Friday, December 30, 2016

A Mixed Bag For March

So what is March bringing us? The most noticeable new thing for me is the return of Jay Faerber's Copperhead, published by Image. Sci-fi Western kind of thing. I grabbed the two trades back in 2015 to get caught up, then was left standing there like a dope when the book never resumed publishing. But here it is! With a new artist. Not sure if something happened with Scott Godlewski, and that's why there was such a long delay or what. Beyond that, there's the continuing Steven Universe ongoing and the Empowered story is a mini-series, rather than a one-shot. That's OK by me. And there's still no sign of any new Darkwing Duck comics, so I'm starting to suspect it was canceled. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Over at DC, I still can't decide if I'm going to pick up Justice League of America. Did they have to open with the Extremists as the threat? Real poisoned chalice right there. How about Felix Faust instead? Or Starro? Have we seen Starro since Flashpoint? There isn't much else that caught my eye. Dr. Fate is going to have to team-up with Jaime to deal with a threat, but I doubt I'll be buying the book by then. Cave Carson may have a bad plan, that does intrigue me, so that's something.

Marvel is wrapping up both Monsters Unleashed and IvX in March. Will we get even two months of peace before they start the next stupid event? How likely is it both those books will actually end in March? Regardless, there's plenty of tie-ins to both I am uninterested in. Clone Conspiracy is wrapping up in the Spider-Man books. I'm not buying any of those, but I read a rumor we might get a Ben Reilly Scarlet Spider series with Peter David and Mark Bagley out of this. Although Ben being the bad guy raises concerns.

In terms of chutzpah, we have Marvel soliciting something that's going to cost $35, and not providing any information on it. Not what it's about, not who's working on it, not even what it's called. That can't possibly work for them, can it?

Elsewhere it looks as though Deadpool and Shiklah are finally going to have it out for real. Which I'm at least intrigued by, but they're spreading it out across Mercs for Money and Spider-Man/Deadpool, and I don't think I'm going to buy those titles. So we'll see how much I can follow by one-third of the story. Oh, and I notice Solo is absent from the solicits after six issues. If it was indeed canceled, raise your hands if you're surprised. I expect Foolkiller will being joining him any minute now. My condolences to those enjoying the books. No really, I've had a lot of books I like die swift deaths, it sucks.

Richard Rider is going to have a reunion with Gamora in the pages of Nova. That is, not the ex-girlfriend I was hoping to see Richard spend time with.Well, if they avoid any stabbing, consider it a good reunion. There's an Iron Fist, something. I don't know if it's the start of an ongoing, or a one-shot leading into a story for Power Man and Iron Fist. I guess I shouldn't be surprised if they tried to get him a series with the Netflix series pending sometime soon, but I didn't think the team book was selling well enough to justify either of them getting a solo spinoff.

I've forgotten to do this the last couple times, but Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat is still not canceled. Hooray!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Remember the Night Via Hangover

Remember the Night is a Barbara Stanwyck/Fred MacMurray movie. MacMurray's a prosecutor, Stanwyck a shoplifter. After her attorney tries to argue she was hypnotized by the department store staff (during his closing argument?), MacMurray argues the state will need to bring in an expert - after Christmas, of course. But he feels bad about her staying in jail over the holidays and pays her bail. She's from not too far from his hometown, so he offers to take her home on his way home. The frigid welcome convinces him to take her home with him, budding romance ensues.

Stanwyck and MacMurray have solid chemistry, arguing back and forth. Each of them scores some direct hits against the other, but there's enough humor in it that it doesn't feel hateful. The trip out has the feel of a couple of people keeping each others' spirits up, which I enjoyed. MacMurray's character seems a bit guileless to be as good of an attorney as we're told he is. And you'd think a guy who grew up on a farm would have enough sense to not sleep in his car which just crashed through someone's fence, then milk the guy's cow the next morning.

But then the trip is over and they return to New York to continue the trial. Stanwyck is down on herself enough that she fears she'll ruin his life, and the judge is convinced something is up. So MacMurray tries to throw the trial by turning the jury against him, really obviously, and she ultimately pleads guilty to short-circuit the whole thing.

Then there's this whole tearful conversation in the elevator as she's being led out of the courthouse. Which it seems ends with the two making an affirmation of their love, but she's still going to jail. Probably. MacMurray said she can't appeal because she plead guilty which, is that true? I figure her attorney could at least argue that MacMurray used the glare of the lights off his Brylcreamed head to hypnotize her into pleading guilty. Oh, and the judge certainly will still have his suspicions, and he'd convinced the District Attorney to listen from the shadows and I don't know what he made of it all.

As far as Christmas movies go, you could do worse. It's good for some laughs.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What I Bought 12/28/2016

I was able to get one of the two books that came out this week. By next Wednesday I should have the other one, plus two books from earlier this month. That'll take care of that day and Friday. The second week of January is currently set aside for the Year in Review posts.

Avengers #2.1, by Mark Waid (writer), Barry Kitson (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Jordan Boyd (colorist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - I don't think I realized the Stranger originally walked around in a trench coat and tie, like an ordinary joe. Albeit one with unfortunate choices in hair and facial hair.

The Kooky Quartet is pressing ahead, despite the scorn of the public, who can't stop talking about Thor. At least Stark got around to giving them a Quinjet. You'd think he would have noticed sooner the team has no one who can fly, which is going to make dealing with worldwide threats difficult. Threats like the Stranger, who is after a teenage girl named Cressida in Thailand he thinks is a mutant. The Avengers take their best shot, but are hopelessly outclassed until Cressida somehow boosts their power enough to put him on his heels. At which point he pouts and says, Fine you're not a mutant so I don't want you anyway, and leaves. And the Avengers have a fifth team member, just so long as no one asks any inconvenient questions about how she boosts their powers.

I think I enjoy watching Pietro and Wanda interact the most. The way he always acts as though he's going to protect, but he's the one who panics. Who wants to pack up and bail at the first sign things are about to get bad. The fact Wanda tells him she saw the same vision he did, and she's not running. So of course he takes it out on Hawkeye, who does make it easy by being, well, Hawkeye. And we've got a Captain America who still hasn't got a grasp on this team, so he's probably being stricter than he needs to. He talks about them acting as a family, but there's not much warmth there, just him barking orders. Telling them to hold their heads high, when he's asking Stark why they can't get any fancy-schmancy weapons on their nifty jet, which kind of undercuts any statements he makes about how capable they are.

I noticed Hawkeye called Cap "Abe Simpson" at one point. That creeping timeline kicking in.

The contrast in colors during the bus sequence between the Avengers and the other passengers is a nice touch. Everyone else is kind of washed out, but the Avengers are in these relatively bright colors (the contrast between the green of Pietro's outfit and the shirt of that guy behind Cap on the right, who looks like someone out of a '70s "goofy kids and their talking {insert object} solve mysteries" cartoon. Even if people scoff, there are still a little larger than life, bolder than people give them credit for. Beyond that, I'm still enjoying Barry Kitson's work more than I normally do. Maybe it's Mark Farmer's inks, but the art seems less stiff, more lively than I'm used to. The shift in Hawkeye's expressions from the panel where he derides Cap for relying on a shield, then grumbles as Cap points out Clint relies on a bow, and then goes right back to fooling in the panel after that was a solid sequence.

Blue Beetle #4, by Keith Giffen (story/script), Scott Kolins (artist/story), Romulo Fajarado Jr. (colorist), Josh Reed (letterer) - It occurs to me, should Jaime have that expression? Admittedly, a glowing blue scarab is a strange thing to see, but Jaime is reaching for it anyway, so he's clearly decided to put aside that shock.

The story hops back and forth. First with someone trying to call Ted Kord while driving, only to drive off a bridge because of Dr. Fate. Who then lets the guy drown. In the present, Jaime goes for his physical, and isn't told the scarab is mutating his skeleton. He relates how he met the scarab, floating in a river, and it was nearly Brenda that wound up with it. Then it flashes back to Ted getting ready to start costumed adventuring, and his neighbor is the guy from the beginning of the issue, who at this point had just found the scarab. And Brenda is trying to set Jaime up with Naomi, who may or may not be that teleporting member of the Posse. I'm guessing she is, but also suspicious that Giffen wants us to think that and is going to pull some, "haha, fooled you" thing down the line.

Which I guess would be more relevant if I thought I was going to be here down the line, but I think we're done. I would suggest that the scarab had exerted some influence on Brenda, and that's why she's constantly being an ass to Paco, but she was doing that in the flashback before they saw the scarab, so never mind. I gotta say, I'm disappointed in Jaime that he doesn't tell her to stop always calling Paco stupid. It's nonstop with her, and I don't think I'm supposed to want bad things to happen to Jaime's supporting cast, but here we are.

So the story and characterization ain't gettin' it done, how about the art. Minor nitpick first, Fajardo, miscolored Paco's hair in one panel. Not a big thing, but something I noticed so there, now you know about it too. I really like the shade of blue he uses during the whole sequence in the river. And the giant, glowing beetle Kolins draws looked very cool. The sequence on the next page, where the armor starts appearing on Jaime reminded me of Sailor Moon, what with all the twinkly lights all around. Although it's a bit of a miscommunication that at the end of the physical, the doc tells Jaime to get dressed, when he's been fully dressed the entire time. He didn't take off his shoes or sweater or anything. What's left to put on?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Revenge Is Harder When You Have To Bring The Kids

So I was at my dad's for some of the holidays last week, which means older movies, and so here's Shoot Out. Clay (Gregory Peck) had robbed a bank, only to have his partner Sam shoot him in the back and leave him bleeding in front of the bank while escaping with the money. Clay spent 7 years in jail, and wants to settle things with Sam Foley. He needs money to convince a bartender to tell him where Sam is, and a lady in Kansas City is supposed to be holding some for him. The money arrives - attached to a small girl, the daughter of the now-deceased lady.

Clay heads towards his confrontation, little girl in tow. Problem being, they're being trailed by three goons (calling them gunfighters would be giving them too much credit) in the employ of Mr. Foley. The leader is called Bobby Jay, and he is a cruel, murdering swine with no concern for anyone but himself, who does have some skill with a gun, and enjoys proving it. Even with the other two being largely useless, he could be a real threat. Except he's a complete moron. He and Clay first cross paths in the hotel/cathouse where they're both visiting ladies, and when Bobby won't stop being noisy, Clay beats his ass easily, as well as his two partners. When they're trailing Clay and the girl, Clay sneaks up to their camp, beats their asses again, and steals their guns. You can believe they could be dangerous if they ever got the upper hand, because they're so indifferent at best, enthused at worst about causing pain, but they're just too dumb.

I didn't get to see the end so I unfortunately missed seeing Bobby Jay and Sam get their comeuppance. I felt bad for Alma (Susan Tyrell). She'd had a rough go of it as the lady Bobby Jay purchased some time with, and then he dragged her along after Clay. Clay yells at her at one point, like she's happy to be with the murdering idiot, but she went because she was terrified she'd be killed. Granted, Clay doesn't know that, and he's not so much of a good guy as to guarantee he'd care, but still, it felt unnecessary. I don't know if we're supposed to think that helped spur her on to try and stand up to Bobby later, but I don't think she was ever under any illusion what Bobby Jay was or if he actually cared about her. But she wanted to live, and there certainly wasn't anyone stepping up to come to her defense at the moment.

I'm guessing the kid was meant to keep the movie from being just another Western about a lone angry man pursuing revenge, but it didn't really work. I was only really interested in seeing Clay kill Bobby Jay, and finding out what would happen when he caught up with Sam. The child was an obstacle to that, so I didn't really care about her.

Monday, December 26, 2016

What I Bought 12/21/2016 - Part 2

Let's go with a couple of books full of giant, hideous monsters, to properly honor the holiday season. I have one other comic from last week besides these two. I'll do that Wednesday, hopefully along with some of the books from this week (there are supposed to being coming out I'm interested in).

Locke & Key: Small World, by Gabriel Rodriguez and Joe Hill (storytellers), Jay Fotos (colorist), Robbie Robbins (letterer) - Giant spiders menacing a quaint house? Feels like something out one of those '50s horror comics, or maybe Marvel's early '60s sci-fi.

This story is set in the early 20th Century, and revolves around a special dollhouse. You can use it to see where anyone is in the Locke house at any time, and if you tamper with things inside the dollhouse, it happens in the real house, done by a giant version of whatever you stuck in there. Like a hand, or a pencil. Or a spider that wanders in. And since the story is set a century before the events from the original series, given the Lockes tumultuous history, it's uncertain who might not survive.

It's a decent little done-in-one. I think you could follow what's going on without having read any of the earlier stories. It's just Hill and Rodriguez taking the opportunity to play in the sandbox they created some more. There's a lot of open ground unexplored, so here's one little thing that happened in the past. Inessential, but enjoyable.

Rodriguez is an excellent artist. The initial sequence establishes the rules of the dollhouse, the critical presences of both the family cat and the spider, and some of the personality traits of the family. The way Mary sees the dollhouse and is immediately planning mischief, while the younger sister Jean, is looking on with wonder and curiosity, but no real grasp of how it works. And their dad is there, prattling on about how it will allow the girls to understand their housecleaning duties in their, quote, 'natural empire'. Nice touch that when he's talking about that, Rodriguez draws him by himself in the panels, then switches to the two sisters talking between themselves about how they intend to use it. It sets the tone for the impending disaster. And in the panel when that disaster starts, Rodriguez gives Jean this great look. That look of excitement about something that has completely shoved everything else out of her mind. And Fotos uses the same red for the sunset in the background behind that he does for the spots on the spiders. And the way things are placed, Jean splits the red into two halves, like eyes. Nice touch all around.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #3, by Gerard Way and Jon Rivera (writers), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - Cave trying to classic, "Angry Dad Finger" to stop the monster. Sadly, this technique is less effective than the "Angry Mom Finger".

Cave, Chloe, and Wild Dog tunnel into the earth to try and escape the strange monster pursuer. Then they're nearly eaten by giant worms. They escape that, and take some time to try and talk,as it turns out Chloe didn't know her mother was the princess of a subterranean empire. In the meantime, EBX has sent a mission to track them down, and the company's owner's father is up to something. Also, he may be made of goo.

I laughed at Chloe complaining to her father that Wild Dog nearly blew her up, only for Wild Dog to remember he hadn't finished blowing up her car yet and taking care of that. Just the way he can't pass up the chance to blow shit up. It's weird, but I think Wild Dog is more the everyman in this scenario than Chloe, who at least knows some stuff about the landscapes they're moving through. I'm curious if Way and Rivera will spend time fleshing out the team chasing our heroes, either to make us care about them (if there's a team-up down the line) or hate them. They're mostly cardboard puppets at this point, so we'll see.

I'm always a sucker for pages that are set-up largely without panels, just the characters moving across it to guide our eyes, and there's a couple of those here with the Mighty Mole tunneling through the earth. Those are nice. But I actually really like a pair of pages when they stop to catch their breath. Each has one panel at the top, establishing location and which characters are involved, then three panels across the middle, and one more at the bottom where the view pulls back and the conversation concludes. The first one is between Cave and Wild Dog, Cave explaining why Chloe might be angry about encountering giant worms, and in the three center panels, Wild Dog is progressively more in shadow as we move across. I'm not sure if it's so we focus on Cave, who is having to face past decisions that have led to current crises, or to emphasize Wild Dog being disappointed in Cave. They're at a distance in the panel at the bottom of the page, but it sure looks like Wild Dog turned away from him.

The next page, Cave tries to explain why Chloe wasn't told the truth about her mother. In this case, Chloe gradually turns towards Cave as the center panels progress, and rather than the eye remaining static, it moves in closer to focus on their expressions. It ends focused mostly on Chloe as she stalks away, leaving Cave sitting alone. It's interesting the first page is dominated by the reddish-pink colors and the panels are very rectangular. The second page, the reddish-pink is gradually overwhelmed by that green and black, and the panels are drawn more like entrances to caves, where the borders are formations reaching from the ceiling or floor.

So far Way, Rivera, Oeming, and Filardi continue to entertain and so I continue to stick with the book.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Foyle's War 4.4 - Casualties of War

Plot: Lots to get through here. Let's start with Frank and Terry Morgan, a couple of orphaned teen fishermen who try breaking into an empty estate, only to find it isn't empty. And it's occupant, a special observer attached to the Spanish Embassy, feels he can make use of them. Or kill them, whichever. Shortly after that, there are a series of acts of sabotage in the area for Foyle to investigate. If, that is, he can keep pushy new Assistant Commissioner Parkins off his ass about this gambling ring, which Milner is already working on.

On top of that, there's a research lab in the area, run by a neighbor of Foyle's, Professor Townsend. They're working on some sort of bomb for the RAF, and having some difficulties getting the kinks ironed out, and they're up against a deadline. And part of the staff, one Evelyn Richards, has an unhappy home situation. Her husband Michael was a teacher, but most of the schools in the area were closed and the buildings turned to war purposes. So while Evelyn works as a "typist" and assistant at this lab, Michael mostly drinks, frets over whether she's having an affair with her coworker Hans, and gambles. At those same places Milner is investigating. As do Frank and Terry, flashing some pretty serious cabbage. They all end up losing, though only the teens can afford to. Milner almost loses more than money when he isn't discreet enough with his questions and Mr. Hendry has his boys jump him. Fortunately, Frank and Terry are (mostly) upstanding lads who lend a hand.

But their next assignment from Mr. Olivera de Perez involves that lab, not to mention a suitcase full of dynamite. But when they reach the lab, they see two men hauling a body out into the woods. The boys don't plant their bomb, but they do lift the corpse's wallet and i.d, because Frank figures this might be the path to getting free and clear of de Perez. Blackmail: The hip new game everyone's playing! At any rate, an old man heard the shot the night before and alerted the police, so they quickly find the body of Mr. Michael Richards. But since Milner saw him losing, and saw a couple of Hendry's men outside Richard's home when he came asking questions about Frank and Terry, that's the direction they look, initially.

On top of all this, Foyle's goddaughter Lydia showed up on his doorstep with her son James. James was in a school that got bombed, and hasn't spoken since. Lydia had been estranged from her parents over the man she eloped with, and hadn't spoken to them or Foyle in over a decade. And now her parents are dead, and she needs help, so here she is. She doesn't stay long, before opting to walk into the ocean, but does not succeed in ending her life. Of course, that leaves Foyle with this youngster to deal with, which means Sam's left to look after him. A picnic might help, if only two someones didn't decide to dispose of a bomb right near them.

Anyway, it becomes clear Hendry was not involved in the demise of Michael Richards. It also becomes clear that while Townsend and the others have been lying to the Admiralty about how important Evelyn Richards is to the whole project, she's also lying about what happened the night Michael was killed. None of which matters, because military necessity dictates Foyle can't do anything to her, or Hans. Nor can he do anything about de Perez, because immunity, and it doesn't seem like the special services will, either. Which leads to Foyle throwing up his hands and leaving the force entirely.

Quote of the Episode: de Perez - 'I only do what I do to show the war is wrong.' Frank - 'But it's not you doing it. It's Terry and me.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No, but he'll have lots of time for it going forward.

Things Sam can do: Maintain composure in the face of a belligerent assistant commissioner. Keep trying to cheer up a traumatized kid. She can't seem to avoid nearly getting blown up, though.

Other: Well, that's it for Foyle's War. Or no, there's still four more seasons. Well, this must be that controversial point when it became a fishing show, all about making your own lures. Lot of dissension in the fandom about that direction.

Sam mentions this is the third time she's been blown up, to go with that pub being bombed in the very first episode, and the flat she was renting being bombed. She left out that time she was locked in a room with a time bomb, and only narrowly rescued from it. She just attracts explosives.

Hendry is the one who finally helps Milner track down Frank and Terry, but when he asks for a little leniency, Milner leans over and tells him, 'No dice.' Oh, that's terrible, but I laughed. I'm still laughing right now, thinking about it.

It's tossed off in the rush of things Foyle tells Parkins he's sick of, but Frank and Terry are getting sentenced to years of hard labor for the acts of sabotage, while de Perez skates. As he points out, largely because the boys parents are both gone (mother deceased, father away on convoy duty), and there's no one to look after them or help support them. You'd think Foyle could at least contact Ms. Pierce and see if she could arrange to have de Perez' throat slit. I mean, arrange for him to cut himself shaving, really badly. Not Foyle's style, though.

The near-death by explosion shook James, sorry Jimmy, out of the state he was in. Which may not have been an improvement from Foyle's perspective. It took about three minutes of interacting with the more vocal version of Jimmy for Foyle to make threats about sending him to prison. And he ultimately left him in the care of the nuns looking after Lydia. One of whom threatened to backhand the kid about ten seconds after they met. She had also spent her entire initial conversation with Foyle tsk-tsking Lydia's decision. Oh, it's a mortal sin, and a crime. Let's pause here once again to appreciate the remarkable stupidity of prosecuting people for trying to commit suicide. Gee, why don't you just hang them? I bet that'll learn 'em good. Where was I? Oh, and when she learns Lydia has a son, she remarks that makes her sin even harder to forgive. Well, I can certainly see Lydia is going to make a rapid recovery under this lady's tender mercies, if only to escape them.

It's a little strange Foyle hits his limit right here, though. There was the military cock-up that led to the death of Elsie Jenkins in "Bad Blood", but that was more incompetence than any particular premeditated act (at least in terms of exposing an Englishwoman, since the Brits were presumably considering using the anthrax against the Germans). That was about 8 months ago. Before that, the idiot Captain Cornwall who kept Foyle from talking to the downed German pilots in "They Fought in the Fields", which also probably led to the death of Sabortowski. That was a 18 months ago. It seemed as though Foyle was being stymied more in the early going, but maybe the confluence of multiple instances right here, along with the sense that Lydia and James need him, is what makes it intolerable. Or the fact that a few people are getting punished for breaking the law, but not the ones doing the most harm.

There's a point, right after Foyle has taken Evelyn into custody for questioning, where Parkins shows up with Captain Boothroyd, the military liason for the project and demands her release. They march past Brooke and Sam into Foyle's office, and Sam gives this perfect contempt look at their backs. She knows nothing good is about to happen. There's also a big, when Milner is investigating Michael, he talks to one of the kids Michael home-schools, and the kid wants to know how Milner found him. He says he asked the boy's mother. The kid is visibly disappointed, having hoped it would be something more clever.

I can't quite figure how Lydia fits into this episode exactly. There are multiple kids who seem quite happy for the war to continue. The kid Milner talks to, Frank says he loves it because it makes stealing easier.. But here's James, who for part of the time is traumatized over his experiences. But he seems to bounce back. It doesn't go so well for Lydia, though, or Michael, and maybe even Foyle. So the older folks, the ones with fewer years left, it's hitting them harder than it is the kids, who presumably have more years to go. And the kids have fewer years without war to compare it to. But there's the whole thing about Lydia cutting off contact with her parents, even after her husband runs off, and then telling lies to herself and everyone else about it to justify her choices. The danger of not reconsidering actions while you still can? Frank and Terry didn't get out from under de Perez soon enough. Evelyn didn't leave Michael, or Michael didn't come to grips with the changes in his life soon enough. Things couldn't or wouldn't be taken back.

And for the record, the project being worked on is designing the bombs the RAF used to take out some German dams, which needed to be spinning inside the plane before they were dropped so they could skip across the water. And Evelyn is the one who made it happen, but she had to be listed as a secretarial assistant and let Townsend present it to get the Admiralty to even listen to the idea. I'm not sure blowing out the dams hampered the Germans as much as Townsend believes, but still a better use of airpower than Bomber Harris' indiscriminate nighttime bombing of cities.

Friday, December 23, 2016

What I Bought 12/21/2016 - Part 1

I've made so many grumpy post this week. I should have called it "The Airing of Grievances" week or something. But today is not for that, because we have a couple of comics that make me happy. Mostly. So I guess there will still be some airing of grievances.

Patsy Walker aka Hellcat #13, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Cory Petit (letterer) - Well, Felicia certainly knows how to pose impressively.

Patsy, Ian, and Jubilee were doing alright against Felicia and her goon squad, until they got dumped inside Bailey's magic bag. They spend some time stuck in there, Jubilee getting increasingly hungry, until the next time Bailey opens the bag, at which point they hop out. By then, Felicia has gotten Tom under her control. I'm sure having a friendly guy with no powers or combat experience will guarantee victory *rolls eyes*. But Zoe's heart has grown three sizes and may be ready to switch sides.

If all Felicia wants is whatever files and contact info for heroes Patsy has on her (poorly) encrypted computer, then why doesn't she, oh, I don't know, sneak in and steal it? Like a thief. There's no need for all this fighting and mind control, which is big and flashy, and could provoke a lot of hard feelings aimed specifically at her. Why the hell did she wait until now to steal the magic mind-control claw things, if they're so useful? She initially seemed like she was worried Patsy would catch wind of her because Hellcat isn't getting mixed up in crossover nonsense. Then why not deal with her when you have her wounded, off-balance and outnumbered instead of walking away?! None of it makes any damn sense. Felicia being the kind of casually cruel that helps someone up by grabbing the knife sticking out of their shoulder also doesn't track for me. Basically I don't buy in to any part of Felicia's characterization or actions in this story. Which is not entirely Leth's fault; Dan Slott put this in place, but she is the one trying to make a go with it, and sorry, no.

That is obviously a big difficulty to have with this story arc, which is too bad. The back and forth between Patsy, Ian, and Jubilee was a lot of fun. The lengths they go to trying to keep Jubilee from losing control, taking advantage of all the random crap Bailey has thrown in her Bag of Infinite Holding, that was amusing. Williams got to switch between a range of expressions, using her chibi style a few times, some humor stuff, and some more subtle stuff in the calmer moments. I wasn't expecting the page where they climb up the page towards the top of the bag, so I initially started at the top, then realized I was going backwards. I would have liked the colors to be a little brighter, but I imagine it wouldn't be very bright inside some strange pocket dimension existing within a handbag.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Zac Gorman (dream artist), Michael Cho (trading card artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Taskmaster appears to be doing the rare mime routine called "invisible dirtbike jump". It's very complex, but I think he nailed it.

While Doreen and a host of super-heroes get trounced by Taskmaster, Mew was just trying to live its cat life, watching mice (Doreen and Nancy should probably talk to their landlord about that) and sleep. But then Tasky destroyed a wall of the apartment and set Mew loose in the big city. Mew ultimately helps Doreen to devise a way to defeat Taskmaster, although she gets poor Pizza Dog to be the one in actual danger to manage it. Either way, Taskmaster is defeated thanks to his not having a tail, which does seem like something he'd struggle to copy.

I got a good laugh out of Squirrel Girl being worried Taskmaster was going to copy her ability to debate with people and convince her to turn evil. Though she could have thwarted that by employing the same tactic the Swarm used against her. North writes a weird Taskmaster, though. Much closer to Dr. Doom than what I'm used to from Tasky. Maybe that's how he sounds translated through cat ears. They think everything sounds like arrogant boasting, because cats are also arrogant, and think they're hot stuff.

The way the panels are framed, with all the focus on Mew and whatever she's interested in, pushing the Taskmaster stuff repeatedly to the margins was a good touch. Especially since they did the same with a lot of the word balloons. I'm surprised Mew would be paying that much attention to humans that aren't talking about food or Mew. I guess just because the words are visible in the panel doesn't mean the character in it is necessarily paying attention. Although I think as comic readers we take it for granted that everyone relevant or necessary can hear whatever is being said unless the story tells us otherwise. But hearing isn't caring or comprehending, is it?

Mew's attempt to catch the mouse was one of Henderson's stronger efforts in an action sequence. Maybe because there wasn't dialogue, so she had more space to focus just on movement and the details. She draws animals in general very well. The bit where Mew struggles to get Pizza Dog to understand what she needs him to do, with the resulting chase scene was a nice bit of work. Nothing ground-breaking, just well-paced, and the panel of the rock starting to fall while Lucky is sitting on it confused has a Looney Tunes feel to it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

It Wouldn't Be Daredevil If Things Didn't Go To Hell

I finished Daredevil season 2. Spoilers follow if that even matters at this point. The ninjas showed up pretty much right after I posted those comments last week. Nelson & Murdock (and Page) fell apart right around then, too. I tended to sympathize with Foggy a lot, since he hadn't even wanted to take on defending Frank Castle, Matt and Karen talked him into it, and then Matt promptly dropped out of sight, leaving Foggy holding the bag.

The stuff I enjoyed most was the part with the Punisher (Jon Bernthal) in prison. The fight between him and all of Dutton's soldiers for one, but especially his interactions with Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio). D'Onofrio is out there chewing scenery, giving all these raspy-voiced speeches about "the law of nature" or whatever, and Bernthal just looks bored and impatient. It's all bullshit, he knows it, the audience knows it. We know Fisk is trying to use Frank to his own purposes, and so does Frank. And Fisk knows Frank knows, but he also understands Frank well enough to know it doesn't matter. Frank can't pass up the chance to get a shot at yet another person involved in the death of his family, who might have leads to still others.

Bernthal did well as Frank Castle. Ennis' aged, grim engine of destruction has taken firm root in my brain, but this is a Frank just starting out. I don't think he's reached the point where it goes beyond simply getting the people who killed his family until right at the end. The point when he burns his home down, burying that man and his life, that's probably the point when he really becomes The Punisher. The pain and the fury is a lot closer to the surface.

I was excited when Stick started talking about the Hand wanting to unleash something truly horrible. I envisioned some awful creature inside that giant urn, and the idea of Daredevil fighting a monster or demon sounded pretty appealing. Actually, when he and Elektra found that deep hole, I thought all right, let's have them fight the Mole Man. I knew that wasn't happening, but it was nice to dream for a moment.

Seeing Elektra (Elodie Yung) as a sort of free-wheeling, fun-loving type was a little odd. It made sense with the idea she and Matt met when they were younger and less obsessed, I guess I'm just used to seeing her as basically humorless. Yung did pretty well, there's a sense of someone who got a lot of mixed messages as a kid, and at some point said screw it, she's make her own choices. She and Charlie Cox had decent chemistry, nothing spectacular, but the characters situation is such a mess that might be appropriate. There's one scene where they're sitting together on Matt's couch, and she says she's the one who understands him. Up to that point, the camera was shooting them together in the scene, but after that, as Matt leans forward and away, the camera only shows one of them at a time for the remainder of the scene. Her insistence that he is like her, is how she thinks he is, which is counter to everything he believes about himself, drives the wedge between them. That was solid.

Stick's a lousy parent, poor planner, too. If the people Matt found being bled were important to the Hand, and Stick's supposedly fighting them, why didn't he show up to prevent their being taken back? Shouldn't he have his ear to the ground for such developments, looking for opportunities? If Elektra is leaving the country, why try to kill her? Either ask he nicely to stay, be honest with her, or let her go. Don't turn her into an enemy. But he and Matt both make some poor choices with regards to keeping secrets.

When Clancy Brown showed up as Frank's old commander, I thought that was a relatively benign role to bring Clancy Brown in for. Ha, I was more right than I knew, but I have to get one right every once in awhile.

Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) and Foggy's (Elden Henson) progressions were kind of interesting. Foggy, obviously, came into his own in terms of gaining confidence in himself. He's always had the ability to prepare, and the knowledge, but he needed Matt to sell it to a jury or a client. Now maybe he doesn't, which raises the question of whether he and Matt will remain friends. Foggy seemed to have a much lower tolerance for Matt's shit as he became less reliant on him.

As for Karen, this shift of her to becoming a reporter, a columnist was not something I expected. I can sort of see it, given her own experiences with people trying to frame her for murder, with Matt and Foggy fighting for her and others like her, and her helping them. Finding the truth, not letting people in power cover it up for their benefit, it would fit. Especially after she admitted to Matt how uncomfortable she was with some of the contortions the truth takes in the justice system, the way lawyers bend it. I'm not sure what all her time close to Frank will do. She seemed to think if she helped him find answers, Frank would stop killing, and she was very wrong. The truth she found was unpleasant to her, and while I think she will still pursue it, I'm not sure how it'll change her perspective on things going forward.

It was hard to look at the season as anything other than Matt failing on basically every level. He let his friends down on the Castle case, he didn't stop Castle. He was able to get through to Elektra, I guess, but ultimately wasn't able to keep her out of the Hand's clutches. Fisk is rebuilding his power from within prison. Matt seems to be continuing to ruin Claire's (Rosario Dawson) life by getting her involved in his problems. The moment when he decides to just hurl Nobu off a damn roof seemed significant, in light of his attempts to not kill people, and stop Frank from doing so. But maybe he figured the Hand had already died, so it doesn't count (or he was sticking to his, 'just this once' idea he pitched to Frank). He didn't object to Frank unleashing a torrent of headshots. I assume he's going to try and pick up the pieces of his practice and friendships, but he's going to have to deal with the knowledge he was ready to chuck it all in a trash can - including being Daredevil - to go run around the world with Elektra.

On the whole, there were some parts I liked, other parts (mostly involving the Hand) I didn't care for. I didn't like it as much as Luke Cage overall, but I also didn't think it was as thin in places as Luke Cage. There were enough plates in the air I didn't feel as much padding. Some of the fight scenes were pretty good, others less so. Matt fighting his way down the building full of angry bikers; Frank against all those guys in the prison, those were fun. But all the kick-flippy fights with the Hand blur together after awhile. Any one of them on its own was fine, but collectively they all were pretty similar.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I've Been Mulling This Over For A While

I was thinking about Jonathan Hickman's Avengers run recently. It seemed like something I could have gotten into. He was inclined to go big with the threats they faced, but the pacing seemed too slow, the cast too large. Subplots were brought up, then largely lost or ignored, because there didn't seem to be time or space for them. And there was this curious, "tell, don't show" approach to things.

The one I remember was at the point when the heroes were fighting each other - as usual - and then Hank Pym returns from some months-long journey across the multiverse. He'd been tracking some signal, and when he found it, he also found those Beyonders, casually wiping out a bunch of Celestials.

That seems like that could have been awesome. Hank surviving all sorts of harrowing things to find some answers, and he stumbles into a war on a ludicrous scale. With the levels of power being thrown around there, Pym could be obliterated six ways from Sunday without either side even noticing. Just escaping could have been an adventure.

But we hear about it after the fact. Just some thing that happened, you know, a while ago. Hank's here now, he's fine. No big deal. Hickman decided those pages were better spent on Reed Richards telling us how smart he is, and how much he sacrificed failing repeatedly (again, in flashback, because we weren't shown most of these failures). Or Steve Rogers being a grumpy, scowling old man.

It still works as a moment of establishing the enormity of the challenge facing the Avengers, I admit. The threat doesn't even regard them as an opponent, a threat, or anything at all. Entirely irrelevant. Which, of course, means it's a great time for the Avengers to rally, set aside their differences, pull some super-science out of their asses, and defeat these guys. I do not subscribe to the idea that when you get to that level of conflict Earth's heroes are useless except as a distraction for Adam Warlock or Thanos (the Starlin Approach)*

I think Thor and Hyperion did at least try to throw down with the Beyonders, but most of the heroes opted for building liferafts that would somehow survive the end of the universe. Which sounds a lot like giving up to me, but maybe "advancing in the opposite direction" is a better description. I guess Hickman wanted to focus on what people do when they can't win, how they make peace with that. And in that sense, Hank's escape, however narrow or exciting, would have been pointless. All it meant was the Avengers knew the nature of their end. Doesn't seem an entertaining path to take, though.

* Because let's be honest, Thanos and Adam Warlock are a couple of schmucks. The grape-chinned dumbass who follows Death around like a puppy (even Deadpool has more self-respect than that), and the tangerine imbecile who thought excising all good and evil from his soul was a great idea. No possible way it could backfire. But yeah, they're the ones who make things happen on a cosmic scale.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Must Be "Talk About Characters I Hate" Week

So I finally actually post about Steven Universe, and I decide to talk about this goober*, of all characters:

I don't interact with many other Steven Universe fans, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm pretty sure Lars is not one of the more popular characters. Which is understandable, because Lars is a complete jerk. He's rude to Steven, takes advantage of his coworker and friend Sadie's good nature. He apparently blows up at his parents so frequently they're tiptoeing around him like they expect a bomb to go off (although they named him "Laramie", so they kinda have it coming). He tries to play at being the cynical guy who hates everything to impress the "Cool Kids", who aren't actually impressed by that at all.

The series has devoted at least three, maybe four episodes by this point to him, all of which boil down to Lars maybe learning he shouldn't be such a jerk to people all the time, and should appreciate his friends or something. Except he has to learn the same damn lesson all over again by the next episode that focuses on him. It's a little frustrating, especially since most other characters that get that much focus make some kind of progression, their perspective evolves, something.

Maybe he resists it because all of it involves Steven meddling in some way. It had to be pretty jarring to learn that everyone (except Sadie) liked Lars better when he was acting like Steven. Because Steven had accidentally wound up in control of Lars' body. And when he found out and freaked out at Steven, everyone yelled at him. Maybe that's a difficult situation to take lessons from. Or, it's just difficult for some people to change.

For some reason, years ago, I read part of an interview online Garth Ennis did about The Boys. He mentioned people being mad that Hughie was, at the end, still making the same decisions. Ennis argued, as best I can remember, that people don't change that much. That Hughie would still be much the same guy he always was, for good or ill. It's not a universal rule, but I know for myself, attempts to move outside my normal patterns at social events don't tend to last long. I can try to be more involved, but after awhile, I drift away from the crowds to the periphery, where there's less noise, move breathing room.

I don't know if that's what's happening with Lars. We rarely see him making the effort to be kinder or more open before falling back into anger and defensiveness. But all the hints and nods to Lars having been friends with Reynaldo, or the times he's worried about how Sadie feels about him, suggest we're supposed to see it within him. He just has to chose to follow those impulses, rather than burying them under fear people will laugh at him over those personality traits. But on the show, if characters actually show a better nature, they tend to act on it when the chips are down. I'm not sure when, or in what form, Lars' nature will show through, but I believe it will at some key moment.

Which isn't much consolation to the people sick of having to see him learn the same lesson over and over again right now, but maybe it'll be something.

* Forgot to add my footnote. Someone retweeted another person who had screencapped someone in the comments for some Canadian news site. The comment was complaining that liberals were calling anyone who didn't go along with them goobers and slack-jawed yokels, and the tweeter wondered who still called people that. Answer is that I do, at least. Look, I get easily frustrated with other drivers and sometimes profanity and euphemisms for profanity don't work. And "Spud Hammlicker and his pumpkin truck" only fits in particular situations.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Possibly The Low Point For This Blog

Mark Waid said sometime recently, in regards to his writing Champions, that he could make us like Cyclops. My response would be no, no you can't. Actually, it would be hysterical laughter, then a negative response, probably involving profanity. That said, I am capable of feeling sympathy for Cyclops. I know, I was horrified to learn that as well. The teen version, who gets side-eye looks from everyone because of his older self, but also the older, now deceased Scott Summers.

Because Marvel made a big deal, coming out of Secret Wars, about this horrible, awful thing Scott Summers had done that made everyone hate him. Hate him more than they already did, I mean. Over that whole killing Xavier thing. Which, let's face it, he was possessed by the Phoenix Force when that happened, so he should be getting at least a partial pass for that one.

But Marvel released Death of X, and the answer to the question of what Scott did that was so awful was, apparently, he got a mutant codenamed Alchemy to render one of those Terrigen clouds harmless (though this may have gotten Alchemy killed), and then started to attack Black Bolt, only to be killed by him. Or maybe not even that, since it seems like Emma was making everyone think that's what happened, but Scott may have already been dead from exposure to the cloud.

Hardly seems like something for everyone to throw up their arms about. It doesn't even seem like the Inhumans pulled some p.r. move where they lied about what happened. People just got pissed at Cyclops for convincing someone to help destroy a cloud (one of two) that kills a specific segment of the population. I know humanity has not demonstrated a particularly high level of intelligence this year (or ever, really) but that's pretty damn nonsensical.

But the whole Terrigen Cloud mess is nonsensical. For how panicky, stupid, and generally hateful the average denizen of the Marvel Universe is, they seem remarkably sanguine about Black Bolt just deciding to release this weird cloud on the entire world that alters some people against their will, and kills others, without so much as a by your leave. Where are the calls for giant purple robots who hunt down and kill the Inhumans? Nuhumans, whatever. It's all stupid, but that's not new, and not really what I'm interested in here.

What would have interested me was if Cyclops' actions in Death of X had been a recognition that Black Bolt was making the same mistake Cyclops made. Because for all the things Scott Summers has recently taken shit for which he shouldn't, one thing he should take shit for was his plan in Avengers vs. X-Men. If you'll recall, the plan involved Hope using the Phoenix to make people into mutants, without bothering to ask whether that's what they wanted*. Does that wreck your life, that you now uncontrollably secrete acid from your skin? Well, too bad, Scott Summers decreed you take one for the mutant cause. Who is Scott Summers to make that decision for you? Good question, but sure, "Cyclops was right".

And here's Black Bolt, doing the exact same thing. Deciding he gets to change people's lives without their input, because it suits his purposes. There was a fair amount of discussion online about how Cyclops promised some "revolution" after his actions in AvX, and yet, there was no clear sign what that was. He and the other X-Men with him found some of the new mutants, and tried to train them and look after them. Sounds like business as usual for the X-Men. Even before Black Bolt unleashed a mutant-killing cloud**, what revolution has Scott Summers produced? There were more mutants, but there had been lots more mutants previously. Some of them were putting on costumes, some weren't. Some were doing good, some evil, some just trying to live their life. Some people hated and feared them, others didn't. All Cyclops ultimately accomplished was to make a selfish decision that fucked a bunch of other peoples' lives up.

So he sees Black Bolt's done the same thing, made the same mistake, and he tries to stop it. Black Bolt's is actually worse, because the cloud is actively killing mutants (although I'd imagine there were a few people who were killed by the mutant powers they received courtesy of the Phoenix, but probably not nearly as many). And so Scott tries to stop it, maybe even tries to make Black Bolt and Medusa understand why it needs to be stopped, but failing that, he's going to try and stop yet another person from, well the mistake is already made, but keep them from making it any worse. Stop it from hurting any more people. And maybe that kills him, or Black Bolt just can't see it yet, and he stops Scott. Given that Black Bolt is royalty, used to ordering people around, and the Inhumans historically just do whatever they want, whenever they want, I'm not sure he'll ever understand why he was wrong, but one can still try.

* We'll set aside how the plan only worked after Hope got some training from iron Fist and an assist from the Scarlet Witch, neither of whom were part of Cyclops' plan. In this particular case, we don't need to belabor Cyclops' stupidity in risking the entire planet on his cockamamie scheme. 

** And let's pause here to once again thank Reed Richards for leaving that little gift in the reconstructed Marvel Universe. Great hustle, Reed. Excellent quality control there. I may be too tired to belabor Cyclops' stupidity, but I refuse to pass up a chance to dump on Reed Richards for being a dumbass.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Foyle's War 2.3 - Bleak Midwinter

Plot: We open on Grace and Harry, a seemingly happy young couple. Grace works in a munitions plant, Harry works for a local mechanic. They have some sort of plan, but Grace is having doubts, and she's under the weather. Still, she goes to work, not the best idea when putting together fuses, and she suffers a catastrophic accident. But one of her co-workers, Hilda Greenwood, thinks there was something odd, and so she asks Foyle to look into it. Foyle was busy with a restaurant racketeer, someone selling turkeys that "fell off a truck", hopefully not the same truck that sheep fell off last week. The case landed the police a nice turkey, one Sam keeps hoping Foyle will let out of the evidence room. Or Constable Peters could let her in, after he recovers from the ass-chewing Milner gave him for eating evidence.

As for Milner, he has other problems. Edie wants him to spend Christmas with her family. That's not the problem. Jane Milner is back, and wants to be together with Paul again. And due to the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1937, as long as she wasn't away for more than three years, they can't be considered divorced simply because she walked out 2 years and 9 months ago. Paul is, not receptive, and tells Jane to stay away from him and Edie, 'or else'.

Yeah, I thought that was pretty stupid, too. It seems even more stupid when Jane turns up dead the next morning, her head bashed in with a brick. And it's even worse when Peters decides to start fucking with Milner by planting evidence linking him to the crime. Although it's interesting that Jane knew Grace and was.distraught over her death. What's also interesting is that when Sam, on Foyle's orders, attends Grace's funeral, she doesn't see Grace's mother, nor is she all that convinced by Harry's "grief-stricken" tirade at Grace's employer and foreman. Her perception turns out to be correct when she brings the car to have a radiator hose fixed, and just so happens to pick the garage Harry works at. Once he twigs she's with the cops, he tries to kill her, and things will escalate rapidly from there.

Quote of the Episode: Foyle - 'I do wonder why you felt it necessary to lie about the divorce.' Milner - 'I suppose it was just easier.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No, probably too cold in December anyway.

Things Sam can do: Be observant. Wheedle her way out of Foyle, some of the times. Fend off some crazy guy on his home turf.

Other: Foyle is really damn inconsistent about whether he and Sam discuss cases. He told her they wouldn't in the first episode, and he reiterates it her, but if so, he probably needs to stop letting her help If she's going to go to funerals and observe for him, then she should be able to discuss the cases she's helping with.

I really could not believe Milner would warn Jane like that in a public place, and even use the phrase 'or else.' Paul, you are a cop, you have to know better than that. At least when Mr. Baker warns one of his employees about blackmailing him, he does it when no one else is around. And he's a schmuck.

Foyle seems pretty steamed Milner lied about being divorced. Maybe he's just frustrated he has to investigate the murder at all. Or his opinions on marriage are showing. At one point, Edie comes to Foyle's house, essentially to him on blast for treating Milner like an actual suspect. Foyle brings up the fact Milner lied to her about being divorced, too. Her response is that Paul was lying to himself, but not to her. Foyle responds that he still lied. Which is not a particularly helpful thing to say. Edie's response is interesting, though. That Paul had convinced himself Jane was gone and out of his life isn't much of a shock. If he hadn't, I can't see him dating Edie. But if he believes it, to the point he isn't lying to himself, is he lying to her? I guess so, but Edie certainly doesn't seem terribly bothered by it. Because she knows Paul was done with Jane, to the point she tells him she'd understand if he had killed Jane. At least Paul had the decency to be horrified at the suggestion. Speaks well of him.

I can't figure Constable Peters. When Foyle burns him to the ground, he tries to explain it was just a joke, a way to get back at Milner, and then it got out of hand. Dumbass, you are implicating him in a murder, how do you think that's going to end? And he wonders why Milner continued up the ladder while he remained a constable.

Harry fancies himself a character Jimmy Cagney would play. Pity he's not the actor Cagney is, or people wouldn't see through him so easily. Not just Sam. Harry tries asking Mr. Johnson, his boss and Grace's lodger, to attend her funeral. Tries to play on the old man's sympathy, tell him how she thought of him as like a father. Johnson doesn't buy it for a moment. He tries reassuring his partner Eric, fails utterly. Tries intimidating Foyle, fails utterly, though he's hampered because Foyle knows something he doesn't. Harry's ultimately a strung out loser, just charming enough to skate by enough to get by.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Keeping The Nose To The Grindstone

Should I have saved yesterday's title for today? Today is the start of Year 11 here at Reporting on Marvel and Legends. My blog is almost to adolescence, which means, if it's anything like mine was, it will become reticent to share things with me and even more sarcastic and cynical. It's also going to stop trying hard in school in the 3rd quarter every year.

So what happened this year? I got a Real Boy job, and the world promptly stepped on the accelerator into a flaming pile of garbage. That figures, though I will choose to blame the current state of world affairs on the Cubs winning the World Series. Great work Cubs' fans; once again you have doomed us all.

I continued to not post on Saturdays, but this did not start a complete decay in the posting schedule. Yet. Which is kind of what I was afraid would happen. I would decide I could afford to skip a day every week, and then I'd skip another, and another, and so on. This year, there was a sufficient amount of stuff for me to talk about to avoid it.

I still haven't gotten to those alternates to the Favorite Characters list. I tried taking some new shots of the panels I wanted a couple of months ago, but they didn't turn out as I hoped. But I might finally be getting to buying a new computer, and so the long-promised Day of the Scanner might approach.

Stay tuned for me making the exact same promise this time next year.

I did start posting those League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-style teams every couple of months, and I'll probably keep that going for awhile yet. I'll have to transition over to movie characters or TV shows here before too long, but that could be fun.

I finished up the episode reviews of the Walt Disney Zorro series, and moved on to Foyle's War. That'll wrap up by early April. Haven't decided what I'll follow it up with. I have five different series in mind as possibilities. Comic book, movie, and book reviews will continue as I have them to review. I have a backlog of trades I might get around to reviewing sometime after the New Year. Currently they aren't in the same place as me, which makes it a little tricky. I didn't end up writing many stories (although going through the archives it was more than I remembered it being). Maybe I'll either hit some inspiration, or actually buckle down and just grind away. I might get to more conventions this year. There are something like 5 in Missouri in April alone.

Beyond that, I don't know what's going to show up. The usual stuff, me complaining about dumb shit Marvel's doing, probably. As always, thanks to all the people who read and comment, or even just read without commenting. You're a pretty swell audience to put up with all this. And with that said, here's some of the random stuff I wrote I liked this year, because it was funny or I thought I made a good point or whatever.

The Hood never learns
This never quite happened, but Bruno did cause some havoc with it
I'll need to test this someday
The only blog that argues about time travel AND squirrel longevity
Any time I can speak disrespectfully of Millar, I have to
Oh look, Geoff Johns spreading bullshit
Here I am advocating for more stories with Cable and Cyclops - I've gone mad
Given their recent track record, this isn't the accolade it once was
Hardly the stupidest part of Civil War II, but worth mentioning
I remain unimpressed by Ray Liotta and his vodka
I like grumpy, reluctant heroes
Friggin' Brad
Nebula should be the next breakout superstar villain

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Not The Culmination Of Years Of Work

Something I'd forgotten was that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I saw a bit more of Batman v Superman while at my dad's. It wasn't planned; he fell asleep before he moved the dog out of my room, and I wasn't sure where he was supposed to end up, and I don't like to disrupt his sleep, and there was nothing else on to watch, so there I was.

I got up to about the point where the title characters were beating each other to a pulp. I have to say, if Superman was really going to try reasoning with Batman, maybe don't do the aggressive hard landing with the clenched fists. Float down, hands raised, try to appear non-aggressive. I don't think it would have mattered, Batsy was spoiling for a fight, but it would have felt like a more legitimate attempt to settle things peaceably. I know, his mother was in danger, not necessarily thinking clearly at the time, fair enough.

I'm not sure about this, but I thought, during the fight, there was a moment where the first Kryptonite vapor grenade had worn off, and Bats is punching Superman with increasingly less effect. And I could have sworn Affleck did this hands in the air, "hey, let's talk about this," gesture, right before he got put through a wall. I may be remembering it wrong, that certainly doesn't seem in keeping with the tone of the film, but I laughed about it at the time.

There was a thing I noticed though, that kind of surpised me. Luthor figured out Clark Kent is Superman, accepts that as the truth, and it doesn't feel like much of a deal. Just a way for Luthor to get Superman to fight Batman. Which, yes, is the thing the movie marketed itself on, but Luthor getting that bit of information feels like it ought to be more important. Maybe it becomes a bigger deal later, at that point when Batman has a change of heart because he realizes Superman has a mom, too. Lex screwing up his own plan by putting Martha in trouble and giving the two guys he wanted to kill each other an excuse to make nice.

I guess the problem is the movie universe hasn't yet built this long-running hatred of Superman by Luthor to where it should be a huge deal that's he's found Superman's most-guarded secret.  There isn't really any sign Luthor's been throwing death traps, Metallos, or whatever at Superman since he emerged on the world stage. So it isn't that final, crucial piece Luthor needs to achieve victory over the hated alien that stands in his way. It's just some piece of the puzzle to get these two dopes to punch each other to death. Is Superman really fucking up Lex' plans that much prior to that? Does he even know he should be trying to mess up Luthor's plans? I guess Lex is trying to be proactive, compiling all this information on various super-heroes so he can deal with them before they become problems.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Shaving's A Pain, As In It Actually Hurts

I'm working my way through Daredevil Season 2 right now. Currently five episodes in, so haven't hit the oversaturation of ninjas I remembering hearing about (and am kind of dreading since Daredevil vs. ninjas is not one of my favorite things). I have generally enjoyed the Punisher, although him opening fire inside a hospital was a little jarring. Ennis' hyper-competent, extremely methodical version had taken deeper root than I thought. I've definitely liked Foggy Nelson so far, trying to stand up for the right thing even while being terrified. And they aren't playing some triangle thing where he's jealous of Matt and Karen; rather he's working to help nudge them together.

But let's talk about shaving, or not shaving, since Matt doesn't seem to be on speaking terms with his razor. He was in the flashbacks with Elektra, but in the present day, looking kind of scruffy. Maybe that's my bias, I tend to think of people with the stubble or that are on their way to having a beard as being scruffy. Mostly because I let myself get that way all the time, and I know it's because I can't be bothered to shave more than once every 4 days. Matt has to appear in court occasionally, and I don't know if juries respond well to scruffy attorneys.

Then I considered that Matt might not shave because, with heightened senses, including presumably the sense of touch, shaving might be really unpleasant. I know it's generally portrayed that Matt has learned how to tune out a lot of what he perceives because otherwise he'd go nuts. But early in the morning, after a long night of jumping around rooftops punching people, he might not be able to focus as well, and the sensations would be much closer and harder to ignore. It's been a long time since I bothered to use aftershave, but it wasn't enjoyable when I did. There's razor burn, or actually cutting yourself if you aren't using an electric razor. Maybe the smell of shaving lotion is just too potent, makes him nauseous in the morning. Admittedly, Matt gets beat up, cut, or shot on an almost nightly basis, and New York is no fragrant rose, but he probably doesn't want to start the day with more unpleasantness. He's trying to pull himself together for another day of playing a mild-mannered, sightless lawyer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams - Stephen King

I went to a Friendsgiving at Alex' two days before Thanksgiving, and someone had left this collection of short stories sitting out. There wasn't any cooking for me to help with, and there was so much noise the attempt to watch original MacGuyver episodes was proving futile, so I picked this up. I only got two-thirds of the way through by the time I left, but had the chance to work through the rest over the weekend.

It's a mixed bag, which isn't unusual with collections. Several of the stories are close to 50 pages, and I'm not sure how many of them needed that many pages."Mile 81" for example. I skipped a couple of the longer ones that didn't seem interesting in the first few pages, "Drunken Fireworks" and "Morality" to name two.

I still breezed through the book. The stories aren't difficult to follow, and while he could stand to shorten things up, King still has a style that is easy to read. Although having read a lot of his work in the past, it felt like I was trodding over familiar ground with a lot of the stories. "Bad Little Boy", with its evil antagonist whose goals are hard to discern and which humans can't do much more than slow or delay. "Mile 81) had that, too, to an extent. "Ur", with the technophobe English professor winding up with a very special tablet as well, but I liked that one more. Fooling around with multiverses is a trope I enjoy. Plus, the way King describes creatures or experiences that don't fit or belong, and how they make the main characters feel, it works really well for me. That ability to leave enough only hinted at so my imagination is doing the rest. I fill in for myself what that feeling would be for me, and the scene is more effective for it.

Besides "Ur", I enjoyed "Cookie Jar" the most. The ones of a slightly more fanciful nature, even with an edge of horror. Looking into another world and seeing the horrors there, not knowing what, if anything, they can do, or should do. In the story, an old man is relating his experience with it to his great-grandson, and I wonder how much he left out. He relates his experiences in World War 2, but leaves out exact descriptions of some of the things he saw there, and even if he told the kid some things about what he saw in that other world, enough to spark the kid's interest, he still probably didn't reveal everything.

There were also, just in the stories I got through, at least three that dealt with either a couple being unable to have a child, or suffering a miscarriage after getting pregnant. Maybe that's been in King's work a lot in the past - I know in It, Beverly's and her husband weren't able to have a child, and I feel like there have been others - but encountering it as part of that many stories in such rapid succession was a little strange.

Even if you're a Stephen King fan, I wouldn't describe The Bazaar of Bad Dreams as a collection you have to rush out and get. But if you find yourself in the mood for some of his short stories,  it could scratch that itch.

Monday, December 12, 2016

What I Bought 12/7/2016

So I did manage to find half the books I was looking for last week. The two Marvel entries. We take what we can get.

Nova #1, by Jeff Loveness (writer), Ramon Perez (writer/artist), Ian herring (colorist), Albert Deschesne (letterer) - Sam really looks like Viewtiful Joe there. Who Rich would be familiar with if Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 were in continuity. And maybe it is. Who can tell with Marvel these days?

Sam is helping Ego with an infestation, but has to hurry to school, but forgot to wear clothes under his Nova suit. So he humiliates himself in front of a girl, then does it again when he tries talking to her. Meanwhile, Richard is trying to adjust to being alive, and his father is dead now(?!) But it seems like whatever enabled Richard to be alive again is an infection, that may have escaped. Some remnant of the Cancerverse, or more specifically, the Many-Angeled Ones would seem the best guess.

OK, the problem here for me is this issue is 70% Sam, and only 30% Richard. Now I'm not one of those Richard Rider fans who hates Sam. Although I do tend to consider the fact he was a Jeph Loeb created character a strike against him, much like Red Hulk. That aside, I got nuthin' against him. However, in the words of Bulldozer of Easy Co., I got nuthin' for him, either. I suppose I should be grateful. His family and school related hijinks seem more similar to what I was expecting from the current Blue Beetle than that book is providing. But I'm not really into watching Sam strike out with a girl. If the book could do more of the outer space action stuff, that would be fine.

Ramon Perez and Ian Herring's combined art efforts are the high points. Perez switching to a more cartoonish style, similar to Chris Eliopoulos' maybe, for Sam's daydream sequence was nice, but just in general. The fight scene on Ego worked pretty well as a small piece of the issue, the design on the Sidri was nice, the way the colors make them this swirling shadow monster. Plus the "PLOIK" sound effect as Sam ineffectually tries blasting it. I like how Perez draws Richard's version of the costume. He still has the shoulder spikes he had after getting all of the Nova Force in Annihilation, but now they shift and mold depending on where his arms are. So they don't stab him in the neck when he extends his arms forward. It's a little thing, but it's a nice touch, and shows an attention to detail.

Will the book be pretty enough for me to stick with it long enough for Richard to get some more page time? We'll see.

Deadpool #23, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli (artist), Paolo Villanelli (artist/inker), Christian Dalla Vecchia (inker), Guru-eFX (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Wade, I don't think Santa was the one who developed the bioweapon.

Wade and Preston are cleansed of any traces of the virus, Wade more painfully than Preston, and try to figure out who Madcap got it from. They fail utterly, and then accuse Adsit of hosting Madcap. But no, he's just stress-eating. So Wade calls a time-traveler to produce a cure for the virus - Stryfe. It's never a good thing when Stryfe starts showing up in your comics. Perhaps this is a ploy by Madcap to hurt Deadpool some more - by killing his audience.

I don't know why Wade shot Adsit's telescope. Because he's stressed and reverting to bad habits I guess. That's been happening for awhile already, as the Avengers gig falls apart, or because Wade can't keep this many balls in the air successfully for this long. Or maybe because he just doesn't care enough.

The artwork is fine. Lolli and Villanelli draw everything fine. Nothing feels terribly inspired in the art, but this whole issue feels like padding anyway. Here's a panel of Deadpool and Preston attacking wizards. Here's a panel of Wade harassing some poor jamoke at the Hellfire Club. Like being forced to dress in those stupid period outfits with the frills and powdered wigs isn't punishment enough. Point being, let's just get the fucking big showdown started already. Let's have a little more of Madcap versus Deadpool in this story about Madcap versus Deadpool. I would like to say something more about the art, but there's nothing that jumps out at me. Nothing that I really like or hate. It tells the story, everything is easy to follow and understandable, but nothing extraordinary.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Foyle's War 4.2 - Bad Blood

Plot: We open on some fenced off military compound, where a man named Simon sits, blinded. He urges Mark to keep a close eye on things, because Captain Halliday is a fool. What they're doing is setting off a bomb, that releases a cloud, and the cloud kills sheep. One of the dead sheep falls out of the truck transporting it.

Back in Hastings, Sergeant Brooke is on the prod to take every unnecessary light bulb in the station, for the war effort. We're saved from following that by the arrival of an Edie Ashford, you knew Paul Milner in school and has come to him because her brother Martin is under arrest for murder. What's more, the man he murdered is Tom Jenkins, a local war hero for shooting the lock off the door of a sinking ship, enabling 12 more men to escape. Martin won't admit he did it, but won't deny it, either. Problem being, the murder was in Hythe, under the jurisdiction of a D.C.S. Fielding, who is extremely hostile to Foyle's arrival, but allows him to nose around.

What Foyle finds is that no one is particularly outraged by the death of Jenkins. Instead they all insist Martin is innocent. Len Cartwright, who served on the Navarino with Jenkins, and claims to owe his life to the man, went to Fielding directly to protest Martin's innocence, though he couldn't shine any light on who is guilty. Even includes Elsie Jenkins, the wife of the deceased, is certain that Martin, a Quaker, couldn't have done it. Her father is more concerned with how first his six cows came down sick, then they were stolen while he was in town. Foyle notices someone sitting in a car watching the farm, but it'll be some time before he catches up with that person. And during this stint on the farm, Sam cuts her wrist on some barbed wire and falls deathly ill. As if she didn't have enough to worry about, deciding whether to accept Joe Farnelli's engagement proposal. Considering Sam seems to have contracted the same thing as Elsie Jenkins, and Elsie didn't last long, Foyle's going to have to hop to it. But with mysterious notes being left for him, Martin proving reticent to talk, and the man in the car difficult to capture, that won't be easy.

Quote of the Episode: Halliday - 'And although I grant you we may have made a mistake, it looks as though we got away with it.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No.

Things Sam can't do: Avoid contracting anthrax. Successfully shoo chickens off a car roof. Successfully decline a proposal. Rough week for Sam.

Other: I was going to say Farnelli's moving fast, but we're up to August 1942, so it's been five months since the last episode. Maybe that's why my first inclination when he proposed to Sam was that it was a load of hooey, but he seems to genuinely like Sam. Although I notice the idea of staying in her home country doesn't seem to be entering his mind. I'm not sure how Sam would do in California, probably need a lot of sunscreen.

I forgot to mention last week that Sergeant Brooke has taken over for Sergeant Rose behind the desk. No idea what happened to Rose, but Brooke was transferred from London, and finds Hastings a bit too quiet. Which, of course, makes it funny when he utterly fails to stop the fellow in the car from escaping on foot when they come to his door. He also takes over driving Foyle around while Sam is sick. No word on how his driving compares.

That Simon fellow is blinded because he tested an organophosphate gas on himself, and stayed in the room with it a bit too long. Which is, not very smart, to say the least, but I admire that he used himself as the guinea pig rather than experimenting on someone else or some other animals.

There are three Quakers in this episode. Or maybe four, I'm not clear on whether Edie is a Quaker like her brother or not. Martin Ashford, who is a conscientious objector who works at the farm/military base. Len Cartwright, who renounced his faith to serve. Which I don't entirely follow, because he was on a merchant vessel in the convoy, because Foyle makes a point of saying merchant vessels only carry one firearm, and it's locked in a case on the bridge. So I'm not clear on what Len's role or rank was. And then Henry Styles, the man in the car. Who does not seem to be serving at all. He knows some things about pathogens, but it's terrified him. He doesn't want to be involved in what's being done, but feels like he has to keep an eye on the work. I'm not sure if his response is strictly a function of his religious beliefs, or if he'd have been open to serving in some other capacity if he had the requisite experience.

It's interesting to watch how Foyle operates. In the first interrogation of Martin Ashford, Milner tries the direct approach, asking Martin about whether he killed Tom, trying to play off their shared childhood past (which Martin claims not to remember). This fails utterly, other than Martin stating he did not kill Tom. Foyle comes at it from the side, asking about the argument in the pub that started it, about where Martin works. This isn't hugely successful either, but Martin does seem a little more responsive, maybe because he feels on safer ground with those topics, not as likely to give anything away.

And Foyle approaches Fielding the same way. They're old friends, though you wouldn't know it from how aggressive Fielding is at first. But every time Fielding tries to start a fight, or drive a wedge, Foyle gives way. He refuses to criticize how Fielding is handling the case, refuses to say he's there to take over, or that he thinks Fielding is wrong. Fielding wants something to push back against, but it's like punching a curtain. He lets Fielding air the aggression out harmlessly, then maybe they can talk like reasonable people. Fieldling is burned out, fed up, and I very nearly picked his assessment of the world for quote of the episode ("Humanity stinks.")

In lighter developments, Edie and Milner appear to be starting up a romance. A little surprising given halfway through the episode Paul was grilling her about why she lied to him. But such triflings are no match for love!

Friday, December 09, 2016

What I Bought 12/6/2016 - Part 2

Today, characters try to solve problems by talking to people reasonably. This will work in one book, and not in the other. 50% is still a better success rate than we manage in the real world.

Ms. Marvel #13, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Mirka Andolfo (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I understand the point of the cover, but it feels very unlike most of this book's covers up to this point. Much more typical superhero.

Kamala's brother-in-law to be appears abruptly in her English class because someone is gerrymandering the districts right before the election. This someone turns out to be a hate-spewing candidate who is working with Dr. Faustus and HYDRA. Geez, I thought HYDRA Captain America would have dealt with that sort of thing by now. So you can kill cool villains like the Red Ghost and the Super-Apes, but not losers like Dr. Faustus? I bet if John Walker were HYDRA Cap, he'd have killed Dr. Faustus for us.

Anyway, with Nakia and Mike's help, Ms. Marvel gets a bunch of people to actually go vote and they elect a third party candidate to mayor, and deal HYDRA another setback in their plans for world domination - by taking over a town in New Jersey. Maybe they should have focused on one block in one town in New Jersey. Really start small, like ACROSS did in Excel Saga.

As things go, it's fine. I like Andolfo's art a little better here than I did last issue, mostly because there aren't as many facial expressions that seem off. Mike does seem to have been slimmed down, though. I think Andolfo might be the first artist on the book I've seen who doesn't draw Kamala as having large feet when she stretches out her legs. Alphona and Miyazawa for certain both draw her feet as also being large, which makes sense, she'd want a stable base to maintain her balance. The range of people Andolfo draws as they attempt to get out the vote was pretty good.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #14, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Clayton Cowles and Travis Lanham (letterers) - Is Doreen shaking her fist at the Enigmo, or signaling to some unseen forces to charge? You decide! Crap, that's a voting reference.

There is an Enigmo not interested in world domination. He split off from the others long ago, and wants to help our heroes. Scott comes up with a plan for the Good Enigmos to gradually convince the other Enigmos to abandon this plan, but it crashes on the rocks of the Good Enigmo not being able to merge with the others any longer. So, huge scrum in Toronto, literally, as our heroes win by tricking all the Enigmos into merging into a Giant Enigmo, which promptly causes their leg to snap from the weight, and giving the good Enigmo a chance to force a merge and argue inside their collective mind for not taking over the world.

I feel as though I remember this whole thing about the vulnerability of being a big human from John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque's Blue Beetle run, when Jaime tangled with Giganta? Although that was explaining that magic is why her bones didn't crack. Whatever, not a complaint, just something I remembered. I did like this quite a lot. The fact Scott's "heist" is remarkably simple and this frustrates Doreen. So Scott specifically comes up with an extra thing she can help do. Brain Drain's constant lamentations on the futility of existence. Those feel as though they could get irritating, but they're being worked in while the plot is still going, so it avoids the sense of padding I was getting with the Ghost Bandits in Atomic Robo. The use of giant-sized toys to help win the day.

While I would certainly agree the new costume Brain Drain got in the last page wrap-up has a better mask than his old costume, I miss the cape. It's not as though he's going to be worried about getting sucked into a jet turbine. He'd simply accept it as an inevitable sign of the futility of accoutrements when we are all destined for entropic decay. Also, Maureen, trying to set Doreen up with Scott is a huge "NO." Even if he weren't written as kind of a loser by Spencer these days, his daughter isn't that different in age from Doreen. No, just no. The designs on all the action figures were pretty sweet. Galactus with moose antlers is awesome, to the point I hope the next time he appears in this book, Doreen sees him with moose antlers rather than those usual Kirby tuning fork things that come off his helmet.

Anyway, I look forward to next issue, even if it's going to involve Taskmaster getting jobbed out to a freaking cat. But after all the losses to Deadpool, the recent defeat by X-23 in two pages, and that time he got taken out by Rick fucking Jones, I suppose he's used to it.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

More Plans To Save Towns Should Involve Sabotaging Trains

I bought Shanghai Express back in August, expecting to review it sometime soon. Then I kept seeing other movies on TV, or reading books, and I kept pushing it back, and now here we are in December.

Shanghai Express stars Sammo Hung, who also directed it, and it's a comedy kung-fu western, that's the most succinct description I can give it, though it probably sells it short. Sammo is Cheng Fang Tin (or Ching Fong Tin), a sort of ne'er-do-well who returns to his dying hometown after several years with plans to revitalize it. The plans involve a gambling house and casino, possibly with ladies of the evening, and forcing a trains full of wealthy passengers to stop there (using explosives).

Problem being, there's a trio of Japanese envoys on the train with a valuable map, and a fairly large force of bandits out to get it. There's also a government agent pursuing Cheng, the town's police force was setting fires as cover to rob the bank, and once the fire brigade took over as cops, they began hounding Cheng. The end of the film is a big fight between the various forces of good to drive out the bandits, and get the map back from the Japanese afterward.

The movie is rarely serious, especially any time the thieving police chief is involved, but enough of the gags hit to make it work. There's some good physical comedy, some decent dialogue ("Are you giving this to us? Why are you asking him if you already have it? If he agrees, then it's not robbery."). There's one scene in particular, when an adulterous husband gets caught by his wife (with a woman who isn't his mistress), and the whole bit where he lies his way out of trouble is fantastic. I was rolling on the floor from it, even watching it for the second time.

The fight scenes are pretty high quality. There's enough variation between the people who fight well, with all the punching and awesome flips, and the people who are just flailing around however they can manage. But it all looks good, so the fights work as both comedy and cool fight scenes. And any character can end up on either side of it. And a guy went for the "kick sand in your opponent's eyes to blind him" and ahd it fail completely. Which I don't know if I've ever seen. Usually the bad guy tries it, and it works for awhile until someone shouts encouragement to the good guy and he focuses. This time it didn't even get that far, which was good on novelty alone.

I did feel as though these were meant to be characters with backstories established in earlier films. Like, some of them seem to know each other, or allude to things we don't get to see, and I was supposed to know what was going on already. It doesn't hamper the story, you can follow what's happening now easily enough, it's just that sense I'm missing something.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

What I Bought 12/6/2016 - Part 1

Just some catch-up with some books that came out last month I hadn't found copies of yet. We'll cover two more on Friday, and I'll get to something from this week on Monday. Hopefully by then I'll have more than one of the comics I wanted that came out this week.

Atomic Robo: The Temple of Od #4, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colors), Jeff Powell (letterer) - I actually went with the variant cover for this one, not because there was anything wrong with Wegener's - could have made an illegal fishing joke pretty easily - but I thought Hollie Mengert's cover was kind of sweet.

Matsuda, with Dr. Lu back in his grasp, plans to have the doctor fix the damaged reactor, and proceed with his plans to help Japan conquer the world. But forces are aligning against him. Helen and Zheng were captured with Lu, and don't stay captured long. They're roaming his compound. The Russians have finally decided to get off their ass and do something about this secret fortress they've supposedly known about for months. And the Ghost Bandits have brought Robo to Matsuda, ostensibly as their prisoner, but really as a ruse to get themselves, Robo, and a burlap sackload of dynamite into the compound. Matusda doesn't seem too concerned, though.

Positives include the Ghost Bandits, who continue to be mostly delightful in their complete selfish amorality and secretiveness. Whether trying to gouge Matsuda over Robo, or gouge each other over how much of a bonus they get for doing dangerous stuff, they're pretty much full of greed and bravado at all times. Wegener draws some good expressions in there, and the scene where the Soviets notice their shells aren't exploding, and it turns out Matsuda's soldiers are catching them and throwing them back was cool. And the color work in the final panel, where the green of Matusda's Odic field is contrasted with the explosion of the dynamite hurled at him. It's a lovely swirl of red against green, and it just looks violent and angry. It's a nice cliffhanger.

But the whole thing feels padded. I enjoy the bandits, but it still feels like Clevinger and Wegener devote as much time to them as they do because there isn't enough else there to fill out the story. Which is odd. It seems like Helen and Robo crossing paths after a few years ought to be a little more relevant. Not in terms of some love triangle, but at least old friends meeting up in a place they wouldn't have expected. I don't know, it's just empty.

Blue Beetle #3, Keith Giffen (story and script), Scott Kolins (story and art), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (colors), Josh Reed (letters) - We've all been there, waking up in a spooky cave facing a bunch of angry green bug guys.

The scarab carries Jaime somewhere underground, where he is nearly killed by the mob on the cover. This understandably spooks Jaime enough he willing goes to Ted to talk about it. Ted isn't terribly helpful, other than revealing a little of what Dr. Fate told him. This doesn't serve to calm Jaime much. He tries talking to Paco, then to his dad, then to Brenda, none of which seems to help much. Paco doesn't seem too concerned, his dad does, but can't offer much advice, and Brenda alternates between impatient and somewhat supportive. Which is still a huge leap forward for the supporting cast in this book. And Giffen is going to add the aged-up versions of Sugar and Spike he was writing elsewhere recently to the cast, if that was something you were wanting more of. For me, all the bits of those stories I saw made Sugar seem like a massively unlikable person, so not real eager for her to join the cast.

It was nice to see Ted trying to stand up to Dr. Fate and argue on Jaime's behalf. Part of me wanted to see Ted slug Fate, but that wouldn't have been productive or bright. The problem here for me is the struggle between the plot and the characters. I'm curious about the mystery of what the scarab is in this reality, why Fate's worried about it, and what the Horde is (although something in the Horde's design screams "Parademon" to me, and please, no more Fourth World for awhile). On the other hand, I don't like most of the characters in the story, at least not based on what we're seeing here. They're coasting on residual affection from the pre-Flashpoint series. Giffen and Kolins are shooting for everyone to bicker, but have it come from a place of affection, and they aren't sticking the landing often. This issue was a bit better, but adding Sugar's acerbic attitude to the mix isn't going to help, unless it gives the rest of the cast someone to band together against. Which is what villains were for, I thought.

They're still using those black dots on white as the background on almost every page. Not sure why. In the panel where the Horde's master is getting in Jaime's head, it works, because one of the panel borders is gone, and the dots are like a presence encroaching on Jaime's reality. And so them being there all the time could be a deliberate symbol of this "master's" reach, or presence. But there are other panels where one of the borders are missing, and I can't tell what it would mean there. Ted repeating that he doesn't know enough to remove the scarab safely on page 11, or the panel where Jaime admits to his dad he's afraid he's losing control of the scarab. Although it could be significant that in the Kord panel, the area immediately around him is a white background, like he's banishing the presence by refusing to panic and endanger Jaime's life.

Next issue promises the origin of the Blue Beetles? Do they mean multiple scarabs, or multiple heroes calling themselves Blue Beetle? Am I a big enough sucker to buy the issue and find out? Yeah, probably.