Thursday, March 31, 2016

One Book Can Save The Month

June's an odd month for solicits. OK, so DC listed creative teams for their books. I didn't see any description of what these books will be about, but at least we know who's on them. Sort of. Suicide Squad is supposedly going to ship twice monthly with Jim Lee as one of its artists. There's not one of us who actually believes he's sticking around more than five minutes, right? So there are a couple of things that intrigue, though most of them don't start for several months. The Blue Beetle book, with Ted as Jaime's mentor, and the Keith Giffen/Scott Kolins team, I might try that (in September). The Batman Beyond book, since Jurgens and Bernard Chang will have Terry McGinnis to work with, and hopefully not that dystopian future Tim was stuck in. But as far as June goes, maybe Detective Comics? It's going to have Cass, and Stephanie, but it's also shipping twice monthly. But hell, Deadpool does that too, and I still buy it, so I can't really use that as an excuse. And my concerns about Eddy Barrows as one of the artists should probably be eased by reports he's been doing a good job on that Martian Manhunter book.

I was surprised to see some titles are continuing on through this Rebirth thing without starting over, though I guess I should credit DC for deciding not to mess with things that were actually maybe working for them. Especially surprised about Justice League, since I'd kind of figured Johns was going to use that interminable story he's doing with the Anti-Montior and Darkseid as a giant reset button.

Or maybe the book is just running behind.

Elsewhere, Roche Limit: Monadic will be wrapping up, Wynonna Earp is still going, and Descender will be back after a two-month break. Will I still be buying it? Eh, probably not. I should probably institute a rule that if I have to ask myself that question, I should drop the title.

Marvel's getting Civil War II into action, which is not good. Ms. Marvel is doing a tie-in issue, which leaves me wondering if I should drop the book until that's done, or trust Wilson and Co. to make it worth my time. I mean, I dropped Deadpool when it went directly from an Original Sin tie-in to an Axis tie-in, then came back afterward. Speaking of Deadpool, it's double-shipping - again - and the second issue is also a Civil War II tie-in. And the first issue is another $10 issue, that is supposedly going to contain an entire Deadpool/Daredevil/Power Man and Iron Fist crossover story in it. If it really is 80 pages worth of comics, that's a decent value, comparatively. Also, it looks like Illuminati was canceled, or maybe it's on hiatus. I didn't see it anywhere.

So offhand, kind of a crap month. DC's not winning me over, Marvel seems determined to run me off again, a quiet month from the smaller publishers for me. But none of that matters, because Yotsuba Vol. 13 is finally coming out! In May. But it was listed in with the solicits for June! And I probably won't get it until June! So it counts. It's been like 2 and a half years since the last volume, what's a couple of weeks?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What I Bought 3/29/2016 - Part 1

It's been interesting to me, watching the reactions to Batman vs. Superman, as I've seen people whose opinions I respect who liked, and others I respect who despised it. I'm still not going to see it, mind you, because it doesn't look like anything I'd enjoy, but it's still interesting.

Descender #11, by Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (illustrator), Steve Wands (letterer and designer) - TIM seems remarkably calm, especially considering his admission in the issue he feels something akin to pain.

The Hardwire can't find any sign of TIM's dream in his brain, and Telsa is both starting to maybe care about TIM, and definitely doing a bad job of concealing her mistrust of the Hardwire. TIM-22 is jealous of TIM-21's ability to feel affection for Andy and other humans, and he's not too happy about 21 having replaced him as Psius' favorite. So he tries to kill him. Or maybe that's just part of Psius' plan to see if another near-death experience gives TIM-21 another prophetic dream. Andy is still trying to negotiate assistance from his ex-wife, a plan not aided by the fact the Gnishians tracked his ship and are on the attack.

I can't decide if things are picking up any. Everything seems to be happening in small increments. I'm not sure why Telsa would be surprised the Hardwire worship the Harvesters. They were the ones who showed that the organic species are not invincible, and could be resisted, seemingly with impunity. Yes, their actions also created a lot of hardship for robots everywhere, but Old Testament God was frequently a dick, and people still worshiped him. I'm mostly curious at the difference in Driller the UGC grunt observed since Andy showed up. I'd probably be more curious if it was something we'd seen, rather than been told about, but that's not the way this book is going to operate, I guess.

Nothing much has changed as far as the art goes. It's still a very pretty book. The contrast between the expressions of TIMs-21 and 22 at any given moment is used well. The sadness on 21's face when he hadn't actually found Bandit, contrasted with the blankness on 22's face in the background. 22's eager smirk at the robot army being constructed, against 21's shocked look.

Roche Limit: Monadic #1, by Michael Moreci (story), Kyle Charles (art), Matt Battaglia (colors), Ryan Ferrier (letters), Tim Daniel (design) - I think it's supposed to be a broken mirror, but the way the border curves around it makes it seem like the faceplate on a helmet.

This book has done a full-on swan dive into Dark City. Alex Ford, who was the drug maker with the bomb in his chest in the first mini-series, finds himself alive in a city, with the corpse of Gracie, who ran the nightclub in the colony, next to him. Watkins who was doing experiments on people warns Alex he has to find the Black Tower. Which leads to a sequence of Alex trying desperately to find a train that will take him there, although no one can seem to give him proper directions to one. And Sasha, the scientist who stayed behind on the colony in the second mini-series is living in an observatory, being visited by an adult male and a child called Man and Girl, until some old guy tells her she needs to move her recording instruments to a different section of sky, and she picks up a transmission from the leader of the expedition in the second mini-series, and she starts remembering things.

So people are dead, but not dead? Or trapped in some simulation or dream created by the things from the other side of the Anomaly, trying to figure out humans? Or the alien creatures have absorbed their souls and this is some attempt to break them down, incorporate their essence somehow, by getting people to buy into the illusion? I don't know. It's not an encouraging start, especially with the whole sequence of Alex trying to catch a train and getting the runaround, which is straight out of Dark City. I guess I should be glad Moreci didn't try to start with an entirely new cast again, given how poorly I thought that went last time.

Battaglia's color choices are probably what stands out most. In Sasha's place, the colors are softer, they blur together more, and they're usually warmer, friendlier colors. In the parts that take place wherever Alex is, the colors are usually these sick looking ones. Like there's a yellow haze over everything, the way it might seem in a room full of smoke with a dim lamp. Everyone is yellowish, and even when the background shifts, it's to a solid color of something garish. An obnoxious green, or a bright orange. It grabs your attention, and sometimes corresponds to moments of violence (though there are plenty of those where the color doesn't do that).

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I Am Bad At Expository Dialogue And Deliberate World-Building

"This situation is getting out of hand. So, what do you have to say?*" The speaker in question was a large panda, looking sternly disapproving, or as much so as one can look in sweatpants and a loose t-shirt. Except at important moments, pandas dress for comfort.

"It made less of a mess than the wizard who tried to come in last week on a hovercraft?" The response came from a smaller, younger panda. A particularly clever adolescent panda of our acquaintance.

"Don't be glib," barked a different older panda, dressed in a loose robe of deep blue. "This is the third attempt to get at that robot-wizard in just the last month! The attacks have been going on almost since you brought it here!" By this point, the panda leaned forward from its lounge chair to glare at CAP. They were talking in a circular room, furnished with a few large chairs and large windows with the curtains partially drawn to keep the sunlight from being too bright.

"We did grant it sanctuary," the first panda mentioned soothingly. "People don't usually ask for that without reason to fear for their safety, and we don't grant it expecting there won't be trouble."

"No, your kid here offered sanctuary without consulting any of us. We could have debated the merits of whether it was worth risking war with robots and wizards simultaneously!"

At that point, a fourth panda entered the conversation. This one was dressed formally, which was normal for him. He never relaxed much, though he had loosened his collar and was fanning himself occasionally with a large straw hat. "Which is why we should consider attacking one of them now. These isolated assassination attempts are a sure sign the alliance between the two forces is still tentative. They're assisting each other on a limited scale. Wizards with hovercrafts. Robots being subjected to shrinking potions."

"I don't understand why they didn't just use a shrink ray," mumbled CAP.

"Right. They're sounding out each others trustworthiness," Sweatpants Panda interjected, ignoring the comment on the soundness of the plans.

"That's correct. If they decide they can work together, they may mass for a large-scale attack. Even if we fend it off, there will be casualties, and I don't fancy that outcome."

"And what about the penguins?! You can't imagine they're going to ignore an opportunity to strike while we're distracted!"

"Yes, yes, we're well aware of all that," began the intimidating mother (and council member) panda. "But is adopting an offensive posture, sending out an attack force, going to work any better? We all mostly live here, but robots and wizards are scattered across the world. It isn't as though you can kill everyone in either group in one fell swoop. To do that, we'd have to disperse, and then our home is especially vulnerable to anyone, including the penguins."

Folksy Southern Lawyer Panda nodded at this. "Still, both groups have councils, just like ours. The robots might be able to quickly regroup if we struck there, but the wizards are as fractious and squabbling as a bunch of jaybirds at a feeder."

"But wouldn't there still be wizards who would try to get a Lufonz anyway? They were trying to eliminate robot-wizards for a long time, right?"

Folksy Lawyer-style Panda turned to the youngin'. "Very true, but their being disorganized would help us greatly, I say."

"Maybe," mused the mother panda, "or it'd make them more unpredictable. Either way, I'm not sure we need to be declaring war on anyone. We've generally tried to be reactive with our use of force."

"We are being reactive. They've been attacking us, so we're reacting by hitting back." Sweat Pants Panda had gotten up by this point and was pacing. Not angrily, exactly, but with a nervous energy, unusual in itself.

"Both groups councils deny any connection to the attacks."

"Yes, yes, 'unfortunate, troubled individuals', I know. But you know, and I know, and they know it's all a load of crap."

"We still can't prove it."

"Frankly, I am not certain this decision is one that should be undertaken strictly by the council, even if all members were here. Whether we choose to fight or not, everyone should be allowed to have their say." Folksy Lawyer Panda's expression didn't change, one of studied indifference, like the whole thing was purely academic to him.

Mama Panda nodded. "I'd agree with that. I think it's a bad idea to attack - there's still a chance they'll come to their senses and abandon this - but we ought to at least open the discussion up to more ideas."

Sweat Pants also nodded, albeit grudgingly.

"If I can speak for a moment?" The voice was clipped, with a note of tired resignation in it. The robot-wizard, currently the only known one, stood waiting, metal covering a bit dinged and scuffed in places. Around humans, Lufonz adopted various glamours to pass unnoticed, but the pandas knew what he was, so he saved himself the time and energy.

"As the one they've been trying to kill for decades now, I don't see much chance they'll give up anytime soon. I had thought staying here would dissuade them, but they're even willing to challenge you pandas to get at me. I also appreciate I put the young one here in a bit of a spot by leveraging my expertise to get sanctuary in the first place. Sorry about that, CAP."

The young panda shook its head. "Don't worry about it. You did help, and Wade does that all the time. He just asks for food and hugs in exchange for shooting people."

"Of course. I'm working on something which may enable me to better protect myself, but I need just a little more time. A few weeks, hopefully. If you can shield me until then, I'll take my leave."

Folksy Lawyer Panda watched him closely. "Are you sure? We don't really want to run you off, we do take sanctuary seriously, and don't wish to be inhospitable. This is mostly to decide what to do about the people trying to kill you."

"I understand that, and thank you, but I don't want anyone getting killed over this. If my project works, then I'll be as safe as I can be anywhere, and I won't have to ask others to fight my battles for me. By mid-April, I should be ready."

"If you're sure of this, is there anything we can do to help?"

"No, CAP has been a great help as an assistant and bodyguard, and will hopefully be able to continue in that role going forward?" A note of hope crept into Lufonz' voice at that part.

CAP waved its hand dismissively. "Oh sure, absolutely. You've been a huge help with my studies, so it's no troub -  you said 'mid-April'?"

Confused, Lufonz responded, "Yes, it's March 29th, so mid-to-late April should suffice."

"Oh crud, I have somewhere I need to be in two days! I gotta run!" And with that, CAP dashed out the door, leaving a dust trail behind as it rushed out of the village. It's only outsiders who refer to it as a Citadel. For the pandas, it's just home, and doesn't even appear well defended outwardly, what with the low walls ideal for sitting on, and the squat, short houses (pandas aren't big fans of stairs, though they don't mind ladders).

"What?"

"Clever Adolescent Panda, just where do you think you're going?"

A shout trailed back, "It's almost April Fools! I'll be back before Monday!"

Mama Panda put her paw to the bridge of her nose and sighed, then turned to Lufonz. "I'm sorry about that."

"No, I understand. His idiot friend is at risk from my old boss. Or a talking blender? I wasn't clear on the details."

"Yes, his idiot friend does have a lot of enemies, somehow. We'll make sure you have protection and some assistants until CAP returns."

* All names and dialogue are translated from this particular panda dialect, which humans can't pronounce anyway. So names and some of the language are actually rough approximations.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Gashouse Gang - John Heidenry

The Gashouse Gang focuses on the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who managed to win a World Series despite spending a good portion of the season squabbling among themselves. Players against players, players against the manager, players against the cheapskate front office. Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul basically went on strike twice during the season to get some raises (it didn't work either time).

Heidenry admits no one is entirely sure when the team got the name "Gashouse Gang", or what, precisely it was supposed to mean. Mostly though, it's the collection of characters that wouldn't have been out of place in Major League. Dizzy Dean as the hotshot ace pitcher, running his mouth, daring the other team to hit his best stuff, reveling in his celebrity. Leo Durocher as the surly shortstop with serious debts. Je Medwick as the surly slugger seemingly ready to fight his own teammates at any moment. Frankie Frisch as player-manager, trying to not let the Dean brothers walk all over them, even though constituted basically his entire pitching staff (the part that didn't suck, anyway).

The parts of the book about the actual games are almost incidental to all the stories about the stuff the players got up to and said in their off-hours, or even during the games. It was reasonably entertaining, though I think sports are most effective for me when I have some sort of emotional connection because of some personal memory or experience. The Gashouse Gang far predates even my dad, so that isn't there. It's not a deal-breaker, but I imagine if I had fond memories of that season the book might be more effective.

There were some facts I wasn't aware of, such as Branch Rickey essentially creating the minor league system as it exists in baseball today while running the Cardinals' front office. And he did it for the same reason teams try to put money into their farm systems today: Because it was a way to potentially get good players at cut-rate prices. Which brings up a dilemma I've found myself facing over the last few years. I like watching teams that consist mostly of players drafted and developed in-house, seeing them get better as they gain experience. But it's also true those players would be making a lot more if the system in place didn't restrict them from selling their services openly among all the teams for up to the first 7 years of their major league career. It helps team owners save money, and I'm generally opposed to anything that helps the owners at the expense of the players, since the players are the ones I'm wanting to watch.

'A half dozen teammates joined Dean in the sock search, turning over piles of dirty laundry and ransacking other lockers for a frantic three minutes. If Dizzy Dean could pitch only with his lucky sock in his pocket, that sock was vitally important to the entire team.

"You've never had more than two socks in your entire life," Frisch finally growled. "You'll probably find it on your foot."

Dean glanced down at his right foot, and there it was. He had put the dirty lucky sock over his size 12 right foot. Sheepishly, he apologized for causing such an uproar.'

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Zorro 2.20 - Spark of Revenge

Plot: We start with a fellow named Miguel, trying to rush back to his orchard with a wagon full of water barrels. He doesn't make it, as two vaqueros catch up to him, tip over his barrels, and threaten to kill him if he tries stealing water from Don Hilario again. Meanwhile, Diego tries to explain to Hilario why people aren't real happy with him hoarding the water from the spring on his land. Hilario's not concerned with other people's problems, he barely has enough water for his own cattle he says. At that point, Sergeant Garcia enters the tavern, and Hilario tells him to arrest Miguel for trying to steal water. When Garcia protests, Hilario gets huffy, and vows to kill Miguel if he comes on his property again.

Soon enough, Miguel is riding down the King's Highway with his wagon full of empty barrels, only to find his path barred by Hilario and his two vaqueros, all three armed with rifles. Miguel, alone with a single musket, has to surrender, and Hilario has his men start smashing the barrels, even though, as Miguel points out, there is no law against him riding his wagon on this public road. At that point, Garcia and his lancers ride up, and again, Garcia sort of stands up to Hilario, who rides off in another huff. Miguel is still, understandably none too happy (since he did just get assaulted and the perpetrator rode off). He isn't any happier that night, when his home burns down because he didn't have enough water to stop a fire when it started. And he isn't shy about pointing the finger of blame at Hilario. Which gets the huffy don's dander up again. Miguel enters the tavern, and refuses to back down from his statements. he also declines Diego's offer of money, though he admits he doesn't know what he'll do now. He seems to have lost hope.

Soon enough, Sergeant Garcia comes to visit Diego with bad news. Don Hilario's hacienda has burned down, and Miguel is suspected. Diego tries to plead with the magistrate, but learns they found Miguel's musket in the remains of the house, that there was money missing and Miguel (who was briefly captured by the lancers) had a sack of gold coins on him. Oh, and Don Hilario died in the fire. I guess that's pretty important. Diego takes his leave, and soon Zorro is on the prowl, quickly finding Miguel. Which is when we also learn it was Zorro who brought Miguel that money. Oops. Miguel points out he never got his musket back after he was stopped on the highway, and the two begin to suspect the vaqueros. Sure enough the two of them are loading up their horses with their stolen loot when Zorro bursts in. They're remarkably confident in their chances, though, and try to trap him in the loft. One goes up after him, the other stays below, tracking Zorro's movements by the sawdust drifting through the cracks. Miguel catches up just in time to turn the tide, and as the two murderers are defeated, rain returns to California.

Quote of the Episode: Don Hilario - 'You ask, "What are they going to do?" I don't know. Fortunately, that is not my problem.

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (9 overall).

Other: Even in the early 1800s, there wasn't enough water to go around in California. I'm trying to decide what's a less efficient use of the land, given the precipitation levels: cattle or oranges. Oranges need a lot of water, but cattle need a lot of grass, which requires less water than oranges. But then you factor in that cattle need water, too. Plus the energy loss of the cattle trying to convert the grass into meat on their bones. So probably cattle.

The place where Zorro and Miguel confronted the vaqueros is also the winery where Estevan tried hiding Tornado a few episodes ago. Also, Don Hilario is played by Neil Hamilton, who was Commissioner Gordon on the Adam West Batman show.

Don Hilario really liked the word "intimate". People were always intimating things about him.

I wasn't sure, when Hilario shot at Miguel on the King's Highway, what he was trying for. Was he trying to kill Miguel, and just a lousy shot? Or was he trying to wreck Miguel's barrels by shooting holes in them? The latter seems more likely, except that Hilario had already said he'd kill Miguel if he caught him taking water again.

I love that reveal that Zorro brought Miguel the money. When the magistrate showed Diego the sack of coins, Diego was visibly shaken, and the audience, having already seen Miguel reject Diego's offer of a loan, could draw the conclusion that Diego is starting to believe Miguel really did kill Hilario. Then we find out he was shaken because he realizes he inadvertently helped tighten the noose around Miguel's neck. Nice bit of work, there.

Credit to Sergeant Garcia for at least attempting to stand up to a wealthy landowner, rather than being his hired thug, basically.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Big Trouble For A Big Mouth

My friend came to visit last weekend, and they had Big Trouble in Little China on DVD, which I had never seen.

I read somewhere once that the key to the film was realizing that Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is the comic sidekick, not the hero. Burton's pal Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) is the hero, or maybe it's old Egg Shen (Victor Wong). Burton doesn't really understand any of what's going on, the forces involved, the things at stake. Which might be what kept him alive, not knowing any better. He keeps blustering his way through, talking big, getting kicked in the face, and just occasionally doing something right at a key moment. Russell makes it work because Burton is also, despite all his big talk, a decent enough guy, willing to help out his friend, even as things continue to get stranger and more dangerous.

Beyond that I'm always happy to see James Hong in pretty much anything, and he plays Lo Pan as so damn creepy, even when we see his actual physical form. I should probably feel bad for a guy cursed to that existence, someone clearly desperate to finally, finally get free of it. But he is extremely creepy, and indifferent to hurting others, and he abuses the power he has so freely that it doesn't happen. And when it's all said and done, he's kind of a paper tiger, which makes him an odd mirror of Jack. His Immortals are much more consistent threats through the film, laying waste to lots of people and tossing both Wang and especially Jack around, until late in the film when Wang really gets himself together and gets a bit of mystic boost. I liked Lo Pan's sense of design for his lair. The giant skull ringed with neon, the flaming torches and elevators hidden within Buddha statues. It's a weird mix, but it's memorable.

It would have been nice if Miao Yin (played by Suzee Pai) had gotten more than two lines. Wang's supposed to be so in love with her, and she's apparently going to be so key to Lo Pan, but she spends a lot of the film in a trance, or unconscious. That comment about female characters that could be replaced with a sexy lamp without it affecting the story comes to mind. Kim Cattrall as Gracie worked pretty well, though she gets stuck with a lot of expository dialogue trying to explain things to Jack (and us). I did like that she seemed to have other things going on besides this at the same time. The film has a strong feel of this being just one incident in a lot of people's lives, that there were other things going on with them before, that will have to be picked up again after. We and Jack have ind of drifted into the middle of it for a moment, one particular instance, and then we ride out again. Not every film does that, or manages it successfully if they try it, so credit to them.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

1920 The Year of Six Presidents - David Pietrusza

Thus begins the next wave of books, so brace yourselves for that. But so far, almost none of the ones he's sent are about World War 2. You lucky pups!

Pietrusza is focused on the 1920 Presidential election, as it involved to some extent or another, six past or future Presidents. The initial six chapters are relatively brief biographies of each guy's life up to that point, and then he gets into the actual political wrangling at the conventions. How various hopefuls for the nominations ran their campaigns, who helped them, who didn't, mistakes that were made (a lot of those), on and on. Once he gets into that, he alternates chapters between the Republicans - who ultimately settled on Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge - and the Democrats - who picked James Cox and FDR. He also detours into Eugene Debs' peculiar presidential run from an Atlanta prison, the women's suffrage movement, and the difficulties African-Americans faced in trying to get either party to actually do anything to address the problems they were being confronted with (not to mention simply trouble being able to vote).

Pietrusza writes smoothly, and isn't above interjecting his own opinions or jabs at the people involved. He repeats that old story about Taft sending a letter back from the Philippines about taking a 20 mile horse ride and feeling good, and Elihu Root responding by asking how the horse fared (which I read in a book of President-related jokes and one-liners I got when I was in elementary school), and then makes a fat joke crack of his own about it a sentence later. But it keeps the book from being too depressing, since the crop of candidates is hardly inspiring. The big name guys were either recently dead (TR), or in failing health and mental state (Woodrow Wilson, who does not come off well in this book at all. Complete asshole.). Or, they just aren't ready for primetime (FDR hasn't quite mastered his ability to smooth talk his way out of trouble yet). Hoover can't connect with people, though no one doubts his intelligence, Coolidge is steady but uninspiring, and Harding gets the nomination because his whole strategy was to be as inoffensive to everyone as possible.

Trying to be nice and not hurt people if you can avoid it is hardly a bad philosophy to follow going through life, but I'm not sure it should be the determining factor for a Presidential nomination. But the American public didn't want to deal with world affairs any more, and Harding didn't care much about that either, and he said all the right things, and he won. The campaigns of Harding and Cox, and Harding's election are almost an afterthought in the book, but Pietrusza hadn't bothered to disguise the fact the Democrats were a hopeless mess, because they tied their fates to Wilson's League of Nations, and it dragged them straight to the bottom of the ocean. Plus, you know, Warren G. Harding is one of the six presidents he's talking about, not James Cox, so the result was already known.

'The gathering, or rather series of gatherings - for the participants came and went at will, with no one really presiding (though Lodge was its guiding spirit) - focused not so much on selecting a candidate but on eliminating them one by one. Lowden and Wood had killed each other off. Johnson and La Follette were simply impossible. Borah wasn't any better. Lodge and Philander Knox were too old. Lodge couldn't stand Coolidge. Hoover wasn't even a Republican; Johnson and the Old Guard would bolt if Hoover were nominated. Watson was too conservative. Pritchard, Sutherland, and Poindexter were jokes. The unions hated Governor Allen. Sproul, Knox, and Coolidge hailed from states that were going Republican anyway. Colonel Harvey wanted National Chairman Will Hays, but hays had never held public office, and, unless you were a general, the presidency usually wasn't an entry-level position.

That, Lodge pointed out, left you with Warren Harding.'

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I'm Confident I Put Together Better Teams Than Tony Stark

After much deliberation and time-wasting, I might as well post one of those League of Extraordinary Gentlemen style teams I said I might do. I've actually got about 5 in progress, but nobody wants to deal with all that one after another, so the plan is one every so often. I'll admit I don't know precisely what the original goal was with these. Put together the best team possible? Most entertaining? Are they together for one job, or permanently? What's their goal? I tend to opt for characters I like I hope will bring something interesting to the mix. You get to judge whether I manage it or not.

The Leader: Tetra/Princess Zelda (The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker) - I chose her less for the fact she's a princess, more for the fact she was a pirate captain. Don't get me wrong, the experience in diplomacy is going to come in handy. No one else on this team has much going there. She can probably deal with snooty nobles more easily than anyone else in this crew (assuming not going the violent route). But her time spent leading a crew of smelly, rowdy pirates is probably going to give her more guidelines for keeping this bunch together. She's definitely keeping the Light Arrows.

This is some time after the events of Windwaker. We're going to assume Ganondorf is out of action, if not permanently, at least for a few decades. But there's other threats, and one has emerged. Link is either missing, or already been dealt with. Zelda's the one who usually has the Triforce of Wisdom, so she's smart enough to recognize a direct attack on her own is a bad idea. And she decides being a very visible ruler makes her and her kingdom a very visible target. So she goes lowkey, back to being Tetra, back to her old crew, while she tries to find some people to lend a hand. This time it's her turn to travel far and wide gathering what, or rather who, she needs. It's going to be a tightrope, because she has to convince this group to help her, someone they don't know, but she also needs them to work together effectively. The former probably requires her skills in diplomacy, the latter may require her willingness to thump skulls and speak bluntly.

The Rogue: Ada Wong (Resident Evil 4) - There is something to be said for the lady who sneaks around a zombie-filled European countryside with a grappling gun in an opera dress. That something is probably, "What the hell are you thinking?" but Ada makes it work.

The problem for everyone else with Ada is that she's helpful just so long as she needs their help. Once that's over, she'll probably turn on them. This doesn't mean she'd try to kill them - that's going to prove difficult for her anyway - but it's something a hypothetical reader/viewer might keep in mind that the team wouldn't necessarily recognize right off. She's fully capable of presenting herself as either a sympathetic figure, or simply as someone willing to help.

Still, she might surprise everyone. In Resident Evil 2, there was no real reason for her to save Leon from Annette Birkin, but she did. Being able to convince even the people you're working with you've betrayed them can have its advantages. It makes you the one the bad guys approach to sway to their side. It opens doors, provides information. It can be very profitable, and a clever person can recognize when it's paid out all it can, and that it's time to switch back. Ada may well be more outgunned than normal, but she's the sort to trust in being clever enough to mitigate that. Whether she's right or not. . .

Also, having Ada around means I can have Wesker show up and get annihilated, because I really hate that character.

The Muscle: Krillin (DragonBall Z: Budokai) - Technically my theme was "Gamecube games", and I did own that game for 'Cube. But it's a licensed game, which isn't quite the same thing, but hell, every time I do one of these, it has someone who doesn't quite fit the theme. Johnny Smith was originally a book character, not a TV character, and Earthworm Jim was originally a video game character, not a non-Marvel/DC comic character.

So Krillin. I'm picking him from sometime after Vegeta came to Earth. Maybe Tetra finds him recovering in the hospital after that fight, or she winds up on Namek while he's there. I'm not clear on the order these five are going to get together. Krillin would probably jump at the chance to help a princess free her kingdom, though. At any rate, Krillin's probably the strongest character on the team, but not to an overwhelming degree. It's unlikely the battles this group will face adhere to DBZ traditions of occurring in isolated locations, and Krillin isn't the sort to just blow up five square blocks, especially if it would put innocent people at risk. However, I did like the idea of him getting to be the "big gun" for once, rather than the hopelessly outmatched one who is just stalling for time. There will be times that's what he'll have to do, because there are going to be some threats that blowing up with energy blasts may not work on.

He's not really a take-charge guy, and has managed to work successfully with noted grouch Piccolo, so I think he can get along with the more volatile personalities on the team. I think he's going to spend at least some of the time trying to play peacemaker when members of the team start to wear on each others' nerves. He may not be successful, but he'll try. And at some point, the Destructo Disc is actually going to work and finish a battle, goddamnit. Just once, that's all I'm asking.

The Woman of Mystery: BloodRayne (Bloodrayne) - I could switch her and Ada, but I figured with Ada being the most likely to betray them, the Rogue fit her best. Rayne does have a fair share of mystery in her life, if only because she's lived so long (being half-vampire has its perks). Odds are, though, most of those decades were spent in traveling the globe, fighting and killing various supernatural threats. Her response to most problems is going to be to cut it to ribbons, or shoot it. But she has some ocular abilities associated with her heritage which could come in handy for assessing situations, if she's willing to slow down and use them.

It's unclear how her teammates will react to her. I have to think Zelda is going to be at least a little wary of someone who drinks blood, just given her own experiences with supernatural and mystical threats. If Rayne gets wind of the fact Ada has helped get material to create monsters through science, she's certainly not going to be pleased with that.

I'm not sure when exactly in her life Rayne would be at. Probably anywhere between the end of the first game and start of the second, which offers about 60 years (roughly 1945-2005). There was a gap of a few years in the first game, mostly in the '30s we could draw her from. She'd be less used to operating on her own, which might make her more willing to be a team player. But she'd also have just recently lost her mentor, which might make her more reluctant to work with others. Or she could have both impulses, and the confusion that might create could be a problem for her and the team, which wouldn't understand what was going on.

The Lady with a Boat: Samus Aran (Metroid Prime) - I also considered swapping Samus and Tetra. Let Samus try being a leader, instead of a lone wolf, and just use the pirate ship. A spaceship is cooler, so here we are.

As it is, Samus is still going to have to work on being a team player, which could prove challenging (I never played Metroid: Other M, so I'm ignoring whatever history that gave her as dutifully following some dolt commander's orders to not use better forms of her armor until he said so). By pulling her into this after the first Metroid Prime, it leaves the threat of Dark Samus out there unresolved, to appear at the time most inconvenient, either for Samus specifically, or the group in general, depending on how powerful it's gotten.

Samus will probably want to abandon the team at different points if she gets wind of the Space Pirates getting up to something (let's hope she doesn't have some general bias against pirates, or Tetra and her crew are in for a real bad time). But it's unlikely she'd do that in a moment of need, because Samus doesn't really seem the type. But it's hard to say. I've never seen her talk much in games, so it's hard to get a feel for her personality. The Pirates are terrified, seeing her as a relentless engine of destruction directed at them. But they took two families (her birth parents and the Chozo who found her and raised her), so it's unlikely she's that way with everyone. Probably not very outgoing or open. I don't know how long it would be before she actually removed the helmet in their presence, to even let them see her face. But with Rayne's outbursts, and Ada trying to be oh-so-helpful, but still not seeming entirely trustworthy, Samus could prove to be a calm center for the team. The one who doesn't get rattled outwardly, and has enough physical presence people are going to notice and respect her. If the group has a deputy leader, it's her.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Have Televisions Diminished In Lethality?

I was watching Grosse Pointe Blank again two weekends ago, because I'd been wanting to for awhile. That urge caught me by surprise, actually. I like the movie, but I wouldn't declare it one of my favorites of all time. Although, 'I don't want to get into a semantic argument, I just want the protein.' is a line I find myself muttering a lot (I think protein has become a stand-in for, 'you to shut the hell up,".

Anyway, we reach the climactic gun battle to save Debi and her father, and Martin kills Grocer by smashing a TV over his head. Because the film was made in the mid-'90s, it's a big box TV, and I thought about how, if the film were made today, that wouldn't work, because it'd be a flat-screen. In my mind, I see the TV breaking in half over Dan Akroyd's melon, and though stunned, he empties his gun into Martin's stomach.

Of course, it might not go that way. I haven't done any research. Despite the fact I'm pretty sure a flat screen TV won't fit neatly around someone's head like that box TV, it might be more of a solid object. So maybe it'll be even more damaging. Next time I'm at Alex' we'll see if his roomie will let us use his 50 inch flat screen to test the theory.

Monday, March 21, 2016

It's Bound To Work Eventually

Squirrel Girl tells Galactus she defeated Thanos, he dismisses Thanos as a fool. She tells Dr. Doom she defeated Galactus, Doom dismisses him as nothing more than a child who can't think past his stomach. Sooner or later she has to go up against someone who will actually be impressed by her past victories. There are a few villains out there with a realistic view of their place in the hierarchy that surely don't want to mess with someone with Doreen's resume. The Shocker, maybe.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Zorro 2.19 - The Legend of Zorro

Plot: Despite Zorro's efforts, Estevan's engagement to Margarita continues, and they've come up with a plan they'd like Diego's help with. Estevan thinks Zorro is also in love with Margarita, but has noticed Zorro doesn't show up to keep Diego away from her. He proposes Diego take her on a ride towards the mission, while Estevan rides off in another direction. Then Estevan will double back and meet them at the mission, he and Margarita will get married, and Zorro will be out of luck. Estevan goes outside to see if he can convince Alejandro to attend, leaving Diego and Margarita to talk. Contrary to how I read the situation last week, Margarita seems quite taken with Estevan, and loves how much he enjoys life, which Diego agrees with. Then she says Estevan loves her, and Diego falls silent, causing her to question him as to whether he thinks that's true or not. Diego hems by saying Estevan loves everyone.

Bravo, Diego, nice save. *slow clap, rolls eyes*

Outside, Alejandro is still trying to convince Estevan he needs to take some land and prove himself as a haciendaro. When Estevan notes Alejandro didn't have to prove himself when he came courting Estevan's sister, Alejandro retorts that he was a De la Vega. Diego and his dad are making it pretty hard not to root for the young couple. Anyway, Alejandro offers Estevan some land and some cattle, to give him a chance to prove himself. Estevan agrees to try, but when he sees what he's getting - some land in the middle of nowhere, a rundown cabin with a well filled in with sand - his enthusiasm wanes. Alejandro and Margarita both play the, "Our fathers would have been ecstatic to start with this much" card, and Estevan asks for some time alone to think. The problem is, everyone else is thinking in terms of Estevan and Margarita starting a proud lineage together, and Estevan doesn't give a damn about a legacy. That night, he busts out his "florentavo" again, and makes a bet with Alejandro: double or nothing on the livestock Alejandro is planning to give him. And Estevan loses, then departs as Diego explains to his father it's actually a commemorative medallion, so there is not heads or tails. Meaning Estevan lost on purpose.

The next day, Diego tries to talk to his uncle, make sure it isn't the cattle he's marrying Margarita for, but Estevan does nothing to ease his fears. Rather than confront his uncle directly, Diego opts for vague threats that his uncle can't trick Zorro. Then he sets out to prove it, leaving his mark all around for Estevan to find (with Bernardo's help). And it seems to work. Estevan, though unwilling to admit Zorro's beaten him, decides that he is unworthy of Margarita, and must tell her he's calling the whole thing off. Mission accomplished then. But wait, Don Marcos comes to visit that night, because he can't find his daughter. Sure enough, she and Estevan met somewhere, and are on a carriage ride to the mission, escorted by Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes. But along came Zorro, and despite the sergeant and corporal's best efforts - and they do make a game attempt to stop him - Zorro is able to get around them and stop the carriage. Estevan again tries to match swords with Zorro, and it goes no better than it did the last several times.

So Zorro rides off with Margarita, to tell her something, though we aren't privy to it. Still, he leaves her and the carriage at the mission, and takes his leave as Estevan catches up. And it's then, as they prepare to enter the chapel, Margarita drops a little bombshell on Estevan: It turns out she can only receive all that land as a wedding gift from her father if she marries a Californian, but surely Alejandro will give Estevan what he originally offered. At which point Estevan pulls the "unworthy" card again, and how he couldn't bear for her to live in poverty, and dashes off, using his florentavo one last time to procure a horse, the better to head for the hills.

Quote of the Episode: Alejandro - 'Zorro has done so many things against tremendous odds. Why can he not do a simple thing like sending Estevan back to Spain?'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (9 overall). I'm not going to count the one on the plate, or the one on Estevan's forehead, because I can't be certain Bernardo isn't responsible for those.

Other: Diego and Alejandro didn't exactly show off their debating skills in this one. Between Alejandro's arrogant statement that he didn't have to prove anything to marry Estevan's sister, because of his last name, to Diego's unwillingness to just outright say what he's thinking to either Estevan or Margarita. I can understand not wanting to hurt the latter's feelings, but if he really thinks the former is only marrying her for the inherited wealth, then let him have it with both barrels. Don't play his game of tap dancing around it with talk of beautiful pictures, with very nice frames around them.

When the episode began, and Estevan was playing the piano and singing to Margarita, I thought she still didn't seem that in to him. But then she told Diego how much she loved being around Estevan, so what do I know? Maybe she just doesn't enjoy his singing and musical ability? I could see that. She probably gets serenaded by plenty of guys, it's nothing new to her. It's all the other stuff Estevan's done that interests her. Of course, he's not likely to get to do any of that if he's busy running a hacienda, or trying to get one up and running.

I suspected Estevan was not going to be impressed by the idea of starting on the process of building something that would last for generations, and sure enough, he admitted to Alejandro that a legacy didn't interest him. He just has different priorities from all these other folks.

I wonder what Zorro would have done if his trick with laying the candlesticks in the sala on the ground in a Z had been ignored. Estevan gets up and walks out of the room without noticing? I guess he'd have just tried again some other way. Which makes me wonder how many other attempts there were we didn't see, because Estevan never noticed them.

Anyway, bid farewell to Cesar Romero, he's off to seek his fortune elsewhere, and Margarita is free to try and convince her father to just let her run the family business, if she can't find a guy worth her time.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Night Still Holds Some Secrets

If you've ever driven through the woods at night, imagining all sorts of things out there, lurking, watching, maybe shadowing the car - and I have - the reality as seen through a thermal camera can be a letdown at first. Relax, it was for survey purposes, no animals were harmed. There were none of the packs or wolves or mountain lions I envisioned as a kid. A few deer, the occasional raccoon or opossum. One time, we were really lucky and spotted a gray fox. Even if I knew intellectually it was going to be like that, I still had hopes on being surprised.

But there are other joys. Finding out the reflection in a pond is still visible through the camera was a neat discovery. The way a shrub with enough little birds roosting in it can glow like a faint moon. After a while, I noticed how the view of the forest reminded me of some pictures I'd seen of electron microscope views of cells. The ground is mostly dark, save for some irregular warm patches, and the trees stand up, brighter, like the cilia on the walls of the cell. I don't typically think along the lines of the earth as one giant organism, but the view put that thought in my mind. Us driving along, through a forest that's one skin cell on an enormous creature. Or a tiny one, in the larger scope of the universe, which would make us a subatomic particle?

And there was the reminder all sorts of things don't show up on a thermal camera. Invariably we'd see something through the trees, that seemed like it'd be easy to see with some light. Then we'd find out there were all sorts of vines, leaves, and small limbs in the way that hadn't been picked up the other way. And there are all kinds of creatures that wouldn't show up either, because their body temperatures wouldn't be any different from the air around them. I should have been imagining alligators instead of wolves all those years.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I Need To Turn My Brain Off

So I was thinking a bit about Old Lady Squirrel Girl and her timeline. Doreen loses her original attempt to stop Doom in the '60s, because she's on her own. She avoids capture or death, and learns of Cody's attempt to go back alone and fix the problem he's created, and tracks him down in 2016, so she can, as an old lady in a Doombot outfit, go back and help her younger self. She does, Doom is defeated, Young Doreen and the CS Kids go back to their time. Old Doreen stays in the '60s with the time gun and continues living. She visits Doom's castle shortly after he returns to his time (some time shortly after his defeat in Squirrel Girl's original, Steve Ditko-created appearance), and wrecks his time platform so he can't send any Doombots back to help him win that battle in the '60s.

How the hell did she live that long? Young Doreen's still a freshman in college in the book, so 18, 19. If she lived straight on through from wherever she was in the '60s up to finding Cody in 2016, that's a minimum of 45 years, if they were in 1969. Old Lady Squirrel Girl then lives on from then until whenever that Dr. Doom was from, which, with the sliding time scale has to be within the last five years right? Like, Doreen couldn't have been younger than 14 when she beat Doom to save Iron Man's bacon, correct? So that's another 40 years. She's like 110! Even with Doombot armor, she's breaking into Doom's castle and wrecking his shit, then leaping out windows with a twinkle in her eye?

"Long life spans" are not a squirrel trait. If she was Old Lady Elephant Girl, sure. Unless, this is that thing Byrne came up with in Sensational She-Hulk, where popular characters don't age, and so the original fight with Dr. Doom still happened in the '90s, and Doreen simply hasn't aged much because she's been getting fairly regular use over at least the last 10 years, if not the ones immediately after her first appearance. At which point, Old Lady Squirrel Girl only had to stay alive another 20 or so years to wreck Doom's time platform. So she's only in her 80s. Which is perfectly reasonable.

Glad we sorted this out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SHIELD's Had So Many Good Agents, Strange It Isn't More Competent

I noted that Agent Preston, a regular cast member in Deadpool the last few years, showed up in the first issue of Black Widow. Which means Preston has reached that level of, prominence, status, something, where she's a known SHIELD agent that shows up in books from time to time.

There have been a lot of those, as the stars of different ones rise and fall depending on who is writing a lot of books for Marvel at the time. Sharon Carter and Dum Dum Dugan, obviously, but others like Jimmy Woo, Clay Quartermain, Maria Hill, Fury of course, and a bunch more I'm forgetting or just not bothering to list here.

The question for the day is, which SHIELD agent is your favorite? It can be any of them you'd like, although lets base it on their actual work for SHIELD. I really like Jimmy Woo, but it's because of Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk's use of him in Agents of Atlas, where he wasn't exactly a SHIELD agent. So if you're going to say Dugan because of his time as a Howling Commando, no.

For me, it may well end up being Preston before too long, but for now, I think I'll take Derek Khanata. It's that Agents of Atlas connection again, but Khanata has an interesting career considering he was recommended to SHIELD by the Black Panther himself, he ran the new version of Scorpion (the teenage girl one Greg Pak and Fred van Lente created) as a sort of double agent against AIM. Even if I didn't like him a lot there, because he was using a homeless orphaned teenage girl, he did have her back when she needed it. He's willing to play a little dirty, but on the whole, still seems like a honorable guy trying to do the right thing for his agency, his friends, and his family. I can work with that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Not Serious Question of the Day

Have you ever smacked your lips while eating?

You hear some food or another is lip smacking good, have you ever encountered that? And if so, was it done out of actual enjoyment of the food? Because I feel like I've only really encountered it in fiction, and it's usually ascribed to people to either making them seem disgusting or obnoxious. They're doing it to annoy someone at the table that criticized their manners, or the person has an unsteady stomach, and can't handle food at the moment. That kind of thing.

Monday, March 14, 2016

What I Bought 3/8/2016 - Part 3

I saw the Captain America: Civil War trailer, and goddamnit, Spider-Man is siding with Tony Stark again. I really wanted to root for Spider-Man, but I guess that isn't happening. On to a character who isn't stupid, he's just dealing with some trauma.

Deadpool #7, 8, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist, #7), Matteo Lolli (artist, #8), Nick Filardi (colorist, #7), Ruth Redmond (colorist, #8), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Yeah, there were a whole bunch of other people who contributed short stories in issue 7, but I'm not going to talk about any of those because they didn't interest me.

As it turns out, Wade keeps a little black book of grudges, and because his memory is shot, he periodically goes out and tries to settle those grudges. Even though he's done it who knows how many times before, and in many cases, can't even recall what the grudge was about. Mostly he's trying to keep awake because he's terrified Madcap's coming back. Ultimately, he keeps coming back to one note in the book: 'Creed was there'. He tries to figure it out, and is able to recall gasoline, which leads him to the conclusion Sabretooth is the one who killed his parents (when really it was Deadpool himself). Which is how we get to the next issue, where Wade sets out in search of Sabretooth. He checks out a place he recalls Butler bringing him to in the past, and finds a handprint, which leads him to an unpleasant fellow named Michael Logue, who has a heart attack when he sees Wade. Wade tells him to write down everything he remembers about jobs Deadpool did for Butler, and goes off in search of Sabretooth. Being an Avenger has its perks, and Wade swiftly tracks him down, then tries to take him out with the old, "piano wire stretched across the road trick". It doesn't decapitate Sabretooth like Wade hoped, but he's bleeding from the throat a lot, so Wade ought to have plenty of time to decapitate him the old-fashioned way, with a sword.

It occurs to me, didn't Sabretooth kill Vanessa, aka Copycat, aka Wade's girlfriend from even before he became Deadpool? Shouldn't that be reason enough to have a grudge against Victor? Does Wade not even remember that any longer? I know, I'm missing the point. all the "grudges" Wade settled are stupid petty bullcrap that even he, on some level, knows are pointless. He gets mad at Iron Fist for saying he looked like a melted candle (and while I don't understand what he meant when he told Danny he looks like Elvis had a kid with Santa's elves, anything that mocks that stupid, yellow-on-white costume is A-OK). He gets mad at Doc Samson's corpse for not helping him with his issues, even though he never called to make an appointment. He can't keep the big things in his life under control, or is afraid he can't, so he's retreating to concentrate on tiny, petty, crap that doesn't matter. Shiklah is getting seriously irate at how much he's ignoring her (also she's building an army, he should probably be worried about that), and he can't spend more than 10 minutes with her. Basically, Deadpool's never had many real responsibilities, and he's worse at handling them than I am.

That said, I'm totally OK with him killing Sabretooth. Even if he didn't kill Wade's parents, he's killed hundreds of other people. Screw it, say he's dying for that time he killed Psylocke or whatever.

I like how natural Koblish and Filardi make Wade look when he's sitting alone a table, eating a pint of ice cream and flipping through his book while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. It feels like it should be weird, or distracting, but somehow it doesn't distract from what's going on. Maybe because it's all just part of his attempt to avoid dealing with things. Also, they give Wade sparse patches of hair on his face and scalp, which adds nicely to his unpleasant appearance.

Lolli's Deadpool is a bit stockier than Koblish's or Hawthorne's, but he's very good at giving Wade these relaxed poses that are somehow still kind of terrifying (and I just remembered Lolli was one of the two artists on Hawkeye vs. Deadpool, so it makes sense he has experience drawing him). The shadows over Wade's face when he's talking to Logue help. Also the fact Duggan doesn't have him make jokes, or yell. He very calmly states what he wants, and then starts circling the guy, always keeping his eyes on Logue, and he's leaning forward just a little. The last panel of page 8 reminds me of a horror movie, when you see the crazed killer lurking behind the poor, stupid victim. Except this time the crazed killer is actually Deadpool which, hmm, isn't much of a stretch really, but you get my point. I will say Deadpool's stance on the last page seems wrong. If he's going to try and cut off Sabretooth's head with his sword, the foot he put on Creed's neck is in the way.

Not at all sure how this storyline is going to be spun out over three more issues, and I'm sure to be disappointed by the lack of actual Sabretooth killing, but I'm hoping for an entertaining knockdown, drag-out fight.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Zorro 2.18 - Zorro Versus Cupid

Plot: Whatever Estevan was up to last week by encouraging Diego to marry Margarita, he's abandoned the plan in favor of marrying her himself. He's even borrowed Diego's guitar and Bernardo to serenade her, and when Diego shows up, he winds up playing so Estevan can dance with her. Of course, Diego and Alejandro both suspect ulterior motives on Estevan's part, and when Don Marcos brings out the very impressive Coatazar necklace, which is a wedding present for the marriage of their first born, and explains to Estevan that he will receive all of Don Marcos' lands that Margarita can ride across in a single day, they're certain of it. Soon enough, once they are away from Don Marcos and Margarita, Alejandro confronts his brother-in-law, who shamelessly tries to get some money from Alejandro to buy something nice for his new fiance. Alejandro instead opts to warn Estevan that if he doesn't abandon this plan, he'll answer to Zorro, who won't tolerate any sort of thief. Estevan seems momentarily angry at being called a thief, but then brushes it off.

But now Diego's committed thanks to his father, and so it is that Zorro pays Estevan a visit in his room that evening. Again, Estevan plays it light, asking if he's here to congratulate the soon-to-be-married man. No, Zorro is here to tell him to get out of California, without the Senorita Coatazar or her fortune. Estevan's response is to draw his sword and try his luck. Can't fault him for effort, but he ends up easily bested and trapped under a table, while a servant knocks on the door, inquiring if he's all right. Still, Estevan is not deterred, and sets out to visit Margarita the next morning. Only to find his path barred by Zorro. Unarmed, he instead tries to feint like he's returning home, the spur his horse by the outlaw. He winds up tossed into a nearby river (lake?) for his trouble, and warned the road to the Coatazar home will be very wet for him. At this point, Estevan does was is essentially a smart thing, when an outlaw is harassing you: He enlists the aid of law enforcement. Sergeant Garcia offers to provide a military escort, but Estevan feels that would spoil the mood, and he would rather not endanger Margarita.

Which is how Estevan and a disguised Corporal Reyes wind up in a carriage on a moonlit ride that night, while Garcia lurks nearby. Zorro, having heard about it (because Garcia's been telling everyone all day), promptly arrives. The outlaw is enough of a gentleman to help the lady down before dealing with Estevan, and Reyes boldly tackles Zorro, while Estevan shouts for Garcia. Unfortunately, the sergeant is first reluctant, and then when he does begin to approach, finds himself surrounded by skunks. So he ends up calling for help, Reyes runs to him, they both get skunked, and meanwhile, Estevan is fighting another losing battle against Zorro alone. Suffice it to say, all three end up in the drink, and Zorro rides off as Estevan fumes.

Quote of the Episode: Alejandro - 'To Zorro, a thief is a thief, whether he's stealing funds from the church poor box or trying to marry some unsuspecting girl for her money.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (8 overall). On Estevan's jacket, during their second actual fight.

Other: Poor Corporal Reyes. I don't think Garcia acts towards him with the same deliberate malice that the sergeant received from Monastario or the Magistrado, but he definitely makes life hard on his corporal. At least Reyes was able to keep his mustache.

I do find his and Garcia's reluctance these last couple of weeks to engage Zorro a little strange. I'm sure they realize their chances of victory are slim, and Garcia is not doubt concerned about more humiliating alterations to his uniform courtesy of Zorro's sword. But they honestly seem afraid to face Zorro, and I can't believe they think he'd really harm them. He could have killed or maimed them a dozen times over by now if he chose (not even counting all the times he's saved them from someone else), but he never does. I'm not saying they should be cocky and full of beans to fight a battle they'll surely lose, but knowing your opponent will certainly not harm you ought to be a little encouraging. Though last week I could seem them being worried, since they were involved in keeping Zorro's horse hostage, essentially. Messing with a man's horse is serious business.

And again, credit to Estevan. He also has to know he can't match Zorro with the sword, but he keeps trying. Estevan is one of those classic types who seems like he could be immensely successful as a legitimate businessman, given his determination and wits, but he's too fixed on trying to find the easy money. That said, if this really is a scam, it's anything but easy. Cesar Romero also sings pretty well, even when it's Corporal Reyes he's singing to, and while he's scanning his surroundings for Zorro. He's got a good voice.

I noticed Margarita doesn't seem that enthused about the whole thing. When Diego arrived and took the guitar so she and Estevan could dance, she didn't seem comfortable. Which could be Patricia Medina, the actress playing Margarita, not feeling comfortable for one reason or another, or it could be something deliberate. She definitely seemed bothered when Diego mentioned that she was going to be his aunt once this marriage went through. I know Don Marcos had expressed a desire that she get married, and I feel as though we're meant to read her as being older than Anna-Maria Verdugo was, whether that's true or not. It could be she was really hoping for Diego to take the initiative, but Estevan has put on such a good full-court press she doesn't feel she can decline, because it'll hurt her father. Or she flat out doesn't want to get married at all. I thought it was notable that she's the one who rides across their land to determine how much of it her husband will receive. It's her family's land, she's doing the riding, but Estevan gets it. I know, conventions of the era, but that doesn't mean she would have to be happy about it.

Friday, March 11, 2016

What I Bought 3/8/2016 - Part 2

I was debating whether to try the new Power Man and Iron Fist series and ultimately decided not to. I kept seeing scans of it and not feeling any excitement for it. It felt like something I'd buy because I thought I should buy it, rather than because I wanted to. If that ends up being a mistake, I'm sure I'll learn about it online. On to books with time travel!

Deadpool and Cable: Split Second #3, by Fabian Nicieza (story/script), Reilly Brown (story/pencils), Jay Leisten and Jeremy Freeman (inkers), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I can't make out what Wade's expression is. if he's taking aim, or just as befuddled by tween Cable's head covering as I am.

Wade is sent to different timelines to kill a bunch of Cables, because the TVA assures him this will solve the problem Cable's time-traveling has caused. Except Wade keeps saving Cable instead, and it turns out that works, too. Then he travels back in time to where the mess started and keeps Split-Second from accidentally killing what turns out to be his baby brother, only to have Cable show up, steal his suit, and try to save himself by killing all the other Cables. And Wade stops him again, and somehow all the Cables merge into sort of classic Cable, to the extent such a thing exists. Personally, I think the beard worked for him, even if it was a little implausible a child of Scott Summers could grow a beard that good. A mustache, sure. His grandfather's Corsair. A beard is another matter.

I think the story got away from Nicieza and Brown a little. Wasn't entirely clear what killing all these Cables, some of whom have clearly already time traveled, was going to accomplish. I mean, if the temporal stuff is the issue, you gotta kill him before Jean and Scott sent him to the damn future to save him, because that was the first instance! And Nicieza already gave Deadpool a chance to kill infant Cable once, and he didn't. And I have no idea why not killing him worked just as well.

But I don't care, because after like 9 years, Wade got Cable back to making him think his fly was down that one time! That's the important thing. Also, I like how much Brown has Wade really get into his sword swings. There's one, when he's trying to stop one Cable from killing another, where he cuts Cable's gun in two, and he it's like he jumped in the air, then swung down as hard as he could, so he almost folds himself in half. Gotta appreciate the effort. Also, during the battle in Wade's mind, I notice that among the statues of Shiklah, Siryn, Vanessa, and the patron Saint Bea herself, there was one of Cable. They still may not have kissed on panel, but for the people who care, Wade puts Cable in there with his love interests. So be happy! Or don't. I don't care.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (lettering and production) - Sometimes the squirrel in Doreen's logo reminds me of the Starfox logo. Not precisely, the legs are different, but the bushy tail flowing behind.

Old Squirrel Girl and Young Squirrel Girl try to fight Doom and his Doombots while Nancy and the other CS students convince all the New Yorkers of the '60s it's just a European film they're making. The battle moves into the Natural History Museum, and Doreen appears on the verge of defeat, until she speaks to Nancy in C++ to tell her to send Doreen into the past (using the gun the schlub responsible for all this had), so that Doreen can show up and help, and just keep doing that until there's like 40 Squirrel Girls beating up on Doom. I don't care what that text said, I'm not calling them Squirrels Girl, that doesn't make any sense at all. Doom is forced to surrender, send everyone home, and not try this stunt again. He tries to circumvent this by sending a Doombot back, but finds Old Lady Squirrel Girl trashed his time platform.

I think North and Henderson mostly closed the loop on the potential paradoxes, and I didn't get as lost as I did with Deadpool and Cable, so bravo team! It was nice Squirrel Girl had not lost her awful sense of humor with age, as demonstrated with her terrible "old" pun she did with her younger self. And that was a great, awful joke, especially because they took a panel to high five over it, during the fight. Also outstanding was Doreen's outrage at Doom sassing science, and the fact Doom actually listens when the heroes discuss their plan. Someone who monologues out loud as much as Doom would know to listen to other people providing handy expository dialogue. And the fact that apparently Doreen's really awkward attempts to maintain her secret identity actually work, because her other classmates didn't catch on for a good long time. If she'd been wearing the ears from her costume, they'd have never figured it out.

I think one of my favorite panels is the one right after Nancy tries to help by throwing a rock at a Doombot. Then we see things in profile as Nancy hustles away as the Doombot monotones, "Destroy all nerds". It's just a good beat, a classic form of humor, and it works.

So let's see. Doreen's handled Galactus, she's made Dr. Doom submit. Next on the list: Thanos. Or MODOK, I guess.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Run - William Sleator

I was a huge fan of William Sleator's books in junior high. Our school library had Interstellar Pig and House of Stairs, both of which I must have read three or four times. And I saw this book at that bookstore, and thought, sure, why not?

Run revolves around Lillian, Mark, and Jesse. Lillian is staying alone for a couple of days at her family's summer house, which has proven to be more daunting than she thought it would be originally. Mark and Jesse are supposed to be on a bike trip to visit some friends. Lillian finds herself worried about being alone, and the boys find themselves blocked from continuing their trip by the weather. And objects keep disappearing from the house when they're out. And Lillian and Mark are both sure they saw someone in the woods nearby.

It's a book written for a younger audience, but I appreciate the effort Sleator makes to not go trite or easy with things. There ends up being a whole thing about drug addiction in there, but Sleator makes certain to point out it isn't strictly a function of economic status, and that the structures in place meant to help are woefully insufficient. The three teens had earlier met a cop who had basically treated them like idiots who were immediately suspicious because they were young, and so they opt not to call the police. Sleator doesn't have this turn out to be a great decision that works out well for everyone, because fuck the police or something like that. Their reasons aren't exactly wrong, just not thought through well enough.

The basic idea seemed to be that wanting to help someone isn't wrong, just keep in mind that to really help them is not going to be some simple, easy process where you do one thing and magically fix everything. It's still worth doing, just be prepared to make a genuine effort.

So the book wasn't precisely what I was expecting. I had figured on something with probably a supernatural bent, maybe science fiction, and it's more grounded than that. Not bad, just different.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

What I Bought 3/8/2016 - Part 1

I thought for the start of this round of reviews I'd start with first issues. One's from an ongoing, the other from a mini-series. One has quite a bit of dialogue, the other not so much.

Black Widow #1, by Chris Samnee (writer/artist), Mark Waid (writer), Matthew Wilson (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I notice Samnee gave her shoulder holsters rather than at her waist, which is the approach favored by the recent films. I wonder if there was a particular reason. Also, I hope SHIELD gets a group discount from the person who paints their logo on stuff, cause it's always getting trashed.

Natasha stole something from the Helicarrier. Maria Hill wants it and her back. Many SHIELD agents try, they fail, that's the first issue plot summary. Well, that was easy. I've seen a few mentions online about how the book takes roughly three minutes to read, which I can't dispute. Not that I have a problem with giving Samnee and Wilson an issue to show off. I thought, especially in the scenes with a lot of fire that the art looked a bit like Francisco Francavilla's. The last page, or the panel where she leaps out of the Helicarrier. Maybe that particular color and Samnee's inks remind me of those Afterlife with Archie covers. The 14-panel page fight in the mud was pretty good, the two times that the panel doubles in width, as we pull back for just an instant during the fight. Also the markedly different font to the "CLIK" of the gun compared to all the impacts of people hitting each other.

That said, they could have put a bit more into the story. Not even a lot; tell us what she stole. You don't necessarily have to explain why she took it, but something to give it a little more. it's definitely a different approach from Daredevil, where they spent a lot of time inside Murdock's head. Here, everything is based on actions, and we don't even really get the thoughts of the people chasing Natasha, let alone hers. I'll admit if it was almost any creative team other than this bunch, I'd be less trusting. I'm guessing there's a point to this approach, and I'll stick around to see what it is.

Agent Preston better not have been hurt by that explosive, though. She's finally getting established as a SHIELD agent enough to appear outside Deadpool books, and they go and have the Black Widow through a damn bomb at her. She's got two kids to look after, Natasha! Plus Deadpool, which is like five kids.

Wynonna Earp #1, by Beau Smith (writer), Lora Innes (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Robbie Robbins (letterer) - She's got the slow badass walk while backlit down. That's half the battle to being a cool action hero.

I have no prior experience with the character's earlier mini-series, but I know enough people online who like Beau Smith's work I'm willing to take a chance. Wynonna works for a branch of the U.S. Marshals that deals with paranormal crime, and at the moment, they're focused on a demon named Mars del Ray, who has a human organ trafficking operation they'd like to shut down. Having some trouble finding it, though, even with intel of some guy named "John Henry". Wynonna doesn't seem to entirely have the trust of her partner, who's concerned she doesn't worry about civilian casualties enough, and there's someone shadowing her footsteps, I don't know why.

This is not the polar opposite of Black Widow, but it's a different approach to be sure. A lot of that is Smith trying to make sure the reader is up to speed on the key points, as well as getting the main threat going, hinting at some, possibly unconnected problems, and allowing for a lot of snappy back-and-forth. Which is fine by me. It a different kind of fast-paced, but fast-paced all the same.

I'm not familiar with Innes' art, either, but it works well here. She really seems to have a good handle on Wynonna's expressions and body language. Earp comes off as very relaxed and in control during the fights, even during the moments when things aren't necessarily going well. And the conversation with Downs in the diner was well done. Earp starting off refusing to make eye contact, crossing her arms when Downs starts in with his spiel about being careless. Leaning forward and looking directly at him when she's trying to convince him he can count on her. And I really like the scowl she's wearing as Downs and "John" are talking and seemingly ignoring her. Also, when the two DEA guys get shot by the mystery person, one of the "BLAM" sounds effects has a blur through part of it, like the motion of the bullet. Not sure if that was Innes or Robbins, but a nice touch either way.

I don't know if Smith, Innes, and company will maintain this kind of pace through the remainder of the mini-series, but I'm willing to stick around to see.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Right On Time, Talking About Something I Revisited

I was rewatching Azumanga Daioh a few weeks ago, because I hadn't in 3 or 4 years. It's still one of my favorite series, even though a decent chunk of its jokes don't land for me. Some of them are a lack of understanding on my part, the joke being a cultural reference I don't get. Some of them have a cadence that doesn't work. There are frequent jokes where the punchline seems to be an extremely drawn out silence, or someone (usually Osaka) repeating a phrase they'd just said while another character looks on incredulously. Which seems like it could be funny, but it usually doesn't work. Maybe it's a culture gap, too. There were also a couple of bits I realized probably wouldn't work now, like where they debate what a panda looks like, and they don't have smartphones to look this up on, since I think the time when this series was taking place is roughly contemporary with my years in high school. I'm going to try not to think too hard about that.


I read a description of the series once on TV Tropes that it tends to focus too heavily on Sakaki. Which is true in the sense that she does get a lot of time front and center. I tend to like her character, so I don't mind that, so I can't really say if she dominates the series. I think Sakaki gets the majority of the long-running plot threads (Tomo and Osaka are around a lot, but more in the brief joke scenes), with her love of cute animals, which runs smack up against the fact almost all cats seem to hate her. Also her own apparent discomfort with herself. She's very focused on the fact she's not "cute", and this is something she very much wants to be. Everyone else in the school thinks she's a really cool "lone wolf", but she's mostly just shy and awkward. I'm not terribly surprised she got more screen time than some of the other characters, given that.

There's also what I'd call a fair amount of fan service involving her, since she's a bit more developed than most of her classmates. Which is especially awkward, considering how uncomfortable she's presented as being every time someone makes a comment or reference to the size of her chest. She isn't even particularly comfortable when it's pointed out how tall she is, probably because it makes her feel even farther away from her conception of cute (which child genius Chiyo pretty much exemplifies). Then you throw Mr. Kimura in there, and that makes it even more awkward to watch.

Kimura is that kind of stock, "creepy older guy" character that a fair number of animes have. The first time we see him, one of his students asked why he became a teacher, and he loudly proclaims, 'BECAUSE I LIKE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS!' Which sets the tone of him behaving entirely inappropriately around female students and other teachers. There are a couple of sequences where we see him doing nice things outside school, or the girls meet his kind, if absent-minded, wife, and she tells them what she likes about him, which almost seems like the series is chiding us for judging him on being a creepy pervert. But then it usually deliberately undoes that by having him do something which reaffirms him being creepy.

So I'm not sure what was being driven at there. If it's strictly that the creators think it's funny, and that's it. Or if I'm meant to think that when his wife says she thinks he's cool, but in a way that isn't entirely in fashion these days, that all these weird comments and actions are really him trying to be funny, or hip, and he's just incredibly bad at it. That happens a few times, where he seems to be trying to be funny, and instead is shown to be scaring the hell out of people. But you'd think at some point he'd pick up on the fact he was getting a poor response. Or that the series is poking fun at the part of the audience that also likes high school girls, telling them, "even if you are actually a nice fellow, this is what you're like." But that brings us back around to the sexualizing of Sakaki by the same creators that would be making fun, so ooo. They wouldn't be the first to try eating their cake and having it too, but either way, it ends up making for a lot of scenes that are really awkward.

All that said, there's still quite a bit I enjoy about the series. The friendships we see in particular, both the ones that develop over the course of the series, like Sakaki and Chiyo, and the ones that were already in place that we see the rhythms they have, such as Tomo and Yomi, or Yukari and Nyamo. Even the attempt by Kagura to strike up a friendship with Sakaki, which is always kind of awkward because they share basically no interests, is interesting to me precisely because of how it sputters and stumbles along. The episode where Tomo, Osaka, and Kagura try teaming up to study for finals as The Knuckleheads makes me laugh. The Culture Festival and Sports Fest episodes that come around more than once will reuse certain jokes, but with a different slant, or approached from a different angle, so it ends up working well. The final relay race is one of my favorite bits in the whole series.

For all the jokes or bits that fall flat with me, there are plenty that make me laugh, or at least chuckle. Chiyo getting frustrated and acting more like the child she is, rather than she typically collected prodigy they usually depict her as, always works, precisely because they don't go to that well too often. Chiyo's reaction to Tomo's impression of her, or Chiyo's irritation at being a second-year student getting cooed over by a bunch of first-year students, are the two that leap to mind.

Monday, March 07, 2016

I'm Opportunistic With My Reading

A couple of months ago, Tim O'Neil did a post about David Bowie. I don't know enough about Bowie to have any substantial opinion there. There was a bit near the end that caught my eye, when Tim mentioned he was taking his time getting to some of Bowie's discography, just like he kept putting off reading The Brothers Karamazov, because you only get one shot to experience them for the first time, and he wanted to be in the right frame of mind.

It caught my attention because I've been meaning to read The Brothers Karamazov for awhile, but I found that very interesting. The idea of waiting to read, watch, or listen to something until I have a chance to approach it the way I want. I don't know if I've ever done that. Certainly not that I can remember. I haven't bought The Brothers Karamazov simply because most of my book purchases are spur of the moment things on the occasions I'm in a bookstore, and either there's never a copy of it around, or it costs more than I'm willing to spend.

Or maybe the latter reason is part of that mindset, where I don't want to go in thinking about how I spent X dollars on this, and that creates expectations.

Most of the time, when there's some piece of entertainment I want to see or hear, once I can get it at a price I deem reasonable, I do. Once I have it, I go ahead and read it. If I wait, it's because I don't have time in my schedule, or sometimes with books, because there are a lot of other books I'm not heavily interested in, but still want to read, piling up and I decide to get them out of the way first. That's happened just recently, where there's a short novella I want to read, but I had all those history books my dad sent, and I opted to get through them. Which I don't think is quite what Tim's talking about.

I guess I've taken the approach it isn't necessarily my first experience that's critical, so much as the overall experience? I tend to rewatch movies a lot. I couldn't tell you the first time I watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly all the way through. Maybe I caught it on TV in high school, though that was almost certainly chopped up for time and content reasons. Probably college. Regardless, that first encounter is lost to time, but I know I pick up new things, or view Leone's work from different angles, every time I watch it, and the overall experience and impression is what sticks with me. It's less frequent, but I do reread books if I like that particular book or author enough. So maybe that's why the first time isn't a milestone for me.

I'm not trying to draw a conclusion between the two approaches. I don't know how often Tim revisits things, or how rare it is for him to wait to digest something. It just got me thinking a bit about how I approach my entertainment.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Zorro 2.17 - Tornado is Missing

Plot: Alejandro's losing to Diego at chess, after having lost 15 pesos to Estevan the night before. Good to know Alejandro's as bad at chess as I am. Sergeant Garcia arrives to collect the de la Vega's contribution to the pot for the annual charity horse race. Which is precisely when Estevan comes in and starts this whole thing about Alejandro bribing the sergeant to ignore some planned misdeed. Which of course leaves poor Garcia hopelessly befuddled trying to defend himself. But eventually Estevan stops fooling, and when he learns of the race, even chips in his 15 pesos. He's somewhat less excited when he learns the money is presented by the winner to the children at the mission, but too late now.

After Garcia leaves, and Estevan departs on some scheme to set Diego up with a senorita named Margarita, Bernardo rushes in to tell Diego that Tornado is not in the cave. Those two and Alejandro scour the countryside, without success. Estevan meanwhile, having parted company with Margarita, comes across a magnificent black horse, which he is able to approach and ride. Recognizing it's remarkable speed, he takes it to town and stashes it in an abandoned winery. Unfortunately, feeding the horse proves difficult for someone with no money, but he's able to convince Garcia to take some of Corporal Reyes' money to buy oats. This entitles the soldiers to see this magnificent horse, and Reyes astutely observes that it's Zorro's horse. Which gives Estevan an idea. He'll win the race, collect on the numerous bets he's already made, then release the horse and follow it straight back to Zorro, and collect that reward.

Unfortunately, Estevan can't resist trying to goad Alejandro into placing some bets with him, and his comments on the can't lose horse he has, but won't show them, raises Diego's suspicion. So he mentions that it's is common for contestants in the race to steal each others' horses, just until the race is finished. Then Zorro follows Estevan to the winery. But once Tornado starts acting up, Estevan gets suspicious, and he, Garcia, and Reyes trying searching outside. Too bad their peripheral vision is terrible, and Zorro easily sneaks past them inside. Before he can ride off, they return, and noticing the horse has been untied from the post, begin searching the interior of the winery. Zorro lurks among the casks up above, and when the Garcia attempts to climb up, the ladder is sent tumbling down. Which leaves Estevan up there alone, armed with only a hammer. Which doesn't remain in his possession long. With no one capable of stopping him, Zorro deftly leaps onto Tornado, and rides out the door and on his way.

Quote of the Episode: Estevan - 'But those are bets between gentlemen. This lout wants cash.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (7 overall).

Other: I wonder what happened to Estevan's bets, since he lost his sure thing horse, and never had the money to pay up if he lost. Most likely Alejandro covered him to avoid a disgrace on his name. Or maybe the gentlemen in question accepted Estevan's excuses and let the bets drop.

I also can't help wondering what his scheme is with pushing Diego and Margarita together. I know he's got some romance-themed hijinks going in next week's episode, but in that case it appears he's planning to get married. I can't figure out what he stands to gain from Diego being married, unless he thinks Diego is going to be easier to mooch off than Alejandro. If so, I'm a little disappointed in Estevan. I would kind of think his own tendency towards trickery and dishonesty would enable him to see through Diego's act. Not that he would necessarily realize Diego was Zorro, but that he would see the violence-abhorring scholar and layabout is an act.

Estevan's plan once he learns who his horse belongs to isn't a bad one, necessarily. There's the question of how he, Garcia, and Reyes were going to manage to catch Zorro once they found his lair, since they have no way of knowing there are passages that lead directly into the de lav Vega home. I feel like there's also the issue of how they're going to keep up with Tornado when it returns home. The horse is blindingly fast even with someone sitting on it. How fast will it be running with no dead weight to lug around? Garcia and Reyes have never had any luck keeping up with it before. But perhaps they could enlist the other lancers, and have them stationed over a wide enough area to compensate. And when Estevan suspects Zorro is outside the winery and rushes outside, Garcia correctly notes there's only one entrance, so they should just guard it and make Zorro come to their combined forces, rather than splitting up.

And it would have worked, if they had any peripheral awareness whatsoever. If I'd been dealing with guards like that in Thief, I wouldn't have spent nearly as much time hitting people over the head.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Who Is Getting Betrayed Is Unclear

I have this theory, based on Titania's seeming strength upgrade recently, and the Hood's observation of her fight with Thor in Illuminati #4.

The ray those poor dope thieves shot her with, the ones who busted into the pawn shop in the first issue, was designed to simulate whatever energies Dr. Doom used to give her power in the first place, like a boost to her powers.

That's not such a big deal, but it is part of the reason I can't entirely rule out that the Mad Thinker's betrayal of the team is all part of the Hood's plan. Because someone had to build that ray gun for him, and while Thunderball's a smart guy, he seems too on the level to have been involved (and too unsure of whether being part of this group is a good idea at all). The Thinker is even smarter, and I can't see any reason he'd object to building the gun.

Which doesn't preclude him from having betrayed the Hood. Titania being even stronger would help them get to Asgardia, which helps them get to those weapons he wants to steal. But then I start thinking about why the Hood couldn't simply teleport them to Asgardia himself. He has the ability to do so, and he's set up his HQ in some weird building where the only apparent exit is via him and his powers. He supposedly didn't teleport them away from Club Fenris because he'd take all the other villains along, too, which suggests he's got plenty of power to teleport only a half-dozen or so. So why not do that himself, given a quiet moment?

It could be as simple as him needing to know where to go, and not having a clear sense of where Asgardia is in relation to Earth. Or it could be part of a larger scheme. Either to bring the rest of the team closer together, by having them get betrayed. Or he could be using it as a chance to weed some weak links out. He decides he can't trust the Black Ant, have him blown up. Then see who on the team can fight their way past a bunch of angry Asgardians, and those survivors are the ones you keep.

It has a lot of potential for disaster, but that's the Hood for you, always making plans he thinks are better than they really are.