't foot the bill. Diego lets the sergeant hang for a moment, then insists on paying for everything.

That dealt with, Diego and Bernardo turn again to the missing jewels, as well as the continued presence of Carlos Murietta. Why is he still here if he's made his delivery? Such queries will have to wait, because they're expected at the tavern for the party, where Garcia is trying to get Reyes to memorize all the nice things he's supposed to tell the Senorita about the sergeant. In the midst of that, Murietta comes downstairs to insult Garcia for not stopping the theft of his shipment of boots. Which no one had told Garcia about until then, but why would Murietta let facts stop him from being a dick? He claims Senor Mordante reported no theft from his tannery because he's away in Capistrano. Diego finds all this protesting suspicious and prepares to leave, but Senorita Bastinado arrives, so he can't, and sends Bernardo back home to disguise himself as Zorro and investigate the tannery again. Meanwhile, Murietta's brother Pietro is on his way to Los Angeles, stopping along the way to terrify a peasant who failed to answer a question with his bolas. He isn't much more polite to Garcia when arriving at the tavern, but he's glad to see his brother, and they ride off to the tannery together. Meaning they catch Bernardo, and prepare to kill him. Only by this time Diego's slipped out, and no there are two Zorros to contend with, though one is sufficient for the Muriettas.

Quote of the Episode: Zorro - 'I hate to spoil your fun, but we Zorros must stick together.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall).

Other: Despite Corporal Reyes thoroughly charming the Senorita, while neglecting to mention any of the sergeant's virtues, there was no use of "baboso" this week.

Heck of a family, these Muriettas. Not only do they love to torment those they consider lessers with their favorite weapons, they use them to greet each other, too. Carlos wrapped his whip around Pietro's neck as a surprise greeting. Still, how embarrassed does Pietro have to be to do all that talking about how awesome his bolas are, then Zorro shows up and steals them in less than two minutes? I'd hope that next week, either Diego (intentionally) or Garcia (unintentionally) keeps bugging Pietro asking him what happened to those bolas he had? They sure were nifty. Could he put on another demonstration? No? Why ever not? Just make him madder and madder about it. I'm pretty sure Carlos would sit back and have a good laugh. They seem like that kind of pair.

I'm not going to be sorry when this subplot about Garcia and the wealthy senorita is over. Little disappointed in him to be such a gold-digger, and so blatant about it. I know he longs for a life of leisure and wealth, but it's still not a good look on him. Go back to dreaming of capturing Zorro for a big reward. Or look for gold. Or oil. That said, I can't decide whether the Corporal suckered Garcia by pretending to not know how to dance last week, or if he's an even faster learner than even he suspects.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sometimes Even A Great Cast Can't Save A Movie

I saw parts of Mackenna's Gold last month, and figured I'd stumble across it again later and catch the rest. It never happened, so to hell with it, I'll discuss what I did see.

This sheriff is captured by an outlaw, who believes said sheriff has seen a map leading to a valley full of gold. Then a group of townspeople show up, because they've heard the same rumor and they want in as well. Then the cavalry gets involved, ostensibly to capture the outlaw, but the commander of the advance scouts decides he wants the gold. There are Native Americans dogging them, trying to keep people from finding the gold. I assume the area is important to them, and they don't want white men finding any other excuses to barge in and take it. It becomes this hodgepodge group struggling to survive against the elements, as well as hostilities inside and outside the group.

None of which is particularly unique, but looking at the cast, it seemed like it ought to be good. Gregory Peck plays the sheriff. Omar Sharif is the outlaw, John Colorado. Telly Salvalas is the cavalry sergeant. Lee J. Cobb and Burgess Meredith are in there as a couple of the townsfolk. Edward G. Robinson plays the old coot who tipped the townsfolk off. Eli Wallach and Keenan Wynn are in there. Julie Newmar is in there as one of the two lead actresses, though I don't think she gets a lot to do.

The point is, the cast has some serious talent. If the plot isn't exactly new territory, it's the sort of thing that could allow the performances to shine, simply because the audience doesn't have to pay much attention to the story to follow it. It doesn't work out that way. The director, J. Lee Thompson, gets a little too ambitious with some of the things he tries to do, and it kind of muddies things up. There are odd jump cuts, he tries for these shots that are meant to, I think, really convey the action and urgency of the scene, but mostly just serve to make it look kind of cheap. I'm not sure if he didn't have the equipment to do what he wanted, or if he just couldn't figure out how. Either way, there are some sequences near the end of the film where I thought he'd have been a lot better off if he went with a simpler approach for shooting them.

On the plus side, Colorado at one point hurls his gun at someone, and I laughed at him because it was such an awful throw, and it made me think of the bad guys who empty their clips at Superman, then chuck the gun at him. Except Colorado actually had a plan behind that move, and he made it work. I had no choice but to be impressed with him.

I'd still like to get around to watching it all at some point, just to see if it works better. Maybe some of the interactions and motivations will seem stronger if I do. Otherwise, it's just another one of those films that isn't as good as it ought to be.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What I Bought 9/15/2015 - Part 2

I never cared one way or the other about fantasy sports until it got popular enough to deluge us with ads for leagues where you can make so much money if you play fantasy sports with them. 35 dollars turns into 2 million? That sounds entirely plausible and easily repeatable! Where do I sign up?

Atomic Robo: The Ring of Fire #1, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer) - Nothing like a good old Days of Future Past homage cover.

Majestic-12 has basically taken over every super-science based group, ostensibly under the banner of "global security" to combat a giant monster threat. The scattered remains of Tesladyne have been trying to figure out what happened to Robo, and have correctly determined he was sent back in time, and that he would find some way to have his remains sent to someplace they'd be safe until a friend could find them. They find his remains, and narrowly evade some of Majestic's forces, who at least so far, do not realize they've been evaded.

General Brooks (head of Majestic-12) is tedious to me. She's the standard military character. The one who insists it is on everyone else's head if lives are lost, because those people didn't roll over and cooperate fully with a shadowy organization that is outright invading sovereign nations to take control of their facilities. Gee, I can't imagine why anyone would not be shitting their pants in their eagerness to assist. I get that the book isn't arguing her tactic of trying to guilt people she's harmed into helping her is right, that she's the villain, I'm not supposed to like her, but damn, give me one character who tells her "fuck you", if only out of sheer contrariness. Even if they get shot in the head after. There has to be someone like that. I can at least live with the hope that she catches a bullet before the mini-series ends. It's a slim hope, but I'll also settle for being crushed by a giant monster and/or a giant robot.

Beyond that, I'm not sure how well this first issue worked for me. I usually have trouble remembering the names of any of his Action Scientists (save Jenkins), or really defining their personalities. Using them as the central protagonists, rather than as someone to bounce off Robo, not entirely on board. But hopefully by next issue they'll have figured out how to get Robo's head up and running (or they've uploaded him into a different, less advanced body if I'm reading next issue's cover right). At which point equilibrium will be established. I figure even if Robo can't be the physical presence he normally, having his personality in the mix will be sufficient.

Wegener's work is excellent, especially body language. Bernie for the first half of the issue, where's he alternately drunk, depressed, and skeptical was particularly good. That panel of him sitting in the chair silently, after hearing the whole Zorth explanation. He just looks like a guy who's given up, or is trying real hard to give up, anyway. And Lang's reactions to him, ranging from looking tired to barely controlling her irritation, are also good. I'm not sure if this is to Wegener's credit or Powell's, but the sound effect for the missile the drone fired exploding was really nice. "POOM", with the Os overlapping partially, and the whole word in the center of concentric circles. I have no idea what a missile explosion in a forest would sound like, but for some reason that works just fine with me.

I do wonder how Lang got from a bar in Mexico to Rio in one day, on a motorcycle, with a whiny drunk guy riding along. Is that feasible, especially needing to keep a low profile?

Ms. Marvel #18, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I guess Kamala will get her wish soon enough. Maybe not the big happy Hulk part, but hanging out with Captain Falcon and Thor.

Whatever Aamir was exposed to wasn't Terrigen Mist, but he still got powers. Powers he doesn't want, and can't control, but he beat Kamran handily anyway, so good. Then he passed out and his face landed on Kamran's shoe (still attached to the foot sticking out of the floor), which was pretty funny. Kamran must have really expensive shoes with soles with a lot of cushion to them. Kamala and Carol get him to the school, where they part company, but not before Carol gives two things to Kamala. One, a necklace with both their logos and a locator beacon. Aww. Two, she tells her the world is ending. Way to be, Captain Bringdown! Aamir wakes up again, he and his sister (back in civvies) converse briefly, then their parents show up, and Kamala gets blamed for not looking after her older brother. What the hell? I was under the impression it was the duty of older siblings to look after younger ones. Just like parents, changing the rules whenever it suits their complaining purposes. Kamala opts not to point out the absurdity of her mother's complaint, and instead explains she fights crime. Then her mother reveals she already knew that.

OK, I wasn't expecting that.

I like the Khan family's use of laundry as non-profane insults. Aamir calling Kamran a "duffel bag" is a little obvious as an alternative to "douchebag", but Kamala calling her brother a wet sock amused me. I'd like to do that, but I don't think it would work. People would just look at me as though I were crazy.

I was a little surprised Carol hung back as much as she did. Kamran is enough of a loser Carol could have beaten him in a half-second. But she admitted she wanted to meet Kamala, to see why these people she knows speak so highly of the kid, so I guess it makes sense she'd hang back, and let the kid take the lead. She just offers a helpful nudge or fist as its needed. I also thought it was a little odd Aamir was the one who turned out Kamran's lights instead of Kamala. But the fact Aamir rejects Kamran's sales pitch entirely, having no interest in the idea of setting himself above others as some ruler, or even in having powers at all, was a win for Kamala. It's exactly what she told Kamran, that her brother wasn't like him. Whatever his justifiable gripes about how the world treats him because of his skin color or religion, Aamir isn't the sort who wants power so he can get revenge or settle grudges. I have no idea what the stuff he was exposed to was, or what'll happen with him having powers going forward, though. But considering everything's about to get rebooted in some form or the other, it could always be wiped away easily enough (It's been mentioned that the end of Waid/Samnee's Daredevil run might present problems for the new series, in terms of where it left things, and I expect the reboot to handwave away problems there as well.)

Alphona and Herring are doing good work as usual. I already mentioned Aamir passing out and landing on Kamran's foot as a visual I liked (the drool bubble sells it), even if it seems unlikely to actually work that way. Kamala clutching at her scarf when she gets anxious is one of those little body language things I like. It makes sense, if the hero is the sort to get nervous, they'd fiddle with parts of their costume. I bet Gambit twirls that staff idly all the time. Of course, he probably thinks it makes him look cool, but it doesn't.

Oh, and I know our schools are underfuned, but I hope that poster in the nurse's office behind Aamir is advising students to not try sucking snakebite venom out of a wound. That's a no-no, folks

Thursday, September 24, 2015

It's Unlikely Any Of These Characters Will Get Made Soon

I still don't play Heroclix a lot, because, as usual, there haven't been many opportunities, but I try to keep a toe in the water. Keep up on what sets are coming out, rule changes. There are a lot of rule changes. Almost every year they add some new mechanic or item to the game. Though whatever it is usually only get played up for about a year, then it drops off the map. It's also usually very expensive, so I tend to give them a pass. Stick with the basic figures; I'm not planning on or expecting to win the World Championship. Though if I did, I would absolutely make NECA release a Stacy X Heroclix (the champion each year gets to choose a character and help design the dial for them. One year it was Mr. Sinister, another year it was Stargirl, one year it was a Nightcrawler that is apparently way overpowered).

Anyway, there were only two DC sets this year. A Flash set came out early this year, and they did one on Trinity War (remember that, the thing that lead into Forever Evil?) in the spring. The Flash set was good for producing a lot of new versions of the Rogues. Captain Cold hadn't had a new figure in almost a decade. Ditto a lot of the others. Trinity War didn't do much for me, but it's heavily slanted towards New 52 versions of the characters. Which makes sense, but limits my interest. I do think there was a new Vic Sage Question with two point values, and the lower one was closer to the street level guy most of us think of. The higher point value was for whatever the current version is, the guy who can't remember who is or whatever. There's supposed to be a Superman/Wonder Woman set this fall, and I think a Superman/Batman sometime after that. So, let's look at the Top 5 figures I wanted that haven't been made:

1. Sand
2. Atlee
3. Enemy Ace
4. Unknown Soldier
5. Grace

0-for-5. Well, not a big surprise there. The Justice Society isn't really a big thing with DC these days, and neither are most of their war characters. I keep thinking they'll make Atlee, if only because I'm sure there's a subset of people who'd like to play her alongside Power Girl (although PG hasn't had a new figure in a few years). Maybe in one of these Superman sets. There's not much else to say here. I'll look at the Marvel sets next month, that'll be more involved. There'll even be some good news!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Favorite Not-So-Canonical Romance

This is not a good category for me. I'm usually pretty much OK with romances the creative teams put forward, assuming they do the legwork to set it up (and don't crap all over a different pairing I like in the process), so I don't spend a lot of time musing on hypothetical pairings. The one exception is not from comics (not originally, anyway), and that's Buffy and Spike, because Season 6 napalmed that pairing for me, then salted the Earth it stood on. I would rather see either character (but mostly Spike because I hardly give a damn about Buffy) with any other character. But that's more suitable to a hypothetical "least favorite canonical romance", and like I said, I don't really consider it a comic book thing.

To the extent I do consider possible pairings that haven't been romantically involved, it's usually characters already established as being friends. It seems logical enough to me that they were friends, then it became something more. The thing is, I can't shake two concerns. One, that there are so few legit platonic friendships in comics that it kind of stinks to turn one into yet another romantic pairing, and two, since I'm usually thinking of two female characters who are friends, that it's just some pervy thing on my part.

But you know what, I did think of one pairing that's never happened in continuity that intrigues me.

Power Girl and Dr. Mid-Nite.

For whatever reason, Dr. Pieter Cross is one of the costumed types Power Girl hangs out with the most in recent history from what I can tell, albeit almost exclusively in comics whose creative teams involve Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Geoff Johns to varying degrees. But that's fine.

The two get along well, which is not something one can always say about Power Girl and other characters. The Doc is not threatened by the fact Kara is vastly more physically powerful than he is. Peej respects Mid-Nite's skills as a crimefighter and as a doctor. They seem to have an easy rapport. I feel like most characters' reactions to Power Girl's straightforward, confident personality fall into three categories: Mildly exasperated, admiring, irritated. Cross, probably from experience dealing with patients, just seems to accept it. He can enjoy talking to her, but if she starts to get defensive about something, he doesn't press. He recognizes that won't get anywhere with her.

Also, he's a moderately well-off guy with a strong community spirit, and Karen is a CEO who ran a company that tried to develop super-science that was helpful to the average person. I think the mutual interest in trying to improve the world outside punching things would provide some common ground, but there's enough differences they wouldn't overlap too much.

Also, Dr. Mid-Nite is a low-profile enough hero I don't think there's much risk of Power Girl becoming "Dr. Mid-Nite's Girlfriend", which is pretty important for the character, especially since she's largely avoided being a supporting character to a male hero up to this point. The nature of the threats they tend to face solo are different enough that, again, there wouldn't be too much overlap. They could each still have their own worlds, so to speak, and connect when and where it made sense. Plus, the adventures of Ollie the Owl and Peej's cat!

Power Girl and Mid-Nite react to this idea with predictable weariness in Power Girl #7. No, wait, they're reacting to the arrival of Vartox. Either way, the script is by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner is the artist, Paul Mounts the colorist, and John J. Hill the letterer. And the Doc had better consider his words carefully, or this thing is over before it begins in JSA Classified #1, by Geoff Johns (writer), Conner (penciler), Palmiotti (inker), Mounts (colorist), Rob Leigh (letterer).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Killing Someone Thrice Is Overdoing It

One last movie from my visit to Alex', Kill Me Three Times. I'd seen it in stores, it had Simon Pegg playing a contract killer, sounded slightly farcical, what the heck, why not.

It's one of those movies where almost all the characters are at least a little crooked, and their schemes intersect, tangle, and trip each other up. so it becomes this long string of double-crosses (intentional and otherwise) and misfortunes. Besides Pegg's character Charlie Wolfe, there's an abusive drunk husband who suspects his wife is cheating on him. There's Alice (Alice Brega), who is cheating on Jack, and Dylan (Luke Hemsworth, how many of these Hemsworths are there?), who she's cheating with. There's Jack's sister Lucy, and her dimbulb dentist boyfriend Nathan. And there's Bruce, who is the local cop, but crooked as a winding river, and the brother of a bookie Nathan's in deep with.

The end result is, I'm not sure who to root for. I suppose it's Alice and Dylan, but you know how I feel about people who cheat, so I can't commit. I know I wasn't supposed to, but I threw in with Charlie. Just kill them all, take the money, and go. The movie really plays up the idea that, contrary to what the audience might like to think of ourselves, your average person in not good at killing someone in cold blood. Most of the characters have to be grief-stricken or enraged, and even afterward, they're shocked by the reality of it. When someone tries to plan it out, it still isn't as easy as they expect it to be. That seemed realistic to me. Just watching movies where people get killed doesn't make one an expert at killing.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What I Bought 9/15/2015 - Part 1

Didn't even have to wait for Wednesday last week to pick up the previous three weeks' comics, since nothing came out for me last week. Five books total, 4 of those from the week of the 9th. And I'm only expecting two books total this week and the next. At least Squirrel Girl starts again next month.

Starfire #4, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Emanuela Lupacchino (pencilers), Mirco Pierfederici (pencil assists), Ray McCarthy and Trevor Scott (inkers), Hi-Fi (colorist), Tom Napolitano (letterer) - Kori looks a little puffier in the cheeks than normal. It's Tamaranean mumps! Which probably causes Earthlings to pop like a balloon, so the street cleaners are gonna have a bad time of it.

Kori and Atlee deal with the Chida, by having Atlee hurl it to the sea, and then Kori blasts it until it grows so large it breaks through a weak spot in the sea floor and sinks in. Atlee also explains why the Chida's after her - she wouldn't marry his boss as arranged - and her origin, which does still include Power Girl being her best friend, which makes me wonder if that's why Atlee added a boob window to her costume, because her old one had a v-neck collar. Even so, I was glad to see they kept that friendship.

Kori and Atlee get really excited about both having super-powers, which kind of freaks the sheriff out, since she's concerned having superheroes around will get the town destroyed. That argument doesn't make much of an impression on the girls, but perhaps this Soren fellow, telepathic serial killer, will cause a reassessment. And it seems Kori's sister has hired someone to find her, which is certainly played as ominous. Her sister stays mostly in shadows, the guy she hires is a trained killer, she won't explain why she wants to find Kori (though it makes sense a ruler wouldn't feel it necessary to explain herself to a hireling). Which makes me suspect Conner and Palmiotti might make this into something relatively benign, just to mess with our expectations.

The biggest issue I continue to have is my uncertainty whether Lupacchino's art fits the tone of the book. Kori here seems very heavily drawn from Teen Titans Go! in terms of personality, but whereas the animation on that show doesn't really sexualize her, I don't know think you can say the same about the art here. Of course, Conner and Palmiotti have pretty much every character notice or comment on how attractive she is. The characterization puts me in mind of a much younger character, which clashes with that.visual presentation. I know Kori was portrayed as naive about Earth from her earliest appearances, but her she initially ignores the part she's supposed to play in Atlee's plan, to listen to Atlee explain why the Chida's after her. It's supposed to be a joke, but it does feel more like something a child would do. Lupacchino seemed to favor having characters place both hands along their face, in some expression of glee or surprise, but it just looks odd. I especially didn't buy it with Atlee, because her face doesn't really match the body language. It's trying for extreme excitement, but doesn't get there. It doesn't help her eyes are drawn looking at us, rather than Kori. That actually makes it a bit creepy. Anyway, there's a conflict there I'm struggling to resolve, but I'm not sure how that's going to happen.

Mrs. Deadpool and Her Howling Commandos #4, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Salva Espin (artist), Val Staples (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - It's the little touches in that cover. Frankenstein wearing the wizard's cape from last issue, Man-Thing with the flower growing out of his head.

I was wrong about Dracula killing everyone last issue. He killed everyone, except a fair number of his vampire minions. Shiklah spends too much time gloating about having a magic scepter with the power of starlight, and not enough killing Dracula with it. It turns into a scramble for the scepter, which kills the Commandos, save Man-Thing, and ends with Dracula seemingly triumphant. Wade finally gets involved and possesses a minion, tosses the scepter to Shiklah, she finally kills Dracula and vows to conquer the surface world. Then she and her followers are killed by the Thor Cops. The end.

That was a flat ending. The Commandos went out like a bunch of chumps. The series introduced Marcus the centaur as an unbeatable warrior (except for his diabetes), and Drac casually beheaded him in one panel. She decides to wage war on the surface world - and it goes worse for her than it ever has for Namor. Was it a lesson about overreach, or had Duggan simply written Shiklah as preparing to conquer the above world at the end of the last Deadpool series, and decided to nod towards it here? There are a lot of stories where the main character quests for some item, finds it, takes their revenge, and all ends well. Here it seems like that up to a point, and then we find out it went downhill because just finding a magic doohickey doesn't mean every decision is a good one. I'm just spitballing, trying to understand. Duggan probably just thought it was funny to end an ultimately meaningless story like this.

So neither book was exactly a winner. Friday's selections will be better.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Zorro 1.32 - Cross of the Andes

Plot: We open in Senor Mordante's tannery, as Murietta rides up. The shipment of boots with the stolen jewels will be arriving soon, and he wishes to be sure the tannery is secure. Which means running off the elderly peon, Pasqual, who worked for the previous owner, and was guaranteed a place to live in exchange for working there. Mordante is initially uneasy, but eventually backhands the old man, and when that doesn't drive him off, Murietta brings out the whip again. So, yeah, he didn't learn anything about bullying from last week's humiliation by Zorro.

In town, a woman and a young boy arrive on a wagon, with the load of boots in the back. This is Senorita Dolores and her brother Pogo, as they explain to Sergeant, sorry Commandante Garcia. The Senorita has considerable land and cattle holdings, which gives Garcia ideas. As Pogo delivers the boots, Garcia begins trying to woo Dolores with tales of his bravery, and speaking of his desire to settle down with a family. I wouldn't say it's going well but she hasn't openly laughed at him when Corporal Reyes appears, demanding the sergeant repay the 5 pesos he borrowed. At which point Dolores does laugh, and retires to her room. This leads to Garcia finding Reyes guilty of disrespecting a commanding officer, and fining him 5 pesos, which he uses to pay off his debt to the corporal. Then he reveals he plans to hold a small party in Dolores' honor, and it is the corporal's job to praise Garcia to the heavens while dancing with her. Except Reyes doesn't know how to dance, so Garcia has to show him, and one of the lancers barges in without knocking, and barely resists laughing at them.

While all that's happening, Pasqual has related his tale of woe to Don Diego, who promises him a room he can stay in there, and that they'll find him some work. Then Diego pays Mordante a visit, and notices the tanner and Murietta peering into the recently delivered box of boots. Diego only mentions that he disapproves of how Pasqual was treated, so Murietta cuts Diego's cigar in half with the whip. I'm starting to think Murietta might be a dick. That night, Zorro sneaks into Murietta's room again to snoop, and seeing he and Mordante are down below having dinner signals to Bernardo to go snoop in the tannery. Zorro continues nosing around and finds the Cross of the Andes, one of the few pieces of stolen goods Murietta brought on his person. About this time the two villains call it a night, and while Murietta winds up bound with Zorro's whip (Zorro taking Murietta's in what he call a fair trade), Bernardo gets knocked on the head by Mordante. Not before realizing the box of boots has a false bottom concealing the jewels, but while he's unconscious, Mordante decides to take them for himself, and hides them in a bag in his well (which he keeps in the tannery, and dumps leather scraps into, which doesn't seem hygienic). Zorro arrives in time to prevent Bernardo from winding up down the well, and in the uneven struggle, Mordante impales himself on some spike he had set on a post (I presume for punching holes in the leather). But now Diego and Bernardo have no idea where the stolen jewels are.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'Why, Senor, injustice is everyone's business.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall). When he signals with the candle, he does so by moving it in the shape of a Z, but I figure that's the same as the movement Bernardo makes with his finger, so it doesn't count.

Other: This is one of those episodes where I feel like Garcia and Reyes are being used to pad things out. I know it's a subplot, Garcia's attempt to use the Senorita Dolores as a social stepping stone and path to a life of leisure, but parts of it still feel like fluff. Reyes' repeated insistence on the return of his money, even in the face of an unfair punishment, and I always feel like the singing and dancing parts are padding. I know it's a Disney show, singing and dancing is what they do, but it still feels entirely incidental and like it's killing time.

I am curious to see how Dolores and her family are connected to Murietta. It looks as though his brother Pietro is coming in next week (with the other half of the stolen jewels), so is she part of the family too? Or just another agent of the Eagle? A woman with 5000 acres and 2000 head of cattle would seem to be a bit above delivering one box of Argentine boots, unless there was something extra in it for her.

I have to wonder how many lackeys the Eagle has left. Watching Mordante die put me in mind of that line from the 4th Die Hard film. 'You have got to be runnin' out of bad guys here.' Between Mordante, Quintana, the Senora Toledano, the Magistrado, Magdalena, Ortega, the fake tax collector, the crooked nephew of the actual tax collector, Fuentes, the fake blind man, the at least 3 crooked lancers, the other three guys who got busted with Quintana, that one crooked ranchero (plus his two goons) that went down with the Magistrado. That's just the ones I can remember. It isn't like communication or travel times are quick. It takes a while to find out he needs to send more guys, then to contact those guys, then for those guys to get where they need to be. At some point attrition has to win out, right?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

At Least There Was Plenty of Ultron

So I got to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. I guess a SPOILER warning is potentially necessary. It was OK, I laughed at some parts, I do enjoy it whenever the Avengers start doing c-c-c-c-COMBO MOVES (or "power moves" as Teen Titans Go! puts it). I don't think I've ever cared about the Vision so his popping up didn't do much for me, and his being the one who can throw Mjolnir around actively pissed me off. I am an irate comic fan and I demand Captain America smacking fools with Mjolnir!

I was really tempted to type that all in caps, and you'll never know if it would be in jest or not. Neither would I.

I had mixed feelings about Ultron. I'm not really a big James Spader fan - nothing against him, but nothing for him, either - so that casting didn't sway me one way or the other. The early part of the movie, where he's trying to be sort of charming or friendly, but gets homicidal, it made sense if I rationalized it that Ultron is still young and his personality isn't yet fully formed. He's still learning, gaining experience from his encounters with people, who mostly are scared of him and respond with violence, which confirms his initial assessment of human. But I suppose I'm too used to an Ultron who had already settled on exterminating humans. The part at the end, when he's mocking the Avengers' attempts to save the day, responding to Tony's attempt to stall by pointing he's stalling as well, calmly describing how he'll kill Thor while he has him by the throat, that felt like Ultron to me.

I missed a lot of the stuff about Hawkeye's family because Alex' sister called him, and when he mentioned I was visiting, she wanted to talk to me. So I was distracted for awhile, probably missed some character development there. I did like that Hawkeye got more focus. Him as the guy who is "only" human on the team, dealing with a whole new level of threats compared to most of his SHIELD career. It feels a bit like part of Natasha's arc in the first Avengers movie, where she clearly didn't feel comfortable in this world of out in the open superheroics.

It is really hard to focus on typing this with Dad watching Abbott & Costello while he's complaining out loud about some poorly footnoted book he's reading simultaneously.

I didn't really buy into the Bruce/Natasha thing. Maybe I missed something in there during the phone conversation. I think I definitely missed the part where she mentions she can't have kids, and thinks that makes her a monster. That's in there correct? I seem to recall a lot of people being unhappy with that development. Seems a poor decision on Whedon and Co.'s part, if true. I mean, she was a government assassin/spy for years. She probably did plenty of shit one could consider monstrous, if that's really the kinship you want to develop between the two. They've each, at some point thought they were doing the right thing working for SHIELD or the military, only to be disillusioned by either Thunderbolt Ross' ambition or the reveal of HYDRA's manipulation of SHIELD. It seems like the struggle to continue to do good in the face of the recognizing their past efforts were warped could be a connection. How do they get it right the next time around?

Captain America understanding Pietro and Wanda's reasons for volunteering to Strucker's experiments was a nice touch. I continue to be impressed with how the directors and Chris Evans handle Steve Rogers. Also, very glad to see the Avengers determined to save everyone if they can. They don't manage it, but they again make a real effort to minimize civilian casualties and concentrate the danger upon themselves.

So overall, there were parts of the movie I enjoyed well enough, but it wasn't quite the overall enjoyable experience I found the first Avengers film. I actually wonder if the way they're tying all these movies together is starting to work against them. Another Infinity Gem shows up, and it feels like it's just another step on the road to a showdown with Thanos, and less its own story. On some level with me, that recognition undercuts Ultron as a threat.

Friday, September 18, 2015

This Is What Happens When You Defund Public Services

Taking advantage of Alex' high-quality Internet connection to watch some random movies. There were a lot of probably horrible horror films to watch, but I opted for District B13 instead.

It's set in a section of Paris that's doing so poorly it's been walled off, and is largely run by drug lords. One in particular, Taha, is angry that Leito (David Belle) stole and flushed his big shipment of coke. He tries having his top goon kidnap Leito's sister Lola, but Leito gets to Taha, and tries turning him over to the cops. But seeing as the cops are about to abandon the district entirely, they arrest Leito, give Taha back his guns, and let him take Lola so he can get her hooked on smack and keep her leashed next to his chair.

Flash ahead six months, and Taha has managed to steal a nuke, which for some reason was armed as soon as the case was opened. In 24 hours, it will go off. Rather than try a military response, the government opts to send one cop, Captain Tomaso, who is extremely skilled at undercover operations to find the bomb, with Leito as a guide. Tomaso (Cyril Raffelli) tries the "pretend to be a fellow con and engineer an escape from a transport" trick, but Leito sees through it right off, so the two have to deal a little more honestly. Which isn't going to be easy, considering Leito's justifiable cynicism about helping a government that was all too willing to pretend he didn't exist. Still, Leito isn't willing to risk millions of innocents dying.

I'm spending a lot of time on plot, which is probably misleading. Luc Besson helped produce this, and Belle was one of the people who helped make parkour a big thing. So this is mostly about giving Belle and I think Raffelli (it didn't look like a stunt double) do their thing. So there's quite a few chase sequences in the city, guys leaping over railings, from balcony to balcony, jumping over and off moving cars. Taha has an army of goons at his disposal, so our heroes have to use terrain to their advantage, so it makes sense (and from Leito's perspective, growing up in the District, getting good at finding unorthodox ways to get from Point A to Point B would be a good idea). It gets incorporated into the fights as well, lots of springboarding off walls, trying to confuse the opponent with spinning around and striking from every direction. So you get fights against a bunch of guys, or one really big guy, or one guy who is also really skilled at parkour. Mixes it up a bit.

It's a nice touch that Taha is a shitty boss, and so when things go wrong (the government refuses to pay his ransom, but do take the opportunity to steal all the money from his accounts), his men don't remain loyal. I always wonder why henchmen continue to work for bosses who will start shooting them the moment something goes wrong. The money is the obvious answer (fear or inability to see other options are probably the others), so it's good to see the goons stand up for themselves once that hammer is taken away.

The idea a government would wall off and try to forget a section of the city doesn't feel terribly farfetched considering how eager many politicians are to disenfranchise large segments of the population, or to otherwise cease to serve them. The conflict for Tomaso, who believes in the ideals he's supposed to serve, but is following orders from people who very obviously do not, is resolved far too smoothly, but it was a nice fantasy.

Alex really hated the main goon's hair. Everyone calls him K2 (because he's a big fat guy, though not the biggest fat guy in the film), and so he has "K2" shaved into the back of his head. It did look pretty bad, but I hated the track suits more.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

An Ice-Cream War - William Boyd

An Ice-Cream War is mostly set in the region that was British and German East Africa, across the span of World War 1. A lot of the book is centered around two brothers, Gabriel and Felix. Gabriel's in the British Army, and the war begins barely a week after his marriage to a young woman, Charis. Gabriel is sent to East Africa, and things are a complete mess. Felix is back home, just starting college, not at all sure of who he wants to be, and equally uncertain of himself as a man. He and Charis find each other, over a shared concern for Gabriel, and begin an affair, which ends badly, and prompts Felix to enlist and get himself posted to East Africa to find his brother.

On top of that, there's a whole subplot about an American, Walter Smith, who had a farm in British East Africa, only to have his land be the first, and practically only, place the Germans occupied. When they fell back, they seemingly stole his Decorticater (some threshing machine or something). The troops were commanded by his neighbor across the border, Erich von Bishop. So Smith becomes determined to find von Bishop and settle the score, assuming he can stay away from the local magistrate Wheech-Browning.

There's a strong undercurrent of what feels like absurdity to the book, mainly revolving around Smith. He's obsessed with von Bishop, who he's certain stole the Decorticater to use on his own farm. The fact von Bishop's native troops apparently defecated on every surface in the house when they left, and dug up his infant daughter's corpse, he brushes those things aside. But that piece of equipment, that's the important thing. Then there's the whole thing with Wheech-Browning being some sort of a jinx for an poor sucker around him and anything mechanical. Smith struck me as a stand-in for Americans in general: Maybe not a bad guy, but far more concerned with material goods than the suffering in war, so long as he could maintain a distance from it. When confronted with it, he's a sensitive, compassionate guy, but he does a pretty good job keeping away.

There's a lot in here about men and women. The expectations they place on each other and themselves. In most cases, the guys have an idea in their head of what their wife/lover is "supposed" to be like, and they don't much notice whether that's how she wants to be. For Charis, Gabriel doesn't seem to quite work for her as a sexual partner, and is largely oblivious to it (although he's struggling to understand his own turn-ons), and Felix isn't helpful from an emotional perspective. All of it is too new for him, which leaves Charis trying to find her own way through her doubts about herself, and her attempts to find an answer. With Smith and his wife Matilda, as well as von Bishop and Liesel, the women seem to have simply reached a point where they're determined to focus on their interests, and largely ignore their husbands' obsessions (although Matilda was such a space case I wondered if she was supposed to be suffering from some ailment). The husbands are simply too preoccupied to devote the kind of energy it would take to try and force Liesel or Matilda to give a damn, and so the ladies wait them out, then go on with their own interests as best they can.

'No bond exists between us, Felix thought. This existence had only driven them apart. Frearson took out his pipe and sucked at it noisily. The pipe was empty -  everyone had run out of tobacco weeks ago. This was Frearson's particular habit that tormented Felic to a near-homicidal degree, like Gent's whistling or Loveday's schoolboy French. Felix realised, with something of a shock, that during his three-month spell in the "front line" he'd never seen a single enemy soldier. His animosities were all claimed by his colleagues.'

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Favorite Canonical Romance

I think I knew the answer to this right from the start, but I had long enough for other possibilities to start elbowing in. I considered Ryoko and Tenchi, but I never saw them actually become a couple. Tommy Monaghan and Deborah Tiegel - that's "Tiegel" to you - gained a lot of traction. With those two I always think of the scene as they try to hold off the Mawzir's forces from inside the church. Tommy with a big shit-eating grin, asking, "C'mon, am I really such a bad guy?" and Tiegel responding "YES!" as some poor sap is getting launched through the background by an explosion. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a decent shot of it, so here's an extremely awkward moment instead.

Even so, the choice is Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker.

Jeez MJ, it's supposed to be a happy occasion.

When I first started reading comics, MJ and Peter weren't a couple. They were friends, probably the closest friends either had, but they weren't dating. MJ knew Peter was Spider-Man - had known for years - and now Peter knew that. MJ had understandable reservations, but she was still his friend. She helped him repaint his apartment after some punks torched it, and had even offered to let him stay with her. By the next time I got some comics, they were married, which seemed perfectly normal to me. They were friends, then they fell in love and got hitched. Made sense to me.

Of course, the first comics I had with them married were from Kraven's Last Hunt, which was a traumatic event for both of them. Peter for obvious reasons, being forcibly confronted with how he was likely to end up if he kept being Spider-Man. The next time he lost, he might not get off only being buried comatose for two weeks. As for MJ, she's left with uncertainty. Peter swung off into the night, and didn't return. She doesn't know what happened, and she doesn't have anyone she can talk to about it. She has to carry that fear and worry by herself. Peter returns, but almost immediately heads back out to find Kraven. This isn't smart, he knows, she knows it, but he still has to do it. Mary Jane doesn't want him to, she'd thought she lost him once, but she tries to support him. I always like those last few panels, Peter holding her hand to his face, it said a lot.

I suppose I like them because they seem to compliment each other. There's a certain similarity between the carefree, party girl attitude MJ often affected, and the wisecracking Peter does when he's Spider-Man. And in both cases, it had the effect of making others think they were shallow. When Gwen died, Peter outright accused MJ of caring about no one but herself, and a lot of the other heroes tended to look askance at Spider-Man. But just as Peter takes being Spider-Man very seriously, MJ is a thoughtful, empathetic person. She's known Peter was Spider-Man for years, and she guarded that secret carefully. While some of his enemies have learned his identity over the years, they didn't get it from her. Around Peter, MJ can drop the carefree attitude if she doesn't feel like, and express her fears openly. Mary Jane helps Peter from getting too hung up on his problems, or too full of himself.

I don't have a problem with Spider-Man being married. I don't buy that it makes life too good for him if he has someone waiting for him. Marriage presents its own challenges and problems from single life. Sometimes there are going to be problems waiting at home, on top of whatever went on at work. There's another person who has to be considered before making decisions. That other person will have their own problems, and their own decisions. There are going to be disagreements. Peter being a superhero meant some of the problems were kind of unusual, like his parents returning from the grave, or his old costume teaming up with a disgraced reporter to try and kill him. But money issues are still a possible problem, so were children.

I think they're a good couple. They argue, but they make up. They don't forget they love each other. They each will try to deal with things by themselves, to spare the other, but ultimately they share the load. And they were clearly attracted to each other. In the comics of my youth, those two were making out at the drop of a hat. This probably formed my impressions of marriage, but the couple finding each other attractive and acting on it, and this being presented as perfectly OK seemed fine to me.

Tiegel opts for an interesting opening move in some issue of Hitman. I'm going to guess Garth Ennis (writer), John McCrea (penciler), Garry Leach (inker), Carla Feeny and Heroic Age (colors), and Willie Schubert (letterer). Mary Jane can't believe how bad her favorite TV show's gotten, and Peter gets a pretty good welcome for being away for two weeks without a word in Web of Spider-Man #32, by J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Mike Zeck (pencils), Bob McLeod (inker), Jason Tetrault (colorist), Rick Parker (letterer). Pete's reminded he can't slip bullshit past MJ in Spider-Girl #44, by Tom DeFalco (script and plot), Pat Olliffe (plot and pencils), Al Williamson (inker), Christie Scheele and Heroic Age (colorists), John E. Workman (letterer). Mary Jane has good news for Peter, which means they're doomed in Amazing Spider-Man #398 by DeMatteis (writer), Bagley (penciler), Larry Mahlstedt (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), and Bill Oakley (letterer). The likely moment when the bundle of joy in the previous page was conceived in Amazing Spider-Man #381 by David Micheline (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Emberlin and Milgrom (finishes), Rick Parker (letterer), and Bob Sharen (colorist).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Night of the Generals - Hans Hellmut Kirst

I got The Night of the Generals as a gift 12 years ago, read it then, and set it aside. But I was deciding on whether to donate some books and figured I'd read through it again.

The story spans almost 15 years in Europe, moving from Warsaw, to Paris, and eventually Berlin. The connective tissue is a string of brutal murders, with three initial suspects (von Seydlitz-Gabler, his chief of staff Kahlenberge, and General Tanz) each one a Wehrmacht general. The case initially lands in the hands of Lt. Col. Grau, who is determined to press things, only to find himself transferred to Paris to get him off their backs. Naturally, the 3 generals each wind up there two years later, and there's another murder, but larger events in the war interfere with any pursuit of justice.

My memory of the book was sufficiently dim I went in expecting a fairly standard murder mystery, maybe focusing on how Grau maneuvers around the problems posed with investigating prominent generals as suspects in a society that offers them considerable protection. A bit like Stuart M. Kaminsky's A Cold Red Sunrise, only with Nazis instead of the Soviets.

But reading this, that's largely incidental. The murderer is revealed a little over halfway, and I'm not sure Kirst was ever making much effort to disguise it. Grau does not have the moment of triumph where he marches in, reveals the killer before everyone, and hauls him off to jail.

Kirst seems to be working through his thoughts about the war (he was born in East Prussia and served in World War 2). The actions of men who were supposed to lead, why they did nothing about Hitler, or were willing to follow. The kind of men that were given power and command in a system like that. And the attempts to sweep it under the rug after. Von Seydlitz-Gabler wraps himself in the old standard that it's a soldier's duty to follow his leader's orders, regardless of that person's fitness to lead. Ultimately he's too fearful or opportunistic to take any real command. He prefers to sit back and let others act, then ride along with them. Kahlenberge seems a bit more idealistic, though I couldn't shake the feeling he was also opportunistic, just more aggressive about it than his boss. Tanz is hard to figure, because we don't know what he was like before the war. Was he always the way he is, in which case he was someone who should never have been given power, or did fighting and surviving a war affect him and make him into what he became?

I think Kirst's greatest disgust is with the old Prussian officer class, the ones claiming it was duty. Wrapping themselves in that excuse to deflect themselves from criticism. The impression I get is he wanted them to recognize they serve the country and its people, and of they truly believed in honor and duty, they needed to stand up sooner and put a stop to the war, and take responsibility after. Instead they bob and weave, selling their failure as virtue. I'm not sure what it means that the idealists, the ones who believe in justice and doing what's right, have to hide during the war. However, doing so enables them to emerge after, and they're the ones who can make certain the past isn't swept under the rug. You can't let the generals have it all their way, but you have to know when to pick your spots perhaps.

'Detective-Inspector Roman Liesowski of the Warsaw police shook his head a trifle indulgently. "I've never been able to see much charm in a corpse, Herr Engel."

"Not even in your capacity as a Polish patriot?"

"I've been a policeman for almost as long as I can remember and I've come across a lot of dead bodies in my time, but my sole reaction is always: who did it? I've spent a lifetime hunting down murderers without developing the slightest sense of patriotism."'

Monday, September 14, 2015

We're All Trying To Escape A Maze, Kid

Visiting Alex this weekend, that's been fun. Fantastic weather, attended the wedding of a couple of friends of his. Quite the shindig, they even had fireworks for it, and a taco bar. Although I was mortified when I accidentally knocked the ladle for the beans into said beans. Sorry everyone who wanted beans without getting bean juice on your fingers!

We were trying to watch some TV, but Comedy Central was showing a bunch of awful roasts, so we wound up watching The Maze Runner. These kids, in this big open field in the middle of this shifting maze full of bio-mechanical spider-things that try to kill them, and none of them remember anything about themselves except their names. Always curious about these processes that remove all of someone's memories about themselves, but they still remember how to walk, talk, eat, farm, function with other people. Very impressive selective memory repression.

Then the Special Boy - Thomas - gets sent up (every month a new amnesiac kid gets sent into the glade from an underground elevator, along with a bunch of supplies), and he wants to break all the rules the kids have established to keep order. Things seem to change in response to his presence or his choices, which leads to a lot of scared an stupid decisions, and Thomas keeps pushing to do more things they'd decided not to do, and nothing is really resolved by the end of the first movie, because the books are a series I guess.

There's one kid who just doesn't like Thomas, the Token Unbeliever, and he could almost have a point, but he's such a moron about things. Someone points out Thomas saved Alby, the leader of the group, and Token Unbeliever retorts, "did he?" Well, seeing as Alby was infected, and Minho, who was dragging him back, wasn't going to make it before the gates closed for the night, and so Thomas ran into the maze and helped keep them both safe until daylight, yes, he did save him. It seems like there were arguments to be made that Thomas' actions were ill-advised. He really has no idea what's going on for a good chunk of the film, but keeps insisting people should do what he wants, or at least let him do what he wants. Which, if you're trying to maintain some sort of society, is a dangerous precedent, since then everyone starts wondering why they can't just do whatever. The counter being, it isn't going to be a society, because they can't stay there. People do seem to die a lot when he's around, though I'm not clear on what their casualty rate was like before that. It just felt like there were good objections to make, but they weren't being made.

Lotta people and things in this movie either getting crushed by enormous stone pillars, or nearly getting crushed. If you really enjoyed the final battle at the end of the first Terminator movie, or that sequence with the slowly lowering ceiling in Temple of Doom, this movie's for you. There were parts of the maze - mostly the scene with Thomas getting chased through it at night - that reminded me of a dungeon from Ocarina of Time. Probably because of all the climbing on big stone blocks, leaping across gaps, and climbing on foliage. That chase was actually pretty well done, although it made the spider-thing look kind of incompetent compared to how fearfully the kids spoke of it. Also, they keep trying to push the spiders into chasms, but it's a spider-thing, it can climb walls. You kids know this, you've seen them do it.

I'm going to assume at least some of the stuff they're eventually told about a virus as a result of the Sun overheating the world is nonsense, but even so, if the world is actually going to hell, why is this group spending a ludicrous amount of money on essentially a giant hamster wheel for teens? How much money did it cost to build this huge complex, with walls hundreds of feet high, that can move and shift thanks to gear systems? There's a big, fertile field in the center, but the area around the maze is a complete desert wasteland, like the area around Thunderdome. Maybe devote some resources to restoring more places on the planet to that level of productivity. How much did engineering the fucking spiders cost?

Not that I would be surprised that wealthy companies and/or governments would do terrible things to teens for their own benefit. That's kind of what people do, punt on problems, and let the next generation take the hit. This just seems like such a stupid way of going about it. Build an undersea paradise, blast off in search of a more habitable planet (if the Sun's heated up, what's happening on Mars right now?) I'd expect this W.C.K.D. group to take a cheaper, more direct route to saving their own necks. As it is, it's hard to see what they're actually learning from all this.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Zorro 1.31 - The Man With The Whip

Plot: A man rides up to the tavern, then casually unspools a whip and splits the hat of some poor fellow sleeping on the steps, all so he can demand that guy take his horse to a stable. Then he enters the inn to request a room. Sgt. Garcia notices, and attempts to determine the man's name, and his purpose in coming to Los Angeles. He gets his name - Carlos Murietta - from the register, but beyond that, all he gets is a bunch of static and disrespect. Flustered and embarrassed, Garcia is beckoned over by Diego, and they discuss Murietta. Diego mentions that man wears the hat of an Argentine gaucho, but does not speak Spanish as one from that region. Upstairs, Murietta awaits the arrival of the owner of a local tannery, Jose Mordante. When he arrives, we learn they both serve the Eagle, and Murietta and his brother stole many gems, and are having them shipped here, hidden among a load of hides for the tanner. They head downstairs for a drink, and Mordante's presence answers the sergeant's questions, so he departs as young Don Rudolfo enters, for the purpose of gazing at the barmaid Maria wistfully.

At this stages, Murietta ups his dickishness. He compliments Maria, then uses it as an excuse to try and force a kiss from her. Rudolfo steps in, and finds himself quickly up against a wall with a sword to his throat. Diego intercedes, pointing out Rudolfo's unarmed, then the kid throws down the gauntlet, after smacking Murietta across the face with it. So it's swords at dawn, except Rudolfo knows nothing about them. Diego brings him home to have Bernardo try to train him up, but it's clear Rudolfo has no chance, and will not back down. So Zorro pays Murietta a visit. They duel a bit, Zorro outclassing him easily, eventually wounding him on the hand, and also spying the eagle feather in Carlos' hat.The next morning, Rudolfo, Diego, and Bernardo learn Murietta is unable to meet them, as he cut his hand shaving his mustache. So the duel is off, and the hot-headed youth survives to walk off through town with Maria.

Quote of the Episode: Rudolfo - 'There are some thing worse than death, Don Diego.' Diego - 'But few so permanent, my friend.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall).

Other: So the previous innkeeper, the older, bald gent with the white mustache, is once again running things. I wonder what the protocol is back then for acquiring property seized from someone guilty of conspiring against the crown? Was there an auction? Did they determine it was acquired with illegal funds and give it back, but force the guy to give up the money? Anyway, he's back, and so is Maria, who we haven't seen in awhile. Since maybe back when Monastario was still around?

I like Zorro spending at least part of the fight sitting in a chair. Murietta enjoys humiliating people, picking on those he sees as weaker than him, with no chance of defending themselves. Let him see that contempt directed towards him, by someone who chooses not to try and scare him, but fights so casually, so blithely, Murietta has no chance but to recognize his inferiority and weakness in comparison. Not that Murietta will learn anything from it - I'd guess he's a villain destined to end up dead, probably after trying a cheap trick or backstab - but it's nice to see.

Also, I kind of like Zorro as the other, less official, half of the town welcoming committee. You have Sergeant Garcia, who is very polite, and not terribly forceful, but does represent the law. And then you have Zorro, who's there to remind you not to be a jerk or a crook (and to keep you windows closed and locked).

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I Didn't Even Touch On Apocalypse Or Kang's Effect On Ancient Egypt

One problem with the next Captain America movie being Civil War is there are lots of posts about it on Gawker and Uproxx sites, and those usually discuss the mini-series, and there are a more than a few of the writers - and a lot of the commenters - who are very pro-registration. Relax, I'm not doing another post on why that's stupid. Yet. This is actually an attempt to divert my brain onto a more interesting path.

I was thinking about how the registration thing is often presented as what would happen in our world, and how the Marvel Universe was meant to resemble our world, just with superheroes. The counter to that - as mentioned many times by many people other than me long before now - is that the Marvel Universe has a dozen things in it that really ought to have changed it to an extent we wouldn't recognize it. Pym Particles, Asgardians, Adamantium, Skrulls, time travel, Galactus, magic, mutants, on and on. Then I started thinking about differences in a socio-political sense, which got me thinking about how history on Earth-616 really ought to be different.

The one that really got me thinking about this was Latveria. Tiny Eastern European nation, but undeniably a world power, probably with a pretty high standard of living (but also a probably poor human rights' track record), and one of the most technologically advanced (certainly its military) nations in the world. You'd have to think Latveria tries to be a leader in any kind of worldwide agreements (be it about pollution, economic agreements, etc.) simply because Doom's ego wouldn't allow him to not try and take charge. And he has the brilliance and the resources that he couldn't be easily dismissed, no matter how awful he can be. I know in Doom's origin as originally conceived, it's run by a brutal, repressive, racist monarch (he's trying to expel/kill all the Romany, including Doom's family), until Doom comes back for revenge/liberation and seizes control.

But given when that was taking place, Doom almost certainly had to stave off the Soviets. Actually, it's probably likely Latveria was conquered by Germany during World War 2, then taken by the Soviets, and the monarch was either replaced, or made a puppet ruler of a Warsaw Pact nation. Doom comes in, takes over, ousts the Soviets. I'd imagine he had to fend off one attempt by the Red Army to retake the country. I say one, because I feel if they'd tried twice, Doom would have said "Enough of this foolishness!" and just started conquering the Soviet Union until they said uncle. I would imagine Doombots are weatherproof, so relying on "the worst winter in X years" as a stall tactic probably wouldn't work.

This all lead me to wonder what U.S. diplomatic relations with Latveria were like. I know the Fantastic Four were often on shaky ground to try striking back at Doom after his latest revenge attempt, because he was recognized as ruler of a country, but I don't know how friendly Latveria and the U.S. were. I'm sure his resistance to the Soviets would be something the U.S. would have enjoyed, and Doom probably wouldn't be the worst dictator the United States ever threw in with, but I can't see why he'd bother. He wouldn't want ideas about democracy and freedom infecting his populace, and he's generally presented as being scornful of American waste, pollution, and excess. Though I could see him playing the U.S. and USSR against each other.

I feel like Marvel traditionally addressed this by having the more unusual countries opt for isolation until recently. Atlantis, Wakanda, Attilan, they all mostly kept to themselves for centuries, I think, although I know Hudlin's Black Panther run showed Wakanda easily thrashed at least one 19th Century attempt at European imperialism.That at least accounts for world history not being vastly different at the start point of the story. But since superhero creative teams are rarely interested in writing entirely isolationist countries, even if they are into castle intrigue, the fictional countries inevitably become more involved in the wider world. With Atlantis, this has frequently taken the direction of Namor declaring war on the surface world. T'Challa is usually more diplomatic, but it also tends to be him interacting, while Wakanda remains aloof. I feel like Wakanda usually still withholds some of its advances, understandably in many cases.

Obviously part of all this is because the writers and artists aren't looking to deviate too much from our world. So if Wakanda develops a cheap, clean antigravity drive people could easily purchase for personal vehicles as well as large-scale shipping, they doesn't get implemented for one reason or the other. It's shift things too far from where the creative team (or their bosses) want things to be. So Cable establishes his own floating, artificial island, which welcomes everyone from any side of life, so they can collaborate and hopefully show how things can be, but it doesn't really get to change things in a way we can see. Instead we see the ways vested interests try to undermine it and if possible, wreck the whole thing.

Which I suppose could be an assertion about history in its own way. Certainly the idea already established powers will try to maintain their position on top by knocking down any up and comers isn't unusual. Same with the idea that a country can't remain isolated forever, although I don't know if Earth-616 has had the prominent example of the formerly powerful nation that sealed itself off and was passed by the rest of the world's advances, leading to a rude shock. Wakanda kept itself ahead of the rest of the world, and I think the same is true of Attilan. I don't believe Atlantis is shown as being an underdeveloped country, although its environment and the challenges that would present make for different enough circumstances a comparison might be difficult.

I don't have an endgame with these thoughts right now - big surprise! - I just got intrigued by the idea of the State Department approaching Doom with some spiel about being a bulwark against Communism, and Doom being completely uninterested in the transparent attempt to get him to be their puppet.