Sunday, October 22, 2017

God, The Devil, and Bob 1.8 - Lonely at the Top

Plot: God catches Bob nailing his neighbor's garage door shut, as payback for the neighbor's leaves landing in Bob's yard. Bob doesn't take kindly to God criticizing him, and implies God doesn't know what it's like for the Average Joe. So he has no one to blame but himself when god shows up at his job the next day as Arthur, from the Ypsilanti plant. Where he proceeds to piss off all Bob's coworkers by actually doing his job, rather than just screwing around all day.

Then he invites himself to Bob's for dinner, and uses his powers to override Donna's free will to let him stay the night. He does help Megan sort through some friendship issues. I thought the kids were the Devil's from ages 13-20.

Having ruined all other facets of Bob's life, God decides he wants to be on the company softball team. Too bad he sucks. But he's still able to convince Bob to let him bat in the biggest moment of the game, and then fails miserably. Having now guaranteed Bob will be murdered at work tomorrow for not pinch-hitting for his savior, God finally admits that he just wanted a chance to hang out with some people, like he used to do in the old days. Bob understands a little better, but still draws the line at letting God come in for dinner again.

Also, while all this was going on, the Devil first tried to commit acts of depravity. But without God trying to work against him, there was no challenge. So then he tried teaming up with Bob to get God to get back to work, and having failed at that, then decided to try and do good himself. His attempts at horticulture were. . . not so successful, depending on how you'd want to measure that.

Quote of the Episode: Devil - 'This is rock bottom Smeck. The Creator of the Universe is adjusting his cup.'

Smeck Smacks: 0 (20 overall).

Other: Eddie Harris in Major League once raised the question of whether Christ can hit a curveball. We may not know about him, but it isn't looking good for his dad.

Not a good look for God that he messed with Donna's free will twice. Especially considering that even the Devil, when he was trying to score with her while disguised as Bob last week, didn't do that. Even when Donna didn't do what he wanted, and he was reduced to pleading with her (unsuccessfully), he still didn't mess with her free will. And he's supposed to be the King of All Evil, although he really comes off more as a rebellious teen here. Once God isn't paying attention, he has no idea what to do with himself.

Anyway, between abusing his power to overstay his welcome, and cheating repeatedly at Chutes and Ladders, it's not hard to see why people stopped wanting him around. He also dropped a tree on Charlie, one of the guys at the factory, so he could play third base. Then tried to deny it. That's without even getting into what God admitted to Bob, that he used to come visit in the old days, but then he'd lose his temper over something and, well, there's a reason the phrase, "Go Old Testament on their asses" exists. God's like that guy who's OK until you get a few beers in him, then you gotta watch out or he does crazy shit. As Bob mentions to Donna when she comments on Arthur's peculiar sense of humor, ask Job.

When the Devil is trying to decide what unspeakable act he should commit while God's not minding the shop, Smeck uses the idea of Tony Danza on Broadway as an example. Via Google, I learn that is actually a thing that exists. I'm guessing it was horrible? I'm not the person qualified to judge, even if I were willing to view it.

The Devil did get the DH installed in the National League, which is truly his lowest moment.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Someone Didn't Listen To Their Future Self

Reading last week's Gwenpool, it feels like Gwen missed one of the points her Evil Future Self tried to teach her.

Future Gwen had two overarching, connected points. One, that the universe "wants" her to be a villain. That's what a person whose power is knowing all the secrets would be, she said, and when she tried not to be, she was punished by external forces*. Gwen's aware of that one, simply actively ignoring it in her attempt to get noticed by the Avengers.

But Future Gwen also demonstrated the pecking order of the universe, that she is not going to be allowed to kill Spider-Man, whether it's Miles or Peter. She tried, and after a few pages, it turned into some awful nightmare for Miles, but that's all. The idea being Gwen isn't important enough to be a major mover and shaker (if such a character even exists). No change she tries to inflict on a big-time character is likely to stick. She might be allowed to shave Rocket Raccoon, he might even spend a couple issues in his book being teased by Star-Lord and Groot for being hairless. But she's not taking one of his arms. Although talking raccoon with cybernetic limbs, hmm. . .

He could use Cable's arm once Deadpool's done with it.

Anyway, Future Gwen felt that if nothing she did mattered, she could and should do whatever she wanted. It would all be undone eventually anyway. Don't cry, Rick Jones, eventually a Steve Rogers who isn't a Nazi will emerge from the rubble. It meshed well with her belief the universe expects her to be a villain, as doing whatever she wanted translated to acts that harmed others.

Present Gwen doesn't seem too worried about that one. She's planning to audition for the Avengers by bringing down Dr. Doom, which ignores two things. One, that Doom is trying to be a good guy these days, an actual one, not his usual shtick of doing something horrible and claiming it's for a good cause. Two, odds are she's going to try the same stunt she pulled on Paste-Pot Pete, dump Doom into the gaps between panels.

Setting aside the legalities of that, and the fact that Doom isn't going to be as flummoxed as poor Pete was (Doom visits Hell regularly, after all), there's one other problem. Gwenpool isn't going to be allowed to take Dr. Doom off the table. Doom is one of the A-list guys at Marvel, even given the FF's somewhat bereft status. He has his own ongoing - written by Bendis, no less. Doom can lose fights to people below his weight class, but taking him out entirely is another matter. It's extremely unlikely the universe will allow it.

It is possible I'm not giving Gwen enough credit. She dumped Pete out of a panel into the space between, but there are other panels around, so there are presumably ways back out of that space. Or ways for Gwen to pop back in later and pick someone back up. Maybe she just wants Pete to think about his actions. Maybe she set all this up for him to fall into a panel that dumps him in jail. And she thinks the same idea will work on Doom. I still don't think it's going to work - Marvel isn't letting Doom get tossed in the pokey by Gwenpool - but she might have given this more thought than I think.

* Although that power should have become increasingly ineffective as her knowledge grew more outdated. What, an amoral future version of a character might not have been entirely truthful with their past self? The hell you say! Or it could be that her ability to move between panels gave her access to anywhere, so she could pick up new secrets whenever she wanted.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Midpoint Sketchtober Update

The sketch I did the last time I checked in, did not go as hoped. Remarkable how I can draw a friggin' earthworm in a super-suit, but I can't draw a human throwing a baseball.The difficulty with people reared its head the next night, for Goldeneye, then the day after that, it was trouble with horses. The next couple of nights were decent rebounds.

I'm partway through the Gamecube Top 5 now, and it's going much the same as the others. I'm reasonably happy with the ideas I'm coming up with, the execution is another matter. Anyway, here's a selection from Days 6-10.

Day 6, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. I intended this to be like one of those comic covers where Peter Parker and Harry Osborn are fighting at the bottom of the cover, but dominating the rest are spectral forms of Spider-Man and Green Goblin in poses mirroring the civilian i.d.s. Somewhat undercut that by focusing more of the page on the Pink Ranger fighting the Putty Patrol, but to be fair, the idea only hit me halfway through. I was coming off the Mega Man 4 sketch, and I was feeling my oats. "I've got this, I'm going to handle this challenge like a boss!" Silly Calvin of two weeks ago.

Day 7, Sonic the Hedgehog. This is the Scrap Brain Zone, the last Zone before Robotnik's fortress. This was my favorite level, in large part because of the music. It comes after an underwater zone, which are always a pain in the ass in Sonic games. Nothing like being forced to worry about drowning, while also being forced to move really slowly. I didn't want to do a featureless oval for the up-close Sonic, but I probably should have left it at drawing just his face, rather than adding the arms and limbs. Still one of my better Sonics.

Day 8, Earthworm Jim. The Snot a Problem level, where you engage in a battle of bungee jumping with Major Mucus, the loser plummeting to his death in the jaws of the monster below. My favorite level, but also preceded by a pain-in-the-ass underwater level. The angle of Jim's body compared to his head is off, but I like the placement of the monster, and the spinning of Major Mucus. Besides, he's a worm in a super-suit, his movements and the suits can be independent of each other, right? Right.

Day 9, Batman Returns. I thought of drawing the Level 3 fight - Batman vs. a Giant Robot - would seem random. So the final boss fight it is. Batman versus the Penguin and his duck tank! Which I always solved by using all the specials I'd saved up to call the Bat Ski-boat and blast him to pieces. Just hit him with those until he died. Boo-ya! But I sure as hell ain't drawing that. Lucky if I can draw a damn duck tank.

And I'm not showing you Day 10. Majors Pro Baseball nearly broke me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What I Bought 10/14/2017

I found one of the two comics I needed from earlier this month last weekend. Better than none. And this was the one I really wanted, so that works out well.

Giant Days #31, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (penciler), Liz Fleming and Irene Flores (inker), Whitney Cogar and Kieran Quigley (colorists), Jim Campbell (letterer) - However that picture was put upon on the wall, I'm certain McGraw would have been appalled.

Daisy is staying at Ingrid's to avoid Esther and Susan, so they enlist McGraw to try and speak with her. He, in turn, enlists Ed to keep an eye out for the Spanish, who he thinks are after him for breaking Emilia's heart. Certainly her very large brother is after him, and finds him right as Daisy's pool sharking is about to solve the electric bill problem, by parting some stupid rugby fans of money they didn't deserve anyway. She had to abandon the game to save McGraw and Ed, so instead, the rugby lads will waste it on beer and foods which will guarantee their premature deaths of cholesterol in their early 40s. Works for me. And Susan sold her scooter to pay the bill, so that problem is resolved.

There is still the issue of Daisy's friends hating her girlfriend, which is going to have to be dealt with. I'm somewhat concerned Ingrid thinks there has to be a choice. I feel like there a few things she could do to be less annoying, and then they'd be fine with her. Susan and Esther don't want Daisy to be sad, but Ingrid is an extremely rude houseguest. That should probably involve Susan and Esther speaking to Ingrid directly, but ha ha, that's not happening.

Allison consistently fills this comic with good one-liners and gags that make me chuckle. Ed's 'He seemed very, very relaxed about injuring you.' Ingrid's demand to know about it if Daisy saw Esther and Susan kiss (I would also like to know about it). Most pages end on some sort of joke, and more of them land than not, ably complemented by the efforts of all the members of the art team.

Which is a little bigger this month, with an extra inker and colorist each. I think I can see a small shift in a couple of places. One, at the point when Daisy, McGraw and Ed concoct their pool hustling scheme. Something is just a little off from the surrounding pages. The lines surrounding McGraw's face are lighter than normal, the lines under his eyes are gone, the his coloration is lighter. The figurework is a little simpler, especially noticeable in his facial hair. It's not bad, the expressions and body language are still intact, the humor still works.  It's just one of those slight differences you notice sometimes.

The rugby bros trying to pump each other up to test themselves against Daisy again is good for a grin. That panel showing how McGraw broke things off with Kylie is, well, horrifying, but Sarin and I'm assuming Fleming and Cogar make it work. Although Kylie appears to be reacting more to McGraw's tighty whities than his twinkly mustache. Either way, it's funny and horrifying.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kung-Fu Panda 3

Po has to save the day from yet another threat emerging from the past, but he'll need to master using chi to do it. That requires understanding who he is, something that maybe his birth father could help him with, since Po hasn't had any chance to learn what being a panda is about.

I can't help feeling bad for Po. All these enemies he's had to deal with were someone else's problem originally, and they've passed the buck down the line to him. When Oogway loses to Kai at the start of the film (enabling Kai to escape the Spirit Realm), he says it was never his destiny to defeat Kai, that he passed that to another. Meaning Po.

The idea comes up a few times that no one remembers Kai. It's been 500 years, and even though he was once the great Master Oogway's best friend, he's barely a footnote. And that frustrates him, pisses him off. I wondered about him as a forgotten piece of the past, showing up while Po tries to connect with a part of himself he'd thought lost forever. Po tries to learn new thing, grow and adapt, but Kai sticks to the same things he was doing when Oogway originally defeated him.

Although they kind of covered that ground in the last film, with Po and Shen each trying to deal with traumas of their past. Shen was focused on settling scores and was destroyed, Po ultimately accepted what he learned and moved forward.

Still, Po wound up with two dads, which was sweet. The whole subplot where Mr. Ping fears he'll be shoved aside now that the birth father has miraculously shown up was handled well. Li isn't portrayed as some bad guy out to split Po and Mr. Ping apart, he simply wants to reconnect with the son he thought was gone. And eventually the two dads come to an understanding over that.

It was probably the ads I saw in the lead-up to the release of the film, but I expected Mei-Mei to play a larger role in the film. But she shows up partway in, flirts with and confuses Po immediately, and nothing is really developed beyond that. I'm not asking for a full-on romance subplot, but I thought she would get a little more focus. She got about as much as the toddler panda that wouldn't stop following Tigress around.

Which is one of the things I noticed watching, there were certain parts that felt half-formed. The bit I mentioned with Mei-Mei, and there was a scene with Crane and Mantis I thought was going to build to something. I guess it was more about Kai's increasing threat, but it's been rare in these movies that the Furious Five get much screen time when Po isn't around to hog the character development, so I thought it might mean something. The movie is only 90 minutes, so it isn't as though it was overly stuffed.

Monday, October 16, 2017

What I Bought 10/12/2017 - Part 2

I haven't done nearly as much with my scanner as I intended so far. Just no time. Maybe next month, when this sketching project is over. Also, I have no new comics coming out this week. Bummer.

Ms. Marvel #23, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Diego Olortegui (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Someday I should try hanging out on top of a moving train, see what that's like. Answer, probably terrifying.

So a train is slowly out of control, and Kamala is trying to figure out what to do about it. And she has some company. The Red Dagger, who she met on her trip back to Karachi in issue 12, showed up in town. As did Kareem, the friend-in-law she met during that trip. Kamala's still not sure about herself after  decent section of the locals revealed they blame her for things that go wrong, so she's a little on edge, but also kind of blase. Like, I get stopping a train is difficult to do safely, but it almost feels like she uses it as a chance to take a trip through the countryside.

I was initially distressed to see yet another new artist on the book, but I like Diego Olortegui's work.  It's very expressive, and he's quite good at the little bits of humor. Nakia reaching across the aisle to gently wrench Mike's swooning gaze away from Kareem. Also, now that Kamala's powers are moving more in the direction of Mr. Fantastic's, Olortegui gets to play with that. Drawing Kamala flattening out to go under the bridge, then showing her only partially reinflated as they emerge from the other end. Kamala and Aamir's happy faces on page 2 looked a little strange. That might just be that Aamir's face doesn't look quite right. He's usually drawn with a much longer, thinner face and larger nose, none of which he has here. That might be something to work on going forward, but for the most part, everyone is still on model.

As always, Herring's colors help to maintain a consistent feel to the book. Even as the style shifts from artist to artist, he has those warm tones, the yellows and oranges that help it always feel like you're reading the same book.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #25, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) -  How about you? You ready to follow Squirrel Girl into the jaws of death? Like it says on the cover, clearly, the answer is no.

Doreen must keep Ultron occupied and save Kraven while Nancy and Stefan rally the other programmers to devise a program that will occupy all Ultron's memory so he can't do anything else and they can reset him. Keeping Ultron occupied is difficult but fortunately, Kraven trained the dinosaurs to come when you whistle. You know how to whistle right?

I'll be curious to see if Ultron reappears down the line as a benevolent plant android, whatever that might look like. I am not convinced planting it in Maureen's garden is such a good idea, given the high probability, based on past experience, that Ultron will still choose to be evil.

Overall, a solid storyarc. Didn't overstay it's welcome. Got some dinosaurs, got some Ultron, Nancy flirted with the idea of a romance, but she and Stefan opted against it. Doreen got to wear a ridiculous Savage Land outfit, as you are often required to do when visiting the Savage Land. Squirrel Girl got to use her rarely used - for entirely valid reasons, including hygiene and not being the sort of person who enjoys stabbing people - knuckle spikes. That's not how I would have pictured them. I had figured there was one for each finger, like pointy brass knuckles. That's OK.

The part where Nancy repeated Superman's "world of cardboard" speech from the end of Justice League Unlimited was a bridge too far. I get it's supposed to be funny that Squirrel Girl is gonna really cut loose, and that what that means is. . . knuckle spikes. But it still felt cheap just ripping the dialogue off like that.

The panel of the dinosaurs tearing Ultron apart, done in the classic Looney Tunes "big cloud of dust obscuring most of the fight" style was really good. I'm going to guess Erica Henderson enjoys drawing dinosaurs. At least, I hope she does or this was a horrible storyline for North to inflict upon her.

I'm disappointed we didn't get to see DINOSAUR ULTRON, but also with laser eyes, jet feet, chainsaw hands, and x-ray vision. Guess I know what I'd ask Erica Henderson to draw if I ever had the opportunity to commission a sketch from her.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

God, The Devil and Bob 1.7 - Bob Gets Committed

Plot: Bob is rescued from a night spent taking care of measles-ridden Andy by Donna, so that he can resume his planned trip to the strip club with Mike and Barry. But God is waiting in the parking lot with an assignment. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

God asks Bob to deface a billboard by writing "SMILE" on it. The highway patrolman is surprisingly understanding, until the Devil uses a homunculus to make Bob assault the cop. Bob's arguing in the back of the patrol car with "the Devil" gets him a trip to Grassy Knoll Asylum. While Bob tries to devise an escape with the help of the other patients, the Devil assumes Bob's identity. Two things go wrong for the King of All the is Evil: One, Donna is entirely resistant to his attempts to charm, command, plead her into sex. Two, the Devil is apparently not immune to measles. And during the course of Donna caring for "Bob", the Devil falls for her.

How's Bob going to get the Devil out of his bed? Maybe with a little help from the musical library of Tony Orlando.

Quote of the Episode: Smeck - 'This is so cool. Why don't we do this more often?' Devil - 'Because it's cheap, Smeck. We're better than this.'

Smeck Smacks: 1 (20 overall).

Other: Smeck likes Stratego, which I remember seeing ads for in '90s Marvel comics, but have never played. The ads featured would-be alien invaders who think it is the key to Earth's defenses. The alien infiltrator was so proud he'd brought it back to his bosses. Boy, will his face be red when it turns out Earth's defense strategy is, "argue among ourselves, maybe throws some nukes at the problem."

One of the patients, named Fred, introduces himself to Bob while dressed up as a doctor. The orderly arrives swiftly to take back the clipboard and lab coat. And a fish-shaped Jell-O mold. I'm not clear on why Fred had that, but I'm also not clear on why they made him give it up. Maybe the thought of making Jell-O brings him joy. Let Fred have his joy!

God brought the Devil a ficus while he was sick, which ended up with the Devil grumbling about wanting a plumeria. He did take it with him back to Hell. I can't imagine it'll do well in that dry climate.

Andy saw through the Devil's disguise immediately, although he believed Megan when she said Dad was a pod person, so he wasn't quite in target. Splashing Bob with the bucket of water mixed with chemicals was a good try, though.

The Devil wound up being right that God making Bob deface that billboard was just the opening move in a larger plan. The balloon Bob stole had a smiley face on it, and it briefly lands right on top of the billboard. Which makes people stop and notice and be happy. I'm confused by this world where cars stopping on the freeway to gawk at something on the side of the road doesn't prompt angry honking and profanity from the vehicles behind them.

The patients end up taking the balloon back to the hospital, which is good, I guess? The show doesn't pretend like they just magically got over their troubles because Bob let them come with him. Or that they aren't aware of the fact they have a condition? I'm not sure what Bernie's was, although he understood immediately when said the Devil was after his family.

It was nice that Bob, having returned home and driven the Devil out, immediately got suspicious when Donna mentioned he'd been in bed a lot recently. 'Cause then he started trying to figure out if she and "Bob" got up to anything, and Donna got to make a few cutting remarks in the direction of his sexual prowess and intelligence. I'm sure she'd been consciously holding back while he was under the weather.

Friday, October 13, 2017

What I Bought 10/12/2017 - Part 1

Got four of the five comics that came out this week. Maybe I'll find the other and Giant Days from last week over the weekend. As it is, this constitutes almost all of the Marvel comics I'm getting this month. So let's start with two characters setting off on dubious new paths.

Despicable Deadpool #287, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Wade, that is no way to treat your action figures.

Deadpool is trying to kill Cable, with a chainsaw. Little low-tech, but OK, still a solid old-school murder weapon. The fight progresses to a hospital, and Wade isn't doing so good until Cable mentions Captain America. At which point Wade immobilizes Cable with an MRI, and cuts off his bionic arm. Before he can finish things, the Time Variance Authority arrives to arrest Cable for eventually becoming Stryfe. Leaving Wade with no recourse but to cut off his own arm, attach Cable's in its place, and use the time machine in it to chase after them.

I mean, I'm sure there were other ways to accomplish that, but the removing limbs approach was what Wade opted for. Pretty effective way to show he's not messing around. I mean, he cut his husband's arm off, that's severe.

I thought there'd be a little more reluctance on both sides, but Duggan plays them as less close friends than I was used to when Nicieza wrote them. Like they've both just been waiting for a chance to resume hostilities. Still, the moment where Cable wants to know why was telling. Once again, Deadpool has managed to surprise him, this time by deciding to try and kill him. That Cable even cares, that he doesn't just assume it's for money, has to mean something.

Filardi needs to brighten the colors up. Everything is murky, and combined with Koblish's tendency to get creative in how he transitions from panel to panel (or differentiates one panel from another), there were a few times I got lost halfway through a page. Had to stop, back up, figure out what was happening. I like the transitions, the ways Koblish leads the eye - he uses the chainsaw to point to the next panel as it's swatted from Wade's grasp at one point - but sometimes, it's a little much.

Anyway, I am still entirely on board with this arc, even if I figure it will go about as well as Deadpool's attempt to kill Sabretooth 25 issues ago went.

Unbelievable Gwenpool #21, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Irene Strychalski (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - That is an incredibly horrible costume for Trapster, I don't care how intentional it is.

Gwen wants to be an Avenger, and is out fighting villains. Who she then takes into that space between the panels, and dumps them into the void. Which seems a lot like killing them, which should not get you a place on the Avengers, but after Wolverine, Deadpool, Cable, whoever the fuck else these days, sure why not? But Gwen's after big game. She wants to take down Doom, ignoring the fact that a) she should understand that in the pecking order of the Marvel Universe, they ain't letting her kill Doom, and more importantly b) he's not a villain right now. Because things have kept happening in the Marvel Universe since Gwen arrived, and her knowledge is getting increasingly out of date.

I can't believe she did that to Paste-Pot Pete. We need villains who just come up with weird inventions to rob armored cars, Gwen! They're a vital break from all the mass murderers and world conquerors.

Sooner or later, Hastings was going to have to address that Gwen's knowledge of the Marvel U. is going to be less and less relevant the longer she's out of the loop. Which is perhaps why she's gained this new power to move through the gutters, the spaces between panels. Her old power was knowing everyone's secrets, but that's going to be less accurate going forward. This is her new thing, though she's still kinda of using it like a villain. Making people disappear into Limbo is not the action of a hero Gwen. Knives did that to people in Trigun, because he was a genocidal lunatic asshole. Don't be like Knives.

I was certain I'd seen Strychalski's art somewhere before, but I can't figure out where. So perhaps it's Rosenberg's coloring that makes it feel similar to some of the other artists that have worked on the book? There's not a lot of fighting to judge her action sequences by, but she has a knack for some expressive faces. The Doombot's barely contained eyeroll at her "incredible new moves" went really well with the dialogue in that panel. The look of terror on poor Pete's face. Farewell Pete. Now who will Deadpool trick/coerce into helping him?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nothing But Explosions and Gun Fights. And Car Chases.

I'm going to step away from the 5-person team of fictional character approach somewhat this time around. Instead, we're going to take a bunch of gun-toting action stars and throw them up against each other. For the hell of it. One of those movies with a bunch of killers all running around trying to take out the same target and each other. Chaos ensues.

The Target: John Wick (Keanu Reeves, John Wick) - Who better these days to serve as the prize that brings everyone out? I still haven't seen the sequel, but I gather that John succeeded in pissing off still more people by the end of it. The kind of people who can find the very best and get them to come try to kill Mr. Wick.

I don't believe any of the people listed below will make the mistake of killing his dog, but we can't rule it out. In which case all bets are off as to how much stuff is going to get destroyed. But if he's being pursued by a relatively small number of experts, it might keep the body count down. Fewer hapless mooks being mowed down. I still expect many windows to be shot out and cars to be destroyed, naturally. It'll turn out the one who put the hit on Wick is a major store display window manufacturer.

A couple of the others could potentially be negotiated with, if Wick would provide information or simply stand down. I don't expect him to take that approach. At this stage, too many people have tried to kill him, and bothering to operate by any set of rules has only hamstrung him. So screw it, anybody who comes after him ends up in a bodybag if he's able to manage it.

The Reluctantly Unretired Hitman: Martin Blank (John Cusack, Grosse Pointe Blank) - Well, you had to figure somebody was going to object to Martin's actions at the end of the movie. The NSA, for killing their agents, some of the guys Grocer was getting together for his little consortium. Whoever wanted him to kill Minnie Driver's father. Point being, he wouldn't get to just walk away. They never do, right? So he can either try to protect his loved ones while going to war against his own faceless enemy with vast resources, or, he can go try and kill one really dangerous guy. I think he'd opt for the second choice. At least he has a clear picture of his target that way.

I expect Martin to try and kill Wick at a distance. Sniper rifles, maybe try dripping poison into his mouth while sleeping, though I can't see that working here. I would imagine Wick's a very light sleeper by this point. Maybe the classic remote controlled car packed with explosives trick. That's always a crowd pleaser, and good for prompting yet another chase sequence.

He won't be able to keep his distance forever, and we'll see what happens if Wick brings the fight up close and personal. Martin can be quite creative about using whatever is at hand. I would expect their fights to be silent. Martin isn't going to freely offer up an explanation to his target, and Wick isn't going to bother to ask. Martin is there to kill him, Wick is unwilling to die and is therefore going to try killing Martin instead. What's there to talk about, other than who they buy their suits from?

The Badass with a Past: Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White, Black Dynamite) - I'm admittedly struggling to decide how Black Dynamite ends up in this. Maybe the CIA approached him again, and convinced him Wick is a threat to the Community. Or maybe John passed through and had to fend off some attacks, and people were hurt or killed. I could see Black Dynamite starting with the cracker that brought that violence there, and using him as bait for the other people responsible.

Maybe he wants to chat with Wick because he thinks he has the inside scoop on some kung-fu treachery. Or I don't know, something, something, Jimmy Carter, handwave, peanuts, George Washington Carver's last will and testament, bullshit. It shouldn't be straightforward, but I do like the idea that Dynamite's not so much interested in killing John Wick (which he could of course do handily), as getting the people interested in Wick being dead. Black Dynamite is never satisfied with just beating up the low-level troublemakers, he's going to pursue the case all the way to the top.

So Dynamite keeps popping up to attack John, and John seemingly keeps making narrow escapes. But it's really a plan y Dynamite to run John into some other killer's trap, so Dynamite can get a clear shot at that guy instead. At some point, Wick's going to figure that out and try to turn things around. Which might only succeed in pissing Black Dynamite off. Which is bad news for everyone else. . .

The Unlucky Lawman: Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz) - I considered John McClane, but that man deserves a break. According to the commentary on the DVD, Sgt. Angel got himself a taste for the high-octane, fire two guns while jumping through the air and going "Ahhhhh". Now he can have all of it he can handle. Pity they used up most of the arsenal they confiscated from that farmer.

Angel is going to spend much of the time reacting. Gunfights erupting in his town, him trying to find the responsible parties. Which wouldn't seem like much of a problem in a small English village, I would imagine these other guys would stand out, but they are professionals. Besides, he can't just go around arresting whatever scowling guy impeccably dressed all in black he sees. That would be profiling. Also, the funeral director would object, and they're probably going to need him,a s the mortality rate skyrockets. And Nicholas has to worry about protecting the community, which means not letting civilians get killed. Which limits his ability to go into hot pursuit.

I'm not sure how willing John will be to kill a cop, which might give Angel the chance to arrest him. Which is going to be the thing that really puts Angel at a disadvantage. The others won't be in this to take prisoners, but he will be, at least at the start. Also, relatively speaking, Nicolas Angel's a newbie when it comes to this stuff. All the others are old pros. Still, Wick is human, and if you can catch him when he's tired, or distracted, he can be captured. So Angel has a shot, if he can pick his spot. Of course, then he has to hold him, both keeping Wick from escaping, and any of the others from getting in at him.

The Wild Card: Chev Chelios (Jason Statham, Crank) - I guess it really has to be after Crank 2, since he was basically out commission/nearly dead in between the two. So he has his heart back, he doesn't have to electrocute himself periodically to keep the crappy artificial heart running. That's good news. But there's always got to be some sort of complication. Probably needs a lot of expensive meds after all this trauma and surgery and whatnot. Probably ordinary hits don't pay those bills fast enough. You need people who want John Wick's eyes or some freaky nonsense, and are willing to pay through the nose.

So Chelios might not need Wick dead. If John is willing to surrender his eyes, he can live. Or maybe he needs to capture him alive, at least long enough to remove the parts he needs. In the likely event Wick refuses to cooperate, Chelios is going to be the guy who gets a little wild. The guy who smashes a Brinks truck through a wall while John is in the midst of fighting some other killer and tries to run them both over. Hey, as long as the eyes are fine, the rest is irrelevant. If Black Dynamite tries that stunt with the helicopter with the magnet on it, Chev will probably just jump out of the truck and try to use John or the other killer as a cushion.

I figure Chev Chelios is not the sort of person who becomes more careful once they're aware of their mortality. Having survived what he has, having seemingly been dead at least twice, only to pop back to life, he just might not worry about it that much.

I wanted to throw Colonel Mortimer (Lee van Cleef, For a Few Dollars More) into the mix, but it felt like arguing he'd survived 150 years after the end of that movie was stretching things a bit. Though it's perhaps rude of me to tell the man he can't live a century and a half. Of course, you could toss any hardened killer or tough cop in that you wanted - I mean, this thing is devoid of Chow Yun Fat or Clint Eastwood - these were just the ones who came to mind for me.

And all this taking place in the English countryside would at least be a change of pace for most of these guys. They mostly operate in cities, the fresh air will do them good. Enjoy diving behind all those stone fences, and find all kind of secret passages inside of castles of manor houses. Then shoot at people from them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sketchtober Update

Made it through Day 10, which gets me through the Game Gear selections. Most of which went pretty well, although there is, as always, something that nags me about each one. An angle that's off, an appendage that isn't conveying what it needs to. The usual shit. Now it's on to the N64, where I have next to no idea what I'm going to do for most of these. Maybe I didn't think I'd make it this far.

The scanner showed up a week ahead of time, and I did say I would post some of the pieces. Day 1, Kirby's Adventure.

The Level 6 boss fight with Metal Knight. In retrospect, I regret two things. First, that I got too enamored of the game animation for Kirby's swing, which is that big crescent thing in the middle of the picture. A narrow arcing would have been better, and allowed for me to extend Metal Knight's sword to better convey the parry. Or, I could have been less hung up on the specifics of the fight and gone with my other idea, which was Kirby using the Mike power against him (basically, Kirby screeching into a microphone). That might have looked cooler. Maybe I'll try it later.

Days 2 and 3 didn't go as I hoped, so we're skipping to Day 4, Paperboy.

OK, that's not nearly enough obstacles for Thursday. It's more like Tuesday, Wednesday at worst. Scale is off, the Grim Reaper must be 20 feet tall compared to the guy with the jackhammer or the breakdancer. The Reaper not casting a shadow is intentional. I don't always remember to finish the shading, but it wasn't the case here. I thought it would emphasize its otherworldly nature. A looming shadow brought to life, not affected by the surrounding environment.

Day 5, Mega Man 4.

I don't know why the boss fight with Skull Man is the one I think of with this game. My success rate on even reaching him was maybe 60%. My winning percentage when I did get that far was considerably less than 60%. All because of that stupid skull force field he could produce. Guaranteed to turn any attack you launched into a harmlessly deflected bright orb. I made Mega Man's boots a little big, but I looked up stuff online and his upper legs are really small in comparison. I needed to finish shading on the legs. Well I need to do more shading on a lot of these. I really like how Skull Man turned out, but relative close-ups on face are one of the few things I can normally draw well.

I don't really have anything else to say, so until tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Black Snow

Marcos and his wife Laura are left to handle the affairs of Marcos' father after his death. This includes burying his father's ashes next to one of Marcos' brothers, Juan, and finalizing the approval to sell a large plot of the family's land to some Canadian firm. All this falls to Marcos because his sister Sabrina is in a mental hospital, and his other brother, Salvador, has lived alone in a cabin on the plot of land to be sold for the last 30 years. Finalizing the sale is going to require going out there and confronting Salvador, as well as the past, something Marcos really doesn't want to do.

There is one surprise reveal that isn't much of a surprise, related to Juan's death and Salvador living out there. I'm sure you can guess. There are some other aspects to it, on the other hand, I didn't suspect. They make it much darker, and Salvador's fate that much sadder.

Everyone is telling half-truths, everyone is keeping secrets. Because it's easier, they don't have to confront unpleasant facts about themselves or the ones they care about. In Marcos' case, he may have been living the lies so long that he really believes them. It's hard to tell. He tries so hard to avoid the issues, and in light of things Laura learns, it's hard to take him at face value.

At the very end, after Laura's made a decision, the film ends with her looking directly at us. Which I didn't grasp the meaning of. She had done that a few minutes earlier, but it turned out she was seeing an image of Marcos as a younger man in her mind (the movie shows glimpses of the past frequently, and sometimes moves between past and present seamlessly). Is she seeing someone else, or asking us to keep the secret with her? Making us complicit? Man, that's bullshit.

The awkward nature of the conversations between Salvador and Marcos feels very real. Marcos trying to play for sympathy, rebuild some sort of connection with the brother he's basically forgotten, and Salvador not having any of it. It's obvious he just wants to do the task and wash his hands of it. The whole time you can see Salvador waiting for something from Marcos, and Marcos continuing to seemingly dance around it, feign ignorance or faulty memory. So Salvador makes it difficult on him. He responds a little better to Laura, who is genuinely interested in Salvador. He's her husband's brother, part of her new family. She wants to know about him, and learn more about Marcos as well. Her curiosity feeds into a growing doubt about Marcos as she sees new sides of him.

Monday, October 09, 2017

What I Bought 10/4/2017

Of the two books I was looking for that came out last week, the first issue of the new Tick series was not the one I expected the store to have. Really, I didn't expect it to have either book. One is better than none!

Tick 2017 #1, by Cullen Bunn and Jimmy Z (writers), Douglas Paszkiewicz (artist), Erika Rolbiecki (colorist), Jeff McClelland (writer, back-up story), Duane Redhead (artist, back-up story) - I've read Arsenic Lullaby often enough I recognize how Paszkiewicz draws heads, in that peculiar manner that makes them look kind of flattened front-to-back. Those ninjas should probably be more in a ready stance. They have to know it isn't gonna end well for the ones on the crane.

Tick and Arthur survive a combined assault from Murder Clowns and ninjas, but a shipping container is dropped on the Tick, and the combination of head trauma and all the pulverized sugary cereal unlocks repressed memories. As well as the ability to speak French and play piano. The next day, Arthur returns home from a food run and learns Tick's booked them a bus ride to the Canadian Rockies, in search of La Chambre Rouge, which is The Red Room, correct? Why couldn't it be German?

The back-up story is about a poor ninja who tries to bluff our heroes about the contents of a small case he's carrying. It ends with the Tick stealing his lunch, which doesn't seem very heroic. But the universe rights itself as the lunch contains circus peanuts, and neither of our heroes enjoy the horrible taste.

So we're going to explain the Tick's origin? This seems like one of those things that's only been hinted at for so long, the imagination of the each reader has come up with their own answer better than any someone else can devise. 'Course, there's no guarantee we'll get answers. The Tick may even be remembering someone else's memories. That seems like the kind of bizarre thing he'd do. I suppose the important part of the story will be the friends they make along the way. Or enemies, more likely.

 I enjoy Paszkiewicz' art, the little touches he adds. One of the clowns is pulling a ten-pin to use out of his mouth, like a reverse sword-swallower. The box on the wall in Arthur's room labeled "Emergency Wings". And he really captures Arthur's schlubby, nervous demeanor in the body language. The big fight scene that comprises much of the issue is fine; I don't think that's necessarily Paszkiewicz' strength as an artist, but he can get the job done. Knows when to draw back for a wider shot to give a sense of the number of foes, or go close-in for a bunch of narrow panels of the Tick dispatching enemies.

I kept expecting some sorts of punchlines. Reach the end of a page, here's a joke or a gag. Not really the case. Maybe if Paszkiewicz (one of these times I'll remember the "z" the first attempt) was writing it also. I'm curious to see how Bunn does, although I don't know the breakdown of labor on the writing between him and Jimmy, or how Paszkiewicz is involved in that side of things. I haven't been terribly impressed with the stuff I've read of Bunn's in the past, but it was all Marvel stuff, and much more serious in tone than this. So we'll see.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

God, The Devil, and Bob 1.6 - God's Favorite

Plot: God is toying with plans for a new universe, and has gotten caught up in it enough to stand up the Devil for both handball and golf. So inconsiderate. Back in the realm of mortal concerns, Megan is complaining that the family never does anything together. However, Donna's attempts to promote family activities only draw Megan's scorn.

Bob has become convinced that as God's prophet, he is the recipient of good fortune. Like his toast landing butter side up. This belief gains strength when God casually refers to Bob as his special guy while visiting him in the shower. After surviving a mishap at work with a bolt gun and a smelter, Bob is certain he is indestructible. The Devil, dropping by to pump Bob for info on God's plans, pretends that Bob is correct about the position of "God's Favorite".

While a visit to Fun Freddie's Family Fun Center allows Megan and Donna to bond over gory arcade games and a shared hatred of forced family togetherness, it also gives Bob the chance to be extremely fortunate against a would-be mugger. Which convinces him to try skydiving. . . without a parachute. Which is when God finally steps in and helps Bob understand everyone is his "special guy", and Bob better hope the other divers parachutes can handle a hitchhiker.

Quote of the Episode: Bob - 'Wow, beer makes it worse. I don't want to live in a world where beer makes it worse.'

Smeck Smacks: 8 (19 overall). Again with the golf clubs. The Devil spends almost as much time on the golf course as Trump.

Other: So God's first pitch for a new universe is one with just four elements: hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and cork. Bob's hung up on cork not being an element, but he has to understand, new universe. Cork can be an element there if it wants to.

His second pitch is a world made entirely of water, which, setting aside the Waterworld joke Bob makes, is the entire universe made of water, or is there only one planet in this entire universe? If he's focusing on just one planet, he probably is getting to caught up in details.

By the third pitch, which he's created a model of the Solar System for, God has eliminated France, and placed marsupials as the dominant species. Mankind is in the food chain somewhere.

The Devil, desperate to prove he should be included in the new universe, pitches Bob the idea of itchy lava as proof of his capacity for good ideas. I guess if he's talking about a universe where the sensations of burning and itching are now the same, he might be on to something.

I never had a party at one of those family fun center, Chuck E. Cheese's, whatever. I may have gone to someone else's party at one once. TV always portrays them as awful places. Garish color schemes and florescent lights, but still strangely dark. Everything is kind of rundown and greasy looking. I've seen some bowling alleys like that, you didn't want to touch anything.

Bob decided to skydive because Andy was inspired to try tightrope walking on the powerlines after Bob's deft disarming of the mugger. By skydiving, Bob was being responsible by doing his stupid risky crap where Andy wouldn't see it, you see. Parent of the Year, obviously.

Friday, October 06, 2017

This Is Mostly To Spur Me On

I wouldn't say I'm participating in Inktober exactly. For one thing, I'm not using a pen much, pencil is more my game. But I am trying to do some kind of a sketch every day, which is the general idea as I understood it.

My track is to start drawing, and then either hit a snag where I can't figure out how to draw what I want, or I finish the sketch, and all I see are the ways it isn't what I wanted. Then I lose hope and stop. I came up with something close to 20 sketches I wanted to do while stuck in this horrible week-long training back in January, and I've finished maybe 4 of them. So the "do a sketch every day" prompt seemed like a good push, especially now that I've publicly declared I'm doing it! You've all seen it, I can't take it back! There's only success or the abject admission of failure.

I've gone with the idea of doing a sketch for each video game in my Top 5 for each system. I got the idea from the Inktober sketch book I bought from Brian Rhodes at the 2016 Cape-Con, although he focused more on the games of his childhood. With seven systems, that's actually enough to get into November, but it could turn out I won't be able to decide on an idea for a game (I have no idea what I'll do for Phantom Dust, which would be the selection for the 22nd currently), and I'll need a stand-in. I'm trying to go with pictures that represent the game to me, usually some particular level or moment that is the strongest memory I have associated with it.

I recognize that isn't going to help much with that backlog I mentioned, but I'm hoping to figure a few things out that might help with those over the course of this month.

I figured I would work chronologically through the systems, so I started with the original Nintendo. Kirby's Adventure turned out pretty well, though I kind of wish I'd gone a different route. Not gotten so hung up on the specifics of the Level 6 boss fight with Meta-Knight. The Ninja Turtles 2 picture didn't go so well, needed to have a better sense of the layout before I started, but I just wing it on a lot of these things. The Super Dodgeball one was good in concept, and there's a couple of parts in particular I like, but the figurework is bad. Hands always seem to be too large. Paperboy actually turned out well, minus the perspective and scale being wonky. The Grim Reaper is probably 20 feet tall, given the distance and compared to other figures in the picture. Hell, it's an abstract concept personified, it can be as big as it wants, right? Right. The Mega Man 4 picture I'm almost entirely satisfied with, I just think Mega Man's posture needed to be a little more aggressive. On the other hand, him firing while leaping away from the bad guy is probably more representative of my playing style. I spent a lot of time on my heels in that game.

I'm going to try and do periodic updates on how things are going, as I move through each system. I did finally order a scanner, so if it arrives, and if I can get it to work, I may post some of the better results later in the month. In the meantime, Kelvin's doing a proper Inktober, which you can see here.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Mediterranean Caper - Clive Cussler

Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt books were my jam in junior high and high school. These days, I only have two of them still on my shelves, and I think it's the two that belonged to my dad, so they're on a long-term loan.

So, in line with revisiting Clarke's Odyssey series for the first time in years, I thought I'd reread one of Cussler's books. It was pretty much like I remember them. Some creative action sequences, including an aerial dogfight early that was intriguing simply for the planes involve. Narrow escapes, dudes smoking cigarettes and drinking while exchanging pithy one-liners in the face of death. I remembered there were info dumps about some historical bit of trivia, or an explanation of the science behind something or the other that would be important later. I'd forgotten the books are like old detective stories in that there's always a point where someone has to stop and explain the solution to the mystery. That wasn't a big problem, though.

The treatment of women in the book, that was more troubling than I remember. I remembered that Pitt ends up sleeping with a different woman in basically every book (my father's description of him as Bond meets Indiana Jones comes to mind). I remembered the books having a strong male gaze (even if I hadn't heard of that term back when I was reading them originally). But the book trends strongly towards the "smack the dame until she sees sense," philosophy you see in John Wayne or Robert Mitchum movies, where "sense" is defined as doing whatever the guy thinks she should do (usually have sex with him). Every scene with Teri in it was unpleasant to read. I started skipping over them.

I think Cussler toned that stuff down in later books, but I'm not inclined to go track them down to find out. It's too bad, it was a fun, fast-paced adventure except for all that crap.

'Pitt could not help grinning. he relaxed, leaning back against the back rest, saying nothing. Then he turned and looked and Giordino and his eyes squinted. "What happened to you? Were you hit?"

Giordino gave Pitt a mocking, sorrowful look. "Who ever told you that you could loop a PBY?"

"It seemed like the thing to do at the time," said Pitt, a twinkle in his eye.

"Next time, warn the passengers. I bounced around the main cabin like a basketball."'

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Daisy's Difficult Road

One thing in Giant Days that I'm curious to see play out, and that I forgot to mention in the review last Friday, is Daisy's discussion with her grandmother about her being a lesbian.

Daisy seems to be dreading it so much. She's been putting off telling her, to Ingrid's annoyance. Of course, Daisy didn't tell her Nana everything about how she celebrated her first birthday at university either. It isn't unusual for kids not to tell their parents everything they get up to at college, but I get the feeling Daisy hasn't kept many secrets from her grandma up to this point. I talked about a lot of things with my paternal grandmother for a lot of years. Then there was that point there started being things I didn't think I could discuss with her (although that was related to our really different ideas on religion more than anything else).

Daisy's worried her grandmother will not be OK with it, and since she's pretty much all the family Daisy has, that could be a crushing blow. I doubt it'll go that way; it doesn't really seem in keeping with the tone of the book. Characters can fall out among themselves, but not typically that seriously. Grandma disowning her/having a heart attack in shock would be on a different level from Susan and McGraw's on-again/off-again relationship drama, or Esther briefly deciding to give up on schooling.

Also, I can't remember Daisy ever mentioning anything about a grandpa, which makes me wonder if her grandmother hasn't had a few girlfriends of her own.

I'm not sure what effect the recent falling out with Esther and Susan is going to have, in terms of whether it pushes Daisy to have the discussion or not. They don't have a problem with Esther having a girlfriend. It's this particular girlfriend is either extremely selfish or just oblivious, depending on how charitable you feel. Daisy could certainly still feel that it's cost her two people she was close to, and be worried about losing yet another person that is important to her.

It also means she's lost two of her main pillars of support. If she has doubts, worries, they were the ones she could confide in. Maybe Ingrid can be that person, although that obliviousness could be a stumbling block. I'm not sure she'd recognize it was a difficult issue for Daisy, especially if she starts getting impatient.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Stranger (2015)

I assume there are a lot of movies with that title, although IMDb only lists this and the 1946 one with Orson Welles and Edward G. Robinson, so I put the year up as well.

A guy with blood that can heal and an aversion to sunlight arrives in a town seeking a woman named Ana. He learns from a teen named Peter she's dead, then runs afoul of a drunk asshole, one who is protected by his cop father. Peter's attempts to help the man only drag him and his mother into a cycle of threats, torture, and attempted murder. The stranger's blood can heal you, but at a cost.

I was expecting something more like Storm of the Century, or Needful Things. Not precisely along those lines, but a more deliberately malevolent presence. Martin doesn't seek out the trouble, he doesn't really care what happens to him. It's other people who decide they just have to stab him, or try to save his life. He warns them not to mess with his blood, they don't listen. Then he has to try and clean up the mess.

There's a theme of what parents will sacrifice for their children. Ana ultimately gave her life to bring Peter into the world. Martin figures the best he can manage is to stay far away from Peter. Monica, the nurse who has actually raised Peter is doing her best, but is out of her depth once they're faced with people don't give a shit about how you "should" behave. The cop keeps protecting his worthless shitbag of a kid, even to the point of shooting people, or lighting them on fire to try and get information, in addition to generally abusing the authority of his position.

(Not a movie with a positive view of cops. They're either crooked as hell, mindless thugs, or the few that follow the rules are spineless, useless imbeciles.)

I did wonder if, at some point, this cop would decide he'd thrown away everything for this son who had accomplished nothing but hurting people for no good reason and decide enough's enough. But it's his kid, that's not going to happen. He figures any act on his part is justified for this kid. Which explains a lot about how the kid wound up a complete shithead, but I imagine that blindspot is common among parents.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Empty Threat, Or Useless Gesture?

I'm curious to see what the NBA commissioner does if players do choose to sit during the national anthem. Silver made a point of reminding everyone there's a league rule that you have to stand. I could see some players taking that as a challenge, Silver throwing down the gauntlet. If they choose to sit during the game before a big televised showdown, will Silver risk suspending them for that game and hurting the ratings, and risk pissing off the owners and TV execs?

Also seems kind of bizarre to enforce it, given the NBA is full of players from other countries. Suspending, say, Dirk Nowitzki for not standing for our anthem is ridiculous. It's not his anthem, and it isn't as though we play the German national anthem for him. This isn't the Olympics. I assume the rule was put in place with agreement between the league and the players' union, the latter of which Nowitzki is a member, but it still seems strange.

And considering Silver went on to speak about being concerned over the deep divisions in the country, it seems an odd approach. He's was fairly polite about - although I get the impression Silver is publicly fairly polite about most things - but it would still seem to emphasize that he's the boss. He's the Commish. Which I can't imagine sparks a lot of warm feelings among the players. I've never appreciated it when bosses pull that stuff, those little power plays. Especially when you're doing your job just fine and they have more important things they could be focused on.

I'm sure Silver is hoping it doesn't become an issue. The players adopt some other approach, opt not to call his bluff.  He gets to say he did something, like their recent reform of the draft, which will not actually stop tanking from taking place (as long as the best odds of getting a high draft pick go to the teams with the worst records, that'll be the case). Or trying to get teams to stop keeping players out of big games for "rest". Which merely forces the teams to concoct some bullshit injury which will magically vanish by the following game. But it gives the appearance the issue was addressed.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

God, The Devil, and Bob 1.5 - Neighbor's Keeper

Plot: While Donna struggles with self-doubt over returning to college, God tasks Bob with saving the marriage of the Bickmans across the street, after their most recent public shouting match. A task Bob has no idea how to accomplish, and tries to avoid until God takes TV from him. Which is really when the Devil should have swooped in and offered a premium cable package in exchange for Bob's soul, but missed opportunities.

This drives Bob to take the direct approach: Knocking on the door and telling Stacy Bickman to stop committing adultery, which causes her to start bawling on the front lawn. Soon though, Bob has become a confidant, helping Stacy when she starts wanting to sleep with other guys. Naturally, he's ignoring Donna through all this. The Devil makes a play to get Bob all fired up (or sauced) and convinced he missed out on all sorts of sexual conquests because he got tied down with Donna, and then dumps him on Stacy's door. Bob manages to resist the urge to do something stupid, and is feeling pretty good, but he still hasn't "fixed" the marriage. And it finally occurs to him he should perhaps get the husband involved in this. Which requires handcuffs, but has at least temporarily produced results.

Quote of the Episode: God - 'You have more talents than you know, Bob.' Bob - 'No, I don't. I can rebuild a V-8, I know pig Latin. After that, the list drops off pretty fast.'

Smeck Smacks: 0 (11 overall).

Other: There were a lot of quotes in this one I considered using. One was God essentially complaining that people think he's unknowable because they don't listen when he makes clear requests. He doesn't explain what we do when the requests contradict each other, I guess we're supposed to figure it out. Anyway, point was, he made that complaint while helping himself to more of Bob's Pop-Tarts, so I appreciated the nod to his previously established love for toaster pastries.

That conversation also taught us God was nearly married once. I thought this was a reference to an episode we haven't reached yet, but no, he meant Julie Newmar. Sure God, you were gonna marry Julie Newmar. You and at least 4 million other delusional men and women.

Stacy's husband names his fists. He named them Butch and Lupe, which is just awful. Stacy should divorce him and sleep with as many people as she wants based on that alone. Actually, there's one moment where she admits to Bob she feels she can only express affection sexually. Which is kind of sad, that she feels words or other actions won't be believed. Or does she think those other things are hollow?

Bob does eventually realize that he's ignoring Donna the way Stacy was also being ignored, and actually helps her pinpoint the cause of her anxiety over picking a major. That she felt this was her one shot to make this choice, and she was afraid of making the wrong one. Which was the fear the Devil tried to play on in Bob, how many women he might have missed out on because he and Donna ended up together. Remarkably insightful for Bob. Granted, it was 50-50, since his fallback answer for her anxiety was PMS.

The episode opened on the Devil and God bowling, God for Grace Temple Beth Shalom St. Mary's Royal Oaks Buddhists, and the Devil for Microsoft. Although I didn't see any other teammates. Hardly matters, God bowls nothing but strikes, and the Devil was getting stuck with 7-10 splits. It's hard for me not to think God was cheating. We found out last week with the croquet game he plays to win. Plus, he was being so mock-supportive. "Oh, I really thought you were going to pick up the spare." That would just be infuriating to deal with.

Friday, September 29, 2017

What I Bought 9/29/2017

The last book I needed from September. Other than that new Tick book, which I will hopefully find at some point. I ordered the third trade for Giant Days a few weeks ago, and it's lost somewhere in a Long Island post office processing plant. In other news, I added all the post labels to the sidebar at the bottom. Because I was tired of having to find a specific post with the label I wanted to find all the posts with that label. Now that problem is eliminated, assuming I remember the right label.

Giant Days #30, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (penciler), Liz Fleming (inker), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) -Ah, young love, and the futile attempts by friends to stave off impending disaster.

Daisy's girlfriend Ingrid is proving to be a terrible housemate, and Susan and Esther are at the brink. But neither wants to crush poor Daisy, until they learn Ingrid's staying on at the uni another 3 years. Needing time to decompress and prepare to deliver harsh news, they go their separate ways to relax, only for Esther to find Susan sharing coffee with her on-again, off again, McGraw. Who is definitely supposed to be off-again, since he's seeing Emilia, who is right behind Esther (but is hustled out before she spots them). Esther talks to Daisy about it, and during the process of that, reveals the ridiculous heating bill caused by Ingrid. Which overloads Esther self-control, and she bluntly tells Daisy what she and Susan think of Ingrid. Probably feeling guilty over it, she's in no mood for Susan's sarcasm and lets her know she knows. While things go surprisingly well between Susan and Esther, everything else goes into a death spiral.

Geez, I show up and everything goes to Hell. Did I pick something up from buying Deadpool again and transmit it to this book? I'm not sure how much time there is between issues, but it certainly continues with the rapid plot developments. Esther and Emilia just became friends last issue, they're already on the outs again. I'm a little worried about McGraw, in spite of my general disregard for people who cheat. Although I'm unclear if it's "cheating" to hang out with an old friend who also happens to be the mortal enemy of your current significant other. I guess if it wasn't, they wouldn't have kept it secret? They were holding hands in the coffee shop, so yeah, probably cheating.

Sarin's artwork is fantastic. The second panel on page 14, Esther has this look on her face as she notices how clean everything is, where she's both looking and her fingers that she swiped against the walls and commenting appreciatively to Daisy, and I don't know what you'd call the expression, but it's perfect. She did the finger test to see if there was dirt, but not in a harsh way, just verifying what her eyes were already telling her, and she's not reacting as though it's strange, but more one of Daisy's quirks she's used to, and wants to express her gratitude casually. I don't know, if you can shorten all that mess down into a single word, that'd be swell. Point being, I would never have had any idea how to draw that, and Sarin makes it look simple. I must be shorting Liz Fleming in the credit for that, I just don't understand inking well enough. I can see places where I'm sure she's adding detail, giving an expression more depth with her shading, I'm just not sure about most of it.

Combine that with some of the comedy touches - Esther's mental picture of the relationship pentagon, complete with McGraw's true love, or Esther starting to keep an emergency teaspoon around her neck - and Cogar's color schemes for the characters and it's a great looking book. Esther has her dark colors, Daisy opts for mostly soft, pleasant tones, Susan has what I'd call are dull, blunt colors. Flat orange shirts. Emilia is sort of a combination of Esther's taste in clothes (or maybe it's the other way around), and Susan's color schemes, except brighter. Orange that's a little warmer, less off-putting.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the book greatly, even as I worry the cast is falling apart. Maybe Esther and Susan could hire Deadpool to kill Ingrid discreetly?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

A young woman named Dany works in an advertising agency. Her boss asks her to drop him and his family at the airport, then drive his very nice Thunderbird back to his house. She decides to take it to the sea instead. At each stop along the way, people react as though she was there just the day before. Then a dead body turns up in the trunk.

That's what I knew about The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun prior to watching, because that's what the description on Netflix told me. I wonder how knowing that going in affected viewing it, because I spent the movie torn on what was going on. We see visions of things, but I was unsure, are they her dreams, her fantasies, things that actually happened? If they did happen, has she forgotten them, repressed them? Does she have multiple personalities, and the one is unaware of what the other has been doing?

Dany seems shy, a little awkward. She tries to be more open, take chances, maybe play up her attractiveness a little, but it doesn't work how she planned. Her attempts backfire somehow. For a long time, it felt like the story of a young woman trying to assert herself, do what she wants instead of what she thinks people expect of her, only for the universe to reach out and punish her. Try and step outside these bounds, and we will make your life miserable. Get back in your lane.

But maybe she's imagining it all? Her guilty conscience gnawing at her. But she's definitely being followed. Her boss' wife, Anita, an old coworker of Dany's, is acting strangely. Nice, but in an impatient, forced way. She certainly doesn't seem happy to see Dany, as her husband said she would be. But how do all these people know her? Why are they so oddly specific about the details that make them certain of it?

In the last ten minutes, the movie explains everything. I could see that being annoying for some people, but I appreciated it. I'd spent the entire 80 minutes prior to that with my mind weighing all the different theories against each other, and I was just ready to have some sort of answer.

Freya Mavor is able to shift easily between the different facets of Dany's personality. Show the clumsy shift to a shy, awkward person when life throws her a disappointment, or give her the confident attitude of a woman who knows all the guys are watching her walk. Confusion with yet another person insisting they know her, shifting to exhaustion making her just go with it. You can see she's a little too willing to trust for her own good, but she's not going to go down without a fight.

It's a good movie, I just got worn out by it because I couldn't stop trying to figure out what the trick was. I guess you could argue the story didn't draw me in sufficiently if I was constantly trying to pull back and break it down, but it probably deserves some credit for making me wonder if I could trust what I was seeing on screen, or my perceptions of it, of what was real and what wasn't.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rising Prices Inhibit Buying Stuff. In Other News, Fire Hot.

With December's solicitations out, I have an idea of what's coming out through the end of 2017. If my estimations of what I'm going to buy over the next three months are correct, I'll end up buying 72 new Marvel comics this year. Last year it was 73, the year before 74. This isn't a jokey post about how, by 2087, I'll be down to 2 Marvel comics.  It's more that it's remained so curiously steady.

Looking it over, when 2015 started, Marvel was in the midst of one of those "Marvel NOW!" pushes they did three of or four times. I can't recall if that one was All-New Marvel NOW! or Marvel Now 2.0. Both of those terms are ones I'm reasonably sure actually existed and were pushed by Marvel, and were not made up by me. More's the pity, at least I'm not being paid to come up with that.

But shortly after came Secret Wars, and the cancelation of every ongoing, followed by the subsequent relaunching of the entire line, even before Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic's mini-series had shambled and lurched across the finish line. There was Civil War II, and Inhumans vs. X-Men before CW 2 had even finished. And during all that, Marvel was throwing out a preposterous number of series, acting like the market would support two Dr. Strange books, or any Inhumans titles*. Then we had Secret Empire and now Legacy, which is more another attempt at vague branding, like the "Heroic Age" tag they used after Siege but prior to Fear Itself.

Point being, there's been a lot of flailing and nonsense over the last three years, and yet, I'm sitting at, on average, six books a month. The number fluctuates - I was at 8 books a month the first three months of this year, closer to 4 during the summer - but it evens out to 6. Which seemed strange. The only two books I've bought throughout were Ms. Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (I'm not counting the month or two they were canceled, since it wasn't my choice to not be able to buy them). Somehow though, the flux evens out. Marvel cancels whatever I was enjoying, but eventually stumbles into a bunch of new series I'm willing to try, at least a few of which I end up sticking with until they're canceled, then repeat.

I've been considering that given the price of the books these days, 6 is basically what I feel I can justify buying. In the spring, when I was considering buying Iron Fist and Scarlet Spider, I started thinking more about whether it was time to ditch Nova and Great Lakes Avengers. Swap out two books to make room for two others. As it turned out, I dropped Nova but not GLA, which got canceled anyway. But Iron Fist ended up not working out, and ultimately neither did Scarlet Spider.  Which is the way it goes sometimes, but it's atypical to feel I needed to drop a book before adding another. Mostly because there haven't been so many books out there it seemed necessary.

2014 was the year Marvel started really pushing the $4 books. It was also a real outlier in terms of the number of Marvel comics I bought, 101, which is the most of any year going back to 2010 (by a lot, second place would be 2013's 80). At midyear, I was up to 10 ongoings (to the extent you could still count Hawkeye, which was firmly in its "it'll come out, eventually" death throes). Some books were still launching at $3 - Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk to name two - but others were starting at $4, and still others increased in price from one issue to another. Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11 was $3, #12 was $4.

Which would seem to counter the cost factoring in, but I was only at 10 books for three months. Two titles ended in the fall, two others got dropped in January 2015 because they weren't working, and even though I added Ant-Man and Squirrel Girl, by then we'd reached "everything's getting canceled because of Secret Wars", so it hardly mattered. Once we were past that, I couldn't find more than 5 titles I was interested in for about a year. It was only last winter Marvel threw enough stuff at the wall to the point I started to feel pressed about how many books I was buying.

Brief aside: I bought 79 Marvel comics in 2010, 70 in 2011, and 64 in 2012, when the $4 price point wouldn't have been a factor. The difference being, I remember there was nothing out then I wanted to buy. I was lucky to have 3 ongoings on my pull list each month, and the rest was random mini-series and one-shots. I remember adding Hawkeye in August of 2012, bringing me up to 5 ongoings for the first time since 2009. It was a wasteland of Bendis-written Avengers comics and Brand New Day Spider-Man as far as the eye could see. So, not exactly the same situation as we're discussing in the present.

For me, 6 $4 books is the same amount of money as 8 $3 books, though it means fewer stories, fewer chances to see something cool, or funny, or touching. I don't know if it works in Marvel's favor. I don't know the difference in price point for the retailers. Fewer books would mean fewer writers and artists to pay, but it isn't as though Marvel's pared the line as they've raised prices. The line had bloated considerably, and even after they cut it down somewhat for Legacy, there's still over 50 titles out there. They had to release a lot more shit just to get me buying enough books I started to consider capping the pull list. So I wouldn't call that a net win, especially since enough of the books I was buying were on thin enough ice I wasn't too bothered about dropping them.

* I tend to consider Ms. Marvel about as much an Inhumans book as Deadpool is an X-book. They're adjacent to their respective messes, but largely safe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cave

Cave is a Norwegian film about three friends and former soldiers who try to rebuild a friendship by exploring an underwater cave. Charlie (or Charlotte) and Viktor used to date, but that ended for some reason and now Charlie and Adrian are a couple. Viktor has been off by himself for awhile, not recently out and about (a possible reference to a psychiatric hospital), but is the one who reached out with the suggestion.

But as they canoe down the river that reaches the cave, they notice someone following along the bank. Once in the cave, it becomes clear they aren't the first to venture inside. It also becomes clear that regardless of what Charlie wants to believe, Viktor's feelings for her haven't gone away. Well, I can't think of a better place for people to hash out their relationship differences calmly than a subterranean place full of pointy rocks, darkness, and freezing water!

It's an 80 minute film, very quick and focused. There are four characters total. They're into the cave within the first 20 minutes, and until the last five, that's where the story stays. I expected them to run into a creature initially, especially when Charlie notices the skull of something with pretty decent canines sitting on a rock. It's not that sort of movie.

The first half of the film is interesting for watching these old friends try to reconnect. They haven't seen Viktor for some time, and you can feel some awkwardness. Are certain jokes over the line now, or are they still OK? Charlie and Viktor can still be comfortable around each other, but you can see Charlie's trying to maintain a little distance, while pretending not to be. Or maybe she is oblivious to Viktor's gaze, but I think it's more she choosing to ignore it to risk shattering a friendship once and for all.

The second half of the film is where things start to go wrong within the cave, as things gets increasingly unsettling, and the danger comes into sharper focus. There was still a point in the film I thought things might turn around, and old bonds would win out, but it's not that kind of movie.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Looking To The End Of The Year

So, December's solicitations have been released. It's a quiet month. I'm continuing to buy the things I was buying, and there's not much new out there.

There's going to be another Empowered mini-series or story released, this time with Carla Speed McNeil handling art duties. I owned the first two volumes of the Finder Library by McNeil a few years ago, but ultimately gave them to a library. It wasn't because of the art, though, which was excellent. I just could not stand Jaeger, at all. But he won't be in this comic, so that shouldn't be a problem. Hurrah!

Copperhead continues, Atomic Robo has cyborgs assuming people's identities, Esther is going to try and fix a problem in a manner that will probably backfire spectacularly in Giant Days. I was reading over DC's solicits and noticed that in the Ragman mini-series, the title character is bringing down demons, rather than trapping human criminals? Or perhaps he does both. I'm not sure about that development, I guess it'll depend on the execution.

Marvel, there was nothing new I intend to purchase. They are putting Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm together, sans Reed and Sue, in Marvel Two-In-One. Oh, and Marvel is bringing back Jean Grey, the adult one, since they already have the time-traveling teen one running around. Does this qualify as an event? There's a mini-series attached. Marvel said some point back in the spring they had no Events planned after Secret Empire for 18 months. Which, granted, is not the same sas saying no events are going to happen in the next 18 months. I don't think any of us would be surprised if they trotted one out with no planning. Actually, I think we'd be more surprised there was ever any planning involved in these events.

So once again, Marvel tries to get me to care about Jean Grey, an effort as doomed to failure as all past attempts to make me give a shit about Jean Grey. In the teen Jean's book, she's called in all these past Phoenix hosts to help her contend with the approaching Jean, Phoenix, whatever. Except once again, Rachel Summers/Grey appears to have been skipped over. Sure, she's been about the most successful host, why would you want her there? It's Avengers vs. X-Men all over again.

Squirrel Girl is going into space to find Nancy and Tippy. Beta Ray Bill is on the cover. I am super-excited at the prospect of Squirrel Girl teaming up with Cyborg Horse Thor! What? I'm being completely serious. I'm capable of genuine enthusiasm.

Gwen is wrapping up her fight with a Doombot, Kamala has vanished, prompting the community to form the Ms. Marvel Emergency Squad, and Deadpool is going to actually kill Cable. They promise. For reals, guys, Cable is going to die. Seriously.

I wish Marvel wouldn't toy with me like this.

One last note, just because. I like the covers Khary Randolph's doing for Ben Reilly Scarlet Spider these last few months. Granting that there's a difference between covers and doing panel-to-panel sequential storytelling, but I like the energy and the angles of the covers. I'd have been much more likely to keep buying the book if Randolph was the interior artist. Not to be, though.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

God, The Devil, and Bob 1.4 - The Devil's Birthday

Plot: God forgets the Devil's birthday. Combined with the lackluster party his employees in Hell throw (and which he has to share with Helen from Accounting), the Devil falls into a depression, and decides to teach God a lesson. By removing all evil from the world.

Sounds pretty great, right? Donna stops objecting to Bob attending a bachelor party, she and Megan stop fighting over whether Megan can attend a slumber party at a boys' house, crime vanishes and world peace kicks in. But it also means all the music is cheerful, everyone has a near rictus grin plastered to their face, and worst of all, no strippers or beer at the bachelor party! God isn't too pleased either, since it's removed any struggle for people to be good, and sends Bob to Hell to get the Devil back on the job. Bob finds that the Devil, who had been planning to remodel Hell but made the mistake of calling in Martha Stewart to assist, has lost control of Hell entirely. Now he whiles away his time painting sad clowns.

Bob is able to get the Devil and God together with the old trick of inviting them to an event without letting them both know the other will be there. Quite how that works on omniscient God I don't know, but he also keeps forgetting the Devil's birthday, so omniscience ain't what it used to be. Bob utilizes some court-ordered therapy to help the two patch things up, and evil returns to the world. Now the Hug Across America will never be finished.

Quote of the Episode: God - 'Without evil in the world, being good is meaningless. It's like when the Houston Rockets won the championship while Jordan was off playing baseball - big whoop.'

Smeck Smacks: 4 (11 overall). I wasn't going to count each self-inflicted golf club to the face as separate smacks, but I counted the snare and the jackals as two, so I guess I need to be consistent.

Other: When Bob expresses reservations about going to Hell, God tells him that he's been to Branson, Missouri, and it isn't that different. If that's true, Hell is worse than I imagined.

The Martha Stewart thing doesn't really go anywhere. I assume the Devil ousted her once he got his mojo back, but I don't know. Maybe he just started a new Hell somewhere else.

Based on his difficulty in expressing how much the Devil's betrayal hurt him, God is apparently not good at communication. Which is not a surprise given the many contradictory statements in the book's purporting to be his word.

The most terrifying part of the world without evil was that inanimate objects came alive. Seriously, Bob got to work and everyone on the assembly line was whistling, all perfectly in sync. Including the whistle that signals the end of the day. And the factory was doing that happy bouncing thing you see in old cartoons where every single thing is happy. I don't quite track how that works, but there you go: Evil protects us from all our stuff whistling and bouncing all the time. Be grateful for evil, children.

A world without evil apparently translates to a world where everyone is nice and happy, which, yeah, no. You can be good without being nice, or happy. I do it all the time. I don't think the chemical imbalances that cause depression are going to magically disappear when evil does. Unless we're arguing that those chemical issues are caused by actual demons, and c'mon, we aren't in the 1100s here. I'm not looking to burn you at the stake for telling me the geocentric universe concept is a load of hooey.

This is the episode I remember the most, probably because of the part where Bob gets them together and tries to get things hashed out over a game of croquet. Only for God and the Devil to lay waste to Bob's back yard over the course of the game. Plus, God sending Bob to Hell, the Devil painting sad clowns, the Hug Across America ("heading towards us at the speed of love!"), the happy building. This one stuck with me, for whatever reason.

Friday, September 22, 2017

What I Bought 9/21/2017

Just the one book this week. And there's nothing coming out next week that I want. At least things will pick up a little in October. It's not my best review, but it's what I have.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #12, by Jonathan Rivera (writer/story), Gerard Way (story), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - It's like one of those restaurant placemat mazes. Help Cave and Chloe find the path that doesn't lead to a horrible other-dimensional beast!

Cave descends to Mazra's aid, but she still can't draw power from the crystal. Because she's still incomplete. They only used Cave's memories, and she needs to remember what everyone else remembers about her. Which is how we learn Wild Dog had a demo tape, and Mazra was the only one who liked it. I actually liked that quite a bit. He wasn't just Cave's friend, he was hers, too. With a more complete sense of who she was, Mazra is able to draw on the power she needs and destroys the Whisperer, saving the multiverse. Mostly. She's going to go off and clean up the mess left behind, while Cave and his friends got an upgraded ride from Other Cave, which they might explore with a bit before they go home.

Is the "Next: Milk Wars" a joke, or will there actually be more of this book? I could understand if Oeming needs a break to get ahead of schedule, or work on other projects, or have a life outside drawing comics. I had been operating on the assumption this was it, though. On that level, it's a little undercooked. There are some ideas that might have needed more time. Cave seeing another version of himself, which helps him recognize some bad habits of his. It pops up a bit right at the end, and you could probably tie it in to his initial unwillingness to even consider the chance of meeting another Mazra during their dimensional jaunts. Not wanting to deal with emotions, not recognizing how important the idea was the Chloe and how his dismissal of it hurts her.

Maybe they're trusting us to connect the dots. But it also felt as though there was more they meant to do with the other members of the cast. They brought in Cave's old professor, Dr. Bartow, but they never did anything with him. He had a couple of comments in one issue, but other wise, he's just a figure in the background. Felt like there was more to delve into with Wild Dog, Johnny, the rest of the survivors. And if the book's returning, we'll probably get that. As it stands right now, it's lacking a bit.

I have been sitting here for like an hour, doing anything other than finishing this review because I can't figure out what to say about the art. The double-page spread of Mazra killing the Whisperer was underwhelming. I find it interesting when Oeming draws character's eyes as just two small dots. Doesn't seem to be a lack of space, or the character being placed really far away, just sometimes that's all he gives them. I did like the page where the blast from the other's weapons at the top of the page divided the rest of it into separate panels. Since that's really on color, it's a joint effort between Oeming and Filardi. They've done something similar a couple of other times, but it's a nice trick. Overall, this issue doesn't have as many of the flashier layouts that get my attention, but it's still good work. Filardi's colors have consistently brought a sense of strangeness to everything, with all these bright variable backgrounds.