Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday Splash Page #3

"Irate Living Robot", in Agents of Atlas (vol. 1) #5, by Jeff Parker (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Kris Justice and Terry Pallot (inkers), Michelle Madsen (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer)

The mini-series taking a group of heroes from Marvel's '50s comics, previously united in a single What If?, brought back and expanded on by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk. The mini-series turned into another couple of mini-series a couple years later, and then a couple of attempts at ongoings that died quickly.

Agents of Atlas is the first book I remember buying strictly on the basis of what people on the Internet were saying about it. No one at the store was talking about, but I'd had the blog for a few months, and by the time the hardcover collection came in, I'd seen several glowing reviews. So I bought it on a whim.

Parker and Kirk weave the character's histories together, and incorporate the scattered appearances they'd had in the last 30+ years. Parker knows how to build character moments, humor, and stuff that's just cool or fun. Kirk's artwork knows how to sell all those, giving characters otherworldly or terrifying looks when necessary, or showing them as people who've all been alone until they found this family again.

Friday, December 29, 2017

What I Bought 12/27/2017

I was hoping to grab all three comics that came out this week, but the store was missing one. I should have it by next week. Hoping to review the remainder of December's books then, so I can do all the Year in Review posts the second week of January. Will I manage it? Eh, probably not.

Despicable Deadpool #291, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Deadpool using those stupid filters for his selfie is the most heinous act he's ever committed.

Wade presents Stryfe with Old Cable's heart. Then Regular Cable bursts in and there's a fight. Wade gets a call during the fight from Stryfe, standing over Eleanor as she dies of Madcap's bioweapon, threatening to withhold the cure. So Wade turns on Cable, telling him he planted a bomb to kill Hope at some point. Cable leaves in a huff, Wade goes home to sulk.

There are a few points that are enjoyable. Wade being 'ported into Stryfe's HQ in the middle of pissing in a phone booth, while drinking a beer. Mostly for Stryfe's appalled look. Heck, Stryfe has a blimp HQ, which is way cooler than I ever would have given him credit for being.

Part of me thinks this is an extremely long-con between Wade and Cable. Meaning, they know Stryfe would still be wary of Deadpool double-crossing him at this stage, so they're pretending to have a dramatic falling out to ambush him somewhere down the line when he doesn't have vampires or whatever planned. I doubt it, since I think Duggan intends to burn all Wade's bridges, but I'm always suspicious of the swerve.

I'm not sure that's a good idea. Leaving Wade isolated and friendless sounds suspiciously like what Daniel Way did with him, and that wound up being a meandering, pointless run. Wade is hopefully going after Nazi Cap next issue, so fingers crossed he guts that guy like a fish, then defiles the corpse. Then we can all agree to pretend Nazi Cap never happened, OK?

The quiet moments at the end, when Wade is left alone, those I like. Koblish shows him being carried along by the water passively. No energy in him. Just tired. It's been a different look for Deadpool, who even when depressed usually shoots something or drinks and swears loudly. He doesn't even have the drive for that. Koblish and Filardi handle those well. Colors are dark, but calm and fairly monotone. Wade, when he does move, has his shoulders slumped, leaning on the wall for support.

The overall idea Duggan's going with is one in theory I want to see, but the execution so far, not hitting it out of the park.

Tick 2017 #2, by Cullen Bunn and JimmyZ (writers), Duane Redhead (artist), Jeff McClelland (back-up story writer), Alex Harris (back-up story artist) - I can't imagine the Tick is very good at chess. Then again, I wouldn't have thought he could play the piano, either.

Tick and Arthur reach Canada, where the Tick is flooded with memories of being a regretful lumberjack and fledgling hero as part of some superteam-in-training. Which means he's not much use to Arthur when the clowns and ninjas show up again.

That's pretty much it, as far as plot goes. How much they plan on having the Tick's current personality and character be a result of who he was is something I'm curious to see. Sometimes writers have the character become entirely different when they lose their memory (see Mitch Shelly in either version of Resurrection Man). Other times certain things are retained, or leak through whatever the blocks are. With the Tick, he seems to have retained his desire to uphold justice and fight evil, but had forgotten French.

Redhead seems to draw almost all the other characters with more detailed faces than the Tick and Arthur. Even the ones with masks have more shading and inking. Except Spotted Fever, which seems significant. Redhead's art works pretty well, although panels seem crowded and almost claustrophobic at times. Which could be the Tick being overwhelmed by all these memories. He spends the entire issue rushing from one place that he now remembers to another, Arthur struggling to keep up (and unable to understand the Tick's French).

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale

Set in 1925 Korea, as the Japanese Governor is trying to eradicate the last of the native tigers as a symbol of the futility of resistance to their rule. There was one family of tigers left, but after the hunters killed the mother and her cubs, the Mountain Lord is on the hunt. . . for vengeance!

The local hunters, and even the Japanese Army, are helpless against the giant tiger, who kills dozens of them, including the son of the local master hunter, retired for many years, Chun Man-duk. Now perhaps Chun Man-duk desires vengeance. Or maybe not.

The movie has a gradual pace, long periods of setting things up, conversations building the foundation towards an inevitable end. Scenes of the Mountain Lord watching over its dead kits, flashbacks to Chun Man-duk's past. Then the brief segments of action and violence. It's not a bad way to build a movie, mimics hunting to a certain extent. All the time spent preparing, tracking the prey, and if it's done right, the kill is comparatively quick.

And that build-up works. It allows for the problems between Chun and his son's life in the mountains to grow, to see Gu-kyung's determined, calculated pursuit of the tiger, and checks in on the Japanese who are pushing the whole thing. All good.

Then the action starts, and you have a big CGI tiger running around, shrugging off bullets and ripping dudes' arms off. The build up is distinctly Jaws in style, but the payoff is more like one of those Syfy movies. Sharktopus, or whatever. People running and screaming and being slaughtered in droves by CGI.

The Japanese attempt to overwhelm the tiger is meant to seem costly and futile, and maybe that means you need the body count. The scenes just feel at odds with the rest of the movie, but that could be my perception of what the film was trying to be. I might need to view the Mountain Lord killing the Japanese soldiers through the same lens folks in the U.S. view movies where a bunch of stinkin' Nazis get killed. I'm pretty sure the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula was not a happy time for Koreans, so I should be taking that into account.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Little Nonsense In Winter

Do you think Namor is any good at holding his breath? This can refer to above or below water. For us, if we want to go underwater, and we don't have breathing apparatus, we have to practice. It's a necessity.

But Namor wouldn't have to. He flies out of the water into the air, he can breathe air. He goes back underwater, he can breathe through his gills. There's no necessity (he doesn't go into space often). Namor doesn't strike me as the sort to practice something like that just in case or for the heck of it, the way Captain America or Shang-Chi might.

Which means Namor might lose a "holding your breath" contest against Franklin Richards, or one of the Power kids, if you could get him to do it. Which would embarrass the hell out of him, and provide a good laugh for everyone else. Ben and Johnny in particular would never let him hear the end of it. Until he drowned Johnny, at least.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Phenomenon - Rick Ankiel and Tim Brown

The Phenomenon is Rick Ankiel talking about his life, especially the 2000 playoff game where he, all of the sudden, couldn't throw the ball where he wanted it to go any more. Not because of any physical ailment, a torn elbow ligament or rotator cuff. Because somewhere in the sequence of his brain telling his body what to do, and the body doing it, something went awry.

The book starts there, goes back to his childhood, his abusive criminal of a dad and Ankiel's steps to the majors. Then it moves forward, detailing all the things he went through trying to overcome "the monster" as he calls it frequently. Eventually, he abandons pitching and comes back as an outfielder, and played for several years in the major leagues in that capacity.

The writing is straightforward, with a good, easy flow to it. A lot of short, punchy sentences, with occasional longer passages. It has the air of someone who has spent a lot of time going over this again and again, either with others or himself. So at times, there's a sense of peace, but at others, there's still that frustration with things. Like his father, or why him, and why then. There are excerpts of conversations he had with sports psychologists about it, years after, and chapters devoted to a couple of other ballplayers who suffered through it as well, including one of Ankiel's Cardinals' teammates, Gary Bennett, a catcher who early in 2007 started to struggle tossing the ball back to the pitcher. There's no certain answer, at some point, something that had felt natural for so long was now almost impossible. Just throw the freaking ball, right? How hard can that be? Pretty damn hard at times.

It feels strange to describe the book as "enjoyable", because it can be wrenching to read. Ankiel decides, during Spring Training of 2005, that he's done. As he explains how inside, he was insisting it wasn't quitting, but retiring, the reader understands because we see everything he's tried, and the toll it's taken. Even at the point, he explains he thinks he could have pitched effectively (and had done so in a few relief appearances the previous September). But he talks about how, essentially, he had to spend the other 21 hours of each day trying to mentally prepare himself for the three hours where he might be called on to pitch. You can see how that would take a toll. Which makes the last quarter of the book, he time as an outfielder and beyond, more upbeat, because Rick was clearly enjoying himself more, freed from the constraints of pitching.

It was an interesting book to read, since I'm a St. Louis Cardinals' fan, I read it through the filter of my own memories of that time. I remember all through the 2000 season, trying to temper my excitement of how well Ankiel was pitching, because every other promising young starter the Cardinals had the last few years had gotten hurt, and Rick looked as though he could be better than any of them. That disastrous playoff game, all the second-guessing (was it a bad idea to start him in Game 1?) and the what-ifs (what if Mike Matheny hadn't been injured due to a freak accident with a birthday gift?) Ankiel, for his part, doesn't seem to think any of that was the issue. He was fine in the second inning, and then in the third, it unraveled. He talks with Matheny at one point, and when Matheny expresses regret he couldn't be out there, Ankiel replies Matheny couldn't have caught for him forever. At some point, Ankiel would have to be able to throw strikes without him.

The one that was most surprising was Ankiel describing how, at the start of 2001, he tried pitching drunk for his first two starts. He could feel himself panicking, and he wanted to quiet it. I remember watching that first start, against Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Being nervous every time he walked a guy, excited with each out he recorded. Never entered my mind he had a water bottle full of vodka waiting in the dugout. It ultimately didn't work. Even by the second start, he could tell the monster was adapting, as he puts it. But he tried everything. Breathing exercises, pills, throwing the ball at the wall behind his house for hours, psychologists, and just trying to push through it by sheer will.

'But, damn, my heart was running. My head was clogged. I closed my eyes and put myself on that mound in St. Louis, testing myself, and the crowd rose, and the moment arrived, and I was terrified. In my backyard, facing a wall, alone, the anxiety was bigger than I was.'

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Gift of Books You Can't Buy For Another Three Months

There's actually quite a bit going on in the solicitations for March that interests me, roughly equal parts good and bad.

Last month, I said the Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell series was on a skip month. Well, they solicited issue 4 for March, so I guess it isn't skipping February. That's good. On the other hand, Dark Horse's website says the Ann Nocenti/David Aja miniseries, The Seeds, is supposed to be out March 28, but it isn't in the solicits. That's bad, but I'll wait. I'm not operating under the illusion it'll come out monthly, because David Aja couldn't keep to that schedule with a year's lead time and his life depending on it. I am operating under the theory it'll be interesting (because Nocenti) and look good (because Aja).

At DC, they're restarting some of those Young Animal line books, now set after the crossover thing they're doing in February. So it's Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye whatever that means. No Gerard Way, but Jon Rivera's still writing it and Michael Avon Oeming is still drawing it, so I'll give it a shot. Other than that, I think they're spinning some more stuff off from that Metal thing, and probably some other stuff. Kyle Rayner's struggling to use Hal's ring (why?), Lois' asshole dad is gonna meet his grandson, stuff like that.

Marvel is canceling a bunch of titles, the only one of concern to me is Gwenpool. You can commiserate about any of the ones that were near and dear to you in comments. It's disappointing, but not surprising. Although how the crap is that Punisher book with him in the War Machine armor not in the toilet yet? But hey, Marvel's got plenty of quality books to replace the recently departed! Like Weapon H, the book about a Hulk that has Wolverine claws! And Infinity Countdown, another mini-series about people trying to collect all the Infinity Gems! Feel my excitement, I'm about to die from it. Wait, wait, no, that's actually boredom. Or gas. Might be gas.

Like Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood Suckers, a mini-series written by Joe R. Lansdale about Nixon recruiting Elvis to fight aliens. Sure, "Bubba Ho-Tep" was how Elvis described that soul-sucking mummy, rather than any term referring to the King himself, but if I hadn't seen that phrase, I probably would have scrolled right past this solicit. So let's hear it for branding.

That's pretty much it for books either hopping on or falling off the shopping list. Giant Days, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, and Deadpool are continuing to chug along, the old reliables at this point. Well, maybe not Deadpool so much, but he's going to get into a fight with Captain America in March! Not HYDRA Cap, but that's still hopefully something.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sunday Splash Page #2

"Party on the Moon" in Adventures of the Mask #10, by Michael Eury (script), Marc Campos (artist), Matt Webb (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer)

The comic, based on the cartoon, based off the hit movie, adapted from the John Arcudi/Doug Mahnke mini-series (which I will get to in, 4 or 5 years at this rate). Done-in-one stories (outside of the first two issues), ran for 12 issues. Almost a constant string of gags and references to other pop culture stuff whenever the Mask is on the page, but Campos has a loose, exaggerated enough style to make it work. He knows the Mask doesn't have to follow normal rules on proportion or scale, so go nuts with it.

Friday, December 22, 2017

What I Bought 12/20/2017

Only able to grab one of the three books that came out this week I wanted. Oh well, get 'em later. In other, better news, the next Delilah Dirk book, Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules, popped up on my Amazon recommendations. It isn't coming out until August, but at least I know it's on the way. Now all I need is the next volume of Bandette, and I'm set for 2018.

Ms. Marvel #25, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Filling a void left by Deadpool's fall from grace, Kamala has taken to franchising her likeness. Even Deadpool didn't use child labor.

Kamala's gone into seclusion, and Ms. Marvel is M.I.A., so Mike, Nakia, Zoe, and Gabe have been trying to pick up the slack. Well, mostly Mike has been dealing with it; everyone else is sitting around issuing unhelpful criticisms. Zoe agrees to take over, and encounters the Red Dagger, who is also worried about Ms. Marvel. Then they encounter a terrified old man who wanrs of weird doing at the retirement castle, and before you know it, they're being attacked by a giant chameleon in an exo-suit.

It's nice to see Dr. Knox back. Crazy mad scientists are always good antagonists. Much less depressing than Nazis hijacking the electoral process. In theory, Kamala's progressed enough as a hero he might not pose much of a threat (although she doesn't know what he's learned in his incarceration). But now it's not her that has to face him. It's people with no super-powers, and even less experience dealing with mad scientists. That could be tricky.

Herring's colors seem deeper, sharper than normal. Like the blue in the knockoff Ms. Marvel costume is a deeper blue than it was on Kamala's costume last issue. Could be deliberate, to emphasize it's a fake costume, like how the wig they use still has the price tag attached. But the colors typically have a sort of texture to them, like the sunlight shining through dust suspended in the air, and that's not present here. Which might be down to a difference in how Leon shades or inks compared to some of the other artists the book has had. The effect I'm thinking of I associate most strongly with Adrian Alphona's work, and Diego Olortegui to a lesser extent.

This isn't a complaint about Leon's art; he's drawn the book previously (that story where Loki crashed prom, for one). Characters look like they normally do, and he's good with body language and those little background details that a lot of the artists on this book like to include. Such as Zoe trying to lift a heavy bucket to test her fitness while Mike and the others debate what to do. Or Zoe trying to read up on parkour in preparation for her patrol that night (I need to borrow that book. Why? No reason! *looks around shiftily*). Leon's art seems to work well for the funny parts of the story, he has the expressions and the eye for what details to include. I'm guessing next month will be more action-oriented, we'll see how it goes.

Although I don't remember this sandwich buddy of Kamala's at all. Which makes me suspicious of him.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Magnificent Warriors

Sometimes you want to watch Michelle Yeoh kick a bunch of Japanese soldiers so hard they fly 10 feet through the air before crashing into walls. Fortunately, this movie (IMDB has it listed as Dynamite Fighters, if you're looking it up) has plenty of that.

The film is set in the 1930s, in a small city the Japanese Army thinks is the perfect place to build a poison gas factory. She's sent in to help a Chinese agent get the city's governor the heck out of there, but ends up involved in trying to stop the Japanese Army and their collaborators instead.

There are a lot of fight scenes, as you'd imagine, although the number of enemies seem to multiply with each fight. I preferred some of the earlier fights, where it was Yeoh against one or two opponents, and they'd focus on letting a particular fight play out. You get that interesting flow of counters, and counters to counters, different approaches. That said, the fights against masses of bad guys always have some interesting element to them.

The movie reminds me of a Western in structure, the ones where the entire town ultimately gets involved in fighting for itself (think Magnificent Seven, or Blazing Saddles). Except the enemy is an invading army, rather than some group of bandits, or a cattle baron who thinks he's hot shit. You have the town leader who wants to do the right thing but lacks the spine for open defiance. The stranger who comes to town and causes trouble, and her semi-comic sidekick (played by Richard Ng, who was also in Shanghai Express among other things, and is pretty great).

The movie ends up being straightforward about the reality of the challenge; one person can't do this by themselves. Five people, even if one of them is Michelle Yeoh kicking 30 dudes in the face, can't manage it. The entire town has to decide they aren't going to stand for it, and a lot of them are gonna die in the process. And even then, it's a small victory. The Japanese aren't stopped, they just have to find someplace else to build their poison gas factory.

The action sequences are pretty good, there are some laughs in it, though there is this one odd scene when the three main characters take turns explaining each others' backstories. Was it some sort of meta-commentary joke about them being stock characterizations? Especially given the timing of it in the movie, kind of strange.

But Yeoh has an easy, friendly charisma; she seems to be having a great time. Richard Ng's character starts as a clumsy coward, but gets to have a bit of an arc where he starts thinking of others. There's a scene where he's debating whether to help the Chinese agent who just saved his life, or run away. Yeoh actually ends up doing the saving, but he had made the decision to help just before that, which seemed significant. The villains mostly get to scowl and be scumbags, but that's fine. The bad guys don't always need tragic backstories. Sometimes they're just bad.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

An Inconclusive Conclusion

When we last left our merry band o' dungeon crawling fools, they had managed to kill a couple of grumpy trolls, and found the king's birth certificate. Now, they just need to get out of this labyrinth. Fortunately, they already found the exit during their earlier wandering. Unfortunately, there are more of those light-hating wraiths.

The battle is a mess. Nobody on either side can score any hits, although Taug at least avoids hitting himself this time. Thandril provides Mage Armor for everyone except Will, a decision that isn't going to endear the Wizard to the Ranger any time soon. Taug manages to finish one, as the wizard decides to summon bats, to little effect. Will has run out of arrows, but is having more luck hitting the Wraiths with his sword, anyway. Roric finishes the second wraith, only for a Death Wraith to emerge. The battle drags on, both sides still struggling to score hits. Thandril decides now is the time to experiment with summoning a giant beetle, even though he doesn't know how to use it. Eventually, the Wraith falls under the assault of whatever the team can manage to throw at it. At least nobody takes much damage.

Sunlight, wonderful sunlight. They've escaped the labyrinth! The party is supposed to head for Cranville to meet their contact, but encounter some farmers along the way, who warn of recent problems along one of the roads to town, something to do with strange voices. The party, low on supplies, opts to avoid unnecessary fighting and take the other road. This results in a mostly uneventful trip into Cranville. The only thing of interest is Will is befriends an osprey, and the William/Oswald duo lives again.

Immediately on reaching the edge of Cranville, a Mrs. Lushin steps out of a tavern offering food and rooms. The team enters, but Rory is eager to find himself a workshop, where he can craft some upgrades. Will is suspicious of this helpful innkeeper, and uses the excuse of needing some arrows to leave with the alchemist. It doesn't take long to find a blacksmith, who is happy to rent a workshop to the gnome for a while. Will inquires about arrows, and is told to check with the fletcher next door. Will feigns stupidity, and wanders the town, looking unsuccessfully for a house belonging to "Fletcher". This keeps him out of whatever might be going down at the tavern, but makes a poor impression on Oswald, who is questioning being a Companion to an idiot.

The orc and the bard, on the other hand, decide now is a good time to get into a drinking contest with some pleasant red-bearded guy sitting in the corner. Thandril at least tries to interrogate the innkeeper, who claims to be their contact. Which is funny, since they're supposed to be meeting a Mrs. Pierce. Thandril decides it's time to go, but Mrs Lushin has other ideas. Taug and Bart break off their drinking to swagger up and intimidate her, to no effect. Unless you consider Taug catching a Magic Missile in the face an effect. The bard does better, actually managing to hurt her, which prompts a lot of cursing. Thandril uses Shocking Grasp, and while he dodges a Fireball sent his way, he can't avoid a barrage of Magic Missiles. He's badly hurt. Taug tries charging to the rescue, but is too drunk and only succeeds in injuring himself. Things look bad for the trio, but as a last-ditch move, Thandril summons spiders. Mrs. Lushin apparently is afraid of those, and flees.

It turns out the friendly red-bearded guy is the actual owner of the tavern. He didn't question why Mrs. Lushin wanted to pretend to be owner for a while, because at least it would be something interesting. He isn't too worried about the damage to his place, either. As he starts to explain some of the more interesting features of the town, like the tourism industry built around nymphs living in a particularly excellent cherry tree, Will and Rory return. Will did finally buy some arrows, and Roric made him a better bow, as well as some chainmail for Taug. Pity it won't protect the orc from self-inflicted damage.

Which is pretty much where we ended. The field season concluded, and the crew scattered to the four corners of the Earth. The campaign wasn't bad for someone who had no experience with the game whatsoever. I wish I'd asked Jo what else she had planned. I do feel like we might have needed to start at a higher level. The battles seemed like a fumbling mess, possibly because we were so limited in our abilities. Or maybe it was just bad dice rolls. Or we're just bad at the game. I appreciated that Jo gave Rory the chance to use some of his crafting skills. In that previous campaign, I know some of the players felt they'd wasted their time putting points into Skills they thought would be good, and then never got to use them.

Anyway, that's it for this feature.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Fourth Dimension - Rudy Rucker

The Fourth Dimension is an attempt to explain the concept of higher dimensions, frequently by using analogies to the 19th century novel Flatland, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary at the time this book was published.

The book starts with several chapters about what the fourth dimension would be, or how to think of it, in terms of moving fourth dimensionally. The middle section deals with space, and how the space would be represented in the dimension, how gravity and mass are expressed. Then the final third of the book looks at the notion of the fourth dimension being time specifically. Rucker emphasizes that, despite discussing spacetime, this doesn't mean that "time" is interchangeable with the fourth dimension. Time could be the 5th or 6th dimension, and there are other dimensions in between.

The book is full of diagrams, puzzles to consider, and lots of quotes from other writers about the nature of other dimensions. I found the diagrams most useful. Then I would try to answer one of the puzzles and after checking the solution in the back, feel completely lost again. The quotes mostly didn't help.

Rucker is trying to teach a little bit about the history of the notion of higher dimensions, the theories that have been advanced and discarded, and at times he goes into greater depth on that than the reader really needs. Seems to lose the point of what he's actually trying to explain in lengthy passages from a sequel to Flatland he's imagined (as opposed to actual sequels to it that have been written). That starts to feel indulgent, and not as useful to illustrate points as his more straightforward discussions.

It helps that much of this has become more common in fiction over the 30+ years since the book was published. Especially when you get into parallel universes, or things of that nature. There's a passing familiarity with some of these concepts just through repeated exposure to simplified or bastardized versions of them in pop culture.

'Of course, the whole reason for introducing the block universe was to get rid of the passage of time. But how can I say so universally experienced phenomenon is nonexistent?'

Monday, December 18, 2017

What I Bought 12/13/2017

I can't stand that commercial with the kid using the tablet and her mom asks what's she's doing on the computer, and the kid asks what a computer is. Give me a break. We are not so far into the future that kid has no idea what a computer is.

Despicable Deadpool #290, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Well, they certainly know what the audience wants.

Wade and Cable travel into the future, where things are bad. Then they travel even further into the future to see Really Old Cable, so they can kill him and take his heart. Hey, I got a prediction right! He is less happy to see Deadpool than I hoped, and Deadpool very quickly grows tired of Old Man Griping and shoots him, then cuts out his heart. He and not so old Cable prepare to confront Stryfe.

Well then. The story feels excessively drawn out. We're four issues in, and it feels as though we could have covered this in two issues. I think Duggan and Koblish are banking on the reader enjoying seeing Koblish draw cool stuff, indulging in Kirby aesthetic. Like the vampire dinosaurs last issue, or the train station full of Cables this month. Those are cool, although one Cable is more than enough, but it lacks emotional content.

The problem is Duggan writes Cable and Deadpool as seemingly hating each other. Cable, certainly, appears to barely tolerate Deadpool, even if Wade wasn't trying to kill him. Which takes some of the bite out of the story. The punch of the story was theoretically going to be Deadpool be forced to try and kill one of the few people he likes and respects. If Wade isn't hesitant about killing a Cable, and Cable doesn't like or trust Wade, why am I supposed to care?

You can have Wade determined to do it, to save his daughter, and Cable understanding Wade's problem, but having obvious objections to dying or helping Stryfe. Otherwise Deadpool might as well be trying to kill Bullseye, or some random hero he doesn't give a crap about, like Captain Britain. Take that away, especially with the obvious bait-and-switch on the death, and there's nothing left. Stryfe is already a clone of Cable. So what if he wants to make more clones of Cable?

The last issue will have to really hustle to salvage this.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #27, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist and trading card artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - The cover working well either side up is a nice bit of design work there by Henderson.

Nancy and Tippy-Toe wake up to a world where everyone is super-interested in how Tippy and Doreen defeated Galactus. They've been abducted by intelligent squirrels and brought to their homeworld because an unusually buff Silver Surfer showed up and told them to produce all their precious stones or Galactus will eat their world. After it is blown up by the bomb they left. Nancy and Tippy are left to try and figure out how to solve this. Doreen is back on Earth trying to find them, and ends up at the door of the Sorcerer Supreme, which is Loki now. Really? Why not just give the job to Gwenpool? However, before Loki can transport Squirrel Girl across the universe (in a terrible outer space wardrobe), Dormammu appears to test his new Sorcerer's mettle. Well, that's not a good thing.

I was pretty down on last month's issue, but I'm excited for this. I have no idea how Squirrel Girl is going to outwit friggin' Dormammu, but I'm sure she'll manage it somehow, and I'm curious to see it. I'm certainly not counting on Loki to save the day. That page where Doreen and Loki can perceive the attack? That was pretty. Love the colors, and Dormammu as an opponent that's only partially even physical. Also, that image of him Rico Renzi did for the trading card was pretty good.

There are a few good gags and jokes in the book, as always. The online reviews of Dr. Strange's home was a personal favorite, North's story about trying to b.s. his way through a physics test, too. I know I considered something similar in pre-calc, during the trig proofs section. "You included this on the test, so it's obviously provable," or something. Which is not true at all, but I wasn't going to do any better trying to remember those rules about sine = 1/cosine radians something something. I hated trig proofs. Anyway, I appreciate North's attempts to fast talk his way through it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday Splash Page #1

Kaiju Ghost Battle, from Timefist, by Christopher Hastings (writer/artist), Anthony Clark (colorist)

I bought the first Adventures of Dr. McNinja collection at a store in Rolla a few years ago on a "Why not?" urge, and then grabbed the others over the next couple of years. It has a wonderful combination of crazy stuff thrown together and a lot of humor. Hastings' strengths run more towards his pacing on jokes and visual gags in his stories, but he knows when to go widescreen.

Sadly, they haven't released a collection of the final storyline yet, because there haven't been enough sales of the earlier volumes. Which means the rest of you need to hop to it buying Night Powers, Timefist, and King Radical, so they will release a print addition, which I can purchase a physical copy of in exchange for money.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Still Truckin' Along

It's the end of Year 12 here at Reporting on Marvels and Legends. I keep expecting to run out of steam, but it hasn't happened yet.

Posting continued at a six days a week pace. Meant to review more of the trades I bought, but that didn't happen. Lot of movie reviews this year, which we'll reflect on at the end of the calendar year. My hope was that, having settled in more, I would find time to write stories. Did not happen. As it turns out, it's harder for me to write when I have fewer free hours in the day, rather than easier. Who knew?

Hopefully in the coming year I'll make time.

I did try posting some of my sketching, a decision I've had second thoughts about since the moment I did it. I took from it I need to work on my shading. The big development is that I did finally purchase a scanner, which means no more posting lousy photographs of pages from the comics. Hooray! I need to change that tagline under my blog's title. Oh, and I added all the labels I've used for my posts onto the blog sidebar, so hopefully it's much easier to find old posts you like. Spent some time talking about my experiences with D&D, and looking at how bad I've been at dropping ongoing series I wasn't enjoying. Wrote a few posts about Steven Universe, finally, and since there are new episodes coming, I might get to that again soon.

I worked through Foyle's War, Earthworm Jim, and God, the Devil, and Bob on the Episode Rundowns, and then decided to shelve that feature for now. It was starting to feel like a bit of a chore, never a good sign, and I wanted to go with something different.

In the successes category, only three years after I first mentioned it, I'm getting to the Alternate Favorite Character posts. Based on how long the Deadshot post that went up Sunday took, I'm going to shoot for doing one a month. The other Sundays go to posting splash pages from all the various series I own, and maybe I'll talk a little about them, or my experience with them. I'm not planning to be long-winded about it - that would defeat the purpose - but we'll see how it goes this Sunday.

In the year ahead, things'll be a lot like they have been. Comic reviews, albeit with more images. Movie, book, game reviews will continue. The D&D stories and pull list follies have another post or two left in them. I'm going to keep doing the hypothetical team posts, hopefully every other month. Beyond that, I'll play it by ear like I always have. The ability to write about whatever notion enters my mind is one of the best things about this blog.

Thanks as always for reading and commenting. I know people have got a lot of stuff going on, it's nice people take a few minutes to read these. Let's wrap this up with a few scattered posts from the year I was happy with, that don't fit into any of the larger categories (books, movies, reviews) readily.

I can't decide if I want this to turn out to be right or not
Discussing proper use of movie references
Not much chance of this with Infinity War
I think the title alone makes it worth it
I'd still like to see this showdown
It is the fan's job to be unreasonable at all times
I like Krillin.
I finally understand the Robin on Teen Titans Go!
All roads lead to bad places for Deadpool
But if those roads are built on Cable's corpse, I'm OK with that

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Ambivalent Punisher Review

I watched all of Netflix' Punisher series over the last two weeks. Originally, I hadn't thought I would. I wasn't sure I would be up for a guy with guns just running around killing whoever he deems to deserve it over a broad class of people. As it turned out, the series stuck to a more narrow revenge theme, rather than some "war on crime" story. Let's pause for stations identification, and for a SPOILER warning, here on the RML Network. SPOILERS, they'll ruin your day if you want to watch this show free of someone else's notions (which I was mostly able to do).

The Punisher is presumed dead. Frank has settled into a life as a mostly silent construction worker under an assumed identity, believing he's killed everyone involved in his family's murder. Wrong! And those people were also involved in ruining the life of David Lieberman, who has gone into hiding under the alias "Micro", and wants Frank's help to stop these people so he can rejoin his family. There's also Homeland Security agent Dinah Midani, back from Afghanistan, trying to track down the U.S. soldiers responsible for murdering a friend and contact of hers there, a murder Frank Castle might know something about, if only he weren't dead. . .

Like the second season of Daredevil, there were almost enough plates spinning to keep me from noticing pacing issues. That said, around episode 10, when they do that old bit where they show the same event in flashback from multiple characters' perspectives, I started to get impatient.

There is a lot of time spent on Micro spying on his family through cameras installed in their house, and Frank spending time with them, initially in a power struggle with Micro, later because he cares about them, and it's probably pleasant for him to recapture a sense of domesticity. It's a good idea if you want the audience to care about Frank, rather than him living alone in some basement, just eating beans all the time, stepping out periodically to kill some drug dealers. Show more of the mostly good person he was before, don't show him executing people so much. And it mostly solved my concern about watching this man run around killing whoever he deems a criminal whenever he feels like it, because that barely happens. Outside of him killing a few guys at the very beginning - who we're told were involved in his family's murder - I think everyone Frank kills is, at the moment of their deaths, trying to kill him or some other innocent person.

Still, there came a point I was sitting there wondering when I was going to see Frank Castle kill some of these bad guys. I kept thinking of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. "Now eventually, you are going to have some punishing in your Punisher series, correct? Hello?"

That said, Jon Bernthal as Castle and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Micro have decent chemistry. Micro has this sad-eyed hangdog air to him, while Frank is gruff and awkward, frequently resorting to a raspy scoff when he doesn't know how else to react. Bernthal's Frank Castle can still care about people, he hasn't buried that part of him, but he tries to, and no longer seems to know how to react. I do like that he acknowledges that his family life wasn't always sweetness and rainbows. Even if it makes sense those are the memories that would keep coming back to him.

There's a series of threads running through about other soldiers and how they've adjusted or are struggling to adjust since they left the service. Frank has an old corpsman friend (played by Jason R. Moore) who has a discussion help group going, and his old Marine buddy Billy is a big shot running a private security firm. One of the people in Curtis' group is a young man who feels like he misses being in combat, and feels abandoned here. That ends badly.

It was interesting as contrast with Frank, not just in terms of what he lost once he returned home, but the sense he has that he left something behind on those tours of duty. There are parts of him he couldn't get back, and so he's never felt whole, even once he was back with his family. He left something behind, and something else followed him home. All these people suffered in some way or the other, and many of them continue to suffer after. Frank seems to have given up really trying to go forward with his life at the start of the show, he's just existing. Some of the people in the group are lost, others are trying to move ahead if they can, but aren't sure they're getting anywhere.

That said, the point at which Lewis decides to start striking back violently at society was a mistake. It felt too cliched, another soldier striking back at an entire subset of people he holds responsible for the dislocation he feels. Another mirror to play off Frank. But by the time it reached that point, I was invested in seeing Frank get the people he was after. Frank taking time to deal with Lewis was an irritating diversion. He was on one plotline, which I wanted to reach the conclusion of, and then was wrenched onto a different plot for two episodes. I preferred Curtis' discussions with his group serving as a parallel to Frank's story.

I couldn't decide if Dinah Midani (Amber Rose Revah) was unlucky, in over her head, or just incompetent. She's driven, but it seems as though everything she tries fails. Every clever scheme or attempt to get the upper hand backfires, often with people dying as a result. I thought she'd make the big save at the end, but couldn't even manage that. She mirrors Castle, someone out to avenge lost loved ones, but also too caught up in it, charging ahead blind to other dangers. Castle has Micro to at least try to pull him back, Midani didn't have anyone effective at that, only people who were good at telling her what she did wrong after the fact. I think she's also meant to make Frank face the things he did (under orders that he didn't know were actually bullshit), but I thought that got lost in the shuffle much of the time. So is she a different cautionary tale for Frank, like Lewis, or am I giving the show too much credit?

When the show does decide it's time for violence, it goes for it. People's faces gets beaten into bloody pulp, eyes are gouged out, a lot of people get stabbed multiple times. Definitely felt like another level from the violence in the other Marvel Netflix shows. Which, if you are going to do a show about a guy whose whole shtick is he violently kills lots of criminals, I guess you shouldn't hold back on said violence. Credit on that score.

Paul Schulze plays a pretty contemptible, arrogant villain in Rawlins. The kind of guy who was handed everything and believes that was his birthright. When things stop going how he wants, he loses all composure, maybe too much. Scenery chewing going a bit far. I can make explanations for him acting like that, but again, I'm not sure I'm not giving the show too much credit.

I don't think I ever got really fired up and excited during the show. Except near the end, when Frank gets at Rawlins, that might have been a "Fuck yeah!" moment. Otherwise, there were a lot of quieter scenes I enjoyed, conversations that were pleasant to watch, which is not what I would have expected, but that's the extent of it. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I could watch it and have it mostly hold my attention for 50 minutes at a pop.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What I Bought 12/8/2017

Now that it's actually occurred to me to use the scanner for these posts, I find myself with a difficult choice. Do I select a panel or panels I think were funny/cool, or one that illustrates some point I was fumbling to make when I was discussed the art? The second option seems like the best, but the first one is awful tempting.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #23, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Irene Strychalski (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - In an attempt to really make her win impressive, Gwen has opted to fight Dr. Doom after shrinking herself with Pym Particles! Or maybe she enlarged Doom with Pym Particles!

Gwen's attempt to defeat the "real" Dr. Doom fails. Because Doom is not going to lose by being tossed into a weird dimension. Gwen eventually realizes she is entirely outclassed and tries to run, which doesn't work either. The current, "nice" Doom shows up and bails her out, leaving Gwen depressed at how little impact she's allowed to have, and her rapidly approaching mortality. Doom tries to give her some advice, but Gwen doesn't seem to have taken it the way he hoped.

So Gwen has to figure out how she fits in the Marvel Universe. Her early attempts at being a hero were not at all heroic. Her future self told her she was meant to be a villain, which Gwen rejected. She isn't succeeding at making herself important by trying to disappear villains, either. Which leaves what? Gwen doesn't want to be the person in the back of crowd scenes, who dies unceremoniously in some Big Event just because (fair enough). What's her solution? I doubt she wants to be some updated version of Forbush Man or Howard the Duck, popping up every 5-10 years to issue silly commentary on whatever's going on at the moment. It looks like she might be trying for the "rogue with a grey mortality", kind of a Black Cat/Gambit thing. Neither one sustains an ongoing for any extended period of time, but neither one gets killed or vanishes for too long, either.

I appreciated Hastings' writing for Evil Doom. 'You would open a dam because it is not satisfying enough to drown in a puddle,' is a pretty good putdown. 'But let us see how long you hold under a gaze as fierce and hateful as the Sun!' isn't bad, either. And Gwen telling Doom he's got a long fall coming, and a page later, he's been dumped into the void, with only his thought balloon still on the page (Strychalski gave Gwen a pretty good hardass glare on that page as well. Frank Castle would be impressed). After rereading Volume 1 earlier this week, it was funny to see Gwen trying the leg sweeps Batroc regretted teaching her against Doom.

Strychalski mostly works with 3-6 panels per page, and mostly straightforward squares or rectangles. Nothing too out there in terms of layouts (which would be worth exploring in whether that says anything about Gwen. Can she impact the design of the pages she's in?) But there's one 9-panel page, 8 of those panels as narrow vertical shots of Vic the Doombot struggling to process Doom's defeat, while Gwen moves through the same process much more quickly. Everything had been zipping along through the first 5 pages, but at that moment, it looks as though Gwen has actually beaten Dr. Doom. Two of him, no less. So the story pauses to let that sink in for the characters, even though we know it won't take (and Gwen realizes it as well a page later).

Also, I like Strychalski using what little is available in the Gutters to form panel borders when possible. She uses Doom's cape once, the outline of the pages Gwen is sitting on a couple of times. It's tricky, because how could there be panels in a place that exists outside the panels, but it still helps to have something to guide the flow of the conversation as it moves across the page (although for most of those pages, they go with a 3-panel layout most often, so things can just proceed vertically straight down the page).

I don't know if the book is actually dead two issues from now or not, but I hope not. It's got a good mix of funny and intriguing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Clash of Wings - Walter J. Boyne

Another book I'm revisiting for the first time in years. Clash of Wings may have been the first book I read about the air war in World War II, so I was curious to see how it held up. And it mostly does. There were even a few things Boyne brings up I'd forgotten, or ideas I didn't remember reading anywhere else.

Boyne moves in basically chronological order, shifting between theaters for each chapter. The focus shifts from the large scale of how the number of planes lost (or ships and tanks destroyed by those planes) limits one side or the other, to paragraphs about individual pilots who either had major successes in battle or came up with an innovative flying technique or mechanical adjustment (such as "Pappy" Gunn's modifications to the B-25 that made it such an effective close support/ground attack aircraft). Those parts help keep it from getting too dry, as well as serve as a reminder of how much of the air war still came down to the pilots and the mechanical crews on the ground, and not just generals and politicians, or masses of aircraft.

So much of what happened in World War II with planes was people thinking one thing would be true, and finding out they were completely off, and someone having to devise a solution on the fly. Bombers not needing escorts, how effectively bombers could reduce a city to rubble or crush a population. The one everyone underestimated was just how large your air force has to be if you expect to establish air superiority. The Germans, for example, thought after conquering Poland that the size of the air force (1,600) they used for that was enough for everything else they had planned. France, Britain, the Soviet Union, they could all be handled with the same number of planes. Although Hitler did in 1938 call for a 500% increase in aircraft production, and was completely ignored by the chief industrialists and his Air Ministry, fortunately.

For airplanes that were extremely important to one side or the other, Boyne will spend some time detailing the development of it, as well as problems that came up. So the difficulties in getting the B-29 to actually operate successfully gets focused on in the final chapter, since it was a necessary piece if they were going to actually use the atomic bomb.

The book moves from one topic to the next frequently, so it rarely gets bogged down on any one area. There are a few aspects that might get short shrift, but it hits all the major points well.

'An invasion required air superiority. The only way to get air supremacy was to defeat the German Air Force on the ground and in the air. And the only way to do that was by bombing critical targets, for the Luftwaffe declined to engage the enemy over a target it did not feel was critical.'

Monday, December 11, 2017

What I Bought 12/6/2017 - Part 2

My neighbor downstairs I complained about last month came up last week and apologized. Turns out it really was the people in the apartment behind me who were the problem. Will wonders never cease? For today's post, we've got the first issue of a mini-series, and the last one of those three Marvel Legacy books I wanted to try. Will the mini-series fare better with me than Ragman did?

The Demon: Hell is Earth #1, by Andrew Constant (writer), Brad Walker (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Tom Napolitano (letterer) - It's never a good thing when both Etrigan and Jason Blood are smiling. If they're actually agreed upon a course of action, the title will be extremely accurate.

Jason's been having nightmares of a young girl, which have brought him to Death Valley. The young girl is on a vacation with her family, also plagued by the nightmares. Madame Xanadu is charging in on a motorcycle, hoping to avert whatever is about to happen. And then a test missile crashes in the desert, with a real warhead. A warhead of something unconventional.

Don't think I've read anything drawn by Brad Walker in a while. His Jason Blood looks fairly haggard, his Etrigan has a bit of that Kirby style, which I mostly notice in the Demon's hands. The squared off nails, the thick fingers that almost look like he's carved from rock. I guess most artists hew to the original design, but I've grown used to John McCrea's almost skeletal, oddly proportioned Etrigan. Anyway, Walker's Etrigan is a hulking wall, an almost solid mass, looming over everyone else. Even in panels that are supposed to focus on Blood, Etrigan barges he way in, either physically or via internal narration.

The idea of Blood floating about offering commentary on Etrigan's actions isn't that novel to me, I assumed since Etrigan could do so to him that it worked both ways, but I am curious what the deal is with the little girl, and how they're going to keep Etrigan involved in this story, since it's hard for me to see him objecting to Hell being unleashed on Earth.

Darkhawk #51, by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims (writers), Kev Walker (artist), Jeff Tartaglia (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Chris Powell looks awfully young there, unless it's meant to be a flashback to when he found the amulet.

Chris is a rookie cop now, trying to be the man he thought his father was (before he learned he was dirty). The amulet hasn't worked in a year, which hasn't stopped two of the Fraternity of Raptors from coming for the amulet. I didn't remember the suits having their own kind of sentience, but apparently Powell had an impact on his, and it had been trying to disconnect the member of the Fraternity from their access to the suits. He and Powell come to an understanding and prepare to head into space to contend with the Raptors. Issue end.

Of the three of these I bought, this is the one I feel like spends the most time recapping origin stuff, but also the one trying most seriously to set up something in motion for future stories. I wonder if Sims and Bowers could have gotten things to where they wanted without quite so much rehashing old stories, some of it feels unnecessary. I think it's meant to bring Powell back to the start before taking the first step on a new beginning. So make him a cop like his father, but making the choice to be a clean cop. Send him back to where he first got the amulet, give him a choice to keep it or not, accept the challenge or not, this time with a better sense of what that means.  And this is the one I'd most want to see going forward, if only out of some vain hope I'd get to see all the stuff I wanted from the Abnett/Lanning cosmic run.

When Powell accepts the amulet again, Kev Walker gives it a new design, and I'm not a fan. Remember how in the new 52, Jim Lee gave a bunch of heroes needlessly busy costumes, with seams on them suggesting interlocking armor pieces? That's kind of what Walker goes for here, in addition to even bigger shoulder pads than Darkhawk's traditionally had. And I know a belt may seem a strange accessory for a partially sentient armor, but I think the new look could use it. Compared to how the old armor looks when he draws it, I can't consider it an improvement.

All that said, Walker uses the jagged, broken panels he favors to good effect here. During the fight in the House of Mirrors, where the way the panels are set up combines with the reflections of the characters to be almost disorienting, and plays into Powell's confusion with everything that's going on. And during the reveal of what the suit has been up to while away from Powell, where you figure we're only catching glimpses of what's being revealed to Chris, or that this is how it gets processed by him - brief flashes, only barely connected by the spiel he's getting from the suit. And there's one panel of Chris reflecting on his past in the rain where I just really like the lighting and shadows Tartaglia gives it. Powell looks so much older and more thoughtful in those panels, at the moment he's going to be presented with a decision about who he wants to be.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Alternate Favorite DC Characters #9 - Deadshot

Character: Deadshot (Floyd Lawton)

Creators: David Vern Lee, Lew Schwartz, and Bob Kane. I'm guessing Bob Kane did not, in fact, have anything to do with it. Shout out to Steve Engelhart and Marshall Rogers, who plucked the character from obscurity and retooled him.

First appearance: Batman #59, but its cover had nothing to do with him, so you get this sweet Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, and Tatjana Woods' cover from Detective Comics #474, his first appearance in over 25 years.

First encounter: I'm not sure. Maybe the episode of Justice League he first appeared in? I bought Batman #592 when it came out, so maybe that was it.

Definitive writer: John Ostrander and Kim Yale.

Definitive artist: Nicola Scott when he isn't wearing the mask. Luke McDonnell when he is.

Favorite moment or story: No shortage of options, but I'm partial to a sequence in Suicide Squad #66. The Squad has to cross a jungle to reach their target, and something about it attacks them on a mental level. Captain Boomerang is flipping out hurling boomerangs at phantoms mocking him. Even Amanda Waller is sweating it as she pushes past all the people whose deaths she blames herself for.

At the bottom of each page, though, is Deadshot walking calmly and steadily though the jungle. He's already given up or lost anything that could matter to him, already "killed" himself once. Which has produced a kind of peace inside him. There's nothing the jungle can reach to haunt him with.

What I like about him: Well, Marshall Rogers designed a distinctive costume, which always helps. The asymmetrical mask, with the one eyepiece set to project out slightly from it. The silver works as a nice contrast to all the red, and then there's the big crosshairs right in the middle of the chest. Which works as a symbol for an assassin, but also ends up being factored into what Ostrander and Yale did with Lawton's psychology, that he gives people an easy target to aim at. Characters having weapons in wrist bracelets or gauntlets wasn't a new touch, but it being these very obvious guns wasn't as common. And most artists draw them at a fairly restrained size; it doesn't evolve into some ludicrous, Cable-like shoulder cannon. Floyd doesn't need something like that, because he's meant to be precise about his work.

Beyond that, Floyd has this particular way, a set of seeming contradictions, of looking at things that I find interesting. Life and death don't mean much to him. He'll kill just about anyone; loyalty is a temporary condition. William Heller hires him to kill Amanda Waller, Waller offers him one dollar more, plus the possibility of more work to go back and shoot Heller, and Floyd immediately does so. However, years later Waller makes a similar offer to ditch the Secret Six and rejoin the Squad, and Floyd shoots her in the chest. Because she'd betrayed him recently, and past association didn't buy her anything.

Still, he's particular about those sorts of things. The most famous is probably Waller telling him to stop Rick Flag from killing a Senator by any means necessary. Which Floyd does, by killing the Senator himself, then nearly dying in a shootout with the police (because he had his own issues to work out at the time). He doesn't kill Heller, because Waller merely said to shoot him, not kill him. When a member of the group Jihad vows that she'll kill him if he doesn't finish her now, Floyd calmly shoots her in the head. When Count Vertigo asks whether Floyd would consider killing him, Floyd says sure, so Vertigo better be certain he really wants to die before he makes that request.

Floyd doesn't take much responsibility for his actions. To him, as an assassin, he's simply the instrument. When he kills someone, most of the time there's nothing personal about it. It has all the emotional content of flipping on a light switch. It's someone else who wants this person dead, he's simply the instrument they chose to carry it out. The weight of the death is on them. As Batman observes, if Waller had told Floyd specifically to kill Heller, Floyd would have done it. And Deadshot agrees. Why should he have a moral code when the people willing to hire him clearly don't?

However, he still maintains control over his actions. Just because he kills for money, and just because he might take a contract to kill anyone, doesn't mean he will at that moment, or that he'll just shoot anyone randomly at any time. At one point he actually reached out to Reverend Craemer, who had worked at Belle Reve while Floyd was on the Squad, for help. Because he feels his control slipping. He's starting to visualize killing everyone he sees, and that worries him. Floyd does think before he acts, and he wants to kill people only when he means to do it, not start shooting people randomly as they walk by on the street.

When Jaculi issues her warning, there's a silent panel of Floyd thinking it over, and then he kills her. He's deciding whether to take her at her word or not. When Wonder Woman tells him to take his best shot, if he doesn't wind getting his balls ripped off afterward, he thinks about it for a moment there, too, before deciding to take the shot. When he shot Waller, he put the bullet too close to the heart to remove, but not a fatal shot. Waller recognizes that's Floyd evening the score for her betrayal, but having done so, still leaving the door open to work with her again in the future (and Waller, being a professional badass herself, doesn't take it personally). If he'd wanted her dead, she'd be dead, but he just wanted a little payback, so that's what he took. The choice was his.

He doesn't care about Vertigo's soliloquy over whether it qualifies as suicide having Deadshot kill him. Probably seems stupid and naive to him. But he still waits and lets the man make his decision. Even if Floyd doesn't care whether he lives or dies, or care whether anyone else lives or dies, he still knows it's a decision you can't take back, so he lets the Count think it over. He's for hire, but he still makes the call on when or if the trigger gets pulled.

Despite his being for-hire, and despite his general indifference to his or anyone else's well-being, Deadshot will demonstrate a curious loyalty at times. Ostrander and Yale writes it as being tied up in the Lawton's ugly family history. Floyd being not exactly the black sheep, but certainly second-best compared to his brother Eddie. That Floyd feels (partially) responsible for Eddie's death, and feels it should have been him. So, at times, if there's a way to save someone else, especially if it could get him killed, Deadshot will take it.

The example I think of most often was in the initial arc of the Secret Six ongoing, when he turns on the rest of the team and takes off with the "Get Out of Hell Free" card. Even though he shoots Scandal and Jeanette, and runs over Catman with a car, he's ultimately trying to complete the mission without the rest of the group having to die. He'll do it and be killed, and that'll be fine. In Suicide Squad #50, when it turns out Rick Flag had a kid he didn't know about, and the kid's been abducted, Deadshot surprises everyone by volunteering for the rescue mission. Probably tied into Floyd failing to save his own kid, and seeing Rick as another version of Eddie, the good brother that wound up dying. And sometimes he'll bite his tongue when he doesn't feel like crushing someone's worldview for no reason (see above). For a character that claims to not care, Deadshot can be surprisingly emotional, it just isn't always clear when that's going to pop up, or how it'll manifest.

Plus, Deadshot's indifference to his own life means he'll do things that are very cool and exciting to read, that a character with his skills wouldn't necessarily do most times. Floyd doesn't have any powers, no flight or invulnerability. But when he was tasked with keeping Stalnoivolk in line on a mission, and the Steel Wolf decides to bail, Deadshot still jumps out after him and bluffs the guy into putting on the parachute. Because Stalnoivolk knows Floyd is willing to die, and certainly willing to use that laser pistol to kill him before that happens. Deadshot's not really the character you want to gamble is bluffing, given the typical stakes when dealing with him.
So all of that is interesting. He's a character that a handful of writers have each put a lot of thought into, and built something fascinating. Floyd's morality is enough of an empty book you can use him in lots of ways. Work as a lone gun against a hero, as part of a group, bad guy, bad guy being used for hopefully not-evil purposes. It all mostly comes down to him shooting people, but the details of it, that particular maze Deadshot filters decisions through is an interesting variable. Half the fun is watching other characters try to navigate it, both the ones who understand it (Waller), and the ones who don't (most other people). That moment when you realize someone has badly misjudged who they're dealing with.

Let's go through the credits! Floyd is more concerned with chafing than ghosts in Suicide Squad #66, by John Ostrander and Kim Yale (writers), Geoff Isherwood (breakdowns), Robert Campanella (finishes), Tom McCraw (colorists), Todd Klein (letterer). Batman needed more prep time do deal with that comeback in Suicide Squad #44, by Ostrander/Yale (writers), Isherwood (artist), Carl Gafford (colorist), and Klein (letterer). Jaculi would have learned to keep the threats to herself, but she's dead in Suicide Squad #18, by Ostrander (writer), Luke McDonnell (penciler), Bob Lewis (inker), Gafford (colorist), and Klein (letterer). Floyd demurs in the face of love or attraction in Secret Six #8, by Gail Simone (writer), Carlos Rodriguez (penciler), Bit (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). Floyd seizes the opportunity to teach everybody a lesson in Secret Six #1, by Simone (writer), Nicola Scott (penciler), Doug Hazelwood (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), SwandS (letterer).

Friday, December 08, 2017

What I Bought 12/6/2017 - Part 1

When the trailer for Infinity War popped up, I kind of shrugged. Figured I was over the whole thing of movies with superheroes teaming up. Been there, seen that, not letting some massive company jerk me around. But then I watched the trailer and caught myself humming the Avengers' theme four hours afterward, so there goes my jaded comics fan cred. Comics I missed from November have arrived! Let's start with the books that are regulars here.

Copperhead #16, by Jay Faerber (writer), Drew Moss (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), Thomas Mauer (letterer) - By issue's end, that is not nearly as comforting a cover image as I'd hoped.

Sheriff Bronson is captured after what looks like a hell of a struggle. Clay leaves his current lady to guard the sheriff while he tries to track down his son. While Interim Sheriff Ford tries to find Clara, difficult when he doesn't have informants, and won't trust Boo. Clara sets to telling Annabeth the story of how she wound up with custody of Zeke, mostly to try turning Annabeth against Clay. Hard telling if that's gonna work. And now the "artie" is the only one standing between Zeke and his dad.

I have not been a huge fan of Drew Moss' art, but I enjoyed the facial expressions this month. He exaggerated the faces a bit, but it works. It makes the characters a little more lively, sells the story. That Clara's a prisoner, but still working the situation to her advantage. He still struggles a little with proportions, but he seemed to find a mostly strong balance between the panels where he can really focus on more details, and the ones where he's better off going simpler.

I'm curious to see how what happened to Clara's sister played a role in Clara being like she is. It isn't too hard to see her being protective of Zeke as a desire to protect the last piece of her sister, but it doesn't explain her being so dogged as a sheriff. Especially in light of what we hear in the flashback, about how she's drifting, always looking for the excuse not to commit to any path. Even if the necessity of raising a child forced her to stick to a job, she could still halfass it easily enough, but that isn't her style. She's the type of cop who never lets go of a case. A 180 from where she was before.

Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow #2, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer, designer) - The more I get to see of Lang, the more I enjoy her direct, loud response to problems.

Robo has been doing a shitty job getting Tesladyne running. Given all these cybernetic people suddenly very publicly collapsing, which will likely cause a panic, I'd call it a suspiciously shitty job. He hadn't informed anyone that he was ignoring complaints from Richard Branson which have halted their work. Which has just about pushed Lang (and to a lesser extent Vik) to the brink. And Fischer's grasp on sanity is slipping fast.

I'm pretty sure all these cyborgs are failing because someone wants everyone pointing fingers and witchhunting. What they stand to gain, I'm not sure. Robo is tossing around ideas as to who's behind it, but I don't think he's on the right track. But he seems so distracted all the time. Maybe he just has no idea how to run any sort of company, despite having owned one for 50+ years. I could see that. Or his "death" and subsequent 110+ years spent as a deactivated head sitting in a forgotten box has altered his perspective on things.

Foley continues to serve effectively as the POV character, watching everything going to hell around her, Lang reaching a boiling point, and being confused at what is wrong with Robo.

I like the color choices Clark is making. He keeps using this kind of neon or glow-in-the-dark colors for each of the cyborgs as they break down around the world, while all the other people in the panels are colored in grey, maybe a bit of highlighting coming from the cyborg. But it conveys an otherworldly feel to them. When Foley ventures into the depths to find Robo, there's a faint pink tinting to her, a light source with no apparent source, which feeds into the uneasy sense that something's not right at Tesladyne. All the pipes and tunnels remind me of Robo's speech about "evil computers" from The Shadow from Beyond Time.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

A Stranger Even In A Strange Land

I'll probably pick up this week's issue of Gwenpool tomorrow, and review it middle of next week. In the meantime, I haven't reviewed any trades in a while, so let's look at Gwen's entry to the Marvel Universe.

Gwenpool Vol. 1 - Believe It collects the back-up stories from Howard the Duck where she first appeared, and then the first four issues of her ongoing series. At this point, Gwen is basically jumping at whatever crazy opportunity crosses her path, which eventually gets her dragged into M.O.D.O.K.'s employ. Until she defeats him, in what was equal parts self-preservation and revenge.

It feels as though Hastings was still trying to get a handle on how to play her. In the initial stories, Gwen acts almost like she's a cartoon character, leaping off tall buildings or out of helicopters with no plan on how to avoid going splat. This despite Gwen knowing she has no powers or training. Maybe she's meant to think that trying crazy stuff will make her more interesting and keep her story going. She figured getting a costume and being "someone" was the only way to survive, so maybe that's part of it.

And things do keep conspiring to work out in her favor, to the extent I wonder if Hastings is setting something up with that. Maybe her Evil Future Self has been manipulating things all along!

Danilo Beyruth and Tamra Bonvillain are the art team for the back-up stories (and a first issue prologue), while Guruhiru handle everything else from her series. Beyruth's Gwen (and style in general) is much more angular, kind of jagged. Gwen herself looks older when out of costume (maybe because Guruhiru's Gwen looks barely out of junior high), and a bit crazier when in costume.

I prefer Guruhiru's style myself, but the Beyruth/Bonvillain team works very well if the story is meant to be from Howard's point of view, where Gwen's actions have dragged him into working for and against the Black Cat, and against HYDRA. And he has to try and keep this costumed girl under control when she has no regard for anyone else's life, and possibly none for her own (or she's an idiot). It would be terrifying.

Whereas Guruhiru are illustrating the story as told from Gwen's perspective, where she's treating the whole thing like a game. It's bright and colorful, she gets money for killing people she can justify as being bad. The art and colors make me think of one of those "magical girl" animes. Has her bright costume, and hair color matches it. Has cool weapons, including a sort of familiar (her ghost friend Cecil). Since things keep ultimately working out for her, she maintains that perspective, even as other people are getting hurt and killed around her. The words of the cop who lets her go roll away like water off a duck's back.

The first arc feels a bit clunky, like Hastings is having to really work to get all the pieces in place the way he wants them, but there are still some good laughs, and he knows how to write an interesting fight (and Guruhiru especially know how to illustrate it).

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

An Irritating Variable Joins The Party!

The last time I discussed my third D&D campaign, our crew had narrowly survived fighting some wraiths in a labyrinth, and decided to take a rest, since there was no one to do any healing. We awoke 8 hours later to the sound of approaching footsteps, which belonged to a bard who introduced himself as Bart. Bart claimed to have been sent by the king who hired us, though Will and the elf were both skeptical. Still, he was allowed to come along, although his love of dumb, raunchy jokes meant we were reconsidering that almost immediately.

Much wandering in the labyrinth resulted in us finding a chest, which we were able to open, netting each of us 100 gold pieces. Ka-ching! When we came upon a door, the bard kicked it open, but we were just back at an earlier crossroads. Taug heard distant stomping, but couldn't tell where it was coming from. So we tried another hallway and found another chest. With a shadow lurking behind it. Thandril couldn't detect any magic involved and approached the chest, which was naturally alive. The bard shows what he's worth by running off to blow his nose, while Taug charges right in. Between the four of us that stuck around, the mimic didn't pose much trouble.

Continuing through the maze, we found a hidden door. All right! But whatever is behind it was the source of the loud thumping. Moving on then. Taug uses those half-orc senses and detects basilisks somewhere up ahead. Will knows enough about basilisks to know he doesn't want any part of them, so the group tries a different direction. We see a light in the distance that might be the way out, useful to know for later, although there are more wraiths between it and us. Still wandering, we find another door, but the stomping is just as loud behind it as it was behind the hidden door. Peering in, we see two trolls who seems trapped in the room, the door we're using being too small. For lack of better options, we rush in.

Will immediately scores a hit to the eye on one of the trolls, seriously wounding it. It responds by lashing out and swatting the bard, nearly killing him. Given the bard had spent the entire time we were searching goading Taug to the edge of violence, only to back down each time, we weren't exactly worried for him, but as long as he was alive, he might serve as a distraction. So Thandril summons the Celestial Dog again and lets loose with Magic Missiles. Rory had Lightning Touch in a bottle (accept no substitutes) and unleashed that against the troll as the bard picked himself up, healed a little and ran away.

Meanwhile, the other troll is after Will, so Taug charges in. The two of them are letting the troll have it from both directions, but he's holding up well under the onslaught. So Taug goes into Enrage to up the ante, and finishes that troll off. Thandril's finding himself in enough trouble to don Mage Armor, but can still take time to clap sarcastically when the cowering bard finds the birth certificate on the ground in the far corner of the room. The troll he's fighting, perhaps confused by this, turns to attack Will instead, only to run up against Taug. Everyone takes their shots, and the troll falls.

At which point the wizard marches up to Bart and takes the certificate. The bard tries to intimidate Thandril, and fails. He's still able to throw in a few snide remarks about the wizard's mama. With most of the crew having taken at least a little damage, we opted to make camp for a night.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Entertainment (2015)

There's a lot of comedians trying to be funny and failing in this. The characters are meant to be unfunny, but it didn't make it any less unpleasant to watch.

The movie follows Neil, a comedian who isn't self-destructing so much as slowly decaying. He drives his shitty car across an empty desert, telling a series of increasingly bad, senseless, vulgar jokes at increasingly smaller and crappier venues.

His travels keep presenting Neil with situations you might expect a comic to try and build into their act, but Neil never does that. Because he never engages with them. The experiences seem to have leave no impression. People speak to him, but it feels like they're merely speaking at him, because it doesn't produce any response. He's drifting through an increasingly dwindling life.

His unwillingness to engage makes it hard to engage with him or the story. He shuffles around with this look of poleaxed stupor on his face, as though none of it means anything. It's actually kind of impressive how resolutely the film sticks with it. The universe keeps trying to draw him into things, and he simply doesn't. When he does express an emotion, it's something bitter and hateful, so it's difficult to feel much for him, other than some vague pity. Mostly, I just wanted him to quit doing comedy so I wouldn't see any more scenes of him trying.

The film uses a lot of eerie, unsettling sounds for the background music. There's one, sounds like a distant air raid siren, or a train's horn, that gets a lot of use. Typically in the moments where he feels the isolation most strongly.

They did a good job making the movie they wanted, but I wouldn't recommend it. Unless seeing someone much worse off than you perks you up.

Monday, December 04, 2017

A Better Road Trip Than Last Time

I had said I wasn't going back to Chicago with Alex after the trip back in May was a complete waste of a weekend, but Alex didn't have anyone else available to go along, so I went. Plus, we were going to stay from Friday evening until midday Sunday, and we weren't going to try leaving in the middle of the night, where someone (me) ends up on a totally different sleep cycle from everyone else. And we took Alex' car this time.

I've always felt I had no knack for haggling, but maybe I drive a harder bargain than I give myself credit for.

There were the usual complications. Alex declared we would leave by 10 Friday morning. At 10, he was still sound asleep. We left at 11:30. Hit traffic near the outskirts of Chicago (what a surprise, Chicago is busy on Friday night!), finally made it around 7. A friend had a spare room and couch to use that opened up late, but we didn't know this until the night before, so by the time Alex canceled the hotel reservations I'd made a list of possible places based on proximity to the hotel. His friend was able to help us find some good record stores (for Alex), and a couple of comic stores (for me). Alex made out better than I did, but that's OK. I just like getting the chance to see if there are any bargains or things I've been after for a long time.

We opted to use Uber or the elevated trains to get around, rather than drive our own vehicles. What I learned is that heavy traffic in Chicago isn't any less stressful if you're being driven around by someone who theoretically should know where they're going. Returning to Mike's apartment from the shopping excursion was apparently harrowing enough to make me nauseous. Which meant I ended up missing Alex playing on Saturday, which was the night things were really great. He got to go deeper into his music catalog than normal, the crowd was into it, it sounded like a lot of fun. And I was stuck on Mike's couch, trying not to move my head so things wouldn't spin.

We had some good pizza Friday night and a nice brunch Saturday. Mike felt like he picked a bad ramen spot for us Saturday night, but I was just wanted him to pick something, because I was hoping eating would deal with the dizziness (it didn't). There was a lot of standing around waiting for people to either decide what to do or finish getting ready to go. Always a pet peeve of mine. Let's decide and then let's go. I could stand around doing nothing back in my apartment.

Naturally whatever I had cleared up by Sunday morning. Which is good, don't get me wrong. The prospect of facing a 6+ hour car ride with motion sickness was not exciting. It just would have been nice to skip the dizziness altogether so I could go out and have fun. 

The drive back was nice. The weather has been lovely lately and that held up through Sunday. Which is good, the drive is long enough in nice conditions; it lousy weather it would have been interminable. It took a little longer than we would have expected because Alex kept stopping at gas stations to see if they had Gardettos in the flavor his girlfriend likes, since he can't find them around town. He did find some eventually, and then we almost hit a deer. But he slowed down enough that the stupid animal made it across the road. The remainder of the drive back was uneventful. And here I am, typing this on Sunday night when I should be getting ready for work on Monday.