Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And Now, Um. . . This!

{It is a fine fall day. Sunny, but not too hot, a faint breeze present. You, Audience Stand-In, sit relaxing on a bench under a tree. An Elderly Woman approaches. She wears a dress that, though considerably out of fashion, is still in fine condition. Her shoes are scuffed, but in the way that suggests she has broken them in just as she pleases. Her hair is kept short and hangs down in a simple fashion, further suggesting a person who concerns themselves with what is most effective, rather than most aesthetically pleasing. Her face is weathered, red from years of exposure to the sun and wind, but still graced with a pleasant smile. She sits at the opposite end of the bench, removing a soda can from a handbag she carries. The can's top has been sheared off, and is covered with a mesh wiring, which is duct taped to the can.}

Elderly Woman: Lovely day today. Makes me glad I can still come and go as I please. {A scrabbling sound comes from within the can. You glance at it.} Don't mind that, it's just my watch-shrew. {You stare at her blankly.} Oh, perhaps you think it odd to capture a shrew in a can, then carry it with you. That's alright; most people feel that way. {She removes a chaw of tobacco from her bag, and chews on it contemplatively.} What you should realize is, this is an important tradition carried down from when the pioneers first reached this land. Of course, in those days, this was a wilderness, full of things they'd never seen before, and that included shrews the size of your head, which could gnaw your hand off in less time than it takes me to hit the spittoon.

{She spits some tobacco through a gap where a tooth likely used to be. It makes an impressive PING! in a spittoon several feet away, which you hadn't noticed previously. Perhaps the elderly woman brought it with her, you muse.}

Nasal, Cultured Voice: Quite correct. These shrews, known by the scientific name Blarina gigantonomicus, were highly common in the oak-hickory forests here prior to large-scale European settlement. They were a top predator, rightly feared for their voracious appetites, which fed their highly energetic lifestyles, typified by their high velocity attacks on prey, which could be horrifically violent. They were wiped out in the mid-19th century, as their large incisors were prized as dentistry equipment - and as torture implements for using on recalcitrant prisoners.

{You turn to see this newcomer. It is a middle-aged man, with greying hair, and noticeable muttonchop sideburns. He wears wire-rimmed glasses, with lenses so small as to seemingly be useless, and may in fact merely be for show. He walks with an stiff-backed stride, but keeps listing from one side to another, as if trying to approximate a sauntering pace. It merely serves to make him look tipsy, a thought which wars with his immaculate wardrobe. Not a stray thread showing, not a speck of dust or pollen, even while walking through a field. His shoes are buffed to a high, glossy finish, and he even appears to have polished the leather patches on his tweed jacket.}

Elderly Woman: You're durn tootin they got wiped out. My great-grandmother's brother got attacked on a cold December night when he was trying to make it to the outhouse. She said they found his frozen remains scattered for a hundred yards around their property. Still, they had their uses, if you could catch them, which I was about to tell you, before this high falutin' fella here showed up.

Middle-Aged Professorial Guy: A thousand pardons madam.

Elderly Woman: Keep your pardons, and just hush, Mr. Leather Patches. So them giant shrews were trouble, but if you could catch 'em, and show 'em who wass boss, they were a powerful ally. So they used traps like what I've got here, only bigger, a 'course. Back then, they used a whiskey barrel, the cloth from their covered wagons, and duct tape to hold it together. They usually had a shack made of bricks to put the barrell in, in case the shrew escaped.

Middle-Aged Professorial Guy: Which they frequently did. Being able to bite through human bones, an often rotten wooden cask rarely posed a challenge. Did you know, in those days duct tape was referred to as "The Devil's Toolbox"? It's use was thought to symbolize a farmer or craftsman susceptible to sin. Since it enabled work to be completed more quickly, it was assumed those who used it meant to use that extra time for drinking and chasing women of ill repute. A man caught using duct tape was often drawn and quartered, tied to the horses by the very material that had enabled them to wander down this wretched path.

Elderly Woman: That's why our ancestors just used a hammer and nails to hold the cloth on the barrel.

Audience Stand-In: But, I thought, you said. . .

Elderly Woman: Now just listen. How are you going to learn a thing if you're always talking? You young people today, always chattering along like a blue jay, sayin' nothing. Like I said, if you could get those shrews on your side, they were a good ally to have. 'Course, you always had to be on guard, 'cause if they thought you weren't paying attention, they'd rip your leg off and run away. All the city folk back East thought the country folk were crazy. "Just kill the monsters, and be rid of them," they said. "They're too dangerous to be around people," they said. "Mommy, that giant rat ate my puppy!", they complained. Fools, every last one of 'em. They didn't understand how important those shrews were to have around. Leastways, not until the salamanders showed up.

Middle-Aged Professorial Guy: Plethodon corrodious, the Dissolving Salamander. They measured 1.4 meters from nose to tail, and excreted a slime from their skin which first rendered their victim stuck in place, be it to the ground, a chair, another person. Then, as the slime reacted with the air, it ate away at the victim, until they melted into a lump of decomposing organic matter. This was most commonly created by the amles, who then built the piles into nests, to entice females to lay their eggs there. When they ermeged from the Potomac River on the eve of Andrew Jackson's 1828 inaguration, they caused quite a stir all along the Atlantic Coast.

Elderly Woman: Quite a panic, you mean. They pert near wiped out Washington D.C. - and the rest of the cities. Did a better job than those Redcoats did in 1814, you can be certain of that! But Old Hickory, he knew about the shrews, and what they could do. So he sent messengers out into the hills, asking the people to bring their shrews to the aid of their country. And our ancestors did it, because they weren't about to let some slimy lizard thing destroy their country. {The Middle-Aged Professorial Guy whispers to you that salamanders are amphibians, not lizards, which are reptiles. The Elderly Woman lobs some tobaccy juice at his clean shirt, which silences him as he dives out of the way.} And oh, what a battle there was! Those shrews were tearing up the salamanders, even as the slime turned them to a shapeless blob.

Middle-Aged Professorial Guy: That, incidentally, was where oatmeal originated from. We "honored" {Middle-Aged Professorial Guy does the air quote thing with his fingers.} the bravery of those furry friends by scooping them into bowls, and eating them, sometimes plain, sometimes with a little brown sugar added, maybe a piece of fruit.

Elderly Woman: Had to be done. That battle made it into our crop fields, and destroyed a lot of 'em. People were hungry, and we had to look after the city folk who lost their homes; it was the proper thing to do. So we ate what we had. No one was going to eat those salamanders, they were servants of the Devil, everyone was just sure of it. Took a lot of years, but we rebuilt, bigger and better than ever.

Middle-Aged Professorial Guy: But the Giant Shrews were gone. What would the populace do if the salamanders returned? Rumors of Giant shrews in Mexico are what lead to the Mexican-American War, as the U.S. Army requested the Mexican government let them mount an expidition to capture some shrews, which could be brought back to the United States, and bred, to reinstate the population. The Mexican givernment claimed there were no giant shrews within their borders, a statement which the United States didn't believe. Obviously Santa Anna was witholding the shrews, to protect his country, and so it would be necessary to take some by force.

Elderly Woman: Turns out, they didn't have any shrews either, so they were just a skunked as us! {Elderly Woman cackles, then begins coughing as she nearly chokes on her chaw. You pat her on the back to help her catch her breath.} Thank you, youngin'. So there weren't no more of those hellacious shrews, so we decided to make do as best we could. Which is why some of us, those who remember, carry these little shrews. They ain't much, but they're all we have.

Middle-Aged Professorial Guy: Not entirely true. In 1900, there was a sudden increase in the fear of a return of the salamanders. This is usually attributed to Socialists trying to spread unrest amongst the workers by convincing them they would be the ones expected to fight and die if these creatures returned. Whether this is correct or not is unclear. Irregardless, Theodore Roosevelt, perhaps feeling bored by his Vice-Presidential duties, wished to commission Nikola Tesla to try and construct robotic giant shrews. The project was a complete failure, as Tesla's creations did not demonstrate the ferociousness of the organic version they were based upon. When Roosevelt was replaced by Taft, the project was decalred cancelled.

Elderly Woman: That's just nonsense. Poppycock spread by them tabloid papers. {Elderly Woman turns to you.} So, you understand why I carry this little fellow around now?

Audience Stand-In: You people are nuts! I was just sitting here, and you come up and start spouting all this insanity about giant shrews, and death salamanders, and Andrew Jackson! What's wrong with you?

Elderly Woman: You just haven't got the common sense - or courtesy - the Good Lord gave a mule. {Elderly Woman places the can back in her bag, rises slowly, and moves off, muttering something about "fool whippersnappers". She does not collect the spittoon}

Middle-Aged Professorial Guy: None are so blind, as the one who believes they can see, when they cannot. {Middle-Aged Professorial Guy makes a great show of straightening the lapels of his tweed jacket, spins on one heel, and strides off swiftly through the grass. He doesn't collect the spittoon, either.}

Audience Stand-In: What does that mean? I think someone can tell whether they can see or not! Maybe you should spend less time starching your pants, and more time working on your analogies! {You stand up quickly, and storm off angrily in a third direction, you fine mood ruined. Five minutes later, you find a cute puppy and/or kitten, and your mood is restored.}

Several hours later. . .

{The spittoon is still sitting in the middle of the field, bathed in the moonlight, untouched by any living thing.}

Monday, September 29, 2008

That's Awfully Tempting

Up to this point, I haven't been buying Amazing Spider-Man in its Brand New Day incarnation. That's probably patently obvious to you, the audience, but I wanted to start with that, on the off chance you thought I was buying it and just never discussing it*. It's a combination of distaste over the dissolution of the marriage, though more with the method it was done, plus the sense that money could be spent on books that need the sales more, plus the reviews I was reading didn't suggest that the stories were so awesome that my world was somehow poorer for not reading them. They were solid books, reestablishing a supporting cast for Peter Parker, and pitting him against various villains with different motives and the like. Very old school, and I get that from Amazing Spider-Girl already, so there didn't seem to be a dire need.

Still, there have been times I've considered it. That Zeb Wells/Chris Bachalo story about the snowstorm and the Mayan Death God? That looked interesting, the bits I read sounded more like a Spidey I was accustomed to, and Bachalo's art was more to my liking than the other artists up to that point**, while not nearly as incomprehensible as his work on X-Men had sometimes appeared. The Slott/Marcos Martin Paperdoll story looked good, for Martin's art at the very least. And John Romita Jr. drawing Spider-Man fighting those twits, the Thunderbolts, holds a certain appeal. But thus far, I just haven't felt a burning desire to purchase any of them. At least, not a cover price.

Then the December solicits come along, and Amazing Spider-Man #580 is going to be written by Roger Stern, and if there's one thing I've figured out by going through back issue bins, it's that Roger Stern being listed as writer is a good thing. Plus, and I'm just going to quote the solicit here, 'When a bizarre criminal endangers his Aunt May, Peter Parker is determined to bring him to justice. But who is this strange, faceless, felon? How can Spider-Man stop a foe who can slip through his webbing? And hey, what's Pete's old pal Joe Robertson been up to? New York Times best selling author and veteran Spider-writer Roger Stern and artist Lee Weeks join forces to tell the story we could only call "Fill in the Blank"!'

Do you know what that means?! It's the return of this guy, I just know it!

Oh, I loved that guy. Actually, I loved that entire West Coast Avengers mini-series, but I really enjoyed that guy. He's has this ridiculous device that makes him look like a messed up TV screen, and he just uses it to rob banks. No world domination schemes or revenge plots. Just trying to get a little cash because, as Homer might remind us 'Money can be exchanged for goods and services.' Gotta appreciate the small-time bad guys, they're the bedrock of the superheroic society. Even better, he completely stymied Wonder Man's attempts to capture him, and if there's one thing we should support, it's villains who make Wonder Man look foolish. I don't know why that is, but it seems appropriate somehow.

Jeez, I'm gonna have to give this one some thought.

* But really, I struggle far too often for content to not at least consider discussing things if I bought them.

** I'm not certain what it is, but McNiven and Jimenez both just leave me cold. It's like it's technically sound art, but it lacks feeling. Maybe it's the coloring.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What Was Calculator's Percentage?

I think because I was thinking about Suicide Squad, I started thinking about Captain Boomerang recently, and that lead me to his rather ignominious end in Identity Crisis. It's not so much his end I'm concerned with, but more the thing with his son.

I only owned part of Identity Crisis when it came out, and I'm fairly certain what I had was one of the first things I jettisoned when I tried clearing some detritus from my collection a few years ago, so I'm not entirely clear on whether what's bothering me was actually covered.

Calculator is the one who told Boomerbutt he had a son, correct? I recall Boomer frequently contacting Calculator, looking for work, and instead being asked whether he'd talked to his kid yet, with Boomerang replying he hadn't, and Calculator basically insisting he do so, then maybe they'd discuss business. So I'm wondering, what did Calculator care? It seems to have been of some importance to him, but I can't discern why. Was it just a way of getting his jollies, or trying to keep Boomerang distracted, so that he doesn't have to come right out and say, "I have no work for you, because you look washed up*."

* Was he like that prior to Identity Crisis? I vaguely remember someone online saying they were displeased that Meltzer chose Boomerang to be the one he portrays as a washout, but I can't remember for certain. His Wikipedia entry mentions getting Jokerized in Last Laugh, and dying in a bid by Neron in what I'm guessing was Underworld Unleashed, but those things don't seem to suggest the fellow we saw in Identity Crisis.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Struggle Of Man Versus His Camera

One of the perks of my current employment is that it's set in a pretty rural setting*, so there are some nice scenic places to go. Of course, my job requires me to be out there for several hours every day during the week anyway, so I'm not always in the proper mood to appreciate it. Ticks and horseflies have that effect on me. However, Thursday was a rather easy day, so I felt like going to see something, rather than just stay at the housing I'm currently typing this from.

My supervisor had mentioned a spot along the river near one of the places I do my work, that was a place one could go swimming. I wasn't really in the mood for swimming, but I thought it might be worth going to check out, on the off chance I felt like it some time in the future. So I cruise over there, and there's no one around, which suits me fine, and i spend a few minutes just wandering along the bank. The opposite side of the river is a fairly impressive, bluff, I suppose, and I thought to myself that Alex would probably appreciate this view. Sadly, I hadn't thought to bring my camera (it was a very spur of the moment decision to go out there. So I resolved to return at the first opportunity with the camera and try to capture the view.

Well, Friday was roughly as easy as Thursday**, so I grabbed my camera and set forth. I got back to the same place, and took my snapshot, which I'll include below. It's about 650 KB, fyi.

Looking at the picture, though, it didn't really capture the grandeur I felt was there. Maybe the lens wasn't wide angle enough, in which case I was out of luck. But perhaps I could get something in the foreground, for scale. It'd have to be something Alex knew the size of though. My vehicle? That might work, but I was worried that the gravel riverbank, fairly soft in places, wouldn't mesh well with my vehicle, which lacks 4-wheel drive. I suppose a true believer in the art of photography would risk their transportation, but that's apparently not me. Then I recalled that the camera had a timer. If I could find a good place on the ground to set it, maybe I could get in the shot, and serve as the scale. Sure, that's the trick.

Just to be safe, I selected the "25" timer option, and after finding a suitable spot (one which would capture me and the majority of the scene behind me), I hit the button and ran to the spot, turning and striking a goofy pose. Well, nothing appeared to happen, so I fidgeted, switching poses, until after a minute I figured it was safe to go check. The picture showed the other bank of the river just fine, but it also showed my legs on the left side, somewhat blurry as I started running. Turns out that was "2S", as in "2 seconds", not "25". Let this be a lesson, read the instruction manual.

So I tried again, with the other timer option. But I wasn't sure how long I had so when I hit the button, I took off as fast as I could, looking back to gauge if the camera was about to take the shot. Did your parents ever warn you to watch where you were going, not where'd you been? Mine did***. Me Running Fast + Not Watching Where I'm Going + Rocky River Bank = Pratfall. Undaunted, I leapt up and resumed sprinting, and even managed to assume a pose before the camera went off, though my poor cap is clearly visible, crushed on the ground where I went splat. That one turned out pretty well, all things considered, but I did take one more, where I made it to the river's edge without tripping, just to make sure. I think they would have worked better if I could finagle a boat to get me on the opposite riverbank. I still look too large.

* This is also one of the downsides, as it limits your options for places to go to interact with people or purchase goods without having to drive very far.

** For the record, this is a fairly rare occurrence.

*** Though my dad waited until after I ran smack into a steel support girder outside an Ace Hardware to lay that bit of wisdom on me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Hate To Be That Guy, But. . .

So this story that's been running in Superman? Heartwarming tale about the special bond between a man and his dog and all that? And it is heartwarming, really. I like dogs. I appreciate their loyalty and friendship, though I'm more touched when I see dogs that are friendly and kind towards other dogs. Especially other dogs that are nervous, or worried about something. Still, I had this little nagging thing as I was reading the story. Not about Krypto's role, or even really about Superman's attitude towards Zatara*.

Mostly it was Superman trying to fight Atlas head on, when as early as the beginning of #679, he was realizing there was something wrong with this situation, that he couldn't seem to beat this guy. I recall thinking, "Gee, Supes, too bad you don't have any other powers you could use on him. Oh wait, you have like 75 other powers you could use on him!" Try heat vision. Try super-breath, if not on him, then try icing the ground under him, take away his footing. If he's unbalanced maybe you could get in a good solid hit***. Hey, trying flying really fast around him, creating a whirlwind that lifts Atlas into the air, and then deposits him in the Atlantic Ocean. Really, just try something other than punching him, especially when you are aware that it isn't working.

I'm guessing that Robinson felt the best way to tell the story he wanted to tell, was to have Superman face Atlas hand-to-hand, so that in the face of those results, Krypto's bravery really stand out. However, I'm not saying any of those tactics would have to work. If Atlas was really such a hotshot fighter, then he'd probably dealt with things weirder than heat vision and flying really fast (and since it's Jack Kirby's Atlas, it's a virtual certainty he faced weirder stuff than that). It's just seems odd to see someone with as many powers as Superman realize one of them isn't helping, and not at least try something different. Wolverine? Sure, his bag of tricks is kind of limited. The same can't really be said of Superman.

It's not a big deal, but I'm kind of interested in seeing characters use their powers creatively, or at least with some tactical sense, and I never got any sense of that here, and it kind of stood out to me. Still, good work by Krypto, huh? I wonder if he breaks furniture when he wags his tail?

* Though, as Rachelle at Living Between Wednesdays noted, Supes was kind of rude to the kid. I know he's battered, and worried about his dog, and Zatara's full of hot air**, but really, Superman's hung out with Ollie Queen for years, he ought to be used to bluster at serious moments.

** When I thought of Zatara as being full of hot air, I was reminded of someone, in a movie I believe, saying 'You, you big bag of wind!', and now I can't remember who said it, and it's starting to drive me insane. Er. Insaner.

*** I realize that these Squad K guys were doing something to disrupt his drawing strength from the sun - or something like that - and so he quite simply might not have been strong enough to hurt him, but I don't think he'd realized that yet, so it couldn't hurt anything to try.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This Time I Know Where The Thought Came From

Back when I lived in the dorms, I started watching Kids in the Hall. I'd only heard of it through a high school chum, but Comedy Central was showing it for a couple of hours every afternoon, and I had that time free at least some days of the week, so I tuned in. And I laughed. Quite a bit. This was around the same time A&E was showing reruns of Newsradio in the late morning, so I was getting plenty of Dave Foley*.

There was one sketch in particular that came to mind this week. It involved a Mr. Heavyfoot. It's Dave Foley, in a conservative suit and hat, and he's an ordinary fellow - who happens to have very heavy feet. Within the episode I saw (Youtube shows me he appeared in more than one, because I've never seen the skits they've got), they did three sketches with the character, the first two dealing with the issues that come from having disproportionately heavy feet, while a jaunty tune plays**. For example, in the first skit, Mr. Heavyfoot is on a date, and arrives at his date's home, flowers in hand. But woe, her house is up a steep hill, and we watch as he endeavors to climb all those steps leading to her home, with hilarious consequences. The second skit provides different circumstances, but still more woe for Mr. Heavyfoot.

So at this point, things seem pretty lousy for our protagonist. He's certainly remaining upbeat and determined to make the best of things, but life sure is hard with these heavy feet. And that's what makes the last bit so nice. It's "Mr. Heavyfoot Goes to the Moon". That's right, somehow our put upon feelow has made it to the Moon (without a spacesuit, no less) And guess what? On the Moon, with its weaker gravity, his feet no longer feel so heavy. He can jump, and kick his heels together, and oh, he looks so merry now! All his years of perseverance have been rewarded***! It's what really makes it work for me, is that after all his travails, which I have laughed at, I get to see something work out for him, and share in his joy for once.

I felt like sharing that.

* Not too much. This time in my life convinced me you can never have too much Dave Foley.

** I could try and describe it, but here, this link should take you to the clip I found, so you can listen for yourself.

*** When I started thinking about this skit, and I started thinking about how he's on the airless Moon without a space suit, and he's finally free of the shackles of his heavy feet, I started thinking of it as an analogy for him having died, and this is his conception of Heaven. I wish I wouldn't have thought of that. It was kind of depressing. So let's just assume his heavy feet store oxygen or something, like a camel And that he's resistant to intense heat and cold. . . because of his feet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Completely Random Thought

I have no idea when exactly this came to me, though I'd vaguely pinpoint last weekend. However, I can't recall seeing, doing, or hearing anything that would have touched off this thought. It's strange.

You may have seen the movie Independence Day. If you have, you may recall Randy Quaid's character, the drunken crop duster. He believed he was abducted by aliens, the same aliens that attack Earth in the movie. At the end of the movie he sacrifices his life to destroy the warship that's about to blast Area 51, and it's supposed to be a triumphant, heroic moment, where he strikes back at those that traumatized him and are trying to destroy his world.

Here's what I wondered: Is there any possibility that he wasn't abducted by aliens? That it was the result of drinking bad homemade moonshine, or perhaps a symptom of some neurological disease? I could see those doofuses that were heckling him in the diner at the beginning of the movie getting him totally wasted, then messing with him and convincing him that he was abducted. It'd make all the teasing that gave him even funnier (to them).

What would that mean for the story? It doesn't change the fact he gave his life to save a large group of people from annihilation, including his children, but still. It seems likely it was this "abduction" that wrecked his life, and for it to turn out there was no abduction? That it was just a joke played on him by some local jackasses, or a figment of a mind that doesn't quite work right*? And here he is, bellieving that he's getting some payback on the creatures that destroyed his life, when really, he was the one that ruined his life (or it was his neighbors, or just bad luck)? Would that be the universe playing a cosmic joke on somone, and if so, is it being played on him, or the aliens who would have no clue who this loon that flew his fighter jet into their giant cannon was?

Or, if we accept he was abducted, why does it have to be the same extra-terrestrials that were attacking the Earth at that moment? The aliens plan seem to largely involve wiping out centers of population with death beams, then sending a massive land force down to eliminate the survivors. What does abducting Randy Quaid teach you there, that he can actually return alive from? If you're testing to see whether he can withstand your weapons or the effects of your city-destroying blast, he's probably not going to still be alive after that, right? Frankly, a simple "catch and release" sounds too gentle for a group that told Bill Pullman that what the human race could do was 'die'.

So. There it is. Do with it what you will.

*If he had a separate personality, that could explain it, right? Because he wouldn't have any awareness of what that personality was doing, so when he reasserted control, he'd have to try and explain what he was seeing and feeling at the moment as best he could. I know there's no evidence he has a multiple personality, but other than him saying so, there's no actual evidence he was abducted either.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pandas Carving Things With Chainsaws!

{Um. . . O-K. Say, ABP, you look bigger than you did the last time I saw you.} Growth spurt. I'm Acne-Laden, Obnoxious Teenage Panda now! {Pandas get acne?} Sure, you just can't see it under all our huggably soft fur. Just like Snuggles! {Snuggles, the fabric softener bear? You know about him?} Of course! All bears keep up with our successful brethren, so we can mooch off them! {Mooching doesn't sound very panda-like.} *mocking tone* 'Mooching doesn't sound very panda like.' Which one of us is the panda here? *pause* Seriously, which one of us is the panda? {Uh, you?} Right, right. And don't you forget it! Now let's get to this thing!

Well, I'm going to Applaud that Booster Gold for dressing up as Elvis, and showing off his chest. Bold statement there. And Barbara Gordon gets some Applause for that kick in the face. Enjoy those legs while you got them, honey. {A, um, A-LOTP, that's awful. We're going to get assaulted by hordes of offended fans now.} Only if they can haul their cans off the sofa in their mother's basements. {Wow, that's an overused reference. Hmm, overused reference. . .} Moving along, I'll give those Outsiders some Hugs, because without Batman around, their book is doomed. Seriously, it never goes well when a character whose name is in the title leaves the book. {How would you know?} I know stuff, like that guy that won all those times on Jeopardy. {So that's how that Layla Miller one-shot ended: She died and was resurrected as a panda.} Righto.

Well, that awesome Deadpool has an outstanding new series, so I think he deserves all the other Applause. {Why? He's consorting with Skrulls. he's a filthy traitor!} Shut your lying cow mouth or I'll trap you in a world written solely by Brian Michael Bendis! Dynamic Deadpool is obviously tricking the Skrulls! {So, does Cosmo gets some applause, since that means he's also obviously tricking the Skrulls?} Oh no. He's a true-blue Skrull lover, which is why he gets a Stabbing. {Stabbing?} I'm a teen now. Bonking is uncool. Stabbing is where it's at. Haven't you seen X-Force? {Unfortunately, yes. Let's move on before any of what I've seen makes it past the mental blocks I placed.}

{Say, how about a hug for Mayday Parker, what with nearly getting blown up, and replaced by this crazed other version of herself.} Nah. I will however, give that Other May an Uncomfortably Long Hug. {What?} She was the one trapped in a tube all that time. Besides, it's not so bad being replaced. Sometimes the new version is better than the old version. {Give me one example.}

Voice From the Window: What is going on here?

Acne-Laden, Obnoxious Teenage Panda: Uh-oh.

Calvin: Adorable Baby Panda?! But if you're there, then who - ?

A-LOTP: Oh no you don't. You're not going to pull a Marvel Editorial, with me playing Ben Reilly! I'm the real panda who talks about comics!

Calvin: *shaking head repeatedly* Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.

ABP: The heck you are! "Stabbings"?! That isn't the panda way!

A-LOTP: What would you know? You're just a stupid baby! I've taken care of babies before! You're all cute and drooling one second, then you're running around telekinetically throwing stuff across the room and performing brain surgery!

ABP: That's it! *prepares to lunge*

A-LOTP: Just bring it, little furry dude! You can't stop me, I'm in like Flynn!

Calvin: Enough! We are not having some confusing battle of "Who's the Original and Who's the Clone?" here! This is a place for possibly significant battles with your complete opposite, who provides a mirror for how you view yourself at this moment! No clone stuff!

A-LOTP: Clones? No clones man, alien imposters! It's "Who's the Original and Who's the Skrull?"!


Calvin: Well, I guess your distaste for Skrulls confirms you're the real thing. But who is this?

*ABP rolls its eyes and taps an invisible device on Acne-Laden, Obnoxious Teenage Panda's prone form. A-LOTP's form begins to shimmer, and is replaced by. . . Deadpool.*

Calvin: Deadpool, I. . . I can't even fake being surprised that he would turn up.

ABP: I can't believe you thought he was me.

Calvin: Give me a break. I haven't seen you in over two weeks.

Deadpool: *mostly unconscious, mumbles* More green beans, Bea?

ABP: So? Pandas don't suddenly triple in size, you know.

Calvin: I thought maybe you got into some Pym Particles.

ABP: Pym Particles? That would just make me larger. Why would I be acting so different?

Calvin: Um, you were trying to act older?

ABP: . . . I think I want to leave now. Can I take the comics?

Calvin: Sure. Will you take Wade with you?

Deadpool: *still mostly unconscious, mumbles* More buttery waffles for Sandi and Outlaw. No Hayden, not until you stop using the forklift to get around.

ABP: Oh yes. I want to have a talk with him. *ABP trundles off, comics in a bag held in it's mouth, Wade's still unconscious form dragged behind like a sled. Or a sack of garbage.*

Calvin: *calls after ABP* No stabbing!

{Editor's note: Well, we had to do something to commemorate Deadpool getting another series, right? Besides, we haven't seen him since the Flying Castle fiasco back in June. I have to say, I can't do the "dated pop culture reference" shtick for him. Probably because I have no concept of what's dated. Well, that and a lack of knowledge of pop culture. Anyway, hopefully it wasn't too surprising that it wound up being Wade. I was foreshadowing as obviously as I could.}

Monday, September 22, 2008

What I Bought 9/22/2008

That second paragraph yesterday was too much information wasn't it? Yeah, sorry about that. Sharing seemed like a good idea at the time. Reviews now. Probably just general impressions, since I'm running a bit behind everyone else.

Amazing Spider-Girl #24 - The two Mays meet, fight a bit. Our May has it out with Gene Thompson, tries to stop Sara from doing something she'll regret, and possibly gets blown up. Also, Peter gets attacked by Fury, the Goblin Queen. Did pretty well for an older guy with one wooden leg, but still got captured. Must be channeling the spirit of Captain Storm, the one-legged PT boat captain from The Losers.

I'd like to pause a moment to commemorate May finally letting Gene Thompson have it verbally. *pauses, smiles* OK, enough of that. I have no idea where DeFalco is going with all this. I'm starting to think I was off-base with my guess that Pete got messed up by the exploding liquid, and he's actually just shell-shocked from this admittedly large bombshell that got dropped into his life. On the other hand. Other May seems much more aggressive than Our May, and not as confused as I'd expect from someone in her situation, so maybe I'm not wrong. I do want to see what Other May does with a chance to live Our May's everyday life. See if she's still as quick to attack now that's she has what she claims to want.

Booster Gold #12 - Now, if I follow this right, next month is a different fill-in story, with this story picking up again the next month. Weird. Booster, Skeets and Michelle decide they robbery they helped succeed last issue must have needed to fail, though the time traveler needed to escape with his goods anyway. So they experience many difficulties with the police trying to make that happen. Except everything is still screwed up.

This story is starting to drift into dangerous territory for me. I'm always a little leery when a character starts interacting with earlier and later versions of themselves, and we're sliding storngly over there now. On the other hand, Elvis Booster punching Killer Moth Booster was pretty amusing. And hey, Elongated Man showed up! That's good, right? Comissioner Gordon really wanted Michelle to be the real Batgirl, didn't he? Was this some sort of explanation for Gordon never figuring out that his daughter was Batgirl? Or did he figure that out? Maybe this was meant to suggest he had suspicions he is now gratefully dismissing?

Deadpool #1 - Detail I didn't notice until I saw a blown up version of the cover on my screen: That the barrel of Wades gun is glowing from having been recently fired. Nice touch.

On the one hand, it's Deadpool, who I've grown fond of. On the other hand, it's written by Daniel Way, and I haven't had much luck with the last few things he's written I've read. I was reasonably happy that since this was only a 3-issue arc, it would avoid the pitfalls of being overly slow and too spaced out I'd heard his Wolverine Origins work was suffering from. But it really is just Deadpool fighting Skrulls for an entire issue, then offering to work for them. I guess Way wanted to spend an issue getting us familiar with how his Wade is going to view the world in this series. It's a bit different from what I'm used to (having not read the Wolverine Origins arc Way introduced this in). More like that sequence in Cable/Deadpool #50 where Wade realizes a symbiont has hooked on with him, as he has 2 voices in his head. I don't think that's what's going on here.

I liked Paco Medina's pencils. They seem to work well for the abstracted way Wade's going to see things. The bright coloration is kind of an interesting choice. Suggests a lighter tone than might be expected from a book about fighting with alien invaders. Perhaps representing this isn't particularly consequential in the grand scheme of Secret Invasion. That's not a bad thing to me; I don't care how integral it is to that whole thing, just a possible explanation. I don't know how this is going to go, but if Way can refrain from running certain jokes into the ground (I think he used the 'what's Skrull for "oh $#%!"' a bit too much for one issue) I should be able to hang on for a while.

Patsy Walker Hellcat #3 - Oh Hellcat. Ever so groovy. I think Immonen is trying to write this book so we're in much the same position as Patsy. I saw that because I only half-understand what's going on, but like Hellcat, I'm kind of rolling with it as it comes along. I really enjoy her breezy attitude in the face of large, angry creatures, and small very quick ones to boot. She handles things in a concise manner that demonstrates her experience, but also demonstrates that she's clearly not terribly fazed by all this. It as if she started on one vacation, and wound up on something completely different, and that's cool, because she's still having fun. And she's very clever, which is always a plus. Clever heroes are more fun, don'tcha know?

Also, I have a vague hunch that Patsy met her annoying map before we realized this had all started. That's assuming this isn't going to wind up being some weird fever dream she's having (I don't think that will be the case). Man, I really enjoy LaFeute's art. It's grand when it needs to be, cute when necessary, able to convey elegance of movement or expression so easily, and so well. John Rauch as the color artist helps, because patsy's a ball of bright colors in a world that's either white or very dark, and it makes her seem more alive by standing out. It's really fantastic. All of which makes me mad, because this isn't selling in the direct market for beans. Buggering comic readers, grumble, grumble.

OK, last week's stuff now.

Batman and the Outsiders #11 - The OMAC is blue on the cover you see, but it's actually red on the cover I got. So all these Bat-related books are tying in to Batman RIP, but they can't actually tell us what's happened precisely, though Batman appears to have disappeared. It reminds me of all those Civil War books that had to play vague with what happened while they waited for McNiven to finish drawing the primary mini-series. Tap dancing in place, waiting for the final pieces to land. Everyone talks about Bats being missing. Batgirl tries to roust the Penguin and gets nothing except a compliment from Intergang shcmuck Johnny Stitches (if we say he's Jigsaw loud enough, think the Punisher will trot over to DC and off him for us?), Nightwing is going dark on us (oh goody), Green Arrow's drinking Bruce's liquor (which I find funny), and the Outsiders don't know if they're still a team.

It's interesting to watch Cassandra try to fill Batman's shoes. It's actually consistent with pre-One Year Later characterizations that she would try to take over for him, carry on the mission she adopted as her own (this is ignoring the characterization at the very end of her series that suggested she'd take her own, more Frank Castle-esque path). I' not sure about Ollie responding by drinking, though. I'm mostly alright with Ryan Benjamin's art. I don't love it, I think there's too much cross-hatching, because everyone's faces look grimy, liked they haven't washed in some time. I think it's shooting for exhausted and not quite making it. I really don't think we need Angry Nightwing right now.

You know what I just realized? We didn't get any kind of an update about Salah's condition after he disastrous psionic linkup with the REMAC last month. I wanted to know about that, 'cause I liked him. He was funny.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 - Oh, I can't believe they made that character a Skrull. Or at least a Skrull sympathizer. I suppose I shouldn't judge based on religious preference, but that hurts the cool factor a bit. Gamora encouraged Phyla to go look for Drax, Warlock used what's left of the Celestial's brain to find the Skrulls, and Starhawk returned from the future, having decided to destroy everything for some "One Who Knows" reason. I really thought Drax was the Skrull especially when Phyla found him, because based on what he was using, it seemed perfectly designed to thwart Adam's plans. Apparently not what's going on, though.

I suppose it makes sense based on the idea that names have power or something to that effect, but I could do without the original Guardians of the Galaxy popping up. I don't have that much fondness for them. I guess I am curious why it's such a bad thing that the name Guardians of the Galaxy popped up now, rather than in the distant future, I think I'm just more interested in them dealing with this Church they've aggravated.

Moon Knight #22 - I can't really get into Suydam's art. I'm not sure what it is. The figures remind me of clay sculptures a little, so perhaps it's a lifeless feeling I get from them. Maybe it's the stigma of all the damn zombie covers. I do like the partially veiled city in the background.

The Thunderbolts pursue Moon Knight, now roaming as nameless vigilante in a dark, thief-like outfit. Given the power he's up against, I'd say Marc did pretty well in Round 1. His ally Crawley is trying to get Marc's friends to help him out, but not having much success. Given who he's dealing with, that's probably wise on their parts. It's not as if half the T-Bolts would care if they killed his friends.

Couple of things. One, Venom seems a bit stupid here. Stupider than usual, I mean. You'd think he'd notice propane written on those tanks, and perhaps part of him would remember their vulnerability to fire. Besides, how were they going to eat him if they blew him up? Second, Osborn says Marc has no known powers. Does that mean he never told anyone about gaining strength from the moon, or that they dismiss it as the ranting of an unhinged fellow, or does he no longer get those benefits? I know he's been having some issues with Khonshu in this series so far (or he's hallucinating Khonshu), so I could see him getting his powers revoked, but he is doing their work, so that seems counter-productive. I do like the idea that he's gone completely the opposite direction, costume wise. No cape, all black, nothing to conceal his weapons. It's an interesting choice.

The Punisher #62 - Well, Hurwitz is certainly doing something different with Frank. As Chris Sims noted, he wants to make the Punisher a human being, rather than an engine of destruction (I'd argue that Ennis frequently demonstrated that there was still a person inside Frank, just that Frank works very damn hard to bury him out of necessity, but the basic point held). I'm not so sure it's working though. When the girl comes to his room, and he doesn't send her away, he sees his dead family in the mirror. Well, if that's so much of an issue, why not send her away? It seems odd.

I suppose it reflects his crime novelist roots that this Punisher seems to be a detective, performing autopsies and checking crime scenes for evidence, rather than simply threatening snitches until he got the information he needed. It's a different form of competence being demonstrated. Again, it seems odd, in the sense that the Punisher's competence was usually demonstrated through his tactical precision, but I can see Frank making it a point to know about the effects of making drugs on the human body, to help lead him to people to kill, so it's a neat idea in that regard. It's also odd to see him casually walking around in daylight, getting thank yous from the populace. I wonder if that's meant to represent a difference cultural response to vigilantism, or simply a demonstration of how bad the situation is, that they are glad they have a man who does nothing but kill people in their midst. I also wonder if they'll still be glad he's there when it's over.

For the record, I don't believe for a second Frank actually killed that kid at the end. "The heavy" understands the Punisher, he'd know how to try and play him. The whole "I feel" thing is overwrought, though. It probably works better if he just goes ahead and makes the comparison to Franks' deceased daughter and be done with it. As it is, bit much. Clock's starting to tick on this series.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Guess Who Came Back Early? Blargh!

Yes, I made it back here early enough I actually feel like blogging. The first two paragraphs are recounting the weekend, but there's a movie discussed below that, if you'd prefer. While driving to Alex' on Friday, I thought of trying to set up a laptop with voice recognition, and do a liveblog where the post is me discussing what's on my mind and what I see as I go on these long drives. Probably be a lot of swearing. Somewhere around 10 Saturday night, things went awry. Alex' family was having a party for him on Sunday, so his friends threw a party Saturday night. An hour in, I got dizzy and went to lie down in my car. My brilliant plan of staring at an immobile object to convince my brain things weren't spinning backfired, as my brain instead convinced my eyes things were spinning, so my eyes kept drifting right, as if trying to follow something. But I was staring at my car's ceiling, which was distinctly not moving.

After two hours, I was still dizzy, and I needed a bathroom. I made it about five steps before my equilibrium completely vanished and I fell over. At which point I actually threw up, and I felt a little better, which is telling commentary on how bad I felt, that getting a second look at dinner constituted an improvement. I left the party at that point, returning to Alex' house for a quiet place to lie down. I don't know what caused it, whether it was my allergies progressing to a sinus infection that just wiped out my sense of balance, the sushi for lunch*, the smoke from the bonfire and cigarettes, or the gas leak present in the woods across the street from the party**. No, I hadn't been drinking. Anyway, I felt better by this morning, though I still have a persistent dull headache. Either way, Alex also felt like crap come the morn, so we didn't hit the riverboat casino as we'd planned. Bugger. We did however, watch a movie I hadn't seen previously, so I might as well discuss that, so it isn't all about me and my illnesses.

Hitman. It's one of those, "I haven't seen it, Alex has it, what the hell" things. It was either that or he was probably going to try and encourage me to watch Cloverfield, and I'm generally disinterested in that. When the movie began, Alex said something very heartening, followed by something rather disconcerting. He was commenting on the opening credits being interspersed with shots of Agent 47's training from childhood (which reminded me of Kurt Russell's Soldier more than anything), and said that now he watches movies more to see what techniques they're using with cameras and colors, to find the meaning. OK, as someone who discovered some joy for that in a couple of film classes, I'm glad to hear that. Then he says that's why he likes Michael Bay movies so much. Uh-huh. I haven't really pegged Michael Bay movies on being big on meaning, at least not meaning you needed to pick apart from camera angles. Oh well.

If you require a plot synopsis, a top-flight hitman finds himself caught up in a larger game, and meets a woman of difficult circumstances who helps him to find live outside killing. Or tries to anyway. I found myself dissatisfied with the movie. Part of it was that I kept looking at Timothy Olyphant (Agent 47), and seeing him as his villainous character from Live Free or Die Hard. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same reaction to that villain I did to Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber (where even though he was evil, he was awesome, so I count his playing a villain as a cool point in future roles, and a reason to root for him), so I found myself not particularly inclined to root for Agent 47. Plus, the guy just kept killing cops and bodyguards***. I know, he's a hitman, but that seems to be an awful lot of collateral damage for the "best killer the Organization produced", which is what he's supposed to be. I suppose he felt time was of the essence, and he didn't have the luxury of doing things more gracefully. Still, it doesn't help. Also, I felt dissatisfied with the ending, where I felt he really needed to either die, or wind up in prison. As you might imagine from my dissatisfaction, neither occurs. Really, I think I was feeling let down by the Interpol agent who had worked so hard to chase this guy, only to accept an offer to let some other dead killer take the rap. So he knows the guy he pursued for years is still out there, and that's OK? After all the trouble he went to trying to catch him?! After the whole mess where 47 played him to escape the Russans, and used the CIA to escape Interpol? Ugh. I didn't have high hopes, and it didn't match those that I had. I suppose it's a difference in what I was looking for, versus what the director wanted to do, but for me at least, I think the time would have been better spent sleeping.

My comics came in on Friday, so I'll get to those tomorrow. Now, it's time for sleep. We'll see how work goes tomorrow.

* I'm not suggesting the sushi was poorly prepared, just that my stomach had never encountered it before, and might have reacted poorly. More likely it was the sausages in some sort of sauce Alex' mother had made for dinner, on top of the sushi.

** Seriously, the words "gas leak" were spray painted on the road, with an arrow pointing into the woods, and you could smell it. Given other people reported feeling ill, I think that had to be part of it.

*** Or appearing to. Perhaps some of his shots didn't actually kill them, but he was shooting an awful lot of them in the head.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Series Of Weakly Related Thoughts

First order of business. No posts Friday through Sunday. I'm going out of town, visiting friends to engage in acts of debauchery. OK, truthfully, I'll probably be the one trying to rein in their debauching, as I am the "straight line", as they call me.

Where exactly this post was going to go has shifted several times over the last few days, but I suppose The Ray is the common equation. Originally it was going to be about DC's December solicitation for Teen Titans, which has Ray on the cover, hinting he might be joining their depleted ranks. Of course, the solicit promises to reveal who makes the team, who doesn't, and who didn't even get an invite, so there's no guarantee he'll even make the team. Still, it's the sort of thing that makes me consider picking up Teen Titans again.

That thought lead me to thinking about how I dropped the book because it seemed terribly joyless, and that based on the scans I've seen, and the times I've flipped through in the store, that really hasn't changed much (though the story where Kid Devil and Blue Beetle appeared to reach an understanding looked kind of pleasant). Given that, would I really enjoy the book, just because the Ray was in it (assuming obviously, that he actually made the team)? Even if he joins the cast, it seems unlikely that he would abruptly become the center of attention*. That was one of the reasons I could never get around to buying the two recent Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters mini-series, I had the impression Ray wasn't really a focal point of the series**. If it had been an ongoing, where you figure with multiple arcs, each character gets some spotlight, that's not such an issue, but mini-series are a different matter.

The thoughts about the tone of Teen Titans also veered into the whole "Wonderdog" thing, but my thoughts there were mostly that I was surprised because it wasn't what I was expecting. I was figuring on some cute story about one of the Titans finding this dog on the street, and bringing him back to the Tower, and maybe the dog does something brave or clever in a crucial moment during the Titans 7,567th battle against evil opposites of themselves, and so they name it Wonderdog, and it would be cute, and that would be that.

No, I don't know why I was thinking that. Maybe the cover tricked me. Yes, it played a mind trick on me! Once I actually got to the end of the issue, I think my reaction was "Um, really? OK, interesting choice there." *places book back on shelf* Back to the Ray.

Thinking about the recent Freedom Fighters minis reminded me that Ray's dad showed up, with weird new powers, trying to save his son from their whacked out Red Bee. This reminded me of how Happy Terril acted towards his son during Ray's ongoing series. There were times, I'd say Happy learned his interpersonal skills from Silver Age Superman. Case in point, somewhere around #6: Ray has just saved the world from the "Light Entity", but he's a little overloaded from the experience, so he's behaving erratically. Happy shows up, suspects Ray is - gasp! - drunk, and starts chastising him. Ray's too out of it to explain, so he continues acting silly. Then Happy makes a gun from nowhere and steals his son's powers. Then he transports him to various crappy places of the world, so Ray can be scared and depressed by the horror of it (this included the remains of Chernobyl). Later still, his dad fakes a robbery of the place Ray works, so he can threaten his now powerless son with a gun, just to scare him some more. Then we find out Happy just hypnotized Ray into thinking he had no powers. Jeez, I know he had to give up his son for Ray's own sake, but what the hell, man? What parenting manual tells you that's the way to go about teaching your kid to use his powers responsibly?

As to Ray on the Titans, I don't know. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get there. In my totally sweet black Pontiac Trans Am***.

* And truthfully, that would probably be a jarring experience for the readers that were already reading the book, if it did happen.

** Which is not entirely surprising, since it was Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, after all.

*** It is unlikely I will get to the bridge in a black Pontiac Trans Am, unless I take up carjacking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Long Tomorrow

Good news: Ken e-mailed me today to let me know he mailed my comics today! That's the kind of information that makes a man think about getting up and dancing a jig. I'm not going to, but you couldn't see me anyway, so just visualize it if you're really interested.

You done visualizing? Then let's move on. The Long Tomorrow, by Leigh Brackett. Basic plot outline: In a post-nuclear war world, the U.S. has passed an amendment barring any town from having more than 1000 people, or 200 buildings per square mile. Technology has regressed to roughly the early 1800s (they have steam engines, but electricity), and most people are extremely wary of advancement. Two boys, Len and Esau, in small Ohio town of Piper's Run are curious about what things were like before the Destruction, a time only dimly remembered by their aged and occasionally nostalgic Grandma. But, being curious or wistful about those times carries danger, and you especially don't discuss the place called Bartorstown, where people supposedly work to restore the world as it was before. But the boys are curious, and thus begins a journey to fnd this place that may not even exist.

In some ways, the book reminds me of an X-Men comic. There's a lot in there about fear, and the things people do because of it*. A lot of it isn't particularly subtle (people burning stuff because they're afraid of a return to the days of big cities, and proclaiming 'There shall be no more cities' while they do so, rarely is), but some of the actions of Len are a bit more so. There's also some pieces in there about how, no matter the cause, fanatics can always be dangerous to unbelievers. There's some discussion about not fearing atomic power**, just because it can be used to create bombs. After all, almost anything that can help people can also harm them. Even water can be toxic if you get too much of it.

I think the primary theme is accepting the reality of things. Len is sort of a grass is always greener type. Wherever he is, he's never content for long, or if he is, it's all pinned on some idyllic dream of what might be. When that falls apart, well then it's time to go, even if that means retreating. Yet, he is frequently forced to face reality, whether it's that he and a girl won't be together, or that you can't force change on some people, because the lengths they'll go to preserve what they know can be frightening. Perhaps most important is the idea that something, once learned, can't be unlearned. I feel as though a large part of the story is trying to force Len to see things as they are, and try to find contentment in them. He can still want to make things better, and should certainly try, but he can't simply expect for it to come easily, or to be able to just happen upon a place where everything is as he hoped it would be. I suppose all that is true, but it's not a particularly uplifting message, not for my money anyway. Still, it's a somewhat post-apocalyptic world where the underlying message isn't that humanity is doomed, rather that humanity has to learn from their mistakes, perhaps to steps to guard against them.

There are certain things I don't entirely buy. One of the things that gets brought up is that after the Destruction, large groups of people turned to the Mennonites to show them how to live without all the things modern life had brought about, to the point that the "New Mennonites" are the major group represented politcally in Washington D.C. I wasn't entirely sure of that since I kind of think even if cities were destroyed by nuclear warheads, people wouldn't simply abandon the concept of living in cities the way the book suggests. Of course, if enough cities keep getting blown up, then maybe all the people determined to make it work are dead, and then it proceeds, but there were clearly some people who liked cities that survived, and passed that longing on to their offspring, so I'm not really sure of that.

Also, if they're going to regress to such a heavily agrarian state, I'm a little surprised they even bother to remain a unified nation. I'd expect a group of city-states, or small nations, ala Ancient Greece or the Germanic region pre-1800s unification***. I know the U.S. was a nation at this stage of technological development (wagons and paddleboats, I don't think they even have trains), but if things are going to fall apart that much, why not go whole hog? I think that could have lead to nations that were more or less inclined to regain what was lost, and hostilities between the different levels of desire for a return. You could have nations wanting a full return to the earlier days, others wanting to remain agriculturally based, still others that want to stay dispersed, but also want to advance so they can defend themselves from their neighbors, and what happens with those societies. That seems like that could have been interesting mosaic for the protagonists to travel across, but it would take someone more knowledgable than me.

One other thing. There's a considerable focus in the book (at times) on the absence of color in people's day-to-day lives. There are comments on the dullness of people's homes and outfits, and Len' Gram likes to discuss a red dress she had in her younger days, and how pretty it was, and that clearly impacts on Len's consciousness, this idea of a bright red dress. I was fairly sure even at the level of technology they've allowed themselves, dying clothes would be possible. I guess the point is that such a thing is an extravagance, and would be seen as a reminder of those sinful days of needless luxury when people turned from the Lord****. And that, could get you stoned. So better to live in a world of drab colors, I suppose.

* I'm reminded of that exchange in High Plains Drfiter. 'Be careful, you make people afraid, and that's dangerous. It's what people know about themselves that makes them afraid.'

** This probably serves to date the work. It's listed as copyrighted in 1955, but first printing was 1974. So was Brackett able to copyright the work, without getting it published for 20 years?

*** Or the situation described in Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge on the XBox.

**** Oh yeah, religion got a big boost from the war, as everyone starts claiming this was God punishing people for all their excesses like TV and radio, and cars, and those were things of the devil, but people didn't listen so God smote them, blah, blah, blah That sort of line comes up a lot in the book, as characters spout about how God gives them everything they need now, and they get along fine, so obviously all that other stuff was unnecessary, and therefore, bad. I think, were I transported into this world, I probably would have been stoned pretty quickly, because I would have strenuously objected to that line of reasoning, as I did while reading the book. Or I would have spent a lot of time running for my life to avoid getting stoned. Or being politely asked to leave the town in question, as some of the people are at least not violently intolerant of such talk. This presumes I couldn't have kept my mouth shut, which I'm usually pretty good at, but there are no guarantees.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Return! Very Briefly.

Hey. Just wanted to let you know that the silence the previous two days was due to lack of electricity here at my current location. Now, the sweet, blessed electricity is back, which means my alarm clock works, so I don't have to force myself to wake up in time for work. I was doing just fine at that, mind you, except that I was waking up about 30 minutes to an hour too early, which really isn't enough time to go back to sleep, you know?

Anyway, I've got a post about a book I read while the power was planned for tomorrow, but I did want to quickly mention, that I've thought some more about my Squirrel Girl post from Saturday, and I think I may have thought of a potential character: Booster Gold. I know, personality-wise, it doesn't work. He doesn't get played for laughs as much as he used to, though there is still an element of humor to his current title. But he is the greatest hero we've never heard of. He runs around saving all of time, and almost nobody has any idea he's doing it. Other than Batman, everyone regards him as the same old Booster Gold.

So it's not perfect, but it seemed worth mentioning. Good night.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Considering Squirrel Girl

For some reason, I've been thinking quite a bit about Squirrel Girl today. Primarily, I've been thinking about whether the DC Universe has a character like her. I suppose it might help to define that a bit. I'm going off what I've read of her, which is mostly recent things written by Messers. Slott and Nicieza.

Personality wise, Squirrel Girl seems to be a fairly chipper person, always eager to help others in need, whether it's trying to stop a mugger in Central Park, or stop Maelstrom from destroying all existence. She comes off as a bit naive at times, but she's also very logical and reasonable when it's called for*. She doesn't tend to judge. She's brave, humble, and very much seems to believe that superheroes are supposed to be role models. I was going to say that her cheery disposition reminds me of Ice (which is probably how I started thinking about this), but in other ways, but her belief that heroes should stand for something, and her tendency to give others the benefit of the doubt,l is more reminiscent of Superman.

She has a track record of defeating enemies which vastly outclass her in power (a list that includes Dr. Doom, Thanos, and MODOK), which is very Batman in JLA, but her victories, while apparently canon**, don't get much play outside the fairly limited corner of the Marvel Universe Squirrel Girl tends to operate in. I haven't seen her called in as an instructor in Avengers: The Initiative yet, for example. In that sense, the closest comparison is, um, I don't actually know. DC's so hellbent on making their whole universe tie together these days, I'm not sure there's a part of it that can really exist by itself. I'd suggest Adam Strange, but I know there have been references in, I believe Countdown to Infinite Crisis, as to how Adam Strange defends Rann from all kinds of crazy stuff, by himself, so that would suggest he has a widely known rep. Ambush Bug kind of runs around in his own world, but I get the impression that if he defeats a villain, it's incidental to his trying to, I don't know, get a breakfast burrito or something. Not really the same thing.

Then again, I'm not familiar with all the obscure corners of the DCU, so there's probably someone out there with Squirrel's mixture of exuberance, optimism, and relatively obscure history of massive heroic triumphs.

* See her attempt to reason with Penance in the Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular.

** Well, the squirrel insisted the Dr. Doom victory is in continuity, because it was drawn by Steve Ditko.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is It The Quiet Ones You Have To Watch Out For?

This occurred to me today, while I was working. I'm not sure why it came to me precisely, but that's how my brain tends to work anyway. I was performing some basic task, and something made me think of Martian Manhunter #24, the issue where J'onn tells Kyle Rayner about this horrible addiction to Chocos he once had.

In the story, J'onn's JLI teammates confront him with the true of his addiction to the creamy filling and crunchy cookie, and so J'onn promptly concentrates, isolates the addiction to a few specific cells in his body, and casts it out. But the addiction has a mind of its own, and starts possessing his teammates, jumping from Ice (who saved J'onn from being possessed), to Guy, to Fire, then to Max Lord*. Anyway, J'onn destroys the addiction entirely, and tells Booster and Beetle (who were behind the whole mess that got us to this point), that while he thanks them for helping him face his problem, they should never do anything like this again. The catch is, J'onn made up the whole story to get Kyle to think about the importance of being self-aware, which I knew at the time, but that didn't stop my brain. Not that things like that ever do.

The thing that occurred to me was, as the other JLIers are being controlled, Ted and Michael are standing off to one side, apparently taking note of every secret desire the others utter, because, as Booster put it, 'This stuff is, dare I say it. . . gold!'** So, were they planning to tease the others with what they said? Blackmail them? Play pranks related to the confessions? And then I thought, "Well, surely they wouldn't play one on Ice! That would be like kicking a puppy, and they aren't that cruel!" Then that raised the question of, well, assuming they were that cruel, how would they have used the fact that she secretly craves baby seal burgers? What are thye going to do, kill a baby seal and present it to her on a platter, with onions and whatever else she said she wanted on it? Even for Blue & Gold, that's a lot of heat to risk. I mean, I'm sure Fire would be digusted, Max would probably be pissed, especially once PETA somehow finds out about it, and starts protesting outside their embassy.

But mostly, it came back to the idea that Tora's simply too nice for people to play pranks on. Then I started wondering if she was really that sweet and nice, or might she have a more mischevous side to her. She could make life pretty difficult for those two, putting aside the possibility of simply siccing Guy on them. They could wake up with their lower bodies encased in ice, which would cause major shrinkage***, little ice on the floors when Ted's got some new bit of technology he's been waiting for, or engage them in conversation, while quietly creating ice stalagmites behind them, that once thye get large enough, give the two of them wedgies.

You can see that I'm not exactly good at this pranking thing. Perhaps that's the point of Blue & Gold's antics: That they don't really stop to consider what might happen (to others or to themselves) if they do something, they just do it. Because it's funny. Which isn't to say I hold J'onn turning into a Hulk-like creature bellowing about how 'Mars needs CHOCOS!' against them. That was probably far enough out there, it couldn't have been anticipated, even if it had actually happened to the characters. Though maybe it did happen, on one of those other Earths. The other universes, the were recreated as if they had history before Alex Luthor made them and Mr. Mind devored/altered some of them, so that could have happened, even though chronologically, it would have taken place during the "1 Universe" years, right?

Ugh, headache.

* I really wish Batman had been in attendance, rather than simply teleconferencing. Just to see what he would have blurted out.

** This is actually why it's probably good Batman wasn't there, because Booster and Beetle wouldn't be able to resist making fun of whatever he admitted being addicted to, and then he would probably use some paralyzer punch on both of them, and it would be a very sad day.

*** And probably leg-endagering levels of frostibite, but I'm sure the JLI have some gizmo that can help with that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Essential Defenders

Hey, it's Wednesday, and that means. . . well, that means I have to keep coming up with different stuff to talk about. Bugger.

I think it was roughly a month ago, I managed to purchase Essential Defenders Volumes 1 and 2. Volume 1 caught my attention, if only because it details the roundabout way the Defenders got together. Dr. Strange needs some help, so he tricks Namor into lending a hand. Sometime later, Namor has a team-up with the Silver Surfer to stop some device the U.S. military was going to test, which would have devastating consequences for the world. And heck, they even roped the Hulk into it, for about five minutes, before he got mad about not getting to smash and bounded off, as they Hulk was wont to do back in the day. I don't have it in front of me, but the Defenders really seemed like a team that was just Roy Thomas screwing around, taking adavantage of all the books he was writing, and then someone said, "Hey, let's make an actual book with these characters!". And someone else said, "That's brilliant!", and here we are.

I'm a bit confused by the Giant-Size Defenders that are sprinkled in there amongst the regular Defenders issues. They seem to have their own numbering, and they're too frequent to be Annuals, but at least sometimes, plots carried over, so they were connected, and I'm not sure what to make of it.

Some other things that stood out to me:

1) The story of the Defenders and Luke Cage trying to stop the Sons of the Serpent. There's a scene, as the white supremacists prattle on about liberating the oppressed white minority, and the leader says something about how they hate everyone who isn't white. The Hulk, of course, is green, and aware of that. So he comes to the conclusion the Snake-Men hate him too, and proceeds to destroy a street with the old "pound the ground with both fists" move. That scene always makes me laugh, possibly because this bad guy is blathering on, spewing all this hatred, and the Hulk cuts right to the quick of it, and responds how he pretty much always does - by smashing.

2) On a couple of occasions, both written by Steve Gerber, I believe, the comics went with an odd tactic of going with a single image on a page, then placing the text below it. Prose, I guess. They used it twice in the issue where the Defenders + Daredevil are used by the Gamesmaster to protect the universe from a highly advanced computer Dr. Doom constructed, then grew bored with, as best I can tell. One page is when Daredevil and Nighthawk arrive at the battlefield, and the writing switches to 2nd tense so that we are Daredevil, using our hyper-senses to detect our teammates. There's another page later, but I forget what it entailed. Then, it was used again during that Sons of the Serpent story, as their leader broadcasts an ultimamtum (or a manifesto) worldwide. We see him standing before a projection screen, which details various states of society that the Serpents find objectionable, as well as scenes of what's going to happen when their scheme succeeds. Then his speech is in a single large chunk at the bottom of the page. Just one page, in the entire story arc.

I can't really figure why Gerber (I'm assuming it was Gerber's idea, since Starlin was the artist for Giant Size Defenders #3, and Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito handled the art for Defenders #22-25) wanted to do that in those specific points. Just playing around? I guess he felt it worked better, presentation wise, and I'm generally inclined toa gree with him on Giant-Size Defenders, though I think it might have worked better if Starlin had done at least part of the page from the perspective of Daredevil's radar sense.

3) At thimes, the book really feels like Marvel Team-Up, with characters shuttling in for an issue, then shuttling out, but their appearance somehow got a different character involved, then perhaps a group of past characters arrive all at once. It's neat really, because you can't be sure who might pop up next issue.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Was It About Money? A Woman? A Hog?

In the movie Die Hard, there's a scene where Hans is sitting in Holly's office, just biding his time, and there's a mini-tv on behind him. On the mini-tv, there are two guys squaring off. One's wearing overalls, the other a plaid wool shirt. One of them says 'Now I'm not gonna warn/ask/tell* you again', then someone gets punched in the face.

What TV show was that? Was it a real TV show, or just something the cast put together for grins? I've watched Die Hard I don't know how many times, and when I see that scene, I always wonder what show it was, and why those two guys were fighting.

* The guy only says one of those, I just can't recall which. It's been awhile since I've seen it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

So Why Go There?

I was reading through Byrne's first two years* on Namor the Sub-Mariner this last weekend, and I get to around #18, and we're at the point where Namor's first dead wife, the Lady Dorma, has mysteriously returned from the grave, but in a basically mindles state. Turns out some exiled Atlantean created a clone (well several clones) of her, to try and win Namor's favor, so he could be buried in Atlantis. Great, except he can't recreate her mind, and basically destroyed her body breaking it down for raw materials. Oops.

Anyway, the big reveal comes when the eldery fishman reveals that Namorita is a clone of her mother, slightly altered so it wasn't too obvious**. It's further revealed, Namor knew for quite some time, and just never got around to bringing it up. Proof that even half-Atlantean men run when it comes time to discuss important emotional stuff. Anyway, Nita kind of freaks, what with her worried she's a soulless creation***, and takes off for awhile. Namor searches for, and finds her, and we have one of those touching moments, as Namor insists that he has observed her bravery and loyalty, and concern for others, and knows that regardless of how she came to be, she has a soul. Well, that's great. Really, I'm happy, except I can't shake the feeling that the whole sequence was unnecessary. Namor already knew, so it isn't a case where we watch him come to grips with this new information. And with Namora gone, it wasn't like she and Nita could have a mother/daughter talk about it, and Byrne made it pretty clear that it wasn't supposed to affect how we viewed her, so why bother?

Then, I thought of something else. The whole reason Namora went the clone route was because, as a hybrid, she's sterile. So, as another hybrid, Namor should be sterile too, right? Except that last mini-series he had showed he had at least one kid. Crap, Namor got cloned offspring too! Great, there could be dozens of Namor's running around now (instead of just the two Avengers/Invaders gave us).

* Well, 25 issues, the point where he stopped doing the art.

** The alterations included giving Nita full wings, were her mother apparently just had undeveloped wing buds. So, apparently Namora couldn't fly. Which means. . . the Namora in Agents of Atlas is a Skrull! Nah, Agents of Atlas is too cool to be infiltrated by Skrulls.

*** Conner Kent could relate to those feelings, if he wasn't busy being dead, while his girlfriend and best friend make out. Poor dead Connor. Or did they break up? I can't keep track.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Discussion Topic: Amazing Spider-Man

Brand New Day appears to have been an attempt to return to the sorts of Spider-Man stories that were more common 25-40 years ago, with no marriage, freelance photographer Peter Parker, difficulty paying rent, and an alive Harry Osborn. Venom, while created in the late '80s, seems very much to be a child of the '90s with the development of his "lethal protector" phase, and general willingness to threaten to eat criminals. Venom later became a different villain, trying to be taking more seriously, perhaps marking this decade's preoccupation with showing comics aren't just for children, as well as an increased focus on legacies (or recycling of names, depending on your viewpoint.

Brand New Day has recently introduced Anti-Venom, the original human half of Venom, having previously faded into the background without powers, given new power (and new story importance) by Mr. Negative, a crime lord, similar to some of Spider-Man's past foes (the Answer, the Spot, Persuader, maybe Tombstone or Man Mountain Marko). Anti-Venom apparently can damage the symbiont half of Venom, as had attempted to do so in the most recent Amazing Spider-Man.

So, is this indicative of the larger trend towards stories emulating Silver and Bronze Age tales, by eliminating remnants of the "Marriage Era", or something else?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

It Is Critical You Pay Attention At This Time

. . . {Hey, are you listening?} Hmm? {What are you doing over there?} Laying in the sun. It feels nice. {Is the sun even out right now?} No. {So, you're really just laying around.} Yeah. {Well, how about we discuss Secret Six while you lounge?} I still can't read Punisher? {No, I'd still rather you didn't. It's frank depictions of sex and narcotic abuse, are not for infantile intellects such as yours. At least, not until you become Slightly Less Adorable Adult Panda, guaranteeing you're large enough to keep your mom from killing me for letting you read it.}

Aw. {Hey, it just means you've got that to look forward to when you get older.} *glumly* All right. I guess Scandal could use a Hug, but I'm worried she might throw up on me. {Maybe you could hug from behind? Belly to back?} She might think I was attacking her! {Yeah, but a) she'll probably puke before she can attack, and b) even if she can take a swing at you, you're small enough she'll just swing right over you.} I think Bane could use a Hug, because he seems like the only one that isn't crazy. {So he gets to play the Martian Manhunter, to the rest of the team's Justice League International? That poor guy.} Do you think we'll find out why he's with them? {I'm sure Simone will get to it eventually, but I don't think it's essential at this point. Let the book get into a groove first.}

Do you think Catman needs a hug, or a bonk? He lost his lions, but he wasn't very worried about that storekeeper getting robbed. {Well, I'd say Deadshot needs the bonk, since he actually robbed the guy, but I think you could withhold the hug from Catman to teach him a lesson.} Hitting Deadshot could get me shot! {Relax. We'll find you a little Batman costume, then he'll never be able to hit you. Just stick to the shadows, and work fast.} OK then. Bonk for Deadshot! And, Applause for Ragdoll. He tried to cheer Scandal up. {That's nice of you. I'd suggest you keep you applaud from a distance. Ragdoll might just be the craziest one of them all.} Really? {Definitely don't go near any ledges with him.}

Well, I'm gonna go lay in the sun. {Hey, hold on. I have to explain why I was being cryptic last week.} I already know. {What?} Yeah, you just didn't want to tell me you got me a present. {That's not why I was being secretive.} What? {Sorry. The deal is, employment is taking me to a different location for a couple months. I expect to enjoy the work, but it leaves me about 3 hours drive from the store. Ken, being the swell fella he is, has agreed to mail me my comics every couple weeks. So, until the middle of November, there will be less frequent, but larger, review posts, on books that are a week to two weeks old. Likewise, there will be fewer helpings of ABP, but each serving will be larger. So now you know. You may resume basking.}

Friday, September 05, 2008

What I Bought 9/5/08

Comics were there today. And there was much rejoicing. Of course, it was a small week for me, so I probably didn't rejoice as much as some others, but one can not demand more happiness, one can only accept what happiness appears before them. Or something equally deep.

The Punisher #61- On the cover, anyone have any idea as to the significance of the skull emblem on Frank's shirt having a crack in it? It's a fairly standard Punisher story, with there being people committing crimes, and innocent folk suffering as a result, and Frank Castle getting involved. Curiously, Hurwitz opts not to have Frank deal with any random lawbreakers during the issue, instead detailing his competence through noticing the person following him, and how Frank strings him along. It demonstrates the awareness and attention to detail that helps him do what he does.

Hurwitz' Punisher is more preoccupied with his family than Ennis' was. He's either less willing, or less successful at burying their memory. The use of profanity in the last line felt oddly forced. Actually, it mostly felt odd that Frank said it out loud, as it seemed more something he'd think to himself. I think it's just a difference in writing style I need to adjust to. Campbell's art is sort of hard-edged, lots of deep shadows, with considerable use of outlines and varying light sources, that reveal only faint details. The exception is the first scene, with the girl's birthday, where it's brighter, happier, and people are more smooth-faced. The good times, before the descent into the Punisher's world. I think it's going for a noir feeling, which could work if Hurwitz makes Frank digging into what's going on a critical part of the story. Cautiously optimistic.

Secret Six #1 - I really like the curling smoke effect on the cover. It makes it vaguely trippy somehow, making me think of '60s Steranko covers. As to the story, Scandal is throwing up a lot, depressed over Knockout's death, and Catman is worried about whether he needs to change his life. Deadshot is predictably unsympathetic They have a job to get a person cross-country, but are going to be pursued by agents of some being that never leaves it's crate. OK, that's kind of weird. And Batman is trying to use the Six somehow or the other.

It's a good first issue, for my money. Gives us a clue to the mind sets of the principal characters, made me chuckle a bit, introduced an intriguing bad guy, hinted at something much larger even beyond that. I think Nicola Scott is my kind of artist. Things are relatively clear, the faces are expressive, Ragdoll looks sutiably freaky, it's all good. Consider me on board for the time being.

I'd try and say more, but I really must fly. Adorable Baby Panda, and an annoucement, tomorrow. Do try and control yourselves.