Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Traditional Year-End Listing

I'll probably be reviewing my recent comic purchases into next week, and I'm hoping to do the Year In Review the week after that. For now, though, let's look at the best and the worst of other media I found this year. I'm not counting anything I'd read, watched, or played previously, which rules out The Night of the Generals among the books, and UHF among movies. Not that either of those was going to haul in Best or Worst in their respective categories, but it's worth establishing the ground rules before we start.

Books

Not as many books this year as last year. Close, but about a half-dozen fewer. Still a lot of World War 2 related stuff, but not as much as last year. I didn't branch out as much as I might have liked, but it was a start. Worst is pretty easy. On the fiction side, it'd be The First Deadly Sin, and on the non-fiction side, Fateful Choices. I base that on the fact I didn't make it more than 50 pages through either. If I focus on ones I actually finished, The Radon File and No Dawn For Men among fiction. The former was tiresome in how depressing and cynical it was, plus I had obviously come into the middle of the story, the former just hit some of my buttons about using actual people in fiction. In non-fiction, I was only interested in maybe half of The Baseball, and The Last European War suffered greatly from Lukacs having a much higher impression of his own intelligence than he merits.

So what was good? This seemed like a better year for fiction for me than 2014. Andrew Garve's Counterstroke was a quick, tense little thriller. I read several of Jim Butcher's books, and I'd say Summer Knight was my favorite. I considered Pierre Audemars' Slay Me A Sinner, but the writing style was just a little too irritating in its repetition of certain phrases. Non-fiction, there's several strong contenders. Weatherford's Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Tolley's Cruise of the Lanikai, Nunn's Tigris Gunboats, and Halliday's When Hell Froze Over would rank at the top. All of them were effective at introducing me to things I hadn't read about before, and they were all written in an engaging style. Well, Nunn was a little dry (and more than a little racist), but even he had some occasional humor in his writing that helped.

Movies

I watched a lot more movies this year than last year. It didn't really happen because I set out to do that, I think there were just a lot of times where I had nothing better to do, saw something was on TV, and figured I might as well. The only thing I saw in theaters all year was Spectre, which won't factor into the worst or the best. I did see Guardians of the Galaxy finally, and while I'm still surprised it did as well at the box office as it did, I can kind of understand it. Why it appealed to people, the characters who are alone, but find other people who understand them, and they form their own group that saves the day. People like those stories. Lots of films I didn't love, but didn't hate, either.

Worst. Oldboy wasn't a poorly done movie, but it was still a bad decision on my part to watch it. It went too far outside my comfort zone. Twelve O'Clock High just wound up irritating me, as war films of that era often do. Fast Times at Ridgemont High almost completely failed for me as a comedy, but comedy's always dodgy, and maybe I'm watching it too many years too late. If I had seen it when I was in high school, would it have worked better? I was pretty stupid back then, so maybe. Maze Runner didn't stand up to any scrutiny, but some of the scenes of running were entertaining. Kingdom of Heaven bored me, and Hot Potato was just kind of a mess, though at least it wasn't taking itself too seriously. Still needed to spend a little more time tightening up the plot. But the two worst were I, Frankenstein and Let's Be Cops. The first one was a mess, not thought out, confusing, dumb, didn't even seem edited particularly well. The second was just a really bad, dumb idea. Nothing good about either one.

Best. I don't know if Predestination works on a repeat viewing, since I haven't watched it again since last January. The first viewing was really good, though. I still have some questions about it, but it's smartly laid out for a time travel film. You can follow what's happening, and it has an internal logic to it that works. I liked John Wick, but on a second viewing, the fonts they use when they translate what characters are saying, and the odd colors they make some of the words kept distracting me. It's a little sillier than I thought on first seeing it, and felt at odds with the rest of the movie. Which you could argue was absurd in the standard ways action movies are, but they create one type of atmosphere, and the font stuff doesn't really fit in. But I love those action sequences, and the slow build up to the violence explosion. I think I'd still put Man of Tai Chi slightly ahead of it, though, even though Keanu isn't a terribly convincing Final Boss. But he really tries, which is entertaining in its own way.

But The Good, the Bad, and the Weird wins it. It was strange, but it felt like a movie where the people making it knew exactly what they wanted to do, and how it was supposed to look, and they went and did it. Which doesn't guarantee it'll produce a movie I'll like, but it did this time, since they just so happened to produce something that hit a lot of the things I enjoy. Between the chase scenes, the characters, some of the locations, the fact its playing off The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but uses that to go against expectations. It succeeds in having a lot of parts that are memorable, in a good way. I remember them and smile, not groan and wonder what the hell they were thinking.

Video Games

Not a whole lot of games this year. As far as physical copies go, NBA 2K15, Sleeping Dogs, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Resident Evil: Revelations. Resident Evil I traded in to reduce the price on the basketball game. Except then I was painfully reminded I shouldn't buy sports games. That leaves the other two, and while Sleeping Dogs wasn't everything I hoped it would be, it did the things it wanted to do really well. Also, it didn't have an equivalent to the sections of the South Park game where I had to learn how to use magic spells. Those constantly brought the game to a screeching halt, and Sleeping Dogs didn't have that (all the little mini-game stuff with trying to pick locks or trace calls came close, but they weren't as difficult, so I usually got past them and back to the good parts quickly).

On the XBox Live Arcade front, there was Bloodrayne: Betrayal, Flashback, Castlevania: Symphony of Night, ilomilo, Valiant Hearts, SkyDrift, Dogfight 1941, Bastion, and Anna. Quite a mixed bag there. Flashback was a mess, and Valiant Hearts clearly had some thought put into it, but wasn't actually very much fun to play. Anna scared the crap out of me at least once, but the shaky controls were a constant irritation. Ilomilo's a puzzle game, which is always risky ground for me, but it's cutesy style didn't actually annoy me, and there's no time limit on the puzzles, which helps a lot. The wheels grind slowly up top sometimes.

Castlevania was fun, even if it got frustrating constantly thinking I was doing well, only to enter a new area with monsters far stronger than me. So I'd have to retreat and try and find another way around, and this happened over and over. SkyDrift really grew on me the more I played it, and I got into Bastion, even if I was usually so absorbed in fighting things I was missing a fair amount of the story. If I were only going to pick one, it'd be SkyDrift. That's the one I'd most readily play whenever I felt like it. It helps it doesn't have any story to care about or be invested in. Just race against other planes and blow them to hell. Simple and direct.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I Bought 12/30/2015 - Part 1

Reviews! I found most of what I was looking for from the last two weeks. Except Deadpool #4, but perhaps I'll find that in the next few days. Work with what we have in the meantime.

Henchgirl #2 and 3, by Kristen Gudsnuk - Some day, I will end up at a high-class masked ball, and be sorely disappointed there's no robbery by a gang of crooks who share a theme. I'll also be glad I didn't get robbed or killed, but the disappointment will linger, like the smell when a dog pees on the carpet and you don't get the scent remover on there.

Mary's attempt to distract the Butterfly Gang from robbing the fund for the construction of a new orphanage, by having them rob a masquerade ball for the city "elite", fails miserably when she is forced to work with the catering staff, while her boss and his pet henchmen get drunk and participate in some disturbing rites, judging by what was going on in the background of some of the panels. Mary does, however, get a real job working as staff at various catering gigs. Now she can pay taxes! She knows that will help to repair the lousy roads in her hometown (she probably doesn't know that). Since her conscience is bugging her, she agrees to hand over all the e-mails detailing her gang's plan to help rob that fund to Fred, who got her the catering job (and works at the bank she helped rob, and is a superhero with a power well-suited to uncovering secrets, but not great at stopping criminal acts in progress). The fact Fred is the whistleblower is almost immediately discovered, so Mary hides him at her apartment.

Then there's an alien invasion, which most of the cast just watches on TV, and the "ace reporter" character accidentally gets decapitated by the Superman stand-in who isn't watching where he's swinging a sign post? That was kind of out of left field. I get it's a send-up of superhero stuff, and so sure, play on either the idea of fridging female characters for angst, or how some of these non-powered characters can be so close to this stuff but always emerge unscathed, or whatever. But that was a little darker than most of the humor up to that point. We went from jokes about heroes doing endorsement spots while fighting evil, and visions of comically sad and judgmental orphans haunting Mary, to dead reporter lady and her beau trying to heat vision suture her head back onto her body while sobbing. Bit of a sharp turn there.

That abrupt tone shift aside, it's still enjoyable. I don't laugh out loud at it, but I smile quite a bit. Gudsnuk is very good at twisting expectations and with timing. The page where everyone in the apartment is discussing what to do if the invasion continues, leading to Mary clinching her fist and declaring everyone is freaking her out, with shade over her eyes, only to follow that up by announcing she's going out for snacks. Also the reactions to Tina's super-power, which is really disgusting and raises certain questions that are almost certainly better left unanswered.

Gudsnuk's art has a simplified style to it that works pretty well with the tone of things, but she occasionally goes more detailed, usually when the scene needs a little more emotional impact. It's like a shift from the sort of silly, cartoonish world the characters normally inhabit, to some a bit more realistic, I guess. Because even if the specific source of the turmoil is not the sort of thing most people might encounter, the end result is. Being conflicted because her job is awful, but she's still trying to do it properly, and someone sees that and offers comfort, that's something most people would be familiar with.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Actors Are The Most Devious Prey

I'd never seen Mel Brooks' To Be or Not To Be before last night. I think there's a trailer for it on my DVD of Twelve Chairs, but that's as close as I'd gotten. Until it came on and my dad mentioned it, I didn't know there was a much earlier version with Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, but that will have to wait for some other day.

You have a Polish theater company, where the two main actors are the Bronskis, Frederick and Anna (Brooks and Anne Bancroft). But Anna has begun an affair with a Polish pilot (played by Tim Matheson), which they carry on when Frederick is doing the Hamlet soliloquy that gives the film its name. Frederick doesn't know that's happening, just that this one rude solider keeps getting up during his favorite scene.

Then the Nazis invade Poland. The lieutenant made it to England to join a Polish squadron there. He meets a doctor who claims to be headed to Poland on a secret mission, and collects information on all the pilots' loved ones back home, but is actually working for the Gestapo. So the lieutenant somehow sneaks all the back to Warsaw to enlist Anna is trying to steal the list of names. Which drags Frederick in, and things just keep escalating.

Charles Durning as the Gestapo Colonel, with Christopher Lloyd as his extremely dour (and none-too-bright) Captain were pretty good, though I had a bit of trouble figuring out how Durning's character made it that far up the ladder in the Gestapo. He's very Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes. I assume Frederick was actually terrible at Shakespeare, but hell if I can tell. He was a lot better when he did that musical number about loving ladies, though.

One thing Brooks does well in his films is hit you with those unexpected serious moments (when he feels like it). There's a moment where Anna's assistant Sasha reveals the Nazis are making homosexuals wearing pink symbols on their coats. He tries to play it off as no big deal, then pauses with his back turned, only to spin look right at us at state, 'I hate it.' It's just one of those times where there's no joke, and it works all the better because everything else is a joke.

I do wonder about portraying the Nazis as bumbling clowns. They're still shown as being dangerous, but it's almost like they're too dumb to recognize or care about the harm they're causing. But they're so easy to outwit, at least in part because they've bought so completely into this ideology and the man who embodies it they just follow orders. Even if the orders contradict past orders, even if the order comes from Mel Brooks dressed up like Hitler, because he speaks with authority and has the right uniform. So maybe the lesson is more about watching out for that kind of thinking, regardless of the particular shape it takes, and to point out that it isn't strong, but actually foolish.

Monday, December 28, 2015

What I Bought 12/22/2015 - Part 3

There's this beer commercial that's supposed to be the founder of Coors trekking the wilderness to find the water he wanted to use for his beer, and every time I see it, at first I think it's a commercial for that new movie where DiCaprio tries to win an Oscar by fighting a bear. But it's not.

Ms. Marvel #2, G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Oh god, Doctor Octopus is back! Dan Slott must be planning to wreck Kamala as a character, too! Someone call the Punisher!

Kamala returns to the new gentrification project and finds some purple goo, which she takes to Bruno. Bruno determines it's full of nanobots, but is nabbed by guys in suits soon after. Kamala tries to follow suspicious trucks, and winds up captured, in the process learning that the villain behind everything is Dr. Faustus. Kamala also got to meet a girl her brother is interested in, see her best friend is still anti-Ms. Marvel, and her mom is threatening to take the costume away.

At least Faustus admits the nanotech was basically needless. It'd be funny if he had to include that in there as the only way to get approval for the plan.

HYDRA Overlord: It's not a bad idea, but it's missing something.

Faustus: *nervously* Nanites?

HYDRA: *snaps fingers* Exactly!

Faustus: *sweating* Oh well, uh, I also had a, um, uh, mind-controlling beverage, yeah! Infused with nanites!

HYDRA: Sold! *uses big rubber stamp with "APPROVED" on proposal, because HYDRA is a stickler for paperwork* 

Nakia as a possible reverse-Flash Thompson, where she likes Kamala, but hates the costumed alter ego. I suppose Kamala could defuse that situation by telling her best friend, although maybe that actually detonates it instead. Wilson has a lot of balls in the air right now, so I'm not sure how they're going to play out, or when.

I just noticed, Bruno has the Baby Translator that Herb Powell designed on The Simpsons, sitting on the ledge outside his room. That and Aamir's happy little strut when he and Kamala are about to meet Tyesha were a couple of my favorite little touches Miyazawa put in this issue.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3, Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Doc Shaner (trading card artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Doreen, don't hog all the other heroes' iconic moments! You have plenty of your own already!

The Dr. Doom that appeared before Nancy is from shortly after his first encounter with Doreen, and he's come to the future to appropriate future technology to advance his cause in his time. Nancy instead convinces him to help her recover Doreen from the 1960s, so she doesn't attack him at somepoint earlier in his career. They travel together to shortly after Doreen arrived in the past, just in time for her meeting with all the other people who had been sent back, who are all from her computer science class. Doom arrives and immediately begins trying to kill Doreen, who can't call squirrels for help because they're past squirrels. So Doom wins and conquers the world, much to the confusion of some college student who wakes up in our time to find a very different world. Looks like Mega-City One or something, which doesn't strike me as Doom's preferred aesthetic, but oh well. Maybe he went through an "urban wasteland" phase.

I can't understand Nancy's frustration with Doom's semantic argument. It's perfectly legit. He never said anything about not trying to kill Doreen once they found her, which is really the sort of thing Nancy should have made sure of. Yes, it's petty, but it's honest within narrow bounds, which is par for the course for Doom. I guess she's just pissed she wasn't as smart as she thought, trying to use Doom's ego to manipulate him. The gag where Doreen tries to get Nancy to calculate a trajectory and fails, because just because you can program a computer, it doesn't mean you can calculate like one, that was good. The random appearance of Jubilee, who is still a vampire, that was odd. Like, of all the heroes in the Marvel Universe to have show up, and act like they were going to try and fight Doom, why her?

I actually like Doreen's hastily thrown together crime-fighting outfit. It's at least got the right color scheme, in terms of the orange brown, and she added a domino mask, those are always good. She even picked one of the ones that makes you pupils disappear when you wear it. Excellent choice. Nice touch having her start to right "Sq" on her name tag, then cross it out and write "Doreen". She's worse at keeping a secret identity than Ultimate Peter Parker was.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Zorro 2.7 - An Eye for an Eye

Plot: Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes are on patrol in the city, and no one seems to like them, since they are soldiers. Except Diego, and through their conversation we learn Senor Rico has responded to the discontent of the populace to all of his stupid rules with more stupid rules. Since we last saw him, Joaquin has become the leader of a rebel group that is flouting the authority of Rico and Briones at will, to the extent our soldier duo find Briones and one of his especiales tied and gagged to a post along the street, a note pinned to them. Which leads to the reward for Joaquin's capture being raised to 1000 pesos, half of the reward for Zorro.

Alejandro is heading out to Santa Barbara to find the governor and bring him back. In the meantime, he asks Diego to find Joaquin and convince him to calm down before he gets in trouble they can't extricate him from. With that, Alejandro is off, in the guise of an innocent horse ride, with Diego sending Bernardo along to make sure it starts smoothly. That done, Diego sits down to lunch, only to be disturbed by Theresa, fleeing Briones, who figures she can lead them to Joaquin. Diego hides her under the table he's sitting at, and plays innocent when Briones barges in, inviting him and Garcia to join Diego for lunch. Briones has no time for such things and barges out, but after, Garcia reveals he saw Theresa and said nothing, leading Diego to genuinely invite him to dinner. After the soldiers depart, Theresa once again jumps on Diego and showers him with kisses, but won't lead him to Joaquin.

Speaking of the rebel leader, he and his band are busy that night painting graffiti on the well in the plaza. They take off when the soldiers approach, but one, a Pablo Dominguez, goes back for his hat and the bucket of paint and is shot. In response, Joaquin pins a note to the cuartel gate proclaiming two soldiers will die that night. For a moment, Rico seems to waver in his convictions, and again questions the level of force Briones used, but it passes quickly, and he decides they'll let Joaquin kill two soldiers, so they can justify his execution. And Briones knows just the two to serve up. Amidst all this, Diego has come to visit Theresa to try again to convince her to lead him to Joaquin. No need, as she's riding off with saddlebags full of food, so they just follow her. She tries to hide and wait for them to pass, but Diego outwits her, then threatens to take her horse if she doesn't take them to Joaquin. Which really amuses Joaquin (if not Theresa), but doesn't make him any more inclined to listen to Diego's pleas.

That night, as Diego stews over his failed diplomacy, Garcia comes to visit, explaining he can't come to dinner, because he and Corporal Reyes are on night patrol. What's more, they're reduced to carrying sticks, because they've been told it might improve the peons' opinions of the soldiers if they were less well armed. Diego's no fool, and so Zorro is soon following the two through town, sabotaging the attempt of one of Joaquin's men to kill them. Soon enough he finds Joaquin and disarms him, then demonstrates (by discharging the loaded pistol) that Briones was ready to rush out and kill Joaquin. Joaquin is staggeringly ungrateful for being spared a dupe's death, and Zorro departs. 

Quote of the Episode: Rico - 'What he has done will not excuse out killing him. But what he is going to do will.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (2 overall).

Other: Where is Diego hiding Phantom? This isn't his home territory, it wouldn't be that easy to find a temporary place to stash this massive white horse where no one will find it. Though I'm not sure how many people have seen him on it. Still, he'd have to keep it some place he could reach it readily.

As for Diego himself, threatening to steal a young woman's horse and leave her stranded in the wilderness. That's hardly the behavior of a proper gentleman. He and Theresa do seem to have fun teasing each other, though. It's also interesting, in contrast to Anna-Maria, who was portrayed as this sort of refined lady of high standing, and was very attracted to the rougish outlaw, that Theresa seems to like Diego. She hasn't met Zorro yet, but there's no indication she gives him a single thought. But she already has Joaquin, so she probably doesn't need another guy risking her neck to fight. Diego, who is kind and measured in his actions, and uses words, might seem more appealing.

Or she's just messing with him, because she knows being so forward with her displays of affection isn't something he's accustomed to.

I asked Garcia to do something last week, and he took some steps. I understand why he can't outright fight Briones (even if Garcia were the type to do that), so the fact he helped shield Theresa from Briones was encouraging. Especially since he did rather cleverly, by maintaining an attitude Briones wouldn't find suspicious from him. He moves around to partially obscure the captain's view of what's beneath the table, while pretending he's just happy to eat some of Diego's lunch. Which suggests Garcia is well aware of what people think of him (not a surprise given how many of his bosses have been so eager to tell him about it), and that he's capable of using their low opinion of him to his advantage. And the fact he continues to try to be friendly to the public, in spite of their rude treatment, and understands why they're angry. Not that Garcia or Reyes are the sorts to start hassling people (or than each other), but I think it's key they're remaining sympathetic, and not letting the reaction they're getting to things they didn't do sour them on the public, and cause them to close ranks with the espeicales.

He also seemed to really enjoy finding Briones tied up. I have to think he was intentionally being the buffoon when he asks Briones who did this to him while Briones is still gagged, then makes out that he can't understand what the captain's saying. Good work, sergeant, keep it up.

Little surprised Alejandro actually cares about Joaquin. Not that Alejandro is a bad guy, necessarily, but he is very much of the social elite, and past history suggests he sides with authority against the working class. It's OK for him and his ranchero buddies to take arms against the government, but not the peons. Granted, he's still just appealing to a higher authority, the actual governor, but there isn't any indication that guy was a scumbag, so I'll count it as progress. Maybe Diego's having an effect on his dad.

The end was kind of strange, though. Zorro fires the pistols, Briones and his men rush into the plaza. Then Joaquin is ungrateful and tries to rush past Zorro, but away from the soldiers, only to get tripped up by Zorro. Then Zorro dashes past him, over a wall, and away he rides, leaving a pissed off Joaquin still in the city. Kind of inconclusive.

Friday, December 25, 2015

What I Bought 12/22/2015 - Part 2

Holiday greetings to you all. The question for today is, will the spirit of the season cause me to be charitable in my feelings towards these comics? Eh, could be.

Descender #8, Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (illustrator), Steve Wands (letterer/designer) - Maybe they'll make an '80s style buddy sitcom about Andy and Blugger. The Robot Killin' Pals! It could have a catchy opening theme and everything.

As to the actual content of the issue, the Robot Killin' Pals try to reach Gnish, only to be blocked by the UGC, because everything's gone to hell in light of last issue's assassination. Andy doesn't care and tries to get past them, only to end up with a lot of pursuing spacecraft, which makes him try to hide on a planet of gaseous beings, which is a little freaky, but effective in dissuading pursuit. And there's a lot of flashbacks to Andy's childhood before and after TIM showed up interspersed through the issue. And that's pretty much it.

It's still a very pretty but, but also pretty slight. Not in any real hurry to get anywhere. Maybe the brief jaunt to Phages will end up being relevant, but otherwise, there wasn't much to it. It's kind of a neat concept, but the story doesn't linger long enough to do anything with it, so it's almost like a stall. Nguyen going to black and white for the flashback pages made for an abrupt shift, in a good way. Suggesting Andy keeps losing himself in memories, then having to snap himself back to present problems. Blugger could prove to be a good addition to the cast. He seems like he'd provide a certain amount of that Ben Grimm-style gruff sarcasm, albeit in a much more amoral package overall. But overall, my interest in the book is starting to wane.

Illuminati #2, by Joshua Williamson (writer), Shawn Crystal (artist), John Rauch (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I almost missed the Black Ant there at the bottom of the cover. To be fair, I've generally done a good job forgetting Remender's Secret Avengers.

So the rest of the team has not entirely bought into the Hood's bull, but they do have things they want he's helping them get, so they're in for this "rob Asgardia" plan. And there just so happens to be a scientist who built an artificial Bifrost Bridge to get them in, if they can convince him to let them use it. He's at some club run by those creepy Fenris twins, where there's a rule against killing. A rule Black Ant promptly breaks by shrinking inside the good doctor, then growing until he bursts the guy wide open. Yeesh. At least they got the location of the doohickey, and the passcode, but now everyone in the club is going to try and kill them for breaking the rules.

There are certain things about this I can't track. Whether the Hood is just playing at being irritated by Black Ant's actions, or if this is a team-building exercise in disguise. Why Enchantress seems to be an alcoholic now. She's drinking in every single scene she's in. Sure, Asgardian, high tolerance for Earth booze, but still, kind of strange. The whole thing with Trapster trying to stick up Titania kind of came out of nowhere, although the last time I saw him, Deadpool seemed to have convinced Pete to perhaps rethink his life choices. Maybe Pete found out the straight and narrow pays like crap, but again, there's the presence of the gun meant to resemble a repulsor ray he somehow acquired. So I can't tell if these are mysteries to be answered later, or just weak writing. Which is a feeling I had when I tried Brian Wood's X-Men run, and I didn't like it then, either.

But I do like Shawn Crystal's art, even if a lot of his male characters have this pointy-nosed, sunken eyes, slightly fang-toothed look. Could be deliberate, making them seem a bit feral and dangerous, but I'd expect a Strucker to keep themselves up a little better. That one panel with the close-up on the Mad Thinker in his underwear was as unpleasant as I imagine it was supposed to be. Especially with Titania's 'I've seen much worse.' And the page of the Hood detailing his plan, for all the little flourishes. The entire crew wearing cool, black sunglasses in the first panel, because they're a crew on a heist. The actual use of wheelbarrows to carry the loot in panel 2. The Hood's grandkids all in their own cloaks in panel 5. I do wish he made the Hood look a bit younger, but that's me still thinking of the characters as a mostly dumb punk, swimming in waters much too deep for him.

Basically, both books are a case of the artist currently buying my goodwill, and we'll see if the writer's can up their game enough to keep me around (though Illuminati may not stave off cancellation long enough for that to matter).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Haven't Even Opened Presents And Already Looking To Spring

So what's on tap for March in the world of comics? I didn't see it in this most recent round of Previews, but there's a new Delilah Dirk GN coming out in March, The King's Schilling. I liked The Turkish Lieutenant, so I've got high hopes for this one.

Moving onward, Roche Limit is back with the final mini-series, Monadic. Only 4 issues long this time. The Rocketeer At War mini-series is not listed in IDW's solicits, but I was pretty sure it would still have an issue to go at that point. Henchgirl has another issue solicited. I still haven't grabbed the second issue yet, but hopefully I'll manage that in the next month or so.

Marvel is, as always, a mixed bag. The good news is, new Black Widow series by Samnee and Waid. A new Mockingbird series, which I'm not planning on getting, but I think Bobbi can be a cool character, so hopefully that does well. On the other hand, Marvel thinks we need another Iron Man series for some reason, and they're letting Jim Starlin do another one of these Infinity: [Fill in the Blank] mini-series. Swell, 4 more issues of Starlin telling us all about how Thanos and Adam Warlock are better and smarter than every other character in the Marvel Universe. Oh, and they're releasing a new edition of a bunch of their old Civil War trades. Goody, now I'll have something to use for fuel if we get a late winter blizzard and the power goes out!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is doing a crossover with Howard the Duck. Your mileage may vary, but I'll try giving the Howard half a pass. Just not that interested in that duck. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I Bought 12/22/2015 - Part 1

Starting what are hopefully not the last set of reviews I get done this year. I tried going to the closest store that sells comics today, but they didn't have any of the three books I wanted that came out this week. Hopefully I can grab those next week, and in the meantime, we'll focus on stuff from earlier this month.

Atomic Robo: The Ring of Fire #4, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (art), Anthony Clark (colors), Jeff Powell (letters/design) - The Atomic Robo Aerobic Workout series was not a commercial success once people realized the exercises wouldn't help, because Robo doesn't need to work out.

The Biomega Island approaches Tokyo, as both Ultra and Robo/China's Super-Science division scramble to enact plans to stop it. Ultra's going to use their mechs to blast open the island's core and nuke it, rendering Tokyo and the surrounding environs uninhabitable. Robo's plan is to be blasted into space, hijack a leftover Nazi space weapon to fire tungsten rods and smash the island without radiation. Assuming he can get past the station's defenses (which include a deathbot). And assuming he can manage it before he runs out of power (since he can't draw from China's power lines once he's out in space). And his plan involves ALAN, the artificial intelligence that nearly killed him in Ghost of Station X. So nobody's plans are inspiring much confidence here.

When Broughton frightens off his babysitters by pretending they're being exposed to monumental amounts of radiation, which is already killing him, so run, you fools, Wegener draws little "x"s for his eyes when he's feigning death, which made me chuckle. The "OrbitPanzer" has a good design, though I wonder if that's an actual human skull in the bubble, or the Nazis put a fake in there because they thought it would be more intimidating. The green plexiglass its covered by is a nice touch, that spooky, unearthly green color.

I'm not at all sure how this is going to end, though I still have the sinking suspicion it won't go as Robo hopes. And bringing ALAN into the mix just seems to be asking for trouble, but we'll see.

Deadpool #3, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Guru eFx (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I have no idea why Terry Moore drew Terror as being Hulk-sized on the cover. He's not that big a guy.

Wade's being questioned by the cops about the Zoning Board Commissioner, but they believe he didn't kill the guy, because he had already told the feds about the now-dead guy trying to solicit bribes. So Wade gets the cops to pretend they don't believe him, so they'll put him on a bus to Ryker's to draw out the fake, and then Wade and the mercs will bust him. Except their paychecks bounced, so none of them are showing up. And Wade, unarmed and alone, can't catch the guy, which makes Wade worry he's losing his edge. Uh-oh.

I guess Duggan is sticking with the idea that the "yellow caption box" from Daniel Way's Deadpool run was Madcap, having been nearly liquefied and inhaled unwittingly by Wade (this was introduced in some annual I didn't buy in the last couple years). Which never made a lot of sense to me, because there was also a white caption box, and it argued with Wade's external voice as much as the yellow, so was that still supposed to be Wade's own thoughts? But with Wade talking about missing having another voice in his head, and Steve Rogers talking about needing to get rid of Madcap, I'm not sure I like where this is going. I'm also starting to get tired of the mercs, at least some of them. I'm sure they're meant to reflect different aspects of Wade in different ways, but as a supporting cast go, they kind of aren't great. Maybe just get rid of half of them? Especially Slapstick. Please, no more scenes of Slapstick being horribly depressed because his family is gone.

Also, it's a little frightening to see Steve Rogers talking about killing a man in the Ardennes Forest for trying to "boop" Steve's nose. That is. . . coming on a little strong there, Steve. On the other hand, I enjoyed Mr. mantle the weapons' dealer calling a guy "Cochise". I've found myself doing that a lot lately, mostly when I'm talking to myself about some person driving aggressively near me. Maybe because I saw Fort Apache again over Thanksgiving. I know I shouldn't watch it, because Fonda's character pisses me off so much, but everyone else is so good in it.

The fight scene, brief as it was, was good. The Hawthorne/Pallot/Guru eFx team is doing some strong work. Pallot's inks really steady Hawthorne's pencils, which can get a little shaky and rough at times in the past, and the color work is just good. There's nothing wild or psychedelic about it, but it always seems to work for the scenes. Especially the interrogation scene with the cops. The color of the walls, and something about the pallor of the cops' skin under those lights, just makes it seem like one of those interrogation rooms designed to make people feel uncomfortable.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Five Men, Twelve Bars, and Much Arguing Over Terminology

I caught most of The World's End on TV a couple of nights ago, when I was trying to avoid watching Cardinals-Eagles*, and once Ash vs. Evil Dead was over.

Gary (Simon Pegg) tries to gather his old crew of friends from high school to return to their old stomping grounds and complete some epic pub crawl. The others are all varying degrees of reluctant, but are eventually convinced. Except the town isn't quite as they remember it, owing to an alien invasion, against which they struggle to decide what to do. Mostly about what to call their foes, and occasionally they actually fight them.

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to agree with their decision or not. I'm inclined to, because the aliens' need to sacrifice some humans for the purpose of the allegedly benevolent plan seems wrong. Also the, "We're just trying to make you better," argument bugged me. Of course, Gary, Andy, and Stephen are drunk off their asses at the time, and the closing moments of the argument are basically a kid having a screaming match with their parent, ending with the parent throwing up their hands and walking away. Which destroys civilization. So sticking up for humans having the chance to make their own choices, rather than being forced to conform to some other groups' definition of civilized seems like a bad thing? None of the guys seem to regret it, but I'd imagine there were a lot of people who died as a result of their actions who might feel differently.

I probably identified with Gary more than I was supposed to. The whole point seems to be that he's stuck in the past. He's very much of the opinion high school was the high point of his existence, and desperately trying to recapture that feeling, but he does so by trying to relive fond memories from the past. The others have had some of the same disillusionment about adulthood, but you can tell they've all at least tried to move ahead with their lives. Get jobs, have families and relationships. They aren't idyllic, but they made some sort of effort. Which is why, after, they mostly resume the lives they had before, in some sense. Gary is still trying to create that future he thought was waiting for him, which is turning the situation to his advantage, I guess? Pretty sure we're not supposed to find that healthy.

So there are a lot of things about the film I'm unsure of. Probably because I finally got around to watching Hot Fuzz a few months ago, with commentary on. At the end, Pegg and Edgar Wright discuss how, after everything that's happened, Sgt. Angel has embraced becoming the excessive force using, major property damage causing action hero cliche that Danny believed was being a cop. Which surprised me, because I'd never interpreted it that way. Just because Nicholas decides to burn rubber to rush over to deal with some loitering teens, I didn't take it that he was going to scrap all that "effective at establishing a positive presence in the community" stuff he was known for when the film started. But given the lead actor and the director said it, I felt like I had to reconsider everything (even while recognizing they perhaps weren't serious, but they didn't sound like they were joking).

So I don't know what I should take away from The World's End. I liked the fight scenes, I felt a certain kinship with Andy (Nick Frost), in the sense of having a friend who frustrates the hell out of you, but you still feel compelled to look after him. Though Alex really hasn't prompted that in several years, but the memories are still strong. So still more Gary than is healthy, then. There were times the alien aspect felt shoehorned in, like it would have worked fine as just as movie about 5 guys who used to be close friends getting together for one big thing, and it doesn't really work out. I think I still like this more than Shaun of the Dead, if only because of my apathy towards zombie films, but they're both far behind Hot Fuzz for me.

* Which I didn't entirely manage, and I really wish I had, considering I turned over there just in time to see Mathieu suffer a season-ending knee injury while making a game-clinching INT. Last year, I switched over late in the Rams-Cardinals game just in time to see Drew Stanton go down with a knee injury, thus bringing on the nightmare that was Ryan Lindley at QB.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Last European War - John Lukacs

The Last European War is focused on the Second World War, but only up to the point the United States officially entered the fray, which is the point when Lukacs contends it became a World War, rather than a European one. He means this both in terms of the countries involved and the scope of the fighting, but also in the sense that at that point, it signaled a shift from the era when European events and decisions were of primary importance, to it being all about the U.S. and the USSR.

Lukacs only devotes the first 170 or so pages to the actual war, which is probably just as well, given how many other books I've read about that. The rest he devotes to various topics about the peoples involved. The role religion played in people's lives, the importance or lack thereof of diplomacy, of communication, the political ideologies involved on both sides. This is somewhat different territory to read about, certainly in this depth, but it was also somewhat less engaging. Plus, I get leery when Lukacs starts making blanket generalizations about characteristics of Germans, or British, or the Spanish, or whoever. I tend to question whether statements about the Germans curious mixture of brutality and self-pity are accurate, or just convenient.

I'm sure Lukacs would have some snide rejoinder to that, based on his footnotes. He opts for the approach where sometimes the footnotes have expanded explanations or examples in them. But on more than a few occasions, he uses them to quote something a different historian says which he insists is bunk, or outright false. Well then why is he citing it? He's not really doing so as an example of an alternative explanation which he then demonstrates as false, so much as he seems to be hurling tomatoes at people he doesn't like (A.J. P. Taylor takes more than a few shots). Lukacs clearly has a pretty high opinion of his own intelligence, considering how much he takes everyone else to task for short-selling Hitler's awareness of certain realities, or of putting too much faith in poll results from the era, or whatever.

But for all that he criticizes everyone else for their biases, he seems pretty unaware of how much his strident anti-Communism colors the whole book. On more than one occasion he practically bemoans the fact that most people will regard Hitler and the Nazis as a worse regime than Stalin and the Soviets, when he contends (no doubt accurately) that standard of living was much higher in Germany than the USSR. He argues it happens only because of the Holocaust, which is also no doubt accurate, and while he recognizes that's a pretty big exception to his argument, it's impossible to miss the fact he'd really like to ignore it. Which reflects pretty poorly on him. Also, he devotes a whole section to seemingly trying to point out Hitler didn't really start trying to exterminate Jews until after the war had started, and was content to simply drive them from his country (and Europe at large) during the 1930s. As if this is some feather in the Nazis' cap, a sign of their graciousness or something. He has his reasons - fleeing his native country because of Communism can certainly color one's perspective - but it's a clear defect in the writing of someone who had no trouble pointing out everyone else's flaws.

The tone really becomes a drain over the course of reading it, because after a while I started dreading the next pompous thing he was going to say. I really didn't like getting riled up about it, because I thought I was playing into Lukacs' hands, or my dad's (who had forewarned me when he handed me the book that it would get me worked up). There are also certain assertions he makes that were, I think, contradicted by some of the books I've read on the war that were published after his. About whether Germany had really ramped up its industrial production before 1942, or if Hitler was always planning on short wars. I know the book I read that tried to argue it was the arms' race that prompted the war cited that initially, everyone, including Germany, was planning for a war by the end of the 1940s, and it was how rapidly everyone else kept increasing arms production that kept shifting timetables forward.

So the idea behind the book is sound, and I appreciated Lukacs' apparent level of research, and even his discussion of the limitations in trying to discuss things like the effect of people's beliefs, but his writing style detracts from the experience. either the book needed to be written by someone with a lower opinion of themselves, or he needed a stronger editor.

'Dunkirk did not inspire the French. They were falling into one of their least attractive habits, their national tendency to blame others for their failures.'

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Zorro 2.6 - The New Order

Plot: We're still in Monterrey. That wasn't clear to me until halfway through the episode, so I thought I'd mention it right away. There's a young woman named Theresa with a stand she sells tamales out of in the plaza, but Sergeant Garcia has some bad news. She has to move her stand out of the plaza, and so do all the other peons, by order of Adjutant Rico, who is acting governor while the real Governor travels to Santa Barbara. Theresa is unhappy with this, and vents her fury on Garcia, who is spared by Diego's arrival. Diego get her to calm down by promising to speak to Rico, just in time, as her boyfriend Joaquin Castenada arrives, and he doesn't like soldiers. He says several of them beat up an old man earlier that morning, and he's ready to stab somebody, which might get him shot by Reyes, assuming Bernardo doesn't knock the corporal unconscious first.

All this is rendered moot by the arrival of the "especiales", soldiers under the command of Captain Briones, all wearing a white armband. They enter the plaza and immediately begin tearing down the stands. The Captain upbraids Garcia for "asking" the peons to move, rather than telling, but when he wrecks Theresa's stand, she attacks him, and Bernardo is forced to knock Joaquin out to keep the kid from getting killed. As it is, Theresa is hauled off to jail, and Diego hustles to speak to Rico before Joaquin regains consciousness. Inside, we learn Rico is unsure of Briones' methods, but is swayed when the Captain assures him it was necessary. He explains to Diego there were pickpockets around the plaza, and he's trying to improve Monterrey's image. He does tell Diego he can pay Theresa's bail, 20 pesos, before dismissing him. But the jailer extorts Diego for an extra 10 pesos if he wants her released now. Theresa is very grateful, and plants a kiss full on Diego's lips before sprinting off to pick up the pieces of her stand with Joaquin's help. The young man is pretty steamed at everyone: Bernardo, Garcia, the especiales, but Theresa keeps him under control. Garcia tells Diego the especiales are the 'scum of the garrison', able to give orders to anyone they please, and they're growing to enjoy that power.

Which means that when Joaquin bumps into Briones while rounding a corner, refusing to move and then judo flipping the Captain was not a smart move. It earns him a beating, and he gets thrown in jail. In an entirely walled-off cell, no less, as Briones oversees the construction of a whipping post, and informs Diego there will be no bail, and no speaking to the prisoner until after the whipping. So it's no surprise Zorro shows up, and swiftly helps Joaquin escape. Each is making their own way out of the cuartel - Zorro over the wall, Joaquin through the gate - when Briones comes out. He tries to shoot Zorro, but Joaquin uses a soldier's musket to wound Briones, and Zorro has to rush him to safety on Phantom. Joaquin assures Zorro he knows the hills like the back of his hands, and Zorro advises him to stay there for now, advice Joaquin will almost certainly not take.

Quote of the Episode: Joaquin - 'You do not own the street!'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 2 (2 overall).

Other: Another "baboso" this week. Corporal Reyes seemed like more of a space case than usual.

The episode started with Theresa (and later Garcia) singing about her tamales, but I muted that. Not in the mood for any singing.

Somewhat of a different threat this time around. Rico is not portrayed as any sort of a malevolent mastermind. He's the clueless privileged guy. He thinks the peons have stands in the plaza to sell their wares, instead of shops, because they're just not motivated. So if he bars them from having their stands, they'll get shops, he reasons. But of course he doesn't consider quite where they're going to get that money, or whether they'd have done that already if they could, because in all likelihood, money has never been a problem for him in his life. He's like a slightly dumber version of Alejandro, a guy who convinces himself he did everything through hard work (whether it's true or not), and if you aren't wealthy, you aren't trying. You would like to think he could reasoned with, but given his puzzlement that Diego would care about the peons, it's doubtful he'll learn.

As for Briones, he's no Monastario, looking for wealth and position, or the Magistrado's short-lived ally, the false Ortega, working for someone else with similar goals. Briones appears to be just a bully. He likes that he's been given power, and he comes up with justifications to use it. Since Rico apparently never leaves his office, he accepts Briones' excuses. This makes Briones a more mundane threat, and one more likely to hang himself by overreaching, but still a threat. And if his cruelty and abuse eventually costs him his position, that may be small consolation to people he hurts along the way.

I have to think the show is evoking memories of fascism with the especiales and their armbands, and their abuse of power. Especially with Sergeant Garcia, while not a member of the group, still following orders, while insisting that he is only following orders. I'm not sure, realistically, what Garcia can do. Disobeying the order would likely get him shot, or at least dishonorably discharged (again), and I doubt Rico would listen to him over Briones, but it feels like he needs to do something to help here. Zorro's clearly going to be getting involved, if for no other reason than Joaquin won't stay in the hills, and Theresa is not likely to keep out of the line of fire either. But there needs to be some sort of action by other people, especially those in the group.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

There's Some Weird Stuff Further Up The Dial

Saturday post to compensate for the lack of a post on Monday! At the same time I picked up John Wick, I also found a copy of UHF. The movie Weird Al made back in the '80s, that Roger Ebert notably gave zero stars. I heard of it originally through the "Behind the Music" episode on Al, where he said he was pretty sure Ebert thought he was the Anti-Christ. I mean, even the second Charlie's Angels movie got a half star. I got to see it some time later, but I'd mostly forgotten about it until I bought the 2-disc Essential Weird Al collection last year, which has the film's theme song. Then I wanted to see it again, so here we are.

Besides, Ebert's taste in comedies always was garbage. He said Tommy Boy had no memorable lines, which, well, did you eat a lot of paint chips as a kid?

Which isn't to say UHF is a great movie by any stretch. It's story is roughly the standard one about the oddball that feels his talents are unappreciated, who finally finds a chance to shine. In this case, it's Al as George Newman, getting the chance to run a crappy local TV station, and turning it into a massive success with hit shows like "Wheel of Fish", and "Druids on Parade". There's a national affiliate that tries to crush the station through underhanded means, leading to the desperate attempt to save the station, for the community. I wasn't ever real clear on how Channel 62 was serving the community exactly, but sure, why not?

Mostly, though, I think the plot's there as sort of a loose connective tissue between skits almost. There's George's dream to open the film, which is just the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, or the one that turns into his "Beverly Hillbillies" music video (which I like, so that's fine), or the Rambo sequence. At times, it almost feels like the whole film is a montage, that we're just seeing small excerpts of what's going on, to give us a general idea. In the deleted scenes section, Al explains all these scenes were cut because they're crap, like one of him and Victoria Jackson (playing George's girlfriend, Teri) having a romantic dinner. As he puts it, "Would you really want to see me do a love scene?" Actually, kind of? For novelty purposes alone, if nothing else. I think if it wasn't an attempt to be funny, he didn't want to bother with it, but sometimes you need the not funny stuff for the purposes of story. I did laugh a lot at the Rambo sequence, between Al mugging for the camera, with expressions I could really see Stallone making, and the blowing up of random monuments, just because. Leaving out the subplot about the one goon being afraid of bugs was probably the right move, though.

I may be grading this on the wrong scale. There were times I thought a scene would have been more effective if Al had pulled back a little on his reaction to some crushing news. But it's not like he's Robert Redford, trying for some subtle, nuanced portrayal of a man struggling to find his place in the world. He's trying for laughs with comical over-exaggeration. Taken on the merits I think it's trying for, it's not bad. I've seen worse movies of that type, and there was a lot in there I liked. I thought George and Teri were surprisingly believable as friends, if not necessarily as a couple. Michael Richards as Stanley was about as bizarre as I vaguely remembered. The guy playing R.J. Hunter, the evil national affiliate station owner was chewing that scenery like a pro. Very good portrayal of Evil '80s Businessman, right up there with Dick Jones from Robocop. I'd forgotten Fran Drescher was in there, she didn't get to do a whole lot - Richards' character kind of dominates the second half of the movie - but she does well with what she gets to do, mostly being indignant or sniping at assholes. I can appreciate that.

My coworkers were doing a Star Wars rewatch, and so they were watching The Empire Strikes Back. I'm comfortable with my choice.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Was She Never Unbeatable At All?

I was glancing back through Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2, and on the page where they introduce the cast of characters (including "The 1960s"), there was a billboard over a building. A billboard that said "Shell Beach".

Which means Doreen didn't time travel at all. It's Dark City. She's actually stuck in some sort of massive experiment on humanity, where people and the very nature of the world they inhabit is constantly being manipulated. The Stranger's done things like that before, had entire worlds for curiosities or to conduct experiments. Could be someone else, an Elder of the Universe, or some alien species. Either way, their power is considerable.

Which is how no one from the "present" except Nancy remembers Doreen. They've been manipulated to forget. Or maybe none of them knew her in the first place, including Nancy. Whoever did this has given Nancy and Doreen memories of having a really great friend and roommate, one they never actually had, to see how they respond. The friendship is real to them (and to us, as the readers), but it didn't actually occur.

Which would be kind of interesting in light of whatever is going to happen to sort of reset things at the end of Secret Wars (whenever that is). If the universe where Nancy and Doreen met was the previous one, and post-SW is a new universe - which seems to be implied by some of the things I've seen in pages online - then maybe everything they remember is just a remnant of that now deceased universe, and didn't occur in the current one, because it's only existed for about 5 minutes, give or take. But they still remember it, which would certainly seem strange to someone out there, to the extent they might decide to run some experiments.

Or maybe this was the only way God Doom could get Squirrel Girl out of the way. He wasn't going to try and fight her, either out of respect or fear, or just common sense, so he's arranged this strange little world that seems like her old one, where she can fight her usual foes and not notice anything amiss. Except obviously he put some awful person in charge of that part of his planet - something he's done a lot, frankly - and they're having fun with it. Not sure who that would be. A Dr. Faustas maybe, a particularly sadistic Mysterio. Maybe it's an Arcade. He used to have some fake Dr. Doombots, which could explain the one who appeared at the end of issue 2.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Parker Robbins Can Lose, But He Won't Learn

It's a little weird to me to see the Hood as the big wheel behind this new Illuminati (really, it's more the new Masters of Evil as I saw one person point out). I have this reaction of, "Are they still trying to convince us this character is a major player?"

I know Bendis tried really hard to make that happen, and since he was writing Avengers' titles at the time, that meant it pretty much became fact. I had already bailed on New Avengers by the time he started that, though, and since one of his earliest attempts to sell us on the Hood was that whole thing where Tigra got pistol-whipped while crying and pleading, well, that wasn't much encouragement to pay attention to what he was doing.

So I only have vague impressions of the Hood from that stretch, and they mostly revolve around him trying to make a big play, and coming up short. Which jibes with the Brian K. Vaughn/Kyle Hotz mini-series he was introduced in. Parker always thought he was more clever than he was, which is why he keeps trying get rich quick capers rather than actually working to support his girlfriend. He just kept trying to pull something off, getting himself in trouble, narrowly managing to twist his way out of it, but creating more trouble for himself down the line. He wasn't so much climbing a ladder of success, as climbing a ladder of increasingly bad people to have unhappy with him.

Which could happen here. He's tricked Titania into joining his crew, which certainly won't backfire on him somewhere down the line. I've been trying to decide if he pulled something similar with the other members of his party, but I definitely can't seem him outwitting the Mad Thinker or Enchantress, and probably not Thunderball, either. Which doesn't mean he won't try to double-cross them later. Whether that's a good idea or not remains to be seen (it's not). He seems to think stealing from the Asgardians is a smart play, which, considering there are plenty of them who won't hesitate to hunt him down and kill him, seems questionable. So he's still in the habit of digging deeper holes for himself.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Decade of. . . Something

This blog started 10 years ago today. Which seems crazy. House of M had only wrapped up a little over a month earlier. So we've had enough time to go from mutants being nearly extinct, to being on the rebound for a couple of years, and now they're back to being on the brink.

It seems as though a lot of people whose blogs I read started around this time. Siskoid celebrated his ninth anniversary last week, Mike Sterling his 12th a week before that. Comics Should Be Good at CBR turned 11 recently, Sally's blog turned 9 earlier this fall. Kalinara doesn't post much at Pretty, Fizzy Paradise, but it turned 10 just a few days ago, too. Must be something about winter that drives people inside and sets them to talking about comics on the Internet. Which is why global warming would be a good thing, 'cause it gets rid of winter so us durn nerds get out of our moms' basements and get real jobs!

I was just curious how many clich├ęs I could cram into one sentence. I considered calling us "milennials" rather than "nerds", but I don't think any of the people I mentioned are young enough, including me.

I'm sure I told this story when the first year ended, but Kalinara's blog was a big reason I started this one (so you know who to blame). I had been reading other comic blogs for a couple of months, but was reluctant to start my own (I was posting on another blog, but strictly about sports). I wasn't sure there would be anything I could say other people weren't already saying. But I saw Kalinara's blog had just started up a few days earlier, so I figured, "Why not me?" I can't remember having any concept of how long this would last. I probably expected I'd run out of steam eventually. That's how it goes with a lot of things, start out strong, gradually peter out. 

If that's happening here, it's a gentle downward slope. I don't rant as much as I used to. It seems easier and more sensible to largely ignore the things I find stupid than yell about them to you. One complaint post - or sporadic sniping in posts on other tangentially related topics - is enough. Especially since I'm not buying them anyway. I mostly gave up on trying to explain continuity errors, since it's clear Marvel and DC don't care, and I don't read enough of their titles to have a good sense of the broader arc of either universe any longer. I don't post every single day now - I've largely given Saturday up for dead - but I do pretty well. I'm averaging over 330 posts per year, still. The idea of this being a blog where I only talked about comics was abandoned in the first few months. I think book and movie posts are about a third of what goes up here now. I gave up on giving scores to comics years ago, because it did seem silly. What was the difference between a 3.5 and a 3.75 out of 5? What was I basing it on? Why did I give that first, stupid Avengers: Illuminati '06 one-shot Bendis and Maleev did a 3 out of 5? That thing was awful. Heck, the comic book store whose name I borrowed for the blog title doesn't even exist, and I stopped buying from its successor earlier this year, what with the lousy customer service. I still haven't ever gotten a scanner, but maybe some day I'll regularly do posts with cool images I like you can actually read, instead of my blurry photos of comic pages.

So what's in store for Year 11? Well, I hate to bust out the old standard, but *all together now* posting may become erratic after New Year's. The source of Internet where I'm staying went away with one of my housemates (which is why no post Monday), so it's a matter of what I can squeeze in around work. I think I can manage, but we'll see. I'm going to try and actually get the Year in Review posts up in mid-January, and sometime in the early part of 2016, I may try and get those addendums to my Favorite Character lists up and running. Depends on whether I can get the prep done over the holidays (meaning, taking lots of photos of relevant pages). Hopefully I'll feel inspired to write a few more stories. I actually have a couple in mind, but it's hard to commit. They'd be part of building to something, and I'm not sure whether I really want to build it. So maybe I'll come up with some one-off stories again. I need more random strange crap to happen at this job.

Thanks for reading, however long you've been doing that, and commenting, if you do. I don't have a lot of commenters these days, but I like the ones I have. You're all friendly and helpful, which makes it nice, since I don't have to dread anonymous jerks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Desert Hell - Charles Townshend

Desert Hell is about the British getting mixed up in what was then known as Mesopotamia, now known as Iraq, during World War I. Whereas Tigris Gunboats was concerned almost solely with the efforts of the naval arm, Desert Hell is focused more on the army, and beyond that, the political aspect.

The political side does mirror the military side strangely well. For the Army, every city or area they took did not solidify their position, but instead required them to advance further into the desert. To take more positions to protect the ones they'd already taken. And given that the British largely left supplying the forces to the Indian Government for the first couple of years, and the Indian Government was trying to run everything on an extremely tight budget, which led to them being rather skinflints. Which meant the forces were constantly running short of supplies, in large part because no one would approve the expenditure for a railway to easily ship supplies and reinforcements to the front.

On the political side, the longer the British were involved, the more complicated things got for them. There was a lot of noise about self-determination, and the British had agreed, which meant no making it a direct colony. But The Powers That Be were not entirely convinced the Arabs of the region could govern themselves as a unified nation (although they gave it much more consideration that I would have expected). And the Indian Government apparently had visions of Iraq being incorporated under their control. And Arnold Wilson, who was sort of running things in Mesopotamia during the latter stages of the war and after, completely ignored all the directives that he was not to set up a government run by the British, and did that anyway. The British and French were bickering over where to draw boundary lines for what became Iraq and Syria. The British seemed to recognize the Kurds as a distinct group, who should probably therefore be granted the opportunity to form their own nation, but a) they didn't see any sort of unifying nationalist movement, and b) it was about that time people started to realize the value of the oil in the southern range of the Kurds' home, and the British wanted to keep that in Iraq, where they'd have access, and well, there you go.

One thing the book brought up that was an apparent point of conversation among the British at the time, with self-determination, who are the selves doing the determining? Obviously when speaking of Mesopotamia, the answer should at least start with, "Not the British (or the Americans, for that matter)". Even if the majority of the people living in that part of Mesopotamia were Arabic, they aren't one homogeneous mass. There are religious differences, old grudges between different tribes, and the usual jockeying for power. How do you set up a system for people to devise a system of government for themselves that works for all groups? I'd think you let those people try to draw up their own borders, rather than imposing them, but then there's the question of what happens if more than one party wants a specific location. In Iraq, as in other places before and since, it didn't go so well. The Sunnis dominated the political and military sphere, and it went badly for the Shias, the Assyrians, the Jews in Baghdad, and the Kurds. Townshend points out the British either failed to make protection of minority rights a strict condition of Iraq becoming totally independent, or didn't really enforce it.

Once again, history is really depressing. It wasn't terribly surprising that the time everyone seemed to be closest to working together was when everyone decided they wanted the British out in 1920, and there were a series of small rebellions across the country. It didn't really work, the British utilized the advantage of air power and more troops, but for a little while, people were on the same page.

'From being a majority in Kurdistan, the Kurds became a minority in Iraq. The international community had spoken, and its logic was instructive. The argument that Kurdish opinion was so divided that there was, in effect, no Kurdish opinion, implied that only those peoples with a fully developed national political organization in 1919 could qualify for self-determination. And the argument was wrong on one key issue at least: subordination to an Arab government was universally rejected by Kurds. This had been reported so often by British officials that it is hard to see Britain's eventual stance as anything other than willful self-deception. Kurdish identity was inconvenient.'

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Zorro 2.5 - Rendezvous at Sundown

Plot: Most likely the morning after the end of last week's episode, we return to the Verdugo home to find a heated argument between Diego and Serrano, with Anna-Maria in the middle. The kidnappers have sent another note, telling Anna-Maria to come meet them at the old ruins if she wants to confirm her father is well. Serrano says go, Diego says no. It could go either way, but then Corporal Reyes arrives with a message. Alejandro has come to Monterrey, and is talking about sending the army out after the kidnappers. Anna-Maria implores Diego to convince his father not to do it, and Diego reluctantly leaves. As soon as he's gone, Serrano starts in again, stating that he'll go if she won't. Which spurs Anna-Maria to go, and Garcia and Reyes come along.

Diego has convinced his father to speak to Anna-Maria first, but naturally she isn't at the hacienda when they arrive. Diego asks Alejandro to wait for her, and slips away. At the meeting, Anna-Maria learns her father is OK, but Pablo has a new plan. He takes her and the soldiers hostage, and orders Verdugo to get the money if he wants his daughter back. The old man and Garcia both tried to fight, but with no weapons and outnumbered (and with Serrano making no move to help), it doesn't go well. So Serrano and Verdugo return home, to find Alejandro. He had already reacted oddly to the mention of "Don Romero", and as Verdugo rushes to get the cashbox, Alejandro advises Verdugo not to do it, stating he knows Serrano was forced to flee Spain ahead of the authorities, and has pissed away his father's inheritance. At which point Serrano cracks Alejandro over the noggin. Perhaps not the best move, as it's about then Zorro enters through the window, and easily outduels the cad. For all the good it does him, with Anna-Maria still a hostage.

As the day nears its end, Serrano and Verdugo, the latter still in those monk robes, ride up. But Pablo finds there's no money in the saddlebags, only rags. And it's Zorro under those robes. His attempt to use Serrano as a shield falters on the fact that Pablo has no problem killing Serrano, but that empties his gun, and Zorro shoots one of the other bandits, while Garcia and Reyes are able to subdue another, even while tied up. Still, when Pablo is able to draw a knife on Anna-Maria, things look grim. But Zorro's able to stall until Garcia works himself free of the ropes, sneaks up on Pablo, and headlocks the guy into unconsciousness. The day is saved, and Anna-Maria and her father can go make the trip to Spain for supplies. The incredibly dangerous trip through the blockade for supplies. But she gives Diego a note, asking him to pass it on to Zorro if he happens to see him. Oh, and not to open it himself.

Quote of the Episode: Pablo - 'I would dare anything for 45,000 pesos.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (1 overall).

Other: I laughed at the end, when Diego takes Anna-Maria letter, and immediately returns to his room at the inn. He's all grim and serious as he hurriedly changes to Zorro, while Bernardo looks on confused. And then, he opens the letter to read it, since he promised that Diego wouldn't read it. He even keeps Bernardo at sword's length. It was an obvious bit, but I liked how thoroughly they went through with it.

Also liked that, at the moment Serrano surrendered, it wasn't entirely clear that Zorro cared. Was a decent chance he might just stab the guy anyway. I know, he's not actually going to kill an unarmed man, but, it was believable he was a little heated at the guy who had been behind all this trouble. From Diego getting beat up by Lee van Cleef, to Anna-Maria being in danger, to Corporal Reyes being shot, and now hit Diego's father, that's all on Serrano. It was his plan.

Gotta love Alejandro. Just shows up in Monterrey, hardly any idea what's going on, and he's immediately going to demand the army march into the hills to deal with these kidnappers. He's like one of those annoying ladies' league of morality you saw in old Westerns, always butting in and demanding people do something about whatever has a bug up his butt. He means well, but he needs to let other people handle their shit themselves once in a while.

And it was a pretty good episode for Sergeant Garcia. Sure, he got a pistol butt to the head, and Anna-Maria only shook his hand, as opposed to the kiss she gave Zorro. But, he got to be brave, he got to be competent, he got to finish off the bad guy himself, and not by being clumsy, but by overpowering the guy with his strength.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Commencing Wild Speculation

In Deadpool #2, his stand-ins evicted a bunch of tenants from an apartment building so its landlord could sell it to be torn down and replaced with condos. In Ms. Marvel #1, someone is buying up sections of Kamala's neighborhood, tearing down anything with any history or connection to the area, and replacing them with stupid, bland condos. Said condos are also patrolled by floating security-droids that attack people for 'suspicious loitering', which I believe is also known as 'lowering the tone'.

Clearly there's a new super-villain at work in the Marvel Universe, and they're using the heroes in various ways to help with that. The Deadpools as muscle, Ms. Marvel as an unaware spokesperson. It's sort of like what the Kingpin would do, except Fisk seemed to prefer to wreck a place first through selling drugs and guns (which also netted him a profit), and exerting his influence with garbage worker strikes, or suspicious building condemnations. Once property values were low, he'd swoop in, buy everything, throw up some tacky but impressive looking stuff, and sell it to rich schmucks at high prices. Whoever this is, they aren't even bothering to drive the condition of the places down. They're going for neighborhoods that are apparently in demand.

My theory? It's the Kree. They design their own buildings to have rockets on them (so they can be launched at enemy armadas, see Annihilation), so they do the same here, and get rich schmucks to pay for the privilege of being unwitting weapons to use against the Avengers. Or they're going to use it as a way to abduct a bunch of people, and decided on the flashiest, most improbable way possible.

OK, that's stupid. New idea. It's Hate-Monger, and he's taking this approach because he can wreck the images of the heroes. The people being evicted are pissed, and blame the most visible person. And then, various threats are manipulated to attack those neighborhoods, and the new tenants get mad about being sold a bill of goods, and blame the most visible target. Everyone ends up pissed at the heroes.

But that's the default state of the Marvel Universe, hardly requires the effort. Alright, let's think. There could, of course, be no greater super-villain plan. It could just be good business sense to use the heroes, and then leave the heroes to deal with that. Deadpool - or someone pretending to be him - is leveraging the hell out of his popularity, but will he be annoyed at someone else doing the same to their own benefit? Kamala's friends are turning against her (even if they don't realize it), and she's dealing with the downside to being a public figure. It's one thing when people find you inspirational and rally around you to help others, another when they're using you for something you object to.

But that doesn't give the heroes anything to punch, so where's the fun in that? Ooh, it's the Secret Empire! They're trying to convince more people to move to the outskirts of the city, weakening the tax base and limiting essential services, increasing struggles of the city. Then, at some moment when the heroes are all distracted with some other big problem, the Secret Empire's forces emerge from the shadows, and conquer New York City (and any other city they're doing this in), declaring it their own empire.

There's a new Power Man and Iron Fist series coming. If they too must confront the threat of gentrification, then we'll know there's something to this. Get Daredevil involved. I'd suggest Spider-Man, but Peter's busy being Tony Stark. I guess there's Miles, though. So yeah, sure, a Spider-Man, too.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

This Will Be Of No Interest To Anyone Else

You might have heard there's a new Star Wars film about to come out. I know, I was surprised, too. I'm not what you'd call a big fan - much like the Bond franchise, my favorite thing to come out of Star Wars is probably a video game - but I've been mildly curious because John Boyega's in it. I really liked Attack the Block, and so I've had that movie in mind a lot recently. In it, there's two little kids who keep trying to tag along, who want to be called "Probs" and "Mayhem". At one point, they're on a walkway, watching one of the aliens that has Jerome, one of the members of the group Boyega leads, trapped in a garbage can.
Their plan is to throw a bottle full of gas at it, then shoot fireworks at it, but one of the boys has questions. What if it comes after them? They'll shoot the bangers at it. What if they miss? They'll run. What if it catches them? At that point, the other boy turns to him and responds, 'No one is going to call you Mayhem if you keep acting like such a pussy!' So John Wick wound up being the perfect movie to watch when that film is on the mind.

Dean Winters plays Avi in John Wick, Viggo's right hand man. Winters has been in a lot of stuff - he's been on that show Brooklyn Nine-Nine this year, which I hear good things about - but I know him mostly from those insurance commercials. The ones where he's pretending to be a Christmas tree, or a poorly secured barbecue grill, and advises you to get insurance to protect yourself from 'mayhem, like him.'

Except Avi is kind of a weenie. He's more of the bookkeeping right hand man, as opposed to the neck breaking type*. At the very end of the movie, as John is trying to kill the last few guys with a car, Avi is in an SUV, panicking, asking someone to please give him a gun. This is in contrast to Viggo, who is high as a kite and doesn't care about anything at all (having accepted the inevitability John is going to kill everyone). The whole thing basically catapulted that line to the front of my mind, which was nice.

* He also doesn't know Russian, despite working for a Russian mob boss who routinely lapses into the language. Those language programs aren't that expensive.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

What I Bought 12/1/2015 - Part 4

I tried to go to a comic book store I found out was not too far from here over the weekend. Just to look around. Its sign said it opened at 11:30. I hung around until 12:15, nobody showed up. There was a phone number, but what, I have to call the owner to get them to show up when their sign says they're supposed to be there? No.

Starfire #6, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Emanuela Lupacchino (penciler), Ray McCarthy (inker), Hi-Fi (colorist), Tom Napolitano (letterer) - Bit of a change from the earlier covers.

We learn a little more about Sol's lost love, Maria, who worked in the Coast Guard like him. That happens in some dream flashback, while Kori's busy saving him from Dr. Soren, nearly killing the doc in the process. It seems important that, when Kori saw more of the doctor's memories, she still didn't see him killing the entire crew of the cruise liner. As still more bad news, that bounty hunter arrived on Earth, and starts hurting and killing people while demanding they bring him Kori. She shows up - advantage of living on a relatively small island - and beats the guy's butt. Then she throws him back in his cryopod, and sets his ship to drift in deep space, where I'm sure he'll remain for the rest of his days. And since the issue started with a lost love, here's Dick Grayson, who must have had a stopover on a flight.

I had kind of expected the bounty hunter to be more of a problem than that. Which is the sort of thing I remember being an issue when I was buying Harley Quinn. How Conner and Palmiotti seemed to flit from one story to the next, without anything seeming to stick or have real impact. I expect that plotline will come up again. The Citadel will find him and send him back, or her sister will send someone else to find her, but nothing sticks. They could be going for this sort of madcap, whirlwind feel, where stuff just keeps happening, but the characters don't seem to be reacting to it, outside of Stella's brief freakout last issue. Which ends up making it hard for me to care.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Matt Digges, David Robbins, and Chip Zdarsky (trading card artists), Rico Renzi (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I think Dr. Doom always improves covers. Sometimes you need a guy with a metal mask to spice things up, and nobody likes Iron Man.

Doreen is mysteriously transported back to the 1960s, which has caused everyone except Nancy to forget about her. Which is making it hard for Nancy to get any help rescuing Doreen, once she finds the note Doreen cleverly left her. Fortunately, Dr. Doom arrives, wearing Kraven's pants as a fringe on his cloak? I don't know what it is, but he definitely has something made of fur with black spots on, so you tell me. Our hero, meanwhile, has already met one other person stranded, and has embarked on a plan to try to find any others, through the power of newspapers! But it appears someone else is trying to alter the future, which is not good, I guess? I mean, Hank McCoy's already fouled things up pretty well, not sure someone introducing the Ipod will make much of a difference.

I kind of hate the sliding timescale sometimes. My first thought when Doreen starts explaining to that robber that superhumans do exist and Captain America isn't dead was that of course they do. Then I remembered Peter Parker wouldn't have been Spider-Man since the '60s in the Marvel Universe anymore. Kind of knocked me out of the story. Otherwise, I enjoyed this. Mary and Doreen commiserating over the lack of microwave pizzas (a problem that would certainly terrify me), and being called "cupcake" all the time (a problem I don't think I'd encounter). I don't share Doreen's enthusiasm for the fashions of the era, but I could probably have shortened that to, "I don't share Doreen's enthusiasm," and left it at that. I'm rarely an enthusiastic guy. Except about this comic! And some of the others I buy.

I really liked the nine-panel grid of Doreen's quest for money to place an ad. Henderson altered her style in a way to make it feel appropriately old-timey somehow. Maybe it was just the stern, mustachioed face of the newspaper advertiser, but it felt a little, Tintin-ish, is the best comp I can come up with. I also enjoy that Tippy is extremely concerned about potentially altering the future, while Doreen pretty much blows it off.

And "Mr. Fantastic" is a much dumber name than "Deathlok", if for no other reason than I'm pretty sure none of the Deathloks named themselves that, while Reed absolutely felt like fluffing his ego a little more was the way to go.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

No Dawn For Men - James LePore and Carlos Davis

You may have noticed I read a lot of fiction set in distinct historical periods, because that's what my dad loans me. But I usually shy away from ones where actual historical figures are the central characters. I wonder if it's an accurate portrayal of the person, or if it's just a convenient caricature.

But I took a chance on No Dawn For Men, even though it's about Ian Fleming running around Nazi Germany with Tolkien, trying to keep some artifact with the power to raise the dead out of the Germans' hands. Tolkien gets drawn in because apparently the Nazis loved The Hobbit, and that makes it convenient for him to meet with a well-known professor on Norse lore, who is looking for the artifact in question. Or so the Nazis think. He actually already has it, but has been searching for some way to keep it out of their hands, because he's not an idiot. So Tolkien and the professor's assistant, an extremely short, bearded fellow named Trygg with some remarkable abilities try to get the professor out of the country, but end up journeying to help destroy the thing.

So yeah, this kind of hit my nerves. There's just a little too much winking and nodding at, 'Oh, this is what gave him the idea for this part of Lord of the Rings, and this is why he called it a fellowship, etc.' That gets old, and they only pick up in frequency as the book progresses. I mean, Tolkien's books were supposed to be symbolic representations of things he had struggled with from his own experiences, right? This is making it more literal. He met actual people who live under mountains, for possibly hundreds of years. The Fleming stuff might be similar, I don't know enough about his writing to tell. But at least Fleming was a reporter and intelligence officer, so his presence I could mentally justify.

The book itself does breeze along. I went in intending to read maybe a third to a half the first night, and read the whole thing in one night. And that was with a break in there to watch John Wick again with some people. So it wasn't a difficult read, and they kept the plot moving.

Monday, December 07, 2015

What I Bought 12/1/2015 - Part 3

Two first issues from Marvel, one of which isn't just a reboot of a series I was already buying.

Illuminati #1, by Joshua Williamson (writer), Shawn Crystal (artist), John Rauch (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - You'd think the Enchantress would shrink the Gauntlet down to fit her hand. Unless that is the one thing beyond its power.

The Hood is trying to form yet another vast army of super-villains, but to start, he wants to arm them with weapons stolen from Asgard, and for that, he's going to use a select team. Which is where Titania comes in. She's out of prison, and intends to go straight, but finds it difficult to get work. Then when she does get a job working security at a pawn shop, three goons with super-weapons show up and wreck the place, and she gets blamed as mastermind. Then she has to defend herself from Luke Cage and Iron Fist (who did not acquit themselves well here. Not a good sign with their new ongoing on the horizon), before the Hood whisks her away in front of them. Thus sealing their opinion that she was up to no good, which leaves her with no choice but to throw in with the Hood, just as he intended when he sent those goons there. So duplicity is the word of the day.

I bought this in part because I've enjoyed books about villain groups in the past, and because Shawn Crystal was drawing it, and I enjoyed the work he did on Daniel Way's Deadpool run back in the day (one of the few saving graces of that run). So we'll see. I don't know whether this is going to be the regular cast, or if Williamson intends to cycle villains in and out from one mission to the next. Hopefully there'll be at least a few cast regulars outside the Hood. Would be hard to care otherwise.

Crystal's work is smoother than I remember, but that might just be because he isn't drawing Deadpool. Wade's world kind of encourages things to look rough and weird. He and Rauch seem to be working really well together. The panels of Danny's Iron Fist, with the green swirling energy in the form of a dragon, around the skeletal outline of Danny's fist? That was really cool, as was the dragon's chagrined look when Titania effortlessly blocked it. Even if I do think that's bullcrap. I'm not saying she should have been knocked out, but her catching it like it was no big deal was nonsense. I'm pretty sure one of the best martial artists in the Marvel Universe ought to be able to land a punch on someone with no particular combat skill anytime he wants. Whether it does anything is another matter. Sorry, that just kind of irritated me. There's a lot of other good work in the issue, from the crumbling "BOOM" sound effect when the pawn store gets wrecked, to her discussion with the Hood, where one panel she's looking at him, and then the next, her gaze has drifted to the stack of cash on the desk in front of him.

So I'm in for a while, at least.

Ms. Marvel #1, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist, pgs. 1-21), Adrian Alphona (artist, 21-30), Ian Herring (color art), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Well, Kamala's officially reached the point where she got a cover of her pulling back civilian clothes to reveal her superhero outfit. I feel like that's probably a big milestone for a solo series. Not sure if Nova ever got that, and he's had like 5 ongoings.

Kamala's busy being an Avenger, which does have the perk that Tony Stark rebuilds your school (while welshing on his promise to help with physics homework), but also leaves one a little too busy to see what's going on around her. Like the fact some evil redevelopment scheme is taking over the neighborhood and gentrifying it, while using her face as part of the campaign. And they have hovering security droids that don't like loitering! Even worse, Bruno has taken Kamala's advice and is dating a nice young lady named Mike, who saved him from a bus sent flying by a giant toad. So that's another problem Kamala's not going to be able to punch out.

Kamala should be less concerned about Tony not helping her with her physics homework, and more worried that Tony's booting her off the Avengers in three months, based on the cover for All-New Avengers. Oh well, Tony never was any good at building a roster. Also, I have to imagine all these giant animals are the work of the Inventor's creator, who was last seen arrested and bitter no one was giving him credit for making a cockatiel with the mind of Edison. But is the gentrification scheme his as well?

As for Kamala learning the downsides of being a popular public figure, we'll have to see how she's going to handle this. Although if Stark could sue Scott Lang for using him to endorse Scott's company, I see no reason Kamala can't have the Avengers sue whoever is behind this. Maybe Murdock could take five minutes off from helping Luke Cage file bullshit cease-and-desist orders against Deadpool to do something useful. As for the Bruno and Mike thing, I don't really have an opinion. They still seem in the idyllic stage, but we'll see what happens when Bruno starts trying to help Kamala out of a jam and Mike's left hanging.

Oh, I do have one opinion. Bruno looks really stupid in that sock hat. Those are to be pulled down tightly over your head and ears to keep warm, not worn cocked way back when it clearly isn't cold out. Just terrible Bruno. You deserve to get kidnapped and used as bait at least once just for that.

Other than that, Miyazawa is now the lead artist for the book, with Alphona chipping in as needed, I guess. Which is fine. I like Miyazawa's artwork plenty. I am trying to decipher the look on Nakia's face in the second-to-last panel on page 7. Kamala's kind of absently playing with the lid of her coffee while looking sad, but Nakia kind of looks stern. Is she mad at Bruno for dating someone else? She doesn't look pissed exactly, but it isn't a strictly neutral look, either. It could just be friend solidarity, but presumably she's had time to get used to the idea Bruno's not waiting. Kamala's grumpy/furious face as she runs to switch into her costume was pretty great, and I appreciate that when she clutches her hair in frustration, it doesn't just immediately assume the shape shape and form after she stops. Part of it stay frazzled and mussed, which makes sense, but I'm not sure everyone who remember that.