Friday, August 18, 2017

What I Bought 8/17/2017

I figured I would only be able to find one of the two comics I had that came out this week. I didn't expect Cave Carson to be the one, though. I'll find this week's issue of Gwenpool eventually.

Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #11, by Jon Rivera (writer/story), Gerard Way (story), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (color artist), Clem Robins (letterer) - That Javier Pulido cover, I don't know what to make of it. It reminds me of those page of cutout paper dolls. Here's the happy nuclear family, with his daughter from another reality losing her mind in the background!

Much exposition about how this other Cave Carson and Doc Magnus sent the eyes back through the crystals to find the universe the Whisperer came from before it was released, then have it bond with that universe's Cave so they could learn about Mazra, as some legend says she's the only one who can stop it. Blah, blah, fate of the universe, blah, blah, not really sorry about treating your life as an experiment, blah, blah, Chloe needs to break Magnus' nose. The Whisperer finds them, it attacks, Robo-Mazra protects them, briefly, before she's swatted into a deep abyss, but now Cave is convinced it's really her and he's going after her.

There are a few bits in here I enjoy. Wild Dog interrupting the Whisperer's speech by blowing up one of its lackeys, and Chloe's smirk as she remarks that she's sure he's smiling. Also an interesting layout on that page, with the bottom three panels laid out like in a triangle, with one big panel for the top two-thirds of the page. And the exploding head acts like one of those images with the sun shining at the peak of a pyramid. Don't know what the significance of that would be, but it was neat.

The Whisperer slows Mazra down by firing the EDX patriarch at her like a snot rocket. And it isn't one of those moments where the bad guy who thought he was a big deal realizes he's unimportant to the real big deal; the guy is totally on board with the idea. He's bought in to the point that acting as a booger bullet is fine, because he still thinks he's going to win at the end of this.

And there's a nice three-part set with Mazra within the issue. Initially Chloe is examining her and wondering if it's really her  mother, come back to her, and just barely touches her cheek before Magnus rushes in to warn about uncertain absorbent aspects. There are yellow bubbles that no one notices that drift in from the previous page, through the panel of Chloe touching Mazra, and into the one where Magnus appears. And in that one, Mazra's drawn strictly as a shadow outline, her face and eyes obscured.

Later, Mazra tries comforting Chloe, and Cave advises her to just ignore Mazra. Mazra's design includes bright yellow lines that run down her face from her eyes, so in the final panel, with those highlighted, she appears to be crying.

Finally, the Whisperer tries to smash the ship they're on, and Mazra blocks the attack, and there's one a panel of her looking at Cave and silently smiling, followed by Cave gawking at muttering to himself, 'It can't be. . .' I am entirely a sucker for those sequences where one character smiles at the other, and the character being smiled at just knows this is really them by the smile.

Overall, it's an interesting sequence, watching Chloe want to hope this could really be her mother returned to her, but the others unintentionally encouraging her doubts. And Cave still doesn't want to even consider the possibility it could really be her. And really, it can't be if it's based strictly off his perceptions and observations, how much would this version of Mazra know of what the original thought and felt? Still, Cave wasn't even willing to risk hoping, or perhaps didn't want to. Was content to wallow in his grief. And this Mazra believes she is the real deal, whether it's true or not. To see have to come to grips with all this, her family hurting and have them reject her, and still be willing and able to step up and defend them, was a well-executed.

Yeah, there were some parts of this I liked a lot, and some other bits I didn't care about as much.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Sparrow and the Hawk - Kyle Longley

Almost two years ago I read one paragraph in Small Wars, Faraway Places that mentioned Jose Figueres of Costa Rica and made him sound like a fascinating guy. I finally got around to getting a book that discussed a bit more.

The Sparrow and the Hawk is more broadly about the relationship between Costa Rica and the United States in the years leading up to and including Figueres' first stint as elected president (as opposed to his time as leader of the junta that was in charge for a couple of years after the Revolt of 1948, and using junta makes it sound worse than it was).

The United States, to put it lightly, has a long history of exerting its influence in Latin America. Economic power, political power, military power. Costa Rica has, for the most part, managed to maintain good relations with the U.S., while still having a fair amount of regional autonomy. Longley is interested in how the country managed that, and the tightrope several leaders, including Figueres, walked in implementing their ideals and programs, while not making the U.S. feel its interests were being threatened to the extent it might interfere more.

One of the keys seems to have been supporting the U.S. in most things on the broader international stage, especially anti-Communism after World War II. Costa Rica having a long tradition of democracy, and sticking to it helped. The revolution of 1948 was relatively constrained, the military didn't assume control, democratic processes were ultimately maintained. Figueres was head of a so-called junta that ran the country for a couple of years immediately after, but this persisted only up to the point of a scheduled election. Then the junta stepped down for the elected candidate, Otilio Ulate.

Longley also stresses that prominent Costa Rican political figures spent time in the U.S. and understood the mood of things there. They recognized how heavily anti-Communist the country was getting, and that the U.S. was often associating nationalist movements with Communism. So it was important to work to protect Costa Rican interests, which might include taking control of a few banks, or making the United Fruit Company renegotiate its contracts and pay more taxes, but in a way that did not imply Communist influence. It's largely a combination of picking one's battles and knowing your leverage. Even Figueres, who was vocal about working to remove dictators from other Latin American nations and reinstalling democracy, whether those dictators were U.S. allies or not, would tone it down on occasion.

I did find it curious that at one point Longley says the U.S. intimidated Teodora Picado into stepping down as President during the revolution, then says in the next paragraph the U.S. did not orchestrate the overthrow of a government it thought was collaborating with Communists. His general point is the movement to oust Picado was started by Costa Ricans who had used the legislature to annul election results that went against his party, which is accurate. But at the same time, the U.S. did intervene, both as described above, and by refusing to sell Picado's forces arms, while allowing Figueres and the other rebels to purchase weapons. I guess by the typical standards of the United States, that qualifies as not overthrowing someone.

It isn't a book specifically focused on Jose Figueres, rather it looks at a particular stretch of history during which he was one of several critical figures. But I think it works better for my purposes. I really didn't know anything about Costa Rica going in, and something more concentrated on Figueres might have gone right past me, since I'd lack background.

'When questioned on the issue, Don Pepe responded that he understood that no Soviet-backed government could be tolerated in Central America, and he recounted his role in expelling the Communists from Costa Rica. At the same time, he advised Washington to refrain from military actions through surrogates such as Somoza. Instead, he advocated pressuring Arbenz to remove the Communists from the government. If that failed, he backed sponsoring democratic groups in Guatemala against the Communists, creating a repeat of the victory in his country in 1948. He wanted changes and understood the importance of the Communist question, but he continued to oppose heavy-handed interventions by reactionaries.'

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

There's Always One More Job

For this five-person group, there's a rough theme of "one last job". They're all characters I think ended their movies willing to try and get away from what they'd been doing, but we're going to bring them in for another round. I wanted to avoid characters from films with sequels, since those characters are always being dragged in for one last job. In this case, go with the general idea of a scientist with a big important, potentially scary idea being abducted, and needing to be rescued. Maybe his project can be salvaged, or maybe it's better off destroyed.

The Leader: Mallory Kane (Gina Carano, Haywire) - Mallory might not actually have been through with doing dirty work for governments by the end of this film. But considering she was set up to look like a double agent, and used to hand an innocent journalist over to his death, you would understand if she'd said, "To hell with this!"

But let's say she's open to the idea of rescuing a person in trouble. Even if she suspects the people she's working for aren't entirely on the up-and-up, she figures the victim still deserves a little help. But recovering him is going to send her far and wide, and it may only be the first step, depending on how much he's shared with his captors before she finds him. This team isn't one she assembles by sitting down with a bunch of dossiers and deciding these are the people she needs. It's more that as she moves forward, she crosses paths with them and they tag in. The Baron Munchausen approach.

Problem with that being you can't be sure how long they'll stay tagged in. If they settle whatever issues got them involved in the first place, they may peel off. Mallory isn't likely to have the resources to try bribing them to stay. She could always try threatening to break their arms, but that isn't really conducive to a good team atmosphere.

The Rogue: L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones, The Hunted) - At the end of the movie, L.T. went back to his cabin in the middle of nowhere. I don't know what you can confront him with to bring him back out. I don't think you can bribe him; he's not a guy who is going to want anything other people can offer. But if the Important Project requires a mineral resource found in the mountains nearby, and people in the area start turning up dead? That might get him interested, maybe even interested enough to follow the trail down out of the wilderness.

If the team needs someone to cobble together a tool out of available junk, he's probably the guy for that job. If they need someone tracked down, he's definitely that guy. Or for a silent approach, or to set up a trap for someone to be lured into. I'd also suspect, whether he likes it or not, he has some contacts in the military he could get in touch with if the need arose. Even if Mallory cleared her name officially, there might still be people wary of helping her. But L.T. should still have a solid reputation in certain circles, which could come in handy. And there could be some comedy factor in watching him awkwardly ask for help, or try to explain the peculiar bunch he's working with.

The Muscle: Danny (Jet Li, Unleashed) - You can't expect Mallory to do all the fighting herself while also running the show. Danny was free of having to fight for the benefit of a small-time thug, and glad of it by the end of the movie. But if the trouble comes to his door, endangers Sam or Victoria, Danny already proved he'd fight about 49 guys to protect them.

The interactions between him and L.T. could be interesting. L.T. trained young men to become weapons, and had to ultimately confront the result of that. Danny was trained by someone more ruthless, but maybe not as cold as L.T., who tried to maintain distance from his students, stay uninvolved in their lives. What does he make of Danny, and what does Danny make of him? L.T. can be a quiet, patient man, which is also true of Sam, and a good approach for being around someone nervous and unsure of himself like Danny. But L.T. doesn't let whatever charm or warmth he has show as readily as Sam, so I feel like Danny's going to be a little intimidated by him.

I also don't know how he's going to work as part of a team, since he was typically left to fight everyone himself. Frankly, it might be best to just stay out of his way, and handle any threats hanging around the periphery.

The Guy of Mystery: Carter Blake (Thomas Jane, Deep Blue Sea) - It's possible you could switch Carter and the next character, but I figured Carter might want to stay well away from boats and water after messing with super-intelligent sharks. Prior to that, he spent two years in Leavenworth for smuggling and illegal salvage on undersea wrecks, which is more what I'm interested in here. The underwater expertise. There's going to be something crucial to the MacGuffin that requires going underwater. My guess is Danny doesn't know how to swim, and this is hardly the time to teach him. Mallory does, but again, best not to ask one person to do everything.

We at least know Carter can keep his cool under intense situations. Stay clear-headed, consider his options, find a solution. Has a decent pain tolerance, given he took that spear bolt through the leg. Knows a little about firearms. Probably still has contacts in low places. He mentioned during the film that he followed the terms of his parole, whatever those were. Is he going to risk violating them for this, or is he hoping to get clear of all of that with this? The old Dirty Dozen deal.

If we want, we could throw in him having somewhat of a phobia, or a bit of PTSD about the water after what he's gone through. You couldn't really blame him, although I suspect he'd rationalize the experience as not being about sharks being more dangerous than he'd told himself. Rather, the problem is people, which is something he knew already.

The Guy with a Boat: Red (Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption) - OK, technically the boat is Andy's (or maybe they're full partners on it), but I'm sure he won't object to Red using it. Maybe Mallory charters the boat. I considered using Andy here, because I thought throwing in someone whose expertise is the world of finance would be very different from anyone I normally include in these things, but I figured a man who knows how to get things might be more useful. If they really need to know something about moving money around, they can always ask Andy. Like how Burn Notice had Barry for whenever they needed money laundered or conjured from thin air. He wasn't around all the time, but appeared when the plot required it.

Tempting as it is to let Shawshank Morgan Freeman turn out to also be badass secret agent Morgan Freeman from the movie Red, we're going to keep him as a non-violent member of the team. If they need to acquire some weapons locally, Red probably knows a few guys that know some guys. If L.T. needs some other random junk for whatever twigs and bailing wire dune buggy he's cobbling together, Red's the guy to get it. I expect Red and Carter might know some of the same questionable individuals. Carter from the supply and shipping side, Red from the distribution end of things. At least one of the individuals they turn to will like Red, but Carter will owe him some money. I figure Red's smart enough to know who he can and cannot be in debt to for any extended period of time.

Plus, I don't really want to see an elderly gent getting beat up by goons. Although that might be what brings Danny in, seeing as how Red bears a remarkable resemblance to Sam. Forget the all-Bruce Campbell team, maybe I should be doing an all-Morgan Freeman team. Although if you pick his character in Bruce Almighty you've got God Himself and that would kind of defeat the purpose.

I was going to describe L.T. as the quiet one of the group, but there's no chatterbox in this bunch. They aren't scowly or unfriendly exactly, just tend to keep their own counsel. L.T.'s comfortable alone, Carter figures nobody cares what he has to say, so until shit goes sideways, he'll keep his mouth shut. Danny, despite Sam and Victoria's encouragement still defaults to trying to not be a distraction, as he sees it. Red is a gregarious guy, but you know there were times in prison it was made very clear he was supposed to be quiet, and I wonder how easy those patterns are to break. And Mallory's pretty no-nonsense, but she might try to talk a little more just to put the team at ease, try to get them to loosen up a little. Whether that works or not is another matter.

The particular mission is trending in the vague direction of Clive Cussler's Raise the Titanic!, minus raising an enormous ship. Which is strange; I haven't read that book in years (I went through a long Cussler stretch starting in 7th grade up to my early undergrad years), but I suspect the need for something to happen in the middle of nowhere to involve L.T. made me think of how that book revolved around a rare element found on a remote island off the coast of Russia. And the sunken ship brings in both the need for a boat and someone who knows their way around underwater. Handwave, handwave, something something, brilliant scientist abducted, and there ya go.

Stepping away from the elements cribbed from that book, let's say the element and the MacGuffin require music, specific frequencies, to work in tandem, and they abducted Victoria as an accomplished pianist, and that's how Danny got dragged into it. I mean, what the hell, go nuts with it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ricky's been getting bounced from foster home to foster home, and now he's landed with Bella and Hec in the New Zealand wilderness. He's not enthused at first, but Bella's genuine kindness wins him over. Then she dies suddenly. The state and Hec agree he can't look after Ricky, so Ricky runs into the bush. When Hec tracks him down, he fractures his foot, forcing them to camp in the wilderness for weeks.

By the time they emerge from the woods, Hec is suspected of kidnapping, a situation made worse when three redneck imbeciles find them and Ricky gives them the impression Hec molested him. Which starts a months long run across New Zealand to nowhere in particular.

It's a funnier movie than the description would suggest. Hec's gruff attitude is punctured by Ricky finding a few weak points (mostly related to Hec's speaking and illiteracy) and hammering away at them like a kid will. There's Paula, the Child Welfare lady, who is insane in her determination to hunt down this child, or maybe just insane, period. She compares herself to the Terminator, I'd have said Buford T. Justice. Not that she's racist or reactionary, she might be I dunno, just the lack of regard for the limits of her authority, her lack of compassion or understanding. Ricky encounters a few interesting people along the way, although the trio of rednecks annoyingly keep popping up. Sometimes you just can't get away from the worst people.

I wasn't sure I was going to like it, not usually in the mood for heartwarming stuff. But there's enough humor and absurdity in it that it worked out just fine. Really enjoyed it. Ricky keeping the hot water bottle when he runs away was sweet. The way it was a reminder of maybe the first time an adult, really legitimately cared about him, did those little things that shows they care.

Although, I was planning to loan it to my dad as I watched it, but then they ran into a giant wild boar, and one of the dogs doesn't make it, so never mind that. It'll just depress him. Although I found out he has watched John Wick at some point, but left the room during the part where the dog dies. Did the same thing during In a Valley of Violence.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What I Bought 8/9/2017 - Part 2

My downstairs neighbor left a note on my door last week, a full page front and back, complaining how I kept her up all night with loud music and banging noises. Except I went to be bed at 10:30 on the night in question. I think she means the people in the apartment behind mine, but I can't be bothered to find out. But it did put me in a sour mood that day, especially since the note informed me she had told management about my (nonexistent) transgression. I haven't heard anything from them,
so I presume they're taking it even less seriously than I did. I have the impression she complains to them about everyone around her a lot.

Ms. Marvel #21, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marco Failla (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Nice use of the lightning bolt symbol there, especially in contrast to the electricity crackling off the bad guy's gauntlet.

Kamala, her brother, and the other people set to be booted out of town fight back and try to find safety in the local mosque. HYDRA Lite barges in, the fight continues, Kamala ends up in the bathroom with the masked bad guy who turns out to be that blond jock, Josh. Who has turned his feelings of inadequacy into violence against others. Brilliant.

Kamala and Josh stopping to have a heart-to-heart in a bathroom while there's a huge fight between hate mongers and a bunch of innocent people going on outside seems like a curious decision. Yes, Kamala wants to understand why he's doing this, and she's worn out, but maybe deal with understanding after the innocent people are out of danger? It's a little hard for me to see Josh recognizing the error of his ways and switching sides in the twelfth hour. I did like how, in the flashback, Lockdown tells Josh she knows he isn't bad, he just had a bad idea, and he's really a leader, when she had been the one insisting he had to be locked up because he might cause an explosion at the school. Josh, you gullible asshole.

Failla draws Kamala a little taller in this issue, even on the page where she briefly surrenders. Possibly because she was in fight mode most of the issue, so she was always making herself a little larger. Or maybe he's drawing her a little skinnier than usual, which makes her look more stretched out. It's less noticeable as the issue progresses, because she's getting worn down, and can't keep up the pace, and a lot less noticeable once she and Josh are sitting and talking, what with her being out of fight mode entirely.

Yellow is the color Herring seems to use for when Kamala's going to fight. The panels get a prominent yellow tint when she takes heart from her brother and decides to keep resisting. It's not the first time, it's been pretty consistent across both volumes, yellow is the color for moments when she puts her doubts aside and stands up. Which feels a little strange to me, since yellow gets associated with cowardice, having a yellow streak and all that. But yellow's also a bright color, associated with light and life, which are things she'd be protecting. And her lightning bolt's yellow as well, of course.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #23, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I feel like Henderson's emulating something with these covers, but I don't know what. Covers of old pulp adventure novels. The coloring is just making it look odd to me.

The equipment that sustains the Savage Land is failing, and the problem is believed to be some programming issue with the alien robots that maintain it. Thus bringing in clever programming students to try and figure out the problem. But, as watching character do programming stuff is really boring, the issue instead focuses on Nancy and Stefan's tentative relationship. Their differing opinions on Doom are causing some issues, but may not be insurmountable. Romance subplot done for now, the story returns to hot programming action, now with Dinosaur Ultron. Which is an outstanding addition, and something I didn't know I wanted to see until now. I hadn't even thought of him taking a form like that, but it's outstanding. Much better than that time Frank Cho drew Ultron as looking like the Wasp because . . . well, because it was Frank Cho drawing it I assume.

So that was a pretty good reveal for the final two pages (not counting the actual final page, Kraven's continuing struggle with the Poachmaster General). The two-page spread of Doreen helping Nancy through her doubts about the possible relationship covered some important character work, but didn't take up so much space we were denied Dinosaur Ultron. Also, I like the touch of having Doreen write her name as "DOREEN!" on her name tag, while Nancy opted for "Nancy Whitehead".

However, I must take issue with something. The Squirrel Girl Bathroom Update about Doreen trying to return the baby pterosaur to its parents clearly states Doreen's shirt got torn at the shoulder, and yet there was no battle damage when she returned to the dinner table, having unfortunately missed out on exciting relationship developments. Not Doomesque, dude. I demand continuity be maintained between the main story and the jokes at the bottom of the page!

Lotta good jokes in this issue, too. Latverian slang, the bit about programming montages being boring, the menu jokes, Squire Pete as the (nonexistent) character find of 2017. Unless Squire Pete is going to show up to help in this story arc. Still funny, though. Although knightly armor would have to be unpleasant in a tropical jungle. Chafing issues galore. Nothing funny about that.

As usual, Squirrel Girl's a highly enjoyable book.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.8 - Lounge Day Journey Into Night

Plot: We open with the narrator having forgotten he's still employed on this show, and have to rush into Bob feeding our heroes to the Giant Sturgeon. Jim, possibly traumatized by ingrained worm genetic memory, is useless, leaving Peter to get them out of the fish's stomach and defeat Bob. The end result of the sidekick saving the day is Jim is stripped of his heroship, and Peter gets the supersuit.

Meanwhile, Evil the Cat has gotten his last selection from the Tome of the Month club, the Hunchback of Nostradamus, which has a prophecy of a cat working with a pair of lounge singers and destroying the universe. The singers in question are Morty and Eileen, who Evil approaches right as Jim and Peter leave one of their gigs (on their way to learn Jim doesn't get to be the hero) any longer.

While Evil gets Morty and Eileen to practice his song, "Don't Buy a Calendar, Tomorrow's Already Gone," Peter gloats over his reversal in status while Jim works multiple menial jobs to pay the bills. And to top it off, he gets this month's selection of the Tome of the Month Club, The Hunchback of Nostradamus! Apparently Evil splurged on the deluxe membership with expedited shipping. The heroes rush to the lounge, but are waylaid by an industrial floor buffer and the awful singing.

The universe does not end, because Evil didn't read the whole prophecy, and so missed the part about the minstrels needing to sign a record contract first. Which gives Peter and Jim time to regroup and try again. And again, they botch it. Right as the universe is about to end, the show's animation budget runs out, for the second time in the episode. Evil wants to believe he's won, while Jim takes the opportunity to seize the animator's pencil and erase Evil. Then he sends another check to the animators.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'All this time I was fighting villains, I could have been enjoying musical jello!'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 0 (18 overall).

Cow? Yes, but not quickly enough for me to keep from thinking this show might deserve imminent cancelation.

Other: Morty and Eileen were willing to help Evil destroy the universe, playing someone else's song, for basically the promise he would provide lunch. Which made me think of people working for Marvel or DC, for some reason. Evil's probably a more compassionate boss, though.

Jim's lack of ears come into play again, like they did in Battery of the Gods where he was not only immune to the nose flute, but enjoyed the heck out of it. Morty and Eileen aren't quite as bad as the nose flute, simply because their voices aren't as shrill, but they're still unpleasant.

Henchrat is absent from the episode, because he's taking elocution lessons from Walter. Which at least means he avoids getting his whiskers pulled or ears tied together.

I was trying to think if the claim the heroes league made, that Peter is responsible for 90% of Jim's victories. Jim stopped the apes last week, he sort of stopped Hyper Psy-Crow, he utilized bureaucracy to stop The Fiend Which Dares Not Speak Its Name. Peter did save the day in "The origin of Peter Puppy", but that's the most recent one I can remember. You'd think with all the bake sales those heroes host, they'd be better at math, simply by virtue of having to make change.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What I Bought 8/9/2017 - Part 1

Bought a couple of comics this week I had not bought previously, and it turned into the ol' "Good Idea, Bad Idea" situation. Good Idea: Buying Giant Days #29. Bad Idea: Buying Hulk #9 because you think Hellcat's going to be in it a lot. If you care to know anything further about what I thought about either book, please continue reading. If not, um, there'll be more comics on Monday?

Hulk #9, by Mariko Tamaki (writer), Julian Lopez and Francesco Gaston (artists), Matt Milla (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer) - The scowly face drawn over Jennifer's picture is a pretty solid representation of me after I finished this comic.

Jennifer is looking for her favorite cooking show host, who has been turned into a big green monster by two guys because. . . I don't know. They were the producers of his show, did they think it would boost ratings? The cook is roaming the town, badly scared, and the medication he found that is supposed to reverse what happened, doesn't work, so he's losing it. Jen and the cook's boyfriend are trying to find him before it's too late. Hellcat shows up on two pages, they chat on the phone a bit, that's it. At least they're still friends.

I was really only buying it expecting a little more Patsy and Jennifer interaction, silly me. This bit where Jennifer is reluctant to change, because maybe she isn't sure she can trust herself. Or it? Is she thinking of this hulk form as something different from her? I'm not clear on that. It's kind of interesting in theory, but in practice, I don't care.

I think Lopez is drawing the first half of the book, and Gaston takes over about the time Jen has hulked out and surprises the two producers. Assuming I'm right, Lopez goes a lot heavier on inks, and his style seems going in a more photo-realistic direction than Gaston, who by comparison has a more simplified style. It works, but it does produce a different feel between the two halves. The first half, with all these shadows and people looking concerned and sad is morose, things are dire. The second half, the shadows decrease noticeably, the coloring seems brighter, which would imply things are on the upswing. Even though Jen has forced herself to change, is scaring the crap out of people, and Oliver is losing control of himself. Sounds like the situation is getting worse, but not really how the art paints it. Neither style is bad in a vacuum, but they're at cross-purposes here.

Let's chalk this up as me making a mistake, one I've made before and will undoubtedly make again.

Giant Days #29, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (penciler), Liz Fleming (inker), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - The university theater productions, skimping on the backgrounds for their fancy practical effects, like simulating flying, and arrows.

So, I am still about 12 issues behind, but Esther had been excelling in romantic literature courses, but is being surpassed by a student named Emilia, who seems great and wonderful and charming, and who Esther already hated because she's dating the guy Susan likes. I entirely sympathize with, "You hurt my friend, so I must kill you." Esther's attempts to out-do Emilia result in her giving her professor entirely bad ideas about trying to take advantage of her at some mixer (I doubt this is intentional, but the way Sarin draws Professor Lord, he looks like Jack Kirby, which was a strange coincidence). Emilia whisks her away, and they seem to have become best friends by the end of the issue, to the point Esther has adopted Emilia's style entirely, which is concerning.

And there's another plot with Daisy trying to get Ed to date a bit, and Ed being too hung up on that fiction trope of true love being some massive, perfect thing that hits you like a truck immediately. Again, I sympathize, or perhaps empathize.

One thing I've appreciated about this book reading through the trades is Allison keeps stuff moving. Situations progress rather than stagnate, new issues crop up constantly. Which may not sound like much, but if you've read some of the decompressed shit Marvel and DC put out - and I, unfortunately, have - it's sometimes novel to get back to something that gets the hell on with things.

The Esther vs. Emilia thing was already in full swing, but has pushed forward and into a different direction. Although at this point, I'm extremely suspicious of Emilia. She seems too perfect and uninterested in how many people imitate her and fawn over her, which makes me suspect she's reveling in it and hiding it extremely well.

And I like having those kinds of conflicted feelings. Should I be suspicious? Should Daisy be pushing Ed to pursue this relationship he isn't sure about, even though he's probably waiting for the absolutely perfect situation that will never occur? Yeah, probably, but as a person comfortable by himself, who nonetheless has to deal with both subtle and unsubtle pressure from family and occasionally friends about finding someone, I'm kind of inclined to side with Ed's right to live his life how he wants. But I don't think Ed is as naturally solitary as me, so he should listen to Esther and call Cathy back.

Sarin's able to exaggerate his art extremely well for comedic impact, or the dramatics of these college kids, freaking out over all sort of things. Esther's appearance in the "beasting the bones of my enemies" panel was outstanding. In other circumstances it would be scary, but here, when she's basically vowing to destroy someone who is (seemingly) unwittingly stealing her spotlight, it's a ridiculous response, and so it fits the scene perfectly. Also, I love the font Campbell used for that voice balloon. Likewise, Daisy's three-panel increasing freakout at Ed over not calling Cathy back, where Cogar keeps increasing the use of red, and making it a deeper red as well), as Daisy fills more and more of each successive panel, screaming at him about how perfect Cathy was for him. And then fourth panel below them, where she puts frozen yogurt to her forehead and there's steam the same shade of red rising from that one spot on her head.

So far, I feel very good about my decision to start buying this book regularly. I have to get one right sometimes.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Paradox

You know how time travel movies are. A small group of researchers, funded by a mysterious Mr. Landau, built themselves a time machine. They send one guy, Jim, forward one hour, he finds dead bodies of the team, and one of them is holding a camera he was using to record everything. Jim caught a brief glimpse of someone dragging Gail, who also works on the project and is his girlfriend into the only elevator out, but the place is set to self-destruct, so Jim goes back to the time he originally came from to convince everyone they must avert this horrible fate. Their time machine drew so much power it blew out all the power in the city, so the elevator isn't working, so that's out. And the NSA, suspicious of Mr. Landau, is upstairs trying to get to them anyway, to rescue their agent.

So there's a lot of arguing about whether they could go further back and avert the whole thing, or whether their fates are set. They watch what's recorded on the camera, but seem to keep doing a lot of it. At one point, they see that Jim and Gail successfully found Landau in the server room, so they go ahead and do that. Except finding Landau obviously didn't save them last time, so shouldn't they be trying to do different things? Easy for me to say, sitting comfortably in my living room.

I didn't have a sense of how large the underground facility they were in was. There were at least a half-dozen rooms and a couple of halls, probably more, but I started to wonder how the killer kept successfully getting away from them with a limited amount of places to hide.

I have to give the film some credit, I was plausibly able to construct scenarios for basically every character to be the killer. Greed, jealousy, past mistakes, ambition, simply believing it was fated. But you can rule out several of them just based on the killer's size in the scenes where they interact with other characters (the killer is wearing full tactical gear and a gas mask). Some of the characters are simply too big to be the killer, but beyond that, everyone was hiding something, or had some motivation that could explain it. So that was something.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Party of Fightin' Fools

Last time on Calvin's Second D&D Campaign, the party reached a fortress on a distant island. And at the entrance, we encountered a delightful quartet of two Minotaurs, a flesh golem, and a wizard.

Given that most of the campaigns I've been involved in were being played by newcomers to the game, it won't surprise you to learn our parties generally sucked at any sort of cohesive strategy. We never really sat down and tried to figure out how our abilities could mesh and overlap in fights, which may have made things more of a trial than strictly necessary. Basically, everyone picks a target and starts attacking.

Something Power Attacked Will, doing enough damage he used the magic carpet to get a safe distance away. The monk killed the Minotaur, and with the benefit of those Acid arrows that came with his nifty quiver, Will melted one of the golems. Our wizard had some trouble with the opposing spell-slinger, taking a Fireball to the face and having her invisibility dispelled. Some Flame arrows dispatched the other Minotaur, and with seven foes closing in, the wizard tried flying away. A combo of Frost and Fire arrows brought him to the ground, and Taug dealt the finishing blow.

Inside the fortress, the walls are lined with mirrors. OK, interesting decorating choice, definitely not ominous. Cora can sense an imprisonment spell, but can't undo it. She continues down the hall and promptly steps into an abyss hidden by an illusion. Fortunately Nylis' griffin makes the save. Using the griffin and the carpet to get past it, we find one room with two chests, labeled 1 and 2, and another hallway, filled with more mirrors. Fearing a repeat of our last experience with chests, we ignore them and continue down the hall, to a door. Which opens on a room with more mirrors. This doppelganger's a freak. There are also a bunch of cages on the ceiling, full of people, including the missing cleric.

Obviously a trap, right? Taug removes one of the doors so we can't be sealed in, and he and Will both stay in the hall as everyone else steps inside. It doesn't help as reflections of each member of the party - including the osprey and the griffin - emerge from mirrors on the opposite wall. So it's on. Since we're each directly opposite of our reflections, that's who most of the initial attacks are directed at. Mirror Will scores one hit on me, the Mirror bard dodges a Fireball. Will scored three hits on his opposite, which was almost enough to kill him, but not quite. The next moment, Will finds his mind under control of the mirror bard, which compels him to go into the hall (this does take him away from the griffin that was about to try and eat him) and smash one of the mirrors. Out pops a flesh golem, which promptly attacks Will. This leaves his poor osprey stuck fighting a griffin.

Things start to turn as our griffin kills Mirror Will, and the team begins targeting the mirrors the reflections emerged from. In quick order the mirror versions of the griffin, monk, barbarian, and wizard vanish. Leah and Nylis, having no luck with ranged attacks, decide to Charge the flesh golem together, and the halfing thief gets hammered. Crulin and Oswald jump in, and Oswald nearly finishes the golem, but not before the monk gets badly crushed. The griffin destroys the mirror of the evil osprey, even as the reflection of Leah does a surprising amount of damage to Taug. Will's mind is his own by now, and he's back firing arrows everywhere, downing the golem. Cora smashes the last few mirrors to end the fight.

That done, all the prisoners are freed from their cages, and we use the flying carpet and the griffin to get them out of the fortress so they can go back home through the portal. Before venturing any further, we go back to open one of the chests. We find some healing potions and a lot of cash. One way or the other, we're covered for medical services. Hooray! Especially since Ordai decided to bail on us. I understand he might be traumatized, but his freaking sister is staying to help, you'd think he wouldn't abandon her. Still, 7 of us against one doppelganger, and it doesn't have the element of surprise (although after all the shouting a mirror-smashing, neither do we). We got this. Into the crypt!

Turns out the doppelganger has a couple of henchmen, both of them more powerful than any of us (we're about Level 7 at this point). Will once again hits with 3 of 4 arrows, which is just enough to piss off one of the goons, who Curses Will, neutralizing several of his attack bonuses. Cora tried a multi-target fire spell against Milo and Temperance, but it turned out to be a lot weaker than she expected. Taug, meanwhile, is finding little success with a bow. With the two lackeys as a shield, the doppelganger moves towards some of the corpses in the corner. Will scores another 25 points of damage, which gets Temperance mad enough to charge. Will's life flashes before his eyes, but Taug gets attacked instead, and loses at least three-quarters of his hit points. Crulin attempted to vault on top of a coffin, and only succeeded in crashing into a pedestal, leaving him open to an attack from Milo (though Milo hit himself with the other attack). The rest of the team is finding it extremely difficult to even hit any of these enemies, and the best damage dealers are about one more good attack each from being dead. Oh, and the doppelganger has succeeded in raising the dead. The odds are dimming.

At the point, Ordai returns. This doesn't signal an immediate reversal of fortune, as Nylis hits herself, but Sage is able to wound Milo, and Leah kills Temperance. Will deals 54 points of damage to Milo, and Crulin destroys one of the undead, although he's now in the doppelganger's crosshairs. And it's started a spell to revive Temperance. After that, it starts teleporting around, making us chase it, stalling for time. Vera is at least able to heal the monk up a little, but Temperance revives. Cora drops an Ice Storm hammer on her, and Will adds a couple of arrows, but it isn't enough. This time Will is the one Temperance smacks the hell out of, and he barely survives it. But with her focus on the Ranger, she doesn't see the monk coming, and Crulin makes her second stint on this plane a brief one.

At that point, two threads of action take place. One is that Leah and Vera work together to get the relic out of the cage the doppelganger is keeping it in. That whole thing I described last time, about the bag and wishing ring and the overly complicated way we got the relic from the thieves? Yeah, that actually happened here. I should have read ahead more in my notes. While the two of them were busy with that, the rest of us were trying to deal with the doppelganger. Which took a long time, because we were having a hard time landing enough hits. Its defense was just too high. I scored 1 out of 4 hits once, and expected to be killed the next round. Instead, the doppelganger settled for blinding me. So I summoned a hippogriff. I don't think it scored a single hit, but what the hell, you have the chance to summon a griffin based on a hippopotamus, why wouldn't you? The team did eventually kill the doppelganger, Crulin dealing the finishing blow. We were Big Damn Heroes.

Then we looted the corpses.

We were named champions, and given the chance to enchant the hell out of everything. I don't know what that means exactly, whether we gained the skill, or could show up on the door of someone who does that and demand service, or what. I just wrote, 'can enchant the hell out of everything.' I just wanted to learn to make explosive arrows, go full Hawkeye with this thing.

So that was the second campaign. You can tell it was run by someone new to being DM, and that most of the players had no clue what they were doing. A lot of us spent a lot of time deciding what skills to put points into, like Sneak, or Heal, Intimidate, whatever, but a lot of that never came up. I'm pretty sure our thief wanted a few more opportunities to do some sneaking and stealing.

I suspect we were meant to investigate that swamp we heard about, and to level us up a bit before the end. It felt like, especially in the final battle, we weren't strong enough for it. We went from crushing pitiful bandits and kobolds, to hanging on for dear life against Minotaurs and flesh golems. The DM clearly recognized Will was the one doing the most damage, but the enemies passed up opportunities to deal fatal damage, opting to cast curses or blind him instead. I'm not complaining; there wasn't anyone in our party who knew Resurrect (unless the bard knew it, or maybe Ordai), so death would have been the end of it for me. But playing it, you could tell she was pulling her punches. Which was at least a nice change of pace from that first campaign, where everyone died constantly.

Those last few battles took forever, because we'd all try and attack the doppelganger, but its defense was so high compared to our attack values that we might only score a couple of hits total. With it having 120 or so hit points, it was death by a thousand paper cuts.

Still, our DM rolled with our peculiar approaches pretty well. We tended to over discuss our options, but she outwardly kept any impatience under wraps. Even if she didn't always seem to understand what the hell I was doing, she didn't get irritated with my playing Will as at least slightly off-kilter. Of course, she was the one who threw in an hippie elf orgy, so she established off-kilter as the baseline. And the party was pretty into it. A lot of the time we were just screwing around (and not just in terms of what went on at the hippie elf party.) Deciding to just open all three chests, deciding Nylis was too busy eating cupcakes to dive for cover, discussing try to hide a wolf in the Bag of Holding for surprise wolf attacks. Everything was on the table, and people seemed to respond positively to that.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Here Alone

Ann's living alone in the woods after your standard zombie plague apocalypse. She sleeps in her car, forages for berries, tries catching game, and occasionally ventures into some houses vaguely nearby to look for food. One day she finds Olivia and her stepdad Chris staggering down the highway. She helps them out, with reservations. They're heading north, in the direction of a radio broadcast. It's in French, they don't know what it's saying, but they figure it's worth taking a chance on it. Ann, however, is content to stay right where she is. Well, more that she's unwilling to leave this particular place.

There's some gradual thawing, the trio growing more comfortable around each other, which leads to its own problems at the climax of the film, but Ann's still refusing to let go of the memories that hold here there.

I spent the whole movie expecting that trusting other people was going to end badly for Ann. They were going to steal all her stuff, try to kill her. Which says more about me than the movie, really. It really seems to be about the pointlessness of playing the martyr. Chris mentions at one point that yes, sometimes he feels sad about the loss of Olivia's mother, but other times he chooses not to think about it. You can be sad about something, about the loss of someone, without having to be sad and suffering over all the time.

Ann is making the conscious effort to try and stay in mourning, rather than move forward. She's going to stay right there, wearing the figurative sackcloth and ashes until the zombies lurking around those houses run out of corpses to eat and venture into the wilderness. At which point she will probably die. It doesn't have to be that way, but that's the decision she'd been making. Now she's given an offer to go towards the unknown with two other people, or keep going as she is.

It's a quiet movie, punctuated by brief moments where things get tense. There are a couple of lighter moments, not funny so much as the characters not being focused on survival for a few minutes.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Moles Aren't The Only Ones Who Use Their Tunnels

When I reviews Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #10, I joked that the cover suggested they were fighting Poison Ivy or Swamp Thing. But thinking about it some more, I think that would have some potential. It wouldn't necessarily be those two characters, but someone who considered themselves connected to the Earth. If we were opting for less antagonistic, the current Terra would be a good choice, since she's familiar with life above and below the surface, and is pretty level-headed.

Carson spent a lot of time tunneling under the Earth, going wherever he pleases, having adventures and facing danger and such. There's a lot of life under the earth's surface, a lot of ecosystems. Since Cave and his team don't always know what's up ahead, they can't always predict how their actions are going to impact things. Is there a bacteria from the surface they brought with them that nothing under ground has resistance to? Did a predator in a magma cave travel through a tunnel they created into a massive crystal cavern full or some floaty, luminescent lifeform? That's not unusual here, species finding a way to a new location because humans create a pathway of suitable habitat that ends up connecting to some distant place. Underground, especially in the early days, the crew of the Mighty Mole would have been operation almost blind. Everything they saw and met would be new, and it wouldn't be hard to screw up without realizing it.

And there's the part where IDX used Cave's travels as a jumping off point for a lot of their own exploration/exploitation of what's below the surface.

I don't think Ivy would be bothered by the tunneling per se; someone that invested in plants would know about how organisms moving through the soil help aerate it. But the likelihood of all sorts of unintended consequences from the exploring, the fact rare species might be endangered because the Mighty Mole disrupted a carefully sealed system and introduced external predators. More of humanity destroying the planet in what Ivy might see as being reckless greed. Whether that's accurate or not, and I don't think it would be for Cave, that would be Ivy's perception based on a lot of past experience.

The lack of sunlight might hinder Ivy a bit, so she might have to act against them on the surface. Either target Cave and his team during a return from a trip, or attack someone left behind to draw him up. Or maybe she could act through root systems, send those down after him.

I don't know how Cave feels about what's happened underground as a result of his crew's adventures. Obviously he wasn't pleased with IDX's actions, slaughtering the Mul'droog and releasing the Whisperer, but beyond that. . . Does he regret the exploration? It's how he met Mazra, so that's certainly a positive outcome, but how much does he know about what happened as a result of where he's been and what he's done? Does it eat at him, but he can't see a way to fix it, so that being confronted by someone accusing him of causing all kinds of harm leaves him agreeing? Or does he shrug at it as the cost of doing business? Can't explore under the Earth's crust without breaking some (incredibly rare) eggs.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.7 - Peanut of the Apes

Plot: Psy-Crow confronts the Generic President and demands the United States, but lets the President call the Earthworm Jim Coffee Can and String Hotline. Jim runs off Psy-Crow by showing him the debt he will assume if he does take over the country.

However, the kids' focus groups are not impressed and desperate to raise their sagging ratings, Jim institutes "Earthworm Interactive", where a fan named Cody is strapped into a chair and will get to decide what happens in the episode at certain points. Not a real kid, a cartoon one, relax.

That gimmick established, the actual plot begins, as Jim receives a call on his "pants phone" to respond to an attack by an ape at the local greasy chicken franchise. Despite his suit giving him the strength of '1,000 tree surgeons', Jim's in trouble until Cody pushes the "Win" button for him, at which point mashed potatoes save the day. As it turns out, the ape was a man just minutes ago, until he used a PFMH Co. moist towlette to clean himself. Soon there are apes all over the world, and PFMH Co. products are connected to all of them. Jim eventually (as in, well after Peter) realizes what PFMH stands for, and the heroes face Professor Monkey-for-a-Head. The Professor intends to use the Monkey as the only one who can communicate with the apes (because the Monkey is actually a chimp that thinks it's a monkey), and rule the world. But first, he tries his formula on Jim and Peter. Jim reacts with an overwhelming urge to wear corduroy jackets with leather patches, while Peter is turned into a haggis.

Fortunately, apes are terrified of Scottish food, giving our heroes a chance to run to run to the Planet of Creamy Foods for a mess of peanut butter, as that is the antidote for being turned into an ape. Humanity is saved, but the Professor steps through the screen Cody is watching all this on to threaten him into choosing the "Lose" button. Before that happens, the Professor is exposed to his own toxin and becomes Monkey Monkey-for-a-Head.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'How can I kick more, and be more like a brilliant physicist? It's agin' nature I tells ya!'

Times Peter turns into a Monster: 1 (19 overall).

Cow? Yes, at the fan's request.

Other: Peter's a fan of the old gag of leaving your outline in the wall when you run through it.

One of the children in the focus group wanted Jim to kick more, while one of the girls wanted him to be more like Stephen Hawking, prompting the quote above. Although, I kinda wished they'd picked a different brilliant physicist for the joke about scientists not being able to fight or whatever. One of the other kids hated cartoons that tried to put messages in their stories, like not running into walls. The other kid decided to try running into walls.

When Jim and Peter first burst in on the Professor, the Monkey was wearing a maid outfit. I don't know that I should say anything about that, what they do in the privacy of their own office is up to them, just figured you could have that image in your brain like I do.

It is nice of the Professor to support the Monkey's feelings that it is a monkey, even if it was born a chimpanzee.

When the Professor says Monkey will be the only one who can communicate with the humans-turned-apes, I assume he means to serve as a translator between these apes and anyone left as a human, but my first thought was he meant the apes themselves wouldn't be able to communicate with each other, which seems odd. But many of them might try initially to speak as they did while human, which probably wouldn't work. But sign language would still be an option.

The Planet of Creamy Foods has an entire sea of mayo. I'm getting nauseous thinking about it.

I like that they not only brought back the Generic President gag, but used the same generic president as last time.

At any rate, the series is winding down now as we're into the gimmick episodes, which will occur with increasing frequency over the next month. So we have that to look forward to.

Friday, August 04, 2017

What I Bought 8/3/2017

Well, I hoped I might find both books I was looking for this week at the local store. Silly Calvin. Maybe I'll have a chance to find that issue of Giant Days at one of the stores in Columbia over the weekend.

Iron Fist #6, by Ed Brisson (writer), Mike Perkins (artist), Andy Troy (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Shang-Chi with a mustache seems wrong, somehow.

Iron Fist won that tournament on the island, but as usual, his opponent is a sore loser and has put a price on his head. First to collect are group of people being controlled by someone called the Seer, and they get after Danny before his plane has even finished landing. He's not doing well until Shang-Chi shows up. They try to chase the last of the foes to find where Seer is, and follow directly into a trap. Shang appears to fall before the Seer and become one of his puppets.

At one point, Danny asks Shang-Chi how many of the Sight guys he took down during the fight, to which Shang responds with his usual spiel about not taking any pleasure in violence or keeping tallies, blah, blah. I don't know if Brisson is simply trying to highlight differences between the two, or that Danny's still off. Still focused on trying to find his way home through the violence. He's spamming the iron fist attack an awful lot, too. Almost constantly, when I always thought it was supposed to be more a last resort. Could be meant to mean something, or not.

Perkins' work on faces is not the greatest here. Shang's face seems to change a lot from one panel to another. Prominence of cheekbones, hair, nose. You can tell it's still meant to be Shang-Chi, but it's as much because there aren't a whole lot of guys with dark hair and a head band in this comic, you know. When the airliner goes tumbling, a disturbing number of the panicking passengers seem to be looking at us. You can draw characters looking in our direction and not have it appear that way, but it's usually when they're in conversation with someone else, and you understand you're in the other person's spot. That isn't that case here. It's like they're acting as freaking out, but can't help looking to see if it's working on the audience.

Also, there's one shot of Danny as he peers out the airplane window where I don't know what's wrong with his face. He looks like a boxer that took too many shots to face, which I wouldn't be surprised at, except he does look like it in any other panel. Or Moe from the Three Stooges right after he took seltzer in the eyes. So he's pissed,starting to glare at Larry or Curly, but his eyes are mostly narrow slits? It was a bizarre shot, really took me out of the story.

The fights are drawn with a lot of narrow panels from close-up. So you only see part of Danny or Shang, and a few of the Sight, or else a lot of vague figures in hoods. It's not the most satisfying if you're looking for a cool fight scene, but it kind of works for them being hemmed in, plus the danger that comes from being in close range to these enemies. Every time Danny makes contact with one, the Seer reaches out to his mind through them. No indication that was happening to Shang-Chi, but he's probably on a more even keel than Danny these days. Less susceptible to that sort of thing.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

They Look Like People

Wyatt is convinced everyone around him is turning into monsters, because of mysterious phone calls he receives in the night. Calls that tell him he's going to have to fight back, that he needs to prepare, needs to go hide somewhere in the wilderness.

Instead, he runs into his old friend Christian, and stays at his apartment in New York City while he tries to decide what to do. Christian has gone through some changes himself, trying to remake himself to be more assertive and successful at work and in his personal life. Which means that after a while, Wyatt starts to wonder about Christian, while also wondering about whether he's nuts or not. I spent the entire movie unsure. Heck, I'm still not entirely certain.

It's mostly about these two guys and their attempts to deal with their issues. Wyatt broke things off with his fiance recently, because she cheated on him, or he thought she was one of the monsters. But there's a brief exchange with a psychiatrist where the doctor asks if Wyatt's ever had a relationship where the other person didn't let him down. So Wyatt perhaps doesn't deal with change well, people behaving outside the boundaries he sets, and his brain.

Christian's girlfriend broke up with him, and so now he works out, and reads online articles about how to be more confident, or how to ask out your boss (which just seems like a tremendously bad idea). He tries to make himself into something he thinks will be more successful, because the person he is isn't enough.

The parts that resonated with me were them trying to reconnect, do the same things they did when they were younger. Each of them is different from how the other remembers, and each is trying to figure out how to be the good friend right now. Encourage the other to go out, or stay in and goof around? Keep your own troubles to yourself? Also the way Christian is altering his normal patterns to accommodate Wyatt's presence. He's like this new object in a box stuffed full, and everything else is getting jostled around to make room. And the fact that, when Christian is at work, Wyatt is slightly at loose ends. There's only so much time he can, or wants to, spend contemplating or preparing for the upcoming conflict, but he's on his friend's turf. What to do with himself?

The film has this signal that Wyatt's sensing the presence of the monsters, where all other sounds drop away, and there's the persistent buzzing of flies. It's a clever approach, if they want there to be doubt about Wyatt, his fixating on what is typically an innocuous sound is a way to do it. There are flies around all the time, which could play into the notion the monsters are increasing in number, taking over more people. Once he becomes fixated on them, he's more aware of the noise, which feeds into the conviction.

Or there really are that many more monsters. In which case, he and Christian are going to need a lot more acid and power tools.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

A Composite Robin

The Robin on the Teen Titans Go! cartoon is supposed to be Dick Grayson. He has the tragic origin at the circus (those rotten circus animals), the acrobatics, we've seen his future self becomes Nightwing, the attraction to Starfire, etc. His costume and the collapsible bo staff owe more to Tim Drake, and there was an episode where he tries to teach the team about how cool hacking. I wondered if that was a reference to Tim being such a super-great computer nerd/hacker back in the '90s*.

There was another episode I saw recently, when Robin gets jinxed by his teammates, who are tired of him lecturing them. He gets frustrated, breaks the jinx yelling at them, and loses his voice (which is collected by the villain Jinx). The Titans (eventually) try to recover it, but are unfocused without their leader, who has no luck communicating through dance or hand signals.

At which point Jinx chides him, remarking it's too bad he only taught them to respond to yelling and violence. Turns out Robin had forgotten about violence, and starts whaling away with his staff until they do what he wants.

So it occurred to me that the Robin on Teen Titans Go! has a lot of personality traits in common with another Robin, Damian Wayne. The arrogance, the violence, the tendency to treat everyone else as inferior morons who would be hopelessly lost without him.

Damian's the Robin in the current DC Rebirth Teen Titans book**; the solicits showed he's even going to boot Kid Flash off the team (cartoon Robin hates Kid Flash). I had wondered - as I did the last time Damian was on the Titans, in the short-lived JT Krul/Nicola Scott run on the book just before Flashpoint - why anyone would want to be on a team where they had to put up with Damian. I still don't know that I have a good answer, beyond thinking they can help him not be a jerk, or having no place else to go. It would be a clever way to try for some synergy between the comics and the TV show. If the kids like that Robin is angry and yells a lot, has the Teen Titans comic got a Robin for them!

* Or it could just be the Robin on the show has a fixation on the '90s, the way Cyborg has one on '80s TV shows.

** Disclaimer: I'm not reading the current Teen Titans book, just going off covers, solicitation text, and what I know of past characterization.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

In a Valley of Violence

I watched a lot of movies when I was at my dad's two weekends ago, because it was too hot for anyone to be outside. And most of them, I don't have any strong impressions of. In a Valley of Violence isn't that lucky. A Western about a guy taking revenge on a group of assholes, it's a poor addition to the list of movies like that.

Paul (Ethan Hawke) is traveling the West, running away from his experiences in the cavalry, and from his own bad decisions, with just his horse and dog, Abby, for companionship. They're forced to stop in the town of Denton for water and food, and while he waits in the saloon for the owner of the general store to return, he comes to the notice of a Gilly (James Ransone), who is a snotty punk who thinks he's hot stuff, and has to prove it if anyone doesn't agree. When Paul doesn't agree, Gilly challenges him to a fistfight, and with his friends and girlfriend Ellen (Karen Gillan) looking on, gets laid out in one punch (but not until he starts making threats towards the dog).

Now, an intelligent person, having humiliated this guy in front of his friends, even if you were gentler than he deserved and stopped at the one punch, would opt to get himself, his horse, and his dog out of town. Paul opts to get those provisions he was after. OK, fine, gotta eat. Then you would certainly leave town in a hurry. But no, Paul goes to the hotel and asks for a bath. He intends to sleep in the wilderness again, but still, he has to have a bath right now. While this gives him a chance to make friends with Mary-Anne, Ellen's sister, who hates Gilly, this means he's in town for a much longer time. Long enough to meet Gilly's father, the marshal (John Travolta), who thankfully just wants him out of town. More critically, he doesn't get very far before nightfall, meaning Gilly and his cronies find him easily, and kill his dog. Slowly. By repeatedly stabbing it. While mocking him for deserting, and letting down people who relied on him, like his dog.

So Gil and his friends have certainly earned their deaths. But Paul, having settled on this course, proceeds to fuck around at it. He kills one guy fairly quickly, but then, once the others are aware of his presence, and one takes to high ground, tries to force him to shoot the others. Rather than just, you know, killing them himself. Sure, it has a certain vicious poetry to it, but because the guy wouldn't do it, the others reached cover, which made it more likely one of them would get a lucky shot. At the end of the day, Gilly is the one he really wants to kill, the one the audience really wants to see get it, so get the others out of the way so you can focus on him.

Eventually, he and Gilly are facing off in the street with the marshal between them trying to talk everyone down, and they open fire, mostly succeeding only in shooting the marshal. It was hard to tell if they're just that bad at shooting, or they were as tired of him talking as the rest of us. For a guy the marshal perceives as being so terribly dangerous, Paul is a fuck-up at vengeance. A Charles Bronson character would have killed these dumbasses four times over. The high point of the movie was at the very end, when this exchange between my dad and I had him doubled over laughing for at least 30 seconds:

Me: I hope you aren't planning to give him a bath. The tub is still full of fat, naked dead guy.
Dad: That's a fitting epitaph for this piece of crap.

Monday, July 31, 2017

What I Bought 7/27/2017 - Part 2

I hate grabby drunk people. The ones who lose all respect for personal space - assuming they had any to begin with - once they get a few drinks in them.

Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #5, by Peter David (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), John Dell (inker), Jason Keith (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That is the opposite of how I would expect that fight to go, but the actual comic taught there are many things different about Kaine from what I remembered.

Kaine and Ben fight for the entire issue. Ben keeps trying to stall, so he can get Kaine to listen to him, Kaine just keeps trying to kill him. Ben, after failing with the, "let's play with swords" tactic, and the, "You want to shoot me? Fine, shoot me," tactic, eventually plays the "Uncle Ben" card, which does convince Kaine to listen, and Kaine agrees to let him live until he saves the little girl. At which point Kaine will kill him. Also, the mysterious "Thorne" causing Ms. Mercury trouble is her brother, who runs a rival casino.

I wasn't aware Kaine doesn't have a spider-sense, but I also thought he was still far stronger than Ben or Peter, which apparently isn't the case. How things change with a character I've barely paid attention to in 20 years.

Watching Ben's various attempts to get Kaine to lighten up was mildly amusing. It added something to the fight between them, kept adding new elements to the fight. Though it's hard for me to take Ben's arguments seriously. It all feels like an attempt to manipulate Kaine, rather than genuinely reason with him. Of course, Kaine's hellbent on killing him, so trying to honestly debate with him would probably be stupid.

I would have preferred Bagley not skimp on the backgrounds as much as he did in certain panels, but he did a good job laying things out so an element in one panel guides the eye naturally to the next. Like Kaine throwing a sword at Ben, and it's point guides us to the end of Ben's sword in the next panel as he deflects it, and Ben's sword guides us down to the dialogue and also the deflected sword, which brings us to the next panel (Kaine webbing Ben's sword). The webline draws us back to the next dialogue balloon, and that and the angle of the sword point us down to the last panel on the page, where Kaine's pulling Ben off balance. It's basic stuff I assume, but it's also important stuff to making the story work.

Also, Bagley's remembers to establish where characters are in relation to each other at the beginning of a scene, and then making sure the action works from that. So if he shows there are knights to Ben's left, and Kaine tries to web him, Ben's going to jump right, and sends a couple of weblines left to snag their swords. Just basic panel-to-panel continuity, but I feel like there are a lot of artists who either don't get that stuff, or just don't give a shit.

Still, enjoyment of the fight scene aside, I don't know about this book. I still don't really care about this thing between Cassandra and Thorne, siblings or not. It's two casino owners in a pissing match. It's probably setting something up that will present Ben with some important character moment down the line, but I don't know if I'm going to care to stick around until then. I've gone back and forth just in the time since I started working on this post about whether I'm even going to give the book a chance once Bagley leaves. I say no, then talk myself back into it, then out of it again.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #18, Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I'm most disappointed in Howard. After all the times angry mobs have chased him, and he turns around and partakes in the chasing himself. Tsk, tsk.

Teddy, Gwen's brother, wound up in the Marvel Universe when she did, but didn't adapt as well, and struggled to get by. Which is how he wound up working for Mr. Orto, the demon Gwen killed in one of her first jobs. Which means Teddy watched his sister calmly murder a bunch of dudes, then cheerfully run off to She-Hulk's Christmas party. At which time a future Miles Morales appeared and warned him of all Gwen was going to do. Gwen's still in the weird space outside the universe (but still in the story) so she learns all this, and jumps back in to confront Teddy with the fact his plan didn't work, and they're still in the comic.

Hastings may have completely lost me here. They're still in the Marvel Universe, but in some halfway dimension? Or is it an astral projection, an elaborate illusion, they borrow one of Mongul's Black Mercys?

I'm not sure whose side I'm meant to be on here. Teddy is messing with Gwen's life, not cool. On the other hand, Gwen does kill people with pretty no remorse or hesitation whatsoever. Her machine-gunning a bunch of goons in an alley was not an isolated incident. Her argument would doubtlessly be that they're fictional, and nameless unimportant characters, they're put there to die. But their lives are real to them. Gwen is mad because, essentially, Teddy is interrupting her treating the world like her private Grand Theft Auto. The fact that Teddy's time in the Marvel Universe has placed him as one of those nameless unimportant characters plays into his perspective as well. It's difficult to be on her side, given that.

But the issue felt pretty thin. I got to the end and was surprised that was it. Because it spent so much time on a flashback, there wasn't much forward momentum. Two steps backwards, one step forward.

The two panels of Teddy sitting horrified on the fire escape and then silent one of the bleeding corpses was effective. This is not something I say often, but I didn't like how Gurihiru version of a character, specifically The Thing. Because they gave him a neck. Normally he's drawn like his head sits directly on his shoulders (or else his lower jaw extends down far enough that it blocks his neck). Anyway, he just looks odd.

Outside that, though, they're doing their usual excellent work on the art. The panels of Gwen in that white void, where she's observing everything and slowly gearing up are kind of terrifying. She's casually stepping on pages of her past adventures, reaching in and helping herself to items from them. She's not raging or outwardly furious, but she's not geeking out over what seems like would be a cool experience. She's kind of miffed, in that way cosmic entities are shown to be when they see a mortal preparing to confront them and aren't worried, but are still offended someone would try to challenge them. Gwen having reached that level is not a good thing. She's going to break everything worse than Thanos usually does before he learns his latest Important Lesson.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.6 - Hyper Psy-Crow

Plot: We open on Jim imitating Seinfeld and just dying on stage. None of his foes could have devised a more horrible end. We transition from there to Psy-Crow being brought before Queen Slug-for-a-Butt (and Mrs. Bleveridge), and told if he doesn't bring the Queen the super-suit this time, or else.

Meanwhile, Jim is presenting a Lifetime Achievement award in heroism to the Puce Dynamo, who takes this opportunity to claim credit for inventing everything related to heroism, including costumes and sewing, while blasting the current heroes as phonies. Which sparks Jim's inner fire, as he calls for the heroes to fight evil. Then proceeds to wait in the banquet hall for evil to arrive. Which it does, in the form of Hyper Psy-Crow, as the villain drank an octuple espresso and has various speed-related powers. The other heroes are so busy arguing who gets to stop him, Psy-Crow destroys a pillar and drops the ceiling on them. Jim, Peter, and the Dynamo flee to the Home for Elderly Heroes.

Jim proposes they overload Psy-Crow with more coffee, which the Dynamo calls a terrible plan. Then he suggests the same thing. They lure Psy-Crow to a Museum of Oversized Items and enact their plan. Which succeeds in turning Psy-Crow into Hyper-Hyper Psy-Crow, a being of pure energy. Really up against the wall, Jim uses aromatherapy to become Super-Mellow Jim, but when the two collide, they destroy the universe. Whoops. Fortunately, the Great Worm Spirit has survived, first in the form of an Energizer Bunny knockoff, and then in the form of Doug TenNapel, who is Jim's creator after all. The three use their combined memories of the universe to recreate it, almost exactly as it was, and Jim and Psy-Crow are returned to their lives before the mess began.

Jim opts to tell the Dynamo to shut his trap, while Psy-Crow is less successful convincing the Queen to drop the whole thing. So he prepares to set it all in motion again, only to be stopped by Jim, who objects to using a 'here we go again' ending on his show.

Quote of the Episode: Dynamo - 'You're telling me? I invented retreating! You young punk.'

Times Peter turns into a Monster: 1 (18 overall).

Cow? Yes, at Jim's insistence on not using other shows' cliche endings.

Other: Walter, Jim's cellmate in the first Evil Jim episode, is the barista at the coffee bar, "Grounds for a Lawsuit". Too bad his job at the International House of Haggis didn't work out.

Jim didn't seem bothered by the Dynamo claiming credit for everything until he claimed he invented worms (which came after Jim explained his battle cry of "Eat dirt!"). I was sick of the old man after he claimed to invent sewing.

The only thing different in the recreated universe is that Death of a Salesman is about Urkel, and for some reason I thought Jaleel White had died recently and was leery about mentioning that reference, but apparently not. Anyway, Urkel reference, because '90s show.

Psy-Crow knows the Great Worm Spirit because he claims it saved his life in 'Nam. Seemed completely serious about it, too. The Dynamo has a letter from President Truman thanking him for offering to end World War 2, but they had a bomb they wanted to try. That's in questionable taste.

The gag about the Energizer Bunny surviving the end of the universe got a laugh out of me. Psy-Crow was blaming Jim for destroying everything, Jim insists something must have survived, the rabbit marches past. Then Jim sneers that someone probably thought that was sooooo clever, which, yeah, I thought it was. Good job, joke writers for the show!

I expected a little more of the story spent trying to stop Psy-Crow, maybe some stuff in the vein of a Road Runner/Wil E. Coyote cartoon playing off Psy-Crow's speed and short attention span (the espresso turned him into Impulse, essentially). Could have used less of the Puce Dynamo, that didn't really go anywhere. It isn't as though Jim isn't normally hot to fight evil, anyway. And as Peter pointed out he wasn't pointing out, Jim's first plan to defeat Psy-Crow was the same as the Dynamo's, so the old man was kind of pointless.

Friday, July 28, 2017

What I Bought 7/27/2017 - Part 1

All three of the comics I was after this week were on the shelves at the store. Someone must have abruptly given up on Cave Carson (and also Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but I already had that issue). I'm only reviewing one issue tonight, because it's been a long week and I'm tired. We'll get the other two Monday.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #10, by Jon Rivera (writer/story), Gerard Way (story), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - Was not expecting a Poison Ivy guest appearance. Or maybe it's Evil Swamp Thing! You'll have to read it to find out.

Cave's cybernetic eye has gone back into the socket, which means he's seeing his dead wife again. Still, he got his depth perception back, you think that'd count for something. The group is attacked by what's left of one of the crew of the other Mighty Mole, now some giant fungus/tree thing. They're saved by the son of a different universe's Cave Carson, with Cave being very excited at meeting a male child of his. Right in front of his actual daughter. Cave Carson: Continuing the long comic book tradition of scientists being shitty dads! Cave Jr. brings them to his world, where that universe's Will Magnus has his Metal Men restrain them while that universe's Cave Carson downloads everything from the cybernetic eye into a robot version of Cave's wife.

I'm sure there will be some reason for this chicanery, that Mazra is the key to defeating the Whisperer. We'll see if it works out that way. Cave insisted last issue that seeking out an alternate version of Mazra was a waste of time. She wouldn't necessarily know them, so she wouldn't feel anything for him. That was shown to be a lie in this issue, just from how excited he was to meet the son of some other version of him. So now he's confronted with one that I assume is going to be some sort of recreation of the Mazra he knew. Is this all going to turn out to be some big thing about getting Cave over his depression over the death of his wife? His eagerness to remain fixated on that is a symptom of what the Whisperer feeds off of?

Wild Dog is proving to be a much better team player than I expected of a gun-toting solo vigilante. Always seems willing to help, usually by hurting someone, but still. Chloe seems to use him as sounding board for her concerns about her father. He's out of his depth, but he hasn't backed down at any point. Although I notice his mask doesn't have that notch where he got a machete lodged in it last issue. Or did he pack a spare?

My favorite panel is the expression Chloe makes while mocking the exchange between Cave and his "son". There's a definite element of hurt behind it, plus Cave taking this proud parent approach with someone who isn't his son just begs to be mocked. On the other hand, Alternate Cave Carson's head looks out of proportion to his body on that last page. Possibly intentional - things are getting distorted over the course of this trip - but I'm not certain of that. I did also like the panel of Cave's memories of the Mighty Mole, where Oeming reduced the number of lines, simplified things a bit, the nostalgia effect. The way he drew Cave made me think of Tintin, a little bit.

As the group first comes under attack, Oeming and Filardi adds these pale green leaves encroaching from outside the panel border. They aren't part of what's going on, more like an addition to the border, but then they reappear as the group meets Cave Jr. Foreshadowing that he's a threat? The leaves reappear one more time, as Cave ends Alexa, but now they're white against an orange background. The animating force behind them is gone, they're empty now.

I feel as though the book's lost some momentum in the last few issues, but I was admittedly looking forward to more adventures under the Earth, so maybe I'm just disappointed with the universe-hopping stuff.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hemingway and Gellhorn - Jerome Tuccille

The book's about Ernest Hemingway and the third woman to make the grievous error of marrying him, Martha Gellhorn. It follows Hemingway around the time he and Pauline moved to Key West, and Gellhorn from much earlier in her life, as she heads out to try and become first a journalist, and then a writer.  She travels a lot, meets various men, most of whom seem to fall madly in love with her, while she can only stand to be around them for brief stretches of time. But when she does want to be around them, she's as passionate about it as they are.

She eventually meets Hemingway on a family trip to Key West, they fall for each other, he starts seeing her on the (not very) sly. They travel to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War together. Eventually they get married. Things go south from there. Martha grows more comfortable as writer, starts to experience success on her own, where she isn't quite so chained to Hemingway's legacy, which irks him. The more he tries to control, the more she pulls away, the more resentful he gets, the more she sees all the parts of his personality she doesn't like so much. Like the constant drinking and partying with his vast array of hangers-on and buddies.

In the broad strokes, there's nothing here I didn't already know. Martha and Ernest were terribly suited for a long-term relationship together, in large part because Martha was not going to spend her life as "Mrs. Hemingway". Ernest is a jealous jerk who destroys every friendship he has. Martha, while a passionate journalist, was not above ignoring facts that went against the cause she favored. But some of the details were new, such as Martha's efforts to get into mainland Europe and cover the Allied invasion in 1944 (despite Ernest getting her fired from Collier's). Or their travels in China.

Tuccille effectively highlights the differences in their perspectives and personalities through their reactions. Such as Martha not doing so well with the hygienic conditions in China, while Hemingway seemed unperturbed - until his booze ran out, naturally. Or Martha's tendency, pointed out to her by Hemingway at one point, to think everyone should think and react to everything just as she did. Hemingway, of course, was fully aware other people had different opinions from him. He just didn't particularly care what they were (he didn't say that, that's just my assessment of him).

'Ernest, undoubtedly, was suffering from guilt pangs over his treatment of Pauline. Years earlier he had blamed Pauline for breaking up his marriage to Hadley, and now he was finding reasons to blame Martha for his all-but-doomed second marriage. Someone had to be the scapegoat, as long as it wasn't Ernest.'

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

October's Looking Like A Promising Month

So the last several months haven't brought much to discuss in the solicitations. Maybe a new mini-series to consider trying, or the usual wavering about whether to drop a Marvel title or not. Incremental changes. Well, October has said to hell with that minimalist bullshit, many things to discuss.

First order of business, I made the decision last week to start buying Giant Days in single issues, starting in August. Granted I've only bought the first trade so far, and even counting the trades I've flipped though in bookstores - which I will purchase eventually, I'm deliberate about trade buying -

Deadpool: [When he says, "deliberate", he means cheap.]

Shut up Wade, you ruined the surprise. As I was saying, I'm a dozen issues behind even going by trades, but I really enjoy the wacky adventures of those college ladies. And the book sticks to its monthly schedule, so there will be a new issue to purchase in October.

In other good news, Copperhead is returning with a new story arc, and even better, new Atomic Robo mini-series! I said this last year, but Atomic Robo is one of the relatively few things I get excited for every time it comes out (even if I wasn't thrilled by The Temple of Od).

On DC's side of things, Cave Carson is absent from the solicitations. Maybe it was 12 issues and out, or maybe they're taking a break to let Oeming get ahead on art again. Yeah, it's probably done, but you never know. In other news, Ray Fawkes and Inaki Miranda are releasing a Ragman mini-series. I'm not familiar with either of their work, and it's updating the origin, but it could still be worth a look. There's also another Deadman mini-series, but it's by Neal Adams. Which means it's probably as nuts as Batman: Odyssey and those other, similar projects he's done the last few years. I don't think I'm up for that. Blue Beetle has a new creative team. Again, I'm not familiar with Christopher Sebela or Thony Silas' work, but if the Giffen/Kolins team wasn't doin' for ya, maybe these two will. Bernard Chang is handling writing and art chores on Batman Beyond in October, for a fight-focused issue. I didn't pick this volume up, and I bailed on the previous volume after two issues, but Chang's art wasn't the problem. Dan Jurgens' writing has never done anything for me. It isn't like nothing happens in his stories, but something about his writing keeps it from connecting with me.

And then there's Marvel, now hopefully safely past Secret Empire and into their Legacy thing, which at least got them to drastically reduce the number of books they were releasing. Granting the total is still over 60, but it was over 80 previously. Baby steps. Remarkably, none of the books I was buying got it in the neck, either.

The renumbering thing is being done in Marvel's usual half-assed manner. Mighty Captain Marvel gets to count all Carol Danvers' previous series, but Hulk doesn't do the same with Jennifer Walters'. And she should be almost to 160 issues by now. Venom (with Mark Bagley taking over as artist, meaning he isn't coming back to Scarlet Spider. Boooo, booooooooo, boo) and Despicable Deadpool are both going to new numbering, as is Cable,

Deadpool: [Well, it looks better if Nate's series ends on issue #154 because I killed him, than if it ends at #7 because nobody's buying a Cable book in 2017.]

That's true. I had forgot they were even giving him another ongoing. Oh yeah, and I'm picking up Deadpool again for the time being. Surprise.

Where was I? Right, so those books are doing the cumulative numbering, but Champions, Defenders, and Daredevil aren't. On and on. Does any of it matter? Probably not. It's mostly the same books, by the same creative team, just jumbling around the numbers and confusing everyone again.

As for the books I would be buying, or was buying, Gwenpool is going to try and take on Dr. Doom, which is stupid. You'd think her near death at Deadpool's hands would have taught her a lesson about messing with characters higher up the pecking order. Squirrel Girl is still tangling with Ultron, Ms. Marvel has a new hero showing up in Jersey City. I think it's Red Dagger, the local hero Kamala ran into when she went back to Karachi in issue #12. Iron Fist is teaming up with Sabretooth so I don't think I'll be buying that. Is Sabretooth still doing that sort of good he's been doing since Axis, or did he finally slip back into his old self? And Ben Reilly is going to have some trouble with this new version of the Hornet (I'm not ruling out the possibility Wil Sliney's art has improved or changed sufficiently I decide to stick around on the book).