Saturday, May 31, 2008

Durn Costumed Whippersnappers!

OK, someone who's been reading Blue Beetle longer than I can probably help, at least with the first part of today's post. In this week's issue Will Pfeifer, seemed to be hinting at an age divide when it comes to the citizens of El Paso's feeling about the Blue Beetle. After Jaime halts the second appearance of the demons, as he flies away he notes 'Citizens of El Paso grateful - Well, the younger ones anyway.' Later, during the final monster attack, someone in the school says they don't remember all these monsters showing up before the Blue Beetle did, which may or may not be true. I don't know how much focus El Paso got in the past in the DCU.

Here's my question: Had either of these been going on in the series prior to this, the older people in town not being as high on the Blue Beetle, or people doing the "Is the vigilante's presence bringing these threats here?" bit? I haven't really noticed it, but the issues I've read didn't involve Jaime interacting much with the wider populace. It was mostly confined to people who knew who he was and already liked him, or people he'd helped before and so they know his intentions. If it hasn't been happening previously, do you think it was just something Pfeifer felt like putting in the story (a bit of the Spider-Man style for the character people sometimes compare to old-style Spidey, though more Lee/Romita Spidey, than Lee/Ditko Spidey, right?)? Or is he helping to set things up for Sturges? I know Sturges is planning to have B.B. get involved in the immigration issue early in his run, so might his stance on that put him at odds with the "establishment" in town, who we learn were already less than certain about this super-person?

Something, only somewhat related, largely in the context of the older generation being wary of B.B., perhaps because of how superheroes did things 'Back in the day': What did the Justice Society do during World War 2? Were they actively involved overseas, or did they stay in America and fight crime here? Saboteurs, spies, as well as everyday crooks? If they stayed here, how did they swing that, and avoid getting drafted? Other than the original Red Tornado, I can't see any of them not getting drafted based on physical status, so were they already too old? Were they too prominent? Alan Scott was an engineer, or major industrialist right, so perhaps it was decided he was more important staying here? Or did they get some sort of dispensation as "Mystery Men"? And if that's the case, did that require them to reveal their identities? it wouldn't have right, since that was why they shut down in the '50s, they wouldn't unmask for their version of the McCarthy hearings? I'm not really up on my DC history, such as it is, what with the crises shifting things around all the time.

Friday, May 30, 2008

You Make Believe, Nothing Is Wrong Until You're Applauding

{Any luck?} No, I spent all week running laps. {Why?} Because I was skipping training to search for UnCalvin. {Oh. Well, you shouldn't skip training.} I have to find UnCalvin! {I'm telling you, when it's time to find UnCalvin, you will. We are all connected by the strands of destiny. Or we're all baseball cards in the spokes of the Great Wheel of Ka.} Ka? There aren't birds around. {Ba-dump-dum. Very funny. Now pull up a seat and let's get to this, I got stuff to do.}

Bonks for the wannabe wizards in Blue Beetle. {That nerdy, pathetic attempt at evil tomfoolery gave me flashbacks to Buffy, Season 6, and that's never welcome.} So you're glad I'm hitting them? {Oh my yes. Give them a Tony Stark level bonk, if you could. If there's anything left of them after that and whatever Traci did, they'll be scared to cross the street against the lights.} Do you think I should hit Tiger Jani? {I don't know. She did eat a guy, and try and kill our heroes. On the other hand, she's a so-called "holy weapon", so she's probably just doing what comes naturally. Like a shark, and I'm generally opposed to hitting sharks after the fact. Unless the act like Curley. Stupid Jabberjaw, defiling the Church of the Stooges.} Well I don't know either, so I guess I won't. I will Bonk the Shocker. {He's just a victim of circumstance!} Yeah, but he's was hurting Peter because he was angry about the rest of his life. That's not doing what comes natural. {So that's the difference between him and Tiger Jani? You're sure you're not just scared of her?} I'm not scared! You made a good argument. {I've been known to do that.} Only sometimes. {That's all I can hope for, I fear.}

Traci 13 gets Applause for figuring out where the demons came from. {Never underestimate the power of solid research. It's like Indiana Jones says, some large percentage of demon fighting is spent in the library. And X never marks the spot. Q on the other hand. . .} Stop talking! {Jeez, testy!} Well, you were just rambling. {I always ramble. It's my gift, but if it bothers you, I'll stop.} Thank you. Bei Bang-Wen gets Applause for fighting a giant Tiger Jani person, even if he didn't have the Iron Fist. Applause for Captain Quaid, because he kept his promise to Kitty, to let her go in first, to help Peter keep his secret identity. {Yes, very nice.}

I think Jaime needs a Hug, he looked really sad at the end of the issue, and I want to give Vivatma a Hug too. I know he got over losing his emperor, but it still hurt him for awhile, so you know, I want to help. {Uh-huh.} So what, you're not talking to me now? {No, I'm just making sure not to ramble, seeing as how it disrupts your flow and all.} You're such a baby! {No, that would be you. I'm just a surly, smart-arsed adult.}

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What I Bought 5/29/08

So, um, yeah, no opening paragraph stuff this week. I just can't think of anything to say.

Blue Beetle #27 - That's a nice cover. The yellow background is a little odd (are they floating very close to the sun?), but it goes with the primary color vibe from Blue Beetle and the little red demons. These demons are attacking people in El Paso, but seemingly very specific people, and Jaime keeps stepping in to stop them, though the scarab is not able to provide any insight into their origins. Meanwhile, Traci 13 is busy trying to figure out their origins herself, which she eventually does, and then she takes care of the problem. She can be quite intimidating when she's feels like it. Has that in common with Jaime's mom. Damn, why did I say that? Now I'm contemplating the Freudian implications, and crap, crap, crap.

Pfeifer played with my expectations a bit. I figured the demons were going to keep showing up during Jaime and Traci's relationship time, and so it might be a sort of light-hearted "We need to find who's behind this because they keep interrupting our dates!" thing, but it turns out to be a bit darker and less pleasant. Which isn't a bad thing, it just surprised me a bit. As far as Jaime, I think Pfeifer hit the characterization Rogers established pretty solidly, but in a way where I could still tell it was a different writer with a different style. Jaime still had his usual focus, but he wasn't quite bantering at his usual level. Then again, his foes weren't very chatty, didn't give him much to work with, so it's excusable. David Baldeon did the interior art, and it was pretty good, with a Dodson vibe, in the faces at least. The ladies weren't sporting curves typical of the Dodsons, which is probably appropriate. There were times I wasn't clear what the Beetle was doing. Early on, he shoots blue lightning at the little demons, then later he does it again, towards civilians this time. I'm assuming the second time he was creating an energy shield, but I couldn't really tell. Might have needed a larger panel.

I'm curious whether Pfeifer is setting things up for Sturges, or just doing a stand alone story. Either way, it was pretty good.

Immortal Iron Fist #15 - I like this cover better than most of those "Tournament of the Heavens" covers. This time, the cool drawing takes up the whole cover, instead of being crammed into half. I can't recall which issue it was, but at one point we were introduced to Bei Bang-Wen, an Iron Fist that died in a battle against the English in 1860. This is about what happened after.

As you might guess, he didn't actually die. He suffers as a prisoner, with no Iron Fist for some reason, and meets another Holy Weapon (I'm unclear if he's from one of the other Heavenly Cities) who's lost his pizazz. They escape, and Bei helps Vivatma to go find his emperor. They find something different than they expected, and they each get back what they've lost. But Bei makes a rather interesting decision after that, and I think it leads into what's coming up for Danny Rand.

Well, I didn't like this issue as much as the one about the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, but it was OK. I think the stumbling block for me was the reason for Bei and Vivatma's respective losses of power. I get what's being driven at, I just didn't really buy it, as a reason. It felt hokey to me. Vivatma's might have made more sense if I understood Hinduism better (what little I know I learned from Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe and an arc of GrimJack), because I think there's something there that's important to both this issue, and maybe overarching story of Immortal Iron Fist. Khari Evans' art works fairly well. Most of the characters (except Vivatma) have a leanness to them that suggests the difficulty of their lives to me at least, and Evans seems to let backgrounds drop away during the deciding moments, which I think is supposed to represent how ones awareness of the world fades during moments which define us. Possibly.

Ultimate Spider-Man #122 - The extra chain hanging down near Peter's head, half-visible from the shadows, is a nice touch. It's the revenge of the Shocker! Every dog really does have their day, or half of one, at least. Peter underestimates the Shocker, and winds up captured for it. The Shocker unmasks Pete, and repeatedly, well, shocks him while ranting about how Spider-Man's been depriving him of what's his. By which he means, money he steals from banks. Ah, the logic of the oppressed criminal. MJ was there when things went wrong, and she calls Kitty, who takes the videotape in question to some policeman Wolverine said was trustworthy (Um. . . OK). The Shocker rants, screws up, and the cavalry arrives just a tad late, and nothing really changes for the Shocker.

What surprised me was how long Peter kept his mouth shut while he was a prisoner. I expected he'd be chattering away, trying to reason with the guy, or something. He seemed to talk to Doc Octavius a bit that time Ock captured him and they flew to South America. In fact, he stayed silent so long, I thought he was just going to do that the whole time. Let Shocker rant, say nothing. Didn't happen. I can't decide whether Shocker's rant about who controls things is tied into Ultimate Origins, and by extension, Ultimatum. Or are those two things related at all? I don't know.

Fortunately, I don't have to know, because I'm done with the Ultimate Universe. This was it. I'm not hanging around for the return of Ultimate Venom in an arc that ties into the Ultimate Spider-Man video game. No siree. 121 issues is good enough (I never got #1), and this was a good issue to go out on. Better to leave on an enjoyable note, right? And I did enjoy it, grousing about possible connections to mini-series and crossovers aside. It's not new, but I like the Shocker's outlook, and I even like that moment of anger I think we see slip out of Peter. He's got to be getting tired of people taking their issues with the world out on him.

So that's it for me. I suppose I should ask how your books were. It would be the proper thing. So, how were your books?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cruise The Streets Of Vice and Liberty In Style

Before we start, do you like it when I use the asterisk and place my digressions at the bottom of the post? I kind of figured with my tendency to digress, that it might be appreciated if I saved that for the end. Just curious, let me know, if ya care one way or the other.

I've been replaying Grand Theft Auto 3 recently, which is a little odd. I usually stick to playing Vice City if I'm doing the GTA thing, spending my time tearing around on motorcycles, continuing my endless war with the Haitians*.

But playing GTA 3 reminded me how much I like the Banshee in that game. It's one of the faster cars, and it handles better than the other fast cars (the Stinger, Cheetah, or Infernus, though Infernus is a cool name for a car). But almost equally important, is I think the Banshee is a really beautiful car, and well, aesthetics are important to me when it comes to transportation. Just look at it. Doesn't that look like a nice car? It's sleek, and it's a convertible. The only other convertible in the game is the Stallion, and that thing isn't anywhere near as fast, nor does it handle well. Seem to spend most of my time trying to stop skidding from one side of the road to another in those. Image is important, after all. Especially since those who want you dead seem to recognize you no matter what you drive, so you might as well drive a nice car when you're about to be shot at. Gives you a better chance of escaping the gunfire at any rate, and it shows that you're unconcerned by their murderous rage. You're out for a pleasant drive, and if they don't like, well, you'll just run them over at a high rate of speed. That's what repair garages are for.

That lead to one of my big disappointments when I first started playing Vice City**. They still have the Banshee, but it's just blah. it's body style doesn't seem all that different from most of the other high performance machines, so it lost some of it's appeal for me. Plus, it's not a convertible! I guess it still drives roughly the same, though it doesn't seem like it. It seems slower, and I certainly don't get the feeling it handles as well, but that may just be because I spend so much time on the bikes. With those, your shirt starts flapping as you pick up speed, and that doesn't happen with the cars, so it might be throwing me off. And the cars really can't compare to some of the bikes when it comes to turning***. It's not as if the Banshee is a bad car in Vice City, and if you need to make a getaway you can do a lot worse, but it's not what I go looking for when I just want to drive, nor do I try and keep at least one in my garages at all times. I'm just shallow like that.

*I'm convinced that voodoo lady that is their leader had Vercetti drugged when I ran missions for her, and I can't very well let that stand, can I? So war it is.

**Well, besides the fact that when I started I couldn't seem to ride a motorcycle for more than three seconds. It was a running gag. I'd hop on a bike, start to pick up speed and either turn too tight or some jackass would cut in front of me and I'd go flying - minus the bike.

***Still better than the Angel and Freeway bikes. They're Harley analogues, I suppose. Terrible at turning, and a pain in the ass to stop. I'd rather drive the Faggio (a little scooter) than those things, just because you're less likely to go skidding across the pavement while trying to turn a corner.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ultimate Worthless Attacks

I was thinking recently about weapons or attacks that are supposed to be really dangerous and yet never actually accomplish anything. I think this started because I've been watching the vast quantity of DragonBall Z clips on Youtube, and my favorite character happens to suffer from this affliction.

See, Krillin (or however you want to spell it) has this attack, the Destructo Disc (hey I didn't name it), which looks like an energy buzz saw that he throws at people that, in theory, will cut right through them. This is potentially a great boon to him, as every enemy the good guys encounter is a lot stronger and faster than he is, and most of the battles are about who's stronger or faster, or who can make the biggest explosions, and the answer is never "Krillin". Unlike his best friend Goku, Krillin isn't an alien whose power increases dramatically any time he gets angry*, so you can see how it would be helpful to have an attack that could offset his other limitations compared to his opponents.

The only problem is, it never works**. They dodge it, they catch it, they are somehow tough enough it doesn't actually work on them***. Or it does work, but they're of a jello-like consistency, so they just sort of melt back together after it cuts them in half. Very frustrating. I suppose part of the problem (besides the obvious issue that he's basically a sidekick/comic relief and so is never allowed to triumph on his own) is it's really an attack best used with the element of surprise, and that's not usually how folks play it in that universe. There have been a few times where I've seen him catch someone completely off guard with a kick to the head, they had no idea he was there, and thought "That would've been a good place to throw the Disc, Krillin." They'd never see it coming, so they couldn't dodge it, and since these guys were weak enough he can hurt them by kicking, then the Disc would definitely have cut them in half. Good times.

I've been trying to think if there's a similar situation in American superhero comics, and the closest I can recall is Darkseid's Omega Effect. It's supposed to be this awesome, one hit kill attack, that once aimed at a target, never misses and yet, Superman isn't dead, because for some reason Darkseid doesn't use it on him. Or doesn't use it on him with intent to kill (I can't buy for a second that by now Darkseid doesn't know exactly how tough Superman is and so he's just not using a strong enough Omega Effect). I suppose it's useful for trashing various flunkies that displease him, but it's not as if Darkseid would need the Omega Effect for that.

Can you think of any other attacks or powers that are supposed to be a big deal, but never really live up to it?

*Actually, Goku's oldest kid is a much worse offender, and it's quite irritating because his power never seems to go up until after one of his friends has died or been badly beaten. Day late, dollar short much, kid?

** Except for once, when he cut off the bad guy's tail. Which served to get said bad guy's attention long enough for the healer they'd befriended to get some of the others up and running again. Eventually, the bad guy transformed to a more powerful state and the tail was whole once more, so in the long run it didn't accomplish much.

***That was bullcrap. They just wanted to save the "Surprise! Cell can regenerate!" for when Vegeta nearly blew up the planet trying to kill Cell, and only succeeded in blowing off his arm.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Disjointed Thoughts on West Coast Avengers

I understand it isn't Engelhart's best work, but some of it is so crazy that I just love it, like the story that was taking place in seven different periods in time simultaneously. And this is from someone who usually hates time travel stories. Heck, I actually find Hank Pym interesting in this book. Granted, Engelhart accomplished that by having Hank almost blow his brains out before he got it together, but still. He couldn't make me like Wonder Man, but he's a writer, not a miracle worker. I'm not a huge fan of Al Milgrom's artwork, because it lacks energy, and Iron Man's helmet looks far too conical to actually fit. Could be worse, though. And some of the characters they dredge up. '60s X-Men enemies, the Griffin, the Voice (and assorted other '60s Ant-Man enemies), Zzzax. Hey, no reason not to use them, right?

Near the end of what I have though, things started to get a bit weird, and not really in a good way. I've got the first 36 issues of West Coast Avengers. According to Engelhart's website, after that he started to get a lot of editorial interference, so it seemed like a good place to stop. Plus he was bringing in Mantis, and I've heard she was kind of his pet character, so even though I've liked her as a supporting character as written by Giffen, or the Abnett/Lanning team, there were no guarantees. So I only grabbed #33-36 at the convention last month, rather than press forward. Based on those issues, that was probably for the best.

Part of the problem is that it's been a while since I've read the earlier issues (at least six, seven months), so I can't recall when Khonshu took control of Moon Knight's body, but that's happening throughout these four issues, which threw me a little. Then in #35, the team's stuck in Doom's castle, though it may be Kristoff that has them (or is it Doom in Kristoff's body?), and Khonshu lets Moon Knight's body get knocked out, then starts wandering the castle until he can confront Doom. They have this odd exchange I can't really follow, no matter how many times I read it. Doom tries to attack Khonshu, and appears to get shocked for the trouble, but proclaims that he's fought gods before, so he's not just going to accept Khonshu's claims of who he is. Then they start the back and forth.

Khonshu: Each of us can prove his identity through the use of his powers! Mine to have the Avengers freed!

Doom: I see. . . I might then surmise that you reside within the body of Moon Knight, spirit? If I free the Avengers, will you ensure they labor in my cause? (Calvin's note: That cause is to eliminate the other Doom).

Khonshu: Beware, Doom! For those who displease me, I demand the strictest judgment!

At that point Doom agrees to free the Avengers, because Khonshu called him Doom, and that means he recognizes he is speaking to the real Doom, and so Doom agrees to play nice. OK, so was Khonshu threatening to demonstrate his powers in a fight, or was him calling Doom "Doom" the demonstration, showing that as a god he can see this person's spirit, even if it's trapped in a child's body? It just confuses me, even though I probably shouldn't get that hung up on it, but it's seems such an awkward conversation, and it is fairly relevant to that issues' progression.

The other thing that kind of got to me was the deterioration of Hawkeye and Mockingbird's relationship. During the time travel arc, during a stopover in Two Gun Kid's time, the Phantom Rider became infatuated with Mockingbird, so just before the team gets set to leave he grabs her and takes off, then drugs her so she'll love him. Yeah, skeevy. Two-Gun Kid and Rawhide Kid go in pursuit, but Mockingbird's loyal to Phantom Rider now, so they're fighting both of them, even though Mockingbird's pretty much more than they can handle. Anyway, she eventually comes to her senses (I think she found one of the heads to Hawkeye's arrows that he'd dropped 100 years in the past, and it jolted her memories) and starts kicking the Rider's butt. She knocks him over a cliff, then chooses not to pull him back and down he falls. Except he doesn't stay gone, and now his ghost is haunting her, plus she hasn't told Hawkeye, as he's gung-ho about no killing when you're Avenger.

Anyway, with the Rider watching in an invisible form, Mockingbird finally spills the beans in #34, while she and some of the others are trapped in a Hungarian prison (which Quicksilver helped set up, 'cause he's gone round the bend, talking about becoming the king of the evil mutants. Whoo.) Scarlet Witch and the Wasp understand how she felt, so they're on her side, and Hank Pym thinks the no killing thing is good, in principle, and that she had valid reasons. The Vision says no husband would be mad that his wife upheld her honor, and Moon Knight, well whether it's Marc Spector or Khonshu, I doubt anyone will be surprised he has no issue with her actions. Odds are, Khonshu was thinking she should have stomped on his hands a bit to speed things along.

Seeing all this love and acceptance really pisses the Rider off, so he goes to find Hawkeye, Wonder Man, and Tigra, who've escaped and are on the loose in the city. We don't know what he told them exactly, except that it wasn't the truth, since Hawkeye (in #35) tells Bobbi the Rider said nothing about any drugging. And because Hawkeye's a meathead (and because Mockingbird kept it a secret for about a dozen issues, causing trust issues when it finally comes out), he believes the Rider. So does Wonder Man, but who gives a crap what he thinks? He's an idiot. Really though, given all the mistakes both Hawkeye and Simon have made in their lives, you think they'd have more compassion and understanding. Hank Pym gets it; why can't they? Then again, Wonder Man's died before, so maybe he's kind of touchy when it comes to death. I guess that could be it.

I did wonder about Tigra's feelings on the whole situation, since we got to see the perspective of everyone else that was on the mission, but not hers (at least not up to the point my collection ends). She heard the Rider's version, so she didn't get the whole story, and she seemed to think the Rider was pretty cool, so she might be on his side. On the other hand, she and Moon Knight/Khonshu were getting along pretty well, so if he told her Mockingbird's side, she'd probably listen to him. And Tigra could be pretty fierce, so she might figure Phantom Rider got off easy.

As for me, I was fine with what Mockingbird did. Phantom Rider did something really wrong, and he took some payback for it. That's how it works in the fictionalized West, right? Bad guy gets his in the end? It just so happens Phantom Rider didn't lose a gunfight on Main Street, he just fell off a cliff. Bobbi demonstrated Batman's philosophy from the end of Batman Begins. I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you, so you're outta luck, and all that. The mistake, as it so often seems to be, was in not being upfront with it. Hawkeye's a hotheaded, impulsive twit sometimes, but he usually comes around (like he must have at some point down the line), and if you tell him right from the start, it probably goes over a lot easier. I know, easier said than done, right?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Giving Credit, As Best I Can

It has been suggested that for as much wailing and gnashing of teeth as followed her death, their hasn't been enough celebrating of Stephanie Brown's return. I don't know whether that's accurate, I haven't really been paying attention, though her fans at Scans Daily certainly seemed ecstatic.

As for me, I'm glad she's back, even though I wasn't one of the folks screaming for her to be brought back, and I didn't care about the "memorial case in the Batcave" mess. It'd be wrong to say I was particularly angry about her death during War Games, seeing as I didn't drop Robin after it happened. Couldn't have been that ticked off, could I? Still, I liked the character, and I thought her being gone took something good away from that title. Now she's back, so that's one less person Tim Drake has lost that was close to him. Of course, he still felt the pain of thinking she was gone, but maybe she can bring a little more light into his life. She seemed good at making him laugh, and at not letting him brood too much, always a plus when dealing with someone in the Batclan.

However, it occurs to me that I never made a big deal over Cassandra Cain going back to the side of angels, which seems rather rude, given the amount of screaming I did on this and other blogs about that One Year Later storyline, which did cause me to drop Robin. I still contend I would have been fine with her as a Punisher type, though hopefully with a bit more compassion, for innocents, at least. The Dragon Lady with Daddy issues and a possible romantic interest in Tim Drake? A bit too much of a shift in character for me, I suppose. For now, she's back working with the Big Bat, showing loyalty to her new teammates, and not taking it personally when Green Arrow starts trying to kill her. Good times. I really ought to be more excited, but I feel somewhat detached. It seems so much easier to express anger than joy, which is frustrating to be sure. Plus, I don't feel as annoyed by that whole One Year Later character turn now as I did when it happened two years ago, so maybe that's dampening my high.

I don't suppose that compared to getting my cash for the title every month, me saying "Thanks" counts for much, but what the heck. Of course, I'm not sure who to thank. Chuck Dixon is writing both Robin and Batman and the Outsiders, so I guess some thanks has to go to him, and lets throw some in Chris Batista and Cam Smith (the artists on this month's Robin) and Javier Lopez and Carlos Rodriguez (the artists on BatO so far). I suppose the "Slade's hypos" thing plays some part in the Cass Cain situation, but I'm not sure which writer to credit for that, so I'll just give handshakes to Geoff Johns and Adam Beechen. I probably owe Beechen some apologies for harsh words I unleashed on the blog or at the comic store, anyway, so maybe this makes up for it, just a little. I know I ripped on Dan Didio, and he has to have been involved at some level in all this, so thank ya kindly sir. Shouldn't ignore Paul Levitz, since he probably had some say in all this. Danke. Can't rule out the possibility there were some Warner Bros. execs having their say about it all. I don't that either character has enough notoriety attract the attention of the mother companies' executives, but why take chances right? So "Cheers" to you folks whose names I don't know as well.

And of course, thanks to anyone else I didn't already thank (editors, inkers, colorists). I'm enjoying Batman and the Outsiders, so, thanks for giving me a reason to start buying it, so I'd find other things to like about it. And bringing Spoiler back was really nice, I appreciate that.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The End Of The Heroclix Crisis Event

And not a moment too soon. I was doing better when it was just random set ups for matches from one weekend to the next. Not great, but better. There was a decent turn out today, six players counting myself. There was speculation that word had gotten around that the Player Who Always Wins has retired from the game, and that's brought more people out. I doubt it, though. More likely it was just a nice confluence of people's schedules.

So for me, I figured what the hey, let's try a sort of JLI team. I don't have Guy Gardner (he's too expensive), so I substituted in the old Kyle Rayner figure to go with Fire, ice, Booster, Beetle, J'onn, and the Creeper. Yeah, he's not really JLI either, but he helped them once, and I needed a team for him. So first I battled Jack, who got to play the team of ring-wielders he wanted to use last week. It was probably a mistake on my part not to have my characters charge up to try and fight in close combat, but it mostly seemed like the rolls went against me (that was the problem all afternoon, really). At one point, I had Kyle and J'onn each use Perplex to lower Power Ring's defense to 15, then attacked him in succession with the Creeper, Booster, Kyle, and J'onn. If any of them had scored a hit, that would have taken care of power Ring. Everybody missed. And we're talking about needed to roll a 6 with two die. That's not hard, or it shouldn't be. I did kill the CSA member eventually, thanks to the Creeper and he picked off Mercury near the end, but I never managed to hit Jack's Kyle Rayner, Hal, or Sinestro. I had a shot at Kyle where I only needed a 6, and I could have potentially done three damage, and I rolled a 5. Figures. Jack eventually finished off my team.

After that it was time for Tim's Justice League team, so I had to look at that damn Hal Jordan figure again, not that he was the problem. Tim had decided to make Kingdom Come Superman his centerpiece, accounting for over a third of the team's points. Naturally, I couldn't hit him to save my life, and it didn't help he killed J'onn by the end of Round 2. I really hate KC Superman. he needs to go back to his shitty dystopian future and quit beating up my Heroclix figures. Between Kyle, the Creeper and Booster, I managed to defeat his Zatanna, then Supes wiped the floor with everyone else. I think Hal was the one to finish Booster though.

Really, if I could have had any success rolling, I think I could have won the third match. Malcolm trotted out the Wrecking Crew, and for the first several rounds, I couldn't hit anyone. Meanwhile, Wrecker was busy pummeling Booster into a bloody smear, and Thunderball was swatting Kyle about the head. Once I started to have some success, things turned around. I was getting some help from Malcolm, who pushes quite frequently (not that I complained, he missed on a lot of those pushes, so his figures were the only ones getting hurt). But still, there were times where Kyle needed a 5 to hit, and I couldn't even get that. J'onn was practically useless, and Beetle mostly helped by keeping the Wrecker, and later Piledriver, busy for awhile trying to swat him with various objects. I guess I was fortunate, because time ran out before they managed to kill the Creeper, making him the only member of my team to survive. Which is a step up from the other two games.

Oh well, better luck in two weeks, I suppose.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Starting To Feel Like Late Spring

{By which I mean it's getting hot.} I'll say. Turn on the AC! {No. That costs money. Just go sit in front of the fan. I sound ancient.} There's only one cure for that. {More cowbell?} Huh? {I don't know. It's some Saturday Night Live sketch. I've never actually seen it, but I've heard people reference it. It had something to do with a band in a recording studio, and Will Ferrell.} Oh. {I imagine it loses something in my description.} Yeah, it does. {I'm not a gifted storyteller.} Nope. {Fine, let's see you do better.} OK, just give me time. {Fine, while you think, how about being productive, if you think you can multitask?}

That's easy. Hugs for all the Outsiders stuck in China, and Applause for Batman for having sandwiches for his guest. {Actually, I imagine Batman told Alfred there would be company, so Alfred made a snack. Or he made them for Batman, but Batman decided to be a good host and let his guest eat first.} So, Applause for Alfred too? {I think it would be appropriate.} Then it's done. Applause for X-Factor, but Hugs for that comedian. She really wasn't funny. {Yeah, Alzheimer's Disease jokes were probably a poor choice for material.} Bonks for whoever that was in the audience that didn't help her. {I think it was a Jamie.} A mean dupe, or a Skrull? {Boy, I really hope it was a duplicate. I don't have the strength for this "Who's a Skrull nonsense?" Maybe Nova should just direct Galactus to Earth during all this confusion. Big G can eat everyone, and then we'll start over.} I thought that was the Ultimate Universe? {Yeah, but this time we'll keep Bendis and Millar out of the loop. Let, I don't know, Brubaker, Fraction, and Peter David do it or something.} Wait! What about Wade? {Oh don't worry. The planet getting eaten can't hurt Wade. Worse case scenario, he comes over here for awhile and stays with you.} Me? {Well he's certainly not staying here!} I can't keep him! {Sure you can! I think you're responsible enough to have a pet.} I am pretty responsible. {Darn tootin. Now where's that story you promised?}

Once, there was a kingdom at the base of a mountain. The kingdom was really nice once, but now it was a desert, and it was really hot. Everybody was really sad and sweaty, and sticky, because there was an old man who lived up in the mountains, and he kept all the cold air locked in a vault, and he wouldn't share. Then one day, a group of big, powerful pandas came to the kingdom, and said they'd help. They went up the mountain, and hit the old man and took the key to open the vault. Then the kingdom had cool air, and it even rained and snowed, and everyone was happy. Except the old man. He dried up and blew away. {That was terrible.} *ABP begins sniffling* {Oh, I didn't mean it! It was a nice story, really it was! The bad person got comeuppance and everything. It was like reading an issue of The Punisher, only with less graphic violence.} Thanks. Now turn on the AC before I beat you up. {No.} Please? {No.} Pretty please? {Folks, you better go, this is going to go for awhile. See you tomorrow.}

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two Thoughts From This Week's Batman & the Outsiders

1) One of Batman's tech support people, Salah, was wearing a shirt that said "Friction: it's a drag". I laughed out loud at that. Looking back at #4, he had a shirt that said "Obey Gravity: it's the law!". I don't find that one quite as funny, but it's a nice touch. I wonder who gets credit for that, Dixon or the artist (Lopez for the gravity one, Rodriguez for the friction one). Either way, good show. I look forward to seeing what other science themed joke shirts we'll be exposed to.

2) One of the two Chinese super-soldiers "interrogating" the Outsiders was a woman who says she was named Barefoot Tiger. She asked if Grace knew why she had that name, and Grace made some crack about never wearing shoes. *rimshot* We never did find out why she had that name. Her powers appear to be some sort of powerful eye beams, so I'm not sure what that has to do with a barefoot tiger. And wouldn't tigers always have barefeet? I think what we have here is her superiors being clever. They figure with that name everyone will figure she's some close combat expert, with enhanced reflexes and claws or something, when in reality, she's most effective at range because she has eye beams. Now that's the kind of thinking I can get behind!

Looks like I have to make another new tag. Anyone know the upper limit on tags?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What I Bought 5/21/08

So I was all set to start buying Birds of Prey today. I figured it's Tony Bedard on a team book, I like Tony Bedard's run on Exiles, worth a shot, right? Just to be safe, I looked through it in the store first. Oh great, it involves Grant Morrison's brilliant reimagining of the New Gods. The one from his Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle mini-series? As I do not care about that in any way shape or form, I'll just wait until next month to try Birds of Prey. Why am I telling you this, instead of talking about what I did purchase? Well, I needed an opening paragraph. You know how I generally don't want to just dive right in.

Batman & the Outsiders #7 - I agree with Brian Cronin. It's more fun if you imagine those folks are making funny faces at Metamorpho, rather than being weirdos trying to get him. Diamond never did ship Ken any more of last month's issue, but that's OK, because I'm going to treat it as an experiment. Let's see how easily I could follow what was happening based on where #5 ended, and based on what of #6 was posted on scans daily. It'll be fun.

OK, Batman brought part of the tech staff to his cave, Batgirl is sneaking around a, I'm thinking Chinese, military base, with what appears to be Katana's sword. OK, I remember seeing scans of the team getting shot down and mostly captured. Metamorpho is being chased around a space station by blank-eyes people speaking in some language I can almost make out the words of. I remember hearing about this too. Rex gets into some trouble and barely escapes before wasting away. Huh, I didn't know Metamorpho's powers worked that way. Geo-Force lands on a U.S. naval ship in the Pacific, and blows any hope this mission had of being covert by outright saying he was on a covert mission. Cripes Brion, I see why people don't like you. And Batman plans to rescue his team, but something is about to happen to them, so he better hurry.

I think I was able to follow that pretty well. I forgot the team stopped over at their base to pick up Grace before they went to China, but other than that no issues. So that's either good on Dixon for making it easy to follow, or it means the book is moving slowly enough you don't miss much in a given issue. You decide! Carlos Rodriguez is the artist on this issue, and his style seems similar to Julian Lopez, but I think that's the inker and the colorist, who are still the same. Or perhaps the two pencilers are from a similar school of art? I think Rodriguez prefers shadows more, though, and tends to exaggerate expressions to achieve effect, especially with Batgirl's mask and Metamorpho. He definitely seems to make Metamorpho look more inhuman. It was a pretty good issue, if a bit sparse.

X-Factor #31 - I can't tell if that's rubble under the sign, or skulls. Mutant Town is burning down, burning down, burning down. X-Factor is trying to stop it, by any means. Revive Taylor, have Rictor hack the system, catch Arcade and make him undo it. By the by, I think Raimondi is basing Arcade on someone. Robin Williams? Someone else? Either way, I like his little trick. It made me laugh. So nobody outside Mutant Town can get in to help, so it's all up to X-Factor.

So Siryn saves a struggling comedian, because the vaguely familiar, extremely shadowy audience wouldn't. Monet saves people who contend they don't need X-Factor, and Jamie saves an elderly man. Then things take a turn for the better. Then, if Val Cooper's final statement of the issue is any indication, they prepare to take a turn for the worse.

I'm not sure about this issue. X-Factor appears to have had some small victories, but in the larger scheme I don't think they did too well. Which is probably the point. There's just something unsatisfying to me about the issue, but I can't put my finger on it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guess That Villain!

Do you think the Black Beetle (currently appearing in Booster Gold) is a legacy villain? I suppose that's a silly question. This is DC, and specifically Geoff Johns, we're talking about here. Of course, the Black Beetle is part of a legacy of costumed yahoos. He appears to have a scarab though that suggests lineage shifted from good to evil over time, like a reverse Brainiac*. But at the same time, Booster's father described Ted Kord as the predecessor to the Black Beetle's enemy, which suggests perhaps he isn't the Blue Beetle lineage gone awry. Which could work quite easily. We know there are a metric** ton of those scarabs around, so two beings having them and having a rivalry is certainly possible. HA!*** I wonder though, whether the Black beetle is connected to any other lineages. Could he be related to Ted's old enemy Carapax, who apparently battled Superman and Firestorm (Jason Rusch version) sometime recently? Or maybe he's descended from one of Jaime's foes? Who would that be then?

*Hmm, a reverse Brainiac would be an Idiot, wouldn't? Or would it be Cainiarb?

**That's right a metric ton! Bow before the metric system foolish Amerikaners! Your scientists have already embraced it! There is no escape!

***Sorry, I'm watching the NBA Draft Lottery while typing. They were ready to see who got picks 1, 2, 3, and for some reason, T-Wolves rep Fred Hoiberg was carrying a stuffed animal. What the hell, man? With that kind of wussitude, no wonder your team wound up #3. If you had a pickax, I'm sure you would have gotten the first pick****.

****Also, I want to say I'm very happy the Miami Heat don't get the first pick in the draft. When your coach actually bails on the team to go "scouting", that's tanking. Not by the players necessarily, but that's the coach flat out giving up, no doubt. Between that and his used car salesmen hair, him teaching Jeff van Gundy the most boring style of basketball imaginable, leading to completely unwatchable playoff series between the Heat and the Knicks throughout the '90s, and for booting Stan van Gundy out so Riles could get another championship ring as a coach, I say to hell with Pat Riley. What happened to him? He coached the Showtime Lakers, he used to be cool. Now he's a punk.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Awkward Silences Would Abound

I would like to see Cassandra Cain interact with Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. Maybe as part of a larger team-up - the old JLI works with the current Outsiders! Booster time travels, it could happen! - or something to that effect.

I just think it would be funny. Cass isn't as intimidating as Batman (unless you're watching her fight, I imagine), but she's probably uncomfortable to be around. She says very little, preferring to stand there and observe. I can see her being paired up with those two. Batman would do that because he would think Michael and Ted need to be watched over, or he'd tell her to hang back, let them make a bunch of noise and then she can infiltrate the objective during the confusion.

So they're moving along, Batgirl isn't saying anything, and Beetle makes a funny to try and loosen things up. I think she'd understand what he was doing. Cass has spent time around Oracle, Nightwing, Spoiler, and Robin, and they all use humor at times, but none of them use it quite as much as Booster and Beetle seem to, especially when they're around one another (clearly bad influences on one another). So the level of banter those two might get to would probably be odd to her. She wouldn't get the references, so she'd spend a lot of time just looking at them, especially if they're trying to get her involved in the joking, which leads to awkward silences when the attempts fall flat.

Of course, at the end of all of it, maybe she could make some clever remark after Blue & Gold save the day in a less than impressive fashion (because style points aren't important, kids). Maybe we could even have captions through the sequence that shows her trying to come up with something funny to say, (because she can read everybody's moves, and so she sees how it's going to turn out ahead of time). She'd like to fit in a little with these two, or just to get them to relax a little around her. It'd be really great if Batman came in about the time she said it, and it was the sort of line you'd expect from Booster or Beetle, because then you could have a shot of Bats looking pained that they've brought her over to the lighter side, away from his unrelenting grimness. Batman looking aggrieved is always a good thing.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Realized What Bugs Me About This Cover

So here's the cover from that Quicksilver one-shot from two weeks ago. From the time I saw it, there's something that bothered me about it, and it only increased once I finished reading the comic. I had a vague idea what the problem was, but I finally figured out how to describe it today.

See, the comic paints Pietro as being in a desolate place, emotionally. Just devastated, broken. And I think that's what the cover is trying to convey, with the blood, torn clothing, and slouched posture. The problem is his face, at least to me, looks angry. It's probably the gritted teeth. A more slack-jawed or dazed expression, might have given him more the appearance of a man shell-shocked by his life, and less that of someone who got in a brawl, and is maybe at the police for locking him up.

Actually, what I thought of looking at his expression was that he was thinking, "Damn this wooden bench! Even once I get my super-speed back, I'll be picking splinters out of my backside for hours!" Except it isn't a wooden bench, it's more like a cot, so maybe he's thinking about how the thin mattress isn't doing his lumbago any good.

Well, I'm glad that's settled. I'm gonna go buy some Pringles. Later.

{Deep-voiced narrator: Just then, something on the TV catches Calvin's attention!}

Wait, what's this? FX is showing a commercial for the upcoming, final season of The Shield? When?! September!? Oh, come on!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Back In The Saddle Again

It's been two months since I played any Heroclix, since every Saturday since then I've either been out of town, or I'm real stressed because I just spent five hours driving back to town, or oh, you know all this.

So it was a good thing I showed up, 'cause otherwise Jack wouldn't have had anyone to play against. We're in the middle of WizKids big series of events for their Crisis set, and well, most of the regulars aren't DC fans, I suppose. Plus, they've got kids and wives and jobs and stuff like that. You know how it goes. But I was there, so Jack actually had some competition, to the extent that I qualify. He wanted to try a Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, Power Ring and Sinestro team, with Mercury thrown in for assistance purposes, but he forgot the character cards, and all those ring-bearers have special powers where you need the card to remember what they are, so he had to shift gears. Ultimately he went with Kyle, Lobo, Ambush Bug, and the incomparable team of Blue and Gold! Clearly, I was doomed.

But why not humor myself? So I threw out a Rogues squad: The Trickster/Pied Piper Duo figure, Abra Kadabra, Mirror Master, Captain Cold, Dr. Alchemy, Heat Wave, and Captain Boomerang (Boomer Jr., with the super-speed). We rolled to see who goes first, I won, then we set out the map, and because this is a "Crisis" thing, time and space are a mess, so we placed smaller pieces of other maps over the larger map, to make this weird mishmash of medieval castles, Legion headquarters, wrecked Metropolis streets, and some other place with sandbags.

There's a rule that says you can't make any attacks until your opponent has had a chance to move, which is fair, but kind of bad for me in this case. It stifled my taking the initiative. Still, things started well. Alchemy TK'ed Boomer up the field, Kadabra boosted his attack by +1, Piper/Trickster upped it by another +1, and Boomer charged in a took his shot at Kyle. And missed. Figures. But it's a "Theme Team", so I had two reroll chances a game (one for every three guys on my team). There goes the first one. Actually paid off. I hit Rayner, knocked him off his nasty first click, and went from there.

Things went back and forth for awhile. Captain Cold hurt Booster, Booster responded in kind. Beetle Pounced and finished Cold. I did some more damage to Kyle, knocked him onto the 2nd half of his dial, but the Ambush Bug played meat shield and it seemed to take forever to kill that bastard. It wasn't even his Super Senses saving him, I just couldn't roll high enough (which is pretty sad since we're talking about needing 7s and 8s). Boomer and Heat Wave finally took him out, but by then Lobo was after Trickster/Piper and wreaking havoc.

There was a moment where I might have slowed Lobe down. The Duo have Psychic Blast as a power, which ignores powers that reduce the damage taken. I had them boost their attack by +1, and took a shot. It wouldn't have been much, 2 damage against a character 10 clicks deep, but it might have helped. So naturally, I missed, and I had already burned the other reroll while trying to kill Ambush Bug. So Lobo wiped those two out, but Alchemy actually managed to hurt him. A futile gesture, but it was something. Then Lobo smacked him, and Alchemy tried to run towards an enemy his Poison would actually effect, and I think Booster finished him.

Mirror Master had hit Booster pretty good earlier during a Flurry, though the sequence pretty much summed up how things go for me. I needed to roll a 7 to hit Booster, rolled a 10. Great, fine, it works, except it was double 5s, so it knocks him out of range, so now I have to attack Beetle, who was standing next to us at the time. For him, I need a 10, but I roll a 7. At which point I exclaimed 'Curse you two, you've gotten me all mixed up!' Jack's response was 'Then we've done our job!' About that time, Kyle Rayner finally got useful and hit Boomer for 5 damage, eliminating him, then took out Heat Wave the next turn. Kadabra did take out Booster before being beaten to a pulp by Lobo and Kyle, and at that point, it was just a matter of how long Mirror Master could use Shape Change to stop people from attacking. It kept him alive against Beetle for quite awhile, but once Kyle and Lobo joined in, it was pretty much over.

So yeah, I lost, but it was pretty close for awhile. I probably would have been best served by getting Piper/Trickster over by Blue and Gold. They had Poison early on, and Booster and Beetle lack the damage reducers to neutralize that, so I could have worn them down a little, whereas Poison was ineffective against Lobo. The problem was, I liked having their Perplex there in the middle of the field where they could help more of my guys, and Booster and Beetle were off in their own section of the field for most of the fight. Plus, Lobo can move more in one turn than Piper/Trickster can, so I couldn't have outrun him. Well, it was still a fun match, as opposed to one of those where it's over quickly because I can't make any good rolls, or my plan blows up immediately (plan? what plan?). And I was able to trade a figure I didn't want for an extra Arcade Jack had, so bonus!

Friday, May 16, 2008

I'll Keep Hugging 'Til You Come Around

{How goes the search?} Bad. I can't find UnCalvin. There's lots of flat, open places to look for castles in. {Yeah, but they're all flat. And open. Nothing to hide the castle under. Unless UnCalvin bought camouflage netting to place over the castle.} Camouflage? Oh, I'm never going to find UnCalvin! {Sure you will, right around the time someone comes up with a suitable idea for a climactic encounter between the two of you.} What do you mean? {Shh! They're watching!} Who, the audience? {You see them too?!} What's wrong with you? {I'm trying to be clever. How'm I doing?} You sound like you got hit on the head a lot. {Well, whose fault is that, he said, looking at the panda who frequently bonks him on the noggin?}

Um, well, hey, Peter Parker needs a Hug, after the last page of Spider-Girl! {I thought I told you not to read that!} No, that's what you tell me about The Punisher. {I know that. I mean in addition to that.} No, I don't remember that. {Uh-huh.} It really isn't that bad, you just have to believe. {Don't try that Peter Pan nonsense on me!} Fine, be a grump, but the Hug stays, and so does this one for Superman, since he was sad and crying. {I think Superman cries a lot. Yesterday, the toaster burnt his toast and he burst into tears. It's really not a big deal. I thought they raised 'em tougher out on the farm, though.} You don't feel bad for other people, do you? {Not frequently, no.}

Booster gets Applause for not letting Batman boss him around, and Nova gets Applause for getting Gamora to join the Guardians. She really didn't sound like she wanted to do that. {I think he deserves some more applause for doing that without getting stabbed in the process.} You think she would have? {I think Gamora enjoys stabbing almost as much as Drax, and the only reason she doesn't enjoy it as much is because she also enjoys breaking necks and kicking faces.} Oh. Then, yes, more Applause for Nova!

Bonk to whoever is going to betray the Guardians in 9 months. {Now how does this work? You don't even know who it is yet. Are you going to bonk them all, because I think at least a few of them might not take kindly to that, and remember what I said about Drax and Gamora enjoying stabbing.} I'm just mentioning it now. When the traitor shows themselves, I'll be ready. {So are you just saving this bonk until then, or are you going to give them another one at that point?} I don't know, it's months away! {Well, you really ought to think these things through more.} A Bonk to Max Lord.

Why did he have to kill Dr. Light's kids? {It's how he passes time until he grows a mustache he can twirl. He's really looking forward to the day puberty hits and he can grow facial hair. He's got tons of mustache wax stored up. Or is it gel? Whichever.} It just seems, stupid. {Well, Max never figured she'd get loose to do anything to him. See, Dark Helmet had it backwards. The reason why good will always win, is because evil is dumb.} You think so? {Well, they're dumb enough not to realize the conventions of the genre they exist in won't allow them any lasting victories, so yes.} But how would they know about genres? {I don't know, but if they're so smart they'd figure it out. Deadpool knows, and he's not brilliant.} *looks around* Why didn't Deadpool show up to attack you? {Eh, he's probably depressed about being in Wolverine Origins these days. Or he's resting up for his new solo book. One of the two.}

Thursday, May 15, 2008

We Are Fearsome Villains, But We Follow This Loser

So why do the Time Stealers listen to Booster's dad? I've been wondering about this since last month, when there was an interlude at the Time Stealers' posh sandstone looking headquarters at the End of Time. "Black Beetle" says Supernova (Booster's dad) made it clear that they have to wreck Booster's confidence to stop the Time Masters. Then he starts giving Degaton orders, telling him he can kill Rip Hunter, but he better not touch his ancestors that are currently running around with Rip. And Degaton just says 'Consider it done'.

This just seems terribly out of whack. I mean, Degaton, Despero, and the Ultra-Humanite are all major threats on their own, why are they taking orders from this gambling addict? My first thought was they're just playing along until he stops being useful, then they'll dispose of him. But after Dark Supernova stops talking to Degaton, there's a panel with a close-up of the Ultra-Humanite's face as Supernova tells him to come along, and he looks, well drugged. Or else just really mellow. I suppose this could be old hat to U-H, and he's just bored, but was there anything in that suit that would grant mind control powers?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What I Bought 5/14/08

So Ken Murphy, who owns Marvels and Legends, is the biggest Speed Racer fan I know. He was psyched up enough for the movie that he and his son drove two hours so they could watch it on IMAX. The verdict? Loved it. He said he wouldn't have gone the way the Wachowskis did if it was him making it, but he still liked it a lot, especially the off-road race. They were sitting in the back of the theater, and getting psyched up every time the movie started playing "the music", as he put it, high-fiving and such. That's a pretty ringing endorsement. Anyway, it's my big week for comics this month, so was it a cornucopia of joy, or a disappointment?

Amazing Spider-Girl #20 - For the record, there's actually lots of words on this cover, though the preview doesn't show that. The arrow has "This one has it all!" The Gene Thompson/May panel says "Teen-age romance", the shadowy figure one says "Tales of Suspense, and the Spider-Girl shot says "Amazing Fantasy". That was kind of cute. Anyway, "Brand New May"? Really? This being a lengthy arc is Quesada's idea. I have no idea if that places the blame for the last page on him, but either way, I am not a fan of the last page. You want a hint? Fine, go to the end of the review, right above the cover for the next comic. Those of you that don't want it spoiled make sure to skip the final line of this review.

It's a bummer, because I was mostly enjoying the issue up until then. May learns how to make web fluid, tells her parents and friends she's thinking of becoming a cheerleader (which is met by stunned silence by the former, and less silence by the latter), and tries to save a classmate from mutant haters, only to have to save the mutant haters from mutants. And Peter visits Normie Osborn and finds the horrifying last page reveal. It's all just a lot of set-up, and if not for that last page, I'd probably be more interested in it. Or maybe not, I don't know. I should be more positive. DeFalco wrote a story I enjoyed using the Carnage symbiote for goodness sakes, so anything is possible. Still. . .

OK, this is the big reveal. Last chance to scroll down. Dramatic pause. It involves clones. No, not Ben Reilly. Yes, you may begin screaming and flailing your arms as you run around wildly. I chose to groan and punch my fridge, but I wouldn't recommend that.

BloodRayne: Tokyo Rogue #1 - That cover is pretty muddled, which fits well with the story. it takes place about a decade before the Automaton one-shot that came out in January, and there's a lot going on. The Brimstone Society was battling the Yakuza, who have been infiltrated by vampires. Some group of well-trained folks attacks the Brimstone Society, burns it to the ground, but kills no one, instead taking them captive. Rayne arrives with her partner from the second game, and goes looking for answers and fights a woman by the name of Ayano, and its pretty even until the well-trained goons get involved. But that group apparently isn't the actual threat, which is instead a fellow named Noburu who bathes in a pool of blood which drips from corpses hanging from his ceiling. I have no idea if he is the Yakuza guy (I think he is, though) or if the well-trained guys were part of the Yakuza. So yes, I'm a little lost. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little frustrating.

Jake Bilbao's on the art chores, which is fine with me. He did a story on each of the Prime Cuts one-shots, and I liked the art in both, but the art looks a little different here. I think part of it is there's more red, orange and yellow in this story than in those two. Things seem brighter, and I think the inking has been toned down a bit. The characters still stand out against the backgrounds, but it isn't as stark somehow, as it was before. Bilbao's linework looks smoother than it did last month, less of a rough quality to it, though I'm not sure why. It loses points for confusing me a bit, but still a fine start.

Booster Gold #9 - Things progressed faster than I expected. I figured there'd be an issue of team building, then an issue of storming the gates, but Johns and Katz covered it all at once. It's interesting to see, with Max Lord not getting his neck snapped by Wonder Woman, how they try and fit the pieces together. I'm not sure why Brother I is still with Max, as I figured Alex Luthor would have dealt with that, but it appears Alex died sooner than he did in the original time. Not sure who to credit for that. One thing I wonder, since the JLI rescued J'onn from Alex' stupid Dimensional Tuner whatever, did they just leave everyone else trapped in there. The Ray was trapped in that thing, damnit! Get him out! He was in the Justice League with most of those characters!

Anyway, the fight starts, Batman shows up, bitching and ungrateful, as usual, but Booster gets in his face and lays some truth on him. Good for you Booster. Oh, and Superman cried in this issue. Sigh. Oh, and the real big bad guys have decided to make their move. I may be underestimating some of them, but I would say they're outgunned right now, so they may have wanted to move a little sooner. But I could be misreading their motives. I thought this was a good issue, all in all.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 - I (and a lot of other people) forgot to tell Ken we wanted this series, so he drastically under ordered, which was frustrating him a bit. My bad. So since he gifted me with one of the few copies he had today, I better love this book, huh? Well, I can't say I like that cover, though Rocket with his giant gun is nice, but the style as a whole isn't appealing to me. It is an odd mix of bright and flashy, yet gritty and harsh though, which credit for that. But still not my thing.

So Starlord and Adam Warlock want to set up a tough team to prevent the next Annihilation or Conquest from happening and this is what we get. Starlord's thinking in terms of what's already happened, Warlock in terms of what he fear could happen. It is an odd bunch, with people who want to help, people who feel they have to help, and people who just have nothing better to do. First mission involves stopping a ship of proselytizers from flying into a fissure in space. Except saving the ship involves killing lots of followers, which brings them some attention I'm sure they won't want down the line.

There's a lot of humor in the book, people making jokes, then groaning because they made jokes (Gamora especially), and the interlude that shows us how Nova recruited Gamora is highly amusing to me. Between her and Namorita, Rich must just have a thing for aggressive women. Pelletier's art seems different than I'm used to. Not a lot, it may actually just be the colors, but it seems darker than what I'm used to from him, which is a little odd, giving we're looking at weird space adventure here. Between this and Booster Gold, they pretty much make up for my utter horror at the last page of Amazing Spider-Girl, though I can't decide which I preferred. Oh, and Cosmo the telepathic Russian dog is in this book too! That settles it, Guardians of the Galaxy wins.

The Punisher #57 - Easily described as "Soldiers attempt to capture Frank Castle, Take 1". Really, I knew it was going to be good on page 4, when the soldiers, having thrown smoke grenades into Frank's safe house, crash through the windows as Frank lurks behind a wall, wearing a gas mask and carrying a baseball bat. I like how afterwards, these soldiers realize how dangerous Frank is, even if he won't try kill them. So they regroup, track him down, and stop because Frank threatens to blow up a statue in a cemetery? I'm confused again.

The excerpts from a book that are set throughout aren't helping, because I can't see the point of them. What, war sucks? It's run by incompetents who don't care about the people they use up and spit out? What's the freaking point of these things? Hopefully it makes more sense by the end. This is an odd issue anyway, as it starts fast, then slows down and meanders through lots of talking.

That's it for this week's books. Share your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Longwinded Quicksilver Analysis Post

I said I wanted to discuss the interactions between Pietro and his hallucinations, and here it is. The first thing I notice is that his cellmate explains to his recently incarcerated buddy that Pietro has been huddled in the corner, muttering the same names over and over. So I wonder whether he's had the conversations we see several times already, an endless, pointless cycle of guilt, self-loathing, etc. Except this time, for whatever reason, what his mind is telling him sinks in, like Thor breaking the Ragnarok cycle at the end of his last series. It would be fitting since Pietro has seemed to endlessly cycle between villain and hero, being a dutiful son and hating his father, wanting to be a good husband and father and being absent from their lives, thinking he can dictate how others live their lives, only to be left with regrets when it blows up in his face. Hmm, that sounds like meta-commentary on the cyclical nature of serial character's personality arc (see: every writer ever deciding they'll be the one who matures Johnny Storm/Bobby Drake, only for it to fall apart later).

On to the actual conversations.

Scarlet Witch: Figures Wanda would be the first. Before everyone else, before he knew who his dad was, starting off that generally wild cycle of love and hate, he had his sister. Pietro's ready to give up, and she appears, telling him that the hardship is almost over, and he's passed the trials. Pietro doesn't believe he could be found worthy, given his current state, but Wanda assures him that he's always acted out of concern for the greater good of those he cares about. Yet, Pietro isn't buying it. This is the sister he hasn't seen since he lost his powers, but he makes no attempt to embrace her. He stays on the floor, and Wanda has to stoop down to talk to him, and try to reassure him that he did mean well, but there's still no contact between them (other than her touching his chin which started the whole thing). She's another attempt to justify the things he's done, and he is finally at the point where that won't work, as everything he's done has dawned on him. Using his unstable sister to remake reality, being willing to kill for the power of the Terrigen crystals, even stealing them from his wife's family, taking no responsibility for the people who died because of the powers they received for them, because it's "God's will". Finally though, he's recognized he isn't an instrument of God's will, that he's just been screwing up a lot.

Magneto: Not surprisingly, Magneto opts for a different approach. Rather than gently trying to excuse Pietro's actions, Mags begins barking commands and judging him. In every panel they share, either Magneto occupies more of it, or he looms over his son, even as Quicksilver rises to his feet. Magneto turns his back on Pietro in the first panel of page 6, but by panel 4, Pietro is the one with his back turned. The problem is, he misses what might be a smile on his father's face as he discusses Pietro's mother. I think it emphasizes that to Quicksilver, his father was more abstract concept than actual person (notice Magneto only refers to himself as "Magneto" or "your father", and Pietro is strictly "Quicksilver"). In the majority of the panels, either Magneto's face is in shadow, or Pietro isn't looking in his direction. They don't appear to make eye contact after the first panel. Pietro doesn't really understand Magnus, and that's why Pietro felt himself superior to his father. He doesn't understand the reasons for the choices that were made, nor does he understand his father did care for him. Now they've each made mistakes, hurt loved ones because they thought they were doing good, and it's notable that in the last two panels both of their faces are in shadow. Of course, in the last panel, Pietro's face is partially in the light, and that probably refers to the next section.

Magneto has no time for Pietro's comparisons of himself to Hitler, or his self-pity. The first is overblown (Pietro may be partly responsible for millions of mutants being depowered, but he lacked intent), and the second is useless. Pietro was born, can't change that now, just have to live with it. It's not a surprise, though. Magneto was never much for self-doubt, and even when he was, he didn't allow it to paralyze him. He moved, in some direction, any direction. It's part of Quicksilver telling him that he can't hide behind good intentions, but he can't fall to "woe is me" either. I wonder about the birds in panel 5. One's mostly black, one mostly white and smaller, but with its shadow in the panel as well. Is the white one Pietro, the other Magneto, and does the shadow mean Quicksilver is more like his father than he realized? Probably.

Crystal and Luna: Unlike Magneto, Pietro does still have family, and here they are, something to keep him out of the dark, if he'll let them. They show up as Pietro admits to feeling trapped under the weight of expectations. At least he's standing up now. These two he probably owes more to than Wanda or his father, under the "you can't pick your brothers, but at least you can pick your bros" theory. He's related to Wanda and Magneto, like it or not, but he fell in love with Crystal and married her, with all the implications and promises that brings, and they had a daughter, who he has responsibilities to as well. When he sees them, he tries to hide himself, allegedly on account of how bad he looks, but Crystal points out they only care about what's inside, which I think Pietro knows, and that's what scares him, because he hasn't been doing so well in that department either. He stole from Crystal's family, put them at war with the U.S., took his daughter without really letting anyone know first. But his family goes to him, and Pietro actually responds to contact from them (Wanda touching his face didn't get much of a reaction from him). I think at this point he's realized that even without his powers he was still pretty well off, being the husband of a member of the Inhuman royal family, and he finally had all sorts of time to spend with his daughter, and he misses that. It's kind of harsh his cellmates had to come along and remind him of the reality of his situation, but he's not going to get anywhere stuck in a dreamworld.

Layla Miller: This is the first time where Pietro really seems like himself. The only denial is his attempts to pretend he really wanted to kill Layla. He's more clever, bantering with Layla and taking a humorous attitude to his current state of affairs. It helps. He almost seems relaxed as he sits against the wall and listens to her talk about butterflies. Layla doesn't deny any of the stupid stuff Pietro's done, she just helps him to try and find a positive, that he found his limit when he didn't kill her. He suffered a bit more for the attempt, but he's past that, and it's time to do something. I don't think it'll be to make amends, because that seems to lead to him making decisions for others without consulting them and we've seen where that gets him.

What's curious is that at the beginning of the story I was sure that Pietro had accepted his fate, but it doesn't seem that way now. He had to talk with some of the people he'd wronged, his sister for using her. His father, to at least try and settle some of their myriad issues. His wife and daughter, who he frequently is separated from. And a young girl he tried to kill because she helped screw up his attempt to use his sister to change the world. I don't know what conclusions he might have come to inside his mind. His sister was completely supportive, but he didn't seem accepting of that, so he may have steeled himself for an unpleasant meeting down the line. I think he'll look at his father differently after this certainly, maybe with understanding, but not in the sense of "Oh, I see why you had to do that, but I wouldn't have to resort to such methods". I don't think they'll be close, though. Hopefully he's more invested in being a husband/father now, assuming Crystal and Luna didn't die in that Silent War mess (how does that fit with Secret Invasion? Does it? I'm so confused). As for Layla, if/when she comes back, I could see Pietro trying to help her through any post-traumatic stress she experiences from being trapped in your typical hellish X-Future. Not saying she (or X-Factor) will accept the help, but I believe he would want to offer it. The critical point would be whether he would back off if asked to, or if he would insist on helping. If he tries to force the issue, he's back on the same path. If he's willing to leave it be, he might have actually learned something.

That's just my speculation, though.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Power Corrupts, Blah, Blah

I was wondering last week whether or not housing the entirety of the Nova Force might be starting to have an adverse effect on Rich. As Rich noted when he received all the Nova Force, it's happened before, with the giant looney known as Super-Nova, who I remember seeing in an issue of Simonson's Avengers. Wow, I'm all about callbacks to Simonson's stuff these last couple days.

I'm not sure how long it took Super-Nova to go over the edge, but it doesn't to have been very long. Of course, the Worldmind wasn't helping him cope with power like it is with Rich, so we could expect Rich to resist psychological damage for a bit longer. The thing is though, it has to have been awhile since he got all that power. I don't have the issues in front of me, but Rich received the Nova Force within the first couple of weeks after the Annihilation Wave entered the universe, and he didn't rip Annihilus' innards out until over 200 days into the battle, so that's at least six months. Then he spent a couple months resting up, then there's everything that's happened in his series, which from the time he reached Earth to the time he got to Obrucen had to be around a month or so, so it's going on a year, I'd think.

And since Warlock cured Rich of the Phalanx infection, he's been more aggressive. It could just be Rich's natural hotheadedness showing through, but he seems more confrontational, more determined to not back down. When he first started fighting the Technarch, all he was doing was trying to stall it, because he recognized he was outclassed. Once he thought it had killed Tyro, he starts talking about killing it. On Obrucen, when he's not lecturing the heads of state on their lack of concern for their non-wealthy citizens, he's promising that he can save everyone, that he's not going to tolerate any murderers, and now he's going to try and make Galactus listen to his demands, somehow.

When he was on Earth, even though he didn't seem real enamored with the post-Civil War state of things, he wasn't nearly as openly contemptuous of Stark as he has been of Obrucen's leaders. He was still clearly not impressed with this better way of doing things Iron man helped bring about, but he stuck to taking shots at him veiled as comparisons to the more serious situations he'd been embroiled in. When he answered the initial Kree distress call and was met by lots of Sentries, he was willing to fall back and get help, rather than attempt to bull through the entire Kree military.

It might not be the Nova Force, though. It might be that Rich has simply seen so much death these last few years (our time), that he's not willing to accept any more. Stubborn as he often is, I could see that. He figures he has all this power, he ought to be able to do most anything he sets his mind to. Which can still be a bad thing, since it's the same basic problem that came up with Willow in Buffy Season 6 (I didn't buy that it was the magic that was bad. She liked having power because it gave her control. More power = more control.), and that nearly got the world destroyed. In fact, if it's just Rich's natural tendencies causing it, that could be worse. The effects of the Nova Force could be diminished by actually storing it somewhere else. Can't really do that with a person's stubborn streak.

I do like that Rich is stubborn, for the record. It's usually a lot of fun to see a character steadfastly refusing to back down in the face of long odds, even if they can't always win out.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Have You Considered An Appetite Suppressor?

Since freed of his imprisonment during Annihilation, Galactus has apparently been hungrier than ever. It's to the point that he's got two Heralds out looking for planets, when he isn't trying to devour powerful cosmic entities like Eon.

{Or was it Epoch? The one who guided Wendell Vaughn when he was Quasar. Really, that just seemed wrong, given Galactus' claims that he must survive because he's of cosmic consonance or whatever, but he turns around and tries to eat the being that gives us a Cosmic Protector. What a jackass.}

Now, according to the leader of Obrucen, he's even devouring the energy of stars {quote: Two stars went out. They didn't explode, they simply went out.} For now, I'll set aside the question of what good devouring a planet is going to do if two stars can't sustain Galactus for more than five days. So he's definitely eating more than he used to. I suppose it could be a natural process. Big G is getting older, the body don't work as well as it used to, just isn't as efficient as it once was. It's all very sad, when a once mighty force has to spend all his time eating, like Agent X that last year or so of Cable/Deadpool. Hopefully Galactus doesn't start wearing a sumo outfit.

I keep wandering off-topic, but I know that's why you all love me. The point of this was supposed to be how Galactus' increasing hunger reminded me of that Simonson Fantastic Four story where 30 years in the future Galactus is actually devouring the entire universe, because he's gotten so hungry. I wonder if the idea of making him need more energy was a nod to that, or if somebody figured they needed it to make him a more imposing threat once more. After all, the universe is a big place, and if he's able to feed on stars now, then he wouldn't need to eat as often, and so it'd be less likely he'd cross paths with one of Marvel's heroes. Plus, I guess he wouldn't need two heralds unless without some sort of escalation of his situation, although I like that he keeps Stardust around partially for the day the Surfer backstabs him, because Norrin will. He'll get one of his crises of conscience, and then he'll have to be dealt with.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sanctuary! Why Did I Teach Him That Word?

Question for the day: If a criminal he pursued claimed sanctuary within a church (assuming claims of sanctuary are allowed in the DCU), and the priest granted it (assuming they have the power to do that), would Batman respect that?

Would he go in and haul the criminal out, regardless?

Or would he try to be sneaky and scare the criminal into fleeing consecrated grounds, thus becoming fair game once more?

And if Bats chose Plan C, would that be considered dirty pool? Would the priest scold him for it afterwards?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Hunt Continues

{Hey there, how's it going?} Not well. I still haven't found UnCalvin. {I can see you've been looking everywhere.} How'd you know? {You're covered in those stickers people usually slap on their luggage to show where they've been. Have you been traveling as cargo?} It's cheaper, easier to infiltrate that way. {Ah. It really shouldn't be this hard for you to find her.} Her? I thought UnCalvin was a guy? {Well, you know, it varies from one appearance to the next, depending on how we're interpreting us being opposites. Like her speech patterns. She might be a shapeshifter.} Well phooey. I need to rest. {Well, it is Friday.}

Right you are, so where's the pizza? {There is no pizza.} What? {We'll get some later. Focus.} Right, right. Um, a Hug for Nova, because he's going to need it, and some Applause for Quicksilver, for saving that lady's life. But Quicksilver also gets a Bonk, because he left her two hours away from her home. {Safer than being anywhere near her angry boyfriend, and he left her on a pretty beach, and not at a garbage dump.} I suppose. I'm still giving him the bonk, but he also gets a Hug, because he crashed into a plane. {That was pretty funny.} Yeah, I guess it was. It still looked painful. {Oh yeah.}

I think the Silver Surfer needs a Bonk. He's feeding Galactus planets with people on them again? {What would Alicia Masters think?} I hope she'd slap him. Oh, and the rulers of Obrucen need Bonks too. They didn't care about any of their people but the rich ones. {Sure, those are the ones who probably got them where they are, which just goes to show that people are dumb no matter what planet you're on.} What do you mean? {If a person helps you into office, they figure you owe them. If they just so happen to not get off the planet when Galactus drops by, any obligation to them would get devoured right along with them.} You scare me some times. {It's the darkness within.} Huh?

Wait, if UnCalvin is a shapeshifter, then how is it easy to find her, him, it? {Well, because her face and speech might change, but irregardless, her home is always in the same place. It's a towering, gloomy castle, like out of a fairy tale, sitting by itself in the middle of an immense open plain. Once you find it, there can only be so many possible suspects.} A castle? Where? {Hell if I know. UnCalvin keeps the exact location of her home a secret, because she's smarter than I am.} How did she get a castle? {I think it's from Germany originally, like Neuschwanstein. Or maybe the Scottish moors. Either way, I believe a giant airship, and lots of rope was involved. That's all I can tell you.} It helps. I can find her, believe it!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Surely There Are Better Examples?

So let's start with this link. That's the post I mentioned yesterday. Before we go further, a disclaimer: This isn't a Brand New Day bashfest post, so if you enjoy the current Amazing Spider-Man, more power to ya. No beef with you about that. Everybody cool? Great, let's move on.

The thing that catches my attention is comment #3, where "ElCoyote's Prophet" takes this opportunity to blast fanboys for destroying comics as a medium, with their fanaticism over continuity, and their demands that everything stick to it, and he brings up Spider-Girl. Not as a victim of this, but as a title that represents fanboys obsession. Uh-huh.

First, let's just accept that ElCoyote and I are going to disagree about Spider-Girl as a title, and DeFalco's relative ability as a writer. Whatever, that's cool. Here's the thing that amuses me about it, though. If you're going to pick a book to point at as something the fanboys love, to the detriment of what ElCoyote would deem "better" books (BND Amazing Spider-Man issues), I think there are probably better options than Spider-Girl, for two primary reasons.

1) Sales. Here, let's take a look at the sales figures from Paul O'Brien's monthly breakdown. Let's see, there's Amazing Spider-Man, at #4, 8, and 14, all moving at least 80,000 units, but where's Amazing Spider-Girl, this title the fanboys are so wrongly giving their praise (and presumably, their money) to? Oh, there it is, at #114, selling just above 15,000. Well, Brand New Day is lower now than it was in January, maybe the fanboys are bailing out, and switching to Spider-Girl instead. Hmm, nope, the book's numbers are lower in March than they were at the beginning of the year (only by about 500 units, but they aren't increasing).

So if Spider-Girl owes her sales to fanboys, they make up a lot smaller section of the readership than people think. The other thing I want to throw out real quick, is this comment from Tom DeFalco, back when they announced that Spider-Girl was ending, but Amazing Spider-Girl was going to start up, that the reason was because, poor Direct Market sales or no, the book was a money maker in other markets (see quotes here) which I assume means supermarkets, libraries, Target, places like that. In other words, not the places I would expect the "fanboys" to be going to get their comic fix. Basically, I don't think Amazing Spider-Girl is stealing sales away from her dad's book.

2) Continuity. OK, if you're going to argue that fanboys only care about continuity, why Spider-Girl? I may be taking a different approach to continuity than ElCoyote, but there really isn't much you've got to know ahead of time to understand Spider-Girl. She's the daughter of Spider-Man, she has his powers, and as a high school student, uses said powers to fight crime because it's the responsible thing to do. And they tell you all that on the recap page. It's a book that exists in basically its own universe (barring the occasional mini-series). Besides those mini-series, there's nothing that directly effects it, or is affected by it. If one of those mini-series happens to tie into the current plot, what's important is explained in story, and then editor's notes tell you what stories to look for if your curiosity has been piqued.

So does that make Spider-Girl for the continuity obsessed, because it's written to be easy to follow and catch up on, because you can keep track of how characters and events are connected, and because things that happen in those occasional other titles aren't completely swept under the rug? It seems unlikely, but I think I'm interpreting "continuity obsessed" as when you have to already know a bunch of backstory to follow a comic at all, and ElCoyote may mean something else, and just fails to define it. For my definition I would have suggested The Lightning Saga or maybe the current X-Men Legacy title as examples. Or hell, Secret Invasion seems to be set to answer all those "Why is Character X, Y, Z acting out of character, compared to what they did at {insert issue, year, event of choice}" questions. Well that and to show heroes punching each other, then aliens if there's time later.

Look, you want to rant about how all "fanboys" want is comics like they read when they were kids? Then you've probably got a case against Spider-Girl, because DeFalco doesn't write much different now than he did when he wrote Amazing Spider-Man back when I started reading comics (circa ASM #273). Obviously I enjoy his style on this title, though I'm quite glad there are lots of other titles out there that have very little in common with it, some of which I purchase (The Punisher MAX, anybody?). It's an older school style of comic writing, but I'm not sure we want DeFalco to try and get more modern. I certainly don't want Amazing Spider-Girl to get as decompressed as Immortal Iron Fist, and I think the last time DeFalco tried being more modern was his Fantastic Four run, where there were constantly big shake-ups and death (Torch on trial! Doom murder/suicides Reed! Adult Franklin Richards from the future! Sue's horrible new costume! The Thing wears a bucket on his head! Yikes). Although again, if that's the rant you're trying to make, I think DC would be a better target, and certainly Brand New Day (let's regress Peter back to his early '70s status quo! Whoo!).

Of course, if ElCoyote just wanted to rant against Spider-Girl because of a deep hatred for it, well, can't help there, seeing as I don't share the feeling.

Hey, thanks for sitting through that (assuming you did). I needed to get that out of my system.