Friday, August 31, 2007

Traces of April, But It's An Afternoon In August

I wanna talk about Mail Order Ninja, so let's get started! {. . .} Are you OK? {Huh? Yeah, I'm fine, just a tad preoccupied. Go ahead and get started.}

Well, alright. It would be easy to Bonk evil, rich girl Felicity Dominique Huntington, so I will. Unleashing evil ninja hordes on an unsuspecting town, how dare she? But I'm also going to Bonk Timmy's little sister Lindsay, because she's bratty, annoying, and she sold her brother out to a bully. My sister does that all that time, she's so mean! {You have a sister?} Yea-huh. She's older, but she's still a brat, always kissing up to mom and blaming me when all the ice cream is gone. {Well, you do like ice cream. . .} Hey, you're supposed to be on my side! {I am, I am! Guy Solidarity Powers, activate! Form of a yucky, girl-terrifying bug!} Huh? {Never mind. You never get my jokes.} Because they aren't funny. {Let's not get into an argument about which of us is less funny.} Fine, besides, we both know it's you. {What was that?!} Nothing! Moving on.

I"m gonna Hug Timmy and Lindsay's parents. Ninjas, and mind control, and their daughter being bratty, it can't be easy. {You're not going to ease off the "bratty sister" thing anytime soon, are you?} No. {Well, I don't think the parents have it that bad. I mean, the dad is in a band, so I'm sure he embarrasses his children on a regular basis with his attempts to rock out.} But the band's name is "Funk Upside Your Head", that's cool. {I don't know, it sounds kind of dirty. Then again, Krusty the Clown says words that sound dirty are the basis of comedy.} But it's not supposed to be funny, is it? {To Timmy's dad and his band? No, probably not. To us, the reader, looking at it from the outside? Yeah, I think we're supposed to laugh.} I'm starting to get confused. {Me too. This is why I stay away from Mr. Grant "17-layers-of subtext" Morrison. I'd just get a headache.} I feel kind of bad for the mom, Carol, because she seems like she just gets to sit in the middle of all this and be normal. {I'm sure subsequent volumes will reveal her to have some mad dance skills, or maybe be a knife-fighting expert. Man, that would be cool, Jiro the Ninja teams up with the Master of the Flamenco Knife Dance, Carol McAllister!} Yes, exactly! More knives!

{Um, no knives, applause.} Fine. Applause for Herman, for beating Jiro at Street Kombat. Every brainiac will have their day. {Really? Hmm, hopefully Superman is smart enough to hide somewhere when Brainiac has his day. What number are they up to on Brainiac's these days? It's not as many as Ultron is, he's up to like 700,000. Brainiac-13?} He needs to add "mark" in there, it would sound cooler. "Brainiac Mark-13". {Heh, you've obviously never seen Brainiac during his "green-skinned alien in tighty-whities" phase. Man wouldn't know cool if a Kryptonian used super coolness to create enough static electricity to blow him up.} Oh. Well, anyway, Applause for Timmy and Jiro, for saving the day, naturally. I don't think anything more needs to be said. {Not if you want to keep from spoiling it for our loyal readers.}

Thursday, August 30, 2007

He's Gonna Reattach It, Right?

I was wondering, when Wolverine cut off Deadpool's head, do you think that, had Bob, Agent of HYDRA, not been there, Logan would have put Wade's head back on his neck where it belongs?

I mean, on the one hand, Wolverine did know exactly how long Wade's head could be separated from the rest of his body before lethal brain damage would be achieved (or he knew how to act like he knew how long that takes). And he admitted that he really only wanted to keep Deadpool out of commission for a few minutes, until he could kill the Penatraitor (what a name, criminey). That sort of indicates that he didn't really want Deadpool to die, at least no more than all the other people who don't hate Wade and only sort of want him to die (so he'll shut up, you see).

On the other hand, this is Wolverine we're talking about. The guy doesn't exactly have the highest regard for human life, and can be a bit vindictive. And Wade has screwed Wolverine over a few times (I recall a Wolverine story drawn by Liefeld where Wade captured him so a weirdo could get ahold of Logan's blood to run experiments on it. At least that story gave Siryn the use of her vocal cords again, so not all bad), so Logan might just be inclined to figure Wade's done enough crap that he deserves death. He's kind of a jerk like that sometimes.

I'm pretty sure that even if Wolverine had put Wade's head back, he would have put it on backwards (like Bob did) and left it that way. Just because. Then he'd go smoke a cigarette off-panel, because Quesada can't control what Wolverine does when he's not actually in the picture.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What I Bought 8/29/07

I had no actual new comics come in this week. I looked at Countdown to Adventure #1 because I figured, hey, I like characters, but it didn't really interest me all that much. However, from reading through it I learned I now have a negative reaction to seeing Adam Beechen listed as writer. Kind of an "Oh, well, maybe it'll still be good" vibe. Anyway, I did buy a few things, including a Spider-Girl digest with the Buzz and Darkdevil mini-series (six issues for $8!), which were nice enough, though DeFalco had a hard time settling on a consistent tone of dialogue for the protagonists. Sometimes they sound very young, other times very old, or like they're trying to be hip. In Buzz' case, he could just be putting on an act to hide insecurity, but it felt really odd to see Darkdevil switching from "dangerous potentially anti-hero" talk, to "jokey, sunshiney hero" banter. The two primary purchases of the week were the first two volumes of Mail Order Ninja, which as you may recall from two weeks ago (8/15), I had Ken set aside in my box for specifically this week. Clever, aren't I?

Let me say this right off: I loved Mail Order Ninja. I laughed, I cheered, it was awesome. In fact, it was so awesome that during the "Show and Tell" scene, I leapt to my feet to pump my fist vigorously in celebration. So vigorously that I punched myself in the eye. That's right. Mail order Ninja is so awesome, you will willingly injure yourself to show it proper respect. What did I like about it?

I like that the kids seem to be drawn less realistically (more manga style) than their parents. I like that when Timmy gets his ninja, he uses Jiro for his own personal gain, just like Peter Parker when he got spider-powers. Really, Timmy's a elementary school student, what the hell else would he do with a ninja, besides make himself the toast of the school, and abuse his power to take down those that do that already? I like the file cards that give a quick bio for characters as they're introduced (I now eagerly await the volume where the deliveryman's fear of rodeo clowns comes into play).

The back-and-forth between Timmy and his little sister, Lindsay, reminds me of most sibling relationships I've seen over the years (I'm an only child, but I think everyone I've ever counted as a true friend had at least one sibling that they alternately fought, palled around and struggled for parental favor with), so I enjoyed that. Mail Order Ninja, on the surface, is written for younger people than me, most likely, though I imagine my fellow college grads would enjoy it as well (which probably says something about us), but I'm pretty sure there's some jokes for the older set as well. I'll leave it to you to buy the volumes and figure out what I mean (Probably not hard. I'm generally unobservant, so if I picked up on even some of them, you ought to as well).

I really liked the "advertisement" in the middle of Volume 1 for Jacques Co., the toy company that made it possible for Timmy to win his very own ninja. It's weird, but damn it, I want some of those toys being advertised. Maybe this Jacques fellow could make all that comic book tech that was being demanded here. I saw one review that said it felt like padding, but I think it makes more sense when you get to the end of volume 2. I think the review was only of volume 1 though, so not the reviewer's fault there, because on its own, its a humor thing, and some people will find it funny, and some not.

So like I said, Mail Order Ninja made me laugh, it made me cheer, it made me extremely grateful I never had a little sister, it gives the creators of the Ninja Turtles a nod (remember to read everything), it's a kickass way to spend ten bucks (Because Ken gave me a discount! Boo-ya!) Like 5 out of 5, or close enough you couldn't tell the difference anyway.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Communication Is Key To A Healthy Relationship

So I've been thinking about Quasar and Moondragon's relationship as it's been portrayed thus far, and I've really liked what Cristos Gage and the rest of the creative team have done so far. I think what makes the relationship work is that they share things with each other so readily, and that they care enough to ask when one sees something troubling the other. I've long felt those were important parts of a relationship, that you not only care enough to support your significant other when they're feeling low, but that you care enough to notice something is wrong and ask them about it. Without communication, things can fester under the surface, and that's never good.

It's probably a little easier for Moondragon, because a) she's a telepath, and b) Phyla isn't one to hold back on what she's feeling. But by itself, the second one says a lot. It tells us that Phyla feels comfortable enough around Heather that she doesn't think twice about admitting that she feels overwhelmed trying to learn how to use the Quantum bands, or that she doesn't think she can honor her father's legacy. Because she shares with Heather, Moondragon can lend her emotional support. Plus, it gives Heather insight into what goes on in Quasar's mind, so she can tell, even if she wasn't telepathic, when Quasar is trying too hard to prove herself, by charging into a fight she shouldn't be or whatever, and then Heather can rein her in, because she doesn't want Phyla to get hurt.

It's a little more difficult for Phyla, because Heather doesn't seem like a very forthcoming person with her innermost thoughts and fears. But Phyla helps when she can, keeping an eye on Heather, trying to see if those headaches she's getting from picking up everyone's psychic screams of pain are flaring up again. And in response to that concern, Heather's opening up a little more. She believes Phyla cares deeply enough about her that she can mention that she tried to sire a child with Wendell Vaughn before she met Phyla. Or she can talk about how in her earlier years she was very cocky, and that lead to her downfall and eventual demise (which I imagine could explain her closed off attitude. It was arrogance and pride, emotions, that got her into trouble in the first place, so she may be trying to prevent a repeat). Even though she says she was worried she'd be seen as weak for that mistake, the fact she shared that with Phyla demonstrates that she trusts Phyla. Moondragon knows (perhaps on a subconscious level) that Quasar won't think less of her for that, or she cares enough about Phyla to feel that it's important to share this.

After all, Phyla is struggling, not only with the Phalanx and her own doubts, but with the lingering presence of Annihilus in the bands, which is she isn't careful, can take control of her. To Phyla, Heather seems to be always in control, very calm, collected in battle. Heather telling Phyla about the time she feel under an outside influence, and how she eventually managed to overcome it (even if it did require her to die), might give them a deeper bond, which could, in turn, make Heather more effective in keeping control, knowing she has someone who went through something similar.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Can't See, What's AIEEEE!

There may be those of you, for whom Resident Evil 4 was your introduction to the series. So you may have only heard tales of how unhelpful the camera angle was. Let me assure you, everything you heard was true. Perhaps a story will enlighten you.

I was playing Resident Evil 2 (for the N64) one eve, and was working my way through Leon Kennedy's (yes, the cop from RE4) Scenario B (when you beat the game with one of the two characters, you could then start a new game from that file, playing through as the other character, giving you a different side of the events). I'm snooping around the police chief's office (FYI, police chief, total freak), when I hear the customary bellow of the large fellow in the trenchcoat (that's him in the picture there, chasing a character from a mini-game) that's been hounding me. Why he keeps bellowing when he gets near, I don't know. He's not particularly agile, so maybe he just keeps stubbing his toe.

Anyway, the bellow, combined with the tense music, tells me I'd better go find him and shut him down. I leave the chief's office, and begin charging down a narrow hall. The camera opts to place itself at ground level, directly in front of me. While this would be very handy if I was being chased, it fails to show me that the large fellow is waiting just behind the camera, ready to deliver an Aparo-Batman-level backhand to Mr. Kennedy. That was a bit of a surprise. And an annoyance.

All that complaining aside, RE2 was an enjoyable introduction to the series for me, and was generally scary for the right reasons (the sense that you could round any corner and meet an enemy) more often than for the wrong ones (you ought to be able to see what's coming, but the camera screws you over). It's much like all the other Resident Evil games: run around and kill monsters while searching for keys and trying to figure out who would build a police station with so many trap doors and secret exits that can only be accessed by finding stone tablets done in an Aztec motif.

You've got two playable characters: Leon, who comes to town to start his new job as a member of the Raccoon City P.D., and winds up running around with a mysterious (older?) woman named Ada, and Claire, who's here looking for her brother, and winds up having to protect a young girl named Sherry, who some of the monsters seem very interested in. I remember a gaming magazine saying that Leon had the tougher battles (due to weaker weapons), while Claire had harder puzzles, which I didn't find to be true. I generally found a lot of Claire's weapons sort of ineffective (the grenade launcher was OK, but it's range was a little limited for my tastes, the bow gun was kind of a joke, just to see how many could stick in a zombie before it would react). Leon was packing a handgun, shotgun, and a .44, each capable of being upgraded. I loved that upgraded magnum. Nasty recoil, slow firing, but it made the zombies' heads explode so nicely, with just one shot.

I'll admit, my most feared opponent in the game wasn't any of the bosses, or really big monsters - though Trenchcoat Guy could be a pain - but the enhanced Dobermans you'd run into. My first encounter, I blasted one with a shotgun, feeling pretty good about how I handled that before it got too close, only to see it get back up, and proceed to rip me apart, jumping back and forth so quickly I couldn't line up a shot on it. After that, feeling rather stressed, I called it quits for the night. At which point I opened the door to my room and stepped out. At that time, my room was at the foot of the stairs to the basement, where the den was. My mother was going to bed, so she'd turned off the lights in the den, and emerged from the shadows just as I stepped out of my room. The jump I made was a tad embarrassing.

I'm not going to try and tell you that Resident Evil 2 was better than RE4 or anything silly like that. It was a good game, no doubt, but it still had those annoying gameplay tics that made everyone so happy when they'd finally been dealt with in RE4, camera angle chief among them. But it did have that spooky atmosphere, and I always enjoyed the parts where you could check out a video monitor, even though you always wound up seeing that one of the major monsters was in the same room as you. There's a point when you're trying to get a freight elevator working and that happens, where you see Trenchcoat Guy shambling your way, then he notices the camera, and the screen goes to static. Even though I was confident I could handle him, that still sent a little charge through me.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Do Emotions Make It Easier For Techno-Organic Viruses To Control You?

I've been trying to sort out why the Phalanx would actually fear Wraith, and what significance that might have for Conquest as a whole.

First off, I'm trying to figure how the Phalanx can feel fear to begin with. I understand that probably at least some of them are biological organisms that are controlled by the Phalanx, and living things can feel fear, but are the Phalanx a developed enough artificial intelligence that they understand and feel emotions as well?

The Wraith says what scares the Phalanx is the sight of an exposed soul, which sounds like a fancy term for "ghost". It reminds me of something I read about spirits in GrimJack, that they're composed of pure emotion. The difference there was that ghosts were actually vulnerable to strong emotions from others, rather than the spirit's emotions being so strong that it overwhelmed others. Of course, I never saw how a spirit interacted with a cybernetic lifeform in the series, so if it's something that doesn't comprehend emotions like us, it might have gone the same way. What it leads me to think is that it's the being itself that's affected, and the person is so terrified that the Phalanx can't control them. That would suggest a certain level of independent action in the controlled. That's assuming there's anything biological in those soldiers Wraith terrified into submission. If there isn't, then I don't know what the heck happened. Maybe a machine trying to classify an emotion is like your calculator trying to divide by zero?

Then I think about what Super Skrull said, how the moment when you become one of their "Select", it's because you choose to. That until that point, even if your body is infected with the Phalanx, your choices are still your own. I'm not sure how much autonomy you have, but your thoughts and feelings are your own. Which would mean that Ronan willingly chooses to torture Wraith to extract information, since the Phalanx Chief Subjugator said Ronan was close to becoming a Select, meaning he isn't fully one of them yet.

What's interesting is that in the moment when Ronan gives in to the frustration of his situation - that the Subjugator can see into his head, that no matter what he says, the Phalanx are so totally certain that he's going to become one of them eventually - that's when he does their bidding with the greatest gusto. He loses control of himself and starts battering the Wraith, throwing him through walls, impaling him on a spire of some sort, in a concerted attempt to get information out of him. His strong emotions seem to have made him easier to control. Meanwhile, Super-Skrull is in the same boat, but he's already accepted that he will bend to their will someday, but he's focused on what he'll do to them after he gets free. He's farther from becoming "Select", perhaps because he was captured later, or perhaps because he's approaching the situation differently from Ronan.

That gives somewhat of an impression that emotion causes one to lose their sense of themselves, which in turn makes it easier for the Phalanx to assert control. For some reason that makes me think of one of Asimov's books, I can't remember which one (I know it's from his Robots series), when someone put forth the idea that humans in large groups can be overtaken by a mob mentality, which makes them easy to predict (which went on to become the idea of psychohistory that ran throughout the Foundation series). In this case, the "mob" is the Phalanx hive mind, and losing yourself to frustration can make it easier for you to get drawn into their group (I'm resisting the urge to use the word "Collective". Nope, no mention of Borgs here. . . Damnit!).

It all seems contradictory somehow. Phalanx feel massive fear and shut down, but Ronan feels massive frustration and the Phalanx take advantage. I guess it's meant to show that the side with the advantage is the one that can make the opposition lose control of themselves. Maybe if you can make a Select feel enough fear, it burns out the virus, and they regain control of themselves.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

It's The Oddest Thing

So as you might recall, I dropped Amazing Spider-Man after last month's beatdown on Kingpin. I concluded that the Spidey books in the main Marvel U. were just too grim for me, and I'd stick to ones that were a little more upbeat/hopeful when it's all said and done, Amazing Spider-Girl and Ultimate Spider-Man.

Then I stopped and thought, Ultimate Spider-Man, upbeat and/or hopeful? That can't be right. But then I started thinking about the Clone Saga story, and what's come since, and it really does seem like Peter Parker's life is pretty good.

His Aunt May did have a heart attack, but she's doing better now. She knows he's Spider-Man, so he doesn't have to sneak around behind her back, and even though she isn't thrilled about his using violence to solve problems, she's trying to adjust, and she still loves him.

MJ did get turned into a weird monster-thing by a Peter clone, but she's better now (as far as Peter knows), and the people who helped her were Reed Richards and Dr. Storm, and they helped because Peter and MJ are friends of Johnny's and he wanted to help. Not only that, they got May to the hospital and stuck up for Peter when Fury came around being his usual pain-in-the-ass self. Not only that, MJ stood up to Fury, and made him do a little thinking about how much trouble he makes for Peter, given how hard Peter tries to help people.

And wonder of wonders, it actually seems to have sunk in a little. Sure, Fury's admitted in the past that he's looking forward to when Peter's 18, and working for Nick in the Ultimates (though, if Millar has made the Ultimates free agents in a sense, would that still be true? I guess it depends on whether Peter knows the Ultimates aren't run by the government anymore.). But this time Nick actually admitted how impressed he is that Peter's held up in light of the absolutely insane amount of stuff that's been dumped on his head in the last year or so, and he recognized that throwing Peter in jail for things he had nothing to do with would be really stupid, so he backed off. Of course, he's still got his scientists fooling around with Scorpion-Peter and Gwen/Carnage-Clone, but it's Nick Fury. Baby steps.

And Peter had Kitty, who cared enough to basically force the rest of the X-Men to get in their supercool jet and haul butt over to Queens to help him. And then was going to have the Professor wipe Peter being Spider-Man from May's memory, because she was sure that's what Peter wanted. That wound up not being true anymore, but it had been previously, and she wanted to help Peter enough to demand it.

And after his impassioned plea to not kill Fisk's wife, I'm betting Daredevil has a bit more respect for the kid he's given so much grief to in the past.

It's just odd to realize that in spite of all the garbage he has to deal with, Peter Parker does has family, he has friends, both tights-wearing and non-tights-wearing, he has the respect of most of the superhero community (excluding Wolverine and probably some of the Ultimates, but Wolverine is a jerk, and the Ultimates are all asses, so who cares what they think?). He has a really good support network, and I think he even recognizes that sometimes, which is nice.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Driving Down The Center Of A Two-Way Street, Baby Panda Sitting In The Driver's Seat

{The Eagles, good times.} If you say so. Are you ready? {All business today, are we? Well, go ahead and get started then.}

Bonks to Starlord, for leaving people behind. Nobody gets left behind! {Except for those people that, you know, get left behind. Besides, Groot decided to stay behind, and there wasn't anything left of Deathcry to bring along.} Still, he's not going to be able to do this alone, he shouldn't be so, so {blase?} Sure, blase, about his group losing people.

Bonks to Wolverine, for not stopping to listen to what anybody is saying. I thought he had samurai training to keep himself under control? {He has to want to stay in control, which apparently, he did not want to do.} Well, just for that, instead of a Bonk, I'm going to pull all his back hair out! {Jeez, that's a little extreme, don't ya think? Not sure he can survive that.} Well, then he'll learn a valuable lesson. {Yeah, after he recovers from the pain and blood loss.} Bonk to Davos, for holding Jeryn's mother hostage. He'd never take my mother hostage. {Yes, but that's because Intimidating Mama Panda would rip him in half, which I think is totally what should happen in Immortal Iron Fist: death by angry panda.}

Hugs for Rocket Raccoon, because he seemed so sad about losing his big tree friend. {Maybe you could hook him up with a polar bear to use as transportation in the meantime?} I'll see what I can do. Most of the polar bears are busy dealing with the Penguin's Arctic Legions. {By which you mean baby seals.} Duh. Hugs for Jeryn, since he has to build that railroad while Davos keeps taking his mother's fingers. On second though, the Hug goes to his mother. {Good call. Maybe you can rescue her while you're at it.}

Applause for Mantis for being so cool under fire. If she was any cooler, we'd have to check for a pulse. {I really hope that wasn't an attempt at humor.} What if it was? {Then it was a lousy attempt.} Let's see you do better. {I can't. My humor exists solely to make humorous comments off things other people are currently saying or doing. I don't have any jokes, save the dead baby joke I stole from the Dark Tower series.} Dead baby jokes are what's terrible. {I think that's the point of them, and you've strayed off topic.} It's your fault; you did the astraying. Applause for Deadpool for trusting Weasel to not really be evil, and for not trying to trade Bob back to HYDRA for Weasel. It didn't sound like the HYDRA guys were too happy to see Bob. {Hail HYDRA!} What? {You're supposed to say it back. Then Captain America hits us with his shield. Or Elektra stabs us. Or Wolverine claws our faces off. Or Deadpool shoots us. Vast possibilities.} I'll pass, and call it a day.

{You know, there was one more person you could Applaud.} Who? {Me. Jason says I deserve applause for my totally awesome foresight into what's actually in store for Starlord.} Oh yeah. But that means they're all doomed. {Well, not all of them I'm sure. Besides, even if they are all doomed, it's not my fault.} I guess. Clap. Clap. Clap. {That was a little less enthusiastic than I expected.} Fine. *rousing round of applause*

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Slap A Big Ole Bullseye On There

Thought for the day: Starlord's little squad is actually an expendable diversionary tactic by the Kree.

- Consider that Kree intelligence was kind of vague about what this thing Peter's group is looking for actually looks like, as well as where it's supposed to be. That could just be due to a lack of reliable intel, since the Phalanx quickly take control of any Kree surveillance equipment brought against them, right along with every other piece of tech in the Empire. However, seeing as this isn't the first time the Phalanx have threatened a galaxy-spanning empire, Galen-Tor could have simply used their past modus operandi as the basis to concoct a plausible reason to send a strike team in that direction.

- Consider that when Peter is being patched up in #1, Captain Chan-Dar (the Kree that was among the saved when Starlord defeated the Fallen One) tells the doctor that Peter's recovery, and the removal of his cybernetic implants are by Ronan's command. Except when Galen-Tor shows up, she comments that he's the one who ordered the removal of all cybernetic implants. Also keep in mind that Ronan is under Phalanx control, if Wraith is any indication. Would he have had time to issue such commands regarding Peter, or is he being name-dropped to reduce questioning?

- Consider that on such an apparently vital mission, one that is designed to keep the Phalanx from spreading throughout Kree space, there is not one Kree on the team. Just, as the Phalanx noted, three Terrans, a Shi'ar, a Kaliklak, a Flora Colossus, and a sentient mammal. Galen-Tor has no love of Terrans, or really, any species that isn't Kree ("Kree purity" and all that crap). Would he entrust such a mission to them, without sending at least one trusted Kree along to keep an eye on them?

- Consider that in the brief interlude with the Phalanx, when the arrival of Starlord's group is noted, the Phalanx have no idea what their objective could be. Perhaps in part because the Phalanx don't consider them to be any sort of threat (which they do mention). Perhaps in part because there really isn't anything around that the Phalanx would expect someone to target, which certainly doesn't sound like a description of the 'viral bombs' they'll use to 'seed the galaxy'. You'd think the Phalanx would expect some sort of an assault on that, consider it predictable, and note that even if the group set against them is odd, it's doing something they expected.

- Given these conjectures, I'm wondering if the Kree aren't actually planning to strike somewhere else, and are hoping to use Starlord as a diversion. It's reminiscent of an Unknown Soldier comic of my father's I read, where he recruits a Maquis group to help clear the way for a D-Day landing at. . . some place other than Normandy (I forget where). The Maquis get wiped out, except for one fellow. The whole time they expect that the Allies are going to land and that'll turn the tide on this battle. Except the Allies aren't landing there, they're just using this Maquis cell to distract the Nazis, and draw some forces away from the actual landing area. I remember that the one fellow who survived, the leader, was pretty steamed, and was going to kill the Unknown Soldier, which made sense to me, since that whole "deceiving them and using them as cannon fodder" struck me as such a dick move. He didn't do it though. I was disappointed. Anyway, I think that might be what's going on here. I'm not sure what the Kree might be targeting instead, but I'm sure there's something, and Galen was head of covert ops, so using prisoners as expendable distractions is up his alley as much as it was the Unknown Soldier's.

- Fly in the ointment: Annihilation Wave forces showed up in the same location (which means that bubble enclosing Kree space enclosed the Kree part of Annihilus' empire as well). If there is something vital there, it's likely that they could have detected it as well, and sent their own team to deal with it. Of course, it's also possible that the Kree found a way to feed false information to Ravenous, to convince him to commit forces to a similar mission. The Annihilation Wave forces did touch down after Starlord's group, so they may have just been reacting to what the Kree did. Tricking the Wave serves two purposes: 1) it weakens the bug forces, since some of them will die on their mission, and 2) it draws Phalanx attention towards the Annihilation Wave, and by extension at least attention away from the Kree, making it that much more likely that the Kree could execute whatever their actual plan is, since they'll have an extra layer of distraction.

Just something to consider.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What I Bought 8/22/07

Let us move past professors and their unusual quotes, and focus instead on the bounty of comic bookiness that appears once every seven days, known as. . . New Comic Book Day.

Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord #2 - Well I didn't expect the dying to start quite so soon, but I guess Giffen was impatient. It's always nice when friendly fire plays a role. What's, I suppose "interesting" is the best word, about it is that the team isn't making much headway. These squad members aren't dying as the group achieves various objectives, they're just dying as the team falls to get things going. They honestly haven't made any real progress towards their goal, other than to realize they don't have any clear idea what their goal looks like, and already they're losing soldiers, with at least one more casualty looming, plus a possible desertion (just a hunch).

Of course, it may turn out nobody actually died in this issue, we're just being fooled, but I don't think that's the case.

Last month, I was curious to see how Timothy Green II would do at depicting fight scenes, as issue #1 was lacking in those. Well, there was plenty of combat this issue, and well. . . the results were mixed for me. The explosions are nice, and when he can do the characters in a posed position (such as Starlord firing down at some Phalanx on page 2) it works well. But when the characters are supposed to be moving, it doesn't work quite as well (such as Starlord apparently leaping down next to Captain Universe on page 3. He looks odd). Plus, Starlord's mask looks goofier when he draws it, compared to cover artist Nic Klein. On the whole though, he does some interesting things, like the shot of Rocket Raccoon with the rocket launcher, where there's a little circle zoom in on the actual rocket, since Raccoon was pretty small in the larger panel (it was a long-distance view, so Groot could fit). Plus, there's some things with the panel composition, but I want to do a big art post on Conquest, so I'll hold off on that for now. I'm still a little surprised that Gabe was so shook up about his accident, being a soldier and all, but other than that, I think my favorite Conquest issue this month, 4.4 out of 5.

Deadpool #44 - Ron Lim's Deadpool looks bulkier than he did a few months back (circa #39). Maybe Lim is trying to keep it more similar to Reilly Brown's look, or just feeling more settled? Either way, HYDRA and Deadpool do their best to keep Wolverine from gutting Weasel, I mean the Penetraitor. This naturally leads to lots of people getting stabbed with various pointy implements, as well as lots of people shouting "Hail HYDRA!" The solution to the conflict was fairly amusing, though I'm left wondering how Wolverine, noted member of those outlaw Avengers, would have access to SHIELD information, to the point where he would know about Weasel's hacking activities. Oh well, I'm sure he has his methods, probably involving threats. Or beer. Beer is good for getting information.

Of course, I'm also wondering how Cyclops knew Wade left Weasel behind at that HYDRA base when he saved Agent X, and adopted Bob (Hail HYDRA!). I'm sure the answer is "telepaths", but then why are X-telepaths focusing on Wade (or Weasel, or whoever)? It doesn't make a lot of sense, but I suppose it works as a way to continue Wade's attempts to live up to what Cable saw in him, plus have a nifty Deadpool/Wolverine fight, complete with James getting really frustrated with Deadpool's incessant chatter. 3.8 out of 5.

Immortal Iron Fist #8 - We get a bit more story about Danny's father, and some preliminary stuff for the tournament, plus the breakdown of the matchups, and that's about it. Well, that and a guy named "Fat Cobra" trounces 100 Shaolin Terror Priests with the power of his "Sumo Thunder Stomp". That wasn't too bad, but I was hoping for more Iron Fist punching action.

One thing I do like about the brackets is that assuming Danny and Davos make it through their first matches, they have to fight in Round 2, rather than being set up in such a way that they could meet in the final. It isn't what we would expect, and that's not bad at all. Plus now I'm intensely interested in the "Prince of Orphans", who got a first-round bye. Who is this mysterious hooded figure, that sits alone?

As an aside, does anyone else think that Yu-Ti, the head of K'un-Lun, is probably evil? I mean, he (she?) wears a loose hood/mask like Cobra Commander used to use, or maybe old time Baron Zemo. Plus he (she?) wears HYDRA colors (Hail HYDRA!). There's no way he (she?) isn't evil, right?

Beyond that, not much to say. I still like Aja's art, he makes some of the people - Crane Mother - look suitably creepy. Martinez' art also works for the flashback. it reminds me a little of Green's to be honest, I think in the hair, because Martinez draws dynamic (extreme? action-oriented?) movement a bit better than Green, though I think Green draws the more basic (walking, running) better. And that's your art critque from the man with no art skills for the day. 3.1 out of 5.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Say What Now?

Amazing. I'm only two days into the new semester, and I'm already contemplating fleeing to go live in a van down by the river. Or maybe in a hut up on the mountaintop. Whichever gets better TV reception, I suppose.

Anyway, I'm sitting in a class tonight, and the professor is rambling about how odd it is being a biology person in a statistics class, since you're surrounded by math people and all. He says they look at things differently, that they have a worldview based solely on "fact", to the exclusion of reality.

Now how the hell does that work? Aren't facts part of reality? Don't facts come from observing reality, so how can you base a worldview on something, while excluding the thing that would seem to be the source of the thing you're focusing on? I'm sure the "prof" was exaggerating, but it just seems like such an odd statement to make, because I can't quite figure what the hell it means. Maybe he means facts in terms of universal laws and such, and they somehow determine these laws without interacting with the very things that are governed by them?

I don't know. It just makes me want to flee even more, but I think I'll just get some sleep instead.

Monday, August 20, 2007

So High In The Sky

I've mentioned once before my interest in alternative histories. One of the other things I used to have considerable interest in was fighter aircraft, especially World War 2 era airplanes. There's just something fascinating about how, in a short period of time, you had countries go from using biplanes (such as the British Gladiator fighters and Swordfish torpedo bombers), to early jet aircraft. Plus, it seems to be the time when air power really became a battlefield force to be reckoned with, so there's some good literature out there on it. But that's not the point of today's post. Today's post is about what you get when you mix those two things together into a game, then present for my approval, in the form of Crimson Skies: The High Road to Revenge.

Crimson Skies is a flight sim set in the late '30s. The U.S. has fragmented in the wake of Prohibition and the Depression. Why those events would cause the United States to break into several smaller nations, I have no idea, but it did, and now air travel is where it's at, especially when it comes to commerce. And where you have big fat zeppelins full of goodies, you'll have air pirates. Naturally.

You play as an air pirate that gets mixed up in something a little bigger than you like, after you find an old German scientist friend of yours dead, and opt to go after the killer. Starting from the West Coast pirate hangout of Sea Haven, you travel to Chicago (heart of the Industrial States of America), Arixo (Arizona + New Mexico), and Brazil. You'll dogfight with your enemies, law enforcement, protect air shipments and passenger blimps, as well as do a little smuggling here and there. If your plane is damaged, you can look for a repair shop nearby and get patched up (for a fee), or find a hanger, and appropriate a plane (and if you keep that plane through the end of the level, and take it back to your blimp, then you get to add it to your selectable crafts). If your so inclined, you choose to board your blimp during a fight, and man the guns, just keep an eye on your health bar.

Flying is easy, pulling off aerial tricks is just a matter of how you pull back on the two thumbsticks, though those moves pull from the same "special" meter as your boost button does. There aren't any jets, but there are about a dozen different aircraft to choose from, including a mini-gyro (best used to snipe from a protected position). There are large, slow, heavily armed craft, faster, less armored ones, and a few in between. You collect enough tokens (which you can find floating around in levels, or receive for completing missions), you can upgrade a plane, boosting some of the stats. It won't make a huge difference in performance, but every little bit helps.

Crimson Skies does have multi-player, and that can be a lot of fun, especially since it seems to be the one game Alex has some real skill at (he's gotten quite a bit better than me at it). It's not particularly difficult to pick up (my dad figured it out quickly enough), and if you enjoy flight games, you would probably enjoy this.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Quit Breaking Laws Of Physics

Do you think it's hard being a scientist in the Marvel and DC universes? I don't mean the insanely brilliant guys, the Reed Richards and Mr. Terrifics of the universe. I'm thinking of a slightly more normal level of scientific brilliance.

You've got alleged gods and mutants who change the weather if they get angry, ladies in fishnets who can make people disappear by speaking backwards, purple energy rays that can heal or kill, aliens with technology so advanced it might as well be magic. Would that just frustrate the heck out of someone?

It seems like science is about figuring out the fundamental laws that hold the universe together, but that could be difficult when there are people who can change or ignore what seem to be those laws, at a whim? Trying to figure out how organisms change over time, when you've got to consider the possibility that the organisms you see might have been genetically engineered (the Kree made the Inhumans that way, maybe there are non-sentient animals in a similar boat).

I guess the tradeoff is that it would open up a whole new world of opportunities for study, frustrating though they might be. I suppose it could be fun if you can get ahold of some alien tech, and you enjoy the challenge of taking it apart, figuring out what makes it work, and then finding a way to apply it to your world. Still, I wonder what it would be like to be presented with something like that, and spend your life just figuring out how to take it apart without risking blowing yourself up. Would that feel like a worthwhile lifetime pursuit?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Devourer Of Time

Well, I would have posted sooner, but today was the local Heroclix tourney for the Coming of Galactus event. It was supposed to be held last week, but a couple of the fellows couldn't clear their work schedule's that weekend, so we pushed it back.

As I expected, I did not win the Galactus, but honestly, I don't know where I'd put it if I had. I'd probably just sell it to one of the other guys who really wants it. Or ask Ken if he could put it on ebay or something. I made my usual mistake of making a team of several wekaer characters, while everyone else was loading up with a Herald of Galactus on their team. I could have done that, but I just don't like so much of my point total concentrated in one place. So after I was bounced out of contention, I got to watch the other guys, most of whom were playing absurdly cautious. I do cautious, sometimes, but it rarely takes long for me to say "#$%^ it", and just go charging in, to settle it one way or another. But I guess nobody wanted to miss their chance for Galacuts, but being overly aggressive.

Anyway, I did get my Terrax clix (there were four weeks of games leading up to this one. Each week, the participants got a different herald. I bought my boosters the Terrax week, but spent that Saturday helping Papafred build his barbecue so I could consume large quantities of grilled animal meat), and I pulled an Ares (second time doing that), and traded it (just like last time), to our judge for the Hawkeye clix (last time it was for the Citizen V). I'm not gonna play Ares. A) I tend towards the lower point characters, which is probably part of my problem, and B) he's a member of Tony Stark's Jerkwad, Do-Nothing Avengers, hell if I'm gonna use him. So all and all, it was a nice enough day, though I feel bad for Ken. He was hoping for turnouts in the double digits, and we only averaged about 6 or 7 players per week. I guess people were out of town, or more likely, didn't have the money. The cash aspect is probably going to keep me out of the Starro event that's coming up, that, and my lower level of interest in DC stuff.

So that's all I've got for you today. I was originally planning to do a post about whether the design for that character "Kong" in Ultimate Spider-Man was based on Bendis himself, but after looking at some pictures of BMB, I don't really think so. He doesn't have that little patch of hair on his chin, plus his head doesn't narrow as much at the top. Though I wouldn't put it past Bendis to interject himself into his comic like that, so maybe he did.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I Can Make It Longer If You Like The Style

{Let's get going.} What's wrong? {Well, the power already went out once today, I don't want to risk a repeat before we get this posted.} Oh, okay then.

Then I want to Applaud Nightshade for saving lots of people in Chicago from a volcanic eruption. She even saved some of their homes and stuff. I don't need to explain more, do I? {I think you've got it covered.} Applause for Kong and for Kitty. She could have probably made Flash really regret picking on her, but it would have only made life worse. But Kenny can whomp on Flash, and it's OK, because he's just another guy. {Yeah, best to leave the beating of imbeciles to to people who won't strain mutant-human relations by doing so.}

Hugs for Phyla and Moondragon. They just had a really bad day, with the fighting giant bugs, and the crying, and painful memories. Hugs for the city of Chicago, because of the volcano, naturally, and a Hug for Blue Devil, because it doesn't look like he's going to have an easy time getting his soul back. {Well, Hell wouldn't be Hell if it was easy to back out of a deal with them.} Hugs for Mary Jane, Kitty, and I guess Peter. It's can't be easy for any of them, and even though Peter is the one at the middle of it, he really didn't mean for it to happen.

I think lots of people need Bonks, starting with the Super-Adaptoid, because he's nothing but a coward and a copycat. Mimics the quantum bands, and then flies off and lets his soldiers fight. {You know, I'm still trying to figure out how the Super-Adaptoid got into space in the first place. First Annihilus had a Mad Thinker Android, now this. Earth villains need to stop dumping their techno-junk in space.} Uh, sure, whatever. Bonks for Dr. Gotham, for you know, the volcano thing, and Bonks to that priest that was giving Blue Devil such a hard time. He made a mistake, he knows that, and he wants to make up for it, quit being so mean. Finally, Bonks for Flash and that teacher that gave the stupid "baby" assignment. Flash is a jerk, and that assignment won't teach kids anything about being parents, so it's just pointless. {Yes! Thank you! I was hoping you'd bonk the teacher! Woohoo! Anything else?} Nope, I'm done. {Nice and quick. I thank you.}

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Well, Some Island Sure Looks Empty Now

This is in regards to the abrupt appearance of an active volcano in the middle of Chicago in last month's Shadowpact.

See I was reading through a recent JSA Classified (the one starring Jakeem Thunder), and the issue had this whole big thing about how magic is about balance, and you can't magically repair one block of housing, without somehow removing the structural stability from an equally large block of housing somewhere else. I guess it's like the Law of Equivalent Exchange from Full Metal Alchemist. Although I believe that concept was always violating the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, since if you try and make something into something else, you should lose some of the mass as heat energy, but they, supposedly, were not. I think because they were drawing on the life forces of people from a parallel reality (or something, the end of the series kind of lost me, which happens frequently, as they try to explain the batshit insane stuff going on).

Anyway, so if Dr. Gotham "made" a volcano in the middle of Chicago, then it stands to reason he would have drawn the necessary components from elsewhere? Sure, there is magma under Chicago, if you go deep enough, but it isn't a tectonically active area with passages that the magma can use to reach the surface on a regular basis. So Dr. Gotham (that name seems incredibly stupid to me right now, while it really didn't before) would have to make such things occur, and at a drastically accelerated rate. So, long thought short, is there now a volcanically active region somewhere on New Earth (assuming this is New Earth, or Earth-52, or whatever), that, well, isn't volcanically active anymore?

That might not be all bad, if the people living near it have to live in a state of awareness, ready to evacuate when the volcano got active, but people like to visit volcanoes, whether it's tourists or scientists, and with the volcano gone, that could hurt the locale's economy. Though I suppose more people might move in with the threat of lava destroying their home reduced, and the scientists would probably stick around to try and figure out what happened, so maybe it would help in the long run. Of course, if he drew from a volcanic island, it might not exist anymore, which would make what he did a double whammy of murdering evilness. And all just because he got stabbed with a spear (which was seriously oversold as being bad ass, when it couldn't put down a second-rate Mordru?).

Maybe he just drew it from a undersea volcano, and so all he did was prevent the formation of a future land mass. Then again, the earth kind of seems to be in a balance, since there are places where new land emerges, and places where it submerges (subduction zones, hey I remembered something from geology, hooray!), so if he messed with that. . . hmm.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What I Bought 8/15/07

While I was in the Marvels and Legends today, I noticed a couple of stacks of books on the counter. Upon wandering over, I saw it was the two issues of Mail Order Ninja (as plugged at Dave's Long Box!). Naturally, I had to get it, seeing as how Dave Campbell says it's the coolness and all. Though I guess I didn't actually get it, I just had Ken put it in my box. I know I've got a week coming up with no new comics, so it'll be something to get then. So I guess I should talk about what I actually did get, huh? Fine.

Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar #2 - Moondragon cries a lot in this issue. Granted, it's only three panels, but it's three separate occasions, and coming from a telepath who always seemed to keep her emotions under control. She's cries when Phyla loses control of herself. She cries when remembering how her arrogance lead to her "death". And she cries when she thinks she's about to die again. But how Phyla reacts to these moments helps me to believe the relationship between her and Moondragon.

Anyway, the issue starts with an attack by what looks like a giant, unintelligent Brood. From there Phyla and Heather continue their search for this "savior", while Phalanx-controlled Super Adaptoid hunts them. By the end of the issue, things are settled comfortably into the "bad things" category for our heroes.

Gage does a good job of mixing the characters' backstories into the ongoing story, and interjecting some action at the beginning and end of each issue, just to keep things from getting too settled. I'd imagine that for our heroes, it feels a little like Friday the 13th: you know the monsters are going to attack, but you're never sure when they'll appear. I'll a little uncertain about Lilly's artwork; sometimes I think he does well, with the weapons Phyla creates, the insects, his Super-Adaptoid (I know he draws it as it originally appeared, but when I started reading comics it was always just a faceless silver mannequin, and I like this "Composite Avenger" look more). There are other times that I'm less sold; sometimes the action seems stiff, without a sense of motion or power in the attacks. Sometimes I wonder about the poses characters are in. I did like the three page recap of Moondragon's fall from grace. It'd had this faded, grainy (or more heavily cross-hatched?) feel to it, like watching an old projection of what happened. I'm not sure who to credit for that look, the inkers maybe. 4.2 out of 5.

Shadowpact #16 - I finally remembered to tell Ken I was dropping Amazing Spider-Man this week. I bring it up because I think I've decided to drop Shadowpact as well. Zatanna on the cover is weirding me out, like her hips are too long or something, I'm not sure. It's just distracting. As to what's inside, the heroes try to save the people of Chicago from the volcano Dr. Gotham created, plus deal with Dr. Gotham. Also, Blue Devil prepares to undertake tasks from the Church to gain their help, and his lawyer hits a bit of a snag. I kind of like the lawyer bits.

I think one problem with the issue was the dialogue. For some reason, the dialogue for certain characters felt off (such as Hawkgirl's), and for others, it felt like there were no distinct voices. That what Superman said, could just as easily have come from Enchantress. It isn't something I can remember noticing prior to this issue, so maybe it was all the guest stars that brought it to the foreground. I'm not really certain. Either way, I can say I wasn't really looking forward to this issue, and I think a part of me expected the whole "massive volcano destroys Chicago" cliffhanger to be fixed somehow, which I was actually dreading. That didn't happen (well the death toll is a lot less, but it makes sense, so I'm not bothered by it), so that's nice, but I probably shouldn't by something I wasn't looking forward to. 1.8 out of 5.

Ultimate Spider-Man #112 - I wouldn't think think I would say this but, I actually kind of prefer how Immonen portrayal of Mary Jane's transformed state to Bagley's. I know, I can't believe I typed that either. In fact, the blasphemous level of that statement has caused my fingertips to burn. Ow! *several minutes later, after much cold water and guaze* I liked Bagley's depiction just fine, as he went for a sort of feral look, but Immonen's suggests more of a chimera, and I think it works, given the genetic manipulation that causes it. I still prefer Bagley's Spider-Man and MJ, though.

So Peter defeats the Shocker for the fourth (fifth?) time, with a little help from a newly attired character. Could this be the origin of Ultimate Hellcat? That's what the mask reminds me of, different color scheme aside. Not liking the exposed shoulders. This week, Peter's life is ruined by that classic "you and a partner will play parents and take care of this fake baby, and this is a big part of your grade, so don't botch it". I am so happy I never had to do that crap. But Peter doesn't have my luck, so he does. Ha! Also, SHIELD is having problems related to prisoner accommodations and rebuilding their headquarters.

Thing Bendis put into this issue I liked: the potential new relationship between two characters, including one that I like and want to see more of. Thing I didn't like: the scene between Captain Danvers and Osborn. It's not a bad scene to have, it's just poorly executed. The sheer number of times Norman demands to see Fury, and Carol says Fury ain't there. Or Carol asks where Fury is, and someone tells her Fury isn't there. It just goes on and on, around and around, like loose change in a dryer, rattling around, driving me nuts. 3.1 out of 5.

And that does it for me for the day. Good night to you all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

He's Made The Clutch On My Brain Stick

I know that Tuesday seems to be the day that I dazzle you with some deep post about how literary success can trap a person, or how there are a million different stories you can tell from the same framework, but it's not gonna happen tonight. My brain can't seem to get around just how bad Adam Carolla was as the guest host for Rome is Burning this afternoon. I know, I shouldn't watch ESPN programming (other than PTI, if only LeBatard wouldn't keep showing up), but once the semester starts next week, who knows how often I'll get the chance to watch middle-aged men act outraged because some athlete used their considerable money to purchase drugs (or used drugs to help themselves make more money)?

I mean, I kind of figured a show where all he has to do is stand up there and rant in a somewhat humorous manner about sports stories would be fairly easy for Mr. Carolla, but he looked extremely awkward up there. There were moments during his opening thoughts (also known as what he's burning on), where the camera is holding on his face, when I was sure he was reading his lines off the palm of his hand (which was below the camera shot). Maybe it was the teleprompter and Carolla just needs some glasses (or laser eye surgery), but he was stumbling to get out a coherent sentence. It was essentially how I would picture myself doing, were I to host a television show.

Ye gods, his performance actually made me wish Jim Gray had come back after yesterday's bland performance. I'm not saying Gray is any joy to watch, but he's, well, dull enough to not bother you, like those Neutrals from Futurama. I find that preferable to a guy who appears to be trying really hard to be funny (or mock-outraged, I couldn't figure out which), while being completely out of his depth. Maybe it was the suit he had to wear. It's the first time I can recall Adam Carolla being that dressed up, so maybe it threw him off. The tie cut off circulation to his brain or something. That's why I don't wear ties. Well, that and because most ties are dull, and the ones that aren't dull, you aren't allowed to wear in public.

But that's enough about ties. Hopefully, I've gotten past this block now, and I'll think of something really awesome to post for later this week.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Go, Go, Crippling Nostalgia!

I'm guessing that everybody who's played video games a lot, especially back in earlier times, has that one game they loved so much, they broke it. What I mean is, you played that game, and you played it, and you played it, until it simply wore out, because it is the nature of electronics to break down over time, just like everything else. Except maybe styrofoam. For me, the game was Power Rangers for the Game Gear.

Yes, once upon a time, I was a fan of the Power Rangers. This is back in the olden times, before '93 movie (I'd lost interest by then). In that regard, I suppose I've got that - and likely the crush I had on the Pink Ranger - in common with any number of other kids from the early '90s. And like a kid, when I'm interested in something, I want the merchandise that goes along with it. I was never all that interested in the action figures, or clothes, but a video game for the Game Gear? That, I was very interested in, though I can't recall whether I got it as a gift, or bought it myself. Given how lousy my allowance was, smart money's on the former.

The game had the typical story mode, with the original five Rangers as the playable characters, with the choices expanding to six when you defeat the Green Ranger and bring him back to the side of Good. Each level you select a Ranger, then spend a few minutes fighting some of the cannon fodder, the Putty Patrol (this is triggering all sorts of memories), then fighting the boss, then. . . Giant Robot Monster Fight! Whooooo! (in your best Ric Flair impersonation, natch). Repeat for the next level. I beat that story mode plenty of times, but what ultimately caused the game to falter was all the hours on the versus mode.

I don't mean multiplayer, though you could do that if you and a friend both had a Game Gear (I don't recall if you both had to have the game. It never came up). In versus mode you selected a character, then fought, one at a time, against every other character the same size as you. What I mean is, for example, if you chose the Green ranger, you'd fight the other Rangers, a Putty, and all the monsters. If you chose one of the Zords, you only fight the other Zords and the the monsters (since they could be giant-sized too). The monsters had to fight everything. For the record, this wasn't one of those endurance matches, where the foes just keep coming without your health regenerating. After you won a fight, the next battle would start fresh, full health, new, random opponent.

There was many a summer afternoon/evening I spent at my grandmother's, where I'd sit in my room, under the window and play versus mode until I'd gotten through it with every single character. That's why it was good to have the wall adapter, because batteries would never have held out the several hours necessary for that.

I even constructed an elaborate fantasy scenario, where whichever character I was playing was trying to overthrow whichever character I played last, for good reasons or ill, to take over the, well, the world I suppose. No point in just settling for the city (was it called Angel Grove?). Anyway, then the next character I picked would set forth to defeat the one before, starting out with noble intentions if it was a good character, inevitably being corrupted and corrupting those they defeated, so the whole process could start over again. That idea seemed a lot cooler back in the day. Anyway, it was a good way to pass the time during the summer, since it was too hot to be outside in the middle of the day, and my grandmother lived alone out in the country, so ways to pass the time were limited (though there was going to her friends' house to play "Marbles", which is actually very much like Sorry!, and that was fun, except their dog hated me for some reason).

Looking back, I'm surprised by how many moves the characters could have, given that you only had a directional pad and two buttons to work with. I mean, beyond the basic "punch, kick, jump kick, throw" stuff, there were flying uppercuts, shoulder blocks, weapons attacks, both for when you were already close up, and ones where you either attacked at distance, or went charging at them with some big, impressive strike. I recall Green Ranger had a pretty nasty "multiple slashes with the dagger" move. And all that depending mostly on what direction you pushed the D-pad, or whether you were tapping or holding it. They really could fit quite a bit into the games back then.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

They Have Their Interests, I Have Mine

I was watching Trading Places on Comedy Central this afternoon. I've seen different parts of it at different times on TV, probably adding up to the whole movie, or close to it. I'm enjoyed it more than normal this time, because I think I finally figured out how Lewis and Billy Ray were able to ruin the Duke brothers. I probably should have figured it out sooner, but I don't follow the markets (or economics in general), and I can be quite slow at times. You have no idea how many times I had to watch Airplane! before I got the "drinking problem" joke, so I must have some comprehension blind spot when it comes to comedies.

Anyway, I put 1+1 together, and the selling, then buying, and the Dukes being stuck with a bunch of mostly worthless frozen orange juice stock made sense, but I was wondering whether the little scheme screwed over any other investors. Were there other folks who wound up like the Dukes, except they were just got caught in the crossfire? I suppose that's the risk you take in the stock market (and probably why some people enjoy investing), but wouldn't Billy Ray and Lewis' actions be something like insider trading? They knew about the crop report ahead of time and they used information to make a lot of money and bankrupt two evil old bastards. Granted, the Dukes, had their scheme worked, would be guilty of the same thing, but that just kind of makes Lewis and Billy Ray look worse, because they sank to the bad guys' level. Of course, that's part of the fun when it comes to movies, watching the villains hoist on their own petard.

Or maybe their actions just canceled out what the Dukes had planned, and the prices wound up where they would have if both the sides had just butted out. I'm just running in circles at this point.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Apparently, "counterfactual" is the historian word for "what if scenario". I bring this up because I recently finished reading What If?, a collection of essays by various military historians on how a different outcome in a specific event might have changed history.

It's a book that unless you are fairly interested in history, and specifically, military history, probably has limited appeal. Fortunately, I've got two history majors for parents, so I guess enough of that got passed on genetically to make it interesting to me. Plus, I used to read a lot of Harry Turtledove's books, which were almost always What If? style historical novels, though usually taken to an extreme level (Aliens invade during World War 2! Racists travel back to the Civil War to give the South M-16s! That kind of lunacy).

In this case, the authors all take what is apparently the accepted tack for counterfactual arguments: make only small and plausible changes, and recognize that over time, the previous circumstances may wind up happening anyway. This gets brought up in a discussion of what might have happened had the Spanish Armada been better able to deal with the English fireships, perhaps due to a different wind that day. The point Geoffrey Parker makes is that while the loss of the Armada signaled the decline of Spain and the Habsburgs, and the rise of England, a victory wouldn't necessarily erase all of that future (in part due to all the Habsburg inbreeding leaving a lack of suitable heirs within a generation or two).

The thing all the writers do that I greatly appreciate is give a quick rundown of how whatever event they're discussing actually went, before going into their spiel about how if x happened, y would not have happened. I may enjoy history, but I'm not so well-versed in it that a quick recap doesn't do a world of good for getting you into the subject.

I thought the first chapter was one of the more interesting, if just for the implications William McNeill suggests. He looks at what might have happened if the Assyrians hadn't been hit by a horrible plague as they prepared to conquer Jerusalem in 701 B.C. His argument is that the people in the town would have been captured, taken back into the heart of the Assyrian Empire, and that within a few decades, the people would have abandoned their faith, since their God had failed to protect them, and without Judiasm, no Christianity, no Islam. Pretty impressive swing, though as he notes, it creates a world so foreign from ours it's practically impossible to try to describe it. So he doesn't. Still, it's remarkable to think that a walled city, managing to withstand a powerful army, even if only for a few generations (as Jerusalem was eventually conquered, and its people moved to Babylon in 586 B.C.), could change things that much.

There's other chapters as well, one about roughly ten different ways the colonies could have lost the American Revolution (and Sam Adams' name keeps coming up. Apparently he wasn't too bright when it came to politics or the military), or what happens if the Japanese had been a little more suspicious about uncoded messages about Midway Island needing a re-supply of water, or if the Mongols didn't force everyone to come back home to choose their new ruler (because the Mongol general Sabotai was about three seconds away from taking Vienna, and there wouldn't have been any stopping him at that point). So on and so on.

If nothing else, it's fun to read about all the screw-ups and tactical blunders that enable leaders to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Whether it's impatience, or an unwillingness to share credit, or work together, or even in General Marshall's case with China, trying to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Friday, August 10, 2007

An Island, In A Sea Of Teardrops

So Ankiel hit a home run last night? {Yeah, it was on a bad curveball, and he was way out in front, and he only swung with basically one arm, but yeah.} That's sounds pretty cool. {It was actually, his swing was so ugly, it was like a Willie McGee flashback of something. And I've decided that Rick's nickname will be "Ricky-Tikki-Tavi".} That's lame! {It is not, you just need to read more Rudyard Kipling! And it's appropriate.} Really? {Yes. One day I'll explain to you how Rikki being half-drowned when the boy finds him is a metaphor for Mike Matheny slicing tendons in his finger with the hunting knife he got for his birthday right before the playoffs in 2000, and how the cobras are a metaphor for. . . peer pressure. Yeah, that's the stuff.} Are you making this up? {Sort of. There are parallels; just not really those particular parallels.} You're silly. {And you're stalling.} Am not!

We're starting with Hugs, so here's one for the little baby, Ben Parker, who - {No! No hugging that baby until the story arc is safely concluded!} But - {No buts!} Fine, then I'll Hug everyone else in the Parker family, since they're all having a bad time too. Do you promise I get to hug the baby after the story ends? {As long as the current situation gets reversed, yes.} OK, I'll move on. Is it OK if I Hug Wraith? I mean, I know he didn't seem to care about the torture, but I still feel bad for him. {Yeah, you can hug him. I don't know that it'll mean anything to a guy who only seems to feel pain, but you never know.} A Hug for that Evil Beast. {You mean the one in New Excalibur, or Dark Beast in those Endangered Species back-up stories?} The first one. He died trying to fight the bad guys, so I felt a little sad for him. {I thought the depths he went trying to delude himself was amusing. Focusing on his next breath to stay alive? He was stabbed in the heart! Breathing exercises won't help!} He was fighting his fear, cut him some slack! {OK, sorry I touched a nerve.} Well, you're being mean1

. . .

Say, where did that Dark Beast come from? {I have absolutely no idea. Something about Age of Apocalypse, but since that was a reality-altering thing that got undone, I have no idea what he's doing here. Hypertime, maybe?} Oh, that's weird. Hug for all those stranded Kree soldiers. They aren't ever going to get home are they? {If they do, it probably won't be as themselves. They'll be Phalanx drones, unless Nova 0001 pulls off something big.} I think everyone in X-Factor could use a hug. {Naw, I think Madrox and Rictor are good. Guido just needs someone to lighten up and laugh. Layla could probably use one, and a doctor too} Well, then I guess the Hug is for her. And Siryn, because she got shot. {Ah, she's probably used to that sort of thing by now.} You think so? {No.}

Oh, you can't stop being sarcastic can you? {Never! Now picture me on a mountaintop screaming "Never!" Now picture a dozen of me dancing on a stage singing "Never, never, never, never, never, never!"} I get it, never. Applause then. Hmm, Ko-Rel, the new Nova, she's doing pretty well with no training. {Well, she has military training, just no Nova Force training. I wonder if Rich being under Phalanx control affects her connection to the Nova Force. Can he just take it back from her?} That would be really bad, so let's hope he can't. {Yeah, maybe it's only Rich that's infected, not the Worldmind.} Applause for Guido, because I thought his jokes were funny. I don't get why nobody else would laugh. {New edict for Joe Quesada, similar to his "No smoking" decree: No more laughing by Marvel characters, as Marvel comics are a serious business, and there's no room for jocularity.} That's terrible! I'll Bonk him silly! {Whoa, little panda! That was me, being sarcastic again. Remember how I said I wouldn't stop?} Well, it's not funny. {It was a little funny.} No, you aren't funny. {Gasp! How could you say such cruel things? *runs sobbing from the room*} He was the one being a dork, why do I feel bad? {*returns to room* It's a gift we humans have, to make the fine, upstanding amongst us feel like tools for being that way. We're idiots that way.} You sure are. You think it would be wrong to give Dazzler Applause because I liked all the pretty lights? {Well, she might think that's a bit frivolous to be concerning yourself with right now, but they're your paws. You can clap if you want, clap if you want to.} Why did you say it twice? {Just riffing on an old song.}

{You already handed out one Bonk, I suppose, got any more?} Bonk for Carnage, or Specimen #297, or whatever, for taking advantage of his host's worries. It's not like the symbiote can do what it promised, right? {Actually, it probably can. It's just of a question of "when" it'll surrender the carrot it can dangle in front of the host's nose.} Mmm, do you have any carrots? {No. You know this is Microwaveable Territory, where fresh foods dare not venture.} Fine, then Bonk to Sage for just being totally out of control now. I don't care which people she's killing, it is totally unacceptable, and I don't like it. {Yeah, I think the "unacceptable" part made that clear. She is kind of morally ambiguous, just like Pete Wisdom. He kills people too, you know.} Yeah, but he's usually on the right side. {As far as you know.} Whatever, I want to end with an extra-hard series of Bonks to all those people at that anti-mutant concert in X-Factor. That's just so terrible of them, to be so happy about other people's misfortune, just because those people were a little different. {Like I said, people are idiots. Would I be correct in assuming that this large order of Bonks is why there are so many more pandas than normal in my apartment today?} Yes, I brought them in to help. This way everyone gets a really solid Bonk, because we won't get as tired. {Good thinking. That it?} Yes, now can we have some carrot-flavored ice cream?

*All pandas at once* Ice cream!

{Forget, there is no way I am buying ice cream for all of you. Especially carrot-flavored! What they heck is wrong with you ABP, that's just disgusting! So unless you all have pockets hidden somewhere in your fur, filled with money. . . *pauses as pandas pull gold coins from their fur* well then, we're going for ice cream! Not carrot-flavored though.}

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Things I Focus On

For some very reason, I'm hung up on the fact that Rahne Sinclair was wearing three earrings in one ear in this week's issue of X-Factor. I suppose my subconscious has given up on trying to discern where PAD is going with the larger story arc, and I've settled on trying to unravel smaller mysteries.

I suppose the reason it struck me is because I tend to associate have piercings, especially multiple piercings, as a sign of someone fairly secure with themselves. People can react negatively to lots of piercings (though that seems to be ones on the face more than the ears), and it would be a self-assured person who would wear them, regardless of other's reactions. I grant you, my basis for that is mainly that my friend Alex and most of his other friends have several piercings, and I generally consider all of them to be more self-assured than I am (but also more screwed up than me), and I've zero piercings, because I'm not a fan of letting people jab me with pointy things. So yeah, it's a weak foundation, but I think that combined with my perception of Rahne as very repressed and not interested in calling much attention to herself.

Of course, the counter to that would be that she wears a large crucifix around her neck (and now she's sporting an "X" emblem as well), but I think that's more about a reminder of her faith (and the X a way of showing what group she belongs to), less than trying to draw attention to her as an individual.

Then I noticed, upon going through some of the previous issues that this is expanding. In the X-Cell story she wasn't wearing any. OK, that was Khoi Pham, now Pablo Raimondi's back, so maybe just an artistic preference. But in the #21, she's only wearing one earring when she goes to check on Rictor. Now she's wearing three. I must say, seeing that made me feel a little better, because I feel like there's a little more substance to my noticing that (not a lot, but better than nothing).

The one thing PAD keeps going back to is that Rahne doesn't trust her wolf self; that she only lets it out when she really has to, or when she wants to hurt someone, because she doesn't entirely trust it not to go all "Hulk Smash" on an innocent person. So I'm wondering if this isn't a sign of either an inner conflict between her two halves (Which would be appropriate, given the struggles so many of the team have with themselves), or a sign that they're coming to a reconciliation. Perhaps Rahne is going to start trusting her instincts more, let loose a little, and by becoming more accepting of that half she always feared, she'll lower the danger. Being more expressive about how she feels might just act as a pressure valve, by letting that instinctual half have a little more play, instead of only turning to it in emergencies.

I guess I'll have to wait and see. And check on it when #23 comes out next month.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to prepare for Rick Ankiel's hopefully successful return to the majors - as an outfielder. I fully predict a huge standing ovation when he first comes up to bat; too many fans have (metaphorically) bled for too long, hoping he'd find his way back. Sure, they were hoping he'd return as a pitcher, but you it's not a perfect world.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What I Bought 8/8/07

I hate summer. It's too damn hot and sticky for me to fully enjoy as I would like. I have to remember, when I become a full-fledged member of the workforce, to take vacations in more temperate seasons (or more temperate locales). But that's for the future, these five reviews are for the present. And I guess also for the future, since people who haven't read them yet may some day stumble across them. And maybe for the past as well, since they can probably chart some sort of downward spiral of mental health when compared to similar posts from earlier in the blog's history, and posts that are yet to come. Anyway, spoilers and warnings, and what have you.

Amazing Spider-Girl #11 - Tom DeFalco seems to be going with a time-tested axiom for people whose codenames start with "Spider-": they have to take the bad with the good. Every time May has fortune smile upon her, it promptly follows that with a pie to the face. It should be good that SHIELD is out combing the city, because they can help her find Carnage - except SHIELD is convinced she stole Specimen #297, and so they're focusing all their energy on catching her. Typical SHIELD. May makes a connection with the symbiote's host, but it only serves to strengthen the connection between the host and the symbiote. Drat. May saves her little brother, but. . . well, it's more bad news.

It's a solid enough issue, as DeFalco/Frenz continue to convince me that bringing Carnage back into play wasn't a horrible mistake. They spend a brief moment covering what Mary Jane is up to, before turning the focus to May and Peter (who gets one of those classic Spidey moments where he triumphs through will and determination. It's not up there with lifting all that rubble to get the medical serum in Amazing Spider-Man #33, but it's not bad). Frenz does his usual solid job, and it's got pretty decent momentum for a middle chapter of a multi-issue arc (at least by today's standards). 3.8 out of 5.

Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith #2 - I feel kind of sad after reading this. Chris Sims seemed hopeful that Wraith might be Marvel's way of slipping ROM back into the Marvel Universe, without officially reinserting ROM in the Marvel Universe. Since the latter half of this issue is "Wraith" (as Ronan describes him) telling us all about who he is and how he came to be, it seems unlikely this is the greatest of the SpaceKnights (which is much cooler than being the greatest of the Green Lanterns. I'm just saying).

Ronan seems in an odd place, infected by the Phalanx, obedient, but still free enough to be pissed at his situation. I have a feeling that means something, as does Super-Skrull's current resistance, and what Wraith said about why the Phalanx fear him, but it's a thought that needs more work. Mr. Hotz' work is dark and moody, and appropriately creepy for what seems very much like a horror movie, but on the whole I didn't enjoy this issue that much. It felt cheap to just get all of Wraith's origin in one setting like we did. 2.9 out of 5.

New Excalibur #22 - I'm curious as to what Claremont's up to here with Dazzler. She's getting progressively angrier, more prone to respond with violence to anything. Maybe it's a response to dying multiple times in the first two years of this title, but it feels too abrupt of a shift from where she was previously. It could be an attempt to mirror what's happening to Sage, as she seems to be falling farther under Albion's control, more willing to kill for him all the time (though she's only killed Dark X-Men so far, which I guess can be her "out" when this is all over).

Olliffe's artwork is more to my liking than Scot Eaton's was, personally. Because really, if you're going to do a story where the bad guys conquer a country, and the good guys will have several skirmishes with the bad guys, then you need someone who can draw good fight scenes, and I think Olliffe does that better than Eaton did. Better representation of movement, force, action, however you want to describe it. Knows when to go close-up, or wide-angle.

Things feel too disjointed in this issue. Both sides have forces scattered all over, and I think it would have helped to have a quick stop over at Captain Britain's location. After all, the previous issue ended with Dark Jean freaking out as she telepathically senses Dark Scott's death; you'd think they might want to touch on that. Did she go comatose, or Dark Phoenix? Has she dissolved the Dark X-Men's partnership with Excalibur? Is she charging towards London as we speak? Or trying to vent her fury on Lionheart/Captain Britain/The Queen, etc.? 2.4 out of 5.

And what the heck was up with the second-to-last page, with the 13-panel death of Dark Beast?

Nova #5 - Well, congratulations to the Nova Corps. There's 2 of you now. Ko-Rel, the new Nova, is going to have to learn on the job, but the Worldmind seems to to be helping with that, at least as far as activating powers at proper moments. Problem being, Ko-Rel's increase in station comes with a boatload of Phalanx forces on the prowl, including Gamora, and a SpaceKnight.

No, it's not ROM. No, I don't know when ROM's going to show up and save the day. Hopefully soon. Whereas Wraith is taking more of a horror approach to the Phalanx (with large, and seemingly painful methods of maintaining control), Nova is going for more of a Indiana Jones feel, since it seems to mix fighting with some humor (the reactions of the other Kree to Ko-Rel's new outfit), plus the Phalanx conversion isn't portrayed as nearly so painful or difficult (unless someone was playing opossum there at the end). Which I guess makes Worldmind Sean Connery. "Your mother liked it ruff Ko-Rel!" I'm very sorry about that. 3.9 out of 5.

X-Factor #22 - Well, for everyone that doesn't like Layla Miller, this may just be the issue for you. As for the rest of us, well, I'm not sure it's "the" issue for us, but it's not bad. I'm still very happy to have Pablo Raimondi back on art duties; he draws violent acts much more effectively than Khoi Pham did.

So the Huber fellow has an idea to save mutants, and he wants Jamie to spearhead the idea. It's an interesting idea, one that probably fits within the letter of the law, though I can't imagine some of the people it applies to being very happy about it. I agree with Guido though, people around X-Factor used to have a sense of humor, and even laugh at stuff. I laughed at his "skink" pun though, so maybe that counts for something. Can you believe my spellcheck doesn't recognize skink? It's a type of reptile! Stupid worthless spellcheck. Where was I?

Siryn and Monet seem like they're going to have a bit more trouble completing this mission than they planned (imagine that!), and I'm curious to see whether that ties into Huber somehow. Seeing as so many things seem to be connected in this book, I'm thinking there must be some connection, but I can't guess at what. It's a solid issue, mostly set-up. but with some amusing moments, and it was just sort of there. I may be starting to take X-Factor for granted. 3.5 out of 5.