Saturday, February 28, 2009

Perhaps They Had Other Business

I rewatched Predator Thursday night. I love that film so much. The explosions, Arnold's various lines/vocalizations*, Jesse Ventura pontificating upon the sexual enhancement that comes with chewing tobacco**, Mac threatening to bleed Dillon and leave him in the jungle if he gives away their position again, the action, the crude jokes, Billy's outstanding lunatic laugh***, all of it.

I think my favorite scene is immediately following Jesse Ventura's death, when Mac mows down a good chunk of the forest with the Minigun, only to be joined by the rest of the squad, who help him in fighting the reforestation of the rain forest. Because there were bad guys to find, and trees make good hiding places, damn it!

Still, something came to mind while watching that scene. The whole reason they were in that section of jungle was because the heli couldn't come to the encampment they had destroyed. If you will recall, there were more guerillas all over the place, 1 or 2 klicks away, tops. Since the military couldn't be there****, the squad had to get someplace safe to be picked up. So off they go into the jungle. Well, what happened to those guerillas?

Figure they hear the fighting and return to the encampment. Wouldn't they try and hunt down the people who destroyed their base? How could they not catch up? It's not as though the squad was making great time. They stopped when Billy had a bad feeling, then their hostage escaped, then Hawkins was killed, then they spent time trying to find his body, then they wiped out a couple acres of forest, then they camped for the night, had their position given away when the pig triggered their traps, then the next morning they set that elaborate trap with the net, and the swinging logs, after that failed, Mac and Dillon chased the Predator, the rest tried to carry Ramirez and his broken ribs until he died, then Dutch took another night to have a big fight with the Predator, which was full of explosions, yelling, and various other position betraying noises.

So where were the guerillas? Did the Predator kill them, so they couldn't interfere? It was watching the big assault from the trees, so he could have waited for the guerillas, and wiped them out, but that would have taken time, if there were enough of them that if was prudent for Dutch and his squad to withdraw quickly. We know it'd gotten ahead of them by the time Billy had his bad feeling and the girl tried to escape. So did the guerillas just get scared? Maybe they saw what happened to their base, got angry, started to pursue, then heard the attackers laying waste to the forest ahead of them, remembered how effectively their base was wiped out, and decided discretion was the better part of valor?

* 'Get to the chopper!' being the famous one, along with 'If it bleeds, we can kill it', but I was always partial to the bestial yell he calls out the Predator with. He has some impressive lungs. My job requires me to spend a lot of time in the woods. I really ought to cut loose with one of those while my coworkers are around. However, I do let out a Ric Flair "Whooo!" upon completion of another work day.

** It probably just about offsets the damage to his testicles being done by the steroids he was probably taking. That's not fair of me, is it? I don't know that he was taking steroids. OK, if he was taking steroids, the tobacco probably only offset the testicular damage. If he wasn't taking steroids, then I guess it really was making him 'a goddamn sexual Tyrannosaurus'.

*** Since it was his laugh the Predator was aping when it triggered its self-destruct sequence. That is my favorite deranged laugh of all time.

**** Here's something else. During the big attack scene, Dutch tells Mac to get everything ready to go, 'No traces'. How the heck is he supposed to eliminate all traces of U.S. military presence? They must have wasted thousands of rounds of ammunition. And if that stuff isn't the traces, then what was Arnold talking about?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Snurf? Duzzle, Wha?

*Early morning. Calvin awakes to insistent pounding on his door. He rolls out of bed, Staggers to said door, and opens it* Calvin: {Yeah?} *A ball of fur smacks Calvin in the face.* Calvin: {Agh! Fuzzy face-hugger! The creatures from Alien have spawned with Care Bears! Run for your life!} *The ball of fur leaps from Calvin's face and lands next to the pile of comics. Calvin, still running around in a frenzy, slams into the door and falls to the ground.* Adorable Baby Panda: Comics!! Finally! *ABP hugs the comics.* Calvin: {*dazed* Don't say "Sorry for scaring you" or anything. Or "good morning", for that matter.} ABP: *Hopping around the room* Oh, good morning. You said to get here early. Calvin: {It's not even dawn yet!} ABP: Here, drink some of this. It's like fifteen cups of coffee at once! *Runs halfway up wall, pushes off, does triple backflip, lands on top of the dresser on the opposite side of the room.* Calvin: {Ah, no. Thanks though. Perhaps we'd better get to this before your heart explodes.}

ABP: Booster gets Applause for making fun of Chronos. Why would anyone steal clocks? It doesn't make any sense. Booster gets a Bonk for being so busy making fun of Chronos that he let the real bad guy beat him up and steal the knife, though. That was stupid. Why would he make fun of the bad guy? Just beat him up already! Calvin: {You might want to reread that paragraph before we commit to it.} No time! Until I find this man you're after, I have, no choice but to keep moving! {Man? What man? I'm not looking for anyone right now.} *ABP, trancelike* You will be, soon, all will rely on your finding the true possessor of the spirit of fire. {What?!}

*ABP, normally* What? Reed Richards gets a Bonk for building a prison in the Negative Zone, because that was really stupid. {Can you give Adam Warlock a swat for that stupid line about how there's a war coming, a War of Kings? That was terribly cheesy.} Sure! Bonk for Adam Warlock! The real one is probably in that coccoon anyway. {Pretty sure he's not.} Bet you're wrong! Whoever made a mess in Star-Lord's helmet gets a Bonk! Jack Flag gets a Hug because he can walk again! Now he can go back to Earth and beat up Bullseye! {Well, he's going by Hawkeye now. I would pay good money to see the Guardians of the Galaxy kick the hell out of Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers for like, 50 pages, though.} How can Bullseye be Hawkeye now? {Because people in the Marvel Universe are stupid. I'm pretty sure we've covered this before.}

I'm giving that crime boss in Moon Knight a Bonk. He was going to kill his daughter to prove how tough he was, that's just terrible. {Well, the Punisher is in the area, so I'm sure he'll pay for that by the end of the story.} Moon Knight gets a Hug, since he got shot. Whoever helped him gets some applause, because that was nice of them. {Probably the Punisher.} Then Applause for the Punisher. I owe him some applause anyway, since I bet he did lots of stuff in his series that deserved it, that you wouldn't let me see. {I told you, when you're older.} How much odler? {Old enough you're mother won't get mad and eat me for letting you read Punisher MAX.} That could be years! {Sorry.} Phooey. I'm going to go hang out with Deadpool. He's not afraid of my mom, and he said I could play GTA 4 with him. {He's really looking to test his healing factor, isn't he?} Huh? {Nothing, nothing. Have a good time. Oh, wait a second. Could you give him this? *Hands ABP the weapon he took off UnCalvin*} Cool, what does it do? {No idea. That's what I'm hoping wade can figure out.} Sure, I'll give it to him. Bye! *ABP runs off in a cloud of dust* {I hope that stuff isn't addictive. I don't think this blog is ready for a Very Special Episode on the dangers of drug abuse.}

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What I Bought 2/26/09

Yes, comics. I have them. Not all of the ones I was supposed to have. Naturally. The universe can't help but play "Treat Calvin Like a Complete Prat", when it gets the opportunity, but I've got something, so that will have to suffice for the time being. At least I'm on my weekend now. Sweet relaxation.

Booster Gold #17 - Does anyone else feel this is spinning out of control? At some point, Booster still has to go back to the original attempt to fix things (from Dixon's 2-parter) and recover an unconscious. . . hell. I've forgotten whether it was Rip or Booster that was knocked out and picked up and palced in a time sphere by another Booster. Or was it even Booster? Maybe it was Michelle? I know she observed it and commented on what was going on.

This issue finds Booster back where he fought Supernova the first time, to ensure Barry Allen becomes the Flash. Except now he's after a knife, and runs into a clock stealing Chronos, who he mocks, rather rudely. I guess when you've been the butt of as many jokes as Booster Gold, you take the opportunity to turn the tables whenever you can. Sure, stealing timepieces is kind of lame, but if that's all the criminal aspires to, why tease them? That's how you make "I'mma kill everyone! That'll show 'em!" villains, and who needs more of those?

Booster does not protect the knife from Glowy Energy Person, and gets arrested by Barry Allen, but still makes certain Barry gets hit by lightning. As for the backup story, it's a nice primer if you're new to the series, so I won't complain about that. Except I'm not really new to the series, so it doesn't do much for me, seeing as I'm not terribly interested in Blackest Night, or little blue people whose eyes bleed ink.

Guardians of the Galaxy #10 - Rocket Raccoon, I'm sure you know best, but it might be better to aim the gun at Blastaar's eye, rather than the brow of his crown. Just a thought. The team finds Star-Lord, and rescues him, Blastaar does not get to Earth (yet), and Adam Warlock is going to prove he's the real deal to this church by stopping the War of Kings. Except the church still has that other coccoon they thought would have Adam Warlock in it, so what's the deal there? I have a theory, not one I'm particularly found of, but we'll get to that another day.

This felt like a weak issue to me, though I can't quite pin down why. Either I needed more fighting against Blastaar's hordes (even though given his power, and the numbers he had supporting him, finding Quill and heading home was absolutely the smart thing to do), or more advancement on the Warlock front, or we needing to check back in on Drax and Quasar, after their deaths last issue. I get the impression Abnett and Lanning could only do so much, because going any farther would encroach on what they have planned for War of Kings proper. On the positive side, Brad Walker drew the whole issue, and I still enjoy his work, so that was a plus. One odd thing: Did Reed Richards seem a bit off-character in his speech in this issue? I think it was his quoting Star-Lord about "Whack-Jobs" and shrugging his shoulders at Star-Lord's proclamation of his group as the Guardians of the Galaxy. I don't see Reed shrugging his shoulders so much as doing the "thoughtful look". Where your thumb rests under your chin, and the index finger is udner the nose, usually accompanied by a "Hmm". It's probably nothing, but he seems different from last month's Nova, and since they're written by the same blokes, my suspicious sense is buzzing.

Moon Knight #27 - With this issue we learn why the girl was in prison, why her father is so desperate to get her out, and get a glimpse at two different threats Lockley may have to deal with. All told we have ruthless crimelords, a werid, shadowy figure with a large blade, luchadore tag-team hitmen, the Punisher, and oh yeah, Moon Knight himself.

This story seems full of people who can easily do terrible things to others, including our portagonist, though he may actually be the most restrained of the bunch. It's interesting to see how methodically he approaches the jailbreak, a skill I imagine carries over from his mercenary days. It contrasts with a Moon Knight who at times seemed to simply throw himself into situations without any real idea what he was up against, which suggests to me that certain skills are strictly tied to certain personalities, but I'm not certain of that. I amcurious whether the reason he gives the men he works with for why they can't kill any federales is the true reason he won't allow it, or if it's the reason he feels they will most readily accept.

As I was starting this review, I was preparing to make some comments about the lack of expression in Jefte Palo's faces (if you've been a reader here for awhile, you know ability to convey emotion is pretty high on my list of things pencilers must do). Then I took a bathroom break, and I had a thought, so I'm a bit higher on his work now, and I'm going to take more time to look it over, and it'll be a blog post here sometime soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The English Are So Comical When They're Being Criminal

One of the movies I received for Christmas was Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. It had always sounded interesting, I simply hadn't ever gotten around to renting it.

So I asked for and received it, and I watched it, and. . . well, it was funny, but I didn't wind up enjoying it as much as I had expected. I came away from it feeling I'd watched Guy Ritchie's A Continuum of Remarkable Coinky-Dinks. Gee, these guys need money, and they just happen to know of a weed seller that has lots of cash, but they live right next door to thugs who also plan to rob said weed dealer, but our weed dealers just happen to choose that day to lock the gate that bars entry to their place, stymieing the professional criminals. Oh, and our heroes' firearms happen to be valuable shotguns that were supposed to be stolen for the fellow they need the money to pay off, except he didn't receive them due to a misunderstanding, and now he's looking for those, and expecting their money, and after awhile it all started to feel a bit ridiculous.

I didn't think it was a bad film, but the level of fortuitous happenstance exceeded my limits. Still, one of my co-workers had Snatch, so I thought, what the hell, give it a try. The first positive is that I didn't feel the level of fortuitous happenstance exceeded my limits. There were certain points that pushed it*, but if the level of coincidence was equal to the earlier film, it was in a way that wasn't as obtrusive to me. Still, there is a remarkable level of inter-connection between characters that have barely met before this particular story begins. Maybe this says something about dishonest people, and how if you're constantly trying to pull fast ones on people, you can't be surprised when others do the same to you, and that the more people that get dragged into something, the more likely they are to cross paths, or double-cross paths. That's a little pun. Nearly microscopic, in fact. I don't think that's what Ritchie is driving at**, but it's something I take from it. Nobody has true loyalty to anyone else, except perhaps for Tommy and Turkish. Everyone uses everyone else, tries to kill everyone else, steal from each other, rip each other off, an endless stream of dishonorable deals. The two that are the worst at this, unsurprisingly, are Tommy and Turkish, as they seem to consistently be taken advantage of by all the others they interact with. Whether that's a sign they have stronger moral fiber, or that they just aren't as clever, or simply a sign of how little power they have in all this, that they keep having to get involved in situations that put them at a disadvantage, I'm not sure. I'd lean towards the second one myself.

I was reading a review that said the reviewer's problem with the film was Ritchie doesn't provide us with a reason to care about any of the characters. I don't know that I agree with that. I was at least a little concerned for Mickey, Tommy, and Turkish. Would Mickey throw the fight like he was supposed to, and would he get Brick Top for what he did? The odd thing is I wasn't feeling worried during the big bareknuckle fight scene and its aftermath, so I'm really inferring the concern, because during the extended sequence between the Vin/Sol duo and the Avi/Tony pair, I kept thinking to myself that they'd gone away from Turkish and Mickey's story for too long. I guess that's concern, though maybe just concern for the larger narrative. So perhaps the reviewer was correct after all.

I really do like Mickey (Brad Pitt). Actually, I usually like Brad Pitt when he plays less cleancut fellow. I guess he plays a dirty, goofy fellow well, though he's actually very clever here as well. Certainly not a fellow to be trifled with, or underestimated. I rather like the ending as well. I can't decide whether it promises happy days for our main characters, or the beginning of more hi-jinks and double crosses. On the whole, I'd say I liked Snatch more than Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Maybe it's all the bareknuckle fighting that puts it over the top. Man, that looked painful.

* The primary example being when Bullet Tooth Tony and Avi are driving with Boris the Blade in their trunk, only to crash because Tommy throws Turkish's carton of milk out the window and obscures their windshield, this as Tommy and Turkish drive to Boris' house to purchase a functional gun. The crash allows Boris to get out of the trunk, and as he staggers blindly in the street, because he has a bag over his head, gets hit by the car driven by Tyrone, Vinny, and Sol, who were looking for Boris to retrieve the diamond that Tony and Avi have taken from him already. That was pushing it.

** If he has a larger point at all. I'm not certain he wasn't just having fun with a story that allows him to use a cast of oddball characters.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

That's So Cute

You know something I liked about the Simonson Thor run?

Besides all the massive, earth-shaking battles. And besides Beta Ray Bill. And besides Loki being a self-interested bastard. Look, just stop guessing, OK?

The thing I liked (and maybe this was a running thread prior to Simonson, but I kind of doubt it) was how Hildy, one of Volstagg's kids, had a crush on Hogun the Grim. I just think it's kind of sweet, especially since her brothers would tease her about it, and then she'd beat them up. It would have been easy for her to like Fandral, what with him being "dashing" and all, but she recongizes substance over style, so she falls for the guy that hits people with a mace, and doesn't feel the need to boast all the time.

Plus, Hogun wasn't entirely unaware of it, at least he knew she looked up to him. There was the big fight with Surtur's forces on Earth, and the Asgardians were stuck there for awhile, but when they got back, he'd picked up a baseball cap for her, which I'm sure she treasured greatly.

I thought that was one of those little things, that adds to the experience as a whole. Fleshes the characters and their world out a bit.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Are Your Comics Your Mood-Elevator?

It can't be a good sign that "Ankle turned 90 degrees while playing basketball with co-workers*" doesn't even rank in the Top 5 of things that annoyed me today. Heck, "Wow, this morning air is so cold and dry, my nose has started to bleed!" didn't even make the top 3. Now that I've bored you with tidbits from my life, I'll get to the matter at hand.

I'm not quite sure how to phrase this, so I'll pose it thusly: Do you prefer when your comics serve as the cherry on top of a peachy keen day, or when your comics serve as the one glimmer of sunshine on what's been an other wise crap day?

I'd imagine most people would opt for the former, if for no other reason than it means you were already having a fine day. That would be my choice, though there is something to be said for "At least I get to read comics today". The problem I see is it puts an awful lot of pressure on your comics. They have to redeem your entire day. The mind-numbing work, the irritating commute, the depressing weather, whatever. That is, perhaps, quite a bit to ask of our comics. Sometimes they can come through for us, and sometimes they don't. I'd say that on some occasions, just getting to take the time to read them makes the day a little better.

Even so, I'd still rather be happy before I buy my comics, just because I think it makes me more appreciative of them, just because my frame of mind is better.

* What I found hilarious about this situation was it happened around the basket, I got up and started trying to walk it off, heading towards the other basket. As I turned and came back, still sort of hopping, and still definitely cursing, the ball bounced to me, and I put up a shot from maybe 18 feet. Swish. This after I hadn't been able to hit a shot more than 6 feet from the basket through 2+ games up to that point. I may have freaked out my co-workers when I started cackling about that, I'm not sure.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Redemptive Attempt Failed?

I'm kind of a fan of the redemptive character arc. I kind of alluded to that in one of my character archetype from so long ago. I don't imagine that's unique to me, just based on the popularity of redemptive arcs. I think a lot of people tend to empathize with characters that have made mistakes, and are trying to correct them, or atone for them.

Of course, there would seem to be limitations to the arc. How long can you keep a character motivated to act based on that need for redemption. I suppose for quite some time, since Spider-Man is a kind of redemptive character, depending on how you view his actions following Uncle Ben's death*. It probably varies by the creator, and what the character's done that requires redemption. For example, in season 4 of Angel, when Faith tries to sacrifice herself to get Angel back, with the idea that would be enough to make up for her past misdeeds, Angel tells her they never stop paying, that essentially, one has to keep working for redemption** (that's how I recall it going, anyway).

The other common end for a redemptive arc seems to be when it falls apart. I'd say Sandman (Marvel version) and Juggernaut would be two examples. For the Juggernaut, his redemption ceased when he decided there were things more important to him than fighting the good fight, namely, being as powerful as he used to be. For Sandman, his best efforts just didn't seem to bear fruit, and I think he just gave up hope after awhile. I know something happened that caused his Avengers stint to end disastrously, and things deteriorated from there.

There are two endings I don't think I see as much though, which is why I thought I'd ask you about them. First, the character actually feels redeemed. As readers, we might reach this point long before the writers decide it has happened. I'd think you could say a character reached this point when people actually start to think of them as a "good guy", because I think that would imply they've been at it long enough that we, as the audience, have accepted them as doing good for genuine reasons. We don't see them as a killer that happened to help out the heroes a few times, they are one of the heroes. It seems rare that the character, in their own mind, feels they've moved beyond that stage. Most of the time, I think it occurs in such a way that the character decides they'll continue to help others because they enjoy it, or they think it's the right thing to do, rather than to attempt to balance a spiritual ledger. The other option, I suppose, would be for the character to reach the stage where they feel they've been redeemed, and call it a day. They've done enough to make up for mistakes of the past, and now they'll be leaving, thank you very much. I'd imagine that might get more use in a creator-owned, finite story, rather than a serial one, simply because in an ongoing story, you can't necessarily have characters (especially the protagonist) deciding they're done and they're leaving the business, because it kind of hurts the story. I can't think of any examples offhand.

The other one is the redemptive arc that gets cut short due to death. This is the one that started this with me, while I was watching Trigun. Late in the series, the episode after this disagreement in fact, Nicholas D. Wolfwood ends up fighting the man who taught him, a fellow named Chapel. Wolfwood was supposed to kill Vash, after having been told to ensure his safety for quite awhile, and having grown to consider Vash a friend, refused to do so. Wolfwood manages to triumph over Chapel, wounding him, and is left with a question: Kill Chapel or not? Up to this point, Wolfwood had shown no qualms about killing, and has only refrained from doing so when Vash actively tells him not to beforehand. Here, he decides to follow Vash's example, and lowers his gun, albeit with some difficulty***. He tells Chapel that he'll still use what he was taught, just in a different way, takes Chapel's apple, and walks away. Then Legato takes control of Chapel, and Chapel shoots Wolfwood, wounding him mortally. Wolfwood has time to tell Vash where to find Knives, and then walk into a church, where he thinks about reincarnation, but also about all the things he could do to help people like Vash does. Then he dies. Cue much crying by various other characters.

It strikes me as somewhat strange, that at the moment the character has this change of heart, renounces his killing ways, and decides, as he put it, that 'there are plenty of ways to save everyone', his story ends. This is not some cold-blooded, heartless killer. This is priest, who also happens to be a gun-for-hire, because it pays the bills that keep the orphanage he established running. He is, in my estimation, solidly in the grey area between good and evil. Yet his new view on things never really gets a chance to produce any results****.

It happens because he's just a supporting character, and his death serves a purpose in the main character's own arc, forcing him to question whether never killing your enemies is actually wise. After all, Wolfwood had done just fine doing things his way, and the first time he tries Vash's method on his own, he dies, so is Vash's way as correct as he's maintained? I can't think of too many similar situations, where the character barely begins their new path before they get taken off the board. I was considering Spoiler in War Games, since it came about ostensibly because she wanted to prove Batman wrong about her, but I don't think that story involves Spoiler changing something, or trying to atone for something. She was trying to prove herself, and she'd been doing that ever since she first appeared. I'd think examples of this would have to be supporting characters, since it's easier to kill them, but I could see someone doing a movie or limited series of some kind where the main character falls short in their attempt to change their ways.

So, you have any ideas?

* I think some writers portray the death as a lesson Peter learned, and it serves as a reminder of the man Ben was, which leads to Peter trying to honor him. Other writers argue that all the superheroics are a guilt complex, a need to make up for not saving Ben by stopping the criminal.

** Which, I must say, is not a particularly great pep talk if you're trying to keep someone from going into the light. "Hey guess what, no matter what you do, you'll always need to do more, it'll never end. Now get up and continue the endless struggle!"

*** He's holding the gun with his right hand, and actually raises his left hand and uses it to lower the barrel, as though he's fighting with himself.

**** And it works out badly for everyone. it gives Vash something else to feel guilty about, and makes Chapel feel he owes Wolfwood a debt of honor. So he tries to kill Legato, and not only does he fail, Knives traps him in a place described as somewhere between existence and death. Sounds like he would have been better off if Nicholas D. had just killed him.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Little Bit Of Nonsense To Pass The Time

What to post about, what to post about?

Voice From Behind Him: Perhaps you could post about your death?

That would be kind of tricky. Either it'd be speculation, or I'd be posting from the afterlife. Oh, hey UnCalvin! That looks like a really interesting weapon, can I take a look at it?

UnCalvin: Certainly, I dislike it anyway. *tosses weapon to Calvin. Pauses* Curses, give that back!

Calvin: Um, no. *sets weapon aside* This was a bit half-hearted by your standards, wasn't it?

UnCalvin: Well, you've been so busy planning out every little thing you're going to do and when, it's been hard to come up with a bigger strategy.

Calvin: Don't blame me for your personality shifts! You were supposed to be bucking that last summer, remember? You helped destroy your own Flying Castle to stop an interdimensional monster?

UnCalvin: *Looks glum* Yes, a fine reward for a good deed, losing my base of operations. I assure you, next time, it will be your home that gets destroyed.

Calvin: My home? I had nothing to do with that! I'm the constant victim in these stories, remember? Go destroy Deadpool's home, if you could even tell the difference once you finished. Or attack the pandas. Besides, I'm sure you have a new base up and running by now.

UnCalvin: I'm not so foolish as to declare open war on pandas, but yes, I do have a new base. One more powerful and difficult to access than before!

Calvin: Oh, is it an undersea complex of bubbles, connected by a labyrinthine series of pipes?

UnCalvin: *eye twitches, presses concealed button on pocket watch* Of course not! Why would anyone build such a thing! You're being absurd!

{Elsewhere, at the bottom of the ocean, a vast complex of bubbles, connected by a labyrinthine series of pipes begins to self-destruct.}

UnCalvin: *inner monologue* At least I hadn't staffed the complex yet. Can't imagine my benefactor will be pleased with the loss, though. *end inner monologue*

Calvin: Jeez, calm down. I was just kidding around.

UnCalvin: What? You weren't serious? OH, why did I just destroy my undersea *punches self in face* I mean, of course, how very amusing of you.

Calvin: Wow, that looked painful.

UnCalvin: Not at all. Quite invigorating. You should really try it some time.

Calvin: I hurt myself enough without trying. I don't need to start intentionally injuring myself. Anyway, I'm sure you've actually set up shop in an orbital platform, with a city destroying laser cannon, right?

UnCalvin: *eye twitches, starts to press another hidden button, this one located on another watch, then stops* You're just kidding again, right?

Calvin: *staring absently out window* Huh? Oh yeah, just goofing around. Why do you have two watches?

UnCalvin: Actually I have 3. The pocket watch is 15 minutes slow every day, this wrist watch is 10 minutes fast every other Tuesday, and this third one doesn't stopped working last week.

Calvin: So how do you tell the time?

UnCalvin: The clock on my cellphone.

Calvin: *pokes UnCalvin in both eyes* You chowderhead. You're supposed to have 3 wrist watches that are useless, then pull out a pocket watch to tell time with! That's how the bit goes!

UnCalvin: Bit?

Calvin: Oh right, I guess you never watched the Three Stooges, did you?

UnCalvin: No.

Calvin: *shakes head sadly* I could try renouncing my love for them, if it would help.

UnCalvin: Thank you for the kind offer, but no. Well, this has all been terribly boring, so I'll be taking my leave. *pauses* My weapon?

Calvin: Seeing as I can't figure out how to unload it, it'll be staying with me.

UnCalvin: *sighs* Very well. This indignity shall be listed next to the others on your headstone, which I assure you will arrive in the near future!

Calvin: Wait, why would you list indignities you suffered on my headstone?

UnCalvin: Well, uh, you know, as an explanation for your death. So that all can see you had this coming!

Calvin: Oh. That makes sense, I guess. Couldn't you just put something like 'He was a fool, and died as a fool dies'? They charge by the letter on those things, don't they?

UnCalvin: Yes, and it's quite an exorbitant sum. perhaps you have something there. the headstone was going to have to be quite large to list all the indignities. I will have to reconsider, especially in light of recent financial setbacks.

Calvin: *smirks* Yeah, I'd imagine having to blow up your completely finished undersea bubble base, complete with sinuous connector pipes, would be quite a hit to the bank account.

UnCalvin: *Gawks* You knew? You said you were just kidding around!

Calvin: *sighs, leans chair back against the wall, starts ticking points off on his fingers* One, of course I knew. We're opposites. I'd go nuts in an undersea base at the bottom of the ocean. Two, of course I lied. I lie sometimes, just like you're honest sometimes. Three, I was kidding around. Didn't you think it was funny when you panicked and destroyed your expensive Sunken Citadel? I did.

UnCalvin: *sputters* You, but, I, my, youuuu *raises voice* WILL RUE THIS DAY THE REMAINDER OF YOUR INCREASINGLY SHORT LIFESPAN! I will break that headstone over your head like a cheap tennis racket!

Calvin: That certainly sounds like a waste of money. And what about the person who went to all the trouble to make that headstone? Not very respectful of their work.

UnCalvin: *bellows, turns, and storms out*

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm Feeling Stymied

So, the issue of the non-arriving comics has been resolved. Not in the sense of the comics having arrived, but I now know why they hadn't arrived, and they're on their way, so hopefully early next week. Fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, I find myself at a loss as to what to talk about in the interim. I actually have a few different ideas, but they're half-formed (even by my standards), and I can't muster much enthusiasm for any of them at this moment. Maybe they'll seem more appealing tomorrow. So here's what I'll try tonight. Along with the handful of survivors from my dad's collection that I grabbed last weekend, I also picked up a few paperbacks that were there as well. Most of them are MAD Magazine related stuff*, but there were a couple of collections of short stories listed under Alfred Hitchcock's name. Not that he wrote them, there are several different authors, but the books are titled things like Alfred Hitchcock's Death Bag, or Alfred Hitchcock's Happiness is a Warm Corpse. Cheerful stuff.

All the stories revolve around death. Big surprise there. Some are as short as five pages, others as long as thirty. I'm fond of Hospitality Most Serene by Jack Ritchie, where a man who lives alone in a cabin has three bank robbers barge, and must evict the unwanted guests. I think the story is suggesting patience is its own virtue, or that it leads to greater rewards.

There's also Horse Collar Homicide (Arthur Porges), which is not so much a "whodunit" as a "howdunit". So it's a bit like Monk, or House, and it teaches you a little something about electricity and conductive metals.

I wouldn't say they're all winners. Talmage Powell writes To Avoid A Scandal and goes to great lengths to demonstrate just how concerned the main character is with appearances and properness. I believe he may have taken it too far, because I ended up feeling too great of a disconnect for the story to have much of an impact. I couldn't get into Never Come Back (Robert Colby), maybe because I couldn't shake the feeling the main character was simply being very stupid by not heeding the title's advice.

Some of the stories have a sort of grim twist, the harsh irony that I'd expect from The Twilight Zone (Successor, Murder and Lonely Hearts being two examples**). Others are about killing for money, or about the trouble that killing for money can get you into.

There's one story in there I enjoy, but which seems out of place. It's called Every Night He Pulled the Trigger (Robert Edmund Alter). It deals with two soldiers in the French Foreign Legion, one of whom is starting to buckle under the pressure, and does not respond to added pressure in a healthy manner. I suppose what allows it to fit is the decision made by the other character, our stand-in, since it's a dishonest decision, but one made with decent enough intentions. Still, this story sticks out, set amongst people killing each other of an inheritence, or even how a fat, lazy sheriff solves a crime with minimal effort. Perhaps because the characters involved in Every Night are generally honorable, even if they're in opposition to each other.

* Such as The MAD Book of Magic and Other Dirty Tricks.

** Perhaps stories about failed relationships lend themselves to grim twists?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pay No Attention To This Stall Tactic

Still no comics. Considering phone call to store tomorrow. Considering checking with post office on chance "We have a package here for you!" note was somehow lost by one of numerous housemates who also check mailbox. Still feeling mellow though, listening to something called "Avant Garde Jazz/Free Jazz", which has featured a lot of Coltrane so far. Not sure I "get" it, as in what I'm supposed to be taking from it, but I'm finding it's good music to sort of randomly bob my head and make piano playing finger motions to. Yes, I fail music appreciation, I know.

Well, that's not substantive enough to suit me, so let's talk about a game. It's been awhile since I did any sort of actual game review. So, Ico.

Ico was made by the same people who made Shadow of the Colossus. Though Ico was released several years earlier, it's actually set some time after Shadow of the Colossus, in the same universe. The games are similar and yet different. Both have a rather straightforward premise, but the goal is different. In Shadow of the Colossus, you kill colossi to gain favor with a god so it will revive someone important to you. In Ico, you're a kid with horns trying to escape a castle with a princess before you wind up sacrificed. In both cases, there's nothing that distracts from that goal. They're both puzzle games in a sense, but where the puzzle with SotC is how to reach each colossi's weak point, with Ico, you travel through the castle, figuring out how to get from Point A in the room to Point B, and also how to get the princess from place to place as well, since she is not as nimble as you are.

It mostly involves climbing here, swinging from that, pushing a box, maybe flipping a switch or two. In that regard, it's a very refreshing game, because there isn't any b.s. about collecting x number of "special" {insert noun} that you need to accomplish {insert task}, where the collecting requires you perform numerous smaller tasks*.

Nothing but puzzles might get a bit tedious though, so there are sporadic fights, where you have to protect the princess from odd shadow creatures that emerge from portals in the floor, and hope to drag her back with them. Though they look like shadows, they are solid, since you can whack them with the stick Ico is carrying around**. The fights serve to add stress, as the princess is kind of useless. Honestly, I wonder if she isn't drugged or something. This is her mother's castle, but you find her in a cage, and she doesn't seem to be all there. If you don't take her by the hand and lead her, she can just wander around the room, and when the monsters attack, she stands there. Jeez, at least run to a corner or something, where we can limit the directions they can approach from. I'd lead you there myself, but I'm kind of busy whacking the 3 man-sized shadows with wings and vulture necks that are encircling you right now, kiddo! She does come in handy, since she can open these odd doors throughout the castle you'd never get past otherwise. So she has that going for her.

Something I find interesting is Ico is the least monochromatic character in the game. The shadow creatures are all black. The Queen was a dark spirit with a bright white face the last time I saw her***. The Princess (Yorda) is very pale, almost ethereal really, so that at times it seems as though Ico is leading a blank, person-shaped space around. Which kind of makes her the opposite of the shadow creatures, really. They exhibit the absence of color, she exhibits all colors. Then there's Ico, with his horns, red shirt, poncho thing, shoes clattering on the ground. He's the one who tends to make noise also, everybody else seems disconnected from the proceedings somehow, maybe like they're part of the surroundings, so their movements don't disturb the castle.

My major quibble with the game is the camera won't move as much as I'd like it to. There are times I want to look a particular direction, and it won't allow it, or I'd like a closer look at something, but it won't zoom in sufficiently. This is frustrating because the instruction booklet encourages you, when you first enter a room, to survey said room, to understand what you'll need to do. That being the case, a button for shifting into first-person view might have helped, but there doesn't seem to be one.

I'm not making particularly swift progress, since I've decided to play from one save point to the next, and save points are nice and plentiful, at least so far, thus I don't always cover much ground before I call it a night. Still, I'm not about to complain about lots of save points. Better too many than too few.

* It's strange, because in some games this type of thing bothers me, and in others, it doesn't. I'm going to spend some time trying to figure that out.

** I think I'll be getting a sword soon. That'll be nice.

*** She opened the castle gates for me and offered to let me leave, but told me I'd better leave her daughter behind, which was when I learned who the princess who, if not why she was in a cage.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nothing Stops The Juggernaut - Except Applying For A Mortgage

Been reading Uncanny X-Men #194, wherein the Juggernaut fights Nimrod, and Rogue pulls the, I'll call it the "Chimera stunt"*. The issue starts with the police freaking out because the Juggernaut has been spotted in town. This is relayed to us by a cop explaining the situation to a plain-clothes Cain Marko. Really, I'm surprised there are that many huge guys wandering around New York, to the point where Cain doesn't draw any suspicious glances.

Anyway, the X-Men hear the report and come looking for ole' Unstoppable**. The X-Men find him. . . sitting calmly inside a bank, discussing something with a bank official. Well, okay then. Not quite what I was expecting. Black Tom is nowhere in sight, and Marko is causing no trouble, right up to the point when Nimrod bursts in and starts attacking him, at which Marko slaps on the helmet and starts, well getting his butt kicked, actually. Yeah, lots of surprises in this issue.

I find myself wondering what the Juggernaut was doing at the bank. Was he just checking on the status of accounts he's filled with money from his various jobs? Was he looking into a loan for a payment on his and Black Tom's hangout? I don't know, but the idea that Cain would just calmly walk into the bank and discuss financial matters with people there is kind of intriguing. A little outside the norm for him.

Oh, one other nice thing about the issue. As Cain is walking through town, he overhears a reporter discussing the fact Juggernaut was spotted on a ferry this morning. The reporter gives a quick rundown of some of Juggernaut's past fights, mentioning Spider-Man and the X-Men. In a shocking twist, the reporter notes that even though most people consider Spidey and the X-Men outlaws, they consistently leap to the defense of innocent civilians, even against someone as powerful as the Juggernaut. He closes by saying he hopes this isn't the day they turn their back on the people. Holy crap, a person in the Marvel Universe who recognizes the heroism of some of the put-upon members of the costumed sect, who questions whether the public's assumptions about them are correct, and hopes those heroes won't wise up and say "To hell with you ungrateful jackasses!"

Mick Travis, reporter on page 3 of Uncanny X-Men #194, I salute you for your intelligence! Sadly, I imagine that Mr. Travis was probably run out of the reporting business for not properly fawning*** over Norman Osborn during his recent ascent to power, and is probably working for a local TV station in some small town, if he's even in the business at all anymore.

Cover courtesy of Grand Comics Database.

* I was going to call it the "Rogue absorbs the powers of several of her teammates all at once to hit the enemy with a serious whammy", but damn that's wordy. "Chimera stunt" is more succinct, don't you think? ** I was suprised to see Nightcrawler was team leader, with Cyclops married, Storm off in Africa, and Xavier having run to Muir Island for some New Mutants thing. I didn't remember that ever happening, but my 80s Uncanny X-Men collection is pretty patchy.

*** Also known as having common sense.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Well, That Plan Got Shot To Hell

Comics did not arrive. I had this nice little plan where I had to go into town for laundry, and I'd just stop by the post office, pick up my comics, and read them while I did my laundry. Not happening now I guess. There's always a spanner in the works, a monkey in the wrench.

So, for today, I will pose this question: In the DC Universe, just prior to Final Crisis and Batman RIP*, what is Batman's opinion towards Superman? Does he consider him a friend, or just an ally? Does he regard Superman as a bit of a fool, as someone not doing all the could with their power, or is Superman someone that gives Batman hope?

Your thoughts?

* Since those throw Batman's status somewhat into an unknown territory.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hating Himself, Or Hating His Friend

I am really struggling to come up with a post tonight. I believe I would have received my comics today if the bloody postal service wasn't taking the day off to celebrate the contested election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876! Oh sure, you say they're celebrating all the presidents, but I know they're really in the bag for Hayes. You can't fool me! Well, no use dwelling on it.

So what to discuss? Well, I'm watching Trigun again, because it entertains me. I'm currently at episode 11, which is just about the point where it starts getting dark and gloomy. In the previous episode, Wolfwood had run Vash and his little troop again, then parted ways with them again at the end of the episode, leaving with a rather interesting phrase. He said that looking at Vash pisses him off, because he sees all the things in vash that he hates about himself. So I'm thinking over that right now.

Vash is a firm proponent of the belief that even if a situation devolves into violence, no one should have to die. He's an optimistic person, believing in the strength and goodness of people, even though he has repeatedly been exposed to the worst of their traits. Vash is very much in the Superman vein, where no one is ever truly beyond hope, and so you can't kill them, since they would never be able to change. Wolfwood tends to be less forgiving towards those whoa re evil that he comes across. He believes that every situation will require someone suffer, and so you have to decide which decision allows for less suffering. He's a cynic from experience, who cannot as easily disregard the faults he sees in the people he encounters.

So I wonder whether Wolfwood hates that same optimism in himself, thus he tries so hard to supress it. I mean, he believes some people are good, but he also believes those people are easily trampled by people with darker motives, and that even kind people can be driven to horrible acts. So he finds it hard to trust or believe in people. Or, because Vash is so easily an optimist, and can so easily believe, does Wolfwood actually hates the cynicsm that he hides his hope behind. He finds it difficult to care enough to help people, because he can't trust them or their motives, but Vash does it so easily. I can see how that could be frustating.

I figure that it's the former in the early stage of the series, when he's barely met Vash, but by the latter episodes, when they've been around each other more, Wolfwood does come to despise his inability to be more like Vash. Of course, being more like Vash ultimately got Wolfwood killed, so maybe he was better off staying as he was.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

That Was An Abrupt Resolution

I was reading Fighting Forces #129 (I'm guessing written by Joe Kubert, drawn by Russ Heath?), yet another survivor from my father's collection. The primary story* involves The Losers, and their ongoing saga of. . . well, losing. In this one, Captain Cloud is having some sort of stress reaction from the pressure he feels to not bring shame to his people. Which incidentally, he already feels because all of his wingmen were shot down but he survived. This doesn't bode well for their mission to be airdropped into Germany and rescue a scientist who created a 'Terror Weapon' for the Germans.

Cloud behaves erratically throughout the story, having nightmares, abruptly splashing around in fountains, then tackling M.P.s who have an insensitive joke at his expense. On the mission he hops out of cover and tells some enemy soldiers 'Peace - White Brother - Peace'. It's perhaps mildly amusing that immediately after this, Gunner, Sarge, and Captain Cloud jump out and shoot the Germans, then steal their truck. It's Grand Theft Auto: Dusseldorf! During the escape, they stumble across a rocket launch site, the scientist jumps on a potato masher for them, Cloud completely loses it, charges in and wipes out the soldiers and their rocket**. And that's that. Apparently, something about that whole sequence snaps Cloud out of whatever combat fatigue state of mind he was in, and it's over and done with. According to the caption anyway, which says 'Stumbling back from the grip of his nightmare -', and shows Cloud picking up the scientist*** and leaving the scene with the rest of the cast.

I'm left wondering 'Is that it?' Cloud was in this state of mind partially because he feels tremendous pressure to represent his tribe, and that he's let everyone down by not protecting pilots under his command. Well now another guy he was supposed to protect died, so shouldn't he be even worse off? Maybe it carried over to the next issue. Hang on let me see if I've read Fighting Forces #130.

*Checking Grand Comics Database gallery. Oh, by the way, that would be where I got the image for last night and tonight's post. Probably ought to be giving proper credit where it's due.*

Nope, didn't have that one. I know there wasn't any sign of it in Fighting Forces #132, but that was a flashback to Gunner and Sarge's days in the Pacific with Pooch. We'll talk more about Pooch some time. I have no comics with Rex, the Wonder Dog, so Pooch is about as close as I come to canine badassery. Well, there was that one Uncanny X-Men about Dazzler's friend the bounty hunter and his large dog. . .

You know, I had a point in there somewhere, and it's gotten completly lost. I believe it was I feel they wrapped up the mental stress Cloud was under too neatly. Maybe it is that easy, but I would be surprised. It feels like a way to add more conflict to the story, without perhaps thinking about how well it fits. It's strange because in the story the commanding officer even says that if anyone of them isn't up for this, say so. The Losers had already been talking amongst themselves about how Cloud had become a "time bomb", but nobody speaks up. Maybe they didn't want to break up the unit, though they usually seem eager to keep people away from their horrible luck. Or they were worried that keeping him out of the mission would only increase his feelings of shame and make things worse. Or they just didn't want to call out their friend. I've been there, though the circumstances were not as dire. There's simply no explanation given for why they wouldn't voice their concerns. Heck, they never even really try and discuss it with Cloud himself. I guess we file it under M, for "Men don't talk about their feelings".

* The backup story show two teenagers on opposite sides of the Civil War. One in a Confederate ironclad trying to break through a Union blockade, the other a member of one of the cannon batteries trying to to stop said ironclad. Each boy hoping to earn glory and a medal from their respective presidentes. No, I don't know why I referred to them as presidentes. It's a story about humanity, bravery, compassion, and ignoring artificial barriers that we as imperfect beings erect between each other.

** This should probably serve as a lesson to people with rocket weapons: Don't leave mortars sitting around near your rockets, lest someone use them against you.

*** In a fortunate circumstance for the Allies, the Germans had a tattoo artist put the plans for the weapon on the scientist's back****. In ink that can't be photographed, no less. And the scientist fell face first on the Stiehlgrenate, so I guess his back - and the tattoo - is OK. So now the Allies could make the 'terror weapon'! Hooray? Yeah, that's probably not what the writer's going for. The Losers will probably give Professor Polanski a nice burial somewhere along the way.

**** Oh, and they learned about this whole thing because the tattoo artist escaped from a concentration camp by hiding among dead bodies. Lots of wild stuff happening for a 14-page story.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Something I Learned From Adventure Comics #354

Superman travels to the future and meets up with the Legion when they're adults, to help them with someone attacking them who, gasp, seems to know all their secrets! Who could it be? No, it's not Superman paying them back for all the tricks they used to play on him. He takes out that repressed anger on Jimmy and Lois, remember?

The story mostly reveals which members will marry, or lose their powers, or whatever. So at least the cover was telling the truth, which I wasn't aware of since the copy I was reading has no cover.

The thing I learned, at least the thing I found amusing, was that as an adult, Brainiac 5 smokes a pipe. Not during battle*, but when the group is just standing around talking or planning, yeah, he's usually puffing away. As best I can tell, Curt Swan drew the issue, so maybe he just really wanted to draw Perry White and figured Brainiac 5 could be a green Perry White. Brainy has the receding hair to go with it.

Actually, most of the guy Legionnaires - active or retired - have receding hairlines. Except Colossal Boy, who can't actually change size anymore, but he did grow a beard, so he's got that going for him. Oh, and Bouncing Boy had really slimmed down. I wonder if that had something to do with not having his powers anymore?

* Which would be kind of cool. Brainiac 5, chilling behind his force field while he comes up with some ingenuous device to help, just puffing away, enjoying his fine space-tobacco. I'm sure it's engineered to clean your teeth, freshen your breath, and give your lung cillia a good scrubbing. The future is amazing!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Aren't They Both Naive?

I mentioned earlier in the week that I wanted to talk about the "Gang War" story in Amazing Spider-Man #284-288. A lot of what I think I want to discuss is how I think the work struggles and trips over itself, but I need more time to gather my thoughts on that.

OK, basic gist is that after Born Again, the Kingpin has vanished from the underworld playing field (for reasons beyond the fact he set a druggie super-soldier loose on American soil). So you have the Arranger (running things for Fisk), the Rose & Hobgoblin (who, 40+ issues after his 1st appearance still hadn't had his identity revealed), Hammerhead, Silvermane, and some assorted other groups fighting it out. Eventually the feds make an agreement with Fisk, allowing him to reenter the country and resume control of his empire, figuring it'll calm things down.

Throughout the story, Spider-Man is swinging around the city, stumbling across various skirmishes and doing his best to ensure no one dies. Besides bringing him into the gunsights of numerous criminals, he also fights with the Punisher, and is jerked around by Daredevil. See, DD thinks Spidey is just making things worse and wants him out of the way. He even goes so far as to phone Peter* and ask him to meet at a bridge, then leaves Spidey sitting there while the factions shoot each other at a bowling alley.

By the end of the story, Kingpin is back in charge, and he's even arranged things so that several of his lieutenants will be arrested and turn state's evidence, which will limit his capabilities for awhile. Daredevil convinces Spider-Man to help him again, telling Spidey Fisk actually plans to kill all these lieutenants. Spidey realizes he's been snookered again and charges to confront Kingpin. Of course, he can't actually do anything (besides smash Fisk's desk), which just causes him to leave in a furious state of mind. DD and Fisk chat a little afterwards, and Fisk describes Spider-Man as a naive child who will learn how the world works one of these days**.

So this is what strikes me as curious about this. When Spider-Man and Daredevil get together, Spider-Man is portrayed as the less mature one, more prone to hot-headedness and immaturity. OK, Spider-Man is younger, though I'd argue he's experienced enough tragedy to have already learned the harsh realities of the world. Still, the idea that Spider-Man is naive compared to Daredevil because he believes that making deals with evil men because you think it's the lesser evil doesn't seem quite on the ball. Daredevil, after all, is the guy who believes in the justice system (or he did in the early parts of the Nocenti run, which is where I'm most familiar with him). He's the one who beat up Spider-Man*** to stop him from killing the Sin-Eater because the man deserved his day in court. He's the guy who keeps trying (and trying, and trying) to bring down Fisk through the courts, only to frequently have nothing to show for it. But Murdock keeps doing it, so who's the naive one? Spider-Man understands the legal system is imperfect, that's why he wants to beat Fisk to a pulp, because the thing that is supposed to protect the innocent from the Kingpin does not.

I guess the naivete is supposed to come from Spider-Man getting angry with the flaws and trying to circumvent them, while Daredevil just keeps trying harder to fix them the flaws, or work through them. I guess that's the more adult way of going about things.

* This story is after the Sin-Eater story, where Peter and Murdock know each others identities by the end.

** Actually, one of the speeches Fisk makes to Spider-Man is very similar to the one he made in Amazing #542, right before Peter proceeded to beat the living crap out of Fisk. Boy, I enjoyed Spider-Man beating the crap out of Fisk.

*** I have entirely too many comics where Daredevil manages to beat Spider-Man, or at least fight him to a draw. Spidey can beat the Sinister Six, he can't beat some blind lawyer?!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'd Like To Share Something With You

Once upon a time, I was a huge fan of the Spawn animated series. I've mentioned that once in passing, about 2 years ago. Well, perhaps "huge" is overstating it, but you can believe I was flipping through the cable guide compulsively, trying to make certain I was aware of every showing that was coming. In what may be an odd twist, I wasn't reading Spawn at that time, and had never read it at that time*, though Wizard had made certain I was aware of it.

Anyway, for as into the show as I was, and yes, as disappointed as I was when the episodes stopped, only one thing has stuck with me from the show. Spawn has been back for awhile, and causing a bit of trouble for his former employer (and killer) Jason Wynn. You know stolen some high-tech weapons and such. Wynn has no idea about Spawn's existence, and so the finger is pointed at Spawn's old friend (and the guy currently married to Spawn's wife in his previous existence), Terry Fitzgerald. Wynn sends people to kill Fitzgerald, who is conveniently working late in a dark and empty building. Fitzgerald is wounded, and runs down a dark stairwell, and here's the part that stick with me.

One of the killers leans over the railing and calls down after Fitzgerald, 'Hey there little rabbit, you down that rabbit hole?'

Yes, that's it. No, his leaning over the railing did not lead to an immediate or memorable death by strangulation from Spawn's cape and/or chains**. No, I don't have any idea why that stays with me.

* I did actually start reading, buying even, Spawn at a later date, and kept going for about 3 years. I may get into that someday, assuming I can piece together what I my thinking at the time.

** He did die, and Spawn did kill him, just not at that particular juncture.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Did Strange Get Authorization For That?

So here's what I'm thinking about. The Juggernaut gets his power from a mystical gem created by a being from another dimension known as Cyttorak. The gem makes the Juggernaut allegedly unstoppable, at least as long as he keeps following Cyttorak's will. That means causing lots of damage and destruction, leading to people trembling in fear of the Juggernaut, and by extension, Cyttorak who empowers him.

However, Dr. Strange has a spell he employs at times which is known as the "Crimson bands of Cyttorak". In the Busiek/Larsen Defenders series, this spell typically took the form of a ball, which would be used to encircle someone the Doc wanted to restrain, usually the Hulk.

Well that seems rather contrary to Cyttorak's stated goals, doesn't it? What makes it more curious is that in some comics I've read, when Dr. Strange invokes the name of some mystical entity in his spells, it means he's essentially asking them to lend him power to do whatever it is he's trying to do. So if he's angered one of them in some way, they can refuse to help and the spell will either be weaker, or just not work at all. I would think Cyttorak wouldn't be a big fan of how the Sorcerer Supreme is using his power, which makes me wonder how Strange pulls that off.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thinking About Glowy Rainbow Time Person

By which I mean the mystery villain* in Booster Gold. There are certain things we know. They can open time portals apparently at will. They are on a quest to gain something they think they deserve. They were actively angered by Booster asking what their game was. So this is something they're entirely serious about. Or they just have no sense of humor. Whatever the source of their abilities, it enables them to travel around in the Time Stream unprotected, something that isn't generally advised**.

Whatever they're trying, it involves that knife somehow. Booster thought that the knife was taking him away from World War 1 at the end of #16, but could it have been our mystery guest? Rainbow Mystery Villain was the reason Michelle and Skeets couldn't get a lock on Booster, so either he(she?***) opened and closed the portal, or they are connected to the time stream in such a way that they can sense and manipulate time portals occurring through other means more rapidly than Rip Hunter's systems can. I'm inclined to go with the first option, since why would the knife be pulling Booster through time, when it showed no such abilities prior to now?

Either way, the knife is important. It's less clear whether Booster and Company are. It sounds as though they are now, but that may be a matter of the villain changing gears as the need arises. For whatever reason, the The Walking Chronal Crayon Box is trying to get Booster to bring the knife to them, rather than seeking it out themselves, as they did previously.

Then there's the question of all those time portals that opened and damaged Booster's suit. Was it a random occurence? Is it the Unknown Guest's doing? Is it the knife's doing? The fact they started with Enemy Ace was attacking Booster, and ceased shortly after they'd damaged his suit suggests to me villainous intent. But it required multiple portals to tag Booster, so if um, Seriously Determined Person is responsible, why didn't he score a hit on the first try? That, combined with the fact they didn't simply go to World War 1 and retrieve the knife themselves leads me to infer that there are limits to their power. Is that what they're hoping to correct? I guess you'll know later this week, and hopefully I'll know by early next week.

* Actually, I think DC's solicits for upcoming issues may have spilled the beans as to the villain's identity, but I don't want to spoil it for the souls who don't read the solicits.

** If you remember Booster Gold #0, Evil Beetle said if the time sphere was cracked, Ted Kord would be killed because there would be nothing to protect him from the chronal energies. A scarab, or a force field can do the trick, though.

*** I know the outline looks like a guy, but you never know. Could be a time-traveler trick.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Booster May Need A Refresher From Time Master School

I was rereading Booster Gold #16, and I notice Booster, right before he shoots down Enemy Ace, thinking to himself, 'Rip says I'm not supposed to interject myself into history. But Rip isn't here. No matter the risk, it can't be wrong to save a life. Ever.'

First thing, it's a fine ideal, truly befitting a hero. However, I thought Booster had already seen the danger in such a principle when one is a Time Master. He saved Ted Kord, and it nearly caused the destruction of the Earth. Dozens of other lives were lost as a result. Booster did not actually take those lives, but saving Ted unfortunately triggered a chain reaction Booster was unable to undo. I think Booster clearly understands there can be consequences of such a policy, because he says 'no matter the risk'.

I suppose it's an essential dilemma superheroes face. If you save this person, you can't save that person*. How do you decide which to save? One of the things I picked up on Saturday's excursion was the Gang War story arc on Amazing Spider-Man #284-288. I intend to talk more about it later**, but what's relevant for this is Spider-Man keeps getting involved in the gang war, whether he's trying to prevent the rival factions from killing each other, or trying to stop the Punisher from doing it. And at times, he questions what the heck he's doing that for. As Castle points out, while Spider-Man is busy stopping Frank from killing a bunch of mobsters with a bazooka, there are innocent people out there he could be protecting, so what's he doing here?

Perhaps it comes down to what you're willing to risk. Saving so-and-so could have dire repercussions in the future, but can the hero live with themselves in the present if they do nothing for fear of said repercussions?

Mostly, I just found it interesting that Booster's overall attitude doesn't seemed to have been affected by the disaster that was trying to save Ted.

* This is assuming the two people are in sufficiently disparate locations that you cannot, in fact save both.

** probably focusing on some of the problems I had with it that detracted from my enjoyment.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

I Can't Decide Whether It's Intentional, Or A Happy Accident

I remember when Bendis started New Avengers, and he was discussing his choices for the roster, he mentioned that part of why he wanted Wolverine and Spider-Man on the team was he thought they were one of the great intentional (unintentional*?) comedy duos in comics.

Now, one could probably make the case, were they so inclined, that he was blowing smoke, and Wolverine and Spider-Man were on the team because they were big draws, and would lend something extra to the title in terms of sales**. However, I think Bendis really believes that statement, because that seems to be how he plays them in the Ultimate Spider-Man. Spider-Man swings (no pun intended) between thinking Wolverine's the coolest guy ever, and a lunatic who drags everyone around him into a mad world of explosions and pain***.

What I found interesting is that the comedy between the two never came together, not while I was reading the title anyway. Instead, the comedy seemed to come from Luke Cage and Spider-Man, with Luke seeming to swing between being amused with Spider-Man, and exasperated with him. My personal favorite moment was probably during the interminably "New Avengers vs. lots of ninjas" fight during the Ronin arc (issue #11, 12, something like that). Luke gets knocked off the building, rides the elevator back up, the fight's still going. Spider-Man says 'This fight's been going so long, I've run out of jokes', and Luke's response is 'Well, that's one good thing to come out of this.' That certainly wouldn't count as "unintentional", but it got a laugh out of me, so I guess it qualifies as comedy.

I can't decide why it played out that way. Maybe Bendis decided he was doing the Wolverine/Spider-Man thing enough in the Ultimateverse, and didn't need to do it here as well. Maybe it was his fondness for Luke Cage, and wanting to give him something to hang his hat on. Spider-Woman had all the espionage, "which side is she double-crossing again?" stuff, give Luke a bantering friendship with Spider-Man. Maybe he felt like they were a better case of opposites than Peter and Logan, though they do have the bond of being the only two consistent members of the team to be in stable relationships****, which is perhaps a bond?

I have no complaints with the switch in plans, I just wonder about the why. I'm a Nosey Parker that way.

* I can't remember which he said. I think it was unintentional, but when you're describing fictional characters that can only interact in a way you, the writer/artist team, prescribe, can it be described as "unintentional"? You are planning to play their relationship as funny, so it's intentional, even if you write it so that the humor comes when the characters, in world, are not actually trying to be funny. Isn't it? I think I've given myself a headache.

** Which it certainly seems to have done, since sales figures say New Avengers sells better than say, the Busiek/Perez Avengers, for what that's worth.

*** To be fair, though, Wolverine usually warns Spider-Man that it would be safer to stay away from him, and Peter doesn't listen. Because he's a teen with a guilt complex the size of Ohio, I'd imagine.

**** Luke with Jessica Jones, Pete and MJ. I read them before One More Day, so I'm ignoring whatever that might do. Also, I'm ignoring the Sentry, on the grounds he was hardly a presence in the time I read the book, outside of the arc devoted to trying explain what the hell he was doing in the universe in the first place.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Nothing Like The Exploration Of A New Comics Store

Though it's not new in the sense of "just opened", but new in the sense of "I'd never visited it before. As far as I can discern, Dirt Road Comics* is the closest store to my current location, and I'd never been there before, and you know what that means. That's right, the limitless possibilities of long boxes filled with back issues that will fill those gaps in {insert Series title} I've been searching for! Of course, there's the inevitable disappointment when you actually get there and X, Y, Z isn't there, the opening of the box rendering the cat dead, so to speak. Look at me, trying to sound intelligent, you'd think I'd have learned by know.

It took some time to get there (over an hour), but it takes some time to get anywhere I'd actually want to travel, storewise**, from where I'm at, so I'm growing accustomed to that. Given the size of the town, I was surprised by how large the store was.

I suppose I should address some of the negative stereotypes people associate with comic stores. One, it was not dirty or smelly, not to my eyes and nose anyway. The staff was not rude or anything of the sort, and seemed to quite enjoy interacting with the regular customers (I'll get back to that later). There were people playing Magic, but they were on the second floor, and they weren't being loud or distracting or anything of the sort. Though I tend to get a bit focused when it comes to searching through back issues, so I might not have noticed, but I didn't feel bothered. The store was darker on one side, though the upstairs and the side with all the back issues was very well lit. They might have simply been saving electricity. Also, they have large storefront windows, which probably help on sunnier days. They might need to work on labeling and arranging their back issues. For example, the end of the box might say "Batman and the Outsiders", but there aren't any issues in there, they're actually two or three boxes over. Maybe use labels that can be removed from the end if they need to be updated, or dry erase boards or something. I don't know. How much it would bother someone probably depends on how much they enjoy looking through long boxes.

OK, I mentioned I'd get back to the customer service. I didn't actually interact with any employees until I headed to the checkout counter. That probably sounds bad, the employye ignoring the potential customer, but let me offer two caveats. First, my philosophy when it comes to stores and customer service is 'If I need assistance, I will seek you out and ask.' I understand they're just trying to do their job, and I appreciate that, but I don't go to a store without some general purpose, even if it's just a trip to, say, Best Buy to investigate the cost of DVDs I'm interested in. I know what I'm after, so I don't feel I need help, and some part of me bristles a little when I get distracted from my goal by conscientious employees. Yes, I have problems, I know, but I'm polite about it. So in a lot of ways, this was ideal for me. I just went about my business, digging through the boxes, no pressure, just seeing what was there and calculating how much I would be spending. So that's caveat the first.

Secondly, looking back, I think the employee (and I think there was just the one, though there was an old fellow sitting in a back corner that might be the owner) was keeping an eye on me. Possibly because he didn't know me, and was worried about shoplifting, or because he wanted to be nearby in case I did ask for assistance. All I know is he ended up in the area where the back issues were a few minutes after I did, and stayed there, conversing with people he clearly knew (customers, employees, I have no idea) about their Magic decks, until shortly after I finished my hunting, at which point I meandered in the direction of the register, and so did he. I think he recognized I had something specific in mind, and just let me go to it. And when we did converse at the register, he was a pleasant fellow, so it's all good in my perspective. He wanted to check the price tags on all the comics, and one of them even ended up 50 cents cheaper than the tag***, and none of them wound up more expensive than they were listed. Plus, 25% off all back issues, sweet! They might want to put that on a sign somewhere, because I had no idea until he mentioned it. Unless they did have a sign, and I just didn't see it, which is possible, though I felt I was being pretty leisurely and observant in my search.

I'd rate it as a highly positive experience, especially combined with the nice lunch I had on the way home, decent weather (not spectacular, but at least it wasn't cold or precipitating), and not much traffic, allowing for a relaxed drive both ways.

So that was my Saturday.

* Though it should be noted it does not, in fact, sit on a dirt road, but on Main Street.

** Like I mentioned last fall, there's lots of parks and natural areas to visit nearby, but sometimes, I'm just not in the mood to commune with nature, you know?

*** That'd be Chuck Dixon's Marvel Knights #8, bringing me one issue closer to having all of that series. Slowly but surely, I'm getting there.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I Did Not Expect This

I was looking through Marvel's solicitations for April, and I stumbled across one that rather surprised me. Black Panther #3 says that Morlun is on his way to Wakanda. And here I thought nobody was going to use anything from JMS' run on Amazing Spider-Man.

I have to give it up for Morlun, though. This is only his 3rd storyline, but he already appears to have mastered the antagonistic art of appearing to die, only to reappear later. First time round he was clearly not enjoying absorbing the radiation coming off that sludge Spidey injected himself with, then he was shot, and seemingly decomposed. Second time around, he was stabbed with stinger things and had his head bitten off. But here he is again, assuming this isn't the story where we learn there are actually a whole species of Morluns all of which look the alike. I can't imagine it would be a very abundant species though. How many totems can there to go around?

Still, it's not a bad idea. It seems like the idea of the Black Panther being a representative of the Panther God has been fairly prominent in his run on the title*. That sounds like a totem to me, and Morlun has to drain the life of a totem every so often to keep going. While the Black Panther probably isn't the easiest target, she likely is the most easily found one, being a head of state and all.

Should be a diiferent sort of challenge for Morlun, going from hunting Spider-Man, the guy who fights alone, to someone who theoretically has an army at their disposal. I say theoretically for a couple of reasons. One, I'm sure the Black Panther is expected to lead the charge, so she won't really be throwing a wall of bodies in between herself and Morlun. Two, I'm not sure whether the people are going to be totally supportive of their new Black Panther. I don't know that they won't be, but this is the Marvel Universe. If all her citizens loved her, that would be too easy, wouldn't it?

* Though I haven't really read his run, just going off general impressions I have.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wake Up, Rich, Wake Up!

I'm not sure why, but I can't shake the feeling the current Nova story arc is Rich having a nightmare, or the Worldmind running some sort of hypothetical scenario to gauge Rich's current mental state, since he's still carrying probably over 90% over the Nova Force.

It's silly to think this, since I've seen April's solicited cover and it shows that mohawked tool Gladiator plowing through a horde of Novas like he's freaking OMAC or something*. Still, I can't help thinking it feels similar to his hallucinations while infected with the Phalanx virus during 2008's Nova Annual.

There's something about all of it that feels so terribly off. How the Worldmind is recruiting seemingly so many Earthlings, and seems terribly focused on guarding Earth, when there's a whole universe out there that needs attention. Possibly reflects Rich's desire to protect his homeworld? I'd imagine that when Rich first ran into all those Super-Skrulls, there were probably plenty of distress calls built up for him to respond to. As far as I know, Earth had not contacted him asking for assistance, yet Rich immediately comes back home the instant Kl'rt tells him what's going on, even though Earth has dozens of capes to protect it.

The Worldmind housing itself in Ego, the Living Planet, and telling Rich that Ego agreed to let Worldmind take over as the brain? Ego, who tended to run around wreaking havoc, eating anything it could, and has resisted all attempts to destroy it, or to control its actions? Well, Rich has butted heads with the Worldmind quite a bit over what their priorities are. Whether to rebuild the Corps fast or slow, whether to focus on getting the Worldmind someplace safe, or continuing to police the universe, and on and on.

Thirdly, there's just something about all those Novas in Nova #21. With the exception of Robbie, they all keep their helmets on constantly. Their eyes are either glowing, in a creepy Village of the Damned way, or are shrouded in shadows, hidden from view. In the crowd scenes, a lot of them look really similar**. In his first trip up to Ego, er "Nu-Xandar", all the Novas present give him the salute, creepy (to me, anyway) in how similar they are. They're all very friendly and respectful. But on Rich's second visit, Tarcel is the only one who salutes, and there's something about that 'Heh' he gives when Rich says he feels he's about 'to get the gold watch'. Like there's a punchline that Rich isn't privy to, and he's trying to keep from spoiling it. Would all this be a reflection of Rich's fear of the Corps' ranks swelling, only to be obliterated in the next big war, because none of these folks are adequately prepped for it? Just nameless schmoes being fed into the wood-chipper?

Or, is it a reflection of Rich's fear of being ordinary? The Annual covered how Rich, prior to becoming Nova, felt like he was utterly nondescript, only to be told that was why he'd make a fine Nova. And it seems like I can remember Rich expressing how being a Nova was one of the best things to ever happen to him, back during New Warriors Volume 1***. Well, when he was the only Nova left, that made him even more unique. The only Nova left, housing all of the Nova Force, and the Worldmind, and not only did he not go crazy, he fought Annihilus and won. Helped stop the Ultron-led Phalanx, and got the Kree out from under their control. Heck, he even earned the respect of Ronan the Accuser and the original, accept-no-substitutes, Super-Skrull! With the Corps swelling, and especially when he relinquishes the majority of the Nova Force, he loses all that.

Plus there's how quickly Rich goes from calm to pissed off. Granted, he's had a temper for as long as I've been reading about him****, but he's matured. He was sitting there, calmly discussing his concerns with the Fantastic Four, not acting awed by them, like it's just Sunday tea. Then the Worldmind pops up, says a couple things, and Rich starts lashing out. Would this be Rich's fears that he really is being damaged by the Nova Force showing through? Or, is it representing parental issues? Back in the Annihilation: Nova mini-series, before he begins housing the Nova Force, Rich slipped for a moment and called the Worldmind "dad". The Worldmind caught it, Rich played it off, and as best I can recall, Abnett and Lanning never touched on it directly again*****. But, when Rich came back to Earth at the start of the series, his dad was fairly antagonistic towards him, and I definitely remember his parents occasionally expressing concern about his lack of direction in life early in New Warriors, though that subsided when they learned he was back being Nova. With his father not being around him much these days, has the Worldmind fallen into that role? The authority figure to struggle against, the more experienced being that can - for all the progress you think you've made - cut through your self-esteem with just a few words, because it knows you so well?

Geez, I thought this was going to be a quick post, and it spun out into all that. Wow.

* Hmm, Gladiator as OMAC? They've each got mohawks, they're both capable of fighting a massive number of foes at once, and they can each be unstoppable if they feel like it. Nah.

** Holy crap! Ego can create antibodies to defend itself, and it can also alter its exterior appearance to seem more hospitable to unwary travelers. Could Worldmind be using Ego's resources to make anti-bodies, then pumping them up with the Nova Force? It already did something similar with those assault droids that project PEGASUS had during the Secret Invasion arc.

*** I can't verify that, but it seems right. Maybe I'm just going off how he seemed to be drifting before Night Thrasher helped him get his powers again.

**** That'd be the Nicieza/Bagley New Warriors, as if you hadn't already guessed.

***** Unless that's what the periodic friction between Nova and the Worldmind represents.