Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Not Every Film Can Grab My Attention

My coworkers wanted to go to a double feature at a nearby drive-in, which is the only way I found out there was a Ratchet and Clank movie.

Ratchet dreams of being a Galactic Ranger, but is rejected as too small and weak. Clank crash lands with a warning that Chairman Dreckt is going to wipe the Rangers out with killbots, he and Ratchet save the Rangers, get onto the team, a rift forms between the people on the team who like to plan, and those who like to just shoot things, the team fails at the worst time, they regroup, they beat the bad guys.

If that seems an unenthusiastic plot summary, well, I wasn't exactly engaged. My description after the film was 'thoroughly mediocre', and I stand by it. But the movie's not for me, I know.

Dreckt was blasting planets to pieces and then using the pieces to try and form some dream world. His execution didn't quite match his imagination, but that was the goal. The Rangers ultimately blew the patchwork planet up, which seems like kind of a waste. All those planets blown up, almost all of them uninhabited, sure, but someone could have lived on the new one.

I think I did chuckle a few times at Captain Quark, who is a self-serving buffoon of sorts, but outside of that, I was mostly waiting for it to end. I did keep thinking Dreckt made the same mistake as the mobsters in The Dark Knight, turning to someone they didn't understand to help further their goals, only to find he beyond their control. It probably undersells the evil of corporations, who can trash things but sell people on how it's good to do that, but it's also easier to defeat a single, crazed individual than a monolithic entity with a crack p.r. team.

I will mention all four of my coworkers preferred Ratchet and Clank to the other half of the double feature, Captain America: Civil War. I don't agree, but we'll get to that on Thursday.

Monday, May 30, 2016

This Is Going To Get Progressively Angrier

DC and Marvel have generally lost their capacity to elicit outraged reactions from me. They go to the well so often with their hyped up, shocking twists, and change everything events that I mostly sigh or roll my eyes nowadays. Sometimes I miss how ticked off I could get at things like Civil War, but on the whole, I prefer it this way. Marvel and DC are like some bratty kid that keeps poking me or making a particular sound they can tell annoys me, because they think it's funny when it gets to me. Better to not play their game at all. It still happens, sometimes, though not to the same degree.


But I'm genuinely surprised DC did manage to piss me off with DC: Rebirth. More specifically, with the reveal that everything that's gone wrong with DC during the New 52 was the doing of Dr. Manhattan. Geoff Johns trying to metatextually blame the direction the DCU took on Watchmen, and I guess by implication, Alan Moore (and Dave Gibbons?). And I've never read Watchmen, I have no attachment to it. From I've read about it, it does not put forth a vision of superheroes I have any particular interest in reading about on a regular basis (how fortunate it was its own mini-series). I'd just as soon DC left it alone and let the rights revert back to Moore and Gibbons. That said. . .

It's ridiculous for Geoff Johns to try and pin the blame for the darkening of the DCU, or the loss of legacies, or whatever, on Watchmen. So it's that one mini-series, published 30 years ago, using its own characters (analogues to existing one, yes, but Rorschach is not the Question), in its own universe, that is to blame for Identity Crisis, Knightfall, Flashpoint, the New 52, whatever it is that was "wrong" since. Right. Yes, Watchmen had a particular style and philosophy to it, and yes, many comics published, both at DC and elsewhere, have tried to ape at least parts of it. Most of them have not been as good, owing to inferior creative talent, editorial restrictions, the difference between writing a single, self-contained mini-series versus an ongoing serial that's part of a larger fictional universe, and probably other factors as well.

But at the end of the day, Watchmen wasn't making anyone try to copy it. Alan Moore didn't stride into DC's office with a gun and demand they publish a bunch of books in a similar vein. The people working on those books made that decision. People like Geoff Johns, who is now blaming Watchmen for all those stories he wrote where Superboy-Prime ripped people's arms off, or dozens of essentially faceless characters in different colored Lantern costumes slaughtered each other in multiple unnecessary single and double page splashes. Just because Johns strip-mined basically every idea Moore tossed out in his stints writing Green Lantern comics doesn't make Moore responsible for what Johns did with those ideas. It's disingenuous at best, hypocritical nonsense at worst.

Which isn't new for Johns. The guy who insisted on bringing back Hal Jordan and Barry Allen is also the guy who made Superboy-Prime the avatar of fanboys wanting everything back how they liked it, and one of the villains of Infinite Crisis. Sure, it'd be nice if Johns recognized that flaw in himself, but I think that's giving him too much credit. He's been in a position of some power in the DC office all through the New 52, which he now claims was all wrong, but he's trying to pretend as though he had nothing to do with it. Which is the same approach my dad's dogs take when we come home and find one of the kitchen trash cans knocked over and stuff scattered all about. Except if my dad and I had been standing there watching them scatter the garbage for the last 10 years, while being unable to do anything to stop them.

I know I shouldn't be surprised at either DC or Marvel pulling this kind of stupid, petty bullshit. And maybe if it had been written by someone other than a chief architect of a lot of the same developments he's now decrying, I'd have been less bothered. Over at Wait, What?, Matt Terl mentioned he might not have minded as much if say, Jeff Parker or Margeurite Bennett had written it, and I think that might also have been true for me. But for Geoff Johns to sit there like he's Inspector Renaut, just shocked, shocked to find the DCU is full of grim violence and no legacies, and act like it's Alan Moore that's to blame, rather than Johns himself (among others), no. It's revisionist bullshit, to the extent I had to type something about it, and figured better to do it here than barge into the comments sections of other people's posts.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Zorro 2.29 - Exposing the Tyrant

Plot: Basilio calls Sergeant Garcia into his office, and is strangely friendly, inquiring as to whether Garcia has thought of retiring from the Army. He'll have been in service for 20 years in three weeks, and would then be eligible to do so. But the sergeant loves the army, and wishes to stay. Until Basilio tells him that there's a law the states the king can give land to retired soldiers, and so the sergeant could become a haciendaro. "Don Demetrio" has a nice ring to it, and the sergeant exits beaming at the possibility. What he doesn't realize is Basilio plans to accuse Don Cornelio (Moneta's father) of treason so he can seize the land, and give it to Garcia, figuring it will be easy to take it back later.

That evening, Garcia, Basilio, and Diego are enjoying drinks at Cornelio's home when Basilio puts his plan into motion. He starts asking the sergeant if he can identify where certain fine objects in the house came from. Well, the candlesticks came from England, and some other pieces from France, countries Spain is currently hostile to. Meaning Cornelio is trading with the enemy, which is treason, and he must be arrested. Basilio, as he departs, even twists the knife by congratulating Sergeant Garcia on the fine hacienda he will soon own, since it has been seized.

The next morning, there is a brief moment of hope as Garcia points out everyone in town trades with whatever ships come to port, regardless of nationality, and so he can't testify against Cornelio. Then Basilio informs him that if he admits to that, he will be guilty of dereliction of duty, which is also treason, and he'll be lynched, whereas Cornelio will merely be exiled. He also tells Garcia not to tell anyone of this conversation or else, which means Garcia can't explain to anyone that this wasn't his plan. And so everyone is hostile to him: Corporal Reyes, Diego, even Zorro, who vows to gut the sergeant if he testifies against Don Cornelio. The day of the trail comes, and Basilio calls Garcia to testify. The sergeant balances on the precipice, unsure which way to go. Captain Mendoza is showing off a little noose he made from a strip of leather, while Bernardo is flashing a "Z" on the wall with a mirror, but ultimately it's Basilio who makes the key gaffe. He mentions out loud, in front of everyone, that Garcia will be guilty of treason if he admits this was a common practice. That public prod is enough stiffen the sergeant's resolve, and he absolves Don Cornelio. Fortunately, Zorro is there, and quickly demonstrates Basilio himself is wearing all sorts of items from hostile countries, and forces Basilio to admit it is not a treasonous action, lest he be killed himself.

Quote of the Episode: Basilio - 'They're exquisite. What a pity we're not better friends with the French.'

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

Other: Basilio is really handsy around Moneta, and so many cheesy lines. I seriously considered using 'We're all slaves, my dear. Slaves to duty and slaves to beauty.' as quote of the episode, just for how nauseating it is. Interestingly, he did not approach Moneta with an offer of leniency for her father if she married him, as I thought he would. Which shouldn't be surprising, considering he's just accused her father of treason and seized their home. She's hardly going to feel positively towards him. I'd suspect he planned to wait until after he stole the land back from Garcia, but by then, he'll have executed her dad, so I can't see it working then, either.

So maybe the whole thing Moneta is just him playing around. Or beauty doesn't mean as much to him as money and land. Would hardly be surprising if that's the case.

The major problem I have with this episode is Garcia's unwillingness to explain to anyone why he can't clear Don Cornelio. I had thought, when Basilio made that threat, we'd see Garcia start to explain, then notice Mendoza hanging around nearby watching and clam up. But no, Mendoza is never around and Garcia still won't talk. Zorro visits him in his room at night, when there's no one else there, and still the sergeant won't simply explain that it's his head or the don's on the chopping block.

So, uh, apparently Switzerland was hostile to Spain in the 1820s? Because that's where Basilio's pocket watch was from, and Zorro uses it as evidence of Basilio's own treasonous behavior. I looked briefly on Wikipedia, and it mentions the War of the Seventh Coalition in 1815, but they were on the same side (against France). Then nothing until a civil war in 1847. Or is it just a case of Spain not wanting her colonies to trade with anyone other than the mother country? If so, they really should have phrased it that way, because Basilio made it seem as though Spain was at war with practically all of Europe at the time.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Yes, I'm Still Thinking About The Deadpool Movie

It has to be some measure of how much I enjoyed the film that I'm actually excited at the prospect of Cable appearing in the sequel. Assuming that's actually something that's going to happen, and given there are actors actively campaigning for the role, I guess it is.

Admittedly, I only enjoy Cable when he's around Deadpool, but half the time I'm infuriated at his vaguely patronizing attitude towards Wade. But I'm curious to see what they'd do with him, how they'd get him into the movie in the first place. Will he already be in the present? Will he time travel in partway through? Will Wade travel into the future? How happy will Wade be to play with future weapons, like laser rifles that don't require ammo (that he would just forget anyway)?

I was wondering how they were going to build Wade and Nathan's peculiar friendship in one movie, considering how long those two were full-on antagonists, then grudging allies, then actual buddies and whatever else they might be. But movies pull off that antagonists to buddies stuff all the time, like Lethal Weapon, or Tommy Boy, so it's easily doable. Although Deadpool/Cable kind of runs a wider gamut, since they were actively trying to kill each other, and I'm not going to rule out them being presented as a couple in the film (certainly expecting Wade to make several suggestive remarks).

I'm assuming the X-Men defeated Apocalypse in the recently released X-Men film*, which is a bit of a shame, since he's frequently the reason Cable's running around in the present anyway. But I suppose it's always possible that Apocalypse didn't actually die**, and he's back causing trouble, and that's why Cable showed up, to finish the job.

* Which I might get around to seeing one of these days. I haven't really loved any of the X-Men films, and I still haven't seen Captain America: Civil War, even though I did love each of the first two Cap movies, so it isn't exactly a priority.

** I've come to expect superhero movies to kill their bad guys. I don't really like that they do it, but it does happen a lot. But maybe Apocalypse didn't die, even though Jean incinerated his physical and astral form, thank you Wikipedia.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Strange Would Pay The Ferryman SImply Out Of Politeness

Marvel released a collection last fall called Doctor Strange: Don't Pay the Ferryman, which covered the final 7 issues of the '80s volume of his series. Written by Peter B. Gillis, with most of the art by Chris Warner, I've owned the first issue, #75 (which was written by Roger Stern and drawn by Sal Buscema), since I was a kid, which is why I wound up tracking down the rest in back issues.

The story starts with a demon escaping Mephisto's realm after Mephisto gets his ass kicked by Franklin Richards' awesome mental powers, because Mephisto overextended himself relying on the power boost granted by the Dire Wraiths managing to bring their world (sun?) into Earth's orbit, only to have it busted by Forge's giant Neo-Neutralizer.

None of that is strictly relevant to Strange's story, but it's just a such a bizarre sequence of intertwined events I had to lay it all out because I love that strange overlap of all these different worlds and characters.

As it turns out, the creature is actually a beautiful woman trapped within the form named Topaz, who is missing her soul, which Strange vows to help her recover. Except, for the remainder of the arc, Stephen is constantly distracted. An old friend falls in love with a powerful succubus sorcerer type, and Strange narrowly saves him from having his life force drained, only for his friend to curse him for leaving him in an empty existence. Which sets off a crisis of confidence in the Sorcerer Supreme, as to whether he has become so focused on the larger job of that title that he's become distanced from his own emotions. Which raises the question of whether that's actually the proper approach for a Sorcerer Supreme to take, as Strange is repeatedly confronted with situations where he can act to save one or two lives right now, but it may impair his ability to defend all of reality down the line.

It's a bit of a quandary because on some level Strange resents being forced to save all these people all the time, but also hates that he feels that way. His attempts to reconnect with friends he's kept at arm's length leaves him distracted when an alien sorcerer manages to steal the entire Sanctum Sanctorum and whisk it to another galaxy. So he's torn with indecision, and confronted with how much there is he doesn't know. He visits realms he's never seen before, encounters forces he doesn't understand, and struggles all the more because he keeps wavering in whether to trust his own judgment on how to proceed.

Ultimately, I think Gillis feels Strange makes the right call opting to save the people in danger in the present, but since the series ends with this story, I don't know what he might have done with the status quo going forward. The end does feel a bit rushed. In the final issue, Stephen uses the body of Rintarah, a minotaur apprentice of the being Stephen asked to repair his Cloak of Levitation. He appeared in between issues 80 and 81, and offered to assist Strange in recovering his friends and home from the alien sorcerer. And Stephen's acceptance elicits an angry reaction from Sara Wolfe, who had been housing Stephen's astral form (as his physical form was injured), and sees this as a rejection. There seemed like there was more there that got cut for space concerns. Also, in issue 75, Wong mentions he's arranged to be married, again to Sara's consternation, but that never comes up again. I guess Gillis wasn't interested in that idea.

Warner's art works well. His various creatures are impressively menacing or mocking as the situation requires. Khat in issue 77 is this long-limbed, scrabbly shape with big eyes and teeth. But everything else is covered in what I guess is fur, but it's drawn to look almost like a living mass of scribbled lines, or like someone was drawing a swarm of insects. And Warner frequently draws him in extreme close-up on the face, so those teeth and eyes are front and center, commanding the reader's attention. And since Khat is mostly using words to attack Strange's confidence, the fact the panels are forcing you to look at him as he cuts away at Stephen is highly effective.

Randy Emberlin tends to ink heavy shadows around Stephen's eyes and cheeks, like a man in considerable gloom, or perhaps, with his eyes hidden, someone missing some key human component. Topaz has striking red eyes (except in issue 75, where she has no pupils at all), but Stephen's are often hidden entirely. Warner also gives Strange this appearance of walking with a light tread, which I tended to read as uncertainty of his next step, both physical and philosophical.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Yes, I Did Buy Deadpool On DVD When It Came Out

I've been wanting to see it again since roughly five minutes after I finished watching it the first time, so that was inevitable. It still holds up as an enjoyable, funny movie, which was good.

Still, the first time I reviewed it, I felt the villains were kind of flat. We didn't get too much about them, their backstories, what made them tick. A little for Francis, in his comments about the euphemisms he used to use when describing the procedures to his test subjects. But nothing for Angel Dust, Gina Carano's character. Not even anything about why she chews on those matches. I don't need a huge elaborate backstory, just a little something as a minor revealing character trait to flesh her out.

Chewing it over, the best in-story explanation I can come up with is, this is Deadpool's story. Not just that it's about him, but he's the one telling it to us as we go along. Now that doesn't stop us from seeing scenes he wasn't present for, like our first views of the X-Mansion, or the specifics of that arms deal Francis was coming back from when Wade dropped in. But those are at least sort of relevant to Wade's story. He's after Francis specifically, and the X-Men are going to mess things up for him. But Francis and Angel's motivations?

Those are irrelevant to Deadpool. He doesn't care if they had crappy childhoods, or whatever. He and Vanessa had lousy childhoods, they (mostly) don't go around ruining people's lives. He's not out to understand their reasons, to stop them and then help them. He wants revenge. They messed his life up, and he wants to mess them up because of it. It's a very personal, focused goal, rather than any larger concern about Francis experimenting on people and selling them. Sure, killing Francis will at least put some sort of dent in that, as has Wade running around wrecking Francis' network trying to find him, but it's a side effect. Deadpool keeps reiterating that he's no hero, and at least in terms of motivations, that's definitely true. We'll see if, assuming there is a sequel, he does better in his next encounter with one of those four or five moments Colossus was droning on about.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wanting And Having Are Two Different Things

I did not get nearly as much done during my visit with my dad as I wanted, largely because it takes awhile for him to get moving, and I made the mistake of waiting for that rather than going and doing my thing, then meeting him later. But I did get to see some other movies, one of which was Woman Wanted, with Maureen O'Sullivan and Joel McCrea.

Ann (O'Sullivan) is found guilty of murdering her boyfriend, while she claims innocence. In fact, some mobsters killed the guy, and are hoping her facing the electric chair will convince her to tell them the locations of some bonds the deceased hid. McCrea plays Tony Baxter, an attorney who happened to see her from the window of the courtroom he was in, while she waited on the jury's deliberations, and made arrangements for dinner through pantomime. Quite how this guy is a successful enough attorney in the '30s to own two cars, a nice apartment, and a butler - played by a Robert Greig as the kind of classic, unflappable, dry wit butler - I don't know. My theory is he's a mob lawyer, probably for some Edward G. Robinson character busy in a different movie.

The mob arranges for Ann to escape the paddy wagon, but she spots Baxter in his car and hops in. Hijinks ensue in his apartment as the house dick spots her in the lobby and tries to find her, and Baxter's on-again, off-again fiance shows up, announcing the engagement is on again. By the time Baxter's learns who Ann is, he's decided he believes she's innocent and tries to help her prove it. They escape death once or twice, Ann tries to sacrifice herself to keep him safe, he brashly charges in to try and save her, the cops and D.A. show up in time, everything turns out great, and the two find out they're in love, I guess. Not sure what happens with Tony's fiance. Guess it's off again, but she pretty much drops out of the story whenever she isn't convenient to advance the plot or cause tension.

McCrea and Sullivan seem to have a good, playful chemistry, although the film didn't really sell me on them as a romantic couple. They got along well enough I could see them hanging out together and eventually falling in love, but I didn't think there was enough build up to justify it in the film. Greig's pretty good. He's the one who gets nervous about lying to the cops, but does it anyway. I guess he's had to lie for Tony enough he figures at least this time it might be for a good cause. Mostly it's watching him willing take the heat for Tony's shenanigans, because he does it so matter-of-factly. It's one of those movies where I'm not that invested in the plot, which is fairly paint-by-numbers, but there are individual scenes or performances I end up enjoying.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Summers' Family Tree Can Be Oddly Compelling

The teen versions of the original five X-Men have been in the present day for a few years now (our time). Has anyone done anything with Cable dealing with this? It seems as though bringing the teen version of his father forward in time, while leaving it open-ended whether he ever goes back, thus raising the question of whether he ever falls for Maddy Pryor and a young Nathan Christopher Summers is born, would be of some importance to Cable.

Not that I expect anyone at Marvel to pay any attention to such things anymore, and certainly not to apply any sort of logical consistency to it if they do pay it any mind.

But beyond that, it could be interesting. I've heard Greg Rucka did some good work having teen Cyclops spend time with his dad in the present, bonding over being space pirates. Scott got the chance to reconnect with a father he thought was dead, and Corsair got a chance to actually be a good dad. Older Scott and Cable have had a pretty solid relationship since Scott learned the truth about Cable (and I actually wonder what Cable's made of the decisions his father's made over the last five years).

But they were both grown men by that time. I'd be curious what younger Scott would make of his future self's ability as a father, and whether it would cause him to question his own capabilities. or maybe he'd look at everything Cable survived, and his general dedication to trying to make the world a better place (admittedly usually by shooting things with large guns, but not always), and take that as a good sign.

I also wonder what Cable might want to impart to a younger version of his father. I don't mean in terms of warning him about a specific danger at some point in time; Cable's done enough time travel to know that sort of things is probably useless. But what would Cable talk to Scott about in regards to friendship, or leadership, idealism, whatever? Cable's worn a lot of hats, tried a lot of different approaches. Had friends become enemies, enemies become friends, died, been reborn, gained powers, lost powers, on and on. What things would he would he see his dad as lacking that he could possibly give him, and could he manage it? Or would he even try at all? Maybe he'd just want to go camping with a teenage version of his dad and his space pirate grandpa.

Have Cable and Corsair ever interacted? Scott must have mentioned at some point he was married to Maddy, and they had a son. Corsair would presumably have asked where his grandson is, and I'm guessing Scott would explain it all. Corsair lives a weird life, he can handle techno-organic viruses and time travel. But I don't know if Cable's ever met him. I kind of suspect he wouldn't like Corsair much, would resent him for not being there for Scott, if even if he knew Corsair thought his son was dead for a long time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Zorro 2.28 - Treasure for the King

Plot: Senor Basilio is still in Los Angeles, and quite unhappy about it. He's being a sulky baby, basically, even refusing to honor his promise to come to luncheon at Senorita Moneta's hacienda when Diego comes to get him. Until, that is, Diego mentions Moneta's father is interested in buying royal bonds. So off they go, and the experience, unfortunately, improves Basilio's opinion of the area. The haciendas are impressive, and the wealth of their owners even more so. As Don Cornelio, Alejandro, and the others buy the bonds, the pile of wealth on Basilio's table grows. At first, he planned merely to take a small "commission", but swiftly changes his plans.

Instead, he plans to send large chests filled with a gourd of water and a cup on one side, and a bunch of gunpowder on the other. In between, a loaded pistol. While the chests are on the ship back to Spain, the rolling of the waves will cause the gourd to spill into the cup, weighing it down, until it draws the string tied to the trigger and the gun fires into the gunpowder, blowing up the ship, and causing everyone to assume the gold and jewels were lost. Of course, Basilio immediately wrecks the plan by publicly asking Diego if he knows of any haciendas in the area for sale, which seems awfully suspicious for a humble servant of the king. Soon enough, the wagon departs, with three chests. But Bernardo tells Diego he saw six chests. Basilio and Mendoza have both left to go. . . somewhere, so our heroes enter his office, and Bernardo distracts the guard while Diego sneaks into Basilio's room. He finds the other chests, but can't pick their locks.

Diego and Bernardo both dress as Zorro, and while Bernardo leads the lancers guarding the wagon on a merry chase, Diego catches up to the wagon. While he's trying to settle the horses, the hitch breaks and the wagon goes flying off a cliff. All the shaking triggered Basilio's Rube Goldberg device and the chests explode. Even so, that night Basilio receives a note telling him the chests were safely loaded on the ship. He and Mendoza rush to ogle their stolen gold, only to find rocks and dirt inside the chests, as well as the mark of Zorro.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'He is the arrogant jackass, isn't he?' Alejandro - 'You insult the jackass.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 3 (13 overall). One on the inside of the lid to each chest.

Other: Basilio is really bad at subterfuge. Maybe not surprising, considering how poorly he hid his disdain up to then. I guess he's not used to anyone calling him on acting like a pouty child, so he doesn't realize how obvious he is.

Alejandro mentioned that California is more loyal to the King than many of Spain's other colonies. I can't help shaking my head a little at him throwing the other colonies under the bus (to the extent Basilio would even care, which he doesn't), while wondering which colonies he meant. I also wonder if he means the Spanish or native inhabitants of those colonies, because you can't fault the people who were already there when the Spanish arrived for not giving a damn about Spain.

Basilio's also got his eyes on Moneta, and judging by the preview of next week's episode, I think he's going to take a page from Monastario's book and try to win her hand by threatening her father. I don't expect it to go any better for him than it did the Capitan.

At the very start of the episode, Diego rides upon Garcia crossing the square, Reyes right on his heels. Which is frustrating Garcia, who asks the corporal to walk on one side of him or the other, but to stop following him. I thought that was going somewhere, possibly referring to Basilio blaming Garcia for the humiliation Basilio suffered last week, but it never came up again.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Taking Temporary Residence In The Woods

I'm not planning on making missing Thursdays a thing, but again, things have been a little crazy this week. Anyway, a movie! A Walk in the Woods is based on a Bill Bryson book of the same name, about him trying to walk the Appalachian Trail with an old friend he'd lost contact with over the years. Robert Redford plays Bryson, Nick Nolte plays his friend Katz.

It's not bad. There's some pretty funny parts, mostly revolving around how unprepared these two, especially Katz, are for hiking 2000 miles. Katz is definitely not in proper condition for it, but he also pretty much takes any opportunity presented to him along the way, so he's fun to watch get himself into trouble. As for Bryson, he seems extremely awkward around people, but maybe it's just the kind of people you'd run into on that trail. They'll all seem to be serious outdoorsy types, very into what kind of tent is best or whatever, and Bryson doesn't give a shit. He just bought a damn tent because they told him he needed a tent. So some

My dad found it ludicrous that with all the overpriced crap the camping store guy sold Bryson, he didn't encourage him to bring a knife or a multi-tool or something. I was surprised he didn't bring a satellite phone, if he wanted to keep in touch with his wife so badly. Of course, either one of those things might have proved useful during the point when the two tumble down a cliff face like a couple of dopes, so maybe that's why.

There's is the obligatory scene where Bryson and Katz have a serious falling out about whether to proceed, and it looks as though that may be it for them, but Katz gives in almost immediately, which was surprising. In fiction you kind of expect the characters to stay mad at each other until some dramatically convenient moment. But this is supposed to be based on real events, and so it doesn't work like that. I'm still not sure exactly what Bryson did it for, it felt like there were a lot of half-formed reasons, or my attention was divided (watching a movie with my dad means you're pretty much in a full-scale conversation at the same time).

I felt like a lot of the close-up shots on the two were done in front of a green-screen, though? Like someone took shots of places on the Trail and put them in the background? There are definitely some shots that had to be done on location, but others, I don't know. That was a disappointing thought, somehow.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What I Bought 5/10/2016 - Part 5

This has been a pretty good set of books overall, last Friday's hiccup aside. Even the ones I haven't loved had some good parts to them.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #5, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Megan Wilson (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Does Jennifer crank her seat really low so she doesn't tower over people at her desk? I don't think she'd want to intimidate everyone, but she also enjoys being really tall.

Casiolena's plan, such as it was, falls apart in the face of Jennifer explaining to one of the henchpeople that magic probably can't fix his credit score, and when confronted with that reality, all the confused young folk with powers stop their rampaging. Even Casiolena's manservant was fed up with her, and tips Patsy's friends off to her location. The day is saved, not that it was in a terribly huge amount of danger. However, Patsy did not make it to her meeting with Hedy to settle this whole issue, and now Hedy's hired Jessica Jones to dig up dirt on Patsy. It seems to me that as a long-time friend/rival, Hedy would already know plenty of dirt (marrying the Son of Satan would seem like a big one), but maybe she wants the ind of dirt that doesn't spoil the marketability of Patsy's image? Not sure what can do that and still qualify as dirt.

That panel of Odin tiredly waving his hand "buh-bye" at Casiolena while she gets banished makes me smile. Though I always picture Odin really getting into it when he banishes someone, but maybe it was time for Odinsleep. I disappointed we didn't get to see more of the disaffected youth with powers, since some of them had pretty cool designs, but if they sign up with Patsy's temp agency, maybe they'll become recurring characters. I gotta say, the people in Leth's version of the Marvel U. are pretty reasonable. Once they recognize there's nothing to gain out of wreaking havoc, they stop. It's not a productive path, so why continue? Damage for the sake of it isn't a worthwhile pursuit.

It's too bad Casiolena didn't bring her dragons with her from Asgard. I'd have enjoyed seeing a few veteran superheroes lead a bunch of rookies in a battle against a sorceress and her dragons. And I'd be curious how Williams would draw dragons.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Joey Ellis (trading card artist), Rico Renzi with Henderson (color artists), Travis Lanham (letterer and production) - I'm impressed by the Swarm's dental hygiene. Those are some sparkling white teeth he's got. Can bees clean teeth?

OK, it's a Choose Your Adventure book, hosted by Galactus, where we, as Squirrel Girl, must save the from the Swarm, because he made sure to attack when all the other heroes he knew of were occupied. Which didn't include Koi Boi, so team-up. So you makes choices, most of which end in death or failure, though the failed choices usually offer the chance to backtrack to try a different path. I was disappointed Doreen was not able to use the "intense calculus studying" path to achieve victory. She's always adopting computer science stuff to help save the day. Math can also be useful, or so all my math teachers told me. They may have been lying.

Anyway, it's a decent enough issue. Not one of my favorites, but I did appreciate the creativity in how they defeated the Swarm. And how he thwarted her attempts to talk him out of killing all humans. Though, how can a guy made of bees hear? Can bees actually understand human languages? The Swarm shifts from looking fairly ominous, especially when his face is in shadow from his hood, with just the teeth and eye holes glowing, to looking like a goof, yelling "Lalalalala I can't hear you!"  Also, the disdainful look he gives them when they try to use smoke to defeat him. Although some of those squirrels looked kind of off-model. Chompsky's ears seemed unusually long.

Galactus in a dinner jacket was a nice touch, the the fact it looks like a short bathrobe made me think he wasn't wearing pants for some reason. He clearly is, the same purple pants he always wears. Although he's more of a force of nature in a form comprehensible to humans, so the pants are really an illusion, right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What I Bought 5/10/2016 - Part 4

Monday was the 3500th post on Reporting on Marvels and Legends. Criminiy Pete. Don't know quite what to think of that.

Roche Limit: Monadic #2, by Michaeel Moreci (writer), Kyle Charles (artist), Matt Battaglia (colorist), Ryan Ferrier (letterer), Tim Daniel (designer) - Judging by the cover, the story has become another of those stories about shrinking down inside the President to defuse a tiny nuke, or remove a blood clot.

Sasha remembers what was happening, and decides that, like it or not, she has to venture across that body of water. She also acknowledges that the Man and Girl are the husband and child she lost at some point in the past, and even though they are presumably creations of the aliens designed to learn about her, she can somehow awaken her husband's memories in this version of him. Elsewhere, Alex has seen the Black Tower and decided he needs help. So he finds his girlfriend Bekkah, just in time for both of the to be pursued by Moscow, the crazy blind swordsman mob boss who is serving as some sort of avatar for the creatures. He actually runs Alex through, but he survives long enough for Bekkah's sister, the cop, to show up and get them all out of there and try to head for said Tower.

So I don't know. The idea that the aliens want to somehow replicate humanity's individualism, but without an individual's capacity for self-sacrifice, is intriguing. It doesn't seem possible. If you're an individual, if you can make choices, then you can make that choice. You can also choose not to make that choice, but the choice still remains, whatever variables you put into it. Which suggests the aliens don't really understand what they're trying to duplicate at all? Which might explain the whole thing with Sasha's husband. He shouldn't be there, since he wasn't on the expedition to the colony. Which means this isn't really him, yet he can have the memories. I've mentioned before that these mini-series have at least captured the sense of an alien group, with abilities and drives people can't necessarily grasp. So humans have done things without realizing what they're getting into. Could work the other way, too.

Battaglia's colors are still excellent. The blue he uses for the water is this very placid blue, but it's a perfect solid sheet of it. There's no wind or waves, no shadows or ripples. It's how a child might color a body of water, and while it stands out distinctly for the dirty, dusty yellow of Sasha and her surroundings, it also looks distinctly fake, like it was painted on. And the purples for the streets of the city, I just really like that particular color. It works so well when you go from the inside Bekkah's apartment, all sickly green and faded yellows, then turn the page and you're into that deep purple, with the pink and red for energy and movement. The purple has a liveliness to it the color for the panels set inside lacked - I feel like breathing the air in Bekkah's apartment would be like sucking down fiberglass particles - but it's an ominous life. Crap's moving around out there you'd rather not see.

Wynonna Earp #3, by Beau Smith (writer), Chris Evenhuis (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Robia Robbins (letterer) - Arm wrestling for souls, tonight on ESPN17!

Earp is sent into a bar, and rapidly gets hit on by some hick that swallowed a thesaurus. She punches him out, and then this large lady steps in, adn the two set to fighting. Which earns them both a chance to fight for money, which was apparently Agent Dolls' whole plan, because the large lady is the Valdez he called last issue. Of course, he neglected to tell Wynonna that, then gives her shit when she gives him shit about his poor leadership approach. They arrive for the fight, and find the rules changed somewhat, but they do alright, excepting Valdez getting shot twice, which was intentional on her part, to give Earp motivation?

I have a feeling Agent Dolls is going to get killed before this is all said and done, and if I'm meant to be sad about it when the time comes, Smith has some work to do. Because right now, I don't like the character very much. People who play the "need to know" card are never my favorites, especially when they play it with people who are actually in the line of fire, while they sit comfortably somewhere else. Plus, I think he's looking for any excuse to jump on Wynonna, out of some belief he needs to break her down so she'll be a more pliant agent. He sends someone in to fight her, and doesn't tell Wynonna it's set up beforehand, he really shouldn't be surprised she's still a little fired up afterward. Take a few punches, let her calm down.

Not so sure of this talk about Wynonna being "the heir". I should have expected it, but I guess I hoped we weren't going to get into chosen one/destined lineage stuff. Or maybe I'm just more interested in Valdez, the possibly thousand year old Mayan princess. That sounds pretty cool, and so far, she's basically Cassandra Cain if David Cain had fed her a ton of growth hormones as a kid, so not a surprise I'd think she was cool.

Different artist this issue, Chris Evenhuis. Not sure if Innes needed a catch-up month, or if it was a deliberate shift. It works well enough. Innes gave Wynonna a sort of gleeful smile when she was fighting, which wouldn't have fit the tone of this issue. Too many trust issues and secrets among the group, Wynonna doubting herself at the wrong times. Other than maybe the verbose demon hillbillies, not much humor. Evenhuis handles the violence and the anger well. He has a clean, straightforward style, nothing too flashy, but he makes sure all the information you need is on the page and can be followed. The initial confrontation between Wynonna and Valdez was good. Wynonna lunging forward to punch Valdez, three panels of Valdez slowly reacting (spitting blood, mulling it over for effect, cocking her fist), then the last panel being her fist smashing into Wynonna's face. Again, nothing revolutionary, just solid storytelling.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spying Is Easier And Harder Than It Looks

So last week I bought Deadpool on DVD, which I'd been waiting on for months. I also bought Spy, because I'd heard good things.

Melissa McCarthy works in the CIA basement as Susan Cooper, analyst/support tech for Jude Law's super-spy character, Agent Fine. Until Law is killed by the daughter of an arms dealer who has inherited that stolen nuke her father had. She claims to know who all the CIA's best agents are, so they send McCarthy (since no one would know her) to try and track just the potential middleman. But Cooper proves to be an intrepid, if inexperienced and uncertain, agent, and follows the trail, eventually sort-of befriending Rayna while posing as a bodyguard.

I enjoyed the film more once McCarthy was able to actually get in the field. The humor came from the strange situations she found herself in, and her solutions to them. She's very adept, just unorthodox. The early part of the movie, where her lack of self-confidence results in a lot of self-deprecating comments. That was part was painful to watch, because I felt so bad for her. But McCarthy plays it well, because Cooper is aware of what she's doing to herself, and it frustrates her, but it isn't so easy to just stop. But the longer the film goes, the more you can see Cooper growing in confidence, especially around Rayna. She's stops taking Rayna's crap with a smile, and gives it right back. Oddly, I think Rayan (played by Rose Byrne) actually likes Susan for that, but can't express it other than being a condescending ass.

Jason Statham's a real high point in the film, playing Rick Ford, a largely incompetent agent who insists on trying to make Cooper feel incapable by regaling her with all the ridiculous things he's survived. Like ingesting 176 poisons as once as part of an undercover role in a poison-ingesting ring. Cooper's reactions are a nice mirror for the viewer's. The first time around, she's horrified and agog. The second time, more incredulous and starting to get angry. By the third time, she's completely done with his crap and calling him on it. Which is fair. If he were a better agent, he wouldn't have to survive such things. At any rate, Statham sells it well by seeming to buy into the role entirely. It doesn't surprise me, he's always shown the capacity to put a little humor in his action roles, that twinkle in the eye that says he's enjoying himself. I wouldn't mind seeing him do more comedy roles, though I'd settle for him just doing better movies.

Also, I really liked Allison Janney as the CIA Director. She's pretty no-nonsense, but despite claiming to have no sense of humor, she gets some jabs in with her deadpan delivery. In contrast, the character of Aldo (played by Peter Serafinowicz), was a bit much. I can't decide if he's a stereotype of Italian men, or of the James Bond super spy who beds a different woman every time you turn around. I guess if they wanted to highlight that type of characters' attitude as being kind of creepy, mission accomplished.

I was left wondering why there are so many British agents in the CIA. We're outsourcing even there now? Given they've been wasting Susan in the basement instead of the field, they clearly have a lousy personnel department.

Monday, May 16, 2016

What I Bought 5/10/2016 - Part 3

Will Calvin be in a more positive mood about his books today than he was last week? Possibly. I mean, anything can happen. But seriously, yes, I mostly will be.

Black Widow #3, by Chris Samnee (writer, artist), Mark Waid (writer), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Samnee's been bringing strong game on these covers so far.

Natasha's sent to Russia, to retrieve a file from the place where she was trained as a child. But the Lion's plans aren't as secret as you might expect, because there are people waiting, not for the Black Widow necessarily, but they know the Weeping Lion is looking for something there. About the time she finds it, she's found by a young girl, who promptly stabs Natasha in the gut with a knife Natasha hid after a mission a long time ago.

I can't decide where all this is going. Seems like more than a coincidence to send Natasha to steal something from a place with such personal significance. Maybe he just wanted to use someone familiar with the place, but it seems unlikely that's all there is to it. The allusion to Natasha's time as a ballerina during the brief fight scene was interesting. I forget that's part of her backstory, though keeping track of her timeline these days is kind of a mess. Did she still meet Logan and Captain America when she was a child during World War 2? Anyway, it's a nice touch to just touch on these different parts of her past as they go along. This whole thing is happening because of some ugliness in her past she wants to keep buried, so showing us different pieces of it keeps us guessing at what the ugliness is. Assuming this is about her at all. It occurs to me that Natasha could have been set up as a test for the kid, since we were shown flashbacks to a young Natasha's having killed some guy. That was also relevant to who Natasha is, but it could be a mistake to figure everything is about her.

I like the leather jacket she was wearing at the start of the issue. It's a good look for her, if you're going for the more practical costume approach. Could have all sorts of armor woven into it, stuff hidden in pockets, whatever. Not so sure about her get-up in the airport. Seems like it's screaming, "Look at me! I'm trying to remain unnoticed!" Do people still do the big hat with the sunglasses and the scarf thing? Did like how her eyes seemed to get narrower as each of the Weeping Lion's agents passed along the next bit of the message. I don't know if she's processing faces in case she seems them again, or just annoyed he's going to such a stupid extent to pass along a message, or if she didn't appreciate that admonition to not screw up.

It took three issues, but I feel like the book is really starting to get somewhere, and if this leisurely start helps keeps it out of Civil War II, that's fine by me.

Ms. Marvel #6, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian Herring (color art), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I went with the variant again. Because it was cheaper. Hey, if Marvel wants to reduce cost to their books, I'll stick to basing my cover choices on which I like better, but until then, money's a factor.

Things have gone completely beyond Kamala's control, and she's finally admitted it. So she calls in Carol Danvers, who basically deals with the problem with orbital lasers, which is just about the best way to deal with problems. Loki had shown up by then, not because Bruno's attempted invoking of him worked, just because he checked in and found everything screwed up. He seems less friendly. Also less capable of growing decent facial hair. If that patchy scruff is the best you can do, just stay clean-shaven. Then Iron Man shows up, because I guess he noticed orbital lasers going off. Carol's already talked to Kamala about not taking on too much, she and Tony snipe at each other a bit, but Tony agrees that Kamala should put Avengers stuff aside to focus on important family stuff. So Kamala makes it to her brother's wedding, and everything goes great. Hooray! Just in time for everything to go horribly next issue. Boo!

I am surprisingly uncomfortable with the idea of Iron Man hugging people. It's hard for me to picture, because I see Stark as being very bad at genuine expressions of emotion. It's weird to me Iron Man is somehow the supportive veteran Avengers, and Sam Wilson is apparently Total Jerk Captain America. Man, we already had U.S. Agent for that! I saw someone on Scans Daily joke after this issue come out that Civil War II was really about a custody battle between Tony and Carol over Kamala. Which would be better than the actual story will be, I'm sure.

I'll be curious to see if we'll actually see Kamala begging off Avengers stuff because of school, and if there'll be fallout from that. Will she become a reserve Avengers? Will the team suffer a big loss without her? Will she just feel bad she's missing out on cool adventures to do the responsible thing and pass whatever math she's taking?

But at the end of the day, this story gave us that lovely page of Loki on a pink cloud, ordering his golems to help a blue T. rex attack a bunch of goofy clones of Kamala, which was practically worth the price of the comic itself. That's one of the things I like about superhero comics, that you can do completely bizarre stuff like that, and it doesn't seem out of place. They're strange universes, and sometimes multiple kinds of strangeness come together all at once, and it's fantastic. Although I did feel some of the relative sizes of things were off. Mostly the T. rex in relation to everyone else. Like how big its foot is compared to how big its mouth must be to have that many Kamalites doing the Wave inside it. I know, nitpicky, but I noticed it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Zorro 2.27 - The Man From Spain

Plot: With that crazy Americano back in the mountains, the citizens of Los Angeles are celebrating Sergeant Garcia's birthday. They even got him a pinata. Unfortunately, the festivities are ruined by the arrival of Senor Basilio, the king's emissary from Spain, and his chief goon, Captain Mendoza. He chides Garcia for having a party while Spain is at war, and orders the pinata thrown in the trash. When Diego introduces himself, Basilio mentions he wants to speak to Alejandro, and expects him to come to Basilio. Then he tries to appear tough by ripping up a notice of a 2000 peso reward for Zorro, stating that's how he deals with outlaws. Outlaws are rarely made of paper, senor.

Alejandro arrives, and Basilio goes into his sales pitch. He is selling royal bonds, which the king promises to repay for double their cost within 5 years. And for just five dollars I'll sprout wings and fly to Mars. Alejandro says he'll tell the other dons, and Basilio tells Alejandro he'll put him down for 2500 pesos worth. Diego barely keeps Alejandro from pitching a fit, unfortunately. It doesn't end there, as Basilio sends Mendoza to lean on the innkeeper, and insist he buy 250 pesos of bonds. The innkeeper reasonably points out he can't do that, and Mendoza whispers something in his ear. Later, Diego brings Moneta Esperon, who planned Garcia's party, to see Basilio. She first extends her father's invitation to a luncheon the next day, then asks if the sergeant could have his pinata. Basilio accepts the first, and declines the second, citing a need to maintain discipline.

That night, Sergeant Garcia sneaks out of the cuartel to retrieve his pinata, which is down in the wine cellar of the inn. Unfortunately, Mendoza is down there turning the casks taps on so the wine runs out. He's able to hide before Garcia sees him, the dump an entire wine rack on him. The innkeeper feels compelled to mention it, but is aghast when Basilio orders Garcia placed in the stocks for 24 hours. Unfortunately, the innkeeper isn't willing to risk saying that he suspects Mendoza as the true culprit, so into the stocks Garcia goes, with the pinata hung just above his head, because Basilio's a dick. When Basilio and his thug come out to tease Garcia, Zorro steps out, to advise the emissary to reconsider his approach. The two crooks try to attack Zorro and fail miserably. What's more, Basilio himself winds up in the stocks, and is forced to sing a birthday song for the sergeant in front of the whole town before Zorro escapes.

Quote of the Episode: Basilio - 'Tell me, is Los Angeles infested with outlaws and bandits?'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (10 overall).

Other: When Basilio asked that quote (upon seeing the reward poster for Zorro), all I could think was, "in general, the criminals in Los Angeles wear nice clothes and claim to serve the king."

I was surprised and disappointed with Diego. When Bernardo relates hearing Mendoza put the squeeze on the innkeeper, Diego dismisses it, feeling that since the man can't pay, they can't do anything to him. Bernardo wasn't so sure, indicating they could always kill him, and really, Diego should know better. The whole reason he became Zorro is because people in power were abusing said power. At this point, whenever someone from the king or the military shows up and starts throwing his weight around, Diego should automatically assume the guy will have no respect for any laws or regulations that stand in the way of what he wants. Because they never do. They've had one Captain who wasn't a crook or thug, Toledano, and basically every administrator we've seen actually doing his job is kind of a jerk.

I really liked how much Zorro enjoyed making Basilio sing for Garcia. The poor sergeant seemed so surprised and pleased at the start of the episode to get such a nice party, and so downtrodden the rest of the episode. Stuck sweeping and painting walls. And what the hell was that line from Alejandro? 'A new broom sweeps clean? Perhaps this is the start of a new era.' Maybe I was wrong about Alejandro having Garcia's back. Which just means Alejandro is dumber than I thought.

At any rate, I'm sure Basilio will take his public humiliation with good grace and adopt a more collaborative approach with the people of Los Angeles. Or not.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

There's Potential, If They Feel Like Sticking Together

I wanted to do another one of my made-up team posts, so that's what you get on this hopefully nice for you Saturday. The theme this time was games I had on my original XBox, which worked out pretty well. I had a lot of games with characters I really liked on that system. Didn't even get close to using all of them.

The Leader: Jade (Beyond Good and Evil) - Jade's resourceful, brave, friendly, and intelligent. Not bad qualities for a leader. She's an excellent fighter, the best hand-to-hand combatant this group is going to have. She can also be a little impulsive, which can lead to her making rash decisions. She's also a bit of an idealist, which isn't going to go over well with everyone on the team. She's loyal, which can also be a double-edged sword, since it can combine with that impulsiveness and spur her into rushing recklessly to save someone. She's worked effectively as part of a larger resistance group, and with one or two people on missions, following her lead. But not as the boss of a larger group, and it's a question how she'll approach that. Her Uncle Pey'j was usually good at being the voice of reason when she started to move in a direction that was too risky, but he's going to be off the board this time around. Whether he's stayed behind to look after those orphans they cared for at their lighthouse, or he was captured again by the DomZ and Jade's trying to rescue him, is uncertain at the start.

The Rogue: Garrett (Thief: Deadly Shadows) - This has to take place sometime before the end of that game, basically because I want Garrett to still have his mechanical eye. Because it looked cool, basically. Jade's ideals about helping those in trouble aren't likely to find much purchase here, not unless she can convince Garrett there's something in it for him. Like jewels. Or a chance to piss off someone powerful he's nursing a grudge against. Not that he wants to go around actively harming innocent people, he's just not an altruist.

Most all of Garrett's games seem to involve him stealing something he shouldn't, for someone he shouldn't, then having to scramble to fix the damage he's caused. It's entirely likely he could do that again, although he might change it up and simply steal something from the wrong person to make an enemy with. And if this takes place during Deadly Shadows, then he still has the looming problem of The Hag to contend with. . .

The Muscle: JD (Phantom Dust) - That's JD in the red glasses (the other guy is the main character). JD was a member of the Espers prior to the start of the game, but was presumed lost in battle on the surface. He survived, albeit minus some key memories because he stayed on the surface too long. He reemerges to help the main character survive an ambush by two other members of the Espers, and sticks around. Eventually the truth of what happened to him comes out, and having regained his memories, he heads back into the Wastelands.

Given the nature of that world, I figure I can fudge it that JD had enough of a desire to be elsewhere he literally opened a door to elsewhere and wound up among this group. He's the most powerful of the group, and he prefers a direct approach with massive, overwhelming offensive firepower. I'm also figuring the main character gifted him a decent set of Arsenals, so we don't have to play some situation where JD has immense power potentially, but has to hoard it really carefully (think like Spawn back in the early days, with that decreasing power clock thing MacFarlane gave him). This team is going to be fighting large groups, and it's a question whether JD's style will work with that, if he wears himself out with a few Meteors, only for there to be dozens of enemies left.

That's assuming he even wants to work with the group. He's immensely powerful, but he also has understandable trust issues, and may not be eager to jump in with a bunch of strangers in a world he doesn't know. Or he may just have decided he's happier on his own.

The Lady of Mystery: Max Payne (Max Payne) - OK, this is a bit of a cheat. There's isn't much mystery to Max, he just has an awful past. His family was killed, he went deep undercover, his partner was killed, he was framed for it, and he didn't so much clear his name as kill a sufficient number of people to put certain other people with clout in his debt. But let's assume that in this case, given the astronomical number of corpses he piled up, Max couldn't get back on the police force. Or maybe he didn't want to. So skip the second game, drift more in the direction of Max as a haunted, traumatized, pill-popping wreck, without necessarily making him into a security consultant or whatever he was in the third game (I didn't play it, either).

Max is dangerous, but probably mostly to himself. He's survived enough things he shouldn't he doesn't think much of throwing himself at more danger and just popping some painkillers afterward. What the rest of the team is going to make of him is a question. Garrett isn't going to want to stick around someone so prone to loud explosions and gunfire (useful distractions though they can be). Jade is probably going to want to help, because that's what she does. JD will keep a quiet eye on him, because he's worked with a few Espers who were like that. Max won't necessarily be reckless with the others' lives, just his own. But if they aren't inclined to quietly observe that, it could end up putting them at risk.

The Guy With a Boat: Big John (Crimson Skies: The High Road to Revenge) - The main character in Crimson Skies in Nathan, your typical hotshot, square-jawed flyboy who thinks with his fists and believes himself God's gift to women. John is his partner, the more quiet, sensible one, who remembers that since they're trying to be nice air pirates, they need to find regular employment to pay for fuel and bullets, rather than just stealing them. Also, John's the one who knows how to actually fly their airship base, the Pandora (Nathan tries at one point early in the game and promptly scrapes it against a radio tower). There's no way I'm not having a guy on this team who provides an airship for a home base.

John's likely to share a fair amount of Jade's sense of right and wrong, but also agree with Garrett that they need to be thinking more profitably. Granted, Garrett wants it in his pocket, and John's thinking of keeping their ship in the air, but Garrett's smart enough to try and align his arguments with John's (though John's smart enough to see through it, but also to recognize the necessity of agreeing with him). walking the line between them, and the rest of the group's competing interests is going to be a challenge, but he's up to it. He's going to have to teach most of them to fly. Jade knows how to fly a spaceship, but propeller-driven airplanes might be a bit different, and it's probably better to keep Max away from them entirely, but the planes are a valuable potential resource, too much so not to use.

The Wild Card: Kate Walker (Syberia, Syberia 2) - I didn't really like where the second game left Kate: Alone save for a very old man on a deserted island of mammoths, her only transport a boat that's only carried back to her departure point every ten years. No one was still looking for her, what the hell was she going to do? So I'm stealing one of Chris Bird's ideas from his "I Should Write Dr. Strange" series, or adapting it, at the very least. The boat does return to its departure point every 10 years, but it doesn't just sit on the shores of Syberia all that time. At least, not every time, and certainly not this time.

Kate's spent several years being carried on this boat from one place and time to another, across dimensions or universes, however you want to define it. None has been entirely familiar, though some more than most. It's lonely, but Kate doesn't mind too much. She developed a taste for exploring, and this fit the bill nicely. She's ended up helping people solve problems large and small along the way, with her usual mixture of friendliness (until she hits her limit and gets exasperated) and her knack for finding that one seemingly innocuous thing that some weirdo needs, which they will exchange for some other thing she needs to fix or bypass some obstacle. Like I said, some of the problems are small, the equivalent of helping a little old lady across the street. Of course sometimes the little old lady turns out to be a powerful seer that certain forces wanted removed, and Kate has thwarted, or been used to thwart, their plans. There are certainly beings aware of the ability to travel between realms that know of her, and not all of them regard her fondly.

Garrett or Jade is going to be the first to encounter Kate. If it's Garrett, either the Hag used one of those lost runes only she knows of to hurl him someplace else, or Kate's ship made entirely of tusks drifted into the City's docks, and Garrett just couldn't help snooping on board, only to still be there when it drifted away again. The two of them will at least share skepticism at how often the others resolve problems with violence (I'm assuming here Garrett is less prone to hitting people over the head with a blackjack than I am when I play. I liked to make sure a guard I bypassed wasn't going to walk up behind me while I was timing everyone else's movements). And Garrett is very good at getting things, and Kate usually needs things, and is excellent at solving problems once she does. JD's going to show up when the group, whoever that is at the moment, is in the middle of a battle. He's going to attempt to help what are clearly a small group of outmatched people, but over do it a bit a destroy the ship. This is probably going to be in Big John's universe, and this ship was probably being attacked by some less scrupulous group of air pirates. Because the ship looked weird and they thought it was worth blowing up for sport. Or because someone approached them with lots of money to do it, and they didn't ask twice. At any rate, the group narrowly survives, and Big John fishes them out.

I don't expect this bunch to hold together too long. Either JD going off on his own or Max winding up dead are the two most likely occurrences. There will be at least some point where the entire team will need to storm a massive fortress. Or rather, Big John and Kate (who jumped at the chance to learn to fly a plane) are attacking from the air, JD and Max are trying to barge in through the front door, and Jade and Garrett are sneaking in to get the real prize while their foe's back is turned. Jade may end up have to hold the line against waves of enemies while Garrett goes to get what they're after, as this time around, the one thing Kate needs isn't going to be so innocuous.

Friday, May 13, 2016

What I Bought 5/10/2016 - Part 2

Sorry for no post yesterday. Still scrambling. I've got something planned, just couldn't bring it together in time, so expect it tomorrow, hopefully.

Deadpool #10, Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli and Iban Coello (artists), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I don't think Sabretooth would take such good care of his teeth. Unless his healing factor prevents tartar buildup?

Sabretooth tells Wade he killed Wade's parents because he wanted to die and thought Wade could pull it off. Which is bull, and not even good bullshit, but hell, Sabretooth is a dumbass, can't expect much better from him. He refuses to apologize, and Wade refuses to let it go, so there's a civilian-endangering motorcycle chase, which they both stop to rescue endangered civilians. Then Wade sucker-shoots Creed in the face, and we learn how Wade actually intends to kill him. Not by pulling him apart with a semi-trailer, but by making him breathe in the Terrigen Mists, which are, of course, now toxic to mutants.

You know, if Deadpool actually succeeds in killing Sabretooth like this, I will have to apologize to Reed Richards for giving him so much shit about recreating the Marvel Universe as a place where the Mists harm mutants. I can't decide whether it would be worth it to be rid of Sabretooth or not. Damn it, Wade, why couldn't you just cut his head off, then dump his body in an acid-filled coffin and leave it at the bottom of the ocean like Dracula did to you in that Secret Wars mini-series?!

This story is feeling really stretched out. The whole chase sequence, with the widescreen panels, and Wade making a series of fairly lousy attempts (and I mean in general, not just by his standards) at one-liners, only helping to make it seem more padded. Actually, the whole thing with Adsit knowing the truth and Wade not is feeling stretched out. It's been like 24 issues across two volumes, with a stupid 6-month break because of Secret Wars in there to boot. Get the fuck on with it!

In general, this book is not doing a good job of building goodwill with me before it embarks on who knows how many months of Civil War II tie-ins. Let's hope for some sort of excellent payoff in the concluding chapter, which came out this week.

Howard the Duck #6, by Chip Zdarsky and Ryan North (writers), Joe Quinones (penciler, inker, colorist), Joe Rivera and Marc Deering (inkers), Jordan Gibson (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer and production) - I know, I know, I didn't get the matching cover from Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and now they won't match. But I just really liked that other cover better.

Howard and Doreen scramble to find a way to defeat the cosplaying lunatic while their other allies buy time by being cannon fodder, basically. Which is the most helpful and least awful thing Hank McCoy has done in at least three years (our time). This results in Howard and Doreen finding a different, DC-themed supersuit, and letting Howard try to fight her with it. He gets beat up, but it buys time for everyone else to regroup and get the drop on her. And that's how Howard gets a cyborg cat, which would mean more if I was buying his book on the reg, but I'm not, so oh well.

I didn't enjoy this as much as the first half. I don't know if that's because this book slanted more towards Zdarsky's sense of humor than North's, or because I just don't care much about Howard the Duck, or if it's just one of those things where I'm more interested in the story early, when there are lots of ways it could go, than I am later, once it narrows down to a specific path. That happens to me a lot with all kinds of fiction. It might have worked better without Kraven, Beast, and Rocket, since they felt largely unnecessary. It was mainly about contrasting Doreen, who is always ready to fight against evil and sure she can win, and Howard, who wants no part of any of this, and apparently finds the whole thing so stupid he keeps screwing up chances to end it faster (like forgetting he had a phone until it was conveniently useless). I was trying to decide why he kept declaring things, "Case closed!" when it wasn't, and the best I could figure was he was trying to come up with an excuse to bail, and hoping everyone else would buy in. Like Shaggy and Scooby barely peeking in one room, declaring they've searched it, then trying to flee.

I actually like Quinones' art better when he doesn't ink himself. Something about how he shades on people's face distracts me. Especially his tendency to give people really prominent, rounded cheeks. It makes their smiles kind of freaky But the pages where either Deering or Rivera are doing the inking, I didn't notice that, so that was nice. The parts of the battle we actually got to see were pretty good. I would have enjoyed more of that, but I get the sense "fight scenes" are not a big part of what Howard the Duck is about. But "Let's Eat Bread and Kick Heads" is a solid battle cry, though.

So neither book lit my world on fire, but maybe Monday's selections will do better.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What I Bought 5/10/2016 - Part 1

I actually have a pretty decent number of comics for this round of reviews. Hooray! I'm going to start with the only title I have two issues for, because I'm kind of scrambling for time again this week, and only reviewing one title goes a little faster.

Henchgirl #6 and 7, by Kristen Gudsnuk - Mary's joy makes me want to visit a natural history museum. I haven't in so long.

The Butterfly Gang robs the museum of a a valuable gem. Which turns out to have a mystical property which forces the person holding it to speak the truth, and all this was a trick by Coco to get Mary to confess to leaking their "defraud the orphanage" scheme. The trick works, but they don't kill Mary. They take her to Dr. Maniac, who injects her with evil serum, so that she'll enjoy being evil more. Pretty much the first thing she does is lure Consuelo to the middle of nowhere and beat her to a pulp for breaking Mary's goggles during their brief run-in during issue 4. After that, Mary and Coco become quite the pair, having great fun robbing people, and there doesn't seem to be any hero capable of stopping them. Mr. Great Guy briefly pulled himself out of his alcoholic depression to try, but was pretty half-assed about it. Mary's friends are concerned, and don't really enjoy Coco being invited to movie night, but aren't yet sure what's happened.

I have this feeling Mary will have to fight her sister soon. Her family knows she's in the Butterfly Gang, and she and Coco aren't exactly being low-key. Unless her friends can figure something out. Fred's not one to approve of Mary's criminal career, but she did also save his life by putting his body back together, so he kind of owes her. Plus, Coco almost killed him once already, probably better not to push it at the moment. Consuelo tried the entirely reasonable approach of giving the cops Mary's name, but they took the same approach as Arnold in Terminator and just started with the first "Mary Posa" they found. Too bad for that lady.

I'm surprised that Coco and Mary are actually getting along so well once Mary got the evil serum injection. I'd assumed Coco was just tired of Mary messing with what she saw as the proper operation of the gang. Not paying attention to briefings, not enjoying hurting people, just not buying in. But it seems like Coco really wanted someone to enjoy committing crimes with, and now she's got Mary, and she's excited. It would have been better if she could have found some common ground with Mary without resorting to mind-altering drugs, but hey, super-villain. This seems like the sort of arc that's going to cause a lot of ripples down the line, even if Mary's friends do find a way to undo the damage done to her.

They end issue 6 with Mary's beating of Consuelo, and the last page is a full-page splash of Mary standing over her beaten body saying, 'I hope you've learned your lesson.' There's nothing particularly remarkable about the page in itself, but as far as I can recall it's the first time Gudsnuk went with a splash page (she definitely didn't in the previous two issues, which are the only ones I have handy). So it's effective, with our perspective being the same as Consuelo's: on the ground looking up at someone who is indifferent to the pain they just caused, looking down their nose at us, moon backlighting Mary like a badass. It's completely different to how she's been presented up to then. Even when she's doing something cool with her super-strength, there's emphasis on the effort behind it, or it's played for jokes. Gudsnuk built up Mary's character through everything to this point meant the moment felt earned as a big dramatic shift, and so it felt like the right place to use a full-page splash. As opposed to a lot of those comics that throw them in as padding, or for generic "cool" scenes that don't really mean anything. Maybe that's not happening as much as it used to. I feel like it started to happen a lot in the late stages of Geoff Johns' run on Green Lantern, double-page splashes of pointless fighting run amok. This isn't that, which is good.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Airing A Grievance About Airing Grievances, It's Madness

I never really enjoy seeing comic creators try to get some payback for past injury in their work. Steve Engelhart creating the character of Clumsy Foulup in his Silver Surfer run to be Tom DeFalco, because he was pissed about editorial interference. That story John Byrne and I think, Len Wein and John Ostrander did where Guy Gardner humiliates some barely disguised Star Brand ripoff who is supposed to be Jim Shooter. Jack Kirby's Funky Flashman would probably qualify, if I'd read those comics.

I know those creators have varying degrees of legit complaints, and hey, it's better than resorting to fisticuffs, but I always find it unpleasant. Partially because it feels like walking into the middle of an argument that doesn't concern me, and one I'm only getting one side of at that. Except in this case, I'm minding my own business and the argument has come crashing through my door, uninvited. Also, it just feels kind of petty, and maybe a little sad. Some people having an awkward slap fight, while the rest of us look on and shake our heads.

I know it's normal to not like all your coworkers, or to think your boss is a moron. I've had mostly good bosses in my life, but even the good ones have moments that make me wonder what the hell they're thinking. And I have related some of those moments to coworkers on other jobs, and they've told me horror stories as well. This isn't much different, except that it's airing it for everyone, not just other people in the business. I don't approach random people on the street who make eye contact with me and regale them with stories of that one lazy coworker I had that one time.

Mostly I guess I don't enjoy it because it isn't what I'm there for. I'm reading the comic to be entertained, maybe also to give me something to think about, and I'm not getting that with most of these. I don't know that spite is the best ingredient for an entertaining story, and the one-sided, often simplistic, "this guy sucks" approach doesn't give much to chew on.

Monday, May 09, 2016

This Makes Me Worry About A Lot Of Things

So judging by the comments on Thursday's post, no, there are no Marvel Events of the recent years that have improved with time. I'm not surprised, but I had figured it was worth checking.

Over the weekend, I happened to be staying somewhere I had TV. Not much TV, and none of it any good, but something. I stumbled across the election ad for some would-be Congressman named Mike Pape. The basic gist was that whether you liked Trump or Ted Cruz, you could like Mike Pape, demonstrated by these voters, one of whom support each of those guys, finding common ground in their support for yet another guy who vows to repeal Obamacare.

I guess because the channel had been showing Saturday Night Live just before this, plus the acting was terrible, and the characters were so happy about how Pape was going to get rid of these things they didn't like, I thought it was supposed to be a bit on SNL. Like, the things Pape was going to do were going to keep getting outlandishly worse - that Futurama joke about Nixon using the poor as a cheap source of enamel to use in cleaning products came to mind - and the two voters would just keep getting more ecstatic over it or something. Which wouldn't have been terribly funny, but that's been par for the course with SNL in my experience. But no, it's an actual ad, for an actual human being running for elected office. Go figure.

I'm not sure whether the fat I've reached the point I can't tell genuine political ads from bad satire is a problem with me, or a problem with where things have gotten to. Probably both at the same time.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Zorro 2.26 - Manhunt

Plot: Joe Crane has still not returned to the mountains. He's hiding in the hills, wearing willow branches around his boots to hide his scent from Don Carlos' wolf (and Don Carlos isn't pretty pissed at Hernando and Lobo's continued failure), and stopping at Carlotta's for food when she gives the all-clear signal. Then Diego comes to visit Carlotta with a plan he wants to pitch to Joe, so she calls Joe in while Diego waits inside the house. But Joe gets wind of something, and Diego's horse whinnies, so Joe tries hiding in the rain barrel again. Somewhat futile since Carlotta isn't going to cover for him this time. Chastened and wet, Joe listens to Diego's offer to buy Joe's furs and gear from Sergeant Garcia, then give them to Joe so he will leave. Joe recognizes he's getting nowhere fast and agrees.

Unfortunately, when Diego visits the sergeant, he learns Don Carlos had the same idea and got there first. Back at Carlos' hacienda, he's made plants. Esmeraldie is tied up outside the gate, with a man with a musket stationed on the roof of a small shack nearby. That man has a rope connected to the shack's door, and Lobo waits inside. Further into the grounds sits Joe's furs, in the most obvious "TRAP!" placement in history. Hernando lurks on that roof with another musket, and Carlos waits in the shadows nearby (I'm just getting all that out of the way now). At Carlotta and her father's house, Joe is getting sick of waiting, both for his clothes to dry, and Diego to return. He threatens to leave without his clothes if Carlotta doesn't go and fetch them, and not wanting any naked Americanos roaming the countryside (not doubt creating the legend of Bigfoot), she complies, and Joe departs. Sergeant Garcia soon wakes up in bed with a knife to his throat, and it doesn't help when he tells Joe he sold the furs for 14 pesos and 50 centavos. He makes Garcia order the lancers into a cell and locks them all in, before heading for Don Carlos'.

By then, Diego had returned to Carlotta's, learned Joe had left, gone to the cuartel, found Garcia and the lancers locked up, and told Bernardo to play dumb about finding the keys so Zorro could handle this himself. And Zorro makes it to Don Carlos' first, easily dealing with the guard holding the rope to release Lobo, leaving him tied up and dangling, possibly as a warning to Joe (one Joe ignores of course). Joe enters the yard, and it was probably a mistake to let him get all the way to his furs, because with a warning from Zorro, he's able to use them to block Hernando's shot, then use them as a shield to fend off Carlos' sword until he can break it. At which point the don is basically fucked and gets knocked out with Joe's "mountain man clout". All seems well as Joe loads his furs, but then he sees that rope and accidentally frees Lobo. Whoops. But Joe goes into his "wolf" sounds and this convinces Lobo that this guy is probably rabid and shouldn't be eaten, no, Lobo decides Joe is OK and the two of them and Esmeraldie return to the hills.

Quote of the Episode: Carlotta - 'Well, Don Carlos is from an old aristocratic family. He's very proud.' Joe - 'And mean.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (10 overall). On Hernando's jacket.

Other: I feel bad for Hernando. He clearly was not enjoying his work by the start of this episode, getting chewed out by the don, being told he'd be hung up by his thumbs if he failed, having to fight Zorro. That has to be fairly terrifying for your average person, just because he's so clearly a better swordsman you know you haven't got a chance, and you can't be positive he won't kill you.

Diego got a bit frustrated Joe had left Carlotta's by the time he returned. Well perhaps if you hadn't decided to saunter your way back there you might have averted that. Seriously, get the lead out of your saddle, Diego!

That said, the fact Don Carlos was still getting people into position for his trap even as Zorro and Joe close in was surprising. I get that it's unlikely Joe will try to get his furs back in broad daylight, but I also don't see Carlos as a guy who would care about making his vaqueros sit on a roof in the hot sun all day just in case Joe was that crazy.

Complaints aside, I like this arc more than the previous one. Joe as someone from a completely different type of society, and operates on a different set of rules, is a fun contrast. Even though the life of someone like Carlotta or her father is very different from Diego's they still live in the same society, and there are certain rules that are generally unspoken (unless you're dealing with an ass like Don Carlos, who will take pains to remind you of his social status), and they both operate from them. Diego can just ride up to Carlotta's,and basically be certain she will hear him out deferentially. But Joe is operating on a different set of rules, for better or worse, so he's allows for a contrast.

That said, he is a pretty perfect representative of an American. Loud. Enters a foreign country but complete ignores advice from the locals how their customs and practices. Is focused on his economic well-being, and continues to stubbornly risk his neck and cause trouble. Thinks everyone will be really impressed with the stories about life where he comes from. Has a certain rough charm, in the right circumstances, but also pretty sour if things don't go his way. He's a lot of fun, though, and even though I know it isn't going to happen, it would have been neat if Zorro eventually was able to take Joe up on his offer to help if it was ever needed.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Some Kind Of Nature

I was thinking about Steve Engelhart's Silver Surfer run for various reasons last weekend. The major plot of the second half involves the Kree and Skrulls starting up their millennia-old conflict again, as the Kree try to take advantage of the Skrulls internal struggles over who gets to rule.

One thing Engelhart brings in I don't remember seeing much in that conflict before or since is the idea that Skrulls are descended from reptilian ancestors, and Kree from mammalian, and that this has certain effects on their brains and societies, namely that the Skrulls are more ruthless and, dare I say it, cold-blooded. You can be their ally, but if another ally challenges you to a fight and kills you, they aren't going to mourn. You were too weak, tough shit.

There's some things you could argue with there - that reptiles are capable of showing concern for others, and the Kree and mammals in general are more than capable of being ruthless and indifferent to suffering - but it did present a different angle on it, especially that there were certain characters, Captain Reptyl mostly, who saw it as a larger struggle for dominance between the two types of lineages. When he sees the Badoon working for the Kree against the Skrulls, he's actively stunned to see two reptilian-descended species at each others throats. Kree/Skrulls had always seemed like your basic nationalist struggle between empires, but this framed it in the eyes of at least some characters as a more basic biological struggle for dominance, or survival. I'd say the end results would be the same, but for a pirate with no consistent political ties to either side, maybe not.

The main thing I was thinking was, the Shi'ar stayed out of it. I think Lilandra was probably running things at the time, so they're usually less imperialist when she does. But if they had gotten involved, they'd have been expected to side with the Skrulls then, right? Because the Shi'ar are descended from avian ancestors, and birds are descended from dinosaurs, and dinosaurs trace their lineage back to reptiles eventually. Of course, mammals are descended from ancient reptiles if you go back far enough, but I guess the idea is the Kree (and Earthlings, and Zenn-Laians like the Surfer) evolved from organisms that emerged after the types diverged. Their brains went in different directions and that's the difference. So if the Shi-ar are avian-descended, they might be in the same boat, despised by biological fundamentalists on both sides of the universe.

I have no idea what the space-spanning empires founded by bacterial descendants have to say about all this, or the pure energy ones like Galactus' former Herald Stardust.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Have Any Big Event Comics Improved With Time?

Is there a Marvel Big Event series of the last decade you feel looks better with age? You hated it at the time, but looking back, it's grown on you? Let's say this is running from House of M up to now.

I'd been thinking about this off and on for a week or so, maybe because of a discussion on Trouble with Comics. They were discussing creators whose work they didn't like at one point, but had reevaluated later (and all of them picked Jack Kirby). So maybe that was what got me thinking about that, in a somewhat different direction.

Also, I read an article on i09 last weekend talking about how bad the original Civil War mini-series was, and someone in the comments tried to argue the dislike for the series was revisionist and that it was universally liked back in the day. Which, uh, no (and they did walk back the "universally" quickly). That is some massive revisionist history itself right there. I know some people liked it, because it did sell (unfortunately), but I also know a ton of people who hated it completely back in the day, myself included, along with basically everyone on my blogroll there on the right. That said, that person's obvious disconnect from reality did make me wonder if any of the other events had been improved by looking back.

The fact I avoided most of them like the plague doesn't help. The ones I like now - Annihilation, most of the other Cosmic Marvel stuff of that era to varying degrees - I liked then. I feel World War Hulk was generally well-received at the time, but nobody much mentions it now. Infinity has its supporters, but I think they also liked it when it came out (it's been almost three years since that one, and four since Avengers vs X-Men. Where does the time go?) Secret Invasion had the possibility of a good idea in it - mostly the Skrulls trying to move in, but co-exist with Earthlings, remember those "Embrace Change" ads the comics had? - but it never materialized in the main mini-series. I frequently forget Fear Itself even existed, and can't even begin to keep track of all the X-Events (I think Messiah CompleX was the last one I bought any tie-in issues of, and that was not a fun experience). Again though, I'm probably not the one to ask. Which is why I'm asking you all, even though I think most of my audience is people who also are not fans of Big Event books.

I wonder if the fact Marvel is constantly throwing another event at us, often even before the last one has finished, keeps people from going back. Or makes it seem like it isn't worth the effort. The "events" are so clearly entirely disposable that we don't see any point in revisiting them. Or I'm approaching this the wrong way, because I should be thinking about what particular creators did with the status quo created by the events. But even there, the next event is changing the status quo again, and creators get what, one, maybe two stories in before the next shift?

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Batman Adventures Volume 3

I've been buying the collections of The Batman Adventures series of comics based on the '90s cartoon over the last year or so. They've been hit-or-miss. There'll be some really good issues interspersed among the merely OK or forgettable ones. But for the price, it's solid value.

Volume 4 just came out early last month, but I haven't gotten that yet, so I'm looking at Volume 3 instead, since it's the only one I have handy. It covers issues 21-27 of the series, plus an Annual. The Annual leads things off, with a series of short stories mostly related to the question of whether any of Batman's foes will ever be rehabilitated, with each story illustrated by a different artist (including Dan DeCarlo drawing a nearly silent one about Harley Quinn, a page from which is there on the right). The Ventriloquist story by Mike Parobeck and Matt Wagner is sad, but I find most Ventriloquist stories to be sad, just because Wesker seems such a pitiable figure.. This is a well done sad story, though. Still, the "Froggy" persona he uses as an expression of his good side is touching. Part of me wishes Bats had stomped Scarface to pieces the moment he started calling for the "Dummy" again, but I guess Wesker has to make the choice himself.

I said mostly related because the Joker story, drawn by John Byrne and inked by Rich Burchett doesn't look at the Joker attempting to go straight at all. Rather, it looks at what he does when he's not on some big scheme (as it starts with Mistah J falling out of a blimp after failing to clock Batman with a wrench), and the Joker making a meandering path through the Gotham streets, causing chaos and death casually as he goes. If it's dealing with the possibility of whether there's hope for the Joker - and it may not be, it's after the conclusion of the framing sequence for the other stories, which dealt with whether Roxie Rocket was genuine in her claims of going straight - the answer it gives is "NO". Which is maybe not the best answer to give in that case, since then there's the question of, "Well maybe someone needs to go ahead and kill him, if he's never going to turn back from this," and that's a pretty tired discussion none of us really wants to go through again, right? The body language Byrne and Burchett give him in the story is excellent, though. The bored expression as he munches on a donut and explains to the guy behind the counter that his sweat is activating the Joker toxin in the funny money Joker handed him is great work, and chilling for how casual it makes the whole thing for him. It's as largely irrelevant to him as someone stopping you on the street to ask the time. Really, the whole way the Joker goes about that sequence is kind of an encapsulation of why I like Animated Series Joker. He goes out of his way to act as though he's just foolin' around, don't worry about him. He even pays the guy, and then stands there and watches him die before strolling out the door. The charm and the casual murder, and how hilarious he finds the whole thing is terrifying.

Outside of that, most of the other issues are in that "merely OK to forgettable" range I mentioned. There's one with the Man-Bat and that scientist who turned Catwoman into an actual catlady once. One where Batman needs Poison Ivy's help deriving an antidote to save a poisoned foreign president. Batman teams up with Mullet Superman in one issue, and Robin and Batgirl team up in the next. Again, none of them are bad, but none of them are great. I liked issue 22, where Batman thinks he understands Two-Face's compulsion to flip the coin and puts it to the test, but Two-Face's plan doesn't really make much sense. He breaks some guys out of one prison to start building a gang, then uses them to break into another prison to free some more guys he wants in the gang. Except it gets all his guys pinched. I'm sure he wasn't banking on the cops waiting for him, but it's hard to see what his endgame was. He wants to get Rupert Thorne, well the longer he waits, the better prepared Thorne will be.

My personal favorite was issue 27, where Batman tries to help a former Olympic athlete turned Batman cope with the loss of his wife in a mob hit. Batman understands the anger driving the man, of course, but tries to help him find something other than fighting crime to give his life meaning. Which suggests Batman recognizes his life is not something other people should try to copy (which then brings up the question of his sidekicks, but I guess Bruce Wayne is also providing them with a surrogate family that he didn't have, Alfred's best efforts aside). But the killer is called back to Gotham from where he's hiding in South America (that part I wasn't clear on, because I had thought Batman arranged to get him brought back through a false note. Except Bats told Alfred he was going to South America to get the guy, which means Rupert Thorne really did just happen to ask him to return just then?), and Dalton catches sight of him on the street, and winds up captured.

Parobeck and Burchett really sell Dalton's anguish with the art, because anytime we see him around the killer, he's in the fury, teeth clenched, eyes burning, and if he's not lunging for them man's throat, he's snapping ropes or throwing off whoever if trying to hold him back. It seems almost too much, but at the end, there's a moment where Dalton is holding onto a pipe in this crumbling building. It's all that's keeping him from going splat on the ground below, but the killer is holding desperately to Dalton's legs. And he lets go with one hand, and you know he's about to let go with the second. And Parobeck and Burchett at first give him this scowling expression, brow is furrowed, bit of a frown, but mostly just determined to see this done. It's really the first panel on the next page that catches my eye. When Batman calls to him and says not to do it, because Dalton seems completely calm in that one. Not angry, not joyful or sad, but possibly at peace with however this turns out. It's an extremely understated expression after all the larger ones he had up to then, so it always stands out. This is one of those times I really needed a scanner, because I'm not doing this justice.

So I don't know if I would recommend getting the entire trade, if you could just find the Annual and issue #27 separately, but the collection isn't a bad route to go if you find it for a reasonable price. Parobeck and Burchett are good enough artists to probably be worth the price on their own, and most of Puckett's stories at least have the core of a good idea, even if they don't always seem enough to fill the whole issue.

I also want to mention that Siskoid's doing reviews of each issue of The Batman Adventures as part of his current series looking at DC's Animated side of things, and he just went over each of the issues in this collection individually a couple of weeks ago.