Friday, May 27, 2022

Random Back Issues #85 - El Diablo #4

Don't ascribe to moral paralysis what could easily just be shitty refereeing. Also, because I'm a nerd, I looked it up. The Oilers beat the Steelers both times they faced them in the regular season in 1989 (though the closest game to Christmas was December 3rd), but naturally lost in OT in the playoffs. The Run n' Shoot always crapped out when it really mattered.

It's a none-too-happy Christmas in the town of Dos Rios, and not just because the Houston Oilers are getting hosed in their game against the damn Steelers. The fellas' bonding time is interrupted by a group of children performing the La Posada, which is apparently kids pretending to be Joseph and Mary looking for shelter for 9 nights, only to be turned away. Seems weird anyone who would participate would want to be the ones who refuse to offer shelter to the parents of Jesus, but I'm not religious, what do I know?

Before anyone can hardly get back in their seats, there's another interruption, this time because the kids found a dead child. Yeesh. Hector and the others would love to contact El Diablo, but it's been weeks since the end of issue 3, and nobody's seen him since.

Meanwhile, in the Mayor's office, a heated argument between Councilman Thorn, and Ms. Zamora, leader of a citizens' group. There's a proposal to tear down some low-income housing near the river and turn it into a commercial development. Mayor Tommy's folksy, homespun approach fails to cool tempers, so he dumps the responsible of forming an advisory committee on the issue on Rafael Sandoval (El Diablo's) shoulders. Fun. 

Tommy frames it as a chance for Rafe to build a coalition of his own. Rafe points out whichever way it goes, Tommy won't take heat for either kicking poor people out of their homes or costing the city income. Really, Tommy thinks having Rafe do him a favor will actually make Rafe feel indebted to him, which is the sort of logic I'd expect from a politician.

Rafe's visit to his parents' home is cut short when he sees the news bulletin about the murder. He's got a friend on the force who is feeling frustrated over this whole thing and reveals there have been three disappearances lately. So the dead kid doesn't bode well. He also doesn't trust El Diablo, or think they should put any faith in him.

While Rafe's busy meeting with Ms. Zamora and the tenants of the riverwalk section, another child gets abducted outside a convenience store. Rafe finds out while almost getting kissed by Tommy's aide, Virginia (or "Dixie"). He goes, in costume, to speak with the head of the parish. Turns out he's got a bit of performance anxiety. Is being a vigilante is the best way to achieve results, or should he stick to being a politician? Diablo feels the needs to fight the horror in the world with, 'something more than budgets and zoning ordinances.' Well yeah, you don't fight horror with other horrors. Either way, kind of unusual to see a superhero who takes a break for reasons like that. Normally the breaks are necessary convalescence from being badly injured.

By issue's end, El Diablo's on the case, but the situation is going to get more heated before it gets better. Violence, panic, angry mobs, accusations of police corruption. To be fair, those aren't things you can fight with zoning ordinances, either.

[4th longbox, 51st comic. El Diablo #4, by Gerard Jones (writer), Mike Parobeck and John Nyberg (artists), Lovern Kindzierski (colorist), Tim Harkins (letterer)]

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Few Points of Light for Late Summer

There are a couple of new items in August's solicitations I'm interested in, but mostly it's quiet. DC didn't have anything I was interested in. I saw a lot of stuff involving Black Adam, is that movie coming out this summer? I am completely out of the loop on that stuff. DC is also bringing back. . .Azrael! Poor Jean-Paul valley, getting himself another mini-series. If only Diamondrock were still running their blog to see this.

Over at Marvel, Moon Knight's fighting vampires, Iron Cat rolls on, that Nocenti-written Longshot story in X-Men Legends is more than one issue, and Nightcrawler is going to pay She-Hulk a visit. I thought she wasn't supposed to be taking any super-clients, but I guess Krakoa could sue Mallory's law firm for, species discrimination, I guess. Though why the almighty Krakoans need a flatscan lawyer, I can't grasp. They must have someone with the mutant power of perfect lying. One new thing is a new Damage Control mini-series! With the main story written by the creators of some TV show called The Goldbergs? Um, optimism dimmed somewhat, but cautiously retained.

Let's see, Image has Slumber #6, Above Snakes #2 (if I like the first issue), although I'd swear last month it was 4-issue mini-series, and now it's listed as five. Maybe I'll try Dead Lucky, which is a new series by Melissa Flores and French Carlomagno about a lady veteran back from Afghanistan with electricity powers operating in San Francisco. Jenny Zero II will be wrapping at Dark Horse, and there's a trade of Jeremy Haun and Christopher Mitten's 40 Seconds about explorers traveling through alien gateways. That doesn't actually come out until October, though.

Aftershock has issue 3 of A Calculated Man, and Vault has West of Sundown #5. Issue 2 of Agent of W.O.R.L.D.E. is out through Scout Comics, which seems like a month earlier than usual. There's also the first issue of Mr. Easta, about a bunny that is a galactic assassin. It's by Kat Wallis, has kind of a Skottie Young vibe to it. Maybe I'll try it.

Seven Seas Entertainment has volume 4 of Yakuza Reincarnation and the second volume of Weakest Contestant in All Space and Time. I actually bought volume 1 of Yakuza Reincarnation last weekend. it was enough to convince me to pick up volume 2 at some point, but it has that feel of a book relying on one type of joke that it could run into the ground in a hurry.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Raymond Chandler's Pulp Stories

My dad bought a two-volume collection of Raymond Chandler's work. He said he wanted to see if The Big Sleep makes any more sense as a book than it did as the Bogart/Bacall movie. He hadn't gotten around to reading it yet, but he loaned the volume to me anyway. I stuck to just reading the short stories at the first, placed under the general heading "Pulp Stories".

Based on that, my father's hope for clarity in plot may be dashed. I mean, I guess you can say the stories make sense, as Chandler usually has the detective character (who varies, a couple show up more than once, but not more than 2-3 times) lay everything out at the end. But these are not what I'd call fair-play mysteries. The reader's best bet is just to guess based on the conventions of these kinds of stories. Assuming you're the kind of person who likes to try and figure out what's happening ahead of time.

It's pretty clear Chandler's most interested in descriptions, of both people and places, and dialogue. Sometimes he takes the metaphorical approach, when he describes a woman's hair as sucking up all the light so there's a halo around it. Other times he goes for something more, I think self-consciously silly. Describing a gunman as a "long thin man" with a "long thin face". Mostly Chandler just seems to love dry dialogue. The clever one-liners and smart comebacks. Outside of the characters that are there to be goons, everybody in a Raymond Chandler story is very glib, and basically never at the loss for a good phrase. Which is fine with me, they're fun to read.

Most of the stories are roughly similar. There's a detective, sometimes doing OK financially, sometimes not. Always ready with a dry remark. There's a beautiful woman. Sometimes she hires the detective, sometimes she's the one being investigated. Either way, there's trouble that isn't actually what it seems at first glance. Like they always used to say on House, everybody lies. Blackmail comes up a fair amount, so does infidelity. More than one story revolves around pearl necklaces, including "Pearls Are a Nuisance," naturally, but also "Goldfish". No missing gemstones, though. Maybe Chandler considered rubies too exotic for a private detective.

I was expecting the protagonist to get killed at least once, but it never happens. Which isn't to say they always win, necessarily. Sometimes they're just fortunate to limp home with bruises but minus any bullet holes. The cops usually make an appearance. Sometimes they're crooked ("Blackmailers Don't Shoot") and sometimes they just enjoy tap dancing on a guy's face if he won't give answers. There is one story - "Spanish Blood" - where the main character is a cop. But the crime involves the death of a childhood friend and he gets the "turn in your badge" speech part way through, so he's effectively a private detective after that point.

"Pearls Are a Nuisance," is the most unusual story of the group. It's still a basic mystery about missing pearls, but the main character is a wealthy young college guy who does not appear to be any sort of detective. His fiance ropes him in to helping the lady she acts as a private nurse for, and he gives the appearance of not being any good at it at all. He still offers the chance to write witty dialogue, but in a very different tone. More educated, more chatty. It almost feels like a send-up of Chandler's other stories, where the protagonist actually has a very low tolerance for alcohol but doesn't seem to recognize it, and spends pages at a time cheerfully wasted. It made for a nice change of pace.

'For a moment neither man moved. Then Steve kicked the trombone away from him and squashed his cigarette in a glass tray. His black eyes were empty but his mouth grinned whitely.

"If you want trouble," he said, "I come from where they make it."' (From "The King in Yellow")

Monday, May 23, 2022

What I Bought 5/18/2022 - Part 2

Was not expecting to find all four books from last week I wanted at the store here in town. Maybe three, tops. But pleasant surprises are welcome. It would almost encourage me to look on the bright side of things, if I weren't the person I am.

Slumber #3, by Tyler Burton Smith (writer), Vanessa Cardinali (artist), Simon Robins (colorist), Steve Wands (letterer) - Man, don't litter in somebody's grave. Unless it's a trash hole. Some graves are essentially trash holes. I think the difference is based on the amount of care used in placing the body. Lower it slowly? Grave. Toss it in? Trash hole.

The story starts with a quick flashback filling in a little more about why Stetson's after Valkira and hints towards how she got involved in running around in people's dreams. From there, it shifts to the present, inside Finch's dream, as he gets dragged along with Stetson and Jiang as they seek Valkira. They end up at a funeral, which Finch badly wishes to avoid. So Stetson "kills" him and wears his skin. Things still go sideways and they dive into the grave, where they find a subterranean cavern and the body of Finch's brother. Which Valkira has possessed and Finch is rather protective of.

Smith explains a couple of things in this issue which become immediately relevant, one of which I had been wondering about. Namely, why shooting the bad thing in a dream does any good. Apparently, if you kill it in a dream, it's gone forever. The person no longer remembers it and can therefore no longer be haunted by it. The other point is that the person whose dream they're in, can't be killed. At least not permanently. They just respawn through the nearest door. Seems like it wouldn't kill them, just erase their sense of themselves, but OK. Stetson uses the latter to her advantage a couple of times, and Valkira's using the former.

It only lasts a page-and-a-half, but I like Robins' color work after they dive into the grave. The cavern is this monotonous greyscale, as is everything in it (Finch has little four-armed fish-head guys who clean in his dreams, which I like as a random detail). Except for the lake of red liquid they fall into. It's a stark contrast and it really grabs the eye. The flashback is done with dull, muted colors and lots of black backgrounds. The characters are occasionally surrounded by light, but it doesn't brighten them much. It's there, but like it isn't interacting with them somehow.

Kaiju Score: Steal from Gods #2, by James Patrick (writer), Rem Broo (artist), Francesco Segala (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer) - I don't think the white lettering of the title set against T.G.'s cream-colored hair is a good set-up. Need more variation between colors.

Having committed to taking the job, Michelleand her crew get a rundown on the facility and how they can get inside. Unfortunately, there's a lot of security measures, and those they have to work around themselves. Also, after Michelle put a bounty on Carlito, he raised the bounty he put on them. So Michelle asks the creepy guy who financed the first kaiju score for a loan to up her bounty to match, and then goes to ask Marco for help. He won't come on the heist, because apparently pulling off one successful score was enough for him (smart man), but he does help her identify the way past the security measures. Great.

Except Glover almost screws up the retinal scan, and the Russians hit treasure sooner than expected, and the guys who hired them have something else in mind with this job than what they said.

I've been wondering who was going to make it out of this, or where the inevitable double-cross was coming from, but more and more that looks irrelevant. The way Patrick writes this, the whole thing is a maze nobody (except Marco, oddly enough) can actually escape. Even if Carlito gets killed, even if these guys who hired them get killed (because I'm guessing they've got a lot more cash than Carlito if they decide on revenge/tying up loose ends), Michelle's gonna have to pay the hitman broker back, and he must charge ridiculous interest, and now she's got to pay Marco for his time, and look after her crew. It's just an endless cycle of getting in debt to do a score to pay off debt incurred to pull off a previous debt.

Broo uses a fair amount of short, wide panels to zoom in on people's faces, at least during the tense conversations. When Michelle's talking with the guy that hired them, or she and Glover are arguing. The talk with Marco, he pulls things back a little. The pressure is still there, there are still some tight panels to make it seem like Michelle's boxed in, but Marco's in the panel with her. She's not on her own, she isn't having to pretend she has everything under control because this isn't someone looking for weakness or needing reassurance.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Sunday Splash Page #219

"Quality Customer Service," in Grrl Scouts: Work Sucks #2, by Jim Mahfood

Set sometime after the events of the first mini-series, 2003's Work Sucks finds the Grrls a little too well-known around Freak City, a condition that can be dangerous for drug-dealers. So Gwen decrees the three of them are going legit. Unfortunately, as selling medical cannabis won't be an option for several years yet, that means finding other jobs.

Of the four Grrl Scouts stories, this is the most down-to-earth. No demons, no vast conspiracies, no magic socks or slipping into someone's dreams. There's still violence, there's still absurdity and the girls being irritated by morons, just in everyday settings. The kind of stupidity and aggravation that comes with dealing with people who don't know a damn thing and are determined to make that your problem. The most bizarre thing is Daphne (who ends up working as a bartender) having to keep one-half of the evening's entertainment from being killed the by other half when he accepts their offer of cocaine and doesn't realize it wasn't free.

Mahfood brings each character to something they enjoy the same way (offer from a friend), but not strictly the same path. Rita turns something she was doing in her spare time (tagging), into a regular paying gig working on murals for the city. Daphne doesn't get far looking for work, but demonstrates she knows how things work at the bar and gets offered a job. Gwen's the only one who really goes out hunting for work, and runs into the ever-delightful insistence on "experience". She finds a job working with kids while drowning her sorrows over getting fired.

Mahfood's art is starting to shift a little. He goes to a thinner line almost exclusively, and uses the shadows around the eyes to convey a haunted or irritated look a lot. He's also starting to simplify his expressions and figures. I don't know if that's a time-saving maneuver or just honing his style. His panel layouts are evolving, too. A lot of panels with borders that flow like waves, or that overlap at tense moments or are tipped at an angle. Switches to panels running across two pages and then back to a standard page seemingly whenever he feels like it. He's still a long way from the almost mosaic-like pages in Stone Ghost, but you can see him starting in that direction.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Saturday Splash Page #21

"The (Metaphorical) Claws Come Out," in X-23 (vol. 2) #11, by Mariko Tamaki (writer), Diego Orlotegui (penciler), Walden Wong (inker), Chris O'Halloran (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)

After her first ongoing series ended, Laura Kinney had to wait five years to get another, by which time she had a different codename. All New Wolverine ran for 35 issues, and we'll get to it (someday). Almost as soon as it ended, though, she got shunted back to her old codename, and another ongoing series to go with.

This series still focused on Laura trying to deal with her history as a designed weapon. But where previously that had been through either trying to bring her under their control, or focused on the trigger scent that made her go berserk, this series looked at those who were trying to make more weapons like her, minus that inconvenient free will.

But Tamaki seems more interested in the differences in opinion between Laura and Gabby, who is a younger clone version of her. Despite that, differences in age and experience mean they see things differently (which is always something I find interesting to play with about clones.) Not just that Gabby is more versed in pop culture references and phrases (I feel like Tamaki downgrades Laura's knowledge there, as she doesn't even know "K.O." stands for "knockout.") Gabby talks about their birthdays, and Laura dismisses it, acts as though they don't even have birthdays because they're just clones.

More critically, especially in the second half of the book, they see things differently when it comes to who counts as family. When they encounter a clone of Laura with cybernetics but no healing factor, Gabby treats her as another potential sister. Someone to befriend and help the way Laura did for her. Laura sees the "X-Assassin" as just a machine, a damaged weapon. She's not family, she's not even a person. The end of that story would seem to argue in Gabby's favor, although it's undercut somewhat by the fact the X-Assassins were being mass produced and neither she nor Laura hesitated to kill the hell out of all the others.

Juann Cabal drew the first five issues, which involve another group of clones, the Stepford Cuckoos. There's a one-shot drawn by Georges Duarte about Gabby and Laura going undercover at an elementary school. Then Diego Orlotegui took over as artist for the remaining six issues. Cabal's art is a bit closer to photorealistic, his version of Laura is bit bulkier. As I noted in a review of one of All New Wolverine's tpbs, you can see a little more of Logan's genetics in her build when Cabal draws her compared to most artists. Orlotegui exaggerates expressions a bit more, there's more comic effect in his work, when it's warranted. The last two issues have a bit of humor in them, even as they're a continuation of the argument between Gabby and Laura.

OK, we are done with the Xs! Whoo!

Friday, May 20, 2022

What I Bought 5/18/2022 - Part 1

Work yesterday was pretty lousy, which I knew was going to be the case for weeks, but yeah. Just not enjoyable, dealing with lots of anger and stupidity. So tired. Speaking of tired, here's two comics from this week on their last legs with me.

Iron Fist #3, by Alyssa Wong (writer), Michael Yg and Sean Chen (pencilers), Michael Yg, Victor Olazaba, Keith Champagne and Don Ho (inkers), Jay David Ramos (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Great, now he's got even more pieces of sword stuck in his arm.

Bishounen-looking guy from last issue is Lie's older brother, who gained power from the destroyer god at some point. The demons work for him, and the one impersonating Min's father tries to steal the pieces of Lie's sword. Lie and the others fight him, but he gains the upper hand and demands the shards. So Lie. . .jams them into his arms. Goddamn, kid, just buy some pouches. Cable and Deadpool can't possibly own all of them.

He tears through the demon, who delivers a message on where to meet his brother. But before they get there, Lie, Min, and the grumpy teen jerk from last issue are caught by Fat Cobra and the Bride of Nine Spiders. Nobody ever captures the Bride's look properly, compared to how Aja drew her. That reserved, creepy look. They always make her too expressive and loudly aggressive. There were other Immortal Weapons for that, except other writers keep killing them. She's carrying knives now. Why?

But with four inkers, things were going to be a little weird. Chen draws the middle section of the book, the part that encompasses all of the fight with the demon, and Yg handles the rest. I don't know which inkers are with which pages, although I'm very curious who drew the last couple, when they run into the Immortal Weapons. Yg's art looks much looser, and there's one panel (above, on the right) like a caricature or cartoon. It was a nice change of pace, although I don't think it was an intentional so much as a necessity to save time. Sometimes shortcuts are good!

Overall, though, I just don't really care. I feel like I should want to find out if Lie will remain Iron Fist, or repair his sword, or why Shou-Lao chose to do him a solid, or at least be excited Fat Cobra showed up, but I'm not. 

Wolverine: Patch #2, by Larry Hama (writer), Andrea Di Vito (penciler), Le Beau Underwood (inker), Sebastian Cheng (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I feel like landing on flat on his left foot is going to really jar his leg.

This issue is "Patch's Crappy Trek Through the Jungle." He's still trying to heal from the beating last issue. Then he gets shot with some poisoned arrows by the locals, who think he's out to hurt the two Russians. Logan convinces them he's not an enemy and they start guiding him to the Russians' hiding spot. Then he gets shot by some of General Coy's guys, who want the locals to lead them to the Russians. He kills them. Then he gets shot by some Yakuza working for the guy doing monkey experiments. He kills them. Then more of the general's guys show up and he kills them (off-panel). He reaches the Russians, the locals convince them to help, because there's a third one, a little girl with weird powers who goes inside Logan's brain and finds Jean.

I guess some of Logan's time as Patch did happen while Jean was "dead". Or it could just be Logan has her on his mind a lot. In which case, that kid should really get out of there. Not age-appropriate.

Hama uses SHIELD as an almost narrator. I was going to say omniscient, but there's a lot they don't know, so that wouldn't work. The Helicarrier is still just hovering there in the sky, in full view, wondering why they can't find these Russians. All the cigars must have clouded Fury's brain. I went back to check, because I thought I remembered Di Vito drawing Fury smoking, but my mind must have just autofilled that image. Anyway, SHIELD is somehow surveilling all over Madripoor at once and so as they discuss one place or the other, the story cuts to that location, then back, then off somewhere else. 

It's not a bad way, and it works to contrast Logan tromping through the woods, getting more tangled up in all this by fighting guys for reasons he doesn't even know, with everyone else doing reconnaissance or forming alliances to try and achieve their goals. Logan just takes the direct approach. But when all you've got are unbreakable adamantium claws, the whole world looks like something to cut through.