Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pick Up Your #2 Pencils And Begin

Like I said, I think today's post might be a little more interesting, or at least, thought-provoking, than yesterday's, so here it is.

Superman is said to stand for "truth, justice, and the American Way". Superman has also changed somewhat as a character over his history in terms of personality, powers, and types of conflicts dealt with. Is there a correlation between how Superman is portrayed and the America of that time? In other words, does the Superman of a given time reflect the time he's in? Show your work.

OK, that's it, I'm done. See you most likely in a week.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I Have To Ease Back Into This

I'm back! I hope each of you had a nice Monday and Tuesday, whatever special meaning (or lack thereof) they held for you. I'm leaving again in the morning, and I shan't return until some time after 2008 has begun. It's unlikely I'll have any Internet access during that time, so any activity on the blog is likely up to all of you. To that end, I'm going to ask you a silly little question tonight, and then I've got what might be a more ambitious one planned for you tomorrow.

For tonight, I'm posing a question that I thought of thanks to all the times FX has been showing Home Alone lately. Here's what I'm wondering: if young Kevin McAllister had not decided to booby trap his home with blowtorches, paint cans, and nail set on steps covered in tar, what would Marv and Harry have done to him when they broke into his house?

I mean, by the time Kevin had run out of traps, Pesci was ready to kill him, but I don't think he would have had that in mind from the start. Killing a kid is all kinds of a bad idea, especially since I doubt either Wet Bandit had the skill to make it look like an accident. So what could they do? Tie him up and leave him in a closet? What if he starves to death (they have no idea when his family's coming back)? Just rip out all the phones? He could climb out a window, and run for the cops. Kidnap him?

I don't know. I'm just throwing it out there, you'll have plenty of time to consider an answer to this and tomorrow's post until I get back.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's Fairly Appropriate, Given The Time Of Year

I've been kicking this post around for at least two months, maybe even since the start of the Faith storyarc in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I just couldn't quite decide what I was wanting to say, and I guess I finally settled on talking about why I like the character so much.

I mentioned once before that one of the things I liked was that Faith enjoyed being a Slayer. By the time I started watching the series, Buffy was in her more, unpleasant, days, and she wasn't really a character I wanted to root for. Seeing the earlier episodes, where she was more cheerful, was nice, but Faith loved being the Slayer, and I like characters that see being special as something really great, even if it's just a way for them to escape their less-than-great everyday lives.

Another part of it was that Faith strikes me as decisive. Whereas I can spend ten minutes in a grocery store, trying to decide whether to buy nacho cheese chips or peanut butter crackers for snacks, Faith seemed able to come to a decision quickly. Part of that is being impulsive, but it was also the fact she tended to stick with those decisions as long as she could. After she accidentally killed the deputy mayor (I say "accidental", even though she fully intended to put the stake in his heart, but she thought he was a vampire, and he was stupid enough to walk right up behind her in a dark alley, so no big loss to their world), she decided to try and dump the body and just move on. Not a good plan, but I was impressed with her ability to make a choice quickly and go with it. Of course, that seemed to be a theme with Faith, making a less than advisable choice, then trying to see it through. She stuck with the Mayor until she went into a coma, and picked up where she left off when she woke up (which makes that dream Buffy had where she talks with Faith contradictory, but it was a dream, and they'll do that sometimes). She tried pretty damn hard to get Angel to kill her, she stayed in prison when it was painfully obvious she could escape anytime she wanted, she took the Potential Slayers out to party and loosen up, even if it got The Royal Slaying Pain-In-The-Ass (Buffy), angry that someone did something without consulting her first. And most recently she actually got to know Gigi a little, and tried to convince her not to try and kill Buffy. Like I said, these decisions didn't tend to work out, but it was impressive to me that she would choose and path and try and stick to it.

An extension of that was Faith's loyalty to people, even though they rarely justified it. Faith defended the fake Watcher against Buffy, because she believed in her, and the fake convinced Faith that she believed in her as well. Once Faith realized she'd been tricked though, she had no issues with drawing lightning bolts in her direction to help the people she'd been fighting against moments before. Eventually she felt like the Scoobies were against her (and certainly Willow and Wesley were against her, though Xander wasn't, initially), and she turned to the Mayor. And she was loyal to him, even after he got blowed up real good. Backed the wrong horse again (story of her life it seems), but the Mayor always seemed to stick by her, and Faith returned that trust with her own. That was a weird relationship those two had, do you think he'd lost a daughter sometime before he became whatever he was?

The one time that loyaltyseems to have worked out is with regards to Angel. He pulled her back from the suicide, helped her to face up to what she'd done, and when he needed her help, having lost his soul again, she was the one who nearly died capturing him, so he could get his soul back. I liked how determined she was to bring Angelus back alive so he could be resouled, even if it cost her some pain, or if she had to smack Conner around. Personally, her pummeling Conner was the part I enjoyed the most. When she returned to Sunnydale, she seemed to really try to not cause Buffy any static, even letting Buffy punch in the face without comment, though any decision she made seemed to be interpreted as Faith trying to usurp Buffy's role, and she unwillingly wound up as leader eventually.

The last thing wasn't so much anything Faith did, as much as it was something other characters weren't doing: taking responsibility for their actions. I apologize in advance, I'm going to be a bit. . . cross for the next paragraph or so. It took her awhile, but Faith did fess up to her crimes, and she did go to prison, and she stayed there, up to the point when she was needed outside. Buffy Season 6 bugged me because no one seemed to take responsibility for what they did. Willow's mind-wiping and other antics seemed to get foisted off on "bad magic" or Amy, and her punishment for killing one person, flaying another (since Warren apparently isn't dead), trying to kill several other people, and oh yeah, trying to destroy the world was. . . to go to a coven in England and learn to control herself {Here we go}. Ooh, harsh. She gets friends waiting at the airport with a sign; Faith gets remarks from Dawn about them letting a murderer stay in the house {blood pressure's rising} Xander getting mad at Anya about her drunken one-time thing with Spike, when he bailed on her at the altar about made me see cross-eyed {grinding my teeth}. I would have loved to have seen Buffy one time admit to the others that she did a lot more damage to Spike than he did to her. But no, she got to skate on all the crap she pulled, and Spike had to deal with everyone treating him like dirt. Yeah, it was swell of her to defend him when he was under the First's control, but that support might have been more useful back when he was an unsouled vampire trying to fight his nature, as opposed to Buffy's "screw Spike, then punch him and call him names until the next time you feel horny" strategy. {yelling at the ceiling while typing}

I'm OK, I'm better now. The point was, Faith recognized she did wrong, and accepted punishment for it, then tried her best to atone for her poor choices when she left prison. I really appreciated seeing that after all the stuff I ranted about in the previous paragraph. And now she's decided to try and find troubled Slayer's and keep them from going down the same roads she and Gigi did, likely to make up for the fact she wasn't able to save Gigi from herself. It's nice, you know? Warms my heart, and in a good way, not the "I'm frothing with rage" way it was happening earlier.

I'm taking the next two days off, as I'll be visiting relatives, and trying to resist the urge to kill them, I mean, sharing in the love and togetherness of the holidays. Until Wednesday, I guess.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More Thoughts On The Phalanx

I've been considering what Ultron is after in the Kree Galaxy. Ultron has the Phalanx systematically going through the minds of all the Kree, looking for something. The obvious question is, what is Ultron after?

We know that Ultron has no love for humans (except for Ultron-13, who was nice, and actually loved Hank Pym.) Ultron wants to wipe humans out, and replace them with artificial lifeforms. To that end, Ultron started recording the brain patterns of various Avengers to use as templates for that new race of artificial beings. The last we saw of those, Alkhema, his estranged wife, had picked them up after Ultron got beat down by Pym. And just recently (and finally finished!), Ultron hacked into Tony Stark, took the appearance of the Wasp, and started initiating all sorts of catastrophes before being defeated, assuming that was Ultron. Given the resemblance to the Wasp, I wonder if the chip with her memory patterns might have been involved, which would suggest Alkhema, not Ultron.

Something that seemed to be important about the havoc Ultron was that they attacks were things that the Avengers had faced before. They weren't new schemes, just a bunch of old plans unleashed all at once. That suggests a lack of creativity, which is a little odd since Ultron's rarely lacked for innovation in his plans (Given the recent Mighty Avengers story, I probably shouldn't use a male pronoun for Ultron, should I?) No Ultron's in outer space, controlling the hive mind of a vast techno-organic species. It gives Ultron all the advantages that a greater, linked consciousness has, but also allows those within the group a certain level of independence, so their individual skills aren't wasted.

Maybe Ultron's decided that replacing organic life with artificial life is a poor plan, because too many valuable qualities are lost, ones that can't as yet be duplicated by his own creations. Of course, that doesn't answer the question of what's being sought after, though I thought it would when I started typing. So, moving on.

Maybe Ultron thinks the key to defeating the Technarcy lies somewhere within the Kree. The Technarcy will have to be dealt with eventually, since they'll appear to destroy the Phalanx* (*see Thursday's post for more details!); the barrier won't last forever. What that key would be, beyond "Overwhelming force", I don't know.

The one thing I can't shake is a feeling that the High Evolutionary has something to do with what Ultron's after (besides Adam Warlock, who Ultron appears to consider just an obstacle to be removed). And the thing I keep coming back to is a place I know from Thor comics called the "Black Galaxy". It's not actually a galaxy (I think); it's just a portion of space where everything is alive, including planets and stars and such. It's where Ego, The Living Planet is from, though he's the only inhabitant to achieve sentience. The High Evolutionary was very interested in that place at one time, and I can't shake the feeling that a portion of space where normally lifeless things are composed of organic molecules, and react as living things would (meaning they can defend themselves), would be of interest to an artificial being in control of a techno-organic lifeform.

Think about it. Instead of the Phalanx just being a collection of living beings, it could grow to include the very worlds they lived on, as they would be made of living matter, and so should be vulnerable to the transmode virus. There would be no way to enter Phalanx territory without the knowing it, and they could respond instantly. It'd be like Krakoa, The Living Island that the X-Men tangled with long ago, where everything is your enemy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deck The Tree With Baby Pandas

So, do I get a present? {Present?} It's Christmas! {Not for another few days!} But I won't see you again until after, and I brought you a gift, see? {Oh, that's so sweet! I didn't know we were exchanging gifts, is there something you'd like?} That's no fun. You need to guess! {But I might get you something you don't want, or don't need.} You can think of something. {Weapons are out of the question?} I don't think my mom would like me getting a weapon. {Definitely no weapons then. Well, I better go find something. I'll be back.} And you can't just give me ice cream either! {D'oh!}

Well, I guess I'll go ahead and talk to you while he's out, even if he didn't give me much to work with. I do want to Hug Guy Gardner because that Justice League artist drew him with his old haircut. I know it was good enough for Moe, but people should respect Guy's current look. Then I need to Hug Bob, Agent of HYDRA, because Brother Voodoo gave him scary nightmares for no good reason, and a Hug for Tiger's Beautiful Daughter. Even though it was a tournament, and getting beat up is part of that, and even though she's a tiger's daughter, which means she's probably evil, that was still a really painful looking punch to the face. Plus, Davos tries to poke her eyes out. That's just fighting like a wuss. Hmm, I wonder how Calvin's shopping is going?

{Crap, can't buy food, can't buy weapon, what do you get a panda? Maybe a festive sweater? No, he has a fur coat, red and green probably clash with black and white! Agh!}

I'm sensing that it isn't going well. In the meantime, I want to Applaud Deadpool and T-Ray for reaching some kind of compromise, and another round of Applause for Wade sticking to his plan to be a better person. And some Applause for Dr. Strange, for putting Wade through this to help him on that. At least, I think that's what Strange was doing. I guess I have to Applaud Davos for winning a fight after he lost his hand. He's a jerk, blames others for his failings, and hurts others rather than face the truth about himself, but making another hand from his chi was pretty cool.

{I'm back! Here's your gift!} Oh, it's awesome, but it's kind of big! {You'll grow into it; plus it'll billow around you, so you can make dramatic exits and profiles. Plus, it'll cover some of your fur, so you can sneak about at night more easily.} Oh, HUG! {Agh! Too... much... cuteness! *thud!*} Oops. Well, he'll wake up eventually. Until then, I need to Bonk Brother Voodoo, because there was no reason to knock out Bob and make him experience nightmares. They were in a creepy swamp; Bob wasn't going to go anywhere, he would have just sat there and tried to not get eaten by zombies. And why raise people from the dead? It just got their bodies hacked up by Deadpool. Uncool. Even though I applauded him earlier, I'm still going to Bonk Davos now because he is a jerk, and because he blames others for his failings, and because he would rather beat on someone that admit the truth about himself. Also, I'm going to Bonk Mr. Xao, because this thing about threatening Jerwyn's mother has just gone on long enough. It's just rude.

{Huh? Wha happen? I feel so warm and fuzzy; it's very disquieting.} You'll be fine. I'm going to show everyone my present, so you just relax and enjoy yours. {OK. I'm not sure when we'll be able to get together again. Comics aren't in until Friday next week, and I may be out of town until then.} In that case, one more HUG! {Augh! Still too cute! *thud!*}

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Survival Instinct Will Alter Their Programming

So next month, we're going to see Nova on the world of Kvch, the original homeworld of the Phalanx, as Richard is hoping he'll find something to help him fight said Phalanx. Initially, I was going to talk about how I was hoping we'd find out how the Phalanx began, what was the origin of their hivemind, techno-organic structure, and things like that. Then I did a little poking around on Wkipedia, and felt like going a different direction.

I didn't know the Phalanx are sort of an offshoot of beings like Warlock (the one from the old New Mutants series, not Adam Warlock), called the Technarcy. I vaguely remembered Douglock being around when the Phalanx first really established themselves as a threat, but that was in '90s X-Men comics, so I think I can be forgiven for not trying too hard to follow what was happening. The Wiki entry also told me the Phalanx are considered abominations by the Technarcy, who pride themselves on their individuality, while the Phalanx tend to lack that quality. That's kind of interesting. It doesn't explain how a techno-organic race originated, but it did raise some other questions for me.

See, the entries say that when the Phalanx in a region reach a certain number, they construct a Babel Spire, which sends a signal to the Magus, ruler of the Technarcy, who shows up and destroys all Phalanx. It's clearly not something they should want to do, but it's hardwired into what passes for the genetic code of the transmode virus. And in Conquest, they have built a Spire, but they've also created a barrier, which means the Magus can't get in. Apparently, Ultron wasn't able to eliminate the instinctive drive to build the Spire, but he was able to instill in them a need/desire/urge to build a device that would protect them from the doom the Spire brings.

Of course, that still raises the question of how they learned to build a device that, as Phyla put it, did something not even Galactus is capable of, by shifting the Kree Galaxy out of "normal" space. Where would they have found that technology? Off hand, I'd suggest either the Rigellians, who created the Recorders and were big on collecting knowledge and could have either created such a device, or found records of it somewhere in their explorations, or the Celestials. Where are they getting the power to maintain it? It seems pretty likely that now the energy is being supplied by the Kree that are being "processed", but where did they get the energy for the initial creation of it? They hadn't been invading that long, could they already have captured and processed enough Kree to construct the barrier, or did they sacrifice some of themselves for the energy? That seems like a very "hivemind" thing to do.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What I Bought 12/19/07

So, I hear comics don't come in until Friday the next two weeks. That's uh, that's pretty disappointing, I'm not sure how to take it. Especially considering I probably won't be in town to get my comics next week. So, so sad. But that's next week, and I guess I should focus on this week. Yeah, that's the ticket. This week, with my grand total of two comics. Odd thought: Outside of game shows, does anyone use the term "grand total" to actually refer to a large amount, or is it always used sarcastically? Either way, you'd best believe I'm using the term"spoilers" seriously here.

Deadpool, and the Rotating Guest Stars #48 - Somehow, I would expect that even shrunken, Deadpool's head would take up more space that it is on Brother Voodoo's necklace. Wade has to reach some sort of an understanding with T-Ray, before T-Ray's soul can be allowed to rejoin its body. This takes the form of a metaphysical realm fight between giant forms of the two of them, until Wade gets blasted into little pieces, at which point things get quite weird.

I have no clue what happened. Voodoo says Wade doesn't have a soul, then he and T-Ray are somehow sharing a soul, and I'm just lost. So did Wade have a soul of his own, ever? Did it only appear after he beat T-Ray and sent him spiraling through mystical realms, and if so, how did Wade get it? I just don't follow, nor do I understand why Brother Voodoo had summoned zombies to greet Wade and Bob. Even though there were certain scenes that I liked, it doesn't work as a whole comic. At least at this point. Maybe if I get a better understanding of what was supposed to be happening, that might change. Given that he always seems to reduce my enjoyment of the title, hopefully T-Ray will stay out of the book for the final 2 issues.

Immortal Iron Fist #11 - Danny's back, just in time for HYDRA to send their train into K'un-Lun. He needs help to get back through the mystical portal he used to leave the Tournament, so it's good he has friends in the area, even if they are squabbling about whether to call in Luke's Avengers (yes they should, sez I), and whether Registration/Initiative laws are stupid (they certainly are, sez I, and no amount of dumbass What If? stories that were released this week will convince me otherwise, so get bent, Marvel). But who cares about that, it's time for more fighting! Woot! Davos against the lady from Mortal Kombat with the fan weapons. I think she would have done better if she'd stuck to kicking his ass, and left out the taunting.

I like the pages spent looking back at Davos before he forsook his home. My only concern is that he regards his loss to Wendell Rand as Rand being part of a conspiracy against him. For some reason, I figured Davos would chalk his loss to Wendell up to bad luck, that he'd slipped, or been distracted by the sun or something, anything that would enable to feel that Rand had somehow tricked everyone else into believing he was superior. It's still a form of self-delusion, but the level Brubaker/Fraction are ascribing to him feels a step too far. But I guess they want his hatred to go beyond just hating the Rands, to encompassing everything related to K'un-Lun. It works fine, he's angry, bitter, everything that Tiger's Beautiful Daughter said he was, it's just a thought I had. I enjoyed this, but I would still like it to move a little faster.

And that's all there is for today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Under Water, No One Can Hear You Scream. . .

. . . but if you're lucky, they'll see the bubbles when they reach the surface. That'll tip them off. Tip them off to what, I'm not sure.

AMC was showing a movie called Below this afternoon, which I had never seen before but hey, possibly haunted WW2 submarine? Sold.

You have a submarine, minus its captain, which rescues three survivors of a torpedoed medical vessel. One of the three (Clare) is a woman, which is apparently bad luck for the ship, and might have been bad luck for her, since some of the boys might have been planning something. Fortunately, they dropped that plot thread. Or so Ebert's review said, I actually wasn't paying much attention the first 20 minutes or so, so I think I missed that entirely. Lucky me.

Anyway, things start going wrong for the sub. When they're trying to run silent, a record player abruptly comes on, playing a record that happened to be the not present captain's favorite. Turns out the captain died, though the exact method and reason change a couple of times, and we're never totally sure (I like that touch). The sub is being hounded, given no opportunity to surface, so its batteries can't be recharged, nor can the air supply be replenished. Also, there's an oil leak which must be repaired from the outside. I guess they weren't very deep, because they were basically in wet suits, and the pressure didn't kill them, though that water must have been hella cold on their exposed faces.

Between the being hounded by enemy vessels, the loss of the captain (and the less than steady hand of the lieutenant who's now in charge), the malfunctions that keep piling up, the steadily noxious air, and human nature, it's not surprising that faces start to appear, being seen in walls, mirrors, and all over the place. This leads to much freaking out, and when you can't keep your head, you tend to have accidents, and slowly, the only people who know what happened to the captain start dying. Well, it was happening slowly until that one idiot tried to turn on a flashlight with a broken lens, and well, lets just say there was a high percentage of hydrogen gas in the air, and the flashlight sparked. Yeah, you get the picture. But are they accidents, or is it a cruel hand from beyond the realm of the living? I think the movie hints strongly one way, but leaves it open enough that you can convincingly argue that it's just bad luck, or poor reflexes from a crew breathing air too high in carbon dioxide.

I think the movie wraps up a little too neatly, takes a little of the question of what might have happened to the captain out of the equation, and Ebert's right when he says the movie goes for the "surprise" frequently, but always accompanies it a sound, or some sharp musical note. It gets a little easy to predict, "Oh, she'll knock over the ink well, and it'll startle her, and she'll back up, and then we'll see something behind her that will scare her." They really ought to let the scene stand on its own sometimes.

I did like the scene where Loomis gets completely freaked out by his reflection, though I again thought they should have left his fate a little more ambiguous. I keep coming back to that, but this really feels like a movie where we aren't supposed to know what's really happening, but then they keep showing us what's happening. Sometimes that's good, but sometimes it ruins the uncertainty that makes the movie interesting.

The only other thing I have to say is that if, for some reason, they make a movie based off the Resident Evil 4 video game (I know, why would they do that?), Leon Kennedy should be played by Matthew Davis, who plays Ensign Odell in this movie. He struck me as looking really familiar to how Leon is portrayed, plus his character had honest and true - and as a result, trusting and naive - attitude that seemed to characterize Leon Kennedy.

Geez, it took me forever to finish this post. I kept getting distracted by Nintendo Short Cuts videos on Youtube. Curse Youtube, it's making it so I procrastinate from my time-wasting hobbies now!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just Waiting For The Right Moment?

Quick thought on Annihilation: Conquest tonight.

After Gabriel Vargas and the rest of the Starlord team stopped the Phalanx's insidious scheme to integrate the entire Kree Empire with their airborne nanotech, the Uni-Force parted ways with Gabe, since he had apparently completed the task the Uni-Force had chosen him for. What I'm wondering is, will the Uni-Force reappear later in Conquest, to turn the tide at a critical juncture?

We don't know where it went after it left Gabe, whether there was another crisis that required its attention, or even if it can get past the barrier the Phalanx have erected around their current occupation zone. Remember, part of Quasar's problem is that the barrier is cutting the Quantum Bands off from their source of power, which is why she has to try and use them sparingly, because she only has what's currently stored within them. So the barrier can definitely repel energy, which might leave the Uni-Force trapped with the rest of them.

I don't think we will see it again during the current mini-series, but it would be interesting to get a panel or two noting that the Phalanx are trying to hunt it down. It's a source of great power, which would interest them, plus we've already seen how it can combine with a member of the Phalanx and cause that being to become independent of the hive brain. That would be the sort of thing they should be concerned about, that they might want to look into capturing and isolating the Uni-Force, so that couldn't happen at a key moment. Because those sorts of things do seem to happen at the worst possible times. Or at the best possible times, depending on your perspective.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The New Era Begins Now!

That's right! Me and all the other hotshot bloggers, we're heading off, to form our own. . . blogging . . . thing. Bugger, what would be the blog equivalent of the creation of Image? Ah, forget it, it's all tomfoolery anyway. It's not the start of a new era, it's just the start of Year 3 here at Reporting on Marvels and Legends. Year 2 was, I believe, a bit more serious. More attempts at critiques of the art and writing, less absurdist silliness. Whether that's good or bad, I leave to you. The pace slowed, from 352 posts in Year 1, to 338 in Year 2. Tha'ts a 4% decline in posting! At that rate, I'll be doing fewer than 100 posts a year by *brings out calculator* Year 32! Nooooo!

I'm not going to make any comments about what lies ahead for the blog, since I made some promises last year that didn't materialize *cough Spider-Man: Giant Slayer cough more GrimJack cough*, so lets just play it by ear. But just so you don't go away feeling like it was a waste, here's a collection of some of my favorite posts from Year 1, arranged chronologically. I figured some of you might be new readers, and haven't had the opportunity to go through the archives, so this would be an easy way to see some of the early days.

I'm so sorry for this.
Why let a character go to waste.

Mysticism in the Spider-Verse.
Remembering Casey's X-Men.
Max Lord-related stupidity.
Skewering Maximum Carnage.
Tony Stark, being sneaky.
An idea for Avengers Disassembled.
My first art examination.
Dissecting a good issue of New Avengers.
My favorite post ever.
Thinking of what could have been.
This started as Darkseid vs. Thanos, and turned into something more, I think.
Osborn vs. Osborn!
Again with Osborns, but this time, it's their hair!
Do masks make people younger?
Harmless Insanity, Ha!
I'm putting this in for the comments as much as anything.
Had to slot a book post in here somewhere.
I shouldn't make fun of the editors, but I did.
I am such a hack.
And here's the token anime post. It's still a good post.
I scare myself sometimes, I really do.
I seem to discuss Cable frequently, even though I don't much care for him. Probably a sign of a good writer.
Discussing Spider-Man's eyes!
And the story of how the blog began. It's technically a Year 2 post, but what the hell.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Do You Really Want To Know The Horrible Truth? Or Do You Want To Read Comics? Comics!

I always liked that scene in the Simpsons, and it seems apropos, given the release of the Mitchell Report on Thursday. What a waste of 409 pages that turned out to be. A bunch of "he told me he sold that guy x,y,z", though I guess if they actually do something because of it, then it might have been worth the $20 mil MLB spent on it. It's their money, I guess.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today, or I wouldn't have altered the quote. Matt had a link to this entertaining site. Having pored through the essays there, I went hunting through the links section, and wound up here. This must have been around for at least six years, but I think this is the first I've seen of it, and as I've already briefly described my affection for the Scarlet Spider here, you could probably guess a series of posts talking about the storylines that involved his return ascension to Spider-Man, and eventual death , and the discussions and thought processes that lead to those, was pretty interesting.

Interesting, and a bit depressing when you get to the parts where the marketing guys are trying to make the writers stretch out 2-part stories to 4, then 8 parts, and how the ultimate goal keeps changing. First they want to make Reilly the real Spidey because he's single, then they want to bring Peter back, and make him the original again, but he needs to be single again at the end, so then they have to get rid of the baby, but Bob Harras wants the fans who liked the idea of Peter and MJ as parents to think there's a chance they might find their baby, except there really will be no exploration of that possibility whatsoever. You know, I'm sure Bob Harras meant well, but he comes off as a guy that was really not putting much thought in how to get from Point A to Point R, just demanding that it happen.

But it really is fascinating to read about some of the proposals to resolve the Clone Saga that got shot down, and how writers had to keep rewriting their stories because the end result kept getting changed on them. I think the one I was most amused by (besides the idea that suggested Judas Traveller be an angel and Scrier be, you guessed it, Mephisto) was the one that suggested we find out both Ben Reilly and Pregnant MJ are clones, as both of them melt into puddles before Peter's eyes (it's discussed at the end of Part 20). Then he finds the real MJ in some stasis tube, where she's been since the original clone story, which is five years ago to them. Viola! No clone, no marriage, since MJ and Pete were a long way from getting hitched when she would have been captured. I read that, and shook my head, then stopped and said, 'It's sounds better than what I've seen of "One More Day" so far.' True, that's damning with (extremely) faint praise, but you take what you can get.

That's all I've got for you today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm On A Panda Radio, I'm On A Panda Wo-Oh, Radio

*knock at the door* {You didn't bring your friends this time, did you?} No. {Alright, come on in then.} I don't know why you don't like my friends. {Because I've already got you arguing with me every time I question one of your decisions, I don't need two more voices added to the chorus.} So you should stop questioning my choices. {Yeah, that's not going to happen, and you'd get bored if it did. Ready to get to brass tacks?} I guess, if I knew what you meant by 'brass tacks'. {I wish I knew what I meant, too. But no time for useless regrets.} That's right!

{So you feeling cheerful, compassionate, or vengeful to start off?} Cheerful, I think, let's have some Applause for Cosmo, the telepathic Russian dog, who tried to get everyone in Knowhere to safety, while he fixed the problem. {So how did Cosmo get mental abilities? Is that the result of panda genetic manipulation?} No way! We don't mess with other beings' genetics! Maybe the Panda Elders gave Cosmo some meditative training. {Sounds interesting.} Yeah, I'd ask them to let you try, but I don't think you could handle it. {Gee, thanks.} No problem. I want to Applaud Layla, because she could have played human and been OK, but she told the truth so she could stick with Jamie. {But would it have been any better for Layla to be off by herself?} She would have been fine, she's really smart. {I'm not sure "smart" would be good enough in this situation.} Well I think it would be enough so nyeah. *sticks out tongue*

{So I'm guessing Cheerful has left the building?} That's right, and I'm Bonking all the Luminals for bring Abyss into Knowhere, and causing this whole mess. Why didn't they just hurry up and throw his coffin into the Rip? {The Rip seems to be all around them, so I'm not sure what direction "into the Rip" would be. They were probably just going to leave him there until Knowhere vanished, which is pretty poor planning really.} You said it. I wonder what will happen to Xanth with all the Luminals gone? {Hopefully that wasn't all of them.} Also, I'm going to Bonk the Nova from Spider-Girl's universe, because he's always criticizing her about something. He's such a jerk, it doesn't make sense. {I don't get it either, but I do think it's kind of nifty that Nova is the closest thing that Earth has to Batman, in terms of a super-serious hero, who doesn't have much time for inexperienced heroes.} He's not scary like Batman, though. {Nope. Kind of hard to be scary with a big yellow bucket on your head.} Bonk to Cable for not asking Deadpool for help. {He doesn't want Wade to be in danger, or he just doesn't have time.}

Well, he should find time, and you showed me those issues where Deadpool did a really good job protecting Cable when he was a baby. [You bet I did. Little baby Nate was a cute little dickens, that's fer sure. Sniff, I miss him, and his Go-Gurts.] {You want to tell him?} [Tell me what?] I don't know, he might not take it well. {He deserves to know.} [What are you talking about?!] Then you tell him. {He'll probably hit me! You tell him!} [If you don't tell me, I'm definitely going to hit you!] {Fine! Cable's not dead. He's in Canada, protecting a baby from Lady Deathstrike.} [Then away I go! *smashes window*] {Damn it Wade, you let out all the heat! Great, now I got to run to the hardware store so I can fix this. ABP, you're on your own. Lock up when you're done.} What? But I - fine. I can handle this. I want to Bonk the X-Men, because they seem too sure they have to kill Cable to get the baby. I hope they don't hurt Wade.

I think Mayday Parker needs a Hug, since she still feels bad about her little brother, and Mindworm made her think she married Black Tarantula. What a creepy guy, and he has really bad taste in clothes. I mean Mindworm, not Black Tarantula, though he needs to wear something other than black all the time. I also think Jamie is going to need a Hug, when he finds out why that future he's in is as messed up as it is. I don't know why, I'm just guessing. And Nova (the one in his own book, not the one in Spider-Girl's book) gets a Hug because the virus is a little closer to taking over, and he's going some place that sounds very dangerous, and he's got two very dangerous people after him. He just can't catch a break.

Well, I guess it's up to me to close things out, since Calvin isn't here. So, um, see you next week! *walks out, closes door*

Thursday, December 13, 2007

International Boundaries Can't Deter My Enjoyment

So I read this post, and it got me thinking about manga. I do enjoy a few manga titles, and thinking about the "whys" of that got me thinking about what my favorite mangas have in common with the American comics I enjoy. For the record, I have no beef with people who don't like manga. Everybody has types of "entertainment" that do not, in fact, entertain them. It's all cool though, the differences are what make us cool, dig? *in the background, a beatnik taps on a bongo* So let's move on.

So I just wanted to look at some of the parallels between Japanese and American comics that I enjoy, beyond the fighting, and struggling with internal conflicts related to past actions.

Rurouni Kenshin is about a man, who during a civil war, worked as a highly successful assassin, until he accidentally killed someone he cared about deeply. When the series begins, he's spent the last decade wandering Japan, using a sword that is designed not to kill (the blade is set reversed in the hilt, so the leading edge is not sharp), and helping defend those who need help. Kind of like the A-Team, but without the getting paid part, or Mr. T. But, Kenshin is constantly forced to confront his past, in the form of people who wish to challenge one known as the greatest of all, or by people who hate him for what they feel he represents (the side that won, which he greatly aided) had some nasty skeletons in their closet. Kenshin has to deal with how far he's willing to go to stop them, and resist slipping back into his old, killing ways. Plus he runs into to people who lost loved ones to his blade, and want revenge, and how is he supposed to respond to that?

It reminds me of both Batgirl and recent developments in Cable/Deadpool, as each character has been trying to change their lives, and atone for past deeds. In some ways, both those titles could be considered like seeing Kenshin's early years as a wandering swordsman. Cassandra Cain seems to be constantly dealing with the fact she was raised to be a perfect killer, and trying to make up for it, and trying to move past it, find a better way. It's harder for Deadpool, because he's been even more deeply ingrained in killing for whatever reason for years, but now he's trying to change after Cable sacrificed his life (as far as he knows), to make sure Wade was OK. Wade's trying to change, trying to do better, but he's got to deal with the skepticism of all the established heroes who know him primarily as a violent, amoral goof, and so he's got to keep working to show he's not like that anymore.

Additionally, all those titles have a theme of characters trying to find a place to belong, although when Cassandra found a place where she seemed to be doing well (Bludhaven), DC proceeded to blow it up. Well, no one ever said finding a place to belong was easy. But Kenshin had been wandering for ten years before meeting Kaoru and helping her stop the person killing people in the name of her family's school, and Deadpool has just recently found a place at Agency X, where he can work with actual friends.

The other manga title I'm a big fan of is Hellsing, which I've decided reminds me of the current Punisher MAX series. Both characters kill lots and lots of people, and do so with no real hesitation, but each character has things about them that make them more than just killing machines. Ennis has gone to great lengths to demonstrate how it was more than just three tours in the 'Nam that made Frank Castle the Punisher, it's a culmination of his childhood neighborhood, his tours of duty, the loss of his parents, the kind of kid he was, just so many things that make him a truly unique being In the last few volumes of Hellsing, Kohta Hirano's started giving us glimpses of who Alucard was before he became a vampire that kills other vampires for the Hellsing Organization, and well, he's still not a sympathetic figure, but there is a sadness about him, that for all the power he's gained, all the destruction he can bring, he's lost some very important things, and he knows he won't ever get those back. Not unlike Frank Castle.

Some time, I need to sit down and see how similar some of these series are, and how much differences in Japanese and American culture contribute to differences between them. Are they paced differently, do they present different kinds of challenges to the protagonists, things like that. Uh, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for those posts, if I were you, seeing as how I never have started the "Spider-Man: Giant Slayer" posts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What I Bought 12/12/07

I looked through some DC comics this week, and well. . . I'm not sure what to say about Booster Gold, other than I think there were better, more entertaining ways for Johns to have Rip get the point across to Booster. That next event they're already hyping for Green Lantern sounds interesting, but also sounds like an absurd amount of overkill. And after reading Arena (I know, what the hell was I thinking doing that), how did Captain Atom get this powerful? I mean, he's kicking the crap out of everyone. Eh, I guess I'm better off sticking with Marvel. Or am I? Let's find out! Spoilers!

Amazing Spider-Girl #15 - Heh, check out Stan Lee with the thumbs-up, hanging out behind Namor there. Kind of an odd way to position the candles though, in a ring that only goes part way around the cake. Ah well, it's still a nice cover.

Hobgoblin has Mindworm attacking May psychically, seemingly around the clock. She's seeing villains that aren't there, and imagining she's years into the future. . . and the widow of the Black Tarantula. And she keeps getting grilled about the "Heart of the Spider" during these times, because Hobby wants to know about it. Hobgoblin also knows that May has a younger brother now, which could be bad. Anyway, the Hobgoblin's plans are eventually waylaid again, and May gets to celebrate an anniversary with her parents, apparently the day Kaine returned her to MJ, after rescuing her from Osborn's minion.

I think DeFalco actually moved too fast in this issue. He spent an entire issue around Hobgoblin and his drafting of Mindworm into his work, and two issues later that seems to have already faltered. Or maybe it hasn't. I suppose next time around Hobby could have Mindworm take his time, be a little more subtle, though I get the feeling things are fixing to come to a head. Black Tarantula seems ready to get personally involved. I continue to enjoy DeFalco's mixing of costumed and personal life within the issue, rather than just focusing on one of them. I like that when Mindworm is affecting May, the backgrounds seem to get darker, with occasional bright flashes of colors as backgrounds to break that up. The colors are usually following the outline of whoever she thinks is attacking her, so it kind of emphasizes the unreality of it all, that they don't fit. The fact that the issue felt too fast hurts my enjoyment of it, but overall, good times.

Nova #9 - At least Nova isn't just standing there, though there isn't much to suggest he's actually moving. Maybe a cover of Nova flying away from us, towards another character, to provide a sense of velocity?

It's Nova and Cosmo vs. Abyss and his army of "meat puppets". See, they aren't zombies, anymore than people controlled by the Puppet Master are. Except these people die when it's all said and done. Though Rich may wind up wishing he'd found a better way to handle things. His way was clever though, and pretty brave. And now he's off again, to the. . . Homeworld of the Phalanx?! Whoa, maybe not the best idea there, Richie boy.

I'm quite enjoying Alves work on the art. I'm not noticing the jaggedness I complained about last month, so maybe the inking has been toned down a little. He also draws very pretty ghosts and interiors of the Celestial's head. There is what seems to be a slip up when Rich starts to show signs of the Transmode Virus taking hold again, even though that shouldn't have occurred yet, based on Rich's orders to the Worldmind. It's a little thing, though. Also, the energy swirling around in this issue - whether it's from Rich, Cosmo (yeah, you better believe Cosmo whupped some butt), or the ghosts - looks as though it was drawn with a Spirograph. That's not meant as an insult, because it looks really beautiful, though it gives me the odd impression that light from other sources is reflecting/refracting off those energy sources, which wouldn't seem to make sense, but it's still very pretty.

And I continue to enjoy how Abnett and Lanning write Richard Rider and the Worldmind, how they work together or disagree, how Rich can still be overly headstrong, and perhaps not think of the bigger picture, but there's no doubt his heart is in the right place. It's good to see that in Marvel these days. I'm not sure I get why the "meat puppets" keep saying variations of 'Ready or not', unless it's supposed to emphasize that it's all just a game to Abyss. And now that I think of it, why wouldn't he have tried the "meat puppet" trick on the Luminals in one of their apparently numerous past conflicts, given the end result? OK, so certain things don't hold up, but still it's Nova and a telepathic dog against some sort of trickster villain and Not Zombies, inside a Celestial's head. Gold star, baby.

X-Factor #26 - I really do not care about the new X-Force, and I really do not want them on the cover of this book, and I certainly do not want them inside this book. Let's see if I get my wish on that second one together, shall we?

Well, that wish went crashing down the toilet in a hurry. And is Wolverine really telling Rahne that if Warpath isn't up to this, she'll have to take care of him? Cripes Logan, you wussing out in your old age? Take care of your own wetworks jobs. And why the hell are they assuming they have to kill Cable to get the baby? Because a virus made Sentinels attack them? Mr. Sinister is on the playing field, you think he can't make techno-viruses? What kind of dumbassedry is that? And Cyclops is getting Alpha Male with Xavier, and I don't care, so I'm gonna go watch Jimmy crack corn. And a "Peepers" gets eaten by that big silver thing that I keep seeing running allover the place in this crossover. Does that thing ever get tired of running? Why Peepers got eaten, I don't know. Was the silver thing hungry? Was Peepers just the nearest mutant, and it wanted to kill mutants, so bad luck of the draw? Does the death of Peepers serve some higher purpose in the story, beyond the fact that while all these mutants are running around killing each other over a stupid baby, their numbers are continuing to be whittled down?

As far as my reading enjoyment, PAD is up against the wall, because I want to read about the usual characters you see in X-Factor, and what there was of that wasn't particularly satisfying, and I have zero interest in the rest, so it's not a good combination on the whole. I am intrigued that Layla Miller sometimes reads as a mutant, and sometimes doesn't, but that's pretty slim pickings for a single issue. Look, X-writers and artists, you want me to care about this mess? Have Deadpool rushing to help Cable. I don't care how Wade knows where to be, just get him there. Then I will care. Or get X-Force out of my X-Factor. They are not two great tastes that go great together. I'm gonna have to drop this title for a couple months, aren't I?

And on that note, I'm stopping before I depress myself anymore.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Time Is On Your Side, Yes It Is

Continuing my new Monday habitat of discussing games that disappointed me, we turn to Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin, for the Game Gear. In this game, Kingpin has framed Spider-Man for stealing a nuke, and Spidey has 24 hours to defeat a host of bad guys, which will get him the keys to the nuke, and clear his name. If the 24 hours runs out, Kingpin detonates the nuke for some reason. I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either. If you run out of lives, you go to jail. Boy, are the cops faces going to be red when Fisk detonates that bomb. Also, why would Fisk give the keys to a bunch of Spidey's enemies like the Lizard or Hobgoblin? And are Hobgoblin and Doc Ock really cool with Fisk possibly blowing up the city they're living in at that time.

I've never been a fan of timed games, because it feels as though you have to rush through things without getting time to explore. Granted, there isn't a lot to explore in this game, but as a general rule I like to be able to spend some time poking around for Easter eggs and hidden power-ups or whatever. No time for that in this game. Contrast that to another game I had for the Game Gear, Spider-Man and the Return of the Sinister Six. That game was simple, in that the Sinister Six are out there, and you've got to hunt them down one at a time and defeat them. But, there's no time limit, so you can spend as much (or as little) time as you wish on each level. If you want to take your time and move through the level trying to get every web cartridge, and take out every hood in the safest manner possible, you can. If you want to charge past all the cannon fodder and go straight to the boss man, you can do that to, once you find any keys or other items you might require (Mysterio's level has infra-red goggles to help you see his traps. As he has no henchmen, I'm not sure what those are lying around for, but game logic is an odd bird.) But either way, the option is yours.

One other odd thing about Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin: how Spider-Man runs. I shouldn't say runs actually, as he really just walks, and very oddly too. He keeps his arms swinging in front of him, and appears to be shuffling his feet. It's reminiscent of either a child pretending to strut around like they're someone important, or someone trying to build up static electricity. It's just odd. I kept jumping almost all the time, just because it looked less weird. Oh well, at least neither game had escort missions, at least not in the stages I played. I may have to complain about escort missions somewhere down the line. Not today though.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I Still Have No Gift For Strategy

I usually don't mind winter weather, except when I'm driving. I spent yesterday up at my friends' lovely home playing games, and all was good. The drive back home this morning was severely lacking in "good", at least for the first half of the trip. Never a good thing when there seems to be enough water on the road for me to start hydroplaning. At least that didn't last long, but a nerve-wracking couple of minutes, I tells ya.

But we aren't here to talk of weather, at least I'm not anymore. You might still want to talk about weather, and that's cool, I guess, just wait until I get done talking about games, if you would. I got my first real look at the XBox 360, and it was OK, I guess. The ability to download demos or or movie trailers, or get actual movies through it appeals to the part of me that enjoys devices that can serve multiple purposes. But it didn't instill me with a burning desire to go get one.

I played Halo 3 for the first time. Despite being a fan of first-person shooters, I'm not a big Halo fan. My introduction was playing Halo on multiplayer with a bunch of guys that were all quite good, and I wasn't even sure how to use the controller. The frequent dying tends to skew my opinion, I think, though tearing around in the Warthog was fun, and Halo did give us the online series Red vs. Blue, which I loved dearly, so mixed bag. Still, it was a little odd that with Papafred's massive TV screen, the game didn't try and fill it all, and on split-screen that left it a little hard for me to make things out. But co-op play was nice for the few levels we went through, so there's that.

More interesting was the board game of the night, one Railroad Tycoon. Your objective is to build railroads between cities in the eastern U.S. (the board stops around Kansas City), and then ship colored cubes to cities that are the same color, the more cities you can make it through for the delivery, the more points you get, though you have to spend money to upgrade your train to go through more than one city. Level 1 train can go to 1 city, level 2 can go through 2, 3 through 3, up to Level 8 apparently, though we didn't get past six. Within a "turn", there are three rounds, where each player can make one action each rounds, and there are several choices for actions. You can build up to four squares worth of track, or ship goods, or urbanize a city, or pick up a card, or pay to have new cubes placed in a city. If you need money, you can get a $5,000 share, which you'll have to pay $1,000 on each round, and you lose a point for each share at the end of the game, but if you've got enough points, it won't be a concern.

When all cubes are shipped from a city, it becomes empty, and when there are fourteen empty cities, there's just one more "turn" to go before the end of the game. That was the key to Bess' eventual victory. He upgraded his train a lot early in the game, built up a continuous line through several cities, then late in the game began racking up points by making six-city shipments (netting him six points each time), and that basically enabled him to blow the rest of us out of the water. Papafred and I were the lowest two, as neither one of us seems particularly gifted at planning out longterm strategies. I actually did, at one point, have about three turns worth of moves planned out, and managed all the moves, they just weren't particularly good moves. Word to the wise: you probably won't win if you try and stick to making lots of shipments over short distances, say one or two-link trips. That was mine and Papafred's approach, and like I said, it didn't work out so great.

It's a fun game, but you'll need to set aside a few hours, especially the first time through. It can take players awhile to decide what to do when they haven't any past experience to work from.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

All That's Changed Is The Odds Are Worse

Several months ago, I laid odds on which member of Starlord's team was going to bite the dust during the Starlord mini-series. As is typical for me, I backed the wrong horse, as Gabriel Vargas escaped mostly unscathed, minus the need for prosthetic legs, of course, and Deathcry ended up getting wild (as I predicted) and getting fried by her own teammate (which I did not predict). Anyway, we've had our first Starlord appearance of Annihilation: Conquest this week, so I think it's time to update the Odds O'Painful Termination Board. Please keep in mind that everyone's chances are likely to increase a little, because Deathcry's 20% has to go somewhere.

Starlord: Previous odds of death = 1%. Current odds of death = 4%. Well, the fact he's not the title character of this like he was the earlier mini-series hurts his odds, but he still doesn't strike me as the type to do anything insanely noble, so I'm not boosting his odds that much.

Rocket Raccoon: Previous odds of death = 3%. Current odds of death = 6%. He's got that high level of intuition that ought to protect, but nothing is perfect.

Groot: Previous odds of death = 11%. Current odds of death = 14%. Even though I was right, and Groot was the biggest target, and did draw the most fire, that doesn't appear to be that big of hinderance to him, since he only needs a little part of him to remain whole to survive. However, I imagine the Phalanx have files from the first go-round, and when they see him again they'll recgonize that fact and probably adjust accordingly. Then again, he has those spores, and can probably use those to propagate himself as necessary, so this seems about right.

Gabriel Vargas: Previous odds of death = 31%. Current odds of death = 40%. Well, Gabe has the least history, the fewest fans, the least amount of power (now that the Uni-Force has moved on), and the least amount of experience with this kind of stuff. Plus he still seems very enthusiastic to help, and he's got the mentality that makes him willing to be the sacrifice, as opposed to Starlord who has the mentality that there have to be sacrifices.

Mantis: Previous odds of death = 15%. Current odds of death = 24%. I'm upping Mantis' odds because she seems so damn calm about everything. Being calm in battle isn't a bad thing mind you, 'If you can keep your head when all around you are losing yours, then you can have lots of hats' and all that, but she strikes me as someone who's very comfortable with the idea she's going to die. In fact, given her apparent precog abilities, I wouldn't be surprised if she's already seen her death in this conflict, understands why it happens, and has just accepted the inevitability of it.

Bug: Previous odds of death = 19%. Current odds = 13%. I still can't really get a feel for Bug. he seems like a competent fighter, but kind of a goofball, a little like Spider-Man. I don't think he'll bail on the team or anything, but I just have a feeling he's going to know when to keep his head down and make it through OK. Just a hunch, one I may have to revise depending on upcoming issues.

So there you go, nice and updated. And now I'm taking off for the day. Talk to ya tomorrow.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hugs Just Keep Getting Harder To Find

{Now what's all this about?} Adorable Baby Panda: We just got back from a mission, let us in! {You couldn't have just come through the door?} Panda #1: Of course not! We are stealthy, sneaky pandas! {Right. How silly of me to have forgotten? ABP, are you just here to visit, or are you here to get to work?} ABP: I'm here to work! {Are they going to behave?} ABP: Of course! Don't even worry about it!

ABP: I'm going to Applaud Blastaar for taking one for the team. {I'm surprised he's fighting the Phalanx, I figured he'd still be fixated on the Annihilation Wave.} ABP: One thing at a time. {Exactly. he was already fighting the Wave, but he switched enemies.} ABP: But the Phalanx are the more immediate threat. {So? Why would he care?} Panda #2: Don't question our leader's wisdom! {You stay out of this! I thought they were going to behave.} ABP: They aren't breaking anything, so relax while I Applaud Giles and Faith for doing the hard jobs that need to be done. {Is this a theme? Applauding the people who get their hands dirty, without receiving glory?} ABP: Someone needs to recognize them! {Yeah, well I thought I told you last month, that I'll be the one to recognize Faith.} ABP: You said you were the one who got to Hug her. This is Applause; totally different. Panda #2: That's right! {I said be quiet, or I'll throw you back out the window!} ABP: Don't threaten them! {Whatever. Just hurry up, this is taking forever.} You can't rush the Applause for Agent Sum, for telling Arana to respect her father, or the Applause and Hugs for Tigra. Why does Marvel hate their own character? {Allegedly they don't. She's just rolling snake eyes a lot lately.} Panda #1: Andrae, you can't applaud her, she's a cat lady! Cats are evil! ABP: She isn't evil though, she fights criminals, when the writers let her. {He's right, she does.} Panda #1: Oh.

ABP: I also think that Moondragon and Adam Warlock could both use a Hug, and so could Buffy. {Say what now?} ABP: Well, she seemed pretty shaken up after running into Faith, and finding out Faith was working with Giles and all. {So Buffy gets a hug because she treats Giles like her property? That's bullshit!} All Pandas: Gasp! He said a swear! {Yeah I did, and who writes your dialogue, Bruce Jones?} All Pandas: Who? {Never mind, that's a well out of date joke. And it's my home, I'll swear if I want to. You were on a mission, so I'm sure you've experienced worse.} ABP: We weren't really on a mission, we just wanted to have some fun. {And now the truth emerges. This isn't bring your momma around here looking for you is it, because if so, I'm leaving.} ABP: No, no, it's not like that! Can we keep going? Please? {Yes, just stop batting your eyes at me, it makes me nauseous.} ABP: Good, then a Hug and a Bonk for Cru, because she's lost a lot, and that's sad, but she's also gotten Carol in a lot of trouble, and that's bad.

Bonk for the High Evolutionary, because he's not very friendly to his visitors. {Mad scientist types often aren't very friendly. Unless they want to experiment on you. As hyper-intelligent kung-fu pandas, that's something for you to keep in mind.} All Pandas: Oh. ABP: We will, promise, as soon as I finish Bonking Gigi for being elitist and snobby towards Faith. Just because she's not landed gentry doesn't mean she couldn't have been your friend, and just like it didn't mean she couldn't kick your butt! {'Landed gentry'? Have you been reading Victorian Era literature?} ABP: A little, it's really wordy. {I know. Believe me, I know that all too well.} Really? {12th grade English Lit. Let us speak of it no more. Anything else?} ABP: One more, a Bonk for Taskmaster, for trying to shoot Luke Cage in the back. That's not sporting at all! {Hey! There's is nothing wrong with backshooting!} ABP: That's right, you always shot your father in the back on Goldeneye, didn't you? Pandas #1 and 2: He shot his father in the back?! Unforgivable! Draw your weapons, he must be punished! {Whoa there, it was a video game, you kooks! Look get them out of here, ABP, I've had enough!} ABP: OK, OK. {And next week come alone!} ABP: Right, right, no need to shout.

Later, in Calvin's home. . .

{What's ABP thinking, bringing other pandas around? This having to attribute dialogue to people is hard when the cast keeps expanding.}

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Remember To Spay And Neuter Your Bodyguard

Last Friday night/early Saturday morning, I caught Unleashed on TV. It's one of those movies that sounded really interesting when I first saw commercials for it, I just never got around to going to see it, or renting it. And why should I rent it? That's why I'm paying for cable, isn't it?

Anyway, it's got Bob Hoskins (Bart) playing a small-time British thug, a wannabe Wilson Fisk, and his special bodyguard, Jet Li with a collar. Collar's on, Jet Li (Danny) is docile. Collar off, Danny will kick your ass. Bart supposedly found Danny in the gutter as a child and raised him like an attack dog, with Danny basically living in a cage under Bart's office. Long story short, Danny catches a break and gets some time away from Bart, discovers a happier life, and then has to defend the new life against the old one. That's always a nice little story. It's like Cassandra Cain: The Movie. Only without making me angry.

A trend throughout seems to be for a character to appear, then reappear later to take the story some place a little different, or maybe just further it along. Danny beats up Fellow #1 in his own jewelry store, for refusing to pay protection money, while Fellow #2 looks on with interest. Fellow #2 appears later with an offer for Bart, and Fellow #1 shows up again to ultimately provide Danny with his chance for something new.

And of course, this movie has Morgan Freeman (Sam), which, as you may remember, makes it 23.8% better than it would be with any other actor. I meant to get an image of Morgan Freeman and photoshop the phrase "The Morgan Freeman Corollary Is In Effect!" on it, but I haven't yet. I'll get to it soon. Promise. Really. I mean it.

Sam is, as you might expect, a stabilizing influence on Danny, a counter to Bart's violence and crudeness. Sam, and his stepdaughter Victoria (played by Kerry Condon), both help draw Danny out, mostly through the piano, which Danny seems to love, but also just through being kind. Bart acts kind towards Danny, offering him anything he wants after Danny helps net them 15 grand, but it always seems clear that Danny is just a means to an end with Bart. If Danny fails, Bart beats him, or treats him poorly, and knows Danny will simply accept that as the way things are. Sam and Victoria want to help and protect Danny even when its clear he's had some rough experiences that might make him dangerous, even when it's abundantly clear that Danny's presence has jeopardized their lives.

I think Bob Hoskins plays Bart as a sort of mirror of Eddie Valiant from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In that, he hides a good person under a sheen of cynicism and anger (and booze). I think Bart is just a small-time, vicious hood who lucked out, and now he tries to hide that under his nice clothes, and pretending it was a great humanitarian act, taking Danny in and raising/training him as he did.

Victoria plays a sort of geeky, but very friendly and helpful teenager who's very excited about their unusual house guest. She reminds me of Cyclone from Justice Society, especially when she starts rambling on to Danny, while he stands there bewildered. I like that they had a scene where Victoria raises a little fuss over still being walked to school, and we learn she just recently turned 18. Perhaps anticipating people perceiving a romantic relationship between her and Danny, who is probably older than her? I know Jet Li is over 40 (it's a little frustrating that he can move better at almost 45 than I probably have ever been able to, but he put in the training and I didn't, so there you go) , but I'm not clear on how old Danny is supposed to be. Mid-20s? I'm not sure whether there is anything romantic there. Danny may feel something like that for her, he does try to buy her a present at one point, and Victoria may be sweet on him, or she may just be having protective feelings for him. Or he's just someone to be her friend, as I kind of got the feeling she didn't have many at school.

One thing that didn't work for me was the fellow in white that Danny has an extended fight with at the end. He appears briefly in one scene shortly before then, just sitting in a corner watching things play out, and the next thing you know he's working for Bart, trying to kill Danny. He seemed an unnecessary addition; they could have just stuck to "Danny fights vast amount of thugs, lead by person who knows - or thinks they know - how Danny thinks". But I appreciate that writer Luc Besson and director Louis Leterrier took the time to really show us Danny interacting with Sam and Victoria, and how he interacts in their world, so that it makes it that much more jarring when Danny gets dragged back into Bart's world. I really was surprised at how long of a stretch there was in the middle of the film where Jet Li didn't hit anyone. it was a surprise, but it was a good decision I think.

I'm still refusing to grade things I review, so I will just say that staying up to watch Unleashed threw off my sleep cycles for about four days, and I consider it totally worth it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What I Bought 12/5/07

While talking with Tevion yesterday, we began to discuss the camping trip he's hoping to take after Finals are over, and food stuffs he could bring along to cook. He started talking about bring along some cooking oil and potatoes so he could make some French fries. Then he started thinking about deep-frying bacon, and then we started discussing the feasibility of breading deep-fried bacon. That eventually lead me to suggest the idea of French toast, with bacon inside it. I think that product could be quite the hit, except for the part where it would probably kill everyone who ate it. Moving on, Spoiler Defense Shields On.

Annihilation: Conquest #2 - I wonder if they're going to do that sort of cloudy background for all the covers in this mini-series. The Starlord and Quasar are pretty nice, though I wonder if Starlord is falling, jumping, or standing on top of what he's shooting.

Wheels slowly getting in motion here. High Evolutionary talks down to Quasar and Moondragon. Ronan attempts to forge an alliance with Ravenous. Starlord's Squad prepares to infiltrate a Phalanx base. Someone winds up with a fist in their chest. That about covers the plot. There really doesn't feel like there's too much advancing , but it's probably that there was a little bit of advancement on a lot of fronts.

I will say Abnett and Lanning's Starlord sounds off to me. He seems enthusiastic about things, which is a contrast to his dark humor, cynical attitude in both the Starlord mini and last year's Annihilation. Maybe he's just feeling more confident. Also, Phyla acts younger, more playful almost, at least with heather. She can still change moods rapidly, but they're different changes from those in the Quasar mini. Neither thing is a deal-breaker, but they did both catch my attention. All the other characters seemed in normal voice, and I kind of like their High Evolutionary. Tom Raney's art does the job, although the page where Starlord leaps off a building, spins and lands neatly on another roof seemed odd. Didn't really strike me as Starlord's style. I don't have a whole lot else to say about the art. I can follow it easily enough, and I think Raney does a good job with facial expressions and drawing clothes like actual clothes. I can't say I enjoyed the issue that much, as it really felt like too much set-up.

Faith the Vampire Slayer #9 - I don't have a lot to say about this cover. It's pretty, though I think again, the other cover has a little more to it. But, I never put the book on my pull, so I didn't want to hassle Ken for the other cover, and this one's not offensive to me or anything. It's just kind of sad.

And thus ends my run of buying the title, at least until the next time Faith plays a prominent role. Faith, as usual, is alone against Gigi and her pet warlock, at least to start. She was doing pretty well for herself, though I guess she has another image to haunt her now, but magic's a pain to deal with. Fortunately, Giles hadn't given up on her, and Buffy set aside how things affect her long enough to get him some assistance. I'm probably being overly harsh on Buffy, but I've always sided with Faith in their little conflict, and I didn't see anything in this story to cause a switch in allegiances now.

I like that in the flashback to her time at Wilkins' side, Jeanty draws Faith in a way that makes her look younger. Maybe it's the pink dress, but I think her face looks a little rounder, smoother, whereas in the present, it's more angular, the jawline forming more of a triangle than a semicircle. There's some really nice facial expressions in this, especially with Giles after the battle, and Roden when he starts using his magic. As for BKV, I dig his writing. I liked 'speaking of witch' when Giles is thinking of Willow, and Faith's 'Thinkfast' near the end. His Faith hits a lot of the right notes for me: feisty, not putting up with anybody's crap, but still regretting the things she's done and is still having to do. I like that, and I liked this story, and this issue. Gold star, Buffy comic book creative team.

House of M: Avengers #2 - The cover feels overly busy, like it would have worked better as an image if the title wasn't there, so thing could spread out more. However, I like that in the row of guys at the bottom, you can make out Iron Fist. His head's next to Tigra's foot, the face with eyeholes and the popped collar.

Man, Tigra can not catch a freaking break these days. In this issue, we see Misty Knight trying to get close to Cage to bring him to justice, while Cage's crew does their thing, which includes rumbling with a gang lead by Shang-Chi. Meanwhile, there's a Brotherhood getting ready to take both sides in, and they've got a new member. And someone gets shot through the side while saving a teammate. Three guesses who that was.

This book needed more panels devoted to fighting. Cage's "Avengers" fight Shang-Chi's "Dragons" twice in this issue, but neither one really works all that well for me. I think it's because most of the panels are up close, so you can't get a real feel for the fight, it's too muddled (Same issue I had with fight scenes in the Bourne Supremacy, incidentally. Pull the damn camera back a little!) As for the story, well it seems to be moving fast, but I wonder if Gage isn't including too many different things, in an attempt to get damn near every street-level non-mutant vigilante involved in the mini, and if that might start to clutter things up. I do enjoy the discrepancy between Misty Knight's reports and the panels they're set in. Also, based on those discrepancies, I think Moon Knight is actually sane in the House of M Universe, without all his different personalities. How nice for him. I don't know that I enjoyed this, I think I would have preferred more focus on the Avengers, less on Misty Knight and her difficulties with her superiors.

Ms. Marvel #22 - I can appreciate what I think Greg Horn's trying here, it just doesn't seem to work that well. I can't tell whether the images are supposed to be moving from side to side in an attempt to match up, or whether there's interference and that's why they're messed up. I mean, it does look a little like static on the screens, to me anyway.

So Carol's team is preparing to come to the rescue. I expect they'll arrive about five minutes too late to be of any use. Rick Sheridan is using odd technology to be more useful. And Carol is stuck without her powers on Monster Island, fighting the Brood. Except Cru keeps taking over her body and acting rashly, while Carol's stuck watching Cru's life. And she's accompanied by her various costumed incarnations, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. And apparently Carol didn't kill something she thought she did years ago. Don't you hate when that happens?

So what to say? Reed appears to have some kind of plan to get Carol in a more unified mental state, to presumably make her a stronger person and hero, which seems like a good idea, but if it involves the critique Cru made I'm not sure I'm down with it. Yes, Carol shouldn't worry so much about whether people like her, but it's never a good thing when the alien starts talking about how so and so could 'rule this planet' if they didn't 'worry about scaring the backwards inhabitants' of the planet. Yeah, about the time you start ragging on her species (while calling the Kree 'noble') is about the time I think you should get tuned out. If we're not careful we'll end up with Dark Knight Strikes Back style Carol Danvers, with the whole "Supers are better the normal people, so they should run everything!" Lopresti's art is still very energetic and nice to look at, and I'm very sad that's he's going to DC soon. Um, sort of enjoyed, I guess, though like I said, I have serious reservations about where Reed might be planning to go with this.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Disappointment Times 2

I previously discussed my enjoyment of Metroid Prime. I also alluded to my disenchantment with its sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and I'm going to expand on that a little more. I found last week's entry was the first time I'd ever really been able to explain why I disliked Earthworm Jim 3-D so much, and that felt nice, so I'm hoping for a repeat performance.

So, Echoes. I guess the obvious answer is that it was basically the same game as the first Metroid Prime. Now I get that in terms of game play. Metroid has always been about running, jumping, shooting, etc. You probably don't want to get too far away from that, but Echoes just seemed so damn similar to the first one, it felt like a waste.

In Metroid Prime, Samus lands on a space station hunting Space Pirates, she spots Ridley, one of the major bosses, and shortly after that gets hit by a power surge and loses several suit functions, which she then has to track down on the planet below.

In Echoes, Samus lands on a planet to find Space Marines, comes across Dark Samus, one of her major enemies, and shortly thereafter loses most of the powers her suit had at that point, because weird creatures attack her and somehow eat the abilities out of her suit, so Samus has to travel all over the planet killing the creatures and getting the upgrades back.

I think the game is banking on you really enjoying fighting a "dark" version of yourself, and the fact the game has essentially two worlds, a dark one and a light one, for you to run through. Unfortunately, the designers didn't decrease the amount of backtracking any, so I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time running through Dark Aether, to find a doorway back to Aether, so I could spend 20 minutes running through that world, to get a power-up I needed back in Dark Aether. It's some sort of endurance exercise.

As to Dark Samus, I don't have a problem with "dark reflections" as part of a larger story, but I'm not a huge fan when they tend to be the focus. In Ocarina of Time, there's a mini-boss battle where you fight a mirror of yourself. It lasts a couple of minutes, you win, you move on. That was fun. But getting jumped every so often by an evil version of myself got old after awhile. Maybe I was having flashbacks to '90s Amazing Spider-Man, when Venom would pop up about every 15 issues. At some point you just say "Enough!", you know?

Even beyond that, I didn't really have the feeling that the new weapons or tools changed the game play that much (I preferred the beam weapons from Prime to those in Echoes), and this is just my feeling, but the story doesn't resonate. The first game, Samus hunts the Pirates and wrecks their operations because she hates the Pirates and wants to destroy them. She ends up saving Tallon IV, and enabling the Chozo to rest in peace, but I never felt that was her primary goal.

In Echoes, she's there to find and assist the marines (who are already dead), then gets drawn into trying to save Aether from being overwhelmed by Dark Aether. There are Pirates, but they feel more like a nuisance than anything else. Also, it made no sense how the beings of Aether - who ask Samus to save them - can't venture into Dark Aether without being hurt (neither can Samus for that matter), but beings from Dark Aether seem to hop over to Aether with no ill effects. That always made me wonder if I could trust the Aetherians, or if this plan to save their world was really an evil scheme. Plus, I'm rarely a fan of games that revolve around me doing things for people who seem unwilling to save themselves. If you're unable due to injury or age, then that's different, but like I said, I didn't really buy the "their world is poisonous to us, when ours doesn't seem to bother them" line. I guess I prefer vengeance stories.

On the whole, I guess I expected that with these better consoles we've had this decade, that there would be more ways to structure games, so that they could retain that basic essence, but not just be a copy of the earlier story. But I guess there's something to be said for finding a winning formula, and sticking with it. Look at Marvel and their use of zombies!