Sunday, January 31, 2016

Zorro 2.12 - Zorro Fights A Duel

Plot: Ricardo pays a visit to Anna-Maria, a box under his arm. He discovers Diego there already, enjoying a bowl of chocolates set out on the table. Diego had said he was going to inspect some cattle with his father, but Ricardo had also said he'd be otherwise occupied. And Diego told Anna Ricardo was out visiting his grandmother in Santa Barbara, so the lies are flying pretty thick. Ricardo tries presenting his gift to Anna, an empty box with a Z carved on the interior. It was supposed to be full of chocolates, and it's about then they realize none of them set out that bowl of chocolates, so it must have been Zorro.

Seems like harmless fun, but Ricardo takes candy theft seriously, leading to his calling Zorro a coward. Then he writes up a public proclamation stating as much, and challenging the outlaw to a duel, which he posts all over Monterrey. Sergeant Garcia observes that since Zorro is sure to answer the challenge, all he and Reyes must do is follow Ricardo until Zorro appears, then capture him. Unfortunately he says this aloud, so some bandits overhear and decide it's a good plan. So Ricardo soon has a real procession following him everywhere.

Diego has other problems. Anna wants him to escort her to the duel (she was initially against it, but when Ricardo refused to be talked out of, decided she wanted to see him humiliated). Ricardo expects Diego to serve as his second, and the sergeant would like Diego to help him capture Zorro. And he has to show up as Zorro, naturally. One other problem: Ricardo's no slouch when it comes to violence. Not only is he a fine shot (when shooting at defenseless pine cones), he's an expert with both whips and swords, putting Bernardo and a Monsieur Gerard, respectively, to shame in sparring sessions with those weapons. Which has the effect of getting Diego more interested in the duel, since he isn't certain he can win.

But he'll have to get Ricardo away from his troop of followers to find out. Reyes and Garcia are easily dealt with by convincing them it will be easier to follow Ricardo by following his second (meaning Diego), since Diego is retiring to his room at the inn for the night. He doesn't know about the bandits, though, so they're still a looming issue as Zorro and Ricardo square off at the ruins of the old mission. Zorro still handles Ricardo without much difficulty, disarming him fairly quickly, but then the two have to contend with the bandits. Zorro does most of the work, but Ricardo does stop one that was about to shoot at Zorro, and our hero rides off, at least glad his old friend isn't a total scumbag.

Quote of the Episode: Anna-Maria - 'You men are always using honor as an excuse to act like little boys!'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (5 overall).

Other: I was pretty pleased with Garcia when he had that brainstorm of following Ricardo. Then he went and opined that Ricardo might be an even better swordsman than Zorro. C'mon, sergeant, though I suppose he's never seen Zorro's best. He's not good enough himself to bring it out, and none of his commanding officers have been either. Monastario had his moments, but Zorro mostly seemed to toy with him. Ditto Guerro last week.

Along similar lines, Gerard says he was the fencing instructor to Napoleon's court, I guess as way of a resume. Was Napoleon's court known for its fine swordsmen? For all we know, the guy got the position because he knew a guy who knew a guy. At any rate, it was going to be an exceedingly hard sell that Ricardo is that good a swordsman. The fight isn't bad, and you could draw comparisons to a match between two chess masters where it's still settled in relatively few moves (Zorro does seem much more patient and inclined to wait than normal). Still, Ricardo's the one who tries to hop on the remains of a wall, then falls off, then gets snippy when Zorro chooses to let him regain his footing before continuing. He says he won't thank Zorro for not running him through, but it's like, you're the moron who decided to take the battle onto the wall, don't blame him for your making a bad decision.

I suppose it's likely he's still angry about how close he came to dying while pretending to be Zorro last week. Plus the fact Zorro not only saved him, but then made him look the fool for trying to co-opt Zorro's identity into his stupid scheme.

That said, his argument that there's a difference between his jokes and Zorro's is a load of nonsense. He claims it's different because he does his stuff face-to-face, but that's not entirely accurate. Ricardo is always trying to put one over on Diego, but also always trying to pretend it's an accident or a coincidence. If he had managed to get Diego with the soot from the bellows last week, he would have pretended it was mere happenstance. He and Diego would both know it's a lie, but he'd still try it. Is that really being face-to-face about? Besides, trying to use that as an excuse reeks of the same attitude you hear from people who say cruel things and try to justify it by arguing that they're just telling it like it is. They're still being asses, they're just trying to not be called on it themselves.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What I Bought 1/26/2016 - Part 2

You will be shocked, shocked! to learn things are not going well for Deadpool, in the present, or in the year 2099. So, more common ground between the two of us?

Deadpool #5 and 6, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler, #5), Scott Koblish (artist, #6), Terry pallot (inker, #5), Guru-eFX (colorist, #5), Nick Filardi (colorist, #6), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I'm reasonably sure that trap would work on the Rhino. Maybe the Trapster.

So Wade actually brings Eleanor to his townhouse/complex/HQ and waits for Madcap to try and kill her. At which point, Quicksilver whisks her to safety, so Wade's still a better father than Magneto. Probably Reed Richards, too. Wade tries to fight Madcap, who apparently looks hideous under his mask now (I didn't even know that was a mask), and blames it on his time spent in Wade's mind. Wade does have a big plant to hack Madcap into pieces, then throw him in some plastic box Stingray built, but it fails miserably, as Madcap incinerates himself with some alien weapon Deadpool keeps on him as a possible tool to kill himself {Edit: Whoops! It was to kill the demon Vetis if he came back. Sorry}. Everyone seems fairly certain Madcap will reform at some point, and Wade's left wondering about all the cryptic references to arson Madcap made, as well as the other things he did while impersonating Deadpool.

The other issue jumps to 2099, where the new Deadpool is Wade and Shiklah's daughter, who hates her dad and keeps him chained in an apartment watching C-SPAN, and wants to know where her mother is. Also she has an army of Bobs, and there's someone hunting her down. My guess is Preston, still in an LMD body, but it could be Shiklah.

Let's get issue 6 out of the way first. These pastiche issues are always hit or miss with me. I didn't love the Kirby one, but loved the "stop time-travelin' Hitler from killing Nick Fury" one, and the one where he teams up with the Heroes for Hire to fight The White Man. But this just did not work. I would say I'm too fond of the era being mocked, but outside of Spider-Man 2099, I don't really give a rat's ass about the 2099 books. But the art on the action sequences is a confusing mess, and if that was a deliberate choice (which I figure it was, because I know Koblish can do better), it was a bad one. Don't make your damn action sequences hard to follow just because the art of the period you're mocking was bad. All the small panels, and let's have the Bobs initially as weird, glowy outlines to get us wondering what they are in the midst of all it.

And maybe it bugs me a little because while the past issues of this type have taken place in the, well, past, this one's in the future. The former work as a way to introduce some character or problem that is about to pop up and give Deadpool issues, but with the latter, we find out these things that should probably be shocking or sad, but it's just kind of a thud. Oh, Wade and Shiklah had a daughter, and she hates her dad. OK. Ellie died and that made Wade go crazy. Sure. Maybe it's the fact none of that is terribly surprising to me. Of course things are going to end badly for Deadpool. That's how things always go for him, it's just he's currently doing better than he ever has before, so he has further to fall.

Rolling back to issue 5, The question I have is whether Madcap picked up some part of Wade's personality and took it with him when they separated previously? That's why Wade's been able to keep it together and not screw up everything he's got going so far, because the destructive, crazed and violent part of him got absorbed by this other, even crazier, even more unkillable guy? Or this could just be a lesson for Wade. For much of his life, he's been largely indifferent to the suffering of others, justifying that because of what he experienced at the hands of the Weapon X program. Wade passed it on, essentially, and even if he's grown beyond that now (mostly), that doesn't erase what he did in the past. So here's a prime example. Someone who, like Wade, was caught in a situation outside his control (being stuck in Deadpool's brain), and Wade may very well have tortured the guy, rather than doing his best to tolerate him. And now he has to deal with the consequences.

He's also having to deal with being a public figure right now, and we can see that wearing on him. He's in a situation where someone pulls off his mask, lots of people see his face, and no one is screaming or puking. They want pictures with him! But it means he has to play to the cameras. He's used to putting on masks, the humor hiding the pain and all that, but this is different. He has fears, and anger, and he can't do anything with it, because there's too many people watching, and they all want a piece of him. And he has to keep giving it to them.

I'm surprised that the Mercs for Money also speak in yellow dialogue balloons when they were their Deadpool outfits. I thought that was supposed to represent a specific timbre of Wade's voice. Unless he's even mass-produced and farmed that out.

Also, I really, really hope that Madcap's comment about having been up to lots of stuff while dressed as Deadpool isn't Duggan signaling he's going to use that to retcon out Deadpool appearances he doesn't like. Don't be like Jim Starlin when it comes to Thanos, Mr. Duggan.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Eric - Terry Pratchett

Eric wants to summon a demon to make it grant him three wishes. The current ruler of Hell, Astfgl, is quite keen on the idea, because he figures the demon he sends can then bend the boy and his skills to their advantage. But Astfgl has also been quite busy changing how things are done in Hell, away from conventional tortures, towards actual soul-crushing approaches. Which has caused a fair amount of resentment among the former elite. So they instead arrange for a cowardly wizard, Rincewind, who was trapped outside his home dimension to be sent instead, and insure that things do not go as Astfgl plans.

I've never read any of the Discworld books prior to this, but Pratchett's quite good at making sure whatever backstory or rules of the characters and universe the reader needs are provided. I never felt lost while I was reading it. A little confused about what the deal was with Luggage, mostly in terms of why it was so mean, but I understood why it would turn up where it did. The writing tells you what you need to know about the characters through their dialogue and actions. It was clear this wasn't the first adventure Rincewind had been drawn into, and I'm guessing it wasn't his last, but it works well as a standalone story of its own.

There's quite a lot of humor in it. Pratchett's good at setting things going one way, then providing a humorous twist. Or sometimes it's simply a matter of looking at something common from a different angle then you might expect, and going with that. He does a play on the Trojan War, but offers up certain commentary on the tactical skills (and casualty rates) of brave commanders versus cowardly ones. I'm not sure I totally agree with the conclusion - I think there have been plenty of commanders who were cowards but still had high casualty rates, because they weren't anywhere near the actual fighting they were commanding - but he writes it well.

I had a sense reading the book there was something in there about the difficulty of affecting change. How one can try to move things in a new direction, but the inertia and resistance will drag things back to their prior state. maybe it's about the nature of humans to resist changing themselves. Rincewind believes running away is the best option in most any situation, and he staunchly resists any circumstance that tries to make him behave different. The Luggage follows him, and won't be stopped by anything, even the end of existence. Eric would probably be the acid test. Whether this whole experience had any impact on his life's trajectory.

'Rincewind sighed. He'd tried to make his basic philosophy clear time and again, and people never got the message.

"Don't you worry about to," he said. "In my experience that always takes care of itself. The important word is away."'

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I Bought 1/26/2016 - Part 1

Not a blistering start to the New Year on the comic front. Only six books in the first three weeks. Let's start with a couple that came out two weeks ago, each of which has been riding mostly on my affection for the art. Can the writers start carrying their half of the water?

Descender #9, by Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (illustrator), Steve Wands (letterer and designer) - Jeez Quon, try not to be so mopey. Enjoy your space voyage. It may be the last one you ever make.

And the machine resistance even hooked Quon up with a new robotic limb, for which he is extremely ungrateful. TIM-21 is extremely upset they left Bandit and Driller behind, and Telsa is no help. TIM-22, on the other hand, is a good listener, and shares some of his experiences, though I can't help wondering if he's trying to manipulate TIM-21. I feel the pleasant pink lighting that suffuses the room during their conversation is meant to make us as the audience find it touching, and take it at face value. While Telsa plots to escape with either of the TIMs, they reach the machine homeworld, hidden within an asteroid. Which I find pretty cool in theory. Strange worlds hiding beneath the surface are something I guess I like. Probably because I wonder what's beneath my feet.

Back on Gnish, the deceased king's son takes the throne (and the hairpiece, and it's color makes me suspect it's a Trump reference). The new king immediately declares he's doubling all bounties on robots. So Andy and Blugger better pick up the pace if they're going to find TIM first. To that end they find Driller and Bandit (as well as that UGC lieutenant), and Andy mentions there's a chip in bandit that could be used so TIM could always find him they can probably reverse to find TIM. Or, rather, Andy's ex-wife can probably do that.

It's interesting to track the changes in TIM-21's speech patterns. When he's yelling about their having left Bandit behind, and him not being able to reduce his emotion settings, because that's not how he was designed, he still seems like a young, frightened kid. But when he's talking to TIM-22, and he starts discussing Telsa as lacing in certain social graces, that sounds like someone very different. I don't if that's strictly a matter of his emotions being under control by then, like a person's, or if it's meant to imply something about artificial life in this universe. Do they think in a more orderly fashion when around other artificial life forms, but humans throw them off somehow? This is a similar train of thought to the one I had a few issues back about Driller's speech patterns seeming to expand the longer he was around TIM. Of course, he's around plenty of robots now, and seems to have regressed, but he's also spending all his time killing those robots. That not quite double-page splash of him taking out five robots at once was very nice. The splash of yellow and red at their throats was a nice contrast to the general grey tone of their bodies, and it reminds the reader of blood, makes us remember this is gladiatorial combat, whether the contestants are organic or not.

Overall, one of the stronger issues of the series for me, which is encouraging.

Illuminati #3, by Joshua Williamson (writer), Shawn Crystal (artist), John Rauch (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Is the Frog-Man on the cover? He's not a villain! I'm going to blame this on Reed Richards and Franklin, since they created this new version of the Marvel U. Great work guys, between that and the whole thing with the Terrigen Mists being actively harmful to mutants now, you're doing a bang up job.

The crew escape the Fenris club with relatively little trouble. Not surprising since only loser super-villains would go to a club run by those creepy siblings. But now there's strife among the roster, so the Hood gives everyone 24 hours to decide whether they're in or not. So we see what most of them get up as they decide whether to stick with this. Thunderball wants to use the rewards to form his own technology-producing company, Enchantress is out for more power and revenge, the Mad Thinker wants access to new science to expand his boundaries, and Titania doesn't seem to have anything else. So they all come back, the heist is just getting started, and here's new Thor. Let's take odds that the Hood tipped her off to be that distraction he's telling the team they need.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the writing. Enchantress seems off - she says she hates running from a fight, but Amora's struck as the sort to avoid direct conflict when she can just seek revenge from the shadows or through proxies - and I'm not sure about the Mad Thinker. The search for more knowledge fits, but his ragged, disordered appearance not so much. And I would expect an LMD based on Eric O'Grady to spend more time making excuses for stupid crap he does.

The Hood's line of bull seems right, though. For all my feelings that he's never been the big wheel he thought he was, Parker did always show a knack for being able to read people, and use that to manipulate them. That came in handy for getting him out of the trouble he landed himself in by doing stuff without knowing who he was dealing with first, but it's still a skill he seems to have. Titania and Thunderball seem about right. Both seem like the type to recognize that at some point, they aren't getting what they want out of being costumed crooks, and it's time for a change. So it's 50-50 on the cast.

I still like most of the work Crystal is doing with the art. Making the rubble from Titania hitting the ground form the "SMASH!" sound effect was a good touch, and the scowl he gives Amora, combined with the green Rauch has her eyes emitting when she describes what she'll do with her full powers, that was good. The Hood's face remaining mostly in shadow during his conversation with Titania, even when the hood was pulled back, feels significant, but I'm not sure what it represents. He's talking about knowing he'll get busted someday, but he wants to grab as much as he can and enjoy it before then. It could be a load of crap, meant to convince her she'll never get that happy home with the Absorbing Man she was hoping for, but it sounds pretty legit for him.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I'd Be More Wary Of Accepting Power From Him

I had this dream a week or so ago where I was creeping through this darkened basement of an abandoned and crumbling building. I was also Daredevil, though I wasn't seeing things in radar sense, if you were wondering. So maybe I was really Iron Fist, dressing up as Daredevil again. I reached a door which seemed to open into an empty room, albeit one with something glowing softly just ahead of me. I moved forward a bit, heard something behind me, and turned to find Dennis Rodman.

Yeah, I don't know, either. I'm pretty sure the dream was influenced by playing Dishonored, because as I was creeping along I was even holding the billy club the same way Corvo holds his sword when he moves in stealth mode. Which would make Rodman the Outsider in this, which seems appropriate. Otherworldly being with motivations and powers I can't comprehend? Sounds right.

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Sounds of Silence" Was Just A Song Title, Not A Suggestion

On more than a couple of albums I've bought, the final track will consist of a song, then a long stretch of silence, and then another, "hidden" song. The length of the silence varies, from two minutes up to seven on some of them.

I usually listen to music when I'm driving, so it isn't the worst thing, except that I put the album in to listen to music. If I wanted silence, I could have put nothing in and kept the radio off. Mostly, though, I'm just curious at the logic behind it. Is it a tradition going back to live performances, the performers seemingly leaving or being finished, then starting up again to the delight of the remaining crowd? A special reward for sticking around until the very end? It doesn't require any effort on my part, all I have to do is keep driving and letting the album play. It's oddly placed for an intermission, which I've also seen on several albums. Little bits that are under a minute, maybe a conversation or bit of music, but those are normally somewhere in the middle, and there's still something going on during them

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Zorro 2.11 - The Flaming Arrow

Plot: The episode opens on the new Comandante, Luis de Guerro, who we immediately learn is a man much concerned with personal appearance, judging by the amount of time he spends getting his mustache just right. Also, yet another officer who can't be bothered to put on his own boots, since he makes Garcia do it. Later that day, we see Ricardo bring his horse to the blacksmith, who is out to lunch. Then Ricardo notices the bellows, which produce a lot of soot. And then he sees Diego coming down the sidewalk. So he gets around the corner with the bellows and waits, meaning he doesn't see Guerro step out in front of Diego and come down the sidewalk. As it turns out, Diego's the only one who gets a laugh, and Ricardo's out 200 pesos.

Undaunted, Ricardo is soon trying to goad Diego into spearing a straw man with a spear, and even convinces Anna Maria to offer her kerchief as a favor to the one who hits the target dead center. Again, Guerro butts in, and he does indeed hit the bullseye, only to find himself driven off the back of his horse, because Ricardo built the figure around a wooden post. He does avoid anymore fines but riding away, but this prank doesn't earn him any points with Anna Maria. It doesn't help Diego much either, as both men are compared unfavorably to Zorro. But Ricardo, apparently unaware that he's a dolt, has another plan. He has sent a love letter to Anna Maria's cousin Milana, who is visiting, but has addressed it as being from Zorro. He plans to serenade her that night, and tells Diego to take Anna for a moonlight stroll, then bring her home during his performance, thus souring her on the fickle Fox. I'm nearly blinded by the brilliance of this scheme, and it surely would have worked, if only Diego didn't immediately go tell Sergeant Garcia that he just so happened to know exactly where Zorro would be that night.

Both plans proceed. Ricardo dresses as Zorro and croons to Milana. Diego brings Anna Maria home during this, but she doesn't believe for a moment it's actually Zorro. So forget what I said about the plan working if not for Diego. Even Garcia realizes almost instantly this isn't Zorro once he and Reyes have the man at swordpoint, but agrees with Diego it'll be good to play a joke on Ricardo for once, so off to jail with him. The joke turns sour the next morning. Guerro is all too ready to believe Ricardo is Zorro, despite Garcia's explanations, and orders the joker put to death that day, without a trial. He also restricts Garcia and Reyes to the cuartel, and will hold them responsible if Ricardo isn't successfully executed. I guess Reyes was already out and about when that order was given, because he's able to find Diego and Anna and bring them to speak to Guerro, to no effect. As with the sergeant, Guerro suspects them of trying to save an outlaw who has saved their lives in the past. He then orders the two of them confined to hotel rooms, with guards placed outside.

So things are looking bad for Ricardo, and he seems resigned to his fate. But as the rope goes around his neck, a flaming arrow strikes it, and there's Zorro on the roof. Sergeant Garcia deftly throws off the aim of several lancers, and keeps them from intervening when Zorro squares off with Guerro, under the pretense of giving their captain some room. Guerro is no match for Zorro, and receives a warning not to try executing a man without trial again, or else. Ricardo attempts to thank Zorro, but is rudely forced backwards into a large tub, and as he sputters, Zorro asks how anyone could think this clumsy fool was him, before escaping over the walls once more.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'I don't know what you're up to Ricardo, but uh, you had better tread softly. You're playing with fire.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 1 (4 overall). On the Captain's tunic, up over the lungs, with the promise to cut it deeper next time.

Other: That was rough of Guerro, telling Garcia he and Reyes were responsible if Ricardo wasn't killed. Judging by what we've seen of them, the quality of soldiers in the Spanish Army isn't that high, so I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd screwed up building the gallows. That was why I always hated group projects. All it takes is one lazy asshole and everyone's in hot water.

Not that the officer corps is much better. Good commanders seem as rare as an honest cop in Gotham City. Other than Toledano, we haven't seen one that was worth a damn who lasted longer than five minutes. Briones was a bully, Monastario a tyrant. Ortega wasn't even a real officer, but a sadistic crook (although the guy he was impersonating was supposed to be all right, but again, he was killed). And Guerro, a stuffy jerk overly concerned with personal appearance and his own pride. Maybe the state of the soldiers isn't surprising, considering. Having high morale with leadership like that would be tough.

I have mixed feelings whenever Sergeant Garcia is able to be useful by pretending to be clumsy. I feel bad for him, because it means he knows what people think of him, and it's not great. You'd have to be quite an oaf to mess up the aim of three riflemen by accident, just by drawing your sword as you give an order to fire, but apparently no one finds it out of the question for him. On the other hand, it means he's clever enough to know they think that, and use it to his advantage. Given how often his commanders are corrupt or just abusive, it pays to be able to work against them without them recognizing it.

Spare a thought for poor Milana. I'm sure at some point during all this it became clear the man singing to her wasn't the real Zorro. Which had to be a disappointment, considering how much she was enjoying the serenade. And it was all just part of some stupid plan by Ricardo to improve his chances with Anna Maria. Really shitty behavior on Ricardo's part. The attempts to humiliate Diego aren't exactly the mark of a great person, but at least Ricardo is open about those. He's not pretending to be someone else, he's not hiding behind another's image. And Diego knows to expect this nonsense from Ricardo, so he at least has a puncher's chance of dodging the pranks. Milana never saw it coming.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I'm Not A "High Chaos" Kind Of Guy

I played through Dishonored again last week, aiming to get the "high chaos" ending. My reasoning was, I wanted to kill Lord Pendleton. Normally in the game, I spare his two brothers, then he tricks me into fighting a duel in his name, and then he and the other "Loyalists" betray me. So I wanted to kill him, but in low chaos, he's already dead by the time I reach him.

Of course, the trick to high chaos is killing lots of people. Not just specific targets, not just a few guards I can't find another way around, but lots of people. Any guards I can, random people on the street. More corpses, more plague rats, more panic. So I managed it, but it was depressing. My stealth kind of went to hell, because I took chances I wouldn't to try and kill this guard or that guard, to up the body count. Besides, why bother being sneaky? If more guards show up, I'll just kill them too, right?

The city gets steadily worse. People I could help escape the flooded districts in low chaos, are dead already in high chaos. Emily, the child Empress, sees Corvo as a monster of shadows. Samuel the boatman hates my guts, though I would be more concerned if he didn't spend so much time before and after missions telling me so-and-so needs to die, or deserved to die. Then he gets pious about the killing after. Oh, every shore you touch, you bring death, is that it? Well then maybe you should get your old ass out of the boat and go deal with the Lord Regent yourself, if you don't like how I do it.

I thought it was pretty funny that, at the end when the Outsider explains the future of the world I've brought about, it shows Corvo standing at Samuel's grave, looking sad. Funny because, on that playthrough, I killed the guy. He was giving me a lot of static about being worse than the people he was taking me to kill, and I knew from a walkthrough I'd seen once that as soon as I stepped off his boat, he'd send up a flare alerting everyone to my presence as a final "fuck you." So I killed him before I got off the boat. He was dying of plague anyway (which is was supposed to be why I was standing over his grave looking sad).

That's one of the interesting things about playing through a game like this again. I know what characters are going to do, and sometimes that alters how I approach them. I knew Samuel would do that, so I killed him. The whole reason I took this approach was because I knew what Pendleton was going to do, and wanted some payback. Payback for things he had done on a previous playthrough, but not yet on this one. I'm turning into Cable.

I never particularly enjoy killing random civilians in games. It's not something I could get into with the Grand Theft Auto series, for example. I end up killing lots of people in the first-person shooters I play, but in those games, pretty much anyone I can shoot is trying to shoot me, too, so it can at least be framed as self-defense. But in more stealth-oriented games, I tend to opt for non-lethal, if possible. I like feeling sneaky, and the great majority of the people in those games haven't done anything to incur my wrath, so why kill them? Also, on a practical note, killing people can be noisy, which means more fighting, which means a greater chance of dying. And maybe I want to save ammo for some point when I can sneak past.

But in general, I don't want to make life worse for the random people inhabiting the world I'm playing in. It's not really my style. If I play through again sometime in the future, I'll switch back to a more lowkey approach.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

If The Ending Didn't Surprise, At Least It Did End

I got a chance to read the final issue of Secret Wars last week (I guess there will be spoilers, if you care). So hey, it's finally over. I'm not sure it even matters at this point. Hickman and Ribic dicked around and took so long finishing it that the rest of the Marvel Universe has moved on to deal with the fallout.

Which feels appropriate. My general impression of Hickman's Avengers run was things did happen, but off-panel. A lot of characters sitting around talking about what they had done, and hey, here's a bit of a flashback so you can see bits and pieces. Hank Pym takes a trip through the Multiverse for months to find out why universes are dying, we don't accompany him, we just find out about it secondhand once he gets back.

So with "All-New, All-Different" Marvel already going for over three months now, Secret Wars is kind of reduced to another flashback. We know Miles Morales is in the Marvel U. now, and oh yeah, here's Miles getting here. We haven't seen Reed or Sue, here's where they ended up. It makes for a bit of an anti-climax, but between the Merry Marvel Hype Machine, and the endless series of Big Events (and my own desire for the whole thing to just be done already), maybe that was always going to be the case. It was never going to end everything, obviously, and it couldn't change things too much from what Marvel deems most profitable either. So, shuffle a few of the deck chairs and hope for the best?

On the positive side for me, there were a few interesting mini-series, and I was able to read them and largely ignore the event itself. That was nice. On the downside, there was the mass canceling of all their ongoing series. Some of them only for a couple of months, but I still resent that I didn't get to read those books those months because of Secret Wars. I have no idea whether that's Hickman's fault. It really feels more like a decision made by the higher-ups, but at the same time, Hickman apparently wanted to write a story where he ended the Marvel Universe, so maybe he expected them to shut the regular books down to go along with that. I don't know. Whether it's on him or not, it was another level of annoying, even beyond the usual irritation that comes with your favorite titles doing event tie-in issues. At least with those, you still have the creative team you like (presumably), working on the characters you like, and hopefully they can spin something good out of the whole mess. Not as much of an option here. Even as few Marvel books as I was buying during the middle of last year, I'd say they still cost themselves some of my dollars, just because I bought even fewer of the mini-series.

I've watched the series with a bit of curiosity because of the fact that Doom did outdo Reed early on. Doom was able to attack the beings destroying universes (with the aid of Molecule Man and Dr. Strange) and defeat them, and saved millions of lives. The best Reed and his Illuminati buddies could come up with was some little lifeboats to save a few thousand people, and they couldn't even manage that right. Of course, once Reed and Doom get down to it at the end, it turns into Reed talking shit about how he'd have done it better than Victor, because he wouldn't have tried to grasp the power so tightly and keep it all consolidated (because Reed shares all his inventions with the whole world, like intergalactic space travel), and blah, blah, blah.

Some of that's my antipathy towards Reed Richards. Kelvin Green observed once that Reed is somehow exempt from that peculiar quirk of the Marvel Universe where arrogance is punished. If Spider-Man decides stopping a burglar isn't worth his time, that burglar will kill his Uncle Ben. If Victor von Doom refuses to listen when Reed says there's a mistake in his calculations, it will blow up in his face. But when Reed refuses to listen to those who say his spaceship needs more testing on its protective shielding, it's his friend who is turned into the orange rock monster. It's the same basic error -a belief he can't possibly be wrong - but he doesn't get hammered for it the way seemingly anyone else would*. The man calls himself Mr. Fantastic, and the Living Tribunal (or whatever physical representation you want to assign such acts to) looks and says, "I'll allow it."

I understand that if Doom is the bad guy - and I guess he is, because he built a world with a lot of unnecessary hazards in it, and expcts everyone to worship him - Reed is the person you bring in to confront him. But at the end of the day, it feels like Doom and Molecule Man did most of the hard work, and here comes Reed Richards to try and play the Big Man who is going to do things right (although it's still going to come down to Owen and I guess Franklin, since he's the one with the power).

I think I'd have rather seen Reed keep goading Doom, and Victor does it himself, just to prove Richards is wrong. "You believe I cannot create, that I cannot send the majesty of Doom out to a thousand new universes? Behold your folly, Richards!" Instead it's Doom admitting Reed is better than him and relinquishing the power, and Reed working with his kid and Molecule Man to create new universes. Reed wins again, even if I'm not sure he deserves it, but what else is new? Reed is like Gladstone Gander, Donald Duck's lucky cousin, the one stuff always works out for, whether it ought to or not.

Anyway, the thing is over and done. I should just be happy about that.

* And at least Doom could have argued a) he was still just a college kid, and b) he was building a device to communicate with a soul in Hell, which is probably not a field with a lot of earlier work to use as a stepping stone, and c) he was doing so to talk to his mother, which had to put some strain on him. Reed can't really use any of those arguments, he just wouldn't accept he was not correct about something.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

There Were Surprisingly Few Drug-Induced Deaths

I watched Wolf of Wall Street with some coworkers over the weekend. I think they got it in their heads to watch it because the night before, they had all been going on about how great an actor DiCaprio is, and a different coworker started ragging on him, in part because, as an Irishman, he was pissed Leo kept taking Irish roles that ought to be going to Irish actors, damnit. They were all at least a little drunk, as you might have guessed.

It's a well-acted Scorcese movie about a bunch of guys being really awesome salesmen and using that to sucker people into buying crappy, horrible stocks, and make themselves tons of money. The movie didn't do anything to disabuse me of my notion that, so far as people like myself are concerned, the stock market is just a big shell game. Three-card monte in a fancy suit. It works for these guys, though, enabling them to spend large amounts of money on prostitutes and drugs. Much of what they're doing is illegal, but they're rich, so even when the FBI comes down on them, it doesn't amount to anything. DiCaprio's character, Jordan Belfour, says near the end that he was initially scared when he went to prison, because for a moment he forgot he was rich, meaning of course, he went to rich guy prison, with tennis courts and stuff. I didn't forget that at any point during the film. I was actually surprised he went to jail at all.

It's a funnier movie than I expected, though most of the stuff I laughed at was them getting doped up in various ways and acting like idiots. Especially the scene with the really old ludes that had become delayed reaction drugs. Although, I was hoping all during that scene that Jonah Hill's character would die. For whatever reason, I don't like Jonah Hill. Every character I've seen him play, I've wanted to see get punched in the face repeatedly, and he's not even usually playing that bad of a guy! But he was here, so that was nice. It didn't seem egregious to want that particular guy to die.

The movie is remarkably effective in making me almost like these guys. The camaraderie and friendship was impressive, and at times I'd catch myself almost admiring it. Then I'd remember these guys were total assholes and decided it would be fine if they all died together in a coke binge or something.

Jordan doesn't really learn anything, except maybe to be more lowkey about scamming people. Which is why he ends up doing those seminar things where you teach people how to be successful realtors or whatever. I wasn't expecting some major character turn - this is based on a real guy, so a neat character arc was out the window - but at some point I expected he would decide to take what he had and get out? Which was foolish, Jordan's defining character trait seems to be an absolute confidence in himself, that he can figure out the loophole, or talk enough bullshit to cloud the issue until he can escape. Given that, I shouldn't have been surprised he kept on as he had, just changing a few details of how he's making his pitch.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Lost City of Z - David Grann

Early in the 20th Century, there was an Englishman named Percy Fawcett. He led several expeditions into the Amazon, initially just trying to better map the region and some of the boundaries between countries. But later, he was looking for the remains of an ancient civilization he was certain had existed there, and which he dubbed “Z”. In 1925, he, his son Jack, and Jack’s friend Raleigh went back into the jungle, and were never seen again.

For whatever reason, the particulars of this story have driven hundreds of people to search for Fawcett and Z over the decades, and it’s cost many their lives. Grann is a reporter who read about the story and grew intrigued enough to start trying to track it down. So there’s a parallel narrative here, as Grann moves back and forth between telling the story of Fawcett’s life, and his own work trying to determine where to start looking, and what happened on his own trip into the Amazon.

Grann goes into the arguments there have been over whether there could have been a major civilization in the Amazon, and how those have changed over the decades. He talks about other explorers of the region, and Fawcett’s suspicion and jealousy towards some of them. He covers Fawcett’s success and missteps, his tendency to be unforgiving of anyone not as driven and physically resistant to the challenges of the Amazon as him, and the shift in Fawcett’s perspective on Z. Fawcett seems to initially base his theory on at least some sound evidence, pottery shards he finds on plateaus, the accounts of early Europeans who describe an Amazon much more populous and developed than what he was encountering. Later, maybe because of what he saw while serving in World War I, it shifts to a Grail quest quality, where he’s just going to chase it as far as he can, no matter what.

This is seemingly a quality shared by several subsequent people who went looking, maybe even Grann to an extent. The difference being, he seems to realize it, and question that feeling. Grann's description of his search is interesting for how often the people he approaches for records, or Fawcett's correspondence, clearly regard him as just another nut chasing Fawcett. Then there are the people who've never heard of Fawcett, but when Grann describes what he's trying to do, can't understand it. Either way, people end up thinking he's a little odd.

‘In contrast, an Amazon explorer, immersed in a cauldron of heat, has his sense constantly assaulted. In place of ice there is rain, and everywhere an explorer steps some new danger lurks: a malarial mosquito, a spear, a snake, a spider, a piranha. The mind had to deal with the terror of constant siege.’

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Misunderstanding's Between Him And Reality

I was listening to "Misunderstanding" by Genesis a couple of weeks ago, which isn't unusual in itself, but I started thinking about the lyrics, and I'm wondering if we're sure the guy in the song is actually in a relationship.

Ostensibly it's about this guy who doesn't know it's over between him and his partner, because (take your pick) said partner won't come right out and say it, or because he's too dense to take the hint. So he waits in the rain for hours, but she never shows up. But then there's the whole section that ends with him seeing some guy "just leaving" her place. He's been looking for her, but started in the places 'they always go', before trying to call her at home, and only after all that's failed, does he actually go to her home. This strikes me as an ass-backwards way to go about finding someone you are allegedly in a relationship with. I could see, depending on the time of day and their schedule, visiting where they work first. But not just wandering through various bars and parks hoping to run into them.

It makes me think this relationship is all in this guy's head, and he's actually some creepy stalker. She should probably have called the cops on him by now, but has been opting to avoid him, not answer his calls, change up her schedule, stuff like that. Which isn't healthy for her, or for him, since he needs to deal with the truth, but some people are too nice for their own good.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Zorro 2.10 - The Practical Joker

Plot: We start with a guy trying to rob Diego at knifepoint. What, again? This time, however, Diego’s not getting beaten with his own sack of traveling money, and judo flips the mugger. It turns out to be an old friend of his, Ricardo del Amo, who Diego thought was in San Francisco, but has come to Monterey, for some reason. Whatever the reason, it’s worked out well for Ricardo, because on the ride down, he met a beautiful woman and fell in love. And now, here is his friend Diego, to help him serenade the young woman and, if necessary, run blocker on her uncle.

But perhaps Ricardo isn’t so fortunate, because the woman in question is Anna-Maria Verdugo, having opted not to accompany her father to Spain after all. She and Diego are more than a little surprised to see each other, but also pleased, to Ricardo’s discomfort. He and Diego start puffing up their chests and verbally jousting, as Anna-Maria watches, amused, before suggesting an early morning horseback ride. Back at his hotel room, Diego is keeping poor Bernardo awake by going on about how lovely Anna-Maria is, when here comes Sergeant Garcia, to arrest Diego. He’s been accused of horse thieving, by a Senor Caesar, though the accuser is nowhere to be found when they return to the garrison. Which doesn’t let Diego off the hook, and he spends an unhappy night in jail. Bernardo’s attempt to sneak him a file inside a sausage at breakfast is ruined because Diego won’t stop pouting long enough to notice Bernardo signaling to him, and then it gets worse. Garcia mentions the full name of the accuser was Julius Caesar, and while Diego tries to convince Garcia this is all a prank, here comes Ricardo, Anna-Maria on his arm, just shocked to see Diego in jail.

The plan may not have worked as well as Ricardo hoped, since Anna-Maria seems at least somewhat disappointed in him for doing such a thing, and Garcia is none too happy at being used for a joke, either. He has payroll to deliver today! As punishment, Ricardo’s sent to retrieve Diego’s horse so they can go on that ride. While cutting a needle from a cactus to put on Diego’s saddle, he overhears two men (who were lurking outside Diego’s hotel when he was arrested) discussing a plan to relieve Garcia and Reyes of the payroll. Ricardo tries to warn the sergeant, but Garcia dismisses it as another joke. Unaware of this, Ricardo, Diego, and Anna-Maria prepare to set off, but Bernardo convinces Diego that Zorro should keep an eye on the sergeant, so he ditches his friends. As it turns out, Ricardo and Anna-Maria find Garcia and Reyes first, tied to a tree, Garcia still sure this is all a joke. Ricardo chases the bandits, and here’s Zorro, and between the two of them, they handle the thieves easily. Anna-Maria was right behind them, and she’s quite happy to see Zorro, something he’s only too happy to use to his advantage. So Ricardo is left to watch the bandits, and Zorro rides off with the beautiful lady.

Quote of the Episode: Anna-Maria – ‘He’s behaved himself. In fact, he’s been quite sweet.’ Diego – ‘Well that’s when he’s most dangerous.’
 
Times Zorro Marks a “Z”: 0 (3 overall).

Other: There was one “baboso” this week, when Reyes believes Ricardo and starts to run and tell the Commandante. I feel bad for Corporal Reyes. He just wants to go back to Los Angeles. This is the second time he’s been tied up, he was shot once, and if he hadn’t been, he’d have been digging his own grave. Their commanding officer for a time tried to use them as bait to be murdered. Monterey has not been kind to him.

Poor Diego, getting mugged again. Former Adjutant Rico was right, those stands in the plaza are a breeding ground for crime. If only people had listened to him, but he was a man ahead of his time. Relax, I’m joking. Rico was a power-hungry, patronizing, totalitarian conniver, as well as a buffoon. When we first see the two bandits, I thought they were men Ricardo had hired to bear false testimony against Diego, or were going to attempt a jailbreak to make him look more guilty. They don’t specify which “him” they were referring to, so it could have been Diego or Garcia. I suppose that’s a bit far to go for a humiliating joke, but Ricardo also thought putting a knife to his friend’s throat was funny, so clearly the guy is a bit twisted.

After Bernardo’s “file in the sausage” gambit failed, he went so far as dressing up as Zorro to try mounting a rescue. Fortunately, the whole mess had been cleared up by then and Diego was free and happened to see Bernardo as he left the garrison, or that could have gotten ugly.

Ricardo’s been in Monterey for about five minutes, and already gotten plenty of people in trouble. At least next week it looks as though he’ll be the one in hot water.

Friday, January 15, 2016

2015 Year In Review - Part 5

As always, these categories are relegated to what I bought this year. Why would you even expect me to list something I hadn't read? That wouldn't make any sense. For trade paperbacks, it's open to anything I bought this year, regardless of what year it was released.

Favorite Ongoing Series (minimum 6 issues published):

1. Ms. Marvel
2. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
3. Daredevil

Not a lot of options this year. 6 total (the other 3 being Deadpool, Descender, and Starfire). It was really close, and I might change my mind if you asked me next week, but right now, this seems right. Relaunches count as a separate series, so tough luck, Ant-Man. {Note: Ant-Man would not have come close to cracking the Top 3 anyway}

Favorite Mini-Series:

1. Marvel Zombies
2. Atomic Robo: Ring of Fire
3. Master of Kung-Fu

Again, fairly limited pickings. Probably a Top 2 would have been sufficient, because there's a fairly sizeable gap between those two and Master of Kung-Fu. I had to give Marvel Zombies the edge over Robo because of how I didn't love the first issue of Ring of Fire, and I haven't seen the final issue yet. Clevinger and Wegener are usually money on the endings, but there's always a chance I don't like it. I already know I liked the end of Spurrier and Kev Walker's offering.

Favorite One-Shot:

1. Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas
2. Empowered Special #8

Those are the only two options. Agents of Atlas may have benefited from low expectations, but I was more entertained by it than the Emp Special.

Favorite Trade Paperback/Graphic Novel:

1. Bandette Vol. 2, Stealers Keepers, by Colleen Coover, Paul Tobin, Ryan Jorgensen, and Tina Alessi
2. The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: King Radical, by Christopher Hastings and Anthony Clark
3. Locke & Key Vol. 6, by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, Jay Fotos, and Robbie Robbins
4. Copperhead Volume 2, by Jay Faerber, Scott Godlewski, Ron Riely, Thomas Mauer
5. Wild Blue Yonder, by Mike Raicht (story/writer), Zack Howard (story/art), Austin Harrison (story), Nelson Daniel (inks), Jolyon Yates (inks assist), Thompson Knox (letters)

Oh, the top 2 were close. The sheer ridiculousness of Dr. McNinja almost won out, but Colleen Coover's art was the difference maker. Wild Blue Yonder narrowly edged out Station 16 for the final spot. Air combat in dystopian futures generally beats Soviet time travel shenanigans mixed with horror.

Favorite Writers:

1. G. Willow Wilson
2. Christopher Hastings
3. Ryan North
4. Jay Faerber

Faerber's making the list not only because of Copperhead, but also because I tracked down his and Mahmud Asrar's Dynamo 5 series in back issues over the summer, and enjoyed it a lot. Hastings is good at triggering that part of my brain that just wants to see the craziest stuff, and he's pretty funny. But I think Wilson did very well with some emotional weight, and more serious scenes, in addition to being able to make me laugh on occasion.

Favorite Artists (minimum 110 pages):

1. Chris Samnee
2. Erica Henderson
3. Dustin Nguyen

That was a pretty easy top 3. If Nguyen had drawn more in the style he employed on stuff like Lil' Gotham, I might have nudged him ahead of Henderson, but as it is, I like artists who can do comedy, and she had much more opportunity to show off her ability there than he did. Honorable mentions (for the artists who didn't make it to my entirely arbitrary page limit): Scott Wegener, Kev Walker, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2015 Year In Review - Part 4

I think the biggest difference in my buying habits this year was I'm not as inclined to stick with books that are just "meh". Where I don't love them, but I don't hate them. Or there are parts I really enjoy, but other aspects I don't. The increased prices helps there, but I think I've finally realized after awhile, I have to accept what the book is, and it won't magically become what I want it to be if I wait long enough. And there's so much other stuff out there, so why waste my time and money? Go try something else.

Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1-5: The second mini-series of the three, with Michael Moreci and Kyle Charles writing and drawing it this time around. They jumped forward several decades to a research expedition sent back to the colony. Once there, the members of the party find out they've been sent under several false pretenses, and that they're woefully unprepared for the threats. They do at least manage to learn what the beings from the other side of the Anomaly are after, but I don't think it's going to make much of a difference, since nobody went back to Earth to tell anyone.

High point: I thought there was some really nice work done on the colors by Matt Battaglia, effectively creating an unnerving, eerie atmosphere. If I'm being charitable, the presence of the forest which brings out what people desire was at least effective in conveying how strange these creatures are, if they can somehow create that, aided by the fact the humans seem to have no more of a clue how it works than I do. If it's supposed to be them stepping into something they don't understand, that would be appropriate.

Low point: Starting with a completely new cast of characters from the previous mini was an interesting choice, but I don't think they took enough time to flesh out most of them. You could argue they were all pretty much going to die, so why bother, but in theory I ought to care that they're dying. But in some cases I wasn't even sure which one it was that got killed. Also, the art shifted in quality a lot, even within the same issue.

Rocketeer at War #1: The first issue of this came out last month, by Dave Bullock and Marc Guggenheim. There are parts of it I'm intrigued by, but other parts less so, and my opinion of Bullock's art kept changing over the course of the issue. It's currently uncertain if I'll get issue 2.

Rocket Raccoon #7-11: Skottie Young was only writing and drawing the covers by this point, with Filipe Andrade drawing two issues of Rocket trying to save Groot's life on an ice planet, and then Jake Parker taking over for one story about Rocket stopping Groot from destroying Earth in a virtual reality, and then the two of them learning not only that Rocket isn't alone, but the truth of his origins. Which Rocket rejects as cuckoo bananas.

High point: Parker's art doesn't have Young's manic energy to it, but his Rocket also doesn't look quite as rabid, and he had some good designs for alien vehicles. Jeff Eckleberry's lettering on the sound effects was very nice. Rocket kicking Iron Man's rear end in that virtual world was pretty good. Reporting on Marvels and Legends is still pro-"Beat Tony Stark's head in".

Low point: I'm just not that big a fan of Andrade's art, and the "search for the Book of Halfworld" plot wrapped up so quickly it felt really unsatisfying. Even if Young was always going to have Rocket react the way he did, I'd have preferred they really make the search a challenge. Go nuts with the perils and threats they'd face. Probably not an option with Secret Wars looming. Man that thing is a pain in the ass.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot #1: Young and Andrade again. This wasn't supposed to be out until 2016, but some unscrupulous store went ahead and put it on the shelves a week early (because Diamond sent it out a week early for some reason), so I bought it. Rocket's evil, possibly amnesiac, Groot's trying to reach him, I wasn't really into it. Maybe I'll come back if Parker starts drawing it again? The tone of the stories he illustrates seems fairly different.

Secret Six #2: I gave up on Gail Simone's new version of the Six after this issue. I wasn't enjoying Ken Lashley's art, then there was a 5-month gap between issues, and I realized I didn't miss the book, so why keep buying it? I've heard it had improved some with Dale Eaglesham drawing it, but I won't know unless I get around to buying it in back issues.

Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas #1: The last Secret Wars related thing I bought last year. I wasn't sure about buying something with the Agents of Atlas not written by Jeff Parker, but Tom Taylor (with Steve Pugh as artist), did a good job. Positioning Atlas as good guys called outlaws because they live in a section of Battleworld run by Zemo was a good call. The fates of both Zemos were pretty great.

She-Hulk #12: The end of Charles Soule and Javier Pulido's stint with the character. We learned what was up with the Blue File, and why Nightwatch did what he did. And the Shocker even got a chance to to help! Jen and Patsy were narrowly able to convince Angie not to depart, a decision Patsy may have ended up regretting since it was probably paying for Angie's salary that meant Jen had to fire Patsy. Oops.

Starfire #1-6: One last series by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, with Emanuela Lupacchino as artist. They had Kori settle down in Key West, where she rapidly made friends with the Sheriff and her brother, as well as the sheriff's favorite waitress, who turned out to be Power Girl's old friend, Atlee. And they dealt with subterranean monsters, crazy people, hurricanes, alien bounty hunters (at least it wasn't Lobo)

High point: I can't fault Conner and Palmiotti for trying real hard to give Kori a large supporting cast of non-superhero characters. And I think there's a good chance they're going to avoid the old antagonistic relationship between her and her sister, whenever they actually meet. Some of the comedy bits work well, mostly involving Stella's exasperation from dealing with Kori. The fight with the bounty hunter in issue 6 was a nice chance to show off how tough Starfire can be when necessary.

Low point: They overplay her lack of familiarity with Earth too much, to the extent there are a lot of things she finds strange that I find hard to believe she hasn't encountered from other cultures. Like police forces, or private property. I also didn't have much feeling that the supporting cast have their own lives that continue when they aren't on the page with Kori.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1-8: So Erica Henderson and Ryan North sent Doreen to college as a Computer Science Major, where she made friends with her roommate Nancy and her cat, Mew. She fended off Galactus, helped Kraven the Hunter find a new career goal, stopped an ancient trickster god squirrel, and I'm going to assume fixed Secret Wars off-panel.

High point: The super-villain trading cards, especially the grumpy-looking one for Hippo the Hippo. Doreen being consistently horrible at maintaining her secret identity, or her briefly contemplating defeating Kraven by simply constantly tossing him into the air for the rest of her life. Loki becoming Cat Thor at Nancy's request, because it annoys his brother. Odinson and Thor trying to defuse the age old argument of waffles versus pancakes, only to be thwarted by those damn French toast advocates. Galactus appearing in his regular outfit, but as a giant squirrel to Tippy.

Low point: Nothing comes to mind.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1-3: *Sigh* Goddamn it Marvel. Yes, this book was also rebooted, the same year it came out. At least they acknowledged this with their "Only our second first issue of the year!" blurb on the cover. So far, Doreen and several other computer science majors were sent into the 1960s somehow, and Nancy recruited a Dr. Doom from the 1990s to help save them, except Doom decided to just conquer that era, since there were no heroes around to stop him, save Squirrel Girl, who couldn't call upon the squirrels of that time to help, lest she alter the timeline.

High point: Nancy having to keep various current Marvel heroes from picking a fight with '90s Doom until she can trick him into helping. The fact Doom then tricked her with wordplay loopholes, because NO ONE SNEAKS ONE PAST DOOM! Some of the outfits Doreen's sported during her time in the '60s. Not all of them, but some of them looked pretty cool. Doreen saving people from a burning building by having them grab her tail while she jumps out of said building.

Low point: The completely pointless reboot, which is not the fault of the creative team, but was annoying. And I don't feel like they made as much use of the time jump as say, Deadpool or Ms. Marvel. Granted, they had a perfectly good status quo, but if you have to do the thing, might as well go all the way. Yeah, I'm reaching, whatever. The random appearance of Vampire Jubilee. Could we not have gotten rid of that in the reboot (Jubilee being a vampire, not Jubilee in general)?

I'm dying up here. How about that airline food? Tomorrow, the listing of stuff post to wrap things up! Yeah, whoo, get excited!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2015 Year in Review - Part 3

I still make a point of tracking how many pages each artist draws in the comics I read. I started it out of some desire to see who could be counted on. I set 110 and 154 pages as the levels I was looking to see people hit. Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona came close to the lower level, but no cigar (Alphona was half a page shy, thanks to splitting that one page with Miyazawa in the first issue of the current Ms. Marvel volume). Chris Samnee, Ramon Rosanas, Mike Hawthorne, Emmanuela Lupacchino, Kyle Charles all reached or surpassed the 110-page mark (listed from most pages to fewest). Dustin Nguyen and Salva Espin both exceeded 154 pages, but the top mark was posted by. . . Erica Henderson, at 220 pages!. Henderson joins Paco Medina (2009), J. Calafiore (2010), James Silvani (2011), Chris Samnee (2012 and 2014), and Kev Walker (2013) as a winner of this completely irrelevant award. Just know I really appreciate your ability to consistently turn in quality work on a schedule.

Klarion #4-6: There are times I forgot I had bought this early in 2015. I was, judging by both sales figures and general Internet reaction, the only person (except maybe Tim O'Neill? He had some complimentary things to say about her first couple of Green Arrow issues) who enjoyed Ann Nocenti's recent stint writing for DC. As is usual with Nocenti's work, there seemed to be a lot going on, some of it more subtle than others, but since the book was essentially dead on arrival, everything got rushed and smooshed together, and it's all kind of a blur in my mind. Fabrizio Fiorentino and Szyman Kudranski were both credited for the art, so I'm not sure who did what.

Marvel Zombies #1-4: This is the first of 3 Secret Wars-related mini-series I bought, and it's my favorite of the bunch. Si Spurrier and Kev Walker take essentially the version of Elsa Bloodstone most of us are familiar with (the one from NextWave), and throw her into a land of the undead, protecting a small child while being hounded by some immense monster and her own past.

High point: I love Kev Walker's artwork, and Frank D'Armata's coloring was excellent. I especially liked the scene of Elsa and the kid with their arms spread running into the wind on a grassy beach. The colors were so mild and pleasant, it was a lovely scene. Also, Spurrier wrote Elsa well, with plenty of sarcasm and frustration, but just that hint of compassion.

Low point: I was never quite sure about taking Ellis' idea of Elsa's horrible childhood of being given ridiculous, deadly tasks to complete by her monster-hunting, caveman father and handling it seriously, so maybe that's it. I thought Spurrier made it work for his story, it just seemed like one of those elements better left as a joke.

Master of Kung-Fu #1-4: Haden Blackman and Dalibor Talijac turn Shang-Chi into a drunken outcast in a city where the ruler is determined by the winner of a martial arts tournament. Shang is naturally forced to enter to protect some other outcasts, which ultimately pits him against the current ruler, his father.

High point: Talijac's artwork is that clean, smooth-lined style I tend to enjoy, and he's quite good at illustrating fight scenes. However, the scene where Shang-Chi details to the Outcasts precisely how his father would have trained them was effective in its bluntness, and for highlighting just why Shang-Chi may have ended up as he did.

Low point: When the series talked about a tournament, I envisioned something more like a shonen manga tournament, where we'd get a lot of cool fights. There wasn't really time for that, though, so somehow Shang-Chi wound up having to fight everyone. Which is an extremely poorly laid out tournament.

Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos #1-4: Duggan and Salva Espin do sort of a What If? Deadpool hadn't defeated Dracula on Shiklah's behalf? The result being she goes on a quest for a scepter than will enable her to take care of business herself, and gets stuck with Marvel's various monster characters as tagalongs. She finds the scepter, kills Dracula, then gets killed by a bunch of cops who are Thors. Kind of a disappointment overall.

High point: Frankenstein's Monster being afraid of the undead, and thinking Man-Thing was giving him a hug, right up to the point he bursts into flames. Also, Shiklah's constant disrespectful comments towards the Commandos. Both her attempts (one successful, one not) to use Medusa against the Commandos. Dracula getting paranoid about the Invisible Man lurking somewhere and randomly throwing punches at the air. Basically, there were several gags scattered throughout the series that were funny.

Low point: It sort of petered out. I wasn't clear why the Thors would care she killed Dracula. So he's a Baron. Far as I can tell, Doom's normal response to someone killing one of those is to make the killer the new Baron, because clearly the dead one doesn't have the moxie to hold onto the job. But, blah, blah, revenge will destroy you, blah, blah. Why am I not surprised the one that most uses the Battleworld concept was the weakest of the three?

Ms. Marvel #11-19: Kamala defeated the Inventor, survived Loki crashing prom, had her heart broken by some pretty boy scuzzwad, and teamed up with Carol Danvers to rescue her brother from the same scuzzwad. Then the world ended, right as she learned her mother knew she was Ms. Marvel all along. G. Willow Wilson wrote it, Takeshi Miyazawa drew the initial problems with Kamran, Elmo Bondoc drew the Loki issue, and Adrian Alphona drew everything else.

High point: Kamala taking it to Kamran when he not only abducts her, but tries to portray the whole thing as her fault, just like a scumbag would. The team-up with Carol Danvers went pretty well, all things considered. All the background details Alphona and Miyazawa put into their art. The odd characters and things are a lot of fun to pore over.

Low point: Even though it came right back, the cancelation was annoying.

Ms. Marvel #1, 2: As I said, it did come right back. Wilson is still writing it, and Miyazawa appears to have taken over as primary artist, with Alphona becoming the one who steps in for an arc to provide a breather. Kamala's an Avenger now, and struggling with the added visibility and responsibilities that brings. I have to give some of these books credit for at least trying to use the 8 month time skip to jump into new situations for their books.

Nightcrawler #10: I probably would have stuck with this book to its cancelation two issues later, if only Claremont hadn't felt compelled to use the Shadow King again. It's too bad. Mostly cheerful and swashbuckling Kurt is a favorite thing of mine, and this was the best Todd Nauck's art has ever looked to me.

Patsy Walker aka Hellcat #1: This came out about a month ago, and Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams' take on Patsy seems promising. Upbeat, a little flighty, a bit of a mess, a lot of depressing backstory she can't quite shake. Williams seems to have a decent enough range to her art that not everything has to be in a silly or cute style if that isn't appropriate (though I imagine it usually will be).

Roche Limit #4, 5: The end of Michael Moreci and Vic Malhorta's first third of this group of mini-series. The people who were taking too much of the Recall drug, or had been sent through the Anomaly became agents of the Black Sun and either killed or drove off all the non-altered inhabitants of the colony. Leaving it a rapidly crumbling empty shell.

Tomorrow has a little of everything I tend to buy. Some more stuff from Image, a DC ongoing series, a couple of Marvel ongoings, most of which got canceled.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2015 Year in Review - Part 2

Overall, I bought 124 new comics, 4 fewer than in 2014. Marvel dropped well off, from 101 to 74 (a little under 60%). Although looking at the numbers since 2010, 2015 is business as usual, and 2014 is an aberration. DC had 25 books (just over 20%), which is better than the year before (when it was 16/12.5%), but exactly where it was in 2006, and basically where it was in 2009 (26 comics/18.4%). Obviously its percentage is better, but that's just me buying less Marvel. 4 other publishers split the other 25 comics (a little over two-thirds of that going to Image). That's not the best year for the third party group (2012's 33 books), but it is better than the previous two years, and it's the closest they've come to passing DC. This year they might actually finish the job, if the first 3 months of solicits are anything to go by

Deadpool #1-4: So they relaunched the book, except now Wade's an Avenger and a hero beloved by all (except all the other heroes, who are jerks). But he may not be someone capable of keeping all this responsibilities under control, given how unfamiliar he is with responsibility in general. Brian Posehn is gone, but Gerry Duggan and Mike Hawthorne remain, and Scott Koblish seems like he'll still be drawing issues periodically.

High point: Hawthorne's done some good page layouts, like the one of the Mercs for Money descending the levels of that apartment building in the second issue. And Deadpool as someone known and loved by much of the public is kind of a novel take.

Low point: The idea of Deadpool hiring people dress like him to handle demand seems good in theory, but I've found it kind of a mixed bag in practice. I don't recognize this version of Solo, and I've never given a damn about any version of Foolkiller. Also, I'm kind of dreading the moment everything falls apart for Wade, because you know it's coming.

Deadpool and Cable: Split Second #1: Fabian Nicieza and Reilly Brown return to the duo they did so well with years ago. Only now Wade gets to be on top, because he's more popular. So far, it's been basically what I expected, which is fine with me.

Descender #1-8: Dustin Nguyen and Jeff Lemire's story about a child android who wakes up after a decade asleep to find everyone he knew gone, and a universe that mostly hates and fears mechanical life. Everyone is after TIM, to dissect him, kill him for sport, making him their savior, but TIM would just like to find Andy, the boy he was a friend to in the past. As it turns out, Andy's coming for him, though I could see him doing any number of things when he catches up to him. I enjoy looking at it, but I'd appreciate it if the pace would pick up a little.

High point: Nguyen's art, which is watercolors at least some of the time, is gorgeous. The mystery of the Harvesters intrigues me, and the overall setting of the story is pretty cool. I want to know more about it.

Low point: The story itself is moving really slowly. And I'm not sure I care about most of the characters. Except Driller, who is that kind of gruff but secretly nice kind of character that's easy to like.

Empowered Special #8: Emp's getting a lot of compliments about how well she handles getting absolutely no respect as a hero, despite defeating a series of villains driven nuts by weapons they purchased online with great ease. As it turns out, she's not quite as blase about the disrespect as she appears, but that doesn't mean she's going to go on a murderous rampage over it. Adam Warren wrote and drew all of this particular one-shot.

Harley Quinn #13-16: Harley's team-up with Power Girl ended, only for Harley to find herself swamped trying to juggle all the different aspects of her life. So then she added more to juggle by hiring a bunch of girls (and a guy) to be Harleys and help out with crimebusting and such. I can appreciate the manic tone Conner and Palmiotti seem to be going for, and I felt like Chad Hardin was loosening up his art style as he got more comfortable, but I kind of wanted them to slow down as really focus on something for more than a minute, so I dropped it.

High point: When Harley got those comically huge eyes while pleading her case to Power Girl. Their attempts at crimefighting in general were fun, but that scene was where I thought Hardin really got into spirit of the book.

Low point: I just can't seem to click with Palmiotti and Conner's writing. They may have been going for the feeling that things were slipping through the cracks on Harley, but it kind of felt like stuff was just forgotten until it was convenient for it to appear in the story. Just something artificial about it all.

Harley Quinn and Power Girl #1-6: But, you know, I liked the parts where these two characters were together, so I took a chance on a mini-series that detailed an entire adventure they had between two panels in the main title. Which involved Vartox, and a lot of other silliness, plus a ton of artists between Stephane Roux, Moritat, Elliot Fernandez, and Flaviano.

High point: Vartox is fun, especially when he's given a character to interact with who embraces his style, rather than being repulsed by it. Strictly for novelty value alone, that's interesting. Roux's artwork was excellent, and seemed to embrace the tone of the story.

Low point: It was stretched at 6 issues. Some things seemed unnecessary - the Harvester of Sorrows - and some of the gags were drawn out more than was advisable.

Hawkeye #21, 22: Oh thank goodness this series finally ended. Kate returned, Barney stole Clint's money (but Clint still works with SHIELD, so it shouldn't have been that hard to find him and take it back), the stupid clown guy was beaten. But Clint refused to kill him, so at least Fraction and Aja got that part right. I have never been so excited for a series, only to end up so disappointed. Let's just move on.

Henchgirl #1-3: A print version of Kristen Gudsnuk's ongoing webcomic about Mary, who is part of a butterfly-themed criminal gang, but would much rather have a real job and not hurt people. She's finding that somewhat difficult, but has some helpful friends, so she was able to keep her gang from defunding the new orphanage project.

High point: I like themed villain gangs that just want to steal stuff. Gudsnuk's art has enough range to make Mary this spastic, flailing ball of energy at times, or proudly confident, or a blubbery mess as needed.

Low point: It's early enough I don't have anything to really complain about. The specific rules of the universe are still unfamiliar to me, so it's hard to say anything feels out of place.

Illuminati #1, 2: Even if I find it difficult to take the Hood seriously as a big-time villain, I like Shawn Crystal's art, so I figured I'd give it a shot. So far, it has some intriguing elements, but there are other parts I'm just not sure about, and I can't decide if it's deliberate hints, or weak writing on Joshua Williamson's part. It's teetering, assuming it doesn't get canceled before I make up my mind.

Tomorrow, almost everything Secret Wars-related I bought in 2015! Plus one ongoing series I really liked, and a couple of others that died quickly.

Monday, January 11, 2016

2015 Comics In Review - Part 1

Welcome to the annual review of the comics I bought in the just concluded year! This is the earliest I've done these posts since 2012. As a quick recap, only the 5th part will be a standard "best of" listing type post. The first four days are dedicated to going through all the titles I bought issues of, with a quick mention of relevant stories and the writers and artists involved. For series with a sufficient number of issues - sufficient being whatever I deem it at the moment - I'll pick a high point and low point, as applicable. There will probably be more than one high and low point for any given book. The opening paragraph will be devoted to various statistical stuff I found worth tracking. Everything clear? Great!

All-Star Section Eight #1: Garth Ennis and John McCrea returned to Six-Pack and his attempts to save the world from an awful threat. I didn't see enough in the first issue beyond the bodily emanations humor to bother returning, although I know that the series showed some of that heart and touch Ennis is capable of when he uses Superman. I will once again mention if DC gave Ennis a Superman book for a year, I would buy it, just to see what he'd do. I have this hunch he'd surprise people.

Ant-Man #1-5: Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas sent Scott Lang to Miami to stay closer to his family, and establish a security company staffed with super-villains. Then the book was ended because of Secret Wars (this will be a recurring theme). They've also made Scott into someone who bails on everything he gets involved in the moment things get rough, which I don't really buy about the guy who once helped the Wasp protect a comatose Hercules from the Absorbing Man and Titania.

High point: Scott recruiting all these second-rate villains with useful skills, because he honestly seems to think they deserve a second-chance. If Machinesmith is any indication this won't end well, but I can't fault his idea that he got a chance, why shouldn't he do the same for others? Oh, and Taskmaster appearances are always good.

Low point: I can't get into Spencer's approach to Scott not only as someone who bails on everything, but is regarded with apparent scorn and derision by all the other super-heroes. I could accept him as someone who tries, but often fails, but he just runs. Rosanas' art isn't a low point, but it doesn't have some of the style and energy a lot of Marvel's other books have. It's kind of flat and lifeless. Depowering Cassie Lang so Scott can feel like a failure was a disappointing choice.

Ant-Man Annual #1: Scott relating his final team-up with Hank Pym before Hank's death(?), which is basically an extra long issue of everyone talking shit about Scott.

Astonishing Ant-Man #1: Yeah, I know, why did I return to the book after it was relaunched? Because I still liked part of the concept and was hoping for the best. But as it turned out, I'd soured on the parts I didn't like to the extent I couldn't deal with it any longer.

Atomic Robo - The Ring of Fire #1-4: Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener's character is getting published by IDW now, and in this case, it was the remains of Tesladyne trying to find and rebuild Robo in time for them to stop the Biomega threat before it destroys humanity. Assuming ULTRA doesn't destroy humanity in the process of stopping Biomega first.

High point: I didn't get the Hackers joke, but I enjoyed the irate reactions of the Tesladyne group to it. Wegener's designs for the Biomega. Robo's plan involving a Nazi super-satellite weapon. Crazy solutions to serious problems are just the best.

Low point: I didn't love the first issue, with its total lack of Robo, but it wasn't bad. I'm still trying to get used to Robo's new look. Just gonna take some time. "Low point" is a relative term when talking about Atomic Robo.

Batman Beyond #1, 2: I tried Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang's new series when it started. Then I found out it starred Tim Drake, not Terry McGinnis, which wasn't necessarily a deal-breaker. But the book was also following up on plotlines from Future's End, and that was. I've had enough of Brother Eye to last a lifetime.

Captain Marvel #11: This was the last issue I bought of Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez' series. A Christmas issue where Carol returns to Earth to visit her old friend in the hospital, and then narrowly avoids dissection at the hands of a couple of old foes. It wasn't a bad story, but the book was about to enter a Black Vortex tie-in, so it seemed a good time to bail. The book just never clicked, which may just be some disconnect between me and the character of Carol Danvers, since I seem to like her more in theory than in practice, regardless of who writers her solo book.

Convergence: Batgirl #1, 2: One advantage to being a few weeks behind everyone else was I had a chance to learn how insubstantial and disappointing most of these Convergence mini-series were, so I only bought this one. Alisa Kwitney and Rick Leonardi set Steph, Cass, and Tim against the Catman and Gorilla Grodd of the Flashpoint universe, and Steph settles things by convincing Catman to throw the fight. Which was clever, I guess. I don't know if it was the inking, the coloring, or he was rushed, but the art was not the best, which is disappointing, since I usually like Leonardi's work.

Daredevil #12-18: Chris Samnee, Mark Waid, Matthew Wilson, and Joe Caramagna brought this run to a close. I don't know if this was how it was always planned, or if the creative team knew Secret Wars was going to force a conclusion and did what seemed to work best. At any rate, after dealing with Stuntmaster's desperate grab for glory, and Kirsten's run-in with her own arch-foe, Matt was forced to try turning to the Kingpin for help after the Shroud used the Owl to leak all sorts of things to the public Matt was better off with no one knowing. That was still not Matt's best plan, but he got Fisk arrested (again?), so maybe it was worth it.

High point:  Samnee came up with a good look for Matt when he tried to embrace being publicly known as Daredevil, and the big fight with Fisk in the last issue was pretty visceral. That bit where Matt relates his first meeting with Hawkeye, but gets caught lying by Foggy, who gives us the true story of Matt getting cold-cocked for being a bad actor.

Low point: That it ended? I wasn't a big fan of the direction Waid went with the Shroud. It kind of felt like he wrecked the character, which is not the sort of thing I expect from Waid. At least he stopped writing Matt as thinking the Shroud was some second-rate loser.

Deadpool #40-45: I had actually stopped buying the book during its Axis tie-in late in 2014, then came back to see the end of Posehn, Duggan, Hawthorne, and Koblish's run. although Salva Espin drew the majority of the issues, since he did that entire arc where Wade took a job with Roxxon, realized it was a horrible idea, turned against them, then actually managed to settle things with an Omega Red without killing (to Shiklah's dismay). Then he killed everyone in ULTIMATUM for trying to kill his loved ones, right before Hickman killed everyone.

High point: Wade's total annihilation of those beret-wearing imbeciles was impressive, if horrifying. His decision about how best to be Eleanor's dad was sad, but it made sense for him. The coloring book issue about the magic of gracking (gamma fracking) was funnier on a reread than I remembered it being initially.

Low point: I understand it was probably important for Wade to solve a problem without violence, but I would have preferred he just kill Omega Red.

That's it for Part 1! Tomorrow, more Deadpool! Several books from publishers other than Marvel or DC! We almost make it halfway through the alphabet, sort of!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Zorro 2.9 - Ambush

Plot: It's not long after Rico's attempt to kill Joaquin, and Diego and Bernardo have ridden out to check on their friend. Joaquin is understandably not happy to see the guy who gave his word that the governor would honor his word, and then Diego exacerbates things by getting mad at Joaquin for not being more gracious. Which is how Diego and Bernardo wind up shackled while Joaquin plots the murder of the governor and Rico, as the governor travels to the altar of his saint. Diego tries to escape by asking for a guitar, then calling it a poor guitar, to try and goad Joaquin into proving him wrong, so Diego and Bernardo can break their chains with rocks. Which fails, and what's more, Joaquin knew that's what they were doing, and let them waste their time to teach them a lesson, before giving them the key and going on his way. That's a dick move, but I like it.

That night, Sergeant Garcia is harassed by a small dog as he patrols the town. But the dog drives him to the well, and there's Joaquin, hiding inside. So Garcia and Reyes capture him, and Rico has a plan. He's going to beg off accompanying the governor, and instead give Joaquin the chance to kill the governor. Of course, Joaquin could refuse, but they've also arrested Theresa, and she'll be killed if he doesn't. Well then, guess Joaquin's a government hitman now. Zorro eventually comes along and questions Briones about how exactly Joaquin got released from jail, then has to hustle to stop Joaquin. Then he shackles Joaquin and the governor (who has stolen the old Magistrado's outfit), and gives them each the key to the other's shackles. So it's a trust exercise. I hate that crap.

Zorro's not interested in sticking around to watch, so he heads back to the cuartel to rescue Theresa. Rico's got a suspicion things have gone south, and is preparing to run for the border. Or a port, whichever. Zorro easily handles the idiot guard (who already had his hands full with Theresa), but Briones has the key. Fortunately, the Captain is no match for Zorro, even with an assist from Rico. It's about then Joaquin and the governor ride up together, and Rico decides it's time to start that trip. So the Governor shoots him in the back as he flees. Joaquin insists Briones release Theresa, so the captain throws the key in the well. Because when you just saw your boss get shot, that's the right time to get mouthy and defiant with the shooter's new best buddy. At any rate, Briones ends up in the well, and isn't allowed out until he recovers the key. Governor's orders. And after that, it's just a matter of time until the stands are back up in the plaza. Thus the historic downtown section of Monterrey is restored!

Quote of the Episode: Joaquin - 'So you can see what it is like to try and try and get nowhere.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (3 overall).

Other: During the sequence where Joaquin plays the guitar (while Theresa dances), I was shaking my head, because I couldn't believe no one would notice Diego and Bernardo, 10 feet away, hammering at the shackles with rocks. Then it turned out Joaquin knew all along, so that perked me up. It was nice to see Joaquin didn't get hit with the idiot stick. And I did like the overall slant of that whole scene. Diego means well, but when first Theresa, and later Joaquin, point out he doesn't understand what it's like for them, they aren't wrong. Briones felt entirely comfortable hassling Joaquin when they collided in the street, or just grabbing Theresa in broad daylight and throwing her in jail. Because they're just peons. It's a safe bet Briones wouldn't have been so rude with Diego. Even when he's rejecting Diego's demands to see a prisoner, he does it in a more restrained way. He feigns politeness and deference. So does Rico. Diego has the money, and the name, so they treat him with kids' gloves.

I am curious what Joaquin and the Governor said to each other to gain an understanding. Did they commiserate over Zorro being a jerk? Seriously, though, given that the Governor was willing to kill his adjutant, and gave the OK to the stands in the plaza, they must have had a fairly thorough conversation about everything that's been going on.

I'm surprised the series didn't more strongly rebuke Joaquin's approach. Not disappointed, just surprised. I don't think it's in favor of assassination, but I don't think we're meant to take away from all this that Joaquin was wrong to fight back against a corrupt administration (which is good, considering the series is all about one guy doing so, just he wears a mask while he does it). And Joaquin is shown as willing to give talking a chance, it's just that the people he has to deal either have a vested interest in killing him, or are content to keep a distance from the whole thing, which means they can be fooled. The takeaway from all this is, getting involved in your community pays dividends!

Oh, and shouldn't Garcia and Reyes have gotten the 2000 peso reward for capturing Joaquin? Did Briones screw them out of it, since it was him and his men who hustled Joaquin into the cuartel? Or was the reward revoked, since everyone is friends now?

Friday, January 08, 2016

Terminal Illness Via Zombie

That's basically what Maggie seems to be. A father (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a daughter who gets bitten during a mysterious plague that turns people gradually into zombies. There isn't a cure, but it's also going to be awhile before she's a threat to anyone, so he's allowed to bring Maggie (Abigail Breslin) home. Caroline, who is Maggie's stepmother, sends hers Wade's two kids to stay with their aunt, but sticks around as long as she can.

But everyone knows how it's going to end up, and people keep nudging Wade, advising or reminding him that at some point, she's going to have to go into quarantine (which is basically throwing all sorts of infected people in a locked room and waiting for them to die/eat each other. Unless Wade would like to offer her a swifter end himself. And Wade refuses. Just keeps kicking that can down the road, even though he knows the risk he's taking.

It was interesting, if not exactly a cheerful film. It doesn't seem like it's going to become a full-on apocalypse, the government's still hanging together, but that doesn't mean there aren't still people suffering and dying from it. It's fairly quiet, and the camera hangs really close to people's faces, or just over the shoulder most of the time. Which is meant to make us feel like we're really in the middle of it, but mostly made me feel like an interloper. That this was a deeply personal thing for this family, and I'm hanging around invisibly, spying on them.

But I liked how they built it up. The way Maggie's illness would wax and wane, the tension that would rise as it would seem like this time her mind was gone, or things were going to escalate between Wade and the sheriff's deputy, and then pull back. Maybe they know we expect Arnold to start fending off the law with firearms at some point, and so they're messing with us. It's a solid performance from him. He's always had a knack for a certain style of comedy, but there's not much of that here. He's just a dad who can't bear to lose his daughter, and it paralyzes him. He can't do anything to save her, and he can't imagine not saving her, so he's stuck. Breslin plays her role well. She struggles to deal with what's happened to her, tries to cut herself off from her friends, to protect them most likely. But once she sees them, she's glad to be around them, to reconnect with that part of her life.