Thursday, July 31, 2008

Run! Our Teammate Is Here!

Question: When was the last time Wolverine went into a berserker rage in one of the team books he inhabits?

Admittedly, I haven't been reading the X-books or New Avengers for quite some time, but off hand, I just couldn't recall the last time Logan had been on some mission with a team, and at some point during said mission, gone crazy. I know he's been killing large quantities of people in X-Force, but I was under the impression that he was maintaining control while doing so, because he's worried about his teammates. Which is cool. I enjoy it when Logan actively reigns himself in to look out for his allies. It just seems as though it's been quite some time since his teammates were freaking out because Logan was losing his mind, and they needed to be as afraid of him as they were of their enemy.

I think in New Avengers #6 (#7?) he was on the verge of it when he attacked the other Black Widow, only Cap hit him in the head with his shield, and that seemed to surprise Wolverine enough that he snapped out of it (since he didn't turn around and try and kill Cap, instead asking what, exactly, Cap thought he was doing). Beyond that, I couldn't think of any others. Maybe Marvel's decided he's matured past that point. Or maybe they just save him disemboweling people left and right for his solo adventures (I know it happened a few times during Rucka's turn on Wolverine, since what Logan thought of himself and those rages was something Rucka was exploring). Or perhaps the writers want Wolverine to make witty commentary as he kills people, as opposed to inarticulate animal noises (I don't really believe that one, but I figured I'd throw it out there).

I didn't remember hearing of one in Astonishing (though early on, he did try and drive the Beast into a fury, didn't he?), or before or during Messiah CompleX. But, I know some of the audience read the X-Books regularly, so maybe they know of one recently.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What I Bought 7/30/08

Last week, Ken needed someone to look after the store for him for a couple of hours, since he had some stuff to do, and Tom was on vacation. I didn't have anything better going on, so I agreed to do it, and in return Ken hooked me up with some cash, and some store credit. Pretty sweet for me basically sitting on my butt in the A.C. reading for 4 hours. So I trot* to the store today, ready to do some purchasing, except, nothing from my pull list came in this week. And since I'm scared of new things, I used some of the store credit on some Heroclix boosters instead. It netted me a couple of things I want, and something that I can hopefully trade for stuff I want.

One of the figures I got was the Ms. Marvel, the actual Ms. Marvel. See, this set is Secret Invasion, so WizKids decided to be clever and for five of the figures (Ms. Marvel, Yellowjacket, Mar-Vell, Dum Dum Dugan, and Elektra), make one version that's a Skrull, and one that's the real deal. They're the same points, but they have different stats and powers. The problem is, both versions look identical, and for four of them, both look like Skrulls (both Dugans, for some reason, look human). Which makes no sense.

If we're dealing with the real Carol Danvers, why the hell is she green with a wrinkly chin? And if it's the Skrull impostor, why is she running around in Carol's outfit (and with blond hair), but otherwise appearing Skrull-like? That's just bound to blow one's cover. So I may have to see if I posses the skill to repaint the figure and file of those wrinkles, or I can always try gluing the old Warbird figure from the Critical Mass set on the base. It's roughly similar, just no green skin or wrinkly chin.

Anyway, don't worry about my lack of new comics this week. I'll find interesting stuff to post about until next Wednesday, promise**.

* Well, "trot" may not be the right description. "Stagger sweatily" might be more appropriate. Damned humidity.

** Warning: Promise only good on Earth-298, also known as Age of Apocalypse Earth.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Like A Movie, Only In Episodic Form

Used to be, I posted on a blog known as the Book of Fitz. That started some time after I started this here blog, and continued sporadically until the blog creator decided to close up, and move to a new blog. Yeah, I didn't really get the logic of starting a whole new blog either, but he seemed to feel it would help his posting schedule. It did help me, by letting me condense all my sports-related posts onto the Macq Experience, instead of splitting them between two sources. Anyway, sometime in the last couple of months, the Book of Fitz was removed, deleted, whatever, and so the dozen or so posts I made there are gone. Very sad, since that was where I declared Ken the leader of the Jeff Weaver Believer Bandwagon Experience (back during the '06 MLB playoffs, when Jeff Weaver was briefly, remarkably good, as Ken predicted). I always liked that name. Rolls off the tongue.

To get to the point, since the blog was deleted (though I know it exists out there somewhere, in some format), I figured I'd use one of my posts from there, here. Not word for word, since I don't have a copy of it, but close enough. It's not cheating, since I didn't have any overlap in audience, right? At the time I made the original post, I'd watched Dead Poets Society for the, I don't know, nth time, where n > 1. After it finished, I was left wondering about the fates of the various students. Did Robin Williams have any lasting effect on them, besides Neil, who wound up dead? Did that unpleasant headmaster crush their resolve by tediously going through that poetry textbook one page at a time? Did their friendships suffer with one of them dead, and Charlie expelled (he was going to get tossed for punching that snotty, red-headed narc, right?)? How did the faculty handle all this? Those kinds of questions.

I thought perhaps that would have made an interesting TV show, or at least a TV mini-series. OK, maybe it would have only been interesting to me, and maybe I would have been disappointed in the results, but it was something I thought about. From that point, I started wondering if there were other movies that would lend themselves to television series. I know there have been a few (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Odd Couple), so I wondered if you knew of any other movies that you thought the TV format might work for as a follow up/continuation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Less Than Energetic Book Reviews

That's fairly uninspiring title, but I just can't get myself motivated for this post for some reason. During my last sojourn out of town, my father directed me towards a used book store that had popped up in town recently, and as a bibliophile, he encouraged me to go by there while Alex was working, since I'd have some time to kill*. It's a nice store, and the owner's certainly trying to get as many books in there as she can, evidenced by me frequently taking a step away from one shelf, and bumping into another. I'm not sure about naming your store "Get lost!", though. I understand she means "Get lost in a book", or something to that effect, but it's still a little amusing to me every time I look at the bookmarks she included with my purchase of several cheap paperbacks.

There was one book that was a series of essays on "bogus science" that was published in the early '80s, which started out interestingly enough, but got old pretty quickly. You can only read so many times about how what Uri Geller's trying to pass off as telekinesis is really just misdirection any halfway skilled magician can pull off, and that stuff gets brought up a lot. I guess because all the believers in psi powers loved Uri so much. Even when he got caught cheating to produce results, well that didn't dissuade them. he just cheated because he was under pressure to produce results, and it isn't that easy. It certainly doesn't mean all those times he was successful at bending the key were cheats as well**. I do enjoy how, if tests for clairvoyance or ESP fail, the testers can blame it on there being too much pressure on the subjects, or even that there were skeptics present, and their skepticism somehow interfered with the subject's powers. Geez, I wish I could have used that kind of excuse at my thesis defense, when the statistical analysis didn't back up my expectations***. I can see myself shouting at the assembled professors, "Well the reason it didn't work the way I predicted is because someone in this room didn't believe in it!", and they would nod and accept that. If they were some of the more extreme advocates of parapsychology, anyway

After that, there was a collection of nine Issac Asimov short stories, which I may or may not have read before. The story of the Multivac computer claiming that a particular man was going to attempt to destroy it, and the actual motive behind that seemed familiar. It was still entertaining, just for how clever the machine was, and the sinking realization by its keepers that it would only get more clever.

I suppose the book I'm going to focus on primarily tonight is Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith. An anthropologist, Marghe, is sent to a world which was colonized by humans some time in the past. The Company (that's what the company that's been investigating is called) has already sent technicians, soldiers, and other anthropologists down there, only to learn there's a virus. The virus is apparently 100% lethal on men, but only 20% lethal on women****. Thus, the settlement population, and the remaining people the Company sent, are entirely female. One of Marghe's jobs is to try and find out how a planetful of women reproduce, in addition to your basic attempts to learn more about the various cultures, and any information that will help the Company's employees to have an easier go of it. Marghe descends to the surface as one of the two remaining anthropologist is leaving, and learns the other one died or vanished on a trek north. Marghe resolves to go north, since that's were evidence suggested human habitation started from, and runs into trouble shortly after she parts company with the soldiers escorting her. From there it's your basic story about a person confronting their weaknesses, learning about themselves, finding their true self, then putting this newfound sense of self to the test by confronting something which terrifies her.

If your care, the secret to reproduction is a somewhat more mystical form of what the New Mexico whiptail lizard (genus Cnemidophorus) goes through. There's a distinct strain of mysticism that runs through the book, a sense of everything being connected, and that it can take place even if people aren't aware of it (as was the sense I got from some of the soldiers and technicians, who have no idea what's going on with this planet). How exactly something like that could come about biologically, I can't quite figure.The culture on the planet's a bit of a microcosm of that situation. The population is fairly sparse, scattered. Predominantly agrarian, there is some use of boats for shipping and fishing. People speak all sorts of dialects derived from Earth languages (Greek words, Gaelic, English, Spanish, on and on). And yet, people seem very aware of what's happening in a different region of the continent. They can be weeks apart by ship or overland travel, but people will have heard about the odd people that settled in one location, don't understand anything about the virus, or where you shouldn't try prescribed burning, and spend all their time walled up in their settlement (that'd be the Company employees). The mythology is fairly common, but that may result from the viajaeras, who are wandering storytellers/mediators/healers/Swiss Army Knives.

It does seem like an interesting world. There is unusual indigenous life, there are strange customs where there's really no such thing as a one-time trade, since it ultimately establishes a kinship/or extended trade agreement between the "families" of the two parties, and there are believers in Death Spirits, which never ends well. I'm still not entirely sure why it had to be a world devoid of men to set all that up, but I suppose it provides the odd biological situation to drive forward the desire for discovery. The book surprises me a little in that there's an extended sequence where Marghe is part of a family, but also a prisoner in a sense, (if this had been a long-running, Y: The Last Man style comic, it would have made a nice story arc in the midpoint) that seemed superfluous at the time, but it wound up being relevant to the character, and their attempt to evolve. Also, the book didn't go how I expected when it cam to Marghe finding the original landing point for the first settlers. It happens unexpectedly, and isn't the revelation for the character I've seen in other books where the protagonist strives mightily to find an origin point (Foundation and Earth being an example). Whether that would be good or bad, I leave to your judgment. As for me, I got the book for a buck, so it's hard to complain.

* After the two days I spent helping Alex and his boss prepare food for two separate weddings they were catering, I've decided not to venture back in there again, lest I get sucked into helping.

** Which could be true, but it certainly doesn't help his case.

*** Actually, I don't wish that, because it didn't really matter. They still approved the thesis, since in real science, even if the results falsify your hypothesis, they can still be useful, since they help rule out certain possibilities, assuming you set the experiment up properly. Gotta love that about science.

**** I know women have stronger immune systems than men, but that much stronger? Every single guy that showed up had a weaker immune system than 80% of the women? Can it be that much of a disparity?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Marvel Makes Their Annual Play For My Money

Well, here's this bit of news. *deep breath*


Ahem. Sorry about that.

Well, I've been waiting to see the Shi'ar react to all the upheaval in outer space these last couple of years. There two biggest rivals always seemed to be the Kree and the Skrulls**. Now the Skrull Empire was predominantly wiped out by the Annihilation Wave (has Secret Invasion given us any indication how many Skrulls are left, or how many worlds they currently control?), and what wasn't wiped out has been settled by the Wave. The Kree lost half of their Empire in that struggle, and now they're still trying to pull back together after the Phalanx threw them for a loop. Their defense systems can't be in the best shape while efforts are made to ensure there's no back door for the Phalanx to use down the line. I don't know what other species are out there that can challenge the Shi'ar, and with that crazy, pain-in-the-ass Summers brother running the show, it was inevitable they'd get expansionist.

I can't quite figure how the Inhumans are going to wind up involved. Their grudge should be with the Skrulls. Maybe they won't be distinguishing between aliens when the time comes. I wonder who'll be running the show, whether Medusa will have taken control, or whether Maximus is still running things. I know he' has no love for his brother, but I could see him using this as a rallying point, telling the populace they must retrieve their former liege, his kin, from these dastardly aliens, then using it as a way to eliminate any members of the Royal Family he doesn't trust. It's not out of the question that he's got bigger aspirations, maybe even dreams of assuming control of a galactic empire. I'm not sure the Inhumans have that much pop, but if they could get Black Bolt back, they could certainly make things interesting***.

And of course, Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy are going to be in the mix, which can't hurt things. I've actually been a little curious about Nova's precise role in the universe. He's essentially a cop, so if the Shi'ar (or Badoon, or whomever) start to conquer another world, can the inhabitants call him for assistance? Or is that outside his jurisdiction? I guess as the sole Nova, Rich's jurisdiction is what ever he says it is, though that's probably not the best way to put that. Too totalitarian.

Even though I felt a bit let down by Conquest, and even though law of diminishing returns has to start setting in eventually, I still trust Abnett and Lanning to bring a good time to the table. For one thing, it's less likely the threat is going to be confined to a single area, like the Phalanx were. The Shi'ar (assuming they're labeled as the threat), are going to be moving outward, endangering other sentient beings, not just making preparations for future expansion, so that should help raise the stakes.

And here I was, worried about my shrinking Marvel pull list.

* One of Ken's friends and customers dropped off some DVD about the Rock at the store on Friday. One of the special features was the Rock's "greatest hits". Man, he was always coming back to some place. Why didn't he ever go anywhere he'd never been before? Anyway, it is kind of infectious.

** Even if those two spent most of their time fighting each other.

*** I demand Black Bolt vs. Galdiator! Does Mohawk Man believe he can survive if Black Bolt whispers something impressive like "Begone"? Actually, I'd like to see Black Bolt dispose of Vulcan, but that's just because Vulcan annoys me. I can't put my finger on it, but he stirs that same feeling Superboy-Prime does, where I'd just like for the character to go away. Gladiator/Black Bolt could be one hell of a battle though.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Those Goblin Double Whammies Are Killer

This is going to be in reference to the current story arc in Amazing Spider-Girl, for the record.

In #20, Normie Osborn shows Peter something he discovered in a property owned by his grandfather in Europe. It's another Mayday Parker, floating in a tube of some chemical. And Normie's tests says this one is the real deal. In #21, Peter turned a convenient spigot and collected a sample of the liquid. A sample that, once exposed to air, exploded in his face. In #22, he insisted he was fine, but has neglected to mention this to May or even Mary Jane, and is acting a little odd. Also, next month's cover showed him apparently going berserk on Kaine, the one who saved the person he calls his daughter, which seems a bit unusual for Peter, even with his trust issues towards his first clone.

Theory: The liquid was the original Goblin Serum, the one which gave Norman Osborn his powers all those years ago. As I recall, it was the chemical Norman was working with that exploded, giving him his powers, but also driving him quite insane.

Consider the implications. Whether the May in the tube is the real one or a fake (my money's on a fake), she's been soaking in that stuff for sixteen years. Whether she's the real May or a clone, she likely has spider-powers, too. Spider-powers, combined with the power (and insanity) bestowed by the Goblin serum, in a person that looks just like May. Given the self-doubt May's been struggling with, it would be possibly her most difficult fight*. Even assuming he was in shape for it, could Peter fight someone that looks like her own daughter? What are the other heroes going to do, especially if this May garbed herself as Spider-Girl, and approached them as a friend? She could lay waste to them.

But then there's Peter. He just had whatever that stuff was blow up in his face. Perhaps he's been driven insane, Goblin-style. Given that since he came back from the dead at the end of the '90s Clone Saga, Norman was portrayed as some sort of scheming genius, I wouldn't put it past him. He know how Pete thinks, knows Pete's a scientist at heart, so he could have been planning on giving his old adversary a face of looniness. That would keep to the Osborn style of piling on the misery on the Parkers, and it would explain Pete's erratic behavior.

I suppose the explosion could have been a false lead, but I think it has to mean something, and a callback to the Goblin's origin seems likely.

* Besides her tussles with Seth, the Serpent God of Death. Unless you're Galactus, fighting someone who can go toe-to-toe with Odin is always going to be your toughest fight.

Friday, July 25, 2008

We Sing A Song Of Clapping

You didn't tell me you were going to be gone again! {Sorry. I didn't know I'd be gone until right before I was.} You look twitchy. {Itchy would be more accurate. Poison ivy.} What, more DC characters are showing up now? {I hope not. Overused Kirby Creation and Idiotic Pink Guy were bad enough. I don't need environmentally-conscious redheads with control over plants showing up to make my life miserable. I just meant the everyday plant. Oh. {It's not so bad if I don't think about it}

Well, let's talk about the comics! That'll make the itching go away! {Itching? Oh, the itch! It's driving me mad! *runs off screaming*} I guess it's up to me then. Good thing there's only one book. Well, I don't know his name, but the person beating up Danny ought to get a Bonk, and since he got beat up, Danny can probably use a Hug. {*runs by* But the person beating up Danny is only fulfilling his role as the Killer of Iron Fists. That's his purpose! *runs off again*} Maybe. Oh, but it was mean of him to say Danny was the weakest Iron Fist. He didn't have to say that! The Bonk stays! And Luke gets Applause for telling Danny that he needed to talk to Misty instead of just beating up stupid crooks. {That's what friends are for.} Are you doing better? {A little yeah. I got it under control. Want to go skip rocks?} Uh, sure.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Talking About Dark Knight

I went to see it twice, once with Alex, once with my dad*. Didn't get a chance to discuss it with my dad, though I got the impression he wasn't nearly as impressed with heath Ledger as a lot of people were. Probably not his kind of Joker. Possibly spoilers.

A few things that came up from talking with Alex. He initially didn't like that Joker's origin kept changing. Then I tried to explain the connection to The Killing Joke**, and how I thought it related to his attempt to destroy/enlighten (depending on your p.o.v) Harvey Dent. Then Alex liked it a little more. I think he still would have preferred a definitive answer. He also described Gordon as 'too old-fashioned'. I'm not sure entirely what he meant there. He said Gordon felt like one of those cops who just follows the rules, and tries to do things the right way, so I guess he wanted Gordon to turn into Riggs or Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, and just start shooting people, to hell with the rules.

I wish that in the final little confrontation between Bats/Two-Face/Gordon, that Gordon had been standing up. He was part of their "Clean up Gotham" Trinity, but while Dent and Batman are standing, Gordon's flat on his butt. I had no issue with his being out of sorts, with Harvey pointing a gun at his son it's perfectly understandable, but he could be distraught while standing, right? It made me feel as though he wasn't being presented as an equal part of all this. I suppose that could be because he's the one who hasn't had his life wrecked by tragedy, and had the opportunity to work through it, or be ruined by it, but it felt wrong somehow. Of course, shortly thereafter, we have a moment where Gordon is the one standing, and the other two are flat on there backs, which perhaps symbolizes that nobody wins when damaged people fight, or brings home the point that Gordon hasn't lost his family, and hasn't suffered the same fate as those two.

While we're discussing Gary Oldman's character, Ken swears he heard a British accent coming through at times. I didn't, but can anyone else comment?

With the Joker, it's the little things*** I enjoy. The hop in his step as he advances towards Rachael. How calmly he sat in the shadows while talking to Gordon, and the part when he held up his cuffed wrists to demonstrate how he was there the whole time, he couldn't have taken Rachel or Harvey. His clapping when Gordon's announced as Commish. The short bursts of machine gun fire as Batman bears down on him on his Bat-cycle thing (just trying to keep Bats interested?) And during that first meeting with the assembled mob heads, as he leaves he still has that pull string attached to the grenades around his thumb, and he gives it a little wiggle. It was so casual, just a reminder he could blow them all up, and himself too, but he doesn't really care about that, it showed someone completely unconcerned with these angry, supposedly dangerous men he'd been mocking.

However, I still like Jack Nicholson's Joker laugh better (and I like Mark Hamill's animated Joker laugh better than either of them, for the record). With Ledger, I didn't feel like he actually felt like laughing at whatever he was laughing about. It felt like Christian Bale's gruff Batman voice: a put on, part of the act. Wear a purple suit, put on clown makeup, carry knives, laugh maniacally. Again, that was perhaps part of the point, that it was as much a part of his act as the scary voice is part of Batman's, but I simply didn't feel he really found things funny, and I would prefer to think he actually laughs because he finds X, Y, Z hilarious.

An aside on the Bat-Voice. I would prefer they limit it's use to brief, interrogative statements (such as, 'Where is he?!'), because when he went on the extended speeches there at the end about the importance of covering up Harvey's fall, the voice irritated the hell out of me. I think I understand the point, to be more intimidating, and to disguise Bruce Wayne's voice, but lots of talking just doesn't work well for it.

Other issue with the Joker, relates to a personal beef of mine with a certain type of character that occurs in movies, usually those slasher flicks where stupid teens are pursued by serial killers. It's the Omniscient Foe, the one who has accounted for every move you make. No matter how common sense, idiotic, or clever your idea may be, the Omniscient Foe knew you were going to do that, and accounted for it. Hell, the O.F. probably has been leading you to make that decision the entire time! I hate that character, and there were times that the Joker seemed to be in that mold. No matter what happens, he'd planned for it. It irritates me. He may ask Harvey whether he looks like a guy with plan, and I suppose the point is that he doesn't, but he certainly seemed to have one that was incredibly though out, and had taken into account what everyone was going to do. I guess the Joker subscribes to Psychohistory Monthly. For someone who is an 'agent of chaos', I'd expect him to play it by ear more. Perhaps it's meant to demonstrate that someone who believes there are no rules, and that there is no larger plan, can easily anticipate people who have rules, and believe there are plans.

I like the scene where Harvey interrogates the Joker's henchman. I think it shows Harvey's edge, the line that Two-Face walks along, where you do evil things in the service of good, and vice versa. Also the scene where he screams and they had no sound. Really got to me.

I like Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne. The quiet earnest one that Rachel sees, that still cares for her, and would love to stop doing the Caped Crusader bit, and the over-the-top billionaire, with his ballerina wooing antics. Question: during the board meeting, do you think Bruce was actually asleep - due to exhaustion from the night's work - or was he pretending to keep up the "goofy, oblivious rich guy" angle? My favorite part is still when the Joker crashes the party and Bruce has to deal with a lone thug. He wastes no movement, even in dismantling the shotgun, and just keeps right on going. I wonder if that was Batman showing through, or if that was Bruce before he met Ra's in Batman Begins. There certainly was no theatricality or deception present there, but there's probably not enough anger.

Final order of business: From a purely entertainment point of view, I liked Iron Man better. Probably because it didn't seem as dark, and there were moments I laughed at. I've read some reviews where people commented that the Joker made them laugh, even if it was in a sense of something being so odd, there's nothing else you can do, but I can't recall laughing during the movie. Except maybe at that Lucius Fox' description of Mr. Reese's brilliant plan upon deciding Bruce Wayne was Batman. I think I chuckled at that. And the scene where Harvey really treats his witness as hostile. I think I would have more fun trying to critically analyze The Dark Knight, though. And yes, I can have fun critically analyzing a film. You are all welcome to pity me.

* Continuing our tradition of watching all the Bat-flicks in the theater. Though Batman & Robin just about killed that.

** As I understand the "multiple origins", and what he was trying with Jim Gordon from online discussions I've read. No, I've never read The Killing Joke myself. I know, bad Calvin.

*** Which is often true for me. I was OK with Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face because of a few little bits of flair he demonstrated during the movie. His casual readjusting of his glove as the wrecking ball crashes through, the little "huh", when Nicole Kidman decks one of his goons. I don't know if they were accurate for Two-Face, but I liked them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I Bought 7/23/08

Nothing like a small week to help ease back into the groove.

Immortal Iron Fist #17 - I would have preferred that Aja variant that's a take off of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly DVD cover, but it's not any big deal. New creative team! What'd they do? How'd they do?

Danny is concerned about this "Only 1 Iron Fist lived past 33" deal, what with him having just turned 33 and all. Also, there are some bookkeeping irregularities with his holdings (never a good sign), and he's uncertain what he and Misty Knight have right now. At the end of the issue, he's attacked by the cause of the deaths of those Iron Fists, and things don't look particularly good for Mr. Rand.

When I was first reading the issue, something felt similar about it. On the way home, it came to me. This is like JMS' first arc on Amazing Spider-Man, only with a thus-far unnamed servant of Ch'i-Lin, instead of Morlun. It's not exactly the same, since this fellow and Morlun have different purposes, but it is a story about our hero confronting a being designed to treat him as prey. Which is fine. It seems to provide a solution to the question of how Shou-Lao can be undying, and keep popping up to be killed by the next Iron Fist. And it continues a theme of Danny having to clean up after Orson Randall, since he might have been better trained, and certainly aware sooner about what was coming if Orson didn't abscond with that book about the Iron Fists decades ago. I'll be curious to see how the advantages Danny has help him overcome his deficiencies.

As to the art, Travel Foreman's work worries me less than it did when I saw preview pages of it months ago. It's still rough, and at times I think he might be overusing shadows to obscure faces, but he does a nice job of giving people different facial structure, and his fight scenes are pretty well laid out. They feel well paced, and he's not overly reliant on double pages spreads, he works well sequentially, so that's good with me. Russ Heath draws a flashback to 1878, and I like it more than I did his section of the Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death one-shot. I think part of it is the inking, which makes the figures stand out from the backgrounds more, but a lot of it is the colors. The colors on the earlier work were too light, too bright maybe, and I couldn't figure why they would be. Here the colors are more subdued, more realistic (in the sense everything in a craphole West Texas town looks kind of dusty), and it's more appealing to me.

So, not a bad first issue. I'm glad Swierczynski is starting with a 4-part story, rather than a 6-parter, since it encourages hitting the ground running, and I think this was at least a jogging start. So I won't be giving up on the title for at least another few months yet. How where your books?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And I Stagger Back Onto The Blogging Field

Hey, everybody! I'm back! I would talk about Dark Knight, since I'm sure you're relying on my thoughts on it to fill that void in your life that children, meth, professional success, fight clubs, and pets haven't been able to fill, but I'm not up to it tonight, so you'll have to wait. Say, Thursday. In the meantime, we can talk about a book, and two movies from the 1960s. Won't that just be ever so fun?

Fine. I'll talk about them to myself then.

Never Go Back - Written by Robert Goddard. We find our main character, whose name escapes me (Barnett?) back in England taking care of his recently deceased mother's personal effects. It works out that some fellows he spent three months of his time in the RAF with have come looking for him, because they're having an impromptu 50th anniversary get-together at the decrepit castle they were stationed at. With some misgivings our hero goes, and things promptly go to hell, as people start dropping dead, and fingers start getting pointed at him, and oh my, perhaps the military study they were part of wasn't what they recall?

I'm frequently surprised by how people in these types of stories, who are usually people who have not lead exciting or active lifestyles for many years, if not decades, always decide to get proactive about solving the mystery. It's admirable, if a little odd. My father described Goddard as being slightly off-center in his style, and there is a moment there where Barnett makes a choice that's fairly untypical for these types of stories, and is probably a show of good common sense for once. There was a moment where he does what appears to be a startling reveal, and if he had stuck with it, that could have been interesting, since it would have really changed how we view to two primary characters. Instead, Goddard quickly dismisses it, and goes to great lengths within the next 30 pages or so to assure us it was only a chapter-ending cliffhanger. That didn't make a lot of sense to me, because I can't see a person who's actually enjoying the book stopping there, rather than continuing on to the next page, where it is immediately dismissed. I also didn't feel terribly concerned about the characters' plight, so there might have needed to be more time spent fleshing them out. Or have fewer characters. One of the two.

Never So Few - Needed more Steve McQueen, less Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's a captain leading some OSS operatives in Burma, responsible for training Kachin natives to fight the Japanese. Sinatra gradually wears down under the strain of the war, and performs various questionable actions on the battlefield. Also, he's kind of a jerk. I think we're meant to identify with the difficulty of his mission, and the struggle it is, but he spends more time verbally abusing his soldiers than he does his superior officers, which is usually an efficient shorthand method for demonstrating that a field officer is operating under unreasonable expectations placed upon him by commanders who don't get it because they aren't out there. It'd probably work better if they didn't waste time on the subplot of Sinatra wooing a lady (Gina Lollobrigida) away from her rich, older consort/sugar daddy/whatever. I didn't perceive much chemistry between them, and for a woman who supposedly enjoyed the finer things in life, and found Sinatra's notions of love naive, she sure fell for him fast. The best part was watching McQueen serve as a driver during Sinatra's visit to the rear echelon, and his run-in with the MPs. Beating up police and dumping them somewhere undisclosed, good times.

Hallelujah Trail - This is one of those movies I would compare to It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, where it's never serious, constantly played for laughs, and everyone is basically an idiot. A bunch of concerned citizens of Denver order a huge shipment of liquor, because they're worried that the winter will be harsh and they won't have any booze. A nearby military fort is simultaneously holding a big to-do on temperance, led by a Ms. Massengill. Shortly after the camp commander sends some of his troops to escort the wagon, she vows to go to Denver to speak out against the evils of liquor (and how they have to save men from themselves, freaking spare me), and coerces this imbecile of a colonel into leading an escort for her group. And the Native Americans decide they want the booze. And the citizens of Denver form a militia to go and make sure the booze is OK, lead by Oracle, played by Donald Pleasence (who was Colin Blythe in The Great Escape, and plays a role here about 180 degrees from that one). Eventually there's a massive gun battle in a sandstorm, which is amusingly chaotic. Then there are still more troubles, especially when the Irish wagon drivers start threatening to strike, and the temperance bunch support them, and the Indians want their "present", and so on, and so on.

When things are happening, by which I mean shooting, or people riding around on horses, it can be pretty funny. And most of the rest of the time, it's watchable. But I got incredibly sick and tired of Ms. Cora Massengill and that doofus of a colonel, who was completely buffaloed by her, constantly out maneuvered, constantly outwitted. It just got sad after a (very short) while. It's like watching two of my dad's dogs. Hooch really likes Maggie, and so Maggie constantly bosses him around, runs him out of the room when she comes enters, tries to run him off if he's getting attention from my dad, and he just takes it. It's disgusting. Where was I? I think, other than Oracle, Walks Stooped Over (Martin landau) is the only character with half a brain. For some reason, the fort's band keeps showing up to play whenever Massengill leads her group into song, even when they're out in the wilderness. I have no idea what that was about. Maybe the movie's like a Silver Age DC comic, and logic has no place there. That's the best explanation I could come up with. Everything ends more or less happily, except maybe for the Native Americans, though I guess they got some of what they wanted.

I wouldn't recommend any of the entertainments discussed here tonight, so consider this a warning. Unless they sounds like your bag, then go ahead, knock yourself out. It's no skin off my nose.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'll Buy "Secret Passages" For 5000 Pesatas, Alex

Earlier this week, I managed to get through the "Assignment Ada" mission on Resident Evil 4, something I hadn't accomplished in prior three or four attempts. I'm not entirely sure what went right this time. I guess I took my time and tried not to waste too many shots*. Krauser was a real pain, even using that little trick I saw on G4 years ago. Anyway, I beat it, unlocked the "Chicago Typewriter"**, and I've been reaping the benefits of that bad boy on numerous occasions, usually boss battles, but sometimes when the overwhelming number of enemies tries my sense of patience and fair play***.

What I'm thinking about today, though, is the Merchant. If you've played the game, you know who I mean. Obscures half of his face behind a cloth, has a big coat - which he is only too happy too fling open and show you what's underneath - usually has two lamps with blue flames to mark his sales location. And no matter where you go in the game, you'll come across him eventually. That's what I'm wondering about. How does he get ahead of you? How is it that you can fight enemies in the location just before you reach him, and in the location just beyond one of his shops, but the infected never seem to hassle him?

As to the first, I can only assume he's from the region (though his accent seems more British Isles than Iberian peninsula, which is where I think the game takes place), or familiar enough that he knows all sorts of shortcuts and passages through the area. Those do exist, one of the letters you find in the game mentions that Sera (a fellow you meet early on who tries to help you) must be evading their patrols using passages he learned from his grandfather. So the same is likely true for our capitalistic friend.

Still, to set up shop must take some time, so we return again to the question of how he escapes attack. I would almost say he doesn't escape attack, that he instead relies on his wares to defend himself, but that would probably cause Saddler and his minions to take a more active interest in finding and eliminating Merchant. He could have been infected, but possess some natural immunity to the parasites. Saddler would think he was just another brainless sycophant, and the Merchant is probably clever enough to play that role if necessary, but the rest of the time, he can be himself, and do and go where he pleases without issue. After all, the peasants were going about the lives, farming and feeding chickens until Leon Kennedy entered the village. Of course, that might lead Saddler to try and exert control over the Merchant to have him set up shop, then attack Leon when he comes by.

Another possibility is Merch is playing both sides. While most of your enemies (the human ones anyway) rely on farm implements as weapons, there are a few using something a bit more advanced than a scythe. Dynamite is common, crossbows become a regular feature by Chapter 2, stun batons, body armor, the occasional mini-gun user. Saddler could be getting that equipment through the U.S. government, via Krauser****, or he could be getting it from Mr. "What're Ya Buyin'?". That might explain why your enemies use different weapons from you, as he sells different merchandise to keep his double-dealing (war profiteering?) below the radar. That's the one I like the best.

If you've got an idea, throw it out there. As for me, I've been abruptly called away for a few days. Should be back by Tuesday at the latest. This is the part where we have the usual blahdeblah about sporadic posting until then. Toodles.

* Though there was quite a bit of that when I tried to escape the lab with the 5th Plaga sample, only to be confronted by two of those armored giants, both sporting large axes. Probably should have just tried running past them from the start, rather than wasting so many bullets.

** An Thompson sub-machine gun with infinite ammo, and pretty impressive killing power.

*** Playing through the game with the Tommy Gun for the first time, I find I've turned to it more often now that I found Ashley and have to protect her. I suppose I just don't feel I can't risk letting them get in range and bash her with a mace, or grab her and retreat.

**** Or perhaps Umbrella. I think Krauser might have been working for them, playing at being Saddler's ally, while really still being loyal to the USA. I'll remember once I make it that far in the game again.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I Bought 7/16/08

I don't know how people who write for a living do it. It was surprisingly tiring typing up those stories, I mean, typing up those completely true accounts the last three days. Time to get back to nice, short review posts. Bugger, 4 comics this week? Not as short as I'd hoped. I read through X-Factor and decided to pass it by. There were certain things that interested me, but I don't think those will be the primary points of interest the next few months, and Stroman's art made me miss Pablo Raimondi. It wasn't terrible, though the faces were odd at times, but too rough-looking for my tastes, like these were initial sketches that would be tightened up later. That's enough talking about what I didn't buy, so let's discuss what I did purchase.

Batgirl #1 - Yep that's certainly Batgirl on the cover. Awful lot of stars there in the background, for being in a major city and all. The cover doesn't mention this is a mini-series, while the DC website does. Curious.

Basically, Cass is looking for her father and Deathstroke. She's renewed her vow to never kill, except she plans to break it when it comes to those two. So her vow means about as much as my swearing I'm going to lay off the salted snack treats. Swell. She gets a name from a gun-runner, puts it through the old Bat-Computer, gets hassled by Nightwing, defended by Bats and Robin, who explain everything that's happened since the end of her series until she joined the Outsiders, she starts tracking down the addresses the computer gave her, finds something pretty grisly at one of them, and end of issue.

I wonder at Beechen's strategy here. There's a lot of talking, about 4 pages that are nothing but characters discussing what happened to her, when she was drugged, what she did under their influence, the whys and hows. It might have been better to parcel that out a little each issue, or maybe Beechen just wants to get the past out of the way as quickly as possible and move forward. That might be the best plan, or it might not. The thing is, even though Cass can speak fairly well now (and Beechen explains how), she's still not the talkative type. So we get pages of Alfred opining to Bruce about her on the phone, and later Nightwing, Robin, and Batman discuss her situation in great detail - while she's standing right there. It makes her a bystander in her own story. I imagine it's an important point that she doesn't defend herself from Nightwing's accusations. For that matter, I'm surprised it's Grayson, not Tim, that's hostile towards her. Tim had many more run-ins with "crazy, Punisher-style" Cass, so I'd think he'd be more soured on her. I think I'm remembering that issue where Cass mentioned Dick told her the story of Cinderella and did the voices for it, from which I inferred a friendship (maybe big brother/little sister) between the two.

Calafiore's artwork is what I remember from Exiles. It's sharp edges and solid, not too flashy, but it conveys movement pretty well, and boy they really seem to like shadows. Lots of faces hidden in darkness, or costumes blending with them. It's not a bad idea, for a story involving the the Batclan. I wasn't really drawn in by this issue, but I'll give it at least one more issue.

Batman & the Outsiders #9 - Batman looks a bit old and dumpy on the cover there.

Metamorpho's under arrest in France for stuff, some of which he didn't do. He escapes, meets some teammates, but is stuck with clothes that Ollie picked out for him. Cue amusing sight gag. It made me laugh. I think this book has something that manages that every month, which is always a plus. Meanwhile, Batman and his tech staff have figured out why the giant gun was firing at the moon. It's a little 2011 (or was it 2051?), a little of that Batman Beyond episode with the future Justice League and the Starros. Only no Starros here, something else. Batman wants to know what's happening, and has his trio in France pick up one of the astronauts, and brings her to Looker. I must say I'm surprised she's still a vampire. That happened back even before Zero Hour. I guess no one likes the character enough to undo it.

So it appears we're finally getting around to the point of the OMACs, REMACs, space shuttles, and everything else. Of course, with Batman RIP tie-ins around the corner, and Dixon not coming back after they're done, I wonder if they'll finish this or not. I hope so. Be a shame to get this far along and just go gallivanting off in another direction. I adore Marta Martinez' colors on this book, so vibrant. It's actually a little odd, since you wouldn't expect a Batman book to necessarily be bright, but they can bring the shadows when needed, and make those look real pretty too. And Lopez can still do some nice facial expressions, especially with Metamorpho, though the faces look too stretched out at times, the eyes too small at others. Also, the part with Looker got a bit too cheesecake. Too much swooning, and what the heck was with that outfit? Also, might have been better served not showing us the monster on the last page, or not so much of it. Just give hints, let our minds do the rest. So a little good, a little bad.

Moon Knight #20 - First, I like the perspective on that cover. Second, look over there by the spine of the book, at the poster on the wall. Is that Lupin? If so, I wonder why? Also, this book cost a dollar extra, but there were two other comics included, so it seemed like a pretty good value to me.

I figured this was a done in one, and all those previews Marvel kept putting in other comics made me really want to buy this for the art. I liked Deodato on the Tigra mini-series he drew a few years ago, and I think I liked his work on Amazing Spider-Man, just not the stories he was drawing (The Other, Sins Past). So here we are. As I understand it, Marc Spector is currently a fugitive from the Initiative, 'cause he did the hero thing after Tony suspended him. He's hiding in the sewers, and flashes back to '94, when he got called in on a series of murders that left him in a rematch against the first opponent of his costumed career.

Benson makes Moon Knight kind of interesting in his perspective on things. At one point he decides the only way to fight an animal is to fight like an animal, but he says he won't do that. Yet some of things he does seem to suggest he might (releasing others like his foe on their jailers). I suppose the difference is in whether its planned or instinct. Look, let's get to the art. I love Deodato's Moon Knight. For a guy dressed all in white, he's impressively brooding and dark. With the cape, I'd like to see him on a Batman title (as long as the writer didn't use it as an excuse to write Dark, Angry, Jackass Batman). Or a Shroud story. Plus he draws a great {insert name of foe here}. There was a show I watched frequently that had one of those in it, and this is how I wished it had been portrayed. This being vague stinks.

One other thing I enjoyed was a comment by Marlene as to whether that was Bruce Willis they were seeing. I couldn't pick out who she was pointing at, but I wonder if that was a joke, given Deodato has been known to use actors as models for his characters (witness Tommy Lee Jones as Norman Osborn). I think I saw John Malkovich in the cab in this issue. Maybe. Not a complaint, just a comment. You know. I might stick with Moon Knight after this month. The pull list has been getting a bit small lately.

The Punisher #59 - Those black outlines (the soldiers against the city, the shell casings against the white) are pretty nice. Bradstreet can do some pretty good stuff when he doesn't just draw Frank holding a gun, looking menacing. I'm, he's still sort of doing that here, but there's other stuff too.

The Delta Colonel views the videotape Frank made of Rawlins spilling his guts back in the Black is White, Up is Down arc. He sends his guys (and the little twerp the generals tagged them with) on their way, while he prepares. . . something. There are a couple of excerpts from that book as well, detailing a solider who served in Vietnam who was clearly hurt by the time spent there. I'm still not sure what each of these is meant to convey. Are they commentary on Vietnam (our 'Nam, as opposed to comic book Vietnam), on the Punisher, both, neither? I know I keep coming back to that point each month (for at least the last 3 or 4 issues), but it's got to be important, doesn't it? I think I've actually drawn the connection between this month's passage and the Colonel, but it bears further investigation. I think that'll be my big blog project after #60 comes out, trying to piece this together.

There's not much else to the issue. The generals seem to realize they have perhaps selected the wrong man to take care of Castle for them, and are, I believe, about to make a huge mistake. Gentlemen, the humiliation you might face in a trial would be bad, but I'm pretty sure getting shot is worse. Just some friendly advice. So it's a lot of set-up, and very little else, but I figure next month will have quite a large bang. Might drunken, pissed off Nick Fury make an appearance?

So, what kind of a comic week was it for you?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Gripping Finale!

[Last time, Adorable Baby Panda survived the myriad dangers of UnCalvin's Fortress in the Sky, with a little help from Ronin (aka Classic Hawkeye) and Deadpool. UnCalvin has had enough though, and has summoned a creature to destroy them all.]

Deadpool: She knows magic?!

ABP: Well, Calvin doesn't know magic, so yeah, I guess she could.

Ronin: Don't look now, but the raccoons are leaving.

Raccoon Bobby #3: Sure you blokes have this well in hand, so we'll just be scarpering off now. Cheers mates.

UnCalvin: And they'll be the last to escape my wrath this day! You are all doomed!

{At that moment, Kat Il Mark Tah arrives. All things considered, it's a less than impressive entrance. There's no smell of brimstone or death, no great KRAKADOOM! or screams of tortured innocents, no brutal tear in the fabric of reality or red skies. A hole appears, a large chunk of ice falls through, and the hole closes again. The block of ice does land with an impressive THOOM!}

Ronin: Looks as though your demon spent a little too long in the freezer, honey. Tough break.

{UnCalvin offers only a thin smile in response. The cracking of the ice, and the low snarls from within the ice speak volumes. The ice shatters. Deadpool and Ronin shield ABP as Kat Il Mark Tah is loose. UnCalvin nimbly leaps from the dais to the ground.}

UnCalvin: Gentleman, I know it would be wise to stay and make certain our large friend here kills you, but I believe my time is better spent salvaging what I can of my home. Good day.

{With that, UnCalvin departs through an archway. Our heroes move to follow but the. . . creature blocking their path chooses that moment to belch a green orb at them. The three of them instead leap backwards, and where the substance lands, it begins to eat through the floor.}

Deadpool: Acid loogy? Cool! So what do we do now? I vote for lots of shooting and stabbing!

Ronin: Unless you've got an enchanted weapon, I doubt that's going to work on a demon. It is a demon, right?

{He looks at ABP.}

ABP: How would I know? {Stumbles backwards away from the monster's sweeping arm.} They don't teach us monsters from other worlds until we're teenagers! By the way, shouldn't this place be falling? Wade, did you forget to plant explosives around whatever keeps this place up?

Deadpool: {Fires repeatedly at what looks like the creatures head, with little effect. The rounds fail to penetrate.} You mean the repulsorlift thing? No, I planted the bombs, but I put a remote detonator on them, instead of a timer, so they wouldn't blow up until we're ready to go. Once those drives go, this thing will fall faster than Alex Rodriguez' stock with Yankees' fans after a strikeout. Why? You want me to push the button now?

ABP: Maybe. I don't know how we can stop this thing.

Ronin: Hey, let us worry about stopping this thing! You go find UnCalvin and make sure she doesn't get away to start this all over. Plus, maybe you can make her get rid of this thing. {Ronin fires a smoke arrow, blinding Kat Il Mark Tah.} Go!

{ABP gets low, and sprints past the beast, determined to make UnCalvin undo her handiwork before its too late.}

Deadpool: So, Mr. Loud-Mouth Ninja, how do we handle this? I've still got the detonator, we can make this place light up real pretty. I'm running out of bullets and grenades!

Ronin: Did you set the explosives all in one section of the drives, or through the whole thing?

Deadpool: All over the place! We're talking total shutdown, like Cable in the morning without a scone! Like I said, this thing'll drop like a rock!

Ronin: We don't know what it's dropping on though! If you just take out part of the engine, it'll gradually lose altitude!

Deadpool: The panda wanted total destruction, that's what I set them up for! {Now in the grasp of the beast, slicing away with both swords furiously.}

Ronin: Well, if we concentrate all the explosives in one section, then the descent will be slower, and maybe it'll be enough to destroy this thing if we get it in the same place! {Ronin launches a sonic arrow, which distracts Kat Il enough to free Deadpool. it responds by lashing out at Ronin, who dodges the attack, but not the shockwave, which sends him hurtling across the Amphitheater.}

Deadpool: Great! I love this plan, I'm excited about it! You go move the bombs around, I'll stay and lure this sweetie down there!


UnCalvin: Captain, it appears we are lost. Give the order to abandon the ship, make certain the animal's and their habitats are dropped safely, and on trajectories leading to appropriate climes. And enter the code to send everyone's positive recommendation letters for future employment.

Captain Androzier: But Commandant, we know where their explosives are, we can save the engines. And the other two have abandoned that chattering fool to face your demon alone! We can still salvage this operation!

UnCalvin: I appreciate your support Jess, but they haven't abandoned him, they've simply put some plan into action. What forces we have that are still conscious would have to fight the ninja for the bombs, and I'm certain the panda will be here any moment. No, I think it's time for me to try something else. Please see to the welfare of the employees, especially those who've been in combat today. I'll make a stand here.

Captain Androzier: *nods* As you wish, Commandant. Good luck. {Nods to the others on the command deck, who follow out into the bowels of the ship, to prepare for their escape.}

UnCalvin: {Settles into a chair, and turns to face the way she entered from.} It's just us now. My employees respect me enough not to defy my wishes and try to interfere. How would you have us settle this?

ABP: You can start by making that monster stop attacking Deadpool!

UnCalvin: I would, but you see, I've only recently started studying sorcery, so I only know how to summon things, not how to control them once they are here. Why do you think I left so soon after it arrived?

ABP: You just won't help!

UnCalvin: Well, I'm Calvin's opposite! Hasn't that sunk in yet!? He would help, so I can't! Gods, it isn't that difficult of a concept!

ABP: So that's your excuse? It's not your fault, it's Calvin's for being willing to help?

{UnCalvin's face is hidden in darkness, darkness cast by the monitors behind her. On those monitors, Deadpool continues his stalling action against the demon. On the positive side, his healing factor has enabled him to bounce back from every bit of the considerable punishment he's received. On the negative side, nothing he's tried to hurt the creature has worked. It periodically loses interest in him, as he loses consciousness or limbs. But Wade is the stubborn sort, and keeps regaining its attention, and keeping it away from the fleeing employees that draw its occasional notice. A few grenades here, and collapsing section of castle there, and the Kat Il Mark Tah once again attacks this speck that harasses it.}

UnCalvin: *sighs* I frequently wish my life wasn't defined by what Calvin's isn't. I suppose this may be an opportunity to do something about that. I wonder if a change in me can cause a change in him? So let's draw that creature down to the engine room, shall we?

{UnCalvin draws a very large gun from yet another pocket on her outfit, and she and ABP descend back into the lower levels. Meanwhile, Deadpool looks like a mouse that's been the plaything of a house cat. Physically, he's fine, though his costume and weapons have seen better days. They really weren't designed to withstand acid, or several hundred pounds of flesh moving at over a hundred miles an hour. Mentally, he feels more confused than usual, possibly the result of his last attack. He tried to leap into the monster's mouth, reckoning it might not be as tough on the inside, except it anticipated the move and caught him. For better or worse, Wade was still close enough to the interior of the behemoth's mouth with his sword, and it did hurt his foe. Which is how he got rammed headfirst into a wall fifteen times. The last few times, Wade could swear the creature was laughing, though one of them sounded like FWOOM!. It's not laughing now, and it might be the concussion, but it doesn't seem to have a head either.}

ABP: Wow, that's a nice gun! Why didn't you use that earlier?

UnCalvin: It wouldn't have been sporting. If you played more video games with him, you'd remember Calvin's the one who likes to backshoot. I did consider it when Deadpool brought out that huge gun that fired vermin. If it had been a missile launcher, I probably would have used it then.

ABP: What's happening to the creature?

UnCalvin: Oh, it can't regenerate, but it can move move it organs to different locations on its body. I think it's brain and face have taken up residence on it's torso. I believe we have its attention, so perhaps we should get moving.

{They start to run for the engine room. Kat Il Mark Tah, quite displeased with the loss of its cranium, beings a lumbering pursuit.}

Deadpool: Alright, Round 19. You're ahead on points, so I'm gonna have to knock you out, just like Blind Al told me to. Don't worry about me ladies, it's under cont - where did everyone go?

ABP: Nyah, nyah, can't catch us, you stupid, ugly monster!

{ABP sticks out its tongue. Kat Il Mark Tah appears unfazed, and continues as before.}

UnCalvin: What on earth are you doing?

ABP: I thought maybe if I taunted it, it'd be sure to keep following us.

{Abruptly, both of them leap to opposite sides of the hall to dodge an acid ball.}

UnCalvin: I think physical damage is what it responds to, so let's save the verbal assault for a last resort, eh? Why did I have to summon something that spits acid? Why not a nice fire-breathing dragon, or maybe a slug that shoots lightning from its antennae? And one other thing, how did you get your friends up here without my sensor detecting their approach?

ABP: *still dodging acid spitballs* Oh that. I had a little transmitter hidden in my fur. When I made it up it, I used it to signal it was time to start. Remember how Wade said he went old school? Well, that included a teleporter he had back in the old days, so that's how they got up here. {Editor's note - As described in X-Force #2 (Volume 1), for example! - Crazily Cheery Calvin.}

UnCalvin: I had thought perhaps they used one of the sky cycles Hawkeye used to favor.

ABP: He said Tony Stark collected all those after he died. Deadpool really wants one now, though. {Enters the engine room.} Is this it?

UnCalvin: Quite. Now where is Ronin? I hope he didn't leave the job undone.

{Ronin drops from the piping along the ceiling, which was once again shrouded in shadows.}

Ronin: Lady, I never leave anything undone. The explosives are ready over here by these two engines, and here's our bright and beautiful boy. Come on in, hideous, got something real nice for you here. Let's fall back to the engine, then circle around behind the monster to the entrance, then we'll blow the explosives. {They run behind one of the engines.} Where's the detonator? {ABP and UnCalvin exchange a look.} Don't either of you have it?

ABP: We forgot to ask Wade for it. We were kind of busy running.

{The three of them keep the engine between them and this otherworldly abomination until they can escape back to the entrance.}

Ronin: Great. I was hoping we could all be well away when they blew, but it looks like someone's going to have to stay here and set them off from a little closer. With say, an arrow. You know, I wasn't looking forward to getting blown up again.

Deadpool: Or you could wait five damn seconds for the guy with the detonator to catch up. You ninjas are so impatient. No wonder it's so easy to beat you guys up. Now get away from the entrance before it sees you!

{At the sound of Deadpool's voice, the creature turns, and begins to move towards them, unintelligible sounds emanating from the vocal cords that are now somewhere near its digestive tract. But it's too late. It's prey are faster, and once they move away, then engines nearest Kat Il Mark Tah vanish in a hellstorm of fire and shrapnel. This being from another world, trapped for untold ages in ice, has briefly been free, for reasons it did not comprehend or concern itself with. Now it will never have the opportunity to care. Once it was trapped in ice; now it's consumed by fire.} {Editor's note - Good grief, is that overwrought. Sorry. - Constantly Self-Chastened Calvin.}

Deadpool: Well, that was pretty. So, time to blow this Pop Rocks stand? I guess you're small enough to catch a ride with me and Generic Ninja Character #2473, but what about our foxy felon here? I could come back for you.

UnCalvin: Thank you, but no. I have my own means of departure, and I believe it's best I leave it at that. However {She flips a business card to Deadpool} I have a contact number on there. If you move quickly, you could get in touch with me before I disconnect it. Take that to mean whatever you like. Oh, and rest assured, if I rebuild my stronghold, there are not going to be anymore pipes in shadows along the ceiling to hide on.

{And with that, UnCalvin turns and races down the hallway. Deadpool is adamant they leave right now, because he needs to get to a phone. So they teleport back to Calvin's apartment. Wade and Clint leave almost immediately, saying that cleaning up messes is not part of what they agreed to do. Which left ABP with the task of repairing the damage done. But ABP is tired, and said "Nuts to that!", and went home to get some sleep. The castle fell slowly to earth, ultimately crashing near the northern edge of the Great Barrier Reef. There was some concern of contamination, but the ship was found to have no hazardous materials, and it's believed it could form the basis for a new extension of the reef, so everything worked out pretty well. Though sad at their Commandant's disappearance, all the employees of the castle got fine new jobs, thanks to the glowing recommendation letters. A few of them did complain of raccoons in the escape pods, but the raccoons were fairly well-behaved so it was no big deal. The penguins on the other hand, were quite a handful. So really, the only person that came off a loser in this was Calvin, since his stuff got chopped in half.}

Calvin: Story of my life, right there. OK, I guess that explains all of that, except for why you never got back around to fixing my stuff.

ABP: I was tired after all the running, fighting, climbing and stuff.

Calvin: Well, you're going to help me fix all of it, starting this Friday, understand?

ABP: Yeah.

Calvin: Great. Now get home, and leave me with my shattered possessions. Oh, and one more thing: Thanks.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Believe This Is The Point Where Things Get Weird

[Last time, Adorable Baby Panda stopped UnCalvinPitt from sabotaging CalvinPitt's blog in his absence. ABP then pursued UnCalvin up to her flying castle, where UnCalvin nearly flung the little warrior out, only to be thwarted by a kind-hearted, foolish employee of hers. For that, the lackey was fired, and wound up being the one launched from the castle. Now it's just ABP and UnCalvin again.]

UnCalvin: Now, where were we? Oh yes, I was preparing to destroy you.

{UnCalvin considers setting the castle spinning again, but somehow the moment for taking advantage of any disorientation ABP might be suffering seems to have passed. Might as well try another approach.}

Captain Androzier (aka Captain of the Lackeys): Sergeant, I worry about our Master being down there alone with that monster. Take six of your soldiers and capture the furry beast.

Sergeant Johanssen: You doubt our Master's capabilities?

Captain Androzier: Hardly. Yet it is still our duty to protect the Master. Just in case. Now get moving!

Sergeant Johanssen: Aye, aye!

{Johanssen leaves the command deck, barking at soldiers to meet him outside Sector 17-R. Two sets of eyes watch Johanssen from the shadows of various piping in the ceiling.}

1st Shadowy Figure: Sounds like the little furball's about to get swarmed like a honey-covered fat kid in an ant hill. Should we go help?

2nd Shadowy Figure: First, lovely imagery there. Second, I'll provide cover for ABP. You take care of things like we planned. And do it quietly. We don't want them to know anything is going on.

1st Shadowy Figure: Oh, yes sir. I'll be quiet as a seminary girl sneaking past the nuns after making out with her boyfriend, and that's pretty quiet let me tell you. Those nuns have ears like bats, and there's no way those rulers are just made out of wood. . .

2nd Shadowy Figure: Just go.

[Back in Sector 17-R]

UnCalvin: Well, seems like one of us left their armor and sword back there at the apartment. Lucky me, I still have my sword. {UnCalvin moves into a swordsman's crouch, left hand sliding towards her sword.}

ABP: Wait! {UnCalvin pauses.} How do you get the boxing glove inside the gun barrel?

UnCalvin: {UnCalvin straightens up, lets her left hand fall relaxed at her side. She and ABP begin to move in a slow circle, until UnCalvin pauses. ABP is now standing with its back to the exterior access.} Oh, that. The glove is tightly compressed inside a small canister that splits open from the front to the back as the projectile leaves the barrel. That took some work, let me assure you, but it was worth it. It really scares negligent employees at first glance, but more important, it shows I've got a sense of humor, which keeps things from getting too tense. Can't have everyone so wrapped up in ceremony and fear they can't function independently. They have to be willing to take initiative. And speaking of that. . .

{Sergeant Johanssen and the six security personnel enter the room two at a time behind UnCalvin, weapons and eyes sweeping in all directions.}

UnCalvin: Ah, Sergeant Johanssen. I assume you're here on Androzier's orders?

Johanssen: Yes Master. The Captain wished for us to provide support as necessary.

UnCalvin: How very considerate, and really, I've told you that "Master" is too over-the-top. Why not "Commandant"? It fits well with all the military ranks, don't you think? Tell you what, Johanssen. Your personnel haven't had any real opportunities to work in awhile, why don't you subdue our little friend here? I'd like to see how your training had paid off, if that's all right?

Johanssen: I appreciate the vote of confidence, Mas-, I mean Commandant. *on secure, helmet comm channel* Simmons, Heidlage, advance with your stun sticks. Start on a low setting, until we know this panda's tolerance. O'Blennises, ready the tranq guns. Commandant, how would you rate the agility of the opponent?

UnCalvin: Quite high, I'd say, based on the flip kick Michael received.

Johanssen: Good to know. Henderson, Daugherty, you get that net launcher ready if the panda starts to go Yoda on us. Alright, close combat team, advance!

{Heidlage and Simmons advance, Simmons swiftly, Heidlage more slowly. Rather than dodging Simmons' swing, ABP grabs Simmons' wrist, and using its low center of gravity, flipped Simmons head over heels. As Heidlage moves within range, ABP takes Simmons' stick, and swats Heidlage directly on the shin. Other than a few sparks, nothing happens.}

Heidlage: We aren't chumps, ya know. These suits are insulated. Nighty-night.

{Heidlage swings downward. ABP, with few options, uses the stun stick to parry Heidlage's attack, then leaps straight up, headbutting Heidlage's unprotected throat. The poor dear falls to the ground gasping, no longer an immediate concern.}

UnCalvin: *inner monologue* Note to self: Security personnel's suits require some sort of protection over the throat. Oh, here the little dervish comes again. *end inner monologue*

{As ABP leaps towards the remaining security, Henderson and Daugherty launch the net. ABP's mouth opens in surprise as there's nowhere to go to avoid it. Fortunately, an arrow with a buzzsaw chooses that moment to fly through the air and slice the net in two.}

Johanssen: Who's that up there?! *points toward more shadow-shrouded piping*

UnCalvin: Oh really now. *looks at ABP* You called in a ninja friend?

ABP: I told you to wear your good costume, Hawkeye! {Editor's note: If you'll recall, in the June 27, 2008 post, ABP mentioned that it had been hanging out with Clint Barton - Cantankerously Catty Calvin.}

2nd Shadowy Figure (aka Ronin, aka Classic Hawkeye): I told Kate she could keep the name, and the costume doesn't feel right without it. Besides, with or without the costume, I'm still Hawkeye, remember?

O'Blennis #1: So wait, are you going by Ronin, or are you still using Hawkeye? I'm confused.

{Other personnel murmur in agreement. Unnoticed, UnCalvin slips out into the castle hallways.}

Hawkin?: That's a very good question.

{Quicker than the eye can follow, Hawkeye fires two standard arrows, each one disabling a tranq gun. A blast arrow amidst the security sends them flying, until they crash into the stone walls and slump to the ground, unconscious. Hawkeye drops from the ceiling and lands gracefully next to ABP. ABP eyes him curiously.}

Roneye?: What?

ABP: Well, which name is it?

Clint Barton: If it's that important, let's just go with Ronin. Now where's the "Commandant"?

ABP: Aw, she escaped! I'm getting so tired of that. Well, I'll find her, I've got her scent. And shouldn't you be taking care of the plan?

Ronin: I left it in the hands of your other friend. *pause* That might have been a bad idea. I'll go check in. You sure you've got this under control?

ABP: No problem. How many goons can she have? {Ronin lobs a grappling hook up into the piping, and climbs back into the shadows. ABP begins pursuit.}

Captain Androzier: *speaking to all helmet receivers* All armed personnel! The Master is moving through corridor ZA-5, towards the Amphitheater. There is a small mammal in pursuit. Do no be fooled! It is agile, and a skilled fighter! Destroy it!

UnCalvin (who has a helmet under the hood, because hey, cranial protection is always a smart idea): *into wrist communicator* Belay that destroy order! I want you to drive the infiltrator into corridors RS-3, then WT-8, and finally AZ-5!

Captain Androzier: But Master, that will bring the fiend right to the Amphitheater!

UnCalvin: Yes, but it will take longer that way, which will give me time to prepare the finishing move! And keep an eye out for that ninja, and any other suspicious parties! And call me Commandant!

Captain Androzier: Yes, Commandant! Soldiers, carry out your orders!

{And so, ABP soon finds itself being shot at by many people, and they've stopped using tranquilizer darts. They've upgraded to rubber bullets, and no matter which way ABP turns, it seemed someone was there, firing away. Except, there is always one undefended direction, and ABP begins to get worried. But, rubber bullets really hurt, even if you've received training in ignoring pain, so all ABP can do is run. There are far too many to fight. Eventually, ABP reaches a large room, with a circular dais hanging from cables. Balconies ring the upper level, and arched entryways are present around the ground floor. UnCalvin rises from behind a control console on the dais, and smiles.}

UnCalvin: Greetings. How do you like our amphitheater? It's the primary place for entertainment here. We have plays, and sporting events, and there's even a sunroof for dining enjoyment. I sound as though I'm making a sales pitch, don't I? Well perhaps I am. You've been quite impressive, and I'm curious as to whether you'd like to join forces with my. . . well, I haven't really decided on a good name yet, but you could help with that too. You wouldn't be a subordinate, more a partner. Or a liaison between me and the pandas. We could do great things together.

ABP: Well, a flying castle is awfully neat, and they do seem to like working for you, but I can't. I don't think you're a good person, even if you pretend to be, and I bet you'd just use me to destroy Calvin.

UnCalvin: You won't consider the possibility that I really am trying to be good, not just pretending? I have so many plans and hopes to improve the world. Sure, I was going to conquer a few small countries to practice on. Maybe San Marino. I've heard it's a lovely little country. Or maybe Suriname, or a Pacific Island nation. Or maybe all of the above, to test our ideas under varying conditions. The point is, it's all with the best of intentions.

ABP: You can't go around taking over countries!

UnCalvin: Why not? People overthrow governments all the time, just for their own benefit. I'd actually be trying to help people. But I can see you've made up your mind. Pity. Well, at least let me show you some of the features built into the Amphitheater. We have some swimming facilities. {UnCalvin pushes a button, and ABP is abruptly isolated on a 4 x 4 section of floor surrounded by water.} Oh, and since some of my employees enjoy a little wrasslin', we're equipped for steel cage matches. With electrified cages, so there won't be any silly "win by climbing the fence". I want my workers to get their money's worth. {Another button, and fences slide down, just a foot beyond the edge of the water.} And, we have animal preserves, with some very entertaining wildlife. {UnCalvin pushes another button, and two platforms descend from the ceiling, each with a penguin on it. But not ordinary penguins. These penguins have bandannas over the tops of their heads, striped shirts with ragged sleeves, ratty, ragged pants, and daggers clutched in their beaks.}

ABP: Not. . . Pirate Penguins!!

*Interruption* Calvin: Whoa, hold on. How can penguins wear pants? They barely have any legs at all (and yes, I realize the oddness of questioning that out of the entire concept)!

ABP: Well, they weren't really wearing shirts and pants so much as striped, ragged muu-muus. But I wasn't sure that image would register with the audience, so I fudged a little.

Calvin: Ah, well then. Very good. *end interruption*

{Under ordinary circumstances, pandas and penguins rarely fight. Brief skirmishes, those usually the result of unexpected encounters at the fringes of each groups' territory. As a rule, penguins are crafty, relying on mental powers to make up for the physical shortcomings they have compared to their larger foes. But only the highest level penguins have such powers, and these two aren't among them. Fortunately, a baby panda doesn't possess the skill to make such powers necessary. The two penguins leap off their platforms into the water, and swim towards ABP's small bit of real estate, circling slowly, enjoying the moment. It's likely to be the only chance they ever have to defeat a panda, child or no. At that moment, explosions rock the castle.}

1st Shadowy Figure: Don't worry your furry little butt, I've got you covered!

UnCalvin: Deadpool?! I can't believe I'm surprised, but I am. *inner monologue* Best to stall him until the penguins finish their work. *out loud* How exactly have you avoided notice? You aren't known for stealth.

Deadpool: Well, pretty lady. I'm rocking things old school, Kelly/McGuinness style. Notice my larger than usual muscles - and you can take as long a look as you like, but it's gonna cost ya after the first minute - and *Deadpool flips a switch on a small device, and looks like a member of UnCalvin's security detail* the return of the image inducer! That's why you don't have any guards showing up about now. I was following the little squirt, chatting with your guys, sharing some smokes, and some discussion about your likes and dislikes - 'cause I'm interested in you as a person - then knocking them out, and they never saw it coming. Oh, and I destroyed your pot fields, you crazy drug fiend!

UnCalvin: Pot fields? That was where we grow our food, you blithering imbecile!

ABP: Wade, I'm still in trouble here!

{The two penguins have climbed up on the section of floor on either side of ABP, and are starting to approach, menace gleaming in their beady eyes.}

Deadpool: You have got to learn to relax, or all your fur will fall out. {Wade lifts a massive, cylindrical cannon, with four barrels.} *straining* Store didn't have my. . . Rocket Raccoon Launcher, but this is the next. . . best. . . thing! {Wade balances the gun on the railing of the balcony.} Woo, Good to have the muscles back. Raccoon Gun, fire! {Wade pulls the trigger, and four projectiles are fired. Projectiles which split open revealing four raccoons. Raccoons dressed like English police officers, complete with batons. The raccoons land lightly, two on either side of ABP, cutting off the penguins approach.}

Raccoon Bobby #1: *high, squeaky voice* Oy, what's all this then?

{A battle begins in earnest between the raccoons, with their stereotypical Cockney accents, and the penguins, who keep screaming "Shiver me timbers!". The penguins are confused enough the raccoons are winning, which normally would not be the case.}

UnCalvin: This is completely absurd! A gun that fires raccoons? Who ever heard of such a ludicrous contraption?

Deadpool: You would have, if you subscribed to Strangely Terror-Inducing Weapons for Mercs Monthly! Call this toll free number for more information today, and I get a bonus! What? The government keeps saying they'll pay me for squashing Skrulls, but I haven't seen check 1 so far! Now stay put you little parasite-carrying bundle of barf inducement, I'm gonna make an exit, like I dropped a fart in a crowded room! Which is a lot of fun, actually.

{Deadpool leaps from the balcony, and draws his sword. He cuts through the fence as he falls to the ground, and he's OK, because he's not grounded, so the current doesn't hurt. Until he lands, of course. At which point he is grounded, and he starts convulsing and smoking. Meanwhile, the penguins retreat back into the water, and one of them grabs the legs of one of the raccoons, in an attempt to drag it into their element, where they have a mobility advantage. The other raccoons grasp their brethren's tail desperately.}

Raccoon Bobby #3: You wogs let go of Samuelson, or I'll give you such a thump!

Ronin: Everybody, it's time to get out of the pool.

{Ronin fires a shock arrow into the water. In their surprise, the penguins release Samuelson, and so the penguins are the only ones that get zapped unconscious. They bob at the surface, dazed. From his position in a balcony, Ronin fires off an arrow with a line attached. It flies above the heads of ABP and the raccoons, and lands next to the no longer being shocked, but still smoking, form off Deadpool. Ronin slings the bow over the line, and slides down, ABP and the raccoons leap up and grab hold of his legs and he slides by, and all of them come to rest safely outside the cage.}

ABP: Deadpool, are you OK?

Deadpool: Great, except I think my hair is all standing on end.

ABP: Wade, I don't think you have any hair. Except in little patches here and there.

Deadpool: Hey, would you keep it down? I don't want our attractive adversary to hear that. Though maybe she wouldn't hold it against me. She could hold it against me, though. That and anything else she wanted to hold.

Ronin: I'm going to have to agree with Deadpool here. Red hair's not as nice as green, but it's still just fine.

Deadpool: Back off there. I know about how you steal other guy's girls, and it's not gonna happen this time, Daredevil!

Ronin: I'm not Daredevil.

Deadpool: Are you sure? I read on the Internet you were, and that was why Iron Fist was pretending to be Daredevil.

Ronin: Does Daredevil ever use a bow?

Deadpool: Well I suppose not, but that's even worse, since all you archers are even bigger horndogs than he is, between that loudmouth with the bad facial hair in Star City, and his sidekick that had the kid with the cat-assassin lady, and now he's sleeping with a bird girl. Then there's that Hawkeye guy. What a schmuck. How a guy who couldn't even think to take off his exploding arrows, instead of blowing himself up in a spaceship, gets so much tail I'll never know. I could do that, but the ladies just get squeamish when I regenerate. Maybe chicks dig guys with skirts. Note to self: Start wearing Marvel Girl outfit when I go dating.

ABP: Uh guys, you know UnCalvin is a shapeshifter, right? I'm not sure she's really a girl.

Deadpool: I'm cool with that. My old girl Vanessa was a shapeshifter, that opens a world of possibilities.

UnCalvin: Ahem. As truly wonderful as it is to hear you twits discuss relationships with me, I should point out we're hardly finished here. And if you've set out to destroy my home, then I suppose there's no reason not to go this far. {UnCalvin closes her eyes, raises her arms to the sky, and begins to chant.} Kat Il Mark Tah, Kat Il Mark Tah, Kat Il Mark Tah, come forth from your realm. Come forth from your ice-blasted hell of a homeland, and annihilate those who would set my plans astray!

ABP, Deadpool, Ronin, Raccoon Bobbies #1-4: Uh-oh.

To be concluded tomorrow!