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.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

My Only Regret Is Not Using Lens Flare

*Black screen cuts to camera rushing over a frozen lake.*

Narrator: In a world beset-

Calvin: No man, now is when I need you to bring the bass.

Narrator: Sorry. IN A WORLD BESET BY TEDIUM -

*cut to shot of a busy sidewalk, people walking calmly*

Narrator: ONE MAN DECIDED TO MAKE THINGS SLIGHTLY MORE INTERESTING.

*INCEPTION NOISE*

Pollock: This is idiotic.

Calvin: Less of the back talk and more of the smack talk.

Pollock: *disgusted sigh* What's he's done could mildly reshape the schedule of this blog for months to come.

*back to the sidewalk, everyone running in terror, cars tearing down the street, guys leaning out shooting at pursuing cops*

Narrator: NOW, THE RACE IS ON TO STOP HIM BEFORE HE MILDLY ANNOYS SOMEBODY.

*cuts to dark room with a lot of TVs and consoles*

Clever Adolescent Panda: *trying for gravely serious, but too energetic and giddy* Get me the, snicker, *tries for deep voice* THE PRESIDENT. Of the Internet.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *obviously reading the lines off the script* Really? Butweget, so much more *pause* done when he's not *pause, squints at the tiny handwriting* around. Ha, that's so true!

Clever Adolescent Panda: *hammers console with fist, but tears the cheap green screen curtain* Oops, crap, I mean, this is no time for jokes! The fate of humanity is at stake! Random weirdos on the Internet told me so!

Calvin: Hey, no ad-libbing!

Narrator: AND JUST WHEN THEY THOUGHT THEY HAD IT FIGURED OUT, THE GAME CHANGED AGAIN.

*The sky is covered with dark clouds. One guy looks upward as he hears a sound, and we see a meteor storm descending.*

Pollock: *monotone* If we don't act soon, it may be too late.

*Cuts to Calvin in some other control room, talking into the camera*

Calvin: What you don't understand is that you are not in control of this situation. I AM!

*Sounds of a struggle, then the camera is forcibly twisted to focus on Deadpool pulling on pants with bright suspenders. Sorry, those are holsters. Holsters with bright buttons all over them?*

Deadpool: [Really? 'Cause from where I'm standing you aren't in control of jack shit! Yippie-ki-yay.]

Calvin: *hisses* Wade, get out of here! You aren't in this!

Deadpool: [Pfft, my trailers are better anyway.]

Narrator: THIS DECEMBER, WHEN YOU CAN'T COUNT ON TELEVISION, COUNT ON SOME GUY WITH TOO MUCH FREE TIME AND A SCANNER.

*series of rapid cuts to shots of each character running frantically through tunnels, city streets, crowded malls, a fancy dress ball, stuff like that*

Calvin: Get the picture? *grins. INCEPTION NOISE*

Clever Adolescent Panda: Boooooooo.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Booooooo.

Pollock: I might hire Deadpool to kill you right now for that line. It doesn't make any sense! You failed to establish what's actually going on!

Calvin: Piffle. Audiences today don't need to know what's going on, only that something is going on.

*Deadpool runs up and punches Calvin. INCEPTION NOISE*

Calvin: What was that for?

Deadpool: [That's not important, only that it happened.]

Calvin: Touche.

*******

Well, we had a lot of fun here tonight with fake movie previews. *looks over at the others, who all shake their heads grimly* OK, I had fun tonight with a fake movie preview. They're stuck in a studio system that prohibits them from working other productions. Hopefully it was moderately amusing. I figured the announcement of what's going to succeed the episode rundowns on Sundays needed a little boost.

I'm actually going with two different series of posts for the immediate future. The first series is the long-promised Alternate Favorite Marvel and DC Characters. Those will go in the same format as the original ones did, although not in any numerical order. Just whichever character I feel like writing about that weekend.

But, as those posts required a lot of effort, and I find myself short on that some weeks, there has to be a fallback. When Siskoid was running the Daily Splash Page blog, he went through (I think) every series DC had published up to then. I'm not going to try and do the same with Marvel, that'd be crazy at the rate they pump out series these days. What I am going to do is go through every series, or mini-series, and possibly one-shots, I own. Depending on the number of issues I have for a series, it may get multiple posts (GrimJack, for example, will probably get three posts).

There you have it.

Friday, December 01, 2017

What I Bought 11/29/2017

I went to the store hoping to find at least one of the two books that came out this week I was interested in, or one of the two from last week I wanted. I found none of those, but I did come up with a book from three weeks ago I'd wanted to try.

Master of Kung Fu #126, by CM Punk (writer), Dalibor Talijac (artist), Erick Arciniega (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I like that cover much better than the Mayhew one I saw in the solicits. Javier Rodriguez brings the goods.

Shang Chi's hanging out in Brooklyn, and he has a monkey. A monkey wanted by some ninjas, who capture both of them. The ninjas work for a Dr. Prasis, who is trying to teach animals kung fu. Having failed at that, he's going to try transplanting Shang Chi's brain into an octopus to achieve basically the same effect. That doesn't go very well for the doctor.

Not having any past experience with Punk's writing, this was a little different than I was expecting. It's played a bit silly, as the ninja henchmen are goofs, and Dr. Prasis got fired by the Hand, of all things. But I'm mostly used to Shang Chi having a lot of internal monologue, seeming unfamiliar with whatever he's encountering. This Shang Chi is more relaxed, comfortable. He's not bemoaning having to resort to violence, maybe because this is a mission he chose.

Talijac is inking himself this time, which results in a thicker line, and a less crisp look than in the Secret Wars Master of Kung Fu mini-series he drew with Goran Sudzuka. The musculature has a bit of a rough, sketched look to them. Which isn't bad, just a different look. The fight scenes are still good, and there's one panel where he gives Shang and the monkey similar irritated expressions that was amusing. Although every time I look at Dr. Prasis I kept having a bit of deja vu, and I just realized it's because he reminds me of Dr. McNinja.

Arcinega's colors are a little muted. Not enough to really muddy things up, but enough I didn't feel like the switch to the two-page flashback was as obvious as it was meant to be. Because the sepia tone wash over everything didn't produce that much of a difference.

As a stand alone story, I think this works a lot better than the Power Pack one did. Whether it would work better as an enticement to get fans to demand a revived Master of Kung Fu, I don't know. Shang, living in NYC with his monkey that knows some kung fu, helping people and animals that slip through the cracks. Given the wide variety of people living in and under NYC in the Marvel U., there's a lot of possibilities there.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Mountain Road

A small American demolition crew is tasked to withdraw along a mountain road in China, and if they can, slow the advancing Japanese Army. Major Baldwin is in his first field command, and he's determined that they will slow the Japanese. He's also pressed into escorting the wife (Lisa Lu) of a deceased Chinese general to safety.

Baldwin says near the end that he let the power he was given, the power of command, go to his head. Which doesn't seem accurate. There's some grumbling from his men about bothering with the delaying actions, but it never turns into a Mutiny on the Bounty situation.

What does seem to be the issue is that Baldwin does not understand China, which doesn't stop him from judging it. He mentions to Madame Hung at one point that he doesn't understand the brutality in China. I was left thinking about how, when the road was blocked by an old man whose truck full of cotton had broken down, Baldwin told the man they'd push his truck up the hill, and then pushed it into the ravine instead. Or the people who were blocked from escaping when Baldwin and his men blew a bridge, or dropped a bluff in the road. His men got a good laugh at all those angry peasants.

But when someone bushwhacks some of his men and kills them, then it's time for revenge. I guess you could argue that Baldwin deciding he needs to take time for this (and blows up an innocent village in the process), instead of finishing his withdrawal, is him letting the power of command go to his head. His men didn't need much convincing, though. But it still feels like it comes down to Baldwin not understanding the country he's in, or what the people there are dealing with. The majority of the people are desperate, and some of them resort to violence. But Baldwin just lumps them all together as some faceless mass that should be grateful he's working to "save" them, when he isn't really doing that at all.

The movie goes in a couple of directions I didn't expect, avoids a few things I expected it to do. They start to tease a romance between Baldwin and Madame Hung, but his actions and contempt for the Chinese actually cause problems and wreck it before it gets off the ground. Which makes perfect sense to me, but there are a lot of movies where guys do incredibly shitty stuff, and women are written to basically shrug it off.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sketchtober Update - Yes, This Is The Last One

Like I said last time, the XBox 360 was the point where I started to get worn out.  It's probably reflected in the drawings. If the PS2 drawings went the best of any console, the 360's were. . . less successful.

Day 31, The Saboteur. This part of the drawing - Sean calmly lighting a cigarette - went very well. There was supposed to be this whole chaotic tableau behind him, or overturned Nazi trucks and watchtowers, stuff burning, dead Nazis. The aftermath of Sean's efforts. But I didn't seem to have the energy to make it turn out well, so eventually I just erased it all and this is what we're left with.

In a re-do, I'd probably have the explosions be happening in the background, and have Sean closer than he should be so I didn't have to draw as much stuff. A few shockwaves, some smoke and flame, part of a truck rising in the air, a section of Nazi being consumed by the explosion. Gotta learn to work smarter.

Day 32, Dishonored. Pretty straightforward idea: Show Corvo using the Blink technique to repeatedly advance towards the viewer, starting from the top of the water tower. Unfortunately, that meant drawing a lot of buildings, and incorporating proper perspective. Not my forte, as you can see in some of the windows. I'm wondering if I should have drawn something to show the little flashes are meant to be connected, Corvo zipping from one spot to the next. I thought that would clutter things up, but as it is, I'm not sure it's clear what I was going for.

Ambition outstripping skill again. Or I just needed more time to plan it out, redesign it. I think it's a cool idea, just didn't carry it off.

Day 33, Tales of Vesperia. I really struggled to come up with an idea for this one, but I remembered Zagi, who encounters Yuri early in the game and becomes obsessed with killing him, to Yuri's annoyance.

I wanted to try and open things up more in my facial expressions. My style as a whole is, "fussy" is the word that comes to mind. A lot of small, light lines, which I think works OK for quiet emotions, peaceful looks, but is lacking when you want someone to be enraged or look kind of crazy. If I could draw in a style similar to Skottie Young's I'd be friggin' ecstatic. But normally when I try to do that, I think it makes the faces look weird. So I tried to go against that with Zagi, at least. I think he certainly looks nuts, if maybe not crazy angry, necessarily. Still, I'm a little encouraged.

Day 35, Alice: Madness Returns. Singularity was Day 34, total disaster, so it gets skipped. Alice has a Dodge move, where she turns into a cloud of butterflies. Like Blink with Dishonored, it's probably my favorite thing in this game. So having her Dodge an attack an move to a position of advantage seemed a natural idea.

Probably should have drawn some scenery, a floor at least, but my energy was pretty low by this point. I was ready to just be done. Trying to get the pommel of her weapon right for that angle took several tries, but yeah, I'm pretty satisfied.

Lack of energy was the biggest issue this last set. Even when I had a good idea, I didn't feel I was bringing my best effort to it. Like, crap, I don't want to draw all these buildings/wreckage/dead Nazis. Anyway, that's that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Harvey

A screwball comedy where Elwood (Jimmy Stewart) has an invisible fairy friend named Harvey, that he says is a 6-foot tall white rabbit. His sister and niece are trying to have him committed since his behavior unnerves all the high-society folks they're trying to schmooze. The initial attempt backfires, and the rest of the film is everyone trying to track Stewart down and get him back in the sanitarium.

I expected the movie was going to play coy about whether Harvey was real or not, but that's not the case. It maybe explains how someone who is as pleasant and friendly as Elwood can seem so oblivious to the discomfort he causes in other people. Although that would raise the question of how responsible Elwood is for their discomfort. He isn't doing it deliberately, he's trying to be friendly, but for a lot of people it doesn't work that way.

Stewart plays the calm center as everyone else runs around frantically. Much of the time he ambles into or out of a scene of chaos like he's doing a guest spot from some other movie. He'll stand around for a while, chat pleasantly, be as helpful as can be. Then, he just walks away while everyone gets distracted by sexual tension between Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Kelly, or Elwood's sister freaking out at the sight of Mr. Wilson, the sanitarium attendant.

There isn't a character I'd describe as consistently funny, but there are a few laughs, and other parts that made me smile.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Not Much To Love In February

There wasn't much new in the solicits for February I was interested it. Unless I try that Mata Hari mini-series from Dark Horse. Not my usual fare when it comes to comics, but it might be worth a try.

The Empowered comic drawn by Carla Speed McNeil will be in a skip month, as is Copperhead. Atomic Robo: Spectre of Tomorrow is wrapping up, and promises Robo teaming up with his oldest foe. Is that Helsingard, or the ghost of Thomas Edison? Or Doctor Dinosaur, who of course time traveled here from over 65 million years ago and was definitely not created in a lab by someone who got too excited by Jurassic Park.

DC is still doing Doomsday Clock, and this Metal thing. Hard pass. There's a bunch of crossover one-shots between DC titles and the books from the Young Animal line, including a Cave Carson/Swamp Thing crossover I might buy. Michael Avon Oeming isn't drawing it, so I don't know. There's a Mera mini-series, which isn't for me, but I know there are some folks who have been enjoying her in Aquaman recently, so hopefully they'll like this.

DC's also releasing collections of Planetary, maybe I should check those out. Warren Ellis is pretty hit or miss for me, though, and I don't know if the villain being Evil Fantastic Four is something I'm up for.

Over at Marvel, Squirrel Girl is still trying to get into space, or maybe she's made it. Gwenpool might be nearing the end of the line. Ms. Marvel the character is still MIA, and Deadpool is still trying to kill a bunch of people before someone croaks him. All this fuss because he killed Phil Coulson (although I still think Coulson isn't actually dead). Movie Loki killed Phil Coulson and Thor seems to have gotten over that. They not only brought Jean Grey back, they immediately gave her a team book and put her in charge of it. I'm curious where Marvel is getting this conviction there was a groundswell of support for having multiple Jean Greys running around. Although with multiple Hawkeyes, Spider-folk, Wolverines, Hulks, I guess they might as well.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

God, the Devil, and Bob 1.13 - Bob Gets Involved

Plot: Bob comes home to Donna rehearsing for Arsenic and Old Lace, and finds Andy's lnchbox in the trash with a profanity written across. Bob is outraged, and decides to take action against this appalling behavior. But yelling at the school (literally, he stands in the parking lot and shouts at an empty building) after hours accomplishes nothing. God's suggestion to look within whistles in and out. The Devil gets Bob to call into a radio show he's hosting, as a way to unite Bob with other like-minded imbeciles.

The group's initial attempt to keep rap music away from children runs up against the fact CDs are expensive (oh, that dates this episode). But here's the Devil again, presenting himself as a classy evil, willing to donate a check for 50 grand. Bob spends it on night vision goggles, and then his group set their sights on Donna's play. Which forces the actors to try and stage the play secretly, only for the Devil to tip off Bob's group. And just when the theater seems ready to erupt in violence, Kevin Bacon arrives to defuse the situation with dancing.

None of which solves the problem of the word scrawled on Andy's lunchbox, now also painted in big letters on the backyard fence.

Quote of the Episode: Smeck - 'What if Bob restores order and morality to Detroit?'

Smeck Smacks: 5 (32 overall).

Other: The arrival of Kevin Bacon (and subsequent quick departure) is random, but I at least enjoyed the secret of why he would continually show up to ruin the Devil's plans.

Also, Bob tries to intimidate God in the men's room at the bar to learn who wrote on Andy's lunchbox. Which takes a certain amount of chutzpah, considering God's track record towards people who defy him. Along those same lines, Bob trying to justify his taking that check from the Devil. Calling God an idealist, while describing himself as a realist, a consensus builder.

God did use the airbag to punch him, though. A week after he used a table to do the same thing. He's real fond of that plausible deniability stuff.

Although Bob was surprisingly serious about this, in his clumsy, misguided way. Even when Donna told him he was no longer invited to the cast party, and they got a keg. I thought for sure missing out on beer would get him to reconsider, but no. A man's quest to protect his son from anyone's swearing other than his own supersedes alcoholism.

Bob's pal Barry wants the schools to stop educating kids so they can't take his and Bob's jobs. Instead, the kids will do all the crappy work, and then they can stop the immigrants. Sounds like Barry's got a future in the Republican Party.

Not a strong episode to end on, but there you have it. When I started this rewatch, it had been long enough since I'd watched the show that I figured I'd enjoy one or two episodes - "The Devil's Birthday" most likely - and the rest would be a disaster. But it turned out to be more enjoyable than that. The subplots are weak, often with no resolution or one that's tossed in at some point. They come off as strictly filler, which suggests the A plot is too weak to carry the episode. But there are almost always a few decent gags or lines in each episode, so that's not too bad.

After 5+ years and 7 different shows, I'm going to take a break from the episode rundowns. Come back next Sunday to learn what's going to be taking over!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Food And Awkward Conversation For Everyone

Narrator: ALL THE CHARACTERS HAVE GATHERED AT CALVIN'S MOTHER'S HOUSE FOR THE BLOG THANKSGIVING!

Calvin: C'mon man. None of that, OK? This is a relaxed, subdued atmosphere.

Pollock: Since when?

Calvin: Quiet you.

Narrator: Sorry. Calvin and the others have gathered around the table to eat, drink, and probably threaten each other.

Clever Adolescent Panda: Thank you. And thanks to Pollock for this wonderful ham.

Pollock: Why thank you, it's grown in a lab from proteins convinced to behave like the flesh of a pig.

CAP: *pushes plate away* That description made it much less appetizing.

Deadpool: [Ham on Thanksgiving is blasphemy.] *takes the ham off the panda's plate*

Calvin: Damn right.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: But those pizza rolls you guys are scarfing down are fine.

Calvin: Of course. Pizza rolls belong to no holiday.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *mock apologetic* Oh, of course. I'm sorry for doubting you.

Calvin: In the spirit of the season, I. . . am too stuffed to take offense. Did you have nay trouble finding a parking space?

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *nervously* No, not really.

CAP: Were you able to park in the space properly?

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Mostly.

Calvin: We know you smashed one of the garage doors.

CAP: *looks up from a bowl of soup* It was hard to miss.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Sorry.

Calvin: *shrugs* My mom's moving in a month, what does she care?

Deadpool: [Also, it made a good place to store my weapons.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: What do you mean? *looks out the window at the driveway* Wade, what the hell? He stabbed his swords into the body of my car!

*Everyone looks at Deadpool*

Deadpool: [In my defense, I thought it was a piece of lawn art at the time.]

Pollock: I'm glad I arranged to be picked up later. I can't afford any more expenses on the travel budget. Also I can drink more. *pours wine into a Big Gulp cup*

Deadpool: [Can I get a ride with you? Ooper doesn't exist this far out in the sticks.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Hey, I'm the one who's going to need a ride here!

Deadpool: [I have more booze! Good stuff, not the cheap vodka mixed with anti-freeze I shared with these guys.]

CAP: You notice none of us were drinking it, right?

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: It's in an old bottle of detergent you painted red and black.

Deadpool: [And drew three X's on it! Gives it that old timey charm we moonshiners know our customers crave!]

Calvin: I figured it was some kind of lewd joke.

CAP: Yeah, me too.

Pollock: I take it as a given anything Deadpool does doubles as a lewd joke.

Deadpool: [I never joke about Sweet Lady Alcohol.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Gimme that quality booze!

Deadpool: *clutches bottle* [No way! This is what keeps me warm now that I'm all alone and hated!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: You stabbed my car, gimme the bottle!

Deadpool: [You ran me over back in the spring!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: That was just a drawing Calvin did! It didn't actually happen!

Calvin: I dunno, continuity on this blog is a tricky thing. There are all kinds of things I'm counting or planning you guys haven't seen.

CAP: Really?

Pollock: Oh, wonderful. More disasters lurking in my future.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: . . . No one made you help HYDRA!

Deadpool: [They had some good ideas until all the killing and fear!]

Calvin: No politics at the Blogsgiving table!

CAP: *exasperated* Wade, just share the damn booze!

Calvin: We'll give you an entire pie, and this bag of corn chips if you give her the alcohol.

Pollock: *sighs* I'll even throw in this pineapple pudding to expedite matters.

Calvin: Pineapple pudding? What the hell?

Deadpool: [OK, fine! Take away the last thing in this world I have!] *hands over booze*

CAP: Aw Wade. It isn't the last thing.

Calvin: Sure, you still have friends here. We understand you didn't mean to help HYDRA.

Deadpool: [Really?]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *finishes big swig* Sure! It was still stupid, though. *passes out*

CAP: She's right. Also, a lightweight.

Pollock: Absolutely, on both counts.

Calvin: But you should still hurry up and kill Cable. Then everyone will love you again.

CAP: Calvin, don't encourage him to commit murders! Not even of Cable!

Deadpool: [No, no, he's right. I'll have to get back to work soon. But first. . .] *grabs the bottle back*

Pollock: Where is the silent, sullen girl?

Calvin: I couldn't get ahold of Cassanee.

CAP: I hope nothing is wrong.

Pollock: *swirls wine, side-eyes Calvin with a raised eyebrow* Is this one of those developments you aren't sharing?

Calvin: Maybe. Or it might be one of those development I don't know anything about.

Pollock: How would that work?

Calvin: I only know some of what Actual Calvin knows, but I don't know what I don't know.

Deadpool: [It's like the disconnect between Mark Millar's hand and his brain.]

Calvin: There you go, spreading that rumor about Mark Millar having a brain. Hey! What are people thankful for?

Pollock: *leaps to feet, shouts triumphantly* I have my company back! And we sustained a record-low number of work days lost to random assaults from pandas or idiots in spandex!

CAP: I'm thankful for food, and my friends. And I'm graduating!

Calvin: I don't have to come up with another name for you now, do I?

CAP: Please don't. You're terrible at names.

Calvin: Heyyyy. . . yeah, you're right.

Deadpool: [BOOZE!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *snores*

Calvin: Hmm, well nothing particularly bad happened to me this year. That's pretty swell.

CAP: That's pretty lame. Give thanks for something actually good!

Calvin: *shrugs* Work has been OK?

CAP: *shakes head*

Calvin: Oh, like food and friends are so original.

CAP: Hey, I included my graduation from junior high!

Calvin: Junior high graduation? That doesn't count.

Pollock: He's right, that barely qualifies as an event.

Deadpool: [Don't let them get you down. I remember my junior high graduation. It was a wonderful scene.]

CAP: Really?

Deadpool: [Maybe? Or I'm remembering being escorted away from someone else's junior high graduation.]

CAP: *flatly* Thanks, Wade.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *drowsily* So who is giving me a ride home?

Deadpool: [I only stabbed the body of the car. It probably still runs.]

Pollock: I believe she was referring to her intoxication.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *jabs finger at Pollock* Bingo.

Deadpool: [You need a driver for your car, I need a car.]

Calvin: If only there was a solution.

Deadpool: [I've got it! I'll take your car, and you can get a cab when you sleep it off!]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Booooooo.

CAP: Try again, Wade.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Friendly Persuasion

Gary Cooper plays the patriarch of a Quaker family during the Civil War. So the question is raised about whether the Quakers will fight for the Union, or even to defend their own homes and farms in the Confederate Army makes it to them. Cooper doesn't believe he'll fight, his son Josh (played by Anthony Perkins), isn't so sure whether he should fight or not.

All of that is interesting ground, but the film spends most of the time on other, more lighthearted subplots. Cooper has an ongoing competition with his neighbor Sam, where they race to reach their respective churches each Sunday. His youngest son is terrorized by the family goose. His daughter Mattie has a burgeoning relationship with Sam's son Gard, who is an officer in the Union Army (his being a soldier isn't the issue, just the issue of whether those two are observing the proprieties at all times). And there's some tug-of-war between Cooper and his wife Eliza (Dorothy McGuire), though it's mostly good-natured.

If Gard didn't occasionally return from the front with updates, you'd forget the Civil War was supposed to be happening at all. Which is nice for illustrating how abruptly war can disrupt the lives of people who want nothing to do with it. But it means that when the choice of whether to fight or not is upon them, it's almost a surprise. "Oh yeah, that was a thing the movie was going to deal with eventually."

That said, the film does present a wide range of responses to the question of when. Fight, run, stick to their farm, but don't resist. It's fairly even-handed. The only one the film judges harshly is the elder who loudly proclaimed in church he would never resort to violence, and changes his tune mighty quick once his farm gets burned and expects everyone else to fall in line with him. For the others, things may not always work out well, but their decisions are respected.

I still think there's a tonal clash between the two sides of the film, but I think the movie does both sides well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

An Old Man's Heart Has Something Left To Give

I should have figured this out an issue earlier, but the solution to Deadpool needing to kill Cable finally occurred to me. It's the Older Man Cable, the one waiting by the phone in case his younger self calls. He's at the end of his run, and if Wade kills him, then he has killed Cable, right? It gives him a heart to present to Stryfe, so maybe Stryfe will drop his guard long enough for the current version of Cable to get the drop on him.

As an aside, I think Stryfe made a mistake choosing Cable as the first target. Give Wade the other targets first, leave his husband until the end as a kicker. Given Wade's mental state right now, Styfe probably could have gotten him to kill people he didn't know without too much trouble. After all, Wade didn't object to the idea of killing people, but the idea of killing Cable, specifically.

That assumes Stryfe ever had more than one person he wanted Wade to kill. He might have said he had four because if he said one, Wade immediately assumes it's Cable and get his hackles up. Or he just thought that whole, "I gave you four lives, so you take four for me," was too good to pass up. I'm not sure where a clone of the son of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey got such a dramatic streak.

I do want to see Deadpool meet the older Cable. I'm curious how an older, more mellow Cable would regard his and Wade's relationship looking back over its entirety. If he has regrets for how he handled things (he should). If he hates Wade, pities him, misses him.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) works in the Shipping department of a company that makes bathroom fixtures. He's eager, friendly, awkward, and has a crush on Fiona (Gemma Arterton) in Accounting. Jerry also hears voices coming from his cat, Mr. Whiskers, and his dog, Bosco. Because Jerry isn't taking his court-ordered meds. And then Jerry kills Fiona (accidentally?), and things go downhill rapidly.

The Voices is directed by Marjane Satrapi, who wrote Persepolis (and directed the film based on it). Netflix described it as a "dark comedy". I didn't laugh a lot, but I can see it, the arguments with the pets, the wide difference between how Jerry perceives his home life and how everyone else would see it (including Jerry in the brief intervals where he actually takes his pills).

In Tucker and Dale versus Evil, the movie takes all those cliches you see in horror movies about murderous rednecks, and offers these explanations that show in this case it's just misunderstandings. That guy was going to use his favorite ax as a topic of conversation, but he has social anxiety so he just stood there breathing heavy. The Voices does this in reverse, where most of the film is from Jerry's unmedicated perspective, and things seem mostly under control. When he takes his medications, or his coworker Lisa (Anna Kendrick) comes to visit, suddenly you see the apartment is a disaster. Jerry hasn't cleaned up the mess from disposing of the body. The lighting in the apartment is sickly and pale, like the air is so thick with stench and decay it absorbs light. The movie shifts to a horror film look.

Reynolds takes that goofball charm he has most of the time, and dials up the awkwardness of it, so that he appears as someone who just doesn't grasp how to interact with people. In theory, maybe he knows how it works, but the nuances elude him. Of course, then I feel bad for Jerry, but he's killing people, and should I feel bad for him, and on and on. Fiona, Lisa, and Allison (Ella Smith), a trio of friends in Accounting, don't get a ton of screen time, but they form a fairly believable group of work friends. Lisa likes Jerry, the other two are trying to be supportive friends who think Jerry is mostly OK, but aren't quite sure what to make of some of the things he says. You can see them running the math in their heads on whether this guy is safe or not.

The very end was bizarre, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I'd probably just leave it at the point the pets say their good-byes.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sketchtober Recap - Still Working Through These

Not really an update at this point, since the project was finished a couple weeks ago. Of all the consoles, the Playstation 2's selections went the best overall. All the pictures went well. Combined with the last three days of the XBox selections, it was a good stretch there. Which is funny since about halfway through the PS2 was when I realized I had a week to go still and got briefly demoralized (which may have shown up more in the XBox 360 pictures).

Day 26 was Persona 3, which I'd classify as successful, but kind of basic. Day 27 was Ico, where I am really grateful that most of the enemies are creatures made of shadows. Only having to draw in outlines can be a real time-saver. You don't normally have to protect Yorda while she opens sealed doors, but I wanted her to get to do something in the picture, so that was pretty much the option. Also tried to draw her using the Ditko fingers as part of it, for the hell of it.

Day 28, DragonBall Z Budokai 3. You're goddamn right I drew Krillin standing on a mountain of KO'd jackasses. Having a chance to make those fights go the way I want them to is a big part of the fun of these licensed fighting games. Yes, that's Recoome's big, ugly butt in the middle of the picture. They probably aren't arranged properly to make a good pile, unless you assume there are other characters in the back somewhere. So you should absolutely do that. I guess I should have drawn Cell's entire body instead of just his head, but I was getting tired by that point. And Cell can suck eggs, anyway.

The idea for the picture came from a full-page splash Pete Woods did in Robin #85, Tim standing triumphantly atop all the villains he's overcome. Obviously there have been lots of versions of that idea, but that's the one I specifically had in mind. I'll post that scan one of these days, because I really enjoy it (and it's kind of cool considering the Joker is telling the story).

Day 29, Sky Odyssey. I picked the most frustrating part of the game to draw. The level where your engine catches on fire right as you emerge from a cave and you have to land on the river below and then float your plane to a dock. Died so many times on that level. But the engine bursting into flames just as the river flowing out of the cave drops off a waterfall makes for a heck of an image. And it's the part that sticks out most in my mind, other than giving the planes garish color schemes and designing symbols for them, which don't translate well.

Day 30, God Hand. I wanted to try drawing a character throwing a ton of punches, super-fast. The after-image thing you see in Flash or Spider-Man comics, or a lot of shonen manga. Simple as that. And Tiger Joe has a fairly look to use as a villain, although he should be taller here. His leg is raised because he was about to unleash one of his irritating flurries of kicks, but Gene caught him with a barrage of punches first. Not because he needed a pee break, although you couldn't rule out something like that in this game.

If I did it over, my goal would be "more". More fists, more impacts. Fill the space between them with arms and fists, cover Tiger Joe with impacts. The increase on arms and fists to draw would be offset by less of Tiger Joe to draw, so it's like getting more for nothing!

One last quintet left to cover, and then we're done with this exercise in humiliation. Unless I decide to do it again next year!