Friday, March 31, 2017

What I Bought 3/25/2017 - Part 2

More comics. In both these books, things aren't looking too great for the heroes by the end of the issue. Oh well, it's only a middle chapter, there are still opportunities to turn things around.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #18, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Everyone is always hunting Squirrel Girl and trying to put her on the wall. Kraven, that crazy cosplayer lady, now Melissa.

Doreen is really enjoying her flying suit, even offering to get ones for Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk. Nancy on the other hand is not convinced of Melissa's benevolence and quickly sniffs out that she is a one of those villains who conquers the world because she thinks she can save it, or rule it properly. And she uses the super-cheap electronic tags her company produces to control all sorts of animals, giving her an army of them.

One problem I had with this is, when Melissa's threatening to sic the rats on the squirrels, she's still standing right there in front of a super-strong person. Doreen, just jump forward and punch her in the face really fucking hard. I know this is not how problems are typically solved in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but some people are asses and need to get punched. I don't think Melissa is the sort of character who will be OK if her plan proceeds without her. Maybe we'll learn different in the next issue, but my interpretation is her ideology boils down to thinking she's better than everyone else and that's why she should be boss. Folks like that are not prepared to risk dying for the cause, because how are they gonna benefit if they're dead? So punch her hard enough to make her worried about that possibility.

Not really the right attitude to have for reading this particular comic, I know. Should have saved that for the book below. I wonder if Alfredo the Chicken and Chef Bear will make a surprise return at the end of this story to help Doreen? I just know Chef Bear is good on the inside.

Henderson draws Melissa more from a middle distance and at eye level up to the point where Nancy sees through her lies and Doreen takes them out the window. After that Melissa is drawn either from a lower angle, so we're looking up at her, or she's drawn looking downward, even if not necessarily at the reader. And she's much closer to us, dominating the panels she's in. If she and Doreen share a panel, Melissa is always positioned as dominant, looking down, Doreen looking up. It's good, solid work. Also, I still really like the Flying Squirrel Suit design. Pity its creator was evil.

Renzi used a lot of purple in the backgrounds this issue. The sky is purple, a lot of the windows seem to be purplish, and he uses it for the background in a lot of the close-up panels once they're outside. I think it gets darker over the course of the issue as well. Makes sense with the situation getting worse, plus it's getting later into the night, so it's also appropriate from that perspective.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #6, by Jon Rivera and Gerard Way (writers), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (color artist), Clem Robins (letterer) - All right, which one of you darn kids broke my window? I bet it was the guy in the mask. Who do you think you are, that one kid from the Mighty Ducks movies?

Cave and the others are too late to stop the release of the Whisperer, which merges with the elder head of EDX. Cave's attempt to kill the creature by ramming the Mole into its face comes up short, as they are confronted with a giant floaty brain. At which point Cave's cybernetic eye leaps out of his head and skitters away.

All this freaking out over one giant, floating brain. Where's the Star Fox team when you need them? They'd take this guy out and make it home for breakfast.

Cave, Wild Dog, and Chloe also drank the psychedelic night pudding to protect their minds from the Whisperer, which gives Filardi a chance to have some fun with the colors. The neon green he uses for the lighting inside the Mole, or the rainbows erupting from the guys Chloe shot. The red lines radiating out from Mad Dog's head, him as a source of violence, bringing death like the Sun brings light. I notice the current boss of EDX, son of the man now merged with a giant brain, was holding a bowl of something that also looked like night pudding. Is he also trying to keep his head clear. He certainly didn't look very happy for a man proclaiming victory, although he was pretty excited about the giant, floating brain. The sequence where Cave's eye deserts him is drawn as three panels that form a wide-eyed grinning face. Hard to make a guy's eye jumping bloodily out of the socket more disturbing, but that managed it. Nice work, Mr. Oeming.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

X-Men Movie That Feels Like '90s X-Men Comic Oof

Thanks to the combination of my going to visit Alex, and his not waking up when he said he would, I got to see X-Men: Apocalypse. I'll get Alex back for that someday, though I'll also accept cash.

I didn't see the entire movie. He did finally get up and we left to run around town a bit right about the time Xavier's big play telepathic attack on Apocalypse was getting squashed resoundingly. Nice hustle there Chuck. Glad to see you've worked on honing your skills over the years. McAvoy Charles Xavier is the laziest motherfucker ever, not to mention a creep for telepathically spying on a lady, especially since he'd mindwiped her in the past. Every time he runs up against another telepath or something, unless he's got some help in the physical realm, he gets his butt handed to him. Emma Frost was more than a match for him when it was just the two of them matching their skills, and now Apoclaypse smoked him.

Of all the X-Men movies, it's the one that most felt like what I would think of when you say "X-Men comic", for good or ill. Some of the costume styles, the Mansion getting destroyed, and the X-Men in this case being a ragtag collection of whatever mutants happened to be available at the moment. Plus the presence of Apocalypse. Not that Apocalypse had much presence. I'm not sure if it was the actor or the film gave him nothing to work with, but he was much too softspoken. Leave rubbing your hands and speaking in a breathy, creepy whisper for Mr. Sinister. Apocalypse needs to be LOUD, like Thor, talking shit and pronouncing doom, but no. I guess the idea was he was trying to convince his Horsemen he was a kindly, benevolent ruler, but at a certain point when he's vowing to destroy the world, that facade kind of falls away, yes? Dispense with the bullshit.

Magneto retiring to life as a family man was kind of touching, even once you realize they've introduced his family just to kill them. But the part where he tries to surrender himself rang true, but I was a fan of his turn at being a good guy in the '80s, trying to resist the urge to handle things the way he did in the past.

I did like how the film presented Quicksilver's super-speed, although the way it was kind of presented as a joke, oh he made sure to grab all the pizza in the middle of the explosion, felt at odds with the rest of the film, which is making such a big deal about the world being in imminent danger.

When the kids are leaving the theater and discussing the original Star wars films, and Jean ends with everyone knows the third one is the worst, I assume that was a jab at X-Men: The Last Stand? I've still never watched it, but recall Len telling me it was a good X-Force movie, but not much of an X-Men movie. But X-Men: Apocalypse is also the third film in this reboot, flashback, whatever run. First Class, Days of Future Past, Apocalypse. So was the film making fun of itself?

The Wolverine cameo was unnecessary, and that was one of my problems with the film, was it felt as though they were trying to cram in too many things. They have to do Apocalypse, and explain all this stuff about his body-swapping and power absorbing. Add in Magneto and his family drama, plus collecting the Horsemen, which involves introducing them at least a little. Have to introduce Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler, Pietro. Here's a whole thing where the school blows up, which felt unnecessary, and now the government is getting involved.

I think the idea was that the governments of the world aren't sending out giant purple robots to kill mutants, but that doesn't mean they aren't waiting to see if they need to do that, and things are still pretty lousy for mutants in general. Having a small handful of mutants casually remove the worlds' entire nuclear arsenal and being to destabilize the planet itself will probably produce a response that will not be good for the vast majority of entirely innocent mutants. But perhaps have that running as an undercurrent, rather than derailing the story for a visit to Colonel Stryker's Weapon X Laboratory and Fun-Time Interrogation Palace, just so Hugh Jackman can pop up for five minutes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What I Bought 3/25/2017 - Part 1

I ventured to Columbia Saturday and was able to find most of the books from this month I'd missed. There was one I couldn't track down, but I should have it by next week. For now, let's start with the two comics that are about to be canceled. Time to wrap everything up!

Great Lakes Avengers #6, by Zac Gorman (writer), Will Robson (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Homage to that Excalibur cover with the apologetic janitor?

Doorman is trying to carry out his duties for Oblivion, but the ghost of Greg Garlick is really taking advantage of his good will to remain on this plane. Elsewhere, Bertha has some trouble dealing with Dr. Nod, who has taken way too many of his pills based on her powers. And a couple of, I don't know if they're hipsters, but they seem like jackasses, try to buy the GLA's RV. Then the team assembles to fight Dr. Nod.

The parts about Doorman trying to do his job, but not even being sure how old he is any longer was probably my favorite part. That whole thread about how much being a servant of the manifestation of some cosmic force can mess with your sense of perspective is just very interesting to me. The rest, not so much. I'm curious about Gorman's attempts to have the team interact with the local community in their own peculiar way. That felt like it was building to something, but not much chance of a successful resolution there, I imagine.

I really can't think of much else to say. The ghost of Greg reminded me of the Violator from Spawn, when he was in his creepy clown form. When Dr. Nod clocks Bertha and leaves, I think she's meant to be losing consciousness, but initially read it as her not bothering to try. A "why bother?" 

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #16, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Somehow I can't imagine Jessica Jones being much fun at a pajama party.

Patsy's magical sneezes are getting worse, but Hedy is dating Belial as a result of Hellstrom trying to get some payback for being suckered, and the two of them actually attempt to help Patsy. By Belial giving her a quiet place she can talk about all the stuff she's bottling up, because the stress is wearing her down and mixing dangerously with her own magical abilities and all the other magic shit she's been mixed up in so far.

Gotta love Hedy trying to dodge responsibility for sending Daimon after Patsy. Oh, you told Son of Satan his ex was out to get him and you're surprised when invokes Hell as a pre-emptive strike? Also, I know this is something likely beyond Leth's control, but Jennifer Walters is out of her coma. She's not checking in with any of her friends, letting them know she's OK. She's not, but certainly trying to convince herself and everyone else she is.

The issue has to have a lot of exposition, with the need to explain what's happening to Patsy, plus how Hedy started dating a demon. But it's still funny in places, and fairly interesting. I didn't really understand why everyone was glaring at her in that one panel before she sneezes them into Hell. As opposed to the panel of everyone glaring at her one page earlier, right after she insists she's fine. They're on her about keeping stuff bottled up, then she's supposed to just let bygones be bygones for all the crap Hedy's pulled, and then they're telling her to calm down, and my sympathies were firmly with Patsy. She's clearly been trying not to explode, not to let stuff out, and frankly, she deserves the chance.

Williams drew some great expressions for Patsy, pretty much the entire time she was at Hedy's. The screaming, "I AM RELAXED!", followed by a moment of trying to get herself together, then frustration, then despair in the course of 3 panels. Or the near-eruption at Hedy and Belial's nauseating lovey-dovey talk. That "w h a t" panel, and the way Cowles put that word in their helps. Catches the eye, though I admit I don't know if it's meant to be she can barely get the word out she's so pissed, or that she's still trying to rein herself in. I can't quite figure America, Jubilee, and Bailey all being extremely into Hedy/Belial, but Williams gave them some pretty great looks for the panel. I think Sharon's, "I'm not sure how to react to what I'm seeing," would most closely resemble my reaction.

I'm surprised Marvel gave this book as long a leash as they did, but I'm glad they did.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Santiago - Mike Resnick

The title character of Santiago is a legendary outlaw in the outer Frontier of a galactic Democracy. The sort to which a thousand different acts are attributed, which everyone has heard of, but no one has seen. The sort of person everyone can pin their hopes on.

The story follows three characters who all have different hopes they think Santiago can make come true. The Jolly Swagman wants the vast collection of rare antiquities he's sure Santiago has. Virtue McKenzie (never has a first name been less accurate) wants to make her reputation as a journalist by finding Santiago and either get his story, or record his death. And Sebastian Nightingale Cain, who had been part of a series of failed revolutions before becoming a bounty hunter figures that killing Santiago would at least be doing something that mattered.

The book is ultimately about Cain, what he's after really. He's the gruff guy who's actually good inside, or the battered idealist. Not an asshole, but not going out of his way to help people. When he does help people, it seems to be in the hope they will stop pleading with him to do so if he does so he can have some quiet. Which is a motivation I found relatable. Still, when he throws in with Virtue or the Swagman, he tries to honor his side of the deal, in sharp contrast to those two who both sell him out at the first moment they think there's a better horse to back. Then when they learn they guessed wrong, they try to insist they're still partners with Cain.

Virtue seems to fare worst in the story. I don't think she's nearly as bad a person as the Swagman, and yet somehow I dislike her a lot more. Maybe because the Swagman is honest about the fact he doesn't give a damn about people, that they're merely potentially useful resources to help him acquire the collectibles he desires. While Virtue doesn't seem to take any pleasure from people being hurt, and seems constantly surprised that other bounty hunters are as compassionate as Cain, she also tries to carry this veneer or morality. Like there's some nobility to her goal which justifies using people and tossing them aside as casually as the Swagman does.

Also there's the fact she's presented as pretty incompetent. She bluffs a lot, and I kept waiting for her to encounter someone who either calls the bluff or flat out doesn't care about her threat and just kills her, but no dice. But she never has nearly as much information as she thinks, and half the time only seems able to stay involved in the hunt because certain parties think she makes a good decoy. Credit to her for leveraging that, I guess, but it's hard to be impressed by a character who's only actual skill is bullshitting.

Resnick had to go to some lengths to set things up so Cain couldn't simply kill them but I still would have found it more satisfying if he had. Once the characters reach Santiago, the end of the story is clear, but Resnick built up to it well. The entire process of Cain's pursuit of Santiago could be seen as a final series of tests or challenges to pass, to gauge his worth or mettle.

Resnick populates the book with a large cast of other characters, from other bounty hunters, to drug-addled artists, to corrupt businessmen, and so on. Each one gets introduced through a verse of some immense song created about the notables of the Frontier by a bard everyone calls Black Orpheus. Each chapter starts with a stanza, then the first page or two discuss how accurate Orpheus was in his song, as well as the circumstances of his meetings with the characters. And as this goes on throughout the book, it sort of charts the course of Orpheus' life as well, wandering the stars, meeting people and immortalizing them. Although Cain hates the song, since it stuck him with the nickname Songbird.

The plot moves at a brisk pace, and it's an easy read. I got through 100 pages one night, and when I realized I didn't have anything else I particularly wanted to do, I went ahead and tore through another 100. It's always nice to read something like that.

'"You're forcing me to insult you. the food is barely worth eating, let alone describing," said the Swagman irritably. "You're ruining what was a totally unmemorable meal to begin with."

"You owe it to me!" demanded Schussler.

"Later," said the Swagman. "It's tasting worse by the minute, thanks to your nagging."

Cain sighed, reached over with his implement, and picked up a piece of the artificial shellfish, after first rubbing it thoroughly in the cream sauce. he chewed it thoughtfully, then began describing the nuances of flavor to Schussler while the Swagman picked up his plate and walked back into the command cabin to finish his meal in isolation.'

Monday, March 27, 2017

June May Not Be As Bad As I Feared

There's not much upheaval in the June solicitations for me.  Nothing I was buying from Marvel is tying into Secret Empire yet, so hooray. Marvel is doing a lot of tie-ins in other books and ancillary mini-series, but not my circus, not my monkeys.

A three-stage reaction:

Calvin sees Marvel is soliciting a new Defenders series. Forgetting how disappointed he was in the last, Matt Fraction-written attempt, he gets excited. Then he sees it's written by Brian Michael Bendis, and experiences great disappointment. Finally, he notices it is about the TV series Defenders: Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, the white kung-fu guy everyone hates now, and all interest evaporates.

DC's going to kick off their own grim event thing, which may be about a future ruled by Batman, or maybe Owlman, I don't know. It's not my bag, but it seemed worth mentioning. DC's also releasing a bunch of one-shots with various DC characters encountering the Looney Toons. Lobo trying to bring down the Road Runner would seem promising, but Kelley Jones' art is not my favorite thing, either. Sits too firmly in the grotesque for my tastes. Elmer Fudd trying to hunt down Batman could be funny, though I pity Fudd if he points that gun at any innocent families walking down dark alleys. The individual issues are a little pricey for me, but maybe there'll be a nice collection later this year.

And I saw a solicit on Amazon for a volume 1 collection of Abnett and Lanning's Legion of Super-heroes for September, which I might be interested in. Although they misidentify the two as the creators of Annihilation. Keith Giffen wrote that one.

Outside those two publishers, Copperhead and Real Science Adventures roll, and I might still be buying Steven Universe.  Undecided on that one. There's going to be another Wynonna Earp mini-series, a Season Zero. I'm not planning to buy this last thing, but there was a miniseries listed as Ash vs. AOD, which I initially read as "Ash vs. ADD". Which seemed fitting, Ash struggling with his greatest foe, his inability to concentrate.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Earthworm Jim 1.1 - Sidekicked

Plot: We open on the Planet of Unusually Tall Things, with Jim and his sidekick Peter trying to escape Professor Monkey-for-a Head. They do manage it, but the Professor escapes when Jim steps on Peter's foot, triggering the dog's transformation into a huge, purple beast. This prompts Jim to fire Peter as his sidekick, though they will continue to live together. Awkward.

Across the galaxy, Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt tasks Psycrow with capturing her sister, Princess What's-her-Name (so many hyphens), who then he will ransom to Jim in exchange for his super-suit. The plan hits two snags. One, the Princess is an immensely strong resistance leader who proves difficult to keep prisoner. Two, Jim can't decipher Pyscrow's note to figure out where he would need to deliver the suit to, and goes through a series of sidekicks while rescuing the wrong princesses from the wrong treacherous hideouts.

Ultimately Jim does find the right dangerous location, but the day is saved because Peter stowed away in the rocket and was able to control his transformation for once, mostly.

Quote of the Episode: Psycrow - 'On no, a puppy. I must abandon my evil plan lest he destroy my very self. *pause* You unnerstand that was sarcasm, right?'

Cow at the End? Yes.

Peter transforming Count: 2 (2 overall).

Other: Did Calvin want some lighter fare after a steady diet of Nazis and their asskissing wannabes on Foyle's War? Yes. Also I wanted a show I didn't have to set aside 90 minutes per episode.

So, Earthworm Jim. At first I thought it was strange to have the first episode be one which is all about Jim getting rid of his sidekick for being an active hindrance, but it was probably seen as a good way to introduce Peter, what makes him unique, how he fits with Jim. They're can both be drama queens, Jim with all his bombast and shouting, bold invocations of the Great Worm Spirit. A lot like Marvel's Thor or Hercules, really. Peter's the fawning fan, just wanting to stick by his hero, and thrown into despair when that's taken away. He even attempts to describe his woe to Snot (the semi-sentient pile of boogers that normally lives in Jim's backpack) through interpretive dance, before descending into a tantrum.

Of course, Peter's small stature and emotional state hide that he does possess some heroic nature, in the same way they hide a monstrous power. Jim's a worm-thingy, as the guy at the hero store describes him, not an organism noted for strength, nobility, or heroism. 'Spineless worm' is not used as a compliment. But Jim still uses his powers for good, rescuing hostages and such. Peter's transformation gave him the capacity to save Jim, in the way the suit altered Jim so he can fight evil.

Pyscrow's letter to Jim states he was keeping the Princess in the one place even Jim would be too terrified to approach. Then Jim immediately sets out for the Swamp of Appalling Peril, so my reaction was that Psycrow underestimated how terrified Jim would be. As it turned out, that wasn't the correct terrifying place, so maybe that wasn't the problem. Jim hadn't selected a scary enough location to look.

As you might have guessed from the names of some of the locales and the characters, it's not terribly subtle. Jim finally figures out the correct location by reading about a place that is a favorite of man-sized crows in yellow spacesuits. Well, even if Jim does have four hyper-intelligent brains, those are hyper-intelligent by worm standards, presumably, so that's not saying much.

I'd forgotten how much the show feels like a series of loosely connected gag set-ups. Maybe it's just this episode, with the multiple brief sequences of Jim exploring different dangerous places and losing a succession of crap sidekicks in the process. But I suspect I'll find most episodes have a thin plot designed to serve as something to hang various jokes on. Which is OK by me as long as I get a good laugh out of it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What I Bought 3/22/2017

While in the store on Wednesday, I overheard two other customers express confusion about Marvel doing Mary Jane-themed variant covers for June, and why not Gwen Stacy? I briefly considered saying because some of us find Gwen duller than plain cake doughnuts, but it didn't seem worth the effort.

Steven Universe #2, by Melanie Gillman (writer), Katy farina (illustrator), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Mike Fiorentino (letterer) - Nice of Missy Pena to remember to include the safety fence Pearl insisted on installing after Amethyst nearly killed herself falling off the cliff. Gravity will always be our enemy.

Steven and Connie attempt to see a movie based on their favorite book series, but it's PG-13 (although Steven is 14, but he doesn't look it, I suppose). They try to get in by fusing, but are thwarted by lack of appropriate i.d. While walking away fuming, Stevonnie crashes into Kiki, and the two hit it off, Kiki even inviting Stevonnie to her prom. Which presents a bit of a problem since Stevonnie looks high school aged, but is two middle school kids fused into one. How to address the problem?

Which is a question I've had since the first time the two fused, since they do interact with the various high schoolers in town a lot. I don't have any idea how age works for a fusion, or how old Stevonnie is. And does Kiki need to know this fact about Stevonnie? My feeling would be yes, but if Stevonnie isn't ready to tell her, it would seem to be Stevonnie's right to keep that information private. But Kiki's feelings desreve consideration, but as Connie points out, it'd be kind of hard to explain to someone who would find the idea of two people fusing unusual.

I was going to quibble with the ending, how neatly it seems to tie up, but it isn't as though I wanted a lot of tears and heartbreak, and it's probably not a bad lesson for the presumably younger audience it's aimed at. Steven and Connie are worried about hurting Kiki, with the result that they're putting a lot of stress on themselves trying to avoid that. But when Stevonnie is at least somewhat open with Kiki, about wanting to be friends, Kiki's fine. Other people can be more resilient than we expect, providing we aren't being an ass about it.

My favorite page in the issue is the snapshot page of them trying on different outfits, since we get to see Kiki gradually feel more comfortable with it. The first two pictures she's staying in the background, avoiding eye contact. By the middle pair she's playing it up a little more, and by the last two she seems genuinely excited. During the dance, it looks like Cogar gradually went for darker blues and purples in the background as the scene progressed, which reflected Stevonnie's growing unease as they observe everyone else around them getting very close. And as Steven and Connie argue in the bathroom, the background colors again are mostly darker, which combined with Farina drawing them with hunched over shoulders, suggested the weight of the situation. Even when Cogar goes brighter, with a red or even a pink background, Steven and Connie are drawn as so angry or stressed the colors carries that more hostile sense, as opposed to a friendly warmth.

So, still suspect the book is aimed at younger readers, but enjoyed this issue more than the first issue

Iron Fist #1, by Ed Brisson (writer), Mike Perkins (artist), Andy Troy (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - The stripe down the side really makes the outfit look like a track suit. I think I'm still fondest of the long-sleeve, no high-collar or plunging neckline look David Aja gave him (see the cover to Immortal Iron Fist #3). Also, at least two of the three swords that are supposed to be menacing Danny are obscured by the title. Not great planning there.

So K'un-Lun was destroyed, and Danny's powers are fading. So he's roaming the world, spending his money to get into fights, hoping to find something. Also getting drunk and being a dick. He meets a fellow named Chochin, they fight a bit, they guy offers to bring him to some island and fight in a super-awesome tournament. I'm assuming K'un-Lun was destroyed in the last Iron Fist series, the Kaare Andrews one, but I'm not positive. Hadn't heard anything about Danny's powers waning in Power Man and Iron Fist, but a) I don't keep up on the book, and b) expecting consistent continuity in Marvel these days is a fool's errand.

I'm not sure this is necessarily what I was looking for in an Iron Fist book. Him in a mysterious tournament, sure that could be cool, especially if the tournament actually finishes (Brubaker and Fraction's kind of sputtered out halfway when the HYDRA thing took over in the rushed conclusion of their run). But Danny as some miserable wreck, beating up chumps in the hopes it'll rekindle his powers? Not so much. If he wants a real fight, go find Shang-Chi or something. Let Batroc kick the shit out of him.

I'm not sure about Mike Perkins' artwork. There are so many shadows, it feels very much like Deodato's art, which is can be good or bad, depending on what you're trying to draw. At one point, I thought I saw something in there that reminded me of Joe Kubert's some of the hatching on the hands, but I couldn't spot it again on subsequent readthroughs. Most of the fights are presented as a series of moments from the fight, a particular hit, rather than the fight as a single thing. The former style can work, but I prefer the latter, seeing how one thing leads to the next. It feels like the creative team put more thought and effort into it that way, beyond coming up with some cool-sounding name for what is essentially uppercutting a dude.

There's one fight/beating in the middle they do the other way that I thought worked pretty well. There's a three-panel sequence in the middle of it, when Danny starts to fight back where in the first panel he's lower, punching upward, then they're even in the second panel, and by the third, Danny's on the top, even as he's thinking to himself how he feels like he's punching down. And it looks as though his opponent is on his back, just trying to block punches, while Perkins draws that opponent with a wide-eyed look of fear in the panel. That was solid. And I thought it was interesting that Danny's last attempt to hit Choshin is blocked partway and left hanging. Then on the next page, after they've sat down, Choshin extends his hand in greeting, and it looks very similar, even down to the angle his hand is tilted at. Could be something, could be nothing.

If it is something, I'm not sure it's enough for me to stick around.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Whatdunits - Mike Resnick

Whatdunits is a series of short story mysteries where Resnick presented another writer with some sort of prompt, and let them write a story fitting said prompt (so Resnick is the editor, rather than the author). The idea came out of a desire to see some genuine mysteries in a science-fiction setting in short-story format.

As with any anthology, the selection is a mixed bag, but it's interesting to see what approach different writers take. Some take the bog-standard hard-luck private investigator, and toss in some sci-fi trappings like telepathy and robot secretaries (Michael Stackpole's "It's the Thought that Counts"). Esther Friesner and Walter J. Stutzman's "Dead Ringer" is ostensibly about telling whether it was the clone or the original version of someone that was murdered, but also examines a world where the wealthy clone themselves to have someone to attend functions they don't want to deal with, while workers or cops with valuable skills have their genetic material taken and are cloned if they die. It looks at how the clone would struggle with that, and how their friends and loved ones would adjust to the dead being back among them.

Some are written to be funny, like "Monkey See", where the story is presented as a letter from the scientists explaining how an alien scientist being killed by chimps is not murder. Others are more grim, like "The Colonel and the Alien", where a non-earthling is elected President of the interplanetary federation for the first time, but they only did so by crooked means, and we exposed thanks to a vast, always watching security network ultimately run by One Man, whose steadfast commitment and calm protects us all.

Some of the authors more rigidly follow the prompt than others. John DeChancie wrote "Murder On-Line", which was supposed to be about somehow proving someone who could teleport killed a person, but turned into a story about people getting completely absorbed in virtual worlds to the point the outside world falls into disrepair. Anthony Lewis' "Loss of Phase" seems more concerned with having a dolphin for a detective, to the point the murder is almost an afterthought. I'd say that the ones that strayed furthest from the initial prompt were the ones I enjoyed least, maybe because they seemed to forget it was supposed to be a mystery?

'It was Dr. Nestleroth who hit upon the brilliant solution of registering the Institute as a state mental hospital, and arranging for the involuntary commitment of all the chimps as patients of the hospital.'

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Different Sort Of Twisted Reflection

I wish Tim Roth's Abomination had survived the Incredible Hulk movie. Maybe he did, but I've always assumed Hulk broke his neck or strangled him with that chain at the end. Regardless, he hasn't made a return appearance since. Mostly I wanted him to encounter Captain America.

Ross initially pumped Blonsky full of an incomplete knockoff version of the Super-Soldier Serum, but beyond that, Blonsky is what Erskine was afraid of, what would have been the result if Colonel Phillips had his way and somehow got Gilmore Hodge chosen as the subject. Erskine feared giving more power to someone accustomed to it, that they wouldn't have any respect for what they could do with it. They'd regard everyone else as lesser, weaker beings to abuse as they saw fit. Here's Blonsky, used to being the baddest, toughest guy on the block, but fearing not only the loss of some of that prowess due to age, but also to being completely outclassed by this big, green monster.

Him taking the knockoff serum is understandable, since at the time he was going to be confined to a hospital bed for the rest of his likely short, certainly painful existence. But once he had it, saw what it could do for him, and saw that it still wasn't enough to stop Hulk, he wanted more. And once he had that, the world was a playground, something to smash and destroy as he saw fit until he could find a proper challenge.

Blonsky isn't Johann Schmidt. He doesn't have larger aspirations of ruling the world, any more than Steve Rogers does. Still, he might take orders from anyone, or attack anyone, simply for the chance to test his power, prove his superiority. A super-soldier with no interest in serving, or helping anyone but himself*. The Abomination is trashing a city, Captain America, or whatever Steve is going to call himself now, shows up with his team trying to figure out who Blonsky is working for and what the goal is. And the answers are "No one and nothing," Blonsky just wanted to draw out some Avengers to see if they could give him a challenge. Maybe the Hulk would show up and he'd get a rematch. Let Cap contend with someone who isn't working to some greater, awful goal. It would at least be a good starting point, if someone had perhaps suggested to Blonsky where he should try causing a disturbance.

Also, considering how Thunderbolt Ross berated Captain America for not keeping Hulk and Thor locked up, it'd be nice for the monster he stupidly created to show up and start wreaking havoc.

* To a certain extent, Frank Grillo's Brock Lumlow becoming Crossbones could have filled this role as well, although he did have an ideology he acted in service of. Irrelevant since they put him on screen for five minutes then blew him up in Captain America: Civil War.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Perils Of A Licensed Game

I asked for Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor. What I wound up receiving was Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Well, if I really wanted Shadow, I would have plunked down the money for it myself already. That's on me.

So instead of sneaking about, stabbing Orc war chiefs in the back and terrorizing their ranks*, I was playing as part of a Human/Dwarf/Elf trio, trying to stop some wannabe wizard king named Agandaur from causing a lot of trouble. Which involves chasing him all of the place, thwarting his various schemes. Like trying to conquer a dwarf stronghold, or convince a dragon to throw in with Sauron. I was surprised the game doesn't make you fight the dragon, but maybe I was too accustomed to wiping them out with ease in Skyrim. In this case, the game has you make a counteroffer, which will require you to ultimately kill Agandaur. Which we were gonna do anyway, so sure, kill him and give the dragon his house.

The game gives you the option of playing as any of the three allies: Eradan's a human Ranger, and the one I stuck with. Farin's a dwarf Champion, and Andriel's an Elf Lore-master. You can switch between them if you want at certain checkpoints, but I was satisfied with the ranger. Combat is fine, the game doesn't have it set-up where your character gets tired if you have your bow drawn for too long, which is OK with me. This isn't really a game where you spend a lot of time waiting for that perfect shot. Usually by the time you see enemies, they're already rushing you en masse, so it's time to fire any and every arrow you've got, then cut them to pieces when they get too close for that.

The game feels very old. It isn't a new game by any stretch, but I'm also replaying Resident Evil 4 on my Gamecube right now, and this game feels older than that one does. Granting I play a lot of games which boil down to "enter a specific area, kill enemies until the game stops sending them, go to next area, repeat". Those games usually offer some sort of distinguishing stylistic quirk to make them stand out. That didn't seem to be the case here. You kill, you pick up some better gear, kill some more, level up, maybe make yourself better at a certain skill, kill some more, boss fight. Extremely straightforward.

Shouldn't have expected more from a licensed game, and sometimes I do just want to hack and slash a bunch of enemies, and it does suffer because I was expecting a different game. Still, the pacing was off. The end came on suddenly. I'd been chasing Agandaur for some time, but once I caught up to him, things ended quickly. Which at least meant it wasn't one of those final boss fights that goes on forever because he keeps escaping and you have to keep giving chase. But it was still a moment of surprise that the game was over. Maybe I was thrown because an hour earlier, I'd been repeatedly stymied by one of those irritating missions where you have to make sure something doesn't get too damaged. I was stuck fighting two Trolls by myself, trying to keep them swinging at me and not the door in question, because my allies were being useless. I almost gave up on the game entirely because of that. Agandaur was comparatively easy.

There are a few sidequests you can do or not, fetch this or that and receive something. But the map screen only pops up when you're getting ready to progress to a new area in the game. If you forget there's a quest you can complete by returning to Rivendell during one of those instances, you're shit out of luck.

* I know there's more to the game, but that's how I envision myself playing it, a spectral scourge attacking from every angle.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Puppet Using His Strings

There's a scene in one of the early issues of Gwenpool, where she explains the truth of his existence as a comic character to Batroc. When Batroc questions why he has never experienced his happy moment, his great triumph, Gwen points out that he's the villain. He's not meant to experience success, but he doesn't realize that. He goes into fights with Captain America or Misty Knight, and thinks that maybe this time he can win. From Gwen's perspective, there are outside forces that have put certain rules and conventions in place which dictate Batroc's actions and fate, which he doesn't perceive.

Gwen, because she thinks of it all as a fictional universe, doesn't operate that way. She knows what the conventions are, and so treats it like a minefield she has the map for. It was in the Rocket Raccoon and Groot book, but there was a bit, once Civil War II started to intrude, where Gwen forcefully states she is not going to New York with Rocket and Groot because minor characters get killed in Big Crossovers, and she knew she wasn't a big enough deal to be safe. It was entirely possible that if she went with them, the Guardians spaceship might have landed on her. She wasn't going to play Arcade's dungeon by his rules, because she saw the larger pattern of what he wanted, and didn't see any reason to play along. Why fight these other mercenaries who aren't doing anything to her? Just find a way out, trounce Arcade, who is the one actually trying to kill them, and get on with your life.

She did make the mistake of buying into her own hype and thinking she'd be able to kill Deadpool, when, as Wade pointed out, there is no way she's popular enough to get that carrot. But she doesn't like Deadpool, and her plan to take him down through teamwork had worked spectacularly well, so you can't blame her for getting a little cocky. It happens to the best of 'em, and for the most part, she's avoided being jerked into pointless scuffles and dangerous situations.

But then there's Deadpool. Wade knows he's a fictional character, but unlike Gwen, he plays by the conventions of his universe. Normally he limits his awareness to commenting on the stupidity of events, or the convenient happenstances that keep certain plots moving. Wade knows all about two heroes having a misunderstanding fight, then teaming up, but he embraces it, looks forward to it. He knows Arcade is trying to make people kill each other for him, and Deadpool pretty much shrugs, says, "Sure, why not?" and gets to be stabbing. Wade explained it to Gwen as 'We all just live here, right?' Deadpool knows there are strings on him, but much of the time, he doesn't seem to mind. But sometimes he does. The second story in the final issue of the previous Deadpool volume (either #45 or #250), he gets the Infinity Gauntlet and has a roast in his honor. At the very end, he talks directly to us about how much it sucks sometimes that all the misery in his life is for our amusement, and that we treat it at disposable entertainment, but it's real for him.

That, combined with what he told Gwen, makes me wonder how much Deadpool uses what he knows about his existence as an excuse. Wade is capable of compassion, but generally demonstrates it towards people he regards as innocent victims. Agent Preston, his daughter, Ratbag from Simone's run, Weasel when he's gotten in trouble for helping Wade. When it comes to people he regards as having made bad decisions of their own accord, he's indifferent. He was supposed to be protecting Michael from having his soul claimed by Vetis, so Wade shot him in the head to send him to Hell as a way to outflank the demon. That it sent Michael to Hell didn't bother Wade much, seeing as Michael was the one who made the deal.

I've tended to attribute this to Wade's traumatic experiences at the hands of Department K, the people who experimented on and tortured him in the process of giving him his healing factor. Wade didn't know what he was getting into, he was a victim, and so he feels sympathy for those he sees as being in similar straits. Because the world has been so cruel to him, he can therefore justify being cruel back. No one was there for him when he was in trouble, and even now, years after, even having saved the world a couple times, a lot of people, including heroes who ought to understand what he's experiencing, still treat Wade like something they'd rather scrape off their shoe. Deadpool struggles against those impulses, frequently tries to be good, tries to help people, builds connections with others, but he often fails, and ultimately it all goes to hell.

But if Deadpool knows his life is a story others read for amusement, that it's being crafted by other beings in whatever ways they deem fit, how does that impact what he's doing? Deadpool goes through a lot of supporting casts. There are certain characters who will carry over - Weasel, Sandi and Outlaw, Taskmaster pops up a lot - but most new writers want to introduce their own set-up (when was the last time Blind Al was a major part of his book? Early 2000s?). Wade goes from having a small, but solid core of friends who will come have a TV night at his decent apartment in the final issue of Cable/Deadpool, to living alone in a warehouse at the start of Daniel Way's Deadpool. What did Wade do to screw everything up that fast? Did he sabotage friendships because he knew he was supposed to be isolated for the new run, or did he choose to isolate himself so he couldn't destroy his friendships, so he could hang out with his friends again somewhere down the line?

Does he jump at the chance for the misunderstanding battle because he knows it does lead to a team-up, so he'll get to hang out with Spider-Man or the Thing? He could try talking to them, but that might not work. They might see Deadpool and just hurry away. At least this way they'll hang out with him. He does get lonely, he would like for these heroes to like him at least a little, though he's often unwilling to show the more decent parts of himself to them.

Does he kill nameless cannon fodder because he knows they were put there by the writers for that purpose, that nobody cares whether they live or die? If so, is it because it makes it easier for him, or because he's trying to put on a show for the audience, or maybe he even thinks he's doing them a favor. The nameless HYDRA guys he and Preston killed in issue 24 were put in the story for that purpose. To die in a manner that shows how serious the protagonists were about all this. They were created to suffer, and he's sparing them any delusions otherwise. It wasn't all strictly necessary; some of the HYDRA guys surrendered, but Gerry Duggan was trying to be dramatic, so they were coldly murdered anyway.

Wade in 2099 told his daughters and Preston he never asked for any of them, to have this weird family full of people who all kind of hate him now. For most of us, we'd interpret that as life moving in unexpected ways, if I hadn't been late for that train, blahdeblah. Wade knows it wasn't random, it was written in that he'd take that job from Dracula, meet Shiklah, marry her to keep her free of Drac, and they'd have a kid. From his perspective, does he see it as something he had any choice in whatsoever?

Thinking about it, even Wade's memory problems, which are usually attributed to either the constant regeneration of his brain, or more recently, the drugs Butler was giving him, could be instead laid at the feet of the creative teams who add new stuff into his backstory. Butler wasn't part of Deadpool's history, until he was. Or T-Ray, or the idea that Wade went into the future and saved Young Cable's life multiple times, so that Cable knew Wade before they fought the first time back in New Mutants #98. The Deadpool who appeared in that New Mutants comic probably didn't even have memory problems, because nobody had bothered to write that into his character yet. His mind might have been reasonably sound (by Deadpool's standards), but has gotten progressively more wrecked over the years as writers put him through the wringer, adding new layers to his history, fixing the memory issues one way, adding them a different way later. And Deadpool, unlike Wolverine, knows he's never going to get that moment where he remembers everything. Because even if he thinks he does (ala Logan post-House of M), some other writer will come along with some other thing out of his past he didn't recall for some reason.

What does that do, if you know at any moment someone is going to come along that 5 minutes ago, you had never heard of, but now it turns out they were super-important to you in the past, you had just conveniently forgotten until right then? It's happened before, it will happen again. Would you still be able to be surprised after awhile? Would you still be able to care? "Yeah, I know we were best friends in 7th grade and I stayed at your house when things got ugly at home, but you didn't exist until three pages ago so piss off."

I started this with the idea that Deadpool used what he knows about his existence as an excuse, and it might still be. When things start to go south for him, if he backslides more towards being a bad guy at some point, he might claim it's what Marvel thinks is most profitable, not his fault he's ruining everything. But looking at it, all the jokes and jabs about pointless fights or losing his co-star to a better-selling X-book feel like Deadpool taking the one bit of solace he can in the shitty hand he's been dealt. He doesn't see anyway to get free of the strings. He won't be allowed to step off-stage until Marvel decides he's not popular enough to keep alive. So he shittalks them because it's the only little way he sees to get some back at them.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Foyle's War 8.3 - Elise

Plot: It's the final episode, and we start with Miss Pierce being shot by a young man who declares it to be 'for Elise'. Pierce survives, but is certain this has something to do with a mysterious "Plato". Sir Alec had already assigned Foyle and Valentine to investigate black marketeering kingpin Damien White, who is consorting with Soviet spy Arkady Kuznetsov, and now they have this to deal with. As well as the Director of Operations for MI6, Ian Woodhead, who worked with Pierce in the SOE during the war. Foyle's initial investigations show Miss Pierce occasionally visited the Special Branch Club, where a Mr. Stafford proves willing to help. Foyle also finds photos pointing to a working relationship between Pierce and Elizabeth Addis during the war, a working relationship Foyle knows continues to the present.

Stafford learns that Elise was the codename of one Sophie Corrigan, who died on her first mission into France, in three days. Sophie's mother reveals her son Miles hasn't been seen since he delivered a radio for her birthday two days ago (the day of the shooting) and was agitated about something. Also that is was Pierce who recruited Sophie personally, and who even came to pick her up when she joined. Elizabeth reveals that Sophie was the 9th of Pierce and Woodhead's agents to be quickly sussed out and killed by the Gestapo in a matter of months, and that she was brought in to search the SOE for a mole, which Woodhead named Plato. Addis narrowed the suspects to three people, five if you count Woodhead and Pierce, but couldn't reveal the traitor. Curiously Miles, who was in the RAF not Intelligence, knows about Plato, and is going after all the suspects. The guards Valentine placed around Mr. Caplin ultimately kill Miles. And Caplin is innocent of that crime, though he has certain connections to Damien White. .

Of course, that still leaves the question of who was the mole, and how Miles learned about all of it. Foyle's going to suss those out, but Pierce will be the one who finishes things.

In other threads, Adam, at Glenvil's urging, tries to get the police to crack down on black market goods, and ends up framed for possessing several cartons of stolen cigarettes. But Chief Superintendent Usborne has made the critical mistake of making an enemy of Sam. It's one last high adventure for Sam before embarking on the biggest adventure, throwing up in every bar in New Orleans in one night. I mean, being a parent. That doesn't sound like much of an adventure.

Quote of the Episode: Pierce - 'For head of communications, he was an extremely uncommunicative man.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No. And now I'll never learn to fly fish.

Things Sam can do: Imperil herself and others trying to bust a crooked cop. Have enough sense to call a professional badass ahead of time as backup. Recognize when she needs to get out.

Other: Watching Adam in this episode, I was reminded of Charles Roper from 7.3, "Sunflower". he said at one point that he never thought government, at least if you wanted to accomplish anything, would be so complicated. And, of course, Roper ultimately resorted to illegal tactics to keep George Gibson from getting his land back. For noble reasons - to keep the land in food production - but all the same, doing things by the book wasn't cutting it, so he tried something crooked. In this episode, Adam is initially unconcerned with black market selling of goods. He sees it as a way for people to get things they're looking for that the government and its policies seem unable to provide. What's the harm in a guy selling socks from a suitcase on the street, if people can't get socks in the shops for a reasonable price?

Damien White makes a similar argument to justify his actions in selling such goods. The people are tired of hardship and rationing, the war is supposed to be over. They want to be able to enjoy themselves, feel good, and he provides that. He provides it by a combination of bribery, murder, extortion and ultimately treason, but the customer don't need to know that, does he? It does feel like a cop out, because it doesn't really address what the average person is supposed to do if the government is failing to look after its citizens. The answer appears to be, "Suck it up and hope your government gets its shit together before you starve or freeze or catch pneumonia because you're walking to work in worn out shoes and socks because you can't afford anything better." Which is not a great message, frankly.

Didn't really mean to start with a discussion of Adam's thread, but it had been in mind, so it gets the coveted lead off spot. I would have liked to see more of Sam and Glenvil interacting based on this. Glenvil has continually surprised me with his generally high character. Probably because I keep thinking of him as a campaign manager, which he isn't, and my impression of them is they're willing to do anything to get their person elected. He and Sam share that desire to help people, but Sam is more hands on, do it yourself. Micro level, rather than macro. Also much more of a risk-taker. But it was fun to see Sam get to be the voice of experience in this scenario, and not have someone trying to hold her back who has any level of authority over her.

Also, Sam being completely unimpressed at being threatened by some mobster and his goons was fantastic. I hadn't considered she would contact the person she did for back-up, mostly because I didn't believe she'd interacted enough with him for it to work. I was tickled by that whole scene.

I was sure I'd watched this before, but apparently not because I didn't remember any of the end. Not how Pierce settles things, not how Miles learned about Plato, or any of the stuff about Caplin, Tellier, and Hawtrey (the three suspected traitors), and not how things end between Foyle and Addis. Damien White keeps making references to an Archie and the Blue Lantern. That, combined with every single person Foyle asked stating they had no diea where Hawtrey was, made me believe Hawtrey was some silent partner of White's coming in from his hidey hole to handle some business. That was not the case.

I also had thought Foyle and Elizabeth Addis were going to build to some sort of relationship. She was an intelligent older woman, and they seemed to have some natural chemistry when she helped him investigate David Woolf's murder. The lack of trust turns out to be a stumbling block, assuming a relationship was ever on the table at all.

That's it for Foyle's War. The last two seasons seem like they should feel strange, putting Foyle in a job he doesn't seem to want to be in, and which everyone keeps insisting he's ill-suited for. In practice, Foyle is still dealing with people who committed, at best, morally questionable acts, but feel the war or their position excuses them. That he's now more within the government apparatus hasn't reduced the stumbling blocks to seeing justice done. But he's been able to see a sufficient amount of justice done to avoid leaving in disgust, as he did with the police after season 4. Does he really not have anything else worth doing that he wouldn't enjoy more? I'm not sure if he's planning to stick with it or not. Sam finally tells him she's pregnant, and leaving, they say so long for now, Foyle sees Elizabeth in the distance, and gives her that sideways look and sardonic grin he favors. The one he usually gets when someone says something so stupid or bullshit he's torn between being disgusted and laughing at them. I don't know what that means.

Next week, a new show. I've narrowed it to two possibilities. Either one will be very different from this.

Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Bought 3/15/2017

Four comics I wanted this week, and I've only managed to get one of them so far. On the upside, an issue of Darkwing Duck came out at some point recently, so I have that to add to the mix.

Ms. Marvel #16, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Myazawa (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - And this is what happen when you use cheat codes so you can deflect annoying axes rather than dodge them like you're supposed to: The game gives the boss a tank to hunt you down with.

The virus, created by some imbecile game designer with delusions of grandeur (who will probably end up recruited by HYDRA Cap), wants Kamala to upload it into SHIELD's systems. Or it'll reveal her secret identity, and Zoe's crush on Nakia, which Kamala was blissfully unaware of. Kamala almost goes along with it, but ultimately refuses, warns Zoe, and calls Bruno for help. And she has a plan to win, which I assume will be exposing the virus to more positive influences so it's less of a dick.

It's a "set-up" issue, getting the pieces in place for the conclusion. It does bring the subplot about Zoe's crush on Nakia to a head, although we'll see what happens with it going forward. They're going to still be friends, but nothing romantic, that's fine, but I am curious if we'll see the awkwardness Kamala was so afraid of. Also if this is going to be the push for her to finally tell Nakia her secret identity, so it's on her terms. That feels like what this is building towards, though what's wrong with having a secret? Not everything has to be shared.

This issue did give Miyazawa a chance to draw expressions and postures he doesn't normally. Kamala's nervous, hair-grabbing stance as she frets about the awkwardness isn't something I've seen get used in the book. Or some of Zoe's more shocked and panicked reactions. Not responses characters have often in this book. Anger, yes, smiles, yes, sad, sure. But this kind of comically nervous or worried, not so much. But it was fun, nice to see.

Darkwing Duck #8, by Aaron Sparrow and James Silvani (storytellers), Paul Little (colors), DC Hopkins (letters) - I'm not sure any of those are proper implements for dealing with vines.

The villain responsible for the zombie potatoes is the dean who drove Bushroot into becoming a plant/duck hybrid. He stole Bushroot's work, got some funding from various nefarious sources (including an old rival of Scrooge's), and found the secret to giant vegetables (that lack nutrition) by unearthing Bushroot's old vampire potato bride. Who is calling all the zombie spuds to her aid. Fortunately for our heroes, Gizmoduck shows up to help. I guess that's fortunate, depending on how you feel about him. It's ultimately Bushroot who defeats his would be potato bride.

The parts I was most interested in were all the future plots they set up. Quackerjack has something planned for the toy expo. Negaduck's got something planned for new resident of St. Canard prison, Splatter Phoenix. Steelbeak made off with the research on giant vegetables. Someone helped themselves to Quackwerks' Herobots. Morgana is still MIA. I don't know when Volume 2 will come out and possibly resolve any of those threads, though.

Darkwing admitting he's sustained a lot of cranial trauma as part of this job made me laugh, though. It was funny in context. Also, Gizmoduck using the power of shadow puppets to try and call Darkwing, and just winding up with determined haberdashers. But, Dean Tightbill as the villain is lacking. The idea of someone taking Bushroot's ideas and focusing solely on profit makes perfect sense, but it feels flat. Partly because he's obviously a patsy villain, being used by Steelbeak and others, and because so much of the story is still about Bushroot. Tightbill helped create Bushroot, taking a guy who wanted to make the world a better place for people, and making him love plants and hate people instead, but that doesn't necessarily make him an interesting character in of himself.

Also, Darkwing's distaste for and jealousy of Gizmoduck gets tiring, so I'm not particularly thrilled to see him. Which adds up to a two-part story that isn't the sum of its parts on the writing side. The art side of things is still solid. Silvani can sell the physical humor, and he can do the expression work to sell the dialogue jokes. The Quackerjack page is colored almost entirely in grey, except for the television screens. It gives a nice ominous feel considering the character in question is usually so brightly attired and gaudy. Creates that sense of him lurking, readying himself. And it's an odd contrast, wedged in between a page of a vampire potato using Darkwing to bludgeon Launchpad into the ground, and one of Gizmoduck fending off said vampire potato with buzzsaws. A different kinds of threat.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Stabbing People For A Good Cause One Last Time

There's probably spoilers below.

I'm torn on Logan. It's a good movie. The cast and crew seemed to have a clear idea what they wanted to do, and they pulled it off. But I've been surprised by the level of acclaim it's received, from sources which are not usually hyperbolic about every superhero thing that comes down the pike. Maybe I've watched too many Westerns about the old gunfighter trying to pull it together One Last Time. Or maybe the respective situations of Xavier and Logan touched a nerve.

I'm not, at present, so concerned with the dying part of getting old (assuming I actually get old, we'll see if my feelings change). What weighs on my mind is the physical and mental decline. I haven't ever been able to decide which option was more palatable: To maintain my physical well-being, but for my mental capabilities to decline in some way (as with my paternal grandmother, who lived to 93, but with steadily increasing senile dementia for the last decade), or for my body to fail me, even if my mind remains relatively sharp (as was the case with my other three grandparents). And here's Chuck Xavier, mind going, telepathy still incredibly powerful, but not entirely within his control. And here's Logan, as much there mentally as he usually is, but collapsing physically (and also basically a dead husk emotionally).

My discomfort aside, Jackman and Stewart play their roles well. The sniping and arguing between them, Logan's exasperation with this old man he's looking after out of some affection (even if it's hard to remember why), and Xavier, frustrated with himself and this world, with how things turned out, how Logan turned out. The part where Xavier disgustedly rails on about what a disappointment Logan is, that was pretty effective. I know it's a cliche that "Professor Xavier is jerk", but Stewart's rarely played him as that straightforwardly hurtful, so it's a bit of a shock. Logan falling apart while attempting a eulogy and simply going and trashing his truck was a great scene. Those moments where the words won't come, or you can't make yourself say them, and all that's left is impotent frustration and anger.

Dafne Keen does a good job as Laura. She doesn't say anything for a long time, so it's most down to looks and the screaming she does while she stabs people. Which is unpleasant to listen to, but that's probably the point. A kid shouldn't be in a situation that makes her make that noise, especially since she's killing people who want to kill and probably dissect her at the time. But in some ways, Laura acts like a regular kid. Playing with the door locking button because she can see it's bugging Logan, and because it's something to do on a long car ride. The way she watches Logan, trying to get him to step up and help, getting frustrated when he won't, but still looking after him. All three lead actors did a very good job.

Watching the two react to Laura is an interesting contrast. Charles wants to help her, let her experience as much of life as a free person as she can. Because he's still hoping to help make some chance for a peaceful life for mutants on Earth. He's still holding onto his dream, while Logan, I don't want to say he's taken the loss harder, but he's certainly taken it as a sign to give up, or try giving up. He's working a crap job to make some money to care for this old man until he can get him on a boat somewhere and hide for the rest of their days. Helping anyone, fighting for any dream, is out of the question. And so he doesn't want to deal with Laura, doesn't want to get sucked into trying to help anyone else. Even when he should have some inkling, more than most, or what she's been through. Although it was funny to me the evil doctor says they can't teach rage, it has to be built. Judging by Laura, they taught her rage pretty well. But I suppose it wasn't controllable rage.

I stepped out to visit the restroom during part of the scene at the farmer's home. I was getting antsy (although this is not your typical 150 minute superhero movie, so props to them for that), but I'd read a review of the film that pretty much told me how it would end for them. What? I didn't expect to actually see the film within its first week in theaters, but Alex was all gung-ho. The villains were interesting as archetypes. The oh-so-well meaning amoral scientist, the imbecile who just relishes the chance to kick around minorities, and the monster that mirrors the hero. Plus the faceless corporation that employed them all and presumably is trucking along undisturbed by anything that happened. But as characters? Not so much. Boyd Kirkland's Donald Pierce got the most screen time, and he's kind of amusing, but he plays that outwardly pleasant, but sociopathic Southern gent Walton Goggins gets handed much of the time. The pleasant drawl and some folksy saying, but oops, he's torturing a guy.

The fight scenes are fun. Watching Logan shuffle around awkwardly while Laura flips all over the place makes a nice contrast, and they introduce enough additional pieces to keep watching people get stabbed in the face from being too repetitive. They do one fight where Laura takes the approach of picking off some of the enemies one at a time in hit-and-run style. Another one, they throw in a group of idiots with guns and a sacrifice to keep things pinballing around. The last one has vehicles with weapons and a bunch of other kids with powers. As for the level of violence, limbs being severed and spurting blood, I'm not the best judge. I read Punisher comics written by Garth Ennis. You're going to have to dial that shit up pretty high to faze me at this point*.

Anyway, good movie, worth a watch if you get the chance. For some reason, we wound up at a faux-IMAX viewing, that cost $16 per ticket. I wouldn't recommend that at all. Granted I haven't seen it in not faux-IMAX for comparison, but I can't imagine it would suffer that much.

* Alternatively, get more realistic with it. There's a scene in one of the Evil Dead movies where a character gets stabbed in the ankle with a pencil. That made me squirm a little, I suppose because the camera lingered a second, and it could actually happen. I am unlikely to try to steal Hugh Jackman's car, and he is unlikely to stab me with knives erupting from his knuckles if I did.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Man, There's Nothing To This Saving The World Stuff

Another board game, this time Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the game. You select a Big Bad from the various options, and try to stop them from bringing about the Apocalypse. Which requires defeating three Monsters of the Week, and protect the Townies from various generic Baddies.

Defeating Monsters requires having the appropriate items, so the players have to spend parts of their turns moving between locations in town, collecting the right items (Weapons, Tomes, Magical Ingredients, Crosses, etc.) You can also spend time defeating the generic Baddies so as to protect the Townies, since Townies getting eviscerated brings the end of the world ever closer. Each player picks one of the Scoobies to use, who have advantages and special abilities and such. But using the Special Action forces you to draw an Event Card, which usually places more Baddies and Townies on the board to kill/protect. So judicious use is advisable. Probably.

The game said it could be played in 30 minutes to an hour, but it took us closer to two, since we had to keep going back and checking the rules on when certain things had to be done, or what the monsters could do on their turn. Given how easily we ultimately cruised to victory, we both suspect we were doing something wrong. It wasn't clear if the Big Bad was supposed to have certain powers taking effect before it was "revealed" or not. The way the rules read, we thought he wasn't activated until he was revealed, and so no on powers, but maybe we were wrong. It did help that the first Monster of the Week was The Judge, who wouldn't get active at all until we were already 4 of the 12 steps to the Apocalypse. I was able to kill him before he ever did anything. And we kept drawing Event Cards that put Baddies on the board, but no Townies for them to attack. And we were careful to stay away from them, so they couldn't get any shots at us. Maybe Spike (me) and Giles (her) are just that outstanding of a duo.

So, fun enough, not reinventing the wheel among games, but the rules were unclear at times. My guess is, if you aren't a fan of the show, you can find other games which offer similar gameplay, and do it better. But if you do have a fondness for the Buffyverse, this might do the trick for ya.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I'd Fire The Announcers Too.

I watch wrestling sometimes, or read about it online. The strange characters and stories, plus the incredible things they can do, it's really entertaining, sometimes. I might go months without paying any attention, then follow it raptly for a few weeks. Depends on which wrestlers are getting to have a good showing at the time.

I haven't ever bought a wrestling video game. Considered it, but the games never seem to get the fighting right. Which is admittedly tricky. You can't really do it simply like a regular fighting game, where there's a health bar you wear down until they collapse. You need to be able to incorporate characters getting squashed, characters winning by the surprise roll-up, or else hitting their finishing move out of nowhere. That seems to be hard to do.

But the execution of sports games not quite working out how I pictured is not a new disappointment. But I still manage to find enjoyment with some of them by messing with rosters. I spent a lot of time on NBA Courtside just seeing what would happen if I took the top two scorers off each team. Or building baseball teams with fast guys at every position on Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. With a wrestling game, I'd really like to be able to fire certain wrestlers. Just take them off the board entirely. Since I can't be rid of the possibility of Randy Orton showing up on TV to bore the hell out of me, it would be nice to create that circumstance in a game, at least. Just have the roster full of only wrestlers I actually like. It wouldn't be enough if the actual wrestling was still a mess, but it'd be a nice feature to have.

Monday, March 13, 2017

You Have Died Of Insufficient Spending On Infrastructure

A friend came to visit over the weekend and brought some board games, including the Oregon Trail card game. Where you try to reenact the frustration of the simulation of the pioneer's life, without the hassle of an ancient computer.

You lay out the Start and End cards a few feet away, and then each person in your party takes turns laying out a Trail Card. Each card is supposed to be turned so that the section of Trail drawn on it lines up with the end of the Trail on the previous card laid down. This caused the greatest amount of difficulty for us, because we almost got to the end, and there were multiple players with no cards that lined up, and none left in the draw pile. So we lumped all the remaining cards together and just drew through them until we found one that worked, rather than die because these pioneers, having traveled to at least somewhere in eastern Oregon, had decided they weren't going to forge any further..

If you're lucky, the Trail Card doesn't cause any trouble. But most of them require you to "hit spacebar", meaning draw a calamity card. And then your party has to fix the calamity, if they have the resources, and if they want to. The game does give you the option to, for example, let someone die of cholera if you don't wish to expend your supplies on them. We tried not to go that route, but one member of the party did die of cholera. Most of the Calamity Cards are the type that could kill the whole party if not resolved, though. Sick oxen, busted axle, but they typically give you one round to fix it, or until the next time you draw the same Calamity Card. We did need to shuffle them better, that's how our party member died. We drew back-to-back Cholera cards, and that was it for Mary.

I imagine with more actual players (we created a team of 6, but it was two of us controlling three characters each), it'd be a little more interesting. Lots of complaining and bribes to get people to give you what you need to not die. Even with two people, it was entertaining, and not difficult to pick up once it got going.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Foyle's War 8.2 - Trespass

Plot: The episode opens in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Palestine at the King David Hotel by a Jewish group. The attack claimed the lives of Palestinians, Jews, and British citizens, so the British Army is on the prowl for, among others, a Yakov Weiss. They barge into a family's home during dinner and arrest the patriarch for being Yakov, over his protestations. Back in England, one of Dr. Addis' students, a Daniel Woolf, is attacked and beaten by two men outside the university. Curiously, the family and the university both are eager to ignore the whole thing, but Addis has involved Foyle.

There's also a conference in London in four days, an attempt at some sort of negotiation between the different players in Palestine. No one has much hope for it, and the Security Service has responsibility for, well, security. But they're being roped in with the Foreign Office and a Mr. Ord-Smith. Sir Alec and Miss Pierce are united in their distaste for this situation. They aren't so busy stewing over it they pass up the opportunity to yell at Foyle for speaking to Mr. David Woolf, a maror shipping magnate, who is now dead. Meanwhile, Lea, the daughter of the man arrested for being Yakov Weiss (who has since died), arrives in England on a scholarship to study medicine, staying with an old family friend, Rabbi Greenfield. The rabbi's son, Nicholas, a sound engineer, is quite taken with Lea.

Elsewhere, Adam is trying to contend Fascist Charles Lucas, who is using the Jews as a convenient scapegoat to gather a support base among the disaffected working class, which he then incites to violence, with the support of the local police superintendent. Sam, in addition to helping Foyle and dealing with pregnancy, tries to help a single father with a sick child who is not getting much assistance from the nascent National Health Service. Foyle is briefly freed of this job he doesn't much care for when Ord-Smith demands his resignation as a result of Mr. Woolf's death, but has to step back in to prevent an attack at the conference. So he's back on the miserable job, but has learned all is not as it seems with Dr. Addis.

Quote of the Episode: Foyle - 'So you threatened him accidentally? You beat up his son accidentally?'

Does Foyle go fishing? No.

Things Sam can't do: Follow a dang order to stay in the frickin' car. But if you need a driver to get you somewhere in the nick of time, Sam's your lady.

Other:  Spoilers, natch.

Sam is making regular visits to the hospital, but still tells Foyle nothing is wrong and she's tip-top, and expects him to buy it. Sam, give your boss a certain level of credit for intelligence. People don't repeatedly visit doctors because everything is fine.

While they're out investigating, Foyle tells her to stay in the car, because she gets in trouble whenever she doesn't. Which is an exaggeration, but in this case, she leaves the car and immediately gets a gun pointed in her face. Still, she and Foyle were able to get a warning to Valentine about the attack through the exceedingly simply two-man game of "I'll lead the security guys off to one side, and you sprint past them.' Enjoyable as it might have been to see Foyle try to sprint, Sam was the proper choice, and she made it to the second floor before they caught up. Apparently, England's security service needs to spend more time on their cardio.

Ord-Smith is behind the murder of David Woolf, though he claims his men attacked in self-defense. A curious claim considering they broke into Woolf's home and threatened him at gunpoint, after beating his son. He claims to have been following orders, because Woolf was using his ships to send Jewish refugees and supplies to Palestine (which is why several ships were blown up), but Sir Alec still insists on his resignation. Not because of the murders, or the near cock-up he made of the conference by playing his games, but because he messed around in Alec's yard, so to speak. Gotta love the landed gentry. Kill people, but don't fuck with mah property.

Adam was completely outclassed trying to argue with Lucas. In no small part because Adam is trying to be reasonable and find a compromise, and Lucas is a Nazi. Which means there is no room for compromise. He lets Adam in just to humiliate him, and maybe to play the victim a bit. The big, bad government trying to squelch his free speech. So that Adam can rush to assure him it isn't that at all. Lucas even uses the phrase, "Make Britain great again," during his rally. I was surprised when he pushed for a unified European government, but then he explained they would oust the Poles, Czechs, and other Slavic peoples. It made more sense then. Yet another attempt by a jackass to get more living space. Oh, and he explained to Adam that Africa exists to be 'exploited economically and dominated politically,' which I'm sure doesn't surprise you in the slightest.

I was trying to decide whether Lucas genuinely believes what he says, or just says what he knows will strike a chord. But I think it has to be the former. The hatred he spews sounds so much more genuine than the platitudes he expressed to his son about feeling sorry for what the Jews experienced (right before explaining they could use them as a convenient target). It's unclear what will happen to him going forward. He will undoubtedly not be held responsible for the rioting he incited, or the kindly elderly couple who died when their home was burned down. But his own son has seemingly finally given up any idea of getting his father to stop, and simply walked out. I don't think that will convince Lucas to stop, though.

Foyle and Dr. Addis, woo-woo. She helped him find a quiet place to stay after his brief resignation. She also translated the French intelligence report on the destruction of Woolf's ship. Poring over top secret intelligence reports is the highest form of romance, after all. But alas, it seems that she is Miss Pierce's attempt to get some kind of leash on Foyle, per Sir Alec's directive last episode.

One thing that is true about Foyle: When he decides he's ready to go, he doesn't want any time getting out the door. He was pressed for his resignation, offered it gladly, and immediately left the office, returned to his, grabbed his hat and coat, bid Valentine farewell and whoosh, Foyle has left the building. I've had jobs I disliked as strongly as I think he does this one, but I've never really had the chance to make that sort of exit. Maybe someday, although I would probably be less classy. "Sniff you jerks later," would almost certainly be uttered.

Friday, March 10, 2017

What I Bought 3/8/2017

Was only able to find half the books I was looking for this week. Also overheard the guy who runs one of the comic shops in town say there are only three Marvel titles selling more than 10 issues at his store currently. I suspect the fans want more books with certain characters and aren't getting them, but I wonder if the sheer number of books Marvel's putting out is dragging things down. Diluting sales, sort of. Probably not.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #13, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Alti Firmansyah (artist), Gurihiru (artist/colorist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Batroc, when she asks for help, she doesn't mean rooting her on.

Gwen and her team battle Deadpool, and initially win because Gwen employs boss battle tactics against Deadpool. But then she makes the mistake of gloating about him being a guest star in her book, and Wade figures out what he's dealing with, turning the tables. But they realize how stupid it is to play Arcade's game, team-up, quickly dispatch Arcade, and the story moves on to other things. Gwen wants to try and make things up to her friends, but most of them are doing OK. Except Cecil, who is a ghost. So time to bring him back to life.

Firmansyah draws most of the issue. Gurihiru draw the part where Wade takes control of the situation. Firmansyah's style is a little looser than Gurihiru's exaggerates expressions more for comedic effect. It works fine, fits with the established tone of the book. Although at times Gwen's skull seems abnormally large. A bit of a mushroom head thing going. But I like the mental chessboard that appears as she devises her strategy, and that Wade's also able to see it when he grasps what he's up against.

So there's a surprise reveal in this issue which I will not spoil here. You can ask in the comments, or find the post about this issue on Scans daily if you care. But it was effectively surprising, so good on Hastings there. I would never have expected it. Beyond that, the different ways in which Gwen and Wade approach being in a fictional universe was very interesting. It made me reconsider some things about Deadpool, and also has me wondering about Gwen's continued presence. Wade knows he's in a story, knows there are genre conventions governing certain aspects, but mostly accepts these. He goes with it, Gwen is more inclined to exploit the loopholes or gaps. But I wonder how long she can exist in a fictional universe before her actions are controlled by outside forces as well, assuming it isn't already happening.

Nova #4, by Jeff Loveness (writer), Ramon Perez (writer/artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Albert Deschesne (letterer) - Something about that cover looks strange. Maybe just because they're paused as they move in to kiss, or something about the shading. Not sure.

While Rich and Gamora spend some time together, and Rich keeps putting off explaining what's happened to him, Sam goes on a date with Lina. He's awkward, but it could have gone worse. But his little sister tried messing with one of those Nova helmets he has in the garage, the ones the thing from the Cancerverse was hiding in. So that's bad.

I have to admit, this armor plates look Gamora is sporting the last few years isn't bad, though her past costumes set the bar pretty low. Keeping the cloak and hood was a nice touch, though I am a mark for costumes with a cloak and hood. The two page spread contrasting the two couples' evenings was nice. The pair just getting to know each other, not really understanding how this works, versus the pair that have some history, but it isn't Sam learning the difficulties of maintaining the secret identity on a date, but also bringing some of the experience he's picked up along the way. It also feels like Herring is using different background colors for the two threads. More reds, purples, oranges for Sam and Lina, more blues and a tan for Rich and Gamora. It's not a perfect split, there's overlap but the colors when Sam confronts the punks attacking the homeless man are very different from the ones used during Rich and Gamora's fight. Of course, those two are mostly having fun, defending themselves from schmucks, while Sam's trying to protect someone. The stakes are a little greater in his case.

I would really like for Perez and Loveness to get to the point of this Cancerverse resurrection. Deal with that mystery, and establish where the series goes from there. But you know, I didn't realize Rich had a safe house under the monument from the World's Fair. Is that left over from his original ongoing, or one of the ones Erik Larsen did for him in the '90s?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

I Am Lost In A Endless Haze

I Am Alive is an XBox Live Arcade game where you are a guy who has spent a year crossing the country to reach his family after some cataclysm, and has finally reached his home. Now he has to find his family, by climbing lots of things, finding food and drugs, and occasionally killing people. I downloaded the demo some time ago, but never got any farther because right at the end of the demo, it seemed to promise it was going to be be some escort mission thing with a helpless little kid. Escort missions suck.

But I took a chance, and keeping the kid safe simply requires keeping yourself safe. Just don't die, and she'll be fine. Problem being, the game sidetracks you with helping this kid, her mother, and their friend, and at no point do you actually look for your own family. Literally the game ends when you see these strangers safely away and prepare to actually get to doing the thing you're here to do. At least give me the choice of whether I want to help these random-ass strangers. The game does that all the time otherwise. There are "victims" scattered throughout who will ask for something. Food, water, a first aid kit, smokes. You provide it, they tell you mostly useless information. Late in the game, I did happen back by a person I hadn't been able to help earlier on, and she had hung herself. My self-esteem sure didn't need that.

The game has a lot of climbing, so there's a stamina bar, and you have to keep an eye on it, get to some place you can rest for a minute before it runs out and you fall to your death. The game does provide you with "retrys", either for helping people or simply making it through certain levels. I think it really provides them when you're on the verge of running out. "You sure died a lot in that last chapter, have a couple of retrys you clumsy fool." It seems to do that a lot with items. You typically get just enough bullets as you need. You find one bullet, you'll probably face two guys, the first walks up and you surprise him by slitting his throat with a machete, then you shoot the other one. You find three bullets, it's probably 4 guys. You find 5 bullets, etc. It's curious that no one in the game carries any weapons other than pistols or machetes. Nobody went for a katana, just to be a poseur*? Or a shotgun? You do get a bow at one point, with one arrow. Which magically never breaks, handy since the game is almost over before you find any more arrows.

There's a lot of time spent wandering the streets enveloped in dust which slowly chokes the life from you. So your stamina is already dropping, and you have to waste more stamina and time climbing things periodically to get out of the dust so you don't die. But the murky streets, combined with the street map you gradually mark up as you try to find your way, did remind me of Silent Hill 2. Which is not great for I Am Alive, as that's not a comparison it's going to win. Still, the parts where I'm roaming, trying to figure out if I can go down a certain street, looking for places to climb and explore, those were the most enjoyable parts.

* Note: I would probably go for a katana, because I'm a dork. Which is still better than a poseur.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Amazing Spider-Man - Renew Your Vows

In this case, I'm referring to the Secret Wars mini-series, By Dan Slott, Adam Kubert, Scott Hanna, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, and Travis Lanham, and not the ongoing Gerry Conway's writing at the moment.

So, guy calling himself Regent builds suit that lets him draw on powers of super-people he captures and puts in special containment units. By the time the Avengers take him on, he stole enough X-Men powers it's too late. Spidey misses the fight because Regent also released a bunch of villains, including Venom, who knows Spidey's identity and attacks MJ and their new baby. Pete kills Venom (or leaves him to die in a burning building if you're really charitable), but retires to protect his family. Ultimately he has to get back into action, then the whole family has to team-up with the remaining resistance to beat Regent, who was after Spider-Man all along. Because having a Spider-sense would be the key to defeating God Mode Dr. Doom. You'd think he could grab a precog, a telepath, somebody with probability powers, and achieve the same effect, but no.

OK, first things first, because it's been bugging me since I read this: Regent's design is terrible. He's this big whitish blob, with some wiring stuff on the arms and legs, and a red emblem on the chest. He looks like frickin' Colonel Computron or some shit.

Beyond that, it's Adam Kubert's art. By this point, you pretty much know what you're getting with it. It's pretty solid, straightforward, easy to follow. Nothing really flashy. The fight scenes are solid, Kubert can draw an punch with some weight on it. There were some panels that seemed like they needed to be larger, for more emphasis. Near the climax, the whole family is fighting Regent, things are going well, teamwork, lots of small panels of each one taking their shots* , and then Regent grabs Annie, which is bad. The panel is a small, square panel, actually smaller than the others on the page prior with it, but as it appears to represent a turning point (and ultimately faces Peter with his big choice), seems as though it should grab attention a little more.

If you cared about continuity with Secret Wars, you could wonder about how Regent is the only one who knows about Doom-as-God (this Spidey doesn't even seem to have heard of a Dr. Doom. I guess one didn't exist in his world). But I doubt any of you reading this are going to be that broken up about that. I did question Venom being willing to threaten a baby, since he had historically considered Aunt May (and Peter's parents when they were briefly back) off-limits as innocents. But again, different continuity I suppose.

In-story, peter is faced with a moment where it looks as though he'll kill the Regent to protect Annie, since he knows who they are and like Venom could come back to imperil the family. But he chooses not to, and calls this renewing his greatest vow. Which means he broke it when he killed Venom, so are we supposed to see that as a failure, a lack of belief in himself? Peter didn't believe he could protect his family from Venom, so he killed him to remove the threat. He took the safest, most direct route to their safety, and then repeated this strategy by abandoning being Spider-Man, by not trying to help others or trying to defeat the Regent.  In the longterm, they weren't really safe, because they were having to hide their powers with inhibitor chips so they weren't discovered. That might not work forever. Parker was relying on the Tinkerer for inhibitor chips, that wasn't going to work forever. It was more kicking the can down the road on making a decision.

Although that makes those choices seem at odds. Killing Venom was Peter making the decision. Protecting his wife and daughter was worth breaking that vow not to kill. While I'm generally in favor of Spider-Man not killing, when presented as a parent trying to protect his loved ones from someone vowing to torture them (and then probably eat them), I'm not going to fault him too much. That's not even getting into Regent making most of Spidey's rogue's gallery into his strike force, which means it's extremely unlikely Venom stays locked up, and you don't really want a guy with telepathic abilities near someone who knows your identity.

Believing he could always protect Annie would be foolishness. Isn't that something parents are told, to understand that sometimes their kids are going to get into scrapes or trouble, and you can't always be there? Granting that as Peter is a superhero, he has somewhat outsized ideas of what is possible for him, it would still be dangerous to proceed as though he'd always get there in time.

* Kubert uses lots of small panels for most of the fights Annie's involved in, but not so much for the ones that are just her dad. Spidey gets taller, skinny panels mostly, and not as many per page. I don't know what that means.