Tuesday, July 31, 2007

TV? During The Summer? Weird.

This is a pretty odd summer for me, in that there's actually more than one time slot a week that I eagerly anticipate, and so I'm going to talk a little about what's caught my interest this summer.

Eureka: I got hooked on Eureka last Thanksgiving, when Sci-Fi channel did an all day marathon of the first season. The plots are not anything all that original in themselves, but they draw their unique feel from the oddball science stuff that winds up in every episode, like a person feeling unappreciated taking steps to correct that - by using a machine that makes localized weather to make himself look brilliant.

Admittedly, I'm not all that interested in the sheriff's attempts at a relationship with the new head of the think-tank, but I do enjoy his butting heads with her ex-husband, and his relationship with his teenage daughter. It's a quirky show, one that I find enjoyable.

The Bronx Is Burning: It feels odd to me, as someone who is generally exhausted by ESPN's seeming constant fascination with the Yankees, to watch this show, knowing that it will end in their World Series victory. But, I rationalize it by telling myself that I enjoy watching the Yankees squabble and bicker like a bunch of elementary children, which I do. Honestly, watching Steinbrenner act like he did, it drives home just how much he's mellowed out in the last thirty years. Of course, that's probably due as much to getting old as it is his gaining some perspective in his later years. Turturro as Billy Martin cuts an interesting figure: full of brass and fire, but at times looking broken inside, to the point that he's ready to come crawling back to George to keep this job.

Burn Notice: I'm sure all of us have shows we loved that we feel got canceled before their time. A few years back, Jeffrey Donovan starred in a show for USA called Touching Evil about a detective with some mental issues, stemming from the death of his family, and his getting shot in the head. It was like Monk in that it had a quirky, but likable detective, but it was much darker. The crimes committed weren't as goofy, Donovan's character was frequently struggling with depression and trying to help other people in similar situations to his. Naturally USA bounced it all over the schedule, and it got dropped after 8 episode.

Burn Notice marks Donovan's return to USA as a professional spook who can't get a job, because he's been "burned". Now trapped in Miami, being harassed by his mother and gambling addicted brother, he's trying to figure out why he was burned, while taking odd jobs to get some money together, to get the equipment to figure out what's going on. It has a distinct MacGyver feel, only Donovan has no problem with using firearms. It's funny and has some nice internal narration about making listening devices out of cell phones, and things to remember while fighting, and it has Bruce Campbell, and really how can you go wrong with Bruce Campbell? Besides those creepy Old Spice commercials I mean.

I'll also mention that I like that Sci-Fi started showing anime on Monday night. That Highlander movie last night was tight, yo. At one point you had a guy with a sword squaring off with a guy with a gun, on the wing of a Nazi transport plane, that has an engine on fire. And then the plane exploded. Nice. Plus, it's from the director of Ninja Scroll, which means profanity (edited), nudity (blurred), and people get their heads split in half with swords, which is naturally shown in all its blood spraying glory. Wait, something doesn't seem right about that. Either way, it's always fun to watch fictional people with swords hack each other to bits, especially when they keep pulling themselves back together again.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dodge! Duck! Dip! Dive! What's That Las - OW!

It's Super Dodgeball time! It's all the fun of dodgeball, without the pain and embarassment that comes when you get stuck on the team of losers that have no clue what they're doing so that by the end it's you against five other people. Man, that really sucked. Where was I?

Oh yeah, Super Dodgeball for the Nintendo.

The concept is simple. You control a six-man American dodgeball team, playing in a tournament to prove that when it comes to hurting others with rubber balls, Americans have no equal. So your team travels the world, pummeling the representatives of countries such as England, China, India, Kenya, Iceland, Japan, and of course, those dirty Commies in the USSR.

Gameplay is simple. The field is a large rectangle, with a line down the middle. You have three players on the inside of one half of the rectangle, with one member of the other team stationed along the edge of each the three sides. The same is true of the other half of the field, only your guys are outside, and the other team is inside.

Before each round starts you get to select which three of your players will be inside, and which will man the edges. It can make a difference, since your players have special attacks, they vary from guy to guy, and some attacks will be more effective in a level than others, depending on your competition's ability to dodge. Sam just throws a super-fast glowing line drive. Other players have attacks that hit the opponent and carry them way up in the air, only to let them crash back to earth, or one where the ball goes past the other team, then comes back and hits one of them from behind. And all it takes to use these attacks is to catch the ball, and build up a good head of steam before you throw. Simple. Effective. Fun.

A fun aspect of the game - besides hitting people with dodgeballs that move like they've bben shot out of a cannon - is that the levels often have a certain uniqueness to them. I don't just mean in terms of the backgrounds, which are set up to emphasize the sorts of things associated with each locale, such as playing Kenya in a jungle, or China in front of a huge wall scroll of Mao. For example, the Indian team is very resistant to damage, and a lot of their strategy involves simply keeping the ball away from your guys, and chipping away at your players' health with the fellows on the outside (who are typically used to get the ball back to your inside guys, but can also launch weak tosses against the other team). It's a slow, drawn-out contest, and if you let your attention wander, it can cost you. In Iceland, the surface is, naturally, ice, so it can be easy to skid forward farther than you intend when you attack, and if you go over the line before you throw, you lose the ball. In Kenya, it's hard to get any speed up at all, I guess because your shoes don't grip on dirt, so super attacks are likely not happening, which slows the game down, and forces you to up your concentration. They're little touches, but they can really mean a lot to a game that is as basic as Super Dodgeball.

The final level is interesting, though I don't understand what's happening at all. I guess the Soviets had some sort of evil doppelganger creating machine. Damn Reds. There's also multiplayer and a scrimmage mode, where you pick one of the six guys on your team to control, and then all of them run around trying to knock out the others. That mode is limited since you can't move too freely in many directions. It gets better once you manage to knock some of the players out and the field opens up a little bit.

So there you have it. Super Dodgeball, for the NES. Good times.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Of Goblins And Duality

Well, I'm going to try and be more deep today than I was yesterday, so we'll see how that goes. To be specific, I've been wondering about Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin versus Harry, and the way they were handled. That's a lousy intro, so I better just start explaining.

As I understand it, when the Green Goblin was first revealed to be Norman Osborn, it was also established that the Goblin was a split persona from Norman. So you had the Green Goblin, deranged villain who knew Spider-Man's identity and was determined to destroy this obstacle to his plans of a criminal empire, and you had Norman Osborn, the often brusque businessman/inventor, who despite his gruffness could at times demonstrate real concern for his son, though usually not until after it would have done Harry some good.

By contrast, Harry and the Green Goblin have always been one and the same. It was always Harry putting on the costume, whether to destroy Spider-Man to avenge his father, or to rescue his family, or to be the hero and redeem his father's name. It wasn't a case of a mental "switch" being hit and a different person emerging, it was Harry - even if stressed - making the decision to use the Goblin costume and weaponry, the same way that Peter chooses to put on the Spider-Man costume. Peter may act differently under the mask (more confident, for example), but he's still the same person.

After Harry's death, Norman returned, and he was mentally whole. Well, sort of, he was still nuts and obsessed with ruining Parker, but there wasn't a divide between the "Green Goblin" and "Norman Osborn". Norman, like Harry, was the Goblin now. I suppose it was necessary for the story to work, if the writers are going to say Norman didn't really die, and instead was in Europe plotting to ruin Spider-Man, but if you want to look at it from within the Marvel Universe, you could argue that even with the regenerative powers granted by the formula (funny how the even better formula Harry used didn't have that same advantage, and instead killed him), the only way Norman could return from however close to death he must have been is if his two disparate parts became one, and combined their will to live. It's a little hokey and metaphysical, I suppose, but it's the best response I can come up with off the cuff.

So what can this mean? Well, I'm of the opinion that since the Green Goblin gradually became Spider-Man's #1 arch-nemesis, that the state of the Goblins reflects their enemy. I'm going to be talking a little bit out of my depth here, since I'm very spotty on '60s Spidey history, so correct if I'm off-base.

When Norman was the Goblin without realizing, Peter was still in the relatively early stages of his superhero career, and there was still very much a divide between Peter and Spider-Man. There always is a divide, but over time, Peter Parker has become more confident, more willing to speak his mind, and not just take garbage from Flash, or Jonah, the way he often (but not always) did back in his glasses-wearing days. At the time prior to Gwen's death, Peter had never confided in anyone that he was Spider-Man; The Goblin knew by defeating and unmasking him, and Captain Stacy had figured it out because he's a smart cop, and supposedly MJ's known all along, but Peter had never actually gone to someone and said, "I'm Spider-Man", the way he did with MJ in Ultimate Spider-Man #13. His life was still basically segmented into two parts, with the closest bridge being that Peter Parker made a living (such as it was) off taking photos of Spider-Man. The two halves were certainly more connected for Peter than the oblivious Norman, but the divide was still there.

Norman killing Gwen (but not having children with her, no sir, never happened) altered the playing field. As so many have pointed out, this was the point where Peter being Spider-Man directly lead to the death of someone close to him, since they were targeted to hurt Spider-Man (And not because Gwen wouldn't let Norman near their kids. Which they never had). The gap between the two parts lessened, since "Spider-Man" had now wreaked considerable havoc on "Peter Parker". That included the damage it ultimately did to his relationship with his best friend, Harry Osborn. Now Harry knew Peter was involved in the death of Harry's father, and a girl Harry cared deeply for. Faced with that situation, Peter had a harder time keeping his two parts separate, and it showed. Anger from something in one part of his life (say relationship troubles, or Jonah being stingy), would leak over into the other part of his life, leading to frequent Angry and Out of Control Spider-Man moments by the early '90s. More people came to know Peter was Spider-Man. The Puma, Venom, Daredevil, Mary Jane telling Peter she knew, the line was getting blurrier, and J.M. DeMatteis' work on Spectacular Spider-Man with Harry only served to heighten that.

Once Harry decided to embrace the Goblin, he didn't really seem any different whether in costume or not. He'd see Peter on the street, and fly right up to him on the glider, as if he was just out for a stroll. He abducted his own family to bring them together, and talked about how this 'Green Goblin isn't going to hurt the people he loved', all while wearing the costume without the mask. When he was dressed as the Goblin, he was still Harry, and when he was dressed as Harry, he was still the Goblin. The costume was just something worn for appearance sake, to honor a family tradition. The whole situation was a funhouse mirror for Peter, because where he tries to keep his lives separate to keep people safe, Harry seemed to feel the two parts needed to be together to do the same. Eventually, neither one could really separate the two halves. Peter never felt good about fighting his friend, but he couldn't just let Harry endanger other people to mess with him. Harry could never completely forget that Peter was his friend, and that Peter loved Gwen too, but at the same time, Harry was certain Peter was involved in Norman's death, and that's not something that passes easily. Still, I think it was the fact that Harry could never just become the Goblin, just flip a switch and change that saved Peter. The Green Goblin would have left Spider-Man to die, but it was still Peter, his best friend, and when it's all said and done, Harry just couldn't kill him.

Give me a minute. I get a little sad every time I think of the end of Spectacular Spider-Man #200.

The Norman returned, to give us all the answer to the Clone Saga mess. Peter really was the real Peter Parker. He wasn't the clone, poor Ben Reilly was. Norman was, as I said earlier, whole. He knew who and what he was, and he wanted his arch-foe in the same place mentally, so that his destruction would be that much sweeter. Looking at it, Norman returned as a theoretically greater threat than ever. In combat, the Goblin had always been dangerous to Spider-Man, but now Peter didn't have the advantage of an accident causing the Goblin to revert back to "amnesiac Norman Osborn". Norman could, and would, bring down all the weight of his financial empire on Peter and Spider-Man. Frame him for murder, frame him for kidnapping, take over the Bugle, apparently fake the death of Peter's beloved aunt, kidnap his child (maybe?), the Green Goblin could strike at every part of Spider-Man's life now, and the hero was more or less powerless to strike back, because Norman had the money and the connections to skate by, again and again.

Even so, Peter should (I emphasize should, because I haven't read many comics from that time to see whether it happened or not) have been in a strong place himself. Now he knew he was the true Peter Parker, that all the memories he had weren't just transplanted from another being. And he knew, that even when he thought he was just a clone, even when his powers weren't working consistently, that he had still done the right things. Even if that had meant taking MJ and getting out of New York for awhile (which also gave Ben a chance to settle in an establish himself, without always looking over his shoulder at Peter), he was doing the responsible thing. That should have really solidified his sense of who he was, and what he was all about, making him perhaps more whole than he had ever been.

So that's what I've got on the Goblin/Spider connection. It's iffy, since I don't have a lot of history for the first and third parts, so you know, correct me where I'm wrong. That's what science is supposed to be about, finding new information and adapting your ideas to accommodate it. Granted this isn't science, but it's close enough to use the same rules.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's Like Dirty Dozen, Of Course Someone Will Die

I'm having trouble coming up with any ideas that are actually good today, so I thought I'd just examine which member of Starlord's squad is most likely to bite the dust before Conquest has concluded. Sure, it's morbid, and way too early for such speculation, but like I said, I couldn't come up with anything more high concept right now. Besides, if Wendell Vaughn could get taken out last year, I doubt any of these folks are safe.

Starlord: He's the title character, so he's safe (I know, Super Skrull died last year in his mini, but he got better). Chance - 1%, just to be safe.

Rocket Raccoon: Probably the most popular character in the group, which either makes him the safest, or the one most in trouble. Since Giffen doesn't seem like a writer who kills a character just to aggravate its fanbase, I'll say Rocket's instincts are gonna keep him safe. Chance - 3%

Groot: The biggest, therefore the one likely to draw the most fire. But Rocket Raccoon seems to have formed a bond with Groot, and given RR's got great battle instincts, it's likely he'll be able to keep Groot alive. Chance - 11%

Deathcry: Seems to be the Wolverine of the group, just a little nuts. So it wouldn't be out of the question that she might get out of control and wind up going suicide run at some point. I just can't see what will put her in the position to want to do that at some point, so her combat experience ought to see her through. By the way, the Kree said Deathcry manifests nearly unbreakable claws when she goes berserker. So what, the Shi'ar were just really impressed by Wolverine after the fight at the M'Kraan Crystal? Chance - 20%.

Captain Universe: Here's where I'm putting my money. Sadly, Mr. Gabriel Vargas is the closest there seems to be in the group to a "classic" superhero. I say sadly because I don't think the good, decent, honorable types are going to do well on this mission. I imagine Gabe will balk at a moment where he needs to kill Phalanx-controlled Kree civilians, and that could be that. Or he'll blow the element of surprise trying something noble. Potential mitigating factors: 1) He's probably the most powerful member of the group, if he's anywhere near what Spidey was capable of with the Uni-Power. 2) Starlord recognizes a little of his old self in Gabe, so he'll be able to anticipate false steps Gabe would take, and prevent them. Chance - 31%

Bug/Mantis - Honestly, I can't really get enough of a bead on either of them personality-wise to decide. Bug volunteered, but that was probably because it's the fastest way out of prison. As for Mantis, I've got no idea. Is she still expecting to be the Celestial Madonna, because I imagine that would make her a bit cautious. Let's just say 19% for Bug, 15% for Mantis on the strength of her mental abilities.

Well, that didn't require much brainpower on my part, so I guess I should focus on coming up with something better for tomorrow.

. . .

Eh, maybe I'll worry about that later.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Maybe Life Ain't What It Seems

{So, Adorable Baby Panda, are you ready to work?} You bet! {Then let's get started! Thundercats, ho!} What? {Never mind.}

Umm, OK. You know, this really didn't seem like a week for handing out applause. Most people needs hugs, I think. {Well, that's how it goes some times.} Yeah, but I do want to Applaud Wu Ao-Shi and her. . . hey, they never told us the husband's name! {Little things like always seem to get lost in the shadows of time. Why were you going to applaud them?} Because they were really different, but they didn't let it get in the way of how much they cared for each other, and that's just really great.

Now I want to Bonk the Kingpin, but I'm not sure he could handle that right now, so I'm just gonna point and laugh at him instead. {I like that. Seeing a little panda laughing at him will totally blow Fisk's mind.} And I'm going to Bonk the Kree, because they seem so unreasonable. {How so?} Well, look at why the people getting ready to work with Starlord got locked up. Bug just wanted some love, Captain Universe was trying to protect some civilians, Rocket Raccoon passed an unmarked, restricted place, they don't even say what Mantis and Groot did. {That's the Kree for you. They've always been bossy, self-absorbed jackholes. Not going to change just because the Annihiliation Wave and now the Phalanx kicked their butts halfway across the galaxy.} Bonks to Wolverine! What was he thinking, attacking Deadpool like that?! Wade was trying to be peaceful, at least he was after he finished shooting HYDRA agents. What are you looking around for? {I'm kind of expecting Deadpool to show up and knock me out, seeing as I've got more mini-pizzas in my fridge.} I don't you have to worry about that right now. {Says you. I'm not dropping my guard for an instant.} OK, then you keep being scared. I'm going to hug people.

Hugs for Spider-Man, Mary Jane, and Aunt May. Spidey finally did what he set out to, so maybe a hug will put him in a better mood. Hugs for Irene Merryweather, Domino and Deadpool for losing a good friend, and an extra Hug for Wade because of the Wolverine thing. Oh, hi Wade! {Deadpool? Where? *dives under cover*} Ha ha, I was just kidding! {Not funny.} Hugs for Starlord's team, just because I think they're really gonna need it. Did you know some of my best friends are raccoons? {Really? Do they like large firearms?} Yeah, they usually ride in sidecars attached to polar bears, and they usually get a un attached too. {Really? You that was what Papafred always said, but I've never seen it.} Oh yeah, it's really cool to see them charging across a field. Or they can go in the water since the side cars have flotation devices to make it easier on the bear. {Man, they think of everything.} Raccoons are really smart you know. Not as smart as pandas, but close.

{Soooo, you done?} Yeah, pretty much. I guess I could applaud the other criminals in Kingpin's prison for being smart enough to not get involved in his fight, but they're bad guys, so I really don't want to. {Then I wouldn't. No reason to hand out applause if you don't mean it. Take it from someone who halfheartedly clapped through all sorts of boring school functions back in the day, all it does in make your hands sore, and your ears hurt a little more.}

Thursday, July 26, 2007

All Paths Diverge Eventually

So I'll be dropping Amazing Spider-Man tomorrow. It feels odd to be doing so, since it's one of those rare titles I've been reading throughout my comics-reading times. Late '80s with DeFalco/Frenz, '90s with Michelinie/Larsen/Bagley, even some of the Mackie/Byrne stuff. But, it's time to part ways, and Spider-Man dealing with Kingpin is a better place to do it than next issue, when it looks like someone dies.

But what I was really thinking about with this is how I've been reading the book for JMS' entire run, and just how long that is. It's been 71 issues now, almost six years worth (in 73 months). It should be more issues, but, well, Civil War delays.

It's been a weird run. Or maybe it's a typical run: starting well, so full of hope, only to stumble badly somewhere down the stretch. I didn't mind the possibility of mystical interference in Spidey's origin, because initially, it was just that: a possibility. Unconfirmed. And besides, Peter didn't care about the "whys" or "hows" of his getting spider-powers, because what matters is how you use those powers (power = responsibility, after all). And messing with magical foes could make a nice contrast for science-minded Peter Parker.

Yeah, Composite Gangster-Hulk was odd, but I still like the Loki story, and the issue with Dr. Doom in the airport, and the Doc Ock story, and some of the other small ones about Peter interacting with his students. I liked the idea of Peter being a science teacher, though I wish JMS hadn't felt it necessary to toss Peter's supporting cast out the window to do that. Jenkins and Mackie had used Glory Grant, Randy Robertson and Jill Stacy to good effect.

But things fell apart the way they often do. Maybe JMS stayed on longer than he should have. Maybe he'd finished the big character arc he wanted to tell, but Marvel showed him the cash and he stuck around, but without a clear idea where to go next. That's how you get the hammering of Spidey's powers being mystical, which removes ambiguity that let fans choose which origin they preferred. Then there's giant spiders devouring people, and the Parkers living in Avengers Tower, and The Other, and Gwen's kids. I know, JMS wanted them to be Peter's, not Norman's, but I'm not sure it was a good idea either way. If you want Pete to have kids, then bring back baby May Parker (except that would limit his stories even more, right Quesada? Already grown kids don't do that, they just provide some quick angst, right? Bugger).

The run helped me gain an appreciation for John Romita Jr.'s artwork, since I'd thought he previously drew Spider-Man too broad in the shoulders. I know, it's a little thing, but I thought it made Spidey look chunky. I wasn't as much of a fan of Deodato's artwork, but that might also have been the stories associated with it. I think Len noted, Deodato's work goes best with darker stories, so did they bring him on to match the tone of the stories, or did his art determine the tone? Ron Garney's done a good job the last year plus, especially given he had to draw Peter in that stupid Iron Spider costume for several issues. I think he could have been a good artist for some brighter, happier Spidey stories; maybe he'll get to draw some one day.

I'm not sure what aspects of the JMS Amazing run I'll remember most. Hopefully it'll be how awesome I thought the Morlun fight was, and how funny the hot dog scene with Loki was, as opposed to the whole The Other thing. I'm also curious as to what from his run is going to carry over and become part of Spider-Man's mythos. Is there something he introduced that won't just get brushed aside in a few years, something that has real staying power?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What I Bought 7/25/07

This would be what I'd consider a normal "big" week - four comics. All in all, it was a pretty good week, so let's talk about it. And you know, obligatory spoiler warning.

Amazing Spider-Man #542 - Wilson Fisk makes fun of Spider-Man, Peter Parker beats up Fisk, humiliates him and leaves. That's pretty much it. I suppose I could talk a lot about how Peter seems to draw a distinction between "Peter Parker" and "Spider-Man", and how certain actions are acceptable for one of them, but not the other. Or I could talk about Ron Garney's art, which is mostly effective. I thought the first panel of page 6 was nice, Garney's way of showing Peter attacking swiftly from multiple directions. Fisk looked odd though. Sometimes his head seemed oddly shaped, or his eyes looked too deeply set in his head, like they were in holes. The coloring was nice, especially the bruising around Fisk's eyes. Holy crap, I just saw a dog on TV telling a girl he wishes she wouldn't smoke pot. Interesting. Not as interesting as Andy Dick on Star Trek: Voyager, but interesting nonetheless. Back to the topic at hand.

Really, all I wanted out of this issue was Spider-Man beating up Kingpin, so I got that, and yet. . . I'm a bit disappointed in Wilson. I thought he'd have more of a plan. I hope he did. He may be able to beat Daredevil straight up, but going toe-to-toe with Peter Parker is a whole other story. It was really nice to see him lose some teeth, though. Nice touch, Mr. Garney. So there it is. If you want to see Spider-Man make the Kingpin look like a chump, you'll probably like this. I sort of did, but now I've had my fill of Angry Spider-Man for awhile. 3.5 out of 5. I feel bad rating it that high, but I can't say I didn't enjoy a good chunk of it.

Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord #1 - Now this. . . should be interesting. We've got a nice little recap of Starlord and who he is, followed by a little recap by some Kree officers as to the general situation. The nice thing here is that since Peter Quill (Starlord) doesn't know what the Kree are talking about, it makes the exposition (or mission specs) seem less gratuitous or forced. He's learning along with us. Then we get intro'd to the team, one to two pages each. Then there's a little more set-up, and. . . the issue ends.

So yeah, lotta talking, but I presume this gets that out of the way so we can have explosions and stuff next issue, which I'm generally fine with. It's an interesting enough first issue, if only for the oddball characters we meet, and I got to find out about why exactly Quill gave up being Starlord, which was nice. Oh, and Galen Kor showed up! Unless you read Avengers comics from around #350, that probably doesn't mean much to you. It didn't mean much to me either, except I knew I'd heard the name before. Little research and presto! Turns out he going to set off one of those planet-devastating Nega bombs on Earth, for the Avengers involvement in Kree business. The things I remember from just one comic I didn't like and don't even have anymore. Now he's an Admiral in charge of Covert Ops.

Two nitpicky things here. One, Starlord looks too young. I'm probably just used to his grizzled, raggedy look from Annihilation, but I really thought that worked well, because it made him seem older, more experienced than Nova. Maybe it's having the cybernetic implant removed, but he looks younger than Rich now. I also still need to see Mr Green the 2nd's artwork during a fight scene. It's odd, but familiar some how. I think it's reminding me of Seth Fisher's art (not that I'm terribly familiar with his work either). The other piddling detail is. . . you know what? Forget it. It's probably a matter of different starting points on the timeline for the mini-series, or something else easily explained. Never mind. 3.5 out of 5.

Cable/Deadpool #43 - So, can I go back to just calling this "Deadpool" now? And what is that "One More Day" thing doing up in the numbering box? This book has nothing to do with that (or at least, it better not)! Anyway. . . obligatory Wolverine appearance! Hmm, Ron Lim's Wolvie reminds me of Ed McGuinness'. Deadpool is visiting a monument to Cable in Rumekistan, and Cyclops shows up. That's nice; I doubt Whedon will take the time to have Cyke pay respects to his son. Did Cyke and Cable ever do much bonding?

The X-Men want Deadpool to do. . . something about Wolverine, who's on another one of his "Decimate HYDRA" kicks. Whether it's stop the slaughter, or help, I'm still uncertain, but Wade has remembered that he left Weasel in the hands of HYDRA, at the base Mr. James Howlett's headed to (what are the odds?), so he's in. With Bob, Agent of HYDRA, of course. I must admit, as someone with a juvenile sense of humor, I laughed quite a bit at HYDRA's newest nefarious weapon. It's just so. . . amusing. Hmm, I think I'm using too many ellipses. Time for dashes!

Yeah, quite a bit of toilet humor in this issue. I love it. Hey, don't get me wrong; I'm glad Wade is trying to do something good and save a friend, since he lost one recently, and probably can't afford to lose many others. It shows personal growth, and that's great. But 'It's gonna be like an international butt party.'? That's hilarious. So's what happens to Wade at the end. I think we've got a Happy Time Big Explosion Party coming next issue. Hooray! 4.2 out of 5 for the laughter.

Immortal Iron Fist #7 - Ah yes, the book with 'pirates, girls, kicking and Iron Fist'. Who wants to put odds Chris Sims goes into anaphylactic shock when he reads this? First question: who buys glass rose-blossom cherries? I mean, glass representations of fruit? You're just asking for a painful awakening some morning when you stumble about feeling starved. Eh, it's not really relevant to the book, but I just thought I'd ask.

It's the origin of Wu Ao-Shi, so no Danny Rand. Sorry. She's a troublemaker, catches an important fellow's eye, gets a chance to be something special. Then she finds love. Superpowers and love, well that's wonderful. Except it doesn't stay wonderful, because this is Marvel, and nothing ever does, I suppose. Oh, don't be sad, it's ends nicely (the part we see anyway).

It's an interesting tale, as each goes on their separate paths, even when they're together. She walks a path of adventure, danger and excitement, and he walks a path of - fish. But neither tries to change the other, which is what makes it sweet. And cool. The art is nice, the writing is clever, though at times the dialogue seems too, smart-alecky for the time when it took place. Maybe it's a case where the writers are being self-aware of the material, trying to keep us from taking it too seriously. Which is fine. I chuckled at some of the dialogue and the captions, and the thought balloon on page 14, and chuckling is good. And this issue was good, though I'm a little impatient for the Tenkaichi Budokai to begin, but that's not until next issue. Grr and Sigh, hurry up next issue. 4.3 out of 5.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I was thinking about people who work in the creative industries recently. It seems like if a person has success, then the public comes to have certain expectations of what those people will do, and deviations are rarely greeted well.

For example, by and large Adam Sandler makes fairly lowbrow comedies. They usually involve humor through use of profanity and people getting injured. His characters frequently have anger issues which lead to those humorous uses of profanity and violence. And this has been a fairly successful formula for him, made him a lot of money. A few years ago he tried to do something a little different with Punch Drunk Love. His character still had some anger issues, but it didn't lead to humorous situations, and his inability to know when to express anger, and when not to, hampered his interactions with other people. It was his typical emotional immaturity, only examined more seriously.

Of course, it did very poorly in the box office. Obviously, revenue generated shouldn't be the determining factor in whether something was good, but the poor public response can't be encouraging if you're thinking of expanding your repetoire.

I think what started me on this track was thinking of the huge success of The DaVinci Code. I'd imagine it made Dan Brown a lot of money, and it seems to have spawned any number of similar stories from other authors looking to cash in. But is it going to be the book that defines Brown's career? If he wants to write a book about pirates, or China in the 6th century, without a trace of secret organizations, would it be eagerly welcomed, or would people complain that it wasn't more like The DaVinci Code? As with Sandler, if the pirate novel is the one he really wants to write, then hopefully it wouldn't bother him that the public (or critics) didn't like it, because it's the story he always wanted to tell, and he's likely got the financial flexibility to do that.

Is J.K. Rowling going to have the same issue? Are people going to expect any works she publishes after this to be like Harry Potter, or will her name convince people to judge her works on their own merits? Maybe she'll write under a different name, like when Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman (to let him tell darker stories, I think). Or Douglas Reeman writing as Alexander Kent, which I could never figure out. Most of Reeman's stories involved 20th wartime vessels (I went through a serious Reeman stage in 9th grade). The Kent stories took place on 18th century naval vessels. I haven't read his Kent work, so I can't comment on what about it would be so different he'd feel the need to publish it under a pseudonym.

I imagine this has happened with some of the great painters; completing works that differ from their earlier pieces, and having the public reject the works because of that, but my art history knowledge is poor, so I've got no examples there.

The thing I'm uncertain about, as it relates to the roles actor's take, or the books author's write, or the style of paintings/sculptures that artists create, is whether it is determined by public response, or if it's just what they feel most comfortable writing. Michael Connelly writes detective stories, set mostly in Los Angeles, usually involving a detctive named Harry Bosch, and corruption or secrecy in the higher offices. Does he stick to that realm because it pays the bills, or because those are the kinds of stories he likes to tell? Maybe he (or Brown, Rowling, Reeman) don't want to right about 6th century Chinese dynasties, they like what they write about, because it's what they're interested in.

Maybe it varies from person to person. Some people stick to it for money, some because its comfortable. If true, I'd expect the "money" people to experiment more, try and right a more diverse style of books, because they might figure that a different type of book could still sell well, and it would be something different to try. I don't know though. I know some of you are either in or interested in the creative industries, so maybe you've got some thoughts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Like Top Gun, Only With Animals. And Not Lame

For this week's gaming selection, we turn to Starfox 64. I recall playing the original Starfox on a SNES in a department store, either Sears or Dillard's. The main things I remember from that are a) that I wasn't very good, b) the nonsense the co-pilots spoke annoyed me (there was text to read, but their voices were just inarticulate squawks and whistles), and c) the graphics were really weird looking, like no game I'd seen before.

I don't recall Starfox making much of a positive impression on me, but it must have, given how eager I was to get its sequel when it was released on the Nintendo 64. As you might expect, the graphics were quite improved, and didn't seem quite so weird any more, and they had actual voice actors for this game (though those carried their own annoyance factor).

It was not a particularly complicated game. You enter a level, and fly through it shooting enemies, grabbing rings to increase your life bar or gain extra lives, and picking up missiles and laser upgrades. There were frequently two paths in each level, and which one you chose (or how successful you were in you mission) would determine which level you went to next. For example, in the Sector Z level, if you failed to keep your mother ship from getting hit by long-range space missiles, then your crew concludes they lack the firepower to go to Area 6, and you have to go to a different, easier, level. Of course, if you succeeded (and were given access to the harder level), you could still choose to take the easier level, which I would do some occasions, preferring to fight in a Independence Day style battle on Katina, rather than a more difficult submarine level on Aquas. What can I say, except that I was playing to fly space fighters, not subs?

The game had some neat twists to it, with the possibility that friends from one level could show up to aid you in another, the weird bosses (including a giant crustacean-like thing living on the surface of the star), the psychedelic worlds you passed through if you activated a warp gate, how easy they made aerial acrobatics, and the odd situation with Andross, the final boss. See, there's two paths on Andross' world, each completely separate from the other. One leads to a battle with a giant head and a pair of hands that turns out to be a robot, the other leads to something even freakier. I won't say what, in case you ever play it and don't want it spoiled. I will tell you you've got to go through Area 6 if you want to be able to see the really freaky thing.

Like a lot of my N64 games, Starfox 64 had a multiplayer mode, though I didn't find it as enjoyable as Goldeneye or Mario Kart's. Still it was nice to zip around dogfighting with someone a little more clever than the usual computerized opponent, though Alex wasn't always that much of an upgrade (he had a bad knack for running into stuff). And, of course it's a game that can be fun to play single player with a friend watching, because you can each play to one-up the other on the levels, or razz each other, or shout instructions that the other person doesn't need.

I had probably been doing that while Alex was playing one day, and he beat the boss of the level, and one of his wingmen yells 'Yee-ha, you did it!' Alex says 'Yee-ha? Damn, his ass must be from Texas.' As I only had one chair in my room, and it was occupied, I was standing next to the TV for a good view (this was necessary, as I had a really small TV at the time). It was odd, I heard the character say what he did, heard what Alex said, and didn't react. Then I took a drink of soda, repeated what Alex had said inside my head, and the next thing you know my TV screen is covered in soda, and I'm laughing hysterically, which of course, made Alex laugh hysterically, and it's a running joke that we use to this day.

No, we weren't stoned, why do you ask?

If there's one complaint I have about the game - besides that I could tear through it in about an hour, once I got enough experience - it's how helpless your wingmen are. Slippy has no prayer most of the time, though it is amusing to hear him say he's gonna 'get someone now', only to have him start calling for help 3 seconds later. Peppy, Mr. Yee-Ha himself, isn't much better at times, and Falco, though rarely one to get in over his head, is such a jerk when you bail him out it makes me wonder why I did. This seems to be a problem a lot of flight games have: They can't make the A.I. of your wingmen too good, or there's nothing for you to do, but at the same time, they often make them too stupid, so you waste more time running about trying to save them, instead of completing the mission. Or you can't complete the mission because your wingmen are doing a crap job of keeping the enemy off your tail, even though that's all they're supposed to be doing. It's so very frustrating.

Let's end on a positive. Starfox 64. Good game, fun game, bright and colorful, easy to learn, the characters do have distinct personalities, even if it is a case of painting in broad strokes, and there's a moment or two that are actually potentially tear-jerking. Not for me, of course; I'm a rock (and no, not because I'm dense!), but for some you in touch with your emotions, you might notice it get a little dusty at the end (if you get the real ending).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Those Voices In My Head

I think the voice that keeps telling Quasar to find this "savior" is probably her predecessor, Wendell Vaughn.

We've already seen that Annihilus has left some sort of a psychic imprint on the bands, and he only had them for a few months, and there's no sign he developed any kind of a strong bond with them, seeing as Phyla was able to convince them to abandon Annihilus and work with her instead. Wendell, on the other hand, had the bands for years. He's been through death and back several times with those things. Plus, I don't remember seeing his body anywhere at the time Annihilus took the bands, so he may have gotten absorbed into them as Annihilus was taking their energy. Granted, the voice seems dispassionate, but that could just be Wendell adjusting to his current state. Bit of a change from being corporeal and all that.

If I'm right (big if there, given my poor track record of predicting things), that could make for an interesting time for Phyla. She's already dealing with her own feelings of inadequacy; the idea that she's not good enough to carry on the Quasar name. This is despite the fact that she seems to be pretty good at thinking on her feet, for example her suckering the Super-Adaptoid into running smack into an asteroid. Really, when she stops thinking about whether she's letting down Wendell and her father, she does pretty well. What would having her predecessor residing within the bands do to her?

You could see her become more cautious, always looking to him for advice on how to proceed, or conversely, becoming more bold, determined to show she can live up to the responsibility that comes with the bands. How would Wendell handle being in an advisory role? He used to have Eon, the being that annoited him "Protector of the Universe", to look to for guidance. Then he had to safeguard Eon's offspring, Epoch, until it reached maturity. But here, he'd be in a teacher role, rather than that of protector. Would he be hands-off, to encourage Phyla to trust herself, or would he be more actively involved, trying to help her avoid pitfalls he didn't? Personally, Wendell never struck me as very authoritative, so I'd figure he'd stay laid back, and offer advice if asked.

For the record, I'm not sure whether this wild theorizing of mine would be good for Phyla's character development. I mainly suggest it because it looks like she needs approval, something she didn't get from a pushy mother, or a dead father, and given her frequent concerns that she isn't living up to the standards Wendell set, it seemed like it might be a way to go. Hopefully though, Phyla will believe in herself by the time Conquest is complete. I don't know if the quantum bands run on willpower like power rings, but self-doubt certainly can't help things any. {Edit, Jan. 19, 2008: I was wrong again. The voice belonged to the Supreme Intelligence. We did get a Wendell Vaughn cameo though.}

Saturday, July 21, 2007

No Escape

I think what's going to help Annihilation: Conquest avoid being a cheap knockoff of Annihilation is that the writers have set up a very different scenario.

In Annihilation, all life in the universe was threatened by a being determined to ensure its own survival by killing everyone else. In Conquest, the Phalanx don't want to kill many people, they want to bring them into the Phalanx, and bring about greater safety and peace by making it so all the life in Kree Space is connected as a greater whole. I would be surprised if there aren't a few Kree that are happy with the Phalanx taking over because now they feel safer, whereas not too many months ago they might have been on the verge of being exterminated (I think that would be something to explore in the aftermath, probably in Nova: the people who liked being part of the Phalanx).

In Annihilation, the resistance had the entire universe to hide in. Places to set up shop were not in short supply, it was just that once Annihilus found it he was either going to teleport his army into your camp, or just use Galactus to destroy the entire world. With Conquest, there's likely to be a lot less property damage, if only because it defeats the purpose of bringing peace to the sector if you destroy everything. But this time around, as Nova's found out, you can't fall back. There's ultimately nowhere to retreat to, because the Kree - and now the Phalanx - have eyes everywhere. Where you go, they'll track you. Where you stop, they'll attack you.

It feels a bit like The Fugitive, or in Quasar's case, the story of that Green Lantern that lives on Apokolis. The one that only has about a three second charge left in the ring, so he has to save it for a really dire emergency? Whereas the enemy in Annihilation took the approach of having so much power on their side it just overwhelmed the resistance quickly, the Phalanx are going to just gradually grind their enemies down, just keep chasing them until they can't go on.

There is one big similarity, though. In both Annihilation and Conquest, the key to victory is going to lie in going right into the heart of the enemy. In Annihilation, that was where you found Annihilus. In Conquest, that's where you'll find that tower that's transmitting the "transmode virus" that's infected all the Kree and their tech. Of course, getting their is the tricky part. Nova already found that out the hard way. Query: Has anyone in comics ever found things out "the easy way"?

Friday, July 20, 2007

And It's Starting To Tear From Within

{So are you sure you're up to this? You worked pretty hard last Friday.} Yeah, I've been resting all week. I'll be fine. {Well, alright then. let's kick this thing off!}

Applause for Ultimate Peter Parker, for being determined to continue his education. It'd be easy to use the super-hero stuff as an excuse to not keep getting an education, but Peter says he's gonna keep saving people and get two Ph.D.'s, bravo. {Hmm, since Nick Fury said Pete would have to work for him when he turns 18, I wonder if he can get money for college out of that, like you can in the Armed Forces?} Ooh, that would be neat! {Yeah, it would almost make up for having to work for a tool like Nick Fury.} You're never going to stop being mean to Nick Fury are you? He put Peter's house back together. {After his Spider Slayers helped tear it apart!} Whatever. I want to move on to Phyla-Vell. She doesn't have enough confidence in herself, so I think some Applause for taking on the Super-Adaptoid by herself, and looking after her friend, plus a Hug because she's in a tough spot. She keeps having to make tough decisions, even if she doesn't like them, and that just makes her doubt herself more. So I want her to know I think she's doing a good job.

I have a Hug for Ultimate Aunt May. She isn't doing as bad as the other Aunt May, but she just got out of the hospital, and now she's going to spend a lot of time worrying about Peter being Spider-Man. {Plus, SHIELD had her house repainted a real ugly color. What were you thinking, Nick Fury?} Would you leave Nick Fury alone? {Ummmm, no.} Well, I'm not bonking him, so don't think you'll get to see that! {So who are you gonna bonk, huh? I bet no one, because you just aren't up to it, are ya?}

I am so up to it! I'm going to Bonk the Phalanx and Super-Adaptoid. First, that temple they destroyed was full of talking, intelligent trees! You can't destroy something that cool! And second, "Super Adaptoid" is a dumb name, so he gets bonked just for that. {Wait, you won't bonk Ultimate Nick Fury for having Aunt May's house repainted an ugly color when they fixed it, but you'll bonk a machine for having a dumb name?} But Nick Fury did a good thing having the house rebuilt, so that's why he doesn't deserve a Bonk!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hoodies Rule!

That's what we need more of in comics today: heroes who eschew the traditional mask, and instead rock the hood look. It's just such an adaptable look. The artist can show us the character's face when we need to see a reaction, or place the face in shadow for a mysterious air, which works especially well if only the eyes are in shadow. makes you wonder what they're thinking. Plus, with a hood as part of your costume, you're less likely to draw unwanted attention, because a hood is something people who aren't costumed vigilantes (or responsible, registered government-controlled "heroes") would wear. Plus, it breathes a lot easier than your standard mask, which I'm sure could be more comfortable.

I'm probably a little biased as I very often wear hooded clothing (when weather appropriate), but still, hoods are cool, and they go really well with capes, so that's always a plus. And there are at least a few characters coming around to this way of thinking.

Raven's been wearing a hood of some sort pretty much since she was created. Really helps with her whole motif of being the kind of spooky outsider, who doesn't fit in with the others all that easily. Then you've got perhaps the poster boy for the "hood" movement, The Hood. Rogue's taken up the look herself recently (and I think it goes well with her recent troubles, since a hood can also be a sign of someone putting up barriers between themselves and others. And even our new Quasar has favored the hood as part of her look since before she even took the quantum bands right off Annihilus' wrists. Clearly, the lady knows a good style. The gray of the hood contrasts nicely with the bright colors of the costume underneath, and the shadows the hood creates make an equally nice contrast when she starts that glowy eye "cosmic awareness" stuff. And F.Y.I., Garrett, star of Thief: Deadly Shadows is also a proponent of the hood style. As a man used to lurking in shadows, he knows the value of making sure nobody can get a good look at his Most Wanted face.

Hmm, who else is there? I can't really count Captain Cold because his doesn't actually seem to obscure his face; it's just too tight-fitting, so it stops at his hairline, and hugs the top of his head. No shadow-casting there. That demented child Morrison gave Batman wore a cloak, but I'd prefer to forget that character exists. I could see Siryn or Madrox incorporating into their looks. I think it would work well for the noir feel Jamie seems to be so fond of. It can't be that hard to find a trenchcoat with a hood, can it?

Hmm, doesn't really seem like many guys are using the hood as a costume choice. What's up with that? C'mon guys, it's an easy way to go! You can get hooded clothes anywhere, which means your costume will be that much easier to replace if it gets trashed (because we all know guys hate to do sewing and stuff), and it can honestly be any less comfortable than your usual costumes.

I suppose it does make it harder to maintain a secret identity, so it probably won't work for DC where those still seem to matter. But Marvel seems to have pretty well thrown away any interest in secret identities, so I think they should definitely get some characters.

Can you think of any other heroes who like hoodies, or any that might want to consider adopting it? Maybe for Guy Gardner? *looks to see if Sallyp is around* It could only help us all if Guy hides his face from public view. *ducks brick*

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What I Bought 7/18/07

I hate summers around here. Fall and spring? Great, love 'em. Winter? Not difficult. Summer? Horrid, can't even imgaine how people who live further south handle it. Putting that aside, we might as well move on to the comics of the week. After last week's monstrous haul, I'm back down to a more typical level with just two books. Before we begin, let me make this solemn promise: None of the spoilers in these reviews will pertain to World War Hulk.

Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar #1 - I get the distinct feeling that Phyla wasn't real close to her family. She didn't know her dad, her mother appears to be a domineering [expletive deleted], and she apparently ridiculed her brother for his attempts to carry Mar-vell's legacy at some point. Good thing she has her girlfriend.

This issue, Quasar and Moondragon take a breather from looking for the savior Phyla was told about by visiting another temple for the Priests of Pama. Moondragon's been having telepathy related headaches, and Phyla's worried about her. It winds up being more of a useful stop for Phyla, as she a) is able to get a better sense of where to look for the "savior", and b) finds out two potentially troubling things about the quantum bands. I'm actually surprised that the second of those 'troubling things' was revealed this issue. It's the sort of thing I'd expect to get teased out until #3, when the hero finds out about it at the worst possible moment. Should be interesting to see how Gage uses it from here out.

What's most interesting to me about the story is the insecurity that Phyla carries. Nothing she did was ever good enough for her mother, who appeared to be grooming her to be Captain Marvel, and so Phyla worries about failing her father's legacy ('cause she still don't know he's living again), and about her ability to use the bands properly leading to her failing the Quasar legacy, and about her letting down Moondragon, and so on. The trick is, she isn't doing as badly as she perceives; she's actually doing well for the circumstances, and it'll be interesting to see if she starts to recognize that, or if she has to constantly fight her own doubts. I really enjoyed this, so 5 out of 5.

Ultimate Spider-Man #111 - Mark Bagley's final issue. I may just have to declare tomorrow a day of mourning. In what is a microcosm of Bagley's time on Ultimate Spider-Man, he gets to draw nothing but scenes of Peter and Aunt May discussing Peter being Spider-Man, while Immonen gets to do the battle with Ultimate Spot (buh-buh-bummmmm!). But, as usual, Bagley does a good job of conveying the emotions of the people involved, whether it's humor, or grief, or shock, or concern, or whatever. I guess if nothing else, Ultimate Spider-Man has given Mark Bagley plenty of practice on facial expressions.

Now about Immonen, my only issue was that the panels on page 16 seemed out of order. The fighting seemed disjointed at that stage, things not proceeding logically from one panel to the next. Hmm, maybe Ultimate Spot can warp time as well as space? Or maybe Immonen was taking a snapshot approach, to give us a feel for the battle, not necessarily mapping the whole thing out. I'd prefer the mapping out approach if given the option, but it wasn't bad, and his Jonah is amusingly angry looking, in a much more cartoony way than Bagley's (based off two panels with JJJ in them, at the bottom of page 12).

Beyond that, the issue is Peter explaining how he got his powers, who else knows, how Aunt May can't tell other people, the whole Osborn connection, etc. It's very much like the talk between Pete and Aunt May in JMS' Amazing Spider-Man. May has to adjust to suddenly understanding all that weird crap that goes on around her. The only other thing that might be of note is Peter noting the really sudden appearence of all these super-types, that weren't there a year or two previously. What's up with that? I'd imagine we're going to have to read that "Ultimate Secret" thing I've heard about to find out, so I'll pass.

Besides, Nick Fury was obviously behind the whole thing. He always is, and he's currently hoarding the Gwen Clone and Peter/Scorpion Clone. It's an interesting point to raise, but not enough to bring the grade for the issue above 3.2 out of 5. Sorry, Mr. Bagley, it wasn't your fault.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Like The Pied Piper. . . With Demons

I finally saw Rise of the Silver Surfer today. I'm saving my thoughts on that for a Macq Experience post (gotta spread the posting around, you know), but I did have a thought while watching the previews: What's a worse idea for a movie, Underdog, or a sequel to Daddy Day Care? The sight of both of them had me cringing, but I can't say which was more horrifying, but maybe yo've got some thoughts?

But that's not really what today's post is about. Nope, today is another book post. Hey, stifle that groaning back there! Books are good for you, and today's was written by someone who writes comics. Thought that would get your attention. Today we're looking at The Devil You Know, written by one Mike Carey. I haven't really read anything by Carey, at least not to an extent where I could pick up on his patterns as a writer, but I would guess this book is probably similar to his work on Hellblazer (he did write Hellblazer for awhile, right?).

The story stars one Felix Castor, a fellow rather sensitive to the supernatural, in a world where the supernatural has become quite common. Ghosts, zombies, loup-garous (were-creatures), all of them walk around quite openly in this world, to the point people are pushing for their legal rights. Castor had worked as an exorcist, but had given up on that trade after a mistake seriously bolloxed his friend. "Fix", as his friends know him, lives with an old college friend, Pen, who is kind enough to overlook the fact he owes her a lot of back rent. So when his belligerent nature botches an easy job, he's forced to take up the exorcism trade once more to be able to pay up. As you might expect, things get more complicated than he expected, and dark secrets are unearthed, though I don't suppose that's too unexpected when dealing with the restless dead.

I guess the first thing to say is that I liked the book. Felix Castor most reminds me of Spike, from the Buffyverse: brash, smart-mouthed, but cleverer and kinder-hearted than he outwardly appears. Felix is also a person who deals with things he's uncertain of, by telling himself that he doesn't care. The question is frequently raised in the book, as to where the ghosts he exorcises go. Felix's response is that he doesn't know, and that he doesn't particularly care. His job is to get them to go away, and thinking about where he might be sending them would only complicate matters. Castor's outlook will change by the end of the book, but by how much is up for debate.

The part I found most interesting was the concept of how Felix does his job. He gets a feel for the ghost with his paranormal sensitivity, then uses that to craft a song that will attract the ghost. He plays the song on his whistle, until it almost becomes part of the ghost. Then when he stops playing, the music - and the ghost - go, as Fix puts it, 'wherever music goes when it stops'. It's a perfect way of putting it, because it encourages you to vizualize it however seems most appropriate you.

Carey introduces the supporting cast for Felix, and gives you a good feel for who they are and what they're about. His older brother is a devout Catholic, disapproving of Felix's freelance exorcisms, because that's the Church's realm, damnit,a nd doesn't Felix remember what happened to their sister? Pen's kind and caring, and a bit of a witch (magic, not personality), though she does have a sharp tongue, and her concern for Felix is strengthened by past losses. There's others that move into and out of the story quickly, but Carey still makes sure we get a feel for who they are.

The book reads quickly, with the exception of a confession that comes late in the book that seems to drag on too long. This may have been an intentional on Carey's part, since the person confessing is scared out of their wits, and trying their best to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing, so backtracking and telling things that aren't really necessary could be expected. To the extent that it's a mystery story (as in, what's the ghost there for), it isn't a particularly difficult one. I'm usually pretty bad at mysteries, and I had this one pretty much doped out, but I think this is more supposed to be about Felix, and how he confronts his failure and his beliefs and moves forward from there. I'd recommend it, if you have an interest in supernatural msytery stuff.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sneaky, Sneaky

As far as my Xbox goes, there are three games that vie for the title of favorite. Well, we've already covered Max Payne and Phantom Dust, so it must be time to talk Thief: Deadly Shadows. This is the third game in a trilogy centered around a thief named Garrett, and the general trouble he gets mixed up in. It's essentially Splinter Cell, from before there was Splinter Cell.

The game takes place in a city, one divided into five parts - South Quarter, Old Quarter, the Docks, Auldale, and Stonemarket Plaza. Not all sections of the city are immediately available to you, but they gradually open up. The time is somewhat hard to place. By clothes and weapons, it's almost certainly medieval. Swords and sorcery, and all that. Torches as a primary light source (which makes water arrows very useful). But at least some of the city is lit by electricity, which can be. . . inconvenient, since you can't really douse those lights, and so much of the game is using the shadows.

In addition to Garrett, the city is full of civilians (who won't trouble you unless they catch you at something illegal), the City Watch (who attack you on sight), and two rival religious factions, the Hammers (who worship the Builder God), and the Pagans (who worship the Trickster God). Theirs is a classic struggle between industrialism and back to naturism. After a couple of missions early in the game, you land on both of their hit lists (remember kids, never steal holy items from religious factions, it tends to rile them), but are graciously given tasks you can do to improve your standing. Whether you do them or not is up to you, but it can be handy to get in their good graces, since that means they'll leap to your defense if you're under attack. I'd definitely advise doing enough to make them neutral towards you, just so they don't attack you on sight. You'll have enough to worry about besides them. Oh, there's one other group I forgot to mention (besides the Kurshok, who are Pagans that also happen to be Animal People, rather than simply human. Eight foot tall rat and fish people. . . with swords. Yikes) - the Keepers.

Ah, the Keepers, the Thief world's version of DC's Guardians, by which I mean they're a bunch of ineffectual bureaucrats who spend their time wringing their hands over what the prophecies from the Glyphs (rune-like things that can hint at the future, and be used for magic) mean, while sending others out to do their dirty work (Garrett = Green Lanterns). Garrett was a Keeper in training himself, but decided he'd rather use the training to be a thief. Which is all well and good, except they keep drawing him back to save the day.

And that's what Deadly Shadows winds up being about. You steal some items for them (so you can look through their archives for some reason), and things start to go haywire. The Glyph Interpreter turns up dead, and fingers get pointed at you (naturally). The game at the that point becomes a case of you not being safe anywhere. The Keepers knew where you hung up your shingle, know who your associates are, and they've got their telepathic assassins (whose weapons fire energy that looks a lot like lightning) combing the city for you. You've got your supporters, but they aren't good for much but exposition, so it really is all up to you.

The interesting thing about this game is just how much they stress the "stealth" element. I've watched Alex try to play; he has no gift for sneaky, thus every 30 seconds of so, he'll alert a guard to his presence, and try to fight with them. He dies. Every time. Garrett's best hand-to-hand weapon is a dagger, not good for going head to head with guys with broadswords. No, if you want to live, you've got to strike fast and quiet, before they know you're there. The blackjack works well, if you can sneak up on someone without them knowing, Garrett raises it back over his head. Swing the blackjack, and down they go, without making a sound. Then all you have to do is pick them up and hide them where they won't be found, since guards will notice unconscious people and raise the alarm. You've also got a quiver with a Hawkeye-esque range of arrows. Standard arrows, water arrows, moss arrows, fire arrows, gas arrows, noisemaker arrows. Then there's your lockpicks, poison bombs, oil flasks (combine with fire arrow and watch the fun), holy water (for the periodic undead encounter), and so on. And while you may find of a few of these items laying around, most of the times you'll have to buy them. Good thing you're a thief, and that the places you go always have plenty that can be fenced. The different parts of the city have different fences, who buy different things (some like art, some like jewels), and different stores, that sell different items. I'm partial to the store in Stonemarket, I think the owner has a bit of a crush on Garrett. Well, he is ruggedly handsome, with the scar and the stubble, and the mechanical eye (with zoom lens!) and all.

The game has definite atmosphere. Something about lurking in shadows, watching people move about when they don't know you're there, or the rise in tension when they're searching for you, and you start to wonder if you hid well enough. It can be electric, crouching there, waiting until you see a moment to make your move. Sometimes you have to be patient, and sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and go for the gusto, as they say.
The later levels can be extremely creepy, as in one level you go looking for information on the person who's working against you. You go to where they were last seen - decades ago - and it just so happens to be the burned out remains of an orphanage/insane asylum. Yes, it was both at the same time, until a huge fire occurred, and everyone burned to death inside. And you have to go inside that happy place. Lucky you. I will freely admit that if I play this level at night, lights must be on, because otherwise the noises you'll hear start to completely freak me out. Even having beaten the level multiple times, I can never shake the feeling that something is going to pop up in a location I never saw it in before. But you know what? I think that's the hallmark of a pretty good level.

I'd also say the museum level is a lot of fun, if only because before the level begins, the briefing has Garrett telling us about how the last guys to try and break in got fried, and the curator declared the museum 'thief-proof'. I derive a certain satisfaction, and I think Garrett does as well, from taking the opportunity to prove them wrong, even if the Eye creeps me right the hell out.

If there is a weakness to the game, it's the load times. Moving between areas within a level, or between sections of the city will always prompt a load screen, and those can take some time. But it's a fairly minor price to pay.

If you've got an Xbox or a good enough PC, and you like Splinter Cell and all that, give Thief: Deadly Shadows a whirl. You should be able to find it for less than 20 bucks easy by now, and I think it's well worth the money.
You just have to remember to take your time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Take The Bad With The Good

When I was in the comic store on Wednesday, I happened to run into Len, and he asked what I'd picked up that week. I showed him Amazing Spider-Girl #10, with Carnage there on the cover, and grimaced as I explained that DeFalco seems to think any character can be part of a good story. Len wisely opined that it isn't a necessarily bad idea to think that, and the more I've thought about these last few days (and I've thought on it a lot, as I've been trying to piece this post together since about Thursday), the more I agree with Len, and by extension, DeFalco.

Of course, the tradeoff to for the "every character can be the star of a good story" belief is that it may not be true. The character may be so poorly conceived or thought out, that they aren't capable of being the focal point of a good story. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but they're probably out there. Or the writer isn't capable of writing that good story. Much as I like Tom DeFalco's work, that is certainly something to consider, since he does have his limitations.

It seems like a fair trade, though. Because you never know, at any time a writer could put together a story that gives a hitherto unappealing character a second chance with you, where you can learn to appreciate them in a way you hadn't before. Or perhaps it's a character you've never seen before, and the story makes you go "Hey! I like Character T! I want to read more stuff about them!" I've kind of had this reaction to Busiek's Prankster in Superman, though I haven't yet bought any issues yet (buying Superman comics goes against my general nature, I guess). But I didn't know anything about Prankster, now I think he's a pretty interesting fellow.

I can't really think of a good way to wrap this up, other than to say I do prefer the "all characters have potential" to the the "lower-tier characters are primarily useful as dead bodies for Big Events" that you see sometimes. After all, if you want a body count to indicate how dire the threat is, that's what generic characters - civilians, cops, SHIELD, AIM, etc., - are for. No times been invested fleshing them out, so they can be offed rather neatly, and if you want to create someone like say, Bob, Agent of HYDRA, then you would just have to say that he survived the Massacre of Many HYDRA Guys That Shows This Is Totally Serious. And if you're do want to off an established character, at least do it in a way where it needed to be that character that died. For example, I'm not sure the Death of Harry Osborn works with many characters other than Harry Osborn, given all the set up DeMatteis had invested in exploring Harry's inner struggle with his demons, how it mirrors Peter's self-doubts, how Harry's troubles hurt affect those around him. It was a story basically built specifically for Harry Osborn, and probably would have needed major alterations to work for almost any other Spidey character.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that even though I wasn't sure I was glad to see Carnage again, I do appreciate the effort on the creative team's part.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Cartoons Help Learning?

I bought Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Modern World: Volume 1 on Thursday, and I've already done one read through. So I figured, let's talk about that today.

For thsoe who haven't been introduced to Gonick's work, he's written a 3 volume work titled the Cartoon History of the Universe, which ran from the start of the universe to just before Columbus set sail across the Atlantic. He accomplished that little feat by breezing through everything prior to Mesopotamian civilization in about 100 pages. It makes sense, he's more a historian than a paleontologist I suppose, he probably wants to focus on history of the civilized world, as there are more records of that.

Modern World Volume 1 picks up where Volume 3 of History of the Universe leaves off, with Columbus getting his funding and setting sail. Technically, it starts with a brief examination of the people who were already living in the Americas prior to Christopher's arrival. From there it runs through Cortes, Pizarro, the Thirty years War, Henry the 8th, eventually stopping at the writing of the U.S. Constitution. It can be a little difficult to keep track of all the names, especially when there are so damned many people named Henry and James, but I think that would be true of most any history text you flipped through. The part of the book I most enjoy is the anecdotes he drops along the way, to give you a feel for the people you're reading about. Two quick examples:

- The Mexicas, who eventually form the Aztec Empire, did not try to kill enemies in battle, but to capture them. The prisoner would be adopted in his captor's family, only to be sacrificed on the altar at some point thereafter.

- When the French settled in Canada in 1605, it was during a period where Catholics and Protestants were encouraged to coexist, but neither side liked it. Apparently, the ride across the ocean was marred (or livened up) by periodic fights between the priests and ministers of the opposite sides. When they reached Canada, it just so happened that a priest and a minister died on the same day, so the people buried them in the same grave, to see if they would lie together quietly. Fortunately for the colonists, they did (probably not so fortunate for the Native Americans, as finding out that this new land caused the dead to rise might have discouraged settlement).

And the book is full of things like that, including breakdowns on Thomas Hobbes and John Locke's differing theories of government, why the Netherlands was such a large economic power for a time, and so on. The book is focused heavily on Europe and the Americas, so hopefully the next volume will shift focus to Africa and Asia (though there is discussion of the power shift in India, before European imperialization sets in).

Gonick's artisitc style seems to have settled in for this volume. In earlier works, the art would shift from very cartoony, with big eyes, and rounded faces, generally brighter work, to much darker backgrounds, sketchier looking, with the faces more often being almost crescent shaped. I couldn't discern a distinct pattern, though I didn't notice the shift to grittier art as he covered Athens rise and fall, especially the fall. In this volume, the art seems to settle in the middle, leaning a little more towards the "sketchiness".

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's Like Chasing Shadows, In The Night

That's a lot of comics there. {Yeah, think you're up to it?} Of course I am! I've been training! {Training?} That's right, I spent hours in the forest, hugging trees and bonking rocks. {Uh-huh. And how did you train for applauding?} I sent a lot of time clapping, of course! {So, you were standing in the middle of a forest, by yourself, just clapping?} Yeah. {Whoo, you need a life worse than me.}

Whatever, I'm going to hand out hugs now. Hugs to whomever it was that had their blood used to spell "Help Me" in big letters in the Parker home. Hopefully it wasn't baby Ben, I don't think he could lose that much blood. {I'm not sure it's good for anyone to lose that much blood.} Hug for Ronan, since his empire is taken over, and he's being controlled. {Uh, no. No hugs for Ronan. I'm not going to have a Phalanx-infected ABP on my hands.} But I can probably fix him! {No.} Well fine, then I'm going to give Speedball two Hugs, and maybe that will fix him. Hug for the city of Chicago, after what Dr. Gotham did. {Yeah, first Bluedhaven; then Khandaq, now Chicago. Not a good year or so for places in the DCU} Very gentle Hug for Richard Rider, because I'm not sure he could survive a strong hug. {Anymore hugs?} No, I've got to. . . pace myself. On to Bonks!

Bonk for Jamie Madrox. . . for boozing in the morning. What example is he setting for little pandas like me? {One that says drinking liquor in the morning is acceptable, of course.} I know that, but it's still a. . . bad example! {You're just stalling now, aren't you?} Of course not, because now I'll Bonk Nightmaster. It's a good idea to attack the villain while he yaks, but it's really dumb to stop attacking to talk about how smart you were to attack while he talked. Whew. {Getting tired?} No! Stop smirking at me, or I'll give you a Bonk like the one I've got for the Phalanx - running around, taking over all the technology, taking free will, bunch of jerks. {Again, I'm going to advise not making physical contact with a Phalanx.} Bonk for Sage, for killing someone for Albion. She's supposed to be a good guy, right? So she shouldn't be killing people, even evil X-Men. {Well, she's like Wisdom, a bit more hardcore than the rest of the team, but she does seem to have switched allegiances.} Bonk to Deadpool for being a freeloader and mistreating the members of the Great Lakes Initiative, and a Bonk to Bertha, for being insensitive about Wade's face. It isn't that bad! {I don't know, that one eye rolling back was pretty gross.} [Hey!] He said it Deadpool, not me! {Oh crud.} *punches landing* You didn't kill him, did you? [Nah, keep it going kiddo. Arms holding up OK?] Yeah, I can still clap.

Applause for the person wearing the Carnage symbiote. At least they haven't killed anyone yet - I think. [By that logic, can I get some applause for last Thursday? No wait, I stabbed that biohazard specialist because I thought he worked for AIM.] Come on Wade, that fellow needs a supportive atmosphere to keep the symbiote under control! Squirrel Girl gets Applause for. . . trying to save Speedball, and for getting rid. . . of a certain freeloader. *slow round of applause* [Man, Calvin has nothing in his fridge. You're looking a little out of breath.] Applause to. . . Captain Britain. . . for protecting the Queen. [Freddie Mercury?] Who? No, the Queen of England. Applause to those grandparents in X-Factor, because they want their grandkid to grow up being accepting of different people. [That's right. As a member of the X-Men, it's very important that I help usher in a world where mutants are accepted not feared.] Great. . . except you aren't an - [Don't say it! Why does everyone burst my bubble? Why does everyone throw up at the sight of me, and enjoy watching people kick me out of their homes? When do I get my moment of applause? Maybe I should just take my mini-pizzas and leave.] Wow, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was so bad. OK, I guess you did help stop AIM so, *claps once* [That's it?] I'm too tired to applaud any more, and I'd hug you, but I can't lift my arms. [Oh. Well, it was a nice thought. I'll just take my mini-pizzas and leave before he wakes up.] Hey! Those are Calvin's mini-pizzas! [Are they? Who knew?] *teleporting sound*

{Ouch, couldn't he just judo chop me? Why did he hit me with my lamp? ABP, where'd Deadpool go?} He's gone. He took your mini-pizzas. {What?! Aw man. Do you need any help?} No, I'm finished. {Great, then help me track down Deadpool.} Sorry, I'm tired. I'm taking a nap. {Aw, when am I gonna have my moment?} My arms are pretty tired, but I think can play the world's smallest violin for you. {Go take your nap already.}

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kind Of Shortsighted

In this week's issue of Amazing Spider-Girl, we learn that the Carnage symbiote was broken up into a bunch of separate little specimens (I suppose at least 297 of them, given the escaped one is Specimen 297 after all). Later, we see the President speaking with a shadowy figure about the situation.

First of all, let's give G.W. Bridge a big hand. From being kicked out of SHIELD and having to hunt Frank Castle on his own in the current Punisher War Journal, he's ascended to the level of President of the United States in the MC2 Universe. Way to revitalize your career, big fella!

More to the point, President Bridge mentions that certain members of the opposition party have discussed dropping "Carnage bombs" on unfriendly countries. OK, let us set aside for a moment the question of how many people know that SHIELD scientists are experimenting on the symbiote, and the question of what is the proper venue for bringing up the fact you want to drop a living, possibly psychotic, organism on another country, and just focus on the actual idea.

The way I see, there are two possibilities: One, you let the symbiote bond with your soldiers, then drop them in a superhuman killing machines, like a Super-Soldier Program. Two, you drop the containers with the symbiotes inside, let them bond with members of the indigenous population, and let them do the killing for you. Ultimately though, it boils down to what you do with them when you're finished. I mean, the whole point of dropping them in unfriendly areas would be to eliminate those you find unfriendly, right? But how exactly are you going to keep a Carnage from eliminating everyone they come across, including people you might not want killed?

It's the same lack of thinking you see in any Aliens movie, where the financial powers want to capture the aliens to use them for some sinister purpose, without considering certain problems involved. Or else they plan to sell them to people who won't consider those problems. Either way, somebody's being an idiot.

Ponder it for a moment. How are they going to control these bio-weapons? If they solve that problem by simply killing them when they aren't needed, how do they replenish ranks for the next dirty job? Need eggs for that (or more symbiotes), and need a queen to get those (or a symbiote to spawn more), and how to ensure that doesn't backfire magnificently (Queenie gets loose, symbiotes bond with people they aren't supposed to, start running amok)?

"Control" would really be a joke, you know? You try and implant something in the aliens, the acid internal juices probably melt it. Try it with the symbiote (or the person it's bonded to), the symbiote will get inside the person, and short out whatever doohickey you're using (Witness the attempt to modify Cletus Kasady's behavior with a chip in Spider-Man/Batman. Symbiote took care of that in about five seconds).

It's a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. There's so much destructive potential, and military contracts are where the money is, so I suppose it's natural to think in those terms. But it's like discussing using a volcano as a weapon. Sure, it's highly destructive, and if you can get it going it'll probably get the job done, but how do you stop it once you're done with it?

As a final note, a little off this specific discussion, I was interested to see President Bridge also discussing the hopes that the symbiote could help in a cure for cancer. They have demonstrated regenerative abilities (like when the Venom symbiote saved Spider-Girl from a stab wound in the chest), so there is a precedent. But I was more interested because it's similar to the idea Bendis put behind the symbiote in the Ultimate Universe, that the symbiote, which at that point only really augments abilities, could be used to treat cancer, or diseases. Might be interesting to see that explored a little more somewhere, seeing as I kind of doubt it'll come up much again in the Ultimateverse (I think "symbiotes" , along with "clones", are strictly classified as weapons over there now).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What I Bought 7/11/07

Oh dear. Eight comics this week. Yes, eight. Insane, I know. For sake of comparison, that's the same number of total comics I bought from May 16th, to June 6th. So yeah, four weeks worth in one fell swoop. This could be strenuous.

Amazing Spider-Girl #10 - So, Carnage is back. This is bad for New York City. On the plus side, the symbiote isn't bonded to Cletus Kasady, it's deranged serial killer former host. Plus, whomever the new host is, they've got enough control that Carnage hasn't actually killed anyone yet. On the down side, they know May - and her family. And SHIELD thinks Spider-Girl was in on the attempted heist. That could make life difficult.

It's not a bad issue. DeFalco appears to be using it to step away from the Black Tarantula/Hobgoblin gang war, let that stew for a while. We get a little more development of the Moose/Courtney situation, and May dealing with the fact her mother might be working at the high school soon. Ron Frenz does his usual solid work. It won't wow you, but he generally illustrates movement well (though some of the angles and positions of characters seemed off this month), and his facial expressions convey what they're supposed to, so I think he gets the job done. I'm reasonably intrigued about next month. 3.6 out of 5.

Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith #1 - Well, dealing with a new character here. What do we know? Well, he looks Kree, but says he isn't. The Phalanx says he's alive, but isn't. His weapon can be a blaster, or a laser-sword/whip, thingie. And he looks like he can manipulate the Darkforce Dimension (where Cloak's powers come from). He's also trying to find a man, with a ring (Does he also have six fingers? Did he kill Wraith's father?), and doesn't know anything about the conquest of the Kree Empire, nor does he care.

Wraith reminds me of a combination of Vash the Stampede and the Man With No Name. Unusual abilities, determined on his goal, ruthless when necessary, and generally unconcerned with others problems (not completely, though). The art is interesting; a bit shadowy like I associate with Mignola, though without the roughness I think of with Mignola. People look angular and dead-eyed, which would work with the situation, where everyone not infected would need to hide, and living would be tough as a result. I don't think it's a great mini-series yet, but I'm interested enough to give it the second issue. Grillo-Marxuach has avoided the pitfall of making the new character too powerful (so far). That can be annoying (I'm looking at Brubaker, with Vulcan, and Darwin. Guys can do just about anything, gimme a break). 3.8 out of 5.

BloodRayne: Blood Red Run #1 - I have to get this out of the way first: the art on this issue is really harsh. Faces look off sometimes, or like they were sketched a bit hastily, the same character's face can look very different from one panel to the next, Rayne's pants are ridiculously low, even by her standards. It made the book harder to enjoy, because it made it harder to follow.

As to what's going on, someone in Mexico City is kidnapping women off the streets. Turns out these women are being turned into vampires, and being put to some purpose that involves medical experimentation. We've also got the return of a villain from the first Bloodrayne game, though he doesn't look a thing like he did in World War 2. That annoys me, seeing as I went to a lot of trouble to kill that guy back when I played the game. I think this mini-series could have an interesting idea, but they need to tighten up the art some. 2.4 out of 5.

Deadpool-GLI Summer Fun Spectacular - Let's be honest: I couldn't not buy this. You've got Deadpool teaming up with the Great Lakes Initiative to stop AIM and their Inebriation Wave. You know, if this is what AIM comes up with now that MODOK's kid has broken them into little splinter groups, the world should probably thank the little twit for that.

After that you've got essentially two storylines running back-and-forth. In one, the GLI keep trying to get Wade to leave their HQ. In the other, Squirrel Girl tries to fix Speedball. That one also includes all the reason I'll ever need to accept Squirrel Girl's victory over Dr. Doom as legit, courtesy of one of her little friends. It's good stuff, I laughed frequently, even at scenes involving Robbie in his really dumb current outfit, that accompanies his really dumb codename, which I will not say, because it will taint the pure fun of this review, so there! 4.6 out of 5.

New Excalibur #21 - Only halfway done? Man, I'm taking too long. OK, the actual cover is nothing like the picture I've got right there. I think the actual cover works better for getting a person's attention (it's Captain Britain at the nose of a jet plane, trying to stop its descent), but we go with what we've got.

Albion has taken out all technology in England. This will allow him to seize control, and rebuild England as he sees fit, or something. If he's got the vision and know-how to do that, one wonders why he wouldn't just go back and fix his Earth. Whatever his reasoning, the Dark X-Men are actually going to team up with Excalibur to take him down (then stab the good guys in the back later, natch). Dazzler's not keen on working with people who killed her, but Wisdom seems to be in a vengeful mood, so he's all for it.

Albion's got himself a two-pronged attack, and while Excalibur seems to have stymied one prong, the probably more important one is still on the loose. All told, even with some new allies this issue, I wouldn't say Excalibur's chances have improved much from last issue. I don't know that this is a good story, but it's captured my interest enough that I don't think anything of coming back each issue, so that has to count for something. 3.4 out of 5.

Nova #4 - Rich is off Earth, and into Kree Space, and he's under attack in less than three seconds. Wow. That has to be in the running for "fastest a place has ever become hostile to an arrival". Nova's up against a lot of those big, purple Sentry robots, but isn't experiencing any real problems until one of the assimilated starts giving the 'bots commands. It's someone with experience on how Rich thinks and reacts, and that's very bad for Rich.

Eventually, Rich gets overwhelmed by numbers, and has to retreat. Except, there is no retreat, and Rich nearly killed himself finding that out. And I don't mean "nearly killed" in the sense of a few bumps and bruises. I mean he resembles a charcoal briquette. On the other hand, it's a real great time to start rebuilding the Nova Corps. Gotta look on the bright side, right? I quite enjoyed this comic. 5 out of 5.

Shadowpact #15 - I didn't expect this. DC's website always says Shadowpact will be out the second Wednesday of the month, then it always actually comes out the third Wednesday, so who would have thunk it would actually come out when they said, for once?

It amuses me that the cops set up their barricades around Dr. Gotham, searchlights, all that jazz, to the point it that it's nighttime, before they sent someone out to find out what he wants. Maybe that's standard police procedure, but it'd seem like establishing a list of demands in a case involving a levitated bus full of kids would be higher priority. It just gives you the feeling Dr. Gotham has just been sitting, waiting for someone to ask what he wants, hence him eating dinner. At any rate, the cops do learn - eventually - that Gotham wants to see Shadowpact, and only the Shadowpact. Fortunately, law enforcement agencies have their phone number. You know, there just seems like there's something fundamentally wrong when the universe's top "mystically inclined" team has a contact number. It seems more apropos for them to simply appear where they are needed. While shrouded by fog. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Anyway, the good guys attack, taking advantage of Gotham's tendency towards Claremontian lengths of exposition. Then, rather than press the attack, Nightmaster in engages in his own bloviating, and Gotham recovers, and well, things go downhill real fast from there. Poor Chicago, now where will Ferris Bueller wannabes go when they cut school? 4.1 out of 5.

X-Factor #21 - There's a dude with a glowy eye in this comic. Gasp, Cable's back from the dead! No, the eye glows red. Cyclops? No, they're a telepath too. Hmm, I got nothing. Then let's move on. Pablo Raimondi's back on the art duties! Jamie tries to patch things up between him, Monet and Siryn! Monet asks uncomfortable questions of Jamie, though not nearly as uncomfortable as the one his drunk dupe asked his drunk self!

*gasps, wheezes*

This talking in all exclamation points is hard. How did comic characters do that back in the day, especially since they could smoke freely? Layla still doesn't like the newest arrival, and things continue to pop up that Layla didn't see coming, so I can only imagine she's gonna get grumpier the longer that persists.

Siryn must be a bad influence on the team. I know she's a bit of a boozer, now Jamie's drinking in the morning, and that has Guido doing the same thing, since he thinks it's noir. Bunch of rummies. I honestly have no idea who this weird guy is (I know his name, he gives it during the issue, but it doesn't mean anything to me). I can't decide whether that's good or bad. Have to wait and see, I suppose. 4.3 out of 5.

Well, that's it. Night, all.