Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Giant Days - Non Pratt

Set during Daisy, Susan, and Esther's first year, the story finds their friendship still on uneasy footing. Susan is struggling to share, Esther is wondering how college has so quickly become same old, same old, and Daisy wonders if she's latched too tightly onto these two girls. 

Each of them ends up lost in one obsession or the other that leaves them blind to each other's problems. Susan can't stop being angry about McGraw's presence. (Based on that and Daisy having her baby pigeon, I think this must be set not long after the first six issues of what became the ongoing series.) Esther repeatedly debases herself, even being willing to attend her classes, trying to become friends with some massively cynical goth girl. And Daisy signs up for three dozen different clubs and becomes ensnared by a yoga cult.

I wasn't sure about this going in. Would another writer be able to capture the voice of characters that I'd only seen written by John Allison. Especially when I'm used to seeing the characters say the dialogue and emote. Pratt mostly pulls it off. The voices of the characters seem right, even in their internal monologues. Their reasoning behind their decisions feels on point, too. Daisy's difficulty in saying no, Esther's tendency to make bad decisions about friends based on superficial characteristics, Susan inadvertently causing harm with her caustic attitude. There's a fair amount of humor, and the absurd elements the stories typically have.

The characters are chattier than in the comics, but there's no pictures to carry any of the story, so that makes sense. If I thought it about, it wasn't hard to picture what I was reading in my head in comic panels. It was in Max Sarin's art style, for the record.

'Daisy had been ejected from the club, and an e-mail with Esther's photo attached had been sent out to every stationary story in Sheffield warning employees not to let her in.'

Monday, October 18, 2021

What I Bought 10/15/2021

Spent the weekend at my dad's. Hoped we would make some small dent in his to-do list. We did, I guess. A very small dent. Felt something go pop in my lower calf. Hopefully didn't tear my Achillies tendon. At least I found one comic last week. Was hoping for at least two, and three if I was very lucky. No dice.

Deadbox #2, by Mark Russell (writer), Benjamin Tiesma (artist), Vladimir Popov (colorist), Andworld (letterer) - I've heard buying gas station sushi is a bad idea. I can't imagine DVD rental box fruit is much better.

This issue is all about conformity, and how people will will seize on anything they can use to force everyone else to be as miserable as them. In the real world, we see this through the tale of Bobby and Katie. Bobby buys a pair of lavender pants at a swap meet and wears them in public. The people of Lost Turkey decide this is unacceptable behavior from a man. Sinful behavior, possibly not heterosexual, even. Gasp! So Katie kicks him out of the house.

To take her mind off being a terrible spouse, Katie watches a rom-com which seems neither funny or particularly romantic. About two researchers who are dating, who also both want the single promotion available. So each of them perform social experiments on monkeys to try and earn it. Experiments which promote cruelty and indifference to suffering. But when all is said and done, the scientists put aside their rivalry to get married, so hooray, I guess?

Meanwhile, Penny can't afford more of the medication her father needs, because only the initial amount was on discount, and without that, the price increased over tenfold. And two newcomers have arrived in town for some reason. What anybody would want with the town in this comic, I can't fathom.

Tiesma draws the characters in the movie portion of the book with a bit simpler style. The bags and worry lines we see in the people of Lost Turkey are absent in Hollywood. The male lead always smiles so as to really show off perfect teeth. It also feels like the movie parts have more panels with someone's face in the foreground. Not a sharp zoom in on just their eyes, but where their head is the height of the panel. A very blase sort of cinematic approach for a pretty crappy movie.

This book is kind of depressing. I was expecting something more in a horror or suspense vein, but it's definitely not that. Unless the horror is the creeping ennui of being stuck in a small town that you can't feel comfortable in, but can't escape the gravitational pull of, either. Which is still more depressing than anything else.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Splash #188

 
"Complications, of Many Sorts", in Fantastic Four #546, by Dwyane McDuffie (writer), Paul Pelletier (penciler), Rick Magyar and Scott Hanna (inkers), Paul Mounts (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer)

Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier's stint on Fantastic Four isn't a long one, starting at issue #542, and ending at #553. It's wedged between what were undoubtedly more highly-publicized runs, following (finishing really) J. Michael Straczynski's run, and being followed by a Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch creative pairing.

Worse, JMS departed before the book's tie-ins to Civil War were finished, so it fell to McDuffie to clean up and address that mess as best he could. His explanation for Reed's actions - essentially, Reed made psychohistory from Asimov's Foundation a reality and the math said Negative Zone prisons and cyborg murder-clones of Thor were the best path forward - does nothing to lessen my desire to see Reed get punched in the face. However, it does feel very much like the sort of thought process Reed Richards would follow.

Doesn't change the fact that while Tony Stark (deservedly) spent about 18 months getting his ass kicked literally or figuratively by people for what he did, Reed mostly dodges any of that shit. His place as Marvel's Gladstone Gander, the one things always work out for, unchallenged.

(Until the Hulk returns royally pissed off, but he's mad at Reed over things besides the Registration Act, and beats up a lot of people who had nothing to do with it anyway, so it doesn't really count.)

Not that McDuffie ignores it entirely. The Four were fractured by Civil War in ways I'm not sure they had been previously. This wasn't Ben or Johnny temporarily deciding they needed a change, or Reed and Sue deciding to focus on raising Franklin. Sue and Johnny joined essentially a rebellion against a force Reed was a public face of, and Ben decided to go to France rather than end up punching his friends over legislation. 

Reed and Sue do have to patch things up, most of which is implied by their vacation on Titan. That leads to the Black Panther and Storm joining the team for about 8 issues. A Dr. Doom from the future shows up near the end to try and sow discord between the team, exploiting everyone's recent doubts about Reed. Doesn't work, naturally. The general theme seems to be Sue, Ben, and Johnny know Reed's not infallible, but they trust that his heart is in the right place. And Reed needs them for the times when he overreaches, or when they see something he doesn't.

McDuffie writes Reed as someone endlessly curious and not entirely aware of how brilliant he is, whose brain makes unusual intuitive leaps. Such as when he and Hank Pym are studying an alien messenger probe and it helps Reed decide he should bring Sue perfume of some sort. Ben feels things deeply (it's interesting how bothered he is by Gravity's grave being robbed), but is more observant and smart than some writers give him credit for. He was a qualified astronaut, he's gotta be fairly smart. McDuffie alternately plays up Sue's resilience and her presence as possibly the most dangerous member of the team, and her supportive nature. Johnny probably gets the short end of the stick, pretty much the impulsive goofball. Although it certainly takes confidence to try flirting with the Black Panther's bodyguards.

Black Panther and Storm make for interesting additions to the cast. T'Challa is brilliant, but in very different ways from Reed Richards. More cunning, more quick to suspect ulterior motives, and somehow both more blunt and more diplomatic. You can tell he's used to his decisions being followed, by how he goes for the throat when Ben basically tells him "you ain't the boss o' me" at one point. Storm's quite a bit more open with her feelings, probably because she's used to the sort of informal atmosphere the Four have. Ben and Johnny aren't going to seem that unusual to someone who spends a lot of time around Wolverine and Nightcrawler. And she tends to react similarly to the Thing and Torch. When she sees an injustice, she won't turn away or make a tactical retreat.

McDuffie has a bit of sport with the annoying fans who no doubt complained bitterly about things like the Black Panther handling the Silver Surfer. There's a panel where the Wizard dismisses Storm and the Panther as "B-listers with delusions" while looking at us. Which is hilarious coming from the Wizard of all characters.

Pelletier's art is pretty well-suited to what the story needs. It's very slick and classic superhero art, everybody with the perfect physiques, pretty straightforward presentation. No real wild layouts or character designs, but it always makes sure to tell you what you need to know. Shows the action and makes it easy to follow, expressive enough to carry the emotion of the story. The speculative look he gives Sue when she seems to be considering how she should kill the Wizard is a favorite. It's exaggerated, but Sue's also acting, so it makes sense she'd play it up. Pelletier's got enough design sense to make all the weird science stuff look futuristic and cool. It's too bad he and McDuffie didn't get more time on the book, I'd be curious what else they'd have done.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Random Back Issues #71 - Lady Rawhide #3

Seems like that would be a particularly unpleasant place to give yourself a rope burn. 

At the time of this mini-series, Mexico is on the verge of revolution. People were being inspired by how folks like Zorro and Lady Rawhide were standing up to the corrupt government. Except, rather than just protecting people they find being treated unjustly, the Sisters of the White Rose have been attacking and killing Army officers, leaving a trail through the county not unlike Sherman through Georgia. That's only fed the discontent of the people. In turn, the governor (under the influence of American industrialists) has been sending out the Army to suppress them.

Lady R saved one of the Sisters, a young lady named Esme, from near death when she was left behind, then set out to find the rest. Doesn't take long, a bartender tells her they've seized the Governor's Mansion. And the Governor. And Captain Reyes, who Lady R's tangled with before and considers a generally honorable fellow. The bartender agrees, but figures he'll be executed by the Sisters on some pretext sooner or later.

Approaching the mansion, she finds a bunch of hired guns making plans to storm it and retrieve their leader, a man named Cole. They're also supposed to retrieve the Governor, but don't seem to care about that, or potential civilian casualties. And they've got a Gatling gun, always an encouraging sign. Scaling the roof, she gets the drop on two of the Sisters and asks them to bring her to their leader.

So much for diplomacy. She does make certain they don't splat on the floors, but stealth is out and there's one particularly large woman in the way. Trying to get the whip around her throat just gets Lady R hauled off her feet and punched in the head, so the next time around she goes for the wrists and pulls her over the railing.

She hurries into the cellar, looking for the prisoners. The Governor isn't pleased to see her, but Cole wisely recognizes it's better to try and escape than stay there and be executed. Too bad all the Sisters have arrived with guns. Not really sure how Lady Rawhide though this was going to work. They know she's there, they must know which direction she went. Cellars don't typically have a ton of exits. 

Adelina, leader of the Sisters of the White Rose, isn't inclined to listen to any warning, and says it's time to start the trials. Meanwhile, Esme's trying to ride to keep Adelina and Lady R from killing each other, the people outside the mansion are getting more restless, and Cole's men are preparing to make their onslaught.

[6th longbox, 119th comic. Lady Rawhide #3, by Eric Trautmann (writer), Milton Estevam (artist), Dinei Riberio (colorist), Marshall Dillon (letterer)]

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Police Story 2

Police Story 2 picks up not much after the end of the first movie. Chu Tao has been arrested and convicted, but Officer Chan caused so much property damage he's been demoted to traffic cop. Sadly, this does not result in Jackie Chan pulling any sick stunts on a motorcycle. Bummer.

Initially, the movie looks as though it'll be about Chu Tao trying to take revenge. He's able to be paroled because he's contracted an illness that's going to kill him in three months, and I guess he can't think of anything better to do with his money. Despite various threats against both Chan and his girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung), all they really succeed in doing is breaking the couple up. Mostly by bringing May's fears that Chan's always going to be devoted to his job first, and she'll just be a distant second.

While the relationship drama carries through the movie, Chu Tao drops out partway, replaced with a group of bombers trying to extort money from a large company. So there's scenes of the surveillance unit Chan joins trying to track the suspected bomber across town and through subways to his hideout and things like that. There's also a part where Chan tries to approach the guy selling the explosives while wearing a cheesy fake '70s mustache, which made me laugh every time I saw it.

The movie climaxes in a fight between Officer Chan and the crew of bombers in an old factory loaded with all kinds of fun stuff. Explosives, flammable stuff, chutes and ladders. It's a wonderful feeling when you see the setting and just know rad shit is about to happen. Jackie gets knocked down some immense funnel thing at one point and keeps bouncing off slanted metal surfaces for about three stories. Earlier on, I was really stoked when Chan chases this one annoying goon of Chu Tao's (who keeps getting his glasses busted by Jackie) into a playground, because you know they're gonna have fun with the slides and jungle gyms.

Not nearly as many people getting thrown through windows in this as the first movie, but still quite a few people with bleeding skulls if the credits are anything to go by. I know they're all trained professionals, but it's amazing to me any of these people survived this stuff.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What I Bought 10/08/2021

So the search for issue 3 of Locust was a bust, but the other store in town did have issue 3 of Defenders. Although I saw online issue 4 isn't coming out until early December. I assume Javier Rodriguez needs more time to make it look beautiful, so I'll allow it.

Defenders #3, by Al Ewing and Javier Rodriguez (storytellers), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Cloud hasn't quite got the "Master of the Mystic Arts" hand gestures down yet.

The Defenders, minus the Surfer but plus Galactus' mom, land in the Fifth Cosmos. Where science doesn't exist, but magic is everywhere. Zota's already there, the slave of some C'thulu looking mage named Mor-I-Dun. Strange is leery to use his magic, Cloud's powers don't seem to work well, and seemingly neither does Masked Raider's mask. Not sure why Harpy's doing so well, I thought she was also a product of science.

Anyway, cue the Bad Mage attacking. He's at a bit of a disadvantage because, something about the way Strange summoned this team. Makes them like all the different parts of a spell. Rodriguez colors them in a hodge-podge of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black when they're struck by the spell to reveal them. I'm like Zota, I don't get why that makes a difference against the guy who created the rules of magic, but Strange insists it does and sends the magic he's not trying to control which is therefore not bound by rules, through Harpy instead of himself. Sending Mor-I-Dun to his fate at the end of this universe - I guess he was Omni-Max in the previous issue? Zota's role as herald there would make sense, then - and the team is sucked through a giant green door to the Fourth Cosmos. 

Which is going to be very comic-booky by the looks of it. Or maybe "archetypical" is the better term, since the first character they see is "talking" in colors. The old comic printing colors of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. It looks sorta like a Hulk, so there's that, too.

I'm not sure what this is leading to. I have a suspicion the Masked Raider is actually Zota from further down his own timeline. Looking back at issue 1, the way he tells Strange he knew where Zota would be, or how he knew what Zota was going to do, and that it was what he was 'always going to do.' Suggests a man who's lived it all before. Or he could be Adam-IV, who seemed to know things and have his own plans. Maybe those involved eventually coming back around to this point. They obscured most of the guy's face for a reason.

Anyway, it continues to be a very pretty book to look at. The panels of Mor-I-Dun emerging through a pool of magenta blood were especially nice, and the shift to more archaic look on the last two pages (replicating the printing process with all the little dots like in older comics) was a nice touch. Only two months until the next issue!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Divorce: Italian Style (1961)

You got a Sicilian Baron who decides he doesn't want to be with his loving, doting, affectionate wife. He would rather be able to fuck his 16 year old first cousin (he's 37.) But, you know, Catholicism, so he can't actually divorce his wife. So he's got to kill her. 

We see plenty of visions of her dying in different ways. Him pushing her into a boiling pot used to make soap. Throwing her into quicksand. Asking a favor of the local mafioso. But he settles on a different, culturally appropriate scheme. Contrive a way to make her be unfaithful, and then he can kill her for having dishonored him. The sentence for that would be three to seven years, and since he's an educated aristocrat, with a good lawyer, he'll probably get the minimum.

A lot of the film seems to be the ridiculous double standard between the sexes. Ferdinando gets the idea from the trial of a woman who killed her husband for cheating on her, with the gun he gave her for that purpose if he ever dishonored her. But contrary to what the penal code says, she got 8 years. Ferdinando's father, a dissolute gambler responsible for the family's decline, routine harasses their servant girl, and everyone tells her it's her fault he pinches her butt and tries to force his way into her room at night. 

When Rosalina does finally run off with her old flame, the Church decries how movies like La Dolce Vita (which is screened in town during the film, to much acclaim among the dudes) bring about such moral decay. But the entire town is giving Ferdinando the side-eye because he hasn't yet hunted down his wife and murdered her. (He botched his original plan and is playing things out so that, when he does kill her, his attorney will be able to argue he cracked under the strain of all the social disapproval.)

I assume this was meant to be a commentary on Italian society, but it seems like it could describe a lot of places, including the United States today. There is one funny bit where a prospective Communist Party candidate is speaking to the people in town about how this whole thing relates to the issue of female emancipation and solidarity. He asks the men assembled what they should call her, and just looks so dismayed when the men sharply retort, "Whore!" 

Man clearly did not know his constituency.

Credit to Marcello Mastroianni, who plays Ferdinando with this perpetual hangdog expression. he always looks a little forlorn or lost, shoulders slightly hunched, neck craned forward a bit. You can just tell he's bemoaning his fate to still be married to the same woman after 12 years, when he wants to be with a girl less than half his age. He projects the air of a man with his head up his ass to an impressive degree. His self-absorption, his cruel indifference to anyone, even those expressing concern for him, it really makes you want to punch him repeatedly in the face.

I didn't expect a happy ending. This is a European film, not an American one. Ferdinando was not going to show up to kill Rosalina, only to find she and her lover had conspired to kill him. Nor was he going to have a change of heart and realize he did love his wife. I hoped that he'd get a longer sentence than he expected, or at least that his young lover would have found another by the time he was paroled, but no dice. 

No, his apparent punishment is that his now 19 year old bride is fooling around behind his back. Which is a wholly unsatisfying conclusion. Like, yes, he's a putz who pushed his loyal wife to another man through neglect and deliberate action, who is now being cheated on by the girl he's madly in love with. But he's oblivious, so it's not actually hurting him any. If he finds out, he'll just kill her and get away with less than a three year sentence again, so how bad off is he, really?